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Sunday, 29 December 2013

Say "Cheese!"

Since before Ethan could even walk, he was so in-tune with his allergies that if he picked up an allergen (like a fallen Cheereo on the ground), his hand would grasp it in curiosity but immediately drop it and back away.  Somehow he knew what was harmful to him.

With time, we would test those instincts by asking him to hold a potential allergen in his hand and say "Body, am I allergic to this?" and he would answer either yes or no.  He has been bang on 100% of the time!  We've done our best to encourage him to hone in on that skill set, a wise intuition.

Today, I was grating a massive brick of cheese as he played with his Lego at the breakfast counter.  Sivana's intuition about cheese being out in the open had her in the kitchen in no time opening her mouth like a little bird asking for "Cheese, please!"  Ethan looked up from his Lego then back down again and said "I sure wish I wasn't allergic to cheese."

Dairy has been one of his top allergens.  He was so off the charts with his eEg tests as a baby that they suggested we not even have dairy in the house.  We were warned that even skin contact could be life-threatening.  That's why we sold the dairy cow, got rid of chickens due to his severe egg allergy and other potential life-threatening allergen-contributors on our farm.

I've also been ultra protective, constant hand-washing when handling dairy, separate cutting boards, separate pots, dishwasher with sanitizing cycle, etc… but something today put my guard down.

"Ethan, you want to HOLD a piece of cheese?"

"Ok."

Without even feeling too nervous, I placed the piece of cheese in his hand and he asked "Body, can I have this?"  His eyes lit up and he said "MOM!  My body says YES!!"

Before I could stop him, he placed the piece of cheese in his mouth!!!

"ETHAN!!!  WAIT!!!"

He spit the piece out and I regained my composure and said "How about we rub a bit on the top of your hand and watch to see how your skin responds?"

A few years back, Duane left hand marks through Ethan's shirt because Duane had eaten buttered bread and picked Ethan up before washing his hands!  Through the little guy's shirt, raised red skin in the print of Duane's big hands revealed just how allergic he was.

Even with this recollection fresh in mind… still, I had peace.

We set the timer for ten minutes and said we'd look at his skin then.  I asked him "Ethan, do you know that  it's thanks to your allergies that Mommy and Daddy started staying home and keeping the Sabbath?  Do you know it's because of your allergies that we started studying God's word so deeply to better understand His will and His ways?  I know it hasn't been easy for you, but I thank you for the way you changed our lives being made exactly as you are.  If God gave you allergies for a good reason, do you think He could take them away if He wanted to?"

His eyes lit up at the realization and he exclaimed "YES!!"

"Ethan, I don't know if it's God's will that your allergies go away or not, but I DO know whatever He chooses, it is good.  Do you agree?"

"Yes, Mom."

Ten minutes passed and there is ZERO indication that cheese was rubbed into my son's skin.  It's now been thirty minutes and there is ZERO indication that a severe life-threatening allergen made contact with my son's skin and zero indication thus far that sticking cheese in his mouth affected him.

I don't know what this means without official testing in the allergy specialist's office but I do know that something HAS changed.  And whatever it is, it is good.

Praise be to God for His perfect will and for His patience with us when we fight Him in our lack of understanding and trust.  Oh how He endures us with such patience!! :)

Blessings to you all out there and praise be to God for His breath of life in you… for His perfect will where you are concerned and may He grant you peace in your surrender to that trust in Him.  God bless you all!

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

A Whole New Understanding of Funerals

I learned something very important yesterday…

I always thought funerals were only for the people who knew the deceased, and so I've often wondered why people, including my dad, read obituaries.  But yesterday something beautiful happened.  After my brother's funeral and interment, once gathered in the main hall, I saw the faces of my husband's family, a previous co-worker from nearly ten years ago, friends from our "church" community, etc…. people who never knew my brother, Danny, but came to KNOW him, honour him, and support my family.  The gesture brought forth fresh tears of deep gratitude for the hearts of these beautiful people who already understood that funerals are not for the dead, but rather they are for the LIVING.

I wanted to share this humbling lesson with you all in case any of you out there thought the same thing as me.  Don't ever ask yourself "Did I know this person well enough to be worthy of attending the funeral?".  Because what I learned yesterday filled an aching in my heart which was to have Danny KNOWN by everyone.  Something inside wants him to LIVE on not just in my family's heart but in others', too.  The fact that the world does not pause for a moment to join in mourning but rather keeps right on going… meals to be made, bedtime routines to undergo, laundry to fold… etc… catches me off guard and stirs up sorrow.  As insensitive as it may seem, perhaps God is more brilliant in His design than we give Him credit for.  If the world paused, what would ever, ever encourage us to hit that "play" button ever again?  He humbly reminds us that there IS a bigger picture.. and He promised that it is a gracious picture... that even this, a moment which understanding cannot grasp yet, is for His name's sake.  He is setting His table.  His guests are preparing to arrive, one by one.  And before we know it, that trumpet will sound and those who have been made ready, those whom He created for the purpose of pouring forth His mercy, will enter into the marriage feast of the Lamb and the rejoicing will never cease.

I believe He has prepared a place for my brother and his invitation has been received.  He is resting now and in a state of readiness for the glory of God.

But I miss knowing he is out there right now.  Even if we didn't always know where that was.  I miss knowing he simply was.

Another thing I got to learn these past few days is how very proud I am of my family and how deeply affirmed I am in the gift of blessing my children by being a "larger" family.  I am number five of six kids and my heart instantly goes out to any and all of you who have mourned a deep loss without the comfort of siblings.  I know that God alone is our Comforter, but I thank Him for having used the arms of my sisters and brothers to hold me these days and I pray He could use mine to hold them.

Sunday night, at the viewing, I saw a side to each of my siblings I will never, ever forget.  A gift I will always credit to my brother, Danny.  Danny was only 17 months older than my next brother (brother #2) and only three years older than my eldest sister.  Four years after that and it's sister #2, another four years after that and it's me… eight years after that and it's my little brother.  So I was twelve years younger than Danny and missed out on some of those crazy stories of his wild adventures on our 80 acres farm.  My big brother #2 has always been more shy, more private and Danny was the outgoing, fearless ring leader, if you will.  Needless to say, Danny and brother #2 and sister #1 were like peas in a pod, doing everything together under the sun (literally).  It has been their stories that have made my heart grow deeper in love for our brother.  He moved out when I was only 4 or 5 so my memories are only of our many family functions and the occasional phone call from him.  But my delight is seeing the best of my brother in his two sons.

My heart goes out to my brother #2 and sister #1 for the deepness of their loss.  To be honest with you, I have never seen brother #2 cry and I've never seen his heart so vulnerable like this before... and it has made me love him that much more, too.  Sunday, at the viewing, I watched my quiet, shy brother stand up before everyone and share some of his childhood memories.  Through the quiet tears that sneaked past despite his great self-control, my brother spoke with strength, simple words but with such comedic timing that he filled the place with laughter despite the solemn occasion… and this is EXACTLY what Danny would have wanted.  Danny lived to make people laugh and was such a gifted story-teller… so convincing, you would believe ANYTHING he told you… a direct DNA link to our Dad!!  I thank brother #2 for honouring Danny by speaking exactly as he did.  I have never been more proud of him.

Then there was sister #1 who stood up there and conveyed such depth of love with grace and eloquent poise…. representing not only her own memories but Danny's girlfriend's memories, too.  Her strength was evident through her bright smile despite eyes glistening.  I watched her love shine with such radiance and felt so proud of her.

Sister #2 went up, always the most petite of all us siblings, but don't let that ever fool you!  The delicate state of her sorrow did not waver her ability to share her fondest memories of our brother and how though she couldn't pin point what exactly she learned more of him in those moments, what she did know is that she loved him all the more with each of them.

And my Mom… so brave, so strong.  She went up there and shared some of her fondest memories including when Danny was just little and he ran into the kitchen where she was doing dishes and told her in French "Maman!  Fermes tes yeux!"  (Close your eyes!).  He led her out the door, down the driveway up to the main road, my mother ever-trusting in her little boy's lead.  Finally he turned her around and said "Ouvres tes yeux!"  (Open your eyes!).  My Mom says the sky was filled from north to south with the most radiant sunset… truly breathtaking.  And there, my brother spread his arms wide in triumphant glory and declared "c'est tout pour toi, Maman!" (it's all for you, Mom).

When it came time for Danny's Song to be played, the recording was NOT working!  My sisters and I pre-recorded it because we knew we wouldn't be able to sing it without bawling.  My heart sank when the barely audible song came through with skips and scratches… when I saw my two sisters walk up to the front with a resolve in their eyes, they didn't need to say a thing.  I got up there, grabbed the guitar, and found strength in uniting with them in that resolve that our brother deserved better than that failed recording!  We three sisters have often sung together and according to Danny's girlfriend, she said he often boasted about how beautifully his sisters sang… a big brother's pride we wanted to live up to.  Well, by the grace of God, my sisters and I rode that wave of strength and sang from the bottom of our hurting hearts until that very last note… Then the wave broke, the hurt all-consuming, and the unspoken words of "there you go, big brother, that was for you" resonating in our hearts with the remnant harmonics still in the air from the guitar in my hands.

My left fingers are gloriously callused from playing his song many times over again like a comforting lullaby.  I watch his childhood footage and get choked up each time I see my brother sitting on that motored canoe looking back at my father… with such pride, with such trust… a son in his element with his dad.

Danny holding me
I know the ebb and flow between the peace and sorrow will subside with time.  Peace that his suffering is finally over but sorrow that there will never again be those Danny-moments, no more pictures, no more rolling our eyes at bad jokes, etc… I know this storm will pass, the waves will be stilled and peace will settle on the waters and reflect the sunrise like a mirror lake on a moose hunt.  In the meantime, I cry out to Yaweh as my only comforter and thank Him for my family and the beautiful people He puts in my life.  I am richly blessed.

May God comfort you in the losses you face in your life.  May you feel united with those who know with you the pain of watching life go on no matter what and may the hurt you've experience be filled with the hope in God's promises to His children.  Our Shepherd who tends to His flock.

I love you all out there.  God bless you!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Danny's Song

For those of you who would like to join us in spirit for Danny's funeral this morning, this YouTube link will take you to the song I wrote and sang with my sisters.  Lyrics are at bottom of YouTube page.  God bless you.




Danny's Song

You came into this world before it was time,
A newborn cry to soothe,
A young mother's heart
who feared for the tiny life from her womb.

You came into this world 
before you should have been allowed,
A son to look up to his father and say,
"someday I pray that I'll make you proud."

CHORUS:
When you looked in the mirror, did you ever see
The man we all saw deep inside?
The breath of Creator who willed you to life
Who knows your heart deep inside.
When you had, you gave.
When you could, you prayed.
The underdog, you defended.
The forgotten, you befriended.

You left this world before it was time,
Now a mother's heart weeps, 
In sorrow and reluctant peace combined.

You left this world 
before you should have been allowed.
A son to look up to the Father and say
"I pray somehow that I've made you proud."

CHORUS

We'll see you again 
When that trumpet sounds
And resurrected life abounds.
And across the masses 
of souls come and gone
We'll look at you, and smile...

Sunday, 22 December 2013

My Big Brother, Danny

It is with a sorrowful heart that I share with you that my eldest brother, Danny, passed away in the wee hours of December 18th.  He'd lived a difficult life, particularly these last thirty years and it's hard to believe he is gone.  I struggle between the logic of knowing he is finally at peace now and the real hurt of knowing there is never going to be an opportunity to see him again… at least on this side of life.

We five siblings and my parents (among many other loved ones) have prayed diligently for him these many years and have wondered how our merciful God would answer them.  Would it be in an obvious way?  Would it be in a way we don't understand?  Will we have the eyes to see His workings?

My prayers for him changed a couple of months ago.  As I have been studying scripture, I wanted to share the incredible findings with my brother.  My mother, two sisters and younger brother had recently shared our first Sabbath gathering as a family and have delighted at the journey of eager learning together as a family.  I wanted so much for Danny to be a part of this journey with us, too.

So my prayers shifted and I asked God "Father, you know my heart and you know my brother's heart.  If you have guided us thus far in learning your ways, your statutes, your life-giving laws so as to guide us into willing obedience into a bondage of righteousness rather than a legalistic bondage of sin, then send your spirit to prepare the heart of my brother, Dan.  I will not chase him down but instead I ask that you stir something deep within his heart that causes him to contact me.  I ask this in our Messiah's holy name, Amen."

December 2000
My brother has called me maybe only five or seven times in my life so I knew that this would be a divine sign to say the least.  Would you believe not a couple of weeks after my prayer, I was about to leave for a two-night trip with Duane only to hear the phone ring.  When I answered, it was my brother Danny!!

In shock, I exclaimed with such joy "DANNY!!  Could you feel that I was praying for you??"

He didn't seem too interested in that question.  There was a remnant of inebriation in his tone and he was obviously troubled about something…

"I had to call Dad to get your number!  I've just had a terrible dream.  It was about Elizabeth."

"Elizabeth?  Who's Elizabeth?"

"ELIZABETH!  Your daughter!"

"Oh!  Danny, it's Isabel." (Even as I type this, I chuckle while holding back tears as this was just one of those Danny-things… he couldn't remember some of my kids' names).

"Yeah, Isabel.  I just dreamed about her…"  at this point he choked up and said "she walked right up to me.  Rita, she was WALKING, and she shook me awake.  She looked into my eyes and it was as if she could see right into my soul.  She could see right into me!  She looked at me and said 'Danny, you're dying.'"

There was a brief moment of silence as I could hear him still choked up and he asked "What do you think it means?  Is she ok?  Will she and I die soon?"

Because of the prayers I'd been praying and the miracle of his phone call, I felt nothing but HOPE.  I, too, have been sensing that Isabel will be free of her disabilities soon but my prayer was that it was to be through a moment of great faith… a miraculous healing for the glory of God.  This has been my prayer.  If I could see my Isabel free from her suffering due to a miracle, couldn't this little "message" mean a miracle was coming for my brother, too?  So I answered him:

"Danny, you ARE dying!  But not for long!  I prayed that God stir something within you that would cause you to call… and you DID!  You were obedient to the Father stirring within you.  That tells me deep inside of you, you are ready to let your old self die.  I think your suffering is about to end and you will be free of it!  Don't worry, Danny, your suffering will not have been for nothing… I think it is meant to be for the glory of God!"

He chortled sadly at that one in sad disbelief and I said with great excitement and hope "Danny, we won't talk about it more right now, I know you think I'm talking crazy talk, but you'll see… I know you'll call me again and we'll talk about God in a way you didn't know!  You're about to know God in HIS way!  I believe in you, Danny, and I love you very much.  And I'm very excited for you!"

A bit of a sad pause on his end, then barely over a whisper, he answered, "I love you, too.  Give Elizabeth a big hug for me."

And those were our last words.  I so believed his surrounding peace meant he was about to become a new creation.  But I suppose in some way, he has.  But I thought it meant in this lifetime, not through death.  I know God answered my prayer, just not as I expected.  Had He not caused that stirring, I would not be able to tell you right now what my last words were to my brother.  I would not be able to tell you when I last told him I loved him.  I got off that phone with tears of joy flowing down my face.  I looked at my husband and said "God is working something in Danny!"

I feel so dumb having believed with full confidence that I was going to hear from him again.  My siblings shared with me that he called each of them including my parents and had a good talk with each of them, except my dear sister Linda.  He had asked for her number but never got his chance to talk to her.  Needless to say, this has broken her heart.  As a family, we have united to share in our sorrow, our reluctant peace…. it has felt like waves ebbing and flowing between peace and deep sorrow.

The finality of it hits like a punch to the stomach and looking through pictures brings forth sobs as we try to accept that there will never be another picture taken.

His obituary has printed in the Press today and the realness is hitting hard.  This isn't just another set of time where no one knows where he is but he pops up again… he is gone and he's not coming back.  I wrote a song and if I can find a way to upload it, I will share it.  If not, I may simply post the lyrics.

Please keep my parents in your prayers as they bury their firstborn son tuesday morning.  And my two nephews, only young men.  Sunday night is the viewing and I'm scared to see the finality of my brother's empty shell.  I pray for continued healing through whatever process each person is best suited to.  I pray an unconditional support where each one is at and a collective uplifting with each step.  I pray for a peaceful surrender and trust in the will of a merciful God whose bigger picture exceeds any of our ability to understand.

Goodnight, my brother.  Enter into your sleep and I pray to recognize you at that trumpet sound.
We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  (Romans 5:3-5)

Sunday, 15 December 2013

ABC with Toddlers

Always fun learning alphabet songs in this house. Avalyn loves to sing and Sivana pipes in without her hearing aids and manages just fine! I have the best "job" in the world!

http://youtu.be/JerxQSUqK0c


Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Ethan-Friendly (Gluten-free & Dairy-free) Rice Krispies

With Ethan's plethora of allergens, I am always on the lookout for recipes I can modify with Ethan-friendly ingredients and experiment.  One day, my sister who was trying a gluten and dairy free diet, came by with some basic rice krispies Ethan could partake in.  Working off that recipe, I beefed it up a little and came up with the following… which has been a big hit with Ethan, and (much to his chagrin) everyone else! :)  This is one occasion where Ethan does NOT mind being the only one able to partake!  Here's hoping your family can enjoy it as much as ours.  I wish I knew how to make this a printable copy but for now, we'll have to do this the "old fashioned" way.

Ethan Friendly (Gluten-free & Dairy-free) Rice Krispies

3 TBSP Becel Vegan margarine
1 pkg Jet Puff large marshmallows (~40)
1 tsp vanilla
5 cups gluten-free Nature's Path Crispy Rice
1/2 cup coarsely crushed Nature's Path Corn Flakes (optional)
1/2 cup shredded coconut (unsweetened & sulphite-free)
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds

Chocolate Sauce:
2 TBSP Becel Vegan margarine
6 large Jet Puff marshmallows
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 cups Enjoy Life allergen-free chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:
1.  Grease a 9 X 13 pan with Vegan margarine.
2.  In large pot over medium heat, melt 3 TBSP margarine and pkg of marshmallows until completely dissolved and blended.  Remove from heat.
3.  Add vanilla and blend well.
4.  In a large bowl, combine the Crispy Rice, Corn Flakes, coconut and sunflower seeds.
5.  Add to large pot and blend quickly.
6.  Press into 9 X 13 greased pan (you may need to put some margarine on your fingers to keep it from sticking to you).
7.  Sauce: in small pot over medium heat, melt margarine and marshmallows until well blended.  Remove from heat.
8.  Add coconut milk and chocolate chips and stir until smooth.
9.  Spread over rice krispie base and refrigerate 1 hr before cutting and serving.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Lego of Ego and Share from the Heart

In the midst of teaching addition, subtraction, phonograms and vowels, I try to incorporate values in every day learning.  After all, the bible tells us that all creation declares His glory so let's train our eyes and ears (and hearts) to "see" what is declared.

For instance, math helps us to find even numbers so we know how to share with a friend, or divide fairly among groups.  Math helps us learn that if everyone measures based on their own hands or feet, we could never work together to build something that would stand… a universal measuring stick makes sure we all work together.  No differently than if we all gauge for ourselves what LOVE is or what's RIGHT and WRONG, we may find ourselves in a community that is collapsing.  But when we uphold God's universal measuring stick, His Torah, for what is right and wrong, we can work together and build community… for His glory.

We know that our provisions are bountiful in our home but we have not been diligent in sharing that abundance.  I thought maybe it was time to teach the kids how to manage provisions in a way that honours God's Torah, (which is the basic golden rule of "do to others what you would have them do to you.") and to be open about the fact that we will be right there learning with them.  Not-so-surprisingly, there are many commandments regarding tending to the widows, the orphans and the poor.  We are also to help our "enemies."  And when our tummies are full of food and life is good, God warns us that those will be the times we forget about Him.  So with our tummies full, every provision met and then some, Duane and I humbly embark on a journey of teaching our children some basic rules about finances… and to apply them in our own lives.

Thanks to moonjars, we have set up Ethan (5), Anika (6) and Sivana (3) with three little "jars" each labeled: Save, Spend, Share.  They receive a weekly allowance based on their age and we've discussed the three aspects of dividing those funds.  For their "spend" jar, we told them they are now responsible for buying their own toys and/or extras above their existing provisions.  For their "share" jar, we suggested looking at our Compassion Canada booklet to see what we can buy for our sponsor family in Brazil, but to also keep our eyes and ears open for local needs.  And the "save" would be a monthly trip to the bank to watch their savings grow for down the road.

Ethan was eager to look through Lego pamphlets and right away zeroed in on a Police Mobile Unit for $35.  "Well, Ethan, you get $5 per week and $0.50 goes into your share and $0.50 goes into your save which means you get $4.00 in your spend.  It's going to take you about nine weeks to save up enough.  Are you excited about working towards that?"  "Yeah!  That's a long time, but I can do it!"  "Alright, Bud."

Every Friday, Ethan would remind me that it's Payday.  He'd be ready with his little deposit book and he'd write the new totals for each category.  Every now and again, he would ask "Mom, can you pull up the picture of the Police Mobile Unit for me again?  I just want to look at it for a while."

Nearly twenty minutes of staring at the computer screen, dreaming of his Lego Police Mobile Unit…

November 22nd was THE payday which brought him to his FINAL amount needed.  He was counting down the days all week.  I was excited for him and proud for the long-term dedication.  We sat down with his little balance book and the four loonies and four quarters and he looked up at me pensively and said "Mom, today, I would like to put more in my 'share' box."  Needless to say, I was a little surprised by this!  "Wow, ok Ethan, but you realize this means you will not have enough for your Lego this week?"  "Yep, I know."  "Alright, how much would you like to put in your share?"

He thought about it and answered with a big smile "$2.00!"  And so he joyfully updated his deposit book, plunked the coins in their respective boxes and bounced away happy as can be.  I sat back and marvelled at the large slice of humble pie before me.

I thought of the poor widow in the books of Mark and Luke who gave only a few coins to help with the Temple repairs in Jerusalem… but it was all she had despite it being worth only a penny.  Jesus saw and taught His disciples that she had given more out of her poverty than the men who gave large sums out of their abundance.

My little man had been dreaming of that Lego set for nearly nine weeks and rather than give in to his own desires, he felt happier giving more to others' needs.  It is time Duane and I learn from this and seek to share our abundance with this same joy.

It is ever humbling to realize as a teacher and as a parent that sometimes we do more of the learning than our kids do!  And praise be to God for that.  Perhaps he knew those would be the moments are hearts would be willing to listen.

To all of you out there, I hope you are feeling as richly blessed in your provisions as we are.  May you join with us in being humbled by our abundance and may you be blessed with the eyes to see and the heart to give where it is needed most.  And may you be blessed by these words:
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.  (Numbers 6:24-26) 

Monday, 25 November 2013

Quick greeting to touch base!

Hello my dear ones!!

I must extend a great big thank you for your enduring patience with me at this time.  Some have graciously shared with me that many readers have lost interest in my family blog because it has become far too "spiritual" or "religious".  I didn't know whether to take that as a compliment or not…

My gratitude is for all of you who have been so gracious in your time of connecting with my family right where we are at in our journey of life.  Doesn't mean we have to agree on everything but we can certainly find ways to connect!  And you've done that with our family…. what a gift!

In all honesty, this past year in particular has been an intensely spiritual one for us and every free moment has been spent deep in scripture and studies.  I suppose this means that I will take as a compliment the feedback I received because this time of spiritual growth through scripture is a perfect reflection of where our family IS at.

Part of me wants to apologize and at the same time celebrate.  What I do promise is to be whole-heartedly me and offer you my humble self in full honesty right where I'm at, whether good or bad.  And the beauty of sharing oneself wholeheartedly IS a freedom because it gives selflessly… no strings attached... with the freedom of allowing you, the receiver to do as you see fit with that.

If I may humbly ask for your prayers at this time as I have drafted what may be a rather significant "message" of revelation through scripture.  It is in the process of being prayed over, refined and tested against scripture by my beloved husband, and awaiting a final comfort/peace in hitting "publish".  Its findings have changed our lives over here and of course, the first instinct when one stumbles upon something life changing is to say "Whoa!  I gotta tell everyone about this!"

In the meantime, God bless you all out there!  And for those of you lighting your first Hanukah candle this Thursday, keep an eye out for comet ISON!  If astronomers are right in their guess, it could be an incredible light show as though God Himself were lighting the first Hanukah candle reminding the world WHO the light of the world is! :)

May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who is the father of our Messiah, Jesus, be with you all.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Avalyn update

I just wanted to take a minute and share a bit about Avalyn's developments before another year comes and goes with little documentation on her growing!

She is now officially sixteen months old and signing has been a real help!  At ten months already, she was signing quite a few different signs with us but now she can follow instructions, give commands of her own, and tell us what's wrong.

Even as I type this, Melina is playing the guitar behind me and Avalyn's little voice is chiming in "Sing!  Sing!"  Music is definitely a HUGE part of who she seems to be.  It is not hugs and words that comfort her, but singing.  She sings her ABC's with a few of the letters slightly mumbled.  But she will alternate with me for the letters.  And she counts to ten clear as a bell, although "seven" sounds more like "seben".  Too cute!  Especially when I'll spot her playing and I'll say "ONE!" then she looks up with a big grin and says "TWO!" so on and so forth until we both throw up our hands in the air for "TEN!"

She squeals with delight when Duane comes in for brief moments and signs the word "outside" while pleading for him to get her "Sues on?  Sues on?  for her "shoes on".  But first she reminds Duane that she is to "sit down... sit down."  Duane gives me that pleading look and I remind him "hey, you've got some biggest fans in this house and the smaller their size, the bigger their love, it seems!"  A knowing smile tickles the corner of his mouth as he looks down at our little girl with pigtails holding out her shoes for him.  He bends over as she instructs him "Sit down.  Sit down."  Yes, dear Avalyn, one step at a time!

Once outside, another squeal of delight is heard as she is greeted by our big dog, Keeshka.  "Puppy!  Puppy!  Keeka!  Keeka!  Oh, Keeka!"  Not long after this, she will spot Duane's cell phone and the new command is "Phone?  Phone?  Phone?" growing higher in octave and urgency with each repetition of the word!

It is darling to see her explore the world and to see what is most significant to her through her eyes.  Animals are her delight, as is music and Daddy.  She still clings to me for dear life when ANYONE other than immediate family comes near.  She is so precious!  At mealtimes, she sings right in with us our prayer before eating, holding hands and enthusiastically singing AMEN when done.  During mealtime, she is asking for a "Fok - Fok" (yes, we have to be very careful with that one!) and we're quick to pass her the fork!  She'll spot the smiley face nearby and say "happy! happy! happy!" which causes Duane to laugh as it reminds him of Phil on Duck Dynasty who often says the same thing! :)

We hold hands after the meal and bow our heads as Duane prays our gratitude and a blessing upon the rest of our evening together.  Avalyn bows her head earnestly as we pray and as soon as she hears Duane's words "In Jesus' name..." she answers a split second before the rest of us "AMEN!"

Bedtime is such a breeze thanks to the Baby-Wise method we've enforced since birth, never a fight but a joyful time as we read her a "boook" as she calls it, then say goodnight to many things in her room, then finally lay her down with a gentle stroke, a smile on our face and a prayer of blessing on our lips.  A muslin blanket laid down first then her cat blanket from Grandma Vaags... she smiles, turns on her side, thumb in mouth and off to sleep she goes.

Now a month later from my initial "draft" for this post, she is talking more and more.  Outside now requires her "sweator" for her sweater and her "boots, boots".  She is clear as a bell for her "bottle o miwk".  And she LOVES anything to do with water!

Her attempt at speaking full sentences is so cute.  The other morning, I got her up and our conversation looked like this:

"Good morning, Avalyn!  What a nice sleep you did!  Want to go downstairs for bottle of milk?"

"Yep.  Daddy firehall?"

"Nope, daddy is home and downstairs in the shower."

"Daddy home?  Shawa downstayers?  OK!"

She's not a big breakfast eater but will adamantly ask for gwapes, appo, bewies (berries) and ceweol (cereal) or bwed (bread).  She is just so much fun!  And she knows it!!  Sometimes she'll be silly then look at us and say "funny!" while signing it and giving us a big grin.

We so delight in our privilege as parents and to watch these little keeners discover the world is so much fun.  So there's my little "diary entry" if you will, of some of Avalyn's milestones.

Monday, 19 August 2013

The Unofficial Ceremonial Dance of Kosher Entomology

There is a vile little critter whose purpose for existence, I do not understand.  Their biddy eyes and bendy legs... yuck, just describing them gives me the heebadee jeebadees!  I am even reluctant in squishing them because they leave an ooey mess on my shoe and the pop sound brings up a little of my lunch.  Oh how I hate (and yes, I use that word rarely but appropriately right now)... grasshoppers.

And we have millions of them right now.  Millions.  They deceivingly lie camouflaged in the grass, the dirt, the flowers and even the gravel but as you take a step, you're suddenly startled by a wave of moving scenery!  Like parting a sea of grasshoppers.  It's their sudden, unexpected movement that has me yelp out in surprise but it's the big ones with wings that jump and randomly aim straight for you that have me squealing despite my best efforts.

The kids, of course, think this is absolutely hilarious.  While Ethan is innocently leaning over to pet one, Anika runs towards me causing one to flutter right towards my head!  I yelp and step away only to watch a couple more jump and stick to my capris!  Oh yuck, yuck, yuck!  Anika, now six and a half, thinks this is beyond comical as I try to go for a nice little walk with the four little ones after lunch.  Sivana, almost three, exclaims "EWWWWW!" after squishing one with her sandals... remnants left between her toes.

I yelp at the feel of one landing on the back of my bare leg only to turn around and see Anika rolling on the ground laughing (with the grasshoppers) because she'd thrown a tiny pebble at my leg to mimic the feel of one landing on my skin... how sympathetic!


I live in the country.  I grew up in the country but big 'ol juicy, ugly grasshoppers have long been my summer nemesis!

So you can imagine my "excitement" one night when Duane was working a night shift and two strangers on bikes rode down our driveway while I was outside and asked if those were our sheep way out in the field by the diversion.  I perked up and said "yes!"

"Well, there's a black bear out where the sheep are!"

Gulp!  Black bear?  Technically speaking, these are Richard's sheep, a man in his 60's who rents our land, but he'd left for supper and wouldn't be back for a while.  No one else but me.  Great.  I walk around the yard looking for our quad.  Alright Lord, please be with me as I try to chase a black bear away, or better yet, please don't let it be a bear!!

I haven't been for a quad ride in a long, long time so there is a little bit of excitement to it.  Off I go at full speed out the farmyard and into the fields towards the hilled diversion 1/4 mile away.  I'm at a good clip when I suddenly notice a neck level wire at the last second and manoeuvre a not-so-fun version of a Limbo move that could rival those found in the Matrix... thankfully I managed without falling off the quad!  Mental note, watch for the electric wire that feeds the fencing!  Mental note, try not to decapitate yourself!

Recomposed and on a mission, I keep going along the stretch of wire to where the 400 sheep are grazing.  On the alert, I am watching for any black form... and I spot it!  Right in the sheep pen!  As I get closer, my heart pounding, it becomes evident that something is not quite right... it appears to be grazing peacefully among the sheep INSIDE the pen!  Before I reach the edge of the fence, it dawns on me that I'd humbly forgotten about our large black cow sent to pasture with these sheep along with her calf. Good grief!  But I suppose this is a good time to whisper my thanks to God that I didn't have to chase a black bear... or vice-versa!

Why these friendly neighbours didn't think to tell me the "black bear" was IN the pen AND grazing grass is beyond me.  Perhaps that would have puzzled me enough to triggere my memory about the cow out there with Richard's sheep.  Regardless, the sheep were safe as was the cow and calf, but I was not going to go back the way I came given my now sore back from playing limbo with the electric wire back by the yard!  So I decide to follow the fencing, avoiding having to drive through the crops to hopefully make my way up and down the other side of the diversion instead.

Well, it is a flippin' labyrinth of portable electric fencing and there seems to be no end in sight!!  I notice the fence is down in one spot and make a note to tell Richard where it is.  Finally, I find the edge and make my way up the diversion but once at the top, I realize the fencing goes all the way down to the water's edge!  And to my horror, there is a multitude of grasshoppers now trying to jump on the quad!  Yuck, yuck, yuck!!  I gotta get out of here fast!  I decide the crop will have to survive with one quad pass through it.

I turn around and begin my trajectory at a gentle pace through the crop only to be horrified at the swarm of grasshoppers jumping up TOWARDS me!  Heart pounding, I pull my sweater up over my mouth, squeeze my eyes shut, kick it into high gear and just book it through the field screaming at the top of my lungs while grasshoppers are bouncing off my face and head!!  Thank God we have 500 acres to ourselves or neighbours might have called 9-1-1!

Between the ricochet of grasshoppers against my face and those clinging to my hair, I peek cautiously, aware that clipping through a field at 40 km/h with my eyes closed is really not a good idea!  The high pitched ongoing scream leaves me grateful that my sweater is covering my gaping mouth... preventing accidental consumption of the onslaught of grasshoppers!!  Finally, I reach the edge of the field where the main drive between fields heads back towards the farmyard.  I stop the quad, jump off and start jumping up and down while spinning like an enthusiastic jig while swiping my hair free from the grasshoppers still clinging to it for dear life!  In the midst of my crazy-lady dance, I am suddenly aware of the sound of a tractor...

To my horror, there is Richard, having had to stop the tractor, waiting ever so patiently for me to finish my moment of temporary insanity before continuing his drive back towards the yard.  Had I been five seconds later, I would have driven right into him!  At this point, I am almost wishing I had!!  I look up at him in horror and did what any sane person would do... started laughing hysterically, (which by the way, does nothing to convince someone you're sane!).

I humbly mouth the words "I'M SO SORRY!"and hop back onto the quad well aware of the fact that any dignity I had left was somewhere out in that field being eaten by locusts!  Swallowing the inner screams as I notice the plethora of grasshoppers still holding on to the hood of the quad and all starring at me as though threatening to jump at me, I start heading back to the farmyard and am equally stunned to see Richard's son standing there, also witness to what has just taken place.

Are you kidding me?  Do I explain?  Do I pretend everything is normal?  Nope, I laugh hysterically yet again and the only words are able to come out of my mouth are: "Um, your fence is down over that way.  Just thought you should know."

Smooth.  Real smooth.

So apparently Richard hadn't left to go home for supper afterall.  And apparently his son decided to come out and help.  Even trying to explain that I thought the cow was a bear was not going to help in this moment.  Best just chalk this up as a humbling moment and hope he can still look me in the eye the next time he bumps into me outside.

This is assuming, of course, he was not witnessed my "special" dance before entering the house.  What?!  With the multitude of flies swarming around the house door, and small legion that get in each time we open the door, you'd do a little dance of waving your arms around enthusiastically, too!  Right?  Gulp... right?  This isn't working for me either, now is it?

Sigh.

So here's hoping your day is a little less humbling than mine was in that moment and, I pray that should you be chasing a black bear disguised as a gentle cow grazing among sheep while letting grasshoppers play trampoline on your face and Tarzan with your hair, that you handle it with more dignity than I did.  And the next time you see your neighbour doing what appears to be some voodoo dance, remember this story and remember... they may simply be trying to overcome their fear of creepy critters.

Blessings to you all out there!

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Hearts a Little Bit Broken

Hello dear ones!  Long time no write.

Ever heard that "life is like a roll of toilet paper" saying?  The further into it you get, the faster it seems to run out?  (Something like that, I always get these sayings wrong!).  Well, my dear ones, that's life over in the Vaags household.  And indeed, there is LOTS of toilet paper involved!

I wanted to take a quick moment to share with you a little thing that happened with our four year old son, Ethan.  Last week, he was having a hard time sharing his toys with big sister, Anika, and younger sister, Sivana.  Duane had to go downstairs and remind him on a couple of occasions to let the girls play with the toys down there, too.  They were NOT just his.  Well, finally it was the fifth outbreak and fit so Duane went and brought Ethan up to the time-out chair and said, "You're going to sit here for five minutes and think about what life would be like without a single one of those toys!  Because if we can't learn to share what we have, we'll simply get rid of it!"

Through mild sobs, Ethan nodded "Okay."

But Duane continued, "You are my son and I want to teach you what is a good choice and what is a bad choice... I want you to grow up to be a good man, so I will help you to learn when you are making bad choices.  Because I love you."

I could still hear Ethan sniffling.

"Ethan, do you understand?"

Sniff, sniff... "Yeah.  But my heart is still a bit broken."

There was a pause as Duane pondered how to address that one while I sat in the kitchen being witness to this exchange.  I figured Ethan was struggling with a "little broken heart" because he had been scolded but I was surprised at what ensued.

"Well, Ethan, how can we make your heart all better?"

Ethan sniffed a couple more times and I heard him answer "Once I go back downstairs and apologize to Anika and Sivana, it will be all better."

My dear ones, this was one of those GAFAW moments for me.  I have always known that bitterness, resentment, egocentricity caused more harm to ourselves than to others but this was a self-awareness moment that confirmed it for me.  Ethan knew something wasn't right in his heart because he had not made himself accountable for his mistake, yet.  Rather than be stubborn or hold his ground, he humbled himself by accepting where he had been in the wrong, and knew it required ACTION on his part to make it right.

The learning never stops around here and quite frankly, I have to admit I feel we do most of the learning as adults than the kids do!  Their eyes see truth, their hearts seek it without question... always a good reminder of WHY our Saviour told us we had to have the hearts of children to enter into the kingdom of Heaven.

May you embrace the child still within your heart and remember what it is like to want truth no matter what... no matter our stubborn stances or desire to be justified... to simply want what is right.  And may you be fearless in your accountability or better yet... freed.

I love you all very much, not because I presume to KNOW you and your life story, but because you are a child of God, just like me.  My brothers, my sisters who struggle to know what is righteous just like I do... which more often than not seems to mean learning through mistakes.  I love you because you are not alone.  I love you because we all have our hearts a little bit broken.  Whoever you all are out there, I ask God to bless you and to comfort you.

Always and with much love, your sister... Rita.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Sonic Bloom

There are pink blossoms dancing on the branches of our ornamental crab apple tree by my office window.  Some have eagerly blossomed the last few days we've finally had sunshine and warm days while others hold firmly within their buds as though not fully trusting it is Spring yet.  After a long, drawn out winter, I can't really blame them!  But the sight makes me wonder what God sees when He looks upon us, His creation...

Does He see those in bloom, fearless of a potential frost, trusting that giving it their all will bear fruit as God sees fit?  Does He see those who remember all too well the sting of previous attempts to bloom too soon and their resulting reluctance and hesitation to trust fully?  And even in such varying states, does it look as beautiful to Him as this tree looks right now?  Afterall, God knows in the end, we're all in the process of blooming.  And that IS beautiful!

I felt like the hesitant bloom the other day when we made our way to the audiologists office to re-test Sivana's hearing.  I had emailed them saying we believed there was a significant difference and wanted to check again... I was even bold in sharing we believed this could be answered prayer.

The hesitant bloom... do I share my faith fearless of being laughed at by a stranger?

Sivana did brilliantly, playing the usual games of listening for the "birdie" sound before placing a toy in its place.  With fearlessness, she would hold out the little sea shell with one of the alphabet letters and let the audiologist know which letter it was until she acknowledged what Sivana said and then she would hold it like a baby until the sound came through on the hearing test devices and she could go ahead and place the shell in the bucket.

Silent prayers weaved their way through my heart as testing progressed wishing I could peek at the scribbling notes the audiologist was busily writing down.  Finally, an hour later, the moment of truth... was my mother's instinct right?  Or will I feel like a complete idiot in front of this person?

"Well Mrs Vaags, the results here match exactly previous tests so it seems nothing has changed."

Complete idiot, it is!

"But how is that possible when she is obviously hearing things she never heard before?"

"She is more than likely simply adapting to her environment and HOW she hears within her parameters.  It could be that she is simply getting used to what she hears."

I felt somewhat deflated leaving there.  And to be honest, I was not looking forward to blogging about these results.  A part of me really does feel like an idiot... a premature bloom cut off by frost.  Part of me wonders if I should have waited for tests BEFORE blurting out to everyone that we feel God has been working a miracle with Sivana's hearing.  Yet it feels like there was purpose even in this moment.

I don't understand it.  I feel a little embarrassed.

But regardless of test results, the miracle to me is that Sivana IS adapting and doing far better with what she has to work with than she has before.  Even though her inner ears did not change, how she works with them HAS.  And that IS answered prayer in a different way... but answered prayer nonetheless.

So this hesitant bloom has decided not to let the frost of disappointment reach me and destroy what I seek to have bear fruit for the Lord.  I will bear the sting and trust that God is refining and testing my faith, which is also answered prayer.  I will seek His hand in this and trust that all is as it should be.  And I WILL continue to be bold in where I feel Him working in our lives.

If I am wrong, then I am wrong.  But if I am right... need anything more be said?

So to all of you out there, thank you for the generosity of your prayers where Sivana is concerned.  She is doing much better despite her hearing impairment.  We meet with two different therapeutic programs for the hearing impaired this next month and look forward to better understanding what more we can do for Sivana to conquer this world fearlessly in who she is!  But God has already blessed her with a perseverant spirit.... one that believes whole heartedly that there isn't anything she cannot do.  And through Christ Jesus, she is absolutely right!

To all of you precious blooms out there, the hesitant and the brave, take heart in knowing that no fruit has ever been borne without first the faithful and trusting process of opening fully into bloom.  And that no fruit is sweeter to God than that of one borne to Him in faith.  I love you all out there!  God bless you!

Saturday, 27 April 2013

The Sound of a Miracle

The creak in the floor (the many of them!)... the distant sound of the faucet not fully turned off after a child's rushed attempt at washing his hands before getting back to play time... the gentle whisper of a goodnight prayer tucking babies into bed...

Sound carries so much more than a synapses of information to the brain.

How much of what we hear do we take for granted every moment.  Even as I type this, I make a point of listening to the many levels of noise right down to the plunking of my keyboard... the temporary pauses as I think of the right word(s)... and the tiny moments of "checking in" with the sounds to make sure all of them are "normal" (as is "normal" in this house!).  What if you were to pause right now and think of all the sounds around you?  Has your furnace just kicked in?  Is the fan still running in the bathroom?  Has someone just turned the page of a book in another room?

With Sivana's hearing loss, I try to ask myself HOW her world is different with an avenue of information coming at her being somewhat obstructed.  How much do I depend on my own hearing?  And what would I subconsciously depend on without it?  What affirmations depend on it?  What can replace them?  Does she realize that we hear things that she doesn't?  Or does she assume everyone hears the way she does?

Our darling Sivana is only two and a half but God equipped her with a persistent and unafraid spirit.  There is nothing she cannot do, as she sees it!  If her six year old sister and four year old brother are doing it, this means she can do it, too!  No questions about it.  And if mom won't take the time to show her, she'll just do it herself, mistakes, bumps, bruises and all.

I catch myself struggling with HOW to honour this.  She will need this attitude in her life.  This will be a strength down the road.  But how do I embrace it now when it means prolonging tasks to five times their duration?  If lunch is already going to be late, now that she's grabbed her stool and has plunked it on my foot to make sure she's directly in front of what I'm trying to make, I need to call upon God to fill me with His patience and His eyes to see the gift in this moment and not the inconvenience of delaying lunch even further.  It is a process for all of us.

We had a CT scan back in December to get a better "picture" of Sivana's inner ear structure.  Is her hearing loss structurally based or nerve based?  The problem with inner ear hearing loss is that it is considered permanent.

Permanent.

God likes these kinds of words.  As a parent, I could do without them, but for God's glory, I say "bring it on!"  In moments like these, I say to God "Father, I don't know what your plan is here and I'm having a hard time understanding it... but my whole life, you have known better and your plans have been greater than my wildest dreams, so while I don't understand....I'll (gulp) trust you."

How can Sivana's hearing loss bring glory to God?  I don't know, but He does.  And that's all that matters.  For now, we'll equip her with faith, a foundation of love and trust and do our best to represent authority in a fruitful, life-giving way.  Her trust and submission to our authority should pave the way for the trust she can place in God's.  If we can prepare her, He will find the right time to work through her.  And I know He will.

But these last few weeks, I have observed something I've been afraid to even whisper.

When I go to get Sivana out of bed in the mornings when she is yelling for one of us, I go as quickly as I can before she wakes up Ethan and Anika who are still fast asleep in the room.  I have to put my face right in front of hers so she can SEE me sign "shhhhhhh".  I have to touch her shoulder for her to realize I am there.  But the other morning, the usual creak of the door opening made her sit up in her bed.  Could she have heard it?

When I went to pick her up, I had both hands around her so i couldn't sign but I made the "shhhhh" sound without thinking... to which she whispered "be quiet."  Is that simply the fruits of routine?

This past week she has been speaking more and we are understanding her!  She is trying sounds and words she hasn't tried before.  I have been baffled.  They had turned up the volume in her hearing aids back in the winter and she refuses to wear them now saying that "pu-po fends hurt eahs."  (purple friends hurt ears).

Outdoors is the most challenging.  Because there isn't much for sound to bounce off, Sivana's rendered more deaf when we go outside than when we're in a closed in space.  She seldom hears when we yell for her.  Often times, we're short of firing off flare guns to get her attention!

Just today, Duane and I took the kids outside to see the new lambs being born and the chicks that just arrived and the two week old puppies... a Sabbath family time to enjoy our provisions and God's promise of new life in Spring.  Duane was holding Sivana in his arms when she asked him "Whea's airpane?"  Duane looked puzzled, strained his ears and realized that far off in the distance, there was a jet plane in the sky.

Sivana heard it when Duane did not!

What is happening with our Sivana's inner ears?  Can this be happening?  Are we imagining this?  I dare whisper these thoughts because there have been too many observations in obvious changes to her hearing NOT to say something!

I will request another hearing test given these new observations and I will be very interested to know the results.  Sivana is responding to sound like we've never seen her do before.  She has even startled at sounds she never responded to before!

Is God working a miracle in our Sivana?  What could we have possibly done to be blessed with such a gift?  Even as I type this, my eyes are filling up at the possibility!  I know that all things are possible through Christ Jesus, our beloved Saviour... but sometimes I find myself surrendering to the idea that nothing will ever change.  And why should they if I lack the faith?

So I have dared to share these observations prior to any real tests.  But what I am telling you is that something has changed when it should have been considered impossible.  Our little girl hears us when we whisper to her, our goodnight prayers, our messages of "love, love, love Sivana".

Sound is so much more than a synapses of information to the brain... and if miracles had sound to them, I would imagine they would sound something like the sudden whisper of God's word within your ear as though He commanded it to hear Him.  Just like that.

With that, my darling beloveds, I reach out to you with a gladness in my heart that words fail to speak for me.  Perhaps simply close your eyes and listen, not just to the sounds around you, but to God's voice within you and join with me in the holiness of His will... surrender your understanding and seek past its limitations to the impossibility that is God.  Because those are His most glorious moments of revealing Himself to us.

My darlings, He is with us... He is with you.  This is my prayer, my heart's petition, that you all may KNOW His presence with you and that you ask Him to give you the eyes to SEE the many ways He reveals Himself to you.  Perhaps even in the very simple things we take for granted.

Much love to you all out there... now and always.  I will keep you posted on what becomes of this whisper.  Pray that we are faithful to His will and diligent in teaching our children to "love the Lord with all our hearts, all our soul, all our strength and all our mind." (Deut 6:5, Luke 10:27, Mark 12:30, Matt 22:37)  Mostly, by being examples of this ourselves.
God bless you all!

Monday, 8 April 2013

The Power of Love

This video clip captures the spirit of unconditional love... to look beyond the shell of our bodies and into the breath of God within us.  When the bible says that we can do all things through Christ Jesus, I believe it is through His love.  Can you imagine if we looked into each other's faces with such tenderness?  Can you imagine stroking each other's face with the same gentleness our mothers did?  Can you imagine setting aside the possibility of rejection or humiliation and seek only to connect one soul to the other?  My darlings, I believe we are called to be this way with each other!  And before you go accumulating restraining orders for walking up to people and stroking their faces, reflect on HOW we could start changing this world by changing what we look at in other people.

We all seek to be loved.

We all seek to be wanted.

We all seek to be more than forgotten.

I pray God reveals to you who in your life needs you to look past their "shell" and see their breath of God within.  And I pray you are fearless in reaching past the barriers and touching their soul.  God bless you all out there.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Now Izzy, Too

Sheesh!  Would you believe that Isabel needed her seizure rescue med tonight?  As if picking up on the cue of my last entry, she starting seizing at 7:55 pm.  Five minutes later, we administered her Lorazepam which took eight minutes to dissolve!  Finally, seven minutes after that, she stopped twitching and was making good eye contact again.  Twenty minutes of seizures... I think today officially sucks!

Or maybe it's all about balance?  Afterall, today is First Fruits (depending on which observance of "the morrow after the sabbath" one observes)... which means that our Lord and Saviour is risen today.  Perhaps the wonder of this alone explains the "extra" activity in our home today!

Now we are "counting the omer" as explained in Leviticus 23:9.  Fifty days we are to count (and seven Sabbaths) until the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot which post-Christ becomes Pentecost.  How incredible that our Saviour would have chosen His Father's appointed times for His gifts... His death on the cross at Passover when the lambs were being slaughtered, then rising on First Fruits as the first of the resurrected "harvest" and then the gift of His "comforter" (the Holy Spirit) which is the law within our hearts given fifty days later matching perfectly Shavuot which was the giving of the law through Moses.

Wouldn't that be just like Jesus to make sure that by honoring His timing He has made sure that we have honored His Father's timing?

So despite the upheaval in this house today, we remember the significance of these days and give thanks for a God who loves us so much, He sanctifies us through His commandments.  And what a joy it is to KNOW Him through them!

In the Blink of an Eye

There's much work beckoning me but I am having a hard time focusing after what has just happened that productivity is pushed aside for a moment as I sink into solemn thought.

In the blink of an eye... Surely you've heard that expression but what do we KNOW of it?  Even something as simple as five minutes can change your life forever.  If Isabel is left unattended and she goes into a seizure for greater than five minutes and we are not able to administer her emergency medication, the prolonged seizing could have serious if not deadly ramifications.  Five minutes.  In the blink of an eye.

Or today, on a day when I am by myself with five little ones, cleaning poop blowouts requiring an emergency bath time, potty-break time with a potty-training partially deaf two-year old, med time for Isabel, g-tube feeding setups and dismantlings, tending to countless other little tasks that add up to a morning come and gone in the blink of an eye.

Or lunch prep time in prayer that all the children can keep the peace for the next half hour while I get Ethan's custom food warmed up, Avalyn's baby food made & the rest of us served reheated leftovers.  Thankfully I was getting along without interruption only to hear Avalyn make a strange noise in the other room.  I went to the living room where I had left her with some toys and she was not there.  I called to Anika "Anika!  Is Avalyn with you in Izzy's room?"  "NO!"  Sometimes she likes to crawl to the shoes in the entrance and makes a mess there but she wasn't there either.  Then I heard her make the strange sound again from the bathroom.

My heart stopped.

I ran.  She was upside down, head first, in the toilet bowl!  She must have climbed the stepping stool we keep nearby for the three kids to be able to sit on the toilet unaided and fallen into the toilet.  I screamed and pulled her out so fast... I looked her over as my breathing hurried and before I could help myself, I began sobbing.

Had she not managed to push her head up enough to make those noises, I would have finished up with making lunch in the kitchen unaware of the full implications of what was going on.  My baby could have drowned... in the blink of an eye.

Instead, she burped many times over the next thirty minutes and was delighted to have a second emergency bath for the day, only this time to get the toilet paper out of her hair (did I mention the toilet had been used and non-flushed?).  Her big eyes looking up at me with her big smile which did not help the lump in my throat nor stop my imagination from wondering what on earth our home could possibly be like had things turned out for the worst.

And what of other moms who trusted accomplishing a simple task like lunch prep would bear no harm only to discover that something horrible happened to their child?  How do you comfort a mother who has experienced such a loss?  A life-altering experience "in the blink of an eye?"

While I thank God that my baby alerted me (and while I humbly beg His forgiveness for not having checked on her sooner), my heart aches for the mamas out there who have to carry a heavy burden of having lost a precious child "in the line of duty."  I cannot image how life proceeds nor the struggle of having to face each day knowing each one takes you further and further away from the last moment the child had been alive in your arms.

For those of you out there who have suffered this, may God embrace you and comfort you as His child... even while you are kicking and screaming through your anguish... and may He hold you as though your very life was the one at stake!  May you find a fullness from Him to fill the void and find peace in the promise of His grace.

In this blink of an eye moment, I am reminded of the meaning of Avalyn's name... beautiful breath of life.  While the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh, I thank Him for the breath of life in each of my precious children and the gift they are to my life.  And short of getting rid of all the toilets and having everyone pee outside from this point onwards, I am reminding myself that to cling to life means to surely lose it.  But to surrender it willingly to His will is to truly give it life.  I hold my little Avalyn knowing I have to trust being able to set her down and tend to my duties in this house without having her tied to my back 24/7... that I will be more dutiful but still trusting while seeking balance between taking good care of the lives entrusted to me (without trying to outsmart God's will) and trusting His care and plan for them.

In this humbling moment, I reach out to you and ask that God bless each one of you.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Adventures of Going Anywhere

For the sake of brevity (as I type this on an iPhone) here is the series of events as Duane and I attempt to bring the kids to the dinosaur exhibit at the museum this morning:

10:00 pm last night - Try to ward off any thoughts of impending series of unfortunate events which always seem to "highlight" attempts at outings.

11:00 pm last night - Ethan throws up in his bed... Long sleepless night, here we go.

1:00 a.m. - Avalyn up again with fever and fussiness.

8:00 a.m. - phew, decent night, we're good to go! Snacks packed, emergency med bag for Ethan, MedicAlert bracelet, diaper bag for Sivana (Avalyn will stay back with Antoinette to ensure proper nap given she's not well).

8:30 a.m. - breakfasts, get dressed, and a few tantrum interventions between Ethan and Sivana.

9:00 a.m. - (when we were hoping to leave) Get jackets on but wait! Who needs to pee? Ethan in one bathroom, Anika in the other.

9:07 a.m. - where is Anika? She finally comes out "I'm so sorry mom but I didn't sit on the toilet properly and I peed on the floor." Ok then... "But don't worry mom, I cleaned it up." Phew!

9:08 a.m. - Mommy's turn for potty break while daddy loads kids in car seats... Mom steps in big puddle of pee.

9:09 - 9:15 a.m. - New socks for mommy, wipe up puddle of pee, mop the floor!

9:18 a.m. - Mommy potty break attempt #2.

9:20 a.m. - while mommy gets jacket on, Daddy storms in, grabs a towel and walks out saying "I just spilled coffee all over the car seat."

Antoinette and I look at eachother and she bursts out laughing while I shake my head. She says "it is NEVER boring here!!"

9:35 a.m. - we finally leave home and are on route to Museum.

Stay tuned for the anticipated "adventure" at the Museum!

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, 7 March 2013

FIGHT for What's Right

Truth.

That's something worth fighting for.  Yet, ironically, being honest with each other is avoided as though it was the plague itself.  I do my best to speak truthfully.  This, by no stretch of the imagination, means that I do this well... but I seek to consciously to do it from the heart, from a place of love that believes truth between people is something worth fighting for.

Afterall, the saying isn't "Run away from what's right!"  The saying uses the word "Fight" as though it knows there will be upheaval, maybe even opposition, but one worth persevering through to the end BECAUSE it is worth it.

The greatest place of love I can think of, is that from a parent's heart.  We, as parents, fight for what's right for our children, which means there is often a lot of fighting WITH our children, particularly when they are older and seem to believe that discipline is a language of "that sucks, man" instead of "hey, thanks for wanting me to be the best I can be BECAUSE you know I am better than these choices I've made or am about to make."

God himself makes it clear that His love for us is evident BECAUSE of His laws and consequently, His discipline.  He knows first hand what we CAN be and when our choices keep us from being what He created us to be... glorifying to Him.  Going back to Torah (the first five books of the bible, meaning "God's instructions") has revealed to me the greatest love story from our Creator.  And even as I read some of those rules and go "that sucks, man", I can pause just long enough to reflect on my own love language with my children and recognize yet a greater love pouring through God's word.  This is quickly followed suit by the Proverbs verse "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."

How often is God's truth touchy-feely warm and fuzzy?  Sometimes it can be and sometimes it is bold, just and hard to face.  But it is ALWAYS fair.  Always.

Can you imagine being true friends with one another in being that same way?  Can you imagine putting an end to assumptions and being truthful and honest in the spirit of love because we loved eachother that much?  The closest friends in my life are the ones who can say "Hey Rita, what you just said kinda stung, not too sure why but it's not sitting well with me."  Rather than let distance grow between us from what does NOT get said, they closed in the gap by saying something!  Something important that we can work with!

This is just like when I teach the kids about a mistake they've made in their homeschooling books.  Sometimes they catch it themselves and I usually stop and take a moment to commend them on the depth of what they've just accomplished.

"Ethan, how did you find that mistake?"

"I looked over my page to see if I did anything wrong."

"Did you make a mistake?"

"Yep, right here."

"Did you fix it?"

"Yep, see?"

"Would you have found that mistake if you weren't looking for it?"

"Nope."

"So do you think it's important to look for our mistakes?"

"Unh hunh"

"Why?"

"So that we can fix them and make them right."

Can you imagine loving each other so much that we are constantly asking ourselves "Where have I made a mistake?"  To invite feedback from your friends when they take that scary step of actually being honest with you about hurt feelings?  To see that the feedback comes from their belief that they LOVE you and think it's worth taking that scary step BECAUSE you're worth FIGHTING FOR?

Can you imagine what this world would be like if instead of running away from honesty (tactful honesty... otherwise you're using "truth" for the purpose of being hurtful), we embraced it and took it at its face value?  A language of great love?

So my darling friends, both known and unknown, may this find you asking yourselves "where have I made mistakes and how can I make them right?"  And in that moment of angst (cuz it's never fun finding out we did something wrong), I pray you find peace in knowing you CAN make it right.  If you've hurt someone, you can reach out in the great love language of truth and humility (cuz the two always go hand in hand) and say "I'm sorry."  Anytime I have resisted saying I am sorry, it was because I loved my ego more than the person I had hurt...(speaking of humility and truth going hand in hand... sucks to admit that).

My dear ones, do not make these same mistakes as mine.  Love each other more than your egos and rise above on wings of eagles!  That great love language begins with our own willingness to look at our own actions to see where we made mistakes.  Consequently, this means we stop pointing out where other's made their mistakes and ask where we've made ours.

Accountability always leads to resolution... if not with the other person (because it is their choice whether they will hold on to bitterness or forgiveness), at the very least the resolution is worth reaching within your own heart.  Afterall, in Matthew 5, Jesus reminds us that offering our gifts to the Father is pointless UNTIL we have made things right with our brother(s).

It means being willing to FIGHT for what is right, which could entail a little fight but one worth having for the purpose of making things peaceful in the end.

I love you all and may the Lord bless and keep you and love you so abundantly as to discipline you without getting the response "Hey man, that sucks!"  But rather, "Hey, thanks for knowing I'm better than this and not settling for anything less from me.  You must love me very much."

And indeed, He does.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Our Family Farm Video by One Degree Organic

We are excited to work with One Degree Organic in providing them with our oil sunflowers to be used in their consumer products.  They flew out to interview Duane and get a few pics of the family.   The goal being that consumers will be able to scan their product barcode and access videos of the farmers who contributed to one or more of the ingredients.  A really awesome concept that brings consumers back in relationship with their food.

Hope you all enjoy a little snippet into what my husband, Duane, does with every ounce of his moral fibre!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Weekly Menu Plan

A while back, I had created a weekly menu plan template for the sake of keeping my sanity!  I couldn't stand those 4:00 pm frantic moments of "what on earth am I going to make for supper?" only to have limited options because I didn't thaw any meat, etc...  Out with the old way and in with the new, was my logic when I'd finally had enough.

I created this template and then figured out a four-week menu plan with associated grocery lists to simplify our crazy life.  It worked great for almost a year but we got a little tired of the same meals and I've resolved that I will probably have a six-week rotating menu plan for winter and a different one for summer.  After all, hamburgers, kabobs, and salads are so much more enjoyable in summer while soups, stews and casseroles are so much better in winter!

I then place my menu plan in protective sleeves along with photocopies of the recipes I'll need for the menu plan.  That way, if I'm away from home and cannot return in time to get started on a recipe, either Antoinette or Melina can grab the menu plan, find the exact recipe for that day and get started on it for me.  You can get loose leaf rings to keep these weekly plans together and they hang beautifully on cupboard knobs!  Those protective sheets ensure that splashes and sloshes don't ruin a classic/favourite!

I've had many friends ask for a copy of this template and I've decided if it could bless our home, if it could bless our friends' homes, I pray it can bless your home, too.  I've chosen a kid-friendly font for added fun.  That which our Heavenly Father has helped me to create (as simple as it may be), I share it with you!

Happy cooking, happy organizing and happy menu planning!

PS - this is my first time trying to add a PDF document to the blog, so if it's glitchy, let me know and I'll do my best to fix it.  Thank you!

Rita's Weekly Menu Plan Template - Blank if you have a google account or try clicking here if you have a Scribd account (easily registered via facebook login).  Otherwise, I just can't seem to figure out how to upload a simple pdf document with a simple "print" to my blog!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Sivana dancing to Melina's rap music

Not sure if this will work or not, but I just had to share what Melina captured of Sivana dancing to christian rap.  At one point, she tries to get on the ground to breakdance the way they are in the video... too funny!