He knew

Still in shock from the news, with tears coming forth without notice

I grieve the sudden death of my brother and all that it means.

Where do I begin to tell the story of his life and mine intertwined?

I just can’t write very well right now.

One dynamic is clear though.

Just before he died, he had come to know and convey despite horrific suffering

That life in Christ is worthy of our primary focus. It supernaturally transcends the incredible chaos of our time whether it be in our own broken frame or the society at large.

I don’t think he lived this belief out perfectly in all areas of his world. But in conversation with me, his witness was clear: LIFE as in LIFE IN CHRIST is the most important matter of our days.

With this I find it curious that his final words to his companion and caregiver of many years were, “I don’t want to die.” But Mike, to live is Christ, to die is gain (Phil 1:21), ultimately to be with the Lord and perfectly whole. Why did you not give in to death when in a coma, when seizing, when facing searing pain and be truly free? No one would know and no one would blame you for letting go. You didn’t even do so until the Lord called you home. I am seeing in you this gift of perspective that I have not been able to realize in my own time of battling serious illness. You got it right! I need to get it right too.

Thousands of waking seizure attacks have ravaged my body over the past 8 years. The health complications that came along the way have brought much grief, guttural cries out to the Lord for relief. Experiencing my brain on fire when I am still awake has brought traumatization, triggered memories of past incidents of trauma, stirred emotions that took me down, down, down. If there was lingering bitterness from the abuse of my past then it had no where to go to heal when every month it seemed, there was a new medical problem/diagnosis/treatment to consume my days. Sure, I tried to live around the compendium of illness; weather sick or faking wellness, I see now that my focus has been in the wrong place too much of the time. I need more of Jesus Christ and less of everything else NO MATTER WHAT IS GOING ON AROUND OR WITHIN ME.

I have struggled to read my Bible and pursue even passive activities that can strengthen my relationship with my Savior. It’s been really, really hard to do so. Somehow my brother Mike figured it out despite his suffering. He could only use one hand! His body erupted into violent spasms without warning. The simplest of self care tasks were laborious beyond belief. He has been bedridden for most of the past few years. And the pain. I don’t know if anyone really knows how much he endured, how much medication or cigarettes it took to numb the torture of severe contractures from a stroke about 5 years ago then subsequent medical mismanagement (or minimal management). So did he talk about all of this with me? NO! He chose share what he was studying in his Bible instead. He asked me important questions that I was barely able to answer. Mike meditated on the significant issues of life itself. He saw beyond the life his broken frame, not wanting it to end despite his suffering. Mike dwelt for hours each day in the presence of our Lord and blessed me in return by his doing so.

Mike really did not want to die. I get the sense that it was because he wanted to be here when the Lord returned in glory for His church. Mike thought he would be here for the rapture. Sometimes I think that I will be here for the rapture too, and that it might not be far away with the absolute chaos going on in our country. Despite my own faith in Jesus Christ, many times I have wanted to die. I have been overcome with despair, enough so that I could not imagine living another day with my own suffering (described here many times, portrayed on my YouTube channel). My faith has wavered at times when challenged by the worst ravages of chronic illness. I am not proud of it. This is important to share however, as I know that I am not alone. Tis better to bring these issues to the light of day in the right way at the right time. Now is that time. My brother’s witness to me that I finally got to see in his passing from this life is a proverbial fork in the road for where I want my life to go from here. I got this perspective from you Mike. Thank you. You have finished well, the task of ministering to your older sister whether you knew or not that you were doing so.

Thank you my dear brother in Christ. On Friday you told me that you knew that one day you would be healed. That prayer was answered just one day later! I rejoice that you are now leaping like a deer on high places as you dwell with our majestic Savior in the heavenly realms. See you one day when the Lord calls me home too. Until then,

Heyyyyy Mikey! I love you. JJ

Connected in Grief

Why is it that tragic news of a dear loved one has so many layers as we take it all in?

First there is the shocking disbelief that something so horrific could even happen.  But it did and it does.  The impact is not yet realized on this one for sure.

My beloved and I prayed several times as the news unfolded across the evening:  the details coming forth slowly, leaving more questions than answers tonight.

Then a little later when simply lying with my beloved for refreshment triggered my own symptoms of ongoing illness, the tears started to flow alas but not for me this time.

The words of bad news, of new loss and the crisis of loved ones unfolding hath opened  up old wounds from my own times like these in the past, when I had to travel quickly into a very painful unknown.

I cried some more.  Oh how I miss my little brother so!  I talked to him in the hospital when he was yet drunk and in the DTs of alcohol withdrawal.  Little did I know that he would become unconscious and pass away within 2 days thereafter of alcohol toxicity, multiple organ system failure.

Quickly my late Mother made travel arrangements for my brother and I, with me still shell-shocked from my former husband’s departure and death of my grandmother within 24 hours of each other, just 5 months earlier.  Travelling for another funeral out of state and into a lifestyle much different from my own was a culture shock on one level, a new loss to grieve, and a return to the drama of my childhood as well.  Oh how I wish I could have re-written it all!

My brother’s Memorial Service was bizarre:  held in the bar of a bowling alley with his people, his friends albeit fitting yet inappropriate just the same.  I wrote about it three years ago when I thought about the star that now holds the ashes of his once tender heart.  Many details are painful to recall here and to do so would be disrespectful to the memory of my now deceased Mother who was grieving in her own unusual manner at the loss of her son.  It was a painful experience for all of us to endure back then.  Some more sorrow got released tonight as it all came back to me again.

Robert, Rob, Lech, Colorado, Palmer Lake, deceased, brother
My little brother Rob. Love you and miss you Robbie!

My Intended Beloved had memories of his own to share this evening from the death of his sister, his late brother-in-law, and a distant relative too.  We don’t know how the current tragedy will fare as the night draws on into daylight for one weary family holding on, their loved one slipping further and further away from them.  Please join me in praying for each precious one.  The Lord knows who they are and what they need.  I don’t know either but one thing that I do know is this:  we do suddenly become connected to our brothers and sisters in Christ, even all in humanity when we tap into the suffering that goes on in life.  I do pray the Lord’s supernatural intervention in the situation at hand.  Only He can go beyond the layers which we now feel, we now see.

And in this we can all rest, Gentle Reader.  For the shortest verse of our Bible reminds us of His humanity too, His sharing and caring in our times of grief.  For Jesus wept too.  JJ

Jesus wept, John, 11:35, grief, Christian, suffering, crying out to the Lord, shortest verse

He Loved Well, He Lived for Christ

The passing of John Sr. brought sorrow as I considered the impact this man had on my life.  And I was not alone.  Everyone knew John’s love for his family and friends, the Lord, Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of believers united by our faith.  It wasn’t until I started to describe three key scenes in my past where his care was palpable to me that I started to grieve the passing of this faithful servant of the Lord.  Surely the heavenly hosts are celebrating your coming home sir . . .

My connection to John Sr. was initially tainted by the critical viewpoint of my former spouse.  I suppose it’s easy to criticize someone else for faults that the two of you may share?  Years later this appeared to be the case.  So when I ran into John Sr. just 3 weeks after my former spouse left me, I was not prepared for this gentleman’s reaction to the  news.  He asked how Craig was doing and I was speechless for a moment:  did he not know what had happened?  I guess not.  I had to tell him.  John Sr’s face fell as I shared the devastation that was just beginning to unfold in my life;  John Sr. looked at me as if someone had punched him in the gut right there in the store!  He could barely speak, mumbled a few condolences, and shuffled away obviously affected by my story.  In the moment I was stunned as well.  Why was he walking away when I had just shared my heart with my elder brother in Christ?  Much later I supposed it was a type of grief reaction.  Not long afterwards, I experienced the most important message from our encounter that day:  my brother in Christ loved me as his sister in Christ, like a father I did not have at the time.  He was hurting for me, hurting for the fall from grace of our brother in Christ.  I also learned that day just how profoundly adultery affects many others in the body of Christ in addition to the spouse.

John Sr. didn’t live anymore in the town of that grocery store where I had encountered him.  I would not see him again until a few months later when visiting with his daughter who had become a good friend of mine.  Deb and I had traveled from the Chicago suburbs where we lived to her parents’ home in the Wisconsin countryside.  A neighbor and fellow member of our church (where we had all met) came along for what was to be a fun time of fellowship, food, and relaxation.  Their youngest son played classical guitar to everyone’s delight and John Sr. told amazing stories of missionaries they knew, places they had been, and so on.  We were one big family for the weekend!  That is, until nighttime came.

The Y family always had a menagerie of sofas with hide-a-beds, cots, and blankets to accommodate everyone.   Me and my neighbor, Ardie, made our beds in the living room while the family tucked themselves to sleep in their respective bedrooms throughout the modest home.  But I could not sleep.  Instead of feeling full from the lively fellowship and activities of the visit, I was filled with grief and sorrow from the tremendous losses in progress in my life back home.  I lain in the dark with tears streaming down my face like a crack in a retaining wall holding back an avalanche of tears.  Finally I could not hold it in anymore.  Everyone was asleep in the dark starry night whilst I was coming unglued!  I gathered myself as best as I could and walked out into the cool blackness that received me outside.  The tears and whimpers gushed easily then uncontrollably.  “Would they ever stop?”  I wondered.

Before long I could hear some wrestling of the folks inside the house.  A light went on in one of the bedrooms, illuminating the front porch where I was holding myself up against a wall.  Arlene and John Sr. were up!  Despite my best efforts to weep quietly, they had heard me and came to comfort me.  John Sr. muttered again with the same type of sorrow I had seen in the grocery store.  Arlene wrapped her warm, motherly arms around me and brought me inside to sit on a handmade bench with her for as long as I needed.  He got me a blanket.  She stayed with me until the tears flowed no more.  Eventually I spoke a little while she simply listened.  What a gift she gave me that night!  No one said much about it all the next morning.  Somehow they just all understood the pain I was going through.  They did the best thing that they could do to help me through that traumatic time in my life:  they just loved on me like one of their own.

John Sr. and Arlene were the best at loving on people, a model we know comes from the love who is embodied in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  That love is as pure as it is convicting with the truth of His Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit.  The two of them shared scripture often and how the Lord had led them through their lives, how He too may encourage and lead your in your days as well.  I experienced this witness in an unexpected way about 3 years later.  The Lord had begun the process of restoration in my life and brought me a wonderful man of God named Steve.  We were engaged that September and I wanted to visit the important places and people of my life before moving to Indiana to marry him.  I brought Steve to meet John Sr. and Arlene, this time without my friend Deb, their daughter.  I wanted them to see my happiness and thank them for being an important part of it coming to fruition.

We had a wonderful visit.  After Steve and I returned to Illinois from that long weekend, and after Steve had already gone on home to Indiana, I got a call from John Sr.  He didn’t waste any time chatting about our visit and got right to the point:  check yourself and the truth of God’s Word, the Bible, before you take this step in marrying Steve.  I was a bit taken aback by him questioning things but heeded his advice.  The next few weeks were filled with prayer, scripture reading, pastoral counselling, and looking honestly with Steve at our Biblical grounds for divorce and remarriage.  All counsel pointed to a blessing for us so we proceeded to get married by the end of the year.  The counsel of John Sr. was a necessary part of our preparation that brought clarity that would be needed when others would pass judgement on our union.  We have complete confidence and peace that  we made a God-honoring decision to be together forever.

I have often quoted Mark Twain at key times in my life who said that the un-examined life is not worth living.  Indeed we can find rich value and meaning by taking a closer look at our lives within the context of God’s plans for our lives, ways He gifts each of us, orchestration of events, our limitations, and the stuff that He crafts for each of us as we live out our days on this fallen earth in which we dwell.  If we are honest then our search for meaning will lead us to the Creator: the person of Jesus Christ.  If we heed the call to recognize our sinful nature, receive His gift of salvation and redemption then choose to grow in knowledge and character of our Lord, then the transformation of our lives will shine for all the world to see.  We will become a witness for His transforming power, His love, His grace, His mercy, His goodness.  And a life seasoned by the love of Christ, never tainted by the trials we all endure, can become a life well-lived, well-loved for the glory of the Lord.  This is who John Sr. was.  This is the legacy that he has left for those who got to know him, were ministered to by his love and care, who witnessed his walk with the Lord every day of his life.

Well done John Sr:  faithful servant of the Lord!  Well done!  May God be the glory for the faithful witness of my brother in Christ.  May He also bless your beloved bride Arlene, until she joins you one day in the presence of our Lord.  Thank you for bringing me into your spiritual family through the faith that we share.  You have made a difference!  JJ

couple, Christian, husband and wife, Wisconsin, visiting, friends, woods, Fall, sunny day, engaged
Steve and Julie in Wisconsin, September 2, 2007

 

Dealing with the trauma of illness

Not that I have a total handle on this topic or anything but hey, I have learned a few things worth sharing . . .

Every day for over 5 years I have suffered waking seizure attack episodes of varying duration and intensity.  For over a year (ending last year) they averaged 2 to 5 hours per day!  At least once per month they would spike up to 12 hours on and off in a single day, sometimes requiring an Emergency Room intervention.  I have been to 3 different emergency rooms a total of FIFTEEN TIMES including once by ambulance.  After nearly a year of IV antibiotics for chronic Lyme disease these episodes are generally less than an hour per day now with some positive changes in triggers and patterning.  Significant testing and other treatments, research, and patient “networking” remain my primary occupation.  I am grateful for the improvements that have come including overall less pain from the repeated physical trauma of “head-banging” and wretched writhing movements (thanks to  periodic intervals of physical therapy and periodic chiropractic adjustments).

The journey is hell at times.  At my worst times I have questioned if I could endure this level of suffering one more moment.  My breathing has stopped numerous times and there has been one significant near-death experience with visions of “white lights.”  I have had to pray many times for the Lord to give me the strength to get to the bathroom when alone during hours of convulsive episodes.  Every type of healthcare provider I have ever seen and most close friends and family has witnessed them.  My husband is a saint, having cared for me often late into the night then getting up and going to work the next day.   A total of probably a hundred times he has had to carry me across our home when I could not walk, feed me, take me to the bathroom, assist me with bathing, take me to the emergency room, run urgent errands, and the like as my primary caregiver.  Probably a thousand times he has volunteered to bring me some type of “rescue remedy” to attempt to get the seizures to stop (generally at night or upon waking in the morning).  He never complains.  He is my hero for sure.

In other blogs you will read about all the avenues we have pursued to try and get me well:  chronic Lyme disease, heavy metal detox, mold remediation, obscure infections, dietary restrictions, neurology workups, dental issues, nutritional deficiencies, epigenetic testing and coaching, electrosmog, gut issues, yada, yada, yada.  I spend hours per week researching, managing my healthcare, dealing with extreme mold avoidance and other preventative strategies, and accessing my support system online or by phone.  Church worship is also online to minimize triggers from environmental stimuli, however this strategy also increases my social isolation.  Trips away from home are generally focused on essentials during my best times of day and occasionally with transportation help from a couple of sweet gals from church.  I wear a mask in their cars and sit on a towel covering the passenger seat but we find a way to connect anyways during those trips when help is needed about once per month.

As you can see, there is much abby-normal stuff during my days.  Social isolation and the ongoing seizure attacks are my biggest heartaches.  The latter causes both physical and emotional trauma when they are severe which still happens two of the seven days per week still marked by ongoing episodes.  The two this week included:  1) a violent reaction to an ingredient in an new injected medication that I need to treat osteoporosis and 2) a new strategy to treat severe Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth.  Both of these conditions very likely are complications of ongoing illness as they were not present before I got sick on October 11, 2011.  Each new diagnosis will bring its own special kind of discouragement if I don’t keep my worries in check with my hopes placed in the redemption promised with belief in Jesus Christ.  Already I mentioned a few of the strategies I use for managing the social isolation.  What about the trauma?

I manage the trauma of severe, ongoing illness by trusting in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  This used to mean that I trusted in the promise of Jeremiah 29:11:

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)

Surely if there is a purpose for all of this suffering then it won’t be wasted.  It becomes part of a greater plan, encouraging me enough to endure even the worst of the pain and anguish I am enduring.  This viewpoint has helped me cope during the first 5 1/2 years of this illness.  It carried me through the decisions to spend the rest of some savings with the hope of a cure and to endure the side effects of such treatments.  I can look back and point to the skills and information that I have learned, write about them here, take to heart the remarks of others encouraged by my stories, and note the Divine sequencing of many things that have happened along the way.  The Lord has provided so much for my care that gratitude has replaced temporary doubts, frustration, discouragement, intractable pain, and so on.  Seeing some meaning in what I am going through or shortly thereafter, gave both me and Steve enough hope to keep moving forward no matter what the “cost” may be.  But what about when the process stopped?  The money ran out.  I am not recovered.  There was no where else to go this past Winter when I got to the bitter end of my proverbial rope with worse symptoms than I could ever imagine!  Yeah, that was the onset of facial shingles in December.  More hell and a hospitalization too.

That’s when I needed to learn to trust whether there would be a purpose I could see or if there would be no purpose or direction at all.  I discovered that complete trust in our Heavenly Father builds faith and the strength to carry each of us through ANYTHING and EVERYTHING.  It’s a supernatural gift bestowed upon believers in God Almighty who trust Him.  For those of us chosen to travel a path of excruciating suffering, we must find our way to this level of trust in the Lord our God.  Our faith will grow as a result and both will carry us through the dark times no matter how dark they become.  Did I tell you that frightful demonic attacks have come during the worst of the waking seizures?  Yes.  It’s more terrifying than I can describe but may try to do so another time.   At those times only the spiritual armor of God (see Ephesians 6:10-18) and this reassurance spoken by the apostle Paul will quiet my spirit.  God is greater than any threat in this world, in my world, period.

2 Timothy 1:7  (NKJV)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Because what is my worst fear anyways?  Dying?  For me it is probably not dying but suffering even more with dying as the end result.  So finding peace when dealing with the trauma of physical and mental suffering must be accompanied by the reminders of Who overcame death, in Whom have I placed my trust, and in Whom will I find victory over my fears.  To extinguish the fearful thoughts I must again turn to the “sword of the Spirit” as described in Ephesians 6:17 as the word of God.  In the Book of John we find Jesus comforting a grieving friend when:

John 11:25-26 (NIV)

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Not only did Jesus overcome the grave when He rose from the dead on Resurrection Sunday (Easter), He gave those who believe in Him the promise of a glorious eternal life in His presence where there will be no more weeping, no more sorrows.  There will be rewards for the faithful too.  There will be perfect peace, love, and joy forever.

the cross

I may never see healing this side of heaven.  I may see healing this side of heaven.  I really have no idea which one it will be or when it will happen.  In the meantime I will simply trust in Jesus Christ who knows my name and sees my suffering (Psalm139) and ordains it somehow for good.  He will be here with me always.  I ain’t dead yet so I trust that He will add His grace and power to see me through to my last breath.  Until then Gentle Reader I ask you,

Do you believe this too?

Hydration is Key

dehydrationHydration is key in health and down to the other

It makes everything better from one end to the other.

When I thought a drug might be my saving grace

I found that it was water that was my Lord’s gift of grace.

In 3 days and 2 nights 4,000 ml ran through my veins

In addition to many drugs in my tummy not my veins.

There was sparing of upsets from what I could not tolerate before

That number of drugs with Pepcid became my friend now like never b—–.

My Lord knew then showed my naturopathic Doc a few days later

That I would need to push fluids like never before for now and onto “later.”

So Smart Water and minerals in our Big Berkey will be my constant friend

When isolation of this Shingled hell keeps me from family and friends.

The Lord makes up the difference (as He always has) and grants me sleep

These last few days have been for rest and recovery and the deepest of sleep —

“To die, to sleep – to sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come…”

Hamlet does question if even death will bring dreams that will prevent peace when it comes.

But he is wrong for peace is granted here and now for those who believe no matter what may

For those who believe in the Lord who conquered death and knows the beginning from what may.

So once again, a thousand times I shall again proclaim

Alone in my Jesus I will drink the victory only He can proclaim!

************

If you are struggling this night, Gentle Reader, please hang in there.  Let me know your needs and I promise to pray as I lay your alms before our mighty Lord of Lords.  He cares for you, He cares for me.  And Lord willing, we are going to get well sometime between now and the day of His return.  Oh how I do hope you know Him this way?  JJ