Reflection on Pain and Unfinished Plans

Bleeding hearts by liz west

Bleeding Hearts via Flickr / liz west

Yesterday as I read Kelli Woodford’s awesome post at Chronicles of Grace for the Unforced Rhythms link-up, I was feeling sorry for myself.

Enjoying a pity party!

Some weeks ago I shared I would be in a writing class for 10 weeks and posting only here and there. My husband and I also signed up to volunteer during the fall fund drive for our favorite local radio station, something I love to do.

Classes were on Wednesdays from 11am to 1pm, and volunteer efforts limited to other days of the week. I had anticipated intense assignments from the class and was willing to put in an all out effort. The second class was behind me and my assignment partially completed when the unexpected hit.

PAIN! Lower part of upper right back and right side.

“Must have pulled some muscles,” I thought. “But how and doing what?” It was Thursday, 9/25, the day after class, and we had no volunteer assignments until Friday, 10/3. I should be A-OK by the next class.

Fast forward to this morning, I sit here in unrelenting pain having seen one physician’s assistant, lab work and x-rays done, with a primary care physician booked out three weeks with whom I’ve exchanged emails, and conversations with my spine surgeon who has looked at the x-rays and declared all fusions and spinal repairs intact and nothing new to be found. Physical therapy doesn’t start until next Wednesday. And it’s only a trial to see if we can discover what soft tissue may be involved.

“SO WHAT’S WRONG?” I want to scream. No pain medication or muscle relaxant touches the pain. Heat and ice don’t make much difference. My only comfort zone is found flat of my back in bed with two pillows tucked under my knees and then that not for long. I’m just not a back sleeper.

Then I read Kelli’s post. And she wrote:

Good stories, rather, are about how the characters are changed in the midst of the mess.

Kelli’s thoughts on her pain and how she learned to listen to it caused me to stop dead in my tracks. I stopped, took a deep breath, and realized I needed to listen to my pain.

It wasn’t just the physical pain of an unidentified injury. My pain included the disappointment of having to drop out of my class. Frustration at not being able to volunteer with my husband and friends was another stressor. My blogs were unattended and bare. None of the things I really enjoyed day-to-day like reading, quilting, knitting were easily done because of physical discomfort.

Put it all together and I have a mess! Yes, a mess!

Next Kelli quoted my favorite writer, Frederick Buechner (read the quote at her post). Buechner’s words, plus Kelli’s, set my mind and heart on a straight but difficult path of listening to my pain. Like Kelli, I have avoided facing the inevitable: waiting for the next class in January, going through physical therapy, getting behind on writing and chores, just feeling sorry for myself. Face it all I must, and I will. (By the way, Kelli, I vowed to marry this man long ago, and I know it was before you did!)

Many thanks to Kelli and Our Heavenly Father for bringing Kelli’s message to me.


Labor Day, A Tribute to the Hard Working

Rather than forget my history lessons and make a gross error in explaining how Labor Day came to be, I’ll share a link here to an interesting page provided at The History Channel’s site which has a plethora of information in the form of videos, speeches, historical information, and more.

The one thing I can tell you without fear of error is that the holiday was originally established to pay tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers.

Life has changed in our country and much of our industrial and manufacturing processes have moved to other countries, so we have fewer such workers. Our corporate workers likely number a good deal more than our “blue-collar” workers today.

And unfortunately, our unemployed number far too many. Being out of work may prevent one’s celebration of Labor Day. Wonder how that feels?

Also the reason for celebrations have evolved into a last fling of summer, the last weekend at the lake or on the boat, the last outing with the kids before school starts, the last weekend of good weather in some areas, and the last of the summer harvests. A time of nostalgia for the memories made during the summer months.

But let’s go back to that unemployed worker who is likely not celebrating Labor Day. Out of work, living on less than it takes to keep a roof over his family’s head and clothing on their backs, this worker is not out on the lake, at a picnic, enjoying the comforts of being able to afford new clothing and school supplies for his children, and likely there is no health insurance for this family either.

I remember a time when my family had reached a similar point. My father was in poor health an entire summer. My mother was his primary caregiver. I was married to my first husband, and my younger brother was still in high school. Clever always, my mom figured out a way to pay the bills while dad was out of work by cutting off the newspaper subscription, finding a way to dispose of garbage and eliminating garbage pickup, stretching meals with a variety of ways, and keeping their bills current by calling to say she would “pay what I can this month but I’ll pay something every month.”

Labor Day wasn’t celebrated that year. And for good reason. It would have humiliated father to have a celebration going on for a “tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers.” He wasn’t contributing or achieving that year.

I also remember a verse of Scripture that came to me during that time as I pondered my family’s future:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

~ James 1:2-4 (ESV)

It is my hope that our brothers and sisters who were not in the spirit of Labor Day for one reason or another have heard about this testing of faith. And I hope they received encouragement to believe no matter what their circumstances. That belief and faith is all that got my parents through on several occasions.

I also hope that you and yours have had a safe, healthy, and joyous Labor Day weekend!

Linking up on Monday with:

Kelli Woodford at Unforced Rhythms

and on Wednesday with:

Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart
Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory