Time and Faithfullness

Today is the third anniversary of Ava’s passing.  And I suppose that her death, like all our children’s births, will forever be etched into my memory.    But you know what,  I thank God that because of His incredible faithfulness, coupled with the passage of time,  our hearts are healing very nicely and all I can do is look forward to seeing Ava once again as we spend eternity together in the presence of God.

But let’s be honest, this is three years later talking.  Loss is hard, we all know that.  It’s hard enough to lose little things that we like, but then there are also big things that we love, things like friendships, marriages, and possessions and people.   Even our dreams,  those things that we always thought would come to pass in our life sometimes are lost to us and it’s all so very hard.

And the truth is that by the time I lost Ava I wasn’t new to loss.   A cousin, friends, siblings of friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents;  like so many others, I’ve been to more funerals of people who I loved that I care to count.  And praise God I can still carry on.  But have I learned anything from loss?  What has it taught me?

Well here is just a bit of what I’m learning and it’s becoming clear that God’s views on loss are very  different from mine.    Now Jesus wept when he experienced the loss of his friend, so we know that it’s good to grieve.  In fact, grief is a God-given emotion given to us for the purpose of letting go of the things that we love.  (I’ve always loved that tidbit, gleaned from this book “Good and Angry” https://www.biblicalparenting.org/r-goodandangry.asp ) So we need to grieve our loss… we have too.  And I remember one of the nurses of the PACT team in Toronto telling me that we often will say that things make us upset,  when the reality is that the hurt was already inside us and that thing was just a catalyst that allowed that hurt to come out.  And I love that.   I’ve told my kids that a lot when they would see me cry about Ava and they would get worried.  I hope it reassured them to hear me say that a certain song wasn’t making me upset – I was already upset, the song just helped me let go of a little more of the hurt in my heart.

But I’ve also learned that I need to hold on lightly to the things here on earth.  Not only because the things here on earth are temporal, but God has told us that this isn’t where our focus or our treasure is to be.  (Matt 6:19-20)   In fact Paul actually says in Philippians 3:8 that he counts everything as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ!  Then he says he has lost all things and counts them rubbish!  Rubbish!  I see that Paul understood something that I am only starting to see… that the things or even the people who I hold dear down here on earth, the things that can be taken away from me, aren’t the things that allow me to enjoy God in all his fullness and glory.  In fact, they are all things that typically distract me, and often pull me away from God.

Not that I lost Ava because she was a distraction, of course not!  But I know that living down here in a sinful and fallen world means I’m prey to the hurt and the pain that comes to us all.  Doesn’t the Bible teach that the rain falls on the good and the bad?   No one is immune to it and I think that’s the point I’m trying to make.  We often treat loss like it’s the worst thing that happened to us, and it’s so unfair, and that maybe God doesn’t care, when in fact, it might be the best thing that ever happens to us.  It might be that thing that sends you to your knees and strengthens your relationship on God, or sets your mind and your focus to eternity and gets your focus off of temporal and earthly things.

Jason and I have said over and over again, we would never go back.  Losing Ava was so very hard, but when we take into account the work that God has done in our lives, how he changed us and stretched us and grew us and how we had a first row seat to watching His faithfulness and mercy… well we can say with full hearts, we would do it all again.

So what did the loss of Ava teach me?  It taught me that God is in control and that He does have a plan, and nothing can happen to me that is outside His plan.  And the best part is that He is all my soul really longs for.  He is the only thing that will ever satisfy and bring me joy.  And because of this, no matter what He gives and what takes away,  I will be OK.

Praise God.

In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11


Anyone else out there tried bread making?  I’ve made bread sporadically for years, as I’m always drawn back to my childhood memories of my mom pulling freshly baked bread out of the oven and slathering it with butter.  Oh, so good.  But lately I’ve been trying to make a decent loaf of sourdoubreagh bread, and as I’ve learned, sourdough can be tricky!  I’ve been trying for the past few months and I won’t tell you how many loaves of bread have gone STB ( bakers terms for ‘straight to breadcrumbs’) but it was quite a few.  But this week I finally produced something I’m happy with…


It had good density and rose well and I almost feel like I should whisper this… but I made it all with wheat, maybe 60% whole wheat.  I used wheat from our local mill Arva Flour Mill,  and I couldn’t be happier with the results.

And yes, even though we enjoy other grains in this house such as spelt and rye, I purposely wanted to make a sourdough loaf made from 100% wheat.  This is because even though wheat has been badly maligned lately and given the status as public enemy #1,  I’ve recently read this book and it’s given me a whole new perspective…


Grain of Truth is a fantastic book and I would say that it’s a must read for anyone who has though of giving up wheat even though they aren’t celiac or non-celiac gluten sensitive.

I learned so much.  Stephen Yafa is a journalist who thought he would take a good look at wheat and gluten and I believe that I walked away thoroughly informed as this man has done his research well.

He first looks at the current North American fad of of blaming wheat and the gluten it contains for all of America’s obesity and health woes.  Who doesn’t love a scapegoat?  But when he reveals some of the pseudo-science behind the thinking and also points out that Italians eat twice as much wheat per capita as the Americas and they don’t have near the obesity issues that we do… what is a girl to believe?

Well one glaring fact that jumps off the page is how we treat wheat here.  Did you know that only 4% of the wheat in the US is milled whole, as in “whole wheat”!!!!!  Now that’s frightening.  The rest is processed  into ‘white flour’ where all the vitamins, minerals and fiber are stripped away from wheat’s endosperm and given to animals as feed, and we are left with a source of quick but short-duration energy from that white endosperm.  That quick energy quickly by-passes your liver and heads straight to your blood steam for a nice quick sugar rush, that is totally devoid of minerals of vitamins, except what has been added back in after the fact so that people don’t get sick. True story.

To get this nice lovely white wheat (that doesn’t even spoil by the way) mills all the way back in the late 1800’s had to switch from milling with stones to rollers to more efficiently separate the wheat from it’s endosperm.  And as the demand for white flour grew, doctors started seeing a rise in coronary heart disease, diabetes and gastrointestinal problems that they suspected were linked to the influx of refined carbs people were eating.  But, and here’s the tragic part…. we kept right on eating it!   Who wants grainy whole wheat when you can have fluffy white.   Except in giving up whole wheat we are also giving up all the health benefits of the minerals, vitamins and fibre.  Not only that, but white flour is typically further refined into worse junk where they add more sugar and fat, increasing it’s glycemic load on our bodies and making us sicker and fatter!  Oh, and that fibre we’re missing out on that’s been stripped away?  Well it’s important to our digestive health.  Not only does it keep things moving along, it also regulates your blood sugar,  and that fibre also provides a lovely home for beneficial bacteria which we need to keep our guts healthy & happy.

And here is why eating gluten free if you aren’t gluten sensitive can come back to kick you in the butt… most gluten free flour doesn’t contain alot of fibre, so it’s also by-passing your liver and heads straight to your bloodstream.  And that’s not good news.

Stephen also talks our current wheat crop – and yes, wheat has been altered.   It had to be to stave off an impending famine in India back in the 1960’s.  The man who gave us the wheat we have today was given the Nobel prize for saving so many lives.  So our wheat today is a cross-breed, known for it’s short stalks and high yield, but it’s not genetically modified (yet) nor does it have more gluten than wheat used to have.   It does have it’s draw-backs, as in the type of fertilizer it needs to produce,  but as it’s feeding millions of people every day, and providing 20% of the world’s daily calories, I think we have alot to be grateful for.  And more and more people are cultivating ancient varieties of wheat and many of them can be sourced locally, so you aren’t stuck with just plain, there are other options out there if you choose.

However, there is another important thing that Stephen talks in his book and that’s fermenting wheat – the result of which is sourdough bread.  Sourdough bread has already been pre-digested in a sort of way by a culture of beneficial yeast and bacteria that are happy to live together.  This culture is formed as a ‘starter’ (you can do it yourself, or even buy ready made starters), and when it’s added to bread dough and left to work it’s magic from 12-18 hours, it ferments the dough, the yeast and bacteria create lactic acid which creates the air-pockets and leaven the dough without adding dried yeast.  And it also breaks down gluten into digestible fragments and over-all makes the wheat more digestible.  And I can even attest to that.  I have known for ages now that refined flour makes me bloat like crazy – especially if that refined flour has more sugar added to it.  Even pasta makes me uncomfortable, but I can eat my whole wheat sourdough bread without any problems – I feel great, it’s nice!

So in my conclusion on my book review here… I would really compare this book to being similar to  Michael Pollan’s book “In Defense of Food“.   Michael used his journalist research to cut through all the differing opinions we hear about food and his conclusion was “Eat Food. Not too much.  Mostly plants.”  And if Stephen had a conclusion from “Grain of Truth” it would be something along the lines of… you can eat wheat, whole, stone milled and preferably fermented. Which is great news for wheat.  And great news for me… I’m going to go bake some more sourdough bread!  Thanks Stephen!

P.S. If you want to try your hand at making your own sourdough starter and sourdough bread – check out this link, email me,  or just ask Google.


Visiting Ava

Perhaps some grace can be bestowed upon people who have a blog and then abandon  it for months and months.  I of course am one of those people, and even though I’ve been busy composing blog posts in my head, you can’t read them if I don’t type them out!

And the honest truth is that I’ve been holding back because I’ve been feeling this pressure to make every blog entry deep and profound.  This is a burden that I and I alone have placed upon myself since our Ava journey and her death.  I ask myself, ‘Are people really going to want to read my trivial and somewhat meaningless entries?’   And then I tell myself “No, they wouldn’t”, and I walk away.   But let’s be honest, I’m not writing for the masses, I’m writing because it’s in me to write!   It’s something God has put in me to do that I love, so I have to let my go of my misgivings  and just write because I can, because I have a blog and I’m allowed to… so there!

So I might even attempt at posting a trivial entry sometime soon, this entry however is not.  Kinda ironic really.

This post is about visiting Ava, which as you can see from the picture below is what our family calls our visits to Ava’s grave. We all pile in the car and on the way there I feel sad, but I also experience a slight form of anticipation like I’m going to be near my baby again.  I get out of the car feeling a little keyed up, and then a few moments later I’m standing at her grave and I realize once again that I’m not feeling it.   In fact I’m having a really hard time feeling connected to this granite slab with Ava’s name on it.   Sure I’m standing over her… rather macabre.. standing over what’s left of your daughter..  but where is the sense of connection that I’m looking for?


That connections not there because Ava’s not here.  This is just her memorial, the stone that we have erected to let the world know that we loved her and remember her.  It’s in a sense her little place in the world, but it’s here because she’s not here.

So where is she?

Well, since most of the western world today who acknowledges a God believes that every good person who dies automatically goes to heaven, most people would affirm with me that that heaven is where Ava is.

But for those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ and believe the Bible as the perfect and unerring word of God,  there aren’t actually any verses or even a verse in the Bible that clearly and definitely say that babies or small children automatically go to heaven.  Crazy right?  And to make it even more confusing the Bible makes it very clear that when we are born we get our own share of Adam’s sin often called ‘original sin’ and therefore we are all born sinners and from day one are separated from a good and perfect and just God who can tolerate no sin.   So now we have a problem because the Bible also tells us that there is NOTHING we can do to save ourselves,  nothing at all.  Not a word or a good deed or the power of positive thought or anything that could clean us up from this sin and shield us from the wrath of God and eternal separation from Him.  But then we are given hope… Jesus appeared on earth.   God in the flesh and He came among us and taught us and showed us a way to be right with God again.   This was through the work of the cross when Jesus died for us, and took our place and our punishment and bore our sin on the cross and paid the high price sin demanded, and then rose again!   Completely victorious, conquering death and sin, AMEN!   So the Bibles says if we believe in Him and accept His free gift of salvation, His blood will remove our sin and save us so that we can go and be with God in heaven for all eternity.

Um… so again that leaves us with a problem.  Because even though salvation is a free gift, we have to accept it.  Romans 10:9-10 says that we have to confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead in order to accept this free gift, which works for me, but how in the world was my 8 month old baby supposed to be able to do that?   How could she confess with her mouth that Jesus is Lord and ask forgiveness for her sin?   She obviously couldn’t, she was completely incapable.  That little baby that suffered so much in her short life, wasn’t able to take those steps to save her soul.  So it’s done then?  We are out of options?  Ava’s not in heaven?

Hold your horses!!!

The Bible is very clear that God gives salvation as a free gift and that He alone is sovereign.  And God is good… didn’t we see that all through Ava’s story?   And from the moment Ava died in our arms and Jason prayed that soul into heaven we have known in our hearts exactly where she was.  She is in heaven!  We believe this to our very core.  The same God who gave us the grace to endure her illness and eventually her death, who gave us joy through it all and never left us alone will be faithful to the end.  How could it be otherwise?

Our church has been working through the book of Romans and the past few weeks have dealt with original sin, so our beloved pastor Norm (who did Ava’s funeral service) was so kind to post this information on our church’s website last week regarding babies just to clear up this often muddied point.   Here are the reasons he gives for babies going to heaven when they die

  1. God is good and always does good.
  2. God is just and always judges justly.
  3. God is merciful.
  4. God is abundantly gracious.
  5. Salvation is always, for any who are saved, entirely an act of grace, a ‘free gift’ (Rom 5:15-17), and even our faith – necessary to believe, is a ‘gift’ from God.  So salvation is 100% a work of God applying Jesus death and resurrection to us by grace.
  6. We believe God applies this grace to those we are discussing who have never personally sinned, covering their original or imputed sin by Jesus atoning work on the cross.  God does this entirely by grace as well, without their having faith.
  7. Plus it appears when final judgment is discussed in the Bible those sent to hell for eternity are sent their for their own acts and attitudes of sin (Romans 1:18-32, Rev. 19, etc.)

For further reading on this I would recommend the following:

  1. Dr. Albert Mohler’s article HERE
  2. Dr. John Piper’s short article HERE
  3. Dr. John MacArthur’s three in-depth sermons HERE (you can read the sermon manuscript by just clicking on the sermon title or listen to the sermons by clicking ‘high’ or ‘low’).
    And I want to add that John MacArthur has also written a book I love, “Safe in the Arms of God“,  a must read for anyone who has lost a child.

I read those points from Norm and I want to yell “AMEN” from the top of my lungs!   And I read those articles as well and they resonate with my heart and my mind and what I take from them is that I  completely trust in God’s love and faithfulness to care for these little ones, when they couldn’t do anything to possibly save themselves.  He is just and good and I am to have no fear that Ava is anywhere but in heaven for eternity.  And she is there not on her own merit, but only by the mercy and grace of her creator who could do for her what she could not do for herself.

And so I’ll continue to visit her grave, even though I don’t get connection with my daughter that my heart craves.  But I can say in faith, just like the faith that King David had when his baby son died, that babies go to heaven.   I know that’s where Ava is and we will spend eternity together there with our Saviour.

” 22 He [King David] said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ 23 But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”  2 Sam 12:22-23


A moment…

So yesterday I had a moment.  That moment was defined by getting to church and then as worship began, starting to sing, and then starting to cry.  And then even though I was feeling foolish I wasn’t able to stop.    A moment.   And I knew exactly why I was crying, it just hit me like a tidal wave that I missed my Ava. Right there and then while I was standing in church, I just missed her horribly and it made me so sad.

Sometimes these waves of grief just hit out of no where, but this wave actually started on Saturday when I was out driving.   Something about the weather reminded me of being in Toronto in December three years ago and spending every day sitting at the foot of Ava’s bed in critical care.   And then yesterday on the way to church I mentioned that Ava’s birthday was coming and I asked jokingly what we were getting her for her birthday.   Jason said we were getting her a Christmas tree and that is exactly what we are getting her.  Last year we ended up getting our tree on her birthday and so we decided that we were going to drive out to the country and get a Christmas tree from the nice tree farm that is just down the road from her graveyard every year on her birthday.    And don’t worry – it’s not morbid at all – just happy and festive and it kinda feels like we are including her.

So the wave was growing without me even realizing it, and then the moment hit.  And the funny thing about my grief is that I’m never truly sad that Ava died.  Considering how sick that poor baby was, she is exactly where she is supposed to be – safe and snug in heaven and I can’t argue with that.  When I cry, I cry for the baby I didn’t get to keep down here.  I cry for a baby that my heart wishes was born healthy, with her little reddish curls and adorable smile.  That would have turned our lives and our house upside down.  That would have kept the kids busy chasing her around and would have been a fount of cuddles and kisses.  She would have added to our family so much.  On December 4th she would have turned three and I’ve missed it all.  That’s why I cry.   I guess it’s purely selfish, but it’s such an aching loss… I suppose like all loss is.   Isn’t it strange that most of our hurt in life involves loss?   But then grief is the emotion that God gave us that helps us process and release these things we’ve lost.  But I think that my well of loss is so deep I might have to grieve for the rest of my life, but that’s OK… even though I’m a puffy red crier, not a pleasant sight at all.

But as I stumbled out of the service yesterday to go and wipe my eyes and calm my heart,  the first person I saw was a friend who gave me a big hug and listened, I was so grateful.  And after church I made a beeline for a lovely woman in our congregation who herself has experienced so much loss and we talked and she prayed for me.  And that’s when I think of this verse in  2 Corinthians…

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.   2 Corinthians 1:3-5

(Here are mine and Jason’s four blessed distractions which I am so grateful for….)


God is the God of all comfort and He is always there to comfort us in our affliction and then in turn we can comfort others.  And like I was comforted yesterday I hope that I can comfort others when I say that I’m OK.  I have lost a child, but am living testament that by God’s amazing grace and by his comfort, day after day my heart is healing.  I just still have my moments.


Instead of perfection…

A few weeks ago Sarah and I were back at the hospital for another diabetes clinic.  We typically go every three months, but this time it had been closer to 4 1/2 and I was nervous.  To be honest, I’m always nervous at these appointments.   The team takes a look at all of Sarah’s numbers that have been downloaded from her pump, and they look at her A1C – a quick blood test they do that shows the over-all amount percentage of sugar that has attached to her red blood cells – and together this shows the team how well we’ve been managing Sarah’s diabetes.

And although that sounds benign on paper, as I’m sitting in the room waiting for the doctor to come I’m quaking on the inside.  I thinking of all the times that I forgot to give Sarah insulin, or we didn’t count carbs right and how often her numbers were higher than they should have been and then I feel like I’m  waiting for exam results.  Like they are going to come into the room and tell me if I’ve passed or failed, and all I can see in my mind is a big red “F” stamped on Sarah’s medical chart.     Now, in saying all of this I’m doing a disservice to Sarah’s wonderful medical team who has NEVER once treated her diabetes care like this, it’s just me.  It’s a heavy burden I put on myself and I’ve usually got myself so wound up before these visits I often shed some tears.

However on this visit I was so relieved to find that we passed!  hahaha   Sarah’s A1C’s had come down slightly (which is good!) and the doctor was fine with what her numbers had been over-all and I could finally relax.  I thanked the doctor for being so good to us, and always being encouraging rather than judgemental.  He asked me if I had heard his space-ship to the moon story.  I hadn’t, so he told me.  He told me the story about how U.S. President John F. Kennedy wanted NASA to put a man on the moon.  Finally in 1969 they were ready and Apollo 11 started it’s journey into outer-space.  The doctor then asked me how many times during that journey the rocket was actually headed in the right direction towards the moon.  My guess was 75% but he came back and said, “Nope, 5%”.   I was really surprised by that number… wow!  The doctor went on to say that we need to take that perspective with diabetes care.  We are always striving for the moon and those great numbers, but have to realize that it’s a process, that it’s going to constantly need tweaking and small changes here and there, but the most important thing is to keep going.  It’s a journey.    And I liked that.   Perfection is obviously what we are striving for, but the fact that NASA did something amazing without perfection has really made me think about Sarah’s diabetes care in a new light.  It give me a long-view sort of mindset – one that takes some pressure off the here and now, knowing that we probably never will perfect, but there is always tomorrow.

But God clearly wanted to bring this idea into other areas of my life, and one of those is my anger.  My anger and frustration with my kids when they aren’t listening or they argue with each other, or they don’t do what they are supposed to do, and how I can just get mad when life doesn’t go my way.  I get frustrated because in my mind I’m telling myself, ‘It’s not supposed to be like this, why can’t everyone just do what they are supposed to do so we can have the happy life that I want?’

I read this line regarding parenting from Auntie Leila over at Like Mother like Daughter the other day… “The sooner you learn that frustration is part of the process, the happier you will be.  Our worst enemy is thinking that things should be perfect.”   This quote almost knocked me over!  And it struck me that it’s so true!  I was looking at problems completely the wrong way, thinking that they shouldn’t exist at all, instead of realizing it’s just a part of life!

It’s kinda funny because my friend Tania is currently parenting 4 little girls, 3 years of age and under, and we get a kick out of 2 of her children who get frustrated so easily, even when they are trying to accomplish things beyond their skill level.  Like her baby who gets frustrated because she can’t crawl around as fast as her older sisters can move around, and so just puts her  head down and howls.  We laugh because we know it’s part of the process.  We don’t expect a baby to just stand up and walk one day… we know that it takes lots of practice, lots of falls and lots of frustration on their part and we accept that it is part of the process of growing up and learning a new skill.  So why have I decided somewhere along the line that things in my life have to be perfect all the time?  I’m not perfect, why would I expect this of others?   Clearly I need a paradigm shift.

Apparently perfection isn’t always a good thing anyway.  I recently read an article from John Piper entitled  “Parents, you can’t build heaven here”.   He said that too often we try to make heaven for our children in the right here and now.  We try to bring too much perfection in a child’s life – guarding them from too much or trying to give them too much in the name of our love for them, but this actually back-fires because it teaches children that they deserve perfection.  And then when life (as we all know too well) falls very short of the perfection they are used to – these kids don’t know how to persevere and deal with problems.  Instead of helping them,  we’ve actually hindered their growth.

The verse that is used in John Piper’s article is Philippians 3:12, such a great verse….

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Phil 3:12-14

Paul is telling us to keep going because we haven’t obtained perfection.  Yes, it is our goal, but we have to keep forgetting what is behind and straining forward towards our goal.  He doesn’t beat us up for not having obtained it… obtaining it is a future thing to look forward to, through the hard work of living and trying and striving.

I can see that it’s time for me to accept that frustration is a part of my life I can’t escape and so just deal.  And if that frustration causes me to stop and refocus, or learn something new, or teach my children something new, or make changes along the way to my final goal (which in my life is to be more like Christ), then right now I am willing to take frustration instead of perfection – knowing that when perfection finally comes it will have been well worth the fight.


Sung to sleep

Yesterday was two years since Ava passed away… 2 years!   Time goes by so quickly and it’s a little tough because the memories fade, but the ache our hearts isn’t going away.  I don’t think it ever will.

Last night when I put Sophy to bed I sang to her like I usually do.  I’ve always loved singing my kids to sleep at night – especially when they were babies.  I realized early on that hymns make great lullabies, they are often lilting and long – so I set out to memorize a few favorites and the kids would often be regaled by my singing them such hymns  as “Great is thy faithfulness” or “Be thou my vision.” (One of my favourites).  But I also would sing to them a little ditty that I learned from a children’s tape that we had growing up (yes, a cassette tape).  I just tried to find it on the world-wide web for reference, but can’t somehow.   The words go like this…

Jesus is coming
Coming for me
Like lightning, that flashes from the west to the east
In a moment
In a twinkling of an eye

The song is based on Matthew 24:27 when it talks about the 2nd coming of Christ and how He will return one day to earth…

For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

It’s something that all of us believers in Christ look forward too – the day that Jesus will come again to earth and call to Himself His own.  It will also mark the end of this age and the beginning of the next… good heavy stuff.

But back to my lullabies… singing that song to Sophy last night reminded me that I used to sing Ava that little ditty quite often.  My precious little Birdy – in the hospital, on the nights that I could tuck her in for the night.  I would sing to her like I sang to her brothers and sisters when they were babies, but in my mind I was always singing it to her with the thought that Jesus might just come and get her in the here and now.

And then in the moments when Ava did die – and Jason prayed that sweet soul into heaven, the relief of knowing that Jesus had finally come and gotten her and taken her home and released her of all her suffering was like a presence right there right with us.   I’ll never forget that sense of peace and release we were given.  Her earthy journey was over and her heavenly one just begun.  And I’m so thankful that’s where she is now – in heaven with Christ, praising and glorifying him and more alive than we could ever be here on earth.

Lately I’ve added another song to my nightly repertoire,  “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman.   We sang it at Ava’s funeral and for some reason it just struck me lately that it would also be a great lullaby and anyway,  Sophie likes it.  And I love the reminder that I have 10,000 things to be thankful for and that I can still bless the Lord with all my soul and that when I get to heaven I’ll have 10,000 years to sing His praises.   Hallelujah!

And I’m also so grateful for the memory of singing my sweet little Ava to sleep.



We love Monarch butterflies and every year for the past 6 years (minus Ava’s year) we have raised a few from eggs that were laid on the milkweed in our garden.  We were sad to learn that this year the Monarch population is the lowest it’s been in ages due to de-forestation in Mexico and a lack of milkweed in the US and Canada, so weren’t expecting to see any butterflies this year, but we were wrong!

Yesterday I caught this one drinking nectar from my pink coneflowers…..




And it would seem that there have been more butterflies around here than just that one, and they have been quite busy –  because in the past week we’ve found Monarch eggs galore!   We are now fostering 10 baby caterpillars!

So much fun.


Happy little chompers.

Out of every 100 eggs a monarch lays, typically only one survives to become an adult butterfly, so we are happily defying the odds here.    I found 3 more eggs today, so it’s time to share the love and spread some caterpillars around to our friends.   Seeing the butterflies eventually emerge from their chrysalis is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen and it never gets old.

I also found this beauty in my garden a while ago…


My friend’s sweet baby who has a penchant for playing in dirt.  Can you think of a nicer thing to have growing in your garden?

Neither can I.

Not even monarchs.  :)


Oh dear, you made me cry

Back a few months ago, my friend Lisa told me that they were going to participate in Dream Fund’s event ‘Wings for an Angel’ and she asked if it would be OK if they released a butterfly in Ava’s name.   Of course I agreed and was honoured that they thought of our sweet little Birdy.

And I’m even more honoured because Lisa is a mom to another little heart warrior Jake  who was born 4 months after Ava (we met at SickKids of course).  Jake has been through a ton, but is doing well and is at home with his big sister Georgia and I know that Lisa has her hands full – and that they took time to do this for others just makes me smile.

You can read about the butterfly release and see pictures here…  Living Whole Heartedly with Only Half a Heart

And yes, reading about it made me cry a little, but only because we miss Ava, and seeing the pictures of the other babies that were lost make my heart ache for their families.  But through it all, even though I miss my daughter, I know that God’s ways are higher than mine and I can cling to the hope I have for eternity.

Job 11:7-9

“Can you find out the deep things of God?
    Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?
It is higher than heaven—what can you do?
    Deeper than Sheol—what can you know?
Its measure is longer than the earth
    and broader than the sea.’


Where my heart is today…

Today my heart is with the Syme family as they mourn the loss of their sweet daughter Evynn…


A four year survivor of hypo-plastic left heart,  and a receiver of a heart transplant that so sadly didn’t end up saving her life.

Their blog:  A journey to a Whole Heart

Please join with me today as I pray for this family.

Once again…

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26


Ava’s Story

I’ve been meaning to write our Ava’s Story for a while.  Since I had to opportunity to write it out for our church newsletter I decided it was the perfect opportunity to put it all together and finally publish it here.  

“They are worried about your baby’s heart.”

This was not the news I was expecting when I answered the phone call from the midwife.  That afternoon I had gone for my routine 19 week ultrasound and in my hands was an ultrasound photo showing a precious baby girl.  We already had four children – so how could something be wrong with this pregnancy after four healthy ones?

Three weeks later Jason and I sat on the edge of our seats at in the pediatric cardiology department of our local hospital.   Even to our untrained eye the echocardiogram that had been done didn’t look normal.   Finally we were called in by the cardiologist and his first words to us were  “Let me show you what a normal baby’s heart looks like, and then I will show you what your baby’s heart looks like.”

All I could say was, “Pass the Kleenex.”

The Cardiologist explained that our baby had a serious congenital heart condition called critical aortic stenosis – where the artery coming off of her left ventricle was so small, it was affecting the left side of her heart.  The most probably outcome of this would be hypoplastic left heart syndrome, where the left side of her heart would stop functioning and she would be born with only a half of working heart.    She would need open-heart surgery right at birth if she survived the pregnancy.   Or we could abort her now, wait until she was born full term and then hold her until she passed away, or try an experimental procedure in utero where they would try to fix the problem.

We left that appointment feeling completely stunned, not really believing this was really happening to us.  I was very emotional and just wanted to go home and cry, but we had to make a decision on the experimental procedure quickly and we knew we needed to talk to one of our Pastors.    Thankfully our Pastor Leo met with us right away and prayed for us and told us that going to Toronto was a ‘no brainer’.

After a lot of prayer and talking things out with family and friends, we found ourselves at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto a few days.   We had another echocardiogram and talked to another cardiologist. He explained this ‘experimental’ procedure and said that if it succeeded,   baby’s swollen left ventricle would heal and a minor valve repair surgery would be all she’d need after birth.  This procedure carried a huge risk to the baby, but we felt that this was her best chance, and God gave us tremendous peace, so we agreed to have the procedure done.

We walked across the street to meet with the Obstetrician at Mt. Sinai who would do the procedure.  After waiting over five anxious hours to see him, we were finally called in.

The baby was miraculously in the right position and so the doctor and his team wanted to do the surgery immediately.  In a whirl-wind, Jason rushed to have me admitted while I was being prepped.  I was nervous and excited, but mostly hopeful that this would work.  Cardiologists were called from Sick Kids Hospital and the team was minutes away from doing a procedure on our 24 week-old unborn baby girl.

God truly answered our prayers and kept that baby in the right position until she could be sedated, then going in through my belly and into her chest wall they preformed a balloon dilation on her aorta that was so tiny and closed it was hard to believe the doctors possessed the technology and ability to actually try to fix it.   In less than 9 minutes it was over.  We praised God for His goodness, believing that He was going to heal her. The next day after a quick ultra-sound the surgery was pronounced a technical success and we headed for home.

Then came the heartache. In the next few weeks and months as we kept going back to Toronto for more appointments and echocardiograms it became clear that the baby’s heart was not healing.  Even though everything had pointed to God’s hand in that intervention, her left ventricle was slowly dying. We had to face the fact that our baby would be born with only half a working heart.

All that kept going through our mind was why did God allow this to happen if it wasn’t going to work?   We still don’t have the answer for that question. But we just clung to these verses in Isaiah 40:27,28,30b when God asks the people of Israel why they question Him – their way isn’t hidden from Him, He is the everlasting God, His understanding is unsearchable!

And this is where our faith had to kick in.  It’s easy to trust God when things are going right, but now things were going wrong and it was so easy to turn to despair.  But knowing that God knew what we were going through and that His ways were higher than our ways allowed us to choose everyday to trust in Him.  To trust Him and put the life of this baby in His hands.    In the months leading up to her birth and impending surgery, all we felt we could do was trust that God would be glorified however this story played out, knowing that God loved this baby and had a perfect plan for her life.

Our daughter Ava Samantha Grace was born Dec  4, 2012 in the early hours of the morning at Mt. Sinai hospital.  I was prepared for them take her away immediately, but I was not prepared for her to be as purple as a blueberry!   Ava’s heart defect was depriving her of oxygen so they quickly whisked her away to stabilize her.   An hour later, after allowing my husband and I take a quick peek at her she was taken to Sick Kids Hospital.

Two days later I was walking beside Ava’s bed as they took her to surgery.  Jason and I wondered if we would ever see her alive again.  During the long and difficult six-hour wait, Psalm 23 was on my mind.   It seemed like Ava was walking through a valley where death was lurking in the shadows.   We placed our trust in God knowing that He is the giver of life and we prayed that He would be guiding the surgeon’s hands and holding her safely in His arms.

She survived the surgery!  But now back in critical care she looked more bionic than baby, there didn’t seem to be a square inch of her that wasn’t covered in wires or tubes. She was still on a ventilator and her chest was still open, the only thing covering her tiny beating broken heart was a piece of gauze.

The days were long as all we could do was sit by her bedside, waiting for her to stabilize.  We couldn’t hold her, only touch her hands and stroke her head, and pray for her to recover.    One nurse commented that we were coping so much better than other’s in our situation and we knew it because God was keeping our hearts focused on Him and His plan for our little Birdy.

Finally, almost two weeks after her surgery, Ava’s sternum was fully closed and things seemed to be headed in a good direction.  But God still had some challenges for our family to face.   The very next day, I took our daughter Sarah who was 5 at the time to a walk-in-clinic, only to be sent back to Sick Kids. It was there that she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.    This was a huge blow to Jason and I, and it was so hard to understand.  We were dealing with so much with Ava, and now we had another child with a life-threatening disease, a disease with a steep learning curve.   It was five days before Christmas and the stress on our family and our relationship was incredible and we didn’t know how we were going to cope.   It was hard to keep it together in front of the children, but thankfully all they were thinking about was Christmas.  To be honest I didn’t want anything to do with Christmas, there didn’t seem to be much to celebrate that year.  But once again, God showed us through our children’s joy on Christmas Day that we still had our family and His love and those things were worth celebrating.   Going forward we decided to divide and conquer.  Jason took on the diabetes education and care for Sarah and I concentrated on Ava.

We were finally able to take Ava home February 11th after 68 days in hospital.  We had battled feeding intolerance and heart issues for our whole hospital stay, but the staff was now confident we could care for her at home.   It wasn’t home for good and we knew that.  Ava would need another heart surgery when she was around 6 months old, but for now we were thrilled to move back home and have our family all together.

We loved having Ava home, but it wasn’t easy!    Her care was demanding, and her feeding and medication schedule kept me busy almost 24 hours a day.   The doctors had warned us that many babies with this defect don’t make it through these first months, so we tried to be diligent in her care and were in touch with her heath care providers daily.  Thankfully so many people pitched in to help to keep our home running smoothly and our church organized meals for us and my mom would often stay and Jason  was keeping good care of Sarah and the other kids.   Our family had adjusted well to this new crazy life of having Ava home, the kids helped out when they could and showered Ava with love.

Unfortunately in mid April, Ava was hospitalized in London with what turned out to be influenza B.   She was quite sick and even when she got home things just didn’t seem to be right, her breathing was laboured and she would get clammy.   All we could do was to hope and pray that  God would heal her little body so that she would be healthy enough to get her second surgery which was coming up.

On May 5th  Ava was well enough that we could take her to church to have her dedicated.  Our Pastor Norm prayed for her and we were so encouraged by our church family.     But five days later we were back at Sick Kids for a routine clinic visit and it was then that they said her heart function was decreasing and we would have to stay, they were going to admit her.

It was now May 10th, Jason’s 40th birthday , Ava was five months old and I couldn’t believe that she and I were now back in Toronto.   Jason and the kids were still in London so our family was separated once again, however we were confident that it would not be for long.  The doctors had been very positive and were saying that if Ava could have some testing done on her heart in the upcoming week, then they would plan on booking the surgery she needed for the week after.  I was envisioning a speedy recovery for Ava and being back at home that summer as a family reunited.

Jason came down to be with us for one of Ava’s major tests – a heart catheterization.  She would be put under and a camera inserted into a blood vessel in her thigh where it would travel to her heart so the doctors could do some diagnostic testing.   We were confident that the results would be fine, and were totally unprepared when the surgeons came back with bad news.   Ava’s one and only heart valve was terribly leaky.  It was the culprit behind her poor heart function and it was raising the pressure in her lungs, basically removing the possibility of surgery.   This was devastating not only for Ava’s sake, but I started to see my plans for returning home and reuniting our family start to crumble.  The medical team started tossing out the words ‘Heart Transplant’ and these words soon became our reality.

On June 11th, when Ava was 6 months old, she was officially listed to receive heart transplant.  But this wasn’t a cure, the medical team were very clear that receiving a heart transplant is like trading one heart disease for another.  And not only that, but waiting for a heart could take from 6 months to a year.  A very long time, especially considering Ava’s deteriorating condition.   Jason and I were doubtful that she had a year to wait.

Thankfully were we able to get another apartment at the Ronald MacDonald House fairly quickly, so now our family was at least all in the same city, but we didn’t know how long our stay in Toronto would be.  Would we be there weeks, months, or even a year as we waited for a heart?   Ava wasn’t doing well and a few times we came close to losing her and we just kept praying that a heart would come fast.    Those were very tough days as I walked to the hospital each morning, not sure how I was putting one foot in front of the other.   Facing each day was becoming more difficult, but I never walked alone.  Each day, God would remind me of a verse or a song, or someone would call or come to visit or leave a message on our blog that would encourage my heart.    Jason and I knew that God was carrying us through each day and He was being so faithful

The end of July came and Ava was getting worse.  She was sleeping most of the time and it was clear she was in heart failure.  She was puffy as her heart couldn’t move fluid around her body, and even though she was on an adult size dose of diuretics, she was gaining fluid every day.  She needed help to breathe so she was on CPAP which was helping take some of the load off of her heart,  and she was on the highest dose of the heart medication that they could give her.   We were constantly talking with the palliative care team about how to keep her comfortable and how to prepare our children if something happened to her.  We were praying desperately for a heart which was the only thing that could save her, but it hadn’t come yet and time was running out.

Finally, on August 15, 2013 we had to say good-bye to our precious Ava.  God choose to heal her not by sending her an earthly heart, but by taking her up to Him and giving her a brand new body that would never hurt again.   It was bittersweet because although it was so hard to say good-bye to daughter – it had been harder still to watch her suffer and we felt God’s peace in knowing that this had been His perfect plan for her all along.

It’s been over 18 months now since we said goodbye to our precious little Birdy.  Often I think about how life would be if we had her still and my heart aches for the loss, but deeper down, I know that my heart is healing.    We have no bitterness or anger and looking back all we can see is God’s faithfulness and goodness to us, and we look forward to the day when we will see our Ava again.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26

This is Ava’s verse that we were given and it’s now on her gravestone.  We hold on to this verse knowing that even though Ava’s heart did fail,  God is now her reality and our strength.