Thursday, December 1, 2016

Rocking Chair Realities

What I would not give to sit on the front porch of a farmhouse for an afternoon and chat with two of my writing hereos...Stormie Omartian and Ann Voskamp.  I might actually have to meet with them one at a time, that two totally different writing styles and life circumstances could touch my heart in such a life changing way.  As I begin typing, I realize I will probably have to blog about them separately as well.

In 1979, when I was eight years old, Stormie Omartian had looked divorce in the eye, planted her feet in the ground and told the devil, "No, you do not get to have my marriage."  In 2003, I would praise God for the fact that she decided to put pen to paper back in '79, or maybe she used a Smith Corona typewriter, but whatever her means of telling her story, the fact remains that the Yankee and I are happily (not perfectly) married today because she did.

Thirteen years after The Power of the Praying Wife was gifted to me, I still wear the pages out.  Thirty different chapters of thirty different topics us wives can pray over our husband's lives (husbands, she has one for you too, so don't think you are left out of this).  Sometimes I think, "Oh, my husband is doing great right now, he certainly does not fit in any one of these thirty categories for me to pray over." And then I have to check my logic.  Prayer.  We all need it all of the time.  It's life.  It's breath.  It's fighting things we can't even see with our earthly baby blues or browns or greens, so who are we to judge that our precious husband's do not need it.

Precious, you say?  Maybe right now you are thinking your husband or wife is just about the least precious thing you have been around in quite some time.  Your marriage is grueling, it's as painful as natural childbirth, it brings an agony to your life that leaves you daydreaming about days spent alone with no one to answer to, no one to hit that last raw nerve that will push you over the edge.  You feel powerless.  I get it.  I hear your story, because I lived your story.  And in 2003, 24 years after she wrote the words, Stormie Omartian said to me, "We can fight for them in prayer and not give up, because as long as we are praying, there is hope.  With God, nothing is ever as dead as it seems. Not even your own feelings."  Do you know what I learned?  A very harsh reality....she was right.

I wish I could invite all of you onto the front porch with us, those who think, "Oh, you don't know my situation though, it is different for me."  Friend, if you could sit on that porch with me I would tell you all of the things The Yankee and I survived and what you are going through now is probably on the list, I can't guarantee that, but trust me when I tell you, the odds are pretty high. I have been told I should write a book or two...or six just based on our marriage alone.  And as we rock in our old squeaky rocking chairs I would tell you the outpouring of blessing in not giving up.  I would tell you that there is no perfection to be reached on this side of earth, but I would paint the picture of twenty five years spent with a man I love who loves me in return.  I would speak of the outpouring of blessing I watch daily pour out over our children because of our decision to stay when the world told us to split.  When all we wanted was to split.

The reality is, I left the land of farmhouses and rocking chairs on front porches.  We now live an hours mileage away from one of the largest, craziest cities on God's precious earth.  The reality is, I have never actually met Stormie Omartian, let alone had the privilege of rocking away a summer afternoon chatting with her on the front porch..  Another reality is, marriage is hard.  But you probably already knew all of that.  Maybe there is a reality you don't know....marriage is worth it.  Don't miss out on the opportunity right here, right now, to stop reading and pray for your spouse.  It will change their life......and yours.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sickness, Severe Adrenal Fatigue & Slim

Who am I to second guess God?  Maybe He needed to knock me off my prideful high horse when it comes to my health.  I blame my Mamaw Fields, or maybe my Aunt Joretta Jewel, or maybe my Dad, they were never sick, or if they were, you certainly didn’t know it.  Once I had my first baby, realizations began flying at me like never before.  I needed to take better care of myself for that sweet, precious baby girl, to set an example for her.  Once I came to know Christ, I knew I needed to step it up further for this ONE body He blessed me with was the only one He was going to allow me to have.  So step it up I did, and, like my Mamaw, my Aunt and my Dad before me, you would be hard-pressed to find me sick over the last seventeen years.

About seven years ago I began having some dizzy spells.  One night, late in the middle of the night when we lived in the precious barn we loved so much, our daughter K woke me up in the middle of the night and said “Mom, I have a nosebleed”.  My Momma-bear instincts woke me up immediately.  I jumped out of bed and ran up the stairs to her bathroom to help take care of her.  As I helped with her bleeding nose, the room swirled and down I went.  Was that what fainting felt like?  I had never fainted before so it all seemed so crazy to me.  The next day the doctors diagnosed me with anemia, not, “Here take these iron pills and you will be ok” anemia, but the type that had them saying, “Blood transfusions for eight weeks and you will be good as new” kind of anemia.  I guess this would be a good point to tell you that I am pretty much against modern medicine for my own family, so I was actually grateful that what I heard was pretty much a natural solution and I would not have to take anything.

I did ok for the next couple of years, but then had to go to my doctor for yet another issue.  I was forty.  I exercised all the time, I ate healthier than anyone I knew, and I was gaining weight like it was THE thing to do!!!!  And I guess THIS would be a good time to tell you, I do not think I am fat.  So I don’t want anyone reading this going, “Oh yes, we know how hard it must be to be a size four and gain 8 pounds!”  The problem actually has nothing to do with thoughts of being fat, it has everything to do with being 5’1.  When you are 5’1 and you gain 8 pounds, you feel it…in your back, in your knees, everywhere.  So even though your body doesn’t outwardly present any type of obesity, my body was saying to me, “This hurts!  Can’t you get rid of it?”

So I asked my doctor, you know, the one that diagnosed me with anemia.  The reply?  “Well, you know I have some bad news for you, you are forty now.  This is your life.”  I think I have written about this before.  That was the last day I ever saw a conventional doctor.  Instead I began running tests on myself.  I eliminated foods and reintroduced them until I could tell what was causing me to gain weight and what wasn’t.  The culprits?  Wheat and sugar.  I could only have them in moderation, once or twice a week, a special occasion maybe.  This in conjunction with limiting carbs and BOOM!  Eight pounds gone AND I felt like a new person to boot!  Life was good.

Fast forward to a little less than a year ago when suddenly just thinking about exercising would exhaust me, but I pushed my way through anyway.  A few months later I noticed there was one day a month where I literally found it almost impossible to get out of bed.  I had to redo my already strict diet just to stay at 132 pounds.  I felt like day in and day out, all I ever could think about was what I put in my mouth, how much I exercised, and how completely exhausted I was.  Did I mention I don’t nap?  My mom says I never did (lucky for her I was a well – behaved child otherwise that whole no nap thing could have been rough on her!).   So any day that I would lay down and sleep for twenty minutes, I would be super worried in the back of my mind that something was wrong.

Then we moved.  And a day and a half after we moved my husband had to go back overseas.  New state, new town, we only know our two dear friends thirty minutes away. No family, no friends.  Just me and the kids, day in and day out, doing the best we could.  And with each passing day, my fatigue grew and grew and grew.  Now instead of that one day a month that it was difficult to get out of bed, well, now I just couldn’t get out of bed that day period.  When it was that time of the month, I realized it was taking my body at least a week to recover, then I would have a week of feeling great, and then by the next week my body was already feeling weak again as it began to start the process all over again.

I closed my eyes, threw a dart at the listings on the internet and randomly picked a holistic doctor to try. Ok, ok, let’s be honest, I picked him because his competition was charging $400 an hour and he was charging $65.  I hit the jackpot! Dr. John Cassone in Old Town for any of you locals reading this!  He listened to me for a half an hour and said “Severe Adrenal Fatigue”.  So let’s back up, that anemia I had, it probably wasn’t really anemia, but the very beginnings of my adrenal fatigue.  Back then, I probably had what was considered mild adrenal fatigue.  Let’s hit rewind again..that impossible weight gain despite the healthy eating and exercise?  Moderate Adrenal Fatigue, the next step up, where your body can not handle wheat and sugar.  But since it went five more years undetected, it has now hit the Severe stage.  Don’t get me wrong, that sounds bad.  Severe Adrenal Fatigue is not serious so much as it is a royal, royal pain in the butt.  It’s a daily annoyance like a mosquito buzzing around that you just can’t find to kill.  It’s the frustration of not being able to get out of the chair when you know your house needs cleaned and dinner needs cooked.  Praise GOD that my kids are older and can semi-take care of themselves, though I take a lot of pleasure in doing things for them, being there mom while they are still here for me TO BE their mom.

So Doc has me on supplements, plant based supplements.  No conventional medicine for this gal.  I am actually allergic to most fillers that pharmaceutical companies put in medicines anyway, so I am more than happy to go the holistic route.  He does acupuncture every week, and this past week, he realized I was actually much worse off than he thought, so he mixed up the nastiest herb concoction you have EVER tasted, and I take nine teaspoons a day with one and a half cups of bone broth.  It is truly, truly nasty.  A conventional pill would be easier, quicker, less painful to my taste buds, but it would only do what modern medicine does, treat the symptoms.  Doc is treating the cause.

I also found this great product that is apparently known for treating adrenal fatigue (and many other issues)and all of the problems that come with it.  It’s called Plexus .  I researched them before I began taking them and they seem like a fabulous Christian based company and this is holistic in nature as well.  To be fair, I had begun Doc’s concoctions about twelve days before I began Plexus and only seen little results each day.  I am now five days into the Plexus and for the past two days I have felt like a normal person for the first seven hours of the day before I hit the wall I would normally hit at 9 am!  It is so wonderful to feel so much hope!!!!  Don’t be fooled by the “SLIM” on the package.  I can’t stress enough that I am NOT taking this as a weight loss product.  There are multiple, multiple benefits from taking this and I will get into all of that on future blogs!  Until then, feel free to look at all the different things they have available.  It’s a pretty interesting company and I know I feel better already.  I am so excited to see what the next few weeks bring!  If it happens to bring weight loss as a side effect, I will be thrilled with that because I would really like to get out of my older jeans and back into fitting into my daughters!  Lol!!! But I just want to feel better, and so far this is helping more than anything!

So I will be updating you on this journey as it goes along.  Until then, I would love to hear from any of you that have been diagnosed with severe adrenal fatigue.  I feel so alone on this journey, like it is an excuse if I call someone and say “I can’t meet you today because I am too tired to move”.  I would also appreciate your prayers, like I said, I know this isn’t a serious disease or anything, but if you know me, you know I like to go, go, go and this has hit me like a brick wall.  My comments are hit or miss on this page, you can try to leave one, however if it isn’t working for some reason feel free to message me on Facebook or at!  I would love to hear from others suffering from adrenal fatigue! 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Fifteen Months of Living

I feel a bit like Adele starting out this blog, “Hello….it’s me…”  Life is swift and sudden and, I have found after all of these years, often gets in the way of my fingers hitting the keyboard to put into words what God puts on my heart.

A year plus has slipped by now since I have written, and, though I am pleased to report I did not just let a year slip by doing nothing and putting my dream of writing aside, still, I wish I had not stopped for such a long period of time, but life happened in a pretty major way over the last fifteen months or so.

To begin with, my husband sat me down last summer while home on leave.  We were having a beautiful dinner at Food and Friends when he looked squarely at me and said, “Look, you talk about being a writer, you talk about saving marriages, and you talk about having a wedding venue.  I support you no matter what you want to do, and maybe you can eventually do all three, but right now you have to pick one and follow it.”  I knew three things instantly.  One, he was right (yeah, I used to have a problem admitting that, but after twenty-five years, it comes pretty easily now, I highly recommend trying it with your spouse!), two, my heart literally jumped out of my chest at the phrase, “You want to save marriages”, and three, I knew it was impossible to miss the gratitude I felt over those words, “I will support you no matter what you want to do.”

I knew what I had to do.  The next day I applied to the Liberty University Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy Program.  I was accepted and began my Master’s work immediately.  Blog?  What blog?  Did I even have a blog?  Taking three Master’s courses per semester left no time for writing simply for the sake of speaking from my own heart.  There were weeks when I had to write three papers per week and the last thing I wanted to do was grab my computer and write even more!, that is part one.

Part two is probably more monumental, but I have to digress a bit to get everyone up to date.  Our youngest child has always just felt like he belongs in California.  We brought him to CA in previous years, mainly to dissuade him from any thoughts of it.  We traveled the state from North to South so he could see the good the bad and the ugly, including a trip where we easily could have lost our lives when we accidentally exited the freeway in LA during rush hour in search of a gas station.  The first thing our son exclaimed from the back seat as we exited the freeway was, “Hey, I see two guys over there fighting with machetes”.  Now, since this is not a common occurrence in the Appalachian Mountains, we thought for sure that once we were back home, he would have fully recovered his senses and see the joy in living where we were living.  Instead I noticed he seemed a little sad one day upon returning home.  When I asked what was wrong he said, “I just wish we hadn’t come home from vacation.”  Whoa, parent fail moment!  We moved these kids to this wonderful little town so they could experience something on the level of a Norman Rockwell childhood, but our son’s visions of it were far from ideal.  We continued to encourage him that he could go to college wherever he wanted and we would support his decision no matter what.  His decision?  UCLA. Yikes!  What if there are a lot of machete's there????

Which leads us to our daughter, the older of our two kids.  She immediately fell in love with our little West Virginia town when we moved there from New England.  We just knew she was going to be the one that would grow up, fall in love with an awesome guy, buy a farm just outside of town and stay there forever, she loved it THAT much.  That is why her Daddy and I were so shocked when she came to us one day during the beginning of her sophomore year and said, “You know, I am with my brother, I think I want to go to CA for college also.”  I for one was in love with our little town, so to think of leaving was really not much of an option, so I began doing what I do best, planning.  West Virginia University was known to have an awesome Fashion Design program, so I told our daughter, “Why don’t you plan on going there for your first two years, then you and your brother travel to CA together when it is time to go to UCLA, that way your Dad and I will feel better knowing you guys are out there together, then we will consider whether we want to come live out there when you guys graduate.”

West Virginia has an unexplainable way of literally becoming just as much a part of ones heart as the blood that flows through it, so I had zero desire to leave, but I knew it wasn’t likely to happen.  After four years in LA, I imagined our kids would welcome the chance to come back to a quiet, simple life in the mountains.  But isn’t it funny that we even plan as humans?  Am I the only one that does this? When we serve a mighty Heavenly Father who already has it all worked out, but we just sit here on earth and plan and plan and plan like we are in charge, digging our feet in the mud, convinced our plans are better than His!  Well, I had it all figured out in my head, but on December 14th, 2015 He would literally show us His plan and begin to teach me to let go.

Our daughter, who has the most spiritual heart of any child I have ever met, came to me on the morning of December 14th and said, “Mom, God told me we are supposed to go to CA now.”  Now remember, this is our child who loved where we lived!  Luckily, The Yankee was home on leave so I said to her, “Well, take Dad on your walk with you when you walk your dog.  You guys talk about it and let’s see what comes of it.”  About thirty minutes later they returned from their walk and the Yankee called a family meeting.  “So, God told K we need to move to CA,” he looked at our son, “What do you think of that?”  Our son replied, “I wish we were already there.”  He looked at me, “Mom, what do you think?”  I replied, “I trust K’s heart, if God told her that then He told her that for a reason and we should probably listen, what do you think Dad?” 

“I THINK WE ARE MOVING TO CALIFORNIA”, he replied.  And just like that, our new life began. (Just FYI, that tends to be the way we roll!)

We have had a lot of people question our decision, but those are thoughts for another blog.  We began the moving process on December 15th, getting our house in order in WV, trying and failing to sell it and then God providing the PERFECT renters for us.  And on May 31st, after help from some very dear friends loading up an excessively large moving van, we sat off, a bit like the Beverly Hillbillies, two Jeeps, a hound dog, and a mutt from Wyoming County, off to see what God had in store for us in our new home outside of LA.  I prayed it wasn’t machete wielding strangers on the side of the road!

So now that we have been here for a few months, we are getting settled in.  I had to begin a new Master’s program with a new school because California did not accept most of my classes from my old school.  My health has failed me a bit, which will also be another upcoming blog post, hard for me to deal with because I have always taken great pride in how healthy I have been.  But school, and move and health aside, I am writing again, for one, because my new Master's program is a tad less stressful than my old one, so I have a bit more time on my hands.  I will soon be switching my blog format to new website because I have a new business to promote, so many changes, it makes my heart beat faster with anticipation just thinking of it all, but for this week anyway, we will stay parked here at Hills of Mercy, we do still have hills here, they are just a bit different, some of them even have a beach view!!!.  Thanks for being so faithful to always read my blog!!!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Those Darn Dandelions

I can tell by looking at him that he is older, though the hat that keeps his face protected from the sun always blocks his face from view, so I couldn't tell you how old he is.  He is a bit stooped in stature and I wouldn't say his body looks young or agile.  What I can tell you is he is just about the hardest working man I have ever seen.  Not only that, he pushes forward in what appears from the outside looking in to be a discouraging situation.

Just down the street from our house is a fairly large old historical cemetery.  It covers a full town block and then crosses the street and there is another little patch of it on the other side.  Each and every year, the instant that grass starts growing, this man is out there, pushing a push mower, trash bags at hand to rake up the excess grass so he doesn't leave clumps of grass on the cemetery lawn.  From daybreak to well into the late afternoon, he is out there pushing that

This time of year, in my own yard, the dandelions make me want to throw a temper tantrum of monumental proportions.  I spent all day Monday working on my own lawn.  All of that time and effort to make it look so pretty when you pull up in front of the house.  It is now Wednesday morning and the dandelions have already overtaken our yard again.  Insert screaming noise here......

So this hard working gentleman gets one part of the cemetery grounds looking immaculate in one days' time, then moves on to another part on day two, things are looking great.  By day three, he is working on his third section, but guess what is happening in section one...yep, dandelion heaven. So no matter how hard he works, he never, ever gets to see the entire cemetery mowed and looking groomed all at once.  Yet he keeps on trucking along, oblivious to everything around him, clearly taking great pride in what he does.  I like to think he is a believer and he is out there doing what God called him to do to the absolute best of his ability, despite the fact that he will never see a perfect end result.

I have discovered over the past few months of muddling my way through some extremely difficult personal growth that God and The Yankee are in cahoots.  Apparently God let the Yankee in on what it is He is trying to teach me (after all isn't it so very difficult to see solutions to our own problems when others can see those solutions so well?) but both God and the Yankee are allowing me to figure everything out in my own sweet time (insert the ever so slow tic-toc of a clock noise here).  How very generous of them.  I would be much more appreciative of neon flashing signs, having people jump out in front of me in traffic saying "Hey, are you Melissa?  God told me to tell you....."  Billboards...yes, that would be fantastic!!!!  Anything really. But instead I struggle each day in certain areas of my life facing hurdles that I just can't seem to jump over (seriously, have you ever seen how short my legs are???).  The Yankee says we all have to learn everything in our own time and even if he were to tell me what it is he thinks I need to hear, I might nod my head and listen, but until I see it for myself, it's really a nonsensical conversation to even have. And I know this to be true because years ago, a lifetime ago really, I went through the same with him.

Logically I know what I am supposed to do each and every day.  My main "job" is to take care of my kids, our home, and make sure anything my husband needs is done.  I am really good at those jobs AND I enjoy doing them.  There is nothing else I would rather do actually.  It never matters to me that our kids will never be perfect or there is only so much I can do from here to help my husband.  Much like those pesky dandelions, I just keep on pruning this family and doing what it is God has called me to do.

But then there is MY, no, I am not sick...blessed beyond belief to be so very healthy...only there are those two things that do make me very sick...wheat and sugar.  Two ingredients that just happen to be in almost every food we consume nowadays.  And the struggle to not eat them at all each and every day is a battle unto itself. I do not even get one area of this part of my life pruned before I forget exactly how sick these foods make me and I fall back into them all over again.

 Last week, I had been going along pretty well, when suddenly I began craving these muffins I used to make and actually used to think were "healthy".  You take a cake mix of any flavor you like and mix it with a can of pumpkin and some applesauce instead of all of the ingredients that actually go into a cake.  Well, I made those for the first time since I realized how sick wheat and sugar make me.  I had three of them in one day.  The next day in a huge pinch we went to Wendy's which we very rarely do.  Normally if we do have to go to Wendy's I will get a salad or a baked potato and it is fine.  But because of the wheat and sugar from the previous night, I was hurting bad and craving even more wheat and sugar, so I had a kids meal cheeseburger and fries with a miniature Frosty.  Doesn't sound too, too bad does it?  I mean really, everything in moderation right?  I literally could not tell you the last time I ate a cheeseburger.  I have zero memory of when that could have been it has been so long.  Thirty minutes and a splitting headache later, I was lying on the couch, overwhelmed with exhaustion and woke up the next morning shaking.

I get very frustrated at not being able to eat like a "normal" person, but as one of my friends pointed out, today's American diet is not "normal" and it is actually a blessing that God made my body so super-duper-hyper-sensitive to wheat and sugar.  But never, not once do I finish what He started in this area of my life because the big picture is too overwhelming, everyone I know eats whatever they want so I do not have anyone to join in this experience with me.  Most of all it's insane to me to think about missing wheat and sugar for the rest of  my life.

Then there is the small matter of exercise, which again, beginning of the week, I start out like a champ, but become so overwhelmed as the week goes on that I drop it and the only exercise this body sees by Friday and the weekend is walking the dog. Yes, THIS dog :)

Photo courtesy of Elaine Fox

 I know God wants me to exercise and take care of this body He has blessed me with, but instead of doing it and doing it for His glory, I stop a quarter of the way through the job and don't complete the work. Once again I become seriously overwhelmed at the thought of having to do this day in and day out to maintain a good level of health.

Finally there is the matter of what I am going to be when I grow up.  All I know to do is write, however even in that area in I get in my own way.  I write one thing, but before I even start to write again, dandelions are popping up on that piece, it is getting old, no one is reading it anymore.

What does the cemetery caretaker have that I don't?  Diligence, most definitely.  Self-discipline, for sure.  Possibly he has a clearer vision that this is the person Jesus created him to be, therefore giving him the will to do the job to the best of his ability and without discouragement. Without expecting perfection, because he knows he can't stop the grass from growing where he has already completed his job. He knows that all he can do is the job God has given him to do, without all of the questions, without all of the excuses, without the lack of self-discipline.

Just maybe the care-taker knows that with every blade of grass, every dandelion he mows down, God is teaching him to become the person He wants the care-taker to be.  Now if only I could just teach myself to listen!