Thursday, December 06, 2012

Christmas Redeemed

Check out my article entitled "Christmas Redeemed" published in the Testimony Magazine!

Finding meaning in the madness of the season.

Click here for article

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Gift of Time

We were so honored to be asked to share our amazing journey of Grace as family speakers of Canuck Place at this year's Gift of Time Gala.  What an amazing night.  We were blessed beyond measure to have been chosen to share the life of Grace and return thanks to Canuck Place as an organization for the enormous amount of support they were not only to Grace but to us as a family.  

Many of you have asked about the night and our speech.    We are very pleased to say that over $700,000 was raised that night for Canuck Place!!!!  We were overwhelmed by the generosity in the room!  Many supporters told us they gave because of a direct result of sharing Grace's story!  Oh how that made our hearts sing!  

Here is just a snippet/portion of our speech from that night...

Nelia:  William Arthur Ward stated that feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.  Tonight I am so excited to finally GIVE the long awaited gift of THANKS and gratitude to Canuck Place as an organization with all of its doctors, nurses, staff and generous donors such as yourselves here tonight.  We wear the name of a Canuck Place Family with pride and to be asked to share tonight is an honour we do not take lightly.

....Even before the kindness of the staff, and the confidence of the doctors and nurses, my soul felt at peace.  It felt so strange after being in a state of fight or flight for so long, to feel peace.  We met with staff and walked through the house and learned that CP was far more than we had ever imagined it to be.  We were told that the staff at CP were not there to stop the roller coaster of Grace’s illness, rather they were there to provide comfort and support for as long as the ride would last.  No one was trying to ‘fix’ her and no one was frustrated that she didn’t fit a typical mold.  The nurses were so in love with our sweet babe and literally fought over who would be the first to cuddle her.  Do you know what that did to this tired mother’s heart?  I was so tired of the fight…the fight of advocating for my helpless babe…the fight of trying to get people to listen and to care…to notice her.  And here – at CP the staff saw her value and it showed.  She was not just a patient…they knew her by name and loved her and for us that made all the difference.
And tonight we want to help you see all that Canuck Place does through a two different lenses…through the perspective of a mother and a father.

Nelia: To see CP through the lens of a mother’s heart is where I would like to take you tonight.  To fit into a few minutes all the stories and memories of our amazing journey of Grace at CP is impossible.  So I chose the nearest and most dearest stories of thankfulness that stood out most during our time at CP with our sweet baby Grace.
Being away from my family was taxing…my two older children were still little themselves at the tender ages of 4 and 2 and a half.  The separation of our family and missing out on life together was excruciating for me as a mom.  I missed out on a lot of life with my family and they missed a lot of time with Grace.  I felt caught between two opposing worlds and pulled equally from either side.  One of the greatest gifts CP ever gave to me as a mother was the opportunity for my family to walk through the darkest valley of our life together…as one.   CP felt like a home away from home….being together under one roof to walk this painful journey together was the greatest gift to my weary soul. 
There was such a joy in knowing that my older children and my husband could pop in and see Gracie, hug her and hold her, sing to her, just be with her.  Olivia and Isaiah loved being at CP…they flourished while there as they frolicked from the volcano room where they could jump and play, to the sand room (as they affectionately called it) where they received play therapy, to the school/dress up art room where they could so freely express themselves, to the gorgeous grounds, garden and play house – my kids were happy….all 3 of them – and finally so was I.

To be able to feel joy and peace during such a tumultuous time seems so backwards.  Yet, this is the power of CP.  To take a mother who was so broken-hearted and weary from the journey of gradual loss and allow her the gift of finding joy in the most painful moment of her life is nothing short of a miracle.

CP gifted us with time.  I love that the gala is phrased ‘The Gift of Time’ because to a parent with a child with a life threatening illness there is NOTHING more valuable than time.  We nearly lost Grace in Sept 2008 –when we were first introduced to CP.  I remember crying out to God in that hospital hallway pleading for more time.  More time to love her than trying to fix her, more time to hold her rather than researching a cure, more time to be together as a family rather than an ocean apart   TIME…indeed the most precious gift.  I am forever grateful for the extra five months that we had with our sweet Grace.  Time with our gentle warrior, as we lovingly called her, was like water to my thirsty soul.   When I would get caught up in the moment and begin worrying about the future and how long we would have her, I would hear a gentle whisper…”to enjoy each moment…embrace her beautiful life, make a conscience effort to be present in each moment with Grace – to cherish this time!” Those precious moments and memories with our Gracie Grace were like a vapour in the wind…yet somehow miraculously CP helped to suspend those moments allowing us to share a lifetime of love with our sweet baby in a short amount of time. 

ANDREW:  What does Canuck Place mean to me as a father? When I came to Canuck Place I was beaten down and felt like a failure.  Fathers are supposed to provide for and protect their children and I could do neither for Grace.  Everything was moving so fast that I couldn't keep up.  Our stay at Canuck Place allowed us to slow down enough to get grounded. The care that they provided--physical, emotional, and spiritual--allowed this father to rise up and be a man again.

I watched and talked with other fathers who were walking with the same pain I was.  Somehow this made me feel normal.    I had not failed my family and Gracie; rather I was doing everything I could to make sure that Gracie was in the best possible place for her.  I was providing and protecting.  Canuck Place restored my dignity as a father.  At Canuck Place on the front desk when you walk in there will appear a green light every once in a while.  When I first saw it I asked one of the nurses what it meant and she told me that it was to let everyone in the house know that someone was coming to the end of their life's journey.  When our family was at Canuck Place for the last time with Gracie and she was very obviously coming close to her end I remember asking the doctors and nurses if we should turn on the green light.  In their wisdom they turned around and told us that it was our choice; did we think Gracie was coming to the end?  This was a small but amazing gift that they gave us.  They gave us a measure of control in an uncontrollable situation and for this father it gave me a sense of honour that I could play this part in my daughter's journey.  I know that the doctors knew more than me and probably knew that these were Gracie's last hours way before I did, but they let us come to the realization on our own.  They could have easily dictated what we were to do (turn on the green light, call your family, call the funeral home).  Instead they were so gracious and caring.  Canuck Place gave me back my dignity and honour as a father in those moments.

The peace that I had at Canuck Place was not just because of their care while Gracie was alive but also their care for us after she died.  They have helped us in so many ways and one in particular stands out in my mind.  On the morning that Gracie died we were given some time to just be with her as a family.  I remember that Nelia bathed her and dressed her up so pretty.  Her skin was a beautiful pure white and her face was so peaceful, all her pain was gone. It was in this time with Gracie that I was able to dance my last dance with her.  I played the song "I will dance with Cinderella" by the artist Steven Curtis Chapman and I dance with my little girl.  I danced that dance for allthe dances I would miss.  Dancing with her in the living room as she practiced for her first dance, for her prom, and for her wedding.  I was able to freely weep and embrace my little girl.  It gave me a memory that I will hold dear to in my heart for the rest of my life.  It allowed me to release my daughter to go to her Heavenly Father and this gave me peace.  The staff at Canuck Place didn't rush us or dictate our last moments with Grace and this brought a measure of healing to my broken heart.  It has made it possible to continue healing 3 1/2 years later.

Canuck Place allowed me to be a father and husband; to play with my kids, to date my beautiful wife Nelia, and to care for Gracie.  You have all allowed me to be a father to my children and a husband to my wife so from the depths of my heart I wish to say thank you.  Thank you, because in the chaos of our lives, Canuck Place was a haven of comfort, peace and dignity that allowed this man to be a father once again.

CONCLUSION - Andrew:  Our family will always remember CP as a place where Gracie lived, not solely the place where she died.  In fact, after returning from our first ever trip to DisneyWorld, we asked Olivia and Isaiah where they wanted to go for our next family vacation and without skipping a beat they both said – Canuck Place!  Isn’t that amazing?  As a family one of our favorite places in the whole world to be is at CP – for it reminds us of a sweeter time when our family was whole, as one, and we were happy for we were together. 
And so tonight we stand here before you so forever grateful.  You – each of you here tonight has made a difference in our life – and in the life of our sweet baby GRACE.  We are just one family of many that wear the name of a CP family proudly.  To share our amazing journey of Grace with you here tonight has made our hearts sing.  

We agree wholeheartedly with the purpose stated on CP’ website that Canuck Place encourages each child to ‘embrace life’ and believes in enhancing the quality of whatever time a child may have left by empowering them to live fully and joyfully

And that is what it all comes down to tonight isn’t it?  Celebrating the beautiful life of these children…to sing their song even after they are gone!  And so we leave you tonight with a quote from the beloved Children’s Author Dr. Seuss - ”Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not”

Friday, September 07, 2012

Stewards of the Story

I often think of my journey of Grace as a hidden treasure.  Most people don't know the pain we have walked through when they first meet us.  We have learned how to engage in today with a piece of our hearts already in heaven, the balance is easier some days than others, but we have been miraculously & beautifully mended.

I like to think that my story of Grace is a gift, a testimony of God's faithfulness and love.  I like to think of myself as a steward of this story/gift.  I know when I share about Grace and the beauty of her life that God is glorified and honored.  Speaking about Grace also makes my heart sing, it awakens the part of my heart that feels muted by her death.  I will always share her story and hope to be a faithful steward of this precious gift, the gift of Grace's life.

Today my sweet Olivia has a play date.  A cute little gal is over and they are gleefully playing Littlest Pet Shops.  I can hear them play..."here's what on the menu" & "sorry we late for dinner."  In between their play of animals I hear the following conversation.

Friend: "My mom has 4 kids."
Olivia: "My mom had 4 kids."
F:  "What do you mean?"
O: "Well my mom lost a baby in her tummy, but also Grace died"
F:  "Grace was your sister right?"
O:  "Yes she was my baby sister"
F:  "What did she look like, did you get to see her"
O:  "Oh yes we got to see her and hold her"
F:  "So did she look different?"
O: "Her eyes were always kinda squinty"
F: "So did you see her die?"
*At this point I wondered if I should intervene, but felt the Spirit say "trust me"
O: "No, she died at 1 in the morning I think, and I was sleeping"
F:  "Tell me everything that happened."
O:  "Well she looked like she was perfect"
F:  "Like she was sleeping right?"
O:  "No like she was perfect, nothing wrong with her!  Her eyes were open and she looked like she was all better"
F:  "Was she lying down?"
O:  "No my mom was holding her, cradling her and then she looked better then she just lay down"
F: "Then what?"
O: "My mom felt God"
F: "What?"
O:  " mom felt God"
 *There was silence here for a bit...
F: "Did you bury her in the backyard?"
O: "No we weren't allowed, we have to take a ferry to visit her grave"
F: "That's sad..."
F: "My friends cats died."
O: "Oh that is sad"
*And then they were back to playing with their animals!

Needless to say I was in tears and the lump in my throat was so big I could barely breathe, but I have never been so proud of my sweet girl.  My Olivia also has a story to share.  She too is a faithful steward of this precious gift of Grace.   She has also been beautifully mended through the pain of loss and has come through with such a deep understanding of life, love, and beauty in death.

Children are so pure in their thoughts and feelings!  I have learned so much about grief through watching Olivia and Isaiah.  They grieve hard, but then it's done.  They are able to feel the pain, and then move forward in peace.  I am so blessed by my children and am continually drawing from their example.  Funny isn't it?  You would think that as parents, you would be the one to do all the teaching, but what a wonder it is when the teacher becomes the student!

Thank you Jesus for entrusting us with Grace.  Thank you for beautifully mending my precious family and giving us a song in our heart that must be sung!  My heart's prayer is that we as a family will be found as good and faithful stewards of the amazing gift we have in our dear Gracie Grace!

Friday, August 10, 2012

To laugh in joy, to grieve in sorrow....

Yesterday marked 15 years of marriage to my best friend.  I know it sounds cliche and a little sugary sweet, but it's the truth.  As we watched our wedding video with our children, our hearts swelled with love and memories of days gone by.  Our kids giggled with astonishment to see what their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles looked like 15 years ago. I squirmed at embarrassing parts and laughed my head off at others, and cried at the beauty of the day.

Andrew composed a song for me and performed it for me at the wedding.  I was in awe as I watched him sing to me.  He was just a young kid, but his heart was mine and I knew it then and I know it now.  How blessed I am to have found such true love at such a young age.  Some people wondered if we were ready to be married at such tender ages, yet I knew Andrew was to be mine, and I was to be his.  Life-long marriage was modeled to us by parents who loved each other and God and I knew we had found that kind of love.  Although we were naive and young, I remember wise words from my cousin Linda, who assured me how blessed I was to have found my life long love so early on in life.  I love the shock on people's faces when they hear we have been married for 15 years!  Andrew was getting his hair cut yesterday and the hair dresser nearly fell over when she heard that he had been married that long!  In a world that is so well versed in brokenness and faltering emotion, choosing to love after 15 years truly is a testament of the role that God plays in a marriage.

It was humbling to hear our vows and to see the young promise of hope in our faces and in our smiles.  We were on top of the world.  We were in that sweet new love stage, and meant every word of our vows.  Yet no one could have prepared us for when joy turned to sorrow and our vows became more than just words.  We had our ups and downs in marriage of course, yet our journey of Grace led us to the path of unequivocal sorrow and pain.  As I watched our young hopeful selves vow before God and man to grieve together in sorrow and love each other through sickness and in health my heart was wrung out.  Memories of our sweet baby, the hospital visits, the ultrasounds, the medicines, the medical teams, the countless hours of prayer and fasting, the constant hope that things would change, followed by the somber realization and disappointment that she would not be with us long, all seemed to pour out from my heart.

No, no one could have prepared us as we pledged our lives to each other of the true sorrow we would walk through.  No amount of pre-marital counselling, no inspirational talks would ever have been enough to sustain us through the loss of our sweet babe.  It is only through the anchor that is Christ that we grew closer together instead of further apart.  We met quite a few families in hospital wards, doctor offices and emergency rooms that were broken by the strain of living with a child with such special needs.  There were many times Andrew and I grieved differently which often led to stress and hurt in our marriage, but the constant tether we both had to God would draw us back to one another.  

As I reflect on these 15 years together, I can see the fruit that has come by choosing to honor those vows we made that day.

Even if I had known the pain that awaited us, I would still choose you Andrew.  For the love that was borne from such deep valleys of pain has been equaled by the joy and beauty of the mountain top.  There is no one I would rather do life with.  It has always been you and always will be...through the joy and the sorrow, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, forsaking all is to you, that I continually choose to make this vow.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Size 4

As I was shopping today, grief found me.  It is interesting to me when the waves of grief decide to crash to shore.  It is not always when I think it will be, and usually not at the best of times.  Today as I was walking up and down aisles, a pretty little girl outfit caught my eye.  It was a size 4..the size that Gracie would be in if she was still with us.  As my eyes scanned to all the little shirts, and skirts and socks my heart wrenched within me.  Normally when the waves of grief hit in a public place I would try to get out as quickly as I could.  Today, however, I walked the girls clothing aisle and dreamed of her.  What would she look like now?  If only I could cuddle her in those sweet little pink pj's.  Oh that lovely purple dress would look so sweet on her.  I wonder if she would like purple - I wonder what her favorite color would be?  I wonder if she would like clips and pony tails, or would she prefer headbands like her sister?

Today, I allowed myself to cry and think of her, and as I did the memories of her filled my heart to overflowing.  I also allowed my heart the luxury of dreaming of what she must look like now, and all that she can finally do. It amazes me that 3 years can go by so quickly and that life does in fact go on. Yet it also amazes me that in an instant the tiniest reminder, like a size 4 tag on a pretty pink outfit, can remind me of my sweet little girl.  And although these reminders twist my heart into painful positions, the memories that pour out are so very precious reminding me once again that beauty can be found in pain and that is a wonderful thing.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Canucks...OUR team.

Growing up I remember the scene clearly. The tv was locked into one channel for the evening afterall it was Hockey Night in Canada:, BA-ba-ba-ba-babababababababa! You know this theme song don't you? Of course you do, around our house in meant one thing...the Canucks are going to play!

Now I know many people these days are speaking ill of the Canucks, people love to bring others down for some strange reason. I remember in the 80's year after year the Canucks were not at the top of their game like other teams....let's say the Oilers. I remember asking my Dad...why do you like the Canucks so much? Why do you cheer for them even though they lose, and not cheer for a team that you know will win? He said, 'well I support the team not the win. When you choose a team, you are loyal to it.'

Years later that response sticks with me. Truth be told I cried myself to sleep in '94 when we were so close to the cup, and to be completely honest my heart hasn't quite healed from the anxiety produced from last year's journey to Lord Stanley's Cup!!! Yet, I support the team not the win. Will I ever cheer for another team? Never. The Canucks are OUR team.

Let me tell you a little about this team of ours. You see, this team is more than a just a hockey team for me. This team of upstanding gentlemen give of their time and some even of their money to support families in our province... especially kids in our province...specifically MY own kids. If you know our story of Grace, then you know how connected we have been to Canuck Place and the difference Canuck Place has made in our life and in the life of our sweet Gracie. These players not only volunteer time at Canuck Place but also at BC Children's Hospital. Some of their wives even give of their time to help the lives of families right here in our own province.

So for any nay-sayers out there...I want to ask you a question. Would you be willing to walk into a Children's Hospice and hold a dying baby? Would you be willing to enter a hospital ward with sick children all around you? Would you give of your time to come and take pictures with little ones fighting for their life with cancer? I remember when Luongo was coming to Canuck Place. I dressed our sweet baby in a cute little outfit. I kept telling her she had to look her best for when Luongo came a'courtin! He came, took pictures, and we even met his lovely wife and little girl. The morale of the house was through the roof. For a moment the reality of life in a children's hospice where life is nearing it's completion for tiny souls was halted, and smiles and happiness prevailed. Yes, the Canucks are a team, they win some and they lose some. Yet, to me they are more than just some guys playing on ice for a cup...they are role models and even heroes in the eyes of our kids.

Don't get me wrong...although I would LOVE to see them win the cup, that is not the reason I cheer. I support the Canucks because in the words of my father I cheer 'not for the win,' but simply because I am loyal to OUR team.


Picture of Roberto Luongo with my father, Isaias Ponte, and my jewels, Olivia, Isaiah and our now angel...Gracie.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Grief's Muscle Memory....

Life on a whole is really good right now! No one in my family circle is ill, I have amazing family & friends, I am subbing in a school I love, serving in a great children's ministry and church...yet I am feeling exhausted and blah? I feel ridiculous feeling so glum on such a glorious day of sun and after a lovely weekend celebrating with family! So why so glum?

I miss Grace. There I said it. I know it has been three years, and I know some people would say it is better to move on and not conjure up the past...but I miss her. In someways I want to just say 'sure where's the switch, how do I turn this grief thing off?' After-all who wants to feel such a painful emotion such as grief? Yet my spirit will not allow me to forget. I literally can 'feel' grief. Don't misunderstand me though, the physical pain of grief has subsided greatly from the early days of grief! I have more good days than bad for sure. God has worked a miracle in my life that has allowed me to re-engage with life even after losing my sweet pea! I live with this delicate balance - daily engaging in life here on earth with part of my heart already in heaven! Yet, as much as I would like to close my eyes and open them to find that my grief has vanished, my inner self won't let me forget.

It's kinda like when you are training for a run of some sort. My sister is training for a half marathon right now, and even though it's been awhile since she ran, her body remembers.... it's muscle memory. And so, I believe my heart will always have this memory retention. No matter how many years fly by, there will always be the default imprint of the pain that has molded my heart to where it is now. Whether it is watching Olivia or Isaiah graduating, or watching Andrew dance with Olivia on her wedding day, no matter the occasion, no matter the amount of time I will always remember that empty space in my heart, and that longing for Grace.

I know some may argue, but Jesus is the healer! I do agree, Jesus has healed me, and mended my heart. My blog is titled Beautifully Mended, not beautifully broken for a reason. I do believe my heart has been healed, yet there are cracks and it is these fractured lines that remind me of the pain endured. Yet, the pain is not in vain. I still miss Grace. I always will. I am thankful for the grief memory muscle for it reminds me of where I was, how far I've come, and where I am headed! For although I miss her, and my heart still yearns for her - I KNOW that one day my heart will finally be at peace and in one piece. Jesus will wipe the tears away for good, smoothing over the cracks and fractures... removing the longing for heaven once and for all!

Often here I’m sad and weary,
As the days go by;
Oft the scenes are dark and dreary,
Teardrops dim my eye;
But when this short life is o’er,
We shall weep and sigh no more,
But rejoice forevermore
In our home on high.

Anticipation by Charles Naylor (1911)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Letting Go...

Many of you know we were blessed to go to Disneyland with Grandma and Papa (Andrew's parents) this year to celebrate Grace's 3rd Year 'Heaven Due Date' Anniversary. Disney holds a special place in our hearts as it reminds us of a time when our amazing church family (in Sidney at the time) rallied around us and a special family blessed us beyond measure by sending us to DisneyWorld for 2 weeks. It was a first Disney experience for all of us as Drew and I had never been before.

We were in a daze after Grace passed. Life was non-stop and down right frightening at times with her care, and our emotions had been on a wicked roller coaster as she fought and we fought for her life. Our first Disney experience was one of healing, reflecting, and re-connecting as a family. We went through the labor pains if you will, of learning how to transition from a family of 5 to a family of 4. We felt peace there, and for the first time since Gracie had died, we laughed as a family and felt happy in the midst of the ardent pain of loss.

We then went to Disneyland at the mark of Grace's 1 year anniversary. It helped being surrounded by the happiest place on earth - it balanced the extreme sadness that clouded our hearts. I have the most beautiful picture of the kids with their mickey ears looking up at the castle while holding Gracie's hat. It brought joy unspeakable to my heart knowing she was with us in every moment. Last year, we had just moved to the mainland, Andrew was in his first year teaching and life was too hectic to get away. We didn't guard the time well, and the 2nd year anniversary was a dark and difficult one for me. So this year we decided to go to Disneyland again, this time with Grandma and Papa! I thought I was ensuring an easier anniversary. I, being the oh so typical type A personality, had things all planned as to how we would best celebrate Gracie.

The trip was amazing. Having Grandma and Papa there was such fun and we made special memories that will last a lifetime! How blessed we are to have had such an opportunity to vacation with them!!! We had great fun making Daddy and Papa ride the swinging ferris wheel! We soared through the sky in rockets with Grandma - in the rain no less - what a trooper!!! Again, we had a fantastic time despite the little hiccups! My plans however took a turn after turn as things that I could not control kept 'popping up!' Between delayed flights, rain, wind, abnormally chilly temperatures, cold/flu bugs, cancelled shows, and closed rides, my lovely laid out plans became nothing but a confetti of disappointed dust right before my eyes.

Don't get me wrong, we were still in Disneyland and we were still altogether and made amazing memories! Yet, more than all the other disappointments that crept into the picture, what hurt the most was that my carefully thought out plan of carrying a balloon with us throughout the day, and sending it off to heaven at the fireworks was even thwarted. The fireworks were cancelled after waiting until almost 9:00pm with very tired kids which made for a very emotional good-bye to the balloon. After we scribed our love notes to Grace on the balloon and had the kids hold it and say "we love you Grace" they just couldn't let the balloon go. "It's too precious Mommy, I can't let it go!" Talk about heart-wrenching!!!! We realized clearly how the balloon was a symbol of release and it was so very hard to let go. There were no fireworks to distract us from the obvious pain and loss we were feeling in that moment. There was no Tinkerbell flying over the castle to divert our attention. The reality and the pain of missing our sweet baby became all too real in that moment.

We wondered if God was trying to tell us something? Perhaps we have reached another level of healing, a new stage in the journey? Disney was a place where I thought for sure the balance of happy would match the feeling of pain. Yet, this year it didn't feel the same. It was as if God was gently nudging us, reminding us to see that true joy and peace will only be found in Him. Escaping to Disneyland wasn't a bad thing, but laying our hopes and plans there-in is perhaps where I lost sight. I think for us a family we came to once again understand that He is the only one who can help us balance the pain of grief and the beauty in the present. And as the balloon sailed into the night sky (with no picture to document it because the battery died) we watched it rise until it looked as though it had caught flight with a star - which happened to be the second star to the right. How we wished we could take that flight with the balloon just to catch a glimpse of her in wholeness. We remembered her, we cried for her and for ourselves, and then with the strength of the One who holds our precious girl in His hands...we let go once again.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Security Blanket

This time of year will always be bittersweet - no matter how many years pass, Springtime will always remind me of Grace. As new life begins to sprout up from the ground, it reminds my grieving heart that my sweet pea has also bloomed in heaven. I am in awe that it has been nearly three years since our sleeping beauty went to be with her Prince of Peace. I remember in those early days of grief wondering how I would ever survive each passing day - let alone three years? It is nothing short of miraculous that I am here three years later, not only surviving but truly living again.

I have felt a sense of strength in my spirit this year. God has strengthened my resolve and breathed new life and new dreams into my heart. After Gracie passed away I felt stripped of who I was for I became so wrapped up in her care and the care of my family. I felt like a toddler stripped of their security blanket and left to face the world without it. There were days I would cry out in tantrum - longing for her to be back in my arms. Truth be told I took Gracie's actual blanket (my favorite one in the picture above - made by my dear friend Kim) with me everywhere I went - literally EVERYWHERE for the first few months.

In the grocery store if I saw diapers or a baby toy I would reach in my big purse and out came the blanket. I didn't care if people thought I was crazy - I needed to feel her, remember her, and by clenching that blanket I was able to continue shopping. Or if I saw a familiar face or a Puraltaor Truck (that used to deliver her products) I would whip out the blanket just like a toddler would! Sounds a little crazy I know - but in those dark days of grief and depression it was what I needed.

I remember thinking I am never going to be able to give up her blanket! Will I be going to Olivia's high school graduation with the blanket in hand? Thankfully, God is my ultimate comfort and as the days turned into weeks, then months and now years I don't carry it with me throughout the day. I do still keep it close to me at night. It is a tangible way to remember her every night and thank God that she is safe in His arms every night as well.

This blanket was always with Gracie. It is so soft and the colours depicted her personality so well! It is probably the most treasured article of hers that I own. I made myself watch her video this morning - her video eulogy that was shown at her funeral. It is so painful to get through - but as I saw her wrapped in this special blanket, it brought comfort to my heart. She was wrapped in our love from day one, and as much as this blanket physically covered her, we as a family saturated our sweet baby with all the love we had!

Thank you for those of you who still read my thoughts and have followed our story of Grace. I know you loved her and our family. Your prayers have sustained us and again we would appreciate prayer covering over our family as we celebrate and remember the day Grace stepped into true healing - her heaven due date - March 3, 2009.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Precious Day of Love...

Tomorrow, February 14th, people everywhere will celebrate love. Valentine's day for our family takes on a whole new level of love as we reflect and remember Grace's day of birth and the profound love that entered our lives that day.

Gracie's dates are so special to us! When Feb. 12th 2008 came and went with no Gracie, our hearts were anxious and saddened and disappointed. I remember after crying from a long day in hospital and coming home with sweet baby still nestled within, I prayed. Although I was disappointed that no beds in the NICU were available for her, I just had to believe that God knew best.

Here is a note from Feb. 12, 2008 that I updated on my Facebook for friends and family...

We were so hoping to be introducing our dear Grace to you this morning but instead she is still safe within my womb!!! We arrived at the hospital at 630AM, I was admitted, dressed in a lovely blue hospital gown and was poked a few times by a training nurse for my IV. Then we waited and waited and waited until finally we were told that there were NOT enough beds in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for Grace. VERY disappointing. We were so ready to meet her and hold her and just be done this 'waiting game.' We are trying to trust in the fact that GOD is in control and knows the perfect time for her to be born and we understand that she is safer within than to be born without a bed in the NICU. Please continue to pray, we need those prayers more than ever. We are so tired and the kids are tired of all of the change. It looks like the tentative date will be Friday at 11am? But they may call earlier? So we will try to keep you posted. Let's keep the faith and keep praying even more fervrently for healing and wholeness in our Baby Grace. We so appreciate each and every one of you and thank you for supporting us on this truly Amazing journey of Grace.

Nelia and Andrew and kiddies.

God did have another plan - He, in His great love for me, knew how much comfort Gracie being born on this day would bring me. I had no idea that Grace was on loan for such a short amount of time, but He did. Her dates of birth and passing bring a comfort to my heart and a reassurance to my mind. Even though my heart was so heavy & I was left feeling confused that day(Feb.12, 2008) the author of life saw what I just couldn't possibly see or know. Unthinkable pain was awaiting, but also immeasurable love and joy. I will always be so thankful that my sweet pea was born on Valentine's Day - the day we celebrate love!!!! She will always and forever be my sweetest little Valentine, a gift I will forever be thankful for.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Leaning into the Pain

Leaning Into the Pain.

I remember your smile, I remember your eyes so lovely and green
I remember the softness of your skin and being the happiest I had even been.
I remember the cuddles, I remember the kisses and the moments of peace
I remember when the things took a turn for the worse and the pain it released.

To balance the pain with the joy of your love is getting easier each day
Although the ardent longing of my heart will always remain.
So as reminders and special days come to the surface once again
I will strengthen my resolve to lean into the hurt and the pain

For in embracing the reality of the deep loss and sorrow
It allows for the contractions of grief to do it's part knowing that tomorrow
Will bring new hope, for the sorrow lasts but the night
for joy comes in the morning and reveals the pain into the light
of the One who holds my sweet pea in His ever strong hands
Awaiting for the day I will finally understand His unfathomable plans.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Words are Vessels

Words are vessels someone once told me, and that heavy realization changed the way I spoke...or at least thrust me upon the path of such change. How often do we flippantly say words, not knowing how they can impact a soul? To envision each word that comes from our mouth as a cistern that can either hold life or death is profound to say the least. Words have the power to hurt and comfort, lift up or break down, to love or destroy.

I remember being at the grocery store shortly after learning of Gracie's severe brain malformation - not knowing if she would even survive - and as I was waiting for the cashier who was flustered by something at the till, she laughed and innocently said "sorry...I feel so brain dead today." I swallowed the lump of emotions caught in my throat, grabbed my receipt and ran to my vehicle and sobbed. Heaving, uncontrollable sobs overtook me. Here was a cashier who was having a hard day no doubt - obviously not knowing the prognosis of my unborn baby - casually using a phrase that pierced my heart, stabbing me to the very core. Any strength that had been in my spirit all washed away in but an instant. Words.are.vessels.

I think of the times I have spoken words over people, not knowing of course the pain they might have had and it grieves my spirit. When I think of the times when words trickled from my mouth in anger masked as sarcasm, my heart is abashed. Lord, forgive me! As a wife and parent, how I long for the words I speak to be edifying to my husband and children. Criticism (even though the reasoning behind the words are good) can break even the strongest spirit. Do you know that moment when the harshness of your words breaks your child's spirit? In that moment, I rationalize the guilt by giving reasons as to why I had to say what I did, but the sobering reality that how it came across and even more importantly how it was interpreted spurs my spirit to ask my child for forgiveness. It is remarkable how quickly children forgive, a lesson I know I continue to learn from my dear little ones. As a wife, I know when my nagging becomes burdensome. Although I know that I do have the 'right' to say my peace, more often than not, my 'peace' is camoflouged in anger and catapulted in the vessel of my words causing friction and tension in my marriage.

Yet, thankfully words can also be used for edifying, loving, encouraging. I know that my words have also have the power to encourage others and draw them closer to God. My prayer this year is that I would more fully be aware of my words, choosing to use words of life and hope! Grace taught me the fragility of life, and how life here on earth is but a vapor. How quickly we lose sight of that reality! With the time I have been given, may He use me and my words to draw others unto Himself.

Words are vessels indeed.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Ps. 19:14