The Struggle Will Lead Me Home…

There are all kinds of pain, and all of us experience some kind of pain on a daily basis.  In addition to the normal pains of life, some of us deal with the challenge of deep and chronic pain that is better charted in moments than days since there really are no days when we are not in pain…it’s just a matter of degrees.

I’ve dealt with chronic pain for many years now.  Between fibromyalgia, 6 herniated discs and a meningioma tumor pressing on my brain stem and spinal cord, there always seems to be something to deal with.  Many days, it can feel like my only job is just this one thing:

“How do I manage this pain I feel and not allow it to rob me of this day and all the possibilities it holds!”

I do acknowledge that there are countless people in worse pain than I ever experience, and that thought actually can make it worse because I feel so much compassion and empathy for those who suffer even more deeply than I do.  

For me, there is always the conflict between acknowledging the pain and realizing that it needs to be addressed, and not focusing on the pain as the only thing that exists in my life…

I have a few things that I do to deal with chronic pain.  Here are a few of the practical and tangible things that help me:

  • Chiropractic care is extremely important to my well-being.  My spine being properly aligned is step 1 for me.
  • Accupuncture is a crucial part of my pain management.  It’s also a big part of my holistic approach to dealing with my brain tumor.
  • Following a mainly plant-based, grain-free, processed food and all sugar-free diet is paramount to limiting the systemic inflammation that I battle.
  • Since I take no pharmaceutical pain-killers, I rely on Omegas 3 & 6, turmeric, green tea, yoga and icing the points of severe pain.
  • I’m horrible about remembering to stay hydrated, so my first defense is to drink a glass of water when I experience pain.

But even with these things, there are many days when I struggle to even get out of bed.  On those days here’s what I’m learning to do:

  1. Stop denying that I’m in pain.  Stop qualifying my pain by saying it’s not as bad as it could be.  The “it could be worse” mantra can actually make my mind go in the direction of “what if”…”what if it gets so bad I can’t take it?” Instead, I state where the pain is bothering me the most. State it just as a fact…no more, no less.  Give myself permission to admit that I’m hurting, but then turn to a solution right away.
  2. Focus on what I can do.  Stop telling myself that there’s nothing I can do…that the pain will never decrease. Decide on at least one thing I can do right now that will help decrease my pain level.
  3. Breathe.  Once I’ve acknowledged my pain and I’ve determined something that I can do to address it, I allow myself to breathe into the pain, rather than holding my breath and allowing the pain to control me.  So, if I’m feeling severe pain in my spine…shooting into my shoulder, I’ll stretch my shoulder until I feel the source of the pain and breathe until I feel my breath deeper than the pain.  *Stretch, acknowledge, breathe…breathe in for 6 counts, hold for 4 counts, breathe out for 9 counts.  
  4. Exhale.  It sounds cliche, but often in my breathing, especially when I’m stressed or in pain, I will breathe, but I won’t focus on exhaling.  The exhale is as important as the inhale.  It’s in the exhale that we let things go.  It’s in that process that we consciously focus on not holding on to what’s weighing us down, making us sick, or causing us deep pain. This is why, in my measured breathing, I exhale for more counts than I inhale…I want to take extra time in the letting go – because the healing is in the letting go.
  5. Express gratitude.  This is an important step that I was missing for many years.  I was so focused on the pain I was in and the guilt I felt because of the things that the pain was keeping me from, that I would begin the mantra of how terrible I felt…then came the downward spiral toward feelings of how terrible I am… I would inevitably make the leap from how I feel to my feelings being the sum total of my being.  This is just a lie.  Now, on the days when I feel the worst, when I feel searing, teeth-clenching pain, I can tell myself how grateful I am that I am so strong.  I can focus on all of the great things in my life, all of the people who love me, all of the good that can be done even in the midst of my pain.  I can remind myself that my pain is my platform and that everything I’ve experienced is leading me to be a more compassionate, empathetic soul who understands more deeply the sufferings of others.  I can encourage myself.
  6. Find my bliss.  Instead of focusing on my limitations, I try to think of the things that I enjoy…that make me unique.  I think about the things that only I can do.  I plan my next expression.  I think about what I’m going to do the very minute that I feel strong enough to do it.  Many times, just doing this causes me to want to “get up and do” so badly that I will at least do more than I thought I could do just 5 minutes earlier.  Some days, it’s only as far as bathing and getting dressed, but some days, “one step at a time” can lead me to go from stretching to actual exercise, to texting a friend, to making a piece of jewelry….then before I know it I’ve done some things that really help me to feel great about my day.  Sometimes true bliss is just as simple as trying to encourage someone else – so if I can’t run that day, but I encourage someone else who can run…then I’m still in the race…just in a different position.

These steps obviously don’t magically make all my pain go away, it’s more about management.  It’s also about the end-goal of all of my days.  It’s not my goal in life to focus on or spend every minute managing my pain, but it is my goal to become a better person in the process.  Everything in life is a lesson.  I am not the sum total of everything that has happened to me, I am not defined by these things.  I am more defined by my response…by what I do with the lessons I’ve learned.  If pain makes me bitter and not better, then I am missing the opportunity for growth and change.  Life is full of struggles, but I truly believe that…

…The struggle will lead me home.

Peace to you…

Angie❣️

Angie’s List (Part One)…

I posted a version of my “Wonder Woman Salad” on Instagram and have had requests for the “recipe”, so I thought I would post a few things like this salad that help me have a better day.

  • Lemon Water

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If you are fighting cancer (or a tumor, like I am) or trying to prevent cancer from returning, this is extremely important.  Cancer thrives in an acidic environment, but hates an alkaline one.  There are expensive alkalizing machines you can purchase…or you can just buy organic lemons!  It’s very important to only use organic lemons to avoid pesticides and added chemicals, and to make sure your water is purified – distilled is best.

Slice a couple of lemons (organic lemons tend to be very small, so I use 2) and put them in a glass…not plastic, but glass and let them sit.  I place cold, purified water in a glass with lemon slices in it by my bed – over night – so I can start my day by drinking a full glass the next morning.  Then, I refill it and drink several more glasses throughout the day.  This is the simplest way to stay hydrated while also making sure my system stays more alkaline than acidic.

When life hands you lemons, be happy!

  • Be-Happy Berry Smoothie

I’m not really a “recipe” person…it’s just not my personality to be that specific.  Most of my diet is a work in progress.  If I find something that seems to help me feel better and have a better day, I try to include it.

I’m also very mindful of my food allergies (shellfish, tree nut and peanuts) which can cause me to miss some nutrients that other recipes cover.  Being mostly Vegan (except for The Budwig Protocol) and nut-free creates challenges for my protein intake, so I add things to my morning smoothie that others may not need to add.

This is just what works well for me, and it’s delicious!

Ingredients:

*8 ounces Hemp Milk (unsweetened)

*1 scoop plant-based protein mix (nut-free)

*1 cup frozen organic berries

*1 TBS “NanoEpa” emulsified fish oil (with Vitamin D & E)

*Raw-shelled hemp seeds – 1 TBS as garnish

Blend everything except the hemp seeds in a smoothie blender (I use a Ninja). Garnish with hemp seeds.  Drink within 15 minutes.

  • Wonder Woman Salad (AKA Super Green Salad)

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Now, the name certainly doesn’t mean that you can only eat this salad if you’re a woman. I only named it that after my blog “Striking the Wonder Woman” because I know that when I’m eating things like this salad, I’m striking the Wonder Woman stance, and I’m taking charge of my day.

Again, I’m not really a recipe person, and then especially applies when I’m making a salad…most of my salads would be better named “Dump Salad” because I just keep dumping things in until I run out of things to add.  For example, in my picture you may notice pickles…that’s because I had some awesome pickles that day, so I threw them in at the last minute.  Also, organic vegetables don’t last very long, so some days I will plan to use kale but my kale has gone bad, so I’ll replace it with spinach…

Here are the basic ingredients, though:

Ingredients:

*Greens – Kale, Spinach or Spring Mix – just make sure it’s organic

*6 ounces Organic Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas) unheated

*1 TBS vegan, soy-free “mayo”

*1 TBS organic German mustard

*1/2 cup sprouts – kale or broccoli – sprouts have more concentrated nutrition than they’re full-grown counterparts, so they are super important!

*1 sliced avocado

*pumpkin and sunflower seeds

*1 TBS raw-shelled hemp seeds

Place greens on plate.  Mix chickpeas, mayo and mustard in a separate bowl.  Add to greens.  Top with avocado and sprouts, and finish with seeds.

These are just a few things on my “List” that just help me have a better day, lessen my symptoms of chronic pain and inflammation, and give me the energy to strike that Wonder Woman and tackle whatever my day throws at me.

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Have an awesome one!

Peace to you…

Angie ❣️

Striking the Wonder Woman…

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what is real…and what’s not.  Dealing with physical illness and chronic pain can shrink your reality super fast.  You can begin to think that life is just about survival, and before you know it, real moments can pass you by because you were just trying to survive…to breathe.  

There are definitely times in life when the only way through…is through, and you just have to put your head down and push through it.

The problem with anything that affects you on a chronic level is that it can become your only reality.  When you’re in chronic pain or under chronic stress or in chronic depression or chronically obsessed with perfection…the reality is the same: 

Your world has been shrunk down to just that one thing.

But today is Monday.  Mondays are hard, but they are also wonderful.  It just depends on my reality.  Have I shrunk my reality to the point where I can’t see the possibility that lies in every day…especially every Monday?  

Well, here’s where I am on this Monday:

I’m going to be tired…Monday-tired no matter what I do or don’t do.  I’m going to be in pain…whether I do a lot or try to be still.  I’ve got a lot on my plate, a big family, major health-decisions to make…and they will be there whether I choose to deal with them today or not.

I can’t change facts, but I can change my reality…

Because my true reality is not what’s going on around me…or even inside me…

My true reality is how I feel about it, what I tell myself about it, and what I allow it to motivate me to do or not do about it.

I spoke to my Doctor about this just a few hours ago… Dr. Brent Baldasare is my chiropractor, but the reality is that he’s my physician…you know, the one that I really listen to.  I was sharing with him my frustrations about the decisions I have to make about possible treatments for the meningioma (benign brain tumor) that’s pressing on my brain stem and spinal cord.  Nothing has changed as far as my physical condition, but lately I’ve been feeling hopeless and unmotivated…when I was much more certain and positive just a few weeks ago.  I told him that I know I have to get my mojo back.

And he said, “Do you know the “Wonder Woman” stance?”

Know it?  There are times when I think I invented it…and these are always the times  when I feel the weakest, and somehow I just know that if I just tell myself I’m strong, then I’ll actually be stronger.  I’ve done this for years when I sing.  Anyone who has ever watched me lead worship, has probably seen me do the “Wonder Woman”…where I stand straight and strong or march forward on the platform.  For me, this has always revolved around some lyric that is stating how “God is stronger” or “no weapon formed against me will stand”.  I can do it when I’m leading worship…

…because when I’m leading worship it’s not about me.  It’s about God.  And I have no trouble believing or stating in a strong way that God is greater…

I just struggle to know that I am.

So Dr. B reminded me that I need to take my power back.  The things that I can control about my health, my pain, my happiness, my faith, my family…are right in my own hands.  I just need to stand up, strike the “Wonder Woman” and know that I can!

Byron said this very thing this weekend,  “Perhaps you don’t struggle at all believing in God, you just struggle with the fact that He believes in you.”

And that’s truly my struggle:  believing that I can.

Maybe that’s also where you are.

So let’s try it together…if we’re feeling overwhelmed, discouraged and powerless, the first step is to stand up, strike the “Wonder Woman”, look the world and our enemies right in the eye, and say by our stance that we will not be defeated.

It’s not just half the battle…it’s the whole thing because it can actually change our reality.

If we change our thoughts, we change our destiny, and begin to change the world!

Hands on your hips now!

Peace to you…

Angie ❣ 

Just one thing…

Mondays have always been hard for me…for one reason or another.  

Being a pastors wife, makes the weekends my most wonderfully frantic time now, and causes most Mondays to feel a little like some kind of “holy hangover”.

I also feel the chronic pain of…*fibromyalgia, the symptoms of *Multiple Sclerosis, headaches from the *tumor pressing on my brain stem and spinal cord, one or more of my 6 *herniated discs…or whatever is screaming the loudest, on Mondays.

So, for me, it comes down to focus.  And I have to choose to focus on just one thing.

I have to get up…sometimes barely, and decide to do just one thing.  

I love to say, “Seize the day” and “Exceed yourself”, and that can sound grand and life-altering, but it can often just be as simple as making the conscious choice to get up and do something that leads me in the direction that I want to go.

It’s just that simple…

And it’s just that hard.

This weekend, my husband spoke about creating margin in our lives so that we are not constantly on the edge of our stress limits.  He used the visual aid of two closets…one piled with too much stuff and in complete chaos and one much more minimal and neatly organized.  Although these closets were simply for visual aid, they reminded me of what my “one thing” would be when Monday arrived.

So here’s my one thing today:

*To take charge.

In the past few months, there have been so many things that have felt completely outside my control.  I know, intellectually, that this is just life, but I have just been in a season of reaction rather than action.

So today, on this Monday, I am taking a stand against this aspect of the chaos that life has been throwing at me lately.

Yeah, so I can’t control everything that happens to me…but I can control what I can control.

So creating margin for myself means to stop waiting for things to be perfect before I begin to do the things that I want to do…to stop letting the chaos dictate the perimeters of my dreams.

I’m not completely sure what the physical manifestation of this is going to turn out to be, maybe I’ll start by cleaning out my closet and then go from there…😅

I do know that I will do today what I can do

And I will do tomorrow what I can do…

And I will begin with whatever keeps me awake at night.

I, just like you, know what it is that hangs over me the most.  So, I’ll do that.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be acknowledged.  

I can’t tell you what your “one thing” should be, and I don’t have to because you already know.  Each one of us knows what keeps us up, what we’re passionate about, what we really want to be doing…

Maybe it’s just as simple of deciding to start: 

Start the business.

Go back to school.

End that friendship.

Make that phone call.

Throw it out…stop looking at it…quit going there…

Take charge.

You have as much power as you choose to have.

You can do it…even on a Monday!  After all, there’s really  no better day – Mondays feel like junk either way, at least you can feel like junk with a purpose!

Do small things with great love, and you’ll do great!

Peace to you…

Angie❣