Saturday, July 9, 2016

and then there were three....

Jared and I had always been planning to one day have children. Only a few months after we started dating, we discussed and settled on one boy name and one girl name for our potential children. Unfortunately, because of our house renovations, it would be quite some time before we would actually be ready to have children.

Jared’s Uncle Glenn, the man who was like a father to him, passed away on September 27, 2015. At this point, we had been trying for about eight months to conceive, and that day, Jared specifically prayed that God would breathe new life into our home and family. As Jared’s sister, Jessica, was leaving our home that day, she said from the car window, “Don’t be surprised if you get pregnant this month!” Little did she know, her prophetic words were about to come true!

I got a positive result on a home pregnancy test on October 14, the day the Toronto Blue Jays were playing the Texas Rangers in game 5 of the playoffs and had the epic seventh inning. The game was in full-swing when Jared got home from work, so I planned to tell him after it was over. Unfortunately that didn’t quite go as planned when Jared saw the test wrapper in the bathroom garbage. He assumed it was negative since we’d been disappointed before. Imagine his surprise when I told him it was positive. Between his excitement over that, and his adrenaline rush from the baseball game, he immediately dropped to the floor and began doing pushups! Thus began our journey into parenthood.

The next nine months passed quite uneventfully. I was slightly nauseous for the first 12 weeks, and other than fatigue and a few instances of heartburn, I didn't experience too many negative effects. I went back to work just before Christmas, and was able to work until May 20. Providentially, nearly all my supply teaching assignments during that time were at the school just down the road from our home.  

Just before Valentine’s Day, we found out the gender of our baby: a girl. Even though the doctors predicted my due date to be June 22, I was certain that it was June 16 and that our baby girl was just petite.

We spent a lot of time listening to the song "No Longer Slaves" as we prepared our hearts for parenthood. 

The words resonated with our hearts and I don't know how many times I prayerfully sang these words over our baby girl:

"From my mother's womb you have chosen me
Love has called my name.
I've been born again, into your family,
Your blood flows through my veins.

I'm not longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God.

You split the sea so I could walk right through it
You drowned my fears in perfect love.
You rescued me so I could stand and sing,
I am a child of God."

I was rather disappointed when I discovered I had only made the waiting list for a midwife. While I wanted a hospital birth, I was really hoping for the more personalized care of a midwife. I wanted the person delivering my baby to be someone who actually knew me, not just whichever doctor happened to be on-call. Neither of my two best friends have children, so as much as I would have liked for them to be there, I wasn't sure how much practical help they would be able to give me.  Who else could I ask? More importantly, who else did I trust? My circle of friends was small. The prospect of labour and delivery was terrifying. Who would understand and empathize with all my anxiety? Who would be good for my heart? There was only one name that came to mind: Jessica, Jared's sister.

I hesitated. I have always had difficulty asking people for help; I don't want to be an inconvenience or burden to anyone. Having Jessica there would require a huge commitment on her part; she was busy with three of her own children. Besides, my due date was right around her anniversary and her son's birthday--pretty much the most hectic time of the year for her. I shelved the idea, but I couldn't forget it completely.  However, about a month before my due date, Jessica and I got together for lunch. Out of the blue, she asked, "Do you have anyone besides Jared as a labour support person?" I shook my head. Then she said, "Would you like me to be there?" Sheepishly, I admitted that I'd been wanting to ask her for quite some time. We both got teary, as we realized that God had orchestrated this, and that I was not going to be alone.

Sunday, June 12 would have been my dad’s birthday. I was hoping that our daughter would share her late Pake’s birthday, but instead we went to church as usual. The sermon happened to be called “The Power of a Parent’s Blessing” by guest pastor Neil Campbell. He outlined the importance of pronouncing blessing over our children at very specific stages in their development, and gave some powerful examples of what it could look like.  It was a very emotional service, as we grieved places where our own parents had failed, but were encouraged when several friends from the congregation spoke words of blessing over us and our baby. We were also surprised by a gorgeous homemade baby quilt from another friend. 

With our due date looming closer, it was no surprise that I spent the entire next day cleaning the house from top to bottom. The nesting urge that I had read so much about had finally kicked in. Labour was imminent. After a very busy day, I went to bed around 11:30pm. Just as I was drifting off to sleep, I felt something dripping…sure enough, my water had broken. It was 12:10am on June 14.

Because I had tested positive for Group B Strep (GBS), I had to go to the hospital for antibiotics, even though I was not feeling any contractions. We arrived at BGH at 3am but unfortunately, it was a very busy night with lots of other women in labour and giving birth. Since I was not in active labour, I was hooked up to an IV and pretty much left alone.

Jared had texted Jessica who arrived shortly after 7am, even though my labour was not progressing at all. She brought us snacks and we walked the halls for a while until I was finally moved to a room. We waited here all day, much to my frustration. At this point, I was really starting to feel exhausted, since I had not slept at all that night, and was too anxious to nap. When I reached the point of tears, both Jared and Jess prayed over me.

Finally my doctor arrived around 4pm, and after a quick exam, told me that after all this time, I was only 1cm dilated and that my cervix was not effaced (thinned) at all; he recommended I be induced.  After being in the hospital for over 12 hours already, I was only too happy to get things started. I was moved to a labour and delivery room, hooked to another IV and more machines, and things were finally underway by 5pm. After a couple of hours, the contractions were getting pretty intense. The nurse asked if I would like her to call the anesthesiologist and see if he was available to begin an epidural. I agreed, and was told he could be there in 10 minutes.

Jared and Jessica were not allowed to be in the room while the epidural started. I suddenly felt really overwhelmed and began to cry. I knew I was having an anxiety attack. The nurse came right over and held my hands through the entire thing, making sure I was taking deep breaths. Finally it was over, and they helped me lie down. The epidural kicked in and I could relax.

The next few hours were a blur, as I was so exhausted and overwhelmed. I was told I needed to get some sleep, otherwise I wouldn’t have any energy to push the baby out when it was time. Unfortunately, this only fueled my anxiety and my inability to sleep. A nurse kindly brought me a fan for some white noise, even though it didn’t help me sleep. Every hour, I had to be turned and checked to see if the epidural was still working. I kept my eyes shut in order to block out the extra stimuli, as well as to try and hide my tears that didn’t seem to want to stop. I do remember that Jess came and sat with me for a while and stroked my hair to try and calm me down. Later, I recall her complaining about Jared least one of us managed to get a few winks that night!

Despite the epidural, as the night wore on, I started to feel intense pain with every contraction. I was told the baby’s head was sitting on a nerve and the epidural could not do anything for it. As I thought about the next few hours and days ahead, I had another anxiety attack that one of the nurses, Kristin T., talked me though. In fact, she pretty much stayed by my side for the rest of the night. It turned out that she lived only a few minutes down the road from us; I even knew her son from supply teaching at his school! She was fantastic, helping me breathe through each contraction and keeping me distracted enough to not to think about the next one coming.

Finally, I was 10 cm dilated! Ideally, they would have had me wait longer and let my body do more of the work, but they decided to have me start pushing to try and help alleviate the pain. I was just so grateful that after nearly 50 sleepless hours, the end was in sight, and that a C-section was not needed. Because the baby’s heart rate was not coming back up after each contraction as quickly as he would like, the doctor eventually used a vacuum to help speed up the delivery process. Finally after 40 minutes of pushing, our daughter, Olivia Joy entered the world at 1:39am on June 15.

Despite the lengthy ordeal at the hospital, it was clear that God has had us in his care through this whole process. We were blessed with amazing nurses, and ended up with a private room for the rest of our hospital stay. Jared summed it up quite nicely with these words: 

"It has been a surreal experience. Having held her for the first time, I cried a lot. I remember going to churches in my 20’s advocating on behalf of Compassion Canada to encourage others to sponsor children from underdeveloped countries. I strongly recommended writing to these children and telling the little girls that they are 'very lovely, pretty, worth fighting for, that they are the apple of God’s eye and are to be part of something very significant.' And after many years of arduous planning, renovating and preparing my heart for fatherhood as I go to prepare a place for this little one, I am very excited that I get to tell these truths to my daughter everyday so she may know she is deeply loved and understood. What an amazing responsibility we have before us!"

Monday, May 30, 2016

maternity photos - 35 weeks

A few weeks ago, our talented friend Julie came to our house and took some maternity photos for us. Despite the cold temperatures, wind gusts, and rain showers, she managed to capture some beautiful images. Here are some of our favourites:

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

letter to me

If I could write a letter to me
And send it back in time to myself at seventeen
First I'd prove it's me by saying
Look under your bed, there's a Skoal can and a Playboy
No one else would know you hid
And then I'd say I know it's tough
When you break up after seven months
And yeah I know you really liked her
And it just don't seem fair
But I'll I can say is pain like that is fast and it's rare

And oh, you got so much going for you
Going right
But I know at seventeen
It's hard to see past Friday night
She wasn't right for you
But still you feel like there's
A knife sticking out of your back
And you wondering if you'll survive
But you'll make it through this and you'll see
You're still around to write this letter to me

At the stop sign at Tomlinson and 8th
Always stop completely, don't just tap your brakes
And when you get a date with Bridget
Make sure the tank is full
On second thought forget it, that one turns out kinda cool
Each and every time you have a fight
Just assume you're wrong and Dad is right
And you should really thank Ms. Brinkman
She spent so much extra time
It like she sees the diamond underneath
And she's polishing you till you shine

And oh you got so much going for you
Going right
But I know at seventeen
It's hard to see past Friday night
Tonight's the bonfire rally
But you're staying home instead
Because if you fail Algebra
Mom and Dad will kill you dead
Trust me you'll squeak by and get a C
And you're still around to write this letter to me

You got so much up ahead
You'll make new friends
You should see your kids and wife
And I'd end by saying have no fear
These are nowhere near
The best years of your life
I guess I'll see you in the mirror
When you're a grown man
P.S. go hug Aunt Rita every chance you can

And oh you got so much going for you
Going right
But I know at seventeen
It's hard to see past Friday night
I wish you'd study Spanish
I wish you'd take a typing class
I wish you wouldn't worry, let it be
I'd say have a little faith and you'll see
If I could write a letter to me
-Brad Paisley, "Letter to Me"


This week, I received a message from an old high school classmate of mine. She was asked to give the graduation address at our former high school next month, and since it will mark 15 years since our own graduation, she was hoping to connect with as many old classmates as possible.  
"As I think about what to say to this group of graduates, I thought it might be fun to know what has happened from our class in the past 15 years. Since our family moved from [the area] a week after we graduated, I feel as though I lost touch with a lot of people... I'd love to hear from each of you, with some of the following information: -where are you now? What are you doing? -what is your family situation like? -how have you experienced God working in your life in the past 15 years? -what struggles have you faced? -if you could speak back to your 18 year old self at graduation, what advice would you give yourself?"

Although I don't dwell much on high school, her questions did get me thinking, the last one in particular.

For our grade 12 yearbook, I wrote that my life's ambitions were to "renovate and live in an old farmhouse and marry a cute farmer, have 2 kids, and drive a red Chevy Camero." 

Let’s just say life doesn’t exactly turn out the way you plan. If you know me well, or if you have been following this blog for a while, you will know that although I did get the farmhouse renovated, I married a software developer (he is cute…and does love farm life), we only have a 1 baby on the way, and I drive a Honda Civic--ha! The things that seemed so important 15 years ago, really don't matter much any more.

After some thoughtful consideration, if I could tell my 18-year-old self just one thing, it would be this: God has a plan, even when everything inside of you screams that He doesn’t. 

Even when all your friends are married with children and you are 27 and single. Even when your cat gets killed and your new kitten drowns. Even when the man you think God is preparing you for a relationship with, ends up with someone else. Even when you lose a parent to cancer. Even when you lose a job. Even when you bomb an important job interview. Even when your best friends betray you and walk out on you. Even when your church family despises you and tries to destroy your reputation. Even when your pastor fails to see your heart and brushes you off. Even when members of your own family gossip about you. Even when your family is fragmented by divorce. Even when you experience every kind of delay and problem as you undertake home renovations. Even when terror fills your heart at the prospect of becoming a parent. Even when you yell, scream, and cuss at God because you feel like even He has abandoned you. Even you feel so broken that you can’t imagine ever being healthy and whole again. Through it all, no matter how you feel or what you experience, God is there and He does care. One thing remains: His love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

27 weeks

Well, with roughly three months to go, we are finally starting to wrap our heads around the idea that we'll soon be a family of 3 (plus our 2 fur-babies.) The nursery is ready and Mr. Gryce has been honing his cooking skills in preparation for the busy days ahead.  We've been doing some reading, and asking advice from other parents as we enjoy these last few months.

How am I feeling? I had some mild nausea for the first couple of months (the anti-nausea medication I tried actually made me feel much worse!) but I never puked or anything. After hearing other people's stories, I really can't complain. I was mostly just exhausted all.the.time. After taking the first trimester off from supply teaching, I returned to the classroom after Christmas. I've been getting 2-4 days of work per week, in addition to my regular tutoring clients after school. Nearly all my teaching has been at the school just around the corner from our home, which has worked out great this year. Also, having the car in a garage makes it easier to get out the door fast in the morning. 

After making it through most of the winter without any sickness (very rare for me!), I recently got hit with a nasty flu bug. Fever, chills, exhaustion, congestion, and cough. It's been 2 weeks and I'm on the mend, however, I am finding that teaching 3 or more days a week is just too much. My first commitment is to the things at home that matter: my hubby and my tutoring.

Have I had any weird cravings during this pregnancy? Not really. Mr. Gryce is still convinced I'm going to eat that whole jar of dill pickles in the fridge before this baby arrives (I did have one on a burger a few weeks ago), but it's unlikely. During my first trimester, I craved fresh fruit and English muffins, and drank a lot of ginger ale. Lately I've been eating a lot of yogurt and having a smoothie a day, but that's not really unusual for me. 

I have still not officially transitioned to "maternity clothes" yet (hooray!) Though I have a few maternity shirts, most of my regular shirts and sweaters still fit. As for pants, I have mostly been wearing leggings and yoga pants as the typical maternity jeans just don't fit well. (If anyone is heading to Victoria's Secret in the next few weeks, I'd love if you could pick me up another pair of yoga pants!)

Baby Gryce is very active. I first noticed movement at around 21 weeks and it basically hasn't stopped. Even the ultrasound tech commented on how our baby would not stay still for more than a couple seconds. So far, it's not disruptive to my sleep, for which I am thankful!

On February 10th we found out the gender of Baby Gryce. Everyone in our immediate family knows, as well as close friends. I'm sure the word will continue to get out as our due date approaches. As for names, we've had a boy name and a girl name picked out since before we got engaged...(yes, we're very future-oriented). We've never wavered on them, and to date, I haven't taught any students who have given me an aversion to either (fingers crossed!)

For those of you who have asked, my amazing sister-in-law (who I consider to be more like the sister I never had), is planning a baby shower for late April. (Your invite will probably be in the mail shortly.) We are registered at - a really cool site I stumbled upon months ago. It lets you choose products from any store, and put them all on one registry. For those of you considering buying us a gift, I can't stress this enough: we have so.many.clothes already! Having 3 nieces and 1 nephew, plus being one of the last couples in our peer group to have a baby gets you lots of really great used clothing. (Nevermind all the bag sales at the local thrift stores I've taken advantage of over the years.) And until we get the loft space above the garage finished, we have very limited storage space. So as cute as all those little clothes are...for now, thanks but no thanks.

So there you have it. Here's to the next 13 (or so weeks)....! 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

they will know we are christians by our love...not by how we market ourselves (part 2)

Years ago, I wrote a post in which I spoke out against current practices of marketing and "selling" Christianity for the purpose of filling pews. These days, many churches are being run more like corporations than anything else. We have lost sight of what really matters. 

Let's get real: I don't want to get flyer mail advertising next week's church event, I want a close-knit community of believers that I can trust.  Church is not about plastering the community with marketing gimmicks, it's about reaching hearts. It's not about filling pews and entertaining the masses. It's about helping people come fully alive in Christ.  To that end, church isn't about shaming me for my "un-Christian" behaviour, it's about dealing with the root of those issues which stop me from becoming more like Christ.  Church is not about looking good on the outside, it's about giving me a safe place to find healing from the inside out.

I left a church that was focused too much of the former.  As a result, so many parts of my heart have been shut down that I have been unable to feel like I truly belong to a community that is more focused on the latter. No church is going to be perfect. However, when we know and trust the heart behind it, certain things don't matter. I would be much happier listening to a long-winded sermon from a pastor who cares about my heart, than a shorter, entertaining performance from a pastor who dismisses my heart.

You see, when you're forced to look like a perfect Christian all.the.time, it breeds gossip and back-stabbing. When you have to do whatever it takes to deflect the shame of not measuring up, you point fingers and pin that shame on someone else. Let's talk about their problems instead. Because, God forbid, you be the one to look bad.  For a while it might seem great--people are friendly and welcoming. Everything will be fine as long as you keep up the facade. But it's exhausting. And it forces you into shallow relationships where no one ever grows. At least not in ways that matter. 

This might work for some people. But while you might be okay with this, let me assure you, I am not. Being in this atmosphere over a period of time eventually left me with a bad taste in my mouth toward the church in general. In fact, it reinforced the fact that church was not a safe place for me.  As a result, for the past number of years, I have felt like I am simply going through the motions on Sunday morning. In order to function and pass for "normal," I've inevitably had parts of my heart harden, while other parts simply died. 

However, very recently I have felt in my heart that God has a greater plan. Nothing short of the broken trust, breakdown of relationships, and ultimate betrayals I experienced could have made me leave my previous church. These were all excruciatingly painful but--as I now realize--necessary pieces of the puzzle to lead me to a place where I can come alive. For real this time. My prayer is that God will use the ministry of our current church and the people there to bring those places back to life in me. I need people to help restore those broken pieces of my heart, those dead places in me that have become hollow and numb in order to manage the pain. 

Slick advertising, great websites and promotional videos don't mean anything if the church today is not committed to reaching the lost, restoring the broken, equipping the saints, and releasing the workers. Indeed, they will know we are Christians by our love...not by how we market ourselves.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

the big announcement

We had a special surprise wrapped up for the family this year.

Mr. Gryce spent a lot of time planning out how we were going to announce our pregnancy to his family at our Christmas get-together.

He finally decided we should put some helium balloons in a big box for his parents, and attach our ultrasound pictures to the balloons.

After reading the tag, his mom was worried that something was going to leap out of the box and scare her. 


The big reveal! 
It took a few moments for the news to sink in.

Congratulations Grandma, Grandpa Larry and Grandpa Gryce!

Monday, January 11, 2016

reflections on 2015 (belated Christmas letter)

Dear Family, Friends, and Blog Readers,

How is it possible that yet another year has nearly come and gone? It seems like just yesterday we were writing last year’s Christmas letter! It’s hard to believe that five years ago we were planning our wedding…where has the time gone?

This year has been another whirlwind for us. Here are a few highlights:

Mr. Gryce celebrated his 5-year mark of being employed as a Senior Software Developer with his current company. Although his work is often challenging, he enjoys it and maintains a great relationship with his boss and co-workers. It is not too often that jobs like this are available so close to home! We are thankful for the continued growth of the company and he hopes to stay there for many years.

Mrs. Gryce had a busy year supply teaching with the local school board. She also had a full tutoring schedule for much of the summer. Since September, her teaching schedule has slowed down considerably and she is enjoying some down time. She still tutors from home 5 nights a week and occasional Saturdays. Over the summer, Mrs. Gryce was busy picking berries, making pickles, relish, and jam, as well as canning rhubarb and applesauce. Our pantry is well-stocked for the winter months!

If you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you will know that our big renovation project this year was the demolition of our old wood shed, and the building of a 2-storey 24’ x 24’ addition to our house. This has allowed us to have a 2-car garage with upstairs loft. We now have storage for two cars and the wood pile, plus an area for Mr. Gryce’s work bench and tools. We were very pleased with the contractor we chose for the job and hope to work with him again in the New Year as we make plans to finish the loft portion into living space.

At the end of July, we took a road trip to Michigan, where we stayed with Mrs. Gryce’s cousins for a few days. 

It was lovely to get away, and as always, the Bakkers were generous and hospitable hosts. We took advantage of the beautiful weather and spent a full day in the water park at Michigan’s Adventure. It truly was an adventure—especially for Mrs. Gryce, who is nervous about heights, water, and rides that spin. Nevertheless, we both thoroughly enjoyed our time together.

Back at home, we enjoyed several trips to the beach, including a beautiful, little-known spot near Pleasant Bay. 

We also had a great time at the Sandbanks Dunes Beach with the Broekemas. Now that our nephew and twin nieces are getting older, it has become easier to plan outings and family dinners together. 

We also spent one summer afternoon at Mr. Gryce’s dad’s house, learning about his bee-keeping business. Mr. Gryce enjoyed lending a hand in the honey-extraction process. Maybe one day, we’ll get into it ourselves!

In September we were saddened by the loss of our beloved uncle, Glenn Gryce. He had a tremendous influence in Mr. Gryce’s life during his growing-up years, and was also the inspiration for our living room design. He will be dearly missed!

This fall, we adopted a new kitten named Chester. He is a lively playmate for Charlie, and the two get along (most of the time).

 Since many of you may have thought Charlie and Chester would be our only babies, we have saved the best news for last: We are expecting a baby in June! So far, all is going well. Now in the second trimester, Mrs. Gryce’s nausea is gone and she is not as tired. We continue to pray for health and strength for both Mrs. Gryce and Baby Gryce in the coming months.

We hope this post finds you well. It is our hope that you experienced a merry Christmas with family and friends, and we wish you all God's richest blessings in 2016.                                                    
With Love,

            Mr. & Mrs. (and baby) Gryce

the new additions

It's no secret that we've been renovating our house for a really long time. Almost ever since we began renovating, we'd wanted to build a garage. Unfortunately, there were always other projects that were higher priority (read: the rest of the house.)  But with our little house finally renovated from top to bottom, we finally built our garage addition last year.

We're glad we finally got the garage built, because our next addition has been a new car! Our old Hyundai finally died, so over Christmas we had some time to shop around. I am happy to report that after driving my Civic for the last couple of years, Mr. Gryce has been fully converted to a Honda driver for life!  We finally brought home our new Civic this past Saturday and Mr. Gryce is certainly enjoying all the new technology and gadgets that this upgrade brings.

Our third addition will be taking place in the coming months, as we hope to connect the upstairs loft portion to the rest of the upstairs and to finish it into living space.  We're still working on a final blueprint.

Finally, while I have already told you about our addition Chester in a previous post... 

I'm excited to announce that our little family is growing again....

That's right! We are expecting a baby in June!

We can't wait to share this exciting chapter of our lives with you all. Please stay tuned for more updates.