Friday, February 24, 2017

4th Day Gathering...Make Me Broken

There she kneels in prayer each morning. A grown woman, kneeling in an almost fetal like position, taking her pleas, her worries, her passions, her praises, her everything to God. A new practice she began over the past few months. A practice she began because although she prayed daily, she realized she needed to be more purposeful in prayer. She needed a time to really converse with God…both to speak to Him as a child to a parent and to listen carefully, listening for His still small voice. Listening for God’s comforting words. Listening so she can hear God guide her path in ways that will bring glory to Him.

This woman is me and one way my Walk to Emmaus changed me is the way in which I focus on my relationship with God through prayer. Not just in the words I say, but in the way I pray. My name is Brandi Cade. I currently live in Cayce, SC. I attend church right here at Platt Springs UMC. I went on Midlands Walk #48 and I sat at the table of Martha.

Join me now on my journey as we take a walk back in time.  Growing up I was in and out of church. I loved being at church, but I didn’t always have a way to get there so my attendance, no matter where we lived, was sporadic. While in high school I was introduced to Romans 8:28 by my youth pastor and it has been my go to verse ever since.
        
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

I would use this as my go to verse in times of change, trouble, and doubt. 

Fast forward a few years to college…I married my first husband early in my college days and attended a small UM church in Greer, SC. Faith UMC. Here my passion for the Lord was renewed. I quickly went from simply attending services to joining the choir and leading classes during Vacation Bible School. The church was my other family…with many adopted grandparents. I loved watching Ms. Betty sing in the choir. Her face glowed with radiance as she sang the Lord’s praises. And Mr. Pete….no one can sing Sweet Little Jesus Boy quite like he could.  But then I lost it all….I returned home from visiting my parents one day to hear my husband at the time say, “Sorry, I made a mistake marrying you. I don’t love you anymore.  I’m leaving.”

Talk about devastating. I had just spent a week thinking about my upcoming graduation and planning when to start a family. I ended up moving back in with my parents in Columbia right after graduation. I didn’t seek out a church once I was here. I guess you could say I was broken and fearful. As a matter of fact, I didn’t seek out a church until 2008. Six years after I had left my previous church home in Greer.

During those 6 years I met, fell in love with, and married my husband who I’ve been happily married to for almost 13 years now. We had 2 kids by that time…one was almost 3 and the other was about 4 months old. I had known for a long time I wanted to get back to church, but I wasn’t good at just putting myself out there.

Shortly before getting back to church, I started listening to WMHK…to the point that I stopped being the constant button pusher on the radio. No other song that might be playing mattered. All that mattered was hearing the Christian songs they played. I would find solace in listening to those songs. The songs brought me peace and understanding. They brought me back to the scripture.

Not sure why I was surprised since music always played a big role in my life. Music has always been the avenue I would choose to get through the tough times as well as the happy ones. But how much more powerful these songs were since they also included praising God, keeping faith in God, turning things over to God.

So longing to find a church, in September 2008 I reached out to my dear friend and mentor, Linda and she helped me find my way back to church. This church. My kids and I were immediately embraced and loved. During this time period my oldest was wrecked with eczema so bad that he looked like a burn victim who had been put through a meat grinder. Needless to say, getting to church regularly wasn’t always easy given the pain he was in constantly as well as the in depth routine we had to go through each day to wrap and protect him. But we made it….and my baby boy grew to love Jesus and God even more because of it.

Through the early years here I once again found myself working with the kids….and longing to be part of the choir. But it wasn’t quite my time yet. You see, during my early years here I slipped into a bad habit…if I had to teach, then I showed up. If not, then I stayed home and put family first…although in my head I knew I should put God first. Well God helped change that….eventually I became the only Sunday School teacher for my class so I had to show up every Sunday. But it was at that point that I really took ownership of what I was doing in the church.

It would still be a few more years of work before I would find myself in a position where my soul was absolutely on fire for God and I was seeking to truly put Him first. Not caring what others thought. In the meantime, I was still out seeking ways to please humans. For me, my “pleasure” seeking was through schooling. Getting that next degree or that next award or that next certificate. With all that work, I always had an excuse to only attend church on Sundays. But I still felt empty. Incomplete. It didn’t make sense at the time, but in that moment I thought I was doing well at trying to have it all. Back in church regulary…check. Getting good grades on doctoral level work….check. Making time for family (even had a 3rd child)…check. Making a name for myself at my job…check and double check.

And then in 2013 these words came over the air as I was driving down the road….

Make me broken
So I can be healed…..

What? Make me broken. YES!!!! Sign me up Lord! Make me broken I prayed over and over. I know….sounds a little crazy right? Why would anyone ask to be broken… on purpose?

Make me empty
So I can be filled

Yes! Sign me up for that one too! Make me empty so I can be filled with you Lord. Doesn’t sound near as bad as being broken right?

Make me lonely
So I can be Yours

Okay, sign me up for that one too. But God, really, please make me broken and empty. I want you to Keep Making Me and if you have to break me and empty me to do it, then please break me and empty me.

And He did allow some of this to happen over the next few years. My oldest son’s health failed to the point he was no longer thriving and by March 2014 he underwent surgery to have a feeding tube placed. My middle child suffered her own fair share of allergy and eczema related problems. But no matter what battle I faced, I kept praying. I kept my faith.

Fast forward a little...I eventually made my way to teaching adult studies on Wednesday evenings and a little later finally joined the choir. My Sunday only became really long hours here on Wednesdays. 

Little did I know that all I slowly started adding would lead to me being where I am today. In 2015 I was first asked about going on the walk to Emmaus, but things didn’t work out. So during that year I did a lot of praying. A lot of begging God to break me & heal me, empty me & fill me. A lot of asking God to please Keep Making Me until He was my one desire. 

I knew that in order for God to be my one desire and for me to do what he created me to do, in order for me to fulfill my purpose, I would need to start giving up things. In early 2016 I made decisions on what to let go of. The first to go….my position with the local reading council. The next to go….my goal of being called Dr. Cade. I prayed and prayed and prayed and when I received an email describing an opportunity to receive 2 Certficates of Advance Graduate Studies in doctoral work instead of my doctorate in education, I prayed some more, then I leaped. I chose to not get my degree. I chose to let that go and focus on God and family.

From there things have been on an amazing ride. In September 2016 it was shared that an announcement would be in the upcoming bulletin about the need for a new youth coordinator to work alongside the youth director. I didn’t need to hear Romans 8:28 being spoken to me this time. This time I knew it was my season. I had been curious about working with the youth for a few years, but never dreamed that would be a possibility. I spent many hours in prayer and held many discussions with family about it. Then I took the leap.

At the same time I was approached about going on the Walk to Emmaus in late October. Timing worked out great this time….well, there were a few bumps, but God was top priority and I wasn’t going to let anything stand in the way.

The walk finally came….and it was something beyond what I could have ever imagined it to be. The first night was exactly what I needed. Hearing the speakers share their testimonies as well as teach us helped me to grow in my understanding of so many things. And the tablemates…I can’t recall a time I was with a group of women and became friends so quickly and freely. A group of women I try to keep in touch with despite our busy lives and how far apart we live from each other. 

I think one of the biggest take aways I had from my walk other than my time with God and really reflecting on my relationship with Him was how many times I could see myself and my situations in other people…and how God was there and present in each and everyone of their situations.

While on the walk I was also able to turn some things over to God that I didn’t realize I was holding on to. Things that I’m determined to pray about fervently each and every day now because I learned just how important it is for me to do so and to trust God’s timing for it all.

Then came 4th day….my everyday after my walk. You remember how I had prayed for God to make me broken and empty? Well you see, the part I left out of my story (and had planned to keep out) is this:

The night before I left for my walk we discovered a bed bug infestation. I knew before making it home that 4th day was going to be riddled with challenge after challenge. Little did I know that my first week back we would also discover that mice had taken up home in our attic and decided to come out and play at night. So here I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor, fighting bedbugs, and scared to death of the mice in the attic.

After one night that week with almost no sleep that’s when I first really hit my knees. I lost it in the shower, fell to my knees and cried over and over about how broken I was. How I couldn’t take anymore. How I needed God to take over everything. Notice that it wasn't the medical problems or the divorce early in life, it was bedbugs and mice that brought me to my knees. I cried on my knees until the only words that would form were Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. I need you. And then came the feeling of peace. Of knowing that I would survive this. And at that moment my prayer life changed. 

It took me a little longer to develop the practice of going to God every morning, kneeling in prayer, but it’s now a practice I cherish and don’t want to miss.

This month I got the privilege to read 1 Kings 19:1-14. When it came to the part of the Lord appearing to Elijah, I felt such a connection. You see God didn’t come to him in the wind, the earthquake, or even the fire. God came in a whisper. Although it is sometimes hard to find time to be alone with the Lord, I realize it is the most important part of strengthening my relationship with Him. I realize that is when I can hear His whisper. It’s not in the busy-ness of life, but it’s in the stillness. Sure I’ve heard Him at odd times when life is loud, chaotic, and crazy, but I get to have such deeper and more meaningful conversations now that I protect that silent time with Him. I get time to hear Him speak to me.

And although I’m still sleeping on a mattress on the floor, my identity was stolen in a security breach at work recently making taxes fun to deal with this year, and my pay was cut in January…I praise God each and everyday. God is mending me and filling me in so many ways that I don’t even have to words to explain it all yet. I get the joy and the privilege to sing His praises, I get the joy and privilege to work with the youth in our church, and I get the joy and privilege to face each day knowing that God strengthens and blesses me, he’s extended Grace to me, and I know that I’m a child of the one true king.

I realize now that the broken in the song isn’t so much about breaking me physically or mentally, but it’s about breaking me away from the things that keep me from having the best relationship I can with the Heavenly Father. It’s not about emptying me so that I have nothing, it’s about emptying me so that He can fill me with what He needs to equip me with so that I can move forward according to His purpose for my life.

So I will continue to pray, “Lord…Keep Making Me.” My journey isn’t over yet. It’s only just begun and I trust Him to equip me to do the things He’s calling me to do.

I leave you with this: What’s your prayer life like? Is it barely an ember burning low or is it a full on fire blazing for all to see? Have you found the time to be still and quiet so you can listen for God’s whisper?


Thank you and….De Colores

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Vows and Rose Ceremony




On July 4, 2004 in the sweltering heat, Mark and I said our vows to each other at Station 18 1/2 on the beach at Sullivan's Island. Below are the vows we exchanged and the Rose Ceremony afterwards. Yes, it's long, but hey, I was going to make the moment last and get my money's worth:-)
  





INTRODUCTION           
We have gathered here today to hear __Mark______ and ____Brandi___ as they promise to face the future together, accepting whatever may lie ahead.  For the world that God has created for them, with its beauty and grace that is all around with the strength that it offers and the peace that it brings, makes them truly grateful.

Would you bow with me as we ask the Lord’s blessing on our time together today?

PRAYER
Our Father in heaven, Creator, Savior and Designer of marriage, we turn to you this evening,  asking that you be glorified by what takes place.  That this ceremony would honor you, and reflect the seriousness of the vows to be spoken.  Might this service be a reminder to us who have spoken similar vows to our spouses in the past. Might it be instructive to those yet considering such a commitment in their future.  Might this ceremony be a fitting beginning for __Mark______  and ____Brandi___  as they commit themselves before their family to pursue life together.  We ask it in Jesus’ name, Amen.


__Mark_____ and ____Brandi___, nothing is easier than saying words and nothing harder than living them day after day.  What you promise today must be renewed and redecided tomorrow.  At the end of this ceremony legally you will be husband and wife, but you still must decide each day that stretches out before you, that you want to be married. 

Real love is something beyond the warmth and glow, the excitement and romance of being deeply in love, It is caring as much about the welfare and happiness in each other; it is looking outward in the same direction---together.  Love makes burdens lighter, because you divide them. It makes joys stronger because you share them. It makes you stronger so you can reach out and become involved with life in ways you dared not risk alone. 

GIVING AWAY OF THE BRIDE

Who is giving this woman to be joined to this man in holy matrimony?
FOB: Her mother and I
(Bride’s parents) _Robert____ and _Donna_____, are you willing, now and always, to support and strengthen this marriage, by upholding both _Mark___ and _Brandi_____, with your love, your concern, your counsel, and your prayers?


PARENTS: We are.
(Groom’s parents) _Jimmy____ and _Debbie_____, are you willing, now and always, to support and strengthen this marriage, by upholding both __Mark__ and _Brandi_____, with your love, your concern, your counsel, and your prayers?
PARENTS: We are.
 

As you take these vows, _Mark______ and __Brandi____, I would have you remember: To love is to enter a whole new world, a world of togetherness, a world of sharing….All that is dearest and deepest within your hearts.

To love is to remember and keep alive forever all those unique qualities that drew you to one another in the beginning…Those first halting phrases…the thrill of discovery…That wonderful feeling of oneness when your eyes met.

To love is to constantly search for new ways to bring each other to happiness, to make the most of every moment you share together, and marvel at how your feelings for one another keep rising to new dimensions.

To love is to create an oasis of tranquility for one another and a quiet place, apart from others, where you need not pretend…where you can be yourselves…And know within your hearts, you will be accepted by one another. To love is to greet each day with anticipation …Always eager for another opportunity to share new adventures… And gather up new memories TOGETHER!

To love is to follow the rainbow through the rain, to be able to laugh at yourselves and be willing to say…” I was wrong, I’m sorry”… To forgive, and more importantly, to FORGET, and to always believe and trust in one another.

To love is to watch with wonder all the miracles of creation, to find beauty in all the simple things of life, and to find, within ourselves, a deeper appreciation and a new awareness of how wonderful it is to be alive…To be happy…To be… TOGETHER.

To love is to come together from the pathways of our past and then move forward…Hand in hand, along the uncharted roads of our future, ready to risk, to dream, and to dare…And always believe that all things are possible with faith and love.

WEDDING VOWS ( Please join you right hands)

_Mark_______, in taking this woman whom you hold by the right hand to be your lawful and wedded wife, I require you to promise to love and cherish her, to honor and sustain her, in sickness and in health, in poverty as in wealth, in bad that may darken your days, in the good that may lighten your ways, and to be true to her in all things until death alone shall part you. Do you so promise?

G: I do

_Brandi_______, taking this man whom you hold by the right hand to be your lawful and wedded husband, I require you to promise to love and cherish him, to honor and sustain him, in sickness and in health, in poverty as in wealth, in bad that may darken your days, in the good that may lighten your ways, and to be true to him in all things until death alone shall part you. Do you so promise?

B: I do.

CHALLENGE:
This I challenge you: That you love each other with an encompassing spectrum of love…That there be expressions of love in words and actions as well as in comforting silence…That there be interest in nuturing concern for each other’s happiness and well being… That your love be broad enough to accept the family and friends of each other and that they accept your love…That you be mindful of each other’s needs with honest effort of fulfillment...to TALK when the other needs to hear…to LISTEN when the other needs to be heard…to TOUCH when the other needs touching…to HOLD when the other needs to be held.  To understand solitude when the other needs to be alone. And that you may make living space of each other’s humanness, with both its strengths and frailties…That you have tenderness in your strength and yet find strength in tenderness itself…That you open yourselves to the Divine Love which has woven the tapestry of your union, and that you honor the Infinite Weaver with FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE, of these three, knowing that the greatest of these is LOVE. Will you accept this challenge?

B/G: I do

EXCHANGE OF THE RINGS:

Traditionally, the marking of the passage to status of husband and wife is marked by the exchange of rings.  These rings are a symbol of the unbroken circle of love.  Love freely given has no beginning and no end, no giver and no receiver for each is the giver and each is the receiver.  May these rings always remind you of the vows you have taken…that your love, devotion, and commitment to one another are to be unending.

_Mark_______, would you place the ring you have chosen for _Brandi____ on the third finger of her left hand and repeat after me? Just as this circle is without end, my love for you is eternal.  Just as it is made of incorruptible substance, my commitment to you will never fail.  As a pledge and in token of the vows we have made, with this ring I thee wed.


_Brandi_______, would you place the ring you have chosen for _Mark____ on the third finger of his left hand and repeat after me? Just as this circle is without end, my love for you is eternal.  Just as it is made of incorruptible substance, my commitment to you will never fail.  As a pledge and in token of the vows we have made, with this ring I thee wed.


We will close with an Apache Blessing:
Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for each other.
Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be the warmth for the other.
Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling to enter into the days of your life together.
And may your days be good and long upon the earth.

__Mark_______ and __Brandi_______, remember to treat both yourself and each other
with RESPECT, and remind yourselves often of what brought you together.

Give the highest priority to the TENDERNESS, GENTLENESS, AND KINDNESS that your connection deserves.  When frustration, difficulty or fear assail your relationship- as they threatened all relationships at one time or another- remember to focus on what is right between you, not only the part that seems wrong.

In this way you can ride out the times when clouds hide the face of the sun in your lives- remembering, that even if you lose sight of if for a moment, the sun is still there.

And if each of you takes responsibility for the quality of your lives together, your life together will be marked by abundance and delight.

_Mark___ and  __Brandi___ in as much as you have consented together in this ceremony to live in Holy Matrimony, have promised your love for each other by these vows, the joining of your hands and the giving of these rings, I now declare you husband and wife. As I do this, let me remind you that henceforth you are one; one in interest, one in reputation and above all else one in affection.

I ask you and all your dear ones to bow your heads in reverence. Silently pray that God will bless the home of _Mark___ and __Brandi___ and that they each, and together, may achieve their highest hopes.

(After short pause)

What God HATH JOINED TOGETHER, LET NO MAN PART ASUNDER.
May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you.  May the Lord lift up his countenance unto you, and give you peace. Amen.

You may kiss the bride. It is my pleasure to introduce to you Mr. and Mrs. _Cade_____. Before parting _Mark_____ and _Brandi_________  request your presence in the exchanging of their first gifts to each other as husband and wife.



ROSE CEREMONY

   

The Rose Ceremony is simple yet profoundly moving.  The bride and groom exchange two red roses, symbolizing the giving and receiving of their love for each other throughout their entire married life.  The Rose Ceremony also conveys how to use the rose and its symbolism in difficult times in order to forgive each other.

"Your gift to each other for your wedding today has been your wedding rings - which shall always be an outward demonstration of your vows of love and respect; and a public showing of your commitment to each other.

You now have what remains the most honorable title which may exist between a man and a woman - the title of "husband" and "wife." For your first gift as husband and wife, that gift will be a single rose.

In the past, the rose was considered a symbol of love and a single rose always meant only one thing - it meant the words "I love you." So it is appropriate that for your first gift - as husband and wife - that gift would be a single rose.

Please exchange your first gift as husband and wife. In some ways it seems like you have not done anything at all. Just a moment ago you were holding one small rose - and now you are holding one small rose. In some ways, a marriage ceremony is like this. In some ways, tomorrow is going to seem no different than yesterday. But in fact today, just now, you both have given and received one of the most valuable and precious gifts of life - one I hope you always remember - the gift of true and abiding love within the devotion of marriage.

_Mark__ and ___Brandi____ I would ask that where ever you make your home in the future - whether it be a large and elegant home - or a small and graceful one - that you both pick one very special location for roses; so that on each anniversary of this truly wonderful occasion you both may take a rose to that spot both as a recommitment to your marriage - and a recommitment that THIS will be a marriage based upon love. 

In every marriage there are times where it is difficult to find the right words. It is easiest to hurt who we most love. It is easiest to be most hurt by who we most love. It might be difficult sometimes to words to say "I am sorry" or "I forgive you"; "I need you" or "I am hurting". If this should happen, if you simply can not find these words, leave a rose at that spot which both of you have selected - for that rose then says what matters most of all and should overpower all other things and all other words.

That rose says the words: "I still love you." The other should accept this rose for the words which cannot be found, and remember the love and hope that you both share today.


__Mark_ and _Brandi__, if there is anything you remember of this marriage ceremony, it is that it was love that brought you here today, it is only love which can make it a glorious union, and it is by love which your marriage shall endure." 























Tuesday, September 1, 2015

16 and Holding

For some background on Bradley's disease and our journey check out this post: Life Without Food Revisited and Updated

As I sit here staring at the screen, I wonder what words to write. I know that if I just start typing those words will come. They always do. And yes, this is going to be a Bradley post. Some may wonder why I write so much about his disease and what we go through. I do it because for me it makes it that much easier to talk about when I'm asked questions. I also do it for awareness. While much more is known now about Eosinophilic Esophagitis than there was 20-30 years ago, this is still a disease in its infancy. There are patients who are just now having to figure out new doctors to see because they are no longer a pediatric patient, but they have a disease that has mostly been dealt with in the pediatric world. I also do it because I know that there is a purpose, a plan for why Bradley has to endure this terrible disease. God says so many times in the Bible that we are called according to his purpose. That he will be there with us through those trials and that we will come out stronger.

This past month we have hit road block after road block in dealing with this disease. Today came more answers that we didn't want to hear, yet I think all along I've prepared myself for. You see when we first decided to move forward with the feeding tube I had already been preparing myself mentally for the possibility for a couple years. That last scope in December 2013 I knew before we ever made the trip that the results were not going to be what we wanted. I don't know how I knew, I just did. Even then I asked not just for prayers of good results, but for prayers that we would be able to accept whatever the results would be.


Then we started the journey. The life of tube feeding. Because I had prepared myself for the feeding tube, I also had prepared myself for what the future may hold. I held on tightly to the belief that the tube was the answer and that my Boo would get better. And he has. He went from an exhausted little boy who voluntarily stayed in from recess his 2nd grade year to a thriving young man who is now in the 4th grade. He went from almost falling off the charts from being so little as far as weight and height to now being in the 25th percentile. We finally were able to buy him clothes because he grew.

Going into this life of a feeding tube, I knew the possibilities of being on the tube for years to come was very likely. I was ready for what life would throw at us. But then we got to bounce happily along on the journey for 17 months. Unlike cases of children who would be immediately stopped in their tracks with the first food reintroduced, we made it up to 16 foods with successful introduction. And then we hit the road block. I saw it coming with white potato because that one food seemed to do something that I couldn't quite put my finger on. So while it was a blow to find out he is definitely allergic to white potato, it helped prepare me for the scope that I knew was going to be bad for the first time in 17 months. However, I don't think I quite prepared myself for the rest of the results until the past week.

You see when we found out about potato and decided to do bloodwork to check the other foods instead of trial and error, I allowed myself to go back to that point of prayer of "please God, help me to accept what we are about to endure." Some may say I am borrowing troubles from tomorrow right now and maybe I am, but I feel that I am preparing myself for what life ahead will be like.

All the cases I've read about or seen videos on, those kids came to their limit. They knew their number and that the number most likely won't increase. I personally feel we may be entering that zone with Bradley. And to be honest, the results today didn't impact me near as much as the potato results because I think I already knew. I had already started coming around to the idea that we are at a roadblock and we may be here for quite some time. And we are going to learn to live with it and do as we have done since Bradley was a year old....look at the positives because if we focus on the negatives the weight can be unbearable.


Today I received confirmation that he is officially allergic to oats, rice, watermelon, and linseed (flax seed comes from this). The only thing that he may be able to keep is cocoa, but even that I'm going to keep an eye on since it was close to borderline. All those other foods tested in the high range. And yes, I cried for a moment and I'm even a little teary right now. But they are tears of feeling so frustrated for my little boy. Afterall, what parent wants to deny their child food? But I have to if I want my little boy to be healthy.

So here I sit this evening prepared for what is ahead on our journey. Yes, I will be super picky about any food or drink that is found that may be potentially safe and I will scrutinize even the tiniest ingredient. If it's not officially safe and hasn't officially been introduced after a clean scope, then it's going to be a firm, "No Bradley can't have that." Yes, I will pray that his next scopes come back clean and we will take the next steps to see if his number gets to go higher than 16. But I'm also going to be accepting and help Bradley in every way to be accepting as well of whatever the journey ahead holds. Of course, he's been more accepting than me sometimes.


He's a fighter and he's my hero. This is not the way I ever dreamed it would be, but it is our reality.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

21 No More




Today as I drove to WalMart it took every bit of strength I still had to reach my destination. It was all I could do to keep on that path because what I really wanted to do was turn my car around. I figured I could reach the beach by 6:30. I could reach peace, Solace. God. I know He all around and with me all the time, but the beach is the place I feel the closest to Him. I was so focused on driving to where I was supposed to go that I actually missed the turn.

Six hours and ten minutes ago I finally got the news I've been waiting for with baited breath for 2 weeks. The same news I was waiting on when I posted 21 Foods and Counting. I finally got the results for Bradley's white potato allergy test followed by the results from the biopsies taken during his endoscopy and colonoscopy. Results that rocked my world yet again.

Sometimes people think that I'm overly protective or worrisome about the foods Bradley eats. I have to be very careful and selective down to the seasonings and oils used to prepare food. As a mom I'm glad I trust what I think is going on. We first introduced white potato back in January/February. He ended up being sick several times around then. Not knowing for sure if it was true illness or a result of adding back white potato, I took it out of Bradley's diet. I was questioned as to why and where my proof was that potato was making him sick. I explained my thinking and said after he gets better we will introduce another food, then if that is tolerated we will try white potato again.

We started white potato again in June (or was it May). The signs were so subtle, easy to miss. But I was concerned so I had his allergist check his allergen levels to white potato. Thinking the results would put me at ease. Either I was just seeing things that weren't there or I was on the right track in thinking something wasn't quite right. Either way we would know.

Today the results came back and we must now go from 21 foods to even less. We know for sure that we have to take the potato out. He is definitely allergic. Highly allergic in fact. His allergy to potato is almost as high as his allergy to egg yolk.

However that wasn't the only news. I also got to read his biopsy results from his scopes. Last October 2014 his scopes were clean. Zero evidence across the board. The time before that, June 2014, counts were 10 or less. Those were the scopes since his feeding tube was placed. Prior to the feeding tube, in December 2013, the scope results showed numbers of eosinophils around 45. June 2013 scopes were the highest to date with 85 as our number. Today it took me over 2 hours to realize. Over 2 hours for it to fully hit me what I had read from the results. The count in his esophagus is OVER 100. The highest ever that we are aware of.

With this result we have to make decisions. Take all new foods away? Blood work? Both? What? You see of those 21 foods we had reached, 6 of them have been added since October. Since his last clean scope of zero. That means potentially taking away all 6 of those foods. As much as he doesn't want it, his allergist is sending me an order for blood work so we can check those other items we've added. We are prepared to back down and only be at 15 foods (remember there are about 5 of those he won't eat so really just 10 foods). Not food groups, families of food, actually individual food items.

With these results we are now in a holding pattern. We cannot add anything new until we figure out what caused the problems this time.

Those are the cold hard facts. The things that we can't change. The card we've been dealt.

As a mom I've written of my feelings on this in the past. And trust me in his short 9 years there have been many. Bradley has been through more medically than many people endure in a lifetime. I would love to say that making the decision to move to a feeding tube in the first place was the hardest to deal with. Not for me. For me I knew that although it didn't seem fair, it was going to help my sweet boy. And it has. No for me, I think the past 2 weeks have hit me the hardest. Tears that fall without warning. Anger at the unfairness of it all. And yet, here is Bradley taking the news so gracefully. His response, "Oh. Okay." Shrugged his shoulders and went right on playing. The same boy who just 2 days ago went and hid in his closest because he was mad his friend didn't come over. He even told me, "You know mom. I get mad about the little things. But not really the big ones."

Oh I don't doubt that he is disappointed, hurting, angry, etc. But for now he is accepting and I'm going to take it. This amazing young man faces most of his days with a strength and courage I can only imagine. His only question, "Hmmmm....I wonder what I can put in my lunchbox for tomorrow. And no I don't want beans."

As his mom I worry. I worry that one day he'll get mad at it all. That he'll choose a path that is harmful to himself. Afterall when you have to watch videos to start each year such as More Than Sad, you can't help but be fearful that it could happen to your child no matter what you do.

As his mom I have my own choices to make. The choice to hide my tears or let them flow freely for him to see. The choice to put it all in God's hands or try to control things by keeping them to myself. The choice to face each day stronger or hide under the covers wishing it all away. The choice to go about seeming to be cheery or let others know what our life is like including how we feel.

So many choices.

I choose to show my faithful human side. I choose to let Bradley know how I feel so that he too can learn to express his feelings. I choose to put it in God's hands because despite the frustrations and set backs, we also have the good days; the blessings. I choose to allow myself moments of hiding under the covers so that I can face each day stronger. Hiding under the covers I can cry it out, get over it, and really let go so God can take care of us. I choose to share about Bradley's life and our experiences. I may never know that impact and I don't need to, but I've been able to talk with others going through similar experiences and offer words of support, a listening ear, and so forth.

So yes, we are 21 No More. Yes I am hurting for my Boo who was devouring french fries faster than they could be made. Yes I am angry that our society revolves around FOOD, FOOD, and more FOOD and so many don't realize how good they have it. I am angry that insurance doesn't understand this disease so we have to fight for coverage (remember out of pocket for Bradley's food (formula) and medical supplies alone cost us almost what I bring home in a month.) I think the lowest of the low doctors, the ones who couldn't cut it in the real world of medicine are the ones being paid by insurance companies to help them with their denials. Yes, I wish I could go and physically force them to live on solely the foods that are safe for Bradley for a week and then to go a week drinking (not through a tube but actually drinking) his formula. I'm sure some changes would take place then.

Yes I am strong and my faith is such that I turn immediately to the Father instead of blaming Him because "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phillipians 4:13). He has held me in his arms many a night, he is with me wherever I go. These are not just words I say to come off sounding better than others. These are words that I live by. Words I believe in wholeheartedly because I know I can't do this alone. I know and truly believe that these trials have a purpose. A purpose I may never know. A purpose Bradley may never know. In Him I take comfort, I am comforted.

For those of you who don't quite get that. Those who don't understand how that can be possible, then I invite you to start on your lifestory. I invite you to learn more about our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Seek out someone you feel comfortable talking to that can help you grow. Jesus told us to go forth and make disciples. So there are many out there who are willing to help you embark on this journey that will lead to the ultimate destination. A journey that will give you comfort and allow you to be able to trust in the Father and walk away from devastating news with a strength and courage that can only be found through Him.

I leave you with this. Request for all the prayer warriors to lift up their voices. "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." (Matthew 18:20). Prayers for us to hold strongly to our faith. Prayers for us to face each day with courage and strength. "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discourage, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9). Prayers for us to accept the path that God has placed before us. The life He has planned for us. Prayers for us to continue to lift up His name and keep turning to Him in our times of praise as well as our times of need.







Friday, August 14, 2015

Life Lessons....From the Ocean


In my quest to do some finishing touches in my kitchen that is almost finished being renovated, I was determined to add some quotes around the room. Above my kitchen door seemed to be the perfect place. I wanted something that would give me hope and courage every time I walk out the door to face the world. I debated scripture, but I also wanted something that involved my place of peace, my place I feel closest to God. The beach.

I kept thinking of the quote, or at least I thought it was a quote until I couldn't find it anyplace I looked, "When life sends you a storm, ride the waves." The closest I could find was about surfing.  I then spent days searching for the perfect quote, but I kept coming back to the one about the storm and waves. After careful thought, I realized I wanted something a little more than that. Afterall, I don't face a storm in my life everyday. I began playing around with words and I finally came up with:
               "Sit upon the shore
                   Stir the ocean
                       Ride the waves"

But what does this have to do with life lessons or even my desire for something above my door to remind me how to take on each day? How does this remind me to keep God front and center?

SIT UPON THE SHORE...
There are times in life when we must sit still. When I think of sitting on the shore, I think of observing life around me. I think of quiet. Of slowing down. Of taking time to really listen. Of simply being in awe of the masterpiece stretched out before me created by our Heavenly Father. And as of late, of writing my cares and worries in the sand as a way of handing it all to God knowing that the waves will come and wash the words away just like God helps to ease our troubles, our minds, when we have the faith to let go and trust in Him. This line is my reminder that sometimes I need to keep my mouth shut, observe what is around me, listen, and to turn it all over to God.


STIR THE OCEAN...

Just like there are times in life that we must be still, there are also times when we must stir things up. We can't just be complacent and always accept things as they are. Sometimes we must fight for what we believe in. Sometimes we have to be the voice of change. And yes, even though it may be hard to do, we may have to step out on that limb and do what Jesus said. We have to "Go forth and make disciples." That may not sound like stirring the ocean, but when was the last time you shared your testimony with others, got into the really deep conversations with someone about their faith, helped them to come to know Christ? It's not as easy as it may sound. Although some people seem to do this effortlessly.
  

RIDE THE WAVES...
And then we come to to the last line. Ride the waves. This is my reminder that life is not always going to be easy. Sometimes the waters are going to be calm and the sailing will be smooth. Other times the storms will rage, the waves will crash, the current will take you under. No matter what the weather and how gentle or rough the waves are, you must learn to ride them. My favorite verse is Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. To ride the waves it to realize that God is going to take care of us, he has called each of us according to his purpose. When we fight against the waves we are left getting no where, exhausted, and ready to give up at times. When we learn to ride the waves, we can end up arriving at an amazing destination that we never even dreamed possible.

One final note...
We have to learn to do each of these things and know when we should sit, when we should stir, and when we should ride.