Category Archives: A Rediscovery of Life and Love

Getting thrown into a new life is the most uncomfortable thing I have ever had to do. In it, I am discovering new things in this journey in relation to life and love.

Nobody’s Fault

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.
— John 9:1-3 ESV

It has been a while since writing something. Admittedly, things have been hard, mainly because I have been looking for answers as why Joelle is suffering so much with her cancer ordeal. Not that I felt like I deserved any answers, but any sign would be greatly appreciated just so that I could not only have some assurance that there really is a reason for Joelle and that it works out for God’s purpose and that it is good for all of us who do believe in God’s salvation through Jesus. After all, the past months have been nothing more than staring down the eye of the hurricane in depression. If anything, it started to make me wonder if I had any type of relationship with God. It made me wonder because I felt like He wasn’t answering any of my prayers. I started wondering even more about this as I was going through a bible study as it talked quite a bit about our relationship with God. It seemed each chapter felt more and more painful as I went on. One part of the study talked about the Holy Spirit speaking to us through prayer, the church, circumstances and scripture. If anything, it really felt like nothing was happening through the first three and I started to think that nothing was happening through the fourth, until recently.

My son, Josh, who happens to be visiting his grandmother, loves to give me what we call the latest “meme-isms”. In other words, all of the crazy things that his grandmother tells him. Sure enough, he doesn’t disappoint this time around. Aside from the usual ” you’re being brainwashed” shtick (to which I managed to give him a decent comeback for), she dropped a new one. She said that one of Joelle’s friends gave Joelle cancer because her friend was jealous of Joelle. Aside from the fact that this has to be one of the most comical things I had heard; I mean, let’s face it, if people got cancer because someone else is jealous of them, there would be no one on this planet. Everybody always wants something that someone else has. Show me someone who is never jealous or envious, and I will show you their tombstone.

However, I will be the first to admit that I often wondered if I may have been part of the cause of Joelle’s cancer. Let’s face it, I am not the greatest person to be around. I can be very stress inducing. Plus, I have had many times where I fear waking up one day and Joelle would no longer be there. Add that all up and I am sure that there is something that isn’t good for Joelle there.

Funny thing happened though. Out of nowhere, I thought of Jesus and the rabbis discussing whether the blind man or his parents sinned, causing the man’s blindness. This all came to me as I was talking to Josh. At that moment, I had to look up the scripture verses and give them to Josh. I told him to read them to his grandmother. I told him to tell her that Joelle’s cancer is nobody’s fault. Joelle has this to reveal God’s Word glory and to show what works from God will come out of this. Even more than revealing this topic Josh, it was revealed to me as well. Joelle’s suffering is not a punishment for anything I did. It’s not even a punishment for anything she did. In fact, the Bible never says if we will suffer. It says when we suffer. And, it is not a case of whether we deserve it or not. In fact, it states in the Bible that the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. And we suffer, so that you the glory of God can be revealed.

I didn’t come up with this on my own. There’s no way I could have in this case. The number of scripture verses is overwhelming. Being able to put this in context can only mean that God really is hearing me and is answering me. He answered me in scripture. I’ve only heard this piece of scripture once or twice in the past 20 years. The fact that it stuck out over everything else I have read and heard over the years feels miraculous enough as it is.

Does this ease the suffering? Heck no! Everything is just as hard as it was before God answered me with this piece of scripture. It doesn’t mean that anything will be easier either. However, the one thing that it does do is give me some hope. The hope that at the end of all of the suffering, God is waiting for us. The hope that Jesus is walking beside us with his arms around us. The hope that God will continue to answer my questions and prayers through scripture. The hope of peace.

2015: Here’s what I really think of you

I won’t sugarcoat any of this: The year 2015 sucked.

I never had a year filled with so much suffering in it than 2015. If anything, it felt like 2015 put a noose around my neck and tied it to the bumper of a pickup truck dragging me 80Km/h over a road of broken glass, only to crash into a lake of iodine. And the worst of it is that I’m still feeling the pain after it all has happened, just waiting for the scars to take over so I can heal from all of this.

If anything, it’s hard to ever remember what happened January and February because it got eclipsed by March by tearing the quadricep completely off of my knee, requiring emergency surgery followed by 10 weeks of not being able to walk. I was imprisoned by a 7” drop floor living room. I had to use my arms as legs at times. I felt useless and a burden. Yeah, I will admit that I am walking better now than I have for the last 10 years, but it wasn’t a picnic getting to this spot. Even to this day, I am practicing my physiotherapy and I have been using my exercise equipment as a healing device. I’m probably one of the only few people that do not use it as a fancy coat hanger. But it’s because of the determination that I am not going to let myself be beaten by this injury. In fact, I would use this injury to make me that much better than I was before. But, getting to this point involved a lot of physical pain. The battle was between my determination and the pain that would attempt to stand in my way.

Not to mention that I was burden to Joelle. She had to wait on me hand and foot and do things for me that I never would have asked. I felt totally useless as I was unable to do things for myself in those 10 weeks. And yet, she was there for me. My injury was just as hard on her as it was on me.

And then when we think we’re just about out of the woods, hoping to carry on with our lives, Joelle is diagnosed with Stage 3C Ovarian Cancer. I felt like I was emotionally knocked down on my ass. It’s was like the nightmare that I was hoping to wake up from, but it seemed every day I woke up into the same nightmare. Watching her suffer with chemotherapy has been nothing short of emotionally draining, especially when I am trying to be strong for her, only to wind up losing it by the end of the day. Emotionally enduring her surgery wasn’t any easier as there were so many rocky roads up to today. I often reached times that I couldn’t contain myself and had to just get into the car to escape. And even watching her endure a few more rounds of chemo is draining. I have too many “why” questions and I have had so much anger and hurt this year over it because the answers feel so elusive to me.

So, as I stand here with just a little over a couple of hours before new year, let me tell you 2015 what I really think of you. 2015, I hope that you rot in hell. I hope that every memory of you burns up like tissue paper in a bonfire, so that nothing is left of you but ashes and a scar. You can’t leave my life quick enough and knowing that you will move further and further away in my rear-view mirror so that nothing will be left but a dot is the only comfort I have in the last couple of hours. As much as Joelle and I would love to celebrate your going away and slam the door on your ass, Joelle is unable to stay up and watch you leave due to the fact that chemo has drained all of the energy from her. That does not give me any cause for celebration. Perhaps, the three most painful words of 2016 will be “Happy New Year” as I watch you take your last steps. However, I was stand guard here making sure that you go and take all of your pain with you. The only gift I hope 2016 brings me is the ability to forget what a bad year 2015 was.

Darkness in the Festival of Lights

Once again it is Chanukah and all around the world, we all celebrate by lighting candles on our Menorahs, eating latkes (very yummy potato pancakes) and give presents. And this time, I really have no desire to celebrate. I originally lost the desire to celebrate Chanukah after my father died when I was a child and spent almost all of my teenage years and my twenties raging out at God over it. Mind you, I went through the motions when my kids were young as my hurt wasn’t fair to them. Mind you, having found Jesus, we mistakenly wound up putting our Jewish celebrations on the shelf, at least until Joelle studied and wrote papers on the Jewish feasts.

Truly, I have to credit Joelle for getting us back on track with all of the Jewish celebrations, including Chanukah. Her renewed enthusiasm gave me a reason to celebrate. Even more so, we were having something to share with our grandchildren. They know more about being Messianic Jews than our kids really did. We would all light the candles and join together with our kids out west using Skype and we would all recite the Chanukah blessings. Between Joelle and them, I really felt like I was starting to have a reason to want to celebrate Chanukah again.

Until recently…

Watching Joelle suffer from cancer and all of the effects of chemotherapy and surgery has finally started to take its toll on me, especially after the last emergency visit to TGH. By Friday, I could barely keep a straight face in the office at the end of the day and people were noticing that I was finally starting to break down. I managed to rush out of the office in time to let it all out in the car on the way home. If anything, all I really wanted to do was sleep and do nothing else. Even after 11 hours of sleep, I felt like I wanted more.

Honestly, I have no real joy, or at least joy that I am experiencing, for this time of year when we are supposed to be feeling joyful. Even with all of the lights in our neighbourhood, everything feels dark. I have no desire to celebrate without my best friend by my side. She helped make the occasion bright. She lit up the room on Chanukah. A thousand candles couldn’t take away the darkness in the festival of lights while she is in the hospital.

The only hope I have right now is the one true light: Jesus. I do pray that he hears my voice and our suffering and shine his light on us this year, especially where we are physically, emotionally and in some cases spritually unable to. I pray that he will take his place upfront and center in my Menorah of Life and will shine his everlasting light on us and drive away the darkness.

Scars

It seems that throughout my life, there is one thing that is rather persistent: scars. My life is loaded with them. The ones that are on my body, I seem to celebrate and admire almost as if they were war wounds. I almost treat them as if I had walked out of a major battle loaded with these scars. Then there are many of the emotional scars that I, for some reason or another, seem to cover up and no talk about them in hopes that they will go away. The worst part of that is I don’t know why I do this.

I learned something about scar tissue that I find interesting. Scar tissue is formed by the body in order to seal, protect and repair a wounded area, and is far stronger than the tissue that it is holding together. If anything, it is quite the repair mechanism. One can say that scars make us stronger. We might walk away wounded from a situation, but we come back to it far stronger because of the scar. It’s almost as if it should be a medal of honour for having endured that battle.

I often look at the scar on my knee, thinking how I endured a 10-week long healing process beginning March 4th, 2015. It wasn’t easy, since a good part of the healing meant that I had spent almost all of that time with my leg in a splint, and not able to walk on it. The other part was regaining my range of motion through various floor exercises. It was a signal of a lifestyle change. Almost six months later, I have used that experience to rebuild my strength in my legs and take the rest of my body along for the ride. I walk better than I have in the past 10 years and I’m conquering other areas such as my physical fitness issues. That scar serves as a reminder of not only where I was, but where I am now and what I had to go through to get here.

If their function is such a grand function in the scheme of things, why do we go through huge efforts to cover them up, or remove them, and pretend like it never happened? It is almost as if marketing has been brainwashing us into seeing scars as nothing but ugly marks on our person. We then managed to take it even further with phrases such as “scarred for life”, or “emotionally scarred”. They use it in the sense as if someone has been permanently damaged. Yes, I get that there are many events in our lives that can leave us emotionally damaged. I have had my share, starting with seeing my father dying at the age of seven. It still gets me emotional. Am I emotionally scarred? Yes, in some parts. However, to me, these scars mean that some of the damage has healed and I can look at those emotional scars knowing that I have gone through a healing process. I can look at those emotional scars knowing that I have lived through various ordeals, and in many cases, loved. A lot of the emotional scars that I bear have taught me not only am I capable of love, but also tell me that I know what love is. The scars I bear from love in many ways have made love grow stronger.

Will I have more scars? I’m sure I will. They won’t be pleasant, and some will be from downright painful moments in my life. But, at least I will be able to look at the scars as healing. I will be able to look at them and remind myself of where I am now because of them. I will be stronger, in some way, because of those scars.

Seasons of Life

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die;a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal;a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh;a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose;a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew;a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate;a time for war, and a time for peace.

— Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

When I look back on everything that has happened in 2015 so far, I will be one of the first to admit that I can’t wait to put this entire year behind me in hopes that 2016 will be better. However, in my quest for some wisdom into everything that has happened and is currently happening this year, it dawned on me that these things in life are nothing more than seasons. By themselves, they seem rather finite and perhaps even gloomy at times. However, in life, seasons are rather linear and connected. If you look at how they flow together to make a complete year, you can see how winter flows into spring, spring flows into summer, summer flows into autumn, and autumn flows into winter. It is rather seamless. Life mimics the seasons as everything flows into each other.

As it seems, I have been focusing on a the old seasons in my life, and only seem to be looking at their ending. What I seem to be missing is how they are flowing into the beginning of new seasons almost seamlessly. And honestly, these transitions don’t really stick out that I could notice at a glance. Some of them seem to require some insight on my part.

For example, earlier this year, I managed to tear my quadricep muscle clean off of my knee on my left leg, requiring emergency surgery, followed by 10 weeks of physiotherapy, not to mention having to spend that time off of that leg. At the time, it seemed like I was thrown into the eye of a hurricane. What I didn’t see was what was waiting for me on the other side. Before the injury, I was walking with a limp for the past ten years, due to a karate mishap. Getting around was painful. If anything, the injury gave me a chance to start over. I have been relearning how to walk for the past five months along with rebuilding the strength in my leg. I’ve managed to use this transition to take my physical health more seriously. While rebuilding the strength in my legs, I have also been working on my upper body strength and building muscle to combat my body fat. Where I am now compared to five months ago, is a pretty significant difference. I can notice differences in my physical appearance and the best part is that I walk far better than I have done in the past ten years. As my oldest daughter would say, I tore the limp clean off. After all, who ever gets injured and is better off from it? In the entire 10 year span, the line from the first injury to now is hard to perceive if you break it into chunks. As a whole however, it’s a little easier to see the seasons on that particular time-line.

Being able to see this time-line in this light has allowed me to see other events in my life in a much better light. I’m not saying that they felt like the best thing to happen to me, but looking back at them make me feel a little better considering the seasonal transitions to where I am today. Some things have proven to be worth the pain that I endured, while others have made me stronger, either physically, intellectually, or emotionally.

Admittedly, there are many new events springing from Joelle’s cancer. We’ve had to stop doing weddings and right now, it does feel like life is on hold. However, I am starting to find that I am getting a chance to think about the next chapter in our lives. If anything, there are many possibilities out there, and it is going to take time to see what is waiting for us. But all in all, it is another season in life. Many things are ending, and at the same time, they are transitioning into the beginning of other things. What they are remains to be seen. The chunks on the time-line are not big enough at the moment. However, rather than feeling down over things that have passed, perhaps I should be excited in anticipation of the things to come.

When God Speaks

The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. And the Lord called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

— 1 Samuel 3:3 – 9

Whoever actually coined the phrase, “When we talk to God, it’s prayer, but when God speaks to us, it’s schizophrenia”, must have been an atheist and probably a psychiatrist attempting to snuff out what believers may be tuned in to.

Yup, it’s time for some more ramblings from my Q10. I’m sure that Joelle is going to soon regret letting me have this BlackBerry. I really have to admire her talent for being able to read my blog posts with her eyes rolling the way they do whenever I do these things. That’s probably why I love her so much.

But I digress…

Let me start by saying that throughout Joelle’s entire cancer ordeal, I really don’t believe that we have been walking alone in this. I truly believe that God has been walking with us. You can call me insane all you want, but unless you are walking in my shoes and have been witnessing everything I have been feeling and hearing, then you really wouldn’t know anything about it.

One indicator that I don’t believe that I am alone is that I have often woken up in the middle of the night crying and somewhere in between the all of the praying and crying, I could swear that I have felt someone touching me. It’s as if I could feel a hand touching my back or my side and then rolling over to find that there is no one there. I have no reason to doubt that there could be an angel sent by God to comfort me in these times. And if it is crazy, then I would rather go with the crazy and feel like I am not alone than with the normal and lonely, especially at this time.

There are also times where I am asleep, or at least I am falling asleep, and I will hear my name being called. Usually, my first reaction is to wake up and turn around to see who is calling me. Of course, there is no one there, and I know it is not Joelle because not only is she sleeping, but I know her voice, and have known so for over thirty years.

It reminds me of the scripture that I posted regarding Samuel. Every time he heard God’s voice calling him, he kept going to Eli and asking what he wanted. Of course, Eli responded with, “it wasn’t me.” Eli also told Samuel that the next time God is calling him, he should answer God and tell him that His servant is listening.

Interesting. I have had many times when I felt that I was hearing my name being called. Every time I have heard it, I felt like it was one of those moments where I could feel it right down to my soul. It was more than simply hearing my name. It was more like feeling my name. And yet, every time I heard it, I never really answered. I just simply turned around to see who was there.

I have always begged for God to talk to me and now it seems like I am getting my wish. So instead of trying to see who is there and not even try to answer back, I should be more like Samuel and have the courage to ask God to speak some more because I am now listening. Of course you are thinking that it sounds like insanity, but look at it this way: if there is no one there, then all I am really doing is talking to the air. However, if God is there and I don’t try to speak up when I am being spoken to, then I am really missing the chance of a lifetime. As well, I will also be proving my lack of faith because I had prayed and God was answering my prayers.

The Battle and the Hope

but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
– Isaiah 40:31

I had a blog post that I was typing before, but somehow it got messed up. It doesn’t surprise me, because it seems all part of the battle that I am going through right now. All of my fears, anxiety and sadness regarding Joelle’s cancer has taken its toll. I find myself not wanting to play any music and I find myself going to bed at 9pm only to wake up the next morning like I didn’t have any sleep. At times, I don’t even feel like singing in the car. That’s a big thing for me. Am I depressed? Probably. Have I lost hope? NO!

I have hope in the God will come and pull me out of this. My hope is strong in this because I know that Jesus was in similar states on the night of his betrayal. Anxious, fearful and sad. Yet, he walked that road all the way up to the cross. I believe that Jesus is waiting for me on the other side of this battle, ready to help me press on. I know that he will help me up and run this race again.

I may be down, but I know that God is near and listening to my cries. I would have to be foolish to believe otherwise. He’s taken care of my needs up to this point and He has never failed to deliver. He will deliver me from this battle victorious. I will look at the scars that this battle has given me and I will smile because those scars make me stronger in the Lord. Just as I look at the scar on my knee and know how God has made me better than before, I will look at these scars and know that God is making me better.

And in the end, I will sing a brand new song.

For Better Or For Worse

I remember those words 33 years ago (at the time of this writing). Standing there beside Joelle, I promised her that I would be there no matter what. She promised the same to me as well. Sure enough, our promises would be put to the test.

We’ve definitely had our share of great times, such as our kids being born, getting our first house and even our second, finding a great church. We’ve even spent the last 12 years working together on weekends as wedding photographers and we had a blast doing it. We got to see other couples exchange the same vows, celebrate with them, take lots of pictures, and eat lots of great food in various places. To Joelle and myself, it was almost like date night and it never felt like work. Of course, there are plenty more great times that I couldn’t name them all. And no matter what, we stuck together. I stood beside her and she stood beside me.

And we had bad times. When I suffered depression, she sold her piano to get me the Anthony Robbins Personal Power CDs. I would go crazy worrying about her when she got seriously ill, after Joshua was born. I can’t say that I had things figured out. In fact, I probably had nothing figured out. All I knew is that Joelle means almost everything to me and I would go crazy without her.

33 years after these vows were exchanged, nothing changed. When I fell and ripped the muscle off my knee, Joelle would get up in the middle of the night caring for me. I felt like a real burden to her because for those 8 weeks, I could not take care of myself in the simplest of ways. I was in tears because I felt like I was such a burden. Joelle would look at me and tell me “for better or for worse…”. Joelle also laughed and said “you owe me”. What we didn’t count on was what was to happen six weeks after I was finally back on my feet.

Joelle has been diagnosed with Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer. Admittedly, I have been a mess for the past two weeks, knowing my best friend is in pain and has the battle of her life and all I can think is that she doesn’t deserve this. And in all that, all I can think of is for better or for worse. I will not leave her side. I want to be there to help her fight through all of this. It’s funny that she wondered if I should even be there for her chemotherapy. I wouldn’t even think of being anywhere else but right beside her. I’m not going to leave her side. I love her way too much.

To all of the brides and grooms that Joelle and I had the pleasure of serving for the past 25 years, Remember the vows you shared together. Nothing will ever show how much you love each other more than keeping those vows, not only when times are better, but when times are worse. Your marriage will be stronger because of it.

Making this Blind Man See

Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;

– Isaiah 38:4 – 6 via www.bible.com

It has been almost a month since my knee injury on the winter ice. That one heartbeat of a moment that robbed me of my independence, to which I now I have been fighting to get back. No, it’s not a battle against anyone and it certainly is not a lashing out towards God. I don’t have to ask why this happened to me because I know that everything always happens for a good reason. It isn’t like God said, “Take that and suffer with it…” or anything like that. It’s more like, “I have something to share with you and I need your attention”. I know that God is helping me clean up some of the sins in my life and sometimes the cure feels worse than the disease.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking, “How the heck can ripping the muscle off your knee be a cure for sin?”. Well, let’s start with the sin itself. It definitely goes deeper than this in levels one God could explain, but let’s just say that I haven’t been totally appreciative of the people that surround me in my everyday life. People like Joelle and Joshua, who are with me day in and day out. One could say that I have been taking their presence for granted and perhaps have not been treating them as a loving husband and father should be. In short, I was blind.

Enter the injury…

It’s amazing how one little… okay, not so little… muscle could leave me in a state of immobility and dependency. That muscle has disrupted the body. That muscle has interrupted a way of life. In fact, it not only interrupted a way of life for me, but it has also interrupted a way of life for Joelle and for Joshua. All of a sudden, their lives have been burdened with my injury. Heck, even Margot put her life on hold to fly out to help take care of me for the first couple of weeks of my injury. For our marriage, the “For Better and For Worse” wound up invoked.

So, where’s the cure?

It’s simple, really. Just as most things God does for us humans, He’s laid this one out right before my eyes as plain to see. God has made me realize just how strong Joelle’s and my marriage to each other is. When everyone else in life has left me wounded for dead, Joelle is the only person standing right by my side. She is taking care of me. She is feeding me. She’s helping me fight to regain my independence. She’s doing things for me that she never bargained for. She’s there for me throughout all of this. If that’s not love, then what is? Joshua has also been there and I know that it is hardest for him. He’s been helping to care of me and assist me with my physio exercises. Maybe God is preparing him as well.

Sometimes, it takes something like this to make your heart realize what love really is. Someone once told me that love is not a feeling, but an action. Love makes us do many things, and in many cases things we never wanted to do. And when things feel like they are at their worse, love brings out the best in those around them. And when you take your eyes off your injury, and affliction, you notice it and you really begin to appreciate it from that moment onward.

When you think about it, this injury is helping this blind man to see once again.