Day 30

Today marks Day 30 on the Autoimmune Protocol diet.  I do not want to write this post but I feel I need to update on what was supposed to be the last day of the elimination phase.  I’m supposed to feel great enough to start reintroducing foods again.  But, once again, I’m an anomaly.  I feel awful.  I’m having one of those weak days where I am having trouble believing I will ever get better.

I sat on the porch this morning and read through Job.  I know his troubles were far worse than mine, but I can so relate to him.  With Job, I cry to God, “What strength do I have, that I should still hope?” – Job 6:11a (NIV). I’ve spent too much time hoping for the next ‘thing’ to be my cure-all. I’m tired in body and tired in heart.  And yet, I also find it within me to say with Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” – Job 13:15a (NIV).

How is it possible to continue in hope?  My hope is in heavenly things, rather than earthly things.  If God does not heal me in this life, he will in the next one.  “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another.  How my heart yearns within me!” – Job 19:25-27 (NIV).  Oh, how deeply my heart yearns for that day!

I cannot imagine those who don’t believe and are incredibly sick like this. What hope do they have at all?  I am so grateful to know that at the very least I can look forward to complete healing one day.  In the meantime, I struggle along with Job, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” – Job 1:21b (NIV).

My apologies for the downer update. That’s why I did not want to write today.  But my days are not without triumphs and that is what I constantly try to remind myself.  When I think of how debilitatingly ill I was several months ago, I do see some progress.  Maybe the diet is helping at least a little bit.  My body certainly didn’t get sick all at once so naturally it will take awhile to get better.

Let us all HOPE that the Lord will see fit for my next update to be much happier!  Your constant thoughts and prayers mean more than you will ever know.

Love to you,

~Karina

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Give Me Jesus

I’ve been struggling lately.  Really struggling.  Not so much struggling with my faith in God.  To be honest with you, I’m mostly struggling with my faith in Christians.  If I had to admit, I’ve occasionally been embarrassed to wear the title.

I’ve had the unique opportunity to sit in two worlds.  The Christian world where we frequently discuss what it means to be Christlike and, through my previous job, the world of poverty where we wish more people would portray what it means to be Christlike.  The general lack of those two worlds colliding has deeply discouraged me.  I’m just as guilty as the rest.  We like to talk about what is “right”, but when it comes to the “doing” part, we have a lot of excuses.  We give some money to the  missionaries in church on Sunday but when it comes to joining them in the trenches, we think we’ve done enough already.  We attend anti-abortion rallies and boycott department stores, but when it comes to actually walking alongside the hurting souls, we somehow think that’s not our job. I’ve been so disillusioned with the Christianity I see, which admittedly may be skewed by the prevalence of social media making it easier for people to spout hurtful things.  I see such little love of Jesus in Christianity and that breaks my heart into a million pieces.  Oh, I feel the love for me, mind you.  Christians love me to death because I’m one of them.  But I’m not seeing much poor-loving, immigrant-loving, pro-choice-loving, LGBTQ-loving, liberal-loving, people-loving.

And before you flip out, by “love”, I do not necessarily mean “agree-with”.  Mostly I just mean that unless you are willing to walk through the trenches with these people, offering your hand in love, you have absolutely no right to yell at them from the street corners, protest their lifestyles, or shoot them dirty looks when they’re trying to use the bathroom.  Actually, I’d prefer you not do any of that even if you do walk the trenches.  Discuss your differences once you have REALLY LOVED them and formed a relationship with them, sure. These are REAL people, loved by our Jesus.  They are not just some sin you oppose.  Do you honestly think public displays of disapproval win ANY souls to Christ?  More likely, it’s driving your own people away, into the much more ‘loving’ arms of the world. I only say this because I am there.  I have truly felt this many times.  There have been many times that I have thought, or said out loud that until Christianity looks more like Christ, I don’t want the title. “Jesus-follower”, always and forever. “Christian”, maybe another day. But just when I feel my anger and disappointment growing to the point of explosion, I am reminded that often those with whom I am angry simply have the loudest voices. Sometimes I need to look a little harder for the quieter, loving side of Christianity.

So what keeps me coming back to Christianity?  Maybe it’s the fact that I get goosebumps every time I watch someone get baptized.  Maybe it’s the Christians who actually look like Jesus… or even those who just favor him up around the eyes a little.  Maybe it’s because when I waded to the middle of the creek at Deep Valley Camp and was plunged under the water, I saw Jesus.  Maybe it’s because when my dad met me with a towel and a hug at the shore while everyone sang “Now I Belong”, I saw Jesus.  Maybe it’s because when church members offered to become my family away from family, they were Jesus.  Maybe it’s because listening to an entire college campus solemnly singing “It is Well” after the death of one of its own sounded a little like Jesus.  Maybe it’s because holding my precious nieces and nephew felt a little like Jesus.  Maybe it’s because my brother looked a little like Jesus when he officiated the funerals of my grandparents.  Maybe it’s because when I met the man God prepared for me at the end of the aisle on our wedding day, I saw Jesus.  Maybe it’s because every time a precious fellow worshiper tells me how much I mean to her when we barely know each other, I see Jesus.  Maybe it’s the beautiful servants who love the unlovable, touch the untouchable, and see with the eyes of Jesus.  Or maybe it’s simply, Jesus. I know he lived.  I know he died.  And I know he rose again.  I know what he did for me and I love him.  I know he wants me to look like him so I’m going to give it my very best effort, knowing the world is watching.

Jesus will always be enough for me.  When I remember that, the loud, protesting, unloving, discouraging voices grow dim.  You can have this world.  Just give me Jesus.  That’s truly all that I want.  Jesus will always keep me coming back.  After all, his world was pretty disillusioned too.

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A Day in the Life

Some people may wonder what I do all day now that I am home. So now I give you,

A Day in the Life with Chronic Illness:

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV)

6:00AM – Say goodbye to Jason as he leaves for work.
7:00AM – Take June for a walk. If I’m feeling ok I will stay up but more often than not I have to lay back down after the walk. Mornings are difficult.
9:00AM – Prepare breakfast. Today I had homemade sausage (sausage you buy is not AIP-compliant because it’s full of sugar and nightshades) and a grapefruit. It usually takes me a good 10 minutes to prepare all of my supplements for the day but that time is getting shorter because I am trying to slowly get off of supplements. I’m taking a ridiculous amount of pills per day and we cannot afford them.
9:30AM – Eat breakfast. Feel nauseous.
10:00AM – Prepare bone broth in the crock pot because it is supposed to help heal your gut.
10:30AM – Prepare kefir water. Kefir is also supposed to help your tummy and my parents sent me some grains to try last week. They are cool because, if you take care of them, they will last forever. More info at www.culturesforhealth.com.
10:45AM – Do dishes. Keeping up with this is essential because we cook absolutely everything.
11:00AM – Wonder if yoga will help me feel less like throwing up so get out the Wii Fit. Wii Fit tells me I’ve lost yet another pound. Internally freak out for a couple seconds and move on to some zen exercises and stretching.
11:20AM – Wonder what I will make with the ground beef for dinner but no energy to figure it out so sit on the porch for my daily Vitamin D therapy, reading the Bible and drinking my kefir water. At the beginning of this journey I decided it was a good time to start reading through the whole Bible again. Today I finished II Chronicles. Even though people with chronic diseases especially need more Vitamin D, I have to be careful with how much sun I get because, ironically, the sun often makes people with Sjogren’s Syndrome feel very bad.
11:40AM – Shower, for which I have hand-made all my hygiene products due to my reactions to all chemicals. Try on every pair of shorts and realize that, although almost every pair was too small last year, every pair is now too big so throw them in my ever-growing yard sale pile, saddened that they were pretty much never worn. Try to wear the only pair of shorts that fit but realize that, even though I have hung them out on the porch for hours, washed them FIVE TIMES and soaked them in vinegar, they STILL smell like “new clothes” and I know that if I wear them, I will react to the smell/chemicals. Throw them in the wash for the SIXTH time, this time on soak cycle with tons of vinegar and soap.
12:30PM – Realize it’s already time for me to think about food again. Prepare a chicken caesar salad with homemade dressing for which we had to order fish sauce online because every other kind of fish sauce has additives and sugar. STOP PUTTING CRAP IN MY FOOD, PEOPLE!!
1:00PM – Know that if I finally sit down, June will ask to go out. Think I can make it to the mailbox without throwing up, so take June on another walk.
1:15PM – Sit down to start this blog.
2:00PM – Since the rest of the day hasn’t happened yet, I will tell you about yesterday. Went to Fresh Market for their Tuesday grass-fed beef and free-range chicken sale.
2:30PM – Went to Walmart (I know, gross) because I thought they might have the specific kind of strainer I needed for my kefir grains.
3:00PM – I am fading fast but know that if I don’t go today, I will have to force myself to go tomorrow and who knows how I will feel tomorrow so I went to Ingles to do the rest of our grocery shopping.
3:30PM – Put groceries away. Walk June.
4:00PM – Start preparing dinner. Yesterday’s dinner was herbed chicken with mayo-less coleslaw.
5:00PM – Eat dinner. Feel nauseous for the entire rest of the evening.
6:00PM – Figure out what meat we will have tomorrow and get it out of the freezer. Make sausage for tomorrow’s breakfast. Make caesar dressing for tomorrow’s lunch.
7:30PM – Finally have a moment to spend with my husband.
8:00PM – Walk June.
9:00PM – Take all my bedtime supplements, prepare my pre-breakfast supplements for tomorrow, fill up my water for the billionth time and head to bed.

As you can see, my life revolves around food and doing things for myself that hopefully make me feel less nauseous. Taking care of yourself is truly a full-time job, though unpaid, of course. ** I honestly hate it. ** When I went into Social Work, I dedicated my life to the care of others, and now I am completely wrapped up in what it takes to keep myself alive for another day. I forgot to mention that at least 500 times a day I have thoughts like, “I can’t believe how good I’m feeling” to 5 minutes later, “I feel so sick and am apparently never going to get better. Ever“. Irrational? Maybe, but that’s what chronic illness does to your mind.

So how are we doing with the Autoimmune Protocol lifestyle?

This is our 21st day on the diet. If I really think hard, I can usually see some improvements in my overall well-being. My mom reminded me the other day that the simple fact that I have been able to attend church lately is proof that I am feeling a little better. I am truly grateful. But then there are other times, such as the other night when I was crying in migraine pain, or most of the time since then, wondering if my liver is just going to explode out of me because of the pain. I just have to take a moment to say how ironic it is that someone who can count the number of alcoholic drinks she has had in her life on one hand should have such a problem with her liver. It’s really not fair, and I should have just partied it up! Ha! Life’s insanity can be so much fun.

New favorite things:

Kale, fried with olive oil and mineral salt.
Grapefruits – I seriously cannot get enough of these things right now.
Homemade mineral salt and vinegar sweet potato chips.
Spiralizer – My parents sent us an incredibly cool gadget that makes veggies into spaghetti or chips and we think it’s the greatest thing ever!

Do I miss the eliminated food? Not really. It’s actually pretty amazing. Occasionally, if we see something on TV like pizza or ice cream we will say something like, “that looks good”, but the only thing that I still crave like none other is coffee. Honestly, I’ve either been too sick to crave or I just don’t care about all the other stuff anymore.

Gratitude. I am truly grateful for the support I have in my husband, who is willing to try new things with me. I am grateful to my family and friends for their support and occasional ear when I need to just explode all over someone. *Shout out to the Roommie and Jason, who let me be honest, upset, and sometimes downright mean!* I am grateful that God continues to take care of our terrifying financial situation. I am grateful each day for further insight into my body. Most people don’t get to be so connected to their bodies and I am becoming its leading expert moment by moment.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)

Here’s to tomorrow’s blessings!

Love from my pooch and me,

~Karina

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Spending My Life in Grocery Stores

Hey, friends!  I thought it might be time for an update on our AIP diet progress.  Jason and I have now been on the diet for ten days.

What have we been eating?

Chicken, beef, vegetables, herbs and fruit.  That’s pretty much it.  I cannot say that we have particularly loved anything we have put in our mouths but that’s not what’s most important anymore.  We have found a few recipes that we have actually enjoyed.  The first is Chicken, Onion, and Kale Stuffed Sweet Potatoes.  We tweaked this recipe by switching the pork for chicken and leaving out the cinnamon, apples and bacon because the only ‘legal’ bacon in AIP is uncured organic (basically made out of gold and/or diamonds).  I did set a potholder on fire cooking this dish, but there are usually some casualties when I attempt to cook.  Here it is, next to some mayo-less coleslaw made by Jason.

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The other recipe we have made twice is this Creamy Garlic Mushroom recipe here, leaving out the pepper because nightshades are ‘illegal’ on AIP.  These are so good that I think we will keep them around as a staple!  Here they are, along with some incredibly tough steak and more kale.IMG_20160404_173729358

We have struggled to get enough protein and good fats in our diet but we are getting better.  Breakfast is difficult because Jason never ate breakfast before, and without eggs or cured meats, breakfast protein is minimal.  I actually ate leftover meatballs for breakfast yesterday.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.  We have been eating way too much fruit because it tastes good, but that’s too much sugar so we have to cut back. We have also cheated just a bit.  I have eaten some pumpkin seeds for a very necessary health reason and Jason has eaten some nuts and seeds to try and get more good fats.  He hates avocados and they are one of the only sources of good fat (aka: brain food) in this diet.  We are learning, and giving ourselves some grace when needed.

How do we feel?

I started the diet very, very sick, which could be a blessing in disguise because I haven’t really craved anything until now.  The other day I walked into Fresh Market and smelled the most heavenly smell…..COFFEE.  I WANT COFFEE NOW.  I wanted coffee yesterday, I want coffee today, I imagine I will want coffee tomorrow. I’m not sure how much longer I can fend off that craving, even though I haven’t had any in about two weeks.  Again, grace may be needed but I want this diet to work so cheating is a pretty big deal.  

Do I feel healthier?  Not really.  I’ve lost another five pounds, which puts me smaller than I was when I was 16 years old.  How do I remember that?  Well, I was about to go on a mission trip to Haiti and they needed to know my weight for the prop plane.  I don’t care how thin she is, you do not ask a teenage girl how much she weighs in front of a room full of people and on a conference call.  Anyway, I feel better than last week but I’m not sure if it’s the diet or just a lull.  When I asked Jason how he feels he just said “hungry”.  He has lost 11 pounds and I am very proud of him!

Where do I spend my days?

GROCERY STORES.  I live and breathe them now, which is pretty much my worst nightmare.  I have gone to the grocery store no less than FOUR times this week.

Yesterday, I was in the checkout line behind an obvious college student.  There was not a single healthy, or even unprocessed item in his basket.  Easy Mac, Hot Pockets, Candy Bars, Chips.  I was a mixture of jealous and revolted.  Part of me wanted to say, “sit down next to me, child, while I tell you the story of my life.”  Oh dear ones, I’m not sure whether to tell you to live it up while you can or to stop poisoning your body right now!  I would give anything, ANYTHING to go back in time and stop hurting my body with an unbelievable amount of processed ‘food’.  His basket made me truly sad.

Where Do I Get Support?

I reached out for support in an AIP group online.  Several people have been encouraging and have helped me come up with ways to gain or maintain weight on AIP.  However, there were a couple real downers who meant well but discouraged me with their words.  I have felt kind of low ever since I spoke with them, which does not help progress.  I have to believe that this lifestyle will help me or there really is no hope left for me to get better. I’ve also been ‘blah’ because I finally applied for disability yesterday.  It’s laughable because I know for a fact that I will be denied.  Too many others who have far more recognizable diseases do not get disability but our debt situation has left me no choice.

What I have learned from this experience thus far is that you have to have GOOD support and get rid of the downers.  The downers take more of a toll than you may realize.  My husband is my biggest support and blessing.  It certainly helps to have someone changing their lifestyle with me!  Thanks to everyone for all their prayers and support!

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The Day the Music Returned

Anger

I’m just gonna go ahead and say it.  God and I haven’t been, as the song says, “the best of homies” lately.  He is, was, and will always be my God, but I guess I have been angry with him.  I’ve tried not to be, and I’ve told myself I’m not, but sometimes you just can’t fight the feelings.  Anger happens.  And I know that God is ok with questions.  He’s ok with anger as long as we act on that anger in the proper way.  Day after day of fighting my body often leads me to believe that he’s not helping me fight.  I’m so tired.  So very tired.  And I’m losing hope.

Silence

God’s voice has been fairly silent in recent months, perhaps, if I admit, years.  But really, I’m not sure why I would expect him to speak to me, since I’ve been pretty silent myself.  Many of my prayers have been one-liners, which led to my mind wandering to the worries and fears that serious illness brings.  I’ve tried to give those fears to him, but when I don’t see him working, my mind wanders again.  Oh, my weary soul.  I feel like the Disciples, who couldn’t stay awake long enough to keep watch for Jesus.  The spirit is willing, or at least it used to be willing, but the flesh is so very weak.

Peace

A couple days ago I was driving down the road, having another one-sided conversation with God, which was mainly me saying for the millionth time, “What do you want me to do?  I don’t understand.  Tell me what to do!”  I finally stopped to listen and I swear I heard him say, “Just hold on.  I’m going to do something big.”  God, telling me to get out of his way, so that he can act.  I immediately had a small sense of peace, a peace that I have not had in such a long time.  A peace that passes understanding.

Hope

In the past, I felt God’s presence when he would give me his songs but, as I said before, the silence has been deafening.  I could no longer hear his music and, therefore, could not write it anymore.  He used to give me his songs freely and I would constantly write and play them.  But I just couldn’t find him anymore.  Until today.  The day the music returned.  I sang just one line before collapsing in tears.  You haven’t left me, God!  You’re still here!  After I gathered myself, he gave me the rest of the song.  Here it is:

Wash Over Me

So many days since I’ve heard your voice

So many nights with tears in my eyes
Longing for just one sweet melody
that tells me you’re still here
Wash over me
Fill me and make me clean
Wash over me
And sing me your songs again
God, I’m so weary from fighting each day
When will you take this burden away?
Sing over me a song in the night
that tells me the battle is over
Wash over me
Fill me and make me clean
Wash over me
And sing me your songs again
Then just one note is heard on the wind
Filling my heart with hope once again
God, you’ve been there in my heart all along
Even when I lost your song
Wash over me
Fill me and make me clean
Wash over me
And sing me your songs again
Wash over me
And I’ll sing your songs once again.
And just in case I haven’t been quite vulnerable enough, you can listen to me squeak out the song here.  The shakiness in my voice could be emotion, or the incredible pain in my unused guitar fingers.  Also, picking is not my strong suit, hence the constant staring at my guitar.  Strumming is my game, but not what this song ordered.
So, there you have it.  My heart split wide open for all the world to see.  Sometimes I wonder why I do this to myself.  But I love you all too much to tell you anything less than the truth.  May you find God’s peace and hope in each moment.
Love and blessings,
~Karina
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