May 24, 2012

Two Trailer Posts:

An Unexpected Visit to the Trailer (by Jack)

We had the delightful privilege of spending two days at our trailer on Pigeon Lake, near Peterborough. Our son Gerrit and his wife Sarah, went there a week before us, to clean the trailer, cut the grass, put the boat in the water, and set everything up after being closed for the winter. To our surprise, a red squirrel had been busy storing pine cones in the kitchen cupboards (several garbage cans full). That squirrel could never have eaten that many pine cones in its entire lifetime! Thank you guys, for getting everything fixed up for us to be able to enjoy using it again. 

It was so nice to be able to experience God's beautiful creation, breathe the fresh air, have a fire from the dead branches we cleaned up, and to use the barbecue again. There is nothing quite like having bacon and eggs for breakfast on the deck, while listening to the birds singing God's praises in the trees around the trailer. 

It was also so good to see our son and grandson do some fishing (our families favourite sport ), and spend some quality time together. It is so important to build relationships with our children when they are young, and then to be blessed from those relationships when they are older. I am delighted to see that tradition continue!  

To God be the praise for undeserved blessings and gifts. Perhaps we can do it again soon. 


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First Trip to the Trailer, and Why it was a really big Deal for our Family (by Joni)

Mom and Dad, Gerrit and Sarah and their 2 children made their first trip up to our family trailer on Pigeon Lake this week. We have a lot of wonderful memories there as a family - especially memories of good times for my Dad. For him - the trailer was a precious place of escape. Dad loved his very busy life at the school and the church and in his community but every once in a while you just need to get away from it all. Get away to a quiet lake where there are no sounds but a loon call. Where your daily "to do" list consists of heading over to the Mennonite shop for a fresh baked pie and some muffins, trying out a new lure on the lake, and making smores over a fire. When you live a public life that includes stressful meetings and conversations, sometimes it becomes a vital and wonderful thing to escape for a bit!

I think that our family, remembering the joy the trailer brought to our parents before Dad got sick, really wants to recreate just a small bit of that joy for them. But Dad is no longer in the public sphere. He no longer has full busy days, and doesn't need to "get away from it all" anymore. Going up to the trailer again actually seems like an exhausting and scary undertaking now for him. He feels safest at home with all his medical equipment, his lift recliner chair and the little bit of security that they have been able to create for themselves in a world which is becoming more and more unsecure. The symptoms of ALS are showing themselves more than ever for Dad. He has daily attacks where he can hardly breathe and has to stand, gasping for air to fill his lungs. He has cramping and spasms which last all night long, and his legs and arms twitch constantly. He gets a prickly, tingly pins and needles type feeling in his feet which causes him to moan in discomfort. His leg has started to vibrate up and down rapidly sometimes, and he can't control it. My Mom is starting to really feel the effects of long sleepless nights and pain in her whole body as she lifts and turns Dad on her own. Things are very difficult to say the least, and so home seems the safest place to be.

There is another reason why going up north is not a simple thing. While physically going has presented many challenges that my brother Gerrit has so joyfully undertaken (building a ramp, rearranging a bedroom etc.) there are also emotional challenges which are also a large hurdle. As each "tent peg" has been pulled from the ground of my Dad's life, God has graciously given him the ability to let go. Let go of walking. Let go of service. Let go of church duties, etc. He has emotionally boxed up that item, taped it off and given it to the Lord. I know my Dad and I know how he operates. He is the picture of efficiency! If you know him, you know that doing things twice is not his style. You do something right the first time and you are done with it. Junk mail comes out of the mail box into the recycling bin - you don't lay it on your desk. The phone bill is opened, paid, and put in the mail box - no filing it for later. This ability has served my Dad so well in his tasks as administrator. He is organized and efficient. He always had the items for the first staff meeting of September printed in June. By September he was planning the Christmas program and by January he had graduation Bibles ordered and the calligraphy done on the diplomas. He has been the butt of endless family jokes for this efficiency which has permeated every aspect of his life- from how he eats (fast!) to yard work and even to family relations. 

Emotionally this has usually proved beneficial for him as well. If there is an issue, you deal with it (no sweeping it under the rug or putting it on the shelf for later) and then you put it away for ever. There is no rehashing or pulling up old pains and problems - move on! I think this is the first time in my life that I have seen this attribute become a painful part of my Dad's life. He had given up the trailer and his northern vacations to God. He put them in a box, taped it up and realized that, that part of his life was over. God gave him the grace to give it up and he has his eyes fixed on the destination now. So bringing up the idea of trying to go back up north was very difficult. I think its something that you can't understand unless you have personally experienced this. Some area of your life that you thought you had with dealt with and then it comes back to you and even if its a good thing, it can be hard to "unpack" it again. Its something we have had to talk through as a family - understanding my Dad's anxiety about opening this door again, and deciding to go ahead with it anyways.

The reality is that sitting in one recliner for 18 hours a day, looking out the same window loses its appeal pretty quickly. For both my Dad and Mom, a change of scenery is necessary for different reasons now. They don't need to get away from the stress and busyness of their old life, but they need to see something new. They need to breathe fresh pine air, listen to the birds, walk (roll) by the water, and take pleasure and joy out of seeing their kids take pleasure and joy in being up North. They need to be distracted from the physical pain and the ever increasing demands my Dads care is having on both of them, and just see God's creation again with fresh eyes.

The trip up was no simple one. Packing lists now include: medications, drinking straw, wheelchair, commode, walker, etc. in addition to the regular things needed on a trip away. But by God's grace they were able to undertake this huge (for them!) trip. God gave travelling mercies, and a little bit of joy to weary souls. No red squirrel damage (see pictures) were able to take away the blessing of a few days away.

Just wanted to share this item of praise with you all, to thank you for your continued prayers for my parents. They desperately need it, as do our whole family. The journey is becoming very difficult, but praise God, joy can still be found!



  1. Great. Thanks for sharing. Love you all! Praying!

  2. Joni, I just want to thank you so much for sharing these precious things with all of us. I am so honoured to know you and even though I haven't met him I am blessed to know your amazing father a little bit more through your words. I would love to introduce my children to him if the time ever works out for your family. My prayers are with you and your family. God is GOOD and His mercies endure forever.

  3. Dear Jack and Lena,
    My heart aches as I read your blog, yet I can only point you to Christ and as you know He knows of your struggles. With God you can make this journey. Jack and Lena, know that you are in our prayers each day. Till we meet one day.

  4. Hi Joni, Jack and Lena and the rest of the family:)

    My thoughts and prayers are with you as you all (together) go through life's challenges - it often reminds me of all the parents who have to go thru' this day in, day out with their child/adult child who has a significant physical/developmental disability. (Esp the going out camping bit - we did it last year and although it was ALOT of work, we ALL loved the opportunity of going away for 3 days to a beautiful cottage! May God continue to be praised by this wonderful and inspiring blog! Blessings! MH

  5. Hi Jack and Lena,

    I am new to your blog but understand what you and your family are going through. My wonderful husband Doug was diagnosed with ALS in March 2008 and went to be with his Savior on Christmas Eve,2011 here in Toronto.

    Our God is faithful.God's strength was truly made perfect in weakness.This was our testimony and it sounds like you are experiencing that as well.

    May God Bless You and Keep You

    Love in Christ,Maureen[Praying for you]