A Call to Grace

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.  (Gal 1)

butterfly, Galations, serve, burdens, break free, servant, let go,Christian, heart, image

From the perspective of the supernatural power of grace bestowed by my Lord, Jesus Christ, I write to you this day.  For my flesh is more broken than before, hopes beaten up from the road, and spirit exasperated from the waiting.  Yet I am compelled to look beyond my angst to the call to grace . . .

If I have fallen short of praising my Lord then I am sorry.  Please forgive me.  The alms and adoration to my Savior is what shall draw me nearer to Him and lift my sorrows.

Should I have focused too much on my own needs and not those of others then my selfishness has thus blinded me.  The trials of life have more to do with our response to these trials (and more importantly to others) than to their resolution.  I cannot serve others when my mind is full of woe.  There is always room to love on others.

When I act to make my own plate o’ food and have not called upon God’s infinite power to feed my family then I have shorted all of us to the weakness of my own hands.  My Lord is sufficient for me, enables me to serve beyond my ability.

Where my face has turned to the shiny distractions of this life, pining after them (or worse coveting that which I have been blessed) then I have really made my world smaller.  Who knows the blessing that will come from sacrificial giving?  Gratitude?  And proper placement of my gaze to the Cross?

How much better it is to wait on my Heavenly Father than to cry out my need only to act thereafter in my own strength?  Oh Lord, help me to wait, to listen, to dwell and nothing more during these times.

That about sums it up right now.  Thank you to those who prayed for me last week and who remember me in your prayers.  Please let me know how I may serve you too, k?

JJ

The Boomerang Effect

The wooden angle sitting on the mantle was a souvenir/gift from the Land Down Under.

To toss it into the air and have it return in-flight to you is a skill few master.  We didn’t!

Instead we dust if off because it looks nice:  forming a paradox in design and practice with which I can relate tonight.

Here’s why.

boomerang, wooden, life, metaphor, like, things come back, return to you

A trip to our local hospital began after much preparation and somewhat tense spirit too.

Would the appointments go alright such that I could return home and rest before a party this evening?

I brought with me several “rescue remedies,” food, water, favorite medical supplies, etc.

Having my port flushed last month went reasonably well so this one today should too.

Not.

I’d been battling Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth when some labs indicated liver stuff too.  My Doc was willing to order a test over the phone and both would be today.

The liver/gall bladder/pancreas ultrasound could irritate a tender tummy for awhile.

Worse came a “tic attack” with the realization that there are several tender spots.

Gratefully, recovery came quickly and I was off to the outpatient clinic for the flush.

The nurse completed everything slowly as I’d requested; my preparation was flawless too.

Can you ice your chest wall while having an ultrasound, apply numbing cream before leaving home, and finish your breakfast/morning supplements in the waiting room between appointments running only 8 minutes late too?  Sure you can!

But 8 minutes past the hour was too late.  With everything that went wrong, the process would take OVER SIX HOURS!

The nurses there are saints as they let me sit in that treatment chair forever if needed.

Something about that 1 1/2 inch needle plunging into my port never has bode well with me.  Or was it a slight change in tissue gradient from fluids and a blood thinner going in?

The procedure was completed and I thought I was going to be o.k.  Then I started shaking.

The shaking continued for over THREE HOURS!  Several convulsive spikes joined the mess.

Gratefully my beloved Stevers was able to leave work early, go home, and bring me an emergency dose of steroid medication at the hospital.  He was my hero once again.

Within 15 minutes, the episode stopped.  I lain in that recliner chair in shock for a long while.  I wept some too.

We moved to the lobby where I devoured my last bit o’ snack and began to revive.

Once home, I rallied to help Steve get out the door to the party with gifts, dish-to-pass, yada, yada, yada hoping to join him later.  Another FIVE HOURS LATER, I did.

Last year I was too sick to attend a gathering with these friends from out of town.  My beloved sent me a video back then of the kids opening their gifts.  Bittersweet.

This year I got to see most of the kids for a few minutes and all of the adults.  Twas sweet.

Another victory was being able to visit in a home with a history of mold damage.  Huge!

The First Defense Nasal Screens (See Julie’s Favorites), open windows on a cool Spring evening, and progress in reduced reactivity all appeared to help.  Thank you Lord.

My plan was to stay in the moment, just enjoying the light banter and updates from all.

No matter that no one asked me much about things.  I love them in Christ just the same.

So I live a Boomerang life, moving from wretchedness to sweetness often within hours.

I could brood the day long or keep my pretty tops sitting in a closet like that dusted toy.

Instead if my Lord grants the where-with-all to get back into life, moving ahead, slightly forward,

I will trust in His strength.  I will do it.  I will get there.  And like the boomerang thing, the trip back will cancel the trip out that maybe wasn’t so good.

For we will face trials in this life, those of us who believe in Christ Jesus. The real question remains:

Will we stay on the shelf when the flippin’ craziness is done?  Nope.  Not me.

I will get out and try to have some fun!

Cave Dweller That I Am

Yesterday I found out that my cousin, Lisa, has a tendency to keep the blinds in her house closed when times get tough.  Yeah, that’s me too.  Until we reunited over my brother’s illness, I did not know that she too battles fibromyalgia and a host of “female,” medical issues.  She is at the beginning of her search for treatment options.  We talked quite a bit about these and other family matters while sitting in my brother’s private room on the Telemetry floor at the Detroit hospital.  And so it goes at weddings, funerals and the markers of life in between:  catching up on relationships we are too busy to nourish when busy with the tasks of life . . .

Steve and I got home around midnight after our whirlwind trip to see Mike in the hospital yesterday.  (Steve had to work today and I’m allergic to hotel rooms anyways!)  I am both depleted and grateful for so much today.  Steve drove us the 6-hours round trip so we could see Lisa, Mike, and his fiancé (Lisa) while I endured seizure attack episodes in the car.  Our departure was a few hours late due to the same.  Divine timing superseded it all as we were able to see a physician familiar with Mike’s care during her evening rounds and before we had to leave.  As of today he has been cleared of any infectious disease cause to the right CVA; he continues nothing-by-mouth yet is getting his “Pepsi” substitute via IV glucose.  Pepsi is all he kept asking for . . . in addition to asking his fiancé to wish me a “happy birthday.”  Yes, I got to see my brother for the first time in years yesterday and on my birthday.  Strange but true.

Today I am back in cave-dweller mode.  The grief reaction of seeing him so debilitated is taking its toll so I am just lying low for now.  I tried out a new ceramic frying pan to make my Candida diet/mold-free/low oxalate blueberry pancakes and kept the beast of a skillet on the stove long enough to make lunch this afternoon too.  Perhaps I will shower before my husband comes home this evening and perhaps not.  The extra (stress?) seizure attacks and post-travel fatigue probably contributed to me missing the very chiropractic treatment I needed to relieve my sore back.  Oh well.  The Lord has given me the time and space I need to clear my head from the events of this week and that is good.  Catching up with other relatives today while sharing the news about my brother is good too.

My relationship to one cave dweller in particular is making a difference right now.  So poetic that all of this is happening in my life during the week that the world celebrates Easter.  Our Lord, Jesus Christ lain in state in a cave after dying a tortuous death on a cross for the sins of me and you.  We can point to Easter Sunday with hope that the suffering of our lives (the consequence of living in a fallen, sin-laden world) will be redeemed when He comes again in glory.  He who has victory over death both knows the cries of our hearts and holds them in the palm of His hand that reaches out to us in grace, in mercy, in love.  He is with me here now and goes before me no matter what the next moment may bring for me or Mike.  I am strong in this belief despite the weakness of my broken frame.  Nothing can take this away for those in Christ.   Nothing!

Cave Tomb of Jesus

So if you are feeling weak, vulnerable, fearful, doubtful, or sad this day:  take heart.  The Lord is on the throne of grace and weeps for our suffering.  He will come again in glory and make all things new someday.  In the meantime I hope that you will reach out to Him and let me know how it goes.  We all can be brought into the light of His amazing grace to dwell in His presence if we but believe.

Where does your heart dwell Gentle Reader?

Psalm 73

23 Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.

27 Those who are far from you will perish;
    you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
    I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
    I will tell of all your deeds.

Try a Gentle Approach

The late humorist Erma Bombeck published a book entitled, If life is just a bowl of cherries then why am I in the pits?  In her writings she had a lighthearted way of dealing with the unfair, confusing, satirical, unexpected, and simply crazy stuff of ordinary life and the people that can be responsible for it.  Oh to have the gift of humor!  Yeah that one eludes me a lot of the time these days when my world does not make sense.

Another author, Sarah Young encourages us in her book, Jesus Calling,  to let the Lord envelop our outreach to others when times are tough.  His love is infinite and transcends the strength and limited wisdom of our tiny brains, our earthly experiences.  This is a better approach and moves me in the right direction. 

But perhaps the place to find the best advice comes directly from God’s word.  The opposite of weakness is strength.  Searching for the word “strength” in the Bible yields 232 references!  Wow.  Finding this makes me realize that this must be something important to our God.  He must want us to seek Him first in dealing with the people and situations we face in our lives or He wouldn’t have inspired men to write it down for us that many times!  It makes sense:  as Creator of all things He is the ultimate source for the power to overcome the stuff of this world.  My favorite verse that helps me in my own times of weakness is Psalm 73:26:

26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Today the infilling of the Holy Spirit and His power helped me to do what I could not have done by myself.  The task was relatively simple:  make dinner for my husband and his good friend.  After all, we had made most of the items yesterday and offered to have his friend over last weekend and it didn’t work out.  All I had to do was tidy up a bit, set the table, make a salad, and put it all together.  The only problem was that my husband called me to confirm that his friend was coming as I was waking up from a recovery nap just after noon.  Nope, I wasn’t at church again today.  I was feeling very beat up from a total of 11 hours of seizure attacks the night before that woke me up several times overnight and early this morning.  My brain was still numb.  The number of attacks were too many to count.  I had wrenched my back in the process of involuntary shaking; the headache and back pain were piercing my frame.   The last thing a gal wants to do when her face is swollen, brain foggy, body hurting and running through hot-n-cold sweat episodes is entertain!  But if I did say yes, it would get me out of bed and going for the day.  A voice inside me somewhere agreed to the plan.  What?

As it turns out, everything came together regardless of how I was feeling.  I got to have a normal experience after an abnormal, nightmarish one.  I called upon the Lord and He sustained me, strengthened me for the task at hand.  The food was great and fellowship meaningful.  There was time to rest afterwards and take a call from another dear friend who understands what this journey through chronic illness is really like.  After eating lunch and taking two Tylenols, I felt better by about 4:00 p.m.  Whew.  At least the whole day wasn’t wasted!

The “gentle approach” I usually need is the one I must take with myself.  I must gently lay myself before the Lord at His throne of grace and let his love and strength wash over me.   When I am weak, when I am unable, when I lack a humorous approach to cope, He is able.  He is my Lord this day and always, my Emmanuel.   I don’t have to control anything or make anything happen in whatever shred of strength I may have at any moment.  He goes before me and it is always good.  Today I could even taste it!

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As an aside, today is Mother’s Day in the United States.  While many call it a Hallmark or greeting card holiday, it was actually signed into law after a woman wanted a woman in the role of motherhood to be recognized within her own family at least one day per year.  The Lord did not grace me with the role of “mother.”  Technically I am a step mother however that is not a title my husband’s adult children choose for me at this time.  They are adults and I am cool with this.  Recently I offered to adopt my husband’s grandchild as my own and was warmly received by the parents.  I am humbled and joyful for this gift of a grandson!  He now has five grandmothers and in time will see the benefits of the love and prayers of all of them.  The Lord guided me in not forcing the issue of being recognized as a step mother or grandmother.  Here we go again:  sometimes a gentle approach is best.  To Him be the glory in Christ Jesus when I do get it right.  I could not do it without You!

Lyin’ in the Morning Sun

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzrXc68gNjQ

I had the chance to “sit by the dock of the bay” or river/reservoir/lake/ocean many times this past year and was unable to take it.

I had the chance to work part time as an occupational therapist in home care and have been unable to do it since March.

I had the chance to garden and fell short of the project “To Do” list.

I had the chance to live as others do and was not selected to live as they do.

Like the song says, “I can’t do what ten people tell me to do.  So I guess I’ll remain the sa-me.”

What have I been able to do?  Learn how much Jesus loves me just as I am.  Feel His love directly through the love of my life, Steve.  Give back here and there out of my weakness alone.  Take time to pray.  Learn to breathe more deeply.  Meet people I never knew before.  Witness the Lord’s majesty and grace in ways I’d never experienced before.  Let go, let God beyond what I ever learned in 12-step circles.  Seek and find the face of Jesus.  Do it sick.  Apply the talents He has given me in new ventures as a Master Gardener Intern and Principal Designer/Owner.  Live in humility and gratitude (and continue to grow in both).  Meet you, gentle reader.

Now that I’m up off of the couch, I think I can take the dog out and get ready for the day.  Golly gee, my tummy hurts and I don’t know why.  And here come the sweats and oh do I feel sick.  Wonder if I’ll make it to my second craft show this Saturday?  If I do, it’s gonna take a miracle for sure!  Alas, I am reminded:

So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.  Zech 4

Yes, by His Spirit alone.  Unlike the words of Otis Redding who sang, “sitting on the dock of the bay, wasting ti-me,” I know that nothing is wasted in God’s economy.  As a believer in Jesus Christ, my eternal life has already begun.  This time is not measured by tasks or the stuff of this life on earth.  This time, today, is measured by grace.  I’m layin’ in the morning sun on the couch, typing at the computer with the sun at my back through the window, and breathing in deeply, the subtle richness of knowing that I can do all things through Him that strengthens me (Phil 4:13).  So glad I got that straight today.  Elle!  Let’s gooooooooooooooooo!