Getting Back in the Game

After some years of only sporadic posts, it’s time I return to writing in my blog on a regular basis.  And for the purpose originally intended, led by God to break down books of the Bible.  What was, or is, my primary goal in doing so, when there are other sites, full of devotionals, Bible knowledge, and encouragement for application to our daily lives?

I started Julie’s Life Joy because my friends and I were not reading the Bible enough, falling short on fully equipping ourselves with Scripture. We worked through our studies each week, answering questions and drawing on experiences so we can grow closer to God and mature in faith.  Still, we needed more.  I take notes as I read, using my Life Application Study Bible.  I got this idea to make it like a Cliffs Notes. We DO need to read the Bible, but as a supplement or if you don’t make the time, it is good to know what a specific chapter says and how it is relevant to us and to the current times. 

My life has been changed by Jesus, working in my heart and mind, and by His leading and timing to connect the women of our Small Group for Bible Study with each other.  Some of us have been sharing our lives and common goal to know and follow God as fully as possible for over 13 years.  We have been transformed.  God blesses us each with a gift or ability.  My gift is writing and ideas of how to share good information with others.   

I fell away from blogging because I was busy, I work at a computer all day, I have an hour’s commute each way to St. Louis, and I try to sit as little as possible when I am not working. 

I still don’t like sitting, but I am less busy.  My husband, Mitch, retired in March and has taken on more housework.  Our dogs both passed away in the last year.  I want to get back into the Bible more deeply.  Writing about the book of John a few years ago enabled me to study it and commit it to memory and application  more than I could have done just reading it.  Now is the time to tackle another of the books in the Bible.  I hope I can help you know the Bible as I share the notes from my study Bible, include actual Scriptures, summarize in places, and share personal experiences along the way. 

Look forward to the Gospel of Luke very soon. me moms day.JPG

Jasmine’s Independence Day

I had posted this on my Facebook page after we said goodbye to our beloved black Labrador retriever, Jasmine.  My husband, adult son Alex, and I spent most of our July 4th at the emergency veterinary hospital.   It was a really difficult day. We have a hole in our hearts, especially Mitch, as he and Jasmine were inseparable. She was such a Daddy’s Girl.

She would’ve been 14 years old in September. With her back pain, an inner ear issue, and age-related cognitive challenges, she had her good days and her bad days. From yesterday evening to that morning, she was increasingly lethargic, was panting hard and began to have an occasional cough. She was able to walk the previous night, but July 4th morning she could not walk as her right rear leg was dragging behind, and Mitch had to carry her. Her gums were a pale pink. We took her to the emergency clinic, where we learned she had a high fever. We left her, initially planning overnight, to have x-rays and testing, to pinpoint the cause of the fever, and to get that fever down. We went home and later got the call that she had pneumonia. That was the least of the worries, though, as she had a very low platelet count, enlarged liver and spleen. It was a very high chance of lymphoma. We made the heart-wrenching decision to go back to the clinic, love on her a little while, and say goodbye.   Mitch, Alex, and I sat with her while the vet made it happen. In just a moment, she peacefully slipped away. I thought about freedom on that day,  that she has freedom from pain and illness.  I am confident that our pets go to heaven. We lost her sister, Kiera, to lung cancer on October 30th. I am comforted with a vision of Jasmine crossing the Rainbow Bridge as Kiera excitedly greets her from the other side. They are both wagging their tails and wiggling their butts with excitement.

Five days later,  I was thinking about the week before when Jasmine brought her ball to Mitch to request a play time.  She hadn’t been able to chase it down the hall like she used to.  She would get up on the couch using the folded gym mat as a step, then sit on the end and volley or catch the tennis ball as Mitch tossed it.  Volleying involved closing her mouth just enough to bounce it back.

We are missing her terribly, and our holiday was awful, but as was the case with Kiera, I reflect on God’s blessings that helped make it easier than it could have been.

1)  Mitch has been retired for three months.  Jasmine did not have to spend much time alone, particularly after losing her sister, and Mitch did not have to regret spending time apart from her at work.

2)  When Mitch picked her up, took her outside, and we saw her leg was useless, we thought she had had a stroke and wasted no time calling the vet.  She recommended the emergency center as it sounded neurological. **No cause was found for the leg problem.  But it got us there without hesitation.*

You see, before that, we weren’t sure whether to take her to the emergency center that day, though we were seriously talking about it. Panting was normal for her.  Was she just having a bad day with her back or her arrythmia?   Her heart rate was in a normal range, her gums were pink but pale, and we had not yet taken her temperature.

3)  Although Independence Day will be a painful day in our memory, and not being able to say goodbye at our regular veterinarian’s office was difficult for us, I can find the good in it.    Alex was off work with no plans until evening.  He would have had a hard time getting off work if we had to call him suddenly on a weekday or a working Saturday.  Sundays he normally airsofts early in the day, and he would not have heard his phone.   The holiday made it work out that he was there.  He would’ve been even more heartbroken to not have seen her one more time.  And it made all the difference, especially when it came to the decision to stay with Jasmine while she passed, he was the strongest one of us.

The Fourth of July has always been an unfavorite holiday anyway from all the noise and the way it affected our dogs.  At least she avoided the stress of the fireworks.

4)  The one thing that really is unfortunate is that Ross (our older son) was coming home  Thursday 7/13, missing that “one last time” by little more than a week.  A very recently planned visit.  He was able to see her in April, though, and at that time knew it could be his last time with her.

Mitch was having an extra difficult time being home completely alone without his Jasmine while I am working.  That first Thursday and Friday were terrible for him.  (I stayed home on Wednesday the 5th) . Since I’ve been home he breaks down less.  The second Friday after our loss he was able to wake up with Ross in the house and for the week after.

He was able to have more days not being alone over the first two weeks than if Ross and I were both around on some of these days.  It would have been more difficult to have Jasmine gone, then Ross gone back home days later, than it would have been with Ross’s visit to look forward to while trying to get through the first terrible days.  It’s challenging to find any good in this timing as I know this is tough for Ross, but it doesn’t help me or anyone to focus on the negative.

5)   Jasmine enriched our lives and made us laugh.   Here are some of the things that made her our special girl:

– Being a Daddy’s Girl.  While someone else was home, when Mitch left the house to mow the lawn or run to the store, she would lie down at the front door and wait for his return.  He was the only family member for whom she waited like this, even though she loved us all.

– Retriever mode.  She rarely greeted us – or anyone that came in the house – without a tennis ball or a plush toy in her mouth.  She often lagged behind Kiera at the door while she searched for something to bring.  At the same time, she would whine excitedly with a strange sound I have never heard from other dogs.

She loved to play ball (while sister Kiera could care less).  She didn’t let her old age pains stop her from enjoying a short toss or a volley session.            

–  Being a growly bear. We sometimes had to scold her for growling at her sister.  If Kiera was near to her favorite toy or challenged her to play when she didn’t feel like it, we would hear that low grumble.  We hadn’t heard her growl since Kiera passed in October.

– Alpha Dog.  Jasmine dominated Kiera.  It was rare for Kiera to pee and not have Jasmine mark on top of it.  On walks, if we passed another person walking their dog, she would lunge and bump Kiera and snarl at her, just to show that other dog she was the boss.

– Manipulator and Walker.  For incentives for walks, she got a MilkBone walking out, then halves of baby carrots to encourage her while we walked down the street.   Often she would ask to go out, then we went out, she would sit (always was great about sitting first)  with an expectant look for a treat.  When she got it, she was like “okay, let’s go back in”.

She seldom went beyond the corner, but she did go around the block two weeks ago.  She usually made it around the pond at the Watershed Nature Center.  She also liked a stretch of the paved trail toward SIU-E across from their baseball field.

– TV Watcher.  She would watch TV for short times when animals were involved.

“Eight Below” was a favorite movie.  She loved all the huskies.  And she knew when the leopard seal comes out; she would start barking.

**We miss our sweet Jasmine.  Finding the good within this hard time has been helpful and got me through it.   I thank God that we can know Him enough to understand He is such a loving God that our pets go to heaven where, like people who chose God in their lives, they are free of pain, suffering, and sorrow.   I stop and envision her playing with Kiera like they are puppies.  When I get sad about Jasmine (and Kiera), I remember that I will see them again someday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today we had to say goodbye to our beloved Jasmine – our Jazzy Girl, Bear, Angel.   It has been a really difficult day.  We have a hole in our hearts, especially Mitch, as she and Jasmine were inseparable.  She was such a Daddy’s Girl.

 

She would’ve been 14 years old in September.  With her back pain, an inner ear issue, and age-related cognitive challenges, she had her good days and her bad days.  From yesterday evening to this morning, she was increasingly lethargic, was panting hard and began to have an occasional cough.  She was able to walk last night, but this morning she could not walk as her right rear leg was dragging behind, and Mitch had to carry her.  Her gums were a pale pink.  We took her to the emergency clinic, where we learned she had a high fever.  We left her, initially planning overnight, to have x-rays and testing, to pinpoint the cause of the fever, and to get that fever down.  We went home and later got the call that she had pneumonia. That was the least of the worries, though, as she had a very low platelet count, enlarged liver and spleen.  It was a very high chance of lymphoma.   We made the heart-wrenching decision to go back to the clinic, love on her a little while, and say goodbye.  Mitch, Alex, and I sat with her while the vet made it happen.  In just a moment, she peacefully slipped away.   I am thinking about freedom on this day, and that she has freedom from pain and illness.  I am confident that our pets go to heaven.  We lost her sister, Kiera, to lung cancer on October 30th.  I am comforted with a vision of Jasmine crossing the Rainbow Bridge as Kiera excitedly greets her from the other side.  They are both wagging their tails and wiggling their butts with excitement.

 

 

Scents-itivity

     This is modified and added to from a persuasive speech I gave in Toastmasters.  Continue reading

Losing Kiera, and God’s Mercies

Written around 1 pm today:

It is a beautiful, unusually warm, late October day.  I sit in a chair outside, feeling both sorrowful that tomorrow we say goodbye to a beloved family member, and grateful to God that He has provided blessings within this time.   Kiera, our black Labrador retriever, age 13, lays in the grass beside me.   Her sister, Jasmine, is near.  Kiera’s health noticeably declined over the past 10 days.  We had discovered in January that she has a tumor in her liver.  We had not known whether it was cancerous; it seems now that it was, and it spread to her lungs. In the last few days, the cancer got very aggressive.  Tomorrow we will have our final hours with her before we take her back to the vet so she can cross over the Rainbow Bridge to a place without suffering.

Why am I grateful?  I see God’s goodness in a heartbreaking situation.  These are the blessings from God within this heartbreaking situation, from the current time backward:

*Blessing #1:  The weather, the outdoors, and a lift in her spirit. After spending time indoors, laying on her side, looking so sick and miserable, Kiera wanted to come outside.  She is laying upright, looking around.  She has sniffed the grass.  She begged food.  Her ears are perked for the first time since Wednesday.  She is interested in the activity of a neighbor.  She has always loved the outdoors.  She lacks the strength to take our stairs or to move around much, but she is able to enjoy the warmth of the sun and the feel of a gentle breeze.

**Blessing #2:   General timing and the short duration of suffering.

Kiera’s symptoms began only the middle of the week before last.  A little cough, or catch, when she was panting.  Weight loss that recently became apparent even after months ago we had increased her food.  She became uninterested in her regular food but would eventually eat it. She still seemed herself but did not want to walk beyond our yard.  We  attributed this to the arthritis in her knees.  A week ago when we took her to the vet, a good vet but not her regular one in the practice, her lungs and heart sounded fine.  Her gums had paled slightly.  She’s had allergies before, so the cough was attributed to allergy.  Home we went with an antihistamine and cough suppressant. We were to go back in 2 weeks.

We gave her higher calorie dog food but had to put broth on it or she refused it.  We thought the dry food might be irritating her throat.  This past Wednesday she began having diarrhea, so chicken and rice were on her menu.

On Wednesday I made an appointment for Friday evening for a “Golden Paws” checkup that includes bloodwork and an X-ray.  Thursday she became so lethargic and weak we had to carry her outside to go to the bathroom.  I slept downstairs with her and decided to take off work Friday, call the vet and see if we could move her appointment to earlier in the day.  We were able to get in at 2:40 with her longtime vet, Dr. Hall.  It was the only appointment available.  Thank you, God!

While we certainly don’t want to worry about the convenience of a health crisis or death, decisions related to our work schedule can increase the stress of the situation.  Having most of the weekend with Kiera without concern of having to take off the days in between to be home with her, prevents further concern (although my husband Mitch did have to work today).

***This leads to Blessing #3:    Our son, Ross, had been informed a week or so ago about the potential for Kiera’s health.  He said he would come home from Los Angeles to see her one last time when it became necessary.   In his busy schedule, with meetings and presentations for his startup company, the weekend allowed him an opportunity to come home.   The timing of the appointment allowed us to find a flight for him to be home at midnight on Friday, and then with the weekend, to not have meetings to cancel.

****Blessing #4:  A wonderful vacation, a memory, just six weeks ago.  God’s timing again allowed us to celebrate the 13th birthdays of Kiera and sister Jasmine while we were in Minnesota.   The girls both have arthritis and some backside movement issues.  I had been praying they would make it to our Minnesota trip.

The week starting with Labor Day, we took them tent-camping near Ely, MN.  We stayed at Bearhead Lake State Park.  We took short hikes. They got their paws a bit wet around the shore of a serene lake.  They survived a thunderstorm, hunkered down in the tent. We took some great pictures.  On our way there and back, we stayed at my parents’ house, so Mom and Dad were able to see Kiera a short time ago.

Blessing #5:  13 years of Kiera’s funny personality and ability to make us laugh and smile.   Here is some classic Kiera, who we often call Kiki or K:

 – Drama.  We often say she is a drama queen.  If she was not engaged in activity, she would look sad or extremely bored, sitting on the couch looking back over the top with her head arched over it, like, “oh, woe is me”.

– Playfulness.  Kiera would ask Jasmine to play by waving a paw at her and barking, as she did just two weeks ago.  With us, she would sit in front of us and bark until we played with her.  Before her knees got bad, she would jump and put her paws on our chest as we sat on the couch.

She liked swimming in our pool.  When we had a floating chair, she would crawl up in it and just float.  To fetch, she never liked balls and preferred instead to chase a squeaky toy that she liked to toss in the air.

– Sassiness and the cutest expressions.  When she perks her ears, they are floppy but fold in the cutest way.  Add to this the expression in her bright, eager eyes, I would call this her “cute look”.

– Schedule-conscious.  She always reminded us when it was dinnertime and MilkBone time.  And time to walk.  She would stare at us until we responded.  Jasmine always relied on her for these reminders.

We know that our furry family members will not live forever, but we are never truly prepared.   When the inevitable is happening, God is blessing my family with His mercy and grace. And for this I am grateful.

We will miss you, dear Kiera.  Until we meet again in heaven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Stronger Heart

I was excited to see that recently someone found a January 2014 post about my congestive heart failure, from dilated cardiomyopathy – and commented on it.   I have not been posting for a long time, and it reminded me that I need to update about my health.

I was diagnosed with my heart disease two days after Christmas 2013. I was on medical leave from work for 8 weeks. I improved and felt stronger: I owe this to God, the right medications, a low sodium diet, and commitment to fitness. My improvement was evident when, in early April 2014, my echocardiogram showed that my ejection fraction (pumping strength) had increased from 15% to 32%. 55-60% is the normal range, and 45% or below is considered congestive heart failure. Still, I was referred to an electrophysiologist to address a delay in my circuitry. I have a “left bundle branch block”. In May 2014, an ICD (implanted cardioverter device) was implanted. This device is a defibrillator with a 3-lead biventricular pacemaker. It protects me and helps my ventricles beat in sync.

I will make a long story short; my echocardiogram in June (2015) revealed that my pumping strength/ejection fraction is at 53% (low normal)!   I am amazed that it has come so far. God, exercise, watching my salt, my “bivent” pacemaker, and of course my medications, are responsible for my greatly improved heart health.

I understand that the ejection fraction can change, that I must continue taking the meds, that some shortness of breath that I still experience sometimes, mean that I continue to have congestive heart failure. I still have limitations.

Shortly after the good news, I bicycled 25 miles in Bike MS after training for several months. I also joined Toastmasters, and I plan to do a speech on heart health in early February.

I wish I had more time to write in this blog. I will try to write more often.

Thank you for visiting Julie’s Life Joy.bike MS

God Working in Me

I have to share this, because God was working in me today – big time.   So much so that I was feeling so wonderfully emotional I think I was crying for joy all the way home from town (approx 15 miles).  I’m rather introverted, which is why what I did was a big step outside of my comfort zone.  God was telling me what to do, and I did it, for once. 

I was sitting outside at St. Louis Bread Co., and a lady at a nearby table was talking to her friend about her marital problems and a church that has some people that apparently  are….well, making God frown and Satan smile.  All I know is that her husband says things like, “It’s a good day when you’re not at home.”    They go to counseling.  Her finances keep her from divorcing him, I think. 

She attends church occasionally, but feels like she and divorced or single moms are sort of segregated from the others, because the “normal” families all sit on the opposite side.   She saw neighbors there that talk to her outside at home, but at church, they ignore her.  Sad.   She needs love, not judgement.

I was trying to add to my grocery list and concentrate on a few devotional entries from this little magazine I get from InTouch Ministries.  The conversation kept distracting me, because I thought about how this lady needed a supportive, accepting, loving church family.  The right message.  It sounded like her church was a certain denominational one, some people of that denomination think they are superior, that kind of thing.  I know that many churches fail to clearly convey the message of unconditional love that God has for us, a love so great that He offers us forgiveness of our sin through the death of His Son on the cross.  A salvation offered not through works, but through placing our trust and our lives in Jesus Christ.    It’s all about trust and a love beyond human comprehension.  She hasn’t been getting that from her current church family. 

I thought, “This woman needs a church like mine – like Metro.”   I don’t know what the other one teaches, but we share Biblical truth, love, and acceptance.   It’s real and it’s relevant to our daily lives.   And it’s large enough that people can check it out without being noticed as a first-timer. 

Stop there, Julie, this is not an advertisement for my church.  I think you get the picture.  Bottom line, this unfortunate woman needs to feel love and acceptance, not people judging her.   So I scribbled down the name, website, location, service times, and some notes about Metro.   Maybe I should have included my phone number.

I don’t have to stand and talk to her, just give her the note.  I feel God is telling me to do this.  If I walk away, I’m allowing my own weaknesses to ignore her need.  Whether or not she comes to Metro, she should feel the love of God through a Christian reaching out to her.

Her friend goes inside, I’m done with a late breakfast, she is still waiting for the friend, I go inside and put away my tray.  Back outside I slurp my last drops of iced tea, throw it in the trash can, and hover by it, note in hand.  I quietly exhale a couple times.  Is she going to think I was eavesdropping?  That I’m some kind of weird religious freak?  Who cares?  She doesn’t know me.  And love transcends self-consciousness, or at least it should. 

God, help me out here.  Be strong and courageous, right, like you told Joshua?  Okay.  Let’s do it. 

I walk over and say, “Hi, it sounds like you can use a different church.”  I hand her the note and…oh, what exactly did I say?  This was at 10:30 this morning.  I told her that I had never gone to church before Metro, I went to one service, I was hooked, and I became a Christian.  She thanked me.   I walked away.  Crying by the time I got to my car.  Now.

After other times when I felt a prompt and ignored it, I finally just trusted God and enabled Him to push me to do something completely opposite of my introverted personality. 

I know I’ll be looking for this lady at church tomorrow.  Three services, she had sunglasses on, I’ll probably never know if she comes to my church.  All I can do is pray for her.  I’ll pray for me, too, for other opportunities to reach out instead of staying in my bubble.  

God helped me, and He can help you, to do what is outside of your comfort zone.

I’ll be writing soon. I hope.

I try to post an article or “Bible Express Study” once a week.  I’d rather do it twice a week, but haven’t been able to accomplish that lately. 

 I took vacation from work last Thursday and Friday.  My sister, niece, and nephews were visiting.  I knew they weren’t arriving until late afternoon Thursday.  I had part of John 14 summarized, with a personal comment.  I had the other part saved at work.  Both saved under the same name.   I had opened the document from work, forgotten that it wasn’t an update, but only had the second part of John 14.  When I saved it and was asked if I wanted to replace the one on my computer, I said yes.  Then I realized what I had done.  I searched the recycle bin.  Nothing.  I was so angry with myself!  How could I do something so stupid?   I had some housework to finish, and I was frustrated, so John 14 still needs to be summarized.

I get this itch to write, or to share, and when I can’t do it I feel restless.  Last week I was listening to a Christian radio program by Ed Young.  It was about the roles of men and women in the marriage, and women being the submissive party.  A difficult topic for me, but I’ve realized that it makes sense and that you can’t have two leaders in a relationship.  I jotted down a reminder for this as a forthcoming topic. 

So, I’ve got John 14, the submissive wife, and, I want to write something about fitness.   And I have not had the time to write.  I’m home sick today and thought I’d get one of those topics done, but right now I think I’ll sleep or read or do something mindless.  I just don’t have the energy for a focused post.

I appreciate your patience.    May your day be blessed!