Known in the Gates: Part 3, The Man Next to Me

https://www.facebook.com/227446947339836/photos/a.323357667748763.75624.227446947339836/823076851110173/?type=1&theater
From Facebook, June 4, 2015

When I was blessed in marrying Steve nearly 8 years ago, I often sought out Proverbs 31 in the Bible as a guidebook, a different kind of blueprint for how to love him in a manner that would honor the Lord and Steve the best.  Flash forward nearly eight years and enter the challenges of serious illness.  How do you “strengthen your arms,” “not let your lamp go out at night,” “watch over the ways of our household,” and support your man in the ways a Christian wife is called to when you simply cannot do much of anything?  By the Lord’s grace, that’s how!

Steve has become my whole world due to the isolation that came with a serious illness these past 4 years.  He is also the only one to whom I am called to serve during this season of my life second to the Lord himself.  I am no longer able to work in healthcare or serve others at my church.  At first this did not seem like enough.  Later on I stressed beyond belief to serve either one of them.  Now looking back I can say that each day I was given enough energy and clarity of thought to serve both as best as I could even in my times of greatest weakness.  These tasks are critical to fulfill the outcome cast in Proverbs 31:

23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

I just hope I did my part as best that I could . . .

The Lord through His Word in Proverbs 31 and other places (in addition to the leading of the Holy Spirit) showed me how to function in these roles through the most serious illness that I could ever imagine.  In turn for Steve the Lord through His Word, leading of the Holy Spirit, and fellowship of select believers, gave my beloved the strength to care for me during a season of our marriage that was incredibly challenging for him as well.  For example lost or broken sleep virtually every night!  Steve has fulfilled his calling:  there is much fruitfulness in our marriage as a result.  I will write more about this in the future for sure.  I am so proud of Steve!

The part of Proverbs 31 that has helped me to feel less alone, to feel that there is a “Jesus with skin on” who remembers me and loves me too is in the verse that captures the Christian husband’s response to her faithfulness:

11 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.

Yes.  Throughout these 4 years of significant challenges in every area of our lives together, Steve has trusted me.  He trusted me when he married me and he trusts me now.  His confidence is such a precious gift when my spirits were so low and my self-doubt so high.  My husband has heeded his own call to love me as Christ loves the church in the most loving way imaginable.  My beloved husband believed me that I was truly sick and believed in me no matter what that looked like.  (For example, when I said that I would be o.k. though still seizing for the five-hundredth day this occurred when he is late leaving for work after caring for me that morning.  O.k.?  Really?)  Steve has championed my attempts to keep going, to search for clues as to how to get well, to get up after yet another defeat.  Steve is my hero on this earth.  Period!

One of the greatest challenges of life in general is the quest for significance.  Now let us return to the theme of this 3-part blog.  For a Christian husband to be “known in the city gates” as it says in Proverbs 31 is one reason why a Christian wife should serve her husband well.  We must respect our husbands in private and in public so that they in turn may be respected in the workplace.  We want this!  To make this effort to respect our husbands is important no matter the circumstances in which each of the partners find themselves.  Yes, the wife may be sick at home; be home raising the children; have her own career, tasks and accomplishments yet all of these are to be in concert with supporting the spiritual leader of their household.  This is a tall order handled to be with prayer for sure!

For me it has been very hard to be second:  to support Steve while remaining in the shadows of life when I am also number 112 or so by so many people that used to be a vibrant part of my life.  I had to bring this identity crisis to my Heavenly Husband over and over again.  It was the precious relationships with my Heavenly Husband first and my earthly husband second, where I have found the ability to keep them in the right order!  Jesus was my perfect companion at all times.  Steve needed to be away for work, spiritual feedings at church, and some recreation too.  I had to let go of the temptation to pull on Steve too much.

I simply could not have as much time with Steve as in our first years of marriage since I could no longer participate in activities that we liked to pursue together.  My Heavenly Husband filled my needs.  He gave me this blog, new friends, and an online jewelry business.  My Lord revealed Himself to me in ways I had never experienced before.  And when Steve came home, our reunions were always sweet.  I had endured a thousand wretched times alone.  It’s just the way it had to be for us.  In due time that would not create trauma for me.  I realized just how tangible having Christ with you can really be . . .

In Christ and in love with my beloved Stevers, I have found who I truly am, who my Lord has created me to be.  I have found love beyond measure.  I am never alone regardless of the circumstances.  In completing the tasks to which I am now called, our household works well and is peaceful overall.  I get to live Shaunti Feldhaun’s wise words as noted above.  And no matter what the circumstances, whether I return to work in my profession as an occupational therapist or whether I am home recovering from a setback of sorts, my call will be to stand alongside and possibly behind my husband.  My heart is full.  Both are lovely places to be!

And that my Gentle Reader is a great discovery indeed.  This is God’s design for marriage.  In the end the only “gates” where it is truly important to be known will be the open door where I will someday meet my Lord, Jesus Christ and He calls my name.  So sweet.

Will I meet you there too?  JJ

Car guys young and old

oldcarguysI don’t care how old you get

Or what you end up tinkering with

As long as you save the best for last

And that is me, I do believe I will be happy!

Happy new year and many blessings to my beloved Steve.  Your love, devotion, selfless acts of service, and witness for Jesus Christ deserve a post all of your own.  I am so very grateful to the Lord for the privilege of being married to you!  Rock on my dear.  Shall we put together another year of adventure?

I love you truly, Just Julie

 

 

Moments so dear

wed-5In the closeness of our embrace

I longed to stay there all night.

Alas I could not for the darkness shook within my soul:

An unknown sort that is staying longer than its welcome.

He went away to catch the rest sorely needed

After caring for me again late into the moonlight as every night for awhile.

Sometimes it’s just to say “hey,” sometimes to nourish my weakened frame:

Oh how his love has shown true in sickness and in health as promised.

How will I love thee as you have loved me my dear?

Could there ever be a way to fill your coffers with sweet blessings as you have mine?

I hope we have many years to find out together my humble knight

To explore the longings of nights ended much to soon —

In this I too shall rest, with hope and great expectation

Of a day languishing with you in a string of moments so dear.

For now it’s “goodnight my love.”  Until that day comes I shall love thee in my heart more than my touch can say . . .

When the time is right

One of the hardest parts about chronic illness for me (longer-duration illness, not permanent, hopefully!) is the change in my relationships.  I’ve written previously about the loss of casual friendships, the ones based upon common interests or gathering places.  Today I’m talking about the one between a husband and wife.

Steve and I have been married almost 6 years.  I call him my “intended beloved” since I believe the Lord has blessed me with an amazing man of God as my life partner.  We came together in our late 40’s, having learned much about life, people, and the Lord’s enduring grace in the years before we met.  We’d both lost our youngest sibling and the last of our grandparents within the past 10 years, shared both similar and completely opposite interests, had to relocate due to divorce, seen plenty of changes in the world around us, and came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ as adults.  Still when we got together we needed to work on a few things as a couple.  I believe these things have become our strengths and bonded us together for life.  Yes!

Steve and I share the “love language” of caring touch.  (For more on the 5 love languages, see the work of Gary Chapman.)  Therein the challenge of late lies.  The most noxious symptom of Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome for me is seizure-like episodes, 3-4 times per day.  Most any sensory stimuli can make a seizure attack worse or even trigger one if it is intense enough.  An episode can become  worse after it starts if Steve or anyone touches me.  So imagine a loving spouse attempting to comfort his or her beloved at a time of severe illness, reaching out and discovering that the gesture actually makes the person worse!  And if this happens over an over again, despite the caution, precautions taken to be gentle or vary the type of comfort, the spouse can become discouraged.  In our marriage, we have decided to work with the symptomatology and find a firm touch or closeness by proximity that sort of worked for me.  Thankfully, Steve did not stop trying altogether.  I understand that could have happened.

After all, the worst seizure attacks and convulsions happen late at night.  Steve often needs to go to bed to get up for work or another commitment the next morning so he simply cannot stay up with me night after night.  Our physical intimacy suffers.  Oh and if the attack isn’t so bad and we attempt marital relations, it’s a crap shoot whether or not the noxious symptoms start again.  Can you imagine turning something intended to be precious into something so ugly?  We often don’t even “go there” if I’m feeling sick or I’m in “pre-tic mode.”  The heartache of frustrating my spouse isn’t worth the Russian roulette we must play to see if things are going to work out o.k.  Stopping a tender moment also wrecks my thought process; it wrecks “the mood” for me.  Steve just says, unbelievably, that he doesn’t mind or that we had a time of closeness anyways.  Where do they make guys like him anyways?  Certainly I had not seen any in my past . . .

And this is where I must trust the Lord to sustain me, to sustain Steve-and-me through this season of our relationship.  I am incredibly blessed to be married to a man who loves me truly, “in sickness and in health.”  I did not experience this when I was married before as a young woman.  The Lord allowed certain health issues at that time to challenge us, test us, deepen our faith and we both failed to lean on His leading to overcome the trials.  In the end, my former spouse turned to another woman for solace and physical intimacy.  She was an unlikely comfort:  wealthy, mother of 6 children, and spouse of a man about to be imprisoned for embezzlement.  Craig left anyways.  And what that left me was a fear of relational intimacy or at least of trusting another man to endure the inevitable trials of life.

In the time that followed as a single woman, I turned to my Heavenly Husband for comfort, protection, provision.  He was my constant companion and much healing occurred.  It wasn’t until a time of serious illness struck 2 years ago and 4 years into my marriage to Steve that I realized a little more recovery was needed.  Steve’s steadfastness strengthened by his true relationship with the Lord has never waivered.  Never!  I am humbled and grateful.  I often see in Steve:  “Jesus with skin on.”  Steve has been wounded by his past and an ex-wife who disrespected him terribly.  Regardless, he has rarely brought any vulnerability from that experience to our marriage.  He, too, has allowed the Lord to “restore the years the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25), rising up to become the spiritual leader God intended.  So glad he’s tall too.  I love looking up to my Stevers.

When the time is right, when we have submitted ourselves to the refining fire that can be the trials of life, when we are faithful to the calling the Lord lays before us, we too may be rewarded with blessings beyond belief.  Those blessings may not be what many think of as gifts or rewards.  For me and my beloved, those good things are the ability to overcome the wretched things of life in a way that actually deepens our love relationship together as well as our walk with the Lord.  My hope in writing this is that you are also seeking the One who knows your pain and loves you just as you are:  the person of Jesus Christ.  (Psalm 41:1-3)  He may indeed bring you an angel to minister to your needs, a “Jesus with skin on.”  He may bring you to the foot of His throne of grace a few times in desperation, alone.  I know that He will not frustrate you beyond what you can handle, however, and will fill your heart with unspeakable joy someday.  (Romans 5:3-5)

I am grateful to see the latter despite wretched illness.  I pray that you too, Gentle Reader, will be able to see all this and more when the time in your life is right.  (Ecclesiastes 3)  The sorrow will not be wasted, of that I am sure if we but keep our eyes fixed on the face of Christ.  We may even get a sweet snuggle with someone special too!

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Addendum:  A new medication is bringing new hope.  I’m down to about 1 attack per day and they are less intense.  We are holding onto hope as this journey of illness appears to be changing.  Praise the Lord!!!!