April McGowan

A New Normal

I started off writing this blog about seven weeks ago. I’d had a cold, was getting over it, and felt discouraged because it didn’t seem like I could keep up with life. There are so many people out there promoting their writing better than I do, turning out more stuff, and some how keeping their lives in ship shape order. I shared my insights with a friend who reminded me that my family lived at a different level than maybe other people’s families do. I didn’t understand what she meant.

She reminded me that in the past few years, we’ve gone through a lot with all our different health ailments. She took me down a long list of things we’ve survived and it took me aback. It seems, over the course of time, we’d adjusted to these things, moved the bar, so to speak. I hadn’t thought of that. She suggested I might be putting too much pressure on myself (who me??) and I should rather appreciate how God has helped us adjust to this new normal in our life, and cut myself some slack in the expectations department.

I’d thought about that phrase before. A new normal. Our normal has changed. We’ve gone from a carefree, grab a meal out here and there, spur of the moment family, to one that has to consider ever aspect of food, preparation, time and energy. We have to take a lot into consideration when planning an outing, or making a commitment. I think, even though it’s been a very hard adjustment period, we are better for it. I think. On days when I’m exhausted and just want to get takeout, I don’t feel that way so much–but we all have our moments.

So, where was I? Oh yeah…planning this blog. SO, while I’m thinking about our new normal, and health issues, I get pneumonia. Again. Weeks have gone by, and now that I’m getting my energy back, I realize I never posted my blog I’d begun so many weeks ago. Maybe I needed a refresher course? Okay, so here’s what I learned this time:

My family has learned to pick up the slack when mom is down and out. They know how to really dig in and take care of things. We’ve been here, done that, and are good to go with the flow. I don’t dig my heels in and complain when struck silly with illness, as once I did. Rather, I look and think and wonder what God might have in store for me this time. I used to rail and whine with each bout of illness that came our way, now I’m like, “huh…well, okay. We know how to do this.” I now feel fairly (notice I said fairly) comfortable telling people, “No, I can’t do that.” Because I know the limits on my energy. I don’t fear.

I liken it to fire drills. Or emergency preparedness. If you do something often enough, then you get kind of used to it. Am I comfortable being ill? Not hardly. But, I know that God will provide for our needs. He’s shown us again and again and again. When I go down, I’m not alone. He’s here, providing comfort in the sense of His being, through others, through family.

Some of my favorite passages are in Romans. One that get’s used an awful lot, found on stationary, door knockers, you name it,  is Romans 8:28 And we know in all things that God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Is that an easy platitude to give someone going through a hard time? No. I think it’s often taken out of context. First, it’s a promise to those who belong to God, His children adopted by God through our great Savior, Jesus. Second, it’s a promise that no matter what we face, if we are submissive to Him, He can take all the trials of this life and work them out to further His plans, for our good. It’s a verse I hold dear. But, put in context, it’s ever so much more powerful:

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.  28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Paul goes on to say, if God is for us, who can be against us? Who indeed.  If we belong to Him, then NOTHING can separate us from the Love of God that is in Christ Jesus.  If you haven’t read this passage of Romans completely in a while, or maybe never–please do. It’s so much more than a platitude for those hurting. There is beautiful power in the Word of God.  Here’s the link Romans 8.

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I studied interior design in college. I had to learn very quickly to communicate my ideas visually with the class—and especially to the instructor. We learned to draw in perspective, to use vanishing points to make what was really a one dimensional view look three dimensional. I grew especially good at drawing from the top down (as if you’d taken the roof off the building and looked inside like, like taking the top off a dollhouse). But, that came with a lot of practice and many mistakes.

We recently took our first trip as a family who is limited by food allergies. Two years ago, we were not that family. We spent one year in diagnosis with my son, and we’ve had one year to adapt to a lifestyle that is not friendly to our day to day conveniences of food.  Or inconveniences—depends on how you look at it. And that is the point of my post.

We haven’t yet taken on bigger vacations, but we started with a two-day trip to a family member’s house. We made sure that the grocery stores in the area had some of the safe foods we depend upon, and then went shopping to buy everything else we needed. We packed our pans and cutting boards and utensils (we have to be that careful with his diet). I made safe snacks for the ride and had meals prepared so when we stopped we could eat.

Traveling like this does NOT come naturally to me. I grew up stopping at restaurants when we were hungry, along with the rest of the population. We now look at fast food joints like flashy rest stops. We can’t eat there—we just use their…amenities.

I’ve quit minding the wrappers and crumbles left behind from our eating in the car (our safe haven when it’s raining and there are no places to stop. Please, don’t look through the window of my car too carefully!).

I do have to admit, that on the way home, after what was really a lovely trip, I did look ever so longingly at the families heading into those cozy side spots for a nice leisurely meal—especially when it was 8PM and we still had to unpack and THEN cook dinner when we got back.

We are learning to live outside what other folks have to do. But, we are managing and beginning to see things from new angles and make new routines and habits. With practice and prayer, we are seeing advantages like listening to books on CD while we eat lunch in our car, rather than slipping on the greasy floors of a fast food restaurant (but that’s another story). God has a hand at changing our hearts, and instead of looking with dread at these challenges, I am looking at things from a new perspective.

Philippians 4: 4-7,19 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

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Ener-G Foods (my new ally)

We had an ALMOST bad experience the other day.  That’s not proper English, is it?  But, that best describes it!  We have used many Ener-G brand products over the past year.  Breads, egg replacer (I prefer flax meal now–seems to make things rise better), crackers, pretzels (yummy sesame seed covered ones) and the like.  We can only get their brand through our local grocer, and the items they carry are all gluten, dairy and egg free.  So, when I glimpsed their brand on Amazon, and saw the word “donuts” I didn’t hesitate to order.  I’m not a baker (except cookies)–and when I fry foods, they often come out oily, so I avoid frying.  Anyway, my son has asked many times if gluten free, egg free, dairy free donuts exist, and until that day, I didn’t think so.  So I ordered a case immediately.  They arrived to much fan fare, and I set about opening a pack and trying one.  My husband tried one too, and said, “I taste lemon.”  So I read the ingredients, and didn’t see lemon, but DID see egg whites.    WHAT???

My son took this disappointment better than I did, but he was still sad.  I felt badly because my mistake of not reading ingredients  had nearly caused a catastrophe, and I felt I had let him down.  You hate to see your kids disappointed by something they had their hopes set high on.  Needless to say, I contacted the company and suggested they change their label, or add the word “EGG” in the title of the product, or main description.  Or at least BOLD it on the package.  When our local store carries about 20 different items by this company and NONE of them have egg or dairy, it’s a shock, let me tell you.    I gave our case of donuts to a friend whose daughter is allergic to wheat, she was very happy,  and continued to feel badly until I got my response from Ener-G.

They were very apologetic, and assured me they’d take my concerns seriously.  Their representative explained they used eggs in very few products, and they were trying to phase them out with flax meal.  Some customers didn’t like that they were phasing eggs out–it was changing the flavor of their favorite foods in a way they didn’t like, but Ener-G feels strongly about eliminating the top 8 food allergens.  They were very sympathetic too, which I didn’t expect.  Often times when I write to a company and explain how hard it is to find safe foods, they leave me with the feeling like, “well, that’s your problem, we need to make a profit.”  Ener-G is NOT that kind of company.  They seem to have an empathy for what it is like to have to consider every food item that goes into your child’s mouth as a potential hazard;  To understand that eating food isn’t something that everyone can take for granted.    And let me tell you, when a company is empathetic and listens and tries their best to help–they gain loyal customers FAST.

Ener-g is sending my son a complementary box of brownies–gluten, egg and diary free–and for that, I’m very thankful.  If you would like to contact them and support them in their complete elimination of egg and dairy from their line, you can reach them here.

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