I first met Jennifer Love earlier this year and immediately knew we were kindred spirits. As our friendship grows, the Lord has revealed more and more commonalities that we can use to encourage one another (even in dairy-free living!). Because that’s what Jennifer does, she encourages. Even in the midst of trials and tragedy, she stops and remembers to show others the love of Christ. She sees people and, like our Lord, has compassion on them. I am honored to share her words with you today.
My second son entered the world with joy. He was such a calm baby, unlike all the months he had spent relentlessly kicking the insides of my ribs. But in the next couple of years, as he began to learn to speak, we learned that his insides were in constant turmoil too.
He was one of the many who suffer the medical trifecta of asthma, allergies, and eczema, to a severe degree. We have been down a painful and confusing road in our health, and our relationship with God, to gain any victory over these issues. His skin would itch until it bleeds, he spent hours a day getting breathing treatments, and even as a toddler her would tell us that his stomach always hurt. He knew nothing else. For any parent this is their nightmare, to watch your child suffer and after seeing countless doctors to still hold no answers.
We had tried gluten-free trials, bowel testing, steroids, ointments, and many tearful blood tests before we were asked to try now an egg-free, dairy-free diet. Dairy! A staple in the diet of a three-year-old! Milk, yogurt, cheese? This was going to be hard. This suggestion came just before we were headed to spend a summer in Germany working at a summer camp. Little did I know how challenging it would be to dine on camp cafeteria food or order and eat out in a foreign country, with only two months of German lessons. My family still laughs at me for trying hard and yet buying “egg noodles” despite my best efforts to shop in German.
Under a new pediatrician, my son has also tested allergic egg, peanuts, walnuts. And the cat. I have severe eczema on just my hands and decided to cut all of these out in case they affected me too. I also thought it would help me to sympathize and cook better for him. Stopping all of these foods overnight while traveling became a physical nightmare. But the more surprising result was all of the emotions and fears that rose out of me. And I say rose because that implies that they were always there.
On one of the first mornings on our trip, I cried because we went out to breakfast and I could not find a single thing to eat.
My husband stuffed his face with pastries and I hated the world. I cried at the grocery store because they had none of the dairy substitutes I could find at home. I cried when we got to our destination because the week ahead with my tiny bag of groceries seemed so bleak. My stomach began to quiver and feel anxious on the way to the cafeteria, never knowing if I was going to find anything we could have among the limited choices. It was more than just huger pains. It was becoming serious anxiety.
Beneath it all, I was resenting God for our issues and growing bitter at how narrow (and tasteless) my world seemed. Irrelevant lies began to fill my thoughts about God’s fairness and my ugliness and my job as a mom. And I think I was actually grieving the loss of freedom knowing that on my first trip to Europe I wanted to be able to pick up anything delicious-looking without reading any labels. I know, so dramatic and self-pitying; evidently the sleeping giants in my heart. Trials and travel will certainly bring those to light.
I sought a few faithful friends to lift my weary heart before the Father and experienced the reality check of surrendering my relatively small trials to Him in exchange for peace.
Light again shone through the gray skies that had smothered me.The enemy of our joy doesn’t fight fair. He will try any attempt to distract us or target our other insecurities. But in God’s Word and words to us, we can find the truth that breaks those arrows. Click To Tweet
The enemy of our joy doesn’t fight fair and I am better at recognizing that now, especially when the thoughts are so non-sequeter. “I’m not a good mom because my body has allergies?” He will try any attempt to distract us or target our other insecurities. But in God’s Word and words to us, we can find the truth that breaks those arrows.
I had recently read “Waking the Dead” by John Eldridge and been chewing on his idea of caring for my heart or for the heart of others. If anything, from that time, I want to walk away with a sensitivity to the heart issues that may cling to anything that we go through.
I could have just paid attention to my hunger or inner pity-party, but the real issues stemmed from my heart, not my stomach.
There were lies to reject, confessions to be made, and hope to receive.I could have just paid attention to my hunger or inner pity-party, but the real issues stemmed from my heart, not my stomach. There were lies to reject, confessions to be made, and hope to receive. #ChristianLiving Click To Tweet
Isn’t that the way it always is? With anyone around me, what am I doing to check in on and care for their heart? It’s not just a “bad day with the kids”, but a longing for stillness and peace and a return to thoughts that are eternal and not just attending to immediate needs.
It’s usually not “just a sickness”, but the anxieties and lies that chase after you in your weakness. I have been asking God to give me ears to really hear what is going on at the heart-level when others speak. We are such complicated beings of body, soul, spirit, and emotion. Too often we carry on like we are one-dimensional beings because it takes too much time to ponder the heart and lay all that lies beneath before the Lord. But through the evident multi-layers exposed through my own problems, I ask Him to help me discern them clearly in the stories of others. And care enough to address it.
Apparently, a little ice cream withdrawal is food for the spirit.
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” -Proverbs 4:23
Jennifer Love is a mom of 2 boys, who homeschools and is involved in college ministry in central Virginia. She writes and creates resources for family discipleship, parenting and Christ-centered traditions at Intentional Traditions. You can also follow her for family time ideas and kid-friendly devotions on Instagram.