The Turning Point

When you start to leave hell, it’s important to take stock of where you have been and where you are then leave all of your baggage at the turning point.

Hi Gentle Reader.  This is my gentle wisdom to you as I gratefully and graciously turn the corner after 3 years of wretched illness.  Much grieving has already gone before me and my beloved Steve.  Much loss has already pruned that which is no longer critical to our lives.  Much angst at our Lord’s merciful throne of grace has established Who is most important in our lives and that He was leading us through all of this.  Much dashing of hopes in false turning points along the way has produced endurance for what appears to be the last leg of this race.  And yes, much joy has returned despite the jagged line that is normal in the recovery phase.  That’s o.k.  WE HAVE HOPE!!!

Briefly, I am experiencing 50% improvement in my health after beginning treatment for very high mercury levels.  This process will require a slow titration of chelating agents, detoxification with the gentlest of methods, much rest, and humility.  Humility?  Oh yeah, humility to stay watchful for the Lord’s leading each step of the way and to continue to lean on Him as my own strength returns.  My husband has proven himself again and again as the Lord’s instrument, a capable spiritual leader in my life.  I have many examples in my life how pride has gone before my downfall, you know (Proverbs 16:18).  I don’t want any more “slips and trips” anymore particularly of my own creation!

As I have started to feel better and do more my devotional time has diminished.  This is not good.  So in response to this turning point, I aim to spend more time in the Word than I have in the past when feeling reasonably well.  I aim to keep practicing gratitude:  holding lightly any material blessings, fruits of my labors, times of fellowship and the like.  I aim to smile more and complain less.  After all, I faced death many, many times!  These days the gift of  time and space, my talents and gifts, and the people/places/things around me are a bonus.  I have never believed that I deserved either the good or bad things that have happened in my life.  They simply “are.”  They simply “were.”  It is with great wonder that I aim to explore each day for what may come.

How can anyone really see beyond a turning point anyways when he or she has never been on a given journey before?  If we worry about it then we have chosen to believe a lie.  No one knows the future so why make up something bad?  Why not something good?  I aim to squelch what is false with what is true from God’s Word:

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  (Matthew 6)

Nuff said.  Steve and I enjoyed a long walk in the rain this evening with our pup.  This picture portrays my heart inside.  God is good.  All the time.  God is good.  JJ

God is good.  All the time.  God is good.
God is good. All the time. God is good.

 

 

The 5 1/2 hour window of time

Ready to head home with the 24-foot outrigger and ama on the roof!
Ready to head home with the 24-foot outrigger and ama (float) on the roof!
So grateful to be out with my River Bear!
So grateful to be out with my River Bear!

 

We came to a clearing in things and went for it!

These pictures were taken after a wonderful evening paddling our tandem outrigger canoe (OC-2) on Sylvan Lake here in Indiana.  How wonderful to be out on the water for a second outing with Steve this year.  I am so very grateful!

Sadly the evening ended worse than the earlier part of this day.  Tic attacks had started in the car on the 45-minute ride home.  Within an hour after getting home and unpacking the car I was feeling sickly.  We ate some quick salads before I scampered off for bed, still in my paddling clothes.  Low grade seizure attacks ramped up over the next hour, escalating into one of the worse episodes I have had in a long time.  Screams of terror filled our home.  The best that I could do was hold on and focus on continuing to breathe . . .

Eventually I was able to call Steve for help getting off the damp clothing and showering.  In my stupor and neurological collapse (requiring complete assistance to transport myself to the bathroom) I figured out that I must have gotten exposed to the blue green algae we encountered in the narrower sections of the lake.  I had taken numerous precautions to limit exposure to the water.  However, some simply cannot be avoided when splashing about, paddling from an open cockpit of an OC-2.  And perhaps the slimy green pond near the port-a-potties in the parking lot were releasing aerosols that were not to my liking as well?  I didn’t touch any food or the mouth of my water bottle since we did not have hand sanitizer with us.  I guess it wasn’t enough:  I am too sensitive to any form of biotoxin to get anywhere near them in any form until things change.

Thankfully after about three hours I regained motor control of my body.  I was better able to communicate and we processed what had occurred this evening.  Steve agreed that we probably need to limit paddling together to waters treated for algae, such as the private lake of a friend’s home.  This means not being able to join the local kayaking group outings on Tuesday night for the third year in a row!  That’s a major bite in the shorts!  To get strong enough to go out with them for two years was a major accomplishment for me and lasted until I got sick October 11, 2011.  Just getting into a kayak (and now an outrigger canoe, solo and tandem) simply had never happened before I married Steve.  We have so many great memories being a part of the group in addition to his kayaking competitions.  (Goooooo Steeeeeeve!)  Sigh.  And I was really enjoying the switch from a kayak to an outrigger, sporting my carbon-fiber bent shaft paddle too.  So awesome.

Last night I watched most of the video story again of Justin and Christa Vanderham.  Christa suffered from chronic Lyme disease and mold exposure for years before finding proper treatment with antibiotics, supplements, and nutrition.  A fellow sojourner in recovery and reader of this blog graciously reminded me recently that Christa’s illness looked a lot like the videos that I have posted here and on You Tube.  Yes, both our symptoms of distress appear wretched:  intractable pain for Christa and relentless seizure attacks for me.  We both scream at times due to our agony.  In chronic Lyme and biotoxin illness it’s not the exact matrix of symptoms that is so significant as it is making sure you have the right diagnoses and treatment protocols to get well.  We don’t say that we have different illnesses because our symptoms are a little different.  We do say that we both might benefit from similar aggressive treatment protocols if reasonable test data and clinical presentation indicate Lyme or biotoxin illness.  Unfortunately for me, EVERY SINGLE TREATMENT INTERVENTION exacerbates daily seizure attack episodes that average 3-4 hours per day!  I simply cannot survive the treatment protocols of which I am aware to date.  The multiple chemical sensitivities (aka Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome) already leaves me largely homebound to try and prevent noxious symptoms.  Lately they are on the rise again (up to 8 hours!) regardless of where I am or what I am doing.  When I take a 5 1/2 hour window of time when the symptoms subside and test the waters, so to speak, I usually pay dreadfully for doing so.  This gal just can’t get a real break I guess.  I keep trying the wrong things.  On the surface, you could say that I am out of options . . .

Regardless, this I know:  my Jesus goes before me and knows the desires of my heart.  He knows that my heart is breaking right now to realize that I can no longer be with my dear husband 2 to 3 days per week when he pursues his sport on the water.  I learned to kayak to be with my River Bear and was delighted to discover that I enjoyed it too (at a slower pace of course!).  My Lord knows how isolated I am when I am home alone because of this illness.  He has provided the safety and security of a lovely dwelling with plenty of time with my Heavenly Husband.  He was my best buddy before I met Steve; He saw me through life changes equally as traumatic all the way to the restoration process in due time.  I’ll be hanging tough and trusting Him with this door closing on open water activities, no matter how I may feel about it.  The fact is that my Lord and Savior loves me more than I can ever know.  He wants what is best for me.  I will wait with great expectation at His throne of grace for His plan for me, whether or not a new door or window opens in due time.  If I don’t lay down my will for His will then I will denounce all that He has shown me of His love for me in the past.  I don’t want to waste all that I have learned.  During those trials is when my faith grew to be what it is today.  That is when the Holy Spirit became real to me, guiding me and comforting me always.  Nothing can take that away from me.  Nothing will.

Gentle Reader, do you know faith in God like this through His son, Jesus Christ?  Please share with me your experiences if you do.  I know it will encourage me to hear from you in addition to other Readers.  Oh and if you could say a prayer for my Stevers that would be great.  He hasn’t been getting much sleep lately.  Thanks a bunch.

Better finish that mulching project in the gardens soon.  Love to you,  Just Julie

The Real Tree of Life

Monet Japanese bridge at giverny

 

In the 1980’s I visited the Monet exhibit when it was at the Chicago Art Museum.  My husband at the time humored me with tickets and appeared to be as delighted as I was with the works of this famous impressionist.  Sometimes you just have to see things in person to understand their brilliance; this was true for both of us after we toured the travelling exhibit.  We brought home a print of the Japanese Bridge at Giverny to frame and proudly display in our home as a remembrance.  I still have that picture lying in wait for the perfect place to showcase it in the more contemporary-styled home of Steve and me.  Perhaps we will find that spot in another few decades or maybe our next home, whichever comes first!

Another piece of art takes my breath away every time I see it.  If I can ever find another print of it I suspect that I will always have it on display somewhere no matter our décor.  I was in the gift shop of the Chicago Art Museum with a boyfriend at the time, years before finding the Monet print, when I found a poster of Henri Matisse’s “The Tree of Life.”  It’s a photograph of a stained glass window from the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence, Italy.  Something about it captured my heart.  The colors and themes are simple, completed in a form of collage for which Mr. Matisse remains famous.  I’m not particularly fond of most of the rest of his work however, that tends to be more abstract or includes distorted images of people, places, and things in bright colors.  Many of those people are partially naked:  tis not my cup of tea to have an image of a naked stranger on display in my living room!

We carried the poster home on the commuter train back home to the suburbs like a prized possession.  This trip occurred before I had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the true giver of life.  Oh I knew the story of Adam and Eve from Genesis and the two trees in the Garden of Eden:  the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Tree of Life.  Perhaps it was the simple themes, Biblical title, and reverence for our Creator that struck a cord in me when I saw this image.  Sadly over the years of living in various apartments then storing the print in a storage locker, the framed poster was damaged by a basement flood beyond repair.  Or perhaps it was the distraction of graduate school that cost me my better judgment in keeping this little memento safe.  Oh well.  It’s not that important right?

Years later I came upon the Tree of Life image online.  I searched and searched through scores of poster websites trying to find another copy.  On two occasions I even called the gift shop at the Art Museum trying to locate a source for securing another copy.  The image was printed for that temporary exhibit only and the staff said I would have to contact the Vatican in Italy for another one!   Yes, I looked for contact information for the Vatican gift shop and eventually ran into a dead end once again.  Still another lead led me to an oil painter who could make copies of it but the online service appeared somewhat nefarious for the cost.  I’m not sure it would be worth a few hundred dollars to have a beastly oil painting when a nicely matted and framed print will do just fine.

tree-of-life-stained-glass-behind-the-altar-in-the-chapel-of-the-rosary-at-vence-1951 

So the search will go on for perhaps another few decades.  That’s fine too.  These days the “stuff of life” (as in art prints) is less important to me.  An older mentor once taught me at a critical time in my life to hold things of value lightly before the throne of God’s grace.  It’s like placing a pencil in the palm of an outstretched hand.  He may grant you good things or non-material blessings depending upon each season of life in which we find ourselves.  Sometimes we hold onto the pencil for a purpose as it lies on our hand and other times the pencil falls away.  To discern whether to hold on to it or let go out of our hands is wisdom indeed and worth holding onto the most.  Let’s reflect on this further:

She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
    those who hold her fast will be blessed.  Proverbs 3:18

Ah yes, there it is.  Looks like in the Bible the Tree of Life was first noted in the Garden of Eden and later referred to wisdom.  What else we can find?

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.  Proverbs 11:30

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.  Proverbs 13:12

The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.  Proverbs 15:4

On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  Revelation 22:2

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.  Revelation 22:4

And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.  Revelation 22:19  (Our just reward if we do not heed His invitation.)

 

Knowing that I have access to the tree of life through my relationship with Jesus Christ has made a tremendous difference in my life.  These past 2 1/2 years have been wretched with painful, noxious symptoms and waking seizures every day, multiple times per day, and often for hours.  Other symptoms come and go every day.  Knowing the hope that lies within our Lord’s living water manifest within the image of a life-giving tree resonates with me.  I love gardening and increasingly appreciate being outside more than indoors:  two ingredients drawing me towards His majestic creation in the natural world.

As He gives life to nature so does He breathe life into you and me.  The past 1 1/2 months since my brother’s devastating stroke pains me as I realize his suffering too.  My love for Mike draws me to pray for him in hopes that he rededicates his life to the Lord who loves him despite this situation.  As we both dwell in the presence of the Lord there will be a purpose for our lives, a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).  We must draw upon the living water extended to us through Jesus’ death and resurrection to realize these promises, until we are called home to dwell in His presence forever.  His indwelling Spirit will sustain us, and strengthen us like that tree of life growing strong and tall against the storms that may come.  It is the harsh winds and rainstorms that help the sapling to develop strong roots, sturdy branches, and rings in the trunk that tell the stories of His amazing grace through it all.

The real tree of life is not a poster or a pendant found on the internet:  that is for certain!  The real tree of life is the Lord Jesus Christ as the rock of my salvation, His firm foundation under my feet, nourished from the Word of God, yielding the fruit of Holy Spirit for His glory alone.  We will grow in love and admonition of the Lord:  a wonderful place to be.  I am so grateful to have found the true Giver of life.  Gentle Reader:  have you found Him too?  :J