Photographs by Laurie @ Horizons Photography

December 31, 2010

New Year

If I were to look back over the past year and tell you all the things that I have learned I would fill a book let alone one tiny little Blog post, it's been a year that I would have happily glanced over at times, a year that was filled with moments I would rather not have had, a year that brought some tough lessons. Yet, here I sit on the precipice of 2011 and I can proudly tell you that had it not been for this past year I wouldn't be the woman I am, so where does that leave me? Happy.

Life lessons can be hard sometimes, and though we have times in our lives where things look grim my guess is that if we were to look back, not just a glance but real look we would all find the moments that we would never have wanted to miss. Those moments when though they were hard they taught us valuable lessons, or brought unsought after joy. I sometimes forget that, forget to take the time to look back.

In 2005 I began an important journey, one that led me to discovery of who I am and who God wants me to be. I began a road to healing and recovery from a lot of hurts and painful things, but I look at that year and I see this... God met me there, in that year I learned the love of my saviour and what it means to really know joy in pain and healing from old wounds. 2006 brought me back to Canada, after a rough start I again began to discover a new that God has a plan, a loving plan that is meant for good. I learned to be content, with whatever I have, with whatever I don't have. 2006 I met my husband and discovered a love that I had only dreamed about, a love that I rejoice in every day, a love that has seen me through some incredibly tough times. 2007 I married my best friend and discovered that we would be starting our family. It was a year of joy and bliss with a few worries tucked in for good measure. It was at the beginning of 2008 that we welcomed Joshua into our lives, with open arms and hearts we learned what it means to love unconditionally, what it was like to love so much it hurts. 2008 was one of the hardest years of our lives, struggling with being new parents, newly weds and the parents of a very ill child. We saw Joshua through 3 catheter procedures, one stroke and an open heart surgery and through it all we held onto each other and God in a way that still brings tears to my eyes. No one could have told me that I would be there in that place and still feel love and joy in the midst of it. It was in 2009 that our little man Kaleb entered the world and more importantly our family. He was and is a great gift, I still remember the doctor checking his heart just moments after his birth and pronouncing him healthy! What a gift when only months before there was a possible hole in his heart!! 2010 we bought our first home and saw Josh through another open heart surgery and now, sitting here in on my couch in my new home I see all these things and I rejoice!

We will have tough times ahead, I have learned that nothing is guaranteed, but we have each other, and we have hope in a Father who loves us deeply and will see us through whatever may come next. In just one hour we will welcome a new year, we have hopes and dreams and some of them will be realized and some of them will be dashed. We were never promised an easy road in this life, but I have discovered this...

In each moment we can choose to look up, we can choose to enjoy the small moments. A smile from our child, a hug from a friend, a touch from our spouse, a word, a step, a good laugh and yes, sometimes even a good cry. No prayer is left unanswered, but sometimes the answer is just a wait, or maybe even a no. God isn't someone out to get us, to punish us or hurt us but rather he is the only one who will stand beside us in all his majesty and weather the storm with us, sometimes shielding us from the rain and sometimes, knowing when to step back a little so that the rain will cleanse us and turn us into his warm and dry embrace.

Happy New Year! May your year be filled with an abundance of blessings and joy and may your face continue to look up to find the sunshine!

December 30, 2010

Great Expectations

Josh is almost three, Kaleb is almost 15 months. I have told you all how wonderful they are, what amazing kids they are and I have on occasion mentioned the trouble they can get into and the drama that they can cause.

Today, I am thinking about the expectations I place on them, even at this early age. With Josh, with his illness and his stroke I didn't expect as much. I had been told that there would be delays and I didn't expect any differently. When Kaleb was born, even though he too was born fairly early no one told me that I should expect a delay so I didn't. Kaleb is starting to talk, he points to things and tries a word on it, even if it's just the first syllable Li Li for light. Josh, he has words but it's like he refuses to use them.

My question is this. Is it my fault? Was it because I didn't have any expectations for Josh?  Or, is this just they it goes with kids? Each one being different, having their own personality etc. Side note here - I have placed great expectations on Josh that he is going to be the kid that brings the Leafs to the Stanley cup so let's hope the answers lie somewhere in there!!

I think if you read between the lines here you will find that my main issue is pure frustration at not being able to communicate with my kid. I see other two and three year olds chatting up a storm with their parents and I yearn to have those silly asinine conversations with Josh. I want to hear his 'whys?' from the back even if they drive me crazy!! To hear him tell me about the train or the dinosaur or the worm in the garden would all bring me joy and delight and I long, even yearn for that. I see his frustration and I know his pain because I am just as frustrated!

December 29, 2010

perfection!

Kitchen Aid bread... ahhh! So loving my new toy! Won't say much, this is just to show you the pics of the latest experiment...



December 28, 2010

OD or False alarm??

Picture this... I am getting ready to go for a coffee this morning, I have my coat on, my gloves and hat and I have Kaleb almost ready to go, with a coat, shoes and hat. The only left to get ready is his milk and cookies in case he needs a peanut free snack while I enjoy my coffee and chat with Fizzy. I leave Kaleb, playing with Josh and the dog for just moments in the mud room while I run in to get the last few things I will need for our morning out together. I am gone less than five minutes, and the door is open the whole time. I can hear everything they are doing.

I grab everything, and am bending over to pick Kaleb up to put him in the stroller when I notice that there is an open pill bottle on the floor, and little pills spread all over the place, some are broken. Somehow Kaleb and or Josh has gotten into my Yoga bag and removed the pills I keep in there. I admit here that the first words from my mouth are not nice words and can't be repeated here without my Blog being reported. My heart stops and I can actually feel the fear running in my veins.

Tim and I collect both kids up and study them, it's Kaleb who is closest to the offending mess, and it's Kaleb who is known to put anything and everything in his mouth. (Josh is a little more discerning).  Off to the ER we go, Tim drops me off with Kaleb and takes Josh home. The nurse asks a million questions that I can't answer (how many pills were in the bottle?, how many did he eat? etc. etc.). I can't tell her if he ate any, let alone how many he may have gotten into. Guilt weighs heavily on me and I want to yell at her, or anyone because of my own stupidity! What was I thinking?!?

Thankfully, when the doctor came in and he deduced that Kaleb probably hadn't ingested anything or we would already be seeing the effects of the drugs. He suggests that I get a better bottle to put the meds and sends me home. I pack him up and head home via bus.

That was at 11:45 this morning, we were home by 1:30pm, and here I am at 5pm still shaking like a leaf. We do everything we can for our kids, we keep them fed, warm, we buy them expensive toys and teach them everything we can. In the case of our kids, we deal with heart defects, peanut and egg allergies and all the doctors appointments that those things mean. We go out of our way to make sure these kids are taken care of, we sacrifice our own comfort and happiness to ensure that they are happy, and in less than five minutes it can all end with one stupid mistake, one gap in time when they aren't being watched like hawks.

I slammed into the wall of responsibility today, whoever said that keeping kids alive and healthy was easy was terribly mistaken, or it's just me and I suck at this parenting thing after all?!

December 27, 2010

Magic Pie

I made my very first pie today, a blue berry pie with my brand new Kitchen Aid stand mixer. I LOVE IT! There is noting like being able to mix one thing while tending the kids at the very same time. FABULOUS! The pastry tasted good... but the secret was really just a bunch of mistakes, I was so excited about my new mixer that I threw everything into the bowl without reading the full instructions. Then, again without reading instructions I put the mixer on the second speed and watched it work while I did other things. I then took the dough out, made it into a ball and threw it in the fridge without much thought. After dinner (about 1/2 an hour) I took the dough out, threw some flour out on the counter and began the process of rolling out the pastry. I rolled it gently at first, taking great pains to lift it carefully off the counter and into the pie plate, it worked okay, not great I am told but not bad. I stuffed it full of blue berry filling and then I then began the arduous task of making the top. What an ordeal! Who knew that it could be so hard to make a pie lid?? I had no idea!! I tried and tried, I rolled and rolled and still I could not beat that pastry into submission! It just didn't want to work out, and it certainly didn't look like the pies my Grandma used to make... eventually after a number of fatal attempts I finally gave up and I made a picture for the top of the pie instead of a lid. I had mountains, a train and train tracks... quite impressive really! (Although I am only slightly biased). Once again I didn't really read the instructions well, I guess I was supposed to bake the bottom crust a little first? Oh well, not me, I threw the whole thing into the oven and waited, 35 minutes later out came a master piece! Kitchen aid is amazing! My pie tasted so GOOD! No one was more surprised than I was I can promise you that!




funny isn't... no matter the amount of mistakes I made, the pie ultimately came out tasting good. Life lesson or just the magic of Kitchen aid?

December 23, 2010

Love = Simplicity

Someone once asked me about how to break down God's love into a really simple understanding... I laughed at the time. I had no idea?! It's like asking someone to explain quantum physics to a third grader... impossible! It's an abstract thing, unseen, not really felt and yet we know it exists by faith and by a simple knowledge of what he is doing or has done in our lives and the lives of those around us.

Then I had children, and while I still can't fully understand the depths of the love God has for us, I certainly understand it better. It's like I finally took a beginners Physics class.

I love my boys in a way that I didn't think was even possible, I care about every tear that leaves their little eyes even if it is meant to manipulate me. I hurt for every little scrape, or bruise and I want to do everything in my power to keep those wounds to a minimum, preferably they wouldn't ever end up hurt. When they do something that is mean, or hurtful, though it hurts me I know that I need to be strong and firm with them, not to punish but to teach them a better way, to help them grow into stronger men, more compassionate people. If they are headed down a path to destruction, I want to stand in their way to prevent harm.

When Josh needed surgery, though it broke our hearts we knew that it would help to fix his, we love him and want what is best for him, even if the road to that end is painful. I love them, and that means that I want to spoil them, I want to throw my arms around them as often as they will let me and hug them and kiss them, I want to hear their laughter, I rejoice in the giggles and wiggles that come at tickle time. They bring me joy, I could watch them for hours, simply looking at them and reveling in the wonder of them. They are my sons, and I am proud of them, love them and enjoy them. When they hurt me, or frustrate me, I don't ever stop loving them. In fact, all it usually takes is a small little smirk and all is right in the Haughton house once again.

I can't tell you in simplicity what God's love is like, but I can say that this love that I just described is only a small fraction of it. We are so loved, that much is simple. Nothing can separate us from that love, not even ourselves.

Merry Christmas!

Avalon - Everything To Me

December 21, 2010

Hissy fit anyone?

Today, if someone were to tell me that my boys were put here on earth simply to test me, to try my patience and cause me anxiety... I would have no trouble believing you. It started well, Tim went to work and the boys and I sat listening to carols in the playroom. Josh humming along to Jingle Bells and Kaleb bopping in time with the music, dare I say we even had some fun?!

The switch happened at 9:39 am, I know because I had my Blackberry on me and I took note of the time. One moment all was blissful, happy chatting, sporadic giggles, happy sighs. I can't tell you what went wrong initially, was it a toy that didn't live up to expectations? A car that didn't go fast enough? A train that didn't 'choo' in tune? All I know, is that in the blink of an eye my sweet children, the blessings I have often written to you about, turned into monsters and they haven't let up all day!

Crying, whining, fighting, pushing, biting, hitting, throwing toys, food, cups, even the dog has taken cover!! I have tried every technique that the Super Nanny has offered and here I sit Blogging in pure frustration, listening even now to total chaos.

Somehow, even in the midst of this there is a life lesson... we are all children in this way. Creating chaos and babies enough to whine and cry about it, begging someone to put order to our mess but not lifting our finger to do anything to help ourselves. We sit and have meltdowns, or total freak outs, we shout, cry, whine, throw things, hit, bite, pull hair or inflict untold damage with our words, to both ourselves and others. We are all two years old and we are constantly asking God to fix it, doesn't matter what it is, be it a broken truck or barbie or maybe a boo boo on our hearts. We ask him to fix it, or we blame him for doing it to begin with. Then, when out of pure grace he puts order to our chaos, we sit back on our diapered buts and pat ourselves on the back.

You may notice that I am using the 'Royal we', I of course am talking about me but I am aware enough to know that this is not an uncommon state of mind, we all have our two year old moments, the question is, do we realize it?

December 20, 2010

Community

I have been talking with a few people today about community and what that looks like and feels like and ultimately what it feels like to let that go, to say goodbye either by choice or by force.

In order to discuss this further I will need to once again refer to my time in Austria, my castle home in the heart of the Alps. It was filled with people who knew me, but loved me anyway. When you work and live with a group of people you have no choice but to grow together in intimacy and to learn all the good and all the bad and annoying things about the people you live and work with. When you are a part of something that special you can't help but feel loved. On any given Sunday you will hear someone get up and preach and because you know them so well, all the areas they struggle with and all the things they do well, you listen in a different way, you hear the stuff between the words and you know that they have come to their conclusions through experience. A community is a strange and yet very comfortable place to rest, a family of people that you have chosen to love, that have chosen to love you. Unlike family who loves you because of your relationship to you, a community loves you because of who you are.

Leaving that safe place is like leaving home for the first time, it's scary and hard but it will bring with it maturity and growth. Leaving a home like that, be it your physical home or your spiritual home allows you to stretch and grow, and to teach others about what community can look like. Is it always safe? No, just as in some families you have people who betray you or hurt you or reject you, community will sometimes have someone who is there to cause dissent, someone who betrays, hurts, rejects. Sometimes, you are faced with someone you find it really  hard to love or even like. This is how we grow.

Sometimes, we find that it's those people who in the end become your friends, become your champions, if only you allow them in to your heart, pray for them and hope only good for them.

So here is a challenge... if you are out there, facing a new community, leaving an old one, or in the midst of one I challenge you to step it up a notch. Find the person you don't get along so well with and learn to love them, pray for the one who seems to only be out to hurt you, teach the new ones what it really means to be a part of a community. It's not always easy, but is ALWAYS rewarding! Being a part of a community is not a solitary thing, it means opening up to people, regardless of whether or not they may hurt you, it means being fully exposed and totally open. You can't hide in real community. Masks won't cut it, people will find you out, scary? Yes, but it's also the most wonderful thing in the world to be that open, that intimate, that naked and still find yourself loved.

There is one other fantastic thing about community, a very important thing to point out. Leaving a community, though difficult and sad, means that you are open to a new one. You say goodbye to people, but is it really goodbye? My Austrian community is long since gone, broken up and spread world wide, and yet when I needed them to pray for my son, they rallied around me in prayer, having never met my Joshua they still never stopped praying, and writing, even calling to share their love and support. So here I sit in Toronto, Canada and I know that there are literally hundreds of people across the world who love me, and who love my son by proxy and who are praying for his health, his heart and mine. I had said goodbye, but I didn't really say goodbye. Instead, I said, see you later, keep in touch. I have only expanded my community, it's grown and changed and blessed me in so many ways. Leaving isn't always a bad thing, just a change.

December 19, 2010

First Century

Today I have been wondering about life in Biblical times, what it was like? what were the people were like? I mean, really, not just the same old stories from our childhoods but day to day life. I went for a walk down the street, cars and buses, trucks and streetcars all bustled by, people rushing from A to B, kids making snowmen, a few people sitting in Cafe's. It made me wonder what it would have been like back then. They were real, just as real as you or I, so they were more than just names and dates in an old book. They felt, they hurt, they dreamed. The men, like David or Samson or Moses or yes even Jesus, all had mothers and fathers. They loved, they laughed and they enjoyed quiet family times. What would they have done? When Mosses mother put him in a basket, how did she find the strength? What kind of pain and suffering did she endure afterwards? Did she ever regret it? Did David remember fondly the days of caring for sheep in his Fathers fields, were there times when he wished it had been one of his brothers who had been pickedw?  Was Samson's Dad a guy who sat in the local pub boasting of his son's unnatural strength while his mother prayed that he would cut his hair and look a little more dignified?

I walked past a store, open on a Sunday, housing wares of all makes and sizes, toys, food, drinks, anything you could ever want or need. What would it have been like in the first century? Where do you go when you need a quart of milk or an egg for baking or what if you had a snack attack? What did one eat? Drink? I pass a hair salon, and wonder what those poor women did they wanted a wash, cut and style and let's not forget the mani/pedi that all women should get the joy of receiving at least once or twice in their lives! Dare I question about a massage therapist in a town like Bethlehem?

Once I started to ponder this I came to a bigger question, what was Jesus like as a child? What was his relationship with his Father like? Did he look up to him the way a normal son would look up to his Father? Did he like cuddles from his Mother? Did he play ball? Did he play?  Did he long to grow up like we do? Was he always a wise and mature teacher or did he have moments of just silliness?  What were his brothers and sisters like? What would it have been like to live with him?


I look at my children, I see Kaleb get angry when I don't get his food fast enough, or if I dare to try and change his diaper, or I see Josh have a melt down in pure frustration at not being able to verbally express himself and you don't want to see what happens if Kaleb dares to touch his train! These two children are wonderful, they are for the most part good, but perfect,sinless Sons of God? Not at all... so I am left wondering, what was he like as a two year old? When did he take his first steps? What were his first words? What was it like for him, growing up knowing his role for the world? His part in the plan that God had for our salvation? Who is this Messiah who's birth we celebrate?

December 18, 2010

Steps into boyhood

Tonight I had the privilege of teaching little Kaleb to walk. I got the share in the joy of his excitement of taking a step and not falling, I got to see the pride fill his face when I clapped with excitement over his achievement. When I was younger I didn't think it would bring such joy to see a child of mine learning things like walking. I mistakenly believed that it would just happen, that my kids would just one day stand up, take a step, probably fall a few times but ultimately begin to walk. I never imagined the feeling of being involved in the process. The warmth in knowing that I am incentive to walk, that his first steps would be to come to me for a hug, for kisses.

Tim taught Josh to walk, I came in at the end stage when Josh was walking four or five steps already. I had been upstairs working while Tim and Josh took the first steps into big boyhood together. That was exciting enough, to walk downstairs and have Josh walk to me out of no where?! Very cool! Equally cool though is to be the person who teaches. Be it to walk, talk or one day read, go potty by themselves or any other thing they might need to learn in order to become men. There is so much to teach, so much to learn, but if every step is as rewarding as Kaleb's first ones have been then I am going to enjoy this motherhood thing so much more than I dreamed.

Smiles, hugs, kisses, giggles, they are all designed to warm a mothers heart, and they inspire a change and a new person to grow inside of me. Someone who wants to be better, who wants to love more, to hug more, to kiss more, and to just enjoy the little moments more. They inspire me to be more of a mother, so that they can grow into strong men who can also love more. They say that Motherhood is work, and it is, but it's also the greatest joy and no matter how many times I Thank God for these two little men in my life I will never be able to express my full gratitude. I have said it before, and I will say it again, and again and again... I am blessed.

December 16, 2010

The aftermath

 Bringing Josh home was both a surprise and a joy. We were so happy, he was so happy, I don't think any of us had anticipated how quickly they would let us go home. Our first night was to be spent at a hotel near to the hospital, we prepared to have a good night. Josh was so excited to be out of hospital was bouncing off the walls, still shaky but he wanted to jump off the bed, skip down the hall and generally cause himself harm at every turn, He sat on the bed, I sat at the desk working, he would look over and catch my eye and then smile. It made my world, his smile makes my heart sing, quite literally. My tummy actually gets all warm and squishy.

The problem of course is that he pushed himself, I truly believe that he must have thought we were leaving it all behind at the hospital, all the pain, the fear, the terror of that week. I think that when we drove out of the parking garage and he saw the sunlight he felt freedom, heading home he probably thought it wouldn't hurt there, that things would return to normal, he could play with his toys, see his dog and even bug his brother.

Then Saturday morning happened. He woke screaming in pain at 3 am, I fought some medicine down him and he managed to get back to sleep. Only to wake again at 7:30, wailing again in agony. We brought him downstairs and laid him on the couch but he wouldn't move, wouldn't drink, wouldn't eat. His little eyes looked so sad. He slept on the couch, had a few little snacks but still refused to move or drink and he seemed betrayed when I tried to force medicine down his tiny throat. We watched all his favorite movies, tried to buy all his favorite foods and did everything we could to get him to have even just a sip of anything to drink. He seemed like a different child, gone was the happy little boy trying to skip down the halls of the Delta Chelsea, or the mischief seeking kid who tried to jump off the bed just four days post op. He had vanished and in his place was a sad little boy who would cry if we even spoke about his time at the hospital.

If I pull off his shirt he holds his little hands over his scar in an attempt to hide the ugly marks and with his eyes closed he says 'no' until I put his shirt back down. Nothing for him is as it was, and try to explain that it won't last forever to a 3 year old, it's hopeless.

The waiting was hard for it's reasons, the surgery, the CCU were terror filled days, but the aftermath, the days since Josh has woken from sedation, the healing, this has been horrendous. To watch him suffer, to see his tears, to see his eyes turn to mine filled with questions, to hear his little voice pleading. This, this is by far the worst stage.

That being said, I see daily improvements. Less medication is needed to ease his pain, a few more steps were taken, his eyes turned to me yesterday and instead of tears I received a smile. Small steps, baby steps, but they are marking the journey, they are leading us down the path of healing and bring us to a place where we can look back and only have memories of this time.

My fear is that this will mark Josh, that his self consciousness will stay, that his eyes will always hold a touch of fear, a touch of betrayal, that he will always be slightly less trustful of me, of his doctors. How do I regain his trust, when with all my heart I only did what I knew to be best for him, when all I wanted was for him to be whole and healthy. I love that child more than I even dreamed possible, and I would do anything to take this from him. I would give my life for his, put my heart on the table if it meant he would not know one day of suffering. How can I explain this to a child of only three years old?

How is it, that he can look at me and smile, kiss me good night, giggle with me at SHREK burping, or want comfort from me when he hurts?  My son, who has suffered so much, braved too much and loves so well, my son who has faced this surgery with courage and fight, who has lived through the aftermath and is still able to give cheeky grins. How did I find myself so blessed, where did this child come from? Surly not from me, not from my fear, not from weakness. He is truly my hero, and I thank God for him, pray God's healing on him and I with all that I have, all that I am I pray that he forgets, I pray that his eyes soon hold only joy and mischief and none of the fear and pain that we have seen this week.

December 15, 2010

the 8 letter word

One of my readers passed this along... I quite enjoyed it!! Pretty sad but at the same time, with all the comics, Blogs and articles being written about it this year you have to wonder if change is in the air.

December 14, 2010

Freedom of speech or criminal offense?

I went to Vaughn Mills today with Kaleb for some one on one time but also to get my Christmas shopping started. On the way out there I listened to 640am talk radio. They were all up in arms about something Charles Adler had said regarding the gay pride parade. I found it interested and turned the radio up so that I could listen. As it turns out, Charles had been criticizing the way that the parade was advertised 'Come out and see young boys and girls', and this is a family friendly venue!? I personally find it offensive that public nudity is a crime and yet every year we allow men and women to march up and down our streets wearing little to nothing, they walk right past the doors of my church, where I bring my children on Sunday morning. Instead of arresting them for public nudity, we celebrate them, and are crucified if we say anything negative about it, the parade or it's participants.

Today Charles Adler said 'if you find yourself afraid to express your opinions, then you are no longer free.' Funny, that in a culture so hell bent on freedom of speech and freedom of religion, we cannot give our opinions without being accused of some kind of 'hate crime' or similar offense.

There was something else though that I noticed today while listening to this broadcast. The callers all agreed with Charles, maybe not in his opinion but in his right to have his opinion and his right to express it. It made me wonder who it is that is finding everything so offensive? Have we let some over sensitive, opinionated, loud mouths into a position of power over our own freedom of speech? When did this happen? When will we take our voice back?

December 12, 2010

Always in Advent

Hope, longing, anticipation, and preparation. As we prepare for Christmas we walk through the steps of preparing for the King to come. Not Santa, not presents, but the King. How wrong do we get this every year? How many of us lose our focus and buy into the commercialism that the media and society push down out throats? I know I do, I love getting presents! I also love the feeling of watching a person unwrap the gift that I hunted down for them.  It is true, that there is something simple and sweet about picking out the perfect gift, or watching a child's eyes light up when they look under the tree on Christmas morning. There is nothing particularly wrong about the tradition of gift giving, is Christmas not a celebration of a gift, a King, given to the world? The problem of course comes when we forget that simple fact.

Every year we begin the count down come December 1st. It is a season, something that we buy our children calendars for, a time of year that we anticipate as surly as the Jews in the 1st century anticipated freedom, a King, a Messiah. We have special services at church, we light candles, and it all leads to Christmas eve, that magical night of lights and music, joy and hope and celebrations. The world seems more beautiful in this season of advent, people say they have the 'Christmas spirit', they give more, they do more acts of kindness and offer generously to those less fortunate.

The question that I am left with, the one that I have been struggling with today is this... why just in the advent season? Are we not in a constant state of anticipation? Constant longing? Are we not always waiting for our King? Our Messiah? Should we not always see the world through our 'Christmas Lens'? Look at the less fortunate and try to find ways to help them, look at the child and not offer ways for them to see delight in their world? Should we not be kind everyday? Should we not be preparing our hearts always, in constant readiness for our Saviour? Come December 26th we rush out to get to the Boxing Day sales, or we sit on the couch and rest after being stuffed full during the holidays. Why is it that we always feel let down afterwards? Why is it that we find ourselves having the 'holiday blues'? Could it be that it is because we are still waiting on the ADVENT? Waiting for the 'arrival' or 'coming' of our King? That wait doesn't end on Christmas morning, we celebrate his birth but we also wait for his return.

So my thoughts have run to this, that though I celebrate his birth, I also prepare my heart for his return and I should remain in the Advent season until he comes again. Always in a season of hope, longing, repentance, joy, always looking around my world and trying to spot the beauty and lights of Christmas, always doing my best to see those in need, and do what I can to help them. To show my sons how to show compassion, how to love in a world where real love is an exception, to show them how to hope, how to believe in a coming Saviour, to raise them to know that they too are waiting, hoping for and longing for their King to come.

My hope, my prayer, is that during this magical season of Christmas we remember to hang on to the spirit in which is was intended. That we give with joy, but also that we continue the hoping, continue the wonder waiting and believing. My hope is that we don't get lost in the shuffle and rush of the season and wake up on Boxing day feeling the loss and let down of the end of Advent.

December 11, 2010

I believe!

Josh woke in the  night needing his medicine, I gave it to him and before he'd even swallowed it he was back asleep. It took me a little longer. I watched him sleep for a few minutes before heading back to my own room. He looks so peaceful and sweet, he always has. He has a way of pulling off the naughtiest things and then looking up at you and smiling in that sweet way he has and staying mad isn't really an option. He will be causing total chaos and wreaking havoc on our home and then at nap time he curls up and sleeps with his monkey and bunny tucked up in his arms and soother falling out of his lips. He just has a way about him that causes a heart to fall in love and eyes to light up with joy.

I went to bed and lay there for a while thinking about the past week, the past months really. I have spent a lot of time in the last few months reflecting on miracles. What they look like? How we get one, why we sometimes don't get one... I have even questioned the things in my life that I had believed to be miracles. I have doubted their existence, I have struggled with faith. This shames me, after all that God has done for myself, for Joshua, how can I doubt his hand in our lives?

I went into this week prepared for the worst case scenario. It was by far his most difficult procedure, definitely the longest, and after speaking with his doctors in pre-op, it was also the one that offered us little hope and encouragement. For the first time on this journey I lost my optimism.On Monday morning when we were driving to the hospital I felt sick, knowing what was about to happen, knowing that I was doing this to him. It had been my signature on the consent form. If anything happened to him, I would live with that knowledge for the rest of my life. Did I have a choice? No, but did it matter on Monday morning? No.

When he was finally woken out of sedation and calling 'Mummy' looking for me to help him somehow I felt the guilt of knowing it was me who did this, it was my fault he was in pain, and worse, that I couldn't help him. During all of this, I anticipated set backs, and waited for complications. For the first time since Josh was diagnosed inside of me as having a heart defect I had stopped believing in miracles. I didn't stop believing that God loved us, I didn't stop knowing that he would see us through, but I had stopped believing that God could move mountains. I had gotten off my mustard seed path and wandered around for a little while.

Yesterday, as I was standing in the Delta Chelsea staring at my son sitting on Santa's knee, his scar showing, his shaky hands holding tight to the Christmas bells, his sunken eyes watching in delight I was moved to tears. This child truly is a miracle, his existence is a miracle, his joy and laughter are miracles. God gave me a Christmas gift bigger than just Joshua's miraculous recovery. He gave me back my belief in miracles. They happen all around us, we saw one this week with a friends Mom who somehow was cured of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma in a miracle surgery. Everyday they happen, answered prayers, miracles, Gods little hugs from heaven. They happen, we just need to see them, we need to keep focused on him and keep looking for them. I had stopped looking because I had stopped believing, he reminded me to open my eyes and see.

A friend reminded me this week of the meaning of Joshua's name, God saves. He saves, not just the Joshua's of the world but the world. We just can't stop looking...

December 10, 2010

Joshua's Journey


This is a picture journey... from the night before the surgery to our return home tonight... 5 days and one huge miracle! On Monday he underwent 9 hours of open heart surgery, two times on bybass, a right atrial injury during surgery and a morphine allergy... not to mention all the normal post surgery pain, gas, and drug withdrawl... and yet today he is smiling and wanting to jump around and play... he is well and truly my miracle child!

Home

The sight of my sons smile has the power to alter my world and my perspective on life. We stayed up late last night watching Toy Story 3 about 15 times, but he was snuggled up to me the whole time, and on occasion he even smiled at me. What a night! I will not soon forget the feeling of warmth that ray of sunshine brought my world. He is one amazing child!! Even the exhaustion and the late hour (we were still watching movies at 2:30 am) was made fun by those simple little smiles.

Today, though still not walking or moving around, still shaky and weak they have allowed us to take him home. One of the blessings of living in Toronto is that they know that we aren't far away if there is a problem which means we are always released sooner! Loving that! We have been blessed by friends who have given us a room at a local hotel beside the hospital so that we can have a fun night at the hotel before going home. We will order pizza and sleep in the BIG beds! Josh's smile lit the whole of Toronto when we drove out of the parking garage today, we got outside and he beamed.  It was beautiful!

This past 5 days have been many things, it's been hard, stressful, scary, sad, heartbreaking and exhausting, but it's also been a lesson in love for me. I have learned how loved we are as a family, how loved Josh is and how so many people, literally all over the world care and want to help us. We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, prayers, generosity and support. As a family we are truly blessed. I am in awe of you all. You have taught me lessons that I will never forget in how to love someone.

I am sure that we still have quite a road before us, but after this week I know this: God still gives miracles, I am blessed to know Joshua, life sometimes just needs some perspective, and friendships are an incredible blessing and offer of God's unconditional love. Friendships are given by choice, unlike family, they don't need to love you but they do anyway. :)

We are loved, and we love more deeply than we realized!

December 9, 2010

Little fighter

I don't know what is worse, watching Josh lying still and sedated in the CCU or being more alert and fighting the pain and the meds and irritations that come with surgery. Calling 'Mummy' hour after hour in an attempt to get me to make it better. I am completely and totally helpless, there is no way that I can make this pain go away for him, or make the healing process go any faster.

That all being said, with each thrashing, each desperate call for 'Mummy' I am thankful. He is fighting, he is not caving to the pressure to just sleep it off. He is exhausted, he is groggy, he is weak, he is in pain, he's itchy, he is gassy BUT he is drinking, and he even had some apple sauce today, he wants to play, he wants to sit up, he wants to stay awake. He is a fighter and always has been and that has brought him this far, kept him with us this long.

So I thank God for giving him a fighting spirit, but more importantly a fighters heart.

December 8, 2010

Old song

For the last few days I have been so out of it that I actually forgot my password to my account, hence the lack of Blogs, well, that and the fact that time here is spent at Joshua's bedside and not at the computer. During that time I have had things running through my mind that I wanted to just Blog, things I wanted to say, things I was feeling. Now, here I am, finally sitting at a computer and my brain is defunct. I will do my best though, and we will see what happens.

I will start in Austria a number of years ago. We used to sing a song at church there, one that I loved because of it's simplicity and beauty. It was just three lines and yet it stuck with me always and I often sang it during my day. However, upon returning home I had lost the tune, and the last two lines. I could only remember the first line, 'don't be afraid'. Then I had Josh, and he got a toy guitar and one of the tunes started with 'Dont be afraid' (a rather annoying little tune really) and I lost hope of every recovering that song. Every time I tried the only tune I could come up with was that of the stupid little guitar.

On Monday we sat for 9 hours while Josh had open heart surgery. It went double the amount of time they told us it would take. I cannot tell you what that does to you, unless you have had a child or loved on in surgery like that it's indescribable. Every time a person by the door moved I looked up, there was no way I could read, no way I could do anything but pace, or sit staring at the door where I last saw my son. I would sit there, watching the door and every once and awhile I would panic. I would think, what ifs? What if he ends up in coma? What if he needs the tricuspid replaced? What if that goes wrong? Worse, and this one brought extreme panic, what if he dies? Every time I saw a security guard I thought they were coming to be on guard while the Dr. relayed this terrible news.

Every time I panicked, one thing came to mind, with perfect clarity and no struggle to remember, the words and the tune to that old song that I had thought was long since gone.

'don't be afraid,
my love is stronger,
my love is stronger than your fear'

I has run through my head since Monday morning, I have been singing it to Josh and myself and will continue to do so when the panic comes. It has been Gods message to me since I was pregnant with Josh, Don't be afraid, be strong and courageous, don't be afraid, My love is stronger.

December 5, 2010

Choices

I have been hearing a lot about choices lately, they say we all have choices, and I agree for the most part. However, I would like to submit an ulterior opinion... what if sometimes we don't have a choice? What if sometimes, the choice we are given isn't really a choice at, but rather an alternative  way of telling us what we have to do, of controlling the outcome of our situation. Choices require an attractive alternative, or at the very least an option that one might actually choose. Don't they? Or, maybe, maybe it's not about the actual choice but more about how you look at the choice, how you look at the outcome of your choices that matter most?

The woman with cancer is told that she needs to have both her breasts removed or the cancer will spread and she will ultimately die. Choice? Where? Yes, technically she could say, 'oh no thank you,  I like my breasts and would rather keep them, but you have a nice day'. Let's be honest though, who would do that? Where is the choice? Maybe it's not really about the choice at all, maybe it is how she chooses to look at the loss of her breasts? Does she give in to the temptation of despair, or does she rise above and thank God that she has her life, that she can live and have more time with those she loves? Almost like choosing to look at a pile of crap or look up and see the rainbows.

I was given a choice, but the people that gave it to me made it clear that it was no really a choice at all...

After hearing all of the reasons why open heart for Josh will be difficult, risky and very long, after explaining that there are so many reasons why things could go wrong in the OR, how some of the decisions that need to made can't even be made until they are inside him, after all of this, they gave me the choice. Do the surgery, regardless of risks, or watch him die of heart failure. Choice? Where?

Tomorrow morning I am handing over my baby to a team of people that I have to trust with his life and I have met them once, they are some of the best, I know that, but it's still my baby and it's still the hardest thing in the world for me to do. Like trusting a God that I can't see. The difference is of course that I have experienced God's hand, I have felt his love in my life and known his mercy, grace and I have watched him work and move enough to know that trusting him is not a choice either, rather it is the only way I can survive times like these.

These doctors, this team of strangers have been trained by the best in this field, people come from all over the world to study here, to learn and take it home to their own countries so that children there can benefit from their experience in Toronto. Joshua's last surgeon is now back in his home country of Saudi Arabia, saving other kids like Josh. It's comforting to know how good they are, I find hope in the fact that this hospital is the Top Gun of children's medicine, but it still doesn't change that this is my first born, my son that I am handing into their care tomorrow. What choices do I have? No one has really given me a choice? I have had to sign consent, given permission for them to stop my sons heart, they proposed it as a choice but I can't find the other option.

So, last night as I lay awake trying to figure all this out I put two of the things that I have said in this post together and came up with the answer, or at least the only answer I will get right now...

I trust the God of the universe, he created Joshua, put him together cell by cell inside of my body, even the parts that aren't working. He had a reason for that even if we don't know the why yet. He has shown me love, mercy and grace throughout my life when I didn't deserve it, and he will love me still in this. He will hold Josh's hand, he will comfort him in ways that I can't. My mother is law had a dream of Jesus walking around the OR, overseeing Josh's surgery, sitting in the waiting room comforting us. Tim and I could live anywhere in the world, yet we live here, in Toronto, home to one of the best children's hospitals in the world.

Yes, I am handing my son over tomorrow for a major event in his life. Yes, there are risks and no I don't believe there are any choices, but - and this is a big but, I am giving him into well trained hands, hands that know what they are doing, and I am trusting him to God, the Father of miracles. I am choosing to look away from the crap to look at the rainbows.

I may not have choices but I do have hope.

December 3, 2010

26 letters

Words mean something, they hurt, the heal, they bring fear or cause laughter. Letters, strung together and either written down on paper, in a text or maybe even a Blog. Letters making up a sentence spoken in love, hate or just offered up in an off hand comment.

Words. Letters. They should be mean nothing. They should have no affect on us what so ever and yet the mean everything. 'I love you' from the lips of a lover is the beauty that confirms the actions. When all else fails, you know the words have to be enough. A soldier, fighting overseas, missing his wife, he can't show her, with arms wrapped around her, but he can tell her and she can hear him.

Claims that you are ugly, too fat, too skinny, too tall, odd looking, have four eyes, freckles, are stupid, maybe you even had weird ears... whatever it is, those claims that happened in the school yard at recess haunt you even now, they affect how you view who you are as an adult, they shape your life.

Words, told to you as a child, maybe you are asked to keep a secret, or you accidentally reveal a secret, words hidden destroy just as badly as words allowed into the open.

We were told as kids that 'sticks and stones may break our bones but names will never hurt us', what kind of crap is that? Who thought that up? People live their whole lives living up to or running away from the names they have been called by Fathers, Mothers, Teachers, Friends, strangers or bully's. I have had two broken arms and a knee cap fracture, they have long since healed and have long since been forgotten unless pulled out at a party for a funny story.

Kids are literally dying because of the damage power of words, killing themselves, killing rivals, forever damaging thousands of lives... words, letters.

We have all had the talks, the words that have left their mark on us. We can all look back to times in our lives when we heard something either good or bad and we can recite it back verbatim. This Blog isn't tell you anything you can't identify with, and I can't say why I am even bothering to write it.

Words, and their power have been on my mind I guess. I hear of the gang turf wars in Toronto and I think of how silly it all is when it's boiled right down. I think of the promising lives of young people who have died because a group thought them different and used words to hurt them. I think of the simply word yes, that lands a mother and her two year old in a car with a drunk driver, and the devastation left in the wake of one three letter word.

I think of all the words I hear yesterday, at pre-op, letters, thousands of them... words meant to inform, instill fear, words meant to help, letters put together so that I might understand leave no room for more questions, words are powerful, the invoke terror, grief, hope, joy, pain...

All of that, all that power can be broken down the the alphabet...

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ... 26 letters.

26 letters...

December 1, 2010

Puzzles

I am and have been feeling broken these days, like a puzzle that can't be put back together because somehow somewhere a piece got lost or maybe the picture isn't right and I am trying to fit the puzzle together where it doesn't belong. I want to be one thing, I want to act one way but every now and again I find myself slipping and before I know it the whole puzzle has come apart and I am left to start again. I can't paint, I can't sing, I can't do much artistically really, so I create my art with my photos. This is my latest... This is the stamp on which I am placed and the pieces I can't seem to get to fit.

If I were to go deeper I would take a guess that humanity is like this, broken, and struggling to fix itself without having all the pieces. We just can't seem to make them fit and yet we continue to try.

I watch Josh putting together a puzzle and for the most part he is pretty good at it, but every once and a while he comes across a difficult one, he pushes and bangs the piece trying to make it work, then he gets frustrated and angry and often the offending piece is sent flying across the room. I try to explain to him that you need it to be turned just the right way, and then it slides in place all neat and snug, but like us he just drops the puzzle and looks up, wanting me to do it for him.

I am getting tired and frustrated with my puzzle, and I keep looking up, wanting God to fix it and do it for me... I am about to throw the pieces across the room.
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