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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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.

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.

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.

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.

Embracing This Life of More

These past months have been quite something. All my energy has been spent on simply surviving-putting one foot in front of the other.

A year ago, all my energy was focused on myself and my healing. I resigned myself to this life of second best. Let me explain that. I had my life planned out before my accident and then all of that seemed to have been taken away. I was striving to accept my life as it was then but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was less. I still had hopes and dreams but I couldn’t grasp them. I didn’t know if it was even possible to grab them without having them slip through my fingers. Recently, I had the opportunity to go to Ukraine. I was simply excited to travel not knowing that the country itself would stamp itself on my heart.

Ukraine.

This summer has been one of the most life-changing ones in my short life so far. This summer was hard, but oh so holy. First, I started to get back into hospital nursing, then I went to Ukraine. I was nervous and didn’t know how my brain would react. I was pushed beyond my limits but God was sweet in that. In it, God was showing me I could have a life that I had dreamt of-a life of more. Here are just a few things God is teaching me as I embrace this life of more-more love, more freedom, and simply more God.

  1. Contentment doesn’t equal complacency. This has been something I’ve been wrestling with lately. I want more out of life but it’s hard to explain because people assume I’m not content with my life. In my wrestling, I’ve come to the decision that it’s okay to have plans and dreams but to hold those dreams lightly. I’ve come to the mindset that I’ll be okay if cross cultural missions is in my future. And I’ll be okay if it’s not.
  2. God can still use me. I was terrified standing in front of people and sharing my story but it’s not about me. It’s about God. I think I knew He could use me, but I didn’t quite see how. Sharing my story and about the God I love made seeing that possible. I shared. My speech didn’t have to be perfect, but He used my story to bring Himself glory.
  3. It’s easier to embrace the new me when I attach pleasant emotions to the new me. I’m pretty sure I went through every emotion this summer from heartbreak to joy to terror to happiness to anger to surprise. I’m pretty sure I can encapsulate this whole summer using the word “surprise “. I didn’t know what to expect but God blew my expectations out of the water. I’m definitely not the same Sara who left the States. My soul is lighter and I’m learning the sweetness of trusting God. In the past year, I wrestled with accepting the new Sara because I didn’t know (believe really) that God could use me as broken as I was. God though put people in my life to show me that He could still use me, my thoughts are still needed, and He loves me-the new me-more than I could ever know. Because I’m bravely accepting the new me doesn’t mean the door is shut to everything that I used to love but I’m looking forward not behind now.

As I’m chasing after and embracing this life of more I realize this starts with an attitude of expectation. What’s done is done. Here I am, sitting at the feet of Jesus, patiently waiting with expectation of this life of more that He desires to give me-more love, more freedom-simply more life.