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Everything Changes

The more messed up this world gets, the more God makes sense.

Rain

Saturday, June 28, 2014
"He sends rain on the righteous..." [Matthew 5:45]
We can't avoid rain.  It rains on everyone.  And for the most part rain is good - we need rain in our lives because without it nothing can grow.  Well, perhaps cactus can, but you know what I mean.

I don't own a house but if I did I'd want it to have a huge porch so I could sit and watch the rain.  As a kid I'd run across the street and sit on my cousin's porch to watch storms pass through.  Granted, our parents didn't like this much for fear that a lightning bolt would obliterate us all!

Last week my dad passed away peacefully at the age of 83.  And while the sun shone brightly the day we laid him to rest I experienced some stressful stormy driving conditions on the journey back to Canada.  The rain came down so hard on my second travel day that I had to pull over to the side of the road to wait out the storm.

Rain is a good thing.  But rain can also be disruptive - and no one is exempt from the storms of life.  They WILL come.  And we WILL have to endure them.  But Jesus goes through the storm with us, and He calms "the wind and the waves."  [Matthew 8:23-27]

Today, let "the peace of Christ rule in your hearts" [Colossians 3:15] regardless of the "weather" conditions in your life.

Father's Day 2014

Sunday, June 15, 2014
It's Father's Day and it is a beautifully sunny morning. Last night I returned from visiting my dad. I took my time coming back and spent one night at a hotel in Indiana (with a jacuzzi, of course) and one night with friends in Windsor.

My dad was moved into a nursing home with hospice care the day after I left. My sister sent a couple of email updates to say that he was getting settled and that the nursing staff was wonderful.

About two hours before my arrival home my cell phone said I missed a call from my brother-in-law. I feared the worse because 30 minutes prior I had a meltdown in my rental car. Stopping at a rest area on the highway I sent a text to my brother-in-law and discovered he was calling with an update. So I told him I'd return his call when I got home.

Dad was resting comfortably but his blood pressure had dropped significantly. His breathing was slowing and sounds of aspiration were evident - fluid in his lungs. The nurses told my sister it may only be another 24-48 hours so she opted to stay with him.

My dad has Parkinson's Disease. And outside of a few tremors every now and then he's been as healthy as a horse. No one prepared us for this phase of the disease. Sure, he's had good days and bad days, but a sudden and complete shutdown was not in the cards. Not like this.

A few days ago I spoke with the hospitalist who ironically had been my dad's family doctor. Her dad had Parkinson's too, and to her this was the normal progression of things. How we missed this information over the years surprises me. It seems so sudden - and so very unexpected.

Yeah, I was aware that the meds made him loopy and want to sleep, and that his mobility was progressively getting worse, but this? There were no indicators, no clues that this was coming, so swiftly and so stealth-like.

So today, while families celebrate their dads, I wait for "the" call. In some ways I hope he goes today, for two reasons: I don't want him to suffer; and Father's Day would be the perfect time to remember my dad each year.

Happy Father's Day, dad. You are on my mind and will always be in my heart.

When Life Gets In The Way

Thursday, June 12, 2014
So much for my holiday goals - it's been four days since I blogged.  I also haven't been reading or getting anywhere close to a body of water.  Life happened this week.  I knew that my visit would be different, but not like this.  My dad is not well and my sister and I had to take care of some things.

Care.  We all need it, but when health is affected and you can't take care of yourself others need to step up.  Thankfully I was able to be there with my sister as we went through some of my dad's "stuff" (how do we get some much) and managed my dad's affairs.  He's still with us, but according to the hospital it won't be long.

What the?!  Just 3 months ago he was doing so good!  My brother even came for a visit a few weeks ago and sent a positive report!  What the hell happened?  He fell a couple of weeks ago and broke some ribs.  Okay.  Then assisted living said they couldn't keep him any longer.  Uh?  Isn't that what you're supposed to do?  Help me with his day-to-day life?  No, they said he needed long term care.  So, my sister made those arrangements last week and he was moved.  Three hours later he was back in the hospital, on the geriatric psych ward, because he got agitated at the nursing home and tried to choke a nurse.

Once I arrived my dad was just not himself.  His meds hadn't changed, they weren't giving him psych meds, and realistically he should have been himself.  But he wasn't.  He didn't even acknowledge me when my sister told him I was there.  It was more like he didn't know either of us were there.  Damn.  What is going on?!

The next day, after my sister and I had taken two truckloads of "stuff" to the Goodwill the hospital called - the social worker needed to talk to us.  So my sister and I headed to the hospital.  

"Your dad needs to be in hospice care."  Oh my gosh!  Hospice?!  That is for people who are dying!  For people that don't have long to live!  My dad only has Parkinson's Disease, he's not sick!



My sister's backyard is like an oasis, and I had the wonderful chance to sit outside with my sister a few mornings drinking my Brazilian coffee while trying to clear my head.  Unfortunately it rained a lot while I was there and yet we made the most of it.  This morning before I left to return home I didn't want to leave the spot I had claimed under the arbour.  I wanted to just stay there, drink coffee and listen to the birds sing.  I felt so conflicted about going home.



Yesterday I said goodbye to my dad.  He was awake, sort of, but he didn't really know me.  So, I said, okay, it's time to go.  Then I broke down and sobbed like a baby.  I didn't want to leave him. 

Apparently twice now my dad has said that he was ready to go - home, that is, to heaven.  I know that when my dad passes I will see him again one day in eternity, but today that doesn't seem to offer much comfort.  I'm broken and sad and I pray that either God will restore my dad or take him quickly - because the one thing I absolutely do not want is for my dad to suffer.

After I composed myself I leaned over and kissed my dad on the forehead and said, "I hope to see you again soon, Dad."  And then I walked out of the hospital room.  Today he is being moved into a long term home that will provide 24 hour support plus hospice care - care that... "improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual."

Looks Like Rain

Saturday, June 07, 2014
I'm a little more than half way to my final destination.  When I was young I would drive 15-20 hours in one trip.  That was then.  Now I like to take my time, especially when I'm visiting family vs. flying to a beach destination - the hotel stops make it feel a bit more like a real holiday.

I have been so blessed by great weather this week but the clouds appear to be moving in.  I guess that doesn't really mean anything.  Maybe I should check the weather.  Or perhaps I'll just wait and see if the clouds are gone when I wake up tomorrow morning.

I have driven this same route many times over the last few years so I know it like the back of my hand.  And my travel routine has become standard - pick up the rental car, grab a Timmies and bagel, stop for a pee break at the highway rest area and pick up lunch, grab a double tall vanilla roy latte before crossing the border, get gas near Toledo and spend the night just north of Indy before jumping in the car for another 5 hours.

Today the other drivers on the highway were just plain crazy.  Like they were all new drivers and didn't know the basic rules of the road.  And to top it off they were all either texting or talking on their cell phones!  Have I done it?  Yes.  I hate to admit it.  But not while other cars are around!  It's now illegal to use your cell phone in Ontario, unless it's hands-free.  But in the States?  They are still enjoying their "freedom" by driving motorcycles without helmets, carrying weapons and texting like madmen.

Well, it looks like it might rain in this here land of the free.  I just hope the crazy people stay away from me tomorrow.  Not sure if I handle them AND rain on the highway.

I Didn't Blog Today

Friday, June 06, 2014
That was the thought I had at 7:03PM.  Yes, I made my way to a body of water (one of my holiday goals), and yes, I read some fiction today (another goal), but my travel preparations for my departure tomorrow morning have kept me doing other things today besides blogging.

I did my laundry, including the bed sheets - because you always want to come home to clean bed sheets.  I cleaned the finch cage, I vacuumed downstairs (while upstairs waits for me to finish this so-called blog entry) and I prepped my car so my friend can drive it while I away with the rental.  Oh yeah, I also updated my iPod for the drive, because every now and then I might want to listen to some new tunes.  (SO important, eh?)

There were other things that transpired today, including an update from my sister RE: my dad.  Like, that he tried to strangle a nurse today at his new nursing home so they sent him back to the hospital for a dementia evaluation.  Fun stuff like that!  (Sarcasm.)

Seriously.  I don't know what to expect when I arrive.  The escapades don't sound like something my dad would do and I keep insisting that his meds are off or something else is going on.  Which is why I won't know until I get there and see things first hand.

Maybe that's why I didn't blog today.  Perhaps subconsciously I didn't want to write about my dad's woes again like I did yesterday.  And yet, here I am.

So let me end on a positive note.  I just had coffee with one of my spiritual sons and got to cuddle with my new grand-baby that just turned 1 month and 1 week today!  The circle of life.  How profound.

Long Term Care

Thursday, June 05, 2014
My dad is being moved into a nursing home this week - without my approval (sort of).  In many ways I'm an innocent bystander, powerless to do much from 700 miles away, but I'm conflicted nonetheless.

As I sat outside watching the steam from my morning coffee waft over the side of the mug given to me by Clara V. before she passed, I couldn't resist feeling a bit sentimental.

Four years ago I was living with my dad, mostly out of necessity, although I felt a strong responsibility too.  My mom had passed away suddenly from a massive stroke and my dad's one request was that he wasn't left alone.  So I sold my belongings and moved back to the States.

In the six months I lived there I was able to observe my dad very closely.  After all, we were sharing a cozy two bedroom apartment and his daily needs quickly became obvious.  He was taking medication that was no longer required which had disabled him severely.  Once I was able to ween him off and adjust the required meds he returned to his old self in many ways.  I'm sure it also helped that he was eating properly, something I suspected wasn't happening before my mom passed.

After establishing home care I returned to Canada because it was my "home" and the stress of caring for my dad daily became overwhelming.  However, my dad was doing well and I had peace of mind knowing that someone would be at his house every day.

During my stay-cation this week I determined to read something fictional on a daily basis.  I completed the first short novel and moved onto a novella entitled The Faded Flower.  Although it, too, is fiction, it is hitting home in a profound way.

The book is about a family who has to deal with the sudden loss of dad's job while discovering that grandpa was diagnosed with Alzheimer's which requires them to move him into a long term care facility.

While reading I stopped for a moment to observe the sun reflecting off the gigantic black walnut tree in my backyard. There was something very comforting about that.  Something that I've been experiencing through nature all week.

Perhaps it is simply that all nature declares the glory of the Lord.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
    It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth.
~ Psalm 19:1-6

I am leaving in 2 days to go see my dad.  In preparation for my visit I took this week off too, to rest and relax - and to let go of everyone else's baggage, focusing on me and my needs.  To clear my head, so to speak, not worrying about what tomorrow will bring.  Honestly?  That has been a challenge today.  Mostly because I think my dad would still be in the assisted living apartment we moved him into in March instead of being put into a nursing home.  I'm mad about it.  The nurse's didn't do their $3000-per-month-rent jobs.  I lived with my dad - his random misgivings were daily but I helped him overcome them.  Why couldn't they?  And why such a sudden move?  Has he really deteriorated that much since I saw him 3 months ago?

[Deep sigh.]

And so I digress.  Something I told myself I wouldn't trouble myself with this week. It's too much.  And I can't do anything about it.  Not today, anyhow.

Sun Worship

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

There's something so refreshing about sitting in the early morning sun, feeling the warmth it brings while listening to the birds sing their various songs. I don't get to experience this often as I'm usually out the door and off to work before the sun has arrived in my backyard.

But time off brings opportunity to, well... do nothing but sit in the sunshine. This morning is unusually peaceful as my neighborhood seems quiet and still. The cars that frequently zoom down my busy street must be taking alternate routes today; the barking dogs enjoying a lazy start to the day. And no one is in their adjoining yard cleaning up or mowing the lawn.


That may have something to do with the fact that it's "hump-day" and most of the world around me is working elsewhere.

Experts suggest that sunshine brings vitamin D with it, a much needed nutrient following our long and dark winter. The "D drops" that I've applied to my tongue on a daily basis over the last 6 months has ceased and been replaced by the real thing - sunshine, glorious sunshine.

Perhaps I am a sun-worshipper of sorts, although I'm not as hardcore as some. However, the "healthy glow" that results from my morning worship makes me feel better all around.
The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning
It's time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes
~ Jonas Myrin, Matt Redman

The Birds of the Air

Tuesday, June 03, 2014
Seagulls instinctively know that humans bear food. Especially at a public beach. They have become accustomed to eating scraps that the wind steals from picnic lunches or that people carelessly litter on the sand. So they lurk, waiting for the precise moment that a bag of chips or a box of fries scatters out across the beach as a seagull smorgasbord. And worse than that, once food is available they call out loudly to all their other seagulls friends until the feeding becomes frenzied!
Thankfully I did not spill my chips, and the seagulls strolling by have been rather subdued. Ah, but the day is young and there are more chips to be had.

Perhaps in some strange way we are part of God's provision for these feathered friends. In Matthew 6:26 the Bible tells us to look at the "birds of the air" as our example - they don't worry where their next meal will come from. In fact, God says He "feeds them" - and maybe, just maybe, God uses me to help them out.

Silly, right? But I do have bird feeders in my yard, and I often throw leftover bread crumbs outside (which magically disappear within minutes of being tossed).

So, God only knows. And as the seagulls get closer and closer to me on this beautiful beach I can only trust that God has everything under control.

And I like it that way.

God of Wonders

Monday, June 02, 2014
Gridlock. Construction. Unsettled weather.

Those were the demons I had to face today on the way to my next beach destination. The drive took an hour longer than it should have because traffic was completely stopped on the highway for more than 30 minutes. Truck fire - all lanes closed.

In the midst of my frustration an old song rose up from deep within me - "The enemy's been defeated... shout unto God with a voice of triumph!" In that moment I was grateful for "car-time" - the travel hours spent alone, driving to my various destinations.

Friends ask me if I listen to tons of music or sermons on CD while traveling and I promptly reply, "No." Although I am a musician and love  listening to music, I find it distracting on a long journey. 0n the other hand, not listening to music seems to open up my hearing to the voice of God. So I also tell my friends that my "car-time" is "God-time."

Today I DID turn on the news radio channel to find out why I was sitting still on the traffic, but as I waited for the highway to open God began to speak.

You know? Once I reached my destination the thoughts of gridlock vanished. Suddenly I was enjoying a beautiful beach location as planned. And even though it was overcast, with reports of a possibly thunderstorm, the skies opened up above me shining down glorious rays of sunlight.

Before I left today's beach I found a spot on some rocks near the surf. It was fascinating to watch what appeared to be swallows (or martins) flying swiftly over the top of the lake. What a wonderful Creator we serve.  
"Thank you, God, for leading me as I make my way through this life. And thank you for the beautiful wonders that You have created for me to enjoy!"

The Beach

Sunday, June 01, 2014
There is something calming about the beach.  No phone, no internet, no music - because, for me, music can be one of my greatest distractions.  Just me, a book, my journal, lots of sunscreen, a refreshing drink and gorgeous sunshine!

This morning I was scheduled to lead worship AND preach as our pastor is away on vacation.  At exactly 12 noon, as I said the final "Amen", I was officially commitment free!  While it's true that vacations and time away requires commitment, it's just not the same as the regular, daily "life" stuff.  Obviously reflected while I sat on a beach today slathered in sunscreen!

In my previous post I failed to mention that one of my vacation goals is to be near a different beach or body of water for at least a couple of hours each day.  Last Sunday I landed at Port Dover and today I enjoyed Turkey Point - and by "enjoyed" I mean... wow!  What a wonderful day at the beach!  Even with a (very high) UV index of nine!  I'm also planning to visit Port Dalhousie, Hamilton Bay and Grand Bend this week.  Once I land cross the border next weekend I will be staying near the Mississippi River - which I plan to visit daily.