And joyfully encouraged this Christmas; or, I get by with a little help from my friends

I noticed something different this year as I read the Scriptures surrounding Christ’s birth.  You know the Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise after she finds out she’s been chosen to bear the Holy One of Israel?  I tend to picture the angel Gabriel telling her of God’s plan, her submissive assent, then the Magnificat.

But, no, the Magnificat comes AFTER she goes to see her relative, Elisabeth, to share her news– and she had gone to see her “with haste.”  Think how quickly you go to someone after shocking news.  Surely, even after she submits graciously, Mary is feeling overwhelmed, thrown off, curious about how her new, unusual call will play out.  I felt encouraged this year by the friendship between the two women, how Elisabeth’s excitement about Mary’s call helps Mary burst forth in her own genuine praise and excitement.  Her song of worship focuses on God’s character and promises, and she actively trusts him.

You may be called to something hard right now, something glorious, or a combination of both.  The illness God has given me feels like a hard call, but it is one that can lead me to worship and thanksgiving.  THANK YOU to you, my friends and readers, who have encouraged me throughout 2014 and before, that I might turn my eyes upon Jesus and praise Him mightily.

May your Christmas be merry as you celebrate our Savior’s birth, as God took on flesh and dwelt among us!

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Reluctantly meek this Christmas

We love to do Advent readings every morning in preparation for celebrating Christ’s birth.  Thanks to our friend P., who put together a book of gorgeous pictures and Scriptures to help us!

How a person with POTS puts a Christmas tree up: the kids do it.  Just joking!  My husband rocked it, but friends decorated the mantel and table, addressed Christmas cards, shopped, and wrapped for me!
How a person with POTS puts a Christmas tree up: the kids do it. Just joking! My husband rocked it, but friends decorated the mantel and table, addressed Christmas cards, shopped, and wrapped for me!

One recent morning, we read Isaiah 11 and part of verse 4 struck me:  “He shall… decide with equity for the meek of the earth.”  POTS and NCS have rendered me reluctantly meek, at least sometimes.  I can no longer freely assert my will, as I formerly (thought I) could.   I will be honest and tell you that my illness-induced meekness has been orchestrated by God and not particularly chosen by me.  Our Savior, however, CHOSE to obey and put on humility, taking on the very form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (Philippians 2).

I admit:  I don’t really want to have someone else fill my plate at the party (yes to meatballs! no to cheeseballs!)– but when I am unable to stand that long, I must submit.  I don’t really want to be pushed in a wheelchair through TJ Maxx (yes to longer in the home section! no to knock-off hairsprays!)– but since being upright can bring on fainting, there we go.  I don’t really want to miss evening Christmas parties due to extreme fatigue— but I need to surrender to rest to have spoons (energy) for afternoon merriment (can I just pretend homework = merriment?) with the kids.

Now, I may be stretching that interpretation a little, and that may not be the traditional definition of meekness, but that verse spoke to me that God will work out His good will, and I don’t need to be worried about being left out of it.  I am missing out on some earthly fun, for sure, but He calls me to submit to Him, for my good…  and for His glory.

How a person with POTS cooks Christmas breakfast-- a stool is key!
How a person with POTS cooks Christmas breakfast– a stool is key!

Where do you long for God to decide with equity?

 

Good news all around us

I have always loved Christmas, but as God has allowed me to experience a small amount of suffering, I love it all the more.  I LOVE that Jesus came to make all things new.  My broken body is desperate for His healing, His strength.  My arguing children and I are desperate for His peace, His reconciliation.  My selfish, stubborn heart needs His Spirit.  I love that He doesn’t just come to save us, He comes to redeem all things.

Turns out, these sweet-looking children do have indwelling sin, like their Mama and Daddy!

And I love that in the United States, the Good News is blasted at all of us from all around.

It cracks me up to be on the road watching furious drivers cut in front of one another in crowded parking lots as the local radio station serenely plays “Hark!  The Herald Angels Sing,” and Nat King Cole croons one of my favorite verses:

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth….

Talk about Good News!

What Christmas songs do you love?

I’m all about that salt, ’bout that salt; no pepper

So, why am I constantly mentioning salty drinks and salt fixes?  Believe it or not, simply INCREASING SALT (and fluid) INTAKE is one of the first lines of treatment for most people with POTS and certain other types of dysautonomia.  Although most Americans have heard we should decrease our sodium, salt is fantastic for most people with POTS, because it thickens our blood and increases our blood volume so it has a better chance of “sticking” in our brains and the upper half of our body instead of pooling in our legs and feet.  Often people with POTS have less blood volume than normal people, for some reason– so think of how you feel when you’ve given a pint or more of blood (lightheaded, nauseous, weak, maybe fluish):  That may be how a person with POTS feels a lot of the time.

Believe it or not, if I am fading or having a hard time talking and drink a big glass of salty water, it helps significantly.  I’m so thankful!

My kind of Christmas cheer
My kind of Christmas cheer

So how does one get all this sodium?  (Don’t take my advice, but doctors often recommend 5,000-8,000 mg of sodium a day for people with POTS.)  Of course, you get some sodium in your diet.  For about a week last summer, I counted sodium milligrams the way people count calories and discovered I need to add about 2-1/2 tsp of salt per day to my diet, particularly because I don’t eat a lot of processed foods (which often have a lot of sodium).  That’s a lotta salt, folks!

At first, I tried sprinkling salt on everything I ate.  However, I didn’t love the taste, plus at times, I can’t eat a ton due to nausea and digestive issues, so I didn’t really want to ruin the food I was trying to enjoy.

I started putting 1/4 tsp salt in hot tea (acquired taste for sure!) and have worked my way up to 1/2 tsp of salt in pretty much whatever I drink (tea, water, steamed almondmilk, etc)– and I can handle a full teaspoon in electrolyte-type drinks, like Gatorade (which I don’t like due to sugar and color), or even in sodas (ditto) or smoothies.

Foods thought of as salty, like chips, may be high in sodium… but I once calculated I’d have to have about 20 servings of chips PER DAY to get the sodium I need (149 mg in a serving of regular potato chips is just a drop in the bucket for me!).

If you are adding salt to your food (or drinks!), consider sea salt for the trace minerals it has.  If you use straight Morton’s, you may inadvertently intake too much iodine.

OPTIONS FOR INCREASING SODIUM:

  • Sodium chloride tablets:  My doctor at Vanderbilt’s Autonomic Dysfunction Center prescribed these for me, or you can order them online.  I was taking 1,000 mg tablets, which were very handy, but the impact of that much salt on my stomach often led to trouble….
  • Nuun tablets, Thermotabs, etc: These can be added to water and give you a good kick of sodium.  I like to keep Emergen-C packets in my purse, because they can easily be added to water with an extra tsp of salt and still be drinkable.
  • Salty foods:  Some POTSies eat pickles, then drink the juice, and I’ll definitely slurp up some olive juice with the olives I love.  Deli meats, prepackaged frozen meals, cans of soup, etc, are all full of sodium.  Just be sure to count milligrams!
  • Salty drinks:  Drinks with electrolytes like Gatorade or coconut water have some sodium and can handle more salt.  I often drink tomato juice mid-morning and chicken broth mid-afternoon.
  • Sole  (pronounced so-lay): This is a highly concentrated salt solution made with Himalayan sea salt.  It claims to cure many, many ailments and is recommended to be drunk each morning 30 minutes before you eat.  I’ve been making and drinking this for a couple months, and I don’t notice a huge difference compared to what I’d been doing, but then again, I was already taking in a lot of salt.

You know I like pretty things.  Just last week, a friend gave me this adorable bag specfically for holding the salt packets that were in an old metal tin in my purse.  What a great gift (and very useful)!

My own personal salt lick
My own personal salt lick

Do you like salty foods or do you have more of a sweet tooth?

Field (trip) of dreams

Okay, maybe this seems cheesy, but I always wanted to be a wife and mom when I grew up, and once I became a mom, I always wanted to go on field trips with our kids when they reached school age.

When our oldest was almost 10, I finally helped with one in the spring of 2013, per his request.  Unfortunately, I was developing POTS and NCS (but in some denial about it) and ended up almost passing out after standing in line in the restroom.  (I didn’t know then that being upright now causes blood to pool in the lower half of my body and not enough blood reaches my brain.)  I had to be wheeled across the host school’s gym (this was at a competition two hours away) in an office chair to the athletic trainer’s office while I lay on a mat for quite some time and tried to convince them NOT to call the EMTs. That put a damper on the field trips for a while.

Do I LOOK like I need an EMT?  No, I do not; thank you very much.
Do I LOOK like I need an EMT? No, I do not; thank you very much.

Fast-forward eighteen months, and VOILA! I recently went on a field trip with our middle son!  POTS and NCS has somewhat stabilized (at least some of the time), due to treatment, and the field trip location was a quiet, small, local museum.  I knew it would be cool enough and not too overstimulating, and I thought I could handle it.  My biggest fear was almost passing out, followed by severe body tremors, in front of the schoolchildren (always a little disturbing), so I asked my Bible study group to pray specifically that would not happen.  Unfortunately, I had several bad spells of presyncope the weeks before the trip, so I told the teacher I needed to be an “honorary” chaperone and couldn’t be counted on to help in case I needed rest time during the trip.

Armed with salty electrolyte drinks, I was ready to go.  I met the class at the museum, and my son rushed to meet me to help wheel me into the building.  I always think my kids will be embarrassed to have their mom in a wheelchair, but he was very proud to be able to push me around.

I find it fairly funny that my younger two can't actually SEE where they're going when they push me.
I find it fairly funny that my younger two can’t actually SEE where they’re going when they push me.

The whole event went just fine.  I guzzled the drinks and did deep breathing and basically tried to preserve energy the whole time and was thrilled to make it through without any visible drama.  Although I had to go straight home and rest, rather than continue with the class to a picnic lunch at a nearby park, I was thankful to experience a dream come true! (How’s that for cheesy?)

fldtrip3

My favorite quote of the morning:  Luke’s class had seen me at school a couple times without a wheelchair, since I am often able to walk short distances without getting too close to passing out, so they were surprised by its presence.  One boy said to my son, “Why is your mom in a wheelchair?”  His answer, “She has POTS.”  End of conversation.  Like that kid had ANY CLUE what my son was talking about.  Totally cracked me up.

What were some of your childhood dreams?  Have you gotten to experience any?

Christmas shopping, done the chronically ill way

Okay, I actually kind of LIKE Christmas shopping and picking out gifts for everyone.

However, now, when I shop, I get nauseous, headachey, and exhausted after about half an hour… and if I try to walk instead of use a wheelchair or scooter, I get close to passing out.  Oh, wait, even “normal” people feel that way when they shop this time of year!

Anyway, here is how I Christmas shop these days.  Repeat after me, “FREE SHIPPING!”

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Do you have favorite websites you order from, or do you like to go to brick-and-mortar stores?