Monday, October 3, 2011

Denim and Sour Cream

Well, it's October and Fall is here. It came in on the wings of saturated clouds with a breath of cold air, even some snow in the WV mountains where my husband is working. I can't believe it's been two months since I added a blog post. I've started a few, only to leave them as drafts because I got too busy. This one, however, I wrote in an evening, feeling its message too important to let sit.

I've been thinking a lot about Christians, legalism, and the desire to fix the ails of other people. This fictional woman, who could be any woman, is speaking to me as much as anyone else. Consider her words. Evaluate your heart.

----

Hi everyone. I am visiting today...but I guess you already surmised that. Let me introduce myself. I'm the one so many churches don't want to claim. The one who shows up late in jeans and a dirty t-shirt. The one who forgets about nursery duty and to RSVP to the church picnic (which I will sometimes show up to, but almost always fail to bring a side dish to share). My 3 kids (ages 8,10, and 16) are a bit out of control...well, who am I kidding?...they are way out of control. And, on occasion I let it slip that I wish I didn't have them. You will see these things about me and probably, like so many before you, deem me irresponsible and lacking respect for God and my fellow Christians. I've decided to do something different this time - tell you up front my excuses for all my shortcomings.

My husband left me when my kids were younger. As a single mom, I can barely pay my bills. We can't afford a distinction between nice clothes and everyday clothes. The distinction for us is between suitable for being in public, and not suitable for being in public. What I wear to the market is what I wear to church. Any extra money we get, I spend on food. I can live in jeans, but I can't live without food.

I was born with epilepsy. And the medication I take makes my mind fuzzy. I often forget things like when it's my turn for nursery duty. And I forget to remind myself not to forget. That RSVP? Same thing. It's not that I don't care, I just lost the to-do list it was on. I remember the church picnic the day of because the reminder is in the bulletin...but I can never seem to throw together a side dish in time.

My husband didn't want kids, and he made sure they knew it. they spent their early years watching us fight...and him hit me occasionally, until he finally got tired of us and left. Good riddance. The therapist says the kids' behavior is just acting out in response to all that trauma. I wish they would heal more quickly. Or, if they could just be good for church... And sometimes, in my darkest moments, I wish that I had had the abortions my husband wanted me to have. Yes, it's true, and I know I'm a horrible person for thinking it. I told someone at my last church and she basically said as much. But she didn't know my history.

Now that you know the pathetic story behind why I am the way I am, do you have more compassion for me? Are you willing to forgive my shortcomings and come along side me and support me? Yes? Well that's wonderful...except from what I know about Christ, this back story shouldn't be necessary. You should have said you would welcome me regardless - and meant it. After all, it's not the healthy that need a doctor, it's the sick.

Oh...and that dirty smear on the front of my t-shirt? This morning I was leaning down to pick up something off the floor, just as my youngest son knocked a container of sour cream out of the fridge. The lid broke and the sour cream splattered all over the kitchen. The front of my shirt was in the spray radius. We were running late, so I wiped my shirt quickly with a wet towel and ran out the door. (I'll have the kitchen to clean up when I get home.) I considered changing into my only other clean shirt...but it was a tank top and I had heard bare shoulders are a firm no-no at this congregation.

I love Christ, and so I keep searching for a church home where I can worship Him in spirit and in truth. But my fellow Christians aren't making it very easy for me. My teen doesn't know Christ at all, and watching me struggle to be accepted at church after church has given him the opinion that a person has to be perfect to be a part of the Christian club. He refuses to go to church altogether. Which is the saddest part of all...the part that I know breaks Christ's heart the most. Another soul lost because we fail to exemplify the unconditional love of Christ, and His message to come as you are.

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"Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests." Matthew 28:8-10

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pediatric Oncology (fiction sadly real)

When I was pregnant with my son, I had to have weekly IVIG treatments at the Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Clinic at the Medical University of South Carolina. They administered the IVIG in the same room they administered chemo. This story is based on real people I observed while there. As I sat there trying to keep my unborn child alive, my heart broke for the other parents who had to watch their born children fight for their lives.

****

It was a place too stark and sterile for children, too old and dark for youth. No child should have to venture through those blue double doors. No child should ever have to walk that long, cold hallway.

Margaret Robinson walked that hall each week with legs of heavy iron. People said there was hope in the room at the end but, so far, it had eluded her. She hadn’t caught even a glimpse of it. Every visit had been like someone choking her, the grip getting tighter and tighter around her throat with each new week of treatments that weren’t working.

She forced her heavy limbs one in front of the other. Her smart black heels clicked as she walked but in her mind, she heard the screech, clang of metal dragging along the cold tile floor. She felt like the Tin Man filled with cement. Needing to get to the wizard but unable to go through the witch’s forest.

On her left was what some called the needle room. A boy of about seven was shrieking while being held down by women in brightly colored hospital scrubs. One – dressed in blue scrubs with cheerful yellow smiley faces all over it – pinned his arms to the table. A woman who was probably his mother held his hand and tried to hush him with tender words. He screamed and tried to kick his legs (which were held down by another lady dressed in pink scrubs patterned with rainbows). A needle was stuck into his little arm. "It blew," the nurse muttered as she removed it. "I’ll have to try again."

Suddenly the boy’s whole body washed with resignation. "I hate this place, I hate all of you," he spit through clenched teeth. "Why do you have to hurt me?"

Margaret returned her gaze forward in the hall. She had not stopped her slow, laborous walk. Her own child skipped and hummed along beside her. Without even looking at Rosie, she knew what her daughter was doing. It was the same every week. The little girl always skipped and hummed as they passed the needle room. She skipped and hummed while covering her ears to the wailing and protesting that often erupted from there. In the beginning, the girl would pull her hair down over her ears and hold it there tightly with her palms pressed hard against the lobes. Now her hands were the only things she had to muffle the cries. The hair was mostly gone.

A computer on wheels was pushed down the hall by a woman wearing lime green scrubs with teddy bears peppered across them. The cart – with its shelf stacked high with files – met them in the hall. "Good morning, Miss Margaret. Rosie. How are you today?" It was the same greeting every time, and after 8 weeks, Miss Margaret could not truthfully answer the woman. The paper lady, as Rosie called her, spent her days getting signatures, typing in her computer, and talking on the phone. How the hell do you think we’re doing? Miss Margaret wanted to say. She wanted to tell the paper lady that things weren’t going so well. She wanted to remind her that the names on those files were the names of people’s children. Sick children. Dying children. She wanted to say that her daughter was dying and that nobody could do anything about it. She wanted to tell the paper lady that she was suppressing the urge to get down on the floor and kick and scream and tear through the hospital linoleum until they all dropped into a black abyss.

"We’re fine," was what always came out.

Rosie smiled, her hands still on her ears, the hum still floating softly from her lips. Miss Margaret signed something the paper lady handed to her. Then the too short, too long journey down the hall resumed. Screech, clang, screech clang. To the right there was a small conference room. The door was ajar revealing an overstuffed leather couch facing two matching chairs. Though she couldn’t see it from the hall, she knew that in the corner of that room, there was a child-size table with two child-size chairs and a small wooden box filled with toys. That room became a prison when the door was shut. A prison where people were forced to listen to horrifying things, the things that made up many parent’s nightmares and her recent reality. She had once seen a family come out of that room, the mother clutching her small child to her chest. Those parents had smiles on their faces, they stepped in the air and their bodies floated as they made their way toward the exit. They were the only ones she’d ever seen come out of there with wide-awake souls. They were escaping. She hated them.

Screech, clang, screech, clang, screech, clang. They had come to the end of the hall. Now they would take their seats in the middle of a play entitled The Fighting, The Dying, and The Dead. Through the doorway, a cocophony of sight, sound and emotion filled the space. Vinyl recliners lined the walls, each with its own television from which cartoons and talk-shows bounced an amalgamation of constantly moving light against the dimness of the room. IV stands stood at attention next to each chair, whirring, beeping, drip, dripping; soldiers delivering hope and fear, comfort and distress, simultaneously and without sentiment.

Rosie sat in her recliner. It was hers because she sat there every Tuesday. Margaret sat in a small metal folding chair beside her. The soldier between them had not yet come to life. It would be a few minutes before the nurses would cheerfully hook it up, it’s long flexible tubing invading her little girl’s body in a place carved out especially for it. Rosie opened up Goodnight Moon and began to flip the pages. Even now, she seemed oblivious to the sorrow around her. Adults in folding metal chairs, with dark, sunken eyes and tear-stained cheeks clutched tissues and conveyed their stories to one another without speaking a word.

Margaret observed the children as she did every week. They sat in their chairs and played, read books, sang, laughed and chatted with eachother. A few faces reflected the sea-sickness commonly brought about by the combination of drugs they were getting. Yet all seemed strangely at peace. At peace in their ignorance, at peace in their innocence, perhaps at peace in their faith. Margaret felt that familiar feeling; her spirit melting into molten lava which would eventually pour out as an eruption of tears.

If it were true that God caught all the tears of his
children, He could fill heaven just with those cried in
this room.


"Can I hold you for a little while, Rosie?" she asked her daughter.

"Why, Mamma? I’m reading," Rosie said, looking at her mother with the genuine curiosity of a six-year-old.

"I just need to hold you. How about I read your book to you?"

"Na, I’ll do it myself. I don’t want to be held." Rosie stated with her usual self-determined spirit. Then a smile danced in her eyes. "But I will hug you," the small voice said, knowing this would please her mother.

Margaret picked up her first-born and held her tightly in her arms. For a moment, Rosie was again an infant. Before she got sick, before the news came, before her mother had to think about what it would be like to lose her. Margaret could almost smell the blended aroma of baby-powder, soft lotion, and pureed peaches. "I love you, I love you, I love you," she whispered into her daughter’s ear.

"I love you too mommy, now can I get down?" Rosie said squirming.

"Sure, honey." Margaret placed her gently back into the vinyl seat, covered her with a blanket and handed Rosie her favorite book. The eruption was coming. She could not hold it back. Rosie looked at her mother’s face with concern for a brief moment, then returned her attention to her book.

"Mrs. Robinson." Nurse Amy was standing in the doorway looking at her. Smiley faces in primary colors dotted her bright purple uniform. Margaret lowered her eyebrows questioningly but the nurse was already focused on the little girl. "Hey Rosie!" she said smiling. Margaret detected something unfamiliar in the nurse’s voice. "Can I sit with you while your mommy talks to the doctor?" Nurse Amy asked, then, looking at Margaret again, "the doctor wants to talk to you before we begin this week."

And then it was there. Margaret knew what that unfamiliar thing was in Nurse Amy’s voice. It was sympathy. It was subtle but it was definately there. Not the sympathy of one who is sorry for what you are going through. Nurse Amy always had that. This was different. It was the sympathy of one who knows that the monster is right around the corner now and that you are headed full speed into its clutches. Margaret rose heavy and slow from her metal chair, glanced at Rosie through eyes filling wth tears, and forced herself to walk toward the conference room.

Screech, clang, screech clang, screech, clang…

Friday, April 29, 2011

It's all about the food.

When eating, we think we are feeding ourselves. But our food doesn't necessarily feed us. It doesn't necessarily enter our body and disseminate nourishment to our cells, organs, and the systems that fuel us. Sometimes we eat and our food hurts us. It drains our energy, screws up our body systems, and increasingly disseminates toxins. I spent almost 6 days refusing to give my body food that would hurt it; a break from my typical diet,which, despite being much better than the average American diet, still overexposes me to toxins and nutritionally void calories.

The physical benefits included losing 7 pounds, resetting my sugar-addicted system, finding relief for a chronic condition (my interstitial cystitis), and gaining mood stability. I didn't feel hungry and I had more energy. A successful detox.

My first full day back on a regular diet didn't go very well. I had milk for breakfast and chicken salad on a roll for lunch. Russ and I left after lunch to go away overnight by ourselves. Dinner was more chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans at a restaurant. My body revolted and I felt sick the rest of the night. It was that feeling of food sitting in my belly. The next morning, all I really wanted was milk. Even my breakfast - oatmeal with honey and dried fruit - was too sweet. Hubby and I visited the Lindt store near our hotel and even my favorite dark chocolate overwhelmed my palate. Hunger pursued me constantly.

That was three weeks ago. And while I am not getting sick anymore, I still seem to be hungry all the time. What I think is that my body is wanting something I am not giving it enough of - pure, wholesome, nutrient-dense,God-given,food of the earth. I am giving it refined sugar when it wants the natural sugars found in things like milk, fruits and vegetables. I am ingesting chemical, additives, and dyes when it wants accessible vitamins, minerals, probiotics, and healthy enzymes. For five days I flooded my body with REAL, and it's not going back to PROCESSED without a fight. Which is good and, by God's grace, I hope to do even better than before.

Interestingly,what started as a simple physical detox also ended up being a detox for mind and spirit. I have fasted in the past for spiritual reasons. The idea is that denying a base instinct and having hunger constantly drive me to prayer, clarifies and reinforces my dependence solely on the Lord for all sustenance. But when fasting, the focus on food is in relationship to being hungry, and the spiritual implications are in relationship to denying something my body needs (making a sacrifice) and focusing on God (to look at my sacrifice and bring a spiritual renewal of whatever sort is needed at the time). But for the five and half days I experienced not eating but yet not being hungry, the spiritual implications became evaluation of my sinful relationship to food. I'm not talking about the sin of gluttony, although I'll admit to being gluttonous at times, rather my use of food to fill emotional needs that ONLY Christ can fill (as opposed to a physical need that God can sustain for a time in fasting), my addiction to certain foods, and abuse of my body through unhealthy food when I otherwise had a choice. Stripping myself of the choice to eat, food could not to talk to my brain and convince me nothing was wrong with my eating habits (sugar in particular has a very powerful voice). It was an amazing breakthrough for me, the results of which I am trying desperately to hold on to.

Would I repeat this detox? Absolutely! I'm thinking longer next time.
Would I recommend that others do it? Absolutely. Unless you have medical reasons, there are only benefits to gain.

I'd like to thank the farmers at The Family Cow for their ceaseless work to make quality organic raw milk available to the public. I could not have done this without that resource.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Raw Milk Fast, Days 5 & 6

Day 5

This morning, I took my kids to Dunkin Donuts - which is right around the corner from me - so they could get a donut and a little egg and cheese wrap. I had promised this to them earlier in the week. To my wonderful surprise, I had no compulsion to eat a donut, or even smell a donut.

Later, I watched my nephew for about five hours and mostly he was a sweet, wonderful angel. But there was about an hour where he was crying for his parents, inconsolable. During that hour, I thought more about food than I had almost all week. Had I not been on this diet, I would have just gotten some food (probably chips or other starchy carbs)and not thought twice about it. But not being able to eat focused my mind on why I wanted to eat so badly. I am a stress eater.

Today I started thinking a lot about what it will be like to start eating again. I'm used to carrying around a glass of milk. I'm used to not eating anything solid. But today is my last milk-only day. Tomorrow is a day of slowly going back to regular foods. So I found myself contemplating throughout the day what that meant for me physically, mentally, and even spiritually. It may seem silly that being on a milk-only diet for 5 days can be significant in so many ways. But for someone like me who is food-addicted, and especially sugar-addicted, it really has been a huge thing.


Overall, the day went by smoothly. Although I did make my family Belgium waffles for dinner, which filled the house with a heavenly smell that was hard to resist.

My plan for tomorrow is to have a small cup of decaf. coffee in the morning, milk throughout the day, then break my solid-food fast with dinner at Chipotle. Originally I was really wanting to have pizza, but my sister Kate reminded me that coming off a detox, I shouldn't go straight into such junky food as pizza. Chipotle was next on my list and is pretty simple food. I have mixed feelings about tomorrow, but excitement wins!


Day 6 - Coming off

I woke up this morning and thought about milk. Yesterday I was sure that I would wake up thinking about coffee or the food I was going to eat for dinner. My daughter suggested we have a kefir smoothie, which sounded like a great idea! So I made smoothies with home-made kefir, banana, peaches, and fresh mango. I decided to eat some of the mango and oh.my.goodness. it was sweet! Likewise, even with the tang of the kefir, the smoothie was almost overwhelming. This heightened awareness of sweetness is normal when a person has not eaten anything sweet for awhile.

A couple hours later, I brewed my cup of coffee. I put 1 tsp of sugar in (I normally put 2) and some milk. It burned my throat and I only ended up drinking about half. I had two cups of milk for lunch and felt good until around 4:30 when I started to get really hungry, even though I had had the same number of calories by this point in the day as I have any other day this week.

It was 6pm before we set out to Chipotle. In the meantime I had attempted to eat an organic blue corn chip. Umm... no. I couldn't even swallow it, I kept gagging. then I got concerned that I wouldn't be able to eat tonight after all. Perhaps it was the hardness of the chip? So I had the rest of the mango from this morning. No problems. My dinner consisted of cilantro-lime rice, black beans, chicken, salsa, cheese and guacamole, all of which I didn't have problems actually swallowing. But after about half of what they gave me, I started to feel full. Weird sensation to have food sitting in my belly again. I'm not sure I like it.

I'm sitting here drinking a cup of black tea and contemplating all the positives of my experience. But I'm tired so I'll be writing about that later. Thanks to all of you who cheered me on the last 6 days. These things are so much easier to do when people support me.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Raw Milk Fast, Day 4

There are always 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. But our perceptions of how fast or slow this time ticks away can be vastly different. A person going on vacation might feel like her last couple days of work are excruciatingly long, while then her vacation seems like it flies by. I said to my husband this evening that I feel like the week is moving by so slowly, but he thinks it has gone by really fast. My difference in perspective comes from the fact that I am doing something difficult and I'm ready for it to be over. But since it's difficult, every moment seems to drag by. A minute talking on the phone with a friend is not nearly as long as a minute standing in the freezing cold waiting for a bus.

This morning my friend Amy and my sisters Mary and Kate came to visit me. A morning gathering like this usually involves yummy food and lots of coffee. Amy had coffee and I indulged in putting my nose next to her cup and inhaling deeply. No one ate anything, except for Kate who had a cookie that she snuck pieces of when I wasn't paying attention. We all had a great time but it definitely felt like something was missing. It got me thinking about how deeply the experience of eating is wrapped up with our experiences of companionship. "Breaking bread" together has historically represented a spirit of community and fellowship. This detox has been much harder than anything I've done previously, and a lot of it is this aspect of being unable to break bread with others. Not only can I not eat food when I am compelled to eat something, I also can't have the "complete" fellowship experience when getting together with friends. And I have a low tolerance for sitting at the table while my family eats dinner and I just drink milk. Mentally, the reasons for giving up on this diet are extremely compelling.

But despite my urgent desire to be done this detox, I am nervous about going back to eating real food. I have enjoyed a deep sense of calm the last few days as well as relief from some chronic issues. And the fact that I don't have to think about what I will be eating each meal is an added bonus. Oh well, we'll see what Friday brings.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Raw Milk Fast, Day 3

Halfway done! Yay!

I spent most of the morning planning the 6-week Civil War unit I'm teaching my kids' homeschool co-op starting next week. It's my custom to drink coffee while I plan; for some reason the ritual tells my mind to open up. Obviously, no coffee for me, so I ended up struggling with my planning. I know that this is totally psychological but the mind is a powerful thing. This evening was also the first I've actually cooked dinner since I started my detox. Gnocci stew with tomatoes, ground beef, and spinach. It smelled absolutely divine and it was very difficult for me to refrain from eating it. I had the kids test the flavor so I didn't taste it and lose my resolve. Other than that, only a few food cravings today and still no hunger to speak of.

My kitty has finally realized what it is I'm always drinking. Now when I get a glass of milk, he follows me around and if I set it down, he's right there trying to drink from it! It's very cute - I put my hand under his chin and push him back a little so then he reaches out to paw at the glass. He's also super-sneaky, going away until he thinks I'm not paying attention just so he can try to slip in unnoticed.

Physically, I'm still feeling great. I lost another pound since yesterday and my mood has remained generally calm. On an interesting note - my urine is a weird yellow-orange color from the high amounts of beta-carotene found in the milk of grass-fed cows. (sorry if TMI!)

I'm kicking around the idea of doing a few weeks of drinking 4 cups of milk a day and eating just one main meal. I'd like to see if small amounts of milk throughout the day will help with my mood and appetite control. We'll see.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Raw Milk Fast, Day 2

My day was pretty simple - just some work around the house and schooling the kids. I got up around 8:30am and thought immediately about coffee. I miss coffee. Then I remembered that I can't have coffee. Despite that, pouring my first glass of milk seemed natural. I drank 14 ounces between 9 and 10am.

My son is not supportive at all - and by that I mean he thinks it's funny to tease me by tempting me with yummy food. At his 10:30am snack, he brought me his chips and tried to feed one to me. It took a lot of willpower to send him away! I miss chips.

I had several episodes today of almost overwhelming desire to eat something - anything. But just like yesterday I was not hungry, so I knew my body was seeking the pure pleasure of eating, not to mention sugar! I drank 16 ounces more during an hour around lunch time. I sipped on milk throughout the afternoon and evening, and ended up with around 72 ounces. It's important that the milk not be super cold and also be consumed a little at a time over the day - so no downing whole glasses of cold milk in one sitting. I feel like this aspect has really helped with the hunger issue and keeping my blood sugar even throughout the day.

About mid-afternoon, I was feeling strongly that I needed to have a different flavor on my palate or I'd go crazy and give up. Rather than risk abandoning my detox, I decided to have a cup of mint tea, with nothing in it. The mint tea is local and organic so I felt it would compliment my desire to avoid ingesting toxins this week. Not only that, but mint also has its own list of positive healing properties.

So how am I feeling? Well, I lost a pound since yesterday but don't get excited because it's water weight that is typically lost when sugars and simple carbs are cut out of the diet. So more importantly, I've found my mood to be really stable the past two days, even when dealing with difficult children. I also notice I am just more calm in general. Neither of these things should surprise me because milk aids in the production of serotonin, the chemical in the body responsible for mood stabilization, and sugar (which I'm not getting)causes erratic production of serotonin, causing high-highs and low-lows.

I have a condition called Interstitial Cystitis - a chronic inflammation of the lining of the bladder. Basically, I live with symptoms of a mild bladder infection all the time. The past two days, those symptoms have dramatically decreased. I'm not sure if that's because of the bladder-irritating foods I'm not eating or because of the milk's healing properties. Perhaps a little of both.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Raw Milk Fast, Day 1

First I'm sure you want to know why. Why would someone subject themselves to an entire week of consuming nothing but raw milk? The answer is pretty simple. I have access to fabulous raw milk from organic grass-fed Jersey cows, thanks to The Family Cow This milk is virtually toxin-free. So for one week, I give my body a reprieve from ingesting toxins (with the exception of my anti-seizure medication). My plan cuts out water as well because the water I have access to is also full of toxins. Additionally, every once in awhile, it's good for me to cut sugar, including simple carbs, out of my diet for a period of time. A sugar detox is a difficult undertaking because so much time and energy is wrapped up in preparing meals I can eat. So this week I will also give my body a reprieve from sugar, without having to think about it much. Lastly, raw milk has incredible healing properties, so it's like a week of high-intensity medicinal soothing for my body.

So, today was Day 1

I got up at about 7:45. Our plans for the day included church and then a bike ride on the C&O Canal Towpath. Upon getting up, I poured 10 oz of milk and let it sit for a bit (it's better if it's not really cold). This I sipped on while I got ready for church. I brought 10 oz to church in a travel cup and drank from it periodically during my service in the nursery. It is not unusual for me to skip breakfast in an effort to get out of the house on time on Sunday mornings. So usually by the time church is over I am starving and end up eating donuts or coffee cake afterward. After church we spent about an hour chatting with friends, which put us going home around noon. To my surprise, I was not hungry at all. One thing I did have a problem with is the filmy feeling and taste the milk left in my mouth. I decided to deal with this by sucking on a cough drop for a few seconds periodically.

I had 10 oz more milk before we left for our bike ride. At this point I was still not hungry but I was craving food - the general pleasure of eating. I also had a headache, which often happens when I am detoxing from sugar, plus I hadn't had any caffeine. We left to go on our bike ride around 2pm. I realized that I couldn't go without drinking during the bike ride and it would be impractical to bring milk along for that purpose. So I brought a bottle of water and ended up drinking about a cup of it during the 9-mile ride. I should note that cow's milk is about 87% water so dehydration is not going to be an issue.

After our bike ride, I needed a nap - which is not unusual for me and had nothing to do with the milk. I slept from about 4:00 - 6:00pm. Before my nap, I was still not feeling any hunger, but I did wake up with a growling tummy. I poured 16 ounces of milk and sipped on it all evening. My urge to eat some sort of food is getting stronger, but I know that it is all psychological. I still have a headache but it's a dull roar in the background.

I need about 1500 calories a day for my age, weight and activity level. 10 cups of milk is 1600 calories so I was aiming for 9 1/2 cups. About 7:30pm, after putting in the data from our bike ride, Russ informed me we burned around 900 calories. Too late to make all that up tonight! Oh well, I'm still not hungry.

One last thing. Some of you may be wondering about the fat content in the milk I'm drinking. It is whole milk and the fat content is 50%. Am I worried about it? No. I'm not convinced that all fats are as bad for us as mainstream medicine tells us. But more on that another day.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Pause.

Don't talk to me about windows... there are no windows and I'm tired of looking for them.

My Facebook status a few months back. For which I received many types of responses, from the *hugs* of friends who just wanted me to know they were thinking about me, to the "praying for you, let me know if I can do anything" friends, to the person who privately chastised me for being a bad Christian witness. I was venting because I was really tired of hearing the common platitude when God closes a door, he opens a window. That just wasn't true in my life at the moment. There were no open doors or windows.

As Christians we talk a lot about God's plan for us. When something doesn't work out, we say it must not have been His plan. When something goes right, we (hopefully) thank Him for it. But it is in our nature to continue to look beyond the current happening for the next part of the plan. We get a new job and we look immediately to how we might position ourselves for a promotion. We lose a job and we look immediately for the next job God has for us. Forward motion. Our 5-year, 10-year, 20-year, and life plans, revised as necessary when God's plan points us in another direction, and always dosed with a healthy "Lord willing."

Scripture describes making plans as a positive, necessary thing and even gives us some guidelines on how to do it. Proverbs 21:5 tells us that "the plans of the diligent lead to profit as sure as haste leads to poverty." Don't jump in too quickly... got it. Proverbs 12:5 - "The plans of the righteous are just, but the advice of the wicked is deceitful." Make sure I'm right with the Lord before I set out... check. Proverbs 15:22 - "Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." Get the opinion of others... my 11-year-old daughter counts, right? So we make our plans. And we say Lord willing. But because "all [our] ways seem pure to us" (Poverbs 16:2), we can be devastated when God calls a change of plans. Some of us go before God and cry out, and some of us freak out on Facebook and THEN go before God. Then, spurred on by our own impatience and well-meaning platitudes from friends, we start looking for the window - the other exit out of our current room (place in life), the next step in the plan.

From the beginning of the world, God has had plans for us. He planned his creation, he planned to become flesh to save his creation from the sin he knew they would commit, he has plans for his people as a whole and plans for us as individuals. Romans 8:28-30, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified." A progression. A moving forward. So, when God figuratively closes a door, he will figuratively open a window... because he can't move us forward in his plan unless he opens another path. But are we guaranteed that this new path will open immediately?

Imagine a room. There are two doors and a window. One door goes back to where you just came from and it has shut and locked behind you. Where do you go now? The other door is open and through it you see endless beauty and beckoning warmth. The window is closed so naturally you want to head through the door. Surely God wants you to bask in that warmth and beauty, so it must be your next step. But as you get right to the threshold, it shuts in your face and locks. You are disappointed, and maybe angry. Why would God keep you from that wonderful path? There must be something better, you think! So you turn, expecting the window to open. But it doesn't and you're stuck. No progress, no forward motion, no new part of the plan. I don't know about you, but in this situation my nature is to pace. Back and forth, back and forth. Feeling claustrophobic and restless. Why is that window not opening? I know I won't always know where you're leading me, Lord, but please lead me somewhere. What am I supposed to do now?

Jeremiah 29:11 is a favorite scripture-turned-platitude in Christian circles. "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Beautiful and comforting words, which I believe are true for individual Christians today. But when they were originally spoken, it was to the people of Israel who were in exile in Babylon. And God did not tell them to hang on for a minute while he opened the window. He told them to hang on for 70 YEARS! He told them to settle down, build houses, get married, multiply in number, and seek the peace and prosperity of the place where he put them. Then he would come back and fulfill his promise.

Those rooms - the ones that have no open doors or windows, the ones that make us restless and full of stress - are our exile. Like Israel,we are there for a reason. And, like Israel we need to wait it out. We might need to get really comfortable in our seemingly stagnant state. So what do we do while we wait in limbo? Surely ranting on Facebook and pacing back and forth aren't the right responses. Here's what I suggest, from my own experience:

Be still and know that he is God. (Psalm 46:10) Put aside the planning, stop looking for the open window... and just be... moment by moment, day by day.

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. (James 4:8) It's easy to leave God's side in our hurry to move on. So... just be. with God.

Trust. (Proverbs 3:5,6.- "Trust in the Lord will all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.") Satan is quick to tell us that God has made a mistake, we need to keep reminding ourselves that God is faithful and just. Fortunately, if we follow the first two things above, the Holy Spirit will take care of this one.

Verse 12 of Jeremiah 29 says, "Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity." We might not know how or when our time in limbo will be over, but God has given us the promise that he gave to Israel. If we seek him and call upon him, he will (eventually) lead us out of our exile. The proverbial window will open and we'll be moving forward again. And hopefully we'll remember for next time that the sitting still is just as much a part of God's plan as the moving forward.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Angels Earthly and Heavenly

Vroom, vroom, vrooom, vrooooom. The high octave whine of an over-working engine, the sloshing of tires spinning in snow, and the smell of burning... something. My van is stuck. It's my friend Brianna's driveway and I have miscalculated the almost 90 degree bend in it as I was backing out, landing my left two tires in the snow in a ditch, and my right two tires on her icy driveway. Beside my front bumper,Brianna and my sister Kate stand there pushing with everything they've got with each attempt I make to drive the van the last few inches back onto the driveway, getting snow and mud flung in their faces with each spin of the tires.

We have done everything, tried everything we could think of for the last 45 minutes. They have shoveled with me, chipped ice with me, rocked the van, spread rock salt and kitty litter. Kate slipped and fell on a patch of ice but got right back up and continued to help. Brianna is late for work. These are my angels - the best kind of friends, willing to stick by and help me, out in the freezing cold, risking their toes standing near my spinning tire, dodging flying snow and mud, all with a good attitude. Finally we surrender and call Brianna's husband to come home with his 4WD Suburban to tow me out. It takes him 30 minutes to get home and less than 5 to get my van free from the clutches of the ice and snow. Another angel. On the drive home, I start thinking about the last time (and only other time) that I backed my van into a ditch.

It was a Saturday in the middle of the summer, 8pm and the sun was just starting to set. I was leaving the home of a potential client, having just met with them about possibly being their doula at the birth of their first child. Their long driveway crosses a deep drainage ditch before reaching the main road and I cut the wheel too soon, sending my van over the edge. You know that thing in the movies where everything goes in slow motion during a crash or other high-intensity event? It was really like that for me. And as I was going slowly, slowly, into the ditch I caught a glimpse in my rear view mirror of a small truck with two men in it coming down the road. Then I was stopped, my heart beating fast with the adrenaline, embarrassed and unsure what to do next. My two left tires were sitting against the ground in the ditch, my right rear tire was barely sitting on the edge of the driveway, and my right front tire was in the air. My front bumper was at about a 60 degree angle from the ground. I should get out, I thought and started to open my door. It didn't open very far before it hit the ground but I was sure I could squeeze out. But just at the moment I was going to try, I heard a man yelling at me. "Ma'am, don't try to get out that way, the van could fall on you." My rescuer - one of the men from the truck - climbed up, opened the passenger door, and helped me climb out to safety. As I surveyed the scene, it was obvious most of the weight of the vehicle was resting on that front left tire and my shifting and trying to get out the door could have been disastrous.

"We're glad we were driving by," he said after I was safely back on the driveway. In fact, it was pretty amazing they were driving by. My potential clients lived in a quiet neighborhood, far from any major traffic thoroughfares. I hadn't seen a single car on the road while I was driving around looking for their house. "We're contractors, just headed to a job down the street and we have a tow rope there so we'll go get it and be right back, see if we can't get you out." I thanked them profusely. They left and I called my husband, then went to suffer the mortification of telling the homeowners (whom I was sure would never hire me now)that I am a terrible driver and had backed into their ditch.

"My sister did the same thing when she visited last time, flipped her car completely over," the woman said as one of the men hooked the tow rope to my van, then to their truck. "You really should build a short wall on either side of the driveway, ma'am, to help keep this from happening, especially with a ditch this deep," replied one of them. Then, with only slight protest from their little truck, they pulled my van out, bringing all four tires to rest on solid ground. Again I poured out my thanks to these rescuers, these angels. Scruffy, messy men in a beat up truck. Men I probably would have thought a bit creepy had I encountered them in another situation. Men I wouldn't have expected such kindness from, judging from their exterior (a good lesson learned).

The homeowners wanted an estimate for the retaining walls and asked for the men's card. They said they didn't have a card on them so they were told to just drop one in the mailbox next time they drove by. We all thanked them, again, and they left. A couple weeks later, I asked the homeowners (who were now my clients - they hired me despite my bad driving) if the men had left a card; I wanted to send them a formal thank you note. But they said they had never gotten a card. So I got to thinking about my rescuers. Were they earthly angels, good Samaritans, just really kind people like my sister, my friend, and her husband? Or was it more than that? Because some things didn't make sense. They were headed to do some contracting work at 8pm on a Saturday? They just happened to be driving by at the exact moment I needed them? They never dropped off their business card - who turns down work in this slow economy? Perhaps they were real flesh and blood humans who God put in the right place at the right time. Or perhaps they were heavenly beings sent by Him for the very purpose of helping me that day, as Psalm 91:11 says, "He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways." Either way I praise God for them. As I was driving home that night in my surprisingly undamaged van, I had to have a delightful chuckle of joy when I remembered what I had been listening to and singing along with as I backed out of my client's driveway and into the ditch. By Your Side, by Tenth Avenue North:

And I'll be by your side, wherever you fall. In the depths of night, whenever you call. Please don't fight these hands that are holding you. My hands are holding you.

Thank you Lord for Your hands that hold me. And thank you for angels - both earthly and heavenly.