A Week Of Thanksgiving

Last week went way too fast, and had to be highly scheduled as you can see.  Our boys arrived home for the Thanksgiving break Monday night after Robert, Kayla, and I had gone to bed. Cooper picked Kory up in Boston on his way home from Gordon College which was so perfect. Since Kayla and I would be gone early the next morning, I had to leave them a schedule for Tuesday.

The schedule included a list of mealtimes and appointments.  One kid to the spine & sport clinic for a scoliosis check up (all is well!), one kid to the dentist for a cleaning and wisdom tooth evaluation (which led to a wisdom tooth extraction appointment for the Christmas break), and one to the eye doctor, because a much needed prescription for new contacts was being held ransom there until an updated exam was in the books.

When you add in the cooking meals, monitoring of everyone’s checking account, school schedules, social engagements, and summer plans, it really becomes a full time job. The calendar is always up on my phone, and I don’t know what I would do without my iPhone “alerts.”

I decided to include cookies to soften the rude awakening: Welcome Home! Now…get up, get dressed, get in the car, and hurry! Time’s a wastin’!

There was, however, still time for reunions with old friends.  My boys got time with several of their “back home” friends – both at our place and at their friends’ new places. And Kayla got time with her friends at a Gilmore Girls party the day after Thanksgiving.  (More on that soon!) Thanksgiving Day was also a fun reunion of old friends.  That and enjoying lots of new friends, too.

My family still likes to eat breakfast on Thanksgiving Day while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV, so I made two paleo dishes: Sausage-Rosemary-Sweet Potato Frittata (from Danielle Walker’s Meals Made Simple) and Almond Butter Blondies. (I double that recipe.) Lots of protein to keep everyone satisfied until our 1pm meal.

I had to make these in our toaster oven, since the big oven had a 20lb turkey in it.
It worked surprisingly well!

Pies and sweet potatoes were all made the day before, but not until the late afternoon, since our backsplash was getting its grout on Wednesday morning. Not having access to the kitchen for most of the day was a bit of a Thanksgiving challenge, but I’m so happy about these much needed upgrades.

This pic is actually from Tuesday when the backsplash was installed.
Our across-the-street-neighbor put it in and gave us a tutorial and a few tedious jobs
along the way. We were so thankful for his willingness to teach us.

Our first guests arrived fully awake at around 10am – can’t you tell? Actually, their mom forced them out of bed, so she could come early and help with the meal prep. Can’t believe these guys are all in COLLEGE now. Just yesterday they were all 7 years old.

From left to right: Baylor, Boston University, Gordon College, UMass)
All gluten free except for the flaky crusted fruit pies which Izckra brought.

 Here they are a little more wide-eyed, because…food.

This year we tried moving our dining room table into the living room and using smaller long tables from church in the dining room.  It seemed to work pretty well.

Our guests were a true blessing. Our worship leader, Cindy, and her family, since she had not yet given birth to baby #2 (4 days overdue at that point!) was here, and local students, too – one from New York, one from Kansas, one from Vietnam, one from China, and one from Kenya. Three from Amherst College, one from UMass, and one from Smith. Each one with a story and each one with a competitive spirit in the after-dinner game of Taboo. My friend, Izckra, and her family as well as our beloved Lois were also able to join us.

This guest book was a wedding gift 24 years ago, and we are only a couple of pages away from it being totally filled up. If I remember correctly, it was given to us by one of my grandmother’s friends, and it seemed like an odd gift at the time. Turns out it was somewhat prophetic, and having a steady stream of guests in our home throughout the years has been one of our greatest blessings. Truly. A blessing to us, and to our kids, too.  In fact, it would not really be a holiday or a Sunday lunch if we weren’t “having people over” to put it in their words. The community the Lord has provided for us over the years is something I am so very thankful for. Each person has left their mark, and we are forever changed.

I splurged on a couple of tablespoons of white potatoes and even had a piece of pecan pie for dessert, but am
still trying to stay on the GAPS/Candida diet for the most part. Feeling lots better, too!
Forgot to get a before pic!
Here’s a pic of the new counter (with appetizers!) and backsplash – though we hadn’t wiped off the haze of grout yet.
Even though it was cold and drizzly on Friday, we managed to pick out and chop down a Christmas tree at our favorite local tree farm. We even ran into friends from church there. (Hi Brett, Jenna, Edison, and Graham!) Wish we had thought to take a picture with them.
It was so nice to be able to chop down the tree all together this year, but I couldn’t help wondering if it might be the last time, and so I was determined to get a photo. They’re growing up and outgrowing home in some ways – ways that are probably good and healthy, but it’s all bittersweet to me.

There was the annual post-Christmas-tree-chopping trip to Starbucks, and then we said goodbye to Kory on Friday afternoon, but not before we put him to work on our Gilmore Girl party preparations (!). Cooper took off Sunday afternoon after having his old friend Cameron over on Saturday evening. Lots of basketball playing, zombie killing, and junk food eating.

All of it making me thankful. A full schedule. A full house. A full heart.

(And a full report on our Gilmore Girls Party and movie marathon is coming up next!)

Thankful: Plants, Pillars, And No Outcries

Last Thursday I drove halfway across the state (which only takes an hour here in Massachusetts) to meet my friend Betsy for coffee at Panera. Betsy moved to the Boston area this past summer and left me without one of my dearest friends in town and my every-Thursday-morning-running-partner. After coffee with Betsy, my friend Christina showed up for lunch. We talked Betsy into joining us for soup and salad, and it ended up being a wonderful morning of catching up and me getting to introduce two of my good friends to each other.

Christina and I had about an hour together after Betsy left, and she asked me how I’d been doing lately. It was a knowing and intentional question, since it had been just over a year that Robert and I reached out to Christina and her husband for some counsel, friendship, and support.  As a fellow pastor’s family, they were so encouraging to us during what had become a really confusing and challenging time. As we drove away from their house last October, I don’t think we realized just how challenging the coming year would become – probably one of the most difficult and emotional years of our marriage, ministry, and parenting. And not because a lot of terrible things were happening at the time, but rather a lot of things had happened in the previous 3-4 (or maybe 7) years that had taken their toll without us realizing it.

As I thought about how to respond to Christina’s question, Psalm 144 immediately came to my mind. I had just read it a couple of days prior, and used it both as a prayer for the future as well as a way to give thanks for all that the Lord has accomplished in the past year.

Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; my lovingkindness and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and He in whom I take refuge… v. 1-2

The Lord had truly been our rock, fortress, stronghold, deliverer, and shield. He used the difficulties to remind us that we are indeed in a war here on earth,
here in Amherst, MA,
here in a church,
here in a family.
here in our own hearts.

He sharpened our battle skills and our weapons. And He gave refuge in the form of Christina and her husband as well as another pastor-turned-friend with whom we met regularly. It was hard, but as usual with a God who is redemptive in all His ways, it was good.

I was telling Christina about how the Psalm paints such a vibrant picture of a flourishing home and family life through what the Psalmist, David, requests…

Let our sons in their youth be as grown-up plants, and our daughters as corner pillars fashioned as for a palace. 
v. 12

…and how my sons and daughter are becoming these things – mature and wise young men who are making good and godly choices and a young woman strong, beautiful, bearing up under trial, and full of integrity.

Grown up plants.

A corner pillar as for a palace.

Our kids have been such a joy to us in recent months. We marvel at their hard work in school and in their part-time jobs. We miss them when are scattered across the country and state. We laugh at their stories. We pray for their mid terms and oral presentations, for their dating adventures and their break ups. We text and SnapChat and Face Time. We share secrets and inside jokes. The kids themselves keep in regular contact and truly enjoy one another as siblings and friends. They are growing up, blossoming, and bearing fruit. They are standing firm and adorning the palace, the household of God. They are a blessing, and I thank the Lord for the privilege of raising them, of knowing them.

Oh, I know it could change in the blink of an eye. Tragedy, sickness, conflict, rebellion, sin. No one is immune to these things, and even I was in a much different place this time last year. It did not feel like a time of peace and abundance last October. I talk with other moms regularly whose kids are either suffering personally, or rebelling against them and God, or both. It is truly heartbreaking, and so I give thanks to God for this season of flourishing in my own home.

Last home football game of his senior year.  So bittersweet.
Freshman Orientation at Gordon College.
Sweet Sixteen and a budding artist in many areas.

I’m also grateful for a husband who prioritized me, my concerns, complaints, critiques, and consternation. He truly made them his own. More than that, he pointed us to Christ.  He prayed when I couldn’t. He pressed in when he didn’t want to. He sought to understand what was really going on and what God was teaching both of us.

Lots of mountain climbing this year… 😉

We just came in from our morning run, and I was able to tell him these things, to tell him how thankful for him I am. It was a hard year, but he was patient and proactive.  And all the while, faithfully (and bravely!) teaching truth to our millennial congregation and training leaders to do the same. I am so thankful for his unwavering faith in God and his faithfulness to me.

He had no choice but to dance with me…as it was John and Olivia’s Grease hit – “You’re the one that I want”

The verses that follow continue to illustrate a desired a time of abundance and blessing…

Let our garners be full, furnishing every kind of produce, and our flocks bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields; let our cattle bear without mishap and without loss, 
let there be no outcry in the streets!

How blessed are the people who are so situated; 
how blessed are the people whose God is the Lord! v. 13-15

Though David is asking to be rescued in this Psalm, his prayer is one of hope and vision. Though he’s asking that God scatter his enemies and protect him from their weapons and deceptions, he trusts in God’s ability to bring about justice and blessing. Though things look very grim for David, his trust is not in his current circumstances, it is in his covenantal God. He knows a time of abundance is coming both in this life and even more so in the life to come.

There has been a a lot of outcry in our nation’s streets lately. I read Psalm 144 just after the election, and could not help thinking of the many protests, the school walkouts, the picketing, the boycotting, and all of the Facebook/Twitter outrage. Just across the street from us, Amherst College canceled classes and had counselors on hand. A block in the other direction, UMass sent campus wide emails about “safe spaces” and opting out of mid-terms due to distress. In next door Northampton, MA, Smith College placed “tissue stations” all over campus for women grieving and depressed and fearful.

I had a lot of snarky thoughts on all of these things, but then I remembered Psalm 144. The request/vision of David that there “be no outcry in the streets” was directly related to “how blessed are the people whose God is the Lord.” The people whose God is also the Savior don’t need to be outraged. They don’t need to rant on Facebook and thereby reveal themselves as bigoted as they accuse the other side of being. They don’t need to fear or accuse or blame. (Many of my female, black, latino, immigrant, homosexual friends feel the same, in case you may be inclined to attribute my peace to privilege rather than to Christ.)

They are not without concern, of course. There is work to do especially for those of us whose God is the Lord, for those of us who are the body of Christ. But there is no need for outcry except to God Himself on behalf of a nation who does not know Him, and has no hope except in laws, and courts, and policies. May they come to know real hope. May they come to know the One who loves them and longs to be their fortress, deliverer, shield, and refuge, the One who can and will subdue their enemies and grant peace and hope in the midst of the war.

How blessed are the people who are so situated… v. 15

So, I’m thankful today.  Thankful to be “so situated.” Thankful to have been through a year of challenge and brought into a time of blessing and abundance.

Grown up plants.

Corner pillars.

No outcries in the streets.

My situation may change. In fact, it’s a given. So when that time comes, will you remind me of Psalm 144 and of David’s hope in spite of fear and war?

Thank you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I Love Sundays II

I’m a bad pastor’s wife/church member and always neglect to make myself a name tag, but if I had made a name tag and written something I was thankful for on it, “Sundays” would have been high on my list of choices. Right now I am thankful for so many things, so maybe I’ll write again on Wednesday and tell you more about that.
These cheerful faces often greet me and everyone else who arrives.
UMass and Amherst College each have the entire week off, so the student crowd was a bit smaller than usual this Sunday.  Lots of former members were there, though, because of a wedding the night before.  It was a fun reunion weekend.

Cindy (our worship leader) was at church, but it was also her due date with baby #2, so she recruited others to lead…

 …including a beautiful young lady who helped her mom lead the worship band. Gwyneth was born with spina bifida, but she’s beating all the odds for her condition. Her parents regularly testify to God’s healing and provision in her life. She did a GREAT job on vocals and violin.

 Robert’s sermon was on…the rod. (Yikes!) But it’s difficult to preach a sermon series on Proverbs and not mention it. It was the grand finale of weeks of potentially controversial sermons. The sex sermon was a month ago. Then it was the godly manhood sermon from Proverbs 31:1-9, and last week it was a godly womanhood sermon from Proverbs 31:10-31.

I stayed home for that one.

It’s not that I don’t love Proverbs 31. I do. It’s just that so many don’t, and the possible reactions have come to make me nervous over the years.  Plus, somehow I always wind up being mentioned by my hubby in those sermons, which makes me even more uncomfortable.

 So yesterday’s sermon was on God’s discipline in general and parent’s discipline of children specifically, including spanking. Faith is not my top spiritual gift, and so I’m pretty sure I said something to Robert as he was walking out the door for church like this: “Babe, I’m pretty sure spanking is illegal in Massachusetts.”

“And?” was his response.

As usual, he did a GREAT job with a very uncomfortable topic. The kids sitting in front of me kept looking over at their mom and dad and giving them big smiles and knowing looks. Later their mom and dad let Robert know how encouraging the sermon was.  The kids then brought Robert all of these drawings after the service.
(Pretty sure that’s a cow jumping over the moon in the Nativity scene.)
Want the links to those crazy controversial sermons?  Here ya go:
(This one was preached by Chris Gow, a 2016 Amherst College graduate/football player, who decided to return to Amherst with his new wife, Katie – a UT grad, and serve on staff with Intervarsity there. Really incredibly delivered sermon by such a young man!  We are so thankful to have them in as ministry partners in this town!) 

 Amanda and Kevin got married on Saturday afternoon, and it was such a fun celebration and reunion of lots of old friends and church members who now live in Boston. People regularly leave this area, which is one thing we grieve in this church.  Everyone eventually graduates and moves to Boston, or New York, or Philadelphia, or D.C.  So sad, but to be a “sending church” of sorts is good, I suppose.

Gigantic Jenga and regular table-sized Jenga were the activities while we waited for the bride and groom to take their pictures.
Robert and Gabe set the wedding record at 23 blocks high. It was a nail biter!
Last Sunday’s lunch and small group was a bit challenging without countertops. We are slowly renovating the kitchen, and the granite installers cut this piece wrong, so we had to wait over a week for them to come back with the proper piece. Cookie sheets across the future granite backsplashes were the makeshift serving space for corn chowder and sausage-kale soup two Sundays ago.

This Sunday’s lunch had a brand new and even larger space from which to serve – black “leather” granite.  Not shiny and slick like typical granite.  I love it.

The tile backsplash went in this morning and things are beginning to come together!

Here’s a peek:

A Mexican-themed lunch yesterday…

 And we finished up John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life over the last two Sundays…

 …with drawings portraying the integration of faith and work…

 …and discussions regarding the call upon everyone believers life to be a missionary in one capacity or another.

There’s always one last stack of dishes…
After everyone left, these two stopped by. Brian washed every dish left over from small group that wouldn’t fit in the dishwasher (there were a lot!) while Molly and I caught up over warm drinks at the dining room table. These two, who became dear friends while they were students, moved to Philadelphia after they got married in April.  See what I mean?  Everyone leaves us. Sigh…
It’s always such a joy to be with them. Lots of laughter. Lots of love. They brought Robert coffee and me tea – tea that’s good and soothing to the tummy.
(And speaking of tummies, I am feeling SO much better!  So many of you reached out to me over the candida issue, and I was so encouraged. It was a relief to know you have been through this exact issue or similar ones, or just to hear that you cared and were praying.  Thank you!)

After they left, I put on my pjs and drank some of that delicious tummy tea – ginger, licorice, and turmeric – and dreamed about my new tile backsplash while watching an episode of Blue Bloods with Kayla and Robert – our favorite these days.

I’m thankful for Sundays – overflowing with worship, the Word, friends, and fellow believers – even pjs, hot tea, kitchen upgrades, and Tom Selleck. 😉

P.S. MY boys are BOTH coming home from college tonight to spend the week, and I can hardly wait!

I’ll see you Wednesday, so I can tell you what I’m thankful for and how it all relates to them and to Psalm 144.

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

I Love Sundays

A half hour to read and review after Robert and Kayla leave…
The cutest, smartest Sunday morning co-pilots you’ve ever seen…
 View to my right…
…and to my left. Proverbs 31:1-9 today…on what makes a man.
Self Control. Sober Judgment. Sacrifice.
 Back home and a helper…
 …coffee brewing…three pots.
Real dishes and silverware…I love real dishes and silverware…
 …and fresh, homemade food. (With help from two talented co-hostesses…Laura…and Laura)
Baked Ziti, Butternut Squash, Tossed Salad, Garlic Bread this week.
Pot Roast, Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Veggies, Pumpkin Souffle last week.
 Half of the smiling faces fit around the table…
 A vegan dessert for one of our favorite “Smithies”
Real conversations about spending both life and death for Christ…
 Inspirational viewing…Williams College…Haystack Prayer Meeting…Student Volunteer Movement
“If we are exiles and refugees on earth (I Peter), and if our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3), and if nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8), and if His steadfast love is better than life (Psalm 63), and if all hardship is working for us an eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians)…
…then we will give to the winds our fears and ‘seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness’ (Matthew 6). We will count everything as rubbish in comparison with Christ (Philippians 3). We will ‘joyfully accept the plundering of our property’ for the sake of unpopular acts of mercy (Hebrews 10)…
…We will choose ‘rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin,’ and we will count ‘the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt. (Hebrews 11)”
~ John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life
I even enjoy washing the Sunday dishes, but I usually have some help…
…even from the pastor at the end of a long day.
Catching up with the college kiddos…tests…friends…football…sermon discussions…
…and then he’s off again…an evening appointment with a non-church couple seeking marriage… but learning Christ for the first time…and how can he refuse that?
Self Control. Sound Judgment. Sacrifice.

My helper is off being a helper to another evening Bible study.  She’s watching the little ones so the bigs ones can freely discuss and share and pray.

So…tea that’s good for the tummy and an epsom salt bath for me, and this, that my dad sent and has taken me weeks to finish…

Texas Monthly articles are LONG, and so are Sundays, but I love them!

I Hate My Guts

I really do.

I’m infuriated with my intestines.

I despise my digestion.

My stomach makes me sad.

A page out of Bagels, Buddy, and Me. Sick villi lie flat and can’t digest food properly.

When I started blogging almost ten years ago, I did it because Robert said “All authors have blogs.  You should start a blog about your book.” I wasn’t really considering myself an author, but blogging seemed like a fun idea. Bagels, Buddy, and Me is all about Cooper’s (and Kayla’s and my) Celiac Disease diagnosis. It was all about what happens in your body and to your intestines when you eat gluten. There weren’t really resources for kids at the time. Since then I’ve added lots of recipes here that are gluten free, but more than that I’ve enjoyed documenting our life and sharing it with those of you who read.

This scene has been on repeat at my house lately.

I don’t really like writing about health and nutrition and my own intestinal issues, but it’s something that consumes a lot of my thinking and daily efforts in shopping, meal planning, and cooking. My stomach and digestive tract have been a glaring issuse in my life for almost as long as I can remember, and recently I discovered something that I’m hoping will be the final piece in my healing process. I learned (through stool testing) that I have a Candida yeast overgrowth in my intestines.

See? This is why I don’t like writing about this. “Stool” and “Candida” are such yucky words, let alone substances. The reality is, though, that lots of people – male and female – develop this issue, and I’m thankful or those who have written about it.  (Though I have almost NONE of the typical symptoms.) So, what follows is a bit of my history and current battle.

When I was 8 years old I was hospitalized for stomach ulcers. Evidently, they were sprinkled all over my stomach. I’ve had several “upper GI” x-rays that included delicious barium drinks since that time. (Thankfully no “lower GI” x-rays and barium “drinks” for that – yet.) My mom’s answer to me having chronic stomach pain was to make me drink lots of milk.  “It coats your stomach lining,” was the medical wisdom of the day. She even required the nurse at my small town elementary school to come and pull me out of class mid-morning EVERY DAY of first and second grade and sit in her office and drink a small carton of milk. I was also put on the “Ulcer Diet.” One thing I remember from that list was “grapes, but not the skins.” As if eating grapes was worth the trouble of peeling them. Spicy food was also off limits, and when you grow up in Texas, that’s kind of a big deal.

(My parents also divorced when I was 8, but I wasn’t able to make the probable connections that had to my stomach issues until much later in life.)

Later, dinners out with friends often ended with me lying down in a car somewhere. Regular birthday celebrations and meals at “Miss Riggs'” apartment (our favorite teacher!) all throughout high school often sent me to the couch for a while afterward. Once, on a journalism trip to the University of Texas with my yearbook and newspaper crew I asked my journalism teacher to drive me through the Wendy’s drive through for a baked potato, not being able to eat what everyone else was eating due to having a terrible stomach ache.

In high school I also began taking antibiotics every day for acne. I continued this routine throughout college and only stopped taking them in order to start taking the birth control pill a couple of months before getting married. (And feared I would have acne in all my wedding photos!) For those of you who know anything about Candida, you know this combo of antibiotics and oral contraceptives is pretty much the kiss of death. Oh, if I had known then…

I got off the pill two years later in order to get pregnant with Kory, and never took it again. I hated taking it, and dislike taking pretty much any prescription meds at all, but at times it seemed like the only option. And this was long before the internet and abundance of information on natural health and natural family planning.

My stomach and intestinal issues (pain after meals, bloating, diarrhea) worsened with each pregnancy. By the time I was pregnant with Kayla we did have internet, and the very first things I searched were “irritable bowel syndrome”, “pain after eating”, etc. Part of me thought these things were just a normal part of life and eating, that everyone’s stomach hurts and blows up like a balloon after meals, but Robert would assure me that this was not the case. I can still cause him alarm by protruding my “9 months pregnant belly” after a meal. And just when he thought we were about to be empty nesters…

Turmeric: a natural anti-fungal

The Celiac diagnosis came in 2003, and I have never knowingly eaten gluten since then – except for a very occasional communion cracker. (Strong willed, rule follower here.) Eliminating gluten helped quite a bit, but there were still lingering issues especially after eating starchy things like gluten free breads, pastas, and rice dishes. Fast forward to 2014 when I picked up a Paleo magazine before a trip because it had an article entitle “When Eating Gluten Free In Not Enough” or something like that. It described my symptoms as being associated with eating lots of grains and carbs and advocated the Paleo diet which is mostly proteins, vegetables, and low sugar fruits. To my surprise, Robert decided to join me in this new diet, and it has also helped quite a bit with alleviating previous digestion distress. As for Robert, who did not have any digestive issues, there doesn’t seem to be any going back.  He feels better, has more energy, and won’t go near gluten containing foods anymore.

Last winter/spring though, I had an episode that sent me back to the doctor searching for other potential issues. I ate a gluten free, all-tapioca flour roll (I do cheat on the Paleo diet occasionally!) from Whole Foods with some soup. Cue severe intestinal distress for two days. (The Candida monster loves to be fed high carb, high sugar, so I think the tapioca starch made him really happy!) I ended up doubled over after a women’s retreat planning meeting at my friend Ashleigh’s house. She was sweet enough to bring me some essential oil in water to settle the pain and let me snuggle on her amazing, oversized bean bag until I could get in my car to go home. There was also the tiniest amount of blood in my stool, and that’s always a sign to see the doctor.

Goat milk kefir, store bought bone broth just in case, probiotics, ginger, good pastured butter, ginger root
and cider doughnuts…sadly, for the family we were delivering a meal to that night, and not for us!

The GI doctor ordered a colonoscopy and the FODMAP diet. The FODMAP diet helped (Avoiding short-chained sugars), but colonoscopies have always seemed to carry as much risk as benefit to me with their highly invasive nature, so I canceled it.  Instead, I made an appointment at the Northampton Wellness Center with a more holistic MD. Nine vials of blood and three days of stool collection later, I began waiting on my results. His prediction, though, was dysbiosis which translates into a very unbalanced gut flora, which boils down to way more bad bacteria and yeast than good. And he was correct.  My results came in about a month ago – “marked dysbiosis” and overgrowth of two bad yeasts, Candida Albicans and Rhodotorula. The prescription was to kill off much of the yeasts with antifungals – both over-the-counter supplements and prescription Nystatin, and then repopulate the intestines with a HIGH dose of probiotics. 225 billion units a day to be specific. The anti-candida diet was also prescribed.

As I read about the Candida diet (no sugar/very low carb, which is pretty much how I was already eating) and thought about my history, I realized that deeper healing was probably required, and so decided to put myself on the GAPS diet. I’ve known about this diet for years, heard tons of success stories, and even sent the book to folks I knew would benefit from it. I never really considered needing it myself, but it was becoming clear that my villi and enterocytes still needed the restoration that the GAPS diet promises.

The diet begins with a lot of bone broth. Then it progresses to bone broth with cooked veggies and then added meat. I’ve been drinking lots of it or eating it like a soup or blending it with veggies to change it’s presentation.  Sometimes I add a little coconut milk for excitement. The only other thing really allowed is no-sugar yogurt (or kefir) and lemon-ginger “tea.” I wasn’t supposed to drink any black tea or coffee because of a mold sensitivity and also because caffeine suppresses the immune system and wears on the adrenals. Broth, goat milk kefir, and lemon-ginger water. That’s what my diet consisted of last week – and for most of the two weeks prior with some additions because of travel and other responsibilities.

The makings of GAPS “tea.”

My digestion definitely improved, but mostly because there wasn’t much to digest!  My pictures are black and white, because “gray” is sort of how I was feeling health-wise and attitude-wise. When the antifungals kill the excess yeast, the Herxheimer Reaction begins, and it makes you feel pretty terrible. Then, when all you have to look forward to “eating” is broth and veggies, life becomes a little bleak. And the anti-fungals are supposed to be taken in increasing amounts every three days.  The goal was 6 per day.  I worked my way up to 5, but had to call the nurse yesterday due to extreme intestinal distress (the “D” word), and because I had been feeling awful for days. When I told her about doing GAPS rather than the more lenient Anti-Candida diet, she was okay with it, but said “You can’t starve Candida without starving yourself!  You have to add in some carbs and sugar.”

Those were helpful words.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Sweet potatoes, red potatoes, quinoa, winter squash, and steel cut oats are the carbs she helped me settle on. Fearing I wouldn’t make it through my appointments yesterday – PSAT and babysitting jobs for Kayla, appointments with two young women from church, seminary assignments, errands etc., I began eating my way through the day. Fried eggs and hash browns for breakfast, an almond milk latte at the UMASS campus center, a smoothie from The Works where I had picked up Kayla’s post-PSAT lunch, some chili from my favorite South Hadley restaurant, and a grain-free peanut butter cookie from The Woodstar Cafe as well as some (real, black) hot tea with honey. I could literally feel the infusion of energy making its way through my body.  Yes, I (and all of us) need SOME carbs and sugar. Anti-fungals + super powered probiotics + a strict GAPS diet was taking a toll on me.
Here’s a few pics from this past weekend.  Robert and I did a little breakout session on dating and marriage at a collegiate conference where I could not eat anything at all in the boxed lunch that was provided.  I made a fast dash to Whole Foods between sessions for chicken soup and then grabbed this appetizing meal for later when we stopped at Five Guys for Robert to get some nourishment before making the trek back home from Cape Cod.

Actually, the color photo is even more depressing in this case.

See? He won’t do the bun anymore – unless they have a gluten free version.

Fish, cauliflower, and green beans. Yum.

Have I mentioned my love for cheeseburgers and fries? (Insert sad, crying emoji here.)

In hindsight, I probably should have thrown the fish out and gone for a Five Guys meat patty and veggies (and stolen a couple of Robert’s fries), but I felt bad about throwing away food I had paid for. At least it would have been warm. My fish dish was about 2 hours cold.  Double yum.

I was feeling pretty desperate on Tuesday before my Western Mass eating spree on Wednesday, so I scoured the internet for a GAPS-Candida-Legal muffin. I just really needed something that was not broth.

These probably don’t look very appetizing to the untrained eye (or stomach), but to bone-broth-veggie-kefir-girl they were a glorious sight. Pumpkin, coconut flour, flax meal, coconut milk, and a bit of honey. I could barely wait for them to come out of the oven. When Robert stopped by for lunch that day he asked if he could have one, and I have to admit not wanting to share this warm and newly created treat. I warned him that he would not like them, but he was undeterred.

I wish I could say that I am better today. The symptoms I called the nurse about yesterday are worse, and so I’ve really cut back on the antifungals and probiotics for the time being.  I’ve incorporated some carbs and healthy sugars, but am still waiting on the turn around. It’s discouraging, because I actually felt much better when I was living with the symptoms that led me to this current journey. So while I do believe things had to get a bit worse before getting better, I’m really anxious for moving past the “getting worse” part.

Oh, and running!  Two weeks ago I was able to run my usual 20 miles per week – or a little over 6 miles three mornings a week. It’s a Monday-Wednesday-Friday morning routine that Robert and I hardly ever break. Last week I was down to a very slow 5 miles on those days, and yesterday I only made it two miles and had to turn around and walk home. I was too weak and depleted, which is also a sign that things aren’t quite right, but movement is always beneficial in the healing process, so I wanted to keep getting out there.

Some morals to this story:

  • Don’t take antibiotics unless it’s absolutely necessary.
  • Or oral contraceptives. (But really all contraceptives mess with hormones and gut health.)
  • If you do have to take these things, be sure and take a probiotic to replenish good bacteria.
  • Really, you should just go ahead and take a probiotic anyway, or make sure you eat a lot of local, grass fed yogurt and fermented veggies. (Or make your own, which I’m about to embark upon. Yogurt, that is.)
  • We definitely eat too many processed carbs and sugars in this country, but eliminating all carbs and natural sugar is not the way to go.

So, I truly hate my guts, but I hope it’s not for much longer.

(Sadly, I have also come to hate preparing and drinking all types of bone broth at this point. Oh, I’ll probably choke some down in the next few weeks, because it is so good for you, but still.)

A stomach of strength and stamina.

Invincible intestines.

And dreamlike digestion.

The final puzzle piece in my gastrointestinal saga?

This is my hope and prayer.

(Did you read to the end? Thank you so much for your interest and kindness. I would really LOVE to hear from you, but could possibly get embarrassed by public Facebook comments. So, if we could keep the sympathy and bodily function mentions to a minimum? Private messages? That would be so nice. Thanks, friends.)

(Oh, and I know so many of you Plexus reps and about how wonderful the product is. I’ll most likely move to that regimen when this course is finished.  For now though, I think it’s best if I stick to doctor’s orders and tweak his suggested routine as needed. Don’t worry, Plexus peeps, I’ll be calling you!)