Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Beautiful Scars

Nearly twenty years ago I had surgery to remove a softball sized tumor from my left hip.

I was seven when I first felt the tumor move and for years dealt with reoccurring bursitis and chronic pain. My parents took me to several doctors, I had x-ray after x-ray, I had diagnosis’s from growing pains, improper standing/walking, to attention seeking. I was given steroid pain medication on several occasions. One doctor asked nothing, just walked in with a needle and gave me a cortisone shot. I was seventeen and I’d had enough. I lived on Tylenol and Ibuprofen to get through my work shifts, and I wasn’t going to deal with another doctor.

It wasn’t until after I was married, and my husband couldn’t stand watching me wake up night after night crying from the pain, that he convinced me to try his family doctor. Back then you had to get a referral to see a specialist and up to now no one would refer me. This doctor said he would give me a referral, after I tried one more thing--six months of physical therapy to see if the way I walked/stood was the problem. 

It wasn’t. 

The physical therapist noticed my left leg was significantly weaker than my right, because I had favored that leg throughout all my growth years, and he worked hard to bring up the strength and retrain my muscles. But still, within three months of finishing therapy, the bursitis returned and we asked our family doctor to refer us to my Grandma’s hip surgeon, a sports medicine doctor by the name of Pepper Murray. I was twenty and had now lived with this for thirteen years.

I went to my appointment with little hope and every expectation that it would come to nothing. I sat on the crinkly paper expecting them to take me down for yet another x-ray, but this doctor came in and after I repeated for the millionth time what I had told other doctors, that it felt like my hip was popping out of socket as I walked, he asked me to do something no one ever had before.

“Can you pop it out?”

Other doctors had me lay on the table while they moved my leg up and down, but none had ever suggested this.

“Yes, I can.” I jumped off the table and he stood beside me with his hand on my hip. I took one step and felt the pop. He nodded and told me to jump back on the table.

“You have tumor.”

He then preceded to explain that the reason it was never discovered was only an MRI-scan would show the tumor, not an x-ray, and the only reason he knew what to look for was because in his entire career he’d seen it just one other time. He said he didn't need to do a scan because the tumor was so large he could feel right where it was. He said I was likely born with the tumor and it grew as I grew, and would continue to grow and cause me pain for the rest of my life.

He told us the surgery to remove it would be painful, as it required the same surgery used to replace a hip, and recovery would take a year. The incision to remove the tumor would be more than 7 inches long and he would have to go all the way down to the bone to remove the tumor and its tentacles (which he discovered while in surgery was the size of a softball and the tentacles went all the way around to the backside). I would have permanent nerve damage and arthritis, but in his opinion the alternative was far worse.

At this point we’d only been married about a year, and an expensive major surgery with a long recovery where I could not work, was a stressful prospect. We prayed about it and decided it was the right thing to do.

The surgery was performed at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City Utah. Since the tumor was larger and had more tentacles than he anticipated, he commented that it was no surprise I had been in so much pain. The recovery was long and extremely painful. I was on crutches for two weeks and had to use a cane for about a month, and it did take about a year to regain full strength and use of my left leg.

Why am I telling you this? Because even though I will never wear a bathing suit again, my scar is really a beautiful thing. A beautiful reminder at least.

My personal goals this year are directly focused on living a more Christ centered life.

WWJD has become my silent mantra. A simple question we teach our children, and we hear constantly as the butt of jokes in conversation with adults and on television. But it’s not a joke, in fact when taken to heart, it can have the power to transform our everyday lives. 


What Would Jesus Do?

In every aspect of life, pausing to ask ourselves this simple question, can move us to a solution we might not have considered. It can bring us perspective in anger, hope in moments of despair, and peace in times of struggle. 

The reason this little question is so powerful? 

Who knows our heartaches, fears, disappointments, and pain better than the Man who in the meridian of time took upon Himself all the sins, pains, and sicknesses of all mankind? Because He experienced our experiences in that garden, He knows how to succor (run to) us in our time of need. When we ask ourselves what He would do, we know what we can do to resolve or deal with our situation in a way that isn’t going to bring more pain and grief. 

The scars on His hands remind us He understands, He will not leave us comfortless, we are NEVER alone. 

Some scars are simply...beautiful.

A reminder of something precious. 

Strength. Hope. Freedom.

My scar is ugly (especially now that I’m not as thin as I was at 20). I haven’t worn a bathing suit since my 20’s. The nerve damage caused the skin around the scar to sag so it looks like I’m carrying a sack of blubber on my leg, and I do have some pain from arthritis, but it’s nothing, nothing compared to what I dealt with when that tumor lived inside me. For years I couldn’t run, walk, or stand without pain. The pain was so bad I struggled sitting and sleeping. I look at that scar now and I am reminded of where I used to be. I remember the strength it took to endure the pain as I healed. The hope that I could live a normal life, and the freedom I now experience. 

I couldn’t be who I am today if not for that surgery.

Nor will I ever be what I can be without my Savior Jesus Christ.

We are going to experience pain in this life, whether by our own doing or as a result of the faults and follies of others. The world will try to give you solutions, but just like the doctors who didn’t know how to heal my pain and could only offer medication, the world’s ideas won’t be permanent solutions.

But if you ask Him to heal you, He will tell you jump off the table of doubt and come to Him. He’ll place his hand over the real cause of the pain and He will know exactly how to heal you. He does not promise it won’t hurt, that the recovery will be quick and simple, or that you won’t have a scar or two. What He promises is that you won’t suffer alone. That each trial you allow Him to walk with you, you will come away stronger, filled with hope, and more free than you can possibly imagine. You will find the beauty in your scars.

Although the experience of taking on our sins, pains, and afflictions, in the Garden of Gethsemane left no visible reminders, the final step in the Atonement, the voluntary giving of His life on the cross, did, and these scars can serve as the ultimate reminder of His precious gift. 

His willingness to take my debilitating “tumors” of sin, heartache, and pain, so that when I choose Him--His solutions, I can live a free and hope filled life, is a gift I can never repay. But every time I ask, “What would Jesus do?” I hope I will answer in such a way to show him how thankful I am for His beautiful scars.

*This song really touched me. It’s a beautiful reminder to love who God created you to be, (and let me add, scars and all), not who the world makes you feel you should be.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Parable of the Small Stone

The Parable of the Small Stone

A couple weeks ago my jeep started making this horrible screeching noise while driving down the road. It sounded like metal scraping against metal. And it was loud, REALLY loud. 

It was a few days before my husband had time to take a look at it so while we waited we stressed about what it could be and how much the repairs were going to cost. We've had a few expensive issues with this jeep and truth be told, I'd about had it with the thing. As much as I loved it, I was ready to get rid of it.

The day my husband set aside to work on it, I helped him roll the jeep back and forth so he could tell where the screech was coming from. We discovered which side and tire so he jacked it up and set to work taking off the tire. I went in the house (where it was warm) to wait for the bad news. He came back in an hour later(it only took so long because of course one of the lug nuts broke...) with a smile and a gift. 

A tiny little stone with two very shiny sides.

Shiny because it had been stuck between a metal guard (that was meant to keep things from getting in the very spot this little rock was) and the brake drum, and it had polished the sides.

Rock gone. Screech gone. No repairs necessary. I get to keep my jeep (I really do love the thing)

This had me comparing myself to this small stone. When in the middle of hard times all I hear is the loud scrrreeeeech that screams something's wrong, all I feel is the painful squeezing and scraping. But when it's over, when the trial finally ends, I often see the beauty of knowledge and strength that came from the trial. The hard time has improved me, refined me.

"...we learn and grow and become refined through hard challenges, heartbreaking sorrow, and difficult choices. Each one of us experiences dark days...painful times...feelings of being forsaken..." (Pres. Thomas S. Monson)

"...this is the process by which we discover what we are truly made of. We are created by the Almighty God. He is our heavenly Father...We are made of supernal material most precious and highly refined..." (Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf)

Hard times show what we are truly made of. And in the midst of our struggles, we are not alone. There is one who understands completely how we feel.

"Our Savior, the Good Shepherd knows and loves us. He knows and loves you. He knows when you are lost, and He knows where you are. He knows your grief. Your silent pleadings. Your fears. Your tears. It matters not how you became lost--whether from your own choices or because of circumstances beyond your control. What matters is you are His child. And he loves you...Because He loves you, He will find you...If you will only lift up your heart to the Savior of the world He will find you. He will rescue you. He will lift you up and place you on His shoulders. He will carry you home...His plan is to build us into something far greater than what we were--far greater than what we can ever imagine. With each step of faith on the path of discipleship, we grow into the beings of eternal glory and infinite JOY we were designed to become." (Pres. Dieter F. Uchtdorf)

Funny the things you can learn from a little stone...

*References quoted from talks given by Elder Evan A. Schmutz and President Dieter F. Uchtdorf