5.29.2014

The Gift of Healing

As I've posted before, I was diagnosed this past January with Ulcerative Colitis. I've been sick…really sick. Symptoms began back as far as January 2013 and got progressively worse. And pregnancy didn't help things at all! But I am beginning to be healed and that healing process is something that I completely credit to the Lord. Here is my story.

Where to begin? Maybe this past November. I hadn't been diagnosed with anything yet, but my condition was getting worse. I was living in a constant state of nausea (and please don't mind the gruesome details) was somewhat tethered to the toilet because of the diarrhea I'd developed, not to mention the large amounts of blood I was passing with it. I was sick and I was scared. What was happening to my body?

I asked Chad for a priesthood blessing. Keep in mind, I had not yet been diagnosed with anything. Among other things, this is what Chad's blessing (which I recorded on my phone) said-

"Michelle, I bless you that you will be able to find relief from this affliction. I bless you that you will find answers and overcome this affliction. I bless you that you will heal yourself, that you will be able to regulate your body to normal function. I bless you that you will have your eyes open and your mind enlightened as you seek and find answers. I bless you that you will be able to get the affliction out of you and I bless you that you will be able to have a renewed time of spiritual growth...I bless you with these things and the great knowledge of the great love that the Lord has for you. I bless you that you will be able to see little pieces of how great His love is for you."

I admit, it wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear. I wanted to be blessed with an instantaneous gift of healing. I wanted the kind of miraculous healing that Jesus Christ so often performed on the blind and lame or that others have received from priesthood blessings.

January I had my colonoscopy and received a diagnosis. Ulcerative Colitis. An appointment was scheduled with a specialist, but the earliest appointment was June. I was put on a "low residue" diet (a.k.a. no fiber!). Well, the diarrhea soon subsided and was replaced with constipation. Now I was even more nauseated and miserable than before!

Soon after receiving my diagnosis, I asked for another priesthood blessing, this time from my dad & Chad. My dad was the mouthpiece. Among other things he said-

"Our Father in Heaven would have you know that your work here on the earth has just begun and that your time for trial and difficulty, while this may be a small moment in your life, this is but an item that will bring you great joy through your struggles and the things that you do to make your body healthy and strong. This will be a blessing unto you and you will be able to learn and grow from your trials and weaknesses and you’ll become closer to your Father in Heaven."

I hadn't spoken it to anyone, but inside I had this fear that I was dying. I wondered at times, is this it? Is this how I'm going to die? Will I be around to see my boys grow? My dad had no idea that this was in my heart.

April rolled around, (a time all Latter-day Saints look forward to, because we get to listen to General Conference where we hear sermons from the prophet, the 12 apostles & members of the Seventy). I admit I was still at this time hoping for a miraculous gift of healing. I thought, 'If I can just develop stronger faith to be healed, I know the Lord can heal me'. Every prayer I offered I asked for my faith to be strengthened to the point where I had faith sufficient to be healed. General conference taught me I was praying for the wrong thing.

If I could just quote one snippet of a particularly meaningful talk to me (the whole sermon is AMAZING!)-

"Recall the Savior’s statement “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30) as we consider the next verse in the account of Alma and his people. “And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs” (Mosiah 24:14). 

Many of us may assume this scripture is suggesting that a burden suddenly and permanently will be taken away. The next verse, however, describes how the burden was eased. “And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:15; emphasis added). 


The challenges and difficulties were not immediately removed from the people. But Alma and his followers were strengthened, and their increased capacity made the burdens lighter. These good people were empowered through the Atonement to act as agents (see D&C 58:26–29) and impact their circumstances. And “in the strength of the Lord” (Words of Mormon 1:14; Mosiah 9:17; 10:10; Alma 20:4), Alma and his people were directed to safety in the land of Zarahemla. 


-David A. Bednar (Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease)


Other honorable mentions-


-Dieter F. Uchtdorf (Grateful in Any Circumstances


-Quentin L. Cook (Spiritual Whirlwinds)
Needless to say, after this sermon and other awesome talks, I began to get the picture.  Maybe this was something the Lord wanted me to go through for some purpose only He knew.  I changed my prayers.  Instead of asking for an added measure of faith so that I might be miraculously healed, I began praying for direction to know how to treat and cope with this illness.  (Remember, I still haven't seen a specialist & at this point I'm now pregnant & there's little to no meds that they can give me to deal with the UC).  
Well, I couldn't just pray and expect things to fall into my lap.  The Lord doesn't work that way.  So I began to do my part.  For me, that mostly included scouring the internet and various forums looking for solutions to cope with &/or heal ulcerative colitis.  And let me tell you, there is a LOT of information and opinions out there!  I began to feel completely lost in a sea of information.  However, I kept reassuring myself that the Lord knew exactly what my body needed and although a lot was unknown regarding this autoimmune disease, HE KNEW the answers!  
With my searching I began to repeatedly run into references and posts about a particular diet called the "Specific Carbohydrate Diet". 
What is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (or SCD)?  Basically you can't eat dairy (except a few cheeses and homemade yogurt- who even has the time to make that?!), no sugar (except honey.  Yikes!  Cookies and dark chocolate were a staple for me!), and no grains & potatoes (and I mean NO grains- this includes rice, quinoa, barley, corn, couscous, sweet potatoes, etc., etc.). 
I mentioned the diet to my dad one day on the phone.  He got all excited about it and began to tell me about his doctor buddy that has Crohn's that is completely med free and controls his Crohn's through that very diet.  His enthusiasm was encouraging and I felt like, "Ya, I can do this!".  
So the next day, feeling totally inspired, I "began" the SCD diet.  I made it through half the morning.  To my credit, I didn't have any groceries in the house that would've helped me continue with the diet and answer truthfully- would you want to do that diet?  Needless to say, I gave up and refused to even consider the diet again.  
I continued to search for answers while somewhere in the back of my mind that diet sort of nagged at me.  But like I said, I wouldn't even consider it!  'Too hard!,' I told myself and I continued to look for other answers.  The more I searched, the more lost and directionless I felt and I began to wonder, 'Why isn't the Lord answering my prayers for guidance?'. 
It was during this time of searching that I woke up one morning with this phrase coming so clear to my mind- "Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other."
That's cool, I thought.  Where have I heard that before?  So after reading my scriptures for the day, I went searching for the source of that quote.  I found it in the bible dictionary.  Among other things it said- 
"As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part (Matt. 7:7–11). Many of the so-called difficulties about prayer arise from forgetting this relationship. Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other. The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them." (Bible Dictionary- Prayer)
Well, even though that cool insight changed my outlook on prayer somewhat, I still continued my search for an answer that I wanted.  That is, until one Sunday I had reached my limit.
I had a very hard day and felt very depressed and lost.  So that night I prayed- "Heavenly Father, I feel so lost and sick.  I can't continue like this.  I can't take care of my family.  I'm depressed.  I need help and direction and the only thing I can think of as a solution is this SCD diet, BUT I REALLY DON'T WANT TO DO IT!  BUT, if this is the direction I need to take, please send someone to me tomorrow to talk to me about it."  I closed my prayer and then thought to myself- 'Well this will be interesting.  If this really is the direction that the Lord wants me to take, he's gonna have an interesting time sending someone to me.  #1- This diet is very obscure and unknown and #2- I'll be home all day cleaning tomorrow.  I won't see anyone.'.
The next morning I got up and began my routine cleaning that I do every Monday.  And then I received a Facebook message from Karen Gordon, the local Parents as Teacher's representative.  She asked if it were still okay to come over that morning.  I'd forgotten we had an appointment.  
Well she came over (she performs assessments to gauge children's development levels).  We were doing a problem solving development test on Max that involved some cheerios.  I warned Karen that he'd probably eat her cheerios and she reassured me that that was just fine.  Then she paused and said, "There was, however, a time I was doing this test on a child and he popped the cheerios in his mouth and the mom panicked because they were doing this very specific diet…"  And then Karen began to describe for me the EXACT diet that I'd prayed about the night before!  I had not told a soul about my prayer.  And in fact, I'd completely forgot about it myself!  But with that comment my prayer instantaneously came to my mind and I knew the Lord had answered my prayer and that he had sent someone to me to talk to me about the diet. 
After Karen left I cried.  I cried because I had to do this stupid diet and I cried because I knew the Lord had miraculously heard and answered my prayer. I ordered the book "Breaking the Vicious Cycle" (regarding the diet) from amazon amidst my tears and I started the diet a few days later after receiving it in the mail.  
I've now been on the diet for a little over a month and let me say, my improvement has been astounding!  Almost every symptom, including the bleeding, has improved tenfold, if not vanished!  I know the Lord has heard and answered my prayers.  But it doesn't stop there!
(I'm sorry, I know this is a LONG drawn out blog post!…you can quit reading there if you'd like).
My first few days on the diet, I was still trying to figure out what I could actually eat.  I was eating a lot of fruit and nuts, which my body was having a hard time adjusting to and it was giving me painful, nauseating bloating and gas.  I prayed for help and answers for to how to deal with or treat this pain. 
That night I attended a church function.  I began talking to Shelley Moore (who is so awesome!) about this new diet I had started and she said- 'I've got to talk to you!'.  And she began to tell me about some naturalistic herbs and essential oils that she was learning about and how she believed the Lord provided things to heal our bodies, we just have to find the answers (see Alma 46:40 (a scripture that I'd previously ran across that had given me hope & that she mentioned in this conversation)).  She also specifically recommended that I try a certain doterra oil called Digestzen.  More than anything, I left our conversation with this renewed hope!  (I had been feeling discouraged from the pain & all the changes I was facing with this new diet).
After talking to her, I wandered to another group of friends and soon began talking with my friend Annie McLean.  "I had a dream about you last night," she told me.  "Oh really.  What did you dream about?", I said with a laugh in my voice.  She said, "I dreamed that you showed up and I told you, you really should try an essential oil called Digestzen".  I told her how ironic that she was telling me this, because Shelley Moore had just told me the same thing.  Well Annie didn't stop there.  She insisted that I borrow her bottle of it.  She got it for me and I started it that night.  Would you believe that it totally helped the bloating and gas I was struggling with?!  I knew the Lord had answered my prayers again! 
Then, another day I prayed telling the Lord how overwhelmed I was with this diet.  It was new.  I didn't know how to cook for it.  And to top things off, one of the requirements was that you make your own yogurt (supposedly for the superior probiotics).  I was totally frozen with intimidation!  And then I got a text from Annie McLean that day.  Her text basically said, "I'm coming over today and I'm going to show you how to make your own yogurt and my sister Becky is coming over too and she's going to show you how to make some other foods that you can eat on your diet."  These girls where lifesavers and yet another answer to prayer for me!  (And as a side note- prior to Annie answering my prayers twice, she had recently renewed asking in her prayers that the Lord would use her as an instrument in his hands).
I KNOW the Lord has answered my prayers and he is aware of me!  To re-quote a few things - 
"Michelle, I bless you that you will be able to find relief from this affliction. I bless you that you will find answers and overcome this affliction. I bless you that you will heal yourself, that you will be able to regulate your body to normal function. I bless you that you will have your eyes open and your mind enlightened as you seek and find answers. I bless you that you will be able to get the affliction out of you and I bless you that you will be able to have a renewed time of spiritual growth...I bless you with these things and the great knowledge of the great love that the Lord has for you. I bless you that you will be able to see little pieces of how great His love is for you." (Chad's priesthood blessing given months prior to all of this)

and

Many of us may assume this scripture is suggesting that a burden suddenly and permanently will be taken away. The next verse, however, describes how the burden was eased. “And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord” (Mosiah 24:15; emphasis added).

The challenges and difficulties were not immediately removed from the people. But Alma and his followers were strengthened, and their increased capacity made the burdens lighter. These good people were empowered through the Atonement to act as agents (see D&C 58:26–29) and impact their circumstances. And “in the strength of the Lord” (Words of Mormon 1:14; Mosiah 9:17; 10:10; Alma 20:4), Alma and his people were directed to safety in the land of Zarahemla.

And a few last ironies-

I am the sunday school teacher at our church.  Prior to accepting my need to follow the SCD diet, our lessons were covering the sojourn of the children of Israel in the wilderness.  Among other things, we talked much about the new diet that they were introduced to - manna.  It was a change and one they didn't accept easily.  It was easy to be critical of them.  How could they overlook how the Lord was answering their prayers?  Yet, now I'm a little more sympathetic…yet, their story is also a powerful reminder to me that I need to continue to turn to the Lord when I want to complain about all the new changes I'm facing :)

…and another irony-

A few weeks into the diet, I was hoping & praying that the Lord might give me additional answers to cope/heal the Ulcerative Colitis…maybe speed up the healing process a little.  That week's sunday school lesson we discussed Joshua and how he commanded the 12 elders to cross the river Jordan, but it required them stepping in to the water BEFORE the waters parted.  Then this quote by Boyd K. Packer was included with this story of Joshua to drive home the point-


“Shortly after I was called as a General Authority, I went to Elder Harold B. Lee for counsel. He listened very carefully to my problem and suggested that I see President David O. McKay. President McKay counseled me as to the direction I should go. I was very willing to be obedient but saw no way possible for me to do as he counseled me to do.
“I returned to Elder Lee and told him that I saw no way to move in the direction I was counseled to go. He said, ‘The trouble with you is you want to see the end from the beginning.’ I replied that I would like to see at least a step or two ahead. Then came the lesson of a lifetime: ‘You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness; then the light will appear and show the way before you’” (“The Edge of the Light,” BYU Today, Mar. 1991, 22–23).
I guess I needed to continue in the light I'd been thus given and the additional answers would come with time…in the Lord's timing. 

My road to healing isn't finished.  I'm not gonna lie, this diet isn't always easy to follow.  But I KNOW that the Lord is here to help me.  My faith has been strengthened, not to be instantaneously and miraculously healed, but to have increased trust in Him and the source I can turn to for comfort and answers. 


For those of you that have stuck it out this far & read this whole post- Congratulations! You now get to enjoy a few pictures.
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Mother's Day in Stockton
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The boys have taken a recent interest in legos. I'm not sure who's more excited about it- the boys or Chad.
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