Here we are near the end of 2016. By the goodness and mercy of God, we became a family of five a few months ago! This portrait is a testimony of how the Lord walked with us, watched over us, and empowered us to thrive as a family by His grace.
Before the year comes to a close, we want to share a few noteworthy personal accounts of what the Lord has done for our family. We are also thankful for family and friends who supported us through the challenging times. More details to come in future posts…
“…be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:1)
In 2015, we received unexpected news about a health concern. Josiah, our youngest son, was born with a large birthmark on his forehead. Our family doctor closely monitored this birthmark at each routine checkup and noted that it was growing as Josiah grew, but she did not have any concerns…until June 2015. At that time, she sent a photo of the birthmark to a specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO).
We were given an urgent appointment and we were informed that the birthmark was a type of mole that placed Josiah at great risk. It had the potential of becoming malignant. He needed to have it surgically removed as soon as possible. Given that Josiah was under 18 months of age, there were significant risks associated with general anaesthesia. And the position of the birthmark required that it be removed in phases…a minimum of four surgeries under general anaesthesia.
Quinton and I had an extremely challenging decision to make for our son. In spite of all of the risks and concerns, we felt the peace of God surround us. We provided the specialist with our consent, and we thank God that she was able to secure a surgery date in less than a month and a half…when it would have ordinarily taken over a year to obtain a date.
Needless to say that it was a long, agonizing time leading up to the procedures. So was the wait in the waiting room for Quinton and I during the hours that our baby was in the operating theatre.
The Lord has blessed us with such a brave little warrior. Josiah went through 12-hour fasts, medications, blood work, IV, etc., and handled everything amazingly well at his young age. We were also blessed with a phenomenal medical team of specialists who took such good care of Josiah during his surgeries.
Josiah’s first surgery in September 2015 was successful. It was only during the second surgery in March 2016, that the specialist made the swift, last-minute decision while Josiah was on the operating table, to try and remove the whole mole. You can imagine the joy and relief we felt when she communicated that to us in the waiting room. As the specialist was able to do so, Josiah no longer needs any more surgeries, and this chapter is behind us. The biopsy results were all normal also. Thank You, Jesus!
We praise God for healing Josiah through medical intervention at the right time…even a few months of delay could have brought about a very different outcome…
We were also given a small window into the struggles that many families face with children who have medical concerns. It is not an easy road. Our hearts go out to all of you who walk through such circumstances with love and patience. May the Lord strengthen you.
Unusual Demands on Time
As many of you know, Quinton used to work for Nortel Networks, and the Lord preserved him through over 25 rounds of layoffs. On the day after his 10th year with the company, another tech firm bought his division. He continues to do the same work, just for a different company. In the early part of 2015, Quinton was being considered for a promotion as team lead, and he was asked to demonstrate his ability through a series of large projects. This required an inordinate amount of time in addition to his usual work hours.
As I also had critical timelines to meet at work, it was a challenging time for our family. Quinton worked long hours into the night and weekends. Life was hectic. This was also a part of our reality when we faced the news about Josiah’s health concern. We felt stretched in so many areas and needed to juggle everything all at once.
God gave us the strength and the grace to balance our commitments and we learned to say no to responsibilities that did not fit in with our priorities. We thank God for granting Quinton with the long-awaited promotion. The Lord sustained our household in His loving arms throughout the process.
In the Fall of 2015, our pregnancy was confirmed and we were overjoyed. A few weeks into the pregnancy, I began to experience severe nausea (which I did have with my previous pregnancies, but this was a lot worse). Medication was effective beforehand, but even with medication this time around, I could barely drink water. Quinton was so incredibly loving and helpful as always to take care of the boys and manage his work commitments.
Towards the end of my first trimester, I came down with a bad case of the flu and struggled through weeks of fever and a bad cold and cough. We were short staffed at work also, and taking time off for more than a few days was not an option. Right from the start of 2016 and throughout the year, our boys have had many rounds of illness and antibiotics too. However, when it was time for Josiah to have his second surgery in March 2016, the Lord ensured that he was free from illness so we would not have to cancel his surgery! How amazing is our God! I don’t really know how we made it through those months, but the Lord undoubtedly helped us.
In May 2016, I was in a busy stretch at work and my second trimester was going smoothly even with the borderline gestational diabetes complication. One day, we experienced a scare when the doctor could not rule out loss of amniotic fluid. I spent time at the hospital going through tests and the obstetrician was nervous that I would give birth prematurely. Both of our boys were full-term and this was a brand new challenge that we faced.
Throughout this time, we received words of encouragement that the Lord will protect the baby and grant us a full-term pregnancy. We continued to pray believing that God would answer our prayer.
In the natural, everything contradicted that that could ever happen. The doctors had us go through all of the precautions – medications, injections, etc. – in preparation for an early birth. They spoke with us about the high-risk birth unit that we would be transferred to if I went into labour and the intensive care that our baby would require, plus all of the health complications that our baby would face.
After several weeks of strict bedrest, I was allowed to do some work from home also. It helped to have some sense of normalcy and something to focus on. In early July, God helped our pregnancy to reach full term. Within two weeks, I started experiencing severe itching everywhere almost as if I was having an allergic reaction. It was unusual as I did not have this with my previous pregnancies, and the doctor suspected that my liver was not functioning as it should.
They did not want to take any chances with prolonging the pregnancy, and so, our baby was safely delivered. God blessed us with our healthy and beautiful little girl, Zemirah Eden Annalise.
My recovery from my third c-section has been lengthy, and I have been experiencing issues with my incision from time to time even now, but the Lord has granted us with a blessed time together as a family in getting to know our sweet Zemirah. That more than makes up for the minor recovery hiccups I have had along the way.
We also encountered tumultuous times with a few relationships. Here is yet another way that God preserved and strengthened us. With God’s help, we are overcoming these situations.
It is incredibly difficult when you receive hate in exchange for your love. After being on the receiving end of slander, insults, false accusations, and manipulation, it is unreasonable to expect that we would choose to love in return.
Through these challenges, God has been teaching us to constantly consider others as greater than ourselves. We made a decision to refuse to allow painful situations to change who we are and how we respond in relationships. Jesus first loved us, and we desire His love to flow through us. We have, and we will continue to choose to love and honour. We are able to do this only when we take our heartaches to Jesus and allow His love to wash over us afresh. We are all a work in progress and in order for changes to take place for the better, we must be kind and gracious to one another.
There is nothing that anyone can do to us that can rob us of our God-given joy and peace, unless we willingly give it up by getting pulled in to a conflict. The opinion of others pales in comparison to what our Heavenly Father thinks of us…and our heart must be in right standing with Him first before we can love others.
There are valuable lessons to learn from relational situations and this is how we encourage each other to rise above pain. May Jesus continue to help us, especially in this regard.
Over this past season, God has given us fresh insight into the definition of real grace. Grace balanced with truth is incredibly valuable and powerful. We thank the Lord for His great love for us in knowing what we, as a family, have to walk through and to walk away from over these past years. His empowering grace enabled us to withstand the pressures that came against us, and once again, He has helped us to walk through the fire and not smell of smoke. The Lord has lovingly blessed us with new opportunities to encounter His love in every area of our lives.
It is amazing what happens when one chooses to say, “Yes, Lord; I choose to surrender…let come what may.” This is the secret to not only surviving…but more so, to thriving in any circumstance.
That is why our family portrait is significant to us. Jesus walked with us and granted us with the joy of His presence every step of the way through every unexpected, unusual, unforeseen, and unreasonable moment.
We are certain that you, too, have seen the hand of God at work in your life in 2016. As this year comes to an end, take time to reflect on how He has come through for you. His love for all of us is so amazing!
In this New Year, may Jesus help you to see His mighty hand at work in your life and cause you to rise above your challenges. May 2017 be a year of discovering His glorious presence at every turn.
You will not only survive, but you also to thrive in Him and to the glory of His Name!
In Jesus’ Name, amen!
“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it the most.” (Hebrews 4:16)