8 Little Arrows in my Quiver

Reflections and Ramblings of a Happily Harried Mom of Many

God Will Make a Way March 25, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — 8littlearrows @ 9:16 pm

"God will make a way, where there seems to be no way"
Song lyrics by Don Moen

I woke up the other day thinking of this photo that my daughter and I took awhile ago while we were out walking.  And I couldn’t help but think that it so perfectly encapsulates the journey I’ve been on. The hard ground that seed fell on, a place seemingly impossible to grow in, and yet…

It’s been quite a year. A hard year.  A year of facing some of the darkness within that needed to be dealt with.  I’ve been struggling with some health issues the last few years, actually, which, have thrown a major monkey wrench into my typically stable, healthy existence.  I have always been a pretty healthy person who tended to avoid doctors and most medication.  So it was very difficult for me to admit that I really needed to see a doctor.  And then even harder to keep going back for more tests, and to more specialists, none of whom could tell me what was wrong with me.  In the last couple of years, I have really started to lose hope that I would ever get any real answers.

If only I had remembered that God was working, despite the darkness, that answers were coming even though I couldn’t see them. It’s been a long road, but a testament to His faithfulness, to the point where just typing these words is bringing me to tears again. It’s so easy to look back now and see how He was working – if only I could keep remembering that amidst the valleys! I share this story as my song of glory and thanksgiving to Him, and also as a witness to anyone who, like me, has a tough time remembering that God is always faithful, though at times, hidden.

When my youngest was a few months old, she had almost constant diaper rashes, which were finally diagnosed as yeast.  None of the medicine prescribed was working, and I honestly hated exposing her to it anyway.  I even tried using cloth diapers for a while, hoping the rashes would clear up.  When I realized that they weren’t helping, I switched back, and decided to try to recoup some of the money spent by reselling the diapers on Ebay.  In my listings, I mentioned the reason I was selling.  A prospective buyer, who didn’t even end up bidding on the diapers, messaged me and recommended that I check out her website, as she and her baby had experience with MRSA (a staph bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics).  We exchanged a couple of emails.  Turns out she was a new Christian, so I invited her to check out my blog as well.  It was right after Christmastime, and my blog at that time was full of all the sugary treats we had made for Christmas.  She very gently responded and said she “almost got a sugar high just reading about it all.”  This comment may not have affected anyone else, but as it turned out, it was just what I needed at the time.  You see, I was struggling greatly with an addictive eating disorder, which I had actually been battling for years, and couldn’t seem to get free of.  Her comment shook me.  I took a closer look at her website, and realized that my eating issues might very well be the root cause of, or at the very least, a major contributor to, my sweet baby girl’s yeast problem. What I didn’t connect, at the time, was that it was also contributing greatly to my own, seemingly unrelated health issues.

I emailed this woman and asked her lots of questions.  She recommended, since I was exclusively nursing, that I eliminate all sugar, wheat, gluten, shellfish, nuts, soy, beef products (including dairy products), and corn.  I was desperate at that point to help my daughter, and fortunately, that was  enough to give me the willpower to actually try it (that, and the grace of God, of course!).  My daughter’s yeast issues, while not completely cleared up, were definitely much improved. I dropped 20 pounds in just a few weeks, and most of my health issues pretty much disappeared. I was astounded.  All this because some stranger, on Ebay of all places, had the courage to make that comment.  It was clear to me that God had orchestrated this.

Then one of my sisters recommended the website www.wellnessmama.com, started by a nutritionist (Catholic, too!), who had developed tons and tons of gluten- and grain-free recipes. I learned from Katie’s site that my food addiction issues were not simply due to a lack of willpower on my part, but were actually just as real of an addiction as one to alcohol or drugs.  This made me feel so much better, because I had been beating myself up for it for years, not realizing that even when I was eating “health” food, the type of food I was eating made it more difficult for me to break the cycle.  I knew almost nothing about the chemical processes involved in our bodies’ responses to what we eat.  For me, eating sugar and grains, especially those with gluten, was keeping me addicted.  Considering the response my body had just experienced with my stricter diet, I was seeing the truth of it. And I thanked God for the ways He was leading and directing me through so many amazing people.

I “fell off the wagon” a bit after Easter last year, but hopped back on pretty quickly.  And here’s where things started going downhill again, and where I “forgot” all the ways God had been working.  Even when I was back onto the healthier diet, I began to put the weight back on, and the symptoms I had that had virtually disappeared began to reappear.  “Wellness mama” had said that if that happened, there was an underlying issue that needed to be dealt with. But I had no idea where to start.  For a long time, I let that feeling of overwhelm paralyze me.  I stayed on the diet because I was convinced that it was better for all of us, but I think there was a part of me that kind of figured that I was just going to have to live with whatever was going on.  I had once again lost hope of figuring it out.

But then one day I was searching for a gluten-free, honey-sweetened chocolate cake recipe for my son’s birthday.  I ended up on the “Stop the Thyroid Madness” website (www.stopthethyroidmadness.com). The woman who had posted the recipe was hypothyroid and was on a very similar diet to the one I was on.    I looked at her “before” picture (before her diagnosis and treatment), and it looked like I felt.  Her “after” picture looked the way I felt after first starting the limited diet.  I looked around the site further, and happened upon a list of symptoms for hypothyroidism. What I saw gave me hope like nothing else.  For years I had been experiencing a large number of these symptoms, but had never thought to connect them to each other.  But the thing that floored me was when I saw on the list the very symptom that had originally taken me to the doctor. When I saw that one, it made me take the rest of the list seriously.  You see, I had never been able to describe my symptom satisfactorily to any of the doctors.  The closest I could come was “shortness of breath,” but that wasn’t really it.  Then, suddenly, looking at this list, I saw it — “air hunger.”  And immediately, I knew I had hit on it. That is the perfect way to describe it. It’s the feeling that you can’t take a deep enough breath, even though you are actually getting enough oxygen.  Over the last two years, I have been to my primary doctor, the pulmonologist (repeatedly), the cardiologist, and the allergist (who was convinced it was all allergy-related), and none of them could explain why a seemingly healthy person would be experiencing this. And now, by “God-incidence” I had stumbled on an answer, not only to this symptom, but to all the others that I hadn’t even known were related.

However, despite the new hope this discovery offered, I was still overwhelmed.  There was so much information on the site that I just didn’t know where to start.  And the thought of having to try to explain it all to my doctor, since thyroid issues are so often undiagnosed (I actually was tested twice for thyroid issues), or misdiagnosed, was enough to make me just cry.  It definitely didn’t help that some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism are inability to focus, and depression.  Add life with teenagers, tweens, gradeschoolers, and toddlers, homeschooling, sports, scouts, housework, a diet that usually requires me to cook three times a day, and a healthy dose of PMS, and you have my last week in a nutshell!  My poor husband, I think, was probably relieved to be going out of town this past weekend!

Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there. Because God wasn’t done yet.  I was chatting with my sister about it, and she mentioned that my aunt was going through some very similar health issues and had found a doctor who knew all about the protocol for testing and treating thyroid issues.  I called my aunt, and found out that not only had she been experiencing loads of similar symptoms and struggles, but that she had had great success so far with treatment.  I was still so emotional at that point that I spent half the conversation in tears, completely in awe that God had led me to the point where there was real hope for not only answers, but relief.

No wonder I woke up thinking of that little flower photo.  That was me!  My journey to grow isn’t over yet, but the picture is the perfect reminder for me when I am weak in my ability to trust. After looking at the photo again, it was only a small leap for my taxed brain to then remember Don Moen’s old worship song. For truly:

God will make a way, where there seems to be no way.

  He works in ways we cannot see.

He will make a way for me.

He will be my guide,

hold me closely to His side,

with love and strength for each new day.

He will make a way.  He will make a way.

By a roadway in the wilderness He’ll lead me,

and rivers in the desert I will see.

 Heaven and earth will fade,

but His Word will still remain.

He will do something new today.  (Don Moen)

Just in case you’re wondering, there are karaoke versions of several worship songs on You tube.  What fun!  It pays to have teenagers! Click the link and worship with me?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOJcpuSfzfE

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Spring Fever

Filed under: Family — 8littlearrows @ 3:26 pm

Because some Saturdays, despite the piles of laundry, and the dirty floors, and the ironing pile. . . some days you just have to play!

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“Lamb of God” — an Easter Basket Alternative March 18, 2012

Filed under: Traditions for Lent and Easter — 8littlearrows @ 10:40 pm

Our "Lamb of God"

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I am blessed to have been raised in a Catholic home with parents who really worked to make the faith come alive for me and my siblings, especially during the liturgical seasons of Advent and Lent.  One of my favorite traditions was our Easter pinata. It’s possible that part of the motivation for doing a pinata instead of Easter baskets was to save a little money and simplify a bit, since I’m one of seven children. But, our pinata was not just any old pinata.  It was a Lamb of God pinata. And we got to help make it.  My parents decided to make it a lamb because of the rich symbolism.  Now, granted, our lambs were never without blemish, like the true Lamb of God, but still represented him despite their occasional cosmetic issues.  So we would make the lamb, and then on Easter, after Mass, we would hang it from the beam in our kitchen and slay it with a wooden sword. This may sound a bit morbid, but it’s easy for a kid to grasp.  There’s really no “dressing up” the reality of Christ’s Passion and death. This tradition gets across the point that we did participate in the death of the Lamb, by our sins.  It wasn’t just an incident in history perpetrated by the Jews and Roman soldiers of the time. The Lamb died for each of us, and we received something exceedingly good.  Did I make the spiritual connection when I was a child?  Probably not right away.  But the seeds were planted.  Not to mention, the times spent making the pinatas over the years was truly quality time, and I remember talking about the “why” of the pinata many times, since we were the only ones I knew who did this at Easter time.  We have done Easter baskets some years with our own kids, but I have to admit that I much prefer the pinata.  We do usually have one Easter basket with a little bit of chocolate (who wants to wait for chocolate?) and a few items that would break in the pinata.  I’ve had a few requests for the “how-to’s” of making this work of art, so without further ado, here’s the list of materials and the steps required. The photos are from last year.

You will need:

*A bag of assorted balloons, containing both the long, narrow ones and the round.  (Not the really skinny ones that are used to make balloon animals.)

*Newspaper

*Flour

*Water

*9×13 (or larger) pan

*Whisk

*A large bag of cotton balls

*glue

*construction paper (optional)

*black paint or a black Sharpie

Our balloons, and a random baby doll which has absolutely nothing to do with the pinata.

You’ll need to blow up several long balloons for the body.  The number you’ll need will depend on how big you want the pinata, and how big you can blow the balloons up.  Our balloons were rather small last year so we ended up using five long balloons. Make sure you blow them up to the same size, or your lamb will be quite lopsided. Then you need one round balloon for the head.  Do blow up extras because they  sometimes pop. Plus, the little ones enjoy playing with the balloons and that makes it easier to concentrate on the job at hand! Rip a bunch of newspaper strips, at least 2 inches in width.  Mine were wider, but it’s not critical.  Except that it takes less time to cover the balloons with wider strips.

Making the flour and water paste - still too thick

Make a paste of flour and water in your pan.  It should be thin enough to spread along the newspaper strips without clumping, but not too thin that it soaks them and rips them.

Just right!

Spread newspaper on your work surface. Putting the balloons together is the hardest part.  It’s easiest to have one person hold them together while the other wraps a few paste-dampened newspaper strips around to hold them together. I sometimes use a piece of newspaper that is just a little shorter than the body and wrap that around the body, wetting it with the paste and then adding layers of the strips. This helps keep the balloons together more quickly, especially is you don’t have an extra set of hands. Basically, the long balloons are stacked to form the body of a lamb.  We put 2 balloons on the bottom, one on top of those in the middle, and two on top of that one.  It should be a little wider on the bottom, so for the bottom we used the two balloons which were just a touch bigger than the others.  The round balloon can be attached by tying the tied end to the tied ends of the long ones, or you can use tape or string for this.

Drag a newspaper strip across the surface of your paste, and then slide your index and middle finger down on either side of the strip to remove the excess paste.

 

THe head is attached, and we've started to wrap newspaper strips to the body.

Another angle

The back of the pinata, laying on its side. Blue balloons are the top of the lamb's back.

Completely cover the pinata by putting the newspaper strips every which way until you have several layers.  Make sure you don’t do too many if you only have small children, or they won’t be able to break it.  I don’t have to worry about that any more with my crew, because this is one of those traditions that even the big kids still want to participate in.  The head is the tricky part.  In order to keep the head upright, you have to start a strip at the top of the head and stretch it to the back, anchoring it with a cross strip on the back.  After a few of these it will stay up.  When you have a layer covering the head, wad up a small piece of newspaper to make a bump for the nose.  Put it where the nose would be and cover with more strips to stick it on.

Our anchor strips to hold the head upright

Gratuitous baby shot. See what I mean about the balloons keeping the little ones happy?

Once the pinata is covered with a few layers, set it in a warm place to dry.  Last year I put it out on our deck on a little table.  Our dog looked out the window and thought it was another animal, and he wouldn’t stop barking.  Poor guy – I think he was traumatized!

Drying out on the deck

Oops, forgot the ears.  You can fold pieces of newspaper to make ears and glue them on with paste and strips, or I have sometimes used pink construction paper, which will then be covered on the outside with cotton balls. When the pinata is dry, cover the entire thing with cotton balls, using regular white school glue.  If you want to go for a more realistic look, stretch the cotton balls so they are fluffier, and not round, and then stick them on.  The nose can be painted with black paint or colored with a black Sharpie before you glue cotton balls around it.  I sometimes draw black eyes with a Sharpie as well, but honestly, you can barely see them after all the cotton is glued on anyway.  Before you glue all the cotton on top of the lamb’s back, use a sharp knife to cut a slit about 6 inches long (from the direction of the head towards the tail end)  The slit should be in the middle of the back, though, not too close to either end.  At each end of this slit, make a small cut sideways so that you can fold the opening enough to get the treats in.  You can disguise this later with more cotton, so keep the cotton and glue on hand for later.  Part of the mystery as a kid was not knowing how those treats got in there.

 

The finished product, hung with two ribbons on two separate pegs on a beam in my mom's kitchen

And now for a slideshow of last year’s “slaying of the lamb.”

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