Goodbye 2014!

Here’s my Top Ten for 2014 in no particular order of importance (because I hate picking favorites), but mainly in order of occurrence.

1. Moving to the Manor
In January, I moved out of a tiny 3 bedroom apartment shared with 2 other girls into a 6 bedroom house (we affectionately call The Manor) shared with 6 other girls. Living with six other ladies (even great ladies who love Jesus like crazy) has had its ups and downs. Ups: it’s awesome to be living with some of my closest friends. Downs: I’m a selfish human being and living with 6 other people has shown my black heart in ways that are really embarrassing—God is definitely using this living arrangement to grow me in holiness!10628012_742035509542_4004301305713680454_n

2. St. Augustine Trip
In March I had a weekend getaway in St. Augustine with some of my favorite people to celebrate one of my good friends, Katie, before her wedding. From ghost walks to karaoke to doughnut cakes—so much fun was had and great memories were made!1012277_10102751627538159_1960785975_n1493162_712346446662_3738844496948015589_n

3. Katie and Brandon’s wedding
I got the privilege to be in Katie’s wedding. Katie and Brandon truly reflect gospel love in their relationship, and to stand beside them on their wedding day was such an honor for me. Also, Katie and Brandon have some sweet dance moves, and their reception was amazing!10463609_10203913441294803_8733764945668183490_o

4. The Gospel Coalition’s Women’s Conference
I loved spending 3 days getting away from the world and studying God’s Word with other women. I didn’t think I would be able to go because of the cost, but then God miraculously provided and paid for my ticket.10351471_4393779098468_137121349076831130_n

5. My Golden Birthday
If I didn’t already know that my community of friends is literally THE BEST, then my birthday sealed the deal. They believe in me pursuing my dream to be a writer enough to come together to pay for me to go to this writing conference that I had wanted to go to, but didn’t know how I would be able to afford. Seriously? I still can’t believe this one. I’m truly humbled by their generosity. Also they threw me a pirate party in the middle of Magic Kingdom, so…yeah.10534632_730511304142_7592406822872601863_n

6. Breast Reduction Surgery (I called it that because I like to make jokes when I don’t know how to deal with my emotions.)
That time I randomly did a self breast exam and found a lump and the month of uncertainty that followed where I tried my best to stay off of WebMD while waiting to go in for the ultra sound. Then the results coming back abnormal, so I couldn’t stay off WebMD anymore. I was scared, but God remained faithful. I had the lump removed, and it wasn’t cancer! I wrote more about it in a couple of blog posts: Facing the Unknown and Cancer was Never my Biggest Enemy.

7. Meeting Dasah
You should actually stop reading this right now, and go read Dasah’s story on her mom’s blog. Her 12 hours of life outside the womb continue to teach me so many things. Her whole life she pointed people including myself to Jesus. Her whole life was characterized by being loved greatly and unconditionally—she did nothing to earn the love that surrounded her. Oh what a beautifully bitter sweet picture of God’s love for us! I can do nothing to earn it, and yet He gives it freely and His name is most glorified when I stop striving so hard and simply let Him love me. I was beyond humbled and blessed that her mom and dad shared her with us knowing their own time with her would be so short. Seeing Kevin so proud to show his daughter off and Lindsey so doting and protective was another beautiful picture of our Heavenly Father that I will not forget.FullSizeRender-1

8. Shereena and Joseph’s Wedding
Guys, I’ve never had so much fun at a wedding. I think Dasah also taught me a lot about not being afraid to live and have fun because at the end of the day, I am still loved more than I can ever comprehend by the One who will never stop pursuing my heart. Nothing can take that away, so it may sound silly, but I can dance and look ridiculous doing it. It was a freeing revelation. So I danced and didn’t care who was watching. It was the best! Also, never have I ever seen such an epic entrance by a groom.

9. Once Upon a Time is Now
I was no stranger to Magic Kingdom before becoming a Cast Member, but I think one of my top ten favorite days there was my Once Upon a Time…is Now class (the property orientation tour for all new Magic Kingdom Cast Members). That was when it finally started sinking in–this is my new home–this is where I get to come to “work” everyday!  Even though it was only my second day with Disney, one of my new dreams was to be able to teach the class one day! Well DREAMS COME TRUE AT DISNEY!!! This November I finished my cross training to become a facilitator for Once Upon a Time…is Now and then in December I was beyond excited to welcome my first group of new Cast Members to the Magic Kingdom!

10. Christmas with friends and Belle
Reflecting on these past few years I’ve spent Christmas away from my family, I’m overwhelmed. From Christmas pajamas to Christmas Eve slumber parties to spending Christmas morning just casually hanging out with my favorite princess–God has orchestrated all these tiny details to whisper my love language directly to my ever wandering heart. At the time of year when we celebrate Jesus leaving the comfort of his home to recklessly pursue and save and bring hope to our broken hearts, God relentlessly reminds me that I am loved–not for anything I have done, but because of who He is and all He has done.10847690_10205330506920558_1750542435477835093_o10268580_764544306732_768299989029466970_n

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Helpless

When I came home from the hospital things got harder instead of easier. I still couldn’t do anything for myself. The only limb I could use was my left arm, and I’m right handed.

My mom did everything for me. She was a rockstar and so was the rest of my family for letting me monopolize most of her attention.

Dad was great too. He kept things running. Also, it was boring just laying around all day, and there are only so many movies you can watch. So my dad would sit and read to me.

And I can’t forget our wonderful church family! A couple of guys came and built a ramp to our front door so I could get in the house with my wheelchair.

I was overwhelmed with love and support, but at the same time I felt completely frustrated and helpless.

One night I was having trouble sleeping, and I didn’t want to wake my mom, so I reached for my Bible at my bedside table and turned on my lamp.

I did one of those flop-the-Bible-open-randomly-and-see-where-God-leads things. He led me to Psalm 18 which was exactly what I needed to hear at the time.

I was in tears by the time I was finished reading it–overwhelmed with how God had protected me and would continue to provide for my needs.

He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
    he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
    from my foes, who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
    but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place;
    he rescued me because he delighted in me.

God had rescued me. He reached down from on high and kept me protected me that night April 10.

But the verse that really got me–the promise that I claimed in my heart that night was found in verse 33.

He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
    he causes me to stand on the heights.

It was never a question of whether or not I’d be able to walk again. I always knew I would walk again, but reading that verse when I couldn’t walk… I can’t put it into words.

I was completely helpless, and in my brokenness, God was more real to me than he had been at any other point in my life.

I encourage you to go read the whole psalm–especially if you’re hurting or need to be reminded that God is a great God who is never far from those who hope in him.

A Change of Heart

Since I was hit by a drunk driver (click here to get caught up in the story), we had to go through a criminal trial against, Mr. Vancil, the man who hit me and my sister. This meant seeing him–which I wasn’t sure how I would handle.

Now mind you, “a speedy trial” doesn’t really exist. We didn’t have our first court hearing until about a year after the accident. Mr. Vancil wasn’t even arrested until a few months after the accident. There was a warrant out for his arrest, but nobody really did anything about it. Because when you live in a town of 1,600 people, there are a lot more pressing police matters I suppose.

My mom was getting quite frustrated with the whole situation and told anybody who would listen–including her hair dresser–who’s husband happened to be with the highway patrol or something. So he went out the next day and arrested the guy.

The day finally came for us to go to court and see Mr. Vancil for the first time. The bailiff was really nice, and told us that if he even looked at us in a way we didn’t like, she would take care of it.

Once the arraignment started, they brought him in, and there was no remorse on his face. In fact it was quite the opposite, he acted like he didn’t even care and his family gave us looks like we were the ones putting him through a horrible ordeal by pressing charges.

I was not expecting that. I don’t know what I was expecting, but for the man who caused me and my family such pain not even to care, was not it.

I never really had an issue with forgiving the man until I saw that he didn’t care.

How can I forgive this guy now, God? He’s making me feel like I was the bad guy or something!

Sitting in that courtroom, God reminded me of a verse I’d memorized long ago.

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5:8

I was overwhelmed not with anger towards Mr. Vancil, but with amazing wonder at my God who died for me while I was still his enemy. What love!

In that moment, God freed me from any bitter feelings and reminded me of his great love and mercy.

It still hurt that Mr. Vancil didn’t care how much pain he’d caused, but God opened my eyes, and I saw a man who had no hope and who had spent a life time chasing after things that don’t fulfill (he was in his late 40s and the his collision with me and my sister was his sixth drunk driving offense). I pray that one day he’ll know only God can fulfill our deepest longings and satisfy our soul.

But me, I have hope! I’m gloriously forgiven, so I can, by God’s grace, forgive.

Hospital Life Lessons

One can learn a lot from an extended stay in the hospital. Here are my top ten lessons.

10. Modesty doesn’t exist in the hospital. 

When I first arrived at the ER, a nurse informed me that they were going to cut off my clothes, and I remember thinking, “Gee, I hope there aren’t any boys in the room.”

On my last day in the hospital, I needed to go to the bathroom one more time before we left, so we called the nurse and a brand new lady whom I hadn’t seen in the past two weeks came in to help. I thought, “Oh, great! I haven’t had enough people help me go to the bathroom, I’m so glad a different person gets to help this last time.”

9. The blankets in the ER are the best because they keep them warm.
 
During my hours in the ER, I was either asking for more morphine or another warm blanket.

8. Math is important when deciding how much pain medication to give someone.

Nursing students, don’t fall asleep in your math classes. Numbers are very important especially when determining how much morphine to give your patient.

I was on the morphine pump, and the nurse told me I couldn’t overdose even if I continually pushed the button. It would only release the morphine every 10 minutes.

Well, I was in a lot of pain, so I pushed the button a lot. Eventually, I was hardly in any pain–in fact, I was pretty happy without a care in the world.

All I wanted to do was sleep, but every time I closed my eyes my oxygen levels would go down and alarms would go off and nurses would come running in my room.

Finally, they had to give me a drug that reversed all the effects of the morphine. I was not a happy camper then.

Once the nurses redid the math, they realized that I was getting twice as much morphine as I needed according to my height and weight.

So they cut my dosage in half, and I started pushing my happy button again, and I feel like my mom started double checking all my nurses did after that.

7. You should learn how to translate your pain into numbers. 

Once I was at the hospital, a nurse asked me, “On a scale of 1-10, how bad is your pain? 1 would be no pain at all and 10 would be the worst pain you’ve felt in your life. If you need help deciding, we have smiley faces and frowny faces that correspond with each number.”

Well, since this is the first time in my life, I’ve been crushed inside my car, I’m gonna go with a 10. Yeah, no need for the pictures. 10 is my final answer.

They continued asking me this question probably like 4-5 times a day–maybe every hour. I just remember, I hated it.

Towards the end, I think I just picked random numbers in the middle because I was still in pain, but it was being managed well with lots of drugs. I’d usually go back and forth between a 5 and a 6. Sometimes I’d throw a 7 or a 4 in there to mix things up

6. Make friends with the nurses.

Be nice to the nurses, and your hospital stay will go much better.

One nurse brought in her whole DVD collection from home to help keep me occupied. Then she found the only DVD player on the floor and placed it in my room. She told me to call if anyone tried to take it from me.

5. Have a man on the inside. 

A guy at our church happened to work in maintenance at the hospital. He came in handy on the sad day they finally had to remove my catheter.

A little side note: Looking back now, yes, I suppose it was super awkward to have a bag of your pee hanging on the side of your bed when you had visitors, and awkward when the cute male nurses assistant had to dump it. But in the hospital, convenience trumps everything, and when 3 of your 4 limbs are in casts, not having to move to go to the bathroom is very convenient.

So after they removed the catheter, the nurses tried to get me to go to the bathroom on a bedpan. That was impossible. Seventeen years of programming into my brain the dangers and pure horror of peeing in your bed would not be overcome so easily.

I had to go so bad, but I no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make myself go in the bedpan. I was in tears and so uncomfortable.

The nurses ordered me a bedside commode chair thing, but it was taking forever.

Dan came up to visit like he did on days he was working. He asked the usual how are you doing, and we told him the situation. Immediately, he said he knew where a bedside commode was and went to get it for me.

He was pretty much my hero. He might have saved my life that day.

4. Life’s not fair. 

Let’s say you can’t eat for the first week your in the hospital and when you finally get to move out of ICU, they put you in a room with a girl chowing down on chicken fingers and fries–some of your favorite things. So yeah, that was fun.

3. Have the best parents ever. 

On my second day in the hospital, they came to take more X-rays of my feet and wrist. This meant me having to move, and it was painful. About an hour after I finally got settled again, a different X-ray tech comes back to take more X-rays.

My dad was staying with me at the time, and promptly told the guy I just had X-rays done, and didn’t need anymore. The guy said he had orders, so my dad got the nurse and they both banished the evil X-ray guy from my room.

After I was moved to that room with the girl eating yummy food and whining whenever there wasn’t food in her mouth, my mom quickly negotiated my move to a non-shared hospital room. It was much nicer to have a room to myself.

Also, my mom only left the hospital twice in the entire two weeks I was there. She slept on this chair thing that folded out into a bed. She was awesome taking care of me, and my dad was amazing taking care of everyone else, so she could be there with me.

2. Don’t watch comedies when it hurts to laugh. 

There is not much to do in the hospital besides watch TV and movies. The only thing on TV was the world waiting for a new Pope, so I watched a lot of movies.

My dad brought some videos of comedians. I forget their names, but they were hilarious. I tried to hold in my laughter, but I couldn’t. It was so funny–I mean all the drugs I was on might have helped make it more funny.

So maybe you should just push through the pain, and watch comedians when you’re in the hospital and on morphine. They say laughter is the best medicine anyways, so in the long run it probably helped.

1. Don’t fart in front of your crush. 

And if you do, definitely don’t admit it. I’ll blame all of this on the large amounts of drugs I was on–they make you do crazy things.

Also, I’m only telling this story because it’s one of my mom’s favorites, and she would probably write about it in the comments anyways, so I’m just beating her to it.

In my defense, I was in a lot of pain and was not about to endure more pain by holding the gas in just because my crush was visiting. And let’s just be honest, I thought it would be silent. I was wrong.

After it happened, I didn’t know what to do. So I just giggled and admitted it was me.

He would have just let it slide, but I’m all about making situations more awkward. It’s a gift.

Needless to say, it didn’t work out between us. But it wasn’t my fault because I feel like I brought honesty in the relationship to a whole new level.

Bonus Lesson: Life is better when you have a sense of humor and are able to laugh at yourself.

The Hospital

If you’re just joining, please read Be Careful What You Pray For and then April, 10 2005 for the first chapters of this story.

After I was life flighted to a hospital in St. Louis, it was all kind of a blur–probably because the nurses gave me my first couple of doses of morphine…

They ran a whole bunch of tests and x-rays and scans to determine the extent of my injuries. I vaguely remember the trauma doctor summarizing my injuries to me and my father (I’m pretty sure he broke all kinds of speeding laws to get to the hospital which was about 30 miles north of where the accident happened).

On top of just being bruised all over, pretty much all the bones in my feet were crushed, and I had a compound fracture in my left foot. I fractured my right knee and broke my right wrist. I lacerated my spleen which caused some internal bleeding. It was right on the line of needing to be removed. They watched it for a few days, and it eventually started healing enough that I got to keep it. I also significantly bruised my lungs and got to do breathing exercises for a couple of weeks to build up their strength again.

I had surgery that night to set the bones in my feet and wrist and then a few days later to put pins in my left foot and right wrist and a screw in my right foot.

I was in intensive care for my first few days in the hospital, and then I moved to a room on the pediatric floor for the rest of my two week stay. (I was a few months shy of my eighteenth birthday, so I was still technically a kid.)

The photo below is the only one we have of me in the hospital because I didn’t want my picture taken, but my mom insisted we needed pictures and waited until I was asleep. It was about 4 days after the accident, so a lot of the bruising had gone down. My nurses were great and tracked down every spare pillow in the hospital to prop up my feet and arms.

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Besides just the awkwardness of being in the hospital and not being able to do anything on my own, the thing that surprised me the most about my hospital stay was how much I was loved. I mean I always knew that my friends and family loved me, but I don’t think I understood how much until after this accident.

My first day in the hospital, the waiting room was full of people just wanting to see me. They could only come in a couple at a time, and people were in my room all day visiting. I was overwhelmed with how much they cared.

I received so many cards and letters and gifts and balloons. My choir teacher printed out Beauty and the Beast coloring pages and everyone in both of my choir classes colored the pictures for me. My mom taped them up all over the walls in my hospital room, so really, I fit right in on the pediatric floor.

Throughout the whole 2 weeks, there was never a day that I didn’t have visitors or receive a new card or present. My grandfather called me every day which was a huge deal for me because he was never much of a talking on the phone kind of guy.

My grandmother on my mom’s side who lived 14 hours away came up and stayed with us for a few weeks to help out around the house while my mom stayed at the hospital with me.

Family, friends and even strangers showered me with great love and support–it was such a happy side effect to a horrible situation.

Being loved so well taught me a valuable lesson that I wish I could say I remembered and put into practice more often. We shouldn’t wait for tragedy to strike to overwhelm our friends and family with love. We don’t know what tomorrow holds, so we can’t waste today–it’s the perfect opportunity to show your loved ones how much they mean to you.

April 10, 2005

The Accident

Writing about what happened that Sunday night has always been hard because I never know where to begin or how much to include. So bear with me.

After church on Sunday evenings we would always go to our local Dairy Queen, but this Sunday, I had a strong feeling that I shouldn’t go. I ignored it.

My dad took my youngest sister, Rachel, and my little brother, Thomas, home, and I took my other sister, Amy, to Dairy Queen. I told her we couldn’t stay long though because I still had some history homework to finish.

We left around 9:00, and while driving home I was concerned with not having a date to my senior prom.

Topping the next hill on the two-lane highway, I saw headlights in my lane. I whimpered Amy’s name and my stomach sank.

The next thing I remember is waking up with my steering wheel in my lap. I thought, “I wasn’t dreaming. I must be alive because this can’t be heaven–I’m hurting too much.”

I couldn’t really feel anything below my waist, but my right arm was throbbing.

When the rescue crews finally got to the scene, a nice fireman sat in my passenger seat the whole time they were using the jaws of life to cut me out of the car.

He held my hand and talked to me. I remember he asked me what my social security number was, and I told him. I was so proud that I had remembered it, and thought maybe my brain’s not damaged–the jury’s still out on that one though.

It took them awhile to get me out because when my car was struck, it was turned around so it was facing the opposite direction and it went off the side of the road where there was a steep embankment. The drivers side was on the side facing down the embankment.

They had to tie a firehose to my car to keep it from rolling all the way down. And the man using the jaws of life was being held up by another person just to help keep him steady. (I know this because after I was out of the hospital and feeling better, we went to the fire station to personally thank all the people who helped save me that night. They told us more about the rescue and then took me around in the fire truck!)

The firemen did the best they could to get me free, and finally said they were just going to have to pull me out as quickly as possible. They didn’t sugar coat anything, and said it was going to hurt a lot.

They weren’t lying. As they pulled me out, I could finally feel below my waist and it didn’t feel good–huge understatement. I screamed and then apologized for making so much noise . I’m a quiet person, and even in the midst of this trauma where it was socially acceptable to scream and be loud, I felt so strange doing it. There were a lot more screams from me that night, and every time I just felt weird being so loud, but I didn’t know what else to do.

When they got me up the hill and into the ambulance, I got to see my dad for the first time, and I think he was on the phone with my mom. So I said hi to her and smiled at him and told him I’d be fine.

They took me by ambulance to a helipad a couple of miles away and then life flighted me to a hospital in St. Louis. I’ll talk more about my hospital stay next week, but I want to take the time now to show how God was right there with us when all of this happened.

God’s Provisions

About seven months prior to this accident, I was in a little fender bender (completely my fault) that dented the fender above my front passenger wheel. My parents said if I wanted my car fixed, I would have to pay for it. I didn’t have that kind of money, and it didn’t affect the car functioning properly. So I kept my dent.

The dent did, however, make it pretty hard to open the front passenger door, so all my passengers had to ride in the back seat. My sister, Amy, hated this, but on that night, she was in the back passenger seat–furthest away from the impact.

She suffered some whiplash, but that was about it for her physical trauma. But she was awake and coherent for the entire aftermath of the accident. I don’t want to speak on her behalf, but for a few moments she didn’t know if I was alive or not, so the emotional turmoil she went through that night was great.

But if she hadn’t of been there, I assume it would have taken much longer for my parents to find out about the accident, and I needed to see my dad before they whisked me off in a helicopter to the hospital all by myself.

Good Samaritans

The first person to pull up to the scene was an off duty ER nurse and the second person was a former EMT. They were both able to get Amy out of the car safely, and knew enough not to mess with me until the emergency workers got there.

The nurse stayed with Amy until my dad got to the scene. She was actually the one who called my dad. God knew Amy needed comfort and help, and he sent her the right people.

Angels

Before the emergency crews got to the scene, there was an itty bitty little tree keeping my car from going any further down the embankment. I also believe I had angels there that night holding my car up.

One of the fire-fighters said that when he got to the scene he looked down and saw people holding up my car. He was worried because he didn’t want the car to roll over them and then have more injured people. But no one else ever mentioned seeing these people. And we had to talk to a bunch of people who were first to the scene because of the criminal case against the drunk driver. They had to testify in court about what they did and saw.

So I like to believe they were angels that God let that one fireman see, so he could tell me about it. I mean I guess it could be that everyone else who was there that night just failed to mention these heroes. But even if they weren’t real angels, they were angels to me. That people would risk their lives to help save a stranger humbles me greatly, and I am so grateful for them and all the other emergency workers who saved my life that night.

Below are some pictures of my poor little car. I always joke with my parents that at least I got hit head-on because that’s where my car got the most stars in the crash tests. It would have done horribly in a side-impact accident.

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