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Saturday, 31 July 2010

God's armour

Something that truly amazes me about the bible is that no matter how many times I have read a passage, depending on the phase in my life, it is literally like reading it for the first time!  A new understanding... a new set of eyes.  I think this is why I do my best to be cautious in my "convictions" because to be too sure of my own understanding of scripture would be to deprive myself of the humility and willingness to find out I may have misunderstood!

And while it is critical to move ahead in our faith walk in just that... faith... I think too many of us believe that we must tread along with such unyielding convictions that we become blind to the wholeness of His Truth.

Duane and I have this debate all the time.  For him, he has to plow ahead full force... 110% power and conviction... full speed ahead, so to speak.  And while that is certainly commendable on many fronts, I argue with him that this can also be dangerous... what if you're wrong?  Do you want to be plowing ahead at such speed and with such force that you miss the opportunities to see where you need to correct yourself or re-align with His Truth?

Yet there can be danger in being too relaxed about your faith, too.  Perhaps the fear of getting it wrong in the first place prevents you from delving further!  And while the convinced move ahead (whether in the right or wrong direction) you risk floating in a stagnant state of unknowing... and that can't give you life, either.

And then I have to ask myself, is there such a thing as the "wrong direction"?

I reflect on my past "mistakes", for instance, and had I isolated each incident to judge whether or not my decisions in that moment were leading me in the wrong direction, I would have to say "yes."  HOWEVER, in the overall big picture, those mistakes played a key role in reaching greater depths of understanding of mercy, grace and forgiveness.  What appeared to be the wrong direction ended up leading me straight to God in the end!

Does this mean you have to go punch someone in the teeth in order to understand what it means to be forgiven?  NO!  But for someone like me who unfortunately needs to "experience" truth before it fully registers, often times it did take touching a burning flame to find out it burns despite everyone around me saying "hey, fire burns!"  Perhaps there is far more than meets the eye when it comes to those around us who seem to be headed in the "wrong direction".

My eldest brother has struggled with alcoholism for the last twenty-five years and it has been a heart-wrenching process of watching him get burned over and over and over again.  Not only to see his pain but the ripple effect that bleeds into his children's lives, my parent's lives and even us siblings who just want to see him well and happy.

This has often revealed my own weakness of faith when I have become angry with him.  Judgement creeps in and I catch my unforgiving thoughts accusing him of causing pain, misery, etc...  And yet it dawns on me in moments of prayer, that God has granted my brother a far greater opportunity to bring Him glory than I ever could! 

Just imagine if that glorious day of healing comes to my brother... how glorious would that Light be after living in such darkness for so many years?  It would be positively BLINDING!  The awe he would experience, the humility that would bring him to his knees would far exceed my level of experience to praise God as he would be equipped to in that moment!  And here I am angry with him for his life path forgetting that there is a greater picture here... that there is God's will involved here... and the outcome could be positively breathtaking!

So on this Sabbath, from our Vaags household, I reach out to you with this awareness hoping that you, too, can choose a new set of eyes to "see" God's work in those around you whom cause you grief or with whom you cannot understand why they spiral downwards to depths of self-destruction.  I know it is too naive of me to assume that all will have a miraculous moment of healing, but I think it is real to believe that God's will is working even in those situations we understand least.

And finally I leave you with a biblical quote from Ephesians 6:10-17 that lead me to this post in the first place (which has taken a path I was not quite expecting).  I have bolded the points that struck me the most and pray that it brings to you a sense of empowerment that it did for me.

God bless you all out there in your own walk knowing that whatever direction you are headed, I am glad you are not stagnant and that every foot in front of the other is leading you to where you are meant to be!  And be "equipped" in the ways you least expected... in faith, in TRUTH (with yourself and finally those around you), in peace, salvation and the gloriously powerful word of God (in all its mystery and complex ways it reaches you at the many different stages of your life).  And may humility bless you with open arms to receive growth from your willingness to find out where you may be wrong... and to do something about it.  Much love to you all out there!!

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Coconut milk smoothie

There are so many good reasons to incorporate coconut milk and/or coconut oil into your life, and among those reasons are that it is: anti-carcinogenic, anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral.

The saturated fat in coconut is made up of short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids that the body quickly turns into energy instead of storing as fat. Therefore, although high in saturated fat, coconut can aid in weight loss due to its ease of being metabolized by the body.

Half of the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut milk are composed of lauric acid, (which contributes to its anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties). Lauric acid is also found in mother's milk and has been shown to promote brain development and bone health.

Because Ethan has such limited non-allergen foods available to him that provide him with healthy fats (and even calcium), coconut milk has been a real health contributor for him. Needless to say, we try to find recipes and various ways of incorporating it into our diets.

I finally came up with a smoothie recipe that is a no-fail with my kids.

Coconut Milk Smoothie

1 can of coconut milk, chilled
3 ripe bananas, cut into chunks & frozen
1/4 - 1/2 cup frozen berry blend (blueberries, raspberries, elderberries, etc...)

Put coconut milk in blender and slowly add each chunk of frozen banana. When smooth, add the frozen berries and blend until thick and smooth. Enjoy!

Some could add a little nutmeg or a splash of maple syrup or honey but we find it plenty sweet and sooooo refreshing. I have not tried making these into popsicles yet but I am sure that would turn out pretty tasty (and fun), too!

Hope you can reap the health benefits of adding coconut milk into your own lives. Will post more recipes to share as time permits.

Truth shall set you free... or make your mama cry!

Ah from the mouths of babes...

If ever you are looking for an ego boost, do NOT turn to your small children! However, if you need a good laugh at yourself, they are the best ones to turn to.

Let me start by saying that I do NOT make for a graceful pregnant woman. I gain weight like it's nobody's business, retain enough water to wonder if local villages dealing with drought need to look at me as a culprit, and swell up like a blow fish to-boot! By the end of the day, my fingers and toes look like sausages and where my ankles should be are puffy stumps that resemble the softness and plumpness of marshmallows instead. I get to watch any definition between my chin and neck disappear by the third trimester so that I begin to look like a sock puppet and eventually gain a second chin. This would fine if it could be of service in some way but instead, I look as though I could grow some wings and deliver babies of my own from my pelican pouch!

Have a painted a pretty picture for you yet?

So nowhere in this process do I expect anyone to say "Oh you look great!" because quite frankly, I do not. But despite the process of building a new little life wreaking havoc on any sense of "sexiness", it is a privilege I embrace with my puffy arms!

My small children are great for telling things as they are. This means that when I am sitting next to Anika at the supper table, she will reach out to touch my upper arm, squeeze it like a rubber duckie and say "Oh, you are squishy."

Ah yes... many thanks, dear child.

Or, if it is a hot day and I am wearing my shorts and try to walk too quickly, Anika feels the need to point out that my bum is "dancing". And then proceeds to show me with her hands the motion with which my bum "dances".


Even Ethan will ask for cuddles on the "wocking chair" and then say to me if he tries to sit beside me "mommy's too big!"

Sheesh, you guys! It's one thing for ME to admit that I am not sporting a lovely size five waist but it is another to have others tell me I should order from Mu-Mu's-R-Us. (For the record, Mu-Mus are incredibly practical AND comfortable... yes, laugh at me if you must).

Alas, I greet you this Sabbath with a humble heart, a big bum, and sausage fingers that are trying not to type too many keys simultaneously. I hope this finds you making light of life's little ways (or many ways) of keeping you humble. I pray for God's blessings upon you and the strength to face life challenges with a laugh as you say to the very trials and tribulations that attempt to get into your lives, "Not from the hairs on my chiny-chin-chins!"

Friday, 16 July 2010 supplements that changed our lives

I have searched high and low for a good online source for natural supplements that are reputable, well-respected, organic (ideally), and hypoallergenic. This search has led me to various online sites depending on the product I was looking for.

Alas, I have come across a website that far exceeds any others I have found (including, puritan's pride, and and that website is

If you are looking for the best coconut oil (Garden of Life - Living Foods), they carry both the 16 & 32 oz glass bottles for prices half those you find in any health food store!

If you are looking for the best vitamin D drops for your babies (Carlson's Baby-D drops) that have no additives... just plain sunshine goodness, they also carry the best price.

If you have stumbled upon this blog because your own children suffer from severe food allergies and/or sensitivities, then also provides Metagenics Ultracare for Kids, a hypoallergenic medical food supplement that saved Ethan's life as far as we are concerned! One of the few supplements that provide dairy-free calcium. It always comes with a parent's guide to a thorough elimination diet (including menu plans, recipes, etc...) to completely isolate your child's food sensitivities. We would be lost without this product for Ethan.

They will often have a promotion (such as right now) where you get 5% off your orders over $60. Shipping is free for US residents and minimal if using their DHL international shipping (I just ordered over a hundred dollars in products and am paying only $12 to have it delivered to my door).

And because I have an account with them, they have allocated a code for me to share with friends and family which will get them an additional $5 off their first purchase. So if you are finding your family budget being stretched from pricey supplements from your local health food store, I strongly recommend

And don't forget to throw in code ITA277 to get your $5 off.

So here's hoping I have helped your household budget in some way and encouraged you to look into supplements and/or healthy foods to promote your health and wellness. Much love to you all out there and should you order from these guys, I hope your experience(s) are as positive as mine have been.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Taking in some wise advice

Not sure if you all had the chance to read my previous post "Worst Mom Awards Goes To..." but after getting some direct feedback from friends and family, I decided to take the majority's advice and remove the post.

I struggled with this greatly as part of me feels guilty for not revealing ALL that is a part of my life as a mother, which includes those really down moments. But those who care about and love me were concerned that the post could too easily be misinterpreted and possibly used against me later down the road.

My naivete would like to think "of course it won't!" Afterall, Truth is supposed to set you free... even if misunderstood, right?

But alas, I have chosen to heed the loving advice I received and have removed my previous post.

Suffice it to say that if any of you parents out there experience a mental place of anguish over the shortcomings you feel as a parent, know that you are NOT alone. And that in those dark times (as often or as little as you experience them) I reach out my hand to find yours in that scary place in hopes of finding the light together!

I would also like to point out my friend Debra's advice that she had left as a comment which affirmed that "place" we visit as parents; however, she found the book "How to love your children on purpose" most helpful. Thank you, Debra, for sharing your thoughts and advice.

Much love to all of you out there who embrace your role as a parent, as challenging as it can be at times! May the winters you endure as a tree of life bring forth a harvest of blessed children and a peaceful mind!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Baby Vaags update

Today is one day before Duane's and my anniversary; however, I am leaving to visit my sister and family out of province tomorrow (and Duane works a night shift) so we decided to go out for lunch just prior to my fetal assessment earlier today.

It was a nice time but in the back of both our minds was the wondering what the fetal assessment would show regarding Baby Vaags' kidney cysts... are they getting worse? Is the kidney deteriorating? Etc...

I thank the good Lord that a pregnant woman is no longer required to have a full bladder for fetal assessments. I mean, seriously, is there a crueler punishment for a woman whose current state (border line loss-of-bladder control) is amplified by some technician squirting hot liquid onto her abdomen and then pushing down all around her ready-to-burst bladder?!!! Sheesh! Thankfully, fetal assessments are far nicer than ultrasound... they even have a bathroom right next to the reception desk!

There I am lying on the oh-so-comfy medical bed (designed for size 2 women) with my tummy flying high in the sky. In comes the technician who does the familiar squirt of jelly onto my tummy (at least this one did not feel the need to comment on my "extra weight!") and there before our eyes is our beautiful Baby Vaags sleeping soundly in my womb.

Our technician is quiet this time as she takes her measurements and our eyes are busy as we try to make out the various shapes being recorded. And then you see the feet kicking... and the heart beating... and the little tummy full of amniotic fluid... and finally, the beautiful little profile with a hand resting over the eyes (just as Duane does when he is trying to nap after a busy night shift). To top it off, the little mouth begins to make a sucking motion. It is all so precious and it just doesn't matter how many times I see my unborn children, I always swell up with pride yet am humbled by the privilege of carrying new life within me.

But we are here for more than just gazing upon our darling unborn child...

Finally, the doctor comes in and takes his own measurements and he asks us to come into his office. That does NOT sound good...

He begins by drawing a diagram of two normal kidneys side by side. They clean the blood and create urine as a means of excreting toxins and waste. The kidneys have a little pocket where the urine collects and connects to a tube that brings it down to the bladder. In Baby Vaags' case, seven weeks ago, they assumed the condition was Multicystic Dysplastic Kidney... basically the little pocket that collects urine lacks a connection to the tubing and therefore creates cysts of urine within the kidney. What they expected to see today were either more and/or larger cysts, and an enlarged & misshapen kidney. What they found instead seemed promising...

Baby Vaags' left kidney is only slightly larger than the right. It is lighter which means it is denser due to some scarring, and the cysts have not increased in number nor in size which leaves them with two conclusions:

1. The left kidney has shut down all together, which is okay because this means the kidney will not continue cleaning blood and trying to rid itself of the leftover garbage only to have it get plugged up with cysts instead, or

2. The left kidney HAS function and the only issue we are facing are plugged ducts.

Basically, my dear ladies and gentlemen, your prayers have found their way to our precious child and the result is a kidney that is either functioning better than we anticipated or has at least stopped getting worse. Either way, we are delighted with these results and could not have asked for a more precious anniversary gift!

So thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of our hearts... from the fullness of my pregnant bladder, even! Thank you for your time and your good intentions, your loving prayers and healing encouragement. They are working and we are forever grateful to you all.

We go back again on August 18th at which point we will eagerly update you all on the progress Baby Vaags has made yet again. The doctor explained that when Baby is born, they will want to insert dye in the blood and watch over live x-ray to see exactly what function is present in the left kidney. It may be as soon as two weeks after Little One is born but if all is going well, we can postpone it a few months.

Let us pray and hope that Baby Vaags will continue to flourish in your prayers. God bless you all out there!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Strangely quiet

Well, I am typing while the house is creepishly quiet...

The fact that I could type that sentence without a single interruption is strange. I don't hear Anika's voice (that is CONSTANTLY rattling off about something). I don't hear Ethan grunting or yelling about an obstacle he is in the process of conquering. Isabel's movie is not needing to be restarted and Melina is not listening to music too loud...

The reason being is that John & Amy have come by this morning to take my two little darlings for the WHOLE DAY. Yes, the whole day. Now the kids have had mornings and/or afternoons away from me, but they have typically been at home with dad or Melina or John while I was running errands. But this is like camp-day... away from home. Now I am in this big old house by myself without the incessant noises that I sometimes CRY to have relief from.

And here it is... and it sucks.

Well, okay maybe it doesn't suck completely. But it doesn't feel quite right either. What will I do with myself when I start tasks without them getting interrupted every two to five minutes? My brain can actually focus on ONE thing and possibly complete it in a timely fashion?? I can do laundry without setting the "lock controls" buttons to keep Ethan from sanitizing my delicates?? This is a foreign concept to me...

What surprises me most is the panic that wants to take over regarding Ethan's allergies, the different environments he'll be in that I won't be able to scope out like a body guard, or the hugs they'll need if they fall and get a "bonk" or simply feel grumpy and want "cuddles on da walking chair" (as Ethan calls it).

Now don't get me wrong. I trust John and Amy with the two little ones more than I trust anyone else outside our immediate family. They have both resided within our home and have seen how the kitchen is organized for allergen-free utensils and handling rules, what gets cleaned vs sanitized, where allergens are kept, which cups are strictly for Ethan, how he scratches at his nose and mouth when he has ingested contaminated food, etc... They are familiar with the constant mental alertness needed when you pick up a knife on the counter to cut a piece of apple for Ethan and remember if it has touched anything potentially dangerous. Right down to whether or not you washed your hands before picking up that apple, too. They are familiar with that constant alertness and that is why I trust them.

But it is still so scary sometimes to let go and not be the Sargent in charge of all that comes near your highly allergic child! Even I make mistakes at times and my mind is never idle from the constant safety inquisition that follows my every move and every decision! How does one get away from that?

Duane and I were remembering our honeymoon at Blue Lake, Ontario and how wonderful it was to spend a few days camping. Just the wonderful time together was something that brought some renewed peace to my heart. It has been so long since we have had more than a few hours together. As we chatted with our heads on our pillows before falling asleep the other night, he said to me "I wish more than anything that I could surprise you with a two-night getaway at Blue Lake again. But I am too afraid of leaving the kids, particularly Ethan. I am constantly worried about using the wrong utensil, or pot, or not having grabbed the right container of food... how am I supposed to feel safe trusting anyone else with that?"

So perhaps John and Amy have blessed us with more than just a day of peace and quiet. Perhaps they are training our hearts and our minds to let go just a little bit so we can find peace in the possibility of a getaway some day. It may not happen for many years, but at least the thought process can shift from "never" to "maybe someday."

And that is a huge gift.

So thank you, John and Amy, for the ways you have blessed our lives. For actually wanting to be around when there are mountains of laundry to fold, kids whining and spilling apple juice on the floor, more poop to deal with than should be humanly possible and the mental exhaustion of staying on top of allergies, discipline, and other things. You have been such a gift to our family and we love you very much.

So my closing prayer for all of you out there is this: that you also be blessed with that certain someone or several someones who just seem to hone in on those S.O.S signals you did not even realize you were sending out... that in the moments of feeling alone in your struggles, you are given the light of hope from faith (whether your own or through someone else's)... and that you are able to let go of the fears that keep you from "living"... even if you think those fears are justifiable! God bless you all out there!

Alright laundry, here I come!

Friday, 2 July 2010

God's coming over!

Friday is busy with the hubbub of preparing for our "Sabbath" - cleaning the house, getting meals prepared for the next twenty-four hours, dealing with business, etc... Needless to say, the day is literally "a buzz" as we prepare to "meet with God" on His appointed day of gloriously anticipated rest!

Today is no exception (in fact, I am walking away from a sink full of dishes and kids yelling for my attention so I can quickly jot down what happened not even two minutes ago!).

Because the house is not always the most tidy house in the neighbourhood, anytime I am doing a thorough job of cleaning, Anika has learned to ask me "Mommy, who's coming over?" Sad, yes I know, that a clean state of house is recognized by my children as someone's coming over or preparing for Sabbath.

Today, as we are busy cleaning, Anika walked up to me once again and asked "Who's coming over?" In my cleverness (or what I thought was clever), I answered "God!"

"God is coming over???"

"Yep! He's going to be with us for all of Sabbath!"

"God's coming to our house??"


And she went back to playing rather fascinated by our anticipated guest. I was quickly distracted with my tasks once more and did a quick remaining "inventory of tasks" in my head nearly missing the van driving into our driveway.

One of Duane's customers was coming by to pick up some Bio-Ag products and I was nervous about helping him as I don't know where Duane keeps his inventory of products nor their prices nor how to invoice the customers. I much prefer that he handle that task and I just gladly feed any of them who came a long ways out.

Duane is busily cutting hay several miles away from home and he is not answering his cell to help me locate this customer's order... gulp!

I welcomed the man into our home and chatted with him and was quite relieved that he remembered where the products were from the last order. PHEW! Anika watched him a few feet away and I was surprised that she didn't bombard him with questions or to point out the pretty dress she had on!

After this man left, she looked at me with awe and said "Was that God?"

And in my very fit of laughter, I had to come and share with you how wonderful a child's perspective is on the world and how "clever" remarks can come back and bite you with a good dose of humour!