The Divine covers all

Tears filled my eyes and grief my thoughts as I heard the words of a healthcare provider actually address my pain. Again. A few of her first recommendations for me seemed too risky so she called me back into the office to review my plan of care in-person. The insurance company denied a CT scan at this stage; I was exasperated. I had so much hope for relief. At least one of the tools the PA recommended during the first visit actually ended a migraine that had rendered me useless about a week ago. And this past Friday, she offered two more tools for my care. Really? There are more things to try?

For the second time visiting their office, I was overcome with the grief and traumas of my journey through serious illness. No one had looked closely at the role of headaches in the daily convulsive episodes that have created much suffering for me for NINE YEARS. Only 2 months ago I finally realized that many of the headaches are migraines. The so-called experts at the Headache Clinic at a regional medical center recently discounted me, told me to breathe deeply, and sent me off in a direction already worn from false starts in the past. The burden of suffering through many traumatic incidents recounted in this blog came rushing back like a movie fast forwarding through a person’s life when she is drowning. Yeah, there have been a couple of near-death experiences as well.

The PA stayed with me as I wept. The Medical Assistant gave me all of the time I needed to gather my composure before leaving their office. I’d had TWO HOURS of sleep in the last day! My sunglasses and the required face mask covered my sullen eyes, tear-stained cheeks, and swollen sinuses as I prepared to leave much later after my appointment had ended. It took another 30 minutes sitting in my vehicle replenishing my soul before I could re-gather my strength to drive again.

A friend has been tough to reach by phone lately including earlier that same day. I called her again. No answer. She had wept on the phone that she was very, very sick and losing weight; she didn’t know what she was going to do. This sounded more serious than when I first met her about 2 years ago through a shared healthcare provider. G was already severely underweight. Her father died then her mother died, they sold her childhood home, then her husband died all within the past year. She has only been a widow for 3 months. Her grief must be tremendous so it’s no surprise to me that she is struggling so. I called her son for the first time since he and G were at our home 2 years ago. How is your Mom doing? We talked for awhile and he asked if I could try to visit her. I was already on the same side of town where she lived and was thinking the same thing. I often called her to go for a walk together when appointments took me near her neighborhood. Of course I would.

My hubby and I have become snobs of olive oil. Once you taste the best varieties shipped directly from Italy to a local business that specializes in olive oil, you might never go back to the store bought varieties! I consider it a healthcare product, like taking a pharmaceutical grade supplement vs a brand off the shelf of a local grocery store. It really makes a difference! Olive Twist was between the medical office and G’s home so off I went to return our used bottles and pick up our tasty treasures. For some reason I felt led to pick up an extra bottle so I did. We do go through it rather quickly.

I caught up with G while she was out on a walk through her neighborhood. This is quite an accomplishment for someone who sounded next to death and in light of the sub-zero temperatures and icy streets in the neighborhood. To take a walk was her favorite thing to do. “Hey lady, whatcha doing out here in the cold?” I parked the truck at her house and braced myself to meet up with her out on those icy streets myself. The hug felt good for both of us when I reached her.

A couple of things transpired in the next hour that prompted me to write today. By the time our visit was ended, G had confided that the best tool she had to calm her upset digestive system was various types of vegetable oils. Little did she know that she would find a bottle of the best olive oil available locally sitting next to her front door by the time we got back to her house! The Lord knew your need G. And the Lord provided for it to be met on Friday. But that’s not all.

This time when G shared her fears, medical worries, “physical” feelings, and isolation over and over again (unlike our more newsy conversations just prior to Christmas), I felt led to ask her about her “emotional” feelings. Sad. Hopeless. Afraid. “I just don’t know what I am going to do?” she vented. Then we heard the wail of a freight train racing by her rather swanky neighborhood. Somewhere beyond the golf course and frigid air between us, inspired only by the Holy Spirit, came to me the themes of the Fact-Faith-Feeling train of the Four Spiritual Laws booklet. This booklet describes the gift of salvation offered to everyone through belief in the sacrifice on the Cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The caboose holds our feelings. The passenger car holds our beliefs, our trust. The engine embodies the Lord, Jesus Christ who leads and even pulls the train along when we surrender ourselves, our caboose and put our trust in Him. She wanted this free gift. She got it. Her spiritual birthday began with a simple prayer on her front porch that day. Praise the Lord!

We prayed again before I left. When I looked into her eyes afterwards, there were tears staining her face. She had told me when we were walking that she wasn’t even able to cry lately. She felt the feelings but the tears just would not come. I said to her, “G your cheeks are wet. Feel your face.” And with a muttering of how good our God is and how much He loves her, it was time for me to leave. There was nothing left to say, nothing left to do. The Lord had both of us in the palm of His hand that afternoon and will continue to do so from this day forward. I drove home with renewed hope and strength then slept a very long time over the next day.

Never, ever lose hope Gentle Reader. Our Divine Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is there with us in every single detail of our lives just waiting for us to cry out to Him. He cried drops of blood for our suffering. His plan of salvation turns death into life. The Divine in due time covers all. JJ

A tough time to live out our faith

As if my health challenges weren’t enough of a challenge to the veracity of my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we Americans enter into the most tumultuous year in recent US history. A false impeachment proceeding of the President of the United States gave way to a pandemic, dramatic changes at every level of society, and social unrest. One could argue that the voices of darkness came out of the woodwork and into the light of day. Just when we thought we might start looking forward to the turn of the calendar into 2021, a tumultuous election process began the further destruction of our institutions. Words don’t even mean the same thing anymore so how may I describe it to those of you who don’t live here, to those who have chosen not to pay close attention? Let’s just say we have entered an exceedingly tough time in which to live.

The story of what is actually going on now depends upon whom you ask. The mainstream media claims that our President has incited a coup and the conservative media claims the opposite. While the majority of the citizenry acknowledge the multiple methods of election fraud that has dominated the courts and legislature since November 3rd, neither of the latter has been willing to hear the evidence in any meaningful way. Thousands of ordinary people giving sworn affidavits under penalty of perjury, expert witnesses, videotaped evidence, the breaking of state constitutional and election laws, manipulation of voting machines, and more suggest that some really bad things happened. But it wasn’t enough to change the outcome? Legislators who claim to support the President, the Republican party, and various causes of their constituents have turned their back on all three of them. This is true even when the President helped them get elected! So on January 6th when these “results” of sorts were set to be certified, a peaceful demonstration escalated into a riot and storming of our nation’s Capitol . . . while the Senate and Congress were in session! They all fled to the basement, the Capitol police eventually did their jobs clearing out the building, and who knows if the National Guard (which our nation was told would be at the ready) ever really showed up? Who were these rioters or who started it anyways? Why did the Capitol police let some of them in? The identities and details vary based upon which news report you view.

We could make the argument that a nation divided cannot stand and we have been divided as a nation for longer than the year 2020. News that lacks truth or even consistency on how basic language is used keeps all of us from communicating with one another and from knowing the truth. Some of our leaders are treating people like cattle to be controlled (or to be tossed little stimulus checks while other nations and special interests are fed gaga-millions), letting you know that we are already sliding from a republic FOR THE PEOPLE to one FOR THE ELITE IN CHARGE. I believe the latter is called socialism and it is now here. Personal freedoms and rights are eroding with each passing day and will accelerate if the democratic candidate actually finds his way into office on January 20th. That’s just 10 days from now. We see even more darkness coming in the policies of the “President-elect,” Republican rhinos, and the entire democratic party who now dominate the Congress, the Senate; the Supreme Court is no where to be found. The gains and goodness of the last 4 years will soon be gone. But wait, there’s more!

Unless a miracle happens, it appears that Republicans who supported President Trump especially conservatives will be punished, persecuted, and stripped of their Constitutional freedoms. This is already happening with restriction of the 1) operations of churches during the pandemic and 2) free speech once expressed on the largest social media platforms in our nation and world. Censorship worsened early in 2020 and it appears is here to stay; the Congress just voted to remove all gender-based language! Just like in the story of the King wearing no clothes, have we forgotten that “President-elect” Joe Biden has dementia? The main stream media that represents our nation to the world does not communicate facts just skewed narratives, blatant lies. And just when conservatives started to develop and pursue alternate platforms for communication, the big media companies started wielding their power to prevent posting information on their platforms; this weekend big tech companies such as Amazon and Google are clamping down further to prevent the download or meaningful use of social media alternatives such as Parler, Rumble, MeWe, and others. Twitter closed the account of and banned a sitting President! Holy cow! Some think that the internet itself will soon be shut down. How are we to communicate with one another much less function as a society? If we were playing a game of chess, we would hear the shriek of, “CHECK!!!” But let’s check our facts Gentle Reader. Is it CHECKMATE just yet? I don’t think so.

Fencing being constructed in front of the White House, Google Earth, 1.10.2021

As I am writing this, there are reports that the President has prepared the US military for special operations in our nation’s capital and beyond. Insiders claim that our military is on the move and there are battleships off the shores of our coasts, military sorties being flown over our skies. Alternative media sources report that President Trump has evidence of illegal if not treasonous activities of government and corporate leaders that go beyond the election fraud or crimes of the Biden family. The insurrection at the Capitol building on Wednesday may have been incited by the same dark, leftist, paramilitary organizations who have destroyed numerous sections of democrat-run cities throughout our nation. However it also appears that individuals somewhere on the political right, maybe even infiltrated by our own special operations military may have been a part of the attempted invasion. All of them appeared to have broken many laws. Five people were killed in the process, personal artifacts may have been confiscated, and much damage was done to the Capitol building. There is evidence that some of the parties involved had a plan of attack that day, that it was not simple mob violence, as evidenced by the tools and riot gear utilized by some of these instigators. I could go on. There are no easy ways to explain what happened this week, this month, this year, or this 4-year term of the Office of the Presidency. We could even ask if all of this evil mayhem is part of a existential “reset” of the USA into a larger plan or world order? Orchestrated and funded by wordily oligarchs? What does it sound like to you?

Those of us in Jesus Christ know who the ruler of this world is and that is Satan. The Bible tells us in the book of Job that he goes about the earth, to and fro wreaking havoc on the lives of the living. His goal is to distract non-believers from coming to know the true and living God then discourage those who do come to faith through the Lord, Jesus Christ. He wants all of us to turn our backs on the truth and our Redeemer, the hope we can find that transcends the evil of our days. We shall see God and spend eternity with Him in glory! He forgets that we see in the Book of Revelation that Satan does not win; Jesus sends him off to be bound then forever tormented in the lake of fire! Forever!

What is going on in the United States of America is frightening. We are at the precipice of losing all we hold dear in our way of life. We may well deserve correction if not punishment in straying from God as a nation. However if we look to President Trump to be our savior from the wrongs in western society then we will be misled and disappointed. President Trump still has a job to do for 10 more days and I believe he will fulfill his leadership duties as best as he can. Maybe his term of office will somehow be extended and a new administration will form? But regardless let’s recognize that Donald J Trump is only a man with flaws just like you and me. He is not God. He will fall short of the lofty expectations we Christians have a tendency to place upon him. He is a sinner like you and me. And we sinners find true rest in the person of Jesus Christ alone. Let’s remember that Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the One with the power to win the battle against good and evil. Vengeance belongs to Him alone; we are to overcome by our belief, our pursuit of what is good and right as best we can and do so as we pray for the wayward, trust in the Lord. He sees and grieves our pain. He will supernaturally calm our fears.

Let’s continue to pray for our leaders, our President, and the resolve of fellow believers in the sovereignty and power of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Let’s pray that others who are scared, looking for direction will find it in Him through the testimony of our lives surrendered to the Lord. We all deserve judgement for our failings but we know where we can receive mercy, grace, salvation, hope. Let’s live like we believe it. This is a really tough time to live out our faith here in the United States of America. Persecuted Christians around the world have endured far worse and found peace in the God of the Bible. Their endurance through trials inspire us that, in His strength and through the leading of the Holy Spirit, we can live the way in which we are now called. Our God reigns! Let us pray without ceasing as we go for His glory! JJ

“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.” (1 Chronicles 29:11)

The Aftermath

When another healthcare faux pas takes the life out of my weary stride

It’s easy to give up or rather give in to a despair that never leaves.

Then a new day comes and I have a decision to make

Even if that day begins much later than planned.

I AM sad. No doubt legitimately so

From the treatment I received,

Or rather did not.

Siiiiiiiiiiiigh.

It’s hard.

I’m only human and in my own strength I cannot do this over and over again.

Thank the Lord that you are with me on my bed of sickness every time

Weeping over the trials, the suffering of your child

Promising that one day all will be perfectly well.

I just gotta hang on, hang tough, and trust

‘Cause the journey won’t be wasted

The rewards will be the best ever

When I see my Jesus’ face

My wings flying free.

For all eternity.

Yes indeed!

Is it enough to have overcome the dearth of trials that pain us so in this life?

That’s a question only answered with faith that comes from our Lord.

Our own strength will never be enough. The days are just too evil

Acceleratingly so Gentle Reader. Do you see it too?

Waste no more time wondering just BELIEVE

Get into your Bible right now, go, run!

Our just God’s Word will ring true

On redemption, wondrous glory

As we take rest in His grace.

Today. Join me there.

It is enough and so

Very good too.

After all.

So little. It’s still pretty

Full-time I used to serve others in my healthcare profession and now I can barely get a meal to my husband on a daily basis. My reserves for giving are diminished but not gone, or so he says.

Each night and morning I poured over my caseload, looking for the best ways to make the most of each patient’s time in occupational therapy. Shall I bring Sally a 2-pound weight that I picked up at Walmart or load up adaptive equipment for a better education and training session? Now I’m lucky if a couple of times per year, I can drop off a gift to a friend after one of my medical appointments. Or ride an exercise bike for 5 minutes in the middle of the night.

Sending a card for each birthday and gift for close family has shifted from 1) before his or her special date to 2) days or weeks afterwards. We apologize. It’s the thought that counts, right?

Then I send a PM (or is it DM?) to a friend via social media to ask how she is doing when I really need to pour out my own heart on how wretched I feel, the new symptoms and diagnoses that get added to my pile. Aren’t you tired of my tears Lord?

But enough of my sorry lot. Giving to others in my own strength will never balance the angst of my days. Pitching the good against the opposite is a mental exercise at best that risks the tasks being done for the wrong reasons; they barely even measure on the MET scale of physical activity anyways. What’s the point? My weak bones need resistive exercise as do my muscles that are softening by the day. Both my mind and my frame need REAL exercise. The kind that stretches me, tears down and re-builds muscle fibers for measurable strength. The kind that transcends a weary heart. But how is this possible? Gee. Looks like I need a refresher here on how this really works.

If I can only do a little then that little bit needs to be pretty enough. If I am to do anything significant then my strength must come from a source outside myself. I don’t have it. The Lord does! If He leads me through the Holy Spirit to these acts of grace then I trust that He will provide whatever is necessary to finish the task. This is true even if it stretches me beyond what I think I can do. His power is infinite! And if I can keep my eyes on my Jesus no matter the horror of my suffering then I know I will be stronger somewhere down the road than I ever could have imagined. Seeing our Lord’s power in our lives is how we grow our faith. Moving towards Him as He leads makes it so, makes us resilient as we go. And the more we follow His lead in His power, like a weak muscle trained over time, we will shine for His glory not ours. It’s really better that way anyways.

Doncha think, Gentle Reader? JJ

The trials of discontent

Perhaps the greatest challenge a follower of Jesus Christ must face in his or her walk with the Lord is how to handle the evil that is in our world. When it touches our own lives in the form of discontent, when things are not as we think they should be and we are unable to accept it, then we may be tempted to break fellowship with the Lord our God. He has ordained the length of our days, the vessel in which we live, and every detail of our lives whether good or bad. Recently it occurred to me that not accepting His will for my life is a sin that keeps me from any form of peace. And now I know from wence it came.

A particularly horrific convulsive episode about a week ago left me whimpering on our bed. The searing pain in my neck and broken frame notwithstanding, I wondered for the several thousandth time, “how can I endure this level of suffering Lord?” My Jesus had shown me many incredible things through the trials of battling serious illness; my Jesus was always right there with me when I called upon His throne of grace. But like the old song goes, “Is this all there is?” Is this all there is to my life when entire beautiful days upon days are spent suffering in bed?

The truth that we see is not all that there is to know or behold in this life. Only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ do we come to understand what the fullness of life means. We will have both joy and sorrow. We confess our failings, surrender our will to the Lord, and receive the Holy Spirit, beginning our eternity right here in the midst of all the good and bad; He helps us endure all things for His glory. But I didn’t know all of this when I was 3 years old. All I knew is that a neighbor boy named Danny was babysitting us and molested me while I was taking a nap in my big girl bed. I knew where the pills were that my mother took. So at some point thereafter I crawled up onto the kitchen counter, opened the cabinet door, reached way up onto the top shelf, grabbed that bottle of pills and ate a bunch of them. The only other memory I have of the incident was feeling scared while lying on a gurney in a hospital. I must have been crying too because the images are unclear. I had to go to the bathroom. I asked if I could get up and go to the bathroom and a man said NO. I felt the warmth of the urine on my legs and underneath me as someone said something about pumping out my stomach. And then I was OUT.

In a single flash of a moment after that convulsive episode, I knew what the Lord was trying to tell me. Or at least I think I do! He was showing me that by taking those pills, even as a small child who knew she had been hurt badly by someone everyone trusted, I was trying to take away the pain and the life that God had allowed for me. My little mind could not bear what had happened to me. The reality that the ugliness of that scene was ordained by the same God who created me and crafted all of my days from beginning to this end was too much to understand. I would not have been old enough to say the words to my Mom or Dad describing what that boy had done to me nor felt safe doing so. My parents weren’t exactly touchy-feely type folks. Can a 3-year old feel shame? Dirty? Worthless? Overwhelmed? Traumatized? Terrorized? Surely! While I have known, grieved, and forgiven the players in this scene for a long time now, I didn’t know that my survival from that day forward in my own strength would be marred by discontent. Nothing in my life would be good enough, or so I thought, to make me truly happy or at peace EVER. The seeds of several of my character flaws were planted that afternoon. I know that it wasn’t my fault any of this happened. I was just a little kid. To survive abuse is actually a noble task and accomplishment. What IS my responsibility, however, is to figure out what to do with what happened to me, layer-by-layer as each level of understanding is revealed in my walk with the Lord over my lifetime. In due time we must all ask ourselves: Will I grow up damaged or will I heal and thrive? Fifty-seven years later, the wound from this particular scene finally healed completely.

I grew up in what you would call a “blue collar” family. My Grandfathers worked in their respective trades: my Dad’s father as an auto mechanic and my Mom’s father as a maintenance man/operator in the boiler room of an ice cream factory. My Dad got a job at the General Motors Tech Center as a non-degreed draftsman. Each of them were very skilled at their respective vocations. My Dad in particular, would end up redesigning slot car motors to make them among the fastest in the world and co-authored over 30 clutch-assembly patents with Borg Warner later in his life. Although each of them would earn a living wage to support his family such that their wives could stay home and raise the children, there was always an attitude that it was not enough. I have come to call this mindset a “scarcity” mentality. The adults in my family never seemed satisfied with the income or the lifestyle or the relationships to which they acquired. First it was my Mother’s Mom taking the last of her grocery money to purchase tickets in the Irish sweepstakes. If only she would win then she would be happy! I think she did win a time or two. I don’t think it ever changed much of anything though.

The harder part of this dynamic for me came from my parents, especially my Mom. “If only we could win the lottery” she would say, “then . . . .” fill in the blank with some material gain of some sort that she thought would solve our problems and bring happiness. Without realizing it, I adopted this mantra as well. It sure helped when my parents got divorced or when my Dad missed a visitation or when my Mom wouldn’t come home at night from her carousing adventures with Parents Without Partners. If we had a windfall of cash then it would solve all of our problems, right? This was back in the days before there was common knowledge that most people’s lives are not better when they win the lottery! Family relationships tank when relatives come calling for money and out-of-control personal spending often leaves the prize winner in debt not set for life! Sadly this mindset and experiences of abuse and trauma contributed to addictive behavior in my teenage and young adult years. What became my addiction of choice that I thought was my winning ticket out of my inner turmoil? Work-a-holism. I nearly drove myself into permanent injury working so hard at school, the early days of my career in healthcare, graduate school, and one relationship after another. By the grace of God, He showed me a better way when I learned about addictions when doing contract work at a large mental health hospital. My years continuing to seek answers ultimately led to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. A new level of healing and a less frenzied pace of life began in my thirties.

That wasn’t the end of my discontent, however. Somehow I still looked more outside of myself than to the Cross for meaning, healing, self-worth, hope. A handwriting analysis in my youth said I was a very determined person. Well, yes, and that was not necessarily a good thingy! I sought counseling and studied God’s Word which did help me in many good ways. Yet like breaking in a wild colt, it still took repeated heavy tragedies from 2003 to 2007 to soften me for the biggest gift and the biggest trial that were yet to come. I am meeting you here after both of them: 1) marrying my Intended Beloved Steve and 2) enduring a serious illness that brought thousands of seizures virtually every day over 9 the past years. I have been grateful for the former.

Steve is an amazing man of God who loves me dearly as I do him. The serious illness not-so-much. I had never accepted the Convulsive Disorder or Dysautonomia or Dystonia or Functional Movement Disorder or Non-epileptic seizures or whatever you want to call it. What I came to realize this past week is that not accepting this illness is not a form of defeat. Rather, it’s not accepting that this is the Lord’s will for my life for my best good. It is the journey for me that will bring Him glory. And how am I handling it? I am denying His will for my life when I reject the pain and suffering that goes with the numerous blessings. Instead, I must trust that like all of the trials that have happened in my past, this illness serves a greater purpose. I may or may not ever really know what that purpose is. The episodes and medical complications may never stop. If I am to succeed at letting go of my discontentment with a traumatic event in my life at age 3 years old, I must also let go of the other thing that I hate in my life. Believing otherwise is believing a lie: a lie from the author of human suffering, sin, and death himself, Satan. No magical thinking (like a lottery mentality) is going to cover or remedy this lie. I MUST DENOUNCE my discontent, leaving it for my Lord to redeem.

How about if I repeat that another way:

No happiness or peace will come if I hold onto discontent over the Lord’s will in my life.

I knew in an instant, why that memory of me as a toddler came to me while grieving after another seizure. Both sorrows were and are part of my Lord’s Divine plan for my life. He will redeem my suffering one day and it will end. He will make all things new and good, and right; I will be whole. In the meantime, I am a steward of the experiences, people, places, and things He ordains for my life. My responsibility is to accept them with no expectations, no exceptions, no deal-making (“if only this . . . then that”), no holding back. So that night I let both sorrows go and wept deeply for a good long while.

Sometime later I shared my inner story of this incident with my beloved Stevers. He is warm and tender at these times as if to be my Jesus with skin-on. I am so blessed to be loved by this man after God’s own heart. His response? He marveled at how long abuse can affect the life of an abused person. Years. Decades. That a person can carry hurt his or her entire life because of the evil actions of someone who hurt them when they were little. I agreed. Yet for me, the hurt is never the same each time I get to revisit it. Each time I get to grieve some more. I get to heal some more. It takes what it takes. I get to see how the Lord uses even the ugly stuff to give me tools for coping and a gift of compassion for others. If I had not developed work-a-holism and that health challenge of hypoglycemia then I would have become an alcoholic. How do I know? My siblings and Mother were alcoholics, my Dad was mentally ill. One brother who overcame alcoholism struggled to find meaningful work then tragically had a stroke and was never able to function independently again up until he died earlier this year. He suffered with unspeakable pain and spasms every waking hour of his life. He had traded his bottles for cigarettes. What I am trying to say is that each of us had horrific wounds to overcome. Today I am the only one still here of my immediate family to write the stories. Oh Lord, may these words yield some goodness beyond the tales of sorrow for the goodness that is there too.

Because there is much redeeming value in our stories beyond the sorrows. Nothing is wasted Gentle Reader, in God’s economy of time and space. Letting go of the sin of discontent, perhaps after grieving its root-cause, is a work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He will bring you to it and see you through it. Healing is complicated and can take a very long time to process. Be encouraged. I tell you as in the song of Peggy Lee, the BAD is not all there is to a fire or the circus of the circumstances in our lives or a long lost love! There’s even more to life than the happiness of a fleeting moment such as in a windfall or slow dance with your beloved. Just go to the Cross. There you will find a peace that transcends all understanding. The best gift of all is waiting there for you this day, this night. He promises. On this we can rely.

Will you? JJ