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)

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.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Night Before Open-Heart Surgery

"The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit."
{Psalm 34:18}

This road has been extremely hard. I cannot say it any other way.

I'm weary. There is still a lot of hard to come.

The days of tests and waiting have come to an end (for now). Through them we have had an incredible peace.

Today we were told once again that my aortic valve needs to be replaced. If it is not replaced, my heart would stop most likely before I turn 40.

For the first time we were told by the heart surgeon that he was confident he could do it. It will be very high risk but I will be in good hands. For that we are so grateful.

I'm being prepped for open-heart surgery for 12pm tomorrow.

The only way forward is complete trust and surrender into the Lord's hands.

I know many are praying and we flat out beg you not to stop. Your prayers are upholding us through this time.

There are too many risks and requests to list here tonight, but we told Dr. David that many would be praying for him.

Pray for God's hand to be at work and that He would be exalted through all of it.

Thank you for walking with us.

{You can find a prayer schedule to keep the prayer constant here.}

{Updates will be made on the A Soft Gentle Voice Facebook page}

"When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid." 
{Psalm 56:3,4}

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Praying with the Hope of the Gospel

"Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body . . . " {Philippians 1:18-20}

Our family has been humbled by the prayers of many saints and we give thanks for all who have partnered with us in proclaiming the goodness, faithfulness and unfailing love of God for the sake of the kingdom of God.

Tomorrow {August 27} I will be admitted to the hospital in Toronto at 11 am for more investigative testing to determine if open-heart surgery that has been scheduled for Friday {August 29} will be possible.

Our local church has set up a prayer clock for family and friends to be praying over the next few days in 15 minute intervals. If you are burdened to continue to join us in praying and you would like to commit to a time, you can find the times available here.

As we journey on, and you walk with us it is my prayer that you would turn your eyes toward Jesus and "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity."

"May I say to all I meet,
I am journeying towards the Lord’s given place,
come with me for your good." 
{Valley of Vision} 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

How to Fully Trust ~ Words of Wisdom for the Weekend

"Paul . . . learned a lesson that he never forgot; to rejoice in his infirmities. He said that the weaker he was the better it was for him. For when he was weak, he was strong in his Lord Christ. 
"Ah, yes, God will have to bring us down very low. A sense of emptiness and despair and nothingness will have to come upon us. It is when we sink down in utter helplessness that the everlasting God will reveal Himself in power. Then our hearts will learn to trust God alone.
"What is it that keeps us from trusting Him perfectly?
"Many say: "I believe what you say, but there is one difficulty. If my trust were perfect and always abiding, all would come right, for I know God will honor trust. But how am I to get that trust?
"My answer is by the death of self. The great hindrance to trust is self-effort. So as long as you have got your own wisdom and thoughts and strength, you cannot fully trust God. But when God breaks you down, when everything begins to grow dim before your eyes and you see that you understand nothing, then God is coming near. If you will bow down in nothingness and wait on God, He will become all. 
"As long as we are something, God cannot be all. His omnipotence cannot do its full work. That is the beginning of faith; utter despair of self, a ceasing from man and everything on earth and finding our hope in God alone."
"Let us say: My God, let my life be a proof of what the omnipotent God can do. Let these be the two dispositions of our souls every day: deep helplessness, and simple, childlike rest."
~ Andrew Murray, "Absolute Surrender" (pp122-123) 

Christa Wells: "How Emptiness Sings". If you cannot see this video, click here.


A Soft Gentle Voice

For other Words of Wisdom for the Weekend posts see here.}

Thursday, August 14, 2014

4 Lessons Learned While Walking a Hard Road with a Friend ~ Titus 2 Tips {on Thursdays} A Guest Post

When Rebekah asked me to guest post for this series, I decided quickly that I was going to write about teeth.

I wasn’t sure how it would fit into Titus 2 . . . maybe somewhere around drinking too much wine – red wine stain doesn’t polish off easily!! I could make it work. I am a dental hygienist. Talking about teeth is easy, it’s safe and it comes naturally to me. Blogging is scary, hard and something I have never done before.

But God. I have spoken those words to myself dozens of times over the past few days as I knew he was calling me out of my comfort zone to share from my heart.

But God. Those words have carried me through the past 2 years as I have watched my closest friend face trials that I can’t even begin to understand. I have walked through all of my adult life with this woman. We’ve talked on the phone until 2am, stood at the front of the church when each other got married, held each others babies in their first hours and even by the grace of God raised our families on the same street for a few years. We have discussed theology until it was too late to think straight, texted each other out of bed at 6am to read through the Bible and tried to be spiritually accountable to each other. It’s been a blessing to learn and grow alongside her but its been truly amazing to stand and marvel from the sidelines as I have watched God bring her faith to life like never before over the past 2 years. There have been many doubts and fears in the process But God has proven Himself faithful repeatedly even as He has chosen to deepen the trials in her life beyond what she could have ever imagined. Any of you reading this blog has read my friend's story and can’t deny that God Himself penned it from page 1. 

I have told her story to many people. Sometimes to encourage them and sometimes to ask for prayer and I get excited every time I get to tell of all the ways that God has shown Himself so undeniably real in her life. You see God loves to write stories like this. Life stories that seem to glorify Him even more every time we tell them and that He can use to glorify Himself in others and teach them about Himself.

I have learned many lessons these past two years.

Watching Rebekah’s story unfold God has taught me that I really can trust Him fully with my future, an area I have struggled in fear with letting go of for years.

He has taught me that His Word is sufficient for any trial He may choose to take me through. At one point Rebekah asked all of us not to try to understand what she was going through but just to always point her to the Word of God. She taught me an important lesson in those words.

She has taught me that it’s ok not to always understand - a difficult lesson for my analytical mind to learn and that it’s ok to cry but the best way to cry is with your hands lifted high. I have taken this literally many early mornings on my way to work (one hand still on the steering wheel of course) as I have ached for the pain that she has been called to experience.

She has taught me that even in suffering God gives us a special strength to minister His love to all the others hurting around us and that maybe entering into their suffering makes our own a little easier to bear . . . Oh how mysterious are His Mercies!

I think I can speak for all of your friends, family and blog readers Rebekah when I say that we thank God for you and the things He has used you to teach us. We are honoured that you have invited us to walk parts of this hard road with you. We love you and we are praying daily for you as you face the next steps on this road. We love recounting the deeds of the Lord in your life, we are thankful for the peace that he promises you and we are confident that we can trust Him in the coming days and wait in expectation to see how He chooses to glorify Himself in you next.

Melanie lives with her husband Matt and 4 children in Haliburton, Ontario. 
When she is not busy at home raising her young children She works as a Dental hygienist in a private dental clinic and also volunteers regularly at the Haliburton Volunteer Dental Outreach Clinic a non profit organization that provides free dental care to local adults in need. 
Her family is active in their local church and enjoy serving the Lord together in their local community.
A Soft Gentle voice
I am honoured to host these guest posts in this series on women mentoring women 
Some weeks you may find tips from the kitchen or healthy recipes, tools other women have used to grow spiritually, hints to help us build up and love our husbands, and lessons they have learned as they have walked along with their children to teach them to love God wholeheartedly, habits they have developed in keeping their home, ways they have worked on to keep their behaviour respectful, or rhythms that allow peace and rest in the home and hearts that dwell there within.
You will find all the posts in the series here. 
"Older women likewise are to be 
reverent in behaviour, 
not slanderers or slaves to much wine. 
They are to teach what is good, and so train 
the young women to love their husbands and 
children, to be self-controlled, pure, working 
at home, kind, and submissive 
to their own husbands,
that the word of God may not be reviled."

{Titus 2:3-5}

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