October 28, 2015

The Power of "REST"

It is a blessed Wednesday, and once again, I am sitting here at the 3rd floor computers in the GCU library. It has been a good day so far, considering I had about 4.5 hours of sleep last night. Yes, I finally turned in around midnight, but I struggled to fall asleep, and with that I spent a good hour and half tossing and turning. When my alarm sounded at 5:30 a.m., and I opened my eyes to see that it was pitch black outside, well, the only thing I wanted to do was stay in bed. Regardless of my feelings, I pulled myself together, and headed out the door as the sun was rising in the East. It is daylights savings time again, and even though Arizona doesn't change their clocks, we still feel the effects of the time change. The sun was just breaking over the horizon and it was such a beautiful start to the morning. As I sit here today, I am reminded that every day is a gift from the Lord. Every day we have the opportunity to choose whether to embrace or reject the day the Lord has made for us. We can allow our circumstances to dictate our attitudes and behaviors or we can reflect on the glory of the Lord that is all around us, and we can remember that He is Lord of all. Yes, He is Lord of all, and His creation shouts out His praise!

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you (Isaiah 60:1 NIV)

The Word tells us that all of creation bears witness and testimony to the glory of the Lord. If you read through the Psalms, you constantly find the psalmist reminding himself and others how the glory of the Lord is seen through the heavens, through the material created world. Therefore, when we rise with the sun, we are reminded that the Lord has made the day, and He said it was good. Let us remember, then, to approach each new day with a thankful heart, a grateful attitude, and with behavior that bears tribute to all that the Lord has done in our life. He is good, forever and always, He is good!

Today as I sit here, I cannot help but think how good God is toward me. I mean, in all my ways, I fail Him. I try very hard to do the right thing, to be pleasing, to think and to choose wisely; yet, still I fail. I falter, and I fall on the ground humbly professing my inadequacy, my inability to perform, and my inconstancy in remaining faithful to His Word, His will, and His way. Still, I know I am forgiven, praise be to God, and still I know that His grace abounds. I humbly consider all that He has provided, and I know that at times, I cry out that it is not enough, not good enough; in truth, however, I am fully aware that what He has provided is enough, indeed it is enough. I want so much to know that I am improving, you know, working my way through this life with fear and trembling, for my God is so good, so very good to me. In the rush and hustle of this modern world, I feel so often as if I am running hard just to stay with the pack (so to speak). I feel that the crush of the "to-do's" and the pressure to succeed, to perform, and to achieve is driving me to an early grave. I know it is a good thing to aspire, to want to do good work, but at the same time, I think there is great wisdom in resting, in relaxing, and in enjoying the blessings that God has given to us.

God-Given Rest

When we read the creation story from Genesis, we are reminded that God created the seventh day as a day of rest. He rested from all His works, and likewise, we are to have periodic rest. This means that we are to work a set number of hours each day so that we can have rest at night. It also means that we are to work a set number of hours each week, again, to afford us weekly rest. Throughout the course of our weeks and months, there are times when we are to stop our work and rest. Yes, and when the time comes for us to retire, we are to rest during our latter years. This is the Lord's plan for our life, and it is good. We often become so busy with life, with things, with being this way or that way that we forget to stop and rest. No wonder adrenal fatigue is such a major issue for people today. Adrenal fatigue occurs when the adrenal system is exposed to prolonged periods of stress. The adrenal glands secret hormones, mostly Cortisol, the hormone responsible for generating that "flight or fight" response. When we live in constant stress-mode, our adrenal glands are working overtime in order to keep us in tip-top shape so we can flee from our enemies. The problem, of course, is that this stress-induced state produces all types of problems for us health wise. Many, many people suffer from some measure of adrenal overload, and they experience symptoms that range from mild to severe. Most of these people do not even know that they are causing great harm to their bodies. Most are unaware that prolonged states such as adrenal overload can cause damaging effects to the body that will not be reversed after a time. 

According to Dr. Wilson's book, "Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome," it is estimated that up to 16% of the population suffers severe adrenal fatigue. There are no authoritative statistics to confirm this number, but physicians report that the real number is more likely closer to 66% of all people suffer some measure of adrenal fatigue. What are the chances you are suffering from this condition? If you experience these symptoms two or more times per week, then more than likely you could be in "stress overload:"
  • You feel tired for no reason.
  • You have trouble getting up in the morning, even when you go to bed at a reasonable hour.
  • You are feeling rundown or overwhelmed.
  • You have difficulty bouncing back from stress or illness.
  • You crave salty and sweet snacks.
  • You feel more awake, alert and energetic after 6PM than you do all day.
If you are not sure whether you are suffering from adrenal fatigue, consider taking this simple quiz to find out: https://www.adrenalfatigue.org/take-the-adrenal-fatigue-quiz. Keep in mind that there are many other health conditions that have similar symptoms, so make sure to talk with your doctor about your concerns. I know that I am a perfect case example of a person in stress overload. In fact, I have been tested (a number of years ago), and it was concluded that my heightened state of stress was leading to physical effects related to adrenal fatigue. 

All of this is to say that one of the best treatments for adrenal fatigue or suspected adrenal fatigue is to check your diet, and to make sure you are treating underlying issues concerning emotional stress (such as depression from grief or loss). 

Recovering from adrenal fatigue is a challenge, and without some medication intervention, it can be difficult, if not impossible. But still, there is a lot you can do to improve your overall health and condition. I know that I am stressed right now, and that a lot of my stress is related to my heavy work schedule with Regent and teaching. However, I also know that the work I do, studying and teaching, is not outside the realm of what is considered normal. Therefore, most of my physical condition and issues relating to my condition stem from three things:
  1. Poor diet
  2. Adrenal fatigue (chronic)
  3. Lack of moderate exercise
I have tried to lose weight recently, and I struggle to overcome that set point in my weight loss program. I have used Weight Watchers and Atkins in the past, and frankly, both have worked equally as well. I lost 35 pounds on Weight Watchers in 2001, and I lost about 15 pounds with Atkins last year. My weight has plateaued again, and it seems that nothing I do can shift that final 15 pounds. So after thinking about it some more, I have decided that I am going to concentrate on these three things over the course of the next 5-6 months. Truthfully, what do I have to lose? Nothing, but weight! LOL! What do I have to gain? Weight loss, better health and vitality, more energy! Yes, all of the above. My goal now is to regulate my work schedule so that I have the time I need to accomplish my tasks (assignments) and still get a solid 8 hours of sleep each night. It is certainly doable, so I believe that if I attack my diet first, I should see some results fairly quickly. When I talk about diet, I am not really talking about crash dieting, but rather about changing my approach to eating. You see, I tend to crave both salty and sweet things, and as a result, I overeat for emotional support. I know that when I reduced my sweets and carbs, the weight dropped off me. So this is my approach for now. I plan to reduce my carb consumption by forgoing the forbidden fruits of my passion:
  • Pasta, pastries, and party goods
  • Bakery, buns, and bread
  • Chocolate
Yes, I am cutting carbs by removing breads, cereals, grains, and all those other foods that mess with your glycemic tolerance. I am not cutting 100% carbs, but I am reducing them from my diet naturally. This means salads instead of sandwiches, dinners without rolls, no dessert (no pie, cakes, cookies, ice cream). I know that seems horrible, but frankly, these are easy calories to cut without sacrificing nutrition. 

After a time, I will allow special foods into my diet, especially with the Holidays coming up so quickly. But for the next couple weeks as we work our way toward Thanksgiving and Christmas, I am going to restrict my food choices to healthy alternatives just to see if I can budge the scale downward a bit. I hope so, I really do hope so.

My goal for the new year (yes, I am planning already), is to lose this stubborn 15 pounds before I travel to Regent for my Oral defense. You see, it is always good to have a fixed target date, so March 4-11, 2016 (my week) is my goal. I want to be down 15 pounds, and to be feeling much better by then. I have given myself four months to lose 15 pounds. I have plenty of time, and if I cut carbs and watch what I eat, realistically, I could lose 1-2 pounds a week (a safe amount) in 7 to 15 weeks. That is about the time I have set aside for myself. It is possible that with careful control, I could lose most of the weight by January 1, but knowing myself well, I think the slow and steady approach is better.

I also know that beside my poor diet and lack of regular exercise, I have to deal with the stress in my life. I have to tackle what is the BIG ISSUE that causes me stress. For now, it is my preoccupation with my work. I have decided therefore to give it a rest. Yes, I am giving my work concerns a big break. I am simply accepting my life as it is right now, and letting the future rest in His hands. This means that for all intents and purposes, I have chosen to remain in my present career for as long as the Lord chooses for me to do it. I did apply for business positions recently, but my prayer now is that the Lord will allow or disallow them based on His will. I am content to choose to remain as I am, and for the most part, I feel that this is His will for me now. I cannot really say what has happened other than to state that over the past couple days, He has given me enough testimony to show me that where I am right now is good. It may not be perfect yet, but it is good, and He has provided it, so I am choosing to accept it as a gift from His hand.

I have three contracts set for spring, and teaching these three classes should provide plenty of time for me to prepare for my oral exams. This is a good thing, really. In addition, my schedule will be flexible, mornings at home on MWF, and all day TTR free. It should work well. Does it provide enough for me? It will be tight, but so far the Lord has seen to it that I have enough to cover my expenses each day. I can only trust Him for His provision, and that means, that He has to know what is needed in the next 3-6 or 9 months of my life. I am looking to His hand for this gift, this blessing, and rather than trying to take on more work or make my life more difficult than it already is, I am choosing instead to REST, to take the rest He has provided, and to use this time to get my health back in good shape.

In all, I am happy. I am relieved, even though in the back of my mind, I have to remember to not worry about tomorrow. I have to let this pass, and to trust Him to care for me today, tomorrow and every day going forward. I am tired, so very tired, and I need prolonged rest to recover from this adrenal fatigue. Until the Lord provides that to me, I will continue to look to His hand, I will trust Him to provide doors of opportunity, and ways for me to earn extra income, and I will rest in His sufficiency, His grace, and His tender care. He is good, so very good to me.

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