12.17.2016

3 years.

This season is emotional. As the anniversary of my almost death-my life change-comes close I’m just a mess of emotions.

Let me just be honest.

Today was great but I was an emotional mess this afternoon-it was irrational.

BUT GOD.

ABBA-my favorite name for God-knew that I needed cocooned in His arms. He knew that I needed my small group of girls hugs. He knew that I needed Him.

I’ve learned a lot throughout my life, but here are just a few nuggets that, as the 17th roles around, feels a little more applicable.

 

  • God is “ABBA”.

 

The reason why I love this name of God so much is that I love the picture it brings to my mind. A picture of God standing with open arms as I run towards Him. He catches me and picks me up while twirling me around and around. I love that picture. A picture of a God that rules the world yet cares about the littlest thing that is bothering me. 

 

  • People can hurt you, but just because they can, all of them won’t.

 

This one is a lesson I’m still processing through. Throughout my life, letting people in has always been a struggle. I mean letting people into my core-the core of who Sara is. I have layers like an onion, and I learned the lesson of transparency without vulnerability. Let me explain that. I learned how to peel back enough that people were convinced that I was transparent but there was no real risk of me getting hurt. I worked through that and finally made progress and let a few people in. Then the accident happened, and I’m back at square one. I lost myself and figured that I was “too much” for someone to love. A person simultaneously proved that I was worth investing in and crushed my idea that I would ever find love. Then, enter God. God brought a certain person into my life as a friend and I was skittish. I liked him but I figured he would leave. I didn’t want to let him in, because I was afraid of the mess I would be if he did leave. We were friends and then he wormed his way into my heart. He was there. He stayed and who knows what the future holds, but he has taught me that it is possible to open your heart again. I love him for that simple fact and who he is. In opening your heart, there’s always the risk of hurt, but just because they can, doesn’t mean they will.

 

  • Nothing-no person-is a coincidence.

 

I don’t believe anything is a coincidence. I don’t believe that I was hired at MCS of a whim. I believe that I was there for a specific reason. I don’t believe God brought people in and took people out of my life for a reason. Each person I’ve interacted with over the years has shaped me into who I am today for better or for worse. 

 

  • My story is about more than just me.

 

My story while it directly impacts my day to day life, is not simply about me.  This life is about more than my happiness. It’s about God’s redemption of ALL humanity. If God uses me and my story to fulfill his purposes, then all the trauma will be worth it.

 

  • God is not afraid of emotions.

 

If I have learned anything in the past three years, I’ve learned that it’s okay to not be okay for a while, but I can’t stay there. I can’t pitch my tent in the mire and live there. I can visit there. There have been times that I pop right out of the hole, and there have been times where I have needed my brother or parents to give me a swift kick to the bottom (metaphorically) to propel me out of the hole. Love isn’t simply codling but love is telling someone the truth with grace. Two years ago, I hit rock bottom. Life didn’t look anything like I thought it would, and I dug myself a house down in the mire and was planning on staying there indefinitely. 

BUT GOD. 

God in his grace-oh sweet grace-didn’t let me camp there. He put people in my life to give me that swift kick in the butt that I needed, Oh it was hard. There were lots of tears as I lamented what was and could have been. I wrestled with insecurity, I made molehills into mountains, and I surrendered into God’s will. I’m not perfect at this in any means. I still am not quite there yet, but at least I’m not still where I was.

I don’t know what your story is-who has hurt you, what trauma has happened to you-but I do know that there is an ‘abba’ who loves you more than you could ever know. Here’s to believing that God has got this.

Things The Past 3 Years Have Taught Me

In 23 days, it will be 3 years since I almost died. December 17th will always be a bittersweet day. On one hand, it’s a day that I survived, but on the other, it’s a day that my life changed. Here are a few things that life and my brain injury have taught me in the past 3 years.

  • You only live-and die-once. 

This moment, right here, right now, is the only moment you are guaranteed. You aren’t guaranteed tomorrow so kiss your spouse, spend time with your siblings and friends, put down your phone and show your family you care.

  • You can do anything-within reason-that you put your mind to.

God was gracious in letting me recover so well, but it wasn’t without tears and attitude (Sorry to my family for all the tears. Thanks for putting up with my pity parties but not letting me stay in my funk). 3 years ago, I honestly couldn’t (didn’t) imagine the way my life has turned out. And I don’t say that to receive applause or for anyone to think I am awesome. I simply say it to 1) show how awesome God is in allowing me the privilege of carrying this testimony of His grace and love and 2) show what determination and hard work culminate in. I could have and almost did give up on my life being any semblance of what I had pictured it being. My brother has a list a mile long of things I said I would never be able to do again. The top of the list is working as an acute care nurse in a hospital. With my hard work, and it was hard, I was able to return to the hospital. Honestly, it was harder than nursing school, because I was constantly frustrated as I had to relearn things I had already learned a couple of years ago while dealing with migraines, needing TONS more rest, and hands not doing what my brain is telling them. All in all, I didn’t know what my outcome would be or what I could do until I tried. Never give up.

  • There are many paths to take. Don’t compare your path to anyone else.

I learn this lesson time and time again. Maybe you are 20 with your dream job or maybe life happened and you are still working toward it. Maybe you married the love of your life at 19, or maybe you are still waiting for the knight to come rescue you. There is no right path in regards to destiny. It’s not like you took a wrong turn somewhere and your life is ruined now as a result. Your story is your story, It honestly does not matter what anyone else’s story is, but someone needs you and your story.

  • Rest is necessary and good.

Im very bad at resting well. I’ve gotten better at it simply because I cannot function without rest in my life. I go go go,  then I hit a wall and am dead to the world for 24 hours. I’ve learned the benefit of a well placed “no” as hard as it is. I’ve learned that there are different kinds of rest that are beneficial for different moments. Rest could look like watching a movie with Sean, or it could look like taking a hike in nature. Rest doesn’t always mean sleep but I’ll be honest and say that I hate that I need more of it now.

  • Sometimes it’s crucial and needed to simply take life one day at a time.

If you look at the big picture, you can get paralyzed in fear and end up doing nothing, I know this happens to me more than I would like. I’ve learned through the last couple of years that oftentimes I can just focus on the next 5 minutes and then the next 5 minutes etc. That way I get through the day and accomplish something small instead of simple standing frozen.

  • Some times the best man is the one that is right there-offering friendship-as you pick yourself up and dust yourself off. 

I am a romantic but I am not one to believe in love at first sight or the right one. I just know that from my experience it doesn’t happen that way. Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that as a rule it doesn’t/couldn’t happen, I’m just saying that in my case there is something to be said about someone who values my friendship which was all I could offer at the time. I was picking myself up and rediscovering who Sara was and if I even loved who I was. There was this guy that I shot down simply because I could not imagine someone else understanding my brain. Honestly, at that time, I didn’t even understand my brain. To this day, I do not know how he understands/loves my broken and repaired brain, but somehow, I guess, through being friends, I let him into my brain a little and he was willing to learn the kookiness that comes with a brain injury-knowing who you are, but not really recognizing the person that woke up from the injury. He gets me, I get him and I love him for it.

Here are just a few things among the many things that the last couple of years have taught me.

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. 

Right Here, Right Now

I’m just going to be 100% honest. I just got okay-deep in my soul-with being back in Mansfield.

In the first months after my accident, I fought God on several things and being back in Mansfield was one of them. I didn’t have a choice in moving back. My family and friends literally packed up my apartment and moved my stuff into my parent’s house while I was in the hospital. Granted, it was a special case in that I really couldn’t have taken care of myself. I couldn’t even walk by myself.

Nevertheless, I was mad at God.

I struggled to be content right here, right now, wishing I was anywhere but here. Last fall, I started this journey of being content recognizing that this is my corner of the world. I read Shannan Martin’s The Ministry of Ordinary Places last fall. This caught my eye. She writes, “God got busy shrinking the world as I knew it down to a pinhole, one solitary shaft of light. ‘The souls exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness,’ wrote Mary Oliver. Rather than feeling stuck in a problem-sodden world, I would never be able to fix, God was caring for my soul by pointing me towards my corner of it and asking me to believe it was enough”. That’s when I started to realize that instead of being upset at God for bringing me back, I needed to accept that he brought me back for a reason. He was asking me if this right here, right now would be enough. That challenged me. Was it enough? Could it be enough? If I were to stay in America, in Mansfield, Ohio, for the rest of my life, would that be enough? Would listening, loving, and pointing my small group girls toward God be enough? It’s not as extraordinary as helping starving orphans in Mexico or loving on kids in Africa. Would sacrificing sleep to love on a girl who may not know what that looks like be enough? I say I’m content and at peace with staying here-right here-indefinitely, but would that be enough?

It’s been a journey in getting to this place, and God has used several people to instill that into my head. I think the biggest one is the student God bought to MCS and my life. God put me right here, right now to let that sweet little boy not feel alone in that he isn’t the only one who has a traumatic brain injury. I am still blown away by God and how He orchestrated my being at the school at the exact time he started coming to the school. This solidified this idea that I’m right here, right now for a reason. So I don’t know what your story is: whether you aren’t working in the field you went to college for, or you may be in a different place than you thought you’d be, financially or physically. What I have learned in the past two years, I want to pass on to you:

 

  • You may not like where you are in life, but there are no coincidences with God. The situation may not be caused by God, but God can use that situation in others lives.
  • He brings people into your life and even takes them out for a reason.

 

 

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.

 

 

A Year Full of Expectation

I chose expectation as my word for this year. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I chose this word.

Man, was I unprepared for what God had in store for me this year!

Here are a few things that I learned from this year full of expectation:

  • God doesn’t like to stay in the boxes we tend to put Him in.

This has been a lesson I seem to learn time and time again. I try to put God in a box of what I think He can accomplish or how I think He’ll heal me. Time and time again this year, I put God in a box, and time and time again, He burst out of the box doing more than I ever imagined. I sent out letters for Ukraine and within week…WEEKS…I was fully funded due to generous people. I didn’t expect to fall in love but I did. Ukraine wormed its way into my heart within minutes of touching ground. I finally got content with being in my corner of the world, and God put hospital nursing back on the table. Through an unintentional interview, it was like God was saying “Your story is not over yet.”

  • Bravery and expectation go hand in hand.

Living with expectation takes a lot of bravery. I mean, if you expect God to move, you have to say the next brave “yes”. You can’t expect to sit on your butt and wait-just wait-for God to do something. Living with expectation means listening to God and saying the next brave “yes” that falls in front of you. It means making plans, but holding them loosely as you expect God to move in them.

  • Rest is not selfish. It enables you to be your best self later in the week.

Rest. Self-care. In some circles, these words make people cringe. Honestly, 2 years ago, they would have made me cringe. It wasn’t until I was literally forced to slow down that I realized how necessary it is. My energy is like an opaque coin jar. I keep taking change out of it not realizing I’m close to the bottom until I hit a wall, get a TBI headache and I’m put out of commission for 24 hours. I hate it. I hate that I can’t do everything. I hate that I seemed to need more rest than an average 24 year old. I realized something this year. If I plan time into my schedule for rest, it doesn’t feel unproductive or a waste of time. Over time, my mentality changed because I didn’t view it as selfish rather I viewed it as necessary for me to be my best self. I couldn’t help the littles feel better if I was at the end of my rope.

  • My story isn’t over yet. Your story isn’t over yet.

I don’t know where you are or where your story has taken you. You may be reading this and you are on a mountaintop. God has never felt closer, and life is perfect. I’m happy for you. Cling to that feeling. Soak it in, and capture it to remember in the hard times. On the other hand, you may be reading this thinking “What has she got that I haven’t? Why is life so hard right now? Why is God so far away? Is God even good?” Don’t…and I mean don’t be ashamed of those questions. They are real. I’ve been there. All I can say is try and remember the mountaintop experiences. It may not seem like it but that God is the same God in the valley. This is why reading the Psalms is good-oh so good. David lamented about where He was but he always said “remember when…” You may feel like your story is over. I’ve felt that way many of times in the past two years, but GOD. He has redeemed what I thought was lost, and put my mind and my heart back together. 3 years ago, I begrudgingly settled for Akron, OH when I really wanted the ends of the earth, 2 years ago, I had no choice in moving back to Mansfield, OH. Today, I am realizing that God is up to something at MCS and in Mansfield. I am honored to be a witness to what God is up to.

This has been quite a journey, and I’m not there-wherever there is-yet. Thanks for walking this journey with me. This has been a year full of expectation. I started out the year hopeful, but depressingly realistic of where I was. I end the year overwhelmed with how God has blown those seemingly realistic thoughts of who I would be out of the water.

Embrace Your Messy Hair

I’ve been blessed with my messy curls.

I used to not like them. I wanted blonde, straight hair like my friends. It wasn’t until college that I started to embrace my curls.

Now I wouldn’t trade my curls for anything, but I’ve learned how to manage the crazy.

Here are a few tips and tricks that I use manage my messy, crazy and wonderful hair. I’m by no means an expert. These are just some things that have worked for me and so I thought I would share.

  1. Don’t brush your hair.

That sounds weird to say but with curly hair it’s not a good idea to brush your hair and NEVER brush it dry. Brushing your hair damages the curls and increases the frizz.

2. Dry shampoo is my favorite friend.

I don’t wash my hair but twice a week (I see your face). It’s not as gross as it sounds. If my hair is visibly dirty, I wash my hair but washing it too frequently takes the natural oils away. It dries it out and makes it more frizzy. Because I don’t wash my hair that frequently, dry shampoo makes it fresher without all the work of actually washing my hair.

3. You can try your hardest to control it, but in the end, it’s just going to do its thing. Accept it. Embrace it.

My state of mind got better when I decided not to fight against my hair. Instead of me freaking out because my hair will do its own thing regardless of how much time I put into doing it. Im learning to take an “it is what it is” attitude with my hair. I mean 9 times out of 10 when I feel like my hair looks awful, someone else is thinking it looks good.

4. Condition. Condition. Condition.

The thing about curls is that you have to keep them hydrated. Conditioner reduces the frizz and keeps your curls looking controlled and defined.

These are just a few tips and tricks that help me embrace my messy and crazy hair.