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

Reflections

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. (dictionary.com)

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.


*http://www.monergism.com/christian%E2%80%99s-happiness-romans-828-30**www.desiringgod.org/sermons/called-according-to-his-purpose

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Because He Lives

Well, here we are again.  Logged into my blog, and it's been over a year since I last posted.  A lot has changed in that year, and that's why I find myself sitting behind my computer, writing out my thoughts again.

The events of the last couple weeks have been cause for a lot of reflection.  Last week this time Terry and I were rushing into the ICU of Children's Hospital, not sure of what we were going to find when we get there.  Today, Katie is back in her regular bed on the ward, improving, and I am at home, celebrating John's 15th birthday.

God is so good.

Since I posted a couple of weeks ago about Katie's journey with an eating disorder and subsequent hospitalization, I've had people comment how brave that was, how courageous.  It really wasn't though.  We - me, Terry, Katie, my boys, my extended family - we have found ourselves in a horrendous situation that honestly we wouldn't wish on anyone ever, and we need help.  We need to know that our community is supporting us and praying for us.  There is nothing courageous in it - it was simply just a plea for help.  A mom, scared and broken, looking for her community to stand around and lift up her baby in prayer.

And you did.  By the tens and the hundreds, you have gone before the throne and interceded for Katie, for me, for the boys, and I thank you.  From the bottom of my heart, I thank you. For the personal messages that have come, with concern and encouragement, thank you.  For comments on Facebook, thank you.  For texts, phone calls and people just checking in, thank you.  For entire congregations praying for us during their Sunday service - thank you.  For the meals and practical help - thank you.

I remember someone telling me that when you run into hard time is when you find out who your "real" friends are and who your "good time" friends are.  I have discovered that I don't have just "good time" friends - they're all "real" friends. Everyone has stood by us and supported us.

I've been reflecting on Romans 8:28 for the last few days, preparing for a piece I need to write for a conference this week in Vancouver, and am once again comforted by God's sovereignty in all of this.  God does have a plan for all of it, and He loves Katie more than I ever could.

Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of Katie's journey battling anorexia and all that comes with it.  It's going to be a long, uphill battle, but I'm so thankful that we're now headed up that hill.  That we've seen improvement, and things seem to be headed in the right direction.  We covet your continued prayers as we adjust to this "new" normal of Katie being in Calgary, and us being here.  For safe travels back and forth, for extra energy on the long days, for wisdom in knowing when to go and when to stay here.

Last weekend we celebrated the greatest sacrifice ever made, and the words of the song "Because He Lives" were so poignant.  "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow" - it's so true.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Looking back......looking forward

Years ago, my pastor spoke in a sermon about the necessity of looking forward. He said "If you're driving down Mayor Magrath, and all you do is look in your rearview mirror, you're going to get in an accident.  Instead, you need to look ahead, with quick glances behind you to see what's there.  That's how we need to live our lives.

Seems so appropriate today.  The New Year always bring with it a time of reflection, and I think that's good.  It is healthy to look at the year gone by, celebrate the victories, mourn the losses, and learn from the lessons.  But we can't stay there.  We need to keep looking ahead, keep moving forward.

Reading over my post from January 1, 2013, it's interesting to actually compare how the year turned out.  The kids have had a busy year - I love having all three of them at the high school, and it's been a good transition for Nathan.  

The Centre has opened!  We've been open now for two months, and while it's been slow, there are clients coming in, and we're getting to help them.  It's been an adjustment for me and the kids, being gone all day, every day.  We're still figuring that one out - instant meals from M & M Meats have definitely become my friend.  Hoping to get better at the balance of working and being a mom this year.  

The Wind family grew again this year, with the arrival of little Emberly in February, and is continuing to grow, with 3 new additions expected in 2014.  God is so good!  We were all able to be together in Fairmont, and almost all of us went camping this summer.  I'm so thankful to be part of a family that values each other so much, and that as adults we are as close as we are.
University:  first two university courses are done (with A's!), and halfway through the next 3 - and it's going well.  :)

The divorce is final, has been for a few months, and that marked the end of that chapter.  It's been good to have closure there, for me and the kids.  

Last year this time, my Beppe really wasn't doing all that well.  There's plans for her birthday party in the next couple weeks - she's doing so much better.  I even got to see her this spring, for the first time in over 3 years.
There's been loss too - I went to more funerals in 2013 than I have in a long time.  So many families that will never be the same.

So, 2014.  What do we have to look forward to?  Honestly, I'm hoping for a calm, "boring" year.  To get settled into the Centre, and really watch it grow.  To figure out this whole work/mom thing.  To keep going on the university courses.  Really?  Just more of the same.

The kids and I are going to Edmonton for a couple of days in March, and I'm excited for that.  The CAPSS conference is in Hamilton this year, so I'll get to spend some time there.  Katie gets to go to Mexico in February, and I'm so thrilled for her!  She's taking part in a mission trip with the Taber EFree group, and gets to go see Auntie Karen. There will be another summer of camp - Katie is hoping to spend all summer there.  :)

Watching the kids grow and mature - such an experience.  Katie is discovering a real interest and enjoyment in mechanics, and is exploring the option of the RAP program. John has picked up a couple of routes for the Shopper, and is showing real responsibility and maturity there.  Nathan, my little Nathan, is in Junior High!  He's becoming so helpful around the house, and is really starting to grow in that area.

I've got some stuff I need to work on this year.  Money - need to nail down a budget and stick to it.  Need to lose some weight, get in shape.  I need to really intentionally work on my relationship with God, and time in His Word.

The biggest change for us is the fact that God has brought a wonderful man into my life to share all these things with, so it will be a year of change and adjustment as we walk this new journey in life.

So, here we stand at the beginning of a brand new year.  A clean slate.  A whole year ahead, full of possibilities.  I can't wait to see what God fills it with.