I loved the swish of the wind and the sound of the “ZZZZZZ” of the line. I cried out to GOD aloud, “This is amazing! It must be wonderful to be a bird to see all of this beauty at anytime!” I looked out over the canopy of the trees and zipped across the tree line shouting with glee. As I neared the platform I started to pull down on the break and I noticed it wasn’t slowing. I looked at the twenty-year old guy on the platform and noticed he was chatting with the other team members. He wasn’t looking at me. I heard in my heart, “You are going to hit the tree. Relax your body. Bend your knees. And when you hit push off the tree!” I had no time to think I just responded, and I hit the tree. HARD! My body responds even now with sweaty palms, and I can feel the UMPH reverberate in me. My response. LAUGHTER! I hide my fear and pain by laughing. I was in shock. I did not know I was hurt. The guy moved my zip line to the next line and went on to his next arrival. I never told him, "I am hurt!"
I was able to stabilize myself and allow the zip harness to hold me up as I felt my body shake. I remembered two of my students were afraid of heights and all I could think was “I cannot let them know that I am hurt. It will make them afraid.” We were on a two-hour tour zipping through the trees. I had no clue how far into the tour we were or how many zips we had left. I did know that the last zip was our fastest zip at about 35 miles an hour because our guide told us as we waited to zip across. I got on to the next zip hoping it was the last, too afraid to ask. I have no clue what I was thinking from this point forward. I just kept moving forward. I know there was lots of laughter and chatter all around me. I was silent. We were asked to move off the zipline after that zip because we were about to do our last zip. This is when I realized something was not right. I stood between two college guys that made me feel tiny when I started to feel like I was about to pass out. It was 100 degrees that day so they didn’t think anything of me asking if I could hold onto their shoulders. They thought it was because of the heat.
We were told that we were not allowed to get out of order but when the guy said that it was our last zip, I stepped out of line and walked right up to the zip and made him harness me. No one argued. I was the Dean of Women and the old lady on the tour. I got what I wanted in that moment. I listened to the ZZZZZZZ of the line for the last time and I have no memory of it.
When I landed, I walked off the platform and as I stood waiting, I realized that my feet could not handle my weight, so I sat down on the rocks. The guide yelled at me and said, “No one is allowed to sit on the rocks.” This is when I realized I could not stand well on my own and the realization hit me that I was seriously injured. Some of the shock was starting to wear off now that I was off the zipline, so I allowed myself to feel for the first time what happened. It was surreal. I noticed that students were walking up the gravel hill to get to our bus about 100 yards away. I called out to my daughter Mikayla and said, “Come here!” I whispered to her, “I can’t walk!” She had no clue what was happening. I told her, “Help me to get to the bus. I don’t want to make a big deal out of it.” She did.
Somehow, I managed to get from the bus to the restaurant where we were eating that was across the street. I went to go pay our bill and as I waited for the cashier this is when I knew I could no longer stand on my own. The pain was unleashing burning searing waves radiating through my feet and up my legs. I felt faint. I do not remember telling the male dean or what happened from that point forward. I have vague memories of my students carrying me and trying to watch them finish out leadership tasks in blind folds. But these memories are like glimpses into a movie scene that pops up. I have a hint of it, but not a full grasp.
I tried hard to make light of what happened because I hate being seen as weak. UGH! I am so prideful! “My new nickname is George! Just call me George and cry out, ‘Watch out for that tree!’”
I knew I needed to see a doctor and I knew I needed a wheelchair. I wondered how I would tell my Greg. Phone calls did not work in the mountain, but I could text, so I text him and said, “See if you can find the movie George of the Jungle and could you please get me a wheelchair! I hit a tree!” I don’t remember his responses either.
It is weird when you know you have walked through a moment, and you cannot recall it. We drove home to Nebraska the next day. I remember ice on my feet and a cooler holding me up. I remember kindness. Such kindness. Tears well up now, but I do not remember details.
The next day I went to the doctor and after x-rays and seeing several doctors I learned that I had crushed my heal pads and tore all of my tendons and ligaments in my feet, ankles, and up into my legs. Time would reveal that I also reinjured areas in my lower back. The doctor told me that what I heard before I hit the tree saved my life and kept me from living with a crushed spine. It was in this moment that I knew I heard the voice of God and I obeyed.
Today is the fifth anniversary of me hitting the tree and I would like to share what God has taught me. When Facebook reminded me that this was the day our team went ziplining, I realized that I am okay. In fact, I am finally ready to put to print what I learned from this experience. I never posted about it and only if you really know me well would you know that I went through it. Part of the reason is that I am prideful and vain. I have had to repent of both of those a lot in this journey. I would not allow my family to take photos of me in the wheelchair or using the walker because I did not want to look weak. UGH! I confess it now because I know the truth that when we are weak He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). The other reason was that I do not like writing or posting about things that I have not fully processed and allowed God to bring about His good fruit in me. I can with great joy say that on this fifth anniversary my heart is full and rich because of what I went through, and I know this is only because of what God has done for me.
Shortly after I was injured someone suggested to me that God allowed me to be injured because He saw that I was sinning, and He knew I needed a wake-up call. O my! How to process that! God quickly reminded me that “pain happens to good people doing good things” as much as it happens to “bad people doing bad things.” None of us are exempt from having bad things happen in our lives. Things go wrong. Bad things happen. It only takes a split second. What we need to ask ourselves is How can I draw near to God in my pain and suffering? How can I give God honor in my pain and suffering? And how can I give to others what I am learning through this journey? I was not living in habitual sin or sinning in any form that would warrant God causing me to hit a tree and get injured. Honestly, that did not resonate with what I knew about God. I needed to simply accept that bad things just happen. No one is to blame. They just happen.
As I reflected on my year and that I had chosen the leadership word of “Joy”, I realized that God prepared me in advance to be a person who chooses joy rather than whines and complains. I had already been praying for this character trait to be evident in me and I was able to pull on those prayers as I really wanted to whine and cry. I also realized once again how intimate my relationship with God truly had become. I heard Him tell me what to do and I did it. This realization gave me tremendous comfort as I processed my pain. It could have been so much worse!
It was the first time in my life that I felt a level 10 pain. I hate pain scales. I cannot honestly answer them anymore because I have experienced what I thought was a 10 on the pain scale. Labeling pain now seems almost unnecessary when it comes to my normal pain in any given day. How am I to scale pain when I know a 10? PAIN HURTS! And when pain is in full force it is so hard to think, care, or even see others much less put it on a scale!
One day I was determined to walk to my classroom to teach without using my walker to get there. I was so prideful that I refused to stay in the wheelchair as long as I should have or on the walker as long as I was supposed to. I was so foolish! As I walked across the parking lot between the Administration building, the dorms, and the classroom, I was trying to walk but my pain was so intense that I wanted to sit down in the parking lot and cry. I wondered, “What would my students think if they saw their Dean of Women sitting in the parking lot bawling?” This is when God gave me my pain song, “Thy will!” by Hilary Scott. There is a line that says, “Thy will be done!” over and over. I started singing that song in my heart for each step, “Thy will be done! Thy will be done! Thy will be done!” and before I knew it, I was finally in my classroom. I felt so exhausted and empty, but I did it! God helped me walk to my classroom by myself. I carried my own things and did it! TRIUMPH comes in the very small things. I wondered if my students learned anything from me that day, but I made it across the parking lot despite the pain. PAIN HURTS, but GOD showed me I am stronger. I am so much stronger than I realized. I had no clue how strong I really was, but He was making it clear. With Him all things were possible (Matthew 19:26).
I also learned that pain brought fear. I found that I was afraid of hitting things and in general I had this unusual sense of not feeling safe. I did not recognize this until one day in chapel as the worship song was being sung by our student leaders, I had a vision of God. It was so real that I felt it with my sense of touch. I saw a lion. A Big Beautiful LION! I walked up to Him, and He welcomed me with a nod of His mane. I laid down beside Him and nuzzled my face into His mane. It felt wirey and stiff. I started to run my fingers through the mane only to realize it was not easy to do because a lion’s mane is course. His muzzle felt like velvet, and I just curled up to Him and felt so safe. In this moment, I knew that God is safe, God is good, and God is present. I need not be afraid anymore. God did not make me hit the tree. He allowed it but did not make it happen. He was using it to teach me things so that I could give them to others as they dealt with pain and suffering. This vision was so real to me that I did not want it to end. I clung to that vision and used these verses as reminders of what God was teaching me.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
“O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His loving kindness is everlasting” (1 Chronicles 16:34).
“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (feet)” (Psalm 34:18).
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in our time of need” (Psalm 46:1).
Every morning I would rise-up and read the Psalms. They became nourishment to my soul. I was accustomed to reading large amounts of Scripture every day, but suddenly I found that I only had to read one and I was suddenly stopped by God. His Word was so alive and active in me. I felt His presence as never before. I found myself crying out, “I love the Jesus me, better than the me, me!” Begging God to grow the Jesus me and to remove the me, me! This prayer was especially important when I was home alone with Greg. I would work hard all day at school trying to hide my pain and then when I got home, I had nothing left to give Greg. God used Greg to minister to my pain in the raw, real, and ugly moments. Greg remained faithful and understanding when I was not the Jesus, me. He loved me even when the me, me showed up. God used Greg to be Jesus with skin on to me and show me love when I did not feel lovable. For Greg, I wanted to be more like Jesus than ever before. Eventually, I discovered that pain opened doors for me.
The truths found in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 became my heart cry.
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. 8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters,[a] about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many" (2 Corinthians 1:3-11).
I asked God to use my distress and suffering to bring comfort and salvation to those I served. I wanted people to know that I did not rely on myself, but God and that He alone is the one that delivered me and enabled me to give thanks and keep on walking. And if they did not encounter the Jesus, me then it was because I was the one who walked away from the God of all comfort and compassion not the other way around.
So where am I today with my feet and pain levels? I get asked this by those that know me and know my suffering. I am good. I am not where I want to be, but I am good. I know that God is good. God is safe. God is present. He is my help in my time of need. I have developed an incredible sense of empathy for pain and suffering. I can see it in people’s stories, bodies, and movement. God causes me to pray for people that I might not have ever seen before because now He has given me eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that is willing to respond. And feet that move slow! I guess I needed to slow down!
God surprised me recently. One night we were playing games and I had my feet up on Grant’s lap. He was unconsciously rubbing my feet. This is not something I have been able to tolerate since my injury, but on this night, God revealed a sweet gift to me. As Grant rubbed my foot, I jerked my foot back and he apologized so profusely as tears rolled down my cheeks. I tried to assure him, “Mommy is okay!” I jerked my feet because for the first time in four and a half years I felt pleasure at the bottom of my foot. It tickled! PURE JOY! I recently had prayed a different prayer. I simply said something like, “God, You have given us smart phones and smart brains. Will You please make my brain smart enough to heal my feet!” God heard and He answered. I can feel a tickle! That is bliss!
I still suffer from chronic pain and if I walk too much or do too much I limp, but I know that God is good! God is safe! God is present! And that God is opening doors for me to walk through simply because I know pain and His goodness through it. Now that is a beautiful thing!
I know you have your pain story. Everyone does. What are you doing with your pain? Will you use it to give God glory?
It is okay if you don’t know how. Just ask Him. I promise He is good. He is safe! He is present! And He will help you in your time of need!
"And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:15).
Happy 5th Anniversary to me!