Is God Real or a Fairy Tale?

Everything you do, your convictions, and the way you live your life will come down to this question.  Maybe you don’t ever think about God, but even in that you have decided that He is not worth pursuing.  The implications of God being REAL are huge!  It means you are forced to acknowledge that you were created for more than just what pleases you; created for something greater than yourself.

Can you imagine if God IS REAL?  If He created this world and everything in it?  If He actually exists right now and knows you?  If He sent Jesus to die on a cross to save us from death; eternal death?  Please hang in there if you don’t know what I’m talking about.  This is a true story of belief and unbelief.  It’s a journey to true peace, true love, and true purpose.  You owe it to yourself and your future to at least hear this one time in your life.  It’s no accident you found this page.

Here’s my story:  I was born and raised in Chicago until my freshman year in high school when we moved to Northwest Indiana.  I grew up going to church about 4 or 5 times a year.  Although my parents did not attend church much, they wanted us to go to a Christian school, so from grades kindergarten through 7th grade my parents sacrificed a lot to keep us out of the Chicago public schools and in a private school.  My school and my grandmother’s influence were where I learned the most about who God is.  I learned about Jesus Christ.  I learned how God loves us so much that He gave His only son, Jesus, and if you believe in Him you will not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)  At some point in my childhood I became a Christian; Meaning I said a prayer, asking Jesus to forgive me of my sins and letting Him know I believed He died on the cross and rose to life; conquering sin and death and I wanted Him to be my savior.  Again, if this seems ridiculus or so weird to you please don’t walk away yet.  If what I’m saying scares you then you are right where you need to be.

In high school, my family moved to a rural area and I attended the local public school.  My family didn’t attend church anymore and so I lived out my four years in high school without any influence from the Christian faith.  I continued to pray to God throughout my high school years, but stopped reading the Bible.  I never questioned if God was real, but I think he was more of a genie in a bottle figure for me at this point.  I would go to Him for help and wants, maybe throwing in a thank you here and there.  If He didn’t help me or if bad things happened I would feel abandoned, angry, or that I wasn’t good enough for God to help me.  

In college I started to question my faith.  I had an amazing professor who I admired a lot who was an atheist.  His theories on why there was no God were so convincing.  I started waking up at night in a panic because I felt so empty and alone.  I begged God to give me a sign if He was real because I no longer knew if He was real or just someone made up to help people to cope; to feel better about life and death.  I started talking to people who had a strong Christian faith, but these people’s belief was all about faith.  They kept quoting scripture, but I kept saying what if the Bible is not real either?  They believed by faith and not evidence beyond the Bible that God and Jesus are real, but I needed more than faith and more evidence outside of the Bible.  There are so many books and articles on both sides of this topic.  We tend to believe what we are brought up in, so I wanted to walk away from what I was taught as a child, so I could see for myself what was real.  I didn’t want my parent’s faith or even the Pastor’s faith.  I wanted to have a faith in Christ because I believed, based on evidence, that this is for real.  You can argue with me all day that I my upbringing is what ultimately led me back to Christianity, but you weren’t able to experience the things I experienced in that year of struggling with whether God is real.  Sometimes our experiences override what seems to be concrete.  Ultimately, faith has to come into play if you are going to believe, but there is concrete evidence too.

A year into my search for God a tragic loss of a close family friend named Rose was when I knew I had to make a decision one way or the other.  Through the faith of a husband who just lost his wife and mother of his three young children, I saw a glimpse of  a peace I had never known.  He was mourning her loss, but was talking about Jesus and how He knew she was in heaven.  I’m not saying he wasn’t devastated by her loss, but something was definitely different about the way he mourned.  How could this man not hate a God who would turn his life upside down over a tragic accident?  God could have prevented the accident from ever happening.  What kind of loving God takes a mother away from her three young children?  Still confussed and angry, I started reading a book given to me by a friend about the “Most Profound and Complete Near-Death Experience Ever”.  I’ve never been into these kinds of books, but maybe I was able to get into the story because the death of Rose was still so raw and I needed something to hope for.  The author of the book described heaven and her experience in such an amazing way.  It was a vision of the most unimaginable place.  When I turned the last page of the book I sat and thought for a while.  This story could be completely made up.  Even if God is real the author’s vision of heaven could be wrong.  Or it could be right.  She could have been given a gift that most of us won’t get…a glimpse of what happens after we die.  Scientifically speaking, many researchers attribute the glow or visions to the effects of anoxia, or oxygen deprivation, which can affect the brain and optic nerves. Another theory holds that the brain releases massive amounts of endorphins, or natural painkillers, when the body is gravely injured. Those endorphins may “override” the optic nerves, causing the victim to see a peaceful glow.

(http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2002/10/whats_the_deal_with_the_bright_light_you_see_before_dying.html

Why would I tell you about the scientific theories against God, heaven, and visions that people claim to have?  Because for the rest of your life you will have to deal with both sides of this topic.  It wasn’t that I believed what I read in this book about the afterlife, but it was another thing that confirmed that I will always find people, books, and articles that are for both sides.  If you don’t research yourself and then make a decision based on your own research and convictions and then ultimately make a stand of faith you will be swayed every time a new theory arises.   For me personally, I decided that while I looked for evidence of God I would also pray to Him asking for His help finding Him.  If he isn’t real then no harm done, but if He IS real then He could help.

There are wonderful theories on both sides and overwhelming amounts of evidence that Jesus was not just a real person, but the Son of God.    

So, I continued to ask myself questions?  Will I ever (in my mind) have 100% evidence for God’s existence?  NO.  (If you asked me today if God is real I would say yes 100%, but at the time of my questioning I could not say 100%.)  Is there enough concrete evidence to believe that God is real, that He sent His Son, Jesus, to earth to live and die and rise again?  YES.  At some point will I have to let FAITH be enough?  YES, because this world is filled with questions and things like evil, disease, and accidents that we can’t explain.  We will always want to ask, “Why?”  I think asking why is good, but if you never get past it, it can be harmful in your ability to move forward, to grow as a Christian.

My last question came down to, “Will I follow God and believe wholeheartedly that He is real or will I walk away from believing in a god at all?  I don’t want to live as an agnostic. That summer of 1997, I recommitted my life to Christ and made the decision to follow Him no matter what.  Now, that’s not to say I didn’t struggle with thoughts of His existence here or there, but when the thoughts would come, I would remind myself of the journey to get where I was.  It was a journey of faith for sure, but is was also one packed with concrete evidence and the witness of His power and Spirit working in people and situations around me.  

If you wonder if God is REAL listed below are a few of many books on the topic.  If you read these books, other materials, and interview other people and decided there is enough evidence for you to believe then you will still need to make a heart change…not just a head change.  What I mean is if you decide Jesus is real than you need to decide if you will follow Him (give your all to Him, to be guided by Him).  There is a  prayer at the bottom of this blog if you are ready to pray to God, accept that He is real, and want to dedicate your life to Him.  Next step:  get a Bible and read it.  God is REAL and the Bible is true.  Your heart will change as you study the Bible and start living out your life based on Scripture and time spent praying.  Also, you need to find a Christian church.  If you really want to grow and learn about who God is you can’t do it alone.  I use to think churches were full of people who were just indoctrinate and part of a “I think I’ve got it all together club”.   This is not true!  A good Christian church is a place filled with people who, just like you and I, have faults, but decided that God and His Son Jesus are very real and they want to know Him better, live for Him, and ultimately love others, sharing the gospel of Christ.

*The Case for Christ   by Lee Strogel   A Chicago Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the    Evidence for Jesus.  He also has other books on the evidence for God, Jesus, and Creation.                                                            

*Answers in Genesis is a Christian organization with a ton of books and information on the evidence of God.  We’re talking scientific evidence here.

*Billy:  The Early Years of Billy Graham  DVD   This movie examines Billy Grahams younger years in ministry and his crossroads with faith and doubt.  Amazon Prime sells it for $6.99.  Sometimes Christian movies get a bad wrap for bad acting, but this movie is very well done!  

*Redeeming Science by Vern Poythress   Can science and God coexist?  How does God relate to science?  

*The Reason for my Hope by Billy Graham  “There are two classes of people in this world: the saved and the lost.  Both have the same opportunity to choose Him or reject Him…”

*Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis  He defends Christianity by building a logical foundation for belief.  

From the Bible:

John 3:16  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”

John 10:10 Jesus said, “I came that you may have life and have it abundantly”

Romans 3:23 For all have done, thoughts or bad things, which the Bible calls, “sin.” “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Romans 6:23 The result of sin is death, spiritual separation from God.

Romans 5:8  God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 “Christ died for our sins…He was buried…He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures”

John 14:10 Jesus is the only way to God.  Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father, but through me.”

From Billy Graham:  “We can’t earn salvation; we are saved by God’s grace when we have faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. All you have to do is believe you are a sinner, that Christ died for your sins, and ask His forgiveness. Then turn from your sins—that’s called repentance. Jesus Christ knows you and loves you. What matters to Him is the attitude of your heart, your honesty. We suggest praying the prayer below to accept Christ as your Savior.”

“Dear God, I know I’m a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe Jesus Christ is Your Son. I believe that He died for my sin and that you raised Him to life. I want to trust Him as my Savior and follow Him as Lord, from this day forward. Guide my life and help me to do your will. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.”

If you just gave your life to Christ you can go to this website  https://billygraham.org/devotion/salvation-is-free/

scroll down to the “Do you need to give or recommit your life to Christ.”  Click on this.

At the bottom of the page you can click on “Yes, I prayed the prayer” to receive free resources.

If you gave your life to Christ today please let me know.  I would love to talk and/or pray with you.  If you haven’t or you need more information please let me know.  The same link above also has a “No, I need more information” button to click on if you didn’t say the prayer.  They also have live CHAT.

I pray that God will open your eyes to how real He is and you find out just how much He loves you and wants to be a part of your life.

Dairy-free Nutella!!

Calling all chocolate lovers!  Every once in a while I want CHOCOLATE!  Actually, I want it all the time, but I have exercised some restraint.  Here is a great new take on Nutella.  My kids and I love this recipe, but if you are looking for it to taste exactly the same as nutella you will be disappointed.  Give it a try though, because it is really good!

Chloe’s Vegan “Nutella”  (recipe is from Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli)

Makes about 2 1/2 cups     Can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.  Soften at room-temperature before using.

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (dairy-free)                                                                                   1 cup almonds, with or without skins                                                                                              1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract                                                                                                      1/4 cup soy, almond, or rice milk (I used unsweetend almond milk)

Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler or microwave until smooth.  In a food processor, pulse almonds until very find and powdery.  Add melted chocolate, almond extract, and nondairy milk.  Process until very smooth.  There will still be tiny bits of almonds in the mixture, but try to get it as smooth as possible.

My Top 5 Recipe Books

There are so many great recipe books and healthy living books available today.  I have read many, but the following are the ones that I come back to over and over.  

  1.  joy of COOKING by Rombauer, Becker, & Becker     This book has so many beloved and classic recipes.  Although I am dairy-free, corn-free, and try to limit my meat intake this book has given me so many wonderful recipes that I am able to make substitutions for.
  2. Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen by Chloe Coscarelli   This book is becoming one of my new favorites.  It takes classic italian recipes that I have not been able to eat because of my allergies and makes them vegan friendly.  As I try more and more of her recipes I will post some of my favorites.
  3. The Daniel Plan by Warren, Amen, and Hyman  If you want to live a healthier life style, but don’t want to be a vegetarian or vegan this is a great book to get you started.  The book is written by a pastor and two medical doctors.  Most of the book is focused on educating you on foods that heal or harm, the role of fitness, and how to change the way we eat.  Faith plays an important role in this book, but no matter your belief you will find it very helpful in guiding you to healthy living.  The end of the book offers a great 40 day plan with recipes.
  4. The Daniel Plan Cookbook by Warren, Amen, Hyman   This book offers more than 100 Daniel Plan recipes for healthy eating.  A chapter on how to create a “Daniel Plan” pantry is very thorough and helpful.  
  5. The Forks Over Knives Plan by Pulde and Lederman    This book is written by two doctors.  It is a 28 day meal plan with a ton of imformation on why, in their educated opinion, a vegan lifestyle is the healthiest.  I probably use this book more than any of the other books for lunch/dinner recipes.  There is a movie/documentary by the same title.

These books or Forks Over Knives Video can be found by visiting your local library.  If it’s not on your library’s shelf, you can have them request it from another branch.  It’s a great way to spend a few weeks picking through the recipes to see if it’s worth purchasing.  

I would love to hear about your favorite recipes or recipe books. 

 

The Best Dairy-Free Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Healthy eating is difficult for me.  For one, I have eaten the same foods and cooked the same way since I was a little girl.  With education and training, I have slowly incorporated healthier meals into my house, but it doesn’t come natural to me to eat lots of fruits and veggies with a little or no meat on the side.  Staying away from dairy and corn products due to allergies has taken away A LOT of foods I enjoy.  I know that I am eating a healthier diet because of it, but I don’t always appreciate the changes I’ve made.

Over the past couple of years I have read many books and researched online for great Vegan/Vegetarian recipes to incorporate into our meal plan.

If you are a lover of mashed potatoes and gravy, but you would like to try a healthier version then I have a great recipe to share with you.  I haven’t found a better dairy-free version.

This recipe is from, “The Forks over Knives Plan” by Alona Pulde, MD, and Matthew Lederman, MD:

Dairy-Free Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Ingredients: 

  • 1/4 c. cashews
  • 2 lbs. russet potatoes (about 4 medium-large) scrubbed and chopped (I peeled the skin too)                     
  • 2 c. cooked brown rice                                                                              
  • 8 oz button mushrooms, sliced (about 4 cups)  (I have never liked mushrooms and I LOVE this recipe)
  • 4 c. low sodium vegetable broth                                                                                 
  • 1/2 t. dried sage                                                                                                                 
  • 1/2 t. dried marjoram                                                                                                      
  • 1/2 t. dried thyme                                                                                                                 
  • 1 clove garlic, minced                                                                                                         
  • 2 T. fresh lime juice (1 or 2 limes)                                                                                      
  • 1/8 t. freshly ground white or black pepper, plus 1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper (I only used the black pepper)                                                                                     
  • sea salt
  • Place the cashews in a small bowl and cover with 1 cup of water.  Set aside to soak for 30 minutes.
  • Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and add cold water to cover.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and cook until the potatoes are very tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 20 minutes.  Drain thoroughly and set aside to cool.
  • Meanwhile, in a saucepan, combine the rice, mushrooms, and vegetable broth.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.  Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Another option is to leave the mixture in the pan and use a immersion blender to blend until smooth.  (I put mine in a food processor, but had to do two batches because it wouldn’t all fit at once.)
  • Once the mixture is blended put it back in the pan.  Add sage, marjoram, thyme, garlic, lime juice, 1/8 t. of pepper, and salt to taste.  Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes to blend the flavors.  Cover to keep gravy warm and set aside.
  • Transfer the cashews and their soaking water to a clean blender.  Add a pinch of salt and remaining 1/4 t. pepper and blend until smooth.  Pour the cashew cream over the potatoes and use a potato masher or mixer to mash well.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  • Serve the mashed potatoes topped with the gravy.  
  • Makes about 5 cups each of potatoes and gravy.  (I froze some of the gravy to use at a later date.)                            

Why Two Educators Chose Homeschooling

Why would two educators choose to homeschool their own children?  I’ve been asked this question so many times.  Some people have been very blunt and obviously offended by our choice.  It amazes me how controversial this topic is among educators too.  So much to talk about, so let’s start with the why…why did my husband and I go this route?  It’s definitely not something I like to explain in one or two sentences because, for us, it was a lot of little things and a few big things that eventually led to this crazy decision.  Yes, I said crazy!  To go off the beaten path, to give up my career and financial resources for several years, to face the disapproval of friends and educators, made our decision a little uncomfortable and yes, a little crazy! But I wouldn’t change it for the world!

Let me give you the short and sweet answer that I share with others when put on the spot.  We believe in education and we believe this is the best education we can give our children.  We are Christians who want our kids to have a strong foundation in the truth.  We can’t afford a private school, so we homeschool.  Side note:  you don’t owe anyone an explanation.  There have been times that we simple say, “this is what works best for our family and we love it (most days).”

Now for the longer version of why we homeschool:

Homeschooling was never in the “plan”.  My husband and I worked our way through college to earn degrees in education.  His focus was high school and mine was elementary.  We believe in education and the power of learning.  We were excited to teach!  We loved our jobs!

As we started thinking about having a family of our own we were excited that, once our children were school-aged, we would have very similar schedules, so we’d all be home together during holidays and summer breaks. Ah yes, our future seemed perfect.

After our first child (a daughter) was born in 2000, we decided I would stay home for at least a few years.  We really wanted to be the ones raising our baby, so I left my job knowing I’d go back in a few years.  Our second child (a son) was born almost three years later and I wanted to be there for him too, so we pushed me going back to work a little longer.  Being at home was great, but it was hard too.  I missed getting out of the house and having a job.  I missed teaching.  I will talk more about that in another post though.  BACK TO THE TOPIC:

When our daughter was four we sent her to preschool.  She loved it and we LOVED her teacher.  Her teacher really inspired me with a love for this age group, so when our son was getting ready to head to preschool, the teacher we loved had moved on and I decided to open a preschool at my church.  Oh, how I loved teaching preschool!  When my son was ready for kindergarten I decided to stick with teaching the preschool for a while.  Things were going great.  I was back to teaching a little and my kids were doing well in school.

My daughter’s second grade and especially third grade years, I started to see some changes in her.  This child, once happy and a lover of school and learning, was becoming frustrated with school.  The joy and sparkle in her eyes seemed to be dimming at such an early age.  

She was in a high ability class which seemed to have a lot of senseless busywork for homework.  We would be working on worksheets with her all evening sometimes.  She loved her teacher and she was doing well, but the busywork after school was really bothering us.  Her grades were good and she understood the work, but it took so long to finish some of these papers.  

One day I had the opportunity to ask another parent from my daughter’s class if her child was experiencing some long evenings of homework.  She said yes, but went immediately to talking about her daughter’s high reading level and asked me what my daughter’s level was.  It was the first time I felt like my children’s education was sort of a “rat race” to the finish line.  It didn’t seem to be about the love of learning anymore.  It was about test scores.

Obviously, this is not ALL public education is about, but at that moment my emotions were high.

On the night before ISTEP testing, my daughter, a third grader, was upset because she said that her principal could lose his job if she did bad on the test.  I asked her where she heard this and she said it was from the principal.  He had gone into their classroom that day to tell them to make sure they got a good night sleep, eat a good breakfast, and do their best because if the school scores low on the test he could lose his job.  I tried to laugh it off with her and tell her he was just joking.  “He just wants you to do your best”, I said.  When I left the room I was frustrated.  My nine year old was worried about how a test she was taking would affect her principal!

Before I go any further I need to make it very clear that there are exceptional teachers, principals, and staff in many public schools.  And the principal who said this to my daughter’s class may even be a good principal who used, in my opinion, an inappropriate motivational tool. 

A few weeks later, over dinner with a couple of friends, I mentioned my frustrations.  These women were older, their children raised in public schools and now successful adults. (Success has many definitions.  I am referring to success as a productive member of society, full-time career that supports a family financially, a good work ethic.)  They both said I was not the first person to express these frustrations lately.  One of the ladies said that she could see why some people would choose homeschooling these days.  For some reason I couldn’t get what she said out of my head, but I knew I didn’t want to homeschool.  When I thought of homeschooling I immediately thought about social skills.  How on earth can children who are “sheltered” grow up to be productive members of society?  The only homeschooler I ever knew when I was in high school was awkward and shy.  Also, I had heard that Christian children should be a “light” in the schools.

So, as a Christian, I did what any Christian would do…I started praying about it.  I prayed God would show me what road was right for my kids and family.

One night as my husband and I were talking after the kids were in bed, we had a conversation about education and some of our frustrations.  I brought up homeschooling to see what his reaction would be.  To my surprise, he said he had thought about it as well, but both of us agreed up to this point it had never been an option for us.  We made an agreement that night to start researching on our own the positives and negatives of homeschooling.  We agreed we should both pray and do our research alone and then in the spring come back together to discuss what we had learned and to decide if this was even an option to consider.  We chose to research on our own and not together, so that we wouldn’t persuade one another either direction until spring.  

We bought and rented secular and Christian books on this topic, started finding homeschooling parents to talk to, and researched online.  

During this time, I got to know a woman who was homeschooling.  We became very good friends that year.  Now, I know some of you will instantly think that this was a big influence in our decision to homeschool.  Yes and No.  Because she and her siblings had been homeschooled themselves, it was a glimpse of healthy, thriving, and successful adults.  None of them were awkward and I never would have guessed she had been homeschooled.  Her nose was pierced, she loved make-up, and wore ripped jeans.  She wasn’t what you would call “conventional” or “conservative”, but she loved the Lord and wanted to raise her girls to be confident, well-educated, Christians.  We all want that; whether we choose homeschooling, public or private education.  Speaking with her gave me “food for thought” and nothing else.  You have to understand that my husband and I are focused on being followers of no one, but Jesus.  People can influence us, but ultimately for us, it was God leading us to a calling we never would have chosen ourselves.

Some of our goals regarding education and our children were that they would not only have great material to look through and learn, but to have an opportunity to really dig in to a subject that they were passionate about.  We wanted the history and science portions of the curriculum to be Christian based because this is truth and not fairytales. We also wanted to expose them to other religions and how to defend their faith.  In my opinion, a Christian education is no more “indoctrinating” than a parent telling their child not to smoke cigarettes or do drugs.  If you love your child you will want to teach them truth.

We also wanted to provide them with extra days to really master a topic that they may be struggling with.  Why would we give them a grade of a C and move on when we could help them earn an A.  In traditional school settings, classroom sizes are too big and the curriculum guidelines don’t allow for extra time on subject matter.  A tutor can be called in at this point which can frustrate the child and may even start a thinking pattern of being, “behind or stupid”.

When spring came, my husband and I brought our books and research to the table and talked.  Actually, we brought it all to our bedroom.  We sat in bed with books and research and talked for what seemed like hours.  Long night short, we were on the same page…HOMESCHOOLING could not only work, but be something great!

I was excited and scared to death!  I had already asked the questions, “What are the laws surrounding homeschooling?  What curriculum will I use?  How will I get my kids involved in sports, music, arts, and other extra-curricular activities?”, but now it was time to do more research and start making choices.    

If you choose homeschooling, know that you are not alone.  Every town has homeschoolers and most towns or surrounding towns have opportunities for educational and extra-curricular activities.  There are countless websites you can join, curriculums to choose from, and homeschool conventions to attend.  It can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you are like me and think, “I have to get this right” the first time.  YOU DON’T!  If you are not a lazy parent and you are continuing to educate yourself and research, and finding opportunities for your children you WILL NOT RUIN YOUR KIDS!  You might even give them the best education ever!

When you follow God’s leading in your life, whether we are talking homeschooling or not, everything really does fall into place one way or another.  I didn’t say it would be easy because it’s not, but it is fulfilling.

God bless you as you live out your calling!

 

My Health Story

My health story is also posted under the menu, “Healthy Living”.  I will start by explaining my health journey and then all other posts in “Healthy Living” will have recipes, suggestions, and information I have found helpful over time.  I am dairy-free and corn-free, so a lot of the recipes will reflect that.  Don’t worry, I have found many alternatives that taste just as great…really!  Thanks for joining me.

“HEALTH is like MONEY, we never have a true idea of its value until we lose it.” I love this quote by the late Josh Billings.  It’s so true!  It really hit home with me about four years ago.  I will start by saying that I have never been diagnosed with cancer or any horrible, chronic disease, so although I have had my share of health struggles it is nothing compared to some dear people I have loved and lost over the years.

I really thought I should “suck it up”, count my blessings, and ignore my aches and pains, but my health issues became life altering and really made me stop in my tracks and make some changes.  My health struggles started out in 2013 with some female problems that ended up being endometriosis.  I went in for a DNC which was very helpful for relieving very painful cramping during my period.  It was suggested that I should have a vaginal hysterectomy, but between the medical research I did and speaking with ladies who have “gone before me” I chose to wait on this.  I still have pain here and there due to the endometriosis, but I know what it is, so sometimes that’s half the battle.  Every few years I have a ultrasound to check up on my ovaries and such.

About a year later in 2014, I started having minor chest pain off and on and heaviness in my lower lungs just under my rib cage.  I dealt with it for about three months before going in for a check up.  They did an EKG and x-ray.  It came back fine, so she said to come back for a follow up in a few weeks.  A month later I had my first ever pout with Pleurisy.     OH MY GOSH!  If you have ever had this you know it is horrible.  I woke up with pain in my left side/lung area and a couple hours later I was having trouble breathing it hurt so bad.  I had an x-ray and a CT which showed nothing!  I didn’t wanted to hear a bad diagnosis, but, at least for a second, I was disappointed that I spent all that money to hear the horrible pain I was having had no name on the CT.  It also made me feel like they thought I was making it up.  Anyway, they guesed it was Pleurisy, sent me home with antibiotics and by the next morning the pain was gone.  Speaking with others who have had bouts with this it confirmed for me that Pleurisy is what I experienced.  I have never experienced it again and I have no idea what caused it.  That seemed to be the beginning of the end of my health for the next two years.

I went back in to see my doctor about few months later because the heaviness in my lower lungs was getting so bad I couldn’t go for long walks with my family and I stopped riding my bike, which is something I really enjoy doing.  I was still having pain on my right side of my chest, which was also more frequent.  My upper back started feeling inflammed sometimes.  My right side just below the area of the gallbladder started chronically bothering me as well.  I was emotionally becoming tired and nervous.  My doctor scheduled a stomach ultrasound which came back fine and sent me to see a Gastroenterologist and a Cardiologist.  If you have ever had to start going through testing for any reason you know that the waiting game has just begun.  The appointments took weeks to get scheduled. The Gastroenterologist did a scope which came back fine, but thought it would be worth trying some prescriptions for my stomach.  I started those meds which had side effects. My family doctor also had me on muscle relaxers for the pain/heaviness in my lower lung area (thinking it might be inflammation from a possible pulled muscle).  I was having trouble focusing and other issues on these meds and since they weren’t working anyway both doctors took me off them.  Then came the cardiologist.  After an echo and stress test came back fine he sent me to a Pulmonologist. The Pulmonologist found that I have Reactive Airway Disease, which is a form of asthma. He put me on an inhaler and Singular.  A month after starting that, I found myself in the ER because the pain in my chest and the heaviness in my lungs were so bad.  It wasn’t relate to the medication I was on.  It was the same symptoms I’d been having, only worse.  Another CT with contrast, an x-ray, and blood work showed nothing.  At this point I felt like I was losing my mind.  I became afraid to go out because I feared the heaviness or chest pain would be so bad I would need help.  I stopped shopping for groceries on my own.  I would wait until my husband could go with.  I never told my kids I was scared to be out alone.  They knew I was going through some health issues, but they didn’t know about the anxiety.  I hid it well from most people.

I was literally having panic attacks due to my health issues.  Not the kind of panic attacks that others could see.  These were the ones where your heart would race so fast it felt like it would explode and I began to feel dizzy and clammy.  No one around me knew anything was wrong, but inside I literally thought I was dying.  At this point my family physician started me on a low dose anxiety pill once a night.  I felt like a failure to have to be on anxiety meds.  How come I was having panic attacks?  It only made my real health symptoms seem fake.  I thought that the medical professionals would think that all my “symptoms” were just in my head.  I also remember feeling embarrassed picking up my prescription from the pharmacy.  They would no longer think of me as a productive member of society, but as someone who couldn’t get her life together.  Wow! I read this now and see how prideful and ignorant I was.  If you are going through any kind of health issue whether it’s physical or mental, it is real and needs addressed.   Those anxiety pills were such a God-send during a difficult time.

At this point I had lost almost 30 pounds.  My Pulmonologist said that if I didn’t show any improvement with the heaviness/pain in my chest within six months he would need to do a slightly invasive test to check for pulmonary hypertension.  This was when I decided to try some drastic approaches to my health that I had not considered.  FOOD.  Could food have anything to do with my health conditions that had been financially, physically, and emotionally draining for not just me, but for my family at times.  I had previously read up on healthy eating plans, but now I needed to implement them.  So, I decided to get rid of all dairy in my life for a month.  People ask me why I chose dairy.  I had heard that dairy can cause inflammation and stomach issues, so I thought it was a good place to start.  This was so hard because I love dairy!  It’s in a lot more food than you would think.  Most breads, cereal, snacks, as well as many other items have milk ingredients.

FOUR days after starting a dairy-free diet I woke up to no heaviness in my lower lungs for the first time in over a year.  I almost get emotional thinking about it now.  I couldn’t believe it!  I kept waiting for it to come back that day and evening.  The next day was the same, no heaviness.  The heaviness remained gone for weeks until I added a little bit of dairy (just a little bit of milk ingredients).  I woke up to heaviness in my lower lung area.  I was so scared that I stopped all dairy permanently from that point on. During my follow-up with the Pulmonogist a month off of dairy, he was so happy with my health that he took me off the inhaler and had me start weening off the Singular over the next few months.  He even recorded in his notes that the problem appears to be caused by a dairy allergy.  I have never had to go back to see him.  The chest pain I had been experiencing also went away after about a month off dairy.  I was able to come off the anxiety medication at this point too.  Disclaimer:  I alway sought medical advice from my physicians before starting or stopping any medications.

There was a huge spiritual battle that went on in me during that time too.  It is during our most difficult moments that we find out what we really believe.  I will blog about that in a later post, but I need to thank my Father in heaven for giving me the wisdom to find an answer to that health issue.  God is good all the time…no matter the outcome of my health issues.

So, why did I give up corn?  A year ago I started breaking out on my legs and stomach with hives.  I would wake up with 2 to 5 big welts on my body that were very itchy.  The welts didn’t happen every day at first, but about four months ago they became an almost every morning occurance.  Another strange thing about them was they usually went away everyday by midday.  The hives were getting larger, itchier, and I even had an instance where my lip swelled.  My doctor put me on Singular.  This helped the welts to be smaller, but it didn’t solve the problem.  Now this will sound crazy, but at this point I remembered that we had to take our dog off all corn products years ago because of his itchy skin, so I wondered if this could be what was happening to me.  It’s ridiculous to compare myself to my dog’s health, but I knew that humans could be allergic too, so I thought it was worth a try.  I thought giving up dairy was hard, but giving up corn was even harder because it is in EVERYTHING.  Well, it’s in a lot of things I eat at least: corn, corn starch, corn syrup, and high fructose corn syrup.  I think it took about a week to see the disappearance of welts in the morning.  Within the month though they were gone.  I am still on Singular, but during my next doctor appointment I will discuss going off the Singular and see if I remain hive free to confirm that it is a corn allergy that caused the hives.  I am optimistic!  At some point I may need to go in for allergy testing, but for now I’m having success by eliminating certain food.

Being dairy/corn-free can be a hard life style when you have eaten a certain way for 40 years, but with the popularity of places like Whole Foods Market and many great new recipe books and online sites I have found many wonderful alternatives.  If you have food sensitivities or allergies I’m sure you have found some great recipes too.  I would love it if you shared some.

Have a great night!  I look forward to sharing some recipes in future blogs.

 

 

First blog post

Welcome to SearchingwithSheree!  I’m so glad you have stopped by.  Please sit and visit for a while.  I’d like to share with you my purpose in starting this blog.  When you are finished reading I hope you will leave comments and share a little about yourself as well.

Let’s start with the name~ I call my blog SearchingwithSheree because we are all searching for something.  Whether it’s something simple like trying a new recipe, to looking for a new wardrobe and style or something very complex like love or the meaning of life I hope this place, my blog, will be a stop along your journey where you find encouragement.

Now, I do need to say that life would be very difficult if I felt like I was always searching for something; as if I was not satisfied or content, so I feel it is important to say that I have found what is most important…Jesus Christ.  Wait! Don’t run off at the mention of His name.  I promise if you stick around long enough you will find something about me you can relate to.  Even if you don’t share my beliefs I am sure that just being a woman we will find something to talk about…something to perhaps grow and learn about together.

There’s so much going on in life.  So much more to you and me than we let the world around us see sometimes.  So, let’s sit and talk about it…together.

Let’s search for better ways to love our husbands and children, better ways to serve our neighbors, better ways to take care of ourselves emotionally, spiritually, and physically.  I invite you over to my place, my blog, to listen, talk, and grow together.  As I share my story, please comment honestly, but respectfully.  And by all means, share a piece of your story too.