Embracing This Life of More

These past months have been quite something. All my energy has been spent on simply surviving-putting one foot in front of the other.

A year ago, all my energy was focused on myself and my healing. I resigned myself to this life of second best. Let me explain that. I had my life planned out before my accident and then all of that seemed to have been taken away. I was striving to accept my life as it was then but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was less. I still had hopes and dreams but I couldn’t grasp them. I didn’t know if it was even possible to grab them without having them slip through my fingers. Recently, I had the opportunity to go to Ukraine. I was simply excited to travel not knowing that the country itself would stamp itself on my heart.

Ukraine.

This summer has been one of the most life-changing ones in my short life so far. This summer was hard, but oh so holy. First, I started to get back into hospital nursing, then I went to Ukraine. I was nervous and didn’t know how my brain would react. I was pushed beyond my limits but God was sweet in that. In it, God was showing me I could have a life that I had dreamt of-a life of more. Here are just a few things God is teaching me as I embrace this life of more-more love, more freedom, and simply more God.

  1. Contentment doesn’t equal complacency. This has been something I’ve been wrestling with lately. I want more out of life but it’s hard to explain because people assume I’m not content with my life. In my wrestling, I’ve come to the decision that it’s okay to have plans and dreams but to hold those dreams lightly. I’ve come to the mindset that I’ll be okay if cross cultural missions is in my future. And I’ll be okay if it’s not.
  2. God can still use me. I was terrified standing in front of people and sharing my story but it’s not about me. It’s about God. I think I knew He could use me, but I didn’t quite see how. Sharing my story and about the God I love made seeing that possible. I shared. My speech didn’t have to be perfect, but He used my story to bring Himself glory.
  3. It’s easier to embrace the new me when I attach pleasant emotions to the new me. I’m pretty sure I went through every emotion this summer from heartbreak to joy to terror to happiness to anger to surprise. I’m pretty sure I can encapsulate this whole summer using the word “surprise “. I didn’t know what to expect but God blew my expectations out of the water. I’m definitely not the same Sara who left the States. My soul is lighter and I’m learning the sweetness of trusting God. In the past year, I wrestled with accepting the new Sara because I didn’t know (believe really) that God could use me as broken as I was. God though put people in my life to show me that He could still use me, my thoughts are still needed, and He loves me-the new me-more than I could ever know. Because I’m bravely accepting the new me doesn’t mean the door is shut to everything that I used to love but I’m looking forward not behind now.

As I’m chasing after and embracing this life of more I realize this starts with an attitude of expectation. What’s done is done. Here I am, sitting at the feet of Jesus, patiently waiting with expectation of this life of more that He desires to give me-more love, more freedom-simply more life.

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Barely Brave

I finished 100 Days to Brave. I don’t feel any more Brave but I’m now armed with the tools and a road map to be brave.

Being brave is not an immediate change. You don’t flip a switch and now you’re brave. It doesn’t work like that (I wish it did), but rather it’s a process. If you continue to take the next brave, right step, you’ll be braver tomorrow than you were today.

As I finished reading the book, here are some of the tools in my toolbox to help me be brave.

  • Prepare for change. Hebrews 13:8 states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”. Whatever change is coming-because inevitably it will-Jesus never changes. We can be brave in the fact that even if our circumstances change drastically, Jesus is constant. That said, you need to prepare for the inevitable change by spending time in God’s Word, talking to the unchanging One, and keeping your eyes on Him.
  • Be brave in the waiting season. Waiting is hard. Be brave enough to be patient-not just outwardly, but inwardly.
  • Be brave to know when it’s better to hold on or let go. Sometimes, it would be easier to let go. Don’t let go because it hurts or because it is hard. Hold on. It takes bravery to hold onto something when it’s definitely easier to let go. On the flip side, be brave enough to let go. You can’t grab on to next thing if you’re still holding on to the last thing. Let go of that dream. Let go of that relationship. Annie compares it to monkey bars. Let go even if you don’t see the next monkey bar. She writes, “I have seen, over and over again, that simply letting go is a powerful catalyst God will use to move me toward the next best thing”.
  • Life is hard. Mike Foster, the founder of People of the Second Chance, said, “Life is messy, hard, and weird. We don’t need to be surprised anymore”.
  • Brave people don’t let failure define them. Failure is inevitable. When you fall down, get up, brush the dirt off, learn what you did wrong, and move on.
  • Embrace divine detours. God sees the whole story while we only see a snapshot. Be brave in trusting that He is good, He loves you, and He has a good plan-even if it looks nothing like your plan.
  • Brave people persevere. “Brave people realize that we rejoice in our sufferings because it leads to perseverance and perseverance produces character and ultimately, it us to the hope we have in Jesus.” Brave people don’t give up on hope because they know it is worth fighting for.
  • Brave people take care of their bodies. Jesus has a purpose for your body-with all its imperfections and sickness. He wants to use you, as you are, to bring glory to Himself. He doesn’t make mistakes. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so respect it. Exercise. Eat well.
  • Play. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Have fun. Take pictures with the statues at the zoo. Dismiss the lie that your career will fall apart if you spend some time having fun. Blow bubbles. There is something therapeutic about carving out time in your schedule to be carefree for a moment. God made laughter. Enjoy it.
  • Brave people carve out time for a sabbath and rest. They realize that there are time that you need to stop and rest. It takes courage to unplug, and walk away from your calling for a bit, believing God will still provide.
  • Be generous-with your words, money, time, and wisdom. Nothing you were given is yours. You may think you have nothing to offer anyone, but that’s a lie. It might be a meager offering, but I guarantee that someone needs exactly what you have to offer.
  • Let’s all be brave. Bravery and courage affects people the same way being near a confetti popper will make your life different and better and more amazing. It’s kind of like a domino effect. Making brave choices in your life is going to change the world. At the very least, it will change your world.

So let’s all grab our tool boxes and road maps. Let’s continue on this adventure of brave. Let’s all be brave.

The Summer God Pushed Me Out of My Comfort Zone and Taught Me More About Who He Wants Me To Be

This summer has been a great and challenging one. I feel about two years behind my peers. Most of the people I graduated with are getting married, moving on from their first “real” adult job, or having kids. I, on the other hand, don’t know what the dickens I’m going to next. This summer, God taught me again that that’s okay-it’s okay not to have everything planned to the letter.

Here is a list of things that I’ve learned about myself as I learn to take one day at a time with God.

  • There’s not one plan for my life. Just because I’m 24 with no full time job and still living at home, doesn’t mean I somehow missed the turn towards a successful life. I’m a success where I am. Hey, some days, I’m lucky just to be standing at the end of the day. I don’t feel like there’s just one plan, but rather it involves all the things I’m passionate about. It could be littles, missions, or both.
  • Sometimes, accomplishments are not about being the best, but simply completing the task. So what if you’re not the best at whatever it is, you finished. About a month ago, some of my family did a 3 mile run. My mom and I walked the 2 miles required. A year ago, I couldn’t walk 10 feet without getting winded. I finished the 2 mile walk. I finished. I finished towards the end of the walkers and got passed by a couple littles, but I finished. I definitely wasn’t the best, but finishing was a milestone for me.
  • Being ambidextrous is not all it’s cracked up to be. Don’t get me wrong it’s definitely very cool to use both hands, but sometimes, I think my brain is even more confused than it is already. It’s funny to watch people shocked faces when I use my right hand for one thing, and then in the next breath, I use my left hand.
  • Sunsets can be really calming. This is not something new, but it was further reinforced this summer. On days when I was overwhelmed and exhausted, God paints the sky and just looking at it is calming.
  • Music is how my soul speaks. I don’t know how that works, but I latch onto a song and play it on repeat for days. My soul needs—desperately needs—to hear the message that that song has its lyrics. When my soul has no words, it finds some. Music defines every season of my life so far. My first job was “Ride” by Twenty-One Pilots. My accident and rehab was “You’re Going To Be OK” by Jenn Johnson. Montana was “Mountains” by Biffy Clyro. Those are only a few of the songs that defined the many seasons.
  • Jam sessions are required. It surprisingly therapeutic to turn up music and open the windows while you’re driving.
  • Naps are life. It is funny how when we were little, naps were torture as life was not to be missed. When we become adults though, naps are necessary for us to put our best foot forward.
  • Jesus loves in the sweetest ways-if you have eyes to see. In the midst of shoving me—not just pushing me—He showed me I’m loved by allowing the kid I was watching to be all cuddly and fall asleep on my shoulder. He knew that I just needed someone to love and allow me to love him.
  • I have to push the envelope in regards to my healing. I can’t base how I’m going to be based on how I am right if I keep working towards 100%. I may not get there, but I definitely won’t improve if I sit on my butt and watch TV 24/7.
  • These are a few things I’ve learned, but I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that the best place to be is at the center of God’s Will by making the next right, brave step.
  • When God Gives You Your Dreams

    I don’t know if I can put into words my experience in Ukraine. God has done a myriad of things in my heart these past 3 weeks.

    • Just because something is hard, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. I don’t love sharing my story-standing up in front of people and reliving the hardest season of my life. I grew in that area as God pushed me to share my story and glorify Him. I was able to share because God gave me His strength every time I stood up there.
    • God gave me glimpses of my dream of living overseas. Several times during the past couple of weeks, I was overwhelmed by the love of God. The simple fact that I was able to leave the country was a bit overwhelming. A year ago, I thought all my plans of living overseas were out of the question. I couldn’t see how, in the state I was in, that it would ever be an option. Now, I realize I’m not ready right now as the past two weeks and the time change wiped me out, but God, in His goodness, gave me glimpses of what could be.
    • God loves me sweetly, even while He is shoving me out of my comfort zone. The first week of camp went well. It was exhausting, but I was pacing my energy well. Then came Sunday. The Pastor asked me to share with no warning, no notes, and no preparation. Inwardly, I panicked. I don’t like speaking in front of people and definitely not without notes-my safety blanket of sorts. When the words flee out of my brain, I can look at them and remember where I was. Trying to pull myself together and not panic took a lot more energy out of me then I dared admit. On Wednesday, when I was asked to watch a child, I said yes, but inwardly, I was questioning everything. I was tired. I couldn’t speak to him. I couldn’t run after him if he took off. The time came and he just simply cuddled in my arms and laid his head of my shoulder. God never ceases to amaze me. He knew I needed baby cuddles-someone to just let me hold and love him. The Sunday before and that day, God was shoving me out of my comfort zone. He was pushing me, but that evening, He was showing me that He was only doing it because He loved me-more than I could ever know.
    • Bravery isn’t made up of the grand moments. It’s made up of the small moments of brave decisions. When the pastor asked me to come up and share my testimony, I panicked. I couldn’t do it. What if all the words flee my brain and I’m left standing there dumbfounded. I made my way up front, but in reality, I wanted to disappear. Then I opened my mouth. Suddenly, all the words I had spoken that past week flooded into my brain. I had been brave every day in telling a piece of what God had done in my life that standing up and telling them that was not impossible.
    • A smile is the same in any language. One of my favorite things was to get the kids to smile. I couldn’t really speak to them. I didn’t know Ukrainian or Russian, but I could love them and get them to smile. I could understand their smile. It meant that they felt loved and safe.
    • Jam sessions with Jesus are needed. Corporate worship is great. Slower songs with good melodies are great to offer God reverence. Sometimes, though, you need to turn up the volume, sing at the top of your lungs, and dance to your hearts consent.
    • Sometimes taking a step back is good. Taking a step back is not a defeat. It’s allowing space for you to be the best you can be. Taking time for yourself is good. You can do a million things adequately, or with rest, you could do one thing exceptionally.
    • End well. People don’t remember the middle, they remember the end. Don’t let the end trail off, but give them all the energy and love you have left. Finish well.

    This is just a smidgen of all God has taught me these last weeks. I’m still processing everything and it will take awhile to wrap my head around everything God did in my heart.

    Half-ish of the Way to Brave

    This journey to brave is challenging me and teaching me more about my Creator. Here’s some thoughts about what I’ve learned so far.

    1. Dream in Pieces. Where you are today is made up of little steps and brave decisions sprinkled through your life so far. God gives us our dreams in pieces because we would be too scared if He presented us with the whole puzzle. David is a great example of this. “David wholly believed in who God is and that God had a role for him to play that would require courage. The same is true for you and me.”
    2. Open doors are not lit with flashing lights but opportunities. Sometimes, they can be super spiritual but often times, they are just simply brave decisions.
    3. Brave people recognize closed doors. Sometimes we can be doing our thing, walking, praying that we are in alignment with God’s will, and we’ll come to closed door. “Be brave enough to walk through the doors that the Lord leads you through. Even when they are unexpected or feel scary.”
    4. Mourn the dreams that have died. “The dreams you thought would come true in a certain time frame never did. You saw a life for yourself that you will never have. You can mourn that loss.” Cry. Mourn that. Then wash your face. Pull up your big girl pants. And move forward with the life you do have.
    5. Chase the dreams that are alive. “If you’re reading this book, you’re alive, and if you’re alive, so is a dream. Think about things you can’t stop dreaming about. Talents you have that you haven’t explored. God loves to put wings on dreams that His children chase, dreams that can bring Him glory.
    6. Speak your brave thoughts. Tell someone. The first step to being brave is admitting you want to be brave or do that brave thing. Speaking it out loud gives it life-gives it power.
    7. Calling is different than career. Your job right could not be something you feel called to do, but it takes bravery to be faithful even when you don’t want to be. It takes bravery to find aspects of your calling regardless of what your job might be right now.
    8. Who you do life with matters as much as what you do. People matter. It’s important to make time for people in your life. Things can fade but souls last forever. Balance of work and life is important because we need relationships. Don’t let pursuing your dreams or maximizing your calling keep you from investing in relationships. Life is meant to be shared, so share it.
    9. On the same lines, brave people need people. It takes courage to let people in and let yourself love them. Friendship takes work. Friendship takes courage. If you want to travel faster, go alone. But, if you want to travel farther, go together. We need people. We need someone to hold our hand and travel the journey of life with us.
    10. Brave people cling to God. Change is inevitable, but if we hold tight to our never-changing God, it will be okay. We will be okay, because God has it. He is the boss and His plans are always for our good. He loves us more than we’ll ever know or understand.

    So, in conclusion, a brave life is not a lonely life, but one with other people surrounding you and pushing you forward. Also, a brave life is not instantaneous, but it’s made up of a dotting of small brave decisions that make up a life.

    I’ll Carry the Fork and Other Phrases

    If you want to know what goes on in my head or in the heads of people that experience any sort of brain injury, then read this book!

    Kara Swanson puts, in a light-hearted way, the struggles that encompass a brain injury. Brain injuries are like snowflakes-no two are exactly the same-but there are similarities in the things we struggle with. Here are just some things that apply to most people, but especially to brain injuries.

    • It’s hard but necessary to rely on others. It’s extremely humbling to wait for others to come and help you do simple things that you used to be able to do independently. It’s hard to admit you need help in an area, but it’s necessary for you and for others.
    • You choose when you’re recovered. Recovery is not synonymous with absence of symptoms. It’s when you mentally choose to move forward regardless of your symptoms or handicaps. “We are the only ones who can choose when we are recovered and it is only then that we are no longer waiting for our old lives to return on handsome white horses, ready to rescue us from this ridiculous nightmare.” We accept the new, emerging version of ourselves and choose to move forward.
    • Post-it notes are your friends. If have a tendency to forget things, write them on post its and stick them around. They come in so many different colors so you can make your car or room look like a rainbow. I like yellow sticky notes because they bring the sunshine inside.
    • Attitude is everything. Those who say they can’t and those who say they can are both right. If you don’t believe you can do something, then you won’t try. If you do try, then you will only give enough effort to say you tried. But, if you believe you will do it, you will put all your energy into trying to succeed. In my case, my stubbornness paid off or according to my parents, there was a use for my stubbornness.
    • Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive those people that have the audacity to succeed-to be well. Forgive the people that don’t have to deal with the weights you have been handed because they didn’t choose the cards they were handed. Forgive those people that are doing what you want to be doing. Forgive the injury for changing your life. “Regardless of how you have been wronged or hurt, choosing not to forgive this injury for doing what it does is entirely your decision. It is exhausting, frustrating and unsustainable to try and fight the natural forward current of life. It makes you smile less. It makes you a sour puss, really. At the end of life, it’s routinely one of the top regrets people have, holding on to the ugly grudges of disappointment and of hurt.” Forgive them and let go, because it only holds you back.
    • Thank the people that jumped in the hole with you. It applies to any situation you can’t control, but I’m going to talk specifically about brain injuries. I didn’t choose to fall into this hole called brain injury. My family and friends did have a choice. They could choose to leave-to not have their life shaken up. They chose to stay-to jump in the hole after me, knowing that their life would never be the same. For that, I’m eternally grateful to the people the have walked this journey with me and those who will walk with me in the future.
    • Nothing has the power to damage you, unless you let it. “Brain injury does not deteriorate as if a cancer. It does not kill us over the years. Not unless we invite it to and feed it that power.” Granted, it stops life as we know it, but we can choose to let it stop us from living. This applies to almost everything that happens to us. It changes our lives, but unless we give it the power to damage us, it doesn’t stop us from moving forward.
    • We need to fill up the holes in our lives before they fill up by themselves-because they will. Fill the holes with positive people and positive things-things that lift you up on a bad day. Put kindness into that hole-kindness to yourself and others. Be kind to yourself because you’re trying as hard as you can. Furthermore, “Identify at least one true person who remembers the best of you before your injury so you never forget that you have, time and time again, devised sound strategies which returned successful outcomes to you. Find another who understands how it feels to be brain injured now. And finally, maybe most importantly, find one shining star who will challenge you to dare big and who steadfastly believes in the person you aim to be. Let them help you fill that hole. Fill it up. Hand over hand, fill it back up.” My friends, the Fab Five, have been that for me. They have walked through this journey with me. They remind me of all I’ve accomplished and am still accomplishing. I also have a dear soul friend who pushes me to dare big, reminds me of my dreams, and pushes me closer to Jesus. I’m very thankful for her and the fact that she only knows the new me. She doesn’t have anything to compare; I’m just me, and she loves me.

    A Quarter-ish of the Way To Brave

    I’ve been on this journey to brave the last 30ish days. I’ve learned so much about myself and the God who holds my heart. He gives me those dreams in my heart that I hold so close. Here’s a few things I’ve learned in this journey so far.

    1. Bravery is meant to be called out in ourselves and others.

    When you call out bravery in yourself, you realize that you may not ever feel brave, but you’re displaying courage by simply taking the next right step. When you see brave, say so. When you call out bravery in others, they realize that they are braver than they give themselves credit for. In turn, you realize that what you called out in them sounds a lot like something in your story, and you see bravery in yourself. Also, when we see brave, it inspires us to be brave, and as a result, there is more people who are doing brave things.

    2. Being brave means you embrace being you.

    “Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!”-Dr.Seuss

    There is only one you. You are enough. Embrace what makes you unique-your strengths and your quirks. We all have different stories and were made to be brave. The story of your life is a masterpiece that will never be replicated. Your story will overlap with others at times and your bravery might inspire bravery in them. The people who want to be missionaries are brave, but so are the people who want to be stay-at-home parents. It takes a whole lot of bravery and patience to corral and train up littles. God made you, and He made you for a specific purpose.

    Embrace it.

    Embrace the adventure God has equipped you and called you on.

    3. Being brave means not shying away from the hard questions.

    As humans, we are notorious for shying away from the tough questions because we are afraid of what the answers will be. It takes courage to approach God with the hard questions when we think we already know what the answer will be, and we don’t like it one bit. It takes bravery to trust that even if He doesn’t answers the questions the way we want, He’s still good. Don’t be afraid to ask Him the questions you really want to know. You might not get the answer you want, but you’ll get an answer of some sort.

    4. Being brave means believing God cares about your dreams.

    When I was little, I feared that because I wanted so badly to live overseas, God would call me to suburban America. There is nothing wrong with that, but it just wasn’t where my heart was. I had heard story after story about people who didn’t want to go overseas and then God calls them to be missionaries. That was the foundation of my fear. Now, I realize that dreams come in seasons. My overarching dream is still to become a cross-cultural missionary whether it’s in the States or in another country, but I have smaller dreams than have crept up and surprised me. In being brave, I have to cling to statement that “ God has not forgotten you. Your life and dreams are important to God.” I cling to that like a toddler clings to his blankie.

    God has not forgotten me.

    I may not be doing anything like what I dreamed of, but God has not forgotten me.

    I may feel like I’ve taken a few steps back since graduation, but God has not forgotten me.

    Whatever that dream is that you hold close to your heart, remember this: God has not forgotten you. He hears your prayers and cries.