An Authentic, Sometimes Gritty, and Always Hopeful Blog for All Who Live with Severe Physical Pain

Monday, April 2, 2012

Could my faith bear this path?

This is a photo of my scar taken three weeks after I had brain surgery which was four years ago on April 3rd.

On April 2, 2008, Warren and I drove to Johns Hopkins for my second surgery by Dr. Ben Carson, which would be my third brain procedure, and the grand-daddy of them all.  Dr. Carson would cut open my skull, cut through the durra (the leather-like coating of the brain), push aside the cerebellum, and access the trigeminal nerve.  Once he located it, he would attempt to de-crimp it, and pad the nerve with several cotton-ball looking pads made from Teflon.  (The virus, once it traveled to my brain caused the nerve to become compressed, kind of like what happens to your watering hose when it gets twisted up so that the water can’t run out.) We hoped that once the nerve could be straightened out, the signals would begin to “flow” correctly, so that my brain would stop interpreting simple facial movements such as drinking or eating, as being stabbed or electrocuted!

Two weeks earlier, I had retreated for a few days to a friend’s beach home to prepare my soul for the surgery.  Warren and I believed God had led us to the surgery, however, I still needed to work out some things with the Lord.  The risks of this kind of surgery were considerable, plus we already knew it couldn’t help with the growing other forms of facial and head pain I had developed as the result of my first botched brain procedure (performed by another neurosurgeon). 

I couldn’t help but wonder, “What if God, like in that first surgery, 
allowed more complications, for His own good reasons?  
Could my faith bear them?  Could my family’s?”

I had been studying  Proverbs 3 on my retreat, because I knew Dr. Carson would be reading Proverbs 3 the morning of my surgery.  He often speaks or writes about how it has been his long practice of reading the chapter of Proverbs that corresponds to the same day of the month.  

One verse particularly struck me.  I wrote it down on a note card and carried it with me in my purse, committing it to memory, and praying it frequently up until April 3rd: 

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart 
and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding.

In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him,
and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths.

Proverbs 3: 5-6 (Amplified)

These verses turned into my prayers for the days up to surgery.  I pondered them, and studied what it meant to trust and be confident in the Lord; and confessed my difficulty in giving up control for wanting to do things “my way”. 

Before surgery, God brought me to a place of accepting whatever path He would direct, regardless of where it led me.  I knew it would be the right one for me and for my family. 

The night before surgery, settled into our hotel room close to Johns Hopkins, Warren and I went to bed early.  As we lay lay "spooned" together, where we fit perfectly as long-time married couples do, I thought about the letters and other writings I had left behind for my family members and friends.  I wrote to them of my love for them and my confidence and peace in whatever path this surgery would lead me on, believing it would be God's choosing.  Even if I did not come home after surgery.  I even slept that night, something I have never done before surgery.

When Dr. Carson and his team welcomed me into the operating room, I felt as though I was entering a sanctuary, the room was so alive with God's presence.  Dr. Carson's humor greeted me with, "It's showtime!"  I laughed aloud, and it was genuine--my heart was light!

Surgery was a success--now I only rarely have those terrible electric strikes of pain.  It provides a great relief, amidst the other pain with which I journey. 

Now, about that incision photo:  Though somewhat gruesome in appearance, it marks a path too.  It now is a scar that snakes up my neck and head, hidden by my hair, unnoticed by others, but it is always part of my consciousness.  If I accidentally touch certain areas of it, I feel as though I have been stung by a bee.  During the night, I must change position frequently because it begins to ache, no matter in what position I lay.  But, it also is soothed by a cool cloth; and when my head is massaged, it almost sighs, “Ahhh.” 

My scar reminds me of my path.  It tells me to trust and to look to the Lord in every decision I make and in all that I do.  It reminds me that my own insight and wisdom will lead me astray.  I cannot make sense of my pain without turning to God.  When I do, I see goodness, joy and peace beyond anything I ever before experienced.  I get the chance on a daily basis to depend upon strength outside of myself.  And, it comes from God alone.

Jesus’ path too was jagged and difficult, and gruesome at the end. After his resurrection he bore the scars of it.  He took the journey for a reason--it was for us.  So that our paths would have meaning, through all their good and bad, and bright and dark and frightening places.  He did it so that we need never fear what comes before us, and to use our lives as little lights of hope for others along their own paths.

Scars, paths, hope, and glory.  Jesus, the Christ, came to save us!



  1. Thank you for this Judi. It is but timely to think of the path Jesus took for our salvation.... For me, no greater pain did Jesus bear to carry our sorrow and pain, the weight of transgressions let alone the insults spat at Him-being the rag King promised of old whom the Jews could not accept.

    The little path around your crown is a path filled with jewels strung around God's precious neck-because you have laden all unto Him and for Him.

    I do admire the strength that underlines and surfaces every pain-filled moments you have, with God's wisdom and promises.

    Indeed, you a heart after God's own......

    Praise God for your testimonies, Judi. They shed light as to how we have to face every situation God will make us go through.... to count our blessing, naming them one by one.... unlimited to pain and suffering.

    1. I have such little strength, little. I've come to see the Lord's strength in my weakness,as I am sure you have. Thank you for writing!

  2. Lolita said it all and so beautifully, so I ditto her every word.

    God bless you, Judi!

  3. Judi-
    Your Scars are like "Battle Medals" in my humble opinion-you carry them with you, knowing when they were put there and all that you went through. Now you know the outcome and I see a woman who has walked a LONG journey, carrying her cross with grace and FAITH. You are a testament to Faith-trusting in our Lord no matter how long the road seems to be.

    This blog reminded me of my 2nd Leg surgery-this time to again remove Scar Tissue wrapped around the Sciatic Nerve which required the doctors to "re-sect or move around" the deepest muscle in the Butt-called the Piriformus.

    I approached this 2nd huge surgery with JOY-just knowing everything would be fine. My faith was being put on a New Surgeon who got to meet "Martha" in a way he was not expecting. I strolled into his office, greeted him and said "Doctor- I just have one question for you, and if you can give me the answer I am hoping for, well I think we can work together to get this Pain GONE!"

    He agreed and wanted my question- "So Doctor, all I really need you to do is simply CUT OFF MY LEFT LEG, if you don't mind!" It took him a few seconds to find his voice as he stood looking at this crazy lady who had just asked to have her leg cut off-he told me "Mrs. Herden-I can't do that for you because the Pain would be worse-its called Phantom Pain-the brain's way of saying the body is missing a vital part and needs it!"

    So I pulled myself together and we moved forward. The Day of Surgery, unknown to anybody, I had a "Special" greeting waiting for my Doctor and the Surgical team: I had printed out a picture of a very old woman saying :

    "Greetings Everyone-Welcome to Martha's Leg Surgery. Now lets be very SURE as to WHICH leg we are working on-so PLEASE follow the Arrows I have drawn for you! Hope everybody does their job well and do NOT cut on me until you PRAY for me!!"

    Judi-to this very day, that doctor has my silly greeting hanging on his wall. He was shocked when the Pain returned with a vengeance after three short weeks. But as you know, we work with our left-over surgical results and do our best to keep going. God is there, right beside us.

    I pray you have a peaceful and blessed Easter. Be strong my friend. Be strong. Martha

    1. Martha--Your replies make me laugh every time--what Chutzpah!! Well, I'm sure of one thing...few doctors ever forget having met you!! I love the note you left for your doctor--and it's awesome that he saved it--hopefully to remind himself to pray over his patients!

      Blessings! Judi

  4. Judi-
    Forgot to mention that I had TAPED my GREETING to my BUTT-lets face it-I had be SURE they got my MESSAGE!!!

    I try to grab a mental PICTURE of what they thought as they rolled my body over, me knocked out completely and still finding a way to say HI THERE!!!!

    my heart is with you Judi. martha

  5. OMGsh..girl.. you are something! I love your sense of play with the doctors, while you still make sure they treat you with the priority you deserve!!

    Keep on doing you thing!! Judi

  6. Hey, Judi. Missing you. Hope all is well. Drop me a note.

  7. Judi, praying for you break...know God will use it to give you good things to inturn give out to us waiting to read your post. Blessings my sister.

  8. What would I do without such friends?? Thank you for your support and encouragement during my break time!! Blessings!!