I was made for you

You looked at me with the bluest of eyes and said that we were going.

The ugliness of illness that had proceeded that moment held the rest of the day in the balance —

Obligations awaited us yet all the precautions, procedures, special preparations, and planning getting to this moment made no difference.

I could not move until you moved closer towards me and spoke into my moment of sickness.

And in a scene borne out of love that many will never find,

You gently lifted me to the edge of the bed so that I may dress, may push the mangled hair from my own eyes.

As if time itself breathed slowly from one moment to the next, I became able to sit up on my own again.

We chose the adornments to fit the occasion; we got me standing then walking forward.

I drank some water from a bottle nearby.  My brain moved more quickly and the next tasks came alive.

And as if what would be horror to a fly on the wall just minutes beforehand,

You tenderly called to me our next steps as we prepared to go meet the rest of our day.

We both had a bite to eat, groomed ourselves, and moved closer to the door:

The events of getting ready now no different than what has become the routine of trials endured many times before.

But this time it was your love that called me forth, moved me on; yes your tender words alone helped move me on.

And when we were along down the road a ways ready to meet the others,

I sat in awe of the life the Lord had crafted for me, for you.

Never would we have asked for heartache and sorrow that looked like this

Yet in a dreamy place would we have designed a magnificent love made just for me, just for you.

It doesn’t matter how we “getter done” when the Lord sits with us at His table

When His grace transcends the stuff of life, when I am carried by redeeming grace from both of you.

So when the happy couple says their vows at their own marriage supper in a day,

May they somehow come to know what true love lives like:  He looks like you dear one:  the Father of the Bride.

I love you Steve.

Just Julie

Oh How He loves You

Jeremiah 31.3

This truth resonates with me today.  My desire is to extend this truth to the only person still living who hurt me beyond measure.  While much healing has occurred, I recently realized that more emotional baggage needed to be discarded out of my life from this old relationship for me to fully live in today.  The process began about 2 weeks ago.

I knew that I needed to thin some files to make room for new ones in our home office.  While this may not seem like a very large task since I keep fairly up-to-date with such tasks, there was a section in a drawer that had never been touched since it was created.  Fifteen file drawers neatly organized alphabetically and the folders in the “Legal” section were bulging a bit too much.  I had been in car accidents, named in the will of a few different parties, and survived a divorce with much accompanying paperwork telling the grueling details.  The latter one was taking up too much space for my current lifestyle.

The Lord had convicted me many times in the past of discarding the “Divorce” section:  the remnants of pain from divorce.  I got rid of a few things awhile back but not enough such that I could still recount the many hurts, injustices, losses, and pain with the remaining documents.  A sick badge of honor was left intact should I ever need to tell the whole story again.  In holding onto more than the final court decision, I was burdening myself in more ways than I realized.  Conviction came again when I was pleading with the Lord to heal me of a serious illness.  At first it seemed so unrelated that I put it off once again.  Then I decided to respond differently:  with obedience.  With trust.  With faith.  With swiftness.

I felt nothing after the folders fell into the recycling bin.  Whoa.  After all, maybe some good can come from the papers chopped and shredded into something more useful, eh?  Within a day I had forgotten about all of those files and memories altogether.  It is only in the writing of this blog that they have come to mind as I attempt to illustrate the power of letting my Jesus Who loves me and knows me so well lead me into His place of righteousness.  Only He evens the score, makes things right.  Only He redeems the hurt by filling it with His love.  Only He will lead me into using the past for His glory should He choose to.  Ahhhhh.  Another measure of healing has come into my life by letting go of all of “the evidence” of sorrow.  My Jesus transforms sorrow for His good.  I am sure of this.

Now comes the next step:  finishing the task of cutting off any energy that goes to feeding the pain from this great loss in my life.  This is an ongoing practice.  My former spouse left 11 years ago!  So why did my curiosity cause me to check on his status periodically on the internet?  I could justify it a million ways and virtually all of them drained my joy in today.  So gently with the encouragement of another believer in Christ, I moved away from such nefarious activities completely.  Decreasing the frequency further was not enough.  Only by cutting them off have I found freedom!

Gratefully, all of this stuff has nothing to do with the love I receive from my intended beloved, Steve.  He is an amazing man of God, after His own heart, whether or not I choose to love him with baggage or without.  Oh yeah, I am blessed beyond measure!  The second part of the admonishment from my friend was that I needed to get rid of these behaviors to be free to fully love Steve.  My focus needed to be unhindered by pain from the past, especially that which I did not realize I was stirring up by dabbling in past hurts.  What a dumb thing to do!  My Jesus knows and holds my heart on all of these issues.  My Jesus is leading me to himself more and more to become the woman He intends for me to be each day and in doing so, moves me closer to Steve within the covenant of marriage He ordained.  Incredible.

The final step in this process (call it what you may:  healing?  letting go?  letting God?  joy?) is to lovingly dedicate Craig’s life to the One Who created Him just as he is.  Oh sure, I have prayed for Craig hundreds of times.  With a different kind of love I profess that the message of the cross is all Craig needs to come into the fullness of life.  The message of redeeming grace is all Craig needs to find the answers to questions he once asked, he challenged, he doubted with, he ran away pursuing.  The message of love, Christ’s everlasting love, will transcend everything he has ever felt in a finite earthly existence.  And the love of our Lord will be perfect.  The message of the Bible, that Craig used to profess in Sunday School classes so eloquently, is the only great read he will ever need to find joy and meaning.

And so Craig, I lay you before the Throne of Grace.  I pray that you will look up and see the eyes of heaven open up to you and bring you the true desires of your heart in a relationship with Jesus Christ.  In Him you will find nothing less than every good thing.  I do hope you will find every good thing.  I have.  It is waiting for you as well.

In the meantime, I step away from this odd chapter in my old life.  My life was restored and love beyond measure has entered into my heart.  I am grateful for so much and a lot of it is in the form of one who is tall, blue-eyed, athletic, handsome, winsome, and loved and respected by many.  Tonight I have the privilege of celebrating an accomplishment in the life of my intended beloved and I am honored to be there at his side as he accepts recognition for his achievement.  I still know the greatest achievement stands above it all:  his surrendering to the Lord, Jesus Christ brings true victory!  Now that is something worth celebrating.  JJ

 

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

 

The Genius Between Us

If you lived in the Midwest of the United States in the mid-1960’s chances are good that you knew about slot car racing.  It was the craze back then for hobbyists, car enthusiasts, boys, and the girls with brothers!

And if you were into performance slot car racing, then you would have selected either a Mura, Champion, or Dyna-Rewind motor to win.  Not familiar with it?  Check out these pictures:

 

Dad's Slot Car
Dad’s Slot Car

 

Dyna-Rewind Motor
Dyna-Rewind Motor
Typical Slot Car Race Track
Typical Slot Car Race Track

 

 

 

 

 

 

A slot car racing enthusiast in the mid to late 1960s would bring his best cars in a wooden gear box to a local track.  For about $.50 he (or she) could rent a lane and race whomever showed up that evening for 30 minutes.  Competition was always fierce with fans and racers taking turns spotting cars around the track that had spun out or flown off in the heat of the battle.  Each car had rubber tires, an electric motor, chassis, body, and plastic tongue-with-flat-metal-brushes on the bottom.  The cars ran on a track with a groove in the middle of the lane and tiny metal or wire filaments on either side of the groove (which conducted the electricity as it made contact with the metal brushes).  Each “driver” held a controller by which he (or she) could adjust the speed of the car by squeezing or releasing the lever on the handle.  If you went too fast your car would either spin out or fly off the track!  While the latter was quite spectacular it would often damage the car beyond repair — at least until the next Thursday night of racing!

Formal competitions and even professional drivers became legendary.  In 1966 one racer in particular began beating the pants off of everyone in the Detroit area and carrying off all the trophies with his car powered by a special motor.  Ted Lech had discovered how to make the motors faster by employing the adhesives, balancing principles, and rewinding concepts from his work at the General Motors Tech Center in Warren, Michigan.  Soon others were clamoring to purchase the motors.  Ted and his co-worker, “Bud” Stordahl created Dyna-Rewind and were quickly overwhelmed when orders came in from just about everywhere (including the UK and Japan) with each successive motor.  In an interview with Pete Hagenbuch in the Car Model magazine of July 1967, “Mr. Motor” as they called him reveals the genius behind Dyna-Rewind motors.  All was well and very exciting, however the slot car racing industry was beginning to diminish when toy manufacturers could not keep up with the performance output of the small-shop car guys.  But the small-shop car guys couldn’t support the overall industry either.  Then suddenly Ted Lech absconded with some of the business assets and vanished in 1969, never to be heard from again in the slot car racing world.  Bud Stordahl closed Dyna-Rewind.

What happened?  Well I guess you could say that not everyone handles success well.  Ted Lech was my father:  born March 30, 1937 in the Detroit, Michigan area.  He married my mother, RoseAnne, in 1959 and I was born 9 months, 2 weeks, and 3 days later.  We were living in a trailer park when I was born:  a red and white mobile home at the beginning of the block.  There was a sidewalk out front in which I rode my red and white tricycle with a bell and streamers on each of the handle bars.  I loved riding my bike.  Life was good for a 3 year old!

We moved into a house that my dad had selected in a new subdivision in Warren sometime in 1963.  Michael was 2, I was 3, and Robert was on his way into the world thus necessitating the move up to a 3 bedroom ranch.  We didn’t have much furniture so there was plenty of room in which we kids would play.  The best spot was the basement:  we could make all the noise we wanted to ’cause mom would just close the door at the top of the stairs into the kitchen!  We had the coolest toys with which to play down there too.  I remember a wooden train set on wheels that my dad had made where the cars hooked together and were big enough to hold each of us kids in our own train car.  When we were lucky dad would whoosh us around the basement, carefully navigating around the black metal poles supporting the house upstairs!  And if he would open the hamper shoot on us as we rolled under the hinged box he made in the ceiling, well that was really cool!  Splat!

My dad built Dyna-Rewind in the basement of that house.  I have come to understand that some of the operation was at the home of his business partner, Bud Stordahl, but I do not have any recollection of  him or seeing the part of the operation that was in his garage in Birmingham.  After all, I was a young kid back then.  What I remember is all of the wooden tables that my dad had built and the increasing amount of tools and machinery that filled the basement.  I remember playing with most of it, especially the rewinding machine, drill press, semi-circular magnets, black plastic display boxes with a clear lid, and even the motors.  On a good day my dad would take us with him to race at “The Groove Raceway” in Royal Oak or perhaps another local track.  In time he would take Mike and Rob more than me; perhaps I had developed other more girl-y interests too with my best friend who lived next door (Tammy Orlando).  My brothers had a blast during their time with my dad.  Mike became quite good at slot car racing and his ability to beat most anyone in games of all kinds continues to this day!

Flash forward to 2013.  Out of the blue, my brother Mike makes contact with a French gentleman, Philippe de Lespinay, who was writing a new book to expand on his first publication, Vintage Slot Cars.  Mike met with Mr. de Lespinaly, and shared the wooden gear box he had gotten from our dad containing a collection of Dyna-Rewind motors, slot cars, and my dad’s own hand-painted favorite too.  Within a year from now the LA Slot Car Racing Museum is scheduled to open in California.  I’m glad Mike didn’t sell out the family mementos, caving to Mr. de Lespinay’s repeated requests to both of us!  I have one motor with a wire still attached to it.  This was my memento actually from my brother Robert’s mobile home in Monument, Colorado when we were settling his affairs after he passed away in 2003.  I displayed that motor where I could see it each morning for a long time.  I already had several empty black plastic boxes like the one pictured above.  A couple of them still store my unused gum wrappers from my 300+ foot gum wrapper chain tossed out long ago.  Sure wish I had some of those magnets used inside the metal motor housing.  We used to see how high we could stack them up before tumbling over and . . .

My brother called me about the book after his interview with Mr. de Lespinay a couple of weeks ago.  So when Mike offered the opportunity for me to fill in my own details of this story I jumped in too.  Mr. Stordahl had misreported some facts and perhaps was still a little sore about the sudden closing of the business in 1971.  Evidently my father stole some of the business proceeds when he left with his technical genius as well.  I am sad about that.  The details of his leaving left scars with me too for a very long time.  He had gone to California with another woman and did not return for a few months.  The heartache for my mother and us three kids continued after his return to the Detroit area, through their divorce, and deepened when he left a second time:  for decades.  No one really knew where he was when he finally left Michigan.  When we did discover that he was in Florida (and I later learned that he had also lived in Texas for a time) there was really no need for me to contact him.  I had grown up, gone away to college, and moved to the Chicago suburbs to start my career in occupational therapy.  Life had moved on.  Sure I missed him.  But life had to move on you see.  My Heavenly Father filled in the gaps.

Flash forward about 30 years and our father has since reconciled with Mike and me.  In 2007 my mother passed away and would never have contact with him before she died.   She had moved on as well so I am not sure that it would have mattered to her anyways.  Thaddeus Lech Jr. died in his 30-foot travel trailer along the Gulf Coast of Florida in 2011.  He had become a renowned local fisherman; I can prove it with a few hundred photos I inherited of him holding up virtually every kind of fish that either spawned or was native to the Florida panhandle region of the Gulf of Mexico.  He was also renowned in the automotive industry:  inventor and co-inventor for Borg-Warner Automotive, holding over 20 patents for various types of clutch assembly and drive train components.  His genius had continued!  It makes sense that it would.  When I was a kid he’d crafted the most phenomenal gerbil cages you could ever imagine for our pets Agatha, Ralph, and Dee.  If I insert the word “sundeck” here you might be able to imagine the other rooms, elevated walkway, and security door too . . .

Everyone has a “past.”  Everyone makes mistakes.  Sometimes there are reasons for those mistakes and sometimes it’s simply the manifestation of sin in our lives.  My childhood is filled with a few more sad stories than happy ones yet gratefully the sorrow has faded away.  There is much more to the story of my father that could be written here to fill in the details.  Others have attempted to share the sordid details perhaps to give the retelling of Mr. Motor’s story a little more spice.  I do not believe that is necessary at this time.  When my father contacted Mike then me before my father passed away, we were able to both get re-acquainted and speak words of regret, words of forgiveness.  I got to hear stories I never knew about myself as a girl and about this adventurous, brilliant, complicated man.  His smile and sense of humor warmed my heart in a place I did not know existed when I had moved on so many decades ago.  To hear the words, “I love you” was a salve I did not know I was craving for when they finally came at just the right time.  Even my husband, Steve, was touched by my dad’s gentleness, incredible way of handling the characters of the travel trailer park he had managed, and sense of humor.  They hit it off well:  car guys always do.

I hope the sequel to Vintage Slot Cars is a success.  I hope that racing fans from around the world visit the LA Slot Car Museum and talk about the amazingly fast Dyna-Rewind motors.  As for the genius between my brothers and me in the photographs below:  I will always love you dad.  Thank you for the memories.  With my orange motor labeled with the foil Dyna-Rewind sticker and stray wire hanging by a thread, I’m good.

Ted Lech for Slot Car Book