6 Secrets that 3 Kids with Hard Life Diagnoses Know: An Anthem for a Wonderful Life

The day I release a book out into the world, I go see the heart doctor.

Her heart doctor, not mine.

Because hearts do break around here. And us and our babies know it: Life has this painful way of busting your heart— and then you have to use your one life to bust out of the hopelessness of pain.

Sometimes the best way through our pain, is to not be afraid to sit with it. Because: when your life is about avoiding pain, you end up avoiding your life. But when you hold space for your pain, you find your pain taking up less space. Baby Girl reaches over for my hand.

In a closet-sized stuffy room, up on the 4th floor of The Hospital for Sick Kids, I’m sticking stickers on her bare chest for her ECG, her and I there with all the other sick kids and I squeeze her tiny finger because we get to lend each other courage and this is always the way through, like inhaling and exhaling: Be with God & Be Brave. Being with God is how you be brave.

Courage comes from communion.

Her big eyes keep searching mine and I whisper that it’s okay to not feel okay and still trust that we are all going to be okay.

The machine prints a graph of the beat of her heart and the technician hands me the paper. I hold it and nod because there it is, what every heart monitor will tell you: Mountains and valleys is what really living really looks like.

When the cardiologist marches into the room and starts throwing around dates of the next open heart surgery, the next time they will cut her chest wall open and start slicing her warm, beating heart, Baby Girl crawls up into my lap and whispers it louder and louder until its a begging howl, “Mama, need to go home. Go home, now, Mama.”

And I pull her in close and try to comfort her while straining to hear the cardiologist’s plan over Baby’s frantic pleas for home.

I know, Baby Girl — Home. Our broken hearts can stop beating any blink second and the time we get to hold on to each other is but a flashing minute and we all are evasively homesick for Him.

Our boy with Type 1 diabetes says goodnight to me every night, us both knowing that there’s a 1 in 20 chance he may not wake up in the morning.

And our girl who takes blood thinner every morning for her literal half a heart, who will one day be waiting on a list for a heart transplant before her broken heart finally fails, falls asleep every night with her arms around my neck, her brave heart pressed next to mine.

And there’s our child here who daily takes 4 beta blockers to slow the pound of a racing heart down, doctors warning of an ongoing risk of a sudden heart attack.

And I’m telling you, as a parent of 7 and mama to 3 children facing grave diagnoses, I don’t need any heart monitor to tell me what this heart of mine now knows by heart:

You face life differently when you’re daily facing how short life could be. Your priorities get unbelievably clear, when it’s clear life could be unbelievably short. Because time here is short, you have to know the long game that wins forever.

Life is a vapour and wisdom is knowing how to inhale every breath.

And these 3 kids of ours fighting against diagnoses for long lives, they’re the Wonderful Lifers who are making us write our own kind Anthem for a Wonderful Life, a refrain of what ultimately matters and defines who we all yearn to be with the days that come down the pike:

1. Be the WayFinders and the WallBreakers

Be the WayFinders who never give up because He holds us up, who always find a way, because He is the Way and our God never stops making a way, the WayFinders who practice rising, practice resurrection, who doggedly keep practicing our faith that always determines the healing Way forward.

Be the Wallbreakers who break masks, break pride, break prejudice, break oppression, break otherness, break hopelessness and break brokenness. Be the Wallbreakers who break down high walls around hearts so that hearts break free around here, and down the street, and across the world.

You break down a wall in the world, every time you break down an idol in your heart. Comfort isn’t king — Jesus is King, and the King of Kings said the Kingdom of God rises where you lay down your crown at the foot of Jesus and pick up your cross and come die to rise. The wall breakers get to be the idol breakers and the ground takers and kingdom shakers and the freedom makers.

2. Be the WordKeepers and the Worshippers

Be the WordKeepers, because only they keep to the straight and narrow, be the Wordkeepers because only they know how to keep calm and carry on, be the WordKeepers because this is the only way to keep hope, keep sane, keep brave, keep company with Christ. It is the WordKeepers who are this old dim world’s lightkeepers.

Keep reading the Word to keep the lights on.

And be the Worshippers because worship is existence and every word, thought, act, reveals what we really worship. What you think is worth it, is what you really worship, and you’ve got to worship right things, because every single one of us is wired to worship something and worship the wrong things and it’s your life that goes wrong. The choice is always worry or worship. One drives out the other and determines the course of your life, and you get to choose the life you want: worrier or worshipper.

3. Be the With-ers and Wonderers

The With-ers stand with people because solidarity is revolutionary and with-ness is what makes this world turn and turn around, and our God is Emmanuel, the With-God, who calls us to be the With-People, who stand with the unwanted and unpopular, and if we’re not standing with them, we’re not standing with God. With-ness breaks brokenness, and it’s showing up for people that forces pain into a showdown, and the With-ers are the Wonderful Lifers because good relationships makes a good life.

This is the Anthem to a A Wonderful Life: Be the WayFinders and the WallBreakers, the WordKeepers and the Worshippers, the With-ers and the Wonderers.

It’s worth risking wonder, because we can brave a culture of cynicism and outrage, but we can’t live in a culture devoid of wonder.

It’s worth walking with a holy, persevering wonder through a world of hurt so we don’t lose our way home.

They say Steve Jobs last words were: Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow! Maybe those last words are words to live by — a holy, persevering wonder of wow, wow, wow.

There is no wisdom without wonder.

And yes: The spiritual practice of persevering in wonder takes courage but it makes the very most of all our moments: To be awed by God. God in all these moments. Be Brave & Be with God — oh wow, oh wow, oh wow.

Nothing wonderful happens in our lives without wonder.

After Baby Girl and I wander home from the big city and one long day with her heart doctor, after us bunch of Lifers determined to live another day as the WayFinders and WallBreakers, the WordKeepers and Worshippers, the With-ers and Wonderers because there’s no better way to A Wonderful Life, after we all gather round the table, my Mama sends me and our posse of kids this one photo.

A photo of my 96-year-old Granny opening up a bit of her own wonder.

Baby Girl with her own brave heart grins, points to her Great-Granny, then leans in over that brave tree and whispers — “Wow!”

Wonder makes this a wonderful life. 

And I read it aloud, the whole of Mama’s caption: “Read Great-Granny a bit of The Wonder today — and she asked for more.”

Baby Girl squeezes my neck the tightest. Persevering Wonder.

And from 3 to 93-plus-3 — we ask for more.



This year, let His wonder to awaken you again, captivate you, capture your heart!

More Of Jesus Only — and have a STRESS-FREE, WONDER-FULL Christmas. 

This is an heirloom, a Christmas tradition, a wonder for the child in all of us! 

Pick up the NEW Pop-Up Advent book, “The Wonder of The Greatest Gift” — with your own 14″ pop-up tree, 25 Bible-inspired ornaments hiding behind 25 Advent doors, a new family read-aloud of 25 Advent devotionals, and a star for the top of the tree!

Want to Win this Wooden Advent Wreath? We are Giving Away FIVE! 

Just post a picture of you with The Wonders Of The Greatest Gift on Instagram or your FaceBook page along with the hashtag #TheGreatestChristmas #ReclaimTheWonder

Share the photo of your copy of The Wonders Of The Greatest Gift by November 25th and we will pick 5 happy recipients of The Cradle to the Cross Advent Wreath along with the new Messiah Manger engraved with Emmanuel

because when our holidays are about staying in the story, being with Him — we reclaim the wonder. The wonder of The Greatest Christmas.