Saturday, November 1, 2014

Don't Cry While You Have Acupuncture Needles In Your Arms and Hands

Backstory - I'm getting acupuncture done once a month in hopes that it will prevent or shorten flares. I had success a couple of months ago when I started flaring and getting acupuncture GREATLY reduced the duration and intensity of the flare. May have been coincidence, but I am all for trying something new - the consistency aspect that is, since I've been getting acupuncture intermittently for several years now.

Main Story-

So I was lying on the table while my Awesome Acupuncturist was doing her needle sticking thing and we were catching up over the last month of activities. We've become friends over the three years I've been going to her and she had just completed her first half-Ironman and I wanted to hear the awesome details of her amazing accomplishment.

She was doing a few extra needles in my arms due to a rough week of nausea and my desire to take as little Zofran as possible (side effect are BLAH). She asked how things were going and I mentioned the fantastic camping trip I went on and the decent hike we took and how it slightly kicked my butt, but not too bad, and I realized I needed to get in better shape for the upcoming Patagonia hike, so I sought the advice and input of a friend at work who is a personal trainer and she gave me homework. Awesome Acupuncturist asked "what was the homework?" and I answered, "the main part is to put a workout schedule together. And that's a really big deal for me because…"

And then I started crying.

When you are laying on your back, with acupuncture needles in your arms and hands and legs and feet (thank God she hadn't put the one in between my eyes yet - that would have HURT!) and you have tears dripping down your face, you can't really wipe them away (moving anything with those needles in sends fiery shocks up and down your limbs)- so that was excellent impetus to control the emotions.

Awesome Acupuncturist just looked at me knowingly (she knows my health history) "you're afraid you won't be able to finish the workouts, aren't you" and I just nodded (giving her a thumbs up was out of the question thanks to Mr. Needle in the base of my thumb and wrist)  She kindly encouraged me and we chatted a bit more, me sniffling as delicately as I could (tears were bad enough, but if my nose had started running!? Gag!), and then she left me for the 45 minutes to rest while the needles did their thing.

I usually take a nap. But this time, this time I spent thinking and praying over my emotional reaction to a spreadsheet.

Fear is so interesting. I feel like I have tackled fear in certain areas and then, before I realize it, it's been lurking in an area I never even thought of.

I just recently (say four-ish months, since going off the Big Bad Liver Killing Med) have been feeling better. I could have attempted to start working out again, but I didn't. I was expecting to get sick again. And I did - a few days here or there, but not prolonged, like the last 4 years have been.

I have about six different workout schedules that I have created over the last four years when I reached an In-Betweens and I never got more than a week or so into them before I would start flaring or something new would pop up. And believe me, these workout schedules are very very gradual - I'm not going out and running 5 miles or swimming 1000 yards or anything like that.

And here I was - afraid. Again. Afraid I would be yet again disappointed by an uncrossed-off workout list. So afraid, that I wasn't even trying anymore.

I thought about my necklace and the verses I have memorized to combat that fear that can well-up so quickly:

"When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?" - Psalm 56:-34

Okay, remember that.

I then thought of another verse I was recently reminded of during my bible study a week ago:

"The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent" Exodus 14:14

(Moses told the Israelites this after they headed out and were facing the Red Sea and Pharaoh's chariot army rapidly approaching from behind.)

For me, this verse means quieting my mental voice, so I can hear His. I can toil and moil over things I cannot control. I need to back off, trust in Him, and let Him work out His plan. I want to fight and argue and add 1000 "buts" to anything that comes my way.


How does this look for this workout schedule that I sent (I honestly hesitated when I hit "send")? It means I focus on taking one day at a time and actively, by His Grace, seek to trust Him. No matter if I can't do the workout that day or days or weeks and no matter if I can do the workout. Regardless of how many excel spreadsheet merged cells (oh yeah) get grayed out, He is still working His plan. He is still fighting for me. I need to be silent before Him, listening to Him, heeding His word, His direction, His instruction.

And to be clear, when I say I need to be silent, it doesn't mean that I stop praying about it, or bringing my hurts and desires to Him. What I mean is my constant  and sometimes subconscious "what-ifing," my "toiling and moiling" needs to stop, needs to be silent, because I can't hear Him over me. As John says in chapter 3:30 "He must increase and I must decrease."

And the finishing note - I got my gait (i.e. how I run) analyzed on Thursday. I ran, they filmed me and gave me exercises to correct some weak muscles that are causing the knee pain I've been having at some recent run attempts. And, the big news. For the first time in THREE YEARS, I bought new running shoes.

It felt great walking out of that store. By His grace, I will trust in Him to be able to use them, and if He has other plans, by His grace, I will trust in Him to give me peace and contentment in His plans.

His will. Not mine.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Board and Batten is DONE!

A year in the making (stenciling, buying supplies, waiting for wall sconces that were on back-order for 4 months)…the stencil/board and batten wall in my bedroom is COMPLETE!

Lessons learned on this project:

1) Board and batten is easier with two people, however, if you have a foam roller and books, you can totally do it with one person
2) When you buy paint two years before you start a project, the paint company will probably change the formula when you finally start using it and need just a little bit more to complete the project. The paint guy at Home Depot will laugh at the picture you show him of how different the two colors look.

Step 1: Stencil. Forever. I wanted to punch the stencil in it's stencil-face at one point.

Purchase two school desks for $10 each from craigslist. Do a happy dance at saving $150 from the ones you were thinking about getting. Do not call desks "vintage" because you will never hear the end of it from your friends who sat in desks like these at school.

Spray paint non-vintage desks

Use a foam roller, books (thank you Tolstoy) and a level to nail the Board into wall. Grumble at builders for stud placement and warped drywall.

Determine spacing of Battens

Use new brad/staple gun and Liquid nails to attach battens. Caulk all trim. Paint. Realize that "Moonrise" two years ago is not the same as "Moonrise" now. Improvise with half gallon of "Silver Leaf"

 Mount brass wall sconces that were ordered in March and arrived in July. Smile at the finished product. Sit on bed and write this blog post :)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Bench is Finished!!!

It only took me eleven months, but I finally finished the bench for my dining room table.

Last October, my parents came to visit, as one of our planned activities, Dad was going to help me build a bench since I had looked for months and couldn't find something I liked and that was reasonabley priced. I used plans from Ana White's website for the "X-bench." I was excited about these plans because I finally had an excuse to buy a Kreg jig (a Kreg jig allows you to make pocket holes, amongst other things). Both my dad and I had fun trying it out (he had never used one either!).

 Supplies bought!

My miter saw came in very handy!


Almost done... 

Kreg jigging it up...

My dad and I testing out the finished product

Unfinished bench (aww, you can see my old car, Miranda, in the background…memories…)

After testing out several stains, I chose to do a "paint-wash" using Behr's "Ebony" flat paint (sample can). I used a damp cloth to rub on the paint, layering until I had the color I wanted (my dining table is from Restoration Hardware and has that brownish/gray finish and I was trying for something close, but not an exact match).

Paint washing!

The impetus for finally getting the cushions on it was a dinner party I hosted a couple weeks back. I was super excited to use the brand new staple/brad gun I had bought for my board and batten project (pics coming this weekend!) - alas, I couldn't find the staples, and since the guests would be arriving in just an hour or so…I pulled out my handy glue gun and glued the coffee bean sacks I had collected around some cushion inserts. One dinner party down and the cushion is still intact! I may get around to reinforcing it with staples at some point…but with my track record on projects, probably not :). Since several folks have asked, the center coffee bean sack I purchased from a coffee plantation (Kona Joe's) when I was in Kona, Hawaii a couple of years ago and the others are from a local coffee shop that I go to (bags are from Brazil I believe).

The finished bench! 

I am quite pleased with the final product. Total materials cost was about $70 dollars I think…beats the several hundred dollar price tags on the majority of benches I was looking at. Yay for DIY! And a big thanks to my awesome dad, who had a lot of fun laughing at me since I somehow kept getting sawdust in my mouth and eyes and may have been a tad dramatic about it ;-).

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Two Months of Maizie

So I've been a dog owner for two months today.

I know a lot of people were surprised I got a dog. I've always been a cat person (Bacon and Eggs are almost 10 years old!). I didn't grow up with dogs. But, for the past year, I have been thinking about getting one. And then, for about 2 months prior to getting Maizie, I was seriously thinking about getting one - desiring the companionship that all my dog owning friends kept talking about.

I fostered an awesome Austrailian cattle dog named Maggie at the end of April that I really liked, but she was 2 years old and had a past and I wasn't sufficiently versed in dog to be able to figure out how to correct some of her behaviors. Plus, she was 45 pounds of muscle that did not want to listen to me and my joints were wicked sore after just two days. She also tried to eat the cats. So, at the advice of my dog-training friend, Abby, I started looking for a smaller dog, and a younger one so it would grow up with cats and hopefully not try to eat them.

I didn't want a puppy. I had heard about how much work they were and I already knew there were going to be some sacrifices to be made in my schedule to accommodate a dog and I didn't think I could shift things around enough to get a puppy.

I ended up with a puppy.

A ~15 week old Yorkie and maybe Border Terrier mix puppy that I named Maizie. A friend shared a picture on Facebook from a local rescue group of her and I thought about it for two weeks and then emailed them. A week and half later, she was in my car, headed to my house.

Good night, puppies are a lot of work. I am now a pro at ducking june bugs at 2am as they dive-bomb me as I tell Maizie to "do your business". I can also duck them pretty well at 3am and 4am too, depending on the day and Maizie's bladder. And sidestep Texas cockroaches that skitter across the deck. And I tackled replacing the broken light fixture out back because the flashlight wasn't cutting it with giving me ample time to duck the bugs.

The Lord knew I needed a dog that was mellow and obedient. Maizie is just that. She has her quirks (apparently, my animals all need to be vocal…she doesn't bark (yay) but she does whine and whine-talk (don't ask me to make the sound, 'cause I probably would, but it would be kinda awkward)). She cracks me up with her clumsiness and cuteness. She's super friendly - loves dogs and people…and the cats (although they would prefer her not being in the house.) And I've gotten more exercise in the past two months than this entire year due to running around with her in the yard and taking her for walks.

So, yeah, I think this dog-owning thing is going to work out. It's been major adjustment for me (just ask my officemate who has put up with my dog drama very sweetly and helpfully, being a dog owner herself - thanks Jaime!), but it's getting easier. And I have amazing, generous friends to help watch her when I have to work long days or weird hours.

Instagram is very familiar with Maizie. And now, you will be as well.  Here's a summary of Two Months of Maizie. Don't pass out from the cuteness.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Little Love for the Breakfast Nook

I finally tackled three outstanding projects for the breakfast nook! It's been awhile since a project post but trust me, there are several coming…apparently I like to work on 20.27 different projects at once (yeah…).

1) The first is boring: I never sealed the white paint when I refinished the table. Many cups of coffee and meals later, the table was looking like it had hosted many cups of coffee and meals. Thus,  I repainted the top and added three coats of polyurethane to make it food proof. So far so good! I didn't take pictures. It's a white table. Use your imagination :).

2) Artwork! This was fun! I used a rubber leaf stamp I already had, watercolors I already had, and photo frames I already had. All I had to buy were hooks and a can of bronze metallic spray paint and Voila! Artwork for the breakfast nook!

After stamping and painting

After framing and hanging

3) Hanging terrariums! I bought the terrariums from CB2 and since Home Depot was no longer carrying miniature succulents, I used some Hobby Lobby coupons and bought the fakes ones. With some moss and rocks, you really can't tell they are fake unless you are really close or you poke the plants (and really, who's going to do that?).

Hanging terrariums!

This spot is so nice to sit in late in the afternoon with some sunlight filtering through the blinds.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Annnnnd they're finally edible!

One of the most challenging things I have found about gluten free baking not using a mix, is getting the flour ratios right. I made a series of banana breads over the past month using different ratios and they were only edible by me (meaning, there's no way I would have someone else eat them because too much explanation on the texture would be necessary. Blah.)

Awhile back, my friend Lauren shared her Paleo Berry Muffin recipe with me (thanks Lauren!). While I do not eat a Paleo diet, my no-gluten, no-dairy, low sugar diet that works best for me happens to be very close to Paleo and I find myself using several Paleo-friendly recipes. I tweaked her recipe some to add some additional fiber and Omega-3 and used what I had on hand (agave instead of honey), but these can very easily be made Paleo (leave out the flaxseed and chia seeds - apparently these aren't approved Paleo based on what google revealed :) ).

And the best part is, I had all of this stuff in my pantry already (with the exception of the tapioca flour) so if you already eat a whole food diet and bake gluten free, I bet you will have most, if not all, of it as well. This is a great ratio of flours, the texture is spot on - but be warned, if your berries are extra juicy, the muffins may have some uber moist spots. I've heard the use of flaxseed can trap moisture so one tweak could be to leave that out.

These are amazingly tasty! I may have eaten 3 4 of them while typing this blog post. So good! I put a source list at the bottom in case you are new to gluten free baking and aren't sure where to get these things (most are available at your local grocery store now!).

Berry Muffins (Lauren's recipe with some Melissa tweaks)

Wet Ingredients

1/4c melted coconut oil
2 eggs
1/4c blue agave (I use the light gold color, but you can use whichever you prefer)
1 tsp vanilla
3/4c berries (I used some frozen ones I picked last month)

Dry ingredients

1 1/4c almond meal/almond
6 T tapioca flour
1/4c coconut flour
1 T ground flaxseed
1T chia seeds
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt

Melt coconut oil in big measuring cup. Add agave, vanilla, and eggs. Mix

In a bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Add the coconut oil/egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir. If it's too dry (mine wasn't) you can add almond milk by the tablespoon until the mixture is moist.

Stir in your berries.

I used a mini muffin tin sprayed with coconut oil. I rolled ~1" balls and plopped then in the muffin spots.

Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes.


Source list (these are the places I know of, I am sure there are more)

I use Bob's Red Meal Almond Meal, Coconut Flour, and Tapioca flour. These can be bought at Walmart, HEB, or Kroger. Central Market and Whole Foods carry them too. I haven't done a price comparison. My blue agave is the organic Kroger brand. The ground flaxseed can be found at HEB, Kroger, and Whole Foods. The chia seeds I buy in bulk at Whole Foods (best deal). The spray coconut oil I've bought at HEB, Kroger, and Whole Foods (I use Spectrum brand). The coconut oil I have is from Whole Foods, EfaGold brand. I don't cook often with it so it's lasted me a long time. Walmart and Kroger carry a LouAna brand non- organic coconut oil - works just as good as the other, but just isn't as high quality - personally I think that's just fine for baking (I got the higher end stuff to take as a supplement).

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Liver Love

The caller ID showed “Rheumo Doc” and I hesitated a few seconds, wondering what they could be calling about…I answered and the nurse informed me that some of my labs needed to be redone, that my liver panel was off and my potassium was ridiculously off, so much so that they were pretty sure the lab had made a mistake. They had already faxed in orders, so first thing the next morning, I was getting another blood draw. My next rheumo doc appointment was a week away. I know what it means to have wonky liver panels and high potassium levels, well, I mean, I know what it means at a very high, very layman’s term level ;-) It would mean that my liver and kidneys are having issues. When lupus organ-interaction begins, the kidneys and liver are usually the first ones to start having issues.

I went into work, thoughts and “what-ifs” started to percolate in my mind.

What if my kidneys are failing? What if my liver is failing? What if both are? Would I have to get a transplant? Would I even be high on the list having SLE? What would be my MELD score? Holy moly, should I still get a dog? Is this why my back has been hurting more during this flare? And on and on.

There’s a verse that has been so important to me over the past few years: take captive every thought.

"We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ" - 2Cor 10:5

I have an overactive imagination, so this verse is a challenge for me. A dear friend of mine once told me (and I quote it ALL the time to myself now): “there’s no grace for our imaginations.”

Grace: grace is when something is given when it is not deserved. For me, an example of God’s grace in my life is how he sustains me through all these health trials, that even though I doubt and stumble and have to think and pray things through so much, I really enjoy my life and am so very blessed, and He allows me to see that. God gives me grace for the events, trials, decisions, etc that He has planned for me. Not for the ones that I decide to make up and think they might be part of my future. I think it’s okay to think about the results of a decision, the different paths that decision could take you on, but not to dwell on it, not to let your emotions get all out of wack because of a situation that you are literally imagining up.

Waiting to get the updated lab results was an exercise in saying no to my imagination, taking captive thoughts, and remembering that His grace sustains me, daily leaving the lab results and whatever could come from them in the Lord’s hands. Trusting Him to provide me with whatever strength, courage, and wisdom I need to tackle whatever the next hurdle could be, health or otherwise.

At my rheumo appointment, my doc and I looked at the results. Thankfully, the potassium levels were just fine, it had definitely been a lab mix up. Wahoo! I’ve got two good functioning kidneys :insert fist pump with happy dance:. My liver, however, was definitely getting wonky. The good (um, outstanding really) news here is that it’s not lupus-related, but actually related to one of the meds I am on. It’s a chemotherapy med and long-term, low-dose use of it can result in liver damage (hence why I get liver panels drawn every 3 months) – I’ve been on this med for 8 years.

Over the past 5 weeks, I've done a rapid tapering of the med. When my doc first told me I had to come off of it, I was nervous because I had been flaring almost steadily since January and going off a med that is probably helping me not have a crazy bad flare was scary to me. We talked other med options if I started having problems, but secretly, I was hoping that I could go off of this and have no effects and be down a med and down an immunosuppressive med to boot.

And praise the Lord, the tapering has gone fine! In fact, I keep forgetting that I am tapering. Not only has the Lord allowed my body to accept the tapering, I am feeling better (my doc thought there was a good chance the liver issues were what was causing the prolonged crummy season), and I have had complete peace - no imagination, no what-ifs. Truly. That's grace folks.

It'll take several months for the med to be completely out of my system and I will continue to just take one day at a time and to remember that His grace is sufficient for me, it's sufficient for me to handle the next flare without this med, and it's sufficient for me to continue to trust Him daily.

"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." 2 Cor 12:9-10

Monday, May 12, 2014

Gluten free chocolate chip cookies

I have yet to find a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie that tastes like a gluten-filled chocolate chip cookie (and believe me, I've tried!). However, I did stumble upon this recipe and these are pretty tasty cookies! They aren't super sweet, so if that's what you are in the mood for, increase the sugar (better yet, maybe do half-white and half brown sugar, that might get you a more gluten-filled cc cookie taste.)

To make these dairy-free, just use coconut oil instead of butter and dairy-free chocolate chips. Also, if you don't like coconut, don't try these - there is definitely a subtle coconut-y flavor to them.

Gluten-free Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup coconut flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup of sugar
1/2c butter
2 tsp vanilla
5 eggs
~1 cup chocolate chips (I used all-nautral mini ones)

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl, set aside
3. Melt butter. Mix with sugar, vanilla, and eggs. Add to flour mixture.
4. Mix well
5. Stir in chocolate chips
6. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
7. Roll medium size balls of dough (~1 inch in diameter) and place on the cookie sheet
8. Bake 13-15 minutes (tops should be just starting to brown. This made about 28 cookies.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

New every morning

I sat on the now concrete floor of the closet and stared at my hands. "Hmm, maybe this isn't the best idea"

I've been wanting to rip out the carpet in my bedroom and replace it with the wood-look tile (cats+potential dog+carpet=blah). I also have a distinct loathing for the late 80's style kitchen tile and want to get it replaced.

I've gotten two quotes and both came in over what I was hoping to spend (my hopes were unrealistic by the way, one of the companies quotes is very fair). I could either pay this company to do one room and I just save for the other, OR I could do it myself and get both rooms done, plus have a lot leftover for other house projects. Felt like a no-brainer decision to me.

So I moved the desk and other furnishings from my closet-turned-office and ripped up the carpet and pad and then started to work on the tack strips which are actually nailed into the concrete slab (seriously!? That seems a bit overkill to me…). About 45 minutes in, I had to stop because my fingers and hands wouldn't work any more. My finger joints had swelled and my hands from the first knuckle up were bright red and throbbing. I have a bunch of ulcers on my right hand right now too and they were pretty irritated from all the moving/pulling of stuff.

I sat on the concrete floor and got VERY frustrated. I like to work with my hands. I like working on my home and creating something new. And, I like being able to save money. It's so easy for other people to do depo work in their homes, to tile, or garden, etc. It's easy for normal people, I kept thinking to myself. And my frustration and bitterness over my disease and season of life grew.

It took a couple of hours, but after some internal fuming, I could see how God was showing me my stubborn rebelliousness to prove to myself and others that despite some physical limitations, I could still do this. My pride was being stepped on with the swollen-hand incident. I wasn't quite ready to give it up but I did start to think, "maybe I should just pay someone to do the room."

Needless to say, I went to bed still mad and upset and grumbling.

The next morning I woke and headed to my friends house to watch their kiddo. While he took a long nap, I pulled out my Bible and journal and started reading.

Journaling's a challenge right now due to some ulcers in the spot where I hold the pen.

I'm reading in John right now and I read the story of how Jesus asked the woman at the well to draw water. What he said to her really struck home that morning:

"Jesus answered her, "if you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water" - John 4:10

I was suddenly struck by how little I had been filling myself with living water (Him) and instead depending on myself and filling myself with other stuff (not bad stuff, just stuff that wasn't Him). Living water quenches my thirst, other stuff doesn't.

As I thought on this, I also realized that I had woken up less frustrated and annoyed with the whole carpet-removal-swollen-hand incident. His mercies are really new every morning…all it took was going to bed and waking up and my attitude had been complete adjusted! What a mercy!

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in Him'" - Lamentations 3:22-24

I'm not always there with finding God to be my portion, but the more I am in His word (the Bible) and the more I am aware of him and seeking to please Him, the more easily I can say and know that He is my portion.

I still haven't 100% decided what to do about the floors, but after some rough nights with my joints and my fevers returning, having someone else do the depo/tiling is probably the wiser decision. It often surprises me the things I hold on to, that I can be stubborn about. They are usually things that I think I can control. Time and time again, He reminds me that He's in control, not me, and that it is going to look different, but also be better for me. I'm thankful for a gracious Father who never gives up on teaching me and showing me my stubbornness, so that He can refine and correct it, and grow me to be more like Him.

As an ending side note, I have an awesome steroid cream for those ulcers, but it's pretty much the greasiest-slowest-to-absorb cream in the world. I'm quite proud of the solution I came up with last night to allow the cream to absorb while I sleep (I've tried regular gloves but it soaks in more to the material than my hands). So many uses for ziploc bags :)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The In-Betweens

A friend of mine who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32 (currently cancer-free, wahoo!) posted an article this week and I keep thinking about it. The article resonated with me in so many ways and I thought I would share some of that with you all.

I'm at the tail-end of a three-month long lupus flare. Three months of excessive fatigue, constant fevers, and pain wherever there is connective tissue. A round of IV steroids at the end of February helped settle the joint pain and inflammation. A series of acupuncture appointments this month have broken the fever cycle (officially fever-free for a whole week!). And my energy is returning! Praise the Lord!

The last three months and the article got me thinking about the periods of time between flares/onsets of new symptoms, the In-Betweens, as I've decided to call them.

For me, the In-Betweens are characterized by a renewal to engage with my friends and family, to throw off the isolation that a flare can bring. To get caught up on life. Projects, outings, working out. The In-Betweens strive to be normal, to be light-hearted, able to chat about less heavy issues than sickness, meds, IVs, doctors, insurance companies that give you the run-around, etc. The In-Betweens are a time to thank the people that helped me out, that brought meals to my house because I was too tired to drive to the grocery store, people who offered to come clean my house because just looking at the vacuum cleaner could bring on tears of discouragement with the realization that pushing the vacuum just hurt too much.

The In-Betweens are a fragile walk between embracing wellness and fear of the next flare. That swollen joint one morning "is this a flare?" The elevated temperature one evening "is this a flare?" The In-Betweens are an exercise in wisdom: what project do I start that I know I can finish quickly in case I start flaring again? Is it worth it to try and sign up for a race, not knowing if I will be able to complete the training? Is it okay to hang out with my friends so late, with an early morning the next day, will that trigger a flare? Is it okay to eat that- it might cause my stomach pain to worsen, would that stress trigger a flare?

The In-Betweens are a time of feeling older beyond my years, of fighting against feeling like a "Debbie Downer" because so much of recent activity is characterized by things most people are uncomfortable with talking about, because people are "fixers" and this stuff isn't fixable. And that recent activity gives me a different perspective on daily things - an equanimity when it comes to potential drama (mostly ;-) ), an easy weeding out of the battles to be fought (again, mostly :) ).  It can be a struggle at times to relate to people, especially right after a flare.

The article talks about how young people with cancer can feel cheated. Chronic illness is very different from cancer, but I think there are similarities when it comes to emotional struggles and some of the life-changes that have to be made to accommodate something you don't want to accommodate. I was so encouraged to hear about the support groups that exist for young people with cancer. In talking with my friend, I found out that she is in training to become a mentor to other young women with cancer. It made me start thinking about if there are support groups for young people with chronic illness. Yes, there is a lupus support group here locally (I get the emails), but there is a difference of being ill when young and being ill in your 50s and 60s, and this article discusses this very well. And, I love to see people reaching out to one another in their pain and suffering, helping others deal with their suffering, to help lighten the load.

"who (God) comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God" - 2 Corinthians 1:4

I pray that the Lord will use my sharing of The In-Betweens to help those who are walking with someone who is suffering, or someone who is suffering. I pray that I will live out 2 Corinthians 1:4.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Baby Shower Invites!

I made these for my sister's baby shower. I haven't done invitations in awhile, so it was nice to tackle a set :)

The finished product!

In work...

Monday, January 20, 2014


I’ve mentioned this before, but on New Years Eve and New Years Day, I like to read/skim through the year’s worth of journal entries and see how the Lord has worked in my life and the lives of those for whom I have prayed. Last year started out with learning a hard and crucial lesson – not to fear. To commemorate the blood, sweat, tears, and time that went into the start of learning that lesson (still in progress, in case you were wondering :)), I worked with one of my favorite Etsy shops, Celebrate Today, to design this necklace:

Two charms:  “Be” “Fearless”. On the back of the “Fearless” charm, “Psalm 56:3-4” is stamped.

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?”- Psalm 56:3-4

I work to be fearless not because I am strong, not because I am in control, not because I have all the answers, but because He is strong, He is in control, and He has all the answers (whether He chooses to reveal those to me remains to be seen ;-) ). In this, I am pursuing fearlessness, while cultivating fear of Him. Sounds contradictory, I know, but fear of Him is recognizing His power, His presence, His worthiness. Fearing Him is giving Him praise, honor, and glory.

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death” – Proverbs 14:27 
“And His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” – Luke 1:50 

“The end of the matter, all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” Ecclesiastes 12:13 

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, all who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever” – Psalm 111:10 
“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised!” – Proverbs 31:30

So, when you see my “Be” “Fearless” charms, it’s not in any way saying “I rock,” but rather, it’s saying, “He is my rock.”

Sunday, January 12, 2014


I've been inspired. I just finished reading "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak.



How is it even possible for someone to have the gift to make one ache, mourn, thrill, dread, die, and hope just by scratching words on a piece of paper?

Well done Mr. Zusak. Well done.

I'll give a much more thorough review later, because it's warranted, but just a taste of the haunting, insanely crafted sentences from this story, a story of a German girl during WWII, told by Death.

"The book thief saw only the mechanics of the words - their bodies stranded on the paper, beaten down for her to walk on. Somewhere, too, in the gaps between a period and the next capital letter, there was also Max."

"Three languages interwove. The Russian, the bullets, the German."

"A woman of wire had laid herself down, her scream traveling the street, till it fell sideways like a rolling coin starved of momentum."

I sat, paused, and stared off into space several times while reading this book. Mesmerized by the words, writing out my own impressions in my head. And mockingly laughing at myself as I found my thought-ed words to be mimicking the tone of the story - a bad mimicry, but one just the same. And I thought back to an email I wrote back in college - the friend I wrote it to responded with "your last email read differently, like you were channeling a poem or something." Ha, I had just read a bunch of LM Montgomery and had been subconsciously channeling Anne into my own thoughts. I've done that with Jane Austen too - read a few of hers back to back and you'll be thinking in early 19th century English before you can utter "wot wot?" Dickens will do the same. The power of a well-crafted sentence, a skillfully turned word. Think of how Shakespeare's phrases are still peppered throughout today's media - we quote them comfortably, admiring the way they capture exactly what we want to express at that moment.

As I sat thinking over my brain's sponge-like absorption of the written-voice, I thought - hmm, that also happens when I read my Bible. When I make the time to have consistent time in His written word. If the written word is powerful, oh the power of the words inspired by the Spirit, by Him! Imagine, just imagine, if His tone, His meaning, began constructing my thoughts, my sentences. If my written word was subconsciously structured to mimic His, if my spoken words reflected Him.

Mind blown.

Challenging thoughts my friends. Lord willing, not just thoughts, but thoughts that lead to actions.

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." - Heb 4:12

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Drawing from my Eastern European roots...

I made a soup earlier this week that called for cabbage...but only a little bit. I was staring at this head of cabbage sitting in my fridge and wondering what I could make from it before it went bad. I have purple cabbage that I also need to use this week, and I make that with balsamic vinegar, so I wanted something that would have a different flavor. I remembered the amazing cabbage my friend Jana and I had when we took our Eastern European trip ::gulp:: almost 7 years ago. I did some googling and landed on a recipe for haluska (in Hungarian) or haluski (in Czech). It's a cabbage and dumpling dish. Since I've got Hungarian blood in my veins and this is a staple recipe, I figured I should probably try my hand at it :)

It was super easy and quick. And really really tasty. I don't know if mine is traditional haluska, because I didn't have any potatoes, so my dumplings were just flour dumplings, not potato and flour, but ah well, I guess I Melissaized it a bit then ;-).

Cabbage and Dumplings (Melissa's version of haluska)

~1 head cabbage (I used Napa cabbage)
1 small-med onion
3 T butter
1c flour (I used Hodgson Mill gluten free all purpose baking flour and 1/8 tsp xantham gum)
~1/2c water
~2 cups water or chicken broth* (the broth gives the dumplings a better flavor)

Slice the head of cabbage finely (some even put it in a food processor). Dice the onion. Melt the butter in a skillet and add the onions. Sauté for a minute or so and then add the cabbage and stir to combine. Cover and reduce heat to low. Boil the water/chicken broth. In a small bowl, mix the flour and 1/2c water. You may need to add water until it becomes a consistency that you can roll into small balls. I also added some garlic salt to add a bit more flavor. Once the water/broth is boiling, drop the rolled balls of dough (I kept mine to about the diameter of a nickel) into the water/broth and let them boil for about 5 minutes. Stir the cabbage. After 5 minutes, drain the dumplings and add them to the cabbage. Stir to combine and then serve. A simple, yummy dish that takes me back to my travels through the Czech Republic and Hungary.

*I didn't have chicken broth handy, so I used a spice I bought in Turkey that's used for flavoring rice - ends up having just about the same taste as chicken broth. It has herbs in it, so that's why the dumplings have specks in the picture