Here it is, the day after Valentine’s Day, not 24 hours since my last post, and I have to go to the dentist. Yay! Does anyone out there absolutely love to go to the dentist as much as I do?!

Just kidding. I am not afraid of going to the dentist but he ain’t my favorite medical person to see, either. He’s about number last on my list of medical people I just love to go visit, along with a few others I do not care to mention!

I bring up dental work because I had a minor miracle happen while I was just there an hour ago. I have to tell you about God’s answers to prayer when you’re just driving along doing what you’re supposed to be doing and you drive over speed bumps and potholes that try to throw you off guard. This one involved the oral surgeon I just saw. My face is still numb and minutes ago, I just swapped out the original gauze they stuffed in the hole where my tooth was.

I’m in the process of getting my braces. I needed them as a child, but I didn’t realize how expensive they were and how little money my dad made. Now I can afford them myself, so here I go! Or so I thought. Wait, they have to take out some teeth first. I wasn’t surprised.

I didn’t like what the original orthodontist demanded—that I remove 2 teeth on the top and 2 corresponding teeth on the bottom. I didn’t like her attitude, I didn’t like her manners, I didn’t like this feeling I was getting that she was just trying to push me through the money mill and coerce me to do what she wanted. The final straw was I had done some research before walking in there and when I brought up the options a previous orthodontist had shared, she admitted, “Oh, yeah… You could do that too.” Humph. I got a second opinion from her dental group and got exactly what I wanted: remove only the 2 bottom teeth that were crowns, anyway, as my bottom teeth were more crowded than my top teeth and crowns will eventually have to be redone. My top teeth have already straightened out from having braces on less than 6 months. This is a plug for you to do your research and advocate for yourself any time you walk into a medical situation. God may have another option for you!

So now it’s time to get my 2 bottom teeth extracted. My poor general practitioner dentist had a difficult time removing the left one last December. What were supposed to be 2 regular extractions turned into one oral surgery nightmare. He ended up digging into the bone of my jaw and leaving a small piece of the root in the bottom—he couldn’t even get the entire thing out! He was concerned that the other one was also going to be difficult and referred me to the oral surgeon, which brings us to today.

This guy really tried to scare me. They took x-rays and explained stuff and asked me to consent to being put under, which I adamantly refused. I, unlike a major part of the population, do not have any dental phobias. I’ve never been put under for dental work so I stood my ground and said no way! They had me sign scary paperwork—the kind you sign when you’re going in for major surgery, like you might die in the chair or something. Then they started numbing me up by applying topical anesthetic and almost immediately started giving me the injections. I also objected to this. He tried to tell me I was being resistant and again tried to get me to consent to going under. I corrected him based on how I was treated properly in other places—you wait several minutes, like at least 10, before coming back with that needle. Busted. He knew now he had to do it right; no more shortcuts. He had to walk away to wait and numb my gums properly. Another plug for you to do your research and advocate for yourself any time you have to deal with a medical situation!

While I was waiting for the numbing to take over the lower right side of my face, I got busy texting my singles leadership team whom I serve with, along with several other friends, asking for prayer on this dilemma since I wasn’t able to get to Facebook. I asked that they pray this surgery would be uncomplicated. I asked for prayer that this surgery would not become the nightmare that the previous one unexpectedly became. I asked for prayer that the bone that got removed from previous oral surgery and the adjacent tooth that got chipped would grow back bone. And you’d better believe I was praying the whole time they were clenching and wriggling that tooth around! The thought did flit across my mind that the old-fashioned way of tying one end of a string around my tooth, tying the other to a door, and slamming the door, would not have worked in my case since it was a relatively good tooth…

I shouldn’t have been surprised when, about :10 to :15 into the procedure, the surgeon called for suture material. I don’t know who was more surprised—me or him! He had this sheepish look on his face as he said something about it not being as hard as he thought it would be and walked away. Hang on, gotta swap out my gauze again.

I was so grateful to the Lord for hearing my prayer and the prayers of my friends! I told the dental assistant that I was praying for them and this situation while they were in my mouth. He didn’t seem sure how to take it. All he could do was smile wryly and say, “Yeah, I guess He heard your prayers” then proceeding to give me post-surgery instructions. I think I spent more time in my car giving all my praying friends the victory report via text and Facebook than I did in surgery!

Speed bumps and potholes, AKA trials and tribulations. Trials and tribulations, particularly the unexpected small ones, are like speed bumps and potholes. They’re in everyone’s lives, like it or not. They may jolt us, slow us down, or detour us, but we have to keep going. Stopping and never rising is not a viable option for the Christian. It’s what the devil wants, but it’s not what we were saved for. Pacing, watching, and praying are a much better option.

God has promised to be with us during the trials and tribulations that come our way. He didn’t promise to remove every trial and tribulation, but He promised to get us through them. If we didn’t have trials and tribulations, how would we grow spiritually? How else would we develop godly character? How else would we learn to walk by faith and not by sight? How else would we become a testimony and a light to those watching us go through our worst? Knowing our penchant for comfort and ease and status quo, we wouldn’t. You know it and I know it.

There are the big, astronomical, catastrophic events that we hope never to experience but sometimes do anyway. Sometimes extraordinary things happen to ordinary people. I’m not talking about those today, but I will in a future blog. I am so, so sorry if that’s you right now.

My heart goes out to you. I hope and pray you have people you trust that you can talk to about what happened to you. I hope that you have the kind of relationship with Jesus that gives you the confidence to talk to Him about what happened. Pray for strength and healing and cleansing.

Then there are the little bumps and potholes on the roads of life that can derail us, if we’re not careful. That’s what I am talking about today. How can I—and how can you—be prepared for those unexpected twists and turns and bumps and holes in the road to life that can flip our worlds upside down?

These thoughts now come to mind: prepare ahead of time by doing your research and get into a prayerful mental posture, if you can. You can only get into this prayerful posture by setting aside a specific time every day to pray and read your Bible with a watchful attitude. This is like making sure the brakes, shocks, and struts in your car are in top condition as you’re riding down the road of life. Sometimes the road of life is bumpy because we are not prepared. One of my favorite mottos came from a Latter Days Saints leader, Ezra Taft Benson. I don’t espouse the doctrines of Mormonism, but I like his quote: “Prepare and prevent or repair and repent.”

Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself when needed. Respectfully, but firmly, stand your ground to make something right or keep something from getting worse.

Pray before, during, and after you run into a speed bump or pothole. And be sure to ask others to pray for you! Be so prayer-ready that it’s really hard for the forces of darkness to come at you sideways with a surprise attack. This is not asking for prayer instead of action. This is praying alongside your actions. Sometime this month, I am going to figure out how to create a page on my blog that lists several national prayer ministries you can contact for prayer.

Stay calm and disperse negative energy. Avoid negative coping skills that reinforce negativity and being stuck such as yelling at someone, focusing on someone else in jealousy or envy, eating, sleeping (unless you’re genuinely tired), spending money frivolously, burying yourself on the Internet or in pornography, substance abuse (including overuse of prescription medication, carbs, or chocolate), gambling, sex with anyone whom you are not legally and legitimately married to, cutting, power plays, or attention-seeking. Of course, this is not an all-inclusive list; you know what your poison is.

Instead, use positive coping skills: deep breathing techniques; pray; exercise; watch your blood sugar and eat nutritious meals; meditate on scriptures specific to your situation; get adequate sleep; listen to soothing, refreshing and positive music; read your Bible or encouraging Christian literature with purpose; contact a trusted friend for prayer and refocusing; reframe your situation into a future strength for yourself; engage your emotions in positive self-talk that will steer you into a righteous response to the situation.

Now that I am almost out of gauze and I have reviewed the directions that dental assistant gave me, and my face no longer feels numb, I’m going to see if the bleeding has stopped so I can go work out. If not, that’s fine because I don’t feel like eating, either, so I will not ingest any more calories. That gives me time to work on another blog article for another day! See what I did? What I just did is somewhat like reframing: taking a disappointment or negative event and restating it to yourself so that it has a positive outcome for you. Only the true Christian can reframe every single thing that comes at him or her in this life.

Recognize important priorities and pick your battles. Not everything needs to be a power struggle. This is one I struggle with at times, especially driving on the freeway with what looks like mountains of drivers with really bad, even stupidly dangerous, driving habits. Do you see, several times a day like I do, drivers slow-poking in the fast lane or crossing several lanes of traffic just to make the next off ramp or intersection? Ah, so it’s not just me! You and I both have to leave earlier, then, and just relax during bad traffic and watch out for those knucklehead drivers. (Is it wrong to pray that they don’t hurt anyone but themselves?)

Remember that this, too, shall pass. Tomorrow’s coming. Tonight’s coming. Sunday’s coming. Heaven is for sure coming.

And give God the credit when you get through it! And be sure to tell all your friends who were praying for you so that you may all be encouraged to watch and pray. By the way, if you would pray for the bone to grow back in the left side of my lower jaw, where the first extraction took place, as well as the chipped tooth next to it to be filled in where it got chipped, I would really appreciate it.

See you at the dentist’s office!

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