a time to bear pain (pt 2)

..Continued

February 25, 2016: The day after my emergency ureteric stent surgery, I flew out to Singapore for an SFC International Conference. That was quite a painful experience. I remember sitting in the crowd of thousands crying and asking God why He gave me the desire to go to this event while suffering from the pain that I was in (I eventually realised why, which you can read about here.) Although it was over a year ago, I can still remember the overwhelming feeling of reassurance I received when the final worship leader shared about some of the physical pain he had been experiencing too. It was as if God used this man to speak to me, amongst the thousands, as he shared, “Pain is from God too. There is no pain He’ll give you that you cannot handle.” How loving is our God? He is so intentional.

As I said in my previous blog post, I had a ureteric stent sitting inside me for 3 months after that. The reason why it was in the for 3 months and not shorter was because I couldn’t afford the surgery to get the kidney stone lasered out. So I went on the public hospital waitlist to get it removed for free. I’ll be forever thankful for living in this country because I ended up having 3 free surgeries within 8 months, which would have ended up costing the same as a brand new medium sized car. Yeaaaahh #strayamate!

These next few months were the most painful months. There were days when I couldn’t even get out of bed due to the pain from the kidney stone and the stent. I was rushed to the hospital a couple of times because of this pain. There were days when I couldn’t handle it mentally. Especially because I wasn’t able to exercise or play basketball. The pain rendered me physically unable to play any sports. Plus the cause of my kidney stones, which was my body producing too much calcium due to hyperparathyroidism (I’ll talk about this a bit more later), meant that I could go into cardiac failure at any given time if my heart rate was elevated. What a bummer, right? But the thought of WYD and Europe is what kept me going. I knew that God was moulding me and changing me in my suffering and pain. I knew that He was preparing me for something tougher and better. I just knew. I believed. I had to.

June 7, 2016: After months of waiting uncomfortably, countless hours of sick leave, more assessment extension applications that I ever asked for in my 12 semesters of tertiary education, this was the day I was finally getting my kidney stone removed. While in the anaesthetic room, I repeated my prayer – “My body, my mind, my life, is Yours.” I woke up a few hours later expecting to be relieved from my pain but I wasn’t. They had inserted another stent in after they removed the kidney stone to ensure that I had a proper urine flow because of the inflammation in my ureter caused by the surgery. I had to remove the stent myself after 7 days post surgery, which was one of the most daunting things I have ever had to do. I won’t go into full detail because it’s actually not a pleasant thing to imagine but I took it out and I seriously felt like a new person!

“To the suffering brother or sister Christ discloses and gradually reveals the horizons of the Kingdom of God: the horizons of a world converted to the Creator, of a world free from sin, a world being built on the saving power of love. And slowly but effectively, Christ leads into this world, into this Kingdom of the Father, suffering man, in a certain sense through the very heart of his suffering. For suffering cannot be transformed and changed by a grace from outside, but from within.” (Salvifici Doloris, §26)

July 20, 2016: The day I had been waiting and praying for. Everything that I went through, all the late nights, the breakdowns, the over time, the hospital visits, doctor check ups, the cup of noodles/can of tuna meals, the pain, the suffering – it all led to this day. I had this crazy notion that everything I had endured was preparing me for what was to come on the other side of the world. And boy, was I right. World Youth Day 2016 in Poland was an experience I can barely write down in words (hence no blog post about it yet, lol). I’m pretty sure I felt every aspect of emotion humanly possible. The days were long and tiring averaging in at least 12, 000 steps a day. And I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

July 31, 2016: It was the final day of WYD, I could still feel the hot sun burning my skin as I journeyed back to the our accommodation with a friend I only met a few months ago during WYD preparations, Tracey. I remember saying to her, “Our God is so crazy. I almost didn’t come to this. I almost didn’t experience this. But He made it happen.” I proceeded to tell her about the journey I was on leading up to WYD (the one I’m telling now), and shared to her how generous and loving our God is.

The next few weeks after that, I was blessed with another experience of a life time. I was able to travel through three beautiful European countries with 7 of my good mates, an opportunity that is so rare. Hopefully I can blog about this one day but honestly, I’m still trying to process it. I have, however, shared a few bits and pieces here and there. Within that month of travelling I was still at risk of cardiac failure due to my hypercalcemia. I was still due for another surgery. But I thank God every day for allowing me the graces and strength to get through our Europe trip.

October 26, 2016: It was the day of my third (free) and final surgery. It was also the first day of my road to recovery. I had one of my parathyroids removed – the one that was producing too much calcium which was causing my kidney stones. Before I entered the surgery room, I remember whispering for the last time – “My body, my mind, my life, is Yours.”

It’s been almost 8 months since that day and I’m grateful to say that I’m recovering well. Although it was difficult journey, If you were to ask me what I would do had I been given the chance to skip it all, I would say heeeecck no. I wouldn’t be the person that I am today if I didn’t go through that whole ordeal.

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If life has thrown you in the deep end and you’re left to sink or swim, if work has you busy working in the trenches, if your body has left you fighting to survive – as hard as it may seem, take comfort in knowing that what you’re going through right now is changing you for the better. Embrace the pain because it’s part of your growth. And then offer it up.

One of my favourite bands, Paramore, couldn’t have said it any better..

“And the salt in my wounds isn’t burning any more than it used to.
It’s not that I don’t feel the pain, it’s just I’m not afraid of hurting anymore.
And the blood of these veins isn’t pumping any less than it ever has.
And that’s the hope I have, the only thing I know that’s keeping me alive.”

Thanks for reading, – M.

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a time to bear pain (pt 1)

The other night I went back on the court and played competitive basketball after being sidelined for a month due to a spine injury. I honestly did.. horribly. I fell pretty hard 3 times (or possibly more), was pushed and shoved by the other team, missed all of my wide open shots and at half time, I needed to take some ibuprofen to relieve me from the pain. Ahh, the emotional and physical pain this left me was laughable. And if that wasn’t enough, the muscular pain I felt when I woke up the next morning was even worse. But, it was totally worth it. Every time I feel hopeless or if I’m suffering from physical pain I always tell myself.. I have gone through worse, and survived!

Thank God and His generosity for always having my back. Whenever I don’t get called in for work (as a Casual Teacher), I always accept it as God telling me to take a break and rest. While in bed, resting my old aching muscles and bad back, I was scrolling through my photos on my phone in hopes of culling down my 16,408 images to at least, 15,000 (baby steps, hahah). I got distracted, as always, and stumbled upon a quote that helped me get through some of the physically toughest months I have ever had in my adult life. This is the first half of it…

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I knew that coming across this wasn’t a coincident. I honestly don’t believe in coincidences. I believe there’s a time for everything and I think it’s time to tell this part of my story. It’s a bit of a long one so I thought I’d divide it in two. Just a warning, there will be a bit of medical/gross talk so maybe don’t read on if that stuff doesn’t sit well with you.

“This is the meaning of suffering, which is truly supernatural and at the same time human. It is supernatural because it is rooted in the divine mystery of the Redemption of the world, and it is likewise deeply human, because in it the person discovers himself, his own humanity, his own dignity, his own mission.” (Salvifici Doloris, §31)

February 20, 2016: I called in sick for work due to sharp pain that I felt in my lower back. A few hours later the pain still wouldn’t go away after taking some medication so I called my best friend to drive me to the hospital for an emergency. It turns out that I had a pretty large kidney stone sitting in my ureter. It wasn’t small enough to pass so I needed to eventually get it lasered out – which was an expensive surgery I couldn’t afford. I had most of the money but I had 2 travel plans ahead of me, Singapore which was only days away and WYD/Europe which was 5 months away.

February 24, 2016: The day before I planned to fly out for Singapore my doctor advised me to go to my local hospital to make sure that I was fit to fly and travel. It was supposed to be a general check up but the next thing I knew, I was being prepped for an emergency surgery. This stone sitting in my ureter could at any point block it entirely which could cause a sepsis, a life threatening complication with an infection. I found myself having a few spare moments of silence while lying on the hospital bed inside the anaesthetic room. With tired eyes from crying, I looked up at the ceiling light and whispered, “Whatever Your reason is for allowing me to go through this Lord, I offer it up. My body, my mind, my life, is Yours.” A few hours later, I had a stent sitting inside my ureter which stayed in for the next 3 gruelling and uncomfortable months. This ensured that my ureter would not be obstructed and therefore prevent a sepsis from occurring, but it definitely came with painful consequences.

My body, my mind, my life, is Yours – when I prayed these words to Him, I never knew that at the time, it would be a chant I had to constantly repeat in my head over and over again to get me through the next few months of trials. You see, that was only the beginning. Because of my travel plans for WYD and Europe from July – August, I had planned every single day leading up to July 20, our departure date. I overloaded my last semester of my Masters, made myself available to work for 40 hours a week even though I was part time, and I still had my responsibilities at home with my family. That was the plan. But you know what they say… If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. 

God laughing

To be continued.. 

x M.

a time to stay, fight and give

I watched Wonder Woman today and it was expectedly awesome. I’m not really into super hero movies. I can’t even tell what the difference is between DC and Marvel – or are they the same thing? (I’m sorry comic fans) But I heard a lot of good things about this movie so I accepted an invite from my mum to watch it with her.

Now this isn’t a movie review or anything like that but the movie was legit ace and I’d suggest you go watch it. It pretty much has everything you want in a movie – action, comedy, romance. Plus Chris Pine and Gal Gadot are easy on the eyes so that was a bonus. I couldn’t help but feel empowered when I came out of the cinema. I felt like I could do anything.

Side bar: I’ve been talking a friend a lot lately about how different we both are because she is, by personality, a thinker and I’m a feeler. In fact we have the same Myer-Briggs personality except for that one factor. We often talk about how we think/feel about a certain situation and it’s really interesting how different we can be. I’m not saying one personality type is more superior than the other but we definitely see things differently, even when it comes to the simplest things – like movies. She (ISTJ) enjoys movies for the action, the entertainment and maybe even the technical and scientific details. Where as I (ISFJ) enjoy the different layers of emotion, the moral takeaways and what might happen to the character ten years from now. Which makes me wonder if she loses out by not fully experiencing the movie because to me, the feeler, that stuff is really important.

So I asked this same friend what message she took away from Wonder Woman when she watched it. Her response was (and if you don’t want any spoilers, maybe don’t keep reading.) “Women aren’t always the damsel in distress.” This key message was loud and clear throughout the whole movie. Diana aka Wonder Woman portrays a strong and heroic character which all women probably aspire to be. She absolutely kicked butt in the movie and I’m gonna be honest, she made me want to do the same. Up until (SPOILER ALERT) the point when she was pretty much in the dumps and was almost defeated by her archnemesis – Ares, the God of War.

Here’s where my feeler instincts kick in and find the different layers of emotion into the movie. Diana, feeling defeated, like most of us do at one or multiple points in our lives, observes her environment. She sees that the evil she was trying to stop was moments away from becoming victorious. The world she was trying to save was becoming un-savable (is that even a word?). She feels trapped by her hopelessness. And then she witnesses the love of her life, Steve (Chris Pine) sacrifice his life for the good of others.

“It’s not about (what people) deserve. It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love.” Diana, Wonder Woman.

And it was at that moment when she literally breaks out of the trap she was under and defeats Ares. Love conquers all. Love never fails. I couldn’t help but tear up at this moment because this act of sacrificial love was so familiar to me. You know the one I’m talking about. And then, in the movie Diana perfectly captures my feels and says..

“Now I know, that only love can truly save the world.”Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Although some of us may not be ridiculously good looking, or tall with a well toned body, or talk with a sexy ethnic accent, or be able to do multiple flips in the air while gracefully  using a bow and arrow – I genuinely believe that there is a Diana aka Wonder Woman (or man) in all of us. We don’t need to be a hero. We can just be ourselves. And because we are human, once in a while, we will need to be reminded that while we are called to love, Love has already saved the world.

“I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then, I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. And I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. A choice each must make for themselves. Something no hero will ever defeat. And now I know, that only love can truly save the world. So I stay, I fight, and I give, for the world I know can be.” – Diana

So much feels, – M.

a time to be on the sidelines

Ever since I came back from SFC ICON in February I feel like I’ve been warming the bench that is life, sitting on the sidelines, waiting for my chance to play the game. No one told me how difficult it would really be to get that call to work as a Casual Primary School Teacher. But I did get the same advice from all my teacher friends who said “Enjoy all this free time now, because you won’t get it any other time”.

I tried to take this to heart but it was difficult. So difficult in fact that it led me to a week of tribulation, where I felt so lost, sad, insecure, angry and worst of all, so far away from my Creator. That week was definitely testing and despite my friends trying to reach out to me, I tried to get through it on my own. But because of His unconditional love, my own pride and stubbornness led me to a moment of clarity and peace. It’s crazy how God works with you that way.

That Sunday, after attending Mass with my best friend and her fiancé, I selfishly decided to join them in one of their snorkelling adventures. This was a selfish act because that day I said no to my family obligations and responsibilities. I just needed a break. So, we drove around one hour south of Campbelltown to this beautiful open water, perfect for summer swims. I’m not a strong swimmer so I decided not to join them and opted for sitting by the water instead. As I sat down, I realised I didn’t bring earphones to listen to music or watch Netflix. I tried to browse through my social media apps and found out that there was no signal/reception. And of course, I didn’t bring a book to read. Finally, I look up and I see this view.

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“The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures He makes me lie down; to still waters He leads me; He restores my soul.” Psalm 23:1-3

At this moment I recalled a message that a dear friend of mine had shared with me earlier that week – “Are you paying attention?” …Was I? He drew me out to this place, and stripped me off my distractions. I was all alone, but for the first time in that emotionally and mentally trialling week, I felt comfortable in this loneliness because I felt Him all around me. After a few minutes of silence, I asked Him, “Why? Why have you put me on the sidelines? Why are you benching me? I want this so bad but I feel like you don’t want it for me. When will it be my turn?” As tears rolled down my face, I opened my eyes and suddenly the tide rolls in. A big wave crashes onto the rocks just inches away from my feet. I couldn’t help but feel that this was God telling that it’s coming. And sure enough, three days later, I got that call.

That was two weekends ago, and since then I’ve been once again put on the sidelines, and this time with my health. But someone wise once told me that, “We are a product of our own experiences, good and bad.” So right now, I’m trying to be patient. God is asking me to be patient.

In hindsight, there’s a lot you can learn from being on the sidelines. You realise how valuable your team members are. You learn things about the game that you don’t learn while playing it. You get to rest and recharge, which is so important. And you receive the one gift that you can never return – time.

So if you find yourself warming that bench that is life, maybe He’s trying to tell you something. The question is – are you paying attention?

“God speaks in the silence of the heart, and we listen.
And then we speak to God from the fullness of our heart.
First we listen, and God speaks. And then we speak, and God listens.
And that connection is prayer, is oneness with God.”
– Mother Teresa

Benchwarming, – M.