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Monday, August 11, 2014

RIP Robin Williams - the pain of depression

Image Credit: Dave Hogan/Getty Images

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

It's Been A Long Hard Winter

It's been a while since I blogged. Quite a while. You may have even forgot that I had a blog! I thought of it once in a while. Laid down and the thought passed. Thought about it again. Thought about what to say and share -- didn't come up with a whole lot. At least much that I figured would be helpful to anyone else. But you know what? Sometimes the richness of God's best soil develops after a long hard winter where there has been seemingly little good and far too much barren harshness. That's kind of how I have felt this past year. Almost four and a half years of chronic pain and blessed little answers. I'm now to the point of surrendering. Not to the pain - heck no! I will fight the pain 'til I die! I am surrendering to God's purposes in and through this. Do I know what He is doing? Nope. But He does. Can I see any good coming out of this?? Bits. Glimmers. Glimpses.

The Bible tells us that Jesus was well-acquainted with our sufferings. That He experienced pain -- some of the worst physical pain imaginable through the process of crucifixion. It was pretty much the pain that killed him as he suffocated. He suffered emotional, mental and spiritual pain as well -- that even evidenced itself through a process of physical distress wherein the blood came out his pores with sweat (it's a rare condition called hematidrosis). How can we think we are not interconnected?! The physical affecting the emotional, mental and spiritual -- and any combination thereof. Pain is part of this life -- it actually has a very poignant way of pointing us toward the eternal -- life beyond the brokenness of this fallen world.

Joni Eareckson Tada knows pain more than anyone I know. She has written several books on suffering and I love her writing. “Suffering provides the gym equipment on which my faith can be exercised.”
(From her book, "Suffering, Making Sense of Suffering).

Faith definitely gets a workout through times of suffering and struggle. We are forced to work through our beliefs and choose to believe -- to keep believing -- to walk in faith through the blistering storms where we cannot see. Anything. 'Til after. Maybe. Here's what I do know. When I trust God and walk in faith. I find peace. And ultimately, I find joy. Or maybe, they find me.

Photo graciously provided by my lovely friend, Brenda Fidelak, who truly knows what it is to dance in the rain!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

I'm not gonna lie, it's been a rough summer. My chronic pain has hit all time highs as I have undergone a treatment called prolotherapy. The treatment involves a six inch syringe and 25 injections into my lower back with the hope that it might stimulate some new healing into my area of chronic pain. Initially it was supposed to be six treatments over the summer/fall season, one treatment every two weeks. It has ended up being an initial session with a second treatment two weeks later -- followed by another treatment in a month, then a third treatment and now taking a two month break. We are giving it some time in between to allow for possible variance in healing times. It doesn't seem to be working. Sigh. In fact, it made everything worse, including my levels of pain. Discouragement is a word that comes to mind!

Pain is not just a physical issue but affects a person mentally, emotionally and spiritually. As this blog tries to focus on, we are integrated beings. What happens to us physically does affect us mentally and so on. I have truly experienced this at a deeper level over the past few months. Increasing chronic levels of pain wear on your spirit. They drain your energy physically and emotionally. Life can easily become a series of just getting through what one absolutely has to do and then trying to recovery from it.
Discouragement crept in. Some despair. Frustration. I believe in a God who can heal, who does divine healing. I believe He can and hope that He will. So far He has not. Most of the time I do pretty good with this. Waiting on God. Leaning into Him. Standing on the truths that I know, regardless of whether I feel like they are true or not.

Then the nausea came. A month or so of nausea, stomach upset and other little goodies that I won't bother to share with you. That on top of the pain, and trying to work, continue with life, family, etc., was starting to push me - body, soul & spirit - under the waves. I could relate to David in the Psalms -- I cried out to the Lord, desperately! Lord, HELP ME! Heal me! Save me! Nothing. So weary. I kept asking. My prayers became rote at times. Desperate yet starting to wonder how this could be God's best for me. I believe that I am called by God to be a counsellor -- to help my clients find freedom and healing -- and I sensed no release from my vocation but I was feeling beyond overwhelm. What now?!??! Feeling weary and sick in my body, mind, emotions and spirit, my whole being was being affected by the chronicity of the worsening pain.

We went to pray with our Pastor on Tuesday. It was a great time of fellowship, ministry, teaching and prayer for my husband and I. Thanks be to God that He works in our lives and through the lives of others to encourage, bolster and bless! We asked God for HIS best in my life -- and we did ask for physical healing as well. I think I'd been spending too much time asking God to heal (which we are told to do -- persevering prayer!) but not fully aligning myself with WHATEVER He would have for me. The bottom line, biggest take away that the Lord gave to me through that prayer time was this, I need to abide in Him, continually. Always. "God is Light
and in Him there is no darkness at all (I John 1:5)." We are told in vs. 7 to 'walk in the Light as He is in the Light." Jesus exemplified this for us. He did nothing on His own agenda but plugged Himself into the power and the will of the Father, as an example for us. Chronic pain is darkness. When I focus on it, I don't see where I'm going. I get overwhelmed and my body, soul and spirit become exhausted. When I bring myself into the Light of God, there is NO darkness. I am choosing to walk in His Light, with Jesus interceding for me and giving me grace in the mean time. Will I be healed this side of Heaven? I don't know, but what I do know is that God is Light and in Him there is no darkness, and that is where I will anchor myself.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Journey is the Destination

Not entirely sure who actually said, "The journey is the destination" but I've said it before so will use it for now! Sometimes we get so busy in this life and focused on where we are headed to that we miss all that is going on in the present. We hear sayings like "stop and smell the roses" yet we seem to think we've got more important things to do -- have to get somewhere, fast! Yet the real purpose of living this life is to experience it.

One of my favourite verses is Psalm 27:13, "Yet I am confident I will see the LORD’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living." I love it, I claim it, I call God out on it -- I am confident, I believe that I will see/experience the goodness of the Lord while I am still here on this earth. This is not just a promise we can look forward to and hope for in heaven, where "He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” Rev. 21:4. This is here and now in THIS journey!

When we push hurriedly through life trying to get everything 'done' we can miss the cues that God hard-wired into us. Physical cues that let us know when we are hungry, tired, sick and/or in pain. Emotional cues that tell us when we are getting violated, falling in love or needing to be courageous. When we ignore our cues we actually end up detaching from that part of our being; we have to in order to shut the cues off! So what happens? We train ourselves to stop listening to ourselves! I'm not talking about the odd time when circumstances require us to push past fatigue to get something finished because of a due date. I'm talking about the chronic choice to disregard our body, soul and spirit's cues to take care of our being. This creates another problem. When the cues are missed they do not simply go away but they get turned into unmet needs and longings that will often get met in destructive and ineffective ways.

So what's the answer? Tune back into yourself. Look for and identify your cues -- for hunger, fullness, sleep, connection, rest, medication, treatment, etc. Pay attention to them, even when it's not convenient! Stay attached with yourself and be present in your daily life. There are two different kinds of time. Chronos time, which is the Greek word for chronological, sequential time -- it is quantitative. The second type is kairos time, which is qualitative in nature.  It means a moment of indeterminate time in which something special happens/'the supreme moment.'  The photo represents kairos time! But that doesn't mean you have to be on a beach somewhere (although it certainly helps! :-). It simply means being present and attached to your life -- living in the very moment in which you are in rather than striving to get somewhere else. Enjoy the journey -- it is the destination.

Monday, May 6, 2013

"But I Want To!"

How often have you uttered the words, "but I want to!?" We expect this kind of stubborn, pouty-lipped exclamation from a toddler as they express their selfish desire to have their own way.  But when we stomp our feet as adults and solidify an unrelenting pose of arms crossed and willfulness fully in tact, our flesh pops out! That nasty evasive sin nature that requires careful discipline. The flesh.

It's that defiant wave we give to indicate that we know what we need to do and we're not going to do it! It's the 'nobody tells me what to do' attitude pumping up it's muscles. "But I want to!" Famous last words as we give into the sin nature and allow the flesh to dictate our choices, rather than the Holy Spirit. Instant gratification! There is nothing like it. Excess. Moving us outside of moderation and balance. Do I need another piece of cake? No. Can I stop engaging in that addiction that is hanging over my head? Yes, but I want to...have it, take it, drink it, eat it, look at it, do it! I WANT!! 

But what about the consequences? It's harming me spiritually and physically -- it's effecting my relationships and harming my moods. "But I want to!!" Our flesh pleads with us to give in and just 'do it' like Nike commands. What's the big deal? Nobody needs to know. When was the last time you did it? You deserve a reward -- you've had a hard day! It will feel/taste/smell/sound good! At least while it lasts. There's a reason we give into our flesh nature and sin. Because it does feel good, in the moment. That's why we struggle with it. B
ut sin leads to death. Romans 6:2 says, "Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?...We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. (6:6). "Don't you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living (Romans 6:16)."

And the great thing is, we CAN do all things through Christ who gives us strength. ALL things, not some or most (Phillipians 4:13). God has given us the Holy Spirit as a resource to provide us with all we need in this regard. The fruit of the Holy Spirit includes self-control. We can say no and survive. We can break habits and walk in victory over addiction. God has not called us to live a mediocre 'meh' life but an abundant one. We are overcomers through Christ Jesus. Romans 8:37 says, "No, despite all these things [if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death], overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us."

Next time you're tempted to give in and allow the flesh to impose it's two year-old persona on you, say no! Use the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in you to choose what is truly best for you. You are not a slave to the basal urges of the fleshly nature. You are an overcomer in Jesus Christ! Live in your freedom.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Pseudo Connection and Other Maladies

What a beautiful day to be at the beach. The blue sky, warm sunshine, pelicans doing a fly-by, white sugar sand and azure gulf waters crashing down in rhythmic waves. Ahhhh. Lovely. We even met a true local, a great blue heron literally walking alongside us at the beach. What a graceful and beautiful bird! He was chilling out. Hoping that someone might hand him a fish so he didn't have to do any work today!

As I watched the activity of children of all ages, some well into their elder years. I noticed a similar theme. Relaxation. Play. Rest. One little boy ran with such anticipation into the waves that he couldn't help but squeal with glee as he ran across the sand. Another group of kids was lining up to do battle with the ocean -- leaping up into the waves and getting pushed back with each wave. Only to get up and do it all over again.

Sometimes we forget to chill out and be leisurely. To shut off (or at least ignore) the technological gadgets that we seem to think we need to take with us everywhere lest we miss some tidbit of ongoing drama in someone else's life or heaven forbid, miss a call or text or Facebook message from a friend or family member! Do you remember the days before cellphones? I even remember calling people who didn't even have an answering machine, gasp! You actually had to call again later if you were still wanting to speak to that person. And it was okay. We actually had more time without constant distraction and pleas for attention. We could sit and read a book or go for a walk or take a drive and actually be present in the moment.

When was the last time you shut off your cellphone and electronics and spent uninterrupted time with the people you love? Giving them your full attention. Enjoying time together. Being present in the moment fully. Truly connecting with each other. People are starting to experience more and more loneliness and it's not for lack of texting and the like. It's that pseudo connection via text and Facebook and electronic means does not truly give us connection. Having hundreds of friends on Facebook does not replace the need to be truly known. We don't experience community during online streaming or a podcast. These are all good things but they don't replace the valid need of real, gritty, present connection with someone. Whether it's God, our partner, our family or friends, the intimacy of those relationships is compounded when we honour that person with our authentic engagement in the time spent in their presence. 

Next time your child comes to tell you something wonderful (or painful), your partner or dear friend starts talking to you, turn off the distractions and give them your undistracted attention. Soak it in. Connect. And be connected.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Lessons from Botox

I am not the typical kind of woman who would get botox to make my lip pout or erase a wrinkle, those are battle scars won by a life well lived and I'm keeping 'em! However, in my journey through chronic pain I have encountered botox as a treatment for pain. I had read that migraines were being successfully treated with botox injections but was rather surprised when my pain rehabilitation doctor suggested we do some injections. So this past week I went for my appointment, a vial of botox in hand -- essentially a neuro-toxin smear on the bottom of a glass vial. This stuff is worth more than gold! That little smear was $385.00 at Costco, ranging up over $500-600 at other pharmacies. Thank the Lord it was covered by my drug plan. Whew!

The doctor explained how the botox would work, what it would do and how he was going to inject it. The lengthy needles made me a little bit little-headed so I directed my thoughts to fond memories of playing on the beach when I was young, a.k.a. my happy place! He started on the back and did four injections, two into the erector muscles - the ones that hold you up - and two for the iliosacrial ligaments. "Great," I thought -- "I'm going to have a butt like Joan River's face!" Happy place, happy place... Then I rolled over to receive the more substantial needle into my psoas muscle. I didn't even know about this muscle before that day. But it is the lengthy, strong and substantial muscle that actually runs from the spine, through the pelvis and out into the front of the hip! One deep injection - HAPPPYYYY PPPLLAACCEEEE!! We have since seen this muscle is appropriately named pso-as, because it certainly contributes to that pain!

Since then I have experienced flu-like symptoms including a severe headache. They say it takes 4-7 days for the botox to work and essentially paralyze the muscle. I think it's coming. What I didn't expect is that when you deaden a major muscle in your hip flexor it makes it harder to walk and causes some pain in other areas as the body has to compensate for these muscles that are now failing to fire. I was just looking forward to these muscles coming out of their spasmatic state and providing pain relief!

It made me think of the analogy of us being the 'body of Christ.' How each part of the body is needed and works in conjunction with the others. Romans 12:4-6 says, "Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ's body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you." The passage goes on to talk about the different gifts that God has granted us - teaching, helping, leadership - and how each person's gifts are important and designed for a purpose. Ultimately, we need each other. We need to work together. Being alive and part of community is so important -- don't be a botoxed believer; paralyzed and deadened so that you don't function properly and neglect using the gifts that God has given to you. God created us to be inter-dependent - not fiercely independent or grossly over-dependent. Interdependence promotes individuality, freedom and responsibility, in the context of supportive community. If you are botoxed right now, hang in there. It wears off in about three months. Then you can reactivate and get involved. Take your rightful place in the body and bring glory to the God who created you, loves you and has gifted you!