Christianity, Chronic Illness, Emotional Health, Faith, Health, Hope, Marriage, Prayer, Relationships, Trust, Uncategorized

When Life Shows Up…

My time on the porch is once again becoming shorter as the temperature begins to return to last week’s glimpse of late summer. While I enjoyed the temporary relief of the “cold” front that passed through, the above-average temperatures are becoming the new normal. NPR reported that the folks who keeps tabs on his kind of stuff say that May was a full five degrees hotter than last year across the board. It seems that every month seems to be either breaking records or least landing in the top five warmest years. I wonder what the world will be like for my grandchildren. I think about things like that and quite frankly, I get fearful for them. But that’s another story…

A young male mockingbird has laid claim to one of the trees in our front yard. He’s a cocky little fellow and a bit a bully when it comes to other birds in our yard and our cat. He’s quick to chase off the other birds, especially the doves, when they land in the yard. He loves to drop down and get close enough to Wallace, our cat, daring him to catch him and indulging in a very dangerous game of tag. Little does he know that Wallace isn’t really interested anything other that sleeping on my truck and periodically wandering over to the front porch to make sure his food bowl is constantly full. Still, I love watching the little guy just because he’s so full of self-confidence and bravado. It doesn’t matter that he has little to fear from Wallace. He’s still very courageous…

I went to my doctor yesterday for a follow-up to my recent hospital stay. I have another four weeks with my little IV buddy by my side. I still feel as if I’m under house arrest at times. Everything is scheduled around my infusion and the heat outside. I’m still not supposed to sweat, which seems futile given the Texas summer. I’m already tired of staying in either the bedroom or my office, which are the only rooms in the house that stay cool after about 10:00 AM. I sneak outside to work in the garden for a few minutes at a time. It’s only been a couple of weeks and I have serious cabin fever, which has been a truly eye-opening (and somewhat guilt-ridden) experience.

I’ve experienced, to a very tiny degree, what my wife has had to go through for the last two-and-a-half years. Some of you that are reading this know the difficulties my wife, Margaret, has had to walk through since her back surgery back in October of 2015. So, it makes sense when I say to you that I have no right to complain. Doing so reminds me of how self-centered I can be, even with the ones I love the most.

For those of you who don’t know Margaret, there are a few things I need to tell you. I don’t feel I’m speaking out of line, since we are both very public about our physical issues – not to seek pity, but to help others going through the same things. One thing I’ve learned over the last several years is that there are a lot of people who live with terrible isolation and depression. That’s often the consequence of chronic pain and illness. Our openness is hopefully beneficial to others, and for that I’m grateful. We both firmly believe that our purpose in life is to help others. Still, I forget that sometimes, I forget about the one closest to me.

Margaret has dealt with chronic pain for the last several years. We’ve joked that if it pertains to her back and ends with “-osis” she’s probably experienced it. She will tell you that she was 5’7” when she was twelve. She’s 4’10” today (and I’m 6’3” so it’s not always easy to frame our photos in a camera lens…). Despite the difficulty caused by her back issues, she’s been fiercely independent. If a doctor tells her she can’t do something, her response has always been “watch me”. Her attitude and her reliance on God led her to do many things she wasn’t supposed to be able to do. That’s one of the things I’ve always loved and admired about her. She’s a beautiful, strong, an independent woman.

However, her situation changed in 2015. She began to experience new back pains. It soon became apparent that another surgery would be required to alleviate them, which she had in October of that year. The surgery relieved much of the pain it as designed to do, but also left a new problem – healing was to be extremely slow around some of the new hardware in her back. The last two-and-a-half years has been tenuous at best. It’s like modified bed rest and it’s debilitating to her emotions as well.

If you deal with chronic pain or medical conditions, you know how easy it is to succumb to depression after all the frustration and powerlessness that comes with them. If my situation feels like house arrest, then I can only imagine how my wife must feel. I realize how my current “inconveniences” are nothing compared to the ones that she, and many others, constantly deal with. In fact, I feel like a bit of a jerk for saying anything at all.

We were talking yesterday afternoon about her frustration and depression. Sometimes she feels like she has no purpose anymore because of her limitations. It cut me to the core to see the love of my life feel that way. She’s been an unbelievable role model so many people, and she’s loved by so many folks, but sometimes knowing that and feeling that are two completely different things. So, I’ve been thinking a lot about what her (and my) purpose is the last few days.

We both have our faith, which calls us to love God and love others. She’s far better than I am at that, but with her help (and God’s!) I’m getting better at it. She’s clothed in humility and in tune with the needs of others. Humility is not “thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less”, and she truly exemplifies that virtue. Moreover, if I ever have difficulty with feeling (and practicing) gratitude, all I need is spend a few minutes with Margaret and I’m back on track again. Ultimately, our purpose is to be of service to God and our fellow travelers in this world and she meets that in so many ways. Still, that seems kind of vague and general when you’re stuck at home so much of the time.

The road hasn’t always been easy, but we’ve been down the road together, and God has graced us in ways that are unimaginable. There are days when she feels very lonely and isolated, even when I’m at work in the next room. So, I thought Margaret and I together could share some of our experience, strength, and hope of living well (and sometimes not so well) with chronic pain and illness. Hopefully, you’ll be hearing from her, in her voice, and hear her story soon. It’s one that needs to be shared. Maybe in sharing the grace that has been extended to us, we can help others see the love and grace in their own lives even when life “shows up”.

I haven’t talked to her about it yet, but we’re usually on the same page. I hope it all makes sense because she’s also my editor and she’s resting following a procedure on her back this morning. It’s just as important to us that we share our struggles as it is the share the incredible life we’ve been graced with. The old Hebrew prophets tell us that God “rains on the just and the unjust alike” – life shows up no matter who you are. Sharing how she and I work through it sounds like a pretty good “purpose”, so maybe we can be of help to someone along the way. I’ll keep you posted…

1 thought on “When Life Shows Up…”

  1. Mr. Joel, I love you SO VERY MUCH! It’s 1:00 a.m. and I couldn’t sleep then I remembered you telling me earlier that I didn’t need to proof your blog today, I’d just have to read it. As you lie there snoring (no, it’s not that bad tonight and, no, you didn’t wake me or keep me from getting back to sleep) and Sadie whines and barks from her ‘house’ I thought I’d read today’s post. I think that’s a stellar idea! I don’t think ‘Thoughts from the Bed’ is nearly as catchy as ‘Thoughts from the Porch’ so you’ll have to help me think of a name. THANK YOU! for being the amazing companion, friend and spouse who loves me so completely and beautifully. I joke with you about needing to have your eyes examined but, the truth is, I’m grateful that you see me with your spiritual eyes. I guess that’s what we travelers call rose colored glasses? Good night, my love, sleep well and thank you, again! You’re simply amazing.

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