Wednesday, December 23, 2015

... of a gracious gift from God

As we have resettled and felt a calmness and stability in Austin that we knew was from the Lord, we started praying about and considering adding another child to our family. We felt like we had room in our heart and our home and so, with a lot of peace and excitement from us and the kids, we found out in September that we were expecting a baby in June 2016!

We have held off telling more than close friends and family until we made it through the 12 week ultrasound appointment when we would make sure everything was looking normal. That appointment was a few weeks ago.

We saw our new little squirrel wiggling around and measuring right on schedule. But after the ultrasound, at my nurse's visit, they told me that the baby's nuchal translucency (a space at the back of the neck, used for indicating a possibly chromosomal abnormality) was a little big. Not too much, but enough to cause some concern. They suggested a non-invasive blood test that could detect an abnormality with near perfect accuracy. It could also tell us the gender. I went ahead and agreed to the test so that we could have some peace of mind, regardless of the outcome.

During the week that we waited for the results, we tried not to dwell on it too much. We prayed a lot and did some research. Quinn and I had been pretty sure that we were going to have a boy and had picked out the name Moses John, but hadn't been sold on any girl names. That week, I randomly came across the name Joanna in the Bible. I had never even noticed it before in Luke 8:1-3 and 24:10. But she was a woman who was healed by Jesus and then followed him and financially supported him throughout his ministry, death, and resurrection. We loved the fact that the name also means “whom Jehovah has graciously given” or “gracious gift of God”. That week, I was suddenly and inexplicably sure that our baby was a girl who would be named Joanna.

When we got the call a few weeks ago, we were told with 99% certainty that our precious baby girl, Joanna Lynn, does have Trisomy 21 or Down Syndrome.
Baby Jo: 12 weeks

It has been a very surreal experience processing what this will mean for our family. I think the scariest thing for us right now is the fact that, even in the second trimester, the chances of a miscarriage are still relatively high (we have heard percentages ranging from 15-40%) in babies with chromosomal abnormalities. The likelihood really depends on her level of health problems that are already present. We had a specialist appointment and sonogram last week and she is still measuring pretty much right on schedule, but does have a few things with her heart that do seem to confirm Trisomy 21. We will have a more thorough scan at 20 weeks (which is normal), when it will be easier to tell what kind of physical issues she might have – namely with her heart. 

The day after we found out, Quinn shared with me that during worship a few months ago (before we were pregnant), he felt like the Lord randomly spoke to him that we would take care of a child with Down Syndrome. He hadn't told me, because he thought it would scare me. I'm glad he didn't, because it would have. But knowing now, it gives us so much peace. We hope that it means that JoJo will be that child, but if for some reason the Lord takes her home before her birth, our knowledge and perception of Down Syndrome has grown and changed so much that I can't imagine that we wouldn't seriously consider adopting a child with that extra little chromosome in the future. But we do feel that God led us to her name for a reason and we are praying and asking for prayer for her to be “healed” like her namesake, in that she would have a strong and healthy heart, brain, muscles, thyroid, immune system and all of the things that babies with Down syndrome tend to, but don't always, struggle with.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers for our family. We believe in God's power. We believe in His sovereignty. We believe in His promises. We have been though a lot in this last year, but are truly being given peace by truths like the one in James 1:2-4 right now: 
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
We are absolutely certain, now more than ever, that our Lord is good and His mercies endure forever and we feel so blessed and honored that He would desire to give such a special gift to our family. 

Abram is understanding of the situation and prays almost daily for her to make it to out to meet us. He celebrates my feeling her movement almost more than I do :) Selah has had a lot of completely expected three year old questions and comments about Down Syndrome. Simon has no clue that we are even having a baby, but I think being an older brother in general will contribute so positively to the development of his personality. 

We felt like this would be the best way for us to share such intense and surprising information with friends and extended family. We aren't ashamed of the fact that we are carrying a child who almost certainly has a chromosomal abnormality, so we aren't afraid to talk about it with people, but it is a heavy topic and we have learned that most people need some time to process through it and think about it before having to respond. Responding in the moment can lead to not knowing what to say or worrying about saying something "wrong"- at least I know that's how I would be. So as we meet many of you in the next few months, feel free to talk about it with us if you want or not if you don't. Like I said, we are far from ashamed or sorrowful. In fact, her name honestly feels the most perfect because she has already been an incredibly gracious gift from God for our whole family. 

We hope you have a joy filled Christmas and thank you for caring enough to read through this very long post :)

Friday, August 21, 2015

...of being still

Quinn has been back at work for a month. The first week I started out "well". By that I mean that I did a lot with the kids and the kitchen was mostly clean, the laundry was mostly taken care of and I cooked most dinners. As the weeks have gone on, though, it has become glaringly apparent that, because I have been working from my own strength, I have been slowly depleted and brought to the bottom of my barrel.

Today was hard. Yesterday was Chic-fil-A and mowing the lawn with a hand mower and going to bed with a sinus headache. This morning was a play date with a close friend, whom I love. But our boys also reeeeealllly love each other and when they get together we end up spending most of the morning yelling corrections at them in the other room or upstairs at the top of our lungs and then trying desperately to return to some encouraging and affirming conversation with each other about what God is teaching us. It's filling and draining at the same time - if that's possible.

Anyway, all of those things added up to my body kind of lashing out at me. For the sake of stress and weight gain and an accurate visit with the rheumatologist last week, I have abandoned my Auto Immune Protocol diet completely. I think it was helping, but it was also causing stress which didn't quite cancel out the diet, but sure made me a hot mess a lot of the time. So in anticipation of lab work and x-rays at the doctor, I threw almost all of the diet completely out of the window. And let me tell you I am NOT. GOOD. It took a little while, but now, after consuming a #1 with no pickles and a Dr. Pepper at my very friendly neighborhood Chic-fil-a, I could easily lay in bed all the next day overcome with pain from approximately seven joints in my body and a brain fog and depression that could lay up the happiest of people.

And then there's the screaming. My kids are screamers. Not sure where I went wrong, but their frustration comes out as screaming. The baby just screams. The big kids usually scream each others' names. But someone always seems to  be screaming. I always seem to be mediating negotiations over magnet tiles and explaining over tears that just because someone pretended to do something like rip your dress does not mean that it actually happened and you don't need to act as if it did.

Oh, and then the guilt. To get through the pain, the depression, the screaming and fighting, I have been retreating to my bed and often calling up my favorite babysitter: Netflix. After about 1.5 hours of just laying there trying to pray or distract myself while my kids' brains are filled with sometimes not the most educational of television shows, the guilt wins out. I pull myself up by my boot straps and we suffer together through the rest of the afternoon and into the evening until Daddy comes home and none of us is a very good welcoming committee.

Today, when I got to guilt part of the cycle, I lost it. I left the kids with their sitter, took my yoga mat outside, lay down in the sun, let the bugs crawl all over me, and I cried. I could see Abram and Selah at the kitchen table eating oranges and watching "Angelina Ballerina" and not even noticing that I was gone. I talked to God and asked a lot of questions. Why hadn't he just healed me? What am I supposed to do? Start taking $35,000 a year medication or restart literally the strictest diet known to man? Why did it all matter? How was I supposed to get through all of this without losing it and running away or locking myself in a closet and never coming out or throwing all the toys away (which actually probably wouldn't be so very bad...)?

Then, I felt like he told me to stop talking. I was reminded of His words "Be still and know that I am God" (Ps. 46:10) and "The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent." (Ex. 14:14) And, right then, there was breeze that hit me that hadn't been there before. I could hear the birds and the wind and I saw the millions of tiny ants in the grass going crazy. I needed my heart to be calm and quiet in the moment for His Spirit to help me to realize that it wasn't just that moment. That was exactly how I had been (and always have been) functioning. Constantly moving and going and asking and talking and figuring and planning and plotting and visiting and cooking and writing and sewing and shopping and driving and making lists and even really good, Godly things like praying and reading and journaling. But I have a very, very hard time being still and silent. He wants me to read, so that when I am quiet, the Spirit can bring up those words in the right moment and speak exactly what I need to hear. Because those words are living and active! Sometimes it's hard to know what to read in the Bible on any given day. I always want what I read to apply directly to my life that day. But when I just spend everyday reading His Word, wherever I may be and then allowing time to pray and then just be quiet and listen, He can bring up exactly the right truth or command or promise for my day or moment.

I am wearing myself out by trying to be strong. But I know that the truth He has given me to cling to specifically during this joint aching, toddler screaming, Netflix-guilt stage of my life is: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Cor 12:9) I think I may have already even quoted that specific verse in one of my five blog posts of 2015, but it has got to be my anthem this year - and forever. But if I only ever write it or read it and I never just listen to it, then I will never get it. And so the command and promise that came to my mind today is one that, ironically, is technically a response to being worried and anxious about food! "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you." (Matt 6:33)

After this quiet moment with God in the sunny yard, I came inside and the rest of the afternoon I was in awe at the gentleness and patience that I had with the kids. This is a not bragging on myself. I do not normally have that. I was a high school teacher. I think the thing I've said most in my life is "Are you kidding me?!" But this afternoon was calmer and quieter and gentler. There was still pain and there was still screaming, but there was also a tangible sense of God's grace and power resting on me through those things that just made me more in awe of how true and good and living His Word really is. And how worthy He is to be sought through that Word and truly listened to every. single. day.

Now for your viewing pleasure: a glimpse at a normalish afternoon in our house. I knew I was recording and Selah was (obviously) at least somewhat aware of the camera, but it is mostly unadulterated Smith family banality. And I may have been a little more calm that afternoon due to that lovely little cup of coffee I was enjoying.

Khallas (Enough).

Sunday, June 7, 2015

...of an unexpected new chapter

Just a week ago, we got some news that completely changed our life. It lead us to believe that God has closed the door to our home on the other side of the world. 

The details are unimportant for the purposes of this blog. But I'll just say that we have been praying for clarity regarding this decision for four months now and planned as far as we could see and felt peace about. The Lord chose, in His sovereignty, to fill the last few weeks and even days with clear direction away from that home and back to our former one in Austin. We feel like we are on a roller coaster, but with the sure and trustworthy safety harness of the goodness of our heavenly Father holding us tight, we are able to enjoy the ride in some way. 

But at the moment, we are mostly grieving. I think that most of our friends and family believe this is the right direction and feel confident that the Lord has been in all of it, but the appreciation for what we are leaving behind is something it feels like we are walking through alone. That place is our home. The things in our house are just things and can be replaced or shipped, but the friends are unique and special. I am beyond grateful for facebook, which will allow me to stay in touch with some of the most amazing people I have ever met and may never see face to face again. I will get to see their children grow or see them get married and hear about their daily life, but it breaks my heart that I won't be a part of it. Of course, we have so many wonderful friends in Austin whom we said good bye to three years ago, but having to go through this process so suddenly with our friends in Fujairah and from a distance is gut-wrenching.

I wish that I could teleport back just to give everyone hugs. To tell them face to face that they have meant so much to us. To assure them that we will never forget their love and their friendship. But I can't. And I have to trust that God is working everything together for our good. He has taken us on a journey that has included many surprises and trials to make our path straight. Straight to Him. And every trial that we face, every good bye we say, every difficult decision we have to make is bringing about our perseverance, proven character, and hope in Him that will never disappoint us (Rom 5:4).

It all reminds me of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3. God wanted them to trust Him all the way into the burning furnace and then He protected them from the fire inside. God wanted us to obey Him and trust him all the way up until literally almost stepping foot on the airplane. Then He protected us from what would have been a very difficult return through Abram's pretty inexplicable strep throat (even though he was on antibiotics). And now we are meant to trust him and obey Him as far as we can see in the other direction - and we can't see very far. 

We know that we are going to be back in Austin, but as far as jobs, housing, cars, etc. we have no idea. But God does. And I was reminded by a dear friend the other day that God loves to take care of the little things and tidy up loose ends. He definitely can and we trust that He will.

There are so many things that I am grateful to have in America at the moment - namely access to certain kinds of medical care and food for me to continue to manage my psoriatic arthritis. But there are a lot of things that I will definitely miss about the UAE. I will miss the sand dunes and the round abouts and the camels and the shawerma and the chai carak and the beautiful winters and the ocean. We are so grateful for the two plus years the Lord gave us there; the way it changed our lives, our perspectives, and our hearts is immeasurable. I think I am maybe the most sad that our kids might not remember it at all. They had such a loving  family of believers from all over the world surrounding them and I want them to remember it all. I hope the pictures and stories and blogs will help them to keep the experience in their hearts in some way. 

We honestly don't know what this next chapter will look like, but I am so grateful for the assurance I have that this life (where I live, what I own, my health, even my friends and family) are NOT what is lasting. The good news that I have been reconciled with my creator despite my inherent sin through His grace alone and nothing I could ever or will ever do and I can be certain that I will be with Him in eternity when this earthly life ends is what matters and what is lasting. Any place any of us live could be destroyed by an earthquake or tsunami or our own life could drastically change and we might never be able to return to that home. In those moments (and in every moment) we have to remember that the things of this world are finite, but our God and His kingdom are eternal and as believers we can look forward to His city, because ultimately this world is not my home. 

In conclusion, I'll leave you with a picture of my incredibly wonderful husband and I on a date tonight for our 7th anniversary (a few days early). This man has been the most amazing partner and spiritual leader I could ever have even thought to ask for. He encourages me and our sweet kids every day to seek and love Jesus more. He is so bold and joyful about the gospel that its infectious. Throughout this last week (as well as the 7 years before that), he has been my anchor, my calmer, my guide, my shoulder to cry on, and my very best friend. I am beyond blessed. 

And he's pretty handsome, if I do say so myself :)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

...of our return (and some pictures)

Wow. It's been a really long time since my last post! Like, maybe 4 months or something. I know that because I don't think I've posted the whole time we have been in America and we have been in America for 4 months. My deduction skills are amazing, are they not?

In some ways I cannot believe that we have been in the States for 4 months. That's 1/3 of a year! We've been in 3 different states, taken one family road trip, seen tons of friends and family, enjoyed a snow in Colorado, freeze in Texas, rain in Idaho, and now some warmer weather to get us ready to head back to the UAE (which I saw was the hottest place in the world the other day). I've also made some progress with my health and I can confidently say that I am more aware of what positively and negatively affects my body than I have ever been in my life.

Ultimately, the Auto Immune Protocol has been great for me. I arrived in February in Colorado with a lot of pain in my hands and back and some bad psoriasis. Within a few days of being on the diet, I was feeling significantly better. I have also seen that stress and sleep are a huge deal breaker. When I get one night of bad sleep, I can feel the pain in my back. After a night of good sleep, the pain is almost non-existent. My psoriasis is almost completely gone as well, although I am using a small amount of steroid cream every long once in awhile to keep it in check as well as a product called "Psoriaflora" that my friend sent me that's natural and seems to help it as well. When I was doing the diet full force, by myself, the cooking was a lot of work and added to my stress level, which took away from the healing a bit. But in Idaho, my family has been doing a lot of the cooking, I've ventured into eating out a little more, and the stress level is down, but so is the adherence to the diet and I seem to be about the same.

We were scheduled to fly back to the UAE yesterday (the 2nd), but Abram has been sick for about 3 weeks and still had a fever despite being on antibiotics for 3 days for an ear infection and mild bronchitis. After a visit to the ER, we found out he had strep and were switched to another antibiotic. He is on day 3 of that one and his cough is still bad, but his fever seems to be down. Quinn and I decided to try and see if we could change our plane tickets to give him a little more time to heal before a 24 hour overseas journey. We were able to postpone a week for $300. Then, right when we would have been flying yesterday, Selah spiked a fever and got hives with a cough she's had for a few days. That's just the way Abram's three weeks of illness started. After one day her hives seem to be gone and she doesn't have a fever at the moment, so we are hoping that her's will be short lived and we will all be a lot healthier next week.

I think that we are all ready to get back to our life in Fujairah. We aren't sure what it will look like or how long we will be there, but it will be nice to just be back in our own space with some semblance of a routine and with our sweet UAE friends we miss so much. Abram really needs to start school there this Fall (for his sake and mine), but the one school option we have is telling us that there is no room for him at all. We also haven't been able to get enough funds together to send him anyway, so it's possible I will need to make it through this year doing home school preschool and trying to keep up this labor intensive diet and then possibly get him back to America for Kindergarten next year or move somewhere else in the country with better school options.

So that's a basic run down of the last 4 months! Kinda. Sorta. I mean, there was a lot of great stuff that happened and a lot of hard stuff we went through, but overall I think we all feel that it's been exactly where the Lord wanted us and there is a definitely peace in that. But now we feel a peace about heading back to the UAE to see what He has in store for us there! I don't imagine that I'll be blogging anytime in the very near future, but (as usual) I will leave you with a hopeful attempt to be better than I have been.

See you on the other side (of the world)!

And now for a few select pictures from our 4 months...
Their first moment in America. From fast asleep on a plane to being wheeled through the Denver airport by a stranger. Not a happy duo.

Simon at 10.5 months when we first got here. 

Sick Simon on his 1st birthday at In'n'Out in Austin. The milkshake made him happier.

These kids have been on a ton of walks with their daddy in this stroller in the last few months. And he finally figured out how to get all three of them in there!

At a birthday party. Thankful this won't be happening again for another 12 years or so...

Easter blue bonnet sibling picture. A fave.

Sweet brothers.

Fields of blue bonnets. 

Abram took the best picture of us we've gotten in awhile.

Our expert travelers.

Selah's 3rd birthday. Anna braids and all.

Trying to capture Simon's first steps in the grass at 13.5 months. Unfortunately we just got my excited afterward face.

Watching soccer.

Date night on a scooter.

Daddy and his sweet girl.

Modeling Elsa braids.

My mother's day picture.

Pajama parade around the neighborhood with an official toddler.

Best daddy in the world.

Friday, March 13, 2015

...of a salad

I went to a brunch yesterday and made something AIP that I could eat (of course). A friend of mine has just told me about this yummy combination, but after searching for recipes I couldn't find anything similar. So I just winged it. Wung it. Whatever. I I don't normally do this with great results, but since a few people asked me for the "recipe", I thought maybe it had turned out alright and I should write it down somewhere. 

Unfortunately I took this picture of the leftovers that I'm eating for breakfast this morning, so it's not quite as beautiful as hour number 1. The leftovers are ok, but finishing it in one sitting would be better. And sharing it at a potluck was the best :)

This is Auto Immune Protocol friendly (which is why I am not scared of the bacon grease!)

Brussel Sprout Bacon Avocado Salad
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 15 min
Serves: 6-8 (as a side dish)

8oz bacon
1.5 lbs brussel sprouts
2 large avocados
1/2 lime
1/2 tsp pink sea salt

-Cut bacon into small pieces.
-Cut ends of brussel sprouts off and cut each in half.
-Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat.
-Cut avocado into bite sized pieces.
-Remove bacon to plate with paper towel to drain and remove most of grease from pan to glass. 
-Place brussel sprouts, cut side down, in some of the remaining grease. Let them sit over medium get for 5 minutes or so and get carmelized on that side, then toss them around for 5 more minutes to cook more thoroughly. You will lose some of the outside leaves, but as long as they don't burn, leave them in there. 
-Put brussel sprouts and bacon in serving dish and toss with avocado. 
-Squeeze half a lime over it all and toss with sea salt. 
-Serve warm. 

If I had had fresh cilantro, I might have chopped and put in as well, but I didn't, so I didn't. Not sure if it would taste better than it already did, but might be worth a try if you like the sound of it and if you like cilantro. I have enough friends (read: one very vocal and opinionated friend) who think cilantro tastes like soap to believe that if you are taking it to a potluck, it might be better to just leave it out :)


Friday, February 20, 2015

...of one week on AIP

I am sitting here waiting for a very tired, teething, stuffy, grumpy 11 month old boy to fall asleep. Instead of torturing myself with thoughts of any other ways I could help him sleep comfortably, I will concentrate on a few minutes of blogging!
We have been incredibly busy since arriving in Austin. Mostly because last weekend, I officially started the Auto-Immune Protocol diet. I've been reading the very thorough book The Paleo Approach by Sarah Ballantyne and I've seen and heard many encouraging stories from people who have done it. So before starting on a serious medication regime, I wanted to try going the natural route first.
This is a pretty brief and good explanation of the thought behind the approach from Sarah Ballantyne's website,
"Autoimmune disease is caused by the immune system losing the ability to differentiate proteins belonging to your own body with proteins belonging to a foreign invader (like a bacteria, virus or parasite). What causes symptoms is the build up of damage to cells, tissues and/or organs in the body–damage caused by your own immune system attacking those cells. Which proteins/cells are attacked is what separates once disease from another. In Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, the thyroid gland is attacked. In Rheumatoid Arthritis, the tissues of your joints are attacked. In psoriasis, proteins within the layers of cells that make up your skin are attacked. However, the root cause is the same.
"Genetic predisposition to autoimmunity makes up about one third of your risk of developing an autoimmune disease. The other two thirds of your risk come from environmental factors, which include: diet, lifestyle, infections (both prior and persistent) exposure to toxins, hormones, weight, etc. While you cannot control your genetics or whether or not you had mono as a kid, you do have an immense amount of control over your diet and lifestyle (and the extent that these affect hormones and weight and even toxin exposure). By removing the foods that contribute to a leaky gut, gut dysbiosis (the wrong numbers, relative quantities, or types of microorganisms typically growing in the wrong locations in your gut), hormone imbalance, and that stimulate inflammation and the immune system, you can create the opportunity for your body to heal. By addressing important lifestyle factors and changing your focus to eating nutrient-dense foods that support optimal gut health (and optimal health of your gut microorganisms), that restore levels of important nutrients and provide all of the building blocks that your body needs to heal and properly regulate the immune system, that help resolve inflammation and support organ function, you create an environment in your body conducive to healing." 
I would venture to say that the Auto-Immune Protocol (AIP) elimination diet is one of the strictest of it's kind. It is Paleo, but even more restrictive. The idea is to take everything out that could be triggering my immune system (and making my Psoriatic Arthritis worse) and then start to slowly add things back in after about 6 weeks to find out what my specific triggers are. But for now, I am: grain free (thereby gluten free), dairy free, soy free, sugar free, nut free, egg free, seed free, and nightshade free (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant). That leave all meats, most vegetables, and most fruits. And a LOT of coconut stuff: milk, cream, oil, flour, etc. Can I just tell you that even out of the 9 soup options at Whole Foods, none of them are AIP. And the only thing from the prepared food section that I can have is brats and sauerkraut and a weak salad. 
So that leaves me here. At home. Cooking most of the day. The last week, I followed Mickey Trescott's Auto Immune Paleo menu plan to a T. I thought it would be easier than formulating my own plan. Turns out, there is something to be said about enjoying what you are spending hours cooking. I mean, it all tasted good, but not necessarily 5 hours in the kitchen good. It's not supposed to take that long, but when you are a chopping and cooking novice like me, it takes longer than it should. I know it will get easier in general, but this week I made my own meal plan with a few slow cooker meals and mostly "easy" stuff. I went grocery shopping today and got 7 different meats from the butcher at Whole Foods. He kept asking me if that was all... "Ummm... No." 
There are other things that I am doing that I never imagined I would do. I've always wanted to make bone broth, but never have. That's about to change tonight and it will probably be a weekly ritual from now on. I was also with the rest of America and thought that "lard" was some horrible thing I would never consider having in my kitchen. But I rendered 4 pounds of pig fat yesterday and now have a huge jar of lard to use on a regular basis (it and coconut oil are the best cooking fats). I've also order the "creme de la creme" of lard, leaf lard, from a company in Portland called Fatworks . Lovely.
So, after one full week of AIP, I can say that my sacroilitis is significantly better. The last week we were in Colorado, there were a few days where I was literally laid up on the couch because my back hurt so bad. Now, perhaps it was stress related, but since being here and having to spend so much time in the kitchen and not having a spare moment for anything (even pictures of my cute kids!) I think I can safely say that I am not any more or less stressed. I'm sleeping better, but honestly, that's probably because I'm not in excruciating pain every time I roll over in bed or cough. That right there is enough to make me want to keep trekking on this diet. My back was debilitating for months and now I haven't thought about it for about 4 days. That's huge!
I can also say that I was very worried about how I would do on this diet. My self-discipline and will-power is almost 0. But I haven't had any horribly anguishing moments over being at the same table as doughnuts, soda, coffee, chic-fil-a, or BREAD. I mean, don't get me wrong. I wanted to have all of them, but I believe that the Lord is giving me the will power to not give in without too much effort. That makes me feel like I'm on the right track. I think this is what He wants me to do right now and I'm going to do it. One of my hands feels great, but my other hand is really hurting, and my Psoriasis doesn't look any better, so those will be some of the long term indicators. If they don't get better in a few weeks, we will start to think through medicine options.
No more. Too much. And my hand is hurting. Just for fun, here are the few pictures I've taken in the States:
Uh. Having some picture problems and trying to fix it on my own at 4am while waiting for aforementioned baby to go back to sleep only made it worse. I'll look at it in the morning... Sorry. 

My beautiful Mom :)



Happy, well-rested kiddo

Abram fell of , apparently.
My lard.
My snotty, sick boy

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

...of an update

Because I have had no time for a real blog post these last few weeks, but have had lots of sweet friends asking about how things are going, here's a brief rundown:

1. In Austin for a week now with wonderful friends who have opened their house to us. Our boys are getting along famously (and loudly!)

2. I have been grain, dairy, egg, nut, and nightshade free for 5 days and strictly on the AIP (Auto Immune Protocol) elimination diet for 2. My sacroiliitis is already feeling a lot better! Now hoping my fingers and skin will show improvement also as I continue. 

3. I've been spending many hours a day in the kitchen (since I have to prepare all my meals) and it's a little overwhelming for my non-chef self. Hoping I'll get better about chopping massive amounts of veggies more quickly in the near future. 

4. I haven't been too tempted to cheat yet, which is totally The Lord. But Jill's ice cream looked really amazing tonight ;)

5. Missing our friends and home in Fujairah a ton, but glad to be in Austin reconnecting with friends here. Also excited to have Quinn's mom and sister and our nephew coming for a visit over my birthday weekend! 32 years old... That's a lot! And I have grey hair and arthritis to prove it :)

I've wanted to be better about keeping at least the blog up to date, but there's literally no time! Maybe I'll be back with a post and some pictures in the near future. But for now, that's it. Have to be in bed soon. Thanks for all the love and support!!

Monday, January 12, 2015

...of big changes

Let's start with a cute picture of Abram and Selah in Spain:



I posted earlier today while I was waiting to see a rheumatologist in Dubai. I had been referred by the ortho doctor I had seen in Fujairah on multiple occasions over the last few months for my finger and back problems. My sister is a dermatologist and knows that I have had psoriasis for years and she also thought I needed to see a rheumatologist. 

Just in case you aren't aware, psoriasis is basically an itchy skin condition. Basically. But there's actually more to it than that (which I wasn't even aware of until very recently.) It is a chronic auto immune problem. My body's immune system (for some undetermined reason) attacks healthy skin cells and it results in itchy patches of skin. Pretty awesome, right? In about 20% of people with skin psoriasis, the immune system will also start attacking the joints, which is why I found myself in a very nice rheumatologist's office this afternoon. 

To make a long visit short: After a lot of questions and some physical examination, he told me that my psoriasis, fingers and back (as well as some other symptoms) all indicated psoriatic arthritis and he started to talk to me about treatment options. There was talk of daily pills or weekly injections, regularly monitoring my liver and kidney function because of side effects, and being careful because my immune system would be at least mildly suppressed and living with three children could be difficult. Quinn and I had talked about all of this, because we were pretty sure we knew what the diagnosis would be and one thing we wanted to try and avoid was immediate medication.

We have heard of many people who were able to go into almost complete remission through diet, exercise and life changes. I, personally, have a sweet new friend that I got to talk to today about that exact testimony. We really want to try that first, but honestly, it will take a lot of work in general and especially a lot of work over here. We will need a pool membership (which is expensive here) so that I can do regular low impact exercise. We will need to grocery shop regularly in Dubai (1.5 hours away from where we live). We will need to get regular part time help with cleaning and cooking so that I won't be stressed trying to do those things while homeschooling.

Oh, yeah, the stress. One of the definitive causes of flare ups of this kind of arthritis is stress. It's been quite the year for our family and I won't blame it all on Simon, but there's a reason his nickname has become High-me Si-me (he's our little high maintenance babe). My stress level with three kids, home schooling, trying to keep a wonderfully large house relatively clean and my wonderfully picky family relatively well fed has really taken a toll on my emotions, my mood, and (apparently) my body. 

All of this to say that Quinn and I have decided that we will be returning to the States for a little while in order to try and reduce the stress and get the help we need to make these big life changes and sustain them when we return. We love Fujairah. We love our church family, the culture, the people and we want to thrive here. And to do that we need to get some rest and tools to come back here ready to keep me healthy, active, and able to take care of the little people God has so amazingly blessed us with.

Thank y'all so much for the encouraging words and prayers through facebook and email. It's sobering to be only 31 and faced with the reality of a deteriorating body. But it's a fact of this life isn't it? Sickness, pain, injury, debilitation, death. As a child of God, there is a definite peace in all of this. I believe in his sovereignty and trust that He really is working all of this together for my good.

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, 
our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light 
momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal 
weight of glory beyond all comparison,"
(2 Cor 4: 16-17)