Category Archives: Life Lessons

Thoughts on Chronic Pain

Back in July, our area had a bout of rainy, humid weather. The weather aggravated my arthritis to the point that I spent some days on my back, with ice packs on various aching joints.

Since then, wanting to get a handle on chronic pain, I’ve come to some conclusions which I believe will help me deal with the self-pity which comes calling along with the pain. I offer them here for any one of the millions of people who live with chronic pain:

Chronic pain can’t keep God from loving me. It cannot and does not keep God from seeing me as a person of inestimable value.

Chronic pain cannot keep me from returning God’s love. It cannot keep me from finding ways to express that love. It may change the ways I do it; it cannot keep me from doing it.

Chronic pain cannot keep me from serving others; it may change the ways I do it; it cannot keep me from doing it.

 

Scripture passages to consider: Romans 5:1-8; Romans 8:35-39; Hebrews 13:5 (which quotes Deuteronomy 31:6)

©P. Booher

 

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What Am I Focusing On?

Photo by Roxana Ioana Luca on Pexels.com

Today a picture flashed in my mind. It was similar to a dream, but I was wide-awake. In the picture I was standing on a hill, one high enough to gain altitude over everything else. I could see two different ways.
Those ways represented different attitudes in my life. Those attitudes produced different results.

In the first view I saw all the places I wanted to go and never went, the “good-paying” job I wanted, and never got, the experiences I used to envision myself having and never having them. When I looked that way I felt bitterness and a corrosive resentment boil up inside.

Then I turned to look at the second view. There I saw all the places I did go to (like Niagara Falls!); all the books and stories I’ve read; all the jobs I had, the relationships and what I learned on the jobs; all the experiences I’ve had, and what I gained from them. As I looked that way I felt rich. I had no reason to feel bitter or resentful.

The lesson from the picture in my mind is plain to me: my feelings depend on what I focus on. I can look one way and see what I didn’t get, or didn’t have, and be angry or in despair; I can look the other way and see what I got, and what I have, and be grateful and hopeful.

What am I focusing on?

What are you focusing on?

©P. Booher

Niagara Falls Photo Credit: Author

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Nature Notes–A Lesson in Courage and Persistence

One day my dad and I were in his workshop when we heard birds squawking. Opening the outside door we saw several catbirds and robins flying back-and-forth from a tree. The object of their attention turned out to be a black snake winding its way up the tree. Given the birds’ angry cries and persistent activity, we deduced there was a bird’s nest somewhere among the branches.

At first the snake ignored the birds. But one by one the catbirds and robins took turns pecking at the snake’s vulnerable spot, the tail, which was dangling from the tree. Finally the snake gave up its quest and slithered down the other side of the tree in retreat.

I was amazed that this life-and-death adventure happened just a few feet away from us. On further thought, I was impressed by the courage and the united effort the birds displayed to get the snake away from the nest. I don’t know whether it was a robin’s nest or a catbird’s nest that was threatened. It didn’t matter to the birds; both kinds worked together to defend the nest. They knew what was important, and kept up the attack until they achieved the result they wanted.

For me, this serves as another object lesson from God: fight for what’s important, and keep at it until you are successful. Don’t give up; don’t give in.

To learn more about catbirds: www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Gray_Catbird.

To learn more about robins: www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Robin

For black snakes: www.todayshomeowner.com/dealing-with-black-snakes-around-your-home-or-garden

P. Booher

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What Money Can’t Do

abundance bank banking banknotes

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COVID-19 brought a lot of change to the world. As I read different headlines from around the world, I thought about the attention given to money and nations’ economies. I thought about the things money can’t do, because contrary to what the world in general thinks, money has its limits.

  1. Money can’t automatically protect a person from getting sick. Many celebrities said they were diagnosed with COVID-19. Yes, money certainly helps pay the bills after a person gets sick, but money conveys no physical immunity to a person.
  2. Money can’t buy security (related to #1). Money can pay security guards, but they can’t do anything to give a person inward security—that possession that lasts despite circumstances.
  3. Money can’t buy patience. Patience is one virtue we all need in these days of waiting in longer lines, waiting on the phone or on a chat line for a technician, waiting to see family or friends, waiting for test results, waiting to get better or for a loved one to get better. Who can buy patience at a store? No one, not even the richest man on earth.
  4. Money can’t buy kindness and caring. I have a friend who lives about 30 minutes away. She was willing to do shopping for my mother and I and leave the items on the porch. We didn’t need her to do that, but I was touched that she was willing to do so. Someone who prefers to remain anonymous sent me a $50 gift card. Money can’t buy kindness; it has to come from the heart.
  5. Money can’t buy simple joys. By simple joys, I mean seeing a sunrise or sunset that takes your breath away, or looking up at the summer night-time sky and marveling at all the stars you can see. Nature’s delights didn’t come by money, so no matter how low your bank account is, or how much in debt you are, you can still enjoy them.
  6. Money can’t buy overall health. It can buy doctors’ time, and supplies, and health insurance. For instance, I’ve been told I have arthritis in different places. I left the  retail job I had because it was difficult to contend with health issues and work too. I was making more money per hour than I’d ever made. Even if I made twice that amount, if my knee, my wrist, or my back started to hurt, trust me—I’d feel it—no matter how much money I made.
  7. Money can’t buy dependability. Dependability is in a person’s character. Money can’t buy the inner qualities of a person. The person either has it or not.

The next time I start thinking money is everything, I’ll read my list and remember money is a tool. It can do a lot, and provide for a lot, but there’s a lot it can’t do.

©P. Booher

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Keeping Spirits Up in Difficult Times

Years ago I saw a pattern in my mood: it nose-dived in winter. At first I believed I was at the mercy of my moods, so I suffered through them.

Finally, after some desperate prayers,  I took steps to mitigate the moodiness. Here are some things I did, along with principles I use to guide me now:

  • Every November or December I start feeding the chickadees, cardinals, titmice, doves, finches and other birds that call this spot home. I derive joy out of helping them, and that boosts my spirits. Principle: help someone else, even if only a bird!
  • I write letters or send cards to people. I’ve practiced this kind of  “social distancing” for awhile. My mother used to write monthly letters to relatives, BPC (Before Personal Computers). Now when people tell me receiving cards or letters lifted their spirits, I smile inwardly. They don’t realize the first spirits lifted were mine! Principle: Keep in touch with the people you care about; it takes your mind off yourself.
  • I plant flowers. In years past I planted crocuses, daffodils and hyacinths bulbs for spring blooming. Knowing the bulbs come up every spring gave me something to look forward to. This year, I bought sunflower seeds, zinnia seeds, and shasta daisy seeds. I’m ready for some color this summer! I’m looking forward to planting the seeds, and even more at seeing the flowers in bloom. Principle: Give yourself something to look forward to.
  • This fourth item is something I don’t do: I don’t look at the news much. It’s important to be informed, but being informed in times of crises can easily cross the line into being obsessed with knowing every new detail. One evening I saw an alarming prediction in the headlines.  As I was about to click on the link, the thought occurred to me: Is this news story going to give you peace and in turn, strength to meet your everyday problems? Or is it going to provoke anxiety and disturbing images in your mind? I chose to turn to a different website. In the current COVID-19 crisis, there is so much conflicting information I don’t know what details to believe anyway, which in itself heightens my anxiety. To keep on doing what I need to do I set limits on the amount of news and other media I take in. Principle: Don’t feel you have to know everything going on; give yourself a break.
  • Take time out every day to do something creative, just for fun. Whether it’s writing, painting, gardening, woodworking, or whatever, do it. Get away from the world and the stress, and lose yourself in the activity. Principle: Relax by doing something creative.

©P. Booher

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Lesson I’m Learning: Circumstances Can’t Be Used to See God

For some reason, I used to think of God through the circumstances of my life. For example, in school I was teased a lot. Being a bit too sensitive for my own good, I took the teasing and non-invites to school dances and events as rejection. It was easy for me to think that if my peers were rejecting me, God was rejecting me too—for what, I couldn’t figure out.

Years later, I realize that circumstances and what people do or don’t do are poor ways of looking at God. If you try it, bitterness, resentment, anger, hatred, and prejudice will lodge in you and eat away at you. Throw in some depression and a lot of fear as well, and you’ll see why viewing God through the circumstances around you is an unwise, unhealthy choice.

Now, God’s grace enables me to think of Him through the lens of His Word—the only sure way to see and think of Him. Circumstances make shaky ground for anyone to pin a thought or belief on; God and His Word are stable, and solid. Circumstances can change quickly; God doesn’t change. As the Bible says, “…the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17b, KJV)

Tonight, by God’s grace, I know God doesn’t reject me. That false belief is washed away by verses such as: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16, NIV) Another verse: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (I John 4:10, NIV)

If you feel as though you need more stability in your life, consider looking into God’s Word. Ask Him for help. He’ll be glad you asked!

Further resources: God’s attributes: I Corinthians 13:4-8; God’s love as shown by Christ’s death: Romans 5:6-11

©P. Booher

 

 

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Learning from Crocuses

My last post, here, showed a few crocuses blooming. I saw the crocuses blooming, and the number of flowers surprised me. I counted around thirty—way more than the number of actual plants. But the plants didn’t get there by themselves. My mother and I planted them.

As a developing writer I am tempted to envy those writers who are better, more accomplished and more successful than me.

Seeing the crocuses blooming reminded me that it takes work to get success. Success doesn’t happen overnight or by itself. It requires investing time, effort, and depending on the venture, money and a willingness to take risks.

When envy starts to show its face I ask myself: Have I put in hours to learn craft, new technology, and marketing? Am I doing all I can to grow? These questions foil envy in its tracks.

©P. Booher

 

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A Life-long Learner

group of people in a discussion

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Years ago a family member said to me, “You just want to be a professional student!” He didn’t say it in a complimentary way.

While I have an idea why the person said that (getting a formal education costs a lot, and you can never be sure you’ll get a job that makes that education worthwhile) his statement still hurt my feelings. The person was right, though. I enjoy learning facts—can’t help it. When I was eight or nine years old I used to sit and leaf through a book from our big set of encyclopedias, or even get lost in the dictionary. Now I sit in front of a computer and take online courses in writing; I get lost on the internet reading articles on diverse subjects such as Niagara Falls, the story behind the 1997 movie “Titanic”, and service dogs. It’s all good, and it’s all fun for me. It makes the little gray cells in my brain jump up and down for joy.

My family member’s comment aside, writing and other activities in life show me it’s valuable to have the mindset of a “professional student”.  I need to be humble enough to be teachable. I need discipline to keep myself learning. I don’t think it’s possible to improve in writing, or in a lot of other endeavors, without that type of mindset.  I’ve found an unexpected benefit of such a mindset is it adds richness to life. You get to see how the process of learning affects you, you figure out ways to learn things you need to know that you may not be naturally proficient at, and you see how facts are intertwined.  Yes, being a professional student costs, but the rewards are without measure!

©P. Booher

 

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Friday Photos–An Object Lesson in Persistence

Creek at bridge (where we feed the fish)

Author’s Photo

bare-trees-creek-flowing-over-rocks

Author’s Photo

Creek and railroad bridge

Author’s Photo

A problem I have is my lack of persistence. It’s all too easy for me to give up.

One day as I gazed at a little country creek , I realized God provided an object lesson for me. The creek contends with rocks, fallen trees, the remnant of an old railroad bridge, and other obstacles on its way to its destination, a larger creek. Nothing holds the little creek back. It keeps on going–over, under, around or through the obstacle. It never gives up, never gives in, and eventually reaches the merger with the bigger creek.

What a lesson for me, given anew every time I look at the creek. How well am I learning? Slowly, but I am improving.

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”  James 1:3,4, King James Version

©P. Booher

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Benefits of Physical Therapy

woman in white cap shirt on stability ball

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This year my doctor prescribed physical therapy to treat my achy, cranky joints and muscles. Since March I’ve had several visits to the physical therapist’s. In the process I’m learning: a different mindset, to cooperate with and respect my body better, and the ways regulated motion (stretches, using weights) can help me live better and more pain-free.

I’m learning:

  • “No pain, no gain” is not the motto of the physical therapists. The therapists don’t want you to push through pain; your muscles will tire and there is a greater chance of more injury; stop just before the point of pain. You want the point of stretch, but not to the point where it hurts.
  •  When doing exercises and stretches if you have to stop and rest, do so. For example, if you are supposed to do two sets of 10 reps (repetitions), but you have to stop after just 5, that’s OK. Rest, take a break, do them in sets of 5. You can break it down to four sets of 5, instead of two sets of 10.
  • Your attitude towards pain and physical therapy is just as  important as the physical therapy itself. You need to be as confident as possible.
  • Be patient with your body and the process of healing. It takes time, and this varies with each person.
  • You can work for a long time and it seems as though nothing is getting better. Don’t buy into that sneaky voice of discouragement. Get tough and keep on going, anyway. One day when you think nothing has changed, the therapist will say, “Your flexibility is improving”.
  • Strength comes last in an injured part, but it will come.
  • The physical therapy place is a “no judgment zone”; no one is pointing the finger at you and how few reps you managed, how long it took you to do them, or how you had to ask for help on a particular machine, again. Everybody’s in the same boat–focusing on getting stronger. No one in physical therapy can claim to be a super-athlete.
  • Clients encourage one another, and when one client rehabs enough to be released from therapy, this gives a boost to others still working to reach that point.
  • Physical therapy is a hopeful place. Doctors tell you what’s wrong; physical therapists tell you where you are strong, where your flexibility improved, where your range of motion is normal– in other words, what’s right. Yes, they do say things like, “Well, those muscles are a bit on the weak side. But there’s exercises we can do to strengthen them.” The therapists emphasize the positive. Most of the time I walk out of PT feeling more hopeful about my situation. Rather than being in despair about my body, I believe something can be done.
  • One part of the body affects another. If one muscle is weak and can’t do its job, another muscle has to work harder. Eventually the hard-working muscle may develop weakness, and then other muscles and probably joints get involved. Then you wonder why you hurt.
  • Physical therapists are detail-oriented–something I didn’t realize until this time around. They take measurements in their evaluations and plan each person’s therapy course with those measurements, along with the comments the client makes, in mind. Each stretch, each exercise, is selected to address the particular problem the client has. Therapists have to know how the body parts interact,  and what happens when a part is not acting as it should.
  • Physical therapy is a participatory time. Unlike going to the doctor and listening to him or her explain your condition, showing up for physical therapy requires action on your part. To get the most benefit, take time to do recommended stretches at home. (I’ve been known to get some stretches in while waiting for supper.)
  • To me, physical therapy is counter-culture. The world demands, and often gets, speed. Physical therapy allows time for the healing process, however long that takes. Some things can’t be rushed.
  • Physical therapy isn’t a cure and it’s not guaranteed to work for everyone, but for many painful problems it’s worth considering.

 

BTW: That lady on the stability ball is not me. If I was that flexible, I wouldn’t need physical therapy! 🙂

I need to give credit where credit is due: Most of the information used in this article comes from observing and listening to the physical therapists at the office I go to. Along with their specialized knowledge and ability they offer much patience and compassion.

©P. Booher

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