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.

The Year Of Me

The Year of Me.

This is what I titled this year. It sounds selfish, but it’s really not. It’s only been a year and a half since I almost died. By God’s grace, and only God’s grace, I’m standing here before you. I wished the process would move a whole lot faster, but like a wise friend once told me, “You almost died. You can’t except to bounce back to your same bubbly self so quickly.” It has been a year and a half. I think I should be all better. I think other people think I should be all better. They have less patience with me when I still have trouble getting my thoughts out, or when I walk slower. I guess mostly that is me transferring my impatience with the slow healing onto others.

I had ambitions before my accident that 2 years after college, I would have paid off my student loans and be getting ready to move overseas. I had it figured out that if things went as they were going, in 25 months I would be debt free and be financially able to support myself overseas. I guess God had different plans. I was living in Akron and then I had to move home. It just seemed like everything that was moving me forward closed down. And I even took a few steps back. Last year, after my accident—in the deepest part of recovery—I would never have considered going to Ukraine. There was just still a lot going on with me that I didn’t think traveling overseas as possible. God, though, kept opening doors, closing others and pushing me forward. I have no idea why but God seems to want me to go and isn’t just opening doors he’s flinging opening the doors and removing any barrier that I place in the hopes of slowing things down.

The year of me.

This year, I decided to pick one or two things and excel, rather than commit to a lot of things and not be able to follow through. I chose being a Jr. High youth group leader and being the nurse at Mansfield Christian. I think I did those well. The extra energy I did have was put into my healing—driving, swimming and managing my fatigue. I’ve seen God do some remarkable things already, and we are only halfway through 2018.

Also, in this journey, I’m striving to know Jesus more personally. John Eldredge writes, “What is missing in our Gospel reading—in our attempts to “read” what Jesus is saying and doing in own lives right now, this week—is his personality, undraped by religion”.

If you read the Gospels with an eye out for his personality, you realize that he’s playful, sassy, cunning, and fierce. You can kinda make sense of some of the things he does, because you know his personality. A couple things I have already learned in this year I’ve titled, “The Year of Me and Jesus”.

  • Jesus is creative and playful. I mean think about it. He made the wind, music and flying squirrels. How creative do you have to be to think up flying squirrels? Laughter is from God also. Think about the story of Abraham and Sarah. They were in their 90’s, and God told them to expect a child. Sarah laughed, and I’m sure Abraham joined in because it seemed impossible. They were old enough to be great-grandparents but God had a different plan for them. In the same way, Jesus was playful and loved laughter. In John 21, after he was buried, his disciples were fishing for hours and they caught nothing. Jesus sauntered out of the tomb and eventually onto the beach. He called out to them and suggested that they try to other side. They did, and the nets were teeming with fish. Jesus rose from the dead. He could have shouted, “It is me. I’m alive”, but instead he stands on the shoreline, hands in his pockets and asks, “Catch anything?” The story is made richer when you see the playfulness of Jesus.
  • Jesus is necessary for existence. “We need Jesus like we need oxygen. Like we need water. Like the branch needs the vine. Jesus is not merely a figure for devotions. He is the missing essence of your existence. Whether we know it or not, we are desperate for Jesus….To have Jesus, really have him, is to have the greatest treasure in all worlds. To have His life, joy, love, and presence cannot be compared. A true knowledge of Jesus is our greatest need and our greatest happiness.” John Eldredge. Some days, I can’t get through the day without Jesus’ help. I won’t say I’m glad for my accident because my life won’t ever be the same as much as I wish for it, but I am thankful for this season because it brought forth a dependence on Jesus that I never had and probably wouldn’t have had if not for my accident.

We are about half way through 2018, and I’m already blown away by the doors God has opened and the adventures he will take me on. In the next half of the year, I’m praying to become closer to God and understand more of his personality. I continue to pray that God uses my story and continues to change my heart as I’m impacted by the wonderful people of Ukraine.

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.

The Art of Being Still

I have a tendency to worry and let my mind wander to all the impossible scenarios. I want to have control over every area so I my mind does not appear to stop. I worry about what people think about me. I worry about what is going to happen next. I worry about whether any change is the right thing for me right now. I have struggled recently with worry because of my accident. I worry that, even though everything fell into place rather quickly, the other shoe would drop. I worry that I am not enough–that I’m less than because my brain injury. I simply worry.

Be still.

Be still and know that I am God.

In all my worries and fears, God spoke this truth over me.

Be still and know that I am God.

I am not the one that can change the world. God changes the world. God can change the world through me. I can only be a useful vessel if I am willing to let go of my worries, my fears and my plans, and sit still before the Lord.

God wants me to understand that who He created me to be so that I can fulfill the purpose that He has for my life. I cannot understand who I am in Christ if I spend my energy worrying about what people think about me, or fearing that I am not enough.

Fear and worry is a handicap that keeps me from embracing who I am and what I can do. Fear holds me back from taking those steps of faith that could lead to great adventures for the Creator of the universe.

I realized recently that I have been feeding my worries and fears. I had been subconsciously encouraging the lies that I am not enough. This hurt me.

I was believing the lies and letting Satan get a foothold into my dreams. He was halting my progress because I was more focused on myself and my insecurities that I could not focus on God. I was being selfish because my focus was on me. What would happen to me? Would people like me? Would I be good enough? Would I be likeable?

My mother confronted me about my attitude. At first, I was frustrated. Didn’t she see that I was just worried? I was not being selfish, rather I just wanted people to like me. After a while, mainly after I moved to Washington, D.C for 2 months, I began to see the wisdom in what she was saying.

If I wanted people to like me, I needed to put them first. I needed to find ways that I could bless the people that I am around. People like others who bless them. People who are positive and uplifting. People who think about the needs of others first. I was getting so wrapped up in myself, my worries and my fears. I began to notice during my first week in my internship that the more I focused on blessing others, the less I thought about my fears. The less I needed to be liked. I could be who God created me to be, without worrying what people would think.

Be still and know that I am God.

When I get wrapped up in myself, I forget to quiet my mind and look at God. God is the Creator of the universe, yet he values my time spent with Him. Just like any other relationship, if I am spending too much time focused on myself, I can’t give a lot of time to the other person. I have to step back and realize that being still and spending time with God was going to be very important in my battle against the worries and the fears. I need to fill my mind with the truths of who God is and who He created me to be if I wanted to be free. My prayer for the beginning of this journey is to keep this phrase in my head so that I can remember to be still and know that He is God.

18 Things I Desire for 2018

A new year brings a new beginning and a fresh start. As this New Year begins, I am starting to think about what I want for this New Year. What do I want this year to be about? As I prayed about what I want for this year, two words came to mind: Fearless and Expectation. These words have played a part in my journey during this past year, and I believe they have a role to play in the year coming up. I made a list of things that I desire for the year ahead as I incorporate these words into my life. I am not talking about New Year’s Resolutions, we tend to think that we will not complete our resolutions. They are normally just stated to help us feel good about our plans for the New Year. The idea behind what I want out of this year is growth and adventure. I want these items to contribute to how I interact with others and God.

Cross at least one item off of my bucket list

Life is meant for good friends and great adventures. The adventures of this new year comes from taking chances, stepping out of my comfort zone. In the spirit of being brave, I desire to take new adventures and check things off of my bucket list. Sometimes you have to allow yourself to pursue the things that you want, even if it just to say you did

Make new friends and deepen friendships.

2017 overflowed with new friendships, and I want 2018 to expand those relationships and make new friends throughout my adventures. Charles Swindoll writes, “I cannot even imagine where I would be today were it not for that handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy. Let’s face it, friends make life a lot more fun”. I do not know where I would be without the amazing friends I have and the ones I made this year. There is a moment when you meet someone and something clicks. You become friends, and they impact your life in ways you never thought of. This year I strive to be more vulnerable with the friends in my life. Inviting the people I love into my heart and life.

Be brave and expectant.

This appears general, but this word brave has been a theme for this year, and I want to continue to strive to step out in faith, being brave in the life God has given me. Brave (adj.) is defined as ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage. This is who I want to be. I want to be a brave and audacious woman who embraces life regardless of any fear. This does not mean I will never fear hard situations or trials, but I will approach the situation with courage and grace.This is a year of recovery and new things. I’m expecting that God will do great things this next year.

Embrace the life of freedom I have been given.

As a child of God, I have been given freedom. I am no longer a slave to fear, perfection, and insecurity. I can embrace life with an attitude of freedom because Christ had given me life. Freedom from fear and insecurity is something that I have been wrestling with over the past year. This year, I am choosing to live in that freedom and embrace the Creator of the Universe.

Learn to make each moment, good or bad, count.

The thing about living a brave and free life is that I want to make every moment count. I do not want to look back on this year and regret the past moments and missed opportunities. I desire to look back on my year and say, “Wow. What a year!” because of the relationships I made and the moments that I allowed myself to live, I mean, truly live. I want to live life to the fullest, as I take step out of my shadow and be brave with my decisions.

Be intentional with the people in my life.

As I am intentional with my conversations, I can invest in people’s lives. At the end of the day, accomplishments are amazing, and material possessions are nice, but relationships are the only things that we can take with us to Heaven. People matter.

Spend more time discovering who God is.

This new year is a new opportunity to spend time discovering the Creator of the Universe and me. My relationship with God is the most important relationship in my life. I desire to spend more time intentionally getting to know God and allowing him to love me. To love the places in my heart where my deepest insecurities and hopes lie. Beth Moore writes, “May God remind us daily—no matter what kind of obstacles we face—that we are loved and empowered by the One who brought the universe into existence with the mere sound of His voice. Nothing is impossible for Him”. As I get to know God and delve into His word, He continues to love and empower me. He pushes me out of my comfort zone into places that I never thought about, but that are so incredibly better than I could have planned.

Figure out what makes me tick, what I feel passionate about and delve further into it.

As I bravely and vulnerably surrender my time to Lord, He begins to show me glimpses of the woman he created me to be. I bravely try new things, develop new habits as I discover new interests. As I celebrate my twenties, I desire to use my time this year to discover new passions and bravely explore the place these passions interact with my life. Whether it is volunteering at a free clinic, helping with an afterschool program, or raising money for a cause halfway across the world, I desire for this year to be a defining year of me interacting with the lesser known passions and desires in my heart.

Cry unashamedly.

Crying signifies vulnerability, and I hate being vulnerable, truly vulnerable. This year, as I bravely become more vulnerable with the people around me, I give myself the freedom to cry. Not emotionally crying all the time, but to cry when I need to cry without being ashamed of tears. Sometimes, being strong means not holding back the tears but letting them fall.

Worry less about what people think.

I have tendency to be reserved and cautious because I am afraid of what others think of me. I selfishly think that they care about every little thing I do. The reality is that as I live in freedom I shake off the perceptions of other and the expectations I place on myself. The only expectations that matter are God’s.

Do one random act of kindness each month.

Kindness puts a smile on others faces. It is as simple as that.

Complain less.

Complaining is being ungrateful for what God has given me, as well as it can drive people away. It can taint the personality. I do not want to be known for complaining about things that I cannot do anything about.

Step out of my comfort zone.

This is one of the biggest things that I want to focus on changing about my life. I find that some of the most rewarding moments of my life happen when I step over that line into areas where I am unsure. I have to rely totally on God, and guess what? He always comes through with a life-changing experiences as I learn more about myself and my abilities with God by my side. We walk hand in hand as he guides me through life.

Continue to dream big.

This new year is a big year, I have dreams about travelling, and the perfect job. The idea is that these dreams are held loosely, but I still need to dream. I still need to allow myself to dream of the impossible, because my God is big enough to do anything. I should not put him in a box as I try to tell him the path I should go on.

Embrace and enjoy the little things of life

The small moments matter. The smiles. The breezes. The quiet. These little moments like holding hands, reading a book for fun, the reassurance that I am heading on the right path. These moments are not flashy moments, but rather they creep up into your life. You can miss the significance of the moments, if you are not paying attention.

Accept myself.

I am pretty, smart, awkward, quirky, organized, vivacious, entertaining, outspoken, and introverted. I am fiercely loyal to my friends. I have an obsession with colored pens and planners. I love reading. I am learning to accept myself exactly as God created me quirks and all.

Read 25 books.

This is my goal for this year-to fill my head with knowledge of the world around me. Books allow me to escape to a different place and time. They fill my head with information about life and the pursuit of happiness.

Learn a new recipe a week

I started loving to cook when I lived by myself, out of necessity. Now, I desire to develop that skill.

A Journey to Confidence 

Insecurity has been a struggle for me since I can remember. I grew up on the mission field so I was always  different. I looked different when I was in Africa, and I acted different when I was in America. When I was growing up, I wanted blue eyes and straight hair because that’s what all “Americans” had. 

When we moved back, I was in 6th grade. Middle school is confusing enough without changing continents. My identity was all messed up-I didn’t know where I belonged and fit in. I looked like my peers, but I felt different. I found myself laughing at things because others were laughing. I had no idea what was funny. I got really good at making it seem like I knew about a book or movie that everyone else knew. I wanted to belong, but I felt different.

I craved belonging. 

I ended up finding my identity in academics. I was good at school so I became the smartest I could be. I embraced the title of “smart girl” because that meant people were noticing me. I was a people pleaser. How people saw me would make or break an experience. I would always have makeup on, dress nice, and be put together. It was people’s opinion that mattered and I usually came up short. Someone was always prettier, more talented, and smarter than me. This carried over to college. In my relationships, I was overly concerned about how people saw me. I became afraid that they were only my friends because of pity-because I initiated it.

I was becoming more confident in myself and accepting the uniqueness of my soul. Last fall, a series of events caused my insecurities to be taken out and hung like laundry on a line-flapping around in the wind. I turned to God, letting Him romance me as the lover of my soul. I was in the process of taking the down and folding them as God whispered “You are loved. You are enough.”

Then, the accident happened. My life changed that day, not just physically but emotionally as well. My close friends rarely left my side. My relationship with them was more than just convenient, it was deep. They weren’t friends with me out of pity-they chose me. Some of them were even at Grant before I was transferred there. In the hospital, I had more pressing issues than my physical appearance. I didn’t care how I looked. Survival was the upmost priority. 

Now, I’m insecure about specific things, like how I walk and how I talk, but I don’t care as much what people think. My need to please others is minimal. I don’t do things just because people expect it of me. No is a bigger part of my vocabulary. My outfits of choice are shirts and athletic shorts, which show my scars. It’s weird, because of my brain injury, I don’t know where I fit in the world anymore, but I’m more secure in myself-in what makes me Sara Beth. Life is short and my energy is limited so I choose to put my energy in things I’m really interested in. I had so many plans of how my life would go and then, they vanished after the accident. I am starting to get glimpses of the possibilities, which encourages my soul. 

It’s still a journey to a confidant me. Each day is better than the last. It requires so much bravery to love myself just as I am-all my quirks and faults. I’m learning to see myself as God sees me-a beautiful, smart, and loved daughter of the King.

Let’s Be Wild

I was self-conscious before, but now I am really self-conscious. I feel like my voice sounds weird, weirder than normal. I feel people staring at me when I walk. I must look embarrassing because I feel really awkward. When I try to write, it is difficult. I perceive my scars are blatantly obvious, like they are flashing lights on a billboard.

I struggled with insecurity since I could remember. Before my accident, I was beginning to get a handle on my insecurities. I was beginning to let God’s love diffuse through my soul, erasing my insecurities. Now, I am really learning what it means to not compare myself to others.

I have a lot to be insecure about now. I have several scars. I don’t walk normally yet. My speech is understandable, but it is not back to where it was. I am insecure about everything, it seems like. 

But, I am learning to see myself the way God sees me.

I am learning that I can’t change who I am. I can’t change my scars or my limitations. The stuff that I am insecure about makes me—Sara Beth. I can accept myself-my scars, my limitations-and allow God to be glorified.

I shouldn’t be insecure about what God created. If I frown on what God has created, it’s like a smack in God’s face.

Through this season, I am learning what makes me—Sara beth. I am diving into who God made me and striving to not focus as much on my insecurities.

I am choosing to be wild. Not wild as in acting crazy, dressing unique, and rebelling against society. Wild as in the living and growing in the natural environment.

It’s going to be hard, but I am deciding not to listen to what the world says. So, I choose to listen to who God says I am. I let God diffuse over my insecurities and my fears. Considering all I’ve been through, it is not surprising that my insecurities are rising back to the surface. I can choose to focus on them, or on the One who put the stars in place.

I am trying not to care what other people think about me. It is a progress of throwing off the things that I have believed my whole life and putting on who God says I am.

Yes, I have scars but they are proof that I survived. I am a survivor and that is something to be proud of.

Yes, I walk awkwardly. I get looks when I walk. People ask me if I need a wheelchair, but at least I can walk. There was a point that my parents didn’t know what would happen to me.

Yes, I have difficulty speaking. My rate is slower. My voice sometimes sounds nasally. I don’t put enough emotion behind my words. At least, I can talk.

I might have insecurities, but at least, I am alive.

So, I am deciding to be wild.

I am choosing to accept myself just the way I am-my looks, my fears, my limitations. I am choosing to be bold in the pursuit of what I like-what I am passionate about.

Let’s be wild.

Let’s throw off the expectations of society. Not because we don’t care about them, but because we don’t need to care too much about them.