This morning, I hopped out of bed, raced to the bathroom, and stood under the hot shower for fifteen minutes.
I know what you’re thinking. Big deal. I do that every morning. You’re so not impressed with my quarter-hour shower.
But maybe you should be.
A few months ago, that same morning routine went something like this:
I rolled over to face the wheelchair parked next to my bed, my broken ankle waking with me, the throb timing itself to match the staccato pulse blaring from the alarm.
I killed the sound and fumbled in the nightstand for another dose of pain medication that had worn off during the night. Which meant I actually slept a few hours straight. Pill swallowed, I started the forty-five minute countdown before it even began to touch the pain.
Shivering, I curled tight against the bottom sheet two pillows propped under my bad leg and tugged my sweatshirt sleeves down over my hands. The surgical site on my ankle, home to eight screws and a plate, couldn’t tolerate any weight. Not even a summer sheet. While my foot and leg burned all night, the rest of me froze.
When the throb in my ankle calmed to a much nicer ache, I scooted close to the wheelchair, and pep-talked myself through the physical process of getting up. After a brief struggle to sit, I slid off the mattress onto the chair, the ache in my ankle spiking, angry to lose its elevation.
Foot straight out and raised as high as I could hold it, I wheeled into the bathroom. Only to remember I’d forgotten to lay out my clothes the night before. If they weren’t on the counter next to the tub, where I had to sit to dress, I’d end up wheeling back into my room completely au natural.
And au natural in a wheelchair? So not attractive.
Clothes retrieved, I wheeled back in, and fought to close the double doors behind me. The shower door was easier. The trick came in reaching far enough in from a sitting position to turn on the water all the way. After a little effort, the handle moved around to warm.
And that’s when I realized my husband left for work without putting the shower chair back in the stall after he’d finished up.
There was no standing under the hot spray for me. There was no standing at all. Not from January to June on an ankle that broke, healed wrong, and had to be rebroken. During those six months, I lost most of my independence.
There’s a lot you can’t do when you’re down an ankle. Walk. Cook. Clean. Laundry. Stairs. Drive. Shop. Or reach anything taller than four feet. Daily things I’d taken for granted.
Now you can see why this morning’s quarter-hour shower was so remarkable. It had always been remarkable. I just never noticed until I couldn’t do it anymore.
After the doctor cleared me to put weight on my ankle, I started physical therapy. One of the ladies I met complained about the exercises, having to go three times a week, and how painful rehab could be. One day she looked at me and asked, “What’s your deal?”
I grinned. “I’m just happy to be able to walk.” And I was. Getting out of bed and landing on both my feet was enough for me.
I’d never been more aware of the phrase—You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
And we don’t know what we have until it’s taken away. But what if we could use our loss to see life in a fresh way? What if I took the experience with my ankle and applied it to the other things in my life I tend to blow off as a guarantee? What if we were grateful now for the things we are able to do every day? What if we took time to see the ordinary as extraordinary?
How would that kind of thinking change our days? Our world?
What remarkable abilities do you not realize you have today? Make a list of the everyday, average things you do and thank God for each of them. Because some days, we’re lucky to hop out of bed and stand in the shower.
"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."
Lori Freeland is a freelance author from Dallas, Texas with a passion to share her experiences in hopes of connecting with other women tackling the same issues. She holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a full-time homeschool mom. You can find Lori at lafreeland.com.
Publication date: October 12, 2015