Holding on for the Win

As if losing 2 dogs within about 5 weeks time wasn’t hard enough

Our hearts just hurt with the passing of Elle then sudden adoption of Luna.

Only the Lord knows both the desires of my heart and my heartaches to date.

He has walked with me when lungs gasp for air, the body seizes, and screams erupt from within.

My beloved has seen it all as well, taken it in, stood by as best he could albeit weary from the road.

Then Steve pegged the improvements between dogs, setting me on a hunt for answers

I found them or so I think. It explains so much. Even my genetic testing confirms the link.

Will I really recover from the histamine intolerance and DAO deficiency that goes beyond allergy

And will these two culprits really be at the center of chronic illness for me?

Sadly, my first attempt to treat this above my exhaustive cleaning and decontamination

Created new issues as a supplement high in DAO is also high in iron, making me worse!

So back to the version recommended by my chiropractor I go, still overthinking this all

Just a day later the headaches, pain, seizing, irritability, nosebleeds, and more are coming down AGAIN.

What a nightmare this journey has been! Will I ever get to “The Station” as Dear Abby once shared?

If I get there will I recognize Just Julie or the shell of my former self? I digress once more.

Really I hope someone new comes forth from this suffering. Or perhaps she is already here?

For alas there is always purpose to our troubles, for those in Jesus Christ, who believe in His sovereignty.

No matter what happens, Gentle Reader, He holds it all tenderly in His strong hands. He does.

Choose to trust that there is something more for each of us in this life or beyond,

That’s where we all will win, you and me both. Honestly, what else ya got anyhoo?

JJ

The Lunar Passage

It’s 2 days before we may be sending off our stunningly beautiful, 2 year old German shepherd dog to her new home and I am struggling with the whole thing. She came to us probably too soon after our 13 1/2 year old Elle GSD and beloved fuzzy family member had to pass on. Elle was deathly sick so it was the humane thing to do to put her down. Steve and I both cried. Then along came Luna on a rescue website 10 days later and we were off and running in a caper that had more surprises and trials than we could have ever imagined! Now all I can do is sob some more when I think about where we have landed with our furry family members. Soon, both will be gone.

I am struggling again and largely bedridden most days. The drainage from chronic sinusitis is both gross and bloody; nausea has been profound and triggered by a recent ’bout with a cold then the flu. The convulsive episodes are stranger now, with an aura of spaciness leading into them that is atypical for me. Rescue remedies leave me with massive fatigue, if I have not already passed out when in bed. And shaking episodes of up to 20 minutes make it difficult to function even if I do happen to be upright when they occur. What keeps me from despair in this current downward trend is that there appears to be a causative effect of an allergy to our German shepherd dogs. Only as Elle was dying, inactive, and no longer shedding did all symptoms get better for about 2 weeks. My improvements continued as I removed older rugs and cleaned all of her favorite places in our home. And now as Luna enters her 3rd week with us, her gorgeous long hair and dander dropping everywhere, my health has headed into a significant decline. But I have never tested as allergic to dogs! What could be going on?

You know I share all this stuff because writing clarifies my thoughts and research findings. Perhaps there will be a secondary benefit of a fellow sojourner with chronic illness finding something in my story that resonates with him or her. More importantly, Gentle Reader, I hope you see the Lord’s hand working for good and His glory through the seemingly most impossible of circumstances. Ten years of virtually daily convulsive episodes and reactivity is hell to endure. I have tried to live around and through the shroud of pain and suffering, without losing my mind or life itself. Life’s lessons rarely come from the good times. Even so, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ IS GOOD, has a plan and a purpose for every paw print traipsed along the way: hers, hers, and my own. What if Luna is a gift from the Lord to show me how to get well? Would the tears of sorrow from losing one more thing give way to joy if I gain so much more in the end? My husband and I both are about to lose a fun, furry companion but he may re-gain his life partner, his wife! My activity level and health had dramatically improved during the week before we got Luna. What if I could be almost fully restored?

We can hope so, eh? Here we go again with some new ideas, some new notes:

  • Histamine is chemically classified as an amine, an organic molecule based on the structure of ammonia (NH3). In humans histamine is found in nearly all tissues of the body, where it is stored primarily in the granules of tissue mast cells.  The blood cells called basophils also harbour histamine-containing granules. Once released from its granules, histamine produces many varied effects within the body, including the contraction of smooth muscle tissues of the lungs, uterus, and stomach; the dilation of blood vessels, which increases permeability and lowers blood pressure; the stimulation of gastric acid secretion in the stomach; and the acceleration of heart rate. Histamine also serves as a neurotransmitter, carrying chemical messages between nerve cells.
  • Histamine, is a prominent contributor to allergic disease. Elevations in plasma or tissue histamine levels have been noted during anaphylaxis and experimental allergic responses of the skin, nose, and airways. Thus although histamine is only one of many mediators of allergic disease, it plays a primary role in allergic rhinitis, urticaria, anaphylaxis, and to a lesser degree, asthma.
  • Hypersensitivity reactions (HR) are immune responses that are exaggerated or inappropriate against an antigen or allergen. Coombs and Gell classified hypersensitivity reactions into four forms. Type I, type II, and type III hypersensitivity reactions are known as immediate hypersensitivity reactions (IHR) because they occur within 24 hours. Antibodies including IgE, IgM, and IgG mediate them. There are tests for these antibodies, however, our Family Doctor states that these tests aren’t as accurate as they could be, creating false positives.
  • Other classes of disease including histamine include Mast Cell Activation Disease, dietary and digestive considerations, neurological and psychological conditions, migraine, brain trauma, and more.
  • Apart from its central role in the mediation of allergic reactions, gastric acid secretion and inflammation in the periphery, histamine serves an important function as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. The central histamine system is involved in many brain functions such as arousal, control of pituitary hormone secretion, suppression of eating and cognitive functions. 
  • The central histaminergic actions are mediated by H1, H2, H3 and H4 receptors. The histamine H3 receptor regulates the release of histamine and a number of other neurotransmitters and thereby plays a role in cognitive and homeostatic processes. Elevated histamine levels suppress seizure activities and appear to confer neuroprotection.  So far, H3 receptor antagonists/inverse agonists have garnered a great deal of interest in view of their promising therapeutic properties in various CNS disorders including epilepsy and related neurotoxicity. 
  • The role of the brain histaminergic system in neuroprotection remains a challenging area of research that is currently under consideration. Based on recent findings, which include changes in H1 and H3 receptor expression in a KA-induced epileptic model, it has been proposed that the brain histaminergic system is involved in experimental SE (status epilepticus) and subsequent neurodegeneration (Jin et al., 2005Lintunen et al., 2005). (Ibid)
  • Histamine is considered to be an anticonvulsive neurotransmitter as its low levels are associated with convulsions and seizures (Kiviranta et al., 1995Chen et al., 2003Hirai et al., 2004). In the review referenced here, an attempt has been made to scrutinize the recent experimental evidence that has evoked the possibility that the histaminergic system, via modulation of H3 receptor function, can be engaged to mediate a neuroprotective effect in epilepsy-related neurotoxicity and also to address the possible mechanisms involved. (Ibid)
  •  H3 receptor antagonists (particularly Pitolisant and Ayurvedic preparations) appear to possess both anticonvulsive and neuroprotective and/or disease modifying activity as suggested in numerous experimental findings. But this could also occur from a non-histaminergic mechanism. On the basis of the substantial experimental findings generated so far, H3 receptor antagonists can be envisaged as having a therapeutic effect on epileptic and associated neurodegenerative disorders. (Ibid)

So herein we find a correlation between histamine, allergic reactions, and epileptic-type disorders. Now I don’t have epilepsy per se, as determined by several EEG studies. But I definitely have a biologic if not neurologic basis for a Convulsion Disorder that worsens with several distinct triggers and physiologic/chemical factors, not the least of which is the recent exposure to a significant allergen. As soon as Luna settled into our home, it felt like many different systems in my body went haywire including itchy skin and the gastric upset. I had fewer symptoms when away from home for a treatment at our local hospital on Tuesday. Elle was a short-haired dog and Luna is long-haired, active, and came to us in heat. Hormones don’t typically make a dog more allergenic, however pheromones might do all kinds of crazy things. Luna certainly had more of a scent during her first 10 days with us than we recall Elle ever having, even after bathing Luna and as her heat cycle continued. Luna also weighs 10 pounds more than Elle. The earliest we can have her neutered, per our vet is about a month from now. I really don’t know how I would make it until then as I am definitely reacting to her right now! Anyways, getting a dog spayed doesn’t change the allergens that reportedly come from her fur and saliva.

All of this is to say is that there may be a scientific reason that I cannot turn off an allergic, histamine reaction that may exacerbate a neurologic condition when that trigger remains in our living environment. There is a possibility of a loading phenomenon that occurred over the decade of serious illness when Elle was with us. My body got overloaded with so many medical insults that we didn’t notice the hidden allergy; I did have other signs of system overloads such as shingles and chronic headaches. Then just recently, the headaches diminished significantly by changing to a low tyramine diet! Who knew this could happen? It’s very similar to a low oxalate diet but years on a LOD made no impact on daily headaches that had worsened over the past 2 years. I would wake up every day with my head pounding before even trying to get out of bed. Another take-away here is that things do change over time. For this reason we must be vigilant to keep observing, continue researching, change our treatment protocols, ask questions, and seek the best sources we can find for help again and again. Is there more to know even a decade later? Yes, there certainly can be. And when all is submitted to prayer, then I have found that the Great Physician can order my steps through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Renewal is always possible.

Right after Steve and I started putting some of this story together, made our decision to put her up for adoption, and made Luna available on the same animal rescue site in which we found her, Steve got an email from a wonderful family who wants to meet her. They sound just like us in many ways. Perhaps we can serve as the dog foster parents for a formerly sheltered pup who blossomed under our care. I wish you could meet her, Gentle Reader. She went from being terrified of everything and everyone to wagging that bushy, bushy tail when you approach her soft brown eyes and smile that nudges your hand to pet her just a little bit longer. Scratch my belly! Seeing her running alongside Steve as he cross-country skiis is an awesome sight to behold! I wonder what she will be like after she gets her vaccines and runs free at a dog park, lap after lap after lap. Oh Luna bean, I do believe your best days are ahead of you.

Maybe me too!

Luna and Steve in their element of snow!

Enjoy this video of Steve and Luna coming home. https://photos.app.goo.gl/y4Gd6FRfPCQ6AnCe6

Where do you go?

Where do you go when what was good is now bad and what was bad is now commonplace,

When the meaning of words is twisted or the prose is outlawed altogether?

Where do you go when your spirit is disquieted, there is no where that feels safe,

When you cannot trust your body to get you there even if you knew where that was?

Where do you go when fear-mongering is the top headline every day

When there is no place for discussion much less public or private debate?

Where do you go to share your pictures and news and questions and art

When social media has become the Big Brother of an ever bigger government?

Where do you go when your losses outnumber your wins and

You just don’t know when or if either one can come back in any form?

Where do you go where the customary habits of hygiene and socialization

Are so altered by an unforeseen enemy they can’t even objectively identify?

Where do you go for human touch, to connect with loved ones

When there is no room for them even when dying in a hospital bed?

Where do you go for wisdom, for light in the darkness, for hope of a better day

When all you can see is madness, anxiety, fear, doubt, and dumbing down?

Gentle Reader, you go to Jesus Christ

His throne of grace is mightier than

Any trial or tragedy or evil we may face.

Go now. Our very eternity is at stake.

The Young Lad Down the Street

When I first met the 12 year old boy down the street, I found him to be quiet, pensive, and sweet. He was so tender towards his younger sister whom he often had the responsibility of supervising when both were hanging out in the cul-de-sac where Mr. Steve and I, Miss Julie, live. His 6 (now 7) year old sister was respectful of his authority. They got along quite well.

Then I saw another side to their relationship and perhaps his character. Nearly a year after that first meeting, my husband and I know more about each other’s families, living routines, schedules, activities, and personalities. We’ve had some fun activities together outside of the neighborhood as well as the opportunity to bless them with gifts, treats, etc. Kinda fun for us two older neighbors of grand parent age! (If our own grand kids only lived closer, eh? We rarely get to see them as they live several states away . . .)

One recent weekend afternoon, both H and E were staying on our side of town while visiting E’s Dad with their biological Mom. In other words, both boy H and girl E have the same Mom but two different Dads. H spent alternate weekends with his biological Father; E was virtually always down the street on Saturday and Sunday as her biological Mom and Dad often spent weekends together. So the two kids have the same Mom, 2 different Dads between them plus H has several half-brothers and sisters as well. The 2 kids seem to have adapted as well as can be expected with additional visits to some combination of biological grandparents sprinkled in over their weekends too. Somehow even with all of these adults in their lives, E then H came to develop a relationship with my husband, Mr. Steve. He taught H how to ride a big skateboard called a land paddle and raced E up and down the street on said land paddle as E provided the some pretty good competition on her pink 2-wheeler! “Want to race?” was all she said and off they went down the street and sidewalk, respectively.

Last weekend, the two children had spent the day with Mr. Steve in an EAA Young Eagles Introductory Flight experience while taking plane rides in a 4-seater Piper Archer. This was their second time riding in this airplane with Mr. Steve as the pilot. They each got to experience 3 flights on Saturday, a special lunch, and a mini ground school instruction. What a treat for each one of them! Well the extra banks and turns were a bit much for E’s tummy but overall they had a great time. I received them sitting on our patio at our home afterwards as they shared their stories of the day’s events. The kids had dozed off in the car on the 30-minute ride home from the airport; H was still tired and E was acting a bit “wired-tired.” But their “parents” weren’t home yet so hanging out with us would extend a little longer. That’s when I noticed some other dynamics of the relationship between this brother and sister that I had not seen before. Natural dynamics, of course. And yet perhaps a window into some of the stress they might feel when tired from more than this type of day’s events.

H was usually tender with his younger sister. This particular Saturday afternoon, H was relentless in his questioning of his younger sister on a trivial matter. I tried to change the subject and he returned to his chiding her shortly thereafter. Was there more to the stress of the moment than meets the eye? Surely he must get frustrated from time to time with the antics of a sister 5 years younger than him. I wondered, does he ever tire of his supervisory role and have enough time to just be a kid, be himself? Probably yes and possibly no. H is a very serious, thoughtful young lad who largely hides most emotions and speaks in somewhat measured speech at times. He is sure to correct himself to give the right response to a question. He’s the kind of kid a trusted adult male would do well to engage in playful wrestling or other physical stuff yet I get the idea it would be more horrifying than fun for him. Maybe he gets some of it with the land paddling with Mr. Steve? I hope so. I just wonder if there’s an outlet for what the heck he might be thinking or feeling inside. Does he feel loved? Does he have a place to let go or speak his mind freely like his little sister does (kind of all the time!)? He speaks of his babysitting responsibilities in the vernacular of that of a parent. It’s possible that the parental figures in his life expect this of him, to pseudo-parent her not just be a babysitter. That’s a lot of responsibility for a 12 year old boy from a broken home, at the beginning of so many other changes to come in his life as he matures into a teenager and young man. He takes this responsibility seriously. This particular day it was kinda wonky.

My Mom tried to put this type of responsibility on me for my 2 younger brothers but it didn’t work. They wouldn’t listen to me! They wouldn’t listen to our babysitters either when my Mom (a single parent of three children along with a serial dating and drinking problem) had to leave us alone to go to work or couldn’t find a babysitter. I do believe she did the best she could to manage our difficult situation with the tools and life skills she had. The when she left us alone, however, all hell broke loose at home. We were probably out of control. Such is the way children under stress behave when the consistent routines that they need erode, when there’s no one in which to confide, when there’s no outlet for the hurt burning inside a tender heart living inside a broken home. I wish I could have been more like how H is to his sister than I was to Mike and Rob. I yelled a lot. My Mom yelled a lot. There’s more. Surely us kids were struggling with the changes in our lives that were decided by the most-trusted adults in our lives: our parents. We hardly ever saw our Dad and then he moved out of state when we were teenagers; we never heard from him again for a couple of decades. Probably our best aspect of consistency/security was living in the same house all of those years. But inside those doors was a lot of hurt and anger that made it harder for me and my brothers to relate to one another as a family let alone find our way after entering adulthood. I wish I had known the love of my Heavenly Father back then. It would have made such a difference!

H occasionally talks about the Bible with Mr. Steve. I love that. My husband had the insight to give H a student Bible as part of his Christmas presents this past year; we gave E a children’s Bible too. Steve and I both try to weave spiritual topics into our conversations with H and E as we play in our yard, sip endless bottles of water, and chase our old pup Elle. But is it enough? Are we being intentional in our teaching as my beloved use to instruct young families at church to do with their children? All four of Steve’s adult children are walking with the Lord today. What an incredible testimony and tribute this is to the parenting, the love, the Biblical teaching, the mentoring that Steve and his ex-wife poured into their lives. All four are also successful in their respective occupations, one is married with two children of his own. As we get to know H and E, as they continue to come around and knock on our door on a Saturday afternoon, please join us in praying how to best love on them in a Christ-centered way. We desire to encourage and support their parents as well and be a special kind of older friend to all of them that the Lord has ordained for this season of their lives.

As I think about H in particular, some scripture references have come to mind that I hope I get to share with him sometime soon.

Colossians 3:21 (NIV)

Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Ephesians 6:4 (NIV)

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

If H is required to act as a pseudo parent/babysitter at times, these verses and passages speak to the authority and loving relationship of a Father to his children. They provide instruction which is tempered and guided in the manner described by the verses that surround each passage. (Hotlinks are provided to each chapter by clicking on the verse.) If unrealistic expectations have been placed on H to regularly care for his younger sibling then perhaps he still can learn to temper his tone with her as supernaturally guided by these verses and the Holy Spirit. Does H know Jesus as Lord and Savior, know the guidance that can come from the Holy Spirit? We are not sure. This is an area we need to explore further. With the possibility that the relationship of his Mom with E’s Dad is a tenuous one (as they have been apart for extended periods of time in the past), we cannot assume that we will always see H or E several times per month indefinitely. Each day is an opportunity to build our friendship with them and introduce them to Jesus Christ.

Romans 12:10 (ESV)

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

This verse speaks to the relationship of brothers and sisters in Christ, our eternal family. I love the idea of showing honor, deference to the other party. The older brother, just like the child’s Father or Mr. Steve as an older male Father-figure, have an opportunity to help build the worth of a young girl as Christ sees her, as her husband one day will see her someday in marriage. An important part of her identity comes from interaction with the older males in her life. Her older brother’s joking, teasing, and correcting behavior all have their place in good fun along with complimenting, encouraging, and supporting the younger, female as she grows up. We know from God’s design for the roles of men and women in marriage that the woman is to respect her husband; the woman must also receive respect in addition to being loved and cherished. To show honor is to show love.

Matthew 6:33 (Amplified)

But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also.

Our Heavenly Father knows what we need even before we ask anything of Him. He is ready, willing, and able to give us the best help possible! This is important to keep in mind when we are trying to figure out what to do, what to say, what decisions to make, how to think, which way to go. Then what about an unruly little sister or brother? Oh vey! I offer this verse as a reminder to pray, to seek the Lord for His wisdom as we interact with all of the other people in our lives. (How I wish I knew this and could take back all of those mean words I screeched at my brothers so many years ago!) Figuring out relationships is soooooo hard on our own sometimes! Our Lord will comfort our angst, guide us, and bring forth the best outcome for both how we want to come across and how we hope our brother, our sister in Christ will respond. We must stop ourselves, pause or take a deep breath for a moment, and ask for our Lord’s help. He will do so. This type of prayer also honors the Lord as well!

Hebrews 10:24 (NLT)

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.

The Lord is faithful to see us through everything including the ups and downs of our relationships with others. He cares deeply about our relationships with the members of our immediate family (as well as the body of Christ). What a privilege it is to be in a position to mentor a loved one who seeks and respects our authority or influence in his or her life. H has managed this big responsibly well despite the challenges of his own young life. This process of mentoring happens naturally with younger siblings who look up to their oldest sibling, to older cousins with younger cousins and so on, when handled well. The love between brother and sister in particular is a special kind of fellowship unmatched by any other in our lives. Our brothers and sisters are the first friends we make in life, the longest friendships we may ever have in our lives. We can find mutual hobbies, games, sports, ministries, and other activities to share together despite differences in age. We can encourage our siblings in following their dreams, the unique ways that the Lord has crafted their giftedness, and even in his or her silliness if younger than we are! When it is safe to do so, let them be! We want the happiest, most fulfilling life for our friends, right? Such is the desire of our Heavenly Father for each of us on each day and each hour we shall live, until the day comes when He will return in the ultimate fellowship with all of us.

After all Jesus was once a brother too you know . . .

Stock Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

Walk softly in the moment

Said goodbye to a group I started on Facebook that grew to well over 3,000 people, my Co-Admin and I helping them with mercury toxicity as best as we can. My leave-taking occurred over a period of weeks and ended yesterday. It was time to free up some energy for other projects. Still, you have meant so much to me.

Experiencing fewer serious convulsive episodes lately after embarking on aggressive treatment for systemic Candida albicans plus flares of herpes simplex, and herpes zoster. The ramp up was very difficult yet, coupled with another treatment for a chronic MARCONs infection in my sinuses, it appears the body burden of infection is going down. Along with it there are at least 2 days every week for the past 5 weeks without convulsive episodes or tics! Only one severe episode every 5 days! Having more moments of relative freedom means so much to me after 9 years trapped in a prison cell with fear-of-episodes: avoiding triggers seemingly present in every aspect of living. Thousands of convulsive episodes nearly destroyed my health, my life. Now the the beatings have lifted some.

Simple changes in the timing of compounded hormone creams coupled with specific pharmaceutical grade supplements to help regulate cortisol levels took about a month to affect my sleep-wake cycle. This all came together rather casually when my Family Doctor reviewed the treatments of my Integrative Medicine Doctor. Both of them contributed to a significant change and so did I. I ventured out to find yet another recommended supplement and braved taking it when literally hundreds of treatments in the past have resulted in disaster. The Lord guided me in tweaking the dosing. And now most nights I sleep at least 5 hours during the normal time of night. This means so much to Steve and me.

A quagmire of new dental issues furthered my belief that not much in the medical realm is simple for me anymore. A simple cavity took a total of 4 dental visits to resolve, 2 with conscious sedation and all with considerable suffering, serious side effects. The latter included another flare-up of shingles! But now the insurance coverage for ongoing treatment of HHV1 and HHV3 is better and I am tolerating the dosing most of the time. So what if I have to soak the dye off of the tablet so it doesn’t cause a headache. I digress. PTL, He helped me figure it out. After my mouth fully heals and I can return to regular wearing of my specialized dental appliance, I should be stable once again. No more pureed or chopped food. To be stable means a lot to me.

The diagnosis of Occipital Neuralgia dovetailed multiple cranial nerve issues (vagus, trigeminal, glossopharygeal) that result in convulsive episodes. This discovery has led to new treatment strategies that work for me. No, it’s not fun to sleep with an ice wrap around my head at night but if it largely prevents a seizure attack episode falling asleep then I WILL DO IT! Nerve block injections tomorrow have the possibility of confirming this dynamic. It means so much to me to have tools to help my symptoms, to lessen my suffering. Very sparing use of new medications has rescued me on my worst days. Over the past 5 months, it only took a failed visit to the Cleveland Clinic and four visits to the professionals at a local pain management clinic that actually listen to me to figure it all out. At long last, I’ve got tools that work to lessen pain! Less pain means fewer convulsive episodes. Who knew?

The difference between my self esteem getting bruised from chronic illness and graciously seeing the Lord’s hand in delivering me from the hardest parts of chronic illness often lies in the hands of nurses at various medical facilities. They run these places. When a nurse actually delivers care and not just a procedure or worse yet ABUSE, I can endure much. The nurse who shamed me, blamed me for things things at the infusion clinic yesterday that were not my responsibility was out of line. I wept once they pulled the curtain to start my IV fluids. I left there in a weakened state albeit made worse with the needle-stick pain of the Huber needle coming out of the infusa-port in my chest wall. I sat in an outer lobby and cried again before emotionally limping as I left the building to come home. I really hate this stuff. I don’t want to be there. Insurance changes then other problems required me to return to a hospital setting instead of continuing in home health. You have to do what they tell you to do much of the time no matter what it means to you.

We have come into a time of year that means the most to me. It’s springtime. The temperature outside is in the 50s and it’s the same to me as a warm sunny day if I can get dirt underneath my fingernails in a garden. Less severe illness symptoms parts of days a couple of days per week means that I can push myself to do more than my basic self care. And so I have. No one needs to counsel or push me to get up and get moving. If I feel better, activity follows. I don’t want to be sick anymore. I’ve learned a lot but never “got anything” out of being sick. I hate and hated being sick but it happened anyways. The Lord has seen me through it all and is leading me into some new projects. These activities stretch me greatly and increase my pain level temporarily. They also increase my interaction with other people, strengthen my broken body, stimulate my mental capacity, and add value to our home and hopefully the lives of others too. By the grace of God I have earned the title of Extension Master Gardner. By the grace of God he has called me to serve others with these abilities so I have chosen to step out in faith by hosting some community gardening classes and even repairs in our own landscape. Sometimes I have to take things an hour at a time. Steve helps, thankfully! I actually get to check things off of my To Do list! Praise the Lord!

We have no idea what tomorrow will bring nor how long it will stick around. When it’s bad news we all go through a process of questioning: why me? why now? What am I supposed to do to get rid of this or perhaps worse yet, deal with this? I submit to you that the only Person to ask these questions to is the Author of life, the Lord, Jesus Christ. He is the beginning and the end, all that the heart seeks to be fulfilled despite living in a fallen, satanic world. He has a plan and a purpose for each of our lives. Every detail matters and is ordained in His crafting of our days, the days of the entire world and its people. You matter. I matter. And that worth does not change based upon our circumstances, thoughts, or other people. No one wearing a badge can take away your ordained purpose on this earth, on this side of the grave. Even if you die, your life will have made an impact somewhere to someone. And if you believe in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross, you will live on in paradise where everything is perfect, well, good, and beautiful. Thankfully we get glimpses of heaven here on earth, especially in the garden where His fingerprints color the fauna around us.

One of the most compelling truths I have learned enduring serious illness for nearly a decade is to walk softly when considering the hardest questions of life. Nothing is wasted in a life surrendered to the Lord, a life redeemed by the Lord. Everything will be alright in due time. We can bear way more than we think we can. We pray for the Lord to help us when we cannot see or trust, when the pain is too great. He will bless us. And further there is always something for which to be grateful. Even during a pandemic. Even during tyrannical events in society. Even when our relationships or health or finances suffer a seemingly fatal blow. We are not dead yet! We are also never alone. If we but walk softly as we consider the days of our lives then in due time, our precious Savior will reveal Himself to us. The seizure of our spirits will not last forever, Gentle Reader. One day we will know what it means to be truly free. JJ