There have been many times (usually in an email or during an interview) when I am asked where I find my strength and positivity to keep going. But when I’m asked that question I almost always hesitate at first, because while I know my answer I’m afraid it will come across as cheesy or contrite. It’s also difficult to sum it up in just one quick little answer, because to me it’s bigger than just a few words. So I thought I would take this time now to answer in depth and from my heart.
I know the hip thing now-a-days is to give an answer like, “well the Universe just guides me,” or to credit meditation and positive energy. And while yeah meditation is soothing, it’s not going to save me in the darkest moments. I’m talking about moments where the pain is so consuming, and the light at the end of the tunnel looks dim. It’s those moments where the thought of a life not spent in pain feels implausible. It’s the months of depression that rip away every ounce of joy I had for things I loved before. In those moments I can only be sustained by my faith in God, and knowing that He is in control. Because even when I can’t see a bigger picture for my life, He can. And even when I don’t know which way to turn next, He does. Now I know at this point a handful of you reading this are asking some variety of question like, “if your God is so good, why does he let you suffer?” That’s a valid question, and I’d love to give my perspective on this issue.
There have been many moments in my life where I was very upset that something I really wanted did not pan out. Big plans went haywire, and I was mad at God for not giving me something I thought would improve my life. And by not getting what I wanted I suffered a lot, and a lot of difficult things happened. It’s not easy to cope when you think you’re making strides, only to get horribly thrown off course. I cried a lot and said “why God why?” only to see months (sometimes years) later that my unanswered prayer was a gigantic blessing in disguise. I’ve had times where the bullet I dodged by notgetting what I wanted, (and seemingly “suffering” because of it) was leaps and bounds better, because I would have suffered immensely more if I got my way. I’m talking life-altering consequences. In the moment when I asked for it I couldn’t possibly see the big picture, but He could. And I’m telling you now, when you have that “aha” moment where you finally see the boulder you missed, it will shake you to your core. And it will make you grateful that you are not the one in control or wielding all the power.
On the flip side, I’ve been able to look back 6 years and see a small yet pivotal moment which put the ball in motion for an event which would change my life for the better. And to further make my point about how I’ve seen God work in my life I’m going to share a story. This story is a bit lengthy, but it really illustrates the kind of long unfolding plans God has for us that we can’t always see from our small bubble. The story will be in a different font for those of you who want to skip to it, but trust me if you’ve made it this far it’s worth the read.
After I got accepted into college at the University of Louisville I had to attend a weekend summer orientation. When I called to schedule my weekend I was told I called just in time because they barely had any spots left for the dates I was requesting, but luckily I had just got in. Fast forward to orientation and I arrive at the college, sign in, and get a key to my dorm room for the night. When I go to put my stuff down in the room I see that my roommate had been there before me because all of her things were already on the bed. I look at her luggage, taking note of how cute it was, and walk out to join everyone in the quad for a day of lectures and tours.
My major at the time was Undecided so I got grouped with the other stragglers who didn’t quite know which path they wanted to take in life. I didn’t know anyone in my group and I’m shy by nature so it was really quite intimidating because I’m someone who is very quiet and reserved around people I don’t know. Anyway, I attended a few mandatory lectures and then we are given the opportunity to choose which other smaller presentations we wanted to go to. I chose one on Greek life, and me and the fellow Undecided’s went together to a little lecture hall for the presentation. There was limited seating so I found one of the last spots towards the back of the room and did what I always do which is keep my head down and sit silently. However, the girl next to me had different plans because she started talking to me and complimenting me on my shoes. I nervously said “thank you,” assuming that would be the end of the convo, but she was very outgoing and the kind of person I felt instantly drawn to. We ended up talking during most of the presentation about our shared love of fashion and became fast friends who did everything together for the rest of the day. I was elated to have met a friend and someone I connected with so quickly.
When the time came for us to go up to our rooms for the night imagine my shock when I found out SHE was my dorm roommate! Out of at least 2,000+ other students I could have been paired with, it was her. Now at this point I thought okay this must be fate, but I wasn’t quite sure how. After the weekend was over we exchanged numbers and had promised to keep in touch over the summer, but as most teenagers do we both got busy saying goodbye to our high-school friends & that fell by the wayside. In fact I had actually lost her number when I got a new cell phone. So imagine my surprise when come Freshman move in day she reached out to me! After that the rest was history; we became instant best friends and stayed best friends all throughout college and beyond, even living together a few times here & there. What’s important to note here is that through her I met one of my other close college friends whom I would also go on to live with (she’s important).
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Many of you know that college is a chaotic and trying time on its own, but it was also the time when I first started to become sick. It came on slowly in a way which was manageable at first and only became unmanageable as the years passed. However, by the grace of God I made it through college and then got the bright idea to move all the way to California to further my education. This was the time when my house of cards crumbled and I got much too sick to take on a full time class load, internship & caring for myself alone. At this point I had to move back to Louisville and begin to take my health more seriously. I decided that I would split my time working & traveling to see Doctors while attempting to take online classes. The only trouble was I couldn’t find a job anywhere. No one would hire me for part time work because I was “over qualified.” I spent months looking for a job and going to interviews, but many seemingly great prospects fell through which left me incredibly frustrated.
Stay with me here, I’m almost to the finish line! That’s when the close friend who I met through my dorm-room BFF said her old job had an opening and that she would recommend me for it. Because of her I got the job (yay) working with children who have special needs. During my job training I was required to take a visual acuity test in order to get trained on the program so I could administer it to the children. It was during this visual acuity test that I had a pivotal moment, because I actually failed the test horribly. My boss at the time was really concerned and told me that healthy adults absolutely shouldn’t be failing such an exam. With her urging I took the results straight to my mom who found a Neuro-Opthamologist who not only discovered my brain damage but also referred me to the Doctor who ultimately diagnosed me with Lyme Disease.
For those of you who skipped through that novel, I’ll summarize. Had I never met my dorm-room BFF on that fateful day, I never would have met my other close friend who got me the job which saved my life. There are A LOT more twist and turns in this story which make it even crazier, but for brevity I stuck with the important points. You see, at the time I was diagnosed in 2011 I was running on fumes. I had quit school altogether, I could barely drag myself out of bed to make it to work by noon, and I was withering away from barely eating. I was at a breaking point, and after 5 long years of getting nowhere with Doctors who couldn’t find the source of my pain I finally had an answer. I live in Kentucky, and when I was diagnosed I had never heard the words “Lyme Disease” in my life. Not one Doctor up until then was even close to figuring it out, and if you only knew how deeply weak and sick I was when I finally got diagnosed you’d understand why it came at such a pivotal moment. And without those chain of events happening I know without a shadow of a doubt I would have collapsed in bed a few months later and had no idea why, with no plan for relief. I can’t look at that story and NOT think “whoa, I have an awesome God.” He knew I needed an answer, and He set the ball in motion years prior to make sure it would happen.
So yeah, I guess you could say I’ve seen God work in my life in such deep ways that I trust Him. I trust that he has my best interest at heart, and I understand that He isn’t some kind of magical genie. God isn’t someone who is to bow to all my mortal wishes and give me everything I ask for. That’s not how it works. In this thing called life we navigate it day by day the best we can, and having a God who I can trust with my whole heart to guide me towards His light is something that grounds me each and every moment.
See the thing is, I’m only human. I have free will and I make my own day-to-day choices. And sometimes those choices are harmful, or would lead me down a destructive path, and God has saved me on multiple occasions by putting up roadblocks. Other times he has set me on a path which was long and seemingly random, but had a much deeper meaning for my life. I pray each and every day for God to guide me, and to intervene if I’m veering off course. I trust His will even if it isn’t my own wish or will for my life. I trust His plan, because I know my plan is flawed.
So there you have it. That’s why I am so deeply rooted in my faith, and it’s why it requires more than just a cheesy one-sentence answer. My strength comes from knowing I don’t always need to be strong, because God can be strong for me. It’s knowing that I don’t always need to be in control, because He is. And it’s recognizing that the power is not within me, but it’s grounded in Him. If you aren’t firmly planted in something which will hold you through the trials and the dark times then surely you will lose your grip. I don’t always discuss my faith in length on this blog because to me it’s private & it’s difficult to articulate. But I hope to live my life in a way that spreads so much love that its undeniable that Christ is within me. And when others look at me & see my heart, I hope that they see someone with a bright light that loves others unconditionally. And that’s all due to my fortress, which is Jesus.
Simply put, I don’t lose my grip because I’m being held up by something much MUCH larger than me.