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Today would have been Anika’s first birthday. It was supposed to be a day of family friends and loved ones celebrating with us. I remember Conner and Owen’s First Birthdays as great big parties to celebrate the fact we made it through!

To me, today is still a day of Celebration. I am celebrating the gift of my daughter even though it was for such a short time, and the love of my God, who makes all things beautiful. I am celebrating the loving family, for you are all family to me, that has surrounded us with so much love and encouragement. And, I am celebrating the amazing Man I married and the two boys God has blessed me with.

“The mention of my child’s name may bring tears to my eyes, but it also brings music to my ears” (Anonymous).

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My Dear… family (by birth or by choice), teacher, confidant, associate, partner-in-crime, acquaintance, coffee crony, teammate, kindred spirit, or good friend:

I present to you YOUR CHRISTMAS PRESENT!

I promise you it’s small, such a little thing really. There’s no clutter or dusting involved and you’ll hardly even notice it’s there, but someone else will…

-the two boys in Vicente Guerrero, Mexico who will open Shoe bags filled with toys and school supplies provided by YOUR CHRISTMAS PRESENT.

-the family of three in Colwood who were struggling between jobs and blessed with a hamper achievable in part by YOUR CHRISTMAS PRESENT.

-the local boy who has a Shoebox included in his families hamper in cooperation with Conner’s class at school and YOUR CHRISTMAS PRESENT.

-the C.A.R.T.S. ministry, who take sandwiches and hugs to those on the streets of downtown Victoria, have a few more Christmas Socks to hand out (filled with gloves and a treat) because of YOUR CHRISTMAS PRESENT.

-the P.E.E.R.S. group who are sharing love and gift bags with sex workers in Victoria including items made possible by YOUR CHRISTMAS PRESENT.

-the family with Mom, Dad and six kids who’s Christmas will now include a full Turkey Dinner and gifts and a treat or two due to combining several CHRISTMAS PRESENTS including my own.

And on Christmas Eve YOUR CHRISTMAS PRESENT will help the Water School teach people in Africa how to purify their drinking water using the Sun and plastic bottles.

So, there it is! I hope you like it?

I have to confess that this gift wasn’t my idea, my Sister-in-law Tiffanie has been giving Justin and I this PRESENT for several years , and our Church has encouraged people to give these types of PRESENTS for the last few years as well. We love it! No boxes or paper to clean up, no clutter to dust, and there is an infinite variety of options so we don’t get the same PRESENT every year! So if you’re looking for PRESESNTS for any one in your family feel free to ‘steal’ this idea

For more information about YOUR CHRISTMAS PRESENT

Peers http://www.peers.bc.ca

CARTS http://www.cartsvictoria.ca/

The Water School http://www.thewaterschool.org/

Saanich Baptist Church Global Missions page(info about trips to Vicente Guerrero)  http://saanichbaptist.org/content/view/32/121/

Greater Christmas Presence Videos   http://vimeo.com/7420110   http://vimeo.com/7420110

Yesterday was Anika’s six month ‘birthday’.

I’ve been mulling over what to post for a while… I want to put down on ‘paper’ as it were, some of her days here on Earth, but cannot seem to bring myself to. It’s still too painful, and too full of joy for life, and wonder at it all, and respect for the Dr.’s and Nurses who cared for her, and so many other things.

Yesterday we also heard some difficult news about a friends baby boy who was born prematurely but will have THE MOST loving, caring, compassionate family you can imagine… his Mom is having a hard time and I wanted to dedicate this post to her.

Bobbi you are amazing and your children and your family are blessed to have you!

A very good friend sent this to me a while ago, and now I want to share it with you (I don’t know who wrote it):

Invisible Mother……

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store.

Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’

Obviously, not.

No one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.

I’m invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?

Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’ I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the Disney Channel?’ I’m a car to order, ‘Right around 5:30, please.’

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated sum a cum laude – but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going; she’s going; she is gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England .

Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in.

I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself.

I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’

It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe ..

I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription:

‘To My Dear Friend, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’

In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:

No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no record of their names.

These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.

They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.

The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, ‘Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.’ And the workman replied, ‘Because God sees’

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place.

It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, ‘I see you. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequins you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.’

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life.

It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on.

The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand basted a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.’ That would mean I’d built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, ‘you’re going to love it there.’

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right.

And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

Great Job, MOM!

Share this with all the Invisible Moms you know…I just did.

My middle guy!

My middle guy!

My biggish guy!

My biggish guy!

Gramma calls her our 'Flightless Butterfly'!

Gramma Mo calls her our 'Flightless Butterfly'!

Mothers Day this year is bittersweet. I’ve got two of the greatest boys on earth and an ‘Angel’ in Heaven.  All day the Hymn Count your blessings has been running through my head…so I had to look it up…

Count Your Blessings
Words: Johnson Oatman, Jr       Music: Edwin O. Excell

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Refrain

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

Refrain

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings. Wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

Refrain

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Refrain

There are many blessings in the form of friends and family, (and a few I’ve never met) that I want to count today and everyday:  anyone who said a prayer for us and Anika, those who made meals or cookies, those who helped with the boys, the people at Easter Seals House – staff and guests who said hi to me, the Nurses and Dr.’s at BC Women’s and Children’s, the lady who co-ordinated the meals for us, the women who made ‘Anika’s party’ so special, the people who continue to encourage us in the form of prayers and messages…I could continue for a long time but I think you get my point… Thank-you!  I count you all!

So as much as my arms are empty (everyone gets extra hugs this year), my heart is full!

I wish you all a Happy Mother’s Day and hope you remember to count your blessings!

Anika’s Memorial

On Wednesday (today), we will be holding a Memorial Reception for Anika, 3pm at Saanich Baptist Church, 4347 Wilkinson Rd. You are more than welcome to come join us as we honour my daughter`s short but beautiful life. Children are also welcome. I apologize for being so late in posting this, I guess the procrastonator in me won out this time.

I also want to take this moment to give a big thank you. For each one of you who has sent well wishes, and words of encouragement, and for those who have rallied around us. Our family has been encouraged greatly by you. It is tremendous to see the kindness that so many people are capable of when people are in a time of sorrow. We won’t answer most of your notes just because there are too many to respond to, but please know that each and every one has been extremely valuable to our family.

For those who wish to make a contribution in Anika’s honour, we would encourage you to give generously to one of the following charities, each of which had a direct impact on her life:

1) BC Children’s Hospital Foundation (http://www.bcchf.ca/)
2) Variety – the children’s charity (http://www.variety.bc.ca/)
3) BC Lions Society (http://www.lionsbc.ca/)

Thank you so much, and God bless

Justin

What Do I say?

The day that Anika died, I called a friend. She said through her tears, “I don’t know what to say?!” I answered through mine, “Neither do I!”

We all know there is nothing anyone can say or do to make Anika come back or the pain go away… Knowing there are others who share in our grief, and want to express it helps. We want to hear from you, send an e-mail or call.. it’s OK! We might not say much, but thank-you for making the effort anyway!

We will be having a Memorial Reception on Wednesday April 15th at 3pm, at Saanich Baptist Church, 4347 Wilkinson Rd. Kids are welcome.

We’ll have lots of kleenex, I promise!

Anika Faith Guertin

Sunday March 29, 2:19 am
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Saturday April 4, 1:50 am