“…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…

Advertisement

“But understand this….

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of Godliness, but denying its power. Avoid these people.

2 Timothy 3:1-5

Good Advice…

I have had a rather rough week. My mom passed away a year ago on Monday. It bothered me more than I thought it would. I can hear her voice and see her smile, and the way her eyes would crinkle up at the corners when she had a big grin on her face. I recall my stepdad telling us a story and mom leaning in and quietly saying, “Like I haven’t heard this one before.” And chuckling at her husband. He was an awesome story teller and even though he told them with great embellishment, we all enjoyed them, laughing all the while. He truly made my mom happy. Now they are both gone and I miss them being in my life so very much.

My dad is still with us. He is 95 and lives in a memory facility on the other side of the country. We chat now and then. This past weekend, he told me he was moving and was busy, and out of breath, packing his room up. I texted my brother, and he confirmed dad was going nowhere that he had been told. I texted my stepsister and her response was, “These are the delusions we live with. This is why he is where he is – we could not handle him any longer.” I had thought it was because of dementia and did not realize his dementia included delusions. It was a hard pill to swallow, as I have been enjoying what I thought were many lucid conversations with him. I spoke with him today and he had no memory of moving anywhere. He lamented that he had lived a good life, is making peace about death, and told me he is lonely. Told me no one comes to see him. And he misses me and wishes he were with me. (I have not seen my dad in person in about 20 years. So this was sort of a shock). He told me he wants me to come and get him and bring him to my home. He realizes I live across the country, but he said he is lonely for family. My stepsister told me that he tells her he does not speak to his kids, just his step kids. Sigh. Dementia. The long goodbye.

Dad’s under the impression that he has led a good life and that he is going to heaven. He also told me that after he hugs Jesus, he’s going to tell Him all the mistakes dad thinks Christ has made. Oh boy. Head-slap. His impression of himself fascinates me. And he knows he is in his last days, and he is beginning to realize that he may not awaken in the not-so-distant future. But he really has no concept of humility, nor of being subservient to anyone – especially if they don’t have the correct credentials. Dad doesn’t respect people very much who are not degreed or wealthy. Where he lives, there are at least 200 other people. He says they lack the education and only talk about farming, fishing, and hunting. None of those subjects interest him. So he sits alone, being miserable, watching birds outside his window and putting together jigsaw puzzles. Alone. In his misery.

The Ladder of Divine Ascent Icon

The icon above is one of my favorites. This is just a portion of it. I have a replica hanging next to the sink in my bathroom. Odd, do you think? Well, I chose that place so that each time I brush my teeth, I contemplate this icon. There are many rungs and there are pitfalls all along the way. Not all of us can hang on until we make it to heaven. Many are heading up there, but demons and choices yank us off. Before we die, if we are aware, we can make better choices and climb up that ladder, having a firmer grasp on our choice of heaven. Everything we do is a choice. And every choice moves us closer to God, or further away. It may just be a tiny step, but the direction is firmly one way or the other. Every, single, day we choose our steps. Every, single day.

In the world right now, life is chaotic. There are so many people making poor choices over and over again. Some people are at the ends of their lives; some are still so young. As I have aged, I have become more tolerant of people whose lifestyles do not align with mine. I choose to worship so differently than most of the people I have in my life, including my children, and other family members, and most of our friends. I do seem to be drawn to like-minded people in the areas of general faith, politics, economics, home life, etc. but they often worship differently. And that is okay. As long as their aim is upwards, towards God, I am good. Some of my friends dye their hair, whereas I do not. Some prefer trucks, while I drive a grandma sedan. Some are vegans, whereas I love my red meats. It’s okay to be friends with those different than us. However, as things get dicier and dicier, I return to the admonishment of St. Timothy above, “Avoid these people.” And in a way, it’s funny because my lifestyle precludes me from associating with many of those exhibiting those traits. Except for some family members. And there is the rub.

Sage advice,,,

I am deeply grateful for my life. I love my husband more than I thought I could love anyone. He is my best friend. He is who my world revolves around. We have amazing kids and grandkids. We live in a gorgeous place among the trees and mountains, streams and lakes. We have two amazing dogs that are accompanying us on this last journey. I have Medicare and just applied for Social Security. Times are slowing down. The glory days are behind us; peace is ahead. And still I ache over issues from family members. My dad is a case in point. We have not been close since I was in my early 20s. Once he left mom and chose to live apart from his family, that’s been his path. And it took him to the opposite side of the country. My youngest son only met him twice – once as a newborn and once as a 4-year-old. He is now 23. My kids have no relationship with their grandfather and he laments that – now. It never bothered him, up until he really started to age. (My kids adored my stepdad, so the roll of grandpa was fulfilled on my half. Their relationship to my in-laws was wonderful. They adored them. So that was great).

My thoughts center around the demented, aging population. How do they reconcile with God? My mom had no concept of God near the end of her life. Dad just thinks he knows better and would like to lecture God about the world. He has always been like that, which is why he flitted from denomination to denomination throughout his life. He could not abide preachers, thinking he knew more than they did. (He also thinks he has multiple doctorates, but that is part of his delusions). I had an Alzheimer’s counselor tell me once that the demented are at peace in their minds. They just don’t communicate out loud very well, and that God knows them intimately, and He knows their hearts. I was somewhat comforted.

Clinging to this for myself, and my loved ones.

And so I am trying to let this go. I seem to be on the verge of tears a lot. My granddaughter is getting three fillings in her teeth today – I wish I could be with her. I wish I could be out of my head some days and find peace. I am going to my grandson’s ball game later this evening. I will endeavor to find joy in the ballfields, amongst the sounds of the game and the children playing all around us. I will suck up the joy and youth and spirit and the life! God knows the hearts of His beloved. He will care for those I cannot care for. He loves us because we love Him. He knew us before we were even born (“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…Jeremiah 1:5) and He will take care of us, as Isaiah reminds us above.

I leave all these thoughts with you because my brain is so busy and there is just so much rambling going on!! May the Lord bless you with peace…

This is for everyone in our lives, but especially our family and friends with dementia.

“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?

390px-OrthodoxCross(black,contoured)