The Divine covers all

Tears filled my eyes and grief my thoughts as I heard the words of a healthcare provider actually address my pain. Again. A few of her first recommendations for me seemed too risky so she called me back into the office to review my plan of care in-person. The insurance company denied a CT scan at this stage; I was exasperated. I had so much hope for relief. At least one of the tools the PA recommended during the first visit actually ended a migraine that had rendered me useless about a week ago. And this past Friday, she offered two more tools for my care. Really? There are more things to try?

For the second time visiting their office, I was overcome with the grief and traumas of my journey through serious illness. No one had looked closely at the role of headaches in the daily convulsive episodes that have created much suffering for me for NINE YEARS. Only 2 months ago I finally realized that many of the headaches are migraines. The so-called experts at the Headache Clinic at a regional medical center recently discounted me, told me to breathe deeply, and sent me off in a direction already worn from false starts in the past. The burden of suffering through many traumatic incidents recounted in this blog came rushing back like a movie fast forwarding through a person’s life when she is drowning. Yeah, there have been a couple of near-death experiences as well.

The PA stayed with me as I wept. The Medical Assistant gave me all of the time I needed to gather my composure before leaving their office. I’d had TWO HOURS of sleep in the last day! My sunglasses and the required face mask covered my sullen eyes, tear-stained cheeks, and swollen sinuses as I prepared to leave much later after my appointment had ended. It took another 30 minutes sitting in my vehicle replenishing my soul before I could re-gather my strength to drive again.

A friend has been tough to reach by phone lately including earlier that same day. I called her again. No answer. She had wept on the phone that she was very, very sick and losing weight; she didn’t know what she was going to do. This sounded more serious than when I first met her about 2 years ago through a shared healthcare provider. G was already severely underweight. Her father died then her mother died, they sold her childhood home, then her husband died all within the past year. She has only been a widow for 3 months. Her grief must be tremendous so it’s no surprise to me that she is struggling so. I called her son for the first time since he and G were at our home 2 years ago. How is your Mom doing? We talked for awhile and he asked if I could try to visit her. I was already on the same side of town where she lived and was thinking the same thing. I often called her to go for a walk together when appointments took me near her neighborhood. Of course I would.

My hubby and I have become snobs of olive oil. Once you taste the best varieties shipped directly from Italy to a local business that specializes in olive oil, you might never go back to the store bought varieties! I consider it a healthcare product, like taking a pharmaceutical grade supplement vs a brand off the shelf of a local grocery store. It really makes a difference! Olive Twist was between the medical office and G’s home so off I went to return our used bottles and pick up our tasty treasures. For some reason I felt led to pick up an extra bottle so I did. We do go through it rather quickly.

I caught up with G while she was out on a walk through her neighborhood. This is quite an accomplishment for someone who sounded next to death and in light of the sub-zero temperatures and icy streets in the neighborhood. To take a walk was her favorite thing to do. “Hey lady, whatcha doing out here in the cold?” I parked the truck at her house and braced myself to meet up with her out on those icy streets myself. The hug felt good for both of us when I reached her.

A couple of things transpired in the next hour that prompted me to write today. By the time our visit was ended, G had confided that the best tool she had to calm her upset digestive system was various types of vegetable oils. Little did she know that she would find a bottle of the best olive oil available locally sitting next to her front door by the time we got back to her house! The Lord knew your need G. And the Lord provided for it to be met on Friday. But that’s not all.

This time when G shared her fears, medical worries, “physical” feelings, and isolation over and over again (unlike our more newsy conversations just prior to Christmas), I felt led to ask her about her “emotional” feelings. Sad. Hopeless. Afraid. “I just don’t know what I am going to do?” she vented. Then we heard the wail of a freight train racing by her rather swanky neighborhood. Somewhere beyond the golf course and frigid air between us, inspired only by the Holy Spirit, came to me the themes of the Fact-Faith-Feeling train of the Four Spiritual Laws booklet. This booklet describes the gift of salvation offered to everyone through belief in the sacrifice on the Cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The caboose holds our feelings. The passenger car holds our beliefs, our trust. The engine embodies the Lord, Jesus Christ who leads and even pulls the train along when we surrender ourselves, our caboose and put our trust in Him. She wanted this free gift. She got it. Her spiritual birthday began with a simple prayer on her front porch that day. Praise the Lord!

We prayed again before I left. When I looked into her eyes afterwards, there were tears staining her face. She had told me when we were walking that she wasn’t even able to cry lately. She felt the feelings but the tears just would not come. I said to her, “G your cheeks are wet. Feel your face.” And with a muttering of how good our God is and how much He loves her, it was time for me to leave. There was nothing left to say, nothing left to do. The Lord had both of us in the palm of His hand that afternoon and will continue to do so from this day forward. I drove home with renewed hope and strength then slept a very long time over the next day.

Never, ever lose hope Gentle Reader. Our Divine Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is there with us in every single detail of our lives just waiting for us to cry out to Him. He cried drops of blood for our suffering. His plan of salvation turns death into life. The Divine in due time covers all. JJ

So little. It’s still pretty

Full-time I used to serve others in my healthcare profession and now I can barely get a meal to my husband on a daily basis. My reserves for giving are diminished but not gone, or so he says.

Each night and morning I poured over my caseload, looking for the best ways to make the most of each patient’s time in occupational therapy. Shall I bring Sally a 2-pound weight that I picked up at Walmart or load up adaptive equipment for a better education and training session? Now I’m lucky if a couple of times per year, I can drop off a gift to a friend after one of my medical appointments. Or ride an exercise bike for 5 minutes in the middle of the night.

Sending a card for each birthday and gift for close family has shifted from 1) before his or her special date to 2) days or weeks afterwards. We apologize. It’s the thought that counts, right?

Then I send a PM (or is it DM?) to a friend via social media to ask how she is doing when I really need to pour out my own heart on how wretched I feel, the new symptoms and diagnoses that get added to my pile. Aren’t you tired of my tears Lord?

But enough of my sorry lot. Giving to others in my own strength will never balance the angst of my days. Pitching the good against the opposite is a mental exercise at best that risks the tasks being done for the wrong reasons; they barely even measure on the MET scale of physical activity anyways. What’s the point? My weak bones need resistive exercise as do my muscles that are softening by the day. Both my mind and my frame need REAL exercise. The kind that stretches me, tears down and re-builds muscle fibers for measurable strength. The kind that transcends a weary heart. But how is this possible? Gee. Looks like I need a refresher here on how this really works.

If I can only do a little then that little bit needs to be pretty enough. If I am to do anything significant then my strength must come from a source outside myself. I don’t have it. The Lord does! If He leads me through the Holy Spirit to these acts of grace then I trust that He will provide whatever is necessary to finish the task. This is true even if it stretches me beyond what I think I can do. His power is infinite! And if I can keep my eyes on my Jesus no matter the horror of my suffering then I know I will be stronger somewhere down the road than I ever could have imagined. Seeing our Lord’s power in our lives is how we grow our faith. Moving towards Him as He leads makes it so, makes us resilient as we go. And the more we follow His lead in His power, like a weak muscle trained over time, we will shine for His glory not ours. It’s really better that way anyways.

Doncha think, Gentle Reader? JJ

The trials of discontent

Perhaps the greatest challenge a follower of Jesus Christ must face in his or her walk with the Lord is how to handle the evil that is in our world. When it touches our own lives in the form of discontent, when things are not as we think they should be and we are unable to accept it, then we may be tempted to break fellowship with the Lord our God. He has ordained the length of our days, the vessel in which we live, and every detail of our lives whether good or bad. Recently it occurred to me that not accepting His will for my life is a sin that keeps me from any form of peace. And now I know from wence it came.

A particularly horrific convulsive episode about a week ago left me whimpering on our bed. The searing pain in my neck and broken frame notwithstanding, I wondered for the several thousandth time, “how can I endure this level of suffering Lord?” My Jesus had shown me many incredible things through the trials of battling serious illness; my Jesus was always right there with me when I called upon His throne of grace. But like the old song goes, “Is this all there is?” Is this all there is to my life when entire beautiful days upon days are spent suffering in bed?

The truth that we see is not all that there is to know or behold in this life. Only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ do we come to understand what the fullness of life means. We will have both joy and sorrow. We confess our failings, surrender our will to the Lord, and receive the Holy Spirit, beginning our eternity right here in the midst of all the good and bad; He helps us endure all things for His glory. But I didn’t know all of this when I was 3 years old. All I knew is that a neighbor boy named Danny was babysitting us and molested me while I was taking a nap in my big girl bed. I knew where the pills were that my mother took. So at some point thereafter I crawled up onto the kitchen counter, opened the cabinet door, reached way up onto the top shelf, grabbed that bottle of pills and ate a bunch of them. The only other memory I have of the incident was feeling scared while lying on a gurney in a hospital. I must have been crying too because the images are unclear. I had to go to the bathroom. I asked if I could get up and go to the bathroom and a man said NO. I felt the warmth of the urine on my legs and underneath me as someone said something about pumping out my stomach. And then I was OUT.

In a single flash of a moment after that convulsive episode, I knew what the Lord was trying to tell me. Or at least I think I do! He was showing me that by taking those pills, even as a small child who knew she had been hurt badly by someone everyone trusted, I was trying to take away the pain and the life that God had allowed for me. My little mind could not bear what had happened to me. The reality that the ugliness of that scene was ordained by the same God who created me and crafted all of my days from beginning to this end was too much to understand. I would not have been old enough to say the words to my Mom or Dad describing what that boy had done to me nor felt safe doing so. My parents weren’t exactly touchy-feely type folks. Can a 3-year old feel shame? Dirty? Worthless? Overwhelmed? Traumatized? Terrorized? Surely! While I have known, grieved, and forgiven the players in this scene for a long time now, I didn’t know that my survival from that day forward in my own strength would be marred by discontent. Nothing in my life would be good enough, or so I thought, to make me truly happy or at peace EVER. The seeds of several of my character flaws were planted that afternoon. I know that it wasn’t my fault any of this happened. I was just a little kid. To survive abuse is actually a noble task and accomplishment. What IS my responsibility, however, is to figure out what to do with what happened to me, layer-by-layer as each level of understanding is revealed in my walk with the Lord over my lifetime. In due time we must all ask ourselves: Will I grow up damaged or will I heal and thrive? Fifty-seven years later, the wound from this particular scene finally healed completely.

I grew up in what you would call a “blue collar” family. My Grandfathers worked in their respective trades: my Dad’s father as an auto mechanic and my Mom’s father as a maintenance man/operator in the boiler room of an ice cream factory. My Dad got a job at the General Motors Tech Center as a non-degreed draftsman. Each of them were very skilled at their respective vocations. My Dad in particular, would end up redesigning slot car motors to make them among the fastest in the world and co-authored over 30 clutch-assembly patents with Borg Warner later in his life. Although each of them would earn a living wage to support his family such that their wives could stay home and raise the children, there was always an attitude that it was not enough. I have come to call this mindset a “scarcity” mentality. The adults in my family never seemed satisfied with the income or the lifestyle or the relationships to which they acquired. First it was my Mother’s Mom taking the last of her grocery money to purchase tickets in the Irish sweepstakes. If only she would win then she would be happy! I think she did win a time or two. I don’t think it ever changed much of anything though.

The harder part of this dynamic for me came from my parents, especially my Mom. “If only we could win the lottery” she would say, “then . . . .” fill in the blank with some material gain of some sort that she thought would solve our problems and bring happiness. Without realizing it, I adopted this mantra as well. It sure helped when my parents got divorced or when my Dad missed a visitation or when my Mom wouldn’t come home at night from her carousing adventures with Parents Without Partners. If we had a windfall of cash then it would solve all of our problems, right? This was back in the days before there was common knowledge that most people’s lives are not better when they win the lottery! Family relationships tank when relatives come calling for money and out-of-control personal spending often leaves the prize winner in debt not set for life! Sadly this mindset and experiences of abuse and trauma contributed to addictive behavior in my teenage and young adult years. What became my addiction of choice that I thought was my winning ticket out of my inner turmoil? Work-a-holism. I nearly drove myself into permanent injury working so hard at school, the early days of my career in healthcare, graduate school, and one relationship after another. By the grace of God, He showed me a better way when I learned about addictions when doing contract work at a large mental health hospital. My years continuing to seek answers ultimately led to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. A new level of healing and a less frenzied pace of life began in my thirties.

That wasn’t the end of my discontent, however. Somehow I still looked more outside of myself than to the Cross for meaning, healing, self-worth, hope. A handwriting analysis in my youth said I was a very determined person. Well, yes, and that was not necessarily a good thingy! I sought counseling and studied God’s Word which did help me in many good ways. Yet like breaking in a wild colt, it still took repeated heavy tragedies from 2003 to 2007 to soften me for the biggest gift and the biggest trial that were yet to come. I am meeting you here after both of them: 1) marrying my Intended Beloved Steve and 2) enduring a serious illness that brought thousands of seizures virtually every day over 9 the past years. I have been grateful for the former.

Steve is an amazing man of God who loves me dearly as I do him. The serious illness not-so-much. I had never accepted the Convulsive Disorder or Dysautonomia or Dystonia or Functional Movement Disorder or Non-epileptic seizures or whatever you want to call it. What I came to realize this past week is that not accepting this illness is not a form of defeat. Rather, it’s not accepting that this is the Lord’s will for my life for my best good. It is the journey for me that will bring Him glory. And how am I handling it? I am denying His will for my life when I reject the pain and suffering that goes with the numerous blessings. Instead, I must trust that like all of the trials that have happened in my past, this illness serves a greater purpose. I may or may not ever really know what that purpose is. The episodes and medical complications may never stop. If I am to succeed at letting go of my discontentment with a traumatic event in my life at age 3 years old, I must also let go of the other thing that I hate in my life. Believing otherwise is believing a lie: a lie from the author of human suffering, sin, and death himself, Satan. No magical thinking (like a lottery mentality) is going to cover or remedy this lie. I MUST DENOUNCE my discontent, leaving it for my Lord to redeem.

How about if I repeat that another way:

No happiness or peace will come if I hold onto discontent over the Lord’s will in my life.

I knew in an instant, why that memory of me as a toddler came to me while grieving after another seizure. Both sorrows were and are part of my Lord’s Divine plan for my life. He will redeem my suffering one day and it will end. He will make all things new and good, and right; I will be whole. In the meantime, I am a steward of the experiences, people, places, and things He ordains for my life. My responsibility is to accept them with no expectations, no exceptions, no deal-making (“if only this . . . then that”), no holding back. So that night I let both sorrows go and wept deeply for a good long while.

Sometime later I shared my inner story of this incident with my beloved Stevers. He is warm and tender at these times as if to be my Jesus with skin-on. I am so blessed to be loved by this man after God’s own heart. His response? He marveled at how long abuse can affect the life of an abused person. Years. Decades. That a person can carry hurt his or her entire life because of the evil actions of someone who hurt them when they were little. I agreed. Yet for me, the hurt is never the same each time I get to revisit it. Each time I get to grieve some more. I get to heal some more. It takes what it takes. I get to see how the Lord uses even the ugly stuff to give me tools for coping and a gift of compassion for others. If I had not developed work-a-holism and that health challenge of hypoglycemia then I would have become an alcoholic. How do I know? My siblings and Mother were alcoholics, my Dad was mentally ill. One brother who overcame alcoholism struggled to find meaningful work then tragically had a stroke and was never able to function independently again up until he died earlier this year. He suffered with unspeakable pain and spasms every waking hour of his life. He had traded his bottles for cigarettes. What I am trying to say is that each of us had horrific wounds to overcome. Today I am the only one still here of my immediate family to write the stories. Oh Lord, may these words yield some goodness beyond the tales of sorrow for the goodness that is there too.

Because there is much redeeming value in our stories beyond the sorrows. Nothing is wasted Gentle Reader, in God’s economy of time and space. Letting go of the sin of discontent, perhaps after grieving its root-cause, is a work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He will bring you to it and see you through it. Healing is complicated and can take a very long time to process. Be encouraged. I tell you as in the song of Peggy Lee, the BAD is not all there is to a fire or the circus of the circumstances in our lives or a long lost love! There’s even more to life than the happiness of a fleeting moment such as in a windfall or slow dance with your beloved. Just go to the Cross. There you will find a peace that transcends all understanding. The best gift of all is waiting there for you this day, this night. He promises. On this we can rely.

Will you? JJ

Too many directions are no matter to Him

When the movement forward becomes murky from the treatment that sent me sideways

When the latest result became a scare not for cancer but still not not quell my burning question

When the past perks up and says hello, by the way, can you spend some time over here with me?

When the fog settles all around you, nightmares rob your rest, and things look worse but they really are not

You run to Jesus my friend.

Where did the money go when a gift seemed like it would settle all accounts again and again?

Where do you turn for comfort when isolation has become your friend and this is your normal normal?

Where do the roads lead that seem to have no arrival of merit in space, of substance, in meaning?

Where does the time go when it is no longer measured by the hour but the task of survival sun up to sundown?

It all goes to Jesus my friend.

Why do prayers seem to go no where when surrendered by obedience yet are tethered with strands of the unseen?

Why must suffering continue ad nauseum, day without end, manifesting in new ways over and over again?

Why didn’t I have a happy childhood such that my years reinforced it rather than set the little one inside free?

Why does the Lord delay in making it right for those who groan worse than I ever will?

Because He is Lord my friend.

What a day it will be when we know the answers we seek, when the glory is replete for all to see

What a treasure we will behold when the whys matter less where we put them and there’s perfect peace

What am I doing pining for that day to come if I can choose to dwell in His goodness now?

What witness will I leave until my own days have their end, my talents can no longer shine?

For He’s beyond what you see my friend.

The Sauna I Once Loved

Like an old lover that must fade into the background of new life

My sauna must go forth to its new owner, leaving me FIR behind.

She needs it to arrest the cancer in her own body and that of her Mom,

Imagine that: a generational curse that threatens the life between them.

I am happy to pass to them this box of promise, of hope

Bringing them much relief as the toxins melt away with the wavelengths of light.

As for me I am melancholy this day, this night

For I thought I would fare better for the investment therein.

The last of my inheritance was spent the year the Sunlighten entered our home

Hopeful with the promise of a cure from what all ailed me at the time: at first, it was great.

The warmth was undeniable especially on cold Indiana nights

When nothing else would do . . . no nothing else at all.

But did it help purge the alleged chronic Lyme embedded deep within

The bacterium, the viruses, the fungal creatures claimed on imperfect tests?

I may never know as the onslaught hath continued from the rigors of this life

From living in a fallen world hell-bent on our demise, our redemption one day for us all.

Just don’t see how this tool that I once loved, held so much promise

Is worth holding onto longer when all it collects is dust in our living room now.

So onto the next thing I shall be: from the consult of last week to the specialist to come

When in the meantime I know it’s the Lord that is my Great Physician and yours:

The object of my greatest love indeed.

SOLD!!!