Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Abundantly Grateful

My NOOK Simple has a battery life of a couple of months - depending on use.
My MacBook runs for about six hours of consecutive pointing and clicking before it starts signaling its departure unless I plug it into the charger.
My iPhone doesn't require a daily charge unless I'm in extreme texting mode - which is quite rare these days.
My Sony digital camera can go for a whole week's worth of vacation picture taking before it is calling it quits.
My Nikon DSLR takes hundreds of photos before it wants a recharge.
But when any of those devices need to be plugged in there is no stopping the rapid decline in functioning that is to follow. Take, for instance, my Nikon. It starts taking away features from me when I don't have enough battery power left, even before it is entirely dead. First, a little picture of a battery starts flashing on the screen. At this point the battery is still green and seems to be indicating that the camera is growing tired. Then shutter mode quits. No more picture taking fun. I can view what I've already taken, change up my settings and scroll through the menu but my flash is disabled and my camera is useless for memory catching until I recharge. If I keep using the remaining features at some point my little green battery will turn red and then, at some point, all lights go dark.
What I realized today is that I too am feeling like one of my many devices that starts giving out as the battery life slips away. Each new pain, ache and weakness is another bar on the battery life indicator that fades away. The picture of my battery is flashing, just like my cameras. It is dying to be plugged in. It is warning me that the mode in life which gave me the ability to run, jump and laugh is disabled. I need a charger. I need plugged in. Will someone, please find me an outlet?!
Trust me, I've tried to remain strong and keep my composure but my will to push through the pain is wearing thin. Every day there is a new ailment and symptom that didn't seem to exist before. My body is screaming at me and I can't find any way to make it stop. Just a few days ago a pain in my neck started. A bump had been there for a good long while (I'm talking months) but I didn't think much of it. Every great once and a while it ached a bit and I noticed it but never before had my neck felt so stiff and sore. I knew it wasn't how I had slept. That is a different kind of pain. This was at the base of my skull, right near the bump.
At first I tried to ignore it but as the day wore on I began to realize that this new development wasn't a passing whim. And sure enough, as I sit here today writing I still feel the pain in my neck. It has caused a stiffness that makes me feel aged and weak. Sometimes I slowly turn my head, trying to work out what a chiropractor might call a "kink". I keep good posture. But no luck. The pain persists.
Then this morning another development. This time it came in my legs. Throughout this health mystery I have suffered off and on with odd symptoms in my legs. Sometimes it is joint pain in my knees and other times it is what I refer to as "sand bag legs". These ailments come without warning and have always left at some point (sometimes it takes much longer for them to vacate then I would like though). There presence seems to have no rhyme nor reason. Today, as I walked Pippy, my legs fired up again. This time it was worse then before. A shooting pain crept into the back of my knees while my hamstrings and quadriceps ached. Again, my body was screaming. Oh how I wish I knew what it was shouting. Is it trying to give me clues to what is happening inside of me? Speak more clearly, please. I can't understand your language. I don't speak pain. Do they have a Rosetta Stone for that? I'd gladly invest in such a guide to this foreign language.
As I walked I started to get discouraged. Why am I suffering in these odd ways? Why do symptoms come and go without warning? What picture are these manifestations trying to paint? I'm more confused then ever - and that is saying something. I'm always saying how confused I am but this time it has reached new heights. Usually I'm a googling fanatic, trying to figure out what is wrong with me and how to get well again. But now I'm so worn out that I don't even research my symptoms. The googling frenzy has ceased.
I know, this is bad. When you don't want to Google what is wrong with you then there must be something SERIOUSLY wrong with you. That is the litmus test. Do you want to research until your head hurts? No? Get this girl to hospital (as the Brits would say).
By now you are probably wondering where the silver lining is, because if you've read a word I've written then you know that there is always a lesson, a bright spot or a glimmer of hope and peace. I must admit that this morning it was tough to find the message in those moments of pain. With each step I grew more concerned and downcast.
Then I freed my mind for a few brief seconds. Sometimes that is all it takes. It only takes a split second for God to get through to us, but it can never happen if we don't allow our fears, concerns, anxieties, frustrations and depression to pause - even if we can only manage to do so for a millisecond. So, I took a deep breath and put all those negative emotions on hold. That is when He let me see a flicker of truth.
He showed me that I need to be thankful even when my physical capabilities are being snatched away. John 10:10 says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
With each new affliction that comes over my body I feel like I am being stolen from. I wake up, and sure enough, the thief was there in the night, taking from me another aspect of my health. The question "why" is an easy one to ask and one that most people wouldn't blame me for asking. Yet, God doesn't leave room for why's - he gives us assurance. He tells us that he sent his son, Jesus Christ, so that we could have a full and abundant life. He warns us that there is a thief and he even gives us a heads up as to what this thief will do when he heads out on his late night prowl. We have warning. God hasn't left us to wonder and he hasn't withheld information. He was upfront right from the beginning.
Thankfully he didn't stop at the warning. He goes on to tell us that there is hope for a glorious life, in spite of the break ins and robbery. Even when everything is taken from us we can still enjoy a life of joy, peace, contentment, harmony, love, abundance and grace. Those gifts aren't withheld from us just because our physical bodies are stolen or broken. When money runs tight, marriages break up, health fails, kids misbehave, or a loved one passes away the promise of a life to the fullest is still as true as the day it was breathed from the lips of God. It isn't contingent on our circumstances or our trials. It is true no matter what.
That is what I learned this morning while I walked. Even if the thief comes again tonight and takes away another one of my physical abilities I still am living a full life because he can't take away the abundance God has already given me. No robber, no matter how adept or skilled, can get his hands on that.
So, instead of getting discouraged I decided to get thankful. I remembered the sky from the day before and looked up once again. This time I thanked God that I could push through the pain and walk. There are people born with no use of their legs. I thought of my cousin Ashley. She has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) and since the age of two has been wheelchair bound. She has no use of her legs; her spine is weak; she can't move herself. These things will never change for her, unless God works a miracle in her body. There are other people who once walked and then, by way of accident or disease, lost that ability. I can't even imagine how hard it would be to know the freedom found in moving about on two legs and then have that taken away. But still, life can be had to the overflowing, even in those circumstances.
As I thought about those people, suffering much worse then I ever have, I couldn't help but feel pain for them. I'm grateful for what hasn't been taken from me, but I still ache for individuals who suffer greatly. My heart sinks for people without the ability to walk. When I think about Ashley my heart breaks in two. I want to give her the experience of walking a dog and the chance to run and play with her friends. If, through my pain, she could experience that freedom I would be in pain for the rest of my life.
As I finished my walk I went into prayer. First, I thanked God for the strength to keep walking even though my legs ached. And then I prayed for Ashley. The promise of an abundant life has been given to her as well, even if she never gets the chance to walk. Just like the thief can't steal that promise from me, he can't steal it from her, either.

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