Tag Archives: Suffering

Keep Going

Hand pressing Keep Going“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face…You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

This quote rings true with so many areas in my life right now, whether it be our journey into fostering, continuous struggles with my health or simply the courage to make various decisions that I know in my heart are the right (but not easy!) ones to make.

About a year ago I saw an orthopedic surgeon about pain that I experience in my right knee. It was nothing new but had been growing worse and so I was referred to him to look into it further. The belief was that due to the misalignment in my right leg, the joint was suffering damage, which could eventually lead to the need for a total knee replacement.

After gathering multiple X-Rays to try and determine if surgery could be done to correct the alignment in my leg, we were all quite astounded by the images that glowed back at us through the light box in his exam room.

The X-Rays showed leg bones that were strong, healthy and fully developed. The orthopedic surgeon, who has worked extensively with children at Shriners Hospital, was amazed at the a-typical results from a patient with my condition, Spina Bifida.

He further explained that his only conclusion for seeing such strength in my bones was owed to the fact that through everything I had never stopped using them. He said that when bone is stressed it actually in turn becomes stronger. It’s counter-intuitive thinking but we had the X-Rays to prove it.

“Bones are living tissue. Weight-bearing physical activity causes new bone tissue to form, and this makes bones stronger. Bones and muscles both become stronger when muscles push and tug against bones during physical activity.” -National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Upon hearing his words, my mind immediately flashed back to countless times in the hospital after surgery where I had to “get up and walk” despite excruciating pain, to my parents instilling confidence in me by maintaining expectations for me to have the same household chores as my siblings, and then to my first week as a freshman in college in downtown Chicago. My apartment was only three to four city blocks from the EL (which took me to my classes) but to me it could have been three to four miles.

At the time, I wasn’t wearing any braces on my legs and each step felt like I had stepped in wet cement. That combined with the elements of weather made each trip to and from the brown line a mental and physical battle.

On each of those days, when life required me to get back on my feet and keep going, I often wondered if those activities might be the cause of me ultimately losing the function in my legs.

But here I was, years later, sitting and listening to a doctor tell me that those years could actually be attributed to making my legs stronger.

I can’t help but think about the direct correlation that this picture has to the rest of our lives. After all, the phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” must exist for a reason, right?

I am constantly amazed at how God has created our physical bodies to reiterate the truths that He has laid out for us in His Word. Scripture repeatedly affirms this idea of suffering producing strength;

Romans 5:3-5 “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

1 Peter 5:10 “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

James 1:2-4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know the the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

2 Corinthians 12:10 “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

The solution to correcting this knee pain ended up being more complex than we originally thought it would, so that is a surgery that has been put on the “back burner” for now.

But I was reminded of the important mystery of God’s redemption in the midst of pain;  that if we keep going in the midst of the suffering on this earth, God promises to bring strength to our soul.

-Adri

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:: Remembering the surgery that taught me so much ::

“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.” -Lois Lowry, The Giver

Chris, Promise, and I just returned from a ten day vacation in southern CA. The re-connections and memories that were made while we were there were needed. It was a sweet ten days; a mixture of laughing, morning dance parties in our hotel room, local attractions, sailing, time with extended family, warmth, and new friendships. The sun did far more than heal my Wisconsin-induced Vitamin D deficiency.

During our time with Chris’ Uncle Brian and Aunt Janelle, I had the privilege of meeting Janelle’s “fab five”. A group of ladies joined by their love for Jesus and the way he’s working out his kingdom in their lives “beyond, beyond, and beyond” what they can imagine (as they like to tell me). Their names were familiar to me. Some I had met, some I had painted for, some I had rcvd emails from with encouragement that they were praying for me. I was thrilled to meet them all face-to-face, sit outside with my iced latte, and share more about how God is bringing hope into my suffering.

They were patient and gracious as I stumbled over memories from all that my body and heart have been through. They were engaged and shared pieces of their own suffering and redemption. Janelle took on the arduous task of entertaining Promise, so that I could talk uninterrupted, but would periodically interject her own memories, specifically from my last spine surgery.

Her memories were like little gifts that she was unwrapping and handing to me. Things that I could not have remembered because of narcotics and pain.

There’s something so healing about sharing memories with others. These memories may seem repetitive to the listeners who don’t understand their significance, but memories are important.

By the time I post this, it won’t be March 22nd anymore, but March 22nd is a day that floods me with memories. In addition to being the birthday of two of my closest friends, it marks 3 years since I had my 7th spine surgery… the surgery that was physically and emotionally brutal for me.

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When I share my story with women, I like to say that it’s the day that they cut me in half. Dramatic? Maybe. But not far from the truth. They shortened me by an inch, removed my ribs, cut some of my most major nerves, put PIC lines in me, drains in me, screws in me, rods in me, and then three days later, asked me to try to stand up.

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It was pain more severe than I’ve ever thought possible. Pain that drove me to my knees in tears of thanksgiving a month later as we remembered Jesus’ brutal beating and crucifixion on Good Friday and then resurrection 3 days later on Easter Sunday. How did he bare all of that pain? His spine was ripped into with shards of metal, glass, and bone. His human body was ravaged with pain and he did it all (without narcotics) for me.

It was the surgery that first broke my “mama’s heart” when Promise was too scared to even come near me. She was three. I was broken… mended back together by a back brace and supported by a wheelchair.

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It was the surgery where the anesthesiologist gave me a “free eyebrow wax” while removing the tape that held my eyes shut during the 9 hour procedure.

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It’s the surgery that showed me how much Chris loves me. It’s the surgery that taught me that I can’t shelter Promise from experiencing pain (and that that’s good!). It’s the day I lost the majority of feeling in my back (it now feels like a slab of rubber) but gained new motion in my left foot. It was the day that my Neurosurgeon breathed a sigh of relief that my spine had fused well, despite this only being the 8th surgery of this type done in the country. It’s the surgery that forced Chris and I to make a decision and believe with our whole hearts that God loves me more than I know and would allow the results that He knew were best. It’s the surgery that still, to this day, causes me much pain, but I am walking (and have found Andy Kerk at Body Mechanics to help with that:))

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It’s the surgery that propelled me into facing my depression and seeking help. It taught me that God is fully capable of physical healing, but sometimes chooses not to (and that’s OK). It’s the surgery that confirmed that (at least for now) Promise would be our only child.

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It’s the surgery that 3 years to this day, I don’t regret (yet have questioned) and am wildly thankful for (as backwards as that may seem).

Thank you for letting me share my memories with you.

-Adri


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