Pain Doesn’t Mark the End of Something Good

Whenever I’ve heard about epic wipe out stories, I’ve always assumed that adrenaline took over and no pain was felt until a few minutes after the fact. I always assumed people just sort of blacked out until it was all over. 

But that wasn’t my experience. I felt pain the moment I lost control.

It was a beautiful day. Absolutely perfect. The skies were blue with not a cloud in sight. The temperature was just a hair on the cool side. The trails were dry. Everything pointed to an epic ride.

The trees towered over us as we entered the trailhead. Dad and Mom led the charge in their Wildcat, I followed on my Honda Sportrax, and Luke closed up the rear on his Yamaha Big Bear. Dragonflies and butterflies were literally everywhere. 

Right out the gate, this was the most beautiful trail I had been on. Granted, this was exactly the 4th trail I had ever been on, but it was the most beautiful nonetheless.

I was feeling good and ready to settle into a nice long day of riding, when I noticed my parents easily glide over a lopsided drop in the trail ahead of me. Their car-like vehicle had no problems, and I doubt they even noticed it as they passed. But I immediately knew I was in trouble. I was moving too fast. I didn’t have time to slow down. 

I rose to a standing position in hopes of absorbing the movements with my legs, but it wasn’t enough. I hit the drop at an angle and lost control. As my four wheeler tore up a steep incline to the right, I tipped sideways, released my grip, and fell to the rocky trail – hitting my head and twisting my hips as the wheeler ran over my left leg.

I can remember each moment of that wipe-out in hazy/clear detail – if that makes any sense. It was both a blur and yet completely vivid.

I laid there on my left side for a few moments dazed. I had just experienced my first ATV accident.

I rolled onto my back to find Luke next to me. My head was pounding, and my whole body hurt. I pulled my knees up, alleviating the short-lived fear that maybe I was paralyzed. I did a quick mental check, and was certain nothing was broken. I was just in shock.

Having noticed that Luke and I were no longer following them, Dad shut off their UTV and came running back. As Luke helped me up, I assured them both that I was ok, I just needed a few minutes to get my bearings.

Some test-walks around the area proved that I was overall fine, but it did hurt to put weight on my right leg. Sitting on my ATV hurt as well, but was far more bearable than walking. My immediate thought was to turn around, pack up, and begin the two hour drive back home. But Luke was so sweet…he told me that we could absolutely head home, but if I was well enough to ride, he believed I should keep going. He told me that now is the best time to get back on the horse and get past the fear. We can take it as slow as I needed.

As we discussed our next steps, my eyes wondered to my Dad. I grew up on the stories he told me about off-roading with his Jeep Wrangler and all kinds of other outdoor adventures. He’s not a stranger to wipe outs. But he’s still out here doing what he loves. That inspired me.

I was shaken, but Luke’s wisdom and my dad’s adventurous spirit spurred me on. I knew in my heart that if I were to turn around and go home, this would be my last time out on the trails. And I knew that I didn’t want that to be the case.

The next hour of riding was simply scary. I was tense. Every bump and pothole had me clenching my teeth. I had to intentionally keep myself from crying. Before this, riding was care-free and exciting. Now it was a slow go with the subtle threat of disaster. In the matter of about thirty seconds, everything had changed.

We stopped for lunch and took about an hour break. Mom and I went for a little walk to keep my body from getting stiff, and Luke and Dad got to grilling hot dogs. It was getting harder to walk, but being off the wheeler helped my head to feel better and my nerves begin to calm. By the time we finished our meal, I was in a new place mentally.

As we fired up the machines and got going again, I approached each turn, climb, and descent with a new sense of care and caution. Sure, I was going slower than I usually would…but I was beginning to appreciate how slight shifts in my body weight affected how my ATV maneuvered. Before my spill, I was all about getting from point A to point B as fast as possible. I loved the rush, the feels, the adrenaline. But now, I surprisingly started to enjoy a more technical, nuanced ride.

The beauty of ATV riding is that you can ride as a group, and yet have plenty of time alone with your thoughts. During that second half of our ride, with the only sound being the muffled engine through my helmet, I silently thanked Luke for encouraging me to push through the pain and fear. And I prayed – a lot. I prayed that God would keep me safe for the remainder of the ride. And he in turn started up a dialog with me, gently telling me that a setback isn’t the end. Pain doesn’t mark the end of something good. Fear shouldn’t hold me back from moving forward.

My MO has long been to give up when things get hard. I’ve given up on plenty of things. I’ve given up on plenty of relationships. I’ve given up on plenty of opportunities. All because they got hard. What if I would have given up and gone home that day? I would have sold Lil’ Red, and my career as a hobby ATVist would have been over. And a piece of me would have died. My sense of adventure. My love of a physical challenge. A wall would have been built up that would have held me back for the rest of my life. Not only in the one area of ATVing, but in other areas as well. It would have been another mark of failure.

Instead, as the sun was setting and we made our way back to the trailhead, God invited me to surrender the pain and be ok with its existence. In order to do the things he’s calling me to do, there is going to be pain. There are going to be setbacks. But instead of calling it quits, I need to trust him and push through to the other side.

Despite my bruised body, it remains my favorite ride to date. The entire day somehow felt sacred. God was with me the whole time, and he didn’t let a single moan or moment of fear go to waste. He taught me some valuable lessons. 

And if the lessons weren’t enough, we had some of the sweetest times with my parents whenever we would stop for a break. And, believe it or not, my heart was filled with joy. There was so much laughter.

The pain that day taught me to

  1. Take things a little slower. Speed isn’t everything. I tend to speed past a lot of things when I should be paying close, careful attention. Both to the beautiful details and potential dangers.

  2. Setbacks don’t mean it’s over. They’re discouraging and painful, but they’re also a part of life. The best is before us if we continue to move forward.

It also taught me that

  1. We miss out when we give up. My life wouldn’t be half the adventure I desire it to be if I allowed these kinds of situations to box me in.

  2. There’s joy, even in pain. It’s a testament to how God is with us always. When I put my sights on him in the middle of my pain, he sends his peace to my heart. And with that peace keeping me steady, I’m able to tread upon ground I never believed possible.

Somehow, I feel liberated after that day. I feel a fresh new courage bubbling up inside me.

Pain doesn’t mean failure. Pain doesn’t mean God is distant. Pain is a very real and effective tool to bring about a new perspective, hope, courage, and joy.

-Kristen Larson

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Kristen and Faun on Lil’ Red

 

Pandemics, Stress, and something else Contagious

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected people in a thousand different ways. For me, it’s been a roller coaster of emotions and brain power.

The first couple weeks leading up to the stay-home order were chaos at work. I didn’t really even have time to think about the implications of the virus in other areas of life. We had a feeling that a stay-home order was coming, so we scrambled to get all our processes set up for remote work. I was learning new software, training people on said software, putting it into practice and converting a lot of other daily tasks from physical to digital. I was working late hours to cram as much time in with my boss as possible to make sure we were on the same page and ready to keep things moving at the same pace as before.

I’ve had some stressful days and weeks at work, but this time topped the cake.

Once we were finally all nestled in safe and sound at home, a new challenge arose: getting used to a new normal. I had to decide what my new daily routine would look like, and be disciplined in keeping it regular for my own sanity. Using Marco Polo to stay connected with friends was, and remains, a huge help. And I’m still working on changing how I exercise and eat, because I’m not moving half as much as I did when in the office.

Surprisingly, I’ve actually begun to enjoy this new normal. I’ve settled in and I feel like each day that goes by I get a little more comfortable and a little bit more productive. But, the nagging thought remains in the back of my head that I don’t know how long this work from home situation will last. The question I keep asking is…how long will this last? Another month? A year? Indefinitely? It stresses me out thinking about adjusting to yet another new normal in such a short period of time. There’s been a lot of change this year, and I’m kind of trying to hold off any further change as long as I can!

But this is where I need to ask Jesus for his peace.

Matthew 10:29-31 says,

What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.

It reminds me of the flock of sparrows that live in my neighbor’s bushes. They are constantly at our bird feeder, and I’ve had the joy of watching them a lot lately. They have a pretty nice set up over here actually, between the bushes, bird feeder, and the clothesline poll they use for nests. They are noisy, messy birds, but I love watching them and hearing them every day. They pester each other, eat, sleep, build nests, lay eggs, and live. And I love thinking about this verse and how God literally knows and sees each one of these little birdies.

And I love the daily reminder that this is how closely the Father watches over me.

I know that I need to drop my worries and rest, knowing that he sees me. He knows my questions about the future. He knows what my heart longs for. But he also knows what I cannot know….he knows what the future holds. So I need to drop my fears and trust in his ways and his timing.

Every day, I just need to pray the Lord’s Prayer found in Matthew 6:9-13, asking God for his plans and purposes to be done, for him to give me what I need each day, for him to forgive me as I mess up and help me to forgive those around me, and to steer me away from temptation.

What I do know is that when I put my trust in Jesus, he will guide my every step. I just need to keep reminding myself to take my eyes off the situation and know that Jesus sees it all.

May we embrace the hope he offers us.

A gift of right perspective

I’ve been a little too lax in terms of my diet lately. If you don’t know anything about my last year in food discoveries, I found out this spring that I had SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and in order to help my gut heal I had to stay way from coffee, peanuts, almonds, dairy, and all grains, among other things. My gut is healing though and I have hope that someday I’ll be able to add some of these back in, as I’ve been able to do with tomato paste. But for now this is what I’m living with.

None of these are full out allergies, but they are bad enough that my quality of life drastically goes down when I have them. For instance, grains make me depressed and sometimes anxious for days. I don’t really know the science behind why, but I’ve experimented over and over again and this continues to be the case.

When I’m faithfully staying away from all these categories, I can have the occasional “dairy” treat if I take a lactase enzyme. And I can handle going out to a restaurant if there are trace amounts of gluten. But the last couple weeks I’ve taken full advantage of those lactase enzymes and we’ve eaten out several times. And last night I was in the dumps. It was like I couldn’t think straight. Logically I knew everything was fine, but it’s like I was paralyzed from being able to do life as I normally do. Depression and anxiety does that.

This morning I’m feeling better. We stayed home from church so that I could get a good long night of sleep in. Sleep is so important when I get to this point. And I had a dream that had me waking up feeling incredibly thankful for the home that I have.

To give some perspective, I make 90% of my food from scratch these days so that I can know they’ll be free of all of the above (which is why Danielle Walker’s cookbooks have been such a lifesaver for me.) And while I love cooking and it’s been fun, I also get frustrated that so much of my time is spent “working”. I work a 40hr a week job and then come home and work at home cooking and cleaning. It’s hard to find time a good balance where I am also able to have fun and adventures.

But this dream I had last night helped me to appreciate all I have. In my dream Luke and I were living on a college campus, as dorm hosts of some kind. We had gotten the tiny dorm perfectly cozy when another couple came to move in. They also had a crazy intense friend who declared he’d be over all the time and we should “be ready”. All of a sudden the only space we had to ourselves was this little loft bedroom we couldn’t even stand up in. It was a shock to both of us.

So waking up in my own home, with just the two of us and our dogs, I felt like I had hit jackpot. I have that entire kitchen to myself to do all my cooking in. I can stand up in all parts of the house. Instead of having no privacy like in my dream, I have full privacy in a home that is cozy, quiet, and cabin-like.

It was impactful for me because when I am thrown off balance by poor eating choices, these are the things that keep me grounded. And I have this beautiful environment to keep me going strong. It’s a lot of work, but life is work, right? They key is being thankful in the midst of it and enjoying what we have. And then when we’re able to do something special and out of the ordinary, it’s extra sweet.

My to do list is pretty big today, but I’m fully equipped to handle it. Physically, and now because of a good night sleep and God’s encouragement as I slept, mentally as well.

Perspective is a powerful thing. When life gives you lemons, it makes it a little easier to make lemonade.