Winning through losing

Winning through losing is the title of an article by Pastor Sandy Adams in the Summer 2017 issue of Calvary Chapel Magazine that touched my heart and lightened my burden this day.  Pastor Adams told the story of the Apostle Paul of the Bible who, after coming to faith in Christ, never had a “thorn in his flesh” removed despite praying three times.  He describes it as follows with a passage from 2nd Corinthians, Chapter 12:

Paul learned to view his thorn as God’s gift.  He rejoiced in the weakness it caused; for it became God’s opportunity to demonstrate His supernatural strength.  Paul rejoices in verse 10, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake.  for when I am weak, then I am strong.”  He took pleasure in circumstances where he was no longer in control.  A weak Paul empowered by God’s grace was more effective than a strong Paul at peak performance.  Paul was confident that God’s grace was sufficient. (p. 52)

Pastor Adams goes on to encourage us that the Lord’s greatest work is in our times of defeat:  a work that He intends to do all along.  “Rest in this:  When we are at our weakest, God makes us strongest.” (p. 52)

It is my hope that my writings here will exemplify this teaching.  I have struggled greatly these past few weeks with episodes of physical and spiritual darkness too ugly to describe publically.  To think that I may never be free from daily convulsive episodes is a burden to great for me to bear in the midst of these setbacks.  At the same time, I continue to have a sense that perhaps soon they will stop.  Should I not hope that they stop?  I think not.  My calling is to remain faithful to the moments in which I find myself:  doing that which the Lord wants me to do, discerning the leading of the Holy Spirit, dwelling in the presence of my King often.  If that means being obedient to the Lord’s call to get off the couch to take a rescue remedy while my head is banging, my legs aren’t working right, and pressured vocalizations are emanating from deep within my loins then I will trust that my Heavenly Father will keep me safe while I do so.  It’s amazing how supernatural power overcomes my own inability to move my body correctly.  His power is real!

I recently completed a course of antibiotics to treat a gut infection that may have a connection to my brain symptoms.  The medication hurt me with damaging side effects.  After 10 days I called my Doctor and transitioned to the first of two herbal protocols that would follow next.  Tomorrow morning I will start the second of these two plans including dosing at an elevated level of an antimicrobial that I have largely tolerated in the past.  I am hopeful that recovery is possible with this new plan.  After reading Pastor Adam’s article today I will remain mindful that there is purpose and power in every moment of this journey no matter the outcome will be.  The power of Christ has indeed rested upon me in my weakest, most breathless states.  I have trusted Him completely albeit not perfectly.  He has ordained these days for me revealed in other levels of healing that I cannot disclose right now:  the longest held desires of my heart have been addressed, have been comforted.  Through seizures!

In time, the Apostle Paul saw his thorns as a gift.  “Imagine, a thorn gift” suggests Pastor Adams.  “When Paul accepted his thorn as a gift, God gave him strength.”  As I have come to my own level of peace with this serious illness, I have received many gifts as well.  Another great blessing has come from my beloved husband, Steve’s, unfailing love, presence in the darkest of times, prayers, and gifts of the spirit.  He is often my Jesus with skin-on, so to speak.  This morning he anointed me with oil as he prayed for me in the aftermath of incredible difficulties.  Oh Lord, please bless this man, this instrument of your peace!  Help me to love and serve him as you would have me do so with your strength, with words from You to encourage his heart.

You know I never really thrived when posed with a competitive situation at home, with my peers, at work, at school, or in most places in life even though I know that it is o.k. to strive for excellence in all of these settings.  I usually fell short before reaching the prize.  Perhaps my focus was on the wrong place?  Winning through losing brings us to the eternal finish line, the one that matters most, in second place behind the Lord, Jesus Christ who will share in the victory that He hath created all along the proverbial races of life.  These are the ones that truly matter.  The ones where we let Him carry us or infuse us with His grace, His power as we cross over into eternal glory.

Now that’s a medal I do want to take “home.”  Lord, in your mercy, help me to finish well!  JJ

2 Cor, 2 Corinthians, 2:9, weakness, grace, sufficient, Christ, power, overcoming trials, Bible verse, encouraging

 

 

Just sitting at the table

 

My beloved opened the door

And my evening suddenly brightened,

Knowing he would be close with a listening ear

Makes handling the “nasty” less bad and more good afterwards.

I just don’t get used to

The evening ritual of torment

When my world goes dim from sickness

No matter the resting gone before, the mini successes (or so I thought?).

sitting, chair, upset, anguish, grieving, prison, torment, grief, hurt, person, woman, man

I was just sitting at the table

When my eyes pulled closed and shook

My head and neck followed next then I knew

There were just seconds to get lying down before all hell broke loose.

So I did run to the bedroom

Head turned to soften impact bedside

Eventually pulling the comforter over my broken frame

As the sputtering gave way to shouts of terror, gasping for air, legs drawn up too.

In waves the torment continued

Just when I thought I might cry for help

No words came when Steve came to my rescue

Trying to figure out how to get a remedy inside me as I twisted before his eyes.

Tis trauma for us both

When a Monday night isn’t anyway alright

For I will never accept that fifteen hundred of these nights

Are the way it should be forever, oh Lord deliver me please!

Try again the new this or that

Until we or the Docs get it right or even better

Til that night we will sit talking about our day eye to eye

Then ready ourselves for bed with a tender embrace as it should be.

Oh I know others have their trials

And I grieve for theirs with ours in there too

Let me know your need for prayers, Gentle Reader

Allow me to make good use of this time before the altar:  His throne of grace.

My Jesus cares for me, for you

He loves us and lives for our coming to Him

No matter the reason TRUST:  all will be new one day

Until then pray for me too, k?  I am tired from this ungentle cross at my tableside.

JJ

 

Christmas Letter 2016

Steve and Julie’s Christmas Letter 2016

Our celebration this year may be described as one of humility, gratitude and perspective. So here ya go from the perspective of each of us here in Indiana:

From Elle, the Dog

I must say that they have treated me pretty well and the all-natural dog food is great! All I had to do (don’t tell them) was continuously lick my paws until they were nearly raw then BINGO (!) along comes fancier cuisine and a Greenie chew bone every couple of days.  We all know who is in charge over here as I near my 8th birthday . . . the gray hairs on my jowls now bring distinction as Chief Pup.  My favs remain:  chasing radio-controlled airplanes and cars in addition to rabbits & geese!

From Julie

Holy cow, I’d like to say that I have been cured after 5 years of serious illness but that would not be the case. Lots of things are better as I continue in awe and gratitude for so much including having married the most loving husband in the world!  I am now treating chronic Lyme disease with IV antibiotics and working with a brilliant Naturopathic Physician/Genetic Coach.  For more details please see: http://www.justjuliewrites.com  Lord willing, I am going to get well!

We have been able to travel with the “Tin Can Ranch” 5 times this past year to the: panhandle area of Florida and Fort Rucker, AL; Silver Dunes area in Michigan twice; Air Adventure at Oshkosh, WI; Steve’s United States Canoe Association Nationals in Northfield, MA.  Our trip to Texas for Thanksgiving was cancelled; we hope to figure out another way to see Steve’s family this winter.  When in AL, we got to celebrate Steve’s son Daniel’s wife’s graduation from the Army as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot, followed by an enjoyable tour of the area in a civilian copter with Elizabeth as the pilot!  Lord willing we will see Patrick-n-Kate and our 2 grandsons when in NC in January.  With Christina in Thailand and Rebekah (and Pancho to join soon) in Spain, Skype connections are our norm around here.

Our gardens flourished in their 9th year with the clumping bamboo finally making a showing and the blackberries deciding to produce in their 5th year.  Just gotta’ be patient, right?  We enjoyed a cute kitchen herb garden (on the covered porch), peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, kale, radishes, and lettuce too.  Tis a good thingy that Elle doesn’t miss her outdoor pen that has been turned into our “Secret Garden” now that she is an inside dog!

From Steve

It’s been an active year, with many good things and a few “firsts.”   Julie has been the most incredible wife, supporting me and helping me in all my endeavors, in spite of dealing with significant illness.  I couldn’t ask for a more loving wife or a better partner.  God is good! J  Julie has covered most of the travels with our camper and kid activities, but I want to accent a few of those.

I’ve long wanted to see the Oshkosh airshow – the world’s largest – and with a change in my company’s vacation policy this became the year it was possible (Julie gave the trip to me as a birthday gift – can you say “awesome wife”?!?). What an incredible show!!!  The airshows were phenomenal, the number and types of aircraft were mind-blowing, and if you have any aviation inclinations at all there was probably something there for you.  On the down side, it seems to have reignited the bug within me to finish those flight lessons I never completed so many years ago.  And the thought of building an airplane…  All of which may be behind the radio control model plane getting a bit of a workout lately.

Paddling has been a huge part of our life in many ways these past number of years: I race kayaks and outrigger canoes, Julie and I produce Canoe News Magazine for the US Canoe Association (USCA), and I have a side business (River Bear Racing) selling Stellar Kayaks & Surf Skis (and supporting gear). We were blessed this year in each endeavor.  In spite of some physical challenges that somehow seem to come from aging, I did well in all my local races and managed a 3rd place overall in outrigger canoe at the USCA Nationals this year (don’t ask about my kayak race – that fell apart!)  River Bear Racing roughly doubled in sales this year, turning a profit and allowing me to add in some additional products to the lineup.  You can see our website at www.riverbearracing.com.  And Julie and I were able to produce some well-received editions of the magazine (always a good feeling after all the work that goes into producing a magazine).  See the magazine at http://www.uscacanoe.org/canoe-news.   But the biggest blessing of all was getting Julie out a few times to paddle this year, both in one of our newest Stellar S16S surf skis and in our old favorite Huki tandem outrigger canoe.  With Julie stuck in the house so much due to illness, it was a real blessing to be able to get out on the water together at those times.  And one of those times was at a church marriage retreat on Lake Wauwasee – something she wouldn’t have been able to attend the last few years.

Otherwise, work is going well, and the new owners (Harris) seem to be doing good things for the company. I’ve been able to get in a lot of cycling this year, particularly appreciating the long, warm Fall we enjoyed in Indiana in 2016. Church is a very central part of my life, and it has been a huge blessing to be part of an excellent Bible teaching church (http://www.harvestfellowship.us/).  I planned on teaching some additional classes this year at church (I periodically teach classes on parenting, firearms safety, and paddling), but I had to lay a bit low this year.  We’ll see what 2017 brings.  Whatever comes in the new year, I am always thankful for the salvation of the Lord and the life that He has given me!

Kid News

Somehow we managed to drive the kids pretty much to the farthest corners of the earth; no worries about “boomerang kids” here! Christina continues to faithfully serve the Lord in the far flung land of Thailand (a long paddle past CA) and seems to be doing well overall.  Rebekah was my relatively close child, living with her husband Daniel in the foreign land of Chicago, but her youthful wander lusts got the better of her and off she went to Spain to teach English.  Husband Daniel will follow this December after he finishes his master’s degree.  The boys are both theoretically in the USA, but being on opposite sides of the Continental Divide and on opposite coasts, they might as well be on different continents.  Patrick and Kate continue to enjoy the east coast life in Newbern, NC, raising sons Jackson and Warren.  I did get a chance in the Spring to drop in and play grandpa for a day – something that’s quite a rarity for me.  Daniel and his wife Elizabeth, heeding the words “Go West, young man,” followed the advice quite literally and settled in Tacoma, Washington on the western coast.  They’ve found Washington State to be a strange place, but they’re gradually adapting, learning to chase the homeless heroin addicts out of their cars and such…

Wrap-up

No matter what our perspective may be, the most important view at Christmas 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.

Love to you and your family,

Steve, Julie, Elle

Vampire Diaries 2

hebrews, Hebrews 13:5, abandonment, promises of God, alone, loneliness, scripture, depression, sorrow, loss, illness, sickness, hope

Tears going up and down a lot this day

On the roller coaster of emotion I find myself on:

Help cometh x2 but test results won’t satisfy

As here I sit with my neck aching all through my brain.

I tried.  I really tried to figure it out and failed.

The symptoms that remain still taunt my peace

Leaving scars, leaving woes, leaving loss behind the hope

And yet my breath prevails so in and out I will also go today

To match the pull of the vampire’s teeth left in my chest wall.

The infusions continue instead of a long-desired break

The bank will love us less, the medical folk perhaps more

Whilst someone’s Mercedes payment will be made

And my saga continues on Big Box Store hamburger.

Hope always seems just one more day out there somewheres

Leaving me here beat up from this morning’s episode of torment

A snuggle with my husband got transformed into caregiving

And more hours were lost in the aftermath once again.

At least my dog seems to understand as she nudges her nose at the leash.  “Can’t we go now?” her soft brown eyes contend.

Relief might come in the mail soon

Or maybe not; it’s hard to tell

So I’ll keep calling on my Jesus for now

His calling card never leaves and never fails any of us anyways. JJ

 

 

The Dad that never left

Perhaps it is more of a blessing than anything else that I have more time for reflection these days.  After the double-loads of laundry, medical management, treatment-and-recovery, self care, and various household duties are completed, there are generally more hours than in my past to think about the stuff of life.  On Father’s Day yesterday, I started to notice some new parallels between my past and present.  It went something like this.

I was posting a picture of my Dad and me on Facebook when I realized how his generosity when he stepped back into my life has become an important part of my current recovery from serious illness.  His gift about 6 years ago allowed me to create a garden oasis in our backyard.  Here are two of my favorite areas:

Creating the flagstone patio area required graph paper, a ruler, tape measure, and endless gazing from all angles to make the kidney-bean shaped layout meet the vision the Lord had given me.  In the next 2 years the process continued with a pair of 8-foot custom steel trellises then a “secret garden” area (basically a re-purposed dog pen!).  The planting beds came later as I decided that we needed more privacy from our neighbors behind us and that I wanted to have a garden-view beyond each room of the house.  The bed on the right in the 2nd picture is largely of native plants and a key component in earning a Sustainable Garden designation from our local cooperative extension office.  The aqua custom shade sail was an incredible find from the “sale” page of a company by the same name.  Now that the design is complete the plants have matured and my heart is home.

Dontcha know that my mom was a gardener?  She would hunt down the groundskeeper at the local zoo if needed to obtain a plant start of a specimen she just needed to have in her yard.  Composting, vegetables, a mounded hill, hanging baskets around the hot tub spa . . . she had all the elements that made her heart happy out there in her suburban back

Mom in Spa

yard.  Her creation came together because of the generosity of her parents too.  Some may call it an inheritance.  I call it the chance to create something beautiful from the sorrow of a lost family member.  And I think it’s o.k. to spend some of it to make the process of going on without him or her a little nicer.  Do something that makes your heart happy!

Flash forward 4 years from when the “bones” of our own garden were installed and I am exceedingly grateful for what the Lord has allowed me to design, to create.  Lying sickly on that chaise lounge last summer when it looked like there would be little hope for recovery, brought solace of sorts.  Lying sickly on that same chair this summer after taking treatments that are slowly giving me my life back is bringing hope and the flow of some new creative juices.  My husband, Steve, just smiles a bit when I talk like this.  He knows that could mean a little more trimming around a new garden bed or hauling of something heavy to make it happen.  Oh how he loves me so!  Well I’ll let ya all know how it turns out for sure!

Steve brought me to see this home on our fourth date.  He wanted to know, “if things worked out between us could you see yourself living here?”  Talk about pressure!  I was visiting him in Indiana for the first time from the Chicago suburbs and certainly was not about to make a decision on the spot.  At least out loud, that is!  But I knew that the bush in the front-and-center of the bay window was a Miss Kim Lilac and just like the one I had lost with the townhome when my former spouse left me.  I also knew that the bush next to it was a burning bush that gets a magnificent, fiery shade of red in the Fall and just like the one I . . . well you can see where this is going.  It’s like when I viewed Steve’s profile on Yahoo Personals and saw a picture of him with a radio-controlled airplane that reminded me of the flying competitions in which my dad and brothers flew line-control planes when we were kids.  Of course I knew that the house was a great idea; I just wasn’t going to tell Steve anything just yet.  The home he purchased before we were married became a blank slate for me in remaking so many years that the locusts had eaten . . . . (Joel 2:25)

So I hope you can see how a simple thingy like some flower and vegetable gardens can be so meaningful to someone like me.  The draftsman in my Dad has become the designer in me.  His surprise generosity allowed me to create a living oasis that was an interest I shared with my mom when I became an adult.  Finding a loving place to realize these gifts would come in a way like never before when I found my intended beloved in the arms of my Stevers.  Solace, restoration, and hope were all set in motion regardless of my life’s circumstances according the plans of my Heavenly Dad, my Heavenly Husband; He knew all along the seeds He had planted in my heart long before I could ever dig in the dirt of life myself.  And just as life on this green earth began in the Garden of Eden, so do our own lives thrive in the planted spaces in which we are tilled and turned, watered, pruned, and nurtured until beauty bursts forth in scented color, in hope beyond that which we can see.

How can I be sad about the losses in my life when my Heavenly Dad has always been there with me?  From my garden bench I bid you a “Happy Father’s Day,” Gentle Reader.  I pray that you, too, will live in the fullness of life that grows more grand with each passing day:  a garden oasis in your soul where the One Who knows us so well can make everything meaningful, anything beautiful in the noon day sun or under the shade tree too.  JJ

Dad & me at his trailer