Tag Archive | Pain

Exploring Rest: Physical Rest and Chronic Illness

“In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.” Psalm‬ ‭127:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

As I began studying REST as my Word of the Year for 2018, my main focus was on RESTING in the Lord. This is definitely important, but as I’ve prayed and listened to God’s voice I’ve recognized the need for some study on the physical aspects of rest as well. The God who formed our bodies in the wombs of our mothers is concerned about physical rest. It is a God-given gift to “refresh tired bodies” and “restore tired souls” (Jeremiah 21:25 MSG).

I’ve had a bedtime routine for several years of getting in bed around 10pm, then spending thirty to sixty minutes relaxing and reading before turning off the lights and actually going to sleep. My alarm is set to go off at 7:30am, so this schedule allows for the recommended hours of sleep. Occasionally, our special-needs son will have problems during the night, setting off the alarm on his monitor and waking me up, but overall this schedule was working.

However during the last few months, I’ve noticed most nights I either have trouble getting to sleep in a timely manner or I’m waking up much earlier than I used to, around 4am most mornings. Suddenly, I was seldom getting the amount of sleep recommended by the National Sleep Foundation for those in my age group. Because of a combination of living with a long list of chronic illnesses and some other age-related problems, I now seldom get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep. And as one of the leaders of a large group of Christian women with chronic illness, I’ve seen that I am definitely not the only one who faces this problem.

Sleeplessness and Chronic Illness

Insomnia, the inability to fall asleep or remain asleep for the recommended amount of time, is a common problem for those with chronic illnesses. In some cases, a medical condition itself causes insomnia, while in other cases symptoms of the condition cause discomfort that can make it difficult for us to sleep. Also, insomnia is sometimes a side effect of some of the medications used for chronic illnesses. Common medical problems related to insomnia include gastrointestinal problems, endocrine problems, neurological conditions, allergies, asthma and chronic pain. Unfortunately, treatments may help relieve the severity of these problems but they seldom totally remove them.

While those who suffer with these and many other chronic illnesses may never be totally free from the issue of insomnia, there are some positive steps we can take to keep from living with constant exhaustion. Here are a few ideas.

  • Talk with your primary physician about the problems you are having with insomnia. While I personally do not take any type of prescription sleeping pills, that may be an option for some. Personally, when my PCP has tried this the side effects were worse than the insomnia itself. But your doctor may have some other recommendations that would be helpful in this area. For example, some medications or combinations of medications can actually cause difficulty sleeping or aggravate a problem you are already having in this area, and there may be a different medication that would help with the symptoms without keeping you awake at night.
  • Watch your diet. Caffeine and chocolate are stimulants, and used in the late afternoon or evening can make it difficult to get to sleep. Foods containing sugar can cause a spike in blood glucose levels and make you restless instead of sleepy. Spicy foods and foods high in protein and fat, especially when eaten in large amounts and late in the evening, can keep you awake when you need to go to sleep. If possible, eat early so your food will have time to begin digesting before bed time. And limit fluid intake for at least three hours before going to bed so you don’t have to get up frequently during the night to urinate and have difficulty getting back to sleep.
  • Get some sunshine daily, whenever possible. Regular exposure to sunlight helps keep vitamin D levels within the normal range and prevents daytime drowsiness and nighttime restlessness that are symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.
  • Add some exercise to your daily routine.If you are too sedentary – which is another problem often associated with chronic illness – this often adds to problems with impaired sleep. Find a way to add regular aerobic exercise to your daily routine at least five days a week, working up to 150 minutes of exercise per week. If you’re not sure what exercise is appropriate with your medical condition(s), ask your physician for a recommendation or if possible for an assessment by a certified physical and/or occupational therapist to help you set up a safe exercise program. I did this after a major surgery on my cervical spine about a year and a half ago, and since I was homebound at the time I had both a PT and an OT come to our home to get me started on a safe exercise program. But don’t wait until after supper to exercise, as this can actually make it more difficult to fall asleep.
  • If you feel extremely tired during the day, a short nap may improve your alertness and ability to concentrate. But nap in a comfortable environment, preferably with limited light and noise, and do so early in the afternoon and for no more than forty-five minutes. Sometimes a simple time of resting without napping will also help. But avoid longer naps or those later in the afternoon which can disrupt your nighttime sleep.
  • Limit or eliminate back light devices and bright artificial light before bedtime. Watching television late at night, working on your computer, even reading an e-book on your iPad or other tablet to relax at bedtime can all contribute to sleeplessness. Even over-exposure to artificial light can cause difficulty getting to sleep. Whenever possible, use low-wattage bulbs and turn off your television and computer or tablet at least one hour before going to bed. And if you want to read to relax at bedtime, make sure you use a regular book or an eReader that requires an additional light source.
  • Maintain a consistent bedtime routine. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and that the temperature is neither too warm nor too cold. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends. And don’t allow sleep problems to become a cause of anxiety. If you do all you can to get a full night’s sleep, and you still wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, realize that any rest is better than none. If you feel restless, take some time to listen to some relaxing music or meditate on some encouraging verses of Scripture, but then turn off the light, close your eyes and rest until it’s time to get up and start another day.
  • Finally, remember God is in control, ruling in love and wisdom over our world whether we are awake or asleep. When you lay down to go to bed for the night, lay down your anxious thoughts as well. As you powered down your computer at least an hour below heading to bed, it’s now time to power down your mind and turn everything over to the One who never sleeps or slumbers (Psalm 121:4). Relinquish control to Him, relax and go to sleep. Almighty God is still on His throne, and He can handle anything that might happen before it’s time for you to begin a new day. Close your eyes and go to sleep, confident He will make you dwell in safety through the night.


Exploring Our Theme, Part 1: Anchored in Hope

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.                                         It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain,” Hebrews‬ ‭6:19‬ ‭NIV

When I sensed God prompting me last December to choose hope as my word of the year for 2017, I had no idea how important this decision would be.

This has been a year filled with the storms of life.

First, we learned that we owed a large amount in property taxes on the house and property we had inherited from my husband’s mother. We made arrangements to begin making monthly payments on these taxes. Living on Social Security, supplemented with a self-employment income that varies greatly from month to month, this put a severe strain on our budget.

A few months later, our only vehicle broke down. When we learned that repairing it would cost more than we could afford and more than the value of the car, we were suddenly without transportation.

Then an actual storm, Hurricane Harvey, touched our lives. While we were fortunate that our home was not flooded, we did not make it through the torrential rainstorm without damage. Our roof sprung a leak, part of the ceiling in an upstairs room we use for storage collapsed, and water got into the walls and shorted out the wiring that supplies power to close to half of the house.

This however was not the most devastating result of the hurricane.  The Friday before the storm began on Sunday, our special needs son David began running a fever. Since David doesn’t regulate his body temperature very well because of his brain damage, we just watched him closely, using medication and cool compresses to reduce the fever. But by the following Tuesday, it’s was obvious David was fighting a major infection so we contacted his doctor for an antibiotic. We quickly learned that finding a drug store open and well stocked in Houston in the days following Hurricane Harvey was not an easy task. No one we contacted had the original prescription in stock.

Finally on Friday, after again contacting David’s doctor for a prescription of a different antibiotic, we were able to begin David on an antibiotic for what now appeared to be pneumonia. The next day, the house calls group we use for our son’s medical care sent out a mobile x-ray unit to do a chest x-ray, and pneumonia was confirmed. A stronger prescription was ordered, and we began treating the pneumonia at home.

The following Wednesday, it became obvious this home treatment plan was not working, in spite of the antibiotic and aggressive respiratory care our son’s nursing team was giving him. We called 911 and transported him to the hospital.

And thus began one of the most intense periods of our year so far.  We learned the pneumonia had caused fluid to fill David’s right lung, and the lung had collapsed. After several procedures to drain the fluid and reinflate the lung, and other health problems being diagnosed through further testing, it is now two and a half weeks later and we are still in the hospital.

So what does all of this have to do with being anchored in hope?

 When we go through the storms of life, we need an anchor to hold us steady. Hope in Jesus Christ is the anchor that holds us secure as we are blown and tossed by the wind and waves of the storms of life.

In today’s culture, hope is often equated to wishful thinking. But biblical hope is so much more. According to Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, to hope is “to trust in, wait for, look for, or desire something or someone; or to expect something beneficial in the future.” Biblical hope is rooted is trust in God and confident expectation based on His character and promises, especially during times of waiting for His answer.

As our family has walked through these difficult circumstances in 2017, our trust in God has not been shaken. If anything, these trials have drawn us into a closer relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. There have been times of feeling overwhelmed, but even those have been taken to the Lord and our anchor has held. As I write this, we are still in a time of waiting for God’s answers. But through it all, the anchor of hope has held us steady in these storms of life.


Easter Hope: A God Who Understands Suffering

Living with chronic illness is difficult. Having someone you can talk with who understands what it’s like to live with longterm pain, a friend who can say “me too” when you share some of the struggles you are currently dealing with, makes it a little easier.

I’m grateful to be a part of a group of ladies who love Jesus and also know what it is to suffer with chronic pain, exhaustion, and other common symptoms of chronic illness. As we share with and pray for one another, I am encouraged and strengthened. I consider that a blessing from the Lord.

But as I’ve spent this week preparing my heart for the celebration of Easter, one thought has come to mind repeatedly that I consider an even bigger blessing. We have a Lord and Savior who knows what it is to experience pain. A God Who can say, “Me too!”

Isaiah 53:3 (NIV) tells us that Jesus was well acquainted with pain and grief, “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” Therefore, when we suffer pain and grief, we are not alone. We have an ever-present God and Savior who understands.

As I was doing some research online, looking for a meaningful quote for this article, I came across some quotes from a book by Jon Weece,  entitled Me Too: Experiencing the God Who Understands. Weece speaks of the cross as “God’s ‘me too’ statement to a world saturated with suffering.”

Weece adds, “Pain is the common language of the human experience. Most people I know are fluent in suffering. They speak it, but they don’t understand it. One of the ways people begin to heal is to sit across the table from someone who can say, ‘Me too.'”

Jesus didn’t like suffering any more than we do. He strugged in the Garden of Gethsemane with what laid ahead of Him. There He cried out to His Father, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death… “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark‬ ‭14:34‬a, 36 NIV‬‬)

Jesus’ suffering was more intense than anything I’ve ever experienced. In his description of the Garden, Luke adds, “And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke‬ ‭22:44‬ ‭NIV‬‬) Have you experienced more emotional pain than this?

So why did Jesus go through this suffering in the Garden, just thinking about what was ahead of Him, and then the actual physical suffering leading up to and on the Cross?  He did it because of love. He did it to make a way for us to be restored to the relationship with God that we were created for.

Through Jesus’ suffering, His death on the cross, and His resurrection,  1 Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” Because of Easter, we can have peace with God and hope for the future. And we can also have the comfort of knowing we will never be alone in our suffering. We have a Savior who understands and walks with us through whatever we face.

Have you taken advantage of Jesus’ immeasureable sacrifice? If not, don’t let this Easter go by without accepting the forgiveness of sin His suffering purchased for us. Ask Him to be your personal Savior and Lord. Make the decision to die to sin and live to righteousness. The price has been paid, and the gift is yours if you are willing to accept it for yourself.  



The Importance of Rest and Refreshing

I read a quote this morning that I brought a laugh. “Some people wake up feeling like a million bucks. Others wake up feeling like insufficient funds.”  The author of these poignanat words is unknown, but as a woman who suffers from chronic pain the idea they communicate is very familiar. I usually wake up feeling like I have insufficient funds to face a new day.

Last night was a typical one for me. I was feeling exhausted around 9pm, so I decided to lay down with my current novel and read and relax until my normal bedtime of 10:30pm. I read a few chapters, then my husband came down, rubbed my shoulders to help relieve the tension of a full day, and we prayed together. It was time to go to sleep.

I understand the importance of getting seven to eight hours of sleep at night, especially when dealing with the challenges of chronic illness, and I’ve worked this into my daily routine. But unfortunately, my body doesn’t always cooperate with this plan. Numbness and a pins and needles sensation in my feet from peripheral neuropathy, pain from arthritis in my shoulders and lower back, and chronic pain and sensitivity to touch in my left knee from a regional pain nerve disorder make it difficult to get to sleep and even more so to stay asleep. So when morning comes, even though I’ve usually spent eight-plus hours in bed, I don’t feel rested. 

Through trial and error, I have found several keys to living the best life I can with chronic illness and pain. When I wake up in the morning, I usually feel tired from a restless night. But I’ve learned that staying in bed at this time only increases the pain, so I choose to get up and start my day. If you live with chronic illness, you will need to figure out what works best for you personally. 

I set aside the first part of my day for refreshing myself, in body, soul, and spirit. 

  • I try to eat a simple but healthy breakfast, one that I can fix on my own and that provides the nutrients needed to nourish my body. 
  • While eating, I may listen to some encouraging worship music or use an audio Bible on Bible Gateway or the YouVersion Bible app to listen to the chapter for today’s Bible reading. 
  • Next, I spend an unrushed time in God’s presence, renewing my spirit through prayer, Bible reading and study. I follow a daily reading plan – many great ones are available online. I currently use the First5 devotional and Bible reading plan from Proverbs 31 ministries and a monthly topical reading program on a subject I feel is timely, such as Rachel WoJo’s April plan on Confident Trust. Some days, I do more in-depth Bible study, digging into one or more verses that stand out in my reading. The amount of time I set aside for this varies according to the schedule and responsibilities for the day, but whether it’s twenty minutes or two hours I make this my highest and first priority for the day. My relationship with God reinvigorated, I’m ready to face another day.
  • Finally, this time of refreshing comes to an end as I turn to our God-Living Girls with Chronic Illness Facebook page to interact with some friends who face the same daily battles I fight. I’ve learned the importance of community in this daily life with chronic illness, and this has become a time of both being encoraged and of encouraging others. I leave this morning time of being refreshed a little better prepared to face the rest of my day.

After my time of refreshing, it’s time to get busy with the other tasks for the day. I have two keys I apply to this: (1) I determine my top priorities for the day (which often means asking God to show me His top priorites for my day), and (2) I take breaks between tasks and whenever they are needed. And before I actually get to work, I ask God to supply the strength I need to fulfill His purposes for my day. As Christians, God has promised His strength in our weakness.

As the mother of a special needs child, the bookkeeper for our home-based business, a weekly blogger, and a regular contributor to God-Living Girls, I could easily feel pressured to do much more each day than I am now. But since my energy and stamina are limited, attempting too many tasks per day leads to exhaustion and even flares in my medical conditions that have the potential of landing me in bed for several days. 

Therefore, I usually plan no more than three tasks per day, two of which can be done in my recliner. For example, at least one day each week, I work on family paperwork. I may spend an hour working on the bank registers and paying bills, then take a break from the work that requires mental focus. Next, I may do a brief housework task, such as folding clean towels or emptying trash cans around the house. Later in the day, usually after lunch, I tackle the final task that I ‘ve planned for the day. 

At the end of the day, I almost always have undone tasks remaining, but those are for another day. I’ve set reasonable goals for my day, and usually I feel good in having accomplished what I planned. 
Finally, I’m learning to pay more attention to my body and to not do more than I can handle on any particular day. On some days when pain levels are especially high or I feel unusually fatigued, that means taking a full afternoon to rest. Even on relatively good days, I often run out of energy by mid or late afternoon. I’m learning that it’s okay to lay down and rest for an hour or two when this happens. If I’m extremely tired, I may take a short nap. I’m learning to listen to my body and adjust my schedule according to my strength and stamina for today.

Many of you who read my blog share my goal of living a Christ-honoring life with chronic illness. These are a few of the keys that have helped me live my best life with the limitations I currently face. God has made each of us differently, so what works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. For those whose rest and strength is not hindered by pain and chronic conditions, understanding the need for rest and refreshing is still important. God made each of us with a need for rest, of body, soul, and spirit, and ignoring this part of our lives results in serious consequences. Ask God to show you how to meet this important need in the way perfectly fitting to where you are in life. And feel free to share some keys that have helped you reach a wise and healthy balance between work and rest in the comments section below.

Is God “Enough” in Hard Circumstances?

Almost from the time I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior, I have known what it is to live in hard circumstances. My husband and I had an automobile accident that took the life of our firstborn daughter and left me with numerous fractures. We have a special needs son (now an adult), who is completely bed bound and dependent upon others to meet all of his needs. For several years, my husband, adult daughter, and I were the main caregivers for my mother-in-law as Alzheimer’s gradually took her life. Now, my biggest struggle is with my own health, as I deal daily with a long list of chronic illnesses, including severe osteoarthritis of the knees and spine, lumbar and cervical spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, carpal and tarsal tunnel syndromes, plantar fasciitis in my feet, progressive polyneuropathy, and fibromyalgia.

I haven’t shared what I’ve been through to cause you to feel sorry for me. Rather, I want you to understand that I know what it is to face severe and on-going suffering. I’m not saying that I’ve always immediately turned to God when another painful situation arose. It’s been a growing process. But I can honestly say without God’s grace and strength, I wouldn’t have made it through all of these difficult situations without becoming a person filled with self-pity, anger, and bitterness. I can say that God is “enough” in hard circumstances, if we choose to allow Him be “enough.” And I can share some understandings and steps that have helped me to make this choice.

  1. Recognize that suffering is a result of the fall. We are not promised a life on this earth without suffering. Everyone faces times of suffering, and this will continue until we are in God’s physical presence, in the New Heaven and the New Earth.
  2. Know that God is not the cause of most of the suffering we face. Much of our suffering is a result of sin, either in our lives or in the lives of someone else. An example of this is the accident we had. It was caused by a driver who had been drinking and lost control of his car when he leaned down to pick up a cigarette.
  3. Understand that God allows suffering and works through it to accomplish His purposes in our lives. James addressed this in his letter. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭ESV)
  4. Let go of the past, accept the present, and trust God with the future.  Learn to live one day at a time. Take your worriesI about the future to the Lord and leave them in His capable hands. ‬“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭ESV)
  5. Lean on God’s grace and strength, especially on the hard days. As Elisabeth Elliot said, “God shields us from most of the things we fear, but when He chooses not to shield us, He unfailingly allots grace in the measure needed, It is for us to choose to receive or refuse it. Our joy or our misery wil depend on that choice.”  Decide to live by the truth Paul learned by his “thorn in the flesh.”  “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”    (2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:8-10‬ ‭ESV)
  6. Take time daily to strengthen your spirit. Prayer, Bible study, worship and gratefulness are important disciplines for all believers in Christ, but even moreso for us as we deal with daily health struggles and challenges. Get to know God by spending time studying His names and character. Listen to worship music that reminds you of the truths you need to hold onto. Look for God’s blessings in the trials, and keep a gratefulness journal. Draw strength from His presence and His steadfast love.
  7. Finally, remember we are only in our present bodies for a short time.  Focus on what counts for eternity. “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:16-18‬ ‭ESV)‬

So, back to our original question: Is God “enough” in hard circumstances? Honestly, the answer depends upon you. He will be more than enough if you choose to allow Him to be. As Oswald Chambers said, “We all know people who have been made much meaner and more irritable and more intolerable to live with by suffering: it’s not right to say that all suffering perfects. It only perfects one type of person… The one who accepts the call of God in Jesus Christ.” My prayer is that we all will choose to be that – the latter – type of person.  Choose to be the kind of person James wrote about in the first chapter of his epistle:  “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” ‭(James‬ ‭1:12‬ ‭ESV‬‬)