{"Keeping it Personal" Radio Interview!}

Good afternoon We are His daughters, friends!

About a week ago now Keeping it Personal Radio personality, Teri Johnson, approached our president, Mandy Hill about being a guest on her Thursday afternoon radio show!

With excitement, Mandy agreed to share a bit about her faith journey and touch on some of the unexpected circumstances that she has faced in her life so far.

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We would be so honoured if you would join Mandy and Teri at KIPRadio!

www.kipradio.com

Have a wonderful day, friends!

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{Turning tragedy into thanksgiving} Sophia's story |Part I|

Written by: Mandy Hill

It was the day before Christmas. It was 5am. It was the first day of my 32nd week of pregnancy.

…and I was in labor?

My shock absolutely outweighed my coherency that Christmas Eve. My pregnancy had been perfect up to this moment. I woke my husband and shared with him that I believed I was in labour, and we were soon on our way to the hospital.

Everything seemed to flow in a blurry hurricane after that. After a quick assessment in OB triage, we were whisked away to the high risk unit and a short two hours later our beautiful princess: Sophia Isabella-Diane, was born.

Christmas 2009, needless to say, became our most special Christmas to date.

Immediately following Sophia’s birth, she was taken to the NICU. My husband was not given the option to cut the umbilical cord. We did not even have a chance to lay our eyes on her, much less our hands. She was immediately assessed in the NICU, failing her APGAR test, and began monitoring by a 1:1 nurse/patient ratio. A couple hours after delivery we were brought in to meet our brown-eyed, blonde haired, beautiful little girl.

I do not remember experiencing fear or worry; not for even one moment. God was incredibly gracious to pour his peace into our lives in an abundance; not giving worry, doubt or fear a sliver of a chance to take root.

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After lunch on that Christmas Eve my husband began to make arrangements for others to fill in his responsibilities at our church’s Christmas Eve service that evening. (He’s a pastor) While he was making several phone calls, the neonatologist on duty at the NICU made his way over to my hospital room to see us. Again, we didn’t suspect there was any need to worry, so my husband actually continued with his calls and actually made the neonatologist wait!!! Little did we know he had come to see us to have us consent to her being intubated; because she was ‘simply working too hard to breathe on her own.’

For the next week she remained on the ventilator and we were only allowed to ‘see’ her. The odd nurse would encourage us to gently lay a hand on her back, but most encouraged us to refrain from any touch at all as it seemed to agitate her. Not being able to touch or hold your brand new baby for seven whole days after delivery is absolutely dreadful.

That first week was intense in many ways. Sophia endured many tests and procedures as they tried to pin point infections, and solve the mystery of her early and very sudden arrival. I was incredibly emotional as I watched the numerous pokes and prods being performed on this tiny blessing.

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Finally, on New Year’s Eve 2009, my baby girl was placed into my arms. That morning she was extubated, and after a few hours given for her to rest I was finally able to hold her. She was downgraded to CPAP, so the wires and cords were still plentiful, but I savoured every single moment of my time with her. My heart was still steady, and my faith was still strong in the God of miracles.

Some say it doesn’t rain, it pours.

We found this saying to be quite true during Sophia’s first few months. Mid-January, I woke up one morning with severe pain in my stomach. I saw a Dr. at a walk-in-clinic who diagnosed me with a UTI, however, we quickly decided it was much more than that. My husband ended up calling 911. After an ambulance ride and a few tests at the hospital; it was confirmed that my gall bladder was full of stones and I would need surgery in the next few weeks in order to prevent any more attacks from happening.

My husband also had medical issues of his own. While completing the painting of our daughters nursery one night, he too had a trip to the ER where he learned he had arrhythmia; a condition where the heart produces an irregular heart beat.

It seemed like every ‘storm’ was directed at us over those months….

Slowly but surely, our girl overcame many obstacles. More infections, more setbacks than my heart really new how to handle; but slowly progressing to the point where the management of the unit invited me to stay in one of the ‘care-by-parent’ rooms. She had moved from an isolette/incubator, to a crib (wire-free) and looked like a beautifully healthy baby! This was so exciting for us as we had come to learn that you were only invited to stay in those special rooms when your baby’s homegoing was near!

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The morning I was packing to stay overnight, I received a phone call from Sophia’s nurse in the NICU. She was calling to ask me to come in immediately because just a little earlier Sophia had coded during her feed. Say what?! My beautiful wire-free, ready-for-home baby girl CODED?! Her nurse informed me that she would be back in the isolette when I came in and that they had moved her to an area where she would be back to 1:1 care.

I think for a few short moments, I too, stopped breathing.

It was at this point in our journey that I allowed doubt, fear, and worry to slowly creep in. I remember thinking, “Will she ever get better? Will she ever come home?” I called my hubby and together we left for the hospital, unsure really of what to expect. On the way there I remember texting my dad and worriedly sharing my fears with him. “Just pray, Mandy. Don’t worry, pray.”

I tucked those words into my heart for the rest of the journey.

It was about three weeks after Sophia’s code that we brought her home from the hospital. We were being sent with an apnea monitor that would help us monitor her oxygen saturation from home. (She de-sated often).

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On the day of discharge Sophia also had a test on her bladder/kidneys called a VCUG. This test showed she had a grade three VUR (vesicouretal reflux). We were told that a hospital in London, Ontario (2 hours away) would be calling us with an appointment to see the paediatric urologist there. We spent a total of 51 days in the NICU. The doctors and nurses felt like friends now, but we were so excited for our friends and family outside the NICU to finally be able to meet our precious new daughter.

Just four days after we brought her home I noticed Sophia was starting to sniffle. We decided to stay in and cancel all our plans for the remainder of the week. On day five of us being at home from the hospital Sophia stopped breathing at home, turning a scary shade of icy blue. Terrified, we called our friends from the NICU and asked what we should do- they paged the on-call neonatologist and told us to meet him at the hospital. Minutes after the Dr. saw her we were being ushered back into the isolation part of the NICU. Sophia’s new diagnosis: RSV & pneumonia in both lungs.

Here we go again.

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Back at the NICU Sophia endured more tests and procedures. I was feeling so weary, in addition to feeling disappointed that our family was being separated yet again. I didn’t think I could handle watching this poor little girl endure one more thing; yet God supplied just the exact amount of strength I needed for each and every moment.

Finally, on my 26th birthday, after 11 more days in the NICU, moving our total days spent in the NICU up to 62; we were discharged. Again.

This time I was a bit neurotic about hand washing and who I allowed to touch/hold our daughter. Over-protective was an understatement! However, if I could help it, no more illnesses would be sneaking by me and targeting this new little one.

A few months later we headed to London to meet Sophia’s urologist…..

This is where I will need to end the story for now. Check back tomorrow for part II of Sophia’s story!

{Parenting} …..’She laughs without fear of the future!’

By: Mandy Hill

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. (Proverbs 31:25)

This winter has been the worst season we have ever endured for sickness.

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On the outskirts of this wintery season our daughter, Sophia, was admitted to a hospital two hours away for reconstructive surgery on her kidneys. It was there, in that hospital, that we passed around our first cold. It originated in our daughter, the least of us with any strength to fight it off. Thus, the beginning of our winter blues.

We have all had cold’s and flu’s at least twice each since November. It seems as though we just get a little bit better and then we start getting sick again! Has this been true for your family as well?

I hate to see my little ones sick; it absolutely breaks my heart. I would much rather suffer for them in their place.

This morning I woke up with a sore throat. My initial thought was….here we go again!! A minor amount of panic set in as I began to think of all the ways we likely passed on these ‘new germs’, and I was mentally brewing a plan for when these germs would manifest in my young family; and how best to cope in the coming days.

It was during these moments of mental attack that The Lord dropped this verse into my mind:
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. (Proverbs 31:25)

At first I thought to myself….how am I supposed to laugh without fear of the future?!

But, as the verse repeated over in my mind I was drawn to the first portion of this verse: “She is clothed with strength…..”

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And where does my strength come from…..?! Isaiah 40:29 says: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” My strength comes from HIM! I was instantly enveloped in comfort as I embraced this truth. Yes, my strength comes from Him, and because of this truth, I can laugh without fear of the future.

Thank You, Jesus!

God, You are amazingly timely! Thank You for Your wisdom and truth during some moments of weakness and worry. Thank You for Your grace and mercy in this life. Thank You for Your faithfulness. We give You glory and we honour You! Please keep us keenly aware that our strength only comes from You; that we are absolutely weak and powerless on our own. We praise You for all Your provisions thus far, and thank You in advance for the provisions You have yet to reveal to us. We pray this in Your holy name, Amen.

{Parenting} A beautiful Mommy moment!

By: Mandy Hill

My son Benjamin was home sick from school today; feverish and heavy on the side of sensitivity. His younger sister Sophia was also home today- recouping from a few days of fever herself. We were sitting at the kitchen table, eating our lunch when an all-too-familiar sibling banter began.

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Short-lived, the argument ended with my daughter telling my son that he was ‘rude.’ Not feeling well, this discouragement sent him into a quick state of sadness. He came to me with those big green eyes and cried his little heart out to me. “Mommy, Sophia said I was rude.”

It was thankfully one of those divine moments where God completely took over the words that came out of my mouth. “Ben” I said, “do you really feel like you were being rude to your sister?”

“No!” He sobbed.

“Then don’t let her tell you that you are! No one can tell you who you are but Jesus, buddy.”

He hugged me tight and quietly settled down a bit. He then asked me “Do you know what Jesus says I am?!”

“Yes….” I answered. “He says you are the apple of His eye (Psalm 17); he says that you are His special treasure (Deuteronomy 7:6); and He says that you are wonderfully made!! (Psalm 139:14)

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How many of us do this, in our adult lives?! We take something discouraging that someone has said to us, and we pull it over our soul as our new identity. Those discouraging words are so very far from the truth. Gods truth says that we are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood. It’s so important for us to bathe ourselves in the truth that comes from the word of God, so that when discouragement tries to knock us down we are prepared to look it in the face and replace it with His truth.

What lies are you believing, sister?!

Father God, thank You so much for my beautiful children. Thank You for their tender hearts and their interest in You. Please guide us, and flood our hearts with wisdom when it comes to moments that we can truly point them to You. For us adults who struggle with taking on discouragement….I pray that You will break that trend, in the name of Jesus, and instead point us in the direction of Your truth. I pray this in Your holy and precious name, Jesus, Amen!

{Parenting} The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

By: Mandy Hill

Then little children were brought to Him for Him to lay His hands on them and pray. But the disciples scolded those who brought them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not try to stop them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” And He placed His hands on them and went on His way. (Matthew 19:13-15)

Last Friday I talked about a miracle that was taking place in my daughters body after being in hospital for a week. She had just had surgery on her bladder/kidneys exactly one week prior and we witnessed a miracle as we watched her go from no output at all, to literally watching the floodgates open wide.

Well, today marks day 16, and we are still here. We have seen many miracles along the way and God has spoken to my heart almost every single one of those 16 days.

More specifically the last several nights have been difficult. My daughter, Sophia, has been recovering wonderfully during the day….but then suffering much with pain during the night. This results in lack of sleep for the both of us; and provides solitary time for Mommy to worry.

As I was worrying a couple nights ago, I was prompted with this verse: Do not worry about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

God was giving me precious time to spend leaning on Him, and I was wasting it away with worry. Feeding doubts and starving hope.

As I began to turn my worry into prayers and thankfulness….I was also reminded of the verse where Jesus tells the children to come to Him. I quickly got out of my bed, walked over and knelt beside my daughters bed. In her anguish, I told her we were going to pray and ask Jesus to help us. This was four in the morning and she soon after fell into a restful sleep that brought us through to 8am! Thank you, Jesus. And, as she drifted off into a peaceful sleep, peace settled into my heart and I was also able to sleep.

Last evening, I prayed as I tucked her in that she would find rest and healing through the night. She prayed as well “Jesus, please keep my belly safe and don’t let the boo-boos come back!” We turned out the lights for her around 9:30pm and she slept straight through until 6am! Another miracle.

God has given me some pretty remarkable doses of peace along this journey. He is teaching me much, but I think the most incredible thing He has allowed me to be a part of so far is allowing me to show Sophia that “in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God.” I pray that even though she is young, she is a wise three year old and will remember the times that we called out to God and He helped us. He gave us peace. He answered our prayers. He gave us another miracle.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your peace in our times of worry. Thank you for your new mercies every morning! Thank you for your faithfulness in all situations. Jesus I pray that you will continue to work a healing in Sophia’s body. You know the reasons why we are here and why this journey has been longer than we expected. I pray that you will see it through and bring us home to the rest of our family soon. In times of worry, I pray that you will never let me forget to turn to you, to always pray instead. Help me to gently and effectively teach my daughter this same lesson, so that she may grow to be a woman who always turns to you in times of trouble. Thank you Jesus for her life, I know you have bright plans for her future. In your name, amen.

{Parenting} Unexplainable peace.

By: Mandy Hill

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus!” (Philippians 4:7)

Have you ever felt like you were at the end of your rope. Your situation went further than your human mind could process or fathom?

I have been there. This week in fact. Here is a little peek into my life over the last few days.

A week ago tomorrow, my three year old daughter, Sophia, underwent reconstructive surgery for an underdevelopment in her bladder/kidneys. The first couple of days were ok- a few kinks to iron out but nothing major.

Then Monday happened. It started with my daughter not being able to have a bowel movement. She was a little puffy in her belly and an abdominal X-Ray showed that a bowel movement was very necessary. She was given three suppositories and two enemas before any action took place…..but immediately following this relief she became very lethargic and soon after we noticed the puffiness in her belly was increasing….not decreasing like we had hoped.

Her abdomen grew. Her face became swollen. Her hands, her legs, etc. you get the picture. Her body was no longer making urine anymore….. and for 36 brutal hours we prayed and prayed for relief for her. She was in intolerable pain; which is gut-wrenching to watch as a parent. We summoned friends, family, friends of friends, and friends of family to pray, to lift our daughter up on our behalf.

Nothing was working, and her body was getting larger and larger (10 lbs worth of fluid was now added to her tiny 35 pound body!!) Drs were talking about things like bladder/kidney leaks, dialysis, sepsis, infection, etc. I was praying for her, pleading with The Lord for a miracle this morning and suddenly a peace washed over my body. I felt like a tiny light was switched on at the end of a long dark tunnel and I no longer feared.

Despite the horrific circumstances, there was an unexplainable peace woven into my heart. A powerful peace that was centred in the awareness of God’s beautiful presence. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus!” (Philippians 4:7)

Did things change right away- no. But I knew they would. This beautiful peace brought me increased faith, renewed strength and reassurance that even though my human mind could not see past the difficulty; My God could, and He had the victory.

Tonight around 6:45pm my daughter started to turn a corner. First 5mls poured into her catheter. Then 10. Then 25. In just three hours she had over 300mls in her bag!!! Praise God for his faithfulness to hear our prayers!

Sister, is your situation too big, too difficult for you to carry!? Don’t lug around the weight of something that was never yours to carry. Cast your burdens on Jesus because He cares for you and He will bring peace to your worried heart! He’s done it for me this very day, and He so desperately wants to do it for you too!

Father God thank you, thank you, thank you for touching my daughters body tonight. Jesus you know that she has a ways to go but you have renewed our hope by this incredible progress. Thank you Jesus for the prayers of many. I pray that in all situations we would look to only you, Jesus. Help us to remember that you want to carry our burdens for us; that you want to lighten our load. For my sisters who are in desperate situations tonight, please weave your peace into the very depths of their heart as you did mine today. Bring strength to their weary bodies and bless them with the comfort of your presence. I pray this in your wonderful name, Jesus, for you deserve all the glory. Amen.

{Parenting} Humpty Dumpty.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” James 1:2

Our daughter Sophia was born 8 weeks prematurely and spent a couple of months in the NICU. Her stay in the NICU was longer than most of the babies born at her gestation and we didn’t discover the reason for this until the day of her discharge. Sophia was born with an underdeveloped urinary system…she has what doctors call Vesicoureteral reflux at a grade three to four. This simply means she has a reflux of urine from the bladder to the kidney when she pees. When she has an infection (she has had many) the reflux causes damage to the kidney; and that’s not good.

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At a recent visit to see her specialist he confirmed that surgery would most certainly be needed to correct this underdevelopment. This reconstructive surgery has already been scheduled for next month and we are grateful that the success rate for this procedure is extremely high.

My daughter (who is not quite four yet) recently recited to me an old poem that I remember learning as a kindergartener. It goes like this:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall!
All the kings horses and all the kings men,
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

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This poem replayed over and over again in my mind for several days after. As I began to think about it my heart was filled to overflowing with an abundance of gratitude and thanksgiving. As I look back over my daughters journey thus far the hand of our Almighty God is incredibly evident. Yes, there have been times that have been more difficult than others for my husband and I as her parents, but we serve a God so much more capable than ‘all the kings horses and all the kings men’. We serve the Great Physician!!!! Suddenly all her troubles melt away and bring opportunity for great joy- because God has been and will continue to be with us.

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Are you going through a difficult situation right now? Give it over to our very capable God, he is desperate to turn your troubles into joy.

Thank you Heavenly Father for your faithfulness. Thank you for being present in our every moments, but especially in our times of trouble. Thank you God for allowing these times of trouble to become opportunities for joy! I pray for the road that lies before us- we don’t know every curve and twist of this road, but you do. We trust you God as our guide and ask you to always take the wheel. We love you Lord and have so many things to be thankful for! In your name, Amen.

{Marriage} #perfectlove

By: Mandy Hill

“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us.” (1 John 4:17)

I was reading my favourite storybook to my daughter, Sophia last night at bedtime: Cinderella. As I was reading it to her I was sort of chuckling at the wild thought of dancing with a man a few times and falling madly in love with him. The book goes on to show Prince Charming’s love for Cinderella when he searches all the land for the woman that will fill the lost slipper, perfectly. Of course the Duke finds her and then POOF they get married and live happily ever after.

Say what?!

Remember back to being a little girl…..You wanted that perfect love story didn’t you? You dreamed dreams where Prince Charming would rescue you from the evil clutches of your parents and take you to the place of happily ever after. I certainly dreamed dreams of Prince Charming sweeping me off my feet, I had incredible parents but even so, who doesn’t dream of her fairy tale love story?

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I met my husband in 2002, we dated throughout 2003 and then we married in 2004. Our time together has been filled with a deep love, but it hasn’t been perfect. Our lives together have certainly not been a fairy tale either.

I learned a very wise lesson several years ago, a lesson that I am most thankful for…. I was looking for perfect love from my husband, when my husband didn’t have perfect love to give. That does not make him bad, and he wasn’t doing anything wrong. It was never intended for him to love me that way. However, I was expecting from him what is only available from God.

I was expecting from him what is only available from God.

I love my husband, he’s a really great guy. But, imagine the pressure he must have been under with my expecting perfect love from him. Perfect love can ONLY come from God.

I came across this verse a couple years ago and had one of those a-ha moments! “We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. God loved us first.” (1 John 4:19)

We need to look to God to fill us up (not a boyfriend or husband) and from his unconditional perfect love that overflows we can love on others. If we are not allowing God to fill up our love tanks…..we will feel empty. We feel empty and the love we have to give will be empty as well.

Sisters, if you’re looking for a grand love story- it’s already been written. Jesus Christ died for us so that we’d be loved for eternity; we just have to allow Him to. Stop expecting your husband to love you in the way that God is so desperately wanting to. Allow God to fill you up with that perfect love today and watch how that perfect love transforms your marriage.

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Young ladies, please stop searching for love in all the wrong places. Take your youth to get to know your wonderful saviour and allow HIS love to permeate your heart; first. There is not one single man on this earth that can love you like our God can!

Heavenly Father, thank you for loving us first. Thank you for being our first love and for loving us with your perfect love. I ask forgiveness for all the times I looked to someone or something for the love that you were trying so desperately to lavish on me. I pray for my sisters who are struggling in their marriages because of unmet expectations; change their hearts, God. Allow them to see their incredible need for you. That with you, with your love, they have all they will ever need. I pray that upon realizing that you do quench every love thirst, that my sister friends will love on their husbands in a new way; from the outpouring of your perfect love. I pray for transformed and restored marriages, in your name. Amen.