“…He will wipe away every tear…”

One day…

For those of us who live with some sort of chronic, or recurring pain, some days it is hard to smile. Especially when we try to push through without relying on medication. Stretches, or a warm and jetted tub, salves and massages, and essential oils are where many of us turn for relief. There are so many ways to deal with chronic and recurring pain. And laying the pain at the foot of the cross is a huge way to gain perspective on pain.

Not many people spend time contemplating the foot of the cross. I had a dream once, and a friend actually drew me a picture of what I had seen (which I found in a box and promised myself I will frame) as I gazed up at the feet of Christ, impaled on the Cross. In my dream, I heard swooshing and loud winds. There were large drops of rain falling and splashing all around me. I could only look up, and I could not move side-to-side, nor could I turn my head. I could only see the feet of Christ. And then I felt a warm dribbling liquid surrounding me, and I immediately felt comforted, loved, embraced, and free. I could look around me and realized I was a pebble; really just a small stone; and I was holding the Cross upright, along with a myriad of other small stones. We were a part of the dirt the Cross was embedded into. And the thought came to me: “Even the dirt surrounding the Cross was sanctified by His sacrifice.” The earth was renewed by the sacrificial Blood of Christ.

This dream has been with me since my children were small. And at the time, we only had two children. Not even teens, yet. And this dream is every bit as vivid today as it was more than 20 years ago when it happened to me. The feelings return and the sounds are especially poignant. I do believe Christ was speaking to me, helping me realize that I was part of His story. I may only be an insignificant pebble, but I am part of it. And each of us plays our part in the Story of Redemption.

Redemption through the Cross of Christ

Many years ago, I was introduced to the concept of “offer it up.” And it was applied to pretty much anything. My father-in-law used to tell his kids when they were slightly hurt, “Rub some dirt on it.” We, in turn, told our kids the same thing. Ha-Ha. And the idea of offering something up is to apply it to all we do. What are we offering it up to? The redemptive act of Christ on the Cross. There is no way I can ever repay Him for what He has done for me. But I can offer my toils and my pains to Him in a small way of reparation, and of joining to His suffering.

It is not something most protestants and other religious ideologies embrace. It is a Catholic thing; an eastern thing. We follow the steps of Christ every Lenten observance. We entwine our lives within the context of sacrifice and service. And we participate in the redemptive action of the Cross when we unite ourselves to Christ. Our actions towards our daily lives and the issues that cause our bumpy ride, as well as how we interact with others, can all be offered to Christ in reparation for His act for us. Fasting – from foods, from language, from TV, from things that do not bring us closer to Him are all acts having redemptive value. We join our meager sufferings to His. And it is a powerful process – each Lent and each Apostles’ Fast, we can join in the redemptive action of the Cross.

Chronic, aching, back…

I am so much like my paternal grandmother. And I strive to be like her in how I treat others and how I lovingly care for others. But physically, it’s more like I am her daughter. I have her hands and feet. I am a larger woman, which she struggled with her entire life, and which plagues me daily. I am even beginning to have her white hair – which I always loved and am rather pleased about. Grandma injured her back in a vehicle accident as a young woman and had back issues the rest of her life. A little more than a year ago, I lifted a 9-foot leather couch in order to vacuum under it, thinking I was 40 years old instead of 60+ years of age. I tore my right shoulder (which I had stem cell replacement for) and ruptured 5 discs in my spine, starting at C-3 and working its way down to my lumbar area. I have had injections in all the sites. The doctor told me I would get a year or more relief from the injections and we are coming up to 2 years. I think my relief is over. Or at the very least, severely waning.

I was doing so well I began water aerobics. Ouch. And then I rested and it was better. This past weekend I was climbing into my husband’s truck on the start of a camping journey and I wrenched my back. It’s been non-stop pain since. I spent most of the weekend propped under a tarp (it was raining) with pillows, a blanket, and Tylenol. Ugh.

And I am desperately working on my mindset. How I can align this constant nagging pain with the redemptive act of Christ. Every time He was whipped or beaten, that was because of my sins. Each cut or wound on His body, every bruise, every nail – all from my actions. How can I ameliorate His pain and use mine for something besides complaining?

There is a wonderful prayer I recite when I need solace:

Anima Christi Prayer

I learned a slightly different wording, but this is the prayer. My favorite part is, “Within thy wounds hide me. Never let me be separated from thee. From the wicked enemy defend me, and at the hour of death call me, that I might come to thee and with thy saints I might praise thee for ever and ever. Amen”. Okay. So that is most of the prayer. Ha-Ha. But I always imagined myself hiding within His wounds, peeking out from where the soldier stabbed Him in the side, all safe and warm. Nothing morbid or gross or bloody and fleshy. Just safely hidden in the side of Christ, protected from the wickedness and snares of the devil. (A sentence from another prayer I love). And when I imagine myself safe within Him, the pain eases somehow. I feel warm, and protected, and loved. And when you have all those things, back aches are not as onerous and life-impacting. I can accomplish all the duties of my station in life, aching as I go, but smiling from within the Wounds of Christ. Does that sound weird? Yeah, it does a little bit. But being a visual person who conjures scenes using words, it works for me. And as I sit here, the pain is less, just talking about it. Yes, my knees are propped up on my recliner and I am sitting in a position to ease the cramping pain, but my heart is at rest as well.

My peace I give to you…

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“The soft life…”

I am pretty sure there is a lesson here for me, somewhere. I really dislike being laid up.  I injured my back (3 diagnoses, same treatment) and have been given 3 medicines, had a shot in my backside twice, been subjected to ice packs and heating pads, and prescribed bed rest for 3-6 weeks.  I decided to back off the pain pills for today, and have made it until 3:30pm, but I think I am going to have to give in and take them. I hate not being “present” and yet I know I need to be still.  It is hard to find a comfy position other than laying flat in bed or standing up.  So lucky for those who actually read this, because it will be short!!

Didache

“The Didache  (Διδαχή) or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (Didachē means “Teaching”]) is a brief early Christian treatise dated by most scholars to the late first or early second century. The first line of this treatise is “Teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles (or Nations) by the Twelve Apostles.”  The text, parts of which constitute the oldest surviving written catechism, has three main sections dealing with Christian ethics, rituals such as baptism and Eucahrist, and Church organization. It is considered the first example of the genre of the Church orders.” (Orthowiki)

I have used this photo and quote in quite a number of posts, and it seems to be cropping up, again.  I am looking for the whys in my current situation and pretty much have decided that God is telling me to stop, allow what is happening to happen, and to trust in Him.

Without too much detail, I have had problems with my spine for years.   I felt a pop and experienced searing pain last Wednesday, and sought the advice of a doctor here in town (as well as the ER and a third visit for a second spinal injection).  A big, wonderful, and good thing that has come out of this was meeting a new doctor, whom I liked right away, and finding out why I have so many back issues.  When this acute issue has been taken care of, I now have a health plan to get me where I want to be, and someone to walk me through it.  What a total blessing.  As I left his office, he told me his entire staff was praying for me.  How often do we hear those words out of the mouth of a doctor?  Thrilled!

The other thing is that I have had to just sit and not allow myself to over-worry about things I have no control over.  I laughingly thought of a comic drawing of a mom, laid up, with the house running amok (dirty laundry, dishes in the sink, messy home).  And I seriously cannot worry that our clean clothes are almost all used up. I have a healthy teenager who is going to assist me with that. They will more than likely not be done according to my standards, but they will be clean! I can do this! I can let things go!  (And not go crazy looking at it all day long….I’m trying!!!).Elder PaosiosElder Paisios the Athonite, quoted above, knows that living a soft and easy life makes us all useless.  We need to have that struggle, and we need to work towards our sanctification.  There is no way I consider myself holy or sanctified, but rather a work in progress. And I think God is slowing me down a little bit so I can have my attention focused, and pay greater attention, to what He wishes for me in my life.  The world is such a loud, confusing jumble of noise, that many of us forget that God walks next to us throughout our lives.  At the very least, one of His Angels walks with us.  I often imagine what my angel must look like; I am pretty sure she is tired! LOL!

Orthodox Notes.4And so I can opt to use this time of quiet and isolation to still do battle for my soul and for the souls of those I love. I can choose to pray.  And I have been praying, in between naps brought on by medication.  It feels good. I thought of starting with my phone, looking at my contacts, and praying for each person in there.  And my Facebook friends; my email contact list; people who follow my blog.  These are all people I can diligently pray for.  Which makes being laid up and in pain useful for something!  And prayers are never wasted.  Pope Benedict XVI used his weekly General Audience to explain that there is no such thing as wasted prayer.  “We can be sure that there is no such thing as a superfluous or useless prayer. No prayer is lost,” said the Pope to over 8,000 pilgrims in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall Sept. 12.  “When faced with evil we often have the sensation that we can do nothing, but our prayers are in fact the first and most effective response we can give, they strengthen our daily commitment to goodness. The power of God makes our weakness strong.” (9/12/12).

Sometimes I think God has to hit us with 2 x 4’s to get our attention.  For me, it is the nerve cluster in my back! Boing! Pain can really get your attention, can’t it?  God has my attention and I am turning to Him for comfort, but I am also using my time for prayers…that’s all I can pull out of this for now.  Back to ice pack and meds!

Blessings….

St. Ambrose of Milan2

“In all things give thanks.” 1Thess 5:18

DidacheSo I had all these awesome plans for blessing our house.  I wrote a post for this blog about it.  As I ended that post, I mentioned ‘chasing elusive dust bunnies.”  Well, as I was reaching down to grab one by its ears, I heard a “pop” in my back and felt searing pain.  Oh boy. House blessing not happening!

I was able to get into a new Chiropractor my son is seeing, and that poor guy!  The first time he meets me, I am literally crying and screaming whenever he touches me.  We take x-rays, we massage, we do all these weird things I had never experienced before. This went on for about 2 hours and I was relaxing and actually pain-free!  Then he tilted the table so I could stand, and wowser! The pain was so intense I cried and cried, started to shake, and could not hold myself up.  I was literally sinking to the floor, if my husband and the doctor had not held me up.  They put a large “cinch” or “truss” around my waist, gave me an ice pack, and sent me on my way to the ER.  There are some things even a Chiropractor cannot handle…and me and my back last night was one of those things.

Off we went to ER.  Did I mention this was in a snowstorm (well, for here it was being called a “light dusting” of 1-2 inches)? The ER doctor had a completely different diagnosis than the Chiropractor, but their treatments were exactly the same…bed rest, laying as flat as possible, for the next 2-3 days.  Right.  As you can tell, I am not laying flat.  Been as flat as I could be in my recliner, for hours upon hours.  Standing is fine. Sitting is its own kind of hell.  Ice packs, heating pads, pain meds.  And I cannot move without something tweaking and hurting.

But I am giving thanks.  I had someone acknowledge my long, long struggle with back issues.  There are reasons for the intermittent issues I have with my back and trunk muscles (I felt vindicated for all my episodes and times of extreme pain; the times I could not work, let alone even move.  My husband said he always believed me, but to have a doctor confirm it and x-rays show it, made me feel justified somehow).  And I see options ahead of me.  This should have been dealt with years ago, but I put it off (not a big fan of doctors!).  I usually only see a doctor for an issue – not a very good preventative maintenance person.  (At least where my health is concerned). Through the pain, the way ahead seems clearer, somehow, like God wanted this to happen so I could just get on with it, and deal with it.

As I was in agony, I was able to pray.  I was able to surrender to what may lie ahead for me.  And I clung to my family.  My husband held my hand and tried to make light of it.  His concern and his love were obvious to me.  And I felt loved, from my family and my friends who I knew and know are praying for me.  My kids are kicking in and helping out with some things for my youngest son…driving him here and there in the falling snow; dropping off uniforms for CAP this weekend; dropping off my RXs, making us dinner…wow, I am blessed!

So I will give thanks…thanks that I have found a doctor in a new town.  Thanks that I am getting some medical intervention that I need.  Thankful my kids are close by and are wonderfully attentive.  And thankful for some down time.  Painful downtime, but I am still.  Picking up, once again, some favorite books but most especially, “Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives,” by Elder Thaddeus.  As the Chiropractor was helping me into the car last night (in snowy weather) he kept telling me to think positive thoughts, and to breathe.  I wonder if he’s read Elder Thaddeus, too?

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