A Daughter’s Reflections On Lyme Disease

By Clara Jekel

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I’m 15 years old.  My mother has Chronic Lyme Disease.

To be able to understand what I am, you must first understand what I was. Before my mom was diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease, I was very dependent on her. She ran her own daycare to help finance my needs and wants, cleaned up after me, and offered me endless emotional support, which I completely took for granted. When I asked for her help, she dropped whatever she was doing in that moment to assist me. I’m not saying she was absent of flaws because no person is, but she’s definitely one of the most inspiring people I have ever met, and to this day she remains the only person I believe truly understands me.

My mom has always had medical issues. She’s an insomniac (which, as you can imagine, made her exceptionally patient in the morning) and she always seemed to be going to the hospital for one thing or another. I remember sitting with her in church, knowing something was terribly wrong.  I asked her if she was okay and she replied she was having trouble regulating her body temperature.  This is just one of  many Lyme Disease symptoms.  The most obvious symptom of her disease happened before I was born, when she gave birth to my older sister Hannah. The stress of the labor on her already taxed immune system caused her to develop Bell’s Palsy, or partial facial paralysis. We know now that like us, her doctors were unaware of the link between Bell’s Palsy and Chronic Lyme Disease.  Insomnia is also a symptom of this detestable disease.

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“This is the Golgotha of our own city.”

In our current political climate so much has been said. So much hatred expressed. So little self introspection, humbleness and humility shared.  It’s incredibly easy to become swept up in it all…the anger. The fear. The self-righteousness.

The following words, published in the late 1800’s, calm my heart each time I read them.  They remind me of His presence, His power, and the freedom so graciously given to me, not by my government, but by Him, to choose how I will respond to the most important relationship in my life.

An exerpt from The Trial And Death Of Jesus Christ: A Devotional History Of Our Lord’s Passion, by James Stalker, Copyright 1894.  


“It is possible to admire the Christ of the Bible and yet be persecuting and opposing the Christ of our own century. The Christ of today signifies the truth, the cause, the principles of Christ, and the men and women in whom these are embodied. We are either helping or hindering those movements on which Christ has set His heart; often, without being aware of it, men choose their sides and plan and speak and act either for or against Christ. This is the Passion of our own day, the Golgotha of our own city. But it comes nearer than this. 

The living Christ Himself is still in the world: He comes to every door; His Spirit strives with every soul. And He still meets with these three kinds of treatment—apathy, antipathy, sympathy. As a magnet, passing over a heap of objects, causes those to move and spring out of the heap which are akin to itself, so redeeming love, as revealed in Christ, passing over the surface of mankind century after century, has the power so to move human hearts to the very depths that, kindling with admiration and desire, they spring up and attach themselves to Him. This response may be called faith, or love, or spirituality, or what you please; but it is the very test and touchstone of eternity, for it is separating men and women from the mass and making them one for ever with the life and the love of God.”

A copy of Mr. Stalker’s book may be purchased here: 

http://www.amazon.com/Trial-Death-Jesus-Christ/dp/0310441714

What I Want Her To Know: 10 Things To Communicate To My Daughter As She Transitions From Home To College Life

1. You are loved. When I tell you I love you, I don’t tell you that without feeling the weight of the statement. I say it to remind you and myself, that you are deeply cherished; that you are the first human being on the earth who made me want to be a better person.  You are one of the best things that has ever happened to me.   You are genuinely loved by me and more importantly,  loved in an incomprehensible sense by God.  You were created with a purpose and His love out-measures, outlasts and defeats any human expression of affection.  He died so that you may be known. I pray you realize that, never forget it, and never settle for less than what God has planned for you.

Holland State Park, Holland, Michigan

2.Don’t fall in love with someone who says the right things. Fall in love with someone who does the right things; who displays the fruit indicative of a man who abides with and follows in the footsteps of our God.  Watch closely his behavior…how he treats his mother and sisters, restaurant waiters, and the cashier at Walmart.  Desire does not equal love.  Search the Word to see if the man you think you love is the man God has deemed an appropriate match for you for the rest of your life. If you find affirmation from God regarding your relationship, understand that He also teaches that marriage is not easy, nor meant to deliver us unending, blissful happiness forever. Often, marriage is our mission assignment and our trials are the fire in which we are refined.  Once married, there are times when you will want to give up. My best suggestion and deepest hope for you during the trying times that are sure to come in your life is that you turn to Christ. Seek Him. Know Him. Trust Him.

3. The two most important days of your life are the day you were born, and the day you discover why you exist.  If you haven’t found the reason for your existence on this planet yet, ask God. He aches to have a relationship with you. And I pray for you to have an unbreakable relationship with Him. It the only relationship you will ever have that fulfills you completely. It is yours, from the moment you say ‘yes’ to Him until eternity.

4. Don’t compare yourself to other people and wish to be something you aren’t.  You are amazing. Beautiful. Talented. You are everything you were created to be. Never forget that. Never demean yourself. When you do so, you demean the One who created you. Always try to maintain an attitude of gratitude for the countless blessings in your life. Wake up every single day and seek something that encourages a positive, grateful attitude.


5.  You will stumble as you attempt to navigate your life. Stumbling is just that…a stumble. It is not a fall. It is not failure.  Recover from a stumble by reminding yourself you are the Daughter of A King, created with a purpose. Let His love steady you as you continue on your journey. Remember these things: What is true when you are on top of the world continues to be true when you are in the depths of dispair. Although glaringly imperfect, you have a family and we will always love you, irregardless of your mistakes or successes and irregardless of OUR mistakes or successes. We love you simply because you are who you are…an amazing grand-daughter, daughter, sister, sister-in-law, cousin, aunt, friend, artist, advocate, student and child of God.

6.  You will experience pain. Excruciating pain that may possibly lead you to the edge of hopelessness. Although you may not know it or understand it now,  God often uses such dispair as the fuse. Once lit, it leads us to the next step toward our primary purpose in this world. Cherish the process of refinement. Ultimately, it brings you into close relationship with our Creator. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, brings you closer to your God that knowing you are so small and He is so big.  If you desire to hear God’s voice in your life, turn to Scripture, even if you don’t comprehend it. God speaks to us through His Word. He will not exclude you from that conversation.


7.  Be an independent thinker. Avoid the stigma of conformity. Remember who you are in the midst of what the world tells you to be.  Reject fear of criticism. Take risks, particularly when expressing your thoughts and beliefs. Always remember that the path is narrow when walking with God. Do not sell yourself out for the comfort of communal acceptance. Such acceptance is fleeting and frivolous and worthless. Hold firmly to your beliefs, once you identify what those beliefs are. Reject the urge to silence your voice in an attempt to make those around you comfortable.  Never let fear deter you from your path. However, never let fear deter you from altering your path either.  If you recognize that you’ve strayed from His path for you, return to Him. There is abundant grace and mercy at the feet of Christ.  It takes courage to conform to the direction you are led to follow by God. Familiarize yourself with the concepts mentioned: Grace and Mercy. They are available to you from now until the end of time. Listen to the still, small voice inside of you. Learn to be attentive to it and trust it.

8.  You will arrive at the place you were meant to be at the very moment God orchestrates that you be there. Calm down.  Have faith. Know that God is sovereign. Live out these truths courageously by always making Jesus Christ your soft place to land. Remember that the Holy Spirit was sent to be your Helper. He will never leave you.

9.  Truly leading means serving others…putting someone else’s needs before your own. In the economy of Christ, we let Him lead. This means we decrease so that His power may increase within us. Be kind to others, even if it’s incredibly difficult. Remember that your reward will often not be experienced here, but instead will be waiting for you in the place you were meant to call home. That place is Eternity. You have a responsibility to share a view of the beauty of eternity with every human being that crosses your path. Be the hands and feet of Christ whenever and wherever you can. Love. Love endlessly. Tolerance is not love. Tolerance is kind. Tolerance is easy. Love is difficult, painful and involves loss. You can love every human being on this planet. God will lead you, if you are willing, to live out that love. This kind of love will cost you something and that’s okay.  Remember that you are always responsible for how you act, regardless of the circumstances.  You will never out-hate someone or something.


10.  I am beyond blessed to have been given the opportunity to raise you for 18 years and have never been able to find words that express the depth of love I have for you, my daughter.  I have always known you are not truly mine. You belong to the one who breathed life into you. God is your Father. Know that there is someone praying incessantly that no matter what avenue you travel, your existence will be used to glorify Him. Until the day you reach eternity with the King of All, I will try desperately to love you in a way that foreshadows the love Jesus Christ has for you. He knows you. He knows your heart. Never forget He is the Lord of your life, HRJ.

Windows

Every few years or so, God in His kindness and mercy, orchestrates meetings in the universe between human beings. Such interactions fill me up, much like the gallons of water camels take in after surviving without liquid for months.

 

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Miller Center For Musical Arts, Hope College, Holland, Michigan

If you look closely enough, we humans are really living, breathing glass windows. Each moment we are alive holds so much possibility and plausibility. Every interaction we have with each other impresses itself onto our window and every fingerprint and footprint leave a mark, an indent, a tear, a crack. Sometimes, an abundance of footprints and fingerprints shatter our glass. While some impressions are clearly positive and work towards building us up, it is those that break us that seem to capture my entire spirit. I get lost in the wonder of it all, questioning the brokenness as I attempt to reconcile the fragility of emotional existence with the promises of Christ.

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I once met a woman and was overwhelmed by the sheer obliteration of her window. She lives with the kind of brokenness that one might see if a glass pane were dropped onto concrete from 20 stories above. The pieces are all tiny and sharp and indecipherable. There were no words that could give a voice to her mutilated soul. I was blinded by her wreckage, unable to grasp where it all began and incompetent in my attempt to identify a sense of who she’d been prior to the eradication of her being. As I search my mind for words of comfort I found none. I wanted her to know she held precious value in the eyes of Christ, but her pile of broken glass shredded my words.

“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?”   Matt 6:26

I continue to be astonished and dismayed by our ability to destroy each other and yet I live with an insufferable curiosity about human existence and survival has plagued me my entire life.

In recent years, I was present for a God-Orchestrated-Appointment and had a conversation that ebbed and flowed for three days with someone previously unknown to me. I still struggle with the nature of our discussion, and feel the weight and intensity of it almost every day.
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Number 37

  
On Tuesday night of this week, I was a number. 

Thirty-seven.  

The wrinkly old woman with kind eyes quietly handed me the “ticket”, saying nothing other than my number.

I knew, even though not a single word was expressed between the two of us, she felt my shame. She saw it. 

I had stood in line in temperatures hovering around 15 degrees, clutching my IKEA bag, wondering if just owning a bag from that store might somehow disqualify me from the help we desperately need now. 

I tried to hide the bag under my coat to the best of my ability.

After making my way through the line, I was directed toward a cluster of tables and instructed to fill out requested information on my card. I searched desperately for a table where I could be alone but settled for sitting across from a woman in a tattered coat and curls so tight on her head that I wondered if they might hurt.  The expression on her face mirrored mine.  No need to be social.  Shortly thereafter a jovial couple joined us at our table and happily sipped cups of hot coffee, patiently waiting for their number to be called. 

I kept my head low and filled out my card, desperately trying to avoid any social contact.

Another woman, likely in her 70’s but with a voice so booming, she quite possibly maintained the ability to wake coma patients, made a quick, half hearted announcement. It was the kind of thing someone says but the tone and delivery of the request betrayed her belief that no one would take the time to do as she requested.

The request?

“IF ANYONE HAS A PRAYER REQUEST, WRITE IT ON THE BACK OF YOUR CARD. PEOPLE WILL PRAY FOR YOU THIS WEEK.”

I remember thinking, “Honey, I need prayer from now until eternity.”

I sat thinking about her plea. I noticed not one single person writing on the back of their cards. Shamefully, this made me hesitate.  I gingerly chose a pencil from directly in front of Tight Curls and wrote the following on the back of my number 37 card:

“Please pray for a lasting, affordable cure for Chronic Lyme Disease.”

I replaced my pencil from where I’d taken it and the woman with the tight curls looked at me and said, “You sure don’t look very warm, Sweetie.”  I said nothing.

As I sat, waiting for number 37 to be called, I prayed, reflected, and observed. 

Joy. There was joy in that place. We were not a group of people waiting for a handout. We were a group of people grateful that others had hearts to serve, respect to give, and love to share.  And I was ashamed. Not because I was doing what needed to be done for my family. I was ashamed at my unwillingness to share my burdens with this group of people. Every person with a number in that room that night was experiencing the same need.  It made no difference what may have caused each of them to find themselves in that building that night.  I was scared and unwilling to give the only thing I have to offer at this point…love, hope, and prayer.

NUMBER 37!

I hurried along with my bag into another room. In that room, I found warmth, respect, and people with sevant’s hearts.  I filled my bag with food to feed my family and a gentleman walked me to my car. 

I could not stop myself from explaining why I was there….the loss of the business, the disease, the inability to qualify for help anywhere else, the stress on my husband, my guilt. He interrupted me and said this: “Ma’am. There is no need for you to explain. We are here to help, no matter what your circumstances.”

On the drive home that night, I thought about the Apostle Peter.

John 13:8 Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” 

There is something about Peter’s response to the extraordinary action Jesus’ engaged in that evening. Peter responds with something akin to pride mixed with humiliation.  As I thought about that, I couldn’t help but recall my own attitude as I waited to be served by a humble group of men and women who expected nothing from me in return. Why is it easier to serve than to accept being served? Jesus said, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with me.” Needing help crucifies pride. It is an uncomfortable, humbling business.  

Pride is a dangerous, sinister foe.  

I want to abide with Jesus Christ. I made a promise to myself that my head will be held high, I will offer support and encouragement, and make no excuses for how I got to this point in my life. I will maintain an attitude of gratitude for all of the goodness and provision in my life.

  
The journey continues with Christ at my side.

Lyme Disease & Christmas Lights

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Lyme Disease is a thief.

My life spent as a wife, mother, friend and business owner has morphed into an empty, barren oasis of medication,  pain, financial ruin and brain fog.  I don’t recognize myself anymore and I don’t know where to find myself or how to find the path to my old life.

The average cost of a strand of 100 mini Christmas lights is around $7. (Amazon.com)

The average out-of-pocket cost for a patient receiving treatment for a single case of Chronic Lyme Disease is $12,000.  (spirochicks.com) That’s per year. Treatment can last for two years, and often times, longer.

Christmas lights are disposable. Every year, we haul out the lights packed haphazardly in boxes from the year earlier, test each strand, and typically find about 20% of the strands are operable.  Our solution? We toss the 80% into the garbage and run to the store to buy replacement sets. If only such a thing were possible in the life of a Lyme patient~the ability to dispose of the infection and quickly replace aching joints, chronic pain, malfunctioning brains, faulty memory and lost jobs~all ravaged by something called spirochetes.

 

 

Lyme disease.  We’ve all heard of it.  It’s been 41 years since Lyme Disease was first diagnosed, yet the ignorance surrounding the disease is astounding. Discouraging. Absolutely shameful.

People are dying. The reality facing people suffering from Lyme is this:  The ability to function properly…to have individual gifts shine like beautiful, bright strands of Christmas lights, is gone…perhaps forever.  The insidious combination of living with a body and brain wracked with disease and the disgraceful, shocking lack of understanding and unwillingness to acknowledge the chronicity of the illness by the medical community is ultimately a death sentence.  If Lyme and it’s co-infections don’t lead to death, one’s emotional fragility and mental health are very likely to lead to a tragic, self-inflicted end.

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It is impossible to return to the person you were before a Lyme diagnosis.  That path is gone~destroyed by the lack of acknowledgement, support, and cohesive treatment protocols within the medical community.  Those unacceptable realities are fed to family members, friends and the public, and only serve to isolate Lyme patients. Looking into the eyes of family members, friends, acquaintances is a painful thing.  In their eyes I see it~doubt, judgment and a fear that fuels an unwillingness to be educated and jump into the trench with me. It is impossible to grasp even a shred of hope that we might return to who we thought we were given the status of a Chronic Lyme Disease diagnosis in the current medically regulated climate in this country. Is this the fault of loved ones?  Absolutely not.  It is a direct result of a fraudulent, corrupt system that is itself in denial.

Finding hope among the Lyme community also proves to be difficult.  Are there hopeful people who have found remission after years of fighting? Absolutely.  But Lyme disease is not like Cancer. Finding support from others in a country where our own government refuses to acknowledge the epidemic of Lyme Disease, especially the chronic deadly stages, is incredibly difficult.  Many who have found a measure of healing find themselves drowning in a financial debt that will take the rest of their lives to recover from.  Others are lost, without an identity to cling to other than the disease identity itself. Some simply want to forget this chapter of their lives and move on.

Once in a while, someone slightly farther along in their treatment protocol will offer grace and a healthy dose of loving confrontation. If you are lucky enough to experience that, be humbled and receptive.

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For a few, there remains an undeniable, unexplainable remnant of hope that overshadows the frustrations and despair. Life becomes less about surviving disease and more about seeking the source of this mystifying hope.

In spite of illness, I still can see pure, untainted beauty, but I cannot enter it.  I cannot immerse myself in it.  I cannot fully experience or understand the wonder and majesty of creation.  This is true now, and true before I got sick.  Seeing beauty in the world and experiencing it with my senses does not make me pure and untainted.  Lyme disease has not altered the reality that I am not home.  It has not taken away the desire within me that can only be attributed to Jesus Christ and his constant intervention and pull on my soul.  The longing that has existed within me since the beginning of my relationship with Jesus has not been destroyed, lost or stolen.  THAT remains a constant in my life no matter the state of my health, of the world or of my place in it. God is bigger than any disease. The beauty that I see in the world is only a hint of what we are promised when we finally reach our home.

It’s incredibly easy to lose sight of the future when faced with frustrating holiday tree mishaps, anger at worldly systems, debt, poor health and personal rejection.  It is at those very moments when I pray I can recall the  and powerful, wise words of C.S. Lewis:
“I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find until after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to the other country and to help others do the same.”

The only possible attitude that makes sense for me to cultivate is one of humility.  I have no choice but to reject all of my complaints and grumblings about the status of my life here in this place when I study the powerful words in the 12th chapter of Hebrews:

“My son, when the Lord corrects you, do not treat it lightly, but do not get discouraged when he reprimands you.  For the Lord trains the ones that He loves and He punishes all those that he acknowledges as sons.”

I am trained by my Father.  The God of the universe apparently thinks I’m worth molding.  It is a perfect love that cannot be experienced in any other relationship on Earth.   I am a daughter of the King of Creation.  Asking God why he is using specific methods in my life as tools of refinement is not my place.  Certainly, He has already answered my ‘whys’.  Nothing about His intervention in my life is pleasant and in fact, it is often painful.  I must be able to stand up among the chaos and pain and injustice and cling to the truth that I will be strong again, not because of a single ounce of effort on my part, but because the brokenness and continued testing that my Father allows in my life will result in a radical heart change…a continuation of becoming a new creation…the submission and bending of my will to the will of Christ.   The strength to stand among the devastation of life comes from God.  I do not possess such strength on my own. My worldly self is dying, literally, yet I continue to live in Him.

My complaints, grumbling and self-pity are shameful when examined in the light of the love of my God.  Repentance is required, not because I live under the legalistic rules of religion, but because my heart is overwhelmed with an intense love for Him. He is a God that refuses to let go of me in spite of the audacity and insubordination I personify on a daily basis.  My sole wish is to know Him more, to live with Him, to love him with complete abandon.  His mercy and grace continue to testify to His character in that he allows me to choose between worldly submission, or submission to a God that desires to be Lord of my life.

Because my flesh and my spirit continue to war with each other, I sometime wish for a solution as simply as throwing away the broken strands of lights and replacing them with something shiny and new from the world.  However, it is impossible to ignore the conviction that comes from the Holy Spirit residing in me.

Easy, painless worldly solutions will never satisfy my longing to be home eternally, immersing myself in the holiness of my Lord and God who continues to love me in spite of my complete and utter brokenness.

Chronic Lyme disease has devastated my entire life.  Funny how spending time communicating with God through His Word reframes the devastation into a gift.  The disease has a purpose.  The purpose is my refinement.  The purpose is to move me father along the narrow path leading me home where, unlike the temperamental strands of lights that adorn our Christmas trees each December, there exists a perfect, brilliant light that never burns out.

I hope and pray for the day when I can go home and experience the fullness of His light.DSCF8333

 

Pride

There are so many different ways to rebel. My life seethes and simmers with rebellion. The whole of my being is bent towards resisting. Fighting. Combating. Rioting. I despise systems ruled by and resulting in injustice. Lack of justice is fuel for the battles I often find myself in.

It’s exhausting.

A new obstacle has presented itself in the midst of my life and I find myself unwilling to engage in the fight. Sometimes I wish for the end of my life. Often it seems like a viable alternative to participating in a war the I cannot see the point in fighting.

Photo Credit: event drive.com

Photo Credit: event drive.com

I am afraid. I have been afraid before, but never have I feared losing myself….my ambition. My drive. My energy. My spirit. My stubbornness. My determination. My pride.

I am losing my grasp on those things. They are the foundation upon which I stand. They are the things I was raised to value and display in the way an expert gambler with a full house clutched in his hand. Where others have failed, I have not. I will not.

Yet I am. Daily, my grip on myself is growing weaker while my view of the things that make me who I’ve always been is mottled. Distorted. Foggy. Sinking sand.

I am losing so many things that encapsulate who the world has shaped me to be.

I know enough about my God to recognize that where self-pride exists, He cannot.

I am plagued to the point of deep despair as I find myself living with an illness that I cannot battle in the manner I am used to and comfortable with. It is crushing the essence of who I am and I wonder what will be left of me?

I see no purpose in fighting. I am experiencing a loneliness that cripples any desire I have for living.

I’ve never been a perfect human being. More often than not, I am an abrasive, controlling, moody, irrational, feisty woman who can be difficult to engage with. For most of my life, that’s all I’ve known. I don’t know how to survive in the world without those characteristics. The world planted seeds of self-protective armor in my childhood and that armor has grown into a slew of weapons that have insured my survival. Until now. Such weapons are useless when battling in the spiritual realm.

Still, there has always been a crack in my shield~small enough that I was able to maintain the darkness of my self-preservation but big enough for a shred of light to enter my being.

Photo Credit: Clara Jekel

Photo Credit: Clara Jekel

The ray of light, so beautiful and soft, interrupts the momentum of the steel parts inside of me. The Spirit of God has softened some of the sharpness in me, but there is more work needing to be done. More of my self must die if I am to live.

It is a complex idea, this whole thing about dying so I can live. The concept, in it’s spiritual entirety, is in complete opposition to all I know. It’s only when I realize I am fighting on the wrong side of the war in my life that I begin to understand my current predicament with a spiritual mind, rather than a worldly one. Gaining spiritual insight is a gift of the Holy Spirit, received through faith. For me personally, God nurtures my understanding of Him and His purposes through His Word. Through Scripture. It is there that I turn, often times later than I should, for answers, understanding, comfort and new weapons.

I am again at a point in my life where I have no choice but to turn and seek more of God and His Wisdom. The illness I am plagued with leaves me no energy to fight on my own. More of me is dying. I cannot live without God shining light into dark, dead places in me.

So, I turn. Again, in humbleness, despair, fear, and grief I turn toward Jesus, grasping for more life. More of Him.

I believe all Scripture is profitable for man. I cling to the Word with everything I have when I am stranded in this world. I find myself disgraced that my grasp is loosened when the pain in my life is bearable and I pray that as more of my worldly self dies, I will somehow absorb  more of Jesus

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Suffering Ransoms My Soul

Job 23:10

I am controlling, argumentative, moody, and feisty. I’m confident that the descriptor ‘bitch’ has been attached to my name countless times throughout my life. I absolutely will fight forever to avoid the crap of life until I am exhausted and realize that fighting is sometimes a total pain in the ass and I’ve lost the battle. That, my friends, is what surrendering looks like in my life. It’s pitiful and I am disgusted with myself. I’ve played this out so many times that my life reminds me of that idiot movie Groundhog Day.

I find myself barely existing in a life that is slowly but drastically changing. Losing my energy and things I’ve worked so hard for pisses me off. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, I’ve never lacked for a set of balls when it comes to voicing my concerns, worries, and complaints to God, especially when I feel like He is absent from my life. Too, I’ve never failed to be humbled by his answers to my seeking. As I pour over the pages of Scripture, I know the answers to my questions are all there. All I can do is soften my surrender from being one full of anger and giving up, to trusting God to quiet and calm my soul.

Job 33:13-28
Why do you complain to him that he answers none of man’s words? For God does speak–now one way, now another– though man may not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword. Or a man may be chastened on a bed of pain with constant distress in his bones, so that his very being finds food repulsive and his soul loathes the choicest meal. His flesh wastes away to nothing, and his bones, once hidden, now stick out. His soul draws near to the pit, and his life to the messengers of death. Yet if there is an angel on his side as a mediator, one out of a thousand, to tell a man what is right for him, to be gracious to him and say, ‘Spare him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom for him’– then his flesh is renewed like a child’s; it is restored as in the days of his youth. He prays to God and finds favor with him, he sees God’s face and shouts for joy; he is restored by God to his righteous state. Then he comes to men and says, ‘I sinned, and perverted what was right, but I did not get what I deserved. He redeemed my soul from going down to the pit, and I will live to enjoy the light.’

God saves me from myself. He ransoms me from the pit. Sometimes my suffering preserves my soul. I may not enjoy the method of moving me towards refinement, but if my goal is to know God more, His response makes sense and I am assured I am being driven towards a joy I cannot comprehend…a joy that I can’t see and that I often don’t treasure.  It’s amazing how long you can spend with God and His Word and still not get it.

However, if my goal in questioning God is to get MY life back, to have things, to prosper in a worldly sense, to have a perfect marriage, to have children without affliction, to have my life without suffering, I miss the wisdom of God. I miss an eternal reality I can only dream about.

The beauty in the mess of suffering is I get to choose. Keep living and relying on sheer self will, pride, anger, and selfishness? Or accept God’s intervention on behalf of my future in eternity? I can’t see the whole picture, but I sure as hell can feel the despair and desperation overtaking my life based on my desire to regain the impossible and the slow edging in my heart towards the abyss of giving up.

There is purpose in battles.
He WILL ransom me from the pit.

“Though He slay me, I will hope in Him, yet I will argue my ways to His face.” Job 13:15

God’s response to Job takes my breath away. Job questions God. God questions him over 70 times in response. It is a powerful reminder to me that God is merciful and patient and all-knowing. I know nothing except what has been shown to me by His grace and the gift of faith in Him and His Word. All else is trash.


Finding Rest

Photo Credit: curbside classics.com

Photo Credit: curbside classics.com

In the early 1980’s, I traveled the road that led from our home to the airport in the back seat of a baby-blue 70’s Plymouth sedan many times. My father traveled often and it seemed in my young mind that he was always leaving us. He was always leaving me. Those journeys were excruciatingly painful for me. I tried desperately each time to halt the river of tears that threatened to burst over my cheeks at the thought of his absence, but I was never successful. I was aware that my emotions were frustrating and I knew the chastisement, ridicule and frustration my overly sensitive response would generate once he was gone.  I loathed those trips and the seeds of self-hatred that were sewn in my heart during that time.

The author and her father. 1979.

The author and her father. 1979.

After my father died in 2007, I began remembering things from my childhood that I had tucked away into the recesses of my mind. They are the sorts of memories that you re-visit over a fifth of vodka, or after taking a generous helping of prescribed medications. Somewhere between ingestion and oblivion lies the sweet spot, where one can glimpse memories too painful to view in the fullness of daylight and sobriety.  It’s remarkable how my mind has hidden the dreams of my childhood and the once gentle sensitive spirit that lived inside me.

Photo Credit: www.lobo.com

Photo Credit: http://www.lobo.com

                                              Hidden memories hide the sweetness of grief.

circa 1991

circa 1991

A few months after my father died, on a warm, sticky August night, I was alone in bed, hoping to slip into the blessed gift of sleep. Sleep has alluded me my entire life.  My brain activity does not seem compatible with the relief sleep offers.  That night, memories of distant song lyrics flooded my mind and hurled me back into the past, to those hated trips to and from the airport.  I’d heard this particular song on each excruciating trip home after leaving my father at the airport. It was just there, floating through the air somewhere between the memories of Paul Harvey’s stern voice and my mother eating pieces of buttered toast in the car as she drove us home.  Angel of the Morning. That was the song.  I desperately wanted the memory to evaporate. Yet, those lyrics, the few I remembered, played over and over and over again in my head.

Photo Credit: Malda Dapport

Photo Credit: Malda Dapport

The recollection brought me to tears-heaving, gut wrenching, deep, grief induced sadness that produced a flood of tears so great that I wondered, as an adult, what might happen should I never stop crying? How long, God?

That episode began one of the most profound conversations of my life. I wondered, as I pondered the sweet relief that might come from self-induced death, who is my glue? My father…my dad….my ‘Darge’, was gone. He was the only person I knew who seemed to understand the torture that existed inside of me. He was the glue that always seemed to hold me together. I was 34 years old, more lost than I’d ever been, and my savior was dead.

Did I idolize my father? Yes. Was I unaware I had made my father my god? Yes.

There is an unbelievably amazing beauty that arises from within a broken soul.

That night, as I sobbed and waged war on my reality, as I lay lost and in despair, I was embraced, literally, by Jesus Christ. I felt the warmth and love of His arms. The hold was in many ways like the embrace of my dad, but so much more complete.  There was no question that Jesus was present in that room, in that moment, with me. There are no words I can find to adequately express that experience. I knew I was loved and that the process of being re-built had begun.

I don’t describe this as “the moment I was saved” or “the night I was born again”.  I do however, view that night as a beautiful picture of Christ’s faithfulness to me. To ME. What other response can one have to such an experience of grace and mercy except, surrender? Repentance? Faithfulness?  The God of the universe physically embraced me. ME. It’s astonishing. I don’t deserve it. Because of Jesus Christ, I have it~Glue for my soul and new construction on my heart. I am blessed. Regardless of all of my worldly struggles, I am a blessed woman.

It’s normal, I think, for people to go through periods of loneliness throughout their lives. Sometimes those periods of loneliness can span months, maybe years even….perhaps turning into a pervasive, lasting depression.

I am alone. I have known since I Have been able to think cognitively that my earthly path is one of solitude. I am convicted of this. Not complaining. Convicted. Countless people throughout the years have tried to negate this reality in my life. I know what I know. I have my family, of course, and my friends….all of whom I love very much.   But there are things inside of me that break when I am yoked to anything other than my Savior.  Sin calls me. The flesh calls me. My strongest partnership must be with Christ.

I believe I need fellowship with other Believers and I believe I have a responsibility to participate in the Body.  I crave that.  I want honest, heart-filled and spirit-led discussion of the Word of God.  I sometimes wonder if my expectations are too high and if my lack of tolerance for a watered down version of the Cross hinders my ability to take part fully in the Body.

However, it was not a watered down version of the Cross of Christ that saved me.  It was Jesus, beaten, hanging, and bearing the wrath of the Father, for me.  Because of me.  Because of my sin.  There are days when I need to really look at that….really sit in that reality and just know it.  Absorb it.  Acknowledge the reality that I put Him there.  I did that.  We did that.

Something happens inside of your heart when you bend the knee of your own self-will in submission to God.  You change.  You can’t help it.  It’s the kind of change that flickers at first, but then burns so strongly that you can barely contain your new-found freedom and you become in a sense as reckless as Peter was with his sword, in cutting of the high priest’s servant’s ear.  I can relate to Peter.  Once I began to realize who God is, really realize this is the God who saves, I was reckless, immature, and ridiculously faltering in my steps.  I still am and I recognize the need to grow in maturity and love as I continue this walk.

I try not to ask the same questions of Him as much as I did several years ago. My desire for Him  and His plan for my life continues to grow and as it does, I can see the Spirit’s movement in my life. He knew my name when I was sitting in the back of that Plymouth on the road to the airport in 1980. He held my hand and kept me from sinking into the deep mire of my addiction. He was there when I begged for a father.  He’s with me now, as, with great mercy and grace, He guides me as I stumble and fall in my attempt to follow Him.

Slowly, by His grace, my soul finds rest in Him .

Flesh Vs. Spirit

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I am learning about dying to self.
It’s painful.
It feels like I imagine physical death might feel.
Everywhere I turn I am given messages, inside and outside of the church, that I am strong, and good, and blessed and wonderful.
It feeds me, those messages.  It feeds ME.  It feeds the SELF.
They do not force me on me knees at the foot of the cross seeking forgiveness and redemption.

I wonder why I need the cross.
The world tells me I deserve good things.  The world tells me I am owed….I deserve….good things.  The world tells me to demand what is rightfully mine.

“Any voice that under any circumstance drives you away from Jesus Christ is the voice of the deceiver.” ~Paul Washer

When I am alone with God, I pray desperately for understanding, discernment, protection and the willingness to continue to seek Him.  When I read His Words, His Scripture…His undying love-letter to my soul…. and I hear His voice, it is completely contrary to the messages I am bombarded with daily. The reality is that we are living in not only a world filled with hate for Jesus Christ, but often, in a world where leaders of flocks claiming to be at the service of our Lord and Savior are in fact, blind to the workings of Satan within our own church walls.

The world is infected.  There is a constant war being waged against our souls.  We are all playing a part in the war.  Are we fighting as soldiers that abide in Christ? Do we even know what that means? I confess, I am Often confused about this myself.  The only clarity I ever obtain is when I am alone with Jesus and His Word.  But oh! How Satan attacks the moment I re-enter the world that can often consume my life. I am acutely aware that lack of diligence and watchfulness over my own heart, soul and mind must not wane.  I praise the living God that when I live by my flesh, my Savior is there, waiting to draw me back to him with love and mercy.  I pray for the moment I gain the wisdom an understanding I need to live in this world but not become seduced and diseased by it.

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” Paul, Romans 7: 14-20 ESV

There is nothing good in me. I cannot overcome my sinful nature. I am a picture of the fall.  LOOK AT ME.  LOOK AT US. I need a Savior.  WE need a savior.  I find Paul’s words so convicting that they drive me to the cross time and time again.  It is there that through faith I am saved by the grace of the Father and the death and resurrection of His Son.  What an amazing love I am reminded of at the foot of the cross.  I need more hours in the day at the cross.  I need a daily reminder that breaks my heart over my own sinful nature.  How Christ must weep for us. For me.  What kind of love he must have for His world.

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And how angry I am at what my self-seeking has done to the simple, convicting sword of the spirit…why are we not collectively opening our Bibles and begging God to reveal His Truth to us?  Why are we not begging our brothers and sisters to fight our spiritual war along side of us?

Oh…the danger we are in.