Posted by: shelleyjo's life beat | November 20, 2008

Forged In Fire and Hammered

I am sitting here at just past 6:00 a.m., and praying for my young friend. Today is another surgery day for her, and this one is critical because it actually offers her hope to have her freedom from pain.

I have known her her entire life, literally. You see, her mommy and I went to high school together. I had moved up from a city to a little olive-growing town and … well…let’s just say that wasn’t a good season for me.

The one who is to have surgery left me a comment to a blog. She referred to those days and said, “who knew it would turn into this?”

That is exactly what I have been thinking as I follow her blogs, and those of a few of her friends. You see, she had these overnight parties on occasion. Translation, mommy stayed up all night to watch over the girls.

I am not sure if there was a time when I wasn’t there, but I do know there were several all-nighters when I came over to bolster up the mommy, play games, help where I could and keep her awake. ( Not to mention being the occasional entertainment factory. I did love freaking the girls out in the night.)

That was the guise. I didn’t have my own kiddos, so I had to borrow the ones I knew (still do). I loved watching these girls over the years. Sara (the bestest) was one of those girls. I wanted to see who she would turn out to be, too but didn’t think I would have the chance.

And now, I am blogging along with them, reading their stories and seeing their pictures, their family pictures and seeing how their own men and children are coming along. Too amazing! Who knew where it would all take us?

During those years I had some serious physical conditions of my own. They were not exactly what this one is going through, but her mom and I had some similar issues to hers, as well as other stuff and we have gone through the years of procedures to try to bring relief, the years of pain, the years of it seeming like no one understands or cares what you are going through. It is pretty overwhelming and can be so devastating. When you add a bad relationship, other pain, or family problems to it…well it seems like way too much!

In my case, I needed surgery for over a decade before I got help. The main line I heard from the doctors was, “You are female. You are supposed to have pain. This is normal.” I was treated like a baby and not taken seriously. I learned to just bolster up and keep going.

I kept trying to tell them it wasn’t normal for a 20-30-something to be incontinent on such a regular basis that she has to carry a backpack with a change of clothes and walk a mall with restrooms at each end just to take her daily walk! Or to walk like you have a cob up your booty!

Speaking of this, one of my more clear memories (who could forget it?) was at a local mall that doesn’t exist as it was anymore. I had walked the mall, and um, “didn’t make it” on time. So, here I am in this wonderful handicapped stall (Don’t tell me I wasn’t handi-capped at the time people!), and it had its own sink in it. I am washing up and changing and starting to feel like a human, though humiliated as usual. Then, when I open the stall door to walk out, I almost bump right in to the mommy and daughter team I am blogging on. How embarassing! Talk about people knowing my dirt. The stories they could tell!  ;O)

It turns out that my situation affected bladder and bowel as well and needed to be dealt with surgically while they were taking care of business, finally.

And the pain? NOT normal. My stuff was aggressive, when it was never supposed to have that characteristic. Even metastacized through walls, tearing me. Which, by the way is what I had been telling them for years it felt like. Plus, it can make you feel like your back is breaking, or like you are being crushed, and the exhaustion is at a level of illness.

So, I get a clue as to what my friend here is going through. I know the desperation that hits you, the pit of despair, the crying out to God and the questions about how much longer you can hold on. I know the lack of understanding of those you love. She may not have the “side issues” I had, but she has the horrific pain (even different than mine), and in a way that has less options for solution.

I know the moment when your desperation to live, not just survive, leads you to make choices to give up all chance for birthing your own child, giving up your own dreams. I know the physical aftermath (as well as mental and emotional) that comes with those choices.

I remember feeling crippled as I showed up for work daily, working with aggressive disabled and mentally ill people. I adored them, but there were days when I thought perhaps I was a sick puppy for being in such a situation. Like, how much pain do you need, stupid? Too funny. You see, these people, and the kids I got to borrow time with, are my great reward and pleasure. It just wasn’t always easy.

The wonderful thing for me was that the surgeries I (finally) had were enough to bring an end to that situation. It hasn’t been enough for this young woman. I am hoping, desperately hoping, that this time, God says, this is it! This is the one that brings an end to your suffering.

I can tell you what I told my friend. Pain has a great purpose in our lives. It works things like humility, grace, compassion and hope in our lives. With it’s relief you learn the promise of an end to hard things and that the future does have promise. You learn to appreciate strength and energy that you took for granted before, and to not be cocky and expect that that IS who you are. You build better character and integrity in your life, and realize how precious relationships are and appreciate them more. You have more patience with others and give them the benefit of the doubt when you don’t understand their suffering, whatever kind it is. You don’t despise weakness, because you know weakness intimately, and you never forget that.

During those years while this young one was growing up, I was in the shape she is in, and her mom was too, in many ways.

It may not seem like it was as bad, but she just loved so deeply that she made it look like less pain

She needs crediblity and validation of her suffering, too. One important lesson is this: Pain hurts, suffering makes you suffer. ALL pain and ALL suffering are miserable. We may want to say ours is worse, but it is God who says, enough. It is God who promises ours will never be more than we can handle.

Do you ever see what people go through and wonder how they did it? It wasn’t too much for them, but it might be for you. Others are feeling the same way about your pain. How do you do it?

So, whatever person you see suffering, don’t assume yours is worse, or that theirs is worse. Because God has said He will temper it to us, personally.

This means we don’t get to judge each others’ pain and suffering.

Only He knows the cost, the pain and the heat. It is like a hammer coming down on a sword that has been dipped in fire until it is red hot and weakened, it rests on the anvil (cold, hard place). Like being dipped in fire wasn’t enough heat! Now we are in a cold, hard place, alone and being hammered. But then, if you want to be a great sword, you have to take the fire, and the hammering. Then the chilling and setting. The oil. And with it all, the strength, the sureness, the sharpness, the purpose, the beauty.

Only God gets to say what level of suffering we are at, and when its purpose is done. Oh, and I am learning that the greater pain is not neccessarily your own suffering, but the suffering of those we love. This one’s pain has taken a huge toll on her mommy, who loves her more than her own life.

I pray my young friend gets to say goodbye to her pain this morning. I really do. I’ve been crying for her and her mommy for years. It is time to laugh again with them and rejoice for all God has done. 

Please God, say this season is done and has born it’s fruit. Please. Say, Enough!



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  2. Well, I laughed and cried. All of this is so very true. The funny thing about your story is I had no recollection of the mall incident…so you just let a story out of the bag! lol

    I am so glad you understand me and so glad you are here praying for me and supporting mom too. All of us have been through so much together.

    I am some questions for your I have NEVER asked before, when we finally grab some time alone at some point and get to visit in person. I love you Shelley. Thanks for your dedication in my life. I know my friends are better people having had you in their life as well. And I know Sara is enjoying hearing from you still too.

    I will have mom call this afternoon, k? And let you know how things are. Love you.

  3. I remember always thinking how nice it was of you to support mom on the nights we invaded her home whne we were young and crazy! How great a friend you were to her for putting up with us!

    I loved the sword analogy! Great way to think about it!

    I too am praying for our friend and hope this is the end. It was nice going down memory lane with you!

  4. Thanks Shelley so much for your blog. Yes we have been through many things together and some quite simiular. We could always call each other and ask is it that time?

    Oh yes the nights we stayed up and played game and scared the girls. That was a lot of fun. Some of the kids still talk about memories they have of being at my house.

    It is hard to believe that these kids have grown up and have families of their own. It is great to stay in touch with as many of them as I can and see all of their children and play with them as well.

    I already have a reputation with Sarah that I can always get her little ones to sleep when no one else can. They just settle down in my arms and go to sleep. It is an awesome time with those little ones especially since they are starting to grw up quickly.

    I too am praying very hard tha this is the day that my little girl can have a life without pain and enjoy the things the she would like to do but couldn’t because of the pain she dealt with. It is very hard for people to understand unless they have dealt with any ain of some kind in their life. Even then some people don’t get it.

    Thanks so much for your support and being there when all else fails. Love, Linda

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