Introducing …

Please allow me a moment to introduce my new blog!

Hormonally Speaking

Now before you get worried and start to fret about whether or not you’ll still get updates whenever I randomly post something new or will need to go follow me at some new internet address, please understand my new blog is completely separate from this one. They are very different.

Tales from the Laundry Room is my personal blog, where I write about my marriage, my adventures in raising five teens and tweens, my experiences as a foster mom to two rambunctious toddlers, my dreams and goals and aspirations. Basically, I write about my life … and usually I connect it back to what God is teaching me through it. Naturally, I hope you’ll stay right here with me as I continue to randomly write about whatever happens to be on my mind.

Hormonally Speaking is not a random blog.  In fact, it is a blog where I write for a  specific audience (women) about a determined topic (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome).

Perhaps you have a few questions you’d like to ask. Maybe the first one is:

What is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome anyway?

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, shortened PCOS, is a hormonal disorder.  (Now you know where I got the name for my blog!) It’s the leading cause of infertility among women, but also comes with a host of other symptoms.  Here’s a rather short list:

  • weight-gain/inability to lose weight
  • absence of ovulation
  • irregular menstrual cycles
  • miscarriage
  • problems with breast feeding
  • male pattern hair growth
  • male pattern baldness
  • skin issues (severe acne, psoriasis, skin tags, etc)
  • higher risk for heart disease, Type II diabetes, and certain cancers

There is no cure for PCOS, and in general the medical community tends to treat individual symptoms rather than the whole patient.

Which leads me to question #2 …

Why do you need a whole blog dedicated to PCOS? Why not just write about it here on this blog?

The short answer is that I’m writing a book about my personal experiences  with PCOS, and I want to be able to engage with my audience and get to know them in a way that might not happen here with a wider audience.

The longer answer is that women who have PCOS deal with a lot of issues. Many of the symptoms chip away at a woman’s femininity.

For example, a woman with PCOS might have a difficult time getting pregnant. If she does, she might have a problem with maintaining that pregnancy. Hopefully that won’t happen and she will give birth. However, then she might discover that she cannot breastfeed her baby. It’s a real struggle many women face.

Another example might be a  woman with enough hair on her upper lip to grow a fuller mustache than her husband, yet she also has a receding hairline. How embarrassing! Yet there are many women who spend tons of money just on trying to hide the fact that they are going bald and have hair growing in places it shouldn’t.

Those are issues I want to address, openly and frankly, with my readers. But if I tried to write about those topics here at Tales from the Laundry Room, I might be tempted to hold back my thoughts and feelings on these issues. Emotionally, it’s very hard to discuss these issues. I already feel insecure and embarrassed talking about it in this post, much less if I wanted to go more in-depth on these issues. However, if I were writing to a targeted group of women who are likely to have had many of the same thoughts and feelings and emotions I have experienced, then it will be easier for me to open up and share my personal story.

And my story is important. It’s the reason I believe God called me to write a book about PCOS. You see, I don’t have a medical degree or special insider information about treating PCOS. But I do know the Creator personally, the very One who fashioned each one of us in the womb. And I know that knowing Him is the only way to find true self-worth. So you can see, being able to truly open up and share my heart is essential if I want to be an encourager to other women with PCOS.

The more I thought about trying to mesh the two purposes, the more I realized I simply needed two separate blogs, which is why I decided to make a brand-new blog dedicated to the topic of PCOS. Two blogs; two purposes. I’ll certainly continue to write on both.

The third question you might wish to ask me is perhaps this:

Well, if your new blog isn’t going to interfere with your writing on this blog, then why should I care?

Well, I mentioned earlier that PCOS is the leading cause of infertility for women. In fact, it’s so common that anywhere from 1-3 out of every 10 women has it, and many are undiagnosed.

Stop and think about that statistic for a moment.

Anywhere from 10% to 30% of women child-bearing age or older, suffer from this hormonal disorder.

That’s a lot of women! And what that means is that chances are extremely likely that you know a lady with PCOS. Perhaps it is your sister, your aunt, your next-door neighbor.

Here’s how you can help, both the lady you know with PCOS and me. Introduce them to my new blog. It’s so easy to share the links on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. I would appreciate it so very much!

I love this blog and my readers here. Tales from the Laundry Room has taught me quite a bit about the art of writing, the fun of engaging with my readers, and the importance of knowing my audience. I do not plan to abandon this blog at all. Rather, I hope each of my blogs will help me continue to grow as a professional author, and I’m looking forward to a long future of blogging at Tales from the Laundry Room.

Again, thanks for being a faithful reader … and thanks in advance for sharing Hormonally Speaking with your friends and family!

 

Of Swimsuits and Swimming (Writing 101, Day 1 Challenge)

Maddie and Megan are going swimsuit shopping today with their mother.

I have to admit that a part of me is worried about what what sort of swimsuit they might bring back home.It’s not that I don’t trust them to pick out a nice swimsuit. It’s just that … well, standards are different between our two homes.

Jon and I prefer the girls to wear more modest suits. A one piece. A tankini where both pieces touch.  Plenty of coverage over certain areas of the body.

I realize not every family, even among Christendom, feels the same way.  But Jon and I both feel rather strongly about modesty, for both genders.

It’s hard when our children’s other parents do not agree and share the same values. And since their mother is purchasing the swimsuits, Jon and I have to simply trust our girls to make wise choices.

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I probably haven’t been swimming in ten years.

Actually, that’s not exactly true … more like six or seven. Still, it’s been a long time. In the past twenty years, or all of my adult life, I’ve probably gotten into a swimsuit less than a dozen times total.

I actually love the water and enjoy swimming. But I don’t do it very often. The reason?

I am insecure and uncomfortable with the appearance of my own body.

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I don’t for a moment believe I am the only woman in the world with a bad body image.

Yet, if you were to place me on a scale of one to ten (where one represents a great body image and ten is for a terrible body image), I’d probably fall off the chart with a score of 13. 5 or something awful like that.

It’s not just swimsuits either.

I avoid mirrors if at all possible. There is nothing worse than a full-length mirror in a bathroom. A couple of years ago, Jon and I were house hunting. We came along a really nice home well within our price range. I recall being very pleased with the kitchen, living area and spacious backyard. But when I walked into a master bedroom that had an entire wall as a mirror … well, let’s just say I was no longer an interested buyer.

I really dislike having my photo taken. If it’s a group shot, I always try to arrange myself on the back row.  While most people I know love random photos, to me there is nothing worse than having your picture taken when you least suspect it.  Well, the only thing worse than having your picture taken randomly is actually looking at the said photos. Especially if the photo is more than just a headshot. Especially if the photo is of me at any age older than twelve or thirteen.

I’d never judge another woman’s worth based on her size or on any sort of physical feature she might consider to be a flaw.

So why am I so hard on myself?

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Shortly after my 21st birthday, I was diagnosed with PCOS, but I began having the symptoms very early in puberty. There was the unexplained weight gain, the inability to lose weight, the anxiety attacks, the unwanted hair growth, and the severe acne among many other things. About the time I began to desire to look beautiful, everything about my outside appearance began to go wrong. As a 13 year old girl, it was extremely emotional.  I didn’t know the cause. The best I could figure, I was just destined to be unattractive. By the time I was finally diagnosed, I had been experiencing the symptoms for more than seven years.

PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects approximately 1 in 10 women of child-bearing age.  In addition to all the health risks and yucky symptoms, PCOS is perhaps just as much an emotionally devastating syndrome for the women who suffer from it as the symptoms actually strip away at the very essence of femininity.

Originally, my doctors indicated it would just be hard for me to conceive children, as most women with PCOS experience infertility to a certain degree. That much was certainly true. But I was also blessed. After three years of infertility, God gifted me with three beautiful children in less than three and a half years.

And yet PCOS has been far more than simply experiencing infertility. It continues to affect me every day, from my physical health to my emotions to even the kinds of foods I am able to eat.  PCOS has even affected my relationship with God.

You see, I am guilty of feeling angry with God giving me PCOS. Were I to count the vast numbers of prayers I have offered which  were nothing but raging over this syndrome, questioning “Why me?,” and begging God to take away this burden I never wanted to bear, the sum would be far larger than any number to which I have ever counted.

I hate to admit it, but deep inside, a part of me felt like God didn’t care about me or this problem. I felt abandoned to an illness no doctor could cure. I felt unworthy of a healing. At times, I even wondered if I were being punished. Even more, I blamed God for giving me the PCOS in the first place.

While I worked through many of these emotions during my adult years and came to a place of acceptance of the way things would be in my life, I still didn’t exactly make peace with the skin God put me in.

Moreover, I felt righteously justified in having my bad body image.

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There are a lot of Bible verses that immediately pop into my mind whenever I think about trying to change my bad body image.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. ~Proverbs 31:30

Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

Your beauty should not come from outer adornment … instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. ~1 Peter 3:3-4

While I am challenged by those scriptures I shared above, the one that convicts me the most is Psalms 139, the very prayer I used to pray when I was pregnant with my babies and over them as sweet newborns.  I still use this scripture today when one of my five kiddos has a moment of feeling physically unattractive. It goes like this:

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. ~Psalm 139:14

Recently, I read these same words from The Message Bible, a paraphrased edition of the Bible (as opposed to a word-by-word translation) which tends to be more conversational in style.

Body and soul, I am marvelously made!  I worship in adoration—what a creation!  ~Psalm 139: 14

Wow. I never thought about my body being marvelously made. Nor had I ever once praised God for my body.

Perhaps I’m not perfect by MY standards, but I can see and hear and use my limbs. I’m relatively healthy. I don’t have a debilitating illness. And I was created by a loving God, who gave me life. What reason have I to complain? Why am I so against myself instead of loving me for who I am … a creation made in the image of God?

Perhaps even more wonderful is I discovered the solution to correcting my bad body image …

praising its Creator in worship.

psalm139_14

I certainly don’t think I’m completely over my bad body image.  After all, I still have no desire to put on a swimsuit or gaze at myself in a full-length mirror. I suppose after more than 25 years of believing a lie, it’s going to take some time for me to heal those parts of my soul.

And yet, just as there is hope for my husband to restore his relationship with his step-son, there is hope for me to grow to love the person God created me to be  … outside and inside!

I am definitely looking forward to that.

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Do you have a bad body image?

Have you ever had to come to terms with a “thorn in the side?”

And The Walls Came Tumbling Down!

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It’s a story told often, how the walls of Jericho fell. In Sunday School classes, tiny children are taught to sing the song, retelling how Joshua fought the Battle of Jericho by simply marching round the city walls and blowing on trumpets.  

While the account of those tumbling walls of Jericho definitely make for a memorable Bible story, the life lessons contained within should be nothing less than inspiring for a Christian facing what seems to be a formidable problem.  As I study this story, I find not only encouragement for battles in my life, but also a very particular battle plan that is a key to breaking down strongholds in my life.

You find the recount of Joshua and the Battle of Jericho in the book of Joshua, chapter 6. The very first verse says this:

Now Jericho was strongly fortified … ~Joshua 6:1

Joshua had literally just led the Israelite nation into their Promised Land. Now they were going to have to drive out all those who lived there, and Jericho was the first city on the list of many. Archaeologists and historians have noted that Jericho’s walls actually consisted of 3 walls:  a retaining wall about 15 feet high with a 25 foot high mud-brick wall on top of the retaining wall.  Between the first two walls and the third wall was a steep embankment.  At the top of the embankment stood the third wall, which was also about 25 feet high, though the base of this third wall was about 45 feet higher than the top of the second wall. To Joshua and the Israelites, Jericho was formidable. There was no hope of a battle victory here.  And yet, Joshua’s instructions were to drive out all those who lived in the Promise Land. It must have seemed like a monumental task.

As the Biblical account reads, God lets Joshua know that He has already handed over the entire city of Jericho, as well as its king and fighting men, to Joshua. All Joshua must do is have his army of men march around the city once a day for six days. On the seventh day, the priests were to blow the trumpets while the men march around the city seven times. Then at the sound of the long trumpet blast, the men were to give a mighty shout and the walls would collapse.  I have often wondered, as have many Bible preachers and teachers, how Joshua felt upon hearing God’s battle plan. After all, it wasn’t exactly the typical method of defeating an overwhelming foe. Yet, God promised Joshua the outcome wasn’t in question. Victory was assured … as long as Joshua followed God’s battle plan, as crazy as it seemed.  The first key to overcoming strongholds in life is obedience to God. Obedience is doing things 100% God’s way, even if it seems illogical or crazy to our human brains.

Joshua had enough faith in God to obey, to trust that God would bring about the impossible. Joshua also knew that faith often requires an element of discipline. In Joshua 10:6 we see Joshua command his troops:

Do not shout or let your voice be heard. Don’t let one word come out of your mouth until I say, “Shout!”

Then you are to shout.

How often do I ask for God’s help and receive His action plan for victory, only to not have enough discipline to carry it out?  Faith may begin in the heart, but it is carried out in our deeds. True belief is followed by actions which are the proof of what is in our hearts.

Along with discipline, faith requires endurance. Joshua and his army didn’t just march around the city of Jericho once.  They didn’t march sporadically either. They marched once a day for six days straight, and then on the seventh day they marched seven times around those walls. Historians tell us that the walls of Jericho surrounded an area that was approximately 1,500 feet in length and a little over 500 feet in width.  While it was certainly doable for Joshua’s vast army to march around the city seven times in one day, it would have been a long walk. And yet, because of their willingness to endure and push through, God’s victory was given to Joshua and the Israelites.

More than anything, when I face problems in my life, especially the kind that are rooted deeply, I feel overwhelmed and hopeless to make positive changes.  Currently, I’m working to change a lifetime of poor eating choices.  After 40 years of eating more than I should and not making the healthiest of food choices, it feels like a daunting change.  When I consider the aspect of having PCOS and genetics, both of which predispose me to having a struggle with my weight, I realize that this foe is formidable, and to attempt to defeat it feels like a losing battle before I ever get started. Yet, deep down in my soul, I think God will be delighted to give me victory in this area, if only I am willing to follow Him in obedience, with discipline and endurance, trusting that His battle plan will bring me the victory. 

What overwhelming problem do you face in your life? Have you given it to God for the victory?  If you do, you can trust your faith in God, along with obedience, discipline and endurance, will be part of the battle plan God gives you in order to overcome even the strongest foes.

 

A Little Soul Food

Rather than just state the obvious and say that I am overweight, I’m going to be bold and spell it out as I never have before:

Personal issues with food, as well as a faulty perception of what makes a woman truly beautiful, have for years waged a fierce war on my soul. The heart-aching truth about this lifelong battle is it prevents me from finding full freedom in Christ. It  inhibits me from fulfilling my God-given callings to the degree for which I daily pray, hope and long to see come to fruition. And it holds me captive, keeping me from knowing all God has planned for my life.

I am tired of it. Tired of my weak and flimsy excuses. Tired of the yo-yo effects of my eating habits. Tired of feeling like a failure. Tired of comparing myself to everyone else. Tired of fighting the same battle … again and again and again.

Weak & Flimsy Excuses

It can’t be all genetics. Sure, there are a lot of overweight people in my family, but so far not a single one of them has ever stuffed a chocolate chip cookie into my mouth. Nor have any of them prevented me from choosing to eat a healthy diet. And not once has a relative ever blocked me from participating in daily exercise. Although my genetic make-up has perhaps given me a predisposition to weight struggles, it is still plain to see neither my genetics nor my family are the source of my weight problem.

It’s not PCOS either. It is true … I do have PCOS. And it is a fact many women with PCOS struggle with weight issues due to unruly hormones. However, I’ve long known the medical community not only recommends women with PCOS follow a specific diet, but that many PCOS sufferers find weight management to be relatively easy as long as they rigidly follow that diet. I’ve just never wanted to commit to making such drastic changes to the way I eat. Again … PCOS may be a factor, but it is not the root cause of my unhealthy weight.

I don’t have time to cook healthy.  Besides, it is too expensive to feed our family of seven healthy meals. Bologna! I have time to cook myriads of dishes that I want to cook, and money to buy generally whatever foods we desire to indulge in eating.

I don’t have time or energy to workout on a regular basis.  Ahem … considering I have an elliptical gathering dust in my bedroom, this excuse is so flimsy it just might fall apart by my merely mentioning it.

My excuses are just that … excuses.  They make me nothing more than a whiny bystander in my own life, content to repeat the same feeble justifications over and over to anyone who will listen. If I continue to excuse myself from doing the right thing, I will never find a solution to my problem.

The Yo-Yo Foodie

Weight Watchers. Medi-Fast. Atkins. Sugar Busters. Even the notorious Grapefruit Diet. I’ve done them all. Some with moderate success. Others with no success at all.

I’m a professional yo-yo dieter, eating healthy one week and not-so-healthy the next. The one thing I’ve never been is a truly committed dieter. The truth is I only wanted a short-term fix, rather than a lifestyle change.

Feeling like a Failure

I cannot think of a single time in my entire life I’ve felt successful in regards to my weight.

If success is measured in numbers, then not only is the number on the scale too high, but also my BMI.  And while my blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels all still fall within normal ranges, I’m always worried that the next doctor’s visit will tell a different tale.

Unfortunately, I have a habit of dismissing small victories and thereby thwarting my chances of success.  In the end, I discover once again I’ve missed out on the big victory altogether, whereas if I had acknowledged and celebrated smaller successes I might have enjoyed a different outcome.

The Comparison of Apple and Oranges

Oddly enough, I’ve never felt much like an apple or an orange. I’m more of a blueberry kind of gal, myself.

Still, even comparing blueberries to strawberries is pretty much pointless.  After all, comparison is the death of contentment.

While I don’t exactly need to look for contentment in regards to my health and weight, I do need to be content with my physical appearance. I have blue eyes, not brown. Light skin instead of a tanned tone. My frame is never going to be petite in any sense of the word. Wishing to have a figure like someone else is only a waste of my time and energy.

American society values slim, trim and fit. Being in shape and tiny is an expectation placed on females of every age. Pudgy even in the best seasons of this life, I don’t think I’ve ever once been thought of as slim and trim, and certainly not fit.  I’ve known that my weight and my appearance often causes others to “judge” me … at least until they get to know me. Yet, the worst of it is, even in my own eyes, I often feel “less than” as a woman because of my weight. It’s as if I think just by dropping 60 lbs I would instantly become a more valuable person to myself, my husband and family, my friend and to the whole of society. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Tired of the Battle

I’m not just tired of the battle. I am weary and worn of it. I’m standing here with the end of the rope in my hands, no longer confused or uncertain or complacent about the situation. And I am unwilling to keep fighting this battle in the same way.

What may have started as a way to help my food-sensitive husband feel better has turned into much more. My eyes are opened to how my love/hate relationship with food is standing in the way of my love relationship with God. Craving and indulging in food has not just been my habit.  It has been my god.

Now that it has been recognized and acknowledged, there is nothing else I can do but either choose to continue doing that which I know in the depths of my soul is wrong,  or ask for forgiveness and turn to walk the other way.  At the very essence of repentance is a heart-felt change. Saying “I’m sorry. Forgiven me.” and yet continuing to wallow in my same old habits is not repenting at all.

A Light Bulb Moment

Today I was reading and came across these words:

Struggling with my weight isn’t God’s mean curse on me, but an outside indication that internal changes are needed for me to function and feel well. (pg 216, Made To Crave, Lysa TerKeurst)

And right below those words, I saw this Bible verse:

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. ~Isaiah 43: 18-19

Today marks 2 weeks since Jon and I began eating healthier, following The Daniel Plan (by Pastor Rick Warren), hoping it would relieve many of his food sensitivity symptoms.  Thankfully, this clean way of eating whole foods, with it’s focus on more fresh veggies and low-glycemic fruits, lean sources of proteins, and  has done tremendous things in a short time for healing Jon’s gut problems.  Trust me … this is a huge praise, as we are continue to pray for his digestive health to improve.

While I’ve experienced some measured success myself in these last two weeks, dropping around 10 lbs and noticing an increase in my energy levels, I have never felt like this was something I was doing for me.  My only goal was to help my husband.

It was never once about my weight.

It was never once about my health.

It was never once about my PCOS-ravaged body.

Yet today, all that has begun to change. It’s as if I took my eyes off myself for just a bit, stepped back from my own issue to encourage and support someone I love, and ended up gaining a new perspective about my own situation.  And somehow, in the middle of it all, I feel as though God is indeed beginning to do a new thing in me … as though He is making a beautiful stream in my vast wasteland.

This one truth I know full well:

No matter what I battle in this life, there is no fear or condemnation in Christ. Rather, the battle is the Lord’s and all I have to do is follow hard after Him.

(Okay, so I know there is more to it than that.  Trust me!  At 41 years of age, I’ve been around the block enough times to expect there will be many hard days, many moments of struggles, and maybe even quite a few flat-out failures. But my focus will be on Christ and the new thing He is doing in me. And somehow, in this very moment, right here where I sit at the corner of my kitchen bar,  I’m feeling blessed to know I will no longer fight this battle on my own.)