Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Whirlwind Update

I have been exceedingly busy, and so have not had much time to blog.  I will flesh out these updates when I have time, but for now, suffice it to say, I've been busy (did I mention that???)

Last night, Al and I went to our family therapist to talk about "starting" family therapy.  She has already met and evaluated each of our kids, and last night was the first night we came away with a concrete plan.  We have truly awesome kids, but our home is unpeaceful.  I know that a large part of that is my fault because I am so often unpeaceful.  But we decided, together, to work on our relationships with our children.  How?  Turn off the TV and tune in to our kids!  Sounds so easy, but so challenging when I am so exhausted after work and on the weekends that all I want to do is veg out in my favorite chair with the remote in hand or computer in my lap.  But our kids need us, and we need them, so I am trusting that sacrificing some of "my" time will be met with God's grace, as sacrifices always are.

Another quick update:  we met with a new physiatrist today (physical medicine and rehabilitation doctor, i.e. physical therapy specialist) who is going to give Al Botox injections in his arm and leg to reduce muscle tone and spasticity and hopefully give him more "bang for his buck" in terms of therapy.  Al does not like this idea at all since it involves needles and poison, but it is a promising therapy, as many people have had great results with it.

Final update for now:  I joined Weight Watchers online.  With everything I have to do, I added keeping track of food and "points" (which I absolutely hate doing), but  I was given a wake-up call at a doctor's appointment the other day when I weighed in at 190 - holy crap!  Time to do something drastic!  You can read a little more about it in my other blog:   Jenny Sue Got Married.

I truly hope to give more thorough updates in the coming days - I haven't even taken pictures of Al's cool electrostim equipment yet, so that is coming too.

Thanks for staying with me!

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Problem of Suffering

It's a centuries-old debate, and as far as I know, it has no clear answer yet:  "If God is good and all-loving, then why does He allow suffering?"

It's definitely a question we've pondered from various angles since Al's stroke.  My understanding is this:  God IS indeed all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing and has ultimate authority over all.  He does not inflict suffering upon us because of our sin - Jesus took the punishment that was ours due to sin, as He was Crucified on the Cross.  His mercy and forgiveness are a free and generous gift.

However, we still experience pain, disease and suffering.  God allows it (but does not inflict it) for a purpose:  Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?  If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.  Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!  They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.  Hebrews 12:7-11.  My understanding of "discipline" in this passage is not punishment for sin, but rather training in righteousness.  

(Side note:  I've written about this passage before, but especially in the context of Al's post-stroke disability, I love verses 12-13, "Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.  Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed."  Yes!!!)

This is how I have perceived "the reason" that Al had a stroke, in the light of the previous passage:  God allowed it to happen to him for a purpose, part of which is to train him/us in holiness, and also to teach us to rely on His grace more than we ever had to before.

Now, when it comes to Al's rehabilitation and healing, there are also many Scriptures which speak to this.   In Matthew 7:7-11 tells us, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

In John 14:13-14 assures us, "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."  

Those Scriptures, along with many others seem to promise me that Al's complete healing is a done deal.  I can ask (and I have asked many, many times!) for God to heal and restore Al completely, in Jesus' name.  I don't have a problem believing that what Jesus promised us in Scripture is true.  However, there are people who are not healed - good, holy, righteous, faith-filled people - who do not receive healing from their diseases, at least not until they die and receive their glorified body in Heaven.

There is also the line of thinking which says, "You have to have enough faith for God to do the healing".  But that seems to put a little too much pressure on me, the faith-filled-but-could-always-use-more-faith Christian.  I am more like the man who asked Jesus, "Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief."  We will never have perfect faith, but I know many people who have stronger faith than I think I have, and still haven't been healed.

So, how should I pray?  Either I can pray with absolute certainty that God will heal Al, no doubt in my mind at all!  I would like to pray with that much faith, but I also don't want to be blind and deaf to what God wants to teach me / us while we go through the difficulty.  He is the genius Creator, so He knows how to orchestrate these things for our best benefit, right?  If I only focus on asking for healing, then I may miss out on the richness of drawing closer to God during a time of suffering.

I'm writing this post because there is an ongoing "debate" with a family member who insists that God's plan is for Al to be completely and totally restored and that we shouldn't settle for believing any less.  However, she also adds tidbits about how Al and I are such good Christians and that God will definitely heal Al soon because of that.  This is where the theology gets really tricky - DOES God reward us with health and wealth for being faithful Christians?  The corollary to that line of thinking would lead us to think that God withholds material blessings or healing from those who are unfaithful.  That doesn't ring true with me. 

So, please enter into this debate with me - not for the sake of convincing me of anything in particular (I'm very confident that God has a good plan for Al's life, and that He will bring the best out of the situation - Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 29:11, etc.), but for the sake of helping me muddle through this challenging philosophy that God will indeed bless us with our every wish and whim because we are "faithful" Christians.  (I only write that in quotation marks because I know that we could me MUCH more faithful!!!)

Also, I want to be as respectful as I can be about the whole debate, but it really comes up quite often in our discussions with this family member, so I would love the input.

Thanks for your time!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bearing the Burden

So, as I've been limping along through depression and confusion, I've often been unaware of the prayer support of many, many people. But once in a while, someone says, "I'm still praying for you and your family", and it actually surprises me a little.

"Me? You're praying for me? You still remember us? Wow!"

I've been so blessed by people who are so persistent and persevering in prayer for Al's complete healing and for our family's well-being.

Recently, some friends of ours offered to come over and pray with us. We belong to a great Christian prayer community, and we often pray bold prayers of faith, with and for each other, while laying hands on one another. So, when these friends offered to come over and pray, I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was. I was also very grateful. They came and talked with us, encouraged us, and prayed with us. And when they prayed, I felt a very tangible lifting of the burden I'd been carrying. I just realized that these friends were not just stopping by to do their good deed for the day and then move on; they were there to carry the burden with us.

God lightened my eyes to 2 things through this experience. One was that which I just described. I hadn't been letting others help me carry my burden. I had been trying to carry it all myself and I was being crushed under the weight of it.

The other thing God reminded me of was Matthew 11:28-30: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” I was completely forgetting to let God help me carry my burden; even more to let Him carry it for me.

Now that I've had some time to recuperate and get my mind back a little bit, I realize how much, once again, how much I really need the Lord, and how much I need my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Survival Day

January 5, 2011

No, I didn't get the year wrong. January 5, 2011, one year ago today, was the day Al had a stroke. I cannot believe it has been a year already. Probably because I've been either in a fog, or carried by the grace of God, or both for the past 365 days. Either way, the one-year mark is unbelievable.

As we approached this date in 2012, I feared it. I've had PTSD symptoms such as "recurrent re-experiencing of the trauma - for example, troublesome memories or flashbacks that are usually caused by reminders of the traumatic events." I thought the day would be a dark, grim reminder of everything the stroke took away.

However, I woke up this morning inexplicably peaceful and almost. . . .happy. A thought popped into my head, and I rolled over to Al and said, "Happy Survival Day." I have no doubt that little thought was the Lord's message to me - Don't look at today as a cruel memento, but as a landmark of Al's surviving! The Lord allowed me to see a new picture - a year of survival, a year of victory, a year of enduring adversity.

Romans 8:28 assures us: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Only the Lord can take such a harrowing experience, break through it, and turn it into something good.

Thank You, Lord, and Happy Survival Day to my dear hubby!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


It's hard to say whether I'm relieved or embarrassed.

My doctor put me on a two-week Leave-Of-Absence from work, beginning today. I'm relieved, obviously, because I need some down time after Christmas. I'm embarrassed because we just had a two-week break, and I still need more time. However, for anyone who has children, two weeks at home with them doesn't necessarily add up to a "break." I'm also embarrassed because I have to admit my lack of ability to function in my life. I have a hard time not worrying about what other people think of me. I confess that that's been an issue for me for most of my life. I know that my "success" in life doesn't add up to what other people think of me, but it's still hard to let it go. So, in order to prescribe a leave of absence, my doctor had to write a letter saying that my symptoms of depression are worsening. I feel like it makes me sound like a coward instead of having a legitimate diagnosis. However, I know that my brain needs time to rest and heal since depression is a real chemical chemical imbalance caused by chronic stress. And, yeah, I've had a little bit of chronic stress in the past year; stress that has left me unable to process simple thoughts and words, with poor memory and a very short fuse. I just wish there was a balm that I could rub on my brain just as easily as putting lotion on dry skin. What my body and brain need are time - down time, non-stressful time, peaceful time.

Now let me qualify my ongoing battle with depression. I do not, in any way, shape or form, think that I am incapable of self-help when it comes to depression. I know that there are things that I can do to help the process, but these are the very things that I've been less than capable of doing during the past year.

First and foremost, I know that I need to pray - more than anything else on my list - I need to pray and I need to pray often! I had a lot more time to pray during the summer, but I've let it go quite a bit since school started.

I also need to exercise - good, heart-pumping, endorphin-raising, cardiovascular exercise. But again, time is lacking. And energy, of course, is also lacking from the cycle of lack of exercise and lack of prayer, etc. etc. etc.

And I need to re-train my brain with positive, Bible-centered thinking, and probably a trained psychologist, which is why I'm returning to therapy this week, after taking a year's hiatus due to Al's stroke.

Now that I've let myself get into such a rut, it's time to pull out all the stops and work on getting myself healthy again. And of course, I need time, rest, and the Lord's healing as well.

I hope 2 weeks is enough time!