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❣️

My Side of the Story…

If you read this blog, you’ve picked up on pieces of my story, and if you attend C3 Church or listen to Byron’s podcasts, you’ve heard other pieces…

Every person’s story has many pieces to it – like a giant and intricate puzzle – and the reality is that even each “piece” is multifaceted…

This Sunday, Byron spoke of part of our story as a couple…about our separation and near-divorce 5 years ago.  As always, he was incredibly gracious and kind and put all of the responsibility on himself for our marriage…our world seeming to burn right in front of us.

But that’s his side of the story…

Here’s mine:

What happened to our marriage 5 years ago really began many years earlier.  I grew up in a seemingly happy, Christian home – the preacher’s daughter.  While I would not compare my upbringing and childhood to others who suffered horrible abuse and awful conditions, there was still abuse – even if everything looked perfect on the outside.  I just learned to cover…smile and cover.  

By the time Byron and I were married, and I went from “Preacher’s Daughter” to “Preacher’s Wife”, I was an expert at covering my true feelings, but the cracks began to show…

By 25, I had two beautiful daughters and although we were “seminary-poor”, we looked like the perfect family…except for the fact that at 5’9″ I weighed 100 lbs., suffered with debilitating depression and never slept more than 3 hours at a time.  But, if you asked…I was great.

By 35, I had 4 beautiful children and it was a daily struggle to hide the storm that was building inside me.  I gained 40 lbs. in 18 months even though I hardly ate, I was having “night terrors” and I began to think that my beautiful family would certainly be better off without me…

Still, if you had asked me, I would have said that I was a little stressed, but I would have never acknowledged that I was toying with burning my life to the ground…

Over the next 6-7 years, Byron tried everything to pull me out of the deep end of the ocean, but I didn’t want to be rescued.  I would have rather drown than to admit that I had been so badly broken in my childhood and beyond, that I truly didn’t believe I was worth saving.

So, by 42 I was living separately from Byron, and I did the “every other week” thing with my kids, and I had to look at their faces and know they were suffering…

all because I decided to burn myself to the ground just to stop the pain.

But, I learned something:

I learned that if you light a match and burn your house down, you’re not the only one who gets burned.  

I learned that if you run away, you take your pain with you.

I learned that you are not defined by what’s been done to you, but you will always carry what you’ve done to others.

I learned that there’s a difference between pain and remorse.  Other’s can cause you deep pain, but remorse comes from your own choices…and it’s a much heavier burden to bear.

I learned that I can choose to end the cycle of pain and remorse.  I can choose to be the person I needed when I was growing up.  I can create the family that I never had.  


I can deal with my pain and stop it from dealing with me with every breath.

I can.

I have the power to choose a new path.

You do as well.

We can’t just light a match and walk away…

Pain only goes away when it heals properly.  

Grace is the only fire strong enough to burn down hell…and it can burn down the hell your living in, if you let it.

I still have the scars to prove that I’ve been through the fire, but thank God, I’m also living proof that you don’t have to be consumed by it.

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 ❣ 

Making the Mundane More Magical…

Having been a “stay-at-home” wife, mom and grandmother now for nearly 30 years, I’ve dealt with the pitfalls and challenges of finding purpose and meaning in the most mundane tasks. But the truth is, we all struggle with finding joy in the things that, on the surface, can seem ordinary and even boring…

Having the same “gig” for as long as I have also allows me to really get to know where my strengths…and weaknesses lie.  And for me, my weakness is definitely consistency…especially if it’s in the mundane and possibly boring category.

I don’t do mundane very well.

I do last-minute, heart-pumping, ride-or-die super well…it’s just that most of my mom-days don’t include a whole lot of moments that you might see in an episode of “24”.  

So while I tend to hear the sound-track of my life something like “The Hunger Games” or “The Sound of Music”…it’s more like an episode of “America’s Funniest Home Vidoes” most days…

But I love my life.

The challenge is in finding the magic in the mundane.

The way I’m learning to do this…and it’s definitely a work-in-progress, is to give myself permission to look at absolutely everything through rose-colored glasses. So, when I hear the Hunger Games music begin to play in my head…then, I need to act like it’s just that important.  And when Julie Andrews begins to sing, I can use that to motivate me to not just “clean” the bathroom, but to really make it more beautiful.

How I make the mundane magical is to look at it as my art form…my mission. Because the truth is, it really is that important.

This weekend Byron spoke about how creating margin…breathing room in our schedules allows us to be more generous in our lives.  So, if my finances are “in order” then I can be generous when there’s a natural disaster or a friend has a need. If my schedule is not maxed-out, then I can go visit someone in the hospital without grieving over the loss of a few hours.

For me, that was a reminder that every moment in my sometimes seemingly mundane day is important.  It may not seem important that I have a neat family room, but it allows me to be present-in-the-moment when a friend needs to stop by and cry on my shoulder.

It’s not always easy to feel approval or gratitude for the simple things that you do each day, but keep doing them and determine to really put your heart into it. Small things done with great love always have an impact.

I’ve had to realize that if I want to have a beautiful life, then I need to have beautiful thoughts and do beautiful things – and even the tiniest, most mundane thing can become beautiful if we see them as important and meaningful.

If I’ve ever questioned this, all I have to do is think about the sweetest moments in my life.  They are usually the simplest.

It’s not perfection that holds the most beauty…it’s progress…and peace.

It’s not always just about what we do, but how we do it…and doing the smallest things with the greatest love always has the ability to create magic!✨✨

Peace to you…

Angie❣