Where our Hope is found

This morning, I was walking from our room at the Ronald McDonald house to Hope’s hospital room. I love how quiet the city is early in the morning.

Like always, my mind was racing – wondering what the day ahead of me would bring. Would she have more seizures today? Would she still be really drowsy? Would we have to increase another medication? Would today be a good day? All of the unknowns that usually flood my mind each morning, and really, all throughout the day.

I know that I am technically supposed to be giving all of my thoughts over to the Lord – but some days I don’t really know how to balance between doing that, and being present in what our reality is.

Lawren and I have been taking turns each night. One of us will sleep in her hospital room, and the other at the RM house. Last night it was my turn at the house and Lawren walked me there. As we were taking the elevators down we caught a glimpse of a little baby through the window in the NICU – all swaddled and being held upright in an isolete as the mom was feeding him with a tiny bottle. Oh boy did that bring back a flood of memories that got us talking.

As we were walking to the house we started talking about how life is so different than we imagined. We often talk about that, without “staying there” for too long, if you know what I mean. Verbalizing how our life still shocks us some days, but we try our best to keep looking ahead.

We talked about how at our wedding, we stood at the alter reciting vows, and singing in Christ alone, my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song. We talked about how God brought us both together and He knew exactly what our life was going to look likeand we could have never even imagined it.

This morning as I walked back to the hospital I tried to remind myself in the midst of my racing mind that God has always been faithful. I thought back to ways that He provided for me, took care of me and protected me, and I realized that I was never disappointed in Him. But now, this didn’t measure even remotely close to what I’ve ever been through. All of those other things, while big at the time, seemed to pale in comparison to what we were going through now.

But really, that doesn’t matter. Those things were memorial stones that could be used for me to look back on to help me get through this current time – and to get through it with joy.

He was faithful then, He is faithful now. He is the same, the situation is just different.

It’s so easy to put my hope in a good day. To resolve in my mind that if Hope is alert, and has less seizures in a day, I am happy. But when the opposite happens, and when it is a bad day, I feel hopeless.

My hope, your hope, our hope can only ever be found in something that will never fail us. It is impossible to think that anything in this life can bring us enough joy that we can put ALL of our hope in it. I can tell you that first hand. Hope will have a good day and all of a sudden I am filled with joy. I am feeling myself, I feel happy, and I feel like I can conquer anything. And then things take a nasty turn and I am knocked down. Why? Because my hope was dependant on the events of that day. I am slowly learning what it means to put my hope in God alone. The author of my day. The One who goes before and knows exactly what will happen. That means, whether it is a good or bad day, He is the One I find my joy and confidence in. Especially on those bad days, knowing that He is my hope and He is the one establishing my steps for His purpose, helps me not to be in despair or feel shattered.

He really is a Rock and Fortress – a safe place. And I’m not saying that I can’t feel sad or cry – those are the moments that push me to Him even more – where I try to work out what is going on, ask Him for strength in the process, and find rest in that safe place.

I hope you can find peace, rest and HOPE in Him today, no matter what you are going through. I will often sing these words to Hope while snuggling her. I hope they can remind you of Who your hope is in today:

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

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Made up stories

When I was in teachers college, I used to take the bus to my placement downtown. I had a short stint where I did a placement at an ESL Center. Everyday I would get on the bus, and there was this little old man I would watch (it isn’t as creepy as it sounds – I promise). He would always get off at the stop by the hospital. And day after day I started to make up a story about him.

In my mind, this man was visiting his sick wife at the hospital each day. He was all alone at home, and would sadly take the bus to go and visit his love. One day, I actually started tearing up. It was kind of ridiculous – because it was a made up story. This wasn’t the first time I did that, or the last. Often I will look at people, imagine what their life is like, and usually feel pretty sad by the end of it.

Especially now. We’re in the thick of our difficult situation and instead of it making me feel like it isn’t fair because “why do we have to go through this” it’s actually making me see and understand a little bit more that everyone is dealing with something.

I’m a pretty impatient person. It used to drive me crazy when people weren’t paying attention. Things like waiting in a drive through line, the person in front of me not going as soon as the light was green, having to really slow down because people were walking too close to the road and not realizing a car was behind them – those things would really bug me.

Until I become that person.

I’m that person standing and staring off while the Starbucks lady says “hello, can I help you?”. I’m that person that gets honked at because I’m not going the second the light turns green. And I’m that person that looks like she’s not really paying attention most of the time. I’m that person because my mind is now consumed with something. I can’t think clearly. I’m often replaying in my mind when we have given Hope her medicine, or when my next appointment is, or if this new movement she is doing is abnormal and I need to call the doctor. And maybe it’s a good day – but I’m still daydreaming about what I wish life looked like in this moment. My mind is constantly racing and because of that I’ve become quite oblivious some days to what’s going on around me. And when I feel like people are being short with me, it takes everything in me not to start crying and scream “I’m just really sad right now ok!”

Because we were in the hospital over the weekend we weren’t able to go for ice cream – something we do once (ok sometimes twice) over the weekend. We drive by the lake, get an ice cream, and then drive home by the lake. We got home from the hospital Monday afternoon and decided to do our ice cream run so that we wouldn’t ruin our streak.

We were driving and a young boy on his bike almost swerved into us. Instead of getting angry I instantly thought that something must be distracting him for him not to have heard us coming. As we continued driving and we passed random people, even the people serving us our ice cream – I started making those stories up in my head again. I know that these stories I make up in my mind are not what’s really going on. I know that not everyone is going through trauma in their life moment by moment – but I think it is fair to say that we are all a little (or a lot) distracted by something going on.

For me, God has used our situation to help open my eyes to a hurting world. I’m still not great at it – I still have my moments where I’d rather honk at the person in front of me instead of letting it go – but God has graciously shown me little by little that not everything is as it seems.

There is heartache and hurt all around us. I pray that God will open my eyes more and more so that I can be compassionate towards others. Honestly, I really believe this is something only God can do. I think even the nicest person struggles with being impatient.

May God use our current troubles to open our eyes. To help us reach out, love better, and be compassionate to those around us.

Mind vs. Heart

“Her brain is abnormal and that in itself brings global delays. But, her seizures on top of all of that make it even worse.”

This is what one doctor said to us the other day. I had asked him if it was common for it to be so hard at the beginning, and if it starts to get better over time. This was in the same appointment where we were told that Hope would definitely need a G-tube.

“Oh, the keto team won’t do anything unless she has a G-tube.”

Thanks a lot.

Sometimes I feel like we are continually being knocked down. I try to find the words to describe just exactly how I’m feeling, and saying I have a broken heart doesn’t even do it. It feels shattered most days. There are days where I really feel like we’re in a pit. I picture a ditch sort of – and there are days that I am crawling up the sides to get to the top, and the dirt on the sides are crumbling, making it hard for me to get up there – but I keep going. And then sometimes I make it to the top, but it’s like something is up there and once I reach the top, it pushes me back into the ditch and I’m right back where I’ve started.

Are you depressed yet?

Situations like this really make you search, evaluate and work out your faith like never before. Did I even know God before? Did I even ever really feel like I needed Him? Oh boy did I ever need him – and do I ever need Him now.

Driving home from the hospital the other day, after talking about her brain and especially focusing on a G-tube, I wanted to cry – well, I felt like that’s what I needed to do. I needed to react, because that’s what I do every time we hear something new about Hope – or things we already know over and over again. I did cry a bit – but that car ride was different. There was this strange peace in my heart. Yes, my mind was racing – it felt like the right thing to do was to be freaked out and worried – but my heart was at peace. I had already had my many days previously of crying, worrying, reacting – but it was different that day. It was like my heart wouldn’t let me fully react because there was this peace washing over me knowing that God knew this moment would come. It wasn’t a surprise to Him, and because of that He would continue to give us the grace to handle each new thing that would come our way.

Knowing that God knows and goes before us makes all of the doctors appointments, discussions, and tough days a little bit easier. It may seem harder because we have to be continually reminding ourselves that He knows and He is guiding us, but I guess that is better then coasting through life thinking that every thing that comes up, and every outcome, rests on us.

I know I need to change my perspective – instead of imagining that I am climbing out of that ditch, I need to KNOW that it’s actually Jesus reaching out His hand and pulling me out. Reminding myself that the God that we serve is the God who rescues His children and promises to always be present and near.

I hope that you can be encouraged in knowing today that whatever it is you are going through – He is so intricately involved in every single detail of it. For me, it is this daily – sometimes moment by moment – resetting of my heart and mind to trust Him again and again. Try to remember, if He takes care of the sparrows and the grass of the fields, why wouldn’t He take care of us? I hope you can rest in that truth today.

June 2nd

There are a handful of dates that stick out in my mind, and June 2nd is one of them.

Yesterday at the hospital the nurse wrote June 1 on a piece of paper. I was shocked and said to her “is it June 1st already?!” June 1st was the day I left Zambia after living there for 2 years, and June 2nd was the day I returned home.

I had spent the majority of my 20’s being in school, and travelling a ton. I LOVED seeing different parts of the world. Exploring was and still is my favourite thing. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy – as long as it was somewhere different and new, I was game for trying new foods, seeing new places and meeting new friends. Nearing the end of my time in Zambia, I really felt the Lord preparing me for this chapter in my life to close. Not in a dramatic way – I didn’t make a big deal of it – but I was going home, and I was finally at peace with just staying home and investing in my time there. I have always been one to look at and dream about what’s next – and that usually involved where I would want to travel to next. But God really prepared my heart and even though it’s hard to explain, I was so at peace with the current chapter in my life coming to a close, even though I knew it wouldn’t involve travel (for a little while anyways).

On June 2nd 2017, Lawren picked me up from the airport and we hit the ground running. I was so thankful for my time away in a place I loved, surrounded by people I loved; and I was so thankful to be returning home to a place I loved, and surrounded by people I loved. I knew Lawren and I were headed in the direction of marriage (we ended up getting engaged 28 days later) but who knew the rest. I imagined we’d get married and have babies – life would be simple and sweet.

Last year, on June 2nd, I posted this on Facebook:

It popped up in my memories today (by the way – those Facebook memories get me all the time – anyone else? 😭). What stuck out to me was the last part

“God is faithful. He provided for me then, has provided for me now, and will continue to be faithful. My job: to trust Him”

Those words were so hard for me to read this morning. I automatically thought to myself – Ha! Life was so easy then. It wasn’t even really that hard for me to trust. But now it is.

Where am I on June 2nd, a year after I wrote that? At home, on the couch, with a sleeping babe lying on me who is recovering from surgery. A simple eye surgery turned into her needing a tube stuck down her throat so they could assess her airways. Thankfully they found nothing, but this poor little babe is so raspy and having trouble breathing as her throat heals – so she is laying upright so I can help her when she starts having a coughing fit.

Our journey with Hope has been the craziest adventure I have been on. It’s not easy to trust God when things are completely different than you had imagined your life would look like – but if it was easy, would I feel the need to trust Him? Probably not.

This little lady has already taught and shown me that I need to rely on God more than I have ever imagined possible. Trusting in Him has taken on a whole new meaning, on a whole new level.

My mind often drifts back to my days in Zambia. I want to be in the hot sun, with my cute little friends in Chongwe hearing them say “hallo auntie!” But you know what? While I was there my mind would drift to being home in Canada. One of the biggest lessons I learned while I was there was taking the words of Jim Elliot to heart:

Wherever you are, be all there.

So I choose to trust God and put those hard words into practice. Whether I’m driving down a dirt road, and buying avocados the size of my head at the market, or cuddling a sick little baby in a hospital room, with His help I will remember to be content and to be all there.

Enduring

“You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again” Psalm 71:20

This morning, this verse refreshed my soul. Knowing that life won’t always be the season we are currently in, helps me to endure. Knowing that ultimately the suffering we go through here on earth isn’t worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us (Romans 8:18) helps me to keep going day by day.

Enduring is hard work. We are impatient and want God to answer us quickly in our times of need. Sometimes we feel like He owes it to us. There are (many) times where I will just cry out “I don’t get it! Just heal her!” But the more I expect this from God, the angrier I get.

So how do you endure? Start by throwing away your expectations.

I slowly see that the more I expect, the more I am disappointed, and the harder it is to deal. I’ve always thought of myself as a positive person – I am constantly dreaming and thinking and the littlest things excite me and bring so much joy. But I have noticed that having unreal expectations of what this life has to offer has lead to disappointment, and quickly to the agonizing pain of suffering.

The reality that I face day to day is completely different than my expectations. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t joy, but just that things look considerably different than what my expectations are. Really though, this didn’t start the day we found out about Hope, this has always been something that has been a challenge for me. Whether it was dreaming about my perfect trips and adventures, my perfect marriage and husband, or my perfect friendships, my expectations have often failed me. In short, life has been good – but oh so different than I imagined.

The other week was HARD. Like so hard. I couldn’t deal with watching Hope on my own, because I couldn’t deal with seeing her have seizures. Nothing was new or different, it was the same as always, but I just couldn’t get a grip that day. So much so that Lawren came home from work early. That evening, both of us were feeling like we were at the end of our rope. Usually I’ll cry to Lawren and say “I can’t do this even one more day!” And he’ll say “yes you can! You always say that and look at how far you’ve come” and then I get annoyed because he’s always so positive…and it isn’t fair because I used to be the positive one! But that night, I really couldn’t do it. We were trying to feed Hope and give her her medicine and she was just having seizure after seizure. She was hungry, but she could only eat for a couple of seconds before she’d start coughing and go into a seizure. We felt so done. We eventually finished and headed to bed. I was nervous for the morning. We were going to have to do this all over again – and that’s exactly what happened. A horrible morning just like the night before, and we were both feeling even more done than in the night. I thought I was at the end of my rope that night, but now it was even worse. It actually scared me a bit because I had never felt so defeated, so in despair. And the worst part was – we felt so alone. Where was God? We were crying out to Him and her seizures were getting worse. We were so sad – and so mad. I was so angry I couldn’t even stand to see my Bible on the table in front of me – I threw it across the room. I was so beyond done. I have never, ever had my faith tested to this extent. We weren’t crying out to Him anymore – we were yelling.

We somehow managed and the craziness subsided. Later that morning I picked up my Bible off the kitchen floor. Because even though I was mad, I knew deep down that God really was and is my only hope. That morning, God lead both Lawren and I separately to passages of scripture about enduring:

“More than that, 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” Romans 5:3-5

“And not only the creation, but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we are saved. Now hope that is seen is not good. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” Romans 8:23-24

My eyes were opened up again to the fact that in this world, we will have many troubles. This is life. Even though God can heal, it doesn’t mean He always does. But His word says He promises that He’ll always be with us – and because of that, we can endure.

See, that was where my problem was. I was putting all of my hope in Him just healing Hope so that we could move on with life. I wasn’t putting my hope in who He is. Yes, a mighty healer – the only one that can – but also a refuge for us. A strength for our weary hearts. A helper for moments of confusion and a Saviour who has died for us.

So my prayers have changed a bit. Yes, you bet I am going to keep asking God for healing, but I’m also asking Him for the strength to endure. To hold onto Him like you would an anchor in rough waters.

“But the Lord has become my stronghold, and my God the Rock of my refuge” Psalm 94:22

3 months of loving you

It’s been 3 months of loving my sweet girl; but really, it’s been so much longer. From the moment on that May long weekend that we found out we were expecting, I’ve loved this sweet baby more than I knew I could.

Lawren’s reaction to me telling him that I was pregnant was “I know”. Apparently him going out at 9:30 at night to get me a burger the week before tipped him off. I was unusually sad that day, and he kept asking me what would make me feel better. I had no idea – until late at night when I knew the only thing that would make me feel better was a Harvey’s burger with extra pickles – and magically, it did the trick! He told me that night that I was probably pregnant and I didn’t believe him.

The next day after finding out we were expecting, I dropped Lawren off at a meeting at church, and I went and sat by the lake. It was such a surreal moment knowing that I was pregnant, and that nobody knew. It was this exciting little secret that terrified me. I was so happy, yet so scared. I felt like I already loved this little peanut inside of me and yet I was overwhelmed by the fact that we were going to be parents! I sat by the lake and journaled and prayed. I prayed that God would equip us to be good parents. That we would do a good job raising our child to know and love the Lord. I daydreamed about all of the activities I wanted to do as a mom. We later had so many talks about things that we knew nothing about. How we thought we would discipline, what we would teach our child, if they’d go to public school or private school. We had no idea that those conversations would quickly change to just wondering how we would simply take care of our baby day by day.

While pregnant, and even after having Hope, I struggled with my role as a parent. I felt like I couldn’t really be the mom that I wanted. In my mind, Hope’s diagnosis wouldn’t allow me to freely go to ‘mommy and me’ groups because I would be constantly comparing her development to other babies, or be scared that she might catch something with her weaker immune system. I wanted to be a part of all the mommy groups and do all the mommy things. I wanted to be running late because my baby had just spit up everywhere or be complaining about how my baby kept me up all night, screaming. Crazy enough, I was actually jealous of the fact that Hope wasn’t doing that. That because of all of the medications she was on, she was actually super quiet and chill. I was told that I was lucky and to be careful with what I wished for – but call me crazy, I wanted that screaming baby, at the mommy group, wiping up the spit up, because all of that in my mind meant “normal”.

I felt like because of her diagnosis, instead of a “mom”, I’d be her nurse. All I wanted was for her to do the normal baby things and for us to just live a simple life. I didn’t want our normal to be going to appointments or to be documenting when she had a seizure and how long it was for. I wanted to just take videos of her smiling at me, or playing with her toys. We were told that she might not walk or talk. That she would develop differently. That she would have challenges. I have been overcome with fear of the fact that taking care of her might mean she never says “mommy” or comes running towards us in excitement. Now, of course we have no idea what exactly is to come – these are just my thoughts and fears – but 3 months in, I have realized that my thoughts and fears have shown me that I am looking at things all wrong.

In the quiet of the night, when I find God speaks to me the loudest, God has shown me that my definition of what a mother is, is often wrong. God has shown me that my role as a mother means being a servant. Taking care of my baby at whatever the cost, even if that means she is never able to say the words “thank you” to me. She may communicate her thankfulness in a different way, but still, that’s not what should drive me to take care of her.

As I press into that definition of servanthood, I realize that being a mother is actually greater than I had ever imagined – and I haven’t even scratched the surface. All of the activities and play groups are great and wanting those things are harmless – until it becomes something that drives my thoughts. Jealousy starts to creep in, and anger is there too. All of a sudden I am overwhelmed because this experience of motherhood right in front of me is different than the one I had imagined, and I start to feel like God has cheated me of something I deserve.

I know that we all feel this way at times. No matter what role(s) you are in, as we start to compare, we often become discouraged and disappointed that our life looks this way. Once I started to accept that this was the life God had designed for me, and that each and every moment was ordained by Him, it became easier to step into my role as a mother, and take care of Hope in whatever way she needed – and will need.

Being Hope’s mom has taught me to enjoy every moment of every day – to be thankful for every milestone and moment, even if they look different than someone else’s. To not compare myself to other people in other situations. To accept whatever our normal is – and realize that I can still probably do a lot of the things I imagined. I am called to serve God by simply taking care of Hope’s needs with His strength, without expecting any recognition in return. It means that being a mom to Hope will probably look a little different than the things I imagined. But, it’s realizing that joy can be found in cuddling Hope while in a waiting room for her next appointment, just as much as it can be found at a playgroup. Thankfully, He graciously meets all of us where we are at, and knowing that helps me to reset my mind when often I yearn to be somewhere else.

I am slowly slooooowly learning that wherever He has placed me is exactly where I need to be.

And with that said, today we celebrate with thankfulness in our hearts that Hope is 3 months old! We love you, baby girl. You are our greatest gift and treasure.

A wet cloth

Hope is on yet another medication. This medication is more of a treatment – to treat a bad type of seizure called infantile spasms. Like any new medication she starts, it’s always too strong for her little body and makes her extra sleepy. When she’s extra sleepy, it makes it extra hard to feed her – kicking my anxiety into high gear.

Waking her up to feed her has been so difficult. And as soon as she is awake and starts to eat, that exhausts her. We’ve tried everything. One of us tickling her while the other is feeding, taking her clothes off, keeping the light on. It hasn’t helped too much. Our most effective tool has been wetting her with a cold cloth on her hands and feet – it sounds so mean and it’s always our last resort, but it’s the one thing that works and gets her to eat.

While feeding her one day, and waking her with a wet towel, I started to think about how this was good for her. It was painful for her in a way, but she needed it. If I let her be, and do what was most comfortable for her, she’d probably sleep all day. She’d be too tired to know that she was hungry and actually needed to eat. Eating would help her. Not eating would lead to dehydration, a trip to the hospital and an IV.

That wet cloth, although causing her discomfort, was actually the best thing for her. One day while feeding her, God showed me how similar He often works with us. Like that wet cloth, God knows what is best for us, even when the process is painful. We may think that what we want to do is totally fine – just like Hope sleeping is totally fine. But too much of that sleep can be dangerous for her. She doesn’t know that and often we don’t know that. We make our plans, and they seem simple and normal – no big deal right? But often, the painful experiences in our lives are actually God’s mercy on us. He can be protecting us and leading us a different way – His way.

Early in October my midwife had called me while I was at work and left me yet another message. This was my third time having an anatomy scan and after each one I’d always have a missed call. Twice, she had told me that because of the way the baby was positioned the technician couldn’t get the best views. No one thought it was serious. But when that third phone call came I remember thinking “really? Again?” And something in my gut didn’t sit right. It was the end of the school day, and I couldn’t wait to listen to the message, so and I texted Lawren right away and asked him to check my messages and text me back. He wrote me back saying that the midwife said the baby had enlarged ventricles. Neither of us knew what on earth that meant, and as soon as my last student was dismissed, I ran to the bathroom and cried. I had a strange feeling that this was the beginning of something I wasn’t ready to face.

Later that night I came across a quote from Charles Spurgeon that read:

“remember this, had any other condition been better for you than the one you are in, divine love would have put you there”

The next week, I was reading the story of Jehoshaphat in preparation for teaching Bible to my Grade 1 and 2 class. Jehoshaphat prayed to God when he knew an army was coming to battle against him. It says that he set his face to seek the Lord, and he ended his prayer by saying:

We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you – 2 Chronicles 20:12

That quote and scripture had prepared my heart for the coming days. Days that I thought we’re just plain cruel and unbearable. Days that I knew God had the power to turn around, but wasn’t doing so in the way I liked.

Now that some time has passed, although we are still in the thick of things, I want to be able to reflect and understand that the things we are going through show God’s mercy and power. That although painful, like that wet cloth, they demonstrate that God knows what He is doing, and knows what is best for us in each moment. With our minimal understanding we can face our struggles and trials and conclude that God is just plain cruel – believe me, I have felt that way more often then not. But, if we truly know that God is sovereign, we can rest in knowing that every single thing that happens to us – good and awful – is all part of His plan in shaping us and conforming us to His image.

So when that wet cloth makes us feel uncomfortable, remember that our Father knows best – and in that moment it won’t make sense to us. But can I encourage you to simply trust Him? I’m slowly learning that it’s the best place for me to be.