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.

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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.

Stepping Out In Faith

My head spins as I lay in bed, trying to sleep-attempting to push the worry out of my head.

I admit that I am a recovering chronic worrier. Most of the time, I struggle with handing over the reigns of my life to God because I like control too much. Hence I worry about things that are out of my control. I tend to drive myself a little crazy with the constant worrying, but I have a hard time shutting it completely off.

Simply the thought of not having control sent my soul into a panic because my default setting is to rely on my own strength.

Selfishly, when things didn’t work out the way I specifically thought it would, my carefully placed plans in my head caved down around me.

I do not have the control I thought I did. Looking back, it all seems really ridiculous because I had nothing to worry about. God had it all worked out, but I believed that I had to have everything figured out to be successful.

I love to plan. I breathe a tiny bit easier when my schedule is organized and I know what is coming next. I want to believe that I am flexible, but the reality is that I strive for order in the chaos and knowing over the unknown. I am the girl who had the rest of her college classes figured out during her first advising meeting. I arranged and organized a plan for after college that I believed was God’s plan for my life. I had everything all figured out-where I would work, where I would like and what I would be doing with my life. I had this plan in my head and I dismiss anyone and everyone who told me different. Looking back, I realize that I acted ridiculous What person in their right mind picks a path and refused to acknowledge any other options.

But God had a different plan.

Not for lack of trying, my plan did not appear to be making any process.

Nothing was happening.

Frustrated, I wondered why God was denying me what I thought I wanted-why He wasn’t moving the way I wanted him to. Consistently, people reminded me that maybe I should begin to move towards other areas—areas where the door did not appear to be shut. Stubbornly, I resisted their advice, arguing that I could make it happen. A wise friend reminded me that God does not usually express His will through flashing signs, lit up to show us the direction he wants us to go. He often lets us make decisions and moves and directs our path if we are heading in the drastically opposite direction. We simply cannot sit around waiting on Him to show up-some of the responsibility is on us to be faithful in taking action.

Eventually God challenged me to trust Him. He challenged me to let Him guide me. I simply needed to let go of my particular dreams and open my heart to listening to what he might have in store. As soon as I took that step-trusting that if it was the right step, God would move.

He did.

He moved in and showed me that He had control.

Terrified, I had to give up what I thought was my dream, but God has a bigger and better plan for my life. I cannot see the future, but all He is asking of me is to take the next right step.

Admittedly, I claimed to trust God, but I clung to a ridiculously small view of what I believed that He could accomplish in my life. He continues to burst out of the boxes I place Him in, repeatedly reminding me that He has everything under control.

Two years ago, He did more in 2 days than I could accomplish in 2 months. He eradicated my fears and doubts by reminding me that I cannot see the big picture. I only see snippets of what He is doing in my life. In 48 hours, I had passed my NCLEX, gotten a job, and found an apartment. Everything thing that I had stressed about, prayed about, and worried about months was resolved.

After all that, I left to explore the wild mountains of Montana. There is something incredible about standing on the side of the mountain—looking out over the land and other mountains. The mountains show both the creativity and wildness of God as they tower high above the world daring all to challenge their creator.

It is a healthy reminder of how small I am.

Now, I am faced with the same challenge-the smallness of me vs the bigness of God. Life right now looks nothing like I pictured it-I’m still struggling to accept that it’s no less good. It’s cliche, but I’m reminded that I just have to let go and let God.

Let God have control of my work.

Let God have control of my healing.

Let God have control of my emotions.

Let God have control of my future.

Last summer, God used the mountains of Washington to remind me of how small I was and how great He was.

Often in life, I begin to believe that I am the star of the story. Because I am human, I forget that my life is not all about me. Standing in the midst of the vast spaces and grandiose mountain reminds me of my smallness in the midst of the world.

Sitting in the midst of those mountains reminded me that everything that God does, He does for His glory.

He created me for His glory, thus my life should be about His glory, not my own personal gain.

All that is asked of me is to be faithful in the small things, trust Him and step into the big picture of His plan to redeem the world for His glory.

5 Things You Don’t Know But Should Know About Brain Injuries

March is Brain Injury Awareness month. Brain injuries are becoming more known because of the NFL, but we are still just tapping the iceberg.

1. You won’t be able to tell someone has a brain injury. Right after my accident, you could tell something was wrong. My eyes weren’t focusing. I wasn’t moving my right hand at all. Now, through, I still have a brain injury, but I look “normal”. If you didn’t know my story, and I simply met you on the street, you would have no idea the year I’ve had. It’s an invisible bruise.

“I live by my systems. I have to have a schedule or I am lost….Also, just because I look OK doesn’t mean anything. I have worked for years to get where I am now.” — Nancy Davis

2. People with a brain injury are not stupid, they simply process information differently and slowly. Everyone pictures a person with a brain injury as someone in a wheelchair drooling. This is often not the case. I know people who were civil engineers before their accident. Their TBI affected some of the way they did things, but they can still do what they did in some capacity. I know for me, I used to be able to look at something and remember/recognize it. But now, it takes a couple of times of reading it to maybe remember it. That is no way means I’m less smart than I was, it just looks different. Also, if someone asks me question after question, my brain gets overwhelmed and shuts down. People need to ask me one question and give me time to process the question before I can give an eloquent answer

“My brain takes different paths to understanding and explaining. It’s not a straight road, but one with detours.” — Keli Hanks

3. They aren’t lazy, they just need a lot more rest to function on a “normal” level.

I need to figure in more rest time now than I used to because without it, I hit a wall and am literally useless to anyone. You think about how much your brain is involved in. A while ago, my sister and I were out to lunch. I was quiet so she asked me what I was thinking. I said, “Drinking water.” There were no other thoughts in my head but the act of raising the cup to my lips and drinking the water. Your brain is involved in every act of every day. No wonder we are wiped out all the time.

“Remembering things is difficult. I’m not being lazy by only working a few hours a day or needing days off during a busy time — I just need more rest to function than you do… Changes take time for me to adjust to. What works for one person doesn’t always work for me.” — Sara Hill

4. A brain injury changes a person, not simply because it’s traumatic, but it changes the chemistry of the brain itself.

In a simple way, I used to be way more extroverted but now I’m a lot more introverted to the extent where I’ve had conversations with people only to discover that they went on solely in my head. I’ve also become significantly more OCD. I have to have everything just right, and it bothers me if one thing is out of place.

“My injury may be invisible, but my life has been turned upside down. I will never be the same again.” — Christina Chalgren

5. TBI individuals are some of the bravest people you will ever meet because they have survived something that was meant to destroy them.