Slow But Sure

What will it feel like to be almost normal again?

Will the days fill with meaning, the nights rest with pleasure?

Alas I know not what tomorrow will bring —

So it’s it will be in the smaller moments that I will define who I am, who I will be.

At least as long as it is up to me . . . and little is of course . . .

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An important decision came to me today that surprised me.  Oh there were the impossible ones that came in the hours beforehand which could be the subject of a tragic drama-blog here (ie. how to handle the seizure attacks overnight, sleep deprivation, heavy burdens, pain) but all that changed when I was catapulted awake at 8:17 a.m.  Could I make it to that appointment after all to the eye doctor?  They didn’t really cancel my appointment from that frantic message I left at 4:57 in the morning did they?  Well I was about to find out!

I pulled on some clothes; rushed back and forth throughout our humble abode; threw together the records, food, and drink I had loosely assembled the night before; and was practically out the door before my hubby emerged from shaving in the bathroom!  I’ll call the office on the way, I thought to myself.  And lucky for me my appointment time was still open for 8:45 a.m.  Holy cow.

Lord only knows how I function on days like these.  The headache pressed sharply into my skull with the plethora of medical testing and related tasks that fill my very full (medical) “work days” lately.  (That is a story for another time!)  Diarrhea delayed the first few steps of my eye exam as the technicians escorted me to rooms with various equipment, administered those dilating drops, etc.  So now my vision had become as blurry as my mental status.  Neat huh?  Sish.  Soon it was time to make some decisions about contact lenses and the potential replacement of eyeglasses.  Three years had passed since my last exam.  Clearly vision care has not been my priority of late!

I don’t even know her name yet her face will be memorable for many weeks to come.  The Optician in the big room with all those designer frames was an older lady with exquisite taste, professional temperament, mastery of her craft.  She quickly knew that I would benefit from some coaching in my selections and did so with style and grace.  I liked her eyeglasses, Silhouettes she called them, and decided it could be a new style that would work for me.  But was I ready for it?  Suddenly I realized that I was deciding about more than a functional facial dressing . . . no, I was crafting what presentation did I really want to make with my eyes, my facial expression to the world these days?

Makeup doesn’t work for me most of the time.  I do keep my hair colored and trimmed fairly regularly, styled about half of the time.  My clothing is rather casual favoring comfort not the fashion trends of the last decade.  Rarely do I adorn jewelry even though I had my own business making and selling colorful macramé jewelry for almost 3 years. My face has aged considerably.  The summer tan has faded.  I no longer wear contact lenses which used to give others direct visual access to my eyes, my soul.  My current eyeglasses with red and black frames are my only adornment, providing a little bit of covering behind which I can hide.

Soon I excused myself to the bathroom yet another time for a little moment of reflection.  Would I choose a new style behind which to mask my true self a little longer?  Yes it really does feel like that.  Would it be frames where the focus is on the shiny rhinestones or metallic finishes instead of the tender woman peering out from behind them?  Only after a few tears later did my choice become clear.  I selected the ones like those my teacher was wearing today.  Kind of like I did with Mrs. Heitkamp back in the 5th grade.  (Oh how I loved her so!)

Far be it from me to miss a moment where I can slowly but surely find a little extra meaning in what is happening and move forward too.  I really do want to be well some day and by golly I hope that my attention to the little things will help me to get ready for that day.  It’s just a pair of eyeglasses right?  Maybe so.  Behind them this time will be a little more of me and a little less of something else blocking the view of the woman inside coming back into view.

1 Peter 3:3-4 New International Version (NIV)

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

If you are in a battle right now too, Gentle Reader, please do not lose hope.  Please don’t hide.  Our Lord Jesus Christ yearns for fellowship with each of us as He dresses the heart, infuses the spirit, loves the broken, and leads us to His throne of grace full of splendor beyond compare.  We are beautiful in His sight!  One day I pray that we will see these truths ever so clearly as the pains of this world give way to His richest glory forevermore.

And for that we are definitely going to need sunglasses, eh?  JJ

sunglasses, hiding, worth in Christ, Christian, woman, identity, self worth, self esteem, illness, disability, overcoming, recovery, getting well

 

 

 

 

a question of character: no April’s fool.

Learning from one’s mistakes is a given for any reasonable person.  We must learn from our mistakes or we will sucuumb to foolishness in due time.  Learning from the unforeseen negative consequences of a reasonable decision is more difficult yet still a given for any reasonable person.  Figuring out how to do this is, well, rarely given!

In the event a reasonable person makes a difficult decision after heartbreaking circumstances leading up the decision, and the outcome is good, we all celebrate.  In the event a reasonable person makes a difficult decision after the heartbreaking circumstance and the outcome is not good, we all are either:  1) sad and hang in there anyways or 2) indifferent then simply walk away from the painful truth for a time.  And it could be a long time, in my observation.  Some folks watching you may never return.  When folks have left my life my response has wavered from “let them go” to “seeya next time.”  Both are the same really and have served to preserve my ego, my character.

How I feel about the good or bad of the total circumstances must not drive who I choose to be.  In other words my identity must not become destroyed by the mistake, the misfortune.  My character must remain fixed on the fact that I am who Christ has made me to be.  He knows me, love me, leads me, and will be there whatever the outcome of a situation may be, long before I ever know about it.  So using the insight of John Maxwell and applying it to my ramblings this April Fool’s Day, no matter what may come I must go forth with wisdom.  The best source of wisdom is the Bible and the words of my Savior, Jesus Christ.  Here’s some I like today:

10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”   Job 2

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
    but fools despise wisdom and instruction.  Proverbs 1

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, Romans 8:1

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

Well cool beans.  Now that I have settled the matter at least in my own mind, I will put my feelings of foolishness aside.  I mean, how could I have known that a painful, expensive dental procedure that I had researched for 9 months would only get rid of wretched convulsions for a couple of days?  Holy cow.  Or is it holy crap?  Crapolaski?  (I’m Polish dontcha know.)  Of course right away I wanted to share my joy with the online world and posted the news everywhere!  You are my peeps these days, my tribe during these years of relative isolation.

So there you go:  the truth.  My “Hope Beyond” must remain in the Lord Jesus Christ and not in my circumstances.  He will use this for His glory:  the good, the bad, the ugly.  My character remains despite my misfortune, despite my weakened and pained frame.  And this Sunday I will rejoice with 2 fewer root-canaled teeth the promise we Christians remember at Easter.  Christ is risen and He will come again in glory!  On this we can be certain.  As for my situation, I probably just need more time to heal these fried nerve endings.

It is still a beautiful day outside and my garden is coming back to life.  Hang tough, Gentle Reader.  In due time, I AM GOING TO BE WELL!  Just Julie

The Woman in the Mirror

roosterWho is that woman in the mirror?

I see her in a different view these days with less distortion than in days gone by.

The form of her face is increasingly unfamiliar with advancing age and the effects of illness.

When gazing into a full length silhouette I have less of a critical eye as the pounds have dropped over time.  This was not always so.

Close in and the imperfect details are no longer masked as I became allergic to make-up or unable to attend to the details of the perfectly plucked brow.  The latter used to be so relaxing to craft.

Instead I see the markings of days in the sun, storylines from broken nights of sleep, puffier cheeks for unknown reasons, shoulders elevated with enough muscle tension to throw out the shoulder pads in that dated blazer, and a jaw set in a pattern marked more by pain or grief than joy.

mirror quote

 

 

 

 

But wait.  There is something more!  Will you look at her eyes?  When she will dare to look with more than a fleeting glance I can see deeply into her soul like never before.  There’s a softening, a knowing, a sincerity, a connection, a spirit-filled peace, a sense that the stuff of this world is just not that important anymore, a different brand of confidence.  She might be o.k. just the way she is, no?  Her eyes say so perhaps . . .

So funny, isn’t it how the role of the bathroom or pocket mirror can change over the course of our lives?  As a teenager we strive to keep every bit of bang, drape of the shirttail, sparkle of the lip gloss and more just right.  After all that dashing blond-haired dreamboat may just look our way today so we must be ready!  The preoccupation continues until we actually land with that special someone at the Lord’s altar of grace and happiness; we may keep up appearances for a time then our image may fade as family priorities, career shifts, and the care of aging parents come crashing in.  There simply are not enough hours in the day to have a perfect manicure all the time anymore! 

I find myself in a curious variation of all of these themes.  Many times I have hated the change in my appearance with the onset of a serious illness.  Most of the time I was at a complete loss to do anything about it and had to nearly crawl out of the house with wet hair and no make-up.  I was grateful simply to be upright and moving!  By the time I became better at managing the symptoms of illness, the routines of daily grooming had already eroded.  It was just easier to go al naturale and spend the precious moments in which I was able to function on more important tasks.  Comfortable shoes became the norm every day even when I had acquired some cute low-heeled boots or slides.  The latter accentuate the calves don’t you know, in a lean, long leggy look anytime of year.  Nope:  that was generally off my radar until very recently.

Was it the discovery of a mineral-based make-up line that peaked my interest in stepping things up in my primping department?  Was it the opportunity to go out a little more that prompted me to look good for my hubby-boo?  I’m thinking that it is just plain fun to dress up again, allowing the inner peace to percolate out into the mainstream here and there a bit.  And if I do or if I don’t, it doesn’t matter as much anymore.  THAT IS VERY FREEING INDEED! 

After all, the woman in my mirror has grown into more self-acceptance than ever before.  Psalm 139 means a lot to me even in the face of serious illness when I know that this is how my Lord crafted me and is the place from which He will call me into His presence someday.  One day all this will be perfect so why sweat the small stuff now?  Taking care of myself and my appearance also reflects well on my husband according to the Proverbs 31 lady.  She wears purple!  The woman in the mirror is to be a solo consideration, not comparing the reflection to any magazine cover or member of the sisterhood.   Instead of comparing ourselves to others, we are to humble ourselves before our brethren (Phil 2:3-4).  That will keep our hearts pure and beautiful no doubt.  Further we are to carry into the world our own treasure chest of talents and giftings (Galatians 6:4-5) then boast only in the One who made us this way (1 Cor 1:30-31) all for His glory not ours.  Wow:  delighting in His creation (me) which is a testimony to His own reflection and the work of the Holy Spirit living in each of us who know Him as Lord and Savior.  Oh how I long to see the face of my Jesus someday!

When a sweet gal recently complimented what I thought was my very plain appearance, I realized that the most important accessories I need to wear are a smile on my face and joy in my heart.  The rest of my self image must transcend the beauty aisles at Macy’s.  So I say now that my inability to keep up with appearances as in the past has actually moved me away from the glassy mirrors!  These days I’d rather see myself in the eyes of a friend sitting across the coffee table than from any other place.  Perhaps the Psalmist King Lemuel said it best from the wisdom of his mother:

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  (Proverbs 31:30)

Oh how I do pray that what you see here from me, Gentle Reader, is Him and not me.  I would have never made it this far in my life without Him:  that is for sure.  The mirror would have shattered years ago with the crumbling of my own strength, my own inability to keep up with much of anything at all.  May you always see Him in the people places and things around you.  May you come to know the Lord, Jesus Christ of your life as you gaze into your own beautiful reflection too.  It’s just how it’s meant to be my friend.  JJ

Fall reflection