My Testimony: Salvation in a Laundrymat

Salvation in a Laundrymat The Testimony of Julie November 27, 2005

Originally published on http://www.fellowshipchurchonline.com/

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table in a laundrymat

When the trials of life got me down

And my angst led to seeking and a new church

It was the outstretched arms of the laundrymat attendant

That led to a decision washing me clean, indeed.

 

That was 1988: I was single and a Christian man had just entered my life. My life was stuffed at the time with full time work in healthcare and graduate school. Dabbling in church attendance and regular Al Anon Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings were fueling a desire to learn more about God and the person of Jesus Christ. I had so many questions, so many unresolved hurts from my childhood. Sitting in the audience of a very large, non-denominational church brought tears and stirred something deep inside me. Something I hadn’t felt in years . . .

I grew up attending a local church, complete with first communions, baptisms, lighting candles, going to the confessional, and the like. As a teenager and in college, I attended other churches of the same denomination and the routine, the rituals, were pretty much the same. But where was God? I could sense Him sometimes on Sunday mornings and in one particular baptismal service for my Godchild, Tommy. Why wasn’t He helping our family on the other days of the week?

My family life was in shambles. My father developed a mental illness and left our home when I was 9 years old. I would later understand that his struggle to overcome his mental illness exposed me and my brothers to sorrows beyond belief. There were inappropriate experiences with other adults as well.

We struggled to survive. My mom went back to work to support us and a few people tried to help where they could. The weekly allowances, ice cream from the Good Humor truck, books from the South Elementary School Book Club, and chocolate milk for lunch ended. My mom struggled in her identity as a single mom. The church fell short in meeting her needs, our needs and we were shamed by others. Some of the neighborhood boys weren’t allowed to play with my brothers. I felt rejected too. We kids fought a lot. And God bless the babysitters who risked losing their sanity by coming to our house!

My brothers, in time, would turn to alcohol or drugs to endure life. Both would eventually spend time in jail and never quite make it in the work world. Neither one married. One died of alcoholism and the other is devoting himself to care for our mom. Amazing! By the grace of God, I was given different responsibilities and opportunities.

A neighbor introduced me to the Warren Jayteens, the teen group of the Warren Jaycees (in our city just outside of Detroit, Michigan). That was the first of many new interests, part time jobs, and classical guitar lessons, and the list goes on. I became a “human doing” instead of a “human being.” My worth came from my activities, my accomplishments. And on the outside, I excelled.

Inside, I was hurting. I sought comfort in dating relationships and dabbled in alcohol and marijuana. My tolerance to alcohol increased. The partying continued when I moved to Illinois after college to start my first job in healthcare. I would later see that my profession was a gift from God. He gave me the insight to pursue a profession in which I would teach others the skill of adapting to any circumstance. I personally benefited from this as I entered graduate school, found Al Anon Adult Children of Alcoholics, changed jobs, moved a few times, and met a Christian man.

That dear man helped me with my many questions about God and the Bible. The witness of his upbringing in a Christian home spoke volumes of what it really looked like to grow up in a stable environment. His father was a leader in his childhood church. The witness of Craig’s life and of his family, showed me more of what it was like to have good clean fun and led to a decision for Christ.

On our third date, he brought me to a very large, non-denominational church. There were 4,000 people at each service! I thought it was a cult! I was wrong. My soul got fed for the first time. Some months later, a laundry mat attendant sensed my needs, my readiness, and witnessed to me. I will never forget that day. I can still see her face. She had so much love in her eyes. That night, alone in my apartment, I prayed to have Jesus come into my life. I repented of the mistakes of my past. I was truly washed clean by the blood of Jesus.

Two years later in 1991, Craig and I were married in that large, non-denominational church. We worshipped there five years. I grew in my understanding of the Christian life. I tried to be a “good Christian” wife and fell short a bit. My walk with the Lord would really begin several years later when Craig led us to a smaller Bible church. It was there that I began to unravel the part of the pain of my childhood that had created a barrier to developing an intimate relationship with the person of Jesus Christ. More tears. More healing. And a faithful man to walk with me. Very cool.

Things changed March 4, 2003. Our marriage had endured several trials and disappointments by then. Craig’s father had died, I was injured in an auto accident with lingering effects, Craig was laid off twice, we lost the court case related to the accident, and my work-related injuries created financial and emotional hardships for both of us. I always returned to work after a setback. I adapted. Craig pursued a new career direction as well in aviation and we felt the Lord’s blessing and provision. Then he had to stop suddenly and was never quite the same after that. He began to withdraw from me. At the same time, he threw himself into church service and became a Deacon. I tried to start a second business and return to work in healthcare. God had other plans.

On the morning of March 4, 2003, I prayed a desperate prayer for the Lord to intervene in my life. Intervene he did! That night I received a phone call and learned that my husband had been in an affair for about a year. I asked Craig to leave for awhile that night and he did. He never came back.

Standing in my living room, very late at night, very alone, I was in shock. I knew my life was about to change but had no idea how it would. A verse came to me from Jeremiah 29:11:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV)

That verse would come back to me again and again at key times over the next three years – at times when no other words could possibly sustain me or give me hope. Like the night of the fire . . .

Let’s just say that major changes occurred in rapid-fire succession from that day forward. (Riddle: What day of the year is a command? Answer: March “fourth.” Geez!)

My grandmother died. I refinanced our home. My brother died. The divorce process became eminent. I sold my home. I moved. I lost my job due to an injury. I was promoted in my home business. I moved again. I got a temporary job then a permanent position. My mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. The divorce was final at Christmastime. Geez! I was in a fire. I moved twice to temporary housing. I moved to a beautiful condo where I now reside. The healing work has begun, from the inside out!

Whew! I thank the Lord for walking with me and for bringing the Army of Believers who have been there, led me, and carried me on this journey to today. It takes an Army and an unshakable faith in Christ to rise from the trials of life victorious. I pray daily for Craig’s repentance and return to the Lord. And I do know this: the choices we make each day determine where we ultimately land in our walk with the Lord, our walk through the days of our lives. Since my prayer has always been for my own sorrows not to be wasted, I remember to seek the face of Jesus each day, especially when the mud flies. I pray that Craig will too. He has incredible gifts of teaching, of reasoning, of physical health, and of loving. May these be used for God’s glory soon.

As for me, I’m called to do what I can with what I have, where I am. (At the time of this writing in 2005, I’d) just had a “Thanksgiving” party to thank all the people that helped me; the evening was wonderful! I pray that the Lord continues to restore me. Through this process, my purpose has become clear: to build something of significance that blesses other people. Gee, that’s what I’ve always wanted in my heart before I could put the words together! To know this purpose is the intervention I prayed for March 4, 2003. I am closer to this dream now more than ever before. And it came this way. This way? Yes, it came this way.

And since this has proven to be true in my life I must say that I really wouldn’t want it any other way!

Thanks.  Just Julie

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ADDENDUM:  It is now 9 years later when I have come across my testimony in an old computer file.  I am amazed at all the Lord has walked with me through!  My mother passed away in March of 2007 and I married my intended beloved, Steve, in November later that year.  I moved to Indiana to marry Steve, to slow things down, to rediscover so many rich outdoor activities, and to enjoy a loving relationship with Steve like none I had ever experienced before.  Even a serious personal illness, my brother’s stroke, and a medical leave from a lifelong profession that I love could not deter the love I experience from my Jesus and my Stevers.  After all:  life goes on.  I am exceedingly grateful that the Lord never changes.  I am exceedingly grateful for so much!

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The most important element in all of this, in all of my life, is my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Thank you Jesus.

That is all.  JJ

When you find your voice again

Perhaps it is a silent presence, a type of mindfulness that can speak as loud as a mountaintop yodel in a life-changing moment.  Or maybe you must shout it out, screeching through a resistant case of laryngitis just what is on your mind.  Then there are those measured words spoken through gritted teeth; oooooh, I hated when my mother uttered those when I was a child!  A crazy person makes sense only to his or herself when the disemboweled utterance emerges from the trouble soul within.  And the most agregious is the spine-tingling barbs of an angry person that can cut to the heart every time.  Sure wish I had more of the first one and less of the others in my history!

A gentle answer turns away wrath,
    but a harsh word stirs up anger.  (Proverbs 15:1)

Yes indeed.

The seizure attacks came quickly this evening as soon as my face hit the head of the bed, elevated with folded blankets to promote sinus drainage and ease the chest compression of a recent infection.  My left arm was tucked along my left side with my head turned to the right as I lain partially face-down.  This position causes less neck and shoulder pain so it is often my go-to position when I sense the episode ramping up.  The head-banging and shoulder trauma are minimized but the wrenching of my neck is nasty.  Oh well, that’s what the chiropractor is for, right?  Sigh.

Eventually I screeched out some “help me Lord” utterances with what was left of my voice box today.  That came whilst straining to cry out to my Jesus with an acute illness on top of the mysterious seizure-like tics that plague me every morning, evening, and after exposure to noxious stimuli.  I can’t even cry right!  Then things got incredibly darker.  In defense of my sanity I won’t go into details here so let’s just say that frightful images passed through my mind.  Then in my mind’s eye I could see the images on my arms.  Just then I noticed that Steve was stooping over the side of the bed beside me in the dark.  Holy crap!  His sudden appearance in the dark scared me further.  My body writhed with seizures, now lying on my right side with Steve behind me.  My arms flailed in the air, my legs flapped together then apart, and the screeching sound of my hoarse voice screaming holy terror would exceed any scene I’ve viewed from a psycho thriller for sure.  But this was not a movie.  This was ME!

A few decades ago some really bad things happened to me when I was a kid.  I spent about 12 years as a young adult in many kinds of therapy, therapy groups, 12-step recovery groups (Al Anon Adult Children of Alcoholics), faith-based and 12-step weekend retreats, and reading tons of self-help books.  True healing came when I got saved and the person of Jesus Christ showed me his love, care for me, and plan for my life if I would follow His lead.  He was restoring the years the locusts had eaten (Joel 2:25) when I met my intended beloved and married Steve.  I felt happy and free at last.  Four years later I got very sick with viral hepatitis, Lyme disease, and Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (related to mold).  I haven’t been able to work in two years largely due to the seizure attack episodes multiple times per day.  They are heartbreaking for both of us in addition to many other folks who have witnessed them too.

Over and over again I have searched for meaning, a purpose for this extended illness.  The incredible expenses of remediating our home for mold in early 2013 surely tested our marriage for sure.  We were living in a hotel while navigating a myriad of details and tough decisions as Steve travelled between work, home, and the hotel; his daughter chose to continue living in the house and help us out during the entire process.  Eventually our dog joined us in the hotel.  Eventually we completed the remediation, opted not to sell our house, and moved back home.  However, the seizure attacks never stopped!  By summer of 2013 they increased to up to 4 hours per day!  No medical professional or online research has found an answer yet.  Somehow Steve and I grew closer through it all as our hearts were breaking; the pain and suffering has been great.

Recently the Lord did show me a few tasks that needed to be completed in our marriage.  The love between Steve and I over these past 2 1/2 years has become strengthened, deepened because of this difficult journey.  We have now turned our residence into a “safe home” which restricts visitors or the conditions under which others may enter our home.  This helps prevent exposures for me that could cause a negative reaction (aka seizures!).  I love that my beloved is helping to protect me in this way so that I can get well.  I love that he has been faithful to the Lord and to me through this entire journey.  Others are watching us and I understand that we are doing some things right!  My own restoration and healing from the past may have provided a foundation for the important growth in me that has happened of late.  I am grateful to be able to recognize the good that is here along with the challenges.  There is always good along with the challenges if we look closely enough . . .

Back to the scene in the bedroom.  I asked Steve to move from where he was stooped behind me to the other side of the bed where he would be in front of me.  The uncontrollable hell that was ravaging my weakened frame was frightening enough not to have a sense that someone, even someone I dearly loved, was lingering over me from behind.  Steve knows all too well that if he touches me during an episode it can magnify the symptoms significantly.  I just couldn’t risk a casual brush of a hand; my distress was already unbearable.  Then the breakthrough began to happen.  Speaking up despite the hoarseness of my voice rose up some inner strength I had never sensed before.  I had to ride out the frightening images and thrashing about, my estimation of what weeping and gnashing of teeth might be like in a Biblical description of hell.  Tears came.  Silence followed.  I was able to ask for what I really needed when scared.

Soon my gracious and godly husband was gently sitting beside me.  I’m not sure if he was more horrified or moved to compassion!  We processed the scene.  His eyes held mind for a long time in the darkness before I was able to reach out and touch his arm.  Soon he was able to reach out with comforting touch for me as well.  Somehow we knew that my intolerance to intimate touch for the past 6 weeks was finally broken.  I was able to lie in the arms of my beloved once again.

My writing this story includes a great deal of literary and intellectual license.  I mean that I think I might know what is going on, the purpose and meaning in some of this suffering, but there is only one person who actually knows the truth:  my Heavenly Father.  I am glad that I found my voice in the darkness this evening.  I am glad that I survived a wretched scene without too much damage or lingering baggage.  I am grateful to have reconnected with Steve and that he could look beyond the ugliness to the beauty imbedded in this crazy journey together.  I trust that the Lord will go before us in the next scene and lead us in His way everlasting for His purpose and glory.  Lord willing it won’t be so bad next time.

Thank you, Jesus, for your redeeming grace.  You make all the difference in the world for me, tonight and always.  Thank you for your enduring mercy, giving me have the strength to do that to which you have called me (Philippians 4:13).  Be my voice in the darkness and in the light.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

Where have I gone?

Sometimes I just don’t recognize myself anymore.  I have used many words for myself such as Julie Anne, Recovering Type A, Recovering Catholic, Adult Child of an Alcoholic, Jul, Child of the King, Snookums, Just Julie, and Booberry.  Many other labels inside my head will not make it to this blog as they are unkind and reflect the stinking thinking that was an outcome of my childhood.  While I have come a long way there is still so much to do!

all things have become new

My biggest challenge these days is having some kind of identity when my world is smaller; there is less going on.  I am sick a lot of the time.  I am isolated most days.  I go fewer places, see fewer people, engage in fewer activities, and generally do less than at any other time in my life for longer than any other time in my life.  Whilst engaging in various activities a person engages in various roles that comprise one’s identity, for example:  friend, church goer, Master Gardener, sister, sister in Christ, kayaker, exercise enthusiast, and so on.  All of the roles that I have mentioned have severely diminished for me in the past 2 years because of a serious illness.  I do not know when this will change.  The tendency is to ask the question, “where have I gone?”

girl in the rain

I really miss my life before illness.  Sure it wasn’t perfect.  I still had chronic pain, went to the doctor and had some type of treatment for pain a couple of times per month, and limited my work schedule to a maximum of 30 hours per week.  But I was also the most physically fit I had been in my entire life, had the greatest financial freedom that I have ever had, enjoyed rewarding work as an occupational therapist with a flexible schedule, and went to lots of neat places with my amazing husband.   My mind was sharp, my confidence was growing, and I felt really loved.  Things are more mushy now.  Most of the time I feel lost.  I am not even convinced I have the correct diagnosis or treatment plan.  So this translates into the reality that I don’t really know when I will be well again.  This is tough stuff indeed.

And yet there are many new activities that have emerged these past two years.  While I don’t work in all-things-gardening as much, I did become an Advanced Master Gardener AFTER I got sick.  That was an amazing and humbling accomplishment!  The Lord gave me the opportunity to explore blogging, learn more about social media, publish an eBook (Hope Beyond Lyme:  The First Year), learn to make macramé jewelry, and launch an online jewelry business (Trinity Jewelry by Design).   I’ve made some amazing friends via a local Lyme Support Group in addition to some compassionate folks online.  I have kept a journal for most of my life and now my blog has a growing list of really cool followers from around the world.  Talk about humbling!  Wow.  If only you could see my heart right now, transforming from an identity crisis between the lines of this blog tonight to a woman with a vision.  You do that for me, Gentle Reader, guided by the Holy Spirit.  Thank you for listening as this gets worked out within me . . .

broken to beautiful

If we were to examine the experiences of my life, we would probably agree that I have had a life that has been harder than most.  Over and over again I have had to find Little Julie then Jul and Just Julie amidst a firestorm of hurt, loss, and strife.  I have come to understand that the Lord has had His guiding hand, loving arms, and protective wing around me all along where the good people and perks of life were missing.  He has allowed the trials and tears to bring me closer to Himself, to help me to see beyond the circumstances around me.  The Lord has shown me that the bad stuff was not wasted or intended to hurt me.  The Lord wants me to be complete and allows all this to conform me into the image of Christ.  I pray that I will not lose heart during the refiner’s fire.  I pray that I will see His blessings soon as I have seen so many times in the past.  I just gotta hang on a little longer, let Him carry me a little more.

Where have I gone?  I am in another wilderness experience like Moses and the Israelites of the Old Testament who wandered in the hot, dry desert for decades wondering if they would ever be “there yet.”  I must keep my eyes on Jesus:  the light that leads and the cloud that blots out the forces of evil that taunt my doubts, fester my feelings of inadequacy.  It just doesn’t matter anymore where I have gone.  What matters now is where am I going?

Happy new year, Gentle Reader.  Will you go with Him too in 2014?

The Throne of Grace

He’s got the whole world in His hands

So much to let go.  So much that still haunts this troubled mind and body.  Troubled?  Yeah, a side effect of battling an illness that affects your central nervous system.   Negative emotions are magnified, fears are stronger than they need to be, stress responses come more easily, and a cynical attitude creeps into more and more moments.  It’s a battle and little of needs to be mine, actually.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, we have THE warrior on the throne, can embrace HIS spiritual armor, and trust that HE will be the victor in the end.  He promises all this to those who love Him and call Him Lord.  It honors Him to call upon His name with our praises and requests.  Remembering this fights against the workings of my brain these days a little more than the distractions and temptations we all face.  No, I’m not special.  I’m just selected!  And I get to write about what I learn along the way!

I used to have a God Box.  It was a tool introduced to me during my years in Al Anon Adult Children of Alcoholics’ meetings.  The Lord used 12-Step meetings as a first step to finding a personal relationship with God (AKA Higher Power); I now know God as my Savior, Jesus Christ.  By writing a prayer request, troubling thought, or need on a slip of paper, I had a symbolic way of turning people/places/things over to Him when I put the paper in the God Box.  My Box was a little plastic folder with imprinted with a world map.  Somehow it seemed significant to me as a reminder that the Lord is everywhere, cares about everyone including me.

So this blog is another form of a God Box.  Here’s the list on my piece of paper today:

Lyme Disease.  Treatment decisions.  $250 per week out of pocket for medical expenses.  Restitution I feel my ex-husband owes me.  Amount of money I was entitled to but didn’t take from the settlement of my father’s estate.  Daily physical pain.  Dreams for my jewelry business.  Upcoming craft show.  VISA bills.  Yard work I’m unable to complete.   Last few CEUs for my OT license that need to be done even though I ‘m not working.  Seizure attacks.  Headaches; will the new OTC med. that worked for me yesterday work when I need it again?  The need to exercise and the intolerance of most exercise.    Oh dear.  There is so much and it escalates to near panic if I don’t stop when the avalanche starts.  I’ll stop here.  I need a good word badly!

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  From Hebrews 4 (NIV)

Lord I give you these heartaches this day.  I lay them at Your throne of grace.  I pray for your mercy and help in my time of need.  I also place before you the readers of this blog.  Bless them, Lord for caring about me and perhaps considering the role You may have in their lives.  I pray that each one would come to know you as Lord, lover of his or her soul, friend, and sojourner through this life.  Strengthen those who already know You.  For Your glory, Lord.  In Jesus name.  Amen.