A Condensed, yet Comprehensive Conspectus
I am currently completing my Masters with a focus in Integrative Wellness at Point Loma Nazarene University, of which I am over halfway through. For those of you who know me, this sort of program is a dream. There’s a particular area of interest, beauty, awe, passion that I have found here; every day + every assignment is lined with excitement. There’s also a peculiar coincidence + paradox I have surfaced in the journey as well. Let me elucidate…
To whomever may be drifting by these words, I invite you to consider what it is that wellness means; and particularly for my colleagues in this journey, what it is that we study. We (that is, those in this specified area of health exploration + expertise) recognize that there are several dimensions of wellness — including physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, social, and even environmental, occupational, or financial. What do we as wellness professionals and human beings seek in cultivating and nourishing these aspects of wellness? What is the underlying motivation or ultimate goal to be achieved? To live a better, more satisfying life…sure! But what about beyond that? Do you notice anything curious about the dimensions in light of that last question — “beyond” this life? Let’s take a look at each one a bit more in-depth, in reality.
Physical: no matter how conscientious, caring, and compassionate we are towards our physical bodies/health through means such as nutrition, exercise, sleep, and medical care, our bodies are bound to fluctuate in size over time, movement + function will likely become more difficult than it used to be, we will grow more fatigued than in our younger years, and we will ultimately pass on — a vapor that is here ~73 years (the world’s average life expectancy) and then moved on.
Intellectual: we spend our whole lives learning new things — without even trying. It is inevitable! What a glorious reality. However, as we begin to age, our memory weakens, our mental stamina + reflexes are lessened, we may find it more difficult to keep in step with our old routines or our previously-loved hobbies.
Emotional: this category is a rollercoaster in itself; do I need to explain? Ha, kidding. But, our emotions legitimately are bound to ebb + flow + fluctuate depending upon our circumstances, our conscience, our counterparts. Working towards emotional stability + regulation has evidence backing its efficacy, yet we cannot ultimately control external circumstances and how they truly make us feel inside, regardless of how well we process or react to them.
Social: I think we can all relate to very impactful + meaningful relationships that we have had in the past that are no longer present. That hurts — really, really hurts. Yet, when those relationships were at their prime, they offered contagious contentment, comfort, confidence, encouragement. It’s another reminder of an area that truly nourishes the person in its pursuit + practice, yet is not promised to last forever.
And taken together (since these are not always included in all wellness models, though I do appreciate their inclusion), Environmental, Financial, Occupational: Melting icebergs, blizzards in Texas, skyscrapers in place of farmland — we know well how the geographical landscape is steadily sliding into deterioration + transformation, whether you see that as good or bad, it is not under our ultimate control. Inflation, Unemployment, Unexpected emergencies — such quick occurrences can turn what we placed all of our hopes, plans, promises in, upside down + flattened out. Again, completely out of our control.
Now what’s my point? To be oh-so-very pessimistic + pitiful? No! Our lives — every aspect + dimension of them — are coherently created + diligently designed gifts given to us! We focus on all these areas in order to be good stewards of our gifts. However, did you notice that I forgot to get nitty-gritty with one of the dimensions? Well, that was intentional. Spiritual wellness, or spirituality, is a unique player in this game. Why? It doesn’t fade, falter, fluctuate, or fail. Let me repeat, spiritual wellness is steadfast + lasting. And for the people in the back, spiritual wellness is firm + forever. How can this be?! Our spirit + what our spirits are connected to are eternal things — not things of this physical, material world. Yes, devotional books + church buildings + hymnals will also fade away like all the previously mentioned. Yet, the Word of God, the Church of Christ (that is, the body of believers), + the songs of the saints will carry on into eternity (Isaiah 40:8, Hebrews 11:16, Revelation 5:9-10,15:3-4,19:1-8, 21:1-5). Have you noticed the stark trend in the aging population that are more invested in their spirituality, faith community, or even finding God for the first time? That is partially due to changing times + the era that they grew up in, but not to be dismissed is their realization that as their physical body, mental capacities, social interactions, and finances diminish, they become more aware + dependent on the Almighty God who both created + sustained them through all of their life; who is currently sustaining them when they have no else. If only we could reach that realization sooner. If only we could live a full + whole life, throughout our life. If only we could truly say that we care for + cultivate our health + wellness…
In case you may be wondering why all of the other aspects of health are bound to deteriorate, unlike spirituality, I will share a bit of a well-known story. God created the universe in perfect order + harmony — there was never pain, death, sorrow, strife (Genesis 1). He created humans to be like Him, to have a right relationship with Him + with one another, and to steward His creation (Genesis 2). Yet, those humans didn’t quite obey the perfect order that God had set in place, and this act of rebellion is called sin (Genesis 3). Sin immediately ushered in all of those dreadful things — death, disaster, depression, destruction, etc. Because of this sin, we now see why the things on Earth are bound to corruption (i.e., our bodies, relationships, planet) (Romans 5:12,8:22). But God couldn’t stand to see His beloved creation (His people) to live in this way. So, He sent His Son Jesus Christ, part of His very self, to be born + live among people on Earth whom He knew would reject + despise Him because of their sin (John 3:16, Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 53:3, Luke 17:25, John 1:11). Why would He do such a thing?? (This is where the story gets really good). While Jesus was on Earth, He lived a perfect life without sin so that He could pay for the price + punishment that was due to the Holy God on the part of OUR sin (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:22, Hebrews 4:15, 1 John 3:5). The punishment of our rebellion was death (Romans 5:8,5:12,6:23, Hebrews 2:9). Jesus Christ, God’s own Son + piece of Himself, died to wipe our record clean, but most importantly, He rose from the grave up to Heaven, signifying that the substitution for us was accepted by God (John 11:25, Romans 10:9, Ephesians 1:7, 1 Peter 1:3). Whew! (If you made it this far, I’m sending you a big, big hug). This whole process with Jesus removed eternal death/destruction/darkness + secured eternal life for those who believe that this testimony is true, committing their lives to abiding in Him (John 3:16,3:36,5:24,17:3). Bonus: not only do these believers receive eternal life, they also receive abundant life now (John 10:10, Romans 8:11,15:13) — this is what spiritual wellness is all about! We have hope, purpose, meaning, direction, guidance, peace, comfort, growth, joy, and contentment in this life because of where our spirits lie. Without a grounded foundation of our spirits, we are bound to worldly deterioration + our aims for health/wellness are in vain.
So, what is wellness to you?
Header image: Shane Watson (2021). Holiday self-care for parents: The eight dimensions of wellness. NotMyKid.org. https://notmykid.org/2021/12/12/holiday-self-care-and-the-eight-dimensions-of-wellness/
A Self-Evaluation + Self-Reflection Through Journal Entries
It’s time to get real.
My recent blog posts have been fun + full of adventure, activity, awe but something has been pressing on my heart for some time now that I feel like needs sharing. It’s time for me to be honest with myself, and in order to do that I need to allow my heart to be vulnerable + raw so that I can have some accountability in my life, from myself as a self-reminder, as well as from others around me who care about my well-being.
So here it is. These are some journal entries I have had over the past year or so compiled into a single post, in a somewhat coherent fashion. Please feel free to leave a comment or email me separately if you have any questions, reactions, concerns, advice.
I am fully aware of the surfacing lifestyle pattern I am living that is contrary to a life with God. my flesh longs for self-dependence, self-will, self-sufficiency. I don’t know why I continually struggle with wanting to know everything for the future + wanting to control every aspect of my life. I don’t know why I can’t fully trust my God who has great plans for me—plans that exceed what I could ever imagine (Ephesians 3:20) + that He will undoubtedly bring to completion (Philippians 1:6). I want to stop depending on my own limited view, knowledge, resources, ability + rely fully, completely, wholeheartedly on Him. I want to let go of my own notions + simply surrender. Lord, forgive me of my desire to plan my own steps. help me to focus my mind on your faithfulness, power, wisdom, creativity + lean on your guidance + plans for my life.
this obsession with gaining control has profound effects on seeing, hearing, being with Jesus.
it’s ironic that I continually seek to have control when it only creates more stress + worry for myself. I can easily be free of this weighty burden if I just let go of my grip and give it over to God, trusting Him to handle the reins. His ways are always better than mine even when I don’t want to believe it or quite understand it (Jeremiah 29:11, Isaiah 55:8-9, Proverbs 3:5-6).
it's ironic that I continually seek to have control when it is only an illusion. I know full + well that it is unattainable for me to grasp because God is in total control, yet I’m still so persistent in chasing after it, to the point of neglecting other priorities.
last night I was brought down to my knees in prayer with the Father. I am aware + appalled at my sin, so I admitted my faults to God. He overwhelmed me with reassurance. this struggle has been impossible for me to get past because I have been fighting it alone rather than through His strength (John 15:5, Luke 1:37, 18:27, Philippians 4:13). I am returning to the Father with arms wide open so that He will bring me back + restore me (Jeremiah 15:19), amplifying His great power through my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). the process of purging this from my life is lengthy, difficult, painful but God is severing my dependence on these things so that I can be made whole + well + mature in Him. through this process, God is crafting my testimony + through my testimony, others will also hear of His grace, goodness, glory + be drawn near to Him (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).
the enemy is pretty crafty in the lies that he tells me (John 8:44, Genesis 3:1). and often, it’s really difficult for me not to believe them. he knows my weakest points—even the ones I’m unaware of—and he attacks. I see it as one of those National Geographic, Planet Earth type of scenes where the predatory animal goes in for the youngest, slowest, weakest of the prey they’re after.
Satan attacks the Christians who are growing in their faith, knowledge, love of Christ and he aims to pull them away by using whatever means he can through confusion + lies. confusion yields a realm of blurriness to what we know to be true about God + the lies bring a world of darkness. fortunately, light exposes truth, and that light has come in the form of Jesus Christ (John 8:12, John 12:35, Psalm 27:1, 1 John 1:5) who brings all darkness to light, and declares what is true + trustworthy.
I’ve somehow lost the ability to have real + honest conversations with others around me either out of my own introverted nature, or more often than not, because of the constant chaos + noise around us that begs for our time + attention away, making genuine conversation or sitting in stillness difficult to attain. time and time again I’ve had the conversation role play in my head of asking my parents to take me to visit a therapist. and every time the thought has crossed my mind has been when I was in prayer with God. somehow it’s just now occurred to me that God IS my therapist. He is my healer (Psalm 147:3), my comforter (2 Corinthians 1:3-4), my source of peace (John 14:27, John 16:33). He is my Father, my Leader, my all-accessible, always-available Counselor. undoubtedly God places other mentors and helpers in my life, but no person on this Earth can supply me with the guidance, grace, comfort, contentment as He can. no person can ever come close to replacing the gift that is my relationship with the Lord. I need Him in my high, mountain top moments and I need Him when I am at my lowest, struggling with the desires of my heart + the thoughts in my mind. He already knows every bit of my inner workings (Psalm 139) so there is nothing to hold back or hide from. He won’t be surprised or think of me differently or be scared away by what I bring to the table, but offers me His open + loving ears, arms, heart. in His presence, I am in a place of complete openness + vulnerability.
Not Your Typical Trip to Grandmother’s House
I recently spent a (short, but sweet) week at my precious grandparents house with intentions of getting some alone time with just the two of them now that I am older — to simply spend time with them, learn from them (mentally, spiritually, realistically), be a part of their day-to-day routines. The whole week was a continuous trip down memory lane + filled with a focus on whole body wellness — preparing healthy meals, going on walks through nature, spending time in the Word + in prayer.
"Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees." - John Muir
I used to spend a week every summer there visiting various museums, going to the pool, playing board games, and all of the typical kid activities enjoyed during the summertime. But times have changed now — I’m driving myself to their place; they’re no longer living in the same old house that I grew up visiting but are now in a new, smaller condo; we’ve moved from playing board games + hosting “tea” parties (one of my favorite memories — silver platters spread with heart-shaped Easy Bake Oven brownies + teapots full of bright red Kool-Aid) to diving deep into devotionals + spiritual conversations; rather than my Meemaw making our classic breakfast menu (scrambled eggs, bacon, cinnamon toast, strawberries with sugar, hot chocolate), I am now cooking the meals for them for the week. The changing of times does not stir up a sense of sadness or regret, but the memories that were made were so fulfilling + valuable that our maturation into this next phase of life only brings reflection on the past as a pleasant, precious pastime.
Most people admire the looks of my food creations, but my grandparents are of the select few who actually enjoy eating the uber-healthy, plant-based meals that I whip up in my mind + in the kitchen. The slideshow below gives you a glimpse into our summer menu for the week.
Meanwhile, while I was cooking + following along with my grandparents’ daily life, my brother spent time working on his new project of researching (by means of online sources, in-person interviews, flipping through old photo albums) + recording our family’s ancestry, which will be made into a detailed book for distribution to members of the family in the coming months. It was truly wondrous seeing the light spark in my grandfather’s heart as he recalled so many sweet memories + moments in his life that he had forgotten.
I had grown up watching my Meemaw + Pappaw have morning devotional time + prayer together, and I had always secretly wanted to join in the conversation, but I felt too young + inadequate to contribute anything. Now as I have grown stronger in my faith + more intimate in my relationship with the Lord, my desire to dig into the Word + study, learn, pray with them grew evermore intense. I regret not taking the time sooner, but I am grateful that I had the opportunity before I missed it again.
Even back then I had witnessed firsthand that just those mere moments of them together in the presence of the Lord was undoubtedly the reason for their unshakable, affectious marriage of 50+ years. Christ is in, through, at the very center of their relationship + life together. I pray that I can model this paradigm they have set in my future marriage (God-willing), but also reflect it now in my personal relationship with Christ in the present moment.
During the short week spent in their presence, I learned much about the heart of my grandparents — what fills it with joy + admiration, what breaks it due to intense care + selflessness on their part towards others. I got to experience what it is that makes them excited, elated, exhausted, emotional.
Also, this week God was certainly pressing on me + teaching me how to embody the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Peter 1:5-8). Specifically,
Patience: learning to slow down + not be go-go-go all of the time.
Gentleness: learning to speak + act in a way that is not quick or harsh, but seasoned with grace (Colossians 4:6, Psalm 103:8).
Loving: learning to share the love Christ shows me through my actions, words, encounters with others.
I am continually in awe of each of my grandparents + how effortlessly they embody these attributes + a life of Christ as a whole despite all that occurs in their lives. I intentionally sought out this time to spend with them alone, without any distractions or forms of entertainment, because I wanted to physically experience, learn, absorb all that I could from them firsthand so that I can follow directly in their footsteps; in the footsteps of Christ himself. I am beyond blessed to have a physical family who also doubles as my spiritual family + who I can look up to as mentors, guides, role models in my walk. My heart was overwhelmed with warmth + my soul with gratitude at the conclusion of the week, and I pray to God that I have the opportunity for many, many more moments like this to create memories + be molded into the person that is particularly pleasing to my Father in Heaven.