Saturday, December 26, 2009
6:00 AM or earlier- Angela wakes up and wakes up whoever she can, usually Emily and myself (and yes, in that order, and yes, this was up until last year... her 26th birthday...) We would wait until a more humane time to wake up the rest of the family that our mom had specified the night before. We'd all open stockings after of course fingering through all the little wrapped gifts in order to try and guess what they all were. Dad would never open a gift before trying to pre-determine what was inside! We'd open our "Santa" gifts and by this point our dad was often back asleep on the couch. He wasn't yet caffeinated.
After this, Christmas was totally put on pause. We'd move over to the table for birthday breakfast. All the birthday presents had to be wrapped in birthday paper. No one dared break this cardinal rule. We'd eat one of mom's breakfast casseroles, open presents and then move onto the cake. For this part, the twins would climb into my dad's lap no matter how big or small they were and we would sing Happy Birthday.
We'd take the famous picture of the three of them blowing our their birthday cake and of course one smiling for the album. My mom has an album full of just this picture from every year for the last 26 years! As they got older, dad became less and less visible in the picture but you could always see his famous smile poking out from between them!
This Christmas Eve, we had a pre-Christmas cry together and shared how this birthday moment was the one we were all dreading the most, especially the twins. It would be one of those times when his absence would feel like a meteor-sized crater.
The birthday breakfast this year hovered like a storm cloud in the room. No one seemed like they were in a hurry to get to the birthday and once we did, it really felt like, "let's just get this over with." We ate, sang and took the picture. It just wasn't the same. At this point my mom said through tear-filled eyes, "It just feels like someone is missing." Indeed it did.
However, it wouldn't truly be a "Jesse" moment without a little comic relief. Before we could all burst into tears, Mike who had stepped out of the room for a moment, yelled from the next room in a silly voice, "Don't worry guys, I'm right here!" Another moment recovered by humour...
The mixed feelings about Christmas this year may not change for the next while. The fact is, it is different and it really won't ever be the same without him. However, if we peel back the gift giving, birthdays and traditions, there is a greater unshakeable occasion that will never change.
The true reason we celebrate Christmas is because this is when God sent Jesus to earth. Our God is a relentless pursuer and he loved us too much to let us perish. He came to offer us the free and eternal gift of salvation. Because of this, we have a painless, sinless eternity in heaven to look forward to if we have accepted this free gift. Despite how tough moments may get now, they are temporary.
It seems as though the child-like excitement for Christmas tends to fade as we "grow up." I have asked God as I have gotten older, not to let me forget what Christmas is all about. Even though this was the toughest Christmas thus far, I have been reminded of what it is all about. Yes- family, gifts, and traditions are wonderful, but the Christmas spirit I think, stems from a spirit of thankfulness for what God has done which allows the hope, joy and peace that He provides flood our lives and into into the lives of those around us.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Tradition is something we Morales' take very seriously. We don't mess with traditions! They unfortunately also have the potential to create the most obvious voids.
One of many at this time of year is the pajama tradition. For as long as I can remember among my dad's gift to his girls was always a pair of pajamas. We would always open them Christmas Even and then wear them to sleep that night. Some years he did a bit better than others but he always picked them out himself and he was always proud of his findings. Even last year, mom wheeled him around the mall as he thoughtfully picked out the perfect pair for Em, Ethan and Maia by shaking his head or nodding.
One of the most memorable years for pajamas was when he came home with plus size night gowns for all of the older girls... I think 3x or 4x. I think his rationale was two-fold- they were probably on the clearnace rack so of course on sale, and I think he thought they woudl be SO comfortable because they weren't tight fitting? It didn't seem to occur to him that all four of us could have fit into ONE with room to spare. We captured them on film before my mom "encouraged" him to return them and try again. Not to worry though, He did improve in both taste, size and pajama-common-sense in the years to follow!
Unforuntaely for the older three of us, this tradition ceasedwhen we got married but Emily of course had still be a beneficiary of this. Mike and I were shopping last week when all of sudden he stopped and said, "Do you think I should buy Em some PJ's?" We split up in the store as he began the hunt. I found him 20 minutes later looking quite stressed out. I asked what was wrong and he said, "I just feel so much pressure! This is a very big deal. That can't just be any pair, they have to be ones that scream Emily." I smiled at his appreciation for the seriousness of the task at hand! We did find something eventually and I left the store with our purchase and a very apprehensive Mike.
When I wrapped the PJ's I wrote on the tag, "Some traditions must keep on living..." Emily got to unwrap her very own huge one-size fits all moo-moo night gown that reads, "Move to the Moo-sic." We didn't want to her to miss out on the early years...
When she opened it we all laughed, and then of course, we all cried. It was funny and nice for a moment before we all felt the void that we knew was there. We keep taking those moments in stride. We have cried when we feel it coming on and laughed a lot as well.
Ethan has been our little rock. (We're getting him adjusted to being a sensitive guy early.) He's having a tough time following our emotional roller coasters. One minute we are all laughing and the next, he's so confused, "Hey- why's everyone cryin'?" Someone explains to him that we're sad because we miss Papa . He gives a round of hugs and then goes back to playing, and so far, we're okay and enjoy some laughs while we wait for the next wave!
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Our family was tremendously blessed last summer with an all-expense paid trip to the Philippines. All 11 of us jumped on the plane and endured the seemingly endless plane ride with excitement and anticipation. It was my first time out of North America and consequently my first time in a third world country. I was shell shocked to see some of the conditions that people live under and not only that- the conditions that people are contently living under. All my dad's instructions from childhood about turning off the lights and not wasting water or food suddenly seemed like very reasonable requests after seeing the scarcity he came from.
During the trip, my dad posed one of his thought provoking questions to me: "Step...how will your life be different because of this trip?" I felt slightly pressured to produce a 'right' answer...
"Well," I began, "It's made me appreciate what I have more." He was not content. "What else?" "Umm...I think I'll be less material when I get home..." He just smiled like he had a secret that I failed to uncover.
I felt very inspired to live a simpler lifestyle immediately after arriving back home until some time elapsed and I felt equally inspired to buy a pair of darling, red, pointy, high heels. The accumulation of these shoes posed a new problem for me. I, of course, had to have a matching bag. I couldn't help that I happened to be invited to a Purse Party on a night that I happened to be available, that happened to have a perfectly matching red purse for sale... can you see the stuff-disease spreading? Why did my inspiration to live simply fade so quickly?
I could go on with confessions of a shop-a-holic but the real issue I find myself battling on the inside no matter what mask it wears on the outside is, why don't I change? What will it take to make a long-lasting change?
We've all had that time we saw that inspiring thing, place or person, and thought, I will never be the same. The sad truth for me is my best effort hasn't been enough for the inside-out kind of change.
I want to be different because of my life experiences. I want to be more content because of poverty-stricken conditions I have seen and read about. I want to live my life totally sold out to the will of God because I have seen a very faithful example and a glimpse of the payoff. I've been inspired many times but unfortunately, I always seem to come up short. The world says, try harder. You can do it. I've tried harder but I always end up back at square one which seems to be synonomous with square-the-same
I do find a little U-2-ME-2 in Romans 7. I read about Paul and discover that even great evangelist may have shared some of my struggles. He says, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do...For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing...What a wretched [wo]man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?"
As I continue reading, I'm so relieved to find the real solution to change: "Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord."
I cannot change on my own. In fact, I can do nothing on my own (John 15:5).
Many times, I have looked at my dad's life and thought, I want to be like him. He was a great example but rather than trying to mimic his outward characteristics, I think my chances of being like him improve if I start thinking instead, I want to know and experience God the same way he did. I want God to change me so drastically the way he did for him. I want to surrender myself to change the same way he did.
It's never been about me or my efforts. It's not about what I can or cannot do on my own but what Jesus Christ wants to do in me.
For permanent change, seek out the Life-Changer everyday and turn yourself over to Him once again.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
There are times in life when you kind of hope that God will show up and then there are times when you just know and expect that He will. I expected God to move at the funeral and did He ever! Those who already know Christ were challenged to live the same kind of abundant life and those who have never accepted Jesus Christ into their life as their Saviour were challenged to receive the free gift of salvation.
A year ago last spring, we were driving home from a funeral and my dad said to me, "When I die, I don't want people to be sad. I want them to celebrate and talk about Jesus!" I teased him and said, "Of course you would. You'll still be witnessing to people even after you're gone!" And did he ever. As Brian said, "The message is not what is being spoken today but the life that has been lived before you."
I took a deep breath as I began to watch and knew there was no point in trying to keep the tears in. It's hard to believe it was less than three months ago. In addition to being reminded of how very, very, much I miss him, I was reminded of the many spiritual challenges that I received. The whole service is about 2 hours but it's nicely divided up on the toolbar on the right so you can pick and choose sections if you would like, but whatever section, grab some kleenex!
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Eight of us ladies headed over there tonight fully prepared to get elbow deep in whatever we had to. We entered the house armed with cleaning supplies and stock for the cupboards. I felt tremendous joy as this woman wept and said, "I can't even believe that you're here doing this." I was thinking to myself, "We're just doing to your house what Christ has already done to your heart and ours."
I felt slightly overhwhelmed at the task that lay before us when I saw it. We decided to divide and conquer. Two tackled the bathroom, two tackled the kitchen, two tackled the bedrooms and my partner and I took on the laundry room which was conveniently also the place where the cats had taken over. Our new friend came in and frantically started to tidy with us saying, "No, I have to help you girls. I'm the one who made this mess." I assured her that we had it under control and ushered her back into the living room to spend some quality time with her precious children.
I thought to myself, isn't this what we try to do? We think we somehow need to be responsible and "help God" with the clean up because we feel so responsible and guilty about the mess we have made instead of just handing over the reigns. I think he says something similar, "Just give me permission to get rid of what needs to go and I'll take care of the rest."
It was an amazing sense of joy that we felt to know we were doing something physical that represented something that had taken place on the inside. I overheard her in the hallway telling a story I couldn't help but smile at. She said, "One of my friends said to me a couple days ago, 'I can't believe how much you've changed in only a week!' I told her that I gave my heart to God and she said, 'That's all I have to do?'" Isn't that what giving your heart to Jesus all about? Total transformation that makes people go, "What happened to you?" and "How did I get what you have?"
As we finished one room after another, she peered in and stood in amazement at the observable difference in the appearance. I wish we had taken before and after pictures. There are things that we all struggle with. The battle for holiness in this world rages on. I hope that I can look at areas of my own life with the same amazement and say, "I'm different because I let Jesus do a big cleaning job in my heart."
We left after a couple of hours feeling a bit like the crew of Extreme Makeover, Cleaning Edition. The precious kids were so thrilled to have clean rooms and tidy toy boxes. I know that they'll remember this night because of what happened but more importantly, I hope they'll remember who happened to their mom and the difference that He has made.
Monday, October 19, 2009
One is my 18th birthday, in 2003. Bear in mind the year- before Apple had taken over the world and CD's hadn't been replaced by iTunes. It was my first year at college and consequently my first year playing basketall which meant many away games, road trips and long and potentially boring bus trips.
That year my dad was particularly excited about the gift he got me. I had no idea what it was and was quite surprised because normally he left gift-purchasing to my mom. The shape of the package was undetectable. He wanted me to guess but I had none. I opened it up and it was ... wait for it...a brand new.... Sony...discman! That's right-a discman. Remember those things that play CD's? It was cool at the time but very quickly became a product of the 90's.
He told me that I needed to have the best for all of our bus trips with basketball and that it was the top of the line! He never ceased to surprise me. Not only was it out of his usual price range, but it was incredibly thoughtful and practical!
My next birthday memory is a special phone call from last year. At this time last year, my dad was quickly losing his ability to speak. I have two messages still saved on my voicemail. The first is my dad, speaking very slowly giving me car advice and then ending with, "O...kay....Hap...py...Birt.....day."
The second is the Happy Birthday song from later that day. Mom sang the first line, Emily sang then second, back to Mom for the third, "Happy Birthday to..." and then the big finale- dad with "Ste.....pha......nie". I've probably listened to those messages 3 dozen times and will continue to save them for as long as my Shaw voicemail box will allow.
There are many more material things my dad gave me- cars, basketball shoes, gas money- that I am thankful for. But I am most thankful for the things that didn't come gift wrapped and will never go out of style.
I was just sitting here ready to temporarily crumble into tears thinking about all this when Mike handed me the phone. It was my wonderful father-in-law, singing Happy Birthday to me a day early. God is so faithful. He knows just what we need in the moment!
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Good intentions didn't get me too far. Disciplined training didn't end up being the priority I hoped it would be as the summer came to a close. As September 13th approached we questioned each other- why did we think this was a good idea? What were we thinking? Were we even thinking? The faint bit of anticipation I felt was solely for the moment I hoped to cross the finish line and be done with it. We determined that no matter what happened, we would finish together, even if it meant a mutual dragging of our bodies across the finish line!
On the morning of we scouted out the much more prepared looking competition and determined that our untrained goal was to finish in 2 hours and 10 minutes. We waited with anticipation with the hundreds of other runners for the starting gun. We started off nice and slow. There were 1km markers throughout the race so we knew how we were doing and what was still ahead. The first 10km felt great. I was thinking to myself, "This isn't so bad. I can do this." Then I realized I was only halfway done.
The back half of the race was conveniently the hilly half. My legs seemed to get heavier and slower with each step. All I could think about was when it was going to be over. Around the 13km mark, I began to notice the familiar surroundings on the path we were on. Ironically enough, I realized that I was running on the very same path that my family had walked together right after my dad's diagnosis the previous year.
I started to think just about him. I thought about his last three weeks here. I pondered what it would feel like to be so fatigued all the time that you cannot even keep your eyes open for more than a few minutes and too weak to be able to hold yourself up. I thought about what it would be like to be in a race and not know how close you are to finishing. First he thought the last leg of his race was 2-3 years. Then it was 3-6 months. Then it was at most "a few days" for several days. There was no way of really knowing.
Aside from never doing another half marathon without being ready, there were a few things I was reminded of that day as I pondered my dad and was made extremely aware of my many physical limitations!
Finishing well isn't easy. It's no wonder that the person who crosses the starting line first doesn't get anything. Everyone starts fairly well. That's not the hard part. It's not until you've endured the distance that you are rewarded.
He wasn't able to cheer me on at the finish line of this race but as I think about finishing this life well, I think of Hebrews 12:1: "Since we are surrounded my such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." When I get to the end, I hope he's standing there in the great cloud of those who have already finished cheering me in the same way he did at our first Betty's Run saying, "Go Steph, go!" I hope to be able to say, like I'm sure he did, "I have fought the fight. I have kept the faith. I have finished the race."
I'm sad to say this is our first overnight visit back to Calgary since the funeral last month. I have dearly missed my family. I was very much looking forward to this visit and at the same time, wasn't sure what to expect. We all had to go our separate ways immediately after the funeral and all had to find our "new normal's." It's been almost two months since my dad passed away. This would be our first time to witness the new normal around the old homestead.
Last night we arrived at my parent's house to drop off our stuff before heading over to visit my in-laws. Emily was out at a friend's and my mom was quietly and contently watching a movie by herself. No dad seemed so strange. On weekend visits home, I'm used to opening the door and seeing dad from the front hallway at the kitchen table with his tea towel bib handing from his shirt. His face would light up as we would enter. We'd greet him and try to make him laugh. Sometimes I'd give his little bicep a squeeze and ask if he'd been working out. He's shake his head no and of course, smile.
It'll take some time to get used to. I couldn't help the few tears as we headed back out. Mike asked me what was wrong and all I could process was, "It's just seems so different without him."
This afternoon, Mike and Ethan were playing Guitar Hero. Ethan piped up and randomly said, "I'm playing this one for Papa. He can listen to me now because he has a new body." It was one of those should-we-laugh-or-cry moments. Maybe he assumed since the rest of Papa's body wasn't working, he had also become hearing impaired? (It's ironic and funny because he kind of was even before ALS!) Our hearts were so blessed that in his little mind is still filled with thoughts of Papa at times. It is apparent that even in his little 3-year-old heart, Papa left an imprint.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Something began to occur to me as I sat there and attempted to make sense of the events of the past few weeks. When does the world see Jesus?
My first experience with death (second hand experience obviously) was during my first semester at Bible College. I received the sudden and tragic news that my goddaughter Jani, a 9-month old baby girl from our church, had passed away suddenly of meningitis. I struggled to and failed to make sense of this tragedy. People always seem to say, “There’s a reason for everything…” but from personal experience, it unfortunately seems to offer little comfort in a grievous moment.
After some months had passed, I remember her mother standing in front of the church saying, “I’m here today to tell you that God is faithful.” I’m fairly confident that she hadn’t had a revelation answering the questions of why this had happened, but she didn’t seem to need to. I sat there and thought, if she can say that God is faithful, it really must be true.
The teacher at my school sent an email out to all the staff members at the school after his wife passed away, which eventually circulated in and out of educational and basketball circles throughout Canada. I don’t know how many thousands of people read his words, but they were truly a testimony of God's faithfulness. Only hours after his wife passed away he typed these words: “I am trusting that God will grant me the grace and wisdom to provide enough love to my kids to make up for the void that is now here. I have faith that He will see it through. That he wants me to trust him one step at a time.”
I was so encouraged and amazed by the strength granted through faith. This man has a 6-year old son, 4-year old daughter and newborn baby to raise now by himself, and seemed to be approaching it with a heavy dose of extra-strength faith. He concluded the funeral service by sharing his wife’s testimony of how she came to faith in Jesus Christ in University- carefully pausing to explain all Christian jargon to ensure that the message of hope was clear and the reason for her secured home in heaven. I sat there amazed at how many people- many who would probably not voluntarily be in a church otherwise- were there hearing about the faithfulness of God!
I cannot begin to understand nor am I trying to explain the why’s of so many tragic and early-seeming exits from this life but go with me just for a second here. During my dad’s journey with ALS, I had always assumed that a miraculous healing would have most definitely brought God the most glory. Until recently, I didn’t pause to consider that maybe, just maybe, my dad’s unwavering faith through one of the most disabling diseases out there could have glorified God, possibly more than a miracle healing? I don’t have the bird’s eye view of the mysterious ways of God but would it be possible that the faith of God’s people through the storms of life bring more glory to Him than a miracle?
I think the world sees Jesus when His people see Him. When a mother who has lost her baby girl can say, “God is faithful,” and when a widower and single-dad can say, “I have faith that He [God] will see me through,” and when a man suffering and dying from a horrible disease says, “Don’t let this discourage your faith in Christ. Following Jesus will leave no regrets,”- that is when the world takes notice and says, this Jesus must be real.
In the words of John Piper, God is the most glorified in us, when we are the most satisfied in him.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Ang called me a few days and asked me to email her the video of dad talking about the "Kingdom Perspective" for a devotional she was preparing. I sent it off and she received it and previewed it on her TV at home.
Ethan wandered into the room with BIG eyes and exclaimed, "Papa can talk?!" He proceeded to watch the video repeatedly- rewind-play-rewind-play- twenty or so times. After the first few he turned to Ang and said, "Mama what's pur-spuc-tve?" (Big word for a 3 year old!) She did her best to explain it to him. He turned back and watched a few more times and then turned to her again and inquired, "Mama- what's kin-dom?"
Monday, September 7, 2009
This summer we built a fence to enclose our yard. (By “we” I of course mean Mike with help from a few friends. I supervised!) Our fence is west-facing. Anyone who has been to Lethbridge is no stranger to the 100km/hr winds often blowing furiously from the west.
To combat this frequent force, we knew we'd have to build something solid. We put in 9-ft steel posts into 3-ft deep holes and secured them with concrete. The fence boards are securely screwed onto 3 horizontal beams on the top, middle and bottom of the posts and then sealed by 3 more horixontal beams. It is one solid fence. I think I could ram it with my car and it wouldn’t budge.
Today happens to be one of those terribly windy days. It's howling outside as I type. I fear that if I step outside it may carry me off to Saskatchewan. It came with little warning. On Saturday, it was summery and warm and today, the biting wind makes summer seem like a distant memory! I'm glad the majority of it is done as I am trying to imagine how very crazy it would be to be screwing in fence boards on a day like today. I'm also trying to imagine what our neighbor would have said if when she approached us about starting our fence in the summer we had said, "Actually, we're waiting until the wind is blowing 100km/hr. We won't really need the shelter until then." She probably would have put her house up for sale! It seems bit foolish to wait for a storm. No thank-you. I'd rather do it without battling increment weather!
I was reading in Matthew 7 not too long ago and was reminded of how we live on a solid foundation: "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”
Many people, myself included, have been encouraged by the faith my dad had. It seems mysterious to some but I knew his secret. I saw it with my own eyes. Long before this particular storm came, he had been buildling a very strong house on the Rock. He got his bricks from the Bible and and found them to be true as he laid them out in his life. He didn't just read them but put them into practice. He didn't know the storm that would be coming but was ready for it because of the solid rock he knew he stood on.
I find this extremely challenging. I oftened wondered how I would respond if I were the one personally battling the disease. I want to be as prepared as he was and be found as faithful. I don't want to wait for my own personal storm to continue building a solid house. It's too risky! I want to be ready for whatever storms life may throw my way.
The fence didn’t go up in a day and solid faith is not built in a day. It takes many days. But it must start with one. Then another and another...
Monday, August 31, 2009
Last summer I was working at a golf course down here in Lethbridge. A little girl and boy came in with their dad for a late dinner. The dad stepped out for a moment so I asked the girl, probably about 6 years old, where her mom was. My heart broke as she looked up at me with sad eyes and replied, “It’s called cancer.” Her mother had passed away two years earlier. Though at any age it seems like it’s too soon to lose a loved one, I thought, “Thank-you Lord that I’m not 6.”
Last fall I met someone who would become a dear friend. Her dad had passed away months earlier from ALS and frontal lobe dementia- a tragic and rare combination. Not only did he lose all physical function just like my dad, but he also lost his memory and much of his mental function. At one point she said to me, “At least your dad remembers who you are.” At that point I thought, “Thank-you Lord that it’s just ALS.”
Today is my first official day as a teacher-intern at a high school in Lethbridge. (Yes, I'm blogging when I should be lesson planning!) This weekend, one of the teachers here, who thankfully is a believer, lost his wife suddenly due to complications from a massive blood clot in her lung suddenly leaving behind a 6-year old son, 4-year old daughter and 4-day old baby girl. I thought, “Thank-you Lord for the years we had and that I had a year and a half to say good-bye to my dad.”
At any point life there are a number of circumstances that could discourage hope and faith. There are a few Biblical exhortations that come to mind. The first is from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17: “Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Our tough circumstances in life are not always God’s desire, but it is his will that we be thankful. Why? Simply put, we are his light on this earth. If we can praise God through the storms, what does that tell the world about the God that we serve?
Another that the Lord has reminded of is from James 1. “Consider it pure joy my brothers when you face trials of many kinds. For you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything.” We can be joyful in the storms of life because we know that they God is his soverieignty can still use them for a good purpose and we know that this life is only preparation for the next.
John MacArthur compared this life to the back of a Persian rug. From our perspective it looks like a big group of jumbled threads that seem to be woven together in a mess. It’s not until we flip it over, possibly not until eternity, that we see the intricate tapestry woven together to create something beautiful and our faith in Romans 8:28 become sight: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God who are called according to His purpose.”
As I think of the old hymn, Count Your Blessings, I have many to name one by one. I had my dad for almost 24 years of my life. He set an incredible example in faith and pointed me to everything I need for life and godliness. My dad was my dad right until the end. He did not lose his faith, his family or his mind. Until his last breath, he encouraged us to not let this disease discourage our faith in Christ. Until the very end, he gave practical advice and cracked his famous smile. Lastly, I had the gift of a long good-bye. Nothing was left unsaid. So many of us got a chance to thank him and encourage him in the impact he made. I am thankful for other believers in the family of faith. Thought we don't all know each other personally, we can support each other in prayer and be encouraged by the faith and hope displayed in tough times.
I praise God for situations that He uses, whether good or bad by the world’s standards, to show himself faithful to the lost word. My dad’s words from last summer come to mind at this point: “If you were to live with the perspective that today was your last day on earth, what would you do to impact the Kingdom of God?” I tend to think that all those around and myself included are invincible. Every so often, I am reminded of the fragility of this life. Everyday is truly a gift and I need to ask God to continuously remind to make His kingdom work my priority.
Friday, August 28, 2009
We are going to continue participating in Betty's Run for ALS every June. Store it somewhere in the catalog of your mind! Jesse's Girls was the second highest fundraising team this year! Whoo-hoo. Going for first next year...nothing wrong with a little competition for a good cause, right? :)
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
After he went down for a nap Saturday afternoon, Ang left to go to the viewing at the funeral home. When he woke up from his nap he asked Frankie where his mama was. When Frankie told him that she went to see Papa's body, he broke into a hysterical crying bout saying, "I don't want my mama to go to heaven yet! I want her to stay here!" It took about 10 minutes of Frankie assuring him that his mom had gone to see Papa's old body, not his new body in heaven, and that she would be back very soon before he would calm down. Poor little guy! I can only imagine the panic that would have overtaken his little mind as he thought his mama had gone to heaven to see Papa.
Ethan's shining moment though, was definitely at the cemetery. Gerry shared a few comforting words with our family and encouraged us to share the memories and the funny stories. He said, "Sometimes he (my dad) was just crazy!" of course meaning, sometimes he was hilarious, funny, had wild ideas... you get the picture. All of a sudden, Ethan very loudly whispered to Mike with the sincerest concern in his voice, "Was Papa crazy?!" And then said, "Crazy like this?" and proceeded to make a "crazy" face to Mike by blowing up his cheeks, pulling on his ears and wiggling his eye balls around.
We all had to bite our tongues. It seemed like an inappropriate time to laugh out loud yet an appropriate time to allow joy to overflow from his little heart to ours.
Dad's earthly resting place is 1903A4, Garden of Heritage, Eden Brook Memorial Garden. I know... kind of a strange address to post but a few people had asked about it!
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
Dad's new normal is fabulous. The obvious truth is that he is much better off. He is now completely healed of ALS and probably loving eternal life in his brand new body. He is living the life he was created for. But the fact is, the rest of us- the ones still passing through this life- don't feel better off without him. We miss him. What do we do in the meantime?
God has really broadened my perspective of contentment during this journey. I used to think that it had to do with just money. Be happy with a little. Not so much. I have learned that contentment is "satisfaction in God's sufficient provision." Now more than ever, I realize that God's provisions extend beyond just finances. He promises to provide everything that I need. That means comfort, assurance, people, discernment, relationships, guidance, healing... you name it. If I need it, God has promised to provide it through Jesus (Philippians 4:19). The promises stand. Yet, on a few occasions, I have felt the overwhelming feeling of despair creep up on me, especially when I begin to worry about the future. In the meantime, God is always extending the invitation to trust in Him to meet all of my needs.
This is very challenging to me when I think about life without my dad. How many times have I gone to him for much needed dad stuff: godly wisdom, where in the Bible is... [insert verse here], a comforting word or help with an automotive disaster- all things I thought I really needed. What it keeps coming down to for me is, "Will I consciously choose to believe the promises of God?" I want with everything in me to trust God. I'm waiting to see how healthy grief and faith in God's promises weave together. Faith doesn't nullify grief and grief doesn't nullify faith. I will choose to trust God as I let him heal what needs to be healed in me and my family.
In the meantime, our new "normal" has the same foundation. The new structure, whatever it is, will look different but whatever is it, it will still be built on the solid rock.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
My mom was furious and in disbelief: "You did what?! Jesse, you CANNOT pretend to ROB banks. They have those automatic buttons behind their tills that they ring in an emergency situation. She could have called the police! You could have been arrested!"He still thought he was hilarious and assured her that would never happen. When she relayed the story, we were trying to imagine how we were going to explain to people the almost headline...
"Southern Baptist Pastor Arrested for Attempted Bank Robbery..."
Outreach Canada Corporate Chaplaincy Minstry: I was so thrilled for my dad when he became a corporate chaplain. He had a renewed passion for reaching people and He was able to make a living doing what he loved to do anyways- connect with people and share the love of Christ. This corporate opportunity gave him a springboard to share his life and faith with many who may have never walked through the church doors. When he worked, he was responsible for raising his own support and I know he would delight in helping out the ministry that reflected his heart. If you share his heart for seeing lives changed through corporate chaplaincy, visit: http://en.outreach.ca/ContactUs/Donate/Finances/tabid/398/Default.aspx
The Jesse Morales Evangelism Award: My dad attended the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary from 1989-1994 where he built upon his passion for evangelism with formal ministry training. A scholarship has been set up in his honor and will be given out annually at the CSBS Graduation. Cheques payable to the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary; Re: Jesse Morales Evangelism Award; 200 Seminary View, Cochrane, AB, T4C 2G1 CANADA
The ALS Society of Alberta: This "ugly" disease, as he often referred to it, is what ultimately ended his life here. Donate to this fund to help support the society who was an incredible support to us, raise awareness about an unfamiliar disease, and funds for research to find a cure. To donate online, please visit http://www.als.ca/events/mysite.aspx?fid=3737 or a cheque can be mailed to the ALS Society of Alberta, Suite 400, 320 23rd Ave SWCalgary, AB, T2S 0J2, Re: In Memory of Jesse Morales
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Three weeks ago today is when my dad spelled out on the letter board, "I feel like I am in the last stage of this disease." He had sensed that something had changed in his body. We are so glad for the "couple of days" that has turned into a few weeks. Family and friends have had opportunities to visit and encourage him in the last days. We've just had so much of the gift of time.
His health and strength continue to decline. He drinks when his muscles will allow him to swallow. He spends most of the day resting though muscle loss has made being comfortable very difficult. The disease has attacked the muscles of his body in full force. (Muscle atrophy is caused by death of the motor neurons in ALS.) Unfortunately, the nausea has returned. No one is sure of the cause but it makes things very difficult. He continues to, "Wait on the Lord," with great patience and thankfulness. Continue to pray for physical, emotional and spiritual peace during a turbulent time.
We were all very encouraged by the Word shared at church this morning. Gerry talked about the hope that we have in the face of death based on a few promises found in Philippians. We were reminded that God is in the business of doing a complete kind of work in us and using whatever He can to conform us to the likeness of His Son. We were reminded that this life is just the warm up to the main event. It's a drop in the ocean compared to eternity. And lastly, we were reminded of where our home is. As believers, our citizenship is in heaven. I so look forward to a painless, tearless and fearless heaven!
Please continue to pray. For my dad, pray especially for physical ease. For our family, pray that we would be reminded of who God is at this time and that we would be guarded against discouragement. We are so thankful for the support we have received during this time. So many of you have been the hands and feet of Jesus to our family. Thank you!
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Today I had to pay a shop mechanic to fix my car. You know, one of those jobs that dad would've done for a small fraction of the actual invoice. I'm sure some of you have had a moment like that sometime in the last year and a half considering the number of vehicles that have come through his garage over the last decade! He was a master mechanic and can still diagnose faulty car noises from his kitchen chair.
His vehicle motto used to be, "Why buy a new car when you can fix an old one?" I'd always say, Because then you wouldn't have to fix it!" He would smile and say, "There's no such thing as a maintenance free vehicle." Sadly, true. But he did LOVE to work on cars. Last week I said to him, "Hey, do you think they'll be maintenance-free vehicles in heaven?" He cracked a smile for that one!
Monday, August 10, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
We've been blessed with help with the kids so Angela can spend some time with dad! And... we have a new addition to the family- Mom and Dad have a new grand-puppy.... Iggy (yes, named after Mike's favorite hockey player, Jarome Iginla).
I saw the smile today that I haven't seen for a while. My Aunt Remy was talking to him and at the end said, "It's okay Jesse- you're still good-looking!" His eyes lit up and his smile spread from ear to ear. I said to him, there's that famous smile that's been missing for a while!
Dad is doing okay. He does seem to get a bit weaker everyday but we don't know where the bottom is so for now, he's still here and we are cherishing the moments! We are so grateful for all the prayer support. It really does work! Thanks again, and I'll continue to keep you posted!
Friday, August 7, 2009
I have so much enjoyed reading some of the comments from far and wide. I wanted to share this one with you from a friend all the way in BC. I just had to giggle at what he wrote because it is exactly my dad's instructions for his own funeral- "Make sure they talk about Christ, not me!" Enjoy...
"Transformation. Two Greek words combined to create this word - metamorphosis - and it describes the transformation process of a larva becoming a caterpillar and ending into a beautiful butterfly.
I knew Jesse before he surrendered his life to Christ in Richmond, BC in the mid-1980s. Kathy prayed consistently, expectantly, patiently for his conversion for four years before he finally did. And what a joy it was to see the transformation the Spirit of God brought to him. From one who ignored Jesus into a man who fell in love with Him. Jesse just could not stop talking about Jesus.
Before his conversion, he and Kathy once attended the Bible study I led in Richmond, and, he slept through it. After his conversion, he immediately shared his faith, getting to work early Friday morning for Bible study at Downtown Toyota with whoever wanted to come and listen.No, it was not merely that Christ was in his life; no, it was not that Christ was part of his life; but yes, Christ was his Life!
Knowing Jesse, he would now probably want us to talk more about his Christ than about him. The Christ that Jesse loved and served is One whose arms are open to embrace the repentant sinner, with the words, 'Welcome home, dear one. I've been waiting for you. What took you so long?' These same loving arms will welcome Jesse with the commendation: 'Well done, good and faithful servant.' Having experienced it firsthand, Jesse always sought to connect people with the transforming power of Jesus Christ. This is Jesse's challenge to me- what about you?"
I have to ask because I know my dad would... :) Have you experienced the transforming power of Jesus Christ in your life?
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Tomorrow morning, we are going to record the song that Christina and Angela wrote for my dad so that in the likely event that we cannot sing it live at the funeral, it can be played! It is such a special song. My sisters are very talented! It's called, "I Want To Be Just Like You." They've been singing it for him everyday with hope of encouraging him. Here's a little sneak preview at the chorus:
I want to be wise, but not too proud to show my weakness
I want to be strong, but not ashamed to ever cry
I want to have faith, that never wavers in the storm
I want to be light in this dark world
And love with all I am
Dad, I want to be just like you.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Ethan is enjoying communciating with Papa. He runs up to him and places either hand on his legs. (Raising his right leg means yes and raising his left leg means no.) He'll ask, "Papa, do you love me?" or "Papa, want me to sing again?" Dad raises his right leg and Ethan shrieks with excitement, "He said YES!" Maia still wanders up to Papa, softly rubs his hands and says, "Of-oo!" (which of courses means "Love you!" in toddler). She also wanders around the house saying, "Ssh. Papa." She's learned that he needs quiet in order to rest!
Last week they started a new game where she she would show Papa her tummy and he would touch it with his toes causing her to shriek with excitement. He usually became physically tired of the game before she lost interest! Last night he was sleeping on the lazyboy. She lifted up her shirt and said, "Papa?" She then wandered over to his sleeping body and pressed her tummy against his foot and still shrieked with excitement. I guess it's still a fun game if only one person is playing!
Thank you for your prayers! I will keep you posted.
Thanks for your prayers!
Monday, August 3, 2009
Last night he said he was feeling weaker than ever before and it is becoming more apparent. He can hardly hold up his head and cannot carry much of his own weight when transferring between chairs. He's still been sleeping most of the days but unfortunately has been restless during the nights. He's woken up with difficulty breathing. Last week, the nurse suggested sedation when he approaches the very end. It does not speed anything up but will make him more comfortable.
Yesterday the old movie, "Heaven Can Wait" was on TV in the afternoon. Ang said to dad, "Is that what you're thinking Dad? That heaven can still wait?" He shook his head no and then I said, "You're probably thinking, heaven can come anytime now." He nodded. Keep praying for that peaceful transition into eternal life and I bet if you asked my dad, he would say sooner rather than later.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
We've had the blessing of a long goodbye. We have all said what we think we need to say yet I cannot escape the feeling that there is always just one more thing to tell him. I had a moment of sadness wash over me last night as I sat beside him and he slept. I thought to myself, I'm really going to miss him! When he opened his eyes, I leaned in, tried to choke back the tears and told him, "Dad, I'm really going to miss you." I know that God is faithful. He has promised to provide for our every need. God has worked through dad to impact many lives, mine included and that legacy of faith will carry on through generations. I will be forever thanking God for what He did in and through my dad's life. There is nothing more I could have asked for in a father. And for that reason, I'm just really going to miss him.
Friday, July 31, 2009
Health-wise, today his pulse is slightly weaker, breathing is shallower and he's a bit more sleepy yet he seems very full of life!
I wanted to share these inspired words that a close friend left on this blog back in May. I was so encouraged when I read it:
"I am continuously sharing with many people about a man who is finishing well. As his race may be coming to an end soon, he is choosing to finish strong, the way Paul did. Your dad has amazing things awaiting him in heaven. I have never known anyone like him and I am so blessed that he has been part of my life for 20 years. He is an encouragement to so many and will leave a legacy behind that will stay in people's minds forever; a man who fought to the very end, never gave up, and despite his circumstances, continued to take part in the great commission. Your dad is one of the greatest people I have ever known and I can already see him and Paul sitting together in the kingdom talking about all the things that they saw happen on this earth and about God's goodness and love!"
Praise God for all He has done, is doing and will continue to do!
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Tonight, I pulled out the Birthday Book and read a few entries. Many people contributed favorite memories or stories of how he has impacted their life and I compiled them for his birthday. As we have spent a fair bit of time reminiscing, I thought I'd share what I wrote with you... mostly because I don't have permission from anyone else to publicly share their words!
My Normal Dad
I guess you could say my dad is pretty normal. He did the “dad” stuff. He drove me to school and picked me up from practices. He cheered me on and offered advice about sports, some he knew nothing about and every once in a while, an actual word of wisdom.
He picked me up in his work truck from elementary school and took me for a “special time” at lunch. He wrestled with us and taught us to play basketball in our backyard. He fixed my car and snuck me gas money whenever he could. He made sacrifices to help me pay my way through school. He campaigned for me when I needed to raise money for basketball. He drank too much coffee and could still fall asleep anywhere! When we were younger, he used to recline his seat at a red light and say, “wake me up when it’s green.” He was a bottomless pit and consumed enough food for an army each day yet managed to gain less than 10lbs in almost 30 years. Not bad at all!
Every once in a while he would try to lose weight and the obvious move was to cut back on rice. As a true Filipino, this could only ever last a few days at most. He gave in anytime I needed $5. He taught me to drive standard. He was awkward talking about “girl” subjects but always attempted none-the-less. He tried to intimidate boys that liked me and would try to send Mike home at 9:00 on a Friday night because, didn’t I have to get up early for school tomorrow? He would always help me load my car in going to and from college. He never got sick, he rarely cried and getting stung by a bee or burned didn’t seem to bother him. He sometimes resembled a superhero.
My Different Dad
In other ways, my dad is pretty different. Some would even say the things he does are strange! Every dad is human and loses his patience every once in a while. But my dad, always prompted by the Holy Spirit, was and continues to be humble enough to confess to his daughters and ask for my forgiveness whenever necessary.
My dad wasn’t the kind of guy who was into having his own stuff. Instead, he was concerned with putting the needs of our family above his own and taking care of the needs of those around him. The only things I remember him buying himself that wasn’t purely out of necessity like Ivory Soap or Tim Horton’s was a frying pan right before last Christmas and the occasional new pair of khaki pants. Yet, I always had new basketball shoes, rent money and an vehicle to drive, often not the same one as the day before.
He wasn’t scary to my friends as some dads can be. But was very friendly, approachable and conversational, even if they couldn’t understand what he was saying or if he repeated the same questions each time he saw a particular friend! He always tried to take time to get to know them.
Every morning when I would come down for breakfast I would see my dad at the dining room table with his Bible open getting his bread for the day. And I do mean everyday. In the mix of conversation with me and normal questions like, what are you learning in school, he would ask probing questions like, “What is God doing in your life?” Once, I made the mistake of thoughtlessly replying with, "nothing." His response was a mini-lesson on how God is always at work around you, you just have to be aware of it!
My dad was obsessed with cleanliness. He did the dishes and bathed the kids- not traditional man jobs. He was also obsessed with hygiene. When I got to the age where I could shower myself, he would always ask me if I washed my body. If I said yes, he would smell my arms to make sure, and if they weren’t clean enough, back I had to go for round two. When we did the dishes he would inspect the clean ones to make sure they were clean enough.
He didn’t care for spoiling us with trivial things we wanted, though you could twist his arm occasionally! Instead he gave us everything we needed for life and godliness. As I look back on our relationship I can see the spiritual imprints that he has left along the way. Through the example of his life I have seen what the life of a righteous and godly man looks like and you truly cannot put a price tag on the privilege of being his daughter.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
In the meantime we've been on a rollercoaster. Sometimes we weep, sometimes we laugh, sing and talk. And sometimes we just bawl. Dad keeps passing onto us his words of wisdom. One thing that I will surely remember always is, "Don't let this disease discourage your faith in Christ." What words from a man who has suffered so much. The majority of his words have focused on pointing us to God with only a few exceptions. He threw a few practical ones in the mix as well that we couldn't help but chuckle at. "Tell Mike and Frankie to learn how to fix cars," and "If I die in the lazyboy chair, please still use it." Such a godly, practical man. Didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
Our family has been extremely blessed by dad's caregivers. Last night, he thanked Sonia for all her help with him. Through tears she said, "No, thank-you. Because of you I have this new life." You never know how God is going to work. In December, God prompted Dad to share the gospel with Sonia and she accepted Christ into her heart. In February, Sonia shared the gospel with the newest caregiver Nella and she accepted Christ on her second day. When visiting Portugal last month, Nella shared the gospel with her sister who accepted Christ who then shared the gospel with her brother who accepted Christ. There's been a whole lot of God-calling, gospel-sharing and Christ-accepting and I am blessed by seeing how he is at work through these circumstances!
Monday, July 27, 2009
We shared stories, laughed, cried and prayed together. All of had been working on some Father's Day songs that had not been finished. Ang and Christina's is radio-worthy and mine and Emily's is at best, laugh-worthy. We are so thankful for time. It truly is a gift. My mom saved a copy of a poem I started to write last summer and forgot about. Last night, I was able to finish it.
It's called, "You're Still My Dad."
You're still my dad
Though your speech has gotten slow,
You still have so much wisdom
That I need to help me grow.
You're still my dad
Though your feet don't move as fast,
Your faithful steps have guided many
In the present and the past.
You're still my dad
Though you no longer talk a lot
I can guess what you are thinking
When the twinkle in your eye lights up.
You're still my dad
You are not the burden that you feel,
I have prayed that in your heart
You would truly know that's real.
You will always be my dad
Even when you are no longer here,
The impact you will have
Will forever be so near.
You will always be my dad
When many years have come to pass
I only hope to be the faithful servant
That you were until your last.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
We've continued to see many changes even between days only. He has become extremely fatigued and weak making the little aspects of daily life even more difficult such as swallowing and interacting. He still uses the letter board very minimally and now relies heavily on leg motions to communicate needs.
Life is just hard sometimes. Thank you for your continued prayers and keep them up! They do make a difference and are being felt especially now. The storms continue to approach and threaten but we are so thankful for the firm foundation in Christ that we are standing on.
Over 140 friends and family joined our team. Five of my dad's family members came out from the west coast to participate in the walk and run. Aunt Beth and Uncle Tony finished the walk first! His brother Lope finished the race in under an hour with no training! Emily's Outwest Basketball team came with their families and one of them even had a bake sale and raised $400 for the team. Many church members from the Bridge and the Pathway were there as well. In addition, there were a few friends of myself and Angela's that came from out of town to participate. Frankie's parents came up from Oregon... I could go on and on with the overwhelming amount of support that we had!
I prayed for a strong June for dad and we got it. It was an eventful month. On June 12th, Emily turned 14 and Christina graduated from the Education Faculty at the U of C. Dad made it out to the ceremony despite the extreme fatigue involved with travelling. The most memorable moment of the ceremony was right after the graduating class was being introduced. The master of ceremonies asked the friends and family to stand in honor of the graduates and all of their hard work. Upon hearing this request, Dad managed to squeeze out the word, "up" to mom. She helped him out of his wheelchair onto his feet. Christina's gaze made its way up to where they were sitting and of course, she melted into tears when she saw this extremely special gesture. We celebrated a wonderful Father's Day. Emily got her learners permit and has chauffered dad a few times! His difficulty communicating didn't stop him from giving his input on her driving. He said she failed "his" standard of driving, in love of course! He has enjoyed riding around the neighborhood with Ethan, the bike with training wheels alongside the wheelchair. Cherished moments!
The summer is flying by and it seems like time is an enemy. It occurred to me that we will never be ready for him to go. There is no opportune time. It is such a comfort to know that God has it all under control. My dad is ready to go home and be healed. His eternal place has been prepared for him by his Lord and Saviour. We continue to be thankful for the past, faithful in the present and hopeful for the future.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
God's faithfulness never ceases to amaze me. My dad can no longer speak but not even being mute can stop him from sharing the faith that has made such a profound difference in his life.
This last Sunday, Pastor Cesar was sharing about Action 52. It's a movement to encourage Christians to share the gospel once a week for a year (at least!). He mentioned that he had been training the staff at Outreach Canada recently, the chaplaincy company my dad used to work for. They asked, "Is Jesse participating in this? " Cesar replied, no. There was a split second of confusion in my brain until he continued.... "Jesse has his own plan. It's called Action 365!" Amen! Who says you need audible words to speak the truth?
There have been lots of physical changes. He has been experiencing a lot more fatigue and having increased difficulty eating and swallowing. His instability has also increased when walking with assistance. He tires very easily but every once in a while you can still catch the twinkle in his eye and that mischevious smile!
My heart is sad because we can no longer have the same conversations we used to. But, if there is one conversation he will refuse to give up, I am glad it's the one about the most important message ever.
Keep praying that God would give him strength, patience and hope as the disease continues to take over his body!