Faced With ….

“Faced with demoralization, gratitude has the power to energize. Faced with brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. Faced with despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope.” -ROBERT EMMONS

Demoralization: The pharmacy workers where I get my prescriptions are exasperated by the rudeness of the public. The pharmacist cannot figure out if it is this prolonged pandemic or the way society has given up on being polite? Some of the techs have even quit. Some of the workers that are most experienced have had to leave to provide child care for their children. The new employees are green and new. They need time to find their way through the insurance mazes and medicare technicalities.

So we took them three balloons and a dozen donuts. On the balloon shaped like a gold star I wrote “Be kind.” Really, kindness does not cost us anything. Hopefully our gratitude towards them with energize them in their work.

Brokenness: Well I have a friend whose daughter is terribly ill. For several weeks they did tests and scans and more tests. Finally the surgeon said okay. He is very experienced and did the “Whipple” procedure. She had a tumor wrapped around several organs. The first few hours of the surgery went well and were done robotically. Then he found the tumor had almost completely blocked an artery and some veins around her liver. When they called in the vascular surgeon he had to open her belly. When it was all over, she had endured something like 14 hours of surgery. She remains in ICU. They had to remove part of her stomach, part of her intestines and part of her pancreas. There is great concern over the length of time her organs were exposed. She and her husband always like to watch Monty Python and have memorized many of the lines. When her mother finally got to speak to her on the phone the patient quoted the movie where they were loading bodies during the plague. One man being carried out lifted his head and said, “I’m not dead yet!” Both mother and daughter had a good laugh. This family has been broken and ground into a dust that now completely depends upon the Lord and His servant the surgeon. Surgeon said this was the worst tumor he had ever dealt with. Praise God, there is NO sign of cancer. The two teenage daughters are struggling with not seeing mom at all. Only husband can go in her room due to pandemic. She continues to get units of blood. This photo was taken the first time PT had her stand up. Still struggling with lots of pain. Father, help their gratitude heal their weary hearts, I pray. Heal her and strengthen her I pray.

Despair: In this prolonged isolation and rapidly spreading pandemic we each need more gratitude to help us combat despair. To me, it seems this despair is being poured over the earth like hot tar. Robert Emmons says gratitude has the power to being hope. Are you familiar with the lyrics to “Great is Thy Faithfulness”?

His faithfulness will see us each through this weird year of 2020 and beyond. Gratitude can heal and restore us, energize us and give us hope. Find three things each day to give thanks for. Be kind. Give thanks.

Difficulty of Physical Stillness

I began to wonder if my doctor had ever sat for 5-6 weeks with no weight bearing upon one of his feet? I found it to be difficult psychologically. Psalm 32:9 CSB is a description of me when I refused to trust God in the difficult moments. “Do not be like a horse or mule, without understanding, that must be controlled with bit and bridle or else it will not come near you.”

The verse before that is a wonderful promise: “I will instruct you and show you the way to go; with my eye on you, I will give counsel.”

And God did when I calmed down, asked for help and let Him guide me.

Here is what we saw when the bandages were removed for the first time:

Tara Brach calls us to Surrendered Presence, Surrendering Presence. We waste so much time and energy trying to control everything. We are better off as far as energy stores if we can surrender and wait and see. One beaded bracelet I made pre-surgery reminds me that God is never perplexed. He is willing to be my strength. As I gladly boast in my weakness ( 2 COR 12:9-10) He is willing to be my strength and “react” upon me. (See journal entry http://stand-and-tip.com/2019/10/06/perfect-in-weakness/)

On October 31 I read a quote from Mark Nepo that says, “The things that frighten us just want to be held.” “Does that describe my fear of the pain out of control? Just something that wants to be held? Show me Lord, how to spread out the medication. When to stop. How to cope with the remainder of the healing pain.”

“I trust You, Jesus, to lead me through this. I do not want to be hooked on the painkiller. Please give me the courage to cope with this pain. Wisdom to know how to proceed.” And just like that, I was on Tylenol only.

November 2 I wrote in my journal that I needed to go back and read what I wrote about the turtle at the Nature Center ( https://treasures-in-plain-sight.org/2018/09/22/the-wise-turtle-and-bloom/). She taught me to hold on to wisdom, courage and the ability to keep looking up. “Most importantly, I realize she is looking up, as I am called to do, fixing my eyes upon things eternal. Letting go of obvious pain and aging issues I am able to relax on my favorite bench and simply soak in the pond activity: belching frogs, passing humans, bird song and noonday joy.” Yes, Lord, return me to that peace. Acceptance of things as they come. Wait and see attitude. NOT jumping to the furthest negative conclusion.”

I will likely never forget for long that I have a steel plate in my foot with 6 little screws. As of January 14 I am walking 5-8,000 steps per day. the doctor thought that was too much. Well, when I got inspired I just began moving. He says I am not totally healed yet. So, as you read this, please pray the bone will grow more thoroughly around that plate and screws.

Yield and Breathe and Listen

Other lessons learned while recovering from foot surgery: Determined to not be taking much pain medication, I broke the cardinal rule of recovery and took too little. Saturday, October 26 was a 7PM melt down. I felt as if my foot was swelling, then pushing against the padding and ace bandage and then the THROB began. It was the worst pain I had experienced thus far. Put myself to bed and loving husband brought me ice packs and iced water to sip. I listened to meditations, especially from “Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Cabat-Zinn. Husband rubbed my back. I read until drowsy then slept, and tried to draw what I saw at the apex of pain. Of course, I did not capture it as I saw it at the time. We decided I likely took too little medication that day. Tried to stick to 6 hour schedule the next day. I am exhausted and wary of THAT much pain. Pain I could NOT ignore. I was able with the meditation recording to breathe into it, exhale it, but it was serious WORK. Yes, I have a plate in my toe.

Prior to surgery I tried to prepare myself psychologically for the long recovery sitting. I planned crochet projects, things to read, and recorded TV shows to entertain and distract me. I cooked foods we liked and froze them. Taking my iPhone to the basement I photographed every storage shelf in the pantry area and shelves in the freezer so that when people asked me where something was, I might be able to direct them to the correct area. Even the upstairs kitchen pantry was photographed. I planned clothing that was easy to get on over huge bandage and cast. What I did not realize was just how difficult it can be to sit idle for a long time after a fairly active life! My step count had dropped to around 3,000 steps per day prior to surgery due to pain in my foot. Taking that to near zero and letting go of all household responsibility was something I had not done in several years. I think that like childbirth, we tend to forget the miserable times in life, or at least, to gloss over them. Sitting still and staying cheerful for weeks on end is work! I sometimes found myself fantasizing about just getting up and walking.

October 28, 2 weeks after the surgery, I had a major emotional meltdown. I did not see it coming. I was exploring crochet patterns online for a small turtle to remind me like Aesop’s fable that “slow and steady wins the race.” Was having difficulty signing on to my favorite site.

Suddenly and rapidly the anxiety was upon me. The surgeon had wrapped my foot in thick layers of cotton batting, then gauze, then a bent splint to hold it in place and then ace bandages. It was quite a thick contraption. About 3:45 PM I had a terrible dry skin/hurt combination on my lower calf that undid me. I could not reach far enough inside the cotton-batting of the bandage to get cream on the spot. Even using a plastic knife handle and then a chopstick I could not reach it. And then I became desperate. {Now where were the ears to hear that admonition to trust in the Lord?}

Desperate for relief, frantic and wanting to throw off the bandage and walk away, I began to cry. I cried in fruitless frustration and helplessness, knowing I had to sit still for the bones to heal and anchor this metal plate and 6 screws to my toe.

I texted a dear, faithful friend for prayer. I called out to Bob to come help me.  I told Alexa to turn on meditation music. I sat and cried and tried to breathe as Bob got me a fresh ice pack to apply on the misery location on my calf. Focused on my breath. Over a period of time I took it all down a notch, and then another notch, and then another. Went back to find the correct online screen to sign in to Ravelry. Purchased the turtle pattern, printed it and relaxed even more. Eventually, I had to put ace bandages back on so I could roll to the bathroom. I was exhausted.

Psalm 37:5 (HCSB)  Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV2011)  Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

What is the purpose of telling you these struggles? The journal entries above describe what I did outwardly. Inwardly, I fell into God’s arms. I yielded my heart to Him. He touched me in my weakness. If you have not traveled to that point of helplessness (or one like it) you likely have no idea what I am writing about. If you have been there, you might remember the sweet relief that comes from throwing yourself on the mercy of Christ. My feelings had escalated out of control. There was not much warning that I can recall now. When I hit the wall and realized only the touch of the Holy Spirit could return me to my right mind, I knew it was time to yield. If the ice had not relieved the dry skin/hurt, I had bandage scissors at the ready to open that one spot for some cream! I did not have to use them. The idea to have Bob find the scissors came to me only when I chose to breathe and be led through that valley. No one can make you decide in those frantic moments  to yield and breathe and listen. I believe we are each given the opportunity to choose in those types of situations. Repeated practice has helped me begin to choose Proverbs 3:6 more quickly. Other translations read “in all your ways ACKNOWLEDGE Him.”

Isaiah 55 still holds true in my life: Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV2011)  “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.  “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Oh Lord, continue to lead and guide me, I pray.

Slow and steady, Molly Lin. Slow and steady progress towards healing.

Happy New Year!

I last posted in October 2019. Then I had scheduled foot surgery and fell off the grid. Had really hoped to blog during that time. Total anesthesia and recovery in this older body did not permit that. When I was finally allowed to walk the holidays were upon us and I got caught up in those preparations and learning how to walk with this repaired foot. I hope to resume writing with regularity and with gusto!

Recently I made a retreat at the Convent of the Transfiguration where I am an associate. I had missed making scheduled biannual silent retreats over the last two years because of travel, illness, etc. I saw a little opening in the January calendar and made a private silent retreat. During that time I prayed about whether to continue writing the blog. The answer seemed to be a resounding “Yes!”

Here is my journal synopsis from that time:

Father, I want to do the work You have given me to do. As deFoucauld wrote and prayed, I am placing ‘myself in Your hands without reserve in boundless confidence because You are MY FATHER.’

Robert Dutina captured my heart towards the Lord with this photo from Los Angeles, Ca.

“I will proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ.” I will with God’s help resume the blog writing to His glory, showing forth His power during my recovery from surgery, the lessons I learned in the weeks of waiting.

Monday October 14, 2019

Scheduled toe surgery went off without a hitch. Surgeon cleaned up arthritic joint, turned bone around, placed the plate, secured with screws, injected area with my own cells that were taken from my heel bone and spun down. Closed me up with stitches and layers of bandages.

There were a few surprises for the patient and her husband though! First, I was not allowed to use the knee roller until the nerve block in that leg had totally worn off. I was not strong enough to tolerate crutches, so Bob had to wait upon me with a wheelchair to the bathroom and any other place I wanted to relocate. It took several days for that nerve block to wear off. In the end, I was so grateful not to be feeling the first post-surgical pain and took much less pain medication than expected. It was however humbling to have to ask him for help moving about. Fibromyalgia and arthritis pain are mean. Using crutches every place would have been so difficult.

Before the surgery the admonition to trust God during this process was driven home several times and especially through Psalm 37 verses 3 and 5. So I made it my business to trust Him in these weeks of sitting. I had to be careful to not put weight on my foot lest the plate and six screws be moved out of place. The goal was to stay still so that bone could begin to grow around the plate to help anchor everything in place. (For a further discussion see

Psalm 37:3 (NRSV)  Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.

Psalm 37:5 (HCSB)  Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act

Sometimes a Writer Must Work and Wait

I have been working to read and then copy out selections from Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.” That book had a huge impact upon me years ago when I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. For those who have followed this and my other blog I mentioned the book a while ago. Since I continue to age (better than the alternative) and the future is uncertain regarding this shoulder, which means our summer, and then our trip to Cape Cod in the autumn, and on and on it goes in uncertainty – seemed like the right time to take up the project. I had ordered a used copy of the book but it was SO old that pages were crumbling as I read. So I got a newer copy and have completed the part entitled Experiences in a Concentration Camp. Now this might seem totally depressing to some, but Frankl is worth reading. He writes from the viewpoint of a psychiatrist and a prisoner about what happens to humans when choices are removed. This chapter is about 145 pages in a smaller paperback, so not too difficult to accomplish. He actually writes from experience. Bob’s Dad was part of the Liberation Army in WWII and set some of the camps free. I have wondered if he was one of the soldiers who freed Doctor Viktor Frankl?

Frankl focuses repeatedly on the fact that the last of human freedoms is the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstance. Hopefully, my synthesis of his insights will come forth in future blogging.

The attitude choice has come home to me again personally as I wait for diagnosis of the problem in my shoulder after the fall in the living room. I get to choose my attitude. I am NOT always sweet and kind and uncomplaining. When I get weary from pain and frustration I often want to just go crawl under a rock where I will not hurt anyone with my misunderstood tone of voice or sour attitude. Today I will focus on what Scripture says about waiting.

 Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!  I say: The LORD is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.  The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.  It is good to wait quietly for deliverance from the LORD.

Lamentations 3:22-26 (HCSB)

His mercies never end – even when we are irritable. His mercies are new every morning – He knows so well I will need a daily dose! His faithfulness far exceeds mine.

The Lord is my portion, therefore I put my hope in Him. Well, what else can I say? I trust the doctors and MRI, but He is my highest and best hope, my most thorough Physician. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him. I wonder HOW many times we are admonished to wait for Him in Scripture? Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. In returning and rest I am saved; in quietness and trust will be my strength. Be still, and KNOW that He is God.

Jeremiah ends with “It is good to wait QUIETLY for deliverance from the Lord.” I know a woman who is waiting for healing from a second back-to-back Shingles infection. I know a man waiting to find out if the purchase of the home he wants will go through. I know others waiting to heal after surgery, waiting for back pain to let up and be healed, waiting for a church dedication and celebration after hours and hours of hard outdoor work, waiting to plant their crops after history-making flooding. Some are waiting for asylum in America fleeing violence in their homeland, another waiting to finalize a divorce after a miserable marriage.

As humans we do not generally wait well or quietly. Perhaps remembering His mercies are new daily and His steadfast love for us never changes can help carry us over the bumps and crashes of our dreams in life.

When your particular house of cards comes down, remember that no one EVER said “I want to be ill this summer”, or “I want to be waiting weeks on end for an answer .” Ever. So along with me, rest, wait, hope and watch for a manifestation of His love in our presence.

Treasures in Plain Ear

Acts 2:2 (NKJV) And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

For almost one year my husband has had to sleep with a cannula and 2 liters of oxygen each night. He does not like that, but tries to be compliant with his pulmonologist since the health crisis of January 2018.

Last night he awoke hearing something and asking “Is that You, Lord?”

His cannula had slipped in the night and was in his ear instead of his nostrils.

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He awoke wondering what the sound was. He did not want to post that on Facebook, so I said I would need to use it for the blog. Written here with his permission!

 

Success!

Bob is spending the night in the hospital for observation, but the pacemaker procedure went off with no complications. Thank you so much for your prayers and good wishes.

At one point I had to go move the car from valet parking to the regular lot. When I got in the car the radio was playing this song.

Hoping like Dan said, this completes the circle from that terribly illness that began January 4, 2018.

Stay well!

Weary Molly

 

A Calendar Quote

From my 2018 calendar produced by Sounds True, this quote from Kelly McGonigal:

“Our capacity to notice suffering, be moved, and respond is not just a form of caregiving or love – it is a form of courage.”

In February of 2018 this was the page on my calendar. As I learned more about my husband’s suffering from a critical illness I also learned more about caregiving, my capacity to notice suffering and the courage required to walk through that awful illness and recovery. Every day the calendar spoke to me and helped me.

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Similar calendar page

 

Recently we were made aware of the suffering of a 78-year-old widow. Living alone she had slowly let herself stop eating and drinking, falling into a deeper and deeper depression. When her family discovered her condition, she told wild tales of falling down the stairs. Said she did not want to bother anyone after she fell. She evidently waited three days to tell anyone. Weird thing was there was no bruising on her. No stairways that would let her fall head first, though maybe bounce on her bottom. CT scan showed no brain bleed or other problem. Her isolation, mental habit of worry and fret, lack of exercise and nutrition likely all contributed to her condition. She was hospitalized for several days to rehydrate her and get her stabilized. Then moved to a care facility to work on her strength, physical stability and mental capacity. They will eventually move her to a small apartment in the same complex.
When we went to help the family make sense and put into order her condo, everyone was stunned. The mailbox had not been opened for about 2 months. The dishwasher was overflowing with dirty dishes as were the kitchen sinks and counters. Broken and burned out light bulbs were in several places. When the light was returned to the laundry room, empty bottles of laundry soap, fabric softener and piles of soiled laundry along with broken glass were deep on the floor.
My first response was fear. Oh my! I better get back to walking or being in the pool at the YMCA or this could be my future. Especially if something happens to my husband. Then pity that she let herself despair to this point. I too suffered a bad bout with depression several years ago. When I worked my way out of it with therapy and loving care, I vowed to never let myself do that again. No matter what others do or how they behave, my mental health would be my #1 priority.
Then I was angry at her. And we are not even related. It has taken  a reminder from the calendar quote to bring me back to the point of noticing her suffering and having the courage to go see her. I want to be loving and non-judgmental. I do not live in her head, so I really do not know exactly the components of her suffering.
God help me to respond and be moved with Your love and the courage of the Lion of Judah.

Yep, Been Not Writing!

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Remember when we took that lovely boat ride and saw those tremendous whales, seals and birds? The next day I got violent vertigo. No signs or symptoms while on the boat. Had been boats before. Rats! This may kill my wish for at least one cruise before I depart the earth!! The illness was like riding the tilt-a-whirl unwillingly! I never did enjoy amusement park rides.

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The worst sensation was as if I were lying flat and then like a board, my feet were rising over my head.  Eventually I was diagnosed with two types of vertigo that required medication and then physical therapy to reset crystals in my inner ear….right side. I never even knew I HAD crystals in my inner ear! Did you?

vestibular-system-inner-ear

So they flipped me back with my head turned to one side, therapist holding my head.  My eyes felt as if they were spinning like the fruit on a slot machine. I gripped the table in fear that I would fall off it. When the spinning stopped, the therapist moved my head to another position and had me hold that for a time. Then yet another head position. Then eventually I sat up on the sie of the exam table. My husband was uncertain if this was a treatment or just smoke and mirrors.

The first treatment  I gradually felt worse for 18 hours. It set me back a week and I had to walk in our house with a cane for a full day. Did not seem like progress! I was staggering and stumbling and decided I could not return to California for our second trip which would require lots of walking and no rental car. I had to sleep elevated on two pillows. Not allowed to lie on my right side to sleep. Did lots of resting. Not supposed to look up or down. Made sitting at the sewing machine a no go. Headaches, dizziness, increased weakness – NOT A HAPPY WOMAN.

Second treatment only set me back about 1-1/2 days. Third treatment I was fine. So weird. Husband a believer!

Yep, I missed a few days writing, but hey! Saturday November 3 I drove for the first time since October 10th. I made a new friend who was my shower sitter (present in the house while I took a shower when Bob was out-of-town). A neighbor provided a ride to church while Bob was gone. I met a new PT group where I will return if this ever flares up again.

We may never know if I actually had an inner ear infection, too. At least someone knew HOW to correct this awful experience.