God’s Perfect Timing

God’s timing is perfect. I keep forgetting that. Patience is not a virtue I come by naturally.

Almost a year ago, pain in my left shoulder and arm sent me to my new primary physician for a solution. As a short term fix, she gave me a shot of cortisone in my shoulder. All seemed well. I was happily in less pain and went about my usual sedentary winter existence.

Fast forward to late January, and the pain returned. My new doc was on vacation so I saw another doctor in the clinic. Somehow we came to the conclusion that the pain in my shoulder and arm was referred pain from a long-standing problem of osteoarthritis in my neck. So off I went to my pain specialist who gave me not one, but two, epidural cortisone shots in my neck.

My neck now felt great, but there was no improvement in my shoulder and arm. And my range of motion was decreasing. Cortisone directly into the shoulder was, however, not an option because of the two epidurals. My primary doc sent me off the physical therapy. Skepticism didn’t keep me from being a compliant PT patient.

The physical therapist measured my range of motion at the first appointment. After three weeks of me consistently doing the exercises she prescribed, I suggested she measure again—as I suspected, my range of motion had decreased. The pain had increased. Still I continued to do the exercises as instructed. At weeks seven, measurements revealed an even greater decrease in my range of motion.

The next step was imaging—first x-rays and then MRI. The latter revealed, in my primary doc’s words, “multiple tears to tendons in my shoulder.” She referred me to a surgeon.

When I called to make the appointment with the surgeon, the soonest I could get in was three weeks out. I asked to be put on the waiting list in case of a cancellation, and the scheduler said she would. I then sent an email to my church prayer-chain coordinator. My specific prayer request was that there would be a cancellation and I would be able to get in sooner to see the surgeon.

If I had to have surgery, I wanted to get the ball rolling as soon as possible. My husband had rotator cuff surgery two years ago, and I knew how long the recovery process took. I had things planned for the fall and winter that were in serious jeopardy of having to be cancelled if I didn’t get into surgery soon.

The day of the scheduled appointment finally arrived and I was a little annoyed that God had not answered my prayer. It was a Tuesday—last Tuesday, to be specific. And during the appointment I endured excruciating pain as the physician’s assistant tested the limits of my range of motion, trying to determine if she could make my arm go where I could not.

The diagnosis was adhesive capsulitis, or frozen shoulder. The tears to my various tendons were minor and not the source of my pain, the surgeon declared when I asked. The treatment for frozen shoulder is a procedure called manipulation under anesthesia. No actual surgery will be required.

Basically, they’ll put me under general anesthesia plus a block and then move my arm all the ways it won’t go, thus breaking up the scar tissue that’s impeding my range of motion. The surgeon said it sounds a bit like unsticking velcro. Thankfully I’ll be asleep and won’t have to hear it for feel it.

Then I have to start PT the day after the procedure and continue for four to six weeks. But by week two, the surgeon assured me, I should have 90% of my range of motion back.

“I like to do these on Monday,” the surgeon said.

“I’m available next Monday,” I replied, not thinking that would ever work out. But at least there was relief in sight.

I next met with the scheduler to find out which Monday would work.

Now for God’s perfect timing. I was able to get into a pre-op appointment two days after the consultation appointment and there was an opening on the surgeon’s Monday schedule the very next Monday. (As I write this, that’s tomorrow).

The surgeon wants me to start PT on Tuesday. If you have ever tried to schedule PT on that short of notice, you know it’s not easy to do. But because of a cancellation—yes, a cancellation—there was one PT appointment available on Tuesday at the clinic I need to go to.

None of this will interfere with the two big things I have planned over the next two months. I’ll be able to teach the poetry workshop I committed to on Oct. 12 at the Oregon Christian Writers One-Day Conference. And I’ll have finished my six weeks of PT the Friday before our two-week trip to Hawaii in November, where I’ll be in good enough shape to snorkel.

In retrospect, I don’t know why I spent so much time worrying about the impact of a surgery I wasn’t even sure I needed would have on my plans. I don’t know why I doubted God’s timing for my appointments, thinking I needed to get into the surgeon sooner.

God has a plan and a timetable for everything. Someday I’ll learn to go with the flow and trust. Maybe someday Jesus will no longer have to say, “You of little faith . . . why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:31 NIV.

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Light and Momentary Troubles

Check out my newest poem over at Anchored Voices.

Anchored Voices

Therefore we do not lose heart.Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardlywe are being renewedday by day.For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

2 Corinthians 4:16-17 (NIV)

Brokenness and torment abound
Only in faith is wholeness found
My sweetest friend knows how I feel
O my Jesus help me to heal

Affliction and sorrow entwined
To this life of pain I’m resigned
Endless suffering makes me reel
O my Jesus why don’t I heal

There is nowhere else I can go
No other heeds my tale of woe
At Your cross I lovingly kneel
O my Jesus help me to heal

For patience and grace I do yearn
Yet wellness one never can earn
Your mercy will wholly reveal
O my Jesus how I can heal

Though this body may e’er be ill
My soul found contentment so…

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God’s Plan, My Steps

I had a plan for my coaching class at a recent writers’ conference. The safe route would be best. I determined to share the first chapter of my current work in progress, a nonfiction Christian living book about living without regret. But when I opened the piece on my phone, I saw a glaring error I had missed before. I’d given away the ending in the first paragraph.

A quick prayer resulted in the idea to share the first chapter of my edited memoir manuscript instead. I immediately balked at the idea, which is a sure sign it’s from God. I tend to argue with Him over His best instructions for me.

Thinking I probably didn’t have access to it on my phone anyway, I did a quick email search. There it was, attached to an email I’d recently sent, which meant is was the most current edited version. I opened the document and read the first to paragraphs to myself.

“I can’t read this in front of these 21 people, most of whom I barely know,” I argued.

“Yes, you can,” God impressed upon me.

My heart raced as I prepared to pour my soul out with this offering. And then someone else was selected to read first. I struggled to concentrate on their piece as I conversed with God, seeking peace for what I was about to share.

Peace did not come, but resolve did. I read through tears and an occasional crack in my voice. I bared my soul in a way much more intimate than having someone miles away read the words of my life. I made it to the final line of the chapter: “But what could He do with these shards of clay?”

What, indeed, could God do with this offering, these shards of my life penned and edited with care and humility?

Well, first, He provided immediate blessing for my obedience. The reaction from others in the class was overwhelmingly encouraging. The coach said, “Well, I don’t think anybody wants to critique that.” I was told my writing was poetic and beautiful, that I had evoked a deep emotional reaction in those who listened.

Second, He inspired one member of the class to approach me later that day to discuss my reading. This man is the editor of The Christian Journal newspaper, and he ask me to write articles for future issues. I’ve already submitted an article and it will be published in two days in the September issue. I have ideas for October, November, and December articles already floating around in my head.

Third, He motivated me to tell an agent, who had already expressed interest in my nonfiction Christian living book, about my memoir when I sat next to him at dinner that night. I’ll be sending proposals for both books to that agent as soon as I can get them completed using the template he sent me. And make sure they are polished and have NO TYPOS!

Finally, He reminded me that patience is a virtue. It may seem like it’s taking forever to get my memoir published, but it’s all going according to His timing. I think I started working on it four or five years ago, but I’ve made great progress during that time. The work I’ve put into learning the craft of memoir writing and considering feedback from knowledgeable people in the industry has resulted in a much better book.

I’ve had a plan all along, but God’s plan will prevail. “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9 (NIV).

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The Power of My Wound

Healing doesn’t happen all at once.
Sexual trauma runs too deep,
is much too complex for simple remedies.

We have no Star Trek sickbay
or magic tricorder
to bind up the wounds,
erase the battle scars.

And would we want to if we could?
Would we walk away,
pretend it never happened,
we were never assaulted
violated… hated… berated…
made to feel shame and doubt?

Could we ignore the very truth of what we
know was wrong… evil… the vilest of all?
Could we simply walk away
and cease to bear witness
for those who come after?
Or maybe for those violated before
our own innocence was vanquished
but are yet to heal at all?

If we could be healed completely
in an instant, in the blink
of a selfish, knowing eye…

But to do so meant leaving
our sisters, our friends,
our daughters, even strangers,
without the hope of #MeToo?

Could we? Should we?

Because to heal 100 percent
I think is to forget every ounce,
every moment, of
the pain and struggle.

And to forget is to lose compassion.
So perhaps it is worth the
ups and downs of scars
that appear healed but sometimes,
more often than we’d like, bleed tears
of understanding helping others
feel not so alone.

Often I pray for complete healing.
For years I prayed to forget.
But then I remember that
without my wound
I am not me.

Without my wound,
the scarring of my heart and soul,
I am powerless.

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To learn more about #MeToo and #WeToo, check out author Mary DeMuth’s website. She shares her wound to help others to heal. http://www.wetoo.org/preorder.

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No Comparison

The top of an old table my sister refurbished for me

 

When was the last time you compared yourself to someone else? Be honest—it was pretty recent, wasn’t it? For me, it was just yesterday. In this social media age the tendency seems to be getting worse. But the comparison game serves no useful purpose. It can make us forget that the most important thing is knowing that all is well with our eternal soul. And comparison can even be a huge hindrance to joy, productivity, and healing during our time here on earth.

 

Wanting Someone Else’s Life

Comparing our possessions and experiences to what we see others have and do on Facebook and Instagram can steal our joy. Someone else’s new car or trip to the Bahamas may look grand, but it is never the whole picture of their lives. Your last picnic at the local park with your family may have been filled with more laughter and love than your friend’s month-long trip to Europe. And remember that driving an old beater car means you have no car payment each month.

Money doesn’t buy happiness, and it certainly doesn’t ensure joy. Focus on the blessings God has given you and the pure joy of knowing Him. Then say a prayer for your traveling friend that they might know joy too.

Wanting Someone Else’s Talents and Abilities

Sometimes when I hear others in our church sing, I am tempted to lament my lack of a beautiful singing voice. I love listening to music, but I’m not gifted in making it. Still I resist the temptation, praising God for the joy of hearing others extol Him in song instead of being jealous. I remember the talents and abilities God has given me, making sure I use them productively to His glory.

My oldest sister often mentions how she didn’t get the writing gene that I got. She is amazed at the poetry I write. But then I remind her that she has a talent I do not. She can take a piece of furniture that is nearly ready for the trash heap and transform it into a treasure. If I tried to do that, I’d just get it one step closer to the heap and waste a lot of paint in the process.

We all have a unique set of talents, but focusing on someone else’s instead of our own steals our productivity for God’s Kingdom. If we all had the same gifts and abilities, life would be boring and so much would go undone. Thank God for your talents and for the talents of others, and maybe find a way you can work together to be even more productive.

Comparing Our Trials and Hardships

We all suffer trials in this world; Jesus warned us that we would. He came that we might overcome our hardships through His grace and be a light to others still fumbling in the dark.

But sometimes when we hear another’s terrible tale of woe, we discount our own. We keep our stories of hurt and healing to ourselves. It just isn’t as bad as what someone else has endured.

I’ve succumbed to this kind of comparison recently. I joined the launch team for Mary DeMuth’s new book titled #WeToo.* I also joined a closed Facebook group called Sexual Assault Survivors. On the Facebook pages for both groups I’ve read stories of horrendous abuse. These heartbreaking stories often involve abuse that began at the age of five or six and that continued for years.

It’s tempting to think that my own experiences of being sexually assaulted as a teenager aren’t as bad as these stories. Therefore, I have no right to complain or to still be struggling with the healing process 40 years later. But trials and hardships, stories of abuse and pain, are no place for comparison. My story is no worse or better than anyone else’s. It’s just different. To compare my story to one that is “worse” impedes healing—mine and the person who will be able to relate to my story.

Instead of comparing, I should—no I must—allow my experience to grow empathy within me. I must share my painful healing journey so that God can use it to help others. If I keep it to myself because I believe my story isn’t “bad enough” then perhaps I delay the healing of another who needed to hear it.

No Comparison

Whether what we compare in our lives is good or bad, the act of comparing serves no purpose. When the workers who came first in Jesus’s parable of the workers in the vineyard grumbled because they compared what they got to what those who came last got, Jesus rebuked such comparison. His conclusion? “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16 NIV).

The next time you are tempted to compare, resist the temptation so that you might not lose your joy, your productivity, or your source of healing. Remember that the most important thing is that it is well with your soul.

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*Check out this great resource about how the Church can and should respond to sexual abuse and sexual assault. If you pre-order #WeToo before Aug 12, you can get 5 free resources here: http://www.wetoo.org/preorder.

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Wondering Why

Swirling thoughts implode upon each other
in a dance I can’t control though I try
to refocus emotions that smother
radiant heat of sun high in blue sky
I wrestle with questions wondering why
my life filled with memories of trauma
center stage twirling mind bending drama
into a new day as triggers abound
I cling to what came after the comma
my Savior’s voice a sweet comforting sound

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I’m so excited to try a new poetry form today. It’s called a Dizain. Grace provided a lesson in how to write one yesterday at dVerse Poets Pub. The Dizain is one stanza consisting of 10 lines, with 10 syllables per line, and the rhyme scheme is ababbccdcd. Easy peasy, right?

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Blue Sky Lies

No sunny Southern California blue sky
watched over me
the day everything changed.
I grew up under an honest sun.
Shining high in the cerulean sky
it brought warmth.

But here that celestial orb
when it deigned to appear
was a stone cold liar.

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For this week’s Quadrille Monday at dVerse Poets Pub, Grace wants us to write a 44-word poem using some form of the word sun. In addition to being the 83rd Quadrille prompt, it is the 8th anniversary of dVerse. I don’t know if I made it to the pub on opening day, but I was a regular pretty early on. I’ve learned a lot of what I know about poetry from this blog and my fellow poetry cronies.

For this prompt, I decided to take the opening paragraphs of my memoir (which is still seeking a publisher) and turn them into a poem. As I did, I noted some word choices that could be improved upon in the memoir itself. Love when that happens.

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