Saturday, July 26, 2014

Attitude In Suffering

Thank you all so much for your prayers, messages, meals, calls, etc. over the past 2 weeks. Being home from the hospital is always welcome! Brad has continued to recover from the surgery at a pretty fast rate, much better than we thought! We won't know if the surgery has helped with the pain from the hardware that was removed or the nerve pain until his body has had time to completely recover from the surgery (about 6 weeks).

However, coming home also brings with it the hard reality that is our life; a former life that has completely changed and a future life that is NOTHING how we ever would have chosen. This surgery, pain from surgery, and increased nerve pain because of the surgery has brought back many painful, unbearable memories and feelings of rehab and the initial shock of our new life. Having surgery is one thing, but being in a chair makes getting around and doing the day-to-day things much harder. Chronic pain on top of this makes our situation very overwhelming. Our thoughts get the better of us some days. It makes us feel so alone because no one we know is going through this exact same thing. These are all just the outward circumstances that can be seen. Behind closed doors are many more feelings and situations that are even harder to accept and deal with it.

We have talked in detail about how our attitudes are a vital tool to how we look at our life now and everything that is involved. We CHOOSE how we react, we CHOOSE whether or not we get angry or turn to God for the help that we so desperately need. We have much more power over our thoughts than I'd like to admit! It's easy to say that because of this or that, this is how I'm going to respond (negatively) because there is no other way to do so. On the other side of this, it is hopeful that we can CHOOSE to have a positive outlook and be thankful DAILY for all that He is doing in and through us.

Another topic that keeps coming up is the fact that when God calls us to do something, and then that fails, that it was still in His plan. This has been extremely hard to consider and accept. If God tells us to do something we think, with our finite minds, that it should work out the first time. Brad and I know definitively that God called us to pursue and follow through with 2 rounds of IVF. For whatever reason, these did not work out but we know they were still part of His plan. John Piper mentions in his book Desiring God that nothing we do can thwart His plan. We believe that if we are praying for His will and guidance, God will give us a peace about what to do and when to do so. When we feel that God is opening doors for a particular situation and allowing peace in our hearts to do something, our prayer has become for Him to close doors if this is not what He wants. Continue to allow peace or close doors. Outside of that, we shouldn't beat ourselves up over His motives, our motives, timing, disappointments, outcomes. He is completely sovereign and knows our every day!

I am reading Nancy Guthrie's book Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose and Provision in Suffering (25 Classic and Contemporary Readings on the Problem of Pain). In the chapter titled Hoped-for Healing, J.I. Packer brings up many good thoughts and examples on how we should look at our suffering. He focuses on Paul's thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). The bulleted list below is from this chapter...

*Jesus' miracles are decisive evidence for all time of who he is and what power he has.

*What God has promised and when he will give it are separate questions.

*But supernatural healings in equal abundance to those worked in the days of Jesus' flesh may not be his will today. The question concerns his purpose, not his power.

*Further it is true that blessing is missed where faith is lacking. But even in New Testament times, among leaders who cannot be accused of lacking faith, healing was not universal.

*Paul himself lived with "a thorn in the flesh" that went unhealed. In 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, he tells us that in three solemn seasons of prayer he had asked Christ, the Lord and the Healer, to take it from him. But the hoped-for healing did not occur.

*It was a distressing disability from which Paul could have been delivered on the spot, had Christ so willed. So Paul lived with pain. The thorn, given him under God's providence, operated as "a messenger of Satan, to harass me" (2 Cor. 12:7) because it tempted him to think hard thoughts about the God who let him suffer, and in resentment to cut back his ministry.

*Such thoughts were "flaming darts of the evil one" (Eph. 6:16) with which he had to contend constantly as the thorn remain unhealed.

*Is there a single servant of Christ who cannot point to some "thorn in the flesh", from which he has prayed to be released, but that has been given him by God to keep him humble, and therefore fruitful? -Philip Hughes

*Paul perceived, however, that the thorn was given him not for punishment but for protection. Physical weakness guarded him against spiritual sickness.

*"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (v.9). It was as if the Savior was saying, "I can demonstrate my power better by not eliminating your problem. It is better for you, Paul, and for my glory in your life, that I show my strength by keeping you going though the thorn remains."

*So Paul embraced his continuing disability as a kind of privilege, "I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me (v.9).

*God uses chronic pain and weakness, along with other afflictions, as his chisel for sculpting our lives. Felt weakness deepens dependence on Christ for strength each day. The weaker we feel, the harder we lean. And the harder we lean, the stronger we grow spiritually. To live with your "thorn" uncomplainingly, sweet, patient, and free in heart to love and help others, even though every day you feel weak, is true sanctification. It is true healing for the spirit.

This is a lot to consider and I so badly want to think and ALWAYS feel that our suffering is a privilege. However, we are human and self-pity is always going to try to creep in. We are, though, reaching this conclusion faster with each new circumstance than we were a few years ago. Our attitude is a daily, momentary choice...

A sweet little bird family on our back fence! (Look how fat the third one from the left is! Oh my goodness!)

This was from our trip to LSU's botanic gardens. This momma was not too happy with us!

We are obsessed with humming birds!

I don't think we take enough pictures of these two!! 
Birds love our backyard!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

He knows the way through the waves

The Reservoir- so peaceful

"Dear friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad- for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world."        -1 Peter 4: 12 & 13

One of the hardest things to deal with, besides the paralysis itself, is chronic pain. We were never told this would be a possibility or concern, so when the pain started getting worse about 6 months after rehab we were taken by surprise. Brad had terrible pain during rehab, mostly from the trauma his body was going through and the lengthy back surgery to stabilize his spine. Since then, the pain has gotten progressively worse. This is a battle that Brad faces daily, minute-by-minute. He has tried all of the meds the doctors can think of, with little to no help. This has been about a 2 year process of trial and error.

Recently, Brad started contemplating the thought of having his hardware removed from his back. Keep in mind that about 90% of people who have hardware like Brad's never have it removed. The surgeon fused his spine above and below his injury level and the rods and screws were inserted to help the healing process and to stabilize the fusion. He was originally scheduled to have the surgery on June 13. However, we weren't sure it was the right move at the time, we wanted a 2nd opinion, and wanted to feel completely at peace with such a major surgery. We wanted God to make it clear that this was something we should or should not do. We prayed specifically for this peace for a few months.

We had the 2nd opinion with another surgeon and he said he would absolutely have the hardware removed, especially considering the amount of pain Brad faces daily. There was no question whether or not he would do it; if it were his son he would recommend having it taken out. Ok, there was our sign from God!

Brad is finally having the surgery this Friday, July 11th. We were told by the surgeon (our original surgeon) that the recovery period should be about 2-4 weeks. We are not under any impressions that this surgery will relieve all of Brad's pain (most of it being neuropathic pain) but we also know that God is capable of doing anything (Matt. 19:26)! We have reached the conclusion that the possibility of relieving some of the pain is worth the surgery and recovery.

We are reminded, daily, that we have so little control of our circumstances and the trials we are facing. We do know, though, that God knows the way through the waves (Joni Eareckson Tada) and the only thing we are called to do is to keep our eyes on Him and trust the process.

Please keep Brad, the surgeon, myself, and our families in your prayers as we face this scary but hopeful next step on our journey...

This book means so much to me. Amazing rules to apply daily!

Happy 4th!

Our first boat ride since the accident!