Forging a New Normal

Arthritis pain in the lower back, or lumbar region.

It wasn’t what I wanted to hear.

After months of nearly constant lower back pain that increasingly worsened, trips to two doctors (my PCP and my orthopaedic doctor), X-rays, and a CT scan, I made an appointment with the spine surgeon who’d operated on my neck eight years ago. That surgery went well, and I was able to resume my normal life after recovery. I’d hoped the same would be true this time.

“I want to walk and hike again without pain,” I told the nurse who compiled my information. As well as sleep without the constant ache that invaded my slumber and woke me up through the night.

“I can’t promise you that,” she said.

Surgery wasn’t an option. Operating on the lower back, as opposed to operating on the neck, is a totally different ballgame.

There is no cure for my diagnosis: degenerative arthritis, also called osteoarthritis. Add to the mix scoliosis, a slight curving of the spine in same area as the arthritis. This, I was told, is probably why I have pain, stiffness, and a feeling of instability when I wake up or when I work at the kitchen counter. The back brace I bought helps some.

Instead of surgery, what the doctor prescribed was physical therapy, cortisone shots, and various medications. No quick fix.

No fix at all, as far as I was concerned. I’d rather pursue natural remedies when it comes to health issues. I wanted to avoid the injections. Research into the prescribed medicines revealed two of the three would interact with my blood pressure medicine.

What it boils down is a lifestyle change. Just what I want as I approach the seventh decade of life.

Of course I had my grumbling, complaining, pouting sessions. I’ve been grumbling and complaining for months. My poor little flock (I’m the lay pastor for a small church in Punxsutawney)—they graciously listened to me gripe every week. And DH—the word longsuffering was coined for this man.

What now?

Time to put on my big girl britches and deal with it. Learn to live with it. Without kvetching.

Forge a new normal. Alter my horizons, change my goals, adjust the pace at which I tackle my day. Shorten that to-do list and incorporate physical therapy, exercise, walking, stretches, rest, and meal planning. Educate myself through research.

In addition to pursuing my dream of writing. Sitting for long periods of time is a no-no, but unfortunately that’s par for the writer’s course. So I bought a Fitbit, which reminds me to get up and walk every hour.

It never ceases to amaze me how God meets us in our deepest valleys.

During my quiet time, I’ve been reading Draw the Circle: The 40-Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson. Not following the day-by-day readings, but choosing the selections randomly.

As I wrestled with the diagnosis and the resulting life changes this past week, God led me to Day 4: “Don’t Pray Away.” Batterson related the story of a couple whose three-year-old son fell from a second-story window and was permanently paralyzed.

Here’s what John Tiller, the father, wrote: “It was time to accept his current condition and choose  to live life with disability.… Instead of getting discouraged or getting angry, I choose to look for what God can do.”

Photo by Chad Madden on Unsplash

“Sometimes,” wrote Batterson, “the purpose of prayer is to get out of circumstances, but more often than not, the purpose of prayer is to get us through them.”

There was nothing random about choosing this selection on that particular day, a day when I needed those words the most.

What a God!

Lord, please give me “the grace to sustain me, the strength to stand firm, and the willpower to keep on keeping on.”* It is only through Your grace and strength I can do this. Amen.

*From “Don’t Pray Away,” The 40-Day Prayer Challenge by Mark Batterson, p. 34.

Read and reflect on 2 Corinthians 12:7–10.

© 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Footlogs and Phobias

“What’s a footlog?” I asked Dean. I was soon to find out.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—Where does my help come from? – Psalm 121:1 NIV

One of the trails my husband and I hiked on our camping trip to the Great Smoky Mountains was the Kephart Prong Trail. Littered with golden leaves, it wound through the forest two miles up a mountain along a gurgling creek and several waterfalls to a hiking shelter near the summit.

The trail crossed the creek at several places—four to be exact. Bridge number one was a nice one-lane footbridge constructed of wooden planks with a log railing on one side. I crossed it no problem.

The first foot bridge. I didn’t know what was ahead.

 

Then we got to the second bridge, but it wasn’t called a bridge—it was called a “footlog”—a split log about 25 feet long spanning the creek 10 feet below. It, also, had a log railing on one side only, which in places arched away from the bridge.

I’ve always had a fear of heights. When I was nine, my father had to peel me off the second landing of a fire tower because I was screaming and clinging to the steel grate step in terror. I never overcame my acrophobia.

On the first bridge I was fine. I felt secure on the wooden planks. But stepping on a narrow log with moss growing on it was another story.

While my sweet hubby was too busy taking pictures of this historic event to be of any help should I fall into the rushing stream below and knock myself out on a rock, I focused on a point on the log about three feet in front of me, put one hiking boot in front of the other, used my walking stick for balance, and counted my steps aloud. And, of course, ignored Shutterbug behind me.

Baby steps

“Don’t look down!” Dean told me. I didn’t. He took this picture.

Then we came to the second footlog—green with moss, gray with age and missing chunks of wood—scarier than the first one. Using my focus and counting technique and ignoring the fear, I made it across, even though the couple behind us turned back when the woman refused to cross it.

The second footlog. Notice the wood missing and how the railing arches away from the walkway.

 

Halfway across! Notice how well I am concentrating.

The third (and nice) footlog

The third footlog looked newer, like it had just been built. It should have been a piece of cake by then, but I was still scared.

I wasn’t any less afraid crossing the footlogs on the return trip as I had been going up.

But I learned something. No, I didn’t overcome my fear—I walked through it.

We all set out on a trail called life. It goes up and down, winds over rocky and smooth terrain. Along the way we encounter our fears.

But we don’t have to turn back. We don’t have to overcome our fear, either—indeed, sometimes you can’t.

Made it!

But by taking one step at a time, focusing on what’s just ahead, using God’s Word for balance, and having faith in what’s at the end of your journey, you can walk through it.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? From You, Father God, the maker of the mountains and my guide through this hike called life. Amen.

 

Read and reflect on Psalm 121.

From God, Me & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God. © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.