It was the reaction I was hoping for.
Birthday shopping for Maddie had become a challenge. She’s too old for toys. She’s too young for an Iphone. She likes cute clothes, but that’s not really her thing. I wanted to give her something she’d love.
What did she love?
Well, she loved gymnastics, but lately that wasn’t going so well. For several weeks she had complained of back pain during practice. I took her to our family doctor who called it a muscle strain. She recommended rest – and no gymnastics for two weeks. Maddie was not pleased.
After two weeks, the pain continued. I made an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon who ordered an Xray. Thankfully, he found nothing wrong with her spine. He recommended Ibuprofen and more rest.
A few days before Maddie’s birthday, I stumbled across a picture of our family horseback riding in Colorado. I remembered how much Madison had loved it. Suddenly, I knew what to get for her birthday. After a quick internet search, I found a horse stable that offered trail rides. They had an opening in three weeks. Three weeks? Patience didn’t come easily for Maddie. At least she’d have something to look forward to.
Taking a break from gymnastics also didn’t come easily. Madison felt lost. She normally practiced four times a week, three hours a day. But what do you do when suddenly it all stops?
Instead of the gym, we headed to Grandma’s. Maddie loves animals and Grandma’s farm has an abundance of them. They were a welcomed distraction.
“It looks like Madison has a bilateral stress fracture.” The doctor turned to Maddie with a sympathetic look. “This means absolutely no physical activity – no gymnastics, no volleyball, no running, no pitching lessons, no PE, nothing – until your back is completely healed.”
I couldn’t imagine Maddie’s emotions. Anger? Grief? Frustration? But I knew what I felt: sadness. Not because my daughter could no longer do gymnastics, but because she could no longer do the things she loved.
After a tough couple of days, Madison accepted the doctor’s orders. Each day was a little better – until she remembered the gift certificate.
“Do you know what I’m excited for?” She asked unexpectedly one day.
Suddenly I felt like a heavy weight had dropped onto my chest. I knew what was coming.
“I’m excited to go horseback riding.”
The look on my face said it all. There could be no horseback riding. Tears streamed down Maddie’s cheeks and my heart ached again.
Over the next several days I couldn’t get her look of disappointment out of my mind. I had to fix this. Surely there was something I could do. If she couldn’t ride a horse, maybe she could at least spend some time with one. I called my aunt, who was the owner of two sweet ponies and three beautiful horses. She was happy to help.
“Mama, she began, “Do you think we could go to a gymnastics meet and watch my teammates? I think we might have a pretty good team this year.”
A strange mix of relief, pride and contentment swept over me. “Maddie,” I said. “I think that’s a great idea.”
I suppose it's a lesson we all have to learn; how to let go of our own plan and trust that God has another. It's not easy. I mean, what do you do when you can no longer do the things you love?
You find something new to love.