Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A picture's worth a thousand words

So for those of you who don't know, my sister has been diagnosed with a very rare and very aggressive form of brain cancer. I see the words I just typed, but they still don't seem real.

Seriously?! Lindsay? My sister Lindsay?! The singer, chorus teacher, dog-lover, master craft maker?!


The person who traumatized me by eating disgusting BBQ Fritos on all those family road trips?!!! (Those STINK by the way, if you didn't know. Ha!)

Anyways, the treatment plan is still TBD, but I know a lot of you are praying for Lindsay and our family. Thank you! So much! From each one of us. It really means so much to have literally an army of prayer warriors going to our mighty God on Lindsay's behalf.

Yesterday, as I was trying to think of other ways Lindsay could be supported through her journey, using Instagram came to mind. It's obvious from our blog that I blow up Instagram. Ha! Pretty much all my photos (unless they are taken with "the good camera") have been Instagramed, that is, they have been enhanced using an iphone app (for all you non-iphone users).

Instagram also connects people through images - people you know and people you don't know. You can follow people's photos and they can follow yours. Kinda... the visual Twitter.

Anyways, if you'd like to support Lindsay during this time (even if you don't know her personally), send her an encouraging pic via Instagram! It can be anything you see that's inspiring, funny, beautiful, whatever. Once you have taken the photo, just tag it " #forlindsay " and upload to your feed. Then she can go on Instagram and find all the images people have sent her way. Here's a few I've already tagged for her...

And here's one from this morning...
(It says God is greater than cancer, followed by Philippians 4:6 -7)

I know Lindsay would love to see everyone's smiling faces and anything you come along that would help keep her spirits up during this time.

If you do NOT have an iphone, but would like to send a photo to Lindsay through Instagram, email it to shellyikale@gmail.com and I will add it for you.

So if a picture is worth a thousand words, let's send Lindsay millions of encouraging words through the beautiful world God created and all those that love her.

Spread the word! Send Lindsay pics through Instragram by tagging them #forlindsay !!!

Also, if you'd like to send something to Lindsay by mail, Her address is:

Lindsay Keller
6223 Bonita Cove Rd.
Jacksonville, FL 32222
(please no sweets or candy!)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

29

So yesterday was my 29th birthday. So crazy to think 30 is just around the corner for me. Ack! Even though I wasn't able to have a birthday cake this year, Zach and I found new ways to celebrate and I honestly didn't miss the cake at all. :)

On Friday we went to Carowinds for the first time, the local amusement park in Charlotte. Carowinds has like a zillion roller coasters and a handful of other more classic rides.
One of my favorites was WindSeeker  - the tallest ride at Carowinds. It swings you around while providing aerial views of Charlotte. (Pictured above in the bottom right corner.) To say goodbye to 28, I sat in seat 29 on the Yo-yo! (Pictured above in the bottom left corner.)

I also love the carousel. For some reason, riding a painted, plastic pony around in a circle never grows old for me. I love it! I picked Nelson, the Americana themed horse because his name was Nelson and he had gold hair. :)
This was also the first time Zach and I did a roller coaster lying down (Nighthawk, pictured upper left). This was kinda freaky since you feel yourself dangling in the harness!
This was also the first time we did a roller coaster standing up (the Vortex). Also kinda strange! I think our favorite roller coaster was the Intimidator, the tallest, fastest, and longest roller coaster in the southeast! We did the bumper cars and a few other non-roller coaster rides as well as a 3d Sponge Bob experience. We did not know in advance the show was about Sponge Bob. BIG surprise for us when it began. Ha!

All in all we had a great time and it was the perfect distraction from my FAID. :)

On Saturday (my actual birthday), I opened gifts from Z, which included a new candle from Anthro and Anthro gift card. Yayuh. :)

I got dressed up in my fav lady bug dress and spent my afternoon shopping around town.
See the bugs?
At Anthro I found some great deals, including $118 shorts on sale for $9.95 (yes!) and new glass pulls for the vintage nightstands mom got me. I can't wait to repaint them and get them in our bedroom! 

Vintage nightstands waiting to be redone
(from upper right: new shorts, candle from Z, Anthro wrapping, and the new glass pulls!)
That night, Zach grilled me the most delicious steak. He had researched techniques for grilling and seasoning so it was perfect! Not to mention it had a candle in it (as well as my afternoon rice cake with avocado). :)
Also, one of my birthday treats included having steak sauce. Pretty much all the food on my FAID is dry so having a sauce of some kind was divine! (Pictured below, upper left.)
In addition, Zach went and found me a gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free dessert. He is so sweet! It even had barely any sugar in it. Ha! I know it sounds horrible, but that macaroon chocolate cup was AMAZING and an incredible treat during my FAID. My late night snack included some blueberries and blackberry preserves (all pictures above.) 

I seriously felt so spoiled yesterday, even without a single piece of cake or "real" dessert. 

Thanks Z for making my day so great and for loving me so much. You are the bestest and I am so ridiculously blessed to be your wife. 

So here's to 29! I hope my last year as a twenty-something is my happiest, healthiest, most Christ-centered year yet! 


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Two Weeks Down

So I've officially completed 2 weeks of this FAID (food allergy inflicted diet). Hooray! Only 6 more weeks to go!

Uh...wrong!

At my appointment with Dr. Song this week he was super pleased with how I am improving.  Among other things, apparently my eyes are even brighter (yes my eye balls themselves) and the dark circles under my eyes have gone away completely. That is, unless I smear mascara there of course. Ha!

He had me do an IonCleanse foot bath to remove toxins and general...gunk from my body. That was...well... interesting. It's very scientific, dealing with molecular science and such, but apparently it works. If it doesn't, I'm not sure where all this gunk came from.

A few minutes into the cleanse
About 20 minutes into the clease
At the beginning of the cleanse the water is clear, but as the ionization process happens, toxins start leaving your body through osmosis and the color changes. Color indicates what organ of your body released the toxins and is detoxifying.

Anyways, after my exam Dr. Song felt strongly that I have a parasite (is anyone else completely revolted by this or is it just me?) and recommended I take some magic drops (that's what I call them, not Dr. Song!) to clear it up. I have to do that for the next 2 weeks and THEN I will start my 6-week GI Repair program.

Sigh.

So yes, make that 10 weeks and counting that I have to do this crazy diet. Hopefully I will finish this thing just prior to our "Tour of the southern coast" family vacay. I really really want to enjoy meals with my family during this time! (Don't rain on my parade Dr. Song.)

In general I am getting use to it, but eating out or with other people who don't eat like a rabbit can be hard. (Please see my last post about the rice meltdown at Ruby Tuesday!)

I am getting pretty bored with my dinners and am desperate for some new quick snack items besides carrots and rice cakes. I also would kill for a piece of fruit! Ha! But the ban on fruit and all things sugar continues.

My typical snack - plan rice cake topped with mashed avocado, EVOO, and sea salt with carrots.
I still feel good though, have no more stomach/digestive problems, have lost a few more lbs., and have not lost any energy. All of this still amazes me considering my thyroid issue and the removal of my medication.

This weekend is my birthday and I am not looking forward to it at all. Who wants to celebrate a birthday without a fabulous dinner and cake?! Maybe I'll go drown my sorrows in Anthropologie goodness instead. :)

Monday, April 16, 2012

This is my story, and a page has been turned...

This past weekend was a big one. One of those life-changing moments that when you leave your house to encounter it, everything looks one way and when you walk back through the door after you have, somehow everything looks different. The furniture hasn't moved, the walls haven't been painted, the cup on the counter is still where you left it, and yet... everything feels different.

Zach and I spent the weekend in Florida for my sister's brain surgery. For those of you who don't know, 6 weeks ago, an MRI revealed a tumor in her cerebellum.

On Thursday, Zach and I got to Jacksonville just in time to help my sister close up shop at her middle school chorus room. It was the first time we had been to any of her schools so it was fun to see the place all her crazy school stories come to life.

Her school
Inside her chaotic classroom :)
Walking out the door!
That night, Lindsay, her husband Steve, and Zach and I went out to Bonefish for dinner before the big day. The three of them tortured me and my FAID (food allergy inflicted diet) with fresh bread and flavorful apps, but I held my ground and didn't break. :)

On Friday, Lindsay had her surgery. Dr. Parker, her favorite neurosurgeon, signed her head at the incision point
and we waited with bated breath to see how everything went.
The display updating us on her status and indicating Lindz is in surgery.
While in the waiting room I started reading Tara Leigh Cobble's latest book, Orange Jumpsuit.
Before heading to Florida, I asked my sister if she had a copy and she joyfully said, "We actually have two copies so you can have one. Steve and I both bought one without knowing the other had just ordered it." Score! I was excited to crack that baby open while my sister's head was...well, the same. Ha!

Tara Leigh- an author, speaker, and friend of my sister, is an incredible writer and each time she releases a book I devour it like a starved lion. Orange Jumpsuit, is no different and I tore through the pages on Friday and Saturday, soaking up her tales and the beautiful story God is writing through her life. To put it simply, Orange Jumpsuit is about the things in our life that ensnare us and keep up trapped and separated from true freedom in God, our prison clothes or "orange jumpsuit".

Reading TLC's amazing stories and how God so intimately speaks to her inspired me and challenged me to look harder for God and listen closer to his voice. It's caused me to stop and ponder, "What are my prison clothes? What do I cling to that ultimately keeps me from God's blessing and the freedom of living fully in his spirit? What do you want to do in me Lord? What do you want me to invest in? What from scripture do you want me to meditate on this year? What do you want to change in me?

One answer to my questions came Friday night, after Lindsay's surgery was over and she was quietly resting in ICU, recovering from the operation. Zach and I went to Ruby Tuesday assuming I would be able to get some food that worked with my FAID, namely chicken or fish, steamed rice, and broccoli.

As the waiter came around I was quickly met with some unwelcome news. Ruby Tuesday had no plain rice. And sadly, my world was rocked. Ha! I know that sounds so pathetic, but as previously mentioned in an earlier post, this diet to restore my GI tract is difficult and unfulfilling. I am constantly hungry and rice is really my only filling food. I look forward to it at every dinner now, hoping it will temporarily satisfy the raging monster within me. This news, paired with the fact my sister just had a brain tumor removed and food has always been like my baby blanket, comforting me in times of trial or pain, was the opposite of what I wanted to hear. Can someone please pass the chocolate chip cookies and bread and butter?!!! STAT!

As tears filled my eyes when all these realizations and thoughts came raining down upon me, I heard a whisper that said, "I want to be your baby blanket, your comforter. Don't turn to "sad girl food" as TLC puts it, but me. Your God, and your ultimate provider. Rely on me to meet all your needs." Sitting in that sticky, vinyl booth I realized how weak I was and how much God needs to do in me to free me from things that bind and things that steal his place in my life. As I waited for Zach to come back from the salad bar, in my mind I unzipped my orange jumpsuit of control and wiped my tears on the sleeve. I honestly had no idea how quickly God would ask me to fling it off completely and throw it in a heap.

(Side story about Ruby Tuesday. I can't help, but brag about my husband. So Zach immediately knew I was about to majorly meltdown when the waiter said, "No steamed rice." He got up to "go to the salad bar" and then disappeared. 5 minutes went by, 7 minutes... and I began to wonder if he had just decided to eat straight from the salad bar itself. I got up to go look and he was nowhere in sight. Frantically I called his cell only to find out that he had been running to all the neighboring restaurants trying to find me a side of steamed rice.

I crumbled. In the same moment that I was overcome with weakness and brokenness, I was bathed in such an intense amount of love and provision, albeit an attempt at provision. :) These are one of those moments when you understand why God gave us the gift of marriage and how it can show us a small glimpse into the magnitude of God's great love for us.

As we pulled out of the parking lot and these thoughts were swirling around my mind, I looked up and saw the restaurant sign was only half lit. I chuckled once and said to Zach, "Sorry for my meltdown at Ruby Day."We laughed over the silly sign and said we'd always remember Ruby Day. When we got back to my sister's house that night, Zach cooked me a bowl of rice and it was the best bowl I've ever had. It was definitely because of the extra tablespoon of love added to the recipe. :))
Reading TLC's book was maybe the most pivotal part of my weekend and has hugely impacted me during this journey my family is now on. On Saturday, as my sister got moved from ICU to a regular room, I asked God again, "What do you want me to meditate on this year or during this season of my life?" Immediately I got an answer - Psalm 86. It startled me how quickly this came to my mind with no confusion or deliberation. I had no idea what Psalm 86 was so I looked it up.

Psalm 86
"Hear me, LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you.You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.
Hear my prayer, LORD; listen to my cry for mercy.
When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with yours.
All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name.
For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead.Arrogant foes are attacking me, O God; ruthless people are trying to kill me— they have no regard for you.
But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
Turn to me and have mercy on me; show your strength in behalf of your servant; save me, because I serve you just as my mother did.
Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me."
After reading this Psalm I was kind of wide-eyed. There are so many meaningful and timely things in this chapter and it's too much for me to write out, but know that this spoke to me and confirmed that our God is a God who not only walks beside us, but before us through all things, preparing the way and showing us how to rely on him through all things. God was talking through the holy spirit, I was listening, and it felt good.

While my sister was resting on Saturday, Zach and I took a short trip to the beach and then went to Ted's Montana Grill since their special was red beans and rice. Yes. A restaurant that serves plain ol' rice. Unforuntately, by the time we got there they had sold out. Night two of no rice, but I handled it better this time and made up for it with the sirloin and salmon combo. :)

Sunday morning, we heard the initial results of Lindsay's pathology report and it wasn't music to our ears. In fact, the painful clanging sounds of those words are still ringing in my ear. As we talked options and treatments and trials, God continued to remind me that he is our healer, and our sustainer, ever present in times of trouble. I fought off the orange jumpsuit of fear like a ninja warrior, knowing my God is able to do all things and fear or worry of the future only gets in the way of being an advocate of Christ's power through the resurrection and the freedom that comes with it.

Sunday's good news included Lindsay was able to be sent home from the hospital to continue recovery. Yayuh! So far, the only side affect of her surgery and removal of part of her cerebellum is slight dizziness when walking. Praise God! Her motor skills and coordination are normal.

Here's Lindsay with the famous Dr. Parker
And us, the sisters
Headed out the door in shades all "celebrity plastic surgery style" or at least that's what I call it. Ha!
As hard as it was, Zach and I had to leave Sunday afternoon and headed back to Charlotte. On our way, we stopped at Bonefish in Savannah since they seem to be the only restaurant ever to have plain, uncontaminated steamed rice. I love Savannah and all the giant live oaks dripping in spanish moss and dark ivy reaching into the crevices of every brick building. It's beautiful and romantic and feels like an exciting secret is hidden on each aging street.

At Bonefish that night, as I was continuing to think about Psalm 86 and my abandoned orange jumpsuit of fear and all things Lindsay, I got my dinner and it looked like this.
My chicken was in a perfectly symmetrical heart shape. Seriously? Does that happen? Ever? Was this the "sign of your goodness"?

Verse 17 of Psalm 86 says, "Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me."

I took it as a comforting "chicken from God", a sort of visual reminder of his perfect plan, and smiled at his timing and his incredibly personal love for us.

So even though a page has been turned, and things in my world look exactly the same, but feel pretty different, I know God is able. I know God can be trusted. I know God is with us and working. I know he has the power to calm storms and hold the entire universe in his hand. And I know prayer and faith can do mighty things. So please pray for my sister and that her body is healed! Nothing is too big or too small for our God!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

One Week Down

So FAID (food allergy inflicted diet) update! I've successfully completed 1 week of at least 8 weeks of this new diet that eliminates all my food allergies as well as my previously prescribed meds for my thyroid problem. Wahoo!

It's been hard, but I haven't cheated... because I can't... and I have been stunned with the success of this so far. Here are the deets. Since I started this last Wednesday I've had no stomach problems whatsoever - no bloating, stomach aches, grumbling and groaning (other than hunger pains!), and no umm... unpleasant trips to the restroom. Ha!

I've also had no headaches, no cravings (I thought this would certainly happen since I have no sugar in my diet now), and no energy loss (I thought this would happen by stopping my meds). In fact, I might have more energy now.

Oh and bonus, I've lost about 7 lbs. Ha! There is an upside to all this craziness!

I also have had to find new "guilty pleasures" including pickles, steak, and a rice cake topped with mashed avocado, olive oil, and sea salt. I also now really like and look forward to the nasty looking green shake I drink twice a day with rice milk. Rice has definitely become my new best friend - rice milk, cooked rice, rice cakes... they are by far the most filling things in my diet right now (other than the occasional steak).

So far, it looks like Dr. Song knows what's up and that this is the right thing for my body. I will be so curious to see what happens in the weeks to come and if in fact my food allergies/antibodies count/Hashimoto's condition are significantly better because of just diet changes alone. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

2 Years

Today is our 2 year anniversary. I can't believe it's been 2 years, only 2 years! I can barely remember a time in my life I didn't know Zach. Gosh God has blessed us. He's taken us on quite a wild ride (and I don't think it's over yet), but he has certainly blessed us in greater ways than we ever hoped for.

As I am sure you can tell from 2 years of posts, Zach and I celebrate occasions with food. Going out to eat, exploring new restaurants, and trying new foods is sort of our MO. Well now that I can only have a handful of foods, eating out if out of the question.

Major frowny face over here. Oh well, this is for a good reason, or at least that's what I'm telling myself! Ha! So since we needed to celebrate our 2 years without any tasty treats and a lavish meal we decided to go to the U.S. National Whitewater Center that has a myriad of outdoor sports for you to do.




Watching kayakers
We spent our day mountain biking and enjoying the beautiful scenery. The weather was seriously perfect, like 73 degrees, a soft breeze, and not a cloud in the sky! Yes!!



The color and texture of the earth. Beautiful.

We also did the mega zip line which is over 1000 ft and tried stand up paddle boarding for the first time. Sorry there are no pics of these activities. There was nowhere to keep a camera safely! Blast!

So we weren't dressed to the nines or eating gourmet food at an upscale restaurant, but we had a super fun day together and honestly, I think it was a perfect and symbolic way to celebrate our 2 years.

The mountain biking was hard with lots of unforeseen challenges (like tree roots, rocks, and steep inclines). It reminded me of our first year together in FL. Both the biking and that year required us to work together to make it through. As we were flying on the zip line across the rapids, I couldn't help but think of the wild ride we have been on together in such a short time. And just like the zip line, it's been risky, but it's been a crazy amount of fun. And lastly, at the end of the day when the sun was low in the sky, I watched Zach coast back into the dock on his paddle board and just took a minute to take it all in. The gentle rippling of the river, the trees now in complete fullness, the incredible blue sky. I was overcome with gratitude and amazement for the beautiful life God has created for us, the blessings he's given us, and the journey he has us on, paddling side by side.
I love you Zach, more than words can say, and am so humbled and overjoyed to do life with you, my best friend, my lobster that I could literally implode from joy overload. Happy anniversary my love! The best is yet to come. (I know this to be true since next year we will eating two desserts to make up for missing one this year. Ha!) :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Easter 2012

Easter is the most important time of year if you are a christian, that is if you believe God sent his son Jesus to live a perfect life, to die on the cross for all our sin, and to be risen from the dead so that we could be with God for eternity. Since Z and I work at a church, I'm sure you can guess that a lot of our time and energy is spent preparing for such a special holiday and time of year.

Our church had over 8,500 people come and celebrate Jesus death and resurrection at one of our 3 campuses. At South Park (where we work) it was a whirlwind since we had 2 services Saturday night and 3 on Sunday. Even though people were pouring in and out of the buildings non stop, I couldn't help but marvel at what a gift it is to serve at a church. Zach stands before thousands of people every weekend and I stand before hundreds of children, sharing the gospel, explaining why Jesus matters, and hoping they develop a personal relationship with our incredible God.

It's so humbling. And shocking. That God would use us. As I stood in the sanctuary during one of the main services and watched Zach lead a song he had written recently, tears streamed down my face as I realized the magnitude of this gift and also the responsibility. Thank you Jesus for using broken people like us.

Here are a few pics from the weekend. I didn't take a ton cause I didn't have time and the spaces were too dark for good pics with the ol' iphone.


For elementary aged kids, we did a series of eight interactive displays so they could experience the Easter story. At each display there was something they could taste, touch, smell, see, hear etc. They also got a small "artifact" (this is the Exploratorium after all!) at each display to put in their bag to help them remember the Easter story, things like a leaf for the Garden of Gethsemane, a thorn for the beating of Christ, a nail for when he's put on the cross, and a piece of cloth for when they find the tomb empty.

Here's a group of boys up in the "upper room" enjoying some of the Passover meal and talking about the last supper.
And of course, the empty tomb, everyone's favorite display! This was built out of the Exploratorium's garage/workshop space.
Hooray! He is alive!

After church, Zach and I had a lazy afternoon and then grilled steak. YES. This FAID (food allergy inflicted diet) has me starving pretty much constantly. It was so so nice to feel full from a delicious steak. A steak that looked a lot like California I might add. Ha!
We also went on a walk at the park to enjoy the gorgeous weather. Charlotte has been breathtaking lately. Gosh! We love this city.
Thank you Jesus for such a lovely Easter and for the opportunity to do your work and share you with others, not just on Easter but everyday of the year.