He said I was tough

Lying in the dusk immobile on the asphalt was not the place I had intended to be on Sunday night.  It was only the second time I had attempted to ride my bike this year and it ended in a bit of a disaster when my toe clip malfunctioned . . .

20150824_143000Lying on my chase lounge icing my sore, bruised, scraped elbow the next day came with a pretty view of our garden.  Both the clematis and the wisteria had started climbing the 8-foot trellises that flanked the flagstone patio.  From every angle but this one, their foliage plus the hydrangea, Japanese maple, dwarf mugo pine, and two goldenthread cypress blocked the view of the neighbors.  Perhaps in another year the landscaping plan will have achieved its goal of complete privacy!

Lying on the grass after dizziness set in post-crash last night, all I could see above me was a few buzzing mosquitos against the early night sky.  I had no idea the extent of my injuries.  How would I make it home?  We were two blocks from our house and I had not yet moved my left arm in searingly sharp pain.  Steve hovered nearby, having dismounted his road bike, waiting for a word from me.

Lying in bed this morning, the wretched convulsive episodes were particularly long.  They jarred my tender left arm and beaten-up spirit.  The tears flowed easily:  the big crocodile type ones that come from deep within.  “How much more trauma could my broken frame handle?”  I wondered.  Probably “all of it” would be the Biblical answer but definitely not in my own strength!  The Lord breathed life into me once again and helped me get up out of bed when my world stopped shaking.  It was afternoon:  time to get breakfast I guess.

Lying on the treatment bed in physical therapy today, I was glad that my PT was a competitive cyclist.  Like my husband, he had crashed his bike a couple of times as a consequence of the toe clips of his cycling shoes not disengaging from the pedals.  Jason made it sound like a normal occurrence.  When you must stop suddenly and the quick turn of your ankle fails to disconnect the cleat that attaches your foot to the pedal, you can do nothing to brace yourself from falling.  You simply fall straight down sideways to the hard asphalt or concrete below you.  Your elbow usually ends up taking the brunt of the impact.  Yup.  For me this was followed by my knee, hip, shoulder and head.  Thank the Lord for my helmet!

Sitting after dinner talking with my beloved Steve this evening, we reviewed the accident.  There were misunderstandings between us that needed to be clarified and a plan put in place should an acute situation like this come our way again.  This incident was unlike the medical episodes I encounter every night that often require his physical assistance or supervision.  Yet it was very difficult to separate the two types of stressors.  We agreed:  all we really wanted was a nice activity that we could share together.  Instead something went terribly wrong . . . again!  So sad.

Reliving the whole ordeal yielded two truths that made this experience significant for our future times together.  First, when I was crying in pain I was also scared not knowing if I had any serious injuries (as I still couldn’t move my left arm), struggling to get myself up off the ground the second time, and unsure how to position myself to walk home with my bike.  Steve had offered to go get my truck to bring me home.  Some other ideas he had ended up stirring some resolve within me to force myself to do as much as I could on my own.  Even in this time of mini-crisis, I would not fall victim to another major setback in my health.  I cried and groaned in agony for two blocks, stopping periodically as needed.  I was going to make it home under my own power no matter what!  This attitude carried me though the pain of later dressing and icing my wounds.  (Gratefully nothing would be broken or even sprained!)

The next morning was difficult as already mentioned.  The second truth was realized as I later was able drag my way through my daily routines.  For many of us those routines might mean interacting with real people.  For a largely homebound person that means checking social media!  And what I found under my brief post on Facebook about the accident and my gratitude for no serious injury . . . was as humbling as it was empowering.  My beloved made a comment in which he called me a “tough one.”  Really?  Yes really!  And yes, I guess I am!  He added a thought this evening that not everyone can keep on going with all of these struggles going on at once.  His words meant the world to me.  The person closest to me in this time of unbelievable struggle believes in me.  He said I was tough!

Now you and I both know, Gentle Reader, the source of the strength that lies within me.  It is not my own, it comes from the Lord.  I embody His strength when I have none of my own.  When my resolve can bring me no further, my Jesus’ hand covers mine over the handlebars and together we roll that crazy thing home.  And when I had to wash open wounds it was the Lord showing me what to do, giving me the courage to do it too.  My beloved helped me apply the compression bandages to keep down the swelling and pain.  It was my Heavenly Husband who gave me the idea to use this kind of dressing of which I had never used before and was incredibly effective.  Wow.

Lying in bed later on tonight I will have much praise for my Lord and for my beloved husband.  My arm is working fairly well a day later and I will recover fully.  I have learned a little more about the physical toughness that goes with the mental toughness of recovery from serious illness or accidents.  Both will happen in this life to all of us.  It is my prayer, Gentle Reader that no matter what situation you may find yourself in someday that you too will find the Giver of strength available to each us that knows no boundaries.  I’d love to hear about your travels with Him too.  Kind of like a bicycle built for two, eh?  JJ

woman on a bike, woman riding a bike, bicycling, biking, recreational riding, cycling, winter cycling, winter biking
First ride this year: that’s me taking a quick ride around the campground, January 2015

The Real Tree of Life

Monet Japanese bridge at giverny

 

In the 1980’s I visited the Monet exhibit when it was at the Chicago Art Museum.  My husband at the time humored me with tickets and appeared to be as delighted as I was with the works of this famous impressionist.  Sometimes you just have to see things in person to understand their brilliance; this was true for both of us after we toured the travelling exhibit.  We brought home a print of the Japanese Bridge at Giverny to frame and proudly display in our home as a remembrance.  I still have that picture lying in wait for the perfect place to showcase it in the more contemporary-styled home of Steve and me.  Perhaps we will find that spot in another few decades or maybe our next home, whichever comes first!

Another piece of art takes my breath away every time I see it.  If I can ever find another print of it I suspect that I will always have it on display somewhere no matter our décor.  I was in the gift shop of the Chicago Art Museum with a boyfriend at the time, years before finding the Monet print, when I found a poster of Henri Matisse’s “The Tree of Life.”  It’s a photograph of a stained glass window from the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence, Italy.  Something about it captured my heart.  The colors and themes are simple, completed in a form of collage for which Mr. Matisse remains famous.  I’m not particularly fond of most of the rest of his work however, that tends to be more abstract or includes distorted images of people, places, and things in bright colors.  Many of those people are partially naked:  tis not my cup of tea to have an image of a naked stranger on display in my living room!

We carried the poster home on the commuter train back home to the suburbs like a prized possession.  This trip occurred before I had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the true giver of life.  Oh I knew the story of Adam and Eve from Genesis and the two trees in the Garden of Eden:  the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Tree of Life.  Perhaps it was the simple themes, Biblical title, and reverence for our Creator that struck a cord in me when I saw this image.  Sadly over the years of living in various apartments then storing the print in a storage locker, the framed poster was damaged by a basement flood beyond repair.  Or perhaps it was the distraction of graduate school that cost me my better judgment in keeping this little memento safe.  Oh well.  It’s not that important right?

Years later I came upon the Tree of Life image online.  I searched and searched through scores of poster websites trying to find another copy.  On two occasions I even called the gift shop at the Art Museum trying to locate a source for securing another copy.  The image was printed for that temporary exhibit only and the staff said I would have to contact the Vatican in Italy for another one!   Yes, I looked for contact information for the Vatican gift shop and eventually ran into a dead end once again.  Still another lead led me to an oil painter who could make copies of it but the online service appeared somewhat nefarious for the cost.  I’m not sure it would be worth a few hundred dollars to have a beastly oil painting when a nicely matted and framed print will do just fine.

tree-of-life-stained-glass-behind-the-altar-in-the-chapel-of-the-rosary-at-vence-1951 

So the search will go on for perhaps another few decades.  That’s fine too.  These days the “stuff of life” (as in art prints) is less important to me.  An older mentor once taught me at a critical time in my life to hold things of value lightly before the throne of God’s grace.  It’s like placing a pencil in the palm of an outstretched hand.  He may grant you good things or non-material blessings depending upon each season of life in which we find ourselves.  Sometimes we hold onto the pencil for a purpose as it lies on our hand and other times the pencil falls away.  To discern whether to hold on to it or let go out of our hands is wisdom indeed and worth holding onto the most.  Let’s reflect on this further:

She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
    those who hold her fast will be blessed.  Proverbs 3:18

Ah yes, there it is.  Looks like in the Bible the Tree of Life was first noted in the Garden of Eden and later referred to wisdom.  What else we can find?

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.  Proverbs 11:30

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.  Proverbs 13:12

The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.  Proverbs 15:4

On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  Revelation 22:2

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.  Revelation 22:4

And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.  Revelation 22:19  (Our just reward if we do not heed His invitation.)

 

Knowing that I have access to the tree of life through my relationship with Jesus Christ has made a tremendous difference in my life.  These past 2 1/2 years have been wretched with painful, noxious symptoms and waking seizures every day, multiple times per day, and often for hours.  Other symptoms come and go every day.  Knowing the hope that lies within our Lord’s living water manifest within the image of a life-giving tree resonates with me.  I love gardening and increasingly appreciate being outside more than indoors:  two ingredients drawing me towards His majestic creation in the natural world.

As He gives life to nature so does He breathe life into you and me.  The past 1 1/2 months since my brother’s devastating stroke pains me as I realize his suffering too.  My love for Mike draws me to pray for him in hopes that he rededicates his life to the Lord who loves him despite this situation.  As we both dwell in the presence of the Lord there will be a purpose for our lives, a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).  We must draw upon the living water extended to us through Jesus’ death and resurrection to realize these promises, until we are called home to dwell in His presence forever.  His indwelling Spirit will sustain us, and strengthen us like that tree of life growing strong and tall against the storms that may come.  It is the harsh winds and rainstorms that help the sapling to develop strong roots, sturdy branches, and rings in the trunk that tell the stories of His amazing grace through it all.

The real tree of life is not a poster or a pendant found on the internet:  that is for certain!  The real tree of life is the Lord Jesus Christ as the rock of my salvation, His firm foundation under my feet, nourished from the Word of God, yielding the fruit of Holy Spirit for His glory alone.  We will grow in love and admonition of the Lord:  a wonderful place to be.  I am so grateful to have found the true Giver of life.  Gentle Reader:  have you found Him too?  :J