Saturday, September 11, 2010

September is Pain Awareness Month

Pain is the most under-treated disease in America. 

Disease, you say? Yes, disease. Dis-ease. It is a terrible thing to be in pain - whether it is chronic pain or not. There is the fear of addiction to pain-relieving drugs; the idea that, really, pain is all in one's head; the fear of the pain not going away. All kinds of things come to mind. But when we are dealing with real pain, addiction is not an issue, mental health is not the issue - the issue is the pain, why we have it, and how can we relieve it.

For people with chronic pain, such as me, it is important that everyone understand how it affects our day-to-day lives. I have a disease called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). It is also called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome - Type 1 (CRPS). I never even knew there was such a disease as this. I fell on July 2, 2007, breaking my arm. That caused my sympathetic nervous system to go haywire. The only signals from my brain to my arm were pain signals, with the pain being very intense, often nearly unbearable. Since then it has spread to my other arm and both of my legs, as well as the left side of my face. I have a pain management doctor who is fabulous and without whom I would not be able to do what I do today. He has used a whole health type of treatment with me - I have had mental health therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, as well as drug treatment. 

I am lucky to live in South Dakota. Our doctors here are allowed to give us the treatment we need. They are given a goodly amount of time to have those medications work - speaking of narcotics, basically. Yes, I take a narcotic every day. The fact is I take a lot of medication every day - 17 pills a day. They are not all different pills - there are a few I take several times a day. Without these medications, I am not able to function.

The pain of RSD is like no pain I have ever had before. For me, it is mostly a burning pain. One person has described it like this: imagine replacing all the blood in your body with lighter fluid - and then lighting it. Believe it or not, I find this to be amazingly accurate. I also have allodynia, which is sensitivity to touch. That is why I always wear something over my arms. I never realized before how much air we move when we walk. That is extraordinarily painful plus it makes my bones feel like they are frozen, even though everything around them is burning. This is an odd disease. There are many people who suffer from it. There are many people who don't have access to a good doctor, like I do.

So, during this Pain Awareness Month, please be kind to those who move slowly, those who complain of pain, and anyone you know to be in pain. Pain often does not show - we look just like the rest of you. This is one thing I have learned - be patient with everyone.

Thank you for observing Pain Awareness Month.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What IS God up to?

I asked the congregation to think about it and e-mail me or call me with their thoughts. Well, no one has done so at this point. I hope someone does before the weekend though.

We got to talking about this at our staff meeting today. Here is the thing: God is at work whether we know it, acknowledge it, or whatever! We are all sinners in need of forgiveness - and the only way we get that is from God, through Jesus Christ.

So what do I think God is up to in my life? God is definitely challenging me - sometimes big time. I still have this RSD that some days nearly drives me mad with discomfort and/or pain. I still am asking God why this had to happen to me now, when I think that God has given me the gift of music, only to take parts of it away - and in such a drastic manner. Sometimes I really have to wonder about God's idea of fairness....
And now my favorite aunt is on hospice care. She is my mother's only surviving sibling. She has Alzheimer's. Thirteen or fourteen years ago she had a six-way bypass - the first one ever done at the hospital in Grand Forks. She came through it beautifully - and lived her life with a loving and thankful attitude for all she had been given. It is hard for me to hear now of her increasing disability. It is even harder for my mother. We live six hours away. That may not seem like much but, in reality, we cannot just go up there and wait. Life here still goes on for us. My mother and my husband are going out to Montana on Monday to see my little brother and his wife. That trip may be put on hold, depending on what happens with my aunt. But the waiting is uncomfortable. So God, how come this has to happen right now? We really don't have time for it! But then God reminds us: all things in due season.

Then, just for me, there is the whole question of what is worship. How do we "do" worship in such a way that God's voice is heard? Does it matter what we do? What is the purpose? And on top of that, I am now supposed to be one of the people in the SD Synod who help other people with these questions. How in the world, God, do you expect me to do that with any kind of success if I still have all these questions? Ah. I see. It is in patience and in talking and learning together that we find out what worship is. Each day we are different people than the day before, with different experiences - good and bad - that color how we see worship. So worship is not only the coming together of the worshiping community (the corporate body of Christ), but also of our individual experiences as the child of God we are on that day and at that time. Hmmmm. What does this mean? I am thinking it means that God is up to something in each of our lives - both as the gathered community and as individuals. How clever of God to set it up that way!

So I find myself giving thanks to God for each day that I am given to live. I find myself learning to let God be God - to give God control over all of these difficulties in my life, because I really cannot control them myself - and it is silly for me to try, even though I do that all the time.... I am learning that God is ALWAYS up to something in my life. And you know what? I'll bet that God is always up to something in your life too. 

Go God!!!