Detox, Part 2: My Body

About four weeks ago I attended church for only the second time (possibly third?) since my relapse started in January. Although it defied reason, I awakened from a fairly sleepless night and felt eager to go. So I went.

I seated myself on the outskirts of our large sanctuary–apart from others to avoid perfume, cologne, and germs. A few minutes later, a perfume-laden lady sat immediately behind me and, within moments, I was so fuzzy headed I could barely think. Resorting to instinct perhaps, I rushed into the church office, confused about what to do next. My son quickly joined me, ushered me into my husband’s office, and once ensured that I would be okay, left to inform his dad. After he prayed for me, of course. 🙂

I spent the remainder of the service lying down on a couch in the conference room, tucked under two jackets (it’s chilly in there!), eyes closed. Although any observer may have presumed I had fallen asleep, I was simply resting, listening to Pastor Mike over the TV, nestled against my husband. At the end of the service I felt restored enough to drive myself home safely, so off I went. And thus concluded my second (or possibly third) church attendance in almost a year.

This event started my ole brain to thinking again. I pondered that although I had made several changes to my home environment over the past few months, it was not enough to prevent me from having a drastic response when my body interpreted a substance as a toxin. I had not done enough to relieve the toxic overload on my body so that it could handle the unexpected.

My mind reviewed what it understood about the body’s ability to filter toxins, and remembered that the liver is the king pin of the organs in dealing with toxic substances. Well, in today’s world, online research is only a step away from mental processing, so I pulled up my search engine and I was off.

My initial instinct had been that my body desperately needed a liver cleanse, and according to all that I’ve researched, it appears that I was correct. However, a liver cleanse isn’t as simple as I had thought. A liver cleanse should be accompanied by a kidney cleanse. But before I do either, I probably first ought to do a colon cleanse. And perhaps a heavy metal cleanse. And definitely a parasite cleanse. So many! But then I recollected that my body isn’t just a little sick, my body is very sick.

Although I have made several internal improvements over the past few years, I still have to do “clean up.” I’ve made dietary changes (gluten-free, casein-free, and low sugar). In the past year I’ve added a couple of daily Apple Cider Vinegar drinks into the mix. And, of course, I drink tons of water and eat loads of fiber. In spite of these things, my body still cries out for relief.

So guess what we’ll be doing. Well, mostly “I,” but I do need a little help in the “we” department. A parasite cleanse should be participated in by everyone in the home because of how easily those little buggers are transmitted. Yay family! (They’ll appreciate me in the end, you’ll see!) Although not one of them is as excited as I, my little eyes well up with tears at their willingness to do something sacrificial for me just because they love me and long to help me achieve a little more health.

I feel for them, though. Can you imagine going back to school/work and talking about what you did with your family over vacation?? “We went to Disneyland!” “We went skiing!” “We did a parasite cleanse.” *giggle* *Sorry, fam!*

Anyway…I don’t know what my individual results will be, but even if it’s just a slight improvement, I will consider it worth it. And I know it will be quite a long journey, encompassing several months as I move from one step to the next. But I’m hopeful. And, most importantly, I remain prayerful–still desiring only God’s highest for my life.

And my family–forsaking the desires of their flesh–will stand supporting me along the way.

“For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).

Detox, Part 1: My Environment

“I don’t know anyone else who does this.”

“None of the other things either?”

“No.”

“Hmmm. I wonder why.”

“Probably, Mom, because they’re normal.”

Such went the conversation between my daughter and me the other day. Perhaps I should clarify that we were cleaning our glass coffee table with vinegar at the time. And the other things? That refers to the arsenal of other cleaning products currently used in our home: hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and rubbing alcohol. Boy. I sure can’t figure out why she knows of no one else who does those things. *obviously said tongue-in-cheek*

I haven’t always been such an abnormal housekeeper. I regaled myself with Windex, Scrubbing Bubbles, Bounce Dryer Sheets, and their little cohorts. Products many a modern homemaker has been trained to use. But not any more. I am on a mission to baby-step my way to a less toxic home environment.

My trek all started last August. My family and I had just returned home from a two-week all-American road trip. Having regained a certain amount of wellness, my husband and I were anxious to see how my body responded to its re-entry into our life in the city, including our home with pets.

Shortly after sitting down on my friendly brown couch, our cat decided to welcome me back into her presence. My response was immediate and significant. I went completely fuzzy-headed in a matter of seconds. And, sadly for our family, our little kitty had a new home in less than two weeks. On the plus side, nothing inside our home has caused such a drastic response since Trixie’s departure.

This little experiment and its ensuing results caused me to evaluate other known allergens. Unfortunately, second in significance on a previous allergy panel stood every single grass in our area. All of them equal in disruption. These were followed by a huge selection of trees and weeds. Hmmm. What to do. I couldn’t very well ask all my neighbors to chop down their trees, back-hoe their lawns, and plant cactus gardens!  So we invested in air purifiers for our home. Three large ones happily hum away all night and day.

A friend did suggest that we get rid of our indoor/outdoor dog so she couldn’t bring pollen in attached to her fur. But after looking into it, we found that pollen would travel into our home on our clothes anyway…and the options for solving that last little problem seemed…a bit immodest. 😉 So Maggie gets to stay.

Next on my list sat dust mites. Although this current relapse of ME/CFS greatly limits my ability to clean house, I still needed to choose to do what I could do, and trust God with the rest. I knew one place in particular provided a little home for dust mites: my bed. So I wash all my sheets every week, and all my bedding every other week. It’s what I can do at this point.

With this line of thought came housework. I had noticed that when my daughter cleaned the house, I would have reactions to the chemicals. This led me to investigate all those previously mentioned household cleaners. (You really should look into it! Not only do the my off-beat ones clean fantastic, but they save a ton of money!) And finally I discovered the horrendous nature of dryer sheets. (You should read about the chemicals in those bad boys! I bet you would never use them again!)

We have other changes on our detox to-do list, as well. Like slowing switching over to stainless-steel pots and pans as we can afford them. Apparently Teflon emits low-grade toxins into the home as well. And we want to remove all our carpets and put in either hardwood or travertine. Perhaps a new mattress. But one thing at a time, right? The point is that we are evaluating the way we live, and making changes to (perhaps) enhance my quality of life and functionality.

In short, we are taking steps to detox our home. If it doesn’t help me as much as I like, at least I know I will be assisting my family to have a healthier home life. And, besides, it has already helped some! (Although we sure do miss that cat!)

I know. I know. This seems like simply a long oration of life at my house, but I truly aim to help. So, if you have ME/CFS or love someone with ME/CFS, listen up. One of the current theories regarding the cause of ME/CFS supports treating Chronic Toxic Overload as the root. If the patient can identify triggers, either through allergy tests or by analyzing reactions, and then taking steps to remove those triggers, the patient could well be on her way to making a monstrous improvement to her life. And wouldn’t those inconveniences be worth it in the end?

So perhaps Amanda’s right. Our family doesn’t do things the way “normal” families do. But “normal” families don’t have super-sick people living in them. We do, however, try to honor God with what we know to do, and support each other along the way. Because making choices which serve others over ourselves is how true families–normal and otherwise–reflect their God.

“For you were called to freedom, brethren, only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).

A Simply Abundant Christmas

Ahhh…it’s Christmas Eve day, and I am plum tuckered out! And I haven’t even done that much! Such is the holiday of a person with ME/CFS–particularly one in full relapse. But, short of a very important gift arriving via UPS today, all the shopping and wrapping has been accomplished. However, we haven’t even tapped into the baking yet! Boy! We better get on the stick around here! (You do realize that by “we” I actually mean “they,” don’t you?) 😉

Last evening my husband and I shared with our two children that we would not be hosting any guests around our Christmas table this year. We talked about how simply adding shopping into the mix, along with a gift exchange on Christmas morn, increased the demands on my body beyond what it could encompass in order to host a dinner…or even attend one.

God had evidently sweetly prepared their hearts to accept our announcement, although hosting a dinner has become a family tradition—and we all know that traditions die hard. Yet our teenage son, who was the first to speak, quickly said, “That sounds nice,” while his sister smiled her agreement. My heart melted.

We talked about that first “Christmas” oh-so long ago, and how Joseph and Mary welcomed their tiny one into their hearts and arms. Alone in that stinky cave of a stable–just an intimate family–they no doubt felt content. Granted, the shepherds paid a visit, and perhaps even a midwife of sorts, but after all was said and done, they three remained. Complete in love.

Because, you see, if you have Jesus, you have the fullness of all that you need.

As you celebrate your Christmas this year, I pray that your heart will find its fullness and its contentment in Christ alone. Whether your home is swarming with loved ones, or your gathering is small and intimate, or even if your holiday is spent in solitude, my hope is that your focus would remain on the One who, forsaking all of glory, entered our timeline, and then reached out and touched your heart.

Consider how a tiny baby, fresh upon this earth, reached out and wrapped His little hand around the outstretched finger of His earthly “daddy,” immediately gripping both finger and heart in the same moment. Then allow that same tender hand to reach out and enfold you in His same loving grasp.

May your joy overflow.

Merry Christmas, with my love, brenda

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10b

Others May, You Cannot

I found the following citation in the back of a book I read several years ago. It has strengthened me so greatly that I have it posted to the back of my bedroom door to serve as a reminder.

If God has called you to be really like Jesus, He will draw you to a life of crucifixion and humility, and put upon you such demands of obedience, that you will not be able to follow other people or measure yourself by other Christians, and in many ways He will seem to let other good people do which He will not let you do.

Other Christians and ministers who seem very religious and useful may push themselves, pull wires, and work schemes to carry out their plans, but you cannot do it, and if you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.

Others may boast of themselves, of their work, of their success of their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you begin it, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, or may have a legacy left to them, but it is likely God will keep you poor, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence on Him, that He may have the privilege of supplying your needs day by day out of any unseen treasury.

The Lord may let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hidden in obscurity, because He wants you to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others be great, but keep you small. He may let others do a work for Him and get the credit of it, but He will make you toil on without knowing how much you are doing; and then to make your work still more precious, He may let others get the credit for the work which you have done, and thus, make your reward ten times greater when Jesus comes.

The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you, with a jealous love, and will rebuke you for little words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over. So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign, and has a right to do as He pleases with His own.

He may not explain to you a thousand things which will puzzle your reason in His dealings with you. But if you absolutely sell yourself to be His…slave, He will wrap you up in a jealous love, and bestow upon you many blessings which will come only to those who are in the inner circle.

Settle it forever, then, that you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, and that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes, in ways that He does not seem to use with others. Now when you are so possessed with the Living God that you are, in your sacred heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of Heaven.

G. D. Watson, 1845-1924, was a Wesleyan Methodist Minister and Evangelist based in Los Angeles, California. His Evangelistic campaigns took him to England, the West Indies, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and Korea. He also wrote several books. This article was originally published in pamphlet form.

Searching with an Open Heart

As a woman with ME/CFS, I understand the pain of standing misjudged. In spite of what I know about myself and my daily battles, I have fallen victim to the cultural interpretation of this fairly invisible yet greatly misnamed disease. That gut-wrenching, cold stabbing sensation, which penetrates deep into my being, has devastated me more than once. I appreciate how it feels to have my character doubted when, stacked against the bias of a medically uninformed society, I come up on the short end of the CDC’s marketing stick.

I cannot help but wonder if perhaps, in some small way, the Lord has granted me this particularly limiting circumstance to better understand my Father’s heart.

  • Did not Jesus, who existed in a far greater capacity prior to His divine appearance on earth, also experience limitations of His own? [“…although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7).]
  • Was His character not also judged, and deemed to have fallen short? [“He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face, he was despised, and we did not esteem him (Isaiah 53:3.)]
  • Did not those who should have been the first to back Him, the religious leaders, openly call Him into question? [“The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven” Matthew 16:1).]

I do not write these words merely to draw attention to myself. My heart simply aches for God’s people to look prayerfully beyond what they think they see and understand, searching instead for their Jesus at work in those around them. He is, you know…and He’s usually found in the most surprising of places. Like a manger. Or a cross. Or a wounded and weary warrior.

“You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

Fueled by Grace

Last June my son checked in for summer football conditioning spry, agile, and ready to go, weighing in at all of 149 pounds. Although not a ton by any means, he still rocked the world of 95 opponents and brought home the Pride, Hustle, Desire Award at the end of the season. But an odd thing occurred en route. Around about October, he started complaining of running out of gas midway through practice. He just couldn’t finish hard. Didn’t know if he was getting sick. Wasn’t sure what was wrong. In due course, he also shared that he weighed-in at 146. My “aha” moment! Armed with the knowledge that he was losing weight, I understood that he didn’t have enough fuel in his tank. He could not give out what he did not have.

This premise holds true for all of us on so many levels, but today I want to talk about grace.

Grace serves as the foundation–the cornerstone–of the Christian faith. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). God lovingly and freely gives us His grace. No holds barred. Ours for the receiving. Done.

But then God turns right around and says, “Freely you received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8). Oops. What a minute. What does that mean?

Let me put it to you in a real-life, how-you-live, kind of way. (I get things better when they are simple and straight to the point.) If you hold on to bitterness and forgiveness, you cannot dispense His grace.

When God shows you His grace, He demonstrates it through His forgiveness and lack of bitterness. He holds nothing against you. Then if you receive this loving grace, He expects you to express the same attitude toward others.

How do you know if it’s there? In your heart?

Easy self-check: Think for a few moments of the person whom you perceive has wounded you. What do you feel inside? Do you feel angered? A little knotted up? Like a wealth of ugly emotions wants to run amok in your heart and mind? Or do your feel compassion? Grieved by the pain he/she must live with?

If you feel compassion and mercy, then you truly are a dispenser of God’s richest gift. If, however, you feel anger or knotted up, then you simply cannot offer what you do not have. You cannot work that way. You can pretend to work that way, but, by God’s design, you do not. You can preach or minister, but without the fullness of God’s grace expressed lovingly through your own life, your words serve as “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (I Corinthians 13:1).

And then like begets like.

Let’s go back to my son for a moment. On his first day of practice, he could probably have worked it hard powered only by Twinkies and chocolate milk. Such is the joy of new beginnings. Likewise, when we first get saved we feel so much joy that we could forgive anyone of anything at that moment. As the season starts to get long though, that initial component of new joy wears thin and we find out what we’re really made of.

For my son, it meant recognizing the problem and making the necessary changes to accommodate the daily challenges football requires of a body. We started hammering him with food, and his body eagerly responded. He finished strong.

For the human soul, it means essentially the same thing. We have to acknowledge that we have issues with letting go of bitterness while extending grace. We don’t have enough grace to go down the hard road. Our spirits are underfed. Much like my son couldn’t survive on his weekly team dinner (monstrous as it was), neither can we if we rely merely on a weekly feeding at the neighborhood church. We need daily, meaty spiritual meals which nourish our souls and provide rich doses of grace upon grace.

Please understand that as I write this, my heart extends toward you. I treasure the joy I get from living unencumbered in God’s grace. I love the freedom of walking out from under the burden of bitterness and unforgiveness. Do I march on perfectly? No! But I beg you, if you struggle with this, please ask God for help. Confess these attitudes as the sins they are. Lay them down at His feet, and don’t allow yourself to pick them up again.

Remember, Christian, the greatest gift you possess to share with the world is grace. God’s grace. Lived out in you through forgiveness as a sweet aroma.

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:14).

PS. If you struggle with this, I would like to recommend “Why Grace Changes Everything” by Chuck Smith. -brenda-

No God Like My God

As I continue to meander through the book of Psalms, the Lord continually blesses me with the timeliness of His Word.

“I shall remember [pay attention to] the deeds of the Lord; surely I will remember [pay attention to] Thy wonders of old. I will meditate on [speak to myself of] all Thy work, and muse on [murmur to myself of] Thy deeds. Thy way, O God, is holy; what god is great like our God?” (Psalm 77:11-13).

These words spoke deeply to my heart this morning simply because they call me to think higher about my situation than I have been, or possibly have even wanted to.

Over the past month plus, I have experienced what seems like a relapse within a relapse. My primary ME/CFS relapse began this past January, but I had made strides–in a rather up-and-down fashion, but strides nonetheless–back to health. Toward the end of October, however, I underwent a setback and, although I’ve had little blips of soundness, I’ve essentially had a grueling battle on my hands ever since. Loads of sleep, or just resting. Very minimal walking. Incoherent thoughts. Inability to write. In short, coping.

When I spend my life in “cope mode,” I have relatively little capacity to do more than exist and tend to my basic needs. Yet as I read these verses this morning, I knew that God was stimulating me to focus and raise my eyes to “the hills, from whence my help comes.”

Today–even if but for a few moments–I needed to remember God’s goodness to me. His faithfulness. His lovingkindness. His compassion.

My life–my very breath–relies on His possession of these qualities. My heart and my faith cry out for this truth. I desperately need for Him to be a God of such character. For if He is so, I can rest in whatever plan He holds for my life.

When Moses asked God to reveal His glory, God concurred. And as He did so, He proclaimed His character:

“The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6b-7a).

My God, the One who is “the same yesterday, today and forever,” pronounced Himself to be compassionate and gracious, so He remains. Slow to anger? Even still. Abounding in lovingkindness and truth? Absolutely. Forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin? Without a doubt.

If the character of my God is thus, how can I not trust His heart toward me–regardless of the path He leads me down?

Verse 13 of Psalm 77 reminds me that God’s way is holy. Sacred. Set apart. Therefore, although my path may seem a wasteland, wallowing in a state of neglect, God’s Word informs me that this simply cannot be true. If I walk on this path with my God, then I tread on holy ground.

God does not see this time as wasteful, He sees it as sacred.

I rest in the presence of a truly great God.

“For the sake of Thy word, and according to Thine own heart, Thou hast done all this greatness to let Thy servant know. For this reason Thou art great, O Lord God; for there is none like Thee, and there is no God besides Thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears” (2 Samuel 7:21-22).