Looking Different than the World

There are many times when I’ve realized my blog is just going to have to be different.

I love to write about many different areas of life. However, one struggle that I think most writers have is exactly where to draw the line. When does openness and authenticity lead to airing too much of our (or our loved one’s) dirty laundry? For the past few years I’ve gone through a difficult trial, where I’m struggling with certain people who seem to be against me. Writing often helps me cope and work through my feelings, but honestly, it means that many, MANY of my posts get deleted. Not because they’re poorly written or uninteresting…not at all! I’m sure one day I’ll be able to write about these struggles and encourage many who are walking down a similar road. But often my passion about a topic, or my sharing of a situation leads me to give up too many details and has the potential to hurt those whom I’ve been hurt by. It’s like I want to scream my story out to the world, a story that right now I can’t properly tell. Some days I write and end up in a complete mess of words that will benefit no one.

And then God gently nudges me back; back to the reason I started this blog.

It’s not a place to vent. It’s not a place to accuse. It’s not a platform to stand and share my woes, so that people can feel sorry for me!

The purpose of my blog is simply this: I want to be a light in a world full of darkness. I want to be a quiet voice of truth among thousands of angry screams. I want to call people back, out of the way the world deals with hardships, and into God’s way; the way that leads to TRUE peace. 

Sadly, we live in a world where public shaming and Facebook “rants” that tear others down is the norm; where sarcastic memes and rude comments seem to have taken over people’s thoughts and emotions. True, biblical, and godly ways seem to be long forgotten, and the absence of them have left an aching void, a void we try so desperately to fill with more Facebook rants and memes.

When “Sarah” has family issues and “asks for advice” on Facebook, what she’s really looking for is not a godly solution, rather what she wants is a mob-like group to gather around her, taking “her side” and justifying the hate that rages within. I sometimes wonder if true godly advice were given, how many people would turn and ruthlessly attack the soul who cared enough to provide loving truth, rather then just feeding the longing for pity. We’d call them insensitive…or worse.

These viral hate-filled rants, they are the cancer of Facebook.

In them we assassinate the characters of those we’ve never met…but the irony is that we don’t really care to know the truth. We just love to feed our thirst for revenge. And the victim? We don’t really care about them either, they’re usually forgotten anyways before we even finish scrolling to the next item on our news feed.

Every day it seems, like another “victim” of the world brings their story public, conveniently leaving out some key details, resulting a viral one-sided video where thousands rally against an enemy they’ve never met, calling for their end. Do we ever stop to consider what this actually does to the person who carries the weight of this condemnation for the rest of their life? Do we stop to consider that maybe, the story was twisted and now the true victim is the one we’ve just slaughtered with our careless words, while we go on with our day forgetting it all. A person who may lie awake at night, worrying about who may recognize him on the street, who wonders if his life will ever be the same.

Even if the story is true, does one mistake caught on video warrant the shaming and slander it receives? Think about your worst moment…you wouldn’t want it shared online, for thousands of people to view and comment on, would you?

I wonder, how are our times any different then the stoning or public executions of the past? We love to do this; wag our fingers at the mistakes of the old days, the “uneducated” past, all the while living completely callous to what our culture does every single day!

It is so easy to get caught up in it! How easy it is to get caught up into thinking: “If only, I could get justice, if only they would pay for the way they hurt me, if only people would see who they really are…THEN I’d be at peace!”

Can I just tell you from experience, this doesn’t work? It really doesn’t! All the revenge, all the gossip and all the “venting” in the world has never succeeded in bringing a lasting peace. In fact, these things make it WORSE. The longer we focus on making everything fair for ourselves, the unhappier and unhappier we become, until we are consumed with blaming our every misfortune, our every bad choice on the one who has hurt us. Oh the number of people who have walked down the path of bitterness, never to return, and even after they have gotten the justice they pursued, there is no joy; just a deeply damaged soul crying: “If I’ve finally gotten all I ever hoped for, then why do I still feel empty?”

The most unhappy souls I meet, are those who are focused on getting what they rightfully deserve (or what they think they rightfully deserve).

Dear friends, there’s only One who right all the wrongs. There’s only One who can bring beauty from ashes. There’s only One who can take the broken pieces of your soul and mend them back together. His name is Jesus. And he calls us to forgive. A thousand times over we are to forgive. And sometimes when the damage done to us is so bad, so deep and so repeated, we feel like Jesus is asking far too much of us.

And sometimes when I feel this way, I cry out: “God why do you ask SO much of us? Does this person really deserve my forgiveness again?!?”

And the gracious, most understanding, answer comes echoing back: “Dear Child, that’s the beauty of forgiveness…it’s completely undeserved.”

In a world that is constantly screaming: “Give me what I deserve”, may we, the church, rise up and show the bitter world around us a better way, one that brings lasting freedom and peace: Forgiveness.

 

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Why am I doing this?!?

Have you ever done something that seemed like a really good idea at the time, but when it was all said and done, it left you asking yourself, “Why am I putting myself through this?”

Like going to the gym.

Or getting up in the morning.

Haha…I’m joking, I’m joking…sort of.

Actually what I’m really talking about are decisions that you thought through, planned for and felt really excited about…until the day came and nothing went at all as planned.

For instance the time I thought, “Man, I’ve been stuck inside all summer, pregnant, with three kids under five…I should really do something special!” And then the idea pops into my head, “Hey, I know what sounds like a good idea! I’m going to take my children on a fun family camping trip!” Then I spend days planning for the weekend, packing favourite foods, special toys and blankets – everything to make sure that the weekend is going to be fun for everyone.

Yet when we arrive at the site, it’s raining, all three kids are crazy wild, the mosquitos are terrible and to make everything worse, no one sleeps, ALL night!

And you wonder, “What in the world were you thinking?!?” 

I honestly don’t even know!!

Which leads me to this past week when I found myself questioning my decision to home school. Now, I often get asked why I decided to home school. It’s my fifth year of doing this, so I have my response pretty down pat already. But the other day, when I had a million other things to do, when my whole house was a crazy mess, when I sat beside my child writing at one word per ten minutes, suddenly, all my responses I had ever given to the question came crashing down. And I couldn’t get past the question: “Why?!? Why did I choose to do this?”

Suddenly, my good, well thought through reasons seemed as inadequate as my plans for camping while being pregnant and having three young kids.

And here, in my crazy, chaotic household, I had to face a very scary, intimating question: Why on EARTH am I doing this? When I’m having a good school year, like I had last year, the question is actually exciting for me to answer and I feel like I have so many positive things to say! But on years where everyday feels like a long, dragged out struggle, the question haunts me.

So today I sat down and began to read through my list of “Reasons Why I Home School” (yes, I do have a list…I would have quit LONG ago if I didn’t have it) and…are you ready for total honesty? In my discouragement, I really felt like all my reasons for homeschooling were falling short. There were NO good answers for my “why”.

To have more time with my children. Do I really? I mean, I guess if you look at hours spent with them in my presence, then yes…but is home school giving me less quality time with them?

To have strong family ties. And I wondered…are we really any closer than the families that chose to send their children to public school?

I felt God leading me to this. Did I really? Maybe I don’t hear his voice so well after all.

To be forced to work through character issues and personality clashes. But if I’m ACTUALLY at wit’s end, there’s always the option of throwing on a very long episode of “Bill Nye The Science Guy”, or a having a really extended recess…am I right?!? 😀

To teach my children that God can be a part of everything we do. Ok, I do this…but my kids see me ALL THE TIME and what they see is a very imperfect person, trying so hard to keep it all together, but often failing. Maybe they would see less of the frazzled mom and more of the calm, put-together mom, if I wasn’t always with them!

To have TIME to teach serving through volunteer work. OK, really? LOL!! Did I REALLY think we’d have MORE time for volunteering with all my children at home???

To gain patience in my own life. OK, Einstein…More like MAGNIFY MY IMPATIENCE!!!

To not be negatively influence by peers. Ummm… right now their friends are probably a better influence than their own siblings!!! Like, I’m pretty sure none of their school friends decide to pee out in the open on the play ground! Or completely lose their temper over a hard work assignment. AND the fighting, the arguing and screaming… it NEVER ENDS!!!

As I read down my list, every single reason of mine fell short. And the tears fell freely as I wondered just who am I trying to be?

But then, I read the paragraph at the bottom of my list. It was written five long years ago, when I had first felt led to home school. Obviously, the words had been long forgotten, but they came pouring into my heart like a flood:

Parenting was never meant to have the “get it over with” attitude. Parenting is actually a lifelong calling, a calling with a short season where we have the opportunity to shape, mold and teach our children to live up to their full potential. Homeschooling, if done right and intentionally, allows more time for this and is a much greater sacrifice then a “just let the school deal with it” attitude…If one feels called to send their child to public school, this can be a great decision, BUT the “get my kids out of my hair” attitude must not be a part of the decision or it will greatly damage the relationship between child and parent. The same is with home school, if one doesn’t deal with this attitude correctly, they are setting themselves up for a very disastrous and discouraging experience and WILL NOT make it in the long run. The problems we experience in homeschooling lie within our own hearts.

The problem here was with my own heart. 

Ahhh, there it was. The painful, hard to accept, truth. When I get too busy, when I volunteer for too many things, when I try to do too much – I end up yelling more, being overstressed and pushing my children away more. And when I do this, homeschooling isn’t beneficial to ANY of us. And the opposite is true as well: If I get selfish or bored with serving my family, I begin to form habits where I’m wasting much of my valuable time on social media or playing games on my phone, and also push children away while I sit in my own little world.

So…Why am I still doing this? Why am I pressing forward?

Partially because I’m crazy.

Partially because I’m weird.

But mostly because early on in parenting, I realized that this parenting thing matters. And I only have one shot at this.

I never, EVER want to look back and say that I could’ve done better. I never want to regret that I was too lazy, too tired, to unmotivated, too selfish, too annoyed, too impatient. I never want to send my child to public school just to “get them out of my hair” or to “let the teacher deal with them.” When I send them back to public school, I want it to be purely for THEIR benefit, not mine.

Who knows! Maybe this will be my last year of homeschooling. Maybe not. But whatever season I’m in, I WILL NOT, under any circumstances, quit because of a few bad days or weeks.

Parenting is a lifelong commitment with a small window where we have the opportunity to train our children. 

If you’re reading this, and your like me…feeling like you’re in an exhausting time-loop of wake, work, sleep, repeat…I urge you today to take the time to rest and reflect. Ask yourself the hard questions, the scary questions. Reflect on why you’re doing what you’re doing and if you find that you are doing too much – cut out the extras. Because once I found my “why”, I discovered meaning to the mundane daily tasks such as endless laundry, preparing lessons, marking, teaching, solving fights and wiping tables. Finding out the “why” is essential to doing our best.

But first, make sure you rest.

Not the “rest” of zoning out on Facebook or Netflix, but the pure, gentle rest of a soul at ease.

Sit down, enjoy the autumn air around you.

Watch the kids playing.

Take a walk and hear the leaves crunching under your feet.

Soak in the warmth of God’s unending patience and love.

Rest. Then reflect…and you’ll find your “why”.

 

A Mother’s Greatest Lie

I’ve always wanted to write a book. Not just any book either: a classic. One of those books that touches the reader so deeply they can’t help but ponder it for the next few days or even weeks. I want to use my words to transform people’s lives and their way of thinking. I don’t just want to write another book, I want to write THE book.

Today I sat down once again with visions of writing a bestselling Novel. As soon as my pen hit the page (yes I’m sometimes old school like that…I still love writing with pen and paper) the words took off! They flowed onto the page as fast as my pen could keep up with my mind! And then it happened, the same thing that happens every single time:

Children.

Their fighting began and as soon as I heard their cries and angry shouts, my heart sank. At first, I tried to block out the noise, but I could tell my story was getting weaker as my divided mind could no longer fully engage with what I was writing. I stopped. And once again I knew in my heart that I’d lost it. Never again will I write that story. The moment was gone.

I clambered down the stairs and took my frustration out on the younger two boys, who were the culprits of the trouble. In my anger, I tried to deal with their pain, which ended up causing more tears and wounds to our souls because I was already impatient. I had already in my mind found them guilty of wronging me and so I had no room in my heart to hear them out or to listen to “sides”. They were guilty of the repeated offence of “Disrupting MY life” and in my mind it was the only offence worth convicting them over.

“I’m so tired of you fighting all the time! I don’t really care WHAT your problem is, I just want you to stop! I can never have any peace and quiet in this house!” The words flew out of my mouth, along with others, expressing how badly they were acting at the time. I wish I could say that I had the decency to come to my senses, take my boys into my arms and listen to them, but I didn’t. I just sent them to their rooms, storming off to my own to cool off, to try to get back that which I already knew was lost. To try to write my story. But it was too late. The only words that now came were:

“I will NEVER write a book, because I am a Mom.”

I can’t write, because I am a Mom. These words, this thought, is one of the most painful, binding lies I have ever struggled with since becoming a Mom. It takes on many forms and is at the very centre of the struggle of motherhood. It can be rephrased into the following thoughts:

“My kids are holding me back from living up to my fullest potential!”

“My children are the reason for my failures.”

“If it weren’t for my children I’d be doing important things with my life!!”

“My life is less productive because of my kids.”

“My kids are a distraction and they are the reason I have let go of my dreams.”

“My children have ruined MY life!”

In the end, these thoughts, these LIES express the lonely cry of a wounded mother and the resentment she feels towards her kids for the changes their lives have brought to hers.

Oh, we rarely, if ever, give voice to these thoughts and feelings. But we bury them deep, deep within our souls only to hear them whenever we face disappointments and failures. And in our pain we hear these lies whispered within our hearts: it’s all their faults.

Being a Mother has taught me this much: Every trial and difficult situation is magnified when having kids. Insecurity. Depression. Financial struggles. Loneliness. It doesn’t go away when having kids. Children can sometimes be a wanted distraction, but more often than not, they just actually bring more stress into a hard situation. But let’s get something straight here: IT’S NOT THEIR FAULT.

Your pain, the pain deep within your heart, is not because of them.

My struggles are not MY kids fault anymore than my parents’ struggles and failures are mine. And if I let myself believe that lie, I’m not only setting myself up for a life of bitterness and resentment against my children, I may also unknowingly be planting seeds of shame and rejection into their little hearts.

Now let’s be honest, children DO make things difficult. But the reality is that no child can ruin God’s plans for your life.

The only person who can prevent you from fulfilling God’s calling on your life, is you.

And maybe, just maybe, I’m not supposed to write a book right now, during this season of my life. Maybe God wants me to wait.

During this one post I have left this computer approximately ten times. I’m solving fights, helping with bathroom breaks, getting towels for the kids coming out of the hot tub, prepping supper, telling children to move their noisy play to a different room so that I can concentrate. And I have to ask myself sometimes: Why do I bother? Why not give up? Why not give in and just call it quits on the rest of my life until the kids have moved out?

Because I know better.

Being a Mother and raising my children is hands down one of the most important callings of my life, and at the end of my life I want to look back and say that I did my best. But I know better than to say it’s the only call on my life.

Being a Mother changed me and shaped me into a new person, but it doesn’t define me. If anything it’s trained and strengthened me for my real calling.

My first and most important role in this life is to follow Jesus with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind and all my strength.

This means many things: It means to look different than the rest of the world, it means to do my best in all things, even the small things. It’s doing things I really would rather not like loving the unlovable, showing kindness to the mean spirited, putting others needs ahead of my own wants and desires. It’s repenting when I’ve done something wrong. It’s giving to the poor. It’s blessing those who mistreat me. It’s turning my back on the lusts of this world. It means shutting out the lies that my head wants to believe, silencing the excuses that try to push blame onto others. It also means using the different talents and abilities God’s given me, for his glory.

So I continue to write, recognizing that right now, maybe God only wants me to have the time for short blog posts, but so what! I’m using my gifts, my passions, as best I can for the time being. With joy in my heart I can lay my “big dreams” his hands. So maybe I will never write THE book…or maybe I will, neither is all that important.

What matters is that I was faithful in the small things and, to the very core of my being, did my best in it all.

And The Years Flew By

This past summer I took a break from social media; from posting on my blog to Instagram to Facebook. I also deleted all the games on my phone. Here’s what I found: All my missing time.

Okay, so maybe all the extra time also had to do with taking a break from homeschooling, BUT, I had time to do my work, time to relax, time for devotions, and time to have friends over for dinner. I made a wedding cake, I learnt some Spanish, and I memorized 3 full chapters of the bible, plus some other verses as well! I had time to be with my kids; I taught them how to enjoy work and they taught me how fun being a mom can be. We got to make a summer bucket list together and we almost completed our whole list! We went camping. I hosted some out of town relatives for a couple weeks. I planted and actually took care of a garden.

Despite all of this, I still had time to sit and think! I thought about how much time my phone took of my life (I honestly never want to hear the full tally of the hours I’ve spent on it!) I thought about how I’m half done raising my oldest three kids. I thought about the mistakes I’ve made and the things I’ve done right. Mostly though, I thought about how short life is and what a gift our time on earth is.

Time is a gift. A precious gift. Each moment spent can never be gained back! This means every person who pauses to send me an encouraging text, or who takes time to have coffee with me is giving me a tremendous blessing: their time.

I suppose none of us in the early years of parenting really know what to do with the elderly who stop us with our new babies, gaze into their faces and dreamily say, “Enjoy this stage because the years fly by!” I mean, we think we know what they mean, and we nod in agreement, but in our hearts the days still sometimes crawl by; the endless checklists cause us to hustle about from morning until night and lets face it, the sleepless nights seem even longer. Sometimes we just think to ourselves: “I know it’s true, I do, but right now I just wish I was out of this stage.”

It reminds me of a lady at church who smiled at me, shifting in my seat uncomfortably at the end of my first pregnancy. Her little kids were crawling all over the pew around her and she said, “Just enjoy the peace while you still can!” Then about eight years later, that same lady watched me as I juggled my five kids around me trying in vain to keep them quiet and she looked at me with older, wiser eyes and said, “Enjoy the busyness, my kids don’t even want to sit with me anymore!” And I smiled to myself and thought about the irony of her statement.

Of course us humans do that, wish for the quiet when we’re busy and long for the busy when it’s quiet.

I’m turning 30 next year, about one third of my life is over…and I’m reminded of an old Psalm:

“Teach us to number our days, that we might gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12

Thanks to our busy culture, rarely, if ever do we stop and take time to number our days. We pack our schedules full of sports, school, work, church activities, volunteering, social engagements, but when it’s all said and done, do we spend time on what matters in our lives?

When I’m old and most of my life is behind me, I want to be able to look back on the way I’ve spent my time and have no regrets. I want to pour more of my life into people, rather than things. Sometimes, it just takes a break from “things” to realize how much time we gave to them. Sometimes, it takes a break from the “likes” to realize how little we actually need them.

Oh that my generation would see the slap in the face it is to everyone around us when we continuously choose to pine away hours of time! We sit down face to face with each other, yet spend more time on our phones than with each other. It’s actually ridiculous, that one would prefer to stare at a screen over watching their baby’s first giggles, or joining them in picking that fresh bouquet of wildflowers. And our wasted time is a loss not only to our children, but also to the elderly who sit by themselves day after day, to our friends who struggle with depression yet feel completely alone because we are “too busy” to listen to them ourselves.

So why am I here, you may ask. If blogging and social media are such a huge waste of time, then why don’t I just stop complaining about it and delete it!

To be completely honest, I thought about it …but then I remembered something, something my generation often forgets about, a little something known as self control. Social Media, games, Netflix, blogs…these things aren’t the enemy. They aren’t bad. We don’t need to delete our accounts or block them out! Facebook and WordPress are nothing more than tools. If used wisely and correctly, they can help communication, they can keep us in touch with those we would forget otherwise. But if used incorrectly they become harmful and sometimes even deadly to us and our relationships.

My break from it all taught me how much I’ve been misusing these tools. My misuse of them led me to frustration in parenting, lack of energy and time and the false sense of acceptance from the likes I’ve received. Blogging helps me put my thoughts into words, it improves my writing skills…but I don’t need to spend any time watching the stats, because really, knowing how many people are reading my writing doesn’t help me improve. Facebook helps me to share moments of my life with others and to share in the joy of others special moments, but I don’t need to check it fifty times a day!

I’m grateful for my time off this summer. I’ll never regret it. It taught me an important lesson: I still have time to change.

Time that is ticking.

My years of raising children are literally flying by and I, for one, don’t want to miss one more precious second!

I Only Planted the Seeds

I only planted the seeds.

You tilled the ground and made it fine.

It was you who broke the hardened soil, and worked through each new line.

You added nutrition to the dust and fertilized the dirt,

Scraping every inch of earth, though your hands, they bled and hurt.

You sifted through rocks and plowed the weeds, under the beating sun.

Never once giving up or shutting your eyes, till the work was done.

I only planted the seeds.

How great I must’ve thought I was, far bigger than I am;

To think that I should be the one with the master plan.

For you caused the sun to shine its warmth, and the cool, wet rain to fall;

You kept the creatures and the bugs from devouring it all.

And yet I cried out: How unfair! I wanted to see it through!

After all my work in what I did, I never witnessed the fruit!

But really, I only planted the seed, it was never my job to watch it grow.

How hard to admit it’s up to you, harder still to let them go!

For that little seed was planted with care, with tears and with my heart!

How then could I step back and let it wither, couldn’t I play a bigger part?

“These things take time, my dear,” you spoke to me,

“Your job is done! Now let it be.”

Oh that I could see what came from my tiny, dead, old seeds! I may never really know.

For it was only my job to plant the seed, now it’s yours to make it grow.

The Strong Ones

There’s a sadness I feel today.

It’s the feeling that I get when I know people aren’t being honest with me and when I wonder what they’re really thinking or feeling. When the voices in the other room just make me feel more lonely, like a bruised up apple underneath a tree. Figures, they’d take my best and turn it into the worst. Like when I smiled and they thought I was fake. Or when I forgave and they thought it was the easy road.

There’s nothing strong or noble in holding a grudge. Whispers all around me, but don’t you dare speak the truth out loud, otherwise people might talk. They’re already taking, you know, if I share then at least they’ll be repeating the truth.

It’s a pity you didn’t come over. I wandered awkwardly around all week, trying to keep busy, trying to fill the void of emptiness you left, trying to pretend I was strong. But I’m not. I’m weak and hurt and broken, just like you. I wished with all my heart I could just give up. Yet these little hearts, they need me. Compassion makes me try to be strong, for them.

Am I doing anything right? Sometimes it feels like I just hurt everyone more by doing my best. Can’t they see my heart in all this? I’d like to think that they’re cheering for me, like I am for them. Like their on my side, as I’m on theirs. But honestly, I sometimes think they all just want to see me fail. Like, at least if they’d see me fail, they would be able to feel better about themselves. Little do they know how much I fail, how often.

I miss my best friend from grade ten, she understood my ramblings and rambled right back. We ran on the bails together and I tripped, and we laughed so hard we cried. If only we’d still be friends. Just like every other friend I’ve lost since her. I wish one of them would stick around.

Keep getting back up, I’ll keep trying. I’ll keep being the friend I wish someone would be to me. I’ll keep giving and pouring out for them all, because they need me to be strong. Yet sometimes when I’m by myself, I still break down and cry.

Because really, I’m not all that strong.

 

 

 

 

 

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.