Known in the Gates: Part 3, The Man Next to Me
From Facebook, June 4, 2015

When I was blessed in marrying Steve nearly 8 years ago, I often sought out Proverbs 31 in the Bible as a guidebook, a different kind of blueprint for how to love him in a manner that would honor the Lord and Steve the best.  Flash forward nearly eight years and enter the challenges of serious illness.  How do you “strengthen your arms,” “not let your lamp go out at night,” “watch over the ways of our household,” and support your man in the ways a Christian wife is called to when you simply cannot do much of anything?  By the Lord’s grace, that’s how!

Steve has become my whole world due to the isolation that came with a serious illness these past 4 years.  He is also the only one to whom I am called to serve during this season of my life second to the Lord himself.  I am no longer able to work in healthcare or serve others at my church.  At first this did not seem like enough.  Later on I stressed beyond belief to serve either one of them.  Now looking back I can say that each day I was given enough energy and clarity of thought to serve both as best as I could even in my times of greatest weakness.  These tasks are critical to fulfill the outcome cast in Proverbs 31:

23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

I just hope I did my part as best that I could . . .

The Lord through His Word in Proverbs 31 and other places (in addition to the leading of the Holy Spirit) showed me how to function in these roles through the most serious illness that I could ever imagine.  In turn for Steve the Lord through His Word, leading of the Holy Spirit, and fellowship of select believers, gave my beloved the strength to care for me during a season of our marriage that was incredibly challenging for him as well.  For example lost or broken sleep virtually every night!  Steve has fulfilled his calling:  there is much fruitfulness in our marriage as a result.  I will write more about this in the future for sure.  I am so proud of Steve!

The part of Proverbs 31 that has helped me to feel less alone, to feel that there is a “Jesus with skin on” who remembers me and loves me too is in the verse that captures the Christian husband’s response to her faithfulness:

11 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.

Yes.  Throughout these 4 years of significant challenges in every area of our lives together, Steve has trusted me.  He trusted me when he married me and he trusts me now.  His confidence is such a precious gift when my spirits were so low and my self-doubt so high.  My husband has heeded his own call to love me as Christ loves the church in the most loving way imaginable.  My beloved husband believed me that I was truly sick and believed in me no matter what that looked like.  (For example, when I said that I would be o.k. though still seizing for the five-hundredth day this occurred when he is late leaving for work after caring for me that morning.  O.k.?  Really?)  Steve has championed my attempts to keep going, to search for clues as to how to get well, to get up after yet another defeat.  Steve is my hero on this earth.  Period!

One of the greatest challenges of life in general is the quest for significance.  Now let us return to the theme of this 3-part blog.  For a Christian husband to be “known in the city gates” as it says in Proverbs 31 is one reason why a Christian wife should serve her husband well.  We must respect our husbands in private and in public so that they in turn may be respected in the workplace.  We want this!  To make this effort to respect our husbands is important no matter the circumstances in which each of the partners find themselves.  Yes, the wife may be sick at home; be home raising the children; have her own career, tasks and accomplishments yet all of these are to be in concert with supporting the spiritual leader of their household.  This is a tall order handled to be with prayer for sure!

For me it has been very hard to be second:  to support Steve while remaining in the shadows of life when I am also number 112 or so by so many people that used to be a vibrant part of my life.  I had to bring this identity crisis to my Heavenly Husband over and over again.  It was the precious relationships with my Heavenly Husband first and my earthly husband second, where I have found the ability to keep them in the right order!  Jesus was my perfect companion at all times.  Steve needed to be away for work, spiritual feedings at church, and some recreation too.  I had to let go of the temptation to pull on Steve too much.

I simply could not have as much time with Steve as in our first years of marriage since I could no longer participate in activities that we liked to pursue together.  My Heavenly Husband filled my needs.  He gave me this blog, new friends, and an online jewelry business.  My Lord revealed Himself to me in ways I had never experienced before.  And when Steve came home, our reunions were always sweet.  I had endured a thousand wretched times alone.  It’s just the way it had to be for us.  In due time that would not create trauma for me.  I realized just how tangible having Christ with you can really be . . .

In Christ and in love with my beloved Stevers, I have found who I truly am, who my Lord has created me to be.  I have found love beyond measure.  I am never alone regardless of the circumstances.  In completing the tasks to which I am now called, our household works well and is peaceful overall.  I get to live Shaunti Feldhaun’s wise words as noted above.  And no matter what the circumstances, whether I return to work in my profession as an occupational therapist or whether I am home recovering from a setback of sorts, my call will be to stand alongside and possibly behind my husband.  My heart is full.  Both are lovely places to be!

And that my Gentle Reader is a great discovery indeed.  This is God’s design for marriage.  In the end the only “gates” where it is truly important to be known will be the open door where I will someday meet my Lord, Jesus Christ and He calls my name.  So sweet.

Will I meet you there too?  JJ

Great things He hath done


Praise at sunrise 5 Many, Lord my God,
    are the wonders you have done,
    the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
    were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
    they would be too many to declare.

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
    but my ears you have opened
    burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.
Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
    it is written about me in the scroll.
I desire to do your will, my God;
    your law is within my heart.”

I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
    I do not seal my lips, Lord,
    as you know.
10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
    I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
    from the great assembly.

11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord;
    may your love and faithfulness always protect me.  (Psalm 40; NIV)

After speaking in adoration, gratitude, humility, and transparency, King David seeks compassion from his Lord and savior Jesus Christ.  He has been literally chased by his enemies to the cold, darkness of living in caves.  His very life, his promised kingdom, and all he knows is at stake yet he begins this song with faithful praise.  Thereafter he presents his request for the Lord’s mercy and protection.  Although not quoted here, this psalm of King David goes on to pray for the salvation of his people and desolation of his enemies.  In the end his hope that the Lord be glorified through it all.  Yes indeed.  Wow.  What a tremendous example for me!

Adoration.  Thank you almighty God for all that you have provided to this day.  I see your omnipotent power in the sequencing of events of my life to bring me into the best of fellowship to you my Lord and King.  I praise you here and forevermore.  You have provided exceedingly for my real needs.  The greatest evidence is in love of my life that is now here; I am honored to be at his side, his beloved too.

Gratitude.  For my times of sickness you have given me a warm bed in which to convalesce, healthy food, good medical care, and infused your strength into my weary frame to do the tasks that are needed each day.  No matter how I may be feeling, the facts remain true that you care for the details of my life and are here with me.  I am never alone.  Most of all your love changes my sorrow into joy.

Humility.  The striving, the determination of my youth were eventually broken well into my adulthood so that I might realize the plans you have for me.  Hurt has yielded to forgiveness and freedom.  Following the lead of my earthly kinsman redeemer instead of my own desires has brought me into the fullness of what it means to follow you.  Much goodness has come from all of these.  The motto that began the leap of faith to finding Jesus years ago has come true:  letting go and letting God reign in my heart must remain above all else.

Transparency.  You gave me a fondness for writing long ago, mentored by my own mother (a naturally gifted writer).  This blog has seen me through much suffering and challenged me to return my eyes to Your majesty, Your creation, and more.  I have learned that the truth about life is often separate from what I can see.  Lord keep me soft to submit to Your ways like the clay who gives its essence to the master potter craftsman.  Surely goodness shall be the result for Your glory.

 Prayerfulness.  I do ask for healing of this wretched illness that plagues me for hours each day.  Guide me in my interactions with others when frustrated by so many things; may I be a light for my true hope that is in my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Bring rest and lead my husband, Steve, in the decisions we are facing.  Grant him wisdom at home and at work, as a father to his four wonderful adult children, and as a leader in our church.  Thank you for his faithful witness to so many of what it means to be a man after Your own heart.  And please bless the fellow sojourners you have brought into my life, especially my Skype Bible Prayer partners Karan and Sherry.  Such sweet fellowship is salve to my soul.

Great things the Lord hath done in my life since I met my first Gentle Reader about three years ago.  Thank you for coming alongside me for the ups and downs, bunny trail side trips, victories, and more.  Know that I am praying for you as I write this, that the Lord be with you this day too.  He is so good and worthy of our praise.  Perhaps King David said it best later in Psalm 40 like this:

16 But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
    “The Lord is great!”

The Woman in the Mirror

roosterWho is that woman in the mirror?

I see her in a different view these days with less distortion than in days gone by.

The form of her face is increasingly unfamiliar with advancing age and the effects of illness.

When gazing into a full length silhouette I have less of a critical eye as the pounds have dropped over time.  This was not always so.

Close in and the imperfect details are no longer masked as I became allergic to make-up or unable to attend to the details of the perfectly plucked brow.  The latter used to be so relaxing to craft.

Instead I see the markings of days in the sun, storylines from broken nights of sleep, puffier cheeks for unknown reasons, shoulders elevated with enough muscle tension to throw out the shoulder pads in that dated blazer, and a jaw set in a pattern marked more by pain or grief than joy.

mirror quote





But wait.  There is something more!  Will you look at her eyes?  When she will dare to look with more than a fleeting glance I can see deeply into her soul like never before.  There’s a softening, a knowing, a sincerity, a connection, a spirit-filled peace, a sense that the stuff of this world is just not that important anymore, a different brand of confidence.  She might be o.k. just the way she is, no?  Her eyes say so perhaps . . .

So funny, isn’t it how the role of the bathroom or pocket mirror can change over the course of our lives?  As a teenager we strive to keep every bit of bang, drape of the shirttail, sparkle of the lip gloss and more just right.  After all that dashing blond-haired dreamboat may just look our way today so we must be ready!  The preoccupation continues until we actually land with that special someone at the Lord’s altar of grace and happiness; we may keep up appearances for a time then our image may fade as family priorities, career shifts, and the care of aging parents come crashing in.  There simply are not enough hours in the day to have a perfect manicure all the time anymore! 

I find myself in a curious variation of all of these themes.  Many times I have hated the change in my appearance with the onset of a serious illness.  Most of the time I was at a complete loss to do anything about it and had to nearly crawl out of the house with wet hair and no make-up.  I was grateful simply to be upright and moving!  By the time I became better at managing the symptoms of illness, the routines of daily grooming had already eroded.  It was just easier to go al naturale and spend the precious moments in which I was able to function on more important tasks.  Comfortable shoes became the norm every day even when I had acquired some cute low-heeled boots or slides.  The latter accentuate the calves don’t you know, in a lean, long leggy look anytime of year.  Nope:  that was generally off my radar until very recently.

Was it the discovery of a mineral-based make-up line that peaked my interest in stepping things up in my primping department?  Was it the opportunity to go out a little more that prompted me to look good for my hubby-boo?  I’m thinking that it is just plain fun to dress up again, allowing the inner peace to percolate out into the mainstream here and there a bit.  And if I do or if I don’t, it doesn’t matter as much anymore.  THAT IS VERY FREEING INDEED! 

After all, the woman in my mirror has grown into more self-acceptance than ever before.  Psalm 139 means a lot to me even in the face of serious illness when I know that this is how my Lord crafted me and is the place from which He will call me into His presence someday.  One day all this will be perfect so why sweat the small stuff now?  Taking care of myself and my appearance also reflects well on my husband according to the Proverbs 31 lady.  She wears purple!  The woman in the mirror is to be a solo consideration, not comparing the reflection to any magazine cover or member of the sisterhood.   Instead of comparing ourselves to others, we are to humble ourselves before our brethren (Phil 2:3-4).  That will keep our hearts pure and beautiful no doubt.  Further we are to carry into the world our own treasure chest of talents and giftings (Galatians 6:4-5) then boast only in the One who made us this way (1 Cor 1:30-31) all for His glory not ours.  Wow:  delighting in His creation (me) which is a testimony to His own reflection and the work of the Holy Spirit living in each of us who know Him as Lord and Savior.  Oh how I long to see the face of my Jesus someday!

When a sweet gal recently complimented what I thought was my very plain appearance, I realized that the most important accessories I need to wear are a smile on my face and joy in my heart.  The rest of my self image must transcend the beauty aisles at Macy’s.  So I say now that my inability to keep up with appearances as in the past has actually moved me away from the glassy mirrors!  These days I’d rather see myself in the eyes of a friend sitting across the coffee table than from any other place.  Perhaps the Psalmist King Lemuel said it best from the wisdom of his mother:

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  (Proverbs 31:30)

Oh how I do pray that what you see here from me, Gentle Reader, is Him and not me.  I would have never made it this far in my life without Him:  that is for sure.  The mirror would have shattered years ago with the crumbling of my own strength, my own inability to keep up with much of anything at all.  May you always see Him in the people places and things around you.  May you come to know the Lord, Jesus Christ of your life as you gaze into your own beautiful reflection too.  It’s just how it’s meant to be my friend.  JJ

Fall reflection