The Effect of the Positive

I’m not the only one who is doing the April challenge to do something every day, there are others, and one got an interesting response on a post with pictures of some beautiful flowers she had photographed.  The response said simply, “looking at flowers does not stop the pain.”  The blogger had her own response, but I thought I’d respond to it as well.
So, does doing something enjoyable, like taking pictures daily, looking at photos of beautiful flowers, or anything like that really help your pain?
I honestly believe it can.  Not only does doing pleasant things alter the neurotransmitters that can affect your mood, but thinking positively also can help your pain.  I know a lot of people who live with chronic illness or chronic pain hate hearing, “if you change your thinking, it can get better,” but it is true.
Many people feel that using “positive thinking” as a method of treating pain is too difficult, doesn’t show results quickly enough or dramatically enough.  In a world where popping a pill is expected to be a “quick cure,” people want to take a pill and see instant results.  Unfortunately changing how you look at life isn’t as easy as just popping a pill, and the results are not instant.
Changing your way of looking at life, your way of looking at pain, is far more difficult than filling a prescription and taking a pill daily.  It requires careful evaluation of your thought process, and a willingness to recognize and change things.  Not only that, but it requires you to accept full responsibility for your emotions.
Admitting that positive thinking has an affect on how you view your pain, and how it affects your life takes away some of the idea of being a “victim” of pain.  No longer can you state that your pain “made you feel” a certain way, because now you know that pain can’t make you feel any way, but you can choose how you feel in response to your pain.  I love the quote below that has been bouncing around on Facebook, it is so perfect for those of us in pain.
We can choose each day to suffer in misery or to enjoy life as it is – and do our best to change all we can.  I’m choosing to enjoy life as much as I can, I’m choosing happiness today and if taking some pictures, admiring nature, or doing a simple art project can help me feel happy and content, then I’m going to keep doing it.

When Good Plans Go Bad

It can be frustrating when you have ideas for your life that just don’t work out how you planned.  As part of academic advising, I had things all planned out, I knew what classes I was going to take when.  In spring of 2013, I would graduate with a Bachelor degree in Neuroscience.  Everything looked so nice and neat on paper.

The past few weeks have been a real struggle.  Between going to Cleveland Clinic to evaluate a possible genetic condition, the development of a seemingly invincible urinary tract infection, and some other health issues, class has taken a back seat to my health.  After talking with my professors, I had everything planned out how I was going to make up work and catch up this past week.  Everything again looked great on paper.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t always go quite so smoothly as it looks on paper.  A bit of bad timing of a stomach flu knocked me out this entire past week, destroying my plans for make-up work.  As a result, I now have to make-up the missed make-up work as well as the regular work from last week.  This combined with everything else was causing more stress and anxiety regarding trying to catch up and keep my grades up.  Unfortunately, stress causes more pain and a vicious cycle begins.

Last week, I was determined to stick it out throughout the semester, regardless of the circumstances.  Careful consideration and prayers brought me to the point that I was able to decide that it was time for me to take a medical leave of absence from college and go home in an attempt to break the cycle.

Someone mentioned to me that if they were in my situation, they would be asking God why He had “ruined” everything.  But the thing is, I have discovered that this does nothing.  There is nothing wrong with asking why and I certainly do my share of it, but at this point in my life, I’ve learned that trusting Him is easier than asking “why?!”

Looking back, the times I asked God why make more sense now than they did in the circumstance.  I suspect that the same will be true of this situation.  In the meantime, I’ve been making a list of things I can look forward to now.  This list includes getting a rabbit, spending some time in a friend’s horse barn, hanging out with friends, and doing some graphic design work.  I find that looking at the positive helps put the negative in a better light.

The Little Things

Today is just one of those days where you wake up and realize that not too much is going to happen because you just don’t have the energy. Last night, I had a friend spend the night and probably stayed up too late, but changing my meds probably doesn’t help much, I don’t think either.

Mom mentioned something this morning about my goals for the day which had been to work on a workbook and reformat my hard drive. I hadn’t done either, but started to list what I had done: got out of bed, got dressed, laid on the couch, slid off onto the floor, etc. By the time I was done, I had quite a list of little things I had done and I realized that sometimes it is the little thing that matters more than accomplishing one big project.

For example, today, my accomplishment is making a loaf of bread, because that seems to be the only thing I did. But if you look at the little things I did today: getting out of bed, getting dressed, making breakfast, eating breakfast, brushing my teeth, and the list goes on…even the simplest task I completed becomes a miniature goal and accomplishment in itself.

If only we would remember to look at these small things as accomplishments, rather than mudane, requirements, perhaps we could all go to bed feeling we’ve accomplished something. An accomplishment doesn’t have to be big. Now if only I could remember this…

Anti-Christmas

I’ve not been around much, and I suppose there are excuses for it, but I’m not going to go into them in depth here (maybe later). This post is to talk about this crazy holiday we are celebrating.

Recently, I’ve become rather anti-Christmas. The last few years, it was mostly just the commercialism of Christmas – trees, presents, decorations, that sort of thing. This year, whether it is because of my depression or because of my pain or because of my relationship with God, I have become anti-Christmas to the point that most manger scenes annoy me. When people talk about the real reason for the season, but it is only about happy nativities and that sort of thing, it seems to me they don’t go beyond the surface level. It is more than about the nativity, it was more even than the cross. There is a whole book about God, not just the two sections we pull out and remember every year.

Christianity has a whole lot more depth than just the birth and death of Christ. There is a whole book about creation and our likeness to God, a whole history of how God chose His people and guided them, how they went through leaders and judges and kings who were both good and bad, they were given rules and went through battles and captivity and rebuilding, there are stories of what happened to Christ between His birth and His death, it is recorded how the gift was extended to those beyond that group of people to everyone, then it tells how the truth began to spread throughout the world, including instruction and commands for each of us, and then finished with information about the future.

There is a whole lot more to the Bible than just Christmas (or Easter). I’m sick of people saying “remember the reason for the season” while looking at beautiful, peaceful nativities. I don’t think that is how it was at that first Christmas at all.

First of all, it wasn’t necessarily winter and even if it was it doesn’t snow in Israel. We don’t even know if it was a clear night, it could have been cloudy. We do know that the inn was full – so the stable (which was actually more of a cave) was most likely full of all of the traveler’s animals. It was most likely crowded with donkeys, cattle, camels, and horses. All those animals probably made the place rather fragrant and crowded. Mary was young, perhaps even as young at 13 or 14, and was not blonde haired and blue eyed. I highly doubt that she had the instant, painless birth that we so often see in skits. I imagine her lying exhausted and sweaty on a musty stack of straw in a corner of a crowded barn. After hours of labor, the child arrives, and screams for the first time. I don’t think he didn’t make a sound – he was God, but was also fully man! Joseph, nervously watched over his bride (or possibly wasn’t even present for the birth, I think I read somewhere that men couldn’t be present at the birthing of a child at that time). He was mostly likely older than Mary, possibly by quite a bit.

So, I may have ruined some of your ideas of a nice, happy nativity scene, but again, there is more to the story than just the happy nativity. A lot more. This Christmas, though I’m frustrated at decorations, annoyed at carols, and flustered at nativities, I find myself drawing nearer to God and allowing Him to take over more of my life. I’m not going to lie, I haven’t given everything to Him and I still struggle daily to even remember to make Him a part of my day, but I want to encourage you to examine your life this Christmas, and try to discover where God fits in – all three of His persons – Father and Spirit, in addition to the Son. Remember the real reason for the season (and I don’t mean the pagan background either).

Hope

“He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…in this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”
1 Peter 1:3 and 6

In our growth group, we are reading through 1 Peter and that stood out to me. We all have trials and grief, but even through all of our suffering, we can still hold hope because He has given us HOPE. It is that hope that gets us through the long days (and nights) and through the long trials. We can keep our hope because of our faith in what He has done for us. It doesn’t mean life is going to be easy, we are going to have to suffer grief, but He will give us the hope to press on through the tough times.

Comfort from a Storm

One thing that I’ve been questioning recently is how God could have allowed all this pain to happen to me when so many people were praying for my surgery to go well and cure the pain.  A few days ago, God revealed a comforting analogy to me through nature that helped me understand a little bit of why.
Some days, the sun is hidden by many clouds.  Sometimes the rain pounds the earth, while thunder shakes the earth and lightning streaks across the sky.  This is not what we expected, not what we wanted, yet God remains in control.  The rain that drenches the ground also softens the seed coats to allow growth.  Without it, the seeds could not grow.  My life has seemed like a thunderstorm the past few months.   I often struggle to see how it is the answer to my prayers, but sometimes we need the stormy times for growth.  I pray that my heart would continue to be softened to hear His words and to grow closer to Him.