After another dead end in the road

So many times I have chosen the road less travelled.

  • Finally detaching myself from toxic, addicted friends and family members beyond the proverbial geographical cure that didn’t work.
  • Working hard in Al Anon Adult Children of Alcoholics as I discovered the extent to which abuse, dysfunction, relying on survival skills alone, and the absence of a Christ-centered view of the world made my world smaller and darker than it needed to be.
  • Accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
  • Pursuing my goals of higher education degrees in a family where at the time, only one blood relative had done so.
  • Starting and operating a home business several times despite not having all of the strengths needed for success.
  • Divorcing the man instrumental to my coming to faith in Christ when he would not return to our marriage nor his faith of sorts.
  • Embracing the Lord’s restoration of my life after much tragedy: a life total makeover of sorts.
  • Moving out of State to marry my Intended Beloved and start a new life in which I knew no one else but Steve.
  • Finding things that I could learn and still do despite a serious decline of my health and loss of my profession.
  • Never losing hope in the Lord or that better days lain ahead somewhere despite wretched convulsive episodes virtually every day for ten years.

Tough stuff, eh? Thank you Lord for your mercy and grace through it all! Tonight I’m not sure what to make of things when I find myself at the end of another road, another lifeline of a rope that has given me so much. After 3 1/2 years, I have decided to step down from my role as Editor of the monthly newsletter for the Extension Master Gardeners in our county. My 42 newsletters have been a labor of love for me: challenging my creativity, communication, and computer skills as applied to my favorite topic of gardening. I need to open up some time and energy to find new solutions to boost my health. Working on a newsletter in the middle of the night (because that is most often the time I am stable enough to do so) then being trashed all day the next day, then repeating this pattern a few times per month is just too much. It has become a dysfunctional pattern of living just to earn 15 volunteer hours every month. Regardless, I am sad to let it go. I need to let it go. I need to let it go not knowing to where the Lord will lead me from here. I will miss being “in the know” about our local volunteer gardening activities, upcoming events, and exciting developments on the horizon. Gee, I did ask myself about taking the next step towards becoming a board member and advance within the organization: a logical next step. Supervise the new Editor in addition to two other communications coordinators? No, came the answer to my prayer. Not this time or in this way. Sigh, I just wanted to figure out my next steps ahead of time. That’s not the type of road I am travelling on right now. The GPS is stopping right here. I have arrived at a blank screen. But why not?

Geez oh man. Talk about what is looking like another endless path with no answers. Let’s add a few more.

  • Why haven’t the thousands of hours of medical care, excess of a hundred thousand dollars of expenses, many hundreds of hours of research, and prayers of the faithful including my own yielded more fruit so to speak? We don’t know. No one knows.
  • Why did my Mother die right before I met my Intended Beloved? She never got to meet him. She would have loved him dearly.
  • Why did my former supervisor’s house burn to the ground the day before she intended to cancel my trip to see my estranged father right before he died? I didn’t know he was dying and had not seen him in 30 years. Turns out that I got to see him and she didn’t return to work until months later.
  • Why did my Grandmother die the day after I discovered my former husband’s affair? I couldn’t get out of bed to go to work, so overcome with grief.
  • Why have I survived all of the members of my immediate family with no one to carry on the family name? This leaves me feeling pretty empty at the holidays or special occasions.
  • Why did I get to marry the man of my dreams only to not be able to fly with him when he lifts off to so many cool places?

Just because, Gentle Julie. This isn’t heaven. You live in a fallen world marked by sin and evil with only glimmers of my majesty and goodness sprinkled amidst the darkness. Even so, I am God. I am doing a different kind of work in your heart, in your life with a different kind of reward for your faithfulness to follow me instead of the way of the world. I know all of your story. I know all of your sorrows, including ones that only I can see. I know because I am there loving you and seeing you through it all. Thank you for letting me in . . . could you do so even more? I grieve and suffer with you in ways that you can only imagine from what you can see, from my Word. Meet me there. I promise you that the strife, the unrelenting striving that leads to seemingly dead ends will be redeemed when I come again in glory. Lay your cares at the foot of my cross. I will hold them tenderly with your tears. Trust me. I will never leave you or forsake you.

So this blog is a bit of a downer tonight but it doesn’t end there. I write the truth as I know it and about the truth that sets me free. Me and you too, Gentle Reader. Do you know many sorrows too? Weep with me. Weep for your losses, your hurts, your unanswered prayers. Then take each one and place it beneath the cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ right next to mine. He will take them for us from here. It doesn’t matter that we don’t know where the path we are on is leading us when we are living unto the Lord and following Him. What matters is the trail we are leaving behind. JJ

We must learn to let go

You must learn to let go to move forward.

“Keep moving forward” my brother, Mike, used to say when we were settling the estate of our dear mother after her death.  The attachment and meaning of each object and task made moving in any direction difficult, confusing at times, and so very final.  Then we decided to take them one at a time.  Then we decided to learn to let go . . .

The unmade necklaces which would have surely been my best work needed to be disassembled today before they were ever completed.  If I had stopped to make jewelry this afternoon then I would have never made my deadline for shipping Trinity Jewelry by Design to its new owner.  I actually tried putting the beads back on the cotton fibers before realizing that I needed to stop and it would be o.k. to let these unmade designs go . . .

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The 9-foot mural on the wall of my condo in Naperville, Illinois took a year to complete.  I began with sunny colors of yellow tracing paper, pastel hues of unyru papers from India, custom-stenciled golden palm leaves, a few rhinestone swirls, lettering from a local sign shop, and a very important message about the bunny trails of life being such a very important part of the journey.  “But what about the mural?” my friends would ask when moving to be with my intended beloved would take me 200 miles to the East of my happy place.  Yes, finding true love required leaving the art of restoration behind:  a different song of letting go . . .

When the pain of running my life on emptiness, stress, unanswered questions of “why?” and never having enough to make a difference anyways I finally crashed into the arms of my Jesus.  At the time I was 29 years old, single, working full time, and forever trying to finish my Master’s degree.  Then a laundrymat attendant laid out the plan of salvation and invited me to come to the table of the Lord for refreshment, forgiveness, renewal, eternal life with Him.  Later that night with tears the wasted meaningless living-for-me finally did let go once and for all . . .

The hurt of wretched divorce grieves my Lord and me, sometimes even now when I have known such goodness in my new life with Steve.  It took me years of harboring what it would take to even the score if given the chance:  holding onto the files that would prove the ways in which I was wronged.  Then I realized that the one carrying the baggage too far was me not him.  I was already forgiven years ago for my part in things.  In due time and with lightness of heart I finally learned to let go of that other person too . . .

Who could ever imagine the hellish suffering of these past three years with my head banging to and fro day after day?  Literally, I mean, with a yet undiagnosed illness that has had too many pieces to keep track anymore.  Cries out for healing one thousand times have made little difference on the surface; it’s so easy to become discouraged, to give up in motionless brokenness of the worst kind.  “Who knows if the trials will ever end?” I often wonder when up late at night.  We cannot know much about tomorrow so we must move along in faith today.  For through faith, through Divine intervention, I have had enough grace once again to get me through yet another episode, another day.  And the smallest of sweetness has come that would have been missed had it come any other way.  So to the throne of grace with great expectation I do most definitely let my achy breaky heart go . . .

For who really knows when the Lover of my soul shall return in glory or to take me home?  When He comes for me I’m sure I will recognize His name, His face, His comfort from all the days I’ve seen each of these before.  I cannot afford to be discouraged or waste much time groaning the pangs of sorrow in this life when preparation is what is now due.  It is time for letting God direct my every word, my every task:  my thoughts held captive as an offering in love nothing else.

Oh how I do pray He comes soon to take me home to His mansion with many rooms and warm embrace!  Yet in the meantime, Gentle Reader, my Jesus directs me to keep my eyes on Him from here and the one step of the path (that’s all) in front of me as I go.  Yes, I must learn to let go of more than I ever dreamed I would need to and let it all slip through my hands to be free.  My happiness depends upon this for the lightness in my spirit that will carry me to the wondrous places in life you or I may ever go.  I trust that down the road a bit it will be truly beautiful and worth lightening the load a bit don’t you think?  JJ

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

When you know you have to make a decision

I suppose that each of us has our own process that we go through when we know that we must make an important decision.  Some make lists of pros and cons on either side of the issue, others ask everyone else in their lives for advice, a few go “intellectual” doing exhaustive internet research, and there’s at least a couple of folks who hire an expert to make the decision for them!  As Christ-followers, we are called to submit our will to that of the Father (“thy kingdom come, thy will be done”) for His glory, knowing that it will be for our highest good.  The Father knows best and knows us best, through our personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  This brings peace of mind, confidence in going forward, and hope.  But it doesn’t feel very good in the moment sometimes . . .

The fateful night my former spouse was confronted with having an affair, he denied it then proceeded to blame me for having one!  Unbelievable!  In my shock and horror, I had to make an important decision on the same night that I found out about his affair.  From somewhere inside of me I asked Craig to leave for the night.  He did.  And he never came back again.  Well, I wasn’t expecting that for sure!  Turns out that his personality would change completely that night.  Shortly thereafter, he walked away from virtually everyone he knew, his church, his family, and of course me for a very long time.  I understand now that he has reconciled with some of the parties.

The follow-up decision was more difficult:  the decision to file for divorce.  I wondered how in the world would I support myself in a large city, working part time for health reasons, dealing with two deaths in the family and my mother’s cancer diagnosis, and then losing my job altogether?  From somewhere inside of me I found the truth I needed to take the steps needed to reclaim my life.  The process took dreadfully long and much more heartache would follow before I was finally independent again.  One and one-half years later, I landed in my own place with a new job; I was starting to resurface from the mire, rebuild my life.  Then one more devastating blow followed with a condo fire that required me to become displaced for a few months without most of my personal belongings.  At this point I was completely lost.  Who was I now?  The treasured things that provided comfort during one of the biggest transitions of my life were gone, being ozonized in a warehouse somewhere!  I crumbled into a shell of a person and would never be the same again.

The next big decision to make was:  where to live?   From somewhere inside of me I got the idea to ask the elders of my church for guidance.  My own father was estranged from my family and thus not available and the ideas of friends and family were all over the map, so to speak.  I moved forward with purchasing my own condo with virtually all of my remaining assets and turns out that it was a good choice.  The chaos in my life finally stopped and the most important decisions lessened to paint colors and flooring styles.  I had a blast decorating my new home.  It was beautiful.  Even the balcony became a secret garden getaway with some of my favorite flowers and antiques.

And just when I was telling my single girlfriends how much fun we were going to have in the new year, 2007, I came into contact with Steve.  Two years after the finalization of the divorce, I decided to return his invitation to call him and before long, my life was moving in the direction of Indiana.  Eeeek, Indiana?  Folks in Chicagoland equate Indiana with the dirty industrial town of Gary.  Steve lived in a relatively small town, 250 miles from where I had been living for 23 years.  From somewhere inside of me, I knew that I would be moving to Indiana.  Steve’s history resonated so much with mine it triggered a child-like sense of wonder.  He flew radio-controlled model airplanes and I grew up with all of the men and boys in my family flying their predecessor:  line-controlled airplanes.  Steve cycled and so did Craig.  Steve had been a leader in his church and so had Craig.  The men at church and his sons looked up to Steve and this is where the similarities to Craig ended.  Steve’s character exceeded that of most men I had ever met at any time, of any age.  I may have fallen in love with him before we even met.  We became friends over the phone lines.  From somewhere inside of me I knew that Steve was set apart for me.

As time went on, my process of making decisions would change.  From somewhere inside of me I learned to ask Steve about the decisions in my life as a way of honoring him, improving communication between us, and bringing us closer together.  I learned that it is the Lord’s design for a man to lead his household and his wife as an expression of love, obedience to Christ, and his protection and care for her.  This independent-minded Chicagoland healthcare professional would be transformed into a loving wife who seeks to please her husband as the Lord leads and empowers me to do so.  I am grateful, I am humbled to say that submission to Steve has made me a better person.  Wow.  I am still a work in progress in this regard and that’s what grace brings.

So why did I write this blog anyways?  It is rather shocking perhaps to bare the hairy details of a painful process of divorce and maybe uncomfortable for others to read how the Lord may actually have had a hand in such things to bring about a greater good.  Even the goodness does not cover the pain that can remain until it gets worked out, let go of over an indefinite amount of time.  So many people got during hurt these past 10 years in addition to me, in addition to Steve.  I grieve the loss of family life that Steve’s four children had to endure through the heartache of their own divorce story.  Tis pretty clear why God hates divorce.  He wants to spare us these wounds and give us much goodness through the joys of family life.  In the end, from somewhere inside of us, we must decide to trust Him, know that He is God, know that He loves and knows us intimately, and that “thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”  It is our decision to use that which God allows in our lives to grow us into better human beings, better stewards of His gifts, grace, and promises.  He uses the very hurt that grieves us to bring unspeakable joy if we but bother to recover from that hurt, let go, and keep moving forward until His return someday in glory.

For those who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit is that which can move “from somewhere inside of us.”  He is my Heavenly Husband, my first true love who knew me before time began, before I was born.  My decision today is to continue to look to Him for things big and small, following the lead of my earthly husband as well.  If the Lord is faithful in the crises of life, as this blog shows that He has been so exceedingly, He will be faithful in the breath-by-breath wonderings I face today as well.

Ahhhhh.  Such a great reminder from You inside my heart on a wacky Tuesday.  Thanks Lord.

Lyin’ in the Morning Sun

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!