Good Days…Bad Days With Maureen Pratt

Good Days…Bad Days With Maureen Pratt

Chronic Illness: Finding “Peace in the Storm”

posted by mpratt

My book, “Peace in the Storm: Meditations on Chronic Pain & Illness” will celebrate 8 years in print this month! It’s been wonderful to see the book still find its audience: those who live with chronic pain and illness and who strive to walk with God and deepen faith all along their life journeys. And, although years have passed since I held the first copy in my hands, I still remember vividly the process that unfolded to bring the book to print. Truly, it was a very personal pilgrimage that began with my diagnosis of lupus, the upheaval that brought, and, finally, the desire to share what I’d learned in faith as a result.

Yes, it was a process of finding peace, even as illness and pain swirled around my fragile life. Peace of soul. Peace with God.

The book really did not start as a book at all. In those early days after my diagnosis, I naturally sought spiritual guidance from prayer and Scripture, as well as support from loved ones and my medical team. But, as the disease continued to flare, bringing severe brain fog, fatigue, and other symptoms, I wasn’t able to keep up. I forgot what I’d prayed about, or what I’d just read in Scripture. As I struggled, I began to jot down bible verses, thoughts, and events as a way to recall them later.

A long while passed, and one day, I read back over what I’d written. My flare was at a different phase than it had been at first, and I certainly had more experience managing lupus (or, rather, trying to manage lupus). I wondered, “Could others benefit from what I’ve written?” And I called a wise woman, a literary agent to whom I dedicated the book, and asked her the same question.

As it turned out, the agent had lost a loved one to lupus and had long wanted to find a book about it to champion. She took on “Peace in the Storm,” and navigated the literary waters for me with great determination. My book found its editor, its publisher, and its home.

Just on the eve of finalizing the publishing agreement, my agent passed away from pancreatic cancer. Just before she died, I spoke with her, and the last thing she said to me was, “You have your contract.” The musings and notes I’d compiled during my journey would now help others along theirs.

I am still  on the difficult journey of chronic illness and pain. But each day, I find peace, during quiet moments of prayer and reflection or sometimes externally, through others or occurences that speak of God’s care, love, and presence. And, too, I hear from others who share their stories and witness. This fellowship is marvelous – we’re not alone! – and it reminds me all the more that, as we find ways to more peace, we can use our experience to lend a hand to others.

Praise God for His many gifts, seen and unseen!

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

Chronic Pain: Easter Bunnies and Everyday Rabbits

posted by mpratt

Image courtesy of piyato/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I still enjoy the glow from a very good Easter. Good liturgies, good lessons, good weather, good fellowship, good food. Yup, it was all good. And it has truly put a smile in my heart, even two days removed from the holy day itself. Much like a soft and cuddly Easter bunny, this warm joy is a wonderful thing. But, as we all know, the concentration of faith, praise, and joy doesn’t necessarily accompany our lives every moment of every day unfolding after Easter Sunday. Nope.  Easter bunnies rather quickly become everyday rabbits, and joy is challenged by, well, LIFE.

As “life happens,” meaning we face bumps, potholes, or even craters along our Easter Sunday-inspired good mood, we’re bound to come under some stress. Even if you’re housebound, none of us lives in a bubble. Already today, I’ve been faced with a couple of situations that have required me to drop my project at hand and take care of them. These unexpected and unpleasant detours remind me that “the way is not easy,” no matter how much grace and praise I stocked up on over the past weekend. They also give me opportunities to work at protecting the precious gift of peace that grew every more deep along the Triduum. They help me to strengthen and grow while still expressing and appreciating the warmth of the joy that still resides deep within. They also remind me that, Easter joy, as with Easter bunnies, need not lose its power to move hearts just because it exists in the everyday, grown up world.

Although the coming days will be rife with LIFE, that is, responsibilities and trials and potholes, they will also be opportunities to nurture and expand our joy through further Scripture reading, fellowship, and openness to God’s voice and work within our hearts. Thus, making every day  echo with Easter song.

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

 

Even with Pain, Even with Illness, Alleluia!

posted by mpratt

Image courtesy of graur codrin/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Holiday celebrations can sometimes be forced affairs. A date on a calendar is hardly reason of itself to raise spirits and feel emotions that the holiday evokes. Living with a serious illness or debilitating pain can certainly overshadow any “happy” occasion – even the birthday of a loved one or a day like today, Easter Sunday, when we are able once again to lift up the “Alleluia” in church and praise God for this marvelous gift of salvation.

How do we sing “Alleluia!” if we feel downtrodden, hopeless, sad, and weighed down by illness? How do we feel the balm of faith, the comfort of God who truly loves each of us and is ever-present?

I remember holidays when I lost my voice, had awful pain, couldn’t go to mass. I remember Christmases when I was too sick to get out of bed. And Easters, too.  “Normal” ways of celebrating were unavailable to me. Participating as part of a faith community was impossible, too.  In those times, I did what I could to remember the day. Reading scripture and other inspirational work, watching services on television or listening to uplifting music were helpful. But most of all, what was truly helpful was that, these holidays, as fixxed as they are on the calendar or as part of a liturgical cycle, are events we can  celebrate, indeed live, each day.

If you have been too sick to participate in Easter services, or feel so awful that it is difficult to raise your voice in praiseful song, know that God is still with you, and that this Easter is with you, too, bringing the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection and our eternal salvation. Know that your heart is held gently in God’s hands. And know that you will have other opportunities to celebrate, to praise, to live the reality that is Easter, as the days unfold.

As Christians gather worldwide on Easter Sunday, they will pray for you, for me, and for all people of good faith. Feel those prayers, feel that care that comes with them. And feel that, although pain and illness are very deep, the joy of God’s love and the spirit of Easter go even deeper – to the soul which, no matter what, is always ready to sing “Alleluia!”

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

Chronic Pain: Good Friday and The Longest Walk

posted by mpratt

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Equ0RIiulOA

There is a gospel song that resonates through my spirit on Good Friday. Simply named, “Calvary,” (I’ve linked one version of it that I found on YouTube, sung by Jami Jackson at the First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn)  a traditional, African-American spiritual,  is a very slow, almost plodding, and sorrow-filled testimony to how painful and long Our Lord’s walk to Calvary really was. The lyrics are very plain, but powerful:

Calvary. Calvary. Calvary. Calvary. Calvary. Calvary. Surely He died on Calvary.

Image courtesy of lamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As the song moves through its four verses, it never speeds up. I find myself wishing it would, wishing it would accelerate because it is so difficult to be held bad, to be made to remember over and over the labor and suffering of Jesus as he walked, step by agonizing step, to His death. It is exactly this, however, that I think is the most powerful lesson of this song:

We who live with pain often feel our minds wanting to “speed things up,” to find relief from our suffering, to stop the pain, to get to the day when there will be more effective treatments and easier days ahead. But, we live with chronic, ongoing pain that is that tempo of “Calvary.” Slow. Deliberate. Stark. Unrelenting. And yet, we also have a ray of light that outshines this darkness: We have Jesus, and we walk with Him as He walks with us!

This Good Friday, I will again be singing “Calvary.” And, as the idea of a faster song comes into my head, I’ll understand better – the longest walk, through this life, is a blessed one because Jesus walked it, too. And He is with us forever.

Blessings for the day,

Maureen

 

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