Saturday, March 31, 2012

Why do Bad things Happen to Good People?

This is a question that lingers in my heart as I hear the News of someone being shot, beaten, tortured and left for dead-with no real explanation as to Why.  Comments are made by the Media that perhaps the person was simply in the wrong place and got caught in the cross-hairs of gun fire and we all shake our heads in confusion, trying to get a grasp on this evil running rampant in our world.

We never think about Violence of this nature affecting us-but it does as a day came for my family-that changed us forever.  My dear Mother-in-law was 80 years old, held a full-time job as a Cook at her Local Parish and loved cooking for the Priests.  We thought our lives were fine until early on the morning of July 04th, 1990 when a young man broke into her home, beat her and then stabbed her six times, taking what he could grab from her home and leaving her dead on her bed.

It was a nightmare that we thought would never end-my husband was a Police Officer and I can't even start to describe how helpless he felt in not being able to protect his beloved Mother from suffering this type of death.
The man was caught within an hour, admitted he was guilty and we found out later-was a repeat offender, meaning he had been in and out of the Prison System as each crime he committed grew more serious. Now he is in prison for the remainder of his life-where he is kept from being on the streets so no other family will have to suffer from his violent actions.

 I learned fast about being a Victim of Violent Crime-it lingers inside and you NEVER forget that awful morning.  For years we dreaded this annual holiday of July 04th coming up, knowing how our hearts ached as memories surfaced each time.  But God has an amazing way of reaching us if we will just open our hearts and we began to heal, even offering up a prayer for this man. Our beloved "Mom"  would have been the first one to tell us "You have to pray for him-God wants us to do that!"  We have come a long way since that horrible moment-and yes it changed every single member of the family-how could it not?  But we leaned Hard on God and knew He was holding us up, helping us find the courage to move toward healing.

So I ask my question again-Why Do Bad things Happen to Good People because there was another act of terrible violence in a community here in Central Texas recently.  A well-known family who had a thriving Pecan business, known to everyone in their town, suffered a horrible blow as news hit the media that the 85  year old Grandmother of the family, had attended church on Sunday with her female Caretaker and then seemed to have just vanished.  More news arrived as the 9 year old son of the Caretaker, called police to say "My Mom is dead and I don't know where the other lady is at!"  That child will Never forget finding his Mother in that tragic manner-never.  But before the sun went down that evening, the adopted grandson confessed to having murdered both women and led police to where the Grandmother was buried at.

More news kept coming and people learned there had been a lengthy battle in the courts over future inheritance money by this grandson.  I found myself thinking-"Killing two innocent women-over Money?"  No answers came to me-but I prayed hard for this family, knowing their nightmare will not end and they will forever be haunted by the evil that walked into their lives one Sunday afternoon.

I felt compelled to talk about this-with Easter quickly approaching-and thinking deep in my heart about another long ago "innocent Victim-Jesus" beaten, suffered and died on a Cross-for LOVE.

Please offer up a prayer for all the Crime Victims across this world, asking God to hold them in His loving Embrace as they walk through the nightmare of losing a loved one to violence.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Walking-not always an easy thing to do!

It seems like such a simple thing to do-take a walk, enjoy the beauty of Spring opening up all around us, feeling the gentle breeze blowing through our hair.  This sounds so nice and can be a very relaxing thing to do-but for me, its definitely not an easy process and I can find myself rising to anger very quickly when attempting to take a gentle stroll.

I have a mental "Checklist for Walking" that stays with me and if I do not pay strict attention to it, the end result is never Good and my enemy-PAIN loves to rise up and remind me of each item on my list I forgot.  One important item on the list is STAIRS-before I attempt walking up a set of Stairs, I must be sure its a short flight because to walk a long flight of Stairs-well it will leave a lasting impression on my body and can take months of treatment to get all the Pain to settle down.  Now going down the Stairs, well I never look up but have a feeling people are gathering around to watch my "sideshow"of getting down each step.  First I must take my good Right leg and step downward in a side-ways fashion-then pause and bring my Bad Left Leg slowly downward, hoping it will not collapse and send me tumbling down the steps.  There is always a line of people behind me as this process is happening.  Nobody says anything-but I wonder if they might be thinking-"Who taught that woman to walk down steps like that?"  Part of me would love to turn around and say "A huge Hackberry Tree taught me this particular way of doing steps!"  But instead, I stay focused on the task in front of me and my dear husband is always beside me-making sure that I do not fall-there is my Blessing! 

I have a dear friend whose son is getting married in two weeks and she joined along for another shopping trip yesterday with my husband serving as our driver.  He knew  I had still  not found my special wedding attire and the area we were headed to would require a long day of "walking" which would force my day to be very short.  He drove me near each store, parked and patiently went in as I thumbed through racks of outfits,  saying a fast NO to everything in front of me.  

We kept hunting while my dear friend struck out on foot and breezed through so many stores, hunting for her special pair of shoes needed to complete her wedding attire.  I began to worry as time flew by as she had not called us to come pick her up.  In my mind she had to be exhausted from the long walk-so I buzzed her phone, only to hear her sounding so light and joyous and telling me she still had many stores to look at.

Thats when it me-"Walking is a very Easy Thing for her to do" and anger hit me hard and fast!  Yes I was jealous of her being able to walk with ease, not having to worry about this ugly thing called Chronic Pain!  My husband kept pushing me forward, hoping I would find something pretty to wear but it quickly hit me-this Shopping day is Done!  I felt shame for feeling this way-and yet for that moment-everything felt hopeless and  I wanted to start walking fast and not stop until I dropped.  Realization was settling in fast and I knew,
"Martha-this is Your life, its not that bad!"

As we headed to the store where my dear friend was at, I told my husband "This gal can really Walk" as my face was twisted in anger and frustration.  He just kept driving, allowing me the time to process all the emotions raging inside me and gradually I realized "its her blessing to be able to walk-and there is no reason to blame her."  Within seconds the anger had left my heart and I was able to go inside the shoe store and share in the joy of my friend finally locating her special shoes!

This is my life and how I choose to handle the emotions of lost physical abilities is vital as I know God is watching, waiting to see if I can "Let Go and Let God!"  Yes, Walking is not always easy for me but I give praise to God that I can still walk-maybe a bit slower, but what a blessing it is.

My joy came as I watched my friend stroll up and down the isle, admiring her shiny shoes!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Meeting God at a very "young" Age!

I grew up in the country, living on a 1000 acres of land that my parents had leased from a good man who lived nearby us.  We could spend the entire day going around to check on the vast array of farm animals that my Dad kept careful watch on.  In the mid 1950's farmers could actually make a living from having large numbers of livestock because money was made from the wool sheared each year from the sheep, mohair sheared from goats and then taking young cows to market, trading them and always buying more.  It still amazes me as to how my Dad managed all this as he also held a full-time job, working at a large lake area on floating barges that worked with the local University for Naval Experiments.

My Mom made sure to have us all in Sunday School and Church each Sunday and I  recall hearing Bible stories about God, how great His Love was for each of us, and learning the Ten Commandments at a very young age, thinking "These are very important and I do NOT want to make God angry at me-Ever!"  I was learning so much about God in my "head" but being so young, still did not know Him in my "heart" and would think  something was Wrong with me for not feeling the "Love" of God.  At the time I was Six years old and a guilt seemed to grow bigger each day inside me, thinking "I am a bad person, and God must really be Mad at Me because I don't know how to Love Him yet!"

I read the Bible, always asking my parents about numerous verses, and would listen intently as they gave me a lesson they thought a Child could understand.  I  recall being outside-surrounded by hundreds of sheep and goats, "talking to God"-hoping this would help me find that special Love-but it seemed to elude me and I would cry myself to sleep at night, hoping the next day would open my heart to God.

Little did I know, my lesson was just days from being revealed to me-I had a dear cousin who was one year older than me and we loved each other like sisters.  She would visit often as our days were filled with glorious play, having a special "tea party for two" in which we laughed and acted so "grown-up" yet surrounded by all our special Dolls who served as the Observers for our Tea Party.  We would plan on how to arrange to go back home with the other, finding an old worn suitcase, filled with our clothes and have it hidden, but within quick grasp as we started to "beg" our parents to allow us another day or two of being together.

Children don't really comprehend serious illness-for me to hear a child had Measles, it meant they had to stay in bed, with the room darkened until the illness finally passed.  It was simple to me and I assumed each child made a rapid recovery-but my eyes and heart were suddenly opened one day when a phone call came late one night and  watched my Mom speaking, somehow knowing the news was very bad.

She quickly packed the "familiar suitcase" with clothes for me, telling me I would be spending the night at our neighbors house.  I recall tugging on the hem of her dress, begging to know what was wrong and finally she looked down with tears flowing and said "Your Cousin is very sick and we need to get to the hospital fast!"  My heart was pounding as we jumped into our old vehicle and headed to the neighbors house.  Everything moved so Fast-but there was a moment when we reached the neighbors and Mom began giving more details as to what was so terribly wrong with my dear Cousin.  She must have thought I was out of earshot but "God" had me standing close enough to hear "Her Cousin has the Measles and they settled on her brain.  She is in a Coma and has only a few hours left to live!"  

That was it-Mom patted me on the head, told me to be a good girl and she was gone!  My heart was broken and I didn't know how my life could go on without my dear cousin beside me.  Something told me the neighbor could see this load of fear inside a little girl and I recall how gently she tucked me into bed, and at this second-my heart opened up and I asked her "Do you think if I pray really Hard for my Cousin that God will let her Live?"  To this day I can recall her standing over me, trying so hard to keep her composure and not let a child see more tears from an adult-she paused for the longest time and finally said "Well of course you should pray-God will Hear your words and it will help!"

She flipped the light off and I began to pray, but God seemed so Far away from me and I felt my praying had to be really "Strong" so He would hear my words of prayer.  But as I started to pray, there was no strength in my words, instead God heard a tiny girl, crying from deep within her soul as she prayed "Dear God-this is Martha-I am sorry that I don't know how to Love you yet but Please I really Need you to run to the hospital and Heal my Cousin-do not take her away from me!"

Instantly all my Fear was gone and in its place was an amazing warmth in my heart- "Love for God" had reached my young heart and I went to sleep with the most peaceful feeling inside-knowing my Cousin was going to be okay.  The night flew by and Mom was there early to pick me up-again God gave me all I ever needed to Love Him-as Mom told the Neighbor"We had a Miracle last night! The Doctors came out and told us there was only an hour left so we needed to all be with her!" He asked us to wait for a few moments before we went in and we all stood there, holding each other up-but the Doctors appeared again and had a look of shock on their faces as they said "We do not have any clue as to what just happened, but this child is alive, out of her coma and is speaking, asking for all of you-so all we can say is God must have been  listening to your prayers!"

From that day forward to now, my heart has always remained united in love with God!  I spoke to him with a child's heart and He filled that heart with Love that will never leave and taught me about Miracles.  My Cousin did have a hard recovery, but she is alive and well today with no memory of what happened to her so many years ago.  I will always remember that day-because its the day I fell truly in Love with God and He saved my precious cousin.  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Fast Education on our Choice of Words....

When I was a little girl and felt bad or was ill, even though my parents barely had two nickels to rub together, somehow my Mom would find some little gift to brighten my spirits.  Things varied from a handful of Spring Flowers she had picked and put in an Old Mason Jar-filled with Nourishing water to sit by my bed and help me find the will to smile and get better.  If she had the chance, a quick trip might have been made to our local grocery store and she would bring me a nice new #2 Yellow Pencil and a writing tablet-so I could draw as I lay in bed, recovering from being sick and she would always remind me that God was watching over me.  As these memories come to me, I feel a  "warm glow" inside my heart- followed by an Ache-as my Mom & Dad are in Heaven, now watching over me and I miss them each day.

My dear husband has been struggling with repeated attacks of Gout-which puts him in severe Pain and on Crutches. My heart was filled with wanting to find a "feel good gift" for him and luck was with me as  two very dear friends had invited me to join them for a special shopping trip. One was looking for the Dress to wear as she is the Mother of the Groom, and my other friend, Her Mom-looking for that special Outfit to express her love as  Grandmother of the Groom-the wedding date is rapidly approaching and we were flying through the stores, looking at so many styles and designs.  It was a wonderful day, filled with laughter and joy and we all knew these memories would stay with us forever.

We took time out to shop for a Wedding Gift to surprise the young couple with and found ourselves in a large Sporting Goods Store-with much to see but our mission was easy because the search was on for a special set of Binoculars-the Groom & Bride to be  loves the outdoors, treasure camping and this would be a wonderful gift for them.  Suddenly my eyes landed on a shiny new set of Binoculars and my heart soared as I knew this was the gift for my husband-he could hobble outside, sit at our patio and enjoy watching all the birds and flowers-a sign that Spring has arrived in this part of Texas.  None of us had any idea that a "Spiritual Lesson was just seconds away from happening!

Two very nice young men worked in this department and seemed friendly and ready to answer all our questions.  Conversation flowed easily among  us as we learned one had been married almost two years and the other young man's Wedding Date to his "His Best Friend"  was coming up soon, and we all smiled as he glowed and talked about how excited he was.  I made the comment that my marriage was approaching 37 years next month and there was a look of shock on the young man's face who was so new in marriage.  He asked me "How do you make that work?" His eyes told me this was a very serious question and it was important for me to speak from my heart- so I  said "Marriage is Give and Take-lots of Patience is needed-Never go to Bed Angry-Talk your issues out-and above all, Look to God and Pray together!"

The other young man looked around, as if he was making sure nobody was watching and told us "I can say this because you said the word GOD-but we are not allowed to say that word or mention anything about Religion-if we do, we would lose our jobs!"  We all stood there in shock-trying to take in this information and then he continued, "I love God and look to him each day of my life and always try to be at church on Sunday, thanking HIM for all my blessings!"

It was time for us to go pay for our goods and my loving Friend-The Grandmother- was having an amazing spirit-filled conversation with this young man who must struggle with working at a place where just a Word could take away his means of making a living.  As we left and were driving down the road, each one of us lost in our thoughts, thinking about these young men, then realizing this probably happens all over the country and each day we see the results of Not speaking the name of God-our world is filled with such violence-people seem to be so lost in the daily process of life-forgetting to give thanks for the simple ability to live each day.

Once home, I gave my sweet husband his special gift and shared the events of my day-he listened intently-and drew so silent when I talked about this store prohibiting God's name being spoken by their employees.  I knew many thoughts were in his heart but he summed it all up by saying "Martha-why did you make this purchase at a store who treats people this way?"  Now I drew silent but my answer came easily- "Today I stood in the presence of two strong Christian Men-and it was a blessing for me. I knew the purchase would help them out as they make commissions-and I wanted to do something special to help you feel better and see a smile on your face!"  No further words were needed as he picked up his new gift and gave me a loving smile.

 At bedtime, I asked God to watch over these two young men as they continue their walk in life.  I also prayed for the store owners-hoping they will begin to see how empty this world is without God in it.   You never know when God will give us an education about his Name-I am thankful my heart was open as this was a lesson I will never forget.  My Joy came by having just a few wonderful moments with these young men.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Having to say Goodbye...

There are many older people who we see at church and have known them for many years, seen the ups and downs in their lives, watched them show off new Grandchildren and then suddenly, we realize the start of real health problems have begun and things are no longer the same.

My husband produces our church bulletin each week so he knows the names of all who are sick, homebound and in nursing homes.  These are the people we all strive to keep lifted up in prayer and it never fails, as we stay so busy with our own lives, we forget to ask how they are doing and if they need any help.

Our church is going through a huge growth spurt and there are very few faces we actually know right now.  Several of the older people are now on walkers, some recovering from hip surgery, others from bones that suddenly gave away and broke-which brings about change in their lives and they are never the same again.

Today my attention had been drawn to one particular lady-her name is Sophie and one look told me she was having some major health problems.  Now she walked with a cane and moved slowly-needing assistance to get down the steps.  I felt very moved during church to just walk by her and lightly touch her shoulder, but for whatever reason, held back from doing it.  Unknown to me, God had a different encounter ready for me to speak with Sophie.

I left after church and waited as my husband visited with different people and suddenly, ever so slowly, here came Sophie walking toward me and there was deep sadness resting in her eyes.  We did our familiar greeting and then she told me "I came to say Goodbye to you-because I will be leaving this little church."  Her words did not surprise me as I knew she had been struggling since her precious husband had passed just eight months ago and she was very lost without him.

Sophie began telling me that she had been through a serious health crisis and due to living alone, had gotten so sick that she lay in her bed for two days before anybody found her.  It had scared her family and they were now making the decision that she move into a Senior Citizen Apartment area in a town not far from here.  I listened in silence-seeing the deep pain she was going through and I thought about my Dad-recalling how hard it had been to make that decision that changed his life forever.

She seemed for this moment in time so alone and I asked where she was going to be-instead of mentioning the name of the town, she told me the name of the church and my face lit up in a huge smile!  I wondered if she thought I had lost my mind for a second and then I told her "Oh Sophie, that is a very special church for us-because its were we got married almost 37 years ago-we Love that church!"  Her eyes were glowing and she asked me "well do you think that maybe the two of you could drop by sometime and we go to church together?"  I told her that was a wonderful idea and once she was settled, we would plan a time to do it, and silently I was hoping that my comment about her future church would help her feel less a stranger as she might be sitting in service there and recall "now this is where Matt and Martha got married, yes I like this church!"

Then Sophie became very quiet and told me "its so hard to leave my home, I don't know How to do it!"  No matter how we try to phrase our response, there are no words to ease these feelings and I was not going to attempt this with Sophie, because I care for her and did not want to cause any further pain to her heart.

I then advised her to take "all the time" she needs and make sure to walk through each room of her home, recall the good times she had there with her husband and let the tears come-nothing was more important than her being given this dignity.  She lifted her head with tears in her eyes and told me "I will never be able to thank you and matt for how nice you always were to me and my dear husband, Ed" and then she said,
"I don't want to say Goodbye to you!"  It was so moving and I told her "we love you and will see you again Sophie, I promise!"  She leaned against me, and I could feel her frail body-and my heart ached.

We will all find ourselves at this place in life someday and I just pray there will be somebody near me that will care enough to stop and listen-instead of being in a hurry to move on.  Just as we were leaving, Sophie walked over to Matt and just gave him a gentle hug, and he did not understand all that was going on until I shared with him "She was trying to say Goodbye!"

Human kindness-we all need it and I believe God calls us to reach out to others, give that hug, share words of hope, and always offer to pray.  I did not like saying Goodbye to Sophie on this day-it hurt to see the Pain in her heart-and all I can do is hope my words brought her some comfort.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Take all the Rules Out!

You never know where blogging will take you. For me, it's taken me beyond my chair where I sat for so long, wrapped in Chronic Pain and allowing it to win. Those were some of my darkest days, and I missed so much because I felt trapped, thinking there was nothing I could do now except live and fight with Pain. Yet God saw more inside me and sent a very dear friend who I think of as my true sister. She lovingly opened my heart to the idea of starting a blog about my Pain. When she first approached me about it, I felt true anger toward her but kept it silent and just listened to her gentle persuasion. Finally, I gave in, thinking that nobody would ever read anything I write, but maybe it would help get my mind away from the Pain.

Now I fast forward to this day, and it's amazing how far my blogging has taken me. Even though I hardly ever can travel, my words have gone around the world, and I have formed bonds with other women who suffer with Chronic Pain and live in places I could only dream about. Now "Lolita" shares her beautiful part of the world with me, and "Diane" tells me about the extreme winters in her part of the country. Then I was blessed to meet "Judi," a woman who suffers with tremendous physical Pain and yet is so strong in Faith, looking to God to guide her through each day.

Gifts have come my way from blogging and given me an inner strength to try new things, not to be afraid of maybe goofing up now and then but at least finding the courage to Try. Today, I walked into our local library for a meeting of their Oral History Project, of which I am a member and do interviews with people of all ages and walks of life. There on the bulletin board was an invitation to "Come Join our Writers Club." I could not take my eyes from the words. Should I dare try this? What will people think of my writing? Then I noticed the subject for the next class "Take all the Rules Out," and it pulled at me!

Somehow a little voice inside me was speaking and saying, "What can it hurt Martha? Why not try doing it!" And my decision was made as I requested an application to enter my name in the club. We had our meeting, and I must say my mind was not on target as all I could think about was the subject of  "Take all the Rules Out." My focus was on applying that title to how I live with Chronic Pain. I found myself thinking about times I didn't follow the rules, not listening to my doctor's advice, being stubborn and refusing to  give up doing things that were only causing me greater Pain.

My mind went back in time to the day I fell from the tree and knew "that was definitely a day in which I cast all Rules aside." Now I live each day with the results of my poor decision. What happens in life when we take all the rules out of how we live? Nobody is crazy about rules, but there is a purpose for them being there so that we can make our choices. I contemplate about the "Free Will" God gives to us as He watches over us, loving us as we go about our lives, and observing as we make our choices.

So I already can see that my taking a place in this writing class will probably get started with a bang because I choose not to toss out all the Rules! For me, some of these Rules are the most important in my life, starting with the Ten Commandments, having been taught by my Parents and with each lesson, recalling them teaching me about how God's amazing Love is within each of the Commandments. I can close my eyes and still hear my Mom giving her twist on this particular rule, "Turn the other cheek, always, but you better be ready to get Whip Lash!" Gradually, her meaning settled inside me, and I understood the hard part of turning the other cheek. I treasure my parents for having the faith to teach me these lessons because I know this is part of who I am. I am not ashamed of my spiritual life and could not make it through this life without God right beside me.

It will be an interesting journey for me as I attempt to take a writing class, but I go into it with no expectations, just joy at having come this far in my life and having the spirit inside me to give it a go, meet new people and learn about their own personal journey.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Accepting my Limitations

Without a doubt, spring has arrived here in our part of the world. Having been in such a drought, nobody had the need to mow their yard. But the good Lord has blessed us with much needed rains, and suddenly I am hearing the sounds of lawnmowers everywhere. I don't have to look far as my husband is outside, buzzing all over the place with our big lawnmower that he bought for me, all the while knowing that mowing was something I had to give up. It has not been easy, and each time I hear our mower, there is a rise inside me as I feel anger about not being able to be outside with my husband, him on our old mower and me on the new one, almost chasing each other around our farm.

I suppose you could say this change has been equally hard for both of us. He knows how much I loved doing physical labor, and he would begin mentioning the idea of his mowing days ahead before he actually would start. His loving me so much and wanting to spare me from the reminder and yet also probably thinking inside, "Gee, I wish she could handle this a bit easier," all the while seeing the grass getting taller by the moment!

So today as I sat at my computer, suddenly there was the sound of him mowing and for a second the old emotions began to rise. But I decided "it's time to act like a big girl" and opened my curtains so I could see him whizzing around the trees, mowing to his heart's content and not having to be so worried as to my accepting the limitations that are with me forever. Yes, some might be thinking, "Wow, it's just lawn mowing." But oh, my, it was so much more to me because it took me back to the days of working beside my Dad, bringing wonderful memories to the surface. Yet he, too, found himself ripped of all his strength, having suffered a stroke and then slowly dying from COPD, still smoking up to the end of his life. One day, I went to see him at the Assisted Living Center, a place named "Grace House," and it truly was filled with grace. There were only sixteen rooms, and it was as close to a home away from home as one could hope to find. Daddy lay there, his mind so far away as I gave him a gentle hug. When I asked how he was doing, "Well, Sister, this is one Hell of a way to die, but sometimes we just have to Accept things!"

There it was, him telling me about Acceptance, having to let go of so many things that had helped make him one very strong man. My heart ached that day, but I listened and just let him talk. It felt like he was making peace with having to be confined to that bed. He could still get in a motorized wheelchair. But before long, that, too, had to be taken from him. It seemed that Daddy only knew One Speed on the machine, and it was FAST. Each time he left his room, he flipped the switch to go roaring down the hallways, his arm would get caught in the railing and with being Diabetic, he began having severe problems with healing. I had to be the one to tell him the machine had to go. Strange–he must have already sensed it because when I entered his room to take away his last ability of being mobile. He took a long look at me and said, "Well, they sent the Big Gun over to take away my machine!" I sat down and answered a sad, "Yes, Daddy." Then he told me "take it away, and make sure it helps somebody else!" Acceptance with no fight, and now those memories are still with me to draw on as I fight my way through Acceptance, admitting my Limitations and not being angry about it.

This day ended on a wonderful note as I went outside, tried to pull some weeds and realized, "Now did you just have injections a few days ago?" I sat down at our patio and suddenly here came the familiar roar of my husband as he saw me, instantly stopping the mower, preparing himself to hear me complain about all the things I couldn't do anymore. Instead, I gave him a big hug and suggested we sit down together to share a glass of tea. His relief was obvious! Without question, it is a wicked journey for the one who must suffer the physical pain. But it's also be a tough burden for our loved ones who must sit by, feeling helpless as they see the wicked battle of Chronic Pain being inflicted on their loved one.

Yes, I  made some good "baby steps" today and knowing myself, there will still be days of struggle ahead. But I am learning to Accept the Letting Go Process and Cherish all that I have been blessed with–the love of my dear husband and wonderful Friends. All this is possible only by the Grace of God, showing me the way.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Day of grace at the pain clinic

After all these years of going to my pain doctor for injections to give me some temporary relief from Pain, its like almost doing it in my sleep. Signing in, completing all the required paperwork, taking a blue-and-pink marker to draw where my Pain is, then where numbness has settled and will not go away...well, it's amazing how fast I fly through the papers. I do have time to look around the room to see all the other people there, waiting for their turn to go in for relief. And it never fails that I will see somebody in a condition that catches my breath. Then I ache for the suffering they must be going through.

It's rare for me to be shocked during my visits to the Pain Clinic because I always come away with memories of somebody else hurting. To be honest, with the medication given to help ease the injections, there are many things that I just forget. So how in the world would I begin to think this visit would be one that feels as if it were sent from Above? There is always a nurse who is there to welcome you, lead you to the holding area where you quickly hop into a hospital gown and get settled on a stretcher. She is the one who gets all the vital information from you. Many of these nurses are very familiar to me–this pain clinic is almost like going to a Family Reunion. Even people in the surgery room greet me with "Hey, Martha, ready for relief?"  

But this day proved to be like no other as my nurse greeted me with a beautiful smile. I could tell she was from another country. Her homeland was Vietnam, and she went by the name "Then Hu" with a fast apology if I didn't understand her words. I found myself wanting to know everything possible about this young woman. She appeared to be in her late 20s. While we shared light conversation, I asked how long she had been in the U.S. and how it compared to her homeland.

She paused for a while and said, "Oh, it's a long story. Too long to tell today." The she started doing her regular nursing duties, like getting my vitals and taking my blood pressure. I dared to push again as I begged her to share with me! For whatever reason, I could not take my eyes away from this beautiful woman, and my heart felt as it were telling me "Listen attentively, there is much to hear today" And so her story began.

"Well, I will try to make it short for you. I came here to the U.S. when I was only 12 years old. My family escaped from Vietnam after my father was let out of a prison camp. We traveled in a boat with so many people, and for three days we had no food, no water. I thought we would all die. My parents kept comforting me, and we prayed constantly. Suddenly, on the fourth day, a huge boat appeared and took us in. They could see that if we were not rescued, everyone would die."  

My mind was numb, trying to imagine what she had gone through, being out in the middle of the ocean, nothing to eat or drink and fearing death was just around the corner. All the time she spoke to me, her smile was constant. I dared to ask, "Was it difficult to leave your homeland?" Again a pause and she said, "If we had not escaped, I would not be here today, as so many people were being killed in my homeland. When we reached the U.S., it felt like heaven and that's when my fears started to go away. But it was not easy when we first got here as we had no money. My Father worked many jobs, and I began working at the age of 14 so that I could help my family have food."

There has never been a time in my life when I had to worry about the lack of food, and my heart broke as I thought about this child, now at 14, having already gone through the fear of no food, stepping up to help her family and work. She said there were times when she had four or five jobs, and all the money went to the family. I wanted to offer words of comfort to her as she told me, "It's okay. Yes, it was so hard, but my family was all together and that meant everything to us. I got to work by riding a bicycle and did not own a car until I reached the age of 24! Can you imagine that?" No, my heart was silent as I knew there were no words to say I understood all this woman was telling me. For whatever reason, I hungered for more from her and asked, "So why did you want to be a nurse?" Again that smile."Oh, that was easy. I saw people in my homeland who needed medical help and never got it. Being a nurse gives me the chance to help people, just like you, who are in Pain and need someone to care about them!"  

Then I knew this woman was a special blessing being sent to me on this day. I thanked God for the courage to ask for her story, and I thanked her over and over for sharing with me. I knew our time was running short now as my time was coming up to be taken back to the surgery room. So I asked her if she was married. Again a pause, and she said, "I am 42 years old. Nobody wants a woman that age. Yes, sometimes I wish it could happen, but God has blessed me with this work, and I am still able to keep giving money to my family and helping them. So if it happens, that's up to God." Such a peaceful acceptance this woman had in her heart! As they rolled me away, I could hear her words, "I hope you feel better, God bless!"

On the way home, I tried to share this amazing day with my husband, but the medication was still affecting me so my words didn't make a lot of sense. Later that evening, I was able to tell him about my special nurse, and he was stunned to hear her story. He agreed as we both said, "It's so important that we count our blessings." And we did. I went there to get relief from my physical pain and came away with my heart filled with grace, having been blessed to meet Then Hu and learning of her amazing journey.

This was my Joy for the day, and it will stay with me forever.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Joy of listening to rain

During the past year, many people have heard news reports of the severe drought Texas has been enduring. The terrible fires, too, that resulted in people losing their homes and all their possessions. Having been born and raised here, I must say it's the worst of weather conditions I have ever seen. We almost dread turning the evening news on because of what it will bring, another sad report of how dry this part of the country is.

Yet today, as I'm sitting in my office and treasuring the sound of plentiful rains and rolling thunder all about us, I'm thinking, "Well, this is not the typical weather predictions." But I could have already told the professional weather people that rain was definitely on the way because my Pain has been off the charts! This version of Pain is different than the regular everyday hurting as the weather is getting closer to us, my Pain keeps rising and will not slow down until the weather arrives!

I have been trying to stay busy, doing work on my computer, making cookies, watching a movie–anything to distract me from the burning Pain in my butt and leg. Yet I know, nothing is going to help it. I just have to ride my way through it and pray it will ease. So I decided to just stop and listen to this beautiful gift from the Lord, instead of trying to find "busy work" to help get my mind off the Pain.

People who know me say I am very much a typical "Martha, Martha" person, staying busy, wanting everything done proper, and getting frustrated easily. This led me back to the Bible verse where Jesus was at a wedding and Mary was sitting at His feet, exactly where she should be while Martha was running around, working and finally asking Jesus "why" Mary wasn't doing her share of work. Jesus let Martha know "Martha, Martha, why do you worry so much? Mary is at her Master's feet!" I have read this verse many times in my life, and the meaning hits me deep because I realize it's one of my biggest struggles in life: learning to just Stop, be still and listen.

As I heard the thunder continue to roll, something told me, "Just listen to this blessing." I knew in my heart where that suggestion was coming from. As the rain is running off our roof, it's a delightful sound, so delicate. Suddenly, childhood memories were filling me up. One day, while out with my dad, an approaching storm was coming. When the thunder crackled, I grabbed his big hand and clung to him, as tears started to flow down my cheeks. He knew how frightened his little girl was and took the time to give me his teaching version of the Lord. "Oh Sister, now don't be afraid of that thunder. Jesus is carrying a huge load of potatoes for people to eat, and He stumbled on a rock and all those potatoes just came rolling out. That's why we hear thunder!"

Those words calmed my fears instantly. Now, as the years have passed, each time I hear thunder, my heart goes back to that special moment when I needed comfort, and my Dad gave it me in such a loving way. He did not attend church. But without a doubt, he was filled with a deep love for the Lord and shared it in the only way he knew how. Dad didn't have much education. He only got through the eighth grade because he had to drop out when his mother died and he was needed at home to help take care of the other children.

So today I sit here and treasure the gift of rain and thunder, the blessings of cherished memories. By His grace, I will tolerate the Pain that is with me today. This is not an easy task to accomplish, but I will find my way as I thank God for the rains and giving me this day, filled with the simple joy of hearing the sound of rain.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Chronic Pain takes away the feeling of being normal

Sometimes I lose count of how many years Pain has been with me. Not because the Pain goes away, but it has become very "familiar" to me and the memory of being normal is long gone. I think of all the physical work that is no longer a part of me: gardening, mowing, building fences, painting, even pulling weeds from my flower beds. My identity seemed so connected to physical labor since I was a very young child and my tiny legs moved fast to keep up with the long stride of my precious Dad. Each time he went outside, there I was right beside him, asking so many questions like, "Daddy, why is that chicken jumping on top of the other one all the time?"  

His face would turn red. Then I recall something being said about that being the way chickens are, and he would move on quickly to get off the subject that I was too young to comprehend. The day my Dad passed, he called me, and we talked as I was on my way for more Pain injections. I still recall him telling me in a firm voice, "Well Sister, I am afraid that Old Pain is going to stay with you for the rest of your life. But you are strong, don't forget that!" I assured him that his words would stay with me and promised to see him within the next day or two. But the Lord was ready to call him home. My sister phoned me just when we got home from the Pain Clinic and told me, "Come quick, Daddy is waiting for you." The Lord blessed me with  a few moments of being with my dear Dad, and I was able to tell him how much I loved him.

I have pondered deeply on that phone call and wondered, "Why did he tell me about the Pain staying with me?" We had not talked about it much, and yet there he was, in his final day and reaching out to give me words that would stay with me forever. When I think about it, the Lord used my Dad to give me the example of what it was like to live with Chronic Pain, to have all your physical abilities taken from you and yet still bless you with a sense of humor, being able to laugh during the worst of times. One day while he was still with us, I went to see him and realized he badly needed a shave. So we both agreed, let's try it. Right as I got the razor close to his face, he paused a moment, took my hand in his and said, "Now I bet you might want to slice my throat for being a tough Dad. But if you don't mind, I would like to live through this shaving episode!" We laughed so hard, and I promised to not do any permanent damage to him.

My sister-in-law, who is paralyzed and in a wheelchair, gave me a strong reminder about "counting our blessings" as she shared with me about her joy of being able to get in her van, take a drive and it hitting her so fast, "Is this what it feels like to be normal?" It touched me deeply as I knew how deep that statement must run inside her heart. I do not have a clue as to what it is like to be in her position. All I can do is praise her and admire the amazing strength she holds onto.

So my goal is to take what the Lord has directly in front of me and be thankful for every bit of it. Nothing will be accomplished if I continue fussing about the things I can't do. After all, I will be keeping the promise made to my Dad so many years ago, "I will be strong and never forget that, even in my worst moments."

Keep looking up for a second of joy. It's always there.

God bless you all.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Not my typical Sunday

I grew up with a dear grandfather who taught me about the importance of Sunday and what the Lord asks of us. He talked about keeping the Sabbath holy and would break it down for me since I was very young. Simply put, he would tell me, "It means you should always go to church and give thanks to the Lord, no matter what." He'd continue by explaining that Sunday was NOT meant to be a day of work but instead a day of rest. Then he'd pull out the family Bible and read the verse about God resting on Sunday.

Those loving words have stayed with me all my life. And even though my Grandfather probably didn't think I was getting the importance of his words, I understood his amazing faith in God and how he wanted to share this with me. More importantly, he followed his words by setting the example of doing them. I knew that when Sunday rolled around, Grandpa would be at church first, then home for Sunday lunch followed by a long afternoon of rest.  

I have worked hard to do the same as I was taught so long ago. Yes, I have had my Sundays of failing to make church and working hard when I should have been concentrating on what really mattered most, giving time to the Lord. As these years of suffering with Chronic Pain have rolled by, there have been so many times when the last thing I wanted to do was attend church. Instead, I wanted to just stay in bed and try to cope with the Pain.  

Over the years, I have heard numerous priests and ministers comment on how the Lord "has a sense of humor." This past Sunday, HE gave me a front row seat to humor! For months now, I have been struggling with stomach problems–or as they call it, Acid Reflux Disease, probably brought on because instead of releasing my worries to the Lord as I should, my habit is to just hold everything in. Trust me, this does NOT work well!

I got up and thought everything was going well, took my medication for the acid reflux and suddenly, without any warning, found myself seriously ill and unable to leave the bathroom. My prayers were flying all around me, and I was truly begging the Lord to help me get through this as sweat was pouring off me. I have lived in Texas my entire life and know what real heat is like. This was the first time I had ever sweated so much!

Finally, with my "Hidden Angels," I managed to make my way to the bed and tried to rest. My dear husband was outside, and I was praying he'd come inside fast because I needed him, bad! Before I knew it, here he came with his usual habit of walking through all the house to my office, then the kitchen, his office and finally he was standing at our bed. He took one look at me and knew, "Something is not right with my wife."

All I said was, "Call EMS!"  

This was a first for me. There have been times when I have told my husband to get me to the hospital when an illness would hit me. But I'd never uttered those words. Here I was, telling him to get me an ambulance, fast! What I was not saying to him was how badly dehydrated my body was. I knew getting fluids into me fast was only going to work at a hospital. My dear husband just stood frozen and said "Are you sure that I can't take you?" Now a wife has a moment when a certain look comes across her face, and husbands universally recognize it in a heartbeat! Again my voice croaked out, "Call EMS–Now!"

He could not get to the phone fast enough.

Within minutes, I heard that familiar sound of sirens coming. Before I knew it, everything was happening so fast. Questions being asked. Me trying to answer them, then explaining to the EMS guy that I had only two good veins that he would be able to find for fluids. He paused for just a second and then said, "Martha, I am going to climb up on your bed so we can get to your arm and do this quickly." I was fine with it. But for whatever reason, I glanced around him and saw my precious husband, his face had a look of fear on it that I had never seen. Something or someone seemed to be telling me, "Say anything to lighten the mood up right now." So being the plain-spoken person that I am, I could not resist saying to the EMS  guy, "I have been married for almost 37 years, and this is the first time I ever had a strange man in my bed.  The only man has been my husband, and he is standing right behind you!"  

First, there was silence. Then blessed laughter followed as the redness left this poor man's face and he said, "This is a first for me, and I will never forget it! We all shared a quick chuckle, and I noticed my husband was more at ease as I was being rolled out on the stretcher to the ambulance. Now we live directly behind our church, meaning if I tried really hard, I could probably throw a rock and get close to the church. Now came the moment for the Lord's sense of humor to arrive!

Something hit me, and I glanced toward the church, heard the familiar sound of Sunday bells and realized, "Oh, my God, church is just letting out. Here I am in my PJs, looking awful and strapped to a gurney! One of our church members had already driven up to see if he could be of help, and I was touched by that. We did not linger long, and it was off to the hospital. I was given excellent care and a lot of fluids and was back home that evening, still worrying about what people were thinking and who saw all this unfold.  

The next day, our phone started to ring with church members wanting to offer prayer and let me know how concerned they were. Nobody was worried about how I looked, and they assured me that prayers were offered up right there on the spot as the ambulance took me away. I thanked them and bowed my head in humble prayer for the Lord putting us exactly where He wanted us to be, right behind the church.

Strange to say this, but Sunday was my moment of Joy when I found the strength to bring laughter into a tense moment and help my husband relax. Maybe it wasn't the best comment to make, but I have a feeling that young EMS man will remember it for a long time. Yes, there is humor in the worst of times! So do not be afraid to reach for that second of  laughter because it helps!

God bless you all. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

One simple word...Prayer

This past week was not one of my best because I had to search out an intestinal doctor to find out what was causing my severe heartburn. Nobody enjoys medical tests, and I found myself facing an endoscopy. But since I had one years ago, somehow I managed to keep a tiny grip on my nerves.

We had to be at the facility by 6:45 a.m. Every person in there looked sleepy, grumpy, and wanted to be back in their beds, sleeping. My name was called. I gave my dear husband a quick peck on the cheek and started to follow the nurse. This was the moment Nerves rose up in me as I whirled around and almost yelled back at my husband, "Please pray for me!" It was loud enough for every sleep-deprived person in the room to hear my desperate request, and it hit me this room had grown very silent. People looked at me and probably wondered, "How bad is it behind those doors because this woman really looks scared!"

What a tremendous impact one simple, yet powerful word has on people! Prayer. People seem to understand the meaning that word carries, and I had the feeling some strangers in that room might be saying a silent word of Prayer for me. I felt grateful. Things moved along, and, before I knew it, my turn had come for the procedure to begin. My nerves were all over the place! I had not met this doctor before because she'd been a referral given to me by my general MD. Over the years in dealing with Chronic Pain and trips to the hospital, it's very uncomfortable not already knowing the doctor who you are about to entrust your life to. My mind was racing as to how I would introduce myself to her, wanting so badly to somehow let her know "I am so frightened. Please take great care of me!" 

Little did I realize the Lord had already given me what I needed to say. After the doctor introduced herself to me, I didn't hesitate. "Are you a Praying woman?" She stopped cold and could easily hear the determined manner in which I asked my question. Without any hesitation, she said a firm "Yes" to my question, giving me great comfort. My eyes had locked onto her face, and I said, "Good! I need to say a word of Prayer for myself because I am very worried about this procedure." The attending medical people in the room had stopped everything and stood silent, probably wondering what was going to happen next. So I quickly said, "Please, Dear Lord, let this test go well, and the results be good."  

I turned to the Doctor and noticed her head was bowed in Prayer. I told her "Let's get this done!" The room now seemed so peaceful, and I knew there were Precious hands holding me up. The Lord knew my fears before I uttered them and gave me the word I needed that day. Before I knew it, the doctor was at my side, letting me know the test was over. Then she said the words I had longed to hear: "Martha, there was no sign of cancer. You have acid reflux really bad!" My head leaned against her shoulder, and all I could say was Thank You, Lord! My heart had been filled with deep fear of having cancer because my father had a history of it. And no matter how hard my dear husband tried to assure me all would be okay, I saw things in a bad light.

One Simple Word...Prayer...was all I needed to grab onto and to have trust in the words I prayed. I have leaned hard on Prayer all my life, and on this day, as my fears ran rampant, this amazing word, Prayer, began to remove all my fear. Something tells me I probably kept my Guardian Angels very busy that day, too.

We all need Prayer in our lives, no matter how the words are offered up. The Good Man Above is always listening!

God Bless each of you.