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If you've ever tried dining out with food allergies - or even sensitivities - then you know it can be quite the obstacle course to navigate. Check out the DineSafe app which helps you locate restaurants in your area that offer items that meet your specific needs!

Eating Out with Food Sensitivities: How the DineSafe App Can Help

This post is sponsored by DineSafe, but the opinions shared here are entirely my own. I only share products and services that I personally believe in or use personally.

Over the course of the last few years I have experimented and transitioned through a variety of diets and food restrictions. And can I just say: it’s not for the faint of heart.

Some of my shifts in diet were directed by doctors, while others my body demanded in ALL CAPS. Regardless of the reason, one things remains true: eating out when you can’t eat just any ole thing can prove quite challenging.

Now, there are the obvious ways to get around it, of course. You can ask all the questions to your waiter. Or search through Yelp and Google for reviews that specifically mention your diet or allergies. And you can even just avoid the whole dining out scene entirely.

But what would make this process a whole lot easier would be restaurant menus being more user-friendly for guests with food allergies or restrictions. Yet in my experience, there are far too few restaurants that go that extra mile.

So what if restaurants could help us diners simplify the process of finding safe food to eat? And what if we could easily find those restaurants that match up with our unique dining needs? Well, THIS is the mission of DineSafe, an app that makes the process of safe dining easier for both restaurants and guests that have food allergies.

Last year I was offered an opportunity to explore and review this app, and I found it to be such a powerful tool. Something that has stood out to me in getting to know the company is the passion the founders have for creating safe dining experiences for all.

With more than 15 million Americans affected by some form of food allergy, it seems like common sense for restaurants to get on board with accommodating more than the average Joe, amiright?

Using the App

You aren’t required to create an account in order to use this app (which is free, by the way), however they make it SUPER simple to create your own food preference profile. There’s a list of 33 allergens you can sort through, adding any and all that apply to your needs by simply tapping on each item.

Then, say on top of an allergy you have to peanuts you also follow a gluten free diet. No problem! There are 11 different diet options  (gluten free, Vegan or Paleo to name a few) that you can choose from that can be incorporated into your personal preferences, too.

Once you’ve created your profile, you’ll be able to search threw a database of restaurants in your area that fit your specific needs. You can also endorse restaurants near you that you know have safe menu items for certain restrictions and suggest restaurants you’d like to see join the movement.

A Great Tool for Restaurants.

The founders have aimed to make the process of creating an account simple for restaurants. Understanding that the time of restaurant owners is valuable and the process of identifying allergens can feel overwhelming, their team will do the bulk of the work. They’ll able to manage both large nationwide chains as well as our go-to local favorites.

They’ll help the restaurants create an interactive menu that lists their items, identifies common allergens, highlights nutritional information (like no sugar added or low sodium) and aligns dishes with any of the 11 diets offered. The team at DineSafe is also working on a new feature which will give restaurants access to analytics that will show them the biggest needs and trends in their area.

And the best part of all? It’s FREE for restaurants, too. No cost to the restaurant and it puts their menu on the map for those of us looking for safe places to eat. Win-win, right?

If you’re reading this and thinking “I NEED this app”, you can find it on both Apple and Android. Let me know if you do!

You can also follow DineSafe on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on new restaurants and features when they’re added. They’re about to launch their first nationwide restaurant chain soon so be on the lookout for that!

Do you have any tips for dining out with food allergies? I’d love to hear what’s been helpful for you!

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The Light That Breaks Through

The Light that Breaks Through

“In the broken places, the light shines through.” – Leonard Cohen

With my bare feet planted in the freshly cut grass, I squinted my eyes behind my sunglasses as I looked up at the sky.

The bright, mid-morning sun cast a warm glow behind the artistic display of scattered white fluff. The blades of green glistened at my feet.

“This is beauty,” I thought to myself as I breathed in the fresh air and simple beauty surrounding me in my little yard. Light broke through the patches of blue amidst the open weave of a white blanket of clouds overhead. I couldn’t help but smile.

It felt peaceful. Calm.

Those broken places, the open space where the blue lets the sun rays through? As I studied the sky I determined it somehow ushers in more beauty than if the sky were free of white.

It makes what could be viewed as a fragmented sky, something to be admired.

The brokenness that comes with heartache, loneliness, grief and pain feels anything but beautiful. It is heavy, stinging with each vinegary drop on our inner wounds. Bringing with it the sharp pangs of not being okay.

And the pain? It’s not radiant. The loneliness is not light-filled. Our sense of loss can feel like storm clouds that never quite go away.

And so we sit, waiting for the sun to make it’s appearance.

We hold on, waiting for life to slow down, for healing to come, or relationships to be restored after we’ve done all we can. We grip onto hope that a new chapter is coming.

I don’t know how slowly the sky changes in our storms, but it sure can feel like a snail on crutches at times. Asking, hoping, praying for God to answer what feels to us like a pure request.

For healing, fertility, a better job, a spouse, a community of support.

And the clouds linger. The rain comes. The lightning shatters.

It can all feel dark.

"In the broken places, the light shines through." - Leonard Cohen | Living Grace Blog

I’m beginning to accept that there is light that I may not be able to see here…with my current view clouded by the mist and engulfed in the continuous storm of illness.

Yet somehow my husband sees it. Friends see it. Light somehow shining it’s way out of this storm.

And while I can’t always see it in my own story, I see it in so many others. I see it and it inspires me to keep moving forward. To continue to give and love and spread kindness in the midst of the fight.

The light I see in you, my friends, is the light that comes from perseverance. The light of compassion. The light of giving in a season when you may have little to give – be it of time, resources, or friendship.

You may be like me, feeling engulfed by your own unique storm of loneliness, disappointment, loss, heartbreak, or illness. And here we sit, or lie or stand doing a rain dance or anything else that may break open that dark sky above.

I’m here to tell you that the rest of us can see that light. It may be flickering. It may not be that ultimate answer we’re waiting for, but I see YOUR LIGHT.

Every time you share kindness, love, friendship, empathy, or warmth with another, it’s casting out light and hope to those taking in the view. The view of you and your life story. An extension of love from a compassionate God to the rest of us around.

This light is from the story of you not giving up, of doing the best that you can with what you have.

So I’ll continue pleading for all of our dark skies to burst open like the sky I embraced from my front lawn. But for now, let’s keep pressing on dear ones.

I’m convinced your courage is radiant.

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Finding healing in times of illness, grief and loneliness

A FREE eBook: Embracing the Raw

Today I have something I’m beyond excited to share with you guys…my very first eBook!

Embracing the Raw - Free eBook from Living Grace

These pages have been crafted to share some of my honest moments of finding healing in times of struggle.

I think we can easily feel this sense that until we’ve “made it to the other side” of whatever it is we’re struggling with, that we are somehow not enough.

For me, I’ve sensed this outer and internal expectation that until I get my stuff together (hope more, be positive more, be more of whatever others think I need to be) that maybe my story isn’t worth sharing.

Is there a right way to healing? A more admirable way to grieve? And what about dealing with loss, pain, frustration, dashed dreams…are there standards for that, too?

This tango with the spoken and unspoken standards for my timeline of healing, grief or my measure of hope have often left me tired. Discouraged. Feeling less than and at times even angry.

But I began realizing something that has shifted the way I view wrestling with the harder things in life. It’s transforming my understanding of grief, healing, hope and purpose and it’s beautifully giving me freedom.

Which has brought me to the creation of this eBook for you, my friends. Embracing the Raw: Pilgrimage of a Healing Heart.

Embracing the Raw: A book on finding healing in the midst of loss, grief and pain | Free eBook by Kami Lingren, Living Grace Blog

 

This book is about accepting the raw in our path toward healing. It’s about wrestling with the real and valid emotions that come with facing trauma and pain, while being gentle with ourselves in the process.

Inside these pages you will find honest words from my heart to yours, beginning with the story of how the disease I’m fighting nearly took my life just under a year ago. And how I’m reaching for light and hope in the aftermath.

Embracing the Raw is my gift to you! I hope you find a dose of comfort, understanding, an ounce of healing – something you need on your own difficult path to help you just that much more.

To download your copy, simply follow this link! (And if you’re already on my mailing list, check your email! You received a copy earlier this week!)

I’d love to hear your thoughts as you read it – find me on Facebook or email me at kami@livinggraceblog.com so we can connect!

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The peace and healing that comes from being gentle with ourselves

Learning the Art of Letting Go

I grew up a small-town-girl in northern California, where summers meant LAKE DAYS.

My family of six would all pile into our Expedition, boat towing behind with a friend or two typically squished into the extra seats.

Summers in the northern valley were always H-O-T and the promise of a visit to the cool waters of a nearby lake helped keep us sane.

Or mostly. We were kids and teens on summer vacation – exactly how much sanity could really be expected of us when we had no school or homework??

Our favorite part of boating at the lake was undoubtedly the tubing.

The only skill required was a resolve to white-knuckle those foam handles for dear life as you whizzed side to side behind the boat.

I am pretty sure my dad’s thrill of the day was evicting one or all of us passengers out of the three-seat tube. And he was pretty dang good at it.

He knew how to line us up just right so we’d hit the wake and be sent flying. So we each quickly developed our own technique for resisting the mighty splash. Which basically involved the tight handle grip I mentioned earlier.

As important as the whole “holding on” thing is when you’re in the tube, there’s another important piece of wisdom you must learn in tubing. While it may seem counter-productive to the first objective of staying on the tube, there is value in learning when to LET GO.

Letting go of old dreams and grabbing hold of new ones

It doesn’t take long to learn just-how-hard that smack to the water can be if you hold onto the tube for too long, or if your tube is sent flying higher than anyone anticipated.

And so you learn the art of letting go…

Before you hit that far-too-rough patch of water and have your head rattled around like a rag doll.

Before the impending tube-flip likely rams you into the next passenger.

And before the side of your face hits the waves and you involuntarily-swallow-half-your-weight-in-lake-water.

(Currently having a hard time remembering the fun part of tubing…)

You find the freedom that comes when you loosen your tight grip on the handles and let yourself experience a gentler fall into the lake.

You learn when the risk outweighs hanging on.

As real and necessary as it is to learn to hold on through the hard and often mundane moments in life, there are circumstances that instead call for us to let go.

Over these years of illness, one of the hardest things for me to let go of is the idea of my former self.

I’ve grieved the loss of the woman I once was. Or, perhaps more accurately: the woman I could be.

I miss the freedom of going, doing, and seeing as much as – and whenever – I wanted.

I think of the old dreams. My stamina. My work I loved as a nanny.

I long for renewed clarity of mind and the absence of crippling pain. I wish for the return of a normal nervous system to be able to enjoy community in ways that I used to.

It’s healthy and normal to grieve what’s been lost. It helps us process the pain and move forward to accept the moment we’re in now.

It helps us fully let go.

The Art of Letting Go

Over the last couple of years I’ve been learning the art of letting go. Finding freedom in some moments and facing hard struggles in others…I’m not gonna lie- it’s messy business.

In letting go of one thing, I’ve found we have to be willing and ready to grab hold of what’s next. To embrace something new.

For me, this means grabbing hold of new dreams, new aspirations, and my life as it is now. The me I am today.

I have never been a pillar of confidence, but going through this fire of disease has instilled some truths that I’m learning to accept: that I’m strong, resilient, loving, and passionate.

When I choose to accept those truths, I begin to believe in the purpose I have now. Not whenever I get better, but right here in this moment.

I see the healing that is taking place simply when I choose to let go of the things that no longer benefit me. The things that will only give me whiplash like those rough wakes out on the lake.

As I let go of old dreams, I am able to open my hands to grip onto new dreams. Dreams that are growing and shaping me as I stretch my fingers and heart in writing.

When I release the old expectations from my healthier years, I can begin to respect my current limitations and live within those. There is such freedom in that when I actually step into it.

I’m a work in progress and this isn’t easy. Grief is still present, my heart has broken and scarred places and I’M HUMAN.

This is not a one-and-done shop.

This is a process.

It takes finding good support that understands (or empathizes with) where you’re at.

It takes time. Patience. Kindness and grace.

It’s taking leaning on God and trusting that he’s got this.

It takes being gentle with yourself. You’re only human, too.

If you’re reading this today and you have this nagging thought of something in your life that’s been holding you back from healing, or loving or embracing your gifts…

Maybe it’s time to let go of the foam handles

and swim in the lake.

Embracing the present moment

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Finding purpose when life hits hard.

Unrefined Hope

Hello to you lovely readers from our new home in the beautiful southern Oregon. If you missed my husband’s guest post, let me catch you up in real time.

In the last 8 weeks we gave feet to [and sped up the timeline for] our plan of leaving Southern California, researched destinations, chose a new city, packed up our belongings, said some very hard goodbyes and made the trek to move our lives to Oregon. All in the midst of illness and some heavy grief.

We split the travel into two days, knowing my body couldn’t make it all in one without some dreadful aftermath. Tooka would like you to know that she enjoyed her view out the window and loved every rest stop she was allowed to explore/stake claim on. She slept most of the way and I wished with every ounce of my being I could sleep as well as dogs!

It’s hard to believe we have been here three weeks already. Moving when you are this sick – or married to someone this sick – is a huge feat and we had been hanging on for these weeks of rest. No more packing. No more moving prep discussions [or arguments].

Devoid of any concrete plans, we have enjoyed quiet days and short scenic drives together. We live in a valley, surrounded by beautiful foliage-covered hills and mountains, some we can see from our home.

It is quiet here, calm. Quite the difference from nightly Disneyland fireworks and the train that shared our street back in Anaheim. Both of which would literally shake our walls. 😉

My parents visited us this past weekend from Northern California to help us dress a few of our walls, reassemble the sauna and put together some Ikea magic (flat boxes that transform into tables – you know the drill). It was nice to have the extra help and to feel like our new house is beginning to look more like our home.

As I’m writing this, I am struggling with this sense that there may be expectations others have upon clicking to read this post.

Maybe to read that there’s some new great hope, excitement, or news that I’m about to share about my health or our situation. That moving to Oregon has already been this miracle shift for us and, whether or not I say so, one may assume things have improved significantly for us.

embracing authenticity in hardship

Our reality is pretty close to our weather lately: most days it’s cloudy with scattered showers and a few breaks of sunshine in between.

This past week was an exceptionally hard battle with my health in my fight for wellness. Symptoms and pain level were heavy and sleep was far from possible most nights.

Trev has been wading through the adjustment and grief of leaving his home and so many important relationships from the place he called home for most his life. We are resting because we need it.

As a whole, our culture has some learning to do in walking through the hard stuff with others. We aren’t good at sitting in the moment, truly feeling the weight of the load of our neighbor.

We like to speak fast and listen half-heartedly. We rush to point out the things we think are the “good parts,” the aspects of the trials we want the person facing hardship to focus on because otherwise it’s too uncomfortable.

While it may not have been intentional, I have at times been made to feel like my level of hope isn’t enough. It’s either insignificant or it’s “unseen.”

In the level of openness I’ve embraced in sharing my story, I’ve been met with some great moments of compassion and understanding. I’ve also been critiqued and given a list of “to-dos” and shiny phrases that should boost my hope and positivity meter.

I recently shared a post on my Instagram that I’m going to share again here. It’s something that I feel resonates with where our hearts are sitting in regards to hope:

navigating hope in disease

“I’ve been thinking a lot about hope over the last few months. What it looks like for me. How other people view it. The expectation and pull other people have for me to always “cling tight” to it…and in the way they think it should manifest in my life, in what I share, and how I present my honest struggles with Lyme.

My understanding of hope goes something like this…hope isn’t always bright and lively, vibrant with color and clarity. I’ve seen hope flicker in the quiet moments. The moments when we are all alone and hanging on through one more moment, one more year of singleness, another day at an awful job, one more seizure, or another piercing migraine.

My hope often feels like the pebbles on the right. Kind of gray, rounded, messy. Perhaps not full of light and life in the traditional sense, but they ground me. The real, calloused, unrefined hope I embrace may not make sense to you, and you may not be able to see it if you’re looking for your own version of it. But it’s there, softly blazing in the corner of my heart.

So today I’d like to say this: It’s okay if your hope isn’t a bonfire ablaze. Others may want to impose their understanding of hope on you, but your hope is important and beautiful. You wouldn’t still be here if you weren’t hanging on to that hope uniquely yours.

Keep embracing those ounces of hope. Whether they’re gray pebbles or bright blades of fresh green. They’re valuable and significant.”

We know we aren’t the only ones facing a hardship that has rocked us to our core. Life can hit us like a ton of bricks, without warning. In the moments where we feel weighed down by the weight of a heavy burden, our hope can look much different than many people expect…but it’s here.

Softly blazing. Flickering in the corner. Holding on.

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marriage-in-illness

The Oregon Trail

Today my favorite person OF. ALL. TIME. [aka: the hubs] is guest posting on the blog today, sharing the latest news from our little corner of the world where chronic-illness is a reality in our marriage. Trevin and I have been married for just over three and a half years and have walked through the lowest points of my health together as newlyweds. He is kind, compassionate, funny, loyal and generous…and he’s the best man I know.

– Kami

The Oregon Trail
by Trevin Lingren

If you’re between 25 and 40, there’s a decent chance you’ve heard of the game, The Oregon Trail. Or better yet, have played it.

For a long time I wasn’t allowed video games at home. Eventually my parents caved and got me a Game Boy and I had Friday nights at the pizza parlor arcade as well. But for many years, it was the dry, barren Sahara.

One respite in the pre-Game Boy era was this amazing game during elementary school. In computer lab, if you finished your assignments early, you had a chance to play a game of adventure. Of risk and strategy.

It was set in the late 1800’s in Wyoming and you had a family, a profession you chose, a wagon with oxen, and an absolutely enormous task of getting yourself and your family to Oregon. Apparently, the land of milk and honey was in Oregon.

You had to endure ALL kinds of obstacles to make it through the Oregon trail. Depending on your profession, you would start with a certain amount of money and possibly be able to utilize your profession’s skills along the way.

The problems were many. You could get lost and waste valuable time and resources. Your children could get cholera or dysentery and die.

Your wife could drown in 3 feet of water after caulking your wagon and trying to float it across a river (my wife didn’t have Lyme disease when I was in the game so I’m not sure how that kept happening in such shallow water.)

Sometimes you had to set your family’s meal plan to “bare bones” just to survive with enough food from one town to the next. And God forbid you get assaulted by robbers. You might lose your son’s spare set of clothes, your wagon wheels, or all your food!

One of the few opportunities you had to regain some money and food was to go hunting. You had to be in the right area or you might end up wasting time and food to stay an extra day to hunt (apparently, nothing got done in an hour or two back then, and you seemed to always lose a day at a time).

So, through all of this, you can imagine how few times my fictional family and I made it to Oregon. The obstacles were all too often insurmountable.

Marriage and Lyme disease

Some of you, dear readers, have guessed where this is headed. My and Kami’s journey over the last 2 1/2 years bears so many parallels to the game it’s almost unbelievable.

DISEASE. Getting lost through treatment. Trying to navigate work and providing. Ever-dwindling resources. Loneliness. Daunting, emotionally-trying circumstances more times than anyone would care to experience. 7 trips to the emergency room. SEVEN.

Not knowing when, if ever, this journey is going to end and if we will get to our destination (health and consolation).

Before we got married, Kami, who is from a small town, told me of her intent to not live in Southern California her whole life (she moved back here for me). So we agreed that we would move to a place that was at least a little bit closer to her family, had more natural beauty, and a slower pace of life.

When her disease took a dramatic turn for the worse, it seemed to delay our plans inevitably.

About once a month or so, we would discuss moving someday, mostly to reassure her that it would still happen. I’ve recently come to realize that she’s been hanging onto this hope for dear life, using it to propel her forward through the dark depths of this journey.

That this promise was one of the few things that sustained her on the loneliest of days. It gave her optimism when she didn’t have any left in the tank. Folks, our emotional bank accounts have been overdrawn for quite some time and the debt collectors (our bodies and souls) have been pounding down the door, pleading for resolution, for quite some time.

After our 4th trip to the ER during just this year (including two times she thought she was going to die), we were so broken. I took a leave of absence from work to care for my wife and try to get my head, heart, and body right. We took a short vacation up the central coast of California that did us some good. I’m sure the natural beauty strengthened Kami’s wishes for another city even more.

For what seemed like months, we had casually discussed the idea of mold toxins getting in the way of Kami’s healing. For anyone, mold toxins are unhealthy and can wreak havoc on one’s health. But if you’re immuno-suppressed, you can really be put into a tailspin, including life-threatening circumstances.

With some of her symptoms, and the knowledge of other Lyme patients’ experiences, we could no longer deny that we had to address this possibility. We recognized that if we moved, we could be moving to another environment that has mold.

It could be stuck in the furniture, mattress, clothes, and other things we might bring along. Pretty overwhelming for sure.

A few weeks ago we began seriously discussing moving up our timeline to move out of the area.

We thought of desert areas for cleaner air and low humidity, thinking that could be helpful. But ultimately, we decided the pain Kami endures during the summer heat would offset the benefit of living in the desert.

Alas, dear readers, we come full circle to the name of this post. We have been praying about and planning on how to move to Oregon. We found a city that is big enough to offer jobs and a variety of culture, but small enough to not feel completely lost in the shuffle.

It has considerably less precipitation than what Oregon is known for and that is highly acceptable to this Southern California native. Natural beauty abounds and it’s closer to Kami’s family. Traffic will be less and the cost of living is more affordable. It’s not perfect, but it checks as many boxes as possible on our priority list.

marriage in illness

This is a very difficult decision. We have to leave my parents (until they are ready to join us) and a lot of friends behind. Harder on me than Kami because I’ve lived 30 of my 34 years here and with moving to Medford (our selected city), we will know no one, save for a friend I’ve recently made online, via a local church.

I haven’t escaped this reality and it challenges me daily.

If we hadn’t spent the last few months using much of our savings this would be much easier. If Kami were healthy enough to go out and meet new friends with me, that would be a significant boon. I don’t have a job lined up and neither Kami nor I feel safe leaving her alone for long periods of time.

There are a lot of reasons to not make this move. But there are two, that I know of, that trump them all.

1. Vows:

Most of you that are married took a vow “through sickness and health.” I had no idea how quickly and thoroughly I would be tested in that area. Not much prepares you for it, especially with chronic illness.

Most marriages today don’t make it. No one will be surprised to learn that the number jumps for those with a chronically-ill spouse. But we have been determined that our marriage would get stronger through this, not weaker and certainly not dissolve.

We made a promise to each other, to Jesus, to our families, and to our friends that we would endure this scenario, even if we didn’t realize it specifically at the time.

2. For Kami’s soul:

Shortly before this past Thanksgiving, we began discussing moving very soon instead of “at some point” in the future.

After a few conversations, I learned the most compelling reason to make this move. That Kami’s heart couldn’t endure another 6 months in an area so different from her long dreamed of home.

A place that, again, provides emotional support, from natural beauty to less traffic to lower cost of living to physical support in the way of less air pollution. Not to mention how emotional support promotes the physical.

I don’t share all of this to toot my own horn.

It’s a tough decision to share and be this raw and open with everyone. But both Kami and I have felt compelled to have something good come out of this journey and hopefully us sharing is part of God’s plan of redemption for this situation, so that others may be encouraged and challenged.

We have experienced God’s providence all along our journey, though often not in the way nor the timing we wanted. At times we had no idea how we would pay for something but the money would show up, often last minute, and quite unexpectedly.

Recently, through the suggestion and advocacy of some close friends, we were blessed by our past church with a gift that covers some rent and medical bills.  This has definitely enabled us to make this move. We’ve also received some anonymous money in the mail as well. Truly humbling.

We don’t have everything figured out. Like how to fund new furniture (we can’t take the old because of mold exposure), moving costs, and living costs while we get set up and until we feel it’s safe for me to go back to work and leave Kami alone. But God’s provided before. He’ll do it again. And we’re grateful.

I hope this blog post has encouraged or challenged you in some way. So that you may be a blessing to others, as many have been to us, as enabled by Jesus. Thanks for reading.

Trevin

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coping with invisible illness

Land of the Broken

I could wait until I’m in better spirits or able to sugar-coat this post, but I decided raw is where it’s going to be for this. Too much filtering leads to people getting the wrong idea and right now, we could use a little less of that in our lives.

Fighting disease is brutal. I can’t paint it any other way.

This journey season broken life Trevin and I have been navigating these last few years has been painful, lonely, heartbreaking, and vastly misunderstood.

Many friendships have faded, or in some cases completely vanished. Some family have largely stepped out of the picture, while others have stepped up (shout out to our parents).

We’ve grieved many things the last few years, and this feeling of being forgotten is one of them.

 

The life I used to live and the life Trevin and I shared has changed so much I wouldn’t even know where to begin in describing it all. Not now, at least.

And this year….this has been the year with the most of everything.

The most ER/hospital visits, middle of the night scares (the ones that don’t end up in the hospital, but are only slightly less terrifying), loss, grief, sadness, tests, pain and so much more.

A few weeks ago we ended up in the hospital for our second life-threatening cardiac event. It’s not the first or the second, or even the third time I’ve literally tasted death – when I’ve had this gut-wrenching awareness that things were so.not.right in my body.

I remember looking at Trevin in the moments before the ambulance arrived, soaking in every inch of his face, convinced it was the last time I would see him. The pain and weight in my chest was unbearable.

How do you translate the kind of pain that leaves you without feeling? I guess it’s as simple as you can no longer “feel” the pain because it’s overtaken your body, leaving you in and out of consciousness.

The most frustrating part of it? Lyme has so wrecked my body that somehow I can feel like I’m dying, but many of my vitals will check out normal. Which leads to open ended questions, puzzled doctors, and repeat hospital visits. If I never had to be wheeled through hospital doors again…

The overwhelming weight of this year has felt like too much – no, it has been more than we could bear.

And the phrase that’s been passed to us more times than I care to admit? The whole “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” line – yeah, that one. It’s entirely unhelpful and I truly believe it’s a misrepresentation of the passage the phrase was derived from. (<—click there to read the passage for yourself.)

God didn’t give me this disease, for one. I don’t believe that. It’s not in his nature and when you say those words, that’s the message you’re sending. When I read the passage, I hear that God isn’t going to leave us in the midst of being tempted towards evil things/actions without giving us a way out.

Trevin and I aren’t feeling tempted to do anything immoral through our pain, we’re simply hurting. We’re desperate for comfort, for care, for healing. We know God can handle the rawness of our emotions and depth of our need.

I’ve been wrestling with this phrase for some time.

I’ve talked with my counselor, trusted friends and read through articles by others written on this same subject. What I’ve come to understand is this: that in our human condition, we weren’t created to face the weight of grief, loss, pain, disease, heartache.

We were designed to co-exist with God in this beautiful world, experiencing a life full of harmony, love, peace, redemption and community.

We weren’t built to handle every single awful thing life throws at us.

Yes, our bodies endure tremendous pain and it’s amazing how much strength the human body and spirit can manage. But under the weight of so much hardship at once – the grief, sickness, heartache – our bodies and souls struggle because it becomes far more than we can handle.

So, I vote we lose the phrase and speak more truth, like how God’s heart hurts with the hurting and sick, breaks with the broken and grieving, and comforts those who are forgotten and lonely.

navigating loss in disease

When we feel overwhelmed with the load of the hard in life, that’s when we, as a community – be it family, friends, neighbors, the church – should be entering the picture.

It’s an important part of how we heal and cope with the heavy challenges we face. We lean on God and we lean on each other.

If you’re struggling with finances, someone steps in to buy you groceries. After you’ve had a baby your families and friends set up a schedule to bring meals. When a relative passes away, you’re sent flowers, condolences and offered a listening ear.

Yet, in chronic illness a different scenario usually plays out.

In the beginning, you share the struggle and your needs and people try to find their outlet to support you. The first few weeks after your health takes its first drastic turn, people notice you aren’t showing up.

They may offer a meal or a visit, or even generously help in giving toward the enormous cost of continuing treatment. (We’ve been exceptionally blessed in the way of generosity for my treatment this past year – you can read our first-year treatment fundraiser story here).

Over the weeks, months, and years, things change. What happens when you’re too sick, too tired, and too worn to “rally the troops” for yourself is that you inevitably begin to fall through the cracks.

And that’s not just our story, but that of so many others facing debilitating illness. While facing a load that is too heavy to bear alone, you are pressed under the weight because you simply.can’t.hold.it. on your own.

Life with chronic illness, disease, mental illness – it’s so gravely misunderstood and overlooked. Society just doesn’t get it.

The advice and critique regarding treatment that is given in place of care is often hurtful and inappropriate. The blank stares and quick changes of subject because people aren’t willing to listen? It’s heavy to experience on top of what you’re already suffering through.

If I had a dollar for every time someone happily told me something along the lines of “You look good! So glad you’re feeling better!” I’d be buying a fabulous meal for us tonight. And cry through it when I remembered how we paid for it…let’s just say emotions are riiiiggghhht under the surface over here these days.

There’s an ignorance that is potent and saddening, and it’s causing far too many people and churches to miss the mark and leave a hurting and grieving community of the chronically ill to fend for themselves.

We didn’t choose this life for ourselves, yet we – and our spouses – are facing it as bravely as we can. Often on our own. Feeling like we have to cover up how bad things really are because people can’t “handle it.”

With our latest hospital visit, we recognized just how broken and worn we are at this point. Trevin wisely took an extended leave of absence from work and we are focusing on rest and taking care of us – emotionally, physically, spiritually – both as individuals and as a couple.

We have had many conversations about who we want to be now and especially in our hopeful transition into wellness. Our hearts want to help others learn how to address the overlooked care of – and ministry for – the chronically ill and others that are long-suffering.

Those in our same boat, facing Lyme or any one of the multitude of other invisible illnesses, shouldn’t have to feel like they are alone. They shouldn’t be forgotten or avoided because it’s uncomfortable for those around them.

For those who feel it’s uncomfortable listening to how heavy and painful this life with illness is, consider how it feels for us to live it every day? Just as much as we can learn and be encouraged by you, you can receive the same from those of us who battle a chronic illness (or the spouse/family member that lives it with them).

I think a lot of people don’t know what to say or do for the chronically ill, and I understand it’s tricky and maybe even awkward for those on the outside. I actually wrote a mini-series over a year ago on caring for the sick that may be helpful to you in learning how to walk with the chronically ill in your life.

But, I would also venture to say that you may need to stop overthinking it: you’re simply caring for a human who is hurting, who may also need tangible help you can offer.

I’m not writing this to point fingers, truly I’m not. It’s probably going to make some people uncomfortable, while offending others, and though I wouldn’t wish to hurt anyone, this needed to be shared.

This post is coming out of years of navigating illness, largely on our own, and I feel that silence will never change the tide. I have many other chronically ill friends who are sitting in this place with me, and this post isn’t just to share Trevin’s and my own struggle – it’s to shed light on their struggle, too.

It’s for the thousands of sick among us who feel they have to hide their disease because society has told them it’s not important enough to care for. Not serious enough of a disease to deem them worthy of assistance.

For the ones who are afraid of sharing honestly how they are doing because they’ve been told to “stop feeling sorry for themselves” or have had their pain and struggle minimized before.

I’m sharing for the ill one who hasn’t been physically able to make it to church, let alone go through an entire service. Then, sadly, because he can’t make it, he’s forgotten.

There are a million different reasons, excuses, whatever you want to call them, for stepping out of a friend or relative’s life when illness strikes. But I promise you this: they’ve never needed you more and you need them and their story just as much.

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5 Mood Boosters for When You’re Feeling Down

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s hit “that rut” before.

The one where you feel Monday’s a drag, Thursday’s just a tease that we’re not quite to the weekend, and Sunday evening is a sad song that the weekend is nearly over.

You might feel down, drained, or tired of the same old routine. Perhaps all of the above! Or maybe you’re going through something really difficult and it feels all-consuming.

The last few years I’ve struggled with this a lot, as I’ve been in the midst of fighting Lyme disease.

With the days of the week seeming to all run together for me (spending the majority of your time at home will do that to you), I’ve definitely had my share of, what I’ll call: dread land.

Today I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve found that can help boost my mood.

Try Something New

The smallest of changes can cast some sunlight into the busiest or hardest of days/weeks. Do you have a favorite lunch spot you frequent? Try a new place! Hop online to read some restaurant reviews in your area and check out one of the top 10 fast-casuals in your area.

Is there an alternate route you can drive home? Take it. A simple change of scenery can be a breath of fresh air. If the weather’s nice, roll the windows down while you’re at it!

For me, even when I’m at my sickest and stuck on the couch, trying out a new TV show/movie, picking up a good book or devotional, and listening to a podcast are my go-to mood boosters.

Start a Journal of Gratitude

Find a small pocket-sized notebook or journal for “gratitude notes.” Commit to writing down at least one thing you are thankful for each day for a month. If you’re an artist (or just like to draw), consider drawing a sketch of something that brightened your day.

At the end of the month, and especially when you’re feeling particularly down, spend a few minutes flipping through your pages. This one takes some determination on the really rough days, but it has helped me with perspective in the past.

Spend Time in Nature

Spending time in nature does wonders for the soul. Sometimes my hubs will pick us up sammies (gluten-free for me, of course) and we’ll head to our favorite park.

Even on one of my harder Lyme days, just eating our lunch in the car with the view of the pond and the trees makes my spirit and mood feel brighter. The change of view and connecting with God’s creation is both restful and therapeutic.

Spend Time with Someone who Makes you Happy

Is there a face or two that come to mind as soon as you read that line? Spend some time with those people.

If they’re someone you can confide in, you might share how you’re feeling or what you’re going through – just being heard can help lift the load and how you’re feeling. They might even be able to encourage you and offer you some healthy perspective.

Eat Mood-Boosting Foods

We all have our comfort foods we go to when we’re feeling blue or in a funk. My list includes organic decaf coffee, Frenchies (my endearing name for French fries), and a good burger. The “feel good” effect from the last two doesn’t last so long, though.

Recently, I found this article that highlights different foods and herbs that are tryptophan-rich, which helps boost serotonin levels. Serotonin plays a significant role in not only our mood, but a variety of other functions.

Check out this link to see the full food list and to learn more about the function of serotonin.


While I don’t wish the blues on anyone, the reality is this: we all face them now and then.

Sometimes it takes me awhile to get out of a down mood, but I try to at least get in one or two things from this list in an effort to brighten the day. Even if it helps one day and the mood is back the next, I’ll try again instead of beating myself up over it.

Giving myself grace can help me have the courage to try again tomorrow.

What helps boost your mood?

XO
Kami

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Sitting in the Ashes.

A few weeks after my hospitalization for cardiac issues in May, we began to wonder if we might have a surprise on our hands – or in my belly, rather. God spoke to my heart a couple nights before we took a test, telling me I was indeed pregnant and that I could rest in Him.

I felt such peace melt away my concern and I was grateful, but still hesitant to believe I was expecting. However, a pregnancy test proved our suspicions right. We were expecting a little one, due in February.

It was unplanned so it floored us…we’re having a baby now?! Yet within moments, our surprise and fear was overwhelmed by happiness and deep joy. A burst of sunshine in the midst of a long, dark season was more than welcomed in our hearts.

We were going to be parents and we were thrilled.

We knew this would be hard in the season we’re in. In my battle with Lyme, my body continues to be very limited, but we were met again and again with peace that “everything would be okay.”

We had lots of help if we needed it and we knew with treatment we were heading toward me getting better eventually. It’s hard to think about those reminders of peace now. In the aftermath, our hearts are more pained by those memories than anything.

grief in losing an unborn child

We had told our parents, siblings and some of our dear friends our happy news. It was such a joy to have friends enter into our news with excitement. Early offers of babysitting and help were warm and comforting.

The whole being a new mommy thing is an amazing feeling. I was taking weekly bump pictures of my tiny little expansion and had purchased a few gently used maternity pieces off eBay. I created several secret Pinterest boards to organize the hundreds of pins I was heart-eyes over.

I even decided to forego waiting until later and made a couple of early purchases for baby because the deals were too incredible to pass up. (Super planner here).

And then, around the start of week eleven, my body started sending us messages that something wasn’t right. After nearly a week of progressive symptoms we found ourselves in the ER early on Saturday morning, hoping it was unrelated to baby.

After multiple tests and dealing with far too many insensitive doctors and nurses, we met our greatest fear head-on.

We were losing our baby and there was nothing we could do about it.

Everything pointed to a terminated pregnancy and though we knew we could pray for a miracle (and we did), our situation felt hopeless.

There was no heartbeat.

My pregnancy levels were incredibly low on the blood test.

Our baby had stopped developing in the 9th week, even though I was now on week twelve.

Out of all the physical pain I’ve lived in and experienced, nothing has felt more emotionally crushing than those moments of miscarriage and this gut-wrenching after-pain of losing an unborn child.

In the hospital, I held Trev’s hand through the intense cramping and wept openly in that hospital bed while others moaned in their own agony throughout the ER. I told Trev I didn’t understand why this was happening and that I was hurt and feeling angry with God. He assured me I wasn’t alone and we gripped each others hands as silent tears fell.

As we waited to be discharged, nurses in the room next to us discussed in detail the miscarriage that had been taking place several feet from me. Seeing the agony on my face as I tried to cover my ears, Trev asked them to stop.

When the doctor told us I was starting to miscarry, he said “you want a healthy baby, though. you’re young, so you’ll have more babies.” 

The insensitive comments of finding the “silver lining” in the depths of grief and pain are beyond understanding for me…I don’t understand how those are thought to be appropriate in a time of sadness.

If you find yourself wanting to tell someone who’s experienced miscarriage that “God has a plan in this” or “everything happens for a reason”, please don’t. 

It’s more hurtful than helpful to hear those words. Few things can comfort more than being reminded that we aren’t alone.

surviving child loss

We believe God is sitting with us here in the ashes. We are frustrated with him and hurt, but we know he can handle our honest emotions and bring us healing. We believe he grieves with us over our loss.

There seem to be reminders everywhere and they’re painful. This pain has felt all-consuming for both of us.

On the day of our follow-up appointment with our OB, a package I had ordered for baby arrived at the front door. Later that day the OB confirmed the baby was gone. Another package arrived today, carrying tiny newborn cloth diapers and I cried painful tears as I unpacked each one. A simple touch to my belly reminds me it is empty, even though it has a small bulge where baby was once growing.

We see babies in strollers, pictures on Instagram and Facebook, our sonogram picture framed in our living room that we can’t yet bring ourselves to take down. All reminders of the little one we won’t be able to hold. The baby we already loved so much and couldn’t wait to meet face to face, skin to skin.

The ache is deep and the questions hollow without answers.

I’ve struggled these last few days through false senses of entitlement. After all of the depths we’ve been wading through these past few years, why couldn’t we have this gift? We didn’t plan to start our family for another year or two, but now after our surprise and then joy, we have to sit crushed by the weight of this blow?

We are wise enough to know that life often doesn’t allow us the things we feel we deserve, or dream of, or feel entitled to, but our hearts aren’t strong enough right now to understand the why. In an already heavy season it was easy to embrace this bundle of happiness. And it is even harder to let it go.

We decided to name our little one Ricki. It was too early for us to know the gender, so we chose a name we would have been happy giving to either our son or daughter. We wanted to be able to remember him or her by name and not just refer to them as “baby” and there’s something comforting about having a name for our little love.

There’s no “silver lining” in losing a child and in these heartbreaking moments (or any moment beyond) we do not have to look for one.

For now, we grieve in this season of loss. Our family and friends grieve with us, for they knew how precious this gift was. We invite you to pray for comfort and healing, grace and strength in the weeks and months to come. And instead of words that try to fix the pain (which is impossible), words of comfort and love are welcome as we try to navigate this ache and loss.

Thanks for walking with us. We are thankful for those who have been brave enough to step into our struggle these last few years and have also embraced us in this new season of grief – some of you that I’ve met through blogging. We are very grateful for the measures of kindness and support we have been shown. <3

Much love,
Kami & Trevin

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