I woke up the other day thinking of this photo that my daughter and I took awhile ago while we were out walking. And I couldn’t help but think that it so perfectly encapsulates the journey I’ve been on. The hard ground that seed fell on, a place seemingly impossible to grow in, and yet…
It’s been quite a year. A hard year. A year of facing some of the darkness within that needed to be dealt with. I’ve been struggling with some health issues the last few years, actually, which, have thrown a major monkey wrench into my typically stable, healthy existence. I have always been a pretty healthy person who tended to avoid doctors and most medication. So it was very difficult for me to admit that I really needed to see a doctor. And then even harder to keep going back for more tests, and to more specialists, none of whom could tell me what was wrong with me. In the last couple of years, I have really started to lose hope that I would ever get any real answers.
If only I had remembered that God was working, despite the darkness, that answers were coming even though I couldn’t see them. It’s been a long road, but a testament to His faithfulness, to the point where just typing these words is bringing me to tears again. It’s so easy to look back now and see how He was working – if only I could keep remembering that amidst the valleys! I share this story as my song of glory and thanksgiving to Him, and also as a witness to anyone who, like me, has a tough time remembering that God is always faithful, though at times, hidden.
When my youngest was a few months old, she had almost constant diaper rashes, which were finally diagnosed as yeast. None of the medicine prescribed was working, and I honestly hated exposing her to it anyway. I even tried using cloth diapers for a while, hoping the rashes would clear up. When I realized that they weren’t helping, I switched back, and decided to try to recoup some of the money spent by reselling the diapers on Ebay. In my listings, I mentioned the reason I was selling. A prospective buyer, who didn’t even end up bidding on the diapers, messaged me and recommended that I check out her website, as she and her baby had experience with MRSA (a staph bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics). We exchanged a couple of emails. Turns out she was a new Christian, so I invited her to check out my blog as well. It was right after Christmastime, and my blog at that time was full of all the sugary treats we had made for Christmas. She very gently responded and said she “almost got a sugar high just reading about it all.” This comment may not have affected anyone else, but as it turned out, it was just what I needed at the time. You see, I was struggling greatly with an addictive eating disorder, which I had actually been battling for years, and couldn’t seem to get free of. Her comment shook me. I took a closer look at her website, and realized that my eating issues might very well be the root cause of, or at the very least, a major contributor to, my sweet baby girl’s yeast problem. What I didn’t connect, at the time, was that it was also contributing greatly to my own, seemingly unrelated health issues.
I emailed this woman and asked her lots of questions. She recommended, since I was exclusively nursing, that I eliminate all sugar, wheat, gluten, shellfish, nuts, soy, beef products (including dairy products), and corn. I was desperate at that point to help my daughter, and fortunately, that was enough to give me the willpower to actually try it (that, and the grace of God, of course!). My daughter’s yeast issues, while not completely cleared up, were definitely much improved. I dropped 20 pounds in just a few weeks, and most of my health issues pretty much disappeared. I was astounded. All this because some stranger, on Ebay of all places, had the courage to make that comment. It was clear to me that God had orchestrated this.
Then one of my sisters recommended the website www.wellnessmama.com, started by a nutritionist (Catholic, too!), who had developed tons and tons of gluten- and grain-free recipes. I learned from Katie’s site that my food addiction issues were not simply due to a lack of willpower on my part, but were actually just as real of an addiction as one to alcohol or drugs. This made me feel so much better, because I had been beating myself up for it for years, not realizing that even when I was eating “health” food, the type of food I was eating made it more difficult for me to break the cycle. I knew almost nothing about the chemical processes involved in our bodies’ responses to what we eat. For me, eating sugar and grains, especially those with gluten, was keeping me addicted. Considering the response my body had just experienced with my stricter diet, I was seeing the truth of it. And I thanked God for the ways He was leading and directing me through so many amazing people.
I “fell off the wagon” a bit after Easter last year, but hopped back on pretty quickly. And here’s where things started going downhill again, and where I “forgot” all the ways God had been working. Even when I was back onto the healthier diet, I began to put the weight back on, and the symptoms I had that had virtually disappeared began to reappear. “Wellness mama” had said that if that happened, there was an underlying issue that needed to be dealt with. But I had no idea where to start. For a long time, I let that feeling of overwhelm paralyze me. I stayed on the diet because I was convinced that it was better for all of us, but I think there was a part of me that kind of figured that I was just going to have to live with whatever was going on. I had once again lost hope of figuring it out.
But then one day I was searching for a gluten-free, honey-sweetened chocolate cake recipe for my son’s birthday. I ended up on the “Stop the Thyroid Madness” website (www.stopthethyroidmadness.com). The woman who had posted the recipe was hypothyroid and was on a very similar diet to the one I was on. I looked at her “before” picture (before her diagnosis and treatment), and it looked like I felt. Her “after” picture looked the way I felt after first starting the limited diet. I looked around the site further, and happened upon a list of symptoms for hypothyroidism. What I saw gave me hope like nothing else. For years I had been experiencing a large number of these symptoms, but had never thought to connect them to each other. But the thing that floored me was when I saw on the list the very symptom that had originally taken me to the doctor. When I saw that one, it made me take the rest of the list seriously. You see, I had never been able to describe my symptom satisfactorily to any of the doctors. The closest I could come was “shortness of breath,” but that wasn’t really it. Then, suddenly, looking at this list, I saw it — “air hunger.” And immediately, I knew I had hit on it. That is the perfect way to describe it. It’s the feeling that you can’t take a deep enough breath, even though you are actually getting enough oxygen. Over the last two years, I have been to my primary doctor, the pulmonologist (repeatedly), the cardiologist, and the allergist (who was convinced it was all allergy-related), and none of them could explain why a seemingly healthy person would be experiencing this. And now, by “God-incidence” I had stumbled on an answer, not only to this symptom, but to all the others that I hadn’t even known were related.
However, despite the new hope this discovery offered, I was still overwhelmed. There was so much information on the site that I just didn’t know where to start. And the thought of having to try to explain it all to my doctor, since thyroid issues are so often undiagnosed (I actually was tested twice for thyroid issues), or misdiagnosed, was enough to make me just cry. It definitely didn’t help that some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism are inability to focus, and depression. Add life with teenagers, tweens, gradeschoolers, and toddlers, homeschooling, sports, scouts, housework, a diet that usually requires me to cook three times a day, and a healthy dose of PMS, and you have my last week in a nutshell! My poor husband, I think, was probably relieved to be going out of town this past weekend!
Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there. Because God wasn’t done yet. I was chatting with my sister about it, and she mentioned that my aunt was going through some very similar health issues and had found a doctor who knew all about the protocol for testing and treating thyroid issues. I called my aunt, and found out that not only had she been experiencing loads of similar symptoms and struggles, but that she had had great success so far with treatment. I was still so emotional at that point that I spent half the conversation in tears, completely in awe that God had led me to the point where there was real hope for not only answers, but relief.
No wonder I woke up thinking of that little flower photo. That was me! My journey to grow isn’t over yet, but the picture is the perfect reminder for me when I am weak in my ability to trust. After looking at the photo again, it was only a small leap for my taxed brain to then remember Don Moen’s old worship song. For truly:
God will make a way, where there seems to be no way.
He works in ways we cannot see.
He will make a way for me.
He will be my guide,
hold me closely to His side,
with love and strength for each new day.
He will make a way. He will make a way.
By a roadway in the wilderness He’ll lead me,
and rivers in the desert I will see.
Heaven and earth will fade,
but His Word will still remain.
He will do something new today. (Don Moen)
Just in case you’re wondering, there are karaoke versions of several worship songs on You tube. What fun! It pays to have teenagers! Click the link and worship with me?