Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Blessings in Disguise

In the past three months or so living in Colorado we have had a couple major hiccups with our new home that initially caused our view of life to tilt out of focus and to question "why?" As time passed, we have seen God's hand making them huge blessings in disguise!

Our first glitch happened the day after we move into our home. I was in cleaning our master closet  which is attached to the master bath where I noticed a mold smell as I went into an immediate severe asthma attack. We, instead of moving things in, sealed off the bath and closet from the rest of home and set up camping out in the guest room with our master suite things piled in various other parts of our home. This was beginning of an over two month process of mold mitigation and remodel of our master suite. We finally moved into it mid July, but still have no sink or vanity in our bath so we are still using the one down the hall.

When I first had my asthma attack and realized it was mold, I was so very discouraged. Between the physical and emotional exhaustion of moving, I was also very homesick for our dear friends and church body in Arizona. That combination set up for a perfect storm which in my case was a major emotional meltdown. As I wept, I feared we had moved from one dangerous environment into another. In spite of God's obvious leading each step of our move, I began to have serious questions and doubts.

 God was so kind to me and sent me a visible reminder of His past faithfulness and care the very next morning. That reminder was to wake up to a snow storm on Mother's Day. How was snow on Mother's Day a kind reminder from God? The only other snowy Mother's Day I had experienced was 31 years earlier where we sat in a dark hospital waiting room in the midst of a blizzard that had knocked out power in the entire city. Our, then eight week old, son was having emergency surgery for a strangulated herniated bowel. The operating room was kept light and powered  by generators while much of the nonessential parts of the hospitals were dark. God took us through that and our son not only recovered quickly but began to finally thrive after that surgery. Today our son is a godly, hard working, loving husband and father married to a lovely woman and has two darling daughters! (Yes this Nana is a bit predjuciced!) God used the snow to remind me of His ever faithful and loving care.

Mother's Day Snow
The newly remodeled master bedroom, closet and bath are so much healthier for me with my sensitivities and allergic reactions. Where before it was all wall to wall carpeting, which is a "no-no" for anybody with serious allergies or MCS, it is now ceramic tile and chemical free MCS friendly Kahrs wood floors. Joel ordered and used special grouts, caulks and paints free of toxic chemicals and VOCs. Afterwards we ran an air purifier on high several days before moving into the space. It is now a safe reaction free space for me. What a huge blessing!

Joel prepping for mold mitigation

Joel looking like a character from the movie Outbreak just prior to entering the sealed off area to do mold mitigation

Having found the mold issue before we moved any clothing onto the closet kept our clothes from all becoming contaminated with mold spores was another blessing. If I hadn't had an immediate reaction we could have ended up like Kathryn Chastain Treat who had to dispose of all her clothes that had become contaminated by molds.  
Since I was wearing old work clothes I immediately disposed of them and showered to prevent any further contamination. Our mold ended up only being the underside of the vanity from a prior leak and a small portion of the wall behind one side of the vanity and whole inside of toilet (very weird) but lead to new floor coverings, some dry wall, under layment, paint, new vanity, sinks, toilet, lights and trim tile. 

Tile and wood floors are installed and walls painted

Looking into our bedroom with newly laid Kahr's wood floors we ordered from Green Building Supply

The second major hiccup turned blessing was caused by an unusually stormy May and June in Colorado. Our home ended up being one of around 80,000 homes in the Denver and surrounding areas with hail damage. Yesterday the insurance adjuster and roofing contractor were here. Our roof is totaled, we have damaged screens, roof vents and wood trim around the garage door and front porch. All the yards in our neighborhood have sprouted signs from various roofing companies and contractors. We will soon be joining their ranks. The roofing contractor said he will take the insurance payment and upgrade our roof to class 4 impact resistant roofing with 50 year guarantee which will lower our homeowners insurance nearly $200 a year and mean we hopefully can go many more years without needing to pay another deductible. The savings on insurance will pay for this deductible in only a few years. We can take the amount  allotted money for the repair and painting of the exterior trim and be our own contractor which means any funds left after purchasing supplies will go in our pockets. So God is blessing us with not only a new roof, but a better and stronger one, that will continue to save us money. Joel was already planning on painting the outside house trim before the snow flies and now the cost of that will be provided for too! Isn't it great how God can take what look like such negatives to us humanly and bring blessings from them!!

I am hoping I learn from these lessons to more quickly see how God is working in the harder things or the things that don't go my way. That the times I don't understand that I will remember His past faithfulness rather than to question or doubt. Praying God will enable me to remember His ways are not my way and are so much higher and better than mine.

Isaiah 55:8-9
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
      neither are your ways my ways
      declares the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
      so my ways are higher than your ways
      and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

These blessings in disguise remind me of one of my favorite songs that has so touched me the last three years called Blessings by Laura Story. My dear readers please take a moment to let this song minister to your souls.



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Library Cards and Contentment

While this is our first summer in Colorado, everyone tells us that this year is wetter and cooler than normal. Last week was especially rainy and most of the state was on flash flood watch. So what does one do when the rains are pouring? Well if you are anything like my hubby or I, you find a good book to curl up with in a comfy sofa or chair. The natural thing for us was to head out to was the nearest library and get a library card in our new community.

I am going to digress a bit to share with you how libraries have been an integral part of my life and an almost sacred refuge. My family moved when I was four years old to a home less than a block from one of those old charming Carnegie local libraries built in the first decade of the twentieth century. In it I could escape to anywhere in the universe and be anything or anyone else besides me. My mother was a bookworm so we went frequently, attended story times and summer reading clubs. When I got into upper elementary I became a library aide at my school and learned how to clean, repair and file the books. I also did that for a couple of my junior high years. I married a man who was a book worm and whose parents had to actually limit his reading because of other things he wasn't doing while he read. We sat in comfortable silence each reading our books and often had one we read aloud to each other. Our children were read to while still in the womb. As a home schooling Mom, we spent large blocks of time there finding books to go with our curriculum, as well as ones for pure reading pleasure. Even up into their teens we would have a family read aloud book we took turns reading in the evenings. Over the years we progressed from nursery rhymes and Dr. Seuss to Charlotte's Web and Red Wall and grew to things like the Narnia Series and biographies of missionaries and historical figures. Libraries and their wonderful bookish aromas have a draw to me that few buildings do on this earth.

Last week we arrived at the library which sets on a bluff with immense windows open to one of the best views in the area of the Colorado Rockies. Due to low clouds and heavy rains we couldn't even catch a glimpse of the foothills. We dashed across the parking lot and entered what should be my welcome sanctuary and instead I was bombarded by a rubber tire odor from the mats in the entry to prevent slipping on the wet tile floors. We walked up to the desk to fill out the forms to get our cards and I noticed smells of new construction or new carpeting. Warning flags went up in my brain but I chose to ignore them because this was the library. By the time our cards were issued my voice was croaky and had a headache but thought while we are here, I might as well take a look around and get a few books. A few minutes and several books later, I was dizzy, experiencing all over joint and muscle pains, foggy brained, wheezing and having facial swelling. My hubby helped me get the books checked out to speed up my getting out of that building.

Deep sadness hit me when I got into the car, realizing that this library is not a sanctuary or relaxing refuge for me. Tears welled up in my eyes as I recognized the impact of that. This was SO much harder than not being able to go to a store because it was newly remodeled or had too many scented candles or potpourri. This tore at the roots of where so much of my life has been spent. A library is the place that has enabled me to expand my horizons and learn so many new skills in the volumes contained within it. I was reeling with the grief of that when Joel reminded me that I can order books online and he can pick them up for me and even download Kindle and Nook books online from them. It did cheer me, but I will definitely miss going to the building.

The next morning in my quiet time, I continued where I had been studying in the book of Philippians which Paul wrote while imprisoned in Rome. The themes of joy and rejoicing that Paul writes of  are both inspiring and convicting. Paul's purpose whether he lives or dies is to honor and glorify Christ Jesus.

"Yes and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain." Philippians 1:18b-21

After reading this and contemplating Paul's attitude while in prison facing a real probability of death, I am purposing with God's enabling grace, to be content and to rejoice. Whether in my new freedom to be outdoors or my limitations of not being able to go to places like the library or certain shops, to be content, to rejoice and bring glory to God. I with eager expectation and hope with the help of the Holy Spirit and my godly husband, will look for creative options to use instead and find reasons to be grateful and rejoice. I may have moments of sadness and grieve of what once was, but as my dear friend Lynn says, "It's one thing to have a cup of coffee with Mr. Pity but its an entirely different to sit down and drink a whole pot with him."

I am grateful first of all for Jesus Christ and His saving grace! I am grateful for our move to Colorado enabling me to enjoy time outdoors gardening, taking photos and hiking. I am grateful for online shopping and online library reservations for books,as well as Kindle and Nook downloads. I am grateful for a new doctor who really understands MCS and who has prescribed me new medications and supplements that enable me to rebound quicker from my reactions. I am grateful for a comfy home, that I share with my best friend and hubby where I am reaction free. I am grateful for a couple new friends who understand my issues and who previous to our moving to Colorado already had chemical-free homes. Isn't our God good!!!



Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Faded Roses

We recently celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary. The morning of our anniversary I woke to find a dozen gorgeous roses and a card on my dresser. We had said we would celebrate the following week because of work, sermon prep and travel schedules on my husband's plate the week of our anniversary. So I was quite surprised to wake to the flowers and card. Also I had postponed my plans for him, except for dinner, until the next week. We celebrated that night with a delicious BBQ salmon dinner and broke out our china and goblets for the first time since moving to Colorado. We did celebrate more this week when Joel took Friday off and we took a day trip exploring the nearby mountains with a late dinner on the way home.

I woke to these on our anniversary

The roses were so beautiful with vibrant hues like a sunset. I thoroughly enjoyed visually soaking up their colors, textures and shapes. The way they contrasted with the cobalt blue and white pitcher I placed them in was breathtaking. Each day they opened more and more. But by day four they started looking beyond their prime and by day five they were drooping and withering.

I am so glad our love is not like those roses, flame bright and flamboyant, but in a few days fading, drooping, wilting - dead.

       Wilted and faded by day five

Because of Christ in us, we are able to love each other through good times and bad, in sickness and health and in the midst of any circumstances. Sure there are days where the bloom of our love temporarily wilts a bit. Days where one of us has our eyes on self and our wants, needs or expectations rather than on loving God and our neighbors as ourselves.

12 Put on then as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Colossians 3:12-13

John Piper in his book "This Momentary Marriage" has this to say about the passage in Colossians 3:12-13. "As the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive your spouse, As the Lord "bears with you", so you should bear with your spouse. The Lord "bears with us" every day as we fall short of His will. Indeed the distance between what Christ expects of us and what we achieve is infinitely greater than the distance between what we expect of our spouse and what he or she achieves. Christ always forgives more and endures more than we do. Forgive as you have been forgiven. Bear with as He bears with you...Let the measure of God's grace to you in the cross of Christ be the measure of your grace to your spouse.

Piper goes on to say, "In other words, Colossians 3:12-13 says, take the vertical grace of forgiveness and justification and bend them horizontally to your spouse. Marriage is meant to be a unique matrix for this display of grace. This is what marriage is for ultimately - the display of Christ's covenant keeping grace."

Wow! It is SO convicting to think how many times I have failed to extend as much grace to my spouse as Christ has extended to me. 

So while the roses quickly fade, our marriages when based on God's grace and love will continually blossom. Fresh flowers of daily grace are available to us and our marriages from our generous and loving God. Let's pray we may all extend grace to our spouses in the manner our Lord has extended grace to each of us.

Grace and blessings,


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Finding a Fit

I am so thankful that God worked so clearly and evidently in so many, many details of our move out of Arizona. I told a couple close friends, just prior to our leaving Arizona, that even if a magic cure of all my symptoms came today, I knew to not move would still be in disobedience to God's revealed will for our lives. Having those obvious evidences of His leading are now so reassuring!

We have been in our new area for almost three months. I am struggling with homesickness for relationships and our church body in Arizona. The assurance of God's leading is something I am so grateful for as we try to find our fit in a new area and church. We haven't yet had time invested to develop and grow new close relationships.

So we wait and pray to find our fit. Waiting for relationships to form, to see how God intends to use us to serve and minister to others in this new season and place. The waiting is harder being summer and so many functions at church are suspended until fall and many people are traveling on vacations.

Today I had a "Children of Israel" morning where I was looking back and I was pining to be back in my "Egypt" of Arizona. Just as the children of Israel forgot their enslavement and trials and lamented over missing the foods they had in Egypt instead of being content from manna from heaven, I too was focusing on the people and relationships I missed and forgetting about the severe reactions and intense pain that had enslaved me in Arizona.

Numbers 11:4-6

4Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! 5We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 6But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”

Thankfully I was able to text a couple dear sisters in Arizona this morning and share my struggles and have them pray for and encourage me where my hope lies. I am praying as I wait to find a fit, I will keep my eyes fixed on Jesus the one who is the author and finisher of my faith and my source of joy and peace.



View of the mountains from our neighborhood

Bunny that lives in our back yard.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Non Toxic Wood Renewal

Since I am sensitive to many chemicals due to having MCS, I am always on the lookout for simple, natural ways to maintain our home. We recently moved into a home with a open staircase and loft with wood rails. The staircase is the focal point of the main level and looking a bit shabby. Our home is nearly twenty years old and there is a large arched window above our front door in line with the staircase that allows sun to blaze into this two story stairway. As a result the rails were very worn looking due to sun damage and in desperate need of something to restore them.

Awhile back I had seen a Pinterest post about how a woman who had finished a table she had built using coconut oil. I remembered that a couple days ago and decided to try it on my stairway. I rubbed the coconut oil directly on the wood and then rubbed it off with paper towels (I am sure rags would also work). It was a time consuming project to oil all the rails and spindles and wipe them off. Not only did lots of dirt come off onto the towels but it left a wonderful shine and after wiping they feel polished but not oily. I was benefited by the extra bonus of well moisturized hands by the time I completed this project. 

The picture below shows both some of the rails in before and after condition. I will be doing this again as it is needed. I am hoping in the near future to sew a curtain for that arched window to prevent further sun damage and lower summer AC bills. That, my friends, will be another blog post...

Isn't the difference amazing?!!

Colorado and Improved Health

We have lived in Colorado since the end of April and this move has so been the right thing for my health. I am feeling less symptoms and more energy than I have had in at least three years. If I'm exposed to cleaning aisle in a store or perfumes, fabric softener fumes, cigarette smoke, exhaust or other chemicals, I still have reactions. In our home and in the gorgeous outdoors I am doing wonderful. No more constant  full body swelling and all over pain, no more debilitating fatigue or continuous brain fog. I am praising God for this season of better health and enjoying exploring in His glorious creation all around us in Colorado.

I have been blessed to find a doctor who is a MD that also practices holistic medicine and specializes in people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and auto-immune disorders. He is great at listening and following up, and has even called me at home! He has started me on supplements and meds that help me bounce back quicker from reactions due to exposures. He also is working to help restore my nervous and immune systems that are stressed from the constant reactions of the last eight months in Arizona from the acrylic polymer used for dust control. I found his name on some on-line site for people with environmental illnesses or MCS that had a link listing MCS friendly doctors while we were still living in Arizona. Since I was dealing with all my symptoms and major brain fog, I am unable to remember where that list is located online. All I know is that God orchestrated all the details of our move and finding this doctor for me and I am SO grateful!

Early May we walked around a nearby lake where we saw hundreds of prairie dogs, loon, herons, grebes, beaver and bald eagles. All of this set against the lovely backdrop of the mountains.

When we got done with our walk we ate some trail mix bars at a picnic table at the trail head and these two prairie dogs where extremely tame and begged food from us and even had a fight over it all about 3 to 4 feet from where we were sitting.

Sunday afternoon drive just west of town

This is a pond in our neighborhood where we walked  last Sunday afternoon with trails through open spaces go by multiple ponds and prairie dog villages but our hike was suddenly cut short by a fast moving thunder storm.

So how can one see all this beauty and not rejoice in our Creator? Colorado so gloriously displays our God's creativity!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Weather Challenges and Confirmations

We are traveling up to North Idaho to visit my Hubby's mother who is nearing the end of her life. We have been on the road for two days and have had to cut our trip short and hole up in a hotel in Missoula, Montana while a winter storm gets the snow and 50 mile per hour winds out of its system. This storm that hit this evening was predicted to hit late tomorrow night when we checked weather reports in Salt Lake this morning while deciding whether to take I-90 or I-84 route.

We had bare and dry pavement from Phoenix until Deer Lodge, MT and began getting into a snowstorm and some packed snow on the interstate. We pulled into Missoula knowing we needed to do something to improve our traction before proceeding on further. Since we have fairly new all weather snow and mud tires we had them siped at a tire dealership. God cared for us in this by the manager until less than 2 weeks ago was my brother's brother-in-law. My brother made a phone call and we got things at employee discount, got us in immediately and help trying to find tire chains/cables the size our car needs. So far none have been located. 

The hour our car was on the rack having all four tires siped, we spent walking in the snowstorm in the trucker end of Missoula since my chemical sensitivities make me unable to tolerate sitting in the waiting area of a tire shop. We got to giggling thinking how God is breaking us into winter weather in preperations for our Colorado move. Yesterday we were in 78 degrees and today walking for almost an hour in 23 degrees snowstorm! While visiting as we walked, we were both struck on what a remarkable difference there is in me physically in a day and a half of being away from Arizona. My swelling is lower than it has been since summer and I feel better and more clear headed and energetic than I have for months! If we had any doubts (which we weren't having as we have seen God's hand be so evident in all of this!) about the rightness of our decision to relocate this is in itself a great confirmation! Oh and being able to be outside and feeling good is wonderful!! We are even more hopeful for our Colorado relocation.

After our tires were ready, we decided to try to proceed on as planned and got back onto Interstate 90 and began heading west. We were unsure and said we would see how it was and if bad turn around at Frenchtown  a few miles west. Immediately we began noticing numerous cars that had just slid off the road into ditches in the increasingly slick road conditions and after a few miles we did turn around and returned to Missoula. We found a hotel and let our families know the changes in plans. Again we laughed thinking about the re-entry to winter living after our five and a half years in the Valley of the Sun. We are hearing the storm will last most the night and will likely be later in the day if at all before the passes will be good for travel. We are praying and would covet your prayers for a break in the weather and for the roads to be quickly cleared so we can get to North Idaho as soon as we can to have the bittersweet time to say our goodbyes to his Mom