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

If only I knew

If only I knew back then what my new life would be like, would I have chosen it? Probably not.

The summer of 2007 was a very exciting one for me. I had just met an amazing man of God and had established myself in a beautifully decorated condo in one of the nicest suburbs west of Chicago. I had a great job that paid my bills along with some extra resources that I inherited when my Mother passed away. The grief associated with her death was complicated by navigating the affairs of her estate. Regardless, a new love makes everything nicer, lighter, and bearable even exciting. In due time I would come to understand my Pastor’s advice not to marry in the same year that I lost my Mother to her complicated health issues. Steve and I married at the end of the year anyways and I was off and running in Indiana with my Intended Beloved. God was so good!

Before long I was completely overwhelmed by all of the changes in my life. When I worked in mental health, we used to give our patients a Stress Management Scale to check off how many changes they had experienced in the year prior to hospitalization. Life events were given weighted scores, tabulated, then matched to a scale predicting susceptibility to illness. Yeah, my score was over 300 which is ripe for a stress-related illness. But thankfully, it didn’t happen. The adjustment to a new family life, State, house, church, job, pet, grocery store, bank, yada, yada, and husband was still completely overwhelming. Then I had to leave my new job in Indiana to find another because of ethical issues. Holy cow. It was a lot of changes in a very short period of time!

Then my Dad, who had been estranged from our family for 27 years, contacted my brother in Michigan. Mike was still living in our Mom’s house so my Dad was able to use our old phone number to reach him. Soon I was in touch with my Dad as well, catching up and trying to figure out how to deal with the sordid memories and circumstances of his leave-taking from our lives so long ago. Overall it was a good process. He was kind and generous. He shared stories, many of which I hadn’t remembered. After a few years of slowly getting re-acquainted, it was time to meet in person at his home in Florida. Mike was invited to go separately but never accepted the offer. I did. Steve and I went under an extremely stressful set of circumstances with my job at the time that would later magnify how important that visit to see him would be to my future. It was really good to see my father again.

Less than 2 months later, my Dad passed away. Mike never got to see him. My own visit and especially having shared it with Steve, were instrumental in figuring out how to manage my Dad’s affairs from where we lived in Indiana. We had a dinner with my Dad’s “tribe” of friends along the Forgotten Coast (so telling, eh?) of Eastpoint, Florida instead of a funeral per se. And over the next year, it would take dragging my brother through endless legal procedures to settle our Dad’s estate especially the selling of his truck. Later on with the inheritance that I received, I bought a newer truck like my Dad’s and became a woman who drove a truck — NOT a compact SUV or car like every other woman I knew drove! After all, I now lived in Indiana. Seems like every 3rd person here has a truck for work or various projects where ya gotta haul something from here to there! I liked gardening so it worked better for me than my Hyundai Tuscon. Over the next 4 years I finally had an opportunity to take the class to become a Master Gardener. Perhaps the truck was part of the overall uniform? It sure hauled a lot of soil and mulch, paddling gear and other stuff. How did I ever live without a truck in the suburbs of Chicago? Well gee, back then I lived most of my years in a townhouse then a condo!

My life drastically changed at the end of the same year of 2011. I was barely past the grief and memories stirred with the ordeal of my Dad dying when I contracted a serious illness kayaking in a local reservoir. Perhaps this stressor finally broke me down. Viral hepatitis became the first domino in a cascade of serious health issues that challenged even our brilliant family practice physician. Sure I had some hormonal and orthopedic issues in the past, even chronic pain, but nothing compared to the daily convulsive episodes and myriad of severe symptoms that beat up my body as I practically crawled through 2012. By February, I could no longer work. I felt that I was putting both my occupational therapy patients and myself at risk should I continue. I struggled to concentrate, to function, to sleep, to complete basic activities of daily living. When my Doctor thought I had underlying chronic Lyme disease, the treatments he prescribed felt like they nearly killed me. Then came the first of a series of alternative medicine treatments. It was the Beam Ray Rife machine that triggered the daily tics, the seizure attacks that escalated into the worst hell I could ever imagine. The episodes wouldn’t be diagnosed as epilepsy but they were equally as devastating. It felt like my life as I knew it was over. Actually, it was.

If only I knew that I would become seriously ill just 4 years into my marriage with Steve, would I do it all over again? To me that is a rhetorical question. Who would choose the extreme stress of almost complete social isolation? This included separation from Steve’s wonderful adult children and family who hadn’t had enough time to get to know me from their homes out-of-state or out-of-country, let alone my own friends and family. Who would choose re-injury of chronic pain issues every day and every night when the involuntary, violent convulsive episodes would start about 10:00 pm every night and return upon wakening every morning? At one point I noted over 30 symptoms to my complicated, serious illness that baffled specialists in-state and out-of-state. Over the course of the next decade, over $100,000 of savings and income would be spent trying to find answers. Treatments would diminish the worst symptom but not remove it or the episodes would increase again after a few months of a reduction. It would take almost 9 years to find cranial nerve, especially trigeminal and vagus nerve roles related to a condition diagnosed as Autonomic Dysfunction. We found tools more recently to stop them after a period of time but not prevent them. The grief and frustration were crushing to both of us. Steve had support from his family and friends, work and church. My support circle caved in with each passing year. I made a few new friends online dealing with similar issues. I knew I wasn’t alone because of their friendship and prayers from them and believers who became distanced; the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit kept me alive and going most of all. He alone re-started my breathing hundreds of times . . . I now longer feared death but saw it as a type of relief should it come.

We simply cannot know what lies ahead of us in our little lives. The Bible tells us that man makes his plans but it is the Lord who orders his steps (Proverbs 16:9). The Bible tells us that He has plans for us, to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). The Bible tells us to trust in the Lord and not in our own understanding, that He will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6). The Bible tells us a story where He restored the years that the locusts had eaten (Joel 2:25). And so much more. When the months rolled into year after year after year of serious illness for me, when the convulsive episodes and tic attacks racked up into the thousands, when people close to me started to doubt their medical origin even when confirmed by tests and experts, when the money ran out for aggressive treatments, when the illness alluded three large research medical centers in the country and several specialists out-of-state . . . I hit terrible periods of despair. Then I planned my suicide in October of 2019. When I realized to follow-through on my plan would be to believe the lies of Satan himself as he smiled in my mind’s eye, I realized that I was being deceived. Death, like divorce, is not an answer but a new problem. Believe God’s word and promises instead. I chose to accept that I am simply too finite as a human being to fully grasp these Bible verses, God’s real plan for my life, what I cannot see, what my life is really about. I chose to follow Jesus.

All I have is here and now with you Gentle Reader. It’s not up to me to end the timeline. It’s not up to me to write the next chapter of the story of Just Julie Writes at Hope Beyond. My hope and future are in the hands of the Lord. I pray that my hands type as unto His grace, His redeeming power to overcome.

It is up to me to choose to enact a faith in an infinite God Who is beyond what I can see. He knows I have seen and endured a lot of horrible things in my life before I ever met Steve. What I could not even imagine before this past decade was what it would be like to go through it all with a man who loved me more deeply than I knew existed in life. He was often my Jesus with skin on. He is loyal and yet human, strong and tender, God-honoring and God-fearing, loving and still driven to pursue his own dreams too; Steve is my provider of all I would need in my earthly husband. I am truly blessed. We did reach a crisis point in our marriage twice during this nearly 10-year journey within our over 13 years together. We got through them and healed the pain of potentially losing each other. More intimacy grew between us as a result, along with trust. The spiritual battle that came along with each test melted away as unto the Lord. Only the Lord knows what those moments were really all about.

Only the Lord knows what all of the changes, the stress, the spiritual battles, the strife in our lives are really about. I’m sure that each of us would freak out if we really knew what the trials in our lives were really about. One day all will be revealed. For now tis better to lay down our swords and pick up His along with His shield of faith. Put on the entire armor of God while we’re at it. This life is not for wimps, I tell you. JJ

The Young Lad Down the Street

When I first met the 12 year old boy down the street, I found him to be quiet, pensive, and sweet. He was so tender towards his younger sister whom he often had the responsibility of supervising when both were hanging out in the cul-de-sac where Mr. Steve and I, Miss Julie, live. His 6 (now 7) year old sister was respectful of his authority. They got along quite well.

Then I saw another side to their relationship and perhaps his character. Nearly a year after that first meeting, my husband and I know more about each other’s families, living routines, schedules, activities, and personalities. We’ve had some fun activities together outside of the neighborhood as well as the opportunity to bless them with gifts, treats, etc. Kinda fun for us two older neighbors of grand parent age! (If our own grand kids only lived closer, eh? We rarely get to see them as they live several states away . . .)

One recent weekend afternoon, both H and E were staying on our side of town while visiting E’s Dad with their biological Mom. In other words, both boy H and girl E have the same Mom but two different Dads. H spent alternate weekends with his biological Father; E was virtually always down the street on Saturday and Sunday as her biological Mom and Dad often spent weekends together. So the two kids have the same Mom, 2 different Dads between them plus H has several half-brothers and sisters as well. The 2 kids seem to have adapted as well as can be expected with additional visits to some combination of biological grandparents sprinkled in over their weekends too. Somehow even with all of these adults in their lives, E then H came to develop a relationship with my husband, Mr. Steve. He taught H how to ride a big skateboard called a land paddle and raced E up and down the street on said land paddle as E provided the some pretty good competition on her pink 2-wheeler! “Want to race?” was all she said and off they went down the street and sidewalk, respectively.

Last weekend, the two children had spent the day with Mr. Steve in an EAA Young Eagles Introductory Flight experience while taking plane rides in a 4-seater Piper Archer. This was their second time riding in this airplane with Mr. Steve as the pilot. They each got to experience 3 flights on Saturday, a special lunch, and a mini ground school instruction. What a treat for each one of them! Well the extra banks and turns were a bit much for E’s tummy but overall they had a great time. I received them sitting on our patio at our home afterwards as they shared their stories of the day’s events. The kids had dozed off in the car on the 30-minute ride home from the airport; H was still tired and E was acting a bit “wired-tired.” But their “parents” weren’t home yet so hanging out with us would extend a little longer. That’s when I noticed some other dynamics of the relationship between this brother and sister that I had not seen before. Natural dynamics, of course. And yet perhaps a window into some of the stress they might feel when tired from more than this type of day’s events.

H was usually tender with his younger sister. This particular Saturday afternoon, H was relentless in his questioning of his younger sister on a trivial matter. I tried to change the subject and he returned to his chiding her shortly thereafter. Was there more to the stress of the moment than meets the eye? Surely he must get frustrated from time to time with the antics of a sister 5 years younger than him. I wondered, does he ever tire of his supervisory role and have enough time to just be a kid, be himself? Probably yes and possibly no. H is a very serious, thoughtful young lad who largely hides most emotions and speaks in somewhat measured speech at times. He is sure to correct himself to give the right response to a question. He’s the kind of kid a trusted adult male would do well to engage in playful wrestling or other physical stuff yet I get the idea it would be more horrifying than fun for him. Maybe he gets some of it with the land paddling with Mr. Steve? I hope so. I just wonder if there’s an outlet for what the heck he might be thinking or feeling inside. Does he feel loved? Does he have a place to let go or speak his mind freely like his little sister does (kind of all the time!)? He speaks of his babysitting responsibilities in the vernacular of that of a parent. It’s possible that the parental figures in his life expect this of him, to pseudo-parent her not just be a babysitter. That’s a lot of responsibility for a 12 year old boy from a broken home, at the beginning of so many other changes to come in his life as he matures into a teenager and young man. He takes this responsibility seriously. This particular day it was kinda wonky.

My Mom tried to put this type of responsibility on me for my 2 younger brothers but it didn’t work. They wouldn’t listen to me! They wouldn’t listen to our babysitters either when my Mom (a single parent of three children along with a serial dating and drinking problem) had to leave us alone to go to work or couldn’t find a babysitter. I do believe she did the best she could to manage our difficult situation with the tools and life skills she had. The when she left us alone, however, all hell broke loose at home. We were probably out of control. Such is the way children under stress behave when the consistent routines that they need erode, when there’s no one in which to confide, when there’s no outlet for the hurt burning inside a tender heart living inside a broken home. I wish I could have been more like how H is to his sister than I was to Mike and Rob. I yelled a lot. My Mom yelled a lot. There’s more. Surely us kids were struggling with the changes in our lives that were decided by the most-trusted adults in our lives: our parents. We hardly ever saw our Dad and then he moved out of state when we were teenagers; we never heard from him again for a couple of decades. Probably our best aspect of consistency/security was living in the same house all of those years. But inside those doors was a lot of hurt and anger that made it harder for me and my brothers to relate to one another as a family let alone find our way after entering adulthood. I wish I had known the love of my Heavenly Father back then. It would have made such a difference!

H occasionally talks about the Bible with Mr. Steve. I love that. My husband had the insight to give H a student Bible as part of his Christmas presents this past year; we gave E a children’s Bible too. Steve and I both try to weave spiritual topics into our conversations with H and E as we play in our yard, sip endless bottles of water, and chase our old pup Elle. But is it enough? Are we being intentional in our teaching as my beloved use to instruct young families at church to do with their children? All four of Steve’s adult children are walking with the Lord today. What an incredible testimony and tribute this is to the parenting, the love, the Biblical teaching, the mentoring that Steve and his ex-wife poured into their lives. All four are also successful in their respective occupations, one is married with two children of his own. As we get to know H and E, as they continue to come around and knock on our door on a Saturday afternoon, please join us in praying how to best love on them in a Christ-centered way. We desire to encourage and support their parents as well and be a special kind of older friend to all of them that the Lord has ordained for this season of their lives.

As I think about H in particular, some scripture references have come to mind that I hope I get to share with him sometime soon.

Colossians 3:21 (NIV)

Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Ephesians 6:4 (NIV)

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

If H is required to act as a pseudo parent/babysitter at times, these verses and passages speak to the authority and loving relationship of a Father to his children. They provide instruction which is tempered and guided in the manner described by the verses that surround each passage. (Hotlinks are provided to each chapter by clicking on the verse.) If unrealistic expectations have been placed on H to regularly care for his younger sibling then perhaps he still can learn to temper his tone with her as supernaturally guided by these verses and the Holy Spirit. Does H know Jesus as Lord and Savior, know the guidance that can come from the Holy Spirit? We are not sure. This is an area we need to explore further. With the possibility that the relationship of his Mom with E’s Dad is a tenuous one (as they have been apart for extended periods of time in the past), we cannot assume that we will always see H or E several times per month indefinitely. Each day is an opportunity to build our friendship with them and introduce them to Jesus Christ.

Romans 12:10 (ESV)

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

This verse speaks to the relationship of brothers and sisters in Christ, our eternal family. I love the idea of showing honor, deference to the other party. The older brother, just like the child’s Father or Mr. Steve as an older male Father-figure, have an opportunity to help build the worth of a young girl as Christ sees her, as her husband one day will see her someday in marriage. An important part of her identity comes from interaction with the older males in her life. Her older brother’s joking, teasing, and correcting behavior all have their place in good fun along with complimenting, encouraging, and supporting the younger, female as she grows up. We know from God’s design for the roles of men and women in marriage that the woman is to respect her husband; the woman must also receive respect in addition to being loved and cherished. To show honor is to show love.

Matthew 6:33 (Amplified)

But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.

Our Heavenly Father knows what we need even before we ask anything of Him. He is ready, willing, and able to give us the best help possible! This is important to keep in mind when we are trying to figure out what to do, what to say, what decisions to make, how to think, which way to go. Then what about an unruly little sister or brother? Oh vey! I offer this verse as a reminder to pray, to seek the Lord for His wisdom as we interact with all of the other people in our lives. (How I wish I knew this and could take back all of those mean words I screeched at my brothers so many years ago!) Figuring out relationships is soooooo hard on our own sometimes! Our Lord will comfort our angst, guide us, and bring forth the best outcome for both how we want to come across and how we hope our brother, our sister in Christ will respond. We must stop ourselves, pause or take a deep breath for a moment, and ask for our Lord’s help. He will do so. This type of prayer also honors the Lord as well!

Hebrews 10:24 (NLT)

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.

The Lord is faithful to see us through everything including the ups and downs of our relationships with others. He cares deeply about our relationships with the members of our immediate family (as well as the body of Christ). What a privilege it is to be in a position to mentor a loved one who seeks and respects our authority or influence in his or her life. H has managed this big responsibly well despite the challenges of his own young life. This process of mentoring happens naturally with younger siblings who look up to their oldest sibling, to older cousins with younger cousins and so on, when handled well. The love between brother and sister in particular is a special kind of fellowship unmatched by any other in our lives. Our brothers and sisters are the first friends we make in life, the longest friendships we may ever have in our lives. We can find mutual hobbies, games, sports, ministries, and other activities to share together despite differences in age. We can encourage our siblings in following their dreams, the unique ways that the Lord has crafted their giftedness, and even in his or her silliness if younger than we are! When it is safe to do so, let them be! We want the happiest, most fulfilling life for our friends, right? Such is the desire of our Heavenly Father for each of us on each day and each hour we shall live, until the day comes when He will return in the ultimate fellowship with all of us.

After all Jesus was once a brother too you know . . .

Stock Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

The Battery Effect

A transition was coming.  I did not know that at the time.  I longed for a change of some sort yet continued to struggle.  And then the Lord moved in a BIG WAY.  Did the man the Lord used to help me  know the difference he had made?

I was two years into the role of a divorced woman and much of the rough road had become smoother.  The Lord provided a cute condo just for me in a nice suburb of Chicago, a “little black race car,” and good job.  Physical limitations required me to work 3/4 time yet gratefully my profession of occupational therapy pays well so I could still support myself.  It was still a tough time in my life.  The stress contributed to a back injury that put me out of work without pay then right when I might default on my mortgage payment I was able to return to work.  Amazing.  And that is how the Lord provided for me during a total of 3 tough years:  just in time, right on time, and only after completely submitting to my Heavenly Husband and Father.

The Thursday night Bible study at the home of Pat and Mary was an important refuge for me during those years.  Pat brought to life the books of the Bible with detailed history and applications that made a difference for all of us.  He led us in prayer where we lifted each other up before the Father in the name of Jesus Christ; the love was palpable.  Members came and went yet were never forgotten.  Most of them knew my former spouse from years together in that living room.  It didn’t matter later on.  I am grateful that Craig led me to the fellowship that would make a difference then and even this past weekend.  Here’s why.

His name escapes me of the younger-than me gentleman who was a part of the Bible study who offered to help me with my car.  I understood that he was happily married with children and thriving in the IT field.  I needed a new battery for my Honda Civic but could not find the money for it.  Through Pat within the following week, I learned that the guy whom I barely knew had offered to pay for it!  I was grateful and humbled.  Life went on and the car worked great however I did not see this man again for many weeks on a Thursday night.  I’m sure I sent a thank you note but never got to tell him in person the difference and encouragement that came from his actions.

And then my life changed again:  my mother passed away.  I was already exhausted from the grievous circumstances surrounding her death and, at the same time, grateful that I got to see her out-of-state the day before she died.  Incredible.  Then much to the surprise of my brother and I, she had left behind an inheritance that would meet all of my needs in the near future.  Whew.  Such a paradox!  So many mixed emotions.  I had no idea; I thought she had squandered her hard-earned income that came from years working as an office manager at Hercules Machine Tool and Die in the Detroit area.  There was more leftover.  My brother and I had more to focus on than this so we each proceeded as we thought best while dealing with our childhood home, his ultimate need to find another place to live, etc.  An extended family member’s role saw to all of that for sure as my Mom’s chosen Executor of her estate.  (No, that was not me.)

So I decided to purchase a new car!  And then I felt guilty!  So I sought the counsel of my Bible study leader who taught me to enjoy the Lord’s financial blessing yet hold it lightly.  As a Christian the stuff of life has no eternal value yet we are to be good stewards of the resources bestowed to us.  I tithed then proceeded with my purchase, enjoyed my saweet Hyundai Tuscon.  Sure was nice having a good vehicle to take me to-and-from my new love interest in Indiana.  Things started looking better in some ways, in others there was still a cauldron of confusing emotions.

The gentleman who bought me the new battery for my old Honda Civic showed up sometime later at the Thursday night Bible study.  I was at the stage of purchasing the new car and trading in the old one, sharing my incredible mix of events.  The look on his face seemed to express “incredulous.”  Not sure if he was happy for me or sad.  His donation of a new battery was now in the hands of an unknown party.  The look on his face stayed with me for the next ELEVEN YEARS.  Did he know that his encouragement gave me the courage to go on with my life?  To trust in the provision ultimately of my Heavenly Father?  I didn’t think so.  And I never got an opportunity to thank this man in person; he left shortly after the end of our prayer time that night.

Eleven years later I ran into Pat and Mary at the Memorial Service of a brother in Christ:  this past weekend.  We laughed, we reminisced, we spoke of our mighty Lord and how He had restored the years the locusts had eaten in my life, twice!  (Well, probably more than that actually!)  My intended beloved, Steve, and I enjoyed a lovely time of fellowship with Pat and Mary in addition to many others who helped walk me through those important years when I worshiped at Village Bible Church; many were there on Saturday.  Before we left I had to ask Pat one more thing:  did the gentleman who bought me the new  battery ever knew the incredible blessing he gave me?  Did he understand that I really needed it at the time?  That his actions gave me the courage I would need to move on when a time of financial restoration would follow, albeit quickly?  Pat said that he did.  He said that it was a blessing for him to help me.  Sigh.  Really?  Oh Lord, I do hope so.

The gentleman’s name is Rich.  Lord, please bless Rich and his family, work, and life this day.  Let him know the generosity and goodness that you brought to me so many years ago and lead Him in your ways always.  I pray that he continues to seek you and bless others with what gifts you have given him as he did for me.  May our Lord be glorified in all this goodness that comes to any of us amidst the trials of this life.  Your fingerprint is here for me, for Rich, and for you too, Gentle Reader.  In due time for those who believe in the name and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we shall be lifted up and made new one day, sharing in the glory beyond our wildest dreams.  Tis a decision worth making, a journey worth taking.  Thank you Jesus for Pat and Mary too.  I pray that you bless them as well for their faithful teaching and living every day for You.

1 Peter 4:8-10  Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Beep!  Beep!  :J

Hyundai, Tuscon, German shepherd, garden, light pole, garden bed, Dodge Magnum, paddling gear, front driveway, holding things lightly, Christian man
A few of my favorite things in 2010 including Steve, Elle, and the blue Hyundai Tucson!

Some Passion for You

Passion stems from the Latin work pati, meaning “to suffer.” The stem pass comes from the word passive meaning “capable of suffering.” Pass was coined in the early 16th century to denote “the suffering of Christ on the cross.” English also acquired the word through the Old French word passion meaning “strength of feeling.” This has been transferred in our modern times to denote sexual attraction and anger.  (From this website.)

I was watching an interview of actor Jim Caviezel who portrayed Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson’s movie Passion of the Christ.  Jim has a powerful testimony of the physical trauma he endured during the making of that film.  The movie came out in 2004 when I was in the beginning stages of divorce after my former spouse left me.  I was devastated.  Also within that year my grandmother and youngest brother had died, I lost my home, I had to change churches to begin the healing process (distancing me from my support system), my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and underwent a serious surgery out of State, I lost my job, and had to store my things in 5 places while I began the first of what would become 5 moves of residence.  One of these was after a condo fire which displaced me into a temporary apartment with only the clothes on my back for a time.  Talk about suffering!  Still this was nothing compared to what my Lord had suffered on the cross for my salvation.  But I tell you, I simply could not watch that movie during that time in my life.  I was too traumatized.  It would just be too painful on too many levels.

This week marks the 5-year anniversary of when I first started having wretched seizure attack episodes on a daily basis.  I had gotten sick with a biotoxin illness for 6 months before then when an “alternative” treatment modality triggered the onset of seizures.  (These continued today although gratefully the pattern is changing some again and this could become a good thing.)  The suffering with these often violent convulsions has been tremendous.  Never would I have imagined such a terrible, terrible illness.  (See them here.)  Even the tumultuous years around 2004 do not compare to what I have endured more recently.  Even those who agonized with me during the various aspects of the stress 13 years ago do not compare to what my beloved husband Steve has endured with me during this illness.  Suffering of this magnitude brings hell to earth for a part of every day.

There are other periods of time that I would characterize as suffering:  the incidents of abuse in my childhood.  Some were sexual, others physical beatings, and several involved satanic rituals.  All were profoundly damaging and required years of help, love, and the healing grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ to overcome.  The abuse kept my mind, body, and emotions trapped in various ways for decades affecting my ability to function as an adult woman.  Somehow I did find my way out when I found Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; eventually the pain, the “suffering” largely went away.  Self-destructive habits and negative thought processes faded.  Forgiveness and healing took its place.  I became more whole, interestingly surging even now to a new level of peace as the seizure attacks lessen.  Suffering from abuse no longer troubles my spirit.

The Lord doesn’t waste anything in His plan for our lives.  After 2006, I got to experience a magnificent restoration from the “years the locusts had eaten.”  (Joel 2:25) For example, the insurance settlement from the condo fire (where I was renting an apartment) ended up paying for beautiful décor in a condo of my own where I could rebuild my life as a single woman.  Flash forward to more recently and I wrote here of the blessings that have come despite enduring a serious illness including meeting all of you through this blog!  And all that childhood sorrow gave me a compassion for others that has served me well caring for others for decades as an occupational therapist.  Despite my suffering, I am grateful that my Heavenly Father and Husband has allowed me to see His hand, His plan that has masterfully created goodness from the suffering He ultimately allowed for His glory.  I now believe it was all for my good too.

unyru paper, collage, art, wall, Romans 8:38, Jermiah 29:11 Christian, artist
Collage art wall mural in the hallway of my condo with a self portrait too.

And what about the more contemporary definition the word “passion?”  The connotation of emotional, physical, sexual energy?  Let’s just say there is much in my life now to be passionate about in having a wonderful husband (my “intended beloved”) who loves the Lord and me too.  Then there’s my love of growing things in the garden (from my mom) that has kept me moving forward on my worst of days in addition to my best of days.  I love digging in the dirt!  Perhaps most importantly is my passion to champion the calling of the Holy Spirit when He compels me to:  serve someone, encourage someone, love someone, share the hope found in Jesus Christ with someone.  When I hear the call of the Holy Spirit moving me in a particular direction, I move forward with a razor-sharp focus that consumes whatever energy and resources are available to me at that moment.  Whether it is in the middle of the night making my husband’s lunch for work the next day or baking cookies (despite a terrific headache) for that service dude who is having a really, really bad day.  Me and my Lord getter done!

This I have come to know:  that if the Lord calls, He empowers us to respond.  That is what passion is all about, good or bad.  And guess what?  He made the suffering, all of it, good for us on Easter morning.  How about if we keep this in mind the next time he calls?

JJ