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What Easter means to me: life, death and resurrection

"Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown." (Revelation 3:11, NKJV)
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So much of Christian faith can be pinned on Easter: the persecution & death of Jesus and then later, his resurrection and ascension into Heaven.

To be sure, Jesus was pretty radical back in his time. He hung around with lepers, prostitutes and tax collectors. He performed miracles and professed to be God. Yes, Jesus had his followers but he attracted a tremendous number of scoffers also. Bible scholars today have two thousand years of hindsight and a fully transcribed New Testament to lean on. The people of Jesus' time had far less and I can certainly see how scepticism won out.

It's been just over seven months since my wife Elana passed away. Elana's death woke me up and brought me to a whole other level, spiritually. I feel God close always, in everything. It's so intense and personal and I don't expect anyone else to fully understand it. I am forever changed. My eyes & ears are highly tuned, discerning. God speaks to me now in numbers, in music, through scripture, and even technology. I think of Heaven often, too. A few days ago, I had a very powerful vision of my body being translated and raptured up. The idea of dying - of moving on towards a life beyond this one - used to scare me. It doesn't anymore. Still, I realize that all of my religious ramblings and honest talk about death here will definitely offend a few people.

Jesus was offensive too, remember that. His truth came first. Ultimately, Easter represents the promise of life, death and eventual resurrection for anyone who chooses to believe in Him. As for me, I'm holding fast to that promise. I find comfort in it. Christ is coming for his Bride and the whole world's invited to an uber exclusive / inclusive after-party!

I RSVP'd early. My "+1" is Elana, and yes, her dance card is already full.


Valentine's Day 2014

This is a different Valentine's Day for me, obviously.

Still, in honour of Elana, I was invited to write a guest blog post on Handicap This!

Please take the jump to my guest post here.

I'm very happy with the finished article / post ... it turned out great, I think. Special thanks goes to Zachary Fenell for his clever editing and extra spit & polish. And of course for suggesting the opportunity to guest blog in the first place.


First kiss of 2002

Those that have read my book, DADDY BENT-LEGS already know that Elana & I met on a blind date, December 1st, 2001. Our second date was a couple of weeks later. I remember being distracted pretty much the whole time, thinking about kissing her - wanting to - but also nervous about pushing things too fast.

I would wait until our third date, which happened to be a couple of days after New Years. I told Elana that I was sad because I still hadn't received a New Years kiss from anyone yet. Sure, it was a bit manipulative on my part perhaps, but it was nonetheless true.

I asked for her permission: "Can I kiss you now...?"

I had caught her off-guard. What...? Here? Now?

Yes.

And so I kissed her. I expected something a bit timid, reserved. A typical first kiss. Though what I got was big, bold & thoroughly amazing! The rest, as they say, is history.

I loved Elana's kisses, her affection, her soft touch. I got to have that first kiss for twelve years straight. I treasured Elana's kisses, and boy did I miss not getting her special kiss this New Years.

The entire last half of 2013 sucked. By default, Year 2014 will most certainly be better. But honestly, I take nothing for granted. For me, everything has become bite-sized. I see others busily planning stuff, chasing the future and a dangled carrot or two while I'm in a far different head space. Elana's death has awakened me, and God has my complete attention.

All of my tomorrows with Elana eventually ran out. That's why each day and every new year matters. I approach 2014 and everything beyond with a true peace & confidence knowing that God has authored my life, my salvation, and my eternity in Heaven.

Better still, Elana will be there, waiting for that first kiss.


The Joy of Christmas

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

(John 3:16)

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Tomorrow is my wife's birthday. Of course a big part of me is not looking forward to it, simply because she's not here to celebrate with us. I used to always look forward to Elana's birthday. It was kind of the official kick-off to Christmas joy for me.

Long ago, Elana & I started a tradition where every birthday was HER day: Elana could do whatever she wanted, go wherever she wanted for dinner, and I would either take Elana to the mall to help her buy a new outfit ... or surprise her with a couple of nice tops or sweaters that I picked out, myself. There will be no new sweater this year, and yes, I'm very sad. I am crying as I'm writing this, in fact.

I loved picking out and buying Elana new clothes, I really did. She was my Barbie doll. My supermodel. My arm candy. I loved showing her off. She was so beautiful. And I was so thankful to have Elana as my wife and so proud to be her husband. Always. Always...

In truth, Elana was my gift. A very special gift from God. A gift that I got to unwrap daily: over and over and over again. As a kid, growing up I always loved Christmas. Getting married, becoming a father, and having Elana in my life made me appreciate Christmas all the more.

It goes without saying that Elana absolutely loved everything about Christmas, too. It is a time to celebrate Jesus ... God's biggest gift for the whole world. It is through Christ alone that we all have salvation and life everlasting. Christmas is the only time of year where everyone - people of all nationalities - come together to celebrate in one form or another. Even those who don't call themselves Christians experience joy. Every year, hearts are softened. The gospel is shared anew. And more souls are won over for Jesus Christ.

Elana's birthday. Christmas. Everything will be different this year. For me, everything *feels* so very different. I am immensely sad that Elana isn't here ... and yet I also know that I mustn't ignore the joy of CHRISTmas. Jesus is the reason for the season, and I feel Him closer like never before.

It is so easy to get buried in the distractions of Christmas. The drunken parties, the shopping, the Black Friday sales frenzy, the lusting after latest-model cell phones & tablets & cameras & Xbox game consoles. A self-confessed techie-geek, I used to be in amongst that crowd. But not this year. This year is going to be very different.

This year, Christmas isn't for me. It's not for me. I'm doing Christmas for my son, Jake. I'm also doing it in remembrance of Elana. But most importantly, I'm doing it to celebrate the joy of Jesus Christ.

This year, I implore everyone to please take time to acknowledge the true gift of Christmas.

92 days

 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)
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Dearest Elana,

This Sunday (November 17th) will mark exactly three months since you passed into Heaven.

Three months. A full quarter of a year. Ninety-two days, unbelievable. It is my faith that has kept me going. Only Jesus. Just as the two weeks sick in bed and whole month in hospital with painful sores all over your body were your trials of Job, this is my trial now. A Refiner's fire. But God is good and He draws me close, protects.

Jake & I miss you every day. With every day that passes, I miss you more. The loss hasn't really gotten any easier, I've just become more adept at hiding or ignoring it. Still, that's not to say there haven't been plenty of good days, too. There has in fact been lots.

Besides God, Jake has kept me centered, focussed - and brought me little bits of joy daily. Our son is barely five and he's already developed an incredible sense of humor, truly. He cracks me up and we often laugh uncontrollably together. A wonderful release. If you were here, I know you'd tease me (as always) with how Jake's laugh sounds exactly like mine!

Jake has adjusted well to Kindergarten. The first couple of weeks were hard, but he is actually enjoying himself now and making new friends. Our son is still a very picky eater of course but I am trying to work on that. I got him enrolled in the school lunch program straight away and I think that it's helping. Jake also had his first school portrait taken a few weeks back. I had to use a little gel because his hair was too long but the proofs are very cute. You'll be happy to know that Jake finally let Tita cut his hair again just yesterday.

So I'm trying my best. Struggling at times, yes, but really trying. Not a day goes by that I don't wish you were here to help me. I know that I have God to lean on, as well as the support of much family & friends. But you are my wifE and best friend, still. Sure you put me in my place at times but you were also my biggest cheerleader. I miss that. I miss all of it.

I miss you. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. It's true. I miss you, I miss you, I miss you.

Love,
Neil (aka Husb-N)

A special gift

My wife had a beautiful singing voice. She had the voice of an angel, truly.

On our wedding day, Elana surprised me with a song. She had secretly recorded "Feels Like Home" and it was playing as she went down the aisle with her dad. I smiled so big as soon as I heard it.

Anyway, that CD of her singing had been AWOL for a couple of years now ... as well as other photo CDs of many treasured pictures of Elana & me. I knew the CDs had to be somewhere, I just didn't know WHERE!

Yesterday, the mystery was finally solved. Elana's mom had been storing them at her house. She had packed up a few boxes for us when we decluttered a bit to put our condo up for sale. We never did end up selling the condo, and I forgot to take the boxes back...

Re-discovering that song again and all of the photo CDs yesterday was a very special gift. It was a happy, happy day.

I've imbedded a hyperlink to the song below. I hope everyone enjoys it

Feels Like Home


Dreams of New Jerusalem

I always tell Jake to dream of Mommy. It's part of our nightly bedtime routine.

A few mornings back, as I lie in bed with my son (slowly waking), Jake tells me he had a dream. He saw Mommy. He tells me that Mommy said she misses us. She wishes that she could have stayed with us.

It was all told with such a sweet sincerity. I just broke down in tears, I couldn't help it. Sometimes, I try to hide my crying - but here, I didn't. I sobbed openly.

Jake says, "Aww, Daddy I know you miss Mommy!!"

My son was lying in bed behind me and he starts stroking my back, and then reaches both arms around to give me a big hug. It was a tender moment.

I tell Jake that we will see Mommy again. All the time, I tell him. Mommy won't have her wheelchair ... she'll be able to run & jump & dance. Heaven and the new earth is going to be awesome, I know it. I remember before thinking that heaven might be boring. Everyone just standing around singing praises all the time...

I now think much differently. With twelve gates - three on each wall - New Jerusalem will be a bustle of activity, of comings & goings. With lots of fun things to do. It will be like our world is now, but unfallen & free from sin.

Jesus has prepared a special place for Elana and me, I'm confident in that. Our "mansion" will probably be a quaint little rancher / cottage by a sun-soaked beach. Elana will have her butterfly garden in the backyard, and maybe I'll have a white wolf as a pet.

One thing I do know for certain: whatever I can possibly envision, it'll be 1000% better. God is mighty and He has always over-delivered for me ... going far above & beyond what was expected. Just as God has blessed me with both Elana & with Jake, He is sure to over-deliver yet again.

Meanwhile, back on this earth: birth pangs. In Israel alone, seven earthquakes in seven days. Unprecedented storms, worldwide. Beached Oarfish. Rumors of war. Revelation and prophecy being fulfilled. For those watching, God's mighty signs are everywhere. Comet Ison. The Blood Moon Tetrad. And a woman clothed in the sun, with the moon at her feet (Revelation 12:1, NIV).

Everywhere ... and in everything, God is mighty!!

Don't try to squash God ... He is much bigger!!

For those that don't know, I'm 45 years old. Not quite caught up to my parents yet, but getting there.

My parents have seen a lot of technological change in their own time, no doubt. But so have the peeps from my younger(!) generation. When I was a kid, rotary dial telephones and black & white TV screens were commonplace. I remember chocolate bars were 25 cents each, too. Ok, chocolate bars aren't exactly technological, but it's surprising nonetheless.

Along with all of the advances in science and technology, another significant shift cannot escape notice. Back when I was in public elementary school, we still said the Lord's Prayer and sang "God Save The Queen" at student assemblies. As well, teachers could freely display posters & decorations of "MERRY CHRISTMAS" without fear of offending anyone. Of course nowadays, it's "Happy Holidays", "Season's Greetings" and "winter festivals". Political correctness rules all. Our modern society has become tepid and watered-down, as a result. God is minimized ...  marginalized ... pushed aside. And for many, Jesus has been squashed by a fat guy in a red suit.

I see people ignoring / denying God, and it makes me sad. The evidence of God is everywhere, in plain sight. When I see a tree in beautiful autumn colors, I can't help but acknowledge the master Creator behind it. When I stop to consider all of the incredible intricacies of my human body, devine fingerprints of intelligent design abound. Non-Christians dismiss all examples of worldly creation as pure flukes born out of a million years of evolution, and it makes absolutely no sense to me.

God deserves all of the credit, but a lot of people don't want it that way. Folks that deny God see themselves as governed by a happenstance mix of good & bad luck - that's it. Some people are just so quick to attribute an obvious gifted-wrapped blessing from God as a simple fortunate bounce, nothing more. How frustrating!

In reality - if you *really* pause to think - it's actually quite a challenge to try to dismiss God. Of course people do it all the time, every day ... but the fact is, theories of evolution and faith-systems based on luck alone is an incredibly weak house of cards. It takes some pretty flawed, perverse logic to deny God, and yet people still do it.

Regardless, God is always there. He remains faithful even to those who aren't, those who don't seek Him. God loves us all, but one day His patience will run out. One day soon, Jesus will return to redeem the earth. If Jesus came down from the clouds next week, will you be ready? Would you deny Him, then...?

I sincerely hope not.


* ADDENDUM, Oct 19, 2013:

Evangelism is a tough gig, which is precisely why I don't practice it very often. Still, I hope this post inspires a few people to dig a little deeper and discover the truth for themselves. Jesus Christ *did* walk the earth. His life & teachings have been documented in several sources outside of the bible. And while there are a few translation inconsistencies / errors, the bible has proven itself to be both historically accurate and amazingly prophetic. I've been studying the "Book of Revelation" a lot lately, and the upcoming Blood Moon Tetrad (beginning April 2014) and specific star-alignment mentioned in Revelation 12 are two incredible signs from God...

Prayer of Thanksgiving

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you, oh God, for my life.
For Your protection and careful watch over me, always.
Even in my first thirty-three years, You remained faithful.
Patiently waiting for me to come to You.

Thank you for my disabled body,
That I should remain humble in my brokenness.
That I should grow up free of prejudice and have a healthy dose of empathy for others.
With wisdom and respect, I love the life & body You chose for me.

Thank you, because were it not for my physical disability,
I may never have met the love of my life.
Elana was a gift; my very special gift from You.
Of all the rich blessings You have delivered, she was my best.

Thank you for Elana's life and for allowing me to be a part of it.
You used Elana to bring me nearer to salvation, I know it.
It is because of Your gift & grace that
I now have the promise of everlasting life, an eternity in Heaven.

I once told Elana that she was like the sun.
Her beauty & warmth blazed so bright that any imperfections were blotted out, gone.
But she was like Your Son, also.
Being with Elana everyday was like staring into the face of Jesus. So perfect.

I see my life divided into two parts: my life before I met Elana, and my life after.
Talking of marriage, Jesus himself said that two shall become one flesh.
That was certainly true of Elana & me.
My dear wife has left me and I am cleaved in half, ever since.

Even so, thank you. Thank you for Elana and for Jesus.
My Lord and Saviour strengthens me, upholds me in my time of grief.
Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life.
It is only through Him that I will get to see my sweet Elana again, in glory.

Oh God, thank you for remaining faithful ... for keeping Your promise.
With power, and patience.
With mercy and grace.
For your kingdom to come, amen.

A Wedding In Heaven

September 27, 2002. Eleven years ago today I popped the question. I asked Elana to marry me and, just like that, we were engaged. It's the single best and most life-changing decision I've ever made.

It's a moment of serendipity today, also ... as this is my fortieth (40th) blog post, officially. Forty is a number of special significance for me. It's the age I was when we had Jake. And it's a number that appears as part of the subtitle for my book, DADDY BENT-LEGS. So yes, it's something that deserves a bit of celebration.

In the thirty-nine blog posts that came before, my wife never contributed any of her own content ... her own words, thoughts, or opinions. She definitely inspired lots of what I wrote about, but she unfortunately never got around to submitting a guest piece of her very own. I always wanted us to do some sort of "He said, she said" perspective on parenting too. Who knows, there might've even been enough content there to write a whole 2nd book together. I would've loved that.

Though Elana did actually start her own blog space. It was never publicized or really shared with anyone, but it does exist. She only got around to writing four small posts. I know that she definitely wanted to write a lot more entries, but my wife was just too busy doing & being a mommy that she never had enough free time to blog. Obviously, I was the more slack / idle parent.

Elana's blog was called, Wistful writings of a Wheelie Good Mom and I encourage everyone to click the hyperlink now to check it out. Again, it's just four posts but they are all pretty special. Each one is a tiny piece of her; her own voice. Click the link and my wife can hijack this 40th post (... and nothing would please me more).

I want to end with a verse of poetry Elana wrote for me many years ago:

A second wedding, myriads of angel-guests, but I am under your spell. We dance close. You lead me to celestial sheets where, at long last, our love is perfectly known.

It's a vision of us together in Heaven. A second wedding. And I look forward to that day, I do. It gives me great peace and comfort knowing that Elana is already up there, waiting for me.

And so I wait, too. Living a life here on earth, day by day, in 24-hour chunks. I am living for Jake. I am living to carry forward Elana's legacy. But I am also living for eternity and the promise of God's future Kingdom come. So I will continue on, waiting. Until we can all be together again, dancing amongst angels.

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