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.

A Little Bit of Run Support

Image by Keith Johnston from Pixabay

Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

During our son David’s last year to play college baseball, my husband and I were on the road from February until May, catching as many games as we could. So we got to know and appreciate the boys who backed up David when he pitched. They were an amazing group of young men.

We heard apologies when an error was committed, allowing a runner on base. We witnessed the disappointment they felt when they weren’t producing the hits needed to win and when they knew they weren’t playing up to their potential.

Yes, there were slumps—in batting and in pitching. But when a player was down, others encouraged him and took up the slack. When David came off the mound after a bad inning, the guys lined up to give him high fives and let him know they still believed in him.

And even though he was disappointed in his performance and upset with himself, I was proud of the way he encouraged the other young pitchers when they, too, struggled. No one understands what a pitcher feels coming off the mound after an inning when he’s given up runs, extra-base hits, walks, or hit batters. When he knows he’s let his team down. No one, except someone else who has experienced it.

When I prayed for David to have his best year ever, I was thinking ERAs, wins, and all those stats that don’t really show how much he matured as a ballplayer, a leader, and a man. And how self-centered that prayer really was.

But in spite of myself, God answered my prayer. Not in impressive stats for David, but in blessing the team as a whole—and in opening my eyes to the reality that David was having his best year ever—because he was on a team that knew what a team was and acted as one. No egos tainted the dugout. No self-serving attitudes strutted around the field.

They all were stars who took with them into life the lessons they learned on the ball field and in the dugout—lessons they taught me as I watched them: That it’s not about me, but about us. It’s not about being served and pampered and catered to, but about serving and loving and encouraging when the chips are down. It’s saying, in action, “I believe in you” after a poor performance. It’s not about what you can do for me, but what I can do for you. It’s about ignoring the pain and playing hurt because you know that others need you. It’s about having a good attitude when the coach gives another guy the position for which you think you’re better qualified and for which you worked so hard.

It’s about learning the vital importance of submission and obedience and making the best of things. It’s about keeping on when you’ve given all you’ve got, only to come up short. When nothing goes your way—when the balls you hit always seem to fly right into the opposing player’s glove and the balls the other team hits always manage to find the gaps, when a bad bounce allows the other team to score the go-ahead run, when the umpire makes a bad call that the turns the momentum of the game—you keep on fighting and don’t give up, give in, or give out.

It’s about letting pain and disappointment be the teachers they are meant to be and hone your character as good innings and victories cannot and will not. Our deepest pain and disappointment are usually the places where we can best help others.

“I knew if we gave David a little bit of run support,” the second baseman said after one win, “he would be fine on the mound.”

A little bit of run support—isn’t that what we all need?

Dear God, help me to stop thinking about myself and open my eyes to those around me who can use “a little run support.” Amen.

Read and reflect on Romans 15:1–7; 2 Corinthians 1:3–7

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