Authenticity · COVID-19 · Faith · Health

Taking Small Steps Forward

Often I’m amazed at how many parallels there are in our natural world and our spiritual one.

For the past two weeks I’ve been trying to get my body into a healthier state, and it’s caused me to realize that not only have I been neglecting my physical body, but my spiritual one as well. It’s so easy to fall into a state of being physically unfit: Skip a workout here, eat a bit more junk there. It takes far more effort and intentionality to stay healthy.

It was almost exactly one year ago when I first heard the term “Covid-19″… that was just before it hit my world. At first, it was the distant “coronavirus” that seemed like nothing more than another repeat of the “SARS” or “H1N1″scare. I never expected it to effect me. I never thought that it would reach my country. And never in my wildest dreams would I have expected it to be here to stay.

None of us did.

As I look back over the past year, I realize that it took over so much of my emotional, mental and physical capacity and head space. I noticed my motivation to keep myself healthy – physically and spiritually – completely tanked as I became fixated on all the changes around me. Eventually, expecting change and disappointment became normal. Being adaptable was essential – and it’s where I put most of my energy into: Returning to homeschooling five kids overnight, cancelling all future plans, learning to meet with and lead my small group over Zoom.

Adaptable we’ve become, but it seems like all I’ve been doing for the past year. I find myself tired; burnt out, even. I’ve been physically trying to compensate for this fatigue by filling much of my extra time with unproductive activities, stuff that requires little to no effort. Logically this doesn’t make sense, of course, because if I’m going to run a marathon and do well, I have to take care of myself.

But here I find myself in that place where I’ve been running so hard for so long that I am in survival mode. In my few moments of free head space, I’m filling my mind and body with so much junk that I just find myself too full to eat a decent meal.

Something has to go.

I am hitting a wall and I just can’t run off of this cheap fuel anymore. I need the good stuff. I need the protein, the veggies; the word of God, prayer and fellowship with believers. I can’t keep grabbing for the granola bar to tie me over anymore, my body won’t let me.

So, I take small steps:

First Step: Two weeks ago I decided to give up processed sugar/junk food for 40 days during the Lent season.

Second step: Making wiser choses in what I eat… choosing a salad instead of a pizza. Grabbing fruit instead of chips.

Third step: Picking up my Bible instead of my phone when I wake up. Praying instead of complaining or worrying.

Fourth Step: This past week I decided to get back into running; just three days a week for half an hour.

Small steps I can handle, one choice at a time.

And today, I got pushed to take another small, but important step for accountability on how I’m spending my time: Being present with my family, instead of hiding away in my room to be alone. I need to learn how to be in community again, instead of pushing people away.

Today was a day I’ve been waiting for for a long time. It was the first time I’ve been to church since November 1st and even in my current exhausted state, I was ecstatic! Online “church” isn’t church to me. It’s watching a sermon.

Church is the people. My spiritual family. My second home.

Today marks the beginning of another step towards health: Meeting with other believers to worship our incredible God. It’s just one more step of healing from the isolation of this year… Fellowship. We need each other. If anything has shown us that, it has had to be this past year. As my community begins to heal and take small steps to open up, I want to heal personally and open up as well.

One small step at a time.

Have you been taking any steps lately?

Fitness · Health · Poetry

Pursuit of Beauty

The other day, I posted a poem and some of you may have gotten it already in an email. But the formatting was wrong and so I quickly took it down, meaning to repost it later that day. The weekend sort of got away on me, so finally now, mid-week, I’m posting it again. I wrote the poem after witnessing multiple friends/acquaintances go through diets that resembled eating disorders.

It broke my heart.

What breaks my heart even more is that while there is some pressure on men to look fit, there is far more pressure on women. It’s hard to even find a group of friends these days where the woman will actually eat something other than a salad, or a lettuce wrapped vegan burger, while her husband munches on a triple sized meal complete with appetizers and dessert.

I’ve struggled with it myself; the pressure that my worth is dependant on my waist size. I get tons of smiles and comments when I lose weight. I get judgmental looks when I order the full burger with a side of fries. And so, I wrote this poem a few years back, challenging our thinking about health and weight. What is true beauty?

 

Pursuit of Beauty

By: Heather Dawn

 

She pushes her plate aside, eyes resigned

He feasts like a king, never bothers to mind

He’s never been pushed, never been told

For fat or slim; they still like him

She wakes up before them and paints up her face

Her workout begins, her pulse starts to race

Long past her goal, a new goal is found

Just a little bit more, just another pound

Her face once full of warmth and life, now is cold and hollow

The cheeks once flushed grow ever pale, the eyes once bright grow weary and dull

She forces a smile, flashing perfect white teeth,

that hurt from the treatments if she touches a sweet

All the beauty that masks the beast raging inside

Fixing only what fades, while neglecting her inmost cry

They like her less, even less than before,

Maybe once she’s shed just a little bit more…

Dear Child, fading slowly, you were fine as you were

They tell you otherwise, but what do they know?

They too are lost in a struggle they’ve always known

Their size is the measure for the worth of their soul.

Look up, Beautiful One and seek out the truth,

Outward beauty is common, it’s not hard to find

Breathtaking it is, but it withers like grass

The rare beauty you long for is not found in a store

It can’t be ‘put on’ or bought, it’s worth much much more

It’s in a gentle free heart, so patient and fair

A face full of grace, hands eager to share

It’s in a voice so sweet, full of life bringing words

Or arms strong and tough, but willing to serve

It’s in love that pours out, expecting none in return,

It’s a harsh word held back, and gentleness learned,

It’s in scars that speak volumes of making it through,

In wrinkles that earned the respect they are due,

It’s in the bright stretching lines on a new mother’s skin,

It’s in the way a little child mischievously grins.

True beauty is what the world seems to pass by.

True beauty is what the world try’s hard to hide.

But the rarer it grows, the brighter it shines.

Dear Child, you must choose what you want to pursue.

Will it be true beauty within, or will the outside of you win?

 

Depression · Faith · Freedom · Health · Running

I Met Depression… and I Won

A few years ago I was diagnosed with depression.

There are many reasons for falling into depression: Trama. Rejection. Bullying. Death or loss. Harmful world views. Stress. A life-altering event. Hormones. Lack of nutrition or sleep… and the list goes on.

Healing for each soul is a very individual path. So as I share my story of hope, that is all I want you to take from it.

There is hope.

Today I am alive. Joyful. Healed. Whole. And maybe what healed me can help you. But maybe you need to take a different path. That’s OK too.

I’m sharing to bring hope, not to say I have the answers.

In February 2014, I had my fifth child… a son. It was very, very difficult for me to face this addition to my family. Though I loved him more than words can describe, I was exhausted with the other children. I felt that caring for another baby was beyond my abilities and I was burning out quickly.

I remember a comedian once explaining how having a large family felt. He said: “Imagine you are drowning and then, someone hands you a baby.”

We laugh because it’s so true. It’s too true.

I was drowning. Everything I had ever found joy and meaning in, felt distant and out of reach. I didn’t find any pleasure in doing the very things I once loved. Life was dark, and though I saw splashes of color, it didn’t bring peace to my heart.

Fast forward a very painful four years: Spring 2018. I had gone through church hardships, loss of friendships, moving, and building a house. I had let go of my old friendships at the church that had rejected me and my family because of my depression. I was in the process of allowing myself to move on from the deep hurt that comes from being completely misjudged and misunderstood, forgiving them as best I could.

Our family had joined a new church (an act in itself which was hard), made new friends and our “baby” wasn’t so difficult to care for anymore. But I was STILL burdened under this load that was crushing me. I had pushed the pain so far down, that it was coming out in my health. My bones ached constantly! The smallest chore would leave me absolutely immobile for the rest of the day. I needed daily naps.

And deep down, I still blamed myself because I had been unable to make things right. I went over the details in my mind again and again, the burden of my rejected attempts of reconciliation lay heavy on my shoulders. Could I have done more? Should I have done anything differently?

Finally, after one incident where I went outside to clean up some garbage and I found myself sleeping for four hours that afternoon from exhaustion, I decided to see a doctor. After many questions and blood tests, he told me that I was depressed.

However, then he told me something I never expected to hear from a doctor: “There are many ways to go about this, but I recommend that you try gentle exercise before taking any antidepressants.” Immediately, I protested that I had tried to exercise but that it was just too painful. I was too weak.

“I said gentle exercise,” He chuckled, “I’m not telling you to train for a marathon. Just get out of the house, in the fresh air, and walk for 20-30 minutes at whatever pace you desire! And don’t do errands or make it into a chore. Make sure it’s time just for you.”

So in May 2018 I started to walk.

One of the hardest things I’ve done is put on those running shoes. I was so afraid that I would fail at walking. But the words echoed in my head: Gentle walk. Gentle Exercise. Over and over again those simple words challenged my way of thinking and gave me courage to at least try. For me, exercise wasn’t something that could be gentle. It was a way of pushing my body to the extreme. To be the best. To compete with myself and others.

I had never thought of it as something that I could actually enjoy.

I still remember that first walk. The warm air, the slow pace, the music on my phone. The sun shone down on my face. I heard birds chirping around me. I stopped to notice the buds on the trees that were forming. As I walked, suddenly I felt a peace inside that I hadn’t noticed for a very long time. That was it… I was hooked! Not that going out was easy, but I now believed that it could help me. Each day my pace was just a little bit faster and I was able to go just a little bit farther because I finally felt no pressure and my body was getting stronger!

At the same time our pastor started teaching a series on bible memory and the importance it has when we are faced with trials or temptations. During the message, I felt God speaking gently to me: “This is it Heather! This is what you need to get you through.”

I went straight home and downloaded a verse memory app called “Verses.”

I started with memorizing Psalm 34. While I walked, I quoted my verses. When my tears wouldn’t stop, I quoted them over and over. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous person may have many troubles but the Lord delivers him from them all.” When I remembered the rejection of my friends, I spoke these words out loud. Little by little, I added to them. Psalm 139, Oh God… they may think I’m a horrible person, but “Lord, you have searched me and you know me… you are familiar with all my ways!” Then I added Psalm 103. “Praise the Lord my soul. All my inmost being praise his holy name. Praise the Lord my soul, and forget not ALL his benefits. Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases. Who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion. Who satisfies your desires with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle. The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed…”

As my body and spirit grew stronger, I began to run for short distances. I would run for a bit, then walk in between, all the while praying and reciting my verses. By Fall 2018 I could run 5K (I had never in my life ran a full mile before this) and God had given me the ability to memorize over 15 full Psalms. I knew 10% of the book of Psalms and could bring it with me everywhere! It was in my heart as well as my head.

My greatest fear was losing my ability to run over the winter. I was terrified that I would sink back into my depression. My husband knew this and bought me a treadmill. Not only did I keep up running and memorizing all winter, but by Spring 2019 I had a follow up appointment with my doctor and he told me that I was in full recovery!

I realize that this story may sound too good to be true to many people.

A few years of depression? And now you think you have all the answers??

No. No I don’t.

Remember: This was what worked for me… and let me tell you, if you think my answer is to mental health is: Just go quote some scripture or just go exercise, you have horribly misunderstood this testimony!!

Getting out every day to walk and run, had just as big of an effect on me as the scriptures I was memorizing. Exercise was just as spiritual as God’s word. Because you know what? I believe “Gentle Exercise” WAS God’s personal word to me. And obeying God’s treatment plan for me was hard work! Some days I wanted to stay in my room and mope, eating chocolates and watching Netflix. Or take a long nap. But I forced myself every single day to go out. Some days in the rain. Some days in the heatwaves. Sometimes I hated it. The next day was even harder to go out. Sometimes I was far too busy! It was near impossible at times! The truth is, the road to healing is never easy.

Don’t kid yourself: Healing doesn’t ever come without a cost.

Whether the cost of time, the cost of perseverance, the cost of faith, the cost of money, the cost of disappointments and trying again, the cost of failure and rebuilding hope… there’s always a cost. The question is, are you willing to try?

Or have we become a generation that wants all the answers and victories handed to us on a silver platter?

It’s hard for me to wrap posts like this up in a simple paragraph, because there’s so much to leave you with. Yet one thought keeps running itself over and over in my mind again: Are we willing pay the price?

Fast forward to this fall. If I miss two weeks of exercise, I find myself slipping. Anxiety and depression grow. This path, for me, may just be a lifelong treatment. But isn’t it worth it? For my health? For my joy? For my family? For those around me who can relate to the everyday struggle?

The answer I have to choose daily is: Yes. Yes… it’s worth it. 

Fitness · Health · Running

Run

Lost in thoughts that swirl like the wind around me, the steady rhythm of my feet keeps the time. The world around moves slowly, as if I’m in some different place entirely – a world far different from mine.

Golden fields stretch out far as the eye can see. Chaos fades into peaceful breaths, left alone to my thoughts and steps. Sometimes in silence, sometimes singing with each gasping breath. Sometimes yelling to the dog because she’s off in the field, nowhere near my side.

Beside me, my dog comes alive. It’s the favourite part of her day. Just us, going nowhere for no reason. When does that happen?

Most days, just before evening.

The sun begins to set.

The stifling heat of summer gives way to the cool of the fall. Leaves turn warm colors as the air grows colder each day. Red, brown, yellow and orange. The perfect skyline bouquet.

Run.

As my breaths become sharper, and my knees begin to ache, I change the tempo and taper my speed. The rhythm is slower, but perfectly in tune with the world around me which is also preparing for rest. My favourite shoes begin to rub and pinch in the all wrong places. The skin beneath my arm feels tender. A sword pierces my side.

But I do not stop.

Perseverance is par for the course. Runners know persistence, they are tenacious and among the stubborn on this Earth.

Because what would we do without this?

Trade real beauty and peace for a screen? Trade true emotional rest for a sitcom or show, that wearies the mind and troubles the soul? Or rush from one event to the next…still running, but without taking a breath. Or make wearisome conversation when all that you crave is stillness and to be alone?

No.

I run. To nowhere at all.

For the Joy. In the pain. Finding God. Shutting out hate. For the peace. For my health. This keeps me sane.

To remind myself that I’m still here, and I still matter.

Keep running.

Health · Uncategorized

Please God, Not Isaiah

When I was a teen, I remember watching a movie called “Losing Isaiah”. It was about a crack addicted mother who left her baby in a dumpster while high. Unknown to the mother, the baby is found and rescued, but the devastated woman is left to desperately pull her life together. Years later she has gone through rehab, holds a steady job, and she finds out that her baby didn’t die, but is actually alive! After losing her child, she ends up receiving him back after all those years. The deeply touching film made me fall in love with the name Isaiah. The name holds hope and promise. It holds second chances and forgiveness. In Hebrew it literally means “The Salvation of the Lord”. To me, it simply means “God’s Second chance”.

For that is what Isaiah was to me.

I believed in God as a teen, yet I was stuck. I prayed desperately for a way out of the destructive life I was living, yet I felt powerless to do anything. It had all started with one bad choice, which led to another, which led to another. And suddenly my life that had once held so much promise was stuck in an endless downwards spiral. I didn’t know how to stop it. I desperately wanted a way out of the endless parties, the destructive relationships,  the drinking, the cutting, the eating problems and depression. Just a couple years earlier, I had been an honour roll student with dreams of becoming a doctor. Now, that dream was dying before my eyes.

At the beginning of grade 12 everything changed: I found out I was pregnant. For many it would’ve been a time of great crisis, but not for me…I finally felt hope. It was as if God was saying, “Here Heather, I’m giving you the most precious gift you don’t deserve: A child. Now you will finally be willing to change because this child will mean everything to you.”

And he did. Isaiah’s existence changed everything! Every decision I made in the next nine months was for him and because of him. Isaiah changed me forever. When my perfect son was born, I named him Isaiah. My second chance.

He was a complete joy and the sweetest, easiest baby ever! He smiled around three or four weeks and just wouldn’t stop. He slept through the night by only two months old. Like I said, PERFECT baby. He was so happy! I was so happy.

fall.JPGIsaiah at two months old

But then, only two and a half months into our lives together, something awful happened that shattered our perfect little world: My sweet Isaiah got sick.

It started slowly enough, one day he just began to throw up after every feed. He always seemed hungry, as if he wasn’t getting full. The scary cycle would repeat itself: nurse, throw up, nurse, throw up, nurse, throw up, until he would finally get too exhausted to nurse and give up. Now, the first few days I just shrugged it off…but then he stopped smiling…and I panicked. I brought him to the doctors, who rolled their eyes at me and explained to this nervous teenage mom that spitting up was normal. When I protested, they assured me that he was fine and that I could always come back in if Isaiah got worse. And he did. So just like they suggested, I went to the doctors again, only to get sent home just as before. This went on for three full weeks. He began to wake three to four times a night completely soaked and I had no clue what was happening. Later I found out that it was his diarrhea, not urine or vomit that I was cleaning up…it was so runny, no one could tell the difference. One day, Isaiah became lethargic and was unable to lift his head any longer. I went to the emergency room and this time, I asked the doctor to please, PLEASE, at least take some blood work. When the results were back, the doctor came and explained that Isaiah’s Albumin levels were extremely low and that he was very sick (ummmm, DUH!).

The main protein which one cannot afford to lose in their bodies is called Albumin. Albumin normally is produced by one’s liver and circulates in the bloodstream acting as a carrier for biochemicals that require transport but cannot actually dissolve in blood. Albumin is also is responsible for keeping water in our bloodstream.  When water cannot be held within the veins, it leaks out which causes swelling. The intestine is actually leaking nutrients out instead of absorbing them and the result is a nutritional crisis! This was exactly what we were seeing in Isaiah, as he looked chubby and healthy, but he was really just swollen. We were sent home and told to go to the Children’s Hospital the first thing the next morning.

I couldn’t sleep that night. I had never been more afraid in my entire life! The next day we got up early to go to the hospital. After a long day of tests and questions, Isaiah was put on IV fluids and admitted into the hospital, we still had no answers. Each day he just got worse.

DSC01672.JPGOur first day at the hospital, after just being admitted into Children’s.

The doctors decided to put him on “bowel rest”, really just another term for fasting. The doctors were hoping that by allowing Isaiah’s digestive system to rest for a couple of days the diarrhea would slow down and the swelling in his intestines would decrease. I was no longer allowed to nurse my son and I sat by helplessly as he screamed in pain and hunger. The discomfort of not be allowed to breastfeed anymore was painful, but watching my sick boy cry for me to nurse him and refusing to give him what he wanted was almost more than my heart could bear. Also, since he was only getting electrolytes and fluids from his IV, they had to draw more blood from his tiny veins every 2-3 hours to test his levels. This was complete torture.

I wished with all my heart that I could take his place, that he could go home with my husband and I could suffer for him.

I only slept about 2-3 hours a night for the next few days. Isaiah screamed most of the time and when he slept, the nurses would be coming in and out of the room. The few times that we were left alone I would lie down, only to suddenly be interrupted by another doctor coming to take a look at him or take more blood work.

DSC01675.JPGIsaiah’s first week in the hospital

Finally, after three days, I was allowed to feed him again. Only I was to feed him Nutramigen (A special formula for baby’s allergic to cows milk). I pumped for the next four months so I could resume nursing when he got better, but little did I know that it was all for nothing, as I never breastfed him again.

The doctors seemed incredibly frustrated with Isaiah’s case. He went through test after test, and they could just not figure out what was happening. They slowly ruled out different theories: lactose intolerance, allergy to cow’s milk, liver failure, and on and on.

1102202.JPEGIsaiah drinking a bottle of Nutramigen formula

At the end of the first week, Isaiah’s veins were so fragile that they would collapse when an IV was put in and he would scream in pain as the burning fluids would pour into the tissue in his arm instead. I clearly remember the horror of the first night this happened. He screamed for 8 hours straight, until he lost his voice. He could not cry but could only make a scratchy, pitiful sound for the next few days.

This was the lowest night of my life, I just lay awake and exhasted beside Isaiah’s bed and cried with him. I believe that night I met an angel. Maybe it was really just a doctor, I’m not really sure. I can’t claim anything supernatural about her, but I still remember her clearly. It was about 4 or 5 in the morning and I was trying in vain to comfort little Isaiah, when a smaller Asian woman came into my room introducing herself as Dr. Whosit(spelling?). She gently took Isaiah from me and he quieted instantly. She told me to lie down and as she rocked him, she compassionately talked to me. She softly spoke to me about many years ago rocking her own sick baby. She told me that she understood how I felt and she told me of the pain she endured while her son died in her arms. That’s the last thing I remember as I drifted to sleep. When I woke up, Isaiah was peacefully asleep in his crib and the doctor was gone. I asked around about her and no one knew who I was talking about. The nursing staff simply said that she must usually work on a different floor. I’ve since tried to look her up and have been unable to find her. Only ten years later, when I was telling my children about her did I catch on to her name “Whosit” or “Who is it?” This is forever burnt in my memory as one of the most tender and compassionate experiences of my life.

The next day, the doctors could no longer find any veins that would hold an IV and Isaiah’s electrolyte levels dipped dangerously low. He was brought to intensive care and a PICC line was surgically inserted into his leg. This is a permanent and more reliable line that goes into a larger vein, where the blood flows quickly. After this surgery he was once again able to receive fluids from intravenous. Isaiah was kept in a special room by the nursing station where he could be monitored extra closely.

1090354.JPEGIsaiah’s PICC line 

1178611.JPEGIsaiah being closely monitored at the nursing station.

We were blessed with many visitors during this time. Family came by bringing food, money and gifts. Some people brought blankets, wet wipes and toys for Isaiah. Friends came to pray and share scripture. Some people sent encouraging emails. The support was overwhelming! I will never be able to fully thank all of those who were there for us during our hospital stay.

Three weeks passed and I still had not left the hospital. Ryan resumed working since we desperately needed the money, but I quit my job so that I could stay by Isaiah’s side. Ryan and I were still newly wed, we had said our vows only six short months before, but now it seemed so long ago. One night, as I lay beside Isaiah’s crib, I asked God if he could please make it possible for me to stay in a nearby hotel with Ryan for just one night. I needed sleep, a break from the constant up and downs of hospital life and I needed to just be with Ryan. The next morning I would’ve probably forgotten all about it if it hadn’t been for an email we received from a very dear woman. She wrote that as she was lying down in her bed praying for us the night before, a thought had popped into her head and she was wondering if she could pay for a night in a hotel for me and Ryan. I wept. These were the moments that convinced me without a doubt that God was real. This wasn’t just some strange coincidence. God had heard my prayers and was not only providing for my needs, but blessing me by answering my specific request.

Soon after this, the doctors diagnosed Isaiah with Intestinal Lymphangiectasia, a rare disorder in which the lymph vessels supplying the lining of the small intestine are blocked. This is why the protein was being lost from his body. People with IL have problems holding onto fluid in their blood system and develop swelling. Loss of white blood cells and loss of antibodies also meant that Isaiah was unable to fight infections. Symptoms can be helped by eating a low-fat, high-protein diet and taking supplements of vitamins, and medium-chain fats, which are absorbed directly into the blood. This disease is incredibly rare. At the time we were told that only 1 in about 200,000 people have it. I was so relieved to hear that they finally knew what was going on, but crushed after I was informed that there was no cure. The only thing we could do was to put Isaiah on yet another new formula called Tolerex, and continue to give Isaiah albumin injections and IVIG as needed. Tolerex was shipped into the province especially for us, since only one other person in Manitoba had IL at the time. It costed us a whopping $600 a month, and for two teenagers barely scrapping by on a $24,000 a year salary, this seemed completely impossible.

1088348.JPEGIsaiah’s swelling was so bad some days that he could barely open his eyes.

I thought that finally having the diagnosis would help improve Isaiah’s health, and the formula did help a bit. However, three days before Christmas he got an infection in his PICC line. The line had to be removed, much to our disappointment. Soon after, a second PICC line was put in and also got infected within days, this too had to be removed. As soon as his infection improved, we were sent home, but Isaiah’s symptoms still weren’t much better so as eager as I was to live back in my own home, I felt incredibly uneasy about this decision.

We were only home for a couple of weeks before Isaiah was sent back to the hospital, worse than ever before. The doctors agreed that his situation was bad enough that they had to put a central line in. They also did a scope during this operation, and he was put under for a few hours while I waited nervously in the recovery room.

It was during this first week of being back at the hospital that I found out that I was pregnant with our second child. I wish I could remember more about the next few months, honestly I feel that I sort of just shut down from all the stress. I stopped keeping track of the days or the visitors. I didn’t think of the baby on the way. I just existed there in the hospital, not really doing anything. I could only sit back and watch everything happen to a child I loved more than life itself. It was extremely unfair and unbearably painful. After months of standing up to doctors who I disagreed with, or telling the nurses when enough was enough, I just sort of gave in. I stopped defending him. I watched him go through the most sickening tests and though my heart screamed, my body stopped responding…I could no longer defend my boy. I felt helpless and useless.

1146217.JPEGIsaiah’s Final Hospital Stay

My boy was changing too. One day he just stopped eating, he hid behind his little blanket and whimpered when he was touched. I saw fear in his eyes when people came near him. He was acting like an abused child and that’s when I realized this could not go on any longer. I prayed, “God, I love this boy more than anything else in this world, but we can not go on like this. Please God, either heal him or take him home. I can’t watch him suffer any longer.” I wept the first time in many weeks that day, for I truly believed that Isaiah was going to die. He didn’t eat or drink for three days. He refused any drops of water. And each day I was more and more sure that it was he wasn’t going to be alive much longer…”Please God, please! Not my baby Isaiah.”

And suddenly, just like that, the nightmare was over. One day shortly after I prayed this, Isaiah drank his formula and cried for more when he was done. This was a total miracle. He began to put on weight. He started smiling again. Within a couple of weeks, he was off the lipids and the TPN (Total parenteral nutrition) which was given through IV the past months, keeping him alive. I just kept watching him recover, stunned and somewhat disbelieving. I kept expecting something really bad to happen…another illness, another infection, but nothing did. Finally, six full months after his first admission into the hospital, we were discharged. But the story doesn’t end there.

1170282.JPEGIsaiah at home with his central line. 

We got home and the first week out of hospital, Isaiah’s central line got plugged and had to be removed. I was devastated as I didn’t want him to go through any more surgeries, and I was convinced that he would need it regularly as was expected with people who have IL.

The next thing that happened also seemed to be a big accident. A few weeks after being home, I was at my sister’s house visiting her and my nephew, when suddenly I noticed that her little boy had given his sippy cup full of chocolate milk to Isaiah and Isaiah had gone and downed the entire thing! This was a HUGE “no-no” and I was certain that this incident would send us right back to the hospital, but to my complete amazement, nothing happened! He didn’t throw it up, he didn’t have diarrhea, he was completely fine! This shocked the doctors as well at his next appointment. But it gave me courage to slip other foods to him which also contained long chain fat. Each time I did this I cautiously watched him, but his bowel movements became even better and he seemed to get even stronger. His doctors were VERY uneasy about me trying new foods on him, however, after they received the results from his blood work they were completely amazed. His albumin levels had returned to normal! I remember a group of doctors coming in and looking at him in awe, saying that in all their years of experience they had never seen anything like this! One doctor looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “It’s a miracle! He’s healed!”

A few months later, Isaiah was eating everything any other boy his age could eat. He even enjoyed chocolate cake and gummy bears on his first birthday!!!

There’s so much more I could write about…the financial miracles we saw, the people we met in the hospital, everything we learnt…but I couldn’t possibly fit it in one post, it would fill an entire book!

This is just one story of many others I’ve lived through. But it is a foundational story in my life.

This is my story of growing up too soon.

This is a story of miracle upon miracle in my life.

This is a story of pain.

This is a story of when my faith in God became real.

This is my story of losing Isaiah, and getting him back again.

This is the story of Isaiah, my second chance, who also received a second chance.

1188767.JPEGA happy healthy, completely HEALED Isaiah at one year old.

 

 

Depression · Health

Ask if I’m Okay

For all my friends and loved ones out there who have dealt with depression or who are still dealing with it, I wrote this for you. I’m here for you if you need to talk, or even if you can’t talk, but just need someone to know that you’re struggling. You are NOT alone.

 

Dear Friend,

I know you’re there. You’ve always been. I know that if I have a baby you’ll bring me a meal. I know that if I’m faced with a loved ones death, you’ll hold me when I cry. I know that you’ll smile and congratulate me about any new and exciting event in my life. I know that you’ll do that. It’s what friends do.

I know that you’ll listen with excitement as I tell you all about my vacation and if I tell you about my problems, you’ll give your best advice. I know that you’ll laugh at my jokes even if they’re lame, or tell me a story about your rough day to make my day feel better. And if one day I’ve just HAD ENOUGH, and my washing machine has broken down while my kids have the flu, I know that if I call you…you’ll be there. You’ve always been. It’s what friends do.

But there’s one thing you never do, and it’s ok because until now I’ve never done it for you… It’s never probably crossed your mind, because it never crossed mine either.

Please, dear friend, just once in a while: ask if I’m ok.

And most likely you’ll hear me say: “Yeah, I’m good! Why? What’s up?”

And you can say, “Oh nothing, I’m just checking because I want to know if you’re not”…because a lot of the time I am okay.

But once in a while I’m not.

And then on those days, when I feel so alone, like nobody cares,  I can think back to the time you asked me if I was okay and remember that if I’m not okay, you’d want to hear about it.

And I’m sorry. Sorry for not doing that for you, because I understand now that some pain is just too hard to bring up on it’s own. Some pains are so deep that they need a friend to come and say, “Are you okay? I want to know if you’re not, because I care.”

I understand now that it’s awkward to bring up some types of pain, because you don’t know what to say…often you don’t even know what’s really wrong…but the pain is very real and it is crushing you. I understand that now. I understand why you pulled back and withdrew, why you avoided family and friends, not because you didn’t want to talk…but because you didn’t know how to. I now understand why you seemed to want to be alone, not because you didn’t want me around…but because you didn’t think I would be able to process feelings that even you couldn’t seem to work through.

And I want to tell you today that it’s ok. It’s ok to call me to cry, even if you don’t have the words to speak to me. It’s ok to tell me that you’re not ok and it’s ok if you don’t explain any further. It’s ok if you let me know those ugly feelings and thoughts, those ones that you want to run from. It’s also ok if you don’t. I just want to let you know that I’m here. It’s what friends do.

It’s also ok if you have nothing to offer me other than your tears. So if you ever feel completely alone, or that no one actually wants to hear the true response when they ask you a casual, “How are you?” Please know that you can be honest with me. I’m not afraid of your feelings, even your darkest ones. I want to know that you’re okay. You don’t need to feel like you owe me anything for listening. I’m not a therapist. I’m just a friend who may have little to offer you other than a shoulder to cry on and my prayers. I probably won’t have the answers to your problems. But you don’t have to apologize for the way you feel, or for “being a downer”, because I want to be able to walk this road with you. I want to be there! My dear friend, you are not alone! You are loved. You are deeply cared for!

Are you okay?

I’m here to listen. It’s what friends do.

Fitness · Health · Poetry

Pursuit of Beauty

A while back on Facebook, I shared a poem I had written after having a heavy burden on my heart for quite some time. A few of my friends and acquaintances were falling into eating disorders that they called “healthy diets”.

Now I’m not talking just about eating well, exercising or taking care of their bodies. I’m really encouraged when I see people making healthy lifestyle choices…these dear women were starving themselves. And trend diets began to really bother me. I mean, they’re ALL over the media, speaking to women as if a fine figure is the best thing that they have to offer the world, the best thing they can offer to their families. And so, I began to wonder why this bothered me so much…was it jealousy? Was it guilt? Or was it because there is something very, very wrong with being consumed by fitness? And as I pondered these questions, the words to this poem came pouring out onto the page.

There is SO MUCH talk about healthy attitudes towards food these days. And most of it is geared towards women (although it is increasingly becoming geared towards men as well). The truth is, letting thoughts of food consume your life isn’t having a healthy attitude. Unless you have an allergy, questioning everyone about every single ingredient in the food they make for you is a REALLY unhealthy attitude to have. If you think about food all the time, you’re either eating to much of it or not enough. Both are equally damaging. And so…if you read this poem and see pieces of yourself, I challenge you to ask yourself what is most important to you and what do you want to be known for, your body, or your heart?

Pursuit of Beauty
By: Heather Bergen

She pushes her plate aside, eyes resigned.
He feasts like a king, never bothers to mind,
He's never been pushed, never been told,
For fat or slim; they still like him.
She wakes up before them and paints up her face,
Her workout begins, her pulse starts to race.
Long past her goal, a new goal is found,
Just a little bit more, just another pound.
Her face once full of warmth and life, 
now is hollow and cold.
The cheeks once flushed grow ever pale,
the eyes once bright grow weary and dull.
She forces a smile flashing perfect white teeth, 
that hurt from the treatments if she touches a sweet.
All the beauty that masks the beast raging inside,
Fixing only what fades, while neglecting her inmost cry.
They like her less, even less than before,
Maybe once she's shed just a little bit more...
Dear Child, fading slowly, you were fine as you were.
They tell you otherwise, but what do they know?
They too are lost in a struggle they've always known,
Their size is the measure for the worth of their soul.
Look up, Beautiful one, and seek out the truth,
Outward beauty is common, it's not hard to find,
Breathtaking it is, but it withers like grass.
The rare beauty you long for is not found in a store,
it can't be 'put on' or bought,
it's worth much much more!
It's in a gentle free heart, so patient and fair,
A face full of grace, hands eager to share,
It's in a voice so sweet full of life bringing words,
Or arms strong and tough, but willing to serve.
It's in love that pours out, expecting none in return,
It's a harsh word held back, and gentleness learned.
It's scars that speak volumes of making it through,
In wrinkles that earn the respect they are due,
It's in the bright stretching lines on a new mothers skin,
It's in the way a little child mischievously grins.
True beauty is what the world seems to pass by,
True beauty is what the world tries hard to hide.
But the rarer it grows, the brighter it shines.
Dear Child, you must choose what you want to pursue.
Will it be true beauty within, or will the outside of you win?