Your Will, Your Way

“You have come so far. You have learned to let go of what was not good for you. You have learned to step out of the boundaries of your worries, believing that in time, it all would be woven together beautifully. It has not been an easy road, but it has opened your eyes to all of the possibilities of what this life could be, even in your uncertainty.”
-MHN

Graduating from college, I had a plan for my life. A typical conversation between God and I consisted of me telling Him what I wanted His will to be for my life ranging from who I wanted to date and potentially marry to where I wanted Him to call me. It was His will, my way. That didn’t quite work out for me. 29 months ago, my world was turned upside down. My life plan completely changed…

Shortly after my accident, I was thankful God saved my life, but I couldn’t see how this life could possibly be good. I fought with God on how this life could possibly be His will. Those were some dark days, but GOD, in His mercy, used the messiness of my story in Ukraine. Then, looking back, I could see how He has redeemed my story for His glory.

More recently, I was amazed again by how God loves each and every one of us. (I really should stop being amazed by how God uses the worst time if my life for his glory.) One of the students at the school received a brain injury when he was little. I was giving him his medication, and I just offhandedly mentioned that I take the same medication that he does. I received a message for his mom saying that she thinks he finally realized that he’s not alone.

I was blown away by God.

God didn’t cause my accident, but He loved that boy enough to place me at the school to help him not feel alone. When I look back on the last 29 months, I can see a lot of those “coincidences” or “God moments”.

Given the multitude of “God moments” recently, I have realized that my story isn’t over.  I was ecstatic about anchoring myself to Mansfield, my family, my boyfriend, and my friends.

Then, the Dominican Republic happened.

I felt, more than once, confirmation of the fact that missions are in my life plan in some capacity. I mean, I got to stitch up a goat. Besides the fact that I got to stitch up a goat, which is a first for me, I used my right hand. My right hand is the hand I still have trouble with, but it was further confirmation that my story is far from over. My nurse life is far from over.

As I’m processing this, I don’t know that God would have moved so swiftly in getting me an opportunity for a medical/surgical fellowship at OhioHealth here if he intended me to move to the DR. Also, God is a good father, so he wouldn’t have given me confirmation of my dream of overseas missions if He didn’t intend that to be part of my story.

So here I am, learning to hold my plans loosely and trusting that the One who holds my heart has plans to honor the dreams He has instilled in my heart. Here I am, learning to anchor myself to the people that mean a lot to me right here. Here’s to me, striving and thriving, as I learn to live life with God in the drivers seat-His Will, His Way.

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A Heart for the Nations

I leave part of my heart in every country I’ve been. The Dominican Republic is no exception. Here are some things I learned about myself and God.

  • I need to remember to breathe.

This month has been full of good surprises, but my head has been spinning by all God’s been doing. The first part of the week was well spent in just sitting with God-simply sitting in the awesomeness of God’s movement. It was refreshing to revel in His glory rather then cower in fear. This season, I’ve learned a lot about rest but sometimes, I forget to actually practice it. This trip was like a breath of fresh air.

  • God is really good about pushing me out of my comfort zone, but also showing me that I am loved more than I could ever know.

One day towards the end of the trip I ended up stitching a goat’s ear. I had learned about sutures, but I had never done them in real life. Plus, my right hand doesn’t work as well. So when I was asked, I said yes but I was scared silly. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I accomplished it. That night was church, and God knew my soul needed baby cuddles. I ended up holding a child who fell asleep on me and at that moment, the world felt right.

  • Everyone has different gifts-you need to push yourself, but be willing to use your gifts for His glory.

We were doing several different projects this week, and I struggled with not being physically able to do all the manual labor that we did, but I had to realize my nurse skills and ability to remain calm under pressure came in handy time and time again. So I may not have concrete mixing abilities, but God gave me a quick mind and calm spirit. I just have to be open to letting God use my gifts instead of wishing I was someone else.

  • God always shows up-especially when you don’t expect Him to.

There were many times that God showed up whether it was impromptu relationship and life talks or a cool breeze on a particularly warm day.

God ALWAYS shows up. You just have eyes to see Him.

  • Sunsets on some dreams and sunrises on others is an aspect of God that I love.

It was in the Dominican 4 years ago that I first began to dream about studying genetic diseases as well as hemolytic diseases in underdeveloped countries. Dreams like researching hemolytic disorders and their testing to make them more accurate and accessible. This week that dream resurfaced, and I got a glimpse of what that could look like down the road. I don’t know how or if God will orchestrate it, but I’m starting to get excited about the possibility of this new adventure with Jesus whatever it will look like.

  • We don’t need to see the whole staircase to take a step.

It is definitely scary to take a step when we can’t see the whole road, but I think we’d be even more scared if we saw the outcome thinking we are insufficient and unprepared. It’s more about the journey and becoming more like Christ than the immediate destination.

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.

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.

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.

Blessings and Birthdays

23.

23 was a great year-new places, re-acquaintances, new friends, spectacular adventures, and new passions.

There has been some good things and some not-so good things about 23, but we can’t have the good without the bad.

23 has been an adventure as I learned more about what it means to be a woman after God’s heart and continued to heal. We are 4 months into 2018, and I’ve seen God do some amazing things! I’ve discovered things that I used to be able to but now can’t, but I’ve also stumbled across new things that I’ve fallen in love with.

-I think my water skiing days are over as well as my riding roller coasters days.

-I knew I loved kids, but older humans were different. Now, I’m thinking about pursuing rehab nursing which will be majority people over 50. Older humans are precious and often overlooked. Their vast knowledge and stories captive me.

-Even the idea of pursuing rehab is a change. I never would have thought I possibly could love it before, but now, who knows.

-I’m seeing the need for authentic vulnerability and education in the world of traumatic brain injuries. I have always thought about the possibility of writing a book, but now I have a pretty incredible story to share.

These are just a few of the thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head the past couple of months. This year has taught me:

-I am strong because I survived something that could have killed me, and I have the scars to prove it.

-God is closer than my very thought. He hears my silent cries and the feelings that I don’t put into words.

-God can take the seemingly endless tragedy and turn it into a tool to bring him glory. He uses the whole of the story.

-The questions about God’s goodness and the doubt are not things that I should be ashamed of, rather I need to give myself permission to wrestle with those questions-and God himself. Doubt is not in and of itself a bad thing, we just can’t wallow in it.

-You can’t have the good things without the bad—they are a package deal. In being vulnerable with someone, you risk being rejected or it not working out, but sometimes that risk is worth it, even if that happens. You treasure the goodness—the sweet moments—regardless of what the outcome may be.

Tomorrow I turn 24. Here’s to another year and more adventures as I strive to discover the heart of God for the world and me. May this be the best year yet as I add more countries to my passport, and know God more intimately.