Mixed Feelings

It was with mixed feelings that I returned to work following my six week leave to heal from back surgery. 

I would have never guessed how much I would enjoy being off for so long.  I thought I would be bored, especially since I was restricted in what I could do.  No lifting, bending or twisting.  Do you have any idea how many activities involve one or all of those actions?  Simple things, everyday things that you don’t give a second thought to unless you can’t do them.  I wasn’t able to drive for four weeks and was at home most of the day. 

I found the time passed quickly and I enjoyed each day.  I was able to go for a couple of walks each day and over time increased my distance.  When I got home from my morning walk, I spent time in the backyard praying.  I was able to work on a Bible study and read.  The six weeks went by so quickly, I could hardly believe that it was time to return to work.

The first five weeks of my leave were the most peaceful time of my life.  I got a picture of what it’s like to be stress free.  Each day I looked forward to Chris coming home from work.  Sometimes we went for a walk, sometimes we watched a movie or read.  Nothing big or monumental, but it was time we enjoyed each other without the demands, stress and pressures of life intruding in on our relationship.  My last week was busy with various appointments so that I could ensure that everything was handled before I returned to work. 

It was with tears that I returned to work.  Both my husband Chris and I were sad that this time of peace and enjoying each other, without pressing demands from the outside world, had ended. 

This is not to say that I’m not grateful to have a good job with a good company.  How could I not be, especially these days when so many people are out of work for extended periods of time?  I am grateful, yet at the same time, I long to be home. 

My first day back at work, I felt cushioned by God’s grace.  After that, it was stepping back in the stream of things, a fast flowing stream.  By God’s grace and with full dependence up Him, I am getting back into the swing of things. 

I am so grateful to be out of pain and for the peaceful days that I was able to spend recovering from surgery.  I’m grateful for the loving care and support of my husband Chris.  I’m grateful for God’s presence in my life, be it at home while praying in my back yard, or when I’m at work or in rush hour traffic, or when I come home tired at the end of the day…He is always with me.  Thank You Lord.  Of all the memories of my time off, the time I spent with You in prayer and in Your Word mean the most to me Lord.  A taste of things to come.

Advertisements

Surgery, Healing and a Work of God



And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ – Matthew 25:40

Yesterday marked two weeks since I had my back surgery.  Through this whole experience God’s hand and His plan and timing have been evident, for both me and my husband Chris.

God took me from being fearful of surgery to recognizing that this might be the avenue that He would use to bring relief from non-stop sciatic pain.  For eight months I was in pain, almost every day, throughout the day.  There were times when medicine brought some measure of relief.  I even had three steroid injections into my spin to see if that would help bring relief.  The second shot reduced the pain level for about three weeks, but other than that, it was clear that the injections were not the treatment that would stop this pain. 

In January, I had an MRI that showed severe narrowing of the spin at the L4/L5 level, with bone spurs and the disk intruding in the area where the nerves run down.  Thus I had a very unhappy sciatic nerve that just wanted his own space without somebody pushing him up against the spin.  That’s not too much to for a nerve to ask now is it? 

In February I met with a surgeon who was well accomplished, but left me with little confidence that he could help my situation.  Thus I continued down the injection path with little relief.

Upon my return to the pain management doctor, she recommended that I get a second opinion and gave me a couple of names.  Thankfully, I was able to get an appointment in pretty short order.  My husband Chris accompanied me to the doctor’s appointment.  From the beginning of our meeting, I felt a confidence that this doctor would be the one I could trust to perform my back surgery.  She displayed a clear understanding of what was going on with my back, recognized that traditional treatments weren’t working and that surgery was a reasonable option.  Chris felt the same way and surgery was scheduled for June 30th.

A few weeks before my surgery, I received a TENS machine which the pain doctor had ordered.  I was using it in the evening and found it brought some pain relief to my back and even lessened the pain in my leg.  I was very grateful because the last two weeks before my surgery I couldn’t take anything stronger than Tylenol. 

In the days leading up to my surgery, God was at work and answering prayers.  My pain level was very low, which allowed me to concentrate at both work and home so I could accomplish what I needed to before surgery. 

The night before surgery, I didn’t have any pain in my back or leg.  It was very odd.  Almost to the point that I wondered if I should still have the surgery.  Yet I believe God’s was leading me to proceed with surgery. 

Chris and I had to be at the hospital at 8:30 am.  After checking in, we headed up to the same day surgical area.  We were surprised when we heard someone in the waiting room calling our names.  We stopped and turned to see a precious friend Norm from church who was there to pray with us.  Both Chris and I felt God’s presence and His peace about this surgery and were encouraged by Norm’s prayer.  Norm even presented us with a handmade blanket for us to keep. 

After I entered the room, the nurse went through the normal pre-op checklist.  I kept asking when my husband could come in.  She said he could come in after they hooked up the IV.  Before long, Chris was by my side and we waited for the clock to hit 10:30, the scheduled time of surgery.  While we waited, we prayed for the doctor and the surgical team, not only for my surgery, but the surgeries that would be performed that day at the hospital. 

As I was lying in the hospital bed, I had no pain in my back or leg, despite the fact I hadn’t taken any pain relievers since the prior day.  I believe that it was God’s reminder to me that He was the One who was going bring healing and pain relief.

Finally, the orderly came to take me down to surgery and Chris said goodbye.  Of the two of us, I was going to have it easy because I would be asleep for most of the time.  I was placed in an area that I call “the holding bin”, where people who are going into surgery are placed until the surgeon is ready.  It was a very active place with lots of doctors and nurses coming and going.  Finally, two people from the anesthesia team popped in to see me.  When the anesthesiologist came by I asked him how he slept and if he was feeling good and I told him I had prayed for him.  Before long, Dr. Tina Lin came in to see how I was doing and let me know that surgery would be starting shortly.

The anesthesiology team must have put something in my IV.  As they started rolling me in to the operating room I saw the name of the room on the wall and the doors open.  Three hours later I woke up in the recovery room.

I was struggling to open my eyes because all I wanted to do was close my eyes and sleep.  However, a strong nausea woke me up.  I was miserable and the nurses tried to stop the nausea, but it wouldn’t let up and I kept apologizing to the nurses.  Finally, after receiving the fourth medication, I started to feel better.  I kept telling the nurses I wanted to see my husband.  I was in recovery for about an hour and a half when they finally wheeled my bed back to the place I had started the day.  Before long Chris was by my side and he was a sight for sore eyes. 

He told me that after I was taken in to surgery, he had gone to have lunch.  Our friends Mike and Jo came and joined him.  When he got back to the hospital he was in the waiting room.  He checked with the desk several times to see if there was any word yet on how the surgery was going.  They said it was still going on, but assured him that the doctor would come out and speak to him when it was over.  He was notified when I was taken to recovery and the doctor came and gave Chris an update.

Dr. Lin said that the surgery had gone well.  When she got in she found that the nerve had been pressed up against the spin for so long that it bore the impression of the bone.  After removing some of bone and bone spurs she found that the disk was in the cavity much more than what the MRI originally revealed, but she was able to tease it out of the space to make room for the nerve.  About 4:30, Chris was able to come see me.  He was so sweet and caring and I was grateful to have him by my side.  The hospital released me and Chris and I were home some time after 6pm. 

I’ve had learning curve when it comes to navigating everyday things like getting into and out of bed, taking a shower, getting into the car, and picking up items that are too high or too low on the shelf.  Chris has been an angel and wonderful nurse as he helps me do the things I can’t do.  He makes sure that things I will need are at the right height.  He regularly reminds me to be careful and not bend, lift or twist.  Right before surgery I had ordered a “grabber” which helps me to pick up items off the floor or that are out of my reach on a shelf.  It’s been very helpful, especially when Chris is at work.

My recovery is progressing well.  When I first got home, I felt like a horse had kicked my back.  But with each passing day I feel better and the bruising is all gone now. 

My days are quiet.  I get up about 6:30 or 7 am so that Chris can help me get ready for the day.  I take walks in the morning and evening.  With each passing day, I’m able to walk a little bit longer.  I’m walking at a slower than my pre-surgery pace but that’s okay because I have the time.  I’ve had the time to read books.  I love to read but in the past ten years, I’ve been reading considerably less than what I used to.  So I am really enjoying reading again. 

Since I’m on summer break from Bible study, I wanted to stay grounded in God’s word.  Just the other day I started Kay Arthur’s Bible study in Isaiah.  I have the podcasts on my I-Pod and was able to download the notes and worksheets to study along with.  It’s a great study, in-depth and Kay shows you how to understand a passage verse by verse by applying the who, what, when, where and why questions to a passage. 

One of the biggest encouragements has been the support of family, friends and neighbors.  When Chris and I came home on the 30th, our neighbor brought over her homemade chicken enchiladas.  My sister brought over Mexican lasagna.  Some of our friends from church provided meals.  Yesterday a friend came by to take me grocery shopping.  I’ve had few visits from friends, received cards and notes of encouragement, flowers and a gift card to go out to dinner.  Thank you so very much each and every one of you…Rosie, Denise, Mary, Annette, Cindy, Rose, Michelle, Karla, Robyn, Carolyn and Beth & Jim.  Each of you truly has the gift of encouragement and knows how to reach out and help the least of these.  Thank you for your faithful prayers, God has truly answered them and has brought pain relief and healing. 

Thank You God for having Your hand upon me and leading Chris and me through each phase of this process.  Thank You for answering the many prayers of family and friends and for their gift of encouragement.  Thank You for the time to take walks and listen to Your word, to work on a Bible study and pray.  Thank You for giving me back the love of reading which has been absent for far too many years.  Thank You for the time to sit in the back yard and watch our precious birds as they eat, drink and even take a bath in the bird bath.  Thank You for the cooler weather this week!  Help me to stay focused in prayer and study of your word.  Help me to rest, heal and reach out to others during this time off work. 

PAIN!

After seven months of being in pain, 24/7, I’ve finally come to a decision to undergo surgery for my back problems (stenosis, bulging disk, bone spurs, sciatica, etc).

Not only has this impacted me, but it’s adversely effected my husband Chris most notably regarding sleep.  When mama ain’t sleeping, ain’t no body sleeping!  On a good night, if I take a pain killer right before I go to sleep, I may be able to sleep for about 5 to 6 hours before waking up in pain.  I have back pain as well as pain in my right ankle from sciatica.  On a bad night…there’s not a whole lot of sleep happening at the Wachtel household.

I’ve tried some of the more conservative methods to bring pain relief including a course of three epidurals.  The second epidural made the most impact by reducing the pain for about three weeks.  Other than that…there’s not been a whole lot of relief. 

Chris and I met with a neurosurgeon to get a second opinion.  I feel confident that this was the right doctor to entrust my back to.  She had studied my MRI and was able to show us exactly what’s happening and what treatment she recommended.  I felt relief at her words, “After undergoing conservative treatment for several months, which has brought no relief, surgery is a reasonable option.”

People’s reactions and opinions are kind of funny.  I’ve had advice from many different perspectives.  There are those who are dead set against surgery and suggest seeking help from chiropractors, acupuncturists, spinal decompression, etc.  There are people who had back pain who have undergone surgery with great success.  I know one man who had surgery who had more pain following surgery than he had before.  The one thing I know for certain is that there are no guarantees and everyones body responds differently. 

People’s responses have been passionate!  They relate their experience and what worked for them, confident that’s the step I should take, some without knowing what’s happening with my back.  I’m sure that their intent is good and they desire that I find permanent relief from the pain, but honestly often I walk away more confused than when I started. 

When I mention I’m considering surgery, I’ve experienced a lot of disapproval from people who think I’m making a huge mistake.  After being in pain for seven months straight, not having a good night sleep in months, not being able to sit or lay down without being in pain, surgery seems like a good and reasonable option. 

We both know that if there is any healing or relief from the constant pain, that it’s the Lord doing the work.  He uses various means to accomplish healing, including doctors, medicine and if He so chooses, a miraculous healing that can only be attributed to God. 

We know that we need to trust the Lord in this situation, no matter what.  Should He choose to heal me, we will praise Him.  Should He choose to not heal me, we will praise Him.  Our praise of God is not contingent upon a favorable outcome. 

The one thing that is certain, our dependence upon God has deepened.  When crying out to Him for pain relief and when seeking wisdom to make life altering decisions, like surgery, we are depending upon and looking to the Lord.

Not Yet Healed


That which is meant
To help and encourage
Only serves to hurt and tear open
Wounds not yet healed

Though I’m tempted
To reach for the phone
I go before the Lord
Cry out in my pain

The wait has been so long
Never would I have imagined
But the Lord encourages me
To trust Him still more

Trust Him more than what past failures
Might predict about future success
Instead see how God takes our brokenness and frailty
And makes us whole and strong in Christ

The Lord bids me to come
Pour out my burdens at the foot of the cross
Receive comfort while the wait is long
Stand firm…see my deliverance and victory in the Lord


Susan Bunts Wachtel
September 21, 2009

Hold on to Jesus


If you had told me this morning, that tonight I’d be reaching to someone whom I hadn’t talked to in over two years…I would have told you, “You’re just plain wrong!” But in fact, it is I who would have been wrong.

You know how God has a habit of chipping away at things in our lives. Sometimes…He does it in one fell swoop…and a whole big chunk is gone. Other times…He does it bit by bit…until finally I’m being conformed into the image and likeness of His Son. That chipping away can be painful…especially when the chip that falls away feels more like a piece of my body as He works on my heart and mind…or even a wrong attitude.

Did I have a wrong attitude regarding this person? Maybe? Perhaps a little pride…and a whole lot of hurt thrown into the mix.

The last two years of my life were very difficult. A time…where God whacked off big whole chunks all at once. Chunks…that when I found them missing made me feel quite unstable, uncertain and unhappy.

Of the pieces that were missing…one was my friend. One in whom I took much delight. But as circumstances would have it…just when I needed him the most…he pulled back. That pulling back caused a boat load of hurt in the middle of some very turbulent seas. But God has a way…doesn’t He? He likes to get me in a place…where I have no place to turn but to Him. He had a plan and purpose for allowing what happened.

When I’m the middle of circumstances that seem so uncertain…there is no way I can have perspective and understand what God is doing. I’m not sure I fully understand even now. But at least now I have some distance…and perspective and can see God’s hand in the middle of my mess.

Even with that perspective…I wasn’t overly receptive when God first prompted me to call…to reach out to this friend who has been MIA from my life. I rationalize with God, “I’m sure he would have taken my call…if I called him. But God, he hasn’t called me in over two years…doesn’t that tell me everything I need to know?”

I should have known the answer to that…because in God’s economy…what someone else does or doesn’t do…isn’t an excuse for not obeying God’s direction. But God was gentle…and gave me more time to “work it through”.

But today was the day for obedience when He gave me a couple of promptings…that were too hard even for me to miss. When I heard what was going on in my wayward friend’s life I thought…I really should call or send an email. Reach out. But then I dismissed that prompting. That is…until I got home this evening.

In my in-basket was an email from my friend and author Krista Beth Driver. She had sent an email updating people about what had happened to one of her beloved horses, Misty. Tragically Misty had colic…something quite deadly to horses. This poor horse that had once been abandoned by her owner was rescued by Krista Beth. Once deserted, now greatly loved and well cared for…she was now gone. At her passing the other horses Bo, a blind gelding, and Grace were missing their friend Misty. As Krista told of events from the past week…she applied the lesson learned…from her own emotions and watching these beautiful animals…to friendship. She asked some penetrating questions about what kind of friends we are. Do we come alongside, encourage or challenge our friends?

“Okay God…I get it. You want me to reach out. Alright…I’ll send an email. As I wrote it…I discovered that God had mended…and healed some hurt that remained in my heart. I found that more than wanting to be justified in my hurt…I valued our friendship more. “That indeed it is water under the bridge. Today is a new today…and I value you and miss you. I miss your sparkling blue eyes…and the way you make me laugh. I miss your passion for people and for doing the right thing.”

After re-reading and proofing my letter several times…I hit the send button.

I don’t know how it will be responded to…if at all? I might come away disappointed and a little bit hurt. Or I could have my socks knocked off and have a friendship restored. I don’t know. But I do know this…God called me to obey His direction and reach out. To say I love you and care about you…and miss you. And indeed I do. If I get no response…or find the friendship is just dead…well I guest that’s something I need to take to Jesus.

More and more…with so much of life…I’m find that the looser I cling…and the less expectations I bring to the table…the better. I love the Steve Curtis Chapman song, “Hold on to Jesus”. There is one lyric that holds a truth I need to keep reminding myself about. “Cling loosely to things that are fleeting and hold on to Jesus for life.”

Sometimes the things that are fleeting are people. When that happens…my grip on Jesus must grow tighter.

So is there anyone God is prompting you to reach out to? In reading this…does their face come to your mind? Obedience to God’s direction is always the right answer. What will it take to bring you to the point of obedience?

To learn more about Krista Beth Driver’s work with children and neglected and abused horses please go to the Serenity Center for Change.

Hold on to Jesus
by Steven Curtis Chapman

I have come to this ocean
And the waves of fear are starting to grow
The doubts and questions are rising with the tide
So I’m clinging to the one sure thing I know

I will hold on to the hand of my Savior
And I will hold on with all my might
I will hold loosely to things that are fleeting
And hold on to Jesus
I will hold on to Jesus for life

I’ve tried to hold many treasures
They just keep slipping through my fingers like sand
But there’s one treasure that means more than breath itself
So I’m clinging to it with everything I am

Like a child holding on to a promise
I will cling to His word and believe
As I press on to take hold of that
for which Christ Jesus took hold of me

Hold on for life

Of Little Worth


You haven’t thought about me for years now,
Have you, little girl?
For years I dominated your life,
Made you feel worthless, like nothing,
Even wanting to die.

Then you accepted Christ,
Sixteen years ago.
And He began to heal your wounds.
You thought of me less and less,
Until finally years would go by with nary a thought.


You learned to let go,
Forgive…even when you didn’t understand,
Made your life about your present,
Trusting God,
For eternal security and a place in heaven.


You’ve worked diligently to prove yourself,
To feel like something of worth,
Then tonight I slipped in,
Just a thought,
A reminder of your past.


Will I lure you once again,
Into darkness and depression?
Or will you renew your mind,
In Christ Jesus,
Mindful that you are a new creation in Him?


Before…I had you in my hand.
Then Christ Jesus freed you…
From all your past.
That’s when I declared war,
After all…I’m the enemy of your soul.


Will you follow your feelings?
Or believe God’s word,
And His power within?
Sure your salvation is secure,
But your present is being worked out.


I urge you to follow the easy path of emotions.
Dare not trust God for a miracle.
It’s been forty-eight years that you’ve waited,
Need I remind…you’re no Abraham and Sarah,
Nor David victorious over Goliath.


Yet you believe that God has given you a promise,
Assurance that He sees you,
And will act in His perfect timing.
Just as He heard the cries Hannah and Ruth,
Did He hear you too?


Decisions…decisions little girl,
Which will it be?
I still whisper loudly that you are of little worth,
Yet He’s promised to never leave you, nor forsake you,
Even to work all things together for good.


So Susan…your future is hanging in the balance.
Will you have faith, believe and even trust Him,
For that which is yet unseen?
Or will I continue to blind you,
To that which your God can do in, through and for you?


By Susan Bunts
October 31, 2007


Tonight a memory from the past came hurling back to assault me…out of the blue. Something I hadn’t thought about in years. It didn’t take long… for those feelings of that wretched time to return.

But I just hate letting the bad guy win. Even when I watch a movie…I root for the good guy and good to triumph over evil. So even though I’m tempted to given in and follow that well worn easy path and believe my feelings…I don’t want to let Satan win. I want to see him defeated…go down hard in flaming, visible defeat.

This last weekend…I felt like God got a hold of me. Grabbed my by the lapels…and shook me…and said, “Girl…I can change your situation in a moment. Are you going to trust Me or not?”

Whenever there is a moment of a spiritual high…you can be sure that the enemy wants engage in a well timed…very personal attack…and indeed he has done that in recent days.

Yet…I desire to believe God. I want to trust Him and know with confidence that He will deliver me. To quote Beth Moore, “I’m believing God!”

Of Little Worth


You haven’t thought about me for years now,
Have you, little girl?
For years I dominated your life,
Made you feel worthless, like nothing,
Even wanting to die.

Then you accepted Christ,
Sixteen years ago.
And He began to heal your wounds.
You thought of me less and less,
Until finally years would go by with nary a thought.

You learned to let go,
Forgive…even when you didn’t understand,
Made your life about your present,
Trusting God,
For eternal security and a place in heaven.

You’ve worked diligently to prove yourself,
To feel like something of worth,
Then tonight I slipped in,
Just a thought,
A reminder of your past.

Will I lure you once again,
Into darkness and depression?
Or will you renew your mind,
In Christ Jesus,
Mindful that you are a new creation in Him?

Before…I had you in my hand.
Then Christ Jesus freed you…
From all your past.
That’s when I declared war,
After all…I’m the enemy of your soul.

Will you follow your feelings?
Or believe God’s word,
And His power within?
Sure your salvation is secure,
But your present is being worked out.

I urge you to follow the easy path of emotions.
Dare not trust God for a miracle.
It’s been forty-eight years that you’ve waited,
Need I remind…you’re no Abraham and Sarah,
Nor David victorious over Goliath.

Yet you believe that God has given you a promise,
Assurance that He sees you,
And will act in His perfect timing.
Just as He heard the cries Hannah and Ruth,
Did He hear you too?

Decisions…decisions little girl,
Which will it be?
I still whisper loudly that you are of little worth,
Yet He’s promised to never leave you, nor forsake you,
Even to work all things together for good.

So Susan…your future is hanging in the balance.
Will you have faith, believe and even trust Him,
For that which is yet unseen?
Or will I continue to blind you,
To that which your God can do in, through and for you?

By Susan Bunts
October 31, 2007

Tonight a memory from the past came hurling back to assault me…out of the blue. Something I hadn’t thought about in years. It didn’t take long… for those feelings of that wretched time to return.

But I just hate letting the bad guy win. Even when I watch a movie…I root for the good guy and good to triumph over evil. So even though I’m tempted to given in and follow that well worn easy path and believe my feelings…I don’t want to let Satan win. I want to see him defeated…go down hard in flaming, visible defeat.

This last weekend…I felt like God got a hold of me. Grabbed my by the lapels…and shook me…and said, “Girl…I can change your situation in a moment. Are you going to trust Me or not?”

Whenever there is a moment of a spiritual high…you can be sure that the enemy wants engage in a well timed…very personal attack…and indeed he has done that in recent days.

Yet…I desire to believe God. I want to trust Him and know with confidence that He will deliver me. To quote Beth Moore, “I’m believing God!”