Thursday, October 17, 2013

But YES The Hippopotamus

Much has changed for the hippopotamus over the course of a month. It is my utmost pleasure to report all changes have been good, encouraging and praiseworthy! Like the heat and humidity of this long, Louisiana summer, the intensity of my crucible has receded, and a new season has come.

Light breezes sometimes carry the scent of burning leaf piles to Jubilee Farm. Fall squashes and bitter greens grace our table almost daily. Blackeyed susans line our red clay road. A lone scarlet leaf skipped and tumbled past my feet on our last walk. Autumn has come quietly, but soon she will burst into robust song. As the season goes, so--I believe--will I.

All change requires a catalyst--even natural change and especially personal change. We people are resistant to the seam ripping and pinpricks that go into being tailored to fit our individually designed purposes. Autumn rides in on the breath of God, which tilts the planet just so. The new developments in my story were heralded by a similar wind. God has spoken. Through his Living Word, through dreams, in provisions and circumstances, He has delivered the same message over and over: "Come out of that cocoon, Little Coward, and trust me."

Two days before my last post, Jenny asked me to stand in her wedding. (She and her husband never had a wedding.) The evening after the post was published, my sister called to ask me to stand in hers. In a period of three days, I was asked to be present at two major life events belonging to two of the most important people in my life. I could not bear to miss either celebration--one of God's power, the other of His grace--and yet I was at a loss as to how I would manage. I barely ventured outdoors due to danger. How could I knowingly stand before a room full of people doused in all manner of harmful chemicals without upstaging the bride with a horrible reaction? My sardonic sense of humor replied with, "You could always be her something blue."

Fortunately, the Lord rescued me from unhelpful, dark humor, and offered me real, practical solutions. While on Facebook one day, I saw a post from a lady who had recommended a particular brand of mask which was effective at filtering fragrances. I searched for the old message, found the link and ordered one rather impulsively, knowing there was a high probability I would not be able to tolerate the mask. Sure enough, I muscle tested the mask when I received it in the mail, and no dice.

For weeks, Dr. Yakaboski had been urging me to call her chiropractor friend, Dr. Lynette Frieden. I put it off  because there was no money. With well over $2,000 in unpaid medical bills, it seemed irresponsible to seek the help of another doctor who may or may not be able to help me. The idea would not leave me alone, however. When I asked Brandon if we could possibly afford it, he said we would make it work somehow.

I am thrilled I went. Dr. Frieden does more than bone manipulation, which was surprisingly helpful in itself. She also performs a particular form of energy medicine called Total Body Modification (TBM). Dr. Frieden actually came to Dr. Yakaboski's office to perform TBM on me in May after my near deadly encounter with a pesticide. I respond so well to TBM that Dr. Yakaboski created a treatment program for me which includes basic TBM and BioSet. I receive this treatment weekly in her office, and we use it at home as a rescue remedy in lieu of Benadryl and epinephrine since I no longer tolerate either drug. It totally looks like voodoo, but it works. And it's not voodoo. It's science.

Anyway, I have seen Dr. Frieden three times. I now have more energy and less pain. I can tolerate the smells of essential oils, which I have wanted to use for medicinal purposes. My neuropathy has calmed way down so I no longer feel stinging sensations all over my body several times a day. My monthly discomfort is greatly reduced. I now tolerate the new "super mask." And in what may be the most exciting development of all, I am sleeping better.

To further support better sleeping habits, I stopped napping, opting for light exercise and a bath instead. Yoga has proven especially beneficial. Certain poses grant me pain relief and an energy boost. After only two weeks, I am stronger and less depressed.

Feeling better has made me braver. I have been intentionally doing (reasonable) things that scare me. I began small. For my first attempt, I set up a picnic for the kids on the back porch. The next step was a short walk down the road. Walks turned into swinging little red heads and looking on while they play in the sandbox. The fear fueled vigilance I kept on my first few outings ebbed little by little. I can now relax, notice smiling flowers and enjoy my children. Yesterday, I only startled once when something flew buzzing into my face.

In spite of my improvements, unless God had moved hearts other than my own, I would yet be a self-imposed prisoner in my home. My Nona has been inviting me over for Saturday afternoon coffee for weeks. Finally, my mother acted as chauffeur to ensure I actually went. That was almost two weeks ago. I did not return home perfectly well nor extremely sick, and I very much enjoyed the fresh faces, stimulating conversation and my herbal tea.

To build upon my motivation to get out and get going, a college friend and a family friend who attends the church in which I grew up both shared they had dreams about me last week. In the dream of my college friend, I was in the midst of a group of people smelling a wildflower. In the dream of the family friend, I was in my home mingling with a crowd. Lots of children were running around. I learned of both of these dreams within 36 hours. I think it is interesting to note that I have not seen either of these women in years. It seems random, but if you gaze at the situation in the right slant of light, you will see design. God has spoken to me several times through my own dreams. Now He is speaking to me through the dreams of others. How cool is that?

I was given a dream this summer which foreshadowed public humiliation, danger and survival. All three aspects were highly likely if I was to do the thing I was considering after learning of the dreams of my friends.

I attempted church on Sunday.

Yes, it was humiliating. Masks draw attention--more so than protective gloves, might I add. I would have preferred being invisible over the stares I received. Yes, it was dangerous. Even through my "super mask," the smells were too many and too strong. I reacted, and spent the remainder of the day in bed. And yes. I survived.

I am happy I went. But the best moment of worship on Sunday morning was not in a sanctuary. It was in my car on the way to the service.

You see, I am never aware of the depth of my suffering while I am in the middle of it. Contrary to all reason, I have never been abidingly unhappy in my pain. God has been too good to me in the dark moments. I have hurt. I have bled. I have wept. Yet I have never despaired because I know that Jesus knows and has been there Himself and is there when life becomes unbearable. It is only when God gives something back that I truly taste the bitterness of my cup. The feeling is something akin to a desperate breath searing my lungs after being underwater for too long. In those moments, I have learned to let myself grieve over what I lost. I loose hot tears and sloppy sobs from a deep, hidden vault in my soul. And then I let it go. When I do, tears of mourning become tears of unspeakable joy. My eyes open to what God has done, to the new paragraph He has written. I am struck with wonder. I sense my smallness, my unworthiness, God's enormity and His attention to detail. I am pulled into the cosmic riptide of God's infinite love. Gall transforms into the sweetest wine, and I become intoxicated with His goodness. The suffering is transformed into something glorious, something I can never regret or mourn again!

I think it is important to understand that my little trip to church is not about me. It is about God. To me, to my family, to all of you who have prayed so faithfully, He is saying, "Behold what I have done." He has all but slayed me, but He has brought me back to life. He has taken it all away, and now He is giving it back. He has heard you. He has heard us. And we have only begun to see what He will do.

Lord willing, this hippo will be at Jenny's wedding next weekend. Please pray for my safety and Brandon's peace.


ticagirl said...

I am in awe of you and your blog. I haven't been able to stop reading it even though I know I should be in bed! I don't quite understand what it is you have though, you make many references to illness but I haven't come across a post that says what it is. Not that you have to, it's totally personal, but I was just wondering since you reference it so openly. Thanks and I will keep you in my prayers :)

MelissaKeaster said...

Hi! Thank you for praying for me! I need them! The truth is that I don't have a single diagnosis. The disease is a bit of a mystery. We know that my gut is in bad shape. I have IBS. Natural doctors say I have leaky gut, but that diagnosis is not recognized in the medical community at large. I have severe allergies ranging from all kinds of foods--all grains (except rice), all legumes (beans, soy, peanuts, lentils), many fruits, nuts, and dairy to name a few--to latex to medications. I have something called MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) which means I cannot tolerate chemicals of any kind. Items with fragrances (perfumes, lotions, shampoos, laundry detergents) are harmful as are most household cleaners, all pesticides, herbicides, etc. Exposure to a pesticide is the worst reaction I have ever had which means it is the closest to dying I have ever come. My chemical sensitivity became severe after an adverse reaction to the drug Cipro, which was given to me in November 2012 to treat a bacterial infection found in my gut. I have Hoshimoto's (autoimmune thyroid disease) fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. A lot of things are wrong and no one can come up with a single word to describe the illness which is why I call it "my illness." I have a strange confession to make: some days I wish I could just tell people that I have cancer. That would at least be something people can understand. As it is, most of the doctors I have seen think I'm crazy or a hypochondriac. I even suspect I have some friends and family who believe that as well. I know enough of cancer to be glad I don't have it, but the emotional trauma of being sick like this would be easier if I was better and more widely understood. I know my answer is not satisfactory. It definitely hasn't been satisfactory for me, but I have learned to accept it over time. :)

I am curious--how did you stumble upon my little blog? Do we share mutual friends?

ticagirl said...

Thanks so much for responding and for being so open. God works in mysterious ways - I came across your blog in such a roundabout way. I was reading a post on hpylori and she had a link to a video about muscle testing and it was your blog!
Like I said, I was totally blown away. Also, I couldn't believe you live in LA. So do i! I'm in Metairie. What are the odds?!
You're obviously a devout christian, I don't know if you're Catholic (I am), but I wanted to offer this to've really touched my heart and I just want to offer any help I can. I have access to some holy oil of St. Padre Pio. I don't know if you've heard of him, but he was an amazing person & priest blessed with the stigmata, and canonized in 2002. Anywho, if you're interested, I would be happy to mail you a little cotton ball that has the sacred oil on it. It's very miraculous. I realize I'm going out on a limb here, you may think I'm a crazy lady, but like I said, I was just really moved by your story and your faith. And if you don't feel comfortable taking me up on my offer I totally understand & respect that :)

MelissaKeaster said...

How cool! I love Caroline (Gutsy). We met early in the year, and became fast friends. We are able to understand each other, which is a beautiful, rare thing in our world.

I am very touched by your kind offer, and I would absolutely LOVE to receive some of the sacred oil. I am not Catholic, but I have a strong love for Catholics. Two of my dearest college friends are Catholic, one a nun. You don't strike me as a crazy lady at all. You come across as very kind and generous, and I am very appreciative you desire to bless me.

I'm glad we've found one another. God does work in mysterious ways! Email me at and I will reply with my home address. Thank you again, sister!