Saturday, April 24, 2010

Offenses and Celebrations

He wanted to chatter about this-n-that. I’d asked him to get to his work. So I reminded him that his work needed his attention more than I needed his.

“I’m sorry if I offended you!” He said with as much attitude as a nine-year-old could muster.

So the manipulation war was on. That’s what it was. The focus was now on me for what I was doing and feeling. At first I was going to slough it off, “You didn’t offend me. Just get your work completed.” He growled at me.

Then I thought the better of it.

“You know what, you did offend me.” Now I had his attention completely, and it wasn’t pretty.

He hadn’t done what I asked him to do. It was a simple request: Do your work. At its completion, there would have been plenty of time for me to focus on what he wanted to tell me. But he chose to postpone his work by reversing the order, (a habit of his), causing me to issue a reminder to do his work. That irritated him, which made him lash out at me.

So yes, I was offended. For that, I forgave him.

He looked at me a full second. Then he smiled and said, “Thank you.” He went back to his work without another word.

This one needs to be prodded firmly. He’s so very bright that he sometimes out-manipulates himself. We are practicing Psalm 139 for the school closing. For whatever reason he can come up with, he won’t speak up with the rest of the group. He generally mumbles through. I know he knows the psalm. With only six in the class, they needed his help. Usually he says he’s afraid if he speaks too loudly he’ll drown out everyone else. We tell him to go ahead and be the leader of the pack! Yet, he’s still the silent one.

Yesterday he returned after a day’s absence with the “bug.” As we were walking to practice, he said he’d not be able to speak loudly because his stomach hurt still. To my mind I couldn’t see what the difference would be. The practice was dreadful. It seemed none of the children could recall the lines. So I decided to have another go after chapel. They agreed to “do their best.”

That’s all well and fine. I’m sure they all think they are doing their best, and I told them that. But there are other dimensions to doing and giving our best.

My disease is such that my future is not pretty. One day I will most likely wind up in a wheel chair or bedridden with someone changing my diapers. I told my students this. The day before we had planted some lilies, and they all worried about me bending over so much. I am in a “use it or loose it” situation. I have choices to make. I can choose to plant trees and lilies in gardens knowing full well that for days afterward I will hurt; I can exercise my body knowing that it hurts to do so; I can take long walks knowing that it hurts to do it; or I can do none of these things and lose the functions of my body more quickly even if I have my surgery. My not-too-pretty future comes sooner or later depending on whether or not I am willing to work through what hurts me now. And I can still say, “Well, I did my best.”

The beauty of the Christian life is that we don’t live it for ourselves, we live it for others. We aren’t reciting the psalm just to say words for ourselves, but for all those people who will be sitting in the pews. If legs ache, if tummies hurt, if throats are dry–all these things are just a teensy bit that will fly by and go away as soon as the psalm is said. What is important is that the people hear what God wants them to hear in the psalm. When we do our best for others, that’s a different kind of “best.”

It was the same thing for Jesus. He knew how much it would hurt to die, but He didn’t do it for Himself, He did it for you.

The children recited the psalm again, and excelled. This time, all six of them rang out with their voices. I asked my formerly silent one how it felt. “Not so good,” he said, “but great.” He was beaming.

They were all rewarded with special prize pencils.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Pains and Decisions

Several weeks ago I made a radical discovery: the drugs prescribed to treat my various physical conditions were actually my worst enemies. If Satan hadn’t enough slings and arrows in his arsenal on his own with which to assail me, he now had several man-made ones to rip through my soul and mind.

My body reads pain as depression. That is my first sign of a major migraine. I have what is known as intractable migraines. What this means is that I am fighting a low-grade migraine at all times, with the knock-out punch waiting in the background for the right opportunity to take me down. So, after much trial-and-error, the neurologist prescribed a painkiller alongside the anti-seizure meds to be taken as a prophylactic measure. It worked well. All I needed to do then was take an arthritis anti-inflammatory when that knock-out punch came along, and I was good to go. It seemed to be a good system. I’d wait for that time when I’d feel a sudden drop in mood or a sharp pain in my head, and then pop one of the anti-inflammatory pills. Perhaps the pain wasn’t completely gone, but I could at least function. I did notice that I increasing didn’t feel like “myself,” though. That I attributed to another reason.

Depression is a part of the spectrum of symptoms for scoliosis and spondylosis. Satan had a heyday there. There has the chronic pain and the sleep deprivation because of the pain. Then there are feelings of worthlessness: Formerly active individuals now have others making decisions for them (“Well, we didn’t ask you to be involved because thought you’d not be able to do it.); then there is loss of function that increases as time goes on.

The standing wisdom is, “Don’t do the surgery until you absolutely cannot live with your pain.” So I was on pain meds for the scoliosis, too. Nothing heavy. Just enough so I could continue to be active and be in the classroom. But even on top of the pain med for the migraine, both of which were mild narcotics, nothing relieved the pain completely.

My doctors wanted to be kind and treat me for the depression, and I accepted it as if daily bread. Depression for me isn’t only associated with the sciliosis and migraines. Not even a deaconess placement would have taken me to locations of long winters and great periods of rain. I crave the sun for relief. I am predisposed to depression in the first place, and the physical problems just exacerbate it. Drug therapies might help for a while. One sort even helped relieve the pain–for about six weeks. Perhaps for some people these drugs work well and can be received as if daily bread. In me I’m finding a different effect: they increase my anxiety. They drive me inward and upon myself.

Discovering that the drugs were causing me harm came by way of a different problem. The UTI was the catalyst. I’ve been suffering them in frequency, but not in tenacity until this one hit at Thanksgiving. It wasn’t cured even by January. so I went to the urologist. The bacteria that ails me is a nasty little bugger that will take months to cure, maybe even a year. The urologist also found a minor physical problem, and wanted to treat it with a drug. Half of the lowest dose of a drug used for hyper-tension. Sounds easy, right? The drug is also used for PTSD and ADHD sufferers. In me it was like poison. Instead of release, I was rewound!

That sent me to researching all my drugs. The end result is that I asked my doctors to take me nearly off all my pain meds. (I take one of the pain meds I formerly took for break-through migraines as needed, but not daily.) By the time I made the decision to go this route I was becoming nearly paranoid with just enough sanity to know I was and to also know the slings and arrows of my mind were not reality. I had to do it cold-turkey. I tried to ease off as the doctor wanted me to, but to remain that mental cell any longer was too awful. I’ll take the physical pain over the mental pain any day. I don’t know how addicts to real narcotics do it. I know how much I hurt in those days, and it was a trip I don’t want to go on again. Would I recommend this to others? Not at all. And certainly not without consulting the prescribing physician of any medication, as I did.

The truth is, I will be going on it again. With my various doctors’ clearances, I’ll be undergoing the same surgery Aaron Nemoyer had recently. I was scheduled for this procedure last year, but the heart stent was not ready for it. Now I need a clearance not only from my cardiologist, but also from the urologist. The last time I saw my surgeon he told me the surgery was no longer elective. The curvature was such that nerves were being pinched off. This time the surgery won’t be postponed “until school lets out next May.” My husband won’t go for that. Surgery will happen as soon as I have all my clearances. I’m currently scheduled for May 26.

I suppose I could have gone to a therapist, but I don’t do therapy. I do confession and absolution. I don’t have a Bev Yahnke near me. I do have a Pr. Rick Sawyer, whose ear is always open. And I have a husband who loves me as Christ loves the Church.

Psalm 101 became precious to me. God hates a slanderer. God keeps His own Eighth Commandment in Christ for our sakes in His Son’s blood–not only for others, but also for us. To pull back that blood, to look under it again, is to become a prosecuting attorney. Repeating Christ’s words to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” often became an exercise aimed at myself as well the Accuser himself. And yet, “I am baptized,” was the constant comforting refrain when I feared that I would be stuck in that gear while in this lifetime.

I’ve said to pastors before, and I’ll say once more: Whatever else Paul’s advice to husbands and wives may be in Ephesians 5, first and foremost submitting to each other is also that which involves confessing sins and absolving each other. We get it wrong when we speak only to who does what job in the marriage. The love with which Christ bought His Bride is that of giving up His Body and Blood for the sake of her sins. “Wife, are you still mine even through this for the sake of Christ who bought you?”; “Husband, will you love me even through this for the sake of Christ who bought you?” John is a man whose Head is Christ.

Priorities become sharper at the end of such a journey. I am as before: wife, mother, grandmother, deaconess. Of greatest importance, I am John’s wife.