The Day is Never Really Wasted

Missing my Dad.

Closing my online jewelry shop.

Cancelling a dinner invitation for me with new friends.

Spending the morning and evening in bed with complications of illness.

Questioning the utility of a new treatment before it really has begun to make a difference.

Perhaps you can see where I am going with this?  No where productive, positive, encouraging very fast.  These are the kinds of days when I question the value of each breath (that almost stopped twice today).  These are the evenings when I wonder why I try to plan anything away from our home anyways?  These are the days that I cry a little more than usual.  And these days are necessary, really, to grieve and move on.

When I worked as an occupational therapist in rehabilitation, we often told our patients that, “recovery is a jagged line.”  Oh how I have found that to be true these past 3 1/2 years!  Looking back to the beginning and middle of this period of time, there were many times when I am sicker than I am now.  There were many unanswered questions, new treatments to try, expenses that exceeded our income, strains on all of my relationships, and lifestyle changes that seemed too much to bear.  So many questions came to mind as the weeks extended into months and years:

I wondered if I could continue to get to know the gals I’d just met at my church or my husband’s adult children, make any new friends, or succumb to the ill-effects of isolation instead?  How much suffering could my body endure without permanent damage to my brain, neck, back, or other bodily functions when the convulsive episodes were so violent?  Would I embarrass myself in public, get into an accident in a public place, or be found on the floor some evening by my beloved husband (who was already stressed and sleep-deprived)?  Why on earth did I have to endure such hellish nightmares, flashbacks, and heart-wrenching grief at this time in my life when I had worked so hard to become free of so much sorrow in my past?  And most of all, would anything good come from all of this:  would it be wasted time and effort after it was all over?

Some of these questions have been answered by now and some have not . . . yet.  I have made many new friends.  The process of getting to know my hubby’s children has been slower than I would have liked yet it probably is for the better; we are living a long-distance from all four of them which makes everything a little different too.   My mind has actually become clearer with the extreme dietary measures, reduction in mercury toxicity/dental issues, and healing of my gut (since the brain and gut-health are related don’t ya know?).  The physical consequences of illness will require some more treatment soon but at least my weight is stable and the overall deconditioning has still allowed me to perform most of my activities of daily living.  Further, when I felt sick in public or driving down the road, I was always able to rest in my vehicle thus avoiding an incident, gratefully.  These last two are amazing to me:  the Lord’s angels must be protecting me when I am away from home.

Steve and I have found ways to cope with the nightly convulsive episodes, sudden physical collapses that require assistance with my self care, and challenges to our intimate life on occasion.  It helps that Steve is wonderful!  It helps that he relies on the Lord and fellowship with strong believers to see him through this season of our lives together.  His faith strengthens mine too.  Although we can’t be together as much as I would like to, it helps me to know that I can trust him and look to him for spiritual direction, spiritual leadership.  This is God’s plan for the home, for marriage.  And as that design plays out between us, I know that the Lord is strengthening me too.

The Lord has never left me or forsook my faith in Him.  Even in near-death experiences, demonic attacks (and there have been more than I can count), and times of deepest despair, my Jesus has carried me through it all.  The spiritual peace that developed certainly has served to clear my mind, bringing me to a place of clarity I had never seen before I got sick.  Renewal of our minds is a gift and a promise only the Lord can give as we read the Bible.  I am grateful for His work through this process.

I really don’t know if looking at the female hormone/menopausal connection with the onset of seizures (and its related testing and treatments) will be fruitful or not.  Is it catamenial seizures?  I do know that I am probably going to make some more new friends trying to figure it out!  Some more new connections will also be made in the synapses of my brain as I study a whole new body of information.  Letting go of my hobby business today and getting focused on a more professional venture will challenge these new skills, quite possibly moving me from this disabled state to one of productive living.  Oh how I hope so!  This incredible experience has inspired a new product that I invented and eBook that I am writing.  That is cool, eh?  Yeah God!  Perhaps things will come together just as they need to and when the timing is right?  This season of time will have served its purpose; it certainly will not be wasted.  This Father’s Day will just be a microcosm of the larger picture with all of its days, its parts playing a role:  good, bad, and ugly too.

And in the end I know that the good will outweigh the other two.  How compelling of a story would I be able to write if everything was always hunky-dory?  Nope.  It would be boring.  On the stage of life, we are to live fully no matter what happens to us.  We are to live like the sign on the wall of the therapist’s office that I saw when I was searching for meaning in my life at just 24 years old:

Bloom Where You are Planted, trust in the Lord, overcomer, overcoming trials, Christian response to, faith in Christ, hanging tough, Bloom, Christian blog

Yeah.  Evelyn at Catholic Charities had it right.  And the gardener in me wasn’t even awakened yet when I read that banner!  The motto of that poster has encouraged me over and over again, becoming the foundation of my life’s work as an occupational therapist and helping me to re-invent my career a half-dozen times.  As a believer in the Lord, Jesus Christ, I can see that He is the God Who uses all things for His glory.  Someday you and I will get to see how these gnarly threads of our lives have woven together to create a beautiful tapestry that characterizes the life of one surrendered to Christ.  With that hope I can face tomorrow and all that it brings.  With that hope I submit to the will of my Master Gardener, my Lord.

With that hope you can too, Gentle Reader.  Bloom!  With love, JJ

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

“You can’t handle the truth!”

Remember this line from the movie, “A Few Good Men?”   Actor Tom Cruise is a military attorney questioning Jack Nicholson’s character, a high-ranking Army officer.  Tom presses Jack to determine if he ordered some soldiers to haze a homosexual soldier in the name of honor, code, saving lives, and so on.  The men were shouting at each other as Jack blurts out that he did in fact order the “Code” that resulted in the death of the hazed soldier.  Jack is escorted out of the courtroom shortly thereafter, sure to face his own court Marshall.  The soldiers who carried out the order were then dishonorably discharged from the Army.  The moviegoer could finally breathe as the scene came to a close.

Hmmmmm.  The intensity of emotion needed to find and face the shocking truth in my life is like that scene in my mind right now.  The truth is that I can no longer hide the noxious tic and seizure attacks that can be complications of neuro-lyme disease, Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, or chronic lyme disease.  For me these are occurring several times per day or night and these times are not limited to medical appointments or within the privacy of our home.  Perhaps it is the recent successive course of 3 different antibiotics that has caused the increase?  Perhaps these episodes will diminish again after the last dose in a few days?  Or perhaps not.  I have no idea what is to come as their pattern has changed.

The next truth is that more people than I am comfortable with have now witnessed my private hell.  Tis quite embarrassing, quite humbling and wretched to have to be carried down a flight of stairs and out to the car after an evening of fellowship with friends from church.  You see, after a lively Bible discussion with some friends on Sunday night, I had to ask the man of the house to help me find a quiet place to rest; a series of seizure attacks was beginning.  He showed me to a back bedroom upstairs which worked well initially:  the seizure attack came on strong then subsided as I sobbed in the comfort of a room away from everyone else.  The only problem was when the attacks didn’t stop, no one could hear my attempts to cry out for help!  The act of crying out triggered more attacks.  A train went by in the distance then another, covering the sound of my cries for sure.  After a long while, my husband came looking for me and found a shell of a wife curled up in a recliner.

Initially I had difficulty speaking and responding to his questions.  If someone tries to touch me or move me during an attack, these also can make them worse.  Both gratefully and sadly, Steve has been in this situation with me before many times and knew what to do.  I still couldn’t stop crying.  Geez.  So Steve gingerly helped me sit up and slowly rise to a standing position.  Unfortunately the neurological collapse was settling in and I was unable to stand on my own.  What would occur over the next hour was like recovering from a stroke:  left-sided parasthesia with my bilateral lower extremities and proximal left arm affected the most.  My speech was slowed and simple.  My thinking narrowed to the tasks of managing the episode without injury.  I became terrified of the two sets of stairs between the master bedroom and our car parked in the driveway.  Steve ended up carrying me, first to a couch on the first floor then second out to the car with a break inbetween.

At this point, the only folks left visiting in the house were the couple who lived there and their father.  Mrs V., the wife, had seen a seizure attack episode last year when she graciously  stayed with me for a night.  Steve was out of town and her presence was a great comfort.  I have wondered if her husband sometimes doesn’t know what to make of the chronicity of this illness plaguing my life?  Who knows.  I do appreciate his prayers when the group closes for the evening.  Well tonight, Mr. B. too got to see the worst of it as well.  Great.  But that was not my prayer when I was secluded in the bedroom!

When the attacks did not stop, I pleaded with the Lord to please make them stop!  I did not want the horror of having to be seen unable to walk, hanging from my husband’s arms.  I tried to get up myself but the jolts held me back.  I tried to vocalize, “help,” but it was not loud enough for anyone downstairs to hear me and the attempts to speak triggered smaller tic attacks which held me back.  Another truth is that inner voice I know to be the Holy Spirit was pressing on my heart to wait and not try to force a situation that was out of my control.  Obviously I was not in control and that was not going to change anytime soon!  I turned my focus to my breathing.  Breathing was difficult and my chest was hurting from the crushing chest compressions that accompany the vigorous shaking episodes.  Yes, all I could do in that moment was breathe and maybe ask my husband to remember to get my purse before we left the house.

I am sorry if this is too upsetting for you, gentle reader.  This is crap-o-la-ski at it’s finest!  My truth today is that I have been sad most of the day, even crying some.  This stuff is difficult for sure.  More attacks, less intense “tic attacks” I call them came again today during my first treatment by a new chiropractor.  More tears followed afterwards this time as well.  Sigh.  What I’ve got here is simply a very tough season in my life and I just have to endure it.  But I know from the past trials in my life that these experiences will not go on forever nor will they be without meaning or purpose.

The Bible tells us that our suffering can produce endurance, endurance, character, and character, hope (Romans 5:4).  The Bible tells us that we may endure many different kinds of hardships for His name (Revelation 2:3), that He will ultimately rescue us from attack for His glory (2 Timothy 4:18), and that we are to persevere with the supernatural strength that He alone provides with His righteous hand (Isaiah 41:10; 58:11).   We know that in this world, even as those who are in Christ Jesus, that we will endure many trials and hardships.  No one is immune to this!  These are the consequences of living in a fallen world.  Even the most wretched of situations can be used to strengthen us as they did for the first disciples (Acts 14:22) if we but hold on and do not become embittered by them.  We must cry out to God at these times because the Lord promised that He will be with us now and until the end of our days (Matthew 28:20).  He is present and weeps with us in the midst of the heartache.  The person of Jesus Christ, the indwelling Spirit, and the blessing of the Father are with us in our time of need.

It did not take very long into my time of agony upstairs in our friends’ home that I knew that I was not alone up there.  The Lord was with me then as He is with me now as I write this to you in the wee hours of the morning.  In the shadow of His wings, in the protection of His mighty right hand, I was able to endure the crisis at hand.  And you know, He can be right there for you too.  It does take but one thing:  to call upon His name:  Jesus.  Can you remember that?  The truth is that if we do call upon His name, one day soon all this sorrow will pass away and we will be in the presence of the King forevermore.  Now that is a party, an eternal bliss that I do not want to miss.  I hope you will be there too with me.  Just knowing you are out there comforts me you know.  Will you join us?  Oh I hope so!  This is His the reality of His new covenant that is now here, our hope, our joy no matter what comes.  This is truth that we can handle for sure.  Sounds wonderful doesn’t it?

 11 For the Lord will deliver Jacob and redeem them from the hand of those stronger than they. 12 They will come and shout for joy on the heights of Zion; they will rejoice in the bounty of the Lord— the grain, the new wine and the olive oil, the young of the flocks and herds. They will be like a well-watered garden, and they will sorrow no more. 13 Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.   Jeremiah 31:11-13 (NIV)