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.
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    Half-ish of the Way to Brave

    This journey to brave is challenging me and teaching me more about my Creator. Here’s some thoughts about what I’ve learned so far.

    1. Dream in Pieces. Where you are today is made up of little steps and brave decisions sprinkled through your life so far. God gives us our dreams in pieces because we would be too scared if He presented us with the whole puzzle. David is a great example of this. “David wholly believed in who God is and that God had a role for him to play that would require courage. The same is true for you and me.”
    2. Open doors are not lit with flashing lights but opportunities. Sometimes, they can be super spiritual but often times, they are just simply brave decisions.
    3. Brave people recognize closed doors. Sometimes we can be doing our thing, walking, praying that we are in alignment with God’s will, and we’ll come to closed door. “Be brave enough to walk through the doors that the Lord leads you through. Even when they are unexpected or feel scary.”
    4. Mourn the dreams that have died. “The dreams you thought would come true in a certain time frame never did. You saw a life for yourself that you will never have. You can mourn that loss.” Cry. Mourn that. Then wash your face. Pull up your big girl pants. And move forward with the life you do have.
    5. Chase the dreams that are alive. “If you’re reading this book, you’re alive, and if you’re alive, so is a dream. Think about things you can’t stop dreaming about. Talents you have that you haven’t explored. God loves to put wings on dreams that His children chase, dreams that can bring Him glory.
    6. Speak your brave thoughts. Tell someone. The first step to being brave is admitting you want to be brave or do that brave thing. Speaking it out loud gives it life-gives it power.
    7. Calling is different than career. Your job right could not be something you feel called to do, but it takes bravery to be faithful even when you don’t want to be. It takes bravery to find aspects of your calling regardless of what your job might be right now.
    8. Who you do life with matters as much as what you do. People matter. It’s important to make time for people in your life. Things can fade but souls last forever. Balance of work and life is important because we need relationships. Don’t let pursuing your dreams or maximizing your calling keep you from investing in relationships. Life is meant to be shared, so share it.
    9. On the same lines, brave people need people. It takes courage to let people in and let yourself love them. Friendship takes work. Friendship takes courage. If you want to travel faster, go alone. But, if you want to travel farther, go together. We need people. We need someone to hold our hand and travel the journey of life with us.
    10. Brave people cling to God. Change is inevitable, but if we hold tight to our never-changing God, it will be okay. We will be okay, because God has it. He is the boss and His plans are always for our good. He loves us more than we’ll ever know or understand.

    So, in conclusion, a brave life is not a lonely life, but one with other people surrounding you and pushing you forward. Also, a brave life is not instantaneous, but it’s made up of a dotting of small brave decisions that make up a life.

    I’ll Carry the Fork and Other Phrases

    If you want to know what goes on in my head or in the heads of people that experience any sort of brain injury, then read this book!

    Kara Swanson puts, in a light-hearted way, the struggles that encompass a brain injury. Brain injuries are like snowflakes-no two are exactly the same-but there are similarities in the things we struggle with. Here are just some things that apply to most people, but especially to brain injuries.

    • It’s hard but necessary to rely on others. It’s extremely humbling to wait for others to come and help you do simple things that you used to be able to do independently. It’s hard to admit you need help in an area, but it’s necessary for you and for others.
    • You choose when you’re recovered. Recovery is not synonymous with absence of symptoms. It’s when you mentally choose to move forward regardless of your symptoms or handicaps. “We are the only ones who can choose when we are recovered and it is only then that we are no longer waiting for our old lives to return on handsome white horses, ready to rescue us from this ridiculous nightmare.” We accept the new, emerging version of ourselves and choose to move forward.
    • Post-it notes are your friends. If have a tendency to forget things, write them on post its and stick them around. They come in so many different colors so you can make your car or room look like a rainbow. I like yellow sticky notes because they bring the sunshine inside.
    • Attitude is everything. Those who say they can’t and those who say they can are both right. If you don’t believe you can do something, then you won’t try. If you do try, then you will only give enough effort to say you tried. But, if you believe you will do it, you will put all your energy into trying to succeed. In my case, my stubbornness paid off or according to my parents, there was a use for my stubbornness.
    • Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive those people that have the audacity to succeed-to be well. Forgive the people that don’t have to deal with the weights you have been handed because they didn’t choose the cards they were handed. Forgive those people that are doing what you want to be doing. Forgive the injury for changing your life. “Regardless of how you have been wronged or hurt, choosing not to forgive this injury for doing what it does is entirely your decision. It is exhausting, frustrating and unsustainable to try and fight the natural forward current of life. It makes you smile less. It makes you a sour puss, really. At the end of life, it’s routinely one of the top regrets people have, holding on to the ugly grudges of disappointment and of hurt.” Forgive them and let go, because it only holds you back.
    • Thank the people that jumped in the hole with you. It applies to any situation you can’t control, but I’m going to talk specifically about brain injuries. I didn’t choose to fall into this hole called brain injury. My family and friends did have a choice. They could choose to leave-to not have their life shaken up. They chose to stay-to jump in the hole after me, knowing that their life would never be the same. For that, I’m eternally grateful to the people the have walked this journey with me and those who will walk with me in the future.
    • Nothing has the power to damage you, unless you let it. “Brain injury does not deteriorate as if a cancer. It does not kill us over the years. Not unless we invite it to and feed it that power.” Granted, it stops life as we know it, but we can choose to let it stop us from living. This applies to almost everything that happens to us. It changes our lives, but unless we give it the power to damage us, it doesn’t stop us from moving forward.
    • We need to fill up the holes in our lives before they fill up by themselves-because they will. Fill the holes with positive people and positive things-things that lift you up on a bad day. Put kindness into that hole-kindness to yourself and others. Be kind to yourself because you’re trying as hard as you can. Furthermore, “Identify at least one true person who remembers the best of you before your injury so you never forget that you have, time and time again, devised sound strategies which returned successful outcomes to you. Find another who understands how it feels to be brain injured now. And finally, maybe most importantly, find one shining star who will challenge you to dare big and who steadfastly believes in the person you aim to be. Let them help you fill that hole. Fill it up. Hand over hand, fill it back up.” My friends, the Fab Five, have been that for me. They have walked through this journey with me. They remind me of all I’ve accomplished and am still accomplishing. I also have a dear soul friend who pushes me to dare big, reminds me of my dreams, and pushes me closer to Jesus. I’m very thankful for her and the fact that she only knows the new me. She doesn’t have anything to compare; I’m just me, and she loves me.

    A Quarter-ish of the Way To Brave

    I’ve been on this journey to brave the last 30ish days. I’ve learned so much about myself and the God who holds my heart. He gives me those dreams in my heart that I hold so close. Here’s a few things I’ve learned in this journey so far.

    1. Bravery is meant to be called out in ourselves and others.

    When you call out bravery in yourself, you realize that you may not ever feel brave, but you’re displaying courage by simply taking the next right step. When you see brave, say so. When you call out bravery in others, they realize that they are braver than they give themselves credit for. In turn, you realize that what you called out in them sounds a lot like something in your story, and you see bravery in yourself. Also, when we see brave, it inspires us to be brave, and as a result, there is more people who are doing brave things.

    2. Being brave means you embrace being you.

    “Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!”-Dr.Seuss

    There is only one you. You are enough. Embrace what makes you unique-your strengths and your quirks. We all have different stories and were made to be brave. The story of your life is a masterpiece that will never be replicated. Your story will overlap with others at times and your bravery might inspire bravery in them. The people who want to be missionaries are brave, but so are the people who want to be stay-at-home parents. It takes a whole lot of bravery and patience to corral and train up littles. God made you, and He made you for a specific purpose.

    Embrace it.

    Embrace the adventure God has equipped you and called you on.

    3. Being brave means not shying away from the hard questions.

    As humans, we are notorious for shying away from the tough questions because we are afraid of what the answers will be. It takes courage to approach God with the hard questions when we think we already know what the answer will be, and we don’t like it one bit. It takes bravery to trust that even if He doesn’t answers the questions the way we want, He’s still good. Don’t be afraid to ask Him the questions you really want to know. You might not get the answer you want, but you’ll get an answer of some sort.

    4. Being brave means believing God cares about your dreams.

    When I was little, I feared that because I wanted so badly to live overseas, God would call me to suburban America. There is nothing wrong with that, but it just wasn’t where my heart was. I had heard story after story about people who didn’t want to go overseas and then God calls them to be missionaries. That was the foundation of my fear. Now, I realize that dreams come in seasons. My overarching dream is still to become a cross-cultural missionary whether it’s in the States or in another country, but I have smaller dreams than have crept up and surprised me. In being brave, I have to cling to statement that “ God has not forgotten you. Your life and dreams are important to God.” I cling to that like a toddler clings to his blankie.

    God has not forgotten me.

    I may not be doing anything like what I dreamed of, but God has not forgotten me.

    I may feel like I’ve taken a few steps back since graduation, but God has not forgotten me.

    Whatever that dream is that you hold close to your heart, remember this: God has not forgotten you. He hears your prayers and cries.

    Do It Again

    There’s a song that is popular right now, “Do It Again” by Elevation Worship.

    The chorus goes:

    “I’ve seen You move, come move the mountains

    And I believe, I’ll see You do it again

    You made a way, where there was no way

    And I believe, I’ll see You do it again”

    That gets me every. single. time.

    My life is marked by my accident.

    Before the accident.

    After the accident.

    I’m different now. My life is different now, but God is the same.

    I’ve seen Him move mountains that were in front of me.

    When my parents found out that I had a brain injury, they didn’t know if I would walk again or talk again. I’m definitely not back to where I was in regards to those things, BUT I’m walking and talking.

    I believe I’ll see Him do it again.

    Now, whenever anything seems impossible, I can look back and see that God already did the impossible. Who am I to question the fact that He could do it again?

    We don’t question that the sun will rise the next day as it’s setting, and the world is plunged into darkness. We know the sun will rise again because we’ve seen it rise time and time again.

    I think the same aspect applies to God. He’s already done the impossible so the likelihood of Him doing it again is high. We just have to remember or be reminded of the greatness of our God, and the fact that He does the impossible. Also, we have to have eyes aware enough to see Him moving.

    He sometimes moves in great ways, but He more often moves like a quiet breeze. The key is to notice when He is moving be it gentle or not.

    My prayer for you and me is that we have eyes to see God moving in our lives. I pray we believe God can do the impossible because He already has.

    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.