The things I could write about…

There are a  few things I could write about today.

 

I could talk about the fact that we’ve kept The Thinker home from school today because we didn’t want him to be in the Halloween parade.  Halloween has been one of the biggest culture shocks for us to see.  But I’m too chicken to write about it just now.

I could talk about the minefield of a relationship that I have with a relative.  How this week I felt moved to write a note of pure encouragement and love, I went out of my comfort zone – but in doing so had to negotiate my way around how she may have perceived things.  A real minefield – but I was motivated by love.  But I am still working through how I feel about a zero response so far.

I could talk about how I am so blessed by a couple of blossoming friendships here and how my existing friendships still mean so much to me and I don’t see anything wrong with that and I will continue to hold onto them and be a friend in every way I can.  Though distance separates us.

So many things I could talk about.

 

But you know what?

 

I am going to leave the computer for a while this morning. I am going to admire newly built train tracks, brush little pearly white teeth, and bake mini pumpkin pies with my munchkins.  And in the doing of what I love to do most – the Mummy thing – then maybe I will see with a bit more clarity what I could write about…..

 

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Thoughtful Thursday

‘ People can only love outside and can only kiss outside, but Mister God can kiss you right inside, so it’s different.  Mister God ain’t like us; we are a little bit like Mister God. But not much yet’

– ‘Mister God this is Anna’ by Fynn.

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The Rollercoaster

I’m on a rollercoaster ride at the moment.  It’s not something I would actually pay money to do – and there aren’t any giant mice following me around or princesses or spinning teacups.

I’ve done this rollercoaster ride before, so the feelings that come from this ride are not new.

The rollercoaster ride is a means to an end.  The destination is one where  hard work prevails, but the results are endless – without boundaries. Love and joy. Sacrifice and wisdom is needed.

I promised myself that I would not let my emotions rise and fall as the ride goes through the highs and lows.  I promised myself.  Those feelings though…wow…they are strong.  You can’t just turn off your feelings can you?  Or can you?

You can fill your head with scripture…….you can go over the promises of God…….you can read God’s truth……you can let the Holy Spirit’s peace invade every part of you……

Can you turn off your feelings?  Your emotions?  I believe women have emotions for a reason – emotions make us women compassionate  and enable us to show empathy, enable us to relate, to bond and form community.  But aren’t they a pain sometimes??

I am learning it is about balance.  Allowing yourself to feel things, without letting it affect how you interact with others, how you live your day to day life and how you communicate with those around you – especially those who are closest to you.  I guess it is about knowing that ultimately God has ALL things under His control.

With this particular rollercoaster ride I can be sad or happy, joyful or cross, patient or impatient.  Here’s the thing though, I can choose to stay being sad or happy, joyful or cross, patient or impatient, or not.  I can’t just flick a switch and decide not to ‘feel’ anything.  I am not made of steel – I am not like the tin man in the Wizard of Oz for I have a heart!!

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How do you control your feelings?

A Giggle Moment

‘The Hurricane’ made me giggle today.  Giggle aloud.  He was heading outside to play when he leaned back in, and earnestly asked ‘what time do you want me home Mom?’.

Well sunshine…..here’s the thing…….1.  You’re three and you’re not allowed past the fire hydrant – so I can see you at all times.  2.  You can’t tell the time yet  3.  Your days of playing outside of my sight are years away….

It was a very funny moment and one that can only come from having an older brother around.  You see ‘The Thinker’, aged seven is allowed to play past the fire hydrant.  He has a certain amount of freedom in that he can play outside past the fire hydrant, as long as he obeys the rules we have for him.  And he does obey them.  Hence the ‘what time do you want me home?’ question uttered by the three year old, as it is something he hears a lot.

For now ‘The Hurricane’ has to be content to be close to me.  He thinks he’s big enough and clever enough to do anything.  There will come a day when I will have to trust him, as I have to trust ‘The Thinker’ that he can play safely and responsibly without me seeing and hearing all.  I have to trust my children, yes, but more importantly I need to trust our Father.  Their heavenly Father. Trust that He will keep them safe.

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Journey to Diagnosis

For a while I was on a ‘cream donut a day’ diet.  I found some delicious fresh donuts at my local bakery – soft, and sweet and topped with a coffee icing.  Mmmm.  So I ate one a day.  No I wasn’t starving myself and bingeing on the donuts.  No. I was on Doctors orders to eat fat.  So eat fat I did, with much gusto!

That diet was part of my journey to a diagnosis.  October is National Celiac Disease awareness month, and next month is the two year anniversary of receiving the news that I have celiac disease, so I thought it was only fitting to try to put into words the journey that I undertook before hearing that I have this condition.  I apologize now if this turns out to be a rather lengthy post……it was a rather lengthy journey – in fact it took three and half years before I was given a definitive answer to my problems.

Celiac disease is a  disease in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged from eating gluten and other proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats.  The symptoms of celiac disease vary greatly from person to person – my symptoms were most unusual – thus the lengthy journey I had to undertake to get a diagnosis.  Treatment for the disease is the simple part – avoid the bad foods and the stomach heals itself and other symptoms go away….some see that as a life sentence – for me it was an answer and a way to live pain-free.

So here’s my story….

Celiac disease can develop at any time  – from infancy to late adulthood.  We aren’t sure when I first developed it but wonder if it happened when my body was recovering from my second miscarriage, which was just as traumatic for my physical body as it was for my emotional state.  My oldest son was about 18 months old when I got pregnant, but I was severely sick with morning sickness.  I was throwing up all day and every day.  In thirteen weeks I lost eight kilograms  (18 lbs)of weight.  We found out at the baby’s 13 week mark that the baby’s heartbeat was not there – she had not survived past eleven weeks.  The whole ordeal is worth a post in itself – when God grants me the words to write I will share the story.

When I was trying to recover from the miscarriage I developed a really bad case of sinusitis.  I took three courses of antibiotics, the sinusitis symptoms seemed to finally disappear but I was left in really bad pain on one side of my face.

While all that was going on we moved house and I got myself a new Doctor.  I had been getting to know this dear Christian lady through a mutual friend of ours, so when we moved into the neighbourhood where she had her medical practice, it made sense to start seeing her for my medical care.

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What happened next was the start of the investigations as to why this pain was persisting in my face.  I saw three different Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists, three different dentists and started trialling various painkillers.  No-one  could give me an answer as to why this pain was happening and none of the drugs worked, like really worked to cut through the pain.  I ended up giving up on the specialists appointments as I got the feeling that they weren’t taking me seriously.  That ain’t good for your self-esteem when you’re already feeling very low because of your low body weight, unexplained infertility with trying to conceive again and also dealing with outside circumstances such as car accidents, moving house, financial struggles etc.  It was a tough time.  A really tough time.  But let me say this as well – as tough as it was – I still had things to smile about – things that brought me joy – but the pain was there – underlying everything else.  Making everything else just that extra bit harder.

We also thought I had endometriosis – we thought that was the reason for the infertility so we scraped together the money to have investigative surgery for that matter.  Nope.  I was so disappointed to be told ‘no, that’s not something you have’.  I just wanted an explanation for that particular pain I was having. I wanted any explanation for why my body was aching in different places.  Why I had trouble falling asleep because of the pain.  Why the tears were never far away.  Now, hindsight is a wonderful thing – we now know that my suspected endometriosis pain was actually a symptom of the celiac disease – it can cause abdominal pain and swelling and also infertility.  Anyway the investigative laparoscopy I had actually helped the baby-making situation and I to everyone’s wonder and delight fell pregnant the following month.  The doctors had said it wouldn’t happen until I had put on more weight – thus the high fat diet I was on – but it must have been God’s timing.  I got pregnant anyway and the very week I got the positive pregnancy test I started to put on weight.  Just like that. I had morning sickness and vomiting like I did with my other pregnancies but I still managed to put on weight and keep it on…something I had struggled to do for months prior to that.

The pregnancy had been so longed for and so eagerly anticipated that it seemed to make my face pain fade away.  It was still there – but was easier to cope with, maybe because I had to cope with the morning sickness and my focus was elsewhere.  Maybe the hormones present in pregnancy helped to mask the pain.

I went on to have my gorgeous baby boy, Luka, and then the face pain seemed to get worse again.  I was limited to what painkillers I could use because of breastfeeding…its amazing what you can cope with when you need to. I was determined to breastfeed for a year and so I did.  Then I weaned Luka straight onto cow’s milk….and promptly went back to my doctor. I needed better painkillers and I needed to get to the bottom of this mystery pain once and for all.

Once again I was put back onto the public health waiting lists, given a high priority  and was seen again by more specialists.  This time I had the whole array of tests possible  including a CT scan and an MRI scan.  Nothing was obvious, nothing was there.  My dear doctor believed me – she could see how long-suffering I was, she could see how weakened my body was from sleepless nights from the pain and she kept trying me on different painkillers.  My next referral was to a pain specialist.  I initially thought the pain specialist was just going to try me on different cocktails of drugs…but no…he was better than that…he was determined to find the root cause of my troubles.  He ordered a full set of blood tests that tested for things like vitamin and mineral levels in my body and also the antibodies for celiac disease. My tests came back negative for those antibodies but I had very bizarre levels of different vitamins and minerals in my body.  In particular my calcium, vitamin D and folate levels were very low.  Unusually low for someone who was eating very sensibly and exercising in the sun regularly. I took supplements and tried yet more painkillers and was sent to a physiotherapist and massage therapist to see if they could help my problem at all.

Nope.  They didn’t help – in fact they sometimes made the pain worse.  Some days the pain was bearable.  Other days the pain was intense – so intense I needed drugs that would cause me to lie down because of the nausea that they caused.  I took sleeping tablets to help me sleep – but they caused zombie like behavior.  If it wasn’t for my two little boys who needed me to get up in the mornings and get out of bed and to actually lead a semi-normal life I am sure I would have given up complete hope. And if it wasn’t for my husband who was so supportive and a couple of good friends who knew my situation and helped me through it, I would have stayed in bed every day, all day.

Finally, as a last attempt to try something, to try anything ,my doctor arranged for me to have a biopsy of my stomach lining.  Things just didn’t make sense – I was eating well – like really well, but whatever weight I had put on in pregnancy just kept dropping off me until I was nearly the lightest weight I had ever been again. Blood tests continued to show imbalances in my vitamin and mineral levels.  So I had the biopsy done, I ‘tolerated the procedure well’ the specialist wrote on my chart. I was just so pleased to have another try at cracking this mystery.  Five days later I was walking my son to school when I received a call on my cell phone from Doc Anna, asking me to come into her office as soon as I could that morning.  She kept an appointment open for me, and when I went in she told me the news – I have celiac disease.  The statistics say that 6% of people whose antibodies appear negative for celiac disease, still have it – for those people it is only diagnosable through an actual biopsy.  I was in that 6%.  After three and a half years of specialists, intense fiery pain and enough different drugs to open my own drugstore, I finally had a reason for my suffering.  I cried in her office like I had many times before – only these were not tears of frustration, pain or self pity, but rather tears of relief. After a celebratory dessert of one last  real tiramisu I changed my diet to be completely gluten free and within three months had weaned myself off all my drugs and was totally pain free.

If you’re wondering why my main symptom for celiac disease was pain on one side of my face when most people have issues with their stomach and bowel…we can only conclude that after having such bad sinusitis this created my vulnerable spot in my body – and that celiac disease affects bones and muscles and joints.

So where was God when I was going through all that?  I didn’t always feel it at the time, but I knew He was right there with me.  He provided me with a doctor who became my advocate. When I didn’t have the energy she fought for me – she persisted in fighting for me to find a reason.  She didn’t dismiss me as a weirdo who was imagining the pain, the response I felt I got from a few of my specialists.  My doctor prayed for me and with me.  She made me feel human, when I certainly didn’t feel normal.  God provided me with my darling husband and couple of real friends who were the shoulders I needed to cry on.  For a number of reasons while I was going through all this pain I kept it a secret from our families.  But my friends and husband were the support that I needed.  When I felt physically unattractive, and as ugly as a duckling my husband still desired me and spoke words of encouragement to me.

Although there were days when I felt like I just could not carry on, somehow I still could.  Somehow I could summon up the energy and place a smile on my face for my boys.  Only God can provide that kind of energy – when your physical resources are just depleted.

On my journey to my diagnosis I cried many tears, but I know that God was collecting them all.  I learnt patience along the way. I learnt to open up to my friends about what I was going through – to lose a little of my stroppy independent ways.  I learnt how to empathise with people who are also going through their own pain journeys – especially when the pain is invisible to others as mine was.  I learnt that God is not always the God of instant answers and instant remedies – there is much to be learnt on the journey.  I learnt that I am loved with an everlasting love by both my spunky hunk and sovereign Lord and that doesn’t change no matter how I look or how I feel.

It was a long journey, but it wasn’t walked alone.  And if you are facing your own long journey – please know that you are not facing your journey alone either.

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It is well

Horatio Gates Spafford.  Now that’s a name.  A fine and dandy name for a fine and dandy man.  Do you know who he is?  I do now.  We sang that beloved hymn ‘It is well with my soul’ on Sunday, and I listened, really listened to those beautiful calm words, and thought to myself I need to find out more about this man.

Now I already knew that this man had written this song after facing terrible tragedy – his four daughters had just perished at sea and he wrote this song on the way to join his wife after the awful life-altering event.  That part of his life seems to be well known, but I wanted to know more….what made this man tick? How could his faith be so rock solid?

I’ve done a little research and will share my thoughts thus far – but I reckon there is much, much more to learn from ‘ol Horatio.

Ok so Horatio was an American.  He was a lawyer and also an investor, and lost a lot of what he had in assets in the Great Chicago Fire (1871).  Two years later Horatio decided his family needed a holiday – can’t blame him really, and they chose England as their destination because…get this….he was good friends with the preacher D L Moody and he wanted to hear Moody preach in England.  A ha!!!  Horatio had a deep faith – helped no doubt by the company he kept.  If he could call Moody a friend, and decide that out of anywhere in the world he could go, he chose to visit Moody and be a part of Moody’s’ inner circle’ I guess.   Which speaks to me that Horatio kept some pretty cool company…..wise move Mr Spafford.

Anyway Horatio had some last minute business to attend to, so sent the family on ahead.  His four daughters died as a result of the ship they were on being struck by another ship – but his wife survived.  ‘Saved alone’ were the words on that now famous telegraph she sent to her husband once she arrived in England.

Horatio penned the words to the song while on the journey to join his wife, in England.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

(Refrain:) It is well (it is well),
with my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
(Refrain)

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
(Refrain)

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pain shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
(Refrain)

And Lord haste the day, when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I could say ‘It is well with my soul’, after having four kids die.  I really don’t think I could say it directly after their deaths, and I wonder if I could even say it in the following months or years…..but maybe, just maybe it was something Horatio had to say.  Just had to proclaim, to speak aloud what he knew to be true.  To speak it into being – thus becoming easier to believe.  I don’t know, but maybe, just maybe, in the process of telling himself it is well, it is well….then slowly, but surely, his nightmare turned into a situation where God was still acknowledged and still in control…..just maybe it was part of his healing process.

The story of Horatio doesn’t just end there with a great song, that is still blessing others today.  O no.  Horatio and his wife went on to have more children (two girls and a boy – sadly the boy died of pneumonia) and the Spaffords moved to Jerusalem, as part of the American Colony.  They led a group of thirteen adults and three children to set up a Christian colony to engage in work with the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities in Jerusalem.  During and immediately after World War One the American Colony played a vital part in helping these communities by running soup kitchens, hospitals, and orphanages.

Horatio and his family didn’t just limit themselves by what they had experienced and let their heartache eat them up.  No they persevered – they worked for the Lord, through the thick and thin. I doubt it was ever easy.  But, by golly, I bet there was rejoicing in heaven when Horatio entered (he died of malaria and was buried in Jerusalem).  Well done my good and faithful servant.  And when I meet ‘ol Horatio in heaven, I’m going to thank him for his song and the fact that it really sums up the Christian walk so well.