When Jesus Visited Me

Some things you never forget.

I’ll never forget how Jesus visited me in my hour of weakness and fear.

2015 was a whole year of increasing pain and declining health that resulted in two discectomies and 3 months of recovery. I was frequently discouraged, often in pain. Yet, praise Jesus, I was never alone.

Related post: What Faith Looks Like When You’re Afraid

On the night I awoke in more pain than I could imagine, Jesus sent my wife to look over me, to see that I got the help I needed. He sent paramedics with medical training to carefully lift me from my bed, carry me down the stairs, out the door, into the ambulance. He sent me a staff of care-givers: surgeons, nurses, technicians to help put a stop to the degeneration that led me to Northside Forsythe Hospital.

The next day, Jesus sent my pastor to pray for me and chat about the kitchen I would continue building for Dawn after this was all over. Then, he sent Alan and Barbara, and Sam and Bobby. He sent Graciela to sit with Dawn during the surgery, and Jesse and Susan afterward.

Later, he sent a small army of family, friends, and neighbors one-by-one, or in pairs, to visit me during my recovery:

My Mom and my children, and my first boss in the IT world, Loren; my friend and neighbor, Robin; Steve and Elaine from our old church; and Julie, and Mark and Aleta, Willette, and Steven from our new church; my running friends, Jason and David, and Patrick, who also served Dawn and me communion since I couldn’t go to church. He even sent my neighbor, Matt, to rake my lawn of fallen leaves.

Jesus also sent me gifts of food, books, and puzzles, and coffee and candy, from my colleagues at work, and even from my old boss, Kevin.

When it was clear I would need a second surgery and more recovery time, Jesus kept sending them. They called. They visited. They asked about me at church. They prayed with me. Chris and Mark sat with me as I, in visible anxiety, was being prepped for that surgery.

Related post: When Your Surgeon Looks Disappointed

Jesus sent and they came, and came. Some by word, some by a meal or a gift, some by my side. Some visited me in the name of Jesus. Some in the name of friendship. But, all because Jesus sent.

I have never been the object of such affection and compassion.

Nor, shall I ever forget when Jesus visited me.

 

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What Faith Looks Like When You’re Afraid

The thing I dread most has come upon me and, I’m afraid.

Since mid-February of this year, I’ve been dealing unsuccessfully with lower back pain. I ignored it for a little while and continued to run and lift weights. One of my joys in life is meeting friends to run 10-14 miles on Saturday morning, followed by Starbucks.  When the pain got worse, I stopped all exercising and dabbled with things I’ve never done before: Seeing a chiropractor (twice) and an accupuncturist (once).

By Memorial Day weekend, I could barely walk more than a few steps at a time. I finally went to see my doctor. He’s conservative like me, and recommended trying physical therapy first. If that didn’t work, he would send me to a physiatrist to get epidural cortisone injections. Last resort: Surgery.

Three weeks of physical therapy did nothing for me. So, on I went to the Physiatrist. He ordered an MRI which revealed two herniated discs, one not-so-bad, the other really bad. My first round of coritsone injections was pretty effective at reducing my pain (procedure #1).

But, by August, the cortisone effectivenees abruptly stopped after 4 weeks. I delayed for a few weeks, and finally decided I had to give it a second go (procedure #2). This time, the effectiveness was almost nil.

Still no running. No weight lifting. But, I was building kitchen cabinets, using a stool in my workshop whenever it was too painful to stand.

Again, I delayed getting a third cortisone injection. But, by late September, I could no longer manage things. I went to see my doctor on September 30th for his advice and to get pain medication. He referred me to a surgeon, and gave me a pain prescription, the first in this months-long ordeal.

I went home and took a pill. I felt better for a little while. But that night everything fell off the cliff. I was delirious with pain, even with Percocet in my system. Dawn had to take over.

At 1 am on October 1st, two EMTs carried me out of my house, put me in an ambulance and brought me to Northside Forsythe Hospital. The ER Staff put something strong in me via IV to calm me down, and ordered another MRI. This time, things looked worse.

They admitted me immediately. The next day they operated  (procedure #3) to remove the material that had leaked out of my L4 disc and was pressing on my nerve, causing the pain. I now have a walker to help me get around the house. And I’m on short-term disability leave from work.

A week later, I saw the surgeon to follow up. I wasn’t doing well. Just getting me to the appointment was a painful ordeal, and my surgeon looked sadly disappointed. He ordered another MRI.

Four days ago, I saw the results. At first, I thought I was looking at a pre-operation image.

It wasn’t.

My post-operation disc now looked like a flat tire squeezing out under the weight of a car. My disc was so badly damaged that there was no longer enough internal material in the disc to support my weight, so now the disc itself was pressing against my nerve.

Surgery has been scheduled to fuse my L4 and L5 vertebrae together. Honestly this is about the scariest thing I’ve ever faced even though I know many people have had this surgery done successfully.

WHY I’M AFRAID

See, I’ve always had a phobia about being cut or stabbed (ironic that I took up woodworking and carpentry as a hobby). And I’ve always had a phobia about back surgeries. I think there was a time in my life when everyone I met who had back surgery had bad results and needed further surgeries. Now, here I am, 0 for 3 with procedures that were supposed to “fix” me, and with procedure #4 glaring at me with its Jack-O-Lantern eyes.

The phobia part of average Lon is trying not to think about what’s coming soon, and whether or not I’ll be “fixed.” The phobia part of average Lon is worried I’ll never experience the joy of running even 2 or 3 easy miles with my friends. The phobia part is worried I might never be quite normal again. The phobia part is worried there will have to be procedure #5, and #6, or more.

WHERE’S YOUR FAITH, LON?

What about the part of average Lon that trusts God’s providence? What about the part of me that believes wholeheartedly that God is always working for my eternal good behind the scenes of every good and bad event in my life (Romans 8:28-30)?

Those of you who are Christians know I have to reach a point where I am able to hand my fear to God. You know I need to trust Him with my phobia, trust Him with the outcome of this surgery—whether good or bad—and rest in Christ alone.

But the honest truth is, at this moment, I’m not there yet.

Because I’m average.

The usual theme running through my head (and prayers) is, “I don’t want this. I don’t want this. I don’t want this.”

So, I don’t have any counsel for you about how to get to that place of quiet rest in Jesus when you face your worst fears. All I can tell you is that it’s a process. It takes time, even when you have a solid, biblical worldview to guide you. I can tell you it will always involve prayer and Scripture. It will always require a clear understanding of who God is, and a solid trust in His purpose for your life. The support of a prayerful Christian community (e.g. a home church) will be invaluable, too.

And yet, even with all this, it may still take time. And, for me, in God’s mercy, I have until November 13th (my procedure #4).

In that time, I would appreciate it if you would pray that God will bring me to that place of peace that passes all understanding. Paul’s counsel to the Philippian church about fear and prayer and peace needs to sink deeper into my soul.

Thanks so much, Lon

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

 

Stabilize Your Mood With Protein

Hello, Average Us readers! This is Dawn…

Do some foods affect your mood in weird ways?

It happens to me all the time. I, like others like me who struggle with depression and anxiety, have to be extra aware of how food choices make me feel.

While food can neither cause nor remove anxiety, I have discovered that certain foods aggravate my symptoms. For example, the sugar in a single doughnut or small bowl of ice cream causes my mood to rush from happy to jittery to nervous, and finally settling into a weird, uncomfortable feeling. During this swing it’s hard not to jiggle my legs and clench my teeth.

Protein, on the other hand, is a good mood stabilizer. I am not a Registered Dietician, so I’m not able to give you the details of how or why. But in my reading on the subject, and my own experience, I have found it to be so. (Learn more about how protein affects mood.)

In light of that, I am excited to share a delicious tofu recipe with you that helps me manage my mood.

Tofu is a great source of protein: It has up to five times more protein than carbohydrates in every bite. This tofu scramble is based on a breakfast dish I had at one of our favorite local restaurants, The Flying Biscuit Café, in Atlanta. It was so delicious I decided to make my own variation at home on a regular basis.

Tofu Scramble with Tamari Sauce

Ingredients

  • Firm Tofu, one slice
  • 2 T Tamari Sauce
  • ¼ C Purple Cabbage, chopped
  • 1 T Red Onion, diced
  • 4 Baby Carrots, chopped
  • ¼ C Bell Pepper (Red, Yellow or Orange), chopped
  • 1 handful of Spinach

Preparation

  1. Chop and dice all the vegetables.
  2. Spray a cooking pan and heat over medium heat.
  3. Add the cabbage, red onion, carrots, pepper, tamari sauce and lightly sauté.
  4. Add the slice of tofu and scramble into the vegetables (you may need to add a little more tamari sauce).
  5. Add the spinach and cook until slightly wilted.
  6. Serve with your favorite bread, toasted.

I change up the vegetables form time to time for variation, and according to what I have on hand. But, the tofu and tamari are the foundation of this healthy, delicious, mood stabilizing breakfast.

I hope you’ll give it try, and add a comment below to let me know how you like it.

Dawn

P.S. Here’s some more tofu scramble recipes for you to enjoy.


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