Will you still love me tomorrow?

The question we simply don’t need to ask.

The question that I simply don’t need to ask again, yet have wasted too many moments wondering, is the one posed in this song by the Shirelles.  Oh and Dionne Warwick.  And maybe Amy Winehouse too.  Such a classic song!

Each time I wind up in the Emergency Room, I wonder if my beloved will still love me the next day.  This morning he referred to yesterday evening as “another date night!”  Unbelievable.  All this love continues after about 16 trips to the ER in the past 7 years.  I am humbled and blessed beyond measure.

This blessing is hard to see sometimes when my body is breaking down in a new way once again.  Looks like an ulcer in the lower part of my stomach is the reason for a month of abdominal pain.  Over-the-counter and walk-in clinic medications did not solve the problem.  So after a CT scan under the influence of anti-allergy drugs and some more potent medication, I am in less pain . . . but oh so worn out.  I’ll see a gastroenterologist this coming week with an endoscopy likely to follow.  Going to try to keep my stress level low in the meantime.  I mean I don’t have any other of the risk factors that contribute to an ulcer (e.g. spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol) unless of course there’s a hidden H. pylori infection.  So more testing is needed to figure this one out.

The other “love” that could be easy to question is that of my Heavenly Father.  But I don’t.  I look around and see tremendous blessings in my life in that I have a warm home in which to convalesce, enough food and clothing, and finances for the important stuff.  My beloved is faithful and loving like “Jesus with skin on.”  What I don’t understand is how these illnesses isolate me from friends and family outside of our home and most notably, my husband’s adult children. 

My extreme sensitivities continue and are triggered by the fragrant products they (and many folks) tend to use.  We are just not sure how to manage this reactivity with our Christmas gatherings rapidly approaching.  We already had to decline having both daughters stay with us (which was a delight to host them in years gone by).  A trial of having his oldest stay with us for about a week 2 months ago, despite extreme precautions, triggered a violent relapse in the convulsive episodes.  I am now sensitized to even trace amounts of fragrance on her coat that was kept in a suitcase in our garage in between scheduled visits.  Then I had a seizure spike 2 days ago when she returned from some travels to pick up her suitcase . . .

My heart is breaking from more than the loss of acquaintances and friendships:  my relationships with my husband’s children never really got going.  Steve and I have been married for 11 years and I got sick just 4 years into our marriage.  I have been battling a serious illness for most of our marriage!  You could say that my limited visits with his adult children gave them more time to adjust to the fact that their father is remarried.  Well, o.k. maybe that’s it.  I already sensed that I needed to lie low during their visits in the beginning anyways, focusing on serving them good food and comforts and not speaking up too much nor complaining when their Dad jumped to see them, rescue them when the trials of young adulthood came along.  No problem.  Fix the car?  Pick them up at the bus stop?  Join them at church?  I just had to stay home due to illness factors and couldn’t go with their Dad to help them, that’s all.

They don’t really know me either though.  We profess the courteous “love” greetings yet would I ever really see them again if something happened to their Dad?  Oh dear, I should not even go there.  I now realize that this barrier between us is completely out of my hands.  Remember when I sent along baked goods with Steve for when he visited his family in Arkansas without me 2 weeks ago?  Yes, I need to rest in the hope that what I could do has been done as unto the Lord.   My Jesus and my beloved know my heart.  They hold together the parts in me that are breaking and the inner tears.  And the Lord also holds me in tender moments like these right now.

I need to know that your love.  Is a love I can be sure of.  So tell me know so I won’t ask again.  Will you still love me tomorrow?

Yes, for sure.  JJ

Jeremiah, 31:3, everlasting, love, doubting, Christ's, Lord's, faithfulness,what He thinks of me, endurance, love through the trials

In a far-off land the LORD will manifest himself to them. He will say to them, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love. That is why I have continued to be faithful to you.’

Winning through losing

Winning through losing is the title of an article by Pastor Sandy Adams in the Summer 2017 issue of Calvary Chapel Magazine that touched my heart and lightened my burden this day.  Pastor Adams told the story of the Apostle Paul of the Bible who, after coming to faith in Christ, never had a “thorn in his flesh” removed despite praying three times.  He describes it as follows with a passage from 2nd Corinthians, Chapter 12:

Paul learned to view his thorn as God’s gift.  He rejoiced in the weakness it caused; for it became God’s opportunity to demonstrate His supernatural strength.  Paul rejoices in verse 10, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake.  for when I am weak, then I am strong.”  He took pleasure in circumstances where he was no longer in control.  A weak Paul empowered by God’s grace was more effective than a strong Paul at peak performance.  Paul was confident that God’s grace was sufficient. (p. 52)

Pastor Adams goes on to encourage us that the Lord’s greatest work is in our times of defeat:  a work that He intends to do all along.  “Rest in this:  When we are at our weakest, God makes us strongest.” (p. 52)

It is my hope that my writings here will exemplify this teaching.  I have struggled greatly these past few weeks with episodes of physical and spiritual darkness too ugly to describe publically.  To think that I may never be free from daily convulsive episodes is a burden to great for me to bear in the midst of these setbacks.  At the same time, I continue to have a sense that perhaps soon they will stop.  Should I not hope that they stop?  I think not.  My calling is to remain faithful to the moments in which I find myself:  doing that which the Lord wants me to do, discerning the leading of the Holy Spirit, dwelling in the presence of my King often.  If that means being obedient to the Lord’s call to get off the couch to take a rescue remedy while my head is banging, my legs aren’t working right, and pressured vocalizations are emanating from deep within my loins then I will trust that my Heavenly Father will keep me safe while I do so.  It’s amazing how supernatural power overcomes my own inability to move my body correctly.  His power is real!

I recently completed a course of antibiotics to treat a gut infection that may have a connection to my brain symptoms.  The medication hurt me with damaging side effects.  After 10 days I called my Doctor and transitioned to the first of two herbal protocols that would follow next.  Tomorrow morning I will start the second of these two plans including dosing at an elevated level of an antimicrobial that I have largely tolerated in the past.  I am hopeful that recovery is possible with this new plan.  After reading Pastor Adam’s article today I will remain mindful that there is purpose and power in every moment of this journey no matter the outcome will be.  The power of Christ has indeed rested upon me in my weakest, most breathless states.  I have trusted Him completely albeit not perfectly.  He has ordained these days for me revealed in other levels of healing that I cannot disclose right now:  the longest held desires of my heart have been addressed, have been comforted.  Through seizures!

In time, the Apostle Paul saw his thorns as a gift.  “Imagine, a thorn gift” suggests Pastor Adams.  “When Paul accepted his thorn as a gift, God gave him strength.”  As I have come to my own level of peace with this serious illness, I have received many gifts as well.  Another great blessing has come from my beloved husband, Steve’s, unfailing love, presence in the darkest of times, prayers, and gifts of the spirit.  He is often my Jesus with skin-on, so to speak.  This morning he anointed me with oil as he prayed for me in the aftermath of incredible difficulties.  Oh Lord, please bless this man, this instrument of your peace!  Help me to love and serve him as you would have me do so with your strength, with words from You to encourage his heart.

You know I never really thrived when posed with a competitive situation at home, with my peers, at work, at school, or in most places in life even though I know that it is o.k. to strive for excellence in all of these settings.  I usually fell short before reaching the prize.  Perhaps my focus was on the wrong place?  Winning through losing brings us to the eternal finish line, the one that matters most, in second place behind the Lord, Jesus Christ who will share in the victory that He hath created all along the proverbial races of life.  These are the ones that truly matter.  The ones where we let Him carry us or infuse us with His grace, His power as we cross over into eternal glory.

Now that’s a medal I do want to take “home.”  Lord, in your mercy, help me to finish well!  JJ

2 Cor, 2 Corinthians, 2:9, weakness, grace, sufficient, Christ, power, overcoming trials, Bible verse, encouraging

 

 

When there’s no where else to go

the crossSometimes I am not quite sure why I am crying, this late in the game.  I’ve been here before, I know my Heavenly Husband is in charge, and I haven’t died no matter how severe the symptoms have gotten.  My husband and I have seen the Lord work amazingly through this illness.  New skills have come, I am grateful to have met you Gentle Reader, and by the grace of God we have overcome tremendous trials together.  Healing is on the horizon with a new treatment direction  .  .  .  I even have my own company on the drawing board to fulfill my entrepreneurial dreams.  So how can I possibly be sad?

I am sad because it is normal to be sad when suffering.  I am sad, grieving if you will, for all of the losses even if it was good to let some people, places and things leave my life once again.  I am sad that Steve and I had to lose so much to gain so much goodness.  We almost missed “it” so many times!  I am glad that we are more in love now than ever before and it came though an extremely difficult path.  No longer do I ask the questions “why” and “what if?”  More often my question is “when?”  When will this hell be over?

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Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.  (Galatians 5:1)

Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.  (Colossians 3:2)

For God has not given us a sprit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  (2 Timothy 1:7)

And let us not grow weary while doing good for in due season we shall reap if we do no lose heart.  (Galatians 6:9)

. . . but we also glory in tribulations knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.  (Romans 5: 3b-4)

. . . being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.  (Philippians 1:6)

But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.  (Philippians 1:12)

Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.  (Ephesians 3:13)

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  (Philippians 4:13)

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  (Hebrews 4:16)

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 4:19)

For we walk by faith, not by sight.  (2 Corinthians 5:8)

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I was hoping that somewhere between copying these lines of scripture and writing this blog that I would feel better.  Well, not yet!  When all else fails, I shall crawl up to the cross of my Jesus, place myself at the foot of His throne of grace, collapse in the shelter of His mighty wings, rest in the promise that He is always with me:  now and forever.  Yes, this is the best place to go after all.  Here is where I belong.  JJ

Who God Is

Bible and crossLove this post from a Calvary Chapel pastor, Joe Mann.  He gave me permission to share this from his Facebook posting yesterday.  Here is a great reminder of who God is paradoxically from the perspective of what He cannot do.

10 Things God Can’t Do:
1. God can’t get tired.
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary.—Isaiah 40:28
2. God can’t take on a job he can’t handle.
Ah, Lord God! Behold, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for you.—Jeremiah 32:17
3. God can’t be unholy.
And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”—Isaiah 6:3
4. God can’t be prejudiced.
In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears him and works righteousness is accepted by him.—Acts 10:34-35
5. God can’t break a promise.
My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of my lips.—Psalm 89:34
6. God can’t remember sins he’s chosen to forget.
I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake; and I will not remember your sins.—Isaiah 43:25
7. God can’t make a loser.
Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ.—2 Corinthians 2:14
8. God can’t abandon you.
Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, he is the one who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.—Deuteronomy 31:6
9. God can’t stop thinking about you.
How precious also are your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with you.—Psalm 139:17-18
10. God can’t stop loving you.
Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.—Jeremiah 31:3

These words bring me comfort today.  I hope they do for you too, Gentle Reader.  JJ

From one extreme to the other

So much of the self-help genre coaches the weary traveler in achieving a blissful and balanced lifestyle.  When I was an occupational therapist working in psychiatric hospitals, I would often lead a patient group in a goal-setting exercise entitled, “Achieving a Balanced Lifestyle.”  It was always my favorite therapeutic activity to do.

Each patient received a worksheet with the title at the top followed by two large circles, one at the top of the page and one at the bottom.  Both circles were divided into the same 5 sections labeled:  Physical, Emotional, Social, Intellectual, and Spiritual.  The exercise began with the group members filling in each section of the top circle with activities that fulfilled that particular need.  For example, Social might include visiting friends and Spiritual might include Bible study.  Often patients struggling with mood disorders had very little in the emotional and social areas.  Persons with depression had very little on the page at all.

The lower circle was for goal-setting.  My hope was to help the individual begin to see beyond the crisis that led them to the hospital and think about what he or she might do during the day to use time effectively as a coping strategy.  I only asked for one activity in each of the sections.  Of course we had already brainstormed a list of activities as a group and these were written on a large white board at the front of the room.  Eventually each person had a plan and something to share with the rest of the group.  Since so many things are discussed in a person’s life during a short hospital stay, I asked each person at the end of the session to name just one activity as a starting point.  Virtually everyone was able to identify something, a place to begin.

Geez, if I were to complete my own plan for achieving a balanced lifestyle, I wonder where I would begin?  Let’s see, I’d have one worksheet for a sick morning and one for a stable afternoon.  Then there would be another for when I’m most likely to be functional in the middle of the night and another during IV magnesium treatments at the hospital three times per week.  I might be tempted to tear the page in half and add various goal-setting scenarios based upon my feelings at any given moment.  IN OTHER WORDS, setting goals sometimes just doesn’t work!  My best intentions are often met with a 180 degree turn of events.  This requires me to live in the moment on a moment-by-moment basis!

Last night was a crazy example of this.  At 9:00 p.m.  I was with my husband sitting around a campfire outside at our friend’s house roasting hotdogs over the fire.  Within the hour we all were wielding shovels and pitch forks emptying the bed of my back truck of yard waste into a ditch on his property.  But within another hour I was writhing on a bed seizing with convulsions, unable to speak or move very much at all!  The next hour was filled with my husband providing virtually all of the physical care needed to transport me to the bathroom, wash away the sooty residue from my hair and tender frame, and bring nourishment for me to eat huddled under the covers in bed.  Sigh.  So what was my goal by the end of the night?  Get up to use the toilet with my own strength.  Check.  Goal achieved for the Physical section of my paper-and-pencil exercise in my mind.

Almost every day is like this.  Yes, I’ve had 3 days with no seizure episodes in the past 3 weeks and there are about a half a dozen fewer episodes per week overall.  I guess if I could stay in my safe home bubble, I might be able to knock down a few more.  Yet after 2 years of illness I tend to forget and “go for it” when I feel stable, trying to get out of the house to do something meaningful not realizing that the setback pushes me back to “Ground Zero” of the recovery process.  The goal is to not react at all.  Each reaction re-sets my immune system at some arbitrary level, sensitizing me to be more vulnerable to the next exposure.  I may be able to anticipate that exposure and I may not.  Sometimes the cause is hidden.  When our friend placed a log covered with some type of blue fungus on the fire, I had a feeling something bad could happen at some point . . . but we were having fun  . . .

Such is life in the world of Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome when you have a genetic disposition that is vulnerable to mold illness.  I have no idea anymore where the Lyme disease fits into the matrix of illness.  Right now the focus is on the mold illness.  And today the focus was on recovery.  Then this evening I got a do-it-sick burst of energy and spent 3 hours washing the composted dirt out of my truck!  Later I made dinner, kale chips (yes & they are pretty weird actually), and a lamb/turkey meatloaf for tomorrow.  I’m sitting here sore, pleasantly fatigued, and sensing a pre-tic syndrome rising up from within.  And so it goes from one extreme to another once again.

Perhaps a better exercise than filling out a worksheet would be to meditate on some Words of wisdom:

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  (Proverbs 5)

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.  (Proverbs 19:21)

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.  (Jeremiah 29:11)
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.  (Proverbs 16:9)
So I end with my charge in all of this:  Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.  (Philippians 1:27)  Whether it’s with tears hidden in the soapy shampoo water or standing outside in the dark soaked with silt-laden overspray from the tailgate of a truck, I will lean into my Jesus for the strength to carryon.  This kind of power is supernatural.  There is no way I could endure all of this and persevere on my own; I am too broken.
I wonder if you have been there too, Gentle Reader?  Have you been in a place where you must do something but you cannot do anything?  This is the very place to come before the throne of grace and meet Jesus, face-to-face.  His infinite love will transform the moment beyond what we could ever imagine, ever wish for, ever plan for.  We only have the moment in which we are breathing anyways.  When your time comes as I have described mine here, I do pray that you will reach for the One who understands and can make a difference now and forever in the course of your life.  His loving presence will transcend the circumstances and lead you forth, with purpose and meaning.
He did it for me.  He does it for me every day.  Perhaps He has carried you before you even realized Who or What was guiding you?  He is here for both of us, transcending the extremes of our times.  I can think of no better way to achieve peace.  Can you?