God at Work

God is always at work, it’s  a fact.  And I know that Jason and I are always so encouraged to hear how God is moving in other’s lives, and so glad that our church, Harvest Bible Chapel will often will take the time to have people share their stories in front of our church.   At the end of November Jason and I had the opportunity to get in front and share our story.  That was an emotional and a pretty big deal for us, but we felt compelled to tell of God’s faithfulness even through Ava’s death, and on the whole I think it went well.   We both broke down towards the end both times (we shared in both services) but it was joy to be able to say that we could still praise God for his faithfulness even through our story didn’t have a happy ending.   When it goes online I will definitely share the link of the video.

Now today I going to share another link, one to a brand new Harvest Newsletter done through our church.

I’m a little biased towards this newsletter because I had the opportunity to submit an article for it.   I’m writing a 3 part series on our Ava story and the first one is called  “Peace Amid Turmoil”   It was a huge honour to be able to contribute, not to mention it was my first time working with a editor.  That was an experience that I first found a little tough (someone is actually critiquing my writing!!!!)  but in the end I found it very insightful and helpful.

Here’s the link!   God at Work Magazine

In other news,  I wish I could say that writing the article has been the reason I haven’t been blogging, but the truth is, well the truth is I just haven’t blogged, shame on me!   But I can fill in some blanks to say that we had a great Christmas.  Here’s a pic that I may have taken in the New Year right before we took down the tree…

 

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Our family really loves Christmas and its great to have a break from school and we enjoyed all our time spent with family and friends over the holidays.  We always make lots of great memories and this year we may have started a few new traditions.   The first was that we went and got our Christmas tree on Ava’s birthday which made the day special for the kids.   And then about a week later we made a trip to Toronto – just to revisit some of the places that hold the most memories of Ava for us.   We went and saw the staff who were so good to us at the Ronald MacDonald house, and saw many of our beloved nurses at SickKids.  It’s kinda funny because I know my kids would move back into the Ronald MacDonald House in a heart-beat and I think that is  a huge testament to the great job they are doing there.    I would love us to make a special visit to Toronto every December to be reminded of Ava and also to remember how good God was to us during that time.

And now it’s January and we keep moving ahead.  Lots of things are happening and we keep praising God for the fact that He is always at work and will always be faithful.

Amen!

 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

 

 

 

 

Toronto

One of my regrets that I have about the time I had with Ava is that I didn’t write about her in my personal journal.  I just didn’t.  I don’t know why.   Looking back I see that I just did once when I wrote out her birth story – maybe because I did that for all my other children and I didn’t want to exclude her.   But I didn’t write the kind of things that I wished I had written about… things like how it felt to hold her, or touch her soft curly hair, or how I like to gaze at her while she was sleeping.  It makes me so sad that I missed doing that.  I could do it now of course but I want to go back and read about the thoughts I had when she was here and alive…. oh I’m so mad at myself!!!       But somehow through those times even when I couldn’t write personally, God granted me the ability to blog and write publicly.  And I praise God that I have my blog, but it can’t replace my journal and only God knows why I never could or thought to write.

But now that Ava’s gone, I feel the opposite.  All I want to do is write in my personal journal and I can hardly bring myself to blog.   I think a part of that is that maybe grief is more personal and can’t all be shared.   And I know a bigger part is that I’ve now judged my blog to be unworthy… I feel it’s just a glimmer of what it once was and now it’s boring.   Blogging about a journey you are undergoing with a sick child is nothing compared to some occasional thoughts of a busy mom.    And I worry that if I keep on talking about Ava it’s eventually just going to sound like whining… and no one wants to read my whining, not even me. 🙂

So the question is… do I continue to blog and just wait out this non-writing period and hope that inspiration will strike again?   Or do I just can it.  Be done with the blog and  say that it ran its course and it’s over.

Big big question.

While I’m pondering that big question, I will tell you about our trip to Toronto last weekend.  🙂

We had always planned to take the kids back to Toronto so they could go back and visit the Ronald MacDonald House and SicksKids.  And then it just so happened that we were invited to a Remembrance Day hosted by the Sick Kids’s PACT team.  Erik had also been part of a research study last summer at SickKids.  It was a study of children who have siblings who are palliative, and the researcher had called this spring to ask if Erik would complete the study with another interview.   Erik surprisingly agreed to go and do it, so we needed to book a time for that as well.  So then it just made sense to pack it all into one weekend away.

Oh – and also fit in a trip to the CN tower.   We had been given tickets last year when Ava was sick and when we didn’t get a chance to use them before she died, but we knew it would be special to do it on a trip back.    And the kids really enjoyed going to the tower… even though we went in the rain…

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But it managed to clear up a bit when we were up and we could still quite far, and it was fun to find places we recognized and watch the Porter jets take off from Toronto island.

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The kids have been able to do so many fun things in Toronto through our Ava journey that I’m glad that many of their associations with her are of good things.   It’s really cool that living in Toronto was very much a positive experience for them.

And visiting SickKids was really good too.   Erik did a great job at his interview.  Last time he told me he answered a lot of the interviewer’s questions with “I don’t know”, so this time he tried to be more creative and say things like “I’m not sure about that” or “I’ll have to think about that”… he’s so sweet.    And it was nice to poke around SickKids and find some familiar faces to say hello too.  It just feels like home when we are there, and that’s where most of our Ava memories are as well.  Some of them are sad, but some are happy too, so I just go with it.  I know that Jason found it emotional being back, but the kids didn’t have any of those worries and just enjoyed doing some of their favourite things like going to play in Marnie’s lounge and getting timbits from Tim Horton’s.

We also really enjoyed going back to the Ronald MacDonald House.   Jason and the kids spent so much time there that I know that they really miss it – the kids kept saying this winter that they wished they were back there.   The timing last weekend must have been God’s timing because our time in Toronto over-lapped by a few hours with good friends of ours from Sudbury.   They had been in Toronto that week for appointments for their daughter who is in remission from leukemia.   We were able to visit them at the Ronald MacDonald House and have lunch with them and we enjoyed our time together so much.  We were saying how we wish we could recreate the Ronald MacDonald House in some way for regular living, as it’s so special and unique, but in the end nothing really does beat living at home.

And then there was the remembrance Day.  The PACT team who helped and supported us so very much as Ava was dying – hosted this day for families who lost a child in 2012 & 2013.  We were so happy to see some more good friends of ours who also came down from Sudbury… they lost their son in September who had hypo-plastic left heart like Ava…it was so nice to have the opportunity to be together and spend time with them.  And there was food and fun, and volunteers to play with the kids and crafts for them to make, and the parents got to talk about how things were after losing a child.   And then at the end of the afternoon we did a balloon release.  The kids had balloons with messages to Ava.  I loved Wills message… “I hope you are having a good time in heaven Ava.  from Will”

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Kinda breaks your heart, but I think I’m pretty good now at suppressing a lot of triggers that might bring me to tears.  I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but it’s rather helpful in a way so I’m fine with it.

So we left Toronto last Saturday thinking a bit more of our sweet baby Ava, and wishing she was here with us.  But on the other hand comforted by the fact that she is no longer suffering and knowing that we will see her once again someday.  OK – funny story… Jason was putting Sophia to bed a few nights after this and Soph was saying how much she missed Ava and wished that she could go to heaven to see her.   Jason reassured her by saying that our whole family would be going to heaven someday to see her, and Sophia replied, “You’re right dad, but you’ll get there much sooner because you are already 41”  HA!  Out of the mouth of babes.

And once again we realized just how much we have to be thankful for.  For the wonderful care that SickKids gave Ava, for an incredible place to stay in the Ronald MacDonald House.  For people’s generosity in supporting us while Jason wasn’t working and we were away from home.  And for all the relationships we gained and the friends we made.   The friends we’ve made have been such a support.   And I wanted to take this moment to mention Tanya – Aleeda’s mom (the little girl who received a heart).   Tanya and I have grown so close from the time together we spent in Toronto.  And we know without a doubt that God placed us together for a reason.   Tanya has been such a great friend to me, and given me so much encouragement and support that I don’t know how I would have navigated this journey without her.   Actually she started her own blog which isn’t so much about her journey as much as it is her thoughts on life… but she posted a wonderful tribute to the nurses of 4D here… it made me all teary.

OK  – I need to stop rambling so I will finish off with a verse.   I have to say once again that our faith in God has been the anchor for our souls through this time of grieving our precious Ava… but knowing that God holds everything is His hands gives us peace and hope.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!  Romans 11:33

Amen!

It’s heavy…

It’s a little strange, I feel like I have two lives.  One life is  here with my four healthy normal children, taking pictures of their first day of school, playing keep-away with them in the pool and reading them bedtime stories.

And my other life is lived in hospitals, getting echocardiogram and ultra-sounds and talking with Dr’s  with lots of tears and concern surrounding our unborn baby.

Two lives, one blog,  so I apologize for the mish-mash of light stuff and heavy stuff to be found here, and just be prepared that this post is on the heavy side (and long side too).

So backing up to August 24th when they went in and opened up the baby’s aortic valve, they did an amniocentesis at the same time.  I’ve never had one before, and have never wanted one.  But I see now that the dr’s were definitely looking to see if there was a reason why this baby might have a heart condition.      Syndromes like DiGeorge syndrome or Down’s syndrome both could present with heart problems, although they were pretty confident my baby didn’t have Down’s or DiGeorge based on ultra-sound findings.

But as it turns out, my baby does have a syndrome,  Turner Syndrome.    My baby has a genetic problem.   Can you believe it?  I certainly had a hard time hearing that.   It was another huge shocker.  Never in a million years did I think that this could happen, but it did.   And her aortic stenosis can now be attributed to it.

So what is Turner syndrome?   Well Turner syndrome happens at the very beginning when cells start to divide and a piece of genetic information is dropped or garbled from the mix.  So where most women have two X chromosomes, our baby only has one X chromosome in some of her genes, and in the other genes,  one normal X chromosome and an isochromosome (a malformed X chromosome) in the others.

This loss of an X can lead to quite a few issues, but with a broad range of symptoms,  and they never really know how severe or mild  the disease will be until the baby is born and starts growing and these issues present themselves.  The most common characteristic of Turner’s is a lack of growth which results in short stature, as well as a lack of fertility.   It’s not inherited, any mother of any race or age can have a baby girl with Turner’s and there is a 1 out of 2500 chance that it will happen.  (There is a 1 out of 750 chance your child could have Down’s Syndrome.)

It’s one of those things that no parent ever wants to hear.  To find out your child will deal with something for the rest of their life that they will never be cured from is heart-breaking, even though the difficulties Turner’s presents typically can be over-come by modern medicine.  Still, it’s another challenge for our daughter to face coupled with her heart issue and we are very sad for her.

And speaking of the baby’s heart issues, we drove to Toronto again yesterday to have another echocardiogram done and meet with the cardiologist and see how baby’s heart was progressing.   I wasn’t planning on looking at the screen while they were doing the scan, but I did.   And when I saw that her left ventricle was still large, still not functioning well and that it wasn’t filled with oxygen rich red blood like it should be, but just a little blue blood trickling in, I started to cry.  I knew then that God had chosen not to heal her at this time and my heart started to really hurt.

And the cardiologist explained after the echo was done that the aortic valve has closed a little like they hoped it would, but still the pressure in her left ventricle is still so high and the function is still so low, it looks as though the left ventricle is burned out and it’s just a matter of time before the left side of her heart is lost…  and would go hypoplastic and she will end up with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.

But that’s speaking in medical terms.  We fully believe that there is still room for God to heal her, and we are still praying for that, but right now  it feels like God’s plans for our daughter aren’t lining up with my plans and I’m grieving.

I read recently that grief is an emotion designed by God to allow us to mourn things that we have to let go of.  Right now I’m grieving now the fact that if things don’t change, I won’t be nursing and cuddling and showing off a new baby, but watching her in a hospital room recovering from open heart surgery.   And what does that look like?   What does leaving my 4 young children for a long time and staying in a large city away from home for weeks and weeks look like?   Will Jason be able to join me?  The the kids cope OK?

I don’t know these things or have any answers and I don’t even know if before then or during that time God will call my daughter to come home back to Him.  But what I do know is that God has promised never to leave us or forsake us… and in the little things like providing baby sitters and parking spots and friends to cry with,  He has been there for us every step of this journey so far.   Here’s another verse I cling too…

It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.  Deuteronomy 31:8

Do not fear, do not be dismayed…  but those are the two things that come so naturally to us aren’t they? We fear because we can’t see the future and we are dismayed because we are going places we never wanted to go.  But through all of this Jason and I are clinging to our faith in God, know that if God is telling us not to fear or be afraid it’s because He knows what He is doing and He has a plan and a purpose for our baby’s life and our live’s too.

A dear friend dropped by today knowing that I would be having a tough day (I was) and she brought me my 3 favourite things…  flowers, chocolate and a book (I’m so blessed!).   The book was Anne Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts” and the first chapter is all about losing children believe it or not.  Anne lost a little sister growing up and her husband’s brother and wife lost two babies.   And in the first chapter Anne wrote…

There’s a reason I’m not writing the story and God is.  He knows how it all works out, where it all leads, what it all means.   I don’t.    

That spoke to me.  Of course we would change how things were going, if we could direct things differently we would.  But we aren’t in control, we can’t see the outcome,  and so we are choosing to trust the one who is… the one who formed us and knows us and has a plan for us.

He knows it’s heavy, but He is with us and will never forsake us.

Amen

Distraction…

So believe it or not, while all the previous posted events were unfolding in our lives, we were actually on vacation at Jason’s family cottage on the beautiful shores of Lake Huron.  And far from ruining our vacation, we could even see God’s hands in arranging to have us up there as opposed to being at home while everything happened.  A beautiful distraction in the midst of a storm.

And looking back, it was a wonderful time, a chance for Jason and I to grow closer together and to just enjoy the four beautiful healthy children God has already given us.   And knowing that we have a rocky road ahead, with the crazy balancing act of caring for kids that we already have, while dealing with a child with a heart problem, we enjoyed the opportunity to make some memories and pour out some extra attention on them now.

Here is Erik waterskiing… he’s crossing the wake now and we’re so proud…

We don’t get to ski that often, Lake Huron is barely ever calm enough, but when it is, watch out, you can bet Jason will put a boat in the water quicker than you can  say ‘motorboat’.

Jason really wanted to teach William to ski this year, and he got up!  He didn’t stay up though, that whole instinctive pulling his arms into his chest was his down-fall each time, but at least he got out of the water thanks to grandpa coaching him…

Sarah is still content to just go tubing…

And Soph loves her boat rides…

This is one of our favourite parks…

Sophia opted to get her face painted one morning in town, our little butterfly…

Oh Sarah, our resident rascal…

Good thing I got a picture of Erik’s card-house before it fell…

The kids enjoyed some quality time together playing cards under the awning…

Sarah made some lunch for herself, with everything neatly laid out… all she’s missing is the banana for her wrap!

My brother and his wife and two girls stopped by one morning for breakfast one morning on their way through…  sweet little blondies…

And who can resist a baby… not Sarah!

A dad and his kids…

And a mom and her girls…

Thank you Lord for such a wonderful time together, a shelter from the storm and for the 4 healthy children you have already blessed us with!