Taking Turns

He needs me not but benefits just the same

And I am there to fill his tummy, help out at river races.

Then the nights return with my special kind of hell

And he brings me this or that to get the ravages of illness to stop.

Both are love in their simplest forms:

Meant to serve, to go beyond what is comfortable to desires of the heart.

Oh that my end could be gentler, the wretchedness, the pain

Making the care less traumatic between seemingly timed screams for hours on end.

But that is not our story at least for this season of life

(We define our bond in sickness and in health)

In moments at edges of the extreme . . . for over five years now.

We are weary from the journey with bodies broken with fatigue

Where only the Holy Spirit can infuse us with grace to carry us through the nights and days.

So when those pundits talk formulas of 50-50 or equations of sort

Plunge them into our caldron and see how the overflow of energies exceeds the common core.

Marriage is simply the art of taking turns without keeping score

The Heavenly Father sees the man, the woman and makes you what you are:

Instruments of His hands, ministers of His peace

Care that makes love come alive, pictures of His glory.

One day we will know why

 

 

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Steve on the right, congratulating C2 Aluminum Canoe paddlers George and Tilman during awards the Three Rivers Fest 7.15.17

this all came about

In the meantime I will take my turn when it comes

And serve my beloved for a purpose beyond . . .

JJ

Stand Up, Finish, and Win!

Recently a gal came into my life who has a major vocal talent.  I love the full alto robustness of her singing voice and the special emphasis she can put just about anywhere in a song to make a verse, an ending phrase come alive.  Very few musicians can go way beyond the sheet music and take you with them every note of the way . . . as if you are sharing in all of the emotion and beauty pouring out of the Creator’s expression manifest before you.  I love moments like this.  I love listening to her sing.  Her music gives me goose bumps now and always has done so.

I had the privilege of performing and competing in the top choir at my high school for all of my three years there.  Our teacher, Mr. Herr, was an accomplished tenor and pianist who occasionally shared his talent with us when singing the male solos; this included part of Handel’s Messiah one particular Christmas.  Before the concert he took a bus load of us teenagers to an old Catholic cathedral in downtown Detroit to sing the choral sections of the work from the balcony as the giant pipe organ accompanied us at full volume.  I will never forget that sound!  Our voices lifted high as if to touch the vaulted ceilings painted with Biblical scenes that I would not really understand for another decade.  My tender frame shook with the majesty, the magnificence of the moment when all the harmonies blended together in perfection.  The entire church swelled with the sound of music.  What a great experience to carry us through our concert at school shortly thereafter.  Well done Mr. Herr!

A fellow choir student told me early in my senior year that the only reason that I made the Chorale was my ability to sight-read written music.  The comment was a slam for sure.  So my talent wasn’t good enough but somehow my ability to read music made up the difference?  I didn’t understand but still was crushed.  Regardless, I made every early morning rehearsal, class session, and concert throughout the school year.  My mom sewed my blue maxi skirt and plaid outfit herself that all of the girls had to have made for the concerts.  And she did make it to the concerts, thankfully.  She made a point of telling me, however, that I could do better if I would just open my mouth more when I was singing.  Geez.  It’s a wonder I made it through my senior year of Chorale after all of that nonsense.

My interest in singing changed as I went off to college with my 3/4-sized classical guitar alongside me.  My experience got me two “easy  A’s” in beginner piano and guitar classes for creative arts requirements but little else.  Playing popular songs and sing-a-longs diminished from gatherings at the beach with girlfriends (who didn’t mind when the music always seemed to bring the guys around with a harmonica or their curiosity!) to sing-a-longs with groups of patients at various psychiatric hospitals in which I worked as an occupational therapist years later.  Within a decade I had practically stopped everything altogether and my skills, even my voice, eroded.  More recently the serious illness I have been battling has changed my breath volume and vocal cords such that my voice crackles when singing worship songs “in church.”  Although I will still crank the stereo and give it a go occasionally when the Barbara Streisand CD just happens to get turned up really loudly when my hubby is away!  No, no, ain’t gonna rain on my pa–rade!

So I do have a bit of an ear for quality and musicianship which brings me to the point of this discussion:  when a person DOES have a major talent I believe it is a gift from the Lord to be shared openly for His glory.  It really bugs me that my new friend has received “pukey” comments from non-talented, envious people around her.  I hope she can let them go.  We come to faith in Christ and are given spiritual gifts to be used for the Lord’s glory, often showcasing talents or even growing abilities already present in the life of the believer.  Whether we use our giftedness directly in ministry or just to inspire others as unto the Lord, I believe that we are to let that goodness shine!

Matthew 5:14-16New International Version (NIV)

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Especially today for all of us who have a creative ability that stands out from the crowd, my prayer would be that we would stand up, finish the performance out in front of the spaces we are given and win glory for the One Who has entrusted it to our care.  Delight in-and-develop our talent, have fun with it, and don’t let the pukeys, the naysayers get us down.  Going forth with boldness and confidence may just bring each of us the desires of our hearts which is a good thingy, eh?  The Lord may have placed those dreams there, waiting for us to take the next steps He will lead us to and through.  Oh how He loves us so . . . which reminds me of a song . . .

You not Me

If my eyes can gaze upon you not me

To care, to serve, to pray, to worry some

Then maybe my burdens will soften a bit

For I have fixed my angst off my tender frame.

If I can plan my day to give more away

My time, talent, and resources to you not me

For a new challenge that maybe stretches me a bit

Then we shall both emerge stronger when tomorrow comes.

For what good is a man if he gains the whole world

And weakens his soul by burying it deep in self-pity

When we can travel together for awhile

You and I, carrying your bags then you lifting mine.

Seems like a better deal dontcha think

For the moments when I do return home to rest, to reflect

Will find new meaning in what it means to live

When the Lord dwelling in my heart spills over to you.

He is the One Who makes all these things possible

These ups, these downs, these trips veering off that away

We must but trust in His gracious plan, every detail

As He is the reason for you, for me, for glory and goodness too.

Slow But Sure

What will it feel like to be almost normal again?

Will the days fill with meaning, the nights rest with pleasure?

Alas I know not what tomorrow will bring —

So it’s it will be in the smaller moments that I will define who I am, who I will be.

At least as long as it is up to me . . . and little is of course . . .

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

An important decision came to me today that surprised me.  Oh there were the impossible ones that came in the hours beforehand which could be the subject of a tragic drama-blog here (ie. how to handle the seizure attacks overnight, sleep deprivation, heavy burdens, pain) but all that changed when I was catapulted awake at 8:17 a.m.  Could I make it to that appointment after all to the eye doctor?  They didn’t really cancel my appointment from that frantic message I left at 4:57 in the morning did they?  Well I was about to find out!

I pulled on some clothes; rushed back and forth throughout our humble abode; threw together the records, food, and drink I had loosely assembled the night before; and was practically out the door before my hubby emerged from shaving in the bathroom!  I’ll call the office on the way, I thought to myself.  And lucky for me my appointment time was still open for 8:45 a.m.  Holy cow.

Lord only knows how I function on days like these.  The headache pressed sharply into my skull with the plethora of medical testing and related tasks that fill my very full (medical) “work days” lately.  (That is a story for another time!)  Diarrhea delayed the first few steps of my eye exam as the technicians escorted me to rooms with various equipment, administered those dilating drops, etc.  So now my vision had become as blurry as my mental status.  Neat huh?  Sish.  Soon it was time to make some decisions about contact lenses and the potential replacement of eyeglasses.  Three years had passed since my last exam.  Clearly vision care has not been my priority of late!

I don’t even know her name yet her face will be memorable for many weeks to come.  The Optician in the big room with all those designer frames was an older lady with exquisite taste, professional temperament, mastery of her craft.  She quickly knew that I would benefit from some coaching in my selections and did so with style and grace.  I liked her eyeglasses, Silhouettes she called them, and decided it could be a new style that would work for me.  But was I ready for it?  Suddenly I realized that I was deciding about more than a functional facial dressing . . . no, I was crafting what presentation did I really want to make with my eyes, my facial expression to the world these days?

Makeup doesn’t work for me most of the time.  I do keep my hair colored and trimmed fairly regularly, styled about half of the time.  My clothing is rather casual favoring comfort not the fashion trends of the last decade.  Rarely do I adorn jewelry even though I had my own business making and selling colorful macramé jewelry for almost 3 years. My face has aged considerably.  The summer tan has faded.  I no longer wear contact lenses which used to give others direct visual access to my eyes, my soul.  My current eyeglasses with red and black frames are my only adornment, providing a little bit of covering behind which I can hide.

Soon I excused myself to the bathroom yet another time for a little moment of reflection.  Would I choose a new style behind which to mask my true self a little longer?  Yes it really does feel like that.  Would it be frames where the focus is on the shiny rhinestones or metallic finishes instead of the tender woman peering out from behind them?  Only after a few tears later did my choice become clear.  I selected the ones like those my teacher was wearing today.  Kind of like I did with Mrs. Heitkamp back in the 5th grade.  (Oh how I loved her so!)

Far be it from me to miss a moment where I can slowly but surely find a little extra meaning in what is happening and move forward too.  I really do want to be well some day and by golly I hope that my attention to the little things will help me to get ready for that day.  It’s just a pair of eyeglasses right?  Maybe so.  Behind them this time will be a little more of me and a little less of something else blocking the view of the woman inside coming back into view.

1 Peter 3:3-4 New International Version (NIV)

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

If you are in a battle right now too, Gentle Reader, please do not lose hope.  Please don’t hide.  Our Lord Jesus Christ yearns for fellowship with each of us as He dresses the heart, infuses the spirit, loves the broken, and leads us to His throne of grace full of splendor beyond compare.  We are beautiful in His sight!  One day I pray that we will see these truths ever so clearly as the pains of this world give way to His richest glory forevermore.

And for that we are definitely going to need sunglasses, eh?  JJ

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What did you learn today?

And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.  Titus 3:14

I learned today that it pays to take good notes.  When I had to replace a healthcare supplier within a few days (or lose my mind!), I was glad to find my notes from the research that I did at the beginning of receiving home infusions 7 months ago.  Perhaps back then I should have gone with that other company instead?  Oh well.  I got to work with their Patient Care Coordinator this time and she is wonderful!

I learned this past week how being off from work and  having less income has helped me to find inexpensive continuing education credits that I never knew existed before I got sick.  Looks like NINE of the TWELVE hours required will be FREE!  Yeah God!  I will be able to keep my occupational therapy license one more year!

OT, occupational therapy, occupational therapist, work, medical leave, disability, license, licensure, renewal

I learned this past month a deeper definition of true love as demonstrated in the life of my husband, Steve.  First some background:  we had to cancel a trip to see his family this past summer when his dad was in too much back pain to travel cross-country to our rendezvous point in Branson, Missouri.  His mom was disappointed that the celebration of her 80th birthday was postponed until Thanksgiving.  Then our trip to meet up with his family in Texas in November got cancelled when I landed in the Emergency Room five days before departure with severe back pain.   I wasn’t even able to go out to dinner with Steve on Thanksgiving (which means I missed celebrating our wedding anniversary on the same day!).  As you saw from my last blog, Steve’s response was simply that we were, “saving money left and right!”  Well, yes and well, no.  His parents are aging.  Visiting them at their home in California is complicated due to my extreme sensitivities.  Perhaps Steve will be making a visit early next year and when my health is more stable.  In the meantime he just continues to be a wonderful loving husband.  I am so grateful for his love and devotion.  Often he is my “Jesus with skin on.”

I learned this past year the meaning of the phrase Carpe diem.  Each little trip, each tender moment between Steve and I, each time the garden got watered or weeds got pulled were realizations of moments when I could do a little more.  The numerous moments that were quite opposite just made “seizing the day,” more special.  We have learned to be more spontaneous to enjoy the good graces of the Lord even when they last but an hour or two.  Carpe diem baby!

I learned these past 5 years of serious illness to call upon the Lord for everything.

Proverbs 3:5-6 New International Version (NIV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Whether it’s finding the money for medical treatments or getting myself up to go to the bathroom when seizing, my Lord and Savior cares for the details of my life and gets it done.  He is there when I am awake in the middle of the night.  He provided that relic airplane for me to sit under on a sweltering summer day so my husband could fulfill a dream at Oshkosh.  My Jesus will be joining us in celebration when I become well again someday too.

And lastly, I have loved learning the value of writing Hope Beyond.  It’s not quite an online journal but a way of looking from the inside out.  I hope to point you, precious Gentle Reader, to more than the saga of my situation but to the glory that awaits both of us when we place our trust in the Lord, Jesus Christ.  As Steve and I say in our Christmas letter this year:

No matter what our perspective may be, the most important view at Christmas (or anytime) is the one that brings us closer to the person of Jesus Christ. We stand in awe of His sacrifice for us that brings unspeakable joy, knowing Him as Lord and Savior over all.  He loves His own more than words can say:  the best Christmas gift of all.

Going beyond our temporal learning to the eternal love of Christ can be our gift today, next month, next year, 5 years from now, and beyond.

Gentle Reader, what do you say that you have learned?  Please let me know, k?  JJ

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