This isn’t going to be one of my normal blog posts. Why? Because my family is about to go through some big changes. Big enough that I feel they warrant some kind of acknowledgment on my blog.
We are moving to Montana.
For some of you, this may seem out of the blue, but for my family, this has been a long time in the making. Six years ago we moved back to Georgia from the island town of Petersburg in Alaska. Though none of my family were actually born in the state of Georgia, it’s still where much of our roots lay, so we were excited to be coming “home.” We had no idea that this move would begin a long and difficult health journey for my mom and I. Soon after we returned, we settled into a home with black mold. We didn’t know it at the time of course, but it was there anyway, and it wreaked havoc on my mom and I’s bodies. We lived four years in this highly toxic environment before we discovered the mold in our home– and four years was more than enough time for the mold to aggravate pre-existing conditions that we didn’t know we had, such as chronic lyme disease, and catalyst many co-infections and illnesses, such as the condition that is causing my mom and I the most problems at this moment which is Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or MCAS (don’t sweat if you’ve never heard of it, most people haven’t).
Those four years enveloped a long, long health journey for us, which, to be honest, had an overall trajectory of down. Since everyone’s bodies are different, and some people are more sensitive and reactive to things than others, the effects on my mom and I were the worst compared to the rest of our family. For instance, my dad for the most part was okay (we call him superman because he hardly ever gets sick). But that didn’t change the fact that my mom and I were spiraling. Some nights I was kept up with constant shortness of breath, and most days I was knocked back by fatigue or else full blown, trapped in my room, sick. Though we were able to take care of our lyme disease, that didn’t change the fact that the root cause of all our problems was still there. The mold was still there, infesting my bedroom and the kid’s bathroom. Once we finally discovered the problem, we had the house remediated and got out of there as fast as we could. We got rid of most of our contaminated possessions (which, by the way, was pretty much everything we owned), and moved into a newly built home that we naively thought would solve all of our problems.
We were wrong.
You see, new construction homes are built with building materials that are loaded with chemicals that off-gas into your indoor environment for the first two and a half years after they are built. These chemicals are actually toxic to your body, and the off-gassing means that you are breathing them in all the time. Most people don’t realize this, and for some people, their bodies are able to take care of the toxins and get rid of them through their detox pathways. My mom and I, however, do not have that luxury. The mold has affected our bodies so much that our detox pathways have actually become clogged. This caused our bodies to become overloaded with toxins even before we moved into our new home. As you can imagine, when we actually moved into our house, our bodies became completely overwhelmed because they had no way to get rid of all the toxic chemicals that existed in our air. The end result? Our MCAS symptoms intensified. Big time.
On top of that, we believe there are actually levels of mold in this house that, while for a normal person may not be much of an issue, are too much for us. The mold in our current home is probably because they build in the rain here in Georgia, which means, well, wet building materials. And then when you slap in things like insulation on top of wet building materials… yeah. Not great.
Over the past year, my mom and I have started to spiral again. Our bodies are super sensitive to mold now and my mom and I have become what is called in the mold community, “mold canaries”, (like the canary in the coal mine). Pretty much my mom can walk into a building and tell you if there’s mold because her body starts reacting. It’s crazy, but it’s the reality of our life right now.
I, myself, have started experiencing symptoms that harken eerily back to what I felt in our old house. Most mornings, I wake up feeling like I was hit by a truck. You can imagine how pleasant that is. Worse, since November of 2019 my mom and I’s health has been so bad that we are no longer able to attend church. When we have people over at our house, we pay for it by feeling sick for days afterwards. We’ve been living a life that, for the most part, leaves us exiled from the very friends we were excited to see again when we moved back from Alaska. The worst part has been our diet. Our MCAS has made us highly, highly reactive to almost every food, to the point that currently, my mom and I are only eating chicken and a handful (and I really mean a handful) of fruits and vegetables. The more we’ve learned about our condition and even discovered other people whose health was dismantled by similar (and oftentimes multiple) encounters with mold, the more we realized that our condition was so severe that only severe measures would finally get our bodies on some sort of upward trajectory. Because the fact of the matter is, for “moldies,” Georgia, especially Atlanta, is not the kind of environment that will help us heal. It’s hot and muggy down here. It’s a tropical environment that makes you feel like you’re walking through a bowl of soup (to say, “it’s soupy outside today” is a common expression). Mold. Is. Everywhere. The humid climate, the moisture, the heat– all of it is the perfect breeding ground for it. My family realized that to really, fully heal we needed to get out of Georgia into a better, cleaner, and dryer environment– so basically almost anywhere other than Atlanta.
So, for the last year my dad has been applying for pastor jobs in places that would be more agreeable with my mom and I’s broken bodies. For most of that year, we felt like it was never going to happen. We were stuck. We were trapped in a place where we would never be able to heal. It was discouraging, but more than that, it was heart-wrenching, because as much as we wanted to be better, we didn’t want to leave our church family. Not again. Not for a second time.
But God did provide us with a way to get out. To maybe, just maybe, get to a place where we can finally start to heal and I can start eating food again (Oh please let it be!). God has provided us with a church family in Montana who is excited for my dad to come and be their lead pastor and is hungry for the Word. Not only that, but when my parents visited the church in March, my mom felt really, really good. We think that we will even be able to attend church again regularly, and I cannot tell you how excited I am at that possibility.
We will be moving this May.
This has been a long, long process for us. And for most of the way, we were resistant. We didn’t want to leave. We wanted to stay here with our friends. We didn’t want to uproot ourselves for yet another transplant in a part of the U.S. that (to be honest) is very foreign to us. But God has been gracious to us, and I believe that he will use this move in ways that we never could have foreseen to bring much more glory to Himself and joy and growth in us than ever could have happened if we stayed here in Georgia. Because to be honest, if it wasn’t for our health struggles, we would never have considered moving. When we moved back to Georgia from Alaska in 2015 I believe we fully intended to stay. But God had other plans for us, and now he is making them known. And I am excited. I am excited to have a possibility to heal, and I am excited that God has given my family the opportunity to serve in another place with other brothers and sisters in Christ that we never would have met without this sickness. Because as much as it may be hard to believe, he is using my mom and I’s health struggles for good.
As of right now, we have zero idea where we are going to live in Montana because the housing market is cra-cra. We are figuratively and literally embarking on a journey into entirely new territory, but I know that God will be faithful and I am excited to see what he will do in the upcoming months.
Before I close, I would like to ask you to pray for us. There are many, many difficult logistical decisions that we will have to work through in the days ahead, not to mention the inevitable emotional roller coaster we are about to embark on. Please pray that God will provide a safe, mold-free home for us to live in in Montana and that he will give us wisdom to know which housing options to pursue and which to turn down. Please pray for comfort and contentment as we say goodbye to friends that are like family to us. Please pray for the church that we will be leaving as they, too, are going through massive changes. Our family’s departure means they are saying goodbye to their lead pastor. Please pray for strength in the days and weeks ahead as things are going to start getting crazy over here the closer we get to the departure date. Please pray for safe travels as we will be driving across the country to get to Montana, and wisdom and supernatural help for dad as he will be immersed into an entirely new church situation with a new congregation that will, naturally, have different needs than the one he shepherds now. This is going to be a huge, huge change for us, the church we are leaving, and the church we are going to and we will all need God’s help.
Along those same lines, because things are about to get pretty crazy (they already are, to be honest) don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me for a little bit. As I mentioned we will be driving across the country which means, well, no internet among other things. I am hoping to get one more blog post out in May before we move, but after that, I honestly don’t know what our life is going to look like. And even when we do get settled, it may still be some time before I find the time to write another post. Of course, I will try to post on here when I can, but I am not going to set unrealistic expectations for myself.
Thank you in advance for your prayers and support. It means so much to me that you took the time out of your day to read this.
March on Christian soldier! – Ella