Walk and Not Grow Weary

Another door slammed shut. As it closed, hope slipped out with it, leaving only darkness. After a really good visit with my family doctor, I thought we were getting somewhere. I was full of hope before I made the call to a neurology specialist. But then came the news that the specialist might not take me on as a patient. If she did, it would be ten months until she could see me. Ah, the ups and downs of living with a rare and mysterious illness.

I forced myself to remember the things I have already learned: I like roller coasters; only a strong person could handle this; God has entrusted this to me, so I need to do my best with it. Yesterday was much the same as today. Lots of knocking on doors, only to hear that familiar slamming sound. But then a friend shared part of Isaiah 40. She didn’t share it to me specifically, rather in a group for another reason. But God used it to quiet my anxious heart.

Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.

 He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.

Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;

They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

Encouragement swelled. Like the heart of the Grinch, my heart grew and changed, and hope moved back in. My circumstances did not change. Throughout the day, there was good news followed by devastating news, followed by hopeful news, and so on. But my perspective changed.

I may never literally run again or walk without becoming weary, but I know I can trust God who never becomes weary and gives strength to those who wait on him. While I wait, I will keep knocking on doors until one opens, whether that door is a doctor’s office or the gates of heaven.

A November to Remember

For two weeks I have started a blog post only to scrap it. I wanted to write something incredibly funny, and I had a few ideas in mind. Each time I started to write, though, I couldn’t stop thinking about November 2016. It was the worst November I can remember. The pain from my damaged tendons was at its peak. And my dear father-in-law was nearing the end of his life. Sharing a funny story just doesn’t seem right, so I decided to share an excerpt from my book, Hidden with Christ, about my father-in-law. Sometimes getting the pain out is the best way to move on from it.

C. Lloyd Radcliff was my father-in-law, but my first memories of him are as the “old ladies” Sunday School teacher at church. As a youngster, I was a little afraid of him. He was intimidating. Not a big, imposing figure, but he was someone who commanded respect.

I soon learned that he was a much softer man than I thought. My first realization came when I was at the Radcliff home for dinner. Every night, he came home at six p.m. He walked through the door and, before saying a word to anyone, beelined to his wife and gave her a kiss. Maybe he wasn’t so hard after all.

On the day I went to the police station to tell them my story, Doug’s mom watched our two-year-old son. I had told her what was going on, but I didn’t feel comfortable talking about it with Dad. I wasn’t sure how he would react. Men of his generation didn’t talk about such things. But that morning, he was there when I dropped off my son. He gave me a big hug and said, “I love you. I’m proud of you. Anything you need, I will be here for you.” I lost my own dad in 1998, and my father-in-law stepped up and became a father to me, fulfilling his promise.

It was such an honor for me to care for Mr. Radcliff in our home during the last six weeks of his life. As he grew weaker from metastatic lung cancer, we spent a lot of time together. Every morning I would wait at the side of his bed until he was ready to sit up. Then we did our “dance” where I pulled him to standing and rocked side to side, moving to the wheelchair. Every time I would thank him for the dance, and he would respond, “My pleasure.”

There were times during the day when I would check on him, and without fail, he was sitting in his recliner with his Bible opened on his knobby knees. He was a regimented man and always had his regular quiet time, using two different devotionals. But as his time on earth grew shorter, his time in God’s Word grew longer. He was prepared to meet his Savior and left us all quite a legacy.

It’s been 20 years since I lost my dad and 2 years since I lost my father-in-law. Sometimes it feels like yesterday, especially at this time of year. The pain is right there, swelling up, threatening to crash over me in a huge wave, knocking me off my feet. But God brings to mind the good memories of their love, and the waters of my heart become still again. He also reminds me that unlike my earthly fathers, nothing can separate me from his love or his presence. He is always right here with me, calming the storms of my life.

Psalm 107:28-30 (NIV)
28 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,
and he brought them out of their distress.
29 He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.

There’s No Crying in Climbing

 

Sixty feet above the ground, tears welled up in my eyes. I literally shook them off while clinging to the rock face. “This is not the time, Radcliff.” I was just a few feet from the top of the cliff. I felt good during the climb, better and stronger than I had in years. Just one more pull from that finger-width ledge and a good push from the foothold just above my knee should put me over the top. If only I don’t cry.

The day had started out with a question, “What should we do to celebrate your anniversary?” It was the fifth anniversary of my bariatric surgery. Bari patients don’t celebrate with a special dinner or dessert. That’s when I came up with the idea to go rock climbing. It was a beautiful, crisp, fall day, a perfect day to be on the rocks.

My husband and I had been rock climbers since our teen years. It started with him. Doug and a few of his friends learned the sport, and then I tagged along just to be close to him. It was terrifying. We started out rappelling down the sixty-foot sheer cliff. I hooked into the safety line and walked along the edge, heart pounding. Doug said, “I’ve got you. Lean back.” With a death grip on the rope, I started to lean back. “Who does this?” I wondered. Apparently, a girl who wants to impress a boy. Taking a deep breath and peeking over my shoulder at the ground, almost sixty feet away, I thought, “He’s got me on the safety line. Nothing bad will happen.” But that didn’t calm my heart. There was no turning back. I slowly let out rope until my body was in an “L” shape, feet flat against the rock wall. I inched my way down a few feet, then a few more. “Good job. Now let go of the rope.”

“What! Are you crazy? Why would I let go of the rope?”

“I want you to bounce around a little to get comfortable with being on the rock and to learn to trust the rope and your belayer.”

“OK. Don’t drop me.” The things we do to impress a boy! I released my top hand first, then the bottom, which was my braking hand. The rope jerked a little. My life flashed before my eyes. But it was just the slack coming out an inch or so. Once I gathered my courage, I started moving my feet right, then left, then I pushed off. Cool. I was dangling forty feet in the air, bouncing around without a care in the world. I retook control of the rope, and before my feet hit the ground, I was hooked. And we hadn’t even done any climbing yet.

Climbing was more of a challenge. It took more strength and planning moves. I wasn’t confident my fingers could hold my weight. And my short frame didn’t help any, some footholds were just out of reach. But after a few falls, battling “sewing machines,” (the shaking of fatigued muscles), and overcoming my own doubts, I reached the top. The sense of accomplishment was exhilarating. I loved rock climbing.

But then came illness and weight gain. The last time I tried climbing that same cliff, I failed, miserably. My stomach was too big. It was in the way. I couldn’t get my leg high enough to reach the very first foothold, so I never got off the ground. I had never been so embarrassed, and my spirit was crushed. I thought I’d never climb again.

Then surgery cured my illness and took the weight off. I was able to work out and build muscle. And five years later, I was about to conquer the cliff. The rocks are a lot more crowded than they were back when I first climbed. There were scout troops and college climbing teams on cliffs next to us. I hoped I wouldn’t embarrass myself again. On our ride there, remembering the last time I attempted a climb, I asked Doug, “What if I can’t do it?” He said, “You’re in the best shape you’ve been since your twenties. You’ll do it. And if you can’t today, we’ll try again.”

Doug set up the rope. I strapped on my harness and studied the cliff, looking for a good route. The first ten feet were like steps. Then came the sheer face. I searched for cracks and tiny ledges. It was when I neared the top that I heard one of the college boys say to Doug, “She’s got a good climb going.” He replied, “Yeah. Pretty amazing. She hasn’t climbed in about 15 years. Five years ago, we weren’t sure she would live. But look at her now.” That’s when the tears welled up. I shook them off, moved my foot up to a small crack at my hip and pushed. My hand reached up and grabbed the top of the cliff. Success. I had done it! I leaned back, letting Doug hold me there. Then he eased the rope as I hopped down the rock face. He met me at the bottom with a hug. I never felt so good.

That was six years ago last week. We didn’t go rock climbing this year, although I’d like to. I would have to pick a “good” day, one free of pain. There aren’t many of those. The last two years have taken away my strength and physical abilities but not my spirit. I still think “I could climb that” when I pass a rock face along the highway. And I know that my sufferings are just momentary, light afflictions.

Although my spirit has been redeemed, I await the redemption of my body. That day is coming, and I look forward to it. Like the top of that cliff, it may be a long climb and more challenging than I anticipated, but with perseverance, the reward will be great.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17 ESV)

 

Hidden Scars

“Where is your scar?” It seems like an odd question. A friend was comparing our appendectomy stories. She thought it strange that she had a scar on the left side of her abdomen if her appendix had been on the right side. My operating-room-nurse husband explained why surgeons go across rather than down to retrieve the little bugger.

That led to a discussion on scars. It was more of a monologue—me complaining about my abdomen full of scars, which I keep hidden from the public. I’ve had at least five abdominal surgeries. We decided that since my largest scar looks like railroad tracks running from my sternum to my bellybutton, I should get a little railroad-gate tattoo. And I could top it off with a bellybutton piercing with a little bell to signal the gate. Maybe add a train – the engine on my belly and the caboose on my…caboose. My scars could be something that would make me smile and maybe even wear a bikini—NOT.

One of my scars is the reminder of my C-section. Of course, the outcome of that scar was my precious baby boy. But, through that, I learned I don’t heal right. I didn’t know there was a right way to heal, but there is. Bodies are supposed to heal from the inside out. As the inside heals, it pushes out fluid and other junk. The unhealed outer layer allows the inside junk to drain. But I heal from the outside in. Since the skin healed before the inside, the fluid and junk got trapped and ended up infected. To get it to drain, the scar had to be reopened, twice. My doctor basically popped it open with an overgrown Q-tip. It hurt, but it did the trick. Once the inside stopped draining, it was safe to allow the outside scar to form.

I spent this week at an intense conference on Child Sexual Abuse. I realized through this conference that I have scars no one sees, even more than I knew were there. They are very deep inside. Sometimes they get reopened, ripped open, and the junk they keep inside spills out. But most of the time, they stay hidden deep within. On the outside, I look great. I smile and laugh and live life large. Like the scars on my “squishy belly” (as my granddaughter calls it), you will probably never see my deep emotional and spiritual scars. But I know they are there, constant reminders of the trauma I suffered.

There’s no dressing up these scars, no tattoos for comic relief. But they have a purpose. They have made me not just who I am but a better version of who I am. Because of my scars, I am a more compassionate, empathetic person. I am able to walk with others who have similar scars and understand their pain. At times I even know exactly what salve to apply to those scars to help them heal. None of this came easily or quickly. My scars were formed and reopened many times over decades. Every time they caused trouble and needed attention, I learned more about healing. Most importantly, I learned that God sent his Son to comfort the brokenhearted. He was pleased to crush his own Son so that I could be healed through his wounds (Isaiah 53).

At Jesus’ resurrection, his scars were still visible, even touchable, had Thomas taken him up on the offer. They had accomplished their purpose. While still evident, their time of being in the forefront was over. At the times that I wish Child Sexual Abuse was not the thing, the scar, that he called me to, I remember that Jesus agonized over God’s will for him but obeyed. Because he did, the world has hope and a future. What if he wants to take my suffering, my scars, and use them to bring hope and a future to just a few. It will all be worth it.

“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captive and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1b NIV)

Project Jetway

Last week’s trip to California took me through four different airports. What a great opportunity for people-watching, one of my favorite activities. I don’t understand some travelers. Kudos to those who wear comfortable clothing, easy-on/off shoes, and are ready for the security check point. The problem is there is a fairly large number of travelers who make me wonder what they were thinking. Did they forget they were going to the airport when they got dressed that morning? Did they not think about getting through security and sitting on a plane? I just don’t get it.

This week, I am offering some travel advice. No life lessons, just a little advice (and maybe a few laughs).

I saw a deluge of women wearing very short skirts. I don’t get it. You are going to spend the majority of your time sitting down. I wear skirts, so I know that when you sit, the skirt rides up. And it seems the shorter and tighter, the more it rises. And when you stand up after a long flight, it’s not exactly a piece of cake to pull that skirt back into its original position, especially if you can’t stand up straight until you are in the aisle. Besides the impracticality, some were just wrong. A fashion faux pas at best. One of those extra-short, super-tight skirts was a yellow plaid with matching cap. Maybe she was on her way to work at one of those Irish pubs…by plane. Poor choice.

Lace-up, knee-high boots. You have to take them off to go through security. I don’t get it. To make matters worse, you wore them with very tight pants, making it much more difficult to bend over far enough to get the boots off. I hate to see you struggle. It brings back bad memories from the ‘70s.

Metal hair clips. Dozens of them. Yes, it’s very colorful and a nice style for you, but really, you didn’t think about security, did you? Yes, you have to take them out. Yes, that holds up the line. I don’t get it. Again, where did you think you were going? And the jewelry, too. Not to be outdone by the amount of metal in your hair, the bling hanging on every part of your body may make our plane overweight, delaying our flight. Not cool.

Heavy coats. I often fly in the winter from Philly. I leave my winter coat in the car and run into the terminal before being flash frozen. I can understand taking your winter coat with you if you are flying to another wintery climate (don’t do that—go somewhere warm). But last week I flew through Phoenix. Arizona. In September. It was the people leaving Phoenix wearing the parkas. Wearing them, not carrying them. I don’t get it. Are they already freezing? If they are freezing in Phoenix, their only destination should be Death Valley.

Then there was the guy dressed in shorts, some sort of character crew socks, loafers, a brightly colored golf shirt, and a fake-straw bowler-style hat. This guy had done a lot right, even though he has clearly never watched a single episode of “What Not To Wear.” He looked comfortable. He wore easy-on, easy-off shoes. He wasn’t carrying anything that looked suspicious, which might cause a hold-up in security. The problem here is that his kids aren’t going to pick him up. They will see him at the curb, waving and jumping, and they will keep moving, circling around and around. They will ignore him until no one is left and no one can see that this man is with them. Guaranteed his checked bag has some identifying mark, like his initials printed in red on an 8×11 laminated sheet of paper, attached with bright orange camo duct tape. Trust me. Parents visiting your children, dress not to embarrass.

There were many more that made me laugh, question, shake my head, and wonder aloud. Sometimes I am in such awe, words fall out of my mouth without me realizing until they hit the air. Oops. I used to get mad at these people who would hold up the security line with their coats and laced boots and hair clips. But not anymore. I paid for TSA Precheck—no removing jackets, shoes, hair clips, or even laptops. Just get in the short line and go. Best travel purchase I have ever made! Come on over, you travel-fashion nightmares. For $85, you can wear whatever you want for the next five years and not hold up anyone else. Happy travels.

Amazed by God (and DNA)

DNA is a funny thing. Spit into a little tube and drop your spit in the mail.  In just a few weeks, you can know more about who you are and where you came from than you ever thought possible. I know because it happened to me.

As an adoptee in PA, I had the opportunity last year to request my original birth certificate. I’m sure it was a money-making venture for the budget in Harrisburg. There were no promises made. Birth parents names could be listed but may not be. No guarantees, but for twenty dollars, it was worth finding out. I bet their little venture brought in millions of dollars. If nothing else, it was a good fundraising effort.

For twenty-five years or so, I have known my birth name. When I first heard it and then read it in my adoption records, I had trouble processing it. I felt like two different people. It was all very strange. But I got used to it and even made my birth name my alter ego–the one who did things I didn’t want to own up to, the one you didn’t want to make angry. I never thought I would know any more about the family I came from. But then my birth certificate arrived in the mail with my mother’s name on it (she was deceased). Over the past nine months, I have had the incredible opportunity to meet several members of my mother’s family. My father’s name wasn’t on the birth certificate, but my mother’s family knew who it was.

I reached out to his sister (my father was deceased). When she replied that she didn’t think he could be my father, I thought any further discovery of that side of the family would be a dead end. Enter DNA. It bothered her and her family enough that they decided to do a DNA test. Why not? Ancestry was having a sale (first clue we are related). I was shocked when my family tree suddenly had more leaves on it. So were they! But DNA doesn’t lie–it may confuse siblings with first cousins, but it knows they are family.

This weekend, I had the privilege of meeting some of my father’s family. I was so nervous. Knowing their initial skepticism, would they be happy about meeting me? Would they accept me? Was this a good idea? My fears were quickly allayed when introductions went straight to hugs. What a joy it was! What delightful family members. One thing about DNA, you find out who you are related to, but you might not be too happy about it. Not the case here. The family members I met are fantastic and beautiful (not that there is any family resemblance to me)! They are warm and loving and obviously have close ties to one another. They took the time to make a photo album for me, which I will always cherish.

Like my mother’s family, this one also has strange coincidences. My paternal birth-grandparents lived on Columbia Avenue. My paternal grandmother lived on Columbia Avenue in a different town. My birth father had heart disease and underwent bypass surgery in 1987. My dad had heart disease and underwent bypass surgery in 1988. Both fathers died within days of their birthdays. My birth family lost my father at age 54, a few days after his birthday. I learned of their DNA results at age 54, a few days after my birthday. They are Italian. I always wanted to be Italian (anything that has to do with pizza and spaghetti is for me).

This has been an amazing journey. I truly believe God removed me from one family and placed me in another for a purpose. I am confident it was the best thing for me. To now have the opportunity to know my birth families is an added blessing. As I have always told my children, life is all about relationships. Just as God had a purpose in taking me out of my birth families 54 years ago, he has a purpose for putting them back in my life now. I wonder what he has in store. I’m sure it will be amazing. Amazement is one of his specialties.

The context of the following verse is the crowd’s reaction after Jesus healed a paralytic. Although taken out of context here, It conveys exactly how I am feeling. “And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen extraordinary things today.'” (Luke 5:26)

A Childlike Faith

IMG_4284

Watching my grandchildren wears me out. One particularly tiring day, after putting 10-month-old Sam down for a nap, I suggested to Emma that we take a nap while her brother slept. Emma, being the ripe old age of four, doesn’t take naps anymore. But I tried. “Emma, Mom-mom is really sleepy. Why don’t we both take a nap?”

“No, I don’t want to take a nap.”

“But I’m really sleepy, so I’m going to lie down for a little while. You should try to nap too. You can lie on the sofa with me.”

I made myself comfy on the chaise section of my sofa and closed my eyes, hoping she would follow suit. But within seconds, I heard her at the other end of the sofa, praying. “Dear God, I love playing with my mom-mom so much. Please make her not so sleepy so we can have more fun together. Amen. Mom-mom, did God answer my prayer?”

Not fair. What am I supposed to say? I can’t tell her he’s too busy—she already knows that he never sleeps and is never too busy to answer a multitude of prayers at the same time. With a dad as a pastor, she is beyond her years in understanding doctrinal principles some adults would struggle with. I couldn’t help it—I laughed. And now I can’t tell her God’s answer was ‘no’ because I am actually not so sleepy anymore. Maybe it was the endorphins released with laughing. But even that is a function God designed our bodies to do, so maybe that’s how he woke me up, answering her prayer. Whatever the method my answer was, “Yes, Emma, God answered your prayer.”

“Yea! Let’s play!”

I laughed about this for quite a while, then I posted it on Facebook. I’m reasonably sure there are people following my Facebook page just to hear about Emma’s antics. I wouldn’t want to disappoint them. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized this is exactly the kind of childlike faith we all ought to have. Emma prayed because she truly believed God would answer her. It wasn’t her last resort. She didn’t try several other things before asking God to intervene. Prayer was plan A. And she anticipated a positive outcome, not to mention a quick one. Yes, at some point, she’ll learn that God doesn’t always answer so quickly. She may need to bring a request to God over and over. But while he may not answer in the way she wants or in the timing she would like, somehow, I don’t think Emma will give up.

My 4-year-old granddaughter has once again taught me valuable life lessons:
• Pray first
• Believe God will answer
• Trust Him with the outcome
• Have the faith of a child

“Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child, shall not enter it.” (Mark 10:15 ESV)

Not My Way…

“I wouldn’t have gone this way.” It has become my passenger-seat mantra. When my husband and I go somewhere together, I prefer that he drive. The poor man has started asking me which way he should go, just to avoid my trademark comment. Of course, it is almost always followed by, “No, no, it’s fine. You didn’t know there would be so much traffic.” The inference is that I did know and would have avoided it. I’m just smarter, I guess.

We just returned from vacation: a road trip of 600 miles and 12 hours, each way. While we shared the driving, he did most of it. Seven hours into the trip, we came to a halt in four lanes of stopped traffic. It seemed that it was going to remain that way for some time, so we decided to hop off the highway and go on an adventure.

It was probably the best trip we’ve done because I wasn’t familiar with the roads or area we were driving through. We just looked at the map and took a chance. It was actually fun. I had no idea where exactly we were going, but I was enjoying the ride. There was so much to discover: quaint downtowns, country lanes, mountain views. We weren’t pushing through as quickly as possible on the highway, with only our destination in mind. It wasn’t upsetting to stop at a traffic light or meander at a slow speed through a small town. There were new sights to enjoy along the way. And not once did I say, “I wouldn’t have gone this way.”

For me, this easily translates to my spiritual life. I say God is in control and I completely trust him. But then he goes the “wrong” way. He takes me down a path I think is a mistake, full of bumps and hazards and dead ends. “I wouldn’t have gone this way,” I say. Do I think I am smarter than God? I’m not even as smart as my husband. But then I find the path he chose is the best one. When I allow him to drive my life, I can relax in the passenger seat. Have you ever noticed that when you switch from driver to passenger you see things you never noticed before? Since you aren’t focused on the road ahead and the traffic, you see the beauty along the way. For the first time, you notice the way the trees move in the breeze, the patterns of the hex signs on the barns, a curious gravel path that winds up a hill.

With God in the driver’s seat, I don’t need to fear the bumps in the road. He is in control and always takes the right route. When his way is not what I would have chosen, I am tempted to question his decision and even offer a better option. The way I had planned out seemed best—the way that would accomplish all I wanted. But when I trust his driving, I can take my place in the passenger seat and see things I otherwise would have missed: the green pastures, still waters, and his goodness and mercy. And his way always results in an incredible view of his glory.

“He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3

asphalt blue sky clouds countryside
Photo by Nextvoyage on Pexels.com

 

Phloxed!

Pain. Everywhere. My Achilles tendons felt like they would snap if I moved. Pain shot through my hips and shoulders. I couldn’t make a fist, my hands and fingers were too painful to bend.

It was August 2, 2016. I went to sleep finally starting to feel better after two months of illness and fatigue. The doctors had finally found the culprit: Campylobacter, the most common form of food poisoning. Most people don’t even know they have it. They have the runs for a week or so, and it goes away on its own. But not me, my body just couldn’t flush it out of my system. But they found it and were treating it with Levaquin, one of the most commonly-prescribed antibiotics, taken by millions of people every day. As I lie there in bed that morning, wondering how I could even get to my phone downstairs to call for help, I remembered the black box warning.

Levaquin and other antibiotics in the fluoroquinolone family can cause tendon rupture, especially of the Achilles. Not wanting to panic and make things worse, I gingerly rolled out of my bed. Maybe a hot shower would help. Nope. I made my way downstairs, walking like a worn-out zombie, unable to bend my joints and afraid of rupturing my Achilles. I told the doctor my symptoms. She said, “Stop the medication. I’ll order something else.” I hung up, thinking, “Good, this will pass as soon as the medication is out of my system.” I was so wrong.

Initially, the pain did subside, but it didn’t stop completely. After a few weeks, it started getting worse. I asked my GI doctor, who had prescribed the Levaquin, when could I expect to be pain free. She didn’t know. My family doctor didn’t know. My orthopedic doctor didn’t know. My pain management doctor didn’t know. ER doctors didn’t know. Neurosurgeons didn’t know. No one knew. I learned that though all the doctors know this side effect can happen, no one knows what to do when it does happen. I started researching it online and found one book on the topic. It only took a few seconds to download it onto my Kindle. Flipping through the first time, I learned that I had been “phloxed,” the term they use for tendon damage due to fluoroquinolone toxicity. But what I was reading wasn’t promising. It said this condition is likely permanent.

I started reading more in depth. There was no known cure, and treatment was mostly nutrition and supplements that encourage new cell growth. It is thought that the antibiotic actually made changes to my DNA. It blew up my healthy tendon cells, so when those cells replicated, they replicated in the wrong pattern, causing chronic pain and potential rupture. Not good news. Three months after being phloxed, the pain was so unbearable that I spent my days on the couch or in my bedroom, in the dark because the tendons behind my eyes were so painful, with ice packs everywhere. Nothing helped: not anti-inflammatories, not narcotic pain relievers, and especially not steroid injections. I can never have steroid injections again–I can’t even describe the pain they brought on. We rented a stair climber and borrowed a wheelchair. I asked my husband, who is a nurse, if a person can die from pain. That seemed to be the direction this was heading.

The book recommended getting as much Magnesium as possible: soak in Epsom salts, take it orally, use topical gel. I did, and within two weeks had so much relief, I thought it was over. I was on the road to recovery. But roads have potholes. I had one setback after another. Each time, I analyzed what I had eaten and what activity I had done. No more meat that isn’t specifically marked “antibiotic free.”

What loomed large for me was the fact that the one thing doctors were pretty sure of was whatever damage remains after two years is permanent. Today is that two-year mark. This morning I woke up thinking about how I feel today versus two years ago. Definitely much improved. As time has gone by, the risk of tendon rupture has gone down. But I still have setbacks, and I still have pain every day. I never know if I am waking up to a bad-pain day or a good-pain day. I have accepted that this is my new normal. Two years ago I was running three miles a day, working out every other day, lifting my grandchildren, even rock climbing. Most of that way of life is gone.

Last week, my husband gave me a book for my birthday, Believe It, by Nick Foles (Eagles quarterback and Super Bowl LII MVP). It is about him going from considering retiring to the pinnacle of his career. I love football. And I especially love the Eagles. But the part of his book that impressed me the most was what he wrote about his wife’s battle with a chronic illness.

Nick Foles’ wife, Tori, has POTS, a rare, chronic, painful disease. Toward the end of the book, he wrote, “Tori’s struggle with POTS is another example of being at our weakest and needing to trust God every day–even for something like summoning the strength to move from point A to point B. When Tori got sick, we had to dismiss any illusions that we had control over our lives, because at that point, we knew we didn’t. There were times when no one else could tell that she was struggling, but even then, her struggle wasn’t invisible to God. Of course, we wish Tori didn’t have to go through the constant management of a chronic illness, but over the years, we’ve seen God use this trial to strengthen our relationship and our faith . . . Tori would say that she wouldn’t change a thing about the path God led us on. Neither would I.”

I realized that I need to stop trying to get back to where I was. That is in the past. I will probably never have that level of physical ability again. But I can trust God’s plan. Every day I can do my best to manage my pain and trust him to get me through it. I have done all that I can do, from changing my diet to physical therapy. It is in his hands, and I know he is walking with me through the daily pain, the setbacks, and whatever comes next. I have the privilege of living in his strength when I am at my weakest. I have decided to look at my chronic pain as a gift he has entrusted to me. I am looking forward to where God will lead me, even if it is without my beloved high heels.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 English Standard Version (ESV)
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

A Time to Rest

“If you have no time to rest, it’s exactly the right time.” ~ Mark Twain

Call it vacation, hiatus, break time, unplugging–whatever you call it, one thing is for sure, it will be a time of rest. There are times of taking off from work that don’t include rest. We pack all we can into the few days we have free. We don’t go to work, but we fill every minute with things to do. Don’t get me wrong, those kinds of vacations are fun and have their place, but so does having a time of rest. That’s what next week’s vacation will be for me.

We are blessed to have a place, a little cabin in the Maine woods, perfect for resting. It’s quiet and peaceful. We sleep in and wake up slowly. We take time to read and relax, two things our hectic schedules leave little time for. We will have some maintenance that will need to be done. And we may tax our muscles kayaking. But mostly we will rest, allowing our bodies, minds, and spirits to renew.

In searching for a quote on “rest,” I was happy to find that most of them came from the Bible. They were promises from God. He promised we will find rest in his presence. He promised a place of rest. He promised rest to the weary. In fact, he asks us to enter his rest, to lay down our burdens and rest in him. It’s a complete and perfect rest.

In caring for his disciples, Jesus tells them to rest in a way that appeals to me. In Mark 6:31-32, after a busy time of ministry, he says to them: “‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.”

kayaks

Boats, check. Desolate, check. I hope to get a taste of that rest next week, relaxing by the lake, breathing in the fir-tree-scented air, and reflecting on the glory of God with every sunset. My friend Verna Bowman put it very well on her own blog (https://vernabowman.com/the-art-of-rest/) : Take long walks and listen to the trees. Read a book beside still waters. Take this time to refresh your faith and experience a sacred linger to visit the sanctuary of your heart. And notice the change.

Don’t expect to hear from me for a week, maybe two. I’ll be resting.

sunset