The One Who Leads

outrigger canoe, tandem canoe, padding with your spouse, OC-2, tandem outrigger canoe, Hawaiin boat, HUKI, learning to paddle, learning to lead, learning to submit, follow the leader
Steve and Julie, the 4th of July on Blue Lake

Sometimes the person out front is the leader of the pack, charting a course for others to follow.

Other times, the one in back of you controls the rudder of your life and you have no other choice than to give into his lead.

The paddler beyond the stern of your boat may be drafting off your lead, riding your wake, resting to overtake the lead at any moment thus determining your fate.

But when matched up together in the same tandem kayak or outrigger canoe, it’s tough to see who is really steering the craft.  Is it the gal in front?  The guy in the back?  The force of the wind shifting them about?  The unseen forces of nature?

I submit to you that on the water, the average bloke cannot really tell what is going on unless you know a bit about the sport of paddling, the features of the watercraft, the paddlers therein, and the goal of the voyage.

Here we have dual controls on our tandem outrigger (OC-2), controlled by the pair of foot pedals in either the cockpit of the front or the back of the hull.  We decided a long time ago that Steve would be situated in the back of the boat and control the rudder to steer us from there.  My role would be to alert him to hidden rocks or logs and only change the arrangement in the event of an imminent crash!  Even if he took a different line down a river or around a lake than I would, it would be his responsibility to guide the boat.  And so it was for our first outing in the OC-2 since last year  . . .

Blue Lake is one of the cleaner yet smaller lakes in Northeastern Indiana:  about the same distance from our home as the 3 rivers that intersect downtown and south of us.  It’s about a mile long and a few miles to paddle around, inside the shoreline.  We decided that this would be the best place to go for a brief outing on Saturday.  The water was cool, the air was warm, and the sun was setting a fiery glow in the distance.  Fireworks spouted off all around us with smoke from these and summer cookouts that characterize the celebration of Independence Day in America.  The haze reminded us of the battles fought for the freedom of our nation in 1776!  This time the declaration on shore included everything cooked on the BBQ; the boaters under power and paddle on the water were friendly too.  Even the dad of the family that lived across the street from the boat launch who has befriended my hubby during prior outings, stopped by to say “hello.”  The best of our freedoms was all around us.  No one cared who was out front, in control, or taking charge of anything.  Everyone seemed out to have some good summer fun and that was all, including us!

I really enjoyed our 60 minutes canoeing yesterday.  Both Steve and I prayed in thanksgiving for the chance we had to be together sharing an activity that has characterized much of our marriage these past 7 1/2 years.  I joke that every summer I become a “kayaking widow” as Steve practices then races his surf ski in the northern Indiana circuit of the United States Canoe Association competitions.  But I didn’t use to be so alone.  Until the Fall of 2011, I usually went out with him in my own kayak and the Fort Wayne kayaking group on Tuesday nights.  On the weekends I loved cheering for Steve from the side of the river for as many Saturday events as I could get out myself out of bed in wee hours of the morning to attend.  He has continued to race all of our married life together, and race well.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  And yesterday we were together again; last month I got to attend one of his races.  Lord willing both will happen again next weekend at a new event-with-festival.  Lord willing indeed.

The price to pay for participating in these events is very high.  I go to them when there is a break in the convulsive episodes and usually pay my dues with bed rest and intermittent episodes the following day.  This has been my routine for over 3 years.  This past weekend was no different.  And yet we still praised the Lord.  Jesus Christ was the One who once walked on water, carried the apostles to safety in raging seas from shore to shore, preached from the beach to the multitudes, and created the beauty we all enjoy.  He also led the two of us to a wonderful moment of recreation:  just me and my beloved River Bear.  I am grateful for this gift.  Period.

I am also grateful for the man the Lord has designed in Steve.  My Stevers waited all day long until I could leave the house after 6:00 p.m. to pack up the boat on the car racks and load up all of our supplies.  He had cleaned his car for me earlier, “just in case” I would be able to make it.  He changed up his usual workout once we were on the water to make the day meaningful for both of us.  And he led us through the entire experience as if the day was just like any other:  a warm summer afternoon on the water together in July.  Oh how I love you my River Bear!  I really don’t mind letting you steer us from behind.  It really doesn’t matter who is in the lead all as long as we can be together again like this.

Place me like a seal over your heart,
    like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
    its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
    like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
    rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
    all the wealth of one’s house for love,
    it would be utterly scorned.  [Song of Songs 8:6-7]

So whether you are waiting for inspiration, the man in your life to make a decision, the Lord to whisper His voice into your darkness, or for the rushing waves of illness to calm down in your tender vessel:  take heart.  The one, the One who leads will take you through the right waters at just the right time in just the right way to get you exactly where you know you really want to be anyways.  I don’t know if there will be fireworks to celebrate that moment in time like there was for me?  I do know that there will be a celebration in heaven for the faithful who have waited upon the Lord who loves you more than you know.

And He will bring you to that special place, Gentle Reader, where the sailing will be Divine.  Just look at how cool it can be!  JJ

Oh How He loves You

Jeremiah 31.3

This truth resonates with me today.  My desire is to extend this truth to the only person still living who hurt me beyond measure.  While much healing has occurred, I recently realized that more emotional baggage needed to be discarded out of my life from this old relationship for me to fully live in today.  The process began about 2 weeks ago.

I knew that I needed to thin some files to make room for new ones in our home office.  While this may not seem like a very large task since I keep fairly up-to-date with such tasks, there was a section in a drawer that had never been touched since it was created.  Fifteen file drawers neatly organized alphabetically and the folders in the “Legal” section were bulging a bit too much.  I had been in car accidents, named in the will of a few different parties, and survived a divorce with much accompanying paperwork telling the grueling details.  The latter one was taking up too much space for my current lifestyle.

The Lord had convicted me many times in the past of discarding the “Divorce” section:  the remnants of pain from divorce.  I got rid of a few things awhile back but not enough such that I could still recount the many hurts, injustices, losses, and pain with the remaining documents.  A sick badge of honor was left intact should I ever need to tell the whole story again.  In holding onto more than the final court decision, I was burdening myself in more ways than I realized.  Conviction came again when I was pleading with the Lord to heal me of a serious illness.  At first it seemed so unrelated that I put it off once again.  Then I decided to respond differently:  with obedience.  With trust.  With faith.  With swiftness.

I felt nothing after the folders fell into the recycling bin.  Whoa.  After all, maybe some good can come from the papers chopped and shredded into something more useful, eh?  Within a day I had forgotten about all of those files and memories altogether.  It is only in the writing of this blog that they have come to mind as I attempt to illustrate the power of letting my Jesus Who loves me and knows me so well lead me into His place of righteousness.  Only He evens the score, makes things right.  Only He redeems the hurt by filling it with His love.  Only He will lead me into using the past for His glory should He choose to.  Ahhhhh.  Another measure of healing has come into my life by letting go of all of “the evidence” of sorrow.  My Jesus transforms sorrow for His good.  I am sure of this.

Now comes the next step:  finishing the task of cutting off any energy that goes to feeding the pain from this great loss in my life.  This is an ongoing practice.  My former spouse left 11 years ago!  So why did my curiosity cause me to check on his status periodically on the internet?  I could justify it a million ways and virtually all of them drained my joy in today.  So gently with the encouragement of another believer in Christ, I moved away from such nefarious activities completely.  Decreasing the frequency further was not enough.  Only by cutting them off have I found freedom!

Gratefully, all of this stuff has nothing to do with the love I receive from my intended beloved, Steve.  He is an amazing man of God, after His own heart, whether or not I choose to love him with baggage or without.  Oh yeah, I am blessed beyond measure!  The second part of the admonishment from my friend was that I needed to get rid of these behaviors to be free to fully love Steve.  My focus needed to be unhindered by pain from the past, especially that which I did not realize I was stirring up by dabbling in past hurts.  What a dumb thing to do!  My Jesus knows and holds my heart on all of these issues.  My Jesus is leading me to himself more and more to become the woman He intends for me to be each day and in doing so, moves me closer to Steve within the covenant of marriage He ordained.  Incredible.

The final step in this process (call it what you may:  healing?  letting go?  letting God?  joy?) is to lovingly dedicate Craig’s life to the One Who created Him just as he is.  Oh sure, I have prayed for Craig hundreds of times.  With a different kind of love I profess that the message of the cross is all Craig needs to come into the fullness of life.  The message of redeeming grace is all Craig needs to find the answers to questions he once asked, he challenged, he doubted with, he ran away pursuing.  The message of love, Christ’s everlasting love, will transcend everything he has ever felt in a finite earthly existence.  And the love of our Lord will be perfect.  The message of the Bible, that Craig used to profess in Sunday School classes so eloquently, is the only great read he will ever need to find joy and meaning.

And so Craig, I lay you before the Throne of Grace.  I pray that you will look up and see the eyes of heaven open up to you and bring you the true desires of your heart in a relationship with Jesus Christ.  In Him you will find nothing less than every good thing.  I do hope you will find every good thing.  I have.  It is waiting for you as well.

In the meantime, I step away from this odd chapter in my old life.  My life was restored and love beyond measure has entered into my heart.  I am grateful for so much and a lot of it is in the form of one who is tall, blue-eyed, athletic, handsome, winsome, and loved and respected by many.  Tonight I have the privilege of celebrating an accomplishment in the life of my intended beloved and I am honored to be there at his side as he accepts recognition for his achievement.  I still know the greatest achievement stands above it all:  his surrendering to the Lord, Jesus Christ brings true victory!  Now that is something worth celebrating.  JJ

 

Home of the Brave

fireworks-flag

Yesterday on the Fourth of July we celebrated the independence of America from Great Britain.  Among many patriotic sayings is a phrase from our national anthem:  Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner:

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Indeed this song that was sung while waving our American flag is still a symbol of heroism in the United States of America.  And yet I submit to you that within the hearts of the great and mighty that exude bravery are the once ordinary citizenry that the Lord rose up for great deeds.  Those neighbors, husbands and friends chose to align themselves with the God of the universe who reigns supreme and will come again for His own.  Similarly if anything I write here telling my own story reflects bravery then it is a reflection of those everyday heroes in my life that hold me up as well:  many more than I can list here.  Allow me to share with you.*

*A dear friend, Cindy, who checks in on me regularly despite her busy work schedule and home life.  From her I learned to de-mystify alternative cooking for health (a task which consumes much of my waking hours these days!).  Canned coconut cream from a downtown Asian food market is my new delicacy and gratefully it goes with everything.  She’s probably the best resource person I know for local health and food stuff, is extraordinarily encouraging, and has a heart bigger than her petite frame.  Love you girlfriend!

*Three regular readers of this blog who graciously let me know they are out there from time to time:  Jennifer, Sherry, and Amanda.  Some may say that it is not a real relationship when you meet a person online and don’t have any face time with them.  I disagree.  After all, I met my husband online via Yahoo Personals many years ago!  And we are living happily ever thank you very much after having bridged the gap from anonymity to familiarity.  Yes:  very familiar indeed!  I appreciate the prayers, sharing, overcoming spirit, and support of these three lovely ladies in their own heartfelt blogs.  Amanda generously read and reviewed my first eBook last year.  Thank you ladies!  Find them at:

My Color is Lyme

A Labor of Love

Amanda Lannon

*My brother and his fiancé, Mike and Lisa.  My brother had a severe stroke 3 months ago and was subsequently dumped in an inner city nursing home because he didn’t have insurance.  Together they are navigating the difficult processes of securing Medicaid and Veteran’s Administration benefits.  The paperwork, dead ends, delays, and frustrations are intense as time passes without comprehensive medical care or ongoing rehabilitation.  While our conversations about all of these are certainly lively, I am impressed by my brother and Lisa’s overall prevailing spirit.  Mike is looking forward to the day when he can serve others in a similar situation possibly as a dog handler in a pet therapy program.  He is delving into the Word of God often now.  Lisa is fulfilling well her new role as Guardian despite being way out of her comfort zone.  These are good things.  I’m proud of you both!

*My husband Steve.  The love in his eyes for me never changes whether he is carrying me to the bathroom (due to daily episodes of neurological collapse) or showing me how to shoot a pellet gun at an empty gallon jug of orange juice.  He may not have had enough sleep for the previous four nights in a row and yet his love never changes.  He is my Jesus with skin on and greatest hero on this earth.  I love you River Bear!

*The Lord, Jesus Christ most of all.  When I found myself single at age 45, the Lord had become my Heavenly Husband and everyday companion.  He had to become real to me to fill the painful void leftover from my estranged ex-husband.  My Jesus also showed me the once empty places in my heart designed just for Him then filled them completely.  I know that I am never alone.  Ever.  He is the great I AM, worthy of praise, and a warrior for the cares of our days.  No matter what comes in this fallen world or how wretched, He has overcome all of it.  Those of us who believe in Him through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ will be saved and spared any more suffering when He comes again for His own.  The Lord is the ultimate hero in which we can place our lives, our confidences.  Every good thing and the bravery needed to face these challenging times comes from the one true God.  In the shadow of His wings I am comforted, protected, find rest.

For the nation of Israel, into which we believers are adopted as sons and daughters of the King, we find our freedom, courage to go on, and rest in the Lord.  It is the hope of my heart that you, Gentle Reader, will find these great gifts in the person of Jesus Christ too.  In Him we have the greatest of heroes:  brave beyond compare.  Now that’s a holiday worth celebrating today and every day.  Bang bang!

***************************

Psalm 147 (NIV)

Praise the Lord.

How good it is to sing praises to our God,
    how pleasant and fitting to praise him!

The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
    he gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars
    and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
    his understanding has no limit.
The Lord sustains the humble
    but casts the wicked to the ground.

Sing to the Lord with grateful praise;
    make music to our God on the harp.

He covers the sky with clouds;
    he supplies the earth with rain
    and makes grass grow on the hills.
He provides food for the cattle
    and for the young ravens when they call.

10 His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
    nor his delight in the legs of the warrior;
11 the Lord delights in those who fear him,
    who put their hope in his unfailing love.

12 Extol the Lord, Jerusalem;
    praise your God, Zion.

13 He strengthens the bars of your gates
    and blesses your people within you.
14 He grants peace to your borders
    and satisfies you with the finest of wheat.

15 He sends his command to the earth;
    his word runs swiftly.
16 He spreads the snow like wool
    and scatters the frost like ashes.
17 He hurls down his hail like pebbles.
    Who can withstand his icy blast?
18 He sends his word and melts them;
    he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow.

19 He has revealed his word to Jacob,
    his laws and decrees to Israel.
20 He has done this for no other nation;
    they do not know his laws.

Praise the Lord.