Sunday, July 22, 2012

Answers and Metaphors

I woke early Friday morning before the alarm went off. As I waited for the signal that 5:30 had arrived and that it was time to get moving, I allowed my emotions free reign. I was too sleepy for coherent thought, but emotion after emotion--excitement, anxiety, hope, cynicism--crashed over my insides like waves onto a beach. The waves were gentle, but they still carried weight. I sifted through them all, deciding which ones to to throw back to the deeps and which ones to hold on to. Excitement was okay because no matter what would happen at the appointment, I would have an enjoyable day with Brandon afterward. Anxiety wasn't helpful. Hope was alright as long as it was well placed. I could hope in what I knew for certain--that Jesus would be there with me and would not let me go. The presence of cynicism was telling--I needed to adjust my hope. There is no room for cynicism when hope is in its proper place.

Much like Christ does for His Church, Brandon knew my needs that morning, and met all that he was able to meet. He cooked me a good breakfast, he packed what we would need for the day and he provided me with fun, distracting conversation. He let me control the music, and listened happily to what I chose. I was perfectly calm by the time we pulled into the parking lot.

I remained calm until we were told that because we had not met our deductible, the office required $500 from us before I could see the doctor. We were caught off guard by this information. They apologized for not calling us about it before we arrived, and asked if we wanted to proceed. I looked to Brandon. He nodded.  We've stayed afloat just fine, but the last year has been the most financially demanding season of our marriage. I think we both grimaced inwardly as they swiped our credit card.

Within ten minutes, the medical assistant called us back. From that point, we were at the office for 3 1/2 hours. I saw a medical assistant, a nurse practitioner, a radiologist and the doctor. They were all friendly and excellent at their jobs. These people treat people who are in pain in varying degrees everyday. They meet lots of frowns, little patience and a good bit of attitude, I'm sure, but they were all perfectly friendly (as in friendly, but not overly so, which can be annoying to people who are hurting) and compassionate. In case you haven't been sick or hospitalized lately, that is a rare, rare thing. And these people? Yeah, they made my day.

The nurse practitioner came in first. She read my paperwork I had filled out, asked extensive questions and listened without once looking at me like I was crazy . . . even when I told her that I suspected that my allergies were somehow connected to my pain! Already, things were going better than expected. After doing a physical examination, she handed me four pamphlets to read while I waited for x-rays--"Carpal Tunnel Syndrome," "Pelvic Girdle Dysfunction," "Osteoarthritis," and "Fibromyalgia."

 I read until the radiologist called me back. She was a young black woman named Melanie. She was excellent, but was a little distracted that day. Her distraction did not take anything away from my experience, but rather enhanced it. You see, she was planning a wedding that would take place in a week's time. She and her fiance had decided two weeks prior that they were just going to get it done! She was trying to make the decisions brides make over the course of several months to a year in only a couple weeks of time. She knew her colors, but couldn't decide what to do about the cake, program design and bridesmaid dresses. To my delight, she asked me for my opinion, and I think I was able to help! (In one of my wilder daydreams, I would love to be a stylist--for family photos, for home design and especially for weddings.) Who knew I would encounter a bit of fun on a day that could have been quite frightening?

After being ushered back to my room, I waited only a few moments before Dr. Larry Broadwell entered the room along with the nurse practitioner who had been with me before. He was an older gentleman, with blue eyes which where somehow simultaneously piercing and gentle. He was compassionate, authoritative, and mentally sharp. It did not take long for me to realize that this man was more than a doctor. He was a teacher. In terms I could easily understand, he explained that I had several different things going on in my body--

(A) The pain in my hands were due to carpal tunnel syndrome, probably something I had had for years due to so much time at the piano and computer keyboard. The stress of the last several months had probably caused my already existing problem to rear its ugly head. While this can be unpleasant news for a pianist/want-to-be writer who will always find some reason to be stressed, I was actually a bit relieved. CTS sounds better to me than say, rheumatoid arthritis.

(B) He told me that my limp as well as my hip and knee pain on my right side were likely the result of Pelvic Girdle Dysfunction, a condition that may be due to a variety of causes. My case was caused by childbirth. At the end of pregnancy, the hips separate to allow the birth to take place. When my hips fused back together, they did so unevenly, placing one hip higher than the other. Thus, my right leg is slightly longer, forcing it to carry 60% of my weight, causing my limp and my pain. My condition may or may not be able to be corrected, but it can significantly improve with physical therapy.

(C) He further explained that the nature of my other body aches and pains made me appear to be a fibromyalgia patient. I have all the right ingredients for the recipe--a Type A personality, a long period of stress in my life, anxiety, sleep disturbance, and hyper-extending joints (my joints are apparently more flexible than what is natural). He told me that he was hesitant to slap a label on me because my condition had only just developed. To help me understand, he used this metaphor--When we celebrated my son's first birthday, we could not possibly anticipate what he would look like as a 3-year-old, much less as a 20-year-old. As with my son, it is impossible to know what I will look like in a few months or a year. I could be a fibromyalgia patient, or I could have something like osteoarthritis (a degenerative joint disease). There is no way to tell yet. (If given the choice, I would prefer to have fibromyalgia. I don't want anything degenerative.)

(D) After going through my x-rays,  he told me there were currently no signs of rheumatoid or osteoarthritis. What he did find was the PGD (although this was discovered during the physical examination), and problems with my neck, which I knew I had. My neck is absolutely straight and stiff as a board. Necks are supposed to have natural curvature. Numerous incidents of whiplash are probably at fault. He recommended physical therapy for this issue as well.

After being thoroughly evaluated, I was given a prescription for physical therapy 1 to 2 times a week for 3 to 4 weeks for my PGD and neck problem. My PT sessions will be in Bossier. It won't be easy to manage the drive and childcare, but I will call on Monday morning to make my first appointment. Anything for some relief! I was also given informative pamphlets, which describe how to manage fibromyalgia and CTS pain. I was told to make an appointment in 4-6 weeks with my general practitioner in order to decide whether or not medication is necessary. I will see Dr. Broadwell again on October 18.

I was not expecting this level of care. I was not prepared to hear terms like "stress management" and "hesitate" and "holistic care." I was not prepared to meet friendly, compassionate people who would listen to me, and not tell me how crazy or wrong I was when I voiced my concerns about the link between my food allergies and pain. I certainly didn't expect to leave without a prescription for some drug I couldn't take as a mother of children who regularly wake up in the middle of the night. I am a pretty decent actress, which is a good thing. Otherwise, I would have left with my mouth hanging open.

The beautiful thing about that appointment is that it didn't leave me frustrated with a ton of questions I wished I had asked. I was able to tuck it away, and freely enjoy my afternoon with Brandon. We had a blast--from the car ride to the better-than-expected appointment to the steak lunch at Saltgrass to the overly loud IMAX feature of The Dark Knight Rises.

The day exhausted me, and I've been spending the weekend enjoying my kids and recuperating. My pain has been significant . . . . possibly due to exhaustion . . . . but I've been peaceful. I did have to check myself: why did I feel peaceful? Answers and solutions are nice, but they are not a substitute for the presence of God. After reminding myself of this fact on Saturday, I was prepared to experience Him in a new way on this journey. After three months of questions, it is easy to value answers more than I value God. I was momentarily guilty of doing just that. But I confessed this weakness, and declared that answers were no good compared to the joy of His nearness. Even an instantaneous, miraculous healing is only a pretty piece of garbage compared to Jesus!

I am going to continue on the path to wherever it leads. I want it to lead to recovery, but we will see. Next stop--physical therapy! It's good to know that I will be provided with everything I need for the journey . . . . something of which I can be certain because I'm road-tripping with Jesus . . . . and Superman always has my back.

Prayer Requests:

Sara has a tubes surgery scheduled for Thursday, August 2nd first thing in the morning. Please be in prayer for her and for her nervous parents! We are happy to be getting this done, but we wouldn't be normal if we didn't feel some kind of concern.

I will have to have a driver and a babysitter for each PT appointment. Please pray that this won't be a nightmare.

We are moving next month! (*screams into pillow*) Please pray that things go smoothly, that the stress of it all won't put me in the hospital and that Brandon will keep his cape on. We will need our Superman next month. (Details to come in a future post.)

When you remember me, pray specifically that the stress of it all won't overpower me. I am supposed to be eliminating stress as it is a major trigger for my pain, and I am practically signing up for it! Between moving, a surgery, several physical therapy sessions and the start of a new diet, my plate will be very full next month. I have no idea how it will all get done and in what condition we'll be in when it's over, but I trust the Lord to bring us through it. Just pray that the Enemy doesn't get the better of me and my family in the midst of it!

Thank you for praying me through thus far. Please don't forget me. I am still fragile and finding my way and very much in need of prayer. Love to you all.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


I'm not sure when it happened exactly. It happened subconsciously . . . . a gift from God in my sleep, maybe . . . . or perhaps through a series of small choices toward a common end. Regardless of how, the decision was made without my knowing it was made until after it was made that I was not going to allow my illness to define me. I would not allow it to consume me. I would not allow it to rob me of the joy of living. I would not be denied the pleasure of putting a puzzle together on the floor with my son--even if doing so left me stiff and sore. I would not miss an opportunity to gather with friends in my home--even if it left me tired and in need of a day of recovery. I would not let the sometimes searing pain shooting downwards from my shoulders into my fingertips keep me from enjoying the simple happiness of rocking my baby, holding a book, baking a cake or writing in my journal. I would not even allow myself to grow petulant or bitter about my very restrictive menu. I would live, and I would do it with joy.

I first noticed the shift in mentality the week before last as I was trying to decide how I was going to get the vegetables I needed to do my rice and vegetable fast for three days. I didn't really want the half-rate grocery store produce knowing that good quality produce could be attained at a local farmer's market. I did not feel like getting the kids out, driving half an hour and trying to keep kids happy while I shopped in the heat and humidity, but I decided to do it anyway. I had no delusions of grandeur. I knew I would need help, so I called my grandmother. She helped me get kids in and out of the car, helped me manage them as we walked around the Ruston Farmer's Market, sat with them as I grabbed a few things at The Olde Wheat Barn and distracted me with adult conversation as Sara screamed her head off on the car ride back to Farmerville.

I realized again several times over that something had changed within me as I did things like roll my eyes in annoyance at the pain in my hip and knees as I played in the floor with the children, ignore my fatigue as I priced items and shopped the children's consignment sale in Ruston, and grit my teeth at the pain in my shoulder and elbow as I mixed the batter for another, slightly better-looking, gluten-free apple cake (sans the cinnamon as I have discovered that I'm allergic to that, too). I found myself smiling instead of fretting about the fatigue and pain that was sure to follow a sleepless night of holding a sleepless Sara. (I will not pretend that I was not frustrated to be awake during perfectly good sleeping hours, but I had moments in which I could enjoy the fact that I was cuddling my baby, something I don't have much longer to enjoy as Sara's first birthday is quickly approaching and as we do not plan to have anymore children.) One rare hour in which Sara napped in her bed on her own, I chose to play with Micah in his room instead of rest in my chair. His pleased and satisfied grin was a far greater reward than any period of rest can produce.

Beyond discovering that I don't have to say "no" to all of life's pleasures, my heart has learned to embrace the yeses that my illness brings. I cannot be constantly busy anymore, so I can joyfully say "yes" to slow days at home with the children. I must take time to "sit on my laurels;" therefore, I can say "yes" to unscheduled time with the Lord. I have time to read, to think, to pray, to call my friends who live all over the continental U.S. and are still spreading, to listen to Timothy Keller's sermon podcasts (available for free on Itunes). And to my astonishment, I find myself once again dreaming about the future! You can't quite know the importance and beauty of dreaming until you are unable to do it. The abruptness and severity with which my apparently long-term illness came made me afraid to dream for awhile because I couldn't see a future without my illness in it, and that terrified me. Now I realize that I can live joyfully with my illness (thanks to the goodness and nearness of my Savior), and I am no longer afraid. I can dream as big and wide as I did before. My dreams are just . . . . different. In some cases, I would say that they are better . . . . improved upon by the refining work of a loving God.

It may have taken almost three months, but I'm finally happy in my new reality. I won't lie--there is a tension in this new reality. The tension stems from the belief that I shouldn't be and won't be in this place forever, and that I should try everything I can to get better. My next (and hopefully last!) course of action is another diet plan. You may ask, "Why another diet? The others did not work." I would agree with your assessment, and answer, "The other diets did not work because I had the wrong goal in mind." The other diets I have tried were intended to increase my tolerance of food, but only served to make me aware that I am a hot mess who is allergic to almost everything and can tolerate almost nothing. Thus, I was ushered to this very important question--"Why?" The conclusion I came to was a fact of which I had already been aware--"My digestive tract is so damaged that it is leaking undigested food molecules into my bloodstream, causing me to react to everything I eat." (This conclusion was made possible by reading lots and lots of research done by people far more intelligent and knowledgeable than me.)

I alluded earlier to the suspicion that God gives me new thoughts (and sometimes helps me connect old thoughts) in my sleep. Well, I believe that He may have helped me to FINALLY make this connection while I dreamed one night--"If the severity of my allergies stems from problems with my digestive tract, maybe I should begin the healing process by treating my digestion problems FIRST rather than my allergies." (I know . . . . DUH! Right?) The GAPS diet does just that. (For more information about the GAPS diet, click here.) The goal is to heal the digestive system using nutrition, supplementation and detoxification/life-style changes. My mom ordered some books about the diet on Monday. Once they come in, we have to do our reading. This diet isn't one you can just begin. You have to plan, gather food and products and prepare, and then you begin the multi-phase diet. I don't know what kind of timeline that puts me on for improvement, but for the first time since all of this stuff began, I feel confident that a new approach to nutrition will help me. Maybe it's because my mom and I decided this is what I needed separately, and then talked about it. Maybe it's because a product we tried earlier in this journey led us to this information. I don't know. I just feel like this diet is going to work!

My hope is that the diet/lifestyle will heal my digestive system, which will improve my allergies, which will then decrease or eliminate my pain. I say "improve" my allergies and not "cure" because my allergies existed long before my body went berserk. I expect to still have them on the other side of this health crisis. I don't believe that out of hopelessness, but rather out of logic and realism. Besides, I was okay with my allergies before all of this began. I will be completely okay with a few lingering food allergies after it passes.

 However, if my pain persists after I get a handle on my nutritional health, I am certain I will be okay with that, too. I have had the privilege of knowing and valuing the Lord in ways I had only dreamed of before this year began. I understand that God is enough--even when pleasurable foods, the thrill of success and carefree, good times are stripped away. I know that I can possess very little and still have joy because joy is not an emotion dependent upon pleasure and good times. Joy is a Person, a Person who is near to the brokenhearted (Ps. 34:18), a Person who satisfies from the fullness of His house (Ps. 36:8), a Person who has blessed me with an illness because His love knows no depths. This illness will prove to be one of the greatest goods He will ever work for me and my family. And that conclusion is the ultimate breakthrough because it just doesn't get better than that.

Prayer Requests:

I am currently struggling. I have pretty severe stomach and intestinal pain when I eat. So sometimes, I don't eat. But then I struggle with hunger pain and low energy, which is difficult when taking care of small children. So, I eat again, and the cycle continues. I also eat because I'm afraid to go into the GAPS diet too skinny. My Grandmommy believed that everyone should have a little extra weight on reserve. I don't want to lose my reserve. I am heavily considering a visit to a GI specialist in Monroe, but I am concerned about spending unnecessary money and doing more harm than good. On another note, my arthritis pain has also been pretty intense for the past several days.

Sara has her first ENT appointment tomorrow. I am hoping that our doctor can help our girl, which will help us all. I expect a tube surgery in our near future, but we will see.

My appointment with the rheumatologist is on Friday! I have no idea what to expect. I do kind of expect them to think I'm crazy. (Sometimes, I feel like I'm going crazy.) My hope is that he can offer me some insight and guidance about how to manage my arthritis pain until I am better.

Please continue to pray for my Superman. Brandon has so much on his plate right now. An explanation is coming, but know that we are in the middle of multiple major family changes. Due to my health, Brandon is required to handle the brunt of the stress. Pray for his strength, his health and his relationship with the Lord--that it would continue to grow, strengthen and thrive.

Thank you for your continued prayers. It is a blessing I do not take for granted to have a large prayer support system. Grace and peace to you all in the Lord Jesus Christ!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Back to Square One

In an unfortunate turn of events, I am back to square one. Well, not really. I know much more information than I did two months ago. I have dealt with my demons--figuratively and literally. I have experienced emotional healing in the hidden corners of my heart into which I had swept hurts of long ago. I have learned to accept current limitations while maintaining hope that I will not always be in this state. I have embraced the good that has accompanied the bad with a strength that is not my own. So, I'm really not back at square one . . . . It's just hard not to feel like I'm back at square one feeling like I'm feeling and knowing what I will have to endure for the next three days.

It is necessary to confess that I have been naughty. As I was explaining to Micah this afternoon, naughtiness, though not as serious as an offense as disobedience, can still earn us some hard knocks and stern corrections. I corrected Micah's naughtiness. My body is correcting mine. Here's my naughtiness--I really enjoy eating pigs. I like pork roast, pork chops, ham and my favorite cut of pork is a tie between ribs and bacon. It all depends on which one I'm eating at the time. (Yes, I eat like a man . . . let's move on.) Well, on Wednesday morning, I ate bacon with my breakfast. On Wednesday night, Brandon made ribs. Let me tell you about this man's ribs. They are the BEST ribs IN. THE. WORLD. They are tender, fall-off-the-bone, juicy morsels, and he makes this gluten-free, corn-free sauce that is 100% tangy amazingness. Is your mouth watering yet? It should be. I am embarrassed to admit that even though I felt less than great after celebrating my independence by eating what I wanted, I ate the leftovers the next day. (I know . . . shame!) And of course, my body was not very forgiving.

As a result of my naughtiness, I became very ill yesterday afternoon. I had burning in my stomach, asthma symptoms, itching, hotflashes, a migraine and my arthritis pain worsened quickly and significantly. Yesterday, it was easy to speculate that the unexpected rain was the cause, but I am quite sure that was not the case based on today's events. Today, I began reacting to everything I ate as I did two months ago. I had an immediate systemic reaction with each meal and snack--rice cereal and egg yolks, chicken and rice with broccoli, a handful of blueberries. All in all, these are very unoffensive foods. Yet, here I sit in a Benadryl stupor, scratching the insides of my ears like a dog, hotflashing like a menopausal woman and burning throughout my digestive tract like a 50 year old man who has eaten too many chili dogs. I was able to catch a rare nap while holding a sleeping Sara in the recliner this afternoon. I woke to pretty severe arthritis pain . . . . the debilitating kind. It hasn't rained today that I know of.

The facts: I ate pork at three meals within less than 36 hours. Pork is not really good for anyone, and is one of the most allergenic meats out there. The theory: The pork has re-ulcerated my entire digestive tract, allowing everything I'm eating into my bloodstream in too-large particles. My body is attacking these particles as if they were a flu virus, causing me to feel like poo. The best solution would be a water fast. I won't go there again unless I must. As a compromise, I will be eating five very safe foods only for the next three days: rice cereal, broccoli, zucchini, yellow squash and sweet potatoes. The effects will be hunger, toddler-like grouchiness and (hopefully) full, life-giving dependence upon my Savior and Sustainer.

As I begin this Daniel-esque fast, I plan to begin the BioSet program outlined in Ellen Cutler's book, The Food Allergy Cure. This is the program promoted by my naturopathic doctor. At first, I won't be able to do the program as it should be done because my food list will be too short to space desensitization cycles 25 hours apart. However, I think I can reap some benefit from the program even if I cannot follow it perfectly.

I ask you to put in a little extra prayer for me for the next three days. Please pray that I will be given grace, energy, rest, patience with my family, gratitude in my circumstances, joy in the trial, and perseverance in seeking the Lord for every need. Please pray that the Lord would guard me from the attacks of the wicked one as he is always seeking an opportunity to destroy me in my weakness. Instead, may my weaknesses usher me into God's sweet presence!

I am so thankful for the prayer support that the internet allows. I have people praying for me in several Louisiana churches and towns, in many states and even overseas! This is a marvel to me! A humbling, tear-inducing marvel! I cannot say it enough--thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! May the Lord bless you for your ministry.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A Good Week

Because I've so frankly written about my difficult days over the past couple of months, I feel that I would be remiss if I failed to share a few details of last week, which was, as the post title suggests, a good week. Today marks two months since that fateful afternoon snack of a coconut macaroon, which was the final crescendo of the prelude to the demise of life as I once knew it. On May 3rd, I woke to pain, and have felt pain in degrees every day since. The week before last was especially bad, and last week was especially good.

The weekend before last, the debilitating pain of the previous week was beginning to recede. By Monday morning, I felt almost normal. I wasn't hyper-aware of every major joint in my body. The pain in my hip was gone, allowing me to walk like a healthy 28-year-old. My hands and feet were functional. The only reminders of my illness were a dull ache in my right shoulder, a slight headache, a mild allergic reaction to something I had eaten the day before and fatigue, with which I have been living for a year and a half at this point.  For me, I felt great! And I continued to feel great throughout the week.

I have provided an overview of the week's accomplishments below:

I made it to the health food store in Ruston with Sara in tow . . . in 104 degree heat. Make no mistake, the Lord is responsible for getting me through the task, but it was an unusual feat nonetheless. And I was able to cook dinner, and give both children a bath that evening!

I cooked 7 meals in 6 days. I am still astonished at this record. I also have begun to realize that I was never thankful enough for convenience foods. Even when cooking simply, cooking from scratch several times a week is a task!

I am usually unable to keep up with the laundry. Last week, the laundry couldn't keep up with me!

My spunk and fire returned for the first time in several weeks. Mom said she could tell I felt better by my Facebook posts alone. Ha!

I was able to go shopping with Brandon for a couple of hours in the heat. I did not buy anything as we were shopping for mobile homes, but I survived looking at several of these non-air-conditioned heat traps. For those of you who are confused, a further explanation will be given in a future post. Or you can just call.

I baked a cake! A simple, apple bundt cake made with rice flour. At least, that was the intent. It actually ended up looking like this:
I used the wrong baking dish, and tried to shorten the two hour time commitment by baking it in the microwave. Lesson learned: Not all cakes should be baked in the microwave. Half of the batter boiled over while baking, leaving a sunken, crumbly mess that stuck to the pan. I was ready to count it as a loss, but Brandon suggested alternative marketing.

I placed the "cake" in a different dish, topped it with a clumpy glaze and voila!--
"Apple Crumb Cake"
 And it was delicious.

The most astounding accomplishment for the week was a photo session for me and the kids on Tuesday morning. My talented cousin/family photographer, Morgan Tucker, and I decided upon a 7am shoot in order to avoid the heat. The morning could have very well been a disaster. We had no extra set of hands to help with the children, which is nice to have even if you aren't at odds with your body. We did not have the chair we planned to bring for me to be able to sit comfortably. I woke late. The kids slept until I woke them up for the first time in their lives. (They are usually awake around 6:30.) We were running almost a half hour late when we left the house, and Sara had not had her daily poopsplosion which promised disaster if it occurred during the shoot as it usually means a huge mess, a bath and a twenty minute cleanup. Morgan later told me that she was very concerned about that morning, as well, but did not burden me with her concerns. However, what could have been a catastrophe, ended up being an amazing morning.

Once upon a time, I used to think (and sometimes say aloud) that God does not care about the mundane, inconsequential details of our lives. That morning, I found out I had been wrong. As it turns out, God enjoys proving Himself faithful to His children. I prayed that God would bless this trivial event, and He delivered. He so delivered! We arrived at the field that would serve as our location before 8am. The field was completely encircled and shaded by tall trees which blew soft, cool kisses our way all morning long. Sara saved her poopslosion for later in the day after we were home. Micah's protests were appeased by promises of ice cream before lunch. 

And maybe the biggest evidence of answered prayers--A few weeks ago, I would have been very uneasy about blindly traipsing through tall grass. Allow me to rephrase that--"I would have been scared outta my mind!" My imagination would have taken me to images of snakes, yellow jacket nests, fire ant beds, red bug bites from head to toe, and ticks in sensitive areas to name a few. I would have been afraid for myself, but more so for my children. Yet all I felt was a huge, gaping absence of fear. I was a bit taken off guard because I had been in this sad state of almost constant fear since my dream in January. I expected to be afraid that morning. I expected to have to wage war on my fear with my newly memorized Psalm 27. Instead, I had to go looking for the fear, and when I did, I couldn't find it! Can I tell you that I almost wept for joy? I didn't because I didn't want Morgan to think I was crazy and I didn't want to mess up my makeup, but I did weep from the well of joy and gratitude in my heart when I was at home later that afternoon. 

I have lived the words of the psalmist--"I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears" (Psalm 34:4)! I had been asking almost daily for the Lord to take away, deliver me from, and heal me of my fears. I do not know when it happened or how, but the fear that had grown into a monster I could not control . . . . a monster who threatened to eat me alive . . . . has suddenly vanished. And God brought his absence to my notice right before this photo shoot I had asked Him to bless.

I will tell you that shoot was not perfect. The children fussed and whined. They were not perfectly happy. But they were able to be distracted and made happy in intervals. Morgan was astoundingly patient, helpful and encouraging. Let me say here that a photographer like this girl is a rare find. She will work with you, your kids and everyone's needs without giving any hint of impatience or frustration. Morgan is also chronically ill, but you would never know it from her joy, kindness and consideration for the needs of others. She is a trooper and a saint . . . . and an absolute artist.

 (Click here to book your session with Morgan or to find out more about Jolly Tucker Photography.)

I don't know why I've never understood that God cares about the small things. It's plainly explained in scripture--

"Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are numbered. Do not fear therefore, you are of more value than many sparrows." 
Matthew 10:29-31

I can't say that I fully understand it, but I am thankful that He thinks of me enough and loves me enough to care about grocery trips and mobile home shopping in the heat. I'm glad that He is good enough to give me a good laugh over a baking failure. I am encouraged that He cares about details like shade and breezes and happy children during photo shoots. I could dance in exultation that He, without my immediate notice, took away my fear and decided to show me right before happy photos were taken! And today, as pain riddles my hands as I type out this tribute to the glorious faithfulness and lovingkindness of God with every joint screaming for my attention, I cannot let go of the gratitude I feel for a good week. 

Oh, Lord, "what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor."
Psalm 8:4-5