Like a Life and Death Decision

 

Monet Japanese bridge at giverny
Japanese Bridge at Giverny by Monet

 

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.  Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

To receive salvation granted by grace is our greatest opportunity in this life.  In accepting this invitation, we will know Who holds our future in highest regard and security.  We will then enjoy the freedom to live our lives as God designed, as God intended.  Our lives will be meaningful!  He gave us so much goodness to enjoy in our lifetimes:  enough to encourage us when things are not so good or down right evil.  Through it all, with Him, we can live without fear and are never truly alone.  We can live life with abandon!  We can love fully and receive the fullness of love from others especially from our Creator.  Indeed His gracious gifts mean even more than “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!”

I believe in saving grace and it came despite horrific trials.  Many trials.  Years of trials.  A lifetime of trials.  Hey, while my life has not been easy it has not been all bad either.  I am grateful for much blessing and my eternal security in Christ Jesus.  It is because of the trials that I no longer fear the worst possible outcome:  death itself.  I have faced death many times.  For example, on my own could I ever be free in my spirit after witnessing attempted murder?  Abandonment?  Poverty?  Abuse?  Physical pain?  Agonizing seizure attacks for years?  The answer to all of these is YES I CAN.  I can be free and yes I am free in Christ Jesus.  With His amazing grace I am also free of the fear of death.  With that out of the way, I have a new sense of LIFE and I am exceedingly grateful for it!

Lately I have considered launching a new business.   As I pondered the best and worst-case scenarios of starting my own company, a question arose about life and death that is stirring my soul.

What if a customer someday dies because of a flaw in my product or services?

O.k. so you might not be the type who “starts with the end in mind” yet this is where my mind goes more often than I care to admit.  In other words, what if either the products of my company or something related to my design or advice are to blame for the loss of life of another human being?  That person would be someone’s son or daughter; someone’s mother or father, sister or brother could be gone forever!  Someone dying because of me directly or indirectly would be tragic.  I would be devastated!  Surely my family and employees would be affected too.  We might lose the business that we worked so hard to create.  Our grief could make it difficult to recover emotionally in the years thereafter.  How could our lives go on with the guilt, the pain, the horror, the shame?

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There is another, hidden layer to my character that relates to this subject of life and death.  It’s a part of me that I have never really understood until now.  A handwriting analyst in the 1960’s nailed it down for me when I was a girl struggling to find my way through childhood.  Everything in my life at that time had to be just so and if it was not, I was very vocal about it!  Imagine a 6-year old kid criticizing the way her teacher was reading a book to her first grade class!  After all, Mrs. C was not doing it the way that Mrs. B read books in my kindergarten class and that was not right.  I understand that I was sent to the coat closet for such offenses more than once!

I have come to understand that the ability to be flexible, spontaneous, open to new things including CHANGE, comes from an inner sense of security.  If at an early age we are 1) affirmed in ourselves, our abilities, 2) believe that the world around us is relatively safe, and 3) there is love and affection to comfort us (from a parent or heavenly Father), then we can deal with the imperfections of life.  If any of those three elements are missing then our ability to live outside our comfort zone flounders.  We will strive for things to be “black and white” when much of life is simply “gray.”  Letting go of control and dealing with the ambiguities of life is easier with the character qualities also known as gifts of the Holy Spirit:  patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.  Further, the gifts of peace, love, and joy will follow for the mature believer in Jesus Christ who can live in the world just as it is.  A controlling person is told to somehow, “grow up and smell the roses.”  I have found that this is impossible without the work of the Holy Spirit dwelling within me.  Who knows what growing up means anyways?

At one time, deep in my character I did not care about the things that I should.  For me in the past, having a severely controlling nature went beyond my birth order as the oldest in both of my parent’s families!  (Bossy sister?  Yeah, I heard that one more than I care to admit.)  There was a disconnect that went deeper.  At the core of my character I knew that I could harbor hate, malice, distrust, anger, jealousy, and much more ugliness than I care to disclose.  Somewhere in my unrepentant gut was a self -centeredness that put myself above all others in such a sick way that I might not care if another human being got harmed around me.  This is a horrible quality to have.  This is the consequence of woundedness.  This is the result of growing up without the safety and security needed to fully bond to the human race.  This also made me feel profoundly alone.

At it’s core, I believe that my disconnectedness ultimately did not come from me.  I believe that this kind of strife comes from our sin nature that is part of the human condition; I just got a boost in the wrong direction in the form of a largely unhappy childhood.  What I would do with all of that was up to me when I was introduced to the plan of salvation through our redeemer Jesus Christ.  We are all born with the propensity to sin until truly loved and trained away from it.  Just watch a 2-year old rip a toy out of the hand of a younger sibling!  Yes, even a darling 2-year old has a sin nature!

Jesus came to earth to re-connect us to our heavenly Father by washing away our sins with His grace.  Those who believe in His work on the cross receive forgiveness, a new nature, and the spiritual gifts noted above.  Unshakeable peace, love, joy and more come into our lives.  Jesus came and through our walk with the Holy Spirit we become freed from the character flaws of our sin nature.  This process continues until the day of our death.  And deep within our character we can heal and deal with all that is not quite right with our world, growing to become the man or woman He intended for us to be.  We can be whole.  As we do so, we can fully love one another, forgive those who trespass against us and live victoriously beyond our temptations.  We can be free to receive much goodness, do many good things.

When someone passes away, a person with a right heart grieves the loss.  Jesus showed us this tender quality when His friend Lazarus died and at the cross.  I know that my heart is more full now than ever before as evidenced by my ability to recognize and feel grief when someone dear leaves this life.  I feel very sad.  I also feel more compassion now than ever before as a result of healing from the losses in my own life.  So while I am aware of the character flaw I once carried of depersonalization, I know that the Lord is filling the ugliness of my sin nature with His perfect love.  I know that He loves me more than anyone else can ever love me.  I feel His love directly and through the people His has placed in my life today.  I feel more connected to the other wonderful sojourners in my life than ever before and it is good.

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If I start a new company and there is a tragic loss of life or injury for any reason, I trust that the Lord will go before me to guide my thoughts, my heart, my actions, my speech.  I pray that between now and that day, should it ever come, that He will grow me in His character so that I may fully love that grieving family or person.  Lord help me to do what I can to make things right should a tragedy come to pass.  Thank you for breaking the bondage of my past.  Most importantly today, help me to design products, services, and educational materials that preserve long and happy lives for others I may serve.  May my future customers and employees see Your touch of grace upon my life as it shines through the company I believe you are entrusting to me.  May I hold everything gratefully, responsibly, and lightly:  ready to carry it or let it go as You desire.  You are most important to me, my dear Jesus.  You saved me from sin and death for such a time as this . . .

Gentle Reader:  shall we start a two step solution together that makes life easier for everyone?  Hmmmm.  My mother was a gifted writer and my father was an amazing inventor.  I have learned much from their skills and abilities.  Ah yes, I see a Business Plan coming together.

Step 1:  Make a decision.

Step 2:  Do it!

Alright.  I’m in!  Witness the birth of Two Step Solutions.  Now let’s go!  :J

Julie Horney MS, OTR/L

The life I once lived

I’ve taken on a few phrases from others and made them my own over the years, ones that put a bunch of thoughts into a phrase or short sentence.  Not that these would bode well as my epitaph or anything like that mind you!  They just seemed to stick with me.  Here’s a biggie from an old supervisor named Jim.  He was a social worker by training and the director of the inpatient geriatric psychiatric unit where I was contracted to work.  When asked how things were going he would often reply:

“Same story, different day.”

Funny thing is that it was largely true.  On the Generations Unit there generally was at least one person every day screaming non-stop, voiding in an inappropriate location, wandering into another patient’s room unannounced, refusing to eat, refusing to get out of bed, or making up a story to convince him and psychiatrist that he/she did not need to be there.  Yes it was a crazy place.  That’s what you get when the nursing homes send their residents whose behavior can no longer be managed in their facility.  It is also where a depressed little old lady or your suicidal Uncle Pete would go for supportive therapies, meds., daily structured activities, and a round of ECT if needed (aka shock therapy!).  The latter actually worked very well for older adults.  The short term memory loss and massive headache was a major drag for awhile, however!

I worked there as an occupational therapist.  My role was to evaluate the functional level of the patient and assist the team in forecasting discharge plans while providing therapeutic activities.  The goal was always to achieve improved mental status, mood, and functioning for discharge to the least restrictive environment.  That might translate to a person returning home instead of assisted living or remaining in a private room in a nursing home instead of a locked dementia unit.  Sometimes the patient’s goals were reached and sometimes not.  Educating the family on the patient’s needs post discharge was also my role:  an important and sometimes delicate process.  I loved all of it.  I got to apply my skills in standardized assessments, grading activities for the best outcome in lower and higher level cognitive groups, patient and family education, and knowledge of community resources that may be of assistance post discharge.  The two latter skills were collaborated with the unit social workers who also loved working with older adults.  We had a great team back then . . .

I’ll never forget the two weeks that c-diff ran rampant through the unit.  C-diff is short for Clostridium difficile:  an infection of the colon causing horrific diarrhea and inflammation.  It’s a bacterial infection I can now diagnose by smell.  O.k. perhaps that’s too much information?  When virtually all of the inpatients become sick it is only a matter of time before the staff contract the infection as well.  There are just too many common areas in a locked unit that too many people end up touching with a contaminated hand after caring for a patient.  The motto those days was, “please pass the yogurt” or something similar!

Ruth was the best during situations like that.  She was older than me and had been a Certified Nursing Assistant for years.  She could get the toughest old bird to take a shower when he was resisting for days then she would turn around and feed a tender soul in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease bringing out the patient’s long-forgotten smile producing a long-lost twinkle in her eye.  Ruth often told us stories of her pet pot-bellied pig.  Seriously!  The beast weighed a couple hundred pounds but was part of their family, inside the house, potty-trained and behaved like a favorite feline or pup.  I could not imagine it!  Ruth lived in a suburban neighborhood like the rest of us!  Actually more recently while living in a smaller town with Amish homesteads not far away I can now start to imagine it a little better.  It’s still not for me, however!

The life I once lived was in the suburbs of Chicago amongst 8 million other people.  I was married and lived in a townhouse as it was the only affordable option even for two Master-degreed professionals or DINKS:  double income no kids.  We attended a mega church then a smaller Bible church, organized a yearly block party in the court of our neighborhood, and took walks together in regional parks called Forest Preserves.  I enjoyed neighborhood walks and riding my hybrid bicycle (between that designed for road touring and trail riding).  Holidays were spent with family in various cities as everyone was out of State for our Illinois locale.  Sure there were ups and downs with health issues or financial stressors but largely each day of our lives was the “same story, different day.”  When this got to be too much for my former spouse he found a way out and took it.  Hmmmm.  Alternately I found that you don’t really need a way out, per se.  Sometimes the “difference” we are seeking finds us as part of the Lord’s plan for our lives and it comes from within us instead of in the form of persons, places, or things . . .

Flash forward a myriad of moves of my residence, a change in the car I was driving, changing my job four times, transitions to new hair and clothing styles, some weight loss, and eventually moving to Indiana to marry Steve — over 10 years later I rarely say that old phrase anymore.  Oh even if nothing much has changed lately in my health or the circumstances of battling a serious illness, there are always new discoveries meeting me each day.  Things simply cannot be boring when you marry a man with as much energy as Steve!  He keeps me going just keeping up with all of his activities even when he is not home!  First there’s his four adult children and their families, then there’s his hobbies and sports, and his participation in the worship of our Lord Jesus Christ; the latter always brings news related to our church fellowship in addition to an intriguing message from the pages of the Bible.  That’s a lot to keep track of and I love it.  My garden, online jewelry business, and this blog fill in much of the rest of the time not taken with health-related activities.  How could I ask for more when my heart is full?

Sure my life has changed in the last decade or so and I’ll bet it’s the same for you too, Gentle Reader.  Is that o.k. with us?  As for me I would never have asked for the difficulties that have come in recent years that have added more “excitement” and stress than I could ever have imagined.  The crazy thing is that I would also have never known how to ask for the blessings that have come from this particular path either.  I would not want to be without the blessings just to have had an easier life.  I believe that I am exactly within the will of my Heavenly Father, that He has His hand on my life and my heart warmed in the shelter of His mighty wings.  He goes with me, goes before me this moment and the next; there are signs of His wonders sprinkled everywhere in my days.  I am so glad that I am not bored with my life.  Well yes of course there are times I’d like a little less “excitement!”  Yet that’s when I need to rest my cares at His throne of grace, allow Him to carry me like the famous Footprints in the Sand poem so graphically portrays, or wait on the Lord in the quietness of a moment of prayer . . .

I’m going to keep my head up and do like my brother, Mike, always used to say:  “keep moving forward.”  The life I once lived is gone but not forgotten.  Those memories bring gratitude for all that the Lord has placed in my life today:  a story that is never really the same.  In time my Lord will make all things beautiful.  In the meantime though I think it is finally time for me to go to bed!  There is a calmness in my spirit at last.  The sun is coming up and the birds are singing their morning hello just outside my window.  For me it will serve as a happy goodnight lullaby as I snuggle up to my intended beloved who brings me more joy than I could ever imagine.  Real love and more is here now.

Yes, Lord, it will be a good day I think.  :J

footprints-man-beach-morning