Saturday, November 26, 2016

Westwinds Ladies Brunch Fundraiser for Canuck Place

I was honoured to be ask to share our story of Grace to a wonderful room full of beautiful women!  I was blessed by the generosity to raise money for Canuck Place, an organization that is so near and dear to our hearts!  

I am someone who likes order and I find comfort in rules and boundaries.  I am organized and orderly and tend to be what one would consider a Type A personality.  I am a planner.  I love lists, and so my plans for my life were greatly thwarted the day I found out we were unexpectedly expecting.  I was already feeling overwhelmed at the surprise of having 3 babies three years and under, but then the devastating news of our little surprise baby’s health left me so shocked and deeply confused.  She was diagnosed at 18 weeks gestation with severe hydrocephalus which is water on the brain….the diagnosis ranged from imminent death to moderate learning disabilities!  We were told that 90% of people who receive such a diagnosis, will terminate.  I remember fighting through the tears and shaking my head in disbelief, so desperately longing to wake up from every mother’s worst nightmare.

Our journey was filled with great highs; like capturing her first smile on camera and watching her track with her eyes, and bringing her hand to her mouth and play with her little toys.  But it was also filled with deep lows, lonely moments in hospital hallways, frightening seizure episodes and 911 calls, and finally the hardest and most deeply painful moment of my life, burying my baby.
I started the journey with such faith that she would be completely healed.  After-all, Andrew and I were in ministry and we knew that God had the power to heal, and so we set off in such faith that if we did all we could, then surely God would do the rest. 

Well, as it happened, healing on this side of heaven was NOT God’s plan.  I remember feeling so confused and so hurt.  How could her healing on this side of heaven not be His plan?  I checked my heart for bitterness, sin, unresolved unforgiveness, I searched my heart and prayed continually and fasted, & held prayer meetings.  I gave up all technology and every free moment I had I would read my bible with such a thirst like it was water for my parched soul – yet still, His answer was not the one we were hoping and praying for. 

I’ll never forget reading in Hebrews 11 where the author writes about the heroes of our faith!  Hebrews 11:13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 

He then lists all of the atrocities that came to these heroes of our faith.  They were stoned, mocked, they were imprisoned, mistreated, afflicted, and the list goes on!  I was in shock!  I couldn’t believe that these heroes of the faith, were commended for their faith but were not given what was promised them…for God had something better.
39 39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Whooo….that’s a tough pill to swallow.  It was so hard to come to the reality that His plan for Grace was not my plan.  It was a tug of war for a few months I can assure you. 
An example of this tug of war with God was one day I was at a department store looking for that 'perfect dress' for Grace’s upcoming Dedication celebration.  It didn't take long to find a beautiful pink dress.  It was frilly, flowy, and perfect.  As I held it and rubbed my fingers along the delicate fabric, I thought, how would it feel on her?  Would she be comfortable in it?  I imagined just how beautiful she would look in it.  The soft pink color of the fabric would match her sweet and rosy complexion. 

As I walked away, I noticed the same dress in white.  It was out of place on a different rack, most likely placed there by someone with a change of heart.  Perhaps a white dress for a baby would prove to be daunting as it would no doubt become blemished within minutes on a toddler.  I felt a familiar prompting in my spirit.  I kept walking.  I felt it again.  I turned around.  I slowly walked back and stared at it.  I stood face to face with the pureness of it.  The unblemished and perfectly white material drew me towards it.  I wanted to turn around and leave.  I did not want to hear what I was feeling God was saying to my heart.  I heard, and perhaps more accurately, felt the words, "you need to buy this for her."  
I stood there knowing full well this dress was not to replace the party pink one.  No, the solemness deep in my heart knew what I needed to buy it for.  I stood there, at odds with myself for quite sometime.  How do you buy a dress that you know you will have to bury your child in?  How do you follow in obedience to a call that you don't want to hear, and that you desperately don't want to accept?  

There was another woman, who too, was given a task too heavy to bear.  A woman who had plans set out for her life, until God came to her and changed it all.  Sweet young Mary, engaged to be married, no doubt had plans set.  And this change of plan, this Higher calling, came with great risk.  For not being married and pregnant could have resulted in her stoning.  I can only imagine how frightened she must have been and can only imagine all of the questions she must have had. 
To think that such a young girl would be called to such a huge and overwhelming task is unfathomable to me. Yet, I love how God's ways are so often opposite to what our ways would be. To think that God would choose a girl - not a queen, nor a king, not someone of high ranking or wealth, but a simple young girl from the long family line of a mere shepherd boy turned warrior king. Mary, from the house of David, was called to put all reason aside and just trust in sheer obedience. 

Mary had a lot of reasons to disobey, and flat out refuse the call on her life. She had to endure the initial shock of the angel, then had to try to wrap her head around the mysterious and frightening idea that she would be with child which I am sure led to the panic of what others would say about her, her family, and her betrothed. I am sure she feared her for her life. How do you explain to the one you are giving your life to such inexplicable news? I can't even begin to imagine the look of pain and betrayal in the eyes of Joseph (who we know loved her enough to want to divorce her in quiet - before he knew the truth from the angel himself). Ugh - talk about a stressful situation!

Yet here we see Mary in the middle of an unfathomable encounter choosing to obey. After asking the obvious question of "how can this be...since I am a virgin?" she receives another ambiguous piece to the mysterious puzzle. Even after this strangely wonderful, yet frightening encounter we hear her beautiful trusting faith simply respond with

Luke 1:38 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”
Obedience…a beautiful, surrender of her will. 

During my pregnancy with Grace I had many people praying.  One prayer warrior in our church at the time, told me that she felt like I was like Mary – favored of God.  Favored?   I remember thinking, I don’t feel favoured, I feel scared, unsure, confused, worried…definitely not favored. 

Our journey with Grace was full of the unknown. Trusting the Hand of an unseen God is not easy. Yet I knew His voice, for He had guided me all my life through ups and downs, highs and lows. He was my Shepherd, and although I did not know the path and although it often was a path I did not want to tread, I still trusted His rod and His staff.

Obedience for me didn't always come easy - and perhaps it was a struggle for Mary too? There were times I fought, and fought hard against what I knew was His will for Grace. He, in His love for me, allowed me the fight - but, as Andrew told me - God is big enough to handle our anger, questions and disappointments.
When Lois told me I was favoured.  I smiled and thanked her and secretly scoffed in my heart.  Favored?  Favored to what?  Favoured to be hurt?  Favoured to watch her baby suffer?  If this was favour, I surely didn’t want it!

The greek for the word highly favoured, word kecharitomene.  Which means completely, perfectly, enduringly endowed with grace." (Blass and DeBrunner, Greek Grammar of the New Testament).

When I read that, tears welled up in my eyes, because the night before the confirmation of our baby’s diagnosis, well before this strong and loving woman shared with me that I was favoured, we cried out to God in prayer, fasting, and singing.  My husband and I sat crying on the floor, singing Amazing Grace and I turned to him and said, if it’s a girl, can we call her Grace?

We loved the name Grace, because it meant unmerited favour.   I knew she was my unexpected blessing, and we were completely, perfectly enduringly endowed with GRACE!  She was my delight.  She was a gift to me, to us.  I can clearly see that I was favoured in the sense that Christ made me perfectly, and completely able to endure the beautiful and immense gift that was Grace.

He gave me the grace to buy that white dress that day.  I tried to walk away, rationalizing that we could still have more time with her.  I knew she was declining, but tried to justify that we could still go another year or more, but again, the prompting pounded gently, but heavily at the same time.  My heart raced.  I knew it was my Shepherd's voice.  So I reached out, and with shaking hands gently lifted it off the rack.  I raced to the counter, and without eye contact bought the dresses and ran to the van.  I got to the van and I wept.  Deep, heavy sobs.  I tried to compose myself a few times, but couldn't.  It was getting late and I needed to get home.  

I sat in the driveway for awhile.  Crying out to God.  "But God, she is as white and pure as this beautiful dress.  How can you ask me to do such a thing?  I can't give her up.  I can't.  I fought so hard for her every day.  Please God.  Can't you understand what I am feeling?  She is so little, so innocent, she has done nothing wrong.  She has shown us love, truth and grace.  I want to trust you but please, please don't make me do this!" 

As I continued to cry out, again I felt His will, His voice gently saying "But child, I do understand.  My son was blameless, my son was pure.  He did nothing to deserve the penalty awaiting Him.  He showed love, and embodied truth and grace.  Yet, I gave Him up for you, for the world...for Grace.  She will never have to experience true separation from me.  She will never be out of my hand because of what MY pure and innocent son accomplished. He experienced true death, and separation from Me, so that our sweet little Gracie would never have to.  I do understand, and promise to be your portion."

One month later, my sweet baby wore that dress.  She was as white as snow, fautless and blameless, like a little lamb.  She passed from this world into the next without a moment of separation.  She was lifted from my arms into the strong and loving arms of her Shepherd. You see, she too knew His voice, and awoke to the loving nail scarred hands, stretching out for her.  Like a little lamb, leaping into the Shepherd's embrace, she was lead home.  She never experienced true death.  Yes, she was separated from me, but thank you Jesus, she was never separated from her Shepherd. 

Our sweet journey of Grace came to completion March 3, 2009.  Grace Kathryn Elizabeth Evans passed away at Canuck Place Children’s hospice on Mar 3, 2009 at the tender age of 12 and half months.  She passed away a year exactly to her original due date. We affectionately call it her heaven due date, as that was the day she entered into fullness.  I am so very thankful to CP and how they rallied around us and helped us in our most painful moments.  They were there to support us as a family and after the chaos of the hospital and separation of our family, Canuck was a safe place to land.  It was a haven, where we could all go through the experience of loss and grief together, as one, under one roof.  Words will never fully be able to express our love and appreciation for Canuck Place.  Thank you Jenna and family for all that you have done to raise awareness and money to support this beautiful organization. 

The journey of Grace was one of deep love, and deep grief.  God molded me into a new creation, and the pain of the break hurts, and it still hurts ardently.  But I can honestly say that there is a beauty that came from the break, a beauty in me that was only brought forth because of the loss of my sweet baby and that all she taught me, and my family.

So as you enter this Christmas season, I am mindful that there are some of you who are in the midst of an inexplicable, painful place. Although it has been a few years without Grace, the painful reminders of life without her remain. Perhaps there are some of you in this fervent place of grief this year. There may also be some of you living in the unknown of whether this Christmas will be the last one with a loved one. While some may be picking up the pieces of broken dreams and relationships. Will you like Mary, in the midst of chaos and profound confusion, choose to obey even if it doesn't make sense? Will you accept the call on your life and trust that He can make beauty from ashes as He did with mine?

No matter where you are in the scheme of life this year- whether you are singing all the jolly Christmas songs with gusto because life is beautifully wonderful, or if you find yourself crying out and longing to just feel at peace again, I encourage you to come to the rough wooden cradle of Jesus, just the same, and worship Him.
For in Him true peace, joy and fulfillment can be found. In Him, the eternal hope of true healing and wholeness is available to all who call on His name.

Obedience is not always the natural choice. It is often uncomfortable and even painful. Obedience for me is constantly and willingly releasing the pain and moving forward even though at times, I so desperately want to hold on to the pain. It is trusting even when I don't have the blueprint of life ahead of me.

This Christmas may our response be as Mary's, in obedience may we have the strength and courage to say “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.”

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

The Heart Won't Let Me Forget

The heart won't let me forget, no matter how hard I may try.
I tell myself I am fine, it's just a pretty white lie.
And so I go on, piling on my plate more and more
Pushing down the memories, the pain, just as I had done before.

Afterall there is work to be done, reports to write
Assignments and reading must be done just right
Games, lessons, and homework with my precious ones
Cheering on my hubby as a Doctor he did become.

I thought I had a good handle.  I thought I was fine.
Yet my heart won over the messages I had in my mind.
I am coping, I am handling it.  Life is good and swell.
Yet my heart, was not conviced.  No, it had something to tell.

Stop.  Stop the busy.  Stop and remember me.
Let the pain, and let the siphoned tears finally run free.
7 years, my mind says, it shouldn't still hurt so.
Ah, but the heart, oh the heart.  The heart still knows.

The heart of me, the center of who I am
Is forever changed by the life of my sweet little lamb.
I have come far, by the Grace of God it's true.
But my shape is changed, forever it will take shapes anew.

Grief is fluid and it flows and changes like a river to the sea
Sometimes rising deep and strong, other time still as glass you see.
Although my  mind does try to predict the size and intestity of the wave
The heart knows better and does not allow me to hide away in an oblivious cave.

For how can a mother's heart ever truly forget?
The last hug, the last kiss, the last moment so intimate?
No, the heart won't let me forget, and so I am thankful for the beautiful pain.
So wash over my heart, mind and soul tonight Grief, come like a cleansing rain.

I look at the photos and videos, allowing the burdened filled tears to stain my cheeks.
I hug your siblings and hold them tight and stare at their faces as they sleep.
Oh sweet angel girl, my heart beats heavy and strong
To kiss that 'sweet spot' just one more time and sing over you in song.

And so I welcome grief tonight.  Oh dear heart you have center stage.
I am listening now, I have made the time.  No longer must you wage
war with my mind for I have calmed my thoughts and mind.
Thank you heart for reminding me to take this precious time.

My darling Grace I miss you.  It still hurts so ardently.
Yet I rejoice to think of you in heaven dancing so heartily.
So dance, dance, dance my little one.  Dance, dance for the Son.
Run, jump and play my little one, and I will sing and rejoice for your work is done.

Thank you Lord for a HEART that won't let me forget!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Time Passes Still...

Time has passed. It passes still.
It moves, it flows, against my will.
8 years?  Can it be?  It feels like a distant memory.
When I held you, cradled you, and gazed at your eyes of green.

Sweet soft skin, so pure so white.
Curly cues that swept off to the right.
So many frightened unknowing nights.
Gave way to new mornings and renewed sight.

I never knew just how much my heart would cope.
How it would writher and twist and then still hold out for hope.
You taught me sweet girl how to be gentle yet strong
That it was ok to accept the help that came along.

The hugs, the notes, the words of love and care
Brought sustenance and life like my lungs needed air.
The sorrow, the pain, and the hollow I still feel
Remind me that 8 years is not long enough to heal.

Forever I will carry you with me in precious memory
I am thankful for the pain, and in it, the boundless beauty
For time stops for no one.  No, it doesn't stop for me
Yet I can slow my thoughts and relish in a memory.

Perhaps the time you smiled at your Daddy
I still see it now, oh how it made us so happy.
Or the time you sang along with your sister,
Or turned your head to gaze at your brother.

My favourite moments though, were in the still of the night
When you would speak to me in love with all your might.
Not through words but in the love that shone in your eyes
You shared with me your heart as I sang to you lullabies.

Precious moments, memories and lessons more precious that gold.
I will forever cherish in my heart, and tightly I will hold.
For time waits for no one, I have learned with much sorrow.
And so I choose to love well today and not wait for tomorrow.