Lenten Lessons Learned

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With Lenten season in full swing, I’m in the throes of day two of my sacrifice (giving up my snooze button on my alarm clock). Over the past few years, Lenten season has become more and more special to me. I love everything about it. I love the idea of sacrificing in order to better focus on Christ and what he did for us. In past years I gave up social media and found that it truly helped me stay focused on the important things in my life. Until you unplug entirely, it’s hard to see just how distracted we all are. Since I know I can do without social media now, this year I decided to switch gears and give up the snooze button on my alarm. While I write this I have to just stop and be thankful to live in a world where FB and snoozing are the things that mean sacrifice. It hardly seems meaningful when I think about God giving the life of his only son for me. Just another reminder of why it’s so important to slow down and concentrate on our faith. We have a mid-week evening church service throughout Lent and I love this too. There’s something about ending my day with a church service that leaves me feeling calm, clean and rejuvenated…most of the time anyway.

Thanks to my daughter, my 2016 Lenten season started off with a bang. Jera is three (by Easter she’ll be four). In past years, I let her stay at home with my husband since the evening services went beyond her bedtime. This year though, I thought it would be nice to share this experience with her. So I put on my big mommy pants, loaded up a couple of Barbies and matchbox cars and headed off for Ash Wednesday service with my three and seven-year olds. They’ve both set through plenty of church services, although on most church days Jera, my three year old, spends some portion of the service in the play room burning off that three-year-old-ants-in-my-pants energy. However, the  services she has attended are in the morning…NOT AT BEDTIME….let that sink in….NOT AT BEDTIME!

Everything started out innocently enough. Jera was full of liveliness, driving my son’s matchbox cars up and down the pews. Without a doubt, she was distracting.  But kids will be kids and I try not to get overly excited as long as she isn’t burning down the building. I began to sense trouble when Jera eyed the bread and wine for communion and started to fixate on the “body and blood” stating to me how hungry and thirsty she was. No, I’m not starving her. She did have dinner immediately before church service although you wouldn’t know it from talking to her.

We attend a church that practices open communion. I don’t believe there are any hard rules or age requirements on when a child should take communion at our church (but I’m not sure about that!!). Personally, I think a child should have an understanding of Christ’s sacrifice and the symbolism of it all. Soooo….let me preface this by saying that introducing my daughter to communion at 3 was probably a mistake. As she sat with me in service last month and communion made its way around, I allowed her to partake, talking her through it step by step. She was overjoyed to share in communion and I was proud that it meant so much to her. Hmmm…hind sight really is 20/20.

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Fast forward to Ash Wednesday service…it was time for communion but it wasn’t our normal communion routine where we pass the bread and wine through the pews. No, this was a “stand in line in front of the whole church and take communion one at a time” type of communion. I immediately became nervous. No other children were taking communion….this was not good for the home team. My children and I made our way through the line and Jace and Jera arrived to our Pastor in front of me. Pastor Jane leaned down and blessed my son which he accepted sweetly. Whew, he is fine with being passed over for communion. Then the Pastor leans down to bless my daughter and again, she sweetly accepts….but then….oh no….Jera just reached up with her little bitty hand and grabbed a chunk out of the bread. My 3-year old just stole a chunk of the body of Christ! The Pastor couldn’t help but notice what the little thief had just done so she smiled kindly at Jera and said “Well there you go.” Crisis adverted.

Then we hastily moved along to the wine. I quickly grabbed my cup and moved along hoping my kids were following me. Sure enough Jace was tagging right along behind me…but not Jera. No, definitely not Jera. I turn around in time to see her staring expectantly at the gentleman passing out the blood of Christ. He is looking uncertainly at her and then to me. He motions to ask if he should give her some…to which I responded, “No, that’s okay.” Jera caught wind of this denial and immediately…loudly…began to whine, “WHAT ABOUT MY BLOOOOODD??? WHERE’S MY BLOOOODDDD???? I’M THIRSTY!!!!!”

Really? Really. If I could have hidden beneath a pew, I would have. It felt like an eternity to me that I stood there in horror…and then I did the only thing I could, I moved along with my child whimpering for “blood” and took her on a trip to the water fountain to quench her undying thirst. I tried to explain to her that communion is not snack time. I tried to explain to her that it is a sacred time. I tried to explain it all but again…she is THREE.

So, needless to say, lesson learned. Three is too young to understand the miracle of communion. Duh. I’m not sure what I was thinking but leave it to my beautiful, rambunctious, kind-hearted Jera to teach me.

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As I proceed through the rest of this season, I hope to stay focused on my faith, on what has been sacrificed for me, for all of us. I hope to continue sharing my love for this season with my children (although hopefully in a less embarrassing way!).

Have you stopped to think about what this season means to you? I’d love to hear about what you’ve decided to sacrifice this Lenten season and what Lent means to you. I hope you enjoy this Lenten season with those who mean the most to you… even if it leads to a moment of total humiliation.

The Epidermis Diaries

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Meet Jera. She is my beautiful, 3-going-on-17 year old daughter. Full of energy, sass, love, fishy kisses and the best Jera hugs. She is my side-kick in all things. Her favorite things are Barbies, PJ Masks, Taylor Swift, strawberry milk and the Fresh Beat Band. She is resilient and teaches me every day what living without fear looks like. She also suffers from eczema…and I don’t use the word suffer lightly. But more on that later.

Now I have to ask, could  this be what the cure for eczema looks like???

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We’ve been through a lot on this eczema journey, and after all we’ve tried, all the doctor appointments, steroids, creams, lotions, all of the money spent, could the answer really come down to some supplements and essential oils??? I’m feeling skeptical and if you’ve dealt with eczema, you’ll know why.

At 13 months old, Jera’s skin completely and radically changed. She went from clear, soft, gorgeous baby skin to being broken out with red, rough and bumpy rashes all over her body, most severely on her elbows, wrists, knees and ankles. Her skin has gotten so bad at times that she’s had to take antibiotics to combate infections that have entered in through her open wounds. Since that time, we’ve been through EVERY over-the-counter topical treatment. Aquaphor, Cetaphil, Eucerin, Gold Bond, oatmeal baths, Epsom salts… We’ve been through the pharmaceutical gammut as well. At one point we actually found a topical steroid that did wonders for her skin, only to find out it was no longer available when we went for the refill (it had been tied to Luekemia 😖).  Needless to say I had a serious moments pause about Jera’s eczema treatment right then and there.

This entire time, we’ve been following the advice of specialists. Her very own dermatologist and allergist and still no answers. During our tenure, their advice has gone from one extreme to another. Don’t bathe her. Bathe her every day. Remove all carpeting from your home. Wrap her in a wet blanket and make her sit for an hour…it’s a great cold compress for the skin. So…I did mention she’s THREE, right?! At her last dermatologist appointment, the doctor suggested I begin punishing her when I see her scratching. His latest hypothesis is that if she wouldn’t scratch herself, she wouldn’t have the rashes and sores on her body. When I said “But she scratches herself because she itches???”, he suggested I start giving her Benadryl 4 times a day. In his words, she may be a little “out of it” but she won’t be itchy. We, as patients, put our trust in our doctors. We have to. They are the experts and we, as patients, need their knowledge and advice. My mom, Jera’s grandma, was with us at this appointment. I was so thankful to have her there to validate that this doctor didn’t have Jera’s best interest at heart. He wasn’t invested in her healing. And so it was my sign that it was time to move on.

So here we are, nearly 3 years into this battle with Jera’s skin and she’s no better today then she was in the beginning. This is a picture of what her skin looked like this morning.

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Horrible, right?! I range from feeling desperate, to sad, to frustrated. At this point, I have realized we have to keep an open mind. There is an answer out there. Our prayers will be answered but I have to be listening, attentive and leave the doubt behind.

I decided that if something comes our way, we will try it. We will not accept that she just has to live this way. Live having other children point to her red, swollen patches of skin and ask her what’s “wrong with her”. Live not being able to sleep at night because she itches so badly that she can’t rest peacefully. Live putting one toxic ointment on her body after another to get some sort of relief without knowing what the long term effects will be. There must be a cure.

Enter Iridology. This is a science that evaluates the nerve endings in the iris to determine strengths, weakness, areas of congestion and stress, among other things inside the body. Several friends have shared their personal health success stories after visiting this particular Iridologist. So I took this as a sign and made an appointment. We had our appointment this week; the lady looked into my daughter’s eye and gave us her opinion. We left the store, and in hand, we have Recover Soothing Blend (oil), Silver Shield (gel), probiotics, Pau De Arco Extract, and Flax Oil.  She advised us to give her plenty of lemon water. We’re supposed to cut down the dairy and wheat intake. Increase dark leafy greens…beets would also be a good choice (yes, I’m looking at this lady like she’s an alien…my daughter is 3 and I’m not really sure about the beets!). Her thought is that my daughter’s kidneys need help. Her body is reacting to EVERYTHING like it is an allergy because he kidneys have been overworked trying to remove the toxins from her body. Her kidneys can’t keep up. I’m not a doctor, obviously. There was more to her explanation than that but that’s what I pulled from it. If we can clean up her kidney function, her skin will heal but it will take a few months to see results.

Could it be so simple? Some diet modifications, oils and supplements? I don’t know. But I’m thankful to have a new road to travel down. A new suggestion to try. It’s been a frustrating process, but we’re praying every day that we find relief. Realizing things could always be worse, we’re taking it a day at a time and pushing forward. If this isn’t the answer, we will have our ears open for the next opportunity to help our daughter. We won’t give up. Updates to come!