Several months ago I had it on my heart to start a group where I would share about my journey toward better health. I thought it would be a place where I would share things like some of our favorite recipes, what I feed my family, how I get fresh fruit and veggies into growing bodies, which supplements I give my kids, and which essential oils we use. I would also share my journey to become a certified health coach and how I try to get my own body back to a place of being as healthy as it can be.
But more than all those things, I guess, I had it on my heart to have a space where I could share about an area of my own life in which I have struggled for so many years. Since I had my first child in 1999, really.
Finding a healthy balance.
I have tried and failed. Tried and failed. Tried and failed. For years!
My relationship with food has been an evolving one. I grew up in a very meat-eating family. I can’t remember there ever being a meal without meat. Even mac and cheese had bacon added to it. My mom was an incredible cook (it’s hard for me to believe that she’s been in heaven for almost ten years already). But oh my goodness, could she bake!
I will never forget the first time I brought Anthony home to meet my parents. We had known each other for just two days. Ours was a whirlwind romance. We were engaged three months after we met and married just six months later. We just knew. The day Anthony came to my home to meet my parents, Mom was baking for the Sunday evening gathering they had after church, as she always did. She loved providing the most delicious treats to share. As we walked into the kitchen that day, decadent chocolate cake, cookies, and those heavenly fruity chew things (don’t be fooled by the ‘fruit’ part—they were buttery, sugary deliciousness) that she used to make were spread out all over the kitchen counter. It’s what my Mom loved to do. Cook for her family and those she loved. My husband-to-be–who had been a fast-food, Ramen-noodle-eating bachelor for nearly 39 years–walked into a kitchen filled with smells and treats that won his heart over on the spot.
Growing up I never really enjoyed meat. But more than the taste, I just struggled to eat animals. Going to the meat section of the grocery store was just beyond awful for me. I was the one in the family who rescued all the stray dogs who somehow made their way to our home and had parents gracious enough to allow me to keep my growing menagerie (thanks, Dad!). I nurtured baby birds who fell from trees and sobbed uncontrollably when the first pigeon flew into my windshield after I obtained my driver license. Today, I’m still that way and my family just shakes their heads when I slow down to avoid a tiny critter crossing the road, and when I make a rule to name every animal who will ever make it onto our little hobby farm. Because when they have names, they’re pets and will die of old age on our land.
As a teenager I gave up eating red meat. Being a vegetarian can be a tricky thing. Sure, it’s easy to not eat meat. But it’s also easy to eat all the wrong things and end up being depleted of many essential nutrients.
It wasn’t until Connor was born that I decided to be way more intentional about what I ate and about what I fed my family. Opening a jar and feeding my baby processed food just didn’t sit well with me. As a young mother who had never taken the time to learn about nutrition, I was clueless about where to start in knowing what his rapidly growing body needed. Connor was a ten-pound baby and extremely hungry. My desire to feed him more than the recommended rice cereal and commercially prepared baby food in a jar sent me on a quest to learning as much as I could about nutrition and what makes the human body function at its best. I had no idea where to even start figuring out what to feed it well.
It’s been years and years of studying and learning and trying new things. I believe with all my heart that God designed our bodies to be an incredible machine and that what we put into this fearfully and wonderfully made masterpiece matters. A lot. I have had seasons of eating horribly and gaining way too much weight, and seasons of being cautious about what I eat and losing a lot of weight. I have tried many dietary theories—high protein, low carb, vegan, no dairy, no grain. You name it, I’ve tried it.
Thankfully, I have learned through so much trial and error and much failing to find a healthier balance when it comes to what I eat. Most days I get it right. Some days a bag of gummy bears or chewy Airheads (my fave!) have my name written all over them. And that’s okay too.
But as our family grew and we were so blessed to be called to bring medically fragile children home, I found myself struggling more and more with finding a healthy balance in other areas of my life too. Taking care of my children was an absolute joy and I loved every moment of it. I loved watching them gain weight and grow and learn that human touch was a wonderful thing. And yes, I had learned how to feed my family and spent so much time ensuring that we ate at home, that my family always had fresh fruit and healthy snack options, and that I was always trying new and nutritious recipes. But other areas of my life felt a little out of whack.
Taking time out to have coffee with friends became far less.
Reading God’s Word became something I did on the run—grabbing a few moments here and there.
Finding time to just go and sit in a bookshop and have time out became something I almost felt guilty about doing.
Date nights with the man I adore became an extremely rare treat.
And finding time to exercise was a distant memory of something that I once did to take care of myself and loved doing a very long time ago.
Last summer, as many of you know, we were faced with what is the greatest heartache of our married life. God asked us to put our dream of returning to the mission field on the altar—surrendering it to Him who knows all things. Saying it was tough is an understatement. Having sold all of our belongings, we had to start all over again. I hit a ginormous brick wall and struggled to find my way back. Eventually, I realized that I needed to make some changes if I was going be the best I could be for my family. And with that came a season of reflection, of digging deep, of refiguring things out, of taking a long, hard look at my life and determining in my heart to find more of a balance.
For my husband.
For my children.
To serve my Jesus better.
By no means do I feel like I have arrived. No, absolutely not! Of course I still have seasons when I have to be a little more intentional about focusing on the things that matter. Life can get so ridiculously busy and it’s so easy for mothers to take care of everyone else and their needs and forget about themselves. But I am so much farther down the road than I was fifteen months ago. By His grace, I have been able to get to a much healthier place in my life—juggling many, many hats and learning how to care for me in the process.
Because when Mom is burned out, stressed, running on empty, and absolutely worn out, it affects everyone in the family.
When I dreamed of sharing my heart with moms like me who also struggle to find a balance, I never really considered using this blog of mine. For so many years this has been a place where I mainly shared my beautiful children, adoption stories, and advocating for those who need to come home. For nine years I have been No Greater Joy Mom. But as I prayed about what God has for me next, I felt like it was time to make this space more personaI. More about my own journey. More about my own successes and failures. I’m excited to expand what I have had here to include so much more about my own road to being a more energetic, healthier wife and mother. As I navigate these crazy mid-life years (darn, they seriously do come quickly!), I hope that I can continue to write as the Lord leads me here and share my heart in so many more areas.
Some days I get the balance right, and some days are a crazy struggle as I navigate the ebb and flow of life.
But of this one thing I am certain.
God is so kind and gracious to show us the way. Always.