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.

 

 

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2 years and Counting

730 days.

17520 hours.

1051200 minutes.

That’s how long it has been since my life changed. Well, it’s coming up in about a month. It’s a

time that I really could have done without, but I remember it because of God.

I’m alive primarily because of God.

These two years have been challenging and hard-often times seemingly impossible-but God has

held my hand through the fire.

Here are a few things that kinda summarize the past two years.

  • There are a few people that climb in the hole and hold you when it’s not their battle to
  • fight. Never let those people go.

These people are my people. My family have been through every high and low with me. There have

been some friends that have seen me at my worst and still chose to crawl into the hole with me. They

didn’t try to help me up right off the bat, but they sat with me for a while. Then, they started to help me

up and out of the hole. One of the reasons, I’m where I am today is because of the few people that never

gave up on me.

  • God can redeem and repurposed dreams that you thought were lost.

There are some dreams or experiences that got cut short-like working with my best friend-but God has

taken those dreams that I had as a little and grown girl and shaped them into his will. I love little humans

and now I get to love on them both in my job and free time. I wouldn’t change anything because these

littles have wormed their way into my heart. My dreams right now look a lot different now because some

doors have close, but also because my dreams have changed.

  • God isn’t afraid of emotion.

For a long time, I felt conflicted. I felt like I couldn’t have doubts about God’s goodness. At the same time,

I didn’t believe God was good or had a good plan for me. I needed to face that emotion-that doubt-and

give it room to breathe so to speak. When I gave myself permission to have those questions and sit with

them, I discovered the ways God has been good to me throughout-giving me people to come alongside

me, getting a job etc. That’s when the most emotional healing happened, because I gave myself

permission to have those doubts. In the end, I fell in love with the person I’m becoming shaped by

my experiences.

  • God is love. He oozes it, and it encompasses everything He does.

Love. That’s a had emotion to pin down. Often recently, I’ve heard the argument that if God is love,

why do bad things happen. I was thinking, if God is love then why was 2017 so awful. I don’t know the

answer but this is what I’ve figured out. (This is my opinion based on scripture and my experience so I

would take it with a grain of salt.) God doesn’t cause bad things-hard things-but He walks right beside

us-loving us fiercely through it. I mean, look at Joseph’s life. God didn’t cause him to be sold to the

Egyptians-sin nature caused that, but he orchestrated it to be used in the saving of Egypt and Israel.

  • Everyone gets overwhelmed looking at the big picture, so smaller goals are needed.

I think if I realized two years ago that I will never be done with my TBI journey-that I will never not have

a traumatic brain injury-I think I would have fallen into a deeper longer depression. I needed to set my

mind on the simple fact that the most recovery will be done in the first two years. I focused all my energy

on getting better in the first two years. As the two year mark fastly approaches, I’m better able to mentally

wrap my head around the fact that I’ll always deal with this and be recovering.

Remember God.

I just finished Remember God by Annie F. Downs.

OH MY GOODNESS!

The way she is honest and vulnerable with her story makes me cry.

Her story speaks to my story in that I also wonder if He is truly good and truly kind. If He doesn’t just tell me what I want to hear without any plans of following through with what He says. If the things I hope are in His script for my life, aren’t simply just vapors of hope.

I had hoped to go back to hospital nursing a year ago, and it seems like every step forward meets two steps back. I’m still moving forward just a whole lot slower than I had hoped or envisioned.

I had hoped to be overseas at this point, but my car accident threw a wrench in those plans 21 months ago.

At times like these, I return to the question that’s been mulling in my brain for the last 21 months-is God good? Annie takes it a little further-is God kind?

If I’m being honest, I still struggle with this. At times, I see God’s goodness, but the longer I’m in this wilderness, I tend to forget.

Forget how honesty God has spoken to me my whole life.

Forget how graciously He saved me 21 months ago.

Forget how sweetly God has loved through the hard times.

She asked this question that rocked me: Am I fully persuaded that God is for me and He will answer my prayers and fulfill His promises?

Fully. Persuaded.

Am I fully persuaded that He even hears my cries?

Am I fully persuaded that He is good?

My word for this year is expectation.

We are 10 months into the year, and God is bringing me around the mountain again. Things I had thought I handed over to Him, I realized I hadn’t handed it over in totality.

I’m expecting God to move, but I’m still holding my breath.

I’m not quite believing that the wilderness could end sometime-that I’m not going to be wandering forever.

As I processed this week and listened to this book, God reminded me of the manna he sent to the Israelites in the wilderness. It didn’t look anything like they expected it to.

Maybe the manna doesn’t look like anything I expected it to. Maybe God’s bringing me around the same mountain to cement the idea that He is God.

I think one of the purposes of the wilderness is to desire God above anything else.

A wise friend once said, “if you aren’t willing to let that thing-whatever it is-go,?you desire that thing above God.”

Maybe the purpose of the wilderness is to rediscover the love of God and how sweetly He loves.

Maybe the purpose of the wilderness is to remember God and cling to Him.

This is my prayer during this season-that I remember God. I remember the things He has done. Remember that His plans aren’t my plans. Remember that He is good-in totality. He is kind-completely and effortlessly-no matter how it turns out.

Maybe I’ll go back to hospital nursing. Maybe I’ll go overseas. Maybe I’ll get married. Maybe I’ll move out on my own. Maybe I won’t do any or some of those things, but even in that I’ll remember the manna. I’ll remember that oftentimes, God’s provision doesn’t look like we think it should.

I’ll remember that God is good. He is kind.

He is God.

King of the World

We sang the song “King of the World” in church today. It really hit me.

As life has been getting better, I’m going to be honest and admit that I sometimes forget God.

I mean that not in a “I forget You exist” way, but a “I’ll put You in a box” way.

As I get better, I find that I tend to forget all God has done and proceed to put Him in a box of what I want to see happen. I proceed to tell God what I want him to do.

“I want to go to that place, date that person, or do that life-changing thing.” I proceed to shrink Him down and put Him into a small box.

When I dare to do that, God proceeds to find ways to break out of that box I put Him in. He says, “You might want to go to that place, BUT I, the One who set it all in motion, have you right here, right now. MCS is your mission field right now”.

I pause.

As I heal, I need to remember, Jesus speaks and the storms quiet.

Jesus breathes life out of dust.

Jesus is the King of the World.

I need to remember to hold my plans, my aspirations, and my dreams losely. I’m not who I was a couple months ago, and I won’t be who I am now in a couple months. I am always changing at what seems like a breakneck pace and a turtle pace at the same time.

I’m learning to be patient with who I am and where I am right now. It’s not primarily about the destination, but it’s about the journey.

It’s about falling more in love with the King of the World.

It’s about the quiet mornings when He speaks through the sunrises.

It’s about the way He provides rest on the busy days.

It’s about dear friends who push you to seek refuge in Him.

It’s about the people who speak life into you on the days when your soul is empty.

It’s about sharing your story of the wilderness, and the sweetness of our Father.

You will eventually get where you are going, but the destination might not look like what you planned it looking like.

God is the King of the World, and He is present in the wilderness as you journey forward.

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.

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.

Accepting the New Me

Isn’t it crazy how after a mission trip or something like that, we are no longer the same person we were, but we embrace that change. After something traumatic, we change, but we push against it. We want the “old us” back.

Why is that?

I think it’s because in one situation we put ourselves in a situation where change is an option. We don’t consciously choose to change, but we know change is a possibility. We see things and are impacted by people where there’s no turning back. There’s no chance to unlearn the things we have been through.

In the other, we have no control.

Zero. Zilch.

This change in our personality is forced upon us. In my case, I never saw it coming. I’m a different person, but I’m still Sara. If that sounds confusing, it’s because I haven’t really quite figured it out myself yet. My TBI changed me, not only because of the trauma of it, but because it changed the actual chemistry of my brain. I didn’t have a choice to not change. I’m still trying to tread the the line of trying hard to be the old me, or give up completely.

I have a choice—I can choose to fight against the change or I can choose to accept the new me. I’m still struggling with actually accepting the new me. It’s not easy to encounter things I used to be able to do, but now can’t. I’m still trying to figure out how to balance trying to be as close to 100% as I can, but also embrace the new me. This new person who gets overwhelmed easily—that can’t handle loud noises or flashing lights.

There may be things that I can’t do as well as I could, but there are also things that I can do better now. I’m still working on figuring those out. For now, I’m going to try not to fight against the changes. I’m going to embrace the new me.

One thing I do know is that I’ve never been more sure of God’s love for me.

There are days where His love is the only thing that gets me through the day.

There are moments where I hold on to the phase by Lysa TerKeurst: God is good. God is good to me. God is good at being God.

There are moments when I get frustrated with myself and my limitations, but God chooses those moments to show me that I’m more loved than I would ever know.