Thursday, 29 March 2012

A Really Good Book

Mike and I finished reading the book of Psalms last night. For the last couple of months, every night after getting settled into bed, I have opened my Bible to the book of Psalms and read aloud the words found in this ancient compilation of prayer and praise. It's been like a late night snack…a tasty morsel that feeds and satisfies the soul. It directs the thinking away from the fears and worries of this world to the greatness of God. It provides comfort and joy and hope in times of trouble.

I started reading the Bible in elementary school. In Catechism class, I learned my way around the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John); the first four books of the New Testament. It's a good place to start reading this great big book. I enjoyed reading about the life and times of Jesus. When I was a teenager, I made the decision to follow Jesus and I asked Him into my heart. My "religious" experience was entering into a relationship with the One I read about and was taught about as a young girl. Now He was more than a wonder I read about in black ink on white pages; He became my friend, my Saviour and the Lord of my life…I simply opened the door of my heart and invited Him in…He happened to be right there knocking.

As an older teenager, I would lay on my bedroom floor with this great big book and devour the New Testament; soaking up the writings of the Apostle Paul and James, Peter and John. The Psalms and Proverbs from the Old Testament also captivated me.  I would underline and highlight words and sentences and paragraphs that spoke to me in profound ways.
Over time, the book of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Danielle got my attention and only in the last few years I have really come to appreciate other Old Testament writings. But through thick and thin, through the good, the bad and the ugly, the Book of Psalms has always been there to comfort and encourage me.

One of my favourite modern day writers and Bible teachers is Stormie Omartian. This is what Stormie says about the book of Psalms:
Here, in Israel's ancient hymnal, we find every kind of prayer imaginable: exuberant praises and terrified cries for help, spontaneous songs of thanksgiving and carefully constructed statements of divine truth, national laments and individual confessions, lengthy expressions of trust and concise pleas for justice.

No matter what the state of your soul – sorrow, doubt, joy, anger, gratitude, guilt, or wonder – Psalms will teach you how to express your heart honestly, authentically, thoroughly.
If you spend time reading and understanding these prayers and then take them and make them your own, you will find a more satisfying prayer life. Much more than that, you will find God Himself. Then you will be able to exult with the psalmist "Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the person who takes refuge in Him" (Psalm 34:8).

Here are a few words from the book of Psalms, allowing them to speak for themselves:
In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation…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. (Ps 5)

The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, Lord have never forsaken those who seek you. (Ps 9)

You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry. (Ps10)

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken…You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. (Ps16)

I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer…Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings. (Ps 17)

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul…(Ps 23)

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle and set me high upon a rock. (PS 27)

The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all. (Ps 34)

I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory…my flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Ps 73)

When I said, "My foot is slipping," Your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul. (Ps 94)

Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. (Ps 103)

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, his love endures forever. (Ps 118)

I'm guessing when Mike and I go to bed tonight, Mike will ask if I'm going to read from the Psalms and I will open my Bible and start from the beginning. After all, it helps us sleep well.

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Mum's the Word

I had a very nice conversation with mike’s mum on the phone the day before yesterday. She had called in the morning and left a message while I was out teaching a fitness class. I called her back while Mike was in the garage on his bike. She was calling to check in on her son and I was happy to tell her he was doing well. We chatted for quite some time before Mike came in from his ride. I said good bye to Sheila and handed Mike the phone. I puttered in the kitchen and was blessed to listen to Mike talk with his mum on the phone in the other room. The relationship between a mother and her son is very special…a mom is the first woman a boy loves. Mike and his mum have a wonderful relationship and share an interest in many of the same things; old movies, politics, current events, history, religion and so on. I have always liked listening to their conversations; they are interesting, educational and funny sometimes. Listening to their conversation on the phone is a little tricky, but it didn’t matter what they were talking about, it just sounded good; so comfortable and so natural. Mike didn’t have to repeat himself once, so even though some of Mike’s words would have been hard to understand, I knew his mum understood and I thought ‘that’s just like a mum’.

My mom and Mike also have a great relationship. After my mom got used to Mike’s pranks, they really started to click. She has found the craziest things in her purse…sugar packs and creamers from restaurants, rocks, empty candy wrappers and other garbage, nuts and bolts (not the snack), and other random objects. She also has the opposite problem with things going missing from her purse. She has looked everywhere for gloves that have disappeared along with shoes, her glasses and so on. Mike is relentless and she is a really good sport. They joke all the time and laugh a lot. They bring out the ‘kid’ in each other and it’s been fun to watch over the years.

Mike is really lucky to have two mums/moms and he knows it. Two moms, equals twice the love, twice the attention, double the birthday money. Some people don’t have one mom and he has two and so do I and we are incredibly grateful…we are so thankful!

The following is my mom’s contribution to the blog:

A LOVE FILLED FAMILY – by Sheila Klassen

My husband, George and I have been blessed with two wonderful daughters, their husbands, five grandchildren and a great grandchild!

Mike and Nadine in their early years of marriage stayed with us while they were waiting to move into a new place. Mike was a creative cook and taught me how to tell if the spaghetti was ready. You just throw a string of it against the wall and if it sticks it’s done. I thought that was a good idea until he didn’t bother to take a noodle off the wall one day. When I noticed it a few days later and pulled it off, the paint it was stuck to, came along with it. He had many other helpful hints (lol). We got to know Mike and his antics quickly and grew to like him very much. We thought he was pulling our leg when he told us that his parent’s names were the same ours; George and Sheila, but that story was true.  When Mike introduced his parents to us, it was kind of humorous; Sheila this is George, George meet Sheila, George, this is George, Sheila here’s Sheila etc. Mike is very close to his family and even though they live so far away, they are in close touch and he goes there to visit and they come here sometimes too.

Mike’s illness has not kept him down. He does as much as he can for himself even though Nadine and the children are at his side to help. Mike is an inspiration and draws strength from the love and encouragement of his family (his family, Nadine’s family…one big family!)

Mike and Nadine are a true example of love and marriage! They go together like a horse and carriage. If one is pulling, the other is right behind. We never hear a complaint from either one of them. We are so thankful to God for blessing us with this wonderful family. WE LOVE EACH ONE OF YOU VERY MUCH!

Roses are red, Violets are blue, Mike and Nadine they stick like glue.

Top picture: My mom and Mike hiding from the nurses when I was in the hospital giving birth to our oldest child, Erin. Bottom: Mike and my mom polishing off the rest of the ice cream. Both pictures taken in 1989

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Let's Roll

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of Mike’s ALS diagnosis. We didn’t celebrate the occasion, the diagnosis or the illness of course, but we do believe there are many things to celebrate every day.

The day before yesterday, a big white truck pulled up in our driveway and right away I thought I must had forgotten Big Brothers or the Diabetes Association was coming to pick up used house hold goods and clothing. Instead, a nice young man unloaded a wheel chair and bench for the shower. When he brought the items to the door, I said, “Wow that was fast.” And thanked him very much. Mike said, “I guess it’s true what they say. I must have ALS.”
We had just been to see the ALS team at GF Strong the week before and put in a request for a wheel chair and they suggested the bench for the shower. We also signed up for the ALS Society. We had heard so many great things about the ALS Society and quickly found out it was all true. Lisa from the ALS Society sent an email to introduce herself and let us know of some upcoming events. She also called and left a friendly message, letting us know that she was available to answer any questions and would love to talk and get to know us. I called her back and we had a wonderful conversation. She started by saying that she reads our blog and that it has encouraged and inspired others with ALS. She went on to tell me about the support provided by the Society, the few thousand pieces of equipment that get lent out to those who need it, the programs and events, the tax breaks and other interesting information. She told me about the researchers all over the world who ultimately work as a team to find a cure for ALS and how people have dedicated their lives to this good work. She excitedly told me that she didn’t think they were that far off from finding a cure. Then she said she would happily find a new job if they didn’t need an ALS Society anymore. I told her that we are very hopeful and pray for the cure to come soon. She finished the conversation by mentioning again that she is a faithful reader of the blog. She later followed up with an email with links and attachments and dates of seminars etc.

Shortly after the wheel chair and shower bench arrived the other day, Mike sat down to eat his lunch. I wheeled around a little in the wheel chair and commented a few times at how it looked brand new. Madison was baking in the kitchen and as Mike ate his lunch he entertained us with some witty remarks…he was cracking jokes and making me and Madison laugh. At one point, he said, “Hey, you’re making fun of a guy with a wheel chair.”
Mike has resisted the whole wheel chair thing and of course I don’t blame him. The guy is a stellar athlete; fit as a fiddle. Most of the time when you ask him how he is doing, he replies, “Great, couldn’t be better.” So what does a guy like that need with a wheel chair? I broached the subject very gently a little while ago and told him that we could use it when we are in a hurry to get somewhere or when we are just out for a walk and he needs a break. I told him we could take turns, I would push him for a while and then he could push me. He liked that idea.

Well, today was a beautiful day and Mike was itching to get outside, so he mentioned giving his new wheel chair a spin. I was itching to get outside too, so I jumped at the idea. I pushed the wheel chair out to the end of the driveway and as Mike got in he said, “Let’s roll.” Sure enough, about 10 minutes into the walk, he wanted out and told me to get in.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime - by Mike Sands

The Bible states that the love of money is the root of all evil.  Mark Twain says it’s the LACK of money is the root of all evil.  Whichever view you favour, there is a consensus in our society that money is important.  Money may not be the most important thing in life, but as John Paine states,’ it’s reasonably close to oxygen on the ‘gotta have it’ scale.’  Money is appealing and we all desire to have it.  We realize, as P.T. Barnum stated, that ‘money is a terrible master, but an excellent servant’ and therefore we strive to be ‘the master of our own domain’. (Seinfeld episode) 

The question I pose is, how far do we go to obtain this dirty, filthy currency?  13% of all coins and 43% of all bills test positive for harmful bacteria and yet our society (not including the Japanese who heat press all cash at 395 degrees in all ATM machines) lovingly covets it close to our pockets and hearts.  There are countless stories of people demeaning themselves for the all mighty dollar.  The T.V. show ‘Survivor’ is an excellent example of this where contestants lie, cheat demean and debase themselves in order to win the game and the money.  Marrying someone for their money is not uncommon. There was the story of a woman who was berating her husband for the disproportionate value he brought to the household income.  She yelled at him, ‘If it weren’t for my money, this couch wouldn’t be here.  And if it wasn’t for my money, this house wouldn’t be here.  And if it wasn’t for my money, that car wouldn’t be here”.  The husband then piped up, “Ya, and if wasn’t for your money I wouldn’t be here.”  This brings me to my story of how far I went for the almighty dollar.
When I was 8 or 9 years old, I was in Grahams five and dime store with my mother in the Highland Creek Village.  I overheard a little girl say to her mother, “Mum, I found a dime”.  I was far enough away that I’m sure they thought that I did not hear their conversation.  I then said to my mum in a loud enough voice so the little girl and her mother would hear, “mum, I lost my dime.”(I bought into Will Rogers’  philosophy that it’s morally wrong to let a sucker keep his money) I saw out of the corner of my eye the girl’s mother motion her to give me back my ‘lost’ dime.  I took the dime and probably bought a chocolate bar with it that I’m sure didn’t taste as good as the previous ones I’ve had.  Since that day, and many family and friends can attest to, I have found an unusually large amount of dimes wherever I go.  I find them on walks, store floors, ice rinks, almost everywhere I go.  One time I found a nickel in a schoolyard field while I was waiting for my daughter.  I thought to myself, ‘what’s this, a nickel! (not a dime)’.  I took another five or ten steps and found another nickel.  Last week I found a nickel in Zellers, the next day I found a nickel at the ice rink.  Even when it’s not a dime, it adds up to a dime.

I don’t know if me finding all these dimes is a way for God to punish me for my dastardly deed, or if it’s a reminder for me to keep my path straight, but it definitely has given me a different perspective on how I view the almighty dollar and how I acquire it.  Everyone realizes large amounts of money won’t make you happy but everyone wants the opportunity to find that out for themselves.  Take it from me, after that incident, I realized money is not that important that you sell your soul for; it can as they say, buy a fine dog but cannot make him wag his tail.


Thursday, 1 March 2012

Iron Will

Yesterday morning, I taught an intense but really fun step class. After class, I went to the changing room to wash up; change and blow dry my sweaty hair. I know that sounds gross, but I had another class later in the day, and if I washed my hair after every workout, I’d be styling and blow drying way more than I want to.

While I was in the changing room, a young woman came up to me and asked if she could ask me an “ab” question. I said “absolutely”, fire away. She asked me how she could lose her belly fat. She explained that she had had a C-section three years ago and was still struggling to lose the weight around her tummy. She lifted her shirt to reveal the ugly fat, but in my opinion, it wasn’t bad at all…a little extra skin we all get to keep along with the bundle of baby joy. I showed her some exercises right there on the floor of the changing room and she told me about her current exercise routine. I talked about strengthening the transvers abdominal muscles using the exercise ball and how to increase core strength with planks etc. and I assured her that she looked great and was on the right track with her cardio and strength training program. She thanked me and left and as she walked away I wondered if she had any idea how beautiful she was and how her belly fat paled in comparison to the rest of her beauty. Most people would be captivated by her gorgeous smile; big blue eyes and wavy hair…belly fat? What belly fat? Who is going to notice the little roll around her waist when they are staring at her face?  I also thought about Mike and how he exercises in a desperate attempt to extend his life and maintain some independence. Most of us exercise to look good…feeling good is just a bonus.
When I got home from the gym, Mike was just coming in from the garage where he rides his stationary bike. I asked how his ride was and he said, “Great!” He said he felt good and that he is still strong cardiovascularly and his legs are strong and with a smile he said, “Even though I can barely walk.” He told me he rode his usual 10 miles at level 8 (out of 10) and then said again a few time that he felt great.

Mike believes that a good diet and exercise are very important for his condition. Mike went to Toronto in January to visit his family for a couple of weeks. He had a great time, but didn’t keep to his diet and exercise regimen and when he got home, he couldn’t walk without help…he couldn’t really do anything without help. We both were very alarmed at how quickly his health declined, but after a few weeks of being back on his schedule, he improved…what a relief!
Mike attributes his ability to ride his bike to a strong cardiovascular system and strong legs. Which is true however, I attribute it more to his mental strength, an iron will, a positive attitude and a desire to live…not just exist, but LIVE!

I am very privileged to watch and learn as Mike continues to display such courage and determination. It’s a humbling experience too. I have to admit, I am just like the woman in the changing room; I have complaints about my body and want to improve how I look…what woman doesn’t?  But I’m learning to be more appreciative of my health; my ability to move, to exercise, to walk and jog and run around the house with my graddaughter on my back while the dog chases us.
Thanks Mike for your compelling example and for doing what you can to be with us for as long as possible. I am so proud of you!