Growth in Unexpected Places

Growth in Unexpected Places

For over a year now, I have strapped myself into two braces – one for my knee and one for my ankle – on a daily basis. Three times per brace, per day. When done perfectly, it takes 4.5 hours. It’s a major chunk of my day.

Lately, I’ve begun to wrestle with these braces. Some mornings/afternoons/evenings, I have to mentally battle with myself to do the right thing: get into the brace, set the timer, resist the urge to give up and do all the things I’d rather do.

It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.

One year. It can seem like an eternity some days, but also disappear in a flash. I never imagined these braces would still be part of my life at this point. But here we are. And this is what I know now: growth comes from unexpected places.

These braces have taught me some important lessons I hope to never forget. And I think they may encourage you, too.

Lasting Change Takes Time

We live in a world that demands everything now. Overnight results. Quick fixes. Minimal effort required. But real change and growth – built to last – takes time.

When I first received my knee brace, the best I could do was crank the brace to about 20 degrees. Today, it’s almost impossible to know how I am doing (in the very best way). While the brace is capable of cranking all the way up to -45 degrees, it stops tracking progress at -20. I’m well past -20, but it’s taken me months to get there.

Day-to-day, it’s been nearly impossible to see or feel any real progress. But when I step back and review the progress of a few months, it’s astounding. Little by little, my leg has steadily improved.

A quick fix wasn’t possible. Slow and consistent stretching has gotten my leg back on track. Overnight results aren’t realistic. Lots of hard work and dedication got me to where I am today. There is still progress to be made. It requires continual effort. But that little-by-little progress is amounting to change that lasts.

Whatever change you are seeking to make in life, let this serve as your reminder that good things take time, and hard work adds up.

I Can Do Hard Things

I recently listened to a podcast by Nancy Ray titled, “You Were Made For Hard Things.” It came at the perfect time. As of late, it has taken significant willpower to get into and out of my braces. Recently, I had some additional stretches added to my daily routine. Another 30 minutes of my day dedicated to working on my leg and ankle mobility.

It’s demanding. Some moments, it feels like too much. In those moments, I question if I can keep doing this. But I have no choice. I am the only one who can do this. No one can do it for me. And so, I push onward.

This verse appeared in my daily reading the day I started writing this blog post. It’s gentle reminders like this that help me to keep going.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Romans 5:3-4

There is much to be gained by getting through the hard things in life. When we push through the hard things, we reap the reward. For me, that’s added mobility.

You can do hard things. Come back to this reminder every time you need it.

Each Day is a New Beginning

I’ve learned that my mind is a powerful tool in the fight against this disease. It can work both for me and against me. When I allow myself to be convinced that I can’t do something, I fall apart. It’s impossible to be mentally tough all the time.

There are days that I start to slip. I begin to question. On those days, the slope becomes very slippery. When it comes to my braces, on the days I convince myself I can’t do it anymore, I fall apart. I lose steam. The truth is, I don’t want to do this anymore. But choosing not to put in the work isn’t a choice I have the luxury to make–not if I want to finish the race.

So, I keep pushing through. I give myself the pep talk that I can do hard things. I find ways to pass the time that allow me to forget what I’m really doing (reading, writing, etc.). Routines also help. They take my mind out of the equation. I simply do what I am conditioned to do. I get in my braces and eliminate the option to decide not to. Routines keep me from questioning. Some days, this works. Other days, it doesn’t.

Periodically, the mind wins, and I decide to go to bed instead of completing my braces. But here is the most important thing. On the tough days, I don’t beat myself up about it. I remind myself that we all deserve grace. Tomorrow is a new day. And each new day offers a brand-new start.