This may or may not surprise many of you, but I don’t cry a lot. I really don’t know why because I would consider myself an emotional person. Correction… I don’t cry a lot, in PUBLIC. There is just something about how red my face gets… and how obvious it is that I was crying that I HATE. I don’t like attention, especially the thousand question type.
Recently I went to a leadership conference with the other staff members at our church. It was an awesome experience! There was an amazing speaker, incredible worship & I even had a chance to spend some time with my aunt and uncle who I do not get to see often. But, what I am about to share with you has nothing to do with the speakers, the worship or even anything to do with the programs at the conference.
This isn’t a, “I‘m going to vent” post. Its a story about compassion, love and the humble grace of our God that shines through His people, when I needed it most. When I least expected it. Its a story that brought me to my blubbering knees in a very venerable moment. For the first time since my accident, I felt loved by people who had no reason to love me. Love from people who didn’t have to have compassion, but chose to.
For those of you who do not know me well, I have a serious allergy to Wheat, and an intolerance to the gluten protein. I was in a very venerable state traveling away from home with very little “safe food” for 3 days in a row. This may seem silly to you, but if you are ever curious how a food allergy affects someones daily life, keep reading. God took this experience and brought me right down to my knees!
Before I tell you about my experience, I would like to share with you how people make me feel like a fabricated liar, so that I can help you stand in my shoes. I want you to feel the same experience I did just a few short weeks ago. I want you to walk with me with the hope that you can make the same impact on someone who is struggling just like me. Imagine getting sick every time you eat. Imagine people, who your food allergy has ZERO affect on, “genuinely” attack you, and try to justify your “fake” food allergy so that they can feel comfortable.
Bear with me as I take you back to the fall of 2016, a little over one year after my accident. I was suffering terribly from unknown health problems that caused me to get violently ill every single time I ate!
Lets talk about details, because I think it is important for those who walk around in ignorance to understand the severity of what my life is like. I often get asked, “what happens if you eat wheat?” Friends, let me tell you… its not just one thing, or something I can explain in a short sentence while I’m under pressure to convince you my problem is real.
The moment I swallow something that contains wheat (which seems to be everything under the sun these days) my throat starts to swell and my esophagus burns. Its tolerable at first, and could be wrongfully classified as heart burn. I actually thought I was suffering from severe heart burn for that entire first year. I would eat a bottle of TUMS at a time trying to diminish the problem. The burning then moves to my stomach, and nearly knocks me out. I would lay down (DAILY) for a 2 or 3 hour nap, sleeping off the pain my body was feeling. Its not a bodily pain like arthritis or something of that nature, think of the worst stomach ache you’ve ever felt… and multiply that by 10 (or 100).
I still remember the day that I called my mom and frantically told her that I thought I had a really bad ulcer (and dramatically thought I was going to die). LOL.
The one thing I knew for sure was that there was a direct correlation between when I ate and my slow death. I was looking for answers. (I was also poor and without health insurance… but we can talk about that another day.)
I had a small amount of knowledge on ulcers & knew there were foods that could make you sick if you indeed had an ulcer. So, I did what any normal human would do when they think they are going to die from an ulcer (I hope you can feel the humor…) I googled what foods to avoid. Spicy foods, caffeine, fried food, tomatoes, red sauces, refined sugars, citrus & fruit juice, omega 6 fatty acids, dairy, tea, chocolate, carbonation… GUYS THE LIST GOES ON… (P.s. if you have a tummy ulcer I will be praying for you! It really does sound worse than a food allergy!!)
As you could guess… I cut out most of these food items and there was absolutely no change. I remember being at a breaking point that summer. I called Jesse almost in tears. I made a whole wheat wrap with chicken, black beans, lettuce & avocado for lunch… THATS IT. I drank water and I felt like I was going to DIE. I thought… I’ll just never eat again. Either way I will die. (again… overly dramatic, but just at my wits end.) I was sick and tired of being sick and tired!
I will not tell you the whole story (we can save that for another day as well.) but, after a series of trial, error, lots of prayer & the grace of God, I came to a place where cutting out gluten saved my life… and not in a dramatic way… a very real and emotional way.
I spent a little over a year the sickest I’ve ever been in my entire life, and in one swift moment God saved me. He opened my eyes & served me the information I needed. He led me in the direction of healing, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that!!
BUT OH THE RIDICULE… my goodness the ridicule. People find it really hard to believe that a human could have a undiagnosed food allergy as an adult. FRIENDS, IT HAPPENS EVERY SINGLE DAY. — think of the difficult life a person has lived for so very long, and the freedom they feel once it has been revealed. Why do we shoot straight to the negative and we are blinded by the positive?
I am the healthiest I have ever been in my entire life, and I am not sorry!
But it doesn’t matter, I still walk around any place that involves me eating food that Im not sure is safe, with my tail in-between my legs.
I spend a lot of time at church, so Im not saying that church people are bad people, they are actually some of the most amazing people that I’ve met! But I get this ridicule at church the most. Its one of the only places I find my self eating with other people. I can never sit down at a table without getting a million questions. Curiosity questions and questions of fabrication. I can’t just sit and relax and enjoy a meal… a meal that is supposed to bring people together… It has even gotten to the point where I sit down and I’m automatically in defense mode. THIS IS NOT ME… I do not like being this person. It gives me anxiety. It makes me fee like an outcast. It makes me feel zero love what-so-ever. Even from people trying to show me love. I get in defense from the constant ridicule. I found myself in a place where I couldn’t tell the difference between someone asking a loving question and someone just flat out being rude. —- guys… this is NOT OKAY!
Well… YOU GUESSED IT! At this conference I had to eat with people… ever single meal. Of course, I brought a lot of food with me (pbj, fruit, oatmeal, granola bars, fruit roll ups ;), I mean.. I was fed well.).
You know what gave me the most anxiety out of it all… Communion.
Just let all the emotions pour out on to the floor in front of me.
Luke 22:19 “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” “
One of my favorite “genuine” sayings that my churches friends toss my way is, “if you are taking communion for the Lord, won’t he heal you so you can take it?”
Okay friends… I’m glad you understand the healing power of God.
I have prayed for healing. I have been prayed for by friends, our church leadership, the prayer team. You name it, we have prayed.
But, I also think its important to understand that sometimes God uses the struggle to encourage, change and bring glory to His name & if my illness will do that for Him.. bring it on! Lord, Use me!
I was told that at this conference there would be gluten-free communion. It was a very encouraging moment for me, but I always wonder if the operators understand what it takes for it to be safe for those with a food allergy, an intolerance or celiac disease.
Friends, it wasn’t. I noticed right away. They only had one cup that the Italian bread and gluten-free wafers had to both dip in. My heart still found peace. They cared. They tried their best. I already prepared my mind to go in line, grab a wafer discretely and walk away hoping no one notices. I mean I can’t be the only one right?
Let me tell you about my best friend, Becca. She was standing 2 people ahead of me. Becca is a lot like that protective sister we all wish we had. As we were standing in line, she turns to me and says, “Mauri… do NOT dip in the cup. It’s not safe.” My heart chuckled a little, but I truly loved every moment of having this amazing friend standing beside me to help ensure I don’t end up sick. (I just want to tell you, tears are welling up in my eyes right now as I try to configure my words.)
A few other members of our church were standing in the same line. Directly in front of me was our satellite pastors wife, Cassie.
A we filtered up the line I had a million scenarios running though my mind. What if the woman holding the cup asks, how will I respond with love, not dipping in the cup. How will I show her gratitude without drawing attention to myself. I truly wish that the only focus I sought was the Lord. Instead, anxiety began to set in.
We walked closer and closer. It was my friend Becca’s turn… and to my surprise, she grabbed a gluten-free wafer like it was nothing & walked away proudly like it was as normal as eating cake. No dip & not a care in the world. My heart sank.
Then it happened again. Cassie walked up right after Becca, without a care in the world, grabbed a gluten-free wafer, turned and walked away like it was nothing.
My eyes began to well. The Lord paved a way for me.
I didn’t have to explain, I didn’t have to feel embarrassed, I didn’t have to feel alone, the Lord used my church family to pave a way for me.
As I walked back to my seat, I began to process what just happened in front of my eyes.
I’m not sure that anyone would fully understand the emotion that overwhelmed me. Not even Becca & Cassie. I’m not even sure what led them to do what they did, but I fully trust that they had no idea how it would impact me.
As I reached my seat I broke down and cried, right there in front of everyone. Becca put her arm around me and asked if I was okay. I turned and looked at her and Cassie. The only words that I could configure was “that was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.” Becca said, “What? Take communion?” And chuckled. She said, “Mauri, it shouldn’t be that big of deal.” — and she’s right. It shouldn’t. Why do we make it such a big deal. Is it because we cant see what a gluten protein looks like? So we think its not real? Or is it because we don’t personally suffer from a food allergy, so we don’t believe it could happen? Is it because my allergy doesn’t hospitalize me? So that makes it not valid?
My husband eats gluten free, mainly to protect me. But these two women. They didn’t have to go before me. They didn’t have to take gluten-free communion. They could have enjoyed the Italian bread. They could have dipped in the juice. They could have walked away and never thought about it again. They didn’t have to notice my fear. They didn’t have to care. It wouldn’t have changed our friendship even the slightest.
But they did. They let the love of God shine through them. They let His grace pour out of their hearts on my soul. They allowed their lives, in a special moment, to be an answer to my prayer.
On a side note, these two women were so casual about it, I was even a little confused and had to ask if I really saw what I saw. They didn’t want recognition, or praise from me. They just did it. They walked with me, possibly without even knowing it. Maybe they just wanted to try it, not even for me, but just out of curiosity. Whatever the reason… It was confirmation that God still loves me. That he is still with me, and walking with me through this difficult season. It is confirmation that He will use this for good. It was confirmation that I don’t have to live in defense. It was confirmation that there are some people out there that just love. They don’t have to question everything that they don’t understand. Just love.
God is still working on my heart, but in the meant time, I’m truly bless to have friends in my life who love me for who I am.
Lord, thank you for this community. I am blessed by you!
My prayer is that this story can inspire you to show those love who you may not understand. You never know the battles they are facing & the impact your love could make on their life ❤
Philippians 2:3-4 “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Keep on smiling,