The Gentle Giant

Standing over 6 feet tall, the man could have been mistaken for the childhood Green Giant hero of the Television Age.  He let his hair grow long, beard get kind of scruffy, and middle section pudge just enough to make his bear hug just right.  The children squealed when he growled and chased them back up the basement stairs when he had enough of their antics and needed to get back to work in that mysterious and yet wonderful business within those concrete walls.  More on that story another time.

The man was as conflicted as any could be in this life.  I’ll call him the Gentle Giant or GG for short.  My knowledge of him is pieced together from some vague memories, his hand-written journal, a few newspaper clippings, internet searches, and the stories from family members. Call it a great tragedy or perhaps work of satire as he never reached his full potential in this world.  Lord knows, he tried.

GG grew up in the blue collar suburbs of Detroit, Michigan as the son of an auto mechanic and never-quite-satisfied mother.  His dad let his mother rule the household including harsh discipline for the boys of the family.  Beatings, torture, destruction of their few prized possessions, restriction of food, verbal abuse, and lying about it all to suspicious outsiders comprised his private hell.  She destroyed his model airplanes, locked him in the closet, and made him sit at the meal table all day and all night as abusive punishment for just being alive.  The next generation (grandchildren) would be treated differently as would the girly middle child; the oldest brother would turn gay and befriend his mother and father in a strange twist of survival-perhaps-denial until he died of AIDS in his forties.   The baby of the family barely made it out alive when the older siblings were no longer around to protect him.  GG, the second oldest of the four children, had finally found his way to break free.

GG made a plan to marry the first woman who would accept his hand in marriage.  It took a few years after high school to find a suitable mate who was willing to marry him, perhaps in an attempt to escape her own abusive and alcoholic father.  They quickly had 3 children and a relationship burdened by his physical abuse of the mother.  The oldest took an overdose of her mother’s thyroid medication requiring having her stomach pumped at only 3 years old; the middle child developed a life-long inferiority complex from being told by his dad that he resembled his mother’s family more than his.  And this was only the beginning of things that went wrong in that household.  By the time the five of them had moved from the trailer park to their new home, GG was having periodic psychiatric breakdowns.  Experts have determined later that these were likely the psychotic breaks of paranoid schizophrenia.

GG struggled with the adult responsibilities of work, raising a family, relating to his wife, and managing the internal chaos of his mental illness.  He came into the realities of adulthood with too much brokenness to overcome; he was a brilliant inventor and draftsman yet could not control his own mind to ever find true happiness or success.  GG defied the counselling offered and declined the psychiatric medication newly developed that could help control his thought disorder.  He took an extended leave of absence from work and, instead of getting well, used the time to build a business in the unfinished basement of their home.  It became wildly successful in the hobby world of the 1960’s. How his employer never found out is another mystery.

Unfortunately the same ingenuity that brought him initial success 1) as a non-degreed draftsman for a major automaker and 2) in the home business, did not work when he applied it to his mental illness.  He experimented in psycho-cybernetics, hand writing analysis, the occult, various activities of the hippie crowd, drinking alcohol, and more.   Eventually he left town on his motorcycle with some blonde chick for California with all the profits from the business . . .  The children saw his father come and go in a myriad of painful and confusing scenes over the next few years until finally their parents divorced. Their dad lived in another suburb across town thereafter but the holiday visits and false hopes for things to be right never fully materialized.  Eventually GG left town for good and had no direct contact with his family for the next 27 years.

GG sent threatening letters to his mother for several decades, perhaps wrestling with her years of abusing him and what to do with it.  Sadly he hurt his own children as well in other ways. Over the years, the oldest daughter had witnessed satanic rituals, was abused by some women in the course of some psychedelic mayhem at his house across town during a visitation weekend, and was then tortured herself by GG in an attempt to help her “forget” what had happened to her.  The middle child witnessed his father’s domestic abuse of his mother and personal self-degradation as his father used mind control techniques on him in a misguided attempt to try and help his son.  The taped messages he recorded ended up having an opposite effect!  And the spirited youngest boy got as far as he could in life then, as a young adult, tried to find his dad who had left the family when he was barely past kindergarten. His dad’s letter of rejection was found by loved ones in his wallet after the young man died of alcoholism.  The surviving family grieved deeply.

GG’s experimentation with mind control techniques inadvertently opened himself up to the demonic realm.  The darkness in his eyes reflected this in particularly frightening scenes recounted by his children.  Knowing this, understanding his abusive upbringing and resulting mental illness then their own coming to faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, has helped the two surviving siblings forgive their father.  They have found peace with their past and with their dad. The man was simply lost.  He had no idea the dark world he had incited nor the abuse he ended up carrying from one generation to the next.  It took the daughter in particular, many decades to understand this and break free from the trauma and demonic influences.  How that happened is yet another story.  The miracle of overcoming such hell gives testimony to the incredible power of the gospel through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Thirty years after the oldest sibling last saw her father and two months before he died, she got to meet with him at his retirement/trailer park in Florida.  They had slowly developed a new relationship by phone before he eventually agreed to a visit in person. The Gentle Giant was frail yet charmingly engaging.  He told her tender stories of her days as a little girl and of how proud he was of her.  He told her that he loved her and by the time of their visit had shared how he had to leave their family to protect them from further harm.  More psychological breakdowns had occurred over the years.  His isolation from family and most of society became part of how he managed his illness in addition to long sabbaticals from work. He jointly held over 27 patents with a major manufacturer of automotive parts and would say that was why they “put up with him” and his leaves of absence.  The woman would see how creative her father was in crafting his life with the fragments he had been given . . . how incredibly her Heavenly Father would sustain her own life until those sweet moments of reconcilliation with her dad could bring closure, bring healing, bring some sweetness too.

Our earthly fathers have incredible importance in how we turn out in our lives.  They are the first authority figures in our lives who initially influence how we relate to our heavenly Father who is exceedingly greater and perfect;  ways that our earthly father can never be.  A loving relationship with both are critical for grounding us in this life on earth.  Even in the absence of a good dad the yearning of our hearts can lead us to the One Who will never leave us, never forsake us.  I do pray that in this story you will see how the “seeking” of one young girl as she became one older woman led her to overcome the failings of her father by filling those empty and hurting places with the unfailing love of Jesus Christ.  Graciously she did get to feel at last, the love of her real father before he died.  Not everyone will have this kind of opportunity; others will experience it their entire lives.  Regardless, we all can be whole no matter what darkness has fallen on our journey through this life.

I understand these experiences very well nurtured with truth from the Words of our Lord in His scripture and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  Further, the Gentle Giant in each of us can be transformed from sorrow to joy if we but believe in His holy name, Jesus Christ. Healing and fullness of life will follow us all of our days into eternity.  I love that.  Oh Heavenly Father, I thank you for this story and for Your story of redemption too.  May you speak to the heart of the Gentle Reader who finds these words this day, filling him or her with your goodness. Bring them into the best of relationships found only with You.  Bring hope beyond what we all can see.  For your glory I pray in Jesus’ name I pray, amen.  JJ

 

Gyrations of health: a Testimony

If a cyanobacteria exposure in a reservoir creates the same biotoxin illness as mold exposure, then why did I not tolerate the Shoemaker protocol to recover from both?

Tis the gyrations of health, I guess, like a drone spinning out of control from the pond beyond to the one drowning in our own backyard.

If latent Lyme disease reared its ugly head but resisted treatment with 3 increasingly costly protocols over 5 years, then why do I keep barking up this fallen tree anyhoo?

Tis the juxtapose of stealth bugs who hide, change their DNA, become resistant or move from my big toe to deep within the brain raising havoc all the while.

If a chain of serious viral infections can hang their shingles on my weakened frame at Christmastime, then why does not 30 days of treatment make barely a dent in one of them, huh?

Tis the nature of complex illness when antibiotics awakens a sleeping class of infection, pushing me to a sideline call more spectacular than a Super Bowl play in overtime.

If heavy metal toxicity met its match with the best testing, detox protocol, and success, then why is it still possible that more mercury, lead, and maybe aluminum may linger undetected in me still?

Tis the nature of blood, urine, and hair sampling that only captures that which is circulating or secreting not the poisons imbedded in tissues only a needle in a haystack would find.

If I can gain 34 more diagnoses with one trip around the calendar trying to get well, then why would we even question that there’s a need for a new tune, a break, and yet more prayer?

Tis the nature of hopes dashed while waiting and seeing what may come (not wasting time asking “why” instead of professing “I will trust you Lord.  Show me how.  See me.  And love me through it too.”)

If when married in the past and health challenges that now look like child’s play came but crushed life as I knew it, then it would be many years later that my intended beloved would show me true love:  how true faith conquers all, overcomes.

Tis the nature of fake religion which fails when life gets hard.  A God-fearing man seeks the Lord.  A God-fearing woman does too and this will be our calling card when this chapter of our lives is through.

And if my writings, my research, the doctoring, trial-n-error, or treatments really worked for something good, then why the heck would I still be seizing each day with “the flu” and pain that has marked 5 years of disabling suffering?

Tis the mystery of bothering to recover, trusting in the Lord who has saved me from far worse knowing that one day we shall rejoice, you and me Gentle Reader, if we but hang in there a little longer with hope beyond the gyrations of this life.

I’m in.  How ’bout you?  JJ

 

The Dad that never left

Perhaps it is more of a blessing than anything else that I have more time for reflection these days.  After the double-loads of laundry, medical management, treatment-and-recovery, self care, and various household duties are completed, there are generally more hours than in my past to think about the stuff of life.  On Father’s Day yesterday, I started to notice some new parallels between my past and present.  It went something like this.

I was posting a picture of my Dad and me on Facebook when I realized how his generosity when he stepped back into my life has become an important part of my current recovery from serious illness.  His gift about 6 years ago allowed me to create a garden oasis in our backyard.  Here are two of my favorite areas:

Creating the flagstone patio area required graph paper, a ruler, tape measure, and endless gazing from all angles to make the kidney-bean shaped layout meet the vision the Lord had given me.  In the next 2 years the process continued with a pair of 8-foot custom steel trellises then a “secret garden” area (basically a re-purposed dog pen!).  The planting beds came later as I decided that we needed more privacy from our neighbors behind us and that I wanted to have a garden-view beyond each room of the house.  The bed on the right in the 2nd picture is largely of native plants and a key component in earning a Sustainable Garden designation from our local cooperative extension office.  The aqua custom shade sail was an incredible find from the “sale” page of a company by the same name.  Now that the design is complete the plants have matured and my heart is home.

Dontcha know that my mom was a gardener?  She would hunt down the groundskeeper at the local zoo if needed to obtain a plant start of a specimen she just needed to have in her yard.  Composting, vegetables, a mounded hill, hanging baskets around the hot tub spa . . . she had all the elements that made her heart happy out there in her suburban back

Mom in Spa

yard.  Her creation came together because of the generosity of her parents too.  Some may call it an inheritance.  I call it the chance to create something beautiful from the sorrow of a lost family member.  And I think it’s o.k. to spend some of it to make the process of going on without him or her a little nicer.  Do something that makes your heart happy!

Flash forward 4 years from when the “bones” of our own garden were installed and I am exceedingly grateful for what the Lord has allowed me to design, to create.  Lying sickly on that chaise lounge last summer when it looked like there would be little hope for recovery, brought solace of sorts.  Lying sickly on that same chair this summer after taking treatments that are slowly giving me my life back is bringing hope and the flow of some new creative juices.  My husband, Steve, just smiles a bit when I talk like this.  He knows that could mean a little more trimming around a new garden bed or hauling of something heavy to make it happen.  Oh how he loves me so!  Well I’ll let ya all know how it turns out for sure!

Steve brought me to see this home on our fourth date.  He wanted to know, “if things worked out between us could you see yourself living here?”  Talk about pressure!  I was visiting him in Indiana for the first time from the Chicago suburbs and certainly was not about to make a decision on the spot.  At least out loud, that is!  But I knew that the bush in the front-and-center of the bay window was a Miss Kim Lilac and just like the one I had lost with the townhome when my former spouse left me.  I also knew that the bush next to it was a burning bush that gets a magnificent, fiery shade of red in the Fall and just like the one I . . . well you can see where this is going.  It’s like when I viewed Steve’s profile on Yahoo Personals and saw a picture of him with a radio-controlled airplane that reminded me of the flying competitions in which my dad and brothers flew line-control planes when we were kids.  Of course I knew that the house was a great idea; I just wasn’t going to tell Steve anything just yet.  The home he purchased before we were married became a blank slate for me in remaking so many years that the locusts had eaten . . . . (Joel 2:25)

So I hope you can see how a simple thingy like some flower and vegetable gardens can be so meaningful to someone like me.  The draftsman in my Dad has become the designer in me.  His surprise generosity allowed me to create a living oasis that was an interest I shared with my mom when I became an adult.  Finding a loving place to realize these gifts would come in a way like never before when I found my intended beloved in the arms of my Stevers.  Solace, restoration, and hope were all set in motion regardless of my life’s circumstances according the plans of my Heavenly Dad, my Heavenly Husband; He knew all along the seeds He had planted in my heart long before I could ever dig in the dirt of life myself.  And just as life on this green earth began in the Garden of Eden, so do our own lives thrive in the planted spaces in which we are tilled and turned, watered, pruned, and nurtured until beauty bursts forth in scented color, in hope beyond that which we can see.

How can I be sad about the losses in my life when my Heavenly Dad has always been there with me?  From my garden bench I bid you a “Happy Father’s Day,” Gentle Reader.  I pray that you, too, will live in the fullness of life that grows more grand with each passing day:  a garden oasis in your soul where the One Who knows us so well can make everything meaningful, anything beautiful in the noon day sun or under the shade tree too.  JJ

Dad & me at his trailer

 

 

My Testimony: Salvation in a Laundrymat

Salvation in a Laundrymat The Testimony of Julie November 27, 2005

Originally published on http://www.fellowshipchurchonline.com/

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table in a laundrymat

When the trials of life got me down

And my angst led to seeking and a new church

It was the outstretched arms of the laundrymat attendant

That led to a decision washing me clean, indeed.

 

That was 1988: I was single and a Christian man had just entered my life. My life was stuffed at the time with full time work in healthcare and graduate school. Dabbling in church attendance and regular Al Anon Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings were fueling a desire to learn more about God and the person of Jesus Christ. I had so many questions, so many unresolved hurts from my childhood. Sitting in the audience of a very large, non-denominational church brought tears and stirred something deep inside me. Something I hadn’t felt in years . . .

I grew up attending a local church, complete with first communions, baptisms, lighting candles, going to the confessional, and the like. As a teenager and in college, I attended other churches of the same denomination and the routine, the rituals, were pretty much the same. But where was God? I could sense Him sometimes on Sunday mornings and in one particular baptismal service for my Godchild, Tommy. Why wasn’t He helping our family on the other days of the week?

My family life was in shambles. My father developed a mental illness and left our home when I was 9 years old. I would later understand that his struggle to overcome his mental illness exposed me and my brothers to sorrows beyond belief. There were inappropriate experiences with other adults as well.

We struggled to survive. My mom went back to work to support us and a few people tried to help where they could. The weekly allowances, ice cream from the Good Humor truck, books from the South Elementary School Book Club, and chocolate milk for lunch ended. My mom struggled in her identity as a single mom. The church fell short in meeting her needs, our needs and we were shamed by others. Some of the neighborhood boys weren’t allowed to play with my brothers. I felt rejected too. We kids fought a lot. And God bless the babysitters who risked losing their sanity by coming to our house!

My brothers, in time, would turn to alcohol or drugs to endure life. Both would eventually spend time in jail and never quite make it in the work world. Neither one married. One died of alcoholism and the other is devoting himself to care for our mom. Amazing! By the grace of God, I was given different responsibilities and opportunities.

A neighbor introduced me to the Warren Jayteens, the teen group of the Warren Jaycees (in our city just outside of Detroit, Michigan). That was the first of many new interests, part time jobs, and classical guitar lessons, and the list goes on. I became a “human doing” instead of a “human being.” My worth came from my activities, my accomplishments. And on the outside, I excelled.

Inside, I was hurting. I sought comfort in dating relationships and dabbled in alcohol and marijuana. My tolerance to alcohol increased. The partying continued when I moved to Illinois after college to start my first job in healthcare. I would later see that my profession was a gift from God. He gave me the insight to pursue a profession in which I would teach others the skill of adapting to any circumstance. I personally benefited from this as I entered graduate school, found Al Anon Adult Children of Alcoholics, changed jobs, moved a few times, and met a Christian man.

That dear man helped me with my many questions about God and the Bible. The witness of his upbringing in a Christian home spoke volumes of what it really looked like to grow up in a stable environment. His father was a leader in his childhood church. The witness of Craig’s life and of his family, showed me more of what it was like to have good clean fun and led to a decision for Christ.

On our third date, he brought me to a very large, non-denominational church. There were 4,000 people at each service! I thought it was a cult! I was wrong. My soul got fed for the first time. Some months later, a laundry mat attendant sensed my needs, my readiness, and witnessed to me. I will never forget that day. I can still see her face. She had so much love in her eyes. That night, alone in my apartment, I prayed to have Jesus come into my life. I repented of the mistakes of my past. I was truly washed clean by the blood of Jesus.

Two years later in 1991, Craig and I were married in that large, non-denominational church. We worshipped there five years. I grew in my understanding of the Christian life. I tried to be a “good Christian” wife and fell short a bit. My walk with the Lord would really begin several years later when Craig led us to a smaller Bible church. It was there that I began to unravel the part of the pain of my childhood that had created a barrier to developing an intimate relationship with the person of Jesus Christ. More tears. More healing. And a faithful man to walk with me. Very cool.

Things changed March 4, 2003. Our marriage had endured several trials and disappointments by then. Craig’s father had died, I was injured in an auto accident with lingering effects, Craig was laid off twice, we lost the court case related to the accident, and my work-related injuries created financial and emotional hardships for both of us. I always returned to work after a setback. I adapted. Craig pursued a new career direction as well in aviation and we felt the Lord’s blessing and provision. Then he had to stop suddenly and was never quite the same after that. He began to withdraw from me. At the same time, he threw himself into church service and became a Deacon. I tried to start a second business and return to work in healthcare. God had other plans.

On the morning of March 4, 2003, I prayed a desperate prayer for the Lord to intervene in my life. Intervene he did! That night I received a phone call and learned that my husband had been in an affair for about a year. I asked Craig to leave for awhile that night and he did. He never came back.

Standing in my living room, very late at night, very alone, I was in shock. I knew my life was about to change but had no idea how it would. A verse came to me from Jeremiah 29:11:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV)

That verse would come back to me again and again at key times over the next three years – at times when no other words could possibly sustain me or give me hope. Like the night of the fire . . .

Let’s just say that major changes occurred in rapid-fire succession from that day forward. (Riddle: What day of the year is a command? Answer: March “fourth.” Geez!)

My grandmother died. I refinanced our home. My brother died. The divorce process became eminent. I sold my home. I moved. I lost my job due to an injury. I was promoted in my home business. I moved again. I got a temporary job then a permanent position. My mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. The divorce was final at Christmastime. Geez! I was in a fire. I moved twice to temporary housing. I moved to a beautiful condo where I now reside. The healing work has begun, from the inside out!

Whew! I thank the Lord for walking with me and for bringing the Army of Believers who have been there, led me, and carried me on this journey to today. It takes an Army and an unshakable faith in Christ to rise from the trials of life victorious. I pray daily for Craig’s repentance and return to the Lord. And I do know this: the choices we make each day determine where we ultimately land in our walk with the Lord, our walk through the days of our lives. Since my prayer has always been for my own sorrows not to be wasted, I remember to seek the face of Jesus each day, especially when the mud flies. I pray that Craig will too. He has incredible gifts of teaching, of reasoning, of physical health, and of loving. May these be used for God’s glory soon.

As for me, I’m called to do what I can with what I have, where I am. (At the time of this writing in 2005, I’d) just had a “Thanksgiving” party to thank all the people that helped me; the evening was wonderful! I pray that the Lord continues to restore me. Through this process, my purpose has become clear: to build something of significance that blesses other people. Gee, that’s what I’ve always wanted in my heart before I could put the words together! To know this purpose is the intervention I prayed for March 4, 2003. I am closer to this dream now more than ever before. And it came this way. This way? Yes, it came this way.

And since this has proven to be true in my life I must say that I really wouldn’t want it any other way!

Thanks.  Just Julie

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ADDENDUM:  It is now 9 years later when I have come across my testimony in an old computer file.  I am amazed at all the Lord has walked with me through!  My mother passed away in March of 2007 and I married my intended beloved, Steve, in November later that year.  I moved to Indiana to marry Steve, to slow things down, to rediscover so many rich outdoor activities, and to enjoy a loving relationship with Steve like none I had ever experienced before.  Even a serious personal illness, my brother’s stroke, and a medical leave from a lifelong profession that I love could not deter the love I experience from my Jesus and my Stevers.  After all:  life goes on.  I am exceedingly grateful that the Lord never changes.  I am exceedingly grateful for so much!

DSCF9784

The most important element in all of this, in all of my life, is my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Thank you Jesus.

That is all.  JJ

The Turning Point

When you start to leave hell, it’s important to take stock of where you have been and where you are then leave all of your baggage at the turning point.

Hi Gentle Reader.  This is my gentle wisdom to you as I gratefully and graciously turn the corner after 3 years of wretched illness.  Much grieving has already gone before me and my beloved Steve.  Much loss has already pruned that which is no longer critical to our lives.  Much angst at our Lord’s merciful throne of grace has established Who is most important in our lives and that He was leading us through all of this.  Much dashing of hopes in false turning points along the way has produced endurance for what appears to be the last leg of this race.  And yes, much joy has returned despite the jagged line that is normal in the recovery phase.  That’s o.k.  WE HAVE HOPE!!!

Briefly, I am experiencing 50% improvement in my health after beginning treatment for very high mercury levels.  This process will require a slow titration of chelating agents, detoxification with the gentlest of methods, much rest, and humility.  Humility?  Oh yeah, humility to stay watchful for the Lord’s leading each step of the way and to continue to lean on Him as my own strength returns.  My husband has proven himself again and again as the Lord’s instrument, a capable spiritual leader in my life.  I have many examples in my life how pride has gone before my downfall, you know (Proverbs 16:18).  I don’t want any more “slips and trips” anymore particularly of my own creation!

As I have started to feel better and do more my devotional time has diminished.  This is not good.  So in response to this turning point, I aim to spend more time in the Word than I have in the past when feeling reasonably well.  I aim to keep practicing gratitude:  holding lightly any material blessings, fruits of my labors, times of fellowship and the like.  I aim to smile more and complain less.  After all, I faced death many, many times!  These days the gift of  time and space, my talents and gifts, and the people/places/things around me are a bonus.  I have never believed that I deserved either the good or bad things that have happened in my life.  They simply “are.”  They simply “were.”  It is with great wonder that I aim to explore each day for what may come.

How can anyone really see beyond a turning point anyways when he or she has never been on a given journey before?  If we worry about it then we have chosen to believe a lie.  No one knows the future so why make up something bad?  Why not something good?  I aim to squelch what is false with what is true from God’s Word:

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  (Matthew 6)

Nuff said.  Steve and I enjoyed a long walk in the rain this evening with our pup.  This picture portrays my heart inside.  God is good.  All the time.  God is good.  JJ

God is good.  All the time.  God is good.

God is good. All the time. God is good.