Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tortellini Soup

I'm always on the lookout for quick, easy, healthy recipes. I made Taste of Home's Tortellini Soup for dinner one night this week, although I modified it just a little bit to fit our tastes, and added twice the vegetables. It was perfect for a cool, rainy day!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I Will Not Doubt

I will not doubt, though all my ships at sea
Come drifting home with broken masts and sails;
I will believe the Hand which never fails,
From seeming evil worketh good for me.
And though I weep because those sails are tattered,
Still will I cry, while my best hopes lie shattered:
"I trust in Thee."

I will not doubt, though all my prayers return
Unanswered from the still, white realm above;
I will believe it is an all-wise love
Which has refused these things for which I yearn;
And though at times I cannot keep from grieving,
Yet the pure ardor of my fixed believing
Undimmed shall burn.

I will not doubt, though sorrows fall like rain,
And troubles swarm like bees about a hive.
I will believe the heights for which I strive
Are only reached by anguish and by pain;
And though I groan and writhe beneath my crosses,
I yet shall see through my severest losses
The greater gain.

I will not doubt. Well anchored in this faith,
Like some staunch ship, my soul braves every gale;
So strong its courage that it will not quail
To breast the mighty unknown sea of death.
Oh, may I cry, though body parts with spirit,
"I do not doubt," so listening worlds may hear it,
With my last breath.
~ Unknown, selected from Streams in the Desert

What a beautiful, heart-felt poem! I hope it speaks to you as much as it did to me. What a difference it would make in my life if I faithfully trusted God during the difficult times. It's so easy to trust when there are no hardships or pressing troubles. I'm reminding of the Israelites who witnessed God's power, protection, and provision first-hand, but then as soon as a new problem arose, they became fearful and doubted that God would be faithful to help them. They forgot God's blessings. They forgot all the times in the past when God fought for them. They forgot all the times God provided food and water in the wilderness. But don't we do the exact same thing? We forget the times God has worked in our life, too. We forget the times God has showed us His goodness and power. We become fearful, and begin to doubt that God can handle this new problem in our life. He saw us through in the past, why wouldn't He be faithful to see us through now? Trust the Lord to work that problem you are facing to your good, and trust Him to be faithful to comfort you and guide you through the dark times.

Friday, March 18, 2011

My journey into Autoimmune Thyroid Disease, Part 3

Disclaimer - Before you read this post, please be aware that I have no medical degree. The things stated in this post are MY OPINION ONLY, and should NOT be taken as any kind of medical advice. No information in this post is meant to diagnose or treat thyroid disease or any medical problem for that matter. My intent is NOT to spread a mistrust of doctors, but rather simply to share my story about my own experience with autoimmune thyroid disease.

If you haven't read Part 1 or Part 2 of this series on autoimmune thyroid disease, you may want to before you read this post. When I left off from Part II, I was once again looking for another doctor to treat my condition. I found a doctor using this website. I clicked on links for my state and read the reviews. I called pretty much all the endocrinologists in my area, and to be honest, a lot of them didn't want to give me very much information over the phone. I was asking questions like, Do you test Free T3 and Free T4, and do you prescribe Armour? I wanted to kind of get a feel for their philosophy before I paid all kinds of money to see them. Like I said, most were not too willing to share a lot of information over the phone. But I did find one doctor who actually had a website, and in addition, had a TON of information about his philosophy of treating thyroid disease. Plus, his receptionist was the nicest one I talked to! ;) He is not an endocrinologist, but he is well-trained in this field. I ended up emailing him some additional questions I had, but his website stated that he gets over 400 emails a day so it might take awhile for him to email me back. He emailed me back WITHIN TWO HOURS!!!! I was impressed, to say the least. Everything he said lined up with what my research had said. I booked an appointment, and went to see him.
I was very impressed during the first appointment, because the doctor shared with me that he has the same disease I have - Hashimoto's Hypothyroidism. I feel more confident with this doctor, because he faces the same challenges as I do. There were many helpful things that he told me.
First, he said to get off ALL soy. Now, I do not eat soy products, or at least I didn't think I really did. shall I say this? Soy is in practically EVERYTHING. Check the labels on crackers, breads, cereals, cookies, etc - even the stuff that says "whole grain" or "organic". Yes, even organic foods, can you believe that? Basically, if it is pre-packaged, it probably has soy. Look for soybean oil or soy lecithin - anything with that in it should be avoided if you have a thyroid problem. Soy interferes with the thyroid. There is alot of technical information on how it does that exactly, but since I'm not a medical professional, I'll not get into all that.
Second, my doctor mentioned to me that he eats a gluten-free diet. I had heard of this before, and was dreading that I might have to go gluten-free, just because it seems like such a hassle. My doctor believes that almost ALL the symptoms will go away with a gluten-free diet. So far, he has not said for sure I have to do that, but I'm sure that day is probably coming. Goodbye to all my favorite foods!
Third, my doctor suggested a Vitamin D supplement, to be taken with fish oil capsules. There seems to be a great probability that people with thyroid disease are deficient in Vitamin D. He also recommended Selenium. He wrote out for me how much to take and when. I had heard about taking these supplements before, but just didn't know the amounts or when was best to take them. I didn't know if they would interfere with the Armour I take every morning. So, it was a big relief that he was able to tell me exactly what to take and when. While I'm thinking of it, for those who have to take thyroid medicine every day, it is so important to take it at the same time every day, and to also take it on an empty stomach, and wait at least 30 minutes before eating anything. Some doctors recommend waiting 45 minutes or even as much as one hour. I can tell a big difference within just a few days if I am not waiting at least 30 minutes. If I'm not in a hurry, I will try to wait an hour to eat, but some mornings it's not feasible. You need to give your body a chance to properly absorb the thyroid medication, because food can interfere with that.
I'm going to try to wrap things up here, but the conclusion will probably be long. Dealing with a chronic illness can be frustrating for the person who has it, as well as their family who has to deal with that person. I recommend doing as much research as you possibly can and really doing what it takes to feel better. I wish I had known this was going to be a long process, and so I really want to get the word out and help others that are battling the same problems. I go through phases where I feel pretty good, and then other phases where it affects me so badly physically, mentally and emotionally. Thankfully right now I am feeling great, and I almost feel like my old self, pre-thyroid disease! This is the first time in a long time that I have felt like my old self.

I'm not really sure how or why the thyroid affects the brain, but it does. You may hear someone with thyroid problems talk about experiencing "brain fog." The feeling is horrible, not being able to think of common every-day words in conversation, and just feeling like you are not as clear and as sharp as you once were. You feel like you have lost something of yourself, and you don't know if you are ever going to get it back. Stress seems to elevate my symptoms, and I find that I cannot do as much as I used to. That, for me, was maybe the hardest thing to accept. I'm in my early thirties, yet sometimes I feel like I'm in my 70's. Waking up every morning with extreme fatigue and muscle aches and pains took it's toll on me emotionally. I had days where I could hardly get out of bed.

I was angry that I had this disease, I was angry that my body wouldn't function properly, I was angry that I felt robbed of my health, I was angry that I always felt crazy and stressed. People would look at me like, "What is wrong with you? Why are you always sooo stressed out?" I became like a completely different person. I didn't even recognize myself. This anger led me into what I call the spiral. Once I started that spiral, it was next to impossible to get out of it. I would have a few good days a month, but the rest would be dark, horrible days in this downward, out-of-control spiral. I constantly felt like I was at the end of my rope with nowhere to turn. And I hated myself with a vengeance for constantly being angry, stressed out, and crazy. The self-hatred turned into self-pity, and there was just no end to this spiral. I can see now that I allowed my mind to dwell on those feelings rather than to fight them in the strength of the Lord. There were times that I had lost all hope of feeling normal again, and I was simply too tired to fight. That is no excuse, but I'm just being transparent here.
I tried to pray, I tried to trust God, I tried to do everything I knew a Christian should do. Sometimes the dark thoughts would be quenched for a time, but the spiral inevitably seemed to start right back up again. I have a hard time asking for help and letting people get to know the real me sometimes.  My husband has been so awesome during this whole process. Even though he doesn't always know what to say, he is ALWAYS there for me. He always supports me and comforts me the best he can. My parents and in-laws and a few friends that knew my situation also tried to help me many times.

And God did not give up on me, not once. He finally helped me see that this was a gift from Him. A gift????  That's right. A gift. He isn't putting me through this just to play Russian roulette with my life. He has promised to work ALL THINGS for my good. When I stopped refusing to accept what He had chosen for my life, the anger went away. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started trying to find answers of how I could make things better. I also make sure that I turn to God for strength and help the very moment I start to feel that old spiral starting up again. I do not allow myself to dwell on negative thoughts, nor do I allow myself to indulge in a pity party. I read Scripture, especially Psalms, for comfort and peace, and I sing one of my favorite hymns as I go about my housework. And the number one thing I do.......I start thanking God for all the abundant blessings He has placed in my life. Do you know what? When I choose to have a thankful heart, it is IMPOSSIBLE to have a complaining and bitter spirit! I love how God does that!
I still have my limitations, and I don't know if some of them will ever go away. But I'm looking at it now with hope as a challenge to be confronted, rather than as a disability to be afraid of. And let me just say, I do realize there are so many other people in this world dealing with severe medical issues, that my situation is so minor compared to someone dealing with terminal cancer or some other life-altering condition.

My main responsibility is just to care for my husband, children, and the house. I've stepped down from almost all responsibilities outside the home that I was involved in in our church and school. It was hard to admit that I couldn't do it all. It was hard to hand the baton over to someone else, especially for things I loved doing. But what good am I as a wife and a mother if I'm always stressed out on things that take all my energy away from my family? I just couldn't see how that was pleasing to the Lord to live like that. Maybe someday I can pick back up where I left off, but for now, this is what works for me. If you have any questions that I can answer about thyroid problems, leave me a comment, and I'll try to answer your question as best I can.

Edited to add the following: I wanted to make sure I'm clear here. Accepting God's will for my life, even if it means dealing with a chronic illness, changes my heart attitude, not necessarily my physical condition. I'm not trying to imply that by praying and being thankful enough, God will miraculously heal me. Now, He is certainly all-powerful and able to bring complete healing, but He is not a genie that I can get whatever I want from Him by doing all the right things. I'm just saying that when dealing with illness, a thankful, contented heart goes a long way in making your circumstances seem bearable and hopeful. I also am not implying that anyone with a thyroid problem or other chronic disease is an unthankful person. Since this is my blog, I'm just sharing with you the way I felt. During one of my lowest days - mentally and emotionally - I had someone suggest that maybe I just needed to be more thankful (they meant well, it just didn't sit well with me at the time). That kinda hurt, and made me feel like they were saying that I had brought this illness on myself because maybe I was such an unthankful person. I can see now that they were just trying to remind me of this very thing I'm talking about. I saw that I COULD be more thankful, especially when I was going through the hardest days. I hope that makes sense, but please, if you have any questions, leave me a comment and I will try to clarify more.

**One more thing. With proper dosages and time, my symptoms have greatly diminished. My hair is back to being full and healthy-looking, the searing muscle cramps in my arms, legs and back are gone, my eyes are no longer dark and sunken, and while I still deal with fatigue, I can get through my day without that feeling like I can't even function. I still have a ways to go, but things are definitely improving. I just wanted to share that it WILL get better, it just takes time!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Stand the test

"'There is only one thing', said a village blacksmith, 'that I fear, and that is to be thrown on the scrap heap. When I am tempering a piece of steel, I first heat it, hammer it, and then suddenly plunge it into the bucket of cold water. I very soon find whether it will take temper or go to pieces in the process. When I discover after one or two tests that it is not going to allow itself to be tempered, I throw it on the scrap heap and sell it for a cent a pound when the junkman comes around. '

'So I find the Lord tests me, too, by fire and water and heavy blows of His heavy hammer, and if I am willing to stand the test, or am not going to prove a fit subject for His tempering process, I am afraid He may throw me on the scrap heap.'

When the fire is hottest, hold still, for there will be a blessed 'afterward;' and with Job we may be able to say, 'When he hath tried me I shall come forth as gold.'"
~ Taken from Streams in the Desert

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Why I am an Independent Fundamental Baptist

*The purpose of this post is simply to inform. My intent is NOT to offend in any way. Some of the people closest to me genuinely do not understand why I believe what I believe and this post is an attempt to clarify those beliefs, at least a little bit. If you disagree with me, we can still be friends. It does not offend me if you do not believe the exact same way as I do, and I most certainly do not think I am better than anyone else if they do not see eye-to-eye with me. Our Christian walk is a journey, and we are ultimately accountable to the Lord, not to an individual.

My family and I attend an independent fundamental Baptist church. But what exactly IS an independent fundamental Baptist church? The thoughts I have written here are taken from a study our church did awhile back called Christian Mentoring A to Z. (The study covered all kinds of areas such as assurance of salvation, obedience to God, baptism, reaching the world, victorious Christian living, and many other areas.) We used Scripture passages to learn about what God says in the Bible about different issues. One section was on the history of the Baptist church, and the fundamental principles (Baptist discinctives) that our church teaches, and most of the thoughts in this post come from that section.

Before I begin, I want to stress the fact that I do not believe I am saved because I attend a Baptist church. I do not even believe that God loves me more because I attend a Baptist church. I have no extra merit with God because I attend a Baptist church. I am saved by God's grace, because I have placed my full dependence and faith on Jesus Christ, and He alone has saved me. Not Jesus plus good works. Not Jesus plus church membership. My faith is in Jesus Christ's shed blood for my sins, and I am trusting Him for eternal life in heaven because He paid the full penalty for my sins. I cannot save myself in any way. The only merit I have with God is that when He looks at me, He sees Jesus' blood covering my sins, and so He accepts me as one of His own, on the basis of His Son's finished work on the cross.

A Baptist church is Baptist if it holds to and carries out the basic teachings of the New Testament.

B - Bible is our only rule of faith and practice
A - Autonomy of the local church
P - Priesthood of the believer
T - Two ordinances of the church (baptism and the Lord's Supper)
I - Individual soul responsibility
S - Separation (personal, ecclesiastical, and political)
T - Two officers of the church (pastor and deacons)

Distinctive #1 - The Bible is our only rule of faith and practice
A mutual and common adherence to the whole Bible and its authority is the cohesive force among Baptists. Other churches often follow a leader or founder, and have to adhere to confessions or articles put forth by their founder. The soul of man bows to the authority of the Bible, making reason, the church, and personal experience all subordinate to it. The Bible is the written revelation of God and is complete.

Distinctive #2 - Autonomy of each local church
Each local church is sovereign and cannot be controlled by any board, hierarchical system, or other church. Autonomy means: independent, self-governing, self-supporting, an self - propagating. A Scriptural independent New Testament church is an organized band of baptized believers practicing the New Testament ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper and actively engaged in carrying out the Great Commission. The foundation for independence is based on New Testament principles - 1.) the competence of the individual to know God's will, and 2.) the responsibility of the church to carry out God's will is based on the foundation that its members know God's will. The final governing authority in the autonomous Baptist church is the church itself directed by its Head, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Distinctive #3 - Priesthood of all believers
Every born-again believer may pray directly to God through Jesus Christ, the High Priest, without a human intercessor. Jesus is the ONLY mediator between man and God the Father (I Timothy 2:5). Jesus is not only the believer's Savior and Lord, but also his High Priest. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Distinctive #4 - Two ordinances of the local church
There are two ordinances o fhte local church - baptism and the Lord's supper. An ordinance is "An outward rite appointed by Christ to be administered in the church as a visible sign of the saving truth of the Christian faith." The Baptist church does NOT teach that baptism or the Lord's supper have ANY saving power. Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward reality - the individual who has already placed his faith and trust in Christ alone shows that he is identifying himself with the Lord by being baptized. He is showing that he has died with Christ, been buried with Christ, and has been raised to walk a new life. Saving faith ALWAYS PRECEDES baptism. Baptists believe that baptism by immersion is the only correct way to be baptized. Why? The word "baptize" means immerse. Only immersion correctly pictures that which baptism symbolizes -death, burial, and resurrection. Sprinkling and pouring cannot symbolize this.

*Let me deviate from the study to put in a thought of my own. I have had someone tell me that they heard that if you join a Baptist church, you will have to be re-baptized in that church. For instance, if you were baptized in a Bible church after you were saved, you will have to be re-baptized when you join a Baptist church. Our church does not teach that, and I have never heard that taught from other independent fundamental Baptist churches that I have gone to before. After I trusted Christ for salvation, I was baptized by immersion in the Bible church that my family attended when I was a little girl. When I joined the Baptist church I go to now, I did not have to be re-baptized, because I had already been Scripturally baptized after I was saved.

Back to the study. The second ordinance is the Lord's Supper. The Lord's Supper is a memorial table, picturing the body and blood of Christ and serving ONLY as a reminder of His sacrifice. The ordinances were instituted by Christ on the eve of His death (Matthew 26:26-30). The purpose is given in I Corinthians 11:25-26 - for a memorial. We reject the doctrine of infant baptism, since individuals must decide for themselves. We also do not practice infant church membership, since members must be saved, scripturally baptized, and request church membership. These two ordinances are not sacraments. They neither give salvation, help salvation, nore keep salvation. We observe the ordinances due to commandment (Matthew 28:19-20; I Corinthians 11:24).

Distinctive #5 - Individual soul liberty
Each individual has the right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. He can worship God as he believes the Bible teaches. People have individual wills, and God directly instructs individuals. God deals with people as individuals and judges people as individuals. Each person has individual soul liberty to choose his own church, determine his own spiritual fate, and decide what the Bible teaches (or deny the Bible altogether). We must never force our beliefs on others. Share the gospel and biblical truths, yes, but not coerce.

Distinctive #6 - Separation
Separation is to be in three realms - political, ecclesiastical, and personal. Political separation - God established civil government, and He instructs the Christian in their duty to government - pray for it, submit to it, support it, and honor it. Ecclesiastical separation - as a church, we must separate from apostasy - II Corinthians 6:14-17, Romans 16:16-17; II John 10-11; II Thessalonians 3:6,14. Personal separation - a Christian is to be personally separated FROM the world (Romans 12:1-2) UNTO Christ (I Thessalonians 1:9). In order to take the question out of questionable activities, there are three things to consider. First LOOK UP (Colossians 3:2) - does it violate a direct command from God, and will God be glorified through my participation? Second, LOOK IN (I Corinthians 6:19-20) - what effect will it have on me, on my mind, on my body? How would I feel if Christ returned while I was invovled in this activity? Third, LOOK OUT (I Corinthians 8:12) - what effect will it have on the unsaved, or on the saved (it is a sin to cause a brother to stumble). The Christian has the privilege of living a holy life for Christ. This is also our duty. It is far from boring; and it is not restrictive. It is a joy to please our great God and Savior.

Distinctive #7 - Two officers of the local church
The offices of pastors and deacons are the only Bible-recognized offices in the local church. The congregation chooses both. The Bible clearly teaches the qualifications and responsibilities of both the pastor and the deacons.

An independent fundamental Baptist church is the church that I choose to attend because it is the kind of church that I believe best follows the guidelines of the New Testament church. I'm not saying my church is a perfect, flawless church. No church is, because it is made up of imperfect people. I do believe God has led my husband and I and our children to the church that we attend. Our pastor teaches and preaches Biblical truth. It is not that we blindly swallow everything he says, hook, line and sinker without even thinking or searching the Scriptures. No, we do listen carefully and turn to the passages he is preaching from and we confirm whether the things he is saying do indeed line up with the Bible. Our pastor does not just preach "feel good" sermons; on the contrary, he preaches straight from the Word of God and does not skip over topics just because they might offend. Does he intentionally try to offend people? Absolutely not, but he does not just skip over things that might be offensive.

We use the King James Version of the Bible because we believe that is the most accurate translation available. We sing congregationl songs from hymnals, the great hymns of the faith. We do not have a band that plays rocky "Christian" music, nor do we sing any "Christian Contemporary" music. We believe that most "CCM" music sounds worldly - because of the beat and "watered-down" lyrics- and that it often seeks to glorify the performer through intricate vocal techniques, rather than the Lord. However, don't think that if you were to walk into our church during the singing that it would sound like a monastery. We use instruments, and our music director picks out arrangements that have meaningful words and beautiful music. We hope to soon have a full orchestra as we add more musical people to our church. I wear a dress or skirt to church, as do many of our ladies. However, some of our women do wear pants to church. While I have a personal conviction to not wear pants myself, I do not look down on those that do not share the same conviction. God does not love me more because I came in a skirt. Wearing a skirt, in and of itself, is not an indication that I am right with God.  For all of these things I have mentioned in this paragraph, our church does not teach that God loves us more because we do these things. Our church does NOT teach that any of these things give salvation. Our church does not look down on those who do not believe as we do. I have always heard our pastor give Bible verses to back up what he is preaching. IF something is his opinion, he is careful to distinguish between his opinion, and a clear directive in Scripture.

I am not saying that no other church teaches the Truth. I have been members in three different Bible churches (non-denominational) and all three taught truth from God's Word. I have even visited a few Community churches and Southern Baptist churches, and found them to also teach truth from the Bible. Now SOME of those same churches had some issues on which I strongly disagreed with. However, it is my personal belief that an independent fundamental Baptist church is the type of church that best follows the guidelines of a New Testament church. This post is simply meant to give information, and not condemn or point fingers in any way.

photo from free pixels

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My journey into Autoimmune Thyroid Disease, Part 2

Disclaimer - Before you read this post, please be aware that I have no medical degree. The things stated in this post are MY OPINION ONLY, and should NOT be taken as any kind of medical advice. No information in this post is meant to diagnose or treat thyroid disease or any medical problem for that matter. My intent is NOT to spread a mistrust of doctors, but rather simply to share my story about my own experience with autoimmune thyroid disease.
My last post about thyroid disease left off in December of 2008, right after I was diagnosed with a thyroid problem. In January of 2009, I was able to find an endocrinologist and get in for an appointment. It was at that first appointment that I learned that I did indeed have a 9 mm nodule on my thyroid, but that the doctor didn't feel it was serious enough to biopsy. I also was sent for more bloodwork, and the endo discovered that I had thyroid antibodies in my blood. This indicated that my thyroid problem was now thyroid disease. In my case, I had Hashimoto's hypothyroidism, and autoimmune disease. This means that my body thinks my thryoid is a foreign object and makes antibodies to attack it. This causes the thyroid to shut down, or at least diminish it's function. As a result, my metabolism slows way down. It is believed that every cell in the body is affected when the thyroid is not functioning properly, and that seems to explain the myriad of symptoms in multiple regions of the body.

Thyroid problems often occur after a major surgery (such as the c-section) or pregnancy, and sometimes genetics plays a role, too. My mother has a minor thyroid problem, but as far as we know, she does not have Hashimoto's. She is able to control her condition with a small dosage of generic Levothyroxine which she has been on for about 10 years. At the time of her last bloodwork, her TSH was between a 1 and a 2, which is a very good range. This has worked well for her, and her condition has not seemed to worsen over the past 10 years. I have no idea why my condition is so much worse than hers, but I assume it is because I have the antibodies.

My endo switched me from Levothyroxine to the name-brand version which is Synthroid. I initially had an appointment every three months for bloodwork to check to see that my levels were going down. Every three months, the endo would up the dosage. If I remember correctly, the dosages went something like this - 50 mcg, 75 mcg, 88 mcg, 100 mcg, 112 mcg. I wondered why the dosages were increased so slightly each time, but I was told that it takes time to regulate all of this. Everyone is different and responds differently to treatment. I remember that I would start to feel better during times when I wasn't stressed or super busy. Once I would get too busy and overwhelmed, I would feel worse.

The months went by, and I was doing a lot of research on my own. I tried to learn as much as I possibly could about Hashimoto's. There was a lot of information out there, and a lot of it was confusing. I found a patient advocate, Mary Shomon, who had written articles and books on thyroid problems. I bought two of her books, and read her online articles. I highly recommend reading anything about thyroid problems by Mary Shomon!

In the fall of 2009, I asked my endo if I could switch to Armour. I didn't want to continue on Synthroid because the research I had done indicated that Armour was a much better option. Synthroid is a synthetic medication, whereas Armour is natural. Here's where it's going to get technical. In addition to checking the TSH level, it is also necessary to check the T3 and T4 levels. Synthroid only gives you T4, it does not give you T3. For someone with an underactive thyroid, you need both. The idea behind Synthroid is that your body will convert the T4 in the Synthroid into T3. But the problem is that so many people are not able to convert the T4 into T3, and therefore their levels are still off. Armour gives you T4 and T3, so there is no problem with conversion.

My doctor was a little hesitant, but agreed to write me a prescription for Armour.  At the time of my last bloodwork (spring of 2010), my TSH was down to 2.14. To be honest, I do think Armour works better for me than Synthroid, but I still continued to have symptoms. Mary Shomon insists that doctors need to be checking not only the TSH, but also the Free T3 and Free T4. This is very important. Some doctors only do Total T3 and Total T4, and not the Free's. The Free's are important! My endo did TSH, Total T3 and Free T4. I asked them to do Free T3, and they would not. So, I decided it was time to look for another specialist. I had had a few issues with my endo, like the fact that they had me see their nurse practitioner instead of the specialist. I actually had one appointment where I had several questions I needed to ask about, and the nurse practitioner literally inched towards the door as I was still asking questions. When I expressed frustration that my symptoms were not really going away even though I was very close to the good range, they did not seem overly willing to explore what could be still causing my problems. In October of 2010, I decided to find another doctor who was willing to get me the answers I so desperately needed.

May I urge you, if you have thyroid problems, find a good doctor! Find a doctor that you can trust, and that is determined to get to the bottom of your symptoms. It may take switching doctors a few times until you find the right one. Just don't give up! More to come in another post!

My journey into autoimmune thyroid disease, Part 1

Disclaimer - Before you read this post, please be aware that I have no medical degree. The things stated in this post are MY OPINION ONLY, and should NOT be taken as any kind of medical advice. No information in this post is meant to diagnose or treat thyroid disease or any medical problem for that matter. My intent is NOT to spread a mistrust of doctors, but rather simply to share my story about my own experience with autoimmune thyroid disease.

About three months after the birth of my second child (this would have been in March of 2008), I began to really notice that I was not feeling well. I had had a very easy recovery from the c-section, but this was different. I just felt "off." At first I tried to excuse all my symptoms, thinking that it was somehow all related to post-pregnancy adjustments. I also figured that since my daughter was not yet sleeping through the night that I was just really sleep-deprived.

By the time summer came, I was downright miserable. My hair was falling out in handfuls, way past the time that seemed normal for post-partum hairloss. I was dragging all day long, and just had no energy. But summer was my busy time of the year, as I headed up a small daycamp at our school during the summer months. I figured I had just taken on too much, especially since my daughter was STILL not sleeping through the night. I did consider the possibility that I was either anemic or had a thyroid problem, but I didn't WANT there to be a problem, and I guess that I talked myself out of believing I needed to see a doctor.

Finally, in October when my mom was able to come and stay with us for a week, I told my mom how I was feeling, and she really thought I needed to get checked out. It was November before I actually went in to see my doctor. I told her about the complete exhaustion that would hit me as soon as I woke up in the morning and lasted all day. My skin was dry, my once glossy, thick hair was now thin and limp, my eyes were puffy and sunken, and I was starting to get searing muscle cramps in my back and legs and feet that felt like charlie horses. The doctor told me she would do a full blood workup, but also threw in a little comment about possibly needing anti-depressants. (Strictly my opinion here, but when a doctor mentions anti-depressants, that is the first sign that you might need to switch doctors!) I told her kindly but firmly that I was not interested in anti-depressants.

I went back in December for the followup and bloodwork results. The first thing my doctor mentioned before she had even shut the door was that my thyroid level was ridiculously high. She joked that she didn't even know how I had driven myself to the doctor's office! The level she was referring to is called TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). The best range for TSH is between a 1and 2 (although some people actually feel better when it is between 0 and 1). Mine was a 54. That definitely confirmed a thyroid problem. My doctor told me she would start me on a prescription medication called Levothryoxine. She told me that I would start feeling better in a matter of days. It was all rather confusing because I didn't know anything about thyroid problems, but I did feel relieved that I would be getting some help very soon.

My doctor also sent me for an ultrasound of my thyroid to check for nodules. When those results came back, a nurse technician from my doctor's office called to tell me that there were no nodules, but that the thyroid was enlarged which meant it was now called a goiter. I was relieved that there were no nodules, since I had heard of thyroid cancer. But the term goiter scared me a little. I had heard of people with goiters that caused their neck to swell to a grotesque size, and I wondered if that was going to happen to me. The nurse technician told me that their office was going to hand me over to a thyroid specialist (endocrinologist), since there was nothing further they could do for me. When I expressed concern about the goiter, the nurse told me that usually they use radiation treatments to zap it. Needless to say, I was very alarmed by this! I had no idea what the ramifications of that treatment would be, especially since my husband and I were considering having more children in the future and I wasn't sure if that would be possible after radiation treatments. The nurse was dismissive, and when I asked if it would be possible to delay the treatments, she just cautioned that it might not be good to wait too long. That answer did nothing to make me feel better about the situation.
Now let me stop right here and tell you that a lot of what I was told by this doctor and nurse were completely false. 1.) When your TSH is practically off the charts, you are most likely NOT going to miraculously start feeling better within a day or two of starting medication. It is a process to bring your numbers down and get your levels in the right range. It would have been nice for them to tell me that, so that I would be prepared for the long process. 2.) They didn't read the ultrasound results correctly - I DID have a nodule, a 9mm nodule on the right side of my thyroid. I'm not really sure how they missed this one, because I later saw the report from the ultrasound with my own eyes and it very clearly stated there was a nodule. I found this information out at my new endocrinologists office. 3.) This is the worst thing I was told - that I might need radiation treatment for my thyroid condition. I am HYPOthyroid, which means underactive thyroid. As far as I know, radiation treatment is NEVER required for hypothryoid. Radiation treatment is used to "kill" an overactive thyroid, so it would be futile to "kill" an underactive thyroid that is already not even functioning at all, or functioning at a very limited capacity.

Little did I know that my journey was just beginning! More to come in another post!

Trusting God to keep His promises

It is the everlasting faithfulness of God that makes a Bible promise "exceeding great and precious." Human promises are often worthless. Many a broken promise has left a broken heart. But since the world was made, God has never broken a single promise made to one of His trusting children.
Oh, it is sad for a poor Christian to stand at the door of the promise, in the dark night of affliction, afraid to draw the latch, whereas he should then come boldly for shelter as a child into his father's house. ~ Selected, from Streams in the Desert

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011


One day when walking down the street,
On business bent, while thinking hard
About the "hundred cares" which seemed
Like thunder clouds about to break
In torrents, Self-pity said to me:
"You poor, poor thing, you have too much
To do. Your life is far too hard.
This heavy load will crush you soon."
A swift response of sympathy
Welled up within. The burning sun
Seemed more intense. The dust and noise
Of puffing motors flying past
Wish rasping blast of blowing horn
Incensed still more the whining nerves,
The fabled last back-breaking straw
To weary, troubled, fretting mind.

"Ah, yes, 'twill break and crush my life;
I cannot bear this constant strain
Of endless, aggravating cares;
They are too great for such as I."
So thus my heart condoled itself,
"Enjoying misery," when lo!
A "still small voice" distinctly said,
"'Twas sent to lift you - not to crush."
I saw at once my great mistake.
My place was not beneath the load
But on the top! God meant it not
That I should carry it. He sent
It here to carry me. Full well
He knew my incapacity
Before the plan was made. He saw
A child of His in need of grace
and power to serve; a puny twig
Requiring sun and rain to grow;
An undeveloped chrysalis;
A weak soul lacking faith in God.
He could not help but see all this
And more. An then, with tender thought
He placed it where it had to grow -
Or die. To lie and cringe beneath
One's load means death, but life and power
Await all those who dare to rise above.
Our burdens are our wings; on them
We soar to higher realms of grace;
Without them we must roam for aye
On plains of undeveloped faith,
(for faith grows but by exercise
In circumstances impossible).

Oh, paradox of Heaven. The load
We think will crush was sent to lift us
Up to God! Then, soul of mine,
Climp up! for naught can e'er be crushed
Save what is underneath the weight.
How may we climb! By what ascent
Shall we surmount the carping cares
Of life! Within His word is found
The key which opens His secret stairs;
Alone with Christ, secluded there,
We mount our loads, and rest in Him.
~ Miss Mary Butterfield
taken from Streams in the Desert by L. B. Cowman

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Streams in the Desert

I recently started a devotional book entitled, Streams in the Desert, by L. B. Cowman. It is intended to be a devotional for every day of the year. The following is part of the description of the book written in the publisher's foreword: "In 1925 the first edition of Streams in the Desert was released. In it were thoughts, quotations, and spiritual inspiration which had helped to sustain Mrs. Charles E. Cowman during her years of missionary work in Japan and China - particularly the six years she nursed her husband while he was dying." This book is recommended especially for those going through difficult times. My husband and I often feel so overwhelmed spiritually, physically, and emotionally from dealing with conflicts and problems in the ministry we are serving in, and so we are planning to go through this devotional book together. In just the few days' devotionals in this book that I have read, I can tell already that this book will be a treasure. It looks like Amazon has this book for a very reasonable price.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Need a laugh today?

There ought to be a better way to start the day than getting up in the morning.

When I was a kid, I had a lazy eye, and it spread to the rest of my body.

Kids are unpredictable. You never know what inconsistency they are going to catch you in next.

No one ever went to the grave saying, "I wish I had eaten more rice cakes."

I have to exercise early in the morning before my brain figures out what I'm doing.

You know you are on a diet when a postage stamp tastes good.

The advantage of exercise is that you die healthier.

My doctor told me to start my exercise program very gradually. Today I drove past a store that sells sweat pants. 

The healthiest part of a donut is the hole. Unfortunately, you have to eat through the rest of the donut to get there!

 I'm not into working out. My philosophy: No pain, no pain!

I usually try to take it one day at a time, but lately several have attacked me at once.

A clean desk is a sign of a cluttered desk drawer.

I may look busy, but I'm just confused.

When sign makers go on strike, is anything written on their signs?

In winter why do we try to keep the house as warm as it was in summer when we complained about the heat?

Borrow money from pessimists - they don't expect it back.

If at first you DO succeed, try not to look astonished.

If I want your opinion, I'll ask you to fill out the necessary forms.

Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
 Buy one for the price of two, and get the second one free!

I thought I wanted a career, turns out I only wanted paychecks.

Quote from the boss: I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was going to blame it on you.

Sorry - yesterday was the deadline for all complaints.

If you wish to live wisely, ignore sayings including this one.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The story of my daughter's heart

(For safety reasons, I will refer to my daughter using the initial of her first name.) About three years ago, when we were expecting our daughter S, I went in for a routine appointment at my doctor's office. I was about 35 weeks along, and had had no complications with the pregnancy. The nurse came in to check my baby's heartbeat, and it took her a little while to try to find it. The nurse was able to find a heartbeat, but it didn't sound right to her, and she went to get my doctor. I was more than a little shaken. Still, I told myself to be calm and prayed that everything was alright. My doctor listened and the heartbeat was all over the place. I had no idea what was wrong, or what it meant. My doctor told me that I needed to do a non-stress test so they could monitor the baby's heartbeat.

I walked down the hallway to another room where they hooked me up to the non-stress test machine. I think I was hooked up to it for about 20 minutes. The baby's heartbeat was still all over the place, and so my doctor came back in the room and told me she was sending me to Labor and Delivery at the hospital for additional monitoring. She assured me that the baby was not in immediate danger, but that we needed to find out the cause for the irregular heartbeat.

I called my husband, who was at work, and asked him to take me to the hospital since I wanted him to be with me just in case something was very wrong. I sat in a hospital room for the next several hours listening to the irregular heartbeat of my baby girl. I watched the paper printout from the monitor as the black recording line jumped all over the paper. Finally, the hospital was convinced the baby was not in danger, so I was released with instructions to follow up with a perinatologist.

I made an appointment to see the perinatologist, and again went through more monitoring and a bio-physical profile ultrasound. My husband was again able to go with me, and I am so thankful for that. That first appointment was scary for me, since I had never had complications before, and now I was labeled "high risk." The perinatologist wanted me to follow up with a pediatric cardiologist. The next day, I went to see the pediatric cardiologist. They had a high-tech imaging system that enabled them to look into the baby's chest and examine her tiny heart. I laid on the sonogram table for over an hour while they looked at the screen and talked softly among themselves. That was unnerving, because sometimes I would think that their tone indicated a major problem. But at the conclusion, the pediatric cardiologist relieved my fears by informing me that the baby's heart was not damaged in any way from the irregular heartbeat. They couldn't say for sure what had caused it, and they could not say for sure what the outcome would be.

They gave me several scenarios of a possible outcome. Best case scenario was that often times the baby's heart would correct itself as soon as birth occured. However, sometimes medication would be necessary to regulate the heart. Worst case scenario was that the baby would need a pacemaker after birth. It was determined that a regular birth would be too stressful on the baby's heart, and therefore, I would have to have a c-section. I had been suspecting this from the first time I met with the perinatologist. I'm thankful that I had a chance to sort of wrap my mind around it. I had been terrified of having to have a c-section when I was pregnant with my first child, but thankfully, it was easier to accept that I would need one this time. I know the Lord was really helping me during this time.

I continued to see the perinatologist for weekly bio-phyical profiles to make sure the baby was not in any distress. The date of the c-section was set for two days after Christmas. This was about two weeks and two days before my actual due date. The doctor did not want to risk me going into labor. On the day of the c-section, my husband and I arrived at the hospital around 5:00 a.m. The section was scheduled to start at 7:00 a.m., so I was in a prep room until it was time. I was extremely nervous, especially since they had me once again hooked up to the non-stress test machine. The baby's heart was extremely erratic that morning, and that really made me nervous. She may have been stressed because I was so nervous.

Things started happening very quickly around 7:00 a.m. I was taken to the O.R. (well, not exactly taken - I had to walk there myself, in my hospital gown clutched tightly around me - because we all know how "modest" those are - and my ugly, brown, hospital-issued socks complete with no-slip treads on the bottom so I wouldn't fall........all while I was dragging my I.V. line next to me.....yes, people were, I have no idea why the hospital didn't GET ME A WHEELCHAIR for crying out loud!) Anyway, I will spare you the details of the prep that goes on in the O.R. But let's just say my blood pressure was going up and the nurses kept asking me if I was okay. I told them I was fine, I was just TERRIFIED. They seemed to accept that and just kept prepping. Pretty soon my husband was allowed to come in, covered head to toe in scrubs and a face mask. I could barely talk to him, I was just so nervous. I also was starting to feel the effects of the spinal, and most of my body was going numb as it spread. I didn't know what it was really supposed to feel like, and I began to wonder if I was dying since it was rather hard to breathe. I'm pretty sure it was just that I was scared, and probably taking shallow breaths so that's why I was out of breath.

I didn't even know the doctor had started the section until he was almost ready to take the baby out. I had been worried that I would be able to feel the knife, and when I realized that I couldn't, I finally started to relax a little. Let me back up and say that the doctors had prepared me what might happen to the baby once she was out. They told me that section babies are often blue and cannot cry or breathe very well right away. They were unsure of what her heart would do - would it correct itself, or would she be wisked away and need medical intervention? I tried to prepare myself for not being able to see her right away, and kept praying that she would be fine.

Within minutes of the doctor starting the section, they told me they were almost to take her out. I heard her cry right away, and they held her up over the sheet curtain for me to see her. She looked perfect! She was pink, and she was breathing on her own and screaming her little lungs out. Her Apgar scores were I think an 8 or a 9 out of 10, so she really was doing very well. They cleaned her up and did all the stuff that they do, and checked her heart. It was beating normally! She did not need medication or intervention of any kind.

So many friends and family members had prayed for S's heart to be healed. What an answer to prayer, and what a miracle God performed! Every year on her birthday, I am reminded of what a special gift from God she is. She is a perfectly healthy, happy, normal little girl with a big personality, and all the glory and praise goes to my heavenly Father, the Great Physician.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Little is Much

In the harvest field now ripened
There's a work for all to do.
Hark! the voice of God is calling,
To the harvest calling you.

Does the place you're called to labor
Seem so small and little known?
It is great if God is in it,
And He'll not forget His own.

Little is much when God is in it;
Labor not for wealth or fame.
There's a crown and you can win it
If you'll go in Jesus' name.

~ Mrs. F.W. Suffield

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Being an effective soul-winner

Then saith he unto his disciples, the harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth labourers into his harvest.
- Matthew 9:37 - 38.

Do we live like we really believe this verse, that the harvest is plenteous? Those of us in ministry often find ourselves saying, "Well, you know, this part of the country is really closed to the Gospel, it's just so hard to win these people to Christ." You know what? It's hard everywhere! But that doesn't mean God's Word is any less sure. There IS a prepared harvest, we simply must be a willing and obedient vessel for God to use. Start praying for God to give you "divine appointments." Start praying before you leave your house each day that God would bring you to someone who is ready to hear. One of the best books I have ever read on being an effective soul-winner is the book entitled, Just What the Doctor Ordered, by Walter L. Wilson. Walter would pray and ask the Lord to send him to someone who needed to hear the gospel before he would leave the house to embark on even the most mundane errands. He looked for ways to approach people and strike up a conversation with them, and then turn it toward spiritual matters. He was careful to rely on the Holy Spirit's power to work and speak through him, rather than relying on his own abilities. This easy-reading book is filled with personal stories of some of the ones Walter Wilson led to the Lord. It is such an encouraging and challenging book. It is my desire to become a more effective soul-winner as I seek to reach a dying world with the power of the Gospel.

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