*I wrote this earlier this year, but completely forgot to post it! Thankfully, I am feeling better these days, but this is still worth sharing about my journey. Here it is, my momentary glimpse into the gift that physical pain can be. I dedicate this to all my loved ones out there in the world who deal with chronic pain. May you feel Jesus loving you as you read of how He loves me through my back pain. -Marie
I began to feel its claw-like grip on Saturday afternoon, while prepping skewers to bear the vegetables-turned-virgin-sacrifice on our new grill later that evening. Back Pain. Hello, old companion. I thought I told you that you were not welcome here. We’re having friends over for dinner tonight = something we haven’t done in weeks. I don’t have time for you, for your persistence.
Not even a dose of my stronger med and a double dose of extraversion could make me forget that moving meant hurting. By the time the gang had departed with their final goodbye, I crawled into bed, wishing Jordan could pierce my low back with a leftover skewer or two or twenty – perhaps that would help since the usual remedies hadn’t. When I awoke unable to move the next morning, I messaged the friends who had been with us the night before, telling them of my frustration with being in this place once again. I silenced my phone and turned up the volume on my heart’s prayer, which was that the Lord, if He wouldn’t remove or lessen the pain, would help us to find our way through this flare-up. He did the latter.
He blessed me with a husband and kids who engaged with me with grace and compassion on every level: physically, emotionally, spiritually. My reunion with back pain gave us the gift of slowing down our already-simplified-life as a family. It caused us to breathe in contentment and to breathe out gratitude for simple things like just being together within the walls of our pretty home.
At one point, when I was finally able to move around a bit, I wanted to be outside where Jordan was reading. I settled into our hammock which supports my back really well and allows me to sit up rather than just lie down. Megan brought me her favorite pillow and poured me some tea. Micah came outside to write his story so he could ask Jordan and me how to spell some words, while Megan worked on designing her doll dresses, humming all the while. None of us, in that moment, were desiring to be anywhere else. All four of us were just content to be there, doing nothing grandiose in the world’s eyes, but we were being a family, which is beautiful in my eyes. I could feel God smiling down upon us … I’m not sure if I would have felt that if I were feeling amazing, running from one project to the next. Questions and comments from any of us were received by the others with openness and engagement, not deflected by “you’re interrupting me,” (which has, sadly, become my daily phrase of choice to express my irritation with my favorite people in the world) or “just a second!”
While the three of them were at church last night, I lit a candle, rested quietly and read a book. When they returned, all three of them immediately came into the room, hugging and kissing me, “We missed you!” They piled into the bed with me, watched the candlelight flickering and told me all about their varying versions of our hour and a half apart. Again, we were accompanied by my back pain, but it’s presence didn’t dictate what we did together … only where we did life together. Micah chose to stay with me while Jordan read to Megan at bedtime. “Why are you here, Micah? Don’t you want to hear the story Daddy’s reading?” He hugged me, saying, “I can read it again later. I just want to cuddle with you, Mom.” At bedtime, we traded kids and I laid next to Megan while she used up the last of her word quota for the day, jabbering about her upcoming birthday, wanting to be in the US, other random facts about her friends here and asking me a dozen questions. When it got quiet, it stayed quiet for a miraculous minute, then she threw her left arm over me (the arm I wasn’t stroking) and said, “Thanks, Mom, for talking with me.” Now, we do that same exact activity many nights of the week. I scratch her back or stroke her legs or arms to help usher in sleepiness while we connect over whatever it is that’s on her heart.
As I sat there, even though I didn’t have the gift of a much-longed-for, pain-free body, I could unwrap the gift of togetherness with my family who loves me and whom I love so much. I want many more moments like those in the days to come. If God is allowing this pain to resurface these days and that is one of the “side effects” – then I can say, in a way, “Thank you, Lord, for this pain, because it refocuses my heart on the treasures I have and truly don’t deserve.”