Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Miracle of Hope

If you read my post "The Cost of Missions," I completed the post leaving you at my lowest point where Satan had found my weakness, and he had delivered the fatal blow - so he had thought!  I'm so glad our story didn't end there, but I never dreamed how incredible our story would transform from that point.  It all began with the most amazing miracle!

After a difficult day of work on December 20 caring for my patient while dealing with phone calls between Josh's school's principal, our behavior specialist, and Tim, I was emotionally drained and extremely stressed and frustrated.  I left work to go pick up Josh from Tim's office since Tim had to pick him up from school early due to behavior issues.  On my way, I had yet another difficult and frustrating phone call with Josh's principal which led to another call with the behavior specialist at which point I arrived at Tim's office an emotional mess having spent the majority of my day sobbing over the circumstances, crying at the pain and injustice Josh was experiencing, frustrated that I was stuck at work unable to be with my son when he needed me most, and stressed to get home because I knew David's bus would be dropping him off shortly.  At that point I got the final phone call from the behavior specialist who said there was no hope in changing the unfair circumstances for Josh for the day.  As I hung up with her, I got a call from David who arrived home and wanted to know where I was.  After telling him I'd be home as soon as I could, I hung up and broke down.  I had reached my end.  I was done fighting.  Satan's attacks on my family had been way more than I could have ever imagined, and I just couldn't stand to have him attack my kids one moment longer!  In sobs and tears, I said in defeat to Tim, "I can't do this any more!  I'm done fighting this battle!"  The moment those words were out of my mouth, my phone rang yet again.  Too emotional to answer it, I threw the phone at Tim for him to answer.  It was David, and the words he said proved that God existed, he cares, He's still in the miracle business, and He answers prayers and gives us the desires of our hearts: "The cat just came back!  He's really here!"

At my lowest point, I needed a miracle to snap me back from the pit of defeat, and that's just what God gave me.  After 10 days of going missing, our beloved Lightning Tabby Russell had returned to us!  When I thought all hope was lost, God gave me hope that He's still greater than the attacks of Satan, and He will bring us through this.

“But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” Psalm 34:19a

The story gets even better...

As I talked to David on my way home with Josh, David said there was something wrong with Lightning and that he was having trouble walking and was dragging his back left leg behind him.  He was also skin and bones and sick looking.  I knew that God wouldn't bring him back to us only to take him away, so I had to trust that God was working all things together for good.

By the time I got home, David asked to talk to me privately.  When we were alone together in the bedroom, he began crying and told me that earlier at school that day, he was struggling with focusing on his schoolwork because he was worrying about the cat wondering what happened to him.  He began praying to God begging for him to let the cat come home and telling God, "You know that I am struggling to trust you and believe that you are really there and care about me.  Please show you me You are there and bring Lightning home TODAY!"  God had done just that, and David was overwhelmed with God's answer!  God is so good!

After making a trip to a local animal hospital, we knew God wasn't finished with the miracles for our family.  We were told that Lightning had 3 fractures in his left hip and that he would need to be sedated the following day to get better x-rays to see the extent of the damage.  Nerve damage was also present in his left leg as a result of the fractures.  Because of the area of the injury, the vet was also concerned that the bladder had been ruptured which would mean Lightning would need to be put down.  We brought Lightning home in a crate to monitor whether or not he was able to urinate.  If he did, he could be sedated in the morning.  We prayed for miracle #2!  The next day left us in suspense as to what his outcome would be.  By mid-afternoon, we found out that the orthopedic surgeon felt that surgery would be necessary for the best outcome to put a plate across the 3 fractures of his hip and a procedure would need to be done to put his femur head back in the hip socket.  However, the surgery would cost over $4,000.  There was still hope of decent healing without surgery, and often animals heal surprisingly well on their own.  Enter Miracle #3.  We chose to go with this route and pray that God would provide sufficient healing to Lightning without surgery.  As a result, Lightning is on cage rest to prevent him from further injuring himself and to allow time for healing.  We are allowed to let him out to walk around/exercise and to play with him.  Each day, we see him as God's miracle of hope to our family at our lowest time.

God cares about our family.  He answers prayer.  He makes a way.

Since that miraculous day, God has continued to give us hope.  We received notice that both boys' schools will allow the boys to miss school for this trip.  Satan is not going to win this time!  All four of us know that Satan may continue to attack.  We continue to deal with the battles of the significant crises we have been hit with the last few weeks, and the resolution may take a few more months in coming.  In the meantime, we are doing our best to arm ourselves daily for battle.  We are so grateful to have a daily visible reminder of that HOPE that is within us each time we look at Lightning, cuddle with him, or even give him his pain medication every 12 hours!  We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!  Our HOPE is in the Lord!

The Cost of Missions

"Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

Before Tim and I were married, both of us felt called into missions, so when we met and it seemed as if God was leading us to be married, we started making plans to do missions together as husband and wife.  Tim was a Bible major, and I was a Pre-Med major.  We had great plans for how we were going to work as a team on the foreign mission field.  We got married in 2002 in time for Tim to finish his final year of college.  In 2003, we moved to Pennsylvania for him to go to seminary.  I had chosen to not continue on to med school and instead became a Certified Nursing Assistant with the desire of some day getting my nursing degree.  We were full speed ahead for getting to the mission field.

In 2004, we were blessed with our first child.  In 2006, we found out we were unexpectedly expecting our second child.  We were discouraged to have to decide for Tim to drop out of seminary because we couldn't afford to have him continue and be able to provide for yet another baby.  In 2007, I was forced to begin my nursing degree because I found out my science credits were all expiring.  That same year and into 2008, we were overwhelmed by the increasing special medical needs of our youngest and starting to be concerned by some behaviors of our oldest.  In 2009, our suspicions about our oldest were confirmed, and Josh was given the scary diagnosis of Autism.  By the time I finished my degree in 2010, Tim was in full swing of being a financial adviser, and really excelling.  The action of missions was changing, so we decided that instead of having Tim finish seminary, we could do mission work looking into opportunities for business as missions.  Also, because of the special needs of our children, God had given us a heart for ministering to those with special needs.  We knew that we'd never be able to minister in a third world country due to our children's medical needs, so when we discovered the field of Bulgaria, we saw many doors of opportunity open before us, so we excitedly started walking through each one.

In April 2011, Tim and I went to Bulgaria on a Vision trip with the hope to figure out how our family can live there, see what schooling options were available, make sure we'd be a good fit with the ministry already there, and understand what our housing options were.  We loved everything about being there and saw many opportunities to minster.  We came home encouraged and believing we could make it work and that God was continuing to open necessary doors.

However, upon our return, David's health took as turn for the worst and by September, he was needing weekly antibody transfusions to help him fight bacterial illnesses.  In November, I ended up with a migraine that took 3 months to finally break despite several drugs, visits with 4 neurologists, and a 4 day hospital stay.  At the beginning of the ordeal, a CT Scan revealed 2 brain lesions that the doctors were concerned may be cancer or signs of Multiple Sclerosis.  All tests for those were ruled out, but they never could figure out what the lesions were or what caused them.

By February 2012, Josh had his first psychiatric hospitalization, and we were told that he had Bi-polar in addition to Autism and would need to be on a mood stabilizer for the rest of his life.  A few months later, we had a huge family crisis that nearly crushed us.  In November, Josh was hospitalized for the second time.  By then, we were so discouraged and felt that despite the call to missions in our lives, the door for Bulgaria as well as any full-time missions had been permanently closed.

We had to find contentment in the mission field at home where God had us in dealing with many medical and psychological specialists and finding opportunities to minister to families in similar situations as ours.  Missions didn't look anything like we had planned, but we knew God had a plan and purpose greater than ours.  We also found comfort in doing short term missions work and being able to be involved with a partnership in the Middle East.  We enjoyed the trips we were able to make over there and the growing relationships with our dear brothers and sisters in Christ.  In 2014, we had toyed with the idea of going over there as a family bringing our boys with us, but with the unrest happening in the country, we decided it wouldn't be wise.

In each of these attempts to serve God in missions, we felt these trials as a heavy hand of Satan working hard to keep us from the field.  We related to Job in many ways.  However, through each situation, we felt that God used the attacks of Satan to redirect our steps.  After all, Satan is not able to thwart God's ultimate plans!

Finally, in November 2016, we starting praying about taking our family over there in the Spring of 2017.  After much prayer, discussing logistics, analyzing the calendar, looking at the cost of flights, and coordinating dates with a gathering that was to happen in the Spring as well, we made the decision to go as a family and start making plans accordingly.  Within less than a week of that decision, our stable family situation crumbled in several directions.  It started with a crisis regarding David's outpatient therapy on November 30 that led to dealing with a legal agency which then resulted in the need to figure out another way for David to get help because of the trauma and loss of confidence in his counselor.  The decision also affected Josh's therapy hence disrupting the therapy both boys were receiving.  While in the midst of dealing with that emotional roller coaster, our beloved family kitten, who has brought so much joy to our lives the last several months, went missing after we let him out for the night on December 3.  He is an outdoor cat, but he would come in a few times a day to be loved and cuddled.  The missing cat brought heavy hearts to all of us but really took its toll on the boys, particularly Josh who began perseverating over his missing cat causing increased behavior issues at school and home.  It was difficult for us to hear the boys prayers pleading with God to bring their cat home and see their discouragement when in their minds "God didn't listen."

Seeing this battle in their hearts and seeing their tenuous faith shaken even more, I started to struggle with why God would do this to our children.  In the midst of working in the kitchen on December 14 praying and asking God to protect my boys' hearts and faith and asking Him "Why," God reminded me of the cost of missions and the struggles of our past each time we pursued missions.  I had that "aha" moment that this was Satan once again attacking our family trying to ruin our plans before they could even be put into action.  Tim and I had a great discussion that night about the circumstances, and while we had seen God using the circumstances in the past to redirect our paths, we really felt that God was in this trip and its timing and desired for us to go.  So, we decided to declare war with Satan and persevere and not let his attacks keep us from serving.  It was time to arm up for battle and move forward to show Satan he can't win.  We sent requests to both boys' schools for an excused absence for the trip, and we started working on a support letter.

Ephesians 6:10-13a - "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground."

It didn't take long for Satan to take things up another level this time causing significant issues at school for Josh and unjust treatment of his behaviors and the resulting situations leading us into a battle for Josh's well-being and the legal rights of a kid with his diagnoses and the requirements of his Individualized Educational Plan (IEP).  This began the week of December 19 for us.  After the events and frustrations with Josh's school on December 20, I had reached my breaking point.  I could not fight Satan any longer.  If he wants to attack me, fine, so be it!  But LEAVE MY CHILDREN ALONE!  It's not fair to them!  Satan had found my weakness, and I was ready to surrender.

Luke 24:26-27:  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple."

I Peter 4: 12-13, 16, 19: Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed...However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name...So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good."

Thankfully, our story doesn't end here!  Read "The Miracle of Hope" to hear how God miraculously intervened.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Chocolate Almond Butter Cheesecake

Just because Josh is on the Advanced Cellular Healing Diet by Dr. Pompa doesn't mean that he can't enjoy my birthday "cake" like the rest of our family!  I love finding ways to experiment in the kitchen to create palate-pleasing foods that are healthy and within the strict diet specifications for Josh.

That being said, I had fun making my own birthday "cake" satisfying the peanut butter and chocolate craving I've been having while ensuring to keep the "cake" gluten and grain-free as well as sugar-free.  Don't let that scare you off!  It is possible to accomplish that and still have the finished product taste good and have people fighting for seconds!  Try this cheesecake recipe out for yourself and let me know how loved the cheesecake was by those who guiltlessly indulged!

Chocolate Almond Butter Cheesecake
Serving size: 8 large or 16 small pieces


  • 3 TBSP organic butter
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao powder (cocoa powder would work but cacao is healthier)
  • 3 TBSP xylitol (powder in food processor for finer grain texture)
  • 1 Large egg, lightly beaten (grass-fed, free range eggs are healthiest!)
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (chop in food processor)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


  • 8 oz. organic cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup creamy almond butter
  • 1/2 cup cream (I used raw, grass fed cream; if you can't get that, organic whipping cream will work or whip up the cream on the top of a refrigerated can of coconut milk)
  • 1/4 cup xylitol (powder in food processor for finer grain texture)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of green stevia leaf powder (optional for increased sweetness)

Chocolate Topping:

  • 5 TBSP organic butter
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 2 TBSP xylitol (powder in food processor for finer grain texture)
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1/8 tsp green stevia leaf powder
  • 1 TBSP extra virgin coconut oil


  1. Prepare 8.5-9" spring form pan by greasing bottom and sides thinly with extra virgin coconut oil or grapeseed oil to help keep crust from sticking.  Set aside.  
  2. Crust: Melt butter in medium saucepan over low heat.  Stir in cacao and xylitol then slowly whisk in beaten egg.  Cook, stirring constantly until mixture thickens (1 min or less).  Remove from heat.  Stir in almond flour, walnuts, and vanilla.  Press crust evenly into bottom and sides of pan and freeze for about 20 minutes (can refrigerate instead if waiting for an hour or more for next step).
  3. Filling:  Beat cream cheese and almond butter together until smooth.  Beat in cream.  Beat in xylitol and vanilla until smooth and creamy.  Add stevia powder, if using.  Spread filling over crust and smooth top.  Refrigerate or freeze until firm (at least 2 hours in fridge).
  4. Chocolate Topping: In a small saucepan over low heat, melt butter, unsweetened chocolate, xylitol, and stevia powder together.  Add vanilla and cacao powder and stir until smooth.  If too thick, add coconut oil mixing until melted.  Spread over filling and refrigerate again until firm (30min - 1 hour).
Enjoy this guiltless, low carb, gluten and grain-free, sugar-free cheesecake!  Keep leftovers refrigerated (if there are any! :-) ).
Note:I adapted this recipe I found from Carolyn at All Day I Dream About Food:

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Voting and Setting an Example for the Next Generation

Today, I exercised my rights as a citizen of the United States, and I took the time to do it with David to teach him the value of exercising his rights as a citizen. I used the experience today to discuss with the boys at dinner why we vote and why we chose the candidates that we did.  We used it as an opportunity to also teach them many lessons that I pray will help them succeed in life and glorify God in the process.  It is my duty as their parent to set an example for them in the way they should go in life.

Here are some of the things we discussed today:
  1. We need to measure what is right and what is wrong by God's standards found in the Bible.
  2. Sometimes doing the right thing means going against the crowd and doing what is unpopular or even scorned upon by peers.
  3. When voting, vote on principle and conscience after much prayer and consideration.
  4. Two wrongs have never made a right, and nor will they ever!  Evil is still evil even if less.
  5. Voting is a way to make your voice heard no matter who you vote for because your vote tells those looking at the statistics who and what you stand for in your choice.
  6. You can be content and at peace in your vote and the outcome because God is always in control, and He's the one who puts people into power and takes them out of power.  The outcome has already been ordained by God.  There is no fear of the future!
  7. Voting is a right that should be exercised by citizens who are blessed with that right.  
  8. Voting is a personal decision.  You need to respect other people's opinions and choices and let God do the work in individual hearts.  You can speak your heart with grace, but leave the persuading and moving of hearts to God.  Act and speak like Christ in all things.  You are His representative and light in this dark and evil world.  
  9. No matter who wins the election tonight, we must honor that person and give him or her the respect the position deserves because God put him/her in that power and God's Word commands us to respect those in authority over us.  We are also commanded to pray for our President, so we must commit that person to prayer and pray that God would direct and lead working out His perfect will in and through him/her.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Growing Pains in Recovery

Josh continues in his recovery process with Autism.  He truly is a different child, and people who haven't seen him for several months are astonished at the drastic changes.  We continue to be thrilled at the progress he makes on a daily basis and are excited that he continues to thrive off of all drugs since the middle of June.

A new heartache has overcome my heart though.  As Josh recovers from his Autism symptoms, he is experiencing some difficult "growing pains."  He is becoming increasingly social and socially aware.  He is not content to be or play by himself like he used to be obsessed with doing.  He now longs for peer interaction and is frustrated if he can't engage his peers.  Gone are the days when he was blissfully ignorant when he was chosen last for a team or group or when kids were mean to him.  Now, he is fully aware of when he is shunned or intentionally skipped or overlooked.  With that awareness comes a lot of pain and hardship and the shedding of tears.  I am proud of the way Josh has been trying hard to reach out to peers who have been mean to him in an attempt to be nice to them.  However, it's so frustrating when the kindness is not reciprocated and instead unkind words or actions are the thanks for his kindness.  I so desperately want him to be successful socially.  I want him to have friends and be liked.  I want him to be accepted and not looked down upon or disregarded.

Granted, Josh still has miles to go in the socialization category.  This is something that we haven't been able to work on to a large extent because we always had more serious behaviors and issues to be addressing.  Now that those things are things of the past, the socialization shortfalls are front and center and overwhelming.  In his attempt to be involved, he feels the need to make a comment about everything and anything even if it means saying something utterly ridiculous.  His actions and words are often socially inappropriate, but he's trying to engage!  I have to look at the progress there.  We are ramping up all efforts at home, school, and with his therapies to address these social deficits, but in the meantime, I'd love to see the right person come along who is willing to accept Josh and his quirks and love him just because he is a person worthy of love and acceptance.

It grieves me to see him hurting.  At times, I dreadfully wish we could go back to when he was blissfully ignorant socially just to spare him the pain.  However, the logical side of me realizes the importance of even these difficult growing pains if he is going to continue to succeed and be all that God wants him to be.  He is 12 years old and does not know what it is like to have a friend.  It used to be that his interpretation of a "friend" is someone who lets him watch over their shoulder as they play on their electronic device.  A "friend" to him was a means to an end or desire.  Now he longs to have someone he can have conversations with or interact with.  However, line of peers waiting and willing to become his friend stands vacant.  In fact, there are no viable friend options in our community or his school that we are aware of.

I have to turn my sorrow and grief into action.  I have begun to plead with the Lord to bring Josh a friend -- to allow him to know the comforts of having someone to talk to, spend time with, and enjoy being together just because.  God is the God of the impossible.  He has brought Josh this far defeating so many impossibles already!  I am praying a friendship is the next impossible God accomplishes in Josh's life!  Will you pray with me for a friend for Josh?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Leading by Example

This election season is very complex and is becoming extremely divisive.  It's actually been hard to stomach at times.  From what I can deduct from all that I read on Facebook and hear presented in the media, neither of the main candidates are desired by either party, but many people are choosing to vote for a particular candidate based on the philosophy of the "lesser of 2 evils."

I refuse to fall into that trap.  Why? For one, I choose to vote for a candidate that I feel will help to make America a better country.  I personally believe both of our primary candidates will only do damage to our nation.  If you look at the definition of the word "vote," you will find this:  "a formal expression of opinion or choice, either positive or negative, made by an individual or body of individuals" and this "to express or signify will or choice in a matter, as by casting a ballot."  I think this is a great statement about voting:  "The ability to vote allows citizens to say their opinion and choice on a variety of issues. In the American political system, voting allows registered citizens to cast their choice for the political leader that they believe can accurately make the choices that will better the country" (  When I vote on election day, I am expressing my opinion and choice.  If my opinion/choice goes against what I believe is right and important, then I am being a hypocrite because I am expressing my opinion/choice which differs from my beliefs.  I refuse to be a double standard person.

Consider these quotes from men of old which I feel so adequately represent my own belief:
Images from

Here are 3 thoughts I have about this situation:

  1. What if every voter voted for principle in this election?  Considering all who I have heard state that they don't like either of the primary candidates, if each of those people voted for principle instead of the lesser of two evils, they would make a collective statement to both parties that they need to present better candidates in the future.  This could drastically effect change in our broken party system.  Our votes for another person, while probably not enough to elect a third party or other candidate, would speak loudly to bring about change.  However, we will continue in the ridiculous state that we are in because only a few people will oppose it by changing their vote.  I will place my vote for a third party/other candidate to make a statement to Lord-willing effect change in our broken system.
  2. Like the quotes state above, I value voting for principle, voting with my conscience, and voting in a way that will be right and honorable before God and my country.  There are some virtues and beliefs that I am not willing to compromise on when it comes to voting for a political leader, a church leader, or someone else in an elected position of authority.  These are important to me, and most are convictions from the Holy Spirit.  To deny these convictions would be to deny the Holy Spirit and my conscience.  I refuse to do that.  I will stand firm to my beliefs and convictions in all aspects of my life.
  3. Someone shared a political cartoon on a conversation thread on my Facebook page in response to my statement that I refuse to vote for either of the 2 primary candidates.  This is it:
     This is so ridiculous in so many ways!  By NOT voting for someone, I am NOT leading to loss of rights!  For one, God is the one who raises up and takes down rulers from their high positions--not my vote!  God is the one who governs people's actions and choices leading to rights gained or lost.  He is sovereign.  He is in total control.  The biggest thing that totally bothers me about that cartoon is the insinuation that I am being a bad parent if I don't vote against someone by voting for someone.  As a parent, it is my duty to train my children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  That means teaching them to make wise choices in the midst of difficult circumstances.  It means helping them to decipher what is right and wrong.  It means teaching them not to give in to peer pressure or to follow the crowd for the wrong reasons.  It means helping them to value making a difference and effecting change.  It means helping them live lives that are not guilty of double standards or hypocrisy.  It means helping them listen to the Holy Spirit rather than fears.  It means encouraging them to pray about their decisions and study God's Word to determine their beliefs.  I can't do this just by telling them what to do or pounding Scripture into their heads.  I do this by leading by example--showing them through my life and choices that these are important qualities to instill in their own lives and that it's possible to have these qualities in this life.  If I don't lead by example, I will fail!  As I go into the polling booth, I will lead by example showing my kids that I hold to my principles and standards, that I vote for people that I feel can lead our country in the right way, and that I can do so without being hypocritical or compromising my beliefs.  No matter what circumstances my children find themselves in as adults, I pray that their lives will be reflective of the way I trained them and led by example so that they can deal with the good and bad circumstances of life that are a direct result of God's plans for their good and His glory (not some vote I made years before!).
As you go to the polls this November, I pray that you will choose to vote based on conviction and conscience.  If you can do so and vote for one of the 2 primary candidates, then good for you.  If you are voting for one of those 2 candidates going against your convictions and conscience, perhaps you need to do a little more soul searching before you make your vote.  Make your vote count for the right reasons!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Battle with Weight

Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that I am on the skinny side when it comes to weight.  I always have been and if anything, it's always been a struggle to keep weight on.  When we started our cellular healing diet as a family to help us be more healthy and help Josh thrive better, I was a bit concerned about the potential weight loss due to the healing ability of the diet that promotes toxic weight loss (toxins are stored in body fat) that naturally occurs with a healing/detox diet.  I was already slightly underweight to begin with.  I was told by the nutritionist guiding us through the diet that while I would love toxic weight, my body would find a happy place and stop shedding the pounds.

Well, unfortunately, we started the diet at the end of March, and Tim had the whole ordeal with his appendix at the end of April right after we started the heavy detox part of the diet.  Needless to say, I wasn't monitoring my weight, I was simply trying to care for Tim and keep the household functioning.  As a result, by mid-May, when I finally got around to stepping on a scale after noticing that none of my clothes fit me anymore, I was shocked to find that I had lost 14% of my body weight in less than 2 months!

I panicked and reached out to a friend who is a dietitian who was able to put me in touch with a friend of hers locally that has a practice.  She has been my weight coach ever since.  She was very concerned about the weight loss and the danger zone my body was in.  Not only had I lost 14% of my body weight so quickly, but I was less than 2 percentage points away from my body using my essential fats to survive.  My cycle had shut down, and I was losing hair by the handfuls.  I was weak and lethargic.  I was a mess.  I had to see my primary doctor for a full blood work-up to see if damage had already been done to my organs.  Thankfully, everything checked out fine.  I've been on a 2250 Calories a day diet since and had to add grains back into my diet.  I am still sticking to a very healthy and organic diet, so I have to eat a ton of food to reach my calorie goals because fruit and vegetables and healthy meats just don't have the high calorie content as junk food does. Sadly, the weight gain progress has been painfully slow since embarking on this journey!

I haven't spoken about the situation much with people because I'm sick of getting the whole "You are so lucky!  I'd love to have your problem instead of my battle to lose weight" comments.  While I don't know what it's like to struggle to lose weight, I know the struggle of maintaining healthy weight.  Let me just say for the record, the struggle to maintain a healthy weight, whether it's losing or gaining is NOT fun by any means!  It's a daily battle!  I have come to despise eating because I constantly need to be monitoring what I'm eating and how many calories I'm consuming and whether or not I am getting in the recommended amounts of each food group daily.  It's such a drudgery!  I want to eat food again just for the enjoyment of eating!

Thankfully, my cycle has since reset, and while I am still losing hair, it's not by the handfuls anymore.  I have much more energy and feel a lot more like my usual self.  My weight gain goal set by the dietitian was 1.5-2 lbs a week, but unfortunately, since starting with her in May, I have only gained 4 pounds.  Having a stomach bug 2 weeks ago in which I lost 4 pounds in 1 day didn't help matters.  I gained 3 of the pounds back by the time I saw my dietitian last week, so now my total weight gain since starting with her has been 3 pounds.  I can't help but be discouraged, but I'm going to keep on keeping on until I can get my body into a healthier place.

I am still under the care of my family physician who has been concerned about my ability to regain the weight.  When I see her next on October 5, she will be ordering some tests at the request of my dietitian who is now concerned that I may have an absorption issue.  Also, on the rare occasions when I indulge in a food that contains gluten, I get really bloated and struggle with abdominal cramping.  There is concern that I am now gluten intolerant or sensitive, so I will be tested for that as well.  Even though I've always consumed a lot of gluten-containing foods in the past (I am Italian after all!), apparently the few months hiatus I gave my body was enough for it to detest any trace of gluten.  I also may get my metabolism tested.  There is concern that it's way too high adding to my issues and inability to gain weight.

Having to deal with this has been hard because I don't have time to worry about myself with all that's been going on in our family.  It's been a drudgery and constant source of discouragement.  It's also been a lonely, isolating battle.  I was encouraged the past few weeks when I've met two other people who understand my struggle, so it helps to know I'm not alone.

God is in control, and while His timetable may not be my timetable, I am learning to trust and be patient in even these uncomfortable circumstances.  Each day is a gift, and I need to use it to its fullest by God's grace!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

When God's Strength is Enough

This summer did not go as planned to say the least.  In fact, it's been an intense, harrowing past 5 months!  Even as I sit here reflecting back on all that transpired these past several months, I can't help but shudder at the difficulties we faced and dread ever experiencing anything like it again -- Lord-willing, we won't!

The saga began in April when Tim injured himself pulling our dead lawn tractor, which had 2 flat tires, out of the shed all by himself.  If you read my post from May about the miracles God worked in Tim's life over those next few weeks, you understand how this frightful journey began.  His injury led to a ruptured appendix that we didn't realize was a ruptured appendix until 4 days after it ruptured which led to a 5 day stay in the hospital with doctors being amazed that Tim was alive not to mention not as sick as he should have been.  The doctors told us removing the appendix could kill Tim, so they instead inserted a drain into the abscess Tim's body had build around the appendix in order to drain the infection so that surgery could take place.  That began a routine 2-4 hour visit to the hospital first weekly then every other week to get the drain and appendix checked.  Our hopes of healing went up and down, and after another visit with the surgeon, we found out he would not need surgery but could live with the healed appendix.  We were thrilled to get that wonderful news since Tim was just starting to feel better and the thought of having surgery again was disheartening.  Then the wait began to hear the news that the appendix was closed and the drain could be removed.  We waited and waited and waited some more.  The hospital visits were starting to get old.  The hospital staff all knew us by name.  The routine that ate up a large part of a day every two weeks was starting to wear on us.

Then came the day we met once again with the surgeon and received the bad news that the appendix was not healing as expected, and surgery was a necessity.  The hope was that they could remove everything they needed to through laparoscopic surgery, but given the amount of inflammation, there was a chance Tim would need to be fully opened up. The surgery date was scheduled unexpectedly quickly once the decision was made, and Tim had an appendectomy on July 26, three days before we were supposed to leave for our Russell family vacation.  We were thrilled that the surgery was successful as a laparoscopic procedure, and Tim was discharged from the hospital the next afternoon!  We had decided to leave on Saturday instead of Friday for vacation to allow Tim one more day to recuperate at home before needing to sit in a car for 6 hours and endure the bumps.  However, by Thursday afternoon, Tim's fever he had been battling off and on since the night before, soared higher than we would have liked forcing me to call the surgeon who told us to come immediately to the ER.  We spent all evening in the ER talking with the surgeon and his staff and having another CT scan done as well as blood work, and IV antibiotics were started.  Things were not looking good.  Tim was readmitted, and the doctors were talking about opening him up again to try to find the source of the infection.  Thankfully, Tim's surgeon came back on duty the next morning and  decided to try taking Tim off the antibiotics and see if the fever would return since it had broken the night before.  He was hoping that if the fever didn't return, we could call it a fluke and avoid unnecessary surgery.  If it returned, surgery would have to be done.  Thankfully, God intervened, and the fever never returned, so after another day in the hospital for monitoring, Tim was able to be discharged mid-day on Saturday.  His parents had graciously taken the boys with them for our vacation on Friday.  By God's grace, Tim was able to endure the car ride down to Virginia on Sunday.  Even though he spent his vacation lying around and taking it easy, he was thankful that he was able to spend time with his family.

For 6 weeks after his surgery, Tim was not allowed to lift anything that weighed more than 10 pounds.  This became really frustrating for him once he finally felt back to his normal self, but I was persistent in being firm because I didn't want any other set-backs.  This drama had gone on long enough.  Last week, on September 2, Tim's weight restrictions were completed, and he was able to go back to functioning normally, and I felt as if I had been given my life back only to discover that I now had to pick up the pieces of my life to put them back together again.

Tim has always been the rock in our family.  He keeps us sane and keeps us functioning.  He's always there.  He has always been the healthiest of us all.  In raising two precious special needs boys together, Tim has been my supporter, helper, and teammate.  In everything he had to endure the last 5 months, I felt as if I lost all that I had come to rely on from him.  It scared me tremendously when it all began to know that he should have died - that I could have been a widow.  I'm grateful that God had other plans for Tim and so thankful to have Tim still at my side filling those roles once again.

As I struggled these past several months to care for Tim and his physical needs, keep the family going, keep up with our 1.8 acres of land, keep up with the meals and laundry and housework, continue to work part time as a nurse, and run my essential oils business, there were many times where I felt as if I would crumble under the enormity of the tasks resting on my shoulders.

With the 10 days total of hospitalization Tim had plus the 7 outpatient visits for drain checks, surgeon appointments, and repeat CT Scans, I had a lot of childcare arrangements to make.  It was so difficult to juggle caring for my boys and being at the hospital especially when Tim was so sick and in so much pain during his first hospitalization.  The emotional toll of Tim's near-death experience and continued issues and then surgery for the boys was really costly.  They both struggled to come to terms with why God was letting their daddy suffer so much.  They felt the void of not having Daddy be an active member of our family greatly.  It was exhausting for me to stay emotionally strong to help them become stronger emotionally.  The whole ordeal created a lot of childcare needs.  Finding childcare has always been an enormous challenge given Josh's special needs.  I am so grateful for Tim's mom and several of our friends who were so willing to step in and care for our children when I couldn't.  I'm also thankful for Josh's home health aide services which helped to fill in the gaps for his care.

With our special healing diet that we had started in March, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen making everything from scratch including our own crackers and yogurt.  I get all of our dairy, produce, and meat from local Amish farms on a weekly basis.  When Tim was in the hospital, we couldn't accept the offered meal help from church friends because the diet is just too complicated.  People would offer to make a meal and ask what we can't have.  I always said it would be easier to tell them what we could have.  So, I had to run back and forth from the hospital to home to ensure the boys would have the food they needed for their meals while Tim was in the hospital.  Several people encouraged me to just let the diet go.  I refused because we have seen such amazing results with the diet for Josh that there's no turning back!  Every minute I labor in the kitchen is so worth it to have a son who is thriving when he was predicted to be struggling.

Our property is beautiful.  We love every bit of it!  However, it's a lot to manage and has always taken all hand's on deck to help keep things under control during the Spring and Summer months.  Tim does the majority of the work.  With his being out of commission for most of this Spring and Summer, this put a huge hardship on us and our property.  We also had planted an extra large garden this year to help us financially manage our organic diet.  I will be forever grateful for our neighbor who so lovingly and faithfully mowed our lawn for us with the lawn tractor.  That was a huge task to take over and a huge burden taken off of our shoulders.  However, the parts of the lawn that needed to be push-mowed, the weed whacking and pulling, and maintaining and watering of the garden still needed to be done.  I gave it my best shot, but there came a time where we just had to let the weeds prevail.  I could only do so much in the limited 24 hours in each day.  The boys stepped up and helped also, but we couldn't do it all.  Thankfully, we were able to keep our garden going, and while it had more weeds than I would have preferred, it produced well for us providing ample food that we were able to eat fresh as well as plenty that I could can or dehydrate to keep us going until next year's growing season.

We love our house.  We love the ample space it has giving us the ability to minister to people.  However, the size provides plenty of rooms and space that needs to be cleaned on a regular basis.  Cleaning the house takes time!  Time that I did not have enough of.  Again, the boys stepped up to help share in the load, but just like the weeds overtook our yard, the dust overtook our home.  I can't tell you the number of times I wished I could have more than 24 hours in my day these past several months!  I made it a priority to keep up with doing the laundry because we do need to stay clothed, but sometimes, it would take a week before the clean laundry got folded and brought up to the rooms.  My family was gracious and never complained the countless times they would run downstairs to pull out needed underwear or socks or other needed clothing from the baskets waiting with laundry that needed to be folded.  Having the boys take over the responsibility of washing and folding their laundry over the summer also was helpful.  I am also grateful for two people in our church who graciously gave of their time to help me with housework when Tim was hospitalized and another who paid for me to get my house cleaned.  Just having someone help share the burden was a huge relief and a real encouragement.

I continued to work 18 hours 2 days a week unless Tim's hospitalizations required that I take off from work.  I also continued to run my essential oils business although I was getting sick of always having to apologize for the length of time it took me to respond to an email or phone call because I just couldn't do it all.  I'm grateful for the way God blessed my business during these tough months helping me to reach higher income than I've ever had at a time when I didn't have time to keep things going.  That helped keep us financially afloat as we dealt with missed work for Tim and me not to mention the unexpected medical expenses as we maxed out Tim's high maximum out of pocket expense medical deductible (No, Obamacare is NOT more affordable!), and the amount of gas we were spending in the countless trips to the hospital that was a 25 minute, mostly-highway drive from our house.

The physical and emotional exhaustion I experienced on a daily basis these past several months was overwhelmingly enormous!  The long hours I spent keeping our family going with the very little and sometimes broken up sleep I was getting at night was enough to kill me.  When I did finally get to bed, I would fall asleep in utter exhaustion the moment my head hit the pillow.  I have never found myself always on the verge of tears and feeling as if my legs were going to crumble underneath me on a daily basis, but that's just what I experienced these past months.  There were days that I felt as if I would never survive the day.  I truly have never been as overwhelmed as I have been these past few months, and I never want to feel that way again.

Through it all, God was so gracious to me.  I never would have survived had it not been for His help, grace, mercy, and largely, His STRENGTH!  I spent my days in a constant state of prayer asking for the same thing over and over again, "Please, God, help me to have the strength I need to do all that I need to do today."  I'm glad God never gets weary of hearing our petitions because mine were so redundant and desperate!  I had no strength to carry the burdens heaped on my shoulders daily, but God gave me His strength, and Jesus carried my burdens.  God's strength was my lifeline.  It helped me pull my weary body out of bed early each morning, work non-stop making sure the needs of all of my family were met, and brought me to bed even if it was for a few short hours.  God's strength kept me going even when I knew how impossible it was for one person to do all of the tasks set before me in a given day.  God's strength kept my heart from wallowing in misery, discouragement, and self-pity.  God's strength helped me be all He called me to be on a daily basis.  His strength never wore out.  It was fresh and new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness!

These past several months have helped me to come to love and respect God's strength.  It has drawn me yet again closer to Him helping me to realize I am nothing and must rely on Him for all things.  Feasting on His Word on a daily basis became so much more meaningful to me as it nourished my soul allowing me to keep pressing on each and every day.  This hard time has strengthened my belief in His promise that "I can do all things through Christ who strengths me" (Philippians 4:13).  I experienced daily what it was like to soar with wings as eagles and run and not be weary and walk (or even stumble) yet not grow faint (Isaiah 40:31).  God brought me through the waters, kept me from drowning in the rivers, and prevented me from being burned in the fire (Isaiah 43:2).  I never want to go through something like this again, but I am thankful for the refining work God did in my life as a result.  As I sit here letting my mind reflect back on all that I had to go through the last several months, my stomach is churning into tight knots.  I feel traumatized all over again!  However, God's goodness prevails, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God worked all of those hard times together for my good and His glory (Romans 8:28).  I want to forget the painful memories, and putting them into words will help me do that, but I want to always remember the wondrous comfort God gave me daily and the incredible strength of His that carried me through.

Through all of these hard months, one song continued to run in my head over and over again and still does.  I am trying to convince Josh to sing it with me sometime in church.  The words spoke to my heart over and over again reminding me of God's strength and the work He was doing in my life on a daily basis emptying me of myself and filling me with Him.  These words so eloquently and beautifully describe what I truly believe deep down in my heart and was so evident these past several months.  His strength is perfect!

His Strength is Perfect
I can do all things
Through Christ who gives me strength
But sometimes I wonder what He can do through me
No great success to show
No glory of my own
Yet in my weakness He is there to let me know
His strength is perfect when our strength is gone
He'll carry us when we can't carry on
Raised in His power, the weak become strong
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect
We can only know
The power that He holds
When we truly see how deep our weakness goes
His strength in us begins
Where ours comes to an end
He hears our humble cry and proves again
His strength is perfect when our strength is gone
He'll carry us when we can't carry on
Raised in His power, the weak become strong
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect
Written by Cedric Caldwell, Victor Caldwell, Cece Winans • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group

The Day We Never Thought We'd See

God continues to do amazing things in our family.  He continues to bring healing in areas we never thought possible!  We are forever grateful for His amazing handiwork in our lives and for the incredible answers to prayer we continue to see that are above and beyond all we could ask or think.

Three weeks ago on August 29, 2016, we saw the day that we never thought we would see.  I still feel as if I am living in a dream and that soon, I am going to wake up and discover it was just a dream!

As you know, Joshua, our oldest son who just turned 12 this past Sunday, has Autism along with Bipolar, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and ADHD.  The gloomy future predicted by the many doctors and specialists Josh has seen throughout the years was daunting and frightening.  They had warned us about the scary years of puberty where Josh would be in and out of the psychiatric hospital and needing constant medication adjustments due to the raging hormones.  We were told we would see a reprieve once Josh reached his 20's, and his hormones stabilized.  Being under the care of a psychiatrist would be a lifelong necessity as medications would always need to be monitored and tweaked as time went on.

As I wrote in my annual Autism Awareness blog post in April, things have drastically changed for Josh due to our journey in natural solutions over the past now 2.5 years.  In addition, the healing diet we as a family have been doing since the Spring with the intent to help Josh has also been instrumental.  Beneath the surface of these solutions, God was orchestrating all of the events - giving me the drive to fight for my son, leading me to the right people and the right information, giving us the means to put the natural solutions to the test and finding success with them, etc.  This was God's capable hands at work in an incredible way in Josh's life as well as in our family's lives.

Before making the wellness journey into the wonderful world of natural solutions, Josh was taking 10 pills a day (7 different drugs) to manage all of his medical and psychiatric needs.  With the help of natural solutions, Josh experienced increased remarkable medical and psychiatric stability which led to a 2+ year journey of weaning off of medications.  It has been an exciting journey watching him transform before our eyes as drugs left his system revealing wonderful personality traits we didn't know existed.  On June 8, 2016, Josh took his last dose of Risperdal, a drug crucial for managing his moods of bipolar and the last drug of which he weaned.  We were told by several doctors that he would never be able to go without a mood stabilizer.  In the midst of puberty and raging hormones, at the time predicted to be the worst time of Josh's life and craziest emotional roller coaster ride, he stopped taking his most crucial drug and since has been THRIVING and has been more stable than he ever has been since developing Bipolar!  How is that for a miracle?  We are still praising God for that incredible answer to prayer!

Josh saw his psychiatrist for a follow-up to being off of Risperdal on August 29, 2016.  She was amazed at how well he was doing and thrilled for his success.  She looked at him and said, "Well, Josh, you don't have to come back and see me again."  I almost fell out of my seat, and Josh was just as shocked as he said, "What did you just say?" She repeated herself, and Josh clarified, "You mean for a long time?"  She answered, "No, never unless you need me again sometime later down the road.  You are doing so well that you don't need my services anymore.  There is nothing that I can do for you that you aren't already doing for yourself."  I thought I was going to need to be pulled down from the ceiling because I was flying so high.  I never dreamed I would see the day when Josh would not need to see a psychiatrist regularly.  She and the psychologist have also been mentioning dropping some of Josh's diagnoses because of the lack of symptoms.  More time still needs to transpire before the diagnoses can officially be dropped, but we are getting close.  It's been over a year since Josh experienced a cycle with his bipolar.  His anxiety completely disappeared after he weaned off of his anxiety drug in December 2015.  His Autism has become so highly functional that if he were to be diagnosed today, according to his psychiatrist, he would not qualify for an Autism diagnosis but would instead receive a social delay disorder diagnosis.

My heart continues to soar as I see my son happy, thriving, and better than I had ever dreamed.  We have lived to see the day we never thought we'd see, and it only keeps getting better.  Josh moved into the Middle School in August as a big 7th grader.  Knowing the changes of middle school from elementary school and given the fact that he would have a whole new team of teachers and support staff, I was really anxious about his transition.  This kid continues to amaze me and transitioned so well, you wouldn't have thought it was a new experience or a new team.

God is the Great Physician, and we have certainly experienced His healing hands in Josh's life.  We are forever grateful for His great mercy and grace to Josh and our family, and we eagerly look forward to the future plans God has in store for our precious son.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Miracles in the Rough

Well, this past week has probably been the most difficult one we've had to face so far as a family.  As always, God's grace has proved sufficient to get us through.  We have been amazed at the countless miracles we have witnessed God perform in and through this whole ordeal.

Two weeks ago, Tim had injured himself dragging out our dead lawn tractor which had 2 flat tires from the shed.  He had been nursing the injury which had started to improve, but then a few days later, he started having increased pain in the area.  Of course, being the nurse that I am, I instantly checked him out for appendicitis since the area is in the right lower quadrant.  He passed all of the tests for that, so I told him he probably did something that re-injured his tendon.  On Friday night, we felt a pop playing a game at the boys Taekwondo lesson.  That brought us up to the past weekend where Tim started feeling really sick and spent most of Saturday and Sunday in bed.  He thought perhaps he had a virus.  On Monday, he was feeling much better and went to work.  By the evening, he was feeling poorly again and was complaining of severe back pain and wanted me to put Deep Blue essential oil blend on his back.  When I touched his back, I recognized instantly that he was feverish.  I immediately thought of his injury and told him to roll over so I could check the area.  I found a large mass in his lower right quadrant that was even hotter than the rest of his body.  I knew things weren't good, but I was thinking he had caused a hernia and perhaps some of his bowel had become obstructed.

He wanted me to go to work and promised he would call the doctor first thing in the morning.  I told him there was a chance the doctor would send him to the ER.  He said he'd be fine.  Sure enough, he was sent to the ER.  The Lord orchestrated the events giving Tim a Christian physician to care for him.  The doctor was assuming it was an abdominal wall hernia and ordered a CT Scan.  When he came in to give Tim the results, it was quite a shock for Tim to hear the diagnosis was Ruptured Appendix.  The doctor prayed with Tim at that point, which was such a blessing to him.  Tim called me right away, and I was able to get my clinical manager to cover me at work so that I could go to be with him.

The biggest miracle in all of this is that Tim is alive and that he is doing as well as he is.  Every doctor who has been in to see him has remarked that he is doing better than most people in his situation.  We think the appendix ruptured Friday night when Tim felt that pop, so he went several days with a ruptured appendix before receiving medical help.  Thankfully, once we thought he had a virus, we were using essential oils to support his immune system.  Tim's body perfectly encapsulated the toxic waste from his intestines in a multi-compartmental abscess that preserved him from going into sepsis or from death.  The doctors put him on IV antibiotics, and the next day they placed a drain to get the infection and toxins out of the abscess.  Tim will have the drain in for the next few weeks until the abscess is fully drained or until he can have surgery to remove his appendix.  He will need weekly checks of the drain and follow-up CT Scans.  Before the surgery, he will also need a colonoscopy.

Our family has done a lot with essential oils and natural supplements over the last two years to support our bodies and help our bodies function at its optimal function.  In addition, Tim did a gentle, natural cleanse in January to clean up his gut and help it be extremely healthy.  Then in March, our family began a cellular healing diet that has really helped our gut to be healthy and helped our bodies detox so that we can be as healthy as possible.  All of these events has allowed Tim's body to be able to function at its highest level helping to preserve his life and keep him from being as sick as he could have been.  We praise God for the perfect timing of all of these events and for the amazing design He has created the human body with to naturally be able to heal and protect itself.

Once the drain was inserted with radiographic imaging while Tim was sedated, Tim got worse with the fever, infection, and pain.  We were warned he would get sicker before he got better, but we never expected the pain to be so terribly extreme.  The last several days have been very difficult, discouraging, and exhausting.  The extra energy I have from being on our diet has tremendously helped me as I stayed overnight caring for Tim at his worst and continued the rest of the week pulling late nights with going to bed after midnight and getting up at 6 and spending most of my awake hours with Tim and orchestrating child care.  Through it all, God has been our strength and calm and our every present fortress.

It would take a long time of telling you all of the "mini" miracles we have witnessed this week between Tim's medical care, health, the ways things worked out with the boys' needs, how God intervened when I had to be in two places at the same time and needed something else from home, and how God brought so many people to our rescue to help us in so many countless ways.

One last miracle I have to share is the fact that through this very difficult week that has been hard on all of us, especially the boys who have spent evenings visiting Daddy in the hospital and hardly having Mommy to care for them, Josh has done extremely well.  With his Autism, Bi-polar, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, something as huge as this whole event has been should have landed him back in a psychiatric hospital.  The last 2 years, he has been able to wean off of 9 of the 10 drugs he took daily because of his increased function through natural solutions, and his final drug is on schedule to be completed by the middle of June.  Josh took this whole ordeal in stride and even had a few perfect days at school despite the drama going on.  In fact, his behavior overall was better than David's.

All of us are emotionally raw and ready for our normal family routine.  Tim was discharged from the hospital on Saturday evening.  He is still recovering but slowly.  He has a long road ahead of him as the toxins continue to drain out of his abdominal cavity, and he anticipates abdominal surgery in about 6 weeks or so.  Through it all, we have confidence that God has all of this under his sovereign control.  He holds us closely in His capable hands drawing us near to His heart.  We are so thankful that we don't have to go through this alone.  We are also grateful for the many family and friends who have come to our aide no matter what our needs have been through this whole ordeal.  God is so good!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Autism Awareness Month 2016

As Autism Awareness Month comes to an end, I am finally having a moment to write my yearly Autism Awareness post. 
In the Autism world, it is so easy to be consumed by hoplessness.  It's an overwhelming diagnosis with life-long implications.  As the years ticked by after Josh's Autism diagnosis at 4 years of age, things only looked gloomier and more hopeless as more and more diagnoses were tagged on and more problems ensued.  By his second psychiatric hospitalization at 8 years of age and the warning by the doctor that it most certainly would not be his last hospitalization and things would get really rough once puberty hit requiring constant medication dosing adjustments to compensate for fluctuating hormone production, we were left with worries about the future and realization that we would need to start planning for his adulthood and his needing care and supervision for the rest of his life.  I stopped dreaming that someday he would be able to get married recognizing that it was just too impossible.

Fast forward 3 years, and our hopes for the future have drastically changed.  Instead of doom and gloom and the impossibility of independence as an adult, we see a bright future, and I have begun praying that God would raise up a godly spouse for him one day.

What has changed? EVERYTHING!  This metamorphosis began when we started using essential oils over 2 years ago then incorporated natural supplements all while getting rid of typical personal care and household products that are toxic switching to natural stuff I make with natural ingredients to keep us safe and healthy.  Then began a greater scrutiny about the food we used and the process of eliminating processed stuff and switching to more organic choices.

With each change we made in our daily habits and choices, we saw more and more changes for the better.  The two-year transformation began with instability and a threat of a third hospitalization due to the 10 drugs a day he was currently taking not enough to keep him stable.  Fast forward two years, and Josh is only taking 1 drug a day that he has been slowly weaning off of over the past 2 years and will be fully weaned off of by the middle of June according to his doctor's wean plan.  With each drug he weaned off of, he became happier, more compliant, and more stable.  We have been discovering more and more aspects to his personality that had been locked inside him unknown to us.

The medical world has things all backwards when it comes to Autism.  They treat symptoms with drugs that often make the person have a flat affect and zero personality.  While some behavior therapy recommendations are made and can be effective in helping a child cope in our world, progress is painfully slow.  What is often overlooked and neglected is the availability and success of natural things and diet.  God created all things for our benefit and good, and mankind has done a lot to taint it or ruin it altogether.  We need to get back to the way God created things!

This year, I began a new learning journey into the world of healthy diets and was blown away by what studies are out there regarding the implications of a leaky gut and the benefits of cutting out inflammatory foods from the diet.  While this information is helpful to every human who wants to be healthy, it has HUGE implications for people with Autism.  After reading the literature available, I decided to take the plunge and eliminate gluten from Josh's diet (I had already eliminated artificial dyes and flavors a year prior to that).  Surprisingly, he went from a jittery, fidgety, easily irritated kid to a calm and collected child who hardly gets irritated.  After letting him have gluten for one meal around the Easter holiday and having a difficult next 1.5 days of increased irritability and hyperactivity, he reset and went back to his new norm.  That was enough to convince us of the importance to avoid gluten for good.

In March, we embarked on a journey as a family beginning the Cellular Healing Diet by Dr. Pompa.  It is a pretty involved diet that heals the leaky gut, helps the body rid itself of toxins, decreases inflammation, and improves cellular health.  We believe this is the final key for helping Josh fully recover of his Autism and other issues.  From the changes we have already seen since starting the diet, we are getting more and more confident of the end results.

There is hope!  Don't ever let anyone or any doctor convince you otherwise.  Never give up fighting!  Don't accept a doom and gloom prognosis.  There is always room to improve and excel.  Don't discount God's power to do the impossible!  Josh's prognosis seemed dismal and improvement seemed so impossible, but God is greater and more powerful!  He has directed us to the right people and the right resources, and with the change to natural solutions and healthy diet, Josh is on the road to full recovery!  God is amazing!

Psalm 147:11 - "but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love."

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Celebrating Success

If you are a special needs family, you understand the difficulty of doing special things in the community as an entire family.  This is a struggle we had dealt with since our boys were a toddler and baby.

Due to his Autism, Josh struggles with sensory overload and anxiety over new places and new routines.  As a result, being in a new and public environment doesn't work so well for him.  Our attempts to have him in this kind of environment usually end up in an embarrassing meltdown and humiliating drama.  As a result, we typically don't bring Josh into community settings, and it's not for the lack of trying.  Every so often, we build up the courage to give it a shot only to be discouraged and disappointed when it didn't go so well.

We got convicted about preventing David from experiencing community outings because of his brother, so we started doing family events with just the 3 of us leaving Josh with a home health aide to care for his needs.  Even though, Josh never really seemed bothered by it or left out, we always felt so guilty having fun without him and feeling his absence deeply.

Since Josh has been doing so much better as a result of our wellness journey and use of essential oils, we decided to test the limit.  We had been doing a few small-scale outings with the assistance of a home health aide and having an easier time of it, but the outings were not huge events.  We decided to press the limits this past Friday and have a family dinner at a Turkish restaurant in Philadelphia then attend a String Quartet concert at the Kimmel Center.  The concert started at 8:00 p.m., which is Josh's bed-time, and usually, he doesn't do well if we mess with that, so this test was huge in many respects.

I am so excited to announce that the evening was a HUGE success!  Josh didn't have any meltdowns.  We had a close call in the middle of the second musical piece when we prevented Josh from lying on the floor during the concert, but he was able to use his coping skills and pull himself together without creating a huge scene.  He loved the outing and has remarked several times how much fun he had and that he wants to do something like that again!  It's great for his confidence to know that he can have a successful outing also.  A second test was the next day because of the extremely late night.  We got home shortly after 11:00 p.m. Friday night (of course, Josh slept the whole way home).  When Josh doesn't go to bed at 8:00 p.m., his behavior is usually terrible the next day.  However, on Saturday, he had a great day despite the many chores (another angst)!

We are praising the Lord for His work in Josh's life and giving our family the chance to be whole and enjoy quality and memorable time together doing special things in the community!  We pray that we will have many more happy and memorable outings.
Waiting for the concert to begin