10 Lessons I’ve Learned From Being Broken

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In order to appreciate what I’m about to tell you, you have to understand how I got here.  Some of you already know this story, so bee patient (pun intended…you’ll see why!).

Back in July I did something that I rarely do: I weeded my garden. I deeply regret my poor decision to partake in this activity, and I have already promised myself never to do it again. Under the best of circumstances, weeding is a mundane and terrible task. On this particular occasion, however, my garden weeding actually changed the course of my life.

I had been weeding the flower beds in front of our house and I was nearing the end of the final bed when I decided to pull up a clump of dead/dying flowers/weeds (Don’t ask me what the plant actually was because I know next to nothing about plants. It was ugly, though, so I decided it had to go.). I was in the zone (which is code for I was trying to get this horrendous chore over with as quickly as possible), so without thinking–or even really looking–I stepped into the garden bed, reached both hands down to the base of the plant, and pulled as hard as I could.

Now, usually what you would expect to happen next is that I pulled up the plant and went on my merry-little-weeding-way.

But that didn’t happen.

Not exactly.

You see, when I pulled up the plant it did dislodge from the ground. That part was fine. What wasn’t fine was what else I dislodged from the ground when I pulled that plant with all my might. Specifically, an entire nest of (very disgruntled) ground wasps.

Before I even knew what was happening I had an entire colony of wasps attacking me (Which I really can’t blame them for because I would do the same thing if a giant came and pulled up my whole home with all of my buddies in it.). The wasps started stinging me and chasing me and stinging me again. And again. And again.

So I did what any rational adult would do in this situation: I ran flailing through the yard yelling obscenities while I stripped off all of my clothing. My children, who had been playing nonchalantly in the yard, were witness to the whole wasp escapade. I’m pretty sure we’ll now have to take them to therapy for PTSD after what they witnessed on that fateful day. Thankfully we captured the whole thing on our surveillance cameras, so if paying for the therapy becomes a burden I can always submit the videos to AFV and use the prize money to pay off our bills.

All said and done, I had been stung close to 20 times. My entire body swelled up for a week and I developed a close relationship with Calamine Lotion and ice packs.  But I’m a fighter, and I pulled through The Wasp-pocalypse of 2019. I am a survivor.

Which brings me to my present predicament. You see, when I was flailing my body through my front yard trying to ward off the wasps I actually did some damage…to myself. Somewhere between karate chopping the evil bugs and twisting out of my t-shirt I managed to pull some muscles in my back.

I’ve had back injuries before (basically non-stop since babies decided to inhabit my womb and pull all of my joints out of place), but this time was different. My back pains before had come and gone with enough time and rest, but this bugger wasn’t ready to move on.

By October, 3 months after the Wasp-pocalypse, I was still experiencing chronic back pain. It hurt to stand. It hurt to sit. It hurt to move. Heck, it even hurt to think about moving. I’d tried resting and stretching and thinking good thoughts, but nothing was helping.

So, finally, I decided to take action. 3 weeks ago I started Physical Therapy (PT) to *hopefully* build back up some strength and get along with my life. My PT journey has been fun so far, mostly because literally every person in my family (Mom, Dad, sisters, even a cousin) are PT’s and I finally get to see things from the other side of the workout room.

But it’s also been hard. And uncomfortable. And not always fun. It’s a lot of work building yourself back up when you’ve been broken. Through my being broken I’ve learned a few things about myself and the process of building myself back up. Wisdom I will now share with you, my friends:

  1. Give Myself Permission For Healing
    This was the hardest thing for a long time. I’m so used to taking care of others and attending to their needs that it was difficult to allow myself the time and space for my own healing. I figured if I brushed my own needs aside for long enough, eventually they’d take care of themselves. Not true, and not what’s best for me.
  2. Admit I Need Help
    I tried (haphazardly) doing things on my own. And when that wasn’t enough, I had to humble myself enough to ask for help. In my case, this was professional help from PT’s who have spent 5 or more years of their lives learning how to put broken people like me back together.
  3. Patience
    Healing takes time. I’m definitely a subscriber to the immediate gratification model, so this one is difficult for me. But I’m learning. I’m learning to do what I can do now, with the hope that a payoff will be coming. Some day.
  4. Don’t Sweat the Setbacks
    One of the activities I want to return to is running. I’m a former marathon runner who literally can’t even make it a mile before I’m doubled over in pain. So when my PT told me to try incorporating a bit of running again I decided to go jog a few miles. Not a good idea. In fact, a very bad idea.By the time I’d hobbled back home I was in so much pain I didn’t know if my back was even still attached to my body. But I didn’t let that deter me from trying again. After resting for a couple of days I tried again, this time just running for 1-2 minutes at a time and then walking. And do you know what?! It worked! It still hurt and it was still incredibly discouraging to see the failings of my body, but I made it. And I’ll keep trying until I finally get it.
  5. Allow Myself Rest
    Oh, this one is the actual WORST! Sometimes I view rest as a 4-letter word in my mind, and it is so so hard for me. On an intellectual level, though, I know that rest is one of the parts of my program that I need in order to heal. So I do the most Type-A thing you could do and I literally schedule rest into my calendar. I even have an alarm on my phone. In fact, as I write this post I’m sitting on a chair propped up by pillows with an ice pack on my back…hey, whatever works!
  6. Be Kind To Myself
    This process has not been easy or pretty and nothing is happening on the timeline that I would like it to, but I’m trying to think positive. I’m being my own cheerleader and I’m encouraging myself. A huge part of healing is mental, and I’m going to use that to my advantage.
  7. Consistence + Persistence
    I have to do my exercises every. Single. Day. If I slack for a day, the losses start to compound very quickly…and the only person this hurts is myself. Consistency.And consistency requires persistence, even when it’s not easy or convenient. Sometimes this means I have a preschooler stretched out on my yoga mat with me during my exercise block. Sometimes this means sacrificing 2 of my 4 “solo hours” a week while all 3 kids are in school at the same time to go to my PT appointments. Sometimes this means saying no to an activity that I want to do because I know that it wouldn’t help with my healing right now. Healing requires persistence, one small decision at a time.
  8. Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself
    May the truth set you free.
  9. Accept That Things May Never Be The Same
    As much as I want things to be “back to normal” I’m quite aware that I may never be able to return to some activities or perform at the level that I once did. Whatever my new normal is, however, I can adapt and embrace it for what it is.
  10. Find Joy In The Process
    I’ve tried to find small ways to make this awkward process more enjoyable. I watch cheesy TV shows while I do my exercises (Did you know that Randy on Say Yes To The Dress is finally designing his own bridal gown collection?!). I pretend that I’m at the spa while I’m getting (incredibly painful) deep tissue massages at PT.  Heck, I just think about the ridiculous way I got myself into this predicament and I can’t help but laugh. And when all else fails, I remind myself of why I’m doing this, and it makes it all worth it.

Whatever brokenness you’re healing from–be it a wasp-related injury or something more profound–I wish you the best on your journey. Be persistent, be kind and, above all, find joy in the process.

Hope on the Day My Baby Would Have Been Born

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Today is heavy.

Off an on for the last six months I’ve been dreading today because I knew that today would come, whether I was ready for it or not. That no matter how much I worked to let go and move forward, that today would be a difficult reminder. In fact, this day will come every year, and it will be a reminder.

Today is the day my baby would have been born.

I’ve written a lot on here about my miscarriage and, had that pregnancy continued, today is the day our child would have been born. Instead, where there should be presence there is absence, and where there should be joy there is a touch of sadness. I miss the baby that I never got to meet, and I am reminded so clearly of this fact today.

I’m not sure if the pain of losing a child–even a child who I never got to meet–will ever go away completely. What I do know, however, is that there is hope in the midst of pain. Hope in my past, hope in today, and hope for tomorrow.

Hope in my past because I even though I was not in control over my loss, God was. And He loves this child even more than I do. His hands were the first to hold this child, and he will keep her close to his heart forever and always. His heart breaks along with mine, and He sheds tears in time with mine. The reassurance of His plan and His presence–even in the darkest of days–has given me hope.

There is hope in today because I am made new in Christ. The hurt and loss of my past do not define me–rather, they have caused me to seek Him more thoroughly and grow more closely into the person He created me to be. There is hope today because I have much to be grateful for: a new home, the start of a new school year, a healthy family, silly boys who never let me off my toes–even another baby on the way. There is hope in today because at 5:30 this morning I was awoken by the sweet serenade of “You Are My Sunshine” and butterfly kisses from my 3-year old. There is hope today because today is a beautiful gift that I will only get to enjoy once. I intend to do that.

There is hope for tomorrow because the best is yet to come. Although pain is an inevitable part of life, there will always be another tomorrow. My tomorrow is looking brighter than ever, and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.

So on this heavy day, my spirit is lightened by the hope that remains.

Today, tomorrow, and for always.

Finding Grace In My Miscarriage

daffodilThis post will not be funny. In fact, it will not even be fun. But I need to write it. I need to write this, because writing helps me process my own thoughts–and I have a lot of thoughts racing through my mind right now. I need to write this because some day this moment will only be a memory, and I’ll want to remember the details. I need to write this because I need your prayers right now. I need to write this because I know I am not alone in this struggle–and if I can help any of you to feel hope or peace knowing that you are not alone, then it will be worth it.

Today was supposed to be a fun day–I would have gotten a popup from the baby tracker app on my phone that told me all about my fetus who would turn 8-weeks today. My baby would be the size of a raspberry and have brain cells growing at the rate of 100 cells per minute. But instead of being 8 weeks closer to meeting our new baby, I am saying goodbye to a baby that will never be. I am in the middle of one of the greatest challenges I’ve ever found myself in: a miscarriage. It’s one of those experiences that I’ve witnessed in others and prayed to never have brought upon myself. And yet, here I am.

When Jon and I found out on Christmas Eve that I was pregnant, we were overjoyed. We had been praying for this child for over a year, and it felt like we’d scored the jackpot. It was a Christmas miracle! Since we were in Washington for the holidays, we got to share our happy news with all of our family and closest friends in person.  Looking back, I am so grateful that we had that time to share our joy with the people we love them most. For the moment, it seemed, everything was perfect.

Unfortunately, our joy was short-lived. Once we returned to California I made an appointment with my doctor to confirm the pregnancy. But during my first routine blood test, a problem quickly became apparent. My pregnancy hormone levels were raising, but not as much nor as quickly as they should be. Over the course of that week I returned to the doctor for half a dozen blood draws, prescription medication, and two ultrasounds. Then, last Friday, January 16th, I got the very diagnosis I’d been dreading: our pregnancy was coming to a close, and there would be no baby to meet at the end of it.

The doctor explained to me that I was experiencing something called a blighted ovum or an anembyonic pregnancy. What this means is that a fertilized egg attached itself to the uterine wall, but the embryo never developed. Somewhere in those very early stages of development, something went wrong. My body didn’t know this, though, so it kept preparing to host a new life. The pregnancy sac and the placenta developed, and I experienced the normal side-effects of first-trimester pregnancy. There was no way I could have known what was actually happening inside my body, and there was nothing I could have done to change the outcome.

Eventually my body will realize that the baby is no longer developing, and a physical miscarriage is imminent. My doctor gave me the choice of taking medication to initiate this process, or of going in for a medical procedure, or of simply waiting for nature to take its course. I opted to wait for a week to see if things will occur naturally, but when I return to the doctor this Friday we will decide if there are other steps that I want to take. For now, though, I am in that gray area of waiting. Waiting for something I am dreading and mourning. Waiting for the inevitable unhappy ending to my fairytale. It’s horrible, and I am broken.

A few days ago I went for a run to try to clear my mind. And as I was out there, alone on the trail, I came upon something that made me stop in my tracks. Right there on the side of the trail was a clump of daffodils, pushing their way out of the soil and proudly blooming in the sunlight. My first thought when I saw the daffodils was that this just wasn’t right.

Having lived in cold places all my life, the blooming of daffodils has always been a sign for me of triumph and new beginnings. Daffodils come at the end of the darkest season to remind us of the light that is to come. You see, in cold places, there is this season that comes every year called winter. In California we don’t so much get winter as we get a few cool-ish days mixed in with the usual sunshine. Winter in cold places is different. Everything is frozen and dark and bleak. The plants wither away to shriveled twigs and the animals go into hiding. I detest it. And then, just when it seems you’ll never enjoy daylight again, Spring arrives. The sun begins to warm the earth, the animals come out of hibernation, and the plants awaken. The daffodils bloom. I know that the worst is behind us and a new season has begun.

So as I was standing there staring at daffodils blooming in the middle of January, I understood something. These lucky California flowers didn’t have to endure the long winter and fight for survival, yet they were still allowed to blossom and grow. They were experiencing undeserved grace, getting something wonderful even though they’d done nothing to deserve it. And you know what? I am experiencing that same grace, even in the midst of this darkest hour.

Every time I hug and kiss and snuggle the two sons I already have, that is grace. Every time my husband encourages me or lets me cry on his shoulder, that is grace. Every time a friend calls or texts or sends me an email to let me know they are praying for me, that is grace. Every time I find joy in the midst of pain, that is grace. Every time the sun rises on a new day, that is grace. Every time I am reminded of where my hope lies–not in the fleeting conditions of this world, but in my eternal salvation through Jesus–that is grace.

And, even though I so desperately wanted to meet this baby, there is grace in this miscarriage. I don’t know why my baby didn’t grow, but I do know that God knew how this story would end before it even began. He allowed this to happen and, some day, I may even understand why. You see, God never promises to spare us from pain. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The Bible promises that life in this broken world will be FULL of hardship and strife. But God has an answer for that pain. He promises to be with us in our struggles, to comfort us and to heal us and to strengthen us. He promises to never leave our side, and to give us hope when we feel hopeless. Despite my great grief, I feel that overpowering peace that I know could only come from Him. I am reminded of God’s promise:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

So that is the grace I am holding close to my heart today. Even though all I see right now is a disaster, God has a plan. He has a plan for me and my family and our baby who He’s already called Home. He has plans to pull me out of my despair and allow me to flourish again. This ordeal is not meant to harm me, but to grow me in new and challenging ways. He reminds me that my hope has simply been deferred, not abandoned–and that my hope in His Truth has been strengthened.  He promises me a future. This is not the end of my story.

And just like the daffodils, I will bloom again some day. But first, I have to get through the long, dark days of winter. I will survive, and I will live to see the light of a new beginning.

By God’s grace, I will triumph.