Friday, April 26, 2013

The Ugly Side of Trials

In the book of Job we find a man that gets slammed from all sides.  He is a "righteous" man and yet God allows satan to test him.  He loses his children, his livestock, his crops, his health - on and on it goes.  The devil takes everything from him except his own life.  Job handles most of it with faith and a grace that I have yet to accomplish.  But finally, in the later chapters of the book he let's it all out and complains to God.  Questioning Him and demanding answers.  
I bring this up simply because as I read back over my last few entries about my back surgery, it fails to relate how I reacted when I finally realized that I could not strong-arm my way out of surgery.  It was going to happen, my life interrupted and it was not what I had planned.  
I used to look at Pastors and think, wow, they really have it all together!  Ha! That's before I became one.  You know Pastors are human too and have all the same issues, temptations, and trials that others do.  So, how did I react?  I cried out to God, I screamed at Him, I questioned whether or not He loved me!  I wanted to know what I had done to deserve this!  
Now, as I think about being a parent though, I remember times when my own sons came to me, mad about a curfew, convinced that I was ruining their lives, hurt that they had to go through something they didn't want to do.  It didn't bother me when they came to me like this - I encouraged it.  They are, after all, my sons that I love with all my heart.  Why would I not want them to talk to me, even if it meant hearing unhappy things?  They were relating their fears and their worries to me and it gave me the chance to respond.
That's how God is with us.  I am His child and it's OK to let Him know how I feel, even if it's bad.  The key, though, is when I'm done having my fit, I need to be quiet and hear what He has to say.  No one benefits from one-sided conversations; we need to hear from our Father.  He is a calming force during the storm of emotions we feel.  He is a gentle hand on our shoulder, open arms that we can run into with a love strong enough to heal our souls.
So in Job God responds to Job's complaints by asking, "Where were you when I created this earth?"  "Who is more capable than me to handle all things?"  
As I contemplate that I am reminded that God is sovereign - He is ALMIGHTY.  No One is bigger than my God.  In response to my screams and tears about having yet another surgery, I heard Him say, "I know about pain, I understand sacrifice, I've experienced loss.  My son was fully man and fully God, yet he was tempted and tormented in every aspect possible for a human to experience.  Hold onto me Patty and I will see you through.  I will always be your Father and I love you."  You know, that's pretty awesome!  I can't imagine how people go through things like this without God.  His hands are bigger than any problem we could encounter.  Only God...Only God.  

Monday, April 22, 2013

As my friend Melinda was helping set up my very first blog site (who says you can't teach old dogs new tricks:), I was trying to decide exactly how to start my very first blog; should I go back to the beginning and start there or like a well written movie start with current times and work my way back?  Hmmm.  While I contemplate that, let me first tell Melinda, my long-time friend, how much I appreciate her help, advice, love, friendship, humor, laughter and honesty.  Have you ever had someone like that in your life that just feels like your most comfortable jeans - no matter how long it's been, they always feel like they fit you perfect.  That's Melinda and my prayer today is that everyone that reads this is blessed enough to have a Melinda in their life too!
I've decided to start with what's happening currently and just let the words flow into past times.  Perseverance is one of those words that helps me feel strong, but at the same time brings memories of trials in my life - it gives multiple emotions.  
Hebrews 12:1-2 teaches us, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God."  
You'll find that I will go to the scriptures many times because that is where my strength is built, where God speaks to my heart.  Not a fan of the bible?  Give me a chance to show you how it has helped my life and maybe, just maybe, you will find something that helps yours.
Last week I had the 17th major surgery in my 53 years of life.  No, I'm not a hypochondriac, nor am I masochistic liking pain; I've just had really tough physical issues that could have left me in a pit of despair.  But for the grace of God, go I.  I think there should be a texting shortcut that looks like "OG, OG" meaning Only God, Only God.  Dave and I say that a lot because we know that Only through God could we walk through such trials and still have our faith strengthened.  
The latest one, back surgery, held it's own challenges.  Let me tell you more about it when my resting time is over.
As most people react to physical issues, I ignored mine for a long time.  I just simply didn't want to face it.  I kept telling myself that my legs were weak and tired because I was out of shape and needed to lose a few pounds.  Due to life-long chronic migraines I have a very high tolerance for pain, which can be a blessing and a curse.  As my degenerative disk disease continued eating away at the disk, I was able to ignore it even when I began having sharp shooting pains down both legs.  I told myself everything except that it was my back.  That it was pulled muscles, medication related, anything but what it was.  
When my oldest son told us of his proposal to Emily and that their wedding would be in August of this year, NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING was gonna get in that way of my plans for the summer.
Well, as they always say, if you want to hear God laugh, just tell Him your plans:)  At the orthopedic doctor that had treated me for years, he ordered x-rays and then an MRI.  When I went back for the follow up he told me that I needed surgery.  That my vertebrae were bone on bone, he could actually see bone bruises where they had been hitting.  
My response?  NO WAY!  I am not going to have another major surgery - send me for an injection to get me by, send me for a second opinion, send me anywhere but the OR!  He did and as I anticipated what the second opinion would be, I imagined things like, "Oh, it's not that bad.  We can do injections for several years before you really need surgery.  You were right to walk away Patty!"  
Ha!  He didn't say that at all - as a matter of fact, when he finally came into the room the look on his face told me that either he had just lost his best friend or I was about to be the recipient of bad news.  He was so patient, taking me to the MRI to show me how the disk had bulged completely out and was pushing the main nerve to my legs in one direction while a major bone spur on the other side pushed the nerve in the opposite direction.  It made this snaky little "S" curve that thinned out to almost nothing.  The doctor looked at me and said, "Patty, if you were my wife, you would be in surgery right now!"  He told me more but my world began to spin out of my control, again!  Even crying and begging were not going to work with this guy and before I knew it he was on his cell phone with my ortho telling him that he agreed with his findings and that we needed surgery sooner than later.  They moved heaven and earth to get my post op blookwork completed and I ended up being on the schedule just six days away, on Tuesday.  I would be the first surgery of the day.
Wow!  Isn't it funny how you are doing just fine one day and then in a heartbeat your entire life is changing, and that schedule that you had?  Well, it's out the window.  But, as they say, when all of your schedule flies out the window, God opens doors.  Or something like that.  
Over the next few days Dave and I both prayed for guidance and healing.  Within 10 hours of each other, God gave us both the same scripture from Romans 8 which says, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." 
What in the world would I ever do without God and without a Godly husband...I love how both help mold my life to be this beautiful story - not all good, but always blessed.  

So, I've been thinking about tears.  You know they have been cleansing for me so many times in my life, but they also mark many very important trials that I've experienced.  The only way I would give up those tears that Dave and i have shed is through the promise of Revelations 7: "God will wipe away every tear from our eyes".
The first time I saw my husband shed tears of worry or concern for me was when the doctor was whisking me off from what was supposed to be a quick, natural delivery, to an emergency c-section.  Because it happened so fast they did not have time to get him gowned up to go in with me.  As they rolled me past him into doors that only had a small window in them, I saw tears running down his face that expressed so many different emotions all at once.  They told me that he loved me, that he loved our unborn child, that he didn't want to lose us and that he was not in control of this situation.  
Funny, but it seems that we've been working to give God control of situations like this ever since, and while we're getting better in our middle age, we're still not great at letting go.  
My back surgery this time went well; but it's after the surgery that I always seem to struggle because of allergies I have to pain meds.  The ones that I can take drive my chronic migraines.  You would think that at least I could get some sort of 'sublime escape' from a good narcotic after they just pried my spine apart 1 centimeter and inserted an artificial disk where the real one used to be.  Two incisions - one on my side to stretch out my spine and all connecting nerves and one on my back to go in and clean out those nasty spurs.  Well, pain medication was not to be found so they would not allow Dave into the recovery area for more than 2 hours after the 5 hour operation.  They didn't want him to see me in this terrible pain; they were working furiously to get it under control.  I, was praying for God to give me the grace to lay there and wait without scaring or distracting the others that were just coming out of anesthesia!  Nothing worse than waking to screams:)  Once I asked the nurse to bring him in and she told me they couldn't yet until they figured out how to control my pain.  I drifted off thinking of my passionate husband breaking down the doors because it had been too long and he had to see me.  It brought a smile to my face thinking of how all would react!  
When Dave was finally allowed in to the room where they had moved me in step-down, those beautiful, masculine tears where there again.  Tears of joy to see that I was OK, tears of relief that he was finally by my side, but also tears of fear that we both knew that our only option was to turn this over to God.  You see, given the wrong pain medication is certain death; given a questionable one is this incredible migraine.  That's where we ended up - with the migraine.  I guess it's kinda like having a tooth ache and someone steps on your toe!  You have a temporary reprieve from the toothache because your focus has now changed to pain in your toe.  
Then I heard him praying, giving this all over to God and whispering soothing words through his tears to comfort me.
Some people think that when men cry they show a weak side that makes them less than men.  Well, I've got news for you - my husband is one of the strongest men I have ever known and has the strength to handle anything thrown at him. He is ALL man; but that doesn't mean that his heart is so hard and cold that emotion no longer touches him.  His heart has been made so big by God that sometimes I wonder how it fits in his chest!  
I still have this picture in my mind of me, racked with uncontrollable pain, looking through the hole in the railing of the hospital bed and seeing Dave.  God is my rock, but because of Dave's faith in that God, he is my anchor!  What a wonderful thing to see when you're searching for relief - to see the one and only person on this earth that loves you so unconditionally that your hearts connect with your eyes.  Pain - that's something that I have a high tolerance for, but show me the love of my husband and I am undone.  OG..OG...