A Lost Little Girl Like Me (Deep Calls to Deep)

Chris and I both cried our way through breakfast the other day. While I choked down my delicious gluten free pancakes, I watched Chris devour his sausage and cheese omelette and at the same time, continuously wipe tears away. It’s like they just wouldn’t stop. We didn’t stop either, we kept on eating like nothing was wrong… this sort of thing isn’t that uncommon. Before the server delivered our meal, Chris started tearing up. When I questioned him, he said he saw a couple walk in and the woman clearly had cancer.

Chris and I traveled down the Oregon Coast this past week – it was kind of like part two of our honeymoon. For me, it was a dream come true; Chris had been before. The breakfast I’m telling you about took place in a town where Chris and Heather spent a couple of days, three years ago. Chris showed me the hotel where they stayed, and a few other memorable places. The Pig N Pancake restaurant where we were eating was where they ate. Hence the opened flood gates when the women who seemingly had cancer walked through the door. Chris explained, “This is my Victoria.”

A week after our wedding, Chris and I went to Victoria for his aunt’s surprise birthday party. It was a quick trip because Chris had sold his house and had to be out that same weekend. We stayed one night and took in a few sights and everything we saw, reminded me of Mike (he and I spent a lot of time there together over the years – sometimes just the two of us, sometimes with the kids, always when his mum vacationed there from Toronto visiting her sister and brothers). I loved it but had no idea it was going to hit me so hard. Chris watched me wipe away many tears those couple of days as I was overwhelmed with the opened flood gates of memories.

The thing is, away or at home, I’m constantly reminded of Mike and if it’s not tears on my face, it’s a big smile. Every once in a while, I ask Chris if he’s getting tired of hearing about Mike. The last time I asked, he said, “Never.” Chris has really gotten to know Mike and likes getting to know him better. I feel the same about Heather. She was an incredible woman, someone I would have been honoured to call my friend. As weird as it sounds, I feel a strong connection with her.

Anyway, I’d like to go back to the Pig N Pancake. I don’t mean to get more delicious gluten free pancakes, although that sounds good too, but I’m talking about getting back to that part of my story. (You’re probably still wondering about the word “delicious” and “gluten free pancakes” in the same sentence, but it’s true… they were amazing.) Here’s the thing, when Chris started tearing up, so did I. Just when the tears where welling up in my eyes, the server brought our food. I had never ordered pancakes before; my mom ordered them all the time. She loved pancakes and when my pancakes were placed in front of my face, so were many beloved thoughts of her. In that moment I missed her more than ever.

I felt completely numb the morning my mom died. I had stayed with her over night like a couple of other times, but this one was different. She had been moved from a hospital room of four, to a room for one at the end of the hall. It felt like the end-of-the-line kind of room. Chris stayed too. We tried to get comfortable on the skinny cot the nurse brought, but this night wasn’t about getting a good sleep-or any sleep, this night was about watching and waiting and praying… this night was about a final so-long.

If I hadn’t already decided to marry Chris before this, my decision would have been made and the deal would have been sealed right then. Since meeting him, he had already absorbed hundreds of my tears on various sleeves as I continued to grieve Mike’s death and now he held me up as I realized my mom’s last breath had come and gone.

My mom had a short battle with cancer (lymphoma). How long for sure, we don’t really know, but from diagnosis, it was less than two months. Ultimately, it was the chemotherapy that killed her. She was in the hospital for two weeks. My sister, Elanna and I agree that sharing a lot of the constant care she needed was an amazing gift. It was a drop in the bucket of pay-back to the life time of care she gave us. We all did everything in our power to keep her comfortable as she endured the side effects of the chemo and sadly the shutting down of her kidneys and other major organs.

Numb is the word I use to describe how I felt the morning she died. Today, I think I feel the same way. It happened so fast. She was at a fitness class a few weeks before she went into the hospital. Watching my dad grieve the passing of the love-of-his-life for over 55 years has been painful enough. Grieving her myself had to be delayed. I’m still shaking my head and questioning, “Is she really gone?”

When I see a freshly made bed, for a split second, I think “my mom’s been here”. Same thing when I see ‘Mom and Dad’ on my cell phone call display, from one extreme of elation to the immediate opposite of deepest disappointment, I sadly remember, she’s gone. Elanna shared recently how when she went into her laundry room and saw freshly ironed clothing hanging there, her first thought was, “Mom!” Then, instantly, that sinking feeling, no, she’s gone.

I’ve been feeling a little lost lately – more at times than others. I guess the feeling kind of comes and goes. I don’t mean my soul, all is well with my soul, it’s more my heart and head that feel lost (and feet sometimes as I often question, what was I doing here again?) After Mike passed away, I felt that way a lot.

For a long time, I blamed my scattered thoughts, memory loss and inability to focus, on the grieving process. Then, about a year ago, I was like, wait a minute: pre menopause! Lately, the above feelings mixed with the feelings you get when your a little girl separated from your mom at the mall for too long – discontentment, anxiety, fear and so on – I describe it in one word: lost. And even though I’m all grown up now and I’m not afraid, I’ve decided the longer the separation from my mom, the more I feel this way.

As I’ve pondered this lost place, God has met me in it with His comfort, guidance and grace, and I’ve heard Him speak, “Deep calls to deep.” The first time I heard it, I thought of Canadian Christian artist, Steve Bell’s beautiful acoustic arrangement of, Deep Calls to Deep (Author unknown). My friend Suzy, most-defiantly his biggest fan, got me hooked on him. She invited me, Elanna and our mom to one of his concerts years ago. Since then we’ve been to a few with her and other friends (she always saves us front row seats). Anyway, I knew “Deep calls to deep” was part of a verse I was pretty sure found in the book of Psalms. Indeed, chapter 42 verse 7 says: “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.”

My first thought was that the deep things of God, call out to the deep things of me (and maybe vice versa sometimes), and the water from above, flows into the waters below and as this blended H2O washes over me, there’s this deeper communing with my Lord producing indescribable joy and peace.… something along those lines. I’m not a Bible scholar of course, but I’ve been there before and feel I’m just speaking from experience. I did a little research how my take on the Psalmist’s writing compares to others. There were some different ideas, but most included this idea of “communing”… deep communing with God.

Sometimes, it just seems easier to stay in the shallow places. I think we all resist the ‘deep’ for various reasons. The deep can be scary; the fear of the unknown. It’s beyond our comfort zone. We have to be more vulnerable there. We get stretched there. We have to listen there, and wait there and we wonder what He’s going to say there. But when we let go and follow the call, Agape love invades the soul and we are forever changed there. The author of Steve Bells’ Deep Calls to Deep, puts it this way: “Deep calls to deep and my soul finds no resting place but Him. He is my God, the yearning of my soul His touch can still. And each rare moment, I felt His presence, I shall remember and forever cherish…”

I’ve decided that this lost feeling is okay and it’s probably not going to change. I’m just passing through this place and even though I love my life and want to fulfill all of God’s plans for me here, I have a longing for my heavenly home. It’s like a little piece of me is there already with mom and Mike, Mike’s mom Sheila, Randy and Heather and the list goes on.

Recently, while gathered around a table in one of our favourite coffee shops (dad, Elanna, Chris and me), a friend asked us what was so great about heaven. What are we going to do in heaven. What’s the big deal about heaven? I know the Bible has lots of amazing descriptions of heaven and one of us could have really tried to sell it. Instead, what blurted out of my mouth was something like this: “Our Saviour and Lord is there – our best friend, Jesus. We look forward to seeing Him and being in His presence.”

If you are feeling like a lost little girl like me, don’t worry. Follow the call as Deep calls to deep!

God’s peace!

“Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life …”  1 Peter 2:11 Message Bible

IMG_5191

If you missed my last blog post,  you can check it out here. It will fill you in on Chris’ and my story: You, Me and a Cherry Blossom Tree

You can find my book, Hold On, Let Go – facing ALS with courage and hope here. Or get from me personally if you live locally.

Here is Deep Calls to Deep in full:

“Deep calls to deep

And my soul finds no resting place but Him

He is my God

The yearning of my soul His touch can still

And each rare moment

I felt His presence

I shall remember

And forever cherish

Deep calls to deep

For he created me to be His own

He understands

The joy and pain of life He too has known

And each rare moment

I felt His presence

I shall remember

And forever cherish

Deep calls to deep

And at His feast I am a welcomed guest

He gives me food

The hunger of my soul is laid to rest

And each rare moment

I felt His presence

I shall remember

And forever cherish”

You, Me and a Cherry Blossom Tree

It’s late, really late. I hesitate to look at the time. I’m tired but I can’t sleep. Different sounds and shadows of trees on my new bedroom wall are just a couple of things among many that keep me from sleeping. Also, and mostly, thoughts of my mom have come on strong.

I keep putting this off – writing that is. I procrastinate, but tonight feels right to get started. I check Facebook…Instagram…email…Facebook again. Then, all of a sudden, here I am. Almost instantly, I feel like a caged bird set free. My soaring skills are a little rusty but the joy of writing feels just the same. It feels like home to me.

If you are (were) a regular reader of my blog, ALS With Courage, you will have noticed it’s been a while since I posted my last piece… just over a year actually. It doesn’t mean I haven’t written anything. My list of writing projects of the past twelve months, include: a couple of letters to the local newspaper editor, my mom’s obituary and eulogy, a few emails I carefully composed and most recently, wedding vows.

In my last blog post, Shades of Yellow, from June 2016, I mention that perhaps instead of writing about my life and sharing it on the internet, I would just live it. I knew in my heart, that after almost five years of blogging, I needed to take a step back. Today, I take a step forward. Today I pick up the proverbial pen again and let the words out.

Speaking of stepping forward, I got married last month. I tried to keep the fact that I was seeing someone, and then engaged, quiet. I wasn’t shouting the news from any mountain tops like some excited brides-to-be understandably do. I was quietly telling close friends when I saw them. The reason I was keeping things under wraps is because not everyone in my life was ready for it. Me moving forward was ok, but giant leaps like this one were a little hard to take. I tried to keep the cat in the bag on my Facebook page, but the cat was let out of the bag shortly before the big day and then pictures of us, the bride and groom, were shared and the “cat” had long ran away. It actually brought me some relief. I had to just let it be, after all this is my new reality.

I agree it happened really fast. I wasn’t looking for love, but it found me. I’ll share how that happened shortly but what I wondered is how I could love another so quickly when my heart still ached for Mike. How could I “move on” with another man when I was still grieving the loss of the love of my life?

Grief is a funny thing, not funny haha but funny in how it’s hard to define, mysterious kind of, not concrete. It can be extremely complicated and just so simple sometimes. It’s different for every person. It comes in all shapes and sizes and is not constrained to any timelines. After a while it lightens up but unexpectedly becomes heavy again. You can stuff it down, hide it away, lock it up and throw away the key, but like Houdini it eventually has to breath and it has a magic way with locks and things. It can be sharp like broken glass and prickly like a cactus and sometimes soft like the pillow where you lay your head and bawl your eyes out on. It can be the ugliest monster you’ve ever seen but ultimately pretty, exceptionally beautiful actually… that’s if and when you receive the healing it’s meant to bring.

I sure have learned a lot about it over the last few years. It’s been a journey of grieving since I first heard the word “ALS”. Some might think because I got married again, that I’ve finished grieving Mike’s death and ALS, but that’s not true. In fact, since meeting Chris, my new husband, I’ve grieved deeply. We both have, and I think we both have received a lot of healing in grieving together. I touch on it in my wedding vows. Part of my vows go like this:

“Chris, You know I have struggled with the timing of us. But I needed to trust God…and of course, I couldn’t fight the love. Something special happened the moment I first heard your voice and in an instant, you were my friend and by the end of the conversation I was smitten. The love grew in leaps and bounds as I got to know you. I didn’t think I needed anyone, but God knows what we need better than we do. He provided someone to help bare the burden of my grief, except it wasn’t a burden for you, it was a blessing because you were grieving too. It’s been something extremely beautiful. His joy feels complete in me but continues to increase. He is just so faithful! He is a God of extravagant love and that love and all His glory is on display today as we come together as one. I look so forward to continuing this journey with you, with the Lord as our guide. And I will strive and rely on Him to help me be the wife He desires me to be for you.”

The healing process is a marvellous one but it doesn’t mean I’m over Mike. On the contrary, I miss him more than ever and he’s never felt more a part of me than he does right now.

The road of grieving for me has taken many twists and turns recently. My mom’s passing in November still leaves me and my sister speechless and in disbelief. Since she passed away, our poor dad has also lost a sister and a brother. We stick close and are there for each other but some days I struggle just to keep my own head above water.

Other friends have passed as well – a few with ALS, including our dear pal Randy (who I’ll have to tell you about another time) and Darryl who I’ve mentioned in my writing before. When it comes to ALS, I’ve said it a few times, I’m in it for life… in whatever capacity and for however long the Lord wants me to be. It’s heart breaking but hopefully soon, there will be a cure.

I’m thrilled to have my amazing partner Chris to continue this journey with. I recently told him while I was hugging him that sometimes when I’m hugging him, I’m actually holding on for dear life.

Here is part of our story. This is what we shared in our wedding brochure:

“To  tell  our  story  is  to  tell  of  Him…”

Chris – When my wife Heather, who was very ill with cancer, took her daily afternoon nap, I would go out to clear my head. One day while browsing aimlessly in the House of James book store in Abbotsford where we lived, I saw Nadine’s book. On a wall of about thirty books, her’s was the only one I could see. I was drawn to the picture of love on the cover and the title, ‘Hold On, Let Go’. It looked like a story that could help me. I put it down and thought I’d get it another time. When I went back the next day, it was sold out. I ordered a copy and when it arrived two weeks later, Heather’s health had declined further and I was afraid of what that book was going to tell me (that was in July 2015). The book sat on my table for three months. Heather passed away in August, we had her memorial service in September and in October I traveled to Ontario to visit relatives – I took the book to read. There were a lot of similarities in our stories and a lot of healing in Nadine’s writing for me. Five months later, I reached out to Nadine in a letter to thank her for sharing her and Michael’s story…

Nadine – It was about 9pm and I was curled up on my couch contemplating the speech I was giving at a conference the next day. I was a little overcome with some negative thoughts, like “Who would want to hear me speak anyway? This is a big mistake,” and so on. I was praying and battling those kinds of lies. Right when I needed it most, I received a Facebook message from a man I didn’t know. It was a beautiful letter. He explained who he was and told me about his wife and their journey with terminal cancer and how she passed away a few months after Mike. He told the story of how he found my book and how it ministered to him and how he wanted to meet me and thank me in person. Unfortunately, he was unable to attend the conference because he had to work, but he wished me well and said he’d be praying for me. His letter really encouraged me and the negative thoughts disappeared. The timing of Chris’ letter was absolutely perfect…

Chris – I wanted to hear Nadine’s speech so I asked her to speak at my church. We talked about it on the phone and agreed on a day a couple of months away. There was an instant connection when we spoke. I planned to go to another author event she was going to be at in White Rock, but couldn’t wait the few weeks to meet, so I took a chance and asked her out for coffee. She accepted and our “coffee” turned into a three and a half hour dinner date. At one point Nadine started professing her deep love for Jesus. I was speechless and a little in awe because shortly after Heather passed away, I started praying that when the time was right, and if there was ever going to be another woman in my life, the Lord would bring one with a huge heart for Jesus. I knew then that Nadine was the answer to my prayer and I started praying that her heart would be opened to me…

Nadine – I had some walls up for sure and I thought it was too soon, but the Lord’s timing is perfect and I quickly knew Chris was a gift from Him. March 4th (2016) was the day I received Chris’ letter. “March forth” is a message we have taken to heart. Even though we will never “move on” from Heather and Mike – they will always have a place in our hearts and in our lives – we keep “moving forward” in God’s plans as He directs and guides. We aren’t finished grieving and we may never be, but to grieve together is such a wonderful blessing. With indescribable joy, love and peace, we look forward to serving the Lord together and experiencing all He has in store for us as husband and wife.

WMP_Chris&Nadine_SneakPeeks-7

We didn’t plan it but there we were, under a beautiful Cherry Blossom tree in the park where we had our wedding photos done. As our photographer, Warin (Warin Marie Photography) snapped pictures, a mysterious breeze swept in and gently blew the pinkish hued peddles off the tree – they just floated in the air all around us. I said to Chris, “You know Mike and I had a thing for Cherry Blossom trees, right?” With a big “Wow, this-is-kind-of-crazy” smile, he replied, “Yes, I do know that.” Later we agreed, it was like Mike showed up, or at least he was sending a message. I feel like the blossoms were his blessing. I just read this about the Cherry Blossom Tree, “In Japan, the cherry blossom represents the fragility and the beauty of life. It’s a reminder that life is almost overwhelmingly beautiful but that it is also tragically short. When the cherry blossom trees bloom for a short time each year in brilliant force, they serve as a visual reminder of how precious and how precarious life is.” Titled: ‘The Significance of the Cherry Blossom – From Beloved Tree to Cultural Icon’ From Huffpost by Homaro Cantu.

Under that tree, I felt like Mike was saying to me, “You are exactly where you are meant to be.” I felt absolutely surrounded by his love, Chris’ love and ultimately the extravagant, amazing love of our heavenly Father.

It’s funny because the original plan for the cover of my book, Hold On, Let Go – facing ALS with courage and hope’ was to be a picture of Cherry Blossoms – it was in the works. But through a series of events, a picture of me and Mike ended up on the cover which is what ultimately drew Chris to my book. Had the plan never changed, we never would have met.

“Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.”  Romans 11:33,36

After working on this piece for over a week, I post it late on June 14th, Chris’ birthday. Happy Birthday Chris! I wish you a year filled with abundant joy, surpassing peace, and lots and lots of love and laughter! Thank you for embracing me and my love story. Thanks for being a listening ear, a shoulder for my tears and a pillar for me to lean on. Thanks for your patience, understanding, kindness and incredible love! You are a gift from above! God bless you!

Side note: I call our wedding day (May 6) the most beautiful Mayday since 1948 when my mom was May Queen of Port Coquitlam, BC. (Perhaps a future blog post title). After telling our friend Shayna, who offered to help plan and decorate for our wedding, that we promised my mom she’d be there (not knowing how little time she had left) Shayna added the most beautiful touches of my mom. And the ribbons on sticks that were waved by our guests and the ribbons in the tress were a magical touch indeed. A huge thank you to Shayna and her husband Roger for helping make our wedding incredible, wonderful and blessed beyond measure. And to everyone else who helped… Thank you!

In my last post, Shades of Yellow, Chris is the man I went on the coffee date with. Wow, what can happen in a year…

I dedicate this post to my mom, who loved without walls, fences, limits or conditions. Her love was like our Father’s love and I am forever grateful and inspired to love like that.

Shades of Yellow

It’s definitely been a while since my last blog post. I wrote one, it just didn’t make the cut. Then I re-wrote it and well, I’m contemplating if it makes the cut. Here’s the thing, I’m at a place in my life where I’m wondering if I should just live it…not necessarily write about it and post it on the internet (for a while anyway).

Mike and I agreed if telling our story helped even one person, it was well worth it. I know it has helped many people and I am humbled and overjoyed about that. I continue to hear from people who have found my blog and/or my book and I’ve made many connections. I also occasionally look at my blogger account where the majority of my blog posts exist and see that it’s still getting hundreds of hits a month from all over the world (alswithcourage.blogspot.com). That’s pretty cool.

Along with helping others, my blog has helped me – it’s been cheap therapy, so thanks for reading! Seriously though, it’s been one lesson after another. The Lord has spoken to me as He has directed my writing. He has used it to strengthen my faith, to help me grow and heal and know Him more…and I am so thankful for that. This experience has been such a blessing!

So finally here goes – my revised (three times) blog post. I anticipate a lesson or two for me by the time it’s complete and I hope you enjoy. The title has changed a few times, but the smile that comes to my face ultimately makes the decision. It’s called, ‘Shades of Yellow’…

I’ve never had a cup of coffee in my life. I go out for “coffee” with friends sometimes and weekly with my parents and sister, but I choose a different beverage. Not tea because I don’t drink tea either, sometimes just water.

I remember from a young age, my parents being coffee drinkers. It was common to see my mom with a coffee cup in hand during the early hours of the day. She would often forget where she placed her coffee as she went about her morning routine. It’s actually a great memory. A few times, I asked for a sip and with a sour face, I’d say, “How can you drink this stuff?” She told me it was something you had to acquire a taste for. That’s when I learned the meaning of “acquire a taste for” and wondered why anyone would want to acquire a taste for coffee.

A few months ago, I went for coffee with a new friend. “Coffee” turned into dinner and a three and a half hour conversation. It didn’t take long for me to realize he’s the type of guy who could sweep a girl right off her feet. I went home and searched my closet for heavier shoes. Later, I wondered, “Was that a date?”

I was barely eighteen when Mike swept me off my feet. After our first date he wanted me to be his girlfriend. I told him I was too young for a serious relationship. He didn’t try to talk me into anything, instead he took out one of my closest friends. He knew I’d be at his place with his roommates and others that night socializing, so he came in holding my friend’s hand. I was infuriated and when I took him aside to confront him, he replied something like, “You chose to be unattached.” His plan worked, and by the end of the night, I was his girlfriend…that was almost thirty years ago.

I grieved the loss of Mike over the course of his illness and I’ve grieved throughout the seventeen months since he passed away and even though I still grieve, the Lord has recently given me new hopes and dreams causing me to believe I could fall in love again.

It’s amazing how God can redeem things, including hopes and dreams. God has proved this in my life many times.

At the author event I was a part of back in April at Whitby’s book store in White Rock BC, the three of us authors there were asked what inspired our book titles. I shared that when I wrote my blog post, ‘Hold On and Let Go’ in February 2014, I thought it was the perfect title for our story and imagined it on the cover of a book someday (it became ‘Hold On, Let Go – Facing ALS with Courage and Hope over a year now already). Anyway, in this post I mention how God redeems things. Here is part of the post:

“People say what a difficult time we must be going through, but I don’t feel like that at all. It’s been difficult at times, but not necessarily a difficult time. It’s been a time to grow and to learn. It’s been a time to put things in proper perspective. It’s a process for sure, but we are learning to hold on and let go. We let go of things in our lives that hinder and distract us like worry and fear and hold on to things that enhance and beautify our lives like faith, hope, and love and all the other wonderful outpourings of the Lord.

Good things come from bad things all the time. That’s how God works. He redeems things. God has done it with ALS in our lives a lot. I am constantly reminded of the Bible verse, Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Not long ago, I received a message from Leah’s mom, Katrina. She said, “I was talking to Leah this evening about her favourite colours and she told me that they are green, purple, and red. She also said that she loves yellow too because its Granddad’s favourite colour. It’s the colour of sunshine, and it’s a happy colour. She told me that when she used to pick candies from his candy bowl she always chose the yellow ones.” In another message, Katrina told me that Leah was still saving her yellow candies for Granddad.

I really appreciated this message, but the way Leah remembers the story isn’t quite right. This is how the story goes: When Leah was little, she would always choose the red, purple or orange coloured candies. Mike would take the yellow ones because the yellow ones were her least favourite. Leah eventually assumed that Granddad’s favourite colour was yellow. Mike wasn’t actually fond of the colour yellow. I found that out one day after painting all the rooms in our house various shades of yellow. While standing there with a paint roller covered in something called ‘Lemon Twist’ or ‘Sunshine on My Shoulder’, Mike passed by and said that he never was very fond of yellow.

Anyway, Leah continued to save all her yellow candies for Granddad long after he stopped eating. She would come in and hand Mike some yellow skittles or a yellow sucker that I intercepted and put in a dish and kept in a cupboard. Soon, she just took them straight to the cupboard. The collection of yellow candy grew over time…there was even a yellow feather in there. The dish was a little gift of sunshine and so is our darling Leah. She is our precious treasure! (Leah recently turned 7)

IMG_3705

When my good friend Karen Acaster brought up the topic of “love” in conversation a while ago, I told her I wasn’t going to look for love, but if love found me, I was open to it. When I think back on our conversation, my heart didn’t necessarily agree with that statement the way my head did. But recently, its like the Lord opened the curtains of my heart and various shades of sunshine poured in. In that same conversation Karen talked about Mike’s love for me and how amazing, how deep, how selfless it was and how happy he’d be if love found me again when I was ready. I just smiled. I had no idea my heart was being made ready, and since then has come alive with the butterflies that now reside there again.

Shortly after the “coffee” date with my new friend, I contemplated the unexpected connection we had and I was experiencing some mixed emotions to say the least. I was looking for some advice…for my beloved Mike’s advice. I said to God, “What would Mike tell me?” Without hesitation, I heard, “You are worth far more than rubies. Remember what you are worth.”

These words come from Proverbs 31:10-21:

”A woman of noble character who can find?

She is worth far more than rubies…

She is clothed with strength and dignity;

she can laugh at the days to come.

She speaks with wisdom,

and faithful instruction is on her tongue…

“Many women do noble things,

but you surpass them all.”

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;

but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised…”

It’s funny because this Scripture crossed my mind while I wrote my last post ‘Good Men Empower Women’. It’s wonderful advice to pass on to all the women in my life.

So to Leah, and my girls and all the young women and not so young women in my life, and to me, remember what you are worth. You are worth far more than rubies!

Feeling valued beyond words and overwhelmed by God’s extravagant love, I give thanks to Him for His healing power and the hope and joy He’s poured in to my life, and for all of His provisions. He knows my needs far better than I do and He is always faithful to provide… and He continues to redeem things.

Only the Lord knows what my future holds concerning my writing (and everything else in my life of course). I love writing and don’t plan to give it up but wonder if this is a good place to end (or just take a break from) my ‘ALS With Courage’ story. Maybe it’s time to start my next book. I’m praying about it and in the meantime, you can reach me on Facebook or here on my website.

To all of you who have been touched by ALS, you are like brothers and sisters to me and to everyone – friends and family and those I’ve never met, God bless you all! Thanks for your encouragement, support and love!

“Each of us may be sure that if God sends us on strong paths, He will provide us with strong shoes and He will not send us out on any journey for which He does not equip well.” Alexander Maclaren

Happy Birthday to my mom (June 1). Here is another wonderful memory of my mom and coffee: My mom and I have done a lot of painting together. Not pictures, but walls…you know, rooms. We have painted each other’s places (way more mine than hers). We have painted a bunch of rooms in my sister’s homes and some for friends. It’s always been so much fun. And when I think of those times, this is what I see – my mom with a paint brush in one hand and a coffee cup in the other and a huge smile on her face and tons of laughter. She’s a woman who lives to help her kids and grandkids and others… She’s a woman of noble character. She is clothed with strength and dignity. She speaks wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She is a woman who fears the Lord, a woman to be praised. Thanks mom and dad for your steadfast love and all your prayers and encouragement!

Thanks Elanna for all your help with my blog – for editing, title suggestions and for being such a great ear!

IMG_3574

Pictured my mom, dad, Elanna and me at the ALS Society of BC recognition night. I was so honoured to receive the Exceptional Advocacy award.

I’m speaking at Alderbrook Church in Abbotsford, BC on Sunday, June 12 at 10:00am. If you are in or around Abbotsford, I’d love to see you there. Consider this my invitation to each one of you. Adlerbrook Church meets at Columbia Bible College –  2940 Clearbrook Road.

This Sunday, June 5 is our annual ALS Walk in Port Coquitlam. Join team “I Like Mike” at Riverside High School – Registration at 10:00, walk starts at 11:00. If you can’t make it and want to make a donation, you can do that here: albs.ca

Saturday, June 11 is the ALS Walk in Abbotsford. We will walk in honour of good friend Neil Hemming who sadly passed away on April 13. Again, donations can be made here: albs.ca

 

Good Men Empower Women

For the last few months, I’ve been alternating my wedding band from my left hand to my right hand. I’ll put it on my right hand for a while and forget about it and then without thinking, I’ll slip it back on my left ring finger and eventually notice it’s there. It’s definitely the most comfortable there. It fits nicely into the grove that has been worn into that finger for 27 years. There’s an indentation there that I thought would never disappear, but it’s slowly fading as the ring spends more time on the right side.

When Mike and I picked out my first engagement ring and wedding band we weren’t preparing for a long engagement filled with elaborate wedding plans. We were getting ready to board a flight to Los Angeles for an elopement …  a “shotgun” wedding. It was a quick decision and the rings were just a necessity. We were young (I was only 19) and had a small budget, so I just settled for a nice set … not my dream engagement ring. On our tenth wedding anniversary, I decided I had out grown the set, not physically but I was older and my little diamond looked a little out of place on my more mature finger. I didn’t pine for a bigger diamond, I told Mike I didn’t need a diamond at all. We put the “two months salary” (or whatever the jewelry store commercials suggest you spend) towards bills and groceries (like always) and I just got a band. A lovely gold band, simple and pretty with a faint swirly design etched on it. At twenty plus years of marriage, I was wearing more silver jewelry and was casually looking for a silver, or preferably white gold ring. I wanted something with a heart on it (I’ve got a thing for hearts). Sure enough, at one of those kiosks, while at the Toronto airport (after spending time there with Mike’s family) on our travels to Bulgaria (for Mike’s stem cell treatment), I found exactly what I had in mind, at the cost of $18.99, and I’ve been wearing it with pride ever since.

Just before Christmas, I taught a type of fitness class I had never taught before: a Barre class (pronounced “bar”). It’s a blend of Pilates, ballet and strength moves. I’ve had the Pilates and strength moves down pat for years, but the ballet was something new. I attended a workshop and a few classes before I taught Barre and I fell in love with it right away.

(This does have something to do with my wedding ring, so please keep reading)

During that first class I attended, there was a moment in particular that caught me off guard and it had nothing to do with grand plies or arabesques. When the instructor asked us to position ourselves in front of the mirror and to place our hands on the bar, I lost sight of everything except the assembly line of diamond rings. Every left hand on that bar had a glow, not every one was a diamond but every ring finger was taken. It was like a special wives club, meeting at the bar … the ballet bar that is and I felt a little like an imposter.

I watched in slow-motion-like every time all the lovely hands returned to the bar. All those hardworking, hard loving, wonderful, wife hands, coming together into place to give thanks, to praise, to escape, to run away or whatever, at the end of a long day.

There were definitely times over the years that I wanted out of the “club”. Who doesn’t want out on occasion? But for the most part, I was a happy member. Here’s the bigger picture: for more than half my life, I was a wife and that’s who I was. So not to be one all of a sudden, was bizarre.

Funny thing is that in so many ways Mike prepared me well to be single. He taught me to always look on the bright side (I try). He taught me to laugh a lot and to laugh at myself, to not be too serious. He encouraged me to go after my dreams, to not be afraid to fall on my face … that it’s okay to make mistakes. When I worried, he would say, “Have you prayed?”, or he would remind me that our children were safe and well so nothing else really mattered. He knew my strengths and helped me become stronger. He knew my weaknesses and was never critical. He knew my greatest “love” was Jesus and guided me back to Him when I went my own way. Mike gently led and directed me to be independent (but dependant on God) and strong – to be the very best “me” I could be. He empowered me!

This “new club” is not so bad. I’m feeling more and more comfortable here. That’s what I say as I move my wedding band to my right hand.

PS – I’ve been encouraged, well directed, loved and empowered by a wonderful man my whole life: my dad. My dad and mom are my biggest cheerleaders and have been a constant source of support, love and prayer. Thanks dad and mom! And thank you to all the men out there who empower the women in their lives – daughters, sisters, friends and wives… We thank you!

Good men help make the women in their lives the best they can be.

IMG_1495

Happy Birthday to my dad! (Mar 30) You make “78” look great! Keep up the excellent work!

I’ll be at Whitby’s Book store in White Rock on Sat April 2 with two other authors to discuss our books and our thoughts and beliefs on Spirituality. It’s short notice, but local friends, if you are in the area, please come by. Here is the info: Whitby’s Author Event – Trust the Mystery of love and Spirituality

And of course the link to my book: Hold On, Let Go – Facing ALS With Courage and Hope

A Dark Cloud and a Silver Lining

I’ve been resisting writing this one for a while. I haven’t been eager to talk about it, but I’ll just say it right out: there has been a dark cloud. Mostly throughout January and February (although, it’s still kind of hanging around). Your first thought probably is that I live in the Greater Vancouver area, so of course there has been a dark cloud; there have been many, many dark clouds. The fact that it is grey and rainy a lot here during this time of year, doesn’t help, but if you haven’t guessed yet, I’m talking figuratively about a dark cloud. You know, one of those heavy, low-lying kind, that follows you (just you) around all the time.

Throughout January, I prepared to tell Mike’s and my story to a group of clinical counsellors at an information and recruitment meeting for the ALS Society of BC. The ALS Society provides free counselling to anyone affected by ALS, so they rely on counsellors to volunteer their time. Executive Director (and friend) Wendy, told me later that day, that it was a very successful meeting; they had more people sign up to do this good work than ever before. I was so pleased to hear that, but preparing for, and presenting that day was very emotional for me. I read some blog posts to the group and really emphasized Mike’s positive attitude and strong faith while trying to give them a realistic glimpse into the cruel world of ALS. It was weighty indeed but like I’ve told Wendy a few times, “How ever I can help; whatever I can do for you and the ALS Society, please just let me know.”

It’s a similar conversation I’ve had with my friend Darryl who has ALS. He sent me a message recently (it was actually a beautiful picture he had taken). I asked him how he was doing. This was his reply: “I almost wrote you earlier in the week – Sunday and Monday were bad days – but then decided against it. It might be too painful to talk about ALS specifics”

My reply: “Please feel free to message me anytime day or night. ALS is so painful, but I’m in for life. The good Lord provided the support, love and help we needed when we needed it and I want to be there for others.”

The presentation for the ALS Society was just one thing but there were other contributing factors to the heavy mixed emotions of my dark cloud. I’m not sure if I can pin point them all, but these are probably some: grief, a little bit of regret, doubt, some sadness, anxiety, fear and worry. “Fear” and “worry” always lead to guilt and conviction, especially considering I’ve been shouting from the roof tops that, “I’m trusting in the Lord with all my heart!” Well, from my roof top anyway and from a number of blog posts over the last few months. “Trusting the Lord” is something I’ve emphasized in all my writing and recently in my speech for the Apologetics Canada “Thinking” Conference I spoke at on Mar 5.

Under this dark cloud of heaviness, I really felt God encouraging me to stay there. I think I heard Him say, “Don’t run.” I wanted to run (still do). Like other times, I just wanted to escape, and quickly, but this time, more than any other time, I felt like I was suppose to embrace all those “ugly” feelings and find God in that mucky place.

It’s a bit of a battle zone there though. Can anyone else hear the negative voices? You might think I’m really losing it now, or you might be a little relieved that you aren’t the only one who hears negative voices. A few of mine sound like this: “You can’t do this on your own.” “You are going to fail.” “God has rescued you every time, but this time, He might just want to teach you a lesson.” “You can trust Him, but you should still be afraid.” “You aren’t worthy of God’s love or anyone else’s.” The negative voices could also be called “lies”.

Leading up to the Thinking Conference, I heard these lies: “This is a mistake.” “No one wants to hear what you have to say.” “Who cares?” “You are such a fraud, such a loser, such a fake …” Ironically, my speech title was ‘Worrier to Warrior’.

The dark cloud along with all those icky feelings is one thing, but the voices are like a torrential downpour, like a pelting of fiery darts … at night, in the dark, all alone. Oh my goodness, where is He? And then you start feeling around for God and calling out to Him and thankfully He is there. So much relief. But the fear doesn’t necessarily disappear.

Sometimes it feels like He’s not there at all, but like Pastor Bradley said in a recent sermon (sermon series titled: “Living the Psalms”), the Psalmist cries out to God, “Where are you?” And even in that despair, there is hope. We have to ask Him where He is … has He forgotten me? But just by asking, we know ultimately He is there, even though we don’t see, feel, or hear Him.

Ultimately, He is there. And that is where my trust proves stronger than the negative voices. That is where hope and even joy is stronger, and I can’t be separated from those things or His love … and I’m so relieved.

For the past four weeks, Pastor Bradley from Open Door Church where I go, has been preaching about embracing the emotions/feelings God gave us. Changing our opinion that “sad” isn’t “bad” and that God can really be found in our sorrow. The timing was perfect for me. It was kind of like Bradley handed me an umbrella and this message: Don’t run … enjoy the storm (or something like that). A message similar to the following one from Oswald Chambers:

“When you are joyful, be joyful; when you are sad, be sad. If God has given you a sweet cup, don’t make it bitter; and if He has given you a bitter cup, don’t try and make it sweet; take things as they come.” – Oswald Chambers, from Shade of His Hand.

It reminds me of what I told Pastor Art, (who led Mike’s memorial service) when he reminded me that those who mourn will be comforted. I replied, “I’m not going to try to be happy and I’m not going to try to be sad. I’m just going to be.”

God gave us an array of feelings and for some reason, most of us only want to feel happy, we resist sadness and any other emotions that don’t make us “feel good”. But here is the silver lining: we really get to know God in those dark places – the sad, scary places. I guess we can curl up and die there, but if we look for our Lord, we will more likely grow there. We have a tendency to call out to Him there, we get to know Him better there … and that’s the silver lining!

My friend, grief councillor, inspirational speaker and author of ‘In the Cleft: Joy Comes in the Mourning’, Dana Goodman was also a Breakout Speaker at the Thinking Conference. Her experience with grief and sorrow goes deeper than the average person’s. She lost her first husband, her oldest son and mother-in-law to cancer and her second husband was also battling cancer when her oldest son was diagnosed with the deadly brain tumor.

Dana and I were both giving our talks in the same area of the church, upstairs at the end of a long hall (the speakers were spread out in different rooms through out the extremely large venue). She and I chatted before the sessions began and both confessed we were nervous no one would show. Then she told me that she knew people would come because during the main session, the session everyone attended, the question was asked to the hundreds of people there, “Who is experiencing sorrow?” She said that many people raised their hand. Then she smiled and said, “Yay for sorrow.” I echoed, “Yay” and we high fives. (Check out her blog here)

I certainly don’t invite sorrow, but I’m trying to learn from Mike. He taught me something extremely valuable that I will never forget. Shortly after he was diagnosed, he thanked God for the things he wanted in his life and the things he didn’t want, like ALS. He said that ALS would teach him to fully rely on God. So, like a good student, I’m giving thanks for the things I want in my life and the things I don’t want, like grief, struggle and strife.

“The discipline of dismay is an essential lesson which a disciple must learn. But when the darkness of dismay comes, endure until it is over, because out of it will come the ability to follow Jesus truly, which brings inexpressibly wonderful joy.” – Oswald Chambers, from My Utmost for His Highest.

Spring officially starts on Sunday and we’ve been experiencing more sunshine and blue skies, but regardless of the weather outside, I can feel the dark cloud lifting off of me. I wish I could say I’ve enjoyed my time under the dark cloud, but I haven’t. But, I have drawn closer to the Lord and that has definitely brought me joy (and I hope it’s brought Him joy as well).

I know this is getting long but I’m almost done. I just really want to tell you this cool story. You know those negative voices I told you I was hearing before the conference? Well, the night before the conference, I received a Facebook message from someone I didn’t know and through it God showed up in His usual perfect timing to help me battle the lies.

It started like this:

“My name is Chris Ryan and I wanted to write to you to share my experience over the last year. First let me give you some background. My beautiful bride Heather passed away in August of 2015 from Lung Cancer. In June 2014 we found out that the cancer had metastasized to her brain and formed 8 tumors. She was given months to live and all they could do is radiate to try and shrink the tumours to prolong her life…”

Chris’ message was filled with joy as he continued to tell about his wife’s determination to prove her oncologist wrong and how, after she battled long and hard, when there was nothing more doctors could do for her, they decided to make wonderful memories together and live life to the fullest.

“…It was while in hospice I experienced two of the greatest gifts that Heather ever gave me. The first was while sitting having breakfast one morning she turned to me and said, “I can see Heaven and it’s beautiful and I want to go there.” This conversation lasted a couple of minutes and when I tried to lay her down she was trying to get out of bed as she wanted to walk to Heaven. I told her you will walk to Heaven when Jesus comes to take you by the hand. The second gift, as she was taking her last breaths, I was holding her hand and it was warm to the touch, then in an instant it went bone cold and I felt her spirit leave this world to be with Jesus in Heaven…”

Of course by this point, I’m crying like a baby and then this:

“So the reason I am writing is to share with you how important a role that you have played in my healing from the loss of Heather. In June of last year, I was in House of James bookstore in Abbotsford to look for a copy of the Bible on CD. While I was there looking around, your book literally called to me from across the store. It was on the shelf with about 30 other books but yours was the only one that I could see. There were two things that intrigued me the most. One was the picture of you and Michael and how much love and joy exuded from the cover. The second thing was the title, “Hold On, Let Go.” I picked up your book and perused it for a few minutes and put it down and said I’ll get it later. I went back the next day and the book was gone, sold out. At that moment I went to the counter and ordered your book and two weeks later I received my copy. I felt that I could learn something from your book to give me insight on the pending death of Heather. I brought it home and put it on my kitchen table and there it sat for three months. Everyday I looked at it on the table and I feared picking it up to read it because my mind wasn’t there yet and ultimately the timing wasn’t right. Through the passing of Heather in August, through her service in September your book sat on my table as a reminder to read it. I then took a trip to Ontario for the month of October to visit relatives I haven’t seen in upwords of 20 years. I took your book with me and began reading it on the flight. I continued to read it over the next week until it was finished and I could feel all of the emotions that you were expressing as it was what I had been feeling. Watching your life partner slowly fading right in front of you can be difficult, however it can also be beautiful if your faith in God is strong enough. The combination of your writing, Michael’s writing and the mixture of the Bible and the words of Oswald Chambers strengthened my resolve to not let my loss take over me…” 

“… It is because of my faith that I have been able to handle my loss. I have joined your blog and your writings continue to bring me joy and comfort. I had people worrying about me and my daughters around Christmas time. After reading your blog post, “We had Christmas” I realized over the last year with Heather that these would be our lasts of everything and now we go through the firsts without her. I had one of the best Christmases I have ever had as I too, felt that it was Heather’s first Christmas in Heaven (as well as my Dad’s as he passed two months before Heather). That thought brought me so much joy and I wouldn’t have thought about it that way if I hadn’t read your blog…” 

“… So I’m writing you to thank you. Because of your insight I have been able to look at things in a more positive light. I am a better person today because of Heather’s love and God’s love and I feel complete joy in my life…”  

Wow, right? Talk about timing! Thank you Chris! And thank you everyone who has let me know that my blog and/or book has been helpful … I really appreciate it!  Mike and I said that if we could help a few people, or even just one person with our story, it would be worth it.

On March 29 2012, I posted a blog post about the book of Psalms called, ‘A Really Good Book’. Check it out here.

IMG_3083

Picture of the Fraser River taken from the Port Haney Wharf

Psalm 5:11,12: “But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favour as with a shield.”

Love Is In the Air

I begin this fresh blog post with the topic of “love” on my mind. Not only is Valentine’s Day almost here but I’ve fallen hard for a special someone. So, I’ve got “love” as a starting point and I’ll just let my fingers do their thing on my lap top key board. It feels good to start something new.

I’ve been working on my speech for the conference I’m speaking at in Abbotsford, BC on March 5. It’s an Apologetics Canada Conference called “Thinking” and my title is, ‘Worrier to Warrior – finding hope, joy and courage after a terminal diagnosis’. I’m not much of an improviser; I like to have almost every word that I’m going to say written down, leaving just a little room to improvise (plus, I’ll read a few excerpts from my book, ‘Hold on, Let Go’). So, needless to say, I’ve been working on it for a long time and praying about each word and how it will be heard.

I’m afraid that my title might give the wrong impression. It might make people think I have it all figured out. Like I’m some kind of “Wonder Woman” and when they find out the opposite is true, they might boo…maybe even throw a tomato or two. Seriously though, it is the opposite of a “Wonder Woman” story and more of a “Living hopefully, joyfully and courageously with a big lump in my throat” story. A “Totally relying on God, trusting in Him, falling down and getting back up again, I could never do this on my own” story. It’s an “Expose your soul, be completely vulnerable, just let go…He’s got you so be brave” story. All good titles and now I’m a little disappointed about the one I chose.

Anyway, back to my blog post, turning to a new page and writing about something else is refreshing, so here goes…

I start my “love” story at my lovely round glass table by my big living room window with the beautiful scenery in my peripheral view. Glen is on my lap.

I don’t think I’ve said much about Glen in my blogging, but if you are a Facebook friend, you’ll have seen a picture or two of him. Glen is Madison’s dog. When we were talking about moving from my sister’s house, Madison told me she really wanted to get a dog. Even though she adored the couple of pound dogs she has had in the past, she said this time she was going to get a dog of her favourite breed, a pug.

She found him on-line in Oregon and the breeder thankfully met her at the US border with him when he was eight weeks old. He fit in one hand. He struggled with walking because his head was heavier than his body and he kept falling over. He was the cutest thing you’d ever seen….all those wonderful wrinkles, those big bulging eyes and that cinnamon bun swirl of a tail that sits on the top of his back end. He’s getting bigger and isn’t quite fitting on my lap the way he did but he makes it work as best he can with his limbs and head spilling over.

When Madison told me about getting Glen, I was apposed to the idea. I thought about my new floors, the fur and dirt and puppy accidents and the chewed up stuff. I definitely expressed my concern, but here is something else I was concerned about that I didn’t mention: the love.

I thought about the love I’d feel for this little one and then one day I’d have to say good bye. Like I have done before with pets, including our dog Isla who I watched take her last breath and of course, same with Mike. Deep down I was terrified to love this little guy but I used the excuse of fur and dirt and puppy pee.

I could see that Madison had already fallen for him, so I had no choice but to open the door … and down came the wall when this little fur ball walked in.

I guess I had started constructing a wall to keep out the love, because what i’ve learned over the years, especially the last couple, is that love can really hurt sometimes and what do we do to prevent hurting? We put up walls, we close doors, we try to keep the hurt out. I guess I thought I’d just never let myself love again, whether it be another puppy, another man, or new friend. But to be courageous, you have to be vulnerable and if I want to stay true to my “vulnerability equals bravery” theory that I “preach” in my speech, I have to open the door. It’s tough but love conquers all…right? Shouldn’t love trump fear? My head says yes, but my heart still says, “Ouch,” a little, but we’re getting there.

So far, Glen hasn’t brought any hurting, only joy and healing. Regardless of the potential pain, the lump in my throat and the dirty floors, I have fallen in love with Glen, and I shall continue to conquer my fears by living hopefully, joyfully and courageously by being vulnerable and trusting God with all my heart.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” C.S. Lewis

IMG_2434

This is Glen. He is wanting up on my lap again. I usually give in and don’t get much writing done. He just loves being with people. He’s a great cuddler. Madison is his number one person  (I’m so happy they found each other) and I think I’m a close second, but he loves everyone and everyone loves him. Everyone in the family has pretty much fallen in love with Glen. It’s funny and cute how much my dad loves him. He’ll call and ask how Glen is and what he’s up to and is he coming over soon etc.

Speaking of my dad, he is leaving again for Malawi on March 4th. We are all so happy my cousin John from Manitoba is going with him. They hope to drill two wells, feed the orphans and check in on some building projects. My sister Elanna and I went to his AGM (Annual General Meeting) last week. We really enjoyed our time with him and some of his board members, hearing his report of all the Project Wellness happenings from last year and about his hopes and dreams for this year. We are just so proud of him and my mom for all they have done to help others, with God’s help of course and they give Him all the glory. They are also so thankful for everyone who gives and has given to their charity. All the work they do is based on donations/fundraising.

On my dad’s first trip to Malawi, he noticed how the women worked really hard. He still talks about it and how the women worked much harder then most of the men. He talks about how they would walk for miles and miles with large buckets of water on their heads and babies on their backs, often without shoes on their feet. At the end of that first trip, my dad  said to a group of those woman, “I  saw what you were doing and I’m coming back to drill you a well.” He was back (after some fundraising and other preparations) only two months later, drilling the first well. When he tells the whole story, of how he met the driller and everything, I still get goose bumps. The two wells this trip will make a total of 33 wells drilled. And that my friends, is quite a remarkable love story.

I wish you lots and lots of love and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Also, Happy Birthday to my youngest daughter, Madison (on the 14th) and to Mike’s mum, Sheila (also the 14th), it’s her first birthday in heaven. Happy Sweet 16 to my niece Michaela (on the 16th) and my oldest daughter, Erin (on the 20th).

At the “Thinking” conference on March 5, I’m one of 13 “Breakout Speakers”. We all say the same speech twice so the attendees hear two Breakout speeches, choosing who they want to hear that day after they have listened to a couple of key note speakers. It’s going to be an excellent conference and I’m so honoured to be a part of it. This link takes you right to the Breakout sessions: http://www.apologeticscanada.com/conference-2016/abbotsford/breakouts/

 

Chasing a Rainbow

I set one goal last New Years and that was to keep Mike alive for as long as I possibly could. He died five days later. I guess you could say I failed that one miserably… not really. Sometimes God’s plans get in the way of our plans and whether we like it or not, His are always better than ours. Sometimes I agonize over the fact that I could have done more but God is so much bigger than I am and greater than anything I could or couldn’t do for Mike. He took Mike in His perfect timing. Case closed.

On January 5, we celebrated Mike’s first anniversary in heaven. I use the word “celebrate” loosely. I booked the day off and my sister Elanna had the day off, so we went to Fort Langley. There were other places we thought of going, places Mike liked, but I couldn’t get the Fort Langley cemetery off my mind. Mike loved it there. He loved cemeteries. It must have been the history buff in him. He liked walking around reading the headstones … the names and dates. He would guess the type of life the particular person lived and stuff like that. It was raining, so Elanna and I didn’t go around reading headstones, but we enjoyed our time there reminiscing about Mike with a few tears and lots of laughs. We spread some of Mike’s ashes in the area, mostly around big lovely trees. We also browsed in the shops and had lunch at Wendel’s (Bookstore and Cafe). Mike would have been very pleased and same with his mum, she liked the shops there too (she liked all shops anywhere and everywhere).

After Mike died, I tried to not make plans, set goals or dream dreams. At times, I wanted to forge a path and plow ahead, but as difficult as it was, I resisted most of the time. This is what I wrote in my post, ‘Conversations With the Man I Love’ from September 21, 2015, “I’m trying to just “be”, so He can do a work in me but that’s not easy. My high expectations say, get up, clean up, make your bed, get going, but I’m trying to be still. I feel I’m supposed  to learn the discipline of ‘Don’t just do something, stand there.’ Instead of what comes more naturally;  ‘Don’t just stand there, do something.”’ There was healing in not filling my life with “things to do”. The only thing on my ‘List of things to do’ was to rest in the palm of His hand and trust Him on a deeper level.

In the evening of the 5th, I took Erin (my daughter) up on her offer to teach my Pilates class and I went for a long walk. I didn’t think about where I was going, I just went. It wasn’t late but it was dark. I live in a “sketchy” area of town but I never feel nervous there. About an hour into my walk, I found myself on a street that does make me feel a little nervous. After being startled by someone (totally innocent), I picked up my pace and took the first right down a road better lit. I ended up behind someone smoking, so jogging, I crossed over and stopped abruptly right where my foot landed on the sidewalk, safe on that side. The little Christmas lights in the window of the store I was now standing in front of got my attention, along with the paper Canadian flags that hung across the top. The books lined up in rows almost pressing against the crystal clear glass, drew me closer. “Ken’s Bookcase” in sticky letters smack dab in the middle of it all, and I still didn’t get it. God was speaking to me, but it took me a few minutes before I heard Him. I had passed by this little used bookstore a few times before and I had been inside once – many years ago. I had gone in to check out the Bibles. I was interested in having a different version to compare with my ‘New International Version’ (before I used the internet for that sort of thing). I still remember that hard cover with jacket gem on a high shelf squished in-between others less brilliant looking. It was a Woman’s Study Bible, practically new. I pulled it down and examined the weight of it, the scent of it, the sheer genius of it. Then I opened it and a sunbeam or something like that shone from it. I recognized the hand writing of the inscription on the front page immediately. It was my good friend Colleen’s writing.

I wrote about Colleen and her husband Chris in my book, ‘Hold On, Let Go’. Colleen and Chris were our business partners for five years. We owned and operated Fitness Works together, a fitness studio (from 1994-1999). In my book, I describe these two as a little older than us and very wise friends, and spiritual mentors. This is what I say about Colleen (from Chapter 10, pg 167), “Colleen has a really good sense of timing. She listens to that little voice in her, prompting her to call or send a message. When she calls me early in the morning and suggests we pray for my parents who are out on the mission field, I don’t ask why she is calling so early or let her know she woke me up, I just agree.” Colleen always was and still is up to the Lord’s work, so finding this Bible she gave to a young friend who I also knew, was not a shocker.

I actually kept the Bible for a little while and beautified my own bookcase with it – exploring it on and off. I wasn’t seeing Colleen on a regular basis at the time (this was shortly after we closed our business) and kept forgetting to give it to her. I eventually took it to her and told her the story. Regardless of that, and how the book got in the store and why, I don’t doubt for one minute that the Lord directed my steps to that little book store that glowed in the dark on my walk the other night. God wanted to remind me that nothing gets by Him. That He is the orchestrator of the universe and that He placed the stars in the sky and named them; He covered seashores with tiny grains of sand. It’s nothing for Him to get a book back in the rightful owner’s hands or cure a dying man… according to His plan – it will be, or not.

When 2016 was fast approaching, I did what I felt I should, I started setting goals, planning and dreaming. You know, like a “New Year, New You” idea. But then I said in my head, “Hey, “this” you is ok. This you is on the right track. This you is doing just fine right here in the palm of God’s hand.” Besides, I am a “new” me considering 2 Corinthians 5:17, which says, “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (New Living Translation). What more could I ask for?

Plus, when I look back on last year – the year of one goal that failed miserably – more happened than I could ever imagine. I finished a college program, graduated and started a new career. I became an author, a speaker and a spokesperson for ALS. I moved into a beautiful new home, by the river with a spectacular view – a dream (I didn’t really dream) come true. I went places, met people and did things I couldn’t have planned had I tried. These were God’s plans, not mine.

So this New Years, I’m only setting one goal again. Don’t worry, I do have hopes and dreams (hopes and dreams are imperative for joyful living). I also know I have things I need to improve upon in my life and I’ve made a mental note of those things, but the only goal I’m writing down this New Years – the only one I’m setting in stone, is to stay as close to Him as I possibly can; to stay put in the palm of God’s hand. I’m just going to keep trusting Him.

On the 6th of January (the day after Mike’s anniversary), I got up early like I do most mornings and got ready for work in case I got called in. I figured if I didn’t get called in, I’d go to my friend Keri’s fitness class at 8:50. When I didn’t get a call and had some time to spare, I sat in front of my living room window and watched the sun come up. I thought about the day before and contemplated God’s faithfulness and His mercies that are new every morning. As the sun burst forth, so did joy in my heart. I praised Him for a while before I noticed the lightest drops of rain floating through the air. This is when I “burst forth” and scrambled to get my things together knowing somewhere was a rainbow out there. I grabbed everything I needed for the class and ran up to the roof of my building to see about a rainbow. Sure enough, on the other side of my living room view, there it was … just so beautiful. The other half of the rainbow was in full view at the end of my street that I walked up to go to Keri’s class at the Rec Centre. I kept zig zagging across the street to see it from the best angle.

I apologized as I ran in to class a little late. Keri and I both said at the same time, “Did you see the rainbow?” The class was fantastic as always and again at the end, I said I was sorry for being late and added, “But I was chasing a rainbow.” Keri said, “There’s your next blog post title.” I told her I was thinking the same thing.

Rainbows remind me of God’s promises, His unconditional love and faithfulness and, unlike rainbows, you never have to chase those things…they are right there…He is always right there.

IMG_2389

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NLT)

“The faithful love of the Lord never ends!

His mercies never cease.

Great is His faithfulness;

His mercies begin afresh each morning.”

IMG_3579

Mike’s birthday is today (Jan 16th). Happy Birthday to our dearest Michael! We have now experienced all the “firsts”. You see them coming and don’t want them to come but want them to be behind you at the same time. They are all behind us now, but I can’t say that makes it any easier. We are blessed to be doing quite well nonetheless. Thanks again for your support and prayers.

Here is ‘Conversations With the Man I Love’ in full

Keri is also a writer/blogger. We encourage each other to write from the heart courageously. Here is the link to her blog, Keri On. Her last post, What If?, was written with so much vulnerability, I loved it!

Here is a link to an upcoming Apologetics Canada event I’m speaking at in Abbotsford BC, March 5. My speech is titled, From Worrier to Warrior – finding courage, hope and joy after a terminal diagnosis.

Here is the link to my book, ‘Hold On, Let Go – facing ALS with Courage and Hope’