Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Little Miracles

God rarely seems to do things the way I expect or want Him to.

The prophet Isaiah once wrote, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9)

The reason we are often surprised or baffled by the ways of God is because He is not like us. Rather, we are like Him; only we are created, finite and made of dust instead of eternal, infinite and consisting of glory, righteousness, justice, truth, power and love. God is other. He is higher. He is greater. So, it makes sense that He would do things differently . . . . better and far more efficiently than we would do them. I find that it's when I think I've figured out His plan that He blindsides me with something wonderful or something hard that will become wonderful.

For instance, a few months ago when Sara was so ill with RSV and an ear infection that would not budge, I was certain that a tube surgery was in our very near future. So was our doctor. Instead, the Lord impressed it upon my heart to fast from lunch and snacks every day for a week, and seek Him while asking for a miraculous healing. I had never fasted from food for any period of time. Taken a little off guard, I trusted and obeyed, and one week later, her ears were clear and have mostly remained clear since. I thought at the time that the whole process was for Sara's benefit alone. It turns out that it was for mine, too. I subconsciously limited God to doing one thing at a time, a habit that needs breaking. The action of fasting, denying myself physical food in faith that God would provide much more important spiritual food and experiencing His faithfulness to do it, was as vital to me as was Sara's healing. I had planned for a surgery, and to my astonishment, received a miraculous healing and what I would need to face the weeks ahead. Here, I was blindsided with something as wonderful in foretaste as it was in aftertaste. But it doesn't always happen that way.

Sometimes, in the middle of a happy, exciting time in life, people get sick, and we just don't understand. Sometimes, it's someone you know or someone you love. And sometimes, it's you. It's all hard, and it's impossible to understand how something so awful could actually be for good, but you trust, you hope. And sometimes, you can see some of the good--for you and/or others.

If you've been reading awhile, you may remember me writing about the elders of our church coming  to pray for me. They came at the end of a difficult day, and I would have loved to have been miraculously healed before they left. That is not what happened at all. You may also remember me asking for prayer for my husband, Brandon, who had been having strange, allergic-esque symptoms to we-had-no-idea-what, and was feeling very ill himself. As Randy, one of the elders prayed specifically for him, Brandon said that he felt a physical weight lift off of his shoulders. He got the miraculous healing, and it has proved out over the last three weeks. He has been perfectly healthy (sleep deprivation aside) since that night.

Sara was the other benefactor from that night. Since then, she has adjusted quickly and beautifully to every change we've thrown at her. She took a bottle much easier than I had imagined. When she began taking a bottle, her six month long bout of colic DISAPPEARED. She switched to the strange goat milk formula I'm making daily for her (strange because it includes goat milk, water, prune juice, blackstrap molasses, orange flavored cod liver oil, raspberry flavored B vitamin and folic acid supplements, bitter-tasting Vitamin D, extra virgin olive oil . . . . it's strange, I tell you) without a hitch. She began sleeping for most of the night in her bed when we began requiring her to so I could get more restful sleep, and then began sleeping all night in her bed all on her own, and THEN began taking two hour naps out of the blue.

 In case you aren't familiar with my littlest's former habits, allow me to elaborate. This child DID. NOT. SLEEP. the first two weeks of life. She took 20 minute cat naps every 3-4 hours, but would stay awake all night long. She was colicky to boot, so there was no sleeping for me until I decided to sleep with her in the guest bed in her nursery. That sleep wasn't very high quality as she ate 2-3 times a night and had tummy issues from about 1am until we got up, but it was some sleep as opposed to no sleep, which can quite literally kill you. When she began "sleeping" at night, she stopped taking naps in the day. I occasionally would luck up and get a half hour snooze, but it was rare. Evenings were, for lack of a better metaphor, hell. She began wailing (she cries louder than any toddler I've met . . . I think we have a future Wagnerian soprano on our hands) at 5pm every day and would often carry on until 1 am. Over time, the screaming fits became shorter, but they never went away . . . . until after the elders prayed for her.

The elders had come to pray for me, but my husband and daughter were the ones who got the miracles. And I am so, TOTALLY okay with that. It wasn't what I had expected. It wasn't what I had hoped for. Instead, it was exactly what was needed, and I am incredibly grateful that my husband and daughter are doing so well! (I believe my time is coming!) Our family as a whole is doing better because I am sick. My illness was the impetus for this goodness and for much more goodness that I don't have time to recount at the moment.

It's hard to be sick. It's hard to hurt physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. However, I wouldn't trade my situation with anyone. I'm getting to experience the Lord work on my behalf in the most tender, intimate ways. I'm getting to know parts of His character I never knew before. I'm falling in love with Him all over again. So yes, this has been hard, but it's been wonderful, too. Thank you, Jesus, for these "little miracles," and thank you for being enough for me while I wait on my "big miracle," a miracle I can honestly say I could do without if that was what you wanted, but a miracle I believe is coming . . . . maybe just around the corner.

Prayer Request Update:

Tomorrow, I will be seeing Dr. Yakaboski, a naturopathic doctor in West Monroe, who specializes in nutrition. Please pray that the Lord will give her keen insight into my situation, and that we can come up with a plan for me to get the nutrition I need to get well.

The kids have been sick for over a week now. It's nothing serious, but they are miserable. Unsurprisingly, I caught it, as well. Micah had an anaphylactic attack while eating a snack on Sunday, and Sara choked on mashed avocado this morning. I did the Heimlich maneuver for babies on her. Liquid avocado shot out of her mouth (no bits, though . . . . weird, no?) after a couple of forceful pats on the back, and all was well. I think the devil is messing with my kids, and I don't like it. Please pray for our family's protection from the wicked one. I don't want to be protected from God's glory, but I do want to be protected from Satan's schemes. I hesitate to say this next sentence because some of you will think it's crazy or impossible, while others will think it's kind of cool--it's neither, by the way. We have experienced some very evident activity from evil spirits lately. Please pray with us against this!

I've begun a healing regimen called The Healing Codes. Please pray with me that God would use this regimen to bring swift healing to my body. If you are interested in reading more about The Healing Codes, you can check out this website: http://thehealingcodes.com/. Dr. Yak bases much of her practice on The Healing Codes. Incredulous, I decided to buy the book so that I would be prepared for whatever new age voodoo crap she was going to pull on me. As it turns out, The Healing Codes is based on Christian principles and good science, so I'm totally comfortable with it after reading through the book with much prayer, scripture referencing and discernment. I don't think The Healing Codes are the answer to all of my problems. With the authors, I agree that God can use them as a tool to heal me, and it is my prayer that they do.

Thank you all for your kindness, love and support through prayer, service and encouragement. May God bless you all with more of Himself!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Change of Plans

 "A man's heart plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps."
-Proverbs 16:9

Plans. We plan our daily schedule, our menus, our leisure time. We make plans within plans, and plans to see those plans through. In spite of an unpredictable world, where the best of plans often go awry, we still make them every day. When our plans are broken, we all respond differently. These responses have much to do with our personalities, our histories and the value we place upon those plans. I'm not naturally very flexible about changes in plans, but over the years, I've learned to better handle my disappointment when things don't work out the way I want them to. I've gotten pretty good at changing my meal plans at the last minute when I don't have the needed ingredients. I don't enjoy missing scheduled social functions, but I don't let it bother me anymore when a family member gets sick and we have to stay home. It's not my favorite thing to change date plans when Brandon and I are running late to our movie, but I have learned to enjoy an impromptu stroll through a favorite store when the stars fail to align. My children have been my greatest teachers in the classroom of flexibility. (Can I get an amen?) However, when my latest plan for physical restoration and healing exploded in my face with the energy of a grenade, I did not handle it well.

For several days, I had been suspecting what I considered to be the worst. When you eat sparingly, especially after a fast, you notice every tiny change in your body after you eat. You can feel the slightest tingle of your lips, the smallest itchy bumps on your skin, the faintest flash of heat wash over your body, the tiniest swelling of your tongue or throat. I knew, but I was in denial. I couldn't yet admit it because the stuff was my lifeline, my best source of nourishment. I even began saying aloud, "I don't know what I will do if I begin having reactions to this."

 I had gone through about $200 trying various nutritional supplements, each one causing allergic reactions, some of which were severe. I tested digestive enzymes, probiotic cultures, and amino acid supplements. I thought I had found the answer to my need for protein on Mt. Capra's website. Mt. Capra is a company that specializes in health and wellness products derived from goat milk. I ordered the colostrum supplements and the protein powder. The way in which I responded to these supplements confirmed my worst fears. My body (or rather, my antibodies) were attacking goat milk, a substance that had always been safe. After my evening helping of protein powder mixed with my rice cereal, I had an obvious reaction. I wanted to believe that it was something in the powder, the vanilla flavoring maybe. Anything but the goat milk itself. So, that is what I told myself--I can't take the powder, but I can still drink the milk.

To put things succinctly, I drank my nightly glass of goat milk before bed, became very ill, dropped my head in my hands and wept as if someone had died. I called my mom, and we agreed that our plan--the plan I had been depending on, banking on to get me well--had to be scrapped. Without the goat milk, I would quite literally starve to death. It would take time, but that's what would happen. And mom and I both agree, anaphylaxsis is preferable to starvation every day of the week.

So, we have formulated Plan C . . . . or D, E or F . . . . we have lost count. While it's riskier in some ways, I actually like it much better because I'm finally eating real food! We have decided to try food rotation. Because my list of safe foods is so short, I can't do much better than avoid eating the same thing twice in one day and avoid eating the same food two days in a row. Here's how it works--

Yesterday, I ate three egg yolks and my rice cereal for breakfast. For lunch, I had some very simple homemade chicken soup (Hanna Peshoff, God bless you!). For dinner, I made hamburger patties seasoned with salt and pepper alone and some broccoli. Today, I ate rice cereal for breakfast, peanut butter and an apple for lunch and a pork roast with potatoes and green beans seasoned with salt and pepper alone. The peanut butter and apple at lunch was a HUGE mistake for which I have paid dearly all day long, a mistake I have no plans to repeat. Tomorrow, I will probably repeat the egg yolk breakfast, eat a vegetarian lunch and have chicken for dinner. There will be no grains (excepting rice), no nuts, no butter, no olive oil, no strange gluten free additives such as tapioca or gums, few fruits, no goat milk, no processed food whatsoever. This may sound terrible to some of you, but I am absolutely delighted! I only hope it works!

After being so hungry for so long, chicken soup, hamburger patties and pork roast is the BEST. FOOD. EVER. I am thanking God for the animals, the farmers who raise the animals, the people who kill the animals (so sorry, PETA), the people who prepare and package the meat and the cashier who sold it to us.

All of that being said, this sudden influx of food is indeed a risky business (although no riskier than throwing in the towel and allowing myself to starve). To help reduce the risk, I am going to see a natural doctor on Wednesday of next week who specializes in bio-nutrition. She also claims to have success in helping people overcome their food allergies and sensitivities. She will be addressing my other symptoms using a "whole-person" approach, which means she will see me as more than a list of symptoms that need to be alleviated. Rather, she will address me as a physical, emotional and spiritual being, and will try to help me in each respect. Honestly, I'm a little skeptical because I'm skeptical about everything, but I plan to go with an open (yet discerning) mind.

 I really hope she can help me because I'm seeing clearly now that what I need is a miracle. I need a miraculous intervention from the Lord, and I am open to whatever venue He would like to use. I'll accept a miraculous healing in my sleep, from a doctor, from a drug, from a diet, from a supplement, and/or from a lifestyle. I will accept whatever He is willing to give however He is willing to give it (whenever He is willing to give it) because if I insist upon it coming to me in a particular way, I may end up dead rather than well.

And I don't think the plan is for me to end up dead. I don't believe that God is penning a tragedy here. I believe that He is instead scripting an adventure that ends in restoration and a happily ever after. Yet, I find that I can be happy today in spite of the uncertainty of tomorrow. My new plan may fail like all of the rest of my seemingly well-conceived plans, but I can always be happy in Jesus and trust that if this plan fails, the Lord is working something out here that is too wonderful for me to comprehend, and I can trust Him to guide me safely to the next course of action. I can be happy in sickness and in health. I can be happy in plenty or in poverty. I can be happy hungry or full. I can be happy because Jesus Himself is my satisfaction, and He is enough.

I think this latest change of plan is a gift. Goat milk may not be an option for awhile, but after three weeks of being truly hungry, I am enjoying feeling satisfied, and the food is absolutely delicious! I hope and pray my body doesn't betray me further by rejecting this new effort. I hope healing is just around the corner. I hope that this time next year, I can look back smiling and reflecting on how far I've come. But most of all, I hope that God's purposes and plans are accomplished in this--every last one. All of the purposes He has for me, for my family, for my friends, for my church, for the strangers who hear of or read my story are worth it. The hunger, the pain, the grief, the fear, even my life is a worthy price if it works for your good, Reader, and the greatest good I know is God's glory. Beautifully, mysteriously, He has intertwined His glory with our good and happiness so tightly that one does not exist without the other. How cool is that?

John Piper, one of the greatest Christian teachers of our time, puts it like this--"God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." I hope you take time to revel in the person, the grace and beauty of our Lord Jesus Christ as you so kindly beseech Him on my behalf, for He is the key to "happily ever after" for all in this life and the next.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

It's very late on a Saturday night as I begin to type. Louisiana isn't far from the earliest bits of Sunday morning, actually. I'm sitting in the green recliner I bought for Brandon a few years ago, which I have claimed for over half the time we've owned it for one reason or another, and a snoozing baby rests against my chest because she inexplicably finds my now-protruding clavicle more comfortable than her crib. Sara sighs sweetly as she sleeps, and her chubby cheeks beckon the pucker of my lips. Yes, I'm tired. Yes, I should be sleeping. But I'm not frustrated or upset about not being in bed tonight.

I've been thinking a lot today about the fact that I have not been able to really enjoy Sara's babyhood. Honestly, I feel a little robbed. When Micah was a baby, I had the time and energy to record his milestones, take more photos than should be devoted to one child, and make cute, multimedia videos perfectly timed to the perfect song. Every day, we spent time reading and playing on the floor, and this was in addition to teaching piano and voice lessons, managing the household and having a full and fun schedule. I'm a little concerned that Sara will one day notice and challenge the disparity in evidence of happy parenting, but mostly I'm sad that I haven't really had an opportunity to provide it.

From the beginning, the odds were stacked against us. Sara didn't sleep until we began co-sleeping when she was two weeks old. At three weeks, she came down with a cold that she kept until RSV hit us like a hurricane at the first of January. She was sick with RSV and ear infections for over two months. Utterly consumed by the needs of my frighteningly sick infant and the lesser, yet significant needs of my now three-year-old son, I didn't notice the first obvious signs that my health was slipping. I thought I was tired because Sara wasn't sleeping. I thought my allergies were heightened because we never had winter. I thought my migraines were the byproduct of my postpartum hormones. And now, I live in a reality where I have little energy because of the nature of whatever auto-immune thing I have and because I can't get enough food. I live in a reality in which pain is becoming so commonplace that I'm beginning to ignore the lesser aches and only give pause when those aches become debilitating pain. I live in a reality that could end with the next food I try.

I can honestly say that I don't feel afraid much anymore. God is really keeping my fear under control. However, it would be vilely pretentious of me to lead you to believe that I'm not depressed . . . and worse. For those of you who have experienced depression, you know what I mean when I say that the aches I feel go deeper than my bones. There's an emptiness, a hollow space that reverberates uncomfortably each time I think about not having the energy to savor Sara's babyhood as I would like or wonder if I'll be able to teach Micah to play basketball or consider the fact that it would be dangerous to have anymore babies.

And then there is the food thing . . . . I am so meat hungry, live cattle make me salivate. Rice cereal and vegetables are an absolute gift, and many people in the world would be overjoyed to eat what I'm eating, but when I'm smelling Hannah Peshoff's roast warming in the microwave, Death by Roast doesn't seem that bad of a way to go, if you catch my meaning. (Allow me to interject here that I am thrilled that my family is eating well while I am adjusting and finding my feet. I do not begrudge them good food. I only wish that I could have something fabulous to eat, too.) I feel a lot like the Israelites, wandering around in the wilderness, complaining about the manna they had to eat day in and day out without variation instead of being grateful for God's miraculous provision. I have to remind myself what a gift it is to eat! I have to remember how far I've come in just a little over a week.

 It's funny--and excruciatingly humbling--to realize that I'm identifying with qualities I've never liked or respected in others. I lack gratitude. I have difficulty overseeing the affairs of my household. I have little desire to rise above my circumstances. I have moments of jealousy when I consider how easy things seem for other people and moments of cynicism when those people don't realize what a miracle it is that they feel energized enough to spend a day at the park or at the zoo with their kids.

I've always felt that it is important to call a spade, a spade, and let's face it--my attitude is sin and it's ugly. A friend of mine once put it something like this--God owes me nothing. Actually, the only thing I am owed is Hell. Anything I am given beyond eternal damnation is something I don't deserve. While I am a human being, created and allowed to feel raw, complex emotions, I must always land back in the realization that I am owed nothing. The breath in my lungs, the food (however bland) in my belly, the clothes on my back, the pain in my legs (a beautiful sign that my legs still work), is a gift--a gift I DON'T deserve! The mommy moments that I think I'm missing? I only really miss them if I'm too distracted by my discontentment to enjoy what I'm given. And beyond all of these things, I have been given Jesus, who has ushered me into the presence of God by the merit of His blood alone, who allows me to enjoy these gifts freely without them being an indictment against my rebel's heart. And one of these days . . . . one of these days . . . .I'm going to learn that His presence is ENOUGH! God, You are ENOUGH!

I am going to have to be intentional if I am to pluck out the weeds of discontentment in my heart. I am praying that the Lord would truly be enough for me. I am asking that when I want a bite of what my husband is eating badly enough to consider endangering myself that I would instead choose to feast on Him. Please, please, pray with me. Also, I have found that gratitude is one of the most potent weed-killers out there, and I am going to devote myself to being grateful to the Lord every day. I'm thinking of beginning a Post-It Wall of Gratitude somewhere in the house to look at and add to each day. I will begin my prayers with a "thank you" rather than a "please, Lord." And I think I'm going to start right here, right now with this precious, sleeping baby on my chest. What a grand, grand gift.

What is something big or small for which you are grateful?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Joy, Unexpected

I feel like I'm breaking the surface of the deep, paralyzingly cold waters of shock I've been trapped under for the past twelve days. I've taken a couple of life-giving gulps of oxygen, taken a quick look around and have accepted the fact that the shore--complete with a diagnosis and restored health--is nowhere in sight. I'm beginning to relax and trying to give myself to the current's flow, trusting that God is going to bring me safely to my destination, wherever that may be. I'm not going to lie--fighting the pull of fear and uncertainty is difficult--but if I can keep my eyes on Christ, I can stay afloat and even appreciate the sights along the way.

So far, my body has accepted three foods--rice cereal, goat milk and zucchini. I season with salt alone. I have also tried olive oil and avocado, but my body rejected them both. The diet plan I'm following explains that hypersensitive "patients" must advance their diets very slowly. I may eventually be able to eat these foods again, but I must wait. For now, it's easy to be patient. My stomach still protests a little each time I eat, so my food is prepared to be as digestible as possible, as if I were making it for an infant. The result is that Sara and I are sharing meals!

I haven't been exactly quiet about how much I loved to nurse my baby and how sad I was when I decided to give it up. Being able to share my food with my girl has been therapeutic in light of that loss. Usually, Sara sits in her Bumbo, and watches me eat. Sometimes, she wants a bite or two of my meal, and I am happy and able to share! We talk, laugh, play and eat our rice cereal and vegetable mash--it's really fun! Our mini meals are becoming a sweet, special time that makes me smile about my plate of baby food in spite of the fact that I would rather be eating steak and potatoes. It may be easy to be patient now, but give it a few weeks. I'll be needing this precious little drop of sunshine.

Each day I've eaten, I've grown a little stronger. I can manage a little laundry, a few dishes, giving Sara a bath and basic care for the kids, but not much more. I'm still unable to cook, keep the house clean (or even tidy, for that matter), stay caught up with the laundry or play very much with the kids. Eight to nine hundred daily calories just don't go very far, especially on days that the pain is severe.

Last Saturday afternoon, a flare-up was building in my bones. My grandmother came over to play with Micah, and took him outside. I peered through the french door glass at the smiling red-head playing chase with his great-grandmother. For a moment, my breath caught and I felt a pang in my chest. I would so love to be able to play chase with my boy, but I haven't been able to do that in months. It's been a long time since I was healthy enough to run around much. And there I sat in a dining chair, still in my twenties and aching all over, watching a woman in her seventies chase my child. As the tears were forming in my eyes, God slanted my perspective. I realized what a gift it was that my boy was outside running around like all little boys should. I realized what an amazing thing I had in a grandmother willing and healthy enough, even after breast cancer, to run around with him. It may not be the exact picture I had in mind when imagining parenthood several years ago, but it's not any less beautiful. For now, I will focus on what I can do--feed, hold, cuddle, kiss, read to, love my children--and pray that the Lord will meet the rest of their needs how He sees fit.

I also have to depend on God and others to meet some of my needs. I went to bed Saturday night in a good bit of pain, and woke up Sunday morning to more. We had Sara's baby dedication that morning, and I was hurting so badly, I couldn't even fix my own hair. I told Brandon that I didn't think we were going to make it, so he volunteered to fix my hair.

 You are now all mortified. The women are all mortified because they can't imagine what they would look like if their husbands or significant others fixed their hair and the men because they wouldn't know where to begin. I was never worried. You all forget that I'm married to Superman. A typical Lois Lane, I was only humiliated and frustrated that I couldn't fix my own hair. However, I'm finding that humility, though difficult and disgusting to swallow, is healthy for the soul. The ten minutes that Brandon spent styling my hair were actually very precious. How many women are married to a man that wants to go to their child's dedication so badly that he would offer to fix their hair? How many women are married to men who could actually do it? Brandon and I bonded on a new level Sunday morning, and I think he did a pretty good job! (You can add that to your "job skills" list, Babe!)

Dependence doesn't come easy to me. I have always enjoyed the feeling of being capable, but I find myself in a set of circumstances where I am just not capable. Every task requires dependence, whether on the Lord or someone else. Getting out of bed in the morning is proving difficult. I'm stiff and sore, tired and depressed, and if I didn't have children who were counting on me--physically and emotionally--to get out of bed, I would be tempted to just stay there and wallow. But I have to get up! So in a practice I think everyone should adopt, I daily acknowledge the fact that I can't even get out of bed in the morning without God's help, and I ask Him to help me. And He proves Himself faithful every morning.

I never thought I would find myself in such dire straights, and I certainly never thought I could find real, genuine joy in these types of circumstances. I'm not a glass-half-full kind of girl. I've always been of the mindset that everyone could take their "power of positive thinking" and shove it. (I'm still of that mindset.) No offense to those who like to think positively, but no amount of positive thinking is going to make me better physically or able to eat a doughnut ever again. My joy does not flow from the way I think about things; but to my absolute astonishment, there it is, present in every moment . . . . even the sad ones--joy, unexpected. And  that joy flows from the ever-constant, sustaining presence of Jesus Christ.

"Satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days."
(Psalm 90:14)

Amen and amen.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Jots and Tittles

When I woke yesterday morning, I felt like I was dying. I realize that sounds melodramatic, but if you've ever been dehydrated, malnourished, nauseated and hurting all over at the same, you understand. My stomach had been very upset with me for days, especially after drinking this gosh-awful stuff.

My nutrition supplement a.k.a The Drink of Torture

It was difficult even swallowing water. The smallest sip would make my stomach roll and burn, and without really thinking about it, I just stopped drinking. It wasn't intentional, but it happened. And Thursday morning, I reaped the consequences. 

I dragged myself out of bed for a moment, only to get right back in. And there I stayed, wondering how long I would feel like I was on death's door. I sipped on a water bottle, but it was painful and slow. As I fought the urge to throw up the little water I had taken, my husband and mother decided I needed IV fluids. My doctor was called, and later that morning, I arrived at the Quick Care Clinic in Ruston. 

Under normal circumstances, I would have been shaking in my boots at the prospect of an IV needle, but I was so miserable, I didn't care . . . much. I may have stopped breathing once or twice. I knew they were going to have a hard time sticking me because my veins tend to run and hide when a needle comes out. Add dehydration to the mix, and you have yourself a problem. I went back to the verse that had been my lifeline the last time I had visited an ER.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds through Christ Jesus." --Philippians 4:6-7

I prayed through the verse, willing myself to obey through a haze of fear and pain. And you know what? God is faithful. I was flooded with peace, even though I had two nurses worried about getting the needle in my "dry" arm. Once it was in, it had to be wiggled around--something that should have sent me off the cliff of sanity. Instead, I was fine. I was able to tell both nurses helping me about my verse, which was fun. I hope it will help them sometime in the future, too.

I was given two liters of saline, and afterward felt much better. I was allowed to go home under strict instructions to drink with prescriptions for nausea to help. 

I drank and rested for most of the afternoon until it was time to move to the living room to receive visitors. Our small group leaders from church were coming to the house with two of our elders. They came bearing gifts--three meals cooked by three sweet ladies in our church. You ladies who have been ill or recovering from surgery know how reassuring it is to know that your family is being taken care of when you cannot take care of them. A huge burden was lifted as the meals were tucked away in our fridge. 

Our visitors cheered us up significantly after a hard day. They talked with us, encouraged us, and most importantly, prayed for us. Brandon later told me that as the elders prayed for him, he could physically feel his anxieties and burdens lift from his body. 

We had never done this before, but we asked for the elders to come to our home because of the verse found in James 5:14, which states, "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord." In addition to being prayed for, I was also anointed with oil, and while I was a bit afraid it would be an awkward experience, it was instead a precious, encouraging time for my family and for those who came. I encourage you to consider doing this if the situation ever applies, especially in light of the triumphs of today.

Last night, Sara slept in her own bed and went without drinking a bottle for the second night in a row. She woke once both nights, but was easily rocked back to sleep by my mom. If it had only happened once, I would have thought it was a fluke, but it happened TWICE! After she began taking a bottle on Wednesday, her colic DISAPPEARED! If you are my friend on Facebook, you know what a HUGE deal this is. Because I've been sick, she hasn't been given any Prevacid for her acid reflux, but she has not spit up. Like, at all. We are astounded and thrilled! I cannot begin to tell you what a relief and an answer to prayer these changes have been. 

In addition to Sara's progress, I have had a couple of successes of my own. My pain has receded without medication. It's still there, but only as a shadow of what I woke to eight days ago. I can manage that. And I am so happy to report that I have eaten one and a half servings of Cream of Rice today. It may be baby food. It may not be much. But it's food. I had minimal discomfort as I ate--just a little burning and pain--and the nausea has been controlled today by Phenergan, Zantac and Protonix. Tomorrow, I will try peeled and boiled zucchini if I continue to improve. I know you're jealous.

Today, has been a day of small but significant victories. They are gifts from the Lord, and I am so thankful. If I continue to gain strength, we may even make it to Sara's baby dedication on Sunday, which I in no way expected to be a possibility. 

I want to close with a few thank you's and an excerpt sent to me by my dear friend, mentor and spiritual mom.

First, thank you to my mom, Melanie Chapman, and mother-in-law, Debbie Keaster who have tirelessly taken care of my husband, my children and myself this week. They have cleaned, cooked, nursed, encouraged, prayed, and fed, bathed and played with children day and night. And thanks to the men who have lent them out. Thanks also to my Nona, Sue Saunders, and our Honey, Sue Binford, who have taken me and my kids where we have needed to go, and have allowed me to get some rest this week.Without these ladies, things would have fallen apart here at the Keaster household. Most of all, thanks to my Superman. Brandon Keaster, you have been the perfect husband, friend, helper, rock and spiritual leader this week. I am the luckiest woman alive to have you for my husband.

And now for the timely and poignant passage sent to me by my Mrs. Dixie, who has been praying tirelessly for me--

"The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised!" Job 1:21

O my Father, let me feel, even amid the troublous changes of life, that what I am apt to call painful vicissitudes--are the sovereign decrees and allotments of Your infinite wisdom!

Let me rejoice that every bitter drop in the 'cup of life'--is appointed by my Heavenly Father! May I submissively drink it, saying, "May Your will be done!"

What I cannot now comprehend--be it mine to wait the disclosures of that blessed morning when, standing at the luminous portals of Heaven, I shall joyfully acknowledge that, "You have done all things well!"

I look forward to that time when all Your inscrutable dealings will be unfolded, when inner meanings and purposes now undiscerned by the eye of sense--will be brought to light, and all discovered to be full of infinite love! Other refuges may fail--but I am as secure in You, as everlasting love and wisdom and power can make me!

Blessed Jesus! I would seek to cleave closer and closer to Your cross! May I follow You, O Lamb of God--wherever You see fit to lead me. May I never feel as if I would wish one jot or tittle regarding me to be altered--when the reins of universal empire are in Your hands!

--John MacDuff, "Evening Incense," 1859

Yes, Lord. "May I never feel as if I would wish one jot or tittle regarding me to be altered," for You truly do all things well even when I just cannot understand. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Plan

I desperately wish I had only sunshine and rainbows to report this morning. I earnestly want to tell you all that I've been miraculously healed. Instead, I will offer you honesty. In light of all of your sweet comments and prayers, you deserve it. And allow me to interject here that I believe that at moments your prayers are a large component of the glue that is holding our family together. I can't say this sincerely or heartfelt enough--thank you.

The last couple of days have been tough. Monday, I saw an immunologist in Monroe, hoping he could shed a little light on my crazy situation or give me some good advice. About halfway through the appointment, I realized he wasn't going to be able to help me in either way. Basically, he told me that he couldn't tell me anything I didn't already know. I needed to avoid the foods that I wasn't tolerating, and continue to carry my Epi Pen, Benadryl and inhaler. He told me he thought my allergy issues are unrelated to my inflammation issues, and that I needed to see a rheumatologist. In short, I confounded him. He offered to refer me to a rheumatologist in Shreveport. We payed him our $60 co-pay, and left.

I don't know what I had expected, but I could barely bar the floodgates as I walked out of the clinic. Fortunately, I made it to the car before I started sobbing. Brandon, who had driven me, patted my hand, and said it was going to be alright. I listened to music on the way home, and tried to begin making peace with the fact that what was wrong with me is beyond the scope of quick fixes--a difficult, but necessary thing to do.

I'm usually a woman with a plan. I see a problem, I decide upon a plan to solve said problem, and I execute it. Monday, I felt naked because I had a problem . . . . a HUGE problem . . . . and no plan whatsoever. Fortunately, I was pretty exhausted after my long day and sleepless night on Sunday night, so I was able to go to bed at 8:30, and forget my discomforts and frustrations for awhile.

I woke to the hungry cries of my baby girl around 5:15am yesterday morning. My mother had come in the night before while I was asleep to keep her so I could rest. While I fed Sara, mom sat with me, and offered me a plan. It felt like a lifeline. I mentioned before that my mom suffered from adult onset allergies a few years before. She had NO IDEA what was wrong with her then. She researched and prayed, and by divine guidance, stumbled upon the Alpha Nutrition Program. Through reading their book about healing through diet revision, she was able to get better when she was seriously ill. She had been doing her homework and re-reading, and offered it to me. We had begun discussing the method Sunday night, which begins with a fast or "food holiday," as the author calls it. We had tried to decide how I was going to get basic nutrition. I couldn't take the site's offered nutrient formulas because they contained ingredients to which I was showing sensitivity. We did some looking for something even more hypoallergenic, thought we'd found it on another site, and I had it shipped overnight to the house.

As I waited for my amino acid/nutrition supplement to get in yesterday, I noticed that my stomach was burning each time I put any food on it. The only food I was taking in was rice and goat milk, which are the two foods I go to after a stomach bug, as dry crackers are out of the realm of possibility for me. They are very gentle foods. But each time I drank a glass of milk or ate a little rice, I would become nauseated and my stomach would start burning uncomfortably.

When I returned from a visit to my family doctor yesterday afternoon--she gave me a physical exam, prescribed me something for my nerve pain and began the labs to rule out quick, easy fixes--my supplement was waiting on the doorstep. Later that evening, Brandon opened it and mixed it up for me. I was barely able to choke it down. I have eaten and drunk some nasty things in the name of health, but I think this drink may win the award for number of gags and almost-pukes. When I had gotten some of it down, my ears started to burn and my tongue began to swell. Not a good sign. I kept going back to the fact that I should not be reacting to anything in it, and somehow managed to get the rest of it down. After a few minutes, the weird allergic feeling went away, and I felt okay . . . until the intense nausea set it.

I sat on the bathroom floor, praying I wouldn't start vomiting. I hate to be sick because it's always so violent and painful for me, and I didn't want to have to go to the hospital. Mom, Brandon and I have all agreed that they wouldn't know what to do with me anyway, and they could very well kill me accidentally. I called my mother before heading to bed, and we decided that I should do a water only fast for as long as I could tolerate it. The goal is set for 3 days. After that, I will attempt the Alpha Nutrition Program sans supplements.

I am not very enthusiastic about starting a fast like this already hungry, but my digestive system needs a complete rest. It is not tolerating anything of sustenance. In light of the lack of nutrition and my new nerve meds, I have decided to stop nursing cold turkey. My last feeding was around 7:30pm last night. As I sit here in the early morning typing, my sweet mother in law is trying to get our Sara to take a bottle. She is spitting, sputtering and crying. I don't know what we're going to do with that one. A will of iron, she has.

Anyway, back to last night . . . . I laid in bed itching, hurting and hungry, and I just could not get to sleep. I prayed and cried and finally realized something. I've been looking desperately for answers and a miracle healing, but I haven't been seeking the real source of my help. I've been looking for God's hands, and all the while completely missing His face.

God brought to mind Proverbs 3:5-6--"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." I have been leaning on my very limited understanding of my situation, trying to come up with a plan for self-healing. Sure, I've been asking God to heal, strengthen, encourage, but you can be asking for all of those things without really putting your value in Him.

I came to this realization broken and feeling foolish. The good thing about our God is that He doesn't put us in a corner and force us to think about the bad thing we've done, or in my case, not done. He just wants us to come right back into friendship with Him.

My prayers changed last night. I continued to ask for direction, healing and endurance, but I realigned my desire for the person of Christ rather than what He could do for me. I prayed for His presence, which is far more important than food at this point. It is, in fact, the only food my body can currently accept! He alone will be my sustenance over the next few days, and that is not such a terrible thing, really. I am going to use this forced fast as an opportunity to seek the Lord.

After 40 days of fasting (Jesus is THE MAN, by the way), Satan tempted Jesus with food. Jesus' answer? " “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”(Matthew 4:3-5) These are words to remember.

I've also settled in this passage for the past couple of days:

"O Lord, You are my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance.
I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; My heart also instructs me in the night seasons.
I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.
For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore."
(Psalm 16:5-11)

It's almost as if David wrote that prophetically for my situation.

As you pray for us for the next couple of days, we have some specific needs:

Me--That I will seek the Lord, and that He would provide all I need in Himself. I need to be able to take care of both children alone some. I'm still hurting. I think the pain was receding, but the reaction last night brought some of it back. I'm tired, but I can't sleep well for long. I made it five hours last night, but couldn't manage anymore, and I'm having trouble napping. I'm also hungry, and will continue to be for awhile. Mothering is difficult in the best of situations, and I have a lot going against me right now. Pray for extra grace for me and the littles. We all need it.

Sara--That this child will PLEASE take a bottle without putting herself or her parents in the hospital. I'm probably going to have a hungry baby on my hands today who expects to nurse. I am glad that I didn't take my nerve meds last night because that means I can nurse her today after her scheduled shots, if necessary, but I think it would be best to not, if possible. Sara also needs to start sleeping by herself in her crib soon. This poor child has a lot of changes to undergo in a short amount of time. Pray for her, and pray for us.

Micah--He is beginning to understand that something isn't right. He's frustrated that mommy can't play and do everything he likes. He is acting out a bit, and we don't want to be hard on him. Pray that we will give him the grace he needs while still being good parents, and that Jesus would help him cope. Micah also gets a shot today, poor guy, so if you think of us around lunch, pray that it's as painless as possible.

Brandon--Brandon is having some strange symptoms that we are getting checked out today. He is taking Humira every two weeks for his Crohn's. On Thursday, he began having allergic symptoms. Thursday is also the day my pain began. We are unsure of whether he's having an adverse reaction to his medication or his body just can't tolerate all of the stress he is feeling right now. Pray that we and his doctors will have insight into the problem and the wisdom to alleviate his symptoms.

Thank you for all of your prayers thus far. Please don't stop. And as you pray, remember to seek the Lord's face before you seek His hand. Jesus Himself is far more valuable as a person than any miracle He can accomplish. All of this is in His power, and He's working something bigger and better than we can understand. I trust Him. I hope you do, too.

"When You said, 'Seek My face,'
My heart said to You, 'Your face, Lord, I will seek.'"
(Psalm 27:8)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Fire and The Moon

Yesterday, I woke to unbearable pain. The pain in my joints had spread to all of my limbs. I felt like I had been beaten up and set on fire. Nerve pain shot from my shoulder to my hands, from my hips to my feet. And then I began reacting to everything I ate.

 Yesterday, I wondered if I was going to die. I sat in the antique rocking chair in Sara's room, the most uncomfortable chair in the house, and held my daughter in my arms, whispering soft prayers and leaking tears into the soft, strawberry-blonde down of her baby head while fixing my eyes on the photo of my little family hanging in the hall.

Yesterday, I prayed the prayers of a dying wife and mother. I was peaceful, but I was very unsure whether or not I would live. Today, I prayed the prayers of a woman who is going to get better. And this is even in spite of the fact that today I had a severe allergic reaction to a supplement which almost forced me to use my Epi Pen and surrender myself to a hospital. (I'm not ready for that upheaval quite yet.) Here's what changed:

I sought the Lord yesterday. I drew near to Him, and He faithfully, lovingly drew near to me. He gave me promises, sweet promises, that assured me I would live.

When going through a hard time, The Book of Psalms is an excellent resting place, so I opened it from the beginning with the plan to read five chapters. Here, I was given Psalm 3:5--"I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me."

One of my biggest fears yesterday was going to sleep. What if my throat closed up, and I died quietly there in the bed? How awful would that be for my family? God took that fear away with this verse, and I haven't been afraid to sleep today at all. Not even after my scary allergic reaction.

I also remembered one of my favorite verses from Zechariah--"I will bring the one-third THROUGH the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, 'This is My people'; and each one will say, 'The Lord is my God.'"--Zechariah 13:9

The fire (literal and figurative) I am experiencing is not to destroy me, but to refine me. I'm going to make it THROUGH the flames better than I was before.

I also went back, and read my post, "Concerning Death and Dreams," I had written back in February after my many close encounters with sulfa/sulfur/sulfite products. I remembered my dream. I had been told that death would be coming for me again and again as it has, but I was also told that God is going to protect me. My blue force field shelters me still. Also from yesterday, Psalm 3:3--"But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head."

I feel certain that the part of Philippians 1:21 meant for me in this moment is "to live is Christ." Dying will be gain . . . . only later.

Finally, last night I was given a gift. The whole world received it, but God has a way of making you feel like His favorite kid every now and then and making the gifts He gives to all seem as if they were personally gift-wrapped for you. After the children had been whisked away by family so I could get rest, my man whisked me away for a quick peek at the moon before bed. We couldn't see it over the tree line at our home. He drove me to the Brookshire's parking lot and let me marvel for a moment. I thought, "This moon is as I should be." I thought about how the moon is it's most beautiful and glorious when it is fully facing the light of the sun. Sure, we notice it when it's only partially alight, but when it sits full and radiant in the midnight sky, it takes our breath away.

We, as Christians, often want to hold pieces of ourselves back from the Light. Light can be painful and blinding. It changes us. But we are meant to be more than faint slivers in the sky. Those cold and dark places we hold back are actually crying out for the Light, and the darkness of this world desperately needs to see true reflection of that Light.

I may not be able to do much for awhile--I can't cook, mother or volunteer at the local soup kitchen in this shape. But like the moon, I can follow the path set for me. I can turn myself fully to His radiant face, and take in all of Him I can. I have been lovingly put in this place of "being still" before God. I always wondered what that was all about. Now, as I settle into my new orbit, I get to find out. I get to just sit and bask in the Light of the Son. What a gift.

Here is how you can pray:

I need healing. I've started taking prednisone, which has helped significantly with my pain. I am able to type today! Yay! I'm going to stop eating food for awhile, taking only amino acid dietary supplements. After several days of this, I will add one food at a time back to my diet, evaluating my tolerance to each food. I'm not going to lie--this doesn't sound like much fun, but I think it's my best move. Also, I'll be making appointments with specialists early this week. I need to get in as quickly as possible.

My husband is wearing the world on his shoulders. He's afraid for me. He thought he was going to have to get me to Shreveport today by himself with nothing but liquid Benadryl, two Epi Pens and a very sick wife for company, so he's struggling with anxiety in addition to being husband, nurse, mother and father. Please keep him in your thoughts.

My children . . . my sweet, sweet babies. I am so sad that I can't be what I want to be for them right now. This is one of my most difficult personal struggles, and they are feeling the distance, too.

My support system is amazing, but they need wisdom in knowing their limitations, and they need health, energy and strength as they take care of us.

Finally,it is my hope that the Lord would be glorified in all of this and that His people would be encouraged. May His name be high and lifted up in my suffering that it may not be in vain! May everyone who prays and ponders due to my situation find new joy and delight in God! I love my Jesus, and I want to suffer well for Him. I want all of His perfect purposes for my trials to bloom fully and gloriously! May we all turn our faces fully to the Son that His Light might radiate from us in such a way that last night's moon which held us captive in its beams would be put to shame!

 In Jesus' name. Amen.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Journey and A Rough Landing

Once upon a time, I was as normal as an introverted, nerdy, book-loving, Jesus-following, formerly homeschooled, unpopular, unfashionable, walk-to-the-beat-of-her-own-drum kind of girl can be. I may have been a bit punier than other kids my age, but I would get sick and get well again. My habits and patterns were at least similar to those of everyone else I knew. I liked fun. I had a place in which I felt I fit somehow. I had dreams and hopes and no reason at all to think they may not come true.

Between Christmas and the New Year in 2004, I had my first immediate allergic reaction to a food. I had been allergic to dairy all my life, but not allergic enough to quit enjoying it. As I popped pistachios in my mouth while my family and I enjoyed a quiet evening on vacation in Branson, MO, my lips, mouth and Eustachian tubes began itching. I took some Benadryl and didn't think about this event again until 6 months later.

During the spring season of 2005, I was on a health kick, trying to eat sprouted grains, nuts, veggies, fruits and limit my sugar intake to a little honey and an occasional dessert (aka, I was eating healthier than I had ever eaten). Sitting in a night class at Louisiana Tech that met once a week through dinner time, I was eating a favorite snack of organic cashews when my tongue started to swell. My mother had been suffering from adult on-set food allergies for about a year at this point, and I had been carrying Benadryl with me as a safety precaution. I took two Benadryl, and was fine. I made a mental note to not eat anymore cashews.

A few months later, I began reacting to other tree nuts, including almonds. I stopped eating them. A few months later, I began reacting to soy products. So I avoided those, which is quite difficult to do if you are used to eating processed food like I was and like most of America is. If you think avoiding soy is as easy as staying out of Asian restaurants, just go read the nutrition facts on the packaging of your favorite snacks. At a friend's wedding in December 2005, I became very sick after her reception. It took me a few more months to realize the cause was the delicious cake I had consumed. By late spring 2006, I had cut almost all wheat out of my diet.

At this time, I also began suffering severely from seasonal allergies. My eyes burned and watered constantly, I couldn't see straight, I was sneezing, coughing and wheezing all the time, my head was swimming, I started having migraines and was depressed. In early June 2006, I made a horrible mistake--I went to an allergist for help. I'm not saying this is a mistake for everyone. It was just a mistake for me. I underwent skin testing for all common allergens. He chose not to test the foods to which I was already reacting to systemically. He discovered that I was allergic to grasses, pollens, molds and dust mites (surprise, surprise), and I began receiving shots weekly. After a couple of months, I began having severe local reactions to the shots. I would receive a shot, my arm would swell and hurt for days, and by the time I was normal again, I would have to get another shot. It didn't take long before I was having systemic reactions to them. I would almost weekly get my allergy shots, then get a follow up steroid shot. I was often put on oral steroids to boot. Twice, I had an anaphylactic reaction to my shots in the office. I once asked if this was normal. I was told that this doctor had patients who had to receive Epi every week with their shots. I didn't like the sound of that, and it wasn't long before I realized that my shots were making me worse. My asthma was worse. I had a new food allergy to corn. My seasonal allergies had not improved. I stopped seeing the doctor, and quit paying the man for making me sicker.

I continued carrying my Epi pen, Benadryl and inhaler. I continued taking my daily antihistamine, Singulair and nasal spray. I avoided wheat, tree nuts, soy, corn, dairy, active lawnmowers and moldy leaf piles. I learned how to eat well in spite of the numerous foods I had to avoid. Sometimes, it seemed that the severity of my allergies would recede, and I might be able to enjoy corn and dairy more often, but they would always advance again.

After Micah was born, I got worse. I had a little brush with death in June 2009, but thanks to 100mg of Benadryl, two Epi Pens, a husband who isn't afraid to drive fast and furiously and the questionable care of a local ER, I survived. If you are my friend on Facebook or if you've been reading for awhile, you know that things got hairy for me in January 2011 when I encountered teff flour, a gluten-free grain that may not have killed me, but made me wish I was dead more than once. Let's just say the encounter was . . . violent. That encounter left me with poor general health for the greater part of 2011. After teff, I swore off all grains minus rice and the occasional bag of popcorn and bowl of oatmeal.

If you read the blog series I posted in February, you know that I am now dangerously allergic to sulfa/sulfur/sulfites. Since then, my other food allergies have worsened drastically. I once could occasionally cheat with a few allergens without reaping any consequences. These days, corn is just as deadly as wheat, and dairy and oats are just not worth the trouble. My seasonal allergies are worse than they have ever been. I am chronically suffering from fatigue, asthma, dry, itchy eyes (I can no longer wear contacts), migraines, skin rashes, and hives.

 I began to suspect that my problems extended beyond mere food allergies well before this last Wednesday, but I received confirmation by Thursday (yesterday) morning. Wednesday night,  I had a severe allergic reaction to coconut, an extremely uncommon allergen. It made me very sick, but I decided not to use my Epi Pen. A breastfed infant makes that action complicated for several reasons. I grieved with real tears that night over my new food allergy. Not that I eat coconut every day, but it was just that one more thing, you know? I went to sleep with the scared little thought of, "Will I just eventually starve to death because I've become allergic to everything?"

Thursday morning began like every other morning, only I knew that I would be taking Sara to the doctor for an ear infection and would subsequently be taking care of a sick infant. I did feel strange and very itchy from my reaction the night before, but it wasn't until I was up walking around that I noticed something different. Pain. Pain in every joint and hot spot in my body. I had a horrible headache, neck pain, shoulder pain, upper back pain, lower back pain, elbow pain, wrist pain, hip pain, knee pain, ankle pain. I could feel pain in every joint in every finger, every toe. It hurt to hold a fork, chew my breakfast, and change Sara's diaper. And suddenly, I knew. For months, I had wondered, but now I was sure. My aunt has rheumatoid arthritis. My husband has Crohn's disease. I have friends with MS, lupus, IBS, etc. I know the common telltale signs.

My name is Melissa Keaster. I am not yet 28 years old, and I have an undiagnosed auto-immune disease that will be less than simple to treat. Until I get treatment, I will likely suffer every time I have an allergic reaction (which is often) and every time the weather changes (it's spring in Louisiana). I have a 21 pound, needy infant who constantly needs comfort from her own pains and illnesses. I have a 3 year old who desperately misses his fun-loving, carefree mommy who was once game for daily adventures. I have a husband who is suffering from food allergies for the first time in his life. He needs me at my best. My kids need me at my best. And I find that I am at my worst.

Yesterday was a day of tears and heartbreak, working through the day and praying it would end. It was a day of facing harsh realities and wondering why it was all necessary. However, I did not despair. My hope is not in my health.

I've just begun processing this new information. I was actually going to wait to post about this new struggle, but I needed to "write it out" to help begin the processing . . . er . . . process. I don't know how I feel about all of this. I know I feel sad. I don't know what I'm going to do yet other than seek a rheumatologist in the Shreveport area. Right now, I'm disoriented, sobered and kind of horrified. Simply put, I'm in shock. I have no arc of thought on the subject. My thoughts are scattered and scrambled, but I keep coming back to these--

"This is the real food I need--Christ's unconditional commitment to me."--Timothy Keller

"And all things work together for the good of those who love God, who have been called according to His purpose."--Romans 8:28

"I believe in a blessing I don't understand.
I've seen rain fall on the wicked and the just.
Rain is no measure of His faithfulness.
He withholds no good thing from us . . .
I believe in a peace that flows deeper than pain;
that broken find healing in love.
Pain is no measure of His faithfulness.
He withholds no good thing from us . . .
I will open my hands, will open my heart . . .
I am nodding my head an emphatic yes to all that you have for me."
--Sara Groves, "Open My Hands" from her new album, Invisible Empires

"But He knows the way that I take;
When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.
My foot has held fast to His steps;
I have kept His way and not turned aside.
I have not departed from the commandment of His lips;
I have treasured the words of His mouth
more than my necessary food [emphasis mine]. . .
For He performs what is appointed for me,
and many such things are with Him."
 --Job 23:10-12, 14

"Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is none upon the earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."
--Psalm 73:25-26

 I don't know where this road leads, but in my mind, it has already led to some dark and scary places, places I can't bear to look into for long. I don't know the answer to "why me?" And believe me, I've asked it. I have no idea what God is thinking, planning, doing.

Here is what I do know--

God is still in control. Mine is not a situation beyond His reach.

God HAS a plan, and that plan is for my good. (Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 29:11)

My purpose in this life has not changed. I exist for the glory of God and to spread the glory of His name in the world. Apparently, He deems that the best way for me to accomplish this purpose is without my health.

God isn't going to throw me out sick and helpless to fend for myself. He loves me. He will strengthen me and help me. He is with me always.

As I process, adapt and seek medical attention, I could really use your prayers, your encouragement, your favorite scriptures, etc. I'm scared, ya'll. I can't even begin to tell you of all the things I fear. I don't even know them myself. So, when you think of me, lift me to the Father, who has given me this illness not in spite of His love for me, but because of it.