The Pre-Wedding Fall and the Battle for Joy

On October 4th, my fiancé took me backpacking up into the beautiful Bitterroot Mountain range in Montana. His friend Jake also came, and he brought his dog, too. The four of us set off into the winding mountain trails for a 3 day trek.

Prior to the trip, people kept warning us that we were crazy for going in October and that it was going to be deathly cold. This, however, was not the case. The weather turned out to be perfect for backpacking and never got lower than 40 degrees. The fall colors were especially vivid, including the fire-yellow Larch trees that got more populated the higher we climbed.

After 3 hours of trail climbing, we bush-wacked another 1 1/2 hours to a lake where we set up camp for the night. The rushing of the water calmed the adrenaline built from constant exertion from the hike, and as my muscles began to relax the hunger set in. We built a fire and enjoyed deluxe camp food and boxed wine.

Nighttime, though, was not my favorite… If you remember, my previous camping trip involved a bear-scare, so I still haven’t gotten used to sleeping alone in a tent with unknown natures separated by nothing but a thin sheet of fabric. The first night I did not sleep; the second night, Jake’s dog slept on my toes and I felt better protected:)

Overall, we had an incredible weekend of hiking and exploring. The summit we were hoping to reach was called El Capitan, but boy did El Capitan fool us! Right when we thought we were getting close to the top, we got over the ridge and were met by a giant cliff wall, making it impossible for us to summit without picks and rope. However, the view was still breathtaking, and it was a steep enough/slick enough ascend that the adrenaline thankfully succeeded in pushing out my crippling fear of heights.

The day sadly came when we had to leave the mountainous refuge, so we packed up and started back down. Our packs were lighter from eating all the food. This was going to be a piece of cake. Or so we thought… We made it down the roughest unmarked areas down to the trail and got going at a steady pace. Too steady. Before I knew what was happening, my foot slipped on a mossy rock, twisting underneath me and bringing me sliding down it’s steep slippery side.

So much pain.

Jake called ahead to Jesse and the two of them helped get my ankle taped and calm me down. 10 minutes later I still couldn’t put any weight on it. Still 4 miles deep, we tied mine and Jesse’s packs on top of Jake’s so he stood about 8 feet high and 100 pounds heavier. Jesse pulled me unto his back. Thankfully they decided they weren’t going to leave me for bear food!

At first it wasn’t too bad. We could go for 20 minutes without a break. But then the fatigue set in; Jesse’s legs turned to jello, my arms and legs went numb, and Jake could barely stand straight without tipping over. What made matters worse was that the trail didn’t finish on a decline, but an incline! Come on!

Finally, 5 hours later we collapsed at the car– any longer and we would’ve run out of daylight. Praise the Lord, we were out! My love for my fiancé, his love for me, and his heroic act of carrying me out of the woods was a sure sign I was completely ready to marry him and rely on him through anything!

Gear unloaded into the car, Jesse tried to start the engine. It wouldn’t go. He got out and spotted the problem: we had a flat tire. As if the guys hadn’t worked hard enough! The two of them put their hearts into changing the tire and we made it safely down the mountain into town. The Lord provided us with a place to spend the night, and the next day we were able to get the tires fixed and make the 4 hour drive back to Idaho after a good night’s rest.

I spent a couple more days with Jesse’s family before flying back to Minnesota to finish wedding planning. The woman next to me on the plane let me elevate my swollen foot on her knees, God bless her. Dad met me at the airport with crutches and we scheduled a doctor’s appointment for the next day. I was convinced it was a sprain. Well, I was hoping it was just a sprain. It can’t be broken: I was getting married in 25 days!

X-rays came back with the hard truth. My fibula was fractured on both sides. It was broken.

The next week was agonizing, both physically and mentally. Tears flowed regularly. The pain wasn’t getting any less due to the way it twisted when it broke, the bone’s edges were jagged and nerves screaming whenever the pieces touched.

My heart had suffered it’s own fracture. I was going to have to accept this injury and my circumstance. It is what it is…

But the thought of being on crutches or not being able to walk down the aisle on my much-dreamed about wedding day was more than I could bear.

The next week I went in for a follow-up checkup, and the doctor decided that I was going to need surgery. Noooooooooooooooo. I couldn’t believe it.

However, has he discussed it more, it actually looked like surgery was going to be my best chance at healing sooner and more of a possibility that I would be able to walk for my wedding. My hopes were lifted and I agreed to go under.

The procedure was over before I knew it. They had given me a “block” to numb my nerves all the way down my leg so when I came out of the anesthesia I wouldn’t feel the pain from the surgery. It was completely “unnerving” and scary not to be able to feel my toes. I checked every once and awhile to make sure they were still there!

The next day the block wore off and I could finally feel my toes, but I wished I couldn’t! Everything hurt. They couldn’t give me enough painkillers. To say it lightly, I felt terrible.

My parent’s had been through this before with both my brothers and their sports injuries. They were post-op care professionals. They took turns staying home with me, watching episodes of dated comedy shows from the 60’s, cheering me up with chocolate covered pretzels and prescribed doses of drugs to relieve my discomfort. I couldn’t have felt better cared for.

Yet it was still difficult for me to hang unto joy. This was supposed to be the most joyful season of my life. For heaven’s sake, I was getting married in two weeks and I’m being pushed around in a wheelchair! I let the pain and the uncertainty of being able to walk down the aisle or not control my thoughts. Fear took root.

There were some particularly low days when I was ashamed and frustrated by my attitude. I couldn’t recognize myself. Why was I letting this ruin my life and pushing out my excitement? Acceptance was huge. I had to accept that the plans I had made for my wedding might not be how my wedding was supposed to be. Oh how I prayed for Jesus be my joy!

Having to depend completely on my parents again for my every need was not easy after being out of the house the past 6 years as well as anticipating heading into married life. But as I got used to it, I really began to see what a blessing it was to be able to spend so much time, literally at home, with my parents, especially since I hadn’t lived at home for so long and was now officially moving out of their house and getting married. I cherished that time.

My broken ankle did indeed slow down the entire wedding planning process. I managed to do some small tasks on my own, and those small tasks I really enjoyed doing because I finally found joy again, and I think the pace wedding month had taken on was a huge part of that as God made his presence known during sweet time spent in acknowledgement that this was God’s will. Everything we did was intentional, and the normal chaos that precedes the Big Day wasn’t threatening simply because it wasn’t physically possible for me to move or go anywhere! For that, I was truly thankful.

The doctor said that usually when the stitches get taken out is when a patient tends to try walking. At my first physical therapy appointment I expected to walk, and when I didn’t, I remembered I needed to give myself grace. It was going to take some time. I had to work up to it.

Three days before the wedding I ditched my crutches and walked with a cane.

Deep down, I knew that God was going to heal me. All throughout my life I’ve had injuries, and all throughout my life God has always healed me. Only trusting in His promises and praying for faith was what helped me to push aside my fears and doubts and believe His glory would shine even more because of it.

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