I have mentioned our sweet friend Abby a time or two...or fifteen. Among many other places, I've mentioned her here, there, and over yonder. Abby was a precious, homeschooled high schooler when I first met her over 6 years ago, and the Lord used her to encourage me in our homeschooling journey.
No longer the 17-year old that I originally met, the Lord has worked mightily in and through Abby ever since we've known her.
The past year and a half has proved to be quite the roller coaster for Abby. It has been my distinct privilege to witness first-hand what the Lord has done.
When Abby and her new hubby Michael came to eat supper with us recently....
It's an honor to be a guest writer here at Following Where He Leads. I follow Mrs. Joli's blog faithfully and I jumped at the opportunity to be featured here! The story I'm going to share today is one of trials, hard lessons, God's faithfulness, and...food. I pray that the Lord will use it to encourage your heart and cause you to ask questions about things that you've always just assumed to be true.
When I was a little girl and well into my adolescent years, I remember getting frequent compliments about my complexion. "Your skin is flawless!" they would say and then proceed to ask me how I managed to keep clear skin during the tumultuous teenage years. I didn't know how to answer that because I didn't know that God had chosen to give me clear skin up until a certain point in order to teach me a mighty lesson about caring for my body and trusting Him with the outcomes and details.
In August of 2012, I was living in China--the summer heat and smog were almost suffocating. I was weary from a busy summer of hosting teams, getting engaged to the man of my dreams, escorting a sweet little boy to Hong Kong for surgery, and being unable to come home for my sweet Mimi's funeral. They say the days are long but the years are short--as I look back on this busy time I realize how true this statement is! One day I noticed that I had a few red pimples on my face. Nothing too concerning considering the stress I'd been under. But after a few weeks, I barely looked like the same person.
My cheeks and chin were covered with nasty dots of angry puss. It was so alarming that Dr. Steve was sure I had contracted some sort of bacterial infection. He put me on an antibiotic, which I gratefully accepted. This antibiotic led to a series of 5 different antibiotics and finally to a teary meeting with the dermatologist in which he said, "If you don't go on Accutane, I don't think you're face will be clear for your wedding in June...or ever". (This was many months later, after I had returned to the US). But after much research, I found out about Accutane's long list of terrifying side effects, including severe birth defects if I were to get pregnant. Being six months away from my wedding, this just wasn't something I could risk.
The dermatologist suggested that I go ahead and schedule my first appointment with the gynecologist. When I began telling her my symptoms, she suggested we do some blood work to test for polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). She didn't think it was likely, but wanted to make sure. A few weeks later, I got a phone call from her that confirmed that I did indeed have PCOS . My testosterone levels were off the charts, which explained the sudden outburst of acne, untreatable by antibiotics. We were dealing with a hormone issue, not a bacterial infection. She acted as if it was no big deal and said birth control would fix the problem.
But for some reason, I questioned her advice. I asked if the symptoms would return if and when I stopped taking birth control. The answer was yes, most likely. I realized then that I could take medication to mask the problem and give me a false sense of security, or I could try getting to the root of the problem. The Lord was also prompting Michael and I to ask other serious questions about birth control--for totally different reasons than acne. He was nudging us to believe that we could trust Him with our lives, our agendas, and yes, even our bodies.
I returned home that day feeling defeated. I looked like I just might have this awful acne on my face forever. My wedding photos would be plagued with an undeniable mark. I looked hopelessly at people with clear faces, trying to remember what it felt like to be one of them. It was in these moments of intense insecurity and vanity that the Lord drew me near and whispered His truth to my wayward heart. He nudged me to practice an attitude of thankfulness as I got ready each morning. I would thank God for my blue eyes, my hair, my eyelashes. My lips would repeat phrases of thankfulness while I begged my heart to follow. One day, Michael gently reminded me of one of our precious friends who was battling cancer. She lost her hair with chemo treatments and was almost bald on her wedding day. But she was one of the most radiant brides I have ever seen in my life. It's because her beauty came from a place far beneath the surface of her skin. Her beauty came from a passionate and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. I wanted that kind of beauty. This earthly tent will one day fade away and we will be given a new, glorious body that we will enjoy for all of eternity. Truly, the writer of Proverbs was correct, "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." (Proverbs 31:30).
Feeling renewed, I began researching PCOS. I reached out to anyone I could think of who might be able to offer some advice. I resolved to trust the Lord whether He chose to heal my face or not. If you are unfamiliar with PCOS, I'll quote another blogger at Keeper of the Home in her definition, "It is a hormonal disorder that can look a bit different in each woman, but generally it involves sporadic or non-existent ovulation, higher than usual male hormones, and sometimes actual ovarian cysts. For most women, it means that their entire hormonal balance and menstrual cycle is completely out of whack."
I learned that the root of PCOS is an insulin resistance. In fact, many doctors relate PCOS to type two diabetes and prescribe diabetes medication as a manager of PCOS. I also learned that PCOS is one of the leading causes of infertility among women. Panic filled my heart as I reminded the Lord of my desperate desire to be a mom someday. He gently reminded me that He is faithful. He simply desires my obedience and my heart.
So, now that I was learning what this disease actually was, the question was what could I do about it? Stephanie's blog - Keeper Of The Home - was a God-send as I began navigating this journey. I learned that there is hope for people with PCOS! She encouraged me that I could make simple changes in my diet and lifestyle and see big results. I learned that I was actually putting things into my body that were essentially acting as poison to my endocrine system--processed foods, refined sugars and grains, ingredients that I couldn't pronounce, fat-free products, soy, and more. Sure, I tried to eat "healthy"--you know, low-fat butter spray (no calories!), fat-free flavored yogurt, and high-fructose-corn syrup laden granola bars truly were my idea of healthy. I had counted calories my whole life. Could it be that these "healthy" things were actually destroying my body? This began a journey of the Lord retraining my mind and my heart to eat in a way that He actually designed to work best with my body.
I took the plunge. I traded margarine for full fat butter, coconut oil, and olive oil. Skim milk for whole, raw milk. White flour for whole grains that had been properly soaked. Refined sugar for honey and grade B maple syrup. We began making homemade bone broth and yogurt... just to name a few. It was overwhelming and exciting all at once. I guess it may sound a little extreme, but I once I learned how harmful some of the things I used to put into my body were, I couldn't go back! The more I researched and learned, the more I realized that I have a great responsibility to honor the Lord with what I put in my body. The results can be left up to Him.
After a month of eating this way, we began to notice that the bumps on my face seemed a lot flatter. The redness was still there, but the massive blister-like bumps were beginning to fade. After two months, they were gone completely.
And five months later when I walked down the aisle in my white wedding dress, my face was clearer than it had been in almost a year.
Our Almighty God healed my face. Not because He had to. He would still be just as trustworthy and faithful had He chosen not to heal my face. But, in His gracious power, He chose to use this journey to teach me a few lessons that I will cherish in my heart forever.
1.) True beauty is something that can never be taken from me if Jesus is the object of my heart's affections--no matter what happens to my earthly body.
2.) I simply cannot trust everything that well-meaning doctors tell me. I have the ability and responsibility to research and prayerfully make decisions that are best for myself and my family
3.) God designed my body to work best when it's being nourished by whole foods, not by man-made chemicals. (*side note* I do still consume sweets, fast food, and Campbell's soup on occasion. It's not about making a strict list of rules to follow, it's about loving Jesus and doing my best to nourish my body in a way that honors Him)
As I type this blog, I am sitting in a rocking chair nestled in the corner of our sweet baby boy's new nursery. My belly is getting bigger by the minute as we anticipate his arrival any day now. Yes, the Lord did indeed heal my face, but through this journey to whole foods, He gave me another miraculous gift. A precious baby. He used my acne to reveal a deeper problem that could have had a major impact on my ability to get pregnant. But in His sovereignty and grace, he chose to reveal the truth and heal my body through natural means before it was a problem. Praise Yahweh.
Our Father's ways are perfect, even when He takes us on a roller coaster of a journey to get to where He wants us. May you be encouraged to trust His gentle nudges and to explore the ways He created your body to function at its full potential. It's liberating and fun and trust me, you'll feel better, too!
I just love that God-story...thank you so much for sharing, Abby!
Last year I got to witness Abby go from this.... ......to this
When doctors told her there was nothing to be done except take Metformin and birth control pills, she politely declined.
Instead, she jumped full-force into nourishing her body the way the Lord intended. When we nourish our bodies and take care of them the way their Creator intended...wow, things just work right!
If you want to do some more reading about PCOS, here are some good articles to get you started...
Living with PCOS: Taking a Step Back
Living with PCOS: Why Nutrition Really Matters
Living with PCOS: Things to Avoid
Living with PCOS: Things to Avoid, continued
Living with PCOS: Some Q&A
Living with PCOS: More Q&A
Natural Treatments for PCOS
ALL of the posts under "Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome" on Natural Fertility and Wellness
Q&A: Living with PCOS