The trials of discontent

Perhaps the greatest challenge a follower of Jesus Christ must face in his or her walk with the Lord is how to handle the evil that is in our world. When it touches our own lives in the form of discontent, when things are not as we think they should be and we are unable to accept it, then we may be tempted to break fellowship with the Lord our God. He has ordained the length of our days, the vessel in which we live, and every detail of our lives whether good or bad. Recently it occurred to me that not accepting His will for my life is a sin that keeps me from any form of peace. And now I know from wence it came.

A particularly horrific convulsive episode about a week ago left me whimpering on our bed. The searing pain in my neck and broken frame notwithstanding, I wondered for the several thousandth time, “how can I endure this level of suffering Lord?” My Jesus had shown me many incredible things through the trials of battling serious illness; my Jesus was always right there with me when I called upon His throne of grace. But like the old song goes, “Is this all there is?” Is this all there is to my life when entire beautiful days upon days are spent suffering in bed?

The truth that we see is not all that there is to know or behold in this life. Only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ do we come to understand what the fullness of life means. We will have both joy and sorrow. We confess our failings, surrender our will to the Lord, and receive the Holy Spirit, beginning our eternity right here in the midst of all the good and bad; He helps us endure all things for His glory. But I didn’t know all of this when I was 3 years old. All I knew is that a neighbor boy named Danny was babysitting us and molested me while I was taking a nap in my big girl bed. I knew where the pills were that my mother took. So at some point thereafter I crawled up onto the kitchen counter, opened the cabinet door, reached way up onto the top shelf, grabbed that bottle of pills and ate a bunch of them. The only other memory I have of the incident was feeling scared while lying on a gurney in a hospital. I must have been crying too because the images are unclear. I had to go to the bathroom. I asked if I could get up and go to the bathroom and a man said NO. I felt the warmth of the urine on my legs and underneath me as someone said something about pumping out my stomach. And then I was OUT.

In a single flash of a moment after that convulsive episode, I knew what the Lord was trying to tell me. Or at least I think I do! He was showing me that by taking those pills, even as a small child who knew she had been hurt badly by someone everyone trusted, I was trying to take away the pain and the life that God had allowed for me. My little mind could not bear what had happened to me. The reality that the ugliness of that scene was ordained by the same God who created me and crafted all of my days from beginning to this end was too much to understand. I would not have been old enough to say the words to my Mom or Dad describing what that boy had done to me nor felt safe doing so. My parents weren’t exactly touchy-feely type folks. Can a 3-year old feel shame? Dirty? Worthless? Overwhelmed? Traumatized? Terrorized? Surely! While I have known, grieved, and forgiven the players in this scene for a long time now, I didn’t know that my survival from that day forward in my own strength would be marred by discontent. Nothing in my life would be good enough, or so I thought, to make me truly happy or at peace EVER. The seeds of several of my character flaws were planted that afternoon. I know that it wasn’t my fault any of this happened. I was just a little kid. To survive abuse is actually a noble task and accomplishment. What IS my responsibility, however, is to figure out what to do with what happened to me, layer-by-layer as each level of understanding is revealed in my walk with the Lord over my lifetime. In due time we must all ask ourselves: Will I grow up damaged or will I heal and thrive? Fifty-seven years later, the wound from this particular scene finally healed completely.

I grew up in what you would call a “blue collar” family. My Grandfathers worked in their respective trades: my Dad’s father as an auto mechanic and my Mom’s father as a maintenance man/operator in the boiler room of an ice cream factory. My Dad got a job at the General Motors Tech Center as a non-degreed draftsman. Each of them were very skilled at their respective vocations. My Dad in particular, would end up redesigning slot car motors to make them among the fastest in the world and co-authored over 30 clutch-assembly patents with Borg Warner later in his life. Although each of them would earn a living wage to support his family such that their wives could stay home and raise the children, there was always an attitude that it was not enough. I have come to call this mindset a “scarcity” mentality. The adults in my family never seemed satisfied with the income or the lifestyle or the relationships to which they acquired. First it was my Mother’s Mom taking the last of her grocery money to purchase tickets in the Irish sweepstakes. If only she would win then she would be happy! I think she did win a time or two. I don’t think it ever changed much of anything though.

The harder part of this dynamic for me came from my parents, especially my Mom. “If only we could win the lottery” she would say, “then . . . .” fill in the blank with some material gain of some sort that she thought would solve our problems and bring happiness. Without realizing it, I adopted this mantra as well. It sure helped when my parents got divorced or when my Dad missed a visitation or when my Mom wouldn’t come home at night from her carousing adventures with Parents Without Partners. If we had a windfall of cash then it would solve all of our problems, right? This was back in the days before there was common knowledge that most people’s lives are not better when they win the lottery! Family relationships tank when relatives come calling for money and out-of-control personal spending often leaves the prize winner in debt not set for life! Sadly this mindset and experiences of abuse and trauma contributed to addictive behavior in my teenage and young adult years. What became my addiction of choice that I thought was my winning ticket out of my inner turmoil? Work-a-holism. I nearly drove myself into permanent injury working so hard at school, the early days of my career in healthcare, graduate school, and one relationship after another. By the grace of God, He showed me a better way when I learned about addictions when doing contract work at a large mental health hospital. My years continuing to seek answers ultimately led to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. A new level of healing and a less frenzied pace of life began in my thirties.

That wasn’t the end of my discontent, however. Somehow I still looked more outside of myself than to the Cross for meaning, healing, self-worth, hope. A handwriting analysis in my youth said I was a very determined person. Well, yes, and that was not necessarily a good thingy! I sought counseling and studied God’s Word which did help me in many good ways. Yet like breaking in a wild colt, it still took repeated heavy tragedies from 2003 to 2007 to soften me for the biggest gift and the biggest trial that were yet to come. I am meeting you here after both of them: 1) marrying my Intended Beloved Steve and 2) enduring a serious illness that brought thousands of seizures virtually every day over 9 the past years. I have been grateful for the former.

Steve is an amazing man of God who loves me dearly as I do him. The serious illness not-so-much. I had never accepted the Convulsive Disorder or Dysautonomia or Dystonia or Functional Movement Disorder or Non-epileptic seizures or whatever you want to call it. What I came to realize this past week is that not accepting this illness is not a form of defeat. Rather, it’s not accepting that this is the Lord’s will for my life for my best good. It is the journey for me that will bring Him glory. And how am I handling it? I am denying His will for my life when I reject the pain and suffering that goes with the numerous blessings. Instead, I must trust that like all of the trials that have happened in my past, this illness serves a greater purpose. I may or may not ever really know what that purpose is. The episodes and medical complications may never stop. If I am to succeed at letting go of my discontentment with a traumatic event in my life at age 3 years old, I must also let go of the other thing that I hate in my life. Believing otherwise is believing a lie: a lie from the author of human suffering, sin, and death himself, Satan. No magical thinking (like a lottery mentality) is going to cover or remedy this lie. I MUST DENOUNCE my discontent, leaving it for my Lord to redeem.

How about if I repeat that another way:

No happiness or peace will come if I hold onto discontent over the Lord’s will in my life.

I knew in an instant, why that memory of me as a toddler came to me while grieving after another seizure. Both sorrows were and are part of my Lord’s Divine plan for my life. He will redeem my suffering one day and it will end. He will make all things new and good, and right; I will be whole. In the meantime, I am a steward of the experiences, people, places, and things He ordains for my life. My responsibility is to accept them with no expectations, no exceptions, no deal-making (“if only this . . . then that”), no holding back. So that night I let both sorrows go and wept deeply for a good long while.

Sometime later I shared my inner story of this incident with my beloved Stevers. He is warm and tender at these times as if to be my Jesus with skin-on. I am so blessed to be loved by this man after God’s own heart. His response? He marveled at how long abuse can affect the life of an abused person. Years. Decades. That a person can carry hurt his or her entire life because of the evil actions of someone who hurt them when they were little. I agreed. Yet for me, the hurt is never the same each time I get to revisit it. Each time I get to grieve some more. I get to heal some more. It takes what it takes. I get to see how the Lord uses even the ugly stuff to give me tools for coping and a gift of compassion for others. If I had not developed work-a-holism and that health challenge of hypoglycemia then I would have become an alcoholic. How do I know? My siblings and Mother were alcoholics, my Dad was mentally ill. One brother who overcame alcoholism struggled to find meaningful work then tragically had a stroke and was never able to function independently again up until he died earlier this year. He suffered with unspeakable pain and spasms every waking hour of his life. He had traded his bottles for cigarettes. What I am trying to say is that each of us had horrific wounds to overcome. Today I am the only one still here of my immediate family to write the stories. Oh Lord, may these words yield some goodness beyond the tales of sorrow for the goodness that is there too.

Because there is much redeeming value in our stories beyond the sorrows. Nothing is wasted Gentle Reader, in God’s economy of time and space. Letting go of the sin of discontent, perhaps after grieving its root-cause, is a work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He will bring you to it and see you through it. Healing is complicated and can take a very long time to process. Be encouraged. I tell you as in the song of Peggy Lee, the BAD is not all there is to a fire or the circus of the circumstances in our lives or a long lost love! There’s even more to life than the happiness of a fleeting moment such as in a windfall or slow dance with your beloved. Just go to the Cross. There you will find a peace that transcends all understanding. The best gift of all is waiting there for you this day, this night. He promises. On this we can rely.

Will you? JJ

Just turn a corner already with Anti-Crud Bombs!

Just when you thought the world couldn’t get more crazy, dark, complicated, enter the COVID19 mayhem! We are taking notice at our house and putting some basic emergency-preparedness strategies in place and increasing our consumption of foods-and-supplements shown to have anti-viral properties. Tis always a good idea and wise steward of resources, including information, to take care of your self and loved ones if you can.

In the midst of all of this, I decided to create a healthy snack food for me and my beloved. We are taking anti-virals already but how about improving our fight-stance using up some of those weird powders and potions I have collected from our local health food stores? No prob. And just like that, JJW’s Anti-Crud Bombs were born!

Just Julie Write’s Anti-Crud Bombs*

BASE

2 T Organic elderberry syrup

2 T Upgraded nano zinc liquid or similar

1 t Bee pollen granules or powder

1 T Grass-fed, organic collagen

¼ t Celtic/Himalayan sea salt

1/8 C Organic coconut oil, solid, at room temperature

1/8 C Gaia Immunity Shine or similar powdered product

1/8 C Baobab, pomegranate, or other plain, low-sugar/super ox powder

¼ C Finely shredded, unsweetened organic coconut

2 T Liposomal vitamin C liquid or powder

¼ C (Lactose-free?) grass-fed, organic whey powder

Substitute ingredients as needed.  Mix first 5 ingredients (or ones of smaller quantity) first.  Use a pastry blender or 2 knife-and-fork to cut-n-combine with remaining  ingredients until crumbly like pastry batter.  A normal person will want his or her BOMBS to taste at least somewhat good so add familiar flavors.  A health nut like me with lots of dietary restrictions will want to limit sugars, even add bitters to reduce glycemic impact.  There is evidence that sugar or anything sweet-tasting can deplete immunity and/or mess with blood sugar levels so only use as much as you need.  NO SWEETENERS of any kind!  This is a “health food” not a snack or candy.  Divide mixture in half if making 2 versions below; you have 3 options from here:  1) Add Sweetened Version ingredients to half of the Base, 2) Add Low Sugar Version ingredients to the other half of the Base, or 3) Add entire Base to the version you choose.  Adjust ingredients so the mixture remains somewhat crumbly but sticks together when you pinch it.

Sweetened Version                                   Health Nut Version

½ C Organic peanut or almond butter                               ½ C Organic almond or

2T Chopped organic cranberries                                                  mixed Seed Butter

1/8 C Organic coconut sugar                                             2 T Chopped organic black currants

                                                                                                1 t Finely ground, roasted dandelion root powder

(maya nut, etc.)

Set aside:  Organic cocoa powder                                    Ground flax seeds, etc.

Form mixture into a large ball.  Place on sheet of waxed paper, pinch and roll into

A short log about 1 ½ inches in diameter.  Wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate 2

hours.  Slice firm batter into about 1-inch pieces, roll into a ball in the warmth of

your hands and roll in desired powder.  Store in airtight container, placing waxed

paper between layers of bombs.  These should keep about a week in the

refrigerator and freeze well too.

GOALS FOR THIS RECIPE:

  • As low-sugar as possible but reasonably tasty, earthy?
  • Include protein and fat to balance simple carbs somewhat.
  • Add bitter flavors to potentially reduce blood sugar impact, promote bile flow.
  • Use as many anti-microbial-like herbs, supps, and foods as possible.
  • Sufficient fat to create refrigerated dough, make bombs satisfying.
  • Be able to freeze them.
  • Avoid heat so as not to degrade or change ingredients in any way.
  • Encourage one’s spouse/loved one to add potent, anti-crud supplements to his/her otherwise “normal” diet without tasting too weird.
  • Avoid impacting metabolism or interfering with sleep as much as possible.
  • Add fiber, healthy fats, omega 3s, minerals.
  • Put all the crazy powders and ingredients I have collected to good use.
  • Convenience.  We have one in the morning and one at night.

*Julie makes no claims about the benefits or drawbacks of these ingredients or bombs! Please do your own research and substitute your favorite wellness items as desired. Enjoy!

An Involuntary Adventure into a Type of Retirement

Cara Brown, BMR (OT), MSc* recently studied the role of occupational therapy practitioners in enhancing the quality of life for people in work-cessation transitions.  She was particularly interested in folks like me who made this transition when not of traditional retirement age.  Although I am still not convinced that my working days are over, I felt compelled to introduce my own involuntary adventure into a “type” of retirement.  My letter follows:

Thank you for your recent article in AJOT on Expanding the Occupational Therapy Role to Support Transitions from Work to Retirement for People with Progressive Health Conditions.**  I found it useful and respectful of persons facing both situations in life.  There may be another category to consider:  those with sudden loss of work roles who enter into “retirement.”

I am an Occupational Therapist who worked over 30 years before entering into this latter category within one night:  October 11, 2011!  I continued to work part time for a short time then decreased my hours to a few home health visits per week.  When it became clear that the onset of a serious illness made it a struggle to focus on the needs of my patients and direct the care of our Occupational Therapy Assistants, I had to stop working altogether.  My last day of paid employment was February 2, 2012.  I spent the next 2 years being my own OT by researching my condition and seeking various medical and alternative health interventions.  Energy conservation and work simplification were my way of life.  Returning to work was always my intention.

It is now 7 years since the onset of a biotoxin illness and numerous other medical conditions that continue to restrict my ability to function.  It took me those first 2 years to realize that the daily convulsive episodes and other illness factors were not going away any time soon; just the orthopedic injuries and deconditioning made it difficult to care for my activities of daily living.  Several times per week I needed to be carried to the bathroom, assisted with bathing after the worst of those episodes.  I developed, by the grace of God, dozens of new coping strategies (e.g. making my breakfast the night before and putting it bedside in a lunch bag in case I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning).  Still, I missed working.  I started making jewelry in the middle of the night and selling them online to keep my brain stimulated and some adaptive role involvement going since I was up all night long anyways.  It was the only way to avoid more seizure attacks.  My life was upside down in many ways for sure.

It took me weeks not days to eventually sell my jewelry business and start to develop a professional website akin to my occupational therapy practice in home health.  I designed a bathroom safety product and began to develop the concept while networking within every aspect of this new venture hoping it would be a transitional activity  back into practice.  In doing so, I could monitor my activity level, continue to challenge my brain, learn new computer and marketing skills, and get excited that what I had learned when off of work was not “wasted.”  After about a year in this new direction, I had to stop.  Things got even worse before they got better.  The convulsive episodes progressed, aggressive treatment took its toll, and just caring for my basic needs was all I could do.  My spirit was crushed.  That was 2016.  By the end of the year I was hospitalized with shingles.  The stress was unbelievable and my body was breaking down further.  I changed the focus of Two Step Solutions several times; my personal blog (www.justjuliewrites.com) tells the medical and emotional story.  Gee, I did learn how to blog and design simple websites (and helped 2 others with theirs)!

But my personal financial resources in addition to my physical and emotional resources (of which you mention in your article) were gone.  The isolation was staggering even with a plethora of online support groups and a Prayer Group I started with two other largely home-bound gals.  Eventually some specialized care funded, in part by a Go Fund Me campaign and an unexpected tax refund, improved my condition enough to start some volunteer work this past year.  I hoped that the volunteer work could progress to part time employment whether within or outside the field of occupational therapy but later in the Fall my health started to slide again and new medical conditions emerged that required my energies, my attention such as it remained!  I needed to keep things low key despite any “goals” I continued to set every morning, 7 years later.

The underlying message to sharing my story with you is to express the extreme difficulty I had as an Occupational Therapist to go through all of this who not only loved her profession but loved OCCUPATION.  Every day when I got out of bed since college, I set goals.  This continued through my time of disability.  The items on the list got fewer as time went on and the complications, unpredictability of complex illness continued.  I never stopped trying to find solutions for either the medical conditions or functional limitations posed by them.  If I needed to wear a charcoal mask in public to be able to shop at the grocery store then so be it.  If I needed to sit in my vehicle to rest or in the cafe of a store pretending everything was o.k., I did so.  I never felt ashamed to be online instead of in-person meeting people; genuine friendships came from meeting fellow bloggers with whom I have now met or “Skyped.”  

Dear Cara, I hope that you will keep seeking to understand the role of occupation in the lives of person with not only progressive but sudden, serious medical conditions or traumatic accidents.  Perhaps the cancer literature has studies to further your investigation as many cancer survivors do return to productive lives.  And note as you go along that there are tens of thousands of folks like me out there just hoping for the opportunity to do the same; we just don’t know if that will be our outcome . . . yet!  In the meantime, I am not giving up.  If I did not have my faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, I would have done so by now.  Not even my drive for meaningful occupation can come close to keeping me going as knowing my future is secure in eternity because of my faith (regardless of the simplicity, setbacks, and sometimes messiness of my daily life). I submit to you that those facing progressive and sudden loss of primary occupations will require assurance from the Creator God to ultimately succeed in this involuntary type of retirement. 

Godspeed lady in life and in your work,

Julie (MS, OTR/L)

Advanced Master Gardener

Editor and Asst Editor of 2 Publications

*Instructor and PhD Candidate, Department of Occupational Therapy, College of Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

**American Journal of Occupational Therapy, November/December 2018, Vol 72/No 6, p 347010

Stuck in the middle with you

My beloved is most gracious, loving, and kind to me

For these I am grateful.

My ventures out into community work were wrought with struggle then success

For some good results I am humbled.

My convulsive episodes have lessened then spiked on occasion, giving more clues than questions of late

For this I am, alas, perplexed.

My  labs raise questions about new things that need attention more than providing answers about a cause, per se, oh my

For the discouragement I will turn a cheek and trust my Lord, the Yahweh.

My distant family faces tragedy so we love on those who have come nearer for a time

For them we will simply give our love, again and again.

My life sprints and spurts in a race against time, energy, resources, wisdom, and fatigue

For the long naps this past week I shall be grateful.

My most prized moments are those stuck in the middle of all with you my dearest love

For your tender arms bring Jesus with skin on:  tis a really good thing, being here with you, even now.

My life would matter less if not witnessed, not shared by one who cares for me so and me for him

For such a time as this, you are the most incredible gift.  I love you Steve.  Thank you.

JJ

 

No Place to Go

Steve pic of A Lori stuff 7.27.18

This morning as I watched my gracious husband take pictures of the items a family member had claimed were stolen, I realized I had no other place to go.

Who would understand the betrayal after having suffered a severe health setback trying to care?

Who would understand that every level of commitment virtually every day this entire year would end with them throwing my heart against a brick wall?

Who would know the many levels of loss that continue as I seek treatment to get my body back to baseline again?

Who would understand that grieving this failure, this dead end would rekindle the sorrow from heartaches in the not-so-distant past as well?

How does that come to any kind of closure when your heart is crying, your thoughts are heavy, your body is aching, your world is smaller, and there are piles of things to do around you?

There is only one place to go:  to the One Who grieves for my pain, Who grieved tears of living blood for the sorrows of us all:  more than I will ever know.

My Savior, Jesus Christ, faced ridicule, betrayal, torture, and unjust punishment that cost Him His life so that I may be free one day of lesser losses that come with this life.

Just gotta lie at the foot of His cross for as long as it takes until the burdens are lighter, so that I may go on even better somehow.

My joy is tiny today.  My Jesus is bigger than life itself.

Jesus, take the wheel.

JJ