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.
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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.

My Story: God’s Story

My story.

Before when people would ask me to share, I would be terrified—I never knew what to say, or how they would react.

Now when people ask me about my accident, I don’t mind talking about it. In telling my story, I get to tell everyone of my God who puts the stars in the night sky.

This story is about hardship and trials, but also about a God that holds me close. He wraps me in his arms and whispers in my ear, “I love you, child”.

In being His child, I’m not promised a life of ease, but He says that He will be right next to me and hold me through it. Even in the hard days—the days where it takes everything within me to get up—I see the threads of grace that God has woven into my story.

The threads He has woven into my story speak of a God who holds me when I cry but puts people in my life that understand that but don’t let me wallow in it. They speak of people that celebrate the small victories that we often take for granted like walking up stairs.

Then, it becomes His story.

His story of grace, of life, and of peace.

My accident—a year and almost 5 months ago—will forever be a milestone. It will be a time that I look back on and say “if God can do that, then He surely can do this smaller thing.”

It’s my story, but it’s also His story.

School Nursing and Little Humans

So I’ve been a school nurse for about a year. It wasn’t anywhere in my plans, but God knew I needed this in this season. Here are a few things I have learned on this journey so far.

  1. Littles are honest and unbiased. They don’t care who you are, and they love you unconditionally. I had one girl just come in my room for a hug. It’s moments like those when I’m reminded of the soft hearts of littles and fact that they need nurturing on all fronts.
  2. Just because it’s not what you pictured yourself doing doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. At the beginning of the school year, I sat in my office, hearing all the hopeful voices, and I felt deep down in my spirit that this was where I was meant to be. It was nothing like I pictured a year ago. This was the perfect job for right now because it allowed me to still practice nursing without all the stimulus and fast pace of hospital nursing. It gave me lots of little successes that boosted my self esteem rather then tear it down with everything I knew I used to be able to do and now can’t.
  3. Never underestimate the power of a smile and listening ear. Half the time, littles are in my office for a short span of time, but they just need to know someone is listening and cares. I treat their pressing ailment and send them back to class with the option that if they can’t do it, they can always come back to the clinic. Often knowing they have that option reassures them, and they are good for the day. Sometimes, the older humans just need someone to smile at them and tell them everything is going to be alright.
  4. Littles give the best hugs. I definitely think in this season of my life, I needed to hear that I’m needed and wanted. After something traumatic happens, you start to doubt yourself and wonder if you’re still a valuable member of society. Being at MCS showed me that I’m still valued as a human being and nurse. My opinion is still wanted and unique. I may not know everything, but I’ll learn. Recently, I had a birthday, and I was sung to by 3 different classes. It made me feel so loved by this community—this community of littles and teachers that know and love me fiercely. My heart simply melts every time I hear a little voice say “Miss Walthour”, see those bashful smiles, or receive those timid hugs.

Yes, it’s definitely not as fast paced as hospital nursing, but just as impactful on lives.

Planting and Establishing Roots

So a friend and I are delving into planting and growing things. In her research, she came upon the fact that you shouldn’t water plants as often. Letting them dry out a little encourages them to grow deeper roots. Dry spells can actually encourage growth and flourishing. It seems counterintuitive that a dry season can inspire depth in your relationship with God.

It’s like God is bringing you around to the same thing but not the exact same thing because he wants to take you deeper. You can handle that trial better than you could have a year ago because God has taken you deeper since then—deeper into His Presence and love. Dry spells encourage you (if you choose) to cling to the One who created your heart. You will have to go deeper and search for the living water but it’s there.

Dry spells are needed just like seasons.

So if you’re heart is weary and the air around you is dry, cling to the One who holds your heart in His hands and find rest. He just might be pulling you deeper.