Mountain-Moving


“So Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them'” Mark 11:22-24.

As Christians, we talk about the faith that can move mountains. We say we believe the promises of God. We say we trust in Him to take care of us. But deep down, I don’t think we get our mind fully around the idea fact that faith can move mountains. Often we say to the mountains in our lives, “be moved and cast into the sea,” not really believing that it will actually happen. We “hope” it will happen. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful–a miracle!–if such and such would just disappear from my life forever.”

“…Believe…and you will have.” How much plainer could Jesus be? Jesus will grant our requests if we truly believe they will come to pass.

This doesn’t mean that, if it isn’t the Lord’s will, our requests will still be granted. The Lord decides what is good and right for us. But if we are living in God’s will for our lives (obeying His commands), and if our requests are in accordance to His will, why wouldn’t He grant those things which we so desire?

The gospel of Matthew gives a clear example of faith becoming reality.

“When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, ‘Son of David, have mercy on us!’ And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to him. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Then He touched their eyes, saying, ‘According to your faith let it be to you.’ And their eyes were open” (Matthew 9:27-30a).

Because the two blind men did not doubt that the Lord could heal their eyes, Jesus granted them their sight.

Why can’t we believe that the Lord will heal us of our maladies? Lord willing, it will be, if we believe without doubting.

Amen and amen.

Giving Thanks… In Everything


“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Is that verse up there saying what I think it’s saying?

Yes. I kid you not. I quoted that verse word for word. I even emphasized that one certain phrase in every way possible so that y’all are sure to see it.

I’ll quote it again for good measure.

In everything give thanks.

What does that mean? Does it mean we should be thankful for all the good things God has given us, every gift Christ has bestowed on us through His precious blood? Well, yes, of course it means those things.

Does it mean being thankful for the whole earth, all the resources available to us, all our family, friends, etc? Again, yes.

Does it mean being thankful in the midst of dealing with a gastrointestinal disease? Cancer? Death?

Yes.

I don’t say that flippantly. I am scared of these things. While life has its blessings, life is also a tragedy, stained by sin. Just as there are good things in our lives, there are bad things that disrupt our lives and, sometimes, alter our lives forever.

Our natural instinct is to loath these things, to ask God why He ordained such things to happen to His children. To rebel against them with all our being.

In everything give thanks.

That means just what it says–everything. Although I suffer from a gastrointestinal disorder–which I would give anything to be rid of–I give thanks, because I know the Lord is challenging me, as a Father to His child. He is asking me a question. Do I trust Him with my life? Or do I lean on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6)? Do I depend on my finite knowledge or His infinite knowledge?

God is challenging me for a reason. I may not know what that reason is, but praise God that He sees in me something worth challenging!

Amen.

Food and Stress: Partners in Crime


We know what certain foods do to our systems. For those with gastrointestinal disorders, eliminating sugars, starches, grains, gluten, and dairy from our diets can squelch disease activity to such an extent that it’s nonexistent. If God hadn’t led me to the Specific Carbohydrate Diet, I would still be sprawled across our couch, moaning and hugging my stomach.

However, illegal foods aren’t the only culprits. For many with digestive diseases, stress can make us just as prone to hug our tummies.

Being a college student, I know what it is to be “stressed out.” Whether homework is due at a certain time or the workload is overwhelming, I’ve more than once experienced the tension that comes with being a student. The tightening of the gut is just one obvious symptom. 

Stress can pervade every area of our lives if we let it. We can worry about when the housework is going to get done, when the garden is going to be weeded, or when the children are going to get over their viruses. I get extremely nervous when I have to play the piano before an audience, big or small. I even get nervous when I have to answer a question in Sunday School, among dear friends I’ve known for years.

For those with digestive diseases, we also worry about the food we are eating, or the food we are going to eat. How many of us have worked ourselves into a frenzy because we didn’t know how we were going to satisfy our appetites outside the home? “What if there’s nothing to eat at my friend’s house? What if I don’t get to the ‘legal’ food before it’s all gone? What if my friends don’t realize I can’t have this, this, and this?” 

And then, in our sinful natures, we start worrying about other people, what he or she said, did, or intend to do, or what he or she might think of something we said or did.

I say that stress can be an even bigger culprit than the food we eat. And unfortunately, they like to team up against vulnerable guts.

But what good does it do you to fret about your homework, your housework, your life? *Ding Ding* Correct answer! It does NO good. The Lord said through Kind David, “Do not fret—it only causes harm” (Psalm 37:8b). What happens when I fret? That tightness in my gut sure does give me a lot of trouble. What happens when I relax and lay my future in Christ’s hands?

Freedom.

Exercise: Not Just For a Good-Lookin’ You


You’re probably saying to yourself, “Yes, yes, we know that. I exercise because I want to be healthy.” Good for you! That’s exactly what I wanted to hear.

Because exercise is especially important for those with gastrointestinal disorders. Whether you run on a treadmill or take a leisurely walk around your neighborhood, keeping in motion keeps the digestive tract awake, so to speak. As tough as it is sometimes—maybe you’re feeling sick, or too tired, or whatever—you need to do something. Many times my mother forced me outdoors, and I came back in refreshed and energized. And feeling GOOD!

Exercising—to put it as delicately as possible—gets everything moving in that area of your body. And keeping your intestines empty means less disease issues, at least for me. My symptoms have always been rather abnormal: constipation instead of diarrhea. Knowing that my food was “passing through” gave me confidence that I wasn’t going to have inflammation and pain. And having that confidence relieves stress.

If you like taking walks, try praying the whole time. Talking with God while I’m on my walks helps me to relax my whole body. Think about it. God is all around you. He’s walking right beside you. Do you ignore a walking companion? Hopefully not. Why not talk to Him, thank Him for His beautiful creation, marvel at the wonderful blessings in your life, and ask Him for wisdom as you take every day one step at a time? Your heart will feel happier when you’re done. And being happy will make your gut happy.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet


When I first discovered that I had Crohn’s Disease, a friend from church and a relative 1900 miles away suggested the SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet), almost simultaneously. My family and I stepped out in faith to try it out, believing that God was pointing me in that direction. I have not regretted our decision, though the struggle has been hard.

What is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet?

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet was designed to heal the afflicted intestines and control symptoms. The reasons why food is not digested properly are laid out in Elaine Gottschall’s book, Breaking the Vicious Cycle. It is necessary for any person suffering gastrointestinal disorders or maladies such as Autism to read this book thoroughly before embarking upon the diet. I didn’t, and I suffered the consequences later on.

To summarize briefly what the book details: Because many people with disorders like Crohn’s and Celiac Disease have lost the ability to digest disaccharides, a mucus layer develops in the intestine, blocking digestive enzymes from the disaccharides. There is an imbalance of bacteria in the intestines, which results in the malabsorption of nutrients.

Carbohydrates give energy to the intestinal microbes in a person’s system, continually feeding them so they grow. Thus, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet eliminates all the detrimental carbohydrates. These  include wheat (corn, as well), starches, and sugar.

So, what can you eat? Simple. Meat, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Bacon is an occasional treat, if fried crisply. Of course, you may be more sensitive to it than others. I can’t eat more than two slices once a week. Honey can be used in place of sugar. There are certain restrictions on fruits and vegetables as well (like potatoes), but it will be worth it cutting them out of your diet (see Breaking the Vicious Cycle for a list of “legal” and “illegal” foods). Some dairy is allowed; some cheeses and yogurt, if it is homemade, but NO milk. Instructions for homemade yogurt can also be found in Elaine Gottschall’s book. At some point, you will be able to introduce nut flours into your diet. The flour recommended is blanched almond flour (so far, we found that Lucy’s Kitchen Shop has the best deal), though I cannot handle that as well. I am on the verge of trying coconut flour, which is a little less expensive. When I’ve experimented with it, I will post my results.

This is a diet that must claim your careful attention and diligence. I realized after two years that I would never be able to completely go back to normal eating. My advice is that you don’t think ahead to the day where you can be “free” to eat whatever you please. Since you may not be able to do that, I wouldn’t get my hopes up. Pray for peace. The Lord has put you in this situation. He wants to see you grow through it.

And don’t think that this diet is a burden! Sure, it’s hard at first, but once you get used to cooking in this way and reading labels, it won’t be so bad. Nowadays, I forget that I’m even on this diet, and my friends are always surprised at the wide variety of food I can make.

The Beginner’s Diet

That’s what my mom and I call the first stage of the SCD. For the first five days, the diet is extremely strict, allowing only those foods which will be easy on the system. The point of the Beginner’s Diet is to give your intestines a break. It’s a rest period for things to settle down. When I first started, my insides were so inflamed I stayed on this diet for even longer than they told me to. It’ll be different for everyone.

For a list of the SCD stages, go here. My mom found this later on, after I’d been on the diet for several months. It would’ve helped me so much more to have this at the very beginning.

I also suggest that, at any stage of the diet, if you have a relapse, go back to this beginner’s diet for a few days. I personally go on all liquids for the first two days, then I implement one solid meal on the third day, two on the fourth, and then all three on the fifth.

Above all, don’t give up. It is likely that, even if you are pain/reaction-free for months, you could have a sudden relapse here and there. Don’t be discouraged. The future results will far outweigh any relapses in between.

If you decide to embark upon this journey, I pray for your continued success. God bless!

Faithful Climbs


   A man is climbing a mountain. He stumbles, regains his footing, takes a deep breath, and tries again. Sometimes it looks as if he will never make it to the heights to which he aspires. In spite of the odds, he keeps going—he keeps climbing. Faith is the same way. As we climb to loftier heights of sanctification, God drops pebbles in our paths. Will we trip and fall? Or will we pick ourselves up and keep climbing? Over the past three years, I have come to realize that my struggle with Crohn’s Disease has not been in vain, but that it instead has encouraged me to reach for the pinnacle of faith and peace.

   December 7, 2006—that date marks the night I experienced my personal “Pearl Harbor,” as I later referred to it. Although I had been experiencing escalating abdominal pain over a period of several months, it reached a climax that December afternoon. My parents hurried me off to the hospital, and soon I was being rolled away toward the operating room. The anesthetics had begun to wear off sometime in the middle of the night when I finally asked the question my mother, who was staying with me in the hospital room, was probably waiting for: “Is everything all right now?”

   She hesitated, but answered at last, “Everything is going to be all right.” It was not her words, but her tone that struck me as odd, for she sounded sad and grieved rather than relieved that all was over and done. I asked her if the surgeons had removed whatever had been causing the pain. She told me that they hadn’t.

  Then what was it? To hear the lonely silence in the room was more than I could bear. I asked her, and she told me. I had Crohn’s Disease. Well, what was that? I had never heard of it, but it didn’t sound good, all the same. It was an auto-immune disease that could not just go away. I was “stuck with it.”

  Accepting the fact was not hard that first night. I was still groggy from the anesthesia, too tired to react. I woke when the sunlight leaked through the hospital blinds and tried not to think about it. The days passed at a snail’s pace, and neither my family nor I had any answers to my problem. I was given steroids and medications, one of which I would most likely have to take daily for the rest of my life. I never questioned God that first time in the hospital, even though my attitude was not always a good one.

  After consulting hospital nutritionists and various doctors, all with discouraging results, my father and sister visited me with new hope. My father’s exact words were, “We’re going to get you better.” We all looked at one another, willing to try anything. Friends in our church had amazing success putting two of their daughters on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) after being diagnosed with Celiac Disease. We purchased a book which detailed how to proceed, and almost as soon as I returned home, we began.

  I was—and am—extremely restricted. The SCD excludes all grains, gluten, all refined sugars, and starches. Needless to say, it was difficult. There were many times where I wished I could give up or give in to my cravings, but I forced myself to persevere. My health improved immediately, and for seven months I had no pain attacks. I was confident in the diet and myself. I suppose that was when God decided to give my family and me a dose of humbling. In late July of 2007, I became ill. It only lasted three days and I was able to care for myself at home, but about a month later, I returned to the hospital.

  A change had come over me. I was confused and angry. For the first time since my ill-fated discovery, I questioned God. “Why?” I couldn’t understand why God was afflicting me like this. I wanted to be free of my medications and my condition. I feared for the plans I had desired for my future, marriage and children. It all seemed so impossible to attain with a condition as terrible as mine stamped on my forehead, so to speak. It didn’t help that my friends knew a play-by-play of what went on, even though, at the time, I had wanted everyone to pray. I realized later that I wish I had kept it quiet as much as possible.

  My parents took me home after a week in the hospital, and we continued with the diet. This time, we saw everything differently. Not only did we have to be even more careful, but we also had to trust in God. Our trust in the diet had taken priority. Even with the question “why” still nagging in the back of mind, I prayed daily for healing and grace. I came to realize that God had been knocking at my door, and I had been too busy to realize that I had neglected Him. I needed faith not only at the foot of the mountain, where everything was smooth and easygoing, but also when the path became hazardous on the journey upwards. There was a greater purpose at work behind my condition, and all that had happened would “work together for good” (Romans 8:28).

  In October of 2007, I was admitted once more into the hospital, this time for only four days. I remained faithful, although new pebbles were thrown in my path. The doctors wished to control the disease with stronger medications, medications I had heard could possibly be dangerous. I floundered in my faith, frightened and rebellious. I did not want to go on medications that could make me sick—or worse. Even now I sometimes fear the possibility. When I was hospitalized in September 2008, the question became an issue. I didn’t even want to think about it. The doctors did not push, but I felt the pressure all the same. My parents agreed with me, but also encouraged me to accept God’s will whatever it was. My doctor understood my concern, and stronger medications have not been pushed since.

  Now, a little over three years since that first hospitalization in 2006, I still struggle. There are still times when my future as a wife and mother seem unattainable, or that I will never be able to stop worrying about what I eat. Even so, I have been mostly diligent with the diet, and I intend to keep at it for many years to come, if not always. I have not had a need for the hospital for over a year and a half. I am thankful for where I am at.

  Although my faith is not perfect, I have reached for the top of the mountain. I have slipped; I have fallen. Every day, I pick myself up and keep climbing. God gives us tests to try our faith and love for Him. If He did not, what would that say about us? If I had no struggles, if my life was easy and uncomplicated, I might fear for my salvation. The book of James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (1:2-4). Those verses always give me the peace I need to endure Crohn’s Disease and all other trials that make my path rough. Do not lose faith. Have that inner peace that surpasses all understanding. Keep climbing.

  My intent for this blog is to share my knowledge of Crohn’s, the many different facets of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet and its effect on various digestive diseases (including maladies such as Autism), and any tips or shortcuts within the diet that I have discovered over the past three years. If I can help even a little, I know it will be worth it. So stay tuned!

  Above all, I wish to make clear that, without the Lord on my side, I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have. The Specific Carbohydrate Diet has taught me many things about taking care of the body God has given me, and while it has worked wonders in my life, I recognize that it was the Lord working through my diet that made the real difference.

  I will post at least once weekly, on Fridays or Saturdays. However, if inspiration strikes me mid-week, I will most likely let you know. So check back often, or sign up for e-mail updates!

   God be with you on your journey to better health.