“So we do not lose heart…”

August 25, 2014 | My Jottings

Michael has been in the veterans home for fifty-three days now and I’m wondering when and if this is ever going to feel less heartwrenching. I realize that this is not all about me, and that he is the one who has had to make the bigger adjustment and be away from his home, and he probably feels more pain and grief than I do. But there are days when I feel utterly bereft. Just typing that last sentence has brought tears.

I’m very grateful for things that distract me from focusing constantly on us being apart. On Saturday I hosted a baby shower for our daughter Carolyn and about twenty-six people attended. I worked on things slowly and over the course of three days — I premade as much of the food as possible, cleaned the house a bit, washed rugs, set up chairs, and on the day of the shower I actually made my bed and put all its decorative pillows in their places (which almost requires a detailed schematic).

Doing the shower was a blessing. So many beautiful women attended; friends of Carolyn’s, friends of mine, all gathering together in such generosity to help her prepare for this new little girl we’re so excited to meet in October. Two of the recipes I liked the most are from Shauna Niequist’s book called Bread and Wine, which I highly recommend. Her bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese and pecans were sublime. I also made her watermelon and feta salad. I marinated chunks of watermelon in fresh-squeezed lime juice for a few hours, and made a vinaigrette with white balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper, and tossed it all together with arugula, crumbled feta, chopped mint, red onion and lime zest. It was so unique and delicious!

And Carolyn and Jeremy’s baby will be the most adorably dressed little girl east of the Rockies, I predict.

I was bone tired when I went to bed the night of the shower, and left some of the bigger dishes like the punch bowl and serving platters unwashed until last night. I laid my head on my pillow and thought of Michael, how much he would have ooohed and aaahed over the good food, how he would have been one of the few men to enjoy seeing all the baby finery, and how much I miss him. All. The. Time. Is this our life, Lord? Is this how things are going to go? I find myself asking senseless questions like this, still in what feels like a stunned state of limbo. But this is not limbo. It is life. And we have got to learn to live it in the peace and grace promised to those who trust the Lord.

But then I ask myself, is this really trusting the Lord? And as ridiculous as this answer sounds, it’s honest: I’m not sure yet.

I met a wonderful woman of God named Nancy whose husband spent three years in this same veterans home, and he finally died there this year, from Parkinson’s Disease with Dementia. Nancy radiates God’s joy and peace, and she speaks to me of how she believes this place was a gift from the Lord to both Marshal and to her. She was so blessed that the Lord wanted her to have a life too, as she puts it, and that He provided this fantastic facility where the men are honored and served so respectfully. She drove up twice a week for years to spend time with her husband, and when he finally didn’t know her anymore she made the hour long drive only once a week. She said it was hard, but that she was so grateful God provided this placement so she could sleep at night, not completely wear herself out trying to care for a husband with overwhelming physical and mental needs, spend time with her grandchildren, go to a concert once in a while, and so on. She told me that they do so much more for the men at this veterans home than she could have ever done for her husband.

When Nancy shared this so lovingly and graciously with me, it made perfect sense and I felt in awe at God’s goodness to her and Marshal. I am in the same situation. Yet I struggle to see it the same way she does. Nancy calls to check on me and I sometimes sob when we talk — she understands. She gently tries to get me to see how necessary this is and what a lavish provision it is. And with my head I do see it that way. My heart is still aching, though. Maybe my heart is blind.

Nancy sends me notes in the mail filled with wisdom and scripture. I read them again and again and try to soak in what it is she feels the Lord laid on her heart. I pray that peace and assurance about all of this eventually comes, especially for Michael.


Yesterday morning I drove north to spend the day with Michael and I took along a couple of treats from the baby shower. He and I made our usual rounds, going to sit in front of the aviary to marvel at the birds who sing and trill so confidently. We wheeled outside to sit in the gazebo, and he agreed with me that one of the most lovely, soothing things ever is the sound of a soft wind blowing through a thousand birch trees. We went back inside and I helped him eat his delicious lunch, a very Michael meal consisting of a hearty, boneless pork chop, mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh mixed vegetables, a buttered whole wheat roll, and some soft-serve ice cream with chocolate syrup drizzled over it. Then he and I scrunched together in his twin bed and napped for a while, or at least he did. I took him to the Physical Therapy gym where he did twenty minutes on the recumbent bike. At 3:00 he and I went to the Sunday chapel service in The Great Room; we sang several old hymns and listened to a man from the local Vineyard congregation share.

I always get ready to return home around 4:00 p.m. I hate having to tell Michael because he seems surprised and crestfallen each time. He asked me yesterday when I could move in to the veterans home with him, and seemed a bit taken aback when I told him we still had a house and Foster residents I needed to care for, and that I couldn’t move in right away. 🙁  Before I leave I help him get out of his wheelchair and into a recliner, which sometimes takes two people so an aide will assist us, cover him with a quilt, reassure him that I’ll return to him soon, and then I get very close and whisper the most fervent prayers to the Lord in his ear.

Michael closes his eyes with me and I thank the Lord that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39), and ask for His help so that we don’t lose heart, and to keep our hearts and minds set on Him even though our bodies are wasting away, remembering that we’re being renewed inwardly (2 Corinthians 4:16-18), and then I thank God over and over for such a husband as Michael, and ask Him to send ministering angels to help him, send the Holy Spirit to comfort Him, and to bless Him with joy and the peace that passes all understanding. Even though it’s almost impossible to understand Michael’s speech anymore, I can hear his quiet yes, Lord and his amens as I pray.

And then I kiss and hug him goodbye, walk through the locked doors of his residence, down the halls of this veterans home, through the impressive front room with the fireplace and the giant moose head hanging over the mantel, out into the parking lot, and to our car.

Before I fasten my seatbelt and start the engine, I reach for a Kleenex.


  1. Peggy Johns says:

    Your writing is such a gift, and then becomes a gift to me. Thank you, Lord for this gift you bestowed on Julie. I think, for a long time, I have been thinking, “is this my life”, and what do I do with it. From my little slits for eyes, you are doing a beautiful job. No one ever told us, (at least me) that it could be this painful. Are we the blessed ones? It sends me to the only Person, who can help in any way! And He sends Nancy’s to lighten it a bit, and give us a glimmer of hope. I cannot see to type. Love you, Julie! You are a bright light!

  2. Just Julie says:

    Peggy, you are so right about how we never knew things would be this painful or difficult. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve spoken to who are reeling these days from this same realization. And yes, it is meant to send us straight to the Lord, which is what we all need no matter what our circumstances. You are so kind and encouraging with your words… however I have much to learn about submitting to the Lord. I’m so grateful for his mercy each and every day… God bless you and bless you and bless you, dear Peggy. xoxo

  3. Connie Parkinson says:

    Oh Julie, my heart wrenches for you. If I were there, I would simply hug you. Xoxo

  4. Just Julie says:

    I hope someday we do get to meet and give each other a hug, Connie! I’ll send one through Christy to you somehow… xoxo

  5. Pat says:

    Oh Julie, that was so beautiful and I am praying that your pain eases and God gives you the peace that passes all understanding. Life certainly has its way with us, but I’m thankful we serve a God who is full of grace and compassion, slow to anger and abounding in love!

  6. Ginny says:

    Jewel, the hard part for me is that I am a “fixer” and I want to make this better for you, and I cannot…. I want to say things that are from the Lord to soothe and encourage or at least relieve your heart for even a moment, but I end up crying instead. Seeing friends hurting, both you and my buddy Peggy and so many others, causes me to groan deep inside as I pray for each one. It does not completely “fix” the situation, but for some wonderful reason, rather than shaking my fist at Him and being bitter, I desire to proclaim that God is good and He is Merciful and He knows and understands and He is righteous…and we are His children….
    There is my hope…. That I desire to still trust Him… even when nothing makes any sense.
    I see that in you, Jewel! Through the tears and heartache you turn your face towards Him. And you know He is Good….

  7. Just Julie says:

    Pat and Ginny, thank you both. I’m a bit of a fixer too, or at least I’ve always tried. Which in hindsight is sort of laughable now. I take comfort in the love and prayers of friends like you, and know with absolute certainly that this will all be “fixed” in Heaven. Yay! So much to look forward to… Love you both… xoxo

  8. Diane Aro says:

    That was beautiful, Julie – beautifully expressed. I am so, so grateful to hear about Nancy. She was sent to help you through this and to see you to the other side of it, when you’ll be able to see the “bigger picture” the way it seems she can, now that her husband is at peace. Sending you and Michael love everyday!

  9. Just Julie says:

    Thank you so much Diane. “The other side of it” sounds hopeful to me. I need a bigger picture view, for sure. Love to you dear friend… xoxo

  10. Kay in Cornwall says:

    Can’t think of anything original to write – the comments above have said it all.
    Just know that we love you and pray for you.

  11. Just Julie says:

    We know and are thankful for that love and those prayers, dear Kay and Alan… xoxoxo

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