A time for change…

Change is inevitable. Change is scary. Change is refreshing. Change is unexpected.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” – Maya Angelou

Our lives have changed…. drastically. While it was 5 years in the making, it seems as though my health decline came on like a whirlwind. It may have taken many years to get to this point, but I often wonder how it happened so quickly. Especially this last year.

College Graduation with my high-school sweetheart :)
College Graduation with my high-school sweetheart 🙂

This time last year, I was nervously and excitedly anticipating my final days at my full-time dream job. I loved my job and working with so many great people. I went to school for YEARS to find that exact job. Unfortunately, I had received too much “disappointing” news from appointments after years of tests. Not only was I physically unable to juggle it all, but emotionally and mentally I couldn’t either. It was obvious to me, my husband and my doctor’s that I needed a break. So I did that – took a break from work for what I thought would be a couple months. I’d give myself time to rest, heal and get back on track….

…. It didn’t work like that…

One month before we had to make that decision to take a break, we closed on what we thought was our dream house. We had just finished that FINAL move. As an accountant, I went through every detail to make sure we could make the new house and the decline in income work. We made a few sacrifices and made it work. Sure, I thought I’d miss our DISH network and the Food Channel – but I didn’t. I realized we didn’t need to watch TV that much anyway. Sure, I missed my favorite car – but we had a vehicle that was paid for, sitting parked in the garage. I did learn that I’m not the best driver of a pick-up. I have yet to wreck it but if you happen to transform into a mailbox or trash can- I’d steer clear of me. Otherwise, I was trying to get into the stay-at-home mom routine.

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I realized when I was sitting at home with princess, (anxiously awaiting school to get out so we could get brother) that I’ve been sick the entire time Harper has been on this Earth. My sweet Lane was only two when my troubles began. They really only know me during this “sick phase”. In some ways, this is good – they have learned to appreciate our new lifestyle and eating habits, they respect people who are different, they consciously think of germs and TRY to keep themselves clean. In other ways, it is not good – I hate seeing the tears and disappointment in their eyes when I can’t play Barbies or I miss a baseball game, I hate watching them have to turn away their favorite treat so it doesn’t “make mom sick”, I hate not getting to wrestle or play around with them and I hate the question “Mom, are you feeling sick or okay today?”

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I’ve learned a lot in the last year. I’ve learned that a big house doesn’t make a home. I’ve learned that a four car garage isn’t necessary when you don’t have (or need) cars to fill it. I’ve learned that a good paying job isn’t worth going to if you can’t do your best and you are exhausted all the time. I’ve learned that having money is nice but not if you only use it to pay medical bills and a house payment. I’ve learned that having a purpose is more important than having a 9 to 5 (or more like 7-6). I’ve learned that your situation and circumstances may not be changeable but your attitude can change.

I am sick…..

I have tried to change that….

Many doctors have tried to change that…

Many prayers have tried to change that….

I can’t change that…. (or at least not right now)

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I honestly don’t know what is going on. My doctors don’t really know what’s going on. I’ve got several opinions, suggestions and treatment paths in front of me and I don’t know where to start. Each day is literally part of a rollercoaster. One day, I have someone telling me I’ll be fine. The next, I have someone worried that I have a serious condition that could quickly shorten my life expectancy. I’ve went from everything from gallbladder issues, parasites, Cystic Fibrosis, Refractory Celiac Disease, Crohn’s, etc. That dreaded “C” word has been thrown around. I had a biopsy of my small intestine lining a couple of weeks ago and it came back clear (praise God). I had a consult on Monday which resulted in immediate referrals and testing to rule out more serious issues. One day I’m on cloud 9, the next I’m at rock bottom. We know there is a problem…. it’s just finding out what and where it is.

It’s hard being someone who just wants to have a definitive, concrete answer and solution. In my opinion my attitude has been terrible…

I’ve been through those stages of grief or whatever you want to call it. I’ve felt alone, lost and just want to leave this world so that my family can get on with their lives and not have me as a burden. Yes, I’ve been in that deep, dark place that no one wants to talk about. I was in that place when my half-sister committed suicide earlier this year. I watched my family struggle through that loss and saw the hurt in everyone’s eyes and in my own.

Life is short enough – shorter for some than others. Life is painful. Life is hard.

BUT…..

Life is a gift. Life is a blessing. Life can be filled with so much joy.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned this year is sometimes you just have to “suck it up” and deal with it. Accepting the change and using it for good can make the adjustment a little easier.

I’ve been able to use my health struggles for growth and learning on my own. My patience, strength and just about everything else has been tested but I’ve also learned how strong I can be. I’ve had great opportunities arise from my health. I published my first cookbook. I’ve given speeches (and have more coming up very soon) about my story and living with food allergies. I became a part of my favorite magazine, Taste of Home. I’ve met so many people and companies who share my passion in helping the world live better through healthier and cleaner lifestyles.

what a summer...

In Dallas, I met a boy who has similar food issues and health problems that I do – only he’s 7 years old. He was wearing a Super Man shirt and was discouraged because despite the expo being completely gluten-free and allergy-friendly, he was still unable to sample very many treats (as I wasn’t able to either). He was a very small, fragile and beautiful child and my heart ached for him. His spirit was contagious and he was so like Super Man. I immediately thought of my own children and their reactions to my chest port being put in – they referred to me as “Iron Mom”. I told him that story and his eyes were so bright when he said “Well, I am Super BOY!”

I also met a sweet little girl, also skinny and fragile, whose mom bought my cookbook. She wasn’t used to cooking or eating this way but her daughter needed to. She was very excited about finding resources and ideas to help with her daughters feedings. She mentioned how hard it was to cook for her daughter since she couldn’t eat the food that way. I looked at her puzzled and immediately her beautiful daughter looked at me (as if she knew my reaction would initiate a question) and said “It’s because I have a feeding tube!” She then proceeded to lift up her shirt to proudly show me the tube attached to her tiny belly. I was in awe of her attitude and happiness. Initially, my heart sank because I know a feeding tube is flirting dangerously close in connection with my future eating habits. However, her spirit inspired me. A feeding tube – so what? I could deal with it and will if the time comes.

Change is always around us…. and we are embarking on one of the biggest changes yet.

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Yesterday, we signed that dotted line and handed the keys to our “dream home” over to a sweet woman who I know will enjoy it as we have. Her favorite room was my favorite room. I hope she can get good use out of that big garden. I hope she loves having coffee or tea while sitting in my nook window. It was my dream home in every sense. My time there was also a nightmare. The 18 months we lived there was really rough and I wasn’t really sad to leave. I was excited. I am excited – for a new beginning.

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You could probably call it a quarter-life crisis but I don’t care. My family and I sold our house and bought an RV. Yes – you read that correctly. An RV. I’ve had many people question my ability to “handle” living in an RV with my two small kids and husband. I’ve had to “handle” many things I don’t want to lately…. but being extremely close with my family isn’t one of them. I’m looking forward to making memories. I’m looking forward to the new experiences we will share.

Don’t think I’m too crazy…. our house is literally “parked” close to my in-laws on my husband’s family’s land. And the RV living is temporary. We are building a smaller house on Caleb’s family’s land – where he grew up, where he hunts, where he loves to be. We aren’t really “roughing it” by any means. The RV is practically brand new and I have whatever else I need literally a few steps away.

I imagine I’ll have days where I hate the RV and the construction and the fact that I’ll be a ‘married – single mom’ for a while. For now, I love it – all of it. It has brought perspective into my life that I wish I would have had YEARS ago. It’s living simpler. It’s living smarter. It’s living happier.

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Guess what? Our RV has one TV that we share. We have hardly turned it on because we are so busy listening to stories of the day. The drive is much longer than I’m used to (20ish minutes) but I get to hear more stories and jokes on the drive to town. I’m not saying I recommend it to anyone – but so far, we are enjoying it. (Ask me again next week and you might get a different answer).

Caleb and I were talking about this yesterday – we are scared of these changes. We are scared for our future. We are scared for me. I told him that I didn’t care where or what we lived in – my home was where he was. My happiness doesn’t lie in a big house, a nice SUV and fancy clothes (and shoes). My happiness comes from sloppy kisses, sticky hands, dirty shoes and family time. I’ve stopped trying to anticipate what news I will get next or what time frame that may put on things. I’m just living.

I’m excited to be living in a home built with my husband’s construction knowledge (and hands) and love. We will literally put our blood, sweat and tears into this but it will be ours, how we want it to be. The kids couldn’t be more excited. I’m amazed at how understanding and accepting they are at their young ages. My heart melts seeing my princess in her rain boots petting the horses. Or my son finding “treasures” in the old barn full of Caleb’s grandpas things. I’ve lived most of my life in the city limits of  small town – now I’ll be in rural SE Kansas! My heart also understands the sting that comes from building on this land.

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Today, I watched my father-in-law tear down a house that was built by his family. I remember Caleb’s grandfather living in that home. I remember telling Papa Kenny when we found out I was pregnant with Lane. You could hear his squeals of joy miles away. I also remember driving by the first time after he had passed away. I know the changing of this place for them is hard. Tearing down those walls isn’t easy for anyone but then I think of all the memories we will have to share with future generations.

It’s funny how life works. It’s funny how change works. It’s funny how perspective can become so clear and yet make you feel so stupid.

God has a plan. God has always guided us and I know he will continue to do so. God’s timing is always perfect – even if we don’t see it. He knew what he was doing when we were dealt this hand of cards.

This change has opened our eyes and brightened our futures. These changes in life are leading us onto greater paths – I’m sure of it. I know our rough days are far from over but our attitudes are ready.

You know that saying about “turning a new page” or “starting a new chapter?” I think we are just going to close that book and break out a new one.

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