The Secret Life of An Unsatisfied Stomach…

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It has been a little over a year since I have begun a roller coaster journey to better health; and boy what a ride it has been! I was recently talking to a friend about my current health situation and I realized I began to list several improvements and discoveries that have changed my overall health. I never imagined I’d be where I am today concerning my health!

It all really began when I was pretty young. For as long as I can remember I experienced what I thought at the time were really bad headaches. It wasn’t until more recently that a family friend who is a P.A. informed me that my “bad” headaches were actually migraines. They only got worse in intensity and occurrence as I grew older. Trips to doctor’s offices resulted in no diagnosis and a prescription for pain medication. I finally had enough with my “normal” doctor when I was informed I could either take medication for the migraines which made me very jittery but helped them go away, or not take anything at all and suffer for the rest of my life. I felt like I had been pushed into a corner with no option for relief.

As discouraging as that appointment had been, it ultimately was one of the best experiences, because it forced me to look outside of the normal health care field for treatment/relief from my symptoms. I went to an optometrist to find out if my migraines were a result of vision problems. Sure enough they were. I have almost perfect vision in my left eye, but not so much in my right eye. My brain was trying to compensate on its own for the difference in vision – causing frequent migraines. I was prescribed glasses to help my brain do its job and relax a little. The difference they made was incredible!

While this process was started, my mom and I also began to look for a holistic doctor who might be able to look at my health in a different light and provide me with some answers regarding my migraines that my current doctor could not give me. We found Dr. Rashidi at Women’s View Medical Group (guys can be seen here too!) in Upland, CA. She has a LOT of patients who come to see her so appointments with her are booked a few months in advance. After my first consultation with her I was sent to get some blood work done. I thought I was going to pass out from how much blood they took out of me! It turns out that what the Bible says about how life is in the blood is absolutely right! Not only did I find out answers to questions I had, I found out so much more about my body I never would have known otherwise!

My bloodwork revealed I was anemic, and that my vitamin levels were extremely low. My body cannot absorb the nutrients from food like it should – answer solved regarding the migraines! My doctor also did a generic allergy test to see if anything came up because I have had a real problem with breakouts on my face that I thought was just acne but it’s not. My allergies included: wheat, corn, peanuts, walnuts, and sesame seeds (You know the little seeds on top of hamburger buns. Yep. HIGHLY allergic.) I could NOT believe it. Never in a million years would I have thought that I would be allergic to things I ate on a regular basis. How could I not know? Turns out I have Celiac Disease. Not only is my body unable to absorb the nutrients in the food I eat, but my stomach had decided it wanted to be a security scanner at an airport meticulously sifting through everything passing through and fighting against food as if it were a foreign contaminant. My allergic reaction to these foods (and the others that joined that list later on) is thankfully not life threatening. My reactions are an upset stomach – again my “security guard” ninja-attacking anything I eat that passes through (this is quite a literal explanation by the way).

In the year that I have been with Dr. Rashidi I have since discovered that I am also highly allergic to celery of all things, and although I am technically not allergic to dairy products, sometimes my stomach refuses to let me absorb dairy in different forms. Once we had a good grasp of where I was at with my health, Dr. Rashidi put my on a detox diet to see if my stomach might calm itself down on its own by getting rid of any toxins (real foreign contaminants) that may have been present. Let me tell you I have never drunk so much apple juice in my entire life! That was quite the experience, but SO helpful! I felt so much better afterwards, and have since tried my best to avoid eating certain foods I know my stomach might get mad at. I have lost approximately 9lbs. and feel more energetic. Many of the the improvements and discoveries I have also found along the way I hope to share in more detail in later posts; there’s just so much to talk about, and I don’t want this post to turn into a novel!

I also recently went to go see an iridologist at the recommendation of some family friends because I am still struggling with skin issues. He looked into my eyes (no, he literally did!) and confirmed some of the deficiencies my body has. He then pricked my finger and placed it under a microscope. I was shocked at what I saw! Sometimes I wonder how I even managed to live and breath! One drop of my blood revealed white blood cells that looked like they were about to die, bacteria taking control of everything, and an overall invasion by toxins. We had found the foreign contaminants!! I have since been placed on some natural supplements to help my white blood cells get back in shape. This is where I am today. I hope to go back and see if there are any improvement in the near future.

I can tell you that regarding my health, even being on this new journey hasn’t solved all of my problems. This discovery has been an ongoing battle that I sometimes conquer, and that sometimes conquer me, depending on the day. I don’t know if I will ever fully recover, but now I have the tools I need to help combat the bad guys in my body, and allow me to live a healthier life.

Sometimes I think back to the last visit I had with my “normal” doctor and wonder where I would be had I decided to stick with the contemporary approach to medicine and health care. I would still be on drugs, and have no real answers to questions that had been plaguing me for years. I am so grateful to Dr. Rashidi and others who have opened up a whole new, more natural approach, to living a better life. I hope this post (and the many others to follow) can shed some light on a different approach and maybe help others who are also struggling to find the answers they are so desperately seeking!

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Stay!!

Over the past seven years since I joined a local Guide Dogs for the Blind puppy raising group, I have had the incredible opportunity to learn so many things from how to train a dog, to the more intricate life lessons that come my way teaching me anything from patience, contentment, and everything in-between. I am really excited about starting up this series of blogs on the impact being a puppy raiser has been in my life through learning important life lessons. I thought it fitting to post my first blog in this series this week as I celebrate the first birthday of my fifth puppy I am currently training. I am sure there will be many more lessons I learn throughout the coming months and years, and I look forward to sharing those experiences with you all too!

Anybody who has spent any amount of time with me knows that I am a go-getter. If a task needs to get done, I will be the first to raise my hand and offer to complete the task, or even take the initiative and just do it without a prompt. I am also the oldest of three siblings, so naturally I was taught (and learned from experience) that I need to lead by example in front of my siblings, as well as be the leader of our little Three Musketeers pack. I am sure I owe a lot of this trait to the diligent training of my parents who taught us from a very young age to joyfully and completely finish tasks that need to get done, and take the initiative to also start and complete tasks on our own. Saying the phrase “I’m bored” in our home was practically the equivalent to using foul language, and I learned very quickly that there is never a time to be bored, and that if I didn’t keep myself busy with either work or play, mom was sure to always find something productive for me to do.

This character trait engrained in me from a young age has also been hard to juggle as I have gotten older. As someone who always takes the initiative, I have learned that I also usually gets stuck doing a majority of the projects that need to get done because I am either the first to sign up for them, or others have learned to not speak up and take on the task because they know I will offer to complete it myself. There is also an increased stress level of taking on too many things (even if they are good and godly!) that stretch me too thin. Learning to let go, to say “no”, and to let others handle things differently than I could have has been a huge learning process that I won’t pretend I’ve mastered yet *wink*

Because of my go-getter personality, my worst nightmare is getting a cold that knocks me out from doing work for upwards of a week or more. I go from spending the day at work and coming home to help with chores and running errands and working on projects for church, etc., to barely having the strength to move around in my bed. I am literally good for nothing when I am sick, and it drives me crazy!! I have had to learn that sometimes it is okay to be knocked out of production so we can rest, because God initiated a day of rest after the sixth day of creation and blessed it.

One of the most important commands I teach each of my puppies I train with Guide Dogs, is the “stay” command. This command is different from the “wait” command. “Wait” is an in-between command that requires the dog to pause momentarily and listen for what I am about to ask next. It is also used before a release such as during meal time, play time, and getting out of the car. When I ask my puppy to “wait” I am always next to them. “Stay” on the other hand requires much more self-control on the puppy’s part because it requires me as the raiser to physically leave the presence of the puppy for a short amount of time. This as I mentioned not only teaches the puppy self-control, but patience, and trust in my return as well. This training almost always requires another person to help enforce, and is reinforced through a game of “hide-and-seek” to make it fun for the dog. Out of the five puppies I have personally raised, and the many others I have “puppysat”, each puppy progressed through this command at different rates – but all struggled with it. One of my pups in particular, a beautiful white labrador retriever named Valisa, really struggled in this area for a while. She would literally cry when I left the room, even if it was just to grab something from another room really quickly. She loved shadowing me everywhere, and the moment I told her to stay I might as well have told her I had died.

It was during one of these training exercises that I had what you might call a “lightbulb moment”, although I believe in “lightbulb moments” about as much as I believe in luck. What really happened was the Holy Spirit gently and quietly began telling me some observations about myself. Any follower of Jesus Christ can testify to a time in their life where the Lord was either silent on a matter, or His answer was for them to be still and wait on Him. How often do I cry out to the Lord begging Him to show me what to do next when I know all along that His answer is for me to stay exactly where I am? Why can I not trust that when He says “stay”, it is the best for me and He always returns, just like I do with my dogs!

I read a devotional one time that I thought not only perfectly described my dilemma when the Lord asked me to stay, but also clearly explained why staying was His best not only for me, but the best way for His glory to be displayed. The poem in the devotional written by an unknown author states,

I’ll stay where You’ve put me; I will, dear Lord,

Though I wanted so badly to go;

I was eager to march with the “rank and file,”

Yes, I wanted to lead them, You know.

I planned to keep step to the music loud,

To cheer when the banner unfurled,

To stand in the midst of the fight straight and proud,

But I’ll stay where You’ve put me.

I’ll stay where You’ve put me, I will, dear Lord;

I’ll bear the day’s burden and heat,

Always trusting Thee fully…

And then, when my earth work is ended and done,

In the light of eternity’s glow,

Life’s record all closed, I surely shall find

It was better to stay then to go;

I’ll stay where You’ve put me.

Sometimes, I even correlate movement as getting closer to God, but unless the Lord decides to carry me through a difficult time, or if His response is not to “go”, then I am to “stay”. Oh that I could learn to trust my Savior in matters of coming and going, like my pups learn to trust and obey me when I have them stay and they patiently wait for my return!

As a go-getter, it has been a struggle re-training myself that sometimes my greatest work and my greatest exhibition of strength and bravery is actually in the joyful and patient stillness in waiting for my Savior to show me what’s next. My prayer is that others see that strength in my patience while I wait on the Lord to work. Not a strength by any means of my own power, but a power given by the help of the Holy Spirit that leads others to see Him in all His glory.

The Perfect Li(f)e

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I have a confession to make….

I cannot stop thinking about this picture.

It has literally been driving me crazy how often I have thought about it; and I don’t mean in a cute, memorable sort of way.

No, this picture has left an eerie and troubled impression on my mind.

Since receiving this picture, I have taken some time to really dwell on the point of capturing memories via photography. Websites and apps such as Facebook and Instagram provide us with outlets to “share” such personal and memorable experiences with others, and have even broadened our vocabularies with new words such as “selfie”, “usie”, “groupie”, and the like. Photographic memories used to be stored in our memory banks and photo albums; now they are strewn throughout the world wide web, and most are viewable to anyone doing a quick Google search. Thanks to these aforementioned social outlets, even celebrities and other prominent political and social figures have had an exponential increase into their personal and professional lives via a photograph shared on the web of their award ceremonies, backyard barbecues, and public speeches/events. In all these pictures, like the one I have posted at the top of this blog, we see people at their best – from genuine excitement and love, to the extreme of a Photoshopped barbie doll with the “perfect” image and (wait for it….), “perfect” life.

There, I said it.

Maybe this burden of consuming thought surrounding this picture will now finally be released. Because within minutes of its receipt, it hit me – like a ton of bricks – and I’ve been trying to recover ever since.

We as 21st century social beings have been living a lie.

But what’s more important than that fact, is that I have been living a lie.

I think it is time I backtrack a little, and give you some background information regarding this picture to help prove my point.

The date was November 7th, 2014. My mom, guide dog puppy in training Pastel (the Golden Retriever on the left of the picture at the top of this blog), and myself had just walked back to our family van after an incredible day spent on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco and eating the best clam chowder I have ever had at Boudin’s Bakery right on the pier. The traffic through downtown  San Francisco was a nightmare, but it was also exciting getting to see the hustle and bustle of the downtown shops, pedestrians, and even construction of new skyscrapers. Our beloved van, which was about 10 years old, had faithfully driven us up to San Francisco from SoCal, but was now making a sound I can only describe as one made on a diesel truck engine when accelerating. It came and went while we slowly moved through traffic, and we really didn’t think anything of it. We finally got out of downtown and over the bridge to the east side of the Bay and the Oakland area. We were in the fast lane of the transition of the bridge to the freeway connecting us to the Oakland area still in heavy traffic when our van just stopped (of course, I was driving). It literally stopped – when I pushed on the accelerator nothing happened, and then smoke started coming from under the hood. Now the heavy traffic had turned into a complete disaster, and between trying to get AAA to send a tow truck, CHP’s busy signal (because of course everyone else in San Francisco was having car trouble on the freeway that night too), and honking cars upset at our abrupt halt; our wonderful day turned into a nightmare as we prayed that no one would accidentally slam into our stalled car on the overpass while waiting over an hour before helped arrived. We finally got towed, and made it back to our hotel via the general manager at the local Toyota dealership where our van was to spend the night before finding out what happened to it. That night it was hard to sleep because my adrenaline was still rushing, and I was really upset about what would happen the next day. The whole reason my mom, pup, and I took the trip was to be a part of one of my previous puppy’s graduation from Dogs 4 Diabetics (D4D) as an Ambassador. Now without a car, we had no way to get to the ceremony which was about 15-20 minutes away from our hotel. I didn’t understand how any of this could be a part of God’s “good” and sovereign plan for me to bring me so close to that special moment, and yet not allow it to happen after all. The next day, I made some calls, couldn’t get a ride, left two messages with taxi companies, finally got a call back from one of them, and set up a pick up time so we could still go to the graduation ceremony. We gave the driver 15 minutes after the arranged time to pick us up, and then I had to call the company back and explain we were still waiting, which they brushed off with an excuse and promised someone would be there in 15 minutes. More waiting, and then he finally showed up. The whole trip to the ceremony, he spent complaining about why he was late, and how being a cab driver would be the death of him, and then he forgot to turn the meter on to calculate our rate, and by the time we got to the ceremony I just handed him $10 dollars, got out of the cab, and vowed never to take a cab again. Once at the ceremony we found out that my puppy and her new owners were running late, so I had to wait some more for them to show up. Meanwhile, my mom and dad were communicating with each other and with the dealership on the diagnosis of our van. It was not worth the money to try and fix. Our van had died, never to run for our family again. Now, my mom, puppy, and I were stuck in San Francisco without a vehicle. Then the graduation started. It was time to push away all of those emotions and concerns, and focus on my dog and the graduation.

[Insert picture at top of blog of happy and proud raiser and her puppies capturing a joyous moment of perfect contentment and bliss.]

Do you understand now what I was trying to convey earlier? Long story short, my dad came and rescued us from San Francisco that night, and with the help of the general manager, and by God’s grace, we were allowed to head back home on Sunday afternoon, a bit more crammed in my dad’s sedan, but all of us healthy, safe, and together again.

When I thought about what I wanted to write for my first post on this blog, I felt God nudging me to share this story, and the lie we often fall into about our “picturesque” lives. My life is not always full of rainbows and butterflies. Sometimes it is full of anxiety, fear, and disappointment. What’s more important is that this is not just the case for you and me, but for everyone in the world. Celebrities and political and social figures included. They are not immune to anxiety, depression, mental illnesses, cancer, genetic defects, loneliness, etc., anymore than we are.

I have been learning this lesson in the two months since my experience, and it has really helped changed my outlook on life. If we really want the pain and loneliness to go away, we have to stop telling each other we’re doing “good” and be vulnerable enough to tell each other what is on our hearts – both good and bad. We should be just as willing and ready to share our struggles as we are with our joyous moments.

Because in the end none of us live a “perfect” life. That is impossible. But we do have a perfect Savior who bore all of our suffering on the cross, and showers us each moment with His grace – a grace that sometimes removes the difficulties we experience, and a grace that at times does not remove the difficulties in order to teach us a valuable lesson.

I would not be who I am today had the Lord removed this trial from my life and not caused me to see things in a different perspective. For that alone, I will be eternally grateful.