When hit with an unwelcome, unpleasant situation, how do you handle it?
cry and feel sorry for yourself?
wish it would just go away, even ignore it?
dwell on the negative aspects?
use it as an opportunity for growth?
trust in God and live out your faith?
Accentuate the positive?
When I fractured my foot over 4 months ago, I chose all of the above at one time or another during the 3 month recovery process.
I didn’t know that breaking my foot would end up being a test of patience, courage, and faith. I learned so much! The photos below are the Before and After of the injury. It happened in a staff vs. parents soccer game. The top photo is some of us before playing, all optimistic (we ended up losing!) and not-yet-sweaty. The bottom is after, and you can see I am leaning on my colleagues Doni and Shaina for support to get weight off my foot. At that point I had no idea it was broken, it just hurt.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up. Ecclesiastes 3:1-3
Did you know broken bones take 6-12 weeks to heal? This recovery was a test of my patience! Solomon’s words reminded me that things I was feeling, both physically and emotionally, were normal, and to be expected. But, that doesn’t mean I was perfectly patient through it all! Sitting there in January and counting forward 12 weeks seemed like an eternity!
I had many opportunities to practice patience, and some days I blew it. The first week I was couch-bound in order to elevate my foot – it was boring, and it actually hurt my rear end more than my foot was hurting! Once I could get out on my crutches, I had to deal with how the crutches hurt my arms, how I had to sit and elevate my foot in my classroom full of energetic second graders.
Ultimately, God gave me patience and I had a fairly good attitude during my 3 month journey of healing. That’s what patience is, after all – not just an ability to wait, but the ability to have a good attitude while you wait. It wasn’t easy for me (patient is not a word my family would normally choose to describe me!), but I made myself consciously think about it. I literally had to choose patience each day, and give myself grace for each stage of recovery I was going through.
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10
Peter reminds us that our unpleasant situations are only for awhile. I had to wrap my head around the stages to expect from the healing process, and not get bogged down in FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) or unease about whether or not the fracture would heal properly. After the cast came off, I needed pure grit and determination to move forward into full recovery (more on this below).
One thing that helped me increase fortitude was to accept early on that bone-healing is a natural process, one which our bodies are miraculously designed to do. However, that process takes time, and there are certain things we can do to help. Certain foods have just the right nutrients for allowing new bone to build, so I ate lots of broccoli, salmon, spinach, and started taking a vitamin supplement. I also did some acupuncture. I admit that sometimes I let the thought creep in of “what if it isn’t healing correctly? What if I won’t ever run and jump around again?”
Another thing that gave me the courage to take each day and make the best of it was how so many friends and colleagues stepped up to help me out. We had a tradition of eating dinner on Tuesday evenings with some friends, and they brought dinner to me that first week when I was away from school and missing everyone and the normal routine. A friend brought flowers. When I was back at work after my couch-bound week, my awesome grade level team and my wonderful teacher’s aide stepped up to walk my students to all their specials, recess, and lunch, and do my lunch duty. My sweet husband and kids did much more grocery shopping, cooking, and laundry than I’m sure they ever wanted to, but it was much appreciated.
Faith, and Staying Positive
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12
I was bummed about missing out on some things. My first year in Asia, and I didn’t get to experience Chinese New Year around Bangkok. Couldn’t play in the intramural soccer season. Had to totally change my classroom management for 6 weeks – when you teach sitting at your desk with your leg up, you realize just how much you usually move around the room to teach! Had to depend on my willing and wonderful husband to scooter me over to work every. single. day!
If I caught myself straying from helpful and positive thoughts, I was mostly able to catch myself and focus on more practical thoughts, and maintain a bright outlook. After all, each time I had a doctor appointment, I received good reports from the doctor. I could see the progress with my own eyes in the x-ray – the fracture site was apparently sucking up the broccoli and kale! My obedience to the doctor’s orders to rest and elevate was paying off. God was faithful, hearing my heart cries to give me peace in this setback.
And it could have been worse – I could have been in the cast during hot season or rainy season (Thailand has 3 seasons, and if you’re going to be stuck in a cast, the dry not-so-hot season is the best option!) It could have been cracked in another spot; the 5th metatarsal is not a spot that generally has trouble healing. It could have happened just before summer break and therefore would have made a summer trip back to America difficult. So, keeping in mind these things helped in the tenacity department as well.
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Isaiah 40:29
After the cast came off, I had a rough couple weeks adjusting to the weakness in my entire leg, calf, ankle, and even toes. I underestimated how much all that would weaken from being restricted in the cast. I had “no might”. I cried through my first yoga class because my right leg was shaking the whole time and I was frustrated by that weakness. I’ve been athletic and active my entire life (I attribute it partly to spending my childhood on 6 acres of almonds and climbing the trees for hours on end), so I pictured that I’d get the cast off and just run right out of the doctor’s office and get back to life as it was before the soccer game in which I’d broken the bone. How did I think I wouldn’t take the whole 12 weeks to recover that I’d read about?
During those first couple weeks post-cast, I felt like the other part had been easy, now the real work was beginning. And it was, in the space between my ears. Laird Hamilton, famous big-wave surfer, says “Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your own two ears.” God, however, was in that space, offering me grace and strength (physical and mental), just as the words in Isaiah say. My mental strength was increasing every day just as my physical strength in my leg and foot was.
I quickly began to see this phase as a challenge to overcome. Whereas the first 6 weeks was a time of waiting, described more like hitting “pause”, the next 6 weeks can be described as a time of active progress, like hitting “play”. I added some positive affirmations to my morning prayer time, and pulled them to the forefront of my mind during the day. I decided to conquer the stairs the day my headmaster passed me and said with a big smile, “Hey, you’re not limping!” There are 40 stairs to my third floor classroom, and lots more stairs to the gym where the kids have their P.E. special – and now I can run up and down them again! But that first day I tried them, it was literally one step at a time.
I have a memory from when I was 5 and I had a blue and white bike, with little blue streamers dangling from the handle bars. One day my Dad determined it was time to take off the training wheels. I disagreed. He took them off anyway, and once I was seated, he pushed me off into the orchard where I surprised myself by riding my bike just as if the training wheels were still there. My Dad knew I was ready, but I was unaware, I lacked the confidence. Once I took off through the orchard, I was filled with glee at my newfound freedom. When I hopped on my bike for the first time after my foot fracture, I had similar feelings of freedom and confidence. Later, I saw the connection to our Father knowing what we’re ready for, and providing us the experience that will build our confidence so we can move forward. He “gives power to the faint (weak)”.
Little by little I increased what I did physically, and kept practicing patience as well, as I didn’t want to do things too quickly and cause full healing to be jeopardized. During spring break (celebrated here in Thailand as Songkran, a water and merit-making festival) we were on vacation on a beautiful island, and I participated in my first HIIT class and went jogging on the beach. I hiked, on rocky terrain, to a rainforest waterfall. My physical and mental strength was increasing daily; God is so faithful. Again He gave “power to the faint”, as faint means weak, and he knew I was weak, but didn’t want me to stay that way.
I’m past the twelve week timeline by a month or so now, and I continue to enjoy the strength I am building up, physically and mentally. I bike a couple times a week, up to 40 k at a time. I run, so far only up to 5 k. I do the HIIT class twice a week (I never knew what HIIT was, but I’m hooked now!) A few weeks ago I got in my head that I want to do a Spartan run, and talked my husband and 14 year old son into signing up with me. Additionally, one of our best friends from the states is going to come do the event with us. He’s been doing his own Spartans in California. A Spartan Sprint is a 5k+ run with 20 obstacles, such as mud pits, rope climbs, monkey bars, climbing walls, and much more. If you cannot complete an obstacle successfully, you must do 30 burpees instead. The Bangkok Spartan Sprint is less than 4 months away, and I am looking forward to what I can learn from training for it and participating in the actual race. I am looking forward to how God will continue to strengthen me mentally and physically in the coming months.
I participated in a water challenge awhile back in which I needed to drink 3 liters of water a day (not that hard to do in hot season here!), exercise a certain amount of times within the time frame of the challenge, and memorize scripture of at least 3 verses. I memorized these words from Ecclesiastes, an often mis-understood book of the old testament. I will end with these words, and I hope they encourage you as they have me.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil – this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. Ecclesiastes 3:11-14