Claiming God’s Promises When Prayer Is Answered In A Different Way Than We Hoped

Claiming God's Promises When Prayer Is Answered In A Different Way Than We Hoped | thisgratefulmama.com

Last Wednesday, our son had an allergic reaction to peanut butter. Peanut butter we gave him, knowing he may have a reaction.

Wait. What?

Let’s backup a bit. Our son was diagnosed with a peanut and tree nut allergy shortly after his first birthday. We quickly became Epi-Pen carrying, label-reading, question-asking protectors of our son.

All along, we have prayed for our son’s protection. And we have prayed with expectant hope for healing from all food allergies. 

Over the past two years, his tree nut blood test results have increased but his peanut results have steadily decreased.

This year, both blood and skin tests were clearly negative for peanut allergy. We hoped our prayer had been answered. 

Our allergist recommended an oral food allergy challenge. While we agreed with the allergist’s recommendation, this was not a decision we made lightly. Consenting to allow our child, who we have protected from peanuts for 6 years, to EAT peanuts is a scary thing. We also knew our son did not fully comprehend what a reaction could feel like or how dangerous and scary it could be.

We requested prayer. One day I’ll go into specifics about how so many of those specific prayers were answered.

Last week, we went to the hospital and watched our child eat peanut butter for the first time. Between the third and fourth dose of peanut butter, he began to react. The details of the reaction aren’t what I am writing about today.

Here’s what you need to know: Our son had an allergic reaction to peanuts. He is doing well and has recovered fully. We received great care and have a plan moving forward to keep him safe.

Now, let’s get back to what I do want to talk about today. Our son still has a peanut allergy and this is not the result we prayed and hoped for.

We are disappointed. I’ve had some deeply emotional moments with loved ones and before God this past week. It hurts to fully hope for something and not receive it. We hoped to celebrate his healing.

It hurts that our son will still be carrying this allergy and the possibility of serious injury or death if we make just ONE mistake. It hurts that sometimes he feels excluded or left out because of what he can and cannot eat.

It breaks my mama-heart that I cannot fix this.

When our prayers are answered in a different way than we asked and we’re feeling broken – what do we do next?

Claiming God's Promises When Prayer Is Answered In A Different Way Than We Hoped | thisgratefulmama.com 

Grieve

When we’ve prayed – in our case, for 6 years – it is OK to grieve when the answer isn’t what we asked for. We love our son and want him to be free from this burden. One way to express this grief is to lament. In Psalms, God has given us many examples of lament. It is OK to tell Him what we feel – He already knows our thoughts and won’t turn us away.

I’ve spent some time this week pouring out my heart to God – the disappointment and sadness, and how scary it was to watch our son’s reaction. It feels strange – but pretending I don’t feel these things makes my prayers fake and prevents me from feeling His comfort and peace.

God calls us to come to Him and He promises comfort.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
-Matthew 11:28-30

Claiming God's Promises When Prayer Is Answered In A Different Way Than We Hoped | thisgratefulmama.com

Claim God’s Promises

But lament isn’t just telling God how we feel – it also involves reminding ourselves of who God says He is in His Word, and what He promises to do. As we claim His promises, we acknowledge His character and sovereignty, and surrender to His will.

With my emotions out of the way, God began to show me a new perspective based on His promises – not the way I feel

This was not the answer we hoped for – but we are not without hope.

On the surface, it appears God said NO to our prayer to heal our son. But that is not an accurate answer. What God did say is ‘Not yet.’

The Bible is clear that God is ABLE to heal. There are many accounts of Jesus healing people throughout the gospels. But even Paul, who was a profoundly effective, faithful servant of God, had a ‘thorn in his flesh’ (2 Cor 12:7) that God did not heal during Paul’s life on earth.

God responded to Paul’s prayer for healing with a promise:

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.
– 2 Corinthians 12:9

Although God is ABLE, He does not heal everything we ask Him to. His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways (Is. 55:8-9). God does promise that in every weakness, His grace is enough. And He promises the power of Christ in those weaknesses.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort
-2 Corinthians 1:3

God doesn’t leave us to struggle on our own – He promises comfort. 

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
-Romans 5:3-5

God promises that our suffering, whatever it may be, will not be in vain. Furthermore, He will use it to make us more like Him, giving us hope while pouring out His love upon us.

I do not know if our son will be healed of food allergies while on earth. Romans 5 reminded me that continuing to pray and hope will not be put to shame – because God IS ABLE. I will not stop asking God to heal our son just because God hasn’t done it yet

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
-Romans 8:28

God promises that He will work in all situations for our good and for God’s glory. We have already seen God’s faithfulness in this area – good has already come from these allergies.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
-Revelation 21:4

Finally, God promises that ALL will be healed in heaven. I trust God with our son’s heart and have full confidence our son will see heaven. I also have full confidence that our son WILL be healed of all food allergies in heaven.

This morning I woke up needing to hear all of these things, even though God has been showing them to me all week. I needed to be reminded of His love and to have my soul lifted up.

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
    for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
    for to you I lift up my soul.
-Psalm 143:8

Can I let you in on a secret? This post isn’t actually for all of you. It’s for me. Sometimes we need to be reminded of truths God shows us and to speak them into our own lives. God is who He says He is. His promises are still true, even when He does not answer my prayers in the way I want Him to, when I want Him to.

Claiming God’s Promises When Prayer Is Answered Differently Than We Hoped | thisgratefulmama.com

Which of these promises do YOU need to claim in your current circumstances? 

 

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An Accident – No Longer A Slave To Fear

 

An Accident - No Longer A Slave To Fear | thisgratefulmama.comToday I am choosing to tell this story, not out of self-pity or for attention, but for two very important reasons: First, to raise awareness of Epi-Pen safety, and second, to share how God was faithful, and how His presence gave tangible peace and help in a situation that was very scary for our family. Here goes…

Yesterday was a normal summer day.

The kids and I got up, ate breakfast and took a walk to the park.

Upon returning, we got ready and a neighbor invited our son to join them for the afternoon. The girls and I ran errands and came home for naps.

30 minutes into rest time, I found our 4-year-old sunshine girl on the floor, surrounded by books. We headed downstairs to read the books in the library bag.

We read every single one.

When finished, she asked if there were more books in the bag. Standing, I told her we read them all and walked to the kitchen to start cleaning.

She dropped from the couch to the floor and looked in the bag. I washed one dish. I heard a strangely loud plastic ‘click’ and looked at her.

I couldn’t see what she was doing. She was looking down at something behind the bag on the floor. It was such a strange noise, I asked her if she had broken something.

At my voice, she looked up – her eyes wide, as big as quarters. At her shocked, fearful look I ran.

In her hand was the Epi-Pen Jr. we carry everywhere for our son’s food allergies. It was out of its case, the blue safety cap was on the floor, and the orange end was pressed into her pointer finger.

The blood made it clear it had been activated and injected into her tiny finger.

As I lifted her, clasping her finger in my hand, tears and sobs flowed freely. She cried so hard she was nearly hyperventilating – in fear, in pain, and in shock at a curious moment turned horribly wrong.

A thousand things raced through my mind as I grabbed an entire stack of napkins off of the kitchen table. I cradled her in my arms while applying pressure to her finger.

Did she have epinephrine in her system? Was it too much? Did the needle damage her finger? How could I have been so stupid to leave it in the bag where she could reach it? How could this happen with me 10 feet away?

NOW WHAT?

Familiar words flashed through my head.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. The LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
-Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

Deep breath. Thank you, Jesus.

I quickly prayed, Lord just HELP us.

I pressed my forehead to hers and spoke softly, asking her to take deep breaths with me. Needing to hold her, I needed her to be calm enough to call the doctor and have them hear me.

Though her eyes remained wet and fearful, she was able to calm down enough so I could call her doctor. I hoped they would to see her in the clinic.

The nurse quickly asked a doctor what our next steps were. Take her to Children’s Hospital. Now.

Not as I’d hoped. Fear threatened. So many What IFs?

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble
– Psalm 46:1 (NIV)

I called my mom. She left immediately to come watch the baby.

Then I took a deep breath and called my husband. You guys, I am so thankful to be married to him – he was calm and kind when he did not have to be. He immediately left work to meet me at the emergency room.

As I spoke, explaining to others what happened, she got more and more upset. I kept it as brief as possible, but needed to give enough information to be clear. She could not calm down. We snuggled for a bit and looked at her finger – still bleeding but slower.

Now I could see the wound went THROUGH her finger – in the underside of the joint at the end of her pointer finger and out the top. 

I began to be concerned about damage to her finger along with epinephrine that could be in her system.

We covered it with a band aid. Still holding her, we prayed, thanking God for being with us and asking for His peace and comfort.

I reassured her that she would be ok and that she was not in trouble. 

She told me it hurt. And that she was scared.

My mom arrived. While I grabbed my purse and phone, my mom prayed with our daughter and made sure I was OK to drive. I was, so my mom stayed with the baby and we left.

In the car, I took some deep breaths. The words from a worship song came to mind:

I’m no longer a slave to fear – I am a child of God.
(No Longer Slaves, Bethel Music)

I recalled how God has worked in my life when it comes to fear over the past few years. This is it. In moments like this I either move forward in faith, demonstrating changed character, or revert to old habits.

I prayed for strength and peace so I could help our daughter calm down and be the mom she needed right now. I prayed that even in this situation, as fear rose up, that it would not paralyze me.

There was no time for that. She needed me.

The Holy Spirit did not disappoint – His presence and peace washed over me. 

Sunshine girl was still very upset in the car. Unable to hug her while driving, I needed to calm her down with words. I couldn’t use the radio because I wanted to be sure I could hear her clearly if anything changed.

I asked her to sing me a song. I often ask her to sing to keep her busy, or to calm her down.

She would not.

So I sang to her – off key, strained, but as happy-sounding as I could manage. I sang her favorite songs from church and BSF. Worship is a powerful thing in fearful circumstances – there is not a lot of room for fear when praising God. I felt calmer, stronger, with each off-key word.

Jesus Loves Me This I Know…Holy, Holy, Holy…Joy to the World…she began whispering the words with me. So I kept going. The Bible Is A Treasure Book…Good Morning God…

Now that she was calm, I tried asking a few questions about what happened.

I asked her if she knew it was the Epi-Pen. She did not. We usually keep them in a black case. This particular pen was ‘extra’ from school, kept in the bag we use for activities, so we never forget to have one with us. (We’ll need a different plan going forward)

I asked what she thought was going to happen. She said she wanted to know what the orange part does and began choking back tears. (I’m grateful it was not closer to her face)

I asked if it surprised her. She closed her eyes and nodded yes.

I asked if it hurt. Fresh tears. Yes. 

I choked back my own tears as I considered how she was just a little girl being curious and then a needle shot through her finger. How it was scary and hurt so bad and how she was also afraid of being in trouble.

I asked if it hurt now. Surprisingly, she smiled and said her finger felt like ‘nothing‘. Upon further questioning, ‘nothing’ meant numb. While glad it didn’t hurt, numb might not be a good thing…

We rounded the corner to the hospital.

I am grateful my husband beat us there. By phone he told me exactly where to go. As we rounded the corner from the parking ramp to the emergency department, his face was kind and concerned – no judgement.

He took our daughter from my tired arms and we walked in together. His presence was a relief, encouraging and strengthening.

They handed us masks because of the recent measles outbreak. We sat with a triage nurse. This was all familiar – I remembered being here before with our son for an asthma event.

Our daughter’s vitals were good. Heart rate wasn’t too fast. Some relief set in.

She was shy but cooperative with the nurse, her bloodshot eyes peeking out over her Mickey Mouse mask.

The nurse asked questions. We answered.

And we waited.

In the room, sunshine girl wanted to sit on the bed and was thrilled to hear she could pick a princess movie.

She sat alone one the bed. She watched carefully, curious about everything the nurse and doctor did. If this child does not go into the medical profession, I will be shocked. She is brave, remarkably calm, curious and excited by every doctor visit. No matter what they ask of her – shots, looking at her injured finger, you name it – she will do it as long as she knows it has a purpose.

For the remainder of the visit – the only time she got upset was when I asked the doctor if we could dispose of the Epi-Pen at the hospital. The sight of it evoked obvious memories of pain and fear.

The doctor examined her finger and asked us all kinds of questions, starting with ‘I’m assuming this was an accident?’ I told him what happened, shoving down the mom-guilt for another day.

Long story short, her X-rays showed no fragments of needle or bone, and it appeared the needle went between the finger bones, through the joint. She could bend it with pain.

The doctor cleaned it up.

The working assumption is epinephrine injected after the needle passed through her finger, leaving behind a doozy of a puncture wound. It was both interesting and scary to learn that if epinephrine is injected in a high dose into the joint, it can cause blood vessels to constrict so much that blood flow is cut off to the finger. This constriction can be so severe, it can lead to necrosis and tissue death.

Eek.

The doctor reassured us this was not the case and sent us home with instructions to use bacitracin and band aids on the wound, give Motrin for pain, and watch for signs of infection.

As we left, the doctor mentioned these injuries are actually very common. I guess we weren’t unique.

Sunshine girl was actually pretty peppy as we left the hospital.  She was more thrilled to wear her Hello Kitty sticker and to bring home printouts of her x-rays to show people her bones.

Here is a photo of all of us in our lovely masks.

An Accident - No Longer A Slave To Fear | thisgratefulmama.com

A few lessons from this story:

  1. Accidents can happen even when a child is being supervised and in the same room with a parent
  2. Epi Pens are life-saving devices but can be quickly activated in the hands of a child with dangerous consequences
  3. While it is important Epi-Pens be accessible to adults – a purse or bag can be accessed by a child – I need to think through where ours will be located at home so we don’t forget it but have it in a safe place
  4. Children’s Hospital in St. Paul has amazing staff who were efficient, kind, and made our daughter and us feel comfortable and well cared for
  5. We have amazing family and friends who showed up and prayed for us when we needed them
  6. God is not distant – His presence and help is real and tangible and He is faithful
  7. God’s word is alive, powerful and active, giving peace and comfort in real-life circumstances
  8. How we respond in a scary circumstance may determine how our child responds
  9. God has made our sunshine girl to be amazingly calm and fascinated in medical situations

We are so very grateful.

An Accident 1 Accident 3 An Accident - No Longer A Slave To Fear | thisgratefulmama.com

Doubt

 

Doubt | thisgratefulmama.com

Last year, my daughter and I studied the book of John at Bible Study Fellowship. One theme that struck me was how John, a disciple and close friend of Jesus, identifies himself.

The one whom Jesus loved.

I was baffled by how it seemed to be new information even though I have studied John before. God’s timing is perfect – it took the entire year, but He finally revealed why this theme was so important to me.

To explain why, I need to first give you the backstory.

Our third child was born in May of 2016. She, like our firstborn son experienced silent reflux symptoms and spent her first months writhing and screaming in pain. It was gut-wrenching and we felt helpless.

Again.

Unlike the first time around, we had previous experience. We recognized the symptoms and assumed we knew what to do. Then our doctor agreed so she began reflux mediation.

But symptoms remained.

Long story short, we later learned she had a tongue and lip tie that was corrected by a pediatric dentist. Once healed, she was able to eat without choking or gulping air. Her reflux was controlled with medication.

Life settled down. She no longer writhed in pain.

And we put it behind us.

Well. Not quite.

My emotional distress over the issue lingered. I wrestled with why a child should endure such pain. And WHY it happened again to one of our children.

As feelings surfaced, I distracted myself. I reasoned – it was over, we had moved on. We had a healthy, thriving and now happy baby.

Lingering on what was felt like the opposite of gratitude. And I was grateful she was feeling better.

So I ignored it. Stuffed it. 

This was building to be more than just a little distress. Old, deep-seated emotions and pain from the first time when we watched our son struggle now mingled with the new these fresh new emotions. The old emotions had not lost their sharp, raw edge, even with the passage of time. (I’ve shared some about difficulties during my first year as a mom before. I’m not going to rehash it now but you can read about it here.)

The truth is, babies are born with all kinds of maladies and challenges – reflux is by far, not the worst. But when anything causes your child pain, it affects you deeply as a parent. This time around, our daughter’s pain also affected our other children.  They too coped with the stress of their sister’s pain and their parents’ attention being consumed by the baby.

Now, on to my doubt.

The last day of BSF is ‘sharing day’ – picture 500 women and an open microphone. Women share publicly what God has done in their lives through the study.

It’s amazing.

The morning was crazy and I was running late. As I slid into a row towards the back, I sighed with relief.

My plan was to just sit and listen to other women praise God for what He had done in their lives that year.

Then this funny thing happened. I kept having this strange thought that I needed to share. My heart started pounding and I thought – not in front of all these people.

Nope.

If the Holy Spirit has prompted you to share something before, then you know exactly what I’m talking about – whether to one person or before 500.

The heart pounding – it’s a THING.

Suddenly I’m scribbling notes with a pink sharpie on an old receipt – trying to get my thoughts in order before I head up front.

Several times in the study of John the topic of doubt came up. Each time, I quickly assessed myself (as in, not really) and pridefully said, of course I don’t doubt God!

He is who He says He is. Nothing is too hard for Him. His word is true and powerful. 

How could I doubt Him?

The most famous example of doubt is in John 20. ‘Doubting’ Thomas is not with the other disciples when Jesus appears to them after the resurrection. Thomas does not believe the disciples account and wants physical proof – to touch Jesus’ wounds.

You guys, Jesus is so kind.

He knew Thomas’ doubts and soon lovingly gave the opportunity to see and touch His wounds, without reprimand. Thomas believes and proclaims, ‘My Lord and My God!‘.

During the lecture the week we studied Thomas, we were challenged to ask God to show us our doubts and bring those doubts to Jesus. It was so compelling, I began praying before we even left the parking lot.

It wasn’t long before it was clear that I did have doubt.

I never doubted that Jesus was ABLE to prevent our children’s pain.

I never doubted He was ABLE to heal them at any time. 

We prayed and prayed. Both children were healed in His unique way, and in His time. But not in OUR Time.

So I doubted His love

For our son. For our daughter. For our family.

For ME. 

We placed our hope and faith in Him in our distress and didn’t get the response we desired. We prayed boldly. We trusted.

We pleaded and cried out before Him as we held our sweet hurting babies.

And for a time that seemed far too long, they kept on hurting.

And doubt creeped in.

Looking back, I see God’s faithfulness. He carried us, sending help and comfort, even when it felt He was far away and unresponsive.

If I had read Thomas’ story at the beginning of the year, I would have likely ignored what it challenged me to see – I wasn’t ready to face my doubt. 

But God’s loving kindness is so gentle. Before He revealed my doubt, He impressed upon me that my true identity is the one whom Jesus loves. And how the same is true for each of our children.

It is no accident that all these feelings from our firstborn were stirred up and relived with our daughter, just before starting the study of John – the gospel of love.

I will never fully comprehend on this side of heaven what God was doing when He allowed our babies to struggle. But He does show us glimpses of His work. I believe ONE reason He allowed this again in our life was to free me from the burden of doubt. 

Only after He had prepared me by showing me His steadfast love, did He reveal I doubted it. And carried around those feelings for the last 7 years.

That is long time to carry around doubt laced with pain.

So, tearfully but with unexpected boldness, I found myself speaking into an open microphone before 500 women proclaiming God’s love and confessing my doubt.

The God of restoration revealed my doubt, not to shame me, but to free me. He did it to redeem the part of my soul I had shut off from Him because it was shrouded in the fear that God didn’t really love us as I desperately needed Him to.

What a wonderful God we serve – who doesn’t leave us in our broken condition and continues to actively capture and heal our hearts! 

And He will continue to help us break free from the broken we harbor and carry around inside.

Today I stand in that freedom, knowing there will be other difficulties and hard things in my life and in the lives of our family that will challenge my faith and the truth of God’s word.

Without a doubt, there will be other doubts. 

This experience has shown me how in the past I’ve judged Thomas for his doubt.

You know what? ‘Doubting’ Thomas gets a bad-rap.

We all encounter doubts. Walking with Jesus in the midst of a broken world means we are imperfect and incapable of imperfect faith. Doubt is reality. There’s a little Thomas in all of us – when we claim to never doubt, we are deceived by pride.

As with every Bible character, their examples of imperfection and God’s loving response is left there for people just like me. And you. I’m so grateful God included Thomas’ story in the Bible to encourage us in our doubt. God wisely let us know that even one of the 12 disciples, who walked side by side with Jesus here on earth, had doubts too.

Today I stand better equipped to handle new doubts because I have experienced firsthand how Jesus knows my doubts, before I do. He does not waste them. Instead, He gently uses doubts to strengthen and embolden our faith. He draws us closer to Him and will continue to do so until we are with Him and like Him in eternity.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 (ESV)

Amen.

 

Doubt | thisgratefulmama.com

PS: If you aren’t familiar with BSF, you may want to be! It’s an international organization providing FREE, true to God’s word, Bible studies to men, women and children. Next year’s study is Romans and starts in September – check it out!

Doubt | thisgratefulmama.com Doubt | thisgratefulmama.com

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Infant Silent Reflux is NOT Silent: My Experience Nursing and Caring for Our Hurting Son During His First Year

My Experience Nursing and Caring for Our Hurting Son During His First Year | thisgratefulmama.com

This is part one of two posts about nursing a hurting reflux baby. This post is simply to share my experience and struggle nursing and caring for our son who had silent reflux.

The purpose of part two is to encourage moms and equip those who support moms nursing hurting babies with knowledge of how to help. These women need your support and help; nursing a hurting child is no simple matter. In fact, nursing any child is often no simple matter.

If you are struggling with nursing, you are not alone.

It is no secret that our son had silent reflux as a baby. He never spit up – it burned both coming up and going back down when he swallowed it. Reflux medication did not eliminate his pain but merely took the edge off. This meant he hurt for most of his first year. For more about what silent reflux is, and how it is treated, read:

This story has taken longer to share because it is deeply personal and emotionally charged.

Many of those closest to me do not know the difficulty I had nursing and caring for our son, particularly during the first 3 months, and every night during the first year. Why? Telling the experience means recalling feelings of inadequacy, pain and failure that plagued my first year as a parent.

Nursing is ‘supposed to be the most natural thing’:

For me, it was not. It took a VERY long time to get the hang of it, even with multiple lactation consultations. It was physically painful for months. I felt scared, inadequate, guilty, and exhausted, but determined to figure it out. Failure was not an option.

Daytime Feeding:

During the day, he wanted to nurse constantly to soothe his burning throat. While spurts of cluster feeding are normal, this was extreme and constant. He would eat well but be frantic to nurse minutes later. While nursing, or passed out on my chest, he was somewhat calm – but his body never really relaxed.

Because he grew rapidly, his reflux medication dose was often too low for his body weight. During those transition times before his dose was increased, his nighttime symptoms, which we will discuss later, creeped into daytime. Those days and nights were truly a battle.

When I went back to work, I pumped and our daycare provider gave him bottles. For several months, he refused them and ate only as much as he had to at daycare. Then he cluster fed when I picked him up, and on weekends.  However, we were blessed when at 6 months, his daytime feedings finally became pretty regular.

Spacing feedings out:

We sought help for the constant nursing. We saw lactation and our pediatrician. They both encouraged us to space feedings out. I wanted to, and we tried. We held him as he slept, even as our limbs went numb. We tried everything to soothe him and lengthen the time between sessions. The most effective way was to hold him and do DEEP squats. Up, down, up, down, – until our legs and backs gave out. My poor husband often came home to a sweaty wife who could hardly stand up. It was not my best time. Squats – all day, every day. During maternity leave, we barlely made 1 hour between feeding start times, and we did everything physically possible to space them out.

The physical toll:

Keeping up with nursing demands during maternity leave was physically exhausting. When I should have been recovering from having a baby, I was doing continuous squats with little or no sleep (when I say no sleep, I mean actually NO sleep). The constant nursing was physically painful and draining. And I made so many mistakes – like failing to ask for more help. And not getting up to eat or drink water between each feeding because I was too exhausted and afraid to move. This left me often dehydrated, leading to other physical problems I won’t detail here. I did my best to eat healthy, despite cutting problem reflux foods (ALL dairy, citrus, beans, broccoli, etc.).

The lack of sleep and physical demands during maternity leave did NOT help recovery from labor and delivery. I was still not recovered at 12 weeks when I returned to work. At 6 months, I went back to the doctor, still in discomfort and pain. I was told it was from lack of sleep and rest for my body. Stress – it really does take a toll on the body.

Nighttime Feeding:

From 7 pm until morning, the reflux caused a different problem for the firs year. He was desperate to nurse, frantic. He began to eat, but suddenly it was like someone pinched him – his body stiffened and fists clenched. He threw his head back and the scream from his tiny body would shatter my heart as he tore his mouth away from my chest (ouch).  The wail continued, rattling until no breath was left and his face turned beet-red. We tried bottles and pacifiers. He refused. When he took a bottle at night, it too resulted in pain.

So we did our best to soothe him. Arms and backs exhausted after an hour or so, I would give in and nurse him. Still frantic, then the few moments of calm would be shattered by painful screams until finally he would pass out. Afraid to move, I held him until I got up the nerve to tiptoe upstairs to try to lay him down. If the floor creaked, or he was moved in any way, he would wake in pain. Rarely could he be transferred from my arms. Often, I stayed on the couch, holding him while he slept while trying to rest my eyes. Even sleeping, he cried out in pain, limbs flailing. I always prayed he would stay asleep, but he wouldn’t. He slept for 40 minutes, followed by a few hours of squats and pacing.

Most nights, my husband would find me weeping in a puddle and take over.

We did that every night of maternity leave and most nights the first year. He did not sleep even ONE 2 or 3 hour stretch until 6 months. Thereafter it was infrequent. He did not sleep through the night until 15 months and did not sleep well during the night until two and half. This child was in serious pain. He was doing the best he could.

Isolation: 

Because he was so upset between feedings, it was not feasible to get out of the house during maternity leave. He screamed, writhing in pain in the car and anywhere we went. We paced church hallways with a screaming child, and literally sprinted to get through Target. It was so stressful, it just wasn’t worth it.

With the snowy winter weather and screaming, we did not get out much. It was impossible to nurse around others because he would writhe and flail in discomfort as he nursed. I ended up locked in a bedroom nursing him at family events. Alone. During the day, I was too afraid to wake him, or too exhausted to talk on the phone. I quickly lost touch with many friends. I was incredibly lonely. I cannot express my gratitude to my husband, family, and a few close, persistent friends who lovingly stuck by my side.

The Emotional Toll:

The screams rattled me to the core. He was in pain and it was my job to comfort him. The one thing, nursing, that was supposed to soothe him, hurt him. I felt inadequate and like it was my fault, even though knew it wasn’t. I was failing him and could not fix this problem. At night, I became unable to sleep when he was. Since he refused bottles, I was in demand all the time. Any noise would jerk me fom sleep – wide awake, adrenaline pumping while praying he would keep sleeping. I was anxiety-ridden. I worshipped sleep but it eluded me as I pleaded and prayed to God first for relief for our son and then for sleep.

After 1-2 hours of non-consecutive sleep per night, I was a walking zombie. Looking back, I cannot believe I did not lose my job. I was underproductive and cranky. My boss and coworkers were understanding and helpful despite my edgy demeanor. I felt guilty for feeling relieved when I dropped him off at daycare and for enjoying time sitting in a quiet lab alone with my hands free. Every invitation from friend and family that required me to do something other than take care of our son, work, or sleep became overwhelming. I had no energy for anything else. Overwhelmed is a great way to describe how I felt that year.

Any physical pain from his abrupt motions and continual schedule were nothing compared to the emotional pain of not being able to help him. When I went back to the doctor at 6 months, they did a postpartum depression screening.  I answered how I thought I should. I look back now and see my shame that I wasn’t handling things well. At the time, I was afraid and unable to admit the truth to myself. At 10 months, I heard a woman from church talk about her struggles as a new mom. It finally gave me the courage to admit my need for help to my husband, and then to a doctor. I sobbed taking the depression survey and while explaining how poorly I was coping with sleep deprivation, stress of night feedings and daily life. The floodgates opened. I got help.

Much to be grateful for:

I was not alone, and neither are you. We all need support and help – don’t be ashamed to ask for it. My mom, sister and mother-in-law helped as much as they could. They drove across town countless times to bring food and to hold our son while praying over him so I could rest for a couple hours. He would often scream the whole time, refusing the pacifier and bottle. They did their best to soothe him. I am SO grateful for their help. He wore those loving arms out but they kept coming back

Our church small group blessed us with what I like to call ‘the parade of meals and encouragement’. Our close friends and family encouraged us, prayed for us, and were so gracious with me even though I was not able to be a good friend. They loved me anyway.

My husband did more squats than me and endured sleepless nights alongside me. Emotionally, he fared better than me and was my rock. He comforted, encouraged, and was unbelievably kind and gentle, even when I failed to be able to support him at all. We were a very tired mess but we were a team. I would have quit nursing if my husband hadn’t been my champion. If you support a mom who nurses ANY child, do not doubt that YOU play an important role!

God carried me through:

Psalm 63 became precious to me during that first year. My son’s name is written next to it in every Bible I own. I clung to these words in the middle of the night, calling out to my faithful Father on behalf of our son. HE was my ultimate help. The only way I made it through was by His grace and strength. Looking back, I see His good, strong hand carrying me through each and every night. He will carry you too, if you let Him.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.
Psalm 63:1-8 (NIV, emphasis added)

The JOY:

No matter how little we slept, the mornings were our son’s best moments of the day. It was certainly the time when reflux hurt the least. Smiles and giggles flowed freely for those precious moments. My husband and I often waited to enter his room together so no one would miss a second of that joy.  These moments gave us real, tangible hope.

There is no difficulty or number of sleepless nights that could ever steal our love for our son. He is a priceless gift. I cherish his first year, regardless of the struggle. He was the joy of my day and being his mom is a blessing that challenges me and brings more fulfillment and joy than I could have ever imagined. Because we all struggled, I think we felt the excitement of new skills and successes even more strongly.

Please do not take any of this post as a complaint. It isn’t. I do wish our son had not been in pain, but he was. Wishing it had been different serves no purpose. The experience is part of who we are, as individuals and as a family. And so much good came from it. We were strengthened and our relationships grew in beautiful ways as we weathered it together. It made us more reliant on God and deepened our trust and faith. It equipped us to share our experience with other families dealing with similar issues. I am amazed by the number of families we have been able to support and encourage because of our experience. These are not small blessings, and we do not take them for granted. And, we are grateful our son, now 5, no longer struggles with reflux. There is hope yours won’t either.

Infant 'Silent' Reflux Is NOT Silent - My Experience Nursing A Silent Reflux Baby | thisgratefulmama.com

He is Risen! – Claiming Christ’s Victory Over Fear

John 1633

This Easter, the best way to celebrate the gift of Jesus is to share what God has been doing in my life this past year. Last year, Easter exposed a void in my faith that I ddin’t even know was there. Deeply painful at the time and very personal even today, I wasn’t sure I would ever share this here – but the work of God and His victories in our lives is always worth sharing, even when it is beyond our comfort level. Sorry, this is going to be a long one…Here goes…

Last spring, the women’s bible study studied the book ‘Fearless” by Max Lucado. After the first session, I arrogantly (and ignorantly) told my husband, “The book seems good, but I really don’t struggle with fear”.

Somehow, I thought that learning what God’s word has to say about fear didn’t apply to me –  a grievous mistake. We completed one chapter of the book before Easter.

You know how some years Easter seems to creep up on you? I’ve had plenty of years when I’ve neglected time with the Lord and haven’t been in His Word as much as I should have been. But, last year, I had been studying the book of Matthew in BSF. For months, I studied Jesus’ life and ministry. Last year I felt ready for Easter with the study of Jesus’ life and death fresh in my mind. I anticipated an Easter with family, filled with gratitude, joy and peace.

I entered the weekend on a perceived spiritual high, having no idea what was about to hit me. I was woefully unprepared.

With family visiting, we were invited to join the rest of my husband’s family at his mom’s church on Easter morning. The idea of those we love, standing together and worshipping the Lord is a joyful one.

What could go wrong?

We walked into the church (which is not our home church), and joined our family. As we took our kids to children’s programming, I noticed tables with donuts and pastries, a treat for the special day.

It took just one child running by me, carrying a pastry, dropping bits of almond on the floor for paralyzing fear to seize me. Our son has a nut allergy, and I had forgotten the Epi-Pens and Benedryl at home – an hour away. It isn’t that an Epi-Pen means safety. It does not! But not having it with me was negligent. It showed my lack of preparation and foresight that I usually have before walking into any unknown environment with our son.

I was as unequipped with his medications and planning, as I was in my own faith on a spiritual level.

I dropped him off in his room and had a sigh of relief as the staff asked me if he had allergies before I could tell them – even with it on the tip of my tongue in my now hyper-aware state. Initially they weren’t planning to provide a snack, so I felt comfortable that the room would be safe, even if the hallways were littered with nut-contaminated (albeit TINY) crumbs. I joined our family in the sanctuary and waited for the service to begin.

I tried to keep it together, but felt rattled. Unsettled.

A woman from the childcare came by and showed me a dixie cup of cookies and asked if my son could eat them. I told her without a label to read the answer was no. They came back later and asked about graham crackers, but again, no label. My anxiety climbed in the very room designated for the worship of the all-powerful God.

As the service began, I sang but the words came out hollow. I prayed for peace and protection. But I was preoccupied, fearful and frustrated with my own poor planning the entire service. My prayers pleaded but were powerless as fear exposed my unbelief.

It felt like both the longest and shortest Easter service I’ve ever been in. I longed for it to be done so I could hold our son, but I longed for it to continue so I could find peace and worship Him fully.

When it ended, people all around me were joyful. I felt defeated.

And still very afraid. I could not shake it. I was so ashamed that my faith was so weak. I was discouraged that it took so little to leave me feeling exposed and that I could not find peace. This was beyond anything I had ever felt or encountered before. It hurt.

I ran to our son and found him safe and sound. He had a wonderful time and told me all about how Jesus had risen. We met our family in the hallway. Many of them had donuts. I kept him close to me. As my son looked around, he asked for a donut. Squatting down, I told him that we were going to grandma’s to eat and had plenty of treats. I showed him how his mom, dad and sister didn’t have a donut either.  But as one might expect, he got upset. Tears welled up in his big brown eyes.

He lashed out, pushing me back and crying out in frustration. He was right. This wasn’t fair at all.

Now choking back my own tears, I signaled my husband we were leaving and scooped our son up as he wailed and ran to the parking lot. By the time I reached the car, we were both in tears. And now the poor child thought he was in trouble for pushing me. We were a mess. There was no way I was going to discipline him for being frustrated because yet again, he could not eat what everyone else was having. I was frustrated too, but grateful we were in the car, away from the crumbs.

I told him I was sorry he couldn’t have the donut and just hugged him until everyone else came out. I was afraid to say anything more because I didn’t want him to sense my fear. As we drove to my mother-in-law’s house, I tried to shake it off. I didn’t want to talk about being afraid in front of our son, so I didn’t talk to my husband about it.

The fear and startling lack of peace remained.  All day. As our children delighted in their lovingly and carefully prepared nut-free Easter eggs and baskets, as we laughed and talked, and as we celebrated the victory of Jesus Christ over death, and the sacrifice He made to save us from our sins.

Who would expect something as simple as a donut could bring me to my knees, shaking in fear on Easter Sunday? Certainly not me – I was on a spiritual high, remember?

Easter. The day that highlights the POWER of God and the sacrifice, love, grace and mercy of a willing savior. I was there to worship Jesus, who chose to come to earth, humbled in a human body, choosing to serve and forgive His own creation, even as they rejected Him – A creation that should have known He was their savior – A creation that scorned Him, plotted against Him, and ultimately killed Him although He had never sinned. Not once.

He chose to do it, and in doing so, He took upon Himself, not only my sins and but your sins if you believe, confess and call on His name. He died, willingly, not using His power to stop the pain, suffering, and injustice. Instead, He cried out asking the Father to forgive the very men who were crucifying Him. Then, of His own power, He died, and rose again 3 days later, conquering death and sin. He saved me. He chose me. Jesus is now in heaven, alive, mediating on my behalf, and God the Father now sees me through the lens of Jesus’ blood. Forgiven. Sinless. Holy.

If Jesus Christ is all this…how could I not believe that He could protect our son, whom HE created and loves, from a peanut?

As I wallowed in fear and sadness, Satan was momentarily victorious in my life on a day when I should have been joyously celebrating the victory of Jesus Christ. What more could Satan want than to steal the praise of God as I surrendered to fear? In doing so, I made the day about my own fear and lack of trust. A starling defeat in a season when I had been growing spiritually.

In the days that followed I felt shell-shocked. I downplayed my fear when I mentioned it my husband before bed that night, and then he left on a business trip in the morning. I couldn’t figure out why the fear remained and was so powerful. I decided not talking about it would make it go away.

I was wrong. Once you’ve experienced paralyzing fear, it is far too easy to let your mind wander to what could have happened. It is far too easy to let your mind dwell in dark places that only heighten the intensity of fear and fuel it with more power. I tried to ignore it, but instead it consumed my thoughts, running rampant.

Looking back, the entire situation caught me off guard for a few reasons. First, I had not yet experienced seizing fear about our son’s peanut allergy, even when he was diagnosed two years before. Why? I controlled his environment and food. I had never really had to trust Him because I was trusting myself. Second, my lack of preparation forced me to see my lack of control over our son’s safety. I never forget the Epi-Pen! Third, I tried to pretend I wasn’t afraid because I knew in my head I should trust God, but lacked the perspective and trust to surrender my son’s life.

While doing all I can to keep him safe is absolutely my job, there is simply no way I can control everything. Practically, I should have simply had him sit with us in church, because that would have been the safe and wise choice. And my lack of preparation was a problem I do not plan to repeat. But this was much more than just forgetting the Epi-Pen and being surprised by a donut. There was a much deeper heart issue. I had been so prepared up until that point that I had a false sense of security. By feeling like I had everything under my control, I didn’t have to face reality. I had never surrendered to or even considered the fact that I don’t have this all buttoned up. I never asked myself if I trusted God in this area.

Not having control and ability to keep our son safe was a new feeling – one I still don’t like. But it is the reality all parents face. We will all face fears; of allergies, strangers, accidents, bullies, and choices they will make. We will face the reality that we cannot possibly control everything in our children’s lives as they grow up. Whether we want to or not.

In the middle of the night, my husband out of town, I found myself seized by fear, and crying. Not just weeping, but I think I’ve heard it termed –ugly crying. That following Tuesday, still struggling, I shared with our bible study what had happened. In a rare show of public emotion, I not only teared up, but I sobbed. I choked on my words.  Women dug in their purses and handed me tissues, squeezed my shoulders and gave hugs. They offering wise and Godly advice. They prayed for me. I left encouraged instead of embarassed. They blessed my socks off

They changed my thinking by pointing me to a powerful God who can conquer all of my fears for me if I give surrender to Him and trust that He has them under control. This time, with the truth spilled and prayers of wise Godly women spoken on my behalf, when I then asked God to give me peace, I felt it. Tangible. Powerful. Real.

It wasn’t that the peace wasn’t available on Easter Sunday. It was. But I trusted what my eyes saw – nut covered pastry crumbs – and not what my faith and the Holy Spirit were shouting within me. I learned a very powerful lesson. Fear is a not to be underestimated. It cannot be ignored. It has to be addressed. It cannot be stuffed, or we will give it reign in our life. Delaying the admission of my fear was wrong, and at my detriment.

Fear must be named and brought into the light.

I know now that despite being deep in the study of God’s word, I had neglected to ask God what I was holding back. Self-reliance and thinking we are in control of anything is nothing but pride in disguise. It is dangerous. God was gracious to me by letting me experience the fear 2 years before I have to send our son to Kindergarten. Now I have time to learn to trust God all-the-more before that day. And as I gradually have to surrender my control of our son’s life as he grows up, I need to trust MORE and MORE in God’s control and sovereignty.

I still struggle with fear. As I’ve shared before, it rises often, and has surprised me time and time again this past year. In fact, I have struggled with fear this past year more than ever in my life. The situations I cannot control are not going anywhere and are increasing in frequency. They will continue without ceasing, until both of our children are adults and on their own.

But I refuse to give fear victory in my life. With every test of fear, with every prayer for peace and with every moment I surrender fear to God, the more powerful the light of Jesus shines and the less I dwell in the stifling darkness and oppression of fear. I am learning to turn to God rather than to allow rabbit trails of fearful daydreams. The greatest thing I have to report today is that I have consistently seen victory in the area of fear on a daily basis. It is not easy. Fear for me is an ongoing struggle but with daily struggle comes the opportunity for daily victory. And let me be clear – without the power of Jesus in my life, I am helpless against this fear. There is no victory without Him for me.

As I prepare for Easter this year, I look at Jesus’ victory over sin and death a little differently. Same Jesus. Same sacrifice. But I feel more victory in my life. I see how He has worked in me this past year to deepen my faith, to rely less on my own strength, and to strengthen and prepare me for new challenges. I have felt the peace and comfort that can only come from surrendering to His will and trusting that He will be with us. I know to my bones that no matter what I cannot control, He will still be God, He will still be good, and He IS faithful. I cannot hold onto anything too tight – even our children. I cling to the truth that they were HIS even before they were mine.  He loves them even more than I do.

This past year I have been given tangible evidence that He longs to carry our burdens, knowing I am ill-equipped to carry my own. He has shown me how thinking I don’t struggle with fear is an open door to let it consume me. I must be prepared and be willing to ask myself where I have not surrendered to God because I am controlling things and trusting myself instead of HIM. I find myself grateful for the struggle because the victory is so sweet. This fear is no joke. It rises up and it when it was exposed it felt like a wound ripped open that might never heal. But slowly, I’ve been equipped and althogh it rises up, the fear loses it’s power as I claim Jesus’ victory and promises in my life. I am grateful that instead of letting me dwell in fear, He redeems it and makes me stronger for the next time. At the cross, we become heirs to peace, and heirs to His victory.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” – John 16:33 (NIV)

He is risen! But we must walk in faith to share in His victory and we must let Him be God.

May He bless you richly as you consider His sacrifice this holy week.

Happy Easter.

Claiming Christ's Victory Over Fear | thisgratefulmama.com

6 Truths For A Mama-Attitude Adjustment When Our Work Feels Unnoticed

Some jobs are never done. The laundry never ceases, meals do not make themselves and dishes, beds, and bathrooms will be used and require cleaning. And the toys…here is one of the rooms I cleaned and organized this morning. Don’ think it looks bad? This is only 10 minutes later and they’re off in another freshly cleaned room wreaking havoc in there.

6 Truths For A  Mama-Attitude Adjustment When Our Work Feels Unnoticed | thisgratefulmama.com

My attitude varies. Many days, I enjoy the work and feel productive and fulfilled, even when my husband returns from work and the house is again in disarray, and the sink is again full of dishes.

Just what did we do today?

But more often than I’d like to admit, I feel self-pity; as if I were singled-out and sentenced to picking up toys and scrubbing toilets, again. Waking up to a pile of laundry to fold and more to be wash can be disheartening. Sometimes I desire recognition for the work that was done and unseen before the kids scattered every toy from the toy box, again. And some days, I feel the work is not worthwhile or of any lasting value.

But entertaining and dwelling in these selfish thoughts is both toxic, infectious and habit-forming. I no longer feel blessed, I feel controlled. When I could demonstrate good stewardship and a servant heart, I instead demonstrate how to sigh and be resentful while doing chores (no wonder our children struggle with this too!). Now, instead of serving my family and loving them, I’m looking at their dirty laundry, bed sheets and dishes as a burden. So wrong! These people I love (and their things) are not a burden!

This attitude is ungrateful…for our children and their playful hearts…for the blessing to stay home while my husband works equally as hard as I am (or harder)…for the washing machine and dryer and clean water available to me…for the carpet to vacuum, the floors to mop and the bathrooms to clean…for the abundant provision and blessing of God to our family.

Do you sometimes think your children need an attitude adjustment when they are begrudgingly doing chores, or complaining? I have told our kids to change their attitude many times. But we parents know all-too-well that this is no easy task. Once self-centered, negative, grumbling thoughts creep in…they are difficult to banish. When we have much to care for, we are blessed far more than we realize. But the mundane, repetitive nature of these daily tasks often leaves me short-sighted and unrateful.

I can admit that sometimes, this un-grateful mama needs a serious attitude adjustment.

I need to consider the truth of who we do this for, what it is we are doing, and why we are doing it. Then how we do it (our attitude) will follow suit. There is much to be grateful for today. This is the time to enjoy all of this. 

6 Truths For A Mama-Attitude Adjustment When Our Work Feels Unnoticed | thisgratefulmama.com

6 Truths For A  Mama-Attitude Adjustment When Our Work Feels Unnoticed

1. You Aren’t Singled Out

No matter what your job is, much of what is earnestly completed may go unnoticed. Unseen. Or must be repeated again and again. When I worked in the lab, the biohazard bins were filled, right after taking it out, and the samples for tomorrow came in even before we reported results from today. The same is true in corporate jobs; as one issue is resolved, two or three more come up. It may sometimes seem daunting, but in reality, is job-security.

As a mama at home, my children begin enjoying the room just cleaned, or drop crumbs on the floor before I’ve finished mopping the other end. Like everyone else, much of our work is behind-the-scenes, maintaining, cleaning, fixing, and living. In truth, I am no different than you, and we are no different than anyone else. Our work is no less recognized or unrecognized, even if it sometimes feels that way.

2. ‘Tis The Season

The chores of today will not always be. Welcome the season of life you’re in, and live IN it. Here and now.

Ask any mother of grown children – they know the truth and value of these busy days. They experienced children growing up and all the dishes, laundry, noise and chaos that came with it. They miss it. Caring for and raising children is a privilege. A time will come, with less mess, but also with fewer feet making noise and fewer mouths to feed. I, for one, am not ready for that. I like today. The future can’t be sped up or put off. Longing for a time with less mess is not just silly, it is a waste of the blessings I have now.

3. Gratitude Requires Practice

It is not easy to be grateful when scrubbing toilets after a potty-training toddler has left their mark. No, it’s downright hard. But, take time to practice. The more you do, the easier it will be to see things with eyes of gratitude instead of eyes of self-pity. Instead of seeing an unending pile of clothes, thank God for the people who wear them, and that your family is blessed to own such a large pile of laundry. When overwhelmed by the mountain of dishes, be grateful your family has food to eat, are healthy, and for the ability to prepare food in a clean kitchen. So what if you have to clean it? Instead of feeling resentment towards your spouse when they return from work not seeing what you did all day – recognize that you have no idea what mundane details and tasks they did all day either. Thank them for their hard work.

Wondering if I’m going to give thanks for those toilets? Sure am. It may be hard to see the rainbow here, but here goes – when tired of cleaning toilets that smell like the zoo, be glad you’re not cleaning an outhouse and have indoor plumbing. Furthermore, a toilet to clean and a toddler who is learning (and not wearing a diaper) are BOTH blessings worth my gratitude. Also recognize bleach for what it is – a priceless gift.

4. Our Work Is Not Unnoticed

While the love of family can get us through many mundane tasks with a joyful attitude, we also need the hope of an eternal perspective. The Bible tells us that no matter what work we are doing, we do it for the Lord:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23 – 24 (NIV)

And, as Philippians 2:4 points out, sometimes I just need to and obey and do whatever it is without complaining or arguing. When the tasks seem daunting or we are tempted to complain or feel neglected, we must remember that God sees everything. He knows every single thing we do. And (gulp) He knows our attitude while we do it. Your work may feel unrecognized, unnoticed, or unimportant, but the God who created you and loves you, sees you. Do you get that? He. Sees. YouThis is no small thing.

5. Our Attitudes Have Long-Term Consequences

Be forward-thinking as you consider your long-term desire for your children, and your spouse. How do you want to be remembered?

I won’t care in 20 years if my children remember that I cleaned their toilets, or if my husband knows just how many times I picked up Legos today, even though they are now on the floor. What I don’t want them to remember is how I begrudgingly cooked, cleaned, and complained. It won’t matter how good the meal was if they felt I was irritated making it for them. When I complain, it is memorable and infectious. They will learn that these tasks are worth complaining about, and they will not enjoy doing them either because I will have taught them not to. These things are not what I want to impart to them.

No, I am actually OK if they don’t remember me doing any of these things if they remember I served them willingly and lovingly. I will know that I served them regardless of their response. Instead, I will cling to hope that when I see the Lord, I will be recognized for service and obedience to HIM that perhaps no one else on earth will ever know about. Good enough for me.

6. The Work Is Important

Mundane tasks have to be done. We have to eat. We cannot (well, should not) live in filth. Good stewardship is a life-lesson that must be taught. Cleaning and cooking are hygiene and health issues with lasting value and consequences. I can degrade the thought of these things by telling myself it is unimportant work, but it is simply not true. It may not feel like it, but I am imparting life lessons to our children and this is a serious, and important job.

Finally, I am responsible for my own attitude, and I choose my words and actions. It’s time to own them. I decide whether I will approach my work with gratitude and joy or self-pity and disgust. If I didn’t have this work to do…it would mean I didn’t have a family to care for, a house to live in, a job to go to, or a Lord to serve. I would desire and long for these jobs if I no longer had them.

Today as I scrub toilets, mop, cook, and fold laundry, again, I will take time to thank the Lord for the little and big feet who wear these socks, for the country we live in and the clean water, appliances and electricity we enjoy, and for the food that makes the crumbs on my floor and dirties our dishes.

And I will relish the thought that as I choose to do these things joyfully, in service to my family, that the God I love sees me and my work, even if no one else does.

When Our Work Feels Unnoticed | thisgratefulmama.com

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On Peanut Allergy and LEAP – Why The Conflicting Emotions Among Allergy Parents?

I have been anticipating the LEAP study findings since hearing it was in progress almost 3 years ago. Our son was diagnosed with a peanut and cashew allergy in 2012. In the initial shock of the diagnosis, I started looking for any answers I could find.

WHY did he have this allergy, and what could we have done differently? Was it my fault for eating my body weight in peanuts while pregnant? What about while nursing? Was he too exposed? Underexposed?

When I stumbled across it, I was disappointed that the findings had not yet been published. If you aren’t familiar with the study, visiting the About LEAP page will explain the design better than I can. In general, the LEAP study looks to answer the question of whether avoidance of nuts or consumption of nuts at an early age makes a person more or less likely to develop a peanut allergy.

The site has been bookmarked on my computer since 2012. I’ve checked back often to see if there was any indication of when they would publish their findings. Results were expected as early as 2013, but it wasn’t until February 2015 when results were released.

I’m not the only one who anticipated the study, as is evidenced by the intense media coverage it is receiving in the wake of its release.

When the results were released, I read them with anticipation and excitement. You could check out the summary of results on the LEAP website but I would recommend reading the New England Journal of Medicine article for yourself. All children included in the study were classified as high-risk for a peanut allergy if they had an existing egg allergy and/or severe eczema, and no strong preexisting peanut allergy (strong was evidenced by a skin wheel (or hive) from skin testing larger than 4 mm).

In the LEAP study, of 834 potential participants, 76 had wheels over 4 mm before the study began and were excluded. This means these children were 4 to 11 months of age and already had significant allergy (See Figure 1 – Methods section of the journal article). 76 may sound like not very many, but is close to 10%, albeit from a high risk group of children sought out for inclusion in the study. Groundbreaking study or not, LEAP may be of little help to parents whose children are high-risk for an allergy and developed a strong peanut allergy before they were 4-11 months of ageWhile we embrace that knowledge about peanut allergies is increasing, we are still waiting on and longing for answers as to why these children are at such high risk in the first place.

But there is certainly valuable and solid information here for those children who are not highly allergic before the age of 4 months.

As summarized on the LEAP website, the study yielded these exciting results:

Of the children who avoided peanut, 17% developed peanut allergy by the age of 5 years. Remarkably, only 3% of the children who were randomized to eating the peanut snack developed allergy by age 5.   Therefore, in high-risk infants, sustained consumption of peanut beginning in the first 11 months of life was highly effective in preventing the development of peanut allergy.

A difference of 14% of children developing or not developing an allergy is significant. It means if your child doesn’t already have a strong early onset allergy, but is at risk of developing one, giving them peanut products at an early age may (no guarantees) help prevent an allergy. And, if they have a minor allergy (wheel less than 4mm), they may still be helped by feeding them nuts, although would require supervision and care of a medical professional.

Results like these give parents something they CAN do to help their high risk child. To give them their best shot. There is no mistaking that the results hold very important truth and tangible results for the right circumstances.

It is going to change the recommendations. It is paving the way for further study as we speak. A biochemist by training, MORE information is always a good thing, right?

Not necessarily.

The study leaves me with conflicting emotions. I feel like I’ve been on a roller coaster all week.

When you look at the allergy community, the study has received acclaim, praise, frustration, and resistance.

Why so emotional?

  • Too little too late: Information is power, but now my daughter is 2 and has never eaten a peanut. We are a peanut free household. Our allergist told us she has a higher chance of developing a peanut allergy than other children because of our son’s allergy (a.k.a. our family genes). We were told to use caution introducing peanuts. When I asked if it was OK to wait until her 2nd birthday, there was no indication it was a bad idea. According to this study, we may have now waited one year too long to do the only thing that has been shown to possibly prevent development of a peanut allergy. So, although the study is relevant, groundbreaking even, the findings may not be able to help her. Yet…we pray she may never develop a peanut allergy.
  • We may be resistant: Defensive even. Information published on the internet can be simply false, or taken out of context. The first statement I saw did not mention the LEAP study name, but stated that we should ALL feed peanuts to 4 month old infants to prevent peanut allergy. It was out-of-context and missing important cautions and caveats. Alarming – and dangerous. The post left me feeling skeptical and defensive. It is my duty to read information for myself, and to draw educated conclusions with an open mind. It would be a grievous error to rely on someone else’s write-up, emotions, or opinion. We should be excited that people are spending their time studying peanut allergy and to read their findings, whatever they are. When I actually read the entire LEAP study, I agreed that this study is impressive, important, and demonstrates something we didn’t already know about peanut allergies. It is nothing to scoff at and needs to be taken seriously. But it needs to be viewed and written about within the proper context.
  • We feel attacked:  There are some who think we caused our children’s allergies and aren’t afraid to share it all over the internet.  I read this article and it describes very well how parents can be bullies too and requests empathy – it is well worth your time to read. But  the LEAP study does not say parents are to blame. It says feeding children peanuts early may help, but it will not help all of them. There is no way to go back and see which child would or would not develop an allergy. And guess what? Many of the children in the allergy community had life-threatening reactions before 4 months. Their faces swelled up and maybe they stopped breathing after being kissed by peanut-butter tainted lips. Many children had severe eczema, or reactions to breast milk after their mother ate peanuts.
  • We feel guilty: Although the LEAP study does not point blame, we blame ourselves. We cannot help it. Finding out now that feeding our children nuts at an earlier age could have even POSSIBLY prevented our child’s peanut allergy brings a disturbing and painful pang of mama-guilt. It feels awful, warranted or not. No one else needs to point a finger at us because we’ve had it pointing at ourselves since day one. We wondered if those nuts we ate (or didn’t eat) while pregnant made this happen. We wondered what we did wrong and have assumed we did something wrong.
  • We are frustrated: The LEAP findings contradict how I and many other parents fed our children at early ages. We followed recommendations of trusted allergists and pediatricians. Many of us were aware of food allergy dangers and consulted reputable sources like the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Asthma and Allergy. Avoidance was recommended in 2000. Recommendations were slightly modified in 2008 and furthermore in 2013, but that doesn’t mean all pediatricians and allergists were on board. Infant nutrition and care books were not up to date. We did research these things, but just didn’t know what we and the medical community did not yet know.
  • We have questions: While some answers have come to light, 100s more have popped up in their place. There is much left to learn, and we don’t fully understand what this all means yet. The LEAP study is great, but long term effects are yet unknown (awesome that they are continuing follow up in the LEAP-ON study as we speak).
  • We are grateful: In wake of the amazing developments of potential therapies like the Viaskin(R) peanut patch, the LEAP study findings, and more, science is making huge advancements in understanding how to help the allergy community. We are grateful. We are grateful for parents and children in the clinical trials and studies. We are grateful for those investing their time, careers, and funding. The knowledge is increasing, and the understanding being gained is invaluable. It is bound to change the allergy world forever. And soon. Thank you.
  • We are hopeful: Even if the LEAP study shows results that are too late for many of us to use the information, those having babies now will benefit. We hope allergy rates will go down. We don’t want ANY child to have a food allergy, even if our child does already. We hope the therapies will be effecive. We hope for science to find answers, causes, and cures. We anticipate these things and cling to hope for tools that will change our children’s lives.
  • We are forgiving: We are also frustrated that with all the new findings, there is still no concrete way to prevent infant peanut (and other) allergy. For many of us, even if we’d known and fed our child peanuts at 4 months, it may not have changed anything. We accept where we are now, where we’ve been, and instead of pointing fingers we look forward to future advancements. We forgive ourselves for our part as we forgive the medical community who is learning about allergies with new revelations, just as we are. And, we choose to forgive the community of ignorant people who feel the need to blame us.

 

It is important to note that not everyone within the allergy community has these feelings. But the care of our children and loved ones, and their safety is so important, that emotions are bound to run high. If it seems like some of us are conflicted, we are.

I am.