May 13, 2014

Refined at 3 A.M.

Increasing pain and fatigue for more than six months, despite no answers from multiple exams and consults with medical specialists. Finally, an answer, which led to drastic surgery on my neck and spine. Some symptoms went away, but others have gotten worse -- as the surgeon told me they might. The surgery was only meant to fix the worst part of my problems. I wasn't surprised the symptoms were there; I was blind-sided by them being worse in my arms, worse on my right side than on my left.

My right deltoid, the muscle that sits at the top of your shoulder, is severely compromised because the nerve that sends and receives its messages back to my spine, isn't working. The muscle itself is fine. The messages and those sending or receiving them are fine. The line between them is flawed. Think of the game 'Telephone', where you whisper something in someone's ear one time, they whisper it to another, who whispers it to another, and so on. By the end of a line, the message has become incredibly distorted.

Now imagine that happening in your body.

In physical therapy we're trying to cut down on swelling around that critical nerve. I'm instructed to avoid activities that teach my muscles to compensate for a shoulder that doesn't work (I can't raise my right arm more than part-way before my other shoulder muscles leap in to assist) because we don't want my body to learn bad habits. I also need to keep moving my shoulder so that it doesn't 'freeze' -- forget that it IS able to move altogether.

I'm still on pain medication, though it's tapering off. The hardest times, as anyone with chronic pain will tell you, are at night. Sleep slips away from you. Distractions are fewer. There's something about 3 o'clock in the morning that invites big, unanswerable questions like, "Why?" or "Why me?" or (the big one for me during this time) "How can it be possible that a definition of love includes circumstances like these?"

I have learned a few things over the months. If I'm awake at 3 or 4, I'm best off going with truth. Playing games on my gadgets will pass the time, but not help my mind or my body in any way. I try to pick up a devotional or Bible or other book that points me toward truth. A couple I've learned on heavily are written by Sarah Young. You may have heard of "Jesus Calling". I particularly like "Jesus Today", which focuses on hope.

Moments ago I opened the book to read this:
Thank Me in the midst of the crucible. When things seem all wrong, look for growth opportunities. Especially, look for areas where you need to let go, leaving your cares in My able hands. Do you trust Me to orchestrate your life events as I choose, or are you still trying to make things go according to your will? If you keep trying to carry out your intentions while I am leading you in another direction, you deify your desires.
Be on the lookout for what I am doing in your life. Worship Me by living close to Me, thanking Me in all circumstances.
Not exactly an 'attagirl', I must say.
And yet... It can be encouragement. These words were written by someone going through her own crucible, so she didn't write them casually or easily. I think of what I've learned about refining during biblical times and see the refiner, who never leaves the side of the crucible until he has overseen all temperature increases (which are many) and skimmed away all impurities. The refiner keeps at it until the surface of the metal being refined reflects their face.

God is still in charge of my life. He is not surprised, confused, or baffled by my being awake this morning at 3 in pain. I don't understand the purpose in it, but I will choose to believe there CAN be purpose in these circumstances that are hard for me. Refusing to be refined puts a barrier between me and my refiner. It never helps me.

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