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

The Geographical Cure Uncovered

In a way you could say that the promise of “starting over” has helped me move from:

  • junior high school student to community leader
  • my childhood home to college,
  • Detroit to Chicagoland,
  • employee to team leader,
  • health care professional to graduate student,
  • ACOA and religion to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ
  • a single life to marriage twice,
  • Chicagoland to Fort Wayne, and
  • private journaling to online blogging!

Just wondering:  how many of you, my gentle readers, have experienced this too?  How many of us have initially and privately hoped that the simple move from one lifestyle to another, one geographical location to another, one relationship to another, one worker role to a promotion, or more would somehow be all we needed to change what is wrong or uncomfortable in our lives?  The excitement, the risk to the unknown, the new adventure surely would change everything and bring true happiness!  The lure, the answer to prayer, the next pursuit will be “it.”  After all, once we have moved on, that person who bugs us, the issue we don’t want to face, the pain that we simply can no longer bear, the emptiness in our hearts will go also away, right?  In our minds we might figure that won’t have to deal with him or her, with it anymore.

Not!  The only problem with this mentality I have found, is that I take myself with me to the new destination!  What I mean is that if I have not prepared my heart to let go of the past, deal with the past, and found new ways of coping with the past, I will somehow recreate the problem in the new location.  Not true, you say?  You are different?  Are you sure?

May I share my most graphic example?  I grew up in a modest blue collar home tainted by alcoholism, financial strife, divorce, abuse, and my maladaptive coping style of workaholism.  Sure I had lots of friends, school and community service activities, and spending money from working but my inner life was chaotic even sad.  If anyone could read my thoughts at that time I would surely be in trouble with someone, somewhere!  Out of sheer determination to improve my life as a young adult and get away from my domineering mother, I set my sights on college.  Within 3 months after graduation, I moved out-of-State alone to the Chicago area for my first job when I could not find one locally.  I had to get away anyways.  Finally I would be free from my past and able to live my life as I wanted.

It took about a year for me to realize that my problems had moved with me!  My “stinking thinking,” the unhealthy people with whom I ended up associating, the social habits I once despised, and the compulsive work ethic to succeed at all costs mimicked the dysfunction of my childhood home.  I walked further and further from my Catholic upbringing.  I set my sights on more career achievements and prepared to enter graduate school.  When my double-life and underlying feelings couldn’t catch up with my ambitions, I sought counseling to fix it.  Turns out it would take a long time, a lot of money, many different avenues of recovery leading to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ to find freedom.  The geographical move away from “home” did not do anything to fix anything!

There’s a simple phrase I’ve come across over the years that goes, “wherever you go, there you are.”  It’s so silly yet it’s very profound.  We take ourselves with us just as we are wherever we go.  If we don’t change, the change in circumstances won’t change much of anything either.

Flash forward 25 years and I hope that you will find that my life today is very different then back then.  The trials and tragedies during the interim years have been almost unbelievable at times.   During 2003 to 2005 I was forced to start over as a single woman and completely move five times.  This year I’d say that was a warm up act for the fourteen changes in sleeping locations over seventy-six days during the process of mold remediation at home!  The difference between then and now, between the Detroit to Chicagoland move in 1983, was how the Lord allowed me to handle it.  Only by the grace of God have I ever truly moved forward.  With my life surrendered to Him and with the spiritual leadership of the Holy Spirit and my husband, there was no trauma in relocating this time; the stress was normal.  There was no magical thinking; I didn’t need to win the lottery to be at peace.  If the change turned out well or not, I would be o.k. and the Lord would and has provided for my needs.  The Lord used each move this time to show me His love and plan for my life and the people that came along were His chosen instruments:  pretty cool folks.

I have given pretty graphic examples here in uncovering the illusion of a “geographical cure.”  Some of you will be able to relate to my situation and some will not.  Please get the take home message written best by the God of the Bible:

Romans 8:28

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  (NIV)

Each step of the way can be useful, never wasted if we but seek first His face, His kingdom, and

Romans 12:2

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)

The first step is to look to the real cure for all that ails us, the One who created us.

Matthew 6:33

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  (NIV)

For those that call Him Lord, He will give us no more that we can handle, the desires of our hearts, a way out when needed, and much goodness; our thoughts and desires both conform and grow in our walk with Him.  The pain, the fear, the adventure of letting go will be worth the journey if we but commit ourselves to Him.  The move to follow Him will bring a spiritual cure of sorts that will exceed any that we might create or imagine on our own in this life and the next!  The cure, the answer to our prayers, may also relate less to our jobs, our families and friends, our places of residence, our ministries, than the condition of our hearts.  Our minds become sanctified; our hearts become free.

A fun outcome for me with the move to Fort Wayne to marry Steve was learning to kayak at age 47.  This would have been emotionally painful if not terrifying just a few years earlier!  And yet few years after relocating and opening my heart to this new love, I became physically stronger than I’d ever been and progressed from a tandem plastic, pedal-driven Hobie Oasis to a solo introductory racing Stellar SR surf ski!  Wow Jesus.  Talk about restoring the years the locusts have eaten!  (Joel 2:25)

Yeah, kayaking in my own vessel may be on hold for awhile while I am recovering from Lyme Disease, but so what.  It will be waiting for me, Lord willing, when the time is right on the most perfect of sunny days.  In the meantime, I’ll paddle just along leisurely in the back of our ocean-style, tandem 24 foot outrigger canoe with a hot kayak racer/husband forging the rough waters in the front!  Woweeee indeed!

So if you’re “starting over,” moving on, beginning a new chapter in your life, I encourage you to double check to see if there is any relational editing or heart check needed in the chapter, in the place that you are in right now.  I gotta tell ya that if you don’t, the past could come back to bite you in the shorts when you least expect it.  I don’t want that for you or for me.  Take a spiritual inventory.  Come to Christ and ask Him to search your heart and lead you into all righteousness, cleansed and free.  (Psalm 139:23-24)  If you do, true joy awaits you.  I’m sure of this.