Wednesday, September 2, 2015

First Day

It's the first day of school!  You know, it doesn't quite have the same amount of effect on my life now as it did when I worked in the school, but it's still exciting.  I had to chuckle over all of the "first day of school" pictures on facebook, rivaled only by the moms bemoaning the fact that their kids wouldn't pose for them.  I have some pretty great kids, who put up with all of my picture-taking - so great, in fact, that the boys made a point of coming outside to pose for the last "first-day" picture with all 3 of them.
Grades 12, 10 & 9 - they're not babies anymore.  Last week when I thought about the idea of Katie going to grade 12, it definitely made me a little emotional.  I mean, wasn't this just a little while ago?
Look at her!  So little and cute.  :)

So I figured I would be a little emotional today when I dropped her off, but I really wasn't.  It was all good - went to the opening day chapel and everything - I was a rock.  That is until I dropped her off at volleyball practice tonight.  That's when it hit how far we've come, how big this really is.
This was taken a year ago - first day of Grade 11...
...and this one this morning, grade 12!

This generally would be just a regular little nice trip down memory lane - I'm sure there's many moms out there doing the same type of thing tonight.  Except it's different here.  Because this picture was just 5 months ago, almost to the day.
This was taken in Katie's room in the ICU, which is where she spent a couple of days after she quit breathing.  

5 months.  What is 5 months, really?  It's nothing.  But it's also been a lifetime. 5 months from that ICU to going to volleyball practice with the rest of friends.  5 months from not knowing if she was going to make it to deciding what she was going to wear for the first day of grade 12.

Oh, God, You are so good.

So now we move on, we live life, and find out what "normal" looks like.  We have been so blessed by so many - family who has stood with us, cried with us, prayed with us.  Friends who have been there with meals, gas cards, a shoulder to cry on.  Our church, who has prayed with us, loved us, supported us when needed.  And our school - can I brag on our school for a minute?

I was able to walk into the gym tonight and have a conversation with our head coach about Katie's health, ability, and how being a part of the team is so important, and was never questioned.  Truth is,  that has been sitting for the past 6 months - for a month of that, she was wheeled to the bathroom, she wasn't even allowed to walk ten feet!  Her muscle tone is gone, her endurance not great.  But none of that matters.  Because at Immanuel Christian School, it's about the kids as a whole.  Not just their athletic or academic abilities.  It's their emotional health, their mental health - all of it.  Katie was able to finish grade 11 while in hospital, because of the dedication of the staff and administration of our school.  

Anyone who knows me knows my passion for our school, but over the last months, I have gained a whole new love for ICHS.  It's more than just a school - it's community, it's family.  The family of God.  

It's been a big day - the first of many to come.  And I'm so thankful...

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Moving Forward

It's 10:30 Sunday night, and I've just gotten back from bringing Katie back to Calgary - crazy how quickly that has become normal!  It's just become part of our regular weekend routine.

It was a little over a month ago that Katie was left room 373 and was officially discharged  from the Foothills Medical Centre - hooray!  It was a huge step, meaning she had made some major gains in her weight restoration, and was medically stable enough to be out of hospital.  She was discharged just a few days before the wedding, and it was so great to have her home.  We were able to attend the graduation ceremonies from Immanuel, which was really exciting for her.  Katie was able to see and hang out with so many of her classmates - again, what a gift!

The weekend of the wedding was a bit of a gong show for everyone, but even more so for Katie.  While I'm so thankful she was able to be home, it was quite the shock for her, after being hospitalized for the previous 4 months.  But with the help of friends and family, she did great.

After the wedding, Katie returned to Calgary, but this time as an outpatient at the Alberta Children"s Hospital.  She spends her days at the hospital as part of the day treatment program and her evenings staying with a "host family", a family in Calgary who has opened their home to patients of this program.  She comes home every Friday afternoon at 4:30, and returns to Calgary every Sunday evening around 7.  This has been her routine for 4 weeks now, and will remain this way for the next 8.

It's a good program, and she's learning a lot,but definitely still having her struggles.  Working through this many emotions is hard work, and she is exhausted by the end of the day.  Weekends are great, but also a struggle. We're all working on finding out what our new "normal" is, and we're figuring it out by trial and error.  

Staring the next 8 weeks in the face is daunting - seems like forever.  For her, for me, for all of us.  But, for now, we're looking at all the things we have to be thankful for.  Thankful for the fact that Katie is here, alive, and recovering. Thankful for the fact that we live in this great country of ours with our health care system, and we don't have to worry about how we're going to pay for her treatment.  Thankful that even though she's not at home, she has a "home" to go to at the end of the day, and isn't having to share a hospital room with 5 other patients.  Thankful that even though the 1,000+ km that we put on every weekend are not cheap, we have a vehicle that has been doing so well and just keeps on going.  Thankful that we get to spend weekends together, as a family.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Growing Pains

"I'm sad to not be a single parent anymore" said no single mom ever.

In 7 days I get to change my name, and become Mrs. Monica Loewen.  Wow.  Don't get me wrong - I'm excited.  Really excited.  But it's definitely been the cause for some serious thought and reflection. And honestly, I'm a little sad to see this chapter of my life close.  Even as I'm excited about the future, there is still a sense of finality of this part of life.  It's like when the kids moved to a different chapter of life - like when the moved from elementary school to junior high.  While I was so excited for what was coming for them, it was a little sad that they had completed that part of life, and it wouldn't be the same anymore.

We went up to Calgary to have supper with Katie tonight and it struck me that this was going to be one of the last meals with just the 4 of us, our little family.  Got me to thinking about the last 4 years, about how our little family has grown and stretched and learned.

We've been able to make our own traditions, our own habits.  We've been able to go on vacations  adventures, and have a great time. We've been through easy times together, and as the last few months can attest to, we've been through really hard times together.

I am thrilled to have Terry join our family and to be a part of all of this.  I'm looking forward to him being able to speak into the kids' lives, to be an example to them.  But I will forever treasure these last 4 years of just me and the kids, and look forward to many more years together.


This empty frame?  That will be filled 7 days from now, when the 4 of us walk down the aisle to become a family of 5.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

"Get off the tracks!!!"

"It's like they are standing on a train track and the train is coming.  You are yelling, 'Get off!  Get off!!!" but they won't move.  You can't reach them."*

That's a quote from a parent whose child suffers from an eating disorder, and it is absolutely, 100% accurate. That is exactly how I felt as I watched Katie eat less and less, and get sicker and sicker.  To know what's coming, but being unable to stop it.  It is truly one of the most frustrating things ever.

I think as a parent it's always hard to watch our kids make mistakes, and have to stand back and let them do it.  I remember reading book reports and letting the kids bring them to school with spelling mistakes in them. Watching them put themselves out there, walking up to a group of kids to talk, knowing full well it wasn't going to end well.  Things we need to let our kids do - they need to learn by making mistakes, by making bad choices.

But not like this.  Not when it endangers their health.  Unfortunately, I couldn't stop this one.  No matter how much I wanted to.  You hear again and again about how anorexia nervosa all about control, and that's true.  But let me tell you, I've never felt such a lack of control.  As the mom, watching my daughter try to battle her inner demons by controlling her food intake, it was the most helpless thing ever.

It's been 3 months since Katie was admitted to hospital, and as I reflect on that, I'm still a little puzzled that this is actually my life.  That this has happened to my family.  It's still a little mind-boggling.  I think those first weeks in hospital were just so much to take in, so overwhelming, that I didn't really process it all at the time, and now that the crisis is over, that we're settled into our new "normal", it's starting to sink a little more how sick Katie really was, how serious the entire situation was and still is.

I've learned a lot about anorexia nervosa over these last months (as has Katie!), and reading the facts, I still sometimes struggle to assign them to Katie.  These are the symptoms of anorexia, according to The Eating Disorder Foundation:

The person:

  • is thin and keeps getting thinner, losing 15% or more of her ideal body weight
  • continues to diet or restrict foods even though she is not overweight
  • has a distorted body image - feels fat even when she is thin
  • is preoccupied with food, calories, nutrition or cooking
  • denies that she is hungry
  • exercises obsessively
  • weighs herself frequently
  • complains about feeling bloated or nauseated even when she eats normal - or less than normal - amounts of food
  • loses her hair or begins to experience thinning hair
  • feels cold even though the temperature is normal or only slightly cool
  • stops menstruating
It's a very scientific list, and facts that I understand, I just have a hard time acknowledging that this is the story of my child.  The hardest thing I've learned is that eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses. The death rate is about 20%.  That's about 1 in 5.  That's pretty high.

Wow.  While Katie didn't have all of those symptoms, she definitely had a lot of them.  

Being able to look back at it is such a gift, in that I'm looking back at these things, not still living in the middle of it.  I think God just gives the gift of auto-pilot, where you put one foot in front of the other, and just do what you need to, without over thinking things.  Otherwise, we'd never get through anything.

Katie is doing well on her road to recovery, and I'm so thankful.  However, to any parent that is concerned that their child may be battling at eating disorder, let me encourage you to get help.  Now.  Don't wait.  Learn as much as you can, and learn how to advocate for your child.  There is help, and there is hope.

*"Book of Hope", Sue Huff

Saturday, June 6, 2015


Last week when I got the call that my grandmother had passed away, as much as I had prepared for that moment, it still kind of me threw me off.  I haven't actually seen my Beppe in 3 years now, and I didn't grow up having her close by- we lived in Taber, and my grandparents lived in Surrey, BC, so we were not super close.

But, still - she was my last grandparent, and even as believers knowing that death does not have the victory, it does still bring such finality.  And it causes us to think back, to remember, to reflect.

All of the grandkids were asked if they wanted to say a few things at Beppe's funeral - to share memories of her, and so I got to speak along with two of my other cousins.  As I thought about what I wanted to share, it was a little difficult - my Beppe didn't always see eye-to-eye on things, in fact, we didn't always get along.  She was a tough lady, and not always easy.  But, the longer I thought, the more happy memories I was able to come up with.

This is what I shared at Beppe's funeral - just a little glimpse of who she was, and the legacy that she left.

Growing up on the other side of the mountains meant that while we didn’t get to see Pake & Beppe on a regular basis, we got them for a week at a time.  Looking back, I remember the first sign of a visit from Pake & Beppe was brown bread – Beppe wouldn’t eat anything else.  It was the only time we had brown bread in the house.  J  When that blue car came down the driveway, there was a lot of excitement – we loved to see them.

While we knew they were coming for a visit, Beppe never spent a lot of time sitting and visiting.  She was always busy with something, helping Mom out, darning socks – oh, I always hated that she darned our socks.  Mom would save them for her, and Beppe did a great job. 

The times that we would drive west to go see Pake & Beppe, we got to stay in the unit, which was fantastic.  I loved the unit – Beppe always had it all ready, and you could feel the welcome.  There would be bread by the toaster – it was brown, mind you – dutch cheese in the fridge, and mouscus in the cupboard. 

Beppe loved a good story, and she made it so enjoyable to tell her one.  It was Linda who mentioned how Beppe would follow the story along with “ja, ja, ja” and then an especially long "jaaaa" if it was a really good part.  And if it was funny, no one laughed like Beppe.  Oh, could she laugh!  She would keep going until she cried.

Beppe was always very literal – ask her how she was feeling, and the answer was always “with my hands”.  Made me laugh the last time I saw Beppe, and without thinking asked how she was feeling – true to form, the answer was “with my hands.” 

Beppe knew what she wanted, and she wasn’t afraid to tell you.  And there was no point in arguing – you weren’t going to win.  J

While Beppe was never one to just sit and relax, if you did find Beppe sitting at the table on her own, you knew her Bible was open in front of her, a notebook beside it as she spent time in the Word.  No one knew the Bible like Beppe.  As time went on, and Beppe wasn’t able to come to Taber anymore, we needed to come here in order to see her, and every time we walked in the house, through that sliding door into the kitchen, there was Beppe, at the kitchen table, Bible open on the table, cup of hot water beside her. 

Beppe’s greatest wish for everyone, and especially her family, was that they know Jesus.  While she wasn’t very politically correct about it, and honestly could be a little harsh sometimes, her deepest desire was to share the gospel of salvation with everyone.

My Beppe was one of the strongest women I’ve ever known – she was a rock – and I stand here today, proud to be one of many strong Wind women who have come behind her.  I pray that while we all have learned from Beppe’s strength, that more than that, we as her grandkids and great-grandkids will follow in her footsteps of walking with the Lord and spreading the good news of Christ. 
Beppe was tough as nails, but she had that sparkle in her eye.  While she wasn’t a soft, mushy grandma, there was no doubt that she loved us.  There’s no one like her, and she will be missed.  Love you, Beppe…

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Little Bit of "Normal"

normal:  conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural. (

Normal.  What is that, anyhow?  I love having a "normal" day. When things are "normal" in my house.  When everything is just going "normally".

Today we had a day that was almost normal.  Today Katie had a pass, which means that she got to leave the hospital.  She got to ride in the van.  She got to go to the mall.  She got to go out for supper. All of these things that seem so "normal".

Except for her they're not anymore.  Today was the first time Katie was out on her own in 8 weeks.  It was the first time we were able to be out as our little family again, and it felt so great! 

We went to the Military Museums - something that I've wanted to do since Katie was a baby.  It was great - we learned a lot and really enjoyed ourselves.  

We spent the afternoon walking around the mall, went out for supper, and just generally enjoyed spending time together.  Our little family of four - it was fantastic.  Made me realize how thankful I am for the four of us.  We've been through a lot - some really hard stuff, but have come out the other side, and are stronger for it.

Maybe it won't be a typical Mother's Day this year - all my kids won't be home.  Katie will be spending Mother's Day by herself in the hospital, and I'll get to spend Mother's Day with my mom.  So, I'm taking today as my Mother's Day.  Today, where I got my little bit of "normal" - me and my kids.  And I'm so thankful for it.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Looking for the Good

I was asked to give the morning devotion at our national conference of pregnancy care centres last week in Vancouver, and thought I'd share with all of you what I shared with all of my colleagues then.  While this was written very intentionally to people working in the pregnancy care ministry, please just hear it as my own thoughts and struggles.

I have been asked to give a devotion, I don’t know that this is really a devotion J  Just as Anne felt that she was called to be inspiring yesterday, today I feel that I am called to just be real. 

I've had comments about how many students I have as Facebook friends, but really, these are students that I didn't hesitate to accept their friend requests, because I’m the same person on FB as I am in real life All I know is what I've lived – what God has walked with me through and what I've learned, so that’s where I’m speaking from this morning.

I’d like to talk all of you, and especially our front line workers, those who have sat in the counseling room with a woman, and especially to those who have watched their client walk out the door, knowing that she was headed for the abortion clinic.

I want to spend a few minutes in one of my favorite books – Romans, specifically Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – we’re going to talk about this verse, and how this applies so much to the work we’re doing.

My mom is the youngest of 7 children by 18 years – my grandmother was in her early 40’s when my mom was born, and it was because of this that my mom and grandmother were very, very close, and when I was born, the first of 7, I was named after my maternal grandparents.

My grandmother’s name was Minke, and my grandfather Anne, and I am Monica Anne.  And while every grandchild is pretty sure they are the favorite, there was definitely a special bond between me and my Beppe.  Beppe is Friesen for grandmother – my grandparents were Dutch immigrants, coming from the province of Friesland in the late 1940’s, shortly before my mom was born.  We lived on the same yard as them, and I grew up spending countless hours at my Beppe’s bedside.

Beppe’s favorite verse was Romans 8:28, and for that reason alone it became a favorite of mine.  It’s one of those great verses that people like to claim and throw around very easily, kind of like Jeremiah 29:11.

It just makes you feel good, right?  But it’s not actually that simple.  Yes, God promises good will come out of our circumstances – but not that we will have easy lives, or that we will even see that good.

While I may have just adopted Beppe’s favorite verse for my own, it’s taken on a very special meaning for me in recent years, and even weeks.  Over the past few years I’ve been so blessed to see God work in my life in so many ways, bringing me to this place where I have this amazing job that I’m ridiculous underqualified for, I’m getting married in a couple of months to a wonderful man, all of these things where I’ve been able to see God’s hand through dark and trying circumstances, preparing me for what He had planned.

I’ve been able to see some of the good.

And isn’t that how it is with some of our clients?  Those clients who come in with their stories of heartbreak and sadness, their agony over this unplanned pregnancy, and then we see God at work – maybe that’s through a decision to parent, or an amazing adoption story, and we can see that through our obedience to God’s call on our lives to serve, He has worked good.

Don’t we love those clients?  Our success stories?  We plaster them on the front of our newsletters, shout their stories from pulpits, and invite them to our banquets to compel our donors to give.

But what about the tough ones? What do we do with those?  The ones where we don’t see good – none at all.  What happened?  We were there, we were obedient – and yet, she still had that abortion.
It’s so easy to see God’s hand and to praise Him in the good times – what about the bad?  Where is He then?

I flew out of the Calgary airport on Tuesday afternoon, after having spent the night with my 16 year old daughter, in her hospital room at Alberta Children’s Hospital where she’s been now for 2 weeks, and will likely remain for the next couple of months.

My beautiful girl – my firstborn – is fighting against something that is trying so hard to take her life.  And that thing is herself.  Katie is anorexic, and over the past 7 months has lost 50% of her body weight.  At 5’10’ and 90 lbs, she is literally nothing but skin and bones.

Well, God.  Where is the good in this?

But you see, that’s where we get tripped up in this verse sometimes.  Nowhere does it say that it’s all going to be good.

Tim Keller* says there are three implications found in this verse:  First, that all things happen to Christians, good and bed.  Let’s be realistic – terrible things happen to people who love God.  The verse says that in all things God works for good – that means all things.  The good, the bad, and the ugly.   Reading on in this passage, vs. 35 says “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”  Those are all terrible things, and they can and will happen to Christians and non-Christians alike.

The second thing that Keller points out is that when things work together in your life, it’s because of God.  When our businesses do well, and we’re able to be successful financially, it’s not because we’re so smart – it’s because God has blessed that venture.  When we have good health, it is simply because God is holding it up.  When we have good relationships in our life, it’s not because we’re so loveable – it’s God, in His grace, working all things together.

The third point that Keller brings is the most basic – although bad things happen, God works them for our good.  It doesn't promise that as Christians we’re going to have better circumstances just because we love God.  No.  Rather, we are promised that in the bad, God is working.  In the middle of that divorce, or as your business is filing for bankruptcy, in that hospital room, or at that gravesite – God is working.
We need to remember, though, that God promises to work all things together for good – but that doesn't mean that when something bad happens, we can automatically expect good the next week.  Or the next year.  Or maybe even in the next decade.  In fact, we may never see the good that God promises.

Think of the story of Jim Elliot – he was a missionary who went into Ecuador to share the good news, and was killed by the locals before seeing a single man come to Christ.  But through his dedication and obedience, the door was opened, and since then many, many have come to know Christ, in part by the work of his widow Elizabeth.

The promise is not that we will see how every bad thing in our life works to our good – it’s that God will make sure that all the bad circumstances will work together for your life in its totality.

It is in this confidence that we do the work that we do.  How else can we, day after day, client after client, continue to present the information needed, with no control over the effects?  How else do we deal with the frustration and heartache of that woman who walks out the door, firm in her plans of abortion?

This is how.  Knowing that through our obedience to God’s call on our life, He will work good.

John Piper says this about Romans 8:28:

“When it comes to the architecture of promises, there are not any bigger buildings than Romans 8:28.  This structure is absolutely staggering in its size.  It is massive.  The infinitely wise, infinitely powerful God pledges to make everything beneficial to his people!  Not just nice things, but horrible things, like tribulation and distress and peril and slaughter.  What brick would you lay on the top of this skyscraper promise to make it taller?  “All things” means all things. 

Once you walk through the door of love into the massive, unshakable structure of Romans 8:28, everything changes.  There comes into your life stability and depth and freedom.  You simply can’t be blown over any more.  The confidence that a sovereign God governs for your good, all the pain and all the pleasure that you will ever experience is absolutely incomparable to the refuge and security and hope and power in your life.”**

So what do we do with this?  We work.  And we trust.  That’s all.  Our God is so much bigger than we can imagine, so much bigger than all of our plans.

Those abortion minded clients?  We don’t always get to know the end of the story.  Sometimes we do….when we see them uptown, and they’re not pregnant anymore. Or they’re coming back, looking for post-abortion help.  Or sometimes we get a glimpse of the good, when we see our clients with their newborns.

We look for the blessings and we look for the good, thanking God when we can see it, trusting Him when we can’t.  I find that in knowing that God is in control, that He does have a good plan, I look for the good, look for His blessings.

Katie’s situation is a terrible one, and I don’t know what God has planned for her.  I pray that someday she will be able to use this and be a help and inspiration to many, that God will use her mightily.   But maybe He won’t.  But I know that God will bring good.  I've been able to see a piece of it – through this entire situation, I've gotten to see the character and integrity of my fiancĂ©e. 

In all of it, God is in control – and He is working.  His good.  His good plan.

I grew up in the Reformed church, a heritage which I love and hold dear to my heart, and part of that heritage is the Heidelberg Catechism.  The Heidelberg Catechism is a confession, written in the 1500’s based on Scripture, used to teach Christian doctrine, and my favorite, and the favorite of many, is Q & A 1, which I’d like to leave you with.

Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?

A. That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil.

He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation.

Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.