Sourdough!

Anyone else out there tried bread making?  I’ve made bread sporadically for years, as I’m always drawn back to my childhood memories of my mom pulling freshly baked bread out of the oven and slathering it with butter.  Oh, so good.  But lately I’ve been trying to make a decent loaf of sourdoubreagh bread, and as I’ve learned, sourdough can be tricky!  I’ve been trying for the past few months and I won’t tell you how many loaves of bread have gone STB ( bakers terms for ‘straight to breadcrumbs’) but it was quite a few.  But this week I finally produced something I’m happy with…

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It had good density and rose well and I almost feel like I should whisper this… but I made it all with wheat, maybe 60% whole wheat.  I used wheat from our local mill Arva Flour Mill,  and I couldn’t be happier with the results.

And yes, even though we enjoy other grains in this house such as spelt and rye, I purposely wanted to make a sourdough loaf made from 100% wheat.  This is because even though wheat has been badly maligned lately and given the status as public enemy #1,  I’ve recently read this book and it’s given me a whole new perspective…

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Grain of Truth is a fantastic book and I would say that it’s a must read for anyone who has though of giving up wheat even though they aren’t celiac or non-celiac gluten sensitive.

I learned so much.  Stephen Yafa is a journalist who thought he would take a good look at wheat and gluten and I believe that I walked away thoroughly informed as this man has done his research well.

He first looks at the current North American fad of of blaming wheat and the gluten it contains for all of America’s obesity and health woes.  Who doesn’t love a scapegoat?  But when he reveals some of the pseudo-science behind the thinking and also points out that Italians eat twice as much wheat per capita as the Americas and they don’t have near the obesity issues that we do… what is a girl to believe?

Well one glaring fact that jumps off the page is how we treat wheat here.  Did you know that only 4% of the wheat in the US is milled whole, as in “whole wheat”!!!!!  Now that’s frightening.  The rest is processed  into ‘white flour’ where all the vitamins, minerals and fiber are stripped away from wheat’s endosperm and given to animals as feed, and we are left with a source of quick but short-duration energy from that white endosperm.  That quick energy quickly by-passes your liver and heads straight to your blood steam for a nice quick sugar rush, that is totally devoid of minerals of vitamins, except what has been added back in after the fact so that people don’t get sick. True story.

To get this nice lovely white wheat (that doesn’t even spoil by the way) mills all the way back in the late 1800’s had to switch from milling with stones to rollers to more efficiently separate the wheat from it’s endosperm.  And as the demand for white flour grew, doctors started seeing a rise in coronary heart disease, diabetes and gastrointestinal problems that they suspected were linked to the influx of refined carbs people were eating.  But, and here’s the tragic part…. we kept right on eating it!   Who wants grainy whole wheat when you can have fluffy white.   Except in giving up whole wheat we are also giving up all the health benefits of the minerals, vitamins and fibre.  Not only that, but white flour is typically further refined into worse junk where they add more sugar and fat, increasing it’s glycemic load on our bodies and making us sicker and fatter!  Oh, and that fibre we’re missing out on that’s been stripped away?  Well it’s important to our digestive health.  Not only does it keep things moving along, it also regulates your blood sugar,  and that fibre also provides a lovely home for beneficial bacteria which we need to keep our guts healthy & happy.

And here is why eating gluten free if you aren’t gluten sensitive can come back to kick you in the butt… most gluten free flour doesn’t contain alot of fibre, so it’s also by-passing your liver and heads straight to your bloodstream.  And that’s not good news.

Stephen also talks our current wheat crop – and yes, wheat has been altered.   It had to be to stave off an impending famine in India back in the 1960’s.  The man who gave us the wheat we have today was given the Nobel prize for saving so many lives.  So our wheat today is a cross-breed, known for it’s short stalks and high yield, but it’s not genetically modified (yet) nor does it have more gluten than wheat used to have.   It does have it’s draw-backs, as in the type of fertilizer it needs to produce,  but as it’s feeding millions of people every day, and providing 20% of the world’s daily calories, I think we have alot to be grateful for.  And more and more people are cultivating ancient varieties of wheat and many of them can be sourced locally, so you aren’t stuck with just plain, there are other options out there if you choose.

However, there is another important thing that Stephen talks in his book and that’s fermenting wheat – the result of which is sourdough bread.  Sourdough bread has already been pre-digested in a sort of way by a culture of beneficial yeast and bacteria that are happy to live together.  This culture is formed as a ‘starter’ (you can do it yourself, or even buy ready made starters), and when it’s added to bread dough and left to work it’s magic from 12-18 hours, it ferments the dough, the yeast and bacteria create lactic acid which creates the air-pockets and leaven the dough without adding dried yeast.  And it also breaks down gluten into digestible fragments and over-all makes the wheat more digestible.  And I can even attest to that.  I have known for ages now that refined flour makes me bloat like crazy – especially if that refined flour has more sugar added to it.  Even pasta makes me uncomfortable, but I can eat my whole wheat sourdough bread without any problems – I feel great, it’s nice!

So in my conclusion on my book review here… I would really compare this book to being similar to  Michael Pollan’s book “In Defense of Food“.   Michael used his journalist research to cut through all the differing opinions we hear about food and his conclusion was “Eat Food. Not too much.  Mostly plants.”  And if Stephen had a conclusion from “Grain of Truth” it would be something along the lines of… you can eat wheat, whole, stone milled and preferably fermented. Which is great news for wheat.  And great news for me… I’m going to go bake some more sourdough bread!  Thanks Stephen!

P.S. If you want to try your hand at making your own sourdough starter and sourdough bread – check out this link, email me,  or just ask Google.

 

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Visiting Ava

Perhaps some grace can be bestowed upon people who have a blog and then abandon  it for months and months.  I of course am one of those people, and even though I’ve been busy composing blog posts in my head, you can’t read them if I don’t type them out!

And the honest truth is that I’ve been holding back because I’ve been feeling this pressure to make every blog entry deep and profound.  This is a burden that I and I alone have placed upon myself since our Ava journey and her death.  I ask myself, ‘Are people really going to want to read my trivial and somewhat meaningless entries?’   And then I tell myself “No, they wouldn’t”, and I walk away.   But let’s be honest, I’m not writing for the masses, I’m writing because it’s in me to write!   It’s something God has put in me to do that I love, so I have to let my go of my misgivings  and just write because I can, because I have a blog and I’m allowed to… so there!

So I might even attempt at posting a trivial entry sometime soon, this entry however is not.  Kinda ironic really.

This post is about visiting Ava, which as you can see from the picture below is what our family calls our visits to Ava’s grave. We all pile in the car and on the way there I feel sad, but I also experience a slight form of anticipation like I’m going to be near my baby again.  I get out of the car feeling a little keyed up, and then a few moments later I’m standing at her grave and I realize once again that I’m not feeling it.   In fact I’m having a really hard time feeling connected to this granite slab with Ava’s name on it.   Sure I’m standing over her… rather macabre.. standing over what’s left of your daughter..  but where is the sense of connection that I’m looking for?

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That connections not there because Ava’s not here.  This is just her memorial, the stone that we have erected to let the world know that we loved her and remember her.  It’s in a sense her little place in the world, but it’s here because she’s not here.

So where is she?

Well, since most of the western world today who acknowledges a God believes that every good person who dies automatically goes to heaven, most people would affirm with me that that heaven is where Ava is.

But for those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ and believe the Bible as the perfect and unerring word of God,  there aren’t actually any verses or even a verse in the Bible that clearly and definitely say that babies or small children automatically go to heaven.  Crazy right?  And to make it even more confusing the Bible makes it very clear that when we are born we get our own share of Adam’s sin often called ‘original sin’ and therefore we are all born sinners and from day one are separated from a good and perfect and just God who can tolerate no sin.   So now we have a problem because the Bible also tells us that there is NOTHING we can do to save ourselves,  nothing at all.  Not a word or a good deed or the power of positive thought or anything that could clean us up from this sin and shield us from the wrath of God and eternal separation from Him.  But then we are given hope… Jesus appeared on earth.   God in the flesh and He came among us and taught us and showed us a way to be right with God again.   This was through the work of the cross when Jesus died for us, and took our place and our punishment and bore our sin on the cross and paid the high price sin demanded, and then rose again!   Completely victorious, conquering death and sin, AMEN!   So the Bibles says if we believe in Him and accept His free gift of salvation, His blood will remove our sin and save us so that we can go and be with God in heaven for all eternity.

Um… so again that leaves us with a problem.  Because even though salvation is a free gift, we have to accept it.  Romans 10:9-10 says that we have to confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead in order to accept this free gift, which works for me, but how in the world was my 8 month old baby supposed to be able to do that?   How could she confess with her mouth that Jesus is Lord and ask forgiveness for her sin?   She obviously couldn’t, she was completely incapable.  That little baby that suffered so much in her short life, wasn’t able to take those steps to save her soul.  So it’s done then?  We are out of options?  Ava’s not in heaven?

Hold your horses!!!

The Bible is very clear that God gives salvation as a free gift and that He alone is sovereign.  And God is good… didn’t we see that all through Ava’s story?   And from the moment Ava died in our arms and Jason prayed that soul into heaven we have known in our hearts exactly where she was.  She is in heaven!  We believe this to our very core.  The same God who gave us the grace to endure her illness and eventually her death, who gave us joy through it all and never left us alone will be faithful to the end.  How could it be otherwise?

Our church has been working through the book of Romans and the past few weeks have dealt with original sin, so our beloved pastor Norm (who did Ava’s funeral service) was so kind to post this information on our church’s website last week regarding babies just to clear up this often muddied point.   Here are the reasons he gives for babies going to heaven when they die

  1. God is good and always does good.
  2. God is just and always judges justly.
  3. God is merciful.
  4. God is abundantly gracious.
  5. Salvation is always, for any who are saved, entirely an act of grace, a ‘free gift’ (Rom 5:15-17), and even our faith – necessary to believe, is a ‘gift’ from God.  So salvation is 100% a work of God applying Jesus death and resurrection to us by grace.
  6. We believe God applies this grace to those we are discussing who have never personally sinned, covering their original or imputed sin by Jesus atoning work on the cross.  God does this entirely by grace as well, without their having faith.
  7. Plus it appears when final judgment is discussed in the Bible those sent to hell for eternity are sent their for their own acts and attitudes of sin (Romans 1:18-32, Rev. 19, etc.)

For further reading on this I would recommend the following:

  1. Dr. Albert Mohler’s article HERE
  2. Dr. John Piper’s short article HERE
  3. Dr. John MacArthur’s three in-depth sermons HERE (you can read the sermon manuscript by just clicking on the sermon title or listen to the sermons by clicking ‘high’ or ‘low’).
    And I want to add that John MacArthur has also written a book I love, “Safe in the Arms of God“,  a must read for anyone who has lost a child.

I read those points from Norm and I want to yell “AMEN” from the top of my lungs!   And I read those articles as well and they resonate with my heart and my mind and what I take from them is that I  completely trust in God’s love and faithfulness to care for these little ones, when they couldn’t do anything to possibly save themselves.  He is just and good and I am to have no fear that Ava is anywhere but in heaven for eternity.  And she is there not on her own merit, but only by the mercy and grace of her creator who could do for her what she could not do for herself.

And so I’ll continue to visit her grave, even though I don’t get connection with my daughter that my heart craves.  But I can say in faith, just like the faith that King David had when his baby son died, that babies go to heaven.   I know that’s where Ava is and we will spend eternity together there with our Saviour.

” 22 He [King David] said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ 23 But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”  2 Sam 12:22-23

Amen.

A moment…

So yesterday I had a moment.  That moment was defined by getting to church and then as worship began, starting to sing, and then starting to cry.  And then even though I was feeling foolish I wasn’t able to stop.    A moment.   And I knew exactly why I was crying, it just hit me like a tidal wave that I missed my Ava. Right there and then while I was standing in church, I just missed her horribly and it made me so sad.

Sometimes these waves of grief just hit out of no where, but this wave actually started on Saturday when I was out driving.   Something about the weather reminded me of being in Toronto in December three years ago and spending every day sitting at the foot of Ava’s bed in critical care.   And then yesterday on the way to church I mentioned that Ava’s birthday was coming and I asked jokingly what we were getting her for her birthday.   Jason said we were getting her a Christmas tree and that is exactly what we are getting her.  Last year we ended up getting our tree on her birthday and so we decided that we were going to drive out to the country and get a Christmas tree from the nice tree farm that is just down the road from her graveyard every year on her birthday.    And don’t worry – it’s not morbid at all – just happy and festive and it kinda feels like we are including her.

So the wave was growing without me even realizing it, and then the moment hit.  And the funny thing about my grief is that I’m never truly sad that Ava died.  Considering how sick that poor baby was, she is exactly where she is supposed to be – safe and snug in heaven and I can’t argue with that.  When I cry, I cry for the baby I didn’t get to keep down here.  I cry for a baby that my heart wishes was born healthy, with her little reddish curls and adorable smile.  That would have turned our lives and our house upside down.  That would have kept the kids busy chasing her around and would have been a fount of cuddles and kisses.  She would have added to our family so much.  On December 4th she would have turned three and I’ve missed it all.  That’s why I cry.   I guess it’s purely selfish, but it’s such an aching loss… I suppose like all loss is.   Isn’t it strange that most of our hurt in life involves loss?   But then grief is the emotion that God gave us that helps us process and release these things we’ve lost.  But I think that my well of loss is so deep I might have to grieve for the rest of my life, but that’s OK… even though I’m a puffy red crier, not a pleasant sight at all.

But as I stumbled out of the service yesterday to go and wipe my eyes and calm my heart,  the first person I saw was a friend who gave me a big hug and listened, I was so grateful.  And after church I made a beeline for a lovely woman in our congregation who herself has experienced so much loss and we talked and she prayed for me.  And that’s when I think of this verse in  2 Corinthians…

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.   2 Corinthians 1:3-5

(Here are mine and Jason’s four blessed distractions which I am so grateful for….)

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God is the God of all comfort and He is always there to comfort us in our affliction and then in turn we can comfort others.  And like I was comforted yesterday I hope that I can comfort others when I say that I’m OK.  I have lost a child, but am living testament that by God’s amazing grace and by his comfort, day after day my heart is healing.  I just still have my moments.

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Instead of perfection…

A few weeks ago Sarah and I were back at the hospital for another diabetes clinic.  We typically go every three months, but this time it had been closer to 4 1/2 and I was nervous.  To be honest, I’m always nervous at these appointments.   The team takes a look at all of Sarah’s numbers that have been downloaded from her pump, and they look at her A1C – a quick blood test they do that shows the over-all amount percentage of sugar that has attached to her red blood cells – and together this shows the team how well we’ve been managing Sarah’s diabetes.

And although that sounds benign on paper, as I’m sitting in the room waiting for the doctor to come I’m quaking on the inside.  I thinking of all the times that I forgot to give Sarah insulin, or we didn’t count carbs right and how often her numbers were higher than they should have been and then I feel like I’m  waiting for exam results.  Like they are going to come into the room and tell me if I’ve passed or failed, and all I can see in my mind is a big red “F” stamped on Sarah’s medical chart.     Now, in saying all of this I’m doing a disservice to Sarah’s wonderful medical team who has NEVER once treated her diabetes care like this, it’s just me.  It’s a heavy burden I put on myself and I’ve usually got myself so wound up before these visits I often shed some tears.

However on this visit I was so relieved to find that we passed!  hahaha   Sarah’s A1C’s had come down slightly (which is good!) and the doctor was fine with what her numbers had been over-all and I could finally relax.  I thanked the doctor for being so good to us, and always being encouraging rather than judgemental.  He asked me if I had heard his space-ship to the moon story.  I hadn’t, so he told me.  He told me the story about how U.S. President John F. Kennedy wanted NASA to put a man on the moon.  Finally in 1969 they were ready and Apollo 11 started it’s journey into outer-space.  The doctor then asked me how many times during that journey the rocket was actually headed in the right direction towards the moon.  My guess was 75% but he came back and said, “Nope, 5%”.   I was really surprised by that number… wow!  The doctor went on to say that we need to take that perspective with diabetes care.  We are always striving for the moon and those great numbers, but have to realize that it’s a process, that it’s going to constantly need tweaking and small changes here and there, but the most important thing is to keep going.  It’s a journey.    And I liked that.   Perfection is obviously what we are striving for, but the fact that NASA did something amazing without perfection has really made me think about Sarah’s diabetes care in a new light.  It give me a long-view sort of mindset – one that takes some pressure off the here and now, knowing that we probably never will perfect, but there is always tomorrow.

But God clearly wanted to bring this idea into other areas of my life, and one of those is my anger.  My anger and frustration with my kids when they aren’t listening or they argue with each other, or they don’t do what they are supposed to do, and how I can just get mad when life doesn’t go my way.  I get frustrated because in my mind I’m telling myself, ‘It’s not supposed to be like this, why can’t everyone just do what they are supposed to do so we can have the happy life that I want?’

I read this line regarding parenting from Auntie Leila over at Like Mother like Daughter the other day… “The sooner you learn that frustration is part of the process, the happier you will be.  Our worst enemy is thinking that things should be perfect.”   This quote almost knocked me over!  And it struck me that it’s so true!  I was looking at problems completely the wrong way, thinking that they shouldn’t exist at all, instead of realizing it’s just a part of life!

It’s kinda funny because my friend Tania is currently parenting 4 little girls, 3 years of age and under, and we get a kick out of 2 of her children who get frustrated so easily, even when they are trying to accomplish things beyond their skill level.  Like her baby who gets frustrated because she can’t crawl around as fast as her older sisters can move around, and so just puts her  head down and howls.  We laugh because we know it’s part of the process.  We don’t expect a baby to just stand up and walk one day… we know that it takes lots of practice, lots of falls and lots of frustration on their part and we accept that it is part of the process of growing up and learning a new skill.  So why have I decided somewhere along the line that things in my life have to be perfect all the time?  I’m not perfect, why would I expect this of others?   Clearly I need a paradigm shift.

Apparently perfection isn’t always a good thing anyway.  I recently read an article from John Piper entitled  “Parents, you can’t build heaven here”.   He said that too often we try to make heaven for our children in the right here and now.  We try to bring too much perfection in a child’s life – guarding them from too much or trying to give them too much in the name of our love for them, but this actually back-fires because it teaches children that they deserve perfection.  And then when life (as we all know too well) falls very short of the perfection they are used to – these kids don’t know how to persevere and deal with problems.  Instead of helping them,  we’ve actually hindered their growth.

The verse that is used in John Piper’s article is Philippians 3:12, such a great verse….

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Phil 3:12-14

Paul is telling us to keep going because we haven’t obtained perfection.  Yes, it is our goal, but we have to keep forgetting what is behind and straining forward towards our goal.  He doesn’t beat us up for not having obtained it… obtaining it is a future thing to look forward to, through the hard work of living and trying and striving.

I can see that it’s time for me to accept that frustration is a part of my life I can’t escape and so just deal.  And if that frustration causes me to stop and refocus, or learn something new, or teach my children something new, or make changes along the way to my final goal (which in my life is to be more like Christ), then right now I am willing to take frustration instead of perfection – knowing that when perfection finally comes it will have been well worth the fight.

 

Sung to sleep

Yesterday was two years since Ava passed away… 2 years!   Time goes by so quickly and it’s a little tough because the memories fade, but the ache our hearts isn’t going away.  I don’t think it ever will.

Last night when I put Sophy to bed I sang to her like I usually do.  I’ve always loved singing my kids to sleep at night – especially when they were babies.  I realized early on that hymns make great lullabies, they are often lilting and long – so I set out to memorize a few favorites and the kids would often be regaled by my singing them such hymns  as “Great is thy faithfulness” or “Be thou my vision.” (One of my favourites).  But I also would sing to them a little ditty that I learned from a children’s tape that we had growing up (yes, a cassette tape).  I just tried to find it on the world-wide web for reference, but can’t somehow.   The words go like this…

Jesus is coming
Coming for me
Like lightning, that flashes from the west to the east
In a moment
In a twinkling of an eye

The song is based on Matthew 24:27 when it talks about the 2nd coming of Christ and how He will return one day to earth…

For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

It’s something that all of us believers in Christ look forward too – the day that Jesus will come again to earth and call to Himself His own.  It will also mark the end of this age and the beginning of the next… good heavy stuff.

But back to my lullabies… singing that song to Sophy last night reminded me that I used to sing Ava that little ditty quite often.  My precious little Birdy – in the hospital, on the nights that I could tuck her in for the night.  I would sing to her like I sang to her brothers and sisters when they were babies, but in my mind I was always singing it to her with the thought that Jesus might just come and get her in the here and now.

And then in the moments when Ava did die – and Jason prayed that sweet soul into heaven, the relief of knowing that Jesus had finally come and gotten her and taken her home and released her of all her suffering was like a presence right there right with us.   I’ll never forget that sense of peace and release we were given.  Her earthy journey was over and her heavenly one just begun.  And I’m so thankful that’s where she is now – in heaven with Christ, praising and glorifying him and more alive than we could ever be here on earth.

Lately I’ve added another song to my nightly repertoire,  “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman.   We sang it at Ava’s funeral and for some reason it just struck me lately that it would also be a great lullaby and anyway,  Sophie likes it.  And I love the reminder that I have 10,000 things to be thankful for and that I can still bless the Lord with all my soul and that when I get to heaven I’ll have 10,000 years to sing His praises.   Hallelujah!

And I’m also so grateful for the memory of singing my sweet little Ava to sleep.

Amen.

Monarchs!

We love Monarch butterflies and every year for the past 6 years (minus Ava’s year) we have raised a few from eggs that were laid on the milkweed in our garden.  We were sad to learn that this year the Monarch population is the lowest it’s been in ages due to de-forestation in Mexico and a lack of milkweed in the US and Canada, so weren’t expecting to see any butterflies this year, but we were wrong!

Yesterday I caught this one drinking nectar from my pink coneflowers…..


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And it would seem that there have been more butterflies around here than just that one, and they have been quite busy –  because in the past week we’ve found Monarch eggs galore!   We are now fostering 10 baby caterpillars!

So much fun.

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Happy little chompers.

Out of every 100 eggs a monarch lays, typically only one survives to become an adult butterfly, so we are happily defying the odds here.    I found 3 more eggs today, so it’s time to share the love and spread some caterpillars around to our friends.   Seeing the butterflies eventually emerge from their chrysalis is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen and it never gets old.

I also found this beauty in my garden a while ago…

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My friend’s sweet baby who has a penchant for playing in dirt.  Can you think of a nicer thing to have growing in your garden?

Neither can I.

Not even monarchs.  🙂

 

Baked Jeans

Baked jeans and a bunch of things, that’s what this post is made of.

Back in the olden days when the weather was warmer in March and April we would often take a drive to our family cottage for Good Friday.  (Our church rents so we can’t hold a traditional Good Friday Service.)  It was usually our first view of the cottage after the winter, and we would stop for breakfast on the way up and just have a great day.    So this year we decided to do that again, but thought we would also spend the night  –  for fun.  Ha.   But it wasn’t all fun,  because for some reason although we KNEW there was still snow at the cottage, we didn’t exactly prepare for it.  So the kids played and got soaked playing in the slush without snow-pants and ended up having to spend the rest of the day indoors.  We had packed light since we were only staying for one night which meant the kids had to change into their pj’s and we may have all gotten a little cranky from being stuck inside for the rest of the day.   And then what is a mom supposed to do when faced with a bunch of wet jeans in a cottage with no washer or dryer?  Well she bakes them in a convection oven at 250 degrees for 10-15 minutes.   Who knew baking jeans would be so easy, or so smelly (that’s ditto for the socks, but WAY stinkier).

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Backing up now to three weeks ago – I had the opportunity to go to SickKids and share our Ava story with a group of people taking a palliative care course.  It’s such an honour to be asked to go and Jason and I both feel it’s just a small way that we can give back to the hospital who gave so much to Ava.  It’s always a pleasure to be there and meet with some of the wonderful people that we got to know while we lived in Toronto.  It actually really makes me miss my time in Toronto and I look back with a little bit of longing for those days when Ava was alive and we saw our Toronto people regularly.  But now I’m just happy for any opportunity to see them and I also have to thank my dad who comes with me because we had such a great day together and I love the company and I love not having to drive in Toronto in my not-so-small vehicle.

And now backing up all the way to the end of March (backing up seems to be a common theme here) – we had 3 inches of snow early one morning on a day that warmed up pretty quickly.   Will, Sarah and Sophia headed out the door as soon as they could and built these 7 snowmen… one of each of us.

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snowmen

But since it warmed up so quick, the snowmen starting melting and first we saw daddy topple, then I bit the dust, and noses all fell off and it wasn’t pretty.   That afternoon the girls and I went and ran some errands, and when we came back, Sophia got out of the vehicle and ran into the yard yelling, “Is Ava still alive?”   I laughed out loud.  Oh dear sweet Sophia, I wish, I wish Ava was still alive.  But as for your baby snowman, it may have died.  Life can be harsh. 🙂

And staying on the subject of life being harsh, yesterday at church they mentioned a conference coming up next weekend at Harvest Oakville by Paul Tripp called When Suffering enters your door.   He says that we shouldn’t be surprised by suffering, it’s a universal experience for all humanity… and they showed this clip – which I HIGHLY recommend because it quickly explains how Jason and I were able to have the hope that we had in the face of our suffering.

Which brings me back (one more time) to a quote that I found when Ava was sick which I blogged about back then as well, …

In the mid-16th century Francis Xavier (1506–1552), a Catholic missionary, wrote to Father Perez of Malacca (today part of Indonesia) about the perils of his mission to China. He said,

The danger of all dangers would be to lose trust and
confidence in the mercy of God… To distrust him would
be a far more terrible thing than any physical evil which
all the enemies of God put together could inflict on us, for
without God’s permission neither the devils nor their
human ministers could hinder us in the slightest degree

And a great verse from Romans 8:18

 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Suffering if something that we all will  experience at one time or another, but praise God that through Christ, it never has to be without hope.

Amen!

Nailed it

I am very aware of all my failures in life, they are too numerous to count.  But on the bright side some of my failures make me laugh and hence should be shared.  Take this for example, Sarah’s birthday cake… if I was going to try to make it as beautiful as Martha Stewart’s vanilla cake, then I can definitely say I nailed it.  lol

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Isn’t it just beautiful in all it’s sloppy glory?   I think I’ve known since I was 10 that you shouldn’t ice a warm cake, and that is especially true if you want to ice it with a concoction of pudding and whipped cream, which I found out apparently just melts on a warm cake.    Will I ever learn?   But it did taste good, so I suppose it redeemed itself.

So yes, Sarah did turn 8 a few weeks ago and it was fun to celebrate with her and appreciate her for all her gifts and abilities.  And just because you are 8 doesn’t mean that hair-brushing is a priority in life –  I mean really – it’s such an insignificant thing.  Maybe it will be a priority when she is 15?   Good thing she can clean a bathroom, sew and do lots of other thing really well to make up for it.

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And if that cake I made for Sarah’s birthday looked scumptious, then I’m sure you’ll appreciate this concoction…

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“Since when do chicked-peas, boiled eggs, peas, beets, avocado, blueberries and pears belong together in a blender?”, you might ask.    Especially as they were soon joined by joined by yogurt, milk and olive oil.   And since I can tell you that yes, they were blended together your next question might be,  “Who in the world would eat that mixture?”

Well this sweet little person would…

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Remember our little friend Aleeda who we met at Sick Kids?  She received a heart transplant July 2013 and is doing so well.  She came home from the hospital with a g-tube, and she was being primarily fed by that, but rather than push formula into her tube, her mom Tania opted instead to make her real food blends “purees” that mimic the nutrition in a formula supplement.  These are so much better tolerated, as in when Tania pulled the formula and started feeding purees to Aleeda, she stopped puking every day.    And Aleeda has thrived on them and since her g-tube was pulled will actually eat them orally, smart little girl.  I got to help Tania and made a few batches of them for the freezer,  but Aleeda is doing so well that she is almost eating all real food now.  It’s so wonderful to see her progress, I find it just amazing.

Alleeda and her sister Britton came to play with us one day while their mom was at the hospital with their new twin sisters.  My girl’s love Aleeda and her sister Britton , we just don’t see enough of them…

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And since Sophia is the baby of our family now,  it’s good for her to spend time with children younger than her,  I’m afraid that Sophia enjoys being our baby a little too much, but I can hardly blame her.

And now it’s Valentine’s day today and winter trudges on.  Thank goodness I can kick the kids outside to enjoy the snow…

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So I can enjoy some peace and quiet haha.      I do try to enjoy the winter as well, but more often than not it seems I’m enjoying it inside by drinking coffee and looking out the window.  I just venture out to take the pictures.

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Like this one of the moon… see, you need winter for pictures like this.

So even though my cakes aren’t winning any awards and winter is still here with a vengeance, we feel so blessed on this Valentines day to have a loving family and friends to enjoy it all with.

God is good!

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:34-35 

Amen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God at Work

God is always at work, it’s  a fact.  And I know that Jason and I are always so encouraged to hear how God is moving in other’s lives, and so glad that our church, Harvest Bible Chapel will often will take the time to have people share their stories in front of our church.   At the end of November Jason and I had the opportunity to get in front and share our story.  That was an emotional and a pretty big deal for us, but we felt compelled to tell of God’s faithfulness even through Ava’s death, and on the whole I think it went well.   We both broke down towards the end both times (we shared in both services) but it was joy to be able to say that we could still praise God for his faithfulness even through our story didn’t have a happy ending.   When it goes online I will definitely share the link of the video.

Now today I going to share another link, one to a brand new Harvest Newsletter done through our church.

I’m a little biased towards this newsletter because I had the opportunity to submit an article for it.   I’m writing a 3 part series on our Ava story and the first one is called  “Peace Amid Turmoil”   It was a huge honour to be able to contribute, not to mention it was my first time working with a editor.  That was an experience that I first found a little tough (someone is actually critiquing my writing!!!!)  but in the end I found it very insightful and helpful.

Here’s the link!   God at Work Magazine

In other news,  I wish I could say that writing the article has been the reason I haven’t been blogging, but the truth is, well the truth is I just haven’t blogged, shame on me!   But I can fill in some blanks to say that we had a great Christmas.  Here’s a pic that I may have taken in the New Year right before we took down the tree…

 

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Our family really loves Christmas and its great to have a break from school and we enjoyed all our time spent with family and friends over the holidays.  We always make lots of great memories and this year we may have started a few new traditions.   The first was that we went and got our Christmas tree on Ava’s birthday which made the day special for the kids.   And then about a week later we made a trip to Toronto – just to revisit some of the places that hold the most memories of Ava for us.   We went and saw the staff who were so good to us at the Ronald MacDonald house, and saw many of our beloved nurses at SickKids.  It’s kinda funny because I know my kids would move back into the Ronald MacDonald House in a heart-beat and I think that is  a huge testament to the great job they are doing there.    I would love us to make a special visit to Toronto every December to be reminded of Ava and also to remember how good God was to us during that time.

And now it’s January and we keep moving ahead.  Lots of things are happening and we keep praising God for the fact that He is always at work and will always be faithful.

Amen!

 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

 

 

 

 

Can’t wait to show you…

Ava’s gravestone!    Today we are celebrating Ava Day – our sweet little Birdy’s birthday;  she would have been 2 years old today!  It’s funny when I think about just how different life would be right now if Ava had been born healthy  – or if she had managed to get a heart and was doing well.   How different and marvelous it would be to have a little 2-year-old running around right now!

But that is not our story and we can be thankful that she is where she is.   We are glad we have this day to remember her, for her sweet smiles in spite of the pain and for how much we loved her and treasured every moment we had with her.

And here is her stone which we are so pleased with, it turned out exactly as I hoped…


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And here are the kids with it…

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You can’t really see it in the picture,  but the kids hand prints are in the foundation of Ava’s stone.   It was Jason’s idea and I love it.  I love it because the kid’s hand prints are on Ava’s coffin that Jason made and we want them to feel a part of this whole thing as much as possible.  You can see them clearly here before the stone was installed…

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And here they are showing off their hand-prints…

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Another thing that is a little tough to see if the photos is the verse on the bottom of Ava’s stone.  It’s her verse, Psalm 73:26…

 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

All I can say to than is AMEN.

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We can’t wait to see you again Ava!