936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting
Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!
When I began hosting a women’s Bible study in my home a year and a half ago, my friend Jessie mentioned she had a good friend from her church, a young mom, who may want to join our group.
That very next week I was out walking Ezekiel and our Labrador. We were about a block from our house when a young woman with her toddler son caught my eye, they were playing out in their front yard. As I passed by on the other side of the street, the young woman and I awkwardly made eye contact, lingering for a second as if to ask, “Are you…….?” We both knew about each other, and that we lived nearby. Brittany Olson and her husband, Scott, along with their son Noah (almost 3), and daughter Eloise (almost 1), had lived in the same neighborhood as us for a year, although we had never met.
Sure enough, it was Brittany and her (then 2-year-old) son, Noah. We’ve since become good friends. Over the past year and a half, I have admired Brittany’s eagerness to serve, and how willing she is to open her home up for fellowship. She is quickly and naturally stepping into a leadership role in our group as I phase myself out for our move, and I am confident leaving her in a position to lead these ladies in God’s Word.
Another attribute I have admired in Brittany is her honesty. Brittany has shared with our group over the past year and a half her very real and arduous battle with Crohn’s disease. Yet every time she asks for prayer; each time she explains a recent flare up of symptoms, she does so with such humility and grace, never for attention, but always giving glory to God for taking care of her and her family.
Brittany and I have a lot in common. We are both living with a chronic illness; ones with little to no hope of cure, but that we know can be greatly improved or worsened by the foods we’re putting into our bodies. We both find it extremely important to find a way to function well; to have adequate energy, focus, and patience. We need it, for we both have a husband and young children to love, serve, inspire, and care for.
Although we are similar in that we both have an autoimmune disease, our diseases are vastly different. As I sat with Brittany and listened as she eloquently and knowledgeably described to me the ins and outs of Crohn’s disease, my respect for her grew all the more as I learned of the journey she has made over the past four years since she was diagnosed.
Brittany and her husband, Scott, were married in 2008. Shortly after they promised each other, “In sickness and in health”, they would be called to validate that vow. Brittany didn’t keep a scale in the house, but one day while at a friend’s house she stepped onto a scale. The number frightened her. She weighed only 102 pounds, which was 13 pounds lighter than what she had weighed in high school.
At this same time, Brittany had fallen sick with some sort of virus. The virus was making its rounds at her workplace, but as everyone else seemed to feel better within a few days, Brittany remained ill. The virus caused an oh-so-lovely side affect of debilitating diarrhea; that, along with a loss of appetite, sent Brittany to urgent care after 10 days of this relentless illness.
When Brittany arrived at urgent care, her weight was taken. The scale read 92, a whole 10 pounds lighter than when she had weighed herself two weeks before! She knew something wasn’t right.
The urgent care physician was very helpful, finding a GI doctor who could see Brittany the next day. After her first GI appointment, a colonoscopy was scheduled and the doctors discovered that Brittany had ulcers in her large intestine. The ulcers had been around long before she ever caught the virus. All of these events led to a final diagnosis for Brittany of Crohn’s disease.
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Let me make sense of that. Crohn’s is a progressive disease which causes inflammation of a person’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract. A person’s GI tract consists of their stomach and intestine, but can include any organ dealing with digestion from the mouth to, well, the rear end. Although Crohn’s can effect any area of the GI tract, it is most commonly found in the end of the small intestine as well as the beginning of the large intestine.
The cause or onset of Crohn’s disease is greatly debated. Some medical professionals attribute the onset of Crohn’s to diet and stress, while others argue that although these two factors aggravate Crohn’s disease, they are not a cause. These professionals believe instead that hereditary, genetics, and/or environmental factors are more to blame for an onset of Crohn’s.
One interesting theory is that Crohn’s disease may be brought on through a history of strong antibiotics. Brittany believes that this may be true in her case. As a child she was treated for chronic ear infections with strong antibiotics. Antibiotics may treat the symptoms of one problem, but at the same time they may create even more problems down the road. I’m in no way discouraging antibiotics—this is an area I have little knowledge in—but I was interested to learn what Brittany had to say, and what I learned will cause me to ask a few more questions before my children are prescribed certain treatments for illnesses.
A strong or prolonged treatment of antibiotics seems to disrupt the balance of bacteria in a person’s gut. There are both good and bad types of bacteria, and our bodies need a certain amount of good bacteria to thrive. Too generous a dose of antibiotics may disrupt this balance by killing probiotics (healthy bacteria), which then allows an overgrowth of bad bacteria, causing inflammation. Cue, Crohn’s disease.
For the most part, “Cure” is not a word associated with Crohn’s disease. Rather, a hope for alleviation from symptoms is only referred to as “remission”. This term seems to drain the hope right out of someone looking for relief. Remission denotes a sense of the temporary, making a true, lasting relief seem as though a distant dream.
Brittany, like many other Crohn’s patients, is refusing to accept this plight of no cure. Instead, she is learning what she can about her illness and how it works, as well as what foods may affect her body in certain ways. She’s putting this knowledge to use in her kitchen, cooking new foods in hopes of bettering her quality of life, and the health of her entire family, through eating a healthful diet of whole foods.
As I listened to Brittany’s story, a conundrum began to build in my mind. I began to realize just how complex Crohn’s disease is, and how it can differ vastly in how it affects one person to the next. I asked Brittany how her Crohn’s disease is affected by what she eats. She replied, “That’s the tricky thing.”
This is why there is no “cure-all” dietary approach for Crohn’s sufferers. Every individual with Crohn’s experiences varying degrees of a broad spectrum of symptoms. Crohn’s is a disease with many faces. For those fighting to alleviate symptoms, they have to learn their own body; to be a student of their illness; and they have to be up for the huge challenge of trying, failing, healing, flaring up, starting over, and pressing on to find what works for them individually. This is the journey Brittany and her family are on.
Raising kids stirs something deep in our souls — an innate knowing that our time is finite. Taking my kids outside in creation, I’m discovering how to stretch our time and pack it to the brim with meaning. God’s creativity provides the riches of resources for teaching the next generation who He is and how He loves us. Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!