“Don’t want to beat a dead horse…”

I have had an interesting past couple of months. I had injured my back and my shoulder, simultaneously it turns out, and began visiting a chiropractor, who referred me to my personal doctor, who referred me to a neurosurgeon, who in turn referred me to a pain management physician. Whew. Lots of referrals. And last Friday I was given injections directly into my spine to try and ease the pain. I was scared to death, because I faint when I get shots. So one in my spine was scaring the poop out of me. I must admit I was being a baby. But this stupid dance with 24/7 pain for the past 8 weeks, has been one filled with (if I can carry the analogy even further) trips and stumbles, and very little harmony or joy. At least the neurosurgeon did say that nerve pain is far worse than giving birth. I think I would agree, since when I did give birth, it was done without even Tylenol. And so I felt acknowledged and that was comfort in and of itself. And although Friday was not a fun day, especially when the lidocaine wore off, by Saturday afternoon, I was pain free. For the first time in more than 70 days. And trust me, I am extremely grateful.

I was introduced to this “attitude of gratitude” idea a few years ago. I was challenged to keep a Gratitude Journal for 40 days. I would wake and say my prayers, and then immediately express my gratitude for whatever was in front of me, good or difficult, for that day. It was a struggle, day after day, to start with a thankful attitude. But what it did for me, well, it changed me. Because I learned to be grateful for the blessings, but also the opportunities to learn to feel thankful for the trials in my life. It is a big adjustment.

Each season, I drag out this box that barely fits under our bed, filled with seasonal decor. I have something for each “Hallmark Holiday” we have throughout the year. There are stickers or clings for my windows, different placemats I put on our side tables, little statues or signs. Even wreaths for different seasons for our door, and flags for the little flag display in our front flowerbed. And I keep specific things in my cupboards above my washer and dryer (I am vertically challenged and they are way too tall to use regularly) that won’t fit under my bed. As I hauled down my paper mâché turkey for our table, and my pretend tiny pumpkins for my little crystal bowl, I found this banner I had bought a couple of years ago. It is made of balsa wood and is colored in fall colors. It’s made of little leaves strung together on twine, separated by letters. And this year I thought to myself, I want this above our fireplace/TV area. It is where I would look at it every day. At the time, I was facing surgery for both my spine and shoulder. And I was frightened. But I wanted to remind myself that even in the worst of times, we need to be grateful, and we need to subsume our will to the will of God, for our lives. What is below is as close to what I have that I could find online.

I was trying to feel grateful even for the days of fog spent with pain and medication. Now please don’t get me wrong, I am not whining. I am trying to share from the point of view of where I am learning to place gratitude first. And, honestly, I am so very grateful. Because I believe God brought me to an abrupt stop. And He gave me time to reflect. He gave me time to gather myself. This world can splinter us. It can get us into a space of crazy chaos and noise. It can make our days fly by with no discernible accomplishment. An accomplishment can be simple – we give thanks to God. We make our bed. We get dressed. We call that person we have been meaning to contact. We file papers. We are present to those who are around us. We do the job we were intended to do. It does not have to be equal to slaying a giant with a rock, or some epic task. That being said, all our small accomplishments each day are our giants, and we are David, gifted with a small rock.

Today I was reflecting, as I glanced up at my “Gratitude” banner, that I am so very blessed. I had prayed for deliverance from the cycle of pain I was in, through God’s grace and in His plan for my life. And here I sit, my 3rd day with no pain. I am truly grateful. And I am focusing more on what is out there, in front of me. I am grateful for my husband and family; for my friends who I can call and whine to and who get me. I am beyond thankful for the health professionals who are caring for me, and helping me heal, pain-free. I am grateful for where I live. I love my home and the property around us; the trees and weather and my cute little bird houses outside. There is so much that God is doing for us, if we just stop and notice. When we make our environment simple, the blessings can jump out at you. And today, with the frost sticking to the ground for most of the this day, I am grateful to live where I can see the movement of nature and the seasons. I can appreciate the brief sunshine on the plants I rescued this weekend from the death of frost outside, sitting by my windows in their new pots. I can reflect at the little things…the wag of the short tail of our dog; the smile on my son’s face when he came home from a fire-fighting training. The joy of laughter shared over silly stories and jokes. The joy of having the life I have. An attitude of gratitude can color even your darkest days. And in those places, God reaches out to you…grab ahold!

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