Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A hippie in the making

Eighteen months ago my life looked very different than it does today.  I was a new mother to three and in the middle of newborn days, but that's not what made it so different.  I was confident as a mother of three, I was confident in the way we were eating, living and doing life.  I trusted my doctors.  I visited the doctors office frequently when my children were sick and loaded up on antibiotics as prescribed when needed.  We took a daily multi-vitamin and felt blessed to have the good health we did.  The biggest difference...I didn't concern myself with superbugs, how they spread, how they were formed, how they were treated, and how they were overcome.

And I definitely wasn't a hippie.

Without going into much of our LONG, long MRSA journey...it has been hard.  Really hard.  It has affected every area of our lives - mental, emotional, physical, spiritual and relational.  It has affected all five members of our family numerous times - consistently over the last 18 months.

It wasn't until Cole's hospital stay last January that I knew we couldn't just keep taking medications and listening to doctors tell us to just wash out hands.  I felt in my gut it was time to figure this out on our own, because there was no one walking through it with us.  It was us and Jesus - seriously.

We started using essential oils, and they worked, but we needed more, something to stop the spreading.  We started a silver protocol written by a guy in England who called once every two weeks to check on our progress.  It seemed to help, sometimes, but we needed more.  I purchased a book written by a microbiologist and read it cover to cover.  We started cleaning with silver.  We rid our home of every single cleaner that could be compromising our immune system.  I started making my own soap and detergent.  I started cutting all artificial dyes and antibiotics from our food diets.  We started eating organic and drinking green smoothies.  We added supplements to our diet.  And above all we kept trusting that God would keep directing us in what else needed to be changed in our lives.  We kept praying that God would show us ways that could be contributing to our compromised health.

And we started seeing changes.  Finally.

One month ago we went to see an Infectious Disease Specialist.  His only new suggestion that we hadn't tired?!  "All five of you should take a bleach bath every night for three months.  Soak for 20 minutes"  And as I stared at him like he had three heads, I asked what we do when someone brings it back in the house or we get it again???  His answer: "Start over with soaking"  I left outraged. 

So here we are.  Two months MRSA free.  It is the longest we have gone in over a year.  I feel hopeful.  I am not fearful.  I've been given incredible tools that will change my family's health forever. 

Just a few days ago someone called me and her son had MRSA - twice.  I got to share with her our story.  I've been hiding for so long for a few reasons: Anger, embarrassment, confusion as to why we have walked this road and fear of rejection of me and my kids.  But as I got to walk alongside her, I was reminded of this verse.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

I don't have an answer to why our family has faced this 18 month trial.  But I have no doubt that God, in His infinite wisdom has a purpose and plan for it greater than I could imagine.  So, in order to be used by Him I have to be willing.

And claim what is true - I think I have become a hippie.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The next chapter

When we first moved to Charlotte nine years ago, LD and I knew we needed to find a church asap.  With no family in the area we needed Charlotte parents, grandparents, sisters and brothers....people to do life with.  And we did! 

We found Next Level Church just a few short months after moving here and we did a lot of life with the people we got to know - holidays, birthdays, dinners, baby showers, meals delivered after babies, and just every day life.  When we started at Next Level there were about 100 people, we were meeting in a gym and setting up and tearing down on Sundays.  They needed us and we needed them.  It was a great fit.  Some of our very best friends we will ever have in this life time came from being a part of that church.

We were able to watch Next Level grow and move from a gymnasium to two services and its own building.  We were able to watch friends learn about who Jesus was and how much he loved them, watch friends be baptized, watch friends learn what it means to follow Christ in everyday life and then teach others. 

During our nine years there I was given the opportunity to serve on staff for five years, carrying out my passion of teaching others how to serve as the body of Christ.  We did home makeovers, food drives, after school tutoring, shoe distributions, and lots of loving on neighbors.  I LOVED being a part of something so much bigger than me, being one small part of God's love for Charlotte.  I was able to use my social work skills, do ministry, and still be at home to raise my babies. Then a year or so ago LD was able to serve on the board at the church, using the leadership skills God has given him.  It has been a place where we grew in grace and were able to use our gifts.

Over the last year God has crossed some crazy and amazing relationships in our lives.  He has made it incredibly evident that we are being called to a new chapter.  It is so bittersweet to leave our first church as a married couple and where all three of my babies were dedicated and loved from birth.  But I also know that He will bless our obedience to this new calling, to be a part of Mission Community Church as they get ready to launch this fall. 

So for those of you at Next Level Church - we have LOVED spending our life with you and look forward to still sharing in friendship together.  We will miss you incredibly as we embark on this new journey and will continually pray for you, your families and the leadership of Next Level who we hold so dear to our hearts.

Please pray for the leadership and launch team of Mission Community Church as they seek God in planting this new church.  And please pray that lives are changed through God's amazing grace through this new ministry.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Life in community

Its not surprise to people who know me that I am pretty social.  I really enjoy people and feel lonely when a few days go by without some social interaction.  L.D., though he enjoys company does not share the same passion for constant engagement that I do ;) 

So honestly, when he invited our next door neighbors (mom, dad, 2 teenage boys and 3 dogs) to live in our home for a few months while they were in transition - it took me by surprise that he seemed so at ease with the thought.  We LOVE our neighbors and I have mentioned many times how grateful we are for them and how we enjoy living life with them.  But I was still a little curious how this social experiment would go.

I've thought a lot about how Christ intended the church to function when it was founded in Acts chapter 2.  The early church lived together, shared meals together, it even says they "had everything in common" (Acts 2:42)  God intended us to live life in community, to the point where we share meals together, share our hearts with each other and enjoy the day to day living with one another.  In our current culture, that is so foreign. If we share a meal together it is planned in advance, we pull out our best dishes and make our best meal...its not a shared, normal life experience.

In the last few weeks Melanie and I have meal planned together, we take turns cooking, she runs to the grocery store for me, I leave my little ones home with her when I run Clare to school.  Last weekend we did some late night shopping together, LD pulled out his Super Nintendo and showed the boys his old games, we watched movies.  We have literally lived everyday life together.  And I love it. 

I think in June when they move out I am going to need another dog, or another kid (kidding!) to keep the full house feeling.  I've fallen behind in my regimented days and cleaning schedule, I haven't been nearly as diligent at being organized, but isn't that what life is all about?  Aren't we supposed to choose people over to-do lists?  Its been a great reminder to me that you can never out give God!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Again....but to a different tune

I've thought all week about this post.  In a few moments of weakness I didn't know if it would get penned, but I am excited that the time has come for me to share.

Without going over again the history our family has had with MRSA over the last year and my extreme hatred for the superbug, just know we have been through it all.  In the last 8 months I have lived in fear that if I let a week slip without bleaching the tub, if I allowed the girls to sit in the bathtub, if I didn't bleach every towel in our house the minute we used them, if I didn't follow through on this crazy regiment - then I would be at fault for MRSA showing up in our household again.  And...I haven't.

Yet, last week Cole had a small dermatitis type rash in his diaper area and within 6 hrs, LD and I both knew MRSA had overtaken one little spot.  We've seen it more times than I want to admit and we knew.  Immediately LD said "It's game time" because we have been researching, investing, and had been directed down this path of essential oils.  My first disclaimer is this post is NOT about selling essential oils.  This journey is much deeper than that for our family.  But he was right, we bought into essential oils because of the protocol they had for MRSA and we had read A LOT, so essentially it was game time.

I have learned amazing things in my research - like did you know than when antibiotics kill the good and bad bacteria in our gut, some of the bad bacteria goes into hiding to show up again when our immune system is down?  Did you know some of that leftover bad bacteria can make its way into our spinal fluid, waiting to show it self again?!  When I learned this, it was freeing - wait, you mean this MRSA lives WITHIN our kids bodies now?  They are most likely not picking it up from my house not being sterile enough????  Sigh, knowledge is freedom.

As we committed this week to keep deep prayer, fasting, heart crying out rescuing from this superbug on our home I had such peace.  At times my faith waivered and when it did, LD poured truth into my heart.  He reminded me of the story in the Bible of the woman who bled for years but knew if she just touched, just barely touched Jesus cloak she would be healed.  Her faith healed her.  We had to have faith that God directed us to a path of deliverance and we knew this was the path He had directed us to.

At first my technique and tools weren't working and I panicked.  I called my oils mentor and asked her advice and we tried new things.  As I applied oils to Cole my mantra, my heart cry became a favorite song that says "Before the world began, before you spoke it to be, yeah you were, yeah you were."  These oils are not new, they were made in creation.  God created the things I was using to heal.

Day 5 - all of a sudden the spot started shrinking.  My heart breathed a sigh of relief and I was filled with overwhelming humility.  All of a sudden my faith was completely turned upside down.  I was taught about Christ and his love for me a young age, but all of a sudden if I believed what I was saying out loud, it meant my faith was tangible.  How dare I admit that the God of the universe created melaluca, cinnamon bark, oregano with me in mind.  But that's what the Bible says.  It says He knew me before I was born.  He knew I would need this to heal my son of a MRSA superbug that the medical field had created.  He knew I would be exhausted of the hospital, exhausted by insurance companies refusing to pay bills, exhausted of a crazy cleaning schedule that no sane person could manage.  He knew that He alone is my healer. 

And now I am free.  It is so revolutionary for me.  I have confidence that we will never live in fear of this nightmare again - sure, it may show its ugly head again.  But I have faith that God has given me the tools I need.

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."  Galatians 5:1

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Who woulda thought

So I'm definitely not a granola mom.  I only nursed til 7 months with all three kids, I didn't cloth diaper and in my foreseeable future I don't plan to homeschool....AND, if truth be told my kids love Lucky Charms and Kraft Mac and Cheese - even with all the bad junk that's in them.  (In my defense they eat greek yogurt, hummus and chia seeds too!  See its all about balance!)

With that said, those who know me well are probably shocked at my new found love of essential oils.  And its true, its a new found LOVE.

The funny thing about being a mom is that at some point (maybe multiple points) during your mommyhood journey, you are going to throw your hands up with no idea at how to solve a problem.  That's what happened with my family.  And when desperation sets in you are willing to test the waters of almost anything.

Its no secret that we have had numerous MRSA infections which have left me crazy.  So crazy that my kids don't own bath toys, the girls only shower, their towels have names and we wash 5 towels EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. with hot water and bleach.  So with desperation set in - a friend mentioned essential oils having a protocol for MRSA and I was all in.

A few weeks ago my skeptical (and frugal) husband and I purchased a started kit and I decided if we were going to try this out, we were going all in.  So I started researching something I never even knew existed and trying to make it work for our family.  Of course the day our kit arrived, 2 out of 5 had the start of a cold. 

My children have always had, um....ridiculous sickness.  Elle couldn't have a cold without an ear infection which led to tubes, Clare and Cole both have asthma induced symptoms when they get a cold, which leads to lots and lots of steroids, which leads to crazy mood swings and food cravings.  My prayer was that we would just outgrow all of these things and until then, we washed their hands, but what else are you going to do?!

During our little colds I started trying out my new magic potions :)  It took a while to get it right as Clare's cough was building I started panicking that I was going to have to pull out the nebulizer, but then I read somewhere that lavender could calm asthma.  So, I rubbed some on her back and chest, diffused some in her room - coughing ended.  Then we started diffusing lavender in Cole's room - coughing ended.  Then we started putting lavender on their feet before bedtime nightly.

All of a sudden this little experiment seemed to click and make sense.  All of a sudden I started to have some faith in these magic oils I purchased as mine and LD's colds disappeared within days.

So - this mama is sold.  We have started a totally new journey in our house and its so different from anything I've ever done.  I feel a little like an imposter as I attempt to help my kids while they are sick after so quickly calling the doctor for so many years.

Its one of those things.  As a mom of little ones, when something is working, and helping - and its natural without SO MANY SIDE EFFECTS - you have to share the news.

Email me if you want more info! jmelissamarie@gmail.com

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Beauty in the present

In my attempt to embrace the life stage I am in, I've really tried to see beauty in my tasks.  And yeah, that can be hard.
Most, if not all of the time, I make a mental to do list and within 5 minutes, 5 hours or 5 days, I have to do the task again.  Normally its 5 minutes and seldom 5 days.  Things like picking up messes, making meals, cleaning, fixing, brushing....you know, you have the same list.
One of my current favorite writers and bloggers is Ann Voskamp (www.aholyexperience.com) .  She's an incredible woman.  You know the type, homeschooling mother of 5 or 6 who is a farmers wife and makes everything from scratch and does it all with grace and beauty.   When I read her blogs I am always encouraged and inspired.  But, I noticed that a lot of her photography is of her mundane, but it looks beautiful!!  How does she make a pile of play dough on the floor look like beauty and not a panic to clean up?!  I'm not a photographer in any way, but a light bulb went on for me 
I can find beauty in my daily tasks, beauty in this present stage of life, beauty in what I do every day.  So, this week I kept my camera handy and just snapped pictures of life and tried to see it through a different lens.
Let's be honest.  There will always be a mental check list, but it won't always include folding a little red tutu poking out of the laundry basket, picking up tiny little paints splattered across my dining room table or cutting little bitty pieces of meat for dinner.
Sometimes the only thing we need to do to see beauty is change the way we are looking at it.  I am just like the rest - I would rather be reading a book to my children than emptying the dishwasher or folding laundry.  And sure, you always hear the great wisdom of "let your house go - play with your children" - and I think that is wise and important.  Balance is key.  And at the end of the day, even if I choose to play with my kids all day, someone has to empty the dishwasher.
But maybe if I keep my camera handy, and look through a different lens,  I will find a little more inspiration in this chaotic life with little children and see beauty in right where I am.


I cannot believe it, but our girls have never been bowling.  Nine years ago, LD and I were in a bowling league (yeah, yeah, I know) with our church in Michigan.  We have our own bowling balls and shoes and I promise you my cute little ball and shoes have not seen light in 9 years.  I totally forgot we had them until yesterday.
But, LD and I thought it would be fun to take the girls bowling.
The girls were so excited.  Clare was slightly bummed she had to use a greenish yellow ball, but quickly recovered from the bowling alleys ball color choices.
Clare does not have much upper body strength.  We already knew this, but we were reminded when she threw with everything she had and the ball came to a complete stop halfway down the alley. 
The funniest part is she would grab her ball and almost run to the line and drop her ball.  She saw everyone else doing it quickly and she wanted to do it the same way.  Only she doesn't have quite enough "oomph!"
Elle, on the other hand, has lots of upper body strength.  But, we were not certain she would throw in the right direction.  LD must have pointed his finger 100 times making sure she understood you only throw it THAT way!
I love this picture...they were patiently waiting behind the line for their turn, but they were anxious, that's for sure.
Thankfully we opted for 1 game instead of 2 hours of play time.  These girls barely survived the game.  It was fun - for about 6 frames and then they were ready to move onto something else.
It's tough with a little one Cole's age because its hard to do family things where there isn't a safe place for him to walk around and explore.  Our girls needed some mommy and daddy time where we were focused on them.
And they enjoyed every minute of it!!
And look at that handsome man.  You didn't know I married him for his bowling form did you? ;)


In the south we will take any chance we get to make it a snow day, because who knows, it may be the only chance we have.
We took our inch of snow and we were ready for a day of fun.  Clare was off of school, LD took the morning off of work, and I promise - these girls were SO excited!
Don't they look like a motley crew?  Elle's snow pants were cracking me up.  They are a size too small, but they had never been worn because....well, we didn't have a chance last year!  So, they were really little and we ended up just taking them off.
We made snow angels too!
Cole has a little runny nose so he saw the snow for a few minutes, but he was not in the mood to play for long.  But I'm with him - I would much rather watch from inside.
The best part of the entire day was when Kiser, next door woke up and came over to play with the girls.  All of these pictures were taken from INSIDE my house.  Our eating area looks over the big hill next to our house so I could just sit and watch them outside the window.
Our awesome neighbor had picked up sleds for the girls and for her boys, and they did this for over an hour and a half!
Then, Elle just started sobbing.  When she came to the door I asked her what was wrong and she could barely talk.  She said "My fingers and my toes!" Poor baby was numb!!
So what better way to end a snow day than snuggled on the couch?!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cole buddy is ONE!!!

We are so TRULY blessed by our sweet little boy.  He was the easiest in his first year of life over our girls.  He has been so laid back and easy going, just enjoying being part of the chaos we live in.
Just recently...things changed.  He is still the sweetest, cutest boy around...but he requires a LOT more attention.  He likes to be carried - especially by his mama.  He likes to throw all his food on the floor when he's in his high chair and no one is paying attention to him.  And he likes to scream when anything is taken away.  Yes, he's become a toddler.
(Side note: that little gate was his birthday present and you can guess...he despises it.  But sometimes when mama has to make dinner and open a hot oven, he just has to deal)
Cole is a walker, climber, and runner already.  He thinks its funny to disappear and I can tell it will be different having a boy than what I'm used to.  He LOVES (ADORES) his sisters and loves when they give him undivided attention.
He is getting really good at folding his hands before dinner and saying "men" for Amen after we pray.  He's great at clapping his hands and playing peek-a-boo.  And instead of saying "mama" or "mommy," he sits in his high chair holding out his sippy cup and yells "MOM" over and over.
I love watching the relationship develop between Cole and LD. If he comes in the door from work and doesn't immediately acknowledge Cole - there is lots of screaming.  He likes to be known, can you tell?
We decided to have a (very) small birthday for Cole.  And it got smaller as every kid in Charlotte got sick the weekend of his party.  But he still had a great time opening presents...and of course eating cake!
I am so blessed to be the mommy of a little boy.  I secretly love that he's a mama's boy, even though LD tells me I coddle him.  I'm not a coddler by nature, but man...he is really cute!
Happy First Birthday Cole!

Thursday, January 16, 2014


I did not anticipate the week going as it has.  I didn't expect LDs wallet and phone to be stolen, causing us to quickly cancel all our credit cards, change passwords and codes.  I didn't expect to be going to bed uneasy that night because someone had our address and could see pictures and videos of our family.  But, LD and I committed the year to The Lord so we knelt by the bed and prayed for the young man who was in possession of his identity.

Monday, I didn't expect to go to he doctors for what I knew was a MRSA spot on Cole.  I had diligently for six months made sure no one bathed together, shared a towel, tubs were bleached, we used special cleanser and used medication to "decolonize" all of our family.  But there it was.  We started medication and all four of us lay hands on Cole pleading for Gods protection.

Tuesday, I didn't expect to end up at Levine children's hospital with my baby boy, where his infection site needed iv treatments.  I didn't expect that come Thursday I would still be sitting here.  I didn't expect that while I was here I would fight demons of inadequacy, anger, and pity.

Wednesday, I didn't expect LDs car not to start as he drove the girls to a friends who would take them for the day while I waited at the hospital and he finally spent time at work this week.  I didn't expect Coles iv to stop working, causing us to put in a new one.  And I certainly didn't expect to get a call saying our home was rezoned to a new school district for Clare for next year, leaving me anxious about what that means for the fall.

My dad sent me a devotion that I read at 2:30 am waiting for Coles meds to be changed out.  It said that the enemy only goes after those who are a threat to him.  As a Christ follower, if I am a threat to the enemy he is going to make life hard for me.  Those who are dead to Christ aren't a threat to the enemy, therefore don't need to be Challenged.  It also reminded me that the Bible tells us over and over through trials we are refined, made like gold.  Through trials my faith is proved genuine.

This week is hard. I have cried. I have thrown full out rages in my mind.  And when I go home I have a lot of work to do to start all over at how to decolonize our family from this mess so we don't end up here again.

But I decided January 1st that I was counting graces, blessings.  So here they are:
-cole did not need surgery
-my husband has been a rock of strength and guidance
-my mama is on her way
- a friend came to hold cole so I could take a breath
-friends sit at Jesus feet on my behalf
-we have great nurses
-my baby boy has made others smile
- my girls are resilient
-i am loved completely

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

I will not merely survive 2014

2013 was a blur.  It was a blur of survival in its finest form.  I remember last Christmas I was 8 months pregnant and my dad asking me what I thought about the upcoming year.  I remember telling him I knew it would be the most physically exhausting and most difficult year for me as a parent thus far.  And, I was right.

For some, three kids is a piece of cake.  It was not for me.  It was a day by day challenge and still is at times.  I feel like 2013 was started in survival mode and we accomplished what we set out to do.  All 3 of my kids, myself and my husband survived - go us!

But, I am really ready to tackle 2014 with some bigger goals than mere survival.  I am ready to jump into parenting 3 with Cole's first year of life almost behind us (sniff sniff). 

If you don't know about Ann Voskamp, you should.  She is INCREDIBLE.  She is a farmers wife, homeschooling mother of 6, writer and incredibly uplifting and challenging.  Her blog www.aholyexperience.com is a place I will live a lot this year.  She wrote on January 1st about instead of having a new years resolution you should have a new years revolution, and that is what I am ready for this year.

To kick off the new year, the girls and I painted our fingers and toes bright purple.  Do you know when the last time I painted my finger nails was?!?  At least a year ago.  Sad, but true.  But we did it as a statement.  When you are merely surviving, the small things go by the wayside.  You are way too busy emptying and refilling the dishwasher, throwing kids in and out of the bath, and changing laundry to sit and paint your finger nails.  And if I did paint, I painted the girls because I did not have time to maintain my own.

But, this is my life.  And as Cole is (way too) quickly approaching his first birthday and these baby years are all flying by, I want so badly to be in the moment.  And since life as a mom is super busy, super crazy, that means I am up at 6:15 to work out and shower before the kids get up so I can enjoy my day with them.  It means I empty the dishwasher at 10:30pm before hopping into bed so in the morning we are ready to hit the ground running. 

I keep telling myself - this is a season.  And this season is FAST! 

I highly encourage you to read http://www.aholyexperience.com/2013/12/a-grace-plan-a-doable-life-change-plan-for-a-new-year-a-new-you-with-printable/ this blog post by Ann.  It will give you some gusto to tackle your upcoming year!


A HUGE, memorable family Christmas

This was our family Christmas!  15 people consisting of 2 families from Michigan, 1 family from Vegas, two little boys first Christmas and lots of cousins.
I was so excited to finally be able to host Christmas for my family.  I was ecstatic to have everyone in our home for the week, but man...it got crazy!!
Before everyone got here we had to do some high priority items to get ready for them to arrive, like making decorations AND

visiting Santa Claus!  (Negative mom points for me not getting Cole to see Santa on his first Christmas.  Poor third child...I feel sad for him) 

But even if he missed seeing Santa, he didn't miss out on collecting lots of loot!!!

Vanessa, Evan and baby Owen were the first of the family to arrive and the last to leave.  We were SO thankful they spent 10 days with us.  It was such a treat and I soak up every minute of I can get knowing our time together is so short and spaced out.

This was the first time Cole and Owen met.  Yay for cousins!!!  I have no doubt next year they will be causing all sorts of boy havoc.

My parents arrived in time to go with us to the Christmas Eve service and prepare for Santa's big arrival.

We have not all been together for a Christmas Eve in at least 4 or 5 years so it was a big deal!
Last year my mom started the tradition of leaving reindeer food out on Christmas Eve and the girls were all about that!  They are such a fun age.  We looked at the sky trying to see if we could see Santa and Clare was sure she saw him.  She went to bed happy as can be knowing she saw Santa!

We had some big highlights that I did an awful job documenting while everyone was here.  But here are some favorite things we did:
- My mom and aunt took the girls to build-a-bear
- We all went to see Frozen while LD watched Cole and Owen all by himself
-We played lots of games after the girls were in bed
- We went to Founders Hall to see the singing bears
- We played with new toys
- We laughed a LOT
-Mommy got a break from giving baths :)
I will admit, I was exhausted when everyone left and my house looked like it had been taken over by animals.  But I promise I would give anything to do it again every year.  It was such a blessing to be together as family!