Blue Chevron Blanket for Jaden

It’s important not to give up because great things take time!

After many months (okay, we’re heading towards 2 years I think!) I’ve finally completed my sons pure wool crocheted blanket. After finishing my first large blanket for my daughter I decided I’d like to do one for each of our kids. After showing Jaden some ideas on Pinterest, he asked if he could have a blanket that went from dark navy, through to light blue. Sure thing!

I confess I really do love this blanket! It wasn’t difficult to do as I loved the colours and how it was looking as it grew. I didn’t work on it over summer (100% wool gets quite warm to sit under!) and actually ended up doing over half of it in the last few months. The weather was getting chilly and I thought how nice it would be to complete in time for his 12th birthday last week. His reaction when he received it was worth it!

There are 5 different hues, with 31 rows of each colour. I made it to fit his King Single bed, but you could make it any size. Very warm and snuggly!

This blanket has not only been made with love for my youngest but has also connected my heart with someone who also has a love of crocheting! After years of not knowing anyone other than my Mum who would crochet, I’ve found a friend who is AMAZING and has encouraged me to venture out into make other creations! She lives a few hours away but it was great to be able to finish this while we were at her house recently! Thanks for your inspiration my friend!

Now it’s time to move onto Blanket No.3!

xxx

Friendship is Balm to the Soul

I was meeting with a group of women the other week and realised I’d only known some of them for a year – others even less. Yet, I love their friendship, their beautiful smiles, their loving hearts. We talk about motherhood, God and all sorts of other funny and crazy things! We laugh a lot, sometimes cry a little and definitely share our lives together.

Week by week, I meet new people and I’m amazed at who God might bring across my path (and me across theirs)! To think a year ago, I didn’t know some of these incredible people and how much more enriched my life is now for knowing them. I have never found it easy meeting new people (which is slightly problematic when you’re married to the Pastor). As I child I was very shy and the thought of talking to “strangers” would make me want to run a mile! But I’m learning to get better at it. I decided many years ago that the label “shy” was hindering my life and it was time to put on a smile and be welcoming to those I came across! In my heart I always wanted people to know they were welcome, it was just learning how to translate that into “Hi, it’s lovely to meet you!”

So I’ve been struck with the beauty of new friendships. Of how God can bring across just the right person at the right time, who “gets” you. But I also treasure the friendships I’ve had for many years. Some I’ve had since childhood – who have walked the journey of life with me. There is something special shared with those who know your back story and have hung in there through thick and thin. Some friends I may only see every year or two… but they hold a special place in my heart.

Sometimes friends move on… either to another city or country… or from this present world. It’s easy to focus on the loss in these times and even begin to question how that void in our lives will be filled. Sometimes that gaping hole left behind feels so deep. An acceptance has to come, that people do come and go – and that’s okay. When pastoring a church, this can be particularly hard… as people leave and move on (sometimes suddenly), after you’ve loved and poured out for them. But this is life. Through it all, we must keep our hearts soft and still choose to open up our lives to new people that might appear. You just never know who is around the corner – who might share that crazy love of “whatever” with you. I often reflect on how much fuller and blessed my life is because of someone. And yet, months earlier, I didn’t even know I was missing them from my life!

Let’s remain so thankful for those friends we have in our lives. They come in many
different forms. The ones we can laugh with… the ones we skype with… the ones who will tell us we’re stronger than we think. The ones who come by the hospital with coffee, the ones who listen late at night. The ones we can text out for prayer… the ones who will laugh till they cry. The ones who turn up with chocolate… to the ones who nod their heads with a knowing – cause they’ve walked that path too and know how to lead you through it.

We were never made to do life alone. There is always someone close by. Sometimes we just need to reach out and find them. “Friendship is born in that moment when one person says to another “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” – C.S. Lewis

xxx

Time to Take Heart

heart-ribbon

“Your heart isn’t normal. You seem to have a couple of problems…”

It was like living in a surreal dream. You get told some news and you can see yourself sitting there smiling, nodding your head, saying “aha…” but inside, you’re screaming “Are you serious?!” It was by accident that we first found out something wasn’t quite right with my heart. I was having an ECG as a precaution, before some Migraine meds I was on were increased. Not for a moment did I, nor my Doctor think that anything would show up.

Yet there it was. A left bundle branch block (LBBB), meaning there was a delay or obstruction along the pathway that my electrical impulses travel, to make my heart beat. My Doctor was shocked – I was in disbelief – neither of us expecting anything on the ECG. Lots of words were thrown around which I didn’t understand. I scribbled LBBB down, as that much I could remember and called Pete saying “You’re not going to believe this!” It was then a time of waiting until I was called up for an Echo (like an ultrasound) to be done on my heart.

It was a couple of weeks ago when I was called up for it and I was still recovering from an operation (for a completely unrelated issue). I was tender and sore but extremely grateful that I was being fitted in for an Echo. I went along, expecting to have it and be told the results a month later. However, the Cardiologist decided he wanted to talk to Peter and I straight away and it was then that my surreal dream, began to kick in.

left-bundle-branchAs he calmly said my heart wasn’t normal I began to wonder what he meant by a “couple of problems.” He explained (with pictures.. which did help!) what Left Bundle Branch Block meant and how my left ventricle was contracting later than the right. He then went onto explain my other problem. It seemed that my heart was also not contracting as it should. “Not beating as vigorously.” More words were used and I was trying to take in what he was saying.

Now, I have to admit, I wasn’t one for Science when I was at school… it was one subject that would make my eyes glaze over and I remember counting down the minutes till the end of class. I was beginning to regret that now. However, at this moment I was extremely grateful that my hubby had taken Biology till the end of College and loved it! There was hope that one of us was understanding what was being said. I whispered to him, “I hope you’re listening to all this… you’re going to need to explain it to me later!”

 

After another ECG and being told that if I ever have another fainting spell, I should call an ambulance immediately, I walked back to the car in disbelief. My Cardiologist was going to meet with the others in a few days to discuss my case. His feeling though… was that I would need a pacemaker.

I was stunned. A pacemaker? Was this for real? Don’t old people get pacemakers? A week later it was confirmed, they were in unanimous agreement that I needed one. My Cardiologist went on to explain to me that they wanted an MRI done first though and he would try and get me in for Monday this week. I heard nothing more and went into the weekend trying to forget about it all. I had my party on Saturday to celebrate my 40th birthday that is coming up, all the while thinking “Wow, I never thought I’d be so grateful to reach 40!

15288519_10154903827239258_200743116432634183_o
What better way to celebrate than Hot Fudge Cake with a Friend! 

After praying for me on Sunday at church, I had a call Monday morning to say the MRI was happening that day. There were questions as to why my heart had these problems and they wanted to make sure it had formed okay and wasn’t genetic. After the MRI, we saw my Cardiologist again –  Praise God it all looked good! Our prayers were answered. The repercussions if there were genetic issues, weren’t worth thinking about. It was the best news I’d had all year! As we drove home I kept saying to Peter “I’m so relieved. I’m so relieved…”

 

So now I wait. At some point in the next 6 weeks I’ll meet with a Cardiologist to talk about my “Biventricular” pacemaker. Does this all seem crazy? Yes. Am I slightly concerned at how this will go? Yes. Can I believe the words “I have to get a pacemaker” come out of my mouth? No.

But I think despite the strange journey I’m on, my underlying sense is one of gratitude. Incredibly my Doctor decided to do an ECG one day, which revealed something wasn’t right. The upshot is I’m doing okay now, but give it some years and I wouldn’t be. I can’t help but see the hand of God on this whole process, from the way it was found out, to the “coincidences” we’ve had along they way. I have an amazing friend who works in Cardiology and she has been the hugest blessing to talk to. I can ask all of my dumb questions and she patiently explains what I need to know. My heart is so grateful.

So, as we head towards Christmas and I’m looking towards the unknown in the next couple of months, I just keep reminding myself of my very big God. He has blessed incredible people with knowledge, skill and ability, to create these devices and fit them. I may set off alarms at airports and have a scar on my chest… but at least I know my ticker will be working as it should. I keep thinking, if how I feel now, isn’t how other people feel… then I wonder what my new normal might be like? Who knows? I may be out running marathons before we know it!

Well… at the very least, I might go for a walk around the block without getting puffed…
take-heart

 

XXX

 

Life’s Twists and Turns

 

mountain-road-1556177__340

It’s been an interesting couple of months. Sometimes you’re heading towards the end of a year, feeling like you know what is ahead, only to find a curve in the road which takes you in another direction! I’m sure for those effected by the big earthquake down country last week, they would understand this on a whole other level.

This morning I was reading Psalm 39, where it talks about our days being a “mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you.” My incredibly talented husband wrote an amazing song about this – how one day we’re here, another we’re gone. So often we’re building things in our lives – which ultimately don’t hold value in the long run. When tragedy strikes, suddenly what really matters comes to the forefront for us. I’ve watched people on the news standing beside their demolished houses, still smiling. “We’re still alive” is the resounding cry from them. When you have a brush with death, being alive suddenly counts for a whole lot more than “things”.

I’ve in no way come close to dying this year, but after a brief stint in hospital, followed by (what felt like a very long…) week in hospital and an operation, it has brought me back to the basics of life. Of appreciating every little thing. To be able to walk. To talk. To be home. To hug those I love. To have family around. Amazing friends. Good food. Flowers. Medical people who know so much more than I could ever imagine! And the appreciation of my church family whom I miss.

Now as I begin to dip my toe back into the realities of life again, I’m trying keep things in perspective. The days come and go. Life has it’s ups and downs. But there are things in our lives which are vitally important and that we must treasure. Appreciate. Hold on to. And not take for granted.

Life does toss us curve balls and we may be tempted to crawl under a blanket and hide. But life keeps going and there is a reason why we’re here on this earth. For now. This time. This moment. I could spend my life stressing and worrying about things (which I’ve learnt over the years achieves nothing!), or I can take a few deep breaths and hold onto the moments that matter. And savor life.

In a matter of weeks, my youngest with leave Primary School. It’s a day I’ve been dreading for many years now. Not because I don’t want him to grow up – but because it’s another end of an era. I’ve made the most of every “last” this year. The last swimming carnival. The last time he spoke in assembly. The last time baking for the PTA. The list goes on. But I know too that although this road is ending for our family after 11 years, life goes on. It will look a bit different. But it will be just as good in every way. I’ve appreciated and treasured the moments we’ve had there, but its time to keep moving into the next season.

The twists and turns of life will continue. It wakes us up and reminds us to take stock of our priorities. It’s okay to feel sad as we let go of one season but we must fill our hearts with expectation as we enter the next! For (in the words of my hubby) God is good and the best is always yet to come!

xxx

 

Perspective is Everything

Ever had one of those weeks where you feel yourself sliding down and the pit comes a calling? You know the pit… that place where it all feels so hard and you loose sight that good things are a coming! One thing after another builds up and before you know it, your thoughts are not your friend. You wonder if you’re cut out for the things you’re doing, questions like “God why did you make me like this?” come to your mind. You’re tired, in pain and you long for life to return to normal – although you’re not even sure what that is anymore.

For us, we’re in a busy season right now. We knew going into this term that it was going to be crazy busy, with many projects and events on the calender for church. We’re nearly there – we’ve come so far and our Conference for the year is only a week away! It will be incredible I know! The auditorium connect space is in the middle of a huge transformation and the 6am starts for my hubby will all be worth it! The past few weeks I’ve been reminding myself that this frantic, stressful time we’re in right now will pass and that life will look different a month from now.

Sure there are always things coming up and the life of pastoring is a continual balancing act, to ensure that we be who we’re meant to be, do what we are meant to do and still love each other at the end of the day! But the last couple of weeks, I’ve had to remind myself that we’re living in a full on stage and that “this too shall pass.”

For seven years, I’ve also battled migraines. Since July last year, they decided to come banging on my door (or head!) weekly. After years of trying different things and a LOT of prayer, this years we’ve been trialing different drugs and to try and find something to prevent them. After some that almost sent me crazy (actually I’m not kidding!) I thought we’d finally hit the jackpot! A few months ago, I began a new medication which seemed to be helping me. I went from 4 days a week of migraines, down to maybe one light one a week, with a badish one once a month. Two weeks ago all that changed. It was Tuesday afternoon and I began yawning. The tiredness hit. The pain started. The nausea arrived. My face went as white as a sheet. That familiar taste of tea suddenly tasted like poison and it wasn’t long before I was in bed, holding my head crying with pain. Worse than ever. The next day was as bad. Days went by and the meds weren’t helping and the pit came a calling.

It’s when the pain is so bad that you loose all perspective of what the truth is. I had to remind myself “You will get better.” “Give it a couple of days.” “The pain will leave – eventually.” Because when you’re feeling that bad – all perspective becomes hazy and you begin to believe that this is it – for the rest of your life. You’ll never be well enough to see your friends again. To work. To preach. To connect with friends. Help that person. To be a good mother to your kids… wife to your husband… the list goes on.

Right perspective is still something we need every week. Even now. We’re tired and it’s been weeks of my hubby working each day. Small things begin to feel like big things. Ministry feels challenging. So it’s now that I remind myself that this too shall pass.  A holiday is coming in a couple of weeks. We will be okay. We will make it through.

And I also remember to be grateful. For the small things and the amazing  blessings that come our way. For homemade soup with fresh bread. For good friends who listen and laugh with you. Faithful people who pray when you send them SOS messages. For peace and quiet. Family. Sunshine. Words with Friends, giving joy to a weary soul. For kids who love Jesus, are serving Him of their own accord and living in ways that make you proud. For friends that see the tears and whip you and your kids away for treats out. For fellow pastors wives from afar who understand the highs and lows and encourage you to keep going. A hubby who you can laugh with and loves you despite everything.

There is so much to be grateful for.

I am blessed. I just need to keep that perspective in place. The days maybe long and sometimes I may struggle with pain but yet I will lift my eyes in the midst of it all and say ‘Thank you’ to the One who Sees, Knows and Cares about me.

psalms-40

Joy Comes in the Morning

“She has cancer…” Words that you never want to hear. Words that you never think you’ll hear.

We’d just come home from a week of camping – a week of laughter, board games, time in the sun – to find out that our dear friend Raewyn had been taken to hospital. We didn’t know then, that she would never return home again. As the news of bowel cancer sunk in, I thought of the conversations we’d had previous months before. The chats about how sick she was feeling… should she see a doctor… maybe it was something she was eating? Now suddenly it all made sense.

They’d operated but it hadn’t gone well. Things were moving so fast. It was hard to believe the “c” word was now attacking my darling friends body, with an unquenchable thirst. I was in shock.

1911136_10202739163813025_1983615975_oWe first met when I was 14, two years later I began working for her – gleaning knowledge on how to become a florist. Our friendship was sealed one day when decorating an events room at the Hotel and Conference center we worked in. Some of the decorations needed fixing on the ceiling above us – but there were tables all set up ready for a function. No problem – she just carefully placed a chair on top of the table and climbed up! All was going well until the chair suddenly slipped from under her, sending her flying to the ground – with cutlery, plates, and glasses smashing around her!  I stood there watching in horror, then she started to laugh! Uncontrollably. Within seconds I was laughing too (a nervous habit I’ve tried to reign in over the years when people hurt themselves!). Our workmate walked in and looked horrified – while we just cried with laughter. We knew then that we “got” each other.

582167_3866465972947_120494888_nFrom there we became close friends, laughing into the early hours of the morning, while making bridal bouquets, corsages and buttonholes. Over the years walked with me as I got married and began a family. A special bond was formed when our youngest son was born on her birthday. She would babysit our kids frequently, once even for a week so we could go to a conference in Auz. We continued to journey through life together, sharing our passion for family and the ins and outs of parenting.

Yet here she was, suddenly fighting for her life. Within four weeks of being diagnosed, she was moved into hospice care. Hospice. Another word you don’t want to hear – that means time is really running out. I prayed. I cried out to God. Then a week later we went to see her. I wouldn’t have recognised her, except her son was standing next to her and I could see Jadens picture he’d drawn hanging up in her room.

She was no longer the energetic friend I had known. She was skin and bones, with huge eyes looking up at me. Jaden was wearing his Messi shirt she had brought him back from Barcelona that year (she’d walked the streets trying to find that for him!). I wasn’t sure what to say – what do you say when (except for a miracle) you know you’ll never see this loved one again? I was trying to stay up beat – while she began thanking me for our friendship all these years. She was ready to say Goodbye. I wasn’t.

As we left she told Jaden “you’ll always be my birthday buddy.” I broke down then. I couldn’t talk all the way home, tears just kept flowing. Later that night my tears turned to uncontrollable sobs. Was this what grief felt like? As I sat on the toilet floor gasping for air, Pete sat next to me, telling me to take deep breaths. Reminding me that she would want me to keep enjoying my life…

The next few weeks were heart wrenching. I wrote her an email her son read her. My final thank yous, I love yous and finally got to say how much she meant to me. I would check the blog they had set up several times a day, holding onto any news. Eight weeks from the time she was told she had cancer… she passed away.

Her family asked me to read Psalm 23 at her funeral and I managed to hold it together until I finished reading. The days afterwards were filled with tears until one day I sat on the grass below where we had worked together. I got out my netbook and started writing. Everything I was feeling, everything I wanted to say to her. How proud she would have been of her kids – they had spoken so eloquently at her funeral. How much we missed her. How I couldn’t imagine celebrating our sons birthday every year, without her being there too. How I thought of her with every sunset. That I would always remember our time singing together at the Cliff Richard concert we went to (yes, I may be a closet fan…). How Jaden missed his ice creams with her. How I didn’t want her facebook page to go – as there were shared memories there.

13582246_10208746151063952_1274427290_oHer facebook page was closed shortly after, but two years later I still have her in my contacts on my cell phone. Her score sheet is still in our box of Yahtzee. I still have moments when I think “Raewyn would love this!” And yes, I may have driven past her house… a few times. Next week, on July 9th it will be our sons birthday again – which of course would also have been hers. With each year it gets easier to be reminded of the amazing memories we shared without crying. To remember that this isn’t the end of the story – that one day we will see each other again. I look forward to that day… cause you know, she gave the best hugs!

There is weeping for a time… but it is for a time. Joy does come in the morning – eventually. When you’re in those moments when grief feels like an overwhelming flood, take a deep breath and know it will subside. Sometimes it just takes time. People who are no longer with us would want us to keep on going. Keep living. Keep enjoying life. The Queen put it well when she said “The price we pay for love is grief.” It’s a price worth paying, despite how much it hurts at times.

I once posted this on her Facebook page... FUN should have been her middle name. She truly did live in the front row...
I once posted this on her Facebook page… FUN should have been her middle name. She truly did live in the front row…

Trusting – No Matter What

As we walk through life, we face these moments in time. Moments when all we can do is hold on tight to God – and trust. It’s when you’ve received heart breaking news of a loved one, negative results from a test, or hear of a life shattering decision that has been made by a friend. It’s in these times, that all we can do is be grateful there is someone bigger than us, stronger than us and more in control than us.  An amazing God who loves, knows and understands.

I know those feelings well, when I’ve woken up to a day that seemed like any other, only to be side swiped by something unexpected. It’s in those moments that I choose to trust. I choose to bring whatever is happening to the foot of the cross, because it’s there that peace comes.

I remember years ago we were facing a tragic situation. We didn’t see it coming and we couldn’t have imagined it if we’d tried. I’m normally a great sleeper (in fact I can sleep through almost anything!) but on this one night sleep seemed out of reach. I dragged myself out of bed and knew that the only thing that would settle my spirit was some time with God. I knelt on the lounge room floor in the darkness and cried out to God. All of it. Everything. The highs the lows, the disappointment and the fears. The grief. I let it out and wept until my words were no more.

And then it came. That still small voice. Those words that if you sit still long enough, you can hear them resonate through your being. “My grace is sufficient for you.”

“Really? Even in this?” I asked. Was there truly grace for this situation where everything seem so bad? “Yes Annika. My grace is sufficient for you, even in this.” And then the peace came. It washed over me and filled me with hope. I didn’t know how things would work out or how we would walk forward when it felt like my heart was breaking. But I knew that we would – because there was grace for us in that time and season.

And again this week, I choose to trust. To trust and to surround myself with people of faith who will stand with me and pray me through anything that I may face. Friends who love, care and pray you through the rough times of life are like gold. I’ve learnt to hold on to them and treasure them… and also to trust them when my feet feel a little wobbly.

This week I messaged an amazing praying friend. She replied with this from Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.” I had just finished writing this post about Trusting – No Matter What. You see, God knows doesn’t He? And I will continue to trust in Him, He truly is the rock that we can stand on when our world around us shakes.

Here’s to Gods peace and His grace – which is always sufficient.