## Let the numbers tell this story

While the numbers in my college statistics courses were fascinating and I applied them well in my Master’s thesis, I must admit that math was never really my forte.  I’ll blame it on Mr. Courtright!  Our Algebra II/Trigonometry course in high school was a constant source of frustration!  John and a couple of the other male students would pour over the text book with him at the front of the room trying to understand the lessons he was supposed to be teaching that day.  Yeah, you got that right:  high school seniors trying to figure out advanced mathematics on the fly!  I am so very glad that I never again had to sit through a traditional math class after that one!

Statistics are a different genre though.  Statistics often tell a story that we can use to make sense out of the stuff of life.  For example, landing one standard deviation from the mean (the average) in a bell-shaped curve can help us feel like things are going to be o.k. most of the time, in the right scenario of course!  Enter here special numerals applied to my recent trip with Steve to Georgia and South Carolina that will tell this story better than I can even without a calculator!  Oh how I wish some of these were more comforting than the majority of them though . . .

Over 7 days of camping in 2 locations, I was unable to leave the travel trailer 3 of the days due to illness.

My beloved Steve attended 2 of the 3 family wedding-related activities in Georgia and I attended zero.

We travelled over 2,000 miles in my truck with our 67-pound German shepherd, Elle, settled sweetly behind the jump seat of the King Cab.  Such a great traveler she has become!

I prepared about 96% of all of my own meals making this trip more of a “business as usual” affair than vacation in the realm of food.

One hour of the five that I spent in our friends’ home on Monday was spent in continuous convulsive episodes on their couch.  Thankfully the two young children had already gone off to bed when I crashed; graciously the three adults prayed over me for the Lord’s tender care as we all go forward from the significant stressors in our lives.

The kids and I planted 32 daffodil bulbs the morning we left South Carolina, overplanted with dozens of anise hyssop seeds.  Hooray!  By Springtime the view from the kitchen window of their log cabin will be alive with flowers interspersed amongst the numerous towering pines.

A threatening wind storm with gusts up to 40 MPH forced us to leave a day early for safety towing our Camplite on the highways to get back home.  Just a few minutes after we arrived home at 4:00 a.m., the winds increased again closer to the estimate of 50 MPH by morning.  We had blown in just in time, praise the Lord!

Nearly 4 days have passed since we got home and I have yet to clear out, clean out the rest of the trailer as needed after a week of travel.  Steve completed the first 5 loads of laundry and about 3 more are left to go.  I have been sick in bed for most of the past 3 days, sleeping in late to recover from the nasties which characterize this wretched illness.

Over a dozen doses of a new anti-microbial treatment (Biocidin LSF) have brought both relief and a flare up of symptoms at times:  begun when travelling and continued back home when seeking a new direction, new relief, new hope for a future without illness.  Two violent convulsive episodes followed on Friday after an appointment with a new specialist and a new lab test, respectively.  Many more filled the 2 days that followed.  Perhaps this week (and 2 weeks shy of the 4-year anniversary of the first waking seizure attack) there will be an answer to end this suffering?  The odds are wearing thin lately for sure.

Yet through it all, I am reminded of the 3 days that my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ died and paid the price for all the negative numbers, the heartaches from what is not right in our world.  He knows the mathematics of it all greater than I can ever imagine and holds it all tenderly in the palms of His hands, ready to redeem it for good when He comes again in glory.  I choose to believe the promise that His precious thoughts towards me and you too, Gentle Reader, outnumber the grains of sand on the earth (Psalm139), giving us hope for a better tomorrow.  For as He thinks fondly of the ones He loves, He also promises to wipe away our every tear someday (Rev 21:4) when the time is right:  when time is no longer numbered in eternity with our Heavenly Father, God.

And that my friend is a story worth writing about.  A world without limits.  A love beyond measure.  I just hope that when all is said and done, when it is time for rejoicing in the heavenly realms, that you will be there with me there too?  Let not these numbers be wasted!  Won’t you accept the love of Christ into your heart this day, this night too?  Oh how I hope so dear one.

With love, JJ

## Known in the Gates: Part 1, Not Forgotten

For those of us around when the iconic movie of the 1985, The Breakfast Club, came out, we probably asked ourselves which character we liked the best.  Was it the one called Sporto, the jock?  Carl, the criminal?  Brian, the brain?  Molly Ringwald’s character, the princess?  Or maybe it was the outcast gal in black?  (what was her name?)  Here’s a little refresher with the song that still gets my heart rate going, my feet tapping!  How about you?

This is one of those songs that once you hear it, you won’t be able to get it out of your head for about a day!  Sorry.  I really like this song!  I really liked the movie too.  The character that resonates with me these days is Allison Reynolds played by Ally Sheedy.  If you don’t want to watch all of the clip below, kindly forward to the scene in progress around the 5:00 to 6:15-minute mark.  It’s where she confesses her deepest sorrow:

Yes, I get this type of sorrow.  Try being sick with a serious illness for coming up on 4 years and see who remembers your name?  See who identifies with your struggles?  See who bothers to ask, who bothers to call?  The numbers have dwindled for me for sure.  I have kept in touch with my closest friends from Illinois and made new friends in the recovery-from-this-or-that communities online.  My beloved husband (whom I met then married here in Indiana), Steve, has hung in there through with me the worst of the torment, the lifestyle changes, the failed treatments, and the thousand-plus nights with disrupted sleep.  (Watch these videos if you want to know what I am talking about.)  Some folks I know have graciously followed this blog through it all.  Thank you!  I am always delighted when I hear from one or two of them now and then.  Nice.  Well sort of.  It’s just not the same . . .

There is a place where I am known very well and keep in close contact.  There is a place where I have not been abandoned, ignored, discounted.  The place where I matter most and my closest companion is always there, always here with me.  That place is in the arms of my Heavenly Father through my personal relationship with his Son, Jesus Christ.  He never forgets about me!  I savor His words He speaks of me (and you too, Gentle Reader) from Psalm 139:

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

Oh how I wish I knew these words as a young woman when I first saw The Breakfast Club!  What matters now is that I get to lean on these words all of the time now in the quiet, dark places I have visited when alone with my Lord.  He has never forgotten about me.  I have always felt His presence even in my greatest hours of suffering.  He has spoken through the Holy Spirit often.  I have never felt “lonely.”  The Creator of the universe loves me!  I am so grateful.

But how well does he really know me?

To be continued in Part 2 . . .

## Off in the distance

This is a tough one for me and likely for everyone reading this at some level or another.  Let’s add a Biblical perspective:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens  (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.  (Lamentations 3:25-26)

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.  (Galatians 6:9)

And there is more from my own experience in life.  Waiting on the Lord in the past was where my faith in Him was strengthened.  I remember a time when the crisis was so severe that the Pastor and Elders in my church kept asking me how I was doing with the basics of life:  eating, drinking enough fluids and sleeping.  Yes, they were all a struggle.  By the grace of God and many good sojourners I got through that season of life with sweet victory.  And here I am again in another . . .

March 26th is the day that Steve and I hope everything will start to change for the better.  As written in the potato chip blog, we believe that a dental procedure will vastly reduce if not eliminate the hours of daily convulsive episodes.  Yesterday it was on and off for 24 hours!  You know it’s bad when you see stars and are gasping for air.  Despite nearly a hundred episodes, somehow I read a book while in lying in bed.  It served to protect my mind from dwelling on the wretchedness when I could focus.  I am hoping it preserves a few of the neuronal synapses in my brain from damage.  And focusing despite the pain does carry me through the daytime, the nighttime.  Talking to Jesus a lot is a given . . . .

Thirteen more days and this hell could be over.  In one month will be the 3-year anniversary of when the tics began while thinking I needed to treat a clinical diagnosis of Lyme disease with a fancy Rife machine.  The Beam Ray was a mistake for me.  It has taken 3 long years and many failed attempts at various treatments to figure out what is causing the tazoring of my central nervous system.  Lord willing with removal of the source of what could be “dental galvanism” in my head, I will begin to heal from so much.  And so in my weakness I rest at the throne of grace that delivers me each day unto the next.  Lord willing, I am going to get well.  Off in the distance is the hope of this new beginning for me and my beloved, Stevers.  We are hopeful that His goodness awaits.

Gentle Reader:  Just wait for the shining glory of His light through the words on this page as that day comes.  Are you ready for it?  Brace for impact!  It’s going to be a good day real soon!  Like the old Barbara Streisand song goes, “there ain’t no tellin’ what a satisfied woman can do!”  ;J

## Father Save Me From This Hour

Such was the cry of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ as He prepared to die a tortuous death on the cross at Calvary:  before His glorious resurrection and what we have come to celebrate as Easter.

The sins of the world hung in the balance that day, separating us from the love of the Father in heaven.  Until the time of Christ a Jew was required to bring sacrifices to atone for his or her sins and that of the family.  Bringing sacrifices, keeping the Sabbath, and a plethora of Jewish holidays dominated religious life.  These rituals and following the rule of law (including the Ten Commandments) was the only way to get to heaven before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Then God’s Word teaches us that He came to save the world if we but repented and believed in His saving grace, His death and resurrection.  He became the Passover lamb that was slain.  Gifts of eternal life, indwelling of the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts, fellowship with other believers and more follows for those who come forward.  But it’s not all rosy living the Christian walk  . . .

Yes, there is much good in the world, much happiness in this life.  And then there is the bad stuff too.  The reason for the bad stuff is an important topic yet it goes in another direction than my discussion today.  Let’s just say that evil is here and it will always be here until Jesus Christ comes again.  When bad stuff happens, someone suffers.  Our Lord knew what suffering felt like as He was ridiculed, whipped within inches of His life, and sentenced to a horrific death for something he did not do.  He came into the world willingly from the eternal realm out of love for us.  Conversely, we rarely come to our suffering in the world willingly.  Our suffering comes as a consequence of living in a fallen, imperfect world as sinners.  Further, our suffering isn’t always fair.  Sometimes it comes when we are close to God, working hard, doing good, loving others, and making the most out of our finite lives.  Many times it just doesn’t make sense.

I just finished listening to a gentle message by the late Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa entitled, “Prayer of a Troubled Heart.”  Pastor Smith developed this topic better than I can so I would encourage you to listen to the audio sermon if the subject is on your mind these days.  I was comforted by his instruction that our suffering can be God working out eternal purposes in our earthly lives for our eternal glory.  If we could somehow change God’s plan for our lives we would be obstructing God’s eternal purposes.  “Even from the pain and suffering, eternal good is going to come.”  We can point to the life of the apostle Paul who endured physical infirmity and still carried or “deposited” the Gospel message to countless peoples throughout the known world of his time.

12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. 2 Timothy 1

The apostle Paul encourages us to trust, to have faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ no matter what our “light and momentary” affliction might be.   In light of all eternity, our time of illness is short indeed.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  2 Corinthians 4

Relying on the scriptures brings the power of God into our weary hearts and minds.  We find stories of triumph over trials that encourage us.  Hebrews 11 describes several pillars of faith, empowered by God to endure, overcome, and bring glory to God as they saw His plan unfolding before their eyes.  Joseph was sold into slavery, imprisoned in a dungeon, mocked then ended up saving the nation of Israel from starvation as others recognized his Godly character and abilities.  There are many more men and women from whose example we can learn as well.

Drawing from the scriptures Pastor Smith guides us first to pray about the things troubling our souls.  Second, we are to “reason” that God really does love me and is wiser than I am.  I am not to base my understanding of His love for me on my circumstances but on who He is.  The events of my life work out His eternal purposes for both me and those around me according to His Divine plans for good, for His glory.  And third, I am to commit myself unto the will of the Father knowing that:

We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.   Romans 8:28

This is difficult to do!  If it’s too difficult then I must first ask myself:  in whose strength am I trying to get through the suffering?  Do I keep asking the Lord to do this or that for me versus asking Him to help me?  Reveal His will for me?  Encourage me with His grace?  Strengthen me to endure?  Submit to His will knowing that His good is coming?  I must put on my eternal glasses even if I cannot see anything beyond my situation.  I need to ask Him to increase my faith and He will do it!

This insight came together after another and extremely wretched evening.  Only once before have I completely collapsed without warning at the kitchen table requiring my husband to catch me from falling.  Moments after he carried me to bed I cried the most guttural tears of my entire life.  The most violent convulsions I have ever experienced followed.  Steve prayed then cried too.  It seemed to me like I was “weeping and gnashing (my) teeth” as the Bible describes for those in hell.  It took a long time to recover.  I still do not know why all this suffering is here for me and Steve.  I do know how I am to handle it, however.  That insight came earlier in the evening.

Unfortunately I never was able to join the home group discussion in my own home tonight.  After welcoming our brothers and sisters in Christ and setting aside the goodies they brought for later, I attempted to walk to my seat in the living room.  I was aware that my speech had become strained already.  Then all of a sudden I felt sick:  the pre-tic set of symptoms ramped up quickly indicating that what was coming next would not be good.  I whispered into Steve’s ear from behind where he was sitting on the sectional that I wasn’t feeling well and scooted off to our bedroom.  As my head was hitting the pillow the seizure attacks began!  They were bad.  They persisted with vocalizations that risked alarming our guests down the hall.  Soon I heard a guitar playing and people singing.  The worship had begun and the sounds would cover my episode.  Thank you Lord.

I had hoped that the music would also quiet my tender frame in torment.  Not so.  The episode quieted into tic attacks and I was able to breathe more easily.  In my spirit I cried out to the Lord to stop the episode.  I feared many scenarios that could happen next in which others would end up horrified, witnessing some aspect of the seizures.  Our master bathroom toilet was out of commission for repairs requiring all of us to use the bathroom in the hallway between where I was in bed and the living room.  If I collapsed and was unable to walk, Steve would have to physically assist me to the bathroom partially in view of where everyone was sitting.  I would first need to scream to alert him beyond the closed Master bedroom door.  Nothing would be pleasant about the fact that I really needed to use the bathroom down the hall from me  . . .

It’s as if the Lord was sitting right next to me in that bed at that moment.  It’s as if I could see the slight scowl on His face as He “looked” me directly in the eye and wondered why I was telling Him what to do again.  Had He not been with me in prior episodes?  Had He not used this illness to reach thousands of people around the world with the Gospel through this blog?  Had He not gifted me to write and create in ways that brought joy to my heart even in the middle of the night?  Had He not provided for both Steve’s and my needs these past 2 1/2 years?  Helped me become an Advanced Master Gardener?  Strengthened Steve to win his first national kayaking award?  Yes, He had worked in both of our lives incredibly despite the extreme suffering.

No one in their right mind wants to suffer.  I don’t like this wretched illness and long for it to be over.  Yet if I miss the teaching moments that come along the way then this suffering will be no more than an endurance race with no prize, no glory, no hope, no real encouragement for others who will come after me.  The lesson I needed to learn this evening was to simply ask for the Lord’s HELP and let HIM do the rest.  He knows why this episode was timed during the heart of our home group meeting and I do not.  I need to trust Him on this one as I have during so many times of need in the past.  His answers, His timing, His purposes have encouraged me more times than I can describe here in addition to numerous other people watching the events unfold.  As Pastor Smith describes in his message:  I do not want to obstruct God’s eternal purposes that will be for my good and His glory!

I must persevere in faith no matter what the cost.  He will strengthen my faith.  I must ask my Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ for help then wait on His leading, His answers.  Jesus Christ did this very act of submission before the Father when Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane knowing that His torture and death were imminent:

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”  Matthew 26

The God of the universe, living among us as a man yet fully God, submitted to the will of the Father, the purpose for which He was born into the world.  He cried out for the Father to save him from that hour in crisis, for help.  Most importantly He then submitted to the will of the Father and the world changed forever because of it.  I will live a life eternally with my Jesus because He died on that cross for me.  My time of suffering is not too much to bear with His help to live the life to which I am called.  Sure it feels like hell.  My faith transcends my broken frame and will bring an eternal reward that goes beyond my temporary affliction.  With this I can go on.

What say you, Gentle Reader?  He loves you too you know . . .  Might you call on Him too?  It just might rock your world in a good way.  No kidding.

## I was talking to God the other day . . .

I was talking to God the other day, the night before the big snowstorm hit the Midwest and the night before this head cold took me out for a few days.  It was after 2:00 a.m. The house was quiet, the Christmas tree still stood tall and magical in the living room, the pup was warming herself on the rug in front of the floor vent in the kitchen.  My beloved was fast asleep in bed down the hall.  Here I was prowling about the house as usual in the wee hours of the morning.

Usually I head to the kitchen for a snack before my 3:00 a.m. bedtime and read the Bible verses for the previous day from the Android Bible App.  After that I’ll finish perusing any garden catalogs that have come in the mail, clean up the kitchen and head to bed.  But something gave me pause.  I believe it was the leading of the Holy Spirit beckoning me to come dwell before the throne of grace before retiring for the night.   And so I did.

I sat in my favorite little chair in the living room and looked out over our home.  Gratitude overwhelmed me as I realized all of the blessings laid out before me.  The Lord had restored the years the locusts had eaten (Joel 2:25) and provided nice furnishings, my husband’s shiny kayaking trophies, beautiful hardwood flooring and more for our lovely home.  Laughter and activity filled these spaces just 6 days before as all of my husband’s children visited with their loved ones in person or via Skype.  I was blessed to be able to serve them with treats and home cooked meals before turning in early to rest and recover for the night (sight unseen).  All they saw was the good stuff and that is o.k.  Sitting before me were opened gifts still gathered under the tree:  sweet and thoughtful too.  My Lord has been so good to me!

Then I heard a whisper, a presence as if my Counselor, Friend were sitting there right with me in the twilight.  He reassured me that everything would be o.k.  He allowed me to fill my heart with memories and reminders of His goodness that would be needed in the difficult days ahead.  He made it clear that He would always be with me and have my best interests at heart.  My Jesus filled me with His love that night.  It was a sweet treat indeed.

Taking time to be alone with our Heavenly Father, our Heavenly Husband, our Immanuel makes the days, the nights more meaningful.  I know that when I stop for a moment of reflection, I can see His hand leading me, holding me, carrying me, protecting me.  I trust that you will see Him too as this Christmas season draws to a close.  His omnipresence reassures me that He will be there with you in your time of need just as He is here with me now and the other day.  If you don’t know God personally, I pray that you will spend some time with Him and His Word alone somewhere meaningful to you.  I tell ya, it’s a really cool thing to do!

### *******************

13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.   Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV)