Therapy Sessions

I’ve been spending a lot of time in therapy lately–physical therapy–with my hubby watching his body pushed beyond its physical and mental limits. Some days I wonder how much more he can take. It’s not easy to watch someone you love struggle, even when it’s for their own good.

Two surgeries after dislocating his right shoulder and fracturing the humerus, my man is working hard to regain strength and range of motion in his dominant arm. I can see pain and determination on his face as he tries to do simple tasks like walk his fingers up a wall. Sometimes I sing the itsy bitsy spider song while he does his wall walks. He does not think I’m funny when he’s in pain. Pain pushes him to his limits every single day and I wonder how much more it will take for him to recover.

The therapy process is slow because the injury was severe. I’ll never forget watching the therapist move his arm gently and slowly those first few weeks. Muscle and soft tissue damage in addition to the fracture had restricted him to passive motion only. He wore an immobilizer to strap his arm to his side. Movement was a big no-no because his body needed time to heal.

I listened one afternoon on our drive home from a therapy session as he vented frustrations about how it seemed like nothing productive was happening. The therapist had spent the entire 45 minutes stretching and massaging his arm. It felt like a huge waste of time. How was he ever going to get back to normal when he wasn’t even able to lift his own arm? He was completely dependent on others to bathe, get dressed, tie his shoes, and even cut his own food. He was so over it. He wanted to be independent and back at work. Truth be told, we both wanted those things. I tried to explain that if he did more than his body was ready for too soon that he could re-injure his arm and do more damage than good. I told him that we had to trust that the therapist knows what he’s doing and that in time he would regain some independence. Please, Lord, let the man be able to scrub his own armpit. Amen.

My husband’s body had been broken. Overnight our lives had been turned upside down and we were living in what I call a haze of grace. There was a lot of HGTV, Food Network, and series binging on Amazon Prime. I ordered take out, made ice packs and tried to keep up with laundry. Oh and then there are the medical bills. We survived on the prayers of our family and friends and several pints of Haagen-Dazs ice cream. But it wasn’t enough. I was falling apart. Again. My world had been rocked and I thought I could pretend that it was all just fine.
The trouble was that I didn’t have time to fall apart. This was not a good time for a breakdown. People needed me and I found myself reverting to a lot of old thought patterns because that’s what I do when I’m in crisis mode. I do what I know, even when it doesn’t help. Basically this looked a lot like beating myself over the head with a baseball bat for not being super woman every moment of every day. I wasn’t a good enough wife. I was the fattest person in the room all of the time. I wasn’t a good enough mom. I wasn’t a good enough Christian because if I were good enough probably none of this crap would have happened in the first place. Jesus was counting on me to suck it up and be a good example of mercy for heaven’s sake!!! I found myself wallowing in a pit of shame for not being enough for this crisis.

Welcome to my pity party. One night I climbed the stairs to my bed after tucking my husband into his recliner, crawled into bed, grabbed my journal and wrote,
“The pain is really bad today. My pain—emotional pain. My brain is so fuzzy I can barely function. There are so many hoops to jump through on any given day. I don’t have the will to jump today. I’m sleepy. I just want to cry and let it all out. The trouble is that I’m not sure I can. I look at my mental list of things that should be done to make it all better and it’s like a wave of depression crashes over me and drags me down–way way down. It’s no wonder people don’t want to continue to live like this day after day. I wish I could just sleep it all off and wake up to everything being better. God, why does this keep happening to me? What can I do to make it never happen again? I wish there was a reset button I could hit on my life. So many mistakes. So many things I wish I could un-do. If only I could make peace with my messy life. But I can’t. I hate it…
I’m feeling terrible—I couldn’t feel worse. Get me on my feet again. You promised, remember? When I told my story, you responded. Train me well in your deep wisdom. Help me understand these things inside and out so I can ponder your miracle wonders. My sad life’s dilapidated, a falling-down barn; build me up again by your word. {Psalm 119:25-28 The Message}

If this was a song I’d play it over and over again. It’s the cry of my heart tonight.
Jesus, help me understand these things inside and out so I can ponder your miracle wonders. Build me up by the power of your Holy Spirit and your living breathing word. Thank you.”

I wish I could tell you that I woke up the next morning and everything made perfect sense. It didn’t. But somehow along the way I began to see that I was broken too. I didn’t have the physical injury that my husband had, but I was just as in need of healing. Overnight our lives had been turned upside down and I needed to give this crisis the respect it deserved in my own life as well as my husband’s body. There wasn’t a single thing I could do to make it better. In fact, all of my trying to be better was just making it worse. I needed to trust the Therapist and let Him do his job. I had to stop trying so hard.

For my recovery I’ve been reading encouraging books written by people who dare to use their pain to help people like me see that my messy imperfect life is covered by more love and grace than I will ever be able to sort through in this lifetime. I’ve started praying more than reading my Bible. I’m allowing Jesus to tend to my broken heart and I stopped beating myself up for not being good enough when he is more than good enough. I sleep more. Sleep is good, like really good. I watch Jimmy Fallon YouTube videos and laugh a lot more. People are alive because of Jimmy Fallon. Finally, I told that mean bossy B in my head to leave and never come back and she did. We are all the better for it.

Some wonderful crazy things happened when I stopped trying so hard to be good enough. Joy returned. It had been a couple of years since I’d had any joy. Anxiety was the front and center drama queen demanding ALL of my attention. The slightest misstep would send me into a full blown meltdown. Something as annoying as being late for an appointment took days to recover from. Perfectionism once again had its hooks deep in my soul. I felt hopeless that I could ever get free. Guess what? Anxiety is not front and center any longer. I’m a total freaking mess AND IT’S OK. I’m not doing a single thing I thought I’d be doing at this moment in life AND IT’S OK. It’s really ok. I have peace again, and man, I have missed it. I stopped clinging to the HaagenDazs life raft and have embraced healthy food again. It’s so much easier to love people when peace and joy are actually welcome in my heart and mind…and I’m not jacked up on caffeine and sugar 24/7.

I wonder what our lives would look like if we truly believed how much God really loves us. What if we simply rested in believing that he is enough and we are loved?

Sometimes we have to stop trying so hard and let the Therapist do his job. It might not feel like much is being accomplished, but when we allow for rest and healing to take place in our brokenness we will be stronger for the people and the plans God has for our lives. The Therapist knows what He’s doing. He really does. After all, my man has started to do planks at his physical therapy sessions. His muscles are shaky and it hurts like heck, but I’m beginning to think anything is possible.

Thank you for praying for us. Your prayers are powerful. Don’t ever forget it. Thanks for stopping by.

The Queen Must Die

It was Sunday morning. I thought it would be nice to serve country style ribs with fried rice for dinner that evening so I took the meat out of the fridge and prepped the crock pot.

My beautiful niece had driven 16 hours across the country with her grandmother the day before. Now she was standing in my kitchen.

“Do you like ribs?” I asked.

“I don’t eat beef.” She answered from the other side of the kitchen island.

“No problem, these are pork.”

“I’m a pescetarian.”

You’re a Presbyterian? Since when?! At least that’s what my brain asked. It took a few seconds to access the part of my brain that knew what a pescetarian was, or at least thought it knew.  Pesce…fish! Got it!

 “Well, we don’t have any fish.” I said with as much coolness as I could shovel.

 “Oh, well I’ll eat chicken if I have to.”

The meat returned to the refrigerator and I turned the crock pot off.

I was shaking now. I don’t know if she could see my body trembling, but I knew I had to get out of the kitchen before I made a scene. The shaking wouldn’t stop. Waves of anxiety and panic came crashing over me. I couldn’t make it stop, even as I got ready for church. I told myself to get a grip.

The controlling pleaser in me raged.  Internally she screamed “Welcome to the Huffaker family food freak show!!!! We’re gluten free and dairy free!!! Some don’t like pork, some don’t like anything spicy, and now this!!! We don’t eat fish. I don’t even know how to cook it! How could she do this to me?”

So ugly. This part of me that’s driven to be everything to everyone even when they don’t ask…or care. This part of me who has mentally whipped my backside for not getting it right. Every. Single. Time. It’s all about me. All of the time. So ugly.

I sat mostly silent in the car on our way to church. Even after I had vented my frustration to my husband, I couldn’t stop shaking. I knew I was in trouble. I knew I needed to be in the sanctuary. Surely the music would help calm me down. I bawled through the first three songs. Then came the worship leader’s invitation to go to the sides of the sanctuary for prayer. I felt the tug of war…I needed to go forward for prayer, but felt embarrassed that I needed to go forward for prayer.

Maybe you’ve been there.

It was now or never. Head down, I left my seat and walked to the side of the sanctuary where I confided that I was having an anxiety attack. I withheld as much detail as possible.  A man and his wife put their arms around me like I was their own daughter and began to pray up a storm. For me. Though I didn’t deserve it, peace washed over me. When the prayer time was over, I went back to my seat with hands raised high worshiping and thanking God for His undeserved grace and mercy where a good spanking might have been in order.

That morning my pastor just happened to be preaching on stress. I took good notes on how Jesus dealt with stress. Jesus couldn’t please everyone. I mean, I sort of knew that…after all, there’s that whole cross thing…but I don’t think I ever thought about the fact that He was OK with it. It seems so unchristian, but then again, Jesus wouldn’t have had a meltdown over whether or not someone was a pescetarian. No he would not.

Why do I think I can do what Jesus couldn’t?

These words are written in my notebook: Nic, kill the approval addiction.

It has to go, this fear of disappointing people…of not being able to be exactly what everyone needs all of the time.

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord will be kept safe. Proverbs 20:25 NIV

{A snare metaphorically is something that allures one from his real purpose and then destroys him.}[1]

My real purpose is to be free to worship God and love people. Seeking approval or fearing I’ll disappoint them is more than a distraction, it’s a trap. Someone has to die. The people-pleasing-approval-addicted-center of the universe Queen of stress has to die before she kills me. The drama she creates is a threat to the ones I love.  It’s time to stop creating hoops to jump through so I can be free to love better. People, real people that I love (like my beautiful niece) need me to be free.

That afternoon brought home a few groceries from the store which included a package of frozen fish for my niece. She explained to me how she liked it cooked and I told her she was welcome to anything in the kitchen that she would need to prepare her fish. I felt like I was going to throw up the entire time I talked, but I did it.

You see, we can pray and beg God to change us. We can ask for forgiveness. We can accept His grace, but then we have to walk in it. We have to move forward and take a risk. We have to feel the weight of not being everything to everyone. We feel it. We take some deep breaths. And then we realize beautiful grace is standing on the other side of the kitchen island smiling back at us, grateful for something to eat. It’s going to be OK.



[1] Hartley, J. E. (1999). 906 יָקֹשׁ. In R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer, Jr. & B. K. Waltke (Eds.), Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer, Jr. & B. K. Waltke, Ed.) (electronic ed.) (399). Chicago: Moody Press.

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