The Refinement of Affliction

By my junior year in college I began waking in the night with pain in my back. This was rather annoying as you can imagine. Remember the days of college where you picked your own classes and schedule and you could structure it so you had a big fatty break in the middle of your day to do luxurious things like nap? That was how I coped with this new phenomenon happening in my life.

What started out as a sporadic event began to increase in frequency so that by the time I graduated in 1998 (yeah thats right….from COLLEGE!!! How is it possible?) I was waking up multiple times a night, EVERY night. Egg crates on a plastic dorm mattress seemed to only exacerbate my issue. I didn’t know what to do.

There isn’t enough space to go into my whole history but I will hit the highlights to give some context to this post.

To “lighten” it all up there will be some pictures of the outside of the house as this spring is showing that the labor of last spring was not in vain. With the help of our small group we tilled up 42 feet long and 4 feet deep along our porch, put weed liner down, new soil, planted…transplanted and mulched. A MASSIVE undertaking that everyone worked tirelessly on. 95% of what was planted last April is growing, blooming and doubling in size creating beautiful vignettes all around the house. We cut down the huge trees swallowing the front of our house and ground down the stumps. We also decided to dig out the overgrown boxwoods along the front (basically a cardinal sin in the south but oh well!) The other side of the house was just dirt. I wanted a more “cottage” look that over a few years would fill in with that wild and colorful look of an English garden.

BEFORE:
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AFTER….. You can see where we ran out of money in the large gaps along the front….we will remedy that this summer. Waiting on those peonies we transplanted to bloom. They are getting so close! Fav flower of all time!

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Back to my story….shortly after graduating I began the rigamaroll of going from one MD to another about the pain in my back. I was and have always been a “health head scratcher”. I had x-rays done as well as an MRI and each doctor told me there was nothing wrong with my back. Ironically enough, they were quick to have me take prescriptions for muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatory pills and then sent me on my way. By 23 years old I was severely depressed, exhausted, overweight, had the acne of a 13 year old, medicine dependent and feeling hopeless (and crazy!).

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A wonderful friend of mine INSISTED I go to her chiropractor. This terrified me. It just seemed so brutal and primal to crack and twist another person. My ignorance knows no end. I finally agreed to a free consultation. I brought my MRI with me and as soon as he had them on the light box he began measuring the space on EACH side of EACH vertebrae. He casually said “I bet you go to the bathroom all night long!” “YES…YES I do! How did you know?” He then showed me where the nerves that flow from the lower lumbar vertebrae connect to the bladder and mine hardly had a space between them (I had no low back curve) So my brain kept waking me up saying “full full full” but really it was nothing at all. He assured me I would be off all my medicines within three months and he was right. We rebuilt the curve back in my low back and alleviated about half the episodes of waking up. I now could sleep about 2-4 hours straight before waking. Fist pump for hitting a REM cycle here and there. My pain level during the day was more manageable as well. This was major progress in my book.

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Soon I started working for the chiropractor so that I could afford the regular care I needed. One day a tech thought she exposed some cervical x-ray film so she asked if she could take a picture of my neck to see if it worked. After the film developed she came to me with a somber look on her face and asked if I had ever had an images of my neck done. I never experienced pain there so no I hadn’t. She said the doctor needed to look at them. What I didn’t know is that my neck had a reverse curve to it and that about 3-4 vertebrae had already fused because of damage I must have done during some falls in my gymnastics career. I had 4th degree spinal degeneration that was irreversible. Must have been the power of suggestion but shortly after discovering this pain in my neck, shoulders and mid back became acute. This is still my reality to this day. I will never be free from chiropractic care and am thankful for the relief it can bring and the slowing down of the next stage of degeneration but I live each and every day of my life in varying degrees of pain. My own private hell.

I have not slept through the night in over 16 years. I dread going to bed each night. Bed equals pain for me.

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In 2001 I was diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and was given a fairly bleak picture of my future as a mother. Isn’t God redemptive and merciful? In your face PCOS!!!!

My second summer living overseas in Kazakstan, 2001, was amazing! I was working with a church youth program there for three months and going into the gorgeous Tien Shen Mountains for week long camping trips throughout that time. I wasn’t able to prepare my own food or bring my own water so I was at the mercy of those at the camp.

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When I returned I forgot to write down a secret thing I was smuggling into the US on my declaration form. A little friend named Giardia Isn’t he cute?
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He was so top secret that I didn’t even know he was nestled into my small intestine until about six months later when I was hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains and I took a couple handfuls of water from a stream and drank it. Within five minutes I was sweating and about to poop my pants. This story is actually funny to tell in person. Let’s just say I will never show my face at a certain Burger King for the rest of my life. Good gravy! (visual intended, you’re welcome)

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I got sick….very sick. What I contracted in the stream was salmonella poisoning which finally unearthed the dormant giardia after all the testing I went through. The medicine I was given to kill the parasites I like to fondly call “small intestine rape medicine”. My small intestine stopped working, I lost 40lbs (major perk I assure you!) and my ability to make poop like a regular person is gone. As my brother likes to ask me “You still serving soft serve Kelly?”

After two years (2002-2004), working with GI specialists, a comical colonoscopy (another story for a rainy day) I was told that they couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t form a solid stool and I was labeled as “IBS”….”watch your diet!” Off I went again with my nebulous diagnosis.

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For twelve years I have had intestinal “issues”. Slowly weight has come back on, three pregnancies, one miscarriage, and Father time marches on. I’m just a week away from my 38th birthday and I have to be honest. I have a pretty crappy “quality of life”. I live in a perpetual state of pain and exhaustion. I look down and I don’t recognize the body I am in, my face still breaks out like a teenager….this is me in my late 30’s. I’m not digging it.

But HEY…I have a great head of hair…so there’s that for you. (finger gun, finger gun….YEAH!)

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Beth Moore asked in one of her Breaking Free videos “What’s the worse affliction to have? Emotional….Spiritual….Mental or Physical?” her answer was, “Whatever you are currently suffering with.” Those that battle depression or OCD would be adamant that it is a greater affliction to have an emotional or mental disorder than to have physical pain. Someone that is despairing and hopeless with a crisis of faith or feeling as though God has abandoned them would argue that to have spiritual affliction is so soul crushing it has to be the worst affliction. I’m not here to say having a physical affliction is the worse. There aren’t neat little boxes or borders that afflictions come in. It’s more like spilling a glass of milk….the tentacles of fluid are far reaching. Just like the table, chair and floor beneath all get covered with the spilled milk so do our afflictions cross over into the other areas.

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My physical suffering has had the greatest impact on my emotional well being and my spiritual walk with the Lord. The things I described are not “obvious” to the casual friend or acquaintance and it’s easy for me to set them aside.(except my acne and apple bottom…can’t tuck those bad boys away.) I’m a happy person that smiles a lot, quick with a witty retort or funny story. Some people you see the “heavy” coming a mile away, that’s rarely me.

I’m not trying to be a martyr about all of this or pat myself on the back either. There is a balance to all of this. I don’t know that I’ve struck it. I have a hard time bringing up how I REALLY feel each day. I feel super uncomfortable talking about it with most people. Those that are closest to me know my story and check in fairly regularly. I would say a few times a year I go into a depression like state. This is usually when my back and neck are so fretfully bad and the days and days of sleeplessness make me feel like a crazy person. I’m all Girl Interrupted and Ryan just backs away slowly.

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Satan has a way of barging through what becomes a thin door of trust and perseverance and rearranges the furniture on me. I feel clumsy and clunky in my walk with the Lord. I despair about my affliction and weary in being hopeful that something could change. Does God want me to suffer each day until I leave this earth? Could he? Is that a bad thing?

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This is where I’m at people. I am going to have to make this two parts because I am currently going through a new health crisis at this moment that is forcing me to cling to Jesus like never before. The battle is real and I refuse to sit in the corner rocking back and forth with my thumb in my mouth. Maybe you understand what I am talking about because you have been dealing with an affliction for years or decades. Your milk is spilled and you feel not just in physical turmoil but also emotionally, mentally and spiritually you are unraveling at the seams.

I’m fighting back against Satan and would love for you to join me. I’m currently reading Affliction by Edith Schaeffer. I’m reading at a snails pace because I can’t keep my eyeballs open at night after about three pages sadly.

But let me just set this right here for you to digest because a flicker of hope and a fire in my belly is igniting. What does it rouse in you? (pg 34-35)

“It is possible to persecute and afflict the Lord through the persecution and affliction of His people. The battle is fought in this way, as Satan tries to fight against God and to destroy the love of His people for Him. Satan is not only trying to make Christians bitter and complaining against God; he is trying to hurt God directly. We have a piece of information from Isaiah that God means us to have, to help our understanding. Isaiah speaks of the loving-kindness of the Lord:

“For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie, so he was their Saviour. In all their affliction he was afflicted, an the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bore them, and carried them all the days of old.”- Isaiah 63:8,9

She continues on with these life giving words. “This is not simply a statement of the fact that the Lord feels our sorrows and afflictions in loving concern, but it tells us also that the thrusts of Satan which come against us hit Him in some very real way. What is going on is beyond our complete comprehension, but we are meant to have a real measure of understanding to give us courage to go on. Our personal afflictions involve the Living God; the only way in which Satan can persecute or afflict God is though attacking the people of God. The only way we can have personal victory in the midst of these flying arrows raining down on us is to call upon the Lord for help. It is His strength, supplied to us in our weakness, which makes victory after victory possible.

There is something to say when people ask “Why?” or feel, in the midst of their struggles with an affliction, as if no one else had ever had this particular combination of things before. There is no pat answer or suitable trite phrase–but there is the reality of history to consider, as well as the absolute fairness of the Word of God in the examples He lets us look into. We have the reassurance, time after time, that our particular combination of characteristics is really unique, because we are individual personalities, not puppets or parts of a machine. It helps us to hear about other Christians in pain, difficulty, persecution, and affliction because we then can recognize that in our own struggles we are not alone in history. We are surrounded by those who are a veritable “cloud of witnesses” who can encourage us. They can help, not because they had perfect lives with shining successes and joys following one another like a bubbling stream through flower-filled fields, but because they, too, have discovered something about the diversity of meaning to be found in affliction and the bittersweet possibilities of victory.”

To be continued…..

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13 Comments on The Refinement of Affliction

  1. Jessica
    May 22, 2014 at 9:32 am (5 years ago)

    Your blog is such a blessing Kelly!
    Sure miss living closer. Keep writing, you are so very gifted.

    Reply
    • Kelly
      May 29, 2014 at 8:57 am (5 years ago)

      THank you Jess! Remember those Bauchou years? A life time ago but what a change in my health despite the drama. So fun to watch your international adventures with your beautiful family. So glad you have been blessed by my sporadic ramblings!

      Reply
  2. Amanda Brown
    May 22, 2014 at 11:02 am (5 years ago)

    Kelly, your wisdom and beauty through this pain is amazing. I didn’t know the depth of your health struggles. Makes me bow down all the more at the beautiful home and life you have orchestrated despite all the challenges. Thanks for sharing, as always.

    Reply
    • Kelly
      May 29, 2014 at 8:56 am (5 years ago)

      Off your knees Brown. I decorate to distract myself from feeling like dookie :-) Thank you for taking the time to stop in and read. Miss our banter.

      Reply
  3. Elizabeth
    May 22, 2014 at 1:32 pm (5 years ago)

    Just what I needed today…

    Reply
  4. Jen Mancier
    May 22, 2014 at 8:49 pm (5 years ago)

    Thank-you for sharing this, Kelly. For what it’s worth, I would kill for hair like yours and I’ve never noticed any acne on you! (mine’s back, boo). I know all too well how physical afflictions overlap with the others :-/ I want to check out that book! Thanks for your encouragement :-) love and prayers

    Reply
    • Kelly
      May 29, 2014 at 8:55 am (5 years ago)

      Yes…read it. I seriously want to start a small book club to walk through that book. It’s just so meaty and hits to the core of suffering and how Satan twists us into thinking God does not care and is not good. Also I think my hair just distracts from the acne. Not sure how you miss it!

      Reply
  5. Julie
    May 22, 2014 at 8:50 pm (5 years ago)

    Thinking & praying for you, Kelly. You have a gift for writing.

    Reply
    • Kelly
      May 29, 2014 at 8:54 am (5 years ago)

      Thank you Julie, you are so faithful to read!

      Reply
  6. Dikola
    May 22, 2014 at 9:42 pm (5 years ago)

    Your yard is AMAZING!!! I seriously am in awe of the transformation! The little red chevron pillow on the couch against the dark of your house with all of the other colors from nature and your decor are perfect! Our aesthetics are so different but I always love how you mix and match!! Beautiful!! I admire the quiet strength it requires to move through life when your so sick and completely exhausted. I love you…you know I pray for you! It blesses me to know you are making your way through Affliction. It IS a slow read anyway…tired or not, as you must digest the depths she takes you through in the Scriptures. My friend Laura is at L’Abri Switzerland right now and I am so jealous! Maybe for us one day? Praying for relief, for healing, for sleep, for energy, and for hard poop;)

    Reply
    • Kelly
      May 29, 2014 at 8:54 am (5 years ago)

      Oh sweet friend….can we hop on a plane with magical money and time to spare and join her at L’Abri? My word that sounds like a slice of heaven. You have been one of the faithful few through the years to know the extent of my sorrow in this area of life and pain. You have been so strong in prayer when I waffled in faith. Thank you for your prevailing prayers!

      Reply
  7. Eileen
    May 27, 2014 at 11:42 am (5 years ago)

    Kelly, it has been a while since I’ve followed, but you were on my mind the other day and I thought I’d do a quick google and see what you and your gorgeous photos and family have been up to. What a great post this is. There is something about affliction that causes us to cling to Jesus in a way that I don’t think we would if everything were just going along swimmingly. I am right there with you in the neck pain (and, sadly, at 40, the acne – though I like to think it keeps me looking ‘youthful’) and I’m not so sure I’d remember how much I need him if I just felt fine every day. Not that there’s anything wrong with feeling fine every day. But for me, I feel like the pain is just a reminder that I am not self-sufficient. And also that there will come a day when there is no more pain. For any of us. Your new home is beautiful. I hope that you are able to find some relief and rest. <3

    Reply
    • Kelly
      May 29, 2014 at 8:53 am (5 years ago)

      Hi Eileen! Been a long time indeed since I’ve seen your name pop up. Thank you for your kind and encouraging words. Yes learning God’s all sufficiency and my dependence on that has been very life changing. I think I have a found a path to physical healing which I will share in the next post. I know until heaven I will do my best to manage pain but I look forward to my heavenly body!

      Reply

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