Monday, October 31, 2011

I promised myself I would NEVER do this....

I promised myself I would NEVER do this, as I am very anti-rushing the holidays. As much as I adore Christmas, I believe that there shouldn't be Christmas decorations up on Halloween, and that we should really focus on Thanksgiving and the theme of gratitude during the harvest season. To me, rushing into Christmas takes away the specialness of it, and it ends up overshadowing the other holidays (which is so sad! I mean.... what if all your friends were celebrating another kid's birthday that's in December, during your November birthday?! Wouldn't that be disappointing?) So I've always had a strict, "no Christmas decorations up until the weekend after Thanksgiving" rule.

But... sometimes... allowances have to be made. A few weeks ago we bought our tickets to India and Thailand to visit our 5 Children's Homes there. And after talking about it for months it was finally official - we would be missing the rest of football season (we really did not think that through!), Thanksgiving, and most of the Christmas season. We won't be home until December 20th, and while I'm glad we'll get to celebrate Christmas Day with our family, those 4 days before the 25th will have to be spent unpacking, re-packing to go home, and recovering from jet-lag.

It was time to face the music.... and the twinkly lights. If we wanted to have some Christmas cheer in our house in December, then we had to put it up this weekend! (I know, I know! The trick-or-treaters will see our Christmas tree! *cringe!) So I put on some Christmas music, fixed myself a cup of peppermint tea (oh how I miss hot chocolate!) got out our decorations and got to work!

Our tree is up, and I'm working on wrapping a few presents before we leave. (Thank the Lord I bought half the gifts for friends and family throughout the year!) We've also got a small tree in our dining room, and a few festive touches in the living room. I think I may wait to put out our Nativity Scene until we get home... and may also wait to put the ornaments on the tree till then. We've done a very "scaled down" decor job this year, because we really didn't have the time to go all out. Still, I think we'll be glad to see those twinkling lights when we come home in December!

As sad as I am to miss all these holidays, I am getting more and more excited about seeing our kids. We will definitely be reminded of the REAL "Reason for the Season" while we are serving our partners and children overseas. I re-watched this video the other day, and it thrilled my heart to know I'll be hugging these sweet ones again so soon!  (*warning, my videos are no where near as good as the ones my husband makes - but I am still thankful to have this footage from my first trip to India!)

Please pray for us as we prepare for this trip. There is so much still to do (packing, etc) and this weekend we'll be gone to Mississippi for a friend's wedding. I don't know what we were thinking cramming all this in right before we leave, but God has given me a sense of peace about it. Somehow, I know it will all come together!


So tell me... when do you put up your Christmas tree?


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Diet Update - Stage 1 is OVER!!!

Friends, I have been waiting for this day now for 29 days....


PRAISE THE LORD!!! For those of you who haven't been following, that means that the hardest part is over, and I can start re-introducing more "normal" foods back in. (*note- There are lots of different opinions of how to do the Candida diet - some say Stage 1 should last 2 - 4 weeks, others say 3 months. I went with 4 weeks because it was the longest I could go before we have to travel again.) I could not be more excited!!! This week I will re-introduce sweet potatoes, white potatoes (hellloo mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, and french fries! I have missed you SO!), other veggies I haven't been able to have (like black beans, peas, etc) and I may even let myself have small amounts of some condiments. I'm probably going to be introducing things faster than is recommended - but since we're leaving for a 6 week trip overseas soon, it's better that I re-introduce things now and see how I handle them when we are not traveling.

Moving forward, my plan is to stay Gluten Free and Casein Free (dairy free), and also try to stay away from refined sugar. I feel like these 3 things were causing me the biggest issues, so that's what I'm going to focus on. I know that won't be easy (no bread, no cheese, no ice cream!), but it WILL be easier than what I've been doing for the past month! As far as yeast, soy, vinegar, preservatives, and natural sugar (in fruits, veggies, etc) I'm just not going to be as concerned. (Especially since I am gluten free - without bread I doubt I'll be eating much yeast.) I have to include more normal food when we're overseas (and I can't read labels in Thai or Hindi) so I'm just not going to let myself stress about it. Stress is one of the worst things you can do with these issues, so I am just going to do my best and try to trust God!

I have to say that I feel EXTREMELY proud of myself for making it through the full 4 weeks!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

10 years of sobriety

For those of you who don't know my husband's story - he used to be a very different man than he is today. He was an alcoholic, and lived a very crazy life of partying, drinking, and addiction. I can't help but think how ironic it is that we ended up together - when my platform for the Miss America Organization (that I worked so hard on for 4 years) was Teen Alcohol Abuse Prevention. Sometimes, God has such a sense of humor!

But we did end up together - because God is a God of REDEMPTION. 10 years ago TODAY Rusty prayed for God to take away his obsession to drink, and God performed a miracle in his life. I could not be more GRATEFUL. Grateful that God had a plan for Rusty's life, and for our life together. Grateful that God protected him from himself through all those years of drinking and the reckless behavior that came with it. Grateful that Rusty had the humility to ask God for help - the courage to take a step of FAITH - and the commitment to see it through for 10 years so far!!!

Because of this gift of sobriety - so many lives have been impacted! With God's help, Rusty changed the course of his life and became the man He was always destined to be. He has served in the name of Jesus Christ in over 12 different countries. His is a wonderful husband, and will be a loving, present father to our children some day. Our children will grow up in an alcohol free home because my husband was courageous enough to put down the bottle and walk away.

I can't imagine my life without him, and I just wanted to say here - for the world to see - how GRATEFUL to God I am for this gift, and how PROUD I am of my husband!


*You can read Rusty's story on his blog HERE.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Diet Update - Swallowing the Bitter Pill

Okay, it's more like swallowing the "digestive bitters" and about 30 pills a day. Ugh.

Just thought I'd share my supplements with you guys - in an effort to help you understand all this diet entails. As you can see, I am taking a little bit of everything, for a little bit of everything. People keep asking me if I think the diet is helping... but I can't figure out if it's the diet or all these pills!

I will say that the symptoms I struggled with before are gone (praise God!) but they've been replaced with "die off symptoms" from the parasites and yeast so I can't say I feel that much better. Until the exhaustion, achyness, stomach issues, and skin issues (apparently your skin is affected first when your body is flushing toxins out of its system) go away, I don't think I'm going to feel that much better. And until my other issues are resolved (which I talk about later in this post) and I am able to eat somewhat "normally" again - I won't feel like this was a success. My quality of life has got to improve before I can say this was "worth it".

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Diet Update - What I'm Eating

When I tell people about this diet, and all the foods I can't have, the #1 question I get in response is... what can you eat?

So I thought I'd take a minute to fill you in on what I've been eating the past 2+ weeks. Just to refresh your memory - this is a list of all the things I can't have ::

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Kisses from Katie

Sorry for the "downer" of a blog post yesterday friends! I promise I'll do better at sharing happy things with you - like the #1 thing I'm looking forward to this weekend.....


For those of you who don't know who Katie Davis is, she's the 22 year old author of the new book, Kisses from Katie. You may also know her as the author of one of my favorite blogs by the same name (Kisses from Katie).

If you're wondering what a 22 year old has to say of importance, let me give you a little background info on her. Katie, once her high-school homecoming queen, left her comfortable Brentwood, TN life behind to move to Uganda. At the age of 19, she adopted a little orphan girl - and in the years that followed, she adopted 12 more. That's right - this beautiful 22 year old from Tennessee is now "Mom" to 13 little girls in Uganda. She also started Amazima ministries, helps run a feeding program and health clinic for her community, and every day lives her life as "Jesus with skin on" to the people in desperate need around her.

If I had to describe her, I would say she is my generation's Mother Theresa. I'm sure she would shy away from that title, as I've read nothing but sincere humility in her posts. But I can't help but be challenged, convicted, humbled and inspired every time I read her blog.

And now, she has written a BOOK that I cannot wait to get my hands on! (You can order your copy here and a portion of the proceeds will go to support her ministry.) And even better - she is coming to speak at the Church of Brookhills this SUNDAY (ie- tomorrow!) at their 9 AM, 11 AM, and 6 PM services.

She is high up on the list of people I'd like to meet before I die, and Rusty and I will definitely be going to hear her at the 6pm service. We're also bringing along my parents, little brother, and his girlfriend. If you're in the Birmingham area (or within driving distance) I hope you'll come too!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Diet update - DAY 14!

Sorry for the lack of blogging friends! I really intended to keep you up-to-date with how this diet thing is going, but it has taken every bit of my mental/emotional/physical energy and willpower just to keep it up! I'll do my best to update you now - but bear with me. Since starting this diet my brain has kind of been on the fritz (I'm guessing from the lack of carbs). I get super forgetful and kind of frazzled - so I apologize in advance if this update is all over the place!

Today marks my 2 week mark - DAY 14! I can't believe I've made it this far. It's recommended that this diet is done in 3 stages for 3 months, but with our upcoming trip overseas I could only do it for 6 weeks. The first 4 weeks are the most strict, so in 2 more weeks I'll be allowed to start (carefully) reintroducing some foods (like POTATOES!) I seriously cannot wait to have a sweet potato and mashed potatoes again!

I would be lying if I said this hasn't been a rough 14 days. I forgot to mention the 2 other things I was diagnosed with before starting this diet - a seratonin deficiency (which can cause depression and problems sleeping) and adrenal fatigue (which causes all sorts of crazy problems with your emotions/anger/etc). So, you can just imagine the kind of mess I am with these emotional problems PLUS this diet!

Almost every day since starting this diet I have felt like I'm on a rollercoaster. I go from being "ok", to being so frustrated that I cry (because I can't have things I want to eat, or because my food is so bland I just don't want to eat at all). Or, I get angry, because I'm starving and there's nothing "easy" or "quick" to fix. Maybe that sounds childish, but on a typical day I have to deprive myself around 50 times a day from what I want. Meals, snacks, drinks, gum - they are all subject to my diet.

Every commercial that comes on TV gives me cravings for things I can't have. And leaving the house is even harder - you just don't realize how many times a day you are exposed to FOOD! I literally see thousands of things I can't have - between restaurants on the side of the road and food in the grocery store. I have had the "sample ladies" at Publix trying to convince me to try their food. I had to walk past the donuts and coffee at church on Sunday morning, and turn down friends' invitations to go out to lunch. There is even chocolate candy at the check out line in Hobby Lobby! I told Rusty that I'm afraid someday he's going to get a phone call from Publix, telling him I've "snapped" and that he'll find me crying in the floor of the chocolate aisle eating candy and drinking a coke!

I think the most frustrating thing to me though, is the fact that I ate healthy BEFORE this diet. I keep reading about how most people with this issue live off fast food and sweets, and everyone keeps telling me how much better I'm going to feel when I eat the "diet food" (ie - no sweets, no processed food, etc). But when I explained my normal eating habits to my chiropractor the other day, he was floored!

See, I used to be the girl who ate fast food multiple times a week and candy all the time... but 3 years ago I started making some drastic changes. While we may eat fast food when we're traveling, or overseas for "comfort food", it is not a staple in our diet. When we're home and in a normal schedule, we usually don't even eat fast food once a month! I cook at home 95% of the time. We bake chicken, turkey, and occasionally fish, shrimp or beef with FRESH vegetables (not canned). I cook with olive oil and fresh garlic. We don't eat bread with dinner and I only make sweets for special occasions. I also don't drink caffeine.

To be honest, I'm angry that I'm sick - considering how hard I was working to take care of myself. And I'm angry that this diet makes me want candy and cookies and other "bad for me" things (just because I can't have them!) considering the healthy choices that I typically make about sweets. I'm afraid I'm going to splurge on all this when I get off this diet (which could cause a relapse). Part of me wishes I'd never changed my diet from all the fast food and candy - because it seems I have more health issues now!

I'm also really angry about everything I'm missing. Because of all the "special" food I have to eat (that all has to be cooked by ME), I am pretty much under "house arrest". I can't eat any meals out, and all my food has to be refrigerated... which means I have to be home for 3 meals a day. I also get tired really easily (probably from the lack of carbs) and sometimes my medicine makes me sick. So, we're having to miss SO much! We had to cancel our annual trip to the Auburn vs Arkansas game - which is a "Jackson Family Tradition" we look forward to all year. We also had to cancel a trip to a conference in Georgia we were excited about, and today I'm missing a bridal shower for one of my dearest friends. And we won't even talk about the fact that I can't go to Auburn, or home to visit my family! I just want my life back!

Okay... okay... enough of my venting (see, I told you I'm on an emotional roller-coaster!) Sorry! I didn't mean to make this all "Debby Downer"! But for those of you who've asked how I'm doing - there it is!

But - the GOOD NEWS is - I've made it through 14 days without cheating even ONCE! *high five!* And although I've found a lot of food I hate, I've also found some meals that are actually ok. For those of you that are curious, I'll try to share a blog on what I've been eating in the next couple of days.

Of course, the GREAT NEWS is - I have some of the BEST friends in the whole world! I'm afraid without them, that I would only be having "down" days. But it's hard to stay down all the time when so many people are encouraging you! I've had girlfriends calling to check on me, lots of friends and blog readers emailing suggestions, recipe ideas, and encouraging words, (seriously, you guys are the best!) tons of people praying for me, and one friend even sent a gift!

As I mentioned earlier, we had to cancel our annual trip to the Auburn vs Arkansas game. We'd been planning all sorts of fun for the weekend and looking forward to it for over a year, so we were both seriously bummed about missing it. But the day of the game (as we were moping around) a present came in the mail!

Now, if you know me, then you know that I LOVE surprises!!! And this one was especially thoughtful...

And it came with this note...

Seriously?! How could we stay bummed after a gift like this? It was a great reminder of how blessed I am to have friends like Katie in my life! (thanks Katie!)

Now that I'm this far in, I am bound and determined to finish this diet! Please just keep praying that God will give me the strength and will-power to stay on track, and that He will HEAL me of all these issues! And, while you're at it, please pray for my husband, who has to put up with my rollercoaster of emotions during this diet!