Crown of Life

I’ve been in that familiar place again, battling discouragement.

My son has been battling for so long.  First eczema.  Then topical steroid withdrawal.  Now residual skin infections and rashes that don’t seem to budge for nothing.

God only knows the pain we’ve experienced.  I say “we” because there is no pain like watching your baby suffer.  God only knows the tears.  The cries.  The sheer wretchedness.

The battle rages on.

I was reminded recently that sometimes there aren’t any words.  Or at least, words that should be spoken.  I was talking to a family member about trying to find God’s purpose in suffering and was barely even able to speak my piece before being barraged with a tidal wave of insensitive, unwanted advice.  When someone has been through a trial like that, really- they just want to be heard.  I know it is in our human nature to try to give a quick answer (when there isn’t one) and sometimes trite words of wisdom do far more harm than good.  I’ve had to wrestle through anger and just sheer weariness.  So please, if you know someone going through a tough trial; just be there for them.  Don’t pretend like you know what they are going through or dish out advice.  Just listen.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15

I try to be gracious because, really, sometimes we just have no idea.  I know I can look back on some things I said and did that were horribly insensitive, just because I simply didn’t know.  Walking through heartache, especially an extended season where there’s no end in sight, has a way of bringing humility that can’t be gained any other way.

What God has been speaking to me lately has been about the crown of victory.

“I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” Revelation 3:11

If you are a believer, you have an incredible inheritance.  You are already seated in Heavenly places.  You have a crown and you are royalty.  God wants you to become an overcomer.  If we didn’t have battles to fight, Goliaths to overcome- our stories wouldn’t be very interesting, would they?  We have a crown on our heads but a sword in our hands.  There are battles to be fought, giants to be defeated. 93cc36ecef5a2ed8211337bd08e96c82

Keep your chin up.  Keep fighting.

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book….Therefore we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day. For our light and temporary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our troubles.”  Psalm 56:8, 2 Cor. 4:17

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Gluten and Eczema

Awhile back I started my three kids on a gluten free diet.  For two main reasons- my 23 and Me test showed that my celiac disease is definitely genetic.  Plus, two of my kids struggle with A.D.D. issues and the other has horrible eczema/TSW.  There is a very strong link between gluten sensitivity and both conditions.

There was a lot of complaining for sure!  Especially my eldest, who said he’d rather deal with potential effects of eating gluten than cut out his favorite foods.  He’s slowly coming around.  He’s big on science and I took time to explain how gluten causes inflammation in virtually everyone, but that some people are genetically more susceptible.  Because celiac runs in our family, that would definitely include him.  Plus the gluten free offerings have gotten so much better and varied in the last few years.  When I first went gluten free the gluten free pasta was disgusting.  Now there are brands so good you can hardly tell or miss the gluten!

I definitely got part of my answer when I let my kids “cheat” about 10 days ago.  My middle son, Gabe, had a huge piece of pizza and some regular cookies.  The next day almost his entire body was covered in a rash that lasted for four days.

I’ve noticed my oldest is much more calmer and focused.  Now if I could just find a way to treat surly-teenager-itis!!

I think my youngest is having less meltdowns.  I say I “think” because it’s really hard to measure objectively.  I did notice on Easter, after eating way more sugar than usual, she was crying and emotional all night long.  *sigh*  What you feed your kids really does have a huge impact on emotional and mental (as well as physical, of course) well-being.

Another thing I realized is that when I switched my son’s laundry detergent it lead to a huge backslide in his healing.  I didn’t even think much of it at the time.  He was getting so much better so when his natural powdered detergent ran out, I just ran out and got some standard free and clear detergent.  He’s been getting worse ever since.  I bought some more of his old detergent and washed all his clothes and bedding.  Hopefully that will help! MSGR_PHOTO_FOR_UPLOAD_1522792350087.jpg_1522792352001

When you’re battling eczema it’s almost always a sign that your immune system is malfunctioning.  It’s not uncommon for you to have random allergic reactions.  A couple days ago I had taken Gabe and his friend to a movie.  We were all having a lot of fun but she playfully rubbed a stuffed bear toy she had gotten from a claw machine on his face.  On the way home his eyes started swelling up.  They turned bright red and rash-ey.  Much Benadryl and a bath later and he was still miserable.  The bear was probably “cheap, china junk” and covered in flame retardants, dust, and formaldehyde.

With eczema it’s not just a skin disorder.  It’s internal before it is ever external.  It’s so important to look after your gut health and avoid inflammatory foods that would make leaky gut worse.  Vitamin D is probably the best single thing to treat eczema and any auto-immune condition.  We take a form that also has vitamin K2 to improve absorbability.  We also use Now brand vitamin D cream on Gabe.  It doesn’t irritate his skin and it helps keeps his levels up.

Fish is also great too.  Because our guy is so little he reacts quickly to food and treatments.  For instance, yesterday he was “crashing” (getting itchy all over and tired) when I gave him some fish oil and he ate some baked tilapia.  He perked right up and had a few more good hours in the day (as opposed to spending the rest of the day immobile).  Our western diets are way too high in inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids.  Think cheap vegetables oils.  We need some omega 6, but it needs to be balanced with omega 3s to keep our inflammatory responses healthy and appropriate.  The standard American diet has 16 times more omega 6’s than omega 3’s.  Omega 6 and Inflammation

To combat his you should throw out all your vegetable oils.  Corn, soy, peanut, canola, rapeseed….it’s all terrible.  Cook with butter, coconut oil, and at low temps with olive oil.  Try to eat fish at least once a week- especially wild-caught salmon, which is great because it is very high in inflammation-crushing omega 3s and it gets it’s pink color from astaxanthin- a potent antioxidant.

Of course fruits and veggies are so important too.  We try to buy organic in bulk, at least for the most heavily sprayed produce.

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to the veggies!

 

Just making these changes, and taking our son off of all steroids, eliminated his asthma/chronic pneumonia.  He still has a way to go but we aren’t going to quit until he is 100% healed!

 

 

When Winter Stretches On

I woke up this morning to find a fresh three inches of snow outside… oh-come-on

Of course we would get three inches of snow the day before Easter.

I sit here chuckling to myself.  It’s such a parallel of what I’ve been thinking on lately.

I had been going through a great time of renewed intimacy with Christ.  I felt, in my heart, that He was wanting me to hope again. Wanting me to pray big prayers.

I started praying with renewed faith.  Praying prayers both big and small.  Serious and frivolous.  I know God cares about it all.  He knows our wants and our needs.  Our hopes and our dreams.  The prayers we can only whisper under our breathe to Him because they are just too personal to share with anyone else.

And things in my life got worse.  I’m having issues with my job.  My son, who had taken major steps towards healing, has regressed.  Circumstances have gotten me feeling oppressed and “under” everything.

What the heck?

I was complaining about all of this to my husband the other night.  We’re were both just stumped.  The ache in our heart, the question hanging heavily in the air- When, God?  When are things going to get better?  Are things ever going to get easier?

I went upstairs and was brushing my teeth when the question arose in my spirit- would I worship and serve and love my God even if I never saw his manifest blessings in my life?  Even if those hopes and dreams, so private and treasured in my heart, never came to pass?  Would I serve and worship God solely based on who He is?  

When you’ve been waiting for your spring to come and you wake up to find three inches of snow on the ground…. sometimes that’s life.  We have to settle in our hearts that God is God.  That we will worship come what may.  

We know spring will come.  We don’t know when.  But that is why we need faith.

“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” John 1:4

“Thank you Jesus, that you are our life and the light to all mankind.  We thank you for the unimaginable sacrifice you made for us on the cross.  We know that you are a God who richly blesses.  We know that you are worth following even when you lead us through difficult circumstances and the answers elude us.  We love you and dedicate our lives to making you known. Amen” jezus-christus-opstanding

 

Miracles and the Mundane

Last night was rough.  Major struggle bus rough. b0ef15e95cf662961b5a62c3103b9ae2 I had to close at my store and then I came home to find I had been put smack dab middle into some serious family drama.  Then my daughter got sick and was up half the night emptying her stomach contents into blanket after blanket.  I finally dragged myself out of bed after giving up on more sleep at about 5 am after round five; stomach evacuation.

My husband had to stay home with our daughter, who was still feeling pretty crummy.  I brought my nephews and my son to church anyways.  It’s Palm Sunday!  I was going to church, come hell or highwater.  Everyone was tired from Shiloh’s late night cookie tossing and screaming in distress and the boys were fidgety and I felt disappointment sinking in.

I don’t get to see these boys enough and I was really hoping that the time would be a bit more idealistic.  But such is life.  Sometimes we need to let go of our unmet expectations to embrace the beauty unfolding before our eyes- in our imperfect reality.

Later in the day we went to visit my Dad for his 61st birthday.

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My Papa

My husband ran out to Caribou to get us some coffee (he’s a saint!).  He took forever but I didn’t really think much of it.

 

We had a great visit and as we were pulling away from their driveway my husband told me why he had been so long getting the coffee.

He had seen a homeless man standing outside.  Heart moved; he had brought the man coffee, food and some cash.  He took time to talk to the man and ask him his name, so that he could pray for him.

As he told me my eyes swelled with tears.  I love this man and I am blessed.  I am blessed to be a blessing.

Life isn’t perfect.  Some days you are tired.  Some nights you are up cleaning up puke when you’re exhausted.  But there is still so much beauty to be found when we look beyond our own circumstances.  When we realize how blessed we truly are.  When we are able to show the love of Jesus.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

You are blessed.  You are loved.

Hope

I have a serious addiction. cowbelljr1 Not to cowbell but to podcasts.  Seriously.  I’m a bit obsessed with being productive to begin with.  I also love learning.  So if I can enhance daily activities like driving, cooking, cleaning with enriching my mind with podcasts- I am in my happy place!

I usually stick with health- both spiritual and physical.  My favorite is probably Walk in the Word with Pastor James MacDonald.  Seriously- check it out.  I’ve been listening to it for over a decade; first on the radio and now usually via podcast on my phone.

One of my other favorites is Bulletproof Radio with Dave Aprey.  I was listening to the latest podcast this morning and the topic of mortality came up.  Dave Asprey is a leader in the “bio-hacking” field of really smart guys trying to find ways to optimize health and lifespan through various “hacks”.  His guest was Jason Silva from the brain games show.  Both men are very successful by any measure.  But both are still on their quest to find the meaning of life.  Both are still grappling with (and attempting to postpone!) their own ultimate death.

It seems so sad to me.

This may sound morbid, but in many ways; I welcome death.  Of course I want to live a full lifespan and watch my kids grow up- but I want to go home, too.

“Instead, they were longing for a better country–a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:6

This place isn’t my home.  It’s ok if I don’t have “my best life” now.  I’m waiting for something better.  When pain and trials hit, it reminds me that this place isn’t my home.  I’m ultimately not of this world because my citizenship is in Heaven.  Phillipians 3:20

“We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body….” 2 Cor. 4:10

As Christians we need to embrace death everyday.  The death of the part of our nature that is hostile to God; selfish, wicked, detestable… so that Jesus can live through us.  Death precedes rebirth.  “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24

As Easter approaches I’d invite to embrace the fact that death is not the end.  It’s the beginning.  1212

“Lord Jesus, I pray that you will work in us the will to obey you.  Help us to surrender to you and so live our lives as a living sacrifice- pleasing to you.  We know that in you we find purpose, meaning and eternal life.  We thank you that in you in we have nothing to fear- not even death.  Thank you for the sacrifice that bridged the impossible gap between sinful man and a holy God.  Amen” 

 

Tree of Life

Reading the intro to Genesis this morning, I was blown away.  I’ve probably read this passage of scripture at least ten times but there is always fresh revelation.

I am struck by the intimacy of it; The Spirit of God hovering over the freshly created waters.  The hands of the pre-incarnate Christ molding the first man from the dirt, then leaning down to breath the breathe of life into his nostrils.  The fact that God himself planted the garden of Eden for this new man to live in.  Jesus walked through the Garden with his newly formed human beings and had unparalleled, unimaginable intimacy with them.

The Bible says, “God” but we know that God exists in three persons- the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  1 John 5:7  God the Father is spirit John 4:24 and invisible Colossians 1:5…so it makes sense that God was in the Garden in the form of the God-Man; Jesus Christ.  Jesus walked through the garden.  Jesus’ hands formed the first man out of dirt.  The same hands that would much later be stretched out on the cross for us….jesus.png

It’s all so beautiful and intimate.

God knew, of course, that mankind would fall.  That is why there was a plan in place for salvation before the first human ever drew the first breath.

When Adam and Eve sinned they were thrust from the paradise of God.  An angel and fiery flashing sword were sent to guard the tree of Life, so that Adam and Eve wouldn’t eat from it and become immortal and therefore stuck forever in their fallen state.

I find it interesting that the tree of Life is featured in both the opening and closing books of scripture.  At some point God withdrew the tree from Eden and up into Heaven.  It exists in wait for the time when the curse is finally broken.

“Then the angel showed me a river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb, down the middle of the main street of the city. On either side of the river stood a tree of life, producing twelve kinds of fruit and yielding a fresh crop for each month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse.” Revelation 22:1-3 

In that time we will be granted to privilege to eat the fruit and gain immortality.  “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” Rev. 2:7 

Everything will come full circle.  Everything lost will be restored.  We’ll experience that amazing intimacy with God, face to face.  But this time there will be no serpent, no temptation.  We’ll have had the knowledge of good and evil and those of us who chose good and God, by association, will get it in every way, for all eternity.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Cor. 2:9 the-tree-of-life-hd_.jpg

 

Growing Up

I guess I’ve been feeling very nostalgic lately.  My oldest child, Michael, is almost 13 and…we’ll just say he’s rapidly changing.  Everyday when my facebook memories pop up and I see how he looked just a year ago, I am blown away by how much he has changed in just a year.  He’s shot up like 4 inches, gained like 15 pounds and is losing his boyish look.

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Look at that sweet face!
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Same two kids, five years later.  Now he’s too cool to smile.

He’s growing up.  He’s changing.  Most of these changes are involuntary, and the spring forth (often in the most awkward of ways!) like a force of nature.  Growing up is a part of life.  But growing spiritually is completely different.  It doesn’t just happen.  We don’t wake up one day spiritually mature by accident.  It’s a process.  It takes time, experience, and cooperating with God through the work of the Holy Spirit.

 

God wants us to grow up.

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11

This past year has been one of growing up.  Of throwing down the gauntlet.  For a long time I was struggling with my doubts and really walking the fence.  No wonder I felt so unsure and struggled so much to obey God.  I made the decision that I was going to pursue God, no matter what.  Daily I was going to seek, daily I was going to submit my will to His.

“My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”…Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn.” Psalm 27:8, 108:2

I’ve got my alarm set for 5:30.  I’m spending an hour a day with God in the morning.  It has been completely changing my life.  No more waffling.  This is my commitment and I will carve out the time.  I want to grow up.  I want to be a mature believer that God can use mightily.  I want to go from the spiritual, infantile milk to the spiritual meat described in Hebrews 5.  I don’t want to live my life in spiritual diapers.

I want to be full of the Word, full of the Spirit, I want to advance the kingdom of God with every day and every breathe that I take.

“Lord, we thank you that you love and care for us regardless of our state or level of maturity, but we also know that you want us to grow up in the things of God so we can accomplish the plans and works you established before the dawn of creation.  help us to get off the fence, and to love you with all our hearts, minds, and strength.  Thank you that in living for you we find abundant life and you fulfill the desires of our hearts. Amen.”