He Loved Well, He Lived for Christ

The passing of John Sr. brought sorrow as I considered the impact this man had on my life.  And I was not alone.  Everyone knew John’s love for his family and friends, the Lord, Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of believers united by our faith.  It wasn’t until I started to describe three key scenes in my past where his care was palpable to me that I started to grieve the passing of this faithful servant of the Lord.  Surely the heavenly hosts are celebrating your coming home sir . . .

My connection to John Sr. was initially tainted by the critical viewpoint of my former spouse.  I suppose it’s easy to criticize someone else for faults that the two of you may share?  Years later this appeared to be the case.  So when I ran into John Sr. just 3 weeks after my former spouse left me, I was not prepared for this gentleman’s reaction to the  news.  He asked how Craig was doing and I was speechless for a moment:  did he not know what had happened?  I guess not.  I had to tell him.  John Sr’s face fell as I shared the devastation that was just beginning to unfold in my life;  John Sr. looked at me as if someone had punched him in the gut right there in the store!  He could barely speak, mumbled a few condolences, and shuffled away obviously affected by my story.  In the moment I was stunned as well.  Why was he walking away when I had just shared my heart with my elder brother in Christ?  Much later I supposed it was a type of grief reaction.  Not long afterwards, I experienced the most important message from our encounter that day:  my brother in Christ loved me as his sister in Christ, like a father I did not have at the time.  He was hurting for me, hurting for the fall from grace of our brother in Christ.  I also learned that day just how profoundly adultery affects many others in the body of Christ in addition to the spouse.

John Sr. didn’t live anymore in the town of that grocery store where I had encountered him.  I would not see him again until a few months later when visiting with his daughter who had become a good friend of mine.  Deb and I had traveled from the Chicago suburbs where we lived to her parents’ home in the Wisconsin countryside.  A neighbor and fellow member of our church (where we had all met) came along for what was to be a fun time of fellowship, food, and relaxation.  Their youngest son played classical guitar to everyone’s delight and John Sr. told amazing stories of missionaries they knew, places they had been, and so on.  We were one big family for the weekend!  That is, until nighttime came.

The Y family always had a menagerie of sofas with hide-a-beds, cots, and blankets to accommodate everyone.   Me and my neighbor, Ardie, made our beds in the living room while the family tucked themselves to sleep in their respective bedrooms throughout the modest home.  But I could not sleep.  Instead of feeling full from the lively fellowship and activities of the visit, I was filled with grief and sorrow from the tremendous losses in progress in my life back home.  I lain in the dark with tears streaming down my face like a crack in a retaining wall holding back an avalanche of tears.  Finally I could not hold it in anymore.  Everyone was asleep in the dark starry night whilst I was coming unglued!  I gathered myself as best as I could and walked out into the cool blackness that received me outside.  The tears and whimpers gushed easily then uncontrollably.  “Would they ever stop?”  I wondered.

Before long I could hear some wrestling of the folks inside the house.  A light went on in one of the bedrooms, illuminating the front porch where I was holding myself up against a wall.  Arlene and John Sr. were up!  Despite my best efforts to weep quietly, they had heard me and came to comfort me.  John Sr. muttered again with the same type of sorrow I had seen in the grocery store.  Arlene wrapped her warm, motherly arms around me and brought me inside to sit on a handmade bench with her for as long as I needed.  He got me a blanket.  She stayed with me until the tears flowed no more.  Eventually I spoke a little while she simply listened.  What a gift she gave me that night!  No one said much about it all the next morning.  Somehow they just all understood the pain I was going through.  They did the best thing that they could do to help me through that traumatic time in my life:  they just loved on me like one of their own.

John Sr. and Arlene were the best at loving on people, a model we know comes from the love who is embodied in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  That love is as pure as it is convicting with the truth of His Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit.  The two of them shared scripture often and how the Lord had led them through their lives, how He too may encourage and lead your in your days as well.  I experienced this witness in an unexpected way about 3 years later.  The Lord had begun the process of restoration in my life and brought me a wonderful man of God named Steve.  We were engaged that September and I wanted to visit the important places and people of my life before moving to Indiana to marry him.  I brought Steve to meet John Sr. and Arlene, this time without my friend Deb, their daughter.  I wanted them to see my happiness and thank them for being an important part of it coming to fruition.

We had a wonderful visit.  After Steve and I returned to Illinois from that long weekend, and after Steve had already gone on home to Indiana, I got a call from John Sr.  He didn’t waste any time chatting about our visit and got right to the point:  check yourself and the truth of God’s Word, the Bible, before you take this step in marrying Steve.  I was a bit taken aback by him questioning things but heeded his advice.  The next few weeks were filled with prayer, scripture reading, pastoral counselling, and looking honestly with Steve at our Biblical grounds for divorce and remarriage.  All counsel pointed to a blessing for us so we proceeded to get married by the end of the year.  The counsel of John Sr. was a necessary part of our preparation that brought clarity that would be needed when others would pass judgement on our union.  We have complete confidence and peace that  we made a God-honoring decision to be together forever.

I have often quoted Mark Twain at key times in my life who said that the un-examined life is not worth living.  Indeed we can find rich value and meaning by taking a closer look at our lives within the context of God’s plans for our lives, ways He gifts each of us, orchestration of events, our limitations, and the stuff that He crafts for each of us as we live out our days on this fallen earth in which we dwell.  If we are honest then our search for meaning will lead us to the Creator: the person of Jesus Christ.  If we heed the call to recognize our sinful nature, receive His gift of salvation and redemption then choose to grow in knowledge and character of our Lord, then the transformation of our lives will shine for all the world to see.  We will become a witness for His transforming power, His love, His grace, His mercy, His goodness.  And a life seasoned by the love of Christ, never tainted by the trials we all endure, can become a life well-lived, well-loved for the glory of the Lord.  This is who John Sr. was.  This is the legacy that he has left for those who got to know him, were ministered to by his love and care, who witnessed his walk with the Lord every day of his life.

Well done John Sr:  faithful servant of the Lord!  Well done!  May God be the glory for the faithful witness of my brother in Christ.  May He also bless your beloved bride Arlene, until she joins you one day in the presence of our Lord.  Thank you for bringing me into your spiritual family through the faith that we share.  You have made a difference!  JJ

couple, Christian, husband and wife, Wisconsin, visiting, friends, woods, Fall, sunny day, engaged

Steve and Julie in Wisconsin, September 2, 2007

 

A Matter of Perspective

humor, bathing suit, top, insert, perspective

Alone on the beach I lain

Broken-hearted and abandoned,

Missing my other half

A bit humbled in the warm sun.

She left me here all alone

Doesn’t she miss me or know I’m gone?

Maybe she broke free from the tyranny

Who needs a padded insert to swim in the surf anyways?

I suppose you all figured out the item in the picture by now?  I found it to be hilarious finding it on the sand of the beach at Port Canaveral, Florida earlier this month!  My beloved and I were there to witness a rocket launch a mile away to the south along Playalinda Beach.  It was surreal.  I wonder if the gal missing part of her bathing suit top felt the same way?  🙂

That day was a bit of an oasis in the middle of a medical trip that continues to change my life for the better.  I was exceedingly exhausted just 1 week after treatment began and felt out of place sitting on a sandy beach with large, acrylic dental appliances in my mouth.  I was unable to eat without changing out appliances (which meant rinsing them in a Ziploc plastic bag with paper towels to soak up the mouthwash) and was nearly nauseous with a lot of head-jaw-neck pain from the aggressive dynamics achieved by the splints.  On the other hand, Steve was geared up to hit the waves in our outrigger canoe!  We both slathered on the sunscreen and lugged our stuff up a long flight of wooden steps, over the berm, and down onto the beach.  With a big umbrella in-hand, I was going to make the best of things that 86-degree day  . . .

And so we did.  I sat in front of the most majestic view you would never find in our home State of Indiana (note new cover photo above!) munching on my lunch, brushing dental appliances, and taking pictures of the coolest dude on the shoreline.  A few hours later I witnessed the magical sight of a rocket being launched into space:  a satellite developed by the same company that Steve works for in Indiana.  Steve had gotten an inside scoop from co-workers at the Melbourne headquarters of how to get the best view.  (Incredibly Harris allowed him to work there remotely between my medical visits and before we would return home.)  The launch was spectacular!

Harris, rocket launch, Cape Canaveral, March, 2018, sky, trails, space

 

I have come to believe that the Lord cares for everything in our lives from the mundane to the big, spectacular moments in time.  He attends to every detail, crafts them for our best good.  I am thinking that many of the rewards in life generally come in some way or another when I am able to move off my limited view and trust that my Lord, Jesus Christ has a bigger plan.  It just might be a good one.  My change in perspective will help to find it.  The fact that so many years have held me captive with much agony in the past is really no predictor of what the future holds.  I simply do not know.

This leap of faith to pursue a new treatment approach 1,000 miles from home is changing my life day by day.  The minor setbacks are easier to take than in the past and don’t last very long, gratefully.  My perspective on most things in life, my expectations, my faith, and so much more have changed accordingly.  One of the sweetest rewards is sharing this  newness of life with my hero, my Stevers.  I love him so!  And I am so proud of him, grateful for him, and in awe of his strength, faith, and love during our eleven years together.  The anniversary of our first date is coming up soon!  Oh I could go on . . .

How about if I just end with another awesome sight from the beach that day.  Isn’t he just the coolest dude ya ever did see?  I love you Stevers!  :JJ

outrigger canoe, beach, surf, OC-1, carry, carbon fiber, racing, Mocke, life vest, life jacket,

My River Bear carrying our OC-1 out from the surf as the tide rolls in onto Playalinda Beach, north of Cape Canaveral, March 1, 2018

I gotta change my teeth!

Alright.  It’s a few decades too soon in my life to be fussing over fake teeth in a restaurant but that is exactly where I have landed.  Or an acrylic mouthpiece of sorts, that is.  Then there’s the one with metal wires in it.  Aaaargh!  This is all kinda gross, especially with bits o’ lunch in thar!

It’s not your average bear that carries around a bottle of mouthwash in a gallon Ziploc freezer bag with 2 paper towels, a funny little brush and a clam-shell plastic box with air holes in it with a spare mouthpiece in tow.  Gentle Reader, you knew I was not undergoing a normal treatment plan when I signed up for this next phase in my recovery from a serious illness.  After all, who said that specialized dental appliances would stop almost 7 years of daily seizure attacks?

The answer:  no one really.  Persons with Tourettes Syndrome, dystonia, and tics have found relief in addition to persons with severe TMJ or Temporal Mandibular Disorders.  Only one expert mentioned “atypical seizures” and another “movement disorders.”  It was the Lord who led me to  examine my own pattern of symptoms and triggers, led by an observation from an ENT in a recent exam, and extensive research that seemed to indicate that I, too, might benefit from this highly skilled approach within the dentistry profession.  It made sense to me that a Craniomandibular Disorder Specialist would be able to relief pressure on my aching jaw.  If it relieved pressure on cranial nerves in the surrounding tissues as well, then there would be a good chance that many of the episode triggers and the convulsive episodes themselves could go down.  So I interviewed thirteen professionals in the USA  then said, “sign me up!”  My beloved agreed.  Graciously, many wonderful folks helped make it happen.

And I am glad that it did happen.  The convulsive episodes are now EIGHTY PERCENT IMPROVED!!!  Yeah God!  Praise the Lord!  Holy cow!  Cool beans!  Plus every other exclamation of joy I have ever used on this here blog.  Just Julie is going to get well!  I can now lie down and get up from bed most of the time without 30 or more minutes of convulsive episodes.  THIS IS HUGE!  Bonus:  my reactivity to noxious sensory stimuli is also down.  My posture is better.  I am able to eat a few more foods that I have been able to in many, many years without triggering a seizure.  Other symptoms have come and gone yet even the nagging jaw pain is also reduced.  I am looking forward to seeing what will happen over time as the improvements continue . . .

The battle is not yet won, however, as my devices will need adjustments and I’ll possibly need new dental appliances as time goes forward.  This will require significant travel to my Doctor out of State, a leap of faith in the Lord’s provision, and a massive testing of my health status to travel by myself.  Am I up to the challenge?  Absolutely.  We will plan carefully and proceed with caution.  Looks like I am on a good path for recovery at last.  I am humbled and grateful beyond what I can put into words.  Thank you Jesus!

Here are a few pictures from the process from my first week on this new journey.  I look a mess in most of them yet that is because I was very sick going into these appointments.  I had six violent convulsive episodes just trying to do the 5 hours of evaluation and was quite depleted by the time it was over.  Afterwards, my hubby and I were so trashed that we stood in the parking lot late that sunny afternoon and ate every snack and drop of water we had with us!  It took days for me to recover yet somehow I knew that my life was about to change very soon.  Three days later I had another very long appointment to receive my mouth splints.  The changes began within a day and continue three weeks later!  Stay tuned for more good news as this story develops.

Gentle Reader, if you are struggling with serious health issues, I encourage you that the Lord sees your suffering, grieves for you, and promises to be there for you for each and every breath, now and forever.  Call upon His name.  There is “hope beyond” what we can see.  Consider trusting the person of Jesus Christ Who will see you through, carry you this day and always.  I would have never made it this far without Him.  I hope we can share in my joy together someday Gentle Reader.  Our God is good!  JJ

xray, dental, appliances, TMJ, TMD, specialized, dystonia, seizures, atypical, tics, Tourettes, Dr. Ralph Garcia, craniomandibular, disorder, treatment

Assistant Josh took about a dozen x-rays to start the evaluation process.

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Dr. Ralph Garcia takes a detailed history; the smell of acrylics from the lab requires wearing a mask.

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EMG testing of the face and jaw

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Bite evaluation by Dr. Ralph Garcia

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Assistant Julie takes photos with and without the new dental appliances.

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Multiple impressions are taken with soft polymers that triggered episodes when the material was cold. Trying to stay calm to get the proper fitting was challenging.

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Waiting room in Dr. Ralph Garcia’s office! We definitely are not in Indiana!

Sunset Beach, Florida, Tampa Bay, wife, husband, couple, married, sunset, sunrise

A little shy first time out in public wearing the smaller of the two dental appliances so I could have a snack while watching the sun go down on Sunset Beach. So grateful that my Dentist’s office was in sunny Tampa, Florida!

What could be the cause?

For how many things can you test, research, treat, and repeat

Before you get to your end with hands empty again and again?

Like a parasite sucking the life out of you while it hides in waiting

Adding to your pain, lighting the match of your symptoms once and again.

Don’t expect the ones paid to know to really know anything at all my dear,

Outside of their textbooks even if they read them, even if they look at you at all.

Because if you don’t fit the pattern you really may have no where you can go

And temptation will come to do things only animals might do to get by.

Sounds sick but there is someone out there who understands this bad rap

And sits with you facing that brick wall with pieces of dreams that no longer fit.

You can’t make this stuff up yet this is your reality.  How cruel it really is.

………….

The One who really knows

Has that name you cannot forget

He hung in front of scoffers

Hands nailed, sharp spear in His side.

He chose to hang from that cross

To bear the consequence of this world

The effects of evil you endure

That just wasn’t supposed to be.

He still weeps for your pain

Knows it all very well

Stays near, hear Him speak

Words of comfort if you but dwell.

Never let Him go little broken one

It will help you endure

One day all will be well

That promise is ’cause He loves . . .

And on that you can rest.

Yes, it is now time to go to bed.

………….

Don’t fear the seizures that may come

They have made you braver than anyone

Who else could face the tempest each night

Yet rest in his den without trust in something more?

How ever have you come this far

When so many would have died two thousand times

If you were not given supernatural strength

He has ordained for the days to come?

Only your Lord knows the day and time

When all will be made well, be made right

Until then you hang in there my precious child

I love you and will rock those shakes in my loving arms.

Think on that when the tears surely come

Knowing all are held in my two hands

I count them, bring them my righteousness

In a way only I now understand.

You must trust me albeit a bit blind

Have I not restored from the locusts before?

Have I not given you the love of your life

The dreams of your heart in your home?

So with confidence that comes from Me

Go forth into the night as it becomes day

Knowing My time is not of this world

And your gifts don’t come wrapped as for others.

You will be rewarded for trials

I have promised and this you know

Just trust in your Lord, Jesus Christ

For His love, His goodness will be evermore.

…………

And so I did.  My title was the wrong question.  My answer is Jesus Christ.

JJ

couple at sunset, couple by the shore, kissing, sunrise, couple at sunrise, Christian marriage, Christian couple

And there he was

Dr. David Jeremiah, life beyond amazing, tour, Fort Wayne, coliseum, event, Christian, Blackhawk Church, believer, inspiration

My husband, Steve, and I recently attended Dr. David Jeremiah’s A Life Beyond Amazing event in our town.  I enjoyed Dr. Jeremiah’s presentations:  first to get acquainted with his family life then his message on enduring life’s challenges as unto the Lord.  However I must say that the fundraising prayer by one of his staff was tacky!  The music was loud, motivating, and moving.  Overall I must say that it felt good to be worshiping and learning in the company of fellow believers in Jesus Christ again.

I really wanted to meet Dr. Jeremiah after the event.  No problemmo as just one of about 10,000 people in attendance, right?  Very carefully we made our way to show center from the nosebleed section of the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.  My balance was a bit off from the sensory overload from many directions as I still battle Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome.  Nonetheless, I was a woman on a mission and soon found ourselves in front of the stage talking to the gifted musicians still lingering around.  I complimented Dr. Jeremiah’s granddaughter who sang in the worship team and asked where I might find her grandfather?  “He had to leave for a fundraising dinner,” was all she said.  I was disappointed but understood.  Fort Wayne, Indiana was the starting place for Dr. Jeremiah’s ministry and many members of the church he had founded here were in attendance; surely there were special activities going on to which Steve and I were not invited!

We tried to find some restrooms that were not swamped by the crowds still leaving the arena.  Having been there for shows many times before, when we headed down an open hallway where some smaller meeting rooms were located.  We encountered the vocalists again and saw a meeting room bustling with people just before we found our destination.  The hallways were virtually empty except for a few late-comers headed to what looked like a reception.  Then just before I turned to go into the lady’s room, I saw him!  Dr. Jeremiah was walking with his wife headed for that same room and it was becoming clear that we had just passed the room where his post-event activities were to take place.

This was my moment and I stepped up to it.  I walked up to Dr. David Jeremiah with my arm outstretched to shake his hand.  He accepted it and looked into my eyes briefly as I said what I had rehearsed in my mind ever since I had expressed a desire to go to the event days beforehand.  It went something like this:

Hi.  My name is Julie ____.  Several years ago you gave a message that included the teaching that God’s man in the middle of God’s will, will not perish until the Lord God ordains it.  I wanted to tell you how much that message has meant to me as I have battled a serious illness with seizures every day for the past 5 years.  Thank you.  Keep doing what you are doing!

His spoke words that followed mine as I finished the sentence from his audio tape, as if he had just given the message yesterday and not over 10 years ago!  He thanked me and quickly continued to his destination with his wife.  I continued to my own destination with a sense of wonder and amazement.  That moment was ordained by God for sure, just for me, just for him.

My spirit was calm and full as I thought about all that had transpired over the past 2 1/2 hours.  Steve and I drove home lightly chatting along the way, mostly quietly in our own thoughts.  I would be very sick with convulsive episodes within the hour of returning home and showering.  My senses were completely overloaded from the loud music, close proximity to other people, and the effects of some new treatment ramping up.  For the first time I did not feel traumatized by the serious illness that I have been selected to endure.  My own words provided the comfort I needed to get through the darkness of the night.

God’s woman, in the middle of God’s will, will not perish until the Lord God ordains it.  He has a plan and purpose for our lives even in the midst of suffering.  And should I finish well, the tasks before me no matter how difficult, there may be reward someday but first there certainly will be a closeness to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that transcends my understanding.  I want that.  And touch points in life like these will help me to craft my own life beyond amazing.

I’m up for that.

JJ