Today I was thinking, praying, and trying to remember what life was like before pain. I can remember the joy that I found in running, flipping, cheering, or rolling around with and carrying my sweet babies, but I can no longer remember what it feels like to not have pain. Whether it be by doctors, nurses, friends, family, acquaintances, or even strangers curious about my storm trooper-style brace, I am daily asked about my level of pain, what it is like to be in pain, how I function in pain, etc. Almost ten years ago, I started experiencing pain in my shoulder and an irregular hitch in it’s movement pattern. It was bothersome for years, but could be managed with rest, modalities, and NSAIDS. In December of 2007, the pain worsened greatly as the muscles around my scapula spasmed and I was sent to an orthopedist who noticed some scapular winging and sent me to physical therapy for almost a year with no success. Frustrated and with pain back to status quo, physical therapy had come to an end so I resumed life as normal as a busy mom while keeping in shape with my active and athletic life. After my fourth child was born I worked hard to quickly regain my pre-pregnancy weight and to manage the needs of my growing family. One day, I began to pick up my 2-year old at the time son, Britan, causing my left shoulder to wing out drastically and leave me screaming in pain. I have had 4 c-sections, a wrist surgery, wisdom teeth removed without anesthesia, and all those pains were like nothing compared to the pain that I was left in after that occurred. I couldn’t even move without screaming or crying out in immense pain. My children who most had never even seen me cry before were shocked and terrified as I sobbed in pain and attempted to call Jared hoping to reach him at his softball tournament.
Finally I reached Jared, and he rushed me to the doctor as every jolt of the car caused me to cry out in pain. After a visit to Urgent Care and a few shots and pain meds later, the doctor said he had never seen a shoulder injury with such severe winging and he referred me on to another doctor. Doctor after doctor and test after test, finally revealed a decreased nerve signal to my rhomboid and seratus muscles on the left side. Basically, those two muscles could never get stronger than a certain point and they were too weak to support my shoulder structure leaving it to wing and droop causing the other surrounding muscles to continuously spasm to try to unsuccessfully hold everything in place. Constant muscle spasms mean constant, unrelenting pain, yet still the muscles fail to hold up the structure.
When my doctor gave me my final diagnosis that I would be in constant, severe pain for the rest of my life with continued structural deterioration and worsening pain, I could not even process it. He told me that he had never had to give a diagnosis of forever with pain to someone as young as me (I was 29 at the time) and that usually when he gave that diagnosis the person was elderly and only had a few years to live so they wouldn’t be in pain very long unlike myself. I grieved at knowing that my life would never be the same. Not only were the sports of any kind that I loved so much impossible, but so were most aspects of daily life. Truly, I threw a year long pity party for myself, crying nearly every day. I couldn’t talk about it without crying. I mourned the loss of my life before pain, the loss of the ability to be an active mommy and lift and carry my kids, the loss of the ability to clean, cook, and care for practical family needs. I had always been independent, yet now I had to not only rely on others, but I had to ask for help as well. Of course I knew that people everywhere were experiencing difficulties far worse then what I was going through. However, it is hard to see through the pain and when you are throwing a pity party for yourself it may as well be a big one.
I couldn’t accept and still am not sure that I do, that this was it, so I went on a tour of the top specialists in the state always receiving a lot of interest since the injury is so rare but the diagnosis was always the same. There was nothing that could be fixed and that I would be in worsening chronic pain for the rest of my life. I left every appointment a discouraged and a sobbing mess, yet I always knew that God was with me. I just didn’t know what He was doing, but I knew that I had to rely on Him fully. I had no strength except strength from my Heavenly Father’s arms and from my friends and family surrounding me with love.
My family, friends, and church were already praying for healing, but I began to ask them to pray that I would have joy. I needed joy that can only be found in the Lord to face each day, each minute, each moment of pain. I needed to have joy in accepting life as it is, not as it was. I needed joy to help me smile and live life and silence my mind when all I could hear was my brain screaming that I was in pain. I needed joy live life to the best of my ability and to spend time with people when pain was directing me to be alone all huddled in my bed with my heating pad. I needed joy to continue to serve Christ and I needed His strength to do His work even if it was just by sharing what He was doing in my life.
When i found joy in the Lord is when I stopped feeling sorry for myself and started seeing the beauty of the blessings that were occurring in the midst of this hardship. With joy from Him, I finally stopped crying my way through doctor’s visits (most of them anyway) and I was able to witness to several of my doctors. Far away from family, my friends and my church blessed me by bringing me meals, driving me around, cleaning and doing other household jobs for me, helping with my children, and loving me in so many other ways. People that were very busy with their own lives took time out of their lives to bless and take care of me. Some friends have prayed with me, cried with me, and helped to carry me through my most difficult days and still are always there for me, walking through this journey.. It has been over two years, and I still see the heart of God working through the many people that bless and care for me. I also have finally learned to ask for help–to tell friends what I need even if it is something as exciting as “scrubbing all of sticky and yucky spots in my kitchen”. I am told that it is actually a gift to others when I allow them to bless and help me. I am not sure of that, but it definitely blesses me whenever someone gives of their time to care for me.
I have also seen the glory of the Lord as He has worked in my life and my heart. My personality was always slightly obsessive–such as with cleaning my house, schedules, fitness, etc. I like to have everything done a certain way and that way is to have everything as perfect as possible. This is something that I have struggled with, yet I can see God’s sense of humor in the whole situation. I now have no choice, but to accept that my life will never be perfectly and neatly organized again (and it probably never really was). I have to accept that since I have physical limitations and four children that my house will not be perfect and will almost always be chaotic in some sense. I have to accept that people will witness this crazy world and that they will love me just the same–that my value is in Christ and not in appearances. This reminds me of the Bible story of Mary and Martha as I am by nature
a Martha; always busy, always finding ways to serve and never sitting to enjoy what is going on around me.
Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)
“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
I would have definitely been Martha in this story, but God is molding me into a Mary. Most days it is impossible for me to do much except sit and listen to my Heavenly Father. I have to sit, be still, and watch His mighty power work in ways that I do not understand. Being still allows more time to just enjoy fellowship with my children and friends. I can watch my children grow each day and not rush through their childhood. I can enjoy and find joy in the journey instead of missing the lessons that I am supposed to learn. Without this pain, I would not so clearly see the promise that the Lord has for me.
Though I still am looking forward to the day when I will be healed, cured, or set free of pain. For now, there is one promise that I cling to everyday.
Revelation 21:4 (ESV)
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for former things have passed away.”
God’s Word holds the promise that for believers there will come a day with no more pain. I look forward to this day with great hope, not because I have a desire to leave this life that God has given me, but instead with the promise that I know I will one day be without pain of any kind in Heaven with the Lord. There are days when the pain makes me want to crawl out of my skin, my brain can’t silence the screams in my mind, and I can’t feel or see anything except the pain that cuts into me like a hot searing knife. Those days, I cry out to the Lord and cling to the promise of His Word as He carries me in His arms. There are also good days when I joyfully praise the Lord for the good and the bad as it is through all of this pain that I have been able to see so much promise from the Lord and rejoice in his abounding love. Without God, the future is full of death, pain, fear. That is why Jesus dying on the cross holds such meaning for me and so many others. Christ took all of our sins and bore our pain as He died on the cross so that we can live one day in heaven with Him. My Father holds me, loves me, and will continue to teach me to see more of His promise through my pain.