Off to School we Go!

God always, ALWAYS, is with us.  He provided me an opportunity to go on a private retreat the first weekend of August.  At this point, only Benjamin was accepted into school.  The others were on the waitlist in positions ranging from 10-27, which didn’t look too hopeful.  I struggled with grabbing back the familiar and the control.  It’s my default move to just take it all back and not trust in the bigger plan.  But, God patiently and lovingly spoke to me: to my heart in adoration and through the books I read.  I called Patrick and was so confident in God’s will for us that I was able to speak my need clearly and succinctly.  We had to enroll the kids in school and UME was the right school for us.  If they didn’t get in at first, then Patrick agreed to oversee the daily checklist and grading the Math and I would oversee the school during the day.  Our intermediate plan was to homeschool until they were accepted.  The next week a friend alerted me that the kids may not be listed as Benjamin’s siblings, which would affect the waitlist status.  Sure enough, when I called the school we discovered that a change in the computer system had left them detached from Benjamin.  When this error was corrected all the kids were moved up to positions ranging from 1 to 10.  It was a little sliver of hope and encouragement.

Benjamin started school on August 17.  I took all six kids with me to the Open House, so that in the event they were admitted they would be familiar with the school and some of the teachers.  Patrick was supposed to go with us, but his dentist appointment ran long and he could no longer meet up with us.  This event alone would have put me into a full panic attack just a mere 6 months ago.  But, God equips us to do His will.  There was no anxiety within me.  We saw a few families that we knew, but mostly it felt as if we just floated from room to room in a bubble, met the teachers we needed to meet and I left feeling excited and at peace about the new possibilities.  This is God’s grace in action.

By Friday, Daniel, Samuel and Sophia were enrolled.  One week later Joshua began his first day of 7th grade.  It only took 10 days for five of the six kids to be fully enrolled!  While I was on retreat, it looked like it could be the next semester or not at all; but, God was just giving me the opportunity to put my trust in Him.  He is such a loving, gentle and patient teacher.

So, we happily pack our lunches and backpacks, the kids cheerily skip off to school each morning and I sit drinking my coffee and lay by the pool soaking in the quiet.  Not a all.  The early mornings are a definite struggle.  Patrick oversees breakfast, getting the kids awake and dressed, and takes them to Shelly’s. (We carpool with a friend, but our car is the only one big enough to carry everyone, so it’s quite the system of exchanging vehicles in order to get the kids from point A to point B; but, it is also quite a blessing).  I haven’t slept well since school started, so my rising and my movement is very slow and limited.  I manage to get a few tasks accomplished and then I go to pick the kids up.  It is a 25 minute drive one direction.  We arrive home and dig into homework, which leads directly into dinner preparation and clean up, family reading time, prayers and bedtime.  This six-hour period of constant activity leaves me feeling like a wrung out washrag.  At the same time, Patrick is finishing a fourteen-hour work day and isn’t in much better shape.  After a week, the kids excitement and fascination with going to school has worn off and it takes a little more effort to get everyone motivated and moving.  Homeschooling was actually much easier and more efficient.  I won’t lie, I’ve already thought about throwing in the towel.

I was actually contemplating if we had made a huge mistake by putting them in school when I saw a video that my doctor posted on Facebook.  He spoke about walking through the fire.  He said things like “we always have something to learn” and “maybe it’s not about us, but about what other people see in our journey.” BAM!  God lead us to this path.  We are here at this moment, in this place for a reason.  It is hard, brutally difficult and challenging.  It is especially a struggle because I know that the hardships we are facing to make this school thing happen can be relieved by just going back to homeschooling.  But, I can not–must not–look back.  No, comparison and “what ifs” are the handy  work of the enemy.  God is calling us to go forward, to trust in Him completely.  He has a plan for us and the lesson in it is not only for me.  God wants to use our family and our story to show His goodness.  I will not stand in His way.

I beg your prayers for us during this time of transition.  We really are feeling the physical effects of this effort.  Pray for strength for us, for perseverance for all, and for all to learn the lesson that God is teaching us through the experience.  Thank you for journeying with me.

UPDATE:  In the midst of this transition, we have a new granddaughter!  Savannah Grace made her appearance at 5 am this morning.  And this Saturday we will gain a son when our daughter, Lauren celebrates the Sacrament of Matrimony with Matthew Perrier.  Such blessings in our lives!!  All Praise and Glory to God be given.

The Brave New World: Living Gluten Free

Gluten was one of the first things to be eliminated from my diet when I started working with my Nutritional Therapy Practitioner.  I have a nephew with Celiac, so I was not foreign to the concept; but, that does not make it less difficult either.  In fact, I gave up gluten, soy, dairy, corn and beef.  What does that leave me to eat?  That was the same question I had! It turned out that I had plenty of edible choices.  It’s just that none of those included anything that came in a box, carton or package.  And it definitely meant that my shopping had to expand beyond the Neighborhood Walmart store.  The change was a challenge, but the results were apparent as well.  I took an 80/20- Better-Than attitude (eating clean and sticking to the restrictions at least 80% of the time and choosing options that were “better than” other options).  I plowed forward with my new lifestyle dragging my family with me.  I had the idea that I could still have gluten or corn or dairy sometimes as long as I didn’t eat it too often.

Eventually, I came to understand that gluten had a bigger impact on my body than I first thought.  Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis was showing up in my bloodwork and gluten is believed to trigger the autoimmune response similar to Celiac Disease, but the body attacks the thyroid gland vs. the digestive system.  So, I doubled down and began to really focus on removing all gluten from my diet.  I didn’t realize how critical this was until I caved in a moment of hurry and hunger and the overwhelming desire for a hamburger.  A few hours later my heart was racing, my anxiety spiked, and I was more irritable than a swarm of wasps knocked from their nest.   It took me three days to recover.  It was at that moment I truly understood food allergies and the severity.  I began to ask waiters about gluten in meals and having them double check with the chef.  I became that annoying person with the food sensitivity that we laugh at in YouTube videos (which I find more humorous now than ever before).  My mistake now was trusting the servers.

Even when the server says that a meal is “gluten free” or “gluten sensitive”, when the menu has those cute little “gf” indicators next to the items, it is still not a guarantee that it is not contaminated with gluten.  There are a couple of places that I have learned to trust in my experience: El Chico and Spring Creek BBQ–minus the hot bread ;-(.  But, eating the same thing every time we go out can be pretty boring, so occasionally we will try out a new place.  So far, I’m batting 1000 at new places claiming gf options and finding out the hard way that their claims were false.  Last week I had the worst reaction so far.   We tried a new Mexican restaurant and both the server and the manager assured me that I could eat the enchiladas espinaca.  At 2am they were proved wrong.  I didn’t sleep for the next 36 hours.  When I finally did sleep for four hours I woke up unable to move, my limbs feeling like they were filled with cement.  My sweet Angela became my nurse and gave me the supplements I needed to support my body through the reaction.  What started as a wonderful date on Thursday evening, would lead to the next 5 days in bed.

I am not happy about it.  Eating out and getting the break from planning and cooking a meal is a huge treat form me.  At the same time, playing Russian Roulette with my body is just not worth the risk.  So, I face another change of attitude.  It is a new reality that when I travel I will have to prepare my own food in advance for the length of my trip.  I will probably be packing my griddle and Instant Pot to cook in the hotel room.  And family gatherings will not mean a day of munchies and treats that I didn’t have to prepare.  It will mean extra preparation and planning to make sure that I have food to eat that is safe for me.  But, I’m no different than anyone else with special needs.  It is part of the reality and the struggle.  I’m puttin’ on my big girl pants and taking this challenge head on.  Last night we had our first date night since the incident.  I planned the meal, my kids cooked it and served my husband and I in our bedroom.  We ate at a card table with a candle.  The kids kept popping in out of newfound curiosity.  It was such a great learning opportunity for them.  It is important for kids to see their parents in love and on dates.  It was an opportunity for us to receive their service of love as well.  After dinner, we snuck out the back door and went for a swim undetected by the kids.  It was refreshing and relaxing and the first swim in years where kids weren’t on top of me in the pool.  I guess that is exactly what it means to make lemonade out of lemons.  And I’m happy to do just that.  After all, lemons are naturally gluten free.

Arrow of God

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“An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties it means that it’s going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming.” Unknown

A few weeks ago this quote came across Facebook in the form of a meme. It really jumped out at me, because after hitting the low in December 2013, I had really made strides of improvement. I thought I was over the hump in my health journey and things were going quite well. One year after my retreat, I was back to home schooling, managing the home and venturing out teaching classes on Essential Oils. January 2015 brought new struggles, however–and call it what you will (physical ailment or spiritual warfare)—each time I planned a class, a break, or down time I became ill and my wings were clipped once again. I dug deeper, prayed harder for more strength, more grace to carry my cross; but, I just couldn’t seem to get on top of it all. I thought I needed to do more or be more.

After several weeks of fighting this battle of my perceived weakness, I cried out in prayer, “Lord, make me stronger. Help me to carry this cross and offer up the suffering.” He answered. Not the way I was expecting though. On the way home from church that Sunday my left temple began to throb. By the time I crawled into bed I had a massive migraine that left me weaker than I began the day. As I lay crying and wishing the pain to stop, I quipped to my friend, “I just wish Jesus wouldn’t hug me so tightly. Dude, take the crown off first.” We laughed, but it brought some sense of peace knowing that I could unite my meager sufferings with His.

The migraine would last for five days. It was stressed induced, nothing major, nothing that couldn’t be healed.  But, it set me back. Back in bed. Back to severe adrenal fatigue. Back to no energy and relying on others to care for me. I am that arrow and God was pulling me back, so that He could make me fly even farther than I dreamed. He hasn’t released me yet. I sit taut, focusing, aiming, waiting for His perfect timing to hit the mark. I have had to look inward at my sinfulness and pride. I am learning to hand the control back over to Him and walk in complete faith. I am healing old wounds through humility, compassion, mercy and encouragement.

Humility in the form of panic attacks so crippling I couldn’t leave my room for weeks. I had to reach out—yet again—to ask for help in caring for my children. Yet, once I humbled myself, I was blessed with a pouring out of love and care that words of gratitude cannot suffice. My husband made changes of his own and has stretched and grown. He’s been so supportive and open to change. This is truly what sacramental marriage is all about. What an awesome opportunity God has given me to see how much I am loved.

Compassion. One cannot go through suffering without becoming more attune to others’ sufferings. Each person I contacted had an equal or even greater burden of suffering. By sharing my story, they opened their hearts and released their own burdens to me. We weep together and it makes the journey more bearable.

Merciful. How can I condemn another for sinfulness, when I am a sinner? I understand the addict better, because after five days of continuous and excrutiating pain, I can imagine wanting to do something, anything to make it stop. Without support, I could have fallen into the temptation just as easily. After being judged wrongly, I have mercy for those who cause injury to me. “Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do.” I recognize that others’ reactions are a reflection of their own woundedness and not of me. And I pray for them as well.

Encouragement. Charity. Love. These are the tools to remedy ill and sin. I read recently in some spiritual readings that there are three ways for wisdom to abound: 1. Confess your sins 2. Give thanks and praise to God 3. Use edifying speech. I had to look up the definition of edifying. It means to encourage one another to do good and avoid evil. I think this is pretty sound advice. Simple, yet life changing.

So, as we continue the Lenten journey, I ask you to pray for me and for my family. I encourage you to seek the Sacrament of Confession and pour out your burdens to Christ, the Healer. This is not an easy time, but it is still a time to praise and thank the Lord for His blessings and His lessons. So, I ask you to join me in praising God for all His blessings—wanted and unwanted. And lastly, I will continue to lift you in prayer as well. May His grace and peace be with you every step of life’s journey.