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.

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Surrendering Graciously

Surrendering graciously.

That’s an oxymoron in my life. Often when God asks me to surrender things, I give it up kicking and screaming. I try to take it back

soon after I give it up.

In this season, I’ve had to surrender some things like my five year plan. I mean, it got thrown far out the window.

My word for this year was expectation. Within that word, I couldn’t really expect God to move while still holding on to my plans.

I tried though.

Oh I tried.

This year started out with me struggling to understand why certain things happened and what the purpose was of moving forward if

it wasn’t going get me to where I wanted to be. I held onto some dreams like a drowning person would clutch a lifeboat. It wasn’t

until I gave myself permission to ask the questions-Is God good? Does he have good plans in store for me?-that I really started to let

go of things. It was kinda a forced surrender because it needed to happen and life was picking up speed.

I let go of my ambitions to return to floor nursing.

I let go of my ambitions to live overseas long-term.

And many more ambitions.

I surrendered them knowing they might not happen. I’m learning it’s hard to let go of things graciously but that’s what I’m striving to do.

Albeit, it kind of helped that so many ambitions were ripped from my hands, so I had few options but to let go.

It’s taken 10 months, but I’m finally at the place where I’m not forcing things to happen.

I’m kind of just willing to listen, hands open, to what God has for me next.

A verse that has been ruminating in my mind the last couple of months is Ps. 25:1 which says, “In you, Lord my God, I put my trust.” This

verse just captures the sense of what David was going through. I’m sure he was tempted to fight against God multiple times, but

instead of being antagonist towards God, he says matter-of-factly “In you, I put my trust.”

I’m striving to do that.

I don’t know what your story is, or what is that thing that you can’t seem to quite let go.

Let go.

Simply unwrap your fingers from it.

I don’t know your story, but I know how sweetly God has redeemed and repurposed the dreams and ambitions I let go.

Just tonight one of my girls said, “if it wasn’t for your accident, you wouldn’t be here.”

I was taken aback by her wisdom. She was right. If my life had gone on with my terms-my 5 year plan-I wouldn’t be right here, right now.

I would be missing out on a lot.

I like this version of my life. I like this version of me. I’m going to keep striving to surrender my dreams and ambitions to God graciously.

He truly has a good plan in store for me. It may not look anything like the 5 year plan I had but I think it’s better.

So here I am, striving to surrender graciously in my corner of the world that God has placed me in.

Ordinary Places

Ordinary.

That word just makes me flinch. I’ve tried my whole 24 years not to be ordinary, boring, and unexciting.

Don’t lie and tell me you haven’t kinda always combined ordinary with boring.

I just finished reading Shannan Martin’s new book, The Ministry of Ordinary Places. I started reading it because I simply love Shannon Martin and her heart, but I was also curious. In my mind, ministry and ordinary don’t go hand in hand.

Then I started it.

From the introduction, she had me hooked:

“I always thought being called by God was a rare and special thing that happened to only a slim percentage of unlucky people….”

She writes, “Whenever (“the call”) popped up, I kindly reminded God that I’m not that kind of woman. I’m indoorsy, with a sensitive gag

reflex and a mortal phobia of outhouses. I’m not the best choice for a day trip to a state park, much less a mission field”.

I sympathize with her, but I feel the opposite way. I feel the call to go, but circumstances have kept me from going to the mission field

long-term. I am much more comfortable on the mission field than I am in suburban America.

This idea of ordinary places mattering and staying vs going is not a new dilemma in my life. I feel like it’s a constant battle to be content.

Recently, I found peace in being right here (Mansfield), right now. Shannan Martin just drove the feeling home into my heart with these words:

“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 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?

I just got back from a JH retreat. I’m a small group leader for 6th grade girls.

It was exhausting and life-giving all rolled into one. They have SO much energy! It’s like most middle schoolers are the energizer bunny with no

off switch. I drank A LOT of coffee that weekend, but I had that in the back of my head.

If you were to stay, right here, in Mansfield, for the rest of your life, would that be enough? Would listening, loving, and pointing these girls toward

Me be enough? It’s not as extraordinary as helping starving orphans in Mexico or loving on kids in Africa.

Would this-sacrificing sleep to love on a girl who may not know what that looks like-be enough?

Would simply giving a hug and smiling to a girl who may not have had a great day be enough?

Would complimenting a smile or anything she does well to a girl who never feels like she’s good enough be enough?

These thoughts were going through my head this weekend.

I say I’m content and at peace with staying here-right here-indefinitely, but would that be enough?

I really struggled with that, but then I held a girl and she was holding back tears. I looked in her sweet face and I got a glimpse of the fact that

she had the weight of the world on her shoulders. She was hugging me like I was her lifeline.

That broke me.

I remember what it was like to be in middle school, everything is so confusing-so hard.

Hugging her tightly, wishing I could carry part of her burden, I realized I’m starting to believe this is enough.

This life of “ordinary” is enough.

“In a world that pushes us toward bigger, better, more costly and refined, seeing the humble as radiant is an act of holy resistance.

Jesus dealt in seeds and sails. He spoke through dust and sermonized in spit. Set against a backdrop of faithlessness, lawlessness,

and low-grade despair, he brought faith and healing through the overlooked, unspectacular elements of everyday life. He’s right here, in

every dull, dusty corner, and even more in every one of us bumbling, regular, milk-mustached kids trying to masquerade as big shots. This is

why we need him near, and why it matters that we stick together”.

When I read that the second time (yes I read the book twice in two days), it stuck with me.

This is my corner of the world.

MCS. These girls. My bible study. Mansfield.

This is my corner of the world.

These are my people.

My heart is still in Ukraine and scattered all over this world, but this is my corner of the world right now.

Holding that girl in my arms, and just sitting on the sidewalk with her, I started to believe that this is enough.

So if you need me, I’ll be circled around a bonfire loving people in my corner of the world.

4 More Things My TBI Has Taught Me

It’s been almost 22 months since my accident. I think when I hit the two year mark I’ll stop counting but right now, it’s still pretty relevant in my life. I’m not to the maximum recovery mark yet. Here’s just a few things that I’ve learned about myself and God though this hard-oh so hard-but holy season.

  • It’s okay to not be okay.

The longer this season goes on, the less I believe this until I’m hit upside the head with reality of this. It’s been 22 months, for Pete’s sake. I should be okay, but there are times, I’m still not okay.  I started It’s Okay Not to Be Okay by Sheila Walsh. She hits me upside the head with this fact when she says, “The scars tell God’s love story. Some of our scars show on the surface, but some are hidden deep inside, wounds from things that were done to us, or from choices we’ve made and secrets we’ve kept. The love of God invites us to bring our scars into the light. We don’t have to hide anymore. It really is okay not to be okay.” Regardless of whether I feel like I should be okay, it’s okay to still have bad days-to still have days where it takes everything I have to breathe and remain standing.

  • I”M NOT CRAZY. I’m not alone.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m the only one in the world that has gone through this because my brain works so much differently than the rest of my family. I can say or do something and everyone looks at me with a puzzled expression. It is so hard to let people into my brain, and I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. At times like this, the tendency is to isolate myself, but that further feeds my anxiety and depression. I’ll found a support group of people who have suffered a TBI. They offer suggestions of things I haven’t tried yet and remind me that I’m never alone.

  • Life looks totally different now, but that’s okay.

They say comparison is the thief of joy and they are correct. I definitely don’t have an area of my life that even closely resembles“put-together”. It’s hard not to feel jealous or sad because it seems like everyone else my age has at least one area of their life going for them. I’m challenged to take a deep breath whenever I’m tempted to feel that way and remember that 22 months ago, I almost died. Yes, my life looks totally different because things that were important then are not important now. It’s okay to still be searching for that spark and not have life figured out. I’m breathing. It’s a good day.

  • It’s okay to need A LOT of rest. And I mean A LOT.

Sometimes, I forget that I have a TBI and I try to do everything, then my body knocks me on the ground with a headache that won’t quit. In those times, I find that I sleep for hours and hours. When I wake up, my first instinct is to be upset at myself for the hours “wasted”, but then I realize that my body needed that. I remember then of the need to pace myself and my energy so I don’t hit that wall again. The key is to REST. A lot. Like crazy amounts. Like newborn baby or cat amounts.

Dear Younger Me

I’ve been out of middle school for some time now. Not as long as some, but it’s been a decade.

A decade.

I don’t feel that old. Sometimes, to be perfectly honest, I still see myself as that awkward 12 year old, unsure about everything (even God), and trying to belong somewhere. In a couple of days, I’m going to be a small group leader for 6th grade girls.

Here’s some things I’ve learned since then that I wish someone told me in middle school.

  1. Middle School is tough but it’s not forever. It’s only 2 maybe 3 years of your life. When you’re 12 or 13, it feels like forever, but it’s not. It’s only a blimp your long life. I don’t dispute the fact that it’s hard, but it’s not going to be as long as it seems.
  2. It’s okay to like things regardless of what the “cool kids” like. It’s really okay to like other things. You don’t have to like something just because someone says it is cool or vice versa. You are allowed to like something that’s “uncool” or hasn’t been chosen by the “cool kids”. They are not in charge. Like what you like or don’t like what you choose to-the choice is yours.
  3. Appearance isn’t everything, but it’s something. Let me explain. On one hand, it’s not good to care too much about what you look like. On the other, it’s important that you take care of yourself. Balance is key.
  4. This is a time in your life where you start to figure out you like and who you are meant to be. This is a confusing time. You’re trying to figure out what you want to be involved in be it sports, music, plays, etc. This is a key time in figuring out yourself and who you want to be.Embrace the confusion. Eventually, the water will clear but you need to allow the water to remain murky for a while. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t find your niche right away.
  5. There is time for boys later. Now is the time to figure out yourself. 6th grade. Oh that’s around the time when you figure out that boys don’t have cooties. They go from being disgusting to kind of fascinating. You start to care what they think. There’s time for that later, Oh how many days I spent preoccupied by this boy or that boy. The amount of energy I spent trying to get the boy to notice me when I could have spent that energy figuring out who I wanted to be and achieving that. It’s quite a story if you meet your person in JH, but that is not typical. Your time is better spent chasing after God and who He wants you to be than chasing after boys. In the end, you’ll be more well rounded later when you meet that special person. Even now, I’m 24, but I realize the value of figuring out yourself before adding another person to the mix.
  6. Make your faith your own. Investigate the Bible for yourself and figure out what you believe what you believe.
  7. Take ownership of your decisions and their potential consequences. Think ahead and base your decisions on information you have gained. You’re old enough that you can’t just blame every bad thing on others or the universe. Bad things just happen but sometimes there’s something you could have done to prevent it.

Barely Brave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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