Photographs by Laurie @ Horizons Photography

November 26, 2016

Be advent.




As unreal as it seems we have once again come to that time of year when we need to sit back, watch, wait, celebrate, and allow the good news of Christmas and the coming King to wash over us, renew us; in some cases to breathe life back into us.

It has been a hard year, the world seems to have gone a bit mad, or at least more mad than usual. Hate crimes and terror attacks, racism, fear, bullying, extreme weather, global catastrophes, deaths and suffering;  it’s everywhere we turn. If you watch the news, read a newspaper, use any form of social media or in some cases, just look across the street, or hallway at school. Fear, hate, anger and ignorance have filled the air worldwide with a stench that permeates into our everyday lives and souls. It is ripe, like a disease it spreads and we can smell it on more and more people, ourselves included.  It is so easy, to get sucked into the abyss of fear and anxiety, the very things that create the stink of hate and bigotry. 

… and yet; this is a season of hope, and in hope there is no room for fear. This is a season of love and where is there love hate can not win. This is a season of awaiting for our King, a King who will unite us, a King who will save us, a king who comes to us all, with no political agenda, only to save us by grace alone; only to love us. A king who has already won us victory with his blood.

As we reach into this season, as we celebrate the joy, the peace, the light, the love, the hope. My prayer for us  is that we be the joy; the joy to our neighbour who is alone or grieving. Be the joy for the lonely, the bright spot in their day, the smile of a stranger, the kind word and gentle touch, the compassionate hand that holds them up when they feel they are falling.

Be the peace, when you see the fear stirring up hate, when the verbal attacks online are full of offence. When the group of kids are picking on child of a different race, when the teen is so filled with anxiety that they can’t breathe, when it feels like everything around you is spinning and there is no safe place, reach out, be a voice of reason, be the calm and soothing arms that offer a safe place, be the person who sits beside someone and just counts to ten for them; be the peace.

Be the light, the light that lets the world see the good that still exists, the light that drowns out the darkness. When it feels like the clouds will forever storm, that there is only pain, suffering, hopelessness and despair and the sun is eternally eclipsed by the moon. Be the light, offer to guide, lead. Be the light that guides to the everlasting light where there can be no more darkness.

Be the love, the love that opens itself despite the risk, the love that moves people to change.The love that turns the other cheek, love that forgives, even when it’s hard. The love that opens itself up and bears the pain of another so that they can know they are not alone, the love that sacrifices our ourselves to give, the love that serves, the love that hurts and the love that drives away fear, hopelessness, despair, hate. The love that brings joy, and unity; compassion, the love that heals.

Be the hope, with hope comes faith, with hope comes healing, with hope fear subsides, with hope the anger that once burned starts to doubt. Hope drives out despair and allows peace, joy, love, light and faith to flourish in its glow. 

In this hurting and broken city, country, world, we can shine brighter because it’s so dark. This is an opportunity to be more, to love more, to be the hands and feet of our Saviour, while we wait for his return. Advent is a season, but it’s not just the 4 Sundays prior to Christmas, it is the entire wait, every single day between now and His return; its not dependent on snow, Christmas lights, Santa, wreaths, fireplaces, hot chocolate, carols. It is us. It is now. It is every single day between this moment and the return of our King. 

L

November 22, 2016

Happy Birthday (a day early) to the man who stole and kept my heart!



Almost 10 years ago to the date (Dec. 8th 2006) I was asked by the most amazing man I have ever met to join my life to his and be his wife. I loved him, I said yes and I haven't doubted or regretted that decision; but I have to be honest, when I think back on the maturity of that love I laugh. I had no idea what loving this man, what being his partner in life would look like, I had no way of knowing that what I felt for him then (in all it's hugeness) would one day pale by comparison to the love that would grow between us over time. We have weathered a few storms together and come out laughing and when I look at him I can't imagine a life without him in it. He's more than a husband, he's more than a friend, he is the other half of me. He is family through and through. I could sit here and list of the amazing things he does, the person he is, the value he adds to my life but then this post would never end (and I actually have other things to do today). I will say this, Tim is someone I respect, he's someone I seek counsel from, he's someone I can laugh with, someone I feel safe fighting with, he is a companion I enjoy spending time with, he's a soft shoulder, strength in times of stress and he loves so beautifully and humbly. I am never in question of the blessing I have found in him.

Tomorrow he celebrates his 40th birthday, and I can't let the day go by without celebrating him and saying how thankful I am that he was born. There is no other person in the world I would rather have to spend my life with than this incredible man!

Happy Birthday love, thank you for loving me.

L

November 20, 2016

It is us.



Tim and I were away for a week to the Dominican Republic for our annual 'just us' holiday. After the past number of months where anger and fear and hate made way for the deaths of many in the summer shootings, the mass shootings, the Nice tragedy, Paris, Brexit, the hate crimes, bigotry, the police and people at what often feels like war, and of course the outcome of the US election results, I have to admit that this year, more than most I was excited to be leaving. No newspapers, no news, no social media... sounded like bliss to me!

I of course hopped on that plane with dreams of tropical sand between my toes,  hot sun on my shoulders, warm breezes in my hair, rest for my soul. What I was met with was not what I anticipated, but it was what I really needed. It was a wake up call.

We arrived to rain... rain that only broke for a brief time each day, we had one partly sunny day but other than that, it rained. Now, rain here is one thing but rain there is something entirely different. It was a downpour, and before we knew it the whole area was flooded. The flood waters grew, receded, grew again. Every morning we heard stories from staff and other guests about homes lost, a school, mudslides, overflowing rivers, roads that had become too waterlogged to drive on. Yet, we were always met with smiling faces, people who came early each morning to work after being up all night trying to save their families' home, tired, but content. One of our waitresses was pregnant, she came to work with a cheerful smile and yet she had spent the entire night awake trying to keep their home secure, and her work clothes clean so that she wouldn't miss a day of work and much needed money. We saw people coming together to rebuild. We found out that the president had come to help the clean up efforts. There were no guests complaining about the weather, the soaked floors, the rivers running past our rooms, the constant feeling of wet clothes as you ran from your room to the dining room, from the dining room to the cabana. It was a taste of what the world should be, and yet isn't.

We learned that the average wage there is roughly 200 a month, yet a home is about 400-500 a month. Yet, these contented people work together, they help each other, they feed each other, they rebuild together, they don't have time to sit behind computers bellowing at their neighbours about politics, they haven't got the energy to hate a person who has more, or less, than they do. They are in this together. They epitomized community. It was beautiful. As we drove through the city, as we watched from high above in a cable car going up the mountain, I became very ashamed. I was ashamed at how our wealth, our freedom, our way of life, our technology have been used to hurt, to hate, to waste time on tearing down rather than building up. We consider ourselves first world, yet this third world poverty proved to me that the problem isn't economics, it's us. We need to re calibrate, we need to re think, we need to be better.

I didn't get the sunny tropical holiday I had planned, my skin isn't the shade of brown I was going for when I got on that plane a week ago, but my heart is softer, my mind more open. It wasn't what I was hoping for, but it was what I needed. I found rest, in the knowledge that these immigrants from poor countries that the world loves to hate, could actually teach us a whole lot about what it means to really love your neighbour, to feed the poor, to give sacrificially, to work together for a better tomorrow.




October 21, 2016

Even LIttle Details



Writing is something I have missed, somehow in the busyness I have gotten out of the habit and it actually wears on me. Here's the thing though, Once I sit down and actually make myself think about writing it all comes to me in such a rush that I don't know where to start, there is just so much to say and then I become overwhelmed and I close the computer, pour a coffee and try to justify to myself that it's okay.

Today is different. Today I have decided to push everything aside and try to focus.

Last year was a rough year for both of our kids at school. They really struggled in a very tough school, they were lost in the fray so to speak of a school that had so many problems that the kids who behaved were easily dismissed. They didn't learn, they were anxious. They hated going, every morning was hard. I was scared to go to far from our neighbourhood because I was called so frequently to the school for injuries, or concerns, or sometimes I just felt the actual need to check up on what was actually happening on the playground. I never had my phone off, never left it where I couldn't hear it, it was a lifeline in many ways because I knew that it was entirely possible that I may need to go rushing there at a moments notice and the school would need me available.

Josh also had a number of seizures in January and February, on the night of his birthday we had to rush him to the ER where he was unresponsive for over an hour. With changes in medicine doses we did eventually sort him out but it scared all of us, teachers included so we had a number of calls for that as well from the school.

It was at the end of May that a few things happened that prompted me to seriously question the placement of the boys. I won't get into details but I will say that it was the worst school I have ever heard of, and the administration was not doing anything to change things, teachers were left unsupported so they were left to deal with the discipline fall out. I saw that the boys were not only not happy but they weren't learning anything either. I couldn't continue to put them (or us) through that. These two boys have seen enough in life, they have fought to hard for everything, they deserved a chance to flourish, not be left to wilt and ultimately (I believe) fall through the cracks simply because they were not the problem kids in their classes. After numerous talks with the administration I began to see that nothing would change, that I was being told what I wanted to hear but there was no actual follow through, and hadn't been in the three years we had been associated with this school. In a very clear moment of assertion I finally made the choice to pull the kids from that school and have them transferred. The question became, to where? I didn't know what to do, I didn't know what school to ask for so I just asked God to make the decision for me. In the end when I spoke with the school superintendent (a last resort to get my kids out of the school they were in and into a new school) he suggested the school they now attend. It is a school that I wouldn't have chosen at first, but they have two best friends that go to this school so I agreed and hoped and prayed it was what God wanted.

Here's the thing: When I told the boys that they were not going back to the old school in September they were elated! They were beaming and hugging each other, they repeatedly thanked me, Kaper even called me his hero and numerous times told me he was proud of me. It wasn't until that moment that I realized just how bad it had been, just how strong they had needed and proven to be. With light at the end of the tunnel they were both overjoyed and for the rest of the time they had to attend that school they walked taller, lighter from the burdens no longer on their backs.

We are now bringing October to a close, Kaper just turned 7 years old, Josh's heart is unchanged (great news), his seizures are under control, here's what I can tell you about what I have learned through out this past year.

GOD IS IN CONTROL, He knows what he's doing, he cares about not just our health, he cares about the things that we care about, the bully's, the politics in schools, the worry about education, the daily struggles we all face that aren't necessarily something we think to go to him for because they seem small. He is there always, not just when your kid is lying in the ER unresponsive but also when he comes home feeling beat up after a difficult day, week, month... year.

This year when they started that new school they were EXCITED! Josh had his best friend IN HIS CLASS and all four boys have each other to count on at recess. They have teachers who care that they learn, they have administration that doesn't put up with any problems within the classrooms and because of that, they are surrounded by kids who sit and listen, who work to hard to achieve success. Kids want the boundaries adults set and these kids are all proof of that.

The support the boys are getting this year is incredible, just this week I met up with the spec ed teacher that works with Josh. Here is what he said:

Josh is doing incredibly well, 7 weeks into transition into a full size class all day and he's doing fantastic! His reading is not far off grade level, though he needs support still. His math is at grade level and in some cases he's understanding some grade four stuff. (really not my kid). He is well behaved and most important HE TRIES really hard, his effort is amazing. His one teacher said that he tries so hard he must come home exhausted. (He does).

Two years ago we were told that Josh would always have a language impairment, but on Thursday morning his teacher told me that orally he's doing fantastic and just needs some help with his writing and reading. We were told that he would need a special education program for him but this year he's in a regular classroom and thriving. Last year were told his spelling was atrocious (evidenced in absolutely EVERYTHING he tried to write - including spelling - which he spelt speling) but the last two weeks in a row he's gotten 100% on his spelling tests. Everything you tell this kid he can't do he does, he fights, and not only does he fight, he wins.

Last May when I was trying to decide what to do about the school situation I literally spent nights sleepless, not knowing what the best call was, I worried that after the time I spent investing in the relationships at the old school that it would be a difficult step to uproot them and trust a whole new administration and teaching staff. I worried that it was letting the other kids down if I wasn't there to fight on their behalf. Sitting here now, drinking my coffee and reliving it for you I have to say. Moving them was the best call we have made as parents (except for a few medical decisions along the way). Sitting here now, I can see how God was moving, working and taking care of my boys in ways I couldn't have planned or imagined; in ways I couldn't do as their mother because I can't see the bigger picture.

The take home from all of this? He is there regardless of the situation. He cares about EVERY SINGLE LITTLE DETAIL that we come across in our lives. He knows our every worry and he's already moving toward a solution, we can rest in that. For the first time in 8 years I am at rest; knowing that all is well with my boys and my family. Knowing that God is with me even now, he's with them, he's with Tim, he's with you.


February 19, 2016

Get real.

I don't often use this forum to rant but when I do it's often because whatever issue it is has been upsetting me and the only way to feel heard and process why it's upsetting me is to write it down.

This past week there has been a lot of furor at Sick Kids over a silly petition, I'll tell you the basics and then take you through point by point why this upsets me. I encourage you to stick with me here because I know many of you might have seen the article in the paper or on the news and not thought too much about it.

So, a life coach has decided that children need to hear positive words and associate positive things when they are going to the hospital (I am paraphrasing), and she has put forward a petition to change the name to one that is 'easier' on the ears of children. A few of her thoughts: 'the magical hospital' or 'the miracle healing centre'.

I start to talk about this and my blood actually starts to get hotter, then I rush to tell all the reasons why this is so upsetting and wrong and it all comes out in a garbled angry mess. So, bear with me while I take you through this is a more orderly fashion. (This is going to be hard for me since I am used to typing until I am done and just letting my thoughts roll out).

1) Let's talk about the brand Sick Kids. It is the second best children's hospital in the world. Doctors come from all over the globe to be taught by our doctors, because they are best. When someone in China, the Philippines or any other place on the planet hears the name Sick Kids they immediately think positive things. Why? Because there are positive things happening there. One of the doctors we had early on in our Sick Kids journey was a man from Saudi Arabia who was here to learn all that he could from our doctors so that he could go home and save children's lives in his home country. That is what Sick Kid does.  Because Sick Kids has built a brand and that brand is known world wide for being the best. It is prestigious. So, given the brand already in place, the reality is that if suddenly we change the name to 'the magical healing centre' (or some such ridiculousness) and then asked someone in, lets say India, about it, they would look at you blankly because they haven't ever heard of it. This means obviously, that in order to change the name of this prestigious brand we would have to go through a re-branding process that would cost us millions (Im guessing on amounts, I have no idea what it would cost but I imagine it would be multiple millions). Guess where that money would come from? STRAIGHT OUT OF OUR HOSPITAL; straight out of research, straight out of new technology and straight out of the funds for new and better facilities. Basically, re branding Sick Kids would be at the cost of our kids. What's so positive about that?

2) Josh is sick. Every kid that steps into those hallowed halls is--close your eyes for a second if you can't handle non-positive talk--SICK. They (for many different reasons) have entered that building to do battle. They didn't come to ride a roller coaster of fun; they go to Wonderland for that. They came to Sick Kids because they are a) Sick and b) want to get better. Josh himself said to me "You go in sick, you come out better".  As parents and caregivers we don't hide the truth from them (and I am not just speaking for me here, I have heard from MANY parents on this topic in the last week). You can't tell your son he's going to the magical hospital and then hand him to a surgeon for open heart. It is the stepping stone to losing the trust that we as parents need when navigating this horrible journey. I need to know at all times that Josh trusts me with his life when I take him to that place. I tell him going in what is going to happen, all the painful stuff and all, then I hold him while he processes that information. He asks the questions he needs and in the end, walks away from the conversation knowing that I wouldn't do this unless I had too. The positive talk? That comes when he's seconds away from the OR and he's terrified. That's when I pray with him and remind him who he is; a brave, strong, warrior who is loved beyond measure. Positive talk comes in the nights after open heart surgery when he's begging me to make the pain stop and screaming that he 'can't do it'. That's when I stand beside his bed all night, holding his hand and tell him that he can do it, that he already has done it and that he is the fiercest knight I have ever met. Positive talk comes when the nurses, doctors and child life workers walk into his room and do their best to make everything as painless as possible, or to reassure him, or bring him a smile. Positive doesn't happen in a name... it happens inside those walls of a building we never wanted to be in but in an odd way have come to love.

3) I raise my son to believe in God;, to turn to Him for hope and strength and courage. I do my best to teach him that God answers prayers but sometimes those prayers do not get the answer we want. This is a hard lesson. Better to learn it young.  Here's a hard truth. Babies die. Kids die. There is nothing, absolutely NOTHING that can prepare someone for that. Here's another hard truth. Kids like Josh are afraid of dying. It will come up. It does come up, because they are scared that when the anesthesiologist puts that mask on their face they may not wake up. Those conversations need to take place. No positive talk will make that fear go away for a kid. Going to a 'miracle healing centre' and then the child dies? What does that say about death? What does it say to a kid like Josh who would expect a miracle healing, but wakes up in the ICU with his chest cracked open and sewn shut? A kid like Josh who will never be 'cured'.  I believe in miracles, I teach my boys about them, I have sat front row for thousands of them in our journey and I always point them out to Josh. But let me say this: to know a miracle for what it is, you must first know the desperateness of the situation. (Me getting a coffee in the morning is not a miracle. But if you knew how many lives were spared by me having coffee every morning you would indeed see the miracle).

4) Kids, are people. (WHAT?!  Who knew?) They are little people who are growing into big people and they need to know how to cope in life. Life will throw some hard things at you and it hurts. People can be mean, employers can be unfair, spouses can betray, children can hurt you. How do we prepare our little people into the world ready to cope with life when we couch everything in pretty words and bubble gum softness. Let's be real here. It's like giving them an award for showing up every time they show up and then sending them into a world where they are expected to more than show up and then being mad at them for not knowing that. It's insane what we are doing to our kids, we are not teaching them truth, we aren't preparing them for real life, we are not doing them a service we are setting them up to be crushed when they fail. Is that really what is 'best' for them?

5) This is the last thing on my list (thank you for your patience) but to me it's one of the things that frustrates me the most about life in the modern world. The media. Here's the situation. There are millions of really news worthy stories in Toronto, good deeds not reported, worthy causes that don't have the right 'hook' to make it to the news. Yet, there are these people in the media who pick on the truly useless stories (like this petition issue) and make that a top story? Really? This 'life coach' gets more coverage than the kids in that hospital who are waging war on their bodies to find health? She and the media are more concerned with what we call the place than we are with who is inside it, or what illnesses led these kids there? When did we as a society become to callous? When did the media start caring more about the Kardashian's of the world and the silly 'puff' pieces than they do about the truth? We live in a society that cares more about what Trump said last night than we do about the kid who is lying in a bed down the street from you dying from pulmonary hypertension because of the lack of funding for research and care. That is who we have become, Toronto.

The kids who are lucky enough to go for treatment at Sick Kids are sick. They fight daily for the life they have. They struggle through pain and anxiety and wear their scars with pride. They hear 'Sick Kids' and they hear "hope"! Not because of the name but because of the amazing staff and people in that building.  They go there to put on their armour, they go there to become warriors, they go there and find strength, resilience, courage. They go there to win. They don't go there for magic, they go there for the awesome doctors, nurses, technicians, child life workers, therapists and everyone else they run into contact with. They go there for the science that gives them life, not "magic" that promotes false hope. They fight a legitimate battle, and for them, using "cushion words" is demeaning. It belittles and takes away from the legitimacy of what they face.

February 15, 2016

Painful light

You know those months, or two, that seem to go on and on with no end in sight? Yeah, that's what we have been living the past few months. After Josh's last scare (see last post) we got him home and after a few days rest he got back on his feet and seemed to be coping okay. Then we got news from the Eye clinic that his eye surgery was scheduled for February 12th.  The last time he had eye surgery I swore that we would never put him through that again... recovery was tough. His eyes have always been his weak spot, when he's scared or anxious he rubs at his eyes, when the light is too bright his eyes water, he HATES anyone touching his eyes, even talking about his eyes around him causes his eyes to water. 

So you can imagine how he feels when someone cuts into them and works on them, that for him, is the worst feeling in the world. 

The week prior to the surgery he was very scared, and the night before he asked God to give him all of Gods strength and to help him be brave. It just about breaks you heart, because if I could I would do this for him and yet there is absolutely nothing I can do. I have to sit helpless.

The morning of the surgery he asked me to pray for him at least 4 times, and right before they put him to sleep he asked me again. As he drifted off to sleep there were prayers being lifted up around the world for him, I know that, because I know the community we have and I know that their prayers are ever faithful. 

Recovery went ok and we were sent home, but it's not been an easy few days. His pain is horrible to watch. He sits in my lap and says 'It's just too much mummy' and all I can do is hold the ice pack on his eye and snuggle him until it eases and the meds start to kick in. 

He's also been showing signs (or at least more serious signs - since his recent bouts of seizures) of having photophobia. He hates the lights on, and complains that the light is bothering him in even a dimly lit room. 

Last night he prayed 'Please God, make my eyes normal again'...

This is a bummer post... Im tired and this seems all consuming. Please pray for him, for his eyes to heal quickly, for the pain to ease, for the light sensitivity to diminish, for life to find a new normal. So far, this year has been a tough one but it doesn't have to continue this way; pray that God gives us a season of peace after this.

Thank you all for you patience; Ive had many emails about my lack of updates... my computer has been on life-support at the computer hospital, but it's all better now and will hopefully remain in working order. 

February 1, 2016

Day 1 - Year 8



Josh's take on life is that you can't ever let people be satisfied with the status quo... if people start to settle in and relax then it's time to shake things up; or at least that is what I think he thinks sometimes. Yesterday, after a fairly regular day of church, lunch, lego and bed he decided that he was going to spice things up.

At 10:00 He came crashing (literally crashing and stumbling) into our room, fell onto our bed and began telling us some strange things he was seeing in his room. He appeared drunk, and he was seeing things like lego figures walking through tunnels from his CD player, or a ghost tongue, and robots climbing on our bed. This went on for hours, I did some neuro tests that they have taught me to do and called the fellow on call for neurology. He spoke about feeling like he was floating and inquired as to when he would feel 'normal' again. At 4:00 he really began freaking out when he saw ants crawling all over his room and trying to rip down his posters. I brought him to Sick Kids and at about 5:00 he fell into a very deep sleep. Nothing we did would wake him; it was terrifying. At one point we had the ER doctors, the Neurology staff and fellow, the ICU doctors, a respiratory therapist and a whole contingent of nurses leaning over his bed trying to get him to wake up. They resorted to some painful tactics but still he wouldn't wake up. We were sent to CT scan to look for a brain bleed, he had an eye ultra sound to see if his optic nerve was enlarged and then he started to have the facial ticks seizures that he had after his stroke when he was a baby; which brought back all of those horrible scary moments.

(I am telling this in a very matter of fact, quickest way possible because I honestly can't think straight.)

At some point (no idea what time) they got through to him a little with pain, he didn't wake up per say but he was responsive to the pain which was a positive. At around 1:00 pm he woke up and was quite groggy, had unresponsive pupils and not a great recall on the events of the night/day but within the hour he was doing much better. We had an MRI and it's showing no new stroke sights and no brain bleeds which was the main concern for all involved. We have been admitted to the Neurology ward and have an EEG scheduled for tomorrow sometime; they are now assuming it's more seizure activity.

That is how Josh shakes things up when things are status quo.

For obvious reasons we are all exhausted and feel like we have been through a combat zone. We have had some pretty scary moments with Josh, that's not new, but seeing him lying unresponsive was enough to make me ill.

All that being said... He's now playing star wars WII and just finished his second pepperoni pizza. When I joke with him about this being a hotel he smiles and says its fun. Today, in a weak moment I started crying in the coffee line and looked up to see the chaplain we have known since our first night of knowing Josh, he wrapped a gentle hand on me and led me to Josh's room to pray with him. It's those stars in the dark night sky again, shining through when you are looking up.

I think sometimes Josh just likes to remind us that we are still alive, and he does it by giving our hearts a restart.