This but that, but this!

The plan began with a desire to see my husband’s family for an upcoming holiday.  But gathering in Texas would require 2 very long days of driving for us, pulling a travel trailer.  One family member suggested we meet in Arkansas instead which would be closer to the university where a younger family member is studying.  Cut off one full day of driving for us?  Yes, let’s go to Hot Springs, Arkansas instead.

This plan continued with the hope that we could camp at the RV Park inside Hot Springs Village.  My Mother-in-Law has a house in the Village and we would be closer together.  But the campground will be under construction for the months of November and December to have sewer hook-up lines installed.  It’s going to be closed!  Yes, let’s go to an RV Park about 30 minutes away on top of a picturesque mountain top instead.

The plan originally included having Steve’s daughter travel with us then the idea popped up to have both of Steve’s daughters stay with us in our travel trailer.  Oh what a blast that would be!  We now have the room to accommodate them but I simply cannot do so at this time.  I was devastatingly sick for 4 days this past week when some new fragrances triggered my worst symptoms of Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome.  Geez, we don’t even know how we will have family over during the Christmas holiday let alone have them visit overnight when both are back in town.  (Our attempt in September failed.)  But to stay in closer quarters of a travel trailer while away from home in a less-controlled environment?  Yes, we want to be together but no, let’s at least travel and stay separately this time.  Again really.

This plan got even more complicated when planning our trip scheduled for departure not long after that horrific flare up last week.  I saw my newer Functional Medicine Doctor who spoke frankly and clearly:  I don’t think you should travel now.  What?  She said it would set me back even further, even if she could find a replacement for a treatment that contributed to the flare-up last week.  So her recommendation posed a dilemma for my saint of a husband who wants to see his elderly parents-n-family AND be with me.  Did I mention that our wedding anniversary is coming up?  But I really don’t want to be alone on a holiday much less our anniversary!  Yes, we want it all and may need to split up the holiday into a shorter trip, a shorter anniversary celebration.  We are used to compromises.

The planning behind the scenes for this month involved a recall notice for our new-to-us travel trailer.  We bought it after the original owner had it for about 3 months so we never got the national recall notice; it was for a safety feature that could pose a grave threat if not corrected.  We found out about the recall in a Facebook group!  Nineteen phone calls over the past 15 days resulted in a plan to have the recall work done at a local RV repair shop.  But it got too close to our potential departure date to get the trailer to the shop-and-back:  2 trips of 3-hours of travel each time.  Yes, we are no longer travelling with the travel trailer so we have more time now to get it fixed!

This trip required me to get the oil change and tire rotation for my truck that was coming due.  We just figured out that we were not travelling cross-country but I decided to get the maintenance done anyways.  On the way to dropping off my truck at the shop last night I HIT A DEER!  The impact trashed the right-front quarter panel and headlamp of my Nissan Frontier.  The turn signal stopped functioning correctly.  There is no way we could travel cross-country (which always includes nighttime travel for us) with a damaged headlamp.  Yes, you can see now that the door to travelling this holiday is now fully closed.

Nissan Frontier, deer, impact, hit, accident, crossed the road, Coldwater Rd., Fort Wayne, Indiana, white, truck

The plan may change to include my hubby travelling alone for a shorter time while I rest up; we are holding our breath for now.  But what if it snows?  He needs new tires on his car before the next time it snows, according to the professionals.  Yes, we will find $800 for tires if we need to . . . That’s about how much a longer trip would have cost anyways, if we helped with housing for Steve’s daughters.  Which we would offer, of course.

This but that, but this!  Such is life in this fallen world in which we find ourselves.  Many times I have said that when the trials have come, seemingly often of late, that I am holding out for the hope of heaven.  Heaven indeed.  The late Pastor Billy Graham wrote:

Paul wrote, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (1 Corinthians 15:19). But our hope isn’t only for this life! In the midst of life’s storms, our hope in God’s promise of heaven is “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).

He said that if we are ever going to live for Christ, then do it now.  I was reflecting on these themes when I was emptying the trash the other day.  I hit my head leaning over to remove the top of the can as the can was positioned between the toilet and the bathroom sink cabinet.  The top slid back behind the toilet, my head brushed against the toilet paper dispenser, and something fell back there too.  I wondered if in heaven things like emptying the trash would always go smoothly?  Then I realized that there is no trash in heaven!  We know this from Revelation 21:4 that tells us:

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

I imagine that there will be no long days of driving with cracked headlamps, recall notices, endless phone calls to make things right, separation from loved ones, suffering, cramped bathrooms or travel trailers, worn tires from roads traveled, nor heartache in the dwelling place of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  This is a plan upon which we can depend for those of us who believe.  Now that’s a trip I’m already on.  How about you Gentle Reader?  JJ

In the thick of things

Just before the dawn breaks open the darkness

The night seems the blackest, the air the coolest.

But really what difference did it make to the day?

It was already breaking forth before anyone could see it.

Stumbling over rocks and brush and twisted debris

I would not think there was a way out of those woods . . .

Only the squirrels knew where the last canopy reached:

It was already marking the clearing before I could see it.

The shiny reflection on the pavement up ahead

When travelling along the road at high speeds

Suggests water on the horizon but alas, it is not to be

It was already stretching out forming a new illusion to see.

Things just aren’t what they seem along the darkest trails of our lives

Yet we pretend we know what is to come from the markings underfoot

Better to trust in the love of the One who sets us free to explore these

He is already there with adventures in-hand if we but open our hearts, widen our gaze, and keep walking ever nearer to Thee.

For He will never leave us, forsake us, forget us, deny us you see

Jesus loves us, precious in His sight and placed perfectly in the Father’s timely gifts

And the places He wants us to go will yield more good than that we ever could foresee

Oh how it will simply make more sense in the clearing someday under the sunshine beyond . . .

For now I am just going to keep walking.  Gentle Reader:  care to join me?  JJ

fall-colors-from-fb

A missed opportunity to minister

James 1:2-8 (NIV)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

Perhaps it is a weakness in my character that requires refinement?  To witness the love of Christ to others in our times of trial serves as both a powerful witness for Christ and perfector of our own faith.  Heck, with the amount of suffering I have endured, I don’t want any of it to be wasted.  Or repeated!  So today I wonder if it is possible that I have missed one particular situation of opportunity:  the Emergency Room.  Finally my broken heart has calmed down enough to consider the possibility . . .

Ten times I have landed in the ER in the past 4 1/2 years.  The first time was at the beginning of this illness with the viral hepatitis that started it all.  The next nine trips were all for wretched, continual seizure attacks that would not stop.  Most times the ER Docs could get them and the pain that accompanied them to stop with a combination of fluids and some kind of medication.  Often the medication made me worse.  Usually I would walk out of there about 5 hours later as a beaten puppy with an exhausted husband faithfully at my side.  And sometimes I even got a break in the convulsive episodes for some of the subsequent 24 hours.  This became less true with each subsequent visit.

Twice during my severe distress, barely able to punch out a few words when having difficulty breathing and my “brain on fire,” I have sworn at the person who I thought was not helping me.  Not cool.  Even a person with Tourette’s Syndrome or senile dementia has some responsibility to try to find reasonable means to communicate his or her needs.  My frustration got the best of me and I forgot who I belong to in Christ.  I forgot Who was in charge those nights in the ER.  I forgot who allowed these refining fires into my life for my highest good.  I lost the image He gave me of His tears as He hung from the cross for me.  I ceased to remember the gifts, the crown of glory that awaits those who are in Christ Jesus.  I certainly did not remember that even these ugly things were working together for my good (Romans 8:28) even when amongst the staff at the hospital.  And my witness for the One Who saved me was tarnished for sure.  In my own strength, I failed to get my needs met and failed to minister.  We left this past Friday night with me weeping, still seizing, and unable to walk . . .

Sure, I am human:  weak, limited in strength and in power.  I pray and my husband prays continuously for all aspects of this illness.  I submit to the will of Christ.  I could also describe for you the victories, the growth, the good things that have happened amidst the traumatic.  For example, Friday night after an IV treatment for chronic Lyme disease was supposed to be for salvaging what remained of my birthday.  That did not happen when I spent the evening in the emergency room.  I was sick all day on Saturday and Sunday.  Even so there were sweet gifts at dusk on each of those days and in the morning on Monday when I got to work in my garden again; for that I am grateful.  My spirit soars out there dontcha know . . .

Here is the scripture that is convicting me on a Tuesday.  See if you can follow where my heart, where my spirit has led me:

2 Corinthians 6:4-10 (NIV)

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

Such is the opportunity for ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for those who suffer.  It’s not all about us.  My Lord, help me in your grace to use the witness of Your own life and the apostle Paul who wrote these words to strengthen my own ministry in times of need for your glory.  I have failed and want to do as You would have me do no matter what happens to me.  Please strengthen my beloved Steve as well.  Thank you for his care, love, and companionship in the best of times, the worst of times.  Bless him oh please.  He has been so good to me.

1 Peter 5:4, crown, glory, submit, His will, crown of glory, thy will be done, purpose, suffering, hope, Jesus Christ, reward, heaven

 

 

Into the wintry night a knock cometh at the door

The gals knocked on our front door unexpectedly tonight from the cold of night.  Do you know where the Murphys live, they asked?  We did not but sure noticed the cheerful nature of these young ladies.  Could they share a special Valentine’s Day message with us just the same?  Of course, answered my husband.  What followed was a friendly banter of the differences between the Mormon faith and a Biblical belief in Jesus Christ alone as Lord and Savior of the world.  It was too cold for the chat to go on long and our home is a safe zone for fragrances-n-chemicals so we could not invite them inside.  They understood.  Gratefully, I was able to locate our neighbor’s correct address before they parted which they accepted after my hubby engaged them in a sweet chat of everyone’s hometown.

Later Steve and I prayed for these two.  Certainly their friendliness and encouraging messages were a breath of fresh air on a chilly wintry night in the Midwest.  They were far from home on their 18-month mission trip rite of passage, so to speak, of their Mormon culture.  We hope that they will look beyond their culture and traditions, however, to a saving faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ who brings eternal redemption and joy through the foundational truth found in the Bible.  We find evidence of our faith in verses such as:

Romans 3:23New King James Version (NKJV)

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

1 Timothy 1:15New King James Version (NKJV)

15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,

Romans 5:8New King James Version (NKJV)

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 6:23New King James Version (NKJV)

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

John 3:16New King James Version (NKJV)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

In these truths we believe in Him alone as the perfector of our faith, His work on the Cross, and then build the foundation of our faith.  I am proud of Steve for engaging these gals with his personable style and sharing of some key points that we hope they will reflect upon further.  We hope they will find hope in Jesus Christ and not their religion.  In sharing with them, Steve moved beyond standing in frigid temperatures in an open doorway and got into the most serious of conversations with two total strangers rather quickly.  What topic could be more important for a Sunday night chat?

On this Valentine’s Day, I submit to you that the greatest love offering of all was given by our Lord, Jesus Christ when he demonstrated that love through His death and resurrection on the cross at Calvary.  Salvation and eternal life come through Him alone.  May He be glorified for the good that may come for being willing to stand and speak when a knock at the door cometh . . .

Gentle Reader, if you are wondering who God is and how to have a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ alone, please write to me here or comment at the Hope Beyond page on Facebook.  Or just pray this simple prayer and let me know if you do, k?  With love, :JJ

Heavenly Father, I know that I am a sinner and have fallen short in my life.  I am sorry.  I recognize that you are God and came to earth to save me from the ultimate consequences of my sin through Your death and resurrection.  Please forgive me.  Be my Lord and Savior this moment for always.  In Jesus Christ, amen.

cross of jesus

Let the numbers tell this story

While the numbers in my college statistics courses were fascinating and I applied them well in my Master’s thesis, I must admit that math was never really my forte.  I’ll blame it on Mr. Courtright!  Our Algebra II/Trigonometry course in high school was a constant source of frustration!  John and a couple of the other male students would pour over the text book with him at the front of the room trying to understand the lessons he was supposed to be teaching that day.  Yeah, you got that right:  high school seniors trying to figure out advanced mathematics on the fly!  I am so very glad that I never again had to sit through a traditional math class after that one!

Statistics are a different genre though.  Statistics often tell a story that we can use to make sense out of the stuff of life.  For example, landing one standard deviation from the mean (the average) in a bell-shaped curve can help us feel like things are going to be o.k. most of the time, in the right scenario of course!  Enter here special numerals applied to my recent trip with Steve to Georgia and South Carolina that will tell this story better than I can even without a calculator!  Oh how I wish some of these were more comforting than the majority of them though . . .

Over 7 days of camping in 2 locations, I was unable to leave the travel trailer 3 of the days due to illness.

My beloved Steve attended 2 of the 3 family wedding-related activities in Georgia and I attended zero.

We travelled over 2,000 miles in my truck with our 67-pound German shepherd, Elle, settled sweetly behind the jump seat of the King Cab.  Such a great traveler she has become!

I prepared about 96% of all of my own meals making this trip more of a “business as usual” affair than vacation in the realm of food.

One hour of the five that I spent in our friends’ home on Monday was spent in continuous convulsive episodes on their couch.  Thankfully the two young children had already gone off to bed when I crashed; graciously the three adults prayed over me for the Lord’s tender care as we all go forward from the significant stressors in our lives.

The kids and I planted 32 daffodil bulbs the morning we left South Carolina, overplanted with dozens of anise hyssop seeds.  Hooray!  By Springtime the view from the kitchen window of their log cabin will be alive with flowers interspersed amongst the numerous towering pines.

daffodils, mini daffodils, buttercup flowers, Spring flowers

A threatening wind storm with gusts up to 40 MPH forced us to leave a day early for safety towing our Camplite on the highways to get back home.  Just a few minutes after we arrived home at 4:00 a.m., the winds increased again closer to the estimate of 50 MPH by morning.  We had blown in just in time, praise the Lord!

Nearly 4 days have passed since we got home and I have yet to clear out, clean out the rest of the trailer as needed after a week of travel.  Steve completed the first 5 loads of laundry and about 3 more are left to go.  I have been sick in bed for most of the past 3 days, sleeping in late to recover from the nasties which characterize this wretched illness.

Over a dozen doses of a new anti-microbial treatment (Biocidin LSF) have brought both relief and a flare up of symptoms at times:  begun when travelling and continued back home when seeking a new direction, new relief, new hope for a future without illness.  Two violent convulsive episodes followed on Friday after an appointment with a new specialist and a new lab test, respectively.  Many more filled the 2 days that followed.  Perhaps this week (and 2 weeks shy of the 4-year anniversary of the first waking seizure attack) there will be an answer to end this suffering?  The odds are wearing thin lately for sure.

Yet through it all, I am reminded of the 3 days that my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ died and paid the price for all the negative numbers, the heartaches from what is not right in our world.  He knows the mathematics of it all greater than I can ever imagine and holds it all tenderly in the palms of His hands, ready to redeem it for good when He comes again in glory.  I choose to believe the promise that His precious thoughts towards me and you too, Gentle Reader, outnumber the grains of sand on the earth (Psalm139), giving us hope for a better tomorrow.  For as He thinks fondly of the ones He loves, He also promises to wipe away our every tear someday (Rev 21:4) when the time is right:  when time is no longer numbered in eternity with our Heavenly Father, God.

And that my friend is a story worth writing about.  A world without limits.  A love beyond measure.  I just hope that when all is said and done, when it is time for rejoicing in the heavenly realms, that you will be there with me there too?  Let not these numbers be wasted!  Won’t you accept the love of Christ into your heart this day, this night too?  Oh how I hope so dear one.

With love, JJ