Let’s Talk :)

I’m in the mood to write. It’s been a long and somewhat lonesome day, although I don’t usually mind that. Today, though, I did. Feeling a bit neglected, I guess, and that is also unusual for me. I don’t need to be surrounded by tons of people all the time. In fact, to recharge and stay sane, I NEED alone time. I think that technically makes me an introvert .

Anyway, the main thing on my mind today has been pain. Living with a lot of that lately; maybe if I write it I’ll be able to put it away.

I’ve read about people who have a condition called Congenital insensitivity to pain and anhydrosis (CIPA). They have no ability to feel pain. I used to think, well, if you have to have a “condition,” I’d like to have that one.

I wouldn’t. Neither would you. If you don’t feel pain, you don’t know you’re hurt, or cut, or burnt, or broken. You don’t know you need medical attention unless someone else notices that you’re in a lot of trouble. So be thankful for pain, says I to myself, because it’s better than losing all your teeth because you never had a toothache and didn’t know anything was wrong.

Still, pain is not fun. My husband took a fall seven years ago and crushed his left heel. Don’t ever do that. It has changed him. He’s in chronic pain every single day, and it’s wearing him out. It’s not easy to watch the changes. He’s always been so active and capable.

And then there’s my deteriorating back. I never realized, back when this all started in my 30’s, where it would eventually take me. That’s a good thing. I won’t bore you with the whole long history. Some of you already know what’s going on, because I’ve been pretty open about it here on this blog. It’s enough for my purposes tonight to say that it’s not going to get better. It won’t heal. There is no magical remedy that will repair the damage. It seems to run in the female branch of my family, although a couple of my sons have also had problems with back pain. The main thing we do is treat the pain, and so far that’s been working out fairly well.

What I really hate about it is that I feel so useless. I hate being useless. Terry does all “my” work now, while I sit here like a heffalump taking up space. Right now, walking is not even an option. He’s hurting too, yet he’s the one who makes me sit, rest, lie down, he’ll take care of it. . . .I used to think it would be nice to be pampered. It is, for about a day. After that, it’s just no fun.

Is there a spiritual application here? Of course there is. You knew I’d get there sooner or later ūüôā

Image result for pain hurts!

Did you know that the word excruciating is from the same root word as cross? Crucifix, cruciform. It means the pain that comes from crucifixion.

I don’t have that. But Jesus did, and He bore it willingly because the Father asked it of Him, and because He loved the souls of all mankind. He knew He was the only worthy sacrifice to cleanse our sin. He suffered unbearable pain because He was the perfect, sinless, pure, holy, blameless Son of God.

Pain both hurts and changes those who bear it. It can be a positive change. Jesus offered Himself to give us that positive change, and whenever I compare what He endured to what I am living with, I am both grateful and ashamed.

It has changed me. I think I’m more patient. I know I’m not willing to criticize anyone who has some kind of condition that no one can see. You may not be able to see the bones in my back deconstructing, but you can see if I’m limping, using a cane or a walker, and you know there’s pain.

Some folks have no outward symptoms, and it’s easy for us to think they’re just drama hogs and are looking for ways to avoid work. Maybe those folks do exist, but I have some friends who have a terrible time with, for instance, fibromyalgia. You can’t see it, but it’s there. All. The. Time. And it hurts.

I hope my pain is teaching me to be more empathetic with others who are enduring pain, whether it is emotional, spiritual, mental, or physical. Grief is painful. Never minimize anyone’s grief, which we all experience differently. Loss is painful. Unavoidable life changes can be painful. Trust me, if you live long enough, something is going to start hurting.

I try to take the position that every day my pain keeps me immobile is just one day closer to heaven. No pain there, no loss, no tears, no sin, no sorrow.

I want to be there, but not until God says so. I still have so much to enjoy here. I have a wonderful life, full of friends and family and people who care about me.

I think it’s time to stop, because I actually do feel better. Writing can be quite cathartic.

So I’m done. For now.

Sunday Morning Coffee on Saturday Night

I do not have any pain in my back.¬† I have no pain in my legs, none in my hip.¬† It’s gone, like magic. I’m going to church tomorrow for the first time in over two months!

My pain specialist, Dr. Loew (pronounced¬†Love)¬†¬†administered¬† the injections I needed on Thursday morning.¬† I was a bit nervous this time, because the pain is coming from the sacrum.¬† That’s the little triangular set of five small bones that ends in the tailbone.¬† If you’ve ever fallen on your tailbone, you know that the pain radiates out and lingers for a long, long time.

As he swabbed my back and began to administer the numbing medication (for which I am extremely thankful) he was also checking out the scars from the sacroiliac fusions I had done in 2017.¬† The doctor who performed those surgeries has an office across the waiting area.¬† He’s a neurosurgeon, and had a lot to do with developing the SI Joint procedure.¬† I told Dr. Loew that I had told my surgeon that he was my favorite guy, after my husband and sons.¬† There was a moment of silence, and then Dr. L said, “Well, where do I come in that line-up?”

“I don’t know,” I replied.¬† “I haven’t seen you in almost two years.¬† I guess you’re going to have to earn you place back.”

“Well, we’ll see about that.¬† I have a feeling I’m going to get my spot back.”

And then he said, “Okay, a pinch, some pressure, and then you’re going to feel it down the back of your leg.¬† Hang on, this is a big load of medicine.¬† Ready?”

What could I say?

It’s hard to describe the feeling.¬† Again, I’m very thankful for the numbing medication.¬† I have a feeling I’d have been screaming without it.¬† The pinch isn’t bad, and the pressure wasn’t either, but then he said, “Okay, here we go.¬† You all right?”

“Uhuh.” And that has to be the absolutely weirdest thing I have ever felt. It was one of the only times in my memory that I’ve been glad to have such short legs.¬† It felt very warm, traveled down whatever nerve goes there, and had me curling my toes and holding on to the table for dear life.

The removal of that needle was such a relief!

“Can I see it?¬† The needle?¬† I didn’t want to look before you put it in.”

Yeah, it was pretty big–long, and the part that held the medicine was quite roomy.

But you know, I was already feeling it taking effect.¬† I was able to get off the table without any help, got my flip flops on, walked out to the recovery room with no assistance. They keep you for a little bit to make sure you’re not going to faint.¬† Cranberry juice helped¬† with that. They take your BP again, and then you get the instructions for after-care and sign a bunch of papers, and off you go.

The relief I’m feeling is amazing.¬† No pain, after several weeks of waiting, having the appointment postponed for three weeks, not sleeping well, not being able to work or go to church—and in about 15 minutes, it’s all gone.

I don’t know how long it will last.¬† The other shots I’ve had usually kept me comfortable for about 8-10 months.

There isn’t a cure for what’s going on in my back.¬† Degenerative joint disease is an arthritic condition. Stenosis is crumbling bone that squeezes nerves, and the nerves aren’t shy about hollering and pitching a fit.¬† I am well aware that there will be more treatments, and that at some point I will have to depend on my walker and my cane all the time. My two herniations haven’t changed much, so that’s a good thing.¬† I do have a new place about mid-thorax that is showing some degeneration, but so far there’s no real pain.¬† Just some numbness now and then, like your foot feels when it’s gone to sleep.

Well, this has become lengthy, and I need to stop.¬† I do want to mention, though, that I’ve been watching the situation in Turkey with¬† Pastor Brunson, who is home here in the States now and reunited with his family.¬† Not much has been said, but I’m fairly certain he was mistreated, perhaps beaten and tortured.¬† We’ve been praying for him, and we are rejoicing¬† that he has been freed.¬† Why do I bring this up?¬† Well, because it’s so easy to think your own situation is the worst in the world and that your pain is unusually difficult.

I certainly wasn’t having fun for the last couple of months or more, but I was well-fed, had a comfortable bed, had people caring for my needs and just stopping in to say hello. My life was never in danger, and I was not separated from my husband and family.

I’m not ashamed to admit that depression was trying to coil around my mind and my heart, but I recognized it pretty quickly and it didn’t get a grip.¬† I can’t imagine being in the situation Pastor Brunson was in, not knowing at any given time what was going to happen next.¬† I have prayed that depression would not lodge in his mind and heart, because it’s very easy for that to happen when your life seems out of your control completely.

The answer, of course, is to turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

 

 

 

 

My Back, Again!

Some of you may have noticed that my posts are going up later than usual. That’s because¬† the disease, Old Woman’s Back, has returned with a vengeance.¬† I’m not sleeping very well, and it has put my whole system off kilter. I’m not working this week, missed two out of my three days last week.

When I called to make an appointment with my pain doctor, I was told they couldn’t get me in until the 20th, this coming Monday.¬† I asked if the doc would renew my scrips in the meantime, and was told that he would not do that because it’s been so long (over a year) since I’ve needed them.¬† I have just enough pain pills to get me through to Monday if I take them only once a day, usually before I go to bed.Image result for no medication

So I’m hurting, and my life has once again gone off the rails. I’m sure the doctor will send me for another MRI, since that hasn’t been done in at least two years.

Now, it’s time for me to practice what I preach.¬† Being thankful is paramount, because if I don’t focus on the things for which I’m thankful, I will be flooded with resentment, anxiety, and fear.¬† Yes, fear. I don’t like pain, and I know this condition is not going away. The symptoms can be treated, but they cannot be cured.

So.  If you are a praying person, please add me to your prayer list.  Prayer is still the best healer.

It’s Not Helpful!

I’ve been having a rather lengthy¬† Facebook conversation with some former students of mine, including one of my sons.¬† I guess it’s not surprising that it has taken¬† the form of a blog post in my head, so here it is.

Believers, Christians, often experience awful, horrible, heartbreaking events. Babies die, husbands or wives leave, life-threatening illnesses occur,  violent crime takes away our feelings of safety, value, and belief in God Himself. Severe persecution in some parts of the world  threatens believers every single day, and there is no escape from it.

These hurting people often cry out, “Why?¬† Why are these things happening?¬† Where is God?¬† Why is He allowing this?”¬† Some will get answers from well-meaning people, but those answers only serve to increase their sense of helplessness and abandonment.

One of those answers, which has become ubiquitous¬† lately, is,”Well, everything happens for a reason.”¬† And that is supposed to heal the wounds, soothe the heartache, and remove the grief.

It’s a vague, formless answer that carries very little power to help. In fact, it can create even more hurt because the suffering ones can’t find that elusive reason, and they just don’t understand. It has a sort of¬† New Age kharmic feel about it, because it is non-specific and indicates a vague faith in. . . . well, I’m really not sure. No person, no god, no ultimate arbiter of life events is mentioned.¬† Just that somewhere out there sits something or someone who orchestrates terrible events in our lives for some non-specified reason.

It makes no sense to me.

So, why DO bad things happen?

For me, the answer is both simple and complex.  My worldview is biblical.  I believe that God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. He is holy, just, and sovereign; He is loving, merciful, and gracious. He cannot look on evil, so He provided the only possible perfect sacrifice to cleanse sin in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit of God, born of a pure, virgin girl who was in the line of King David.  Jesus was the One Whose blood could cleanse sin, and Whose resurrection could provide victory over sin and death. You can read all about Him in the four gospels:  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Why did God do all that?  So that we could find salvation and spend eternity with Him, because He loves us.  All of us.

Why doesn’t He, then, protect us from terrible events?

Because it’s not His job to do so. He never said He would.¬† What He did promise is that He would walk through the valley of the shadow of death with us (Psalm 23).¬† He promised never to leave us or forsake us (Heb, 13:5). He promised to be with us to the ends of the earth (Matt. 28:20).He never promised to prevent harm; He did promise to help us endure it.

Bad things happen because we live in a sinful, fallen world (Genesis 1-3). Satan is real. Evil is real. Jesus said that the rain will fall on the just and the unjust ( Matt: 5:45).

To accuse God of bringing evil into our lives is to believe the exact opposite of His true character. To demand that God should have prevented whatever happened is to demand that He conform to our wishes.

The Apostle Paul suffered greatly for his faith. Near the end of his life, knowing he was facing a painful and horrifying death, he said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).¬† He did not complain about all the beatings, the stoning, the shipwreck, the snakebite, the imprisonment.¬† He accepted it as the price for his preaching the gospel wherever God sent him, and he rejoiced always because he knew God was always with him (Phil 4:4-5).

I know this is longer than my normal posts.¬† Just one more thing, and I’m done.

Instead of asking “Why,” we would do much better to ask for the¬†what and the¬†how.¬†

What can I learn from what has happened?  How can I begin to heal, or if necessary, to forgive, and move on from here? How can I use this to learn and grow, and to help someone else who is hurting?  How can I be a channel of blessing, showing the love of God to those around me in spite of the trouble that has beset me?

After all, no one suffered more unjustly than Jesus did.¬† He was the perfect Man, Who never sinned. Yet God allowed Him “to¬†become sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21).

Please don’t accuse and blame God for the work of Satan.¬† Put the blame squarely where it belongs.¬† Satan’s whole purpose is to destroy all that God loves.¬† Evil does exist, and it finds all of us to one degree or another.¬† No one is immune.¬† God’s job is NOT to prevent all believers from ever suffering harm and evil. It is not His fault that we suffer.

“Everything happens for a reason”¬† is not helpful. It just makes the sufferer feel more confused, and removes permission for that person to grieve. Instead of saying that, tell the person how sorry your are for his pain, and find some way to be helpful, to be the hands and feet of Jesus.

 

Friday Schlump

I’m feeling kind of¬†

I’m discouraged and tired. ¬†Maybe it’s the typical reaction after being on such a high during the trip to Slovakia. Maybe I’m just old. There’s no real reason for it, so I thought maybe I could write my way out of it.

Well, actually, there is a reason. ¬†I’ve either developed a new disc herniation, or one of the other ones has gotten worse. ¬†I’m having the same kind of pain on my left side now. I did so well for the trip, I was feeling so good, and then WHAM! this pain started about four days ago. ¬†I waited to call my pain doctor, hoping the problem was only temporary, but I was kidding myself. So I have an appointment for an evaluation next Thursday, which I’m sure will lead to another MRI and another round of epidural shots. Sigh.

I’m trying to be thankful that treatment is available. ¬†Since I started with this condition, I’ve heard countless stories from other people about their own painful journey. For many of them, the shots didn’t work, or they worked only for a short period of time. ¬†All that’s left at that point is surgery, which scares me to death. I don’t like the idea of nerves being snipped.

I’m learning, though, that no matter how bad your own situation may be, someone else’s is much worse. It is interesting to me that people who live with chronic, debilitating pain don’t usually talk about it. Their attitudes toward the pain is, “It is what it is. I do the best I can. Other people have it much worse.”

If the person in pain is a believer, it is often true that she has learned to walk more closely with God because of her pain.;That is what I want to do. The only alternative is to grow bitter and whiney and miserable.  No, thanks.

A few weeks ago, while I was at my physical therapy place, I saw a woman I know who is a chronic complainer.  She is never happy about anything, never has anything good to say.  I avoid her. When she appeared at therapy, I dodged around a corner before she could see me.  I did NOT want to spend an hour listening to her sad story. Again.

I don’t want to BE her. You don’t have to be her. It isn’t necessary.

I often think about the Apostle Paul, wondering about his thorn in the flesh. Some believe it was something to do with his eyes. Others believe he may have been damaged as a result of the beatings he took. We don’t know, and it really doesn’t matter. What we do know is that he asked God repeatedly to take it away, whatever it was, and God did not heal him. Yet Paul was able to write “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” ¬†He knew how to be abased and how to abound. He knew he could do all things through Christ, Who gave him strength. He knew that no temptation or struggle can come to us that God cannot help us through, and make us able to bear it.

This is part of what grace is all about, I think. Last Sunday, we sang Wonderful Grace of Jesus  in church.  The words have stayed in my mind all week, and helped keep me from slipping into the pit of self-pity.

I think maybe I have written my way out of my schlump.