Taking care of your body did not make the list of topics that I remember in pre-field preparations. The charge to “eat what is set before you” had made it into my head as important cross-culturally and sacrifice was the go-to response, but another truth seemed to be in tension with these: “Worship the Lord with your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” In the years I spent in West Asia, becoming a participant in this new community, I grew in wholeness, the original design we are created in– that is to worship the Lord with my whole self.
If failing and learning was the measure of success, these first years were highly successful as I fumbled through dynamics with my specific food intolerances and needs, being hosted, finding routines that served me within a role of service, and home cooking with foreign ingredients.
One of my most stressful daily, if not weekly, experiences had to do with avoiding gluten (found in wheat, the most prevalent grain there), which I needed to avoid for health reasons. This was done with relative ease in my home country. Yet in a place where hospitality and honor were expressed through sharing resources, denying a gift of food or hospitality was denying the value of the host. It was considered rude, very unreasonable and misunderstood as a desire to be skinny. This was not the message I came to bring.
I learned that the currencies of friendship are time and presence with these beautiful, generous women. In the beginning, it was not only stressful for me, but also my hosts. Everywhere I turned, I was invited in for tea and faced with the question: “Do I sacrifice my body to show them love and eat what will make me sick or do I love God by doing what my body needs?” Did sacrifice mean always putting myself last? This was a frustrating choice. Eating what was set before me progressed to often refusing food. I enjoyed the strong black tea served in small tulip shaped glasses, yet my host stressed over me and my foreign (in all ways!) needs. As my language skills improved, and my conviction grew to better take care of my body, things started to shift. When I couldn’t receive her meals, compliments were one way I honored the host, even better given in front of other guests or her family. My favorites were “your conversation has nourished me” and “the way you attended to the guests really teaches me about hospitality.”
Women of all cultures want to be beautiful, so conversations of diet, weight loss, food, and exercise were a part of life. My specific health needs brought forth more of these conversations. Out of a passion to pursue wholeness, as well as form an understandable identity for myself, I became certified as an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach.
I was my first client, wading through the confusion and stress, finding out my body’s unique needs and how to fit these needs in the foreign environment that I was living in. As I navigated these needs, I grew in understanding how to worship the Lord with my whole self. I found myself living a much better version of myself with more energy, feeling good about my body image, having sustainable routines, feeling more balanced, and more familiar with local options of meeting these needs. My mind was better able to engage within all of the pressures, and ambiguity of life overseas, my emotions were more grounded and I began to feel at my best. What is your body speaking to you that it needs? What does your heart need in this season?
Now, I’m finding other women who want someone to walk with them in their journey towards being whole. I work with women who live out of their home-context that want to improve their longevity on the field by making lifestyle and habit shifts to gain energy, wellness, and live the life they were designed for.
What’s your next step towards living the life you’re designed for? “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers,” (3 John 1:2).