A Season of Growth

This past year has been one of extreme circumstantial difficulty. Such seasons always lend themselves to growth; either you allow yourself to grow cold and hard-hearted, or you seek truth and grow to be more Christ-like. I’m so thankful to say that I’ve kept myself rooted in the word (the Bible) and God has revealed more of Himself to me than ever before. 

This actually brings me to tears, you guys. I’ve been seeking wisdom and guidance from God and he has lovingly granted my requests. 

Because this year (and especially this fall) have been such a whirlwind, let me catch you up on 2017 real quick:

- Starting the year, my body almost burst at the seams with inflammation and we sought answers for my huge Lupus flare. I began to be completely physically and mentally immobilized. It got so bad that there were times I didn’t think I could continue.

- In February, I found out that I was allergic to fourteen foods and the next day I cut them all out.

- In March, I took a chronic infections test and found out that I had eight chronic infections including hospital superbugs and borrelia.

- In April, I followed up the borrelia results with a T-cell test showing that I had an active Lyme Disease infection. I started treatment for Lyme Disease.

- In May, my two year old (Brooklyn) tested positive for a (much more severe) active Lyme infection. I also started a candida diet which lead into a ketogenic diet.

- In June, my seven month old (Caleb) tested positive for an active Lyme infection.

- In July I tackled SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and brought the kids to live with my parents while Zach did a major home renovation. I walked alongside my Dad as he was treated with radium and chemotherapy for cancer.

- In August, the kids and I did our first round of oral antibiotics.

- In September, Zach and I took the kids on a little vacation and it knocked me back quite a bit. My Dad was hospitalized.

- In October, I did a round of IV antibiotics and I felt much worse before becoming a bit more clear-headed. My Dad just about died in the hospital and we brought him home. 

- In November, I went back to work part time (part time medical leave) and this has been very difficult on my body. My Dad improved after Naturopathic home care and then passed away in his sleep at the end of the month.

- In December, the grief derailed my body and I really struggled to keep my body physically calm. 

- In total this year, I had 133 medical appointments and this required so much of my time and energy. I have still not been able to properly exercise because when I do, the inflammation flares. I have been quite strict with my diet, medications, and sleep to try to do everything I can to take good care of myself.


I don’t know why God is allowing these things to happen, but it is obvious that in this journey, my trust in the Lord is growing and I’m being sanctified. I am learning more deeply about the character of God and abiding in His grace. There’s a song by Matt Redman that has the lyrics “when I am in the storm, Lord the storm is not in me” and I am overwhelmed with praise and thankfulness that my foundation on Christ has allowed me to stay not just spiritually strong, but joyful through these horrible circumstances.

If my hope was in my health, I would be crushed right now. To have your reality so far from your expectations is not an easy thing to wrestle through. But I’m not crushed, I’m not scared, and I’m not even feeling like life isn’t fair.

This life is so much more than our day to day. The enemy brought sin into this world and there is spiritual attack, but what was intended for evil, God uses for good (Gen 50:20)! I will continue to bring God glory through my circumstances and praise Him for the opportunity to do so. And at the same time, I will continue to pray for physical healing on this earth so that God can be glorified in it. 

God hears your prayers! He hears the groans of your heart and he responds! He responded with Jesus who sacrificed Himself for all of us when all our sins were future. He took our burden and we can rest in the grace of our loving Father. Now we can look forward to an eternity where in the presence of God we are free from sickness, death, and all sadness!

Where are you putting your hope this year? Hope in anything other than Jesus will let you down. 

May we seek the healer over the healing. 

May we seek the comforter over the comforting.

May we seek the deliverer over the delivering.


2 Corinthians 1:3-9 (The Message version):

“All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort - we get a full measure of that too.

When we suffer for Jesus, it works out for your healing and salvation. If we are treated well, given a helping hand and encouraging word, that also works for your benefit, spurring you on, face forward, unflinching. Your hard times are also our hard times. When we see that you’re just as willing to endure the hard times as to enjoy the good times, we know you’re going to make it, no doubt about it.

We don’t want you in the dark friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of us trusting in our own strength or wits to get us out of it, we were forced to trust God totally - not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. You and your prayer are part of the rescue operation - I don’t want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God’s deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part.”


We are here to comfort, encourage, and guide one another through our different seasons of life. Thank you for journeying with me through this! Thank you for your prayers and reminders of truth! I can’t wait to see what growth God has in store for all of us this year. Much love!

28th Annual Lupus Symposium

Each year, the BC Lupus Society hosts a full day symposium for patients, friends, family, and medical professionals to educate about the latest Lupus research. This year’s Annual Lupus Wellness & Education Symposium was no exception to the norm, it was a hugely successful event!

The Lupus Society President, Josie Bradley.

The Lupus Society President, Josie Bradley.

Living with chronic disease can make attending events much more difficult, leading to a lonely and isolating reality. Having the opportunity to come together as a supportive and encouraging community is like filling up your tank, it provides just the oomph you need to keep working towards a more healthy future. There is nothing quite like meeting someone you know “gets it” without the need to explain how you are feeling.

If you were unable to attend in person, the symposium is also video-conferenced throughout the province. The opportunity is open for anyone wishing to learn more about what Lupus is and how to successfully manage the disease.

Lectures were given by leading doctors who specialize in the field of Rheumatology. They shared information about what Lupus is and how it is treated, pregnancy considerations, chronic pain, and symptom management. There were also guest speakers who motivated with their personal family story and a LifeLabs sponsored clinical doctor who explained how to interpret general Lupus biochemical markers. 

Whether you have been newly diagnosed or practically have a PhD in the subject, there is always information and inspiration to be gleaned.

My favourite piece of swag -- is it weird to love keychains?

My favourite piece of swag -- is it weird to love keychains?

Becoming a member of the BC Lupus Society allows for government funding, a charitable tax receipt, and the perk of receiving the quarterly Lupus Lighthouse newsletter. Head on over and become a member so you can receive the articles that I will now be writing! bclupus.org

Did you miss this event? Stay ‘in the lupe’ on my events page. The big ones to look out for are the Lupus Gala in the spring, Walk for Lupus in the summer, and Lupus Symposium in the late fall. I would LOVE to have you join me at the next one! 

The Most Important Thing to Remove from Your Diet

I love food and I love eating. It has been so fun for me to learn all about nutrition and healthy eating and the best ways to eat to support the body during illness. Cooking is so fun and when I’m too tired, it’s a joy to watch Zach cook. The smell of the apple parsnip soup simmering is making my mouth water right this minute! 

I also love to do my best at everything and once I have knowledge of what the best is, I have to live in light of that revelation or I feel like I’m cheating myself. So when it comes to the knowledge of what foods will be most beneficial for my healing journey, and what foods are best to avoid, I have found myself adhering perfectly. And since my diet adherence has been so good for so long, I’ve found myself getting to an emotional place that is on the edge of controlling and I caught myself starting to feel really negative towards eating food that wasn’t healthy. 
 

The most important thing to remove from your diet is fear. 


This is pretty weird for me because I don’t even fear death but I started to fear foods that could make me sick. I’m choosing organic because I’m afraid of my gut being destroyed by glyphosate. I fear eating foods I have gluten cross-reactivity to because I don’t want an internal antibody allergic response. I worry about eating too much sugar because I need to keep systemic inflammation down. It’s gotten to the point where what should be appropriate concern starts to drift into worry.

And what’s frustrating is that even though I can have a perfect diet, the resulting stress over it is probably more detrimental to my health anyway! Because stress increases your levels of cortisol and cortisol shuts off your killer T-cells so your immune system doesn’t fight infection or respond to damage. Upon reflection, it’s actually laughable!

So I guess I’m wrestling with being obsessed with healthy eating. I definitely feel that I need to continue to check my heart to make sure I don’t get to an emotionally unhealthy place.

Check your heart. 


Why am I so concerned, anyway? I guess it’s a bit of a control issue. Diet is the one thing I can control with my healing and you’d better believe that I’m going to do everything I can to heal. I want so badly to feel like myself again. I need to have my brain back. So it’s tricky because eating healthy is a really good thing, and I’m doing it for really good reasons. 

But am I turning something good like high food standards into a destructive stressor? I’ve prayed about it and pleaded with God to release me from feeling this need for control. God, allow me to trust that you desire to heal me and that it’s not up to me to ‘make it happen’. Grant me the knowledge and wisdom to live in a way that honours the body you gave me so that I can bring you glory with it. God, help me to be thankful for the food you provide and help me live in the freedom that the comes from the cross.

In Jesus I am free. 


Where do I go from here? I’m going to pick the best food available and eat it with gusto and gratitude. Now please excuse me while I inhale this apple parsnip soup.

 

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”
- Matthew 6:25-27

Travelling with Chronic Illness

Zach and I recently took the kids on our first family vacation to Disneyland! It was a trip we booked before I got really sick and found out that I had Lyme Disease, but we were able to make it work around my treatment schedule and limited physical abilities. Travelling with two young children is no easy feat, and neither is travelling with a serious chronic illness, but we were able to make some adaptations to avoid any big flare ups. I’m also happy to share my top favourite moments from our trip and tips for if you’re travelling to Disneyland with little ones!


Travelling Considerations


The first big thing that people are always shocked to hear is that we DROVE from Vancouver to Anaheim rather than flying. The only reason we chose to drive is because of what I’ve read from other people’s experiences flying with Lyme Disease. Flying causes considerable pain and migraines for most Lymies as the inflammation around the brain increases with the pressure changes (this happens to a lesser extent for healthy people too). The electrical magnetic frequencies (EMFs) and radiation levels affect chronically ill people much more as we cannot repair the damage that is caused to our cells and the disruption of homeostasis in our bodies is harder to rebalance. The lighting on the plane and noise of the airport is extremely overwhelming for anyone with neurological Lyme and the air quality on the plane is not ideal for an immunocompromised person. Many people with Lyme need several days to recover from the flare in symptoms and I just didn’t have the time to deal with that on our vacation. This is only a brief list on the trouble of flying for people with Lyme Disease, but I’m one to learn from other people’s experiences so that I can avoid mistakes in my own life!

The long drive wasn’t too bad because I was prepared with every toddler car activity that could be found on Pinterest! The only exception to our uneventful drive was that our kids have been sleep trained so well that Brooklyn had trouble sleeping in her carseat for the overnight portion. This caused all of us (except Caleb) to be up pretty much the whole night and I was very sick the next day with headaches, nausea, vomiting, and weakness during our time in San Francisco. On the way home, both kids were tuckered out from the exciting week and slept almost their normal hours.

 

The second big consideration for us was regarding food. I have found so much relief eating a Ketogenic Diet and mostly organic food because it has really helped decrease my systemic inflammation. I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay in ketosis on this trip but I stuck with the Paleo diet and was “mostly Ketogenic”. To do this, we brought our own induction hot plate and frying pan to cook food in the hotel (hard boiled eggs, organic chicken, bacon) and did a big shop at Costco and Whole foods when we arrived to load up on lots of healthy snack food. Our go to food for the parks included: organic veggies like carrots and cucumber that we cut up, hummus, guacamole, organic apple sauce squeeze tubes, organic grass fed yogurt tubes, organic fruit like apples, bananas, grapes, organic turkey meat slices, grass fed beef jerky, organic figgy pops, cold pressed juice, and flavoured sparkling water. 

It was really nice to not worry about sticking to my Ketogenic Diet so I could eat at some of the restaurants. Disneyland is AMAZING at accommodating food allergies and I had some delicious meals that were still gluten, dairy, corn, and soy free. I would make the requests on our dining reservations and often had a special meal prepared by the chef. It was such a treat to enjoy a couple Mickey Mouse gluten-free waffles at our breakfast with Minnie Mouse where they served us a special family-style breakfast platter!


The last major difference was how we managed our time. Travelling with kids already slows the pace way down, but I knew that I personally needed lots of resting time consciously built into our schedule. So we would strategically plan out which rides we wanted to do in the morning when it was less busy in the park, and which shows we could sit and relax at for the afternoons. We would head home relatively early and make sure we got lots of sleep before the next full day. 

We planned for three days in the parks then a break on the weekend before another two park days. This turned out to be perfect because by the time the weekend hit, I was ready to crash for those two days and it was easy (but a little sad) to miss out on our planned beach and zoo time in favour of a little R&R. It can be really difficult to come to grips with the difference between reality and expectations but I’m glad that I listened to my body.

 

Top 10 Favourite Moments


Brooklyn meeting Darth Vader. She was so scared leading up to it but once she was dressed as Rey, she was pumped! She approached him with awe and reverence. And that hug!

Waiting at the gates for Toon Town opening when Brooklyn squealed with delight at the sight of Mickey! He chose to hold her hand and she walked with him all the way to his house.

When Caleb flexed his muscles for Queen Elsa and Princess Anna. “Just like Kristoff!” they exclaimed! 

When Brooklyn became a princess at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. She embodied everything about it, from the hair, makeup, nails, dress, shoes, all the way down to the kisses and waves. 

Gaston set his eyes on Belle and swept her away for a 10 minute courtship where he walked her around fantasyland, proposed, talked castle purchases, danced, and presented her with a garden leaf.

We scored prime seating for Fantasmic with a dining package and I don’t remember ever being so impressed with any show ever. I was blown away.

Meeting up with my brother, James and nephew, John. Their company was a special treat.

Having each princess come up to our table, greet the kids, and give Brooklyn a twirl at Ariel’s Grotto.

Watching Brooklyn and Caleb interact so well together. It is such a joy to witness them start to form a solid bond.

On the last night, we dressed Brooklyn as Mickey Mouse and a Dad near us said to his kids “Look! There’s Mickey!” and they got super excited. Brooklyn then turned to me and eagerly asked “Mommy, where’s Mickey?!” To which I laughed and said “YOU’RE Mickey!”


Tips for Travelling to Disneyland with Little Ones


1. Download the Disneyland app for character times so you can greet them by the gates they come out of before the line ups (ask a cast member where those are). The app also shows all showtimes and ride wait times.

2. Bring a portable charger. Or at the very least, bring your charger and eat lunch by an outlet.

3. If you do the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (highly recommend!), book a morning time to get the most wear out of the hairdo. Stop by the Boutique to get free hair sparkles each day!

4. Stock up on snacks from Costco/Whole Foods and bring a cooler bag so kids can eat on their stroller tray while you walk.

5. If you don’t have a magical morning, book your character breakfast during that time so you don’t miss out on your park hours.

6. Do the rides first thing for shortest line ups and then characters/shows in the afternoon.

7. Toon Town opens 1hr after park opening so go a few minutes early to wait for characters that come to greet and hold kids hands for the walk in.

8. Line up at the main gates early because they open them up for main street shopping usually about 30min before official park opening time. The rope at the Walt Disney Statue drops at official park opening.

9. Take your time with characters; ask them a question, chit chat, dance. You don’t have to quickly snap a photo and leave! And have a good pen for your autograph book (the book in the park has tons of pages).

10. Get a free first visit button (or any other button) by asking at any store register.

11. Pay the $10 per day to use the online max pass. Using the max pass gets you faster fast pass times and you get all the photographer photos included! You don’t have to get it for all the tickets (especially if you just want the photos).

12. Get a fast pass for Fantasmic and/or World of Color for priority viewing areas. You can hold a fast pass for these and still get fast passes for rides (they are disconnected).

13. If your kids fall asleep on the walk home, change them into their pyjamas before you leave the park so you don’t have to wake them up to change them before bed later.

14. Pick your top 3 must do’s each day and the rest is all bonus!

15. Check out Magic Kingdom Mamas for their amazing tips and photo spots (mkmamas.com)