Saturday, October 30, 2010

From the Comment Section!

(This was too hilarious to leave hidden in the comments!)
Re: Friday's Tantalizing Advertising post:
Dave Hingsburger said...
This is too funny for words, the idea of the Bible cover as designed by the National Enquirer

MAN SWALLOWED BY WHALE: LIVES BY GUTS ALONE

GOD NAMED IN PATERNITY SUIT! WILL MARY SETTLE IN COURT?

BROTHER SWINDLES BROTHER IN DEATHBED SWITCHUP

CRAZY MAN BUILDS BOAT: SKY TURNS GREY

ADAM MARRIES EVE! PERFECT WEDDING OR IS THERE A SNAKE IN THE GRASS?

JOSHUA AND HIS TRUMPET: NEIGHBOURS COMPLAIN ABOUT NOISE

HE WITHOUT SIN THROW THE FIRST STONE JESUS ADVISES: MARY HITS ON FIRST TOSS

GOLD, FRANKINSENCE AND MYRHH: JOSPEH HEARD TO REMARK - WHAT ABOUT A CRIB?

MAN WALKS ON WATER: MIRACLE OR SHOWING OFF - HERE'S THE FACTS, YOU DECIDE

WATER TURNED INTO WINE: LIQUOR BOARD TO INVESTIGATE

OK Belinda and readers, over to you, any other headlines?

Note: Two readers took up the challenge:

How about-"HOOKER LOSES CONTROL-ENDS IN OILY MESS!" Poppy

Susan said...How about: TALKING DONKEY REMOVES ALL DOUBT!BALAAM IS THE ASS!

Here; Now

By Belinda

Rob took on the dishes left over from the last round of coffee, tea and treats with friends who spent the afternoon with us. It had been a wonderful time, sharing friendship, laughter, a delicious meal, and decadent fresh cream pastries and chocolate truffle cake--a feast!

Leaving Rob at the kitchen sink, I went upstairs to Rob's flat to get Bruce, and take him for his evening walk.

Dark was falling, and as I left Mum, she looked at the curtains, already closed, with a worried expression.

"Don't worry Mum," I assured her, "With Bruce along, no one would try anything. If they did, they would lose a few body parts."

She laughed, knowing that was true, and was reassured; although I knew she would not be at peace until I returned.

Bruce scampered with his short Staffordshire Bull Terrier legs, down Rob's stairs. I put on his lead at the bottom, and opened the door, bracing myself for his normal bullet-like charge into the world. A strong wind swirled golden leaves in the air and tugged at my hair, which I had securely tied back before leaving, pulling out tendrils.

Off we went, on a half hour walk through the village and around some old and familiar streets.

The wind carried the plaintive chime of the church clock to my ears as I climbed a hill walked countless times during childhood and teenage years.

I soaked in memories, and felt as though the wind carried long ago voices on it too, as I passed the house I lived in then, looking at the lighted windows, curtains drawn, and imagining...It wasn't hard to fancy that I could open the front door and find our family "then" behind it. On this dark and windswept evening in the ancient village, with the same trees standing sentinel, as stood 50 years ago, the line between past and present seemed to blur.

Later, firmly grounded again in the present, I sat beside Mum's bed on a small wooden laundry hamper, knowing that I only had one more night to enjoy this time of evening; this hour of quiet conversation and comfortable thinking silences.

Mum swallowed several times and said that she had indigestion. I had slight indigestion too, after indulging in such feasting. And Mum had surprised us by having not only a slice of chocolate truffle cake, but eating a cream scone with gusto. Not usually a big sweet eater, she really seemed to relish every bite!

After a few minutes of us both being lost in our own thoughts, Mum spoke words into the silence that made me laugh out loud in agreement.

"It was worth it."

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tantalizing Advertising


By Belinda

When I saw the magazine at the checkout in Sainsbury's, I thought of Brenda. She is a Corrie fan and almost her last words to me as I left Canada were, "Make sure you tell me what's happening on Coronation Street." Since the episodes in Canada are several months behind England, anyone returning holds precious details on upcoming storylines. Helen Worth plays a longstanding character, Gail.

This morning though, it was the "Age-defying beauty secrets" that caught my eye as the magazine lay on the coffee table. "6 easy steps to younger glowing skin." Cool! So I turned to the index and found the article. As usual, the headline overstates the information shared! I fall for it every time. I had to check to see; "Is this 'it?' Do I have the right page?";as I perused an article with no startling "secrets." I am always hopeful. :)

Of course, tantalizing promises sell magazines. Who can blame the publishers? Writing great headlines is a skill. But it got me thinking, "What if God emblazoned his book with similar headlines?" Wow, what great promises would fill the cover--and anyone looking inside would not be disappointed, but would find themselves delving deeper and deeper, and discovering truths that never grow dull. They would find themselves on a journey of valuable reading that would last a lifetime.

But God doesn't choose words to advertise  his treasure. Very scarily, he uses us. Oh, my goodness, yes.  He tells us in the epistles that we are a letter written for people to read about him (sorry, I don't have time to look up the reference at this moment.)

What a daily challenge. How well is he portrayed in my life? How successfully have I moved aside so that he can live and love through me?

People are tired of words, of being preached to. They will, I think, notice and respect a faith lived out. And perhaps they will consider opening the covers of a book that points the way.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Memories

By Belinda

Another bedside conversation follows the one where Mum could not remember her 80th birthday party.

"Did you enjoy looking at the photographs of your birthday today Mum?" I ask.

"Oh, yes," she says.

"And do you remember it now? And the time Brenda and Peter were here?"

Mum searches her memory and is slightly perplexed, but no; her expression says it all; she still doesn't remember, even though she loved looking at the photos of both events.

"It's just your short term memory, Mum, don't worry. As long as you remember who they are--and me! You do remember me don't you?" and we are both laughing now.

"And if you don't, it doesn't matter, I will remember you," I say.

But even that isn't absolutely certain! So I add, "And if I don't, then we will both recognize each other in heaven." We both laugh again, happy to think of that. There, that is securely sorted!

"Do you ever think of the past, Mum? About your childhood?"

Mum considers and then says, "Yes, sometimes I think about it but I don't like to think about those times."

"But remember when Auntie Corrie (Mum's eldest sister) got you all (Mum and two siblings) up at 4 o'clock one morning and dressed you all, ready to start celebrating her birthday?"

Mum laughs, "Yes, ready to celebrate her birthday!" We have often laughed at Auntie Corrie's "take charge" eldest sister personality that showed itself so early.

But Mum's past doesn't hold a lot of happiness. Even though she carries an inner flame of joy, she obviously doesn't take pleasure in thinking of the past. And my heart aches for a life that had so many dark shadows for one I love so much.

So I want to remind her of the happy times that I know were scattered like golden leaves on a pavement of gray.

"Remember your times with us in Canada, Mum? Remember when you helped Paul with roofing the house?"

Mum had stood by below and passed the tiles up to him. Mum smiles, "Yes, I remember."

"And remember when you came over when Peter had just been born, and how we would try to go for coffee and donuts, but always had to run home when he started crying?"

I tell her that I would not have survived my first three months of motherhood without her help; she who rocked a baby suffering from colic every evening from 6.00 pm when he would start crying, until late evening, thereby saving my sanity. She remembers that.

But then suddenly she says, "You...you are a happy memory, when you are there," looking at my face with the love I have been bathed in since birth; the love that has made me who I am.

And I am overwhelmed with the riches God has blessed me with in her.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hallelujah!

Hi Friends, My friend Mary Anne Swagerman, sent this link to me. I love the original Leonard Cohen version but this is beautiful!


How to Melt a Heart

By Belinda

Mum's life has a rhythm that works for her and my brother, Rob. I try not to mess with while I'm here.

I am conscious that I drop into their lives for two short weeks twice a year. I hope to be of support, comfort, blessing and use. It is easy for Mum to see me as especially attentive and loving and to forget how much Rob's constant support means. I remind her of how tenderly he cares and what he does, in spite of a back that is in terrible shape and feet that are flat and which hurt by the end of the day. When I do that she nods in acknowledgement and agrees, "Yes, he is so good."

I guard my time carefully, this time even more so because I am here for less than two weeks. Every hour with Mum is precious; she is my focus; the reason I am here.

The Helping Hands carers come each evening just after 7.00 and spend 20 minutes or so helping Mum through her bedtime routine. Rob is upstairs in his own flat after supper and comes back down at 8.00 to put in Mum's eye drops and give her the last puffs from her inhaler. By then she is already tucked up in bed, although she says that she doesn't usually sleep for several hours after that.

When I am here I enjoy the "between time" with Mum, the time after the Helping Hands carers leave and before Rob comes back. I sit on or beside the bed and we talk and say prayers.

Tonight she looks at the clock and it is not quite 7.30. "You have to sit here for half an hour," she says, calculating how long it is until Rob comes back, "You can go and sit down in the room."

I ask (with a smile)  if she is trying to get rid of me. "Why do you think I came?" I also ask, "I didn't come to watch television."

She relaxes then and with no pressure we have the best conversations of the day. "Next month it's my birthday," she says.

"Mum, you're trying to rush things, it's still October (her birthday is in December.)"

She looks surprised, "Oh, is it still October?"

And we laugh.

I ask if she remembers the 80th birthday party we had for her almost four years ago with her friends at the Sycamore Club. She digs deep into memory, but says, "No, I can't remember."

"You can't remember the cake? And the wine? The flowers?"

Mum can't. "Well!" I say, "I have the photos on my laptop."

"I'd like to see those tomorrow," she says with real interest.

She tells me how worried she was that after her fall on Friday she would have to go to hospital. Her expression registers distaste. "I've gone to hospital too many times lately."

"But sometimes it has helped, Mum," I say. And I remind her about last year, how she had a chest infection that wouldn't go away and how she lost her appetite and couldn't hold down the antibiotics. I had come over with Brenda and Pete had followed a few days later because we thought she was not going to pull through and this was their last chance to see her. But our coming had brightened her so much that she fought back, and a few days in hospital helped her back onto her feet. She can remember none of that. I have photos--we'll be looking at those tomorrow too.

I ask her, "Mum, is there anything at all I can get you while I'm here--anything that you would like?"

She is completely content and devoid of any sense of need or want of "things." She thinks only briefly before saying with sincerity, "No, I don't need anything."

I look at the nightie she's wearing; not worn out but well used, "What about a new nightdress?"

She shakes her head, "I don't need a new one."

"Well," I look at her bedding, which, similar to the nightie is far from new, "What about new bedding. Something bright and colourful."

And she takes my hand and says, "I've got you. You are bright and colourful."

And I think that my heart is about to melt.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chance Encounter

By Belinda

It was the Saturday morning of my crazy weekend before leaving for England; the weekend when I wasn't going to church, but did.

The phone rang and the voice on the other end said, "Are you busy?" It was my dear friend Frances.

"Busy? Just a little!" I thought with a wry smile.

"Not too busy for you," I said.

Then the words poured through the receiver, all of a jumble, catching me up on all the news of God afoot in my friend's life. Here is just a snippet:

It was Wednesday and Frances was at the Ganz warehouse sale with 10 year old Eden, one of my God daughters and my namesake (Belle is her middle name.) I was the one who cut her umbilical cord when Brian, her dad, gladly conceded that honour to me!

Eden had been so good all day, but had lost Frances in the store, so she went to the front where they made an announcement.

Frances didn't hear the first announcement because she was humming the new song we had learned as a worship team; the one that both worship teams would be joining together to sing at church on Sunday: How Great is Our God .

A beautifully dressed elderly woman, approached Frances and said, "I've heard of whistling while you work, but you're humming while you shop."

Frances said, "I'm worshipping!"

"You are?" said the woman, "What's the song?"

Frances starting singing the first line of the chorus, "How great is our God..."

And the woman sang the second line! "Sing with me, how great is our God."

Frances smiled, with eyes shining and threw her arms around her. She said, "We knew what we shared, but all the while I was thinking that I shouldn't be hugging a total stranger and I hoped she didn't mind."

"I said to her, 'If we never meet again, I know we'll meet in heaven and we'll remember this moment.'"

They began to share details of where they went to church and the woman told Frances that when her husband had passed away, 16 years ago, when she was 57, she made the decision to change churches because if she had stayed at the church they had attended together, she would  have died of grief. There were too many memories. She needed to break away and have a fresh start. Since then she had flourished in her new church, but she said, "The most growth has come froem the hard places--the valleys."

The woman continued, "I learned to pray, 'Lord, help me to be better, not bitter. It sounds trite, but it's all about being grateful; thankful for what we have; seeing God's face through the trials. God forms his image in us through trials."

"We were just babbling information like a brook," said Frances, "And I instantly loved this lady."

They talked about how to be unfocused on the storms, but so focused on the hand of God that we see the face of God.

The woman shared that her daughter struggled with stress and anxiety. Frances said that she would pray--she said she knew that kind of stress.

That was when Frances heard the announcement, which was being made for the second time, "Frances, please come to the front of the store, your daughter is here."

Frances saw the cashier waving at her. Eden burst into tears at the sight of her mom, who threw her arms around her and said, "You're safe."
She took with her a prayer, "Lord, help me to be better; to rise above the storm; to be better, not bitter."

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Birthday Surprise

By Belinda

They've been friends for 64 years, since Mum was 20 and Auntie May was 16. They had jobs at Farnborough Hospital in Kent and were part of a group of young women that came from Ireland; Holland and various parts of England.

World War 2 had just ended; they were young and still single. It was a happy, carefree time.

When Auntie May first met Mum, she went to her room to practice saying her name. She sat in front of her mirror and said it out loud over and over; a Dutch name spoken in a Geordie accent, "Pieternella Kaatje Janny Schipper!"

Auntie May looked up to see Mum standing in the doorway, her long hair as dark as hers was blond, listening to her with a smile. They became firm friends, as close as family, and stayed friends through six decades.

This weekend, Auntie May celebrated her 80th birthday. I timed my trip to England so that I could be here to be part of the celebrations with Robert. Auntie May's son Paul, whom I remember first as a little blond boy, a few years younger than Robert and me, flew in from Mexico, and Auntie May's sister was arriving from Switzerland.

We weren't sure if Mum would go with us as the journey to Auntie May's daughter Diane's home in north Wales is a two and a half hour journey; much further than she has traveled for a long time. Rob, the more cautious of the two of us, had misgivings about her going, but wanted Mum to make up her own mind and she decided that she was coming with us.

And so, mid morning on Friday, we were on our way, the three of us. Auntie May had no idea that we were coming.

Rob tried to text Diane when we were about to turn into her street, but couldn't get a signal on his phone, so we drove there and I helped Mum out of the car. While Rob went to park the car, Mum and I slowly made our way to the door, Mum holding tightly to my arm as she usually uses a walker.

When Diane opened the door, excitement filled the air. She said,"Come in, come in! I'll go and get my Mum, she will be so surprised!"

She hurried to the back of the house and I could hear her saying, "Mum there is someone at the door."

There was a six inch step into the house and without thinking Mum put one foot on it and I, definitely not thinking at all, took hold of both of her hands to support her as she stepped up. But then. her legs, not strong enough to manage stepping up, gave way; and with a soft cry, she began to slide down to the ground. It was a horrible moment, but even more horrible--the threshold had a raised metal lip to keep out the draught. Mum's weight pressed her shin against it, and her fragile flesh sustained an awful gash.

Auntie May arrived to find her friend in a heap, with blood gushing, and me applying pressure and calling for something to hold against it. The carpet surrounding Mum looked like a crime scene. Rob showed up from parking the car, took one look and said, "That'll be an ambulance."

Diane disappeared to call 999. She later said that she had never called 999 in her life before and had no idea what she would say when they answered.

I felt sick that my carelessness of our precious Mum had resulted in an injury that I knew would take months to heal.

The ambulance arrived, the attendants assessed the situation. and agreed she needed to go to Accident and Emergency. Auntie May grabbed her coat and climbed into the ambulance with Mum and I followed with Trudy, Auntie May's younger daughter and her Rob. My brother Rob stayed back with Uncle Tommy, Diane and Paul.

Auntie May said that she and Mum laughed all the way to Wrexham hospital and that she told Mum that she was trying to steal the limelight from her.

Mum was so brave, even through the ten excruciatingly painful injections to freeze the injured area, which had to be done directly into the wound. I so wished that I could take the pain for her and was in awe of how she held herself together with such strength.

She was carefully and skillfully patched together within a couple of hours and Trudy's Rob tenderly put her into the front seat of his sporty SAAB and drove us back to Holt, where we enjoyed a belated but delicious lunch and toasted Auntie May with champagne.

Tales were told, memories shared and laughter filled the room. Auntie May recalled Mum knitting a fine white lacy sweater and asking her if she could borrow the pattern. Mum said, "You can, but it's in Dutch." Auntie May said, "Well, can't you translate it?" Somehow together they managed and Auntie May knitted an identical sweater.

Diane, Paul and Trudy call Mum, "Auntie Nell." She, and their visits to our homes in Hagley and then Alvechurch, formed some of their happiest childhood memories. They remember our cat, Topsy, and visits to the Alvechurch playing fields as fondly as we remember our trips to South Shields and Marsden Rock in County Durham, near to Newcastle upon Tyne.

I am thankful to say that Mum is recovering amazingly well and not in too much pain. Her spirit and attitude are such an awesome example to me.

Tomorrow she will see the doctor for a dressing check and I am praying that her leg continues to be free from infection.

We surprised Auntie May; but in a way that we certainly had not intended!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I'll See You On Sunday

By Belinda

There are some things I just can't do.

Last week, for example. The days went fast as my flight to England approached. It felt a little like those movies where time jumping forward is illustrated by a calendar with the pages flying off in quick succession.

The work week was book-ended by Thanksgiving on Monday and an all day Managers meeting on Friday, with meetings every day in between and on Monday and Tuesday this week, too! I don't know what I was thinking when I planned my schedule. The answer--I wasn't.

I had some non-negotiable tasks requiring desk time that had to be accomplished before leaving. So in spite of the fact that my house was in a state of sad neglect, I knew that I'd be working on the weekend.

That was when I decided that I could take the pressure off by missing church on Sunday morning. I broke the news to Paul on Thursday morning. You have to understand--we never miss church, and to Paul, it is the first sign of going downhill fast! :) But he understood, he knew the pressure I was under and was very supportive.

Susan was going away for the weekend, and she understood. "Hey, you're going to be taking ten days of Sabbath," she said.

But for the rest of the week it was as if there was a conspiracy afoot. I said goodbye to Jamie after cell group, and wished him well on his upcoming vacation in Ireland. "That's okay, I'll see you on Sunday," he said. I bit my lip. I couldn't bring myself to say I wouldn't be there.

On Friday evening the family gathered for a special community event. At the end of it, Pete hugged me and said, "I'll see you on Sunday,  Mom." I made myself tell him I didn't think so, and why, but inwardly my heart lurched. But he understood and wished me a great vacation.

Saturday morning Frances called and said, "Are you holding a pen?" Her nickname for me is Quilla. I am the writer, she is the talker, and together we make a perfect pair of friends, as long as I can write fast enough. She had a great story for me which took over an hour to tell. She ended the call by saying breathlessly, "I've got to go. I've got 15 minutes to get ready for work. I'll see you tomorrow!" By now I was sensing that God was laughing at me. I didn't correct her.

I checked email. There was a message from Cheryl, the worship leader; to both worship teams. The new song--the song we had practiced on Wednesday night and I loved, loved, loved; was being introduced on Sunday and she invited both teams to join together to lead it.  She said to those of us who weren't slated to sing on Sunday (that would include me,) "We'll practice that song last; just come for the end of the practice." That did it! Nothing could keep me away now.

I had already been hearing a still small insistent inner voice saying that no matter who said that they understood why I wouldn't be there, gathering together with my church family and worshiping God was not the agenda priority for me to shelve.

I told Paul I was going after all. He looked confused but no more than usual when listening to me. The worship was incredible, the whole service was a blessing and I came home with two more stories, which will appear here on the blog very soon.

I know that church is not a building,  it is people, and it can be where ever we gather together, even on a blog. But wherever it is, while I have strength to be there, I'm not missing it.

Oh, and the work? I finally did it on Sunday evening and on Monday God poured out his blessing on the work that I did as only he could and in an incredible way.

Psalm 27:5-6 (New International Version)

5 For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.

6 Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the LORD
.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Some Good News from Sick Kids

Jenn Clark 22 October 07:27


Update: Wednesday and Thursday

I apologize to those who are waiting for news, but I'm finding it more difficult to find the time to be on here--I was home for two days, so I needed to be with my girls, and now I'm here in the hospital for two days, and Nick is often awake so I need to be with him. Anyway, I'm going to try and hit the important points of the last two days.

Nicholas slept all of Tuesday night and most of Wednesday morning, which was such a HUGE relief to us. One of our biggest concerns, as I think I've mentioned, is that he's hardly been sleeping at all. Once he woke up, though, it was a bit difficult: he was feverish and very agitated, trying to climb out of bed and not wanting anyone to touch him, crying a lot and hallicinating a bit as well. The doctors had starting trying to wean him off the morphine the night before, and they figured that was what was causing it--his body reacting to the lower dose. They put him back up to 100 mics, which both Jim and I found upsetting--he really doesn't need the morphine as much for pain any more, they seemed to be having trouble getting him off of it.

The doctors told Jim a bit later that they had decided to wait until after his bandages were changed on Thursday (because they up the pain meds and sedation for that anyway) and then they would reduce the morphine level again, using smaller increments this time. (Down to 95 mics instead of 90.)

Only other item of note on Wednesday is that Nick's neurologist, Dr Hahn, came to see him first thing in the morning. We assumed that he had been consulting on Nick's case all along b/c he's the doctor we see about the seizure disorder, and the one who prescribed the carbamazepine in the first place, but he had been out of the country and rushed right down to see us as soon as he heard. He was very reassuring, and told Jim that he had reviewed the Nick's chart and approved all of the actions that had been taken up to that point, including the new anti-convulsant that Nick is on. Somewhat upsettingly, he flatly contradicted something that I had been told much earlier this week; it is actually NOT common to have a reaction like this to a medication you've been on for an extended period of time, in fact he said it's extremely rare. Almost all cases of SJS/TEN happen within a day or two of starting a new drug. He's going to put some of his team on to investigating how the heck this happened, and whether or not it was the carb. that caused it.

Thursday something WONDERFUL happened. If any of you have doubts about whether or not your prayers are effective, then listen to this: in the morning when Nick went for his bandage change, they decided NOT TO PUT NEW BANDAGES BACK ON because they skin underneath is healing so well!!!! Jim and I are both ecstatic, because now we can see with our own eyes the rest of Nick's body and how well it's doing. The doctors, I may say, are absolutely flabbergasted. Also, Nick's face is almost totally healed--I think he has a tiny cut on his nose, but basically the skin is whole and perfect looking, no longer even pink. He's got a little buzz cut growing back all over his head, under which you can see that it's still healing; but at least it's no longer painful there, and I can rub his head softly without hurting him. His arms still look pretty bad, very raw and pink or red, and they left the spot surrounding his PICC line bandaged to protect it. His torso is mostly healed, but it is EXTREMELY itchy, partly as a side effect of the morphine and partly from healing. It bothers him pretty much constantly, but they give him Benadryl to help with that, and I spend a lot of time rubbing cream into his back, which helps a bit.

Another fabulous piece of news: the doctors are going to try to take him off the ventilator today! I'm desperately anxious for that to happen; it's the one thing that bothers Nick more than anything and is so frightening, uncomfortable and sometimes painful for him, not to mention his total frustration with being unable to talk. They said he's breathing on his own all the time now, and is very awake and alert--the morphine is no longer making him drowsy or "stoned", and he doesn't have to have any more procedures which would require sedation (in which case they'd need the tube in). So, later this morning they're going to give it a shot!! They had to wait till today to see how if he breathes as well on his own while asleep as he does while awake, and to make sure he was continuing to manage with less morphine on board (they lowered it again last night).

I'm super exhausted right now, because Nick's nurse called my cell at 2 am to tell me he wanted me, and I spent an hour rubbing cream into his back before I could get him back to sleep, so I'm going to wrap this up. Just one more thing to mention: On Wednesday night, Chuckles the therapeutic clown brought Nick a Magna Doodle--something that both the nurse and I thought would help lessen his frustration, if he was able to write with it. Thursday evening, he used it for the very first time--Jim and my friend Anya were in to see him one more time before they left, and he pointed at the Magna Doodle and then used it to write "MOMMY!" Hee hee My sweet boy. He used it quite a few times last night, using a combination of words and pictures to get his message across. I learned that he hates the IV stand because its loud beeps wake him up, that he was upset because his friend Michael didn't sign the giant card that Nick's class sent (he did, I just had to find it) and that he wants his tube out NOW. He also used it to tell me when his PICC line was stuck under a sheet and hurting him, and that he wanted me to read him some stories. It's such a relief to be able to communicate with him. It's not instantaneous, because he's writing with his left hand and uses his whole arm instead of his wrist, and his arm tires quickly. He sometimes has to write things twice or wait while I make guesses about what he's written/drawn, but it's still a huge improvement!!

Might post again later, if I have time. Love to you all!

Regrets. Another One Bites the Dust

Fridays with Susan...

The husband of someone I know - not well, but they live in our town, and their children went to the same school as some of ours - died suddenly this week.  He was younger than both Ron and I, still in his mid-fifties.  He wasn't feeling well, headed to the hospital and passed away in the waiting room of the emergency room.  It was completely unexpected.

As I drove to work this morning I thought, "What if that had been Ron?"  I tried to put myself in the place of  having suddenly lost my life's partner with no warning and no goodbyes.  I wondered if there would be any regrets, and suddenly, accompanied by a dark cloud of sadness, I knew there would...  I would be thinking, "Why didn't we spend more time together?  Why didn't we take that trip?  Why didn't we talk about this or that, or the other thing?  Why didn't I say, "I love you" just one more time - and say it well enough to stick and to count - for all eternity?

My friend Anne stopped by my office with homemade soup in a Mason jar last week and two bowls.  We've been having lunch together on a regular basis ever since our son David was in Grade 2, which would have been some 15 years ago  now.  For many years I would fix something simple to bring to her, but now the tables have turned.  Newly retired from teaching, she is the one who cooks for me, and I'm just loving it.  She is a vegetarian because her heart of compassion won't allow her to eat anything "with eyes". 

Anne, for many, many years, has spent a part of every summer in the mountains in B.C.  She climbs them.  I'm serious.  She is Mrs. Enthusiasm personified, which is one of the things about her that caused me to fall for her back when I was a stay-at-home mom and the most exciting thing that happened to me from week to week was that one of our chickens laid an egg with two yolks, the dog got into the neighbour's garbage, or the vacuum cleaner finally got fixed.  She was someone who I admired greatly, and still do.  She and her husband Bob raised a crew of world adventurers in their own right.  Holly, who spent many nights sleeping over at our house during her teens as a close friend of two of my daughters, lives in England right now with her husband Chris. who happens to be the oldest son of another set of old and dear friends, Scott and Kathy McCleary, who are the grandparents of Nick (the little boy we are praying for on WHS and whose progress we are following down at Sick Kids Hospital right now.)

Anne's eyes shone over the soup we shared as she talked about her upcoming plans to fly to Scotland for a mid-fall off-season vacation with Holly and Chris on the Isle of Skye.  She was clearly very excited about biking and hiking in the midst of such raw and unspoiled beauty.  "We're staying in the laundry cottage at Dunvegan Castle," she enthused (rollling her eyes in mock snobbery).  "There's three bedrooms and we'll only be using two of them.  Why don't you and Ron come?  It won't cost you anything for accommodations..."

For all of the 38 years we've been married we have talked about going to Scotland  Ron's grandparents were Highlanders who came over to Canada at the turn of the last century.  His grandfather, James, was orphaned in Scotland when a carriage accident caused the death of both of his parents.  He courted and fell in love with the feisty little Mary King,  and promised in 1908 to return for her when he settled in Canada and his ability to provide for her and their future family was well established.  Two years later she got tired of waiting for him, booked passage, and sailed over here after him.  He had found work at the Hiram Walker distillery on the bank of the Detroit River.  They were married in the parsonage of Chalmers Methodist Church in Windsor, in a double ceremony along with Ron's great Uncle George Stewart and his wife.  There were lots of family stories about how she rode her bike out of the city all the way to a farm outside of town to buy milk for Ron's father Archie, who rode along with her in a basket on the handlebars.

I loved Ron's grandma.  She was one of the few people who could ever get away with calling me Susie..  I think it had something to do with the way she clipped the end of the second syllable off sharp in the delightful brogue which she kept finely preserved, even after sixty years in Canada.  There are two photos hanging in our hallway today.  One is James and Mary on their wedding day, and just below it is a photo of them sixty years later to the day, having grown old together, their arms still entwined and eyes twinkling merrily at the same shared joy. 

I am quite accustomed to brushing off far too many of Anne's wonderful, but completely impractical ideas.
But this time I almost entertained the idea.  I went so far as to take it home to Ron.  We allowed ourselves to think seriously about it, but there were far too many reasons to dampen our enthusiasm.  We put our longed-for trip on the shelf.  Again.

But the next week (yesterday), Anne showed up at my office once more, this time with turkey stew and rice pudding.  She threw out the invitation again as we talked, and again I brushed her off.  But it stuck under my skin  a little harder this time, and just wouldn't let me go.  Let me suffice it to say, that somehow in the last 24 hours we threw all caution to the wind, were able to overcome a huge number of obstacles (some of them quite miraculously), and with the blessing of our kids (those who we've had a chance to talk to!), booked our flights on the Internet just a few hours.  We're going to Scotland! 

We'll be boarding a British Airways flight to Heathrow tomorrow evening where we will change planes for a domestic flight to Edinburgh.  There our little rental car will be waiting to take us over and through the Highlands to the Isle of Skye, ending up in Portree late on Sunday afternoon.  We'll be taking the high road, I promise you that.

I am so excited that it's going to be hard to sleep between now and when we finally land in Edinburgh.  God knew what he was doing when he held the news to the last minute.  Any more anticipation would have killed me for sure!  Life sure can be exciting when you set your heart on doing whatever he says...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Power of Prayer

By Belinda

Going back in time a lttle (I have so much to catch up on gradually;) on Tuesday evening I flew to England to spend a few days with Mum, but not before spending most of the day at a Staff Day Apart at work.

I drove to nearby Bradford early that morning, to pick up someone who needed a ride to Jackson's point, about 45 minutes away, where 50 of us would  spend the day together in worship, having fun and a 3 hour training on Soul Care for the Caregiver.

On the way I told my passenger about the Nick, the 11 year old boy with Stevens Johnson Syndrome, for whom we've been praying. I told him the wonderful news that Nick's skin is already beginning to grow back.

That's when he told me a story I knew I had to share here:

A few years ago his mother called him about a man who was depressed due to family circumstances. Distraught, the man decided to end his life and went to the basement and where he planned to drink a bottle of drain cleaner. The pain of the liquid going down his throat was unbearable, and he dashed upstairs. He grabbed a jug of milk and drank as much as he could, then ran outside, where he was vomiting on the front lawn, when a police car came around the corner. A police car arriving at that very moment, in the small town he lived in, was highly unlikely, but that's what happened and he was rushed to the hospital where they did emergency surgery. The man remained in hospital for months, recovering, but he was told that due to the damage to his esophagus he would never speak again.

When my coworker's mother called to ask him to pray for the man, she just said the man needed prayer, she didn't give any details because of the stigma of a suicide attempt. Soon, many people were praying for him, even not knowing what the specific need was.

Three months later, the man went to the doctor. The doctor leafed through the reports on his desk, then looked up and said, "This is unbelievable, but there is no scar tissue. There is no reason why you shouldn't talk again."

Then he closed the file on the desk, looked at the man, and said, "Have people been praying for you?"

Later that day, over lunch, I asked my coworker to share the story with the others at our table.

This time he started the story, "My brother was depressed...."

Hello from Bruce

Hey, everyone, I arrived safely in England yesterday. Here is a photo taken minutes ago of my friend Bruce! We've already been out for two walks together. Can you see the love in his eyes?
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Brave Boy

Swathed in bandages from his head to his knees, Nicholas is bravely fighting a battle that no boy should ever have to face.  His Grandma McCleary said that today (Wed) has been a good day.  He is expected to remain in hospital for at least a month.  Everywhere I go, people are saying, "I've been praying for him!"  May Nick and his family tangibly feel the love that is sent through those prayers and may God use them to bring comfort and peace to that hospital CCU...

Tues update on Nick...

Jenn Clark
Tuesday's Update

Tuesday was a pretty bad day for Nick and I. (Particularly for him, of course.) When I went to see him in the morning, his nurse, Anna, said that he'd had quite a bad night. He didn't really sleep at all, and was quite anxious a lot of the time. I can't remember if I've mentioned this already, but Nick has hardly slept for the entire time he's been in the hospital, and he didn't sleep for the two nights prior to that either because he was in so much pain. He's so exhausted, the poor little guy, and I personally think that that's one of the reasons his hallucinations are so bad; he's basically had seven hours of sleep (at two different times) in the past seven days...I think that would make most of us hallucinate!

Anna said that she spent quite a lot of time asking him questions, trying to get to the bottom of his anxiety so she could help him get over it. She learned that Nicholas very much misses being able to go outside like other people, and that he's deeply afraid that he'll never be able to leave the hospital again. I would ask those of you who are praying for him to pray that he'll be able to understand and to believe us when we tell him that he will get better, and that this horrible time is not what the rest of his life is going to be like. That's an awful fear for a little boy to have.

One of the worst parts about yesterday for me is that Nick's doctors decided that he needed to have a PICC line put in. It's basically an IV that's meant for long-term use, because regular IV's deteriorate pretty quickly and become unusable, and his two IV's have been in for a while--the one in his hand was put in at the Alliston hospital, and the one in his foot has been there since Friday morning. PICC stands for peripherally inserted central catheter. It's inserted into the upper arm, and runs up through a vein to just beside the heart. The benefit, I was told, is that when his meds are injected into the PICC line they're dispersed throughout his body very quickly because they're coming out right next to the superior vena cava of the heart. However, there are a lot of potential dangers, so I had to go and have everything explained to me by the doctor, and sign a consent form. The recitation of all the possible risks were frightening, to say the least.

The insertion of the PICC went well; they had to unbandage his arm to see if they could find unbroken skin to use, but that was no problem--his skin is healing very nicely. The other procedure that they were doing did not go so smoothly, though. They decided to advance his naso-gastric tube about 15 cm so that the end would be resting in his bowels instead of his stomach, thereby speeding up the process of the absorption of nutrients from his food. This is a pretty common procedure, I was told, but unfortunately, it wasn't routine this time. The doctors forgot to close off the valve beforehand, so when they started moving around the NG tube a bunch of bile from Nick's stomach spurted up and went all over his face, in his eyes and ears, soaked into his bandages, etc. Anna called me the second they brought him back to his room, so I was able to help her clean him off and make him comfortable again, but the whole thing was very upsetting to me. (And to Anna, who was supremely ticked!)

Good news for the day: at about 10:00 yesterday, Nick's RT (respiratory therapist) came in, examined him, and decided to turn his ventilator right down. Up till now it has been giving him 17 breaths per minute. After it was adjusted, he was breathing on his own!!! The vent was just giving him a tiny bit of pressure to encourage him to inhale, but he was pretty much just doing all the work himself. We're so excited by this; because of that and the fact that the swelling in his esophagus is totally gone (don't remember if I mentioned that either) the only thing now that's preventing him from being taken off the ventilator is the high levels of morphine he's still on--100 microlitres at the moment, plus whatever extra boluses they add according to his descriptions of his pain. (A microlitre, as I have learned, is one millionth of a litre.)

Have to take a break now and spend some time with my girls. I think I'm all up to date, but I'll read through this later and see if I missed something, and then add a few comments about today's events that Jim told me about this morning. Thanks for listening, everyone! :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Update on Nick

Jenn Clark
Back again! i'm going to try to be brief, because it's getting late and I haven't been getting much sleep.

The other kind of upsetting thing about yesterday was that, about an hour before the vent-suctioning fiasco, the nurse told me that she was becoming increasingly concerned about how low Nick's blood pressure was. On Saturday night he was put on a new sedative which we eventually found out was because they were trying to wean him off of the morphine somewhat, and this particular sedative helps to manage withdrawal symptoms. Anyway, it was responsible for the sharp drop in blood pressure, so the nurse consulted the doctor and was told to lower the sedative, up the morphine a bit, and quickly give 500 ml of saline through the IV. All of those measures got his BP back up within about 40 minutes, but it was worrying for a while there. Only good news yesterday was that the opthamologist paid him a visit, and told us that his eyes are looking totally perfect!! No involvement there at all, so that is a huge relief.

Nick had an uneventful night, so on to today! For the first time, today the pieces of good news outnumber the bad!! It has been a pretty good day today. Nick was taken this morning to have his bandages changed, which we were told is horrendously painful, so we have been dreading it very much. (They anaesthetized him for the procedure; it was the aftermath we were worried about.) However, when they removed the old bandages, they discovered that his skin is ALREADY starting to grow back!! It's totally incredible! I think the doctors were very taken aback. I should explain at this point, since I just realized that I forgot to mention it, that under his bandages Nick was totally covered with Biobrane, a kind of fake skin that looks a bit like plastic wrap. It helps to manage pain, and keep infection out and moisture in. It covered his entire body with the exception of groin, ankles and feet, and small cutouts for eyes and mouth. The surgeon told us that it would not be touched when bandages were changed, and would be removed at some later date when no longer needed. But, since his skin is already growing back, the Biobrane had started to come off, so they removed it!! It's almost totally gone from his body. He has nice clean bandages now, and is looking better all the time.

Not so good news: the prolonged use of extremely high levels of morphine has started to cause Nick to hallucinate. The nurses suspected that he was sometimes hallucinating yesterday because he seemed to be watching things that we couldn't see, kind of like a mildly interesting show on tv. Today it got bad, though. The things he was seeing were scaring him badly; he was flailing his arms as if he was trying to fight something off, and he sometimes had a look of utter terror on his face. It was very hard to watch. I had to keep talking to him, trying to get him to focus on me and telling him that I knew that what he could see was very scary, but that it was NOT real, it was just Nicholas and Mommy in the room and there was nothing there that could hurt him. At one point I put my face right up to his so that it was all he could see, and asked him some questions. He said that yes he could see Mommy, no Mommy didn't look scary, no Mommy didn't look ugly (said that to amuse him!), and yes, Mommy looked like a beautiful princess!!! And then...he smiled!!! I was so excited I nearly fell over; he hasn't smiled once since he's been here. I said, "Nicholas, you just smiled at Mommy!" (He looked confused.) Then I said "Can you do it again? Did it hurt you? Can you smile for Mommy?" And he did...an even bigger one!! I was so proud of him, and so happy. It didn't last long, and he soon went back to either being frightened or just staring blankly at the ceiling, but what an improvement and exciting moment.

My boy is asleep now, hopefully he has a nice long rest because he hasn't been sleeping much at all. I need to hit the sack (couch) too. Apparently I am incapable of being brief, but at least I am all caught up now, so hopefully the updates will be shorter and easier. Good night, everyone!

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Call to Prayer

Nothing that I can say tonight is as important as this. Please pray for a little boy whom I have taught in Sunday School, Nicholas Clark. What is written below was posted by his mom, Jenn, who is a friend of Brenda's. Susan and Nick's grandmother Kathy, have been close friends for many years and I also count her a dear friend.  I know some real prayer warriors read this blog. I hope you'll join me in praying for Nick. Belinda

By Jenn
I'm not sure if this post is going to be restricted to a certain number of words...if so I'll have to start over and create a document. (Don't know much about Facebook groups.) I'll give it a shot though.

We took Nicholas up to the ER about two weeks ago, because he had a very sore throat and had for several days. (It was late, which was why we didn't go to the clinic.) They examined him and told us that there was nothing wrong that they could see. This past Thursday, Jim took him to the hospital again because he had been up with me all night, complaining of severe pain in his face, armpits and groin. It also hurt him to close his eyes, which was the main reason he couldn't sleep. We also noticed that the area behind his ears was bright red and peeling. At the hospital they said he had two separate problems: an extremely bad case of strep throat which had been left untended for so long that it was bordering on scarlet fever, and a bacterial infection (like impetigo) behind his ears and in his groin which they said was due to poor hygiene. The extreme pain in his face and armpits was caused, according to them, by the fact that his lymph nodes were badly swollen from the strep throat.

He was given a prescription for antibiotics and got back home around 9am. He spent about 6 or 7 hours in bed, resting, and then I took him upstairs to watch some tv because I was worried about him getting too stiff. (He couldn't really change position at all; it was too painful.) He couldn't lie down, so he just sat on the couch while I went to make supper. After about an hour, he started calling for me in a very panicked way, and told me that he felt like something was crawling on his back. When I went to look, I found that a large, grapefruit-sized area of skin on his back (where it had been touching the couch) had formed into a blister and was sliding downwards. I immediately woke up Jim, and he took Nick back to the hospital.

He was seen about three hours later, and eventually a retired specialist from Sick Kids was called in to see him. He didn't tell us exactly what was wrong with Nick, but he said that it was going to get much worse very quickly, and that he needed to be sent by ambulance to Sick Kids. I was told this over the phone by Jim's mom, so I called Jim who had since gone to work and we rushed up to Alliston. In the three hours or so that he had been at the hospital, blisters had also begun to form on Nick's chest, stomach and chin, and his back was getting progressively worse as well.

I went with him in the ambulance, and we arrived at Sick Kids at about midnight. We spent the night in a private room in the ER, and many different doctors came to see us. Eventually it was explained that Nick has Stevens Johnson Syndrom. It's also known as TEN, which stands for toxic epidermal necrosis. It can be caused by various things but is most commonly a reaction to medication--in Nick's case, they're fairly sure it was caused by the anti-seizure meds he is taking. Essentially the immune system overreacts to the drug, and an auto-immune reaction causes tissue all over the body to slough off. Mucous membranes are affected as well, and internal tissues are often involved.

Nick was taken in to surgery at 10:30 on Friday morning, and his surgery took four hours. What they were planning to do was debride the dead tissue, clean him, and bandage him. Unfortunately, as they began to clean him, most of the rest of his skin sloughed off as well. They ended up having to remove the top two layers of his skin, from his head to his knees. (Including his face and his scalp, which they shaved.) The only original skin he now retains is from his knees to his feet, and his hands. They also found that his trachea was swollen, and may start to slough tissue as well, so they decided to leave him intubated to ensure that he can continue to breathe.

I need to stop for now and go back to Nick, so I will just say quickly that although his appearance at the moment is monstrous and frightening, and he is in a horrendous amount of pain, my boy is being so very brave. They are managing his pain with a combination of morphine and Tylenol, and he is heavily sedated to keep him from becoming too agitated. He is aware of his surroundings much more today, is able to answer questions by shaking or nodding his head, and makes lots of hand gestures to try and communicate. (For example, this morning he told his nurse in no uncertain terms that he wanted his Mommy to swab out his mouth, and not her!!)

Please keep us all in your prayers, and I'll try to update again soon.

Jenn
A great thank you to all who took the time to vote for Whatever He Says in round 1 of the The Canadian Blog Awards. My friend Dave called me today to tell me that we made it into round 2! Yay!

On the CBA website, it was noted:

We are using Round 1 to identify the nominated blogs that can gather a reasonable amount of support from their readers. Round 2 is where the winners are found. We also let a few in from the last-chance-to-nominate post.
I will be sure to let you know when the voting commences for Round 2. There are some excellent blogs in the running and as well as the fun and thrill of the whole thing, what an amazing way to shine a light of some blogs that will bless readers, such as Holy Experience , which I nominated in the Religion Philosophy category.

An Update

By Belinda

I have so much to write but no time to do it. I am so busy getting as much as I can done before leaving for England on Tuesday, but God is so on the move all over the place. I want to tell the world about this and that and everything else--but it will have to wait until I get to England on Wednesday, when I hope to catch up. I'm taking a list with me so that I don't forget a thing!

But...in the car coming home from church on Sunday, I told my mother in law how much people had contributed to be sent the pastor in India I wrote about recently (see sidebar and click on the link for the story.) Mum said passionately, "If only people would see how God works miraculously."

We talked to Uncle John in England on Sunday afternoon on Skype, and I told him that I was bringing a blessing with me for the pastor in India  Uncle John said that he had been in touch with the him by email and this is some of what has been happening:

The pastor used to be a businessman and years ago he helped a doctor buy a house. The doctor then went to work in Dubai.

For a long time the pastor has had a vision of a medical centre that would provide free care to the people who have no means to pay. He just reconnected with the doctor who had been in Dubai. When the doctor heard that his businessman friend was now in ministry and heard his vision for a medical centre, he said that he would come and work there, and would bring three more doctors to contribute to the work.

The pastor also had a vision of setting up a sewing shop for women who need a way to make a living. He prayed for sewing machines and God provided some. He still needs more--perhaps our money will help with that friends.

He was in desperate need of Bibles because people can't afford them. God provided Bibles! Uncle John said that he told him that the stack of Bibles is taller than the pastor when he stands next to them.

What struck me was how each person in a chain had to be faithful to do their part:
  • The pastor was faithful, struggling to hold on in a difficult situation; trusting God and being encouraged by the story of Elijah and the ravens that fed him.
  • The crow obediently brought rupees in its beak, on two separate days.
  • Uncle John shared the story with us while on vacation
  • I knew I had to write and share it
  • Dave was faithful to share his prompting to ask readers to donate
  • I shared his idea here
  • Readers responded as God led them
  • The funds will be carried to England and sent on to India
And the result is that we have the joy of being a small part of a miracle!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Gabe!


On Friday, October 16th, Gabe, exactly 10 days old, visited his mommy's friends and coworkers, who were having a break for lunch, during a meeting at Belinda's place.

As he was cradled in one set of arms after another he slept soundly and did not stir.

I wish I could add the delicious scent of baby and the soft downy feel of his hair, which I kissed, over and over.























Lesley-Ann wore the receiving blanket on her shoulder like a pro.
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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saturday's Post

By Belinda

Belindaland is busy today with so much to do before I catch a plane to England at 8.55 on Tuesday evening. In my reading of other blogs this week, I read a piece of writing that was so profoundly moving that I knew immediately I would want to share it here, and so today I am sharing a link to Shannon Buck's blog, Half Soled Boots , and a blog post she wrote on September 24th, entitled, The Ending, The Beginning . Please have tissues close by when reading, and be prepared to step on holy ground.

P.S. I have Gabe baby pictures. They will be up on Monday. And I have SO much more to write about. It will all be coming as soon as possible.

Friday, October 15, 2010

He Is Faithful

Fridays with Susan...

See! The winter is past;

the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves is heard in our land.
Song of Solomon 2:11,12

Remember a couple of Fridays back when I transported you to a beach on Lake Michigan at 2:30 in the morning?  I told you how I had no outward evidence, yet I knew somehow that something had changed.  In that dark night of my soul, I had crossed a great divide.

Well, I can't say anymore that there is no evidence.  It's been pouring in from every direction these last ten days.  As far at the seasons of my life go, spring has surely sprung.

It's hard to wait the winter out and put your trust blindly in God.  It seems - at least in my life - that he lets things get bad enough that there is nothing, absolutely nothing left which can be done to fix it or to change things.  He waits until there is nowhere to turn, but to Him, nothing to do, but give it up to him.  And wait.

This all sounds so cliche-like, sitting here now.  But it's true.  He is a God who is intimately involved in the details of our lives and weaves it all together with ridiculously incredible skill, into the tapestry of our lives.  Uncannily, it is the dark threads which bring definition to the unfolding picture.  It never ceases to amaze me that he is a God who is so intimately involved in the not-so-important-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things-but-oh-so-important-to-self-referential-us details of our lives.

I just want to say tonight once more how completely trustworthy he is.  I gave him broken pieces on that beach on Lake Michigan two weeks ago.  I poured out my raw fear and utter confoundedness at His precious, wounded feet.  In turn, He is revealing a masterpiece of the broken pieces I put in his hands that night.  A mosaic is forming, clarity returns, and suddenly it all makes sense.

It's funny how it works.  You'd think when our lives go off the rails for periods of time like that it would chip away at our faith.  But casting our lot with him, when the going gets really, really tough truly has the opposite effect. My faith is stronger than ever right now - in a God who is faithful beyond belief and ridiculously skilful at turning whatever it is we entrust to him into something that only further reflects to us what an awesome God he is..

"For we know he causes all things to work together for good to them that love him and are called according to His purpose"  Romans 8:28

We can rely on those words.  We can bet the family farm on them...  He is faithful and true.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I Also Commend to You

Half Soled Boots a blog written by Dave's niece Shannon. She is nominated in the Canadian Blog Awards  in the Parenting and deservedly in the Best Written Blog Post category. Her blog is astounding.

Nothing is Impossible


By Belinda (shared with Lesley-Ann's permission)
Tonight I opened my Daily Light on the Daily Path for October 6th to write the name of a new baby on the top of the page. I gasped as I read the scripture verses written there. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you the whole story, from beginning to--well, hardly the end, but rather another new beginning.

Lesley-Ann is one of the managers on my team, and dear to my heart as they all are. We are much more than working colleagues. She came to the cell group at our house for a while and our relationship deepened with the months and years of working together.  We were at her wedding when she got married to Jason, a man with the smilingest eyes you ever saw, and a heart to match. They both have big hearts in fact, and as well as a house full of dogs, they have freely shared their home with others from the start. They were naturals as potential parents and they looked forward to welcoming babies into their household.

The months turned into years though, and that didn't happen. Lesley-Ann has a vibrant faith, and while she often asked for prayer, it was always in submission to God's plan, open to the fact that God can give children in many ways and birth is just one of them. Whenever I would pray for her, I would always find myself praying that their arms would be "full" of children. That was the image that would come.

Sometimes we talked about favourite movies and I knew that one of Lesley-Ann's favourites was Facing the Giants . We had the movie on our shelf in the den. I'd bought it at a church yard sale, but we never got around to watching it. It was apparently about football, and we aren't major sports fans, so it wasn't until one evening after last Christmas, when we had nothing else to watch, that I said to Paul, "Let's watch Facing the Giants." We did, and loved it! It was low budget, but deeply moving, and it wasn't just about football, but about trusting God with the seeming defeats in your life, committing everything to him and yielding it all. The husband in the story was the coach of an underdog team and he and his wife were struggling with infertility. They dared to believe that with God, nothing is impossible. Suddenly I knew why it was Lesley-Ann's favourite movie.

Last year, Lesley-Ann went through fertility treatments but she didn't concieve. She decided to stop the treatments and leave it all in God's hands.

In February this year we were at the end of our monthly1.1 support meeting at work and about to go home for the weekend. I asked if I could pray before she left. God always guides in prayer and I know that the words come from him. At the end of the prayer what came out was, "Nothing is impossible with God." We hugged goodbye and went home.

The following week, Lesley-Ann called to say that she had felt nauseous that weekend and thought that she had the flu, but then she said, "Belinda, I think I may be pregnant." Within days she was at the doctors and it was confirmed. Lesley-Ann was indeed pregnant. What overwhelming joy!

But March brought a hospital stay with some scary spotting. The pregnancy seemed to be at risk. But I had a deep assurance that all would be well, and it was. Lesley-Ann was soon home and back at work.

The months flew by and Lesley-Ann's due date of early October came and went. On October 5th, the baby was induced and after 14 and a half hours of labour, he was delivered by C section, weighing in at a very healthy 9 pounds 11 ounces. Lesley-Ann said that she felt as though she had known him forever.

The doctor who did Lesley-Ann's stress test on Sunday, October 4th, was the same one who told Lesley-Ann two years ago that they might never have a child. Lesley-Ann told him that miracles do happen and anything is possible. The doctor smiled and said, "And now we can expect more children from you." At the moment, at least, Lesley-Ann is planning a return trip to the hospital next year.

His name? Gabriel. He was conceived at Christmas, made his presence known at Valentine's, and was born at Thanksgiving. His full name is Gabriel Frederick Donald, but he will go by "Gabe."

And here are the verses from the Daily Light on the Daily Path, for October 6th, Gabe's birthday!
Rev. 19:6; Job 42:2; Luke 18:27; Dan. 4:35; Isa. 43:13; Mark 14:36; Matt. 9:28, 29; Matt. 8:2, 3; Isa. 9:6; Matt. 28:18; Ps. 20:7; 2 Chron. 32:7 (Read full verses...)
“The Lord our God the Almighty reigns.”
“I know that you can do all things.”—“What is impossible with men is possible with God.”—He does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”—“There is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?”—“Abba, Father, all things are possible for you.”
“Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.”—“Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.”—Mighty God.—“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.—“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed, . . . for there are more with us than with him.”

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Canadian Blog Awards

Excitement is in the air--it is time for The Canadian Blog Awards 2010

Whatever He Says is nominated in the Religion Philosphy Category, and Dave Hingsburger a reader and frequent commenter here, as well as a dear friend, is nominated in 3 categories with Rolling Around in My Head his blog on disability issues: Best Blog; Health and Personal. Since I read Dave daily, I recommend his blog for a vote in any or all of the categories listed.

If you would like to vote in round one, please check out the other great blogs, and vote before October 17th at noon. It would be wonderful to make it to round two.

A Sunday After Church

Tonight was our writers group meeting and my 88 year old friend Vi shared this piece, written a few years ago. I asked her if I could post it as it fit so well with the theme of Thanksgiving and she gladly agreed. Thank you Vi. (The cat in the story, Snowy, just had to be put to sleep at 21 years old. Vi is sadly missing him.)
I'll be back tomorrow! Belinda

By Vi Gann

I was strangely moved by the minister's sermon that Sunday and on my way home made a mental note to finish reading the message on the back of the bulletin which had also stirred feelings in me.

Lunch over--my husband and I made our way into the garden to pick the tomatoes that had turned red and the green beans that were hanging invitingly. As I picked, I marveled at the strength of that little green stalk that supported the bean. The sun shone, the wind blew gently and I knew that I would have to go back into the garden after freezing the beans.

I placed a small roast of pork in the oven and out I went into the garden with my glasses and church bulletin. I settled myself in a garden chair and looked around. Our efforts this year were rewarding--the tomatoes hung full and heavy--the green beans flanked the wall under the kitchen window--the leaves dark green.

I looked across to the left--the climbing rose was indeed climbing, but somehow had forgotten to bloom--something to investigate next year. The zucchini plants had been fruitful--some did get away and grew to enormous proportions--never mind--good for zucchini bread. Some beets still to harvest and the potato experiment still to discover.

The sound of a small plane passing overhead caused me to look up. The sky was an azure blue streaked with white paint--then seemingly blotted with cotton wool. A solitary bird watched from the rooftop as I shifted my position in the chair. Soon the bird feeders at my right were bustling with tiny sparrows. The distance between us was such that I could almost touch them--but they accepted my presence and went on feeding. A grasshopper landed on the grass beside me--a glance through the patio doors showed the cat languishing lazily on the floor, the curtain blowing across his face--no mice to catch--why not! Husband, snoozing in his favourite chair.

Suddenly the honk--honk of geese punctured the air and there they were--flying in formation. As I looked up my eyes clouded with tears--there's something about geese flying south to winter that strangely affects me and at that very moment I sensed God's presence and felt him close to me.

I turned to the back of the bulletin and read:
Let us hold up with equality the various gifts that God has endowed to each of us. Let us celebrate the fruits of our labours.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

“With Each Death Done I am Onward”

By Meg

“With Each Death Done I am Onward”
This line comes from a poem I read many years ago – I cannot find its author. But it’s the thought that counts..for me today, anyway. I am sorting out the Christmas stuff in the basement, left in disarray in the midst of other more urgent jobs, after my daughters put on a Christmas in July party with friends and family before departing for their new lives over 2000 miles west of here. Last Christmas they were in New Zealand, next Christmas we will be with them in their new home.

So where’s the dying? They are moving ahead, eagerly following the Lord in Christian community, full of life and vigour and purpose. I couldn’t wish for more. I practically pushed them out of the nest, and do my supporting from a distance, in any way that is possible. I am quite relieved in many ways to have more time and space to “do my thing”, “get on with my life”, and all the other clichéd ways of talking about a new chapter of my life forced upon me.

But still I find myself grieving, recognizing the outlines of the empty nest, letting go of the life I have known with them for over 20 years. As I sort through the treasures they have still stored here, I remember the dreams they represented. When I hear them say they will probably sell more of them when they are back sometime, throw more stuff out, my heart twinges, again and again. Of course I am glad they are not attached to “things”. Of course I am delighted that they want to “travel light”. But still it hurts, not just because some of the treasures were bought by me to encourage their dreams, but because they are adults now, no longer needing to keep the paraphernalia of childhood. But secretly I plan to buy some of them myself, save them for their own children, stuff like that. Most of all I miss my daughters – their bright spirits, their lively presence, all that they are and hope to be. And I grieve for the ways I failed them at times, crowded out their dreams and needs when I was struggling with my own stuff.

Meanwhile I have died again inside, died again to possessing my children, to standing in their way as they move on. I didn’t think it would be so hard. But it is. With each phone call and email, visit on Skype or anticipated future visit, I face these issues. I am always surprised to find out things I say that show I am holding on. I take the knife again, face the cross. What else is there to do?

Ah, but this is the great thing in being a Christian. The resurrection waits on the other side. There will be so much to rejoice about as they and I move on: so much growth, and new ways of sharing and giving. “If you love something, let it go…..” You know how the clichés go….and..they are really true.

But..the pain is real. The cross is real. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t mean anything. And I await the resurrection, in this bittersweet time. As we walked yesterday on an autumn trail, I saw those glorious colours….and a peace as deep as my pain flooded my being. God’s presence, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, were in that pain and in that peace. And I knew as I celebrated the symphony of colour that God was blessing the new vibrant growth in my being, blessing me for letting go, and heralding the coming winter, from which the buried hopes and dreams will bring forth new shoots of life in the spring.

Thank you, Lord, again and again, for making all things new.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Giving Thanks

A couple of friends have blessed me with some writing this week on the theme of Thanksgiving, so there will be a few days of giving thanks on Whatever He Says, starting with this poem by my friend Magda Wills, who wrote:

Dear Belinda,
Yesterday afternoon I took time on my way to run some errands to enjoy the beauty of the fall colors on a few roads just outside Newmarket. Many people were out doing the same but I ran into a few incidents where people were speeding and trying to weave in and out of traffic to gain an extra minute. I felt like getting out at the stop light where they were waiting the same as all the cars they had passed and ask if they would take just one moment in their life to stop and give thanks for the glorious scene around them.
Giving Thanks

Did you stop to look at God’s world today,
And give thanks for it as we should?
Like the Lord who created this glorious scene
Who took time each day to behold that it was good.

Did you stop to relax your body today,
And grant yourself a much-needed rest?
Or did you focus on chores that pile ever so high,
Ignoring His call to lay your head on His chest?

Did you stop to love your neighbour today,
Offering her tea and a kind listening ear?
Or did you heed the world’s ongoing illusion instead,
That an unproductive moment is something to fear?

Did you stop to examine your agenda today,
And place it before the Lord God in prayer?
To see if His plan for your life on this day
Is really so burdensome and heavy to bear?

Did you stop to surrender your all today,
Claiming His strength when you feel tired and weak?
And did you thank Him for reminding us again and again
That the battle is not ours to fight or to seek?

So stop and behold God`s world today,
Which is aflame with a most beautiful sight.
And offer Him thanks from the depths of our hearts,
For in this He will truly delight.

Friends, some of us need this reminder, I know I do.
Happy Thanksgiving. Belinda

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Found Treasure by Susan

Friends, Susan was treasure hunting yesterday and this is one of the golden nuggets she found!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Thanksgiving


By Belinda

This is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada.

Canada is famous for the flaming beauty she displays in fall, and Thanksgiving weekend is the usually the peak of the show.

The Canadian "personality" is quietly self effacing to a fault, so this outrageously bold demonstation of  unabashed glory, seems to seep into our consciousness as permission to go big, at least in one area. In this at least, we are rudely, blazingly celebratory. Oh, Canada!

This morning, before 7.00 a.m., I drove home from a "post test" night at the sleep clinic. I marveled at the traffic on the highway, even at that time  of the morning. Where were all these people going at such an early hour on a Saturday? I would love to know!

But we all saw what sleepyheads missed; the smoky mist rising from the fields on either side of the gray tongue of pavement seeming to roll endlessly north; and the flaming red, gold and orange trees, like glowing coals on beds of silvery ash.

I am thankful beyond words for my adopted homeland. I am grateful for a health system that I can access when I need it--and for the wellbeing I am experiencing as a result of the sleep clinic.

This short post is just a start. I have a story to tell that will take a little extra time. Stay tuned, friends.

And Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 08, 2010

Self Talk

Fridays with Susan...

"There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Proverbs 12:18

Sword thrusts.

We've all experienced more than our share of those.  Words that hurt.  Words that stick with you a lifetime.  Words that undo in a flash, the good that has been building for a lifetime.

It's easy for me to remember the words of others who have hurt us and to understand the impact they have.  But I forget far too easily how the negative words I say to myself - the words no-one hears but me -  do so very much more damage than anyone on the other side of my skin can do.  Likewise, it is with "the tongue of the wise" that I have the power to speak healing into my own heart.

I have to be careful.  My attitude toward myself affects my view of others and colours how I see them too.

Is that where it starts?. Can I only be as kind and loving to others as I am to myself first?   

Though no-one else can hear me, it's important to choose those words carefully that I say to myself...

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Whole Enchilada

By Belinda

Monday dawned a chilly 4 degrees Celsius in Ontario. Brrrr. I popped downstairs before leaving for work to hug Tippy and Tori and tell them to wrap up warm for school. Brenda had left for work much earlier and they are very responsible at getting ready independently, but once an Omie always an Omie.

Tippy said, "But we don't have our winter coats yet."

"What about last year's?" I asked.

Tippy held out her arms in front of her and said, "When I do this the sleeves are half way up my arm."

Both girls, 11 and 12, are growing so fast. I left them with a final admonition to dress for the cold, knowing that they would survive, even if their sleeves were a little on the short side.

Later that day on the way down the highway from work, I stopped at Costco and saw a winter coat I thought the girls might like, so I called Brenda to see if I should buy them. She didn't get my message in time to catch me before I left the store, but we decided that after supper we would go  back with the girls.

Before getting home though, I stopped at the Cookstown Outlet Mall to buy a blouse. In one of my favourite stores I saw the perfect coats for Tippy and Tori. I had a feeling they would love them.

As we left home after supper though, Brenda wasn't so sure. "Mom, they are so rough on their clothes still," she said.

I looked back at Tippy and Tori. "Would you prefer a coat you can play rough in, or a coat that looks stylish?"

"One I can play rough in," said Tippy.

"One that looks stylish," said her younger sister with a shy smile.

Brenda sighed.

We went to the store with the stylish coats and both of the girls chose the style I had seen and loved; three quarter length, down filled and quilted, with warm and snug hoods. Tippy chose black, her favourite colour. Tori chose white. They looked like princesses and I couldn't believe how happy that made me. A girl needs to feel beautiful and I could tell that they did.

Next we went boot shopping and found perfect boots for both, and the pair of running shoes Tori needed, which were free because the store had a Buy Two get One Free sale.

Both girls carried their carrier bags and boxes to the car with shining eyes and a certain glow. They didn't stop saying thank you all the way home.

Trouble is, the weather has warmed up since Monday. This morning Tori came upstairs before school. "Omie, Tippy asked me to ask you if it's cold enough to wear her coat."

I said that I'd go outside and see. I came back in. "I'm sorry Sweetie, it's quite mild."

"Okay, I'll tell her," said Tori.

I smiled as I remembered the umbrella that caused an immediate dearth of rain when I was a little girl. Oh, how I longed to put that thing up and hear the rain beating down on it while I remained dry as could be!

And I thanked God for the joy of blessing as he does, with the whole enchilada.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Gift Exchange

By Belinda (leaning into the archives tonight, with a post from November 2008. The woman in the story, Paula, has written her story here herself since then: see The Valley)

Philippians 4:6-7 (New International Version)
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The plaque on the kitchen wall said, Life Is All About How You Handle Plan B. I smiled at first, thinking how true the words were, but they were also poignant, for the one in whose kitchen I sat, was mourning the death of a much loved husband, who died just a few months ago; a sudden separation and all too soon.

Outside a winter storm was gathering strength as the afternoon drew on, but the kitchen was cosy and welcoming, with sunshine yellow walls and white painted cupboards. Interesting nick-nacks stood on window sills and shelves and the air was filled with the aroma of the evening's supper cooking.

We sat across the table from one another and talked the minutes and hours away until the late afternoon was darkening and it was time for me to go. I asked if I could pray before I left, and found myself overwhelmed with emotion as I did, thanking God that he has no "Plan B."

When I finished, she looked up at me and said, "Thank you for that. I was wondering what I would write in my letter this year and now I know. It's only Plan B to me."

Before I left she showed me sea glass; sea softened shards of lavender, green and milky white, gathered from the shores of Prince Edward Island. And a beautiful heart shaped piece that she found on the beach after her beloved husband died and which a friend had framed in silver and made into a lovely piece of jewelery. She told me that on the island they say that if you find a heart shaped piece of sea glass, it is a message from the Creator that you are loved.

She smiled wryly as she talked of her own training in death and grief counseling, and of the phases of grief and how they come randomly and sometimes all in one day. And then she told me how she had learned how important it was to notice and honour the small deaths that people suffer. She said that if we did that, we would stand out as very different to the rest of the world.

It was my turn to reflect deeply on the implications of her words. I thought of the deaths this could apply to: the death of certain expectations, hopes and dreams or the death of a marriage.

These deaths may go without the conscious mourning that is the path to good healing. There is no wake, no gathering of supportive friends and family, and yet it would not be hard to be a better friend when such times come, if only we knew that we could and should.

I was so grateful for the insight she had shared with me, and thanked her as we hugged goodbye and I prepared to step from the front door, out into the storm. "You gave me the line for my letter," she said, "and I gave you this." It was the first gift exchange of the season.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Working on a Legacy

By Belinda

Psalm 145:4 (New International Version)

4 One generation will commend your works to another;
they will tell of your mighty acts.

Last week I listened as a colleague led us in devotions on the subject of legacy. In his district they held a retreat with legacy as the theme, and people shared stories about those whose influence had impacted them in an important way. I would have loved to have heard those stories, but at least I got to hear Barry's.

Unfortunately I can't tell the whole story, because I couldn't write fast enough as he spoke about "Big Bob" Johnson, the best supervisor he ever had. Big Bob was the mill superintendant at the Asbestos Hill Mine in a remote northern location into which Barry flew and where he spent months working as a very young man, after university.

Among other wonderful qualities that Barry described, he said that Bob was always visible, and would always ask him, "How're you doing young fellow?"

Years later, when Bob was dead, Barry wrote to his son, Peter, asking how he was. He received a letter back, and he shared such a poignant paragraph from it, that I did ask Barry if I could write it down. His son wrote:
Hi Barry,
Always good to hear from you, I hope all is well with you and your family. I guess you could say that the mourning process is different, yet similar for everybody. There is not a day that passes that at one point I don't see him in my thoughts or find myself quoting or making decisions based on, or repeating something, that he may have said. I imagine that as time passes these thoughts may diminish (but I hope not.)
I guess we spend a lifetime working on our legacy, whether we realize it or not. Big Bob Johnson's legacy of kindness and character is living on in Barry and Peter, and rippling out further here.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Summer-Lily's Sweet Sixteen Party

By Belinda

On Friday, Susan's post, Ready or Not set the scene for Summer-Lily's Sweet Sixteen party: A Wiener Roast at the Stewart's. On the eve of the party, which Susan sanguinely, had agreed to have at her place, she learned, when I apologized that I would be a tad late, that the Face book invitation sent out by her equally sanguine daughter Jorie, had invited us all over at 4.30 (hours before she would be home from work!) The preparations; which consisted of hiding things in closets and locking rooms, ramped up to fever pitch.

A crisp chill was in the air on Friday evening. I changed into warm layers after work, and set out with Paul for our first ever wiener roast at the Stewart's.

When we arrived, it was still light but there was a blazing fire in the pit, around which people were already gathered on lawn chairs, roasting wieners and marshmallows. There were six old fogeys (anyone over 40, including us) along with about thirty assorted teens, twenties and a few children. Several of the teens had guitars, which they played throughout the evening, in groups around the fire or on the front porch.

Our friend Frances, Summer-Lily's mom, waved in the direction of a picnic table where the wieners were, along with buns, drink boxes and bags of chips. I located a "spear" and skewered two wieners, then headed for my chair in the circle around the fire and proceeded to roast them to glossy, brown perfection.

As the dark fell around us, the sparks flew up into the night sky, and different people came and went around the fire, the circle moving out to make room for more chairs as the group grew. I said to Susan that I wished I could photograph the circle from above. It would have looked so cool, the blazing fire surrounded by huddling people, some holding spears into the fire to toast marshmallows or wieners and our faces lit up with the light from the fire.

It was the perfect party for us. We are not party people, both of us being on the shy side. How cool that at a wiener roast you all face the fire and don't have to say anything particularly clever, or anything at all in fact. It was utterly relaxed and relaxing. We loved every minute of it.

We laughed and talked all night with our friends and the teens. I loved that the teens hung out with us and listened in on our conversations--and one of them, Missy, played and sang Beatles songs beautifully  for us.

Frances handed out pieces of blank paper and someone came around with a box of pens and we all wrote what we loved about Summer-Lily. I wrote that she has the sweetest spirit, is unspoiled and kind. She is polite, grateful and joyful. Paul just wrote, "What do I love about Summer? Everything."

She opened her presents and cards, exclaiming in ecstatic joy over each one, making us all feel that we had hit the sweet spot.

Susan, it was the best party ever. We went home with the pungent smell of bonfire smoke clinging to our clothes and hair; full of wieners, marshmallows and birthday cake. What an awesome way to celebrate a birthday.

And our beautiful red-headed God daughter Summer-Lily, managed to stay awake for this party, unlike the first one we ever celebrated with her! :)

Summer, may your heart and spirit never lose their sweetness or you, your gratitude for the little things.  We love you; God bless you always!