Posts Tagged With: Suffering

The Saints are Stalking Me!

The Battle of Rebecca vs. Cigarettes continues…

So. I’m sure you’re wondering how I’m doing with smoking. This was never intended to be a blog about quitting smoking, but God works in mysterious ways. I started on the nicotine patch Sunday. It was my husband, Scott’s idea to do so. We had a full day ahead of us, going out of town to visit my family for a birthday party and then back in town just in time for a birthday party with his family. I knew Sunday was going to be rough but dear Scottie refused to delay another day. He put on his patch. I put on mine. Let the suffering begin.

I’m really proud of the fact that I only had 8 cigarettes that day. It was an incredibly stressful day. It was the wrong day to even try to reduce, much less quit.  Good gravy, if you’d offered me a crack pipe, I probably would’ve smoked it.

Monday was better. I didn’t smoke, but I felt fluish and shaky all day. Tuesday was no better. Wednesday, I decided the patch wasn’t doing me any good so I didn’t put it on.

Wednesday was a very bad day.

This is where the saints come in. Oddly literally.

Shortly after I began my quest to grow closer to God, I became more and more convinced I needed to simplify my life. When I look back at my little one bedroom apartment I had when I was single, it seems unreal to me that Scott and I have somehow managed to fill a 3 bedroom house to the brim. I’ve made a few attempts to “de-hoard” the house, but we’ve still got a long way to go. Right along those same lines, we’ve been trying to save money for our upcoming trip to Hawaii, which has brought to light how wasteful we are with our money.

As I was digging through my wallet, searching for cash one day, I found something I forgot I had: A prayer card for St. Clare! It was like a little confirmation: “Yes, you’re on the right track. Simplify, cast aside your quest for earthly things and continue to chase after God!” A few days later, after countless hours of shopping and searching, I decided not to buy a new purse, but to get an old one out of the closet instead. I have about 4 or 5 purses altogether, so buying another would be wasteful. I picked a purse out of the closet stash and what did I find inside? A St. Francis prayer card. “The right track indeed.”

Stalking you? Beloved, we went down this road a loooong time before you ever got on it!

The day of Scott’s Great Aunt’s funeral, I sat down to watch the daily mass that evening, but that day’s mass wasn’t available, so I watched the previous day’s mass. This is unusual for me to do. For some reason, I’ve very particular about watching today’s mass or doing without. The previous day’s mass was the memorial of St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, whom I had never heard of before. Yes, I’m a horrible Catholic who doesn’t know my saints. Well, since meeting him, I can’t seem to shake the guy.

I keep seeing him mentioned on blogs, Scott watched a documentary about him (right after I originally heard his story, before I blogged about it or said anything to anyone), my sister-in-law mentioned him the other day. Suddenly, the guy is everywhere!

Then came Wednesday.

A Brief History of Quitting

Let me give you just a little bit more back story. I’ve quit smoking before, but I think the longest I ever went without was just shy of a month. Maybe right at a month. I’ve used reduction a few times, but never actually quit after reducing cigarettes. The nicotine patch has been the only thing that ever got me through a full day. A few years ago, I was in the hospital for 4 days, and wasn’t able to smoke, but most of the time, they had me on a nicotine patch, plus, I’m sure the saline drip helped out. (I love a saline drip! They’re so refreshing!) Last Saturday, I did make it through the workday, but I smoked before I left for work and after I got home.

So, in the 12 years since I started smoking, I’ve never had to go even a full day without some sort of nicotine. I was not prepared for the harsh jolt of nicotine exiting my body.

Wednesday: The Day of Doom

By the time I arrived at work on Wednesday, it had already been about 12 hours since I had removed my nicotine patch the day before. It wasn’t long before I realized that the patch had been doing quite a bit of good, actually. I was visibly rattled, I kept jumping up and walking around, my chest became tight, it was hard to breathe, my hands were shaking. I went back to the ladies room at regular intervals to pray a decade on the rosary, offering up my little suffering for those suffering from major drug withdrawals. Despite the poor circulation in my leg, focusing on that pain hasn’t motivated me nearly as much as focusing on the pain someone else is going through from giving up heroin or crack or meth.

At lunch, something just broke inside me. I was exhausted from fighting the cigarette cravings. My blood felt as if it were boiling in my veins. I knelt down in the ladies room floor, fumbling with my rosary. I need help. Help! I grabbed my phone and hit search button. “Patron saint drug addiction,” I typed. My jaw dropped when I looked at the first page of results.

“Wh-what?” I asked. There he was again! I actually went back and forth for a minute or two (you’ve seen the name of this blog, right?) before my soul cried out “St. Maximilian Kolbe! Pray for us!!!” In my heart, I gathered those suffering from drug addiction around me and threw myself into my Aves, as I begged St. Maximilian to kneel with me. I burst into tears, ragged from exhaustion. I poured my heart out, but when the 10 Aves were done, there was peace.

Help along the way.

Scott and I went to the Catholic book store the next day and I picked up a St. Maximilian prayer card and a medal. I told Scott about what happened and what he had to say took me by surprise.

Scott: Maybe he’s trying to help you.

Me: Yeah. With quitting smoking.

Scott: That, too. But maybe he’s trying to help you with your blog.

Me: *Puzzled little face.*

Scott: Didn’t you read up on him? He’s the patron of journalists. He did a newsletter and a magazine and had all sorts of printing presses and equipment….

Well, obviously my blog needs all the help it can get, as can my poor abused lungs. However, I learned an additional lesson. The next time I see a saint is stalking me, I’m going to find out everything about them so that I may be able to ascertain why they are stalking me. Naturally, they’re trying to help. However, if I know what they’re trying to help me with, perhaps that can save tears later.

Categories: Chasing After God, Everything Else, Saints | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I Can’t Do This Alone

I’ve been doing a pretty good job of reducing my cigarette intake. Within about a week and a half, I reduced from up to 30 cigarettes a day, down to 10 a day. I got to that point by reducing down to 20 a day, doing that for a few days, then going down to 15 a day, and doing that for a few days until I got to 10. But something has happened at 10. I seem to be stuck.

Throughout this journey to quit, I’ve come to the realization that smoking isn’t just a crutch, it’s what I turn to when I’m stressed, bored, or tired to give me a little pick-me-up. I say I don’t have time to pray the rosary every day, but how much time do I spend smoking? And in those times of anxiety, shouldn’t I be turning to God in prayer?

I keep thinking to myself that I need to just cast off cigarettes cold turkey and throw myself wholly into the grace of God. I’ve been pretty good at talking myself out of it and telling myself that continuing to pare down gradually is better for me. It’s seamless. There’s no suffering. But every time I lit a cigarette, a thought sparked in my head: You trust your cigarettes more than you trust God.

Talk about the mother of all disturbing thoughts. However, I have a pretty strong sense of denial. I’ve been doing so well at reducing, there’s no reason to do anything crazy. Let’s be sensible, right?

I’ve been stuck at 10 a day for almost a week. To be honest, I actually had 11 yesterday, with the excuse of “an extraordinarily stressful situation.” Then, this morning, I had 2 instead of just 1. I shrugged off the rising worry that I’m moving in the wrong direction. On the way to work, I realized something. No, I didn’t have an epiphany or sudden divine revelation. I realized I didn’t grab my smokes!

There was a moment there where I nearly turned right back around to go and get them. I would never turn back to go get my rosary or my prayer book, but I couldn’t imagine getting through the day without my cigarettes. No matter what lies I told myself, I knew I needed to go on to work without them. It was no accident that I’d left them behind, this was God sending me a clear message.

I didn’t turn around. I turned up the rosary meditation CD I had playing in the car and just kept going. My mind kept working on all the reasons why I absolutely had to smoke, constantly coming back to the “no one would expect me to just go without completely!” Then, I remembered how small my cross was compared to those who are suffering from addiction to meth, heroin, cocaine, crack, and whatever other demons rear their ugly heads. How much easier it is for me. I decided to offer up this tiny suffering, asking that those suffering from more difficult addictions would be given strength.

As I drove on, stripped of my excuses, the rosary meditation song filled the car with the perfect words at the perfect time, “I can’t do this alone, but I can do it with You…”

Categories: Chasing After God, Everything Else | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Suffering, Offering it Up, and The Jesus Prayer

For some time now, I’ve had painful “pins and needles” sensations in my legs, especially when I lay down at night. About a week and a half ago, it started keeping me up at night, which I went into a little more detail about here. Propping my legs up on pillows and taking aspirin has given me some relief, but I still find myself lying awake, in pain and afraid. Afraid, because I have a little medical condition called hypochondria which turns every ache and pain into a blood clot headed straight for my brain. It doesn’t help that my husband has been working the night shift and I’m lying in bed alone.

Since my conversion, I’ve heard the expression “offer it up,” however, as many times as I say I need to look it up or find out more about it, I’ve never gotten around to it. A few nights after the pains started interfering with my sleep, I was lying in bed, starting to feel like sleep was impossible. As my legs ached, I worried about my health; as I worried about my health, I couldn’t sleep; the longer I couldn’t sleep, the more I worried about that and the prospect of facing a workday on little to no sleep….my blood pressure soared and my legs ached harder. I kept going around in circles until I was on the verge of a panic attack. Suddenly, a thought came to mind: You need to offer it up!

“Lord!” I said, “I don’t really understand what that means, but I want to give You this pain and this worry!” I thought of a couple I know who are militant atheists. I thought of my sins. I struggled to find the words to say. I thought of a simple prayer I saw on a blog, The Jesus Prayer. “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I said the prayer. Then again. And again. Then something unexpected happened.

I was laying there asking for just enough comfort to doze off. I certainly wasn’t asking for a lesson in the true nature of faith. However, as I prayed, I realized I was hoping for comfort. I asked Jesus to come to my side and I hoped He would come. The message came to me as plain as day: Faith does not hope God will come to our aid, faith knows that He will.

In that moment, I held on to the faith that God would come to my aid and prayed The Jesus Prayer over and over again. Within just a few minutes, I dropped off to sleep. Since then, my nights have been easier. When the pain troubles me too much, doing a few recitations of The Jesus Prayer soothes me to sleep straight away.

So what is The Jesus Prayer

The Jesus Prayer is a prayer used widely in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and is featured prominently in the book The Way of a Pilgrim. The prayer has scriptural roots in Luke 18:11-13:

 The Pharisee standing, prayed thus with himself: O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican. I fast twice in a week: I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven; but struck his breast, saying: O God, be merciful to me a sinner.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, it is repeated over and over, with the aid of a prayer rope as a meditative prayer, similar to how Catholics pray the rosary. The power of this prayer comes from the invocation of Jesus’ name, and the humility of acknowledging oneself as a sinner. Eastern Orthodox monks say the prayer hundreds of times a night in their private cells, in an attempt to internalize the prayer, thus praying without ceasing. Some say the prayer in sync with their breathing; others use it as a method of self analysis, listening as they pray to which words they emphasize. If the word “Jesus” is stressed, it points to needing to appeal to Jesus’ human nature, if the word “sinner” is stressed, it points to needing to repent and accept forgiveness of sins, etc. There’s more, of course, but I don’t want to go into it too far here. Bottom line, reciting the prayer helped me to focus on God during a time of distress and pain.

What is “Offering it up?”

This has been a strange concept to me, that would have been a lot less strange had I taken the time to do just a little bit of research. After browsing around, offering it up, is a means of drawing closer to Christ by uniting our sufferings to Him. There is no sacrifice or pain that can atone for our sins, but as Christians, we are meant to share in His sufferings. It draws us nearer to Him.

 For the Spirit himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God. And if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God, and joint heirs with Christ: yet so, if we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him. For I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us. –Romans 8:17-18

For unto you it is given for Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him. –Philippians 1:29

But the God of all grace, who hath called us into his eternal glory in Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little, will himself perfect you, and confirm you, and establish you. –1 Peter 5:10

 Furthermore I count all things to be but loss for the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but as dung, that I may gain Christ: And may be found in him, not having my justice, which is of the law, but that which is of the faith of Christ Jesus, which is of God, justice in faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death. –Philippians 3:8-10

Our suffering brings us closer to Jesus, who suffered so much for us. The best analogy I can come up with (and it’s awful, I know) is a child “helping” their mother out in the kitchen. The child isn’t really helping at all! But the child is learning and bonding with their mother.

So when I’m in pain and can’t sleep, rather than getting upset, getting worried, and complaining, I can offer that to God. I will cheerfully bear this pain as penance for the ugly things I said about someone else. I will bear it as supplication for someone who doesn’t know God. It isn’t even restricted to pain. It can be fasting, hardships, annoyances.

It’s a way of tolerating the pain and sufferings of life, large, small, and minuscule, by joining them to Jesus’ sufferings. I’ll go through this for You, Lord, and I won’t complain, because You suffered for me without complaining.

It really makes me think about all the things I complain about. Instead of getting upset about having a headache, taking lunch a few hours late, or not being able to sleep because my legs hurt, maybe I should take it as an occasion to remember the One who suffered for me and offer it up to Him.

You can find more information about offering it up at these sites:

I’ve been enjoying reciting The Jesus Prayer throughout the day, but I’m still working on the rest. I do love to complain and freak out. After spending a day calling just about every doctor in town and being turned away for an appointment, I was able to get an appointment next week with a new doctor. We’re praying that whatever is causing the circulation issues can be taken care of before there’s any irreversible damage. As far as smoking goes, in a week and a half, I’ve gone from 30-40 cigarettes a day down to 10 per day. As long as my resolve holds out, I’ll be done by the end of next week!

Categories: Chasing After God, Everything Else, On a personal note... | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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