Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Happy Birthday To Me--Part 2

Although I cannot be certain what caused my abrupt decline during the first week of June, I have my suspicions. I blame it mostly on my being an insufferable rule follower. While this quality made me a model student in school, it has proven to be a problem in other areas of my life. Model students don't make many friends, but they do draw negativity in the forms of disdain and jealousy with impeccable magnetism. Excellence to the letter can be crippling for the Christian, making one highly susceptible to legalism. Fortunately for my soul, the Lord showed me a long time ago that being a goody-two-shoes doesn't earn me any marks in His Book. Where my health is concerned, rule following hasn't done me many favors either.

I have followed every doctor's protocol with precision. Each time, I have suffered for doing so. I can trace this pattern back to the spring of 2006 when I first began seeking relief from my allergies. I never missed my allergy shots. I hated needles, but I was there each week believing, hoping I would get better. I got worse. A lot worse. When I would develop the inevitable sinus infection during stressful times in college, I took the medications and steroid shots prescribed by my primary physician. Which also made me worse. I did everything my OBGYN suggested without question. Bad idea. After my health collapse in 2012, I followed the advice of the immunologist, gastroenterologist, and rheumatologist, undergoing their tests, taking their medications and paying their outrageous bills. To my detriment, of course.  When Dr. Cave sent me home with an overwhelming amount of drugs, supplements and homeopathics in November, I made a chart, methodically taking the right thing at the right time. One by one, I grew intolerant to them all until I had a severe reaction to the methylation supplements in early March. And then there is the incident involving the Cipro. My BioSet practitioner was helpful overall, but I responded poorly to several of her suggestions as well. Dr. Yakaboski has been the exception. She alone has done no harm. While her treatments cannot heal me, they make my life liveable and grant me much relief.

In addition to seeing doctors, I have remade myself time and again in a desperate search for safe nutrition. After attempting several difficult diets and being met with failure upon failure, I finally stumbled upon the GAPS diet, which I began last September. I followed the diet and lifestyle protocol as rigidly as my resources would allow. GAPS was instrumental in improving my health knowledge and practices, but because I am an extreme case, several of the diet's major tenets not only failed to help me but have caused more problems. I do not tolerate bone broths, and I have recently learned the probiotics and ferments which are so wonderful for everyone else have actually increased my hyper-immunity. In the past few months, I have altered my diet several more times, trying out juicing, raw greens, a low-sulfur diet, a vegetarian diet and others. Nothing has helped. Upon another doctor's recommendation, I added ground flax and chia seeds to my diet to help build a mucous layer in my gut. Flax and chia are great for most people. Though I knew deep down they would not be good for me, I followed the instructions with perfect obedience anyway because I simply cannot help myself. It took about two weeks for my body to rebel. And I am here to tell you, I am full of sass, even at the cellular level.

God allowed me to enjoy my birthday party on June 1, a kindness for which I am very grateful. On the night of June 2, I had an allergic reaction to Brandon's toothpaste....from kissing him.....after he had swished and gargled water to protect me from the smell. On the morning of June 3 (my birthday), I forgot to check my tolerance to my daily dose of ground flax seeds, and had a severe reaction to them. I was teeter-tottering by Tuesday morning when I reacted to the ghee I had come to enjoy in my rice cereal. After that, I couldn't eat anything at all without extreme nausea, gastrointestinal pain, systemic inflammation and swelling in my throat. I was struck with a strong sense of déjà vu when it became impossible to sip water without burning and nausea. I sipped anyway, but without food it just wasn't enough. We began working on getting home health out to the house on Wednesday in order to avoid the hospital. By Thursday afternoon, it was obvious that home health services were not going to work out, and I was too dehydrated to go any longer without fluids. Without any remaining options, we headed to the ER.

Hospital emergency rooms are full of dangers for people like me, which is why people like me tend to avoid them. The combination of people, chemicals and medical professionals who just don't understand make for a highly unstable and unsafe environment. The evening was difficult, but God manifested Himself in several different ways. He blessed my double mask. I reacted to several environmental triggers, but none of the reactions were severe. One of mom's former laboratory students popped in, and spoke an encouraging word from the Lord. A very nice, conscientious male nurse took charge, and started my IV. Without him, I'm not sure I would have been given any care at all. Overall, I was neglected by the on-duty nurse practitioner (who I apparently offended when I declined x-rays), and left the hospital still dehydrated because I was cut off after only half a bag of fluids. (Dude--that was an expensive--not to mention risky--half bag of saline.) Thanks to a passionate, hard-working doctor and an extraordinary, dear friend who also happens to be a nurse practitioner, I was set up with another IV Friday night (June 7)--this time at home. 

Upon returning from the ER Thursday night (not desiring to repeat the experience any time soon), I began trying to take some food. I remembered reading in Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride that raw eggs are well-rounded, easily absorbed nutrition which put little to no stress on the digestive system. I was feeling too nauseated to attempt cold, raw eggs, so I scrambled, salted and warmed them in a pan before drinking them. They were a bit slimy going down, but they settled perfectly.

If you are unfamiliar with food allergies, you may not know what a miracle it is that I could eat eggs when I could eat nothing else. My tolerance to them is actually quite shocking as eggs are extremely allergenic. I have come to think of eggs as my "manna"--a provision no less miraculous than wafers falling from the heavens.

The ways of God are ever beyond me. 

The Saturday following my birthday (June 8), another small group gathered in my parents' home on my behalf. We left the guest list in the Lord's hands this time, and He put together a small, fascinatingly eclectic group to pray together. I sat in a chair, double masked and hooked up to an IV, as people asked the Lord to heal me and grant me clear direction on my healing journey. The men blessed me by praying with authority and power. The women plead my case before the Lord. An elder and dear friend from my church anointed me with oil. The meeting was both remarkable and not. Clouds did not part, I was not made well with a sudden touch, nor did we hear a distinct, booming voice telling us that everything was going to be okay, but God was present. He honored the gathering He had ordained, and He has answered the prayers of His people. 

Following the prayer meeting, I had some decisions to make about new doctors and treatments. I decided against them for two reasons--

1) A lack of clarity. I just wasn't sure. At the meeting, we all asked the Lord for clear direction. I felt confused, not certain at all, so I chose not to move forward. That being said, if I receive clear direction at any time regarding any doctor or treatment, I will do exactly as God suggests.

2) The story of the woman with the bleeding issue (Mark 5).  God kept bringing her story to my attention because it contained a message for me--"No more doctors." Like the woman in the story, I have suffered much in the hands of physicians, and funds are running low. In the end, the woman wasn't healed until she ran to Jesus, all out of alternate options. God wants to work a miracle here, and I aim to let Him.

And God has worked a miracle already. Within three weeks, I went from being unable to drink water, to eating raw eggs and boiled squash, to pureed vegetables and soups, to well-cooked and carefully prepared meat and vegetables, to things I have been allergic to for months....and in some cases, years.

Boiled zucchini and ground beef purée. I ate baby food for a little over a week.

Broccoli and squash purée (it tasted a lot better than it looks) with lightly cooked scrambled eggs.

Eggplant lasagna made on 6/22 with fried eggplant, fresh tomatoes, bell pepper and fresh herbs from the garden with homemade juice from beets (also from the garden), carrots and apples. In my opinion, this is the best meal I've made in the last year. I'm not only saying that because I have been deprived.

After reading that jalapeños help to reduce inflammation of the GI tract, I decided to make poppers on 6/23. These are fresh Jubilee Farm peppers, sliced in half, seeded, stuffed with fresh goat cheese, wrapped in Applegate bacon (to which I had been allergic since January) and drizzled with raw, local honey. They were heavenly, and I felt great after eating them.

On Sunday night, I made and enjoyed fried green tomatoes. Yesterday, I ate fresh watermelon for the first time in years without Benadryl!!!

Something has changed. I have changed. I have been remade. And truly, it cannot be explained apart from Jesus Christ. 

I am not supposed to be able to eat bacon and chicken and peppers and goat cheese and watermelon.

I should be having allergic reactions every day, as I have for about as long as I can remember, but I'm not.

I eat the food grown from the earth of Jubilee Farm, and I feel good. I get a little burst of energy after each meal, which may not seem like a big deal to you, but I cannot recall a time in my entire life when I felt good after eating. I think what I am feeling is....healing. I still occasionally have pain after I eat, but the pain is nothing compared to what I was experiencing before. (TMI warning!) I have also been to the bathroom twice without the assistance of an enema in the last two weeks, an event that had not occurred since April.

Granted, I have a long way to go without any idea of how long full recovery will take. I have completely released my healing timeline to the Lord. He can and will (with or without my permission) do whatever He wants. And whatever it is He wants, He is doing it now.

Things feel different upon this restart. My journey for the past seven years has been two steps forward, three steps back. Today, I feel like an infant taking slow, faltering steps, but I believe that those steps will grow steadier. Rather than regressing, I will gain momentum. I will eventually run, leap, skip, play and all the things that someone as sick as I have been should never be able to do again.

I will.....because though I am not yet well, I am already healed. It's already been done. Remember, God isn't bound by human limitations. He works outside of time. From His perspective, His work is complete. The promise has been made, the fulfillment set in motion. My job is to believe my God, to think and act as though my healing is as good as accomplished. Of course I must continue to accept my current limitations. I will do all I can to avoid environmental triggers, take naps, guard against overexertion, eat good food, take detox baths, and give myself enemas as necessary, but now I possess the freedom to do these things with the end in mind, something I find to be equally terrifying and beautiful.

In the end, being good at following the rules failed me. Miserably. God has none too gently pried my fingers loose from my beloved little book of shalls and shall nots, completely bankrupt of power to save--another kind of healing entirely. Today, I watch that book smoke in a fire I lit. And I know: I will never be the same again.

To all who have prayed anywhere at any time---thank you. God has heard your prayers! He is answering them at this very moment.

"In fact, [I] expected to die. But as a result, [I] stopped relying on [myself] and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And He did rescue [me] from mortal danger, and He will rescue [me] again. We have placed our confidence in Him, and He will continue to rescue [me]. And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for [my] safety." (2 Corinthians 1:9-11 NLT)

Let us praise Him for what He is already doing!

My birthday week may have been slightly disappointing, but the month of June has proven to be one of the most exceptional months of my life.

I may just take up the habit of having a birthday month after all.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

It Had to be Blood

 I can't shake her from my mind--the woman with the bleeding issue. Over the past several days, I've read and reread the accounts given in Matthew 9, Mark 5 and Luke 9. I weep every time. This woman and I share a lot of common ground. We've both been sick a very long time. (My allergies have been out of control for almost a decade.) Doctors and treatments fail again and again, and sometimes bring more suffering. We're lonely, not actively a part of the world in which we live. And we're desperate for a healing a touch.

Oh, how my heart resonates with this woman's song. Though she bore sorrows I do not--my friends and family have rallied around me with encouragement and prayer, and I have one very good doctor--I've felt many of her feelings and have thought several of her thoughts.

Today, I sat with pen and paper, determined to get into her mind, and bled onto the page--

"It Had To Be Blood"

Twelve years.
Twelve long years.
Will it ever end?
The weakness,
the pain,
the loneliness that swallows like a pit?
One by one, dreams turn to ash,
disappointments mount,
hopes sicken and die.
I no longer search for doctors.
There have been so many.
So many.
And I confound them all.
After giving them everything I had,
the treatments failed
and made me worse.
My people disowned me long ago,
cast me off--
illegitimate and unwanted.
No one looks me in the eye
as if my shame is catching.
Why did it have to be blood?
Why did it have to be me?
My bone and soul grow weary
of the never-ending flow.
Death would be a welcome friend,
but as with all my friends,
I'm utterly forgotten,
left alone to bleed.

There's a whisper on the street--
Jesus is coming!
The One who heals!
I peer outside.
The crowd is thick.
Jairus is with Him;
He's busy with important matters
with clean and lofty folk.
He won't stop for me....
unless I run to Him.
My feet move out my door.
My heart and head pound
to a rhythm I've never heard
and have always known:
If only I could touch Him--
I would be made well! 
If only I could touch Him--
I would be made well!
The noise in the street falls silent on my ears.
I only hear the music that carries me along:
If only I could touch Him--
I would be made well!
Today, my shame is my friend.
Bodies make way to avoid my touch.
My blood makes me dirty.
It can make them dirty, too.

I find myself at His back.
I long to see His face,
yet I know I cannot bear His eyes
beholding my disgrace.
If only I could touch Him--
I would be made well!
The home of Jairus now in sight,
what dignity remains is gone.
And reaching out with expectation,
my fingers brush my Savior's hem. 
I'm met with a jolt,
a surge I can't explain.
I'm well.
I stop and marvel.
I mean to disappear,
but cannot move.
He stops, too.
"Who touched Me?"
His voice rises above the clamor.
My breath catches.
I who am unclean have touched a rabbi!
Trembling with fear,
I try to hide among the bodies,
but they don't let me in.
I turn to run, but I'm trapped
in His gaze
where I stand.
So I fall
at His feet.
My story pours from my mouth,
a hemorrhage of the soul.
In His sights, I know--
though I'm well, I'm not.
I'm still dirty.

There's nothing to left to say.
I feel impatience from the throng.
The Man must have a mission
of tremendous importance.
I stare at His feet, which do not turn.
"Daughter," He calls me.
In all my words did I tell Him
my father rejected me long ago?
That I belong to no one?
Surely, I hadn't exposed
so old and deep a wound!
Yet in His address, I know He knows,
and He claims me as His own.
Amongst stamping feet and furrowed brows,
there's no hurry in His voice.
I look into His eyes and see my need--
I need Him!
"Your faith has made you well.
Go in peace.
Your suffering is over."

Twelve years.
Twelve long years.
Twelve years of terrible suffering--
Weakness, pain, and loneliness--
Dreams fulfilled.
Disappointment dead.
Hope restored.
Healed, accepted, wanted.
Alive for the first time!
"Your daughter is dead,"
the servant said.
And I remember--
the daughter of Jairus is sick.
Twelve years.
Twelve brief years.
It's no time at all.
A hush falls upon the crowd,
and we hear Him say,
"Do not be afraid. Only believe."
He turns to go and somehow I know
because He's with her,
she will be well.
Because He's with us,
all will be well.

I couldn't know then,
but the day was coming
upon which I'd better understand
the design in my disease.
My blood made me dirty,
unfit for the house of God.
He dried up my fountain,
bound up my wounds,
and made me clean--
But real cleansing was coming
for all sin-stained robes
upon Calvary
where the world healed by His wounds.
Clean in the Fount
of His Blood.
It had to be blood.


I'm still in the midst of my "twelve years." I no longer believe in a cure for my disease, whatever it is. All out of options, I am going to Jesus for help. I am reaching for His hem. As Timothy Keller points out in the chapter entitled "The Waiting" in King's Cross, "When you go to Jesus for help, you get from him far more than you had in mind. But when you go to Jesus for help, you also end up giving to him far more than you expected to give."

 I don't know what more He is going to ask, but for now He is looking into my eyes saying, "Trust Me." I don't understand the delay, but I do trust His heart. Whatever He asks, the reward far outweighs the cost. And maybe one day soon, I, too, will better understand the design in my disease.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Happy Birthday To Me--Part 1

Women know how to get the most out of their birthdays. Only men have birthdays. We ladies get a birthday weekend, a birthday week, or (if you really know how to play your cards right) a birthday month. I have decided I don't want to celebrate for an entire month. I think I'll take my birthday week and move right along.

I'm honestly not sure how to describe my 29th celebration. It was bookended by two precious gatherings for my sake, but the days in between were hard. Very hard. However, I think I shall begin my recount with the actual celebration, which was highlighted by getting out of the house, good food and sweet people who love me.

 Sara called me "Mama" for the first time ever at my party on June 1! What a great gift!

 Micah and Samantha Davis both made me cards! They were perfect!
 The man in the corner gave me four dark chocolate bars and a $25 gift card to iTunes.
 One never errs with chocolate and music.
 We all ate up some baby love. Mr. Will Davis is a sweetheart!

Brandon grilled steaks for everyone while I cooked mine safely on Mom's stovetop. I also made my own me-friendly (at the time) birthday cake. Dark chocolate lovers, rejoice! I'm going to share the recipe. Everyone else can skip the next couple of paragraphs:

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Cake

1/2 cup coconut oil
2 cups organic, sprouted rice flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 cup Grade B organic maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
2 cups grated zucchini, packed
1 8 oz. organic, dark chocolate bar, chopped

Line the bottom of a 10" springform pan with unbleached parchment paper, and grease the sides with coconut oil. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Scoop out one cup of mix and set aside. In a separate, larger bowl, cream the coconut oil and maple syrup. Add vanilla and eggs. Keeping the cup of flour mixture set aside, add the bowl of  dry ingredients to the wet, and beat until well combined. Place the 2 cups of zucchini in the bowl the dry ingredients were in, add the cup of flour and the dark chocolate pieces, and toss to coat. Then add the zucchini to the rest of the cake mixture, and stir until just combined. Spread the batter into the springform pan and bake 50-60 minutes.

Dark Chocolate Ganache

1 cup full fat organic coconut milk 
8 oz. unsweetened Baker's chocolate, chopped
maple syrup to taste

While the cake is cooling, chop the Baker's chocolate. Bring the coconut milk to almost boiling, and remove from heat. Place the chopped chocolate into the hot milk, and stir until smooth. Add maple syrup to taste. You will use less for a darker chocolate flavor, and more if you prefer a sweeter frosting. 

I poured my ganache over the cake immediately, and set the entire thing into the fridge to cool. If you don't have a ton of allergies, you may want to garnish the cake with chopped pecans or fresh fruit. Strawberries would have been divine on this cake! Maybe next year!

(This recipe was adapted from the blog Sweet Sugar Bean. I'm not good enough to come up with 100% original recipes quite yet.)

After the dinner, per my request, we took communion. I don't get to go to church anymore, and this is the one gaping hole I can't fill from home. I know that communion may be a strange way to end a birthday party, but it was my favorite part of the night. Remembering my Lord in that way at that time was an all important breath before taking the plunge that was the week to follow.

To be continued.....