Her Story

HERstory: Eternity

Written By: Keri Harvey

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For death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.
Ecclesiastes 7:2b  (NIV)

This verse found me a few years ago. My mom had just passed away after a gruelling battle with cancer. I heard it when I was struggling to make sense of the remainder of my life. I couldn’t imagine my life without my biggest fan, my greatest coach, my dearest friend.  

Somewhere in the middle of my grief, I realized that an important part of grieving was to return to life.  This one life that I had been given was marching out in front of me and I needed to merge back into the parade.

Within a few years, that parade brought my husband and I four children in 2.5 years. That is a story in itself, but you can imagine that some days are pretty crazy around here.  Sometimes, in the middle of the laundry, the cooking and running kids around,  I need a reminder to fully live;  to actually engage in a meaningful way with the people around me.

A timely reminder came recently, when within 24 hours, I went to a wedding and a funeral.

I can only imagine the thousands of memories that flash through the parents minds as their children stand at that altar. First words, first steps, swimming lessons, first day of school, first heartbreak, summer holidays… so many moments in the very full chapter of life that happens between birth and young adulthood.

The ceremony is full of tributes from those closest to them and almost always, a slideshow that takes us by the hand to show us how cute those chubby cheeked, spaghetti covered little ones were when they were sitting in their high chair.

All of those frustrating parenting moments…”Brush your hair, brush your teeth, make your bed, stop touching them!” Those moments get swallowed into this bigger moment and none of that stuff actually matters at all.

What a parent never imagines is that they will host a funeral for their child.  

Another ceremony, with speeches and slideshows from those closest to them.

The ceremony I attended was for a young woman, just 24.  She had lived those 24 years with much laughter, but also heartache and deep struggle with invisible enemies that had tormented her from a young age. We celebrated her and sat relieved that she had entered into eternal life with Jesus.

That ceremony reminded me of the first time I felt eternity collide my world. My mom, with laboured breathing, took her last breath on earth and walked into forever. It was so close, so beautiful, so vibrant.

I wanted to go too.

It made everything here, even the brightest colours, so grey and pale. I knew then more than ever, that we don't really live "time to time" but we live "moment to moment" inside time are the moments that actually matter.

Life is full of beginnings and endings, we should be good at both. Weddings, births, funerals, they all remind us of what really matters. We need to notice moments when they come, so we don't get swallowed up in the business of the chronological monotony.

When you can laugh until you hurt, do it. Don't hold back. When you need to cry for sentiment or grief, open the floodgate and let the ugly tears fly.

Chapters open and chapters close. Death so often teaches me to live.

That is what makes the death matter. What their lives taught us becomes our textbook and their memory gives us the courage to do things we may have never done.

Whatever we focus on, grows. Our thoughts bring us closer to heaven or keep us wrapped up here on earth. I pray that we could focus on eternity and let the Lord magnify His reality in us. Let us live, fully live, every day of our lives.


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HERstory: To Live By Faith

Written By: Hanna Ekres

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I’ll never forget the morning of June 11 2011.  

Those four somber words from the attending ER doctor, “I’m sorry its leukemia.”  Cancer. Those six cold empty letters that sent a chill down my spine. I was eighteen years old on my way to to Bible College to fulfill the call God placed on my heart. Out of the all the things that I had imagined for my life, this was not part of my plan. In those next few moments my whole world began to collapse and any dreams that I had became fragmented pieces of a life I once hoped to have.

I was your average 18 year old. I grew up in the church my whole life, and from a young age became involved in serving in different ministries. It was in grade 11 after a youth retreat where I felt a call to go into youth ministry. My heart ached at the statistics that a large percentage of youth would leave the church upon finishing high school and entering the adult world.  My heart was set on entering youth ministry and helping teenagers grow strong in their faith and to help grow and invest into their lives in a positive way.  I finally felt I was headed in the right direction for my life and I couldn’t have been more happier then eagerly waited for September to roll around.

By the time it did, I was already halfway finished through the first part of my aggressive treatment. Even though what was happening at the time seemed cruel and unfair, it was a true matter of the heart to learn what it meant to surrender all of myself to the Lord.  Every day I was challenged by what trusting God looked like, and to put it simply it's learning to “live by faith and not by sight.” ( 2nd Corinthians 5:7) Learning to understand no matter how I may feel, that God’s word and His promises stand true always.  Even when I didn’t see healing as quickly as I had hoped for, I based my faith on truth rather than emotions. This helped me to grow in my trust in Him.

It’s been six years since I was diagnosed with leukemia.  Six years of dealing with painful side effects from a stem cell transplant and harsh treatment. But it’s been six years of being cancer free, making eternal friendships and dreaming with God of my new future. In some of the hardest times His joy has truly been my strength.  Ultimately I give Him the praise for healing me in the way that He did.  For helping me grow in my faith and also for loving me through the hard times when I felt like giving up.  Knowing that whatever trials I face I don’t do alone, gives me the greatest confidence of all.


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HERstory: Bloom Where You're Planted

Written By: Halina Ostapchuk 

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If there was one thing that I loved most about living at my parents’ house, it was that my mom would always have fresh flowers either in our kitchen or hallway. Eventually, though, no matter how fun it was to go to floral shops or farmer’s markets to select our favourite blooms, after a few days the flowers would always die. We refreshed the water and trimmed the stems, but eventually the flowers lost their petals. I noticed two things from these experiences. First, each flower is unique. Whether the flower was part of a bouquet or if it was a stand alone stem, the fragrance or beauty never altered. The second thing I realized is you can’t force a flower to thrive in an environment it was not intended for.

If you’re anything like me, then you know what it’s like to struggle with comparison. I’ve come to realize comparing your life to someone else’s is not worth it. Comparison makes experiencing contentment so much harder. Easier said than done, I know.

I’m in my mid-twenties, and it seems every weekend (okay that’s a slight exaggeration… every other weekend), I’m attending or hosting engagement parties, bridal showers, bachelorette parties, weddings, or baby showers. Now don’t get me wrong.  I love planning and participating in these events and I have no problem with genuinely celebrating with my friends and family. However, when these major life celebrations surround you so often, it’s easy to start that comparison game.  I wonder…should I be at a different point in my life? Should my priorities be different? Am I missing out?

If you would have asked me in high school what my life would look like in the next five years, my answer would have sounded like this:  “I will be married right out of university, have lots of kids, be a stay at home mom, and spend my time volunteering in ministry.” I was convinced I knew exactly how my life would turn out. I was, and still am, very ‘others’ oriented.  As long as the important people in my life were happy, I would be happy, right? I was never driven by the thought of a career, and if I’m being honest, I never put much thought into my own dreams and goals.

Fast forward to today.  I’ve been out of school for quite a few years now. I’m single, I have a career that I love, God has filled me with passions I would have never dreamed or imagined, and I thrive on being independent. This is not quite what I expected considering my high school predictions. I used to ask: “Why isn’t my life panning out as I planned?” I even prayed that those same life celebrations that other people were experiencing would also happen to me. But then I realized that God had something different for me. He saw potential that I never knew I had. 

As they say, hindsight is 20/20. If my life had turned out exactly how I thought it would, I would have never been forced to explore my passions, or been pushed out of my comfort zone. I would have never taken on various leadership roles (didn’t see that coming!), or had the freedom to go where God lead, without anyone or anything holding me back. 

To be honest, comparison and the fear of failure are things that will be a constant struggle for me. I always have to stay attuned to the reminder that God didn’t ask me to be her, he asked me to be me! If she is a peony and I am not, then so be it.  There is no need for comparison or competition because there is plenty of room for each of us to bloom.

God has planted me where I am, for this moment in time to live out my purpose, whether it be in my workplace, my relationships, or communities where I serve.

I encourage you, wherever God has you planted in this season, bloom with grace and confidence!  


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