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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?"


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."

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."


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!

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

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.