Don’t Give Up On Me

People keep asking me what I’ve done through the week, and my response is always an embarrassed, “nothing much,” but, honestly, I’m in the rest phase of my sabbatical, and I’m sleeping in as often as possible, going to bed early, and not feeling guilty about catching up on my reading list.

I’m still doing other things too – like tons of squats as assigned by my physio. My butt is sore all the time now which is largely celebrated because that means I can feel anything at all in muscles that spent time disconnected from my brain for a couple months post injury. I didn’t have any extraordinary advances through this week, but I was faithful in getting out of the house to walk each day and have been doing the electro-stimulation every night since I got here. I’ve also had some great interactions with new people who kindly want to get to know me. There are a lot of little things that add up to “full” days as I spend time resting and reflecting on what’s gone down in my life the last five years.

While I can’t give an exciting update on the physical side, I can say that the reflection time has given me a lot of opportunity to celebrate what God has used me to do. I very much want my life to be a testimony of God’s good works done through me. A couple of my former students even offered me some kind words about the impact I had as their teacher, and I treasure their words. To be completely honest, I’m often insecure about the impact I’m having because it’s “part time” hours compared to many of my energetic coworkers, so the reminders I have actually been used effectively in ministry is incredibly meaningful.

If you’re inclined to pray along with me this week, I’m still asking God to work new growth in my endurance and to reduce my soreness. I’m also looking to see God open my eyes more to the ways I’ve been effective in ministry so that I can capitalize on my strengths both here in my service at RCC and when I return to BFA.

This week was full of new adventures and new people yet again. I’m so blown away by how incredible my life is sometimes, and occasionally other people are shocked by it too.

Wednesday afternoon was a total delight for me as I was planning out with Matt how I can use my resources from teaching Christian Essentials at BFA to benefit the students in his youth group. Our planning session was supplemented with an impromptu history of the church given by one of the former pastors who is still involved with the church. I listened eagerly as he also explained lessons learned from decades in ministry how the church can support and grow people through all stages of life. I love the lessons of longevity as I’m still on the front end of a career focused on starting youth out on a lifelong path of pursuing Jesus. 

Thursday was just as exciting for me as I spent time one on one with a woman from RCC who drove me out to see the beautiful beach on the east coast of the island. I was so blessed to share time with her and was encouraged by her reaching out to me. Saturday night also had a beautiful bonding moment in the body of Christ as a Chinese couple who attend a different church in the city invited me over to their house for dinner. I was connected to these new friends through a family currently living in Kandern who have done ministry in China for years and spent a portion of time at Multnomah. The Lee family made sure to pass on my contact information to their friends, and I was so warmly treated by them based only on our connection in Jesus. I love the body of Christ.

Now onto what you’re all most interested in – me impressing other people rather than the people who impress me. (I mean, why else does anyone read this blog?) Friday afternoon I had a new independent adventure on the bus to the local physiotherapy practice. I’d done a google search to make sure I found a place that understood the nuances of a neurological problem, and after chatting with Mike on the phone Tuesday, we’d scheduled an initial assessment. Unfortunately the practice has two steps up into the building, but that only gave me a chance to impress him right away as he hoisted my wheelchair up after I managed the steps alone using the railing.

We spent the next hour talking about what I’ve accomplished over the past five years and testing out the limits of what my ankles were up to that day. Frequently throughout the appointment I’d offer a response to his inquiry completely opposite of what he expected. “So you said you can move your big toe?” “No, it’s actually just the second toe sometimes.” “That’s so weird – if it’s only one toe, it should be the big toe because the rest are the same muscle group – you should be able to move them all.” Hey, I’m taking that as good news that it’s only a matter of time before the other three toes on my right foot catch up – and you know I’m not going to stop hoping for the rest after that. 

Mike was excited about the prospects of me defying more predictions, and I’m excited to try out new things and impress everyone with all my improvements when I get back to Germany. I’ve got eight months to see incredible new recovery, and this week has been a great opportunity to reflect on the nearly five years of incredible work I’ve already done. God isn’t finished with my body yet, and I’d love for you to join with me in prayer this week that the routine I implement with Mike’s help is something that surges me forward yet again in this journey of recovery. He told me I’m going to be his crazy patient because I break all the rules, and I’m so excited for the testimony I have that breaks all of the world’s rules because I’m operating by God’s.

When I made the decision to move to Germany, I sold nearly all of my 250+ books in my personal library. This past week, I discovered one of them made its way all the way to Texas. A local pastor with a habit of buying copies of Fee and Stuart’s text to give to students interested in reading the Bible purchased a copy on Amazon and noticed my name in the front of the text. He messaged me on Wednesday to ask if it was mine, curious about the insightful marginalia. (Full disclosure, my friend Margaux was the one who wrote smart comments before I inherited the text from her library downsizing.) The guy even offered to mail it back to me for free – before I told him I lived overseas.

We ended up having a lovely discussion about books and theologians and encouraging young people to get excited about knowing God through books and theologians. I shamelessly recommended all my MU favorites – Lubeck’s Read the Bible for a Change, everything The Bible Project ever produces, and even Harper’s Space at the Table. Guys, the body of Christ is so cool. I got a list of recommendations from him that I’m going to add as resources to my controversy project when I get back to BFA next year.

One of the most incredible things to me about the body of Christ is that I’ve got this brother in Texas who was encouraging me randomly while I also am meeting new people in this new country who are my brothers and sisters in Christ. This morning was so fun for me as I sat next to my new friend originally from England who lives in New Zealand who I can call a sister in Christ. After church, I went to a newcomers lunch at the pastor’s house and met a family from Malaysia and a woman from Switzerland who were brought to RCC by the same Jesus that brought me here.

My story still confuses a lot of people who don’t know Jesus – because why on earth would an American girl move to Germany and then spend a year in New Zealand where she’s never met anyone? I’m getting more opportunities to share my story with others here, and I’m learning more about living out that walk with Christ literally and figuratively. 

I shared last week my hope to increase my walking distance, and I’ve made progress in that. I did adjust my goal because I realized instead of the rewardless bus stop and back, I could actually aim for the nearby grocery store with a cafe. I’m at about 3/4 of the distance there and back now, and I hope that by the end of next week I’ll be able to say I managed to make it to the cafe for a treat before heading back. My second goal is for the mental rest as I spend a lot more time reading. Honestly, these past few weeks have been so great to sleep and read more in addition to these walking goals. I read another Terry Pratchett novel and have two more lined up for this week plus two memoirs and an incredible book on discipling people. 

In a lot of ways, it’s been a weird week, but I read two whole books which is just delightful to me. My goal is four this coming week. 

One of the books was titled Isolation: A Place of Transformation in the Life of a Leader. Great title, right? Well, it was super helpful in preparing for my sabbatical time because since I don’t have a regular full time ministry role, I’ve had a weird sensation of not doing enough. I get to spend all this wonderful time being with Jesus though. The book was an encouragement to embrace that.

Most people know my sabbatical assignment includes improving my holistic health, so this week had some good walks in the sunshine trying to figure out how far I can venture on my own before I need to turn around and still be able to make it home on my own. At this point, I’ve got like “around the corner, half way down the block and back” sorted out. I still don’t know the limits, but I know I’m going to spend this bonus summer improving.

I like the alone time I get with God going on these walks and thinking about what my body is capable of that I was told I’d never be able to do. It’s a really beautiful opportunity to celebrate God’s goodness.

I also like it when people reach out and remind me I’m not forgotten despite being in an “isolated” place away from my support team and my ministry location. I’ve met some really wonderful people here who’ve heard just a snippet of my story and have been so kind and encouraging of the time I’m taking on sabbatical. This past week, I managed several independent trips various places, and I remembered that it is okay to still ask for help. For example, I navigated to and from places on the bus several times, but I need the bus drivers to give me a little push onto the bus when the ramp is too steep to get up on my own. 

While I was reading the book Isolation, one of my former students sent me a really sweet message to encourage me that I was an encouragement in her walk with God. She went on to tell me that I’m not alone and that she’s praying for me. Naturally, I laughed out loud and sent her a picture of the book I’d put down to read her message. God has a lot in store for me holistically during this season, and I’m excited to grow in it. I’d really love your prayers that I stay focused on my given tasks, and particularly that I’d hit my first bus stop walking goal this week. My hope is that I can eventually increase my endurance enough that I know I can do all the walking required to and from the bus stops on a round trip to the church from my house. 

Side note, I’m planning to read some Terry Pratchett this week, so please feel free to send some encouragements while I’m reading titles like Monstrous Regiment and Going Postal. I’d love to laugh at the same kinds of connections between books and messages again that I had yesterday.

This past week I read John Mark Comer’s book Garden City as a launch into my sabbatical. (Then I started A. J. Swoboda’s Subversive Sabbatical because Portland theologians writing on sabbath rest is the greatest thing.) Just a couple chapters in, I was being toured around Christchurch and learned that the nickname of this city is the Garden City. For completely different reasons than the New Jerusalem, but what a great discovery.

As a native of the Rose City, I’ve taken this sabbatical in a foreign country that I’ve now discovered has a lot of cultural similarities to the Pacific Northwest. They all speak English which is a bonus to adjusting to other new things, but they also all have an appreciation for sorting trash. Guys, I’m going to fit in great here. 

But before you all think there’s not going to be any struggles, let me tell you about my first independent adventure from the church office to my new home. I had navigated the route home with one of the pastors on Tuesday afternoon, and I felt confident in my skills as I headed out to the bus stop alone on Wednesday afternoon. I had a helpful bus driver help me on and off the bus, and I navigated the streets in the neighborhood to my steep driveway. Having done it with my sticks once before, I heaved myself up the steep start, but my calculations were off with the addition of my laptop to the bag on the back of my chair. Unfortunately, I tipped over backwards, and while I didn’t see my life flash before me, I did watch my legs go over my head and heard a tiny crack-like sound when the back of my skull hit the cement. For a millisecond I wondered if I’d broken my neck, but I managed to sit up with no problem.

I was – understandably – a little shaken up, but I was getting myself sorted and preparing to pull myself into the chair when a neighbor saw me in the street and helped me back into the chair and up the driveway to the door with all my stuff. I managed to get myself safely into the house and texted Kara to make sure it was okay that I felt okay. Honestly, I felt okay. I mean, sure, a little bruised, and I’m still a little sore, but apart from the goose egg that showed up in minutes, there were no immediate problems – no blurry vision, no headache, nothing. 

I’m a champion. 

Okay, so realistically, God has made my body to be incredibly resilient, and I’m continuing to grow in how I can be independent with these limitations. I’ve managed the driveway with no problem as long as I don’t have my sticks or anything heavy on the back of my chair, so I’ll be learning to navigate the city with less weighing me down – literally. If you’ve been following my story for long or have met me for more than an hour, you’re probably aware it takes a lot to slow me down. I mean, I broke my back and returned to work the next school year. 

I am so fortunate that I have the opportunity to be challenged to grow physically while I spend time in this Garden City because I’m ready for the next growth spurt. I’m honestly not discouraged by the topple into the street – it’s an obstacle to overcome, not a permanent roadblock to my thriving.

The day I left Germany, I shared a post from the RCC Facebook on my wall that had a picture of the city and Jeremiah 29:7 as the caption: “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” On Tuesday, I got to meet the woman who runs the RCC Facebook page, and it was such a treat to put a face to the person behind that bit of encouragement. Christchurch is where God has planted me for this season; this is in some ways an exile from Kandern, but I’m praying to be used in this city to contribute to his thriving because I know God wants me to thrive in this Garden City. 

This week’s specific requests are first that I’ll continue to settle in and learn to navigate the city with increasing confidence. Additionally, I’ve been asked to share my testimony in a Bible class at a local school as well as to do a short recorded version for the church. Please pray that I’ll be a responsible witness to the beautiful work God has done in my life. While anyone might be talking to God on my behalf, I’d also like to ask that you praise our awesome Healer for the preparation he’s done to make a beautiful community for me to be a part of while I’m here. I’ve already met so many amazing people, and I’m so excited to learn more about them and grow in community as the body of Christ while we are all together here in this Garden City.

I feel like in nearly five years, I’ve likely referenced this Hillsong song I used for today’s post title before, but it’s got more relevant lyrics than the single Reliant K line running through my head as I watched the non-proverbial sunrise come up over the Pacific end Friday morning. I did include a picture of my several thousand foot high view of the sunrise, and you might think I’m losing my mind, but I’m about to delve into the specifics (and switch song references). 

When I was a worship leader in high school, I remember loving to sing “To the Ends of the Earth” because of the powerful verse that begins the song: “Love unfailing / overtaking my heart / You take me in / finding peace again / fear is lost in all you are.” When I sang out the chorus, I never though my world would be bigger than the greater Portland metro area, but as I flew from Germany to New Zealand this week, I was struck by how the Lord has called me to the ends of the earth – literally.

This past Tuesday I said some hard goodbyes to students and a few see-you-laters in some cases which were still difficult. I only had a handful of students who I thought would be tough to leave, but it turned out seeing dozens more this past couple of weeks made it all the harder to leave them on Wednesday. Brandi let me sit on her balcony and process a lot of my emotions the night before I left, and I got in the car with my friend Chrissy to make the drive to Zürich excited despite the sadness of leaving so many precious children. Chris and his dad drove Chrissy and I to the airport and sent us off with happy wishes for our long journey.

I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better traveling companion as Chrissy is a champion at overseas travel and is calm and confident in airports in a way I can barely dream of. All my anxieties and insecurities were completely taken care of with Chrissy’s help. We made both our connections with no problems, and after a couple questions about my plans in New Zealand, my passport got a new stamp, and we collected all our luggage (which I forgot to mention had made it to Germany just three days after I did).

One of the RCC pastors, Mark, was waiting for us when we got through the border control, and he drove us to my new home in a quiet neighborhood near the university. We landed in the morning, so Chrissy and I tried our best to stay awake through the day and managed to adventure down the street to the grocery store to buy a few essentials and some coffee to keep us going. I even had enough energy to try walking down the street with no braces. We also had the blessing of meeting my housemate’s dad who lives down the street and offered to drive me to the mall to buy a new SIM card for my phone. I’m all set up with a new phone number and a working mobile plan for the next year. It was an exciting and productive first day. I woke up Saturday to say goodbye to Chrissy as she was off to see her sister who lives on the north island. After a relaxing morning, I met another RCC member, Jasmine, who kindly took me out for a short list of things I’d found I hadn’t packed and would need in order to settle in.

This morning I went to RCC for the first time, and it was such a blessing to worship with this new gathering and discover it was like coming home because of the beauty of the body of Christ. I met a few more of the staff members I’ll be spending a lot of time with, and I even was introduced to a couple of the students that I’ll work with. I’m so excited for this sabbatical opportunity, and I’m grateful for all the prayers for my travel to get here. As I’m adjusting and settling in, I’ll still post quick updates, but they’ll likely be much shorter than this though I hope you’ll all still pray for me that I’d learn to take care of my body well in this new space as I get used to the new place tucked away in an opposite end of the earth from where I’m used to.

For those who might have missed the plan, I took the long route from America to New Zealand for a specific medical appointment. Sure I was happy to draw the lines around the trip to include the opening ceremonies last week, but the priority stop was to get this appointment with specialists at the facility that has done all my other major medical work. Yesterday I had a urologist stick a big long needle in my bladder which I thought would be routine since it was my third go at the procedure. However, when the kind nurses were trying to hook up the IV to put me to sleep, my first vein exploded, and it took another three tries before they could get me properly hooked up. That was where things began to change. I also met the second in charge urologist who was new to me – all my previous work has been done with the head of the department. She seemed nice, and she had a kind med school student who was observing as well. I slept through the rest of the actual procedure, and was my expected groggy self when I wheeled out, but when I cathed before bed, I found mostly blood rather than urine. 

Welcome to my life.

I vaguely remember that being a possible side effect listed the first time I had the procedure, but I’ve never had a single complication doing this. The first round, it took effect within three hours, and the second time I slept like a dream within minutes and felt groggy but glorious after. Today has been general discomfort in the affected area and needing to pee about every two hours which is the exact opposite effect that the botox treatment is supposed to have. 

It’s barely 24 hours out, and they say to be cautious those first 24 hours, so I’m not worried about it at all, and I honestly don’t have time for this physical discomfort to hijack any of my fleeting moments with my friends and students who I have to leave behind next week when I fly to New Zealand. I was sharing with my friend Brandi that I wasn’t going to waste my life being bothered by these kinds of inconveniences because there is so much more important stuff going on. I have my priorities straight. Sure it is annoying to have the physical complications, but I also got to have an impromptu hour long chat with a coworker who is a seasoned teacher with loads of encouragement for me to grow as an educator. Yeah I’d rather not have the distraction of mild pain the whole day long, but I also got to have lunch with a precious child who I won’t get to teach this year but asked to have some time with me before I left.

In the grand scheme of things, the burning sensation and the blood are minor. The kingdom conversations are eternal. 

I’d still prefer not to deal with this for long, so I’ll happily encourage prayers that my body sorts itself out sooner rather than later. I’d especially like those prayers as I begin my long, long journey across continents and oceans in just six days. It’d be great if my body weren’t in the more than normal levels of pain.

I spent a final week in America soaking up all my favorite coffee shops – the photos above represent just four of the seven mandatory locations. Part of my cultural heritage as a PNW hipster is that I love good coffee, and I love spending time with people in coffee shops. It was my norm living in Portland, but I adjusted quickly when I moved to a tiny German town with no Longbottom, Insomnia, Bipartisan, Case Study, Black Rock, Ava’s, or Dutch Bros. 

I’m really grateful for the time I spent with people in each of those coffee shops or various other places because I’ve been deeply shaped by some wonderful people who still call the Pacific Northwest home. Yet those people all sent me out as a missionary, so I headed across an ocean last Sunday to make my way back to Kandern for two weeks. 

Unfortunately, this trip was solo, and after my friends helped me get to the airport and check in, I was on my own with my mobility aids and medications until Carol picked me up in Frankfurt Monday afternoon. I managed alright, and this round my wheelchair was undamaged and my $400 replacement cushion never left my sight so I wouldn’t have a repeat trauma of my arrival in Minneapolis. However, I can’t account for everything, and both my checked bags were left behind in Minneapolis this direction. I got a text message yesterday that they should arrive today – hopefully at the correct address in Kandern rather than the Frankfurt or Portland addresses they had to have on record…

Arriving back in Germany was a breath of fresh air as I was back in my host country that I’ve called home for five years. This past visit to America was refreshing in so many ways to understand the language everywhere I went, but it was overwhelming in others to not know how to navigate that country as easily in a wheelchair.

Back in Germany for these two weeks, I’m staying with friends who’ve graciously allowed me to crash on their couch and repack all my goods to take the necessary stuff to New Zealand. Yesterday, I had the joy of seeing my previous students process into the auditorium with their flags which was a wonderful treat. I confused a lot of staff and students though who briefly thought I might be here for the whole year. I’ve got two weeks in my little Kandern before heading off to my new adventure to Middle Earth and beyond, but I hope that I’ll be able to use this pause in Germany to help my body recover a little and get some good walks in. 

The internet is a wonderful thing in so many ways. I’m so grateful for this platform to keep people updated on my recovery and my ministry, and I’m really fortunate to have the technology that allows me to see my family members’ faces regularly when I live overseas. There are still limitations, however, and the past two months of visits have been precious opportunities of “IRL” interactions off the internet. When I can hug my nephews in real life, it’s a whole lot different than the flippant FaceTime goodbyes of a four year old. Sitting down on someone’s couch to explain with all the nuance how proud I am of my student who’s pursuing a degree in journalism with a detailed vision for how he wants to use his voice to use his privilege to advocate for others is so much more fulfilling that writing this sentence. 

I’m wrapping up my stateside visit, and I’ve got a week left to enjoy these “in real life” interactions before I go back to online updates. In just one more week, I’ll be telling everyone how much I miss McMenamins cajun tots and Terminator milkshakes, but I want to transition well between America and Germany (and then on to New Zealand). I’ll be cherishing these special moments in real life, so I’ll ask your forgiveness for the short update online. 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve remembered that I actually have connections to a few relatively famous people, but it’s made me rethink my assignment of fame. For example, I had the most amazing Sparky teachers ever – Keith and Gloria – and although Keith’s dad is world famous, I’m way more excited about the dude who told me about Jesus every Thursday night. 

The treasure of this week was looking from afar at people on a big screen that I’ve met personally or the crowd with the backstage passes at a major stadium event who I know while I was hanging out in the crowd with the coolest person of my childhood. No joke, last night I got to rock out to Lecrae sitting next to THE Karin Stephens who was for sure the person I wanted most to be when I was growing up. 

I started this week in Colorado wrapping up my time with my biological family members and a few other close friends. I was especially blessed to spend a couple hours with Deedra, a woman who knew my dad and grandparents when she was growing up who has been a personal encouragement in my walk with Jesus since I was in college. Then I spent an evening with my precious nephews getting a couple last snuggles before leaving. Friday morning I packed up my belongings and drove up to see Jordyne and Rachel. After some quality time together, Rachel dropped Jordy and I off at the airport to fly to PDX. We took our mandatory carpet photo before being welcomed home by half of my precious Stephens family. 

Saturday morning, Jordy and I spent the day with the other member of our best friend crew, and we hit up Powells, Saturday Market, and McMenamins. After hugging Sarah and Jordyne goodbye, I just hung out with six of my favorite people on the planet. Sunday morning, they loaded me into their car, and I got to see a couple of the old friends who still attend my childhood church. After an emotional viewing of Moana, I got back in the car with the family to attend an outreach concert at the Hillsboro Stadium.

That was where I was reflecting on how I’m so grateful for all the famous people in my life – anyone who’s known me for long knows the Stephens family is a big part of my life. Their kids are among a select few featured in photos in my house. Spending the day at the Oregon Zoo with them today was a total blast, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The people I spent time with this week are the people who are famous to me – the ones I want to be with. I got to be with people like Deedra and Karin who’ve been consistent examples of following Christ wholeheartedly, and people like my precious nephews and (almost grown) children I used to babysit who I hope that I model Jesus for.

This was another full week for me which included some wonderful moments like mother-daughter bonding time downtown Colorado Springs at a place called Tattoo Demon, meeting some of my dad’s coworkers, and my sister finding time in her super organized, busy life for coffee with me in my super disorganized, busy life. My life is anything but monotonous, and among the many cups of coffee and conversations through the past week, I’ve been challenged and encouraged. I’ve also had my usual insomnia flare up, and the chronic fatigue is wearing on me again after five weeks of shifting cities and beds.

I had one last weekend in Denver, and while I was with Joan Saturday night, she took me to be a tourist downtown. I live a crazy life, and I sometimes the breaks I get take some hard work to get to though the payoff is worth it. Joan suggested a pedicab ride downtown Saturday night, and while it might be a breeze for most people to hop into a pedicab, hopping isn’t really one of my strengths. The super nice driver helped me up, and I enjoyed myself so much hanging out with Joan and seeing a side of Denver that was all new to me. She celebrated with me the fact that I had to be brave to try something new and found a great reward in it. It’s a theme in my life, and I’m going into this coming sabbatical in a brand new place looking to see amazing new things that the Lord will do.

Sunday morning I had the joy of sharing with my church family about my ministry and preparation for my sabbatical. I was able to see some of the people who I first met six years ago as well as meet lots of new people who’ve joined the Embassy since I’ve been in Germany. I also had my pastor directly tell me that I need to be sure to rest well during my time in New Zealand. I won’t arrive there for another five weeks, so I need to be responsible with my mind, soul, and body during the next few weeks of transition. My prayer is that I’ll get some good sleep to give me the stamina to make it to the period of good rest. 

In case you didn’t catch it the first five hundred times I’ve mentioned it, I love my job. I’m only leaving Germany because I have to, but I’m going to be intentional with how I use the year away to rest well and prepare for more years of what I love. In order to maximize the pause from teaching, I planned out my summer to allow me to attend a Sabbatical Orientation Workshop (SOW) at the Navigators during this past week. One of the recommendations the workshop website had was to bring along my sabbatical advisor. Fortunately, my amazing friend Shannon was able to come along with me to this workshop to learn with me about how I can best rest during my break from BFA. 

In so many ways, though, I’ll never have a break from BFA. This past week was not only filled with new learning about sabbatical rest with Shannon, but I also got to spend time with two of my former BFA students who graduated a year ago. I’ve kept in touch with these two vastly different kids through their vastly different first years of college, and I loved every moment of listening to where they are at now and catching up in person. Strangely enough, reading the Bible came up at one point in a conversation with my former students. The new curriculum I teach emphasizes the “So What?” question that comes after reading a passage. These guys missed out on that phrase in my class, but part of our conversation hit on the motivation people have to read the Bible. 

I’m still convinced the purpose of reading the Bible is to foster loving relationships with God and other people (credit Ray Lubeck). I’m hopeful that my students see that developed in me as I continue to read the Bible. I hope that they might learn something about how to read the Bible from me. I won’t be a Bible teacher at BFA this coming year, but so what? I still have loads of opportunities to love God and love others better. 

After the SOW and time with Shannon and my students, I drove up to Denver with my parents to spend time with some more family and friends. I was so blessed to connect with one of my Embassy friends, Joan, who housed me for the night and then I was able to spend a chunk of my Sunday morning participating in the Sacred Space service my church does every fifth Sunday of the month. This particular sacred space service project was various assignments blessing the teachers at the school where the church meets, so I was able to write short encouragements for teachers returning to work next week. I shared with Joan that one of the things I loved most about the Embassy when I first connected with them years ago was their intentional avoidance of “hit and run ministry.”

I’ve tried to live my life in consideration of the Gospel that lasts, and this week was an encouragement of that on several levels. The sabbatical preparation is to prevent full ministry burn out so that I can return to love and teach well; two alumni chose to spend time with me because, according to them, I’m someone they feel safe being honest with; and my church operates in a way that naturally builds service projects into worship services. This is a holistic Gospel that permeates my life, and I hope that it can inspire others to engage with this Good News in a life changing way. So what about you? 

Ten years ago there was a writers’ strike in Hollywood, and some talented people got bored and created the masterpiece released on YouTube known as “Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog.” It’s fabulous and worth the forty-five minutes in fifteen minute increments (or all at once). I belted out the soundtrack with my best friend for a couple hundred miles of Idaho highway this week, and there’s some great wisdom hidden in the snarky lyrics. The antagonist, Captain Hammer, sings to a captive audience that maybe “you wonder what your part is ’cause you’re homeless and depressed, but home is where your heart is, so you’re real home’s in your chest.”

I have a legal residence in Oregon for voting and tax purposes, but by all other measures, I’m homeless for the next year. I spent the last week as a guest at my friend Desiree’s home, and she really is one of my best friends, and her whole family welcomed me as an extra member for the time I spent with them living in their home. Her kids even invited me along to the grocery store. They laughed with me, fed me, and included me in the mundane bits of their daily life. It was beautiful. I also was invited (or invited myself) to a few other homes or coffee dates to connect with close friends who sent me out on this adventure five years ago. I was so encouraged to have those moments with my friends – most of whom are like family to me – updating me on their lives and letting me tell stories about my precious students.

Friday morning was an especially fun when the update on life came from one of my former youth group students. Tori picked me up bright and early from Kyle and Desiree’s house so we could book it across the Oregon desert and make it to Boise, Idaho by early afternoon. We talked for like six hours solid. I loved every minute. Then I hopped in the car with another one of my best friends, Jordyne, and crossed most of the rest of her home state catching up, laughing hard, and singing along to some of the greatest musicals on the planet. 

After a good night’s sleep, my parents picked me up at Jordyne’s house, and we crossed into two more states before pulling into a hotel in downtown Denver for the night. I woke up this morning excited to listen to one of my favorite living theologians preach, and let me tell you, Brandon Washington does not disappoint. I wheeled into the school where The Embassy Church meets for the first time in three years, and the greeter was the woman who’s been sending me care packages since my last visit; I was home.

I’ve never lived in the city where this church meets, but it has been my home church since I was sent out five years ago. These people love me like family, and when I see them, I’m home. The three pastors who know me saw me at different points in the service, and all three reacted with big smiles and warm hugs. Another woman came up to me to let me know she’d been praying for me through my service and recovery. I’m loved in this place, and I’m encouraged to grow. If home is where the heart is, my home is scattered across the globe with these people who have my heart. 

If you thought my last post was a lot of craziness in my first two days Stateside, buckle up.

After I posted on the Fourth, I woke up bright and early on the fifth to projectile vomit on the King’s guest room floor. I’m a fabulous houseguest. My body was overloaded with all the rich American treats, so I’ve been super careful not to indulge in too much each day since then. It wasn’t how I wanted to start my day, but my amazing friend Jen got out of bed and cleaned up around me so I could go back to sleep for a few more hours and prepare for the rest of Anja’s nonstop American west coast tour. 

Sadly, we missed out on the PDX exploration morning, but we made it onto the Amtrak in the afternoon for an overnight trip to Sacramento. We had a nice sleeper car on the way down and woke up to get off and be greeted by my granny and her husband Jim for a full day of California adventure. After caffeinating at Starbucks, we kicked around a bit before the Sutter Fort opened. When we made it in, Anja and I took a picture in front of the tree planted in the Fort that was brought over from Kandern in 1939. Next I took a nap before my granny’s friends came over for an open house where I was able to share with them in person some of my ministry. I was so encouraged by all of the people who came through to meet me and share how much they were touched by my story. Many of them even generously donated to my ministry, and I’m incredibly grateful I had the opportunity to talk with all of them. Since one of my former coworkers lives not too far away from my granny, I also got to have a bit of time catching up with Jayma and was able to deliver her yearbook from Kandern.

The most special part to me of my 18 hours in Sacramento was that my granny made sure my Tiffiny was invited to the open house. Tiffiny is hands down one of the most influential people in my formative years. She and her husband live outside of Sacramento with their precious little kids, and they drove in to see me. Hugging Tiff after so many years was so wonderful. When I think of my ministry in my head, I still describe it as “being Tiffiny” to all my kids. I used to tell people Tiff raised me with the help of my parents; she was always there to love on me through my elementary and middle school years and kept in touch through my high school time whenever I needed her. 

Our time in Sacramento was super short, and to make sure Anja got enough exposure to the west coast, we got back on a train just past midnight. It showed up an hour late, which wasn’t a good start to the journey, and we kept hitting more and more delays. I’d planned the whole trip around Anja getting to see Saturday Market, but thanks to Amtrak’s nightmarish trip north, we arrived five hours late and missed the whole Portland experience I’d planned. Fortunately Renae and Macie were waiting for us at the train station and took us to Burgerville so Anja could try the amazing Walla Walla Sweet onion rings.

Sunday morning we went to Colossae Church with Dave and Jen where I got to see a handful of my old Westport peeps. Not too long after the service, we hopped in the car with my friend Heather who’d taken a couple days off of work to road trip north with us. We made it to Tacoma by the evening (after an important outlet mall experience for Anja) and had dinner with my Aunt Janice. After fabulous food and fellowship, we stopped by my old roommate Cat’s new place to get her mom’s house key and let ourselves in for the night – shout out to Addie for being an amazing hostess who never saw her houseguests. We went out to breakfast with Cat and her family before hitting the road again and driving to Seattle for lunch. Heather expertly navigated the crazy Seattle streets, and we showed Anja the troll, the Space Needle, and the first Starbucks on our drive by tour before we parked for lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. Once we’d enjoyed the view from their rooftop patio, we headed up to Bellingham for the night. I’d asked my friend Bekah to help us find beds for the night, and we ended up with this wonderful couple hosting us whose granddaughter went to Multnomah for some of the same time I did. After sharing stories with Dean and Bonita, we all slept great before hopping in the car with Bekah on Tuesday morning to meet up with one of my coworker’s parents for a Tim Horton’s breakfast just over the border. After getting Anja’s extra passport stamps, we dropped Bekah back in Bellingham and knocked on my sister’s in-law’s door so I could get a quick hug before we hit 1-5 south. Heather dropped Anja and I at a Starbucks in Sylvan so she could get to her shift in Clackamas on time, and one of my old youth group kiddos picked us up to deliver us back to Jen and Dave’s house. 

Wednesday we slept in a little bit before Givorgy picked Anja and I up to go to Multnomah Falls and Powells – two key Portland stops. Unfortunately, on the bumpy paths at the Falls, my wheelchair that had been damaged by the airline reached a breaking point – as in the brake broke off. Skilled ninja that I am, I managed the rest of the day with one brake, but I called around a bunch of places to get it fixed on Thursday morning. That ended up being much more complicated that anticipated. Anja and I just hung out while I was calling places until we needed to get her to the airport. Heather graciously drove out to Hillsboro to take us, and she dropped me on a MAX to make it to her work shift. Miraculously, it ended up being the exact train Desiree was getting on to commute home from work. She just helped me off the train, jogged home to get the car, and drove me to gather my belongings from Jen’s to transport to her house where I’m staying this week. 

Are you exhausted yet? I think Anja was by the time she got on the plane. I still had to get my reliable Professor X fixed for the remainder of my summer in America though. Fun fact, American wheelchair repair places are the worst. Except one. Shout out to the amazing people at DME Hub in Clackamas who understood the danger of not having a brake and were willing to make a fix for me to safely use Professor X the rest of my trip. I was able to get my friend George to drive me out there Friday morning. Friday evening, Kara picked me up from Desiree’s and we met up with a BFA family at the Lone Fir Cemetery for a uniquely Portland rendition of Romeo and Juliet. We ended the night with Rimsky’s – another super Portland experience that I’d never actually had. I slept over at Kara’s and went out to Pine Street Biscuits for the good hipster morning meal with Kara and Eric. Then we made it to Saturday Market where I was overjoyed to find the artist who makes my favorite bags. The big tote I’d been using for groceries that fit perfectly across the back of my wheelchair just ripped the week before I left Germany, and I was delighted to buy an expertly made replacement. I also found the next artist bridge rendition to add to my collection – I’m pretty sure I now possess a print of the only pretty picture of the Marquam Bridge. 

With loads of time left in the day, Kara and I headed to the west side for the most critical of my missed foods – a Terminator Milkshake from the McMenamin’s Grand Lodge. They don’t have them at every location, so we had to drive all the way out to Forest Grove to get it. By crazy random happenstance, my childhood friend Jessica (of the Jesus Hotel awesomeness from two years ago) was visiting the area and met up with us for dinner. After we finished eating, Kara drove me up to her parents house so I could catch up with my extra parents. She let me shout, “Mommy, I’m home!” when she opened the door. 

I slept great when I finally got back to Kyle and Desiree’s, and I was super excited to get up for church in the morning. They go to the same church as my favorite professor from Multnomah, and I was so blessed by the chance to worship together with their congregation. I’ve also had loads of fun with their kids in the snippets I’ve seen them. Sunday evening I got to catch up with my friend Chantelle with dinner and a movie. Last visit to America, we went and saw Ant Man, so we decided it’d be a nice compliment to see Ant Man and the Wasp last night. I had another great night’s sleep after, and gave myself the grace to take it easy today before the rest of the week of coffee, lunch, and dinner dates with people I haven’t seen yet.

My life always seems full of extremes – extreme exhaustion being rather consistent on the list. But I’m extremely blessed by the people I have in my life who help me out through the extreme ridiculousness and love me unconditionally. While I don’t want a life in the wheelchair forever, going to get the repairs was a gift from George and a great chance to catch up with him on the drive. Were it not for blogging about my accident, most of my granny’s friends wouldn’t care to meet me, and I’d likely not have encountered opportunity to receive their generosity – some with words of affirmation, some with financial gifts, some with fancy steakhouse dinners. I can’t have a lot of the awesomeness in my life without the deep wound of my paralysis. Yesterday’s message was about how we learn through wounds. I’ve learned so much of my precious Savior through the difficult experience of paralysis, and this experiential learning couldn’t have happened through any other means. I’m gifted with this story that helps me know Jesus better. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, given the opportunity, I wouldn’t give up this wound because of the learning I’ve gone through. I want it all; the scars on my back and hip are precious to me because they tell the story of the start of my healing. 

My passport is from America, and that will always be part of my identity. Saturday felt strange this week as Korean and Swiss alumni helped me pack up the last of my belongings before I headed out Sunday morning for the long, long journey to my birth country. I said goodbye for now to my little apartment around 9am Sunday and got into the car with an excited German going on her first trip to America.

I’ve kept a small surprise for some of the people who will see me at the start of my trip, and the foot photo above is Anja participating in the traditional PDX carpet right of passage. My fabulous physio who’s helped me with so much of my recovery took ten days of vacation to see America with a real American. Naturally her first full day here included Dutch Bros and Tillamook Cheese Factory – I’ve got priorities. I also was really excited for her to be here on the 4th of July. We went to the Hillsboro parade this morning, and we’ll introduce her to more traditional American foods – s’mores and apple pie – later today with decent fireworks. 

I’m so excited for the time I’ll get to spend with people here in America, and there’s already been tons of great reunions and delicious food (see Dutch Bros pictured above). My friend Melody picked us up from the airport and drove us to Red Robin after dropping our bags at Jen’s house. I found there were already a few people waiting to greet me and was happy for the chance to be welcomed here so warmly.

I kept Anja going nonstop yesterday as my friend Michelle drove us out to the beach for the day so Anja could experience the Pacific Ocean, Camp 18 cinnamon rolls, and Tillamook squeaky cheese. Side note, the upstairs factory tour is just as exciting as I remember it being as a kid; honestly, I’m so delighted by the simplest things. I’m delighted by the chance to show Anja America, I’m delighted by the sleeve of Oreos Jen left sitting next to me while I write this, and I’m delighted by the people who’ve given so much to me to make my past five years of ministry possible.

I’m humbled by so much of it too: by a dozen people showing up at Red Robin last minute to hug me and encourage me in the progress I’ve made in my recovery, by Michelle taking her day off to spend it with me and Anja, by Jen never judging me for the broken person that I am but encouraging me to be more like Jesus just by sharing life with me. (That woman seriously is amazing.)

The next two weeks with Anja here are sure to be a blur, but I’m hopeful I’ll be able to show off my new skills and maybe even see some summer improvements. 

After I posted last week’s list, Caylie and I were lamenting all the great musicals I left off – like Dear Evan Hansen, Les Mis, Phantom of the Opera, and, most importantly, the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Caylie was staying with me for a few days and helping me pack up a lot of stuff before leaving at the end of this week. We’d also planned to spend a good chunk of time while she was here with Buffy running in the background. She’d never seen it all the way through, and I felt strongly about fixing this. We made it through two and a half seasons, and she had the joy of listening to me sing along with “Once More with Feeling” – one of the greatest episodes of television ever made. Since I missed including it in last week’s playlist, I decided a whole post on a song from that episode was in order. 

The opening song is “Going through the Motions” where Buffy wanders the graveyard lamenting, “Nothing here is real / nothing here is right” while hoping no one notices her hiding her melancholy. I’m pretty good at hiding my emotions from people, but I’ve worked really hard this week to be honest that I’m on the verge of overwhelmed with two international moves in three months. The major stuff is sorted, but there are still loads of details, and I want to make sure I leave well. I’ve only got six days left before switching continents for a while. The world is going on without me, and I’m the one who’s off, I know that, but I’m trying to take care of things responsibly.

Buffy’s first verse talks about how she used to be so brave but is now wavering, and I’ve been thinking back to how much simpler it was to move to Germany able bodied with two suitcases, and now I’m not sure how to pack my life into the appropriate weighted suitcases with all the necessary medications. I’m ready to shout that it’s not fair, but life’s not fair. It’s also frustrating to have go through some of these important steps in moving that end up taking time away from my walking practice. 

I agree with Buffy’s last plea that she doesn’t want to be going through the motions, but I diverge in the confidence that I’m really not that bad off. Before drowning in the crazy stuff, I can list a dozen beautiful gifts of my unique situation. I’ve got this amazing life that allows me to spend an afternoon with my friends driving me to Lörrach to get my wheelchair brake replaced before traveling only to discover that the helpful repairman doesn’t have the exact right part, so he replaced it with a substitute for free. I also get to visit with my German neighbors who after feeding me my final good German meal yesterday drove me around the nearby villages just to enjoy the countryside one last time. I get to have my home be the landing place for alumni before summer ministry – and spend hours having intellectual conversations about Buffy the Vampire Slayer (which is one of my favorite things). 

Honestly, there’s been so much laughter and joy over the past two weeks of students and alumni streaming in and out of my window and saying goodbye and packing up that it’s still the life I would choose despite the stresses that come along with it. That said, I have a week where I need to do a lot of important final details, and I would crave your prayers that I would finish well not just going through the motions.

Here we go for round four (playlist 2015, playlist 2016, playlist 2017) of my Myspace style summer tradition. Here’s a link to this year’s playlist.

1. “Stressed Out” by twenty one pilotsGraduation was yesterday, and one of the responses to shared truths I came up with (explained in my James post last week) was to not stress about packing, but to let students come over during finals. Well, a steady stream of young people came through my window Thursday morning through Saturday evening, and I’m so delighted they chose my house as a hang out place. It does, however, leave me with a lot of packing and three days less to get it done in. I have no regrets, but I’m not gonna lie, I’m a little stressed out about two international moves in the next three months.

2. “Santa Fe” from RENTOkay, so I considered making this year the year of the musicals and having all the songs be from Broadway shows, but I resisted the impulse (it’s only half songs musicals). I’m not shy about my love for the musical RENT and how it inspires me to love more unconditionally. I figured I’d already used “Will I?” but discovered it actually is that I’ve used that song for multiple individual posts over the last four years. I still wanted something else, and Santa Fe stuck out when I was watching the movie last week because it’s the idealization of where everyone isn’t. I’m forced to leave Germany, but I don’t want to idealize the next place that I’m going. It’s not a place to run away from any problems; life is life, and problems will follow you anywhere.

3. “Beauty Through the Eyes of a Predator” by Demon HunterEvery annual list has a Demon Hunter song, and this is one of my absolute favorite songs by my absolute favorite band. Honestly, I can’t express how this perfectly fits this year, but I’ve dealt with a lot of emotional growth similar to the year this song came out and I was dealing with a lot of emotional growth. It’s also just a freaking incredible song.

4. “I See Stars” from Mean GirlsThe Mean Girls Broadway musical came out this year. Have you heard it yet? It’s fabulous. There wasn’t really a great song to fit my year from it, but I’ve been listening to the soundtrack so much the past month I felt like I needed to include one. This one is the finale, and I’m finishing five beautiful years in Germany celebrating my amazing stars. That’s the stretch I’m going to stick with for this post.

5. “This Is Gospel” by Panic at the DiscoAlright, so the beat of my heart also has the fear of falling apart, but really, the line that made me think this was worth including (beyond the catchy Panic emo tune) was “Don’t try to sleep through the end of the world / Bury me alive / ’cause I won’t give up without a fight / If you love me let me go.” It’s a loaded bunch of lyrics – I’m on my way out, but I’m making sure it’s not a running away (see next song). 

6. “Run” by KutlessGoing old school two in a row here – this is a great breakout album that I’ll forever love. I’m headed to New Zealand for that actual sabbatical rest, and I’m so excited to rest in the presence of a Savior who just wants to be with me.

7. “Resurrection Day” by Rend CollectiveGuys, have I mentioned how much I love this album? Yes, yes I have. It’s fabulous. And this song is an anthem for this year because I’m not the one raising me up. It’s all because Jesus. That’s the title of my future memoir: Because Jesus. You see, I know full well there’s not a stinking thing I can do on my own strength – I’m still disabled. But my Resurrected Savior has brought me to new life in him.

8. “My Shot” from HamiltonI told you I was using a lot of musicals this year. So, resurrected human that I am, I’m not throwing away my shot. 

9. “Defying Gravity” from WickedLast musical, I swear. So, resurrected, not throwing away my shot, watch me defying gravity. This year, “I’m through accepting limits / ’cause someone says they’re so / Some things I cannot change / but ’til I try, I’ll never know.” 

10. Home by Phillip PhillipsSappy expat song time. This was on my playlist when I moved overseas five years ago. I had no idea I was leaving a home for so long. I also had no idea how Germany would grow to have such a strong sense of home for me. I have no idea what’s in store in New Zealand. “If you get lost, you can always be found.”

Bonus Track: “Alright” by SuperchickYup. Every year has a Demon Hunter song and a Superchick song – those are mandatory. This year it’s the bonus track because it’s the song that encapsulates the entirety of my year and my month and my moment. Each verse is a different moment of my transition, and I’m sometimes all at once. So, “I’ll hope for you, you hope for me / and together we can say, “It’ll be okay.”

I’ve got the word “doulos” tattooed on my foot – it’s not seen by many people these days because of my paralysis required footwear, but I chose to put that word permanently on my body after my high school Bible teacher made us each write a commentary on the book. We had to study the use of several Greek words, and I discovered James chose this term, along with several other disciples, to describe his relationship with Christ. He begins his epistle, “James, a doulos of Christ.” It means slave. It means a bond slave who knew life with their master was better than on their own. 

I’m going to get a little personal this week, so if you’re not interested in how this Master has made my life better and what that has to do with the musical Rent, you can skip ahead to the last paragraph. 

I had an independent study senior this semester who for his final had to choose a book of the Bible to give me assignments in studying. He asked one of his best friends, and she suggested James. He didn’t know I’d spent a whole semester on that book when I was in high school; he didn’t know that’s where my tattoo came from. He also doesn’t know my obsession with the musical Rent, but we’ll get to that in a minute. 

So my student made me break James into sections, come up with shared truths for each, and then craft a specific response for each one that I could apply in the next ten days and then one that would apply when I arrive in New Zealand. The shared truth I came up with for James 1: 9-12 is, “The world is temporary, but we can put our hope in eternal rewards.” I teach my students there’s a difference between teaching and urging statements, and this one is a teaching that adjusts my attitude more than my actions. As I thought of how I would respond in the next ten days, I reflected on my frustration and sadness over not reaching the physical goals I sent at my previous Jahreskontrolle. My necessary response to this shared truth for the present time is therefore to adjust my attitude about my physical goals. I have a future hope of walking and dancing again; I’m not giving up on that during my earthly lifetime.

However, where I’m at right now is mostly using a wheelchair. I’m excitedly still taking steps – without braces more and more – and I’m seeing progress beyond what I was ever told to expect.

Each summer I write a blog post with my life playlist, and I was watching Rent today thinking about which songs I haven’t yet used in the past four years. Turns out, I only actually used “Seasons of Love” last year. I’ve just written entire posts about “Will I” and other songs. I’m not intentionally provocative (usually), so I won’t end up including “Another Day” in the playlist, but I will talk about it a bit here because of my idea that the world is temporary, but I have an eternal hope.

The song “Another Day” is the introduction of the musical motif “There is not future / There is no past / I live this moment / as my last.” The theme plays out through the musical as characters embrace loving each other fully and unconditionally in the midst of their struggles and mess. I’m in the midst of mess, and I’m so grateful for the friends who have encouraged me to bring it all to Jesus and not need to clean myself up first. Another one of my James shared truths was “True wisdom is displayed in acts of peace not selfishness,” and I’ve been really convicted about how I’m living that one out this week. It’s stretching and painful and uncomfortable, but it’s making me more like Jesus in the end, and that’s what I want more than anything. I know it’s worth it.

Sometimes the paralysis stuff is stretching and painful and uncomfortable – more in the literal sense than the spiritual growth described above – but I know it’s worth it. Even in this physical recovery, I’m learning to be more like Jesus. I don’t have any stories of physical victory to share because I’m in the midst of finals and packing and planning my global travels and I’m barely maintaining my walking. I could share a story of physical messiness thanks to nerve damage, but I’ll just let you know that I’m a pro at learning the warning signs and the clean up gets easier every time. It still sucks to wake up in my own filth, but I also have the joy of alumni turning up on my doorstep to tell me I was a positive influence in my life. I’ll make an executive decision to consider my trials a joy (based on Mr. Weber’s senior Bible lectures on the appropriate Greek translation of James 1:2) because somehow I have this amazing life where I’ve served in Germany five years and now have the opportunity to visit my passport culture before taking a sabbatical in a new culture beginning in September despite the pesky nerve damage that lingers. I’d really appreciate any of your prayers for all the details regarding my physical care in the next three weeks as I wrap up school and five years of life in Germany before this grand totalization adventure. I’ll keep you posted each week on the coming excitement, but I crave the prayers for peace in the chaos.

After fourteen months, I made it back to my annual check up at REHAB Basel. Those of you readers who found my blog back in the day will remember Danai and Alex featured heavily in my antics as an inpatient, so I was hopeful I’d get to at least say hello during my full day at the hospital. 

My morning started, as I now know to expect, with draining my body of four vials of blood before running some other fun tests. I still have over 100% lung capacity on both those tests, and my blood pressure and vitals all looked good. I then got my schedule for the rest of the day: physio at 11:30, lunch break, ergo at 14:00, and the debrief with the doctor at 15:30. 

I rocked up to the physiohalle five minutes early and watched Annette working with another patient. I’d be okay if she did my tests, but I’d rather have Andy again, and I was actually praying hard Alex would walk out of the office to work with me. I can’t imagine the grin on my face when Alex did come walking down the physiohalle; it might have been akin to her grin when I started out in German and told her we could try the whole appointment with my rudimentary skills in her mother tongue. She was excited about my progresses, and we talked about how I’d been doing more and more without my braces. My FlyEase Nikes were also exciting – she took one off to show a couple other physios who all agreed they would be way better for quad- and paraplegics to use regularly. 

When we got to the toe lifting portion, I was still not able to perceptibly move my ankle, but Alex could tell the correct muscle was firing. She ducked out of the room to find another physio who came in with what is best described as something like a therapeutic grade TENS machine. They hooked me up to the electrodes and explained how it would first feel like tingling before uncomfortable muscle pulling. Alex added she’d recently tried it and was almost in tears, but my diminished feeling means that I only felt mild discomfort as I watched in amazement as the machine stimulated my muscles and imitated the natural toe lift of a normal heel strike step. 

Alex encouraged me to talk to Anja about trying out walking with this kind of device and told me a different type was also available to use at home to train the muscles to lift up and down – though apparently it comes at a hefty $300 price tag to those without European insurance… I’m looking into my options. 

After that encouraging session, I headed to the bistro to eat something before visiting my old station. Fabio recognized me when I wheeled up, and he was excited to hear my improvements in my recovery and my German. I asked if Danai was around, and he told me she would turn up in a couple minutes, so I made myself a cup of coffee at that amazing, fancy machine to wait for her. It wasn’t long before my favorite English speaking Greek nurse turned up, and we spent the rest of my break before the ergo appointment catching up. I even showed off a few steps holding her hands and walking without braces. She and the other couple nurses who knew me during my stay were all really excited with the improvements, and I was so delighted to get to share with them. 

Before I started my ergo appointment, I saw Annette in the hallway, and she stopped me to say hello in German – having heard from Alex during lunch that I now speak perfect German. I laughed admitting it was a significant increase since we’d last talked though I am still far from perfect. Christiane came out of her office and told me she heard my voice – in German no less – and was excited to try our appointment in her second language rather than her third.

It’s kinda hard to communicate the familial bond I feel with these caretakers who did so much for me those five months after my accident. They were all so genuinely proud of me and eager to hear about how I was doing at work and about my travel plans to America and New Zealand. My world seemed so small when I was in their care, and now there are so many dozens of other people who’ve become integral parts of my ongoing adventures that extend across the globe.

I was particularly struck by that today as I spent time with three important people who didn’t join my journey until post-REHAB. Anja and I went shopping together for a critical pre-Germany-departure purchase, and I’m so grateful for the friendship I have with this amazing physio who’s literally walked beside me since leaving REHAB and has pushed me to try new things and encouraged me when my recovery seems slow. I also got a ride from Cindy to the BFA senior girls’ tea, and she is another friend who’s meant a lot to me in the past two years by giving so much of her time to walk with me and talk through so much of life with me while we improve my gait. Also, the only reason I was at the tea was as the invited guest of a precious student who is another one of the amazing people in my life. I trust Julia more than the vast majority of the student body which was clearly demonstrated last Wednesday when I made her hold my hands and walk with me during her study hall. I have a lot of precious students, but this particular one means a lot to me because in the past two years that I’ve had the privilege of getting to know her, her constant energy about loving Jesus and other people has been an inspiration to me. (One of my favorite parts of teaching teenagers is finding the gems who are mutually inspirational – we can encourage each other in the pursuit of Jesus.)

This senior tea today was meant to be a celebration of some incredible young women, and I was honored to be a part of the party. It paired nicely with my Jahreskontrolle which was a celebration of my accomplishments over the past year (14 months). I didn’t make all the goals I set for myself, but I surpassed a few others. I revised some goals and set a few new ones, and I’m going to charge ahead with the people God’s gifted to me – some for a short time like my physio Saskia in the uni-hospital, others for a few months like my physio Alex in the rehab-hospital, and others still for life like my current physio Anja.

Confession of an introvert: I really don’t love posting all the details of my life on the internet, but at the same time, I’ve not really got anything to hide. I just like my alone time. 

I was really hoping to manage a walk with Cindy this morning and then just chill for the rest of the day, but I woke up sneezing and had some alarmingly forceful sneezes with the morning pollen count that made me nervous I might fall if struck with that kind of attack while walking. I texted Cindy my condition, and she reported the same frustration with the microscopic death star attack. 

So instead of walking in the morning, I did some mundane things – picked up expensive prescriptions, purchased minimal food with my meager leftover cash, and read a couple chapters of a biography on Erasmus. Once the sun and the yellow dust settled, I did manage a walk along the river, and I enjoyed the time to myself. In my few outings, I managed to see nearly a dozen friendly faces, and I remembered how much I enjoyed being a background character in someone else’s life when I was in college. 

Actually, I hated it, but I’m nostalgic for the time when I could go by unnoticed.

A couple times earlier this week, Cindy walked with me on campus during my prep periods. I sat down to applause from students in the windows and had dozens of kids congratulate me on my impressive steps without my braces or sticks and just holding one of Cindy’s hands. I really love the encouragement; it means a lot to have students cheer me on. At the same time, it’s exhausting to be in the spotlight with every step, and I have to be honest about the tension between receiving the applause and knowing it means people are watching me. On one hand, the work I have to do in my recovery is exhausting regardless, and I want the recognition that people are celebrating alongside me; on the other hand, I wish I could just fade into the background and focus on my students. 

I am always excited to share my progress here, so I hope you’ll hear and rejoice with me about the impressive walks I’ve had this week despite the simultaneous desire I have to hide in my quiet cave and just enjoy some student made cheesecake. 

I was sitting on my bench by the river during my normal rest point in my walk yesterday, and I saw a rat. What kind of rivers was Spafford talking about in his famous hymn? Okay, but actually, if you know the story of this guy who wrote “It Is Well with My Soul,” you know his peace was one that surpasses understanding because his life sucked by human standards, and the second line emphasizes that. 

Fun fact, my life also sucks by human standards. I’m standing by my prior iterations that I wouldn’t trade this life for any other. 

Often when I’m walking, due to the physical demands on my disabled body, I can’t spend a lot of energy on the usual buzzing of thoughts in my head. As an Enneagram 5, I’m notoriously caught up in my head, and it’s an intentional shift to my body when I go on my walks. I usually use one of two centering statements to keep my mind at rest, and the one I focused on today was, “I step into peace.” Today as I sat on my bench thinking about that peace that I step into, I was struck by the precious gift of all the physical recovery I’ve seen in the past four years. I started out today’s walk with some of the best balance brace free that I’ve ever felt post paralysis; I ended with more weight on my arms to keep my finicky ankles from betraying me. Sometimes because the end of the walk is less than the start, I forget the ending point is still better than the first steps I took in the parallel bars back in REHAB. I also am quick to dismiss the distance I can cover regularly is far beyond the distance of the physiohalle which I celebrated with Alex just before my inpatient discharge.

I hope you’ll celebrate my current status with me while I forge ahead knowing that the faithfulness in the tiny daily improvements leads to these moments of seeing the grand distance I’ve covered in the years of this journey. With peace like a river, amidst the stormy sea billows, it is still well with my soul. 

Sometimes life is just more busy that others. Sometimes you spend your Sunday night proofing the Phases 2018 yearbook and forget to write your blog. 

Sometimes you get tacos on Tuesdays. (Let’s be real, it’s all the Tuesdays.) Sometimes you come home from tacos to find your New Zealand visa has been approved. (That’s just me this past week.) 

In the madness of the week, I didn’t walk as much, and a few things didn’t go as planned, but I a few other things were stinking awesome (i.e. visa approval). 

Right now is a phase of craziness in my life as I try to sort through the finishing well, updating everyone here, still teaching my classes, and planning my summer stops and stays across the USA. I’d really love your prayers for living life well here and not missing any of the details in my physical care and soul care. 

Last Tuesday was a day off of school, and Cindy and I took a beautiful walk in the sunshine. I left my wheelchair, braces, and even one of my sticks behind to venture on my established loop with just a single stick and Cindy’s arm for support. It was a bit rough as my left ankle was giving me some resistance, but we took a break on a bench by the river, and I made it back to my house after enjoying time hanging out with Cindy. We walked again at school on Wednesday, and my left ankle was still causing problems. After brainstorming the possible causes, we went through a few treatment options to get my feet back on track.

Thursday night I had a really great opportunity to reframe those tough walks when one of my seniors invited me to listen to her talk to the middle school students at Chrysalis. She had this amazing line where she encouraged the young students that while self help is great and all, God can take you so much further. I work really hard to improve my walking, but it’s only with the help from friends like Cindy that I can go beyond my own effort. I can credit so much of my physical improvement to the God given friends who have stepped in to walk with me, drive me places, and just regularly encourage me. 

I’ve done a lot more walking this week with nicer weather, but I also had the opportunity because of friends helping out with various things (my friend Mary Lou even spent an hour helping me sort through cupboards and drawers in preparation for leaving in July). There’s a team effort in me living life, but that same friend who gave me the judgement free help recycling items that had been cluttering my dresser for years also previously encouraged me that we all need help to live life. I’ve got a few more physical needs than most, but that self help urge is in all of us, and God graciously uses other people to help us live life more fully.

Seasonal allergies have been horrendous here this year. I was sneezing and sniffing all last week, and Monday I had a cold to top off the allergies and leg spasms of the day. Tuesday, my plan was to lay low, but I made the best possible mistake and stopped by the yearbook room on my way off campus. My plan was to let Chris know I wasn’t going to make it to Taco Tuesday, but my plan was hijacked in the best possible way. Two juniors were probably working hard until I came in, and they spent the next hour making me laugh uncontrollably. Chrissy convinced me if I was well enough to sit and laugh that long, she wasn’t worried about me spreading germs at her house, so I agreed to come with those two students to share a meal at the Bryan’s house. I swear I didn’t stop laughing for a solid three and a half hours. 

Might my body have recovered from that cold quicker if I’d gone home? Maybe. But let me tell you, it was worth it for my soul. This week had small moments of celebration for my physical improvements, but more holistically, I’m making progress in tangible plans for the summer and coming year. I can’t tell you how good it felt to have the space to laugh and the hilarious students to keep me going. 

Full disclosure, I also had some difficult student stuff to deal with this week, but I had my wise and gracious friend Shannon text me excellent advice that provided a loving response to a student’s disrespectful behavior towards me. I also had the aforementioned cold keeping my energy down, but I’m feeling much better by tonight. I can acknowledge the paradox of the draining student interactions while celebrating the moments where students came over for cookie dough or laughter. I love my job that lets me work with a sometimes willfully ignorant independent study student who simultaneously gets excited to find out how Timothy was developed as a young leader while being firmly convinced the apostle Paul must have been totally into cosplay because he was so concerned about leaving a cloak in Troas.

This paradox leaves me delighted at my amazing job while often frustrated my body still can’t keep up with what I want it to do. Hopefully this week I’ll find more opportunities both to laugh and to walk. 

There’s a delightful saying from the podcast “Welcome to Nightvale” that you can buy on a t-shirt on their website: Pain is just pain entering the body. You can also buy one that says “manic pixie dream tarantula,” but that’s got nothing to do with my week. 

Tuesday and Wednesday this week, I had early morning meetings and my legs – Virgil in particular – were not super happy about it. Virgil and Beatrice were both trapped in braces for two long full days, and I was disappointed that I’d be tired out by physio Wednesday afternoon. Fortunately Anja was willing to work with me as I was. She spent a few minutes stretching and adjusting my muscles before we took off out of the praxis to walk a couple hundred meters down the street. Anja carried a stool in one hand and let me hold on to her other as we strolled in the sunshine. I did have the braces and a stick in addition to Anja’s hand due to the aforementioned unhappy legs.

I was delighted with the quality and distance Anja and I achieved, but I’m still striving for more. I’ve taken a few other walks without the braces, and Anja and I are going to try even more this coming Wednesday. I’m not going to let a little fussiness from my legs – or from various pain throughout my lower half this past week. 

Saturday afternoon I was hanging out proofing yearbook pages, and I doubled over for a short break to try to stretch out some pain. My friend Chris tried to send me home when I explained what I was doing. “I’m not going to let pain stop me from living my best life,” I retorted – or some equivalent sass. I stuck it out for a bit longer, but my body parts ganged up on me by Saturday evening. I’d promised to attend the student led worship night, and I made it through nearly the whole thing though I had to duck out early because of my body’s need to reposition outside my wheelchair. 

This afternoon a couple current juniors stopped by, and I was explaining the condition of my legs – you know, the basics of how I named them and talk to them to try to understand their strange messages that have to be communicated through leg spasms rather than directly through my now damaged neurological network. While we were talking, they started spasming, and I tried to listen to what they had to say. I’m pretty sure part of the message was just that they were tired after a short walk around the fire station.

I’m writing this out ready to pop some ibuprofen and head to bed. You see, pain is just pain entering the body. It’ll take a whole lot more than pain to stop me from enjoying my life. For example, I’m looking forward to another delightful Monday with my students tomorrow. We’re going to discuss some of the critical elements of what goes into making a church; it involves a clip from Bob’s Burgers. I’ve got a pretty great job. 

Now, to be clear, I don’t want the pain. I’m not inviting any extra. I’m just not going to let it stop me. Looking ahead to this next week, I’d love prayers for the pain to go away. More importantly, I want to see God glorified in this week’s walking adventures. 

Today’s Scripture readings in church both talked about how Jesus charged his followers to be witnesses. The chaplain was explaining how we can not only talk about what we’ve seen but be actual evidence of something. I’m bearing witness with my life when I go for a walk every day. 

In fact, today, on my walk by the river, two of my current students passed by me while I was huffing and puffing without braces. They smiled and waved, and I kept on my way until my mid-way bench. That was the first time either of them have seen me on my feet, and as I mused about this morning’s sermon, I connected my physical movements as a witness of God as healer. I’m really excited that I get to declare God’s goodness with my body. This week gave me multiple opportunities to do so, and I hope everyone who saw me will think about the God who healed the girl who wasn’t supposed to walk again. 

Starting back at school this week was quite busy with lots of late work to grade and lesson prep work to finish the semester strong. I’m also still gathering documents for my New Zealand visa application, and I have hardly had any down time in the past seven days. I did, however, have the privilege of witnessing a dorm birthday blessing for one of my senior students this evening which only added to my joy that while I’m being a witness, I’m living alongside some pretty incredible people who I can witness glorifying God as well. Each BFA dorm has their own unique take on birthday blessings, and tonight I watched Storch girls gather around a sister, all laying hands on her to pray over her, thanking God for the amazing witness she is. They didn’t use the term “witness,” but that’s for sure what this fabulous kid is. In the two years I’ve known her, I’ve learned more from this student about how to love people and passionately chase Jesus than I can begin to describe. 

I’m looking forward to the week ahead with conversations with students who want to know more about this Jesus we bear witness to and the sunshine that will allow me more walks to bear witness in my body the healing work of Jesus.

I reported last week that I made some great successes and walked a couple days in a row without my braces. I’m happy to update that I continued the successful solo large loops around the nearby buildings without my braces. I didn’t get out there today because I was prepping for the final quarter of the year – the home stretch of my fifth year at BFA before my totalization. I’m ready to go for these last couple months in my classroom, but there are still a lot of other details to sort out in my life.

Fortunately, I can happily report that one of those details is sorted – I have a place to go after my trip to America and quick stop in Germany to get some medical procedures done. I’m in the visa application process to spend my totalization time as a sabbatical in Christchurch, New Zealand. 

The walking progress and New Zealand placement are huge steps forward for me despite me not having a fancy story to tell for either this week. I’d love your prayers for more of the details of my physical recovery and moving out of Kandern’s community for the year. There are still a lot of steps left to get to New Zealand successfully. You’re welcome to send me encouraging Tolkien references and keep praising God for my successes so far.

When I was student teaching, I got to read the book Wonder aloud with a class of rambunctious seventh graders. That is a powerful text, and I was so excited to hear it was made into a movie. Since I was away the weekend it played at the Kandern theater, I jumped at the chance to watch it at the Bryans this week during our normal Taco Tuesday dinner. For those unfamiliar with the plot, it revolves around a young boy who has complicated medical conditions that leave him physically deformed. He has a beautiful soul that everyone recognizes by the end, but it’s a narrative thick with body image and social struggles. 

My own narrative could be told through body image and social struggles. I was reflecting a lot on my body this week and the relationship I have with it came up multiple times as I listened to various podcasts. As I was having coffee with my friend Mary Lou on Thursday, I confessed that I’ve struggled with asking people to be involved in my life partly because of not wanting to be a burden and partly because of my own social anxiety issues. We had a great time laughing about the ridiculous notion that I’m a burden just because I have a physical disability; it was super good for my soul to remember that we’re all needy in our own way and the body of Christ exists to help others. 

With that encouragement, I texted Cindy and scheduled a walk for Friday. When she arrived, I was prepared to take the sticks out and test how far I could make it with her bringing the wheelchair.

“You don’t really need that,” she suggested.

With a little prodding, I ventured out of my house holding just Cindy’s hand with her supporting my left arm and walked the hundred meters or so to the benches across the Hieber parking lot. No braces either. We sat down and chatted with some other friends who happened to be walking by which gave me a chance to recover my strength for the walk back. I managed the long way around the fire house and was elated with my exhausted body that I’d managed the whole distance with no sticks at all and only Cindy’s support on one side. 

Buoyed by the success of Friday, I set out with my sticks and no braces on Saturday and managed to make it to the bench just past the school before resting and walking back. I was pretty amazed with myself. My body was doing more than I expected. Don’t get me wrong – it was really, really tough, but I was doing it. 

Sunday I’d planned an extra challenge by asking for a ride to the sunrise vigil service the Anglican church was having at the munster in Basel. Nigel and Helen were driving in and agreed to cart me along with my wheelchair if my leg spasms were manageable at five in the morning. Aside from my right foot trying to shake itself out of my brace a dozen times at different points in the service, it went swimmingly. My feet even felt settled enough after a doze in the morning that I headed out for another victory lap to the bench beyond Hieber and back.

I took it pretty easy through the rest of the afternoon with reading and relaxing and a nice chat with an alumni. In all honesty, I’m still in wonder at what my body accomplished this weekend. I’ve got another week off of school, and I hope I’ll be able to continue to amaze myself and share new feats with you next week.

Growing up, I’d regularly hear my parents start a story with, “George Wood, the guy who married us…” I mean, this was probably once a month. And I’m not exaggerating that every time he was introduced into a story my parents had to add that critical detail. This guy was a big deal in their faith walk, and it was important that my sister and I know he was the one who united them in marriage. Well, when my dad recently told me, “George Wood, the guy who married your mom and I, is going to be in Kandern,” I jumped at the chance to connect with him.

Though it took more work than anyone anticipated because I’m impossible to get in touch with (my answering machine deliberately says someone else’s name to discourage people from calling me), I was able to meet up with George and his traveling companion while they visited a couple missionaries here in Kandern. The five of us sat down for tea Friday afternoon and had an amazing conversation that covered a range of topics. One comment really stuck with me when we were theorizing about how people share the Gospel. George brought up St. Francis’s great quote, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” He said he hoped his life was preaching the Gospel, and I was so excited to confirm that it was – because my parents have been saying so for over thirty years. 

I was still ruminating about that Friday and Saturday when I got to catch up in person and over Skype with two friends from America. My friends were living out the Gospel as they encouraged me in my ministry and listened to my stories of hilarious students as well as some of my struggles and stresses of planning for my year away from Germany. I went for a walk yesterday with Morgan, one of my closest friends here who will be leaving this next week, and she celebrated the distance I walked brace free while lamenting with me the struggles I was facing I can only hope I reciprocated for each of my friends in the encouragement they offered me as part of the body of Christ.

The short walk with Morgan was the highlight of the physical progress, but the conversation with Shannon covered a lot of how the physical is tied into the emotional, mental, and spiritual, so I’m really celebrating a lot of growth in all that development after a solid conversation with Shannon. I am still optimistic about my body catching up with the rest of my health, but I also recognized that I need to be intentional about not letting my emotional, mental, or spiritual health atrophy while my body limps behind. The handful of intentional conversations this weekend were a significant part of that.

Looking ahead for the short term, I’m planning to move more this week while I don’t have school. I’d love your prayers for warmer weather to reduce my leg spasms. I’m also still patiently waiting to hear confirmation for my placement next year, and I’d really love prayers for that news as well. Thanks for joining in with me on that part of the Gospel where we encourage each other through prayer – I can’t tell you how much it means to know there are so many people continuing to pray for me each week!

There’s a story recounted in two of the Gospels about the Pharisees asking Jesus for a miracle. He replies with a measure of sass according to the Message translation: “All you want is something to titillate your curiosity, satisfy your lust for miracles.”

I’ve seen miracles. I am a miracle. I anticipate the miraculous. 

I was reflecting on this paradox as I listened to a fabulous podcast on miracles put out by an Antiochian Orthodox ministry. The four Jesus followers of diverse Christian backgrounds were reflecting on miracles that are still happening all over the world. There was one powerful story of a girl in a wheelchair who was told by someone, “God’s gonna raise you up from the chair!” and her response was, “No. I’m in the chair, and it’s not great, but God is using me here to reach people that I didn’t really get to reach before, so thank you, I appreciate that, but I don’t think that’s what God has for me right now.”

That’s not my story. I’m in a wheelchair, but I welcome prayer to glorify God in my condition. I’m still hopeful for the physical changes that reflect a whole body. I still need prayers for God to move and work in my body. It’s a paradox because I’m not praying for the signs and wonders – I’m praying for God to be glorified in my physical body. 

One of the pastors later reflects on how miracles may actually be a glimpse of what is more normal than the decay we see daily in a fallen world. Miracles are normal; they happen all the time. However, another one of these wise men reflected, “If we’re looking for a miracle, we’re looking for the wrong thing, but if we’re looking for Christ… the world is revealed as it really is.”

I’m not in this journey, this public platform, for the glitz and show. I’m in it for knowing more of this Christ who regenerates what is broken in this world. 

Bringing back the paradox, I’d love to leap and dance and celebrate the physical wonder of my body working again. I’m going to keep praying for God to be glorified. My open handed specific requests are for restored function and answers about where I’m going to be this fall. I’m still waiting for the confirmation from an amazing position, and I’d love you to beg God with me for the official word and next phase in planning as well as physical leaps forward in restoration of function.

I love Zach Anner. He’s a hilarious comedian who uses his disability in a positive way without making himself a trope. He made this workout video several years ago and Shmoyoho songified it to this awesome jam. Full disclosure, I listen to it to get pumped up when I’m feeling low. 

In the original video, he has lots of motivational phrases, but I really love the one they capitalize on in the song – “it’s never to late to get back on track.” Sure, Lindsay Lohan is the comedy punch line to go along with the encouragement, but I’m gonna run with it – someday literally. 

The past few weeks were thrown off track with that nasty blister business. I got pretty down about it, but, as Zach encourages us all, it’s never to late. Tomorrow is a new day – and today wasn’t all that bad. Really, this week was a lot of productive catch up and self care, but I’m looking forward to more improvements which are what I want to report weekly. I’d love the encouragements and prayers to stay focused on the responsibilities I have this week while pushing myself with new physical gains.  

Sometimes teenagers are punks who try to test boundaries and stress out the adults who love them. Sometimes adults are equally obnoxious as they struggle through new personal growth.

Hopefully I’m not that difficult to deal with, but I’ve had some stressors this week that kept me figuratively on my toes as I literally dealt with that blister on my toe. While I was sufficiently put at ease by the slowly shrinking fluid, I freaked out all over again when I woke up Saturday morning to discover crusted skin and no blister at all. Concerned that I’d somehow popped it unknowingly in the night, I spent the majority of the next two days with my feet up still caring for the toe, now adding oil instead of apple cider vinegar to help it heal. 

While I’m disappointed I’ve not been able to walk much the past two weeks because of this toe issue, I’ve got orders from Anja to keep up my core exercises. I’ll hopefully be back into a walking routine with Cindy soon, and ideally that’ll be in addition to the daily ab workout. 

Full disclosure, I skipped my Friday floor routine because I was feeling overwhelmed with life. I’m not the perfectly responsible ideal disabled person. I slack off sometimes. Sometimes my students slack off too – and I forgive them. A student from last semester caught me in the hall this past week to thank me for passing him after he turned in some assignments over two months late. Something had clicked in his brain that this was a lavish grace, and I replied I’m grateful for the grace I’ve received too. I wasn’t supposed to ever walk again after my accident, and I’m so amazed by the grace that lets me hobble a couple of steps now and again. 

Ideally, those steps will improve in both quality and quantity, but I’m grateful for every single one. I can still only wiggle one toe on occasion, but I’m going to keep testing what these toes can do and be humbled as I improve every so slowly.

Sometimes my cultural analogies are lost on students. For example, yesterday I tried to tell a student my seemingly tedious assignment to him was his “wax on, wax off” task that would make sense later. His roommate had never seen The Karate Kid and had no idea what that meant. Once I explained the finer points of martial arts and window cleaning, it sort of stuck. (Full disclosure, I don’t know the finer points of martial arts or window cleaning.)

That said, I was trying to explain to these guys how I was training them to understand Scripture carefully and that the specific tasks of attending to the details was going to pay off someday. I told them I didn’t know when exactly it would pay off, but that it would for sure. 

Kinda like the physiotherapie I’m doing is all going to pay off for me someday as well. I was listening to a sermon the other day where the pastor said that sometimes we ask God for an oak tree and complain when he gives us an acorn. I think I got an acorn a while back. I planted it, but some days I’m still wondering where the full blown tree is. I’ve got a sprout or something, but there are days when I just want the shade of a giant tree. 

Before I lose complete track of the analogy, I was thinking about how I really wanted this blister on my foot to just disappear, but maybe the process of foot care is part of the tree growth for me. I know the process of physio and relearning to walk sure is developing a strong oak in me. I obviously wouldn’t be disappointed if I woke up without a blister and with all other functions restored, but I’m also going to try to see it as the sprouts of my acorn turning into an oak tree if I wake up to another day similar to today.

It’s a weird tension between begging God for a physical miracle and begging God for a psychological transformation when the physical miracle doesn’t happen today. I’m still going to ask you to pray with me for rapid physical recovery, but I’m also going to ask you to pray for psychological stamina as I deal with the patient care for this acorn growing in me. 


So I really love cheesecake. It’s delicious. 

One of my students found out and promised to make me a boss cheesecake. This escalated in importance when I found out he’d never made a cheesecake before, and four other students have now made me three separate delicious cheesecakes. The delightful initial student planned to come over today after church with three of his friends to make me this crowning cheesecake.

Instead I came home to an email that these boys were bailing on me. 

**Full disclosure: I started writing this last night then had to go to bed with seizing back pain.

Sometimes my life sucks. 

Sometimes I get cheesecake. For example, last Monday was a school holiday, and two students came over and made me a delicious cheesecake with a graham cracker crust. I was delighted. I also had several students reach out and say supportive things to me. I also had some wonderful affirmation from colleagues. 

I also had complications getting my passport renewal fees correctly lined up. I also had a blister show up on my toe. I also came down with cold symptoms on Friday. I also had these punks promise a cheesecake and bail. So life isn’t all one thing, but I’m still on that positive trajectory.

Some of my dreams have been crushed, but, honestly, the life I have is overall better than I could have dreamed. Sure there are some missing cheesecakes, but there’s also some lovely children who come over for tea when the other kids bail. Also, these kids are still making me a cheesecake – it’s just been postponed.

If you haven’t listened to Rend Collective’s latest album, you’re wasting your life. I’m currently obsessed with several songs, but “Counting Every Blessing” resonated pretty well with me tonight. As I was thinking through what happened this week, I was struck by the amazing gifts I received in the previous several days of students reaching out and affirming my work as an educator – specifically in educating them about the Christian faith. 

One of the birthday wishes from a former student was, “Thanks for being such an inspiration to us dummies.” I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. I skyped with two of his classmates in the past week, and both of them shared with me how things they learned in my class have come up in conversations with friends at college.

I’m absolutely amazed at this gift. The end of each verse of “Counting Every Blessing” declares, “I’ve been blessed beyond all measure,” and that aptly describes my condition. A surface glance at my life would anticipate endless frustration with physical limitations, and don’t get me wrong, I do get frustrated, but as is also said in the song, “surely every season You are good to me.” Jesus has held me tightly through the frustrations and gifted me with immeasurable blessings – the numerous students who learned something from me.

Those blessings are my highlights this week, but I’m also celebrating the laps I managed around the auditorium on Cindy’s arm. I only walked with her a couple days, but I was overjoyed with the quality of my form. Like Augustus Waters, I’m on a roller coaster that only goes up (but our similarities stop there – I’ve got loads of living out my days walking left in me). 

First of all, I want to give a huge thanks to those who prayed through my birthday prayer requests this weekend. I warned you my post this week might be late but epic, and I don’t want to disappoint.

On Wednesday, I was thinking about how wonderful it would be to share my superwoman moment, and then this weekend I maintained my awesomeness at stellar levels. During my physio session, Anja and I were talking about how I was so grateful to have had physio with her in Germany because we trust each other and can try amazing new things. Then we pulled a superman. You know, that thing you do with little kids where the adult lays on the ground and the kid puts the other person’s feet on their own stomach and then is lifted into the air? I almost did that with Anja – she was stretching out my tight ankles and calves, and we got my legs in the air with Anja’s weight pushing down on my feet, watching carefully that my finicky ankles didn’t roll disastrously. 

I was so excited at the strength I saw in my legs as I held so much weight as well as the positive movement towards a normal foot position. The tough floor workout she put me through was exciting for me as I’m going into my fifth year with nerve damage. It was also exciting to think of all I can accomplish as I launch into my next year of adventuring far beyond what I ever imagined. This past weekend, I was able to have an incredible birthday celebration in a new city with old friends.

After I was done teaching on Friday, my friend Carol picked me up to drive to her temporary home just north of Paris for the weekend. We caught up on her past six months of travel around the states and then skyped her daughter before planning out our Saturday adventure. I’ve been looking forward to this for months as my birthday coordinated with not only Carol’s drive from Kandern to Paris, but also my best friend Kara’s European vacation. She and her boyfriend Eric planned their stops to meet up with us, and I finally got to hug my Taquito face to face for the first time in five years. 

Kara and I have been best friends since elementary school and survived middle school and high school together, so my life only makes sense with her in it in some form. I’ve mentioned her on this blog through the years as the friend who responds to my insane medical questions and talks me down from panic attacks about what might be happening inside my body because she is a trained medical professional. I had an absolute blast hanging out with her in the Louve, the Musee d’Orsay on Saturday, and then the Eiffel Tower on my actual birthday. It totally overshadowed the madness of Paris public transport in a wheelchair.

Guys, hear me clearly, don’t try the Paris metro in a wheelchair. It’s not accessible. However, I’m superwoman, and with Carol’s help and the help of some random strangers, I managed three unexpected flights of stairs and a bus detour to get from Carol’s house to the heart of Paris. It was way more work than I anticipated Saturday morning, but Sunday was a little better planned, and after visiting the windy accessible mid level of the Eiffel Tour, we went around the block to hang out at a cafe until Katrina met up with us.

I’m incredibly blessed with amazing friends who will adventure along side me and love me as I come. I’ve already mentioned Kara replies to my crazy person texts, and Carol has been by my side from day one to make sure I’m never left out of anything I want to go to. And some of you might remember that amazing trip to Budapest I had with Katrina last April. It was such an absolute joy to spend my best birthday yet with these fabulous friends – plus shout out to Eric who just met me but was willing to hang out with a rando for the better part of two days of his first visit to France. 

After a couple hours of laughing and enjoying the sun peeking out from behind the clouds, Katrina and I took a taxi to the train station and loaded up into our first class seats to Freiburg. We made it home just in time to get ready for bed though I was awakened by my phone buzzing just before the stroke of midnight as my nephews called to wish me a happy birthday.

It’s been the best one yet thanks to the amazing people encouraging and supporting me to achieve all these superwoman feats – from my physio who asks me to do crazy new things to my friends who explain how antibiotics are working inside me to my friends who make it possible for me to see new places no matter what my mobility level.

My German choir is learning a rendition of the Charlie Chaplin song “Smile,” and I really can’t stop smiling at the cute German accents pronouncing the soft “ch” in “aching” when they forget the sound is different in the English word. I really needed the reminder this week to smile – a coworker caught me coming into the office with something probably closer to a grimace and joked, “You dropped something,” as I wheeled past. “What?” I asked only to laugh when he replied, “Your smile.”

I like to think I usually have a smile on, but I did have several people comment this week on the lack thereof. I seemed to be wearing some tension on my face that I couldn’t hide. I honestly did have a lot to get done this week with the change of semester – finals to grade, a whole quarter to plan, an entire day of PD meetings, the timing of the DC meeting that requires me to leave my house at 7am every other week, a new class schedule that means I spend two to three hours longer at school than last semester. I’m wiped as I wind down tonight, and I’m looking forward to the homemade cheesecake reward an alumni is bringing me tomorrow.

Yes, there were a lot of stresses and “aching” and “heart breaking” moments, but I still want to smile. I want to smile through the crying, sure, but I also see the sunshine in a lot of things that happened this week as well. I get to go to choir and interact with these amazing German women who still love me despite my terrible language skills (and I love them all the more for their precious pronunciation of English lyrics). I also had a senior ask me to do an independent study with him going through the Bible study methods course I took in college because he wants to develop his engagement with Scriptures and learn to love Jesus better and become a better role model to the middle school kids who look up to him. Today, I listened to a different senior describe how she was growing in her faith as part of preparation I helped her do to prepare for a scholarship interview. Two other seniors came over to help clean my house after school and peppered me with theology questions related to what they’d been reading in their personal devotions, and I was reminded yet again of how much I love my job. I was stretched out on my couch after a full day at school and needed to give my legs a break from my chair, and my muscles were still aching from the intense floor workout Anja took me through two days ago, but I loved the chance to hear the interest in understanding how we differentiate between David’s laments and messianic prophecies in the psalms. 

It’s not hard to smile in moments like that. And honestly, it wasn’t hard to smile when at the start of my session Wednesday, Anja told me, “Don’t forget that I like you.” There was a big grin on my face when I replied, “I’m ready.” She helped me onto the floor and worked me through a series of exercises that would have been unimaginable over three years ago when she started working with me. I’m still super weak, but she’s targeting the muscles that need to grow to improve my stability when I’m walking. As I mentioned before, I’m still feeling the muscle aching, but I’m smiling knowing that those muscles are firing and sending pain signals to my brain – something I had no guarantee of post injury. 

I almost forgot one more reason to smile – I have an amazing birthday trip planned for this next weekend! Those of you following my story for over a year know I make an annual event for people to pray with me for five specific requests each year, and you can find the Facebook event linked here. I might be late posting next week, but I promise I’ll be celebrating well with some of my best friends from across my life and visiting a new city. 

This one snuck up on me.

But I’ve also seen it coming for a while.

I’ve been really intentional with this day for the past three years, marking it with good things that are central in my growth as a person and relationships that I value deeply. This year, I was delighted to discover my traumaversary would fall on the bi-weekly meeting of my Anglican family group. Every other Thursday, I gather with three other couples (two other couples are not in Kandern this year), and we share a meal and read the Bible together. People who know me well know reading the Bible out loud is one of my favorite activities, so doing that tonight with six of my close friends was the best way to mark this important date in my life. I share life with these people, and they treat me as a whole person. We talked about the New Zealand opportunity, and I heard about updates in their lives. We read Matthew 9-10 this week, and I loved encountering Jesus as the powerful healer in the stories.

I’ve been healed powerfully, and I anticipate more good things in my life from this Good Healer. I won’t stop asking to walk again and have the normal bodily functions return. Trust me, I’m desperate for that. I woke up in my own filth this morning thanks to nerve damage, but I also showered off and washed my sheets and gave a final exam to my precious students. Something about the apostle Paul’s “I can do all things” sentiment resonates more deeply in light of the list of things I accomplished today.

I also accomplished an amazing feat yesterday, but before I wow you, let me remind you that four years ago today I was told there was a 99% chance I’d never walk again. Okay, let that sink in before you read the next paragraph: 99% chance of never walking again.

Yesterday at physio, I walked barefoot on a treadmill going a steady pace for nearly a minute. I’m estimating the time because it felt like a full hour to me, but I know that’s just not possible. Realistically, it was something like a solid minute spread out over a couple stints between which I had to sit down and have a drink of water. Anja told me after that I did better than she’d even expected, but we were both so excited at how well I managed in spite of my poor balance and wobbly ankles. 

My friend Brandi drove me home after physio, and when she dropped me off, I was reflecting with her some of the emotions I had about today. I said something really profound, and I wish I’d written it down because it’s going to come out hollow here now. I was saying something about how I still don’t really understand myself as disabled, and I’m still processing how to deal with this huge shift in understanding myself while also still improving physically and maturing in my faith. The powerful statement was something like, “This didn’t change who I was, it deepened me into more of who God made me to be.” Again, it came out really naturally and beautifully in the car last night, so you’ll just have to get the gist of it and pretend I’m writing it eloquently even though it’s coming out clunky right now.

I’ll stick by that sentiment and thank God for the powerful maturing work that is still ongoing in my heart and body. 

I just had an amazing two hour conversation with one of my best friends across the ocean. Shannon and I were going over the details of the stress and celebrations this last week, and I was reflecting with her the crazy lives we’ve both lived over the past several years. I’m coming up on the four year traumaversary of breaking my back, and a month before my accident, I wrote a sappy post on my old blog referencing the scary dialogue between Gandalf and Bilbo in the first installment of The Hobbit movies indicating I might stay in Germany significantly longer than my initial two year commitment. 

Bilbo confesses his fear that if he leaves he may never come back, and Gandalf assures him even if he does come back, he would not be the same. I never wanted to leave my Shire-like Hillsboro, Oregon, and now I find myself reluctant to leave the Shire-like Kandern I’ve come to love over the last five years. However, I’ve learned my lesson that the adventure is worth it, and I’m ready to move to the real Shire.

After a crazy stressful week here attending accreditation meetings with nausea and waking up student’s brains, I skyped a youth pastor at a church in New Zealand – the country where The Hobbit was filmed – that has a perfect fit for me during my totalization year. If all the official check boxes get approved, I’ll visit America during July and August, the coldest months in New Zealand, before I make my way down under for ten months to live and serve with this amazing community. It’s not yet set in stone, so please pray with me this week that I’ll hear quickly about elder approval from the church. I’ll be able to share more details once I’ve figured out that this will for sure be happening. 

I’m praying it’s approved on all ends quickly, but I’m also taking a moment to celebrate what a huge relief it was to have this amazing, encouraging skype call. After almost a year of following leads that ended with a “no” or no answer, I’ve not only found a place that will agree to take me, but a place that wants me. This is huge for my soul.

Going into this week with my traumaversary, it’s a gift to know I’ve still got something to give to the world. I’m also going to celebrate all the good that has come into my life over the past four years, so be ready for that sappy post on Thursday. Until then, again, I’ll ask for your prayers that I hear back soon from the church with the official approval that I can come so I can plan my journey to my next Shire.

I told my friend I was going to go to bed in half an hour… and that was like fifteen minutes ago. Sometimes I can blast out an update quickly, so let’s see if that happens. Otherwise, I might be hitting the snooze button for five more minutes a couple extra times in the morning.

Actually, I know I can’t afford to snooze too late because I’ve got some prep to do for the finishing touches on my final after this last week of classes and want to give my kids a study guide tomorrow. When I rewrote my curriculum, I didn’t rewrite the final study guide, so I have to start that from scratch. This winter break has been great, but for the first time in five years, the three weeks went quickly. I’ve always felt like it stretched out forever, but now I’m so surprised that I have to go back to work already. I love my job, so I’m totally excited to see my precious students again, but I’m not looking forward to the alarm in the morning. 

I’ve still got three more weeks of antibiotics that make me sick, so I’ll have to try to get up extra early to eat sooner and let the nausea wear off before I have to teach. Unfortunately, I’ve got three morning meetings this week that I’ll just try to keep my mouth shut during – mostly for fear that I’ll vomit rather than say something stupid (although that’s always a possibility). I don’t get to sleep through those, and I don’t really want to. I mean, I will when the alarm goes off, but, remember, I love my job. (I remind myself that when I want five more minutes of sleep and have to get moving.) 

Once the nausea wears off, the days are delightful and worry free. Okay, that’s hyperbole, but honestly, my days aren’t the worst with nausea. I freaking traveled through Wittenberg, Dresden, and Berlin ready to toss my cookies; three morning meetings won’t get me down.

I was chatting with someone at church this morning, and in a moment of rare honesty, I told him nausea made traveling extra hard, but I wasn’t going to pass up this amazing trip because of six weeks on this stupid antibiotic. I’m not going to let life pass me by because I have neurological damage. Also, I’m a rock star, and on Friday afternoon I walked around the auditorium five times without my braces just holding Cindy’s arms. Three of those laps were one handed. 

I’m kinda amazed that Cindy is friends with me and will so graciously help me. She’s excited to watch my improvements, and I love to see how quickly my body remembers those slow and unsteady steps after a couple weeks with just moving my legs on the exercise bike in my house. I’d much rather find myself looking for five more minutes of walking than sleeping, and I hope that’ll be the report after next week. (Though give me grace if the meetings exhaust me, and maybe say a prayer that I’d sleep well this week with the extra stress of various school stuff.)

(I typed this in 8 minutes. If it’s good, I’m a rock star. If it’s bad, hey, it was only 8 minutes, what can you do in that time?)

I’m posting this update later than normal, and I’ll ask for your forgiveness, a mercy if you like, as I give all the details of my full and adventurous previous ten days. If you’re not interested in the intricacies of my celebrations and travels, I’ll write a “too long; didn’t read” down at the bottom.

I posted last just before Christmas Eve, and I was fortunate to celebrate that prominent holiday with my English neighbors who invited me over for the evening meal and good conversation. Jan walked with me across the street so I could move my legs and leave the wheelchair behind. I’m always grateful for the friends who are patient enough with me to let me take the extra few minutes to have a chance to walk somewhere. Christmas Day similarly celebrated my strengths as I was picked up by my friend Mary Lou and headed over to my American adopted family’s house to hang out filter free for several hours. I’d opened my presents from my family in the morning and immediately put on my Bob’s Burgers t-shirt that my mom sent, knowing these particular friends would appreciate the humor. I slept in the next day and read a lot through the afternoon before Gundi picked me up to take me to her house for the traditional German second Christmas meat fondue with her family. I’m still incredibly humbled that this family has also adopted me and made sure I’m included in this annual tradition. I also feel like it’s my annual leveling up in German as this year I was able to have almost a full conversation in German about American politics. I’m still woefully deficient for living in this country for almost five years, but my German friends are incredibly patient with me.

After my thoroughly international Christmas celebrations, my Canadian friend and I hopped on a train to make our way to Wittenberg for a day and a half. This is my third big train trip, and I still love this form of travel in a wheelchair above flying or driving. I’ve got so much more flexibility in my movements, and the nice people help me on and off the trains with their super handy lifts, sometimes leaving me up high for a ride down the platform to the connecting train. Crystal and I made it to Wittenberg in the late afternoon and snapped a selfie in the still decorated street as we looked for a place to get some food. The next morning we headed to Luther’s house for my ultimate nerd experience as I read all the history of the reformation from the sassy reformer’s very home converted into a museum of his life. Crystal convinced me to get out of my wheelchair and take the single step into part of the exhibit not provided with a ramp to see even more of the cool articles and artifacts. As usual, I was so glad we were able to maneuver me through more of the rooms than were easy to access with the wheelchair. I missed out on a non-accessible 500 anniversary display the city was holding, but the little hurdles like the single wooden step were so easy to overcome with just a little help.

I needed more than a little help navigating around the next city as we discovered loads of widely spaced cobblestone covering the ancient streets of Dresden. I’m fortunate to have friends willing to push me when my body so easily exhausts itself, and Crystal was also sympathetic to the jostling over cobblestones draining my energy despite me being pushed through most of the streets. We met up with some friends of Crystal and they gave us the local highlights and helped me find my way into the back entrance of the relatively recently rebuilt Frauenkirche so I could be lifted up and wheeled in between speakers and concert equipment as they prepared for a New Year’s celebration in the church.

Since this is the long version, I’m going to detour here to talk about the emotions of accessibility in ancient places. Yeah, I totally get that the church was built before wheelchairs were a thing, but just think about how it feels to be pushed around to a back entrance (along the super rough cobblestone because apparently it would ruin the aesthetic to have a smooth paved path to the handicap entrance) which is being used as a loading dock and to be blended in with the materials being carted into the church rather than distinctly recognized as an autonomous human. Now, to be clear, all the guys doing heavy lifting were polite and gracious and fully accommodating. It’s just the principle of being relegated to the service entrance that’s sometimes wearing. In so many places, I’m grateful they’ve accommodated spaces and made adjustments to make it possible for me to enter at all. The castle church in Wittenberg had a broken lift to the regular handicap entrance, so they unlocked a special side door for me to still have access. I just have to acknowledge the gratitude for any access at all in conjunction with the recognition that it’s occasionally a lower quality experience.

I really did enjoy the stop in Dresden, though, and Crystal’s friends were a lot of fun to spend time with. Saturday morning we spent time chatting in Starbucks before Crystal and I caught our next train to the final city of the trip – Berlin. I was pretty wiped energy wise from Friday’s cobblestone sightseeing, and I didn’t have as much energy as I would have liked once we finally made it to our hotel in the southeast corner of Berlin. Since it was already dark, not great weather, and no good food options nearby, Crystal and I opted for a makeshift meal in the hotel before our adventure in the morning. We got up in time to take the subway into the heart of the city and made our way to the Dome for the Sunday morning service. It was another service elevator around the back situation, but I was able to get around the sanctuary and loved listening to the German liturgy and enjoying the Protestant attempt at Catholic decor. (Germans really love their reformers, by the way. I expected it in Wittenberg, but there was also a huge statue of Luther in front of the church in Dresden, and the Berliner Dome has their two famous reformers staring down at parishioners in the front of the ornate church flanked by the two famous Swiss ones on the sides.)

After the service, we had lunch with another one of Crystal’s friends before taking her recommendation to visit the National History Museum after we discovered the DDR had an hour long wait in the rain before entry (plus a perilous looking stone ramp that was wet too). I was absolutely delighted with the choice though, and I happily spent over an hour in the Reformation section alone, but I could easily have gone back to that exhibit every day for a week and found more interesting things about German history. I’d exhausted myself after about four hours, and Crystal generously let me take my time and then pushed me most of the way back through the cold rain. Fortunately, we each found suitable food in stores open in the early evening of New Year’s Eve before we holed up in our hotel to watch the fireworks from our window.

We’d hoped to visit the Jewish Memorial on the way to the train station, but when we came up from the subway stop at the Brandenburg Tor, we discovered the huge celebration from New Year’s was still blocking the road and would have been a huge hassle to navigate around in the wheelchair. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to plan a new route and make it to the train station in time, so we just took our time bumping me along the rough cobblestone to see the Parliament building and navigate to the train station. Our route crossed right over where the Berlin Wall stood just a couple decades ago, and I remembered to get a final picture in Berlin before we left. It was a short trip, but I was delighted with everything I was able to do. I do recognize the significant limitations I had navigating over cobblestone sections and sapping my energy quickly, not to mention the long term antibiotic I’m on usually starts my day with two hours of nausea whether or not I’ve eaten enough. Some days are better than others, but the last six were rough as I swayed on trains and subways and jostled over cobblestones to visit the antiquities. I’d love a life where I didn’t have those kinds of complications, but I still had a magnificent trip with amazing opportunities. I could write a whole essay on being a paralyzed person learning to walk again first seeing a church with weathered 18th century sandstone that survived the WWII bombing slotted in where possible in the reconstruction during my lifetime. That church was devastated, but someone saw potential for rebirth and renewal. I was told I’d never walk again, but I’m not letting that stop me from living an amazing life each day.

Again, there’s still this balance between the struggles and successes I’m finding post paralysis. The train ride back to Kandern was an excellent example. On the first leg from Berlin to Erfurt, an old man was sitting in my reserved disabled seat. When Crystal asked him to move to another disabled seat, he adamantly refused. When I came into the cabin, he even refused to move his bag out of my way to let me stretch my feet out on Crystal’s reserved seat. In each leg, we’re both reserved a seat, and I use mine to sit in while stretching my legs out onto my wheelchair to help with the stiffness and potential blood clots. I’d been counting on this train trip to be the relaxing portion of the day where I could stretch my legs after the uncomfortable nausea and cobblestone physical reality of my morning (remember how I have to balance the adventurous experiences with physical struggles). Instead, however, for this leg, I was parked the spot for my wheelchair, unable to move myself at all.

For a few centuries now, some monastics have been practicing a meditative prayer with only twelve powerful words. As I struggled with the angry German man refusing to move from my disabled seat while to him I was clearly fine in my wheelchair, I recited the prayer silently. My lips moved with the words, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Twenty minutes into the hour and a half train ride, my legs still ached and longed to stretch out, lifted up on my chair like I’d planned. However, my heart softened a little bit towards this cranky old man. Jesus has been merciful to me, and I hope I never come across as difficult and unyielding as this poor man. What awful things have embittered him towards other disabilities? He insisted he was also disabled, and I don’t doubt him, but his response to me put me at risk he couldn’t guess about. I can’t see everyone else’s problems, so I hope this experience can remind me to be empathetic to the unseen needs of others. My needs are equal, and I never want to trump another genuine need. I’ll be honest, this was a hard conclusion to reach, and the attitude is more a “fake it til you are it” situation. I know in my head that’s the right response, but my heart is slow in coming around.

I was near tears at the stiffness and discomfort an hour in, but the cabin shuffled around for me as two other passengers could see the concern I was poorly masking, and I was able to move to a different disabled spot, and Crystal graciously massaged my legs for several minutes to help with the stiffness and blood circulation. Fortunately, the next two legs were flawless, and our reserved seats were undisputed, and we were picked up right when our train arrived in Freiburg to be driven all the way back to Kandern. (Those familiar with German trains might wonder why we stopped so far from home, but that’s another hurdle with the wheelchair – I can only get off the train at stations with that fancy lift and an employee to operate it.)

I’ve been shown incredible mercy by a loving God who softens my heart towards others. I’ve still got a long way to go to be better loving, but this past week was a beautiful opportunity to celebrate the friendships that I’ve graciously been given and to enjoy the beauty and history in my host country. I also found unexpected ways to let the Lord sand down some hardness in my heart and hopefully learn to love others better.

tl;drI have amazing community in Kandern with whom I celebrated Christmas, and I’m fortunate enough to be able to still adventure despite paralysis and ongoing complications that require nauseating medications. I’m even learning to be a better human and to look for ways to be less of a jerk face.

So I accidentally wiped my whole hard drive yesterday when an update on my computer went wrong. Don’t worry, the only document I didn’t have backed up anywhere was the draft scraps of what I planned to shape into a memoir. It’s par for the course in my life, really. I’m notoriously bad with technology, but I have a super gracious coworker who took my computer for the day and managed to reset it to allow me to still use this expensive gift that’s barely four years old. In all honesty, I’m praising God that I’m typing this week’s update on my laptop instead of my phone because it was quite an exciting week.

Tuesday, as I mentioned last week, was my planned Botox appointment, and I got in some work in the morning, racing Chris to see who could get more stuff accomplished. I was ready to go when Brandi pulled up at a quarter to one, and we talked about how the Lord is refining me to love difficult people and to be a better representative of Jesus. I wheeled down the familiar hallway to the urology department at REHAB, and waited outside as the nurse told me she had to go find her coworker before we could start my procedure. In the couple minutes I was waiting, I was delighted to see Danai, my favorite nurse from my stay in REHAB, walk down the hallway. We chatted briefly before she had to go on her way doing actual work, and I was ready to start my Botox treatment.

Round three felt like a breeze, and I chatted in my limited German to the nurses hooking up an IV in my arm and all the fun probes down below. “The medicine isn’t in yet,” one commented as I closed my eyes and settled in. “Yeah, it’s all the same to me though,” I lazily replied. “Okay then, you can go to sleep,” she told me. I took a few nice deep breaths and listened to the snap, crackle, and pop of buttons, medical wrappings, and machines as they monitored my blood pressure and prepared all the other needles and whatnots that went on. A couple minutes later, I felt the medication kick in as my eyes felt heavier, and I took in slower, deep breaths to let the medication work it’s magic and let me sleep. Next thing I remember, the two nurses were helping me from the table attached to stirrups onto a now adjacent hospital bed. I closed my eyes again and opened them to see the clock at 3pm.

I blinked and fifteen minutes had passed, and a nurse was telling me something about two new medications I needed to take. Turns out that nasty infection I wrote about that first prompted me to ask for this Botox again because it ignited all my pre-Botox symptoms had left some lasting damage despite my Angocin and garlic treatment. The nurse said the doctor had found lots of redness and inflammation in my bladder and wanted me to take these two medications to treat it. One I could begin right away for just two weeks and the other I would need to wait to start until my antibiotic was finished and would have to take until the start of February. I don’t remember her telling me anything else, but a quick google search Thursday informed me I was on an NSAID for the inflammation and a long term antibiotic to clean out my poor abused bladder. But, hey, at least it’s wrinkle free now. I napped for another half hour before the nurse helped me out of the bed and into my wheelchair where I made my way into the entry and found Brandi waiting for me. I asked her if she’d be up for checking out who was on duty in my old station. We just missed Danai at the shift change, and I was super bummed to find out the patient I’d hoped to surprise with a visit wasn’t in her room either. Brandi and I made a scene with the fancy coffee machine that hates people and chatted for a bit with makeshift mochas before she brought me back to her house for the night.

I absolutely love her family who I have forced to adopt me, and I had a blast hanging out with them for the next twenty-four hours while they made sure I didn’t drop dead after going under anesthesia. We watched the first installment of Lord of the Rings and dreamed about me going to New Zealand next year. 

Oh, yeah, that’s an important public announcement. I’ve vaguely alluded to searching for a placement for my totalization in Australia or New Zealand, and I recently sent out my Christmas letters letting people close to me know that’s where I’m actively looking for a sabbatical placement. I’ve got a single strong lead in New Zealand, and I’m hoping to know more about that the first week of January. I have a couple hopeful options left in Australia as well, but the NZ option has a lot of appeal for reasons I’m scared to name. In some ways, it’s too perfect, and I’m scared to hope too much that it happens because of how heartbroken I might be if it doesn’t work out. 

But just as I’m going to put all my hope in a full physical recovery and ask you to pray for that, I’m going to ask you to pray with me that this New Zealand option would work out for me as well.

I’ve got a lot of hope even as I’m limping into the start of 2018, and next year has so much potential as a clean slate for a whole bunch of beautiful things to be written just like that eventual draft of my memoir that I’ll begin again (and maybe back up online this time).

I finally made it to Christmas break. It was a bit touch and go at the end, but I took it one day at a time. Actually, to be completely honest, I was taking it about ten minutes at a time. I wrote a post a long time ago ripping of my friend Q’s idea about how some days all she can do is take a breath and get through the next ten minutes. 

I post a lot of vivid details about my life on the internet, but I’m not going to air out any grievances related to the stressors of the past week on a public forum. I listened to a super convicting sermon online today that included an anecdote of a man filling out a crossword and asked the people around him, “What is a four letter word for a strong emotional reaction toward a difficult person?” One person first responds, “Hate,” but another pipes in, “No! Love.” 

I’m trying to respond in love this week to the difficulties around me. I had a really difficult meeting at the end of the day on Friday and just a couple hours later I found myself sitting the Lutheran church looking at the large sculpture of Jesus hanging on the cross. I remember growing up being repulsed by the high church tradition of displaying Jesus on the cross. “He’s not there! He rose from the dead!” I’d indignantly shout to anyone around me. I didn’t like to look at that gross, feeble body dying for my sins. This week as I sat in the church during my choir rehearsal, I couldn’t look away. Jesus did that willingly for me, and I was reminded of a conversation with my friend Michele about the pain she’s been going through over the past several weeks.

We’re both rationally hoping to avoid pain, but in the midst, we’re looking for the ways we can learn more about Jesus. I’m honestly still processing through all of my last couple months, but I’m treasuring the lessons that make me a better teacher, a better friend, and a more mature Christ follower. 

I feel a weird need to apologize for yet another week with no physical progress, but for some health updates, I did start a regimen of antibiotics on Friday in preparation for another round of Botox on Tuesday. I’m looking forward to it – I’m like a pro now headed into my third time with this treatment. I’m not looking forward to the medical paperwork that’s already started with it, but I can just message my friend Kari to commiserate about our insurance that we are actually grateful for because a lot of stuff is covered despite all the hassle of claims and payments. 

I have a whole lot of stuff I’m hoping to accomplish over this break, but I can’t think too far ahead or I lose sight of what’s in front of me. I’m going to stick with the ten minute increments to accomplish what I need to get done. Now that a couple ten minute slots have been spent on this, I’m headed to bed to rest up for a day of one task at a time. Please pray that my body will get some much needed sleep – I’ve spent nearly four hours laying awake in bed the past two nights waiting for my leg spasms to settle before getting just three to four hours of sleep. 

Like all healthy people, I like happy things. I look for them to celebrate, and I create positivity when I can. I have a lot of negative crap in my life, so part of the way I keep myself from drowning in pessimism is to intentionally highlight the happy.

Sometimes that makes people think I don’t experience sadness or negativity when in reality it’s just that I’m not always the best at portraying them well side by side publicly on the internet. Honestly, a lot of crappy stuff happened this week, and I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to focus on my body well in light of the negative distractions. However, there were a lot of positive things that have a significantly longer reach of importance that I’ll choose to celebrate.

I still don’t know where I’m going next year, but I have found a huge resource that will help me moving forward. I woke up this morning to blustery snow that’s difficult for me to navigate alone, but I have a wonderful community in Kandern that will help me stay safe and get the places I need to go. I watched the volunteer firefighters zoom into the parking spots outside my window as I started to write this, and I’m so thankful there are so many people willing to use their abilities to help others in need.

This week was a wash when it comes to the physical progress, but I’m choosing to keep my eyes ahead on the good things in store next week. At the very least, I’ll be on Christmas break and can put a significant dent in my ever growing reading list.

I’m not a fan of homework – what weirdo is? I do assign it, however, and I expect my students to do it. Generally in my class, I assign classwork that becomes homework when the students don’t finish before the bell rings. I’ve had to field a particular question a lot this year as I’ve passed out papers or instructed students to do something at the end of class.

“Is this formative?” They ask expectantly, knowing if the answer is yes, their grade in the class will not be impacted by the score on this assignment. What they fail to recognize is that there is a direct connection to them understanding the content of my class. I don’t assign busywork. 

The fancy-pants graduate school terms I learned for assessments indicated that formative was in process and summative was a culmination of learning. We’ve adopted those terms at BFA with various levels of success. Whenever the question comes up in class, I tell my students the direct answer, and we also have a mini conversation about the value of the particular formative assignment. 

“When I’m asking you to write a Screwtape Letter, it’s a chance for you to evaluate the concepts of spiritual warfare that we’ve discussed yesterday and today through media representations and scriptural realities and then connect them to your daily life as you identify how spiritual warfare happens at BFA. No, this doesn’t impact your GPA, but it has implications in your real life. It’s forming you as a person.”

Actually, that wasn’t a direct quote from class, but, man, I’m saving that articulate statement for next semester. In reality, all but the last sentence is an accurate paraphrase, and that’s the sentence I want to capitalize on. The last sentence is probably the most important when it comes to assignments in my class: it’s forming you as a person. I did have my students write Screwtape letters in class on Tuesday, and then I left them in the capable hands of a couple seniors from study hall on Wednesday and Thursday while I went to a summit on biblical education upstairs in my building. There was no grade attached to those class discussions, but I heard from the substitute in the room and a couple follow up conversations that there was great content brought up that could impact their faith formation.

I was also quite excited by the conversations upstairs. I listened to valuable thoughts and questions brought up by various representatives from Christian international schools across the globe who came together to talk about what some of the most critical elements in biblical education are. I’m fairly confident that I’ll be able to look back years from now and say some of the conversations that came out of this event were formative in my life and career. I love being an educator because it means being a lifelong learner. 

I’m also formed by the assignments and lessons with Anja in physio, and this week she tied makeshift parallel bars around me for a second week in a row and patiently taught me how to simultaneously work out my triceps, core, and ankles with a single exercise. Unfortunately, I haven’t found another makeshift parallel bar situation to work this out on my own, but she was also excited about my improved form from last week to this week’s session. The little things Anja encourages me to do on my own time and the daily “formative” assignments are forming me into the person who’s capable of the summative achievements like walking barefoot with only a little weight on Anja’s hands for balance and support.

Yeah, that happened too, and it was awesome. 

The complexity of my life brings the lifelong learning together in my ongoing physio and my career as a passionate biblical educator. I’m excited about that union that allows for me to be deeply formed by Jesus in every facet of my life. There’s still a lot for me to learn, and I hope you’ll join with me in praying that my body learns new nerve pathways as I keep forming muscle memory as well as that my head and my heart will learn more about how to better love and represent Jesus to my students.

While it was only a half week of work for most in America, I had school every day, and two big meals to celebrate my international community. I’ll be honest, this week went by in a blur because of the business of school colliding with the inherent American need to feast at the end of November. I worked hard to stay on top of all my responsibilities and still have a social life. 

I managed to schedule in an adventure off campus in the middle of my long Tuesday as my friend Christal and I got drive through coffee in Lörrach between my early morning meeting and first class. We cut it a little close driving back because of traffic from an accident being cleared off the road, but I shouted into the window at a student as Christal unloaded my wheelchair from the car. “Peter! Get everyone in a circle for a class discussion!” I wheeled around to the accessible door and back down the hallway to find my students chatting softly in neat rows. “Peter! This is not a circle!” I shouted across the room as I made it in at the start of class. All my work in planning seemed for naught, yet the class was in action within seconds, and, by the grace of God, we had a decent discussion on the power and habits of the Holy Spirit.

It’s an apt snapshot of my week: I think I’ve planned out everything beautifully, but one detail is off and I’m scrambling to make it work only to realize I’m not the one making anything happen at all. Everything got done that was supposed to, I think, but I still can’t shake the feeling I’m forgetting something in preparation for next week or month or year… Every day I opened my computer to find more emails (but not the ones I was waiting for), and every day I replied to as many as I had the focus for. I also had a stack of doctrine statements to read and record grades for. Meanwhile my TA was complaining every day as he came in to the same slowly shrinking stack of study guides to mark. You should have seen his face when he realized he’d have to do the same thing next semester – and then when I told him there was a second study guide so it was a total of four rounds. 

So at least I’ve had a good laugh through this week. Actually, quite a few. My students are hilarious, and some of them make an effort to cheer me up when I get frustrated with a lack of engagement on homework assignments or am fighting those annoying leg spasms that come back every winter. The spasms are weaker and more infrequent each winter, but I still get frustrated with the slower pace of recovery. Anja and I worked through the spasms to get me to practice some balance and ankle movement in some makeshift parallel bars, and I’m still hopeful for the skills my body can recover with intense practice. 

I’m thankful for the chance to keep working with a qualified professional who can help me move forward, and I’m thankful for the friends who gave me a safe space to laugh this week when stress made me want to cry. I’m also thankful for my job that let me show up to work on an American holiday so I could talk to students about the nature of salvation. My gratitude also extends to all of you who will keep reading my updates four years post accident when they settle into a routine with a hint of normalcy. I still have the struggles of paralysis, and I’m still fighting past them, so I hope you’ll pray with me to stay on top of some of the lifestyle changes that I think treated the back pain from a couple weeks ago.

During this morning’s prayers of intercession at church, we heard about a ministry our congregation supports that helps young women who are victims of violent acts. As I looked at the smiling faces of women who have been redeemed, I still found myself quick to thank God I was protected from such a horrific past. Then I repented of that strange reasoning as I realized it was likely what people thought when they look at me. 

You see, I don’t want people to look at me and think, “Thank God I didn’t have to live through that tragedy.” Instead I want more comments like a current student who once wrote on an assignment, “Listening to Ms. Hewett talk about her passion for Jesus makes me want to know more about him.” Yeah, I had a lot of back pain last week; that’s an unavoidable part of my physical reality. I also had a couple amazing conversations with students. There was also some work stress. Fortunately my TA sensed my frustration with grading halfhearted assignments and reminded me of those amazing conversations. 

Another bonus this week was a significant decrease in the back pain. There is still not certain diagnosis, though Anja and I have a pretty good guess and have treated it appropriately. I’ve spent most nights falling asleep after half an hour laying on my heating pad to help as well. Since winter has settled into Kandern, walking outside is more of a struggle with the wind and the wet. I’ve spent several days exercising on the stationary bike in my apartment instead of walking which, while second best, is still vital movement for my legs. 

In so many ways, my recovery was boring this week. I’m happy to report that over the pain of last week, and I can still honestly say my life is amazing. Despite the lack of miraculous jumps forward physically and the week of grading stress, a student told me she wants to get baptized in the spring and wants me involved someway. How am I so incredibly fortunate to have a role to play in this precious child’s life? Why am I so ridiculously blessed to get to serve these amazing students who want to grow in their relationship with Jesus?

I’ve always felt asking “why me” when it comes to the reality of my accident isn’t worth my time. Instead, I want to ask “what next” related to my body. I hope you’ll pray with me for a big “what’s next” this coming week. I want to see something amazing despite the winter pain, and I want to be humbled yet again that God uses me in ways I can’t imagine as I serve in this position.

An alumni recently messaged my TA encouraging him to “always be a pain the the butt” to me. I know this because the alum sent me a screenshot of the request, but fortunately the TA was respectful of the pain in my back that showed up last weekend. I had a bit of a rough Sunday, and Monday was some of the most intense pain I’ve had since leaving REHAB. I skipped choir to lay flat and keep heat on my lower back and was feeling much better on Tuesday though it had a recurrence mid Wednesday and remained on my radar up through today. It’s not been bad all yesterday or today, but I pulled my good ol’ corset out of the closet on Monday and have been wearing it intermittently this week to relieve the pain. 

I’m aware of the two most likely causes of my back pain, and I’m treating them intensely and looking at how the symptoms resolve. Since the heat has been such an effective treatment, it’s quite possibly just strain on my back. The other possible cause can possibly resolve with diet changes that I’ve implemented and will continue to keep watch. I’m so grateful for all the prayers, and I hope you’ll continue praying with me as I move forward and hopefully find less pain and less stress all around next week. 

With the pain and the end of the quarter grading and some other well timed stressors, this week was the perfect storm of overwhelming, but I can’t tell you how amazing it was to open my mailbox on Friday and find that a woman from my sending church in Denver had mailed me a pack of Trader Joe’s Instant Coffee All Dressed Up. Anyone who knows me knows my love for coffee, and probably recognizes this isn’t good quality coffee like that stuff I used to have a student give me from the DR. This is, however, my single homesick item. I drank this cheap coffee every day I was student teaching in grad school, and it’s a calming taste of home. This morning I made myself a soothing cup of TJ’s coffee and remembered all the people who are praying for me and preventing me from burnout. I thanked God for the gift of good friends here on the field in Germany like Jan who had me over for scones and tea on Monday, the Bryans who let me read Narnia to their kids after tacos on Tuesday, and Josh and Morgan who let me hold their screaming babies and have some cathartic conversation Thursday.

I love my job so much, and I love that I get to have alumni who come visit and make me delicious shrimp pasta or graciously run my weekend errands (unlike their little brothers who message current students to be a pain in my butt). I celebrate those beautiful things as I do my ministry here, and I’m thankful for the chance to educate my wonderful students.

My back hurts. I don’t say that much – I hope – but there’s often a dull ache that goes along with the hum of my life. Today it’s a little worse than normal. Today it hurts. And yet today was a wonderful day. Yesterday too. 

The pain started yesterday, and I tried to wiggle and stretch and move to make myself comfortable in my wheelchair, but nothing settled my muscles just right. It exacerbated my insomnia which meant I was awake for the two different messages from alumni wanting to talk about theology and philosophy. I can’t express the joy that sang through the pain to be able to respond right away to “What’s Romans 1 all about?” 

I’m not really sure what started this increased discomfort in my lower back (well, other than breaking a couple vertebrae four years ago), but I took a couple ibuprofen to help me sleep which I do as infrequently as possible. I’ve just popped another two which I’d like to stress the rarity of. Again, I don’t know why my body is rebelling today, but I’m going to celebrate the good that came through this week. I got out for a couple good walks, and despite Hunter and Cindy both going away for the volleyball tournament, I got Cindy’s daughter to go for a walk with me this afternoon. 

She’d come over for lunch with a couple friends, and after the dorm students went home, she and I headed down the street towards the school. We passed by her house on the way which I’d recently celebrated reaching with Cindy and blasted past the school soon after. I made it past the recyclinghof which is about 400 meters from my house. It’s not my record, but I did it with no braces, and have I mentioned the pain in my back today? 

“That wasn’t too bad,” I told my student as I had her put the brakes on my wheelchair for me to sit down. I wish I could keep her in my pocket always, because this amazing kid spent most of the journey back to my house letting me know how impressive I am. Sometimes I need to hear that because I still feel like I need to justify my presence. It’s a compounded feeling of being a missionary on display and being disabled. The kind messages that came through this past week helped fight that phantom guilt and meant a lot to me as I keep working to live and serve well.

I hope you’ll continue to look for nice things to say to others through this week. Perhaps you’d also think of me and pray that my pain would dissipate tonight never to return. More importantly, I’d like prayers that I can still glorify God through my pain. I don’t want it to be a distraction. Like Ivan Denisovich uses the cold in Solzhenitsyn’s novel, I want the pain to be a tool to focus my energy and accomplish amazing things. Also it’d be cool if I could walk again too. Today I managed 400 meters brace free through the pain. What might tomorrow bring?

I love my job.

I wheeled through dog poop on my way to get groceries this morning.

These things can coexist, and I’ll still choose to say that my life is wonderful despite the (literally and metaphorically) crappy moments. Yesterday, two students came over for tea, and we were talking about how I remember my high school experience simultaneously fondly and with chagrin. They both reflected 2016 had overall been really rough but for both of them also included the highlight of acceptance to BFA. I love that I got to process through that with them.

I really love my job, but the crappy experience of cleaning dog crap out of my wheelchair is not one of my favorite things. In fact, there’s a lingering stink as I write this because I’ve got other more pressing things (I’m teaching next period, I forgot to write this over the weekend because I was grading quarter projects and planning my next two months of lessons and assessments…). I genuinely wish this blog could be a celebration of new physical achievements each week, and, honestly, there are those through each week, but the past few days have been full of my professional life as I assess the learning of my students through a major project, plan out how I will engage and educate them through the rest of the semester based on this learning, and, impossible to forget, look for possible placements for me during my totalization year. 

Fortunately on that final front, I have a really positive lead, and I’m praying for the possible placement in the southern hemisphere for the direct benefit of not having to deal with any winter leg spasm increases. Please pray with me for that ongoing search to move forward quickly so that I can focus my time and energy on my cold calves that are starting to tighten up as the temperature drops in Germany.

Remember how I love my job? One of the things I love is the chance to have a positive impact on my students. My day may have had a crappy start, but then when I wheeled onto campus today still trying to wash off crap through the little puddles along the way, a student came over to chat with me during her break between periods. She brightened my day, and I can’t minimize the meaning of her brief positive words to counteract the crap. My coworker did the same once I came into the office and he heard about the dog poop. 

Last Thursday, I decided to email nice things to three people I really respect to let them know I appreciate them. I realized there was a lot of negativity in my work environment, and I wanted my supervisors to know how much I value the hard work they do. I encouraged some of my students and even a couple alumni to do the same. One of the alum sent me a screen shot of his nice message to a current student and the response, “Ms. Hewett is making you do this too?” Well, as a friend at church pointed out yesterday, I can’t make them do anything. All I can do is encourage you to contribute some positivity to your world. Find five people you value and tell them why they matter to you. 

I’ll start with a public one. My friend and co-advisory teacher Michele is a rock star. She and I are probably two of the most positive people on the planet, and we slogged through a quarter of super negative attitudes from students, but her encouragement, patience, and levelheadedness helped me to persevere in the face of incessant complaints. Shout out to her for being the sweetest person ever who, when our students asked to give “highs and lows” as “happy and crappy” of the week, drew a poop emoji on the board so there was no evidence of her using that word.

After wheeling through some literal crap this morning and metaphorical crap through this month, I’m not even going to feel ashamed saying I can be one of your five people if you’d like to say something nice to me. Every positive comment really does mean a lot. I read them all, and they encourage me to persevere through the crap as I clean off my wheelchair and keep learning to walk.

About twelve years ago I went to my first Demon Hunter concert (above left). They were my favorite band at the time and remain so to this day. When I discovered they’d be in Germany just a couple hours away, I wanted to find a way to see them, but unfortunately the complications of my life made it impossible to buy tickets in the moment and make my way there independently. Sadly, I wasn’t able to attend the concert tonight to see Demon Hunter perform in my host country, but I wore my Blessed Resistance (their fan club) t-shirt to the staff concert tonight (above right). 

I’m considered a little odd by people at my school because I listen to metal Christian bands, but I embrace that and show up at the staff recital with no shame. I toe that line of controversy.

I also have a toe infection.

I just don’t have the energy after the stress of this week to write a more creative segue than that. 

It’s been a bit of a pain to deal with, but I’m super grateful for the quality of care available to me and the friends who are willing to check in on me to make sure I’m healing okay. And I am on the mend at this point, but it made for a bit of added stress with added leg spasms from my ankle and foot shouting out too late for me to catch the ingrown toenail before a minor infection showed up. 

Hopefully next week I’ll have finished the morning and evening disinfecting routine that ends with kids bandaids (sadly I ran out of Avengers bandaids and had to move on to generic bugs and animals) and can relate more of the walking adventures. Pray with me it’s sooner rather than later that I can walk to the apotheke to pick up the disinfectant – and pray that I won’t need the disinfectant for my toe.  

My life has highs and lows closely aligned, and this week was no different. I had a crazy stress filled week with a lot of business and a lot of blessings packed in. 

The thing I’ve been most excited to write about was my record breaking walk on Wednesday though. Hunter and I headed out from my house with no braces but with Michele’s generous donation of arch supports to my on fleek Nikes. I rocked down the street with those babies and didn’t sit down until the Rathaus. For those of you unfamiliar with Kandern geography, that’s a full 500 meters. Anja was excited to celebrate with me at therapy, and I was excited to try again on Friday. Hunter and I tried a different route, and I still made the half kilometer mark with relative ease.

I’m overjoyed at this mark of progress. As I told Anja Wednesday, I’ll have more next week, but she wisely reminded me to not forget the magnitude of this accomplishment. It is a huge deal for me.

I’m so excited about more walking progress, but I’m also going to be honest with a frustration at the step back in other functions I’d often prefer. A minor bathroom setback is nothing in the face of the walking improvement, but it’s less than I’d like to have. I’m still praying for everything to show up in my recovery – and that means full control of all muscle functions. 

Pray with me this week for more function all over my body and less inhibition from neurological damage. But don’t forget to celebrate with me just as I already know an unnamed coworker will on Monday by shouting the German pronunciation of my name and promising me tacos on Tuesday. 

I’m emotionally tapped out. I knew it was coming, and I should have written this post before the final Westport service, but I didn’t know what to say.

Twelve years ago, I listened to a sermon from two guys who were starting a new church in my neighborhood. I jumped on the team as they launched what became Westport Church, and I just listened to two and a half hours of stories of Westport as it concluded its time as a church body in Hillsboro. Next week the members living in the area will gather with the members of another church called Colossae, and they will become a new body.

I’ll still be here in Germany.

I’m not conflicted in any way, shape, or form about my service here. That doesn’t change the waves of emotions that wash over me as I watch Erin jump around on the stage for the last time where I once jumped around dressed up as Justin Bieber six or seven years ago. Or remembering Shane hand me a check for my plane ticket to Germany just over five years ago when he prayed over me and the church sent me out. 

They sent me out a little different – my hair was shorter. Oh, and I could walk. And everyone regularly attending Westport was familiar with my name. Now the number who’d recognize me is significantly fewer, and the wheelchair seems strange to them. The Westport chapter in my life closed in some ways when I moved to Germany, but I was still sobbing through a lot of the stories and songs. They ended the service with Chris Tomlin’s song “I Lay Me Down,” and I lost it. 

I’m not recognizable to a lot of people who knew me five years ago not so much because of my accident but because of the transformation that the Lord has done in my life in the intervening years. I still think I’d have a better witness for Christ if I could walk again (and I won’t give up trying), but I’ll joyfully sing to God, “letting go of my pride, giving up all my rights, take this life and let it shine.”

I was sick with a cold type mess last week, and my legs put up a fight when Hunter and I went for a walk this past Thursday. I was disappointed in Beatrice and Virgil fighting my progress, but it turns out they were trying to communicate another mess on a microscopic level to me. I found out through a serious of other painful and obnoxious symptoms that I had yet another raging bladder infection. Ever the fan of natural remedies, I chowed down on raw garlic and upped my water intake immediately. 

I’m going to be fully honest here, I’m frustrated with the fact that every few months I have to pay about fifteen bucks and a weekend with burning pain, increased spasms, and frequent light incontinence to recover from what might have been prevented if I had full reimbursement from my insurance to pay for all my prescribed preventative care. I’ll try to be as transparent as possible here, but there’s a pressure to spend my meager salary very intentionally because it’s all supplied by the generosity of others. I do have a way to get my employer to reimburse for certain expenses that are beyond my income and for tax reasons can claim back uncovered medical expenses, but that still all comes out of an account supplied by funds donated to me. I can choose between the tangible results from investing about $300 a month into my physical therapy and cutting the personal cost of about $300 in preventative care to closer to $50 each month. Would I love to pay for both? Absolutely, but that’s not my reality.

Sometimes I have to make tough choices on my medical care in the short term because I’m thinking about staying on the field as a missionary long term. It’s complex. 

Fortunately, I love my job, and I had the absolute joy of several amazing interactions with students this week that confirmed I’m blessed beyond belief with the most incredible career. I had a handful of messages from recent alum that were uplifting in reminding me I’m making a positive impact in my ministry, but one of the most exciting was a grad from a couple years ago emailing me to ask why God had to create people. She’d visited my class a couple weeks ago and started this conversation, and I was so overjoyed that she wasn’t going to settle for simple answers and needed to know more. Another alum messaged me this week asking, “What do you know about Melchizedek?” which totally made my day because talking about the theological implications of a prophet/priest/king who falls into the eternal line of the non-levitical priesthood just warms my nerdy heart. Thursday after school, a current student sat in my house sipping tea and sharing how excited she was about the growth in her relationship with God over the past month. I was so excited to listen to her heart and share with her part of my story as we talked about how we have so much time to grow in our understanding of beautiful things in the Bible.

I am so humbled that students come to me with questions. A new student met with me on Friday and peppered dozens of questions about reading the Bible and understanding theology through our meeting about his quarter project in my class. I really value the opportunity to teach my students well and to continue conversations with them outside my class as they learn to love God and other people better. 

Just a warning, I’m going to get real here for a second, so if you’re less interested in the emotional side of my recovery, you can stop reading at this point in the entry. 

In this beautiful opportunity to teach all my students well, I work hard to show my peers and supervisors that I’m doing my job well too. I care first and foremost about representing Jesus well and teaching truth of the forgiveness, restoration, and joy available through understanding my content well. However, I have this self imposed burden of making sure I don’t look like a slacker on staff because I’m only a part timer. I had a really positive conversation with a coworker in the staff room this week where he generously told me that he’d never for a second thought of me as giving less than other staff members and had never heard any whispers or rumors of other people thinking I was getting unnecessarily excused from things. All this was after I admitted making a show of only missing things absolutely necessary by my disability and how hard it was for me to ask for the accommodation of less time on campus when I wanted to increase my work load and contribute more fully. I don’t know if that will ever get easier for me to ask for less work so that I can continue to do well what I am capable of. I’m still on a trajectory of improvement that allows me to do more and more, but I also want to be realistic with my limitations and not shame myself for reaching max capacity in my ministry and workload.

I want to be sustainable in my service.

Sometimes that means skipping the expensive preventative care, and sometimes that means being honest with the pain of these semi-annual infections, and asking for you to partner with me in paying for more frequent preventative care. Particularly as I look ahead to the various opportunities in how I might spend my totalization as a year of professional and personal development and want to take care of my health and sustainable finances, I’m asking any of you who are able to commit to supporting me monthly to join my team by clicking here

Those of you who can’t support me financially, I’m still incredibly thankful for your prayers and encouragement. I hope all of you reading will pray with me for my Savior to take my brokenness aside and make it something beautiful (as some of you may have caught the allusion to a song in the title). 

I was a choir nerd for four years of high school, and I looked forward to the annual spring trip to “Musicale” where all the regional Christian high schools sent their choirs for adjudication and a mass choir performance with the same five songs we’d all learned through the year. I really had no idea what was going on the first year I went, but I followed my classmates up on stage and sang along to whatever song we’d picked for our performance not really caring about the end result. I was in it for the experience. Aside from the near death experience from a cross contamination close call where nuts might have found their way into my food, I loved every bit of the festival with my friends and looked forward to it every year after.

Today my choir friends loaded me and my mobility aids up to adventure at the local rose garden for a choir festival that boasted over 500 singers from 18 various local choirs. I was dubious this place could hold that many people, but Ettenbühl is holding out on the people who just come for tea. If you pay the extra fee to visit, their gardens are massive. It actually reminds me a lot of the International Rose Test Garden in Portland except the view is of rolling German fields instead of Portland with Mount Hood in the background. I find these strange comparison in my life here in Germany with obvious limitations. When I think back to all the fun I had at Musicale or the Rose Garden (either of the famous two in Portland), I was running around on two feet and able to communicate rather effectively in my mother tongue, but the fun I had today was being completely in the hands of my German speaking friends who wheeled me through gravel and grass to various meeting and eating points. At a couple points, I was left alone to trust that someone would come back for me so that I wouldn’t be stranded in a foreign village almost a dozen kilometers away from home.

I’ve learned a lot about trust in the last couple years that I couldn’t have experientially understood without the constant vulnerability I face. I’m still hopeful that I can recover my complete and total independence, but I want to forever remember the lesson of joy in surrender to the care of others. I’m working through pieces of that lesson as I wait to hear back from a couple potential places for my totalization year. I heard a couple more “not here” responses, but there’s a very exciting maybe I’d appreciate prayers about. 

In the meantime, I’m recovering from a small cold that my generous children shared with me last week, and I’m hoping to get into the routine of walking with Hunter and Cindy in the mornings longer and longer distances. I hope to report new records for you next week along with more information about my totalization possibilities.

I’m not lying when I share the sunshine in my life. I really do love the opportunity I have to teach bright, intelligent, inquisitive students. I also celebrate the chances I have to make physical improvements like walking with Hunter this week from my house almost into the center of town without my braces. We took off a couple times to see how far I could make it, and the first time I was excited to have good form all the way to Grüber, and the second time I thought I wouldn’t make it as far but blew past there almost all the way to the hardware store. I relish in the chance to tell you these things.

I also don’t want to hide from you the hurt of being disabled. This Tuesday I heard from the fourth place I sent an inquiry to about my totalization year* with a fourth rejection. It was a friendly “Sorry, we can’t house a wheelchair user” response. I teared up a little, but then I had to go to work. I arrived having momentarily plastered a smile over the pain only to discover that all the copiers and printers in my building weren’t working. The only functioning copier on campus was on the top floor of the main building which has yet to have a functioning elevator. Slightly panicked after various troubleshooting attempts, I changed my entire lesson five minutes before the bell and wheeled into class thinking I could manage a flawless lesson.

Well, thank God for grace, because I fumbled through my lecture not having practiced and revised the prezi for this particular group. I was distracted differently through the second section as well, and I realized mid lesson that it was likely connected to my unprocessed emotions of a series of disability related hiccups that I hadn’t yet made sense of. I went home prepared to buy some chocolate and cry about it, but a sudden downpour made it impossible for me to wheel myself with slick rims to purchase the necessary chocolate to eat my feelings. Fortunately, my neighbor was making a Hieber run and offered to pick up some chocolate for me which made one less thing awful about the day. And, to be clear, this was also one of the days I walked with Hunter, so there were other positives and things to celebrate. It just happened to have an unusually high number of things go wrong that would not have gone wrong if my legs worked properly. 

Again, I hope you hear me clearly that some amazing things happened this week – I got to read Ephesians out loud with Jordyne over skype and talk about the beauty of a Creator who made things orderly and an apostle who thought through the implications of his arguments in an ordered and beautiful way; I got to have pico de gallo with a handful of students on Thursday; and I have dueling TAs who are wonderful and helpful and say nice things to me when I’m stressed. I cherish these things when the hard stuff comes, and it does come in heavy doses. I have to deal with teaching on a campus that isn’t fully accessible; I have to leave the job I love for a year to go somewhere brand new that scares me in so many ways; I can’t go to my top choices for that year away because I’m still in a wheelchair.

This week in physio Anja worked me hard. She did a whole body workout, and while I was doing leg presses, she was doing crunches with her feet in the air. She rolled her ankles around as we took a pause between reps. “That’ll be me next year,” I said confidently. She affirmed it without hesitation citing how much I’ve improved in this last year. I’m not where I want to be physically today, but I’m not giving up. I may not end up at what was my top choice for next year, but I did get an inquiry response that wanted more information rather than rejecting me outright, and I’ve found a new option that may even be better than my previous top choice. God has a way of giving me better than what I dream of, so I’ll keep you posted on the inquiries and applications as I learn more.

*I’m not actually sure I’ve explained totalization on my blog. It’s common knowledge to people in this community and most of my friends. With the visa I have that allows me to teach in Germany, I’m allowed to stay here for five consecutive years then must leave for a period of time before returning for another five years. This time away is called “totalization,” and is only a requirement that I leave Germany. As an American, it has to be 366 days (Australians and Canadians, for example, only have to leave for 60 days which can be done during our summer break). I’ve prayed a lot about how I’d like to spend that year as professional development to return to BFA, and I’m pursuing options that take several physical (medical), professional, and spiritual factors into account. I appreciate all your prayers as I pursue the various options before me.

I just spent the last half hour listening to various songs on YouTube to see if I could come up with one with lyrics to create a theme for this week’s post. I failed. Well, I enjoyed myself, but I couldn’t find the perfect song to encapsulate the belly laughs I had this week. There’s just not space for the context of why the senior baking cookies in my house yesterday told me, “I have pretty white boy hair,” or why one of my sophomores in advisory got a consolation package of soup mix after his brother inadvertently withheld an invitation to Taco Tuesday.

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that Anja is trying to work out my whole body to help my brain focus on the legs while the other muscle groups compensate when necessary. The increased laughter with the return of my students has led to side splitting laughter as they regale me with stories of their various adventures. I laugh deeply – from the core. I’m also trying to pay attention to working out my arms with the hand weights my friend Doug years ago helpfully named “Hans” und “Franz” because they help to pump me up.

It’s weird to type that “years ago” bit – I’ve been at this recovery for a while. I had a student interview me for the school paper to give some context to the students who don’t know the story of my accident. This is the first year there are no students on campus who were in high school before my accident. All of them know me post-paralysis, and it’s a dwindling number of friends like Doug who have any memory of me before the Professor (my wheelchair is named Professor X, for those who don’t know) became my primary means of transit. 

Tonight I had the joy of laughing and catching up with two friends from those pre-paralysis days as Heather and Brittany came to Kandern for a visit. I’m so grateful for the ongoing friendship with these two wonderful women who faithfully came to visit me in REHAB, who led worship with me on my first birthday in the wheelchair, who googled “clean fart jokes” to send me things to make me laugh as I laid in a hospital bed. It was so much fun to catch up with them, and I was especially excited to show them how well I could walk after they had been away for a couple years.

I shared some good laughter with them, and my abs feel nice and tired. If I’m being honest, my back is achy too, but that’s nothing new in the last several years. I’m still not satisfied, so, over three years in, I’m asking you to laugh with me, cry with me, pray with me, and never give up on me. This week I’m really hopeful to keep practicing my walking outside as much as possible, but there’s a lot of rain in the forecast, so I’m praying it will conveniently fall only when I’m teaching. 

“If you were an ice cream, what flavor would you be?”

Our student body president asked the audience this at our opening ceremonies Wednesday. He went on to emphasize the importance of getting to know people as individuals – unique and flavorful – in his fabulous speech. Today during his study hall, he elaborated more with the yearbook teacher and I. “It’s not just your favorite flavor – it’s something more than that that determines what flavor you would be if you were ice cream.” 

Have I mentioned how much I love my job? This student wants people to think deeply about themselves and how they relate to people. I’ve listened to him wonder how to better represent Jesus to his dorm brothers and reevaluate the ways in which he can foster growth in them. I’ve watched him climb through my classroom window with his girlfriend to take time out of their lunch break to rearrange the desks in my classroom after someone moved them to accidentally block wheelchair access around the front area. There’s complexity to this kid beyond what meets the eye, and I’m so delighted that I have the chance to know him. He’s Cookies & Cream.

I have 32 different flavors of student this semester, and I’m excited to learn more about them in the coming weeks. I asked each one to fill out a short survey to give me some cursory information, and one student, in response to what she looked forward to most in my class wrote, “Listening to Ms. Hewett talk about her passion for Jesus makes me want to know more about Him.” It’s a huge compliment, and I’m overjoyed that my passion is an inspiration to her. It’s part of my unique flavor, and I love to see it highlighted.

I’d be Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper. It’s one of those Salt & Straw flavors that shouldn’t work, but apparently it does, and the one thing that you’d expect to ruin it just ties it all together. My disability is a weird add on to who I am that is now intricately implicated in a lot of my personality. I was talking to a friend this week about how I’ve chosen to be more open with a lot of details in my life than I’d naturally be inclined pre-accident. Here I am, sharing the depths of my soul on the internet, hoping it points people to Jesus.

I’d like to walk again some day, but that dash of black pepper can never fully go away. It permeates my thinking, and it makes me wonder what circumstances shaped the people around me. After school today, I hung out with a friend who works in the guidance department. She sees students in a different environment than I do, and we each shared about a different student who we personally love but the other struggles to connect with. For me, I learned to understand more about the motivations that led the student she meets with to be so difficult in my class. (We also talked about some of the recent grads whom we mutually love and miss dearly.) You see a piece of me here that I share through writing, but it can’t convey all the details of who I am. I’m hopeful that I can articulate well the progress that I make holistically – physically, emotionally, and all – for those who are praying for me from a distance, but I recognize limitations.

The “honey” part of my flavor hopes you’ll give me the benefit of the doubt when my “balsamic” cynicism comes out in my descriptions, so I’ll leave you with the genuine request that you pray for me to love and teach my students well as I attempt to share life with them honestly in this community.

My legs are still figuring things out as I prepare to start the school year with students this week, but Virgil and Beatrice are getting more used to longer days of work. I’m super fortunate to still have a measure of flexibility in my schedule, and I did my best to take care of my tight calves last week without slacking off. Anja worked me hard at physio Wednesday by helping me with makeshift candlesticks. I had flashbacks to middle school PE where we had to lay down in rows and stick our feet straight in the air. I’m not able to make the motion on my own, but Anja held my legs up as I worked my core to lift my butt in the air. 

I woke up to some muscle stiffness the next day, but it was the satisfying kind after a good workout. Thursday and Friday mornings were full with staff meetings and conference, but we’re all ready for students to start arriving tomorrow and Tuesday. I’m extra prepared because Shannon arrived yesterday evening and is here through Wednesday to encourage me and test my walking ability. Tomorrow and Tuesday are official prep days for teachers to arrange the final details, and I have to print my syllabi and handouts for this week, but I also have to prep my body to stimulating days.

Shannon and I went for a walk earlier today without my braces to see how far I could make it, and we walked almost all the way to the apotheke from my house – just under half a kilometer. It’s a huge accomplishment for me, and I’m grateful for this summer that prepared me for that milestone. I’m also viewing this accomplishment as preparation for running errands in town without the wheelchair someday.

I started work last week with some meetings and all staff conference where I got to hear some awesome testimonies of the new staff members. Four years ago I stood in front of the BFA staff and shared the miracle of my own journey to BFA. Now I’m sharing this journey to walk again as I get ready for students to return in less than two weeks. 

I’d love to say I’m striding along, but with the imposition of school schedule, my calves are complaining with more spasms than usual. It’s not the end of the world, but it is annoying. I don’t have any exciting report this week, but I’ll do my best to work up an exciting adventure or jump in my progress this coming week. I’d tell you my hopes are high, but honestly, I just want my legs to settle down in meetings. It’s embarrassing when they bounce around while I’m trying to pay attention.

Let me first say, I’m amazed people pay any attention to me. I mean, from my perspective, sure, there is loads going on with me, but from a global scale, there is madness demanding attention elsewhere. It’s really hard for me to write this update in light of the heartbreak in the news, and yet, I can’t avoid the longing to keep people praying for me and up to date on my ongoing recovery. 

In my own world, I’m still longing to be a part of the walking world – singing Disney songs with abandon. Though those of you who remember me serenading the nurses in REHAB with The Little Mermaid before I was forced into the pool for the first time might be shocked to discover that last night I was singing along with Beauty and the Beast after coming home from the thermal baths with Hunter and Michele. The shock is not that I would switch Alan Menken musicals (because both are brilliant), but that I actually asked to go into the warm water – willingly and of my own accord – and even enjoyed it. 

It was a nice treat for my body before easing back into meetings and work next week. I really love my job, and I’m so excited that I’m only a couple weeks away from seeing my students again. This summer has been really good for my body as I’ve continued to make improvements, and I’m so excited that I’ll have both Hunter and Cindy around to keep walking with me through the year – plus an extra TA just to walk with me if I want extra steps (Julia, don’t tell Gerrit I’m going to let you walk with me).

Whenever I start to feel badly about drawing attention to myself, I realize that it’s actually important to being part of this world. I have tons of amazing people in this community helping me, sharing life, and just being friends with me. I’m also fortunate to have countless others reading my story online and lifting me up in prayer and encouraging me. I want to be a healthy member of the body of Christ representing Jesus well to those around me, and while my life is filled with plenty of mistakes and room for growth, one way I can be healthy is to share my physical accomplishments here so we can celebrate together the ongoing work of the Great Healer. 

I honestly did very little this week, so feel free to reread last week’s entry and remember the extreme exhaustion I was recovering from. I had minimal social interactions, kept my feet up most of the week, and did my best to return to a semblance of physical routine. I successfully managed to walk around the fire house each day except for Wednesday when I went to therapy and Anja found my body had become one giant stiff mass from lack of movement. 

That whole “use it or lose it” principle is a lot more literal in my case which is why the walks I did manage are such a triumph for me. I’m celebrating what I did rather than lamenting any set backs. Also, the few social interactions I did have were good for my soul. 

As a final plus, a student who was flying through PDX sent me a picture of his feet on the carpet despite having no idea what the PDX carpet means to Portlanders but I told him to do it.

Life is more than big adventures; it’s the little things like shoes on tacky teal carpet. I want to enjoy it all along my long journey of recovery.

“I wish I had the money to pay my way past the lines in security,” I once heard a snarky lady comment as my family trouped through the frequent flyer line at the PDX airport when I was a kid. My thirteen or fourteen year old self wanted to turn around and tell her we didn’t fork out cash for this privilege but rather I’d paid with years of my life spent having my dad fly across the country each week and spend only the weekends with me and that this was hardly fair compensation that on our single week together as a family we got to cut a security line before flying to whatever destination we had where my dad also had business meetings to go to but we called it a vacation.

People don’t often realize certain travel perks received are just as often flimsy compensation for crappy life circumstances as they are the purchased privilege of the upper class. I’d happily trade my inability to walk for the privilege of standing in a two hour line, trust me. Unfortunately, I just don’t have that capacity any more, and this week of travel, while amazing, was completely exhausting – and that includes those compensations of cutting occasional lines.

I’m a perpetually joyful person – and that’s honestly a huge gift. I try to write here about the celebrations of all that I can accomplish despite my paralysis, and I want to highlight all the good that has come in my long recovery process. However, I can’t gloss over or erase the fact that it’s a long and painful process. I am super grateful that because of my disability classification, travel by train is much more affordable since a companion can ride with me completely free. The German railway is also very helpful in providing a lift on and off the train at each stop on my reserved route. Last weekend’s trip to Erfurt was amazing as my parents and I traveled by train and then discovered our hotel was right across the street from the handicapped accessible tram that could take us right into the old town where we got to visit the Augustinian monastery, and I managed to park my wheelchair and take a few steps in my braces around the courtyard holding on to a ledge built hundreds of years ago where many other people have come to pray. Unfortunately, there was still a lot of maneuvering to get me to that place as my parents had to drudge along some moveable ramps provided by the facility to get me up and down the one or two step level changes throughout the building.

Coming back on Monday, I was already exhausted and wary about the flight and four days in Barcelona I had after we repacked our bags. Fortunately, the handicapped assistance crew and Easy Jet team were incredibly helpful and patient as they pushed me to the front of the necessary lines, and I chose to ignore any derisive stares as I wheeled past people who saw me getting to sit on my butt while someone moved me in front of them. I know my story is more complex than most people give me credit for as I wheel past them never to have a place in their life other than a line cutter.

After an hour delay on our flight, I was more than ready to crash at the hotel in Barcelona, and I had a momentary panic when the front desk didn’t seem to know we’d require a handicap room despite the request made online when booking and having called ahead the week before to confirm. Praise God, it worked out, and the accessible bathroom was wonderful. I slept well, but was already in serious spoon debt as we headed out to visit Park Güell in the late morning. I enjoyed the artistic architecture, but I was done for the day after barely a couple hours. In fact, my body made that painfully clear with a massively upset stomach in addition to the muscle aches and overall exhaustion.

I’m glad I didn’t push myself any further because the next day, while amazing, was incredibly draining for me. My mom had planned a trip out to visit the ancient Montserrat monastery which is about 1000 years old. It was a half hour cab ride to a train station where we waited another half hour to ride the train for an hour to make a transfer to another half hour train before arriving in the incredible hide away. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to visit, but it was certainly not easy for me to be jostled about up and down cobblestoned hills after hours of being jostled about on public transportation. Most people think being pushed around in the wheelchair must not be that difficult because all I’m doing is sitting, but that doesn’t adequately account for the discomfort of uneven surfaces that even the best eye can’t catch from up above that I can see coming and have to fight with the person holding my handles to avoid. Nor does it account for the toll constant cobblestone vibrations have on the chronic aching I already endure in my lower back or the spasms it triggers in my legs. Nor does it consider the psychological energy expended to put my life in someone’s hands as they blithely push me on various inclines and surfaces that I know could potentially lead to me being tossed out of my chair by accident. (As most of you know, I’ve only ever been dumped out of my chair once which ultimately led to a hilarious story and the coining of the term “pulling a Mr. Bryan” in reference to the potential of me being launched from my chair, but the unlikelihood of ending up on the pavement doesn’t diminish the mental exhaustion I still endure having anyone take control of moving my body from one place to another.) I don’t regret the decision to see the magnificent buildings and beautiful nature surrounding them at Montserrat, but it took a huge load of energy that I was already borrowing from days in advance.

I slept well Wednesday night and mustered up the strength for the visit to the Sagrada Familia a couple blocks away from our hotel. Everyone I know who had visited before said it was amazing, and it definitely lives up to the magnificence of the pictures. The basilica has been under construction for 135 years and is still about a decade away from the projected finish date. During the century of progress, adaptations were made to make the beautiful church accessible to wheelchairs. Despite seeing only one at all in the two previous days, I saw about a dozen milling about in and around the church. There were smooth floors and ramps where needed, and I really enjoyed the chance to celebrate the creative Creator in the church inspired by designs in nature. I had a few well spent hours there before returning to the hotel to rest up and recover some energy before our early evening flight on Friday. 

Yesterday I woke up with just enough energy to get in a cab with my parents and spend half an hour walking along the Mediterranean beach before returning to the hotel to keep my feet up until we needed to leave for the airport. I snapped the shot above of my parents taking in the view of the sea before we headed back. Living in Europe is such a gift because I’m just a couple hours of travel away from these amazing places. The distance I travelled to Barcelona is akin to my Portland friends hopping on a plane to San Diego, and Erfurt is half that distance. Despite the relative closeness, they were both huge trips for me as I managed new cities in my wheelchair, and I’m so grateful for the “perks” that come along with the wheelchair which really just make travel at all possible for me.

I didn’t have any miraculous moments in any of the holy sites we stopped in, but I’m not giving up on miracles, and this morning I managed to walk without my braces all the way from my house down to the bridge by BFA. I walked down there with Ellie, the recent graduate who was the first student I met when I moved to Kandern. When I stopped at the bridge and told her I needed to sit in my chair for her to push me home, she told me when she comes back to visit at graduation next year, she’s planning another brace free walk with me where we reach the second bridge at least – a full kilometer from my house rather than the 300 meters I made it today. Please keep praying with me for many miracles to report along the way to that goal. It’s likely going to be painful for me, but I won’t give up.

“I go to seek a Great Perhaps” is a much quoted line attributed as possibly the last words of the poet Francois Rabelais and coopted by John Green’s protagonist in his debut novel Looking For Alaska. The idea in the novel is that we best not wait until our dying breath to find the wonders in the world. I live similarly, though I’m anticipating great wonders beyond this world as well.

However, I am fortunate to live an amazing life in Europe where I’m gifted with a job I love and the opportunity to have a quality of life as a disabled woman far beyond what is available in other countries. My parents came to visit and have seen through this week several of the ways in which I’ve adapted to my ability level living independently here but having vastly improved physically since they last saw me two years ago. Some of the little things I do are really huge wonders with my initial diagnosis. On Tuesday, we walked across the street to have dinner with my neighbors. It’s a simple enough task for most of you, but I managed it at a reasonable pace with my sticks and braces that is mind blowing for the condition I was in even just a year ago. 

Yesterday Anja worked on relaxing my testy right ankle before we tried out a few barefoot steps while I held her hands. I was nervous about the leg spasms that the overloaded nerves on the bottom of my foot triggered in response, but I’m so delighted that I can still try new things with my physio and can see tangible improvements no matter how slowly they come. Today I showed off my stair skills as my parents and I were invited over to my old neighbor’s home for lunch. I commented to Hans as he followed me up the stairs that I was already a whole lot faster than when I’d visited last just a few weeks before for Gundi’s birthday. 

There are more good things ahead, and I’m so excited for them. I’m posting a little early because I’m still in search of that Great Perhaps – perhaps I’ll stand up and walk down a hallway in St. Augustine’s Monastery, the spiritual home of Martin Luther, when my parents and I visit this weekend. Or perhaps I’ll take a few steps on my own up a staircase in Gaudi’s cathedral when we visit Barcelona next week. There are loads of possibilities, but I have to have faith to keep moving towards the next step in my recovery. Whatever the perhaps, I crave your prayers and encouragement through a for certain very full week with lots of travel for me. I’ll give a detailed report next week – perhaps with miracles involved.

We joke at BFA that if you do something more than once, it’s a tradition. Since I did a “Life Playlist” in both 2016 and 2015, it’s a summer thing I do now. Here’s a link to the 2017 playlist all together on YouTube if you want to follow along. Plus it makes me nostalgic, so my first song is nostalgic.

1. “We Used to Be Friends” by The Dandy WarholsOkay, this is mostly for Shannon because I love Veronica Mars. There’ve been opportunities this year to reflect on things I’d long forgotten. Good times, and I’m so glad I’m not in high school anymore. 

2. “On My Own” by Tessa VioletI’m close with Shannon and a lot of other people. In fact, I had lovely interactions with people every day this week as a different alum or friend came over for tea or took me out for breakfast or skyped me across the ocean, so this song is not really about a lack of friends. If you listen to the lyrics, it speaks directly to the social anxiety I deal with on a regular basis. And I’m trying to read what you want from me.

3. “Trying Times” by Demon HunterOh my goodness, the Outlive album is amazing. I also really love this official video. I have a hope in the resurrection and life to come. Also, this year has been trying, so the lament of just screaming that out is nice. Which leads me to the next song.

4. “Help” by The BeatlesHonestly, I’ve never been so disappointed with the internet as when I couldn’t find the version of this song from the opening credits of the movie Help! on YouTube. That is one of the most ridiculous and hilarious movies. I watch it when I’m stressed and just laugh and laugh and laugh. And also I need a lot of help which is why the song found a place on my annual playlist. I constantly need help. And, “when I was younger, so much younger than before, I never needed anybody’s help in any way,” but now, “my life has changed in, oh, so many ways, and my independence seems to vanish in the haze.” That’s just a season so —

5. “Seasons of Love” by Jonathan Larson (from the musical Rent)Anyone who knows me knows how much I love this musical, and how convicting I find it as a Christian wanting to live a life exemplifying unconditional love. The musical deals with lots of pain and lots of joy and lots and lots of love. How do you measure a life? (This is another one that wasn’t available in good quality on YouTube.)

6. “Unashamed” by StarfieldThis year has had a lot of learning and growing. I’m a pretty broken person, but because of the peace secured by Jesus, I can stand before God unashamed. This is an old song, but it’s always been beautiful to me. 

7. “Psalm 100” by First Friday House BandThis one isn’t available on YouTube, but I highly recommend you all go download it from iTunes or listen on Spotify. It’s a beautiful version of the words of Scripture, and this particular psalm, if you’ve been reading my blog lately, it’s quite fitting. I also love this particular song version for many reasons, and I’m forever indebted to Jordyne for finding it online after it was stuck in my head for weeks without knowing the composer or having heard it in years.

8. “Desert Soul” by Rend CollectiveI love the line, “I need you, God, but I want to need you more.” That is the cry of my heart. I am nothing without the Lord.

9. “So Dang Dark” by Rhett and LinkIt’s actually not a huge shift for me to move from Rend Collective to Rhett and Link. I love the Lord, and I love to laugh. Rhett and Link are internet-tainers bringing clean comedy to the masses through YouTube, and this is perhaps one of the greatest things they have ever produced. I have laughed so hard and had so many jokes related to this song through the past year that there is no way it can be left off the playlist.

10. “Cross the Line” by Superchick”Everyone dies, but not everyone lives.” Well, obviously, I just embody these lyrics. I’m gonna live.

11. “Lane Boy” by twentyonepilots Not only am I going to live, but apparently I’m living a little on the edge. I’m seriously waiting to read someone’s theological analysis of the allusions to Scripture in the lyrics of twentyonepilots. I recently had a conversation with a friend who is, like me, a bit beyond the general demographic of this band, but even more excited with the music and lyrics of twentyonepilots than I am. Karen and I were talking about how clearly steeped in Christian culture the lyricism is — big surprise since it’s written by a kid who grew up in the same church culture I did even listening to loads of the same music. Now he writes with passion about the deep questions he didn’t see addressed in his church experience and was danced around by his musical predecessors. He’s pushing boundaries and bringing big issues to the forefront, and it’s upseting to some. I upset some people.

12. “Don’t Censor Me” by Audio AdrenalineSome of those musical predecessors did their own edgy lyrics in the 90s. I love the Christian music I grew up listening to, and I’ll contentedly rock out to twentyonepilots and Audio Adrenaline back to back. I’m figuring out when and where to use my voice well, but I won’t be censored. “I’m gonna show you something real.”

Bonus track “UNITY” by The Lovely LadsOkay, I went long this year by adding two tracks, but there’s no way I couldn’t share this awesomeness from my adorable children. I love these kids so much. I love my job, and I love that I get to work with these precious students who are hilarious, creative, witty, and intelligent.

“I’m not saying I’d like to build a summer home here, but the trees are actually quite lovely.” 

In the iconic scene in The Princess Bride, Wesley optimistically tells Buttercup they have learned the secrets to survive the fire swamp by the warning signs of the sparking sound before the fire spurts and the lightening sand is avoidable as well. He next wrestles and roasts an ROUS before they meander out victorious where he again voices his belief they could live there happily for some time. 

This isn’t the focus of the film by any means, but it was on my mind as I was yet again discovering the tricks to living in my own personal fire swamp. What triggers my leg spasms? What sets off my infections and their accompanying side effects? What helps my insomnia that keeps me consistently lethargic? What clogged the drain in my dishwasher? (That last one doesn’t have a paralysis related cause or cure, but it is annoying.)

I discovered a key in body signals related to my recurring infections, and as unpleasant as some answers are, sometimes having any answer is nice. I’ve moved a step forwards in understanding my body post paralysis. I’m still learning, and these discoveries help make my fire swamp a little bit more homey. For example, if I plan to wheel over cobble stones, I am better off with my braces because my calves will cramp and spasm like crazy by the second stone if unrestrained. Another important discovery is when I take steps without the braces, they need to be slow and short for the best weight distribution and most control from my hips and glutes.

I practiced that one at therapy this week. Anja had to work on relaxing my ankles a little because they were extra tense, but we spent the last chunk of our session walking slow and steady down the narrow hallway and back. I managed about half the distance as last week, but I’m confident it was better quality because I was more attentive to the length of my stride. I’d been practicing all week with my laps around the fire station with my sticks, and I saw a huge pay off when Anja took my hands and I just steadied myself before each controlled step. 

Again, I’m not saying I’d like to build a summer home here, but the trees are actually quite lovely. I’ll be sauntering out of here in no time. (Possibly into the Pit of Despair, but remember this movie ultimately has a happy ending, and, honestly, I’m more likely to be cast in Fred Savage’s role than anyone else’s, so there’s that.)

Step one: move to Germany.

Step two: learn German.

I’d recommend the reverse order. I do things my own way sometimes though, and my life has followed that listed order. I was practicing my German on Thursday with Helen and her neighbors as she’d invited me over for Kaffee und Kuchen. I was pretty excited to tell them in my rudimentary German about the walking improvements I’d made this week. I recounted a snippet of my Wednesday physio session that marked another huge leap forward in my progress. I can provide more details in my native tongue though.

Some of you may recall my first step back in February where Anja coaxed me to move one foot in front of the other with no mobility aids or assistance from her. This week I managed step two, step three, and several dozen after that. Before you get ahead of yourselves in excitement, there were balance breaks between each step, but it’s still incredibly exciting.

I showed up for my hour session ready to work hard, and Anja put her hands palm up in front of me. I rested my hands on hers without putting pressure and found my balance before I lifted my left leg and moved the foot forwards. I wobbled a bit but used Anja’s hands to steady myself before the right foot followed along. We made it across the room before Anja pulled a stool up for me to sit and rest on. Anja noticed my left hip isn’t as strong as the right, so she is going to come up with some exercises for me to incorporate into my routine to help bring it up to speed.

After a brief rest, I stood up and made my way back to the starting point across the room with the same pattern of touching Anja’s hands for balance, taking a concentrated step, catching myself briefly before removing weight from Anja and taking another step. I needed another rest after that, but before the session was over, I’d managed the distance across the room and back another time without sitting down. I did need a glass of water, but I’d accomplished what Anja agreed was the best walking I’d ever done since my accident.

Now it’s just a matter of practicing more and more. I need to increase my stamina and muscle strength. I have the ability there that needs to be used and improved.

I just wanna be a sheep; baa, baa, baa, baa.

That was my Sunday school jam, and I stand behind the sentiment.

I’m also occasionally interested in sheep like following along with the crowd to keep from embarrassing myself. Moving to Germany made me stand out in a lot of ways without any language ability, and now, having lost the walking ability, I tend to make a scene wherever I go. I try to just blend in as best as possible, following along the behaviors and expressions of those around me. Last night was a perfect example as I went to the 70th birthday party of my former German neighbor. Gundi is the woman who first invited me to the Kandern choir, and on Monday she was insisting to all our choir friends that I’ve dramatically improved in my mastery of the German language. Naturally, everyone agreed. Considering I started with nothing, they’ve got a point, but I still have a long way to go. This was clearly evidenced at Gundi’s birthday party where I could follow the general gist of most conversations but couldn’t catch the meaning of every word. I was particularly lost when the locals dipped into dialect. Fortunately, Helen was there to help me understand what I was missing.

I’m so grateful for this community support team that helps me to fit in with the rest of the flock when I struggle. My co-worker Jesse found another way to fit me in this last week as well. For the last few years, I’ve been the odd man out come campus beautification days, excused from duty rather than making a fool of myself showing up and being unable to help. Jesse was in charge of cleaning and organizing the art department rooms, and she told me she’d have work I’d be capable of doing. I wasn’t able to mop or move shelves, but I could sort through old art files and accomplish some of the tedious tasks that weren’t manual labor intensive.

The sheep analogy might seem like a strange fit for this reflection, but it was on my mind a lot as I looked at the little toy sheep sitting on my window sill. My friend Becki gave it to me as a reminder that I am a sheep as well as a kind of under-shepherd. Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd and demonstrated himself as worth following, so I’m a sheep that follows him. At the same time, there are people watching me, and a few of them choosing to follow my (hopefully solid) example. It’s a lot of pressure to have people follow you, and I’m reminded of my favorite professor in college who used to joke that while her colleagues cultured disciples, she created dissenters. I’m fond of her model. She knew people were watching her, so she frequently and emphatically told them to stop parroting her and to be independent thinkers instead.

Now before I go to my next example, I need to stress how much I dislike the show Rick and Morty. It’s dumb. However, many of my students love it, and a particular group of them love to quote the line, “Don’t be a sheep.” For context, the grumpy grandpa character is chastising his grandkids for not thinking for themselves which is an idea I can get behind. So while in one sense I can honestly say I just wanna be a sheep, I also can say in a different context that I don’t want to be a sheep. Jesus didn’t want stupid sheep. Fun fact: sheep are actually not dumb. They trust the shepherd, and they recognize his voice.

There’s a paradox at work as I figure out the balance between being a sheep and not being a sheep, but, hey, I’m a walking paraplegic who worships the God/man who died and rose again, so paradoxes aren’t that new to me. Neither are miracles as I head into another summer anticipating miraculous recovery. I’ve made progress in my brace-less walking, and I’m praying for more time without the braces in the coming weeks as my legs get used to this new freedom and test out their limits. Beatrice gets a little nervous, and so my left calf has had a lot of tremors the past week, but I’m hoping as the pattern of weight on the legs becomes more normal, the calf muscles will continue to relax. 

The premise of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that a small teenage girl has the power and skills to take down big monsters on a regular basis. However, once a year on average there is a Big Bad that she can’t conquer on her own. The season three buildup is a group effort takedown of the evil mayor culminating at her high school graduation ceremony. It’s a great show.

There was no mystical monster showdown at BFA’s graduation ceremony this morning, but there are metaphorical battles all throughout our lives. The writers of Buffy were making the metaphors goofy monsters that could be physically killed, but the audience can still take the metaphorical lessons to heart.

So what does any of this have to do with my readership composed of people primarily interested in my ongoing physical recovery? Well, I have some pretty amazing skills at conquering metaphors. I also have done an incredible amount of work on my own with my walking this week, but it still won’t be enough. I need help to keep making improvements. Sometimes that means rides to therapy. Sometimes that means patience with my slowness. Sometimes that means walking beside me to see how far I can go. All the time I need prayers.

One of my favorite movies is Meet the Robinsons. I love it for a lot of reasons, but one of the characters keeps repeating throughout the escapades of the short film, “Keep moving forward!” At the end of the movie, the credits reveal it is part of a Walt Disney quote, but the coopted context encourages the audience to push through failure to find a later success. The sentiment can be presented in an unfortunately cliched way, but I really do think it’s a valuable lesson to keep moving forward despite various setbacks. 

Reflecting back on the past decade, I clearly took the lesson to heart that the decade old movie taught. The movie coincidentally was released the same year I graduated high school. Exactly ten years ago this past week I walked across a stage to receive my high school diploma. I’ve had quite a few setbacks since then, and like the protagonist of Meet the Robinsons, I’ve learned to keep moving forward in the face of failure.

The most obvious of all the struggles is the ongoing physical recovery. Ten years ago, I walked across a stage with ease and teared up with hope for the future I dreamed of – returning to Faith Bible High School to teach English. Three days ago, I spent an hour chatting with my German physiotherapist as she massaged and stretched my nerve damaged legs before helping me onto an elliptical where I tired myself out in less than five minutes. Four days ago, the exact anniversary of my sappy graduation ceremony, I laughed with several students about the silly things I said and did in high school. I never could have dreamed of those things as I was transitioning from high school to college.

Media often tells us that high school youth is the ideal time to be alive. I’ve found so far that with a little effort and attitude life just keeps getting better. I used to want to go back to teach at FBHS, but I can see now that for me that would be going backwards. I need to keep moving forward. This week’s forward moments were walking around the fire station without my braces and finishing my semester homework grading. Next week I look forward to celebrating my students – the first class of BFA freshman that I taught – finishing well and transitioning to new and exciting things all across the globe. Fortunately, I’ll finally be Facebook friends with a few, so I can follow along through their next decade of change and growth as they keep moving forward too.

My granny has been my biggest cheerleader since I was born (even though I kicked her in my sleep when we shared a bed one night two decades ago). This weekend she came to visit with her husband Jim, and I got to hang out a bit though I can’t quite keep up with the energy levels of these almost octogenarians… I have the body of an octogenarian, and they seem to have the physical prowess of someone twenty years younger.

It’s been two years since my granny had seen me walking, and she was excited to celebrate the improvements in my quality. I still have a ways to go, but I’m not giving up any time soon. On Friday, Anja and I talked about how difficult it is to recognize personal limits with grace rather than criticize personal shortcomings. I sometimes want to call myself lazy because I can’t walk as well as I want to, but I know that’s far from the truth. On Thursday I showed a couple students my amazing skills as I walked to the lamppost and back without braces and had a student let me hold his arm while I walked back with just one stick. Neither of the two kids I walked with knew me before my accident, but they know my prognosis. I made the senior promise never to give up on me because I wasn’t going to give up on him.

Virgil (my left leg) has been giving me a lot of trouble again this week spasming and cramping without reason. I can’t figure out what’s been triggering it, but I’m trying to adjust my positing and keep my leg extended as much as possible. I’m hoping none of you will give up on me either as we join together and pray for Virgil to settle down as he and Beatrice lead me through the next week.  

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