Beautiful Baby Blanket

After I finished my last blanket, I decided to crochet a blanket for one of my gorgeous friends! We’ve been friends for over 20 years and it’s been a blessing doing life together through many changing seasons. She has always held a special place in my heart and I wanted to make something special for her precious baby which was born late last year. I thought I had done well making my last blanket in 5 weeks, but this one only took a week (the fact that I wanted to give it to her asap after baby was born was a great motivation too)! I’m getting faster, although this was obviously a lot smaller than a single bed size!

My biggest achievement, was that I learnt to read a pattern! Yes, shock horror, I’d never read a crochet pattern before! Previously I just memorized what stitches I needed to do and how many of each and do it! I would look at patterns and wonder what on earth all the letters meant!

So, my Mum dug out some of her old baby blanket patterns and she patiently taught me how to understand this one – and I was away! The world is my oyster now that I finally understand how to read a pattern!

It was also my first time doing a border around the edge. I’d admired how lovely they looked – but also thought they looked hard! I was pleasantly surprised! It was very easy to do and was so satisfying creating this shell edging!

I enjoyed doing something other than a chevron pattern and also making something more delicate. It was also lovely to be able to give something to my precious friend, which I had lovingly and prayerfully made. XXX

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Treadmills, Waiting Rooms and Patience for the Journey

I’ve been thinking lately, how it’s been over a year since I last updated my heart situation. Mainly because I kept thinking I’ll write once something happens, but I’ve realised that may take a while, so now seems like a good time to put fingers on keys!

When I wrote “Time to Take Heart” I’d been told I needed a pacemaker. I was living in a slight daze, trying to get my head around what that would mean and looking up pictures of Pacemaker scars (I’d recommend you don’t do that…). I’m always one for research and I wanted to know the ins and outs of what would happen and how it would all work. That was December 2016. In early 2017 I met a different Cardiologist, who felt it would be good if we waited 6 months, to see how my Ejection Fraction went (that’s the measurement of the percentage of blood leaving your heart each time it contracts). Mine was on the low side, so it meant my blood wasn’t pumping around my body as it should. If it went down to a particular percentage, then they would put the pacemaker in at that point. We chatted about what this meant and the pros and cons. The decision was made to wait.

Honestly, it felt like I was on a roller coaster ride – one minute I was told I would be getting a pacemaker, the next I was told we’d wait. As I’ve never really cared for roller coasters, it wasn’t my idea of fun! But when I walked out of his office that day, I truly felt like I’d been given my life back! I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was the feeling that with the op being put off, all my concerns could be shelved for a while. I knew that except for a miracle, my Ejection Fraction would decrease and I would need a pacemaker at some point. But waiting was giving me a reprieve (and time for lots of prayers to be prayed!). It was about August when I was called up for my next Echo. It seemed to go okay. There was only one unhelpful moment when I overheard the woman say “You don’t see that very often!” I tried to tell myself perhaps she was new…

A couple of months later, at the end of 2017, we had another meeting with my Cardiologist (the one who wanted to wait putting in the pacemaker earlier that year). The night before I dutifully read up on what was up with my heart again (I’m always concerned they will start talking in large technical words). To be honest, after reading up on things, I generally decide it’s nicer living in a world of naivety! Anyway, as my Cardiologist looked at my results and we talked about my symptoms, he felt that perhaps it was time to put the Pacemaker in. We were back to feeling stunned.

Waiting for my Treadmill Test (thankfully Pete wasn’t allowed in with the camera. So no pics of me looking gorgeous in my gown hooked up to machines…)

So I was back on the roller coaster again. Buckled up and ready to go! Then, after he’d talked to the team, they decided they wanted me to do a treadmill test first, to see how my heart responded to exercise. That would determine whether I get the pacemaker, or not. Now firstly, the words “Annika” and exercise don’t normally go together in the same sentence. Honestly, I think I was more concerned about this test, than the Echos, MRIs, CTs etc. Somehow, in a strange way, you feel judged. So, two weeks ago (Jan 2018) I had my treadmill test. Firstly, walking on a treadmill was a first for me. It is a strange experience having it go faster and faster every 3 minutes, while being hooked up to computers with wires stuck all over your chest and sides. I lasted 8 minutes – I feared if it kicked over to the next level at 9 minutes, my heart might fizzle or my legs might fly off! But at least I’d made it that long!

So now… I wait.

Which has really been a major part of this story which I can’t really put into words. But waiting is something you have to get used to when you have medical issues going on. Things don’t tend to happen fast (although I’m told if I pass out I’ll have pacemaker pretty pronto!). So you learn incredible patience. A year ago, I would be checking the letterbox a few times a day, waiting for a letter with my results. Now I know it’s most likely going to take weeks (sometimes months) to arrive, so you get good with carrying on with life.

This past year, I’ve learnt to not concentrate on the heart stuff. Which is why I think I neglected to update everyone on where things were at. I honestly switched out and decided to carry on going for it with life! This year I intend to do the same. It truly is onwards and upwards! I feel like I have more vision and plans for things to do this year than I’ve ever had in my life – so I figure God will work out the heart things in between. I would say though, that this time around being told I might have a pacemaker fitted, I’ve felt incredible peace. I know He is in all of this and I’m looking to put a tick in that box, so I can just carry on with what is before me.

So, I should know in the next few weeks what is happening. But who knows? Like I said, patience is this beautiful thing which gets built into your character during these times! So, I’ll keep walking forward, being grateful for every day!

I’ll let you know if and when something happens! Thanks for your many words of love, prayers and support friends. It truly means a lot.

XXX

Crochet Blanket No.3!

The last blanket I created took a couple of years to make! This one took me 5 weeks! I’m not sure how I managed that… perhaps it was great motivation or maybe I am just getting faster and more focused!

This creation was inspired by the colours of Manchester United for my eldest son. Let’s be honest… I don’t think teenage boys really care about what colour their blanket is! But I figured at least this goes with his favourite football team! The red in the photos don’t quite show the true colour – it’s not as orange/red as it looks above!

The blanket is for a single sized bed… again I just made it to the width and length I wanted it. The stripes I alternated between being 2 and 3 rows of black.  I added in the yellow at the end for a pop of colour (and to match Man U) and figured if it was hideous I could always unpick it!

It’s awesome to watch something grow so fast, which has been lovingly created stitch by stitch. I’m now onto another project which hopefully won’t take too long! Watch this space!

XXX

20 Years and Counting…

Tomorrow my gorgeous hubby and I celebrate 20 years of marriage, which means I’ll have been married for half my life! We’ve been blessed to “grow up” together and plan and dream what we could do in our lives.

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I was 13 when I first prayed to God for an amazing guy to marry. One who would love God and love music. One who would be caring, kind and full of integrity. Within 3 months I met Peter and he far exceeded anything I could have imagined!

21641554_10212842768756834_1456215957_nI straight away wondered who this incredible guy was. He loved God with his whole being and music came in as a close second! A year later we started going out and waited out the time until we were old enough to marry. Six years felt like forever when you’re a teenager, but on September 20th 1997 our dream became reality!

 

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We learnt a lot that first year and there were moments that were definitely “challenging.”  But through those times we grew closer together and learnt to appreciate each other more. We learnt how to put one another first and give grace when grace was needed.

We’ve been blessed beyond measure with our three kids. The years are flying by and I am forever wanting to hit the pause button, to hold onto precious moments in time. Family life is amazing, who knew life could be so fulfilling?

So, we will celebrate 20 years since we said ‘I do.’ I’m forever grateful that God brought us together and has allowed us to live lives where we can love on others. But I know that I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today if I didn’t have Pete in my life. He taught me as a 14 year old not to argue when he told me I was beautiful. He taught me that I could speak in front of others… that I didn’t need to live my life being shy. He taught me not to worry about every little thing… that most things I fretted over would never happen anyway. He taught me what selfless love is… how to say the words “I’m sorry”. He taught me how to honour and believe the best in people… even if they’ve hurt you in the past. He taught me how to fearlessly trust in God… even when the bank balance looked bleak. He’s taught me so many things… too many to list.  And I am so very grateful for all of it.

21698194_10212842768436826_859322460_nWe’ve had an incredible 20 years – in some ways it’s been a very normal life, living in the same house for the past 15 years and ministering in the same church for the last 19 (and we plan to continue these things for many many more years to come!). Yet, in other ways it’s been an incredible journey, full of highs and lows and laughter and tears. Through it all though, we’ve done it together and held hands as we’ve jumped into the unknown. My hair get greyer by the day… but it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things!

As health problems rear their ugly head, we’ve held on tight and prayed… and trusted that there is One who is holding us who is greater than all of the tests and diagnosis. In the past 6 weeks, as I’ve again gone through more MRIs and Echocardiograms, I’ve again been grateful for Peters steadfastness… and ability to find funny sides on all occasions. He hugs me and reminds me not to “get on that bus yet” when my mind gets carried away with concerns and worries.

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Today we’re off to Queenstown to celebrate… another thing that is only happening because Pete had faith that we could! Time out by ourselves will be amazing. Don’t get me wrong… we’ll be reminded again by how different we are… as I drag him to Puzzlingworld! But we’ll laugh and we’ll relax. We’ll drink coffee (decaf thanks! ;-)) and take time to be thankful. Because we’ve walked through challenges and come out stronger. And more in love. And my heart is full, because we’re together in this journey of life. Thank you God for each passing year…

XXX

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

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“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!

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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