A Call to Grace

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.  (Gal 1)

butterfly, Galations, serve, burdens, break free, servant, let go,Christian, heart, image

From the perspective of the supernatural power of grace bestowed by my Lord, Jesus Christ, I write to you this day.  For my flesh is more broken than before, hopes beaten up from the road, and spirit exasperated from the waiting.  Yet I am compelled to look beyond my angst to the call to grace . . .

If I have fallen short of praising my Lord then I am sorry.  Please forgive me.  The alms and adoration to my Savior is what shall draw me nearer to Him and lift my sorrows.

Should I have focused too much on my own needs and not those of others then my selfishness has thus blinded me.  The trials of life have more to do with our response to these trials (and more importantly to others) than to their resolution.  I cannot serve others when my mind is full of woe.  There is always room to love on others.

When I act to make my own plate o’ food and have not called upon God’s infinite power to feed my family then I have shorted all of us to the weakness of my own hands.  My Lord is sufficient for me, enables me to serve beyond my ability.

Where my face has turned to the shiny distractions of this life, pining after them (or worse coveting that which I have been blessed) then I have really made my world smaller.  Who knows the blessing that will come from sacrificial giving?  Gratitude?  And proper placement of my gaze to the Cross?

How much better it is to wait on my Heavenly Father than to cry out my need only to act thereafter in my own strength?  Oh Lord, help me to wait, to listen, to dwell and nothing more during these times.

That about sums it up right now.  Thank you to those who prayed for me last week and who remember me in your prayers.  Please let me know how I may serve you too, k?

JJ

The Gentle Giant

Standing over 6 feet tall, the man could have been mistaken for the childhood Green Giant hero of the Television Age.  He let his hair grow long, beard get kind of scruffy, and middle section pudge just enough to make his bear hug just right.  The children squealed when he growled and chased them back up the basement stairs when he had enough of their antics and needed to get back to work in that mysterious and yet wonderful business within those concrete walls.  More on that story another time.

The man was as conflicted as any could be in this life.  I’ll call him the Gentle Giant or GG for short.  My knowledge of him is pieced together from some vague memories, his hand-written journal, a few newspaper clippings, internet searches, and the stories from family members. Call it a great tragedy or perhaps work of satire as he never reached his full potential in this world.  Lord knows, he tried.

GG grew up in the blue collar suburbs of Detroit, Michigan as the son of an auto mechanic and never-quite-satisfied mother.  His dad let his mother rule the household including harsh discipline for the boys of the family.  Beatings, torture, destruction of their few prized possessions, restriction of food, verbal abuse, and lying about it all to suspicious outsiders comprised his private hell.  She destroyed his model airplanes, locked him in the closet, and made him sit at the meal table all day and all night as abusive punishment for just being alive.  The next generation (grandchildren) would be treated differently as would the girly middle child; the oldest brother would turn gay and befriend his mother and father in a strange twist of survival-perhaps-denial until he died of AIDS in his forties.   The baby of the family barely made it out alive when the older siblings were no longer around to protect him.  GG, the second oldest of the four children, had finally found his way to break free.

GG made a plan to marry the first woman who would accept his hand in marriage.  It took a few years after high school to find a suitable mate who was willing to marry him, perhaps in an attempt to escape her own abusive and alcoholic father.  They quickly had 3 children and a relationship burdened by his physical abuse of the mother.  The oldest took an overdose of her mother’s thyroid medication requiring having her stomach pumped at only 3 years old; the middle child developed a life-long inferiority complex from being told by his dad that he resembled his mother’s family more than his.  And this was only the beginning of things that went wrong in that household.  By the time the five of them had moved from the trailer park to their new home, GG was having periodic psychiatric breakdowns.  Experts have determined later that these were likely the psychotic breaks of paranoid schizophrenia.

GG struggled with the adult responsibilities of work, raising a family, relating to his wife, and managing the internal chaos of his mental illness.  He came into the realities of adulthood with too much brokenness to overcome; he was a brilliant inventor and draftsman yet could not control his own mind to ever find true happiness or success.  GG defied the counselling offered and declined the psychiatric medication newly developed that could help control his thought disorder.  He took an extended leave of absence from work and, instead of getting well, used the time to build a business in the unfinished basement of their home.  It became wildly successful in the hobby world of the 1960’s. How his employer never found out is another mystery.

Unfortunately the same ingenuity that brought him initial success 1) as a non-degreed draftsman for a major automaker and 2) in the home business, did not work when he applied it to his mental illness.  He experimented in psycho-cybernetics, hand writing analysis, the occult, various activities of the hippie crowd, drinking alcohol, and more.   Eventually he left town on his motorcycle with some blonde chick for California with all the profits from the business . . .  The children saw his father come and go in a myriad of painful and confusing scenes over the next few years until finally their parents divorced. Their dad lived in another suburb across town thereafter but the holiday visits and false hopes for things to be right never fully materialized.  Eventually GG left town for good and had no direct contact with his family for the next 27 years.

GG sent threatening letters to his mother for several decades, perhaps wrestling with her years of abusing him and what to do with it.  Sadly he hurt his own children as well in other ways. Over the years, the oldest daughter had witnessed satanic rituals, was abused by some women in the course of some psychedelic mayhem at his house across town during a visitation weekend, and was then tortured herself by GG in an attempt to help her “forget” what had happened to her.  The middle child witnessed his father’s domestic abuse of his mother and personal self-degradation as his father used mind control techniques on him in a misguided attempt to try and help his son.  The taped messages he recorded ended up having an opposite effect!  And the spirited youngest boy got as far as he could in life then, as a young adult, tried to find his dad who had left the family when he was barely past kindergarten. His dad’s letter of rejection was found by loved ones in his wallet after the young man died of alcoholism.  The surviving family grieved deeply.

GG’s experimentation with mind control techniques inadvertently opened himself up to the demonic realm.  The darkness in his eyes reflected this in particularly frightening scenes recounted by his children.  Knowing this, understanding his abusive upbringing and resulting mental illness then their own coming to faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, has helped the two surviving siblings forgive their father.  They have found peace with their past and with their dad. The man was simply lost.  He had no idea the dark world he had incited nor the abuse he ended up carrying from one generation to the next.  It took the daughter in particular, many decades to understand this and break free from the trauma and demonic influences.  How that happened is yet another story.  The miracle of overcoming such hell gives testimony to the incredible power of the gospel through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Thirty years after the oldest sibling last saw her father and two months before he died, she got to meet with him at his retirement/trailer park in Florida.  They had slowly developed a new relationship by phone before he eventually agreed to a visit in person. The Gentle Giant was frail yet charmingly engaging.  He told her tender stories of her days as a little girl and of how proud he was of her.  He told her that he loved her and by the time of their visit had shared how he had to leave their family to protect them from further harm.  More psychological breakdowns had occurred over the years.  His isolation from family and most of society became part of how he managed his illness in addition to long sabbaticals from work. He jointly held over 27 patents with a major manufacturer of automotive parts and would say that was why they “put up with him” and his leaves of absence.  The woman would see how creative her father was in crafting his life with the fragments he had been given . . . how incredibly her Heavenly Father would sustain her own life until those sweet moments of reconcilliation with her dad could bring closure, bring healing, bring some sweetness too.

Our earthly fathers have incredible importance in how we turn out in our lives.  They are the first authority figures in our lives who initially influence how we relate to our heavenly Father who is exceedingly greater and perfect;  ways that our earthly father can never be.  A loving relationship with both are critical for grounding us in this life on earth.  Even in the absence of a good dad the yearning of our hearts can lead us to the One Who will never leave us, never forsake us.  I do pray that in this story you will see how the “seeking” of one young girl as she became one older woman led her to overcome the failings of her father by filling those empty and hurting places with the unfailing love of Jesus Christ.  Graciously she did get to feel at last, the love of her real father before he died.  Not everyone will have this kind of opportunity; others will experience it their entire lives.  Regardless, we all can be whole no matter what darkness has fallen on our journey through this life.

I understand these experiences very well nurtured with truth from the Words of our Lord in His scripture and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Further, the Gentle Giant in each of us can be transformed from sorrow to joy if we but believe in His holy name, Jesus Christ. Healing and fullness of life will follow us all of our days into eternity.  I love that.  Oh Heavenly Father, I thank you for this story and for Your story of redemption too.  May you speak to the heart of the Gentle Reader who finds these words this day, filling him or her with your goodness. Bring them into the best of relationships found only with You.  Bring hope beyond what we all can see.  For your glory I pray in Jesus’ name I pray, amen.  JJ

 

The Genius Between Us

If you lived in the Midwest of the United States in the mid-1960’s chances are good that you knew about slot car racing.  It was the craze back then for hobbyists, car enthusiasts, boys, and the girls with brothers!

And if you were into performance slot car racing, then you would have selected either a Mura, Champion, or Dyna-Rewind motor to win.  Not familiar with it?  Check out these pictures:

 

Dad's Slot Car

Dad’s Slot Car

 

Dyna-Rewind Motor

Dyna-Rewind Motor

Typical Slot Car Race Track

Typical Slot Car Race Track

 

 

 

 

 

 

A slot car racing enthusiast in the mid to late 1960s would bring his best cars in a wooden gear box to a local track.  For about $.50 he (or she) could rent a lane and race whomever showed up that evening for 30 minutes.  Competition was always fierce with fans and racers taking turns spotting cars around the track that had spun out or flown off in the heat of the battle.  Each car had rubber tires, an electric motor, chassis, body, and plastic tongue-with-flat-metal-brushes on the bottom.  The cars ran on a track with a groove in the middle of the lane and tiny metal or wire filaments on either side of the groove (which conducted the electricity as it made contact with the metal brushes).  Each “driver” held a controller by which he (or she) could adjust the speed of the car by squeezing or releasing the lever on the handle.  If you went too fast your car would either spin out or fly off the track!  While the latter was quite spectacular it would often damage the car beyond repair — at least until the next Thursday night of racing!

Formal competitions and even professional drivers became legendary.  In 1966 one racer in particular began beating the pants off of everyone in the Detroit area and carrying off all the trophies with his car powered by a special motor.  Ted Lech had discovered how to make the motors faster by employing the adhesives, balancing principles, and rewinding concepts from his work at the General Motors Tech Center in Warren, Michigan.  Soon others were clamoring to purchase the motors.  Ted and his co-worker, “Bud” Stordahl created Dyna-Rewind and were quickly overwhelmed when orders came in from just about everywhere (including the UK and Japan) with each successive motor.  In an interview with Pete Hagenbuch in the Car Model magazine of July 1967, “Mr. Motor” as they called him reveals the genius behind Dyna-Rewind motors.  All was well and very exciting, however the slot car racing industry was beginning to diminish when toy manufacturers could not keep up with the performance output of the small-shop car guys.  But the small-shop car guys couldn’t support the overall industry either.  Then suddenly Ted Lech absconded with some of the business assets and vanished in 1969, never to be heard from again in the slot car racing world.  Bud Stordahl closed Dyna-Rewind.

What happened?  Well I guess you could say that not everyone handles success well.  Ted Lech was my father:  born March 30, 1937 in the Detroit, Michigan area.  He married my mother, RoseAnne, in 1959 and I was born 9 months, 2 weeks, and 3 days later.  We were living in a trailer park when I was born:  a red and white mobile home at the beginning of the block.  There was a sidewalk out front in which I rode my red and white tricycle with a bell and streamers on each of the handle bars.  I loved riding my bike.  Life was good for a 3 year old!

We moved into a house that my dad had selected in a new subdivision in Warren sometime in 1963.  Michael was 2, I was 3, and Robert was on his way into the world thus necessitating the move up to a 3 bedroom ranch.  We didn’t have much furniture so there was plenty of room in which we kids would play.  The best spot was the basement:  we could make all the noise we wanted to ’cause mom would just close the door at the top of the stairs into the kitchen!  We had the coolest toys with which to play down there too.  I remember a wooden train set on wheels that my dad had made where the cars hooked together and were big enough to hold each of us kids in our own train car.  When we were lucky dad would whoosh us around the basement, carefully navigating around the black metal poles supporting the house upstairs!  And if he would open the hamper shoot on us as we rolled under the hinged box he made in the ceiling, well that was really cool!  Splat!

My dad built Dyna-Rewind in the basement of that house.  I have come to understand that some of the operation was at the home of his business partner, Bud Stordahl, but I do not have any recollection of  him or seeing the part of the operation that was in his garage in Birmingham.  After all, I was a young kid back then.  What I remember is all of the wooden tables that my dad had built and the increasing amount of tools and machinery that filled the basement.  I remember playing with most of it, especially the rewinding machine, drill press, semi-circular magnets, black plastic display boxes with a clear lid, and even the motors.  On a good day my dad would take us with him to race at “The Groove Raceway” in Royal Oak or perhaps another local track.  In time he would take Mike and Rob more than me; perhaps I had developed other more girl-y interests too with my best friend who lived next door (Tammy Orlando).  My brothers had a blast during their time with my dad.  Mike became quite good at slot car racing and his ability to beat most anyone in games of all kinds continues to this day!

Flash forward to 2013.  Out of the blue, my brother Mike makes contact with a French gentleman, Philippe de Lespinay, who was writing a new book to expand on his first publication, Vintage Slot Cars.  Mike met with Mr. de Lespinaly, and shared the wooden gear box he had gotten from our dad containing a collection of Dyna-Rewind motors, slot cars, and my dad’s own hand-painted favorite too.  Within a year from now the LA Slot Car Racing Museum is scheduled to open in California.  I’m glad Mike didn’t sell out the family mementos, caving to Mr. de Lespinay’s repeated requests to both of us!  I have one motor with a wire still attached to it.  This was my memento actually from my brother Robert’s mobile home in Monument, Colorado when we were settling his affairs after he passed away in 2003.  I displayed that motor where I could see it each morning for a long time.  I already had several empty black plastic boxes like the one pictured above.  A couple of them still store my unused gum wrappers from my 300+ foot gum wrapper chain tossed out long ago.  Sure wish I had some of those magnets used inside the metal motor housing.  We used to see how high we could stack them up before tumbling over and . . .

My brother called me about the book after his interview with Mr. de Lespinay a couple of weeks ago.  So when Mike offered the opportunity for me to fill in my own details of this story I jumped in too.  Mr. Stordahl had misreported some facts and perhaps was still a little sore about the sudden closing of the business in 1971.  Evidently my father stole some of the business proceeds when he left with his technical genius as well.  I am sad about that.  The details of his leaving left scars with me too for a very long time.  He had gone to California with another woman and did not return for a few months.  The heartache for my mother and us three kids continued after his return to the Detroit area, through their divorce, and deepened when he left a second time:  for decades.  No one really knew where he was when he finally left Michigan.  When we did discover that he was in Florida (and I later learned that he had also lived in Texas for a time) there was really no need for me to contact him.  I had grown up, gone away to college, and moved to the Chicago suburbs to start my career in occupational therapy.  Life had moved on.  Sure I missed him.  But life had to move on you see.  My Heavenly Father filled in the gaps.

Flash forward about 30 years and our father has since reconciled with Mike and me.  In 2007 my mother passed away and would never have contact with him before she died.   She had moved on as well so I am not sure that it would have mattered to her anyways.  Thaddeus Lech Jr. died in his 30-foot travel trailer along the Gulf Coast of Florida in 2011.  He had become a renowned local fisherman; I can prove it with a few hundred photos I inherited of him holding up virtually every kind of fish that either spawned or was native to the Florida panhandle region of the Gulf of Mexico.  He was also renowned in the automotive industry:  inventor and co-inventor for Borg-Warner Automotive, holding over 20 patents for various types of clutch assembly and drive train components.  His genius had continued!  It makes sense that it would.  When I was a kid he’d crafted the most phenomenal gerbil cages you could ever imagine for our pets Agatha, Ralph, and Dee.  If I insert the word “sundeck” here you might be able to imagine the other rooms, elevated walkway, and security door too . . .

Everyone has a “past.”  Everyone makes mistakes.  Sometimes there are reasons for those mistakes and sometimes it’s simply the manifestation of sin in our lives.  My childhood is filled with a few more sad stories than happy ones yet gratefully the sorrow has faded away.  There is much more to the story of my father that could be written here to fill in the details.  Others have attempted to share the sordid details perhaps to give the retelling of Mr. Motor’s story a little more spice.  I do not believe that is necessary at this time.  When my father contacted Mike then me before my father passed away, we were able to both get re-acquainted and speak words of regret, words of forgiveness.  I got to hear stories I never knew about myself as a girl and about this adventurous, brilliant, complicated man.  His smile and sense of humor warmed my heart in a place I did not know existed when I had moved on so many decades ago.  To hear the words, “I love you” was a salve I did not know I was craving for when they finally came at just the right time.  Even my husband, Steve, was touched by my dad’s gentleness, incredible way of handling the characters of the travel trailer park he had managed, and sense of humor.  They hit it off well:  car guys always do.

I hope the sequel to Vintage Slot Cars is a success.  I hope that racing fans from around the world visit the LA Slot Car Museum and talk about the amazingly fast Dyna-Rewind motors.  As for the genius between my brothers and me in the photographs below:  I will always love you dad.  Thank you for the memories.  With my orange motor labeled with the foil Dyna-Rewind sticker and stray wire hanging by a thread, I’m good.

Ted Lech for Slot Car Book

You have made a difference!

I am grateful for the love, care, and support of some special folks who have helped me make it through nearly two years of serious illness.  I am also sad for those who have left my life or misunderstood this time in my life.  Hardship is not contagious folks!Mom's 75th B Day Party

First, the good stuff.  The person nearest and dearest to my heart is my beloved husband, Steve.  I am amazed when I gaze into his blue eyes at the sincerity of his love for me and for the Lord too.  When he comes close and holds me through a tough episode, cradling my neck in his hands to comfort me and minimize the trauma of various noxious symptoms, I am humbled!  There are not many people on the planet that would do this even for a loved one two years “down the road.”  Many would become exasperated, angry, indifferent, or worse by now.  Thank you Lord for this amazing man.  Thank you for my “Jesus with skin on.”

The next group of folks closest to the fire, so to speak, who have helped me to survive are my Lyme Literate Medical Doctor and our local Lyme disease support group (who are largely his patients).  You understand!  You get it!  And you believe me!  When my Doc calls me on a Saturday with the name of a pharmacy where I can get a medication almost $100 USD cheaper, I am grateful!  When it’s my turn to share at our monthly Lyme group meeting and my tummy is happy from the yummy snacks we bring that fit our special dietary restrictions, I feel loved!  And then when we exchange text messages or Cindy, or Roberta or Diana offers help with a special task, I am humbled.  Oh how I pray I may serve you too in your time of need.

A few dear friends and family members have witnessed and endured much of the past 10 years of this incredible journey of transformation.  I love the kind of relationships that go on no matter what life brings, picking up when we meet again as if no time has passed.  I hope my brother Mike, Brenda, Deb, Kinsey, Patrice, Mary, Judy, Maria, Tami, and a few others feel the same way?   Now that my parents and grandparents have passed away, I appreciate even more my extended family including my Other Mom, Other Dad, Uncle Dave, Aunt Lori, Aunt Patty, and Aunt Shirley.  I love you and thank you for investing in my life.

There’s a special place in my heart for the online community.  Whether I met you on a Facebook Lyme forum, your blog or when you commented on my blog, I credit you with keeping me sane at the odd times of day when no one else cares!  Thank you for your “likes,” for following this blog, for your comments and suggestions, for your time.  The greatest gift from a friend is a gift of his or her time.  When you reach out to me I know that I am not alone.  While the internet can be a ruthless place, I am grateful for it’s goodness, especially when I am awake in the middle of the night.  It’s pretty cool that my buds in the UK or West coast of the US are online when I am!  Please let me know how I may return your kindness.

I’ll save the best for last.  In the interim, I’ll briefly state my sorrow for those who have chosen to leave my life.  He or she will not be reading this so I won’t waste much white space gushing this or that emotion.  I am grateful that when I have endured hardship in the past, I learned the importance of letting go of the people, places, and things that leave my life at these times.  Perhaps saying goodbye makes room to welcome the blessings that are to come?  Thank you for all that you have taught me.  Godspeed, dear ones.  I’ll be here if you want to stop by for a chat or walk around the block in the future.  As for the things, well they are just things.  So long.

And now for the best:  the One who knew me and my frame before I was born, fearfully and wonderfully made by Your guiding hand.  (Psalm 139)  I love you Lord and thank you for saving me from my path of destruction as a young woman.  I praise you for crafting the incredible events of my life to bring me more blessing than I could have ever imagined in the middle of my journey on this earth.  While I do not fully understand the sorrows that have come, I am convinced that You hold my tears in your hand, counting and caring for each drop, every pain.  I have never felt alone.  Thank you Jesus for bringing me to Your throne of grace where I may dwell in Your presence now and forevermore.  Grow my trust in Your promises, Your plan for my life, Your will for me all that is around me in this world that is troublesome.  Come soon my Lord!

So for all of you and you and you and you and You who have made a difference in my life, I give thanks.   If I have screwed up somewhere, please let me know and consider forgiving me.   I want to make it right if I can.  And if any good comes from me, these blogs, or anything else, to God be the glory.  He is worthy to be praised!