3 ways to honor Ash Wednesday at home

I really wanted to attend an Ash Wednesday service today. It would have been my first time doing so. I scouted out churches in the area who’d be open and welcoming to a newbie, and I was really looking forward to it.

“The best-laid schemes of mice and men…” and all that. We are having massive storm systems in our area (most of the local area school systems dismissed classes early today. The storms are that severe).

A normal storm usually triggers a migraine for me. This crazy intense storm?

It’s not pretty. Removing my own head sounds good right now.

Our homeschool “dismissed early” today too.

So I won’t be attending any services this evening like I’d planned. But I still wanted to acknowledge Ash Wednesday somehow.

If you’re unable to attend a service today but still would like to participate in some small way, perhaps one of these ideas will work for you.

1. Use a Lenten devotional.

I tend not to be a fan of devotionals. I prefer Bible studies. But a local church offered to email devotional readings for Lent. I went ahead and signed up, and now I’m glad I did. Today’s reading might not be exactly the same as being presence at a service, but it at least gave me some thoughts to ponder. It reminded me of my sinful condition as fallen man and of the Savior who loves me and redeemed me.

I found the image below on Twitter. I don’t have an ashy cross on my forehead today, since I’m unable to be at a service, but I still loved seeing this. I won’t pretend looking at a picture is the same as participating in a church service, but it did speak truth to me and gave me something to reflect on and pray over.

Which brings me to Point 2.

2. Pray Scriptures.

Sackcloth and ashes were a symbol of sorrow and/or repentance  in the Old Testament. Repentance, prayer, and fasting are all important aspects of Lent.

I wanted to spend time in prayer and repentance today. I often find it helpful to use various Scripture passages in my prayer time. Today I used Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

And Psalm 51 (NASB)

A Contrite Sinner’s Prayer for Pardon.

For the choir director. A Psalm of David, when [a]Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.

51 Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.
For [b]I know my transgressions,
And my sin is ever before me.
Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You [c]are justified [d]when You speak
And [e]blameless when You judge.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
Behold, You desire truth in the [f]innermost being,
And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
[g]Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
[h]Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
[i]Make me to hear joy and gladness,
Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.
Hide Your face from my sins
And blot out all my iniquities.

10 Create [j]in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew [k]a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners will [l]be converted to You.

14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation;
Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.
15 O Lord, [m]open my lips,
That my mouth may declare Your praise.
16 For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

18 By Your favor do good to Zion;
[n]Build the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then You will delight in [o]righteous sacrifices,
In burnt offering and whole burnt offering;
Then [p]young bulls will be offered on Your altar.

3. Do as much of a worship service as at home as possible.

I can’t replicate an entire church service in my house. It isn’t even remotely the same.

But I did talk with my daughters about the symbolism of the ashes. I did read a Bible passage and sing a hymn with them. We did talk about sin and confession and repentance.

It’s not the same, but it is something.

I hope to make it to a real Ash Wednesday service next year. I look forward to experiencing it for the first time. This year, the above 3 things at least helped me acknowledge today.

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the one with the lists

Yeah, I’ve been watching too many episodes of Friends on Netflix. Sorry.

But when your assignment is to make a list, what else is there to title this post?

Besides, I like Friends. So you can put that on my list.

Actually, since the goal of this blog is to explore the various aspects of health, I’ll list things that help me stay sane, healthy, and whole. Three separate lists for your reading enjoyment (although some things obviously overlap and could fit on more than one list).

Things that make me feel healthy spiritually:

  1. a good, in-depth, inductive Bible study–lots of “meat”
  2. singing hymns
  3. reading and/or praying Psalms
  4. a good church service, with powerful worship and teaching and Communion
  5. a deep discussion of theology
  6. being able to help someone in some way
  7. reading a piece of rich Christian writing
  8. seeing beautiful stained glass windows
  9. seeing answered prayer
  10. seeing God’s handiwork in nature (especially fall leaves and spring blossoms)

Things that make me feel healthy physically:

  1. remembering to drink adequate water
  2. walking
  3. yoga (I’m not really good at it. It doesn’t really matter.)
  4. being well-rested (No, it doesn’t happen often.)
  5. green smoothies
  6. big green salads
  7. grilled fish
  8. being outside (fresh air and sunshine)
  9. not having a headache (I cherish those days!)
  10. herbal teas, supplements, essential oils

Things that make me feel mentally and/or emotionally healthy:

  1. coffee (Seriously, you don’t want to deal with me if I haven’t had coffee.)
  2. a long chat with a friend
  3. a good novel, where the characters seem real and I can get lost in the story
  4. a good nonfiction book, where I learn something or I’m challenged in some way
  5. writing (You knew it had to show up somewhere.)
  6. music
  7. remembering to be thankful for all that I have
  8. laughing–really, really hard
  9. the various fandoms I’m involved with–really. I need my fellow geeks and nerds and flailing fangirls.
  10. coloring! What did I ever do before adult coloring books were a thing? I’m sure I don’t know.

What keeps you sane, healthy, and whole?

yoga for migraine


When it comes to migraine, an ounce of prevention is definitely worth way more than several pounds of cure. Treating all the symptoms of migraine while in the throes of it isn’t always that effective–and is never pleasant.

So over the years I’ve developed quite the arsenal of prevention techniques. So far I’ve seen the biggest impact from daily doses of magnesium (500 milligrams) and riboflavin (400 milligrams) and from regular yoga practice.

One day I wondered if anyone had ever done a specific yoga routine for migraine. I had run across yoga for back pain relief and a few other specific conditions; why not migraine as well?

I did some searching. I found dozens of routines.

So I sat down with pen and paper (I’m old-fashioned that way) and made notes on the poses each recommended sequence mentioned. When I finished, I realized that some poses showed up over and over again.

I marked how often each pose showed up. I studied the sequence orders given. And I noted which poses were ones I already liked or was familiar with or at least thought I could do.

And I created my own yoga for migraine routine.

I won’t pretend that I do the sequence every day. And I won’t pretend it’s the only yoga routine I follow. But if I’m consistent about including it in my rotation on a regular basis (my goal is at least a couple of times a week), I do find myself having to reach for my migraine remedy less often.

Maybe it will help someone else as well.

Yoga for migraine practice:

  1. Cat pose
  2. Mountain pose
  3. Mountain pose with upward stretch
  4. Side stretch right and left
  5. Standing forward bend or an easier version
  6. Wide-legged forward bend
  7. Triangle right and left
  8. Tree pose right and left
  9. Downward facing dog
  10. Upward facing dog or cobra
  11. Child’s pose
  12. Seated spinal twist right and left
  13. Seated neck release (first pose shown on this list–which is a great list, by the way!)
  14. Seated side stretch (number 5 on the same list as above)
  15. Seated forward bend
  16. Bridge
  17. Happy baby
  18. Knees to chest
  19. Reclined butterfly/supine bound angle (my all-time favorite! I basically can’t do yoga without doing this pose)
  20. Legs against the wall (this was the very first pose I found recommended for migraine. Highly recommended)
  21. Straddle against the wall (basically just how it sounds–stay against the wall, but move legs to a straddle position–at this site, scroll down to find “wall straddle”. Again, feel free to browse here–it has a whole routine of poses done against the wall. Kind of different)
  22. Corpse

If you decide to try this, please let me know how you like it. I’d love to learn that it helped someone else! I’m also open to suggestions–poses to add, things to change around, whatever.

the kingdom belongs to such as these

I had a headache yesterday. A I’m-trying-not-to-cry-because-it-will-only-hurt-more, I-hope-I-don’t-throw-up-or-maybe-I-do-because-I-feel-better-afterward, don’t-ask-me-to-do-anything type headache.

It stinks. You probably know that.

And it reminded me of this post, which I started weeks ago (after my last headache).

I started it on a Sunday, then never got around to finishing it, then completely forgot about it.

So, many days late and several dollars short, here it is.

I have two children. Some days, due to migraines or menstrual issues, I’m not capable of being a very hands-on mom.

As a result, I’m quite familiar with mommy guilt.

Someone told me that my children would learn empathy and compassion.

I caught a glimpse of that today.

I had a headache yesterday and spent most of the day on the couch. I felt well enough today to go to church. The official medical term for the period following a migraine is “postdrone.” I just call it a migraine hangover–far more descriptive, don’t you think?

I definitely had that today.

I arrived at church and took my usual seat in the back of the sanctuary. The band started to play the first song.

It was loud. Painfully, unbearably loud.

My husband runs the sound board, so I know it wasn’t really as loud as it felt to me. He keeps a tight rein on such things and is good at his job. But oh, for my post-migraine self, it was torture.

My ten-year-old noticed me wincing. She knew what that expression meant.

So she brought me a pair of the earplugs that the sound booth stocks.

I never asked her to do that or told her I was hurting. She just saw me and brought me something to help.

I’m grateful.

looking for a good shower cleaner

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “High Noon.”

I’ve made my own cleaners for a long time now. Part of the reason is I’m a cheapskate, and it costs less. Part of it is that commercial cleaners, with their strong smell, tend to make my head hurt. A lot.

Most homemade cleaners involve vinegar in some form. It doesn’t usually take much to get the job done, and the smell of vinegar dissipates quickly. It’s never been a problem before.

Today it was a problem.

For a while now, I’ve been seeing this recipe for shower cleaner. One cup of Dawn dishwashing liquid plus one cup of hot vinegar. Combine in a spray bottle. Thoroughly spray down your shower, wait an hour, then rinse.

From reading the comments, this was supposed to be life-changing. A sparkling clean shower, no scrubbing, no harsh bathroom cleaners.

At noon today, I was thinking that I hate this recipe and I desperately need to rinse off the showers walls–RIGHT. NOW.

Ugh. That is waaaaaaaaay too much vinegar.

So no deep, profound thoughts from me at noon today–just the realization that my quest for a good shower cleaner still continues.

Anyone have any suggestions? Preferably ones that don’t include vinegar–at least not that much. But I really would love a GREAT homemade shower cleaner. Or even a commercial one that doesn’t have a strong smell.

at long last–a migraine remedy!

First of all, sorry for being MIA. My computer is giving me fits–it’s broken in several places and barely functions right now.

But this is too good not to share.

Migraines have been a big part of my life for a long time. Over the years, I’ve identified triggers. I’ve figured out a supplement regimen. I’ve learned that deviating too far from a set routine can spell disaster. And I’ve managed to reduce my headaches from 2-3 a week to 1-2 every couple of weeks–or even fewer. That’s huge.

But I didn’t have anything to take when a headache hit. Over-the-counter medications are a complete joke. Prescription Imitrex coupled with 2 Aleve DOES knock out a headache, but I have never been able to afford the prescription. We currently don’t have health insurance, but even when we did they refused to pay for anything related to migraine.

So I floundered, trying different things, hoping to stumble upon something that might work.

Essential oils got me close. A blend my sister-in-law recommended would take the edge off a headache. It at least enabled me to function at some level. I applied it topically as well as diffusing it when I have a migraine. It was better than anything I’d tried thus far. But it didn’t kill the pain.

But I kept reading about this herbal tincture that was supposed to relieve migraine pain. I hesitated to try it. The remedy used feverfew. Years ago, I tried feverfew as a daily preventive. It killed my stomach, so I stopped taking it. I wasn’t eager to give that herb another go.

But by the fourth or fifth time the same remedy popped up in my news feed, I started thinking it might be worth a try. I used some Christmas money and ordered the herbs online.

I mostly used this recipe. I did add some fresh peppermint. Another tincture recipe was floating around (which I can no longer find and give a link), and it had peppermint. To be perfectly honest, feverfew is some of the nastiest-tasting stuff on the planet, and I was hoping peppermint might improve the flavor a bit. I didn’t really measure the amount of peppermint I used–I just bought one of those small packs of organic mint that the grocery store sells in the produce section. I chopped it up and threw it all in the jar with the feverfew and lemon balm.

I waited the full six weeks then strained out the herbs.

This stuff stinks like you would not believe. Seriously, it smells atrocious.

But I found out yesterday that it works.

We’ve had some winter storms moving through the area, one after another. My head does not appreciate such shenanigans.

So this morning I pulled out my tincture and took the first half-teaspoon. I actually put it in a cup of tea to try to hide the flavor a bit. I added honey too.

I took a second quarter-teaspoon dose about an hour and a half later. By this point I was already feeling better.

One final dose at lunch, and the headache was gone. GONE!

I am beyond thrilled. Especially since the extracted feverfew has not torn my stomach to shreds thus far like it did in tea and capsule form.

Now, this remedy is not without side effects. It made me really sleepy and groggy and kind of fuzzy-headed. I wouldn’t be able to take if and then drive somewhere. So it might not keep me from missing events if my husband isn’t going as well and able to drive. (Although the fog cleared once I was able to take a nap–I kind of slept it off.)

But still…wow.

The tincture after it’s done (it looks kind of like tea):

Have you have tried an herbal remedy? Have any favorites to share?

steps leading to a health breakthrough

I promised in this post that I wouldn’t bore you with a bunch of back story.

I’m going to have to bore you with a little bit here, or this post (and my excitement) won’t make much sense.

Apologies.

For the female population, every 28 days or so an event occurs which (depending on the female) ranges from annoying inconvenience to utter torture and misery. We’re all adults here, so no biology lesson needed, but if the topic does make you squeamish or uncomfortable you have permission to bail now.

I can’t say I’ve ever been blessed with light, easy periods. But I can pinpoint the change from what was normal for me to what couldn’t be considered “normal” for anyone. It happened right after giving birth to my second child. My periods descended into something resembling a personal hell (of course she’s worth it).

Migraines that lasted for days. Flow so heavy I couldn’t stand up (I joked that it was biblical, like in Genesis 31 when Rachel told Laban that she couldn’t stand before him). Massive clots. And while my “before” periods lasted for five days, almost like clockwork, these lasted for anywhere from seven days to two weeks (or longer).

You can see where all this might interfere with my ability to live my life.

A couple of years ago, I started using a natural progesterone cream. Forget being worth its weight in gold–this stuff is diamonds or platinum or something. Not only did it help relieve my postpartum depression, it lessened the agony of menstruation. I also started using an evening primrose oil supplement and drinking a daily cup of red raspberry leaf tea (that stuff is nasty, but it works!). And I added this essential oil blend. Now I only had one or two days of heavy, I-can’t-get-off-the-couch flow. The total duration also went down to seven or eight days instead of ten or more.

Now for the good news: I am finishing up a period now. I’ve had the headache like always. I’ve had some cramping. BUT. No clots. No massively heavy flow–not even for a day or two.

I’m amazed. And relieved. And excited. And I’ve been trying to figure out what finally flipped that last switch.

I think I’ve got it. I did recently add Vitamin D, Coenzyme Q10,  and a Vitamin B complex to my supplement routine, but I’m not sure that any of those would have much effect on my menstrual cycle. Maybe they did though. And I’m certain the water and yoga was beneficial. But I was also drinking green smoothies the first couple of days of my period this time. I think that the high-octane nutrition must have played an important part. It certainly couldn’t hurt, right?

I think I have my next health goal, don’t you? Clearly I need more green smoothies in my life! 🙂

weekend web love

As promised, here are some tidbits from around the web that I found interesting or useful. 🙂

Are You Sitting Down? Why You Shouldn’t Be  No one’s surprised that we sit too much in our culture. Between computer work and reading and watching TV, we spend a whole lot of time on our backsides. But I found the tales of lowered tables and sitting on the floor more often for meals fascinating. True confession: I make it about five minutes on the floor before my legs start falling asleep. I’m a wimp in that department. Maybe some of the ideas in this blog post would help with that. If nothing else, picnics on the living room floor would make for some fun family time!

Top 10 Migraine Triggers, According to Study   I have shared this on Facebook, so friends and family reading this may have already seen it there. But I’m hurting right now because of monthly hormones (trigger #5 on this list), so it’s on my mind again. Migraine resources often point to food triggers, but those don’t make an appearance on this list. A fellow migraineur and I decided that most of us who suffer figure out our food triggers pretty quickly–and avoid them. Most of the triggers on this list are ones you can’t control (weather changes, for example). They’re what’s left after you’ve eliminated all of the avoidable triggers.

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Creamer.  I drink my coffee black. No cream, no sweetener–just pure liquid love. But this looks incredibly yummy. A lovely treat.

Is Yoga Exercise Beneficial During Menopause?  I’m not actually experiencing menopause, but my hormones are on the crazy and out-of-whack end of the spectrum, so I still found this encouraging.

Yoga Helps War Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder  I’m for anything to help our vets.

I may not have this many links every week, but hopefully there’s something here for everyone!