Tuesday, November 27, 2018

I Will Not Stress Eat. I Will Not Stress Eat.

If you have been a faithful reader on this blog, then you will understand when I say that sometimes my life is stressful. I try not to let stress get the best of me, but it's a demon I fight when Jaycee is sick or in the midst of a health challenge.

Stress has taken its toll on my body over the years in a number of ways. (See the post: How My Body Responds to My Daughter's Illnesses.) Weight gain has certainly made its way into life as a result. I tend to eat when I am stressed, and there's many opportunities for that in the course of a year when parenting a child with many chronic health conditions. I also tend to use caffeine, mainly soda and sweet tea, as a way to give me energy and keep me alert through hard times. If I am doing treatments every four hours around-the-clock, I have used caffeine to get me through it.

Back in August, my husband and I joined the Keto bandwagon. I needed a diet with rules and specifics, and Keto has that. It was a big change for us, but it has made a difference in our lives already. My husband has lost over 60 pounds since August, and I have lost 35. On Keto, you increase your fats and significantly decrease your carbohydrates as you teach your body to burn fat and not carbs. Keto means no soda. Well, I suppose you could have soda with no sugar, but that doesn't appeal to me. Obviously, sweet tea is out the question. Pastas, breads, potatoes-no, no, and no. What does that leave? Meat, broccoli, green beans, and cheese have become my best friends. The diet has been going well overall considering how I was eating prior to Keto, but I recently had my first experience with a real health challenge on this diet.

Jaycee's breathing had an asthmatic wheeze to it near the beginning of the month. At first, it was intermittent, so I started extra treatments as needed. Then, her breathing got a little worse more consistently, so I made a run to the doctor with her. He thought she should start steroids and do set treatments every 4 hours during the day for a few days. I started the plan and wasn't overly concerned with things.

The following day, her breathing suddenly took a turn for the worse. With my husband at work and my son at school, I did a random spot check with Jaycee's oxygen saturation monitor. These spot checks are essential to keeping Jaycee healthy because she does not ever communicate anything about her breathing, fever, or symptoms. I have to catch a problem with her breathing before it gets out of hand. Jaycee's 8:45 am spot check showed her oxygen saturations were 89. 89! I had just checked her an hour earlier and she was 95. The days prior she had been 98 every time. I got out the second monitor to verify the number, and I sprang into action when it read the same.

In these times, I have a set emergency plan for Jaycee from her pulmonary team. I spent the next hour implementing that plan and watching her numbers slowly improve. I was thankful for the improvement but also worried. I never know if the emergency plan will improve the numbers only temporarily or long-term. I decided to pack for the hospital, because if her number got low again, that's where we were headed next. I started to panic because I had a long list of things I needed to do at home. If she did go to the hospital, we'd probably be there several days.

I rushed to complete some tasks just in case we had to leave.
Electric bill-paid.
Soiled sheets from the morning mess-in the dryer.
Clothes I may need in the hospital-thrown in the washing machine.
Work stuff-faxed.
I kept a close watch on Jaycee whose numbers were staying in the safe range. As my essential to-do list was mostly completed an hour later, I felt drained. I also felt hungry. I started craving a delicious non-Keto dish from our local Mexican restaurant. Later, I thought often about pizza and pasta. Some part of me was clearly crying out to stress eat.

I didn't succumb to it though. I had my normal Keto friendly lunch and afternoon snack. There were times when I had the thought: Forget it, eat what you want! But, I resisted. I have to teach my mind and body to react differently to the stress I feel when Jaycee is sick.

Jaycee kept me busy the next few days with medications and monitoring, but I unpacked my hospital bag that thankfully never left my bedroom. I made it through a little health scare at home with Jaycee without stress eating or consuming caffeine. It's sort of a big deal!

I fought the food demon this time and won. Next time, I hope I can be that strong again!
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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

How To Include All Families at Church During the Holidays

I recently had another post on Key Ministry's website. In case you missed it, here's the beginning of the post with a link to the full article. The holiday season often brings about special events in churches. From live dramas, choirs, dinners, and parties, there’s a variety of activities that local churches host to celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas. Will the local church include all members and their families during these celebrations?
As churches plan their special events, there are two things they need to consider.
1. Are families of children with special needs and disabilities attending your special events?
Whether it’s a meal or a special service, the church should strive to see all members attend their seasonal activities. If certain families with children with special needs have not participated in the past, then strive to change that. The easiest way to understand their point of view is to simply ask them why they haven’t attended in the past. There may be a wide range of answers from a time conflict with their daily schedule or issues related with bigger crowds. Take time to listen to the family. Hear their responses. Be willing to help accommodate any needs to help them attend. Some things have easy fixes.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Easy Faith in Hard Challenges

Have you ever doubted the goodness of God?
Have you ever doubted God's love for you?

If you haven't, then congratulations. You are amazing!! Truly- you are.

If you are like me, maybe you have struggled at times in your life.

You may have had some sort of crisis of belief or questioning of God's presence in your life for different reasons. It could have resulted from the death of a loved one, a tragedy, a scary diagnosis, or the loss of something important. There are many reasons why people end up in a situation where they question their faith.

For me, it was a series of events during the first 4 years of motherhood. It was watching my child have two open heart surgeries, and all the things that went with it. It was handing my child over for a few minor surgeries. It was having five or six specialists in my daughter's life prescribing medications, making suggestions, and running tests. It was failed hearing tests, complications during routine procedures, and unexpected diagnoses. It was having my daughter admitted to the hospital a few times for breathing issues. It was a miscarriage. It was personal and professional changes in my life as a result of all of those events.

In the first 4 years of becoming a mother, I became very confused in my faith.

I wondered if God had forgotten about my family. I questioned the goodness of God, because I didn't see much good happening in my life. I doubted God even loved our family because I felt pain, hurt, and stress. I didn't feel loved at all. Every problem with my daughter caused more and more doubts. None of my daughter's health issues seemed fair. I wondered where God's justice was in all the health scares.

These doubts were small in the beginning. I didn't wake up with questions that suddenly seemed legitimate. It happened over the course of those tough years experiencing things I never imagined. It was days and months and years of twinges of doubt and lack of understanding that led to me questioning fundamental beliefs about God.

I struggled for a bit to understand my life, my faith, and how they could go together while parenting a child with chronic health conditions. I didn't stay in the struggle thankfully. I recognized I was in a bad place and took steps to change my perspective. I also knew God was real and my thinking had somehow changed because of circumstances in my life.

I discovered some important things in my spiritual struggle.
1. If you doubt the love of God, your doubt will grow uncontrollably! The love of God is clear in scriptures. Love is what motivated God to send his son to bring salvation. If you doubt the basic characteristic of love, the doubts will grow. You'll have nothing to stand on if you can't stand on that knowledge. You won't know how to pray or believe for simple things because the love is in question.

2. Having questions during struggles may be "normal," but they aren't helpful. I recently heard a minister say, "Questioning God's plan and love for you does not empower you to move forward. Faith does!" It's so true! Questions aren't empowering. They cause division and doubts. Yet, I was more apt to stay in the questioning mode instead of just trusting God with my life.

3. Trying to find God in your circumstances, especially a health crisis, is often more difficult than we make it. God is there. Period. We don't have to search for him. When we do, we are walking by sight and not by faith. I have tended to look at stressful health situations and claim God is just nowhere to be found as there were no apparent positives around us. Yet, that thinking was wrong. I had to trust that He was there instead of looking for proof that He wasn't.

4. Did I become a Christian for the perks? Did I think that adversity would never find me? Did I think that my Christianity would keep all harms from my family? Yes, there are blessings of God when we are in relationship with Him, but we live in an imperfect place. The earth is not heaven; there will be hard times here. So why do I get frustrated with God when I should be running to His peace? What was the point of being a Christian if I responded to adversity like anyone else? Hmmmm...

I've learned many things about faith as a parent of a medically complex child. I've found out that doubts come easily and swiftly in health crises. I finally discovered how to keep a mind focused on the truth. If you're struggling, stay in the Bible, continue in prayer, and reassure yourself of the truths of God.
He's there.
He loves you.
He cares.

Want to hear more? I discussed this topic with Sandra Peoples recently on the Not Alone facebook page.  
Watch it here!!
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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Letting My Daughter Be Herself

16 Now as the ark of the Lord came into the City of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart…20 Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows [h]shamelessly uncovers himself!”

21 So David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the Lord. 22 And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor.” 2 Samuel 6:16, 20-22  NKJV

David was fearless in many ways. He lived his life in joyful expression to God and didn’t care what anyone thought of him. My daughter, Jaycee, is much like him.

Jaycee loves Beauty and the Beast. She has the cutest accessories, dolls, and room d├ęcor featuring all the lovable characters. For her birthday earlier this year, I excitedly gave my 12-year-old daughter a Belle costume. I knew she would love it, and she did. She immediately put it on and Facetimed family members to show off her dress. 

A few weeks later, Jaycee chose the Belle dress to wear for Sunday morning church. It was a dress after all, and she always wears a dress to church. However, it was March and her Belle dress may seem odd to other church parishioners. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I let her wear the dress. 

On the drive, I admit that I considered how people would react to her. Honestly, I felt a tad embarrassed by her outfit choice and was second guessing myself. Perhaps, it wasn’t socially appropriate, and maybe I should have stopped her. What if other children made fun of her? I let several questions swirl in my head on that drive to church. Meanwhile, Jaycee rode in the passenger seat swaying to the music we were listening to; she was not at all worried about her lovely blue and white dress. She was happy-plain and simple. 
At church, people loved seeing Jaycee dressed as her favorite character. Many knew of her Belle obsession and commented on her beautiful likeness. A few mistook her for Alice in Wonderland, but I corrected them. Jaycee was thrilled to be in the dress. Nothing horrible happened. She was being her true self. Who was I to stop her from being that? I don’t want to dampen her spirit. She has enough people to do that. 

I want Jaycee to be fierce like David, and I surely don’t want to be the soul-crushing Michal in her story. Since that day, Jaycee has worn the dress to doctor's appointments, the grocery store, and other public places occasionally. I let Jaycee be herself. She doesn't care. Why should I? 

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