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’

Lips Are For Kissing

I have almost forgotten what a kiss on the lips feels like. Once in a while, my granddaughter Leah gives me a kiss on the lips. It’s so sweet because I usually turn my head so she can plant one on my cheek, but she follows my lips with her pucker and I get the softest, sweetest kiss right on the lips.

On Christmas Day, my two and a half year old great-nephew, Xavier, planted a couple on me and I was like, “Oh yah, LIPS … they are for kissing.”

It’s kind of weird when you think about it, kissing that is. It’s weird but it’s absolutely wonderful. It’s been a while for me (I’m talking the romantic kind of kiss now) and with New Year’s Eve approaching, I’m thinking about it more and more. Plus, I’m a real sucker (no pun intended) for all those made for TV Christmas romance movies and for the classics too (classics in my books) like ‘When Harry Met Sally’ (Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal), ‘You’ve Got Mail’ (again Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks), ‘Family Man’ (Nicolas Cage and Tea Leoni). All of which I’ve watched over the last couple of weeks.

Anyway, at some point during Mike’s battle with ALS, he lost the ability to really lay one on me, so it’s been at least two or maybe close to three years since I’ve had a good one. I really wish I could remember the last really good kiss – the last full lip lock, total embrace, when his lips reached out for mine and vice versa. I guess it doesn’t matter. What matters is, we had lots of them. So my advice to anyone interested in my advice: kiss! Kiss a lot. Really plant one on him (or her) … and let your lips linger.

Happy New Year!

As you can see below, Mike loved getting kisses.

IMG_2542

10313631_10152195211851409_5661964183180747789_n

IMG_0162

10462972_10152299974014055_2313267827431833055_n

10985325_10152581393142024_7913452421672811125_n

PS – Thanks for the prayers and well wishes. We had a really nice Christmas and I hope you did too. In my last post, We Had Christmas, I said that I was pretty sure I was going to be okay and I was okay (for the most part). I think we all did well. It obviously wasn’t the same without Mike, but it was good.

Below, Christmas day – my sister Elanna receives a kiss from her husband Peter. He washes dishes and gives good kisses.

1660943_10153305226636409_8135057083969717445_n

All of us on Christmas day – Peter, Elanna, Michaela and Luke, my parents and us. Mike’s good friend, Ron also joined us along with our niece Heather, her husband Frank and their kids, Kaelyn and Xavier.

10409545_10153305216971409_4165479253862568040_n

Madison, me, Erin, Nathan and Leah

10308215_10153305219246409_3083936755863381242_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Had Christmas

I’m not the ‘feeling sorry for myself’ type, but recently I was a little tempted – it lasted for about 3 seconds. I was walking home from the Rec Centre, where I teach fitness classes, just enjoying the evening and minding my own business, when all of a sudden I remembered it’s my first Christmas apart from Mike. It was like, “Oh yeah, this is my first Christmas without him (I should be really sad).” But sadness didn’t have a chance to enter in because this was my next thought, “It’s Mike’s first Christmas in heaven!” Whomp, abundant joy. For a minute there, I was walking on air. I felt like dancing … I definitely danced on the inside, although I wouldn’t have looked that out of place had I danced down the South end of 224th St.

I should also mention that it’s Mike’s mum’s first Christmas in heaven too, which is pretty cool for these two!

I’ve had a few friends express some concern for me as we approach Christmas – it being my first Christmas apart from Mike. While I really appreciate the care and concern of family and friends, I honestly think I’m going to be okay. This is what I have to say, “We had Christmas.”

I’ll never forget the man I met a few days before my book signing at Save On Foods back in April when my book first launched. I was there to meet with my friend Shelley who invited me to do the book signing. She and I were going over the details of the event when a costumer she knew well came over to her to say hello. She introduced us and told him about my book – Hold On, Let Go. He was a friendly and jokey guy, but as soon as he heard my book was about my husband who had ALS, his smile disappeared. He shared that his wife also had ALS. He told us she passed away years ago and he proceeded to draw us a picture of their experience with the disease. Understandably, he was still very hurt. Unfortunately, he was bitter and angry. It wasn’t a pretty picture. ALS of course isn’t pretty, but this man and his family had experienced complete devastation with this illness. There was no indication of peace or joy … just sorrow and grief.

While comparing stories, this man told me his wife passed away just before Christmas. The last thing he said to me when he left the grocery store was, “You had Christmas.” I replied gratefully, “Yes, we had Christmas.”

We had many wonderful Christmases and last Christmas was extra special. Here are a few words from my blog post, ‘Typical Mike’ from December 28th 2014:

“It’s been a unique Christmas. Some things are the same, but some are very different. Mike says this will most likely be our last Christmas together here on earth so we are clinging to the moments and making this Christmas an extra special one … or I should say God is making it extra special. 

“We are having a wonderful time with family, but our times alone are extraordinary. The tender moments between sessions of suctioning and uncontrollable coughing and bowel care, are sweet. Its like there’s this glow around us. Maybe it’s all the Christmas lights I put up this year because Mike loves Christmas lights, but it’s a special glow, like angels are among us. It’s been a time of last words, and everyday I wonder why I’m so lucky to be able to say good bye like this. Nothing will go unsaid.”

When I wrote that post I had no idea of course that Mike would pass away only eight days later, but I knew in my heart it was our last Christmas together. I trust that everything that was meant to be said was said, although I have sometimes questioned over these eleven months if it was. It doesn’t matter now though, it was a wonderful good bye … and this year he spends Christmas in heaven.

We had Christmas, so please don’t be sad for me. Yes, there will be (more) tears over the next few weeks, but the joy far outweighs the grief (like most of the time).

IMG_1438

This picture is from our last Christmas in our house on Mountainview Cres – Dec 2011. The tree was always such a big deal for us. This year, Madison started us off with a Charlie Brown tree (a true Charlie Brown tree that came in a box with Charlie’s picture on it and everything) which I love and when I heard we weren’t allowed to have a real tree in our new apartment, I thought the little Charlie tree would do. But Mike would want us to have lights, so I found something a bit bigger. Still a little tree, but one I put lights and birds and a few ornaments on. I’m pretty unmotivated this year to do what I usually do at Christmas as far as decorating, shopping, baking etc but there are lights. If Mike is looking, surely he will see the two lit stars in our big window. I hung the same stars last year and told Mike I’d leave them up for his birthday. He wasn’t here for his birthday but we kept the stars up until Madison and I moved in August.

IMG_1926

This picture is one of the many Christmas cards I made over the years. This is when I actually used real scissors and glue to cut and paste.

Check out my post ‘Typical Mike’ in full. It’s about love and forgiveness and it’s my most read blog post.

Did you catch my last post ‘My Big Fat Awesome Legs’? It’s about self perception, God’s unconditional love and a little bit about world peace. It opened up the door for some interesting conversations. A days after I posted it, I went back and added a paragraph toward the end addressing my “teaser” “Jay”. Jay wasn’t a bully or a terrible person, just a regular boy with some bad communication (like all of us sometimes).

Anyway, thank you so much for continuing to tune in to ALS With Courage and for all your encouragement, support, love and prayers.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a joyful New Year!

My Big Fat Awesome Legs

You might see my title and think it sounds pretty superficial in light of what’s going on in the world today, but I hope you will read and discover it might actually have a little something to do with world peace.

The other day while working my new job as an Education Assistant, while out on the playground at recess, a little girl came up to me very upset about something a boy said to her. In tears she told me, that he told her, she wasn’t a girl. I immediately got down to her level and huddled her and her friend under my umbrella like we were a team and we needed to discuss the next play. First, I looked her straight in the eye and proclaimed how preposterous it was for any one to think she wasn’t a girl. I didn’t say it in those words exactly, but she immediately stopped crying, so I knew I was speaking her language. Then I told her something every girl should learn at her age, “He made that ridiculous comment because he likes you.” Again, I didn’t say it quite like that, but a light went on. Then I told her, “You can’t take it personally.” I don’t know if they understood the “personally” part, but happily they both ran off. As they left, I said it again a little louder, “Don’t take it personally girls!” And under my breath, I continued, “You are beautiful, you can do anything, you got this … Go, fight, win!”

I was able to share something with these little girls that I didn’t learn until I was older. Let me just put it this way, “Everything I really needed to know about life, I didn’t learn in school, I learned at my high school reunion.” Here are a few of those lessons:

  1. The “nerdy” boys grew up, filled out, got a good education and got great jobs.
  2. The popular boys were just regular guys in the real world.
  3. The popular girls were actually really nice (contrary to my belief that pretty and “perfect” equaled mean).
  4. Most of the rest of us, turned out okay … more than okay actually, pretty great.
  5. Here’s the kicker – the lesson I learned that meant the most to me: The boy who tormented me and teased me from about grade four right up until high school graduation, the boy who rode his bike up and down my street making fun of me about my weight and other things, really LIKED me … huh?

Let’s call him “Jay”. Jay glommed on to me right away at that 10 year high school reunion (19 years ago) and followed me around like a little puppy. It was kind of cute for about fifteen minutes but then it got annoying. Eventually, I asked him why he was following me and being so nice to me after tirelessly taunting me for all the years we were in school together. He said something like, “Why do you think I rode my bike by your house every day after school and knocked on your door and teased you?” I thought to myself, “Because you were a JERK?” But I said something like, “Why?” “Because I liked you. I had a huge crush on you,” he confessed.

Seriously!? I thought I should ask him for his address so I could send him the bill for my psychotherapy (I never really had any therapy, but I probably could have used some). I also felt like asking him if he would like his face to meet my fist right there and then, or if he would just like me to run him down with my car later in the parking lot (just kidding of course and I’ve totally forgiven him).

There were other “teasers”, Jay wasn’t the only one. Like they say, kids can be cruel sometimes – that’s just a rule of thumb. I wasn’t always an angel either regardless of what my mom tells you. So lets get tough, right? Let’s get some thick skin, right? Easier said than done.

I’m going to cut Jay some slack though because he didn’t start those thoughts; those thoughts came into my life before he did. He just drilled them home. He just confirmed my ugly feelings about my “ugly” self. He just made me think that he and everyone else thought I was “grotesque”. I never shared those feelings with anyone, I stuffed them down into the depths of my heart. Pretending I was okay with myself, but I wasn’t okay. And oddly enough, I often stuffed them down even further with food as I began my journey of on again, off again dieting.

People will read this and think how silly because she’s not fat and even if she was a little chubby as a child and teenager, what’s the big deal? Get over it! But you have to understand, it’s about an image, a self image that starts off as a whisper. A little faint voice that says, “Your legs are bigger than hers.” The whisper becomes louder, “Not only are you fat, you’re dumb.” Eventually the voices scream, “YOU ARE WORTHLESS!”

The yo-yo dieting and self loathing became routine for me … one begat the other.  It’s funny because I had words of encouragement and affirmation from home and elsewhere, but I guess the negative words are just louder. But if God’s words couldn’t get through, I guess no one’s could. I was believing the lies because I wasn’t buying into my Heavenly Father’s love for me. Even to this day, I struggle to believe He loves me the way He does. Not because He doesn’t show it, but because I think I’m not worth it. The dieting is long over (although my weight still fluctuates because I still stuff food a little now and then) and so is the self-loathing, but God continually tries to get this through, “I love you the way you are.” And I still find it hard to accept.

I still sit in the bathtub sometimes and wonder if I should cry over the size of my thighs or over the fact that I am so vain. Should I cry because I’m still not “good enough” or that, unlike me, so many people don’t have strong legs, hot water to bathe in, a roof over their heads, food to eat or safety? Wow, perspective can weigh a ton.

Let’s back up here though. Let’s talk about that love. I’m convinced that the mess in our heads and in this world exists because we can’t grasp how wide and long and high and deep the Father’s love is for us (Ephesians 3:18). Some people might think, “No, the world is messed up because of sin … the sinfulness of mankind.” Ya, but even before that, go back before the sin began. Think about Adam and Eve and how pure they were. They’d never been teased or told how unworthy they were and yet they still couldn’t grasp the love of God and trust He knew what was better for them than they did – like a Father does – instead, they did it their own way. And here we are today, still doing it our own way, unable to grasp His love or trust Him fully.

The voices say,  “You are ugly. You are fat. You’re dumb. You’re a loser. You are a disgrace. You should never have been born.” God says, “I made you in my image. (Genesis 1:26) I knit you together in your mother’s womb and you are fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139) The voices say, “You make the same mistakes over and over again, and there’s that one that is so huge, you’ll never be forgiven.” God says, “My mercies are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:23) If you confess your sins, I am faithful to forgive you.” (1 John 1:9) “As far as the East is from the West, I have removed your transgressions.” (Psalm 103:12) “I blot out your sins and remember them no more.” (Isaiah 43:25)

He also says, “I knew you before you were conceived. You are not a mistake for all your days were written in my book. I know when you sit and when you rise. My plan for your future has always been filled with hope. I love you with an everlasting love. My thoughts toward you are as countless as the sand on the seashore. I rejoice over you with singing. I am for you, not against you. I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine. I am the Father who comforts you in all your troubles. I am not counting your sins. I love you even as I love my Son, Jesus. His death was the ultimate expression of my love for you.” (From Father’s Love Letter)

“I have always been Father, will you be my child? Will you accept my love?”

Regarding the “teasers”, the bullies, the haters? You know what they say, “Hurt people hurt people.” They also say something about fear, not hate, being the enemy of love. I’m not exactly sure what that means, but I know fear and hate don’t come from God, but love and peace do. The bullies bully and the haters hate, because they too, perhaps even more so, have no idea how to grasp this perfect, extravagant love of the Heavenly Father and maybe they haven’t experienced (or can’t accept) the love of an earthly father or anyone else for that matter – I don’t know. Regardless, I don’t think Jay falls into this category though, I think he, along with many boys (and some girls), unfortunately communicate their feelings in a really mixed up way. And I can see how that has something to do with fear; perhaps we all fall into this trap on occasion.

Anyway, I am certain that if we could all grasp how wide and long and high and deep the Father’s love is for us, internal and global wars would cease … Oh the peace!

IMG_1349

This blog post was inspired by a challenge on Facebook that my friend Adele nominated me for – Post 5 picture in 5 days over 15 years old. This is what I said with the above picture (at 9 yrs)  and two other pictures:

“Day #4  – This has been a lot of fun, but time to get serious and let you in on a little secret. I’m 8, 9 and 10 years old and already hate my body. I was active, I liked sports and was good at sports and I was a fast runner, but this was the beginning of years of yo-yo dieting and self loathing. When I found this soccer picture a couple of years ago, I cried because I remembered hating my legs, but they were good legs. I’ve never liked the look of my legs but I’ve grown to love them for all they do for me. They are amazing! Time to get down on these strong knees and thank God for them!”

When I showed Mike this picture he cried and smiled … he loved it and loved me for me. He definetly helped me believe God’s love for me is extravagant. He’d want you to know it’s extravagant for you too!

I look forward to my 30 year high school reunion this summer (wow, time flies). Sadly, Jay won’t be there, he passed away a couple of years ago. RIP J.M.

I’ve had quite a few book sales already for Christmas, thanks! I have more available if you are local, otherwise you can order online: Hold On, Let Go – facing ALS with courage and hope