Authenticity · Depression · Purpose

Five Pieces of Trash

Crazy how life can get us down sometimes, and yet, the simplest act can lift us up. Often for me this “lift” comes in the most unexpected way.

My heart was heavy today.

I don’t know about you, but lately the burdens of the world have been all consuming. I’ve been here before, the only difference is that now it seems like the whole world is carrying these types of burdens daily. And it’s hard to even find anyone who has the time or capacity to help.

Here is my list of burdens, simplified immensely:

  1. A friend is facing the same pain and spiritual abuse from the church leaders that hurt me five years ago.
  2. A little boy I do respite for. A boy with sad eyes that tell the tale of his pain.
  3. The frustration, change, hatred and division that came after Covid.
  4. A group of young moms I care for, but don’t have the capacity to lead on my own anymore.
  5. A complete lack of motivation to finish the year of homeschooling my boys.

Luckily, I can now recognize the symptoms of depression almost as fast as they appear. The hopelessness and lack of motivation and strength is all apart of this. Instead of being paralyzed and confused about it all, like I used to be, I now am in the place where I know the steps to take because I have been here before.

Step one: Reach out for help. I contacted six people in my life. Yes… six. Six, because everyone is busy and I knew that if I only looked to one person, I could easily get discouraged and spiral downward if they didn’t respond. You see, I know this because I’ve been here before. The more support the better. Five out of the six responded. All five said they were praying. Two of them reached out to connect later in the week. One dropped off a coffee for me within the hour and gave me a hug. This confirms three things I need to know when I am down: I am supported. I am cared for. I am loved.

Step two: Walk in the sunshine. The doctor who first diagnosed me with depression four years ago was amazing. I was in pain, I was tired constantly, I was unmotivated and exhausted, and had fallen into an unfeeling sort of state. I thought something terrible was wrong with me and that it had to be something bad. A brain tumour, a rare disease, a demon.

It was depression.

I thank God for the doctor who looked at me simply and said: “Fifteen minutes a day, walking in the sunshine, will give you as much of a boost as taking an antidepressant.” I took his words to heart and over the next four months, quite literally walked myself out of depression. While I walked I memorized scripture.

Today was sunny. The air was crisp, but warm for December. I pulled on a toque and my jacket and I went outside to walk.

Step three: Focus on something other then my pain during the walk. Like a memory verse, or prayer, or nature.

Today it was trash.

Huh? You’re probably asking yourself. Trash??

Yes. Today I was saved by five pieces of trash and a whole lot of prayer.

I saw that first beer can lying there. And something inside me knew I just couldn’t leave it behind. It wasn’t my mess to clean – but it’s my road. I may be helpless in other areas of my life, but this was one thing I could do. And as I picked up that beer can, I realized something remarkable about the weight and the pain of my problems: I was focusing on all the things I couldn’t do and they were all huge. But I am not completely helpless. I can do small things.

As I picked up each small piece of garbage, suddenly each one stood for the bigger issues. Just like my burdens, this trash wasn’t mine. I couldn’t stop the litterers. I can’t stop people from making horrible choices. I can’t fix the worlds problems. But just as I could reach out and pick up the trash, so I could do something in each situation I faced.

One beer can. I can’t fix abusive church leaders. But I can listen. I can empathize. I can offer encouraging words, because I’ve been there.

One piece from a blown out tire. I can’t take away the little boy’s pain. But I can be a mother to him each week he is here. I can open my home as a refuge.

One coffee cup. I can’t change the actions of the world around me. But I can love. I can listen. I can respond kindly to those who see things differently than I do. I can help bring unity to the people around me by choosing not to argue and fight.

One energy drink. I’m not able to be everything to these ladies and I can’t do everything for them that I’d like to. But I can give them what I have: hope. I can offer them community. I can pray for them. I can send an encouraging text. I can offer support when I have the strength to do so.

One can of iced tea. Maybe I can’t handle another six months of homeschooling. But I most certainly can handle one more day. And then another one. I can handle one day at a time.

I came home from my walk. My hands were full and numb from carrying the cold cans. But somehow, my load was exponentially lighter.

I can do something good, even if it is small.

I know somewhere down the road, there is more trash to pick up. Maybe next I’ll bring a bag along with me.

But for today, five pieces of trash were enough.

Compassion · Humanity

In Matters of Sameness

If Satan has toeholds that allow him to claw and climb from the underworld to this one, they lie in our failure to see ourselves in others.”

– Lisa Wingate

The beginning of prejudice, hatred and grudges are nothing more than the notion that we are somehow different from one another – and, presumptively, somehow better.

We are no different than the person we cast a evil eye on, of that I am becoming certain. It grieves me that there is more disunity and discord in our “tolerant” world than ever before. And I would dare say, that if our “tolerance” is causing this this present condition, we’d do well to think long and hard if we are actually tolerant at all.

Is tolerance just tolerating the people who look and think and act like we are accustomed to? To contend only with the people who adhere to the beliefs and values that our current society deems acceptable? Tolerance, as defined in the dictionary is “a willingness to endure or tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behaviour that one does not necessarily agree with.” So, in fact, tolerating people of other beliefs or backgrounds when you never disagreed with them in the first place isn’t tolerance at all.

We are similar, you and I.

Though I am a stubborn Canadian woman, who does, in fact, apologize over everything because it is our perception of polite. I’m a homeschooling mother of five kids with fair skin and curly thick hair that isn’t blonde nor brown, but a dull shade in between; a middle class woman, who believes the Christian faith with all my heart. You might be halfway across the world, single, atheist, with smooth dark hair and think such apologies are ridiculous, and abhor the thought of children being taught primarily in their own home.

Our similarities still run deep, I believe this to the core of my being, for I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t long to be accepted, to be loved.

We all are very much the same. We all yearn to have purpose; to make a difference in the world. We all worship, one thing or another. We all get passionate over the causes that move us.

We all make mistakes. We all have fears, regrets and embarrassing moments. We all dream about the future and complain about the weather.

And all of us simply wish to be heard and understood.

What if, we committed to doing this for others? Hearing them? Seeing them? Accepting them for who they are, even if they have no desire at all to change; even going as far as forgiving them for their differences that may offend us?

What if, we saw ourselves in the face of our enemies?

We might just learn to forgive. We might love a little deeper.

We might even change the world.

Authenticity · Vulnerability

Grieving what we’ve Lost

We’ve lost some difficult things.

Today was the day we were supposed to wake up our kids in an hour and pull them mysteriously into the van. They would blink their eyes in confusion at the suitcases and surprise packages around them. We would then tell them the news:

We are going on a SURPRISE family trip!

There were packages to open along the way: a new iPad. Blank comic books. Candy and travel games.

They would scream in excitement and awe that we had surprised them. The next six days would be driving, restaurant meals, family visits, and water park rides.

BUT… today I mourn because instead, I wake up to a completely different day: Ryan’s alarm going off for work. I will wake up and make breakfast, homeschool the kids and then try to keep them joyful for the rest of the day. Surprise travel gifts and the iPad were opened a week ago, now used for school work.

My kids don’t know about the trip, thank goodness we decided to surprise them. It’s just one less disappointment they have to face.

Still, my daughter was discouraged yesterday. Deeply discouraged. As an optimist at heart, I did what I could to be upbeat and see the blessings. But mainly, I just listened because there wasn’t much to say: I am sad too.

I shared what I was sad about… I’m mourning the normalcy of life, as we all are.

I was sad, because I did my hair and makeup to go get the groceries this week. I cry, because I’m sick of people on screens. I cry, because there’s no hopeful message… just experts repeatedly saying: “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

I long for an end date. We all do.

I’m mourning family gatherings, church events, and meeting with people. I’m mourning date nights with my husband and visiting my grandparents.

I shared as we put together a puzzle.

We went on a walk, the air was crisp. She shared her heart, her tears. As we walked, she visibly brightened. The sun started setting. The fields were beautiful with the spring water glistening in them. Then we came back home and gathered the family for a drive. Picking up some drive thru iced cream and drove around until dark, looking at some of the beautiful homes people live in.

My youngest pipes up from the back: “When I grow up I will find the biggest house and choose that one.”

We laughed at the innocent comment and came home FULL. The grieving had allowed small glimpses of joy to set in. The grieving allowed us to move on.

So friends: grieve. Then keep going.

Authenticity · Cake Decorating · Faith

Learning through the Little Things

I share a lot about my failures and what I learn from them on my blog.

I don’t do this because I think we should always focus what we’re doing wrong. My purpose in sharing these things, is that many times I think we go through life feeling that we are alone in the many difficult things that happen. We allow these situations (whether actual sins or honest mistakes) to hinder us from growing or trying things again.

In my life, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that we cannot let hard experiences from the past harden us or keep us from trying new things in the future.

This weekend I made a cake for my niece. It was valentines themed, covered in cream cheese icing with white chocolate decorations. I made it pretty simple, so it wasn’t extravagant or anything and when it was finished I was happy with how it turned out.

I had been wanting to try a white chocolate raspberry cake for a long time, so I asked my sister if I could make one for my niece.

I used a DELICIOUS blueberry cake recipe and swapped the blueberries for raspberries, assuming it would still be as moist as always. What I failed to consider is that raspberries don’t add the moisture that blueberries do.

The result? A dry and dense cake.

At first I felt terrible! Of course my mind went to all my past failures and I began to wallow in those familiar thoughts: that “I was losing my knack for cakes” and that “I would never bake for other people again!!”

What I failed to realize is that trying new things (like the last time I did) doesn’t always work out. There are in fact, many new things I tried this time that worked out really well!

I made up a new filling, that I will definitely be using again. It tasted amazing! I added raspberries, strawberries, melted white chocolate, cream cheese, icing sugar, vanilla and I beat it together. Then I beat (in a separate bowl) whipped cream, adding no sugar or flavouring to it. Once it was totally whipped, I stirred the two together.

Oh. My. Word.

The result was heavenly!

But… going back to my terrible feeling about the cake. I had wasted about $20 and four hours of my time.

I felt so much shame that I just wanted to quit.

But as I’ve been doing a lot lately, I took these feelings to Jesus in the most simple and practical way because He Cares.

He actually cares! So often we don’t go to him with these feelings and we instead hide them deep inside. We make ourselves promises such as, “I’m never doing this again!” and those harmful promises hinder our future.

So I went to him. Here’s a simple conversation we had:

Me: Today I tried my best on a cake and it really didn’t turn out. So disappointing! Father, do I need to just stop making cakes for people? This seems to happen far too often! I feel so stupid when my best work fails.

God: How would you feel if you purchased something that didn’t quite turn out?

Me: Honestly, I hate spending money on homemade things. So I’d be pretty disappointed.

God: Disappointed enough to hold it against the person who made it? Or to make a big deal and not pay for it?

Me: No. I just probably wouldn’t order again from that person.

God: You always have options Heather! What do you want to do? You have two choices:

1) Say nothing and collect the money, taking the chance that (the person) won’t order from you again.

2) Charge nothing and tell her that her honesty helped you learn important baking lesson for the future. You will be remembered for your integrity and probably ordered from again. It’s your choice! Do you want to do use this experience to grow your skill as a baker and your integrity? Or would you rather stop doing something that you have an obvious talent for?

Me: Wow I never saw it that way! That sounds so simple. Thanks for listening Jesus.

Sometimes simple wisdom seems complicated in the moment.

How often do we miss the peace God has for us by stressing about things we could have simply talked to him about? How often in the past have I shut myself off to a simple lesson because I’m so busy wallowing in shame?

I think it’s best said in the simplicity of the age old song:

What a friend we have in Jesus!
All our sins and griefs to bear,
And what a privilege to carry,
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit!
Oh, what needless pain we bear!
All because we do not carry,
Everything to God in prayer!
Jesus, help us to do this. Even in the little things.
Faith · Running

I’m so Glad I Ran

I didn’t want to run.

It was the first day in three weeks that I had a morning free. There was nothing on my schedule: Just me and my laptop, working on a book that has taken me far too long to edit.

But there it was… my reminder that rings three times a week, encouraging me to run.

So I did. I ran even though I would’ve rather done almost anything else. Give me five baskets full of laundry and I would’ve rather washed and neatly folded them today. I will scrub toilets. I will wipe snotty noses. Just don’t make me run.

Now before you wonder what is wrong with me, you must understand that I usually look forward to running, especially in summer when I can leave the confines of my treadmill and breathe the fresh air. I love to race down our gravel roads and see the world around me. Often, I see birds, deer or squirrels. I once saw a coyote from a distance in the field. I see sunsets and sunrises. I see golden fields and tall stalks of corn in perfectly straight rows. On those days, I love my home. I love my country. I love running.

But this time, I hated it.

I hated the way my knees hurt when I started moving. The stale basement air. The loud motor of the treadmill and the boring white wall that I stare at for minute after long minute.

But I need to run. I know all to well the depression that awaits when I begin to skip days. Running is a discipline and although it’s good for my body, it’s so much more than that. It reminds me of the other things that we often neglect because it’s just “too hard”. Devotions. Marriage. Parenting. Health. Church. Housework. Friendships.

So, I ran. But instead of focusing on the drywall in front of me, I put on music and I ended up weeping as I ran to these precious words by Hillsong Young & Free:

FIRST LOVE

VERSE 1
This is all I want
That the love I have for You
Doesn’t fade along with youth
Can You help with that

The reason that I ask
I’ve seen far too many friends
Walk away and not come back
I want more than that

PRE-CHORUS 1
I won’t wash away
Like branches in rain
I’d rather be kindling in the light

CHORUS 1
Set me on fire like I’ve never known
I want to love You more as life goes on
So all of my days I’ll place
My first love first again

VERSE 2
This is all I pray
Over everything I ask
That my friends one day come back
Can You help with that

God I know You can
‘Cause the fire won’t mean a thing
If it ends right here with me
You want more than that

PRE-CHORUS 2
The river runs fast
But You wait at the banks
And pull us like driftwood from the wild

CHORUS 2
So set me on fire like I’ve never known
I want to love You more as life goes on
So all of my days I’ll place
My first love first again

Amen Jesus. “I want to love you more as life goes on.” Father, this is my hearts desire for your people.

I’m so glad I ran. But what’s more, I’m so glad it turned into worship.

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. 

Faith

The Betrayal of a Friend

“If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide.

But it is you,

a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God, as we walked among the worshippers.”

Psalm 55:12-14

One of the greatest pains you can face is the utter betrayal of a close and trusted friend. Indeed, I have felt no greater pain than when I was rejected by those I loved dearly.

It is the ultimate rejection – to be known and then forgotten.

Wounds that deep are not easily healed. But take heart, there is a path to healing.

Healing takes time. Don’t rush it! Instead rush to God:

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” Psalm 55:22

Those who run to God in their distress will not fall. When others fail you, trust God.

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.

Uncategorized

Finding Peace in Anxiety

Something I share very little about is how severely I’ve dealt with anxiety in these last few years. I really don’t like talking about it, partly because I’m embarrassed about it…it makes me feel weak, and taunts me that if I was a better person, a better Christian, I wouldn’t struggle with such things. But another reason I resist talking about it is because I don’t want to become one who sits about moping and complaining about my problems, which, compared to the rest of the worlds, are very small.

I have food to eat. I have a house to live in. My physical needs are more than met. I have a supportive and loving husband. My family is healthy. I live in a safe and free country. I have loving parents and family members who live near to me. I have an incredible church. I am cared for, listened to, I am loved.

And then I shake my head because why in the world do I still struggle with panic attacks?!?

Why do I wake up in the middle of the night, struggling to breathe, my stomach twisted into a knot? Why? Why do I have no control over it? Why can I not get a grip? And the answer is very simple:

Anxiety is a lot like drowning in your own mind, which is very similar to physical drowning. Yelling “stop it” to a drowning person will not save them, for they can not “stop it”. In the same way saying to a person with anxiety “just think about good things” doesn’t help, because maybe they aren’t thinking about anything! And even if they are, you can not just “think good thoughts” to get rid of anxiety.

It cannot be controlled in the mind just because it begins in the mind, for something is happening inside that seems to affect the whole body. I’m not writing about lingering on bad thoughts or sulking. Anxiety isn’t just having fear or worry. Those things can very much be controlled, because as soon as you can put a finger on the issues that are being worried about, you can deal with them at the root.

No, anxiety is a deep, sinking feeling that something is very, very wrong and the more you try to figure out what that something is, the more you begin to feel that it is everything. Everything is wrong. And I cannot fix everything. And so begins an attack.

Now sometimes what helps with anxiety is staying busy, which works great during the daytime, because when our minds our preoccupied with other things, they tend to not overthink the feelings inside. But most of my anxiety happens at night.

Many reputable resources tell you to lie down and breathe deeply to calm an anxiety attack…ummm duh, I was sleeping, that’s exactly WHAT I was doing.

Then next suggestion is medication and to be honest, I just don’t want to go there. This is not to say it is wrong! Not AT ALL! I do not in any way look down on those who turn to anxiety medicine, in fact, I very much understand them and rejoice with them as they find healing and are able to once again handle life. However, I am not yet at the place where I am ready to go down that road because I  am not totally convinced that my anxiety is to do with imbalances in my body. I want to be sure that it is before I begin taking such prescriptions.

Sometimes I believe that my anxiety is actually a spiritual attack, which brings me to sharing about my anxiety attack a couple nights ago:

I was lying in bed, it was 2am, and I woke up with that familiar heavy knot in my stomach. Then, a sudden thought came across my mind about something that had happened during the day and I began to feel that this issue was all out of my control and that it quite literally would put an end to my family, it would ruin my marriage, it would destroy my children. And if that were true, yes, PRESS THE PANIC BUTTON!!!

But the word feel is key!

This couldn’t be won with reason, because I knew that my thoughts were ridiculous, I KNEW it, but in my emotions they felt real and I could not get a grasp on what was going on inside of me. Half an hour of torment went by when suddenly I realized how helpless I was to fight this battle on my own. It was then that I cried out to God, pleading with him to help me, to calm me, to give me peace. Suddenly the thought came to me: “Get up, go downstairs, and start journaling to God about how you feel.” (I don’t actually believe that it was my own thought, rather it was God speaking to my heart.)

So that is what I did. For the next fifteen minutes, I wrote down all my worries, my fears, my thoughts and it wasn’t helping me AT ALL. In fact, it was causing me to think of more and more things so that eventually I filled three full pages of my journal with worries. And suddenly, there was that quiet voice again, “Now ask me to speak into these problems.”

So I wrote: “Father please! Hear me now! I need a word from you! I need you to tell me that I can let go of control, that you’ve got this!  Please Jesus, speak! For I am desperate and listening!

And here is what I heard:

God: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born I set you apart! You have been born for this very time, this very place! You are right where I want you. Don’t be troubled, little sheep, for I am with you – you will not be overcome.  I will rescue you Heather. Just watch me!”

I am aware that not everybody believes that God still speaks today. And that some believe God just speaks through his word.  And then there’s some people that believe he can speak, but fail to believe when he speaks, thinking that it was maybe their own thoughts. They doubt it was really God!

But I can tell you without a doubt, God speaks today and God speaks personally.

My words, my thoughts do NOT bring me peace. They are powerless against my anxiety, in fact they sometimes make things worse. But in hearing God speak these words over me, I felt peace.

And then I asked God how he saw me right then, in that moment.

God: I see you as tired and worried about many things. But only one thing is needed.  Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.  When you were afraid, trust in me. You can trust me Heather, I will take care of you. I will not desert you. I am here.

Warmth and peace filled my heart. And then I walked back up the stairs to my room, scared my daughter half to death (she was using the bathroom and just saw a shadow coming slowly up the stairs LOL), lay down, and peacefully drifted off to sleep.

Unbelievable. God had brought me from panic to peace.

Friends, this I know to be true: One word from God can do more healing, bring more comfort and restore far more than a thousand words from those around us. But are we listening? Are we asking? When we hear, are we believing?

Listening for God’s voice used to confuse me and worry me, but it doesn’t anymore because I’ve learned not to doubt when I hear him. It’s really quite simple; I just ask him to speak, and wait. Often a word, a thought or a picture will come to my head. If it doesn’t conflict with the Bible, I believe it is from God (for God’s word is the foundation for God speaking to us.) I also hold it with open hands because I am human and make mistakes, so we need to be SO humble in all of this. Many have been hurt when pride is combined with “listening” to God. We MUST stay humble and know God’s word if we want to hear God’s voice.

Right now, the church is suffering. Many saints are tired and weary. Pastors are burning out. Families in the church are fighting. Churches are splitting. People are hurting others and holding onto hurts.  God LONGS to speak to us, he longs to renew us.

Are we willing to be still and listen?

Or will we keep trying to do it on our own?

God, help us to listen to your voice in humility. Help us to learn from you, for you long to give us rest! Thank you for speaking to your people. Thank you for bringing me peace.

 

 

 

 

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.