Category Archives: A Painful Saga

The story of my journey with pain, both physical and emotional.

Another Bend in the Road ~ A Painful Saga, Part 5

Around the Bend ~ I laid the bricks for the walkway myself

Around the Bend ~ I helped lay the bricks for the walkway years ago

Wrapped in God’s presence,
Secure in His embrace.
He directs my steps,
Each bend in the road I face.

It seems as though we each have our thorn in the flesh.  Mine is an inherited, early onset of degenerative disc disease that presented when I was in my twenties.  It started with my lower back and included sciatica, but progressed to include involvement with my neck.

These pronounced neck symptoms have forced me to make a tough decision; one that I never intended.

After MUCH prayer, and due to the deterioration of my symptoms with resulting ramifications to my life, I have decided to undergo the three level cervical fusion.

This is after years of trying nearly every non-surgical measure:

Physical therapy, trigger point, deep massage, TENS. myofascial release, chiropractor, traction, injections, stretching, ice and heat, ergonomics, custom-designed pillow, lifestyle adjustments, medications, etc…

For personal reasons, I’ve never wanted acupuncture.

At best, I have merely gotten by throughout the continual roller coaster of pain.  Car and plane trips are huge triggers, but I have always bounced back to a manageable level afterwards. 

That all changed with our latest trips out-of-town.  It’s like I crossed a threshold into a different level with an entirely new set of symptoms, and it is this new normal that drove my decision towards surgery.

Just knowing that any time I travel, I must face significant, lingering neck pain with radiating symptoms is bad enough. However, I now also have an interrelated vertigo with bizarre ear symptoms, which correlates both in intensity and in duration to the neck pain.

The decision was not an easy one, because the what ifs are terrifying.  Not unlike the what ifs that I faced with lower back surgeries, though.  Amazingly, God brought me through those successfully.  You can read about that story, in my series called, A Painful Saga. In fact, I’ve added this post to that series!

The sobering reality is that unless I want to give up traveling, which means that I will rarely see my precious grandchildren, or if I want to live with incapacitating symptoms, I must follow God’s direction and have this surgery.

I realize there are no guarantees.  God has given me a confident assurance, though, that He is directing my path.  That no matter what I face, He will bear me up on eagles’ wings into His presence.

None of us knows what lies ahead.  However, we can rest assured knowing that God already sees around the bend.  He promises to go before, behind and with us: helping, strengthening and delivering.

I believe for a good outcome.  Regardless of what I face, though, I know that God will wrap me us in His loving, comforting arms.  He will carry me safely around this next bend in the road.

“You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.”
Exodus 19:4

*Some of you have medical conditions and problems much worse than mine.  During my convalescence, as God brings you to my mind, I will pray for your needs and for His richest blessings to fall like rain! 

I will do one more post tomorrow before my upcoming surgery, which is scheduled for next week.

Words and photo by Sue Nash/ © 2014

 

 

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Lessons and Blessings ~ A Painful Saga, Part 4

I still believe for healing ~ whether while here or in heaven

I still believe for healing ~ whether while here or in heaven

Why can’t the enemy of our souls figure out that his hateful attacks against Christians do not succeed?  Ultimately, God turns it all around for good.

That is just what God did for me.  Despite the suffering, my walk with the Lord only strengthened.  He taught me much, changed me in ways needed and gave me some incredible blessings along the way.

Here are some of the lessons and blessings that resulted from the pain:

 Necessary Changes

*Self-reliance ~ God knows how to get our attention.  He knew that to weed out a stubborn reliance on my strength, I needed a loving dose of total dependence on Him.  This one still tries to pop back up.  Yet, apart From Him, I can do nothing.

*Priorities ~ Stripped of everything that I thought was important, I discovered that God is all I need.  His grace is sufficient.

*Self-pity ~ It was easy to dwell on my pain, but I didn’t have to look very far to find someone with bigger problems.  Everyone has tasted some form of suffering.  Walk a mile in another person’s shoes.

   Important Lessons

*Prayerful Enduring ~ As an alternative to tossing and turning all night in pain, God taught me to endure by spending the time in prayer.  The pain level did not always change, but in the process, God changed me.  It is good for me to draw near to God.

*Compassion ~ Had I never plunged into the depths of pain, I might never have learned compassion for those hurting or understood how some succumb to addiction.  At a critical juncture in my journey, God strengthened me to avoid pain medication dependency.  But for the grace of God, there go I.

*Letting Go ~ Life as I once knew it is not the same.  My lower back is better, but I now have serious struggles with my neck.  While tempting to regret the things I can no longer do, with God’s help I let go of the past and remember all that I can do.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

 Wonderful Blessings

*Loving Support ~ God blessed me with the most wonderful husband.  I already knew that before I began my pain journey; however, he has proven his vow of in sickness and in health over and over and over… Without ever once complaining, or minding having to do housework, he has been a continual source of comfort and support.  You are the wind beneath my wings.

*Comforting Goodness ~ Good in the midst of pain seems a contradiction.  Those of us who know Him, though, attest that God’s goodness is all the sweeter in the midst of suffering.  God is very good, all the time.

*Sharing Suffering ~ Although Scripture teaches that partaking in Christ’s suffering should bring rejoicing, I had never completely understood why until I reached my lowest.  Even at its darkest, my pain was but a drop compared to what He endured on the cross.  If by trusting Him in the midst of my pain I somehow shared in His agony, then it makes what I went through a blessed privilege, indeed.

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13 ESV

I would like to thank my readers for your kind and encouraging words during this series.  At a later date, I will post about another hurtful season in my life, but for now need a break from discussing pain.  

Blessings,
Sue Nash/2013

The Dark Night of Pain ~ A Painful Saga, Part 3

I Shall AriseNerve pain is dark.  It encompasses one’s every thought.  Leading up to and during the recovery of my back surgeries, the pain was ‘out in front of my thinking.’  What I mean by this is that there was rarely a moment that the pain did not consume my every waking moment or steal my sleep.  There was never any position of comfort; no escaping its blowtorch agony.

On three horrific occasions, the pain reached a level that it felt as though my sciatic nerve tore from my spinal cord, in a way resembling someone sawing off my leg.  I only wish that I were exaggerating.

During each of those episodes, which lasted several hours, I felt certain that I would not survive.  Yet, in the midst of these unexplainable pain events, God’s presence was stronger than I had ever known possible.

During one of them, the enemy devised a cruel plot to convince me that a loving God would not put one of His children through such pain.  In my weakest moment, he tempted me to question my salvation.  Frail from suffering, I almost yielded to Satan’s lie, but not without much emotional distress.

Crying out to God, I told Him that if the enemy were right, that I had never known salvation, then I would rather not live anyway.  Although my physical pain was immense, the devil’s hurtful lie was more so.  What he did not realize was that his deceitful attempt to harm, God used for good.

When faced with even a remote possibility that my faith was not real, I knew with certainty that if not a child of God’s, life had no meaning at all.  In that cruel moment, when scraped to the core physically and emotionally, I discovered that God meant more to me than anything, even life itself.

I remember so vividly the tenderness with which God reached out to me right then.  The certainty of His love for me washed over me, as gently as a stream pours over polished stones.  I may not understand the why of my suffering, but I will never again allow the enemy to tempt me as to whether I belong to God.

After the surgeries, progression with my lower back was slow, but steady.  Thankfully, the sciatic pain, which had been at the front of my thinking, is most of the time so far to the back that there are times where I must pause to check that it is even still there.  The intense darkness of pain now replaced with God’s healing light.  God is good!

Although I will never return to those earlier strong years, and must now use judgment with physical activities, I am able to work again as a nurse and can zoom on my treadmill.

To finish the discussion of my physical pain journey, I will share next about lessons that I learned, and of how God is sustaining my health, despite problems now with my neck.  It is a story of how He continues getting me through. 

Bear with me, my wonderful readers.  I promise tomorrow’s post is uplifting and not all this dreariness!

*I know that many of you have had or are currently enduring pain.  I would love to hear your story, too, so that we can support each other.

For more of this story, see A Painful Saga

Strength Deteriorates Into Pain ~ A Painful Saga, Part 2

My promise

My promise

A disclaimer:

My health issues are nothing compared to many of you.  Although I have had my share of pain, my condition is not life threatening, nor has it prevented me from returning to doing daily activities for myself, or working part-time as a nurse.  My issues are nothing compared to what many have endured. 

No matter the level of suffering, though, God cares.

 ***

When I was in my twenties, I was the picture of athleticism: energetic, agile and fit.  My physical capabilities included jogging, aerobics, snow skiing, high altitude backpacking, swimming, and tennis.  Although not as strong as some, I could nevertheless keep up with most. 

Confident in my strength, I concluded that it would always be so.  I was wrong.

It was also in my twenties that I first noticed signs of what was the beginning of an early onset of severe degenerative disc disease.  Since my symptoms did not fit the mold, by presenting with typical radiating nerve pain, my associated sciatica went wrongly diagnosed until I reached my forties.  All those years, my doctors just thought that the reason I had to suspend my left foot off of a pillow at night, to avoid anything touching my heel due to the pain, was that there was either an undetected disorder with my foot or I was suffering from a depression that kept me awake. 

It was not until I also began having back pain simultaneously with the foot pain that I pieced the puzzle together myself.  Someone finally believed me when, during a Discogram procedure, I nearly came off the table after “one drop of dye” was inserted into a lumbar disc.  I felt the classic shooting sensation as the fiery pain tracked right across the same spot that had hurt for years. 

My health deteriorated like this flower

My health deteriorated like this flower

The difference in the pain was that it no longer just interfered with my sleep; the unrelenting sciatic pain had begun altering my life.  Unable to do any of the enjoyable athletic pursuits anymore, I was also increasingly impaired in my ability to do ordinary tasks.  After 12 hour shifts at the hospital, I almost needed to crawl to my car, and I spent my time off recuperating.  

 The pain eventually backed me into a corner.  I had prayed, and God promised me healing.  That healing, though, came by way of three excruciating surgeries to free the pressure off a trapped sciatic nerve.  Each procedure caused an already irritated nerve to surge to about a quadruple pain level, and required about six months to return to a “recovery” level.  My painful surgical ordeal consumed three years of my life, but the journey from my former strength into the pain occupied many more, and in a different way, continues today.

Tomorrow, I will continue my physical pain story.  Of my journey through the pain.

For more of this story, see A Painful Saga

A Calling to Africa God Seemed to Reject ~ A Painful Saga, Part 1

Called Upper Volta then, but is now Burkina Faso

Called Upper Volta then, but is now Burkina Faso

Just before I married my husband, I joked with him that he would never have to live up to the memory of a former boyfriend of mine; rather, he would live in the shadow of a continent I loved.  Africa.

My Calling to Africa

My love for Africa resulted from an extended stay in West Africa, living on the edge of the Sahara Desert with a missionary family I knew.  From the moment I arrived, I knew that I must return one day as a nurse.   

While there, the extent of impoverished people, in need of physical and spiritual help, overwhelmed me.  It was seeing the sick and hurting children, though, that really broke my heart. 

When with sadness my time in Africa ended, I knew that I had found my calling.  I had it all figured out.  I was a young, single, and willing nurse.  All I needed to do was to find the path God wanted me to take in returning.

God’s Seeming Rejection of My Calling

Unfortunately, during a full year of praying and searching for the right opportunity, God remained silent as He closed every door.  He very clearly said no.  Crushed and confused, I spent the next several years convinced that for some reason I was not good enough to serve as a missionary.  The enemy tried to convince me that God had rejected me. 

Over time, however, I came to realize that this was not so.  I had wanted to work in Africa, but it was not God’s calling.  He taught me that not everyone must go; some instead serve in other ways.  Quite simply, what I thought was a calling was really only something I wanted to do, and not God’s plan for my life.

When God closes a door, He opens another. 

That is exactly what He did.  An opportunity opened for me to move to Colorado.  In need of a change, I jumped at the offer.  It was there that I began dating the man who is now my husband.

Learning God’s Ways Are Best

While in Africa, I thought I was strong enough to conquer the world.  I know now that my health would never have survived living overseas in remote conditions.  God knew what was ultimately best for me.  I thought I needed Africa, but He knew that I needed the support of a strong and loving husband.

A souvenir from my trip

A souvenir from my trip

I have long since made peace over my painful Africa ordeal.  Deep down, I still long to go and have tried on many occasions to take other short-term mission trips; each time God says no.  I suppose it is because it would still hurt to leave, but it is also unlikely that I would endure the physical demands of such a trip.

Have any of you ever felt as though God rejected you?  Or that because of past failures, you are not good enough to serve Him? 

I urge you to let it all go at the foot of the cross.  God has a unique purpose for each of us and He alone knows what that entails.  Begin living for the Lord right where you are.  He will direct your steps in a way that is pleasing to Him.

In my next posting of A Painful Saga, I will share about my physical pain journey.  Of how God is bringing back my health.

A Painful Saga ~ Intro

Cross at sunset

Cross at sunset

I shared yesterday that I would about my pain journey.  Since many people have suffered far worse, and compared to Christ’s brutal agony on the cross, I hesitated to write about my trivial journey.  In addition, I have not experienced total victory over the pain.

However, the Lord reminds me that as we share our stories of past deliverance, it encourages others suffering through similar struggles to keep holding on.  Our testimonies, even if not examples of complete or instantaneous healing are valid stories nonetheless.

Pain is most often physical, but can present in other forms, such as emotional.  Either way, painful scenarios hurt and have a way of altering life, as we knew it.  As Don Piper describes, when he returned to earth after spending 90 Minutes in Heaven, life as he formally knew it radically changed.  He left earth in good health, but returned to a life of continual suffering, because of his injuries in a car accident.  He calls the life he now lives as his “new normal.”

Pain does that.  It alters our lives and brings about another normal.

The new normal for me results from both physical and emotionally upsetting circumstances, each rendering my life completely rearranged.

Throughout each difficulty, though, God has been my Rock. He is my constant in the midst of painful change, and continually strengthens me to trust Him more.  Along the way, each new normal has birthed blessings in disguise.

Just as my pain has been a journey, my telling of such will be one.  In order to adequately describe the circumstances, yet at the same time not overwhelm readers with wordiness, I will share my story in parts.  The first part of my painful saga will be about a traumatic rejection.  Of a time when I concluded God had rejected me.

The precursor to this series is a poem I posted yesterday, Pain Writes a Story Only God Can Revise.

I know that I do not suffer alone.  If you would like others to pray for you in your journey of pain, post a link or share in the comments below.  We are all in this together!

Blessings on your journey.

Sue Nash/2013

Pain Writes a Story Only God Can Revise ~ A Painful Saga, Prelude

This cross is on the grounds of a church near my home

This cross is on the grounds of a church near my home

Pain tells a story,
A dreadful saga,
Whenever it writes.

Its callous message
Speaks devastation
By demonic design.

No gentle poem,
Or refreshing prose;
Pain never does rhyme.

Its words are harmful
And penetrating;
Phrases which deride.

Always unwelcome,
Each time it visits
Or tries to abide.

It knows no limits,
For pain’s dark novel
All have read in life.

Some taste a chapter;
Others agonize
With no end in sight.

Yet, when the drama
Reveals its terror
It need not affright.

Since underlining
Pain’s dark narrative
Another tale shines.

****

Love tells its story,
A heavenly one.
Forever it writes.

Its wondrous message
Records redemption
By God’s own design.

A tender epic;
A blessed discourse.
Laced between the lines.

Its words are hopeful
And life-sustaining;
Promises, on time.

Always inviting,
God’s healing virtue,
Yet bought by His stripes.

It seals pain’s limits
And with great power
Our story rewrites.

Some, healed instantly;
Others, asked to trust
God’s sufficient side.

Heaven’s song will end
Pain’s proud parable.
Its curse will subside.

There hope is secure.
For all God’s children,
Pain’s tale He’ll revise.

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.
Revelation 21:4
NKJV

God has recently been nudging me to write about my journey with pain, some physical and some emotional.

Writing the full story will be difficult for a number of reasons.  By default, honest sharing with others about your pain can come across as whining or complaining, and make one vulnerable to scrutiny.  In addition, it is hard to ever fully describe the extent of suffering in a way that you feel others understand.

However, God knows and cares.  Maybe by my sharing, others can glean from lessons I’ve learned or would be willing to share a prayer request or link to their own story of dealing with pain.

Tomorrow, I will begin the process of sharing about my journey with pain.  I am calling it A Painful Saga.

Blessings in your journey.

Sue Nash/2013

For more of my poetry, see Poetry Corner