Do not be discouraged and do not be afraid

One of my best friends, Catia, just recently took a trip home to Brazil with her family. While she was there she took her daughter to see a nutritionist. In the waiting room, she was sitting beside another mother of a 7-year-old little boy. For whatever reason, she began to talk with this other mother, and the reason for this mother’s visit became clear. The 7-year-old boy was one year into the GAPS diet. How odd, she thought, that something so rare was found right next to her. Catia asked more questions and quickly found out that the reason this woman had decided to put her son on the GAPS diet was for healing for his severe Atopic Dermatitis and food allergies. You can’t make this stuff up, people. Immediately there was a connection, and the conversation continued as the mother showed Catia pictures of her son from a year ago. Catia couldn’t believe this was the same boy, she couldn’t believe that his skin used to look as it did with severe patches of eczema from his head to his toes. He looked like a completely different child in the waiting room in front of her.

The mother spoke of the difficulty of having her son on such a restrictive diet, how he didn’t understand, or at least how he struggled to understand why he had to eat certain foods and everyone around him got to eat pizza and other typical food. She told Catia how she cried almost every day, the emotional toll it took on her, on her son, and their entire family. She spoke about how they sought out therapy because other children in school were mean to him because of his skin. But, she also spoke about how worth it this journey has been for them. Her son is still on the GAPS diet, and it’s vastly different than it was at the beginning. He is eating more foods and thriving. She said the beginning was like everything inside of him was dying off, and, now, they are restoring him from the inside out. His body is healing. How incredible.

Catia came back from Brazil last week and told me all of this. Of course I cried. I’m still crying over it when I think about how God did something like this for me. Because there simply is no other explanation, there are no coincidences, not if you are a Believer. God  orchestrated this meeting for me, to give me hope, to encourage me, to remind me not to be discouraged and not to be afraid.

We are 54 days into our GAPS journey. It feels like forever. Truly. Every day is long and exhausting, every day presents new challenges and often new fears. I constantly wrestle with discouragement and fear. A few weeks ago, I felt the Lord speaking to me as I was washing dishes, crying into the dishes, and crying out to God for help. He brought a song to my mind from my childhood and then led me to a verse. He very quietly and firmly said, “Do not be discouraged and do not be afraid. I am with you.” This is what I am to remember in this season.

I find it amazing how quickly I can spiral right back into fear and discouragement. What a struggle it is to trust even in the voice we hear from the Lord. I’ve been choosing to trust what He’s told me even though many days we don’t see a lot of change or a lot of hope. Fifty-four days isn’t long. It’s quite short. I think of that little boy, I’ve been thinking about him a lot for a few days now, and about his mother. I know we are doing the right thing for Raleigh. I know we are on the right track. More and more lately, when he sees us eating something he really wants, he begins to get upset. I took him to the grocery store, and for the first 10 things I placed in the basket, he had a mini break-down saying how bad he wanted to eat each item. Torture. Oh, the delicate balance between having grace for him in that moment, having compassion, and yet having to remain firm and place one foot in front of the other. He doesn’t understand really, not really. He knows the “bad bugs” make him itch. He knows he is eating what he is eating because it makes the “good bugs” strong so they can fight the bad bugs. But he can’t fully wrap his mind around why he can’t have pizza with us, or blueberries, or an apple. Not yet. One day. Hang on. Hold on tight a little longer. It’s a hard love. It’s okay. This is right. This will work. This is working. Do not be discouraged. Do not be afraid. Focus on today.

I’m very ready to be able to give a great report here on Raleigh. Today isn’t that day and that’s alright. We removed all beef, spinach and broccoli from his diet 10 days ago as a test. He has only been eating chicken, chicken stock, carrots, onion, lard, and a few other vegetables on rotation that are low in salicylates. Within a handful of days of that change, his upper back began to clear a little, but nothing really cleared significantly to make us believe it was one of these foods keeping his body in an aggravated state of eczema. Personally, I think his bowel movements have a great deal to do with his skin maintaining the flared state it’s currently in. Yesterday, we felt like we saw some lifting of the red sheath that covers most of his torso, lower back, upper legs, lower arms….maybe. Do not be discouraged. Do not be afraid.

He is currently continuing to take his probiotic daily, digestive enzymes, and, for four days now, he has been on zinc to aid his skin in healing and magnesium to help regulate his bowel movements. So far, so good. We haven’t seen any adverse reactions, and I believe seeing some skin clearing is a positive sign that his body is responding well to these new supplements. What a process all of this is.

Nights are still up and down. We’ve had a few in a row where he only has woken once and a few where he wakes multiple times. I find I dread the night and the uncertainty that it brings. But God is still good. He continues to remind me of His word of encouragement to me in this season of life: Do not be discouraged and do not be afraid. He is with me. He is with me in every poached chicken, in every batch of chicken stock, in every re-heating of whatever’s gone cold that must be reheated again, slowly, on the stove because microwaves are out. He is with me.

In the midst of this season, we begin another season in a couple of weeks. Evelyn begins 1st grade, and we’re both looking forward to what Charlotte Mason has for us. The idea of beginning our homeschool year has honestly been a light, refreshing breeze, and not something looming in the distance. I’m hoping it will be a nice segway for my brain, and a peaceful transition into finding the balance between Raleigh’s needs and homeschooling Evelyn.

Here are some pictures of Raleigh’s torso and back one week ago and today:

Some of the pictures are not the best of quality, it’s difficult since he won’t stop moving. However, I think you can tell the first three, from a week ago, to today’s are improved. His upper, left back was just itched prior to taking the picture so he irritated that skin. But we see some significant healing of cuts on his lower back/bottom area, which is fantastic. His torso has slowly, and I mean SLOWLY, been coming down from the red, dry, horribly eczema-laden mass we’ve been seeing for weeks and weeks, so that is thrilling. However, he is incredibly itchy, dry and often flaky. We think this is positive and means the old skin cells are dying off and being shed by the body as the inside of his gut begins to mend and heal. Makes me think of what that woman in Brazil described her son going through in the beginning. We are certainly seeing things die-off and new skin regenerate. This process is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before and truly, it is amazing how God created our bodies to heal if we give it the tools to heal. I think we are seeing healing happen. It is just slow, very, very slow.

In this culture, we want to see things happen fast. Slow somehow means something negative, and I’ve been having to remind myself of that when I start to panic thinking we should see major change in the 50-some-odd days we’ve been at this. That just simply isn’t true. Healing takes time, and we can’t rush it. Do not be discouraged and do not be afraid. I am with you.

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