ONE OF THOSE DAYS

I’m having one of those days today. I didn’t have days like this until I had emergency surgery for an Ascending Aortic Dissection in July of 2013. Which means that I have been having days like this since July of 2013. I don’t like them! In fact, I’m quite tired of them.

Before I write another word, I want to let you know that, yes, I am aware that there are people out there who have it worse. My heart goes out to them and I sympathize with their challenges. I don’t know how they do it. That being said, if you don’t want to attend my pity party today, take your comfort food and go before we play pin the tear on the sad girl. 😀

On the outside, I think I appear to be fine. People say they don’t usually notice the difficulty I have with my speech, although I am aware of the effort it now takes to speak clearly. Many of the people I know now didn’t know me when I did public speaking in high school or even when I did community theater here in New Ulm.  And they can’t appreciate how painful it is to me to work so hard on something that was once so effortless and fun for me. I’ve always said my favorite thing to do was to talk.

When others read my handwriting, they often don’t have my pre-dissection handwriting to compare it to. If they did, they would see a difference between today’s shaky, labored handwriting (which they say they can read) and my prior assertive, fluid handwriting that leaned forward in anticipation for the next word. I was so proud of my signature. It was me. It’s now as ordinary as I am. Today, I have to carefully sign my name as if it were simply any other word.

People might notice the care I take with my steps, but I fear they might also think I’ve been drinking when they see me saunter to the side or lose my balance. I can say with confidence that it is not because I’m drunk. Alcohol is no more responsible for my unsteady gait than it is my slightly poor driving and even worse parking. Those are more a result of my poor judgment of distance.

And it’s frustrating to have poor short-term memory when I’m accustomed to being able to juggle several different thoughts. Now, I have a hard time keeping a single thought in my head until I get it out. I often feel like I did when I was a kid and had to repeat “milk, eggs, bread” all the way to the grocery store so I wouldn’t forget what my mom had sent me after.

Anyone watching me type today would never imagine that I had excelled at that, too. I did. When I was in my late 20’s, I won 1st and 2nd places in national competition for Business Professionals of America in Information Processing. Today, I have to constantly correct myself in spite of how slow I go.

Since I was on heart-lung bypass for nearly eight hours to repair my aorta and save my life, everything seems to take more concentration and deliberation. It’s exasperating to have to carefully do simple things that I used to do with ease.

And on days like this, I feel a little broken and frustrated. I’ve prayed for healing, but I think God has his own idea of how I’m going to be healed. See, before my dissection, I was always in a hurry and usually managed to get myself in over my head with work and responsibilities.

I seldom took the time to relax, and I didn’t relax I assumed anyone (especially my family) who wasn’t doing something was lazy. I took it upon myself to feel burdened and offended by their lack of busyness.

I can’t hurry anymore. I can’t talk fast or write fast or type fast without the words coming out unintelligibly. I can’t walk fast without tripping or tiring myself. I don’t care to drive anywhere and prefer to leave the errands to my husband.

Here’s what I’m finding out as I find slowing down a necessity: A lot of the things I thought had to be done by me can actually be done by someone else. A lot of the things I thought had to be said, don’t need to be said by me. Most of the thoughts in my head really don’t need to be shared at all. And even if I get there slowly, I will eventually get there. All in all, the work gets done somehow.

Sure, my pride has taken a big hit in the last 4 1/2 years. I’ve prayed for healing. The body isn’t healing that well, but if God wanted to heal me of busyness, pride and arrogance…I think it’s starting to work. What God has done is to force me into relationship with others in a way that is much deeper and more vulnerable.

And if I wasn’t sure that God is working on my, he confirmed it just now. As I looked for an image to go with this post, I found on Pinterest the two graphics I’ve used in this post without having to do a search. My God has a sense of humor!

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BUIDLING SNOWMEN AND CHARACTER

I am admittedly not fully experienced with winters in Minnesota. Granted, I’ve lived here for 20 years, but I know that’s not long enough to make me an authority on Minnesota winters. Still, to hear it from others, mid-April was certainly late enough in the year that not even Minnesotans should have to tolerate hours of unending snow the likes of which we were experiencing a couple of weeks ago. Very simply, enough was enough!

It Wouldn’t. Stop. Snowing!

Isn’t that the way our lives feel sometimes? “It” won’t stop! The bills won’t stop piling up. The pain won’t go away. The oh-so-irritating spouse won’t give it a break. The children who were supposed to be blessings won’t stay out of trouble.

It Just. Won’t. Stop!

We’re told to be patient. After all, things can’t possibly stay this way forever. To everything there is a season. This, too, shall pass, right? What they don’t tell you is that it might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.

It always passes. See? The last traces of snow are almost melted already. And the bills will eventually get paid. The pain will eventually be treated. The spouse has to go to sleep and be quiet sometime. And the kids will somehow manage to grow up and surprise us by becoming fairly decent contributing members of society.

So what do we do with the challenge of waiting for things to change? We let it change us. We use it to strengthen us! Romans 5 starts out referring to the peace we have ”with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” which seems absolutely ironic when we’re in a situation that seems to be robbing us of our peace. But he goes on to talk about how we can “boast in the hope of the glory of God” in verse 2.

Then comes the promise:
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.” (v. 2-5).

So the next time life seems ready to break us instead of give us a break, we will know that we made it through before and we’ll make it through again. That’s when God’s glory shines – when we fail to lose hope in an otherwise hopeless situation because we know that God is faithful. Therein lies our strength.

But you say you feel helpless right now? Paul addresses this, as well.

Verse 6 tells us that “when we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.”

True, in this instance Paul is talking about God’s timeliness in sending Christ to live and die for our eternal salvation, but the Bible is full of references to God’s knack for being right on time. One example I can think of is the parting of the Red Sea. Think about it. If the Israelites had had enough of a head start such that the Egyptians hadn’t been on their heels, the miracle would have lost some of its brilliance. But in God’s hands, the Israelites saw God part the sea just in time for them to get through and to close it just in time to see the destruction of their enemies. Any sooner and it would have been a “convenient” (though no less mind-blowing!) miracle that would have left the Egyptian army scratching their heads, wondering where those pesky Israelites could have possibly gone.

There are plenty of times we ask God, “When, God? When?” Usually, it’s when we think we are about to break from the pressure. It’s always as we’re standing at the edge of our own Red Sea with an army at our heels. Sometimes, it’s simply when we wonder when the snow will finally stop falling, like the other weekend. But remember that God is always on time, and while we’re waiting, we’re getting stronger. And the strength of our hope will display God’s glory!

YOU’RE AN OVERCOMER!

I belong to a Facebook page for people who have been through some degree of post-traumatic stress. I joined because there are still elements of my growing up that still adversely affect my self-image and my relationships with others today, long after the “threat” is gone. I wanted to be part of a group that would help validate what I’d been through. I wanted to see how others dealt with their struggles. To be honest, I was expecting to see stories worse than mine. Unfortunately they’re out there. Some of the group members have been through far more horrifying things than I have. I was one of the more fortunate dysfunctional adults. I was raised by a mentally unhealthy mother and a step-father who was probably as afraid of her as my brother and I were and did nothing to stop her.

Living with a mentally ill parent can distort the way you see the world and yourself. It alters how you trust yourself and others. Learning a healthy perspective of the world and yourself can be a challenge. Sometimes it can take years of dipping your toe in the pool of “normalcy” before you decide to even get into the water. (Imagine trying to get in the pool when you’re terrified of drowning.) This can be especially true if you’ve lived in an isolated abusive or destructive home. And most likely that how your home was – isolated. When you grow up thinking your isolated life is normal, you have to learn what “normal” is. Now, I know…what’s normal? Let’s refer to it as “healthy” instead. After all, there are a lot of “normal” people out there who aren’t especially “healthy”, right?

There will be no navel-gazing today. Someday, we can talk about the past, but not today. Today, we look to the future with hope. I want to just put this quote in front of you to think about.

“Instead of being ashamed of what you’ve been through, be proud of what you’ve overcome.”  Dr. Phil

I know…it’s a quote from Dr. Phil. And before you try to engage me in a debate over his qualifications or practices, just let me say that this is simply a stand-alone quote that I think is valuable to ponder, regardless of its source. Can we agree on that? Good.

Now, if you want a word from a greater authority, we can look at Romans 8:34-39.

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life –  is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Through the sacrificial death of Christ, we no longer need to be ashamed of the pain, discouragement and fear we went through before we committed our life to Christ. Because of God’s great love for us, we are more than conquerors; we are victorious and free to start anew!

So don’t dwell on your past pain (or failures). Don’t continue to live in shame. Rejoice that God has a good plan for your life. And what he has declared will not return void. If he declares that you have a good life ahead of you – and he has – so it will be. It may not always be easy, but it will be good. And remember, you may have been through a lot, but you’ve survived. Now, through the power of a risen Christ, you can not only survive; you can thrive! Be the overcomer Christ died for you to be.