I haven’t posted too much about my friends Jason and Lisa and their little Ava since this post… but only because there have been no words. I’ve been possibly the lamest friend ever through this year long journey because I’ve truly had no words. I feel like I’ve spent most of this year nearly paralyzed by the knowledge of what they have to walk through.
What I have done though is witness. I’ve become a witness to God’s presence in my friend’s darkest days. I’m a witness to the steadfast faith and hope He has enabled them to live out, day by day… and even now, in the darkest of days. So in lieu of my words, I want to share selections from Lisa’s blog, http://6andahalfhearts.com. These things she has written I have watched them live. And above all I have witnessed God at work.
In light of the recent news I found myself hungry to read these once again, to remember who He is, what He has done and why we can continue to trust in Him.
Here is part of Lisa’s blog post from August 28, 2012 when they had just gotten the news that Ava’s in utero heart procedure had not worked as hoped:
“And this is where faith kicks in. Faith in God when things just don’t seem to be right, in fact in human terms they seem to be going wrong. Sure it’s easy to rejoice and trust in Him when things look promising and we are hopeful things will turn out the way we want them too, but how about when faced with the possibility that things might turn out exact opposite of what we want?”
However, again, even though I’m sad, I still I have hope. I know God can still heal her, and even if that takes surgery and months of healing, I’m still completely trusting Him. I’m not broken, maybe somewhat bruised, but definitely not abandoned. And the Bible is full of verses to comfort me, starting with being still and just knowing that God is God. I think John Piper once said that the things God does may be confusing, but God himself is Not confusing, I love it because it’s true.
And as Jason pointed out to me, maybe His whole plan here is not to heal her, it may be to do some greater work which we can’t see, which would be amazing as well. God doesn’t give us all the answers, nor does He let us see the whole picture, but He does offer peace and hope and strength.
Here is the passage I’m clinging to right now… Isaiah 40 27-31…
Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint. (emphasis mine)
Even as I read that I can smile (even with a few tears in my eyes). I can’t question God, He hasn’t forgotten me, and if I wait on Him, He will renew my strength. In fact if you really want me to cry quote a verse from earlier in the chapter, verse 11…
He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.
Wow, that can just make me cry like that! He knows I’m extra vulnerable right now (and let’s be honest, more emotional) but praise the Lord, He is gently leading me and what ever happens with our precious baby girl, God will never forsake us. Amen.”
From November 24:
“God is taking hold of our lives. And even though I cling and I fight and I cry and occasionally think about how my life would look if none of this happened, I can see that striping all the external stuff away, letting go of all my plans of how I thought things would turn out, and just focusing on God and doing my best to be obedient and having faith in Him is so incredibly beautiful and rewarding.
There is an amazing sense of peace that God has given me as my time gets closer (thanks for praying everyone!) and I know that any strength I have has come from him. And we can know for certain that this is His plan and His alone because He has taken such incredible care of us through the past months, which brings me so much joy because I can know that I don’t have to worry about one minute of one day going forward, He is going before us and will take care of us.
And in this world where the biggest thing seems to be control…where we feel like we always need to be in control… just know it’s all a sham. We have so little control. But don’t despair, when God starts to move and plans and lives start to be ruined, it doesn’t have to be negative, just cling to Him and move with him and it can truly be the best thing that ever happened to you.”
From December 13:
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
So a day like today doesn’t make any sense to me, but we can still trust God in this, we can! I’m thinking in my own human terms, but God has his own plan for Ava, we just don’t know what it is.
On December 19, 2012 Lisa blogged this excerpt from a John Piper devotional:
In the mid-16th century Francis Xavier (1506–1552), a Catholic missionary, wrote to Father Perez of Malacca (today part of Indonesia) about the perils of his mission to China. He said,
The danger of all dangers would be to lose trust and
confidence in the mercy of God… To distrust him would
be a far more terrible thing than any physical evil which
all the enemies of God put together could inflict on us, for
without God’s permission neither the devils nor their
human ministers could hinder us in the slightest degree
From January 15:
But God still has a plan. It’s cool today because when I was talking to genetics, the Doctor asked how I could seem so relaxed and calm with all we are going through, and I could reply without hesitation that it was our faith in God. My soul definitely has grown weary through this long journey, but God is in the process of restoring me which I’m so thankful for. I’ve been doing a devotional I found online called “15 Days in the Word with John Piper” and even though I think that I just found it, I know that God led me too it. The verse yesterday was this…
22 Cast your burden on the Lord,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.
I think when the journey is long, it wears you down. But then I look back and I can rejoice at what God has done so far and how He has sustained us. And looking ahead, even though we aren’t where we would choose to be, and even though things aren’t necessarily going the way we want them too, I’m still excited to see what He is going to do.
From February 10:
Ava who is our treasure… created by God perfectly, just the way He wanted her.
Before we had Ava, our Pastor Norm preached a sermon on 2 Corinthians chapter 4, verse 7…
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us…
And Norm explained that we are those jars.. we are frail and easily chipped and cracked just like the terra cotta flower pot that he dropped on stage to surprise us all – and we are even easily shattered. I know that I can certainly relate, but it doesn’t matter that we are frail, because God can use us and work through us. And then He gets the glory, AMEN.
And for His own purposes, He chose Jason and I to be parents of another little jar of clay… our sweet Birdy, who already has more chips and cracks than most others.
And a month or so ago it hit me, that I’m a mother of a child who has a single ventricle heart and who someday may need a heart transplant and it made me sad… she’s not going to just ‘get better’ like my other kids and I started feeling guilty for even having her and putting her through all that she went through… and it was a very low time for me, a bit of a valley. And as I was coming to terms with this, a kind friend sent me an email in response to hear that I was feeling down. She wrote this..
My heart aches for you, but also rejoices in your faith and that I know God knitted Ava together in your womb — He did not make a mistake – He made Ava as he planned. He also chose you to be her mom — He chose you with purpose. He will not abandon her or you.
And it still makes me cry. Ava is just as she is supposed to be. And even though she’ll always be my little chipped jar of clay, she still has an eternal soul and I pray that I’ll be able to share with her this truth that Christa found for her… (from Pinterest of course)…
“She knew that she was formed by God’s hands and dreamed up in His heart and placed in this world for a purpose”
And I think I can speak for Jason as well when I say that we wouldn’t trade Ava for anything, or even trade this experience of having her and going through her surgery and recovery. It’s been quite the journey so far and tomorrow we start another as we come home and learn to care for her at home, but once again we have faith in our almighty God. And I think that we can sum up this whole hospital experience in these words from later in the chapter of 2 Corinthians…
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.
So we can say, to God be the glory, and thanks for giving us Ava, just as she is!
On March 4th Lisa wrote:
Lots to pray for. Thankfully strength, peace and joy are free when we ask God for them. I always like to think of it as an exchange… here God, you take my worries and I will take your peace. I can always give Him my weakness and He gives me strength. And here is a verse for me right now as I sit here hating Sarah’s diabetes and wondering if Ava will be OK…
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 ESV
What an incredible promise and what an incredible God we serve.
From April 24:
My sweet sick little Birdy, I feel so bad for her because everything seems to hurt her and she is so ultra-sensitive. I console myself by remembering she won’t remember any of this.
And once again, even in this little blip, there is a lot to be thankful for. For starters, my friend Rachel who gave up two evenings to sit with Ava and I in the ER – I so so appreciated that. And I’m thankful for the amazing dr’s and nurses who take Ava very seriously and provide her with such amazing care. And I’m thankful that I can abandon Jason at dinner-time with 4 hungry children to feed two times in a row and it’s absolutely no problem. And God is so good. Sometimes this journey is over-whelming and I just want to sit and have a good cry because I don’t know what the future holds. But then I remember that I don’t have to know – God has that part all figured out already. I just have to trust him – every day – with everything – and He gladly grants me His peace and grace in exchange for my fears. And I’m accepting both grace and peace today. Just like my favourite verse says…
Phil 4:6&7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Even when your baby is sick and admitted.
From May 27:
But we started packing up and when Sunday morning dawned Jason and I both felt that we should go to church. We technically didn’t have the time to go to church if we were going to leave nice and early for Toronto, but really didn’t have the time NOT to go to church, you know what I mean? So we went, and were incredibly blessed by our Pastor Norm’s sermon. The sermon was on living by faith, how appropriate! And we were reminded once again, that we can’t live for God without faith, and without faith it’s impossible to please God. A fantastic verse that feels like it’s just for us is…
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
Oh blessed assurance. God has not forgotten us, and we knew then why God had been calling us to church, He wanted to encourage us, remind us that we can’t walk this journey on our own, and to keep walking in faith – even when things don’t make sense and we don’t understand. And like Norm said, God is still good even when everything that is happening seems not good. Praise God that He is good.
From June 1:
This is one crazy and exhausting journey we are on with our little miss Ava. And I’m glad God has a plan, because for us it feels like trying to navigate rough water in a canoe in the dark, we don’t know where we are going. And I was thinking yesterday that God knows what’s best for our family, but then I stopped and thought that I shouldn’t really think that way… because in my mind, the best thing for our family would be to be on vacation on a beach somewhere… haha. I rephrased it in my mind to say that I’m not sure what God is going to call us to endure before we are finished this Ava (earthly) journey. But again, no matter how difficult things get, God is providing the grace and peace to get through it all, and for that we are very thankful.
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
On July 29, 2013 Lisa shared:
Last night our nurse was singing a song to Ava by Casting Crowns called Praise you in this Storm. I wasn’t familiar with it, but I looked it up and the song could have been written for us. Here are some of the words..
I was sure by now
God, You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining
As the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
“I’m with You”
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away
I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
Every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm
And then today, a year since they began this journey and upon hearing the news that her darling Birdy is ready to go home to Jesus, my sweet friend wrote this about her Saviour and Sustainer:
His power is amazing, His peace is beyond comprehension.
In the early days one of our pastor’s sent an email with these words:
“Praise God that we have hope in Jesus Christ who has a sovereign plan for this girl, a plan that won’t be thwarted for any reason; a High Priest (Hebrews 4:14ff) who has called us to pray boldly and come to his Throne for mercy and grace in our time of need and who has called us to pray persistently (Luke 18:off). I am reminded of the fact that as parents we are stewards of these children for the Lord’s glory.”
I still have no words to express the grief and heartache we all feel for this family. But I can say that I have been thankful to God for carrying them through so far and have been honoured to witness Jesus in them. And so, dear friends, do not lose heart. God’s glory has been displayed here and we will continue to worship Him and trust His plans for Ava.