Tuesday, December 4, 2012

In Everything Give Thanks....

I don't know the exact reference, but I know that is part of a verse in the Bible.  I know it to be a command from the Lord and for a good reason! 

Over the past few years I've been battling intestinal issues along with fatigue and anxiety.  I've tried all sorts of different diets and combos of diets and exercise routines.  I've given up foods that I love.  I more recently had a colonoscopy and endoscopy and cat-scan to rule out any numbers of diseases.  Everything came out "normal," so the diagnosis I'm stuck with is IBS.  To be honest, I was a little disappointed... not that I don't have some terrible disease, I just wanted answers.  IBS seems so ambiguous and then there's the question of fatigue.  Where is that from?  Blood tests show everything in the "normal" range.  I know I have three kids and a somewhat busy life, but so do a lot of other people and they do a lot more than me and don't seem tired....

This has been my thought process and frustration as I continue to be diligent in eating the "right" foods, getting enough sleep and trying to exercise on a regular basis.  But to no avail... I feel as tired waking up as I did when I fell into bed the night before.  Why Lord???  I'm trying, doing everything that I can think of, researching the best food options, vitamins, etc., etc., etc.  This has been my struggle with the Lord.  There are so many things that I want to do (for Him), but I can't because I don't even have enough for my husband and family.   I've been angry and frustrated with the Lord.  Why wouldn't He want me to have more energy for my family and others?  In the past few months I've been battling depression-mostly over this issue.  I have to force myself out of bed to take care of my sweet darlings.  I long to stay in bed over being with them.  Then I feel the guilt and shame over those feelings.  I love them so much, why would I desire to sleep over being with them? 

The Lord has been so faithful and patient during this time.  He's held me, His daughter, as I sit in His lap throwing these tantrums, wanting things my way, fair.  Much like I've held my children in the same way, whispering, "I love you.  That's why I can't let you do ______."   Why can't I believe that God loves me and He knows what's happening and why.  He has it all under control.  He longs for me to rest in His loving arms, under the Shelter of His Wing.  But how?  How can I do this?  It's simple...
give thanks!

You can try as hard as possible to think positively, to change your attitude, to have more energy, but you will eventually burn out.  I know because I'm there.  I can't do it.  If I'm completely honest with myself, God's gift to me is this fatigue and IBS.  It's in this place of struggle that I have the choice to make: will I give thanks for my situation, which is trusting in God's love and purpose for me or will I choose to keep my focus on myself and go down the road of self pity, victimization and eventually despair.   I prefer the latter road sometimes because it's known and comfortable-my old self.  Giving thanks is trusting in God's sovereignty, not my own!  It's a risk.   But when I take the focus off of myself and look for things to be thankful for I have space to step back and see His faithfulness and His incredible love for me! 

Try giving thanks today!  For the long cashier line at Target or Walmart, for the dirty diaper that smeared everywhere, for the difficult teacher, for the toddler tantrums, for the cranky boss, for the meal you have to think up, for the strange neighbor, for the sickness you're battling.....If Christ can give thanks before experiencing the most excruciating death and separation from His Father, than He can equip us to give thanks in all things!  Hebrews 13:15 "through Christ then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How Do I Choose Rest in This Mess?

My living room is a disaster: two loads of laundry ready to be folded, books lined up on the TV. cabinet and side tables and chairs (for a pretend library), couch cushions on the floor (pet-peeve!), a dozen stuffed animals on the couch facing the same direction (for story time at the library), tupper of legoes on the floor, X-wing and Snow Speeder on the ottomon... Don't even get me started on the girl's room, there is not an exposed inch of carpet to be found.

All of this greets me as I make my chicory drink and prepare for having a quiet time. Of course the only place to sit is in the kitchen, where the LOUD hum of the dishwasher rings in my ears and the kids eventually join me to drink hot cocoa, which is being sloshed all around. But as I sit and listen to their play, I can't help but enjoy their zest for life. They could care less about the mess (they just keep adding to it), why can't I just let it go and relax?

I get stuck in this place every day. I just want to get to a place of cleanliness so that I can relax and find peace. Even when I do get those things done, by that time I'm so distracted and I find more things that need to get done. Therefore, I miss that time to sit with the Lord and find rest.
By then, I'm so much "in control" that it's hard for me to hear His voice.

He's been teaching me over the past few years to let some things go. I'm never going to be done with laundry or dishes or organizing closets and the paper pile. I've started to accept this, though it's a daily choice. Now, I feel like He's trying to teach me to find rest in this place of disorganization. The state of my heart does not have to match up with the state of my house/circumstances! If my house doesn't feel restful because of it's uncleanliness that does not mean I cannot find rest in my Lord.

So today was a big test for me. Instead of having the kids clean up the mess before I could sit with the Lord. I chose to sit in the center of the chaos. Asking Him to meet me in this place, I opened my Bible to Psalm 91. "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty..." That was just the beginning! Intermittent between answering questions and moving 3 times around the house to be able to get a little more silence, I truly felt the Lord's presence with me. I am under His Wing! I was able to commit this day and this mess to Him and ask that He help me to live by His Spirit, with joy rather than despair, peace rather than anxiety, unconditional love rather than conditional!

Each day and sometimes each moment we are faced with the choice to choose rest or not. It doesn't matter what the situation is, we can find rest under the shadow of Almighty God if we CHOOSE to dwell in Him! We have to ignore the distractions and choose to listen and believe. It's so difficult and we will fail many times, but we can look back and remember the times that we have chosen rest. We can rejoice in those times and God will meet us every time!

Happy resting!!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Is Food an Idol?

I've been on this long journey of figuring out my food intolerances. I did the Fructose Mal-absorption diet for a year and a half. This was a big sacrifice, giving up gluten and many fruits and vegetables I loved. I felt better, but still had painful gas and discomfort at times, not to mention the fatigue! So for the past several months I've been following a Candida-free diet, which has rocked my world even more. I had to give up the things I love: coffee, peanut butter, popcorn, sugar, yeast, bananas and oranges, just to name a few. Now, I knew I didn't have to follow this diet, no one was holding me to it. But the longing to feel good and energized gave me the will power to do it.

I really relied a lot on myself to do this thing. I think I was angry with God for allowing me to go through this. Why can't you at least let me have coffee? That's all I ask, I'll give up the other things. Right away I tried to find things to substitute for coffee. I did all this research and found out that chicory was substituted for coffee during the wars. I tried it.....it was okay if I added almond milk and my sugar-free homemade chocolate! But it was not the same. It did not bring the satisfaction that my full coffee-press brought several times a day!

Then I realized I had a problem. Not only was I addicted to coffee, but it had become an idol. I always had my red REI mug full of hot coffee-from first thing in the morning til I picked up the girls from school. It was like my security blanket. When my kids played restaurant or house, they always had a "mug of coffee" as a prop. Why was it an idol? Because I went to it for comfort and satisfaction. I drank it in the morning to start my day. If I felt anxious or depressed, the kettle was on and the grounds were measured into the press. So....instead of going to God for life and fulfillment I went to coffee. Before all the diets I used to go to sweets or chocolate as well. Once I started it was hard to stop. I couldn't just eat one crumb of brownies, I would cut off a small square, then pop in another crumb, etc., etc.

Following this diet has helped me get to the level of discipline/effort that I need to put forth. It has taught me to pry open my hands and give the Father control of all things, even what I put into my mouth. It has also taught me about thanksgiving and reliance on the Father for comfort. Coffee and chocolate brought comfort for the moment, but the problems were still there breathing down my neck moments later. I've had to find Jesus' presence in all my hardships and times of loneliness, He's always there waiting for me. He's the only true comfort I will ever find.

So how do you know if food is an idol for you? What are those foods or beverages that you think you simply can't live without? That would be a good place to start! Ask the Lord to open your eyes to anything in your life that comes before Him: it could be food, TV, technology, friendships, family, yourself, diets, even marriage. Ask the Lord to help you hold these open-handedly! Try to give them up for a few days or a week, no excuses. It's so hard because we feel this entitlement to "treats" when we have a bad day or long day. I'm not saying it's wrong to have sweets or watch TV. We just have to be so careful not to fill our voids with these things. God is dealing with me on this issue almost hourly, so you are not alone! Let me know what you need to give up and I will pray for you!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Conversation Every Mother Dreads....at least I did!

I'm deviating from my previous topic to have a "mommy moment." I had a 40 minute conversation with my 8 year old that every mom dreads. No, not the "birds and the bees" convo, much worse. It started by her saying she wanted to switch schools. What???? I've never heard her say anything bad about her school in the four years she's been there. So I dug deeper and asked her a lot of questions.

She told me about how she got teased today. Some girls in her class took a book of hers that she took to lunch to read in the cafeteria. She asked for it back and they continued to pass it back and forth to each other until she started to walk towards the teacher. My first reaction was to go to school and punch those little girls for hurting my daughter's feelings. Apparently this is not the first time this has happened, which made me feel worse. Uggghhh! Why are kids so mean?

So what to do as a mom to help her child work through this? The answer is not to pull her out of the school, but how do I help her deal with this life lesson? I started by saying the usual, "the people who tease are usually insecure and want to feel better about themselves, so they try to make someone else look stupid." and "they could be jealous of you." Then I went on to tell her that without a doubt, she can always remember that first off her heavenly Father and her mom and dad love her no matter what anyone says.

The biggest lesson came next when I asked if she thought she could pray for those girls that God would help her to love them. Her answer was genuine, "I think I will want to pray for myself more." This I totally understand, especially since I wanted to "sock it" to those girls! So I shared a story about when I was bullied by a girl in middle school (she was actually my roommate at my boarding school). She called me names, teased me and even hit me at times. None of the staff would believe those of us she bullied, so we felt so alone. I'll never forget a lady who did believe me and what she asked me to do changed my spiritual life forever. She said, "Diane, have you thought about praying for ______? Pray that God would change your heart for her, to love her." I thought she was crazy, but grudgingly gave it a try. God totally transformed "me" and I loved her. I couldn't help it, it just poured out of me. I knew it was just God's love coming through me. It was such an amazing answer to prayer, beyond what I thought would happen. Even better, this girl came back from the summer break a totally different person and she even thanked me for loving her!

It was exciting to be able to share this experience with Eliza. Even though I want to take all the pain and trials for my children so they don't have to bear it, I have to remember how much these things can build them up, mature them in their faith. Much like it did me. I don't want to rob her of the joy of seeing prayer work in her young life. My job now is to walk with her through this time, speaking truth about who God says she is and to model grace for her by praying with her for these girls. Praying that they would see Christ in Eliza, and experience His love for them and be changed by it. Isn't this our purpose in life? I finished by telling Eliza that God has called her to be a missionary in her school! What a rich privilege to do God's work at such a young age!!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tribute to Vicky

Sweet Vicky, I really miss you. I've been thinking about you a lot lately. I know you are so happy and satisfied up there with our Father. You're probably drinking the best cup of coffee and chatting with Him right now. Or running tireless down the most beautiful beach in your new body. I can just see you with that smile, the joy radiating from your face. That's the one comfort I have to this void your absence has left.

I learned so much from my relationship with you. I'll never forget the times we prayed together, the time we burned your address book of dealer's numbers, going to get coffee (vanilla bean frapp. was always your favorite), studying out of the Good New's Bible with the little pictures you loved, taking walks through parks, talking about little critters and gardening. God really spoke to you through His creation. I'll never forget the Cardinal the Lord sent to show you that He truly cared for you and had not abandoned you!

I miss hearing you joke around with everyone, even when you were so sick in the hospital you would joke around with the hospital staff. You were a stubborn cat, too. Sometimes I got so frustrated with you, but I couldn't stay there, I just loved you so much. You were one of the only people that I wasn't afraid to be totally blunt with. I knew you'd get mad, maybe, but knew that you were loyal and wouldn't reject me. Because of this I was able to share some hard truth with you and you would listen.

I miss hearing you say, "Good googly-moogly," "Girl-bye!!," "Absolutely!!," to name a few. I miss your head thrown back in laughter and your chuckle. I miss how you called me all the time: "whatcha doin'" you'd say and you would always ask how I was. Then you would end with "love, bye."

It's nearing your birthday. Last year we were supposed to have a big party to celebrate your being drug-free for 2 years. Instead you spent it in the hospital. I guess your funeral was that celebration-you will never struggle again, my dear friend.

I wanted you to write a book and travel and talk with women with addictions and on the streets. I had huge dreams for you. But I guess God wanted you home more. I can see why, I'm sure you add some "spice" to the heavenlies! Your imprint lives on in my heart. I hope I can do it justice and share your story with others. I look forward to seeing you on the other side of those pearly gates. And I know you will not be scrubbing those gates like you used to joke. I know you're at our Father's feet right now basking in His eternal love. I love you, sweet friend!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Fatigue, IBS, Impossible Diets, What Next???

I haven't posted in so long. Partly because I still feel like I'm sleepless in Greensboro!! If it's not one child it's been another to wake up with nightmares and climb in bed (usually it's Jacob). Although the Lord has taught me through this that I can be thankful, it still does not make for a good night's sleep.

More recently, like this morning, I've been motivated to write about my experience with my physical body. A year ago this past Nov. I started to feel terrible: nauseated, bloated, gassy, and extremely exhausted. I went to my Dr., we checked on my gall bladder, kidneys and all that. Then through lengthy conversations my Dr. diagnosed me with Fructose Mal absorption. I researched it to death and found a diet: FOD MAPS to follow. It was depressing because I had to give up everything with gluten and many fruits and veggies that I loved. But I did and lost 10 pounds right off the bat (note: I was only eating veggies and fruit the diet allowed, no grains, when I lost the weight).

I started to feel better for a while. But some things were still bothering me and it was hard to figure out what it was. I would still have gas every now and then, my bowels still not 100%. I had to guess what it was that bothering me. My husband would say, "oh no, what did you eat?" My answer was usually, "I don't know what's bothering me!!!" I still stuck to the diet as faithfully as I could, even making my own bread. I added coffee back into my diet because it is one thing that I truly enjoy and I had to give up so much already. I added in some very dark chocolate too and mozzarella cheese. What is life without cheese? My problems started to get worse again and I still had the fatigue and gained the weight back that I had lost. Aargh!!!

So, fast forward to this January, more than a year on this FODMAPS diet. A friend told me about a friend of hers that was blogging about her struggles with Candida. Her symptoms seemed similar to mine. Sooo, I went home and looked it up and proceeded to research it. I was floored by how much it seemed to relate to me! Soon it became overwhelming because so many people have different theories and ways of getting rid of it. Some views were so hopeful and some depressing. I did a simple spit test you can do at home and took a quiz that some Dr.s came up with to figure out at what level you might have this yeast overgrowth. My score came out to be the moderate to severe category, so I decided to give it a try.

I took notes of different herbs and detox diets that I could do. I found some really helpful websites. WholeApproach.com has a helpful diet to follow. I gave up bread, caffeine, coffee, anything with sugar, Greek yogurt, mozzarella cheese, chips and many fruits. I was able to add onions and garlic back into my diet, so at least my food could have some flavor. I stopped taking my multi-vitamins (one website said this can hinder the "die-off" of the yeast because it feeds the yeast in some way-major paraphrase). I started taking a good pro-biotic called Threelac that I found on a website: candidasupport.org. This website suggests you only need to take these probiotics and will be good to go. That wasn't my complete experience. I chose to also do the diet in order to really "starve" the yeast and therefore have it out of my system quicker.

I had been trying to exercise regularly when all of this was happening. Talk about torture, though. When you are so fatigued, thinking about exercising is the last thing on one's mind. But I made myself do it, thanks to my dog who needed the exercise as well (he was my main motivation). And Jilian Michaels can be quite persuasive on her work out videos, too. Between the diet, regular exercise, probiotics, anti-fungals and liver support natural herbs, I've been doing really well. I'm still a bit fatigued, but can tell a big difference from before I started (I've only been doing this 5 weeks). I have less gas and bowel issues (some, I believe, is experienced through the "die-off" of the yeast, from what I've read). The diet is rather restrictive and expensive, but seems worth it.

These are just the physical details of my experience. There is so much more to it that God has taught me through this whole experience. I would love to share it all with you, but not in this one post. So keep checking and I will share my experience with you!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Just Another Statistic

As I was driving through my neighborhood last night, I saw an old friend hanging out on "the block." She waved me down and I stopped to talk to her. We talked for a few moments about a mutual friend and then she asked me if I had heard about Linda. I rarely watch, read or listen to the news because it overwhelms me, so I hadn't heard. Linda was hit by a car on Lee St., blocks from my house and she had died.

Linda, one day a living breathing creation of God, the next day just another statistic among the poor. Although she may not be missed by most people, her death is very real to the poor/homeless in this area. Even if they aren't that sad that she's gone, they realize it could have easily been one of the them.

Linda was a broken woman. I could tell you the bad things that Linda did and to you it would justify my times of frustration with her. Linda was so bound up by her addiction that she did anything to serve it as her god. So many times we tried to talk to her, gave her food and prayed for her. It was like a brick wall stood between us, truth and love could not seem to penetrate. It saddened my heart every time I saw her walking. This tiny woman, sometimes wearing different colored wigs walked up and down the streets panhandling at different stoplights. She was on a mission to sacrifice whatever she needed to, even her dignity, as an act of worship to this god of hers.

On one such event it was a friend of mine who Linda waved down, asking for money. My friend said she wouldn't give her money, but could bring her some food. To this Linda replied in anger and walked off. My eight-year-old, Eliza, happened to be in the car and witnessed this event. She knew Linda because we prayed for her as a family. Eliza said, with tears in her eyes, "I wish there was no such thing as drugs!"

I wish there wasn't such a thing, too, sweetheart. There is so much brokenness in this world and it's heartbreaking. God promises His people, who are doing wicked things, in Isaiah 30, that "in returning and rest you will be saved; in quietness and trust shall be your strength." Verse 18 says, "the LORD longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are those who wait for Him." Linda could have experienced this quietness and strength, but she chose to run off on her "swift horse," just like the children of Israel did. Even though God offered this grace, they did not accept, but ran away from it.

I wish our world could see God's mercy and grace for ALL. Linda is not just another statistic to God. He saw her pain, her affliction, her chains. He already forgave her for all of her sins. Whether or not she believed that, I will never know. I just pray that we will seek God on how to allow His Spirit, through us, to penetrate the walls of sin, showing His love and graciousness to ALL people. Let us not just treat them as another future statistic!