No Day But Today

A long time ago I made a decision to use the word “love” a little more freely.  That decision came with another which was to not let concerns of what others would think of that get in the way of expressing that love.  For example, if it was a female friend then she would get that the “love” was within the context of loving a fellow believer in Jesus Christ, love like a sister that I never had, and possibly a bond that simply comes with walking through many years of life’s ups and downs together.  The transition would be instant, from “Take Care” at the end of an email to “Love, Julie” if we had just endured a crisis together.  When one heart is hurting, there is no other word that will suffice.  Love covers things well.

Born again believers know the author of love as God himself.  The scriptures instruct us that:

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.  1 John 4

The Lord is the perfect reflection and expression of what love looks like.  I do believe that those who are not in Christ have a sense of what love is like too.  That is why I feel comfortable including a video in which 1) two women are kissing and 2) there is a man dressed as a woman embracing another man.  If the relationships were real, they must have a sense of connectedness to express their love outwardly.  I am not condoning homosexuality.  I just might understand it a little more since my late Uncle Fred lived and died within the context of “the gay lifestyle.”  I still loved him despite this decision.  Oh how I wish he and others knew the deeper spiritual connectedness that comes in a God-fearing and God-honoring relationship!  The Lord blesses those Who love him first!  (Hebrews 11:5-7)  But that is not my focus here today.

My focus is the importance of expressing love everyday to those you care about.  It’s not weird!  I am reminded of this today in the middle of 8 days in which my husband and I will attend two funerals.  I had only met his Uncle Don one time and was more “acquainted” with Dave than knowing he and his wife Jane more “personally.”  It didn’t and does not matter.  As fellow believers in Christ, their character and lives had impacted my life with that level of connection.  Uncle Don warmly accepted my marriage to Steve that had come at a time when most of Steve’s children still could not.  Since I knew without a doubt that the Lord was blessing our marriage, it was refreshing to feel loved by his family.  I thank the Lord for this.

Also when Steve and I married and started to attend his church home, he pointed out couples with strong marriages that he wanted to model our relationship after.  Dave and Jane was one of them.  They had been married for decades by then yet still had a sense of fun, a spark, and a deep love for one another that was palpable.  They worked separate jobs outside of their home yet were usually together at church and other important events.  Dave served the body of believers, his community, his employer, and his family with equal enthusiasm.  Thank you for pointing out this great example of a Godly man, Steve.  And yes, you are much like him for sure!

Today I am unable to attend Dave’s funeral service due to complications of a serious, ongoing illness.  Last night was particularly wretched.  I had a sense that it would be risky to go to the funeral home and be around so many people and potential exposures that trigger convulsive episodes.  I went anyways. I am also in the middle of re-shuffling my treatment plan and have no idea what made things so much worse.  The only good part about that hellish 2 hours was the toning of my abdominal muscles from flexion posturing, writhing, seizing, moaning, and more.  Oy vey.  In the middle of it I asked for the Lord to remove this hell.  I begged for His mercy.  It must have come since at some point I passed out and woke up about 7 hours later . . .

Today I am beat up from all that has transpired in the past day.  Somehow I am still alive!  Though my heart is heavy with grief on many fronts, I do not regret pouring out the strength that I had to be with friends in their time of need.  I got to be out with my beloved husband and do one of the important things of this life.  Going to the wake reminded me of the truth told a gazillion times before:  there is no day like today.  There is nothing like love between two people, magnified and blessed when they are one in Christ.  And lest it be forgotten or unknown, it is important to express that love out loud and often.  For me this includes the love of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  For just as it says in the song,

I die without You!

Talk about perfect love! Oh Gentle Reader, won’t you join me in sharing a little love today? 

With love, JJ

Known in the Gates: Part 2, The Inside Story

One of the movies that has really resonated deeply with me is, The Breakfast Club.  Please see my previous post for the catchy theme song that underscored the film and one of the most poignant scenes that is also pertinent to Part 2 of this 3-part blog.

In Part 1, I described the isolation that I have felt when enduring a serious illness and how the Lord still gets me through the toughest of days.  His Word is my greatest comfort; the leading of the Holy Spirit and His presence are my greatest companions.  I ended with a question,

But how well does he really know me?

Sure, my Lord crafted me before I was born and set forth all that I would be, all that I would endure and accomplish.  His Words in Psalm 139 declare that He knows my “innermost being.” Does this include the longing of my heart as well?  If it does, why has He allowed me to become so dreadfully isolated?

Maybe someday I will get to see why so many family and friends have chosen to “walk on by” me as it says in the theme song of The Breakfast Club.  Have I not been a good friend?  Maybe I was not.  I remember about two years into this ordeal someone contacted me and asked me about getting together for coffee.  I replied “yes” and then I never heard from her again.  My spirits had soared then crashed and burned.  For believers in Jesus Christ, the answer to the “why” question is usually left for eternity.  We simply may never know “why” this side of heaven.

Those of you not living in isolation may not have any idea how much Satan uses this experience to tear a person down.  He can prey upon all of our negative emotions and be allowed to create havoc in our lives.  (Yes, ultimately God is still in charge!)  Yet I know that it’s really not about resisting Satan or about losing the people in my life.  I resist the devil and his demons with the sword of the spirit:  the Word of God as described in Ephesians 6:10-17.  People come and go in our lives and that is the normal ebb and flow of life.  It really is about my response to the taunting, the loss of these relationships.

My challenge has been particularly great due to the effect that this chronic illness has had on my brain.  Responding to Satan’s lies and the loss of relationships has been affected by the change in brain chemistry that came with chronic illness.  My ability claim victory in the name of Jesus Christ and fully embody the companionship of my Lord have been affected.  Satan’s lies have been magnified.  My social skills have eroded.  My ability to think clearly has been altered.  And I struggled to override these skill deficits but could not, even if I tried.  Allow me to explain.

Only recently did we discover that excessive neurotransmitters called catecholamines (epinephrine, norephinephrine, and dopamine) are likely contributing to my mood changes, thinking and communication skills in addition to possibly causing the convulsive episodes.  This is happening due to the expression or “turning on” of polymorphisms (SNPs) or breaks in several enzymes that help form my DNA code.  The DNA code is the instruction manual or blueprint from which the body functions.  Everyone has a unique combination of broken SNPs that get turned on by illness or significant stressors in the environment (such as exposure to mold).  For me the factors included everything that I have written about in this blog:  biotoxin illness/hepatitis, latent Lyme disease, Candida toxicity, mold illness, infected root-canaled teeth, and mercury toxicity.  That’s a lot of stressors!  These illness and environmental challenges became a trigger for disaster.  I even have the data to prove it, all of it!

methylation cycle, Dr. Amy Yasko, SNPs, Lyme disease, mold illness, mitochondrial, mito disease, methylation, B6 deficiency, CIRS, mold illness,

One version of a methylation cycle from http://ihateticks.me/2014/10/06/methylation-for-dummies/

For some people this process manifests as a Mitochondrial Disease or a disruption in the methylation cycle inside the nucleus of the cells of our bodies.  My thought life was affected.  My mood was affected too.  I had waking and nightly nightmares not based in any reality past or present.  Those were internal things that my beloved husband, Steve, and the healthcare community could not see very often.  Several healthcare practitioners labeled me as having a mental illness of sorts, often without even completing a mental status exam or workup!  Gratefully, Steve believed me.  They all saw the wretched convulsive episodes that have plagued me for hours every day for 3 1/2 years.  And Satan was allowed to enter into the whole dynamic with lies and attacks that I will definitely write about at another time.  Absolute mental and physical wretchedness.

But now the gig is up!  Two days ago I woke up from a lovely nap after starting to treat this condition.  I had my first 16 hours seizure-free!  It’s as if someone turned on the lights in my brain!  Not only do I have a formula for correcting the brain-part of the process but the prayers of deliverance against the spiritual warfare are taking hold.  The cascade of negative mental, physical, social, emotional, and spiritual suffering is beginning to turn around. Lord willing, I am going to get well!

My Jesus knows all about every aspect of what I have described here.  He also knows the desires of my heart.  How do I know this?  My prayers long before this illness began was to become whole.  I had been broken by the consequences of a hard life:  events out of my control.  Many times during trauma the Holy Spirit would bring encouraging scripture to me that kept me moving forward.  Yeah, finding hope and finding myself has come through horrible, ongoing isolation and trauma.  I have worked hard to recover from so much suffering in my heart, my mind, my body.  Each step of the way has been both painful and meaningful.  Yet I tell you, Gentle Reader that nothing has been wasted!  I have learned to trust the process in EVERY CIRCUMSTANCE under the protection of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  And now the desires of my heart are being realized.  Cool beans.

So how does one rebirth the desires of one’s heart?

Jer 29.11b

To be continued in Part 3 . . .

Known in the Gates: Part 1, Not Forgotten

For those of us around when the iconic movie of the 1985, The Breakfast Club, came out, we probably asked ourselves which character we liked the best.  Was it the one called Sporto, the jock?  Carl, the criminal?  Brian, the brain?  Molly Ringwald’s character, the princess?  Or maybe it was the outcast gal in black?  (what was her name?)  Here’s a little refresher with the song that still gets my heart rate going, my feet tapping!  How about you?

This is one of those songs that once you hear it, you won’t be able to get it out of your head for about a day!  Sorry.  I really like this song!  I really liked the movie too.  The character that resonates with me these days is Allison Reynolds played by Ally Sheedy.  If you don’t want to watch all of the clip below, kindly forward to the scene in progress around the 5:00 to 6:15-minute mark.  It’s where she confesses her deepest sorrow:

Yes, I get this type of sorrow.  Try being sick with a serious illness for coming up on 4 years and see who remembers your name?  See who identifies with your struggles?  See who bothers to ask, who bothers to call?  The numbers have dwindled for me for sure.  I have kept in touch with my closest friends from Illinois and made new friends in the recovery-from-this-or-that communities online.  My beloved husband (whom I met then married here in Indiana), Steve, has hung in there through with me the worst of the torment, the lifestyle changes, the failed treatments, and the thousand-plus nights with disrupted sleep.  (Watch these videos if you want to know what I am talking about.)  Some folks I know have graciously followed this blog through it all.  Thank you!  I am always delighted when I hear from one or two of them now and then.  Nice.  Well sort of.  It’s just not the same . . .

There is a place where I am known very well and keep in close contact.  There is a place where I have not been abandoned, ignored, discounted.  The place where I matter most and my closest companion is always there, always here with me.  That place is in the arms of my Heavenly Father through my personal relationship with his Son, Jesus Christ.  He never forgets about me!  I savor His words He speaks of me (and you too, Gentle Reader) from Psalm 139:

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

Oh how I wish I knew these words as a young woman when I first saw The Breakfast Club!  What matters now is that I get to lean on these words all of the time now in the quiet, dark places I have visited when alone with my Lord.  He has never forgotten about me.  I have always felt His presence even in my greatest hours of suffering.  He has spoken through the Holy Spirit often.  I have never felt “lonely.”  The Creator of the universe loves me!  I am so grateful.

But how well does he really know me?

To be continued in Part 2 . . .

He really cares: Part 2

Please forgive me for leaving you hanging, Gentle Reader!  I left you hanging by a thread in this blog almost 2 weeks ago.  Clearly I made it out o.k. from the doctor’s office!

charcoal sketch, sketch of woman, side view of woman, head shot, female drawing, picture of lady

Since there were many hairy details in the horrible situation I was in on July 29th, I will shorten things up a bit here.  In my last post, I ended whilst lying on my side, paralyzed and inches from the floor after a convulsive episode in the exam room of a Physician’s Assistant (PA).  The second of two severe seizure attacks had occurred since entering this room and the second of two episodes of neurological collapse was in progress.  Eventually the PA returned and forgot everything I had ever told her about what to do in this circumstance; she even forgot that in the first episode (that she had witnessed) I was unable to speak or move.  All she kept asking was, “Do you want me to call an ambulance?”

Finally I was able to break through what was happening in my brain to express the greatest need in my life at that moment, “PLEASE REMOVE MY GLASSES!”  As she wrenched my neck and lifted my head I screamed in excruciating pain from having had my eyeglasses and sunglasses wedged against my face for so long.  Extreme sensory sensitivity accompanies the worst convulsive episodes; pain in particular is magnified as if you had tried to electrocute me!  So when the PA tried to remove them, it was as if a bolt of lightening had jolted through my face!  She asked again about the ambulance.  “Did I want to get up onto the table to be more comfortable?”  I could not speak or move at all.  Then she left.  A long time later she returned.  Then she left.  A long time later she returned.  Then she left.

To pray was my focus since the trained medical professional was of no help!  Thankfully after a long time, it was the Lord Who helped me twist and turn my torso so I could lie on my back across two chairs with my legs pulled up underneath me.  It took about a dozen tries before I could lift my head segmentally to reach a sitting position with my head supported by the wall behind me.  Never did a wall seem so comforting . . .

Eventually a nurse, the really sweet one, came into the room with a wheelchair so I could be taken to the bathroom.  Herein I benefitted from my training in transfer techniques as an occupational therapist.  My arms were starting to regain motor control but my legs were like dead weight .  I lifted them one at a time with my right arm (more functional than my left) off of the leg rests of the wheelchair and onto the floor, braced myself with the grab bar along the wall next to the toilet and pivoted myself around; I reversed the procedure with more adaptive techniques to do all of the things I needed to do in the bathroom.  By the time I was wheeling myself out of the bathroom, the really sweet nurse had returned to take me to the hospital in the building next door.  At last, over three hours later and feeling majorly beat up, I would be getting the IV fluids as ordered!

Unfortunately the IV “Lactated Ringers” didn’t help me much.  The nightly convulsive episodes returned followed by wake-up tazoring the next morning.  I was so beat up from everything.  The following evening I did make it to the grocery store when things had temporarily stabilized.  Such an ordeal!  Calming my anger at my medical providers has taken every day since then.  The doctor never mentioned it when I saw him last week.  He did not even ask if the IV fluids helped me to feel any better.  Sometimes that guy is just too focused on test results (or whatever) to examine the overall process of this patient’s sickness, the clues that might be hidden in plain sight.  Oh well.  The second appointment to review additional test results last week was cancelled (as are about 35% of his appointments).  A minor flare up of the ol’ anger distracted me once again, gratefully for less time . . .

So who really cares if I live?  Suffer?  Die?  I have spent the last 15 days meditating on this.  The real question emerged beneath these cries and it was not to find out if anyone really cares or not.  There are people in my life who love me and for this I am grateful.  The real question turned out to be whether or not I had submitted this illness to the Lord as a living sacrifice.  Who is really in charge here?  Did I offer it to the One Who sees all, loves me more than anyone?  Could I view laying this illness at the Lord’s mighty throne of grace as an act of both obedience and worship?  He calls believers to do this, by the way in Romans 12:1-2

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  (Romans 12)

The Lord knows that our bodies are not perfect and that our world is not perfect.  Why would the God of the universe desire me to make alms to Him with my weaknesses?  He desires our devotion in all things and loves me and you just as we are.  But wouldn’t he rather have a tithe or act of service?  NO!  He is God not some distant authority figure or Santa Claus.  He loves us, has mercy on us, completes us, pours out His blessings, defends us, and promises to make good out of the fallen things of this world no matter how ugly.

1 Peter 5:6-11New International Version (NIV)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

10 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. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

I am holding out for the promise that lies within these words.  He will restore me in due time.  Who cares for me?  Who cares for you?  The Lord Jesus Christ, that’s Who!  In Him we will find rest no matter what may come our way.  We can be sure of it!  JJ

Obedience

Obedience is one of those words like “discipline.”  Not popular either one of them, yet both separate the whining cry babies from the mature adults amongst us.  For believers in Jesus Christ, obedience matures our faith and transforms us into the image of Christ (a work never completed during our lifetimes).  In our humanity our flesh tugs at us to rebel or be tempted in directions other than the leading of the Holy Spirit.  But by focusing on His incredible gift of grace, studying His holy Word, and submitting to the leading of the Holy Spirit we will end in a better place for sure.  I have seen it in my own life and in the lives of others.  His will is best.  His timing is best.  Why?  Because He loves us and because He is God!

These thoughts came to me after reading an interview of Ravi Zacharias in the RZIM Summer 2015 newsletter and listening to a message by Pastor Paul Mowery of Harvest Fellowship in Leo, Indiana.  At the close of his message on Romans 11, Pastor Paul encourages us to “be about worship,” praising His great name for having mercy on us as recipients of the Lord’s grace.  We are not to dwell on what each of us may have done that draws attention to ourselves.  We are to be about Him: worshipping our Father God.

Lately I am struggling with these themes.  Many of my posts here have tried to pull something meaningful out of the challenges of a wretched illness.  As the days wear on with the setbacks of late, I have found myself literally screaming out my anger at God with the wails that accompany the convulsive seizures.  “Why do you hate me?”  Oh yeah, it’s bad.  Even my beloved Steve who has been at my side during a fair amount of this hell admits his anger at God.  And we are convinced that this is an o.k. thing to do.  It is not an o.k. place to stay, however.  And it is certainly not an acceptable attitude to act upon.

You simply cannot be angry at someone whom you do not love dearly.  Such is our dilemma.  We both love the Lord, Jesus Christ, and are humbled, grateful for His mercies in each of our lives.  We have so much goodness between us!  We are grateful for so much!  And in our humanity we are broken and don’t like the brokenness.  Way down deep we are hurting and it is this hurt that fuels the anger.  Admitting this will be the way out, the way back to fellowship, the discipline that will bring obedience, the song of worship yet to come . . .

So, as the Holy Spirit says:

“Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
    during the time of testing in the wilderness, (Hebrews 3)

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Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.  (Hebrews 3)

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being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 1)

Today with the faith of a mustard seed (that I understand is rich in nutrients of which I am needing anyways!) I will choose to honor and worship the Lord, my King.  He has built this frame in which I dwell and within it dwells the Holy Spirit.  Broken or not, it is the vessel from which I will praise His name all of my days.  I lay my angst on His mighty throne of grace, with great expectation of His promise to redeem it for His glory.

obedience, endurance, waiting on the Lord, discipline, redemption, redeeming grace, redeem

May He be glorified in all.  My Jesus.  My all in all.  Worthy of our praise.  Worthy is this Lamb of God!  JJ