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)

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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

Being married to me

Must be tough being married to me

A kiss can turn into a nightmare, intimacy much worse

When the beast of illness rears its ugly head

And convulsive episodes ensue and last and last . . .

You never really know when

Some sweetness will turn to black

Your affections will turn to caretaking

Yielding another failed remedy instead of a back rub . . .

No partner by your side

Others asking about the phantom wife

Does she really exist out there somewhere

Or is it just on paper and within her cage of the home?

She cooks alright and keeps the house afloat

But complains every time you call

Of this dire affliction or that when he’s at work

Helpless, other-directed, and burdened under the strain . . .

Months turned into years

As life tried to move on so we

Try to celebrate this or that, have a nice meal

Only to have her collapse at the kitchen table again . . .

He has gotten stronger

From carrying her burdened frame

To the toilet, the bed, the couch, off the floor

Rolling her over in bed, lifting her up to drink . . .

He has had to adjust to this abnormalcy of life

Never mentioning it unless another asks

For the pain of the story isn’t worth the awkward moment

A thousand times told, untold a bit later . . .

Tis the Lord’s will

The believer in Christ must contend

Yet are we not commanded to fight

For good, for answers, for more faith when tears flow?

Altogether lovely

He remains strong

Goes to work and play

To cope with the madness . . .

She waits at home

What choice does she have?

Her calling different from his

Or is it when bound by love?

There is no right way

To navigate a life gone off the rails

Except to breathe daily in prayer

When being married to me.  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.

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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!

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

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