Thorns in My Flesh: Foot Pain and Anxiety

“Foot pain Sucks!” There I said it. As a person who has suffered with foot issues and pain all my life, it kind of feels relieving just letting that out. My earliest memories of heading to the big city from my very small rural hometown was for the very purpose of visiting a foot specialist. My parents saw my need and did their best to provide the best they could for their flat footed child. Which meant orthopedic shoes. They were kind of special when you are 7 or 8, but by the time I hit my teen years I was fairly certain I would rather hurt than wear anything so ugly, bring on the Nikes and Adidas! But as time went on and the pain increased, my willingness to see pediatrist or orthopedic surgeons that specialize in feet increased. It gets old trying to decide if you would rather stay seated or stand on up and work on through the pain. So began my love for Birkenstock anything, Feet Fleet Shoe stores, orthopedic shoe inserts, ankle stretches, an overnight foot splint to help with plantar fasciitis (takes a little getting used to), etc. It’s amazing the lengths I go to so I don’t have to slow down, sit down, and live with a ton of pain… All this being said, The battle against foot pain still goes on and due to pain in both of my feet, I’ve got an appointment with a specialist this week to see if there are any other tricks up his sleeve that can help…

Being a person of faith, and one who believes that God does answer prayers, and that He still heals today, I’ve brought this issue up to God more than once. I’ve asked for the elders of the church to lay hands on me, anoint me with oil, and pray for me more than once as the Bible talks about in James 5:14. I know God can heal my feet, but for now I tend to view them as Paul did his affliction he mentions as his “Thorn in His Flesh”. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. Paul asked for God to take it away from him three times and God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” and there is no record of Paul’s thorn ever being removed.

This all came to mind this morning as I have contemplated another couple of “Thorns in my flesh” That seem to stick around, Anxiety and depression. Once again I have found myself going to great lengths to try to keep up with my “self care” regimen of exercise, eating right, prayer, meditation, medication, rest, fresh air, daily confessions of who I am in Christ, etc. Plus the appointments with a counselor… It’s uncanny the parallel between my foot pain and my struggle with anxiety and depression. Probably the thing that sticks out the most is to what lengths I would go to get some relief for both of them. Because whether it’s pain in every step you take or pain in a majority of the thoughts you think, both are uncomfortable and therefore worth being treated the best way you can, self care, spiritually, and with help from the professionals. And just as I have taken my physical foot pain to God and asked for healing, I have done the same with my mind, but I believe part of the reason my struggle has not been totally relieved isn’t because I am doing something wrong. It’s more a matter of God helping me to get a perspective I never had before.

My youngest son has some of the same issues with his feet that I have, sorry son… If he complains of his feet aching, I automatically empathize with him deeply. I’ve been there, as a matter of fact, I’m there now… I can also say that my accepting where I am in my struggles with anxiety and depression, has given me compassion for those who struggle in their mind. I can tell you what little I know that works the best for me to get relief and I can point you to the One who ultimately makes sense out of all the ins and outs of life- Jesus. I know that looking back through the years and seeing the path I’ve walked that His presence and His help is what has made the difference for me, and although I haven’t seen Him come in and zap my mind into always thinking happy thoughts, I have found Him more than enough when I was unable to see straight or find the will to keep getting up and keep going on. In fact, it is in my growing in knowing Him more that I can take the time to stop and appreciate the little things like the changing leaves, my grandson’s smile, laughter with my kids, or the embrace of my husband. All of these are gifts He has given me to show me that it is true, “God’s grace is sufficient for me, and His power is made perfect in my weakness.” Whether the weakness be the aching of my feet or the struggles in my head, I can confidently say, “God and His grace is enough for me.” and “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13. Because the Evidence of God’s goodness is there, even in our struggles. It’s whether or not we chose to open our eyes to see it.

King David, Covid, Bob Marley, and of course…ME

“The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.” Psalms 37:23-24 NLT

God always has a plan. Even when we think we’re the ones calling the shots, we’re actually not all that. He’s the one at work on the details of our lives. The more I realize this and accept it the more at peace I am.

The past few weeks my husband and I have been reading about King David and also reading his Psalms. Once again I find what was supposed to be a daily Bible reading plan we picked out “by chance”, exactly what I need for the things I’m dealing with. Funny how God just works that out…

David was a worshipper of God. He was a writer. He played musical instruments and his abilities were of the talent level to land him a gig playing for the king, King Saul, in his palace. David was warrior. He was a fighter. If the cause was right and good he would bravely stand in opposition to what appeared to be really bad odds against him and come out the victor on the other end. Just ask Goliath. David was a man with loyal friends, who would hang out in caves and be brave along with him. Men who were willing to go behind enemy lines to fetch a drink from water that David mentioned, just because he mentioned it. David lived in palaces enjoying the finest. He also hid in caves running for his life because his father in law and at one time his own son wanted him dead. David danced in excited jubilation before God and he also tore his clothes and laid out before God in mourning. I think you get the picture after awhile. David experienced the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly in his life. The one consistent is that he went through all of this and concludes that God directed his steps and even in the bad stuff he would never fall. He knew God loved him, and God spoke of David in all the ups and downs of his life as a “man after God’s own heart.”

I find myself identifying with David a lot recently. Not because I’m hiding in caves, having spears thrown at me, or acting like a madman before an enemy king to save my skin. Mainly because things go good for me and I feel like dancing before God. Things go not so good and I feel like putting on my mourning clothes and laying in a pile of ashes before God too. I’ve experienced that love of loyal friends, and the betrayal of others. I’ve had awesome victories, and experienced the pain of defeat. I could go on and on.

Somewhere in my mind I had pictured the Christian life as a cake walk- one blessing to the next and yet I find it is exactly as Jesus told us it would be. A life with “troubles” but also “courage” because He has over come the world.

This past month has been a lot. Our family has dealt with the sickness, death, funeral, and other ins and outs of losing someone we dearly love. But at the same time we’ve found joy in the milestones our grandbaby has reached, birthdays of my kids- as three of them are now in their 20’s, new college school year started for my daughter living at home – that she is enjoying, and the excitement of a 16 year old boy’s social life as he enjoys his high school years. I’ve found myself crying at times, and laughing out loud at other times, sitting in dismay as I try to figure out my next step and then confidently walking things out at other times. I think me and Kind David have a lot more in common than I realized, a lot more than our mutual love for music and writing and dancing an occasional jig.

So today’s curveball that life has thrown at me is a positive Covid case in my home. Yesterday was spent getting the rest of us tested and trying to figure out just how exposed we have been to my asymptomatic teenage son, which I would say the answer would be “pretty exposed”. So far none of us four under the same roof are sick, for which I am so very grateful. But I am also hearing the reports of our friends who also have Covid that theirs is not that same case, they are very sick. Sitting here this morning I’ve contemplated “what exactly can I do?” This situation has made me long for the good ole days when my preteen daughters got headlice. Sure I was busy treating heads and picking nits every night and cleaning the house until my back hurt so bad I could barely walk. But at least the possibility of one of us getting really sick from the little critters wasn’t a big threat. Yesterday, as my 20 year old daughter and I sat in a drive up testing sight for an hour in a line of cars, we tried to make the best of a bad situation. We joked about the car full of college boys in front of us waiting to be tested, and what if they were really cute under their masks. The potential love story that could come from finding your true love while waiting to be tested for Covid on a hot summer day. It’s either laugh or cry at this point, so laugh is what we did. Then today I wrestle with should I use a clorex wipe to clean off the laptop my son has touched to type this blog. The wipes won out, and a squirt of hand sanitizer.

All this being said, my mind turned back to David. He understood, as I am coming to understand, that God has these things. God has directed my steps, and this new obstacle of Covid is not a surprise to Him. Life is going to be like this. There will be good, bad, beautiful, and ugly… And though the unknown, if I admit it, is scary. God is always holding onto me and the ones I love.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?“ And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. ” Matthew 6:26-34 NIV

Or in this case the words of Bob Marley actually can be a comfort as well:

“Rise up this mornin’,
Smiled with the risin’ sun,
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin’ sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true,
Sayin’, (“This is my message to you-ou-ou:”)

Singin’: “Don’t worry ’bout a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.”
Singin’: “Don’t worry (don’t worry) ’bout a thing,
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right!””

We are Never Forgotten

This morning my coffee and Jesus time was interrupted by a call from my mother in love from the nursing home. She had a hankering for a breakfast burrito from McDonald’s with mild picante sauce. Since eating has been hard for her and she has lacked desire, I combed my hair, brushed my teeth, put on some day clothes, hopped in my Charger and drove into town to purchase the desired meal and drop it by her room. I left my time with Jesus contemplating a verse that stuck out to me in my daily Bible reading that my husband and I are doing together from the Bible app. Psalm 105:42 “For he remembered his holy promise given to his servant Abraham.” The word “remembered” jumped off the page at me, which usually means I need to run it through the Bible Hub App and check out the meaning in the Hebrew with the Strong’s Concordance, and if that isn’t enough to settle the question marks flashing in my mind, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary can shed some light too. There are several references to God “remembering” someone or some promise. Genesis 8:1 “God remembered Noah…in the ark.” In Exodus 2:24 God “remembered his covenant” after hearing the groaning from the oppression of the Hebrew slaves. It hit me. If God “remembers” does that mean He “forgets”. I know that an all knowing, all powerful God cannot “forget”. I know this in my heart, but at times the 18 inch jump of this reality from my heart to my head does not quite make it. I can get caught up looking at circumstances, feeling my feelings. Then the question, “Has God forgotten?” starts to rumble around inside of me.

Webster’s 1828 defines “remember” as “to bear in mind, to attend to”. When God remembered Noah in the ark, He “attended to” or He “thought about” Noah . It wasn’t a case of God looking at other details in the flood and Noah just “slipped His mind.” So He needed to remember Noah. Or when God “remembered” His people who were enslaved in Egypt, He hadn’t been too busy thinking about what was going on across the globe in another land, and happened to let His very own people be abandoned and “forgotten” by His inattentiveness. He was there all along, working out the details of their deliverance. He was bearing in mind their situation, their cries, and their desire for freedom. He was working out His plan of deliverance.

It is easy in a difficult season to feel like God has forgotten us. Our earthly limitations don’t allow us to see everything as God does, and it is hard to understand “the why?”. “Why hasn’t God done something about this?” “Why have I had to struggle with this for years and years and years?” “Why is there pain?” “If God were actually looking at me, He wouldn’t let me go through this. Maybe He’s forgotten me…” But we are assured, God “remembers”. He bears in mind our circumstances and He attends to the details of our lives. He never forgets.

Nine years ago today my nephew was lost at sea while serving in the Navy. It is presumed by the Navy that He fell overboard in the Gulf of Aden near Yemen. I used to close my eyes and picture him buried deep in the under currents created by the large carrier he was serving on. No one saw him. No one knew. His disappearance became known when the daily roll call occurred and he was not present. The ship was searched, and then the waters. Matt was gone. This was not because God had forgotten to keep an eye on Matt and had no idea where Matt was. God was there attending to Matt’s needs as Matt stepped across the great divide from earth to heaven underneath the waters of the Gulf of Aden.

The Memorial Service for Matt aboard the Boxer.

Nine years ago on July 9th my father in love drew his last breath after suffering greatly with cancer for over a year. God had not forgotten him. I’ve often thought of what Gene must have seen as he uttered “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” before drawing his last breath. God had not forgotten him as he laid on his bed unable to speak or move. He was there attentive to his care and bearing him in mind as he took Gene’s hand and led him into the pure presence of Jesus.

God has not forgotten my mother in love as she continues her fight against the disease that has ravaged her body. He has not forgotten me as I struggle to understand. I am assured that the questions in my heart, the anxieties I fight are under His attentive care and He knows exactly where I am and bears my situation in His mind. He is in control. I may not understand or see. but God never Forgets!

“Farther Along”

I grew up the daughter of the church pianist (my mom) and grand daughter (my grandma) of the church song leader, what they used to call worship leader in some churches back in the day. As the regular part of church worship service, someone would come prepared with a “special”. Usually a hymn or song that they sang solo or duet with someone. With all the music running through my family line, I would be asked on the regular to sing or play something on the piano. It wasn’t my favorite experience since my fingers would shake so hard on the keys of the piano from nerves. I usually had a few screw ups in each song. The small church of 30 or less would talk about how wonderful I did when I sat down. (Very generous of them)

My mom and grandma usually sang a special every week. Their voices blended smoothly as they sang songs outside of the usual congregational music, hymns, that were sang.

Frequently, they sang this song , “Farther Along” (a little differently) as a “special” when I was growing up. Since I was an “80’s Rocker” in my teen years, I didn’t really think too much about it. It wasn’t my style. Funny how things change… I often think of them singing this song now. I finally get why Grandma loved the words of this song.
I came across the verse above this morning in my Bible reading. I’ve had a hard week. My mother in love has spent this week in the hospital after a fall that broke her femur. Cancer has complicated things and we have been left with a great need for a miracle.

There has been a wide range of emotions within our family as we’ve tried to help her and be there for her the past few days. Probable one of the hardest things is not understanding why.

Suffering is hard to wrap your mind around when stacked up against the fact that God is good and He loves us. There’s been many books written, sermons spoken, and ideas expressed on the “Why?”.

I’ve had to conclude during my 49 times riding around the sun that it’s ok to not understand everything that happens on earth. I’m not God. I am finite. I don’t see the full picture. The comfort is that that when I see Jesus, I will understand. Because I will finally see Him as He is and all the secret things will be revealed. Quite honestly, when I do see Him all the things that I didn’t understand won’t matter so much any more. Because it is then that I step into the place where there will be no more pain, no more crying, no more dying, etc and I experience fully without anything holding me back, God’s love: the heights, the depths, the length, the width of its infinite bounds.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.””
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭21:3-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬