One more time

A new specialist, a new gathering of papers

This is getting old already . . . not to mention the seizure attacks around 11:00 pm last night. Or is it still tonight? I digress.

A different role, a place all too familiar

As the rest of our lives carry on with big news: hubby passed his FAA oral and flight exams! Just like that I am the wife of a pilot, again!

Alas the doldrums of daily routines still carry on

Finally getting to work in my own garden late tonight after devoting much of this past season to a community park and much of this weekend recovering from another setback, ugh. The blackberries are no more. Elderberries are up next!

It was 8 years ago that I got sick just 5 days after buying my first truck

Now it’s a few weeks after an upgrade in same . . . does this mean that I will get well and drive off with my beloved into the sunset? Oh how I can dream, right? That we did the right thing too.

One more time things come around again but really are not the same

For we can never go back only forward as each breath moves us on. I guess we want to be who we are now with the romanticized memories of what we once knew: the fullness of our present with the innocence and perhaps mistakes erased from our past? Yeah, just let it go.

Look to our Lord and His return to make things alright my Gentle Friend

He will return in glory, in judgement, in power, and the makings of everything better forever good. The best part: TIME will no longer be our measure but only to dwell . . . lain in the rapture of ultimate love for always.

Sounds wonderful to me. Do you know Him too? Oh I pray that you do and you will be there with me when the stuff of life moves on for good. May this music minister to your soul as we wander towards our heavenly home. JJ

Slow but sure

Whenever my Dad’s mom was facing a setback in her health she had one phrase regarding her progress, “I am getting there, slow but sure.”  She might be in the hospital with an exceedingly painful case of shingles but her response was just the same.  Surely this attitude endeared many of the medical staff to care for her just a little more.  I sure appreciated her more when she reassured me with these words over the phone 300 miles away.

slow but sure, slowly but surely, senior crossing, traffic sign, grandma, grandmother, sign

I have decided to borrow this attitude for myself.  Perhaps it will help with another temporary setback as I recover from a recent biopsy of my thyroid.  My neck hurts!  The procedures and resulting discomfort have triggered more noxious symptoms including those related to hormone fluctuations:  temperature dysregulation, blood sugar swings, occasional tearfulness, etc.  But it had to be done:  my third round of biopsies over the years at least this time was performed under conscious sedation.  Gratefully I did not have to be awake when they pushed that very long needle into my neck.  Eeeeek!

My recovery is coming along, slow but sure.  Today I was able to be upright more hours than yesterday and hopefully I will be able to leave the house tomorrow for an appointment before my infusion of antibiotics in the afternoon.  The latter continue 3x per week as they will very likely for the total of a year of IV ceftriaxone.  We are trusting the Lord to provide for all of this; we have had to pay thousands per month ourselves for most of this year.  With treatment by a naturopath and genetic coach, compounded medications and supplements, and every kind of co-pay there is, we should qualify for a medical tax deduction for the year without any problem!

At least now I am not failing unto death any more.  What good would I be to anyone to allow my health to decline without a fight?  I believe the Lord gave me a brain, five years, and an unusual provision of resources to get this job done so getter done I shall with my beloved Stevers leading the way.  Slowly but surely this train will reach the proverbial “Station*” just in time someday with a little less baggage for having fought the good fight.  And it looks like things may be looking up soon (provided the biopsy results indicate that the thyroid nodules are benign!).  Regardless:  God is good.  All the time.  God is good.

I hope that you know that to be true too, Gentle Reader.  Feel free to tell me about it below . . .

*https://justjuliewrites.com/2013/03/24/the-station-by-robert-j-hastings/

No Day But Today

A long time ago I made a decision to use the word “love” a little more freely.  That decision came with another which was to not let concerns of what others would think of that get in the way of expressing that love.  For example, if it was a female friend then she would get that the “love” was within the context of loving a fellow believer in Jesus Christ, love like a sister that I never had, and possibly a bond that simply comes with walking through many years of life’s ups and downs together.  The transition would be instant, from “Take Care” at the end of an email to “Love, Julie” if we had just endured a crisis together.  When one heart is hurting, there is no other word that will suffice.  Love covers things well.

Born again believers know the author of love as God himself.  The scriptures instruct us that:

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.  1 John 4

The Lord is the perfect reflection and expression of what love looks like.  I do believe that those who are not in Christ have a sense of what love is like too.  That is why I feel comfortable including a video in which 1) two women are kissing and 2) there is a man dressed as a woman embracing another man.  If the relationships were real, they must have a sense of connectedness to express their love outwardly.  I am not condoning homosexuality.  I just might understand it a little more since my late Uncle Fred lived and died within the context of “the gay lifestyle.”  I still loved him despite this decision.  Oh how I wish he and others knew the deeper spiritual connectedness that comes in a God-fearing and God-honoring relationship!  The Lord blesses those Who love him first!  (Hebrews 11:5-7)  But that is not my focus here today.

My focus is the importance of expressing love everyday to those you care about.  It’s not weird!  I am reminded of this today in the middle of 8 days in which my husband and I will attend two funerals.  I had only met his Uncle Don one time and was more “acquainted” with Dave than knowing he and his wife Jane more “personally.”  It didn’t and does not matter.  As fellow believers in Christ, their character and lives had impacted my life with that level of connection.  Uncle Don warmly accepted my marriage to Steve that had come at a time when most of Steve’s children still could not.  Since I knew without a doubt that the Lord was blessing our marriage, it was refreshing to feel loved by his family.  I thank the Lord for this.

Also when Steve and I married and started to attend his church home, he pointed out couples with strong marriages that he wanted to model our relationship after.  Dave and Jane was one of them.  They had been married for decades by then yet still had a sense of fun, a spark, and a deep love for one another that was palpable.  They worked separate jobs outside of their home yet were usually together at church and other important events.  Dave served the body of believers, his community, his employer, and his family with equal enthusiasm.  Thank you for pointing out this great example of a Godly man, Steve.  And yes, you are much like him for sure!

Today I am unable to attend Dave’s funeral service due to complications of a serious, ongoing illness.  Last night was particularly wretched.  I had a sense that it would be risky to go to the funeral home and be around so many people and potential exposures that trigger convulsive episodes.  I went anyways. I am also in the middle of re-shuffling my treatment plan and have no idea what made things so much worse.  The only good part about that hellish 2 hours was the toning of my abdominal muscles from flexion posturing, writhing, seizing, moaning, and more.  Oy vey.  In the middle of it I asked for the Lord to remove this hell.  I begged for His mercy.  It must have come since at some point I passed out and woke up about 7 hours later . . .

Today I am beat up from all that has transpired in the past day.  Somehow I am still alive!  Though my heart is heavy with grief on many fronts, I do not regret pouring out the strength that I had to be with friends in their time of need.  I got to be out with my beloved husband and do one of the important things of this life.  Going to the wake reminded me of the truth told a gazillion times before:  there is no day like today.  There is nothing like love between two people, magnified and blessed when they are one in Christ.  And lest it be forgotten or unknown, it is important to express that love out loud and often.  For me this includes the love of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  For just as it says in the song,

I die without You!

Talk about perfect love! Oh Gentle Reader, won’t you join me in sharing a little love today? 

With love, JJ

What Dairy Farmers and Angels have in Common

outrigger canoe, OC-1, canoe racing, racing, USCA, USCA Nationals, Warren PA, 2015 Nationals, wife of a racer, wife of an athlete, alone on the weekends, downside of illness, missing life, river rat, Allegheny River

Usually I refer to myself as a “kayaking widow,” as soon as the weather warms up in the great State of Indiana.  My beloved Steve races kayaks and now an outrigger canoe (OC-1) on the United States Canoe Association circuit.  This requires practice and travel to river or lake events at least twice per week during the warmer months, in addition to work and church commitments.  Since I am largely homebound I send him happily on his merry way . . . with snacks and a kiss, of course!

But it wasn’t always this way.  Just 3 years ago I joined him on Tuesday nights for the paddles of our local kayaking group.  (See the About Julie blog for details on the day that I got pulled from the water!)  If the races were local I would join him on Saturday mornings to cheer him on from the start and possibly the railing of a bridge along the course.  “Goooooooo Steeeeeeve” was my mantra and I loved it.  I am so proud of Steve, having watched him progress over these past 7 years of our marriage from a recreational paddler to a National competitor in surf ski racing.  And this year he added the OC-1.  Oh yeah!

For the first time in THREE YEARS, I would be joining Steve at the USCA Nationals scheduled this year in Warren, Pennsylvania.  The last time I was in PA was when I had purchased my first sea kayak (Think Fit) as I was progressing from a tandem, pedal-driven, plastic Hobie Oasis to a real fiberglass boat suitable for racing.  I had a near-drowning experience as I was testing out that boat which only served to reinforce that I had what it took to face the worst of perils when paddling in open water.  Dozens of paddling experiences followed over the next few years including upgrading to an introductory surf ski myself:  the Stellar SR.  That is the kayak in the photo of the article referenced above.

Flash forward FOUR YEARS and we now are grateful to have a travel trailer aka as a “mold avoidance clean room” that affords me the opportunity to travel with Steve and stay overnight.  The plan for this trip was to stay at a local KOA Kampground while shuttling to and from the stages of the two racing events in which Steve was registered to compete.  Miraculously and despite convulsive episodes each day and night, I was able to join him at the side of the Allegheny River on Friday for a full day of events.  We were bushed by nightfall:  Steve having paddled 15+ miles at breakneck speed and me having participated in over 12 hours of outdoor activities for the first time in a very long time.  It was a win-win for both of us!

Then came Saturday morning.  The night was a rough one for me but not as bad as they could be for sure.  Steve overslept 45 minutes and scurried about to get himself, his special nourishments, breakfast, and doggie duties covered before leaving for a second day of racing.  Adrenaline was pushing him beyond the fatigue he too was battling.  As for me, the morning seizure attacks died down as I pulled myself out of bed just as he was leaving!  It was clear that I was NOT going anywhere and would be a kayaking widow in the woods of the campground that day.  Swell.  Sadly I heard my truck pull away along the dirt road with my beloved therein, headed past the Kinzua Dam and beyond to the water’s edge without me.  To see my River Bear in action WAS WHY I CAME!  I was crushed.

And then my brain cleared.  A few crumbs of achiness remained yet I was upright and thinking straight.  “I should stay home and rest,”  I reasoned, “maybe take the dog for a walk later and be, well bored out of my mind for the rest of the day thereafter for sure!  Who wants to read Suzanne Summer’s book, Tox-Sick, when there’s an exciting USCA race going on out there?!  Not me.  I AM GOING TO THE RACES!!!”

There was one BIG problem with this:  how the heck would I get there?  I had no vehicle and the race start was a 17-minute ride away by car.  I had no car.  I had no truck.  I had a dog and that was it!  Looking back I believe it was the Lord nudging me on to keep getting ready.

“Pack up your stuff, grab some food and get out to the office.  See when it opens and maybe someone will be going into town this morning and can drop you off.”

Alright.  “Shouldn’t I eat some breakfast?  I mean, I get sick sometimes when I don’t eat breakfast?”  And so I bemoaned some more as I continued in motion, getting dressed and figuring I would have to leave the pup behind in the locked travel trailer with the air conditioner running all day.  “Keep moving,” was the leading of my heart.  “You might have to leave on a moment’s notice if this works out so you need to be ready!”  Out the door I scurried, hoping that most of me was covered with clothing and foot-coverings suitable for a campground!

The office didn’t open until 9:00 a.m.  It was around 8:15 a.m.  I had seen what I deduced was the owners shaking out their rugs out the front door of the adjacent mobile home so I could maybe knock on their door . . . No that would not be nice.  But look!  There’s the car leaving their campsite that left yesterday morning around this time.  Maybe they are long-termers who are leaving for work or something and can take me?  So I stood near the middle of the dirt road in between the office and campsite Number 2, waiting for the car to drive by.  Surely the driver would see me and stop?  Nope.  She never even looked up from her steering wheel as she drove straight by me.  Sish!  Surely I could not have looked that threatening, no?

What to do now?  “Stay put,” was the leading in my heart.  Maybe I could go back to our CampLite and wait for the office to open?  Someone would drive me to the Visitor Center and I would get our truck and just catch up with Steve somewhere along the race course.  He would be shocked to hear, “Goooooo Steeeeeve” from the side of the river like the day before.  Our reunion at the finish line would be sweet.  Well, no.  Then I saw around the corner of the dirt road in front of some other campsites a car with its lights on!  In front of it was a large motor home that I soon discovered was travelling with the small SUV behind it that had its lights on.  They were leaving too!

The driver of the motorhome stopped when I motioned from practically the middle of the dirt road as he approached.  My heart was beating fast and my voice trembled as I poured out a quick version of my dilemma then waited for his response.  The man got out and talked with his wife who was driving the vehicle behind him as I stood shaking like a schoolgirl waiting for permission to go to the bathroom from the headmaster who had seen enough already.  The man got back into the motorhome.

“I’ll take you,” was all he said through the window he opened.  Oh wow!  He said yes!  She said yes!  I REALLY AM GOING TO THE RACES!!!  So I quickly gathered my things; said goodbye to the big brown puppy-dog eyes that were ready for another day of fabulous sniffs, hugs from cute little girls, and wide open spaces; locked the door and did not look back.  I hopped into the passenger side of a stranger’s large motor home and hitched a ride to my second day at the 2015 USCA Nationals.  I was going to be with my River Bear!

The gentleman was in town with his wife to visit their daughter at a local Mennonite college.  They owned a large dairy farm in southeastern Pennsylvania and had just opened a restaurant with a storefront too:  September Farm.  They were headed to Bradford for the day which is over 12 miles in the other direction from where I was headed.  His low-fuel light had just turned on and he did not know where to find a local gas station.  Later I realized that it is possible that he might not have made it all the way to Bradford if he had not backtracked to Warren (5 minutes of travel beyond where he had dropped me off) without running out of gas.  Dave talked about him and his wife, Roberta, meeting a sweet couple through Farm and Ranch magazine that were like angels to them.  I said to Dave that he was my angel that day.  Yes, I do believe in angels!

Steve was shocked to say the least, when I came up behind him with a gentle, “Goooooo Steeeeeve!” to let him know that I had made it and in time for the starting gun.  He was still getting ready after the 8:30 a.m. race meeting, leaning over his Stellar SEL when I kinda snuck up behind him.  I had made it in time to see him launch in what would become a great day of racing.  We embraced with tears.  Steve said he felt a magnificent boost carry him down the river, through the Plume Rapids, and passing paddlers with greater ease than he had ever noticed before.

USCA Nationals, 2015 Nationals, K-1 Unlimited, kayak racing, surf ski racing, senior kayak, 50+ kayak, racing, paddling, USCA, awards ceremony, male paddler
Steve takes 1st place in The Senior Class, K-1 Unlimited at the 2015 USCA Nationals

Later Steve was awarded a first-place medal in K-1 Unlimited for his age group and finished in the first group of a large field of athletes.  We laughed the rest of the weekend about me hitchhiking just to see him.  Steve said he had never felt so loved!  I laughed then shuddered to think of the dangers that I had not experienced in the fearlessness I experienced when following the leading of the Holy Spirit in my heart that day.

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I am grateful for so much these days!

I made it to the races despite the odds against me and learned some new things on Saturday:  Dairy farmers can be angels.  Love transcends the greatest of heartaches then brings us back to what or who matters most.  Follow the leading of the Holy Spirit!  And life is a daring adventure or nothing at all.

In the end I got a taste of what it means to live again.  And that is a good thing my Gentle Reader!  JJ

It was the Lord’s decision

O.k. let’s loosen up a bit first for a funny story that my beloved told me today:

Steve was having his hair cut by an older stylist who shared with him a little something about back hair.  Yes, Steve already “knows” about back hair and somehow his stylist found out about it too.  I’ll call her Mabel to increase my comfort level with another woman musing about my husband’s body hair.  (My apologies to anyone named Mabel out there!)

Mabel said she had a client one time that wanted her to trim his back hair.  You see, the furrier gentlemen types can have hair that sticks out of their shirt collar horrifying the fair skinned, younger female crowd for sure.  (I’m thinking of Steve’s daughter here who usually helps Steve out with this kind of thing when she is in town.  It’s some kind of daddy-daughter thang.  Yeah, no problemmo.  Keeps me from having to do it!)  So Mabel did her duty and trimmed up the guy only to have him ask her to do a little more please.  Then he must have asked for the shave to go further down his shirt because the story goes that she had to profess, “If I go any lower sir, you are going to have to tell me your middle name and buy me a drink!”  Tee hee.

Steve and I cracked up for a long time after he told me this little ditty!  Then my intended beloved confessed that his chest hair was getting a little long.  I reminded him that his daughter would be visiting in a couple of days.  Nuff said.  Besides, I already know his middle name!  Lol.

There’s no clear segway from here to the topic on my heart tonight.  Today was Mother’s Day and technically I am not a mother of anyone.  Steve has four adult children whom I all met when they were becoming independent adults so the step——- term never seemed appropriate.  I was left in an awkward ambiguous role of “my dad’s wife” as if I was an expendable associate to whom they would have to be polite until one of us went away again.  They are all well-trained young adults in politeness, avoiding difficult topics, and loving their dad just the same even after their parent’s divorce.  The silence was still deafening, the emotional distance between us palpable.  In time I would discover that the fact that I never had children would be one of the reasons their respect for me would remain superficial for a long time.

Only the Lord knows why I did not become pregnant when every indication at one particular moment in time suggested that a child would be in my future.  Conception never happened.  Four months later I discovered that my husband at the time was having an affair.  The affair had lasted almost a year before I found out about it!  If we had conceived a child at that time, the precious new life would have been dragged through a painful divorce process and horrific life challenges that I ended up enduring in addition to the divorce.  In my humble opinion, both that little life that was never born and I were spared a multitude of heartaches.  Surely if I had gotten pregnant the Lord would have provided and guided our lives, taking care of important details like finances, medical care, and a place to stay.  The stress would have been unbearable for me, however.  At times I did not function very well at all for a couple of years just taking care of me.  My spirit was so broken . . .

The Lord knew what He was doing when He placed me in another “broken” family with a Godly father with four children four years later.

A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows,
Is God in His holy habitation.
God sets the solitary in families;
He brings out those who are bound into prosperity;  Psalm 68:6-7a

Over and over again I have witnessed the special role that the Lord intended by my presence in Steve’s family, my family.  Those musings may rarely if ever be spoken to the children.  I will not say more about that here lest they read this one day.  I am honored and blessed to be here in this family.  And when the grandchildren started coming, I was delighted to be welcomed as “Grandma!”  So sweet.  So worth navigating the older kid’s awkwardness that came in gatherings during of our first seven years of marriage.  Grandkids are fun!

Tonight I decided to post a message on my Facebook a message that speaks to my heart this Mother’s Day.  Many of us come from broken homes, broken marriages, childlessness, or the loss of children in our lives for some reason.  Love is like that sometimes.  Things don’t go right and it hurts terribly yet I hope we still choose to love again anyways.  I can tell you this night that I am glad that I did not give up too soon.  I hope that you do not give up too soon either Gentle Reader.

The Lord never blessed me with my own children then he blessed in other ways instead. I count it all joy to be related to Christina, Patrick and Kate (Jackson and Warren), Rebekah and Daniel, and Daniel and Elizabeth. Know that I pray for you often, whether it’s in the shadow of your amazing dad or trying to find my way when I do get to see you. I think I now understand a mother’s heart. She just loves. Me too. Hope your day was meaningful . . . :J

dad, father, father of four children, divorced dad, adult childen, Christian father, Christian family