Perhaps it is more of a blessing than anything else that I have more time for reflection these days. After the double-loads of laundry, medical management, treatment-and-recovery, self care, and various household duties are completed, there are generally more hours than in my past to think about the stuff of life. On Father’s Day yesterday, I started to notice some new parallels between my past and present. It went something like this.
I was posting a picture of my Dad and me on Facebook when I realized how his generosity when he stepped back into my life has become an important part of my current recovery from serious illness. His gift about 6 years ago allowed me to create a garden oasis in our backyard. Here are two of my favorite areas:
And the landscaping is all grown up now creating a lovely oasis. So grateful!
Creating the flagstone patio area required graph paper, a ruler, tape measure, and endless gazing from all angles to make the kidney-bean shaped layout meet the vision the Lord had given me. In the next 2 years the process continued with a pair of 8-foot custom steel trellises then a “secret garden” area (basically a re-purposed dog pen!). The planting beds came later as I decided that we needed more privacy from our neighbors behind us and that I wanted to have a garden-view beyond each room of the house. The bed on the right in the 2nd picture is largely of native plants and a key component in earning a Sustainable Garden designation from our local cooperative extension office. The aqua custom shade sail was an incredible find from the “sale” page of a company by the same name. Now that the design is complete the plants have matured and my heart is home.
Dontcha know that my mom was a gardener? She would hunt down the groundskeeper at the local zoo if needed to obtain a plant start of a specimen she just needed to have in her yard. Composting, vegetables, a mounded hill, hanging baskets around the hot tub spa . . . she had all the elements that made her heart happy out there in her suburban back
yard. Her creation came together because of the generosity of her parents too. Some may call it an inheritance. I call it the chance to create something beautiful from the sorrow of a lost family member. And I think it’s o.k. to spend some of it to make the process of going on without him or her a little nicer. Do something that makes your heart happy!
Flash forward 4 years from when the “bones” of our own garden were installed and I am exceedingly grateful for what the Lord has allowed me to design, to create. Lying sickly on that chaise lounge last summer when it looked like there would be little hope for recovery, brought solace of sorts. Lying sickly on that same chair this summer after taking treatments that are slowly giving me my life back is bringing hope and the flow of some new creative juices. My husband, Steve, just smiles a bit when I talk like this. He knows that could mean a little more trimming around a new garden bed or hauling of something heavy to make it happen. Oh how he loves me so! Well I’ll let ya all know how it turns out for sure!
Steve brought me to see this home on our fourth date. He wanted to know, “if things worked out between us could you see yourself living here?” Talk about pressure! I was visiting him in Indiana for the first time from the Chicago suburbs and certainly was not about to make a decision on the spot. At least out loud, that is! But I knew that the bush in the front-and-center of the bay window was a Miss Kim Lilac and just like the one I had lost with the townhome when my former spouse left me. I also knew that the bush next to it was a burning bush that gets a magnificent, fiery shade of red in the Fall and just like the one I . . . well you can see where this is going. It’s like when I viewed Steve’s profile on Yahoo Personals and saw a picture of him with a radio-controlled airplane that reminded me of the flying competitions in which my dad and brothers flew line-control planes when we were kids. Of course I knew that the house was a great idea; I just wasn’t going to tell Steve anything just yet. The home he purchased before we were married became a blank slate for me in remaking so many years that the locusts had eaten . . . . (Joel 2:25)
So I hope you can see how a simple thingy like some flower and vegetable gardens can be so meaningful to someone like me. The draftsman in my Dad has become the designer in me. His surprise generosity allowed me to create a living oasis that was an interest I shared with my mom when I became an adult. Finding a loving place to realize these gifts would come in a way like never before when I found my intended beloved in the arms of my Stevers. Solace, restoration, and hope were all set in motion regardless of my life’s circumstances according the plans of my Heavenly Dad, my Heavenly Husband; He knew all along the seeds He had planted in my heart long before I could ever dig in the dirt of life myself. And just as life on this green earth began in the Garden of Eden, so do our own lives thrive in the planted spaces in which we are tilled and turned, watered, pruned, and nurtured until beauty bursts forth in scented color, in hope beyond that which we can see.
How can I be sad about the losses in my life when my Heavenly Dad has always been there with me? From my garden bench I bid you a “Happy Father’s Day,” Gentle Reader. I pray that you, too, will live in the fullness of life that grows more grand with each passing day: a garden oasis in your soul where the One Who knows us so well can make everything meaningful, anything beautiful in the noon day sun or under the shade tree too. JJ
4 While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable:5 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up.
6 Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.
8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”
When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant.10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.
11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.
13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.
15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
P.S. I’m thinking of putting together a group Skype devotional and prayer time once per week with others who are largely isolated for whatever reason. The focus would be open and based upon belief in God through the person of Jesus Christ of the Bible. Please leave me a comment below if you might be interested. I’ll do a separate blog on this soon! Take care, JJ
5 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property.2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”
“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
Now that’s a serious consequence for lying! A death sentence! In the early Christian church, believers were giving freely of their wares and wealth for the cause of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I love our pastor’s commentary on this story (Paul Mowery). He explains that the point of the story is not that everyone had to sell everything they had to live as followers of Jesus Christ. The point is that Ananias and Sapphira were hypocritical in their outward gesture of donating the money from the sale of their land then holding back a portion for themselves. They were “lying by omission,” or making an appearance of generosity that was not completely true. They paid for their masquerade with their lives as the Lord was purging sin from the early church. To have a pure message of honesty and transparency was critical in the beginning of a movement that would change the world forever.
To die for one’s actions or beliefs is the highest exchange rate for one’s actions that can possibly be paid. What could be greater in this life? That is why the Lord gave His own life at the cross in exchange and atonement for our sins. He gave the greatest gift He could possibly sacrifice so that we may be forgiven of our transgressions and live in fellowship with Him forever in heaven. Gratefully we often get a second chance to make things right, seek forgiveness, and so on when we fail in our Christian walk. We don’t usually die for our sins, per se. Should I face death for my actions someday I do hope that it will be for my faith in Jesus Christ and not as a consequence of my mistakes. Or as a hypocrite. Gentle Reader: have you thought about such things?
Hmmmm. The ultimate exchange rate is death. Today I can relate to a lesser one too. Let me explain.
Yesterday I was given an opportunity to participate in an outdoor show of Master Gardener artisans and their handiwork. Gratefully I was among five vendors on display in the Woodland Garden of the Allen County Extension Office (Indiana) as part of our annual Garden Walk. I enjoyed putting together a new display of the best creations from Trinity Jewelry by Design, visiting with my fellow Master Gardeners, and meeting many avid gardeners/shoppers who came by. A few went home with some of my jewelry to the delight of my heart! The weather was mild and the cost was only a small donation and a few bug bites! The morning was lovely indeed.
However I knew I was over my activity limit as we were cleaning up afterwards: I could hardly hold my face together to smile. By the time I got into my truck to drive home I wasn’t sure just how I would make it home. If I relaxed even a tiny bit it felt like my body would erupt into seizure attacks. If I rallied enough energy to drive home with the utmost intensity of focus I would probably make it the 25 minutes o.k. but face more intense seizure attacks later on. I opted for plan B.
The next 21 hours after I got home were hell on earth. Sure I was unable to unpack my truck and take care of the dog before crashing onto our bed. Then I came unglued with a long episode of seizure attacks yet gratefully not the worst of late. The exhaustion from 3 hours of sleep the night before somehow reduced their intensity. Well, o.k. Thank you Jesus for the 4 more hours of uninterrupted sleep that followed! Unfortunately, things did not go so well as I was waking up. When a feeling of “tazoring” greets the disorientation of a deep sleep, all is not well with the world. I lain in bed with tic attacks on and off until midnight. When I got up to finish a light meal thereafter I’d wished I was back in bed! Convulsions are dangerous sitting at the kitchen table and it certainly worried the pup quite a bit too. Oh yeah, Steve was standing by as my daily night in shining armor, just in case he needed to carry me back to bed. Nope. Made it on my own this time.
The middle of the evening was quite interesting as well. Steve and I now agree that his paddling on the murky waters of the St. Mary River in Fort Wayne this morning provided an insidious, noxious exposure for me. He had taken numerous precautions after returning home from his victorious kayak race. As it turns out, one shower and change of clothing was not enough. This dear man took a second shower with a second clean towel and change of clothing for me despite exhaustion from racing and mowing the lawn while I was sleeping! Yes, Steve is a saint! Figuring all of this out was very intense for us with both a heated exchange of words and extremely violent convulsions. The three episodes of the latter included screaming in torment at the top of my lungs! I could not help it. My brain was on fire and the vocalizations just came out. Those of you who do not believe that hell is a real place have never experienced a glimpse of it here on earth. The Bible talks about weeping, gnashing of teeth, eternal fire, and eternal torment. I say get right with Jesus NOW! You don’t want this forever if you don’t!
I woke up about 6 times with the tazoring thing. The last episode was shortly after I awakened Sunday morning around 11:00 a.m. Steve had already gone off to church so I lain there alone. Sometimes I just can’t sort out what is more terrifying: the symptoms themselves or experiencing them when home alone? Both are wretched. By the grace of God I managed not to panic as I have been through this torture hundreds of times before. Yes, that’s hundreds with thousands of individual incidences! The number is just enough to know that based upon my experiences, they will not kill me and at some point I will be able to function at some level. That level came shortly thereafter as I made my way to the bathroom then finally to the kitchen to satisfy my ravenous appetite. At least these episodes burn a few calories! Sish. Very weakly , today began.
So four hours of near normalcy (just one tic attack during the Garden Walk) was an exchange for 21 hours of hell plus some sleep. Not a very good trade-off I’m sure we would agree! And this is simply how life goes for me. I set in motion a will to participate in the event on Saturday knowing that for it to be possible would be a miracle. For at least 5 days prior to yesterday’s event, I had 1-2 hour seizure/tazor episodes from 8-10 in the morning in addition to nightly episodes. Falling asleep Friday night was typical: exceedingly awful as usual. Most every day this past week, morning activities had to be cancelled in response to either the episodes or the recovery time needed thereafter. Today I am exceedingly grateful for having the opportunity to participate in two activities that I love (i.e. gardening and jewelry-making) with sadness about missing Steve’s kayaking race.
Ah yes, the canoe and kayak race hosted by my husband. This is the last of the races to be held in our town for the United States Canoe Association Indiana points races and I had already missed the other one by a couple of hours. The reality is that I simply could not risk standing by the side of the murky St. Mary River with a biotoxin illness near other racers accessing the river. The noxious aerosols and risk of exposure were too great. I do try to avoid seizure attacks in public you know! I had checked out the riverbank earlier in the week on Tuesday before discussing it with Steve and making a final decision. Given my response to Steve after he came home, I knew that I had made the right, albeit difficult choice. Life is like that sometimes.
Further, while my own experiences often shared on this blog are particularly wretched, they are NOTHING in comparison to the sacrifices denoted above or in the Biblical record. I have not lost my life in my own rites, my own rates of exchange of one activity for another. I chose to participate in the Garden Walk out of an attempt to cope with illness, not to separate my self from the fellowship of the Holy God. My actions resulted in consequences. The result of my actions were not based upon sin but upon living in a fallen world because of mankind’s sin. Disease and strife exist because of the sin of two people in the Garden of Eden at the beginning of time. They were redeemed by God as we are redeemed by believing in God through His son, Jesus Christ. He makes all things new, bringing ourselves in eternal fellowship with Him when we humble ourselves and confess our transgressions, believing in what He did for us at His throne of grace. We also know that when He comes again in glory for His own that He will wipe out disease and strife forever. Knowing all of this gives me confidence that in the things that matter the most and that I have made the best decisions for my circumstances, for my life. Most importantly I have chosen to follow Jesus, Lord and Savior of my life. Someday I will be free from all of this suffering and there no longer will be an “exchange rate” of sorts. All there will be is JOY. Yes, joy!
You know, Gentle Reader, I’m hoping that these things that I write about are somehow of benefit to you. Please don’t spend more than a moment empathizing about me when you can spend the rest of your days experiencing joy with me for all of eternity. Look beyond this blog to the One who introduced me to you. I am so grateful that we have come together this day. May the Lord bless you! As He does I hope that you will choose to come closer to the One who paid it all for both of us. I want to meet you someday and in the family of Christ it will happen no matter how far apart we are in this moment. Then we shall walk together in fellowship with our King in the most exquisite of gardens for a millennia of days . . .
And that my friend is my “Hope Beyond” for this blog. Love to you, Just Julie