My blog posts…

Thank you for visiting my new website. For those of you who have been following my blog, please update your bookmarks and start following my blog posts here. If you’re looking for earlier posts, you can view them all by clicking here.

Please know that I am working on moving all of my posts from Blogger to this site. One step at a time.

If you have any questions, you can reach me here.

Thank you!

Nadine.

What Grief and Cherry Blossoms have in common

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Spring has sprung and I feel like a new person. Even though I adore the fall and am quick to proclaim it’s my favourite season of all, spring rejuvenates my soul. I’m pretty sure a lot of us feel that way. After a few months of rationed sunlight, cold temperatures, grey skies and rain, it’s like we come to life again when spring shows it’s pretty face. It’s been raining on and off today, but here in Metro Vancouver, we’ve had some lovely weather lately. I’m a bit of a light-junkie and the longer days, blue skies and sun shining right in my eyes makes my heart sing. Every spring, I rethink my “favourite” season.

I’m never sad to say goodbye to winter. In fact, “Good riddance!” Our winters are rarely the gently-falling-snowflakes and bright-skies kind. They are mostly the damp, darkish, often rainy, sometimes slushy kind. Grief is like our winter. But like grief and every Vancouver winter, sooner or later, you see the light of day at the end of the grey tunnel.

Spring break recently came and went. I scurried home the last day of school, with my list of things to do (in no particular order): finish writing my book, go to my friend Donna’s wedding, babysit my granddaughter Leah and granddog Glen, hang out with family and friends, get together with brother-in-law Gary (who was in town on business) and go away for a few days with my husband, Chris. Halfway through the two weeks of bliss and my amazing list, I was caught off guard by some major grief. I kept thinking this isn’t suppose to be happening, it’s spring! But like I learned long ago, grief can come from out of nowhere, and it’s impartial to day of the week and season. 

This interruption was a reminder that at any given time, I could easily be just one sad story away from the ugliest crying you’ve ever seen (some might call it a full-on breakdown, others might say it could have something to do with perimenopause). The sermon at church included a few sad stories and that’s what did it for me.

Chris and I had been at our friends’ wedding just the day before and those tears had ‘joy’ written all over them. I was so happy for these two – my good friend Donna, who was married for 43 years to her high school sweetheart, Neil, who had ALS and passed away in April, 2016, and Jory, (who Chris and I were so blessed to meet just a few weeks before), was married for 38 years to Robin who recently passed away due to Alzheimers Disease. 

It was the most beautiful outdoor service in False Creek and during the equally beautiful indoor reception, I caught a glimpse of the memorial table for the bride and groom’s late spouses. The picture of Neil, my friend who was like a brother, grabbed my attention and melted my heart, and reminded me of how much I missed him. I thought a lot about the two families coming together – the two daughters of D and the two daughters of J, in particular. I could only imagine how bittersweet the occasion might have been for them. They honoured their mom and dad (and new stepdad and stepmom) so beautifully. You could already see how blessed they all are going to be to share their journeys of grief and love with each other.

Anyway, the next day, after church when Chris and I were getting ready to go away, I lost it (I’m talking really lost it). I felt the tears just below the surface earlier as I was already feeling something brewing and then when Pastor Ezra shared a few troubling stories about people he knew in his home country of Kenya, the tears surfaced. At the end, he shared his own sad story; the grief and the pastor’s vulnerability was overwhelming for me. A couple of hours later, the tears were streaming. Chris and I had to postpone our getaway.

The next day, when I tried to explain, I told Chris it was a variety of things. I told him the sermon was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. There are so many sad things happening in this world – near and far – and some of those things had been weighing on my heart. Of course, missing people is always a catalyst to deeper sadness – in this case, Neil, my mom (I fell asleep looking at her picture the night before) and always Mike. I also explained I was a little anxious about leaving certain people (including a certain dog) even for a few days, which seemed crazy.

Chris and I did manage to get away. They were pretty quiet days; peaceful and low-key. AND, drum roll please, I finished my book while we were gone! I’ll be going over it a few more times though, fine tuning until it’s truly done and I’m ready to let it go.

My cousin Julie recently said something that has stuck with me (not that I didn’t know this about myself already). Casually in conversation, she mentioned how I like to keep my cards close (which comes from the saying, “keeping your cards close to your chest” like in a card game, so people can’t see them). She is perceptive and smart and can read people well, but mostly she just knows me, and that’s how I roll. Everyone has a story and I love hearing people’s stories. I really admire and appreciate vulnerability, authenticity, when a person shows who they are and shares from the heart without fear of being judged. I still have a tendency to hold back. So as I go over my book from beginning to end again and again, I’m constantly asking God and myself, am I being vulnerable enough? Am I being a window? Am I fully trusting Him?

Moving on to the next Sunday, I got up and started getting ready for church. Chris asked if I’d like to go down town to see the cherry blossom trees instead. As much as I was looking forward to Ezra’s next sermon on the Book of Ruth part two, I replied with a definite, “Yes!” Chris mentioned it was the only time we could see these particular cherry blossom trees before he left on his upcoming trip to Malawi. I later saw he had a list of all the best cherry blossom trees in the Lower Mainland – where they are, when they bloom etc. I was so touched. His thoughtfulness never ceases to amaze me. 

Earlier I said that grief was like winter, here’s why – winter might not be as lovely as spring, summer or fall, but it’s not a complete write off when it comes to beauty—you might just have to look harder. It’s not colourful or fragrant or warm, but there are certain aspects of it that are exceedingly lovely – and that’s like grief. Grief has a way of drawing us nearer to the the Lord. When we draw near to God, He draws near to us (James 4:8). In this closeness, we experience the depths of His mercy, His extravagant love and His healing touch.

What grief and cherry blossom trees have in common is that they both draw us closer to God. Sorrowful things and beautiful things have a way of revealing His tender heart. So even though it’s spring and cherry blossom season, it might also be a season of grieving for you. If so, I hope you can embrace both. And I hope you know that God is with you wherever you are and wherever you go – including deep valleys of despair – He will surely be your Refuge there.

Chris and Dad are in Malawi again. They are drilling another three wells, including my Uncle John’s memorial well. Chris has now gone to Malawi five times – that’s one more time than I’ve been. That’s amazing! I am so proud of him and of course my dad, who at eighty-one keeps serving the Lord by taking care of widows and orphans. 

56803554_655269998238613_7878001371360788480_n Uncle John’s memorial well. Dad at the pump and Chris taking pics with his drone.

It was Leah’s tenth birthday yesterday (April 7), and it’s my nephew Luke’s eighteenth birthday tomorrow. Happy Birthday to these two outstanding young people I’m so blessed to know and get to watch grow. The following verse is for them – it’s for all our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, young people and older, and everyone:

 “…nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from the vast, massive, incomparable, unconditional, high and wide, King-sized, love of God!” from Romans 8:38 (NLT) **I added the words in bold.

The more I learn about God’s high and wide, King-sized love, the less I can fathom the expanse of it. The margins just keep getting moved out farther and farther.

All glory, praise and honour be to Him! Amen!

56935248_504869973376675_7319692800117702656_n             Leah with Leo and Glen

56610483_363130354300815_4066788203393187840_n  Donna and Jory – an exquisite love story and a beautiful wedding day!

Jory says, “Her perspective on life revealed a woman of quiet peace and grace. Her heart reflects our heavenly Father’s heart.” Donna says, ” I came across a verse on the back of a bathroom stall door, Ecc 4:9, ‘Two are better than one for if one falls the other can help them up…’ I felt that God was speaking to me. He began working in my heart and I began falling in love with Jory through his eloquence and devotion to God…”                                                                                                              Congratulations D and J!

 

 

Fine Wine and Fireworks (and a little politics)

January is Mike’s birthday month and the anniversary of his passing. If you are a Facebook friend, you’ll know because I always post something. January 5, 2019 marked four years from when Mike left our presence – I’ll never get over it. Chris and I found the only quiet place that day at the airport in Cabo San Lucas for me to let it all out. I had no idea I needed to let it all out – the tears came unannounced. We were waiting to board our flight home after spending a glorious week at the beach where Chris took me to watch the fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

Chris and his late wife Heather were there four years earlier and watched the fireworks on New Year’s from where they stayed, at the resort next door from where we were. I felt so honoured to go back to that spot with Chris and take in the amazing fireworks display with him. He was remembering a beautiful moment in time that will forever bless his life. I know the feeling and it was fun to walk down memory lane with him and to create beautiful new memories of our own. I don’t think he could possibly know how much those fireworks meant to me. I was reminded of my first New Year’s Eve without Mike where I stood on my balcony recollecting our stroke-of-midnight kisses and spotted a few fireworks in the distance. I was convinced Mike set them off for me.

I can’t believe it’s a new year already. Each one seems to fly by a little bit faster than the last one. I never seem to accomplish everything I think I should. A couple of months ago while my daughter Erin and I were talking, I told her that I had hoped my book would be finished by now. I told her my goal was to have it written by the end of the year. She replied with something so wise. She told me that maybe all the events that are to be written about in this book haven’t happened yet. She suggested the story wasn’t over. I immediately became hopeful about what was still to come and stopped beating myself up for not being a more disciplined writer.

Sure enough, some things have happened that add to the story. Like this thing: In early December, Chris and I got a call from our MP (Member or Parliament), Dan Ruimy inviting us to come to Ottawa where some MPs were hosting a reception for people of the Christian faith. They called it, Christmas on the Hill. He explained that on the Hill they honour different days and events celebrated by people of different faiths, so they agreed it would be nice to do the same for some of their Christian constituents. Dan said that after hearing our story from Chris, he was so impressed by our strong faith in God, that when this Christmas on the Hill event came up, he thought of us. 

Chris told Dan our story on their recent trip to Malawi. Dan and his assistant Khalida joined Dad and Chris in November to see first hand three more wells drilled (Khalida sponsored one in honour of her dad and mom).

Dan and Khalida and Dad have been friends since Dad went into their office to check Dan out and to introduce himself, shortly after Dan was elected. Khalida and Dan, have been extremely kind to Dad and to our family … they tirelessly and joyfully serve the communities of Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge.

Of course Elanna and Dad were invited to Ottawa as well (Peter could have come, but someone had to stay home and work, plus I think the air mile points had surely run out). 

It was an honour to meet our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau and present him with a copy of my book, Hold On, Let Go – Facing ALS with courage and hope. Dad shook his hand first and told him as a Christian missionary he prays for him every day. You could tell the Prime Minister was touched and very grateful. Dad made sure I was next. I definitely wasn’t as articulate as Dad. I said a few words and Justin Trudeau graciously accepted my book and then I introduced him to Elanna and Chris. While Chris and he compared socks (Chris knows he’s a sock guy and asked to see them), I realized I didn’t get the picture I wanted. I quickly elbowed my way through the crowd to notify Justin’s assistant, who was now holding my book, of my dilemma. She was way too busy for my problem as she was trying to keep the Prime Minister on time and slowly usher him to the exit. I stayed close to the crowd as everyone took their turn meeting him and getting their picture taken. I didn’t want to be greedy but I just had to get that photo; I stayed hopeful. Sure enough, as his assistant gave him the final head-nod ‘we’re done here’, he looked right at me, stepped forward and reached for my hand. I apologized for taking more of his time and explained the situation. In one motion, he took my book, put his arm around me and smiled handsome for the camera.

It was a thrilling three-day adventure. Dan and Khalida took us on a couple of tours of the Parliament Buildings including the House of Commons. We met a number of other MPs and Ministers. We also sat in on a question period where Dan honoured Dad in the House again. Some of his speech went like this: “Mr. Speaker, You may remember a year ago I rose to celebrate my constituent George Klassen’s 80th birthday and the work he does drilling wells with Project Wellness. Well, Mr Speaker, I took a week of personal time to join George and what an incredible journey it was. I saw first hand the impact fresh water brings to a village. They can grow crops and they no longer have to drink from the river they bathe in. This leads to less sickness and disease which leads to better health.” Composed Dan, showed a little emotion at the end when he concluded, “Mr Speaker, this Christmas will be the most special to me.” It was so well said and Dad received a standing ovation. (Both videos can be viewed on our website: projectwellness.ca)

I’m not really into politics. I aways had to ask Mike (who was very much into politics), who’s who and what’s what. Now Chris (also knowledgable in politics), gets to answer all my questions. I rarely participate in political debates – especially on social media and I try to take my judgements to the Lord. I pray about certain issues that I really care about of course, but since our trip to Ottawa, I’m taking my duty as a Christian, to pray for our politicians and leaders more seriously and to fervently pray for our nation – may hearts be turned to God and His will be done!

I thought it was pretty cool that the following verses showed up in our daily reading the first few days back from Ottawa: 

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matt 5:14-16 (ESV)

December was a whirl wind with a couple of trips, Christmas and the death of a friend. The passing of our friend Chuck happened first actually, on December 2nd.

In my last blog post, Good News of Great Joy, I wrote about my amazing warrior friend Shonia, who has persevered beyond what most people could, in a heroic battle with cancer. I also mention another friend in hospice. That was Chuck.

Chuck was diagnosed with MS in 1975, he had to give up working in 1986 and he quietly and patiently endured increasing pain and suffering all these years. One thing mentioned a number of times at his memorial service last weekend, was his positive attitude and his incredible perseverance. This wonderful, gentle man that family and friends described, was exactly the man that I knew. He always wanted to know about you and he had the most beautiful smile.

While I was visiting Chuck a couple of weeks before he died, I tried with all my might to make him smile. It was always really easy to get a smile from Chuck. But on this day, there seemed to be no way, until I mentioned our first meeting in heaven. When I said how I looked forward to seeing him in heaven and hearing all the things he’d been trying to say, a smile came. When I reminded him of the new legs he was getting and that there is no need for wheelchairs there, his smile increased. I assured him that the best was yet to come! His wife Beth said that’s how she spoke to him. My sister Elanna said the same thing.

I’m sure ‘the best is yet to come’ conversations brought joy and hope to Chuck’s weary bones and that the Bible verses Beth read to him in his final days brought reassurance and peace. By the grace of God, now he’s free – the best has come for Chuck!

I started a new blog post a couple of weeks ago. My idea was to take off from where I left off in my last one. I had miracles on my mind, in particular, Jesus’ first – where He turns water into wine. Once I got started researching this story, I could’t stop. The topic lead to writing a whole chapter for my book. Compared to the others, I thought this miracle was just ho-hum – it’s the complete opposite!

In my water-to-wine chapter, I list some quotes and notes regarding different views and opinions. I focus on two that really speak to me and are very unique. I’ll keep those between me and chapter thirteen for now and share two others that work well with this piece: 

1. ‘The best is yet to come’ OR ‘The best for last’. “As in the case of Jesus’ first miracle, He saved the good wine for last. As you continue to seek Jesus, you will be changed from glory to glory and grace to grace.” Rabbi Schneider

2. “It’s a demonstration of Himself as the source of all true and lasting joy. Don’t settle for cheap wine. Anything you try to fill in that place of ultimate joy will eventually let you down. Jesus says let me show you what I’m capable of. Replace that cheap wine you’ve been drinking with the best wine imaginable.” Jason Fritz

I’m not a wine drinker and I have no idea what to look for in a good bottle of wine. The few times I’ve bought wine, to take to a host or if someone was coming over, I shopped for it by the label. If the label was aesthetically pleasing—certain colours and design—sold!

Anyway, I share the first quote in light of Chuck’s passing and since then, my Uncle John’s passing (Dad’s brother), who endured Parkinson’s Disease for many years. I share the second quote because it fits with a sermon I just heard.

Once in a while, I go to a church called God Rock in Port Coquitlam on Saturday nights, where my son Nathan drums sometimes. I wrote about a really cool experience I had in this church last year. This isn’t the kind of church most people imagine when they hear the word “church”. This is a church where a lot of people in recovery meet (recovering addicts). It’s not a church for someone who has a problem with a bunch of smokers lighting up outside the front doors. People don’t get all dressed up here – they come as they are and let me tell you, God is there! 

The sermon was convicting and filled with the grace, love and power of the Holy Spirit, like the other ones I’ve heard. This young, buff, on-fire-for-Jesus, preacher named BJ, gave a message called, Gospel 101 – How to Become a Christian (and how to share your faith with others). He started, “We are going to talk about how to be set apart to the glory of Jesus Christ. I have four points. Number one… “ Right away I thought about the little booklet my dad uses to share his faith and how he has taught countless others how to do the same. 

BJ’s points: 1. God is great. 2. We reject God. 3. God gives grace. 4. We give God all of our life. Dad’s booklet points (just from memory so not exact): 1. God loves you and has the best plans for your life. 2. Sin separates us from knowing God. 3. Jesus came to die for our sins and make a way for us to know God. 4. We must accept and receive Jesus. Dad’s booklet has a little picture of a throne and asks the reader, where are you and where is God in relation to the throne of your life?

BJ’s and Dad’s points are worded differently but it’s the same message, they both urge the reader/listener to give their life to Christ. BJ had his own “throne” illustration at the end. He told us that ‘believing’ isn’t enough. The Bible says that even the demons believe (James 2:19). In order to receive Jesus and become a Christian, you must give all of your life to Him – you relinquish your old sinful life for a new life. He explained it as an exchange. Enthusiastically, he proclaimed, “All of Him for all of me? Yes please!” 

He told the congregation it can be a struggle of course. It’s hard for everyone to leave everything with Him and then not try to take some things back again. I’m pretty sure that Chuck and my uncle John, who both recently entered into the presence of God, would testify, it’s an amazing exchange! Cheering us on to give it all up for Him! 

As much as I thought a couple of months ago that my book would never be written, I now feel like I’m getting close. The story isn’t over though of course.

Hey, if you have breath, your story isn’t over yet; God has great plans for your life! So what do you say? If you’re still settling for that cheap wine, why not replace it with the very best: Jesus! Praise God for His blood that washes away every stain!

Happy New Year friends! And Dear Chris, thanks for the fireworks!

fireworks

Good News of Great Joy

Lately, I’ve had a word stuck in my head. It’s nothing unusual – I’m often contemplating a word, or a message of some sort. Out of the blue, it just appears on my plate – something for me to chew on. It can be a Bible verse, a quote or just a persistent thought. It can last for days, weeks, even months.

For instance, for quite a while this year, it was all about the fruit of the Spirit – from Galatians 5:22-23. I already knew that verse well. I can rattle those fruits off no problem: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. See, no problem; I know them all. I don’t even have to look.

But the question I kept getting was, do you really know them? Do you know them deeply? Are you living them out, are you walking in step with the Spirit? Does He have His way in you? The proof is in these attributes.

Then I find myself on a quest: comparing translations, contemplating each word, researching and searching my heart – asking God to search me and to show me what He finds. Then He shows me – in a number of different scenarios – often in traffic, when I’m stuck behind someone going really slow or when I have to stop for every light – and I realize, I still have a ways to go in honing those attributes. It’s one thing to be able to rattle off some words in your sleep, and a whole other thing to live them out every waking moment of the week.

As much as I still contemplate the fruit of the Spirit, I’ve had other words since then. Recently, it’s the word ‘intention’. As I study the word ‘intention’ though, I wonder if the word ‘purpose’ is more apropos.

For example, I’m totally stuck on chapter twelve of the book I’m writing. I’m stuck there for a few reasons: straight up procrastination, it’s hard work, it can be painful at times, and I’m busy doing other things. While I’ve been busy doing other things, I’ve been asking myself what my intentions are … or purpose. I ask myself why I am writing this book. Am I doing it to be praised, for esteem? Or am I doing it to obey and glorify Him? It’s definitely not for the money. FYI: publishing a book actually costs a lot of money and the probability of making it big in this industry is less likely than being struck by lightning.

Writing this book might be a good idea, but is it a God idea? I’m asking myself and God that about everything lately. I just want to be fulfilling His plans, although I know I don’t get it right all the time, I do rely on Him to guide me. My heart’s desire is to stay in step with Him – to abide. I sometimes call it being in the “bullseye”. There are roads paved with good intentions and then there are those paved with God intentions. The latter is the road that leads to His joy, contentment and peace … and of course obeying them is key.

Another word of late has been ‘listen’. With ‘listen’ comes slow down, be quiet, stop for a minute.

One morning a couple of weeks ago, I got up feeling low, like dread had entered without knocking. I had been injured at work a few days before, which exacerbated a previous work injury from a year ago. I know, this Education Assistant job sounds dangerous doesn’t it? It can be. Plus, my job situation was changing, and I had a big decision to make (in hindsight it wasn’t that big but for a few days, it felt huge). But much more than all that, I had two friends on my mind – one in hospice, the other recently home from the hospital, very ill – fighting with all her might and hoping for a miracle.

I came downstairs to let the dog out and get things started. I stopped, stood still for a minute and had a little conversation with my soul. I know, weird right? Have you ever had words with your soul? Mine went something like this, “Oh my soul, why are you so low? Don’t lose hope, don’t lose hope! Just praise the Lord, soul. There are a million things to praise Him for.”

A wooden sign that says “Be Hopeful” caught my eye. It’s a sign I usually have elsewhere but put there a week earlier when I was decorating for the birthday party, we had for this fighter friend I mentioned – Shonia (pronounced Shauna). Then I thought to check my Bible app for the verse of the day (I usually check it before I get out of bed). This is what is said:

“Why, my soul, are you downcast?

Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God,

for I will yet praise him,

my Saviour and my God.” Psalm 42:5 (NIV)

I thought, wow! That sounds very familiar. God heard me and showed me I’m not alone. The Psalmist and all of us are in the same boat, sometimes just trying to stay afloat, hoping our souls respond to the occasional lament/pep talk. I didn’t necessarily feel that much better but a strong reminder that God knows all about it brought some relief.

I just kept thinking of Shonia in so many ways: 1) Does it bring her relief that God knows all about it when she’s injecting a hand full of needles every three hours into her legs? 2) How futile my little troubles are in light of Shonia’s battle, and how humbling it is knowing God cares about both. 3) Could Shonia have any idea how her true grit and persistence have been a huge source of inspiration to me and so many of us? My sister, Elanna and I discuss it after every visit, we are always like, “Wow, she’s amazing!” Elanna calls her a soldier.

All the tests, all the needles, the surgeries, ports, tubes, chemo, hospital stays, procedures, exhaustion, nausea, pain, dashed dreams, the pleas for mercy and healing. I’m sure Shonia could add many more words to this list, but I think we all get the idea.

We are flabbergasted by her strength and determination, her staying power, how she’s done some trips of late having to find in advance a nearby hospital for weekly intravenous. Most of us would have thrown in the towel by now. Instead, Shonia goes away for the weekend with a friend even though she has to get up every three hours to administer her meds. As much as possible, she’s not letting it stop her from living her life to the fullest. What she’s been through is unimaginable for most, but she just keeps going – showing us what perseverance, a positive attitude and faith can do.

‘Faith’, now there’s a good word. It means nothing though if not exercised. Regarding Shonia’s cancer, I sometimes think it’s just too big. But then I say, “Come on faith, let’s go! Get those knees up higher. There’s always hope! With God all things are possible; He is a God of endless resources – of countless miracles!” Shonia says she received a miracle regarding her health many years ago (she is actually in a medical journal) and she is confident she could be granted one again.

Our word for Shonia is ‘hope’. Another is ‘Good News’. During her last hospital stay, there came a day where the bad news kept piling up. Looking a little defeated, when asked how we could pray, she said she could really use some good news. Over the course of the next few days, as I prayed for good news, I just kept thinking about the everlasting, never changing, Good News—Jesus Christ. Good news comes and goes in our lives, but there is Good News that surpasses everything.

With the Christmas season now upon us, and this talk of Good News, I hear the little voice of Linus Van Pelt responding to Charlie Brown’s bemoan, “Does anyone know what Christmas is all about?” Linus recites Luke 2:8-12, part of which says, “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good news of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord…”

Well, I’ve finally finished chapter twelve. It’s such a relief. Even though this book is taking so long, I try to focus on how far I’ve come. Way back in chapter two, I wrote all about ‘hope’. Hope was the word Mike and I got a lot and chewed on and pondered and embraced throughout our toughest days. It’s still one of my favourites.

In that hope chapter, I explain that even though I still hope for a cure for ALS (of course) and healing for others’ illnesses and many many things, my hope is so much more than an expectation in something; it’s a confident expectation and assured certainty in Someone.

So, let us take this from the Psalmist: Put your hope in God and praise Him!

From Linus (actually the apostle Luke): Fear not, Good News of Great Joy was born – a Saviour which is Jesus. That’s what Christmas is all about.

From Shonia: Live every day to the fullest. Never give up. Believe in the power of prayer and the possibility of a miracle!

From me: There are roads paved with good intentions and roads paved with God intentions, seek Him with all your heart and He will direct your paths.

Also: Please pray for Shonia!

1924341_10152278666637749_1738981744474602405_n                                           Shonia with her husband Steve and daughters Maiya and Payge

Like Chapter twelve, this blog post has taken me a while. My dad and my husband Chris where in Malawi Africa when I started it and have since returned having had three more wells drilled there. That is 44 wells now under Project Wellness’ belt. Chris and dad were so honoured to have our local Member of Parliament, Dan Ruimy and his assistant Khalida along with them. They said it was a lot of fun and hope they join them again sometime. I’m getting a little antsy to go soon again myself. I’ll be asking the Lord if that’s a God intention, and if so, I’m sure I’ll be going.

I end with a verse my dad quoted the other day. He said it was one of the first he committed to memory. Considering my writing – my next book and my blog (contemplating the future direction of my blog), and missionary work (at home and possibly abroad) this verse spoke to me. It’s a verse for all of us to ponder. Let’s chew on this: “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” Philemon 1:6

PS – Elanna and I went for dinner with Shonia tonight and we had a wonderful time. It’s a humbling and lifting experience being in her presence. Elanna and I walked away like always, amazed …  and I say to my soul, “Stay hopeful and praise God!”

34962168_10156482075796468_2771398132452294656_n At Maiya’s grad this past spring.

47031130_520540038423813_4227386415094169600_nBlessings during this Christmas season every one!

Must Love Long Walks and God

As much as I absolutely hate saying goodbye to summer, I’m getting excited to welcome fall. I can hear it’s faint whisper just around the corner. It’s already preparing us for it’s arrival with it’s intermittent cool breezes and changing leaves. It’s only a matter of time, those autumn colours will speak, “Maestro, music please.”

Another summer has flown by. I predicted it back in June when coworkers were counting down the days to summer holidays. In my head I was thinking, “Please don’t.” As quickly as it comes, it goes. I am ultra aware of time’s ability to fly by, to pass even quicker than last year. So I try with all my might to embrace each day, every hour and minute for what it is—a gift!

Speaking of gifts and how time flies, my fiftieth birthday recently came and went … obviously, I survived! Letting go of my forties was like letting go of other things I’ve come to love; I grieved giving them up, but I happily keep marching on. It felt like a bit of an accomplishment actually, but more so, I was just so grateful and humbled to reach this milestone.

Among the many highlights of the summer, turning the big 5-0 was one and taking Leah horseback riding almost weekly was another. Then there’s this one—the one this blog post is based on: my aunt’s wedding. Ultimately, the highlight is the incredible love story. So, let me just go back to the beginning. Or at least back to when we first started noticing something was happening.

Auntie Marguerite is one of the most jovial people I know. Good cheer, laughter and smiling are her specialty. It kind of runs in the family. This is my mom’s younger sister and they are so similar in this way. Anyway, to see her typically large smile increase, gave us a clue something was up.

She shared with us that she had started walking on a regular basis. She actually found a walking partner; a nice man from her church. Over the course of about eight months, every time we saw her, there was something that indicated that maybe this male walking partner was becoming more than just a friend. After a visit with her, I’d say to my sister, “Did you see that ear to ear grin?” After another visit, Elanna would say, “Did you see her nails were done?” And of course she was looking extremely fit. The frequency and distance of their walks was increasing.

One day, Aunty M confessed that she had developed some romantic feelings for this lovely Frenchman, Jean-Marc (who she called John). She was concerned though, that the feelings weren’t mutual. She said that she was making her hand available for holding but he wasn’t noticing. She said he talked a lot about his late wife, which she really liked, but thought maybe he wasn’t ready yet.

Then, one day I got the long awaited call from my ecstatic Aunty Marguerite announcing that John had professed his love for her. She said, what he said was absolutely beautiful and took her by complete surprise. I think it was about the one year mark from when they started their walking partnership.

The details of course belong to them, so I’m going to skip right over to their wedding, which happened just a couple of weeks ago. It was an emotional occasion to say the least. Aunty Marguerite, who recently turned seventy, had been a widow for forty years. And Jean-Marc, seventy five, had been a widower for ten. I think these two probably never imagined that God had such extravagant plans for them at this stage of life. It’s a love story, I’m sure the Lord is using, to prove how He doesn’t stop moving mountains in our lives. Time doesn’t matter to Him. It doesn’t stop Him from renewing hope in a defeated soul, or providing a friend, husband or wife, or answering a prayer we’ve given up on, or shaping us into the glorious likeness of His Son.

Anyway, I don’t think I’ve missed my mom as much as I did the week of my aunt’s wedding. It’s funny because at the same time, I was writing chapter eleven in my next book, which is all about my mom. I was just telling how my mom would light up when she talked about how excited she got on payday to buy her brothers and sister new clothing; how she loved dressing her little sister up and doing her hair. Aunty M still talks about how my mom (eleven years older than her) doted on her and spoiled her and how it blessed her beyond measure.

The week leading up to the wedding, Elanna and I helped our aunt find the perfect white fascinator to wear and someone to do her hair. It wasn’t until after, I thought, wow, that’s what Mom would have done … she’d be so happy we helped take care of those details in particular.

Elanna and I went to Aunty M’s house early in the morning the day of the wedding. We wanted to be there when hairstylist and friend, Jackie arrived to make some introductions. Aunty Marguerite was as giddy as a school girl, she was on cloud nine … just so excited! I was sad in a way because my mom would have been there, having so much fun; but I was also as happy as I’ve ever been for anyone.

Our aunt and Jackie hit it off right away, like we knew they would. Auntie M proceeded to tell Jackie, through the permanent smile on her face, all about her wonderful fiance. I don’t think she could have stopped talking if she wanted to and Jackie happily listened as she blowdried and brushed, curled and sprayed.

Earlier, my aunt asked her daughter Colleen to fix up a bouquet of not-so-fresh flowers on her dining room table. Colleen and her sister-in-law, Shalin, were busy doing their daughter’s hair and Colleen told her mom that those flowers didn’t really matter right then and she’d do it later. So when I had a minute, I took the vase of flowers into the kitchen to clean them up and this is where everything kind of stopped for one very profound moment. Alone there, freshening up a week old bouquet of flowers, I could hear Auntie M say, “Have I told you about my husband who passed away?” Just typing this sentence opens up the flood gates.

I can’t stop thinking about this moment. It was almost like God was saying to me, “Nadine, you will never stop telling people about your husband who passed away either, and that’s okay. You will go on about Mike and love him for the rest of your life. At the same time, you will be on cloud nine for a long time about marrying Chris and you will continue to fall deeper and deeper in love with him.”

So, needless to say, the waterworks were just getting started and we hadn’t even gotten to the ceremony yet.

The ceremony was lovely and I pretty much held it together until the reception. We sat at, what I called, the “cool” table, with Auntie Vicki and cousins Shelley and Larry. We had lots of fun and I just kept thinking how brave Shelley was and how she must still be in shock having recently lost her husband Bruce so suddenly. At a celebration like this, I’m sure she’d feel so lost there without him. (I wrote about Bruce’s passing in my last post, Wednesdays With Leah)

After dinner and before the speeches, when I went over to the equally as “cool” table beside us (where auntie Gail, uncle Larry and cousins Julie and Chrissy were sitting) to say hello, Uncle Larry jokingly said to me (I think he was joking), “Our table took a vote and we nominate you to speak at the open mic on our behalf.” This started a little back and forth about why the other was the better choice to get up there and say something.

I really wish I could have rose to the occasion but I’m just not good on the spot. Plus, I was so emotional, had I taken that microphone, and opened my mouth, a bunch of blubbering would have come out and that wouldn’t have been “cool” at all.

Had I had more time to think about it and been able to keep my cool, I probably would have simply started by introducing us – the children of aunty Marguerite’s siblings (uncle Larry, and the two with the front row view in heaven – my mom and uncle Eugene). Without conferring with my cousins, I know I could have said, that to each of us, Auntie M simply represents LOVE. How even though, she raised four children of her own, and then had a bunch of grandchildren and great grandchildren and has many friends and family, when she is with any of us, we receive her undivided attention and buckets of love. She genuinely cares deeply for each of us and our children and grandchildren. It’s a selfless love that comes from above, that spreads beyond any limits. Her role modelling of love has been exquisite!

She loves God first, then the person right in front of her (regardless of who it is), and all the people around her. And now, Jean-Marc, this very blessed Frenchman, moves up the queue and gets the best view of this incredible love in action. The more I get to know him, the more I realize, it’s well deserved and Auntie M is also very blessed to get a similar, very special, exquisite love in return. And we all wish them many wonderful years of marital bliss, good health and happiness!

So, it’s taken me about a week to write this and we’re that much closer to fall. School starts tomorrow and that’s when I go back to work. I partly chose this career as an Education Assistant because of the awesome holidays, but as hard as it is to let go of the freedom of summer, I’m ready for routine and I’m ready to see those beautiful faces at Blue Mountain Elementary.

What I hope to take with me to work and everywhere I go, is more love – this exquisite love from above that spreads beyond limits – and greater expectations in God. Remembering that anything is possible with Him!

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory… Ephesians 3:20

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A huge thank you to Cindy from Once Upon a Tea Leaf (tea and gift shop) in Maple Ridge for allowing us to take all the white fascinators in stock to Auntie M’s house so she could select the perfect one. And a huge thank you to Jackie for fitting this beautiful bride in on short notice and doing a fantastic job on her hair.

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Aunty M and Uncle Larry coming down the isle.                                                                 Picture borrowed from cousin Chrissy.

All us girls gathered around Aunty and Jackie

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Me, Leah and Auntie M having lots of fun trying on fascinators a few days before the wedding.

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Back to turning the big 5-0, when Mike turned 50, he called it the big 5-OLD, you can read about it (and laugh about it) in his blog post Hawaii 5-Old from January 20/12. One of my most read blog posts!

Wednesdays With Leah

(From Sun June 24)                                                                                                                            June has been an exceptionally busy month, but this past week was a little over the top and I’ve been feeling physically and emotionally drained. I was pretty tired yesterday when I arrived home after an unusually busy Saturday morning. I went upstairs to have a bath but laid on the bed instead – for just a second. “Just a second” became many seconds. After about ten or fifteen minutes, I remembered I needed to text my sister about something but had left my phone downstairs. Chris gave me his phone to use. While Elanna and I were texting back and forth, a notification came across his screen. It said, “Tomorrow: Nadine and Mike’s anniversary.”

I was aware on and off throughout the month that our anniversary was coming up, but I have a tendency to lose track of the date. When I saw that reminder on Chris’ phone, it kind of took my breath away. Even though Chris and I were talking, he had no idea I was all choked up because he was outside in the hall folding laundry.

Thirty years ago today, Mike and I got hitched. I can still see my young self—just a kid, oblivious to the journey of love ahead. It feels like yesterday, but at the same time, a world away – a world of love, grief, joy, pain and restoration. It’s been exceptional, incredible, amazing!

I’ve just completed chapter five of my next book. I’m not under the same pressure to get it done as I was with the first one, so it’s slower going than I’d like. I need to be more disciplined with my time. Having said that though, I put it on hold while I write this piece. I look at this as a little reprieve and an opportunity to connect with whoever takes the time to read it.

This new book, like the first one – ‘Hold On, Let Go’ includes my blog posts. I don’t have as many this time, so there will be more fresh writing. This book also includes some journal entries from the journal I kept when Mike was first diagnosed with ALS. I treasure that journal of course but reading it isn’t easy and I’ve had to be more vulnerable than ever sharing some of it. I always envisioned me reading it to Mike years later – dreaming he’d either be healed of ALS or long outlive the statistics.

Something I’m noticing as I go through that journal, is the regular (maybe monthly) sleepovers with our granddaughter Leah. Here’s mention of one: Fri July 22, 2011 – “When Nathan dropped Leah off, Elanna was over. We all went for a walk. Leah slept between me and Mike. I just love watching her sleep…” Sat July 23 – “I woke up early and got up, leaving Leah and Mike in bed. I read and prayed for a while and then Mike came down and joined me. Leah followed shortly after. We had the usual for breakfast – smoothies. We sat on the front porch and listened to the birds and played with [our dog] Molly.”

Leah was two at the time. She is nine now and throughout this school year, she’s had regular overnight stays on Wednesdays. She has stayed other nights a few times as well, which is a bonus, sometimes with her little brother, which is another bonus. But Wednesdays are our nights!

Chris picks Leah up from school on Wednesday afternoons and I meet them at our place shortly after when I get home from work. She spends time on my iPad. She loves to make movies, play games and watch videos (she and Chris enjoy the funny cat/dog videos, I enjoy the laughter). We have painted on numerous occasions, watching YouTube tutorials, as well as directive drawings. We go for walks with the dog(s) and sometimes go to the playground at the school down the road or in our complex. She’s teaching me to crochet – that’s what we did last week. We have gone a few times to visit the residents where Elanna works – it’s a senior’s long term care facility, where Leo and Glen (our “therapy” dogs) volunteer.  And we almost always go for dinner with my dad to Tim Hortons. Bed time is lovely. She usually plays a little more on the iPad while I get ready. Then we read a book, say our prayers and say good night (sometimes, while she drifts off to sleep, I sit up beside her and read or write).

I know I am lucky. I know I am incredibly blessed. I don’t take this time for granted. Wednesdays with Leah are a gift!

We still have the “usual” for breakfast and Chris typically takes her to school while I get ready for work, but sometimes I take her too. A couple of weeks ago, when I dropped her off, as soon as I said, “Good bye, I love you!” I thought to myself, soon she’ll be graduating from high school. It goes so fast. I felt sad. My niece Michaela was graduating that weekend, so maybe that’s why I had that thought. I occasionally picked Michaela and Luke up from elementary school when Elanna worked and now they are almost all grown up. I say to myself what I said when my children graduated, “You shouldn’t have blinked.”

When I dropped Leah off and had that split second graduation thought, I asked myself if I was savouring every moment – unlike with my own children – time seemed to slip right though my fingers. I’m not as busy now, and more wise; I know more than ever how time flies.

Along with Michaela’s graduation, June included birthdays, the ALS walk, a few friend’s book launches, many appointments (for my ongoing whip lash injury), a memorial service, a bridal shower for my Auntie Marguerite, and the list goes on.

But then everything comes to a halt. Last week, after a class I was teaching, I got the message my cousin Shelley’s husband Bruce had passed away that morning from a heart attack. And the whirl wind stops for a while as you try to wrap your head around that one. As Elanna and I made our way over to Shelley’s place, we wondered if at this stage of life, that’s what the rest of it will be like: trying to comfort each other in our losses, illnesses, grief, shock? That was last Wednesday (June 20).

Just two days before that, on Monday while I was at work, I had a 911 message from a good friend. She asked if there was anyway I could go sit with her son who was having emergency surgery that day; she was out of town and couldn’t get there until much later. He had got himself to the hospital just in time. He almost died.

There are constant reminders that life is so fragile and that tomorrow is not a given. Today is to be embraced and savoured. Some get more time than they expect, like my friend Karen’s dad who outlived his prognosis by a year. Then there’s Bruce, he was young, three boys still at home, no warning and he’s gone. Shelley’s mom, auntie Vicki greets us at the door and tells us there’s just one question on her mind, “Why?”

We all ask why from time to time. Lots of things just don’t seem right … things don’t always make sense. I find the older I get and the more knowledge and wisdom I gain, the less knowledgeable and wise I am … about life, about God, about everything. The mysteries are bigger, but you know what? So is God!

“Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, And how small a whisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power who can understand?”       Job 26:14 (NKJV)

This past Wednesday, we went to McDonalds for dinner instead of Tims. Dad has a gift card from there he wanted to use, plus Tims has been out of chilli a few too many times lately. Leah brought a card for him that she made at school. It was a thank you card. It had lovely words, a drawing of a horse and a loonie she found, taped to the inside. He loved it! What a beautiful scene it was, the two of them sitting side by side, with the homemade card proudly displayed on the table in front of them. He kept offering her his fries – even though she had her own – and his drink. He also slipped her a little cash in there at some point. The thing is, he’d give her the world if he could. But here’s another thing, he’s giving her more than that. He’s giving her his time and attention. He’s telling her stories and imparting wisdom. He’s speaking to her words of praise and encouragement. He’s sharing his food, money, his life, his love. My dad who recently turned eighty with his precious great-granddaughter, sharing food at McDonalds, was the most beautiful sight to behold. Not everyone gets that kind of gift and I know they know it, especially him.

(Finishing this piece on Friday, June 29)

Today, Leo, Glen and I had so much fun at Elanna’s work going around and visiting the residents with her. Elanna eventually had to get back to her routine and went on her way. I told her that before we left, we’d have one last visit with our good friend Jean. Jean is always so happy to see us. She loves to sing and while Glen sat on her tummy and Leo at the end of her bed, she sang a few songs for us. I asked her if she knew the song, ‘Jean’, from the movie ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ (1969). I explained it was my late husband Mike’s favourite song and we listened to it often. She wasn’t sure, so I found it on YouTube and played it for her. We sang along a little. She asked me to print out the lyrics and bring them next time. I said I would. She asked me to also bring the lyrics to ‘Moon River’. I responded, “Wow Jean, Mike and I loved that song and we also listened to that one a lot.” I told her I’d bring the lyrics for both songs next time. She thanked me for coming and said that it was the best visit. I agreed. She didn’t need a thing from me, just a little bit of my time was the greatest gift she could receive … and I treasure her time as well! (I wouldn’t normally mention a resident’s name for confidentiality sake, but Jean is the mom of an old friend)

After Chris wished me a Happy Anniversary last Sunday, he went off to church. He was on power point and had to leave early. I went to Nathan’s church to hear him drum. It was unusual that I beat Chris home. Soon after though, he came through the door with two lovely bouquets of flowers. He handed me one, gorgeous with brilliant colours and said, “These are from Mike.” He handed me another, smaller bouquet of daisies, “These are from me.” Later, he explained that he knew I liked daisies and that those daisies might not be real daisies but they looked like daisies and well, the price was to his liking. I replied, “Oh, so that’s why the more extravagant ones are from Mike?” He said, “Yah!” Then after a pause, he continued, “Do you think it’s possible to get reimbursed?” We both laughed. Mike would probably say, “It’s okay, I’ll give her the daisies.”

Not everyone gets this kind of gift and we both know it! I will hold on to it for as long as I can and do my best to savour every moment!

“Collect moments not things. Treasure time together. Value love above all else. Be grateful.” Happy Wives Club.com

To my dear cousin Shelley and your boys, auntie Vicki and cousin Larry, I am so so sorry for your loss. You are in my prayers and thoughts. Bruce was an exceptional man and I end with a few lessons we could all learn from him: Be exceedingly kind and give generously of your time. Lend a helping hand as much as you can. Pour yourself out!

PS – Project Wellness has a new website! You can check it out at projectwellness.ca You can watch the video there of our local MP, Dan Ruimy honouring dad in Parliament on his 80th birthday (just scroll down on the first page). It’s awesome! See pictures of Dad’s and Chris’ latest trips to Malawi, including the recently drilled wells (42 to date) and other news.

FullSizeRenderLeah with Leo and Glen

From There to Here in Three Years

I’ve been calling it, ‘Mike’s Flight’, but the more I type, ’Journey of Love’ sounds right too. This one’s about naming a painting, remembering Mike and celebrating life and love in new and wonderful ways.

Leading up to the third anniversary of Mike’s passing, I decided I wanted to do something special to express my love, grief and gratitude. Also, with a new year here and the reality of turning fifty this year, I was thinking I should perhaps expand my horizons a little. One way to do both was to paint. I saw a paint night advertised at 4 Cats art studio here in Maple Ridge that caught my eye. It was on Friday, Jan 5 and it was a scene of trees, birds and a beautiful sky… it was perfect!

Mike has been gone for three years now and it’s like a fog recently lifted. I can see beyond my own two feet and the view is exquisite. I just feel so honoured and thankful to have known him, to have called him mine. The gratitude outweighs the grief now, although the grief still weighs a ton sometimes.

Grief has become very intriguing to me. I have found that it changes and weaves and winds in so many ways over time. In his book, ‘A Grief Observed’, C.S. Lewis describes it this way, “Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.” I call it a journey of grief. Also on a journey of love, I explore the great expanse of both. I’ve come to learn that grief is an expression of love; it’s simply a fact of love. In which case, the journey of grief and the journey of love is one.

As most of us know ALS can be horrible, but here’s one way God used it for good: it drove Mike’s and my love to heights and widths unmeasurable. I’d have to say our love became perfect. Not that humans can love perfectly, but God does and His love over took us. We clung to God and relied on Him exclusively. His love held us up! His love sustained us! His love wooed us and wowed us and the joy we found there couldn’t be compared to anything ALS could take from us or anything this world has to offer.

In ‘A Grief Observed’, Lewis compares the feeling of grief and loss to the feeling of being concussed. I actually had a concussion a few months ago. It was my first and hopefully my last. When I read Lewis’ analogy, I thought, “Good one.” He goes on to say, “There is sort of an invisible blanket between the world and me.” I can really relate! Recently though, a sort of blanket was lifted for me. Here’s what I mean…

A few weeks ago, my son Nathan invited me and Chris to a Saturday night church service where he drums sometimes. The music was awesome, and I’m not just saying that because I’m the drummer’s mom. It was so powerful! We really felt the heavy presence of God there. About four songs in, they played one of Mike’s and my favourite hymns – one we listened to several times during our last few days together called, ‘Lord I Need You’ by Matt Maher. As soon as it started, I closed my eyes and there I was beside Mike in that place of our final goodbye. I’ve stood there in my mind so many times over these three years, but this time was very different. I’ve only ever seen the room the way it was, the way I left it… the way I left him. This time, without even a pause, from the instant I closed my eyes it was like a thousand little lights burst from him in vibrant colours. Dancing, twirling swirling waves of brilliant energy moved toward the glow of the Lord at the end of the bed. Then came Mike. He leaped out of his body, feet first and joined the procession of light. As he pushed off the bed with one arm, and reached in the direction he was going with the other, I got a perfect view of his fresh new face and the look of pure JOY! I’ve imagined him moving from his body to the arms of Jesus before, but this was nothing I did. This vision was a gift!

What I said earlier, “A fog recently lifted,” I’m thinking now, maybe I’ve just climbed above it. Yes, I’m still forgetful, still pre-menopausal, still pretty easily distracted. I still feel lost without my mom and miss her something fierce… and so on. The glorious vision I shared with you was a wonderful surprise and my painting experience was really cool too, but what has brought me to this exquisite view is simply this: placing one foot in front of the other end keeping my eyes on my Saviour and Guide, Jesus Christ.

Mike and I would have been married for thirty years this June. I think that’s pretty amazing! Chris and I will be married for one year in May. I think that’s amazing too. Even though our love is young (meaning it hasn’t been that long), it’s so deep. We didn’t really need to test the waters or wade in. We were able to jump right into the deep end. We both knew true love when we saw it and weren’t going to let it drift by. It’s not always going to be smooth sailing of course but I’m overjoyed here in the deep end with Chris. Mike would be thrilled to know how loved and supported and cared for I am by him. I’d say “I feel lucky in love” if I believed in luck. Instead, let’s call it, incredibly blessed! Chris shows his love and support in so many wonderful ways. He probably has no idea how much even the littlest gestures, like encouraging me to paint a picture for Mike and helping me name it, mean to me.

This journey of love I’m on is awesome! The older I get, the more I reflect on the pursuit of God’s love for me since day one. His pursuing and wooing has been intense and the lid of the box I had His love in, has long blown off.

One more little story I want to share before I end in hopes to send you off feeling encouraged and really loved. I’ve been writing a speech for an upcoming woman’s event and before I started, I prayed a lot about it. I felt I had a choice to fall back on a speech that I know well or pray and wait and listen for something else. At the same time, I was contemplating the new year and the goals I set and some feelings of regret – like I’m falling short in many ways, especially as I stare fifty in the face and time keeps slipping through my hands. I prayed and prayed and one day, right there in the bathtub, when I said it again, “Lord, what do you want to say? What do you want to tell us?”

He replied,

“Enjoy My Love!”

Then I heard it again with a comma,

“Enjoy, My Love.”

He calls you and me Love.

God’s beckoning love never ceases to amaze me!

“And I pray that you and all God’s holy people will have the power to understand the greatness of Christ’s love. I pray that you can understand how wide and how long and how high and how deep that love is.” Ephesians 3:18

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I’ve done three paint nights since this first one (all three with my sister) and I think I’m hooked (we’re hooked). This first one, on the third anniversary of Mike’s passing, was all about him. My sister Elanna, Chris’ sister Kelly and I enjoyed our time together painting, but I was focused and I really wanted to do my best for Mike. I was serious. We stapled our canvas to the wall and I wanted to know where the artist was situated so I could see well. One of the ladies there said something about relaxing and later made another comment along the same lines as she laughed at me (I had said something to Elanna about being in a sweat) – I ignored it and in my own world, continued to consult the Lord, asking Him to guide my hand. I didn’t say much, I was in the zone. The original painting had many birds, but painting just one bird was very nerve wracking so I left it at one. It’s called: Mike’s Flight/Journey of Love. I’ve relaxed a little since then.

If you missed my last post, I encourage you to read it. It’s about my friend Randy – his courage, faith and love! An awesome story called: Thank you! I Love you!

And the link to my book: Hold On, Let Go, Facing ALS with courage and hope

Thank you! I love you!

The morning I got word my friend Randy passed away, I wish someone had first told me to take a seat. I literally dropped to my knees in shock, regret and grief. It was one month to the day after my mom passed away and three days before Christmas. I hadn’t been by to see Randy in a week and a half and I had the strong urge to drop in the day before just to say hi from afar as I had been fighting a cold/cough. Busily, I put it off thinking I’d see him in a couple of days to wish him and his family Merry Christmas… regretfully unaware, Randy didn’t have a couple of days.

When I first met Randy, about nine months before, he was still standing. He leaned up against his chair like Mike did when he could no longer find his balance. Although Randy’s speech was affected, he was clearly understandable and I actually found comfort and joy in listening closely to his soft voice. He had that familiar look and sound when he laughed, a wide range of facial expressions and he got frustrated when he couldn’t communicate the way he really wanted to… classic signs of ALS.

When my oldest daughter Erin told me about a friend’s dad who had ALS, I thought it was most likely the same man my mom and dad had told me about – who lived close to us in our town of Maple Ridge. My parents, and Randy and his wife Blanca, had a mutual friend: Harry. Harry had worked with Randy pre-ALS and was hopeful I would go and befriend the couple. I told my parents I’d gladly go but I didn’t want to just show up unannounced. I thought maybe Harry could pass on my contact information or maybe even arrange a visit. As it turned out, I met Randy and his family through Erin – who became instant friends with them when they first met, just shortly before she introduced me.

My connection with Randy and Blanca was instant as well. During our first visit, I told them if they needed anything, not to hesitate to call or email me. Within days I had a message asking if I knew of any wheelchair vans for rent because they had an appointment in Chilliwack to see the ALS team. I called my friend Cynthia who I knew had a wheelchair van for her dad. Cynthia and family borrowed our wheelchair van when Mike was still alive to take her dad to church on Sundays and on other outings. Cynthia said we could use their van, no problem! I got back to Randy and Blanca and told them I had borrowed a van and then I happily offered to drive them. They gratefully accepted.

It was a difficult appointment for sure. I guess you could say every appointment with the ALS team is difficult because it’s about tracking the decline of health and preparing for the next stage of the illness. The ALS team is amazing – they are kind, compassionate and supportive of course, but that doesn’t change the fact that you or your loved one is dying, there is no cure, no hope of recovering outside of a miracle. Emotions ran high, but by the grace of God we got through it and I felt like the Lord used me and my experience to help in a substantial way. I was praising the Lord and lifting my two new friends up to Him, in-between conversation, all the way home.

We had a wonderful visit after the appointment that day and as I got up to leave, I could see Randy had something important he wanted to say… I sat back down and listened closely. We had touched slightly on the topic of faith earlier and he wanted me to know that he wasn’t a religious person and that he never went to church. He said these exact words, “I wasn’t a believer, but now I believe.” He explained that God made His existence and His love for Randy clear to him through the people he brought into his life, including Erin and me and his dear friend Harry.

It was an unforgettable moment when Randy committed his life to Christ. I prayed and he prayed along with me in his heart and when we were done, Randy looked up toward Heaven and said, “Thank you.” It was absolutely beautiful! The three of us, somewhat battered and beaten up by ALS, basked in the power and peace of our Saviour’s love and His healing touch. (And at the end of every prayer after that, he looked up and said, “Thank you.”)

There were many more appointments. When I’d introduce myself to the doctor or respirologist or occupational therapist or whoever, I’d introduce myself as “a friend.” Before I could finish, Randy would say, “BEST friend!” If Chris was along (my now husband) or my sister Elanna, then he would say, “BEST friends!”

There were lots of visits. Sometimes it was just the two of us, like the week I went over everyday to sit with Randy when his sister Terri went away. Terri stayed with Randy weekdays when Blanca still worked. Even though Blanca, who worked from home as a child care provider, could keep an ear open and check in on Randy, she really appreciated someone being with him at all times. She and Terri thought I was doing them a favour but it was the other way around.

Our families became very close and sometimes visits were like a party. There was lots of talking and laughing and sharing. There was also a growing sorrow knowing we were watching another loved one succumb to the dreadful ALS. Every time we said good bye, Randy would say, “Thank you!” and “I love you!” He would say it to everyone individually, and we each said it back. When he could no longer say the words, he mouthed them. When he could no longer mouth them, he gave us a certain look that we previously discussed that became his “Thank you!” and “I love you!”

I usually stood behind Randy and rubbed his head, neck and shoulders. He was once a man with broad shoulders able to bear the weight of the world. A man’s man, good with his hands, a hard-worker, a fisherman, a friend to everyone. I never knew the pre-ALS man, with skilled hands etc. I knew this man who taught himself to operate a motorized wheelchair with his head – extremely determined, sensitive, courageous and vulnerable. He was so caring and kind, a good listener and confidant, a BEST friend.

The regret of not going to see him the day before or a few days before he passed away has often been paralyzing. I’ve asked God why He didn’t make the pull to go over stronger, like He has at other times, many times throughout my life. I’ve had so much guilt as I’ve questioned what kind of best friend was I. Over the year, God has been slowly convincing me that I was the best friend I could be to Randy and I don’t know the rest but I have to trust that it was the way it was suppose to be and that it’s ok. Plus, Randy would want me to focus on the time we spent together and all the joy we shared, not on the time I wasn’t there and the accompanied grief and regret.

Ultimately we had an extraordinary friendship that has changed me forever and that I will always treasure.

I know some people were a little concerned about me diving right in with Randy…understandably. Could my heart take the inevitable pain – could it withstand more heart-break? I admit I thought about it too… for a few minutes and then that little bit of doubt was gone. And boy oh boy what I would have missed out on had I let fear keep me away. That would have been something to really regret!

Randy has left a legacy of faith! As a non-believer, when Randy was diagnosed with ALS he could have become bitter. His attitude could have been, “See, I knew it! Surely there is no God. And if there is a God, He’s definitely not a good God.” Instead, he looked further than that and found the compassionate heart of Jesus. He had little if any knowledge of God and no awareness of His love but in his despair, he recognized God was there, and that He cared deeply for Randy with an extravagant, unconditional and eternal love that would never fail him.

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At the ALS walk in Abbotsford the spring before Randy died, he had a large team of supporters – mostly people from his work. Harry was there and I asked Randy if he wanted me to tell Harry that he had a huge influence on Randy’s decision to believe and receive Jesus into his life as his Lord and saviour and ultimate BEST friend. Without hesitation Randy said, “Yes!” Randy told me that Harry’s constant, dedicated walk with the Lord all the years he knew him spoke volumes. He said Harry didn’t say much, he just lived out his faith. (He said other Christian friends made impressions too)

Losing my mom a month before Randy, caused me to stuff a lot of my pain away. Writing this piece has forced me to open the door and face some of that grief. It has taken me a few months to get through it… and a million tears but the joy of remembering our extraordinary friend Randy and telling you about him is indescribable.

Speaking from all of us, we miss Randy so much! He taught us a lot! Our lives will be forever changed because of him.

Dear Randy, Thank you! I love you! And Merry Christmas!

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9

In loving memory of Randy Walters – June 4, 1954 – Dec 22, 2016

Love and prayers to the family Randy adored:                                                                        Wife Blanca, sons Chris and Cory and sister Terri – Thanks for sharing Randy with us!