Thursday, October 31, 2013

Jenny & Tyler sing For Freedom.

I've talked about my friends Jenny & Tyler several times on this blog.  I first heard about them in late 2011 through The Vespers (surprise, surprise) when the two of them were guests on an episode of the band's podcast.  After hearing them talk and play a little bit on the podcast, I checked out the rest of their music on their website and immediately fell in love.  In March 2012, they came to Campbell, and I was able to spend a bit of one-on-one time with them because they knew I knew The Vespers and I had class during their show.  From the second I started talking to them that day, I knew that they were kind, genuine, fun, and incredibly (I mean, like, really. It's absurd.) talented people.  I've been a fan of theirs ever since, which is why I jumped at the chance to work merch at their show last month.

Today, I'm here to tell you about a new EP of cover songs that Jenny & Tyler are releasing.  It is titled For Freedom and is available on November 12th.  11/12/13, who can forget that date?  Here's the cool part, though.  All of the proceeds they make from the sales of this album (EVERY. SINGLE. PENNY.) is going to charity organizations that fight human trafficking (hence the name).  When they first put word out about this, I knew that I would do absolutely anything I could to help them with this project.  Knowing The Vespers as well as I do, and having helped them with the fundraising for their second album, I have a bit of an idea just how expensive and time-consuming it is to make a record, so it greatly humbled and inspired me to see Jenny & Tyler taking on such a huge project only to give every bit of the money away.  But something I've learned over the time that I have known these two is that these are just the kind of people they are - selfless, passionate, humble, and giving.

Since I knew I wanted to help them, I applied as quickly as I could when they opened applications for the launch team that is designed to help spread the word about For Freedom (sort of like what I did for Jeff and his book).  Once accepted, I was sent a copy of the record, and as soon as I listened to it, I was all the more passionate about getting the word out.  In my totally honest but slightly biased opinion, every song is absolutely phenomenal.  In fact, a couple of the songs on it may be my favorites of all the work they've ever done.  There are seven songs on the EP, and my two favorites are "The Scientist," originally by Coldplay, and "The Sound of Silence," originally by Simon & Garfunkel.

"The Scientist" is one of many songs whose original version was never appealing to me, but I fell in love with the Glee cover of.  Ha, go figure.  Jenny & Tyler's cover is, hands down, the best version of the song that I've ever heard.  (Don't tell Coldplay!)  Their always fantastic harmonies reach a whole new level of amazing in this song.  After listening to the album all the way through the night I received it, I went back and proceeded to play this song on repeat for about 3 days straight.  And every single time I listened to it, I got goosebumps.  The pure and bold cello, played by Cara Fox, is my favorite part, simply because I'm a violin player and thus a strings lover by nature.  They simultaneously capture the sorrow undertones of the music and the hope of forgiveness in the lyrics, leaving me with chills at their skill in the balance of the two.  I simply can't get enough of this song and the way they so splendidly pulled it off.

"The Sound of Silence" is a song that they have done many times at shows, including the one I attended last month, but they remastered it for this EP.  I hold the original song in very high regard because it's one of the songs I grew up singing along to with my mom, so it holds memories of sweet times.  Therefore, I am generally very critical of any cover I hear, and I had never found one that, in my opinion, could hold a candle to Simon & Garfunkel's original until I heard Jenny & Tyler do it.  This song was one of the highlights of their set last month for me.  Well, I love this remastered version even more than that.  It brings peace and joy to my heart as I think of the fond memories of singing this with my mom all the time, but it is also a solemn reminder of the reason Jenny & Tyler are selling this EP.  Their voices bring me back to the fact that there are people around the world living in darkness that I can't even imagine.

Just as I never expected to be a fan of The Vespers in the beginning, Jenny & Tyler's folk roots are not something I'd ever been attracted to musically in the past.  However, as a lover of good music in general, I can't help but appreciate the high quality of every song on this EP.  Even if a "folk/pop duo" isn't something you think you would normally want to listen to, I strongly recommend that you check this EP out, anyway, because it is not like anything I've ever heard before and it is just THAT good.  And you get the added benefit of knowing that even if this ends up not being your thing, the money you spend will be going to help people so much less fortunate than us.  So either way, you'll get something good if you buy Jenny & Tyler's covers EP For Freedom when it releases on November 12th.  Don't forget!

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Appointment Day

"3 hour appointment is finally over.  Got to talk to my normal doc, and she said that the chances of the seizures being stress induced from this constant head pain and school are high, that she knows I'm not faking this or making them happen.  I'm staying on the second seizure med that the ER doc put me on last week because the combination kicking in may be what has kept me seizure free since last week.  This EEG will last until 12:45 Friday, and I should expect my headache to be even worse than usual because of the pressure of the electrodes, glue, and tight cap keeping it all in place.  "Peace that passes all understanding" is a real thing; I know because I lived it today.  I have felt the prayers of everyone and the strength of the Lord pushing me forward since I woke up today.  I don't know what is going to come of this test, or if I will keep having seizures, but I know that all will be well in the end because I serve a God that never leaves!"

That's the text I sent out to everyone this afternoon.  And I meant every last word of it.

God answered my prayers, Austin's prayers, The Vespers' prayers, everyone who I know prayed for me last night a hundred fold, because I woke up today with a spirit that I could only have by the grace of God.  No longer was I the girl shaking in fear while crying that I was last night.  I was calm and I was steady and I was ready to face whatever happened today.  I spent the whole morning singing praise music because I just knew that God was right there with me and it was going to be okay.

I took that first picture just for Taylor so he could really understand what I meant when I tried to describe it to him last night.

The EEG hookup was fine.  Actually it was more than fine.  Because as the woman glued these 22 electrodes onto my head, I go to tell her about my heart for God.  I got to witness to a stranger in the middle of a clinic.  Which was, not surprisingly, something that Taylor prayed specifically for last night.  But really, the actual process didn't hurt at all.  It just felt weird.  What hurts is this tiny cap squeezing my big head (yay hydrocephaly) and making my already bad headache even worse.  So this will be fun to deal with until Friday.  And yes, those electrodes are literally glued to my head.

And now I'm going to bed because I have barely slept the past few nights and I need it.  Plus, I was trying to read and kept falling asleep, so clearly I'm exhausted.  Tomorrow is my first day back in classes in over a week.  It'll be plenty stressful, especially looking like this, so I need the rest.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Love wins. God wins. Always.

I'm the kind of person that when people tell me what's going to happen, or what something's going to feel like when it happens, I don't really get it until I experience it for myself.  It's like little kids who get told not to stick their hands on hot stoves because they'll get burned, but they do it anyway because they have that naivete, and they need to feel it and figure it out for themselves.

Going into this week, I knew that the enemy was gonna come attacking, and he was gonna come attacking hard.  I believed it, but I didn't know how to prepare myself, so I just faced every day the best I knew how, trying not to think about that idea.  Here's the thing; the devil doesn't really care if you ignore him, he'll still come, and he'll probably take advantage of the fact that you're not paying attention to hit you even harder.

I was up before the sun again today, in too much pain to sleep, but not awake enough to focus on work.  So I listened to music, my Youtube playlist, the worship music I have on iTunes and Spotify, whatever I could get.  In Jesus > Religion, Jeff writes:

"I hear a lot of people say that the fear of death and the fear of public speaking are two of the main fears in my generation, but I disagree.  I think it's the fear of silence.  We refuse to turn off our computers, turn off our phones, log off Facebook, and just sit in silence, because in those moments we might actually have to face up to who we really are.  We fear silence like it's an invisible monster, gnawing at us, ripping us open, and showing us our dissatisfaction.  Silence is terrifying."

Yep.  I was running away from the fight I knew was headed my way and the fear gnawing at the pit of my stomach.  I didn't do a very good job at distracting myself, though, until I met Austin for lunch at 12:30.

It was a sweet hour.  That's all I know to say.  In just two hours of conversation, I feel like we've known each other for years.  Before he left, he told me he was going to come see me tomorrow, but then I reminded him that tomorrow is appointment day, so he just said he'd be praying for me all day and that I "better" text him.  Which, duh.  Of course I will.

The rest of the afternoon was alternating between music and actually getting a little bit of reading done, anxiously counting down the minutes until I got to see Summer.

We had dinner, and again, I was able to forget for a while.  Because of many different things, she and I haven't had dinner together in a while, or really spent any time together at all, so we had a lot to catch up on.  Then it was Vesper time, something I've been looking forward to for at least two months!

Little did I know, that was when the enemy would really start trying to have his way with me.  Once the show started, and I had nothing to say to anyone and all I could do was listen to the music, I couldn't focus.  I couldn't focus on the incredible show, or how happy I was to be somewhere besides my dorm room.  I let the devil get in my head over and over again to the point that, basically unless the band was playing one of their new songs, I couldn't stop thinking about tomorrow.  And the 2 days after that.  And what could happen.  I never thought I'd be thankful for a show to end, but it gave me a chance to talk to people again.

I got to talk to Summer, as we waited for the crowd to dissipate, about the show, but also about my relationship with the band, and even beyond that, how she sees me and my story and what she believes God can do with it.  She asked me questions about what I'm open to, and I told her the truth, that if God opens the door for me to talk to people and share my story on a bigger level, I'll run through it.  She felt like crap tonight, and she was still such a sweet friend and an encouragement.

Then, eventually, I got to talk to the band and Caitie, as they straggled out after loading up everything and after talking to people as the crowd cleared.  The people were closing up, so we went outside, and Summer gave me a moment to talk alone with them.  I gave them a medical update, but also got to share my heart with them a bit about how they're still helping me even when we're separated by such great distance.  I could barely make it through what I needed to tell them because of the emotion welling up in my throat, but they were patient and listened and Taylor, always the most vocal one, responded with what I'm pretty sure is how they all see me and us and our friendship.  We prayed together, and in that moment, I felt a little more secure, knowing that I have people that are walking with me even when they're not physically with me.  Do you believe it was a coincidence that my night with these incredible friends of mine was the night before all this craziness at the doctor starts?  Because I don't.

Summer and I drove home, talking the whole way, and I was able to push the devil away...until she dropped me off at my dorm.  Something in me just broke, and I was crying before I knew what was going on.  I knew I couldn't stand walking into my room alone, so I called the one person that I knew would come, even at 10:40 at night.  You know that Carole King song, "You've Got A Friend"?  Well, if you don't, part of the lyrics say, "You just call out my name, and you know, wherever I am, I'll come runnin' to see you again."  Yeah, well, that's Austin.  He told me I could call him anytime, and for some reason, he was the first person that popped in my head tonight.  So I called him.  And he came as fast as he could.  And we sat on the ledge outside my building for 20 minutes.  And I cried and vented, and he pointed me back to the Truth about God over and over and over again.  His profound and unwavering confidence in what the Lord is going to do for me was a lesson that I truly needed at that moment.  I told him I've been drilled all my life to avoid being a burden to people, but he told me that that's what the Christian community is about - carrying each other through dark spots, having hope when someone is hopeless, having confidence when someone can't find it. He held me in possibly the tightest hug I've ever felt as he went to the Lord for me.  And in possibly the most baffling move of the night, when I told him what a gift his friendship was, and how thankful I was that he came so late just because he knew I needed him, he simply squeezed my hand and said, "You're the true gift."

I'm blessed to serve a God that's an overachiever.  I just wanted someone, one person, to be here through this that was loyal and dedicated in reminding me that I am not alone.  He gave me dozens.  I begged to feel love tonight, and He gave it to me in spades, from Summer, the Vespers, and Austin.  I may not be as sure of what is going to happen in the next few days as Austin is, but here's what I am sure of.

God always wins.  And He chased me down tonight to get me to stop fighting a battle that He's already taking care of.

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Monday, October 28, 2013

My family looks different. And that's okay.

Tonight, my mind is just...blown.

I woke up wide awake at 4:30 this morning and didn't exactly go to sleep at a reasonable hour last night, so one would think that I wouldn't be in a fantastic mood tonight, but I am.  Simply because I have had people go out of their way to make my day better, and it was beautiful for all of us.

It started out that I got word that, provided I stay seizure-free until tomorrow, I am allowed to go to Raleigh and see The Vespers tomorrow, which I am BEYOND stoked about.  Summer and I get to have a girls' night, and I get  to be reunited with 5 of my dear, dear friends.  A double win.

Just after that came a message from Jayshawn asking if I wanted to have lunch after he got out of Reformation, and I said of course, because hello.  People.  I kept trying to focus on all the reading I have to do for the rest of the morning, but focus isn't exactly my forte right now.  I sent a message out on Twitter that jokingly said, "Dear [Reformation] kids, enjoy your last Mal-free week. You can't get rid of me that easy. ;) I'll be back!"  And I ended up having a bit of a conversation with one of the brothers, Austin, that I haven't gotten to know yet, and invited him over to come visit me, which we set up for tonight.

Then, I met Jayshawn for lunch at noon, and we came back to my lobby and just sat and talked until he had to go to his next class.  We talked about...everything.  For some reason, I feel this need to keep the details private, a feeling of protection I don't get too often, but we talked about my past, the way we see people, our class, the people in it, God and the Gospel, more than one would think was possible for such a short amount of time.  He explained to me why the class sees me as such a blessing despite the fact that the past month has been so full of them giving and giving and giving to me so selflessly, and it actually made sense.  He said I'm a blessing simply because I've given  I got it, even if it's hard for me to wrap my head around it.  There's something about his joy and his perspective that just brightens everything when I'm around him.

After he left, I came back and did some reading, and then I took a nap because it was time for my afternoon seizure med, and that knocks me out anyway, plus...FOUR THIRTY.  It finally kicked in.

I got woken up minutes before my alarm was due to go off (don't you hate it when that happens?!) due to a phone call that I'd really rather not get into because it's just...aggravating.  I texted a few people about the ridiculousness of it all, and I was reminded once again of the hearts of those that surround me.  None of us are going to get it right all the time, but we are loving each other the best that we can.

Then I really woke myself up and talked to Paige for a second and nailed down plans with Summer for tomorrow, and waited for the text from Austin.  He showed up about 6:25 and we just went into my room and talked.  I told him my story, which always brings me this weird combination of joy and vulnerability, because talking about what God has done in my life and how I know what He can do for anyone is always an incredible feeling, but in order to really authentically do that, I have to share a LOT of myself.  I love it, because I love people and getting to know them and connecting with them, but it's always scary being that open because you don't know how people are going to react.  You know?

Austin was great, though.  Even though this was the first real conversation we've had, it felt like I was talking to an old friend, and he could not have been any sweeter.  He actually has some personal experience with seizures with some of his loved ones, so I didn't have to explain as much of the medical stuff to him, and he said he'd actually been really wanting to talk to me because of that.  I sat and told him, well, my life story.  I didn't really get emotional until I got to the point when I met The Vespers and how everything started changing after that, and then the baptism, and how radically my life has changed since then as I realized more and more that God is using my life to reach people.  And he told me his idea of why the class sees me as a blessing despite everything that's been going on...because I've let them help me, because by being in need of someone's help right in front of their faces I gave them the opportunity to examine what their hearts are really like and what their instinctive responses are.  He told me that a friend of his asked him if anyone resented me for what had been going on, which is something I'd honestly worried about in the past, and he said no, that they just wanted to help and were concerned for my well-being.

By the time he left, I was honestly on the verge of tears.  It's humbling enough to see the love that they have for me after such a short time of knowing each other, to know that I'm a part of them now, but they're not the only ones.  There are friends I've known for much longer who have shown up for me time and time again no matter what time I needed them or what it was about, to encourage me and uplift me and remind me that I am always being prayed for.  And the state of my relationship with my blood family, particularly with my mom, is about as shaky as it's ever been, so the fact that I have these incredible friends of mine that I can call family is, I think, more of a blessing now than ever before.

It sucks that I don't have the relationship with my mom that I wish I did, but I think I've reached a place of acceptance about it.  Do I wish it was different?  Yes, absolutely.  But at least, until it changes, or even if it never does, I am blessed to have my Reformation brothers, and so many other friends that love me like a sister, people that have proven they will do anything to help me and know that I will do the same for them at the drop of a hat.  I still have my family; it just looks a little bit different than everyone else's.  And I'm finally at peace with that.  The love is still as deep, if not deeper, than if we were blood related.  After all, DNA doesn't make a family.

Speaking of family, I get to see 5 more of them tomorrow after six and a half long months.  I can't wait!! :D

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Stop Fighting, Start Listening

Considering last night was one of those nights that I barely slept and when I did it was tossing-and-turning and nightmarish, and today was one of those days that I spent in pain trying to catch up on all the sleep I didn't get, I don't have much to say.

But I did find out that that guest post I mentioned quite a while ago was posted on my friend Becca's blog.  It's titled, "Stop Fighting, Start Listening."  Check it out here, and please leave a comment!

Just like my mom and I couldn’t truly listen to each other when we were focused on ourselves and fighting to be right and to be heard, I couldn’t listen to God when I was fighting His pursuit of my heart. It was when I stopped fighting and started listening to the Lord that all the dark spots in my life didn’t seem so dark anymore. It was then that He started changing every aspect of my life, right down to the very core of who I see myself as. It was then that I started not only loving Him, but loving myself. Being right can be great for our egos, but being safe is what is great for our souls. And nothing of this world can offer the safety that we so desperately seek.

Check out the entire post over on Becca's blog. Love y'all.

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Deep Waters, Deeper Love

Oh, mercy.

I know I've said this a million times, and I'll probably say it a billion more over the life of this blog, but I am reminded so vividly that God is here in my life and of how much He loves me because of the way that the people He has surrounded me with love me.

Alex came by on the way to the Homecoming game with his girlfriend.  I haven't seen this kid since April, and the fact that he made time in this day just to see me for a minute because he knew it'd make me smile meant so much.  And then, when they were leaving, they brought me exactly what I requested from the concession stand so that I could eat something besides what is in my room. :)

I got a phone call from Jenny (as in Jenny & Tyler).  Honestly, it sort of feels like she's a little too "important" to bother her with the stuff I'm dealing with, but that's just crazy, because I've known from the very beginning that she and Tyler are just genuinely good and kind people, and she wouldn't have given me her phone number in the first place if she didn't want to stay updated about what's happening with me.  And she has her own medical issue that she deals with, so she "gets it" on a level that my other friends, as wonderful and incredible as they are, really can't.  And she took the time to call me while her mom is in town visiting!  I'm so honored to be able to call her and Tyler friends.

Towards the end of the game, Justin and Jenn came over, and we spent about 45 minutes just sitting around talking.  Some of it was about nothing, but a lot of it was them just being here and listening to how I'm feeling.  They validated a lot of the emotions I've been feeling, reminding me that everything is natural is something they would expect someone in my shoes to feel.  What they said reminded of something else someone told me once, I don't remember who - God created everything, which means He created emotions, too, so I shouldn't beat myself up thinking I'm "feeling the wrong thing".  And right before they left, we stood in a circle and Justin prayed over me, and standing there hearing what he was saying and letting it hit me straight in the heart and feeling each of them intermittently squeeze my hands, I honestly don't know how I didn't just lose it.  They are beautiful people, plain and simple.

I've also gotten messages throughout the day from various people.  Summer, Paige, Jayshawn, my "Aunt" Julie (not really my aunt, my mom's childhood best friend), heck even Justin's mom! :), people either checking in on me or just being a welcome distraction from my own head.

None of my friends truly know what I'm going through or what this feels like, but I see how much they want to be here for me, how they seem to never tire of me venting to them, how they will do just about anything to make me smile during this rough time, and I can't help but focus on my gratitude, even if that doesn't last forever.  Because when I look at them, or when I think of the deep love that I know that they have for me, it is impossible for me not to think about the simple fact that their love is nothing, it is just a drop in the ocean, a glimpse, a speck of dust, in comparison to how deep the Lord's love for me truly is.

I mentioned this to Justin and Jenn tonight - I know in my heart and soul that I want His will to be done, I want Him to be the one in control and not me, but sometimes it absolutely terrifies me to think about the fact that His will very well may include a lot of suffering on my part.  But when I think about how deep and vast and utterly incomprehensible His love for me is, I can't help but take a running leap towards Him.  Even when I'm terrified.  Even though that means I'm not in control.  Even though I can't see where I'm going and have no idea what's happening.  I want to be where He is.  I want what He wants.  I want Him.

And if I have to be emotionally flipped upside down in order to really understand what it's like to rely on God for everything, if I have to be thrown out into the deep end and fight that feeling of drowning, then I'm okay with that.  Because I know that He will rescue me and carry me infinitely farther than I could ever reach on my own.

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Friday, October 25, 2013

The Sound of Silence

I have not done much else besides sleep today.

Considering I haven't so much as heard anyone's voice AND had a headache so bad I can't focus on school work, it doesn't sound like such a bad day.

Especially since if I'd been awake all day, I'm pretty sure I would have gotten wayyyyy too caught up in my head again.

Although, I did do a bit of research about the "pseudo seizures" (the reason why the doctors offered me a psychiatric consult) comment from yesterday (my mom told me I should just forget about it since it was coming from several doctors who don't really know me, but she wouldn't be able to forget it, either), and I learned that in order to deduce that someone has pseudo seizures, they must first rule out epileptic and non-epileptic seizures.  One of the possible causes of non-epileptic seizures?  Migraines. AKA what I've been dealing with on-and-off for years and 24/7 for the past 13 months!  I don't know why my doctor didn't connect this before, but I'm sure gonna find out on Wednesday.  I'm not crazy.

And now I think I'll go back to bed because....I can.  And the only reason I'm awake now writing this post is because Holly butt-dialed me and woke me up out of a dream that I was talking to Prince William.  Uh, boo.

I should be having a visitor tomorrow, so yay for that.

Coincidentally, Jenny & Tyler are releasing a covers album on November 12th called "For Freedom."  All the proceeds go to charities that fight human trafficking.  I think it's amazing that they put all this effort into making an album, which is so NOT easy, only to give all the money away.  Anyway, I'm on the launch team, so I got a free early copy of it, and it's INCREDIBLE.  Like, chill-inducing incredible.  One of the songs on it is "The Sound of Silence," originally by Simon & Garfunkel.  I grew up listening to that song (my mom is a big fan) so I hold the original in high regard, but I LOVE this.  Another one on the album is "The Scientist" by Coldplay, and I personally think their cover is BETTER than the original.  Shh....don't tell Coldplay. ;)

And so ends tonight's very random blog post.

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tell the Story

Another seizure today.  When I got discharged from the ER this afternoon, I texted...the usual people, my "prayer team".  (And yes, writing that out, it does hit me how blessed I am that I can even say that I have one of those, a "prayer team".)  I told them what happened, how frustrated I was (am) by the fact that no one seems concerned or wanting to do anything, how hurting I am.  Basically just a general update of what is going on and how they could pray.  My friend Pastor Chris (or is it, my pastor friend Chris?), his first response when I told them there had been another seizure was, "Keep writing. Tell the story."  My initial reaction when I read that text was, honestly,

"How do I tell a story when I have no idea what is going on?"

As the day went on, and got worse and more frustrating, the question turned into, "Which story do I tell?"

Do I tell the story of how I begged the ER doctors and my neurologist to admit me to do immediate testing, and the only response was, "We can either give you a psychiatric consult, or you can go home", of how the ER doctors couldn't help because my regular neurologist won't help me before my appointment Wednesday?

Do I tell the story of how I spent the vast majority of the afternoon in tears, first in the dark and cold ER room, then in Jayshawn's car on the way home, then in my room by myself, crying more tears than I knew was possible to cry in a day, until I finally collapsed on my bed in exhaustion and slept for 3 hours?

Do I tell the story of getting so caught up in my own thoughts that I started to wonder if I really was going crazy?

Do I tell the story of deciding I need to take the ER doctor's suggestion of just not doing anything until my appointment on Wednesday and what it felt like to email my professors asking for several more days excused from class so that I could rest and maybe prevent another seizure before then?

Do I tell the story of frantically going through my phone looking for someone, anyone, near campus who could come by and see me, just so I could maybe get the feeling of loneliness that I seemed to be drowning in to loosen its grip?

But tonight, I realized that the answer is no to all of those questions.  The story I need to tell is the one of hope beyond all explanation.

The story of God putting tangible manifestations of His love for me right in front of my face.  Of friends who hold me as I sob into their jacket, who sit on my recliner long past the time they should be leaving because they genuinely want to be there for me, who get someone to cover their work shift for an hour so they can come be with me and talk to me, listen to me, let me cry, hug, and hold my hand and pray with me, just because they knew I needed it.  Of someone I've never met orchestrating a conversation between me and someone else I've never met so that I can spend an hour telling them about how I know God is good and I know that He loves me even when I'm a complete disaster and I feel like everything in my life is falling apart and I don't feel Him here, all because they're going through pain that I can't even imagine and I was asked to minister to them.  Of how I hung up the phone and realized that that is exactly how I know that God is alive and working, even in this mess, because only talking to people about how good God is could bring me the kind of joy I felt just then, especially after such a rough day.

I think I've been through every negative emotion in the book today.  Anger, fear, frustration, inconsolable sadness, hopelessness, you name it, I've probably felt it.  What I didn't expect was for the clock to strike midnight and me to have a smile on my face because I simply can't ignore how good God is.  I can't pretend He didn't show up and shower me with His love through people I know He put in my life for a very specific purpose, people who carry me through hours when I want to give up, throw in the towel, and not move another step toward Christ.  I don't think it's a coincidence that this is the song that came to mind in the ER today. "Psalm 46" by Jenny & Tyler - I've had it on repeat pretty much every waking moment since.

The LORD is my refuge and strength
Therefore I will not be afraid
Though the mountains give way
And fall into the sea
He will come and rescue me

The LORD comes to me at break of day
He reaches down to guide me in His ways
Though the oceans roar
In this dark and stormy sea
He will come and rescue me

Hallelujah, He is with me
Hallelujah, we cannot be moved
Hallelujah, He is with me
Hallelujah, I rest secure

Be still and know that He is God
He will be exalted over all
Come and behold His strength and majesty
Yet He will come and rescue me

Hallelujah, He is with me
Hallelujah, we cannot be moved
Hallelujah, He is with me
Hallelujah, I rest secure

Hallelujah, I rest secure

So yeah, I don't know what is going on right now.  I don't know why my life looks the way it does, why doctors are acting the way did they did today, or how this chapter is going to close.  But I'm as sure that I am that the sun sets in the west that God is good, God is moving even when I can't see it or feel it, I am not alone, and I am loved far more than I could ever imagine.

This is my story.  To be continued...

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

So. I AM strong.

Today, I finally learned why I should accept a compliment I've been hearing for years and have never been comfortable with.

It probably won't surprise you that one of the most common things I hear from people in regards to whatever health struggle I am facing at the time is about how "strong" I am.  Matt has told me I'm the strongest person he knows for years.  That is usually one of the first things out of my friends' mouths (or fingers, if we're talking online or via text, haha) when they're trying to make me feel better and encourage me.  Holly tells me I'm strong.  Professors tell me I'm strong.  My church family has said it.  Alex told me just this afternoon that "I'm stronger than 99.9% of the people he knows".  A Reformation brother that I have barely spoken to reached out to me via Facebook tonight and, in the middle of his message, told me he admires my strength and determination.

They're everywhere.  These people who see this strength in me, usually at times when it's the last thing I see in myself.  And it's not just been recently.  I've heard it for a while, and I never knew how to respond, so I basically would just shake my head, smile, and say, "Thank you, but I'm not strong.  I'm not." long enough for the subject to change.

I mentioned it to Taylor once, that everyone sees strength in me but I don't see it in myself, and he said "Maybe you should take that as a sign."  Recently, he told me that the reason that people see me as strong is because I am open about how weak I really am.  I got what he was saying, but it just didn't stick.

I ended up in the ER today.  Again.  I had 3 seizures within about 10 minutes before Reformation even started.  Long story short, still no answers other than the infection seems to be improving, and I am seeing my neurologist again next Wednesday the 30th, as well as having an ambulatory EEG.  I spent several hours sitting in another dark, cold ER room texting with anyone who was available, and getting caught up in my own thoughts when no one responded.  You'd think that after all the medical crises I've faced, that something as simple as an ER trip wouldn't scare me, but I'll be honest - I felt like I was breaking, especially when they surprisingly discharged me after talk of possibly admitting me, knowing that I was leaving yet again without any substantial answers.

Pastor Chris called me while I was on the way back to campus.  We briefly spoke, and he told me to look up this song on YouTube and then call him back.  My phone was almost dead, so I told him I would do it when I got back to my room. This would be the song.

"Lord, I Need You" by Matt Maher

Yeah...I called him back as soon as the video was over.  Pretty much the first thing he asked was, "So what did you think of the song?"  And I said, "Uh...that's the cry of my heart right now."

And we got to talking about exactly what I've been talking about in this post - the fact that seemingly everyone I know thinks I'm strong while I think that I'm breaking on the inside and I just don't let anyone see it.

Then, he started telling me stories.  Stories about people he knew from various places all who ended up with the same way...killing themselves.  And with every story, he finished by saying, "That's why you're strong."  He ended by finally explaining the reason that other people see my strength when I don't in a way that it actually made sense to me.

I'm strong because I don't give up.

I'm strong because I'm the first to admit that I can't do this on my own.

I'm strong because I don't stop clinging to Jesus.

I'm strong because I don't stop crying "Lord, I NEED You."

I don't write this to make you think I'm bragging.  I'm writing this because I need to pound it into my own head more than anything.  I've never been great at taking compliments from others, but this is one I need to accept and understand and be grateful for.  Because for every time someone tells me that I am strong, I have a chance to tell them about the God that gives me the strength that they see.  Every bit of the good you see in me is what He has done in me and for me in some very dark days.

I finally get it now.  And I'm actually okay with it.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

On the verge of tears.

7:00 tonight and I was finally able to tolerate something other than the fetal position.

This kidney infection is no joke.

I'm exhausted.

And in so much pain.

And can't stop thinking about all the work that I have to do that I get further behind on every second that I can't function.

And every second that I've been awake today, I've felt like I'm on the verge of tears.  I don't know why.  Not a fun place to be.

Also, they turned the heat on in the dorms.  So I feel like I'm melting.  That's also fun.

Sigh.  I am doing the best that I can.

Onward we go.

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Love Like Jesus

Well, my Facebook status from a few hours ago seems like a good jumping off point.

By the way, Seizure #6 was yesterday at church.  I didn't mention it because...well, I didn't want to, and because I thought that it wasn't all that important, figuring it was just a freak thing since my body would take a few days to adjust to the 3000 mg/day dosage of my seizure medicine that I just started on Friday.

Yeah...not so much a freak thing.  I had yet another seizure in Reformation today.  Bryce, Jayshawn, James, and Clayton were Jesus with skin on per usual and took fantastic care of me until the paramedics got there.  All I remember is feeling the seizure coming on, turning slightly around and saying "James, come here," because James sits in the row behind me.  I know that James caught me when I blacked out so I didn't hit anything and other guys helped him get me on the ground safely.  Which is what made it so weird that I woke up from the seizure with such bad back pain that I seriously wondered if I had cracked a vertebrae or something, because the slightest little movement made me want to scream.

I then spent 3 solid hours laying on a backboard in searing pain as they tried to get good scans of my neck and back.  The doc couldn't let me off the backboard until radiology came back with results.  He wouldn't give me pain meds until he knew exactly what was going on with my body.  The X-ray people couldn't get clear scans because I couldn't take my clothes off (jeans, bra, etc.) because I was on the backboard, so then I had to spend quite some time being slid back and forth through the CT tube because that was their only shot at getting remotely clear shots of my spine.  Then, I was taken back to my room and laid there crying in pain for a sweet forever until they finally told me the CTs were clear, got me off the backboard, and ordered Dilaudid.  Surprisingly, the doctor went ahead and ordered 2 mg, which I usually have to request, but I suppose my hours of crying in pain was enough request in itself. ;)

So here's the deal.  Remember how every other time I went to the ER after a seizure and they treated me for a UTI, either with IV antibiotics or giving me a prescription when I left?  Well, it's a darn good thing that I went to the same ER every time (except yesterday, since my church is in Dunn so I was forced to go to crappy Betsy Johnson but they didn't do a urine sample, anyway) because the doctor looked at my lab results from my visits of the past few weeks and deduced that the UTI never went away despite the various antibiotics.  It instead just got worse and worse and by today was a full-blown infection into my kidneys, which explains the excruciating back pain.  I still can't figure out why I never had a single symptom of a UTI until this past Friday, the day I finished the last antibiotic I got from the hospital.

Since an infection of any kind increases the likelihood that a person with a seizure disorder will have a seizure, it makes perfect sense that a chronic-UTI-turned-kidney-infection would cause a sudden onslaught of 7 seizures in 24 days.  They gave me several antibiotics via IV while I was there, plus a prescription for a 10-day antibiotic that I haven't tried yet. They are also doing a culture of my urine in the lab to make sure that I am on the best possible antibiotic for whatever kind of bacteria is causing the infection, and they will call me within a few days if I need to get on a new one.  The doc was very nice and gave me another mg of Dilaudid before they discharged me, my friend Sarah came and picked me up and once again bought my prescription for me because I am broke until the end of the month, and I came back and immediately got some food from Jole Mole because it was like 5:30 when I arrived and I hadn't eaten a thing since 9 am this morning, and I have spent the rest of the night trying to get comfortable but totally failing because kidney infections are no joke and my lower back is in what feels like the most pain it's been in since I had my spine surgery.

So there's the details.  I'm just praying that this is actually what has been causing the seizures and that once this infection goes away, my life will return to...the weird form of normal that it is now.  Since I haven't been able to get comfortable, and I can't focus on work thanks to 3 mg of Dilaudid, I've basically spent a lot of time laying around thinking about today and how absolutely blessed I am.  I can't ignore the fact that I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams when God surrounds me with tangible reminders of just how much I am loved, not just by Him, but by so many people.

Classmates who do anything necessary to keep me calm and comfortable and take care of me until paramedics arrive.

Friends who pray for me endlessly, sometimes without even knowing something is wrong.

Nurses who hold my hand while I cry in pain.

X-ray and CT techs who ask me every five seconds if they're hurting me when they're just trying to do their job.

Hospital "comfort care workers" who spend 15 minutes just listening to me to let me vent about how frustrated I am.

My church family who leaves messages that they're praying for me because of yesterday, not even knowing what was going on today.

Professors who seem to be endless fountains of grace.

Taylor, who spent an hour on the phone with me, managing to bring me from the verge of tears to smiles and confidence about God's plan in all of this, and who was also simply just a friendly voice to break the silence of sitting in that ER room by myself.

Sarah, a girl I barely knew two weeks ago, who has provided rides and bought me 4 prescriptions without a second thought.

I'm sure I'm forgetting someone...

I never really gave much thought to the idea of angels living among us until I saw how my Reformation brothers, Bryce, Jayshawn, James, all of them, truly understood what it meant to love like Jesus not just with words, but with actions.  Every time a seizure happened around that class period, I was left feeling like they were the guardian angels sent just to watch over me in a time of need.  And after a day like today, I am humbled almost to the point of tears to see so many people who genuinely love me without any expectations.  That's not something I'm used to - people loving me and giving to me without expecting anything in return, not even a thank you.

But if there's anything I've learned from seeing these young men take me in and love me like family, hospital workers take such interest in the care of patients, and friends as well as acquaintances who become friends step up to keep me moving forward toward Christ, it's that the best way that I can say thank you is by loving others as I have been loved, by doing my best to love like Jesus.  By doing this, I not only honor the gift that these friends have given me in the way that they have loved me, I honor the ultimate love from my Father who was gracious enough to place these people in my life in the first place.

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Life Without Fear

I keep staring at this screen, the blinking cursor screaming "SAY SOMETHING" at me, and I don't know why, but for some reason, tonight I'm just not sure what to say.  So forgive me in advance if this post is a little blah.  It wouldn't be the first time.

I've been thinking a lot about yestserday and what happened, and this line that I heard on a TV show has been bouncing around my head.  "DNA doesn't make a family. Love does."

I received all sorts of comments from yesterday's post in lots of forms: emails, texts, Facebook messages, so many words of encouragement from people I either have never actually laid eyes on or have met only since I became a Camel and stepped foot on this glorious campus.  And it got me to thinking about the reason I told my mom is why I call this school my home - because this is where I feel safe.

I mean mentally and emotionally safe.  At home, I have to walk on eggshells to try and prevent the Chelsea bomb from exploding, I have to be the kind of person that Holly actually likes and wants to spend time with, I have to be happy all the time for her so that she can have a bright spot for whatever length of time I am home.  It's exhausting, to say the least.

Here, I can be who I am without expectations from anyone.  More people than I can count have met me and taken me in just as I am.  They have loved me just as I am.  I don't have to try here.  There is such sweet, indescribable freedom in that.  I am as tired of living in fear of saying or doing the wrong thing as I am of being afraid of people.  And I'm simply choosing not to do either anymore.

The way I see it, fear is a wasted emotion.  When I think of Jesus saying that he came so that "[I] may have life, and have it to the fullest," that fullest possible life that I imagine doesn't include fear.  Of anything.  Of people.  Of not being good enough.  Of being shunned or betrayed or told I'm not worthy.  Because I have Jesus, I shouldn't have to be afraid of anything simply because I have him, because he gave up his life so that I could be declared righteous and clean.  He earned victory for me.

I've spent my whole life trying to be the person that I think other people want me to be.  For a while, I had myself convinced that I had let that piece of myself go when I escaped high school, but the truth is, I just replaced my classmates with my family.  All the effort I had put into trying but failing to please the peers who had spent years telling me I didn't deserve to be loved was simply transferred into trying but failing to please the family who told me that no matter what I did or how hard I tried, it wasn't ever going to be good enough.  They just did it more subtly.

For all this time, I have sought the validation that my heart yearns for from people who are just as broken as I am, some of whom don't know the unending love and grace of a Father who sent His son to die so that I could be made pure.  I have been a Christian for one year, six months, and fifteen days, declaring my allegiance to Christ but still acting as if the opinions of the people around me were the be all end all.  Oh, how I have been led astray.

I still remember what Brennan told me right before I got baptized.  That when I came back up from the water, my whole life would be made new.  My sins would be gone.  I would be made clean.  Simply because I made the choice to name Jesus as the King of my life instead of myself.  Jesus died to give me the security I've sought my entire life.  It's long past time I start honoring him like it.

The first step is to find my value in the person that God made me to be, and as the one that Jesus so desperately he gave up his life for, and to stop letting the people around me dictate the picture I have of myself.

I've spent 21 years, 4 months, and 5 days living in constant fear of not being good enough, believing the words of the broken souls around me more than I did the words of the God who gave up everything just to win my heart.

That ends now.

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Remember the love.

Glee used the song "Seasons of Love" as the opener for the episode that was a tribute in memory of Cory Monteith (and his character Finn Hudson).

I love Glee, and the song was perfectly placed and done superbly, so it's not too big of a surprise that this (along with the other songs from the episode) has been on repeat a lot over the past week.

"Seasons of Love" has been one of my absolute favorite songs for a long time now, but I didn't expect to need its message as desperately as I needed it tonight.

I don't want to get into the details,  for one because they're not important and two because I don't want this to seem like I'm out for a public attack on this person.  All that is necessary for what I want to say for this post is that a person that I love very, very much, a person whom I have always respected and looked up to, told me that I'm "fat and ugly and that's the reason no one wants to date me."

Unable to respond, I just sat here in my room and cried.  Cried for how someone who is supposed to love me verbalizes my biggest fear/insecurity as some sort of truth.  Cried for fear that they were right.  Cried for the loneliness.  My head knew those words weren't true, but because I love this person so much, it was very difficult for my heart to forget it.  Knowing myself well enough, I knew I needed not to get caught up in my own head or my own thoughts, so I texted a few people that I knew would care what had happened.  One of them, I'm not sure why I thought to text, but I'm certainly glad I did because his response was a gift.

The best way I know how to combat the Enemy when it feels like his lies are attacking full-force is to surround myself with words of Truth and the people who seem to make it their mission to keep me from staying down, who are always willing to pull me out of that pit of despair anytime they notice me slipping.  And tonight, God showed up in a relatively small but important way in the people who responded.  People who told me I have to see myself the way that God sees me.  People who assured me they'd make it their mission to never let me forget that I am beautiful, and wanted, and loved by so many people, even if they don't share my DNA.  Girls who shared their own self-image insecurities.  Guys who told me they loved me and cared for me and that anyone who could honestly say the same wouldn't give a crap about what I looked like.  Love poured out in droves in a time when I desperately needed it, unable to be ignored for the words of the Enemy.

One message stuck out to me in particular, though: "But you need to remember that you, of all people, aren't defined by your looks or your weight or whatever.  You would still be you if you were the size of a house or a tooth pick."

That was what made me think of "Seasons of Love" and how at the end of the song, the words "remember the love" are repeated.  When I die, after however many years I am blessed with on this earth, even if I do get skinny and meet society's standards of "pretty" one day, I want the people at my funeral to remember me for how deeply I loved, for the attention that I paid to people whose paths I crossed, not the attention I paid to my looks and the things about my body that I wished I could change.

I want my life to be remembered by my heart for people, by my constant willingness to be a person my loved ones could rely on for support, by my never-ending desire to know people past their outer facades deep down to their hearts - scars and all.

I want people to remember me for my love for Jesus and how much I tried to love them as He does.

Whether there's a husband or not in my future, I know that I am surrounded by people who love me for everything that I am, and I have faith that that fact will not change, even if the people do.  Just as I want people to remember me for my love for Jesus and for them, I need to remember so clearly the love that surrounds me in so many forms every second of every day that those voices drown out the lies that try to chip away at my soul.

Love wins.  Jesus wins.  And for however many days I have left, my heart's desire is to love with everything that I am.  The people who love me, when they look at me, I know that that is what they see.  Not my size, not my hair, not my body, or any other physical aspect that will turn to dust eventually.  They see my heart, and I don't have the words to explain how grateful I am for that.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Letting My Guard Down

Here's something I don't think I've talked about here in a while, to pretty much anyone.  But after how amazing tonight was, I feel safe, I feel like it's time.

The Brennan debacle of last year and my reaction to the constant back-and-forth is well-documented on this blog, and this year has dealt with a lot of emotional blows regarding Landon and Jay, and how the two seemed to be on a perfectly timed cycle so that as soon as one of them took a break from my life, the other would show up at just that second so that that feeling of turmoil never left me.  All that, too, is well-documented on this blog.

But what I didn't write about, or speak of to nearly anyone (no one that I can recall right now), is how all of that pushed me so close to turning back into the girl I used to be, or how often I wondered if I could ever actually be friends with a guy without getting dragged around or hurt.  I was so close to retreating back into my old shell, the one I shed a while ago, the one that kept me protected from letting myself trust anyone of the opposite sex.  Sometimes you just get so tired of getting hurt that the only option that seems available to you is the one that involves running away.

But then, this semester came.  I joined my Protestant Reformation class.  Bryce and I got to know each other, and surprisingly enough, I wasn't scared of him.  Letting myself trust him wasn't hard.  Then, I learned that Chris is a much different guy than the impression I had of him in my mind.  And slowly, I learned that all 15 guys in my class had much more to them than met the eye.  Day by day, I felt myself becoming more at home in that class, not worried about doing the wrong thing or making the wrong impression.  More and more, I was able to just be.  As that feeling of security grew stronger, so did my freedom in calling these 15 young men, 13 of whom were complete strangers to me in the beginning, my brothers.

Still, hanging out as a group in class or talking to them on Facebook is a completely different story than actually sitting across a table and talking one-on-one with somebody that I didn't know all too well.  But when Jayshawn offered to take me out to dinner and to the Theater Department's fall musical (as friends) so we could get to know each other, there was no way I could say no.

I can't even begin to tell you how thankful I am that I said yes.  For the first time in a long, long time, I let my defenses go.  I shared pieces of my heart with Jay that very, very few people, let alone guys, have seen.  And I wasn't even scared to do it.  There was something that was just so easy about tonight and how we talked that it honestly never even occurred to me to keep my guard up...and that is a huge deal for me.  I don't know how and I don't know why, but I felt safe in being vulnerable with this guy that I just met six weeks ago.  That is such a gift from God, it blows my mind.

We spent an hour before the show and about an hour and a half afterwards just talking, about God, faith, our class, our testimonies, family, church, friends, so much.  I was as calm talking to him as I would have been if I was sitting across the table from Matt.

I told Paige a few weeks ago that I was tired of being scared of people.  I was tired of living in fear of trusting the wrong person again.  And I told her that I just wasn't going to be scared anymore.  When I said that, though, my head still had to do some convincing of my heart.  Being afraid is exhausting, and I knew it even then, but I wasn't totally ready to let go of that fear and the control I thought I had over my heart and whom I chose to share it with.

Until tonight.  Suddenly...I don't feel afraid anymore.  Jayshawn pegged pieces of my personality just from what I shared with him, understood what I told him with no judgment at all, and told me flat out the good qualities he saw in me.  I was so humbled, and so honored that he was there to listen to me with no pre-conceived notions or expectations.  There were points when I got emotional in what I was saying, but I was honestly so distracted by being honest with him that I didn't care in the moment if he saw me cry.

I knew that joining this Protestant Reformation class was a brilliant choice and a tremendous blessing, but what I didn't expect is how the friendships I made with these students would affect me, humble me, and free me from the fears that old scars still haunt me with.  Another piece of my One Word: releasing my fear of being hurt.

I let my guard down 100% tonight for the first time in a very long time and it felt....good.

Glory be to God.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

All I Know

Seizure #5 tonight in the library.

I'm tired.

I'm scared.

I'm frustrated.

But I'm also thankful for all the blessings that surround me throughout this.  Like friends who send texts of prayers despite dealing with their own problems tonight.  Or a girl I barely know getting off work at 10 and coming to sit with me in the ER so I didn't have to be alone the whole night and could have a free ride back, telling me she'd stay until I got discharged "no matter how late it was", despite her having an early class.  And fast ER trips, getting out in a little over 3 hours once they felt safe in sending me home.

I have so many thoughts and emotions running through me.

I don't know why this is happening, and I may never know.  I don't know what God is doing with all of this, and I don't really have to.  All I know is that the God who promised, is faithful, was faithful, and will always be faithful.

I've posted this song before, but it fits perfectly.

God, I don't know what You're doing, but I know who You are.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My very, very, very long day

I have been awake since 11 pm last night.  Don't ask me why.

9 am meeting with Dr. Thornton about one of my midterms in which he was very helpful and complimentary of my skills
10 am Model UN
11 am Protestant Reformation - always always always the highlight of my day
12 pm lunch
1 pm Small Group Bible Study
2:20 pm Post Office
3 pm Tutoring
4 pm Studying
5 pm Dinner
6 pm Studying
7 pm Tutoring
8 pm Reading in the library, trying to stay awake, killing time between my two tutoring jobs
9 pm Tutoring
10 pm Shower
11 pm Trying to study for tomorrow's midterm. not so successful
12 am hopefully sleep soon

Oh, and the big "first" that I thought was going to happen, isn't.  Well, I mean, the thing is still going to happen, it's just not as big of a deal as I thought it was.  I'll explain Friday night, after it's all happened.

Okay, sleep time.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Either this antibiotic the hospital has given me has given me some major stomach issues, or I ate something bad at lunch today.

Either way, I have spent all day either in bed asleep or in the bathroom.

And I really don't want to feel this poorly tomorrow.


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Monday, October 14, 2013


That's just what I'm feeling tonight.  

Because sure, I have a reason to be unhappy - seeing as I had another seizure today in Reformation.

But my Reformation brothers and "Dad" Dr. J took fantastic care of me, as always.  And I got to give them their candy bags, which was the surprise I've been holding on to since last week.  And my doc called before all this happened and said that my seizure med level in my blood was on "the low end of normal" which could be explaining this at least somewhat.  And the doctor gave me Ativan for enough days until I taper up onto the full 3000 mg per day of my seizure med that I need to get to.  Ativan relaxes all the electrical activity in your brain, too much of which is what brings on seizures, which should prevent me from having another seizure before I get on the new high dosage.

And when I messaged several of them to apologize for causing such trouble/disruption in their class (my guilt complex, hooray), they all basically told me to just hush, and that they were glad I was there with them instead of alone, as I would have been had I not joined this class.  They are definitely my family, and I am so blessed to be loved by such a great group of guys like them.

Plus, a surprise came out of nowhere tonight that may lead to a big first coming for me here soon.  I'm not entirely sure yet, which is why there are no details.  But if there's a story to tell, trust me, I will tell.  All in due time. :)

I'm rarely vague, huh?  This just adds to the fun for me. Mwahahahahahaha........... :D

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

All In

Last year, I made a promise to God that I would not turn down any opportunity that He gave me to share my testimony with people. I don't remember exactly when it was, but a year or more later, and it honestly just makes me laugh at how many opportunities He has just dropped in my lap since then.

Thanks to the beauty of the internet, I've had several occasions to send my testimony out to random strangers. My guest post for that blog I mentioned touches on my testimony. I'm getting on a plane to Texas in less than 2 months to share my story with a bunch of people I've never met.

All those are great, don't get me wrong, but what really touches me the most is when I have the opportunity to talk and share with people that I know in person. Today, it came about in the form of one of my Reformation "brothers". It started out that I was just messaging him because I was bored (and procrastinating), but very quickly, it turned into talking about God and faith and representing Christ through our actions, and then we were talking about my doctor appointment, and that led into me being able to tell him my testimony. He shared his, too, claiming it was "underwhelming", but I could see God working in his life just as he saw Him in mine. Our reactions really aren't all that important. What matters is that this is the first real conversation he (Clayton) and I have had, and it was centered around our testimonies and the Gospel.

God was moving. By the end of that conversation, we were both feeling very honored and thankful that we had just walked into an opportunity to get to know each other better and share with each other. Clayton said he "needed" this conversation, as well as my words of encouragement to keep sharing his story, as "normal" as it feels to him. In return, all I could really tell him was that this is what I love to do. I love to talk to people. I love to know their hearts, and encourage them, and let them know that they are never alone. It's to the point where sharing and talking about my testimony is actually fun for me. I don't know that I ever get more joy out of this world than when I feel I am helping people.

Conversations like the one I had with him, and later with my friend Paige, are what strengthen that curiosity in the back of my mind if the future I thought was my end goal may turn out to take a backseat to God having something completely different for me. I know that my story has changed and affected people, and as humbling as it is, that is the kind of thing that encourages me to keep telling people, even the parts that I'm ashamed of. Hearing from people what something as simple as my willingness to talk has done for them seriously makes me wonder and pray if God's plan for my future includes missions and ministry and something vastly different than the life I'd had pictured for so long. I believe that He has given me this love of talking to people and knowing and connecting with them for a reason. I'm just not sure what that reason is yet.

I don't know what my life is going to look like after college. All I know is that just as God opened up the door for me to go to Austin, and the door for me to join this Reformation class and meet brothers that have touched me, cared for me, and humbled me, if He wants me to become a public speaker and tell my story to even more people, then He'll open up that door, too.

And if He does that, I am in. I am all in. There is way too much joy to be found in telling people about the God that saved my life and my spirit again and again again for me to pass up the opportunity. This is another promise that I definitely do not regret keeping.

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Name Overload

So today was family reunion day.  As many members of my dad's side of the family get together once a year in October and eat barbecue and spend a couple commenting on how much everyone has changed.  It's always a very awkward day for a couple, the relationship between us and my dad's (very large) family hasn't always been the greatest, and I don't think you could've ever called us close.  My first cousins greet and treat us like acquaintances, for example.  Second, my dad's mom had like ten siblings, and all of them had several kids, and most of those kids had kids, and now even some of those kids have had kids.  Put me in a room full of people I see once a year (if that!), and every year, it feels like I'm meeting them all for the first time.  This year, in fact, I think there were a couple people that I was actually meeting for the first time.  So basically, considering "shy" isn't exactly how you'd describe me, my traditional greeting for the majority of these people at these reunions is "Hi, I'm Mallory, Frances' son Keith who passed away's youngest daughter.  What's your name and how am I related to you?" And pretty much by the time I get the family tree of whoever is there that year straightened out in my head, it's time to leave and I start all over again the next year.

This was actually the only picture I traditional picture with Blake before I leave every break.  Because Mom totally surprised me and agreed to let Holly take me back to school after the reunion!

He wasn't in the mood to take a picture, to say the least.  All he wanted was to run around in the grass and trees.

The only other picture I took in the 48 hours that I was with my family was a picture of the view that I had for most of Friday afternoon, after my head eased up enough for me to stand being awake.

This would be me, laid back in a recliner with the feet propped up, and Blake laying between my legs using my stomach as a pillow.  I will forever volunteer to be this kid's pillow as long as he's willing to snuggle with his Auntie Mal. :)

I guess there just wasn't a whole lot I wanted to remember about this particular Fall Break.  So yes, after the reunion, I convinced Mom to let Holly drive me back to school instead of her doing it because she seriously needed to go home and take pain meds for her partially torn rotator cuff (yikes!).  Holly actually volunteered to do it.  This gave Holly and I some one-on-one sister time, and I made it back just in time to drop my stuff off and head over to the soccer field.  The game was good.  It ended in another tie after double overtime, which sucks, but those boys are fighters and you can tell they put everything they have into every game.  I just feel bad for the seniors, that their last season isn't going the way it should be.  They have the talent; the score just rarely seems to come out in their favor.

During halftime, I stepped WAY outside of my comfort zone and participated in the halftime game that they have for people in the stands.  Basically, two people volunteer, and since the girl searching for people was having a hard time getting someone to agree to it especially since there were way less people there than normal because it's Fall Break, I got that random spontaneous streak in me and decided to do it.  Turns out, I ended up doing it against an athlete who goes to my church.  We started at the midfield line, spun around 5 times, dribbled to the penalty box, spun around 5 more times, and then shot, and the first person to make a goal won.  I did.  I'm fairly certain he let me win, but the people who I was sitting near said he looked really bad, so I don't know.  If he did, that was very sweet; it's small and stupid, but doing something like that in front of a crowd of people is intimidating, especially because of my disabilities, so it meant a lot to me.  I won a coupon for a free frozen yogurt from a place nearby.

After the game, I headed into the athletic facility to say hi to Bryce and Justin.  Bryce spent a good bit of time in an ice bath, and his girlfriend is down this weekend because it's her fall break, too, so when he was out he spent most of his time talking to her and his family, so I didn't get in his way.  I was going to leave after I saw both of them, but then I ended up introducing myself to one of their teammates, who subsequently introduced me to another teammate, and long story short, I think I've met the majority of the team now.  It was really nice.  They're a great group of guys, and several of them were so sweet that I came up early on my Fall Break to see them play (they didn't know that I came for several reasons, but you know, whatever).  I'm excited that I'll be able to go to their last 3 home games and support them.  My last soccer-spectator season here at Campbell, ah!  Eventually, one of the guys I was talking to insisted that I get something to eat, which brought back a lot of memories of all the post-game tailgates I went to with/for Ryann. :)  I was sort of hoping that if I waited around long enough, I could get someone who was willing to give me a ride back to my dorm because I was/am rather sore from that halftime fun.  So I just hung out and talked to some of the players and their parents who were hanging around.  One of the player, Scooter, his parents recognized me as the girl who had won the halftime game, so they asked me what I won.  I told them, and Scooter's mom told me that this frozen yogurt place is pretty much his favorite ice cream shop in all of NC, so I just randomly decided to give my coupon to him since I'm not big on frozen yogurt anyway.  It seemed like I kind of made his night, and I like making people happy when I can, especially when it's not really a sacrifice for me. :)  In return, he gave me a ride back to my dorm, which worked out great because he also gave a ride to one of his teammates who lives in a dorm right near me.

When I got back, I cooled down for a bit because I was really hot despite the fact that it was barely warm outside, did some computer stuff, unpacked, and loaded the rest of my medicine cube.  Then I shaved and took a fantastic hot shower.  Now, it's 2:30 am and I'm waiting for my laundry to finish drying before I can go to bed.  I still need to pluck my eyebrows, anyway, so it works.

This is another reason I am happy I came back tonight.  I slept in the recliner at the house because the spare bed is so uncomfortable, but it's really hard to get restful sleep with dogs who like to bark for no reason and a wild 3-year-old who wakes up at the crack of dawn.  About 11:30 this morning, knowing we didn't have to leave until close to 2:00, I knocked on my mom's door and asked her if I could come in.  She asked me what was wrong, and I said, "I'm awake, and I don't want to be."  She laughed.  So I did get a nap in her room, but I'm still looking forward to climbing into my clean, amazing bed in an hour or so.

So yeah, between all the extended family and meeting so many of the soccer players, my brain feels a bit like it's on name overload.  Maybe that's adding to why I'm so tired.  That and it's past 2:30 and I've already taking my sleeping pill and I slept like crap last night.

I love this school.  This school is home.  Campbell proud, always and forever. :)

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Get ready.

I'm a little out of words tonight.  I spent most of the day sleeping because of my head.  Then, I spent the evening/night just sitting in silence.  Eventually I wrote a guest post for a blogger that I admire; I'm not sure when it will be up, but you know I will let you know when it is.

I've been feeling pretty weighed down for some reason, so instead of talking to people or letting myself get too caught up in my own thoughts, I decided to get on YouTube and distract myself.  I watched these two videos several times before I decided to check out the other videos on the channel.  Little did I know that Jon (the guy in the videos) and his group The Anima Series released a video tonight that was so perfect for this valley I'm in and the sometimes overwhelming fear that I get that my life is always going to be full of this physical pain.  I've watched it over and over and over.

"The Wall: A Hopeless Situation"

The words (all credit goes to Jon Jorgenson):

The wall at Jericho was an impenetrable force to any army that was trying to overtake the city. Before even dealing with the wall, the attacking troops would have to navigate their way across a 27 foot wide, 9 foot deep pit that lined the outer edges of the city. Then, there was the wall itself, a 17 foot high, 5 foot thick pure mass of solid stone. If the attacking army managed to get this far without being shot down by archers, all that was left was to defeat the well-trained Canaanite army that was waiting within.

This was the reality for a young leader named Joshua and his ragtag Israelite army. These Israelites who had seen an entire generation live and die while wandering through the desert were tired, hungry, and facing what seemed like an impossible task, a hopeless situation. Now, I haven't lived very long, but I've lived long enough to know this: that running into walls is a part of life, and the bigger the wall, the more hopeless the situation can seem. The large walls of sickness, loss, divorce, addiction, they pop up all around us, and they seem impenetrable. And just like the wall at Jericho, these walls rarely stand alone. The walls of our lives are often accompanied by a deep pit of pain, suffering, and despair, and all the while, an army of hopelessness attacks us on every side. The question is asked all the time, if God loves us so much and is so powerful, then how could he allow these walls to pop up around me? Now, I don't pretend to have the answer to any of those questions, nor do I pretend to understand just how deep or dark your suffering has been.  I simply wanna suggest that maybe God does his best work from seemingly hopeless situations.

When I read the Bible, I read about people and characters, all who faced seemingly hopeless situations. In fact, I cannot find a single person who walked faithfully with God without first facing a hopeless situation. Adam and Eve ruined Paradise by inviting sin and death into a perfect world - a hopeless case. Joseph was betrayed by his brothers for his pride and put in prison - a hopeless case. Moses was cornered on the banks of the Red Sea with the most powerful army in the world breathing down his neck - a hopeless case. Gideon was 300 against 300,000. David stood across the valley from a blood-thirsty giant. Esther was a woman trying to gain a word with a prideful king. Daniel's roommate was a lion. His friends were thrown in an oven. Jonah sucked at his job and got stuck in a whale. Peter was a coward. Paul was imprisoned. The 5,000 had no food. Lazarus was dead. Timothy was too young. Abraham was too old. The youngest son was too stupid. The walls of Jericho were too strong. And Jesus was humiliated, hung on a cross, and buried in a tomb, burying all hopes of the revolution that was hoped for for thousands of years.

Now everybody was ready to close the book on these stories, the end, game over. But if there's one thing we learn from the Scriptures, it's that we can never place a period where God has placed a comma, because when all other options have been worn out, when circumstances couldn't get worse, when everything else has failed, get ready, because THAT is EXACTLY where God shows up.  Because Joseph became second in command. The Red Sea parted. Gideon won without lifting a weapon. Goliath's head was on a plate. Esther spoke and the king listened. Daniel tamed the lion. The oven felt like room temperature. Nineveh repented. Peter became the rock. Paul rejoiced. Twelve basket-fulls were left over. Lazarus was just kidding. Timothy built a church. Abraham built a family. The youngest son came home to a party. The walls of Jericho came a-tumblin' down! And Jesus Christ pulled off the resurrection, defeating sin and death and the creation that had been marred so many years ago was now restored for ALL TIME!

With God, what seems like a hopeless situation is not only possible, it's favorable, because only God can turn a mess into a message. Only God can turn a trial into a triumph, a test into a testimony, and a victim into a victory. His power is made perfect in weakness, so let us rejoice in our trials and hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, because He who promised is faithful, was faithful, and will always be faithful, no matter how hopeless the situation.

Yep, I cried.

Now I haven't lived very long, but I've lived long enough to know this: that running into walls is a part of life, and the bigger the wall, the more hopeless the situation can seem. The large walls of sickness, loss, divorce, addiction, they pop up all around us, and they seem impenetrable.  And just like the wall at Jericho, these walls rarely stand alone. The walls of our lives are often accompanied by a deep pit of pain, suffering, and despair, and all the while, an army of hopelessness attacks us on every side. The question is asked all the time, if God loves us so much and is so powerful, then how could he allow these walls to pop up around me?  Now, I don't pretend to have the answer to any of those questions, nor do I pretend to understand just how deep or dark your suffering has been. I simply wanna suggest that maybe God does his best work from seemingly hopeless situations.

These months of increasingly severe and constant pain have been filled with hopeless moments, but none more so than when I sat in that office at Duke for my initial meeting with my headache specialist, and he told me that he didn't think the Botox would work but we'd do it anyway, and if it didn't work, then he couldn't help me.  Despite what my neurologist said yesterday about there being a chance the second or third treatment would work, part of me is still a bit terrified that it's not going to work and I'm going to be out of medical situations.  I really don't want to face that day, when one of the best headache doctors in the country tells me there's nothing else to be done to help me.  There are days when this pain is so debilitating that I can't imagine a day when my life isn't filled with this pain and reminders of it.  But this isn't the first seemingly hopeless situation I've faced in my life, and I'd be willing to bet it's not going to be my last.  I've seen God working through the trials I've faced before, just as I feel Him working now.

When I read the Bible, I read about people and characters, all who faced seemingly hopeless situations. In fact, I cannot find a single person who walked faithfully with God without first facing a hopeless situation.

Ryann, God bless her, is in Switzerland worrying about me.  I knew she'd worry when I told her about what's been going on, but I also know she'd be furious if I didn't tell her and she found out later.  At the end of the most recent conversation we had, I told her that all of this drama was indeed being used to draw me closer to God and strengthen my faith.  I remember the text that Taylor sent me when I was in the hospital in April, saying, "...folks like me that have lived a virtually pain free life will be envious of the intimacy with the savior that you have experienced through hurting."  If these months of pain have done any good, they have only served to strengthen my knowledge that GOD is the one pulling me through this, and God will be the One I credit when I get my healing.  I am more sure of who He is now than I ever was before.  I just have a hard time remembering that some days.

But if there's one thing we learn from the Scriptures, it's that we can never place a period where God has placed a comma, because when all other options have been worn out, when circumstances couldn't get worse, when everything else has failed, get ready, because THAT is EXACTLY where God shows up.  

One of the many people that I texted after my appointment yesterday was Summer.  Her response was, "God is working in your life, sister, I can feel it.  You're going to be a beautiful image of what his power can do once this is all over with."  And as I told her, my life is already a testament to His power and grace; this is just going to add to it.  I know that if Duke decides Botox will not help me and closes my case, I better get ready.  Because that is when God will come in with a healing and a story that no doctor could have ever orchestrated.  And I'll be the one blessed with the honor of shouting, "LOOK!  Look what God did!  This is how powerful He is!"

With God, what seems like a hopeless situation is not only possible, it's favorable, because only God can turn a mess into a message. Only God can turn a trial into a triumph, a test into a testimony, and a victim into a victory. His power is made perfect in weakness, so let us rejoice in our trials and hold unswervingly to the hope we profess...

By the world's standards, I have been victimized by this life.  I have been given more than my "fair share" of pain and suffering.  On days when the pain feels unbearable and is just out of control, my inclination is to agree with that.  But the truth is, I have received nowhere near the share of pain and suffering that I deserve because Jesus took what I deserve so that I could have what he deserved for free.  It is only because of the transformation that God has done in my life and in my heart that I am one who no longer sees myself as a victim.  I can't be a victim.  I am a child of the living God, and the battle ended when Jesus gave up his life for me to have an eternal one!  "His power is made perfect in weakness"...from 2 Corinthians 12, and the passage that Pastor Chris told me to memorize to help cope with this chapter of my story, if only for my own sanity's sake.  Because I'm willing to talk about how hard this road is for me right now, I get to tell people that I'm not surviving this on my own, and I subsequently get to tell them about the God that is carrying me through!  I have numerous texts and online messages, some from people I've never met and some from people I've met but never expected to be invested in my life, about how my willingness to talk has strengthened their own walk with Christ.  The story is still being played out, and God is already using it for something bigger than I ever could have pulled off or dreamed up on my own.

So get ready, y'all.  Don't feel sorry for me a few months from now if I'm here to tell you the Botox has ended, even if I feel sorry for myself in the moment.  Because if that's how this turns out, I know that out of the hopelessness of the moment will come a victory worthy of the King of Kings.  I won't be surprised in the least if this video was just one part of God's way of preparing me for what's to come.

I guess I wasn't as out of words as I thought I was. :)

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