f

Monday, February 28

What I Learned This Week About Eating Disorders

Too often, we compare ourselves to other women, real or Photoshopped magazine models, and we look in the mirror and find ourselves lacking. I know that several of you have expressed that the posts last week were a blessing to you. I think at some level, we all struggle with our appearance.

An Example...
A while ago, I went to get my hair cut. I almost didn't go - I was suffering through the worst acne breakout I'd had since eighth grade, I was sick of my dry skin and the fact that my lips would be chapped no matter how much chapstick I put on. My jeans were tighter than I wanted to admit to myself. My hair was dry and brittle and boring. I really wanted to just wallow at home in my "ugliness" and not go out in public more than I had too.
Source
But I went. Only one hairdresser had been able to come to work that day, she was trying to answer the constantly ringing phone and manage the waiting line of grumpy people while cutting customer's hair. People were frustrated that they couldn't get their hair cut right then, and would have to wait half an hour or more, and their favorite stylist was sick. They were rude and snarky to her, but she stayed polite and accommodating, handling their comments with a sense of humor.

I also notice how she treated each of the two ladies in line before me. They were both elderly ladies, they'd had their hair cut thousands of times before. The stylist complemented each woman on some aspect of her hair, suggested a new way to cut or style it, and even styled one woman's hair for no extra charge. Under the stylist's affirming words and skilled hands, they forgot their waiting to-do lists, their age, their financial issues; they sat straighter, they laughed, their eyes sparkled.

When I sat in the chair, she didn't criticize my hair like I'd done. She commented on it's thickness, it's color, and how flattering the cut was. One of the customers chimed in, exclaiming over my highlights. "Wouldn't it be nice to be so young again, with such thick hair, and pink cheeks?" The stylist said. I left feeling lighter, not just because my hair was shorter. I felt freer, and so much better about myself. I had that same sparkle in my eyes that the other ladies that had their hair cut had. She made us feel beautiful. Not just by cutting our hair well. The stylist brought out the beauty that was already there. 


My Hope For You
I hope that the guest posts last week had a similar effect on you: revealing the beauty that was already there.  I hope that you, along with me,

  • recognized that you are fearfully and wonderfully made, and God doesn't make junk, and maybe learned some helpful ways to encourage a healthy body image from Audra's post. 
  • I hope you recognized some lies from Satan that have crept into your thinking from Elissa's story about battling anorexia, and maybe gained some hope that God really can do what seems impossible.
  • I hope Anita's definition of normal eating freed you and convicted you of possible disordered eating in your life, and encouraged you to find your natural weight. 
  • I hope you realized that you are beautiful, just as you are.


I have so enjoyed reading those posts, reflecting on them, and I so appreciate your outpouring of love and thanks through the comments. Thank you so much for joining us last week!

If you'd like to refer back to these posts at any time, they are labeled under "healthy body image" and "My body God's temple" in the cloud of labels on the right sidebar.

P.S. The winner of the CSN Stores giveaway is yet to be calculated. I've had a busy weekend, and a lot of entries to count. By Wednesday, I'll let you know! Thanks for your patience!

Friday, February 25

What's NORMAL Eating?


This post is the third in series of posts on the topic of "My body, God's temple," during national eating disorder awareness week. You can find the other posts here

I was honored when Emily asked me to write for her blog for National Eating Disorders Awareness week.  To introduce myself, I am Emily's sister-in-law, Anita Conley.  I am also a Registered Dietitian, licensed in the state of Florida.  In my path to become a dietitian, I had experiences counseling students at Iowa State who have suffered from eating disorders.  I also have had my own issues with food, eating, and my body image. 
Anita Conley
There is much that I could say on the subject of eating disorders.  Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are the most well-known, but they only comprise of about half of all eating disorders.  Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by refusal to maintain a minimally normal body weight, intense fear of gaining weight, body image distortion and amenorrhea (absence of 3 or more consecutive periods).  This can be accomplished by restricting or binge eating and purging. 

Bulimia Nervosa is characterized by repeated episodes of binge eating followed by inappropriate compensatory methods such as purging (self-induced vomiting or misuse of laxatives, diuretics, or enemas) or nonpurging (fasting or engaging in excessive exercise).  


Some others are Orthorexia Nervosa, Pregorexia, Diabulimia, Nocturnal Sleep-Related Eating Disorder, Drunkorexia, Binge Eating Disorder, and Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. 
  • Orthorexia Nervosa is essentially an unhealthy obsession with correct eating with the belief they are following a perfected diet and proud of it. 
  • Pregorexia is when pregnant women who exercise to excess and reduce calories in an effort to control pregnancy weight gain. 
  • Diabulimia refers to when people with type 1 diabetes deliberately decrease or withhold their insulin injection in order to lose weight. 
  • Nocturnal Sleep-Related Eating Disorder occurs when a person goes on eating binges at night and awakens the next morning with little or no memory of it. 
  • Drunkorexia is when a person restricts food intake to increase alcohol intake without gaining weight.  This is most common on college campuses. 
  • Binge Eating Disorder is characterized by eating much more quickly than usual, eating until uncomfortably full, eating large amounts of food - even if not hungry, eating alone and secretively due to embarrassment over the amount of food eaten, and feeling disgusted, guilty, embarrassed or depressed after eating. 
  • Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified is kind of a catch-all diagnosis for people with disordered eating and thinking to make sure those who do not fall under the diagnoses for anorexia and bulimia.  Most of the previously discussed eating disorders fall into this category. 
(Information from Krause's Food, Nutrition, & Diet Therapy 11th ed., and How To Recognize Less-Familiar Eating Disorders from November 2010 edition of Today's Dietitian)

I think overall there is a lot we know about eating disorders.  They are considered a major mental illness and they often have numerous underlying causes.  Eating disorders are nothing to mess around with because they can and do cause early death.  


The more I have been reading about eating disorders recently, the more it makes me convinced that we need to spend a LOT more time talking about what is NORMAL eating.  One of the assignments in my nutrition counseling class was to develop our own philosophy of normal eating.  What I came up with follows.

My Philosophy of Normal Eating

My definition of normal eating is very complex.  Normal eating is eating when you are hungry and stopping before you are stuffed.  Normal eating is eating two, three, or more meals a day with or without snacks in between.  Normal eating is eating until you are overfull some days, and then eating very little on other days.  Normal eating is when you plan out your meals so they are balanced most days, but some days you grab whatever is most convenient regardless of the nutritional value.  Normal eating is enjoying what you are eating whether it is a “fattening” piece of pie or a “healthy” vegetable or anything else in between.  Normal eating is being conscious of what you are eating but not being obsessed with it. 
Source
Normal eating is tasting the food you put in your mouth and savoring it.  Normal eating is sometimes eating emotionally.  Normal eating is also aware of when you are eating emotionally and does not let it last for an extended time.  Normal eating is eating what you are hungry for when you are hungry for it.  Normal eating does not deny or limit “goodies” because they do not have the nutritional value that “healthy” food does.  Normal eating is trying new foods, but not finishing them if you truly do not like them.  Normal eating also incorporates a healthy amount of physical activity most days of the week.  Overall, normal eating adapts to your needs without controlling your life. 

As I read this over four years after writing it, I am somewhat convicted.  In my own life, I have embraced some disordered eating patterns.  As a dietitian, this is surprisingly easy – I know as much about calories as anyone (just ask my boyfriend about my mental calorie counting) and how to “trick” the body into feeling full with less calories.  This is something I have even taught my patients when consulted for weight loss education. 


Disordered eating includes restricting foods, eating compulsively, and in a way which is externally regulated.  In contrast, normal eating is enjoyable, deliberate and internally regulated.  Internal regulation of food intake means that a person eats when they are hungry and stops when they are full or satisfied.  External regulation is when we ignore the signals our body gives about hunger and fullness – this especially happens when we put ourselves on diets.  The deliberate portion of normal eating cannot be ignored.  This means that time and thought is put into making healthy choices and/or choices that will satisfy your hunger.  Normal eating can help you reach the weight that you are meant to be at – but this may be different from your ideal.
Normal eating is enjoying what you eat! Image source.
The lure of disordered eating is hard to resist and it is everywhere we look in our society.  Due to my health and the body type I was born with, I have been fighting with my weight for as long as I can remember.  I have a headache all day every day, and have for close to 8 years now.  I have to make sure I eat when I am hungry because if I ignore my hunger, it makes the headache worse.  To top that off, one of my daily medications causes increased appetite.  I have gained at least 10 pounds since I started taking the medication almost a year ago.   I have tried ignoring my hunger, which just caused the headaches to get worse, and I have tried always filling up on low calorie snacks like popcorn and carrots to help satisfy myself.  And just to make matters more fun, I get exercise-induced headaches so I have been struggling to exercise for about a year and a half now.  I find myself looking in the mirror and not liking what I see.  But when I start thinking this, I am convicted by the verse in Psalms that declares 
“I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”  (139:14) 

God created us with bodies of different shapes and sizes.  Our society has a ridiculous obsession with thinness.  We have idolized it to the point that even in the health community it is believed that thinness is equated with health.  There have been several studies conducted revealing that even among health professionals (doctors, nurses, dietitians) people who are obese are thought to be fat and lazy and have no willpower.  


I have talked to many of these patients, and I would not classify any of them as such.  Most have tried everything they can think of to lose weight.  About 50% of people who fall in the overweight or obese category have none of the much talked about complications of their weight (high blood pressure, high blood sugars, high blood cholesterol levels), yet we constantly have news headlines about the cost of the obesity epidemic.  In my personal and professional opinion, I think we would do well to be much more accepting of people of all shapes and sizes and not focus on the numbers on the scale, but on overall health.

A book that I highly recommend if you are interested in learning more about normal eating and getting away from disordered eating patterns is “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch.  This book changed the way that I viewed eating and nutrition, and in writing this entry it reminded me I need to pick up this book and read it again for myself.

Anita R. Conley, MS, RD, LDN


Note from Emily: Amazon carries a few different editions of "Intuitive Eating: A Recovery Book For The Chronic Dieter; Rediscover The Pleasures Of Eating And Rebuild Your Body Image" ranging in price from $10.87 to $19.77 for new books.

What did you think of Anita's definition of normal eating? Do you eat normally, or do you find yourself not enjoying your food and obsessing over it? Share your thoughts with us in the comments! 


Wednesday, February 23

Anorexia: My Battle And Freedom

my lovely older sister
This post is the second in series of posts on the topic of "My body, God's temple," during national eating disorder awareness week. You can find the other posts here


Elissa Savov believed in the Lord Jesus to be her Savior when she was about four years old. She is blessed with two wonderful Christian parents who nurtured her spiritual growth throughout her life, and two younger sisters who were her best friends, and three younger brothers. Elissa graduated from Simpson College with a Bachelor of Arts in Music, where she completed a four year program in three years. Her first year of college she met her future husband, Naiden Savov. They got married the summer before their last year of college and Elissa became pregnant soon after their wedding. Two days before graduation her precious little Aviela Savov was born. Elissa enjoys singing, spending time with family, and finding joy in her Savior, Jesus Christ.

I have the best sisters in the world and they, as well as my entire family, have given me such love and support throughout my life. I have indeed been anorexic. When Emily asked me to write something, I of course agreed, but had no idea how to go about doing it. What would I say? I have asked God for wisdom, and I will share with you my story of my battle, and freedom. If any of you reading this suffer from anorexia, I desire that these words will be from God and will give you hope. I know what you have experienced, at least to some degree, and I know that God is more powerful than anything.

My Story:

My anorexia started the second semester of my freshman year of college. I had always been a rather thin girl, but suddenly I was obsessed with being the most thin girl I could ever meet that wasn't literally skin and bones. God had just brought a wonderful man into my life as my new boyfriend, and somehow, I just knew if I was going to be pretty enough for him, I needed to be really, really, really thin, because extremely thin equaled very beautiful in my warped thinking.

Looking back, I cannot tell how these thought patterns developed! Satan must have been working so subtly. My boyfriend began noticing my poor eating habits developing and he encouraged me to be healthy and told me he hoped I wasn't eating so little because of him.  I assured him it wasn't, and that I just wanted to be healthy. The strange thing was, I was assured of this in my mind as well. The thinner I could be, the more beautiful and the more healthy. I was too blinded by lies to see the truth.  
           
For the rest of that college semester my daily diet consisted of approximately a bowl of cereal for breakfast and maybe toast, two bananas, and a 6-inch sub sandwich. I would exercise every day. That summer I perfected my anorexia. My summer was packed with activities that kept me so busy I was hardly home. I ate at most five grams of fat a day. I ate so slowly that I would honestly become “full” before I had finished my food.

In a way, I thought I had become strong. Food was no temptation for me as it is for most people. I could turn down anything. It could not rule my life. Little did I realize that I was letting something far worse rule my life. My Mom was getting worried and threatened to take me to a doctor. Going to a doctor was the last thing I wanted to do. I was terribly frightened of changing my way of eating. I was terrified of gaining weight. I thought I was healthy, but something nagged at me that what I was doing was not a Godly way of life.  By the end of the summer I weighed 103 pounds and I was 5 feet 6 inches tall.
"Support Eating Disorders" Source: Printed Advertisement
I cannot say when this would have changed, had God not used my boyfriend to bring me out of that ugly pit. Sophomore year of college came and so did his birthday. I had been asking him what he wanted for a while and he told me he would think about it. Finally he told me his birthday wish was for me to get up to 120 lbs. My immediate response was, “What else do you want?” He told me very seriously that was the only thing he wanted. His mom used to smoke and when he asked her one year for his birthday for her to stop, she quit, cold turkey. He said smoking was a stronger addiction than anorexia. He said if I really cared about him, and believed in God, I would do this.

What he did not understand, however, was that he was not asking me to quit an addiction. He was asking me to give up my sense of worth, security, and self-esteem. To get up to 120 pounds seemed ludicrous and suicidal in my mind. I felt like that would be killing myself. In a way, it really was; my old, sinful self that I had allowed too much control in my spiritual, and therefore physical life.

Paul said in Gal. 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

God was asking me to let go of myself, my identity, my security, and find my self-esteem in Him alone. I resisted at first, but God worked on me and with my boyfriend's help, I started on to a better lifestyle of eating and exercising. I had to realize that self-esteem apart from God is not just empty, but sinful. We have nothing in ourselves in which to find security and worth. I was finding my worth as a person apart from God, in my appearance. I had a false confidence in myself because I was so thin. Breaking the chains of anorexia left me weak and scared, bewildered, and unsure, and running to God to embrace me and console me, telling me I was His child, and that is what gives me beauty and worth.
           
It was no easy battle. Eating right again brought with it many painful effects. It would have been much easier reverting back to eating barely anything and avoiding the physical pain. I am still dealing with some of the health effects of anorexia. However, I thank God, that He has blessed me by freeing me from the grip of anorexia. I am now married to the man that was my boyfriend, and God has blessed us with a beautiful baby girl! God is so good! I would never go back to the anorexic way of life. My eyes are not focused on myself now, but rather my family and my God. I desire to live and be healthy for both!
Elissa, Nick, and Aviela

A Few Statistics:

Anorexia nervosa- “Anorexia nervosa involves an aversion to food that leads to a state of starvation and emaciation. It is a very serious illness that some doctors believe is an entirely different condition from bulimia and should be not be diagnosed as a simple eating disorder.”
  •  The death rate associated with anorexia is approximately 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of mortality for females ages 15-24 years old.
  • About 20% of people suffering from Anorexia will prematurely die from health complications related to their eating disorder. This includes suicide and heart problems.
  • Among adolescents, Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness.
  • 95% of people with eating disorders are between ages 12-25.
  • 50% of girls between ages 11 and 13 believe they are overweight.
  • 80% of 13 -year-olds have tried to lose weight. 
  • Up to 30% of patients with eating disorders never recover.
  • It has been estimated that suicide accounts for as many as half the deaths in Anorexia, with studies showing up to one-fifth of people with Anorexia attempting suicide.
These statistics are from the University of Maryland Medical Center. 

Finding Freedom:

The statistics above are shocking! Anorexia nervosa is becoming more and more prevalent and is claiming more and more lives. This disease is so dangerous because it is psychological. There is no tangible prescription or cure.

Why the great prevalence of this disease? While the causes of anorexia in each individual certainly vary, I firmly believe the United States' immoral culture is much to blame for the majority of the cases. The sex industry is ranked first or second in the entire nation. Everywhere, in media, magazines, movies, and even subtly among peers, schoolmates, etc. culture tells women they must be sexy or they've failed as a woman and the world cannot use them. Women, like all people want to be wanted, and most think they've nowhere to turn but to the world to find acceptance.

What they don't realize is, all the world wants us for is to use us. The world cares nothing for our souls, our character, or our personality. The world only wants to use us to further its wickedness, and it will do all it can to fool us into thinking that brings happiness. The poor victims of anorexia are starving themselves thinking this will bring them happiness, but in reality they are destroying themselves and are so far from happiness.

Those immoral actresses, Victoria Secret models, and the rest have sold their souls and given their bodies to be no more than instruments of lust. This is surely not a hopeful, satisfying state. The women who are depressed because they aren't perfect according the world have no hope, and the women whom the world calls perfect have no hope, either.

The world and all that's in it cannot give hope! The world and all that's in it cannot give you worth! The world and all its philosophies and lies cannot give you peace or love! There is only One who can, and that One is your Creator, the God of the universe. He already demonstrated His love for you by sending His Son Jesus Christ to conquer sin, in your life and someday all the world. Jesus paid for your sin, and He offers you forgiveness and love –a place in His arms of hope and security!
           
To God, His daughters are the most beautiful women in all the world. His word says, “Who can find a virtuous woman? Her price is far above rubies” (Prov. 31:10). He says a woman who adorns herself with “the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit” is “of great price in the sight of God” (1Peter 3:4). “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).

God loves you! If you are the victim of anorexia and if you struggle with the messages the world tells you about your appearance, there is great hope in God! Stop believing lies! 

“The truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

I have found it to be so in my own life, I pray you will too!

In Christ,
Elissa Savov


Do you find yourself sometimes believing Satan's lies? How do you discern lies from the truth? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Monday, February 21

God Doesn't Make Junk

This post is the first in series of posts on the topic of "My body, God's temple," during national eating disorder awareness week. You can find the other posts here


Audra is a THRIVE-at home wife of nearly 11 years and mom to two little boys, two and under. She is making the adjustment from being in the workforce to being at home. You can find her blogging at Rediscovering Domesticity.

Eating Disorders.

What a multi-faceted topic.  I am so thankful that Emily is tackling this tough issue and is bringing more awareness to it. I am humbled that she asked me to write a guest post for her!

Have I suffered with an eating disorder?  Thankfully, no. But I have seen the potential in me and it is scary.

Let me tell you a little about my story.  Cliff notes version.

  • Diagnosed with thyroid issues at age 10 (Graves disease) - struggled to keep weight on
  • Radiation to kill thyroid at age 14 - while regulating things, I gained 40 pounds in just a few months.
  • Kept extra weight on into college. Basic lifestyle changes allowed me to lose the weight. Got as low as 87 pounds in college despite eating normally - very physical job.
  • After marriage, slowly put on weight over the years - stayed about 20 pounds over my goal weight.
  • Had 2 babies. Highest weight pregnant was over 160 pounds (I'm only 4'11"). 
  • Current weight - 110 - my goal weight. With breastfeeding and chasing 2 littles, I am struggling to keep the weight on at the moment.
Ok.  It wasn't until after my first child and severe depression and anxiety issues (thank you, thyroid) that I started really having issues with my appearance.  I hated how I looked and avoided pictures.  I was tempted to do some more extreme dieting. The only thing that stopped me was breastfeeding.  If I cut calories, my supply would drop. I am thankful for that connection!  It kept me eating until I was in a more healthy mental state.

God doesn't want us to be struggling with eating disorders and with self image.  God doesn't make junk. He created us all in His image.
Psalm 139:14
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
   your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 
 As we seek help to heal, we need to take steps toward our own healing.  This goes for healing from eating disorders, depression, and many other issues.

1.     Spend time each day thanking God for who He made us to be. It may sound empty and hollow at first, but thank Him anyway.  He can change your heart.
2.     Look in the mirror and say, "I am beautiful. God made me. He loves me. He knew me before the world began. He has numbered even the hairs on my head. He loves me.  I am beautiful."
3.     Start opening our hearts to receive love.  Refusing to accept the love that God freely gives is offensive to Him. Refusing to receive the love our spouse, children, parents, friends, and family freely give is a slap in the face. Imagine telling someone you love them and having them refuse that love - by refusing to accept the love of others, we are telling them that they really don't know what they are talking about. That they are wrong.  As uncomfortable as it can be to receive love from others, it is rude and hurtful to not receive it. It takes time.
4.     Realize that we are setting an example for others. For our friends. For our family. For our CHILDREN.  What do we want others to learn from us? Personally, I want my children to learn how much they are loved. How much they are worth. How fantastic they are. I don't want them to learn my insecurities.
5.     Pray for a change of heart. Pray that God show you how HE sees you.
There is an awesome movement happening - Operation Beautiful.  The premise is simple. Leave an encouraging note somewhere that another woman may seem. We are bombarded in every direction with messages that tear us down. Let's start building each other up. Let another woman know she is beautiful. You never know now much she may need to hear it that day.

So, is healing a process? Most certainly. Does it take time? Sure does. Will there be bad days? Yup.  Is it worth the pain and humiliation to seek help? More than you can possibly imagine.

Have you struggled with eating disorders? Do you know someone who is struggling?

Blessings, 
Audra


Sunday, February 20

A Giveaway!

This is an exciting week for me! We have three guest posters sharing from their lives and the scriptures for National Eating Disorder Awareness week on the theme of "My body, God's temple." Since almost all of us struggle with our body image on some level, I think you will be incredibly blessed by these women's stories.

But the excitement doesn't stop there! CSN Stores has generously offered to give away another $35 gift card to one lucky reader!

What would you use $35 for? CSN Stores website has over 200 online stores, selling everything from shoes to computer desks for home offices.
A place for everything and everything in its place

If I could enter my own giveaway, this is what I'd spend it on:
Hey, it'd be fine while we don't have kids!
If you need help working on those New Year resolutions and working off all the Valentine's Day chocolates, maybe you'd like this:
I'm guessing it's like a stationary unicycle?
So here's how you can win $35 for CSN Stores. 

Required entry: Go to CSN Stores and browse. Find something you like to use the gift code on, then come back here and leave a comment on this post telling me about it.

Extra Entries:
1. Each and every comment you leave this week (Sunday through Saturday!) on the Eating Disorder Awareness Week posts counts as 1 entry! So comment and discuss away!

2. If you post a music video of your favorite song that encourages healthy self-image to Scribbles From Emily's facebook page, you'll get FIVE extra entries! I want to have an inspiring playlist there for everyone to enjoy by the end of the week! And if I really love your song, I'll feature it in a wrap up post at the end of the week. 

Unfortunately for some of you, this giveaway is only open to entries from the United States and Canada. 

Are you ready? This giveaway ends Saturday, February 26th. And it starts....now!

Thursday, February 17

After The Honeymoon {My Guest Post!}

Seven months and twelve days.  As I’m typing this, that’s how long Brian and I have been married. On our one year anniversary of dating, Brian dropped to one knee and asked me to be his wife.

“Are you serious?!” was my response. How romantic, right? He just laughed.

“Yes, I’m serious!” and pulled out the most exquisite diamond ring I’d ever seen.

And thus began our nine month engagement. We were married on a perfect June day, and drove off into the sunset on our honeymoon.

Since then, we moved 1,518 miles to a new climate, a new city, and a new home in Arizona. Brian accepted a job here two days before the wedding, so we moved without knowing anyone where we were going, or even where we would live.  God has provided for our needs over and over in wonderful ways, and through it all, He’s taught me quite a lot about marriage...

See me at Rediscovering Domesticity and get the rest of the story!


***

In my guest post, I mention several resources that have had an impact on our marriage. I wanted to list those for you here, so that after you visit Rediscovering Domesticity, if you're curious about the books I mention, you can find them all in one place! 


The first is "Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs" by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. I don't think I can recommend this book too highly! This book filled in the blanks for me: I learned what "respect" means to a man, how to give it, why love matters so much to a woman, why conflicts happen, and how to resolve them without all the emotional rampage. It shed light on the differences between men and women and how we can be sensitive to those differences and achieve greater harmony in our marriage. 


If you're thinking about going through this book in a small group, I recommend the Love & Respect Workbook to dig a little deeper. Our church had a small group go through Love & Respect Live Marriage Conference: 7 Hours on DVD with the corresponding workbooks. If you don't have time to read the book each week, this option might work better for a small group.
$13.39, regularly $22.99
Another book I mention is Sacred Sex: A Spiritual Celebration of Oneness in Marriage by Tim Alan Gardener. This is a great book to read if you, like me, struggle with understanding how sex can be good, let alone holy. It delves into the scriptures and the spiritual side of the married physical relationship, and I can guarantee you'll have a better understanding and a greater desire to "become one" after reading it.

$11.19, you save 20% when buying on Amazon

I also mention For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men. This book is a quick but powerful read, with short chapters combining life changing truth with fascinating statistics from surveys of thousands of men. It's a true inside look at how men think!  After every chapter, I'd ask Brian, "Is that really how you feel?!" and I was shocked to discover that I really didn't know him as well as I thought! I've recommended this book to many friends and family, because it's a fun, fast read, but packed with life-changing truth.

This is a fun one for a women's bible study! It's great for engaged, newly-wed, and been-married-awhile women.
On sale now for $10.19!
For all you married couples, you'll enjoy this book's candid, fun loving, spiritual, and practical information for a more fulfilling intimate relationship. Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage by Kevin Leman is also a great tool for pre-marital counseling, with specific chapters for engaged couples to read. I know those chapters were really helpful for me! We really enjoyed reading the rest of the book on our honeymoon!

$8.58- you save 43%! A crazy good deal on this book!

What books have had an impact on your marriage? Share them with us in the comments!

Wednesday, February 16

I'm A Cheap Valentine: How we celebrated with $17

Many people don't like Valentine's Day because it's pricey- gifts often include perfumes, jewelry, and bouquets of roses. Prices for everything romantically related, especially roses, skyrockets. With a little creativity, it doesn't have to be expensive at all; in fact, you could do Valentine's Day for almost free! 

I started off Valentine's Day with a doctor appointment:  not my idea of fun! But thanks to some wonderful blogs, websites, and my friendly neighborhood Goodwill, I'd already prepared for our celebration.

The Decorations
You might have already seen my "Easy Valentine's Day Banner" that I posted about earlier this month.

This didn't cost me anything, since I used scrapbooking paper I already had and the free hearts printable from At Second Street

I also printed the Valentine subway art from the blog eighteen25, and put it on the bookshelf in the dining room.

I used the print I made, of the adorable owl. You can download it for free, just go to my "Free Stuff" link in the top left corner of the blog. 
Owl image from The Graphics Fairy.
I was going to make these, also from eighteen25, but I never got around to it. It would have also been "free" since I already have all the things I'd need to make them. 
I think I still will make them, because really, that's a message that can stay up for longer than just February!

What's Valentine's Day without roses?
When I was too sick to go to church Sunday, and had to stay in bed and work on school work, Brian bought me the most gorgeous rose! I put it in a recycled bottle and arranged it on our coffee table.

I found these wooden letters at Goodwill! They were 99 cents each, and they'll look wonderful year round! (In the background is an art easel I also bought, but I didn't use it for anything related to Valentine's Day, in case you're wondering.)


 The Presents
I printed these free valentine's from Peptogirl, gave some away, and hid some around the apartment for Brian to find. My favorites are "Just My Type," "Sew in Love," and "Owl be yours." Too cute! I snuck some into his lunch box, I taped one to his computer, and one to his shaving cream.

I also printed this adorable valentine and wrote a message to him inside. This valentine was also free, and I got it from mmmcrafts.
{What can I say? I love puns!}

For Brian's main gift, I was inspired by "How To Make A Marriage Bed" from A Holy Experience. I shared the link to this post before, so if you've read it, you'll remember the letter to Ann Landers. Ann Voskamp shared a letter to Ann Landers from a daughter writing about her very-much-in-love parents. Every time they made love  they put a dollar into a box, saving for their dream trip. On their 50th anniversary they went on a second honeymoon to Hawaii.

I found the perfect box at Goodwill for $2.99.


The quilted top had to go. With a screwdriver, it was easy to bend back the metal prongs holding it in the back, and take out the top. I replaced it with scrapbooking paper, a wedding picture of us, and a sticker, all of which I already had.

I wanted to protect the picture, so I used a clear scrapbooking protective sleeve, slipped the wooden top with the paper and picture on it inside, and cut off the edges. 

I copied and pasted the letter from Ann's post into a Word document and printed it out. I slipped it in the inside of the lid. 


The Plan
I really wanted to go on a picnic, so I  thought about going up to Canyon Lake again, but remembered we'd have to buy a pass, and I didn't want to mess with that. So I did some research and found a nice park not to far away with nice picnic areas, grassy slopes, and a lake. Perfect! 

I wrote the directions from Google maps on pink sticky notes and placed them inside an envelope. I added a leaf that happened to fall off of the rose; it was supposed to be a clue, signifying that we were going somewhere outside. 


I decorated the outside with a number one, and I incorporated the "bon appetit" scroll from these free printables for a picnic at home from Eat, Drink, Chic. There's two of them, and you're supposed to attach them to your silverware, but I liked how it looked on the envelope. Plus, it was another clue for Brian!


 After our picnic, Brian was supposed to open the second envelope. In this one, I had this sticky note:


Unfortunately, by the time we got to the park, it was dark. It was really too bad, because I had outfits picked out and ideas for the pictures, and it would have been so cute! Next time, I guess!

 So Brian opened the third card. In this card, I put the rest of the free printables for the picnic at home: the heart and movie tickets.

Eat Drink Chic

We didn't have take-out or champagne, but it was close enough!
Eat Drink Chic
I'd been awhile since I got a musical/Disney movie fix... Enchanted fit the bill perfectly. Plus, we watched that movie the evening after Brian proposed to me, and Brian gave it to me on our first Valentine's Day together as a dating couple. 

Unfortunately, Brian isn't as musical and Disney crazy or sentimental as I am, and he didn't want to watch it. Instead, we lit candles, cuddled, and read books and magazines together, which was still nice!


I'm really proud of the numbers... I drew them free-hand. 

This is what Brian saw when he came home from work.

 The Food
When he walked through the door, The kitchen was covered in powdered sugar, and I was wearing an apron, mixing frosting, looking a little flustered. In my mind, I had the ideal cupcake: tall, soft confetti cake, topped with fluffy pale pink frosting and adorable paper toppers, TomKat Studio style.
TomKat, Ice Cream Shoppe Party
I suppose that was a bit unrealistic. 

First, I only had three cupcake liners. Second, I was short one egg. Third, the cupcakes turned out really...flat. Like, maybe two inches tall. Fourth, I had to cut the frosting recipe in half, because I didn't have enough butter. Fifth, the frosting turned out so runny, I literally dipped the cupcakes in it, because it was impossible to spread, and it was a bright, Peptobismol pink. When it actually dripped off the cupcakes, I scraped it all off and added almost the entire bag of powdered sugar to thicken it, and re-frosted them. 

It was STILL runny, as you can see. But it made a nice glaze. 

I finished the cupcakes with free paper cupcake toppers from the blog Free Pretty Things For You. I printed the circles, cut them out, taped toothpicks to the back of each one, and inserted into the cupcake.

the sugar sign is from Eat Drink Chic
On the cupcake to the left, you can see how runny the frosting was, and the remains of the first batch. Notice how flat they are? I substituted 150 ml of milk for the missing egg. Someone online said it would work, and I believed them.

Even in their imperfection, they're still kinda cute.

For our picnic, I made jello and egg salad sandwiches, and used pink plastic plates and cups that I had left-over from my bachelorette party last spring. 

The day after Valentine's Day, we went to Walgreens to pick up my prescription from the day before. Of course, all the Valentine's stuff was 50% off, so Brian picked out a classic gift for me: a heart shaped box of chocolates, complete with a picture of a puppy, for $1.50. I bought myself this little rose plant for $2. 

So, the total price for Valentine's Day: $16.50. The most expensive and least useful cost was the rose, which cost $6. Compare that to my plant, which will last longer, for $2. 

Moral of the story: 
  • As far as gifts go, it is the thought that counts! It doesn't have to be expensive to be perfect.
  • As far as decorations go, you can find great stuff online for free! 
  • And, you'll never have to buy Valentine's again; there are SO many blogs and sites that offer them for free!
  • After Valentine's Day, get ready for next year! 
  • When you look at the stuff that's 50% off, think about how you could re-purpose it for Mother's Day or a birthday coming up.  

How did you celebrate Valentine's Day? Did you use any free stuff or thrifty finds? Tell us about it!