One night in April, I cried myself asleep for the dumbest reason imaginable: I had accidentally eaten praline pecans.
They were absolutely delicious, and they went surprisingly well with my Very Berry Sorbet at Sweet Frog. But on top of their yumminess, when I checked their nutrition online, I realized they were absolutely riddled with every iteration of dairy imaginable—skim milk, dry milk, whey, milk protein isolate, etc.
At this point, you’re probably thinking, “so what?” Prior to April, I wouldn’t have cared, either.
But it was April, and April was my first dairy-free month—my first attempt to cut out all those delicious foods to see if it would help my cystic acne. And two weeks into it, I blew it. I totally blew it.
But I didn’t cry myself to sleep just for that. If you’re a woman, you know we don’t lose it over one thing; we lose it over several things, but all it takes is that one little thing to push you over the edge. That night, it was praline pecans.
[pullquote width=”300″ float=”right”]On paper, really, everything looks great. And then I look past the paper and into the mirror, into my red-spotted face riddled with painful cystic acne, and it all collapses.[/pullquote]Praline pecans, on top of my face looking the worst it had looked in months. Praline pecans, on top of not knowing the last name of one of the people I interviewed with the day before. Praline pecans, on top of the stress of not knowing where I’d be living or working in May, and on top of working a ten hour day (on a Saturday, no less). I didn’t know I’d have to work until the previous evening. Praline pecans, on top of the stress of traveling all over creation in April and having to worry about how I’d avoid dairy at all the family get-togethers. Praline pecans, on top of my mother suggesting pizza and cake for my birthday dinner in a couple weeks. (I told her I’d have to eat something else before, and she called me a pain in the butt—though she didn’t say “butt.”)
All of that, and then some, brought on from a few praline pecans. Some dairy-licious, make-Paula-Deen-rejoice, deep-south, Savannah-River-Walk praline pecans.
When I saw that May’s theme was “direction,” I immediately figured I’d write about moving again. But just as I was sick of moving, I was also sick of writing about moving. What more could I say? This move is the fourth in less than a year. It sucks moving so much. I hate not having friends because I keep moving. Wa wa wa. The end.
Life is going in a lot of directions right now. I’m praying for guidance in my career; I’m praying for guidance in my diet; I’m praying for guidance about how best to serve my church. I’m digging deep, trying to get closer to the Father’s heart. On paper, really, everything looks great.
And then I look past the paper and into the mirror, into my red-spotted face riddled with painful cystic acne, and it all collapses.
How did it get to this point? Cystic acne first came into my life during my sophomore year of college, five years ago. I tried a few different washes/regimens, but nothing really worked until my dermatologist prescribed me retin-a and a sulfur wash. My acne was relatively calm and controlled for the next four years, only changing a little bit when I went on birth control leading up to my wedding. Instead of one or two cysts a month, with the pill I had about three that continually bothered me, along with a few normal pimples here and there. Still, it really wasn’t that bad.
It didn’t start getting really, really bad until last summer, when we first moved to Maryland. For reasons I cannot explain, my face kept getting worse and worse. More cysts grew around my chin every month. I very rarely got pimples on my forehead, but all of a sudden, I was getting two or three every week. For the first time in four years, my acne was completely out of control, and I have no idea what caused it.
My diet hadn’t changed. My regimen hadn’t changed. Nothing significant in my life had changed.
Except my face. That changed. And it continued to get worse for the rest of the year. Out of nowhere, my acne started going in the opposite direction. And it was (and has been) an absolute nightmare.
2016 has been a cleanse year so far. I weaned myself off the retin-a in January. It was barely doing anything, so I figured there was no point in using it anymore. My acne was most severe in January and February, and ever since it’s been pretty consistently bad. I started drinking a lot of water every day. It helped a little bit, but not enough that I was satisfied.
Early in the week leading up to Easter, I finally got fed up and decided to try something I had been putting off for obvious reasons: eliminating dairy. I won’t go into the science behind it, but a lot of people with cystic acne have benefitted from eliminating or at least restricting their dairy intake. I’d take a clear, pain-free face over a stuffed crust pizza any day, so it was worth a shot. Time will tell if dairy is indeed the culprit, and oh, am I praying it is!
A part of me has felt guilty for caring so much about my acne. A part of me says, as I write about my acne in my prayer journal, that God doesn’t care about my acne.
But that part of me believes a lie! God does care about my acne. He cares about every single detail of our lives, big or small, and He wants us to surrender control to Him. We know this from Matthew 6. We also know He cares deeply about our bodies because He knit us together in our mothers’ wombs (Psalm 139).
But does that mean I shouldn’t be actively trying to fix my acne? Am I trying to play God by trying to figure out what’s causing this condition?
Absolutely not! That’s like trusting God to bring you a job, but not applying to any!
You’re justifying the amount of time you’re spending on your acne.
No, I’m not; I’m supporting my decision with Truth. How easily Satan steals our thoughts!
I love this small passage from A.W. Tozer’s The Attributes of God:
I don’t know how He does it, but I know that when I’m sick, God’s sad, and I know that when I’m miserable, God suffers along with me. And I know that in all my sickness, He’ll make my bed because His name is goodness and His name is mercy.
I hate saying this, but acne is a sickness, albeit not extremely serious. It’s a sign that something isn’t right in my body, whether it’s a slight dairy allergy or a hormonal imbalance. God cares about this seemingly insignificant part of my life, and He’s sad about it right there with me. It’s not insignificant to Him. He cares. He really does! And it’s comforting to know that I can lean on Him when I want to hide my face under a blanket all day, or when I feel like the world’s ugliest wife.
So, “direction”: That’s a big word this month. To summarize, I guess I could say I’m physically moving southeast and I’m spiritually moving closer and closer to the Cross. I’m looking to the future with hope, and I’m taking it one day at a time.
Oh, and I’m taking every detour I can to bypass praline pecans.
Natalie currently lives in the greater DC area with her husband, Andrew, where she works as a Technical Writer/Editor for a global IT company.