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.

100 Days To Brave

“Courage is doing things even when you’re scared”. -Annie F. Downs

This summer is going to be hard and scary but oh so holy as I try to return to hospital nursing, speak in front of people and tackle two new countries. I don’t know what God has planned, but I do know it will be amazing as I strive to be brave in expectation. I just have to take it one step at a time.

I decided to go on this journey of 100 days to brave. I am 14 days into it, and I’ve already learned so much about myself.

  1. My bravery inspires others. “Because when we are brave enough to share the God stories in our lives, it changes the people around us. It changes us to share them.” It’s therapeutic for me to process what God’s doing in my life as so much is happening right now, so I end up posting about it. Then I find out from other people it’s been encouraging to them also. It’s like a ripple effect. Bravery and perseverance in one person’s life inspires it in another person’s and on and on. Seeing other people be brave inspires bravery in others.
  2. I’m braver than I know. I look back on the things people point out that they view as me being brave, and I pause. Those were moments that I didn’t consider myself brave at all. I was just surviving, but to others looking in, I was doing the next right thing, saying the next brave yes. To others, I was brave even if I didn’t feel brave. It’s been hard, frustrating, painful, tearful, and lonely, but God has shown me when I look back, how he has orchestrated my brave decisions into a story that he is continually unfolding as I say the next brave yes.
  3. We need to call out the brave in each other. I think there is something special about putting brave decisions on display. Seeing brave acts inspires bravery in yourself and others. It may just be a post it note that reminds you of a time that you made a challenging decision, or a word that reminds you of a situation where you were brave. Maybe you share your story, and it reminds someone else of their story. They realize they were braver than they even knew. I think we need to celebrate the brave in each other because we can tack a pleasant emotion to a sometimes hard and scary thing. When you see brave, say so.
  4. I need to speak truth over myself. I’ve been notorious for speaking bad about myself. I’ve told myself “I’m not pretty enough.” “I’m not good enough.” “My mistakes define me—I mess up.” Those are lies…the God of the Universe, the One who is breathing life into my lungs, is full of love for me. When I choose to believe that and live into that, my insecurities are quieter, and my worries are lighter because I know and believe how God feels about me. It’s sometimes a daily choice—a moment by moment choice—to choose to believe what God says about me. I am loved. I am brave. Speak kindly to yourself because you’re doing the best you can.
  5. I need to love what I love and not be ashamed. When I first moved back to the States, I was about two years behind everyone else in what they liked. I had just discovered American girl dolls, but my peers had been through that phase and were onto makeup and boys. I always felt like I needed to do the “cool” thing rather than do the thing I loved. I needed everyone else’s approval because without it, I was this uncool weird kid from Africa who didn’t know anything about anything. It’s been a journey. I think, looking back, over the years, I wrestled heavily with this area. At times, I still wrestle with having the confidence to be the person I want to be or love the things I want to love. Annie F. Downs reminds us that bravery is giving yourself permission to do the thing you want to do or like whatever you want to like regardless if anyone else does. You are accepted by God—He’s the only one other than yourself that whose approval matters. I hope you learn to accept yourself as I am learning and striving to accept myself.

When God Says No

As christians, we offer the cliche, “If God shuts a door, He opens a window.” This is true, but how do you keep going in the meantime? How do you wrestle with the fact that God said no to this seemingly good thing? How do you still manage to believe that God’s plan is still good?

These are some of questions that have been rattling around in my head. How do we handle the fact that all of our dreams come crashing to a stop? How do we reconcile that with a good God? I don’t have a theological answer for you. All I have is my own musings and things people have said to me, so take it with a grain of salt and research this for yourself.

I was watching a video clip by Inky Johnson. If you’re like me and had no idea who this person is, he is a former football player who was 8 games away from the NFL draft when his world was rocked. In a normal tackle in a game, he ended his football career at the University of Tennessee with an injury that permanently paralyzed his right arm. Johnson went on to study psychology and is now a motivational speaker at schools, community centers and ceremonies throughout the United States. He stresses multiple times, how important the process is, not simply the product that you have in your life.

Right after my accident, I wished it never happened—that my life would go back to the way it was before because it was good. I wished that my scars would disappear because I was embarrassed by them—they looked weird. Now though, I don’t wish the accident never happened because I’m a stronger person because of it. I’m more empathetic towards people, and I’m a better nurse because I actually have been there. I have a crazy and incredible story of how God saved me. I’m no longer embarrassed by my scars when people notice them, rather I’m kinda proud of them. They are physical signs that I survived something meant to break me. I wish they would be a little less obvious but they are talking points. When someone asked what happened, I can tell God’s story.

So I don’t really know what to do immediately after God says no to something that could have been good. To be completely honest, I’m still wrestling with that. Some days I’m perfectly capable of seeing the good things that have come out of this season, and other days, I wallow in my pity party because I look at others, and they have the life I could have and would have been living. I do know this though, in time, God sometimes reveals why He took us down that detour. We just stand there, simply in awe that God would use a terrible thing like an accident and turn it into a part of His bigger story of redemption.

I’m in awe of God, and how He would use someone as insignificant as me to show His glory though.

This is God’s story, and I’m just the lucky one that gets to tell it.

Slow down

God often doesn’t use flashing lights or billboards. I wish he would. It would make figuring out His Will simply cut and dry. Most often than not, He speaks in a still small voice. I can often miss it because I’m too busy.

I need to slow down and notice the beauty in the seemingly insignificant things. God literally stopped me. After my accident, I’m forced to take life slowly. I need rest aka I can’t function on little energy for long periods of time. My energy level is like a colored coin jar which I keep taking coins from without refilling it until it’s empty. I’m getting better at pacing my energy.

As my brain is healing, I have this extra energy, and I want to do everything. I try to do everything, and I fall on my face. I’m learning that I need to be more intentional with where I put my energy. I need to stop running in place where I get tired but go nowhere. Rather, I need to learn how to walk slowly—it will take longer to get where I need to, but I’ll eventually get there.

This is so hard to put into practice. I want to say “yes” to everything, but stop when I think about what my best yes would be. What are those one or two things that I can give my whole energy to rather than scattering pieces here and there so no one is satisfied.

This lesson of slowing down is one that I am forced to learn because when I hit a wall emotionally, I am no good to anyone. I am learning to pace myself even in things that I enjoy—not speed through it, but slow down and savor the moments. This is a lesson that is good for everyone to learn no matter where you are in life.

It seems counterintuitive, but when we slow down we actually get more done, and we do it well. If I go, go, go, I’m more likely to make a simple mistake. But if I move slowly, I take time to think about the action and have time to relish in the accomplishment of the finished project. Thus, I ultimately get more done because I pace myself.

I’m reminded of the fable, The Tortoise and The Hare. The hare was definitely faster, but he got proud and boastful. He started off really fast and he took a short break because he got tired. The tortoise was slower, but he didn’t care what anyone else thought and just kept moving.

He ended up winning the race.

Slow and steady wins the race.

I desire to be like the tortoise-moving slowly, but still moving forward.

5 Things You Don’t Know But Should Know About Brain Injuries

March is Brain Injury Awareness month. Brain injuries are becoming more known because of the NFL, but we are still just tapping the iceberg.

1. You won’t be able to tell someone has a brain injury. Right after my accident, you could tell something was wrong. My eyes weren’t focusing. I wasn’t moving my right hand at all. Now, through, I still have a brain injury, but I look “normal”. If you didn’t know my story, and I simply met you on the street, you would have no idea the year I’ve had. It’s an invisible bruise.

“I live by my systems. I have to have a schedule or I am lost….Also, just because I look OK doesn’t mean anything. I have worked for years to get where I am now.” — Nancy Davis

2. People with a brain injury are not stupid, they simply process information differently and slowly. Everyone pictures a person with a brain injury as someone in a wheelchair drooling. This is often not the case. I know people who were civil engineers before their accident. Their TBI affected some of the way they did things, but they can still do what they did in some capacity. I know for me, I used to be able to look at something and remember/recognize it. But now, it takes a couple of times of reading it to maybe remember it. That is no way means I’m less smart than I was, it just looks different. Also, if someone asks me question after question, my brain gets overwhelmed and shuts down. People need to ask me one question and give me time to process the question before I can give an eloquent answer

“My brain takes different paths to understanding and explaining. It’s not a straight road, but one with detours.” — Keli Hanks

3. They aren’t lazy, they just need a lot more rest to function on a “normal” level.

I need to figure in more rest time now than I used to because without it, I hit a wall and am literally useless to anyone. You think about how much your brain is involved in. A while ago, my sister and I were out to lunch. I was quiet so she asked me what I was thinking. I said, “Drinking water.” There were no other thoughts in my head but the act of raising the cup to my lips and drinking the water. Your brain is involved in every act of every day. No wonder we are wiped out all the time.

“Remembering things is difficult. I’m not being lazy by only working a few hours a day or needing days off during a busy time — I just need more rest to function than you do… Changes take time for me to adjust to. What works for one person doesn’t always work for me.” — Sara Hill

4. A brain injury changes a person, not simply because it’s traumatic, but it changes the chemistry of the brain itself.

In a simple way, I used to be way more extroverted but now I’m a lot more introverted to the extent where I’ve had conversations with people only to discover that they went on solely in my head. I’ve also become significantly more OCD. I have to have everything just right, and it bothers me if one thing is out of place.

“My injury may be invisible, but my life has been turned upside down. I will never be the same again.” — Christina Chalgren

5. TBI individuals are some of the bravest people you will ever meet because they have survived something that was meant to destroy them.


It’s only been just over a month into 2018. It’s been a month that I’ve reached landmark after landmark. I’ve already seen God do amazing things in my life, and I’m expecting Him to do more. Recently, I spoke to the Independent Studies students at Mansfield Christian School. The whole idea was God’s faithfulness in my life. Someone asked me, “What was my plan now? What was my new desire?” It’s funny how I had never pictured myself working at a school or contemplated working in a rehab but now those are really things I’m thinking about. It’s funny how God changes your dreams or gives you a new dream.

This is going to be my best year yet because I’m expecting God to do great things.

On Monday, I drove by myself for the first time in a year, a month, and 26 days (not that I’m counting or anything). It felt good to be free again. It was a little nerve racking but I drove. It was a big milestone to pass. It’s just around town for now, and it feels like I’m 16 again, but it’s baby steps.

Also, I’ve been swimming again. It might not seem like a big thing to others but it is to me. The water is like my second home. I’ve swam for 8 years, and I would much rather swim any distance than run. I tried swimming last summer but my legs were not strong enough to keep me afloat. I tried again recently and I could swim. I was very out of shape but I did it. Swimming is very good for me physically as well as mentally. It takes a whole lot of coordination to swim effectively. It made me feel a little more like the old Sara to get in the water again.

“God may not answer every prayer with a miracle, but He does answer a few with a surprise”

Sheridan Voysey

So I’m expecting God to surprise me greatly this year, and I’m excited for the adventure He is taking me on.

It’s going to a great year!

Stepping Into the Big Picture

My head spins as I lay in bed, trying to sleep-attempting to push the worry out of my head.

I admit that I am a recovering chronic worrier. Most of the time, I struggle with handing over the reigns of my life to God because I like control too much. Hence I worry about things that are out of my control. I tend to drive myself a little crazy with the constant worrying, but I have a hard time shutting it completely off.

This summer started out with an ample amount of unknown changes that honestly scared me. I hated not knowing what the next few months of my life would look like.

Simply the thought of not having control sent my soul into a panic because my default setting is to rely on my own strength.

Selfishly, when things didn’t work out the way I specifically thought it would, my carefully placed plans in my head caved down around me.

I do not have the control I thought I did. Looking back, it all seems really ridiculous because I had nothing to worry about. God had it all worked out, but I believed that I had to have everything figured out to be successful.

I love to plan. I breathe a tiny bit easier when my schedule is organized and I know what is coming next. I want to believe that I am flexible, but the reality is that I strive for order in the chaos and knowing over the unknown. I am the girl who had the rest of her college classes figured out during her first advising meeting. I arranged and organized a plan for after college that I believed was God’s plan for my life. I had everything all figured out-where I would work, where I would like and what I would be doing with my life. I had this plan in my head and I dismiss anyone and everyone who told me different. Looking back, I realize that I acted ridiculous What person in their right mind picks a path and refused to acknowledge any other options.

But God had a different plan.

Not for lack of trying, my plan did not appear to be making any process.

Nothing was happening.

Frustrated, I wondered why God was denying me what I thought I wanted-why He wasn’t moving the way I wanted him to. Consistently, people reminded me that maybe I should begin to move towards other areas—areas where the door did not appear to be shut. Stubbornly, I resisted their advice, arguing that I could make it happen. A wise friend reminded me that God does not usually express His will through flashing signs, lit up to show us the direction he wants us to go. He often lets us make decisions and moves and directs our path if we are heading in the drastically opposite direction. We simply cannot sit around waiting on Him to show up-some of the responsibility is on us to be faithful in taking action.

Eventually God challenged me to trust Him. He challenged me to let Him guide me. I simply needed to let go of my particular dreams and open my heart to listening to what he might have in store. As soon as I took that step-trusting that if it was the right step, God would move.

He did.

He moved in and showed me that He had control.

Terrified, I had to give up what I thought was my dream, but God has a bigger and better plan for my life. I cannot see the future, but all He is asking of me is to take the next right step.

Admittedly, I claimed to trust God, but I clung to a ridiculously small view of what I believed that He could accomplish in my life. He continues to burst out of the boxes I place Him in, repeatedly reminding me that He has everything under control. He did more in 2 days than I could accomplish in 2 months. He eradicated my fears and doubts by reminding me that I cannot see the big picture. I only see snippets of what He is doing in my life. In 48 hours, I had passed my NCLEX, gotten a job, and found an apartment. Everything thing that I had stressed about, prayed about, and worried about months was resolved.

After all that, I left to explore the wild mountains of Montana. There is something incredible about standing on the side of the mountain—looking out over the land and other mountains. The mountains show both the creativity and wildness of God as they tower high above the world daring all to challenge their creator. 

It is a healthy reminder of how small I am.

Often in life, I begin to believe that I am the star of the story. Because I am human, I forget that my life is not all about me. Standing in the midst of the vast spaces and grandiose mountain reminds me of my smallness in the midst of the world.

Sitting in the midst of these mountains reminds me that everything that God does, He does for His glory.

He created me for His glory, thus my life should be about His glory, not my own personal gain.

All that is asked of me is to be faithful in the small things, trust Him and step into the big picture of His plan to redeem the world for His glory.