Life Unexpected

It is the stuff of nightmares.

A doctor with an apologetic face;

He’s offering a chair, taking a deep breath…

Brain tumour.

My heart clutches.

I look to my husband and I see his face cringe.

Our son snuggles closer between us when we cling and sob out sorrow.

I race home to collect a bag of things,

To hug my girls good-bye.

Their fear and innocence in contrast pushes me on.

I promise them and hold them tight.

Before I can breathe,

process,

hold this new reality in my hands…

We are being rushed toward the helicopter, my tiny son strapped to a stretcher and crying as we roll through the darkness.

I’m kissing my husband goodbye.

“I will be there as fast as I can.”

I want to scream,

To pull my baby in my arms and run far away from all this.

The men are large and strangely comforting in their neon jackets.

They are gentle and calm.

They strap us in and sit quietly in my stunned grief as we fly through the night sky.

My son settles into an exhausted sleep and I hold his hand and stare down at the lights below.

Steadfast love.

It comes to me and pulls together my anguished heart.

Over and over in the last 2 weeks I was drawn to the psalm, not sure why, and now the words bind up my wounds.

“Your steadfast love, O Lord; extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.”

“How precious is your steadfast love, O God!”

“Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”

Steadfast.

Love.

I breathe and take refuge in the angels in neon across from me.

We are landing and they place him back in my arms.  I hold him close and wrap a blanket around his bare arms.  We’ve left without a jacket and the night air is cold.  I grip him to my heart and try to transfer myself to him.  I know he is afraid.

Steadfast love.

We follow strange corridors and crowd into an elevator.  The men in neon surround us and tower over us.  My son gazes wide eyed and scared.

We follow back outside to an ambulance and whisk away.

I breathe gratitude and feel tears well when they allow me to hold him instead of strap him to the stretcher.

We are sitting in a busy hallway on a stacking chair being admitted and still I hold him tight to my chest, the blanket securing him to me.

My eyes feel big and scared.  I feel small and unsure.

My heart flows gratitude when I see my big brother round the corner and come to us.

He stays with us even with his own son lying upstairs.

Steadfast love.

The hours blur as they insert IVs, put on lead lines and watch monitors.

My baby’s skin has always been so spotless and white.

I cringe as they pin him down and poke and press.

He is terrified.

My husband comes and we sit together in shock as our baby drifts to sleep on the cold white hospital bed.

Questions.

Answers?

My phone dies from the texting.

We spend the night in a crowded room trying to sleep in the upright hospital chairs.

We won’t leave him.

He falls into sleep and I am so thankful he can escape this nightmare as I try to get comfortable.

The next day there are tests.

More questions.

Information staggers my mind and makes me stare at my boy unbelieving.

So perfect.

So unblemished.

So innocent.

Brain surgery tomorrow.

9am.

They will cut his scalp open and drill a passage way through his brain.

I hold the words at arms length and turn my eyes so I won’t have to look too close, to let the terror seep in.

I focus on reassuring my toddler, learning new terms and piecing together brain anatomy.

I phone my girls and once again I put on my brave voice.  I am their string of hope and I won’t let them down.

My voice is strong and sure as I promise them and reach for words they can understand.

I give them just enough to ease their anxiety, but not too much.

We take our little boy, clad in hospital gown and pajama pants, to the play room.  For over an hour he plays and we watch him forget about the IV on his arm.  He babbles and laughs and points at the elevators moving up and down.

Steadfast love.

I wonder when he will play again.

That night I sleep on a couch near his room, comforted by knowing that I will be close by if he needs me.

Morning.

Surgery day.

Only now do I let myself Google it…preparing my heart for the fall.  The words I find give me footholds of reassurance and I claim them fiercely.

My husband carries him through the halls to the OR.

We look at books and try to hide our uncertain tears from his little face as we wait.

He likes the trucks and tractors in the book.

For a minute he goes very soft in my arms and snuggles up to my neck.  I squeeze him close and breathe him in.

Steadfast love.

When they take him and his bunny Flopsy away he cries and we force ourselves to turn and walk away.

My mother in law’s arms give me a second to collapse and I feel tears rush in.  She holds my pain for a minute before letting go and it feels good to share a bit.

It is 6 long hours.

I am nervous…but I also feel held.

I am humbled as I realize all the people praying in this moment.

I believe.

Steadfast love.

The surgeon is there.  I anxiously rise to the inevitable and scan his face for hope.

He is so pleased.

Gratitude overwhelms as he describes what we hardly dared hope for.

It is gone.  They’ve gotten every piece they could find.

Steadfast love.

We go in to see him and I could weep with relief.  His chubby cheeks relax in peaceful sleep.  Flopsy is still there with him and we tuck him up by his arm.

Steadfast love.

The uncertainties lurk but we hold onto the hope and embrace it.

Its been a few days now and I sit by my baby’s bedside in the ICU.

The adrenaline rush is collapsing and the truth feels cold and hard beneath my tumbling heart.  I am scared and uncertain in this new reality but still…

Steadfast love.

I reach for the hearts that I know will hold me, us, in all our pain.

He is seizing beneath my trembling hands and his eyes stare dull and lifeless.

They are rushing in, grabbing masks, calling code.

I am being pushed back from his bedside and I cling to my husband’s trembling chest.  More and more…they just keep coming, calling out orders and stats.

I am terrified and the sobs push out of my lips.

I stumble out into the hallway into the waiting arms of my sister in law, who came rushing when she heard the code.

She holds me and says “I’m sorry” as I fall apart.

I know she knows this feeling and I am so grateful for her presence in this moment.

He knew that I would need her tonight and her son is surprisingly, blessedly, fast asleep down one floor in his room.

Steadfast love.

We return to the ICU and I am so grateful.  The carefully monitored room feels familiar and safe after the last 24 hours.

Answers come and we nod in understanding as they explain.

Knowledge gives grip to confidence and I advocate for my son, feeling strong and sure in the normalcy of knowing what is best for him.

Steadfast love.

It’s painful to watch him grasp for strength and my heart staggers under the weight of discouragement.

She knows me well and despite my efforts her arms bring the tears flowing.  It feels better than I thought to let the fear out and fall apart.

Steadfast love.

He meets us on the street corner with the kindest and gentlest of words.

“Don’t worry,” he tells my husband, and we see he really means it.  He gives generously and my eyes fill once again with gratitude for this man who has continually blessed our family again and again and again.

I am humbled and so grateful.

Steadfast love.

The waited on words are offered casually and its anticlimactic as we cautiously grasp hope.

No cancer.

No further treatments needed.

“I see no reason he should not have a full recovery.”

Really?!

Steadfast love.

A weight falls off our shoulders and breath comes easier.

For the first time in days I see light.

I wake up to the video and I smile the biggest smile.  It’s my little boy grinning his crooked little smile and high fiving Daddy with his right hand!  The side that’s been weakened since surgery.

Steadfast love.

So much joy with one small milestone!

They keep coming and coming.

First kick,

first reach,

first grasp of my finger,

first step,

first bite.

So many reasons to be grateful.

Steadfast love.

I talk to them on the phone and they are bubbling over with happiness and news.

“I miss you, Mommy.”

“I miss you, too.”

And then she goes on with what Nana said, what Papa did, what happened at school…

I smile the biggest smile as I listen to her happy voice.

They are safe and happy, even though they are so far from me.

They have found their people and they know who they belong with right now.

How do we deserve to be loved so unconditionally and fully?

Steadfast love.

It’s our first weekend home!

We get a pass!

I am ecstatic and my heart actually skips a beat as we drive into our small town.

It’s so beautiful and green everywhere!

We’ve been gone a month and so much has changed.

Life everywhere.

I drink in the green trees, the breeze on my face as it blows off the bay, the sight of my children all playing together in the back yard.

Steadfast love.

Life has changed, and I miss the way it used to be.

But in it all, I am so grateful.

And I know…

In the journey there is beauty,

growth,

redemption,

and always…

Steadfast love.

-AF

 

Gratitude

For months now I’ve been trying to find my way to words.

Words to share the feelings that have been pulsing through my veins and the journey that’s been reorienting my heart.

Try as I might I couldn’t find the clarity to scrawl it out.

Then this morning…

blonde ponytail flopping as she trotted along behind me,

it came.

And I hear it, clear as a bell.

We were cleaning, because we have a house showing at noon.  Oh and how that’s been woven through this story as well…our home, our little love nest, for sale.  Where we’ve laughed, where we’ve cried, where we’ve become a family.  Evidence of calloused hands’ careful work all around me.  Memories written…sometimes literally…on the bright, oh so bright, walls.

She’s singing as she tidies books, folds the big orange Daddy shirts, sucks up all the little rocks with the vacuum.

Show us, show us your glory, Lord!

I pause.

To breathe.

To take it in,

the sight of my Little busy with her helping hands to make Mommy smile while she warbles out the worship song she heard earlier.

Show us, show us your glory, Lord!

She sings it over and over again.

I hear her now, still, as she’s putting on her shoes and running out to play.

Show us, show us your glory, Lord!

And I realize…

He has.

He has shown me his glory.

He has come to this messy life of mine and shown me the glory that He wants me to see.  In Him, in this life, and yes, even in me.

Through the frustrating, disappointing real estate ventures.  The complete exhaustion of the dreary winter months as I tread water desperately to stay afloat.  Homeschooling, night feedings, dishes and laundry piles and always always the hands and hearts grasping for my time and attention.

Through the disillusionment, despair and drowning weight of sin.  Written all over my heart, my family, my home and my words.  Oh, my words.  Biting, begging, sharp as nails words that cut us all apart and leave the blood marks.

Through the silence, the unknown, the black hours of waiting and wondering and hoping.

Show us, show us your glory, Lord!

Begging, pleading I came to Him.  Show me your glory, Lord!

And He did.

He really did.

As we studied a book on gratitude at church with the women’s group,

as I picked up Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts

as I opened up my heart to vulnerability and trust and faith.

Faith.

The glory shone in.

And now, I’m seeing it and breathing it and smiling it each day.

Choosing gratitude as I follow Ann’s lead and start my list of 1000 Gifts.

Chubby baby cheeks, smooth and soft.  

Quiet Time – my sweet reprieve.

Bagels with cream cheese and butter melting on my tongue.

Early Spring tree buds – bright green and fresh

Birds singing before dawn

Rainy mornings

Clean, white sheets – peaceful and cool on my skin

A change of plans

A gentle finger, tucking stray hair behind my ear.  My girl made all of care.

A chance encounter

My husband’s smile – melting me to my soul

Fresh eggs

Lilacs in full bloom

Sleepy morning eyes coming down the stairs and shuffling slipper feet

Free education

New pajama pants

Worship music in the morning

Novels

An encouraging, fun home school group

Two becoming one flesh

A truly remarkable social worker

Sparkling eyes that brim joy contagious

Steady baby milestone achievements

Backyard BBQ’s

My sweet neighbour in her pajamas in the early morning dew

Suddenly, I can see.

And His glory is all around us.

And she’s still singing.

Show us, show us your glory, Lord!

I realize how great and vast He is and I have to bow and adore.

So much glory, in all the mundane.

So much beauty in all the sacrifice.

Gratitude.

AF

 

Giants Fall

There are two books that have blessed my socks off recently.

The first is a title that caught my eye as I was wandering through a bookstore with a friend a few months back.  The title “Overextended…and loving most of it!” made my breath catch in my throat and I nearly grabbed the soft cover off the shelf.  The subtitle reads:

“The Unexpected Joy of Being Harried, Heartbroken, and Hurling Oneself Off Cliffs.”

Lisa Harper’s words spoke to my heart in ways few have been able to.  So much about Christianity today has become tame, logical, practical and sensible.  Faith is valued most highly when it’s carefully planned out, thought out, weighed out with pros and cons and calculated to require as little risk as possible.

This has just not been my story.

I’m a jumping off cliffs, intensely passionate, go for the gold kind of girl.  This is how God speaks to me.  In the middle of my deepest passions is where I feel Him closest; His heart beating strong within my own.  Everything that is there has been planted by Him and I love to be on His adventures…but sometimes I feel like I’m constantly swimming against the current.

Like there’s something wrong with leaping out without answers;

committing without the figures matching.

Shouldn’t I have a plan that wraps it all up neatly in a bow?

But what kind of faith has it all figured out?

What kind of faith makes sense to everyone else watching…or even me for that matter?

What kind of faith chooses the obvious, the safe, the perfectly within my comfort zone option?

You don’t need a big God to do that kind of faith.

I’m not even going to balance this out with all the thoughts that may be spinning through your mind right now because well…I’m just tired of those.

Is there anyone out there who wants to live big?

Is there anyone who believes in a God that makes all things possible?

Is there anyone who is willing to jump off cliffs and believe God will take care of the parachute?

The second book is called, “Your Beautiful Purpose” by Susie Larson.

Subtitle reads:

“Discovering and Enjoying What God Can Do Through You”

Again, this woman hit the nail on the head as she explored purpose, faith and a big God.  We really do not need to be hiding in these shells of fear, apprehension, confusion and insecurity.  God longs to free us from those bonds to walk in an abundant life that is full, beautiful, purpose-filled and covered in grace.

Recently I cried out to God,

“Please, God, if I am doing the total wrong thing here please remold this clay!  Please redeem this somehow and use it to fulfill your purposes.”

And you know what?  I’m ok with that!

He is perfectly capable of doing that.  And if that cry is coming from a heart that is sincere, searching and laid out before him like a blank page…I think He loves it.

We frequently talk about how small we are and how God does not need us but chooses to use us anyway.  We talk about how on our own we can accomplish nothing!  Maybe we should also realize that daring to step out in faith when we’re not quite sure of all the detail is not going to derail God!  You might just get to see how big your God really is!  I believe with all my heart He loves to take us on those adventures and to see the trust in our floundering leaps of faith.

This morning I was reading in Esther.  Mordecai’s words to his fearful, cautious niece always take my breath away.

“Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews.  For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish.  And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such as time as this!?”

-Esther 4:13-14

The worst case scenario of Esther approaching the King was her death.  That really would not have helped the Jews at all.  In fact, it could have made things much worse!  She had logical reasons to believe the King would not appreciate her bold gesture.  But Esther chose to believe that her God was big enough to take care of the details.  She was willing to put her life on the line to be a part of God’s kingdom purposes!

Most of the time we’re not being called to put our lives on the line.  We  are asked to sacrifice much smaller things, like our pride, our popularity, our reputation, our comfort.

And guess what?

Just like Mordecai made clear to Esther…YOU ARE NOT IRREPLACEABLE!  God’s purposes will not be stopped by one little human!  When I decide to curl up in my shell and quake in fear or maybe simply say no, He has thousands of other options.  Thankfully instead of immediately getting frustrated He will usually kneel down, peer into that dark little abyss and remind me of all the reasons I should be coming out to join him…because guess what?

HE REALLY DOES WANT TO USE ME!

Not because I have so much to offer, or am specially talented.  No.  More likely, He wants to build something in my character.  He wants to show me something new about Him.  Or maybe He wants to see if he can pry my hands open to let go of those things I hold so dear.  My security.  My safety.  My logical reasoning.  My comfortable life just the way it is.

Do I want to miss that?

NO WAY!

I love reading stories about Peter in the Bible. He’s so brash and arrogant…yet so many times his passion and zeal are just so endearing. You gotta love him. In all his enthusiasm, he often misses the mark. For people like Peter and I, that means a lot of harsh rebukes…and that can be painful. But when God got a hold of that zeal, energy and ambition and molded it into something He could use, Peter emerged a whole new character.

Confident.

Courageous.

Humble.

All in for his Jesus.

God didn’t need to take away all that zest for life to use Peter…and you don’t need to throw all the zest out of your life either!

Maybe you’re like me, and you’ve known all your life that you’re just a little too over the top most of the time. Or maybe you have a son or daughter that is constantly living on the edge and you feel like they’re bound for some sort of disaster. Don’t give up just yet. See the potential for bold faith, courageous cliff jumping, and surrendered ambitions. Now believe with all your heart that when Jesus Christ moves in, He transforms even the wonkiest characters into something beautiful.

Cheers! 🙂

Love this song by Francesca Batistelli

“Giants Fall

Everyone’s telling you
To let go of what you’re holding to
It’s too late, too far
You’re too small, it’s too hard
Throwing water on that spark
Living deep inside your heart
With oceans of reasons
The things you’re not seeing
But oh, maybe they don’t
Know what you know
That you’re not alone

[Chorus:]
Don’t you be afraid
Of giants in your way
With God you know that anything’s possible
So step into the fight
He’s right there by your side
The stones inside your hand might be too small
But watch the giants fall

We could really live like this
Can’t you imagine it
So bold, so brave
With childlike faith
Miracles could happen
Mountains would start moving
So whatever you may face

[Chorus]

Ask and believe
You’re gonna see
The hand of God in every little thing

[Chorus]

Miracles can happen
Anything is possible
Watch the giants fall