Two weeks ago I presented my first lecture (aka sermon) at church. It was a wonderful experience to be able to share my story with my church family. Many know about the blog and have heard it before but most have not. I was excited to share with them how God had been working in my life up until this point and even more excited to share with them my plans for Health Ministries for this year. As promised you can read my sermon below or listen to the audio here. [I tried uploading the video to YouTube but it was too long.] I praise God for giving me courage that day and every day to be able to open up and share the gifts He has given me over the last couple of years.
Speaking of gifts! – the first class held at The Ark started Jan 14. Jane Kuntz and Karen Blanchard are co-hosting an herbal series called The Family Herbalist. They are taking the class through various natural remedies and at the end of 7 weeks each participant will have their very own family “medicine” chest. The classes themselves are absolutely free but those wishing to take home the medicine chest pay $10 per class. I’ve attended many of Jane’s herb classes in the past but I must say I really enjoy the pairing of her and Karen’s experience and knowledge. They are a delight to all!
March will be the official “Grand Opening” of the center. The restaurant equipment is coming in and we hope to be in the kitchen testing out recipes soon. I’m beyond excited that two of the health professionals from Parkview have agreed to mentor us in healthy cooking. I can’t wait to get started!!!
For those who don’t know me, my name is Tracy Vis and I am excited to serve you this year as the new Health Ministries leader. I am delighted for the opportunity today to share with you today my testimony. After writing this I have a whole new respect for pastors. You can’t imagine how incredibly hard it is to take 35 years and compress that into 30 minutes but I’ve done my best. I had to write this 5 times before I was satisfied with it and I hope that something I say today makes you think and maybe consider how you can do something this year to improve your overall health.
For most people the New Year begins with making resolutions. They sit down and record their hopes and dreams for the coming year. I can remember making these lists all the way back to childhood and I can remember that my number one goal every year was always the same until 2012. Last was the first year I can remember not making a New Year’s resolution because at long last the Lord gave me the power to accomplish my number one goal in life – to be thin. As I say those words it sounds like such a trivial and superficial life goal but so many women and men base their worth on the opinions of others. I was certainly one of those people.
You see since the third grade I had always been the fat kid. I was the focus of many bullies affections and I had a long list of colorfully descriptive nicknames. I even had a teacher once tell me I was just taking up space in his classroom. This came after I turned in blank tests because I didn’t understand the subject and was afraid to ask questions. Some might remember the children’s story I told last year about how painfully shy I was. Well my weight and the bullying I endured because of it played a huge role in creating that person. After that I became really good at being invisible.
When I entered my teen years I discovered the world of dieting and my weight, along with my emotions, began to fluctuate up and down like a roller coaster. I remember people asking me if something was wrong with me. You always look angry. Why don’t you ever smile? Truth was that I didn’t feel like I had anything to smile about. I had no self value and life’s possibilities seemed limited for me.
As a young adult I reached my peak at 215lbs. I tried slim fast, weight watchers, diet pills, calorie counting. I’d lose ten pounds and gain back twenty. I subscribed to all the health magazines – Fitness, Shape, Prevention, and I even purchased a gym membership but I hated to exercise. I’d clip out those exercise routines from the magazines and paste them to my wall with all the best intentions of doing them. But months and years would go by and never could I muster up the willpower to stick with it.
I avoided scales, mirrors, and most social situations. I had little to no communication skills. I didn’t know how to make friends and when I got them I was clueless how to keep them. I was terrified of making a mistake, saying something wrong. But I hid it all with an attitude of indifference. Criticizing others took the spotlight off of me and if I was dismissive of you then you couldn’t hurt me with your actions or words. It’s a self fulfilling prophesy – treat people poorly and they will certainly return it in kind.
I didn’t know how to deal with rejection and I used food as a buffer. Bingeing on a big meal while watching a “feel good” movie numbed me to the fact that I wasn’t living life. I was just, taking up space. I allowed those words from my childhood to become my reality.
It wasn’t until 2005 that I realized I needed to get serious about my health. I woke up to find the left side of my face numb, as if someone had shot me up with Novocain in my sleep and was later diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I was 28 and thought I was too young for something like this to happen to me. I had never even heard of MS yet my body was attacking itself, and I had no idea how it was supposed to be working in the first place to even begin to figure out why it was malfunctioning. My health education came from all those magazines and television and all I knew about was dieting.
For those who don’t know what MS is, it is when the body’s immune system malfunctions and mistakes the myelin in our body as a foreign invader. Now the myelin is the protective covering that wraps around our nerves kind of like the plastic coating that covers the wires in an electrical cord. It keeps the electricity in and flowing along like it should. Well my immune system mistakes that myelin coating as an enemy and deploys the troops to go forth and destroy it. This unfortunate scenario results in deterioration producing visible scars (aka lesions). These scars prevent the signal traveling from the brain to reach the rest of my body in proper time. Just like that lamp that sometimes flickers because there’s a short in the wiring.
Sometimes the scars are just road blocks creating delays but at worse they can prevent the signal entirely. With my face the signal was blocked but over time my body was able to repair itself enough that most of the feeling returned. This is the ongoing cycle for the patient with MS – one part of the body trying to repair the damage caused by another.
My neurologist at the time wasn’t very helpful in teaching me about battling MS. He sent me on my way with a prescription, a pamphlet and the number to the MS society. So I went to the library and to the internet. I wanted to know how the body worked and what I could do to help it out. I read books, watched documentaries, and searched blogs. I started working out and dropped 25 lbs. So I thought that meant I was doing well. I made a few small changes to my diet, nothing big, mostly I was just eating less and exercising more – way more. I would spend an hour and half in the gym 5-6 days a week. Exercise was empowering for me. It made me feel like I was doing something about my disease. But that motivation only lasted 2 years. Slowly I stopped going to the gym and my eating habits became worse than ever.
Here’s a very embarrassing but very true representation of what my day to day diet looked like. It was best described as a cheese-based diet despite the fact I had been a vegetarian since age 21. Other than the veggies on the pizza and the corn in the chips I didn’t eat vegetables or fruit. So when I started doing all this research I began to discover that food plays a huge role determining whether or not my body has the necessary tools to repair itself. Our cells require vitamins and minerals to perform and the foods with the nutrients my cells needed were the very foods I refused to eat.
I was getting more than enough calories yet my body was severely malnourished. So after that revelation you would think I’d be all set to ditch the chips and start eating the veggies right? In my research I had read study after study and testimony after testimony of what a plant based diet had done for people who suffered from MS, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, hypertension, atherosclerosis, fibromyalgia and I could go on. And it wasn’t that I thought it wouldn’t work for me I just didn’t believe that I could do it. I had tried so many times to diet, to lose weight and over and over again I failed. So I’d read those health books while eating my bag of Doritos and I’d say to myself I could never give up cheese. I’d watch those documentaries while finishing off a pan of brownies and say yeah I don’t like vegetables.
Knowledge wasn’t enough to convince me. They say some people have to hit rock bottom before they’ll ask for help. I’m one of those people. In 2009 my MS symptoms got worse to the point I felt like the walking dead. I had chronic fatigue, vertigo, foot drop, memory loss, bladder control problems, and I was slowly sinking into a deep depression far worse than that of my childhood.
This went on for over two years. I was angry with God and the world but He knew this was what I needed for it to finally sink in that my diet of junk was harming me. It’s not that I believe that God gave me MS. I know it was just the natural cause and effect of genetics & environment paired with poor lifestyle choices. But God saw potential in me. He looked at that broken two hundred pound woman and said “I can do something with that.” He sees in all of us who we can be in His grace. I wasn’t a Christian then but He knew this would be the first step in breaking through the wall of pain and bitterness that my life experiences had created.
Matt 13:45-46 NASB
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.
I chose the scripture today because that parable is a powerful reminder of our value to God. It’s often misquoted as the kingdom of heaven being like a priceless pearl but if you read it correctly it says the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant who is seeking priceless pearls. What a beautiful picture of Christ’s sacrifice. All of heaven was emptied out because He looked down and saw in us something He could work with. Even today I sometimes struggle to see what He sees in me but I’m reminded to look back on where I was then and where I am today.
And where am I today, today I’m a new woman, 70lbs lighter and no longer on any of my medications. Not only am I symptom free but I feel better now than I ever did as a child. I struggled with ADD growing up. I could never focus for very long and now I can spend 3 hours studying my Bible and my husband has to remind me to take a break! And friends? I’ve made more friends this past year than I’ve had in my lifetime and I’m always looking for more! The shyness, as you can imagine is almost entirely gone, almost. I have my moments.
I praise God He let me fall on my face because without that I would have never turned to Him for the help I needed. I was kind of like Saul on the road to Damascus except instead of Christians I was hell bent on killing myself with my fork. God showed me I was worth more than that. He gave up all of heaven to come and set me free. So when I am tempted to fall back into that old mindset thinking I can’t do it, I’m not good enough, I remind myself of the infinite possibilities Christ sees in me. Because it’s not about will-power, it’s about His-power.
God sees those same possibilities in you. He looks through the eyes of faith and sees in us the fulfillment of all His hopes and dreams. We can have confidence in that faith and overcome any struggle this life presents. And if God can have that much confidence and faith in us we should have that same confidence and faith in one another.
There are so many people in this world who long for someone to believe in them, for someone to value them. Isn’t that part of the great commission Christ gives us? To so value all of humanity that we want to do all we can to show them their worth to Christ and to us. So this year as trials arise let us remember Philippians 4:13 and claim it. Then let us share it with others.
In March we are going to be hosting the Daniel Challenge. This is a ministry started by an Adventist organization out of Arizona called the Beehive. This is a 10 week program based on the lifestyle of Daniel and the goal is to share simple, inexpensive methods to lose weight, eat for life, and cleanse the body’s systems to obtain better overall health. I was hoping the program would start this month but I’ve been informed that they are totally revamping the program and the new version is bigger and better so I’m going to wait for it.
My story of how a plant based diet has helped me improve my health is just one of many. This woman pictured is just one of the many people all over the world today who are discovering the same benefits. Here are a few others.
Now I’m not suggesting we should follow in the footsteps of celebrities and politicians, I just refer to them because being people that live their life in the public eye it affords us the opportunity to see this lifestyle in action. As more and more people experience the benefits I know more people will be curious about what it can do for them.
Perhaps you are curious yourself? I want to invite you to taste and see if your life can be transformed, like mine, with just a simple change of what you put on your plate and how you move your body. If you are battling weight, illness, depression, fatigue, whatever I want to provide you not only the knowledge to help yourself but also the wisdom to know we don’t have to do it alone. Remember God sees the possibilities of all you can be in His grace. This is my vision for Health Ministries this year, to create an environment of safety and support for those who want to improve their physical, mental, and spiritual well being.
Until the challenge begins in March I’m going to be showing a few of the documentaries that inspired me and set me on the road to wellness. You saw a clip this morning of the first. Just in case you missed it this Thursday Jan 17 at 6pm, right here, we will be viewing Forks Over Knives. I want to invite you out, even if your diet is already full of fresh fruit and vegetables and you exercise daily, have an abundance of energy and mental clarity – come out and support your brothers and sisters who are struggling. And if you are one of the struggling know that we are here for you. We all need a little hand holding at times. I want 2013 to be your best year ever.
I want to close with this last scripture. This is my favorite Bible promise.
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
God has infinitely better plans then we could ever dream up for this coming New Year. I can’t wait to see what He has in store for us. Thank you.