Chapter Twenty Six: The End and The Beginning.

“When did we get the idea that it was all supposed to be easy? When did we become to accustomed to fast, easy, instant gratification that we forgot it was always supposed to be hard and slow? Jesus’ life was hard and slow. He was never in a hurry. He never rushed through a day enough to walk past the broken man on the corner or the bleeding woman reaching for His cloak. Yet how many times do we rush past the broken things? His life was hard, full of pain, betrayal, and so many broken things. Even His body broke. Violently. Yet we can’t handle uncomfortable. We get anxious at the slightest hiccup in our day. We complain about traffic, cold food, and long lines. Don’t you see it, though? It was always supposed to be this way. Hard. Slow. There are no express lanes in heaven. There are no blinders to shield our eyes from the broken things. So when did we get the idea that it was all supposed to be easy?” -Unknown

It’s hard to believe that April 13th was the last time I sat down to write.

Yes, it’s been an incredibly busy season for me. I helped Mac move to Virginia, got married on July 10th, went on a honeymoon in Delaware, moved into our apartment, joined a church, settled Mac into his new job, and finally started growing my Mary Kay business. Oh, and nobody warns you about the 300+ thank you notes that you have to write after your wedding! I’m still working on those. 😛 

So yeah, I could blame my schedule for my lack of writing, but I’ve never held back on this blog. I’ve always felt that you deserve my utmost honesty. So the simple truth is, Satan attacked. 

While I’m not the type of person to talk in-depth about this with anyone, I will say that when you endure experiences that terrify and break you, it inevitably leaves a scar. I’m not just talking about the visible physical scar that’s permanently etched down the entirety of my abdomen, either. There are emotional scars, too. The battle scar of PTSD and flashbacks, of panic attacks and nightmares. The battle scar of remembering a moment so vividly that you can actually hear the beeping of the hospital machine, smell the lidocaine gel, and feel the scratchy hospital bed sheets. 

Sometimes, I can easily collect myself and continue with life as normal. I’ll walk through normal life for months without a single trigger. But sometimes, these flashbacks can be vivid enough to paralyze me and convince my body and my brain that I’m back at UVA or UW fighting and holding on for dear life. It can last for seconds, minutes, or even hours. 

So when I would open my iPad with a message on my heart or Facebook to share what God’s been teaching me, Satan would attack. But you know what? Today, I’ve decided to put an end to Satan’s sly schemes! Because as I was praying in our tranquil apartment with my anxious heart beating oh so fast, I realized that Satan is using these flashbacks, painful memories, panic attacks, and nightmares to silence my voice, and he’s succeeding. 

For the love of all things holy, I did NOT endure everything that I’ve recorded on this blog and beyond to not be able to use it for God’s glory! So in this moment, I’ve set aside everything else in my day and I’ve made the decision to pick up my pen and open my journal, the decision to open my iPad and type. The decision to trust in my Heavenly Father, His provision, and His perfect peace, and the decision to take baby steps forward in faith. Because I will not allow Satan to muzzle me. 

I have a story, a testimony, and a voice. It’s time to decrease so He may increase yet again. 

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My last blog post ended in August of 2018. My right arm had made a complete recovery, but my left arm remained completely paralyzed. I’d just had three major medical appointments with a neurologist and two orthopedic surgeons in Virginia and North Carolina. The consensus was unanimous; I was officially diagnosed with a brachial plexus injury. (The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that send signals from your spinal cord to your shoulder, arm, and hand.) A brachial plexus injury occurs when these nerves are stressed or compressed. It was clear that my medical team in Wisconsin was correct, and this had happened during my auto-transplant surgery. My doctors agreed that several months of intense physical therapy would restore my arm entirely, and told me I would be back to normal in six months. In the meantime, it was back to the waiting game.

I was referred to a physical therapist–Michelle–at UVA Hospital. Mom, Luke, and I started traveling to Charlottesville two times a week for my physical therapy appointments. Yes, this was a lot of travel. No, this wasn’t easy for someone recovering from her second major surgery in a year. Yes, it was physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining. Yet my family and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt this would be worth our effort. So, God continually taught me to count my blessings in the upcoming weeks and months:

  • I was told that most people who have to schedule brachial plexus appointments with these types of specialists have both of their arms and hands completely paralyzed. In fact, the majority requires surgery. Praise the Lord I was told that with time and a lot of hard work, I wouldn’t require surgery and would definitely reach full function again! 
  • I absolutely loved my new physical therapist! Michelle was clearly very experienced in her field of work, and it showed with almost immediate results! Praise the Lord for closing the door in Harrisonburg and opening another in Charlottesville. 
  • As I worked on my physical therapy in Charlottesville and at home, I was able to enjoy an “Incredibles 2” movie date with Luke, spend every other weekend growing my relationship with Mac, share long talks, laughs, and memories with my parents, spent extra time with Grandaddy and Gram on the way home from each appointment in Charlottesville, visit my best friend for a weekend at Liberty University, and  celebrate Luke’s decision to publicly follow the Lord in baptism. 

As the hours, days, and months passed, the light continued to get closer and closer at the end of the tunnel until finally, on November 1st 2018, I did something that I never thought I would be able to do. I wrote my very last health update. 

A week before, I’d conquered a huge milestone in my journey four months early: both of my arms had been declared fully, 100% functional. In fact, they were better than ever! In addition to this incredible news, my bloodwork and urine analysis were spotless, there was no sign of any pre-operative pain, I had gained back every ounce of weight I’d lost since becoming symptomatic in 2016, there were no additional huge setbacks or complications, my stamina continued to increase, and my activity levels were almost normal. 

In the six short months since my auto-transplant, and I had already made a full recovery. 

After two and a half years, the moment I had dreamed of and fought for had finally arrived. The insane, terrifying, and draining journey had finally come to an end. God and I had finally beaten Satan and his schemes. We had overcome. We had won. 

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As I’m writing these paragraphs, I’ve become overwhelmed with emotion. I’ve felt tears welling up and overflowing down my cheeks. Because I’ve just realized something so simple yet so profound. At the beginning of this post, I just shared with you that Satan has been relentlessly attacking with his wiles in an attempt to place a muzzle over my mouth. Yet as I’ve been writing, God has reminded me through the miracle I’m recounting that His victories, His miracles, and His healing will always trump Satan’s memories, darkness, and attacks. As always, I can do nothing without Christ, but with Him, I can do all things. Thank you, Jesus. 

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A beautifully written post has been circling my social media pages, and if you haven’t had the opportunity to read it yet, I’m going to attach a portion of it below:

“I would have pulled Joseph out. Out of that pit. Out of that prison. Out of that pain. And I would have cheated nations out of the one God would use to deliver them from famine. I would have pulled David out. Out of Saul’s spear-throwing presence. Out of the caves he hid away in. Out of the pain of rejection. And I would have cheated Israel out of a God-hearted king. I would have pulled Esther out. Out of being snatched from her only family. Out of being placed in a position she never asked for. Out of the path of a vicious, power-hungry foe. And I would have cheated a people out of the woman God would use to save their very lives. And I would have pulled Jesus off. Off of the cross. Off of the road that led to suffering and pain. Off of the path that would mean nakedness and beatings, nails and thorns. And I would have cheated the entire world out of a Savior. Out of salvation. Out of an eternity filled with no more suffering and no more pain.”

– Unknown

When I read this post, I felt the heart, the empathy, and the vulnerability of this individual in a way that I’ve never quite felt before. Because I can name countless people in my life that I desperately want to “pull out.” I can name countless circumstances that I would love to fix or change. I would be willing to bet that you do, too. 

We are living in difficult and wearying times. Maybe you’re reading this and you’re feeling anxious about Covid-19. Maybe you’re reading this and you’re feeling fearful about the Presidential Election. Maybe you’re reading this and while you’re maintaining a positive persona on the outside, you’re hurting within. Maybe you’re reading this and you’re feeling incredibly burdened for our nation and those who are hurting as a result of uncertainty, division, and conflict. Maybe you’re reading this and you just want 2020 and all its craziness to end. 

Oh friend, I understand, I’ve felt these things too. 

I could say that I lived happily ever after in the past two years, but that simply isn’t true. I might not be lying in a hospital bed or curled up on my bedroom floor in debilitating pain, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been hard times in my life. I’ve still walked through heartbreaking loss and terrifying uncertainty. I’ve had to mourn and grieve memories, moments, and dreams my health journey has permanently stolen from me. I’ve cried out to God on the behalf of others and our nation more times than I can count. I’ve felt crushed by the burden of the hurt and brokenness in our world. I know this is just the beginning, and I’m not automatically protected from fighting battles in my future, which leads me to dwell on the words written above. 

If I’d been given the opportunity to trade my pain, my heartbreak, and my circumstances for instant rescue and healing, I truly don’t know what I would have done. I might have chosen to be pulled out, to change my path, and to stop my suffering. I believe that’s only human. 

If I was given the opportunity to pull out my family, friends, circle of influence, auto-transplant warriors, and nation from fear, uncertainty, pain, terror, and weariness, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt I would want more than anything to do just that. I would love to rewrite their story and end their pain and suffering.

But in the wise words of the author above, I know that would be wrong. “I would be out of line. I would be cheating you and cheating the world out of so much good. Because God knows. He knows the good this pain will produce. He knows the beauty this hard will grow. He’s watching over you and keeping you even in the midst of this. And He’s promising you that you can trust Him. Even when it all feels like more than you can bear.”

So as I’m sitting here, finishing the final chapter of my health journey, I know with every fiber of my being that they’re correct. I went through a long, rocky, horrific  journey. I climbed a steep and seemingly impossible mountain. There were doubts, fears, heartbreak, discouragement, and excruciating physical and emotional pain along the way. But as I’m looking back on those years, I’m still so incredibly grateful. 

I’m grateful that God didn’t rewrite my story and instantly rescue me. I’m grateful for the ways He showed me His undeniable faithfulness, provision, goodness, and glory. I’m grateful for every obstacle He overcame and every miracle He performed. I’m grateful that He opened every door that was meant to be opened and closed every door that was meant to be closed. I’m grateful that even when I couldn’t see it, He was always in it. I’m grateful that while my ears had heard of Christ, now my eyes have seen Him. I’m grateful for the ways He worked in each member of my family’s life and strengthened our bond through it. I’m grateful for the ways He has grown my faith to a level beyond my wildest imaginings and molded me into the woman of God I am today. I’m grateful for every priceless blessing, gift, and friendship He gave me through my health journey. I’m grateful that He used this path to lead me to Mac and that His healing presence was undeniable on our wedding day. I’m grateful that He has brought beauty from brokenness, triumph through trial, and a miracle in the mess. I’m grateful that there was Another in the fire standing next to me. I’m grateful that He has given me a testimony, a story, and a voice. I’m grateful that His ways are simply higher and His mysteries simply greater. I’m grateful that while the waves may roll, they cannot prevail; while they may roar, they cannot cross it. Finally, I’m grateful that as my Heavenly Father, He knew what was best for me. 

I could go on and on, but I think you know what I’m trying to say! 😉

So with that being said, whatever you’re going through in your life today, “instead of trying to pull you out, I’m lifting you up. I’m kneeling before the Father and I’m asking Him to give you strength and hope. I’m asking Him to protect you and to move you when the time is right. I’m asking Him to help you stay prayerful and discerning. I’m asking Him how I can best love you and be a help to you. And I’m believing He’s going to use your life in powerful and beautiful ways. Ways that will leave your heart grateful and humbly thankful for this road you’ve been on.”

While the majority of my health story may be over, I’m still going to write on this blog and on my social media pages. In addition to being a wife and building my Mary Kay business, I truly believe God has called me to write and share what He’s teaching me with the world. I’m not going to allow Satan to muzzle my voice! I definitely still have stories, lessons, and revelations to share with each of you in the very near future. 

Thank you for being apart of my journey. Thank you for donating, bringing meals, sending cards and packages, watching Luke, encouraging, and praying. Thank you for following me, reading my posts, and supporting my blog. Thank you for sharing my story with others. I am truly so grateful for each and every one of you. 

So after twenty six chapters, I could say this is the end of my story, but that simply isn’t true. Rather, this was the closing of a chapter in my story. Let the page be turned and the next chapter begin. Here I am, Lord, use me. 

“I will sing through fire and thunder, ’cause You are on my side, I trust You with my life. I know my story, it isn’t over! Even against all odds, You are a faithful God.” -Faithful God by I Am They. 

PS: My wedding day was emotional, heartfelt, and filled with the most special moments. While it was a celebration of Mac and I’s marriage, even more than that it was a celebration of God’s healing, restoration, and goodness. The entire day was an answer to countless prayers, and everyone in attendance knew it. It was like God said, “I have heard your every cry, I have seen your every tear, I know every mountain you’ve climbed, and every tough thing you’ve endured. Look, I did this.” ❤

Photo Credit: Meredith Sledge Photography

One thought on “Chapter Twenty Six: The End and The Beginning.”

  1. So very beautiful and written so well. Thanks for sharing it with me and all of the others who have shared your journey. You are an inspiration to so many. I will continue to keep you and now Mac in prayer.

    Like

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