Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Chicken versus The Wasps

I woke this morning feeling fragile. I took a new medication last night to help with my pain. I broke consciousness, and found that I was experiencing several common side effects of the drug--nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, headache and dry mouth. That list would normally dissuade me from any medication, but the pill was doing its job. I could point out the places on my body where I should have been feeling pain, but I either did not feel it or it was very dull. I may have almost puked bile into my dirty toilet this morning, but it was worth it.

I took phenergan (gel) to help me eat a little rice cereal for breakfast. I napped in the recliner while Sara took her morning snooze and Micah watched a Baby Einstein DVD. (Feel free to judge if you must, but take my advice--when judging, proceed with caution.) The gel and nap helped a little, but they did not eliminate my problems. As I folded laundry in the utility room, I prayed for help--

"Lord, today I am set up for failure. I feel miserable, but better pain-wise, which means I'll be tempted to overdo. I'm nauseated. My head is spinning. I have a weird headache. It's almost certain that I'll do something I regret like raising my voice at the children or making a selfish choice. I confess my weaknesses to you. All of them--those of my mind, body and spirit. I boast in those weaknesses so the power of Christ will rest on me. When I am weak, I can be strong in you. Help me today to abide in you, so you can abide in me."

I read my Bible, fed the children a snack, and finally noticed the beauty of the day. We have a tropical storm creeping in our direction, and the days before us will remain beautiful, but in a grey, windy and very wet kind of way. Today is beautiful in a bright, happy, and very hot kind of way. Micah asked to go outside and swing. I agreed.

As I dressed the kids for outdoor play, I chose a hat for Sara. Naturally, Micah had to have a hat, as well. He searched his drawer, but could not find the hat he wanted. I told him that I knew where the desired hat was located and that I would retrieve it for him as soon as I had him dressed. Protruding his bottom lip, he complained, "But . . . . I want it now." He continued to search for his hat, begrudgingly willing to settle for any hat that would fit.

I stopped him, saying, "Micah, I know exactly where the hat you want is hiding. I will get it for you in just a moment, but for now you must trust me." On a Spirit-led whim, I added, "It's kind of like trusting God. He tells us that He is real and that He loves us, but we can't see Him. We just have to believe that He is real and that He loves us, and know that one day we will see Him because He promises that we will. Will you trust me, Micah?"

He gave a mournful nod. I smiled. "Good."

I dressed him, then asked, "What am I about to do?"

He grinned. "Find my hat."

"Yes," I affirmed. "Follow me." And I took him to his hat, which was wedged between two pieces of furniture on the floor of my bedroom.

We then ventured outside. I carried Sara, thanking Jesus for allowing me to do so painlessly. We headed for the swing set. Before setting Sara in her swing, I thought to check for wasps. I knew from experience that they like to build nests in the hollow underside of infant swings. I gave the swing a gentle bump, and an orange wasp flew out. A miracle--I managed to choke back a scream.

Before I progress, I must make a confession--wasps frighten me more than just about anything. I am afraid of many things--spiders, heights, needles, snakes, latex gloves and horror movies, to name a few. However, I think I would rather sleep with a spider, jump out of a perfectly good plane, submit myself to full-body acupuncture, be bitten by a poisonous snake, be in a room full of doctors simultaneously snapping on latex gloves and attend a horror movie festival, all in one day, than take on a wasp.

I am disproportionally afraid of wasps because I perceive them to be life-threatening. I have very little data upon which to base my hypothesis--only that I was stung once as a young child and therefore could have antibodies built up against the venom and that my body is known to be ridiculously allergic to the world in general. In my mind, if I get stung by a wasp, I'm dead, and my death will be quick . . . . too quick for a run back into the house for Epi Pens. And then my children are left only-the-Lord-knows-where with a dead mother and no idea what to do. I cannot imagine anything worse, and imagining worse case scenarios is a particular talent of mine.

Earlier this year, my fear took me over. I could not enjoy being outside because I was always on the lookout for wasps, as if I expected them to fly out of nowhere and attack me. (Feel free to laugh. I am admittedly ridiculous.) A couple of times, this actually happened, but being the chicken I am, instead of swatting them away, I flapped about in true poultry fashion, turned toward the house and ran for it. To my credit, I had the children in tow. One afternoon in April or May, I had taken a can of wasp spray outside just in case it was needed. This is so embarrassing to admit, but that day I came dangerously close to spraying the kids while aiming for a passing wasp. After that, I told myself that I was no longer allowed to carry wasp spray. My fear made me wild and irrational and likely to do more damage than good.

Today, when the wasp flew out, I told Micah to run, and I jogged with Sara to a safe distance. I watched the wasp. He was angry, but unlikely to attack us where we stood. I tried to see if we were dealing with a nest. Micah has learned my fear, so I distracted him with a patch of mushrooms that desperately needed to be kicked over while I checked the back of the swing from a safe distance. I couldn't see a nest, but the swing had many blind spots. Deciding that swinging was an unsafe activity, I told Micah that he would have to be happy with a walk up and down the driveway.

As we walked, I told him that wasps weren't really bad and that God has a plan and a purpose for wasps, too. They are only dangerous if we get close to their houses. That is why we can't swing . . . . because there might be a wasp house in the swing. He absorbed my lesson quietly.

After a few moments of silence, I decided to change the subject. I reminded him of the Bible verse I have been teaching him to help him with his anxiety--"When I am afraid, I will trust in God." I told him that it is okay to be afraid for a moment, but that we must trust God to keep us safe and give our fears to Him. I told Him that God does not promise to never let bad things happen, but that He promises to take those bad things and turn them into good things . . . . . so bad things like bo-bos and sad things and wasps can become good things if we trust in God.

He listened quietly. When he was sure I had finished flapping my jaws, he said softly, "Momma? I wanna swing."

Here I was, spouting platitudes about fear and trust, and I was so afraid of the wasps that we were going to neglect the main thing we had come outside to do. In that moment, I realized that I could tell Micah all day long about trusting God and he would never get it, but I had before me a unique opportunity to show him which is far more powerful. I prayed silently for courage and a plan.

Once I had decided upon a course of action, I told Micah, "Micah, Mommy is going to trust God to keep her safe. I'm going to kill the wasps so we can swing, but I want you and Sara to stay under the carport. I will come get you when it's safe."

His pleased grin exposed his dimple. "Okay, Momma."

I went inside to do what I had told myself I would never do again. I grabbed the wasp spray for offense and my new Shutterfly book for defense. Reminding Micah to stay put, I walked around the corner, and located my targets. One wasp perched on the side of Micah's fort. The other swirled around the perimeter of the swing set. I took a deep breath to steady my shaking limbs. I took aim at the stationary target first. My aim was true. He fled to the forest, mortally wounded. The swirling wasp flew in my direction. With the speed and precision of a fearless warrior, I shot him out of the sky. And again when he hit the ground. And again when he tried to get up.

When I was sure the first two were no longer a threat, I gave the swing a kick, ready for another wasp to make my day with its demise. Nothing flew out. I kicked again, harder this time. Nothing. I was almost disappointed. Almost.

I had taken on not one but two wasps! Nothing but Micah's need to see my faith in action could have given me the incentive. Nothing but the Lord Himself could have given me the courage. It may not sound like a big deal to you, but through today's victory, God proved to me that He had delivered me from the fear that had threatened to eat me alive. The primal rush of adrenaline in the moment of perceived danger is more than just a habit. It's human instinct. My chicken dance is second nature to me. The only explanation for today's success is that God answered my prayer. He helped me to abide with Him, and He was faithful to abide with me.

I listened to Him as He prompted me to teach Micah about fear and trust in word. I obeyed Him when He prompted me to teach Micah about fear and trust in deed. This was so not my victory . . . . not really . . . . even though God definitely allowed me to share in it. I was drowsy, dizzy, nauseated, blurry eyed, cotton-mouthed and pee-in-your-pants afraid. In my flesh, I would have excused myself from obedience--"I'm in no shape to fight a wasp today. I can't even see straight. We can swing another day." Without trust, my attempt would have failed, I would have gotten stung and Micah would have learned the wrong lesson. Thankfully, I had already made up my mind to obey God during my prayer time that morning. His command was not a welcome one. Who wants to act out a memory verse by facing the thing she fears the most? But I received my reward--
two smiling red-heads . . . . . 
and a lesson Micah won't soon forget. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Finite--The Tale of the Death of Supermom

The house is quiet. I hear only the hum of the dishwasher and the occasional pant from our overweight rat-terrier. These rare, peaceful moments afford me a few moments to take stock of my surroundings, the week behind me, the week before me and the state of my life in general.

I see dirty floors and an embarrassing layer of dust resting lazily on the darker furniture. Pockets of clutter sit proud and ugly, daring me to expend energy pulling them apart and tucking them away, rather than taking a needed beat to sit, think and write. Empty boxes cry out to be filled with non-essentials in preparation for the impending move. Dirty towels coil like snakes, ready and willing to take over the bathroom if ignored for too long. But hey, the dishwasher is running.

My precious reds slumber peacefully after a short night and an early morning at my parents' house. Pain and exhaustion drove me to send out an S.O.S. The thin wire upon which I balance so precariously snapped Friday evening, sending me to that dark and scary place of pain, fatigue and the inability to even take care of myself. In that place, I face a moment by moment fight to put one foot in front of the other and not allow the discouragement of it all to swallow me whole. Brandon desperately needed a break from being Atlas. The world is heavy thing to carry on your shoulders. Reinforcements were summoned. Praise God for a broad network of love that catches the crazy tightrope walker and man of steel when they topple and collapse.

Depending upon whether you like me or not, you will either laugh or cry when I tell you what sent me off of the edge. It wasn't all that much, really. Appointments on Monday and Friday and a couple of social calls Friday afternoon were the only departures from home. At home, I struggled to keep the dishes and laundry under control, feed the family, and spend a little quality time with the Lord, my husband and children. That is all. Micah and Sara spent more time in front of the television than I care to admit. I failed to pack even one box. And I attempted three times to vacuum, yet the floors remain filthy. Granted, we are dealing with a defiant three year old who enjoys tatooing my sofa with ink pen and who is also having regular late night anxiety attacks along with an infant spoiled to the ends of her strawberry-blonde ringlets, something which is bound to happen to a child born with colic, reflux, allergies, insomnia and a poor immune system. Granted, my Superman has been out and about, saving the world, requiring a bit more of me on the home front. Granted, I am still navigating the current of a life-altering illness, but when I consider the fact that basic mothering and housekeeping sent me to my wit's end, I feel a little . . . . irked.

Once upon a time, I envisioned my life as a homemaker looking like some awe-inspiring combination of Martha Stewart, Michelle Duggar, Renee Fleming, J.K. Rowling and Mother Theresa. I wanted to do it all--have more children than fingers, all perfectly behaved and home-educated, have a beautiful, clean, organized home, primed for entertaining, serve a new and delicious home-cooked meal every night, have a blossoming musical career, encompassing both teaching and performing, write a best-selling young adult fiction series, all the while being involved in ministry and community outreach. (Naturally, I envisioned all of this before the sobering reality of  real children.)

Obviously, my life as it is sits in sharp contrast to the fairy tale I planned to write. I had written myself as the hero, but I was a poor, insufficient choice for such a role. One by one, I have had to unfurl my fingers from the edges of each dream, and watch quietly as they floated away and out of my reach. My musical career has been non-existent for almost a full year. I have accepted that two children fill my quiver. My novel may never be written. (A novel requires time, energy and mental clarity, and carpal tunnel syndrome does not help matters.) My house may never be perfectly clean, organized or tidy again, and Martha Stewart certainly wouldn't approve of my toilet rings or of my decision to move into a trailer. Instead of being Mother Theresa, I must settle for taking her advice--"What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family." I have been a hard case. I didn't let go of those dreams easily, and when I did, it was with an aching sobriety that usually accompanies news of death. And truly, things I held as sacred and precious did die.

I'm about to make a big statement with which many of you will disagree, but here goes--I believe that God appoints hardships and trials, and I believe that He appoints them for our good. Let that sink in for just a moment. I'm saying that God sent sickness into my life. I'm saying that He has killed my dreams. I'm saying that He has sent me to the brink of death and pulled me back again, back into pain, hunger and heartbreak. And I'm also saying that it has been good.

What is "good?" The American Dream defines good as "health, wealth and prosperity." The Bible defines "good" this way--"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and to those who have been called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, these He also predestined to be conformed into the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren." (Romans 8:28-29)

Thus, "good" means "being conformed into the image of Jesus." My dreams? They didn't look like Jesus. They looked like a Pharisee, stinking with pretty perfume to cover the reeking stench of pride and death. I had to be freed from the bondage of performance and the Supermom image I was so desperate to create. I am NOT called to be Supermom. I am called to be like Jesus. And you can't be like Jesus until you die. It may not sound like God is qualified to write fairy tales if He kills off His damsel (notice I am no longer the hero, but the damsel), but I can assure you that He writes better fairy tales than you, me or the Brothers Grimm.

In the story God is writing, I, the damsel, am thrown into a fire. I don't believe that God did the tossing, but I think He gave the "okay," and I am certain that Satan was pleased when he received permission to throw me to the flames. In my mind's eye, I see him rubbing his hands together, scheming the demise of the faith which threatens to save me from ultimate destruction. But you know what? What Satan meant for evil, GOD meant for good. The flames indeed rise around me, but instead of being consumed by the fire, I am being purified. I am melted, and it hurts and it burns, but the dross--my dreams, sin and failures--separate from my faith, rising in empty bubbles to the top. And because Christ has already faced the only fire that could ever really destroy me, the essence of who I am remains, and I am better and more beautiful than I once was. Supermom could not defeat the lifelong sin that had a choke-hold on my relationship with Christ, but the fire that turned Supermom to ash ate that sin for breakfast. I no longer struggle with it. Submission to my husband and my role as a help-meet are no longer thorns in my side, but joys to my soul. The anxiety that once threatened to drown me has evaporated in the heat. The sense of entitlement I once felt toward things like food, sleep, and fun is long gone. In its place is a deep knowing that my needs for sustenance, rest and enjoyment can only be met in Christ. (Is this story epic or what?)

So, with Paul, I indeed "count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ,  and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law [or seemingly nice and innocent dreams], but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:8-11)

(That passage is my new memory project, by the way. )

The fire has cleared my vision. I am beginning to understand that God is bigger, wilder, more fearsome, more uncontrollable and more infinite than I can possibly imagine. I can see my smallness. I embrace my smallness. The fact that I come to the end of myself so easily still makes me want to cry, but I take those tears to Jesus, even the ones shed over stupid things like dirty floors and unpacked boxes and frazzled hair that tells true tales about my frailty.

In the words of my favorite singer/songwriter, Sara Groves, from her song "Finite"--"I'm not every woman. It's not all in me." And you know what? It doesn't have to be. The tyranny of Supermom has ended. Now I can be exactly who God wants me to be. I can be finite. I can be limited. I can be the damsel. And I can let Him be God, the Hero, the One who slays my dragons, the One who saves me from the Wicked Witch, the One who kisses me awake from the sinister slumber of false dreams, the One who lays down His life for me and somehow rises again to live for me, the One who says, "I AM WHO I AM," which means He has the authority to send whatever fire He wants into my life, the right to expect my devotion and obedience in the midst of that fire, and the loving-kindness to work that fire for my good and save my life in the end. The most awesome thing about this fairy tale is that He does this all not only for me, but for everyone who trusts in Jesus . . . . and we all get to live happily ever after.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Last Week

Last week was eventful. On Monday, our trailer was moved out to the property.

Brandon finished his outdoor work on Saturday evening. In addition to his full-time job and taking care of me, he has been working extremely hard out there. He has done a ton of prep work for everyone, so my parents are paying him in land. I think that's a pretty sweet deal, and he does, too!

Before we are ready to move, we (and by we, I mean Brandon) must paint one hideously bright yellow room a tamer shade, put in a ceramic flat surface stove (I'm spoiled, what can I say?), put in a deeper sink (once again . . . . spoiled), install a pantry, rip out the carpet, lay laminate flooring, move our outdoor building from our current property to our future one, order another building which we will use for storage, and order a parking overhang. When the paperwork for the building permit goes through next week, we will have electricity. Eventually, we will have grass and a gravel drive. I have a lot of packing to do, so we may or may not be moving Labor Day weekend. Nonetheless, that weekend remains our target date.

Early last week, Micah had a couple of bad anxiety attacks. The poor guy has suffered a lot of upheaval over the last several months. I'm certain the two are related, which is concerning considering the fact that he is about to experience a move. We are praying for guidance, sensitivity and wisdom. We are also trying to do what we know to do. He has laid eyes on his home-to-be four times this week. The first time he saw it, I told him that we would be living there soon and that we would not be living in the home we live in now. He was incredulous. "We're gonna live in that box?" he asked. Brandon and I chuckled all the way home.

On Saturday evening, I took my mother-in-law and the kids to see the place, and observe the work Brandon had done. It had rained most of the day, so I decided to dress Micah in his rain boots. As I bent down, working Micah's feet into the boots, he reached over, patted my head and said in the high-pitched tone adults commonly use with animals and babies, "You're a good momma." Sweet, hilarious boy.
We met Grandma and Pops at the property this evening. We stomped around, explored and enjoyed the peace of the place. I am looking forward to calling it home.

On Tuesday, Brandon and I celebrated our 8th anniversary. I was relieved to reach this milestone. I don't know if it's the seventh year or year seven, but statistics show that the "Seven Year Itch" can be difficult, if not deadly, for marriage. Last year was difficult enough, but our marriage has been the sweetest and richest it has ever been. Most of that has to do with Brandon. Over the past year, I have witnessed him grow tremendously in his faith. Along with his growth in the Lord, he has grown in love for me. Without a hint of irony, I can tell you that this man loves me as he is called to love me. He loves me as every woman wants to be loved. He loves me fully, wholly and sacrificially. He loves me like Christ loves the Church, and that is a love from which I never want to part. I am deeply thankful to be his wife.

On Thursday, I had my endoscopy. I was nervous the night before the procedure. I prayed that the Lord would give me peace in the morning, and He was faithful to answer! Normally, I would have been a ball of nerves, but I was as placid as could be. When I was called to the procedure room, alone and without my Superman, I remained calm. As gloves were snapped on, oxygen tubes shoved into my nostrils and the impending threat of a large needle drew near, my heart beat steadily and I was able to control my breathing. I prayed and remembered Philippians 4:6-7. The needle was no big deal! Is God cool, or what?

 What was kind of a big deal is that I found out that I would not be able to have the nice "twilight" anesthesia that allows one to wake up quickly and dance out the door if so desired. The "twilight" stuff is soy and egg based, and therefore dangerous for me. I was tempted to tell them not to put me under, but the nurse told me that it is a difficult procedure to do while the patient is conscious. I hold to the fact that if I survived an induced 18 hour, practically natural childbirth, I could handle being conscious for a simple procedure. That option wasn't presented to me. They asked if I could take Fentanyl. Fentanyl was suspect because it was a part of the epidural cocktail (which failed me in the 11th hour) that caused me to have an allergic reaction. Finally, they decided upon Demerol. I had never had Demerol, so I didn't know to be less than thrilled.

The doctor walked in and said hello. I didn't understand why a simple greeting would make me feel warm and fuzzy until I realized that the warm fuzzies weren't natural. Valium. They could have amputated my arm, and I would have laughed. I heard his voice again. He was saying something about the number fifty--probably the measurement for the Demerol. The next thing I knew, I was in the car on the way home. I have no recollection whatsoever of leaving the Endoscopy Center.

Brandon tells me that I would wake, tell him that I had been given Demerol, pass out again, and repeat the cycle. He tells me I did this six times. Eventually, I was coherent enough to retain the findings from the procedure. The doctor had found a polyp and a bit of mild gastritis. Both were biopsied. He also found that my acid reflux was non-corrosive, which is great news for a singer. He did not find anything to explain my pain.

After sleeping off the drug for the entire afternoon, Brandon and I discussed the findings. We speculate that the pain I'm experiencing could be nerve pain. This explanation fits with my symptoms. My nerves are firing painful, false alarms throughout my body all the time. It makes sense that the stabbing pain I feel between my shoulder blades as I eat could be a nerve going haywire. It's always fun to pay out $900 to find that your body is crazier than you could believe, but at least we know.

There remains much to be said of last week, but the hour is late and I am emotionally spent. I have to get up early to get the kids and myself ready and out the door for my physical therapy appointment in Bossier. For now, know that God continues to work and prove Himself faithful and powerful all the time. Know that your prayers on Thursday were answered. Know that new blessings are coming. Know that God still provides. And know that my family continues to value your prayers.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Taste and See

In the beginning, when my illness was so severe, new and scary, it was difficult to decide which part of it was the most problematic. My allergies were frightening, and they could have ended my life at any time. My digestive system was traumatized to the point that I had difficulty drinking water. My fatigue was discouraging. The pain was depressing. Now that my symptoms have plateaued and I've had some time to process and deal with the fallout, I have decided what the worst part of my illness is not. The worst part is not my food limitations, which is weird because I have always REALLY loved food, and I am now super limited and am becoming more limited all the time.

These days, my entire menu is chicken, beef, venison, turkey, tilapia, tuna, grapeseed, canola or sunflower oil, eggs, greens, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, avocados, asparagus, carrots, squashes, pears, rice, tea, honey, potatoes, and sweet potatoes . . . . all on careful rotation.That's it, and I still have phantom reactions. Salt is the only seasoning I can use without unpleasant consequences. (Thank you, GOD, for salt!)

I did not arrive at the conclusion that my life was not finished overnight. I have grieved with real shock, real guilt, real anger, real depression, and real tears over the loss of many, many foods I once enjoyed. It took awhile for me to become accustomed to cooking a meal every night, something I never imagined I would do, but I have gotten the hang of it. Brandon helps by cooking breakfast most mornings, and I occasionally assign him grilling duty. For lunch, I eat rice cereal or leftovers when I'm feeling frisky. I have eaten at a restaurant only once since May. I trust very few people with my life, so I rarely eat from other people's kitchens. Our social events aren't often centered around food anymore, but I have found that it isn't that bad. As would anyone, I sometimes sigh with longing for a favorite food--chocolate, peanut butter, bananas, goat milk, popcorn, pizza--but not long enough to make me unhappy . . . . not even when food is being passed around and praised and the pleasant scent of whatever is being served wafts in my direction. It has taken several months, but I have worked through my losses. I won't say that I "have arrived," but I have learned to accept and even embrace my food limitations.

This is not my work, but the work of GOD in me. Nothing in me wants to lay down my imagined right to eat what I want to eat. Nothing in me is able to look on contentedly with goodwill as people exclaim over foods I would very much like to eat. [Aside: No one is allowed to feel guilty. You hear me? NO ONE (Dad)! I do not begrudge anyone the enjoyment good food.] Nothing in me is able to be hungry and happy. And yet, by some miracle, it is happening. I'm cheerfully laying down my rights one by one, most of which truly are imagined. The pleasure others find in food brings me pleasure. I can feel hungry and smile anyway. I won't claim to be able to be hungry for long and still be able to smile. Ha! I'm no super saint! However, left to myself, I would be a bitter, jealous mess of a woman with whom no one would care to associate.

What's my secret? I'm so glad you asked because I've been dying to share! I'm feeding, just not on food . . . . in the traditional sense, that is. I'm satisfied and sustained, but my satisfaction and sustenance reach beyond physical implications. I'm experiencing pleasure, and it is a pleasure that surpasses the likes of chocolate molten lava cake, creamy pasta dishes, ice cold Coca-Cola, and even PIZZA.

You may recall the Timothy Keller quote I cited in my first post about my illness--"This is the real food I need--Christ's unconditional commitment to me." This quote has been on the chalkboard hanging in our kitchen since May 3rd. I see it every day, multiple times a day. It is a part of me now, and was the diving board that catapulted me into a deep pool, brimming with instruction and encouragement. The "deep pool" of which I speak is actually only one verse in the Bible--

"Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who trusts in Him."--Psalm 34:8

I have meditated on this verse for several weeks. As I have done so, the Lord has brought me to many scriptures, familiar and new, that have given me greater insight into what tasting and seeing means. These verses have also been instrumental in my healing and emancipation from my idolatry of food. Below, I have typed out my hand-written journal entry, which gives shape to my thoughts about food. I tremble a little to share something so personal so publicly, but it is my deepest wish to be able to encourage others with the same encouragement with which I have been encouraged. If you followed that last sentence, you will probably be able to follow my entry--

"Immediately after Jesus taught a crowd of disciples that He is the Bread of Life and that believers must eat His flesh, many disciples turned away because the lesson was difficult to understand and even harder to accept. Jesus then looked to the Twelve, and asked, "Do you also want to go away?" John 6:68-69 records Peter's passionate, heartfelt response, which seems to parallel the exhortation to "taste and see" in Psalm 34--"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe [taste] and know [see] that You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God."

I hypothesize that Peter knew and loved Psalm 34 all of his life. He extensively references and quotes Psalm 34 in 1 Peter. The most obvious reference is one to verse 8--"as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good." (1 Peter 2:2-3) Sara is now nine months old, but as a newborn, she would screech until she was given food. She demanded food every hour on the hour. Girlfriend was hungry. That is the hunger I should cultivate for the word of God, which points to the Word of God.

I believe when Jesus was teaching us to pray that we would be given "our daily bread," He was not speaking of actual bread. (Matthew 6:11) I believe Jesus was instructing us to request and seek out the daily strength and sustenance of the soul. In the same sermon, Jesus teaches, "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?" (Matthew 6:25) He goes on to say that the Father knows what we need. If He takes care of the sparrows, He will take care of His prized creation--mankind. I know that there is poverty in the world so severe that people starve to death and die in the elements. What about those people? That question causes me to believe that the bread spoken of in each passage isn't bread at all. I believe that Jesus is referring to Himself--the Real Bread, the Living Bread. I believe when He told us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," He was instructing us to seek our daily Sustenance in the Word--Jesus Christ.

My Bible cross-references Matthew 6:11 with a favorite passage from Job--

"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." (Job 28:8-12)

In Deuteronomy, Moses reminds Israel that God humbled them, allowed them to hunger, and fed them with manna "that He might make [them] know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord." (Deuteronomy 8:3) This lesson tastes familiar to me.

If we feed on the True Bread, we "are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of [His] house, and [He] gives [us] drink from the river of [His] pleasures." (Psalm 36:8) We are promised that "there is no want to those who fear Him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing." (Psalm. 34:9-10) Jesus is the True Bread, the Bread of Life. He tells us, "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you . . . ." (John 6:27) The Son of Man has given me Himself, and I need Him more than food. He is the True Manna. God the Father fed the Israelites with manna from Heaven, but Jesus is the fulfillment and embodiment of the symbol. By giving us Jesus, God the Father has fed the entire world (John 6:31-33) I am awed by the perfect beauty, clarity and symmetry in the Bible. All things point to Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of all things!

And Jesus says it Himself--"I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst," meaning that I can starve to death, but if I have Jesus, I have all I need. I have everything. (John 6:35) If I come to Him for sustenance, He will not cast me out. He will satisfy me. (John 6:37)

 Life and the enjoyment thereof does not lie in earthly pleasures, even pleasures so keen as coffee and dessert. The ultimate pleasure is the fullness of life that Jesus gives--the Bread of Life, Himself. When I am in doubt, I will "feed on His faithfulness." (Psalm 37:3) When I sigh with longing for chips and salsa, I will delight in the Living Bread, and He will grant the real desires of my heart. (Psalm 37:4) When my heart is set upon monster cookies, I will reset it upon the Word of God, which is no empty word for me, but my very life. (Deuteronomy 32:46-47) When I am ravenous and my stomach cannot tolerate food, I will remember that my Shepherd stands ready to feed me, keeping me from being "consumed with hunger." (Ezekiel 34:11-16, 29) He feeds the birds of the air and the beasts of the field. (Matthew 6:26; Psalm 136:25) He will certainly feed me--body and soul."

(End entry.)

The journey has been messy and difficult, and continues to be. The hunger and cravings don't go away. I don't always maintain the proper attitude, but Jesus, the True Bread, is my home base and resting place. In Him, I find my center. The True Bread does not kill me, but gives me life. The True Bread does not deprive me of oxygen, but gives me clean, fresh air to breathe. He does not upset my stomach, but gives me nourishment. He does not make me itch, but provides balm for my wounds.

You may not have the food restrictions I have. Nonetheless, I invite you to join me in the most satisfying feast in this life! Let us feast on Jesus! He is everything we need and more than we could ever dream! Once you get a real taste of this Bread, you will see that everything else in this life becomes bland and pales in comparison.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Water, Water Everywhere

A miracle: It's been raining now for a full seven months, and we haven't drowned yet.

Friends and family sometimes look at Sara, and remark upon how much she has grown since they last saw her. They cannot believe that she is almost 9 months old. They say, "It flies by so quickly!" I smile and nod, but I always feel a little disoriented when I consider the recent passage of time. So much life has been lived that it seems impossible to fit it all into nine brief months, yet it has gone by in such a blur that when I access the memories, it is as if I'm viewing them underwater with muffled sound and obscured clarity. Fitting in this flood, don't you think?

Sara's birth and the following complications come back to me in flashes--pain, blood, gasps, sweat, tears, and euphoria. I slept so little during Sara's first few weeks of life that I am grasping to remember them at all. I am not sure Christmas happened in 2011. Photos are the only evidence. On January 6, 2012, we were told that our children had RSV. Micah was well within a couple of days. Sara was very sick for two months. She has had ear infections almost continually since, and finally had a successful tube surgery last Thursday. In January, I dreamed a prophetic dream in which Death promised to come for me over and over again; also in which God promised to protect me every time it came. Since then, I have survived six cases of anaphylaxsis, too many new food allergies to count, two complete shut downs of my digestive system, dehydration, and pain explained and unexplained all over my body. Over the course of the last three months, I have seen my general practitioner, a naturopathic doctor, an immunologist, a rheumatologist, a gastrointerologist, and a physical therapist. Brandon has suffered as well. It turns out that every superman has his own version of kryptonite. Brandon's is gluten, and he is now on a gluten-free diet. (I am exceedingly proud of his good attitude.) And then there is my Micah Man, who has gotten a little lost in the chaos, a fact that brings wistful tears to my eyes. Tears don't help our water problem.

Medical bills sit in neat, little piles waiting to be paid. I have never known another time in my life when there were so many medical bills. On the table they sit, opened and read, from the emergency room, urgent care, Sara's ENT, a medical laboratory, and our pediatrician's office. Bills from Sara's recent surgery and my upcoming endoscopy will find a resting place in our bed of intimidating mail. Maybe the waves will carry them away.

In addition to our concerns about health, family dynamics and finances, change has come in with the tide. I can only mention one major change at the moment--we're moving! To answer the first question we are always asked upon that announcement--we aren't moving far. Our new residence will be about 10 miles southeast of our current homestead in a small community called Crossroads, located just north of Rocky Branch."Why?" you may ask, "would anyone who needs to reduce stress choose to move?"

I will tell you--at first, I was against it. We had attempted a move back in the Spring, and it fell through. I felt like God had prevented us from moving because He knew that I would become ill and that we wouldn't be able to physically or financially sustain a larger, two-story home requiring renovations. Little did I know that He had something better for us up His sleeve. It is difficult to imagine anything being better than the charming country house, updated to our taste and specifications on eight acres of timber property, but the word"better" doesn't always mean what we think it means. For us, "better" means selling our nice, newly renovated home of two years, downsizing to a used, single-wide trailer, selling several newly acquired possessions, and settling on the property my parents recently purchased to which they will be moving, along with my sister, this fall. Sometime over the course of the next several months, we will begin a farm at this new location, complete with chickens, goats, a large vegetable garden, and the Lord only knows what else.

Our decision to move went something like this: A couple of months ago, Brandon went with my dad to explore my parents' new property. When he came home that afternoon, he asked me, "Babe, how would you feel about getting a trailer, and moving out to your parents' place?"

Stunned for a moment, I said, "I would need a really good reason to move anywhere right now."

Brandon replied, "Okay. How about being debt free in two years?"

I gulped. "That would be a very good reason." And I promised to consider the idea.

I wondered what it would be like to live beside my parents. I didn't know for sure, but I was already very sick and realized that I may need to live close to them. Once upon a time, I was upset to be moving out of their home. It could really be fun to live close to them again! I wondered how my relationship with my sister might change if we were neighbors. Since I moved out of my parents' home, our relationship has been pretty good. Some people need a little distance to have healthy relationships, and I have always thought of us as some of those people. But Hannah is becoming a different person these days. Our relationships with the Lord have changed us both, and given us much more in common. It could be a wonderful, beautiful thing to have my sister close by and watch our children grow up together. The idea touches my heart so profoundly that I can't think about it without tears gathering in my eyes.

 I could clearly see the practicality of the move. Brandon and I have desired to live in financial freedom for years. We want to be able to buy what we want to buy, do what we want to do, and give what we want to give without having to worry whether or not our finances will allow it. Debt free living would have come in handy this year considering all of the medical bills flowing in. We also had discussed starting a farm in a few years. It would be extremely beneficial to learn first hand how to care for the animals and tend the vegetables before starting a place for ourselves. Micah would soon be able to be a real help to my dad, and would receive a valuable, practical education in return. I am currently planning to homeschool my kids. Living on the farm, they would have access to real life learning situations, and benefit from three highly knowledgeable and skilled teachers of various subjects while living there. The only con to the situation I could see is that it would take us 10 miles further away from Ruston and away from our church. My conclusion was that our church is worth 10 extra miles. In less than 24 hours of thought and prayer, I told Brandon that I was fully supportive of this move.

Within a few days of the decision, we found a gently-used, single-wide trailer with a great layout for $20,000. Brandon decided to mortgage the mobile home, and thought to take out a home equity loan to pay for our expenses--preparing the property for housing, moving and medical bills. It seems that we are creating more debt, but a plan is in place to eliminate it. It appears as if we creating more stress, but the idea is to simplify. This decision reminds me of organizing a closet--in order to create order, there must first be chaos.

Every part of our lives, massive and miniscule, has been torn out of their respective places and thrown into a messy pile. A neurotic, OCD personality like myself could easily become overwhelmed. I am overwhelmed, but I came to the end of myself a long time ago. There is no way I could handle all of this craziness on my own. I would drown in it! I am actually handling it all like a child--with blind trust. I blindly trust that the Lord is working this out. It seems to be the sort of thing He does. It feels right--not in a sense it feels right because I want it to be right, but in a sense that I know it is right to my very core. God has initiated all of these changes. They have quite literally happened to us. The only decision we have made is to say "yes" to the move. What God initiates, He executes. I believe that I will have enough good days to do what I must. I believe that every hiccup in the process is according to plan. I believe that every dollar saved in preparations is a gift. I believe that we will have all of the help we will need to see it through.

So bring on the rain, and let the waves come. I will not worry. My Lifeguard walks on water.


Sara's surgery went very well. I was a typical nervous mommy, but I held it together without embarrassing myself or my husband. The first half hour after surgery was bad, but months of colic prepared us for the inconsolable crying. By the time we arrived at the house, she was happy and ready to play.

I had my first physical therapy session on Monday. My therapist believes my PGD can be corrected if I will be faithful to my exercises and stretches. I will be faithful, but my word, they hurt! I will go back on Monday, August 20 to be re-evaluated and learn some core strengthening exercises that should help my PGD to remain corrected.

I continue to have good days and bad days. The last few have been bad days. Today, I am suffering from widespread pain throughout my body, a migraine, fatigue and nausea. Our Honey came today. She took care of the kiddos while I took a nap. The Lord always provides what is needed. My bad days came after an entire week of good days. I was even able to clean my own house last week. It took several days, but it was the first time I was physically able to clean since I became ill!

I have an endoscopy scheduled for Thursday, August 16. My stomach continues to be very angry, and my new gastroenterologist intends to find out why. I have to have an IV for the procedure. I'm a baby when it comes to needles, so say a prayer for me if I come to mind.

I plan to put off the GAPS diet until after we are settled in our new home. I can't imagine another change right now any more than I can imagine drinking hot bone broths in this heat. I will begin my allergy cure therapy when I begin the diet.

Thank you again for your prayers and encouragement! May God bless you all ten-fold!