Friday, 24 February 2012

An Elbow In The Rib, A Knee In The Thigh

When we moved into our house seven years ago, Mike and I had to downsize from a queen size bed to a double. It was well worth the sacrifice to move into the home I admired since I was a young girl. This old house is in the neighbourhood I grew up in. My friends and I would ride by it on our bikes on our way to our softball games. We would walk by on our way up town and when we got older, we would drive by it on our way home from school.
It’s a small house, but a really cute one. The master bed room is pretty small. I’m not so sure of the square footage, but you can touch every wall from the bed. I can close the door from the bed. I can reach my hand lotion on my dresser from my bed and with the window at the head of the bed, I can easily close and open it anytime through the night. Mike and I like a cold room and a warm bed, so we sleep with the window open and a big, heavy, thick blanket…it’s comforting.
I often call our bed room a nest. It’s like a hideaway…a little place of refuge. The Lord’s presence is great there, perhaps it’s because lots of prayer happens there. It’s a place to escape. It’s a place to hide, a place to read, a place to cry. It’s a place we laugh and talk and cuddle and other stuff. And of course it’s a place to sleep.
Sleeping in a double bed brings you closer to your mate…literally. When Mike turns over in the night, I’m the first to know. I help him sort out the blanket and pillows. When one of us gets up to go to the bathroom, it’s hard to keep it from the other. Coughing, sneezing, bad breath…just breathing and the other one knows about it. You can’t not touch when sleeping together in that small bed. His claw (hand brace) digs into my back. My cold feet find warmth on his. An elbow in the rib, a knee in the thigh, but we don’t mind, it’s a reminder the other one is there. It’s a good feeling knowing the other one is there.
Last night was different. We slept in a King size bed in the hotel we are staying at while on our last hockey road trip. It was really weird. Mike was way over there and I felt a little lost. Granted I had a good sleep…I stretched right out. I didn’t hear him when he got up to go to the washroom. I did wake up when he came back though, which was good because I could help him get back in. It’s a comfy bed and we are sleeping in it again tonight, but I think I’ll move over a little. I don’t mind the ‘claw’ digging into my back because I know he’s there.
                                                                Our little old house

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

You had me at "Adorable"

Mike isn’t your typical ‘romantic’. He has his own way of showing his ‘romantic’ side. Mike and I have had twenty five Valentine’s days together, but haven’t really celebrated any of them. He did hit the ball out of the park on the first one though…he sent me and my mom roses. My dad was away and I guess Mike didn’t want my mom to be left out. Can you imagine? I thought I was dating Romeo…until the next Valentine’s Day that is. Like I said, Mike isn’t your typical ‘romantic’. He doesn’t really go for the commercialism of romance and love. He thinks giving me flowers on February 13th or on February 15th is much more special because everybody gets flowers on the 14th. There was that one other Valentine’s day that he gave me a beautiful gift, but it wasn’t because of Valentine’s day, it was because I gave birth to our third child, Madison (Feb 14th, 1994).
Mike doesn’t buy cards; he has made a few pretty good ones though. Candle lit dinners aren’t really his thing either. The lack of lighting makes it difficult for him to see what I have left on my plate for him to help himself to. He sometimes gives me chocolate, but not necessarily for anything special. I happen to really like chocolate and you know what they say, ‘’A happy wife makes a happy life.’’
Anyway, this is how Mike swept me off my feet in his romantic way: He lived in a big house with a bunch of guys; the house was appropriately called the ‘’Shack’’. I met Mike at the Shack when I was there hanging out with some friends visiting a mutual guy friend who just moved in (people were coming and going all the time). I had met Mike briefly a couple of times, but the third times a charm and that’s when we struck up a conversation. It was the day before Halloween and I was telling him how I had to dress up for work the next day. I told him I thought I would dress up as a mouse, because I was a hostess at a restaurant and it would be easy to move around in basic black pants and a black top. I would just have to throw on some ears and paint some whiskers on my face. He told me to come over before I went to work because he wanted to see my costume. The next day, I was running a little late, so I didn`t make it over to the Shack before my shift, but I did go over after work for the Halloween party. Mike wasn’t there when I got there, but he did come home a little later. He told me he got called into work and not knowing I didn’t come over before my shift, he asked me if I got the note he left one of his roommates to give me. I said, ‘’What note?’’ He said, ‘’Never mind.’’ I promptly found the roommate with the note and asked if I could please have it. He handed me a little box with a note. The note said something like this: Sorry I couldn’t be here to see you in your mouse costume before you went to work, but I got called into work myself. I’m sure you look adorable. Have a good day at work and Happy Halloween! He signed it, Mike. I read the note and then opened the little gift wrapped box. Inside; a piece of cheese! Well, he had me at ‘adorable’, the cheese just clenched the deal and the rest is history!
Okay, so it’s February 15th…my flowers should be arriving anytime now, but it doesn’t matter because every day is Valentine’s Day around here…there is lots of love, that’s for sure!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Determination and a Faith That Isn't Easily Shaken

When I came home from my class this morning (Wednesday), I found Mike out in the garage on his stationary bike. He assured me he didn’t need my help when he was finished like he had needed the few times before. He told me to go in the house and he would come when he was finished his ride. I nervously agreed.
I watched for him to come out of the garage from the kitchen window. I was relieved when I saw the garage door open and Mike walk out. Steam was coming off his body and he was dripping with sweat (which is normal). He slowly made his way toward the back steps and I went out and met him there and offered him a hand. With a big smile on his face, he told me again he was fine and didn’t need any help.
Mike was happy to report that he rode ten miles on his bike…he hasn’t gone ten miles for about a month. It was obvious he was pleased with his accomplishment, and I was impressed and very proud. Not only did he ride ten miles, but he walked down the back stairs, across the yard, into the garage, got on his bike, did the ten, got off his bike, made his way back across the yard, up the stairs and in the house…all by himself. Then, he went upstairs to the bathroom and had a shower. The only thing he asked me to do was dry his back.
Most days lately, I have helped him out the back door, down the stairs, across the yard, into the garage, on the bike, off the bike, out of the garage, back across the yard, up the stairs, in the house, up the stairs to the bathroom and into the shower. How did he know he didn’t need my help today? Because he tried! Sometimes he tries, and is unsuccessful and asks for help, but Mike just doesn’t stop trying. He has this amazing determination that is inspiring. Many of us would have thrown in the towel by now, but Mike uses the towel to wipe the sweat off his brow...and he never gives up.
Mike is teaching me about perseverance, patience and the power of positive thinking. He has also taught me the importance of having a faith that is not easily shaken. Something else, he just never says "I can’t".
Continuous, unflagging effort, persistence and determination will win. Let not the man be discouraged who has these. James Whitcomb Riley

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Sunk Without Him

Thursday night was the annual board meeting (AGM) for Amazon Evangelism/ Project Wellness. I am proud and humbled to be Vice President and to sit amongst the board members and beside my dad, the President at these meetings. I have written before about our little family’s charitable organization that was started many years ago by my parents, George and Sheila Klassen. (Check out my blog post: Man on a Mission).
At the meeting last night my dad told us about some of the accomplishments of the last year: six wells drilled, a new building used to feed and educate orphans and 300 plus orphans fed for the year. My dad paused to tell us a story of how on his last trip, seven children came to him led by a little girl who seemed to be the care taker of the group, she was about eight or nine years old. She told my dad that they were on their own and homeless and asked if they could please be included with the other children (the three hundred that were being taken care of in this particular village). My dad told us that he of course said “of course” and “How could I say no?”  And then he said to us, “The Lord always provides.”
The story reminded me of one of my trips to Malawi, Africa (I have been to Africa five times). Mike was along on this trip and he spent a lot of time at the local hospital. Mike went to the hospital every morning, with or without the rest of us (on this particular trip it was me, Mike, my mom, Erin and her friend Lauren). Mike would first stop at the market and get as many tomatoes and bananas as he could carry, and then head over. He made sure that every patient and their family members got a piece or two of fruit and a vitamin. He would make as many trips to the market as needed. Most days he had our help, but some days he did it on his own.
Mike worked tirelessly and inspired the rest of us to keep going back. Erin and Lauren would visit the children and give out stickers and crayons and coloring books and my mom and I visited with the adult patients. My mom and I got to know a man named Amos suffering with pneumonia. On our first visit I asked if we could pray for him and he kindly accepted. On our second visit he said that our prayers were answered and he was feeling much better. On our third visit, we brought him a small book of Bible verses and asked if there was anything he needed. He told us he was being released in a day or two and didn’t have bus fare to get home. He said he could also use a clean shirt and some food for the journey. When we came the next day with Mike’s whitest shirt, bus fare and some granola bars and fruit, Amos was overjoyed. I asked him where the book we gave him was so I could stick the money inside the pages to keep it safe. He pulled back the covers and showed me the book he was holding close to his heart. The next day, Amos was sitting up on the side of his bed, proudly wearing his new ‘Run a Mile for Mental Health’ t-shirt and a smile from ear to ear, I said a prayer for him and we said our good byes.
Once in a while I think about Amos and how a little bit of help went a long way for him. That’s what it’s been like for me and Mike lately too. A little bit of help from a lot of people has gone a long way for us for sure. And like my dad said at the meeting, “the Lord always provides”!
I have asked the Lord for help many times since Mike was diagnosed with ALS and the Lord has been faithful and has provided help over and over again. He has used family, friends and people we don’t even know to help and He always seems to know what we need just when we need it. (Not just for physical needs to be met, but for encouragement, re-assurance and hope etc.)
Here are a few ways we were helped in the past couple of weeks:  There was a card in our mail box that had some twenty dollar bills in it and the words from a wonderful old hymn: “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow”…the card contained some other encouraging words and was unsigned. A Facebook message of hope from our pastor/friend Trevor…just the right Word at just the right time….and other messages from friends to say they were praying for us. Our friend Charlotte showed up unexpectedly with a meal. My friend Pauline helped me with a major project. My sister picked me up when I was down. Mike’s sister Pat made Mike one of his favourite dinners. My mom brought me over some gluten free snacks. My dad slipped me some cash for our hockey road trip. The day before yesterday, we received some more twenties wrapped up in a wonderful message from my cousin Gail from Steinbach, Manitoba. She told Mike to do something fun with the money – she suggested he take me out or put it toward his new career as a movie critic (see Mike’s blog post: Bureaucratic Red Tape). Mike got a kick out of that!
One night last week my mom had to go the hospital because she was experiencing chest pain. My sister and I visited with her while we waited in a room in emerg to hear what the doctor had to say about the tests that were taken earlier.  When the doctor came in, we were relieved right away. He was very upbeat and friendly and told us a joke. He and my mom hit it off and she told him how much she liked him. He assured us that my mom was okay and that she needed to keep an eye on her blood pressure because it was a little high. My sister suggested that perhaps she was anxious about her son-in-law, who had ALS. The doctor chatted with us for a while and I thought that was nice because he had about fifty other patients. Just as he was about to leave, my mom asked him if he was a praying man. He said he was. My mom asked him to please pray for Mike and me. He put his hand on my shoulder and prayed. When he finished, we all agreed how much we need the Lord. The doctor said, “I’d be sunk without Him,” and left the room.
The following message was sent to me by email from my 11 (almost 12) year old niece Michaela:
I wanted to tell you thanks for being such a great auntie and for loving me so much. You mean a lot to me and you and uncle are so inspiring to me. With uncle’s A.L.S. you guys show me how strong you are and how much faith you have in God. I know how hard it’s been and I keep praying for you guys. Once again just thank you so much and I am willing to do whatever I can to help. You’re always there for me and now it’s time for me to help you. "And without faith it is impossible to please Him for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." Hebrews 11:6