pounds & persistence

my journey toward fitness and wellness and faith

Breakfast Recipes

OK, so this blog is titled POUNDS and persistence. Lately, I’ve focused so much on persistence, you may have thought I forgot all about the pounds. Oh no, I haven’t forgotten. They’re still there, starting me in the face every time I shower, eat, buy a new swimsuit… it’s still very much about the pounds. But since my diagnosis, it’s also been about the health. I’d love to shed the extra inches, if not just to look better naked and strut that in front of my hubby, but I care more about choosing good things to eat and exercising because it’s good for my long-term, overall health. While some people think this way naturally, are maybe genetically predisposed to think log-term and care about what’s good for them 10 or 20 years from now, for me, it’s been a whole new approach.

In any case, I’ve been making small but steady changes to my diet, some of which have been informed by the research I’ve done on MS and various MS diets, and some of which have been informed by just basic good rules to good living that most of us are aware of. For example, I no longer eat red meat. I’m eating protein, don’t you worry, but a lot of the stuff on MS diets I had read suggested that you forgo the red kind of meat and therefore I’m abstaining. This is hard when we pass an Outback Steakhouse and I think of all the delicious beefy steaks I’m missing out on, but generally this has not been TOO difficult as there are usually some kind of turkey or chicken or veggie substitute for more red meat items. Even my husband has learned to like a good turkey sausage or ground turkey tacos, so my largest hurdle there is behind me.

However, I’ve been struggling a bit with breakfasts. I have to eat in the morning. You’re supposed to break the fast. And people who eat breakfast have generally less pounds to lose than those who don’t. And it’s the most important meal of the day. And, most significantly to me, if I don’t eat something and I just consume 8-10 oz of coffee with my multi-vitamin and fish oil supplements, I will be incredibly nauseous and potentially vomit later, which is really not convenient in the middle of teaching first period. Therefore, I eat. But I haven’t been wowed by what I’m eating. In fact, since I’m really not a morning person, I usually stumble downstairs and grab anything that doesn’t require much effort, say a banana or some instant oatmeal, while I watch my coffee brew and wait for my dogs to do their business. Much more work than this, and I just can’t manage it. But this morning meal is boring, lackluster and, perhaps, nutritionally dull. So I’ve been looking for something else.

Given that it’s summer and therefore I have more time to prepare something interesting, I’m thinking of giving this recipe by Skinny Taste a go. It looks suspicious, but she claims that it is delicious and she has never steered me wrong yet. Additionally, I’ll be giving my body so many vitamins and nutrients I suspect that it will preform better for me and even be happy with me later in the day. Let me know if you find any other yummy breakfast options…

Skinny Green Monster Smoothie
Adapted from Oh She Glows
Skinnytaste.com
Servings: 1 • Serving Size: about 2 cups • Old Points: 5 pts • Points+: 6 pts
Calories: 253.4 • Fat: 4.0 g • Carb: 38.6 g • Fiber: 5.5 g • Protein: 17.5 g • Sugar: 18.4 g
Sodium: 236.7 mg 

Ingredients:

  • 1 small frozen ripe banana, peeled
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 1 tbsp Better n Peanut Butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt (I used Chobani)

Directions:

Place all the ingredients into the blender, add ice (optional) and blend until smooth.

Celebrity

As many of you may already know, yesterday Jack Osbourne announced that he has recently been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I wasn’t aware of this, as I rarely follow celebrity news, until a friend told me and then I looked it up. Apparently, just three weeks after his new daughter was born, he noticed some signs that something was off, such as numbness and vision loss. He went in for tests and low and behold, it was MS. He has said in a recent interview that he was shocked, angry, sad… all the things I would expect him to be. Then he says that he decided that this wallowing wasn’t helping, so he was going to have a positive attitude, and learn to adapt and overcome. He also has great hope in the medication he’ll be using and in changes to his diet and exercise routine.

I’ve SO been there, so I could understand these comments and even sympathize. What I couldn’t wrap my mind around, however, was his very public sharing so soon after his diagnosis. I mean, his daughter was just born in late April, which means he’d have noticed his symptoms mid-May and been diagnosed sometime around there. 1 month later, the magazines are printing the article. There’s just no way I’d have been ready to go with something this life changing so fast. And more than that, he’s taking CRITICISM! I mean, if you read any of the websites running the story online, people are commenting after the story and many people are criticizing him or even his family, as if his sordid past or his father’s drug use have anything to do with this disease. People have said that he’s just seeking the spotlight, as if anyone wants to have THIS news to share publicly. People have said that he is touting one course of action, drug therapy, and he should be touting another such as holistic medicine or acupuncture or organic veganism. In the midst of an incredibly difficult and personal time, he is actually facing negativity and anger instead of just support and well-wishes. I can’t possibly imagine how he is doing that or even why!

But as I was talking with the hubby last night, it occurred to me that perhaps, because of his celebrity status, he felt he had to share this information publicly. Maybe to use his status to raise awareness. Maybe to raise funds. Maybe to spur researchers on to a cure. Or maybe, just as likely in my mind, because he figured that the media would eventually find out about it anyway and he wanted to control the flow of that information. Which makes me sad for him.

One of my biggest frustrations during the confusing time of my diagnosis was the prying of other people. I shared the news with select individuals, either because I trusted them and needed an outlet to share or because I felt that our relationship was close enough that they had a right to know. And several times, I was sorely disappointed by the fact that they chose to share this information, MY information, with others. Just last week, I went to visit an old colleague who I was close to and who I have missed and when I shared my diagnosis with him, he was already aware. Not because I’d had an opportunity to share this very personal, very real struggle with him. Because he had already been informed by someone who I thought I could trust. I felt betrayed. I imagine that, at some point, someone would have leaked the information about Jack Osbourne to the media and he would have felt betrayed too.

Why do we feel the need to do this? Why, in our society, are we so consumed with the goings-on in other peoples lives, things which do not concern us, things in which we do not need to meddle, that we compromise their privacy. I have another friend who has been diagnosed with a terminal neurological disease. Most of the mutual friends and acquaintances we have do not know. He co-workers can not know. She will not even share with me the name of this disease. She guards over this with great secrecy, because she’s been burned before. Because her trust has been violated before. Because she’s been betrayed. And I feel sad for her that many times she must have suffered along through things, the emotional toll of this disease, the physical toll, because she was too afraid to share with others who might betray her trust to someone else.

I understand that Jack Osbourne is a celebrity and therefore he must be braver than the rest of us. By releasing this information all at once to everyone in the public, he can’t really be discriminated against in his work place, as I am so afraid I will be. But he can still be pitied in conversation by acquaintances. And he can be judged. And he can be underestimated. And so I admire his bravery in announcing this news publicly, especially so quickly after his diagnosis. But I also think that I, for one, would never, ever want to be a celebrity and have all that scrutiny, that lack of privacy, that invasion of my emotion, placed on me. I guess I’m just too private a person.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!

Summer is here! The sun is out and so is school! In honor of this, I am making ch,ch,ch,changes! First, a new look. Fresh for summer, I decided to put some RED in my hair! It’s bright red, almost kool-aid color, but I’m diggin’ it.

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A new ‘do wouldn’t be enough of a change, however. This blog is all about POUNDS and persistence, and what better way to shed some pounds and prove my persistence than with some exercise. My hubby has been talking quite a bit lately about getting some kind of exercise machine in the house so that he can use it too. He swears that since he got a promotion at work in September, he’s not only been more stressed but also less fit, as he is no longer getting the kind of physical exertion he used to. And so we went to look at treadmills and ellipticals and stationary bikes and after much measuring and speculating, ended up with an elliptical trainer!

 The ceilings in our row home basement are low and so we needed to put any exercise equipment on the upper floors, and a treadmill would just have too much impact to go in an upstairs bedroom. So, we ended up rearranging the office to now look like this…

We’ve had it for almost two weeks and, except for the days directly before or after the bike race, I’ve used it every day. My hubby is also loving the convenience, though neither of us really loves to work out. However, getting to watch our favorite shows on the iMac while we sweat sure does help! Hopefully, this step, coupled with the red meat free diet I’ve been embracing, will help me shed pounds AND feel well. Baby steps really…

We Did It!!

I know it could sound haughty and arrogant and self-centered, but I’ve got to say that I am so freaking PROUD of myself. And Anna. And, of course, my mom and dad and even sisters Tessa and Brie, but mostly Anna and I. We did it. We completed 30 miles. We really weren’t sure we could.

Friday afternoon, the afternoon before the race, Anna and I had agreed that we would meet at my house early to try to beat some of the traffic going over the Chesapeake Bay bridge. No matter how early we left, however, we were destined to sit a spell in bumper to bumper misery simply because the Chesapeake Bay bridge is the primary route to Ocean City and to all other ocean front towns. And because it was the last day of school for Anne Arundel County students, so many families would be celebrating. And because that last day of school was a half day. I  too felt like celebrating, as summer is just as much a welcome break for the teachers as it is the students, and my celebration apparently would be to complete a 30 mile bike ride. I was beginning to think that my mother HAD really started to rub off on me…

The drive was long but lovely and we kept each other company the whole way. We checked into our enormous hotel room and promptly took a short nap. Anna and I awoke to our parents knocking on our hotel room door, prodding us to the race registration check-in and dinner. They were excited and animated and, even here on the Easter Shore at a bike race they’d never participated in, knew some fellow cyclist. As Anna and I exchanged knowing glances, they introduced us to RUNNING friends that were now also CYCLING friends who we just HAD to meet. Figures. At the race registration, however, we discovered that, because of the generosity of my family, I had raised $1000 and now qualified for a “Top Crab” jersey, which I would get to wear throughout the race. I was just hoping to raise enough money to meet the $300 minimum for entry and not have to pony up any of my own funds to cover the difference, so this was unexpected and very special. I was getting pumped.

After an upbeat, fun dinner with Mom and Dad, Anna and I headed back to our hotel to wait for Brie and Tessa to arrive. When I called Tessa months prior to the race and asked her if she’d like to pedal it with me, she tactfully replied that she wouldn’t be able to carve out the time for training leading up to the race because of her other obligations and, therefore, she would definitely not be participating IN the race. But neither hell nor high water can keep Tessa away from any event where all her other sisters are assembled, so she registered as a volunteer, left the babies with her hubby and trekked to the Eastern Shore. When I first mentioned the race and the idea of volunteering to Brie, she didn’t even hesitate. She immediately registered as a volunteer and began contacting the appropriate people to make sure that both she and Tessa could be stationed at the same rest stop. They showed up, wine in hand, after a full day of work and a long drive out the Chestertown, MD, ready to volunteer their hearts out.

The morning of the race, Anna and I were nervous. The race organizers had provided all meals for registered participants and volunteers, and so we would be eating in the cafeteria with the other would-be racers. Neither Anna nor I had ever wished so fervently that we had only volunteered for something, not actually participated in it. I managed to choke down my eggs over the butterflies in my stomach while Dad cracked jokes and made conversation and Mom sorted out last minute details, like where the start line was and what time they actually had to begin the race. Since they were participating in the Metric Century ride, a 62/63 miler as it were, they would start before us and, after some serious prodding on Mom’s part, they headed off in the direction of the start line. Tessa and Brie returned to inform us that they had to ship out to their assigned rest stop, but they wished us well and assured us that we would see them as soon as we could managed to pedal to their stop, hopefully still upright and coherent. Anna and I were alone and a little apprehensive. We were freaking out. We got our bikes, checked the tires, added air, adjusted a chain that had partially come off, all of which made us feel tough, but did not calm our nerves. At 9:00, we set off from the start line.

The first 5 1/2 miles we had to cover before we reached Brie and Tessa and their promised rest stop were largely very flat and not that difficult. It took a few miles to readjust to being on a bike again, and our rears complained during that entire adjustment period, but by the time we pulled into Kent County High School, we were feeling ok. We spent just a few minutes chatting with Brie and Tessa, or rather, guzzling water while they talked to us, and then were off again. Shortly after we left their encouraging smiles, however, we discovered the hills.

We weren’t expecting hills. We had been told, by our mother no less, the woman whose brain child this whole adventure was, that this course was flat. In fact, I distinctly remember that as a selling feature when she was pitching this idea of a 30 mile bike ride to me. And there they were anyway- hills. On the second hill, Anna informed me that we were walking to the top. I dutifully hopped off my bike- there would be no leaving one man behind. We guzzled our gatorade and pushed on, hill after hill. We walked just one more hill and seriously considered turning around, right there at whatever mile we were at, and starting back for the finish line, when we ran into an encouraging cyclist who assured us that the half-way point, and therefore rest stop, was only 1/2 a mile further. We trudged on. “1/2 a mile” might have been a slight exaggeration on the part of the cyclist, but she was well-meaning and we pulled into the second rest stop exhausted and discouraged. And heard someone calling our names.

As we feebly dismounted onto shaky legs, our mother, beacon of all fitness, called excitedly over to us, all smiles and enthusiasm. I could have strangled her with her helmet strap. She looked so happy and not nearly as drained as we were, despite having completed over 30 miles already that morning. Our father was no better, all chatty and positive. For them, this seemed to actually be FUN. All Anna and I wanted to do was find some shade to curl up and give up. But they brought us lunch, complete with SANDWICHES and COOKIES and SODA! After 30 minutes and the best sandwich of my life, Anna and I felt like new women ourselves and understood our parents buoyed spirits. We even enjoyed seeing them and hugged them before they headed out on their final half of the race.

The next 7 miles were hard- the day was so damn hot!- but not impossible and we learned to master the art of removing the water bottle while pedaling, drinking, and then replacing the water bottle while gliding. We felt accomplished. We pulled into the rest stop at mile 22 happy to see that it was the same rest stop as earlier and that we would see Brie and Tessa again. In fact, they took care of us from the moment they saw us, helping us off our bikes, getting us drinks in the shade, filling our water bottles and even taking our bikes over the mechanic at the stop for more air and a thorough once over. They did not, however, cave to my plea that they stuff us and the bikes in the back of Brie’s Ford Fiesta and take us to the finish line. As we climbed on our bikes for the final miles, however, we felt remarkably better.

At 1:00 on the nose, we pedaled across the finish line. Even with our long breaks at the rest stops, we were able to finish in 4 hours, which was much better than we thought we’d do. As we pedaled the final leg of the race, Anna even began planning for next year, began talking about how much fun it’d been and how nice everyone was. As if on cue, some of the more experienced, better cyclist came along side us and began chatting with us, keeping us company for a few of the final miles. There was music and medals and sandwiches and Rita’s mango italian ice in the shade.

Two by two, the rest of our family began to show up and assemble, relaying their accounts of the day. Tessa and Brie had great stories and a little bit of sunburn from the rest stop; Mom and Dad had great fun and photos from their ride; Anna and I had a huge sense of pride and accomplishment and a gratefulness that we had survived. But we also realized that we had all enjoyed ourselves. We realized that we had all gotten something positive from the experience. We realized that this was the first time just the 6 original Foster Family had been away together since before Anna’s engagement 6 years ago. And we realized that we would do it again, may even ask for donations again, next year. Prepare yourself now, we may come a knockin’!

Ready for the Race

"Top Crab" jersey

Best Volunteers EVER!

All the "Fierce Foster" team

Grace

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This poster is something I found on pinterest recently. What I love about it, other than the verse at the bottom, is all that comes before that verse, is the dire circumstances listed, the great heroes of the Christian faith who were in impossible situations. And if you’ve ever spent anytime in a Sunday school class, you know all about how their stories turned out- as a pretty big deal. I mean, they are called HEROES after all. But I wonder if it felt heroic to them?

I mean, to them, they’re just an ordinary guy with a bad problem, an impossible situation, a big secret maybe. And it probably seemed pretty hopeless. Awful, no good, terribly bad. And they probably felt pretty weak. But then, God’s grace WAS sufficient, just as the verse says. Better yet, his power was made perfect through their awful, no good, terribly bad situation. Through their weakness.

The whole verse in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 says “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” You can see why I’m a little obsessed with this verse lately.

The thing I find so amazing about this verse is that the speaker in it is clearly stuck in some difficult situation he doesn’t want any part of. He asks God to take it away, to remove it, maybe even to heal him miraculously. And then God just says “no.” In fact, God says “heck, no!” Why? Because he isn’t powerful enough to do it? Because he doesn’t like this guy enough to help him out? Because he’s feeling especially lazy that day?

Because he wants us to trust him and only him and then to show off to the world around us what a God we serve.

Apparently, our hardships are not too big for us to handle when we’ve got God around. Apparently, our suffering is manageable when he’s on our team. And apparently, his grace will make us powerful when we are weak, which will be a testimony to bystanders. This man believes God is powerful and God is good and he knows God can take his painful situation away, so he asks for that. Bold move! But God’s response instead is that he won’t remove the problem, he’ll just make you capable of handling the problem as you get close to him.

Sometimes I wonder what I’d be like without this diagnosis. I feel like its already changed so much in such a short amount of time. I wonder what I’d be worrying about, thinking about, obsessing about. I wonder how I’d feel about my faith. I feel so strongly that his grace HAS been sufficient for me precisely when I’ve been weak and that has been a powerful thing. I know why this guy wants to boast about his weakness- its a pretty awesome thing to have God’s power rest on you. He really does take our weakness and make us strong.

Then he says something I find most startling, most provocative of all. He says he is content with hardships. He’s also apparently OK with weakness, insults, persecution and calamities. Even the really tough, ugly stuff is just fine by him.

I don’t really feel that way.

I mean, CONTENT has always been a kind of a dirty word to me. I’ve never been real good at mastering it. One time, in high school, my teacher shared a verse from Psalms with me that talked about God being a loving, protective Shepard and then said “I feel like, when you read that, all you can see are fences keeping you in and a man with a big stick holding you back.” Yep, he nailed it. Being content has never been my strong point. So I find it even more amazing that in the midst of suffering and hardship, he not only has grace, he also has contentment. Peace.

When I was diagnosed, I was careful about what I’d ask for prayer for from others. I asked for peace, for courage, for clarity. I asked that it not hinder my husbands budding quest for God, that it not hurt our relationship, that we be stronger for it. I never asked for healing. It’s not because I didn’t think God was capable of that, of course he is, or because those kind of miraculous healings don’t really happen anymore, I’m sure they could, but more because I didn’t want to get my hopes pinned on that. I didn’t want to fixate on this being taken away just because I didn’t like it, just because it sucked. Somehow I was sure, am surely convinced, that there is a reason for this, a purpose behind it, even if that purpose is just to point out how weak I really am and help me depend on God’s grace the way I really always should have. I was scared of an MS diagnosis, but there was grace for that. I was scared of my injections, but there’s been grace for that. I’m scared of the future, of all the ways I might lose myself and my abilities, but there will be grace for that. Who knows, maybe as I learn to depend on God’s grace more, God’s power might really be a sight to behold in me. Maybe this weakness is exactly what he had in mind. Maybe I should learn to be content too.

20 miles later…

I’m sore this time. In preparation for the “mega ride” in less than two weeks, my lovely sister and I undertook a whopping 20 mile bike ride yesterday. Which is only 2/3 of the total distance the National MS Society, and all our supportive friends and family, are expecting us to cover in just over a week and a half, but it was daunting to us nonetheless. When she came to pick me up at the ungodly hour of 7 am (on a federal holiday no less), we kept commenting on our apprehension about the distance. Mostly jokingly, we developed a whole host of perfectly reasonable and only slightly ridiculous ways to get out of riding so far, to convince some poor young race official with a golf cart to give us a lift to the finish line in order to pose for victory pictures. Fake a stroke, pull a hamstring, imitate an epileptic seizure… anything but pedal our chubby behinds 20 miles, let alone 30! We created and laughed about our ridiculous ideas for the first 5 miles. Then we chatted about weighty life issues for the next 7. Then we laughed about trivial stories for the next 4. Then we suffered in almost silence through the last 3. We arrived, sore and out of breath but very, very proud, to the parking lot 19 miles later. We can do this.

We bike again Saturday. We know we can go at least 20 miles, and we think maybe more. We know we’ll be sore, my lower back and my calves were tender all day today, but we also know we won’t keel over. And, more importantly, we know we’ll be together. We know that when one of us needs a break, the other will hop off her bike and walk too. We know that when one of us is huffing too much to carry the conversation, the other will pipe up with a story. We know we’ll share water, share a sweat rag, share encouragement. Riding with my sister is a lot like living life with her- she’s in it with you. She’s never ahead of me, that annoying person who’s jogging backward, breathing lightly and coyly calling out bubbly encouragement from her perfectly fit lungs. She’s the girl who is huffing along next to you, telling you that you can’t stop, you have to get your chubby butt around the next bend, because she can’t stop either and it’s just as tough for her. There’s something really comforting about that. There’s something wonderful about the person who is struggling next to you, encouraging and supporting you. There’s something so nice about how hard it is for her as well, but how willing she is to help you nonetheless.

When it comes to MS, my sister doesn’t have all the answers. She doesn’t always know the perfect thing to say or the way to make it better. But she cares and she’s not quitting and she’s perfectly willing to live life with me, even a life with MS, even when life is messy. And she’s not the only one. I’m so blessed that my whole family will be at this ride- my parents riding the 100 miler, my other two sisters volunteering. They’re in it with me. My husband never blinks, not even a little, at the hand we’ve been dealt, what this could mean for our future. He’s in it for the long haul and he’s in it with me. My aunts, my uncles, my in-laws, my cousins- people have come out of the woodwork to support me, with donations, with emails, and I am so blessed.

I was commenting to my sister that part of what drives me to finish the 30 miles is the selfish hope that they use the funds raised and find a cure in my lifetime. It would be wonderful to see that. But another part of the motivation is simply because I have MS and I CAN ride 30 miles, and so many others can’t. I DO have a wonderful support system and do many others don’t. This will change my life, yes, but it doesn’t have to end my life and that is worth pedaling 30 miles for. Or at least 20- I know we can get at least that far!

By the way, our team name will be the “Fierce Fosters”. It only seemed appropriate.

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Sore and Psyched!

Yesterday, my sister and I pulled out our bikes, blew the winter dust off them, and set to the task of riding. Today my bum is sore.

We only got 10 miles done. Considering that the National MS Society bike ride in just 3 weeks is 30 miles, this is a little pathetic. But, my bike had two almost flat tires (don’t ask me how, I DID pump them up before we loaded them into the truck) and the 5 miles down the B&A trail we initially rode were grueling. Also, neither of had been on a REAL bike, as opposed to a stationary bike, in a LONG time and the hamstrings were complaining more than a little bit. However, once we had air in the tires and warmed up muscles, the riding was smooth. Not easy, but smooth. My lungs adjusted and stopped screaming. My thighs felt strong and powerful. My seat did not have as much cushion as I would have liked.

Today, my muscles aren’t sore. My legs aren’t cramping. And I bought a pair of padded biking knickers, so I’m psyched! Next weekend, we will pedal 20 miles. We will, very likely, still be the slowest chicks on the trail and, very likely, the obvious rookies, but we will be able to pedal the whole thing with the help of gatorade and chamois padding. And then, in a few weeks, 30 miles! My other two sisters are registering as official race volunteers and crashing with us in the hotel room. My parents are going to get matching jerseys and we will all be registered as a team. I’m getting so excited…

What do you think of the team name “Fab Foster Four”?

Easy

The last two days have been hard. Really hard. Unexpectedly so. Two days ago, I drafted my letter to my family asking them for their pledges and support while I participated in the upcoming bike ride. While I was writing it, my mom suggested that I include some information about what MS is, for those that aren’t familiar. I thought this was probably a good idea so I logged on the internet and poked around until I found some info to include. While I poked, however, I also found a whole myriad of possibilities for those with MS. None of them were good. Blindness. Paralysis. Dementia. Awesome.

Of course, I know about these things and the potential to develop them myself. But I had chosen to stay very focused on my own disease, my own treatment, my own experiences, and not let others bring me into a whirlwind of anxious “what if'”s. That is until two days ago.

The last two days, all I’ve been able to think about are the “what if'”s. All that keeps running through my head is how futile it is for me to have a bike rack installed on my manual transmission car (my husband’s latest and greatest idea), if I might lose the ability to drive, let alone bike. I’ve had bad allergies and am taking allergy medicine in addition to all the other preventative measures I’m taking, and the last few days I’ve been just exhausted. And I’ve had a headache. And I’ve been terrified that this could be some kind of flare-up of the MS, that maybe my brain was developing more lesions. I know that this is not likely, but the last couple of days I’ve just been scared, and fear is not known for it’s rationality.

The neurologist that said that at my one year mark, I’d have another MRI. He said that if those scans were clean, I could start thinking about all the things I wanted to do with my life, maybe even have a child, because the treatment was effective. And he said that he has great confidence that my scans will be clean. But the last 48 hours, I’ve been thinking a lot about the alternative.

So tonight, as I was cooking dinner, I was playing some of that “christian rock & roll”, as my husband calls it, and a few things occurred to me. First, in Matthew 11:29-30 Jesus says “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” I heard this verse in a song and scoffed a little- THIS burden doesn’t seem light, THIS yoke sure as hell doesn’t seem easy. How can he say this? How can he claim that if we draw close to him it’ll be all rainbows and puppy tails? Easy and light? Was he thinking of MS when he said this? And then it occurred to me- it isn’t easy because it isn’t hard work. It’s light and easy because he’s helping me, and the burden is easier to bear with him. In fact, because he’s so strong, he’ll bear the brunt of it.

As I was ruminating on these ideas, another song came on. The lyrics say “when the darkness closes in still I will say, blessed be the name of the Lord, blessed be your name.” And I was thinking, I really don’t FEEL like blessing you for a yoke, a burden, no matter how light you say it’ll be, no matter how much you say you’ll be helping me. And then the next line “my heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be your name.” Ah, there it is. CHOOSE. I won’t praise his name because I feel like it. I won’t praise his name because it’s all peachy keen and roses. I won’t praise his name because I have no burdens or even because he promises to make them light. I will praise his name because he deserves it and because I CHOOSE to. I’m certainly not always going to feel like doing it. I’m certainly not always going to want to. I will have days, even weeks, where I’m scared or life is hard or this burden feels heavy. And in the midst of that, I will have to CHOOSE to praise his name, to say blessed be the name of the Lord. Because this action, this defiant decision in the face of my circumstance, directs me back to him, back to truth.

I remember one Sunday, years ago, when I was talking with a friend at church about a particularly painful experience I was going through. I had just broken an engagement and it all felt very public, very terrible, very difficult- I couldn’t imagine anything harder. And as I was talking with her, I was pouring out how hurt I was and interspersing it with how good God was, she interrupted me and said “Laurin, have you noticed that whenever you talk about the situation and how you feel, whenever the focus is that, you burst into tears. But whenever you talk about God and state the things that you know to be true, you stop crying, you’re much more calm?” It was an epiphany. It was a lightbulb moment. When I focused on God and his truth more than my circumstance, which was painful, I was solid, sure, peaceful even. This is still true today.

I will bless the name of the Lord when it is hard because he deserves it. I will bless the name of the Lord when I am irrationally afraid because it is good for my soul, it reassures me. I will bless the name of the Lord even though this situation sucks because I know him and I know that even though this isn’t MY plan, it is a good plan, because he is good. So take that fear! I’m choosing to bless him anyway. Even if it isn’t easy.

Support Letter

Today I did something rather difficult. Today I did something I thought was pretty brave. Today I came clean to my extended family about my diagnosis. I also asked for their support. In June, I will be participating in the Bike MS: Chesapeake Challenge 2012, a 30 mile bike ride with the National MS Society. The whole point is to raise funds for research in order to (hopefully) cure MS and to give money to help those living with MS. So I asked for their donations. It was hard for me to do, but I needed to keep them all in the loop as well.

You may not know this, but I come from a large family. My dad has 6 brothers and sisters and my mom has 8. And then most of them are married. With children. And grandchildren. A VERY large family. So I sent letters to as many of them as I could, mostly via email. This was hard for me. I felt a little exposed, a little vulnerable. While I knew that they would be supportive, I also didn’t want to come across as just angling for their money. Also, I don’t really like talking about my diagnosis a lot and I worried that it would become the focus of conversation the next time I saw them, every time I saw them in the future. But, at some point, I knew that they would need to know, that should my health deteriorate they would need an explanation and that, even if it didn’t, my mother was going crazy trying to keep my “secret”. So I finally ‘fessed up. To the whole giant crew.

It went pretty well. They’ve been very generous in their outpouring of support, sending my lovely emails, and in their donations, helping me dramatically toward my fundraising goal. They’ve been wonderful really. But it’s also a very significant milestone- no going back, no putting that cat back in the bag, no denying the truth of the situation now. I definitely have MS. Of course, I don’t have any different MS than I did yesterday. It’s no more serious, no more or less severe. But it certainly seems more definite. The more people that know, the more those people talk to me about it, the more it reinforces what I already know but don’t always dwell on- that my life is forever changed, irrevocably different and very likely more difficult. That sucks.

It also sucks that every moment I have from this point forward will be viewed in light of the MS. Every smile, every joke, every witty banter, which before people would just accept as part of me and my personality, could now be perceived as heroic, courageous, a really big deal, because I have MS. A diagnosis like this really does change everything, like it or not, and sharing that with others does change your relationship, like it or not. Honestly though, I don’t think my extended family will spend a lot of time dwelling on my health on a day to day basis. I’ll be a story, like so many I’ve heard, that people will tell when someone they knew receives bad medical news- “You know, I have this niece (cousin, sister, friend…) that was diagnosed with MS and she hasn’t let it effect her life- you would never even know!” I wonder if, I hope that, these people who hear the future stories of me find it encouraging and not irritating.

Coming clean with the diagnosis, taking it out of the closet to show off, means that this is forever my story. That I’ve irrevocably changed the way people view me. But it also means that I’ve been as genuine as I can be, that I’ve been as transparent as I can be, and that they really know what’s going on with me. And, of course, if they want to see how I handle it, how I feel about the diagnosis and my every day life, if they want to see whether I’m doing great or just surviving, they can check here, where I’m as honest as I know how to be. I included a link in the letter.

Blessed

Happy Mother’s Day! My mom, my sisters, my friends- I am so fortunate to know so many incredible mothers!

Usually, at churches I’ve attended, Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate the moms and to talk about how awesome the responsibility of motherhood is. And though we did thank the mothers at our church service today, we didn’t linger in it because today was BAPTISM day!

OK, so… If you know me at all, you know my husband. If you know my husband, the awesome, wonderful, super spectacular guy I have the joy to be married too, you know that he hasn’t always been the biggest fan of church. Or Jesus. Or God in general. In fact, when we married, he was a self-proclaimed agnostic. He had grown up going to churches around the country, since he was an Army brat, and had seen pretty much all the good, the bad and the ugly of church life. And he never really felt a connection to God, church, religion, any of it. And, while pursuing his Masters degree in History, he read David Hume and a few other scholars and it seemed to give him the out he needed from religion and faith. You would think that this would be an odd choice for me, since I was raised in the church. Literally grew up in the church, since I also attended the private school run by our church and I was in church at least 6 days a week. Instead of electives, I took Systematic Theology in high school. And he was agnostic. We would TALK about religion and he would ask me questions and I would respond and we loved the discussion. Neither of us attended church- I had some bad experiences in my childhood church and never bothered to go when I moved away from home and he was not interested, even on holidays.

Then, last Christmas Eve, he decided to come to church with my family. And the pastor spoke about the importance of Jesus, of God, of going to church. He said “You don’t have to go to THIS church, just find A church.” This really resonated with my husband and we began church hunting in the New Year. In May of last year, we visited our church, Lighthouse Church, for the first time. We’ve been going ever since and SO MUCH has changed.

We had attended baptisms together in the past- his nieces were baptized in the church his sister and parents attend- but it was infant baptism and I wondered how this baptism, where those participating had each made a profession of faith, were each old enough to make such a profession, would compare. I thought it was awesome. HE thought it was awesome. We both felt that it was a powerful thing to witness. And I felt so blessed.

When we initially came to this church, my husband, who was raised in a lot of churches with the more traditional hymns, didn’t feel comfortable with the singing. He would spend worship in the lobby reading his Kindle and then come into the sanctuary and sit with me for the sermon. Little by little, he became more accustomed to it and now participates in all of the service, including the worship. Initially, he kept mostly to himself and observed. Little by little he has come out of his shell more and mingled more with the people at church. He met with our pastor to have lunch and ask him questions. He is purposeful about our tithe. And, most significant to me, when I came out of the neurologist’s office after receiving the results of the spinal tap and started to cry in the elevator, my husband, the agnostic, said that we should pray about it.

A year and a half ago, I could have never dreamed of this change. One year ago, as we started attending this church, I would never have imagined how much it would impact us. But over the last 6 months, as we’ve dealt with my diagnoses and all that it entails, I’ve been so grateful. Grateful for the church and the people who care for us. Grateful for a place that my husband feels comfortable and is committed to. Grateful for the changes I see in him and in me and the way that this allows us to face the future and our problems.

I identified so much with the people I saw baptized today. Each one held up a sign before they were baptized that had, in the their own words and handwriting, on one side, what they were like before their conversion and, on the other, what they were like after. For each one, God, the church, their faith, was a catalyst for change in their lives. It has equally been a catalyst for change in my life, in my husbands life. I am so grateful for that, so blessed.

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