I recently started sharing more about Elliot‘s allergy journey publicly. For a long time I kept these thoughts and feelings pretty close to my chest. I’m still not entirely sure why, but they felt sacred. I felt unsteady and unsure about how to navigate this new challenge. In so many spheres of life I have confidence in leading, but not in this one. Every time I hinted that we were walking through a new season of allergies and reactions, I would get questions in my inbox. They were questions I couldn’t answer, and they were questions I had myself.
But as I have started sharing more publicly, I have found more confidence in sharing what we are navigating in the midst of unknowns. I certainly don’t have all the answers now, and we are well on our way to finding out some answers to some questions for our situation. But I’m still very much in the middle. And I am learning so much!
Elliot’s allergy journey for a long time seemed to be getting a lot better. We have scheduled food challenges for her at the encouragement of her allergy specialist at Duke. She is going for a baked milk challenge and a baked egg challenge in the coming months. At these appointments, we will feed Elliot one of her allergens, presumably made a little bit more digestible for her by the fact that it is baked, and then watch her for any reaction. She will stay for hours of observation, which is not something I am looking forward to. But I am glad to be able to test some of the allergens in the safety of the hospital.
Having these food challenges on the schedule made me feel really optimistic about where we were in our allergy journey. I started feeling a little more relaxed in terms of what I fed at home. I still wasn’t giving her any allergens at our table, but I did feel a little bit more confident in feeding Elliot allergens to her sister, Emerson. Where once our kitchen was entirely nut-free for Elliot sake, I had introduced more mild nut allergens to our kitchen into Emerson plate.
Our family recently vacation at Lake Gaston. We traveled with extended family from both sides, mine and Austin’s. It was a really sweet time of kayaking, sitting in the sun, drinking coffee on the porch, and more. The girls had such a great time living in their swimsuits from sun up to sundown, watching frogs and turtles, and even listening to a thunderstorm roll in one afternoon. But while we were there, Elliot made contact with one of her nut allergies. Even though she only had contact with it, and didn’t ingest it, she had her first anaphylactic reaction.
It was absolutely terrifying. Elliot nearly lost consciousness, and all I kept thinking was that we were 35 minutes from the emergency room and without cell service. I am so thankful for fast-acting family members who jumped in to help. We had an everything Elliott needed, and after giving her medication, and putting ice on her feet and spine to kick her nervous system into gear, she recovered. She was her normal self again.
But I wasn’t.
I was edge for the remainder of the trip. I couldn’t shake the image in my mind of Elliot drooping in her highchair, her eyes rolling back in her head. It haunted me at night, and I kept thinking about what could have happened. What didn’t happen, but what felt so close to being a reality. The Lord was so kind to us, and I don’t take for granted the fact that he is sovereign and in control of every single one of our days.
But needless to say, I returned home with a renewed vigor for keeping an allergen-free kitchen. After that terrifying experience, my standards for safety and health escalated. And one of the areas that I’ve been reflecting on is how my standard of cleanliness increased. Before this reaction, I was comfortable letting Elliot’s face cloth (the rag that we use to wipe her face after each meal) to sit next to an Emerson’s. I actually felt really proud of myself for getting separate face cloths for them for after meals! Elliot’s are all one color and labeled with her name well, Emerson‘s are a different color. I was comfortable letting dishes sit together in the sink, even if they were going to be used again in the near future (like sippy cups we rinse after each meal, but use again for the next). But after this reaction, my standard of cleanliness went up exponentially. A dish that I would have probably otherwise rinsed and set out for use at the next meal, now I need to be scrubbed down with soap. A spatula that helped whisk together eggs for a recipe now needed to go in the dishwasher. I didn’t any longer want to risk handwashing something that has an allergen on it for fear that the allergen would remain. Everything seemed like it needed to be cleaner than it was before. Since I have a new appreciation for what it means for something to be contaminated, I now have any new understanding for the standard of cleanliness that was required.
Perhaps by now, you know where I’m going with this. I can’t help but see the parallels between my new-found appreciation for cleanliness in my kitchen as a relates to contamination in Elliott’s food, and our view of God’s righteousness. I used to think that you grew as a Christian you would likely find yourself less and less sinful. And while it’s true that the longer we walk with Christ no more he sanctifies us and makes us like himself, I now understand more deeply that the longer we walk with Jesus, the more aware we are of our sins. We actually grow in seeing ourselves with the blinding light of reality the more time we spend with Jesus. Why? Because we have a greater appreciation for his righteousness! The higher our view of God’s holiness, and the deeper our appreciation of our own sin, the more we will understand what happened at Calvary. We will have a newfound appreciation for what was required to save us from the containment of sin. We will understand more deeply the price that Jesus paid on the cross to make us right with God. As we think more deeply about our own sin, and it’s far-reaching effects in our lives, we will see the cross for the glory that it is. It was not just something Jesus did in order to improve our life. He saved us. He saved us from self destruction now, and separation from God and eternity. Without him, we would die.
So, while this allergy journey has been incredibly difficult for our family, and me particular as a mom, I am praising the Lord for this aspect of how he is using it in my own life. I am now looking more deeply at my own heart and asking the Lord to reveal my sin. Pleading with him to reveal any contaminant settled beneath the surface, sins that are hidden by my pride, sins that are concealed by my self-righteousness. I am asking him to show me the things that are actually a threat to my life, as delicious as they may seem on the outside. As I walk through the season of motherhood, may I only be more and more made like Jesus.