October 15, 2012

Thanksgiving Day

Last week we were privileged to celebrate Thanksgiving Day together as a family. Looking back at pictures from Thanksgiving 2011 I remember the strong feeling we had that this would probably be our last celebration together as a complete family. It was an emotional time for us as we
listed the things we were thankful for, and as we all thought about a future without Dad in it.

Here is a picture from last year, as we sat out on the patio watching Gerrit deep fry the turkey.

One year later we gathered again at Sarah and Goran's house, around a table loaded with food, friends and family. And Dad. What a blessing!

Last year Dad came with his walker, this year he was in his wheelchair. Last year he could still talk, this year his computer did the talking for him. Last year he could still eat well, this year he still could eat - its just a lot longer, slower process. Food has to be cut very small, he has to chew for a
long time, and as his friend Ryk said, "He is getting used to eating cold food" because it takes so long to finish a plate. Dad could be fed exclusively through his G tube if he chooses, but he has so few pleasures left - and Mom's pies are worth the effort it takes Dad to eat!

My Mom was able to produce 4 spectacular homemade pies, as well as bringing the turkey and ham! God has given her an extra measure of strength to be able to get through these hard times. It never ceases to amaze me how she is able to carry on, day after day, and long night after long night.  I know my Mom would agree that it's truly a testament, not to the power of the human spirit, but to the power of the Spirit of God in us, giving us the grace and energy to continue.

My parents have been so supported and loved by their friends, their family and their church community. We were privileged to share our Thanksgiving celebration this year with Ryk, Anke and Dirk Naves as well. Ryk and Anke have been faithful friends of my parents for decades. I can't remember a time in my life when they weren't there! Dirk is like a brother to us.  Through the years these friends of our family have walked life's highs and lows together with us. This Thanksgiving as our two families joined together, I think we all really appreciated just how much we value each other. Seeing Ryk feeding my Dad was a visual symbol to me of what a true friend really is.

Dad was able to open the meal with a prayer which he laboriously typed out on the computer the day before our dinner. We all bowed our heads and then the computerized voice we have come to know as "Dad" began. I have included the prayer here:

We praise Thee our God and Creator for Thy majesty, 
mercy and grace. You have given us Your Son as a sacrifice for our sin and to reconcile us to a holy God. Send us Your Holy Spirit to apply the words and works of Christ Jesus to our hearts and be our Comforter.

We confess our sin against Thy holy law and that we don't obey, serve and live for You as we should. Give us a heart that is renewed by Your power and made willing to submit to Your way and providence in our lives. Give us the desire to use our time, our talents and resources to extend Your kingdom here on earth.

We thank Thee for this day and for the abundance of delicious food prepared by loving hands. Bless and strengthen us with it. We thankyou for your Word and for your Son Who gave His life as a ransom for our sins.

Please forgive us our sins and keep us from sin. Bless our dear children and grandchildren. Bless and protect our marriages. Bless our work so that we can meet our obligations to church, home and school. Bless all 
Christian education at home, church and school.

Bless our consistories, our pastors and give us our own Pastor and teacher soon.

Give us patience and a submissive heart to Thy way in our lives. Remember Sarah and baby Beric in the days and weeks ahead, and make all things well. Remember our brother Dirk and make Your way forward clear to him. Remember us all, and do not forsake us O Lord we 
pray, for Jesus sake, Amen.

The weather was cold and windy and so we didn't spend a lot of time outside this year, or do our traditional family hike after dinner as Dad wouldn't be able to participate. Instead we set up the projector on the wall in the living room and looked through old family photos.  This has become a truly precious pastime - the kids love it! We go through old fishing pictures, trips to the cottage, birthday celebrations, baby pictures and laugh at funny outdated haircuts and clothing styles (love the ruffled shirt and huge bow tie on your wedding day Dad!!)  

Dad had two girls perched on his knees in the wheelchair for the show :)

We ended with one of the most precious parts of our celebration. We went around the room and said what we were particularly thankful for that year. Dad shared that he was thankful for:
I am thankful for my family and friends. You all do so much to help and care for me. I love you all very much.  I pray for you all by name, for your marriages, your businesses, for your church and pastor every day. My hope and desire is that you would all be faithful in your love and service to the Lord.
Everyone had something to share. There are so many things to be thankful for - its hard to pick just one! This year what I was most thankful for is God's Sovereignty. I have been so comforted with knowing that our God is all powerful. That he controls everything from the rain and the stars and the sunset and the seasons, to the smallest detail of our everyday lives. ALS is not out of his control.  Our heavenly Father is in complete control of this situation too - and we can know, as believers, that he is working even this horrible disease for our good! Dad and Mom and I have been reading a book by Joni Erickson Tada on Sunday nights, about Suffering and Gods Sovereignty. There is a pendulum of ideas about suffering and God. Some people think God sits on the side, sad about these bad things that happen to us and it seems that He wishes they didn't happen to us. Our God is so much stronger than that! Other people believe in faith healing, as though if we just prayed hard enough or believed hard enough we would be cured. That puts such a terrible burden on people that God never intended. I am so thankful that we can just rest, knowing He is in control of everything. He is able to heal, and will if He
thinks it's for our best, and if He doesn't heal, then even though it may be hard to know why, that too is for our best!

R.C. Sproul Jr. , who has lost his wife to cancer, and now his young daughter also, was able to reflect on this in a way that resonated with me. He said that he felt he had been groomed his whole life for such a time as this. From a young age, the knowledge and confidence of God's sovereignty was impressed on Him, and when things got really rough, he was able to turn to that solid foundation of knowing that His (our!) God is good - all the time, and controls all things, working them out for benefit. I feel so privileged to be
raised with the same sure confidence. That our God is good. All the time. That our God is able. All the time. And that our times are in His hand - not one of us, who believe on Him, will be snatched from His hand.

When Dad was first diagnosed and our family was still in quite a state of shock at the idea of Dad dying, Rev. Procee reminded me that God will KEEP us… and He has!

We have so much to be thankful for, but most of all, we have our God. When those around us say "Why?" and have no hope and no answers to life's hard questions, we do! I am so thankful for that!


  1. Thank you Sarah for this lively 'painting' of all the mixed feelings, gratefulness and faith all of you go through. It helps to bridge the geographical distance which we experience in these days. Connected however we are in our expectation of the promised land. Bert Westerink

  2. Joni, I know that we see each other once every five years in the market, but I do read the posts about your dad. I don't know why. But, I do know that reading his beautifully crafted prayer for the Thanksgiving day had me weeping. It is a legacy. Thank you for sharing.
    Linda B.