Since today is #CeliacAwarenessDay, I figured I'd make y'all aware of Celiac. 

When I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, I had a bunch of blood work done and they found red flags for Celiac. But in order to confirm it, I had to have a doctor send a camera down into my guts and scrape a little skin to test. Sure enough, it was bad enough they diagnosed me with Celiac on the spot and called a few days later with the test results (I was a 3 out of 4 on the Marsh Scale). This is not just a gluten allergy--Celiac Disease is much more critical. In the two months since I've been diagnosed, it's been interesting to learn what foods do and don't have gluten in them, and what other things to be aware of, like chapstick. 

Celiac Disease is an auto-immune disease, meaning that when I eat gluten, my body starts attacking itself. There are a lot of various symptoms of Celiac, because the systems of the body are so interconnected. In addition to the exterior symptoms, major trauma is happening on the inside. If I kept eating gluten, eventually the insides of my intestines would no longer be able to absorb nutrients and I would essentially starve to death. Since dying is not my first option, the only solution is to avoid all forms of gluten in my diet. 

For those of you who don't understand what gluten is, it's a protein found in some grains: namely wheat, rye, barley, and triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye most people haven't heard of). Also, even oats manufactured on separate machines and certified Gluten-Free contain a protein similar to gluten that causes similar issues in people with Celiac. Maintaining a Gluten-Free diet consists of more than not eating bread or barley soup. It means avoiding all matter of cross-contamination.

To give to a little context, doctors around the world have decided people with Celiac Disease can ingest up to 10 milligrams of gluten per day without ill effects: a crumb of bread has 30 milligrams of gluten in it. To avoid cross-contamination, I have to extremely clean my dishes (metal and glass are easier to clean); I can't share serving utensils; and I can't high-five someone who has touched bread, then pick up an apple to eat. You can imagine this makes eating out extremely difficult. Whenever someone else prepares food for me, whether at a restaurant or a friend's house, I have to trust them with my life. 

Lucky for me, I live in an age where GF is a priority to food manufacturers. Just last month, a ruling by the FDA went into effect mandating that in order to label a food as Gluten-Free, it must contain less than 20 PPM (parts per million) of gluten. That is about 1/8th of a teaspoon in a loaf of bread. However, in my experience, even though there are a ton of packaged Gluten-Free food options, the best GF foods are things that are naturally Gluten-Free. Fruit, meat, and potatoes make up a goodly portion of my diet. Plus, anytime my family and I can eat the same foods, it makes me feel a lot less of an outsider. 

Celiac Disease is a chronic illness, and although avoiding gluten is a solution, there is no known cure. Unlike an allergy, you can't "grow out" of it. Celiac is highly genetic, so having family members with it highly raises the likelihood of you having it. Whether you have family with Celiac or not, I recommend everyone be tested. The estimations for people who have undiagnosed Celiac are astounding (83% of people with Celiac don't know it), mainly because the symptoms are so diverse and often misleading. In addition, I've heard people say our bodies weren't created to digest grains anyway, so there's no harm in modifying your diet anyway.  

Gluten-Free is the way to be! 

To read one of my favourite perspectives on the disease, go to: http://mylifewithfoodallergies.com/index/5-lies-celiacs-tell/


"Life is Weird."

That's something a friend of mine said recently. And I completely agree.

Next week I'll officially be an adult, but I've been out of school for a few months now. Life is good, and I usually feel like I'm headed somewhere, but life is weird. Making decisions that truly impact the rest of your life is weird. You're Playing With the Big Boys Now from Prince of Egypt is running through my mind. 

Making slow progress is weird. I've been living by the phrase "patient initiative" lately. I'm trying to be content where I am, but I'm also taking responsibility for moving one step at a time. The problem with long-term thinking is there's a lot of short-term living between here and there. 

I've discovered that my love for the written word extends beyond creating writing. I immensely enjoy refining text into publishable pages. That's why I'm hoping to head toward the publishing world. Proofreading and typesetting fascinate me, and I want to learn more about them. The freelance life is weird.

Diseases are weird. In the five months I've had Diabetes, I've certainly adjusted. I'm excited to get better equipment that will help me be healthier, but for now I'm doing well with what I have. I have recently been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, as well, so it has been exciting being able to create my own diet. Different people deal with having these diseases differently, but right now I personally have no qualms calling myself a Diabetic Celiac--because I readily admit these two things are daily issues that define how I live my life. They do not define me, but they define my life. 

Being an adult is weird in so many different ways, but I'm learning to live in the tension. Part of me keeps begging to go back to the good ol' "care-free" days. The funny thing is, looking back from this perspective, I'm sure it seems more care-free than it was in the moment. Truly, I cannot go back, so I'm living where I'm at.

"Life is Hard."

My life is pretty hard. Now, in one sense, I don't think I've been through a lot of big tough things. Neither do I claim to have it as hard as Joe Schmo over there. Who can compare pain, being such a personal experience?


Ahh, Summer

Summer has always been a time of growth and learning for me, and this summer had been no exception. Yet, it has felt like less of me learning new things and more of me living what I know. 

For starters, I live with a chronic illness; everyday; and it won't go away (thus the name: chronic). It's a living picture of sin, how it nags, it lives with me. It takes effort to care for it; sometimes I have to take care of myself before I can care for others. Yet I can't take care of it on my own. Some days are easier, some are harder. Some days I'm more healthy than others. Even on those bad days, I know I'm forgiven and it won't ruin my life forever. Yet the long-term choices I make and the way I live day-to-day determines my future health. Quite honestly, I could die any day. But, quite honestly, that would still be true if I were perfectly healthy. My Diabetes is getting more managable, but it's still a big part of my life. 

Another thing I've experienced is community. One community I love is my team (I'm a camp counselor). I've had this week off work, and I can't wait to get back to my team. They truly are a community of Grace. The other community I love resides in our hearts as Operation Neverland. Whenever I'm around these friends, I feel completely free. I wish there were some way I could share that feeling, but words are inadequate. (For a great attempt, read this: http://clairemdb.tumblr.com/post/91075267966/dear-humanity.) I am learning to accept love and give it. Humility isn't about hiding from attention and love or feeling obligated to return it. Humility is truly loving one another. I've been getting tastes of Shalom. 

Speaking of Shalom, I've finally been introduced to Redemption in person, and it's a wonderful experience. I don't know if I'll ever truly understand the significance of that encounter. It's a step on the journey. 

I'm still on my journey to adulthood, and some days I actually feel a little closer. I have a meagre few months left as a 17-year-old, yet I don't necessarily feel closer to figuring out what I'm doing with the rest of my life. I've seen more and more potential possibilities, but not many more actual options. By being treated as an adult and being trusted with responsibility, I've learned who I am and what I want to do with my life, but that whole money thing still confuses me... The idea of living in a commune keeps getting more and more appealing. 

I feel like I've figured out my life a little bit more as I've written this. Shout out to my two faithful readers: thanks for letting me share this with you. I need to share it somehow, and it's all psychological anyhow, right?


Advice and Hobbies

My advice: if you go on a mission trip, two weeks is a good max. Just long enough to enjoy the fun of a foreign country and be able to see the impact you're making for Christ. Much longer and you start to get into a routine and see the ugly side of missions work. My first week in Mexico, I knew it was all fun and games: going out to eat often, touring the big city nearby, etc. I was scared of what the normal routine was, because I knew I'd get to see some uglier stuff. The third week I was there, I said to myself: "If I went home now, I would have all these nice memories, but if I stay longer, who knows what'll happen."

Yes, I did see the other side of mission work--the Devil does all he can to stop the Love of Christ from being shared throughout the world. But the longer I was there, the deeper relationships I grew with the kids and staff. The more I got into the somewhat boring routine, the more I appreciated how God was using the people down there. I was planning on being there for ten weeks, but ended up coming home after six--and my last week was swiss-cheesed by emergency room visits.

If you want to pick up an expensive hobby, I recommend Diabetes. Blood sugar tester, test strips, lancets, insulin, needles, and an emergency supply of sugar. Take the number of doctor visits you currently have, and multiply it by five. Take the number of times per day you give yourself shots and multiply that as well. Now, take the total amount of time you spend preparing food, and multiply that by 10. And even though putting coins in the parking meter only takes ten seconds, you spend the next three hours worrying about when your time runs out.

Now, if you're looking for a cheaper hobby, I recently officially picked up laughter as a hobby. I have always enjoyed laughing, even though I don't like the sound of my own laughter. I figure: when life throws stuff like Diabetes at you, you can either laugh or cry, and laughing hurts less. Now, this is a tricky one, since there are times that crying is a good thing and laughter is just one way I ignore the pain. It's healthy to acknowledge how broken my life is, and mourn that.

I did truly have a wonderful time in Mexico, but it's hard to explain more than that. It was hot and dry. I worked hard. Yes, I learned some Spanish and got really good at converting dollars to pesos. I ate amazing food like fresh tortillas and frijoles and fruit. Yes, I wish I could have stayed much longer. I'm gonna go back someday.


Explanation: Lack of Pictures

I left home a month ago (already!), and I have taken barely any pictures. It was nice to have other team-members around the first week to take pictures for me, but since then...I haven't taken pictures. So now I'd like to explain why that is.

(1) Primarily, I hate being a tourist. I don't want to walk around with my camera like a clueless tourist. Tourism is a pet peeve of mine...
(2) Actually carrying my camera (iPhone 3GS) around isn't practical. Working out in dusty fields, hauling concrete, etc. isn't a great environment for the device. And even when I'm around the main compound, I rarely feel like having my camera on my person. I'd rather enjoy the moment than record it.
(3) Whether recording moments for posterity or to share with friends, pictures (and even video) are woefully inadequate. You truly have to be here to believe it. This is a weak reason, because my photos could whet your appetite to make you want to come experience it here. But in my mind, it's a good enough reason.
(4) Usually, moments I think worth recording with photography are abnormal events: birthdays, vacations, etc. Even in the course of a month, what was once abnormal to me in Mexico has become normal. It's normal to ride in the back to the pickup and nudge cows out of the way with the truck, to make enchiladas and cut avocados, to walk down the road to buy Coke. The only reason I'd share things that used to be abnormal to me is to brag to you, so that doesn't seem worth it to me.
(5) When taking pictures of people and their homes, I'm wary of privacy. I live at a casa hogar, a children's shelter, so I want to be especially careful sharing online about the kids that have come from rough backgrounds. But even aside from that, if a foreigner barged in on your home and started snapping pictures because they thought your U.S. architecture was cool...you may rightly be creeped out.

So here are five reasons I haven't taken many pictures. Actually, let's just call them excuses. Here are my five excuses why I haven't shared many pictures with you. I really am sorry.


Thoughts on Language

Hello again from Mexico! I've been here for two weeks now, and I have much to share. But I've found it very difficult to wrap it up in a package I can send you. I used to think "You had to be there" was just a throw-away phrase, but that's what it's come down to. I like words, how we use them, what they stand for. So it was a bit of a stretch for me to share pictures last week, but that's what I had to do to give you a window into where I am, and prove it's all real. If someone told me they had done all the stuff I've been doing, I'm not sure I would believe them. Part of the natural human instinct in enjoyment is to share, to prove to others that it's real, and language is one of the chief ways we share.