Success

success1

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and
endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

R. W. Emerson

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Finish Well

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I visited my dad yesterday.  He lives in an assisted living centre where he is surrounded by caregivers and residents.

My dad suffers with dementia – this terrible disease that robs the mind of memory.  When one member of the family suffers we all suffer.

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As we watch this happen we grieve with him the loss of so much – the ability to process – the ability to remember – the ability to understand.  We watch as this man who carries himself with such dignity and poise – struggles to remember what to do with a tooth brush – how to put on a belt – and where to find his razor.

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And yet with the help of those caregivers around him he still looks every bit the same as in his younger days – as he gently allows us, or the caregivers he trusts to lead him through the daily routines and ensure he is always ready for the day.

He has the reputation in his residence of being so well dressed, and the ladies there remind us of that when we visit.  They tell us he is the best looking man there.  And of course we smile knowing that my dad would never imagine anyone thinking this.  We also smile, because we know that just finding clothes each day to wear is a struggle, let alone knowing what shirt to match with which pants, and finding the right socks and shoes.

It is my dad’s humble spirit that allows him to trust others to help him.  It is gentleness that gives him the grace to accept this help with dignity and trust.  And as I watch this play out on a daily basis in his life I realize that it is only because he has had this same attitude all throughout his life that he is able to have this attitude now – now at a time where he doesn’t have the same capacity to filter his thoughts and his responses.

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I marvel that the man who he has always been, a man full of grace, goodness, encouragement, thoughtfulness, humour, insight, wisdom, and straight forward truth is still who he is.  Kindness is the reputation he has – the nurses tell us he has such a good heart.  When we tell them he seems good today – they respond by telling us he is always good – because his heart is good.

And as I watch this unfold – the last years of my dad’s life – I wonder if I will finish well as he is finishing well.  Some would say he isn’t finishing well because there are times he talks in circles making no sense at all – mixing thoughts up – speaking nonsense even though somewhere in the confused communication there is truth and logic.  Some would say what a shame that he is so healthy and yet his mind is so far gone at times he doesn’t know his own children.  Some would say what a shame his life has come to this – and yes there is great sadness that this disease has taken so much.

But as I watch him deal with this on a daily basis I see a man who finishes each visit and each telephone call with the phrase “keep on keeping on” as if to say – where there is life there is hope – and where there is hope there is love.  And he lives this way – and treats all who he comes into contact with kindness, and with encouragement.

I imagine he does this because he made a decision early in his life to live this way – to see goodness in all things – to see hope in the darkest hour – to trust even when he didn’t understand.  He made a decision to treat all those around him with gentleness and goodness – and because he did this when he knew to do this – he does this now even when he doesn’t know to do it – it is a natural response – a way of life.

That is what I call finishing well.

And he inspires me to live well now so that I will set the pattern for finishing well.  I realized after my visit that I am not gentle as he is gentle – I am not patient as he is patient – I am not kind as he is kind.  And so I am thankful for his example to me – I am thankful for the check in my spirit to be better and do better.

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And I realize that finishing well is not always what we imagine it to be – finishing well is living in such a way that you inspire those around you to finish well too!

Prayer for Today

Pansy

O Lord, grant me to greet the coming day in peace.

Help me in all things to rely upon thy holy will. In every hour of the day reveal thy will to me.

Bless my dealings with all who surround me. Teach me to treat all that comes to me throughout the day with peace of soul, and with the firm conviction that thy will governs all.

In all my deeds and words guide my thoughts and feelings. In unforeseen events, let me not forget that all are sent by thee.

Teach me to act firmly and wisely, without embittering and embarrassing others.

Give me strength to bear the fatigue of the coming day and all that it shall bring.

Direct my will, teach me to pray, pray thou thyself in me.

Amen.”

Deep Roots

 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8

I love hydrangea – many of you know that!  They take a LOT of water – especially when they are planted in a place where there is a great amount of sun!  The large beautiful flowers are so delicate – and without the water in their stems they droop over and loose their beauty so quickly.   They need water – and lots of it – especially  in the hot weather which we have had such an abundance of this year.  I am amazed at the amount this plant is drinking – from the roots to the stems – to the flowers.  You can see how the water gives the stems strength and lifts the plant giving it the ability to stand up against the sun, and the wind.

Deep roots are so important – for when the soil on the surface dries out the deeper the roots, the more moisture and water is available.

I am so thankful that I have deep roots in my life.  I am thankful that these deep rooted values and beliefs which stem from my faith, keep me grounded and firm when the winds of life blow and the sun dries the ground around.  I will not be blown down although maybe tossed around – the deep roots keep me planted and steadfast.  When in a dry season, my deep roots allow me to draw on water that is deeper than I knew could possibly be there.

It is so important to be a deeply rooted person – because the winds of life will blow, and drought will come – but for those whose roots are deep – for those who can stand firm with integrity and truth and love – they will not be moved.

Make sure you grow deep roots in your life – deep roots will prove to be invaluable in times of trouble – in times of storm and in times of drought.

Beauty in the Unexpected

I was so delighted when I received an email two weeks ago  Friday morning.   “Would you like company?”  Of course I would love company!  And so my sister and her husband made their way from Niagara Falls to Toronto  Friday evening to spend a leisurely weekend at my place.  And that is just what is was – restful – no agenda – no schedule – eat – drink – and be merry!

Climbing out of bed on Saturday morning – brewing the coffee – walking out to the garden – sitting and listening to the birds wake up  – pure joy!  Listening to the water fountain spill water over the granite rock puts your mind into a tranquil state.  Pure relaxation.  And no agenda – bliss!

I could swear the hydrangea plant grew in front of our eyes – so many buds coming – so many flowers to look forward to!

There is just something so relaxing about sitting back in your chair that reclines at just the right angle and watching the clouds move ever so slowly – covering the sun – then waiting for the clouds to move so the sun can warm our skin – what a relaxing change from the stresses of life and work!

When my sisters husband enters the scene and asks what we have been talking about all morning – the answer is – well only a couple of things – but we covered them well – with lots of laughter!  There is just something about chewing a subject well that lands you in a spot where all you can do is laugh and look at life through the bigger picture of a Creator who has control of it all.

I, along with my family have been through tough times in recent months and years – much loss and stress – on so many levels – and so this time of relaxation was so needed, welcomed and appreciated.  When stress is great – the appreciation for what you used to take for granted is multiplied.  To be able to relax and enjoy nothingness – was for us beautiful.  I felt the sun in a way that I had not before – I enjoyed the sounds of nature in a new way – and I loved the time together to relax.  So much of our family time has been taken up in care giving, planning moves for parents who need greater care, emptying out the contents of houses, planning funerals (I’m so sorry to say this but I speak truth here) and solving problems that need to be looked after that were complicated and affected lives other than our own – that is the nature of care giving.

But beauty does come in the unexpected – the reflection of the sun on the small water fountain, the birds who cautiously danced toward the pond hoping to get a bath – the squirrels that look at you with suspect eyes wondering why you have invaded their little haven – the smell of a BBQ cooking steak – ah that smell is heaven – the sound of the laughter of children in other yards around – the mixture of rustic fence wood against the colour of the new green leaves on the growing plants – and the feeling that you are with people who love you – who support you – and who have your back.  That is what family is – at least to me – and especially after you have journeyed together through loss and sadness and stress.  Beauty is knowing you are surrounded by love.

I am learning to drink in the small things – drink in the beauty of the sunshine, the beauty of the rain, the beauty of the fragrance of flowers, the green of grass and so many other small things that I so often have taken for granted.

And so as I face a new day today I will be very mindful of the beauty around me – in creation, in music, in design, in style, in wonderful food,  in laughter, in personality, in service  – in everything –  and especially in unexpected places.  Joy always comes in the morning – so here is to the morning!