Eating Pizza with a Thankful Heart

pizza

I remember eating strawberries with our daughter while she was in her highchair, and by the time I got to work, my eyelids were swelling and itching like crazy.

That was about twelve years ago.

What followed was a skin test that revealed I shouldn’t eat strawberries, shellfish, or legumes and that my throat would close if I ate peanuts. (Thankfully I was given an epinephrine shot after that test!)

A few years later, I started getting sick all the time. I dealt with severe stomach pains, fatigue, bloating that was so bad I’d start the day in jeans but by the end of the day had to switch over to sweatpants, hives that once grew to the size of silver dollars and sent me to the doctor for a shot, and some other unpleasant symptoms.

I was given a blood test for food allergies. I tested positive to over fifty foods. Fifty.

I cried a lot that day.

I tried not to talk about it too much, but I was deeply discouraged and depressed. There wasn’t anything anyone could do. I was simply told to avoid those foods. Of course I didn’t mind staying away from radishes and Brussel sprouts, but I hated giving up wheat, milk, and tomatoes which translated in my brain to one word: pizza. (Sure, I cheated sometimes. But I paid for it for days.)

But the worst part wasn’t saying goodbye to my friend, Mr. Pepperoni and Cheese Pizza, it was the social aspect, the feeling of not be able to join in when there were meals at church or going out with friends to dinner. Oh sure, I could go, but it was downright painful to look at all the food I couldn’t eat (the wonderful, rich, and delicious varieties of food) knowing I should stick with a salad (no cheese, tomatoes, or croutons, please!) and the dressing I made at home. I was asked if I was on a diet, why I didn’t eat more, and sometimes caught glances that said something like, “Wow. You sure are a picky eater.”

What did I do about it? Well after I cried a lot (I already mentioned that, didn’t I?), I went to God. More than I cried. I begged and pleaded. I prayed and prayed. I read Scripture about His healing. I read verses about hardship and perseverance. I read about Paul’s thorn and God’s grace.

And I went to the altar. I went forward during church services at our home church (then and now), when we were visiting other churches, during revivals. I was seeking God’s healing touch while I was in the store looking for xanthan gum and quinoa flour, while I was mixing my salad dressing and packing lunches at home, when I was making the trip to buy bulk rice and tapioca flours.

God knew what I was going through. Of course He did. But He didn’t heal me.

Not until October 28, 2018.

It was a Sunday, and our Pastor asked if anyone wanted to come forward. I can’t remember everything he said, but I know I heard, “If you want more of God…”

I was on my feet. I wasn’t thinking about food. Not one bit. I just wanted to be immersed in God’s presence.

And I was. God wrapped me up in His glorious presence and brought me to the floor and knocked those food allergies right out of my body. (Praise God!!)

I can’t even explain how my heart swells, how thankful I am when I stare at a plate of food (like pizza!) I can actually eat and enjoy; one that no longer sends me to bed for hours in my sweatpants or makes my face break out in hives. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve giggled over the taste of something I haven’t eaten in years or the kid-in-a-candy-store face I’m sure I make when I get to visit the buffet at a restaurant with friends.

There is so much more to write, dozens of things I’m learning from all of this; obeying God by using wisdom and moderation is a biggie. (An example of wisdom: the pizza I found in our freezer and used in the above photograph expired in 2017! So even though it smelled great when I heated it in the microwave for its little photo shoot, I’m throwing it out! 🙂 )

But today, my friend, I need to leave you with a few things I learned that I hope will help you if you’re struggling:

Don’t give up. Never. Ever. No matter what lie the enemy is whispering. No matter what’s going on with someone else. You. Keep. Going.

Keep seeking God. Always. In all things.

Trust God’s timing. Seriously.

Don’t be discouraged in your waiting. Take a deep breath. I know it’s hard. But you’re going to make it. Hang in there.

And always remember: God’s got you, my friend. He sees you. He knows you. And He cares.

Always.

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV.)

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8 NLT.)

“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1 NIV. This is the parable of the persistent widow.)

 

A Fuzzy Hug from God

winston

Our daughter was sick for a week battling a nasty winter bug. She coughed day and night, literally, and fought off fevers with medications, cool baths, and time.  But one particular medication worked better than all the others:  Encouragement.

You know. A card comes in the mail (thank you, Candie!) and you get phone calls or texts from family and friends who care and miss you, and someone even stops by with a little chocolate they deliver at arm’s length to lift your spirits.  Suddenly the cloudy, germ-infested bubble you’ve been in for days lets in a little light.  Your smile ignores the fever.  The cough comes again, but this time it’s not alone; laughter shows up, telling that illness, “Your days are numbered so enjoy them while you can, buddy boy.”  Laughter is pretty tough like that.

Of course God uses us to encourage one another, to bring out smiles and revive the laughter. But what about when God Himself shows up to encourage you, to offer you a hug when you need it most.  Let me explain:

My daughter and I were at the drugstore, waiting on her prescription and passing time by admiring all of the discounted Valentine’s Day chocolates and stuffed animals. I do love a good sale on chocolate!  There was a sea of adorable stuffed animals:  frogs, bears, dogs, and one enormous bear about the size of my daughter.  She of course fell in love with every one of them as I remained strong.   Yeah, right.  We circled around the store and found another aisle of stuffed animals on sale.  I rolled my eyes and said, “Sure we can look,” as I followed her.  That’s when we saw the most adorable stuffed bear.  She picked him up, handed him to me, and I was in trouble.  Those cute little eyes and the softness of his fuzzy curls, and I was in BIG trouble.

But her prescription was ready, so I put the little guy back, saddened as I noticed he was the only one just like him, and we went back to the pharmacy. I felt a tug, this dragging-my-feet sensation as we got in line.  Silly, right?  My daughter looked at me, not realizing how much I liked that bear, and said, “He sure was cute.”  I stared back at her, took a deep breath, and agreed with her on the way back to get him.

We had so much fun with our new family member, Winston, on the way home. We admired him in all his adorableness, talked for him, told stories about his waiting for a family in the store, how others picked on him, and how he felt when we put him down and walked away. (Did I mention we both have rather large imaginations?)

But only God knew days later it would be my turn to get sick and with everyone out of the house, I was going to feel cooped up in that bubble and a little lonely. Thankfully, God nudged me days before to go back and get Winston, so I was able to stand in our living room and be encouraged and comforted by God through a wonderful, fuzzy hug.  Of course, the smile came right after.

If you’re in need of some encouragement today, my friend, God is with you and I’m praying for you.  And Winston is sending you a hug.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”  (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV.)

 

Why, God?

midnight

It was around midnight when our daughter started to cough again. It’s not just a little annoying cough that goes away in a few seconds but a stubborn, cruel one that can take her breath away, leaving her red-faced and me panicking and rushing to her with a glass of water.

Of course I prayed. I prayed over her during the day, at night while she slept, while I brushed my teeth.  You name it, and she was on my heart and in my prayers to God.  And during one of those sleep-deprived nights of listening and going over the checklist in my mind of things I could try, a question crept into my mind:

Why, God?

I cringed as it began to grow at rapid speed into other questions. Why won’t you help her? Why is this happening?  What am I supposed to do?

I grabbed a hold of those questions and whispered out something different, “Please help her.” And a beautiful stillness flowed from her room.  She had stopped coughing and fell back to sleep.  I thanked God.  But I still held my breath and listened for the coughing to return.  It didn’t until the next day.

As I spent time with God the following morning, I told Him I was sorry. Sorry for doubting Him in the midst of my worries.  Sorry my faith jumped out the window.  But just like the awesome God we have, He forgave me and then began to teach.

He reminded me of our daughter’s prescription, the handout that came with it from the pharmacy. It states something like your doctor believes the benefits of this medication outweigh the negative side effects.

And then God made it even clearer what He wanted me to understand: The benefits from this situation will far outweigh the illness.

As the day went on and I took our daughter to another doctor where she was given an inhaler, I started to consider something. Maybe there is an underlying illness like asthma working here and now we will be aware of it.  Or maybe, just maybe, we will never know the “why” but we know “Who,” the Great Physician Who always has a plan and knows the benefits to come far outweigh the current struggle.

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Corinthians 4:17 NLT.)

Crunch Time

crunch-time

Are you going through a crisis in your life? Or maybe you just have a lot of questions about the things you’re going through and you want answers, you need answers.  The right ones.

The Bible has every answer for every problem you have. That sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  But it’s true.  It’s not just for those individuals who were living during biblical times; it’s for us, you and me, right now.

Do you feel alone?

God says He’ll never leave you.  (Hebrews 13:5.)

Are you having marital problems?

God gives us a plan.  (Ephesians 5:22-33.)

Money issues?

Jesus taught a lot about money.  (Matthew 6:24.  This is only one example.)

Concerns about the lack of morality in the world today?

God explains.  (2 Timothy 3:1-5.)

Consumed with fear or discouragement?

God says He’ll be with you wherever you go.  (Joshua 1:9.)

Afraid to die?

If you choose Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, the best is yet to come.  (John 14:1-6.)

Don’t understand what you’re supposed to do with your life?

God knows exactly why He created you, and He wants to tell you.  (Jeremiah 29:11-13.)

Have serious trust issues?

God is THE One you can trust.  (Proverbs 3:5-6.)

Struggling with illness?

Go to God in prayer.  (James 5:14-15.)

Afraid of what the future holds?

God is always in control. (Isaiah 46:9-10.)

Feel like you’re worthless?

God made you. You have great worth.  (Matthew 10:29-31.)

Do you take the time to read the Bible? If not, why?  (I promise I’m not trying to badger you!)

Are you afraid to read the Bible because you think you won’t understand it? There are so many translations to choose from so you can find one that you understand.  (I use the NIV a lot.)

Are you worried about what other people might think; that you’re some fanatic or nut? Maybe they’ll think that and maybe they won’t.  But don’t worry if they do.  You’ve got a ton of people on earth and in heaven who know you’re very wise to read the Bible and will be cheering you on as you grow closer to God.

Or maybe you’re simply afraid you’ll have to change if you read the Bible. Just remember, the caterpillar changed into a butterfly.  So do you want to crawl around through life or feed on God’s word so you can soar?  Perhaps it’s crunch time for you.

Open up the Bible, my friend, and let it feed your soul.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8 NIV.)

butterfly