Writing, Fighting Trafficking, Addison’s Disease, and Kimberly Rae!

This week I’m heading to Realm Makers!  It’s a Christian, speculative fiction, writing convention that is being held, this year, in Reno, Nevada!  I’m taking the five month old, and will be gone from Wednesday – Sunday, so I’d appreciate your prayers!  Prayers for good health, good energy, good fellowship, good learning, and a God-glorifying attitude would be much appreciated.  ❤  Secretly, I’m super nervous!

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to reach out to other authors who are similar to me – same heart for counseling believers, similar writing style and genre, or a hero of sorts to me. ❤  I’ve been in contact with four ladies who write everything from historical fiction to alternative drama to psychological thrillers to clean romance. It’s my hope that if you like these ladies’ books, you’ll like mine and vice versa!  🙂

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Today, it’s an immense pleasure to introduce you to Kimberly Rae! She wrote my very favorite series of the year – and maybe of all time – the Broken Series!  The story involves members of a church all dealing with abuse, anti-trafficking, and saving women from prostitution.  But the best part is that they are so real and relatable.  They are Every Church, and 5 Shreddedevery Christian should read these books!  ❤

 

I asked Kimberly some questions and she graciously replied!

Me: Here at BlondeRJ, we’re all about Myers-Briggs types.  Do you know your personality type?  If not, are you an extrovert or introvert?  

Kimberly: Through talking to you, RJ, we figured out my type!  I’m an INFJ (explanation here).

People see me as an extrovert but I am actually an introvert. I’m very nervous around strangers and need time by myself to recharge. One odd thing about me is that I enjoy speaking to huge crowds, but get very uncomfortable in small groups.

Me: I adore INFJs!  I’m even raising one.  😉 What first inspired you to help and write about trafficked women and victims?

Kimberly: When I first had to come back to the US, I wanted some way to stay involved but wasn’t sure how. When I started considering writing a novel, I tossed around some ideas but didn’t know quite what to focus on. I was talking with my mom one day and she said, “If 1 Stolen Womanyou could write about anything, what would you write about?” By the end of the day, I think I had three chapters of Stolen Woman written. It was the book I felt I was meant to write – it combined things I care deeply about: fighting trafficking, missions, and women knowing their worth in Christ. Stolen Woman is still my best-selling book out of all of them. I love how God is using it!

Me: I still haven’t read Stolen Woman, and I know I need to remedy that right away!  You said, “Coming back to the US…” How many different places have you lived, and what is your favorite?

Kimberly: I’ve lived in several states in the US, but overseas is Bangladesh, Uganda, Kosovo and rickshawIndonesia. The most interesting by far was Bangladesh. There are over 100 million people in a tiny country about the size of Michigan! It was creative chaos, and their love for bright colors and loud noises and super spicy food just was so fun for me at age twenty-two, fresh out of college and ready to experience the world. I remember being in a rickshaw one day when a riot broke out in the road in front of me, and I thought, “If I knew I was going to live through this, it would be really exciting!” I got to wear beautifulmarket in Thailand shalwar kameez outfits, experience their amazing gift of hospitality, and I even ate cow brains!

Me: That’s amazing!  And you’ve had quite the trials yourself.  ❤  Can you tell us about what illnesses you struggle with on a daily basis and how God has helped your faith through them?

Kimberly: I have Addison’s disease, asthma, hypoglycemia and a rare condition called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. My day is very structured with specific diet requirements, medication, trying to deal with chronic pain, and responding to symptoms, etc. Like 90% of people with chronic illness, I often “don’t look sick,” so have to be careful about not doing too much to try to keep up with healthier people out of a sense of expectation by them or myself. I’ve taken up a beautiful verse from 1 Corinthians 8:12 that says the gift is accepted according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. God has DIGITAL CAMERAlimited me physically, so I am not expected to do what a person with more physical resources can do (just like finances and everything else – God is the provider, and He asks us to give back out of what He has provided, no more, no less).

I used to care very much about doing a lot, and realized I was finding my worth in how much I got done rather than in Christ’s value for me. Now God has taken away my ability to “compete” in that way (we women are pretty bad about competing with each other, aren’t we?) and now He is transforming me (sometimes kicking and screaming, I admit) into a representative of His beautiful truth that our worth is not in what we do or how much we do, but in Him and His love for us. If we can be radiant in that love, and not need to prove ourselves, oh, how we could change the world! We’d stop being so intimidating, so stressed, and so resentful, and instead shine beautiful and strong and at peace. A woman living full of joy and peace is a treasure. I want to be like that.

I won’t lie. Living with disease and health problems and daily pain is hard. Some people tell me that if I just had enough faith, it would all go away. I’ve learned over the years that it takes a lot more faith to trust God when He doesn’t “fix” things as when He does. My need for Him is constant, and living with a body that betrays me keeps my mind on the eternal, which isn’t a bad thing. In every difficulty is a gift—if you look for it, you’ll find it. God is there, offering the peace that passes all understanding, and the joy that is beyond current circumstances. There is purpose in what we go through, and for all I have learned of my God, and all He has taken away and given in replacement, I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s.

Well, that wasn’t brief. Sorry! That’s why I’ve got a series of books on living joyfully despite chronic illness—there’s a lot to say!

Me: What a beautiful, beautiful testimony, Kimberly!  And you seem to totally understand human nature and the heart, as evidenced by your writing.  ❤  Speaking of which, I bought the “You’re Sick, They’re Not” book you wrote and look forward to reading it! But, if we’re talking the books I HAVE read, which character in The Broken series is your favorite?

Kimberly: Candy and Jean, but for different reasons. I love Jean because she has so much potential and value inside her, but she doesn’t know it, and I love how she grows and blooms and gets set free. Candy is my favorite because she’s so fun and so real. Her character is actually based on someone I know! To this day, sometimes I’m in church and I imagine her walking down the aisle with all her stuff dropping behind her, and I want to crack up right there during the service. =)

Me: I looooooove Candy.  She’s my favorite too.  She has the most spunk EVER. 😀 What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said about your books?

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Kimberly: Can I pick two?

Me: Absolutely!

Kimberly: A lady told me once that her pastor’s wife said Francine Rivers used to be her favorite author, but now I am. Francine Rivers is MY favorite author, so that was huge, huge, huge to me.

Back in the beginning, after Stolen Woman came out, a teenager sent me an email that said, “Your book changed my life.” That has stayed with me and meant so much all these years.

Me: You are WAY better than Francine Rivers, and it’s my blog, so I can say so.  😀 

Last, and definitely not least, how do you think we, as Christians, can safely get more involved to help trafficking/sex/drug victims and prostitutes?

Kimberly: It is a great time to be fighting human trafficking and exploitation! There are over 2,000 groups actively involved around the world. Some of my favorites are:

Rahab’s Rope (Mumbai, India) – www.rahabsrope.com

Women At Risk Int. (worldwide) – www.warinternational.org

Tiny Hands (Nepal) – www.tinyhands.org

There are lots more sites and statistics and ways to get involved on my website. If you go to www.kimberlyrae.com, on the right sidebar you’ll see posts about fighting trafficking internationally, nationally, and even locally. There are so many ways to make a difference. Feel free to use to the “contact” button on the site if you have questions or need ideas – I’d love to help you change the world!

Me: Thank you, thank you, dear Kimberly!

 

 

 

 

 

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The Birth of Liliella Violet Conte

The birth of baby #3 was going to be my second – and last – attempt at a VBAC.  If I couldn’t go into labor naturally on my own, this time around, I was going to commit to c-sections – in order to protect my scar and not risk rupture.  I had had two emergency c-sections already (both for legitimate reasons – and different reasons each time), but I didn’t want to be stuck having c-sections if I could help it.  There were only two hospitals in the entire Seattle area willing to try the VBAC with me, and Swedish Edmonds seemed very competent and confident that it could be done.  They still made me set an “end date” though, and didn’t want me to go over a week late.  However, because there was a scheduling snafu, they scheduled me for 9 days late.  I found the arbitrariness of it amusing and frustrating.  But I had 9 days to work with, so I prayed it would happen! I had never gone into labor on my own before though, so my hopes were low.

I had had many contractions over the last few weeks, and they seemed more frequent and more painful than the last two pregnancies, but I still didn’t get too excited.  As I passed the due date and went late, I knew I was following the same pattern.  Saturday night, February 18th, at 8 pm, when I was 4 days late, I started having painful contractions – but they were anywhere from 15-30 minutes apart.  They weren’t getting closer together, but they weren’t stopping.  I could function and talk and do normal activities through them, but, during the contractions, which were at least a minute and a half long, I had to stop and breathe.  And I definitely couldn’t sleep through them.

At midnight, I called the doctor to let them know what was happening, just to keep them informed.  They had told me they didn’t want me laboring at home, and this didn’t seem like labor, but I thought I’d let them know.  They told me I should come in if they even got to being 7 minutes apart for an hour, just because I was a VBAC-er.

After being up until 6 AM that first night, I was miserable enough to go take Tylenol and get ice packs.  It was my back that felt the contractions the most, so I put the ice packs on my back, with one on my front.  I was exhausted from being up all night.  Since the contractions were about 17 minutes apart, every time I’d start to drift off, another one would wake me up.  With the ice packs, I got them about 45 minutes apart, and finally went to sleep – for about four hours total.  I woke up the next day utterly exhausted.

But the contractions didn’t stop!  They continued on, all day, at an average of 12 minutes apart.  It was frustrating.  We didn’t go to church that morning so I could sleep in, as well as pay attention to the contractions and be closer to the hospital.

Brad and I both used our phones’ timer options where we pressed “lap” any time a contraction hit.  They just weren’t really getting any closer together as the day went on.  They weren’t fun either, as every single one hit my back with some lengthy pain.  I walked, took a shower, and even a lukewarm bath.  Nothing helped.  I was so tired.

Finally, by early evening on Sunday the 19th, I lost my mucus plug in two bursts.  I thought I had lost my mucus plug with Rachael and Rosalie, but this proved I hadn’t.  I had never seen anything like this – like a giant bloody slug.  *shudder*  Getting hopeful, I called the doctor again, and this time got Dr. Randolph Bourne, a male doctor in the practice who happened to be on call that day and the next.  He was supposedly great with VBACs, but I had decided against using him during the pregnancy, as I had never had a man doctor and didn’t feel comfortable with it.

He told me that it was a good sign but, unless I was feeling sharp terrible pain in between contractions, had bright red blood, or they got to being 5-7 minutes apart, to go ahead and remain at home.  *sigh*

That evening, we were eating our 10 pm meal, and I was trying to figure out HOW, on earth, I was going to get to sleep another night in a row with non-stop contractions, and we were watching a favorite episode of Stargate for fun.  My back was so tired out from the pain, at this point, but I knew the contractions HAD to be doing something.  Part of me still thought they’d suddenly stop and come to nothing.  I didn’t want to hope I was actually going into labor.

During the hour that we ate, I finally hit 7 minutes apart, and then the last couple were 4 or 5!  Getting excited, we called my parents, who drove the 20 minutes up from Kirkland to stay with the girls.  It was 11 PM at that point, and I was so done.  Wanted to actually be in labor and have this baby! The girls were in bed, but not asleep.  I said bye to them and opened the door to my parents, telling them they could use the spare bedroom to sleep.  Everything had been packed for hours, so I grabbed it all, and Brad and I headed out the door.

We got to the hospital around or just before midnight.  Before doing anything else, a male nurse hooked me up to the non-stress test to watch Liliella’s heartrate through the contractions.  I was sitting up and leaning forward to take the pressure off my back, but that was cramping her during the contractions, and her heartrate slowed way down.  That gave Brad and me bad memories of Rachael’s birth (her heart dipped and stopped and started and they took her by c-section because she was being strangled in her cord).  They had me lie back and Liliella did much better, but they still wanted me to stick around for an hour to double check.  I was fine with that, and told the doctor so, explaining my history and how nervous her heartrate made me.

I wasn’t comfortable with the male nurse doing a cervix check, so they sent in a sweet older lady.  She said I was only 2 centimeters!  TWO?!  After 28 hours of labor???  I felt like crying.  However, since they wanted to monitor me for an hour, she said she’d check me again after that hour to see if I could hit a 3 and stay at the hospital.  I was horrified at the thought of being sent home to spend how many more days without sleep and in pain.  Plus, I was having contractions every 5 minutes, so I had a hard time believing I wasn’t dilated further.

After an hour, Liliella’s heartrate sounded fine, and I promised myself I wouldn’t bend forward any more in this process so as not to compromise her any.  (But, because of my back labor, this was MISERABLE.)  I was still only 2 centimeters after an hour (although 80% effaced!), and so they sent me home, telling me to come back if the pain got to a point I couldn’t bear it, if my water broke, or if I started bleeding.  I tried not to cry as I gathered my things.

“How am I supposed to put up with this for another night?” I asked.  It was past 1 AM.  “This hurts in my back a lot, and is coming every 5 minutes!”

“What you have is back labor.” The male nurse told me I could go ahead and do a c-section if I wanted one.

“Oh, man.  What a shame that would be.  I’ve come this far, and I might actually be going into labor.  I wouldn’t stop now!”

Misinterpreting my word “shame,” he argued, “No shame in a c-section!  You’ve already done what half the population can’t do: grow a baby.”

I appreciated his encouragement – and there was NO way I thought a c-section was shameful!  Had had two beautiful ones myself already! – but I wasn’t going to give up, even if this labor went on forever.

“We could give you a shot of morphine,” he said.  “It will take thirty minutes to call that up if you want it.”

Morphine scared me.  I’d never had it before, and it sounded extreme at this point.  “Did taking Tylenol yesterday slow down my labor?  Could I just try that again?  It took the edge off the back pain yesterday.”

They promised me it wouldn’t slow down true labor, and gave it to me on the spot.  Stupid me – at this point Tylenol wasn’t going to do a thing.  But I didn’t know that.  😛

Brad and I drove home, and I just sobbed.  I was so exhausted, and disappointed with how slowly I was progressing.  In my head, I envisioned an infinite number of days without sleep, and in constant pain.

By the time we got home, I was just miserable.  I tried sitting in the bath again, but just sitting was miserable.  I was trying so hard to be quiet because my parents and the girls were fast asleep.  Brad told me to take my safe antihistamine sleep aid, thinking that would put me out even though I was in increasing pain.  I took it, but that just made me drowsy AND miserable.  I tried to lie down with the ice packs again, but couldn’t stand lying in a bed.  I flung the ice packs off and paced the room in torture.

“We should’ve gotten you the morphine,” Brad said.

“I know!  I’m an idiot!” I cried.  Not knowing I was in some sort of transition, I thought I still had hours of being at a 2 in front of me.

Brad called the hospital back and told them to order the morphine – that we were coming back in to get it.

“I’ve wasted our whole night.  I’ve wasted time and ruined your night,” I moaned, over and over again.  Pacing, in the midst of another contraction, I felt a gush.  “My water broke!” I exclaimed, feeling hope. “Now they HAVE to admit me!”

We drove back to the hospital, having only been home an hour(!), and this time I wept the whole ride, my back killing me sitting there.  Brad wanted to drop me off at the front, but I didn’t want to be alone.  As he grabbed my stuff out of the trunk, I put my forehead on the car and cried.  I hurt SO badly in my back and bottom.  But I wanted to walk.  Walking made it bearable.

Not even caring that I was crying, we stumbled back into the ER.  Brad thought I wouldn’t want to walk all the way to the maternity ward, so he barked orders to the lady behind the desk. “Get us a wheelchair now!” I’ve never heard him so authoritative.  😛

He rolled the wheelchair after me, but I ignored it, preferring to march down the hallway myself, finding that ever so slightly more bearable.  I just about collapsed in the elevator though as the pain ripped through me.  It felt exactly like someone was beating my lower back with a metal baseball bat.  It was the worst pain I had ever felt, especially because it went on and on, with almost no breaks in between.

I could barely open my eyes because of my exhaustion and the sleep aid, and yet I was in terrible pain and couldn’t sleep.  The nice older nurse helped me into a gown, and asked me to lie down on the hospital bed.  I’d try, then pop back up again and begin walking in place moaning.  Lying down was HELL.  Yet they kept making me lie back down.

I was dilated to a 4 1/2!  And rapidly dilating further.  I most likely hit a 6 or 7 before I got the epidural.  After over a day of getting nowhere, now my body was moving FAST.

At this point, I dropped all pretense of politeness.  My voice got very soft and rapid.  I kept moaning, in a soft weak voice, “Please!  Please!  I can’t do this.  Make it stop.  Can I get an epidural now?  Where is it?  Is it coming?  I can’t do this!  My back!  My back!  Please!”

Brad ordered people about and kept trying to comfort me.  I really didn’t want him or anyone else to touch me, and I didn’t want to lie down.

The nurse kept saying, “Come on, Rachael.  Lie down.”  They wanted to keep the monitor on me to watch the baby’s heartrate through the contractions, but I wasn’t even paying attention to the fact that I was having a baby at that point.  I felt like I was dying.  I told Brad, “This is what dying feels like!”

The only time I remember feeling irritated is when the nurse said, “You have to do this, Rachael.  Every other woman does.”

That wasn’t comforting.  😛  Otherwise, everyone was very nice.  And they were hurrying fast.  I was moving very fast, and they wanted to get that epidural in for me.  The only good thing about the excruciating back labor was that I wasn’t once worried about my scar and VBACing – because I felt no pain in the front of me!

They started an IV with some sort of pain med, but it did absolutely nothing.  Finally, thirty minutes later, but it felt like three hours, the anesthesiologist with the epidural arrived. I couldn’t even sit still on the bed to get it, and he had to insist I sit back down quickly in between rapid contractions.  They had Brad sit in front of me, and he started breathing hard.  He hates needles.  That was the only time I snapped out of my exhausted moaning, and turned to him.  I felt like I snapped into clarity worried about him.  “Are you okay, Braddy?” I kept asking him.  He insisted he was, and they put in the epidural.

Unfortunately, at first, it only worked on one side!  “My right side! My right side!” I murmured a bunch.  They had me roll to the side and I prayed it would fully kick in.  Finally, I only felt the pain very low in the front, so I upped the level once.  Other than that, it worked beautifully, and all pain left me!  HALLELUJAH!  That’s when the shakes started, which were obnoxious, but I get them every time I give birth – even with c-sections – and I can’t stop them.  Just a hormonal reaction I can’t control.  I shook until I had to push.

I was only in labor about an hour or two before I was fully dilated and ready to push.  They called the doctor and broke down the room.  From the ceiling, they pulled a giant object that looked like the steering wheel of a ship.  “What’s that?” I asked, feeling like a subject in an alien spaceship about to be probed.  They told me it was a light.  That thing was HUGE.  😛

Randolph Bourne, the man doctor, was still on call, so I realized I was being delivered by a man after all.  Oh well!  There were like five people in the room – I felt like I was on display for the whole world!  The man nurse, the man doctor, and like three other nurses, all crowded around staring at me, all propped up ready to push.  *groan*

The pushing process only took 45 minutes!  And, during it, we sat and chatted.  Seriously.  The mood was so calm and relaxed.  He asked me about my hobbies.  I told him about my books on Amazon, homeschooling my kids, and teaching piano!  Hahaha!  They wanted me to wait to push through contractions, but my original older lady nurse would get excited and have me push too early, and the doctor would tease her for it.

“I’m VBACing.  I’m doing it!” I said to the doctor, as it suddenly hit me with delight that I was having a baby.

“You did this all yourself.  No Pitocin.  Good job!” he replied.

That was a pretty good feeling!

I could feel Liliella dropping into the birth canal lower and lower, but there was no pain.  It was fascinating.  Like having a bowel movement.  😛  At first, I wasn’t pushing quite right, because I couldn’t feel myself push whatsoever.  I also would let out my breath when I pushed instead of holding it.  I explained I had weight-lifted since I was 12 years old, and always let out my breath when lifting a weight.

“You’ve been pooping even longer,” the doctor quipped.  “Do it like that!”

Brad held a leg and the nurse the other, and I got it right.  Then I pushed great!  Only 45 minutes later, she crowned.

“We see blond hair!” someone called out.

I felt shock at that moment.  “She’s BLONDE?” Never had I imagined, with Brad’s dark hair genes, that we’d get another blonde!

“Do you want to see with a mirror?  Or reach down and feel?” they asked.

“Noooo,” I shuddered.  Ignorance is bliss, in my book.  😛  Brad said later that there was a lot of blood.  I’m glad I didn’t look.  Haha.

And then she was out!  At 7:04 AM!  With a cry – that went on for twenty minutes (Baby was grumpy from the getgo  😛 ) she was there!

“Do you want me to put her on your chest?” the male nurse asked.

I had NEVER had that option with the c-sections before, so I was stunned and took a second to speak.

“We’ll clean her off,” he reassured me.

Horrified that he’d think I didn’t want to hold my baby if she was bloody, I quickly said, “No, no!  I don’t care about that!  Of course I want her on my chest immediately!”

And there she was!  Brad cut the cord, and my tiny blond baby was put on my chest.  She didn’t want to nurse for a bit, but I tried.  She was so precious!  Praise the Lord, I made it through 35 hours of back labor, got the VBAC I had prayed for, and had my beautiful, wonderful, miracle of a third daughter!  I instantly called my girls in to meet their sister.  All the joy!

Liliella Violet – born February 20th, 2017, at 7:04 AM, 7 lbs, 2.8 oz, 19 inches

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The Day I Met Job

  Many of you know, because I haven’t been the sPCOS Challenge Infographiclightest bit shy about it, that our little family’s growth came to a grinding halt after our second child due to sudden Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome symptoms and what’s known as “secondary infertility.”  We had two daughters very easily and then nothing.  Suddenly I was riddled with strange symptoms.  My body was like a foreign alien, and my main dream in life was shattered.

I’ll just give the recap of our family’s story so that I can share about what God taught me in November/December of last year – the point of this blog post.  It will be a long post, but stick with me and please read through until the end.

Some people dream of being corporate businessmen, others dream of being teachers or social workers and training and saving children.  Some dream of traveling the world or being a firefighter or an astronaut.

All I dreamed of, besides writing books, was having a large family that I could raise in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and homeschool and love.

When I became a mother almost 5 ½ years ago, I called my husband one day at work and said, “This is what I was MADE for.  This is the most fulfilled I have ever been.”

Four years later, when I began homeschooling, I called him again and said, “I take it back.  THIS is the happiest I’ve ever been.  A mother AND a homeschool mom.  It truly doesn’t get better than this.  I could do this for the rest of my life.”

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                My girls became Christians young (both at age 3) and are my best friends and usually nothing but joy. Yet strangers in grocery stores would make comments like, “Must have your hands full” and I thought, “With these two?!” Never.  Matter of fact, I had time on my hands enough to write a few books these last two years in the evenings.  These girls are sweet, quiet, adorable things.

I was totally ready to grow my family.  The girls prayed for their dad to be ready for #3, I prayed for my husband to be ready, and we waited.  After a year, my husband heard a Bible study talk on the Leviticus passages on discharges and mildew – passages most likely to skip over! But the teaching leader’s sermon was on obeying God in the things that don’t make sense. He explained that even when God’s commands seem like they might be a challenge, if we just obey, his yoke is easy and light. And my husband came home with a new peace in his heart, and said, “I feel led to try for #3.”

I cried.

 

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My “Happiness Wall” for my first baby back in 2010

I went out and bought a stuffed animal, homecoming baby outfit, and journal – all prematurely of course – just because it’s what I always do.

Over time, I stuffed that bundle of baby stuff under my bed in a grocery sack and hoped I’d someday look at it again. We couldn’t get pregnant.

My emotions were a roller coaster.  I had a doctor who waved my concerns aside, saying I was 28 years old and got pregnant fine before.  “Just give it time, girl.  Don’t stress.”

I said, “No, I know my body.  None of this is normal.  Something’s wrong.”

She finally gave in and gave me Clomid, which made me swell up until I had to take my rings off, my shoes were tight, and I felt like my face had become a balloon.  I put on weight and couldn’t take it off.  I got medicine-induced mood swings that made me so depressed I would sob and rant and not know what was happening to me. I was filled with so much self-loathing for my body, that didn’t work and looked like a balloon, that I finally covered up my bathroom mirror in pillowsheets and Bible verses so I wouldn’t have to look at myself.  I hated myself so much, I had thoughts of harming myself.  I finally understood what it was like to have a touch of chemical depression as the meds messed with my head. I have so much more sympathy for those who have to go through that.  After three months, I got off and gave up on meds.

Our church went through a merge that we didn’t feel was a good fit for us personally and we started looking around.  At the first church we visited, which we eventually went back to, the pastor’s wife and I hit it off and she mentioned a new doctor and a new drug.  So I tried that too, especially after the claims that it wouldn’t be as bad as Clomid.  Letrozole was the new up and coming thing, after it had only been used for breast cancer before.  It was this new doc that found the polycystic ovarian symptoms I had, and informed me, after an ultrasound that I bravely submitted myself to, that I actually wasn’t ovulating at all.

In the midst of all of this, my emotions were a rollercoaster.  Every first Sunday of the month, during communion, I would confess my discontentment, my desire for control, and my idol of this perfect, large, homeschool family I dreamed of.  I wanted to be the women with twenty kids.  I used to name my twenty fake kids when *I* was a kid. I used to write stories about my future family.  Even my peers said I was “motherly.” There was the one that described me as a “fuzzy mother hamster.” This was what I was made for. Then why did I only have my two precious daughters?  Why wasn’t God answering their persistent prayers for a baby sibling? Would I never even get a son?  Would that longing for a constant stream of babies through my arms be snatched away from me?

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Me with Baby #1 in 2011

It’s hard to even write this knowing how some people want children and can’t have any at all – yet I had two.  I even watched my godly mother-in-law lose her youngest daughter. I was awestruck, even then, by her righteous response. But I was too new into our infertility journey, and my heart was unwilling to repent at that time. I would think back to her amazing response later though, it sitting with me in spite of my own anger at God.

But one day I woke up and went, “Pathetic or not, stupid or not, THIS is shaking my faith.  So I need to come to grips with the fact that it’s serious and I better get down on my knees daily about it instead of comparing myself to everyone else and trying to shove it under a rug and pretend it doesn’t exist.”

But it was still a back and forth battle.  I would pray before every single pregnancy test.  I coped in a variety of good and bad ways – the time I walked out of communion and my husband had to find me in the side alley next to the church vs. the time I read through all of Job and wrote a really special blog post about how amazing God was and how I could trust Him. Or the time I thought, “Fine!  I’ll just splurge on clothing spontaneously!” and bought myself a fancy dress that ended up getting ruined the first time I wore it vs. the time I wrote a poem about God working on my heart and asked everyone to pray.  Or the time I cried for hours at my husband and blamed him for more than his fair share of everything vs. the time I sat down with my kids and talked through idols and how God was working on me.  It felt like there wasn’t a single day I could predict how I could react, and the inconsistency and fight to surrender was killing me

And the worst part was that, all throughout this battle, God was silent.

I never heard from Him, I never felt His peace, and He did not take away my suffering. He didn’t cure me or heal me or even take away my desire to have more children. I prayed hard that He would just take away my desire.  I prayed hard that I would feel His presence.  But it felt like He vanished, and that made me more heartbroken and angry.

In November, one of my very best friends in the whole world, Bethany Jennings, informed me that her 3-year-old daughter was regressing.  She couldn’t drink well out of a cup, she was stumbling when she walked, her speech was slurring, and her eyes drifting.

At first I didn’t want to believe her, hoping it was just motherly paranoia, but I’ll never forget the day I requested she video her daughter, Cora, so I could see.  I watched, horrified, at how much the little girl had regressed from when I had seen her in April.  Something was seriously wrong, and it was probably in her brain.  My chest tight with anxiety, I prayed that their visit with the specialist would come as quickly as possible.

Cora Jennings was diagnosed with an AVF (arteriovenous fistula) – like a swollen blood vessel – over her brain stem. It was compressing her whole brain, causing many neurological problems; she was losing the ability to walk, talk, chew, swallow, and other dangerous effects. My friend went to the best neurointerventalists in the nation, and he had never seen anything quite like Cora’s specific problem and its unusual formation. He was stumped and went into strategy mode with a ton of his colleagues.

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There was a real possibility that my best friend’s second born daughter, her precious little fair-haired princess would die. 

I had a three-year-old daughter.  What if it had been me?

For the first time in a while, God shook me out of my own stupor to care for my friend, who showed nothing but firm resolve and faith that God would do what was best.  If God planned on taking her three-year-old out of this earth, then she wanted to lead thousands to Christ because of it.  Her posts, and even her private IM chats with me, showed nothing but beautiful faith, real raw emotions coupled with such a love for her Savior, and a hopeful attitude about how God would use their family.  We started the page Praying for Cora together, and Bethany wrote her godly thoughts down for thousands to read, people who were touched and followed her page, eating up her words and being moved by the Holy Spirit inside of her.

I couldn’t imagine having that kind of faith and peace, and wondered why God had never given that to me.  I wanted more children and I was being a brat.  I couldn’t imagine contemplating one of my children being taken away! I felt awed and humbled.

The Jennings live on the east coast, and the risky, never-been-done-before operation to stop the swelling flow of blood was happening in the morning.  For me it was in the middle of the night.12246719_10207973116347885_5303478278759824858_n

I set my alarm to 4 AM and started praying.  On my knees at first, then jogging in circles around my living room, I pleaded with God for her life.  I had never gotten up in the middle of the night and stayed up to pray. I knew so many people were doing so with me, but in my house it was silent, still, and I was alone. I had to come face to face with God, and it finally wasn’t about my secondary infertility. It was about something more important.  I would take infertility over my friend losing her little girl, and that was the first time some of my clenched fingers came loose in my heart.  Maybe I was willing to surrender my dreams after all.

I watched the sunrise, something I hadn’t done for possibly a decade, and took pictures, feeling closer to God than I had in a while.12241312_10208118536786954_1470777290341552039_n

When the call finally came hours later that Cora had been saved, that the operation had been a smashing success, and that she was going to okay, I fell into a relieved, exhausted sleep.  Praise the Lord for His mercies!

I enjoyed Thanksgiving with my husband’s family that next week, thanking God for new answers to prayer, reading IM messages from Bethany about Cora’s progress and recovery.

My heart was being softened and I didn’t even know it.

A mere few weeks later, I traveled to Iowa, to a town on the border of Nebraska, to a part of the country I forgot existed and had never been to before.  It was a mild winter for them, with only one thunderstorm and a brief bit of nippiness.  I had been invited to play the piano in the wedding of a former piano and voice student, who was a kindred-spirited best friend as well. He was marrying the young lady he met in school in Iowa and I was his honorary “groomsman,” his former teacher playing his favorite songs.  It was a special honor, and playing in my students’ weddings was always on my bucket list.  This was the second time I got to do so, and I was thrilled.

My friend, the groom, can be scatterbrained, to put it mildly 😛 , and he didn’t even let me know who I would be staying with while I was out from Thursday-Sunday until the day before. I was told I’d get to board with an honorary aunt, a friend of the bride’s who was as close as family, and who had also put my friend up when he came out to stay and work there a summer.  He gave me her number and we texted each other a picture so we’d know who was who when I showed up the airport. I thought, “Here goes nothing!”

She walked in with a cane but had a young face.  I later found out she was in her early forties, so not old enough to be my aunt, but not quite a peer either.

I was in and out in a whirlwind of joyful fellowship, enjoying old Texan friends I hadn’t seen in a while, and wedding prep and practice.  But every evening the aunt and I would sit and talk far too late into the night.  She’s one of those that it’s easy to just get started with and never stop.  It came out that I was a writer, and I gave her the address of this blog.  Unbeknownst to me, she perused a bunch of my articles.

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Me with my iconic pink tips 😛 next to the groom to my left  🙂

The very last night, after the wedding was over (It was beautiful!) and I had stayed and laughed my head off with the other young people in a hotel room, I returned nice and late to the aunt’s house.  She and her husband were talking, and let me in on their chat.

After the aunt’s husband went back to work (Hard-working man that maintains multiple jobs and puts in many late hours at night doing so!), the aunt decided to trust me. Based on the recommendation from the groom? Based on what she had read from my blog? Based on the comments I made? Based on the look in my eyes or our conversation?  I should ask her sometime.  But for some reason, even though I was still a bit of a stranger, she made the plunge to trust me with her story.

Guys.  I met Job that day.

On December 12, 2015, the same day my good friend and student got married, I met Job.

I didn’t know that Job lived in the twenty-first century, nor that he had an auto-immune disorder that left his limbs aching and hurting most of the time, nor that he was a 40-something homeschool mom in a big, beautiful, older home in a little town in Iowa.

But I tell you, he does.

Those of you who remember my Job post from last year might recall that the only thing that truly comforted me in the time of so many “whys” was Job, specifically when God speaks at the end.

Nothing else can comfort in this broken world better than the thought of how great and big God is.

How He doesn’t answer to us for His decisions, how He does what He deems best, and how He so poignantly and even sarcastically points out how much He can do as God that Job couldn’t dream of. In my darkest hours, when I truly thought, “I’d stop trying to be a Christian right now except that I know I can’t because I am His, and because there is nothing else,” I’d read Job and know that I could never escape Him, and the best place to be was by His side, even if it felt like He was crushing my soul with His decisions.  That, in the end, my only hope of peace and comfort and understanding was sitting at His feet.

Because Job suffered so very, very much.

And so does this woman in Iowa, this adopted aunt of my dear friend.

In all my life, I have never heard a story as horrific as hers. I didn’t think anyone could suffer this much.

I won’t go into the particulars because of my broad audience, and because that is her private story that I would never want the responsibility of telling, but just know that this woman and Job will sit at God’s right hand some day.  I know it in my deepest heart.

As she sat and talked to me, and as the tears ran down my cheeks, the horror and jagged broken pieces of my heart piercing me, and as I held her hand and listened, she said words I will never ever ever forget:

 “I.  Love.  God.”

I was dumbfounded.

She continued. “He is good.  And I can say that, even though my trial hasn’t ended for all these years, even though I’ve developed health ailments on top of everything and been rejected more times than I can count, even though I don’t see an end in sight, even though I was once suicidal and didn’t think I could stand living… I know that God is good and that I love Him and want to follow Him all of my days.”  She was not bitter.  Her pure faith filled the room. I was seeing someone again who had it far worse than I did – far worse suffering than I could imagine.  And, like Bethany Jennings, she had nothing but faithful joy radiating from her eyes.

But she took it a step further, and that was the clincher.  “So I saw on your blog that you were struggling with some infertility,” she soothed kindly. “That must be so hard. I know what it’s like to have your womb just cry out.”

My chin was quivering now and I was trying to keep from sobbing.  “You… DEIGN… to talk to me about my MEASLY ‘trial’ after all you have been through?  Why?”

And she said, “Because it’s still a trial and because I care and because I feel for you.”

  And she went on to counsel me in a way only a Job reincarnate could. And she didn’t see me as pathetic under her feet but she engaged in my pittance of suffering. And she challenged and encouraged me.

I went to my bed that night and cried until I fell asleep.  I cried the plane ride back home. I cried when I saw my husband and little girls coming towards me in the airport bearing flowers. I cried when I told my husband the story at home.  I cried every day that next week.

The very next day after I got home, it was a surprisingly warm day for the northwest, and I took the girls to a new park.  The sun was out, which was also a rare treat, and the sky was clear. I sat on the park equipment, my face lifted to the sun, my eyes closed, and I began to thank God for all that He had given me.  For all that I had.

And lastly, my bitterness finally gone, I opened my hand completely, baring my palm to Him.  And I said, “Thank You for my infertility. Because I know that, without it, I could not be Christlike. Thank You for what You have decided to do in me.”

I was not the same after that.

    Now God didn’t magically heal me just because I said, “Thank You.” I pretty much despise when people tell me, “Just stop stressing and it will happen” or “All I had to do was surrender and then God gave me what I wanted,” as if we follow this works-religion that tells us our life is all up to us and we just have to repeat some magic words or go through a chain of actions to make God do what we want. I know some pretty godly people who aren’t stressing and have fully surrendered, and are still fully entrenched in their trial.

I still teared up when I got negative pregnancy tests, and I realized that was okay.  It wasn’t me being angry, it was okay to still be sad.  I still had times I really doubted He could heal me.  And He still felt distant and I couldn’t hear His voice or feel His peace.

Six more months of this passed, during which I started going to the new doctor recommended to me by the pastor’s wife, conquered a decade-old fear (Woot!) that I won’t talk about here, and started a new med.  I was convicted I needed to have faith that God could do a miracle, while still trusting that even if He didn’t, this was what was best for His glory and our family.  And encouraging my daughters to not lose their faith as well, but to continue to pray.

I still had emotions that swung up and down, but never the same depression, never the same anger.

I was changed.

Fast forward to the present.  I was on a double dose of the new med, Letrozole (Femara), trying again after a failed month of it.  My childhood friend was in town from Idaho for the weekend, and my parents were flying into town the next day. Summer was in full swing, and the days were longer and easier.  I got over two colds and a stomach bug all through the month of May, and was just grateful for good health and sunshine.

I had recently shared my testimony at the end-of-the-year Bible study (BSF) fellowship day, and had spoken about what God had taught me through studying Revelation, Job, and my good friends.

“Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come!” Revelation 4:9

After I spoke at BSF, I had finally felt God’s presence subtly, like he was holding me around the shoulders, pleased with me.  The sensation filled me up.

Putting out feelers into my author community, I asked for audio book suggestions while I gave my house a deep clean.  Jennifer Westall replied to me and sent me a free copy of her book Healing Ruby, a depression-era story seeped in the gospel and realistic drama. Doctrinal disagreements aside, main character Ruby’s faith made me tear up. She was nursing a sick young man with tuberculosis, and challenged him boldly when he got depressed.

She admonished, “God CAN heal you.  God has the power to heal you.  Have faith in what He’s doing!  Have faith in His love for you!  Never let your faith waver!”

After finishing the book, I laid my hand on my stomach and prayed for God’s healing, asking Him to forgive me for doubting Him.  I may not be angry any more, but I thought God had moved on and wouldn’t do what felt like the impossible.

I pulled out my pregnancy test two days ago on Monday, for the umpteenth time, just going through the motions. I sat down on the bathroom floor, my back to the wall, waiting to check to make sure the test was negative so I could go back to bed.  I prayed like I always did, that my attitude would be peaceful and godly when I got yet another no, and I counted the seconds in my head, my heart racing like it always did in spite of me.  The light was off and the bathroom was dark, dimly lit by the sun poking up over the horizon.

After only two minutes, I wanted to crawl back in bed, so I got up on my knees and peeked at the test.  There was the clear, bold, negative line.  Immediately my mind spun with, ‘What will the doctor say next?  This was the third month of Letrozole.  I thought it was working, and I was ovulating for the first time in who knows how long.  Does that mean something else is wrong with us? What other options are there?” But immediately I shut down my brain.  Go to bed and don’t worry.  The night before, when I had prayed to the Lord on my face about the pregnancy test of the next day, I had finally heard Him speak.  “Rest,” He seemed to say.  “Go to bed and rest.”  So I had. And I wanted to do so now.

Yet something pulled me back.  Did you even look at it in the light? Before I tossed the pregnancy test in the trash, disappointed but resigned, I flipped on the light.

THERE.

In the darkness, I had missed it.

It was so faint.

But it was THERE.

It existed.

A faint, light, SECOND LINE.

I….

I…

I AM PREGNANT!!!!!!!

When I called Bethany and the aunt in Iowa, they cried with me, telling me their hands were shaking, voices full of tears.

I am SO THANKFUL for God saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant.  You will now glorify me more by being pregnant than not.  This valley is over.”

And, as my ecstatic five-year-old remarked, “God answers prayer!! This is God’s love gift to us!” Because the due date? It’s Valentines’ Day 2017.  Yep, February 14th.

God’s love gift indeed.

I may never know God’s timing, or why He had me wait, other than knowing it was to clean house in my heart and make me more like Him.  I may also never know why He decided, like Rachel in the Bible, to “remember me” and lift His hand and bless me in this way.

But I am thankful.  SO VERY THANKFUL!!  I am thankful for the prayers, encouragement, testimonies, faithfulness, and love of all of the saints who surrounded me in this process, and I am thankful that God gave me my heart’s desire when I didn’t deserve it.  I am thankful that He showed Himself the doer of things impossible to my little girls, and answered their prayers.

I am excited to share this happy-surprise-twist ending with you, but would have shared what God taught me no matter how it ended, even if I didn’t have a single other child.

God can do anything.  But sometimes He first wants you to sit and meet Job.  ❤

 

Separated Shoulders, Whovians, and 2-Star Reviews

Lucent Sylph has now been downloaded 2703 times and has 23 reviews!  And I got my first 2-star review ever as an author, but 2D - CopyI think the reviewer left a review for a different book on mine by accident.  I can’t make heads or tails of it.  😛

I am recovering from a separated shoulder.  One of my precious babies landed on it – a shoulder I first injured at a pool party seven years ago.  I’ve been out of commission for the last three weeks, and will be signing up for physical therapy tomorrow.  Prayers would be appreciated!  The majority of the excruciating pain is over, but my arm is still very weak.  😦

As I recover, I am enjoying Dr. Who for the first time.  I started with the 9th doctor (who I like the best so far) and have finished season 2.  😀

Happy October, all!

Coming Out of the (Medicine) Closet

I am a people person,

which has a double meaning.  It means that I sure love the dickens out of all of you, and care to be a part of your lives for eons to come.  But it also means that I can care too much what people think – to a fault some times.  So what I’m about to say is scary for me – and it shouldn’t be!

You all know that I think you’re good parents.  I think God has given your kids to just the right people.  I am happy to be called your friend!

But I’ve got to ask for a cease fire.

Many of you are very outspoken, some of you in kind ways, some of you occasionally are not.  I consider myself a teachable person – and that is all God, not me!  EVERY single time someone approaches me with a medical thought or a parenting thought, I go check the facts.  I research it extensively, talk to professionals and other moms, pray about it, etc.  You see me on Facebook doing that – asking for advice, calling out for wisdom, help, and prayer.  I hope that you guys see me as teachable.  But you should know, even if you don’t see it, I don’t disregard anything, but spend time learning about it.

However, like I said, I need to ask for a cease fire on the opinions for a while.  Some of the opinions feel like hurtful accusations to me.

I parent with an educated, prayerful, submissive-to-my-husband mindset.  These are things Brad and I have researched extensively, thought about, sought advice for, and prayed about.  We are science-loving, information-seeking, logic-craving people.  We strive to be sensible, unemotional, and balanced.  You may think we’re nuts, but God is working on us and you can trust He’ll lead and guide us into truth!

It saddens me that the, recently and aptly named, “mommy wars,” have escalated to the extent that I am afraid to be honest and open with what I do and who I am.  Forgive me for being a bad friend – the kind who would hide myself in fear.  The kind that doesn’t speak up when I hear judgmental or gossipy comments about someone’s medical practices and opinions.  I pray that we can all be friends who are kind and gracious, who don’t judge or talk badly about each other or scorn each other.  The body of Christ is not supposed to be divisive.  Friends are supposed to be loving and gracious.  These are not doctrinal issues.  These are not criminal issues.  These are not things that should divide friends.  I do not believe in my body, or in natural medicine, or in my own mind.  I only have faith in Jesus Christ alone.  I know I am a fallible sinner with a fallen body in a fallen – and cursed! – world headed toward destruction.  Therefore, above all, I seek Christ’s wisdom continually for my life.

As you read this, I just feel that the kind and loving thing for you to do for me, as a friend, would be to just listen.  Please try to refrain from commenting on this post, just know that I am wanting to simply inform you.  As I “come out of the (medicine) closet,” so to speak, please be gentle with me.  After many, many years of being a good listener, I’m raising my hand to have a turn to speak.  This is where we stand now.  Please know that we love you regardless of how different you are!  ❤

This is who RJ is and these are MY OWN personal opinions. 

They do not have to be yours:

I am a pro-vaccinator (for myself and my kids – and even the flu shot).  I can go into why I do, but now is not the time to start an argument.  These are just the facts of what I do.

I go to an allergist that does blood work and under-the-skin scratch tests.  I tried the lavender essential oil, but it did nothing.  My environmental allergies are worse than anyone else I’ve ever met.  I give myself allergy shots twice a week.  They make my life livable.

I use a cover while breastfeeding and I feel like it’s loving and thinking of others for me to cover up in public at all times.

I have never had a need to take myself or any of my family members to a chiropractor, up to this point, and would only be interested in seeing one if I had a spinal alignment problem, and only a spinal alignment problem.

I have had two c-sections, both for emergency purposes.  (Many have doubted the facts I have given, but can I gently remind you that you weren’t there?  I would love it if you would trust me.  I was given all of the information necessary and made the best choices to keep both of my girls alive.)

I am not against epidurals or hospitals for birth – neither am I against going medicine free.  I had Pitocin with my first.  The Pitocin was to try and get her out naturally before cutting me open, because she was already wrapped tightly in the cord, and her heartrate was flat, before I even got to the hospital.  She was in distress even before labor, but they gave me the best chance to have her naturally.

I will never be up for a home birth.  All of my next children will be born in a hospital.  I would love to attempt a VBAC, but I will not be a failure as a mom if I need a c-section once again.  My body seems to not be able to go into labor.  It shuts down and assumes I already gave birth.  This is a very rare hormonal problem.  Again, trust me.  Please don’t argue with me, because you were not there for both of my births, neither are you my midwife or doctor.

I put my babies on a schedule for sleeping and eating.  I also schedule nursed them from birth, every 2 to 3 hours as needed.  (Both slept through the night by 6 weeks and were fat and healthy! :-P)

I drink a very moderate amount of Mountain Dew each day.  I enjoy cooking from scratch, but I occasionally buy pre-packaged foods like macaroni and cheese from a box.  I eat processed meats like hot dogs.   And gluten!  😉  I’m not allergic, so I don’t feel like depriving myself of gluten.  I also get sugar-free gum like twice a year.  I put Equal in my tea.  I don’t use artificial sweeteners when pregnant though, just in case.

I give my children antibiotics when they legitimately have an infection that has been diagnosed by my very competent pediatrician.  That has only happened twice in Rachael’s life – and never in Rosalie’s.  They will not be pumped full of antibiotics for nothing, but I am not against it each and every time they – or I – actually have an infection.  I trust my pediatrician more than I do you.  I’m sorry, but she has proven herself worthy.  She has been in the trenches caring for my children.  You’ve never examined my children.

Just because she has an MD next to her name doesn’t mean I should immediately distrust her. 

She is a Christian sister and I love and respect her.  One of the things that has bothered Brad and me the most is a skepticism and distrust of the medical professionals that he and I have chosen.  These accusations are made with no personal knowledge of the situation or our medical professionals.  You were not there.  You have not met our midwife, allergist, or pediatrician.  We do not appreciate the accusations that our medical professionals are liars or out to harm us.

I don’t drink raw milk.  I think it tastes a little bit better, but I can’t afford it.  It also gave me food poisoning once.  I doubt every batch is like that, however, it’s just not my thing.  Rachael cannot drink raw milk.  Nor can she try goat’s milk.  The proteins are still way too big.  Gluten proteins are much smaller and they still cause her body to throw up and be covered in hives.  Thank you for thinking of us when you recommended the different kinds of milk, however, you’re person #223 at this point.  🙂  It just won’t work for her.  I have to answer this question at least once a month so I thought it would be best to put the answer out there.  🙂  I also give Rachael soy milk in very moderate amounts.  I have been reassured, through talking to professionals and my own research, that this will not harm her.  We are thankful she has this option to give her a boost to growing and receiving calcium.

I do natural birth control/family planning.  I don’t use any drugs or hormones, but I’m not against being submissive to God and your husband and staying daily in prayer over when you should have your next child.

I co-slept with my babies only every once in a while for fun, but primarily put them in their own crib, especially when they were very little and I was afraid to roll over onto them!  I put them straight down and let them cry-it-out.  I don’t rock or feed them to sleep.  My girls go down happily without tears.  Initially, by day 2 of laying them down without me, they got the memo and went to sleep contentedly.

I will not use amber necklaces on my children.  The amber would have to be heated to an extremely high temperature (above what is natural for the human body) to leak any oils.  Then, even if that could occur, the anecdotal evidence that it has an effect on pain would be minimum compared to the risk of strangulation.  Even if the beads individually snapped off, I won’t even put a headband on my children sleeping.  Call me paranoid, but I would not be able to sleep at night knowing they have a necklace on.

I don’t buy only organic food – unless it’s produce for Rachael.  I can’t afford it and don’t taste or see the difference in our lives.  I am very, very healthy, and, except for allergies, which I believe (from science) comes from the genes, not from anything done to me in the womb or after birth, am almost never sick.  I have not gotten the flu in two decades, and I attribute that to the shots.  I am thankful to the Lord for that!  My girls are just as healthy, as well.  Praise the Lord!

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I hope I’ve covered everything.  Please know this doesn’t change our friendship – it shouldn’t!  Brad and I would love to have our opinions respected and not judged or challenged all of the time.  I pray you guys all love and care for me as much as I do you – even though we’re so very different!

God bless you all!