Fitting In

One of my favorite things is to hear people tell their story on how they came to receive Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior and what God has done and is doing in their life.  Each story is different and I’m always moved by the goodness of the Lord.  It’s amazing to hear what depths God brings us from. 

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear people share their salvation story.  One of the people shared how as a teenager they felt like they didn’t fit.  As they talked it brought back some painful memories of my own teenage years and beyond when I didn’t fit in.  It brought back things I hadn’t thought of in years.

As I laid my head on the pillow my mind wouldn’t shut off.  Instead scene after scene of those painful years kept coming to mind…like a slideshow.  Sleep evaded me as painful memories took over and I questioned God, “Why did you let that happen?” 

Of course there were no answers to my why question.  I did a lot of wrestling with God that night.  I wasn’t able to sleep until I got to the point where I said, “God, You alone are God and I am not.  I don’t know why You allowed those painful situations in my life.  I don’t like it, nor do I understand it.  But I am confident in this…You are good.  You are wise.  You are working out a plan in my life, far greater than I can understand.  Perhaps You allowed the rejection and pain to bring me to an end of myself so that I might turn to You?  Perhaps, without rejection I wouldn’t have ever have come to know You Jesus?  So Lord…I surrender.  I surrender the pain and hurt from those years into Your loving hands.”

Once I got to the place of surrender, I was able to fall asleep.  Morning came far too quickly and I was tired that day from a lack of sleep, but I wasn’t haunted by painful memories.

As a teenager and young adult, I didn’t have the perspective I have now.  These days if I don’t fit in…I’m not overly troubled by it.  Especially when that disapproval or rejection comes from someone whom I don’t know, like or respect.  If it’s from a friend or loved one…it may hurt deeply and I need to examine myself before the Lord.  But I’m able take my hurt feelings to the Lord…He’s able to heal my heart and emotions.  He brings an eternal perspective to life’s hurts.

How do people live life without knowing Christ Jesus?  I am so grateful I don’t have to. 

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.

Now That Takes Some Nerve

My absence from blogging hasn’t been as a result of writer’s block as much as pain demanding my attention and consuming my energy.  

If any of you have experienced Sciatica you’ll know the pain I’ve been experiencing recently. 

About seven weeks ago I tweaked by back, causing a reappearance of Sciatica.  Talk about painful!!!  The pain starts in my right hip and radiates down to my right ankle.  While my hip is painful…it’s the pain in my ankle that I can hardly stand.

I’ve had bouts of Sciatica a couple of times before, but I don’t recall the pain being so all consuming.  Perhaps the Lord was merciful and caused those memories to fade. 

I’ve opted for traditional treatment through my doctor first in hopes that before the nerve will be released and the pain will go away on its own.  I’m trying to keep the pain at a tolerable level without taking strong medicine that will leave me unable to function each day, like going to work, driving etc. 

I have another doctor’s appointment coming up and I’m hoping that she will order a test to determine if my nerve is just pinched or if there’s a problem with a disc.  Being raised by my mother, a nurse who believed in old school medicine, I’m reluctant to seek alternative treatments until I know exactly what’s going on. 

Sitting, lying down and even standing can be painful.  Thankfully, I experience relief from the pain when I’m walking. 

In the mean time and in between time, I am praying that the Lord will touch my back and relieve this pain and release my Sciatic nerve.  I know that God is well able to heal me and trusting Him to carry me through until I experience lasting relief from pain.


Gleanings

“We can never fully know God’s power in our lives until we are at our weakest.

“Rejection…doesn’t rejection hurt all the more when it comes from one who knows you well?

God is at work in me right now…not sure exactly to what end…and what will be the result…I feel as though I am under construction as I have embarked on listening to Beth Moore’s “A Woman’s Heart” Bible Study.

When listening to the CD’s I sometimes feel assailed by thoughts and ideas and memories from the past. Sometimes they come so fast I can’t even remember them so I can write them down. Other times…I can hardly wait to get to my computer or put pen to paper. I made a mad dash to the computer to jot down the above thoughts.

On Thursday morning…as the water flowed over me during my morning shower and I was waking up…I was surprised when I clearly recalled an episode of painful rejection from last year. Good gracious…where did that come from? The enemy? Yeah…I’ve been feeling some arrows coming my way lately. One of his most effective instruments is to make me feel alone, isolated and rejected…so that I will distrust God and His motives and work in my life.

Today as I continued to listen to the CD’s…memories from my teenage years and early adulthood came to mind. I found myself wishing that I could talk to my mother…just talk as an adult…and deal with left over issues. Things that were never discussed or dealt with during our life. Ask why or what were you thinking? Or what was going on in your life that caused this or that? Unfortunately…that’s a conversation that will have to take place the other side of heaven…since the woman I see each week bears little resemblance to my mother. At times she knows I’m her daughter…but more often…I’m her sister or an old schoolmate that comes to visit.

Our relationship was not a great one. Sometimes I use to think it was because we were not biologically related and she never really bonded with me or maybe didn’t like me. But in actuality…I think we were just very different. Just like I’m not perfect and a work in progress…she too was that when I was growing up. A mother…not bad…but surely not perfect. One who carried her own scars into motherhood and life.

I do find myself concerned for her salvation. One who didn’t have a close walk with God…nor did she talk much about God, nor know His word. We didn’t go to church, nor read the Bible until after my father died when I was 10. After that we started to attend church. It’s hard for the outside observer to know for sure…but from the evidence throughout her life…I’m left with the thought…I don’t really know if she has ever accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. Thus you will find me quizzing her or preaching to her every now and again.

I wonder…does her repeating the sinner’s prayer when her mind and will is fading if not gone…does it count? Or is it just me…trying to lead or drag her into the kingdom?

On a recent preaching episode with Gayle…I was explaining the Gospel. When I asked her if she wanted to accept Jesus…she responded, “Well I’m not sure…that sounds too good to be true.” Indeed it is too good…but thankfully it is true. I got her to say the words. Only the Lord knows the results of those words. Did it take…is she saved? I don’t know. Thus…I will likely continue to press the point.

Even though I have a life time of rejection that is blinding at times…I remind myself that I have been accepted by God. That if all else forsake me…that I am accepted in the Beloved. Does that help…yes mostly…and no for pain still remains…and questions…and scars.

There are times when I want to say to God…I believe in You. I am grateful for the sacrifice of Jesus for my sins…and I’ve accepted Him as my Lord and Savior…but I can’t go on. I’ll live a decent life…and won’t get involved in that which is wrong…but I don’t want to do anything more than that. I want to just live my life. He of all people knows the hurt in my heart…and knows that which is deep and invisible to others…but it’s bright as the noon day sun to Him. He knows it…and He has the ability to help heal and end that pain. But for whatever reason…thus far He has chosen not to.

And that’s when I start to get a stinky attitude…and say I love you God…but I don’t want to do anything more than live my life. I can’t give that which I don’t have. For an outpouring of love and service…surely I need to have my tanks filled. But they remain dangerous close to empty. I’m tired of running on empty.

Does having lived this life with pain make me more compassionate and understanding towards those who are hurting? Yes…I know well what it’s like to have a hurting heart. But in some respects…it’s also dulled my feelings. The hurt has caused scars that are tough. Scars which help protect my heart from further injury. At times…I can be rather cold hearted and uncaring. I feel like I’m running on empty…and by my own power and can’t go much further.

I do believe that this will necessitate me trusting God…even when it doesn’t feel safe and when I don’t want to. So does that bring me back to my first point?

“We can never fully know God’s power in our lives until we are at our weakest.

Hum…well…I’m there. Today I feel as though I’m at my weakest…and need a miracle. I don’t only want to know rest, peace and the fullness of love when I get to heaven. I want to know it down here…this side of heaven. I want to give to people…out of the fullness and abundance of my heart…not only from a heart that is running on empty.

How Susan Got Her Smile Back

“So like…am I the oldest person who has had their wisdom teeth removed?” The nurse smiled and assured me that no…they have had many people older than me see the oral surgeon for their wisdom teeth. That’s how my day started today…on this the culmination of my adventure…in how I got my smile back.

Now I’m not exactly sure when I developed this irrational fear of dentists. It seems that for as long as I can remember…I was terrified at the thought of going to the dentist. My mind knows they are good folks, in a noble profession, helping people in an important area of health. Not only health…but personal appearance…which effects emotional health and confidence in oneself.

But my emotions…they told a different story. My emotions said that dentists are glorified Nazis. Not nice folks…ones that like to inflict pain upon people. So where exactly did that come from? Coming from a girl that thinks too much…I thought about it.

I know I went to the dentist as kid. I had a few filings in my youth…but I have no recollection…good or bad, one way or the other. But what I do recall quite clearly is the orthodontist. I think I got braces when I was 11 or 12 years old. It wasn’t my idea or desire…but that of my parents. They wanted me to have braces because I had an overbite. So the adventure began with the unwilling and unhappy participant.

It was not a pretty time in my life. My dad had died a year or two earlier…and my mom Gayle and me had moved to California where we lived in a two bedroom apartment in Santa Ana. An occasional resident was my brother Michael. Living not too far from us in Garden Grove were my grandparents Mary and Henry. I was in another new school, a new state, and had to make friends all over again. (On a side note…by time I was ten years old…our family had moved ten times. Not fun…and explains a lot on why I have problems connecting.)

My mom had started back in school to become a nurse. All the while she was married to my dad Frank she had been a stay at home mom. Now she was back to square one…and made the leap to become a nurse.

It was sometime during that year that I got braces. Like I said earlier…not my choice. While it was a long time ago…I think I made monthly trips to the orthodontist…to undergo monthly torture. Unlike other dental procedures…the orthodontist in that day and time worked on my teeth without any painkiller. For those of you who had braces…you know full well the pain I’m referring to…the regular tightening of braces. Not only hurting during the dental appointment…but a pain that remained for several days as my teeth were adjusted.

As an adult…I would approach that pain by taking a couple Tylenol for a few days…but as a kid…I was clueless. Nary a word was said by the orthodontist about the pain. I think I had those bloody braces on for three or four years. Each appointment…my grandmother would pick me up from school and drive me to the doctor. She was filling in the gap and helping out while my mom was busy with her school work. Grandma and me weren’t close at all…cut out of very different cloth. But my grandfather was very sweet and precious.

My mom was not overly maternal…and one thing that I find odd especially considering that she was a nurse is other than the orthodontist…I didn’t have doctor appointments or dental appointments for teeth cleaning and examinations. It wasn’t a money thing or for lack of insurance…just one of those odd unexplainable thing.

So the only think I can come up to account for this irrational fear of dentists relates back to the orthodontist. I have only negative memories and pain associated with dental appointments. Those negative memories and impressions made for very poor choices in my dental future.

When I became an adult and was responsible for my own health care I avoided both doctors and dentists. It was about 10 years ago that I ventured to the dentist for an examine and teeth cleaning. The appointment only added to my negative impression of the dental profession. So rather than sucking it up…and doing the right thing…I avoided dentists again for far too many years…once again. If I had been able to avoid the little buggers until death…that would have been fine with me.

But God had a different plan. That plan included some painful encouragement that now was the time I needed to see a dentist. I’m one heck of a stubborn son of a gun. I dig my heals in and will persevere through so much…actually too much if the truth be told. But God got my attention in this last summer.

A summer filled with much stress due to job changes. In the middle of that stress was the month of August…which turned out to be a blur for me. For most of August…I was in intense pain…excruciating jaw pain. Precious little brought relief. My days were consumed with finding something, anything to bring pain relief. My wisdom teeth were on the move again. I was taking a blend of Tylenol and Alieve every four hours to bring the pain down to a tolerable level. Sleepless nights…and prayers crying out for relief did little to quell the pain. Finally I sent off a prayer request to Kindred’s prayer team. Shortly after sending the prayer request God in His mercy did lower the pain. Things remained the same for couple more weeks…and then finally relief…for which I was ever so grateful.

After reading some of my blog entries during that time…my sister Denise Silvestri called me to encourage me to make a dentist appointment. She said it was crazy to put myself through that pain needlessly. Being a mom…she’s rather adept at the good old maternal guilt and pressure. I think her winning argument was, “Susan…you jaw is very close to your brain. If you have an infection…it could go into your brain.” Between Denise’s argument and the occasional reminder of a twinge of pain…I bit the bullet and made an appointment with the dentist.

When you don’t already have dentist…it’s kind of like a stab in the dark finding a good one. But God’s hand guided me. The dentist I selected was Vaughn Stewart in Brea. Close by to work and home…so going to appointments would be relatively easy.

On my first appointment I advised Dr. Stewart and his staff that I was terrified of dentists and a certified dental wimp. They assured me that they understood and would tread lightly…and use Novocain as needed.

The month of September started me on the adventure that would bring my smile back. Over the next few months I would have many appointments…starting with an examine and X-rays to see where I was at dental wise. After that I moved on to teeth cleaning and received the bad news that I needed the dreaded “root canal”. Also lined up were fillings for new cavities and replacing the old mercury amalgam fillings with porcelain. Also on the horizon was having my wisdom teeth removed at the age of 47.

Well I got through the appointments one by one. Now I don’t know if Dr. Stewart is the exception to the rule…or dental procedures have advanced greatly over the year…but as bad as I thought it was going to be…all in all it was relatively simple. While not entirely pain free…it very tolerable. Novocain took care of the pain during the actual procedures…and a few Tylenol afterward kept any pain manageable.

Even the dreaded root canal was not so bad. One of the gentlemen at church, Les Nesbitt, called with a recommendation for an endodontist, Dr. Merrill Schmidt in Santa Ana. While not the first experience I’d want to sign up for…if you are in need of a root canal…I would highly recommend this doctor.

As the months ticketed by…I got the fillings taken care of as well as the root canal. As I neared the end of my treatment plan…I got two porcelain crowns. While all of this wasn’t cheep…I was ever so grateful to finally get it taken care of and for the provision of dental insurance which helped ease the financial pain. The one thing that remained was the removal of my wisdom teeth. Out of all of these procedures…I feared this one the most. Good golly…I’m 47 years old…who in their right mind gets their wisdom teeth removed at that age? Namely…me.

Early on in this process when Denise was putting the pressure on to go to the dentist…she had an excellent recommendation for an oral surgeon. Dr. Kim DiPasquale was the doctor who had removed her children’s wisdom teeth…and Denise gave him a thumbs up. In December…God gave me a gentle reminder of pain to spur me on to make that final appointment. All it took was that one painful reminder…and I called that day to make the appointment.

Everyone hears horror stories on removal of wisdom teeth. While I wasn’t looking forward to the appointment…I was looking forward to the knowledge that never again would those third molars bring me any more pain.

Well today was that fateful day. I scheduled a couple of days off work…for the appointment and recovery time. As the day approached…I was a titch nervous…but kept my focus on the other side of the pain. My partner in crime was Denise who had committed to taking to and from the appointment.

All in all…12 hours later after the appointment I am ever so glad I had them removed. They gave me some darn good drugs…and you don’t feel a thing or have a clue what’s going on during the procedure. You wake up and it’s done…with relatively little pain or discomfort. What’s amazing is how quick the procedure is. I was in and out of the office in a little over an hour. And the X-ray machine…way cool. You rest your chin and the machine does a panoramic scan around your head/jaw. Medicine continues to advance…to the benefit of doctors and patients.

It’s a done deal now…no more pain from wisdom teeth. The bleeding stopped after a few hours…I’ll be rinsing with salt water for the next few day, taking it a little easy and eating lightly as I recover.

I have a couple of brief follow up appointments. One with the oral surgeon…and one vanity appointment for teeth whiting with my dentist.

In the future when I get those reminder calls from my dentist…I won’t hesitate to come in for a check up and teeth cleaning. If low and behold I have to have a filling…I know it’s not a big of deal. After going through all these dental appointments over the last four months…I’m more committed to better dental care. That includes not only brushing my teeth in the morning and evening…but even packing a toothbrush and toothpaste to work so I can take care of my teeth after lunch. Heck…Dr. Stewart even got me on the flossing band wagon.

These days you won’t find me cupping my jaw because of pain. You won’t find me avoiding the dentist…and you won’t find me keeping my smile in check because teeth don’t look to spiffy.

Now when I smile…I’m not worried how my teeth will look. By golly that feels so good…more than you’ll ever know. Earlier I had mentioned that how your teeth look affects your personal appearance and confidence level. I know that up close and personal.

That’s the journey…on how Susan got her smile back.

My thanks to God…for His patience and helping me to get through that which I greatly feared. Thank you to Denise for her no nonsense encouragement to do the right thing…and be there to take me to oral surgeon. Thank you to Kindred’s Prayer Warriors…for praying me through. Thank you God for the provision of dental insurance. Thank you to my employer for their understanding and allowing me to keep those doctor’s appointments over these many months.

Thank you to Dr. Stewart, Dr. Schmidt and Dr. DiPasquale and their respective staff…for your excellent work…and getting me through that which I could not have imagined…with kindness, gentleness and concern.

One last note…I’ve decided if I turn to the “dark side” and do something which merits the death penalty…I’m opting for the lethal injection. Those drugs today…that put me to sleep…the only way to go!

The Lessons of Pain

What do wisdom teeth, jaw pain, exhaustion and a spiritual insight have in common?

Among other things…that pretty much summarizes the month of August. I found that being in intense pain for an extended period of time…really took its toll. That toll includes a writing dry spell. When I finally did get the inspiration to write again…I didn’t have the energy to complete it…so thus it sat. Until now that is.

I wonder…is this one of those times where God has given me a specific message and until I execute…there will be silence? Perhaps. But anyway…here is my tale of pain and lessons learned.

I was in such pain for well over a month. Excruciating pain…all because my wisdom teeth…thought they would try to make their grand entrance once again. The rest of my teeth were not too keen on that idea. They waged war against one another…and I was the causality.

Nothing, but nothing brought relief. Neither Tylenol, nor Alieve…nor a combination of the two every four hours reduced the pain. I even got the brilliant idea to chew on Aspirin. On occasion…this routine brought some measure of relief…but precious little. I tried a heating pad and cold packs. The cold packs seemed the most effective…or at least would numb it for a time. But overall…the pain was unrelenting.

Sleep during that time was rather evasive…or at least ineffective. One day…I even brought out a bottle of Vicodin…only to be reminded why I never finished the prescription originally. I took it for pain relief…but found it only made me feel worse. Did it reduce the pain? I guess so…but I felt so bad that the pain seemed to get lost in the shuffle.

One Saturday…I missed my normal morning walk. Instead I cried out to God for relief from the pain. When I did have some relief…I rested. When the pain started in full force again…I cried out to God. When my cries of “Please God help me” failed to bring relief…those cries changed to the question, “God…what? What do you want me to learn from this? Why are you allowing this to happen?”

Finally I was left with the impression that God was using this pain as an example of what holding on to unforgiveness can do to a person.

Unforgiveness only serves to bring pain…unrelenting, exhausting, all consuming pain. Albeit emotional and spiritual pain.

When I’m wronged…it’s easy to justify being angry and feeling hurt. It’s hard to forgive a wrong done…especially when a person will not acknowledge it or recognize it. I almost feel like I’m holding on to the anger and hurt…until my pain is acknowledged or the situation is made right.

But doing that will not bring relief…and the wrong done may never be acknowledged by the wrong doer. There I am left holding the bag. A heavy bag…a bag of burdens that grows day by day. Goodness knows that each day there will be more than one offence that comes my way. Some big, some small…but they will always there.

Then comes the question…which ones will I hold on to and let change my life? Which ones are small offenses that I willing to let go of?

The offenses from strangers, those whom I don’t know well…or those whom I don’t care much for seem to be easier to let go of. Where as the offenses from loved ones and those I trust almost seem like a betrayal. Those are the ones that I find most challenging to let go of.

In actuality…the offenses from loved ones are the offenses I need to forgive quickly.

Unforgiveness also seems to take God out of the picture. No where do we see a better example of forgiveness than that of Joseph in the book of Genesis. After his brothers had threatened to kill him, sold him into slavery, he had been falsely accused of rape and thrown into prison and then he was seemingly forgotten by one of the king’s servants.

What was Joseph’s response when he finally met his brothers after all these years? “What you meant for evil, God meant for good.”

God always has a plan and purpose in everything he allows in our lives. Only God can bring good from the messes I’ve made.

Well this story does have a happy ending. While I felt ridiculous for submitting a prayer request for relief from the pain of wisdom teeth…I knew this was beyond me. I would rather have perished that continue in such pain. My day to day existence had been brought down to that issue of pain relief. Silly maybe…but I e-mailed off my prayer request.

Praise God and thank you my dear Jesus, Savior and Friend. Within two days…for the first time in over a month…the pain stopped. It reminded me of when I’m exposed to an exceptionally loud noise for an extended period of time. When it stops…ahhhh! Peace, sudden peace that I just wanted to savor.

More good news…the pain has not returned. The better news…after a clear illustration from God on how painful bitterness, anger, hurt and resentment are…I was able to get rid of, let go of those negative feelings. In fact…God has laid it on my heart to not only forgive and move on…but to prayer four these men.