Whatever is life-giving

It’s Monday again, the beginning on a fresh week.  I’m always thankful, the familiar rhythms we keep here, all the while holding loosely as we ride the waves of change.  I’m not big into change, I like our “normal.”  Since finding out my four-year-old’s diagnosis of Celiacs disease, I’ve been trying to stay afloat in the wild waves of change.

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A few weeks back I read these ancient words by John Chrysostrom:

“Lord give us tears and remembrance of death.”

What a thing to pray.  Give us tears, Lord.  I think of how I’ve felt since finding out the news about Phoebe–like there is an ocean of tears I want to cry but can’t access.  It’s just down there somewhere, stuffed beneath.

Give us tears, Lord.  Sometimes we just need the release of a good cry.

A few weeks ago I fed our family, stacked clean dishes to drip dry in the sink, kissed them all goodnight and folded tired legs into my car in the dusky evening.  I drove over to my friend Megan’s house in a weary silence.  She and her husband have a small hobby farm nearby and have been living a simple organic lifestyle, as well as practicing the GAPS diet with their family as part of their journey to health + wholeness.  As I continue researching ways to heal my Phoebe’s digestive system to help her grow and gain weight, I needed to talk with someone who’s been down this road ahead of me.

Megan and I used to go to the same church years ago when we lived in a different town.  We found each other then with another couple and formed the sweetest little tight-knit community.  We discovered I carried our first baby, and Megan discovered she was losing hers.  We splintered a bit, then.  We took a job forty-five minutes away, and they helped us move in and settle.  We said we would stay close, but the distance and busyness of new seasons filled our days.  Then they moved closer to where we were, and we ended up taking a job that moved us back toward them once again.  Now we are a few minutes away from each other.  I haven’t spent much time with her over the past few years, but lately we’ve been trying to squeeze in more visits.  These years with young babes and trying to get a start as a family with first homes, it fills our days to the brim.

Pulling up her snaking drive, gravel crunching under tires, the summer evening silence broken by the bleating of newborn baby goats, the quibbling of chickens, the sing-song of crickets.  I walked in, we greeted with tired smiles and hugs.  Her children were tucked into bed, her husband out of town for the week.

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I love being in another woman’s home, I’ve realized–observing her ways, her patterns.  It is so sweet to watch someone’s familiar paths–the way she pulled on her farm boots and grabbed a bucket of feed to take to the goats.  Our chatter and commiserating and quiet laughter as she tore a handful of mint from her garden, steeping it directly in water, pressing it through, handing me a steaming mug.  We sit on her front porch for a long while in the summer evening cool and quiet.  Later we move inside, she cuts open the package of a whole chicken, pulling out a drawer, grabbing that particular knife for chopping, the way her fingers unconsciously trace the onion, pulling back the papery skins.

We talk, we pour out honest emotions, we open hearts–all while she moves in the quiet rhythms of her home, her needful tasks.  Throwing a load of laundry in (as she apologizes).  Wiping out the bag which held her raw milk pick up.  Preparing the chicken to boil overnight.

Around her home scriptures were taped, phrases of healing were hung.  Index cards taped above the sink forming the shape of a cross.  A large paper with the word TRUTH written on it, surrounded by phrases and scriptures such as “God’s pearl” (with scritpure), and “Deserving of watch-care” and “Created to be a nurturer,” hangs in the kitchen above her stove.  Stories everywhere.  Well-worn paths.

Give us tears and remembrance of death.

Remembrance of death–sounds morbid, and on first reading, my soul shrinks back from this.  No, I don’t want to spend time remembering death.  But then I think of my Savior’s words: “Remember me.  This is my body, broken for you.  This is my blood, poured out for you.”  He wants us to remember Him, specifically to remember His death.  We like to speak of our risen Savior, and indeed our faith is in vain and we are of all people most to be pitied if He did not rise from the dead.  Why do our souls resist remembering His death, especially when He told us to do it often?  Whatever Jesus instructs us to do, it is life-giving to us.  Maybe we live best when we remember keenly our finality.

When I asked her what their whole experience has been with these extreme dietary changes, Megan answered, “Martha, it’s been life-giving to us.”  It’s probably what struck me most and stayed with me after our conversation.  These changes, these new rhythms to be learned–they are not easy, but they are proving to be life-giving.  I am finding the same to be true.

It’s been two months since we began this journey toward a healthy and growing little girl via dietary and lifestyle changes.  We are still researching and toying with the GAPS diet and a grain-free/dairy-free diet, but going gluten-free as a bare minimum has been fairly easy.  Our rhythms are different.  The toaster + bread machine have been replaced by our blender/food processor.  Bowls of nuts or rice are often soaking by our sink.  Ribbons of zucchini have replaced pasta.  Our buying has changed: grass-fed beef gelatin, Kombucha, bulk whole chickens to make weekly portions of bone broth.  I’ve been learning about best sources for bulk raw nuts, for filling out pantry with coconut flour, almond flour, medjool dates, tapioca flour, xantham gum, coconut butter, coconut oil, coconut milk.

Papers, printed recipes + stacks of books are scattered all over my kitchen counter.  The house cleaning suffers.  This process is daunting in many ways, exciting in others, especially as I start to feel a difference and feel better, to see my appetite changing and my body responding.  Phoebe seems to be responding, too.  Her eyes seem just the slightest hint brighter.  Her random occasional low-grade fevers have stopped.  She isn’t as tired.  Her appetite seems to be improving.

It is difficult, as any major change would be, but it is giving us more life, and for that we are thankful.

*    *     *     *     *

A special thanks to Megan and other friends like her (Wendy, Caroline, Liz + Anna, to name a few) who have reached out, shared a ton of resources, words of encouragement and hope.  I have found them and their stories to be the most helpful, but I have also been really helped by Carrie Vitt’s cookbook “The Grain-Free Family Table” as well as Danielle Walker’s cookbooks “Against All Grain” and her blog.


5 thoughts on “Whatever is life-giving”

  1. Martha, I love reading your blogs…. They seem to be everything I think and feel but can never express in words. Thank you for the time and effort you put into them!

    1. Robin that really means a lot to me! I super respect you and am honored you even read along. Sometimes it feels like I’m just talking to a great big empty room 🙂 but it is helpful for me to process through things and write them out, and I love doing so. Hope ya’ll are well!

  2. Hi! I have enjoyed reading your blog posts…just wanted to stop by and send some encouragement 🙂 I was diagnosed with Celiac’s Disease 7 years ago, during my senior year of high school. The first few months navigating through the world of eating gluten free can be scary and overwhelming but IT GETS BETTER! I have found a way to substitute and create a gluten free version of almost every food that I loved before I was diagnosed. Your family seems healthier than mine, but my family was not the healthiest and we did eat a lot of processed foods. They come out with new gluten free foods every day now that taste better and better! New cereals, bread, cookies, frozen pizza…

    One thing I have learned throughout this seven year journey is this: God has His hand in all of it, and there is a reason even if it does not feel like it now! There are so many instances in my life where it felt like my life was ending because of the difficulty I was having transitioning to a gluten free lifestyle but later it turned out to be a blessing. I won’t bore you, but I will give one example. My senior year in high school I had been sick for 5 months and had lost a lot of weight in a very short amount of time. I had my deposit down to go to a college almost 4 hours away from home. I had told my parents I would NEVER go to the prestigious college just half an hour from home because it was too close to home! Three days before my deposit became nonrefundable, I made the decision to change my commitment and go to college at the college half an hour away from home, the college I had swore up and down my entire life that I would NEVER go to! I had been sick for so long, the doctors did not know what was wrong with me, in my mind my future seemed so shaky, and I just couldn’t imagine being so sick and being 4 hours from home. One week after that decision, just a few days after the deposit deadline, I was diagnosed with Celiac’s Disease and my health problems began to get straightened out. That was THE reason I chose to go to the college closer to home – but that is the college my now-husband attended. I do not believe we would be married right now if I had not gone to school there! I do not believe I would have been involved with a program I volunteered with in college, building relationships that eventually guided my career choice, and I would not have joined the church I did and grown as much as I have in my relationship with Christ. At the time, the timing and confusion of it all seemed all wrong, but I guess I have Celiac’s Disease and the diagnosis to thank for my college choice, ultimately leading to all of the good things in my life right now!

    I will pray for you in your gluten free journey, and keep hope! It gets easier! 🙂

    1. Wow! Thank you so much for sharing your story and some words of encouragement with me. What an incredible truth: our God is sovereign over every detail, even the ones we don’t like. We’ve been living gluten-free for a couple of months now and it honestly isn’t too hard as we find such great substitutions are available, as you said! We continue to desire to see improvement in my daughter’s health, which is slow-going at this point, but we know that with young children the effects of going gluten-free can take longer to show. Anyway, I would be honored if you’d pray for us, specifically for my daughter’s health, and I will share your words of encouragement with HER. I know this diagnosis will be harder for her as she gets older and realizes what she’s “missing out on” or that she’s different from others. Thanks again! Blessings to you on your journey, also.

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