milk + honey

"But as for me, I would seek God,
And I would place my cause before God;
Who does great and unsearchable things,
Wonders without number.
He gives rain on the earth
And sends water on the fields,
So that He sets on high those who are lowly,
And those who mourn are lifted to safety.
He frustrates the plotting of the shrewd,
So that their hands cannot attain success.
He captures the wise by their own shrewdness,
And the advice of the cunning is quickly thwarted.
By day they meet with darkness,
And grope at noon as in the night.
But He saves from the sword of their mouth,
And the poor from the hand of the mighty.
So the helpless has hope,
And unrighteousness must shut its mouth.
Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves,
So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
For He inflicts pain, and gives relief;
He wounds, and His hands also heal
[Job 5:8-18]

Our friend read that passage aloud during the liturgy this past Sunday. I love how he reads - bold, dramatic, and with serious reverence. He often peers out toward the congregation with a look that I interpret to say, "This is the Word of God. Listen. Obey. Love Him." Perhaps I am too self-absorbed, and too imaginative, but at times, I could swear our friend looks at me as he reads certain verses. Such as, during those last few lines, "Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For He inflicts pain, and gives relief; He wounds, and His hands also heal." My eyes teared up. I wasn't feeling so hot on Sunday, my attitude wavered, but oh, how I believed that at some point, relief and healing will come my way. My heart ached with faith, actually.

I can't tell you why God has allowed me to feel sick for so long, but I do know that during this time, I've discovered things about myself that aren't so lovely, not so admirable. When I felt healthy, it was easy for me to gloss over certain bad habits that I've practiced my whole life. I don't believe my weakened health is a curse, but instead, discomfort has been been an opportunity for God to get my attention, and discipline me while He's got it. You might think that's rather harsh of God, but as Eliphaz told Job up there, it's not something to be despised. It makes me think of childhood spankings - agony for my parents - yet how I thank them now. They wanted me to grow up lovely, learn wisdom, live a peaceful life, and know what's true.

And just this week, I did feel grateful for this seemingly big mess of my woeful health. Not only is God healing my body, but He is healing my soul. He's teaching me. I'll never be perfect, but I'm beginning to know Him better. Trust Him more. I'm a slow learner, yet when my husband said, "I know you felt bad today, but you've handled it very well", I was thrilled. Yes, happy because there's been many a day Johnny thought otherwise, I'm sure. Good to know I didn't bug the hell out of my husband for one day. Some kind of lesson learned.

Or on Monday, when Lindsay left a comment on my "heart and soul" entry. She remarked that I spouted hope and thankfulness. Why, my goodness, so I did, but it surely wasn't me. It must've been the Holy Ghost. "heart and soul" was mostly a faith exercise - you know, like a writing exercise, or vocal scales to warm up a singer's voice. My level of hope and thankfulness that day was pretty appalling. More like pitiful and whiny. So, I decided to put inherited stubbornness to good use - faith requires a hard head at times (like Jacob and that angel). At the moment, I can't eat things like pumpkin spice scones, buttermilk pie, or dark chocolate; not even plain Greek yogurt or figs (yet). But by golly, God did place a true love for that whole list - food, art, sock monkeys, and all - in my heart and soul, and I'm here to say, I will eat sweet treats again. Johnny believes and prays I'll be able to by November, just in time for my birthday and Thanksgiving, and Christmas after that. I claim that belief along with him, grasping white-knuckled to faith.

I say that, very much believing in things unseen because my treatment for Candidiasis, low thyroid, and adrenal fatigue is still ongoing and slow-going. We've taken advice from good friends, prayed for wisdom, tried a few new tricks, yet whaddya know, God is doing this His way. Job had a much worse time of it, but I think of him often. I understand his utter frustration, I sympathize with his bad temper, his despair. Myself, I tend to think I've got a better plan with lots of solid evidence to present to God, yet my husband's running opinion is correct: I am to be grateful. ....For the suffering, for God's concept of time, His creative plan that leaves me baffled, and all those things yet to come. Like cake at my baby shower, let's say.

While I'm at it, here are a few more:

:: Heck, I've tasted the aforementioned sweet treats whereas some folks have diabetes from birth; sugar denied from the start. I'm thankful for memories of buttermilk pie and steaming coffee with a laughing family, or homemade biscuits loaded with brown sugar in Papaw's little kitchen (San Angelo, TX). As for now, isn't life more than food?

:: Truly, I do not go hungry or thirsty. My latest favorites? Eggplant smothered in Central Market Organics garlic lovers' pasta sauce (no sugar, and Johnny's brainchild). Yogi Sweet Thai Delight tea + approved sweeteners and coconut milk. And guacamole, surely food after God's own heart.

:: It's taken me a good year to say this, but there are times now when I love to watch Johnny enjoy Ben & Jerry's, or smile to see the little bear of Stroope's Texas honey in our pantry - for my friend Amy when she drops by for tea.

:: I do have pesky symptoms, some very uncomfortable, but I am not in constant, excruciating pain.

:: My problems have been life-altering, but they are not life-threatening.

:: Though I sometimes feel weak, I can walk around and take care of myself, and then I am strong.

:: There are nights when no matter what I do, it takes me forever to fall asleep. But I get to curl up to Johnny, and maybe a cat or two. And my husband, the kindest man on earth, listens to his iPod and rubs my back until I quit tossing and turning.

:: My five senses are operating at full capacity, and as y'all know, things like sight and smell go a long way with me.

:: My life is set up in such a way that I can write, and I can rest. Words cannot express how thankful I am to be at home, writing - what I always wanted to do.

:: The little things, like freebies in the mail. Due to a review I wrote for The Sustainable Scoop, Organic India kindly sent me boo-koos of Tulsi tea last week. And Shoyeido incense sent a free sample pack along with my order (they do so for every first-time web customer).

:: There are great days and signs of improvement. Like yesterday when I tagged along to Whole Foods for groceries. We ran into an old friend and I wasn't totally brain-dead; his wife was so nice. God provided not only our daily needs, but a true treat for me ~ a small, plain, iced coffee. J. and I talked in the car and took turns with our musical choices. The sun was shining.

:: As I type and look around, there is all manner of reading material scattered around me - on the coffee table and the couch. Books, the newspaper, magazines, the Bible, Books & Culture, and a sweet letter from our Compassion child. I love, love to read, and this passion of mine helps so much to distract me right now, to comfort, and to teach me.

:: Lastly, I'm headed for healing, I'm telling you. I don't care what it looks like.

The point is, the Lord is good. He gives and takes away, and gives again. He blesses Johnny's bread, my food, and our water. God is not clueless to my situation. He loves me more than my husband or my parents. He is so patient when I mimic my grumbling forefathers, the Israelites, in this desert of mine. Job finally understood, and I will, too (I'm starting to). Job also thanked God for restoring his life, twice as much as before, and really, I can't wait to see what God will do. Johnny and I might just laugh ourselves silly, old and full of days.


Laura Leigh Dobson said...

thank you for this. I am so glad i stumbled upon your blog a few months ago.
you humble me.

robyn a. jones said...

yes. thank you.

Sherry said...

Thank you, Jenni.

kate o. said...

this faith of ours - it's amazing isn't it? in the midst of difficult, painful, just plain annoying struggles, there is hope and teaching and learning.

it's been a hard few days for me and this was good for me to read. thanks, jenni. your openness helps me know specifics for how to pray for you, and isn't that always nice/helpful in prayer time?

Christine said...

Jenni, I'm feeling your emotions as I read this post. I want to encourage you that THIS is true faith. Thanking and praising God when things don't always make sense. And it's encouraging to see how He is using you. I believe that He will heal you soon.

Jenny said...

This is beautiful, Jenni!

abigail said...

Hi Jenni, thanks for commenting. I found your blog through Margie's only yesterday. I was intending to comment on yours today but you beat me to it! Take care, and I hope to hear more from you.

jenni said...

No, thank y'all. Very much.

And Kate, thanks so, so much for your prayers.

Lauren said...

your faith is inspiring, friend. as i struggle through my own as of yet unidentified health issues, and battle fatigue and the like, i am encouraged by your hopeful perspective!

Kimberly said...

What a beautiful post Jenni! I believe healing is in the near future for you. Keep pressing on and praising God in the midst of everything.

jenni said...

Lauren, I'm bummed that you're feeling sick, too. What is your doctor saying? I will pray.

Thanks, Kimberly!

Lauren said...

well, i'm having new bloodwork run with a new doctor, so we shall see....thanks for asking!

jenni said...

Keep me posted, Lauren, please.