25

25.

A quarter of a century.

How am I going to be that old? Sometimes, I still feel like that awkward 12-year-old changing cultures and continents. But, I’ve become comfortable in who I am and who God made me to be-quirks and all.

Here are 25 things I’ve learned in almost 25 years in this big world.

 

  • Be yourself. Those who care, don’t matter and those who matter, don’t care.

 

This took me YEARS to figure out, but it’s so true. Just simply be yourself.

 

  • My heart has space for multiple countries.

 

Every time I travel somewhere new, I fall in love. My soul falls in love with undiscovered places so fast. Each place is no better or worse than the last, but they all have a unique story and journey.

 

  • Sometimes, you need to simply need to put yourself first and rediscover God in the wilderness.

 

This may seem like common sense but awfully hard to put into practice. I was in a relationship and it ended. I blamed him, but I have since realized, I didn’t have the energy to heal myself and support him. Also, I shouldn’t have expected someone else to like me if I didn’t really even like myself. After it ended, my dad (the wisest man I know) encouraged me to take a break from dating and put my energy into myself.

BEST DECISION EVER.

I labeled last year, “The Year of Me and Jesus”. I choose to put my energy into becoming the most whole “Sara” I could be and figuring who “Sara” even was. This year, I’m better able to be a good (definitely not perfect) girlfriend.

 

  • No matter how bad it gets, you can rest in the simple fact that you have a Father who loves you more than you can ever know.
  • Nothing is ever so bad that a well-timed dance party can’t bring a smile to your face.
  • God can take the seemingly endless tragedy and turn it into a tool to bring him glory. He uses the whole of the story.

 

I really should stop being surprised by God how He uses our messes if we let Him.

 

  • There is no such thing as coincidence, only God.
  • You’ll regret more of the things you didn’t do than the things you did.

 

Moral of the story, if there is even a question, be brave (don’t let fear hold you back) and do that thing you are scared of.

 

  • Do not plan your life out according to a time table. You never know when life will throw a curve ball at you.

 

Make a plan, but hold it loosely because you never know what could happen.

 

  • Every person-those put in your life and taken out of it-has a purpose.
  • Comparison is the thief of joy.
  • Make each moment matter-be present-cause you never know how many you have left.
  • People matter.
  • Talk to random people in social settings. This will make you well-rounded, and chances are good you’ll make a new friend, too.
  • It’s better to put your energy into a few things than to spread yourself too thin trying to do everything.
  • It’s okay-healthy even-to say “no”.

 

A well placed “no” is just as important as a “yes”. You aren’t superwomen and you can’t do everything.

 

  • Your life isn’t defined by your vocation.

 

Your job may be your calling, or it may not be. Either way, what you do doesn’t define who you are.

 

  • Self-care isn’t selfish.

It may-scratch that-it will look different in every season. Nevertheless, you need to take time for yourself.

  • Life is more about the journey as opposed to the destination.
  • Who you were at 20 doesn’t define who you are at 25. Your mentality changes as you explore more of life.
  • NEVER stop learning.
  • Self-awareness is underrated and undervalued as a skill.
  • Some people will bring out the worst in you. Some the best. And others, the most. Hold on tightly to the ones who bring out the most because they are special.
  • You become who you surround yourself with.
  • Just because you don’t talk every day, it doesn’t mean you’re not important to them.

 

You are going to have friends that are in different stages. Carve out time for them, but don’t get upset if you go days without talking. The best friends can go days without talking and pick up exactly where they left off.

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Anchors and Roots

This idea of roots has been a topic of thought for years. Growing up, the idea of putting down roots was appealing. I was jealous of my friends who had lived in the same house, the same city, and with the same people.

The idea of staying in the same place was comforting (in theory).

The idea of staying vs. going has been a constant thought in my head. I argue with God over the logical nature of putting in roots, desiring to be a wanderer, not a stationary figure.

God challenges me back.

What is so wrong with staying put for the time being? What is wrong with putting down roots and allowing people to know you? Truly know the Sara I created you to be.

This is my corner of the world right here, right now

Recently, I wrestled with the idea of putting down roots here, because it seemed scary. I then discovered the idea of anchors.

Sailors use anchors to keep them in one location for the time being and then when they’re done, they pull up anchor and move on.

That’s a lot less scary than the idea of roots. I choose “anchor” as my word for the year. So far, I’m thriving is putting my anchor down here.

  • I’m loving my small group girls and enjoying watching them grow into the women God created them to be.
  • The little humans at school fill my happiness bucket with their soft smiles and energetic hugs.
  • The Starbucks Barista knows my name and my typical order.  

A friend and I were talking the other day about roots, and we realized that we put roots into people rather than places. I realized that was true in my life. After my accident, I had no problem remembering people, but places where a little fuzzy or not there at all. I was thinking about that.

What if I put roots into people and anchors into places?

That’s an interesting thought. You leave places, but people are just a phone call away. These a few people like my family that whenever they call, I drop everything and pick up the phone and I know they would do the same.

So here I am, figuring out how to put my anchor down in Mansfield. Here I am. Figuring how to put roots into my family, my boyfriend and my close friends. Here’s me, living my best life right here, right now and seeing  God move in big and small ways.

Your Will, Your Way

“You have come so far. You have learned to let go of what was not good for you. You have learned to step out of the boundaries of your worries, believing that in time, it all would be woven together beautifully. It has not been an easy road, but it has opened your eyes to all of the possibilities of what this life could be, even in your uncertainty.”
-MHN

Graduating from college, I had a plan for my life. A typical conversation between God and I consisted of me telling Him what I wanted His will to be for my life ranging from who I wanted to date and potentially marry to where I wanted Him to call me. It was His will, my way. That didn’t quite work out for me. 29 months ago, my world was turned upside down. My life plan completely changed…

Shortly after my accident, I was thankful God saved my life, but I couldn’t see how this life could possibly be good. I fought with God on how this life could possibly be His will. Those were some dark days, but GOD, in His mercy, used the messiness of my story in Ukraine. Then, looking back, I could see how He has redeemed my story for His glory.

More recently, I was amazed again by how God loves each and every one of us. (I really should stop being amazed by how God uses the worst time if my life for his glory.) One of the students at the school received a brain injury when he was little. I was giving him his medication, and I just offhandedly mentioned that I take the same medication that he does. I received a message for his mom saying that she thinks he finally realized that he’s not alone.

I was blown away by God.

God didn’t cause my accident, but He loved that boy enough to place me at the school to help him not feel alone. When I look back on the last 29 months, I can see a lot of those “coincidences” or “God moments”.

Given the multitude of “God moments” recently, I have realized that my story isn’t over.  I was ecstatic about anchoring myself to Mansfield, my family, my boyfriend, and my friends.

Then, the Dominican Republic happened.

I felt, more than once, confirmation of the fact that missions are in my life plan in some capacity. I mean, I got to stitch up a goat. Besides the fact that I got to stitch up a goat, which is a first for me, I used my right hand. My right hand is the hand I still have trouble with, but it was further confirmation that my story is far from over. My nurse life is far from over.

As I’m processing this, I don’t know that God would have moved so swiftly in getting me an opportunity for a medical/surgical fellowship at OhioHealth here if he intended me to move to the DR. Also, God is a good father, so he wouldn’t have given me confirmation of my dream of overseas missions if He didn’t intend that to be part of my story.

So here I am, learning to hold my plans loosely and trusting that the One who holds my heart has plans to honor the dreams He has instilled in my heart. Here I am, learning to anchor myself to the people that mean a lot to me right here. Here’s to me, striving and thriving, as I learn to live life with God in the drivers seat-His Will, His Way.

A Heart for the Nations

I leave part of my heart in every country I’ve been. The Dominican Republic is no exception. Here are some things I learned about myself and God.

  • I need to remember to breathe.

This month has been full of good surprises, but my head has been spinning by all God’s been doing. The first part of the week was well spent in just sitting with God-simply sitting in the awesomeness of God’s movement. It was refreshing to revel in His glory rather then cower in fear. This season, I’ve learned a lot about rest but sometimes, I forget to actually practice it. This trip was like a breath of fresh air.

  • God is really good about pushing me out of my comfort zone, but also showing me that I am loved more than I could ever know.

One day towards the end of the trip I ended up stitching a goat’s ear. I had learned about sutures, but I had never done them in real life. Plus, my right hand doesn’t work as well. So when I was asked, I said yes but I was scared silly. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I accomplished it. That night was church, and God knew my soul needed baby cuddles. I ended up holding a child who fell asleep on me and at that moment, the world felt right.

  • Everyone has different gifts-you need to push yourself, but be willing to use your gifts for His glory.

We were doing several different projects this week, and I struggled with not being physically able to do all the manual labor that we did, but I had to realize my nurse skills and ability to remain calm under pressure came in handy time and time again. So I may not have concrete mixing abilities, but God gave me a quick mind and calm spirit. I just have to be open to letting God use my gifts instead of wishing I was someone else.

  • God always shows up-especially when you don’t expect Him to.

There were many times that God showed up whether it was impromptu relationship and life talks or a cool breeze on a particularly warm day.

God ALWAYS shows up. You just have eyes to see Him.

  • Sunsets on some dreams and sunrises on others is an aspect of God that I love.

It was in the Dominican 4 years ago that I first began to dream about studying genetic diseases as well as hemolytic diseases in underdeveloped countries. Dreams like researching hemolytic disorders and their testing to make them more accurate and accessible. This week that dream resurfaced, and I got a glimpse of what that could look like down the road. I don’t know how or if God will orchestrate it, but I’m starting to get excited about the possibility of this new adventure with Jesus whatever it will look like.

  • We don’t need to see the whole staircase to take a step.

It is definitely scary to take a step when we can’t see the whole road, but I think we’d be even more scared if we saw the outcome thinking we are insufficient and unprepared. It’s more about the journey and becoming more like Christ than the immediate destination.

5 Things You May Or Not Know About Brain Injuries

March is brain injury awareness month

Did you know that mTBI is often referred to as a “silent epidemic”?

It’s profoundly misunderstood, even inside the medical field. Here are a few things I’ve learned as I’ve been engulfed in traumatic brain injury world.

 

  • Brain injuries are like fingerprints-the same but different.

 

There’s something to be said about how diverse the brain is. It would depend on what part of the brain was affected. Most TBI’s have a combination of the inability to focus, speech difficulty, problems with memory-short or long term-, difficulty walking, slurred speech, and balance issues. I know every TBI is different, but the first time I went to my TBI support group, I realized that I wasn’t alone in my difficulty with my brain. There were certain things that people would say that I thought, “Me too! I thought I was just weird for doing that or thinking that!”.

 

  • We have good days and bad days, just like everyone else.

 

We have good brain days and bad brain days. Often, but not exclusively, bad brain days happen when there are certain factors present, like fatigue, dehydration, high blood sugar, overstimulation, and low blood sugar. It often takes a lot longer to recoup after one of these events. I’m often surprised that I can do one thing one day and the next day I struggle with the very same thing. There is a lot of factors that play into my wellbeing and if even one of those factors is a smidgen off, it will affect the whole event. I’ve learned to take advantage of good days and give myself (and others lol) grace on bad days. I also have to listen to my body because it often will tell me what it needs.

 

  • We are not our disability. We are individuals who have a TBI, but it doesn’t define us.

 

This took me the longest time to realize. I felt like I needed to explain why I was so different-weird if we are being honest. Now, I’m better able understand that yes, I have a TBI, but I’m so much more than that. I get overwhelmed, hangry, unfocused and at times, irritable, but I’ve learned how to manage it while not always blaming my TBI.  Everything I go through is affected by my TBI, but not solely because of my TBI. Some of it is just because I’m a 20 something trying to figure out how this whole adulting thing works.

 

  • We are still trying to figure ourselves out-even if our injury happened decades ago.

 

When I first went to my support group, I was amazed by how many people there were whose injury had occurred over 15 years ago. They are still figuring out the new person that their injury made them to be. It’s not a simple fix but a lifetime process of discovering who they are. Recovery, then, is a mental switch from constantly looking back to constantly looking forward to the adventure their TBI journey will take them-the good and the bad.

 

  • TBI survivors are literally some of the strongest people you’ll ever meet because they have overcome and are overcoming something that was meant to destroy them.

 

 

Pressing On

Sometimes, the faith journey can feel like a sprint, while other times, it can feel like a marathon. Regardless of what it feels like, the necessity of pressing on stays the same.

The idea of pressing on has been somewhat of a theme in this season.

If I had given up on getting back to kinda who I was, I wouldn’t be where I am now. Pressing on has been challenging-oh so hard-at times, but all the tears and tantrums have been worth it to see how far I’ve come.

Don’t think that this is just me wanting recognition or a pat on the back, but the example is meant to show you the value of pressing on.

I’m not a runner but that’s another example that will resonate with people.

How does one run a marathon?

You have to persevere-keep going-when your muscles hurt. You can’t give up the moment things get tough.

The same is true with faith. It’s easy to trust God when things are going well. Life is all butterflies and roses. But what about when your plans get derailed. You get an unexpected call from the doctor, or you lose your job. Life seems to be more thorns and wilderness. God seems so far away but in reality, we’re the ones who have moved, not Him.

Will you keep trusting God even when it doesn’t look like anything is happening?

Paul is a great example of that. Life was good, and it was horrible-he was beaten and imprisoned. It ebbed and flowed between being good and bad, but throughout he remained close to God. He was honest about where he was, but he never truly blamed God for his suffering. He writes in Philippians 3: 12-15;

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.”

That shocks me because he had every reason to be upset at God. True, God didn’t ever cause suffering, but the suffering was because of God. But he never blamed God. In fact, he counts it kinda an honor-he rejoiced in it.

“Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”

Colossians 1:24

Because I was curious about what the word perseverance and phase press on actually meant, I looked them up.

Perseverance (n.)

persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

Press on/ahead (phrasal verb with press)

to start or continue doing something in a determined way, often despite problems

Both words/phrases hint to continuing despite problems and hardships. It’s the idea that problems will happen, but we need to be determined in continuing despite.

So here’s a couple tips to help you press on when you feel like giving up on Jesus:

 

  • Recall past persevering accomplishments.

 

Remember the times when your perseverance paid off. Allow those memories to motivate you when times get tough.

 

  • Celebrate victories (even small ones).

 

When you are in the midst of troubles or hard times, it’s easy to get discouraged. Celebrate victories. Even small one’s matter. I remember when I walked down the stairs for the first time in a long time without holding onto a handrail. It was a small thing, but I threw my arms up in a victory stance. Luckily, I was in a stairwell with no one in it, or people would have given me weird looks. Celebrate the moments where you get into the Word or listen to godly podcasts. They might seem like a small thing, but sometimes you just need a win.

 

  • Take a step-just one.

 

Sometimes,  the big picture is so intimidating that you are frozen in place. In order to move, you need to just focus on taking on step at a time-on breathe at a time.

  • Just keep going (even if it’s only in your mind).

 

Sometimes, half the battle is in your hard. My brother always says “Those who say they can and those who say they can’t are both right”. Half of the battle is what you tell yourself. If you tell yourself you can’t do this or to give up, then you won’t get there. But if you tell yourself that you’ll eventually get there even though it’s hard, then you’ll get there eventually.

You-Yes, You-Are Known, Seen and Loved.

You-yes, you-are known, seen and loved.

I was thinking about this simple fact this weekend.

Known.

Verb. Meaning “have developed a relationship with (someone) through meeting and spending time with them; be familiar or friendly with.

Seen.

Verb. Meaning “be or become aware of something from observation or from a written or other visual source.”

Loved.

Verb. Meaning “like or enjoy very much”.

You, regardless of what you have done or who you are, are known to the very depths of your soul and loved by the Creator of the Universe.

I think about the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. He didn’t listen to his father, squandered all his money, and severely grieved his father’s soul, but his father knew all that he’d done and STILL welcomed him back with open arms.

God does that with us. He pulls us into His arms and welcomes us home-even after we have tremendously grieved Him.

In the same way, God knows, sees, and loves us, we need to know, see, and love others. I listened to Angie Smith at IF gathering this weekend. She compared faith to solitaire. In Solitaire, you have to start with an ace. What’s the ace of our faith?

Love.

It has to be love. That’s the foundation. Everything else is based on that. If you throw down a five or seven, it won’t work and no one will listen. If you start with the ace though, everything else falls into place. It can be still be challenging at times, but you’ll keep building on the ace. It’s the same way with faith. Love comes first.

Can you honestly say you love everyone regardless of political views, sexual preferences, and religious views?

Love comes first.

You won’t argue anyone into heaven, but if you start with love, and see them, I mean really see them flaws and all, you give them a glimpse of how the Heavenly Father loves them unconditionally.

Throw the ace.

You won’t regret it.