This swinging weather, from hot to high winds to freezing cold, in what would otherwise be described as springtime, leaves this possessor of PD grappling for words to express this body’s not so thrilled desire to be let loose! Stiffness, rigidity, slowness and poignant fatigue at unexpected moments set’s this old one toward a shuffle and a shake. An intentional “stride” forward in an exaggerated but correct walk from front door to back get’s this old mind whirling. Suddenly, I’m talking to Miss Gracie, the Golden, as though she’s understanding every utterance out of my mouth. Suddenly, I crack myself up with laughter at the pun just spewed from my lips. Encouraged by my own enjoyment, I continue full force in “thinking out loud.” Amazed at what flips from my lips as it has bounced through my brain, I embrace my moment with awe and laughter. It’s not that I think my humor is so great (although I am my greatest comic fan), it is rather with wonder and gratitude that I embrace this time alone during my day, giving thanks for what I recognize as sanity (at least my version), enthusiasm at life and a mixture of occasional sadness at the seemingly short duration of it all. Lest one think this PD affected mind is all possessed with crazed humor, I attest that from these lips unbridled comes words of sorrow as moments are recalled of times past where I regret not having let pass through these lips words of love and encouragement to those who meant so much and who have now no chance to respond. Laughter, love, loss, happiness, joy, grief, sadness, contentment, and gratitude for the opportunity to experience each of these life expressions now lifts this humble heart to a place where words spoken or embraced are understood and the Divine guide on this journey has won the race!

The bright and warming sunshine brings with it memories of times past when light and the rising temperatures of the day presented an invitation to discard the shoes and jump into the summer shorts. Now not as spry as the memories of past, energy is expended on gratitude for the blessings that are and have been along this journey called life. News clips of the devastation of human life in Syria brings with it prompted contemplation as to why humans do these atrocious things to other humans. We human species seem to be our own worst enemies. Yet, humans can also be providers, and sustainers of love and peace while nurturing good will and a message of hope and eternal grace in the place of hatred and hostility. As I contemplate the condition of the human state of mind that chooses not to see value and virtual sacredness in the life of diverse others, I give thanks for the restoration that has already begun in the lives of those who believe and act out of the instruction to place the Creator first by regarding others and self with the same value. I give thanks for healing, where hurt has been shoveled out. I am grateful for the desire to understand that supersedes the perceived need to be understood. In today’s sunlight, may this awareness of gratitude be sustaining through the moments and even days of darkness that are a part of the renewing opportunity for a life well-paced in a place called grace.

Our humanly constructed timelines have been ignored by nature’s fulfillment of its destiny. The designation of Spring has not been accomplished until winter decides to vacate. The transition of seasons over the last year has been more tedious than this possessor of PD can recall. From four inches of snow in the morning to sun-filled green fields in the afternoon gifted us with awe. Not only has awe been a frequent frame of temperament, but also the presence of pain, resistance and slowed movement has presented this septuagenarian with a need for conscious focus on a place of gratitude as an underpinning of daily habits. The pathway down which we have found our way since the acknowledgement of the neurological dysfunction known as Parkinson’s has been fraught with challenges that have required a pause, an intention, an acknowledgment of that challenge where once there was none and then a place of rest giving thanks for the sustaining force that propels us to the next action and achievement. Without the well of gratitude from which peace, and perseverance flow, there would be severe thirst for meaning and a hunger for what was, at the sake of ignoring the grace of what is! Today holds what IS; yesterday is past, along with its extinct companion known as what WAS. Tomorrow waves its fantasy enticement fanning the flames between hope and despair. Today I plant the seeds of thankfulness in the soil of gratitude for what is the gift of life.

Unusual February weather has inspired opening doors and windows to the freshness of the outside. A soft breeze flows pleasantly by as the ravens peck the worm eaten pecans fallen to the ground during the autumn storms. Nature has offered a reprieve from the ravages of the extreme cold weather of just two weeks ago and this PD infested body shows its gratitude with greater ease of movement. Granddaughter has chosen a nap time after having two teeth filled at the local dentist. The local anesthetic used may have been a contributor to her desire for a nap, or it could easily be the afternoon expression of a teenager home early from school. This grandfather’s heart is filled with thanksgiving for the safety of all four of the youngsters dubbed as grand. Newscasters rant about the course of action or inaction of those in political power and some even disparage the expression of grief and loss that manifests as apparent anger from some who lost friends and relatives in the horrible school shooting last week. Hate filled and/or anger infused posts seem to invade social media. I endeavor to refrain from either and take my cares to the One I seek in prayer, giving thanks for grace and mercy that is eternally promised as sufficient. For some that is not enough and for others it is far too much. I share it here only in the hopes of encouragement for those who in the midst of grief, sadness, anger, frustration, or humble concern, may find a place of peace in the presence of their Provider! I find Psalm 23 to be soothing.

The day had been filled with chores and this slow-moving host to the unwelcomed intruder called PD had limbered up by engaging in some exercises and just pushing forward. Waiting quietly in the sturdy pick up truck near the end of the driveway for the soon to arrive granddaughter from her day at school, I lowered the window to inhale the fresh warm air that was embracing us this January day. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the flickering movement. Observing more closely, I could see the distinct markings of a precious honey bee. Just two hundred yards away stand nine bee hives attended by a local bee keeper who shares my desire to see the survival of the honey bee for the good of all of nature’s bounty. The faithful worker seemed to be checking out the fellow bee he was seeing in the somewhat oversized rear-view mirror of the truck. Flying closer, he hovered just long enough to make his decision to get on with his business. Grateful for the reminder that the hives were nearby, I whispered a prayer of thanks for the blessing that the bees are to the local wildlife and its perpetuation. Just a moment along the journey provided the opportunity to witness a lead actor in this play of life and be reminded that the task of benefitting all begins on the wings (legs, leaves, blossoms, mind, hands) of one. May we all live out the role for which we were made!

Relief from the record breaking cold that insinuated itself for an extended period has finally given way to more “seasonable” weather. Yesterday, a bee from one of the several hives down the hill buzzed by as though seeking a handout. Prognosticators assert that this reprieve will be short-lived with the return of freezing cold by the weekend. Nevertheless, this unwilling but accepting host to the disease named after the fellow called Parkinson is soaking in the anticipation of greater freedom in movement and anticipating the joy experienced therein. All those things seemingly taken for granted in years past now appear to come as a reminder that for this dopamine depleted lad a basket of gratitude is the fuel best suited to propel this minute, this hour, and this day. Each victory of movement seems now to arrive with more fuel for the journey and less angst at what was once taken for granted in completing each intention.

The sun was bright that chilly winter day just a couple of weeks ago as we chatted about the blessings of Christmas and all the ornaments that visitors had placed on his tall and slender tree. He asked if I would read to him from the book I had published a few months ago. As I completed what was intended as a daily devotional reflecting on a life occurrence, he would smile and say, “that was beautiful”. We shared together a few more “devotions” before I suggested we save some more for later. He said, “your words paint such a beautiful portrait of life at that moment.” All I could say was “thank you”, that’s encouraging. I visited him just one more time before the Christmas celebration that we all enjoy so much. The customary Friday visit around noon yesterday was postponed because he was not feeling well. ALS had taken a heavy toll on this masterfully talented man who is so respected by so many and music maestro to many more. As I woke early this morning and took my “awakening” position in the recliner, Gary came to my mind and I whispered words of thankfulness for his friendship and asked that God grant him peace and renewal. Around 10:00 am I received the call that my friend had passed away overnight. Grief engulfed my being as I held the sobs until after the call. The sobs were expressions of both loss and gratitude. I felt a deep sense of loss of a wonderful friend and at the same time tremendous joy at the freedom he now enjoys, having escaped the earthly shackles of this debilitating disease that kept him captive. I have only known him for a couple of years, making weekly visits to share reflections of life’s experiences and to encourage him along his journey. Others who have known him for seemingly a lifetime must truly feel the loss more deeply than I. I am so very thankful for the opportunity to meet, to share memories with, and to be enriched by this wonderful human known as Gary Ferguson. Thank you, God, and thank you Gary. I’m sure you both are rejoicing in the other!

Outside, the view is overcast and gloomy. Inside, the room in which this PD possessor resides, is cozy and warm. An early rise to provide transport of my lovely but sometimes “tardy” teenage granddaughter to her high school was met today with success (as is every day). As I waited with a second cup of coffee at the nearby country diner for a gentleman introduced through email as one who was also experiencing the symptoms of Parkinson’s, I checked for messages and emails on my handy little cellphone. The new acquaintance arrived, and I could immediately tell he was experiencing some symptoms not unlike mine. Slowness of movement and a slight shuffle in his gait were the two most obvious to me, though perhaps not to others who do not experience such impediments as “normal” hoppers, skippers, and jumpers! During our visit over a tasty breakfast, we shared the individual experiences of uncovering the symptoms that would ultimately lead to the diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. The similarities were enough for each of us to be sensitive to the struggle sometimes experienced by the other. As many times that I have read about and heard about another person experiencing early symptoms (a relatively recent friend who has had PD for many years has shared some of his story as well), this was my first time sharing face to face with another who has been challenged by unveiling of this uninvited guest residing deep in the brain. Conversation moved from family background through professional experiences and the place of faith in life now. The richness of sharing the place that gratitude and thankfulness have provided was encouraging to both. We promised more sharing time as encouragement and inspiration to each other as we nurture our individual THRIVING HEARTS. Gratitude is the wonderful foundation upon which a soul’s journey may be fastened as the Maker refines.

The visitor, unwelcomed and uninvited, came to visit again. Finding a place of comfort between the sheets was an effort strong enough to bring this reluctant host of PD to full awareness that sleep was not to revisit any time soon. Pain was insisting that attention be given as this host became obsessed with thoughts of relieving self of the visitor. The sturdy recliner offered welcomed relief, embracing the aging and now tired recipient of reduced dopamine. In those wee hours of the morning a browse through social media brought our attention to remembrances of two young men in their thirties, taken away, each by auto accidents. The tears began to well up in these previously dry eyes until they expressed their fluid full force after reading a tribute to a humble member of a local ministry who passed away from cancer and left so many of his cohorts in a state of grief. Now fully flowing with tears, it was time to just let it flow. As the emotional purge proceeded, recollections of the wonder of things experienced because of these precious lives came to mind and were uttered in expressions of gratitude to God for having been in my life. Their lives and the loss of the communities in which they thrived were not about me, but as I continued to give thanks it was easier to see that so many others were touched in more and different ways by these lives now being remembered. Gratitude became the lens through which the miracle of love became alive even in the face of what is termed as death. The light of today glows brighter and clearer because of its reflection through gratitude.

The evening dew has turned to frosty crystals over the grass, stone driveway and vehicles needed this morning for planned errands to start the week. Glowing sunshine creates a glare as it brightens even the crystals on the compost embracing the tree trunks. The chickens are out early today and Edna the friendly hen expresses herself impatiently as the pup finds joy in chasing after her. Just a few weeks ago we were roaming the hills of Galilee beholding the wonders of olive groves dotting the hilly landscape. The tour bus stop by the River Jordan gave us ample time to explore some of the nooks and crannies of this ancient river connected to the sea upon which the Savior walked. Stepping gently onto the still clear water near the steps into the baptismal pool, I reached down to touch the water I perceived to be so precious. The curious fish came floating by much like Edna the hen comes looking for tossed morsels. Seeing fingers plunging beneath the crystal blue surface gave the fish pause and he abruptly swam from the river’s edge. The tranquil flow of the blue green stream was enough to calm the thoughts and potential fears of this unwilling host to the disease called Parkinson’s. With a grateful heart I gave thanks for the opportunity to stand quietly at the river’s edge, taking in the beauty of the present moment with thoughts of its ancient past. This farm boy, fraught with deficient dopamine, reflects quietly today upon the gift that is life experiences. They come one moment at a time, during one day at a time, and I am ever so thankful for the mind and moment of experience!

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