Tuesday, April 28

Ordinary, everyday miracle

I've written before about one of my life's struggles--dealing with a rare disease that imprinted me with the largest birthmark I've ever seen.  As I've dealt with my own issues, I've learned that lots of people share my struggles.  Although they may not be marked in the same way I am, difficulties with self-image and acceptance affect many of us.

Here's a photo of part of my birthmark.  This is my lower leg, the part that everyone can see if I'm wearing a skirt or shorts.

My birthmark is actually much larger than this; it extends all the way to my upper back and across my torso.

A few days ago, though, I got a jolt.  My birthmark is just one symptom of a rare disease called Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome.  I'd been advised to see a specialist just to make sure all was well, and I was fortunate to get an appointment with the Vascular Abnormalities Clinic at Duke Medical Center.  Doesn't that sound like fun?

I can't tell you what a relief it was to see physicians who knew all about KTS.  Usually I have to explain my disease to health care professionals; it's so rare that very few people have ever heard of it. But these specialists have treated a number of patients with the disease, and they knew what to look for.  They ordered an ultrasound and an MRI of the veins in my leg.

Of course, I'd noticed that I'm starting to develop some problem veins, such as these spider veins:

What I didn't know was that this area of my birthmark was highly abnormal for someone my age.  Of particular interest was this part of my lower leg.  Looks pretty bad, doesn't it?

My doctors told me that this looks really good for someone with my condition.  They were amazed to learn that I successfully carried three babies to term and gave birth with no complications. They told me that they'd never seen a case of KTS in a person my age with so little damage in the lower extremity.  Apparently they expected that I'd have severe varicose veins and a good deal of skin damage from blood pooling in my lower leg.  While I've struggled with how bad my leg looks, they were puzzled as to why it looks so good, relatively speaking.

The MRI solved the mystery.  As it turns out, my leg is missing a vein.  My doctor called and said, "There's a lateral draining vein that should be present in your leg, and it simply isn't there."  There's no way to tell why I'm missing this vein, but a problem with this vein is what would be responsible for the damage that the doctors were expecting to see.  For reasons unknown, this vein simply never developed in my body.  It's just not there.

"We're not sure why it's not there, but you're one lucky lady," my doctor said to me.  "Whatever the reason, thank God it's not there."  

I think that's the first time I've ever had a medical specialist say "thank God" about my disease.

To be honest, I'm just floored by this news.  This birthmark, which has been so difficult for me to live with, is actually evidence of a little miracle.

And this has me wondering: how many "little" miracles happen in my life every day?  How much of what I take for granted is evidence of God's love and provision?  How many hidden healings are part of my life?  Or of yours?  We're so quick to question God when we see suffering and pain.  I pray that we would be just as quick to praise Him when we see mercy and help.

Dear God, give me eyes to see and ears to hear of Your goodness.

Have you ever seen an ordinary, everyday miracle?

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Wednesday, April 22

Delicious, Nutritious Breakfast Cookies

Life around here has officially kicked into the annual end-of-the-school-year frenzy.  Crazy days don't afford much time for a nutritious breakfast, yet such busy times are exactly when we need a nutritious breakfast the most!

I've found a good solution: absolutely delicious breakfast "cookies" packed with goodness.  These take a little time to prepare, but the recipe makes a lot.  They freeze beautifully, and each one provides lots of energy for busy days.

Here's the recipe.

Breakfast Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3 Tablespoons honey
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups chopped nuts
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup chopped dates

In small bowl, combine eggs, vanilla, and raisins.  Cover bowl and let stand for one hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease cookie sheets or cover sheets with parchment paper.

Cream butter and brown sugar.  Add honey and as much of the egg as you can pour in without dumping the raisins.  Mix well.  Stir or sift flour, cinnamon, and salt together, then stir into batter. Add oats, nuts, raisins, and dates; stir until well mixed.  Dough will be stiff.

Roll dough into balls or scoop dough onto prepared cookie sheets and flatten with palm of hand.  Bake until lightly brown (9-10 minutes for medium-sized cookies; 13-14 minutes for large cookies).  Remove from oven and transfer to wire racks to cool completely.  When completely cool, freeze cookies in a zip-top plastic bag.

Makes 24 large or 48 medium-sized cookies.

Click here for a printable version.

These breakfast "cookies" are so good!  Soaking the raisins in the egg-vanilla mixture makes them plump and flavorful.  The dates are chewy and delicious.  The nuts add protein as well as crunch, and of course the oats provide fiber.

Grab a couple of these from the freezer, microwave them for a few seconds, and enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea for a delicious, quick breakfast on a busy day.

Do you have a favorite quick breakfast for busy mornings?

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Tuesday, April 7

Historic moment

My oldest son went to Duke.  My middle son is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill.  As you can imagine, we are big time college basketball fans.  We bleed two different shades of blue around here.

Yes, I cheer for both teams.

And now may I present something that will likely never happen again.  Of all the brackets in the house, mine was the best.  I finished in the 99th percentile!

I didn't do any score predicting, but I sure am proud that I predicted the Final Four match-ups.  And of course I had to choose Duke to win.

Here's what I posted on Facebook before the big game:
We moved to North Carolina in 2002. Since we've lived here, we've celebrated one national championship with Duke and two with UNC. I'm blessed to be able to cheer for both teams, since one of our sons went to Duke and one to UNC! Today, though, I'm especially grateful for what a fun NCAA tournament this has been. ACC teams did themselves proud throughout the tournament. It all came down to a great Final Four with awesome teams. We lived in Michigan for seven years and Tom Izzo is one of my favorite coaches, so I'm proud that Michigan State made it to the Final Four. Lots of my loved ones are Kentucky fans, so my hat is off to that team, and I think they should be remembered for their amazing 38-win season, not for their one loss. And the Wisconsin Badgers are a wonderful team. How can you not be a college basketball fan today?
Now if I could just get a little sleep!

Did you follow the NCAA tournament?