The Aerial View

Fort Wayne, Indiana aerial photo by Steven Horney

Moving from a city of 8 million people to this big-little area of 300,000 where I live now was a huge undertaking in 2007. The occasion was marrying my Intended Beloved, Steve. The leap of faith required to do so was tremendous: almost everything in my life changed that year including those related to the death of my Mom in March. The process of grieving then leaping off into a new direction was downright painful at times. And now 15 years later can I still say that embracing Steve during the same year was one of the better decisions of my life. The Lord has blessed me so much by my beloved Stevers!

You could say that my story is like taking an aerial photo in a Piper Archer. The reality for me is that down on the ground, the highs and the lows are one dastardly beast to navigate at times. I lose a couple of days per week to a sickness that started in 2011, then rally, or rather scramble, to put my life in order on the rest of them. The stuff of life still needs to be done even when battling a serious illness. Steve does what he can to help me out, especially when I am in a crisis, but he can’t do everything. Nor would I want him to do so. A little more maybe, but not everything! We have learned the value of compartmentalization: setting aside the challenges of a given day when we need to focus on a more important task together. For example, when my care needs are significant, we cannot bemoan our latest disconnect or household repair even if it’s a painful or expensive one. Steve is the only one who can bring me a rescue remedy when I am frozen in a convulsive episode. He is gracious towards me at these times and for this I am exceedingly grateful.

Taking an aerial view of one’s life is helpful at times. Climb to 4,000 feet and sit away from the clouds, the storms of life while connected to the grandeur of the world in which we live. Dwell on the Lord’s goodness and His marvelous creation! Eventually we will land our plane back on earth but why rush things? The question becomes how to avoid crashing and burning or perhaps going crazy when the flight gets bumpy along the way. No worries! Whether climbing or descending into the various situations of our lives we must resist being bounced off-course by heated or cooled thermalic conversations, the cross-winds of life’s technical problems, static in our headset or bodily gear, and limited fuel energies. Not losing sight of the bigger picture is critical to managing these challenges. Not losing sight that the Lord our God is in charge of it all is critical to overcoming these challenges. He has a flight plan and will reveal it to us in due time for He IS the pilot in command!

It’s only with a longer view fixed on Jesus Christ that we will come to understand that what we may label as a detour is actually the best course after all. I need this reminder this evening. There was a nasty fire in the cockpit so-to-speak of our evening that was so bad, my co-pilot in life had to care for me like I was an invalid. I wept in between bites of food that were difficult to chew even cut in small pieces and fed to me with a spoon. I was that weak after yet another violent convulsive episode. The repairs and mold remediation going on in our home for the second time in 9 years somehow triggered the collapse. On one hand I grieved that this hell on earth was still with me, still with us. On the other hand, I was grateful that I had a choice of rescue remedies/treatment strategies plus a skilled caregiver who knew what to do to help me. These took many years, many “flight hours” to develop. Steve is an experienced and capable pilot. The episode lasted a couple of hours before I had the strength to safely get out of bed. By the grace of God I finally got to the bathroom. By my Lord’s power the nightmare ended.

I am now awake and alone well after midnight as I write this tonight with many questions and few answers. Evidently it is still not my time to recover from this serious illness nor to die from it either. I do have some more, new treatments that are promising; they are enough to pull me through the turbulence at times in my own aerial view. There is so much goodness beyond my bed of sickness that I do get to enjoy these days at least once per week. And ultimately I have the hope, the peace that comes from His promise of a glorious life beyond this one in eternity with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In fact, it has already begun . . .

Would you like to have this hope too Gentle Reader? Jesus Christ is more than the best pilot around. He is God! Entrust yourself to no other really. JJ

We’ve been to the mountain

As the only two references to this song on the internet, let’s just say that the video and prose of this hymn lie more in my memory than anywhere else. I can still picture the Worship Leader (long before they were ever called such) playing his guitar at the “Guitar Mass” in the Catholic church where I grew up. Was his name Don? I forget. What I have not forgotten is a song, when sung in its simplest form, that has carried me through many rough days throughout my life. I didn’t know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior before 1989. But He was there, leading me on and to His mountain, Himself. Mystery indeed. I am so very glad He did.

In the still of the morning, we awake with the dawn.
We live our day in the challenge of faith,
but what will we have to lead us on?

Chorus
We’ll just say that we’ve been to the mountain
And caught a glimpse of all that we could be
We will know that a new day is dawning
With a morning sun for all of us to see

In the rays of the sunrise, we find the warmth of new life
Our faith is strengthened as the mysteries unfold
Where lays the answer How will we know

Chorus

We’ve gone with Him to the hillside
His glory He has shown to man
The sacred promise of a brighter morning sun
And living in our faith we’ll see the dawn

The longing that does not end but changes

Ecclesiastes 3:11 — The New International Version (NIV)

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

Such is the stuff of this life to have so many longings remain, even for those who have found rest in Jesus Christ. It must be a function of the human condition. We can’t fathom the mysteries of our God nor what it really means to live forever in His presence. Or find the answers to a thousand questions that begin with the word WHY? There are just too many unanswered questions that at times it makes me for one, ask how then am I to live?

Experiencing a great loss revs up this engine even more. One of the worst in life is that posed by divorce. You not only lose a spouse but many of the people, places, and things associated with him/her and the life you once lived. Life drastically changes. When the divorce comes as a consequence of infidelity followed by him or her leaving your life completely, well then you simply have no choice but to slog your way through the destruction, the grief, the changes in so many relationships, and a heart left bleeding for all to see. The tearing takes years for the woundedness to heal over. Does it ever really heal over? For some, perhaps. Or somewhat. Certainly many new people, places, and things fill some of the void: our Lord can become a Heavenly Husband to the woman who earnestly seeks Him. We learn a new way of living as unto the Lord.

Thankfully, I didn’t have children in the mix. This fact is bittersweet, however, as it became a desire of my heart to not become old and have missed the joy of having a family of my own. After years of pursuing a career, I did want a family after all. I was not given this opportunity. The Lord allowed circumstances that closed that door for me and it was painful. Then there were the changes in other meaningful relationships grown through 16 years of marriage. In due time, many of them would be ripped away from me as well. I kept in touch with some of my former spouse’s family as best I could over the phone lines and hundreds of miles between us. Eventually my former spouse’s Stepmother passed away and my Sister-in-law’s gate-keeping of my relationships to other family members led to a breakdown that I simply couldn’t overcome. She was the bridge to them and she severed the bridge. The heartache of their loss was palpable for many years. There simply was no place for my love for them, for my sorrow at their loss to go.

These feelings of loss were especially hard when Sharon’s youngest son died tragically. No one bothered to tell me. I found out about his death online from a third party. No one cared that I loved him too, that I needed a place to grieve, to share in the experience of losing a loved one. And tonight I found out that her and my brother-in-law’s remaining, oldest son died tragically last year. He was hit by a drunk driver and died as a consequence of his injuries. This is just so very awful. It hurts! It hurts in a place that I cannot even explain. Why does it hurt so much when I haven’t seen any of these people for nearly 20 years? I guess that when you choose to love someone and they die, it just hurts no matter how much time has passed. And it brings up any remaining fragments associated with the whole mess of divorce too. I don’t think these types of pain ever really go away completely. Sure, it’s less and much healing has taken place for me. The scars do remain though.

So to you Nathaniel and Jeremy, I extend my own tribute to each of you. Nate: you were such a tender-hearted kid that struggled to find your own identity under the shadow of your older brother. In time you discovered your artistic talents that far exceeded his, gifted by the Lord. I don’t quite understand your drug addiction but I do understand that it is really hard to live well with the pressures that life blasts at us. I am sad that your faith did not carry you through to victory over your struggles. I am glad that you have left a legacy of incredible art work that lives on, literally, in the tattooed images of your clients near and far. And your daughter Isabella is beautiful.

Jeremy: you were a young man with clear ideals about the world, a young wife and beautiful son so early in your adulthood. I don’t quite understand why it all didn’t work out for you, that you had to run off to the opposite coast to find a place in life to finally call home. I am glad that you found it with the fellowship of your brother Nate, that you both landed in the same area, the same industry that was meaningful to you. Thank you and your brother for showing an interest in my music when I played guitar during that one visit to your childhood home. Flash forward a couple of decades and your death is rather shocking to me. Both of you are now gone! How can this be? Did each of you know the Lord before you left your earthly home? Will I get to see you again in the heavenly realm where joy and the colors of the Master Artist paint eternity with with glorious goodness, music beyond compare?

Sharon and Max: thank you. You welcomed me into your family with friendship and fun every time Craig and I got to visit your home in the mountains of West Virginia. I learned so much from each of you simply by the way you lived and worked and lived out our shared faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. I admired your creativity, ingenuity, industriousness, and positivity Sharon. I appreciated the technical help that you gave me with my speaking business long before we all had computer and internet skills: you were on top of it all! Your home was a bed and breakfast no less and when we visited we were treated to the best hospitality in the South! Thank you. At some level I do understand why you couldn’t talk freely with me when your brother/my ex-husband Craig had to leave my marriage. I just didn’t expect you to cut me off so suddenly too.

My ex-husband’s Dad, Ken, had already passed away from abdominal cancer before Craig’s affair and our divorce. His second wife, Eleanor, died after a bad fall in her beautiful home where she too had graciously hosted many of our visits to the Pittsburgh area over the years. You became a voice of reason in my life when I needed an older, wiser woman who had also been scorned as a relatively young wife herself. Thank you for listening to me, for trying to guide me through such a confusing time for all of us. I really loved your daughters, Cindy and Laura. You probably don’t know that I asked Craig for us to be considered as their caregivers in the event of your passing but he said no. Their developmental disabilities were a lot to handle for sure. I was trained in such things as an occupational therapist. They loved life: decorating for every single holiday, visiting with everyone, church on Sunday, and working at the sheltered worship with their friends. I never got to say goodbye to them. And now Cindy is gone as well. How is Laura doing? I often wonder. I may never know this side of heaven. Gratefully, I know I will see all of you again one fine day!

We long to see a loved one for that is how Christ’s love for us manifests in this life. We love others because He first loved us; we learn about love in this life as infants from our parents, our families. IN time we come to know that God is love itself, that He has set this beautiful gift into our heart, our mind, our very soul when He created us, when we came to be. Our longing for our lost loved ones is part of our longing for our Savior Who covers all. The only way that we can deeply connect with others in this most tenderest of ways is to come to know the love of Jesus Christ. Being together with other believers in Jesus Christ fulfills this longing; being in fellowship with the Lord through His Word and prayer fulfills this longing. We come to understand that the connection to our Lord is the most perfect relationship of them all: never failing, never ending, ever present, and perfectly above them all. We are always with Him, He is always with us such that we are never alone again when we call upon Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Our longing thus transcends our earthly relationships in ways too wonderful to explain. We can come to trust that the Lord has taken care of these mysteries of life. We come to trust as in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that He has made all things beautiful in His time.

All things beautiful. These are people that I have had the privilege to know and love. My Lord will redeem them one day for my good, for His glory. He promises. O.k., I get it now. Thank you Lord. Thank you for Nathaniel, Jeremy, Max, Sharon, Ken, Eleanor, Cindy, Laura, their brother Michael, and yes even Craig. You gave me so much through them. I see how my longing is satisfied in You. I don’t understand it. I do believe it.

Gentle Reader: maybe you too?

JJ

Steve and Julie moving on at the Groovy Plants Ranch in 2019

As long as you have a dog

Julie and Elle in our Nissan Frontier, summer of 2017 as we headed west. Destination: USCA Nationals in Dubuque, IA then Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado.
Bella and Julie at our local dog park.

Life is good as long as you have a dog.

A pup brings a furry friend for virtually every moment of her life. She lives to be near you (albeit closer to her next meal, of course). I get that.

Their brown or darker eyes tell the stories of every moment you have spent together, then remember only the ones in which the day was grand. Because to them, they all are grand!

I’ve heard it said that the problem with having a dog is that they don’t live long enough. Oh so true I have come to understand this to be.

Before you know it she limps or lists through her day, still smiling deeply into your eyes as if everything is still going to be o.k. If only, my pet.

Elle dragged through her last moments of life, trying to tell me that she loved me more as I stroked her thick fuzzy coat. Are you sure?

I still miss her you know. She was my first dog and fulfillment of a lifelong desire to have a companion like her. Oh the places we have gone together!

My husband and I had our special ways of relating to our Elle; she responded in kind. I loved that.

Sitting on the floor in front of the sink each night, she knew to lie beside me for her goodnight snuggles, belly rubs, and treat. Yes, I do remember.

My worst memory was our last: her bony butt walking away like a lamb to the slaughter at Animal Control, the day that was to be her last. No fanfare there at the loading dock with a vet tech there more to do her duty than comfort our weeping hearts for our Elle, our Currrrrr.

We cried sitting there in the parking area, for as long as we needed. She was gone. There was just so much pain in saying goodbye after 13 years of living together, us three.

You loved us well and were such a good puppers, our friend. You gave the best kind of love: selfless and sweet. How could we go on without you? You were so more than just a dog.

Time went on and the hole in our hearts got less sore. We discovered that we just needed one more like you, oh canine gift from above, to fill our empty nest with more love.

It took a failed adoption (aka foster), checking dozens of pet rescues, the viewing of hundreds of profiles, and two near-misses to find the next member of our family. Her name is Isabella, whom we shall now call Bella, and she is beautiful.

A month has gone by and we are slowly becoming a new pack as puppy power gives way to awesome wonder. Who is this nearly 2 year old beast who runs like the wind and leaps like a deer?

I am looking forward to our adventures to come, even if it be just to the local dog park in our changing times where travel isn’t quite the same anymore.

Each day brings a new surprise with you tender beast: so strong, so fast, so smart, so loyal as we have discovered in such a short time together.

Bella Bean you rock! It’s time to go!

That’s all she needs to know . . . as we three are off and running once again!

JJ

You almost lost me

The side effects were just too bad, that Linzess nightmare awhile back

It started with paranoia then gave way to profound fatigue so I went to bed.

Hell met me there, a new kind with seized spikes of lost breath and shakes

Rotational episodes this time then bouncing off the bed with gutteral screams of agony.

What to do now? Thousands have punched my life this decade of intermittent/daily misery

When I can’t even think to pray just stare blankly into my mind’s eye, lids pulled tightly closed.

The visual anomalies reminded me of another medication side effect in a Mexican hospital

When the pregnant young nurse shook nervously as she gave me medication in the middle of the night.

That night I learned the terrifying reality of black boxed hallucinations that you cannot stop or control

You hold on for dear life, wondering if you will ever come away with your sanity, if the side effect ever ends.

So Tuesday night I recognized the pattern from 2009 that ramped up to a break in mentality,

Desperately pleading for a way to think clearly, to get out of the scene stuck on repeat.

“Ozone” came into my consciousness, not spoken just present all-of-a-sudden in my thoughts

But how when I am convulsing, wretching air, terrified of injury as my head and neck thrashed so?

“Just start” came the next words, “yeah right” were mine that followed, sorry, “pray tell how?”

We found a way, my distraught beloved and I. Water spilled about and I rolled around in a desk chair unable to walk.

It was ugly alright: running a medical device that can hurt you while your head drops to bang on the table a few times midway through,

Somehow I got the treatment in me, terrified this time of doing it wrong.

You can damage your lungs you know and perhaps Steve’s if ya miss a step or two.

I drank the water: 400 ml of 70 gamma was the strongest I knew how to process

And within 2 minutes the worst of the wretched, hellish nightmare was over. Then I wept.

A few rebound shaking episodes broke through before it was all over that night

Lying on the bed staring into the darkness this time just dark no weirdness in sight.

If I did not have my medical ozone system I am convinced that tonight I would be in a psych ward somewhere not here

Drugged with anti-psychotic medications, facing weeks of infirmity that’s if the drugs could be cleared from my system at all.

I don’t respond well to medications that affect the brain or “second brain” of the gut

Even a “pediatric dose” can create a crisis ranging from gut issues to this, the worst.

Several days later the seizure threshold remains too low to function yet at my baseline

I’m doing as best I can and taking rescue remedies more often, or rather via nurse Steve, even with the episode earlier tonight.

Be wary of Linzess Gentle Reader. JJ