Lessons in the Pain

I have not felt like writing much in the past few months. The winter was filled with stress – physical, emotional and mental. It is said that you can’t get blood from a stone; well, I say that you can’t get good thoughts from someone who feels brain-dead and heart numb.

I recently had a birthday, but for me it was not really a happy one. I have been struggling with chronic pain since my early 30’s and now that I am in my mid 50’s I am a bit battle fatigued. I have been plagued by the thoughts that if I am in this much pain now, what will I be like in the next 20-30 years? On top of the usual chronic pain I have also developed additional, and at times, severe pain in the groin area of one hip. The pain hits suddenly and is intense enough to cause me to exclaim out loud and almost drop me to my knees. This has happened to me while going for a walk, going up or down stairs, and even on a ladder.

I never know when that particular pain is going to hit me so I am nervous about going on any long nature hikes – which is a passion of mine. I think that aspect of the pain is causing me to feel very frustrated, angry and depressed. My husband and I are just beginning to plan to embark on enjoying retirement activities, most of which involved traveling with our “new” trailer, camping and nature hikes. This new pain aspect has filled me with fear about the possible limitations it may be imposing on my ability to fulfill our retirement dreams.

Pain has definitely slowed me down and at times, has stopped me in my tracks completely.

So, the topic of pain has been on my mind a lot lately and since pain plays such a large role in my life, I have been trying to learn if there has been, and/or is, any positive lessons that may have come about through the suffering of pain.

In some ways, pain has made me stubborn and a determined fighter. I refuse to give up on life simply because I am in pain. When I was younger and in pain, I still had two children to look after, a family to help support financially and a home to maintain. I no longer have young children nor have to work outside the home, but I still have a home to maintain and loved ones who need my help. Pain can certainly teach you perseverance.

Pain has taught me courage. It can be very difficult to choose to continue living when you are suffering a lot of pain. Choosing to move forward, to move past the pain, to continue loving, living and giving of yourself in the midst of suffering takes courage.

Pain can also teach patience. I must admit that I am not very good at patience. I have an active and adventurous soul and I like to keep busy both physically and mentally. I hate waiting for the episodes of pain and fatigue to pass so that I can accomplish something. But I am learning that I need to be patient with myself and if necessary, give time for the pain meds and/or rest to start working. Chronic pain can make me grumpy, so I have to learn to be patient with my loved ones if they are not understanding my pain or are doing things or not doing things which may frustrate me during that challenging time.

Pain has taught me to have empathy with, and compassion towards, others who may be suffering pain. My husband suffers from chronic daily headaches as well as migraines. Since we both suffer pain, it is easier for us to be very understanding, helpful and loving to one another during our bad times. Some of the most loving people I know are those who have suffered or continue to suffer some sort of pain.

There can be much misery in chronic or severe acute pain. I don’t like feeling miserable. Pain has taught me that I need to make good choices about the focus of my thoughts. I do my best to look for, and focus on, the blessings, large or small, that fill my day.

Believe it or not, pain can actually teach me gratitude. Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT thankful for the pain! However, I do try to develop an attitude of gratitude for all the blessings that God has given me. I am thankful for my loving, understanding and patient hubby. I am thankful for my Mom who like me, also suffers from chronic and often debilitating pain, but who still remains an example of sharing God’s love with others. I am grateful for my sisters-in-Christ who offer encouragement and prayers when I need them. I am thankful for my peaceful home; the sound of the wind in the trees; the birds at my feeder and their cheerful birdsong. I am thankful for my warm and fuzzy cat; her affectionate cuddles and purring do much to alleviate negative thoughts and feelings. I am VERY thankful for the times when I am able to indulge in some of my favourite physical activities, like going for nature walks, biking or canoeing. I treasure such times like rare and precious jewels. The pain that usually ensues is almost always worth the enjoyment I received from the activity. I am also grateful for the helps that God has provided in the way of good medical care, medicine, therapy and long, hot Epsom salt soaks in my new bathtub.

Pain has also taught me to rest – something that I don’t really like doing, unless I have a good book to read! Sometimes, you just have to learn when to let go of things and simply accept it when you need times of rest. Since I am usually unable to nap, I look to find creative ways to fill my “rest” periods such as reading, watching nature documentaries, or doing a small craft.

Finally, pain has taught me to hope. While I have all but given up hope of being healed in this lifetime, I know and believe that when Jesus comes again, my body will be completely renewed and I will never suffer pain or sickness again. Now that is a hope to hold on to!

Rev 21:4 And God will wipe away all tears from their eyes. And there will be no more death, nor mourning, nor crying out, nor will there be any more pain; for the first things passed away.

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The Walk

I have just returned from my morning walk. Usually I enjoy going for a walk. I live in a lovely area on a bluff over-looking Lake Huron. The roads are narrow and made of gravel which give a pleasing crunching sound under my feet. There are many large, lush, green trees and thick green undergrowth. A former cottage community under-going change, the houses are quaint and individual in size, shape and personality. In the right seasons, the air is filled with a wide variety of bird song. Big-eyed cotton-tailed rabbits warily munch on the abundant selection of greenery. Once in a while, a flock of wild turkeys, a small herd of deer or a lone coyote can be seen quickly slipping across the roadway from one woodland to the other.

My walks are usually the time I spend in communion with my Heavenly Father. I thank Him for all the beauty that surrounds me and for all the blessings He has given me and then I petition Him for the needs of my loved ones.

Usually I look forward to my walk. But not today.

Today, I had to force myself to go for a walk.

Today, my body aches, my fatigue is high and my soul is low.

Today I feel like the weather – heavy, damp and grey.

When I started out on my walk today, my steps were slower and less sure. It took more will power to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I struggled to get out the minimum amount of prayer requests and thanksgiving.

Then I decided to deliberately concentrate on shifting my focus from how I felt inside to what was going on around me. I noticed that even though we had had a bad month in July for heat and drought and the grass had turned brown, now, all the grass was once again lush and green. As I listened, I could hear chickadees chirping, crickets buzzing and the pleasant sound of crunching gravel under foot. I looked and saw the last of the summer flowers blooming in neighbours’ gardens. I felt the warm, moist wind blowing in from the South.

By the time I was approaching home, my steps, and my soul, had become quicker, lighter and easier. While I still feel tired and aching, my soul and my spirit are feeling less burdened.

I think our Christian “walk” (yes, pun intended) is much like my walk this morning. We often feel aching, tired, burdened, and low in spirit. That is the time when we must decide that we are going to keep on walking in our faith, regardless of how we are feeling. That is when we must choose to keep on putting one footstep of faith in front of the other. That is when we must take our focus off of ourselves and our present circumstances and look instead to the blessings that God has given us.

When we focus on God’s love for us and on what Jesus did for us and when we express gratitude and thankfulness for those blessings, our “walk” in this challenging life can become lighter and easier.

I pray that God will guide your walk today and make your path easier and lighter.

Blessings

Mat 11:29 Take My yoke on you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest to your souls.
Mat 11:30 For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.

Two Small Words

When I was a child, my mother taught me the “magic words” – “Please” and “Thank you”. When I became a mother, I taught those words to my own children. To this day, even though both my sons are grown men, I still receive positive comments from people regarding how polite my sons are. (I guess I did one thing right anyways – phew!)

As a parent, I did not want my children coming up to me and demanding things as if everything was their right to have. And if I did fulfill their requests, I certainly didn’t want them to walk away without them having given me some sort of acknowledgement and expression of gratitude, again, as if everything was their right to have and/or do.

To me, expressing gratitude shows that you acknowledge the effort and sometimes sacrifice that someone has put into helping you. As a parent, you may often feel that all your effort goes unnoticed and unappreciated. It took several years, in fact, both my sons were young men, before I received a wonderful, unexpected affirmation from one of my sons.

My youngest son is not overly communicative. And our relationship became very strained after the break up of my marriage. So it was a HUGE blessing to me when on two separate occasions, my son called me out of the blue to thank me for some of the things I had done for him when he was growing up.

His first call was inspired by the fact that he was eating left-over shepherd’s pie for lunch. He told me that as he was eating, he suddenly remembered all the times that I had prepared a tasty, hot lunch for him when he was in school. He had disliked being at school and he didn’t like eating sandwiches. So for him, being able to come home for lunch and knowing that I had something nice for him to eat, was a real blessing.

The second surprise call came after he had had to take a young fellow worker to the hospital after the young fellow had been injured in a workplace accident. As he sat there trying to comfort his bloody co-worker as they waited for a doctor, my son remembered all the times that I had held his hand in emergency rooms as he was being stitched up after one of his many (many!) accidents. He realized how stressful that must have been for me. So he called me up to thank me for having been there for him. (I hope you’re all saying “Awww – how sweet” right about now)

But seriously, who wants to do nice things for people who are never grateful? If we, as humans, feel that way, why would we think that our Heavenly Father feels any differently? As much as we may have given/give and have done/do for our loved ones and for others, we can NEVER outgive what God has done for us.

Joh 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Even though mankind has rejected (and continues to reject) God, He still loved us so much that he was willing to give His son over to death for our sakes. I mean, think about it, would you give up the life of one of your beloved children in order to save the life of someone else? Especially if that person wasn’t very nice?

And think about Jesus, who never sinned, yet paid the price of the death penalty for our sins. Would you die for people you didn’t know or who didn’t care about you?

Surely, the very least thing we can do is to say those two small words “Thank You” to God and Jesus for what they have done for us.

In Canada, this weekend is Thanksgiving. So take a moment out of your busy holiday schedule to say “Thank You” to your Heavenly Father and to your SAviour, Jesus. It will really bless them and I know that you will be blessed in return.

Rev 7:12 saying, Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.

Blessings

Appreciation

I volunteer at an Adult Day Centre which operates day programs for Seniors with a variety of needs. One of the clients is a sweet little lady with advanced dementia. She has reverted to only speaking the language of her birth so we are unable to understand her and communication is a challenge. However, today she communicated something to me in a way that spoke louder than words.

After I placed her lunch plate in front of her, she smiled at me, grabbed my arm, bent down and kissed my arm. What a wonderful, eloquent expression of simple gratitude!

I believe that simple expressions of gratitude is what God wants from us –  not fancy words, not candles, not incense, not acts of sacrifice – just simple, heartfelt “Thank you Father”.

Psa 100:4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise; be thankful to Him, and bless His name.

Amen