Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Starting at Zero

My friend Tracy was sharing how when her sister-in-law moved to Texas some years back the hardest part was always starting at zero with people in her new community. They had zero history with her, zero knowledge of her life prior to moving, zero knowledge of her grown children and grandchildren, zero knowledge of who she really was, her gifts, talents, challenges or heartaches. When she shared this with me, I so resonated with this on multiple levels.

Moving from Arizona to Colorado a few months ago, we are constantly starting at zero both with folks not knowing us and us not knowing them. After a few months there are a few who know much of our story and we have learned much of theirs. Still rarely a day goes by where I don't have the starting from zero experience where we try to fill each other in on our life up to this point in a nutshell. This happens at our church, in the neighborhood, with new doctors and practitioners. Rebuilding in a new community takes starting from nothing and laying new foundations that will hopefully lead to many great relationships.

I find there is an aspect of starting at zero with family and friends who have known me for ages when it comes to all the impact MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) has had in my life. For instance my extended family and I used to eat large batches of popcorn nightly and in the last four years that has morphed into now having to explain that I have an anaphylactic allergy to corn in any form. In fact being in same room as popcorn or corn chips causes me to have asthma and other symptoms. Fragrances and cleaning products that I thought nothing of using for many years now are very problematic and can cause me symptoms days after the exposure. The starting at zero to explain myself and how so many things negatively impact me to those who have known me years earlier is hard and wearing. It is difficult feeling like my health issues are impacting others around me, yet I either have to start at zero and explain or suffer reactions. Depending on what I am exposed to the reactions are immediate or delayed with varied symptoms that may last a few hours to several days.

Many friends and family members have been empathetic and inquire how they can serve me. They are curious and ask questions about what impacts me and how to prevent reactions. Those are the ones that make it easy to rebuild from zero. I have people in my life who have gone to natural cleaners, installed used carpeting, painted with no VOC paints and installed no VOC flooring to accommodate me in their homes. My grown kids and their spouses have made their homes safe for me and gladly cater to my dietary needs. My church care group meets in a home that uses natural products and I am able to attend because they remind everybody before each meeting to not wear fragrances. This Friday we are going to a dinner where the hostess has catered the entire meal around my dietary restrictions which is no easy feat. Instead of giving up or taking me up on the offer to bring my own meal she rose to the challenge. People who respond like that greatly bless me and encourage me to make more effort to start from zero when it comes to my MCS.

Haboob in Phoenix, AZ

My MCS and the dust suppressant chemical used in Arizona are the reason we moved to Colorado
last spring. While beginning at zero in so many relationships, we have been so blessed by a church body who is warm, embracing and understanding as well as a community that is much more in tune with natural non-chemical way of life. While starting over is difficult the benefits to my health have been wonderful!

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

There is anther way I start from zero and that is with my own self. I "forget" I am not fully as healthy and energetic as I was in the past. I still think I am the gal that my husband called the "Energizer Bunny" who kept going and going. I have always been driven and thrived on activity and socializing. I still want to thrive that way. I can get busy in the living of life, remodeling or yard projects, guests staying, hiking and photographing my lovely new area and suddenly I hit a wall. I am too fatigued to function. Or I forget that I can no longer go certain places without it impacting me. Monday afternoon I went to pick up my meat order and was exposed to the strong tar odors of freshly laid asphalt in their parking lot. Since I was already out made another stop on the way home. By dinner time, I was operating in a major brain fog with extreme fatigue, allergy symptoms, migraine and facial swelling. Also realized that some of my improvement that came from my IV therapy a month ago was wearing off so I was reacting more easily and not rebounding as quickly. Still I am having some symptoms as I write this Wednesday afternoon. This morning I went and had another IV session with Meyers Cocktail and glutathione. By tomorrow morning my energy should really kick in and if like last couple times will better tolerate and more quickly rebound from exposures. Right now I am so relaxed from all the magnesium in the Meyer's Cocktail a nap is calling my name. So I need to remember to remind myself of who I am now so I don't land at zero from my own living like I did in the past.

One place I never have to start from zero is with my personal Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He knows me intimately.(Psalm 139)  He knew all my days before even a one of them was (Psalm 139:16) and has the very hairs on my head numbered! (Matthew 10:30) He cares about all the details of my life; of your lives. Such peace, assurance and grace for living flow from Christ.

So how have you had to begin from zero with others or yourself? I would love to hear your stories in the comments.



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Rock Music

This weekend we had out of town guests visiting us  from Arizona. Saturday we drove them to a nearby El Dorado Canyon at the base of the Colorado Front Range where there are numerous trail heads. When we arrived each of us was entranced by the nearby stream tumbling down the rocky canyon. Our Arizona guests were extra thrilled by all the rushing water.

 Instead of following a trail we clambered over boulders following the stream. I was the only female in the group and soon found out my hubby and the other two men were five year old boys disguised in men's bodies.They were soon egging each other to jump from one boulder across the stream to another boulder. These antics resulted in two of the three ending up with wet shoes and clothes and one nearly drowned cell phone. I spent time laughing at the "boys" and documenting it with my cell phone camera.

My hubby Joel who was the oldest "boy" in the group

See what I mean when I say they are still 5 year old boys hidden inside man bodies!

The creek tumbled over boulders in a narrow canyon with several small cascading waterfalls and a wonderful rushing sound. This was no babbling brook. This was thundering rock music in its most natural form! The roaring waters at times made it hard to hear each other especially when the guys were on the opposite side. Our senses were filled with overwhelming sights, smells and sounds of God's glorious creation in this canyon.

Mightier than the thunders of many waters, 
mightier than the waves of the sea,
 the LORD on high is mighty!
Psalm 93:4

May this mighty LORD bless you this week


Friday, September 12, 2014

Invisible Illness Week and Friendships

The week September of September 9-14 is Invisible Illness Awareness. An invisible illness is an illness that another cannot detect by just looking at a person. There are numerous invisible illnesses that healthy appearing folks are struggling with on a daily basis. Invisible illness can impact not only how a person physically feels but can also change their ability to function in arenas such as employment and relationships. I myself struggle with two invisible illnesses. If I am gussied up and have a smile pasted on my face you would never guess I  have both a form of chronic leukemia that requires daily low dose chemotherapy and MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity). Many of my MSC blogging sisters have written great articles about invisible illnesses this week and how it impacts us. The one I find myself most desiring to reblog is the one that shares how MCS impacts our friends and loved ones that was written by Colleen on her blog Life in the City with a Future.

The road to a friends place is never long! Especially if nontoxic!

I can say I have been blessed to have friends and family members who do go above and beyond to accommodate me to safely spend times in their homes and to safely visit me in mine. Colleen describes how such a friend has done that for her. These special friends will never fully understand the huge impact and incredible blessing they each are to me!

My dear friend Lynn from Iowa was here to visit me on Labor day

Colleen's informative blog where her friend Beth also shares a friends perspective can be read here

May increasing our knowledge break down tendencies to judge, and rather, help us to foster understanding, build friendships and produce love!



Monday, September 8, 2014

Glimpses of God at Work

We received news Friday August 29 that my husband was going to be part of a major lay-off at the company he has worked with for over 15 years. His last day at work will be October 10. We were both shocked by the news. My hubby was saddened because enjoys his work and has very good relationships with co-workers that he has known between 5-15 years. Though we don't know the future and looking at unemployment is scary, we did not feel our world tilted or fell apart. Instead we felt God's presence and peace and saw His body rally around us to pray, encourage, network, write resumes and recommendations. We feel hope and peace and are anticipating what God will do in the near future.

God was so gracious and His timing so perfect. I had a good week digging in the word and reading in Philippians which had prepared my heart. That morning I had another set of IV treatments of Meyer's Cocktail and glutathione. The Myer's Cocktail has, among many other ingredients, a high dose of magnesium which is very relaxing. Then that afternoon as Joel was getting the news of his lay off, I was getting a free hour massage for new patients at my chiropractor's. So I was very calm and relaxed when I received the news. 

God has enabled us through our prayers and prayers of many to both remain calm, resting in the knowledge God has a sovereign plan and none of this takes Him by surprise. We have had more peace than humanly possible in these circumstances. I know the true test of walking in faith will come when the last pay check arrives. We are purposing to keep focused on our Savior and the knowledge that He does have a perfect plan for our lives for our eternal good and His glory and our asking all our friends to pray for us to do that as well as pray for another job.

The first evening as we talked and prayed we once again remembered a favorite story from the Bible. This story takes place in 1 Samuel 30. In the story David and his 600 mighty men return home to find their home town Ziklag burned to the ground and all their women and children had been taken captive by their enemies the Amalekites. David's men were naturally very upset and there was mutinous talk about stoning him. So what did David do? Did he ride away on a swift horse or put a political spin on it to take the pressure off of himself? Did he give into despair since his own 2 wives and children were also taken? No he did the simplest and most powerful thing we can every do in hard situations he looked to the Lord for strength and encouragement.

And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. 
1 Samuel 30:6 ESV

In the King James version it reads, "but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God". I can imagine David wandering a distance from the men to commune with God. He was likely remembering how God had cared for him in the past when things looked very difficult. He recalled how when he was a shepherd boy God enabled him to kill lions and bears that came after his sheep. And remembered how the LORD was victorious through him when he killed the giant Goliath with five small stones and a sling. Then there were the many times Saul had hunted him with murderous intent and God protected and spared his life. He encouraged himself in the LORD who had cared for him time after time and strengthened his faith that God would work again.

Last Friday as we were absorbing this news we remembered this story and began recounting the many ways God has cared for us personally: how He worked 15 1/2 years ago to provide this job when Joel was last laid off, how He worked in our recent move from Arizona to Colorado in such speedy and miraculous ways. Even when circumstances have been hard, He has been there for us sustaining, leading and providing. As we recounted time and time again when we saw His hand working in our lives we were encouraged in our faith and strengthened in our hope and faith for this situation. We continue to remind ourselves and each other of that.

Last blog post I wrote about how God used a tree falling over in the wind to meet neighbors and save over $1200. (You can read that here.) We now see that God was protecting our finances for this next season, though we had no clue at the time. We  were suppose to have taken vacation to drive 14 hours to visit our daughter's family and see our newest grand baby leaving last weekend. The day before the news of his layoff, Joel came down with a bug with fevers and cough and our daughter asked us to postpone our trip due to the risk of a respiratory bug with a newborn and two older siblings with a rare lung disease. By not leaving, not only did it give us time to process and figure out what's next, it enabled us to realize Joel really needed to be here busy job-hunting and the 70 hours vacation pay will be welcomed funds when his job ends. While my Nana's heart longs to snuggle and love on this newest grandchild and her siblings, the timing is another way God is caring for our needs and part of His plan.

So we have many questions and as of yet no answers, but there is confident hope and peace in trusting the One who has all the answers. We are trying to be wise with our decisions and choices but we need to be careful in our researching and figuring to not let the "what-ifs" overwhelm us or cause us to panic. We need to consider options but not be consumed by them. When we dwell in fear we are no longer walking in faith since fear is the opposite of faith. In fact God gives us grace for each day, not for the "what-ifs"
of the future. Pray we rest in His grace-giving care and hope as we await what is next.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for,
the conviction of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1

Rocky Mountain National Park

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
  My help comes from the Lord
the maker of heaven and earth.
Psalm 121:1-2

Praying this week each of you catch glimpses of God at work in your own circumstances.



Friday, September 5, 2014

Blessings in Disguise Part 2 or How God Knocks Down a Tree

I wrote this three weeks ago with the intention to immediately get back to polishing it up and posting it. Instead life happened and blogging seemed to be the thing that got pushed aside. While this is old news, its too good a story about God's grace to pass by.

Yesterday afternoon we went up to Boulder where I had an appointment with my MCS doctor. While we were in Boulder, storms with wind and rain came through the areas. We returned home to find the wind had downed the lightening-killed maple tree and landed it in our next door neighbors' yard, resting atop the high board wood fence. We had scheduled two arborists to give us bids on removing this lightening-charred maple skeleton, as well as a few other trees from our over-planted yard. But God had other plans that far exceeded our own.

Amazingly nobody was hurt and absolutely nothing was damaged. It was as if the hand of God had gently laid it to rest on the fence and the ground. Our Vietnamese neighbor, Tim, had went into the house moments before it landed on the patio where he had been standing.  The tree extended over one of Tim's numerous fish pond in his lovely backyard Asian garden, yet it did not ruffle a feather on his glazed ceramic duck ornaments resting on the edge of the pond. A terracotta pot was gently swept aside by the branches on the patio without a crack. God's protective care was evident.


Joel immediately went out and rented a chain saw so we could quickly clean up the mess in their yard before daylight left. The clearing went quickly with the the chainsaw and Tim's help. While I was praying nothing was damaged and that our neighbors we barely knew would not be angry or sue us, God was knocking down more than trees. The tree toppling and our immediate response to clear it, broke down all walls and instead we were invited to attend a family birthday party the following day for their granddaughter.

We have four mahogany-leafed Choke Cherry trees about thirty feet tall that we were going to remove ourselves, so Joel began working on that Friday evening after we got the other tree cut and into our yard so quickly. Suddenly, a man appeared in our side yard with his two Labradors. He had heard the chainsaw noise and came over to investigate. In the course of our conversation we discovered Stan lived on the next street and wondered if he could have the bigger chunks of wood for his wood burning stove. He then offered to come over Saturday morning with his chain saw and help Joel with our project in exchange for the wood. We were even more delighted to find out Stan and his wife were also Christians.

Saturday morning before Stan arrived, the first arborist came and gave us a bid for the tree removal and pruning we were wanting done. His total was over $1200 before any stump grinding. Yikes! We realized then the more work we do ourselves the better! But those twenty year old silver maples two feet from the fence still seemed too risky for us to do on our own.

Stan arrived and when he found out we wanted to take those maples down, he shared that he is a landscape architect for the state and had forty years experience in that and as an arborist. He said he could easily walk Joel through safely felling the trees and would direct him how to do pruning in the golden locust and huge elm tree out front. Joel and Stan got the trees all down without any incident even with the discovery of a large wasp nest in one of the maple trees. Our back yard was soon a gargantuan brush pile!! The blue spruce and lilacs that were hidden by the other trees now are visible, as well as our mountain views from the second story!

Joel and Stan cutting trees
I was so thankful Stan was there to help Joel Saturday.  The night before, I momentarily forgot that I was chemically sensitive and helped Joel as he used the gas-powered chainsaw. I ended up with nasty reactions to the exhaust that took several hours and numerous medications to get under control. Our trip to Boulder Friday afternoon was so I could try Myers Cocktail and Glutathione IVs to see if they would reduce my reactions.  They made a difference, in spite of severe reactions, I rebounded much more quickly than normal.

So, God used the wind to down a tree in a manner that enabled us to get to know two families in our new neighborhood and saved us a boatload of money! What initially seemed like a disaster were definitely blessings that helped open up doors to get to know our neighbors and save us money! God is so good!!!

Blessings to you all!


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!!!