Monday, April 19, 2010

Who Am I?

I never really thought about that question until I had a series of life-changing events occur with such intensity that I could not ignore who I was but was also forced to consider who I was to become. My life as a child could only be described as atypical for any kid's dreams. Time with other kids my age was not the norm as my mom and I lived with my grandparents in rural Pennsylvania and they were busy working themselves but with the flexibility that allowed me to be looked after while not able to be driven to a friends house with ease. I grew up with dogs and cats as my friends. In the country we had neighbors but they were distant and detached. My mom's full time job kept her away most of the week and I marked the passage of time with TV shows on PBS...Sesame Street, Mister Rogers and Zoom were the time slots of my day that brought my mom back to me. I never knew my dad as my mom divorced him when I was just a year old. I never realized that being without one was going to leave me incomplete or longing. My Papap was a fireball! He was always busy doing something--working in the garden, cutting the acres of grass we had on his tractor with me on his lap, reupholstering furniture in the garage, listening--and watching if possible a ball game in a small corner bedroom with Myron Cope announcing and me sitting with him on the side of his bed playing cards--Casino, Rummy and War were our favorites. Usually those times of solitude for him were quickly interrupted by my Grandma yelling at him for "escaping" with me. All fun and games for me but no time for her she would complain. I understood early on that my Papap was a kid at heart and enjoyed playing as much as possible but was obligated to the responsibilities of a man. The husband role was not an easy one for him as she was the provider and always had been. She worked every day for 26 years in a mushroom farm picking mushrooms. I remember the smocks she wore--they were a grayish blue with medium-sized translucent buttons down the front. Nothing about his plans for earning a living was secure. At one point an egg route was his source of income. I am sure she liked her job as she developed friendships that took her away from the drudgery and insecurity of their life. Add to the equation their youngest child, their only daughter, their pride and joy, unlucky at love and back at home with a child in tow--and one that they were more responsible for than she was, and it is understandable why they felt a squeeze that frustrated them with no one to complain to but each other and by indirectly doing so without me at the obvious center they could vent about that unfair role she had placed them in. Regardless of how it was done, it created insecurity in me that ended with a child who craved people and busyness--and what I could never get enough mom. I always said I wanted 5 kids. That seemed like a good, uneven number that would allow for the hustle and bustle that was absent in my childhood and not allow for pairing as I felt coupling up would discourage unity as a whole. When I was 5 years old my Papap decided I needed to be raised in church with the positive influences to be found within. It was only a short period of time before he came to faith in Jesus Christ. I gleaned what was offered and simply accepted that Jesus was the son of God. My Papap also had some other outspoken positions that I soon learned matched with intensity his love for God. They were as much a part of his fiber as they are mine. Politics was a topic that my Grandma would caution him on speaking about. He didn't know another way. He just threw it out there--much in the same way I do. And his passions were contagious for those who knew him best and agreed with him, but for those who didn't...well let's just say his reputation was not cherished by those. I know that much of my personality is much like his. He turned many toward truth but he repelled those that weren't ready. I realize it is much better to win with love, but the reality is that for many of us who have been rejected, love and trust are synonymous and trust is not able to be attained just because you know it is a virtue that draws people to feel accepted and secure. When love is lacking so is trust. When it is lacking in a child it takes YEARS of success within more than just a great marriage to gain.
My biological father rejected me and my mom was emotionally void of what it takes to validate a child's needs. She was also physically absent most days and so my greatest need for security and the only one available should have been found in her but wasn't.
As I grew, I filled much of my thoughts with dreams about my future. I didn't realize at that time that when you belong to God, regardless of what you desire for yourself, if it is not within His plan, not only will you not be happy, feel secure or function with the only sense of purpose that ultimately matters--His; but whatever ideas you seek unless they satisfy at the soul level and have purpose behind them, they are not worth the pursuit. Emptiness is still the byproduct. My mom always told me that whatever I wanted in life could be attained. It is that attitude that is pervasive among all others--with the exception of the desire for 5 children. I have often been criticized for being idealistic. It didn't change my thinking--if anything it fueled me to have lofty goals and exceptionally high standards for myself. It has taken 30 years of that mindset to be harnessed, knocked off course and redirected according to God's plan that has given me the most understanding of the most important lesson of all that I have learned: unless you can handle the responsibility of the gift, it can't be given.
When I was 12 years old my mom remarried. The life I lived with my grandparents vs the life I was now thrust into was almost traumatic itself other than the fact that one day things were not easy to come by and most things were bought only when necessary and oftentimes at a secondhand store and now they were plentiful with enough to share. Although because there wasn't enough to go around for most of my childhood, and I was an only child, I didn't like the concept of sharing--and I still do not.
I enjoy being generous, but I do not like to share. My husband says it this way: "I am fussy about my stuff". He's right--I am and I have stopped apologizing for it. That is one of those wounds that is not high on the list of priorities to correct--for some, perhaps yes, but in the scheme of my challenges and weaknesses to overcome, I am generous and I think that is a more important virtue. It is an act of the will to be generous rather than sharing which represented a source of pain inflicted through my childhood that had equated in a result of never having enough to be at peace. Not enough company, not enough love, not enough of my mom--and hating sharing her with anyone, and only my Papap could I lay claim to, but only accompanied by my Grandma's anger--so ultimately not enough of the one that I knew loved me unconditionally--the only one--other than God; but I didn't understand that at the time as I do now. Ironically my Grandma's emotional needs were not met because he was busy sharing himself with me.
My new life began in 8th grade. I was 13 years old and the newfound freedom that went with it was of no benefit looking back. Ironically, my mom had a baby 9 months after her wedding day! My mom was now 36 years old and as much as she overprotected me as a result of her insecurities and inability to control many of her obstacles to a satisfied life, she stifled my sister at every level, except the one that matters the most with kids and that is setting boundaries that ultimately gives them freedom. Freedom to develop, freedom to thrive, freedom to make mistakes. Since her new course of life kept her home with my sister and cultivate homemaking skills, one more challenge was one too many. As a result I was able to do almost anything I wanted. I wanted to play with my friends. I now had some. The expectation of my parents was an easy one to meet: keep my room clean and do the dishes and in return I had spending money and freedom. My new dad was a busy man. He was only home briefly at noon, again for dinner and left after the news and typically not again until after 9:00. He was a funeral director and had a business that if I heard it once, I have heard it a million times "people were dying to get in". He is an honest man and he was fair and he served others exceptionally well. His only requirement of me was to be out the door on time each morning as he drove me to school and he was NEVER late. I failed him miserably. Other than that, if my mom was happy, he was happy. She seldom was. She was overwhelmed with her new life. The inability to run from her challenges and dump her responsibilities on her parents was over with her marriage and she never fully adjusted. Add to the fact that my sister was the one in control from the day she was born and it was a recipe for failure--for everyone. It was also justification for me to escape my further rejection by my mom who should have been more available to me now than ever with her new role as mom only.
When I look back I realize how hard it was for me to see that my mom had so much to be grateful for--I know I was-and yet still wasn't at peace with herself. I think to the degree that I pointed that out to her is equivalent to the degree with which I thank God for the provisions He has allowed in my own life. There is a responsibility with what we are gifted with: whether it is time, resources, knowledge, finances etc. the blessing is found in what is done with those gifts for their optimal benefit for serving others. I never understood how she managed to feel victimized by her life to the point where she wasn't making a positive impact in the most important group of all in any woman's life: her family.
Because my childhood was so lonely and isolating I didn't often go back to my grandparent's house in the country to visit once we moved. They came in to visit often enough and because of my developing social life I did not make their visits a priority. When I was 17 years old after a year decline in my Papap's health, he died of congestive heart failure. I remember that when he had his first heart attack and his strength noticeably diminished I had a hard time adjusting. He had NEVER even had a cold since I could remember and he also had the strength of an ox. It devastated me when he died and the one connection I had with true love and acceptance was now gone forever.
It wasn't until I was 22 years old that it really hit me. How I had failed him! The man that adored me had been rejected by me when he needed me the most. It still pains me to think about it. I also know that God used me as the catalyst to bring him to Himself. My purpose in my Papap's life is one that I am the only one on the planet can claim. I thank God for that role.
And after being blessed with a dad who has filled a role in my life that only God could gift me with after rejection by my biological father, I realize God always provides. It doesn't always come in ways we expect and there is often a fight for its maintenance but when challenges present themselves and many fail us God has shown me that there are a few key people in my life that have enriched me in ways that ONLY He could offer. I have my Papap, my dad (Rodney) and my husband. And each of them are polar opposites but share one common element: they each love me beyond what I could ever earn!
They love me the way I had longed for my mom to love me. I am just thankful that I never held that against her. I intuitively understood her limitations. I also clearly see how God gave me these 3 men to guide me through various stages of my life with a common goal: becoming my absolute best for where I was at those times.
I am still a dreamer. I still have an ideal in my heart that I cannot shake no matter what logic presents itself. Regardless of my circumstances I still focus on the best life has to offer. I understand that to be more than what money buys or continual ease. I tell my kids what my mom used to tell me: shoot for the stars, the moon isn't high enough!
Dreaming brings hope to trials. It brings order to chaos.
August 17, 2007 my mom died from cancer after a 2 year decline. When they told her there was nothing else they could do for her it was Mother's Day weekend. She literally went home and never left. I watched the pain of her life and the pain of her disease be replaced with a renewed faith in her God and in her suffering. She knew where she was going. My dad barely worked during those 3 months. He was by her side. I watched the chasm between them be filled. She let go of her anger and frustration for her disappointments in her life and I believe for the first time she realized that it wasn't someone else's job to fill those spaces. They were her own responsibility. She began to tough it out with God and He showed up. Did He ever! The hospice nurse said to me one evening, "You know your family is having a supernatural experience with death, don't you?!" I knew. I watched my mom be restored and redeemed through her dying body. What a testimony to the power of God and the truth of His word. She was His! She had not been trusting Him for many years and her bitterness was standing in the way of her peace. But she claimed Him as her savior and she knew salvation was only found in Him and He proved Himself to all who knew my mom and watched her transform--on her death bed.
To this day I have not shed a tear. I did that during the times I laid by her side and cried at the ugliness and torture of her disease. I also cried at the love I saw her able to express when she barely had an ounce of strength to do so. I cried when she told me how proud she was of the woman and the mother and the wife and the child of God I had become. I cried when she told me I was her hero. And I cried when she died and I could no longer see her face and smell her smell. Then I cried one last time when we closed her casket and I knew I would never see her physical body again. And then I rejoiced (her name was Joyce) that she was in heaven with two of my favorite people--my Papap and Lisa--my twins (first) mom.
I am blessed to have had God join me to a man who has continued to grow in his relationship to God and allow His purpose to be the one that remains his sole desire for his life. His sickness (which is in my blog titled Pain to Purpose) had been the tool that God has used to harvest a field of hope that grows with each seminar to those searching for answers to bizarre and unexplainable illnesses. My trust in him as a person with integrity and desire to satisfy me has been tested and for several years our roles were reversed. I grew during that time in ways I never would have imagined. When Dylan and Olivia came into our life I once again kicked into a new level of survival and after 6 years finally am finding the space to thrive. It is occurring as a result of some unforeseen and unfair realities that have caused us to hold fast to our faith in who we know ourselves to be and our God who has allowed it all. (I will write about that too--perhaps next) What I know above all else is this: when you are called to a life of purpose, one that makes a difference in the world and you pray and ask God to direct it, do not think for one second that the road to the destination will be easy. IT WILL BE THE HARDEST ONE YOU HAVE EVER WALKED! It must be earned. It is the responsibility of earning the gift. And God cannot release it to you until you have surrendered to His ways being higher than your ways. There is always purpose in the suffering. We are the human sacrifices He uses to accomplish His desires for a world He desperately loves. Once we prove ourselves worthy He will release us and His blessing will be bestowed upon us. I am still earning the value He feels I have to offer even though I feel I have nothing left to give.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Missionary Man

Many of you already know my husband. He is everything and more that you have come to know him to be: purpose-driven, compassionate, off-the-charts intelligent and a man of integrity. He had more of these qualities than anyone I knew when I met him 20 years ago and since then the challenges that he faced brought these characteristics into a new level of existence. I decided that as there have been many mountains we have climbed as our marriage, our family and our mission have grown, that the best way to add yet another dimension to our call was to offer to those interested in joining our mission of "exposing the epidemic" the part of his story that is not one that can be focused on in his teaching and yet it is a part that we have learned a long the way to be invaluable to those suffering. It is the emotional aspect of neurotoxic conditions. Whether you are the one who is neurotoxic or the partner of the one who is sick, the burden is immense. The pain is real. Emotional needs are not met. There are many paths that are sought. There are few answers. Hope is difficult to find and doom seems to lurk and attack without warning. I know your pain. I know it because I have been there and at times still feel the threat of what I thought was overcome. We fear what we do not know and we fear more what we have already suffered through.

When Danny and I were married, we had already known each other for almost 6 years. When we had our first child, Daniel, it was 2 years later. 2 years after that came another baby boy, Izik and within 4 months, my husband began experiencing a cascade of events that began a quest and a crusade.
I remember he had a bout with the flu and the next month again and the next month yet again. We were perplexed by this occurrence as Danny was not one to get sick. EVER! He was an avid cyclist and spent a few hundred miles on his bike throughout the week. I used to feel frustrated by his intensity with the sport but after our marriage and a baby and gaining some leverage as a result, he attempted to spend more time supporting my needs and I quickly learned that was better accomplished AFTER he put some time in the saddle. We had a relationship that just worked. We knew each other so well when we got married and our love was based on a genuine respect for one another. Even the things that were on each of our "lists" we knew we would probably never see much success in changing and we were ok with that as even those idiosyncratic behaviors were not points of contention for either of us, as much as areas that would perfect our marriage. We both understood perfection was not attainable on this side of heaven and so we both were satisfied with who we were to one another and how we just seemed to fit together even though in some ways we were very different.

When we looked back at the onset of his sickness, we recalled debilitating headaches that drove him off his bike. They lasted for well over the balance of the day and sometimes into the next day. He also had insomnia. It wasn't just sleeplessness. It was sleeplessness that forced him into another bed so that the baby and I could get "some" sleep and after a period of time he eventually began anticipating and fearing the night. Some nights I would go upstairs to check on him and find him curled in a fetal position. The strength and character of the man I knew was dwindling and the shift began to occur as roles were reversing.

I was the more irrational of the two of us as I assume women often are. By nature we are more emotional and do not look at facts to drive our decisions. For a brief moment I gained perspective beyond my tendencies and looked at the irrational behavior of my husband and saw with clarity all that I needed to know which was the philosophy that we lived our life by: there had to be a physiological explanation for the manifestation of his symptoms. We already lived a life that was sound and built on God's principles. We ate according to a premise that simply believed that if God made it, it was good for you and if man altered it in any way, avoid it. I had stayed home to give birth to my children and we didn't vaccinate and disrupt the immune system of the perfection to which God created the human race. We didn't take aspirin for headaches or any other drugs to cover symptoms. We believed there to be a time and a place for medicine but we knew that to be mostly in emergency situations.

Danny was solid. His philosophy was sound. His influence was contagious. He was a leader worth following and he gained his belief system based on the research of the science. He was not someone who just followed a trend. He needed proof. When the bottom fell out during this time, I was the one reminding him of what I ultimately had learned from him. I repeatedly reminded him that there just had to be a physiological explanation for what he was going through and that I just knew that God had created him with the slew of talents and abilities He did so that he could carry a message into the world that it needed to hear. I really had no idea what that was at the time but given the knowledge and purpose we were living out and sharing and our commitment and passion for God's ways being higher and better than our own, I just knew that there was a higher calling within it all. My only ability to see through the mess that we were living through was by a process of elimination: we had a good grasp of things that made sense but there were certainly areas within the realm of health that we didn't have experience with. At the time we lived in an old home in a small suburb of Pittsburgh that I had a thought about perhaps being part of the culprit: what if there was something in our house that was making him sick. It wasn't long before this that I too had some symptoms that were plaguing me and we weren't able to figure out the origin. I had this incessant tapping on the top of my head in the same spot for months, my neck would click when I would turn my head--and at times it was more aggravating than others, and I began having feelings of fear that would come and go. We would go to the bookstore and research and were led to believe that it was something relating to hormones--between having my first baby and being a vegan (eating no meat or dairy) and not being a proponent of supplementation it was quite possible that with the more reading he was doing the more a deficiency of some sort was a possible cause. After 2 babies, nursing, and more frustration and consequently more education I began eating meat. We learned it wasn't actually the meat, but what man had done to it to change its composition. That fit within our philosophy and within a very short period of time my symptoms dissipated.

So when I thought about the potential for our house to be making us sick I convinced my husband to seek out a toxicologist. We went to a prominent hospital in the city and they ran a battery of tests. It was more than a few thousand dollars later and a statement that infuriates me: " you are just under a lot of stress and need a good psychotropic drug"! Our position for our response took us back to our philosophy. Quickly putting into perspective that those living in third world countries who were dealing with war or famine were under stress. We live in America and our stress is manageable for the most part--at least under normal conditions. Once we left there, even though we were under a new degree of hopelessness, we were also left to The One that allowed it and He would surely answer our cries for help. He already led Danny to a greater level of understanding of health and a greater commitment to His purpose and the primary one that was front and center was getting his own health back! I gained greater hope for God's call upon our life as I watched my husband on his decent days research and pursue authors, scientists, peer-reviewed journals and articles searching for avenues to lead to a road that would restore his health. The symptoms were brutal and seemed to have no predictability. He would watch a movie and whether happy or sad, passive or aggressive, Danny would not be able to recover. His heart would pound, his adrenaline would surge and he would be left spent and scared--if it were in the evening, he typically would not be able to sleep that night. There were times when I would be putting away the dishes or sliding hangars in the closet and he would tell me his nerves were jumping and I had to stop. He would accuse me of making more noise than necessary to accomplish tasks. There were times when the kids would make noise (and be kids) and he couldn't tolerate it. I would have to grab them and rush out of the house. I can remember leaving in bare feet and the kids in their pajamas. I can remember the feelings of desperation that washed over him out of nowhere and I would be driving us somewhere and he would share his mental he always did...and I was SCARED. As those dreaded feelings erupted within him and his ability to communicate it with such emotional intensity, I anticipated him taking control of the steering wheel and ending it for both of us. I hid knives at times due to my fears of the power of his irrational mind.

I remember gauging life events as signs that things would soon improve. When I got pregnant with our 3rd child I immediately thought we were soon to be through this ordeal. When my cousin was murdered by her husband and he killed himself and her 7 year old twins--and one vaccine damaged--were now our children, I again arrived immediately at the same conclusion: surely God wouldn't allow this as there was no way Danny could handle it otherwise. We were living in crisis mode and couldn't seem to escape. Our new baby boy, Simon, was only 6 weeks old when the tragedy occurred. Daniel was 5, Izik 3, Simon was 6 weeks and Dylan and Olivia were 7. My head was spinning. My husband was just on the brink of finding the answer--mercury poisoning due to the improper removal of amalgam fillings and a diagnosis of Mad Hatters Disease. Knowing what it took to get Danny to where he now was, with hope on the horizon was truly a gift from God that we knew had a call attached to it. A new purpose with greater responsibility with unknown knowledge within even natural health was unfolding. Knowing what we had just learned over the past 3 years came with a price. The bible says the more you know the more accountable you are and now we also had another life to apply this knowledge to: Dylan's. He had a diagnosis of Sensory Integration which is an Autism Spectrum Disorder and my cousin Lisa, Dylan's mom, had been handed that diagnosis with a disclaimer: He will never be mainstreamed.

The past 3 years of living hell and simultaneous trust in what God was going to bring out of it had not allowed for room for giving up or giving in. This steadfast perspective led me to look to God as the author and perfecter of my faith. I now understood that the seed of hope and purpose God planted would become a tree with lasting fruit. If Danny was to be the deliverer of this information then I had to be his supporter and the mother of 5 children all uniquely challenged as a result of the burdens they were all carrying for different reasons.