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learned

chronic pain: exchanging my brokenness for God’s wholeness

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There is something about suffering. For those of you who read this not near me on a daily basis, a little context: for 2+ years, I experienced constant pain in my neck. What began as a (surprising) pinched nerve after a 10k race resulted in a variety of doctors’ appointments, physical therapy sessions, x-rays, dietary changes, a steroid injection, and lifestyle changes, with no relief.

I have, however, become quite educated on the spine. (If you aren’t interested in the anatomical explanation, feel free to skip down.) Hereditarily, I have a more ‘upright’ neck where most are curved. I also have disc degeneration (which is not uncommon) and a bone spur on the C5 disc. The facet joints, in between each disc, are primarily long and flat, but with my neck’s lack of curve, around the lower discs, those joints are shorter and steeper, causing sharp pain and stiffness. (Let it be noted with joy that I am now seeing a chiropractor and experiencing genuine relief.)

After two years with no real change, I was in a pit and needed new vision.

My feelings and knowledge were at odds with each other, and the battle was exhausting me.

When we choose Jesus, a desire is permanently implanted in us to glorify God with our lives. But when suffering walks in and decides to stay for a while, weariness, discouragement, self-absorption, and a lack of glorying can mark the days. I’m sure everyone can relate to this.

How do I magnify God when I would rather stay hidden from the world and distract myself from the pain? How do I glorify God when my body isn’t what I think it should be, when every other movement hurts, restful sleep is a struggle, and giving of myself feels impossible?

My injury wasn’t debilitating, and didn’t call for surgery (for both I am deeply thankful), but managing daily chronic pain was new territory for me.

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the importance of ongoing prayer

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“For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things.” Psalm 107:9

This year I have gone through a lot of change… I mean a lot. If I were to list the major life changes, emotional changes, and season changes I have gone through this year, you wouldn’t believe me. I might not even believe me!

However, throughout this year, I have learned one very, very important piece of my spiritual journey with Jesus – ongoing prayer.

See, prayer is what keeps us in contact with God. Prayer is the tool we use to combat the lies of Satan, it’s the gateway to a growing relationship with our Savior, and it’s the mechanism we use to keep our hearts and emotions in tune and in check with the truth of God (2 Chronicles 7:14, Ephesians 6:18,James 5:13, Matthew 26:41, etc.).

Until summer of this year, I never understood how critical prayer is to my life. This all changed when I was at a baby shower (seriously… could y’all have any more babies right now), and I ran into a girl whose car Dylan and I bought off the side of the road in September of last year. I knew of her through our 30 minute encounter where we handed her cash and drove off with her car (ha!). So, I run into this girl and we strike up immediate spiritual conversation.

Throughout our two hour talk I felt the Lord pressing on me to reach out to her after the baby shower and learn more about her life, which lead to me learning about her mission. I later learned that Lauren (author of two of the most powerful prayer devotional books ever written – link at the bottom) was on a mission of teaching women to pray through prayer journaling. I couldn’t contain myself when I learned this!

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the heart behind my words

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I can be an overtalker. An anxious rambler. I sometimes fear awkward silences, and I can hardly let an uncomfortable situation sit.

There’s a frantic urgency to overreach with my words, to extent an apology or clarifying statement or burst of emotion.

I’ve known this to be true throughout my life, but lately it’s been flashing bright like Vegas Neon. And truthfully, I’m bothered by it.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Proverbs 18:21

I’m disturbed by my fear of discomfort in a conversation. I’m weary from my need to explain myself completely and entirely, to cover all my bases, to fix a situation immediately.

I wonder about pride, and how it could be a root issue here: the need to be sure I’m understood, the desire to make sure I’m not seen as wrong or confused or behind the curve.

Once I get going, words like a garden hose rush from my lips. Usually resulting in regret or self-doubt or disappointment, sometimes condemnation before Holy Spirit catches me.

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