Look into my eyes

In my very early contacts with who would become my Intended Beloved, I realized that I had not seen any close-up pictures of him.  We had met online after Steve had found me in the database of the dating website   Yahoo Personals.  He certainly spoke and wrote like a God-fearing man yet I could not yet see it in his eyes!  “Could you send me a picture that includes a look into your eyes closer-up?”  I asked.  Here is one that he sent me.

steve-self 005-small

I was tickled that he took the time (long before the convenience of smart phones, by the way) to set up his tripod, take and upload the photos, then send them to me via email!  Wow.  He must have liked my profile photo a bit more than I thought already?

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Flash forward less than a year and the look we have as we gaze at each other at our wedding probably tells its own story . . .

wed-10

How could I possibly know that this gaze would only deepen, soften, and grow to a bond impervious to the tempestuous trials that came our way four years later?  Only the Lord knew what was ahead of us.  Only the Lord and the workings of the Holy Spirit could move this love to such a tender place built to last.

Funny thing is that I do not have a recent picture to show you what I mean.   We just haven’t been able to go out as much to make memories worthy of recording.  A photo taken on our recent anniversary may show a bit of weariness for me.  Yet if you look closely, that’s a mighty strong arm holding me closely to his side.  The joy on Steve’s face is unmistakable.  That’s an arm of protection, of leadership, of devotion like no other wrapped tightly around me on a cool wintry night.

Crop of 8th Anniversary

I am so very grateful to see the eyes of Christ in my precious Steve.  Like my Lord Jesus, Steve is even more wonderful than the day I met him.  His love has transformed my heart for sure.

Ever look into the eyes of someone like that, Gentle Reader?  Was it long ago?  Oh I hope that if it has not yet happened then it will someday soon!  When it does I hope that you will tell the world about it.  Maybe with a song like this one, in celebration of the eyes of love tonight:

robin hood
A hero always fights for his bride

It’s more than a delicate balance

As anyone who likes to (or needs to) cook knows, it can be a tough balance to make a recipe taste just right.  The host of your fav cable cooking show says to add a pinch of salt and pepper as you watch her grab easily a fistful of seasonings.  Ah ha!  So that is why version mine comes out differently than yours!  Just ditch the online recipe on her website and fly by the seat of your pants!  Taste, taste, taste and make the dish all your own, eh?

I don’t tend to make meals using recipes anyways.  With a limited diet and having to make a wacky version for me and a “normal” one for my beloved, I would become too frustrated trying to follow the masterpiece designed by someone else’s reality!  I just start with what I CAN eat, add more salt with my eyes closed then put one of my go-to seasoning mixes on Steve’s version.  It works for us.  Well most of the time, that is!  And when it doesn’t, that is what salsa is for right?  (O.k.  I know I have offended someone out there now!)

My health situation of late is kinda like the same delicate balance.  Add too much zinc for too many days in a row or take a new supplement or med for more than 3 doses and whammo (!) I get burned at the “steak.”  There’s little more than dog food left of me afterwards.  Gratefully my Doc does exhaustive lab testing to try to coach me in the right direction.  But now even labs cannot predict the outcome anymore.  I seem to react to everything.  It’s worse when the pharmacist of an independent lab starts making suggestions too.  So I try this and that.  Oh how I want things to work out well!  So far, it has not.

I am my own worst enemy in these scenarios.  The results aren’t even back yet for the female hormones that are at a mystery level since going through menopause.  I went through menopause during the almost 4 years of this illness and these tests for me are way out of date.  The significance of the hormones is that a goodly number of women (who have true epilepsy) have worsened seizures during menopause and others have reported a new onset of what is called “catamenial epilepsy.”  While I do not think that I have epilepsy per se and all the fancy labs have supported this, I do find this course of study intriguing.  I joined a couple of Facebook groups on the subject and have hunkered down into some new online research.  Then of course I re-started a tiny bit of progesterone on my own to see what would happen.  Yeah, I know that I should wait until the lab results are back in a total of 6 weeks.  But heck, at the rate I have been going, 6 weeks means up to 210 more hours of convulsive episodes!  Why wait?  I am going to go through hell anyways . . . .

Dr. Erwin Leutzer of Moody Bible Institute teaches that, “when you are going through hell . . . DON’T STOP!!!”  Oh yeah.  That fits for me.  Not sure what to do with some of the symptoms that are emerging though.  Clearly this will need professional tweaking at some point!  Do ya blame me for trying?  What if I finally stumble upon the resolution to this nightmare?  There are so many labs that are off now and the convulsive episodes have escalated to 4 hours or more most days, I just figured that it’s worth a shot . . . worth disrupting the status quo.

The decisions of life can be a delicate balance over here sometimes.  Do we continue with travel plans when I am in the throes of chronic illness?  For us, the answer is yes.  We just adapt things a bit and get on down the road.  Life goes on.  In due time, if it is the Lord’s will, I am going to be well.  In the meantime we will use the portable heater in the Tin Can Ranch (aka travel trailer) instead of the noxious propane mini-furnace so I can be with my beloved overnight at his kayaking competitions out of town.  In the meantime I’ll freeze portions of meals to ease food prep when Steve needs to pitch in for me.  In the meantime I will fold laundry when my brain stabilizes in the wee hours of the morning and scratch the ears of our pup who gets more fractionated sleep than I do.  In the meantime Steve will head into work later to make up lost time and we will be grateful for his flexible employment.  And so it goes, a balancing act on steroids that we have come to master, one ingredient at a time!

Gentle Reader, I’ll bet you understand the need for balance with the stuff of life. Let’s look together with gratitude that we do have some choices even in the worst of situations.  For those who believe in the Lord, Jesus Christ, we know that all things, delicate and less so, will work together for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.  It’s His promise from His word in Romans 8:28.  That is because He knows us and loved us before we were even born.  He knows and cares for all of the details of our lives!  (Psalm 139)  And He knows what choices we will make.  As for me, I will aim to make choices that keep me moving forward, aiming to win.  Sometimes things will be out of balance for a time.  Yet with my eyes fixed on Christ, leaning on His Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit I will run my race of life with endurance:  endurance the produces hope (Romans 5:4) and endurance to finish well too!  (Hebrews 12:1)

surf ski, surf ski racing, river racing, USCA, kayak racing, unlimited class, competition, drafting, Epic kayaks
My River Bear leading in a United States Canoe Association event last year. Gooooo Steeeeve!

Never sacrifice sweet victory for a need to stay comfortably in balance though.  Attend to the tasks at hand with wisdom then get out there and LIVE!  Do not stop!  May we both finish well my fellow sojourner.  The crown of glory awaits!

That is all.  JJ

The One Who Leads

outrigger canoe, tandem canoe, padding with your spouse, OC-2, tandem outrigger canoe, Hawaiin boat, HUKI, learning to paddle, learning to lead, learning to submit, follow the leader
Steve and Julie, the 4th of July on Blue Lake

Sometimes the person out front is the leader of the pack, charting a course for others to follow.

Other times, the one in back of you controls the rudder of your life and you have no other choice than to give into his lead.

The paddler beyond the stern of your boat may be drafting off your lead, riding your wake, resting to overtake the lead at any moment thus determining your fate.

But when matched up together in the same tandem kayak or outrigger canoe, it’s tough to see who is really steering the craft.  Is it the gal in front?  The guy in the back?  The force of the wind shifting them about?  The unseen forces of nature?

I submit to you that on the water, the average bloke cannot really tell what is going on unless you know a bit about the sport of paddling, the features of the watercraft, the paddlers therein, and the goal of the voyage.

Here we have dual controls on our tandem outrigger (OC-2), controlled by the pair of foot pedals in either the cockpit of the front or the back of the hull.  We decided a long time ago that Steve would be situated in the back of the boat and control the rudder to steer us from there.  My role would be to alert him to hidden rocks or logs and only change the arrangement in the event of an imminent crash!  Even if he took a different line down a river or around a lake than I would, it would be his responsibility to guide the boat.  And so it was for our first outing in the OC-2 since last year  . . .

Blue Lake is one of the cleaner yet smaller lakes in Northeastern Indiana:  about the same distance from our home as the 3 rivers that intersect downtown and south of us.  It’s about a mile long and a few miles to paddle around, inside the shoreline.  We decided that this would be the best place to go for a brief outing on Saturday.  The water was cool, the air was warm, and the sun was setting a fiery glow in the distance.  Fireworks spouted off all around us with smoke from these and summer cookouts that characterize the celebration of Independence Day in America.  The haze reminded us of the battles fought for the freedom of our nation in 1776!  This time the declaration on shore included everything cooked on the BBQ; the boaters under power and paddle on the water were friendly too.  Even the dad of the family that lived across the street from the boat launch who has befriended my hubby during prior outings, stopped by to say “hello.”  The best of our freedoms was all around us.  No one cared who was out front, in control, or taking charge of anything.  Everyone seemed out to have some good summer fun and that was all, including us!

I really enjoyed our 60 minutes canoeing yesterday.  Both Steve and I prayed in thanksgiving for the chance we had to be together sharing an activity that has characterized much of our marriage these past 7 1/2 years.  I joke that every summer I become a “kayaking widow” as Steve practices then races his surf ski in the northern Indiana circuit of the United States Canoe Association competitions.  But I didn’t use to be so alone.  Until the Fall of 2011, I usually went out with him in my own kayak and the Fort Wayne kayaking group on Tuesday nights.  On the weekends I loved cheering for Steve from the side of the river for as many Saturday events as I could get out myself out of bed in wee hours of the morning to attend.  He has continued to race all of our married life together, and race well.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  And yesterday we were together again; last month I got to attend one of his races.  Lord willing both will happen again next weekend at a new event-with-festival.  Lord willing indeed.

The price to pay for participating in these events is very high.  I go to them when there is a break in the convulsive episodes and usually pay my dues with bed rest and intermittent episodes the following day.  This has been my routine for over 3 years.  This past weekend was no different.  And yet we still praised the Lord.  Jesus Christ was the One who once walked on water, carried the apostles to safety in raging seas from shore to shore, preached from the beach to the multitudes, and created the beauty we all enjoy.  He also led the two of us to a wonderful moment of recreation:  just me and my beloved River Bear.  I am grateful for this gift.  Period.

I am also grateful for the man the Lord has designed in Steve.  My Stevers waited all day long until I could leave the house after 6:00 p.m. to pack up the boat on the car racks and load up all of our supplies.  He had cleaned his car for me earlier, “just in case” I would be able to make it.  He changed up his usual workout once we were on the water to make the day meaningful for both of us.  And he led us through the entire experience as if the day was just like any other:  a warm summer afternoon on the water together in July.  Oh how I love you my River Bear!  I really don’t mind letting you steer us from behind.  It really doesn’t matter who is in the lead all as long as we can be together again like this.

Place me like a seal over your heart,
    like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
    its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
    like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
    rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
    all the wealth of one’s house for love,
    it would be utterly scorned.  [Song of Songs 8:6-7]

So whether you are waiting for inspiration, the man in your life to make a decision, the Lord to whisper His voice into your darkness, or for the rushing waves of illness to calm down in your tender vessel:  take heart.  The one, the One who leads will take you through the right waters at just the right time in just the right way to get you exactly where you know you really want to be anyways.  I don’t know if there will be fireworks to celebrate that moment in time like there was for me?  I do know that there will be a celebration in heaven for the faithful who have waited upon the Lord who loves you more than you know.

And He will bring you to that special place, Gentle Reader, where the sailing will be Divine.  Just look at how cool it can be!  JJ

Me thinks the lady dost protest too much

According to Wikipedia (and who can argue with the Big W?)  The quotation “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” comes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, act III, scene II, where it is spoken by Queen Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother. In Shakespeare’s time, “protest” meant “vow” or “declare solemnly”.  It also means that she is promising too much.  Well I don’t know about the Queen but this lady is going to take it literally:  I think my posting about illness is getting to be too much!

So I must digress for a moment into another topic altogether.  You see, the failing of dealing with chronic illness (defined as that which lasts more than 6 months) is when the diagnosis becomes you.  When I start to use words like, “my Lyme disease” or “my mold illness” then I am beginning to affix a permanent label to myself:  a new identity as a sick person.  Sure, I am a person with a serious illness.  Yet if I am not careful, I will develop such a strong identification with the role of “sick person” that it will be difficult to embody or identify with other roles and activities in my life.  It could be difficult to identify with healing when it comes; that would be bad!  The tendency when wearing the “hat” of a disease too well is to talk about symptoms or treatment all of the time.  I could constantly be complaining about the daily headaches and pain, difficulty concentrating, or pre-tic phenomena, etc.  And if I do that, I simply won’t be much fun to be around.  I will find myself alone more of the time and I’m already alone a lot!

So I must make a conscious effort, beginning with those closest to me, to focus on him or her and other things no matter how benign the topic.  Gotta start somewhere!  I can always find something to say about our cute pupster, the mail that came that day, or something for which I am grateful.  I can always lavish in the goodness of the Lord, Jesus Christ and how he has given me a warm, pretty home in which to reside.  I can always be grateful for the healthy food that is available to me in our smallish town from both local farmers and chain grocery stores.  (For example, have you seen the great prices on organic, free range chicken thighs in the Family Pack at Wal-Mart?)  And when in doubt, I can even brag about making it to Level 102 in the Facebook game Pengle.  Hey, what else am I supposed to do when spacey at 2:00 a.m.?  The game is not that easy and it’s kinda fun too!

One of my favorite topics is my husband Steve.  He is an amazing man.  Steve begins his day with an extended time of prayer before taking care of our dog and getting ready for work.  I am often sleeping or returning to sleep as he is leaving for work; we chat by phone sometime later in the afternoon.  By that time he has designed a cool aspect of a weather satellite or test instrument in his role as a mechanical engineer for a world-wide firm.  At lunch he cycles.  Yeah that’s right.  Most of us take bike rides.  Not my Stevers.  He is a competitive athlete to the core even during his lunch “rides” where the guys crank out 20 or more miles, averaging 19 or so miles per hour most days of the week.  Then on Tuesday nights during the warmer weather and most weekends until the St. Joseph River freezes over, you’ll find my River Bear in his kayak-on-steroids.  Steve races in the United States Canoe Association circuit  (K-1 Unlimited class) here in northern Indiana and at Nationals every year.  His two little ditties are 21-foot carbon fiber surf skiis that weigh in at around 23 pounds each!  The Epic V12 looks like a Tomahawk missile on top of his stealth fighter Dodge Magnum low rider transport vehicle.  Then there’s the multitude of service activities to our church including worship, Bible study, and fellowship.  It’s amazing that there’s any energy left when the dude returns home.  Yes, there is energy left for me, with hugs and tenderness too.  Even at midnight when I’m not doing so well on a work night.

USCA Nationals 2013:  Steve racing the Mohican
USCA Nationals 2013: Steve racing the Mohican

I love Steve with all my heart.  It’s a privilege to be his wife, a blessing from the Lord.  I have never felt so loved, so cherished, so respected, and held in so high of esteem by anyone at any other time in my life.  His sense of humor, common sense, and Godly wisdom enrich me immeasurably.  He is often my “Jesus with skin on.”  Thank you, Jesus for blessing me with an amazing man of God.

Ladies, amazing men do exist!  Can you see one important reason why I strive with what little strength I have these days to be the best woman I can be?  Sometimes all I can do is make my man his lunch . . . at 3:00 a.m. in the morning before I finally make it to bed.  So I make it the best lunch I can possibly muster with my Heavenly Husband holding me together until it’s completed.  Then the dog gets a scratch behind the ears and it’s time to collapse into whatever the darkness may bring.  At least I know as I close my eyes each night that this lady has “professed” her best culinary care and it is not “too much.”  I’m hoping it’s just right!

Oh my Heavenly Father, thank you for my beloved who cares for me and my heart in this life until we both can be in Your presence forevermore.  And if it is your will Lord, I ask to be able to be with Steve a little more as husband and wife, sharing the joys of life and being together.  Thank you for helping us to find some sweetness despite this season of illness in my life.  Thank you for Your provision and helping me, helping us to endure this difficult journey.  You have sustained us, carried us over and over again through much uncertainty, false hopes, unexpected setbacks, and complications.   While all this is true, You have also allowed others to see You here and there when we somehow got it right.  Oh Lord, I pray that we continue to be a worthy steward of all that You allow in our lives for Your glory alone.  Thank you for a better afternoon and evening today.  I love you too.  In Christ’s name, Amen.