Wednesday, October 24, 2012

COM Ch 10: The Breaking Point

Chapter 10:   The Breaking Point

            Okay, so what was this terrible crisis of mine?  What is this great trial that reduced me to rubble?  The one I’ve been building up to this whole book?  Chronologically speaking, this came before Ryder’s toddler years that I talked about in the last chapter.  So I guess, those years weren’t pulling together all that picture-perfectly like I led you to believe.  It’s more like I was desperately trying to pull all things together and maintain control over anything I could . . . because everything was on the verge of falling apart. 
            Now, I’m sure many of you will scoff because this “great trial of mine” seems so trivial compared to trials through which other have gone.  But that just shows how truly fragile I really am, all appearances to the contrary.  My year(s) of crisis - my fall - began when I noticed that Ryder’s front teeth were decaying.  There . . . that’s it.  His top front baby teeth were decaying, despite the fact that he only had them for a few months.  He was only one year old.  And I was stunned!  I was frozen in my tracks! 
            Life had been going wonderfully smooth.  My family was doing well.  The house was slowly getting cleaner.  We were eating somewhat healthy.  I was on top of things!  I was in control!  My family and my home were areas where I felt I had the greatest confidence in myself because of all the wonderful decisions and progress being made.  And we had just gone on our first real family vacation.  I mean, things couldn’t get much rosier (unless we found a house to buy).  Life was going so well for us! 
            And now, not even a few weeks after our first official family vacation, my world was turned upside down.  (I would always think of that vacation as the last time that I felt truly relaxed and carefree for years.)  I couldn’t believe it!  This couldn’t be happening.  I had done things by the book.  I breastfed for a long time and never put my kids to bed with a bottle of anything.  In fact, Ryder had never even had a bottle.  Nothing but breast milk.  He nursed exclusively for the first six months and was never given sugary things to eat after that.  How could this be happening?  I had done things right.  I had done things RIGHT???!!!
            For the first weeks after finding the decay, I frantically searched on-line for clues as to why this was happening.  (Great, more hours of searching on-line!)  Fluorosis from too much fluoride, maybe?  Drinking a cup of coffee a day while pregnant (just one little cup in the morning, half-caf)?  Low calcium levels?  A genetic problem?  What could it be and, more importantly, how could I stop it?  Would it affect his adult teeth? 
            After some research, I learned that it was none of those.  That brought a little relief.  But when I realized what it was, I was horrified.  I read somewhere that baby’s teeth can decay when they breastfeed after falling asleep.  Ryder had just begun falling asleep at night while nursing.  I never let my other kids nurse through the night.  But true to form, Ryder was not just a difficult child during the day, but a difficult sleeper as well.  And I was so exhausted from getting virtually no sleep, that when he started sleeping soundly through the night while nursing, I just let him.  I don’t think I could’ve picked my head up even if I wanted to because my body was aching for the much-needed rest.  (It’s ironic that the reason I was finally getting some good sleep would be why I wouldn’t sleep good for the next few years.) 
            It was several weeks after he began falling asleep nursing that I noticed the beginnings of dental decay on his front teeth.  He was only about nine months old!  At the time, though, I didn’t realize that it was decay.  I thought maybe his teeth were coming in shaped a little funny or that he was missing the teeth between his front ones and his canines.  (One of Jason’s relatives never had these.) 
            By the time I realized that it was decay, it was already into the dentin.  I felt like the worst mother in the world.  Something that I was doing out of love and for his health (and for sleep) was the cause of the decay.  I was a bad, bad mother!  And suddenly, I felt helpless!
            After seeing the dentist, I had to figure out how we should treat tooth decay in a one-year-old.  And, frankly, I was terrified by all the options.  I was scared of treating it, and I was scared of not treating it.  I was scared of knocking out a one-year-old for treatment, scared of seeing him go under the dentist’s drill, scared of seeing his teeth fall out before he was two and having him grow up toothless, scared of affecting his adult teeth if the decay got into the gums, scared that something was wrong in his genetics that would cause the same thing in his permanent teeth.  
            Basically, I was a mess!  No option seemed right.  And suddenly, for the first time in my life, I was at a complete loss.  I did not know the right thing to do.  There was no by-the-book for this.  I felt that no matter what I chose, it would be the wrong decision and I would hurt him for the rest of his life.  I was literally paralyzed by my fear.  I was going to end up watching my child’s teeth fall out of his head, and then watch his adult teeth decay into nothingness.  And I couldn’t do a thing about it.  (Now, I’m sure there are many people who faced the same thing and seeking treatment wasn’t difficult for them.  But it was for me.) 
            Now, to be accurate, I should say that this “crisis” wasn’t the only thing going on at the time to shake my world.  It really was just the last straw in a long list of trials over the previous years.  While things under my roof had been coming together quite nicely, other areas of my life were falling apart.  It was a slow build-up and mounting pressure that started about four or five years before with a series of other hardships.  So, let me back up a little. 
            I think the first memorable trial (besides, of course, the two divorces that I went through as a child) happened when we had just two small children.  We got a phone call from my mom.  The girlfriend of one of my relatives unexpectedly had a child, (he claims he didn’t even know she was pregnant until the day she delivered the baby) and they weren’t sure if they could keep her.  So my mom called me to hint around to see if we could take her, if need be. 
            That night, when my husband got home from work, I greeted him with, “So, do you think we could take a newborn tomorrow if they can’t keep her?”  One night to decide was not a lot of time.  But we both knew that we couldn’t turn down a baby that needed a home.  In fact, for years we had the desire to adopt.  So I felt that this must be God’s will. 
            But they didn’t end up asking us right away to take her.  So for months, I fervently prayed that God’s Will would happen in this situation and that it would happen soon.  I was quite convinced that she would join our family.  Didn’t God give me that answer when I prayed?  I thought so.  And I got more and more heartsick as the months wore on and it didn’t happen.  Every day that she wasn’t with us was one more day that we lost forever.
            One day when she was several months old, I went over to visit and was talking with the dad upstairs for about a half hour or so.  I assumed that if he was up here for a half hour then she must have been sleeping. 
            “So is she asleep?  Or can I see her?”  I asked. 
            “Oh, she’s not asleep.  She’s awake downstairs.  You can go see her,” he said.
            I went downstairs into the makeshift room that they made in someone’s basement.  It was basically a mattress on the cement floor with one bare light bulb overhead.  And there she was the floor by herself, screaming.  My heart absolutely broke!  As I scooped her up, she was obviously startled that someone was picking her up and her little head just twitched all around as she tried to figure out what was going on.  And her diaper was completely loaded, nearly falling off because it was so heavy.  I cuddled her for a few minutes and I just wanted to cry for her.  I felt like she was my daughter and, yet, I couldn’t take care of her the way she should be taken care of.  Oh, how I wanted that adoption to happen immediately.  I wanted to just walk out the door with her.       
            But in the end, her parents decided to keep her.  And I learned an important lesson.  I learned how easy it is for me to convince myself that something is God’s Will when it’s not.  I learned the difference between having faith in God to do His Will, instead of having faith in my faith that God would do my will.  (Does that make sense?) 
            I think I had more faith in the idea that if I just wanted it badly enough and prayed for it enough, God would bring it.  I had believed that God told me that she would be ours and that I had to claim that promise.  I believed that my faith was earnest enough and big enough to make it happen.  At least, this is what some of the books taught me about “faith.”  But as I’ve come to learn, this is not real faith, though.  Oh, I guess it is faith, but it’s faith in my faith.  And that’s presumption about God’s Will. 
            Truthfully, I realized that I was so busy talking to God and pleading for answers that I didn’t take the time to stop and wait and listen to what He wanted to say.  I “made up” God’s answer in my head because I wanted an immediate answer.  And God does not often work that way.  He works in His own way, in His own time.  And I’m learning that it usually requires a lot more patience on my part to wait until He brings the answer or gives direction. 
            Moving ahead before I get a clear cut directive from Him is presumption, and it actually ends up hurting me more.  It hurts when I don’t know why the “answer” to my prayer isn’t coming.  It hurts when I can’t understand why God is tarrying.  It confuses and discourages me.  And this can be damaging to true faith.  It makes me wonder, “Why didn’t You do what You said You would do?” 
            And He says, “Because I never said that I would do it.  You just put My name on your will.”  
            I needed to learn to listen more, instead of doing all the talking.  I had stepped out beyond what God had shown me, and I presumed to know what He would do.  I convinced myself that I heard an answer from Him that He never made clear to me through our circumstances or His Word.  I presumed that if I felt it in my heart, then it must be true.  And so I prayed to that end, instead of praying that God would make His Will clear.  It was a good lesson that I’m thankful for, although it was painful to go through at the time.
            Around this same time, there was another stressful choice that I had to wrestle with.  There was a medical issue that we had to make a decision on.  We had thought that we made our decision years ago and that we were firm in it and put it behind us.  But when my doctor brought up the issue again, it threw me for a loop.  I thought I was done deciding on that, and now I had to face it again and research all the options again. 
            As I said before, I get into my research really intensely, and it is very emotionally and mentally exhausting.  But I do it because I think it’s important to make deliberate, conscientious decisions.  And this one was a very stressful one to think about because it involved my children.  I didn’t like any of the options.  And so I felt like whatever I decided would be the wrong one.  All options had risks and all were scary, and I didn’t know what to do.  And all I knew for sure was that I would fail as a parent no matter what.
            And then, hot on the heels of these, came other dental problems (just before I discovered Ryder’s tooth decay).  After years of not going to the dentist, I had finally decided to go.  Prompted by routine visits for the kids, I decided it was finally time for me to get some work done, too.  However, there was more to be done than I thought, and it cost a lot more than we comfortably had.  It was our second car.  We didn’t have enough money to get an adequate house, and we were considering a second car since ours had died; but instead, we got dental work done.  And although it was necessary, I felt terrible about having that much money spent on my mouth.     
            Then while I thought this would just be a routine, uneventful visit for my children, my second son was found to have some cavities despite proper brushing.  And I had a complication from a previous root canal that would need a $1,000 procedure to remedy.  And then, just after this, that’s when I noticed Ryder losing his teeth to decay.  That did it for me!  I was an emotional mess!  Everything was falling apart.  Everything!   
            Did I mention the nightmares?  For as long as I can remember, one of my recurring nightmares (besides tornados coming, being left behind in the rapture, and not being able to find my classroom in graduate school when I was late for a test.  Hmm?  Do you think any of this could stem from anxiety and feeling out of control?  I wonder!) is that I am losing my teeth.  These dreams never failed to leave me feeling disgusting and horrified when I woke up, especially since I could almost feel my teeth move around in my dreams.  I began to fear losing my teeth.  And now, the thing I dreaded most seemed to be coming true!   
            My nightmares were going to come true and I would have complete dentures by thirty-five.  My son’s baby teeth and then adult teeth would rot out of his head.  And I would be unable to do anything to help him.  I was the mom, I was supposed to know what to do.  I was supposed to be able to protect my children.  And now, I would harm my children with bad decisions because I couldn’t make a “right” decision to save my life.  I was completely afraid of doing anything and so I became completely incapacitated, unable to make a decision at all.  Just when everything else had been coming together so nicely, I fell off the edge into complete helplessness and chaos!  I was failing!  Falling and failing! 
            I remember sitting in my car once, crying out to God.  I was so overwhelmed.  I had to schedule the appointment for the $1,000 procedure to treat the seven-year infection that I had in my gums from the failed root canal, but we just put a second car into my mouth.  And I couldn’t bear this, too.  It was too much!  We didn’t have the money, but I couldn’t let it go untreated any longer.  It was already seven years too late. 
            And so I did all that I could do at that time.  I poured out my heart and my grief to the Lord, and I begged Him for His answers.  And as I sobbed in my car, I clearly heard Him speak.  Not in an audible voice, but in a voice that my spirit heard. 
            “Don’t you think I can handle $1,000?” 
            Don’t you think I can handle $1,000?  All of a sudden, it was so clear to me.  Of course!  Here was the God who created the world out of nothingness.  The God who could speak the universe into existence and give me my daily breath and bread.  The God who made my body, my children’s bodies.  And yet I couldn’t trust Him with $1,000!  Oh, ye of little faith! 
            I was humbled and awed.  I became thankful for the gifts that He had given me all throughout my life, including my life.  And I decided that I would give this over to Him, too.  I didn’t know how He would work it out.  But I knew that I could trust Him.  After all, He had proven Himself over and over again, despite my severe lack of faith and trust at times. 
            I could only imagine how disrespectful and hurtful it would be for me to not give this over to Him, with full assurance that He was capable of handling it.  In fact, I once felt that God was asking me to hand another concern over to Him.  And I found myself resisting, my spirit saying to Him, “I don’t think I can give this to You.” 
            And then a picture popped into my mind that I never forgot.  I imagined saying this directly to His face, “I don’t think I can trust You with this!”  And I could just see His face fall in sadness and hurt.  He had made the world and He made my heart beat, but I wouldn’t trust Him enough to give Him something that is much less complicated.  My shoulders dropped and my body relaxed, and I went, “Okay, Lord, I give it over to You.”  And that imagine has stuck with me.         
            Psalm 9:10 reminds me of God’s faithfulness.  “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”  I thanked Him for opening my eyes, and I relaxed in His care as much as I could.  And I so needed it at that moment, with all the other trials I was facing. 
            I gave over to God what I couldn’t handle, and I chose to trust that He could handle the extra $1,000.  And I decided to focus instead on what I could do to help our teeth.  And what I could do was reevaluate our food choices and my cooking.  I thought we had eaten rather well, the Standard American Diet (SAD, an accurate acronym).  We ate the regular vegetables: corn, ketchup, and fries.  I occasionally bought broccoli and cucumbers (when I was hosting a party or holiday dinner).  And I went out for fast food only a couple times a week with the kids because it was easy and it gave us something to do.  But our house was stocked with pop and pizza, toaster waffles, boxed side-dishes, cookies, ice cream, and other typical processed food and sweets.  Overall, it wasn’t horrible, but it was very typical.   
            But seeing Ryder’s tooth decay made me realize that something must be off.  It isn’t right for the healthiest baby food on the planet to hurt my baby.  I had to ask myself, “Did God make teeth to only last a few decades when He made people to live up to 100 years (and hundreds more in Bible times)?  Surely that isn’t right?  Something must be wrong with my body chemistry or his?”  And I wanted to see if I could do anything about it. 
            So, I did what I normally do in these situations.  I devoured information.  I read every health and nutrition book I could get my hands on.  (My head hurts even now to think about the hours I logged on those.)  I researched dental health diets, acid-alkaline balanced diets, raw food diets, vegetarian lifestyles, and God’s dietary laws from Leviticus.  I read up on the effects on the body of dairy, meat, veggies, pop, fast food, and additives of all kinds; and about how they process dairy, meat, veggies, pop, fast food, and additives of all kinds, etc., etc., etc.  (Oh, yeah!  My head hurts!)  But I was determined to do what I could to help his teeth.  His baby teeth may be goners, but at least I could give his adult teeth a fighting chance. 
            And I began to see food in a new light.  If God had wanted food to be just a passing notion - something to just fill your belly - then I don’t think He would have made us to have to eat every few hours.  I began to believe that He really wanted us to enjoy the meal preparation and the meals more.  After all, they are such a big part of our daily life, and the thing that keeps us alive.  I had to get past the notion that preparing food is menial work, and I had to stop finding as many shortcuts as possible (unhealthy ones, that is).  If this is part of my job as a homemaker, then I wanted do my best at it and place it as a high priority. 
            Not to mention the wonderful array of food that He has provided, that I had never noticed before.  He obviously wants it to be enjoyable.  He could have made us to just plug into a tree with an electrical cable and suck up the energy we need.  Or He could have given us only beans to live on.  Beans, beans, beans . . . and nothing else. 
            But He didn’t.  He gave us so many wonderful things in His creation for our enjoyment and for His enjoyment in providing for us.  I began to think that part of my role was to learn to appreciate the food that He provided and to do my best in preparing it.  To me, this seemed more honoring and glorifying to Him than providing the nutritionally-deficient, chemically-laden, man-made products that were sorry substitutes and pathetic alterations of His creation.  For me, thoughtful, healthy meal preparation became a form of worship - worship of an amazingly gracious and creative God who gave us such wonderful plants for our food.   
            Something about the way we were currently eating was not working for us.  I could pray all I wanted that He would heal Ryder’s teeth miraculously.  But I believe that God created the world with natural laws and that our bodies work best when we operate within those laws.  I can’t deny the law of gravity.  He made it.  And so I can’t pray and expect Him to protect me from death if I jump off a ten-story building.
            Likewise, if I wasn’t going to take responsibility for healthier eating and apply the knowledge that I had gained in my research, then I couldn’t expect Him to relieve me of the consequences of our choices.  You can’t pray for good health and expect it to be answered when you choose to eat a pound of sugar a day. 
            God allows us to make our own choices, and we have to accept the consequences that come with those choices.  And I felt it was my responsibility to provide healthier meals for the family, even if it meant more time in the kitchen.  I had to leave many things in God’s hands.  But this was something I could do, something I had to do.  Something I believe that God was calling me to do my best in.  And so, we did a major overhaul of our cabinets and fridge. 
            We had already done one with all of our cleaning/household products, and now, it was our food.  We got rid of all pop and nearly all packaged and processed food.  We stopped buying products with artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.  We never buy anything with artificial sweeteners.  We stopped using white, processed table sugar, table salt, and white flour.  And we started using more natural sweeteners (and less of it), sea salt, and (eventually) fresh-ground flour.  (Oh, you should smell the amazing smell of fresh-ground flour.  I couldn’t go back to the processed stuff, even if I ever wanted to.  I would miss that smell too much!) 
            We got rid of the canola oil, and now our only cooking and baking oils/fats are extra-virgin olive oil, high-quality, non-hydrogenated, unrefined coconut oil, and organic butter.  Because of how milk is processed, we stopped drinking milk (coconut and almond milk are great substitutes); and we began buying only whole-milk cheese, sour cream, ice-cream and yogurt.  And we buy as much organic stuff as possible. 
            And following God’s dietary laws (and after researching it in other places), we cut out all unclean meats, like pork and shellfish.  And we cut back on chicken and turkey, and we cut way back on beef, and we added lots of beans and organic eggs, instead.  And then we added lots of whole grains, and lots and lots of fruits and veggies.  I began cooking all meals at home and we very rarely ate out anymore (maybe six to eight times a year, compared to six to eight times every month or two before.)  And never at the fast food joints.  (If you are interested in the briefest explanations for our food choices, there’s a post in the November section of this blog about "Why We Eat What We Eat."  It's about the changes we made after all of our research about food and health.) 
            For every change we made, I had spent hours researching why we ate this thing, but wouldn’t eat that one.  Every food choice was scrutinized.  I was exhausted.  And I won’t lie to you - it was one of the hardest changes I ever had to make.  I had to learn to cook all over again.  It used to be PNG-style: open a can of this, add that processed side dish, just heat and eat.  But now my motto was:  As fresh as possible and as close to the way God made it as possible!  In fact, since I had such little experience with veggies at the time, I decided to jump in with reckless abandon and I became a vegetarian for a year.  To me, this seemed to be the best way to try to counteract the dental problems as quickly as possible.
            And, suddenly and unexpectedly, I was enjoying food in a way that I never had before.  I had never before noticed the subtly sweet taste of plain almonds and cashews.  Raisins and dried figs were like candy.  Have you ever had a perfect red pepper or tomato from the garden?  Simply delicious!  Or fresh sugar snap peas?  Or how about a Pink Lady apple?  My goodness, it tastes like berry-flavored cotton candy!  (Alright, I’m making myself hungry now!)  Suddenly the world was alive with God’s bountiful blessings.  I began to appreciate Him and praise Him in a way I never did before, simply by noticing the amazing food (and learning to grow it myself) that He gave us to enjoy.  He is a good God, indeed! 
            I was an adult before I started to enjoy real food.  All that time wasted!  All those times as a child that I could have been enjoying something that was also so good for me.  But I wouldn’t even try it when I was young.  So I made it a point to encourage (lovingly force) my children to eat the healthy meals and veggies that I began making.  And I have to say, I was very impressed.  They now eat many things that I never would have touched as a child.  They are already light years ahead of me.  (Except for berries.  I can’t get my oldest to eat raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, or other fruits like peaches, watermelon, plums, etc. to save his life.  Breaks my heart!  He’d eat red peppers or garbanzo beans before he’d eat those things.  And he hates garbanzo beans.  I mean, what’s that about?)     It’s been a delight to watch my kids enjoy these blessings from God.  But that doesn’t mean that they love all the things we have tried.  But they are learning to eat them without gagging . . . or crying! 
            [For the first week of our new “diet,” I served something that I called Rainbow Salad.  That will always be remembered as the dish that they all cried over all week while eating it.  I think it adds to it that I was completely freaked out by the decay, and so I was forcing this new “healthy” food on them under the threat of losing all their privileges: their TV, their games, their sunlight, their air!  I was just so stressed! 
            But really, it’s not bad at all if they would just stop crying about it.  It’s any combination of fresh chopped broccoli, spinach, cucumbers, cabbage, carrots, apples, raisins, dried cranberries, and nuts.  And you top it off with a dressing of olive oil, honey, and lemon juice.  It is so light and refreshing!  Really!  I mean, doesn’t that sound good to you?] 
            Before the overhaul, I thought I had been doing a good job eating and providing for my family.  As I said before, I was proud of our “healthier” ways of living and proud of how I was doing things better than others (in my head).  But God revealed to me how wrong I was.  It wasn’t just that my food choices weren’t that great.  It was that my prideful attitude was sinful, displeasing to Him and unglorifying.  I was more concerned with doing things well and looking good than I was with making sure that He was glorified through it all.  And I was trying to do it all on my own.   
            And this wasn’t what He wanted for me.  He wanted me to learn to lean on Him - to be His child and let Him be the Father.  He wanted and always deserves the glory.  But as long as I felt that I had the answers and could do it on my own, I didn’t need a Father.  And I wasn’t bringing Him glory.  And like any good Father that loves His child, He disciplined me.  He allowed these trials into my life - trials that broke me of my pride, my self-sufficiency, and my confidence in myself.  He stretched me and challenged me.  They were painful trials, but He wanted so much more for me than I wanted for myself.  And this was how it had to happen. 
            Now, there were four other major challenges that I’ll get to in a minute.  (Oh, yes, there are more!)  But first, I want to share how He answered one of my prayers, how He handled the $1,000 gum infection.  As I said, because of all I was learning as I read, I made enormous changes in our eating.  I jumped into vegetarianism overnight.  I was making careful and conscientious choices about our food and what we would allow into our bodies.  (Although, I do still have a fondness for Oreos.  Or, better yet, Joe Joe’s, which is Trader Joe’s brand.  Ohhhhh, so good that I can’t buy them or I’ll eat them all in three days - by myself!  No joke!) 
            We do enjoy a treat every now and then.  We are not talking total depravation here, just learning to enjoy the abundance of good, healthy food that God made for us.  I figured that the way God made it was the way that was best for our bodies.  Anything we do to process it could only harm it. 
            Anyway, I am totally not kidding here, but within one week (no joke) of starting my vegetarian diet, the infection in my gums stopped growing and started to go away.  This problem that I had for seven years started to reverse itself within one week of eating healthier.  It did take nearly two years for my body to clean out the infection completely and for it to be totally healed and gone, but I never did need that $1,000 procedure.  Thank you, Lord!  (Though, I bet if I did, God would have arranged for a $1,000 check to be sent to us for one reason or another.  He’s just that kind of God.)  For me, this totally highlights a wonderful God who has built amazing, healing properties into our bodies and into the food that He has created, and it’s made me even more dedicated to the more natural ways of doing things. 
            And, by the grace of God, Ryder’s teeth began to heal, too.  His four front top teeth had decayed at such a fast rate (in fact, I could scrape the enamel off with my fingernail, and I was sure that I could hear them rotting when he was asleep) that I expected to have them pulled within six months.  But because of the diet changes, they stopped decaying and began to harden over with new enamel.  I didn’t even know this was possible until I found it on one internet site, amidst the many sites that said that there is no hope once they start decaying and that you have to go in for fillings.  But they did heal.  They still look jagged and rough, but they are as hard as any good teeth, and we never had to get them pulled.  God-willing, they can do their job just fine till they fall out on their own and are replaced by, hopefully, strong adult teeth. 
            Seeing how the Lord healed his teeth when we ate the healthy, fresh food He provides amazed me.  I was humbled once again!  And I was awed!  I thought I was doing so well on my own before.  That I knew so much and was so educated.  But I had so much more to learn.  Especially about learning to trust the Lord.  I thought I had such a good, close walk with Him all this time.  After all, I had led in various things: youth group, church, PNG.  But I learned how easily I could take my eyes off of Christ and how quickly my faith in Him can be shaken by circumstances.
            However, God was not done with me yet.  I had seen how God faithfully cared for us, despite my lack of faithfulness.  And we had made so many God-honoring and healthy changes.  But God wasn’t just after diet changes for us.  He was after my heart - the one thing that I didn’t realize I was still withholding from Him.  And He wasn’t going to let up once the teeth were no longer an issue.   
            But to show this to me, my faith had to go through further trials to refine it even more.  I had come so far, but God wasn’t going to leave me half-done, half-devoted to Him.  I wish I could say that when God healed the teeth, my faith was solid and I learned to trust in His faithfulness and goodness no matter what.  But, sadly, I can’t say that. 
            While it was a huge blessing and relief that the front teeth healed with no treatment, unfortunately the decay did get into a few of his molars and the diet changes alone did not help those.  So I had to begin again with considering our options to treat it.  And all the options terrified me. 
            After the initial year of finding the decay, researching dental and health diets, making huge food changes, and learning to cook all over again, I now faced another year of chronic tension headaches as I decided what to do with the molars.  And I fervently prayed for God’s help in this matter. 
            Do I wait until he got older to see our dentist?  Let them rot and pull them?  Get him knocked out and fix them?  Fillings?  Root canals for a toddler?  Strap him down?  I would spend the next year or so considering the options.  Most dentists insisted that the only way to fix them were to knock him out and give him root canals.  But I just couldn’t bring myself to knock out my toddler.  I was afraid enough of MSG and artificial colors.  How could I drip toxic substances into his body to artificially induce a coma? 
            And given that he was such a clingy kid, (I couldn’t even get him to go in the church nursery by himself) I didn’t want to send him back into treatment while I sat in the waiting room.  But no dentist would let me be there with him during treatment!  And so I waited and I prayed and I fretted and I rubbed my aching neck and shoulders daily. 
            And these years of tension and fear were smack dab in the middle of an eight-year series of trials, including the ones that I mentioned earlier.  But those weren’t the biggies!  The five biggest followed one after the next (even overlapping), with Ryder’s tooth decay being Big Stressor #2.  The first of the BIG FIVE, though, started years before.  (These were a really rough several years!)

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