Jehovah was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake: Jehovah was not in the earthquake.
And after the earthquake, a fire: Jehovah was not in the fire. And after the fire, a soft gentle voice. (1Kings 19:11-12)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Importance of Building a Bench ~ Simply Tuesday

"When I want to climb the ladder, what if instead I tore the ladder apart and used the wood to build a bench." (Emily P Freeman, Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World)
I've had a lot of practice of small and lonely this past year. A lot of slowing down. I've had a lot of days that feel like Tuesdays. That day that you have to just keep on going, moving forward, when you are not even halfway through the week and you could race on toward the end of the week or actually slow down and appreciate or at least take notice of the small moments that are making up your life.

Cause you are actually alive, waking up each morning and breathing. Do you jump out of bed and head out into the hustle without even realizing you are still here? Living, breathing, moving?

Do you ever consider that every breath you get to take make up your moments? And the harsh reality is that those small moments may be small, but they may also be hard. They may be ordinary, but they may be frustrating and threaten to paralyze you with fear.

I've laboured to breath, and I've struggled to appreciate the small, hard moments.

We are to pour out our lives, and "by the mercies of God, to present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is [our] spiritual worship." It's the surrender of our lives to our Lord, our adoration of Him with all of our heart, strength, mind, and soul that is our worship.

Some say the story I've been living is an amazing story. And really, because of God's grace, it is. But, I have to admit, when I get lost in the loneliness, and caught in the strongholds of this fast-moving world, well, to me, it's just my life. And I want to scream, "Hello, this is my life we're talking about." My small, ordinary non-flashy moments that are being strung together to make my life. Not some fictional character in a great story to keep you turning the pages to see what will happen to her in the end."  I confess, there are times, when I've thought an entirely different plot line would suit me much better.

"…people don't need fancy and flashy, they probably just want regular. They don't need a fixer, they need a journeyer. They just need to sit on a bench with someone else so they know they are not alone." (Emily P Freeman, Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World)
I've been learning to accept what God has called me to, for His glory.

I've been learning that there are worse things than dying—not really living or staying alive with no real impact and failing to live the abundant life Christ offers.

I'm a slow-learner when it comes to things pertaining to the soul—the things unseen. How often my pride and self-love get in the way and make me stumble. But God, in His mercy and grace, He reveals my sin and humbles me, brings me down and causes me to surrender to His holy love. He helps me to tear down the ladders and build benches so there is more compassion and less comparison even when I am tempted to build high, impenetrable walls.

One of the ways He has been teaching me is by allowing others to journey with me.

As an introvert, and a back-yard dweller—where there is privacy and protection, I've been learning how much I need to come to the front yard—where there is vulnerability and openness, and embrace community. To build a bench, to share our stories, our struggles, our simple moments that make up our lives.

And what I'm finding is a love for others like I have never had before.

When we take these small moments, share our simple and sit down on the inside and make room for our souls to breath our eyes are opened and we see the bigger picture.

May we never focus on the small. Our eyes need to be fixed on Jesus—the Author and Finisher of our faith. "In Him, we live and move and have our being." The One who came to dwell among us, took on flesh, humility, and became sin that we might become the righteousness of Christ that we might forever dwell with Him.
"When confronted with heartbreak, fear, questions, longing, frustrations, and grief, this new life means instead of running to build our cities of protection, we can set out on a different road. This road may include loneliness, obscurity, hiddenness, and silence. It may be narrow, lined with danger, and filled with darkness at times. But we have a light that will not go out and cannot be turned off. The light of Christ burns bright within us, and wherever we go we will not go alone." (Emily P Freeman, Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World)

{Emily P. Freeman's newest book, Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World releases today in the U.S. She has given me much to think about in the words she shares. I was taken with this idea early in the morning on the first Tuesday on this year while my life was like a string of Tuesdays and Emily introduced #itssimplytuesday on Instagram. It's a rather lovely place to sit and share snippets of our lives.}

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

12 Roses for 12 Months

A rose for every month to celebrate this anniversary — a year today since my open-heart surgery was booked.

God's mercy, grace, goodness and faithfulness can startle you with such breathtaking beauty. 

So much has happened in this year. I haven't been able to process it all. Maybe, I never will. But, slowly, pieces unfold again and I see a little less fuzzy when I open my eyes to God's mercies that are new every morning. In moments that are like when you flip through old snapshots that give you an idea of the big picture. I get another quick glance back when I am standing in my brown birks with my arms full of a white flower box and I open it up and it's filled with roses of many colours and I'm speechless.

Until these roses arrived in my driveway I had not even recognized the significance of this day. Then I remembered that a year ago today, I sat looking out on Crystal Lake not sure how to take the next step forward after the conversation I had just had with the heart surgeon's secretary. She made it so matter of fact, so simple; a square on the calendar at the end of the month. That square was the only hope I had for having any more than 365 of those squares.

And as my loving family who sent me these roses reminded me, it is: "a year since you started preparing to say good-bye to your family, a year of upheaval and change, a year of miracles and blessings, a year of suffering and pain, a year of prayers and petitions, a year full of physical and spiritual family buoying you mentally, emotionally, physically, a year of devastating lows and euphoric highs…a long year full of God's goodness and grace…"

Tonight, I look at these roses and I'm reminded how God makes all things beautiful in His time.

His mercy is new every morning.

Twelve roses for twelve months of God's abundant blessing poured out so full that my life is brimful of God's goodness. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

An Open Letter {On #NursesWeek} to The Nurses Who Cared Every Step of the Way

My Dear Nurses at Toronto General CVICU,

The word nurse, it comes from Latin and means a “person who nourishes”.

That is exactly who you all are. You are people who nourish.

The dictionary defines nourish as “supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to strengthen, build up”. That is what you do!

You do it all with compassion. You feel the depth of the suffering right in your gut and you spring into action. You take care of the suffering. You attend to the needs of your patient. You give a piece of your heart, your self, to the sick. You humble yourself to the one that has been laid low.

In your giving . . . in your caring . . . in your nourishing . . . you have the opportunity to build up the weak to health and strength and life. No, you don’t create life, but you take the broken hearts, broken lives in your hands, and you have the privilege to help to bind up their wounds, heal the broken bodies, comfort the weary, encourage the frightened, relieve the worried, and cheer on the disheartened.

But, perhaps, no one reminds you of these things. It's possible that all you have sacrificed has not been properly recognized.

You give your energy, attention, intelligence and strength, for twelve hours straight, day after day, doing the most mundane and humbling of duties intermingled with the most extraordinary and life-saving feats and, maybe, you think all you do goes unnoticed and unappreciated?

Let me tell you: You are simply amazing!

Following my open-heart surgery at the tail end of summer in 2014, I had the privilege of experiencing firsthand for 80 days how you serve and nourish every step of the way. You cared for me and my family and you are not forgotten and ‘thank you’ doesn’t seem to cut it.

Remember, how you all nursed me back to health?

Oh, I’m not only talking about all the obvious medical care you so diligently accomplished like pulling out the drainage tubes, alleviating pain, changing bandages and bedsheets, repositioning me in my bed, and ordering a special gel mattress to prevent further sores, keeping PICC lines clear, checking stitches and ulcers and vitals and my INR and elevated CO2 levels, suctioning my tracheostomy tube, emptying the suction cup, and commode, and catheter bags, taking care of oxygen tanks and feeding tubes and IV poles laden down with feeds and bags and bags of saline water and antibiotics, documenting pages and pages of meticulous patient notes and numbers, administering meds, asking every. single. day. if I had had a bowel movement {Really? I mean . . . Seriously!!!}, and watching my weight and heart rate and blood pressure.

In CVICU, these tasks are assumed. And you performed them well.

But, you all went above and beyond and took care of ME and MY FAMILY.

The way you sprinted like an Olympic runner across the Atrium to call a Code Blue for me when my tracheostomy tube blocked and I started into respiratory failure and wasn't anywhere near my ICU room.

You faithfully came to my bedside when I called in panic and fear from ICU psychosis and drugs, held my hand, wiped my brow, and offered a shoulder to weep on when I desperately missed my children.

We shared stories about our families and life—weddings, anniversaries, childbirth, vacations, what we believed about God and His grace in our lives.

You brilliantly figured out a way to wash my hair with water when I couldn’t get my tracheostomy incision wet, then later whisked me in a wheel chair to the shower room so for the first time in weeks and weeks so I could feel hot water stream all over me like a fresh waterfall after a long arduous journey, and you ran to your locker to get me your own shampoo.

You worked wonders so I (along with and all my medical contraptions) could sit outside in the glorious sunshine after a month of being cooped up in my four walls and beeping machines and fluorescent lights.

You used warm water to add to crushed meds to prevent further discomfort from my feeding tube. 

You brought me books and movies and bundles of scrap paper for my clipboard and you responded to all my requests scrawled in my broken cursive. You wrapped me in warm blankets and helped me get dressed when I didn’t have the strength to dress myself.

The wonder of the times when you walked into my room, assessed the situation, and had me moved to a bigger and brighter room, wept with me, laughed with me, prayed with me, and had my room filled with praise music and asked me about my children whose photos were posted all over the walls.

Remember, how you curled my hair, and spilled into my room to sing “Happy Birthday” to me and you even called from home on your day off to wish me “Happy Birthday”.

A week later you congratulated Jon and I for our wedding anniversary—when I was too swollen to wear my wedding rings, couldn't even eat a fancy meal to celebrate 15 years, and I felt sorry for myself, but then reminded myself I was still here to do life with the man I love.

And then you planned for my family to have a Thanks-giving Swiss Chalet meal together in the staff room—all inclusive with the Wii, and you planned a birthday party for my son and you ordered in pizza and blew up balloons and gave treats to my children.

Ah, you cheered me on when I walked laps in the halls as though I was training for a marathon, and you coaxed me on for a month while I weaned off my tracheostomy mask, and you gave me a chocolate bar when I passed my swallowing test, and cried with me when I could speak again. You understood my relief when my bleeding finally stopped and my mind cleared up and I became more me again instead of the patient inflicted with strange hallucinations and vivid delusions.

I’m so thankful you extended your care to my husband who faithfully stayed by my side and lovingly sacrificed so much to do so—and you trained him in Nursing 101 and helped him with paperwork. 

You kept reminding me to keep on “moving forward”.

You thought of ways that would make going home a reality, all the while jesting with me that you were ‘keeping’ an eye on me’ that I wouldn’t devise an ‘exit plan’ of my own.

This list could potentially never end. However, my time with you did.

Staying in CVICU for 80 days is nothing I would ever want to endure again, but you, the people who nourish, my nurses, made my time bearable and you sent me off on my way with cheers and prayers, and words of encouragement.

I left behind new friends and came home to be with my family where I belong. My affection for you all is deep like an ocean and my appreciation for you all is as great as the heavens.

I thank God for you all and the way He has made you to nourish others. And, I think you are all simply amazing.

Rebekah Hughes

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

An Open Letter to Dr. David: Top Heart Surgeon in the World

Dear Dr. David, 

Six months ago you strode, tall and distinguished in your white doctor’s coat with your determined step, into a hospital room at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre in Toronto General and sat down at the end of the bed beside me and offered to perform high-risk open-heart surgery as I was in class III heart failure. I presume you have done this thousands of times, but it was a first for me. You are the world's best heart surgeon, so I read on Google after I met you initially on the telehealth video conference appointment the month prior. You caught me by surprise on that video with your confidence that you could so easily fix my heart when all other doctors I had met had told me my medical situation was not an easy one to remedy.

You may not remember, but I asked you who would do the surgery. You laughed out loud and said you would as though you stated the obvious. I didn’t even realize who you were. Yes, I immediately dug up all the online information I could find on you. You were a bright boy born in the 1940’s and you ran around bare-footed with your brothers in Brazil. You didn’t have any interest in medicine and you were repulsed by sight of blood, but your father pushed you to pursue excellent things and you found your passion in heart surgery. One article claimed you trained Dr. Oz—the famous television doctor—and past patients testified of your incredible accomplishments and compassionate bed-side manner. I read about the David Procedure—the heart procedure named after you because you developed it. I didn’t know my cardiologist had referred me to the top cardiovascular surgeon in the world. I felt very privileged and humbled.

I was still doubtful you would take me on. However, you were our only option. So, as long as you were up to the investigation, I would walk through this open door. I began to see that God had placed you in my life for such a time as this. I also began to sense that God had placed me in your life for such a time as this. I was not going to be an easy patient, even for the most talented, brilliant, creative and innovative heart surgeon in the world. When your secretary called to book the pre-investigative tests, we stepped forward in faith, pleading with God to guide us and give you, the surgeon, wisdom and that it would all result in glory to God.

Back to the meeting in the hospital on that humid night as August was wrapping up. You were certain you could replace my aortic valve and if you did—I would live—but, if you didn’t—I would have, at the most, two years longer to live. You reminded me there would be significant risks because of my 30% lung capacity and there would be a hard year-long recovery. I asked you, if I was your daughter, what would you do; would you go ahead with such a risky surgery? Yes, you submitted you would. You suggested Jon and I discuss it and you turned and vanished from the room like a wave upon the shore, tossing from over your shoulder that you would return within the hour to hear what Jon and I would decide. Jon and I bowed our heads together and prayed to the God who accepts our praise and hears our petitions that His will be done. 

When you rushed in again, we agreed we would proceed with the surgery and I confessed to you of the countless people not only praying for me, but also for you. Ah, you said, I was a very religious woman. By the end of my extended stay in ICU, Dr David, you could only turn your hands up towards heaven and say that you believed that Providence had a hand in my life. Oh, I am not ashamed to proclaim it's definitely more than religion! The very hand of God is active in our lives and desires an intimate relationship with the ones He has created for His glory.

The next afternoon I climbed onto the operating table. My eyes scanned the sterile room and your expert medical team—all focused on the task before them. The bright lights, gleaming equipment, machines and dedicated staff crowded the room. I was introduced to your team and as I lay vulnerable before them I thanked them for using their skills and knowledge and told them that many prayers were being offered for each of them. The somber atmosphere in the room mingled with their hopeful, confident and optimistic attitudes. I spoke a few words, but mostly committed my heart, life, and loved ones into the hands of the Greatest Physician as the sedation flowed through my blood and caused me to enter a deep sleep.

Jon described how solemn you were when you finished in the operating room on August 29th and your presence filled the waiting area. You hushed my sister who cheered when you reported that I came through the surgery because you were not sure if I would make it through the night or the next 24 hours. Jon was with me for the whole roller coaster ride of those 80 days in cardiovascular ICU while we fought for my life and then anticipated going home to our family, which turned out to be harder than I ever could have imagined.

You explained to us that when you broke apart my sternum you could not have anticipated how dreadful my heart really was—buried under clay-like tissue and altogether in the wrong position. You answered my endless questions that I scrawled on scrap paper because I had no voice and you drew diagrams, on the old clipboard I somehow acquired, of how you carved out eggshell shattered parts of my heart and replaced it with healthier arteries. The day you acknowledged God’s hand at work, you shared with us that you would not have attempted surgery had the investigative tests shown more accurately what you found hidden in my chest wall. My arteries were so terribly calcified from radiation treatment thirty-five years ago that my heart could have and would stop at anytime within the coming year had we not gone ahead with surgery. We are so thankful that God provided and had prepared you in your wisdom and knowledge, creativity and innovation, and speed to take my heart that had been so severely damaged by radiation and make it as good as you could.

It all reminds me of a verse that says: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” You have performed phenomenal surgeries on over fifteen thousand sick hearts in your life so far. You have touched the lives of countless individuals. How can we ever thank you for using your God-given talents on my heart and impacting the lives of so many of our family and friends? Your name is respected among all who were praying, loving and supporting us.

We thank God for you and continue to pray for you and your heart. You know sick hearts and the only One who truly sustains all of life knows yours. You invest so much time and energy into the hearts of others. I pray that God would grant you His mercy and grace, that He would reveal to you what is in your heart and that you would know how He demonstrated His love to you in that while your heart was still sick with sin, God sent His Son to deal with that sin by His death, and cover you in His righteousness by His resurrected life. This is Good News for all who believe, by faith alone, that though we were dead in sin we have been made alive in Christ.

I know you are a busy doctor, husband, father who has made incredible commitments to and sacrifices in helping others. I am burdened for your heart. You have had made an extraordinary difference in my life. You and I have shed tears together over the good things God has done in my life, despite how difficult my life has been from a medical perspective, and how God has blessed me with a husband who has loved me so well in sickness and in health, and three miraculous children. I will never forget you. My children look up to you. Jon could never repay you for what you have done for us! 


Now, six months later I wonder what you thought when you stood for over six hours to replace my valve, repair my arteries and rebuild my damaged heart only to see me turn blue at the end of it all when I was lifted off the operating table. Or when my only functioning lung collapsed and developed pneumonia, and I went into respiratory failure, needed to be re-intubated, then endured a tracheotomy for a month and I could not smell, eat, or talk, and finally my phrenic nerve and diaphragm proved to be damaged. This may seem like everyday routine to you, but what a privilege you have to make such a profound impact on so many lives in this world. I am grateful your father pushed you to pursue what has become your passion.

You will be thrilled to know that I am off all assisted oxygen and God continues to heal my body. My new heart valve is extremely loud and can be incredibly annoying, except we are thankful for every tick we hear as God has purposed my life to remain here for this time for His good and glory and to be a blessing to others. I hope it is.

I could write so much more, but you have hearts to operate on, so I don’t dare take any more of your time. The only thing I miss about 80 days in CVICU is the compassionate and inspiring people we met and grew to love!

You are one of them.

Sincerely, your heart patient who continues to pray for your heart,


Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sharing a Baker's Dozen of Things I've Learned in February 2015

I feel like I have nothing to say, until I sit down and gather what I've learned in a month. At first, I wonder if I gained knowledge about anything and then I come up with over a dozen of amazing, interesting, or who-really-cares things that I learned in the past 28 days.

"We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul,
a hope . . . "
{Hebrews 6:19}

1.) February has been a month of silence and feeding my soul.

I continue in this journey of healing and one of the greatest battles in it is guarding my mind. It's too easy to go down the wrong thought pattern. I read this quote this month by Elizabeth Elliot, in Loving God with All Your Mind:
"people who have themselves experienced both grief and fear know how alike those two things are . . . They are equally disabling, distracting, and destructive."
I know this to be true! I'm learning that we just can't block these emotions, we have to replace it with something. I've been actively replacing them with good things, things that are true, lovely—music, sermons, theology, classic literature, handwriting thank you cards, testimonies, reading books, looking for beauty in life as it is, scrubbing sinks, appreciating how God continues to take care of us through caring people. I've got a long way still to go on this road, but I'm learning. Slowly!
"The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:5,6

2.) I found out on the first day of this month that I became an Aunt for the 23rd time. I also had the privilege to learn what an incredible honour it is to have a precious new life, not from my own womb, to share my name.

I love you, thank God for you and pray your life will always bring glory to His name, Keira Hope Rebekah.

3.) And then . . . !! my baby grew up and turned five years old this month!! I'm learning what it is to slow down and to savour every single moment. She learned to snap her fingers yesterday and her joy. is. contagious.

4.) So are all the sick bugs that won't leave our house!

I've learned that the shortest month of the year can drag on for what seems like forever. It doesn't help that I have lived like a hermit this winter. I look forward to sipping my morning coffee on the back deck in a few months. And, yeah, in about four months I'll be cranking up the air conditioning when instead of -40 degrees celsius with the windchill it'll be +40 degrees celsius with humidity.

5.) Speaking of weather, I learned that it has been the coldest February in Canada in 115 years!! It's sunny and balmy today at -9. {Oh, wait! I looked again and it's -2 now. Spring is in the air!}

6.) Some studies this month, revealed that my oxygen saturation levels remain fairly stable during sleep, so it appears that six months post my open-heart surgery my body is back to managing its oxygen levels on its own. Praise God for His healing mercies in my body!

7.) Yes, that is six months this weekend that I have been recovering from high risk open-heart surgery. I came across the surgeon's two-page summery of the operation yesterday and still can hardly grasp all that was done to my heart and what I have been healing from. God surely does heal broken hearts!

8.) Broken hearts and this broken world that breaks my heart over and over. Murders, martyrs, hateful wars on social media between parents who love their children, the conversations we are forced to have with our children in spite of desperately wanting to allow them their innocence that they deserve, new curriculum that reveals just how far we have rejected God and He has revealed His wrath. But God! He has provided a way to be saved from His wrath and made righteous in His Son. This is Good News!

I spent a lot of time this month meditating on the Good News of the Gospel of God that Paul talks about to the church in Rome. You ever wonder if the Bible is relevant for today? Start reading in Romans 1 and you will see just how relevant those words written around AD 56 are for today.

9.) I also learned a lot reading this bookPlight of Man And the Power of God by D.M. Lloyd-Jones. A must-read for anyone who proclaims the Gospel of God! Go here for an online version.

10.) Another book by D.M. Lloyd-Jones that I read and learned a great deal about growing more intimate in our relationship with God: Seeking the Face of God: Nine Reflections on the Psalms. Another highly recommended read!

11.) So while, apparently, almost the rest of the world was watching the Oscars, I was listening to a sermon and realized that I am such a nerd. I'm ok with that. The Oscars may be glitzy, but the Good News is glorious! The more I learn, the more I learn that I've got so much more to learn. I'm thankful for friends that can completely relate. Kindred spirits.

12.) All that glitters is not gold? It's true, like the rest of the world, I learned that things aren't always what they appear. My husband and girls say they saw blue and black while my son and I subtracted the blue in our brains and totally saw gold and white. Hmm, #thedress that broke the internet?

13.) One more thing. I learned that I needed to hush some of the noise in my life, or rather, what I contribute to it. I deleted a certain app on my phone that causes me too much distraction in my daily life and prevents me from looking into real faces. Now, I occasionally log in the old fashioned way, check messages, and sit for a bit like a wallflower, but I'm silent in the conversations; taking a break from likes, comments, shares. It may be gone for forty days, maybe longer?

{I am still on Instagram —because I challenged myself to get out everyday—sharing my #greatoutdoors365 shots. I missed three days this month.}

*Linking with Emily at Chatting at the Sky.

**Photo 4—courtesy of my Mom—my firstborn holding her newest cousin

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Eight Things I've Learned {about healing from Open-Heart Surgery} in January

One thing that helps me write is doing so in "community" and one community that I have enjoyed is Emily's "Let's Share What We Learned in {the Past Month}". Unless I take a peek over my shoulder on the past, I don't always appreciate the lessons I've learned. It is beneficial to acknowledge them and then move forward—one step at a time.

Which brings me to the first thing I learned.

1. I was struggling to come up with a "One Word" for 2015. I process my thoughts pretty slowly (as most things I do) and was mulling over half a dozen words but they didn't quite fit. I was sitting in the rocking chair, while Jon was preparing supper, stirring something in a pot on the stovetop. I threw out the question, "Jon, what do you think my word should be for this year?" As fast as he could give that something one more stir, he tossed back the perfect word: "Endurance".

It was a reminder of how much we have grown together in the last half of 2014 and how much we need to keep pressing on in this race that has been set before us.

2. Life, at times, feels like a marathon with the finish line never-ending-miles away, but in the grand scheme of things, it's really a 100 foot sprint. Life is a vapour and all life will fade away. So, I've learned once again that life doesn't always go the way we dream or plan. And along the way, God places people to cheer us on when we are not sure we can put one foot forward. In times of trial and transition, we need these people. We have been blessed with many.

When we found out that there were such people desiring to help our family in the area of our children's education while I continue to gain strength and recover, it made the transition from home to a small local Christian School so much easier than I could have ever imagined. And I've learned that my children have transitioned well.

I've also learned all about new things that come with "going to school" such as: "Have you unpacked your lunch-bag?" (or else the cut peppers that didn't get eaten for lunch are a smelly mess on Sunday evening), "Have you finished all your homework?" and such things like, "Look at the new dance move I learned in school today!"

3. I am a firm believer that fresh air and sunshine and the beauty of creation will do a lot to heal the body and mind. But, on days that I'm feeling crummy I don't necessarily want to step out into the freezing cold. So, yeah, I challenged myself at the beginning of the month to get outside everyday this year and snap a photo of something beautiful while I am out in the great outdoors. I've missed only once so far because it was minus-crazy degrees Celsius out (that converts to -30 something with the windchill) and my oxygen hose would have frozen in five seconds flat. 

You can follow on Instagram, if you wish, and join me at the hashtag #greatoutdoors365. Let's get out there!

4. Playing games is another way that I've learned that has been helping me in my recovery. Part of the recovery process is emotional healing. Coming home after 80 days in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit, I experienced shell-shock and ongoing Post-traumatic Stress from the surgery and prolonged stay in the hospital. It would be an understatement to say that coming home, although wonderful and what I had longed for, was extremely difficult. My Mom, helped me during these times, by playing board games with me—something to get my mind engaged in thoughts other than the negative ones of what had happened and what I thought was going to happen!

If you come for a visit, be prepared to play a game of Quirkle, Skip-Bo, Bananagrams, Card games, Settlers, Blokus, anything. I'll even play Vanna, in our vintage game of Wheel of Fortune. Just please don't ask me to play Uno or Risk (too many times).

An added bonus is that games are a fun way for four year olds to learn and review number sequencing, patterns, colours, and how to win and lose well (yeah, no mercy in games in this house). 

5. The new hardware in my heart is noisy. The more quiet the house is (which is what has happened since the "First Day of School"—see number 2) the more I can hear my valve click shut. If you are ever sitting beside me in relative quiet, you might mistake me for a clock or a ticking time bomb. I'll be glad when I've learned to grow accustomed to the sound. For now, what I have learned is the best way I could explain it to my littlest one as I was tucking her into bed and she was concerned about "that sound—'do you hear THAT BOOM BOOM sound?'" was to tell her: "the ticking is because Dr. David fixed my heart that was sick and now we can hear this message (spoken in staccato): 'Ma-ma-loves-La-el-Ma-ma-loves-Lael'" over and over and over. She was delighted to hear that. But then, that got her thinking and the next thing she was trying to figure out was how that sound got there and her jaw dropped before she could say, with her hands punctuating her words, "You mean, Dr. David cut you open and cut open your heart! He, like, cut open your skin, and cut your heart!" Oh dear, the things we have to learn in life. 

6. In a hot bath recently, I counted on my fingers all my nieces and nephews. There are enough that I keep forgetting the number and I think such profound thoughts like that late at night these days. I'm waiting for my sister to deliver her baby that will make me an Aunt for the 23rd time. She is on my mind a lot these days and in thinking about my sister's stage of waiting to deliver, for some reason it helped me to act as midwife to release some of my own words

7. Words go well with tea or coffee or a sweet vanilla latte. I could never figure out why anyone would drink hot water, when all these other options are available, but it has become my "special-tea". Other than a morning coffee, I've been having a hard time drinking a full cup of tea since my surgery, so I tried hot water (so as not to waste all the tea and milk). I learned that this "special-tea" of mine is quite soothing and found that the plain and simple does me just fine right now, thank you.

8. Water is a basic human need. As is oxygen. A wonderful thing I learned this month, and is an answer to the prayers of many, is how my body has healed in terms of the oxygen I needed. I came home from the hospital on assisted oxygen and had a 50 foot line trailing behind me, yanking on my nose whenever somebody's foot, mine or the others in the house, tripped on my 'tail'. No one could tell me for sure if my body would ever be able to be free from assisted oxygen. Healing takes time and the hardest thing to do when you want healing to come is wait for it. Which is why "Endurance" is such a good word for me this year (see number 1).

Well, for a few weeks now, my oxygen saturation stats have been holding stable during the day. It has been a lesson in how our bodies have been made to heal, but that healing takes time. And the only way to move forward is to take one step at a time, trusting in the One who heals.
". . . we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

And now after delivering all these words in the midst of a loud household on a Saturday, I need to go take a deep breath in the great outdoors, come in for a hot cup of my 'special tea', play a game or two of 'President' before a hot bath with the music (thank you Christa Wells and Nicole Witt for sharing your beautiful songs) cranked up loud to drown out the tick-tick-tick of my new heart valve.

Maybe then, I will hear that I've become an Aunt once again. (See number 6).

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Need For Endurance to Run This Race {Life After Open-Heart Surgery}

Words that breath life cannot be birthed until they have been carried to full term and made ready to be delivered.

I've been burdened with the weight of bearing these words, but unable to bring them forth. I've been stuck and some might call it writer's block, but you'd have to consider yourself a real 'writer' to blame the block. It's more like they, the words, have been choked deep down inside me and I was too weak and weary to release them. Now, lately, they have been keeping me awake at night and I wonder if it's time to start gently labouring. To take some deep breaths and bear down in the pain and see what beauty might begin to emerge.

So, I'll take the role of midwife and speak softly and firmly to the heart and soul holding onto these words deep within and remind her to let go of the fear and with courage and love and a whole lot of brave to ease these words out and surrender them and trust.

There have been so many lessons of surrender and trust in the One who is Sovereign and breaths life into all and sustains life and is Life. But to hold onto them so tightly and refuse to let them out, well, they will only intensify the pain and not do anyone any good. The time has come to let them out into the world, wrap them up to be received, and hand them over that others can share in the blessing of the Suffering and Joy.

Five months ago today, this heart thought she was brave when she was wheeled into high-risk open-heart surgery, but coming out of it was a whole new story. For weeks after, when her body baffled even the wisest of Doctors, set-backs were relentless, and Death was a persistent knock at the door, she wanted to welcome it. And then she would remember that she had a husband and three young children and she would find that she was stuck in the middle of Living and Dying. Her husband would stand by her side and plead with her, look straight as arrows into her eyes and tell her that it's not her time for answering That Call and he firmly believed that God was not finished with her here on earth. "To live is Christ and to die is gain", she would scratch with her pencil on the clipboard when she had no voice and she would try to find a middle ground. But, with Living and Dying there is no middle ground, only Looking to Jesus so as to not grow weary and lose heart in the Living and run with endurance till we come to the end.

She knows her days, like everyone's, are numbered, but fear keeps her from, at times, living each one to the fullest. Every moment of her days she needs to surrender her life to and trust the One who knows every intimate detail of her time on this orbiting earth.

But, when Death is meddling with your Living, this trust confronts an entirely new vulnerability. She weeps in the darkness and through tears sees that it's not so much the welcoming of Death, but it's the desire for the Suffering to end. And when she keeps waking up and there is no end of Suffering on this spinning globe, she stands face to face with Grief. This Grief keeps her company for days and reminds her that Suffering is a result of Sin but at the same time this same Suffering transforms her, one degree at a time, into the very likeness of the Son of God. The One who endured Suffering for her sake and conquered Sin that she might know Life Eternal. And she learns all over again that God's glory shines brightest in her darkest days.

She's swollen with painful memories, but somewhere in the middle of Surrender and Trust is the Hope that she keeps speaking about to her own soul.

There is life to be lived,
lessons to be learned,
strength to be gained,
grace to be received,
glory to be revealed.

There are words that breath life and need to be birthed and Grace and Gospel to be spoken to her own soul to keep her moving forward with Hope in God. To prod her on to take one step more, one step more, give her faith for one step more, and with the need for endurance to run this race set before her even as it dips into deep valleys and great Suffering. For as she moves forward and along the way, she will find that Joy has been waiting for her in the midst of Suffering all along.

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