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.

God’s Storehouse

 

Ask and it will be given to you. –Matthew 7:7 (NIV)

20170223_150240I was going through a kitchen cupboard a couple of weeks ago looking for a set of keys when I discovered $130, cash, I didn’t know we had. I was so excited! Not that I was ready to go out and spend it right away, but it sure was nice to realize we weren’t as broke as we thought we were.

Hubby and I have never been big spenders. When the kids were little and his was the only paycheck coming in, we had to be tightwads. Now that the kids are on their own and I’m able to contribute to the breadwinning, we still hesitate to spend money.

Not that it’s bad—in today’s world, it’s what helps us survive when the living expenses increase and the income stays the same. We just don’t want to dip into what reserves we have set aside in case something comes up that we’ll need it and won’t have it.

I wonder if I apply the same “don’t spend” philosophy to the riches I have in Christ. How often do I access God’s storehouse?

I’m not talking about material goods, although God does promise to provide for all our needs (see Matthew 6:25–34 and Philippians 4:19). I’m referring to spiritual riches—and they aren’t just for when we get to heaven. They’re available to us now, while we make our way through life. In fact, we need them now.

While God’s storehouse overflows with riches “exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or imagine,” today we’ll look at just one: grace.

Grace is receiving something I don’t deserve—forgiveness for my sin before I even asked and eternal life in heaven.

As fabulous and mindboggling as that definition is, there’s more to grace. Grace includes God’s daily care of each of us, His strength, His guidance. Grace is why we can carry the cross we’re called to carry, bear the pain we’re called to bear, tolerate people we don’t particularly like, and—going even further—show them kindness.

Grace is what enables us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us (Matthew 5:44). We couldn’t even begin to do that on our own.

Remember Paul’s thorn in the flesh? We all have at least one, don’t we? Paul prayed more than once for God to remove it. God’s answer to Paul is the same as His answer to us: “My grace is sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

His grace is all we need—for anything and everything. His grace is why we can go to God in prayer, and go boldly (see Hebrews 4:16).

God’s grace, like the rest of the treasures in His storehouse, is unlimited, infinite, and available to us 24/7. All we have to do is ask.

Have you made a withdrawal from God’s storehouse lately?

Remind me, Father, that I have all I need in You. All I have to do is ask. Amen.

Read and meditate on Matthew 7:7–11

(c) 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.