A New Normal

March is Brain Injury Awareness month.

I really didn’t think I would still be struggling with things five years later. But here we are, five years later and migraines still knock me for a loop.

I’m just going to be honest here… I had a rough 36 hours. I worked all weekend-night shift-so I slept a bit yesterday, but it wasn’t quite long enough. So, then I continued about my day. It was good, but towards evening I started to get a headache. Long story short, I ended up in bed with an ice pack. Migraines like that are fewer and far between, but now they knock me for a loop because I’m not expecting them. It’s times like this that I want so much to be normal, but then I remember that this thing doesn’t take away from me, but rather it adds. I’m who I am now because of it. Here’s a few things to consider as you interact with people with known or unknown head trauma.

  1. Every injury is different. You may know someone who had a brain injury, but that does not mean you know this new person’s story. I get that you are trying to relate, but better than jumping in, listen. Their story may surprise you.
  2. Just because we think differently, don’t think we are stupid. Can I be vulnerable? This is one of my biggest fears. On bad brain days, when the words get caught more often than naught, I fear that people will think that I’m incompetent. I know I shouldn’t care this much about what people think, but I’ve worked my butt off to get to where I am. So yes, I probably care too much about what people think and honestly, words might get caught in my head, but I know that I’m just as smart if not more than I was before my accident.

These are just a few ways that you can accept a person with a brain injury! Even 5 years later, I’m adjusting to my new normal. Thanks for reading my thoughts!

Things I Desire From 2022

So I’m big on resolutions but rather than resolutions, I heard someone refer to them as practices.

I like that. 

New year practices. That gives the idea that I’m not going to be good at them from the get go. It will take some time but eventually, I’ll get the idea.

  1. Be more present. My words for the year are enough and rest. I struggle to believe I’m enough when my attention is split between things. I desire to be more present with the places and people I’m with.
  2. Say my best yes. My default is saying yes to avoid disappointing people. I desire to practice saying my best yes as saying no to something now might let me be more productive in something I need/want to do later.
  3. Read a book a month. Lately, it’s been listening to a book occasionally, but I want to structure my life around making time to do the things that bring me joy.
  4. Spend consistent time with Jesus. Now, notice I’m not putting a time frame on it like a certain number of minutes or hours but rather I desire to spend consistent time with the One who knows my heart even better than I do. On days when I have lots of free time that time spent with Him could be longer than on days when I’m busy.
  5. Drink more water.
  6. Love my people well.
  7. Rest as often as my body needs.

Enough Rest

This year my word was enough. This coming year-2022-the word that has been stuck in my head is rest.

Enough rest. Now that has a ring to it-especially after this year.

Rest. 

What is rest?

Rest according to the definition is: “cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.” 

I am a definite  overachiever. Rest is not in my typical vocabulary. I need to make it more common. What I’m learning lately is that in order to be the best daughter, wife, friend, and nurse, I need to rest. It is not suggested. It is required.

Rest.

This is an area that I strive to be better in.This year I want to make that the essence of this year.. I want to come out of a space of rest instead of a place of busyness. I want to encapsulate my productivity within rest instead of vice versa.

In a culture that elevates busyness, it takes courage to rest-to step back and take care of yourself. Always being on the goal takes a toll on body and soul. Here are a few of the ways that I want to be intentional about rest in this new year.

  • Limit social media: sometimes, social media is nice, but other times, it is draining even in the calmness. It stresses my emotions because it impedes my desire for contentment.
  • Get more sleep: I work nights which means my sleep schedule is crazy. People want to do things at 10 am after I’ve worked. I say yes because I don’t want to disappoint people. I aspire to choose those moments wisely and learn to say no.
  • Spend time with restful people: There are certain people in my life that are restful and I can sit with them and do nothing. Those are the people I should spend more time with.
  • Incorporate an afternoon a week and a day a month of rest into my schedule.

This isn’t exhaustive, but these are a few of the things that I hope to implement in 2022.

5 years…

Dear Sara,

This is me writing to you from 5 years after that life-changing event. Here’s what I have learned and grieved as life doesn’t look anything like I thought it would, but God is good in the chaos of life.

  1. Nothing is a coincidence. I feel like I already kinda knew this, but I have really felt this lately. It’s not a coincidence that on one of my hardest days, a friend texts me out of the blue or I get a letter that encourages my soul.
  2. We need people. We can’t do life or get through hard things without certain people. I mean, you must choose the people that surround you wisely, but I can’t count the number of times that I was “this” close to giving up, but certain people took me by the hand and walked with me. 
  3. Everybody goes through something, but don’t let it define you. Sometimes it’s more obvious and sometimes it’s more subtle. I’ve learned in the past couple of years that I am more than my accident or brain injury. Yes, I do have chronic pain and I deal with migraines, but it makes me a better nurse because I get it. 
  4. Life is not simply about my happiness or comfort. Growing up, I knew this fact but there’s a difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge. Life is about glorifying God and His desire to rescue humanity. If God can use my story to advance His kingdom, who am I to stand in His way.
  5. I probably wouldn’t have a few people that have impacted my life-my husband being the most significant. I met him shortly after and he put up with me finding myself again before I could offer anything to him. We are still growing and figuring stuff out, but he is my soulmate and my accident put us in the same circles quicker. 
  6. It’s necessary to put down roots so you have a place or people to go home to. Throughout my nomadic childhood, I put my roots into people rather than the bevy of places that shaped my worldview. I’ve always wrestled with the idea of staying vs going. I’ve learned the necessity of walking the tension of both. It’s exciting to go to different places and see exotic things, but there’s also a strange kind of comfort in being known by the barista in the local coffee shops or the guy at the front desk at work. There’s something about being known and seen.

This is not a comprehensive list of what I’ve learned and grieved in the past couple of years, but as 5 years rolls around, I’m learning that I’m a complex person. This is part of my story but not the entirety of it. It complicates life a little, but it ultimately makes me a better nurse, daughter, best friend and wife.

Love, Sara

The year of Enough

Enough.

That is my word for this year-this crazy and insane year. I chose to embody this word in whatever I did throughout the year, and man was it hard.

I chose to believe I was enough even when I needed to take antidepressants to help me cope with nursing in a pandemic. I don’t plan on being on them forever, who knows though, but they allow me to be the best friend, daughter, wife, sister, and nurse I can.

I chose to believe I was enough when real life clouds marriage and the rubber meets the road. We basically started out the year married so we are coming up on one year. It has been the best and hardest thing. We grew a lot and together but oftentimes, I had to choose to believe I was enough because I felt lacking. The key is choosing to see what can realistically be changed and needs to change and what is my brain lying to me.

I chose to believe I was enough when I didn’t get positive feedback on my work but I also didn’t get negative feedback. I chose to believe I was enough simply because I was enough.

I chose to believe I was enough when my brain says get overwhelmed and I need to rest. It doesn’t make me less than because I can’t do more, it just makes me more intentional about the time I do give to people. I’m learning that no one can do everything.

I chose to believe I am enough simply because I’m a daughter of the King. That being said, life is not always easy, but it is sweet if you choose to look for the light shining in. When life causes me to doubt that I just have to remember the truths.

  • God embraces emotions.
  • I am valued and loved.
  • God calls me beloved.
  • I am a child of God (John 1:12)
  • I am beautifully made (Psalms 39:14)
  • I am intelligent (Genesis 1:27)
  • I am loved (John 3:16)
  • I am enough

I’m just as enough with messy hair in my overalls as I was all dolled up in my wedding dress. I’m choosing to live into that every day, not simply the good brain days.

Here’s to the rest of 2021 and growing in confidence and experience. Here’s to believing I am enough, no matter where God has me put my anchor down.

6 months down, a lifetime to go.

Now I still have so much to learn about marriage and about Sean, but we’ve made it halfway through year one and we started our journey in the throes of a pandemic. Here are a few things that I’ve learned in the hardest and best 6 months:

  • Marriage is a commitment-A promise to someone else. It’s promising that the other person will always be the first priority in your life. It’s promising that his happiness is valued. 
  • Marriage is a collaboration-rather than a compromise. A friend once told me that in compromises one person usually lose something but in a collaboration both parties work together to a common end. I think that’s true. Both parties are often more satisfied with the end result.
  • Marriage is an endless sleepover with my favorite person. I look forward to coming home and seeing Sean and curling up next to him. I think someday I’ll get over it (but I really hope not).
  • Grand gestures are nice but it’s the little things that truly mean a lot. Flowers and candy are always appreciated by me but it’s more about the gentle way he holds me when my emotions are fragile or the way he waits till I wake up in the afternoon to mow the lawn.
  • Loving well means you need to learn the other person’s love language. 
  • Communication never goes out of style.
  • Love is a choice-even when the feelings are there.
  • It’s not all about a wedding, but marriage does deserve to be celebrated. 

So here we are: 6 months down, a lifetime to go, and a whole lot more to learn and fail at the first time. Sean is my favorite person and I can’t imagine doing this marriage thing without him by my side. Marriage is hard but worth it nonetheless.

Grace, upon Grace, upon Grace

Can I be honest?

I’ve been in a dark place. I didn’t want to admit that because life is seemingly good. I married my favorite person. I bought a house. We got a cat. I love my job (most of the time). I talk to/see my best friend on the regular. Life is good.

But hard.

They don’t tell you that even though you live together now, being on opposite schedules mean, you may not see much of your favorite person. 

Adulting is a lot of work-and you have to do the work even when you don’t feel like it.

Sean thinks so differently than I do, which in most cases it’s good because I’m glad he hasn’t experienced the same trauma I have.

PTSD stinks. I mean, you do the work. You’re able to stand on your own two feet again. You have a steady job and relationship. You think you’re good then WHAM. PTSD hits you upside the head and knocks you down. 

Depression makes you feel less than because it’s all of a sudden hard to get out of bed and find motivation to do even the simplest tasks.

We are in the middle of a pandemic that changed the way we do everything. 

Oh and add to it the guilt of not being okay when it appears that you should be happy. It stinks.

All in all, I’ve been managing with the help of trusted individuals and God. But I decided that I couldn’t process it by myself, so I started therapy again. It was with the same counselor that say me though the mire the first time so she’s familiar with my defense mechanisms. Only two sessions in and it wrecked me.

I finally put a name to the feelings of loss I was feeling after everything. I was preparing for everything to get ripped out from under me. What? Life was good and I was preparing for the worst.  After that session, I had to do the hard and exhausting work of sitting with all the emotions. Now that I’ve sat with them, felt them fiercely, and given them room to breathe, I can do the even harder work of changing my thoughts. 

Here’s to not being okay, but I’m in a better place than I was yesterday. Here’s to giving myself grace when my traumatized self hurts the people I love. I have broken pieces but I’m doing the hard work of letting Jesus patch me together like only He can.

Airplanes and other flying things

There is just something about taking off in an airplane.

There’s nothing quite like take-off.

You feel the momentum mounting under the souls of your feet. 

The plane starts to speed up, the energy building up and then you feel it take off from the ground and start to soar. That’s how I feel like these last six to eight months with God were. Here’s a few things that God has been indwelling in my heart recently with my move to hospital nursing, the Dominican Republic, and the pandemic.

 

  • God is here. He’s in the breeze and the rain. He’s in the quiet moments. He’s still there even though you think He’s absent. He’s there in the midst of chaos offering a nugget of peace if we choose to cling to Him. In some of the darkest moments and some the lightest recently, I recognized that God is still there even though I can’t see Him.
  • Smiles are the same in any language. Recently, I went to the Dominican Republic. We ran a clinic. I know a little bit of Spanish, but it warmed my heart that I could communicate God’s love simply through a smile as I was taking the person to see the doctor. God’s love abounds in those who allow it to permeate through them. I hope I am the hands and feet of Jesus in my daily life not just of mission trips to the DR.
  • Never underestimate the power of a well-placed kind word. We are all stressed out to the max-especially since the pandemic. We are all afraid of the unknown and then our bent is to lash out because we are afraid. In that case, a kind word means so much more because every word surrounding that is angry, fearful words. When people are hurting, a kind word is like a lifeline of hope. Be that lifeline of hope.
  • It’s okay to not be okay. I feel like this is a lesson I learn time and time again. I just recently had to deal with this mentality. I was coming back from the DR and I got a migraine. It knocked me down for a little while and I realized that I need people in my life. I need people to bring me food when I’m not feeling well enough to go to the cafeteria to eat. I don’t have to have it all together all the time-but I need to accept that I’m not okay all the time. God holds me up in those times and surrounds me with people that hold my arms up.
  • Those who say they can and they can’t are both right. There’s a fine line between accepting limitations and just sitting on my butt and complaining. A year ago, I chose to sit on my butt and accept where I was then, I wouldn’t be here today. I wouldn’t be dating the love of my life and I wouldn’t be loving on little and bigger humans at the hospital. It took a lot of brave small steps to get me to when I am today, but I think if I didn’t have people reinforcing the idea that I can do it. I couldn’t do it without them.

Loving your Neighbors and Other Expressions of God’s Goodness.

“It is a gift to have a body that holds our soul here on earth, with a heart that beats and air that

moves through our lungs. It’s a gift to be able to come to God with our prayers. It’s a gift to do the

things that give us joy. It’s a gift to have opportunities to love our neighbors. We live an incarnational

life on purpose. God designed it that way. By our very design we have limitations. We can fight them

or accept them.”

Alexandra Kuykendall

I was just thinking the other day about God’s goodness.

Tonight, I was blown away by God’s goodness. Honestly, if you asked me a year ago, if I would be living Mansfield by my choice, dating the love of my life and working at a hospital

in direct patient care, I would have laughed in your face.

I did laugh in my brothers face when he mentioned something about me returning to the hospital setting.

I honestly figured that was long gone as well as the hopes that anyone would be able to love me and my

broken (albeit slowly put back together brain and “Sara”). But God in his goodness put me back together

piece by piece and placed someone in my life that could handle my put together self with grace.

I don’t know what the future holds for me, but right now, I can honestly say that God is good. A year and a

half ago, I struggled with believing-truly believing-that statement.

God is good.

God has a good plan for me.

I couldn’t see it. Sometimes, I honestly wondered why He saved me.

BUT GOD!

He has burst out of every box that I tried to put Him in. 

I have been so blessed by the unit and people in the hospital God has placed me with.

The man in my life who graciously deals with my schedule and loves my healing brain.

My small group girls and leaders God has put in my life to mold me more like himself.

The sunsets and sunrises where God shows His glory after a long day or long night.

So here I am overwhelmed by the goodness of God and realizing that God is not asking me to change

the world. He is simply asking me to love my neighbor-the people He has chosen to put in my sphere of

influence. Here I’ll be, simply loving my corner of the world. 

Behold Our God

Behold Our God.

 

To be honest, we sang this song this morning.

I was undone. 

I pictured God-the Creator of the Universe-seated on His throne in all its grandeur, but still caring about my small, minuscule dream to return to hospital nursing.

I pictured how blown away and astonished the disciples were to see Jesus standing in front of them after 3 days before they had seen him broken and beaten, hanging on the cross.

Overwhelmed, I sang “You will reign forever (Let Your glory fill the earth)” 

I was overwhelmed by God in that oftentimes, I show up to the throne room with a list of requests and petitions.

 

“God, can you……”

“If you love me, you’ll….”

“God, please,….”

 

I forget to simply just let Him be God. I was overwhelmed this morning-to the point of tears-realizing that even though the past couple weeks were hard, God had in grand ways answered all the prayers of my soul-even the ones I dared not utter out loud.

He opened (and continues to open) doors for me to go back to hospital nursing.

He brought someone into my life to calm my anxious soul and who pursues me with such grace and patience. This special person encourages my seemingly crazy thoughts and pursuits as I strive to figure out this new Sara that he loves.

He showed me my corner of the world and made me realize that Mansfield needs Him just as much as the places I’d dreamed of. He didn’t take them off the table, but rather He changed my heart and eyes to see Him in the seemingly mundane.

This is the God that I worship. 

This God who is seated grandly on His throne in heaven, but still cares about the seemingly minuscule desires of my heart.

This God-who is Creator of the Universe-deserves to simply be beheld in all His glory.

Behold our God seated on His throne

Come, let us adore Him

Behold our King! Nothing can compare

Come, let us adore Him!

 

This is something I was reminded to make time for. Time to just bask in the awesomeness of God. Time to sit at His feet and worship Him for all the things He has done and will do.

If you need me, I’ll be over here overwhelmed by the goodness of God. I’ll be over here beholding my God who as done over and beyond what I prayed and wished for.