The trials of discontent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about if I repeat that another way:

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

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

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

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

Will you? JJ

More Like a Dependence Day

When living in the Midwest where pyromania is out of control on Independence Day, the chemically sensitive like me gear-up for the occasion. No, not raffia pumps with ribbon ties and sparkling earrings in red, white, and blue but full-on painter’s masks in pink and yellow! Not even a coronavirus can get to me now! Other days it’s the proverbial N95 mask instead. I depend upon these tools for survival. You are only as good as your tools, right?

When a tooth extracted during the shutdown of the pandemic didn’t heal according to plan, IV ozone treatments cleared things up nicely. It only cost an additional $450! Flash forward to week 9 and FRAGMENTS of bone and tooth start pushing up from the gums that are still sore and sensitive to temperature. It’s normal, right? So I pulled out all 3 of them, cleaned up MORE PUS, rinsed with saline and the remaining antibiotic rinse I had plus some liposomal vitamin C. No prob. Things have quieted down now that I employed the problem-solving skills granted by the Lord, that I have come to depend upon. Thank you!

When convulsive episodes persist eight years later after their onset and every Practitioner consulted has not found their root cause or treatment, I take to my clinical research tools once again. Many symptoms and a new look at prior medical testing now indicate a need to revisit a cardiology work-up. And while recovering from two particularly heinous episodes today, a friend mentioned something on Facebook that will likely direct me to my next specialist. I asked my Family Practice Physician for a referral. Let’s do this. I shall depend upon you again my brilliant Doc, to help me put this together in search of a cure.

And when overly-focused on my own traumas and dramas, the recent passing of the last member of my immediate family not-withstanding, I realize that it is not my own life that is in chaos BUT THE ENTIRE NATION IN WHICH I LIVE. There is a shroud of evil darkening the patriotism and freedoms of our once United States of America. The life I am trying to live has been forever changed and the way in which I have tried to live it is increasingly changing. Political mayhem gave way to a pandemic and escalated into anarchy, the latter coming soon to a street near you. How then are we to live? We could say so much here yet I contend simply that you better depend upon Jesus now or forever hold your breath, your teeth, your head, your mind lest you too go mad.

This may have been our last Independence Day. One day soon may be our eternal days in Dependence upon that which we do not desire. As for me, dependence on the Lord is the only way to live, the only way to survive the evils of living in a fallen world, a world quickly falling into utter darkness. I may go down for good tomorrow due to illness factors or the random firing of an angry mob. Regardless, the outcome will be the same. I’ll be in paradise with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, healthy and forever free.

We still have some choices Gentle Reader. Upon what have you decided to depend? JJ

Start at the point of exasperation

When you reach the end of your rope then a new one must come forth

‘Cause everyone needs a hand to hold onto sometimes.

When all you can see is a dark web of experience, a broken road underfoot

Then we must cling to a crossbar strong enough to last forever.

When your body is broken, unreliable, and shaking with ravages of illness

There is no reason not to grab a hold of something eternal, transcendent, permanent, sublime.

When the pain begins as your eyes open and close each day, each night

Trust that these are a consequence of our fallen world, not your curse tender child.

When hopes get dashed over and over and over and over again

Re-examine what you are hoping for . . . the journey is alas, laced with gold.

When “challenges” plague you that would dwarf the average soul next door

Walk your own path with eyes fixed on your Maker Who is holding your heart.

When all hope is gone it is actually the perfect time Gentle Reader

To cling to our risen Christ, borne from an old rugged Cross, waiting in earnest to love you through it all.

When one day the suffering ends and your exasperation is but ashes on the dirty ground

Know that to finish well, not pretty or neat, is its own just reward. We’ve got this. He’s got us. And all will be made well.

Isaiah, 41:13, Lord holding us, take heart, trials, illness, disease, suffering, tragedy, Christian, Jesus, hope, enduring, reward

31, 23, and 6:13

Never could I have ever imagined that I would spend the better part of the 5th decade of my life battling a serious illness. Then on cue from the Masterful Maestro, Jesus Christ, a few tweaks in 1 type of medication and 2 supplements began to turn things around. What has transpired seems miraculous to me.

31 symptoms aren’t as bad right now as they were when I wrote them down on December 29, 2018. A few more are gone.

23 triggers of sometimes violent, convulsive episodes have diminished in severity as they were when I wrote them down on December 29, 2018. A few more are gone. A few days per week I have none.

And in a matter of a few hours from now, at 6:13 a.m. to be exact, I will be able to board a plane all by myself to head back to Rochester, Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic. An aggressive schedule awaits me for my follow-up treatment and medical visits. I’ll stay in a special condominium that will accommodate any ongoing chemical sensitivities; I’ll even learn to Uber and Lyft. Yay!

I am hopeful that things will turn out alright. I am slowly getting stronger and pain levels are coming down with various therapies that are finally working! Master Gardening activities are ticking up and I have a sewing project that I work on in the hours when I am feeling better. Call it my transition back into life.

What a good feeling. Thank you Lord for seeing me through to this day. Thank you also to my beloved, Steve, who has faithfully walked with me during thousands of dark days and nights. I am so blessed. Restoration is coming at last and I am as humbled as I am grateful.

Lord, please hold my heart and my hand as I make this trip. Let’s go! JJ


And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

1 Peter 5:10

Had to go “country” on this one

Perhaps I killed the Easter bunny of 2020? I just can’t get her out of my mind . . .

Gardening with a dog keeps you more aware of your surroundings than on the tasks at hand. I have to call out for Elle every 10-15 minutes because I just don’t know where her sniffing will take her: to the pond behind us for a swim? Chasing after a young family pushing a stroller in the court? Saying “hello” to the neighbor boys cutting through someone’s yard? Rolling in goose crap? Or today, intently sizing up the nest of bunnies hidden in the vegetable bed!

Fortunately I was nearby when she decided to jump the wire fence and investigate the litter of baby rabbits in our vegetable bed up close. Then all hell broke loose! The 3 bunnies I saw scattered in 3 different directions while she dashed to and fro trying to catch one or all of them. It all happened so fast! “Elle get out of here!” I shouted only to find her jump out then jump back in again as I tried to free one of the furry creatures now strangled by the 1/2″ green chicken wire. I pushed its head backwards wondering if it would bite me? Elle grabbed onto a brother (or was it a sister?) trying to escape through the black metal fencing that enclosed the entire area; I lifted up the chicken wire and the weight of the bunny’s body below my hand broke it loose. By then I caught a glimpse of the 3rd sibling getting caught the same way just out of reach then breaking free and squeezing around the black fence post to escape the area. What mayhem ensued as the one now in Elle’s jaws squealed loudly!

Elle in hot pursuit at another time, for another cause.

I ran over to rescue it but it was too late. Probably only about 13 seconds had transpired at this point and the first one to escape had already been chomped by our German shepherd huntress. Elle often just plays around with the furry critters she finds in our yard, engaging in a terrifying-for-them and delightful-for-her game of catch and release. This time her usually soft grasp of her jaws had sheared the skin off of the back of the tiny rabbit which exposed the upper half of its pink and white spinal column. I was mortified! How grotesque! I really didn’t know what to do. The animal was suffering greatly so I shooed her captor away only to witness the little one struggling to run off into the bushes. “It’s going to run off to die,” I thought to myself and who knows what will happen after that: a turkey vulture will circle around and take her to dinner or more likely, Elle will find her and torture her some more. I knew what I had to do.

The blade of the shovel became a protective shell over her and from the menacing canine while I called out from the backyard, “Steve! Steve! Are you there?” I called for my husband in the house. He wasn’t there. I called for him in the shed. He wasn’t there. I called for him in the garage. He wasn’t there. Geez! He was just here a couple of minutes ago! Steve takes off as quickly as the dog sometimes when on a mission that only men can understand. But does he realize that his damsel is in distress and needs him RIGHT NOW?!

It was all I could do to keep Elle from going insane. I should have put her in the house but another reality came over me that took precedence: my dog, our dog had maimed a baby rabbit and it was suffering while I ran around to get someone else to take care of the matter. You know I grew up in a crowded suburb north of Detroit, Michigan, not in the country, right? You know that I barely shot a b.b. gun at a paper target as a kid and visited apple orchards for my “country” experiences. But somehow I knew that the right thing to do was to put the bunny out of its misery as soon as possible. I HAD TO DO IT. I couldn’t wait for Steve. The longer I waited, the more problems I would have with Elle and my conscience for our pup torturing the softest, cutest, fuzziest of God’s creatures now huddled in fear and taking its last breaths under a cold, steel coffin in our backyard.

I killed the bunny. I killed the baby bunny. I put the baby bunny out of its misery. I did what any country gal would do in a heartbeat without thinking about it and ended the whole ordeal. Then I went to try again to locate Steve. Just as I came around to the front of our house, he rolled up into the cul-de-sac on his land paddleboard just as happy as he could be to be outside taking in our unseasonably warm early spring day. He’d already been out for his first race practice of the year at a local lake with the Kahele outrigger canoe earlier this afternoon and just couldn’t get enough of the 70-degree temp during the first week of April. The day was beautiful. Steve was in his element. Julie was waaaaaaaay out of hers!

Steve helped me with disposing of the lifeless body of what surely would have been the Easter bunny for all of the boys and girls in the neighborhood next year . . . or so it seemed to me. I killed the Easter bunny! Oh dear. We talked through the whole ordeal again and turned our attention to the projects that I was finishing up in our yard. Preparing dinner and cleaning up the kitchen followed while thoughts of the little carcass drifted in and out of my mind. Not a good day to be cleaning the remaining chicken off of the roast I had prepared last night! The pinkness of the inner bones reminded me of that little baby’s spine. Every time I closed my eyes, I could see the raw, bleeding, exposed back of the chomped and squealing precious critter with the soft paws and fluffy tail. Oh dear. Oh my.

So maybe some of you Gentle Readers grew up taking care of dead animals during your years living in the country or on a farm? The closest I got to this was probably throwing out a mouse trap with the mouse still entrapped but already dead, its jaws locked on a piece of pinconning cheese. Always felt bad for the little things. We had gerbils for pets you know, and they all look so harmless — until you find their damage behind the sofa, in the duct work, or in your shoes with just a little hole in them! I guess I grew up a little more today, a little more like a country gal who was simply taking care of a tiny matter in the circle of life.

And now it’s time to go to bed and close my eyes. Oh Lord, help me let go of the cute, squeaky rabbit that died today. Easter is coming soon and celebrating the sacrifice you made on the cross at Calvary for us to live eternally in peace, with you, is all that matters. And thank you for the courage to act when needed to end the suffering of one of your creations. You care about them and you care about me too. You have acted miraculously in my life in recent days in a way that is further reducing my own suffering and I am exceedingly grateful. More on that another time. For tonight, I get it Lord.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7

You are so good. JJ