White light and angels

They were tall, white angelic beings moving towards me amidst a glow of an even brighter light.  I did not understand what was happening at the time as I was just waiting there with the figures floating towards me.  More of them were to the right than to the left; or maybe I could not see them as if blinded by sunlight.   But this was not sunlight.

I sensed them coming closer, around behind my right arm as if to escort me somewhere.  I began to drift forward.  Then I stopped.  Why had I stopped?  Was not this the right way to go?  And then the words spoken to me were felt more than heard:  it is not time yet.  And they were gone.  No light.  No angels.  Just the darkened images remained inside my mind that are always there when one’s eyes are closed.  When I opened my eyes I saw the inside of the camper all around me.  Most importantly, I WAS ALIVE!

Quickly realizing what had just happened, I groaned for strength deep within me that was not available in my listless frame.  “I have to open the windows!” I exclaimed inside my head.  Horror nearly immobilized me.  Could I do it?  Could I reach it?  Which window?  How do I open them?  Let’s see, first I have to get up on my elbows to push myself up.  Then lean forward to create momentum and reach out my arms to grab the back of the dinette.  Slide forward and get my legs onto the floor to bear weight to stand.  There, that’s it.

By the grace of God I was able to get the window opened and reach up to open the ceiling vent further before carefully collapsing back into bed.  “Just avoid hitting your head on the bunk over you,” I thought to myself.  Soon I could feel the rush of cool, fresh air on my face and arms.  I took in a deep breath, reviving further.  I was going to be o.k.  Sigh.  What the heck had happened to me?

Some might call it a near-death experience.  Others might label such an experience as a hallucination from toxic fumes.  I prefer to call it an experience in another dimension that I cannot fully explain.   Perhaps a second chance at life.  For several hours prior to this vision of sorts in my “mind’s eye” (not really seen as I looked around and not really imagined with my eyes closed) I had struggled with seizure attacks and convulsions.  This happens about every week or so that I endure much of a day with continuous noxious episodes.  This past weekend landed me with two days like this in a row!  Such is life in the mysterious world of mercury and unknown toxicity.  The typical episode triggers of hunger, thirst, needing to void, feeling cold, fragrances, waking up, falling asleep, mold, or food sensitivities did not apply that day.

We had arrived in Alabama at about 4:00 a.m. after over 15 hours of travelling by truck, towing our travel trailer cross-country.  Temperatures the next day were still around 40 degrees in the deep South when my beloved ventured off to see his son-n-wife at Fort Rucker Army base nearby.  It was usual for me to stay behind after long ventures to rest up, hoping to visit with everyone later the next day.  After sleeping about 7 hours I had made myself a breakfast of my special diet leftovers and yummy coconut almond milk.  My tummy was satisfied yet I still felt groggy so I returned to our comfy bed.  Gratitude filled my thoughts for having a safe place in which to retreat with all the provisions that I would need away from home . . .

Clearly some provisions I did not need after all!  Our crochety campground water spicket was frozen solid so we were unable to hook-up fresh water to the camper and use the toilet as designed.  Gratefully some of our emergency gallons of water were starting to thaw so we had a reserve for flushing the toilet and drinking the next morning.  But unfortunately since we had departed from the frigid North the day before, we had to take our entire journey with a camper still winterized with “non-toxic” RV antifreeze.  All of the drains and toilets were still filled with the scent of the pink stuff.  Not thinking about the mixing of products, we used some windshield washer fluid to flush the toilet a couple of times.  Then when I was concerned that the toilet waste solids would congeal, I tossed in a Bio enzyme pack, earth friendly of course, with barely a scent of pine or something.  Pink and blue and green make . . . ?  Something not nice, I now understand!

Before we crashed into bed, we had already opened the overhead vents to help control condensation inside our unit.  What I did not realize is that a window I had also opened in the morning was above the venting for the propane furnace!  I’m not sure what chemical compounds might have made their way back into our living space since the carbon monoxide detector had not been activated.  Maybe I just don’t do well with propane gas altogether.  Who knows?  What I do know is that the noxious mixture nearly sent me to heaven!

Sadly after eating that morning it was all I could do to get to the bathroom and collapse onto the bed instead of the floor.  I could not, did not move for a very long time.  Slow thoughts of my inability to move, recognition of my awkward positioning, wondering how long Steve would be gone, the location of my cell phone all dawdled through my head.  And they stayed there.  There was nothing I could do about anything and I wasn’t even sure exactly what to do anyways.  My thoughts were dulled into a kind of motionlessness that was similar to my poisoned body.  In time the white light and angels came.  In time I was able to get up as described earlier.  In time Steve came home and found a broken shell of a woman recovering quietly in our bed.  Many tears followed.

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Death is a funny thing.  You think you know all about it from watching others pass away then transitioning into a waxy state lying in a wooden box placed in a funeral home parlor decorated like an old rerun of The Beverly Hillbillies.  Sermons, Biblical passages, and Christian authors have much to say about this life and the next but until you face it yourself the words simply won’t mean much.  The unexpected BENEFIT of having a severe illness that brings daily seizure attacks and convulsions is that every day I get to face death in addition to the newness of life.  My breathing stops and it starts back up again.  From a spiritual standpoint, THIS IS NOT A BAD THING!  As a result, each day I take practically nothing for granted as life and some goodness are imparted to me.  This process is extremely humbling.  I have also learned that death is not something to be feared . . .

Many years ago a friend, Louise, shared with me an audio tape of Pastor David Jeremiah in which he stated,

“God’s man in the center of God’s will is immortal until God is through with him.”

Oh yes.  I have now lived through many brushes with death and seen this to be true!  So where do I go from here?  I’m not quite sure, really.  What I am sure of is that I will probably write about it!  You will be the first to know my beloved Gentle Reader when the inspiration comes.  Until then how about if we keep the windows open on the opposite side of the furnace, take care of ourselves as best we can and keep our eyes fixed on the Lord.  The light of His love will surely shine upon us all the days of our lives until He calls us home.  As for me, I will be ready.  How about you?  JJ

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It is enough

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We had decided to pack four gallons of water just in case something went awry during our second cold weather camping trip this season.  The related online blogs recommended this among other tips such as purchasing a heated hose and waiting to un-winterize the travel trailer until we had traveled enough south to avoid freezing temperatures overnight.  And so we prepared accordingly reviewing our long “To Do” list of stuff over and over again before heading out the door.  Check!

Just before our departure, arctic temperatures plagued the entire country east of the Mississippi River from Michigan to northern Florida!  Who knew that after driving nearly 800 miles due south we would still be facing weather more characteristic of Indiana than our first destination in the deep south of Fort Rucker, Alabama?  We had run the propane heater in the Camp Lite a few times back home to minimize the out-gassing of the relatively new-used mini furnace.  We intended to fire up both heaters (propane and electric) soon after hooking up everything upon arrival so we could sleep comfortably.  Check!  After all it would be about 5:00 in the morning when we got to stop number one.

For God is not the author of confusion but of peace . . .  (1 Cor 14:33)

We did not count on the entire camper freezing over along the way!  I grabbed the hair dryer and extension cord from the cab of the truck and proceeded to thaw out both door locks.  Once inside I discovered that the four “emergency” one-gallon jugs of water were frozen solid as was the entire water system “winterized” with special RV antifreeze!  We had our two sport-sized bottles of water 1/2 filled with us in the car and that was it.  Closer investigation found some frigid water sloshing around in one of the gallon jugs so we gave it to our pup figuring she would not mind the temp.  (Sure would hate to have to choose between man and beast on such a night!)  Steve used a, er, warm water stream to punch a hole in the toilet ice seal to make it operational for the night.  Check!

Hooking up the water and electric did not go well either.  The water spicket had frozen beneath the towel that our southern/Aussie host (formerly from Indiana) had prepared before our arrival.   Hmmmmm.  When the crochety 30 amp electrical hook-up proved to be broken, Steve plugged us into the standard outlet to get us through the night, thus preventing draining our battery overnight.   Oh well, we could live without hot drinks in the microwave:  we had the warmth of each other after all . . .

But our bedding felt like it had just come off the train from Siberia!  Steve bundled up head-to-toe in Smart Wool and collapsed into bed.  I tried to join him but the nighttime unpleasantries I often face reared their ugly head first. Eventually the buzzed feeling I had from the late night excitement, convulsions and checking of Facebook yielded enough fatigue to turn everything off in my head for a few hours.  Even the sound of street noise 50 feet from our pillows drifted into the distance.  We had made it to see my hubby’s darling youngest son and his wife the next day and I was glad.  Check!

Many are the plans in a person’s heart but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.  (Proverbs 19:21)

Who knows why our lives are so difficult these days.  The last two times this past year we gratefully were able to camp with the conveniences of a travel trailer in colder weather we certainly prepared as best we could.  It’s not like we did not know what we were doing!  I perused and posted questions on multiple camping forums to learn from more seasoned travelers.  We purchased some special gadgets and kept snow pants, hats and gloves nearby; Steve donned his biking/paddling headlamp upon arrival like a pro to keep his hands free during the late night procedures.  I had enough food prepared in individual and meal-sized portions to keep me compliant with my special diet and the skilled driver nourished for most of our first few days away from home.  We did the best we could to avoid disaster and this is just how it goes sometimes!

The next day was a blur for me.  Yes, we said hello to Daniel and Elizabeth when they stopped by in their Honda Fit (everything is so cute about these two!) midday.  I had not eaten breakfast yet and needed some more recovery/rest time so Steve took off with them while I headed back to the tin can ranch.  What happened next can only be called a near-death experience!  That one deserved its own blog story so I won’t go into it here.

What is clear is that my writing block of late is definitely broken with some new experiences ordained by my Jesus albeit AFGE if you will (aka “another fun growth experience”)!  As in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy turns to her dog Toto after the great tornado, I’ll say it here, “Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore” and that is good.  My social and geographical isolation enduring illness at home is now broken for a time.  What matters now is faith in the Lord and obedience for His will and I know that His goodness shall prevail.  Yeah God!

. . . keeping the commandments of God is what matters.  Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called.  (1 Corinthians 7:19b-20)

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.  And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God to those who are the called according to His purpose.  (Romans 8:18; 28)

Be encouraged Gentle Reader.  The two partial bottles of water were all we needed that night anyways.  It was enough and in our hearts we knew it all along.  JJ

Camper mascot Kermit the Frog here!
Camper mascot Kermit the Frog here!

There’s popcorn in the bed

Travelling can be both exhilarating and hazardous to one’s health all the same time.  Was it Mark Twain who said that life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all?  Yeah, he would be right at home in our house or rather our travel trailer!

And so I remain grateful for so much as Steve and I continue to navigate very odd circumstances while on the road. We have now passed the halfway mark in an Indiana, Alabama, Florida, and North Carolina road trip that has provided much material for future blogging already!  This stuff ain’t for wimps and we have proven to be mighty in the Lord.  Here’s a peek:

This morning I awakened at 11:30 a.m. delighted to have slept in after a wretched night.  Steve was arriving home to the tin can ranch after the closing meeting of his United States Canoe Association (USCA) annual meeting.  He was energized beyond his lack of sleep, ready to hit the big water off the coast of Florida.  A few bites of ham was all he needed:  the outrigger canoe strapped to the roof of my truck for the past 1000 miles would see water at last!

A blast of seizures delayed my plans for breakfast as Steve assisted me with a bite to eat and trip to the bathroom. Then he found a deer tick on his back!  We had hoped that the dangerous hitch-hiker was a loner but that was not to be.  Within an hour we had found about a dozen on his clothing and the floor around the camper entry.  Quickly we searched and cleaned, flashlights in hand until every inch of Steve, the dog, and our home away from home was cleared.  [Some parts of the search weren’t too bad!  ;)]  At last I collapsed again, this time into a pile of tears:  why does everything have to be so difficult all of the time?

Steve is a saint, this is true.  He quickly switched gears (and clothing!) for the paddling adventure that awaited him at Amelia Island State Park with a fellow paddler in from Arkansas.  I sent along two bars of chocolate from our hometown chocolatier to thank him for waiting for Steve plus Steve’s lunch that I had quickly assembled.  At last I could ravenously consume my makeshift breakfast of thawed lunch meat, canned green beans, ghee butter, and pumpkin seeds:  low oxalate on-the-road dontcha know!  Steve soon departed after pumping up the tires of my bike for me:  a tag-a-long I’d added in hopes of riding here in the warmer weather . . .

But I was just too tired to do anything but eat and check Facebook after my beloved departed.  Oh how I longed to be with him!  Someday soon we will again bring the tandem outrigger canoe (OC-2)  on such trips so I may join my River Bear on the water.  Yes, Lord:  maybe this year?  Instead Don and Steve will take turns paddling the OC-1 and have a blast surfing the ama (which is the float attached by two poles or iakos off to one side) and waves like true racers.  Meanwhile I grabbed the remainder of my bag of organic popcorn and prepared to return to my own version of life these days in my pretty bed.  And in due time, I did revive.

It’s raining now as this blog comes to a close.  My bike is at the ready, leaning against my inner left leg, with my beloved pup feigning off sleep on the floor just beyond my outer left leg.  O.K. so we are now also initiated to winter camping with way too many toys!  Funny how I don’t regret hardly anything about how we crafted this trip.  Most of the delegates stayed at the hotel where the USCA meeting was held and that certainly would have been more convenient than the RV park we ended up at which was a 25 minute drive north in Georgia.  The air was stale to me at the Hampton Inn with the stale scent of air freshener in the lobby.  Here amidst the palms we have fresh air ALL DAY and ALL NIGHT LONG!  I like that!  The rain dries up quickly anyways in the reddish soil sprinkled with pine needles.  We will avoid the tick path my hubby took with the dog this morning, no problemmo.  Here I can even see a few stars at night peeking through the overhead vents we keep open at night.  That’s refreshingly cool and very romantic too!

I could be at home right now in the frigid Midwest, writing my heart out amidst the foot of snow around our home and subzero temperatures.  This is better.  This is good.  This is what living a life of adventure is all about.  Why wait for a “rainy day” when everything will never be perfect enough to do the things which call one forward TODAY.  This IS that rainy day.  And hey, the rain just stopped!  I do believe I have carb-loaded adequately too!  Where is my bike helmet anyways?

Seeya pup.  Ima hittin’ my own road ya all . . .

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