He knew

Still in shock from the news, with tears coming forth without notice

I grieve the sudden death of my brother and all that it means.

Where do I begin to tell the story of his life and mine intertwined?

I just can’t write very well right now.

One dynamic is clear though.

Just before he died, he had come to know and convey despite horrific suffering

That life in Christ is worthy of our primary focus. It supernaturally transcends the incredible chaos of our time whether it be in our own broken frame or the society at large.

I don’t think he lived this belief out perfectly in all areas of his world. But in conversation with me, his witness was clear: LIFE as in LIFE IN CHRIST is the most important matter of our days.

With this I find it curious that his final words to his companion and caregiver of many years were, “I don’t want to die.” But Mike, to live is Christ, to die is gain (Phil 1:21), ultimately to be with the Lord and perfectly whole. Why did you not give in to death when in a coma, when seizing, when facing searing pain and be truly free? No one would know and no one would blame you for letting go. You didn’t even do so until the Lord called you home. I am seeing in you this gift of perspective that I have not been able to realize in my own time of battling serious illness. You got it right! I need to get it right too.

Thousands of waking seizure attacks have ravaged my body over the past 8 years. The health complications that came along the way have brought much grief, guttural cries out to the Lord for relief. Experiencing my brain on fire when I am still awake has brought traumatization, triggered memories of past incidents of trauma, stirred emotions that took me down, down, down. If there was lingering bitterness from the abuse of my past then it had no where to go to heal when every month it seemed, there was a new medical problem/diagnosis/treatment to consume my days. Sure, I tried to live around the compendium of illness; weather sick or faking wellness, I see now that my focus has been in the wrong place too much of the time. I need more of Jesus Christ and less of everything else NO MATTER WHAT IS GOING ON AROUND OR WITHIN ME.

I have struggled to read my Bible and pursue even passive activities that can strengthen my relationship with my Savior. It’s been really, really hard to do so. Somehow my brother Mike figured it out despite his suffering. He could only use one hand! His body erupted into violent spasms without warning. The simplest of self care tasks were laborious beyond belief. He has been bedridden for most of the past few years. And the pain. I don’t know if anyone really knows how much he endured, how much medication or cigarettes it took to numb the torture of severe contractures from a stroke about 5 years ago then subsequent medical mismanagement (or minimal management). So did he talk about all of this with me? NO! He chose share what he was studying in his Bible instead. He asked me important questions that I was barely able to answer. Mike meditated on the significant issues of life itself. He saw beyond the life his broken frame, not wanting it to end despite his suffering. Mike dwelt for hours each day in the presence of our Lord and blessed me in return by his doing so.

Mike really did not want to die. I get the sense that it was because he wanted to be here when the Lord returned in glory for His church. Mike thought he would be here for the rapture. Sometimes I think that I will be here for the rapture too, and that it might not be far away with the absolute chaos going on in our country. Despite my own faith in Jesus Christ, many times I have wanted to die. I have been overcome with despair, enough so that I could not imagine living another day with my own suffering (described here many times, portrayed on my YouTube channel). My faith has wavered at times when challenged by the worst ravages of chronic illness. I am not proud of it. This is important to share however, as I know that I am not alone. Tis better to bring these issues to the light of day in the right way at the right time. Now is that time. My brother’s witness to me that I finally got to see in his passing from this life is a proverbial fork in the road for where I want my life to go from here. I got this perspective from you Mike. Thank you. You have finished well, the task of ministering to your older sister whether you knew or not that you were doing so.

Thank you my dear brother in Christ. On Friday you told me that you knew that one day you would be healed. That prayer was answered just one day later! I rejoice that you are now leaping like a deer on high places as you dwell with our majestic Savior in the heavenly realms. See you one day when the Lord calls me home too. Until then,

Heyyyyy Mikey! I love you. JJ

A missed opportunity to minister

James 1:2-8 (NIV)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

Perhaps it is a weakness in my character that requires refinement?  To witness the love of Christ to others in our times of trial serves as both a powerful witness for Christ and perfector of our own faith.  Heck, with the amount of suffering I have endured, I don’t want any of it to be wasted.  Or repeated!  So today I wonder if it is possible that I have missed one particular situation of opportunity:  the Emergency Room.  Finally my broken heart has calmed down enough to consider the possibility . . .

Ten times I have landed in the ER in the past 4 1/2 years.  The first time was at the beginning of this illness with the viral hepatitis that started it all.  The next nine trips were all for wretched, continual seizure attacks that would not stop.  Most times the ER Docs could get them and the pain that accompanied them to stop with a combination of fluids and some kind of medication.  Often the medication made me worse.  Usually I would walk out of there about 5 hours later as a beaten puppy with an exhausted husband faithfully at my side.  And sometimes I even got a break in the convulsive episodes for some of the subsequent 24 hours.  This became less true with each subsequent visit.

Twice during my severe distress, barely able to punch out a few words when having difficulty breathing and my “brain on fire,” I have sworn at the person who I thought was not helping me.  Not cool.  Even a person with Tourette’s Syndrome or senile dementia has some responsibility to try to find reasonable means to communicate his or her needs.  My frustration got the best of me and I forgot who I belong to in Christ.  I forgot Who was in charge those nights in the ER.  I forgot who allowed these refining fires into my life for my highest good.  I lost the image He gave me of His tears as He hung from the cross for me.  I ceased to remember the gifts, the crown of glory that awaits those who are in Christ Jesus.  I certainly did not remember that even these ugly things were working together for my good (Romans 8:28) even when amongst the staff at the hospital.  And my witness for the One Who saved me was tarnished for sure.  In my own strength, I failed to get my needs met and failed to minister.  We left this past Friday night with me weeping, still seizing, and unable to walk . . .

Sure, I am human:  weak, limited in strength and in power.  I pray and my husband prays continuously for all aspects of this illness.  I submit to the will of Christ.  I could also describe for you the victories, the growth, the good things that have happened amidst the traumatic.  For example, Friday night after an IV treatment for chronic Lyme disease was supposed to be for salvaging what remained of my birthday.  That did not happen when I spent the evening in the emergency room.  I was sick all day on Saturday and Sunday.  Even so there were sweet gifts at dusk on each of those days and in the morning on Monday when I got to work in my garden again; for that I am grateful.  My spirit soars out there dontcha know . . .

Here is the scripture that is convicting me on a Tuesday.  See if you can follow where my heart, where my spirit has led me:

2 Corinthians 6:4-10 (NIV)

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

Such is the opportunity for ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for those who suffer.  It’s not all about us.  My Lord, help me in your grace to use the witness of Your own life and the apostle Paul who wrote these words to strengthen my own ministry in times of need for your glory.  I have failed and want to do as You would have me do no matter what happens to me.  Please strengthen my beloved Steve as well.  Thank you for his care, love, and companionship in the best of times, the worst of times.  Bless him oh please.  He has been so good to me.

1 Peter 5:4, crown, glory, submit, His will, crown of glory, thy will be done, purpose, suffering, hope, Jesus Christ, reward, heaven