Robot walk

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.  

A combination of things has had me pondering my identity this week. I could wax on about that, but as I just finished reading a retelling of Hamlet with the emo teenager unable to stop talking about his feelings but never really getting anywhere, I’ll refrain from doing the same on the internet. (Side note, has anyone done a rewrite of Hamlet as the ultimate angsty blogger?)

Not that my emotions and identity aren’t a holistic part of me worth sharing on the internet, but the real drama comes in carefully crafted tellings of my wobbling walks. 

Thursday was a holiday, so I didn’t have school, but a few of the remaining staff who arrived in the fall of 2013 gathered together up the hillside in Kandern for an informal picnic. My friend Christal was coordinating it, and she’d confirmed I’d be able to get to the grillplatz before setting that location. “If you’re patient with me, I can do pretty much anything slowly,” is my standard response, and I was pretty sure I’d be fine. The Barkmans drove up the road and continued on the walking path to get me right next to the big wooden benches. With my sticks before me and my braces on, I confidently exited the car and cautiously picked secure placement for my feet and walking aides on the uneven gravelly grass surface. 

I managed to sit somewhat comfortably for a while before my left leg started to complain. Complaints from my leg, as you may recall, come in the form of various spasms. This started as a tight cramping. Nothing new for me. Christal, smart woman that she is, had brought blankets to sit on, so the light padding provided some relief as I adjusted my weight frequently to try to appease Lefty (who I’m considering naming Virgil for vaguely divinely comedic reasons – and my right leg I’d call Beatrice – this is why I have so few friends). Overall, it was a wonderful evening chatting with people who all met me pre-accident but have more experience of me as a person post-accident. 

Anybody living this side of the Atlantic has more experience of me post-accident, but as a former student visiting for tea yesterday brought up, this graduating class is the last group of students who ever knew me pre-accident. My current juniors might have heard about me in middle school, but never had any interaction with me until I was in a wheelchair.

I’m still coming to terms with what a huge part of my identity the Professor (my wheelchair) is, but it’s not permanent in my mind. This is a part of my story that will never go away, but I’ll keep moving forward, keep growing, and keep walking a little more each day. I spent this Saturday mostly reading, as I’ve always loved to do, but I also took an intentional and successful braceless venture with my sticks down the street and back. My ankles were feeling tight as I first stood up this morning, so I had my cup of coffee standing and reading at my dresser before venturing outside. Once Virgil, Beatrice, and I were all awake, my guides carried me to the lamppost and back. By the time we returned to my driveway, both ankles were ready to express some tiredness and perhaps anger. I watched my neighbors ride up on bikes as they were just returning from Hammerstein. I’ll make it there and back myself too, someday. I’m determined. That’s who I am, in my core, the girl who walked again. 

 

[Bonus nerd paragraph: if you thought my Dante jokes were dumb, you should be thankful I didn’t find a way to reference Rhett and Link’s So Dang Dark music video. I actually spent a good amount of time trying to figure out how I could start my blog with the line “Should I go back to law school?” without confusing anyone about the fact I’ve never been to law school and knowing probably only one reader even knows that reference.]

My juniors are starting to tell me they have senioritis, and the seniors coming over for tea are more emboldened to ask for coffee as they talk to me about preparations and plans for their next stages. More than once this week I’ve been asked about my summer plans, and my standard response is, “I’m going to learn how to walk.” 

I am really looking forward to the chance to focus on my health and well being while enjoying the long days of walking, stretching, and reading tons of books while my students scatter the globe. I’m not returning to America this summer, but I’m in between the initial injury helplessness and the total recovery state.

On Friday, Anja asked me if I remembered my condition when I started meeting with her three years ago. “Yes!” I replied emphatically. That version of me could never dream of standing barefoot again, and just after I answered Anja’s question, she helped me to stand barefoot before leading me several steps down the hall. I’ve come so far, so I am still dreaming big of a full physical recovery. 

With the sun out more this past week, I ventured a few more times to walk brace free to the lamppost down the street and return alone. I’m excited to see the muscle strength increase as I make this a regular habit to walk without the braces, and I know I’ll watch my stamina grow as well. This isn’t the end, so I won’t be giving up any time soon.

My students are incredible. I sat listening to a student describe trips to her home country akin to the plot of an action movie over cups of Dominican coffee gifted by another student. These students come with amazing stories, and I consider it a privilege to hear pieces of them. This afternoon, I realized it’s quite an equal joy to share a bit of my own with them.

Earlier today, I was debating whether or not to attempt a grocery trip with my braces and walker or to keep my braces off and take a much shorter walk with just my awesome Nikes. I stood up in the tennis shoes to test out how my ankles were feeling, and I boldly walked out my door with my sticks before my courage dissipated. I knew I mightn’t be safe enough on my own to make the whole lap around the firehouse, so instead, I decided on walking to and from the lamppost by the retirement home (a whopping 150 meters round trip). 

Each step was slow and deliberate as I thought about the work I’d done with Anja yesterday. We spent a good chunk of my therapy hour with me bearing weight on my bare feet. Anja even had me walk on a thin foam mat after several steps on the hardwood floor. As a final challenge, she’d put a thicker cushion in front of me and had me step over it, encouraging me that she was right there if anything happened with my testy ankles. She pushed me to my limit, and I was a little disappointed when she asked me to find my balance and take a step towards her all on my own but I couldn’t. Anja assured me that just because I couldn’t do it at therapy this week didn’t mean I couldn’t do it. So Friday wasn’t my best day. I was feeling good this so far sunny Saturday. I wasn’t winning any speed records, but I was breaking new ground in my brace free weight bearing walking quality. About halfway to my goal, a BFA senior approached from the direction of the soccer field.

“Are you going to the soccer games?” she asked.

“Oh, not remotely that far. I’m hoping to make it to the lamppost and back.”

“Can I walk with you?”

“Sure, but I’m really slow.”

“I’ve got time,” she turned around and matched my pace as I focused on where my feet went. This particular student is planning to pursue a degree in the medical field, and we chatted a little about the feats I’d managed over the past few years. When we turned around at the lamppost, our conversation turned to how much I enjoyed teaching at BFA and someday hoped to teach her little sister. As we approached my door, she asked if I’d ever thought about returning to the states after my accident.

“The thought never entered my mind. I was exactly where I was supposed to be, and I still feel like I am.”

Where I am right now is encouraging conversation among students who want to know why Leviticus is so amazing while I’m taking those physically small but metaphorically huge steps towards full recovery. I’m so thankful for the combined power of prayer and garlic that fought off the bacteria in my body over the last couple weeks, and I look forward to sharing more of my story as another group of kids come for coffee and conversation about the levitical code next week. Please pray with me that alongside those conversations, I can extend my brace free independent walking to loop around the firehouse with ease by next week – and to the soccer field by next year. 

The catheters were waiting for me Tuesday morning, and with the aid of some supplements, loads of raw garlic, harntee, liters of water, and unlimited bathroom breaks, I’m pretty sure I’ve flushed away the majority of the bacteria. I’m still eating lots of garlic and drinking lots of water to discourage any resurgence, but I’m also moving on with my life.

The distraction of that painful infection was a setback in my walking, but I’m back at it weather permitting this week. The rainy weather that used to be my favorite now puts my outdoor walking adventures on hold, so I’m hopeful that the clouds will unleash at night and leave me sunny skies during my waking walking hours. Even if they don’t, I’m still determined to move more and add some hours on my exercise bike to increase my endurance for when the sun finally does break through.

I also had another positive Friday session with Anja this week as she spent some time working out the tension in my extra spastic left leg before walking with me barefoot from one room to another in the praxis. My final feat of the session was barefoot leg presses that have improved from needing Anja to hold my right ankle in place to her barely touching it and letting me manage the last few alone without any ankle spasm or turning inwards. 

My life still is far from perfect, and I’m still working hard to manage alongside these setbacks. I will say, though, that junior girls coming over to laugh with me and bake cookies after school on Wednesday makes this recovery process so much easier. I’ll muster up the strength through this next week with more walking, theological conversations, and cookie baking at my house (Julia, you can come next time).

I woke up yesterday to weird and wonderful news from one of my best friends as she called me the minute she was released from a vow of secrecy to tell me about an upcoming wedding this summer. As I contemplated yet another missed event in the lives of people I love back in Oregon while I battle a raging bladder infection here, I realized I still wouldn’t trade my life to be back stateside. I don’t want to give up the amazing students I have here. 

It’s true, I’d happily give up the awful complications of nerve damage and the monstrous bacterial battle waging on my insides with all its uncomfortable, annoying, and occasionally painful side effects, but I love students finding me at lunch to debate the merits of John Calvin and Jacob Arminius. I’ll choose to focus on the intellectual tenacity of the teenagers seeking to understand the biblical and logical support for theological nuances in my conversations with most people, but I’ll recount here a little of my frustration on the microscopic level of my body.

Wednesday in my third period, students presented the points and evidence for the positions of Calvinism and Arminianism while bacteria in my body began to set up camp unbeknownst to anyone. I had some discomfort and interrupted sleep that night, but I was still able to fully engage in the lunch time follow up from a student who wanted to discuss more about what he believes based on the arguments presented in class. Thursday night was rough for me, and by Friday the spasms were interrupting my class as I told my legs to chill out while I tried to teach my lesson. We were reading excerpts from C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, and I assigned my students to write their own letter to a tempter demon at BFA. What strategies would be most efficient to distract BFA students? Let me tell you, leg spasms are a moderately effective strategy to distract me. Usually I can ignore little ones and blaze ahead, but Friday I was glad to have the students working on their letters most of the period because my legs needed more attention than normal. 

Saturday morning, after a delightful chat with Desiree, I headed to the apotheke to pick up my order before the long weekend. Unfortunately, there was a slight mix up, and my catheters weren’t there. I panicked for a split second, but didn’t waste any energy stressing over what I couldn’t change. I took a deep breath. I had a single box left at home. Thirty catheters. Three days. That’s more than sufficient.

For a normal person without a raging infection. 

Welcome to the circus of my life. The most common treatment for a UTI or bladder infection is to flush it out with water – drink lots, pee lots. Except most common people don’t have a limited number of times they can pee per day. So here I sit tonight, two days in, praying my catheter supply will last until the apotheke opens on Tuesday morning while also so loaded up on garlic I’m pretty sure I’m oozing the smell (which, according to the internet, means I’m accessing it’s antibacterial powers). The spasms are still present at an annoying frequency, and whatever I eat has a shadow of garlic taste. I’ve eaten a whole head of it in two days. Though as my friend Shannon pointed out, I am myself now vampire repellant which is beneficial in the case of soulless blood suckers on the loose. 

All this madness, and I still wouldn’t trade my life for what I had before my accident. I hear I was a pretty decent freshman English teacher, but this whole mess has made me a significantly more effective theology teacher. 

As a theology teacher, I’m also confident in the power of prayer, and I would beg of you to join me in praying that this infection disappear and all the little ailments attributable to it as well. 

Three years ago, I was sprung from REHAB for an evening to participate in our annual emotional Staff Appreciation Dinner (which we are roundly discouraged from referring to as SAD, but it made a great title for this week’s post, don’t you think?). I will always remember the overwhelming emotions I had that first outing away from REHAB four months into my stay there, and I was reflecting on how far I’ve come since then during this evenings events. I am particularly amazed at all that I managed through this week in light of the expectations I had after my first staff dinner. 

Early Easter Monday, my friend Jenny drove Katrina and I to the Basel train station to catch a 7:15 to Mannheim that connected us to a train to Munich where we took a Starbucks break before our final long train to Budapest. We’d reserved the tickets in advance and told them I was in a wheelchair, and I was so relieved to see a person at each platform with the lift to help me in and out of each train. 

I was already so grateful for my friendship with Katrina because I’m convinced she is one of the most amazing people on the planet, but traveling with her only made me love her more. Her German skills were particularly helpful at the train stations, and her patience in carting my sticks and bag around while I was helped on and off or pushing me through long stretches made the trip so much more amazing. 

I’d never had much of a chance to enjoy the close proximity to so many beautiful European cities before my accident, and I’d hesitated to ask people to take me along on an adventure because I worried about being a burden. Katrina had invited me along with her on this trip, and I cannot stress how wonderful this friend is for never once making me feel like a burden as she pushed me through the streets of Budapest with a recovering foot injury of her own.

We were staying in the home of some friends of Katrina’s, and I felt like a champion making it up the six narrow steps to the main level of their home where they had graciously put an air mattress for me because I wasn’t able to manage the even smaller steps up to the rest of the house where the beds were. The first morning, Katrina and I navigated back down the super steep driveway and to the nearest bus station. We were pleasantly surprised to find that every Budapest blue bus (the major lines in the city) were all handicapped accessible. Each driver hopped off and unfolded the ramp to help me on or off at each stop. Only one of the several we encountered so much as grumbled at the task.

I’d heard from some friends that the Cave Church was one of the best attractions in Budapest, so we made our way there first and were not disappointed. In fact, I think it was one of my favorite things we visited, and I was able to get around almost every part of it with no problem in the wheelchair. Katrina graciously pushed me up along the Danube as we enjoyed the city view on the overcast day before meeting up with my friend from Multnomah who just moved to Hungary in January. Jessica is working with Josiah Venture in Gyor which is a couple hours away, but she managed to work out coming to visit that afternoon so we could catch up.

Wednesday we woke up to wet snow which was significantly colder weather than either of us packed for, but we blazed onwards into the city and visited Matthias Church, the Hospital in the Rock, and St. Stephen’s Basilica all which allowed us in for free with the wheelchair. We saw the castle too, but it didn’t seem to be a great place to visit in a wheelchair according to the internet, so we contented ourselves with a view as we left the Fisherman’s Bastion Starbucks after drying out a bit from walking. The Basilica was our last stop of the day as I had to wait outside in the freezing cold rain while Katrina found an attendant who spoke English or German who could help us unlock the elevator on the backside of the building. Unfortunately, I wasn’t up for making it to the Parliament building and the bronze shoes in front of the Danube that commemorate the Jews killed in the Holocaust, so we caught the closest bus back to the house to warm up and dry out. Thursday we slept in and headed to the international Christian school where a friend of Katrina’s showed us around before taking us to get some good Hungarian food. 

Friday was another early morning as we headed to catch a 7:40 train, but I was able to sleep in this morning and relax before the staff dinner tonight. Aside from the six steps at the home we stayed in and the full flight of stairs at the Budapest train station that had two out of service elevators, I didn’t do much walking, so I was a tad worried about my legs today. Praise the Lord, I managed my usual loop around the fire station with my sticks and braces and no problems. I was tired by the end, but I know my stamina will jump back up as I get back into a routine of walking and even increase my daily steps.

I won’t have Cindy to walk with me the next couple weeks, but I’m so thankful for the people in this community who can help make my recovery possible either stepping in with walking beside me or meeting various other needs I have. Katrina is at the top of the list for the emotional and relational support offered in our friendship that allowed for me to experience such a great vacation on my spring break despite my various limitations. Dozens of others around BFA make my recovery so much easier, and I had a couple of great conversations tonight as people spoke words of truth and encouragement to me. Next year, I’ll be recognized for five years of service at BFA, and I can’t wait to see what level of recovery I’ve reached by that point.

The sun came up over Kandern Monday morning just as it does everyday. Springtime means the golden rays light up this town earlier and earlier, but it was the first day of spring break for me, so I stayed in bed a little later. I took it easy in the morning and stretched my calves without the braces before my grand adventure: walking to the Apotheke. It’s almost exactly half a kilometer from my house, and I needed to pick up some prescriptions I’d ordered.

Vitamin D strengthens determination, and I felt rested and ready to make the trek with my walker. I’ve done it before, but with the muscle cramps in the winter cold, I had put that particular exercise on hold for several months. I was huffing pretty hard by the final few steps to the Apotheke door, and I saw some BFAers come out of the bank just as I walked up.

My goodness, look at you! Did you walk all this way? Are you alright?”

Yeah,” I managed, “I’m going to sit down soon.” 

My verbal skills diminish with my energy after half a kilometer. Actually, my verbal skills pretty much pause entirely when I try to walk well, but let’s pretend it was the distance that made it so difficult to talk. 

I tottered into the Apotheke and sat down on my walker, using the counter to help me turn around. The nice pharmacist gathered my order and brought it to the front. 

The Epi-pen didn’t come in yet, but we’ll have it tomorrow morning,” she told me as she rang up the other items and loaded them into the basket of my walker. 

I felt the five kilos added to my basket as though they’d been put on my chest. I’d have to walk back tomorrow — could I manage a kilometer two days in a row? I got a brief pause in the middle, but it was still quite a feat for my body. I slowly raised my weight back over my feet and trudged my way out of the store. 

Since it’s spring break, I have a lot more freedom in my schedule to make that long walk happen and have the recovery time on my couch required by the draining of my energy supply. I managed the Tuesday Apotheke run without incident, and I felt ambitious enough after a half hour physio appointment on Wednesday to venture a loop not just around the firehouse but the two other buildings next to it (the retirement home and Hiebers, for Kandern locals). I walked the same route on Thursday, and today I headed down the street to school and back for something different.

Everyday I wake up anticipating new things, and my feet do as well. We still don’t communicate well — my feet and I — but I can sense that they are anticipating something new. You see, the only feeling I have in my feet is the tingling sensation when your foot falls asleep. The prickling with the pressure of each step is reminding me that my feet are still there when my brain forgets — which it often does. 

This week I’m praying that my brain remembers more of my own body as it reflects on the body and blood of Jesus. I teach my students that the resurrection of Jesus demonstrates that the body is something good: we were created as bodied beings, and it’s unnatural the way that my brain forgets the existence of my feet. I want them reconnected, and I’m praying for the nerves to forge ahead in that next step of recovery. 

I started to type out a full report here of my Jahreskontrolle from this Thursday, but it started to get pretty long, so I decided to give you the impressions – or rather impressed responses. Those of you who read about my previous Jahreskontrolle will remember I didn’t get to meet with the PTs and OTs who worked with me the most during my REHAB tenure, and I was subsequently disappointed at how little the people running tests were impressed with my abilities. This time, however, I was able to see Isabelle at lunch and tell her how I’m living independently and working part time successfully. I also had my OT meeting with Christiane and was super encouraged by her excitement at my ability level as well. We also put into my file that my goal is to be finished with the wheelchair one year from now.

I was super excited when the nurse told me Andy would be doing my PT tests. After Alex, he’s the physio who worked with me the most while I was in REHAB. I’d asked Cindy to bring me to this long appointment so she could help me show off my skills to everyone. 

When Cindy and I rocked up to the physiohalle, I saw Andy waiting and proudly told him, “I’m here to impress you.” 

“Okay then, show me,” he said.

Cindy helped me up and I strutted a few meters down the physiohalle just holding her hand. She and I shared some of the details of what I could do now before walking into one of the small rooms to run our official tests. Andy hadn’t seen me do anything in almost three years, so when he asked me to lift my leg or resist pressure, his excitement was based on the jump I’ve had since leaving REHAB in 2014.

Then came the ankle function test – you might have read over the last several months that Margot and Anja are convinced there’s function flickering there. I’ve seen little evidence of this, and I was nervous about the big fat 0s in this category on my REHAB file. Andy sat down on the floor and tapped the top of my foot. “Lift up,” he instructed. I tried. “That was it!” he said flicking the top of my foot to stimulate the muscle, “Do it again!” Physios are trained to see the minute muscle movements, and thanks to Andy’s attention and my three years of practice, most of my 0s moved to 1s on the function scale. 

I would have been happy with all this, but at the end of the physio test, Andy peeked out into the hall and told me, “Alex is out there; let’s surprise her.” I lit up.

“Alex, I need to show you something,” Andy called out before helping me up.

“Just to look?” I heard her say.

“Yeah, just look.”

He took my hand, and we walked into the physiohalle where Alex was working with another patient. I was grinning as we made our way to her, and I got a big smile from her as she told me how great it was that I could walk so much better now.

I was really excited that I had the chance to impress the people who spent so much time with me right after my accident. They were influential in my early recovery, and it meant a lot to me to see their continued joy in my long term recovery. 

I also get to impress people involved in my current recovery state, and sometimes I can even impress myself. At physio on Friday, Anja told me she wanted me to try standing on a trampoline. “Barefoot?” I asked, incredulous. “Yeah, we’ll try it.” I’ll be honest, I didn’t actually think I’d be able to do it. However, with Anja to keep me safe (I trust her with my life), we walked a few steps to where I could hold onto rails secured to the wall and step up onto a mini trampoline. At first, my shoulders held all my anxiety as I anticipated my ankles rolling. When my feet stayed straight, my arms could relax a little, and Anja instructed me to bounce lightly.

I managed a miraculous couple of minutes before she helped me down, and I walked barefoot back across the room where she spent a little time working the tension out of my shoulders. 

All in all, it was an impressive week, and a fantastic start to my spring break. I’ve got two weeks now to surge ahead in this next phase of recovery – less time in the wheelchair and more time moving my long underused legs. 

I gave a pretty sparse update last week and promised to deliver more today. I’m not one to disappoint, and the poetry of today’s sermon being on the dry bones in Ezekiel is just delightful. For those not familiar with the story, Ezekiel was led to the desert and watched as the Lord brought flesh and life back into a valley of dry bones that were dead and lifeless before the Word of the Lord showed up. Crazy cool stuff.

Adam shared a few points in his message about how this was important to us, and one of the insights was that we needed God’s perspective. From Ezekiel’s viewpoint, the bones were worthless, but God saw something different.

From an ordinary human standpoint, my bare bones beneath my waist are pretty close to useless. The tendons and muscles are weak; the nerves are disconnected. However, a select few have a vision of what is yet to come. On Friday, Anja shared with me her vision was for me to walk barefoot. I scoffed a little. “It’s a good thing you trust me,” she told me near the end of our session as she prepared my bare feet to stand up and walk. 

I used the sticks and had Anja close by, but I was able to manage about a dozen steps with nothing on my feet. I was elated, and it was a fantastic cherry on top of my week after several days of practicing walking with Cindy around the firehouse with no sticks and just my braces and holding one of her hands. I’m not ready to combine both feats just yet, but I’m so excited to take new steps with less of my mobility aids.

Spring is thinking about showing up in Kandern. It’s tested out a couple days, and on those days, Cindy and I have walked around the fire station without braces. I’m feeling pretty good about the improvements in the quality of my walking, and I’m hopeful that with the increase in springtime weather, I’ll be able to spend more time on my feet outside. 

Plus, today we started daylight savings, so the sun is up later and the days are starting to get longer. Stay tuned for big progresses.

Honestly, I don’t have much to report for this week in my progress. I gave you a nice look into the details of my dirty laundry last week, and I don’t have anything else to air on the internet.

I hope you’ll be satisfied with this promo for what I think is coming ahead with the change of season and keep praying with me for more healing to be revealed.

Content warning: this blog entry contains description of nasty side effects of nerve damage. Leave now, and come back next week if you get grossed out easily.

 

 

When I was in grad school, I agreed to dye part of my hair bright pink before my friend Vanessa moved to Tanzania for a year. She was notorious for vibrant hair colors and had to choose a natural tone bore the year abroad, so I was taking up the neon charge. In the grand scheme of hair, it was a subtle choice as I didn’t have Amanda bleach my hair before putting in the pink. It faded out in a couple weeks, but I’d supposedly done something crazy and wild. The next semester, I chopped my long locks off in favor of a pixie cut I kept up for a year. This, too, was touted by some as outrageous behavior, but my hair has almost returned to it’s pre-chop length through slow and steady regrowth.

Some people make hair cuts or coloring into a big deal, and while it’s true that not everyone can rock the traffic cone orange hair color, it’s not exactly a life altering decision. It is, however, a decision. 

Yesterday, I decided to let Ellie put purple dye in my hair.

I have control over the awesomeness (or occasional lack thereof) related to my hair, but there are still many things about my body which I lack control of. The purple hair in my photo lots of people could rock; the story behind the obscenely heavy bags under my eyes this morning is where the real bravery in my life comes in.

Nerve damage sucks. I already warned you to stop reading this if you’re easily queasy, and I wasn’t joking. Last night, I managed to fall asleep around eleven but woke up two hours later to discover my brain had been left out of the loop of activity happening amongst my intestines and sphincter. My clock just turned 1:00 as I turned on the light to see and smell the mess in my bed. I groggily looked around to see what I could cover my wheelchair seat with in order to heave my dirty body onto it and start cleaning myself up in the bathroom. It took me a couple minutes to sort out my strategy so that I didn’t spread anything around unnecessarily or leave some kind of disgusting trail, but I managed to sit myself on the toilet and start the baby wiping business. 

Within seconds, I knew this was too much to just wipe off, so after about ten or fifteen minutes of preliminary cleaning, I got myself into the shower. I cried out to God from the depths of my soul as I watched the water runoff, first dirty brown as I rinsed my lower half, then tinged with lavender as I washed my hair for the first time post dye. I washed my whole body as best as I’m able, still trying to stay sleepy but be alert enough not to hurt myself. I dried off with an old towel I didn’t care about staining purple, and I gathered up my dirty clothes and put them in the laundry.

Next, I returned to the scene of the crime, my bed still covered in evidence. I used baby wipes again to gather and reduce the worst of the mess before pulling off my sheets and putting them in the washing machine as well. I started the load before putting clean sheets on and finally putting my head back on my pillow at almost exactly 2am. It took me a little while to drift back to sleep, and I woke up a couple more times still scared of another accident. My mattress protector was in the wash, so I didn’t know what I would do if I ruined my mattress with a second mess in one night.

Praise the Lord, I didn’t soil my sheets again, and I woke up with my alarm and got ready for church this morning as if nothing was the matter. I planned to hide the whole ordeal from the world; no one needs to know this nastiness. I hang my laundry where no one can see – no one needs to know this mess was lingering after a first wash. And yet my intestines had a different idea this morning. I was doubled over in pain minutes before my ride for church was due to arrive. I made the last minute decision to call them, but I felt compelled to clarify, “It’s paralysis stuff, it’s nerve stuff that’s keeping me home.”

I felt really dumb afterwards for needing to justify my sickness. I could have just been sick like a normal person, but nothing is normal with me anymore. Theoretically, I do just have a normal sickness, but based on the nerve damage, my body can’t take care of itself like a normal person.

So why did I decide to share this story on the internet where anyone can read it? Well, because this is my life, and it’s not my fault I can’t receive messages well from my lower half. I get a lot of really kind messages from people who say I’m an inspiration to them because of my positive attitude about not being able to walk, and that’s really nice, but the not walking part of paralysis is the easiest part of my post accident problems. If you’re going to be inspired by me, it should be by the fact that I woke up in a bed of my own mess and took care of the whole deal in an hour without anyone’s help. Be inspired by the fact that I knew my own limits today when I was doubled over in pain this morning and subsequently spent the better half of my Sunday curled up on my couch or in my bed with a heating pad trying to recoup from that power hour in the middle of the night. Be inspired by the fact that despite the pain and the lack of sleep, I managed this selfie where my hair looks awesome and my eyebrows are on fleek. 

Go live your life and make good choices remembering that nerve damage is not for the faint of heart. Also, stay hydrated because I’m suspicious that contributed to exacerbating some of my problems this week. I plan to up my water intake this week and have less gross stories for next week’s blog post.

Years ago, I listened to one of my favorite professors in college relate the story of running into a student at Safeway. Apparently this college student had not ever stopped to think about how teachers don’t live at school and have lives outside the classroom which involve eating and grocery shopping and all sorts of normal people adventures. In her telling, his jaw hung loose as he followed her around the store at her invitation, watching her pick up groceries like an ordinary human being. 

BFA students are a little different because Kandern is so small and they see teachers all over the place. I can still inspire a small shock in students though. A sophomore looked up from her phone and smiled at me as I rounded the corner to the grocery store yesterday, but she did a double take when she realized I was walking with my Rollator. 

“You’re walking!” She told me excitedly. 

She followed me into the store and chatted a bit – more than I’d ever heard her talk in a whole semester of Old Testament last year. As we ambled through the store, I thought of the story my professor told me. This student was not so much shocked that I existed outside of school but delighted at the physical improvements she was unaware of. Most students don’t see me walking around campus. It happens occasionally, but the hallways full of teenagers racing to class are not ideal for me to practice my timid steps. 

I’m most frequently seen in my wheelchair, so people who don’t interact with me much are often shocked to see me practicing walking. I’ve still got a long way to go, but one of my friends who’s spent more time with me – particularly seeing me go up and down stairs – commented this last Thursday as I wobbled on the steps to get into a friend’s house that it was the first time she’d ever seen me need help. When people ask me if I’m capable of something, my usual response is, “I can do it if you’re patient with me.”

Everyone immediately responds, “Take your time!” But I never believe them. I realized that today as I took a solo lap around the firehouse without my braces. I was willing to take that risk on my own time because I was confident in my skills and wasn’t going to have anyone rushing me along or distracting me with polite conversation. People walking next to me subconsciously increases my pace – I’m either trying to keep up with them or trying not to irritate them with my impossibly slow steps. Unfortunately, this leads to poor quality steps instead of slow and steady practically perfect strides. 

I know this because my best walking is at physio with Anja or with Cindy who has no where to be when we are doing laps around the auditorium. If someone slows their pace for a moment to chat with me, I’m panicked into speeding up to not make them late for whatever very important date they are headed to. I make this decision for them, of course, that they are in a hurry, but it’s hard to override. 

I am noticeable when out and about, and people feel obligated to politely interact with me. Sometimes it’s just a wave, but more often they want to offer encouraging words and ask about my progress. It’s really kind, and I do appreciate all the encouragement, but I’ve realized that my noticeability makes me less inclined to practice my walking because I’m so embarrassed about my speed. It’s a pride thing, really, that I don’t want to slow people down as they walk down the street.

When I put my pride away and trust that people will walk my pace, I’m actually capable of pretty incredible feats. For example, on Friday at therapy, Anja and I took off down the street without my braces. I was using both sticks at the start as we walked into the sunshine, but pretty quickly, I handed off the left stick to her and just used her hand for balance on that side. My steps were solid and intentional, slow and beautiful. Most of my weight was over my hips as I pushed off my legs to propel my body weight forwards. We traded sides on the way back, and I discovered, to both of our delight, that I was capable of holding her left hand with my right while also holding my left stick in the air for a few steps. It wasn’t completely without help as her hand took some of my weight and helped me maintain balance, but it was a pretty incredible feat for me. 

As I click “post” on this entry, I’m making public my struggle with being so public. I recognize the oddity of my struggle, and if you’d like to help, don’t hide from me. If you see me walking, I’m still encouraged by kind words, but if you want to walk with me, maybe slow your pace even more than what I’m doing to force me to keep the quality of my gait instead of trying to impress you with speed. For those of you not inclined to see me irl, I enjoy Harry Potter memes and screen caps of snark and genius from Parks and Rec. 

I spent a lot of time on my computer this week trying to sort through insurance claims and licensing paperwork. I’m not going to lie, it’s stressful and overwhelming. It overshadowed much of my week, and I called my mom after I was pushed over an emotional cliff with disappointing news related to my plans for my totalization year in 2018-19. The place I wanted to go emailed me that their facility is not handicapped accessible and will not likely make the changes in time for me to spend that year learning and serving there. 

My life isn’t perfect, and I don’t try to hide that. I do try to be responsible in where I dump my emotions, and the internet isn’t always the safest place. I do want to be honest here, though, that this frustrating paperwork distracted me from focusing on my body. My physical care is the first thing to get the shaft when things get stressful because my students are my priority. I do know, however, that I can’t care for them well if I’m not well cared for myself.

I did still make significant strides this week – literal ones with just Cindy’s hand for balance as I walked around the auditorium in my braces. I also had an hour long session with Anja on Friday where she spent extra time stretching and preparing my legs before putting me on the elliptical with no braces. I exhausted myself after a couple minutes, but I could tell a difference in the quality of the strides this time in comparison the previous work on the elliptical. 

I want to focus on caring for my students and my body, so can you please pray with me that my paperwork stresses will be resolved quickly? I need my insurance to reimburse me the $2,000 they owe me, and I need assorted sources across the Atlantic to send and approve my PDUs for my Oregon educator’s license.

When I dumped all this information on my mom, she uncomfortably asked if I expected her to do something about it.

“NO!” was my quick response.

Honestly, there’s not much my mother can do if I wanted her to. It’s not like she can call TSPC and get them to get their act together since they didn’t reply to my inquiry emails to sort this stuff out a year ago. No, this is just a life circumstance, and it’s temporary. Moms have an important emotional role, however, and I needed her to let me process through these emotions before I composed them in a calm and orderly state on the internet. None of you can directly help with any of my stressful circumstances that compiled to make this week a raging dumpster fire of frustration. (Unless you work for TSPC – can you approve my license renewal right away, please?) However, those of you inclined to pray can petition the Lord for peace and order as I sort this all out. Also it would be nice if I could walk again too.

And despite being a frequent pessimist, I’ll leave those of you who come for happy stories with an anecdote of my children and their mothers:

First, for context, several dorm boys have taken to calling me mother. I can’t seem to make them stop. One of them comes from Israel, and he shouts “Ima” at me whenever he sees me as his own personal joke because this is Hebrew for mother so he’s not overtly encouraging others to call me mother. He happened to be in the school play last week – he was a delightful pirate – and at the end of the show he shouted “Ima” across the auditorium to get my attention. I’m conditioned to respond to this by now, so I turned, only to hear another woman say, “Who else are you calling ‘Ima’?” 

I was mortified to discover his actual mother was visiting from Israel to see him in the play. He found this hilarious and was laughing hysterically as I hid my face in my hands.

“I’m so sorry,” I told his mother, “I promise I don’t encourage this.”

Praise the Lord, she is a good natured woman, and readily acknowledged her ridiculous child was prone to such escapades without encouragement. I was still embarrassed when he stopped by my house with friends after school on Thursday, and I reiterated how fortunate I was that his mother wasn’t offended.

“Oh, she knows the whole story and thinks it’s funny,” he told me, “So does my dad. In fact, my dad encourages it.”

So there you have it, amidst the chaos of bills and bureaucracy, I can still provide some comic relief on the mission field. 

This Friday I had a wonderful conversation with a student about what the Lord has taught me over the past three years.

“I wish you could share that in chapel!” she exclaimed, “So many people need to hear that!” 

We then diverged to talk about what can be translated to the masses versus what can only be said face to face. There are lessons that take an intimate explanation, and not everything can be picked up on across the internet. I can’t capture the essence of that conversation in a pithy blog post, and I shouldn’t. The mother of a dorm student who was visiting this weekend for the play chatted with me during intermission, and she encouraged me that not every detail of my soul has to be displayed openly for me to still testify loudly and glorify the Lord in my story. 

The play was Treasure Island – the story of a bunch of boys seeking treasure and adventure – and it was fantastic. Full disclosure, I never read the whole book (I’m sorry, Mrs. Maki) because I didn’t find the plot that engaging, but I loved watching the sweetest Canadian kid I’ve ever met play the sneaky pirate John Silver. My students are my treasure; I love these kids.

Part of how I’m called to love them is by living well in the current state of my body. Last week I celebrated a single step all on my own, and while I didn’t repeat that particular feat, I’m delighted to share that while making a solo loop around the fire station on Thursday, I managed to keep both sticks in the air for a record four steps while walking with my braces. I’m praising God for this new feat and looking forward to more revelation of my healing. 

 

This week had some incredible highs, and I can’t believe I’m going to tell you the best thing wasn’t taking three steps with Cindy only holding my gait belt and both my hands free. It wasn’t even leaving the wheelchair at home on Thursday when I came in to teach and still having enough energy to do what Cindy said was some of the best walking she’s ever seen me do.

No, the highlight of my week was one small step with Anja’s encouragement at physio on Friday. Note I said encouragement not help. I took the step by myself. Unlike the steps with Cindy, there was no gait belt and no braces. There were no sticks and no hand holding either. This was a single step in my own strength. It was concentrated and deliberate. Then I wobbled a little and grabbed Anja for support before we both sat down and cried.

Nothing else this week comes close to the emotional high of this first step all by myself in over three years. I’m all the more determined to keep pushing myself physically to care for the function the Lord has given me in this body.

I got to share the news with Cindy later that day, and she reiterated her thoughts from the day before that I just need more practice to see big strides in stamina now. I’m all the more convinced the Lord is revealing a new work in my body, and I sing with renewed understanding the words I used to sing with my Port kids, “Every move I make, I make in you. You make me move, Jesus… Every step I take, I take in you.”

I’m so grateful for all the birthday wishes and prayers last week. I thought I’d give specific reports based on what I requested for prayer about. Thank you for taking time to lift me up before the Lord. He was glorified – an answer to my first request. 

As for the second, I had some amazing walking with Cindy this past week. We’ve been walking laps around the auditorium or cafeteria three days a week with not sticks. I buckle on a gait belt and stand up just holding on to Cindy’s arms. She then adjusts to my side and holds one hand steady as I take shaky steps with increasing confidence. Occasionally, I’ll hit a stride telling her stories about her kids in my class (her daughters are hilarious). I’m so excited about this progress with the braces, but there’s also activity in my ankles that Margot and Anja are excited about too. On Friday, I spent a few more minutes on the elliptical with no braces. Anja’s hoping to move into new activities moving and strengthening the ankles in the coming months.

Request three was related to my story, and I was able to have a really great conversation with a former kiddo in America about how I see God with me in my suffering. She’s in a place of getting to ask hard questions about faith, and I’m so grateful that the Lord has prepared me to go through life beside her in this journey. 

I asked for prayers related to my strength and stamina, and I did a lot this past week. I’m so encouraged by the marked difference in how much I can accomplish in a given day. My first fall term back in the classroom, teaching two class periods and a half hour of physio was a full and draining day for me. This Thursday, I had breakfast with a friend, taught two periods, came home for coffee with someone else, had two students crash my house for their study hall, returned to school to walk with Cindy, then came home and made cookies in time to go to family group. Friday I got up a little early to make it to school in time to sub first period for a friend, taught my two classes, went to physio, then headed out to dinner and the symphony with some friends. A year ago, a single one of those days would have been unimaginable let alone two full days back to back like that. Today I slept in a little and took it easy most of the day but even had enough energy to make it to the Rogue One viewing at the Kandern Kino. 

My final request was related to my amazing job and how to best sustain my ministry here. A few close friends and family had extra insight that I was also praying about my summer plans. I really feel called to long term service in educational ministry, and I have a huge support team making my service here possible. My supporters are spread across America, and when I visited two years ago, I packed in countless coffees and conversations, but I pushed my body really hard on that trip. Any subsequent visits to America need to be more carefully planned for my body, and one of the ways I can prepare myself for the best possible return visit is to use this coming summer as an intensive recovery time in Germany. I’ve talked to my physios about staying here this summer and having a week intensive with Anja similar to what I did with Kandice in my visit to Oregon in 2015. They agree it would be a great choice to care for my body.

It’s a difficult choice because it means I won’t get to visit Bella Espresso, Longbottom, Black Rock, Dutch Brothers, Insomnia Coffee, or any other of my favorite coffee shops for yet another year – or Powell’s Books. More significantly though, it means I won’t get the chance to pull my nephews into my lap and read Not A Stick or whatever other latest book they’ve checked out from the library for another year. However, I’m staying here to be intentional in seeking the Lord and practicing my walking in the hopes that in the summer of 2018 I’ll be able to go for a walk holding Wyatt and Parker’s hands instead of four footed canes. 

I was never a huge fan of Emily Dickinson, but we’ve almost all heard the line, “Hope is the thing with feathers / that perches in the soul.” Hope is a happy thing, and Dickinson concludes even in extremity it never asks a thing. I would argue otherwise. Hope can be exhausting. 

Then again, perhaps I’m confusing it with faith – which is being sure of what you hope for. 

Either way, I’ll argue that the feathered thing is essential to survival. Yesterday, I had a delightful birthday, and as I ended the evening watching an emotional episode of Call the Midwife, I heard the nuns share the essential wisdom, “Life is never without hope.” The protagonist shares the same sentiment with a family struggling to understand why the medical community would bother saving a child with spina bifida. 

Why did anyone bother saving me? Is my quality of life any less than yours because I can’t walk around with the same ease? I would argue I enjoy life more than most people because I understand how valuable it is having had so much taken away. 

Due to my accident, I’m all the more intentional about celebrating the freedom to have a full day of work, therapy, grocery shopping, and dinner with a friend. This Friday, I went in to school early to work on new assignments and prepare my lessons for the coming week. I also had the absolute joy of reading the Joseph narrative with two sections of juniors and heard groans at the bell with fifteen kids begging me to let them stay and finish the story instead of going to their next class.

Later in the afternoon, I made it to therapy with Anja, and she put me back on the elliptical. This time she filmed a few seconds of my awesome stepping before I exhausted myself. Once seated to catch my breath, she took my braces off and said we’d try without them once I was rested enough. After two and a half years, I’ll do whatever Anja asks because I trust her. I carefully got back on the elliptical with her help and managed a couple minutes of this incredible new feat. She filmed it as well and let me watch them both to compare. I’m incredible. 

Okay, but seriously, three years ago on my birthday, I remember celebrating three steps, and now the day after walking on an elliptical without braces, I got to have almost two hours in the thermal baths moving around with so many muscles – weak, but at least present. And now I’m even excited about the thermal baths! Multiple people have commented to me about that hilarity that I chose to go to Bad Bellingen with two friends for my birthday. Yes, Carol convinced me to enjoy them. I had so much fun relaxing Saturday morning with coffee and conversation with two precious students followed by an excursion to Bad Bellingen with Carol and Katrina. I then hung out at the Bonhams for an amazing dinner and the best chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted followed by some episodes of Call the Midwife. 

I teared up watching the TV characters deal with the drama of a disabled child. Because of the feathered thing, someone decided to improve the quality of life for those in wheelchairs. I’m a beneficiary of the ongoing studies for the medical advances and facility upgrades, and that feathered thing ruffles me out of bed each morning as I wheel to school and share my certainty of hope with students. 

Tomorrow I’ll collect some worksheets on Joseph, and we’ll keep talking about how Old Testament narratives can change our lives – man, that Joseph story is mad crazy, though. It excites me, and I get to talk to students about how it can motivate us to live differently just as the Ruth narrative can (which we’ll read together in class on Wednesday). 

But a final comment on the exhaustion. Hope is exhausting for me because while it gets me out of bed each morning, I’m still disabled for the present moment. I’ve got a lot of hope in what is yet to come, but I’m desperate for your prayers that I’ll keep getting out of bed and accomplishing more each day. As I continue to live and work to the glory of God, there are things that try to discourage and disrupt my progress. I’m making some intentional changes to my lifestyle to combat them, but I covet prayers in establishing healthy routines that improve my holistic health as I serve my students.

Friday evening I went over to hang out with my next door neighbors and watch some mindless internet-tainment. We also ended up talking about how much we care about our students learning about who Jesus really is. That was an important part of my week because there are stresses involved in living in this community, but the genuine friendships I have with people like Josh and Morgan are super important to me as I serve my students. I also had students who have finished my class come over Wednesday and Thursday to make cookies and talk about theology. I also had some soul refreshing skype sessions that reminded me why I left the PNW to be a missionary.

It was an emotionally full week for me, but I couldn’t let that get in the way of my physical recovery. As I take a holistic approach to my healing, I can’t help but notice the connection to stress in my life with the physical advances (or lack thereof) I make. I wish I could report more developments, but slow and steady is a positive message too. I don’t need to report all the emotions, but perhaps just signaling that it was a full week juxtaposed to my lack of gigantic advancements is enough. I started a new semester, and this term’s schedule gives me three days a week to walk with Cindy during seventh period. After several weeks of exercising on my own, I was nervous about how my balance would be. We were both pleasantly surprised that I managed to walk quite well just holding one of Cindy’s arms if she kept me distracted with conversations about my students. 

I’m really hopeful for this coming term to see a lot of development in my strength and stamina. Looking ahead, I’m praying about how to best use my summer to maintain and advance my abilities. I could really use global prayer support on that decision. I could also really use global prayer support on a few other requests. In fact, each year since my accident, I’ve created a Facebook event for prayer for me on my birthday which is coming up this next Saturday. You can join the public event by clicking here (hopefully) or by searching on Facebook for “Super Birthday Prayer.” I love celebrating my birthday by knowing hundreds of people are praying for me and praising the God who has given me so much healing.

The closeness of my accident date to my birthday wasn’t something I had much time to process the first year, but it’s something I’ve come to enjoy as I can ask the world to celebrate with me all the good the Lord has done in my life so far with no shame in asking for even more good gifts from a good, good Father.

I don’t want today to end. My best friends are here, and they are leaving in the morning.

Three years ago, my January 18 started out bright with new friends and a flicker of adventure but ended rather awfully. I woke up January 19, and the world was still turning for everyone though it would never be the same for me. I wake up every morning still hoping me feet will return to me, but I have to make the most of what I have. A former student messaged me yesterday to tell me how he spent an hour in a wheelchair and it deepened his respect for me because this is my life indefinitely and I manage to stay positive and awesome – his words not mine.

I’m not perfect with the positive and awesome, but when I asked this kid if his experience in light of knowing me encouraged him to not waste his life, he said yes.

Worth it.

It was well timed encouragement to read yesterday after a nearly perfect day adventuring with Rachel, Sarah, and Jordyne. We spent the whole day laughing and adventuring hard, and I spent two days of energy in the car ride from Kandern to the Belgian border and back. Today is the traumaversary date, and my besties are still here through the night though I had details of work to deal with this morning. Mornings are already hard for me as my leg spasms are usually at their worst, but it’ll be even harder than normal to get out of bed in my lonely apartment tomorrow.

For me, every bit is worth it to know that one kid won’t waste his life.

It’s just days away. I count my years by the 18th of January rather than the 1st, and I’m within a week of my third traumaversary. I’ll be adventuring with my three best friends that day after I proctor a final for my precious students, but I plan to post some thoughts that day too.

For now, I’ll leave you with the highs and lows of yesterday. 

Carol, always up for the thermal baths, spent the afternoon with Jordyne and I as we enjoyed the relaxing mineral waters. I’m slowly coming around to this wearing a swimsuit and being wet thing (though it’s still not my favorite activity – I’ve at least stopped singing laments about land from The Little Mermaid when people ask me about getting in the water). It was so much fun to feel almost normal hanging out with a best friend from each continent I’ve lived on.

Once we pruned up a bit, my friends patiently helped me dry off and change and head home. It was starting to rain when we got out of the baths, and the soggy ground outside my house wasn’t a deterrent for me getting in. It was, however, problematic when I tried to transfer from my wheelchair to my toilet in my narrow bathroom doorway as the rain and snowmelt had puddled all over my house when we tracked slush in. Long time readers of my blog might remember the graceful fall I had my first autumn out of REHAB in the same location – my feet both slid in front of me on the tile, and my adjustable hand grip slid down the doorframe with my body weight.

Yesterday was a little more dramatic. My right foot went forwards, and my left foot twisted behind me as the hand grip ripped off the door frame and I dropped in a flash. It made a lot of noise, but no loud breaks or snaps were in the cacophony as I looked around at my skewed leg caught in the doorframe. Jordyne came quickly to my rescue and helped un-catch my foot from the doorframe while I took stock of potential injuries. Nothing seemed broken, but I was still stunned and on the floor. I carefully maneuvered myself back into the wheelchair and laid myself out on the couch to see if anything would swell unnaturally. 

Today, I kept to the wheelchair and didn’t stand or walk much except to get to and from the car for therapy with Anja. I told her about my mishap, and she suggested we do a lymphatic drainage massage to treat the lingering pain in my left leg. I’m still pretty sore, but let’s focus on how I got back into the chair after that fall on the floor. Anja was super proud of me for managing it by myself, and I’m going to take that small victory over life whenever it tries to get me down. 

Most people think the anniversary of my accident ought to be a depressing day, but let me tell you, I’ll be laughing loudly with Sarah – who has the greatest laugh on the planet – and enjoying conversation with some of the most important people in my life after getting one last class with my fourth period (even if it is just their final exam). So if you think of me this coming Wednesday, praise God that I’m still able to get back up after each and every fall. Also, it’d be nice if I could walk again too.

Bring it, traumaversary, do your worst. I’ll laugh in your face. 

I’ve been reading this super interesting biography of Pocahontas written by a Native American woman that tells the story in a Native narrative form as opposed to a European one. This means there are narrative loops as she retells portions adding details and information with each round of the story. She also traces historical patterns as events repeat with variations. One example is John Smith’s attendance at a cultural festival; his appearance makes the event distinctly different than any that has gone before, but he’s still entering into something that has happened before. 

I couldn’t get the narrative circles out of my head as I visited historical sites with Jo and Jordyne yesterday. We took the day to visit Heidelberg, historic to theology nerds like Jordyne for the Heidelberg Catechism and Martin Luther’s disputation delivered 499 years ago this April. Jo was most interested in the world’s largest wine vat, and I was in it for the Starbucks. Okay, just kidding, but even the untrained reader following my blog can catch the coffee motif in my life.

It’s a natural narrative consistency to the pattern in which I relate my story. Coffee is relational to me as I used to meet with youth group students at Insomnia Coffee Co or hang out with friends at Ava’s late into the night. It’s still significant to me – remember my church sent me some in my recent care package, and my student in the Dominican Republic emailed me that he was bringing me more grounds when school starts tomorrow. I can’t wait to see him – and not just for the coffee.

I love my job, and I love my students. I’ve had a wonderful break with Jordy, but I’m so excited to start school again as well. I can’t wait to see each one of my students. They are all in transit today, and we’ll get to jump right into the last week of the apologetics unit. In the lessons ahead, I’ll attempt to communicate truth to my students with the same passion as the Reformers of five centuries ago or even the founders of Heidelberg University who sought to establish a place of learning truth after the Western Schism of 1378 – hey, let’s get super nerdy, with the passion of the saints around for the Great Schism of 1054. Significantly though, I’m more interested in the reconciliation side of sharing truth than the great theologians involved in these events are remembered for.

None of those guys wanted to go down in history as a divider of the faith, but sometimes historians take a piece of our story and run with it. According to this Pocahontas biography, that’s what happened with this young Native American woman four hundred years ago. A century after Martin Luther nailed his theses in Wittenberg, a young woman formerly known as Pocahontas died as Lady Rebecca in high society England. She’s remembered as a diplomat but might have been a spy. Luther had his moments of being less than loving to Jewish people, but his dedication to giving the masses access to the truth overshadows his shortcomings. If I have any sway in how I’m remembered some day, I hope it would have more to do with my passion for my students and my indefatigable spirit in my recovery than any impatience with others or failings as an educator.

Thoughts of what impression I leave on others is weighing significantly on my as I approach the three year anniversary of my accident because more and more people recognize me as the disabled woman first (it’s the primary physical feature after the hipster glasses). I know that’s a huge part of my identity, but I’m still not comfortable being defined by it. I’m still working hard to improve strength and wait eagerly for what new function returns. 

And if anyone is reading this four hundred years from now wanting to write a biography about me, I’d like to go on record that I am probably not a spy, but that would be a super cool story. 

I’m wracked with insecurities. I’m hugely insecure. It’s a real problem sometimes.

I’m not insecure about my nerdiness or my personality because I certainly wouldn’t stand a chance working with teenagers if that were the case, but I really struggle to think peers or other adults would find me worth investing in relationally. I live on the financial generosity of others, and I thrive on the prayers of friends and strangers reading my blog and remembering to pray for me. Through this week, I was reminded of the security I have in Christ despite my personal insecurities. I have always loved the old worship song “So Close” that begins with the words, “I’m so secure / You’re here with me,” and those lyrics still resonate with me when I doubt that I can impress enough people to fund my ministry or share enough miraculous improvements to inspire people to keep reading and praying for me. 

I read this article on how Americans are giving less to charity and had a mini panic attack about the sustainability of living as a missionary doing my dream job here in Germany. Then, as my insecurities started to take over my ability to breathe, peace flooded in with reminders of my security in the Lord. Dozens of people have been more than generous as they give selflessly to share in my ministry. My blog posts might not go viral, but hundreds of people still pray for me. Among those who read my posts, many faithfully check in with me and follow up to details of my ongoing recovery. Along with my Christmas package from my parents this week, I received an incredibly thoughtful package from people at my sending church in Denver to remind me I was not forgotten.

In my insecurity, I struggle with the fact that there’s not great life changing news to share each week, but I know that I’m secure in both my ministry and the ongoing physical recovery dispensed from the Lord. This week didn’t have any big advances, but Jordyne and I went on some short walks and made plans for sustainable changes in my routine that could lead to long term improvements. 

I’ll keep you posted on what changes may come as I continue on this journey, and I’m so grateful for your ongoing prayers and support as we discover together what story the Lord is writing with my life.

John is my favorite Gospel. The Evangelist’s annunciation of the birth of Jesus literarily parallels the opening of Genesis, and I can’t help but get excited about the Word becoming flesh. I love the tellings in Matthew and Luke as well, but there’s something magical about the poetic nature of John 1. I was thinking of that as we sang all the verses of “What Child Is This” at the Christmas Eve service yesterday. 

“Nails, spears shall pierce him through, the cross he bore for me, for you. Hail, hail the Word made flesh, the Babe, the Son of Mary.” 

Advent is the season we celebrate the arrival of the Messiah. Good news, great joy, and all that jazz. Schools and lots of other jobs take breaks to give us time to celebrate this – though most people just take it as a vacation time. Anja and I had a great conversation on Friday about how Christmas Eve services in Germany are designed to be reflective opportunities for people to press pause in their busy lives and think about the gift of Jesus in our world. We also talked about the sad things in the world that make us long for peace. 

I have hope that does not disappoint because the Prince of Peace is coming back, and as Paul says, if this Christ is not returning, we are to be pitied among all people. I realized as Anja and I were talking that we are privileged to have heard this whole story and know the context of hymns like “What Child Is This?” I can get up and heave my weight into my wheelchair knowing that the Word be came flesh to save my soul despite the malfunctions of my body.

This week, I had the extra joy of some touristy outings with visitors as my best friend arrived and my mentor and her family came to spend a day with me on their European vacation. Wednesday afternoon, I rode to the top of Hoch Blauen with the Grovers, and we broke through the clouds and got an incredible view as the sky was clear above. I live in a beautiful country, and there are breathtaking experiences that I’m so humbled to take in. I still have to hobble around with my sticks, but I’m incredibly thankful that I’m able to walk the snippets necessary to see places like this. Thursday, Jordyne and I spent the afternoon at a Christmas market in France with some Canadian friends, and although I enjoyed the day from my wheelchair, I’m still grateful I was able to experience the cultural treat with good company. 

This week didn’t have big jumps in my physical recovery, but it was a treat for my soul as I got to spend a day with Mark, Tina, Taylor, and Chaylene plus Jordyne arrived for a month long stay. We’ve been laughing and walking and sharing life for a couple of days, and it’s an important part of my ongoing recovery.

My Messiah put on flesh and moved in the the neighborhood as Eugene Peterson puts it in his translation of John 1, and this week was a great pause in my busy life to remember that amazing gift of incarnation. Sometimes in my theological nerdiness, I forget the simplicity of that message, and I forget that not everyone knows it or celebrates it this time of year.

My story is inseparable from this incredible working of God’s story in humanity, so I can’t help but write about it on this blog about my recovery. Watch closely, and see the connection to you and to me.

See, when the Word became flesh, the One who created the world, he entered in to be relational. I’ve found people who share with me in the joy of this story, and that relationship continues between the Word and me and my Christian family. Christmas is a marking in the year of the arrival of the Christ who came to draw people close to him. I’ve been drawn near, and I’m humbled to see how he’s used me to draw others to himself as well. Some people are drawn to my story because of my weird wording and affinity for alliteration, but others are just intrigued by the joyful cripple. 

Interestingly, in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ arrival in Bethlehem, he was born to a carpenter’s family and the angels announced it to some lowly shepherds first. News traveled fast, but it was delivered first to the common folk – the Messiah was for everyone down to the lowest on the social strata. This is a message for all people today, and it’s sometimes mis-packaged to make people think it’s only for the super religious-y crowd. 

So this Jesus dude showed up on the scene in history to invite you and me into relationship, and it doesn’t stop with the manger scene. I love the opportunity the calendar gives us to celebrate the arrival annually, but there is so much more to this story as I daily celebrate community with Jesus and people who want to know more about him. This child depicted in the manger is Christ the King. This baby who Mary held grew up to be my Savior who now holds me tight.

Three years ago this week, I sat in the Lutheran church in town surrounded by native German speakers, unable to understand a word, and overwhelmed with emotion as I realized I wanted to stay in Germany long term. Tonight I sat there surrounded by the same group of non-English speakers again overwhelmed with emotion.

This time, I’ll be honest, I had a lot more emotions than just my desire to stay in Germany long term. I still want that – let me be up front with that. However, three years ago, that choir practice was a month before my accident. I walked in and out of that building with no assistance. Full disclosure, I had a hand written note from Sandra that told the German ladies she couldn’t make it and just to please gently nudge me into the correct place since I couldn’t understand a word they said. This time friends had to help drive me, assemble my wheelchair, and aide me up and down the steep ramp into the building.

I teared up a few times during the choir rehearsal for various reasons. First, I thought of how I was once not disabled. I miss that. Then I thought of how I still want to stay at BFA and teach these amazing students because I love them. Next, I reflected on the amazing progress I’ve made with the help of friends and physios here. This past week, Margot celebrated some more flickers of hope in my ankles, and Anja put me through an intensive ab workout. I’m going to be feeling it for days – and I’m going to be walking, and moving, and strengthening different muscles through those days. That’s a huge gift. 

I’ve been given so many gifts by a good, good Father, and the Lutheran church has a big semi-creepy statue of his Son on the cross in the front of the altar space. I know that Son died for me, but I celebrate that he also rose for me. Both make me a little teary-eyed at times. As I listened to the men’s choir practice their songs in front of the image of Jesus, I got misty eyed at the majority of words that I could understand. I also got pretty close to a sob as memories of a loved one who passed away this week came to mind.

As I thought about people dying and Jesus dying, the words of Julian of Norwich came to mind. As she wept over her vision of the crucified Lord, she heard him say, “All shall be well.” Actually, the full quote is, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well,” which is significant to trinitarian theology nerds like me. The point being, in the midst of hearing hard news and still struggling with nerve damage, I also have great joy in the work that I do, the students who are interested in learning about their faith, and the opportunity to share life and celebrate the Savior in song with people in my community. 

I had really high highs this week with alumni visiting and counting down to Jordyne’s arrival, and they were interrupted with a few low lows inevitable in the sadness of sin and death. As hilarious as my students are, my laughter is always temporary, but the joy of the Lord is an anchor to my soul.

In conclusion, I’d be lying if I said that while sitting in a German church reflecting on theology I didn’t think of Bonhoeffer. I recently listened to the audio book of The Cost of Discipleship, and I cannot stress enough how incredible it is. I could have easily ended this post with the last paragraph, but I wanted to bring up the brilliant theologian for two reasons. First, in this powerful text, Bonhoeffer boldly proclaims the high cost and equally high value of following Jesus. He writes, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Now, there are so many convicting lines in that book, but this one reminds me of that old school Chris Tomlin song “Oh The Wonderful Cross” where the church cries out, “Oh the wonderful cross bids me come and die and find that I may truly live.” With all these emotions running through me, I know that I am truly living. 

The second reason for bringing up Bonhoeffer is significantly sillier, so if you think I’m a serious person, stop reading now. I’ve been counting down the days until my best friend arrives to visit with comparisons of famous best friends, and I’m only four days away from being reunited with the Eberhard Bethge to my Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

You may not have heard me say it, but I love my job. Welcome to those of you who haven’t heard that before; you are clearly new. 

I had a student ask me to record a video blog with advice for my high school self, and one of the pieces of wisdom I chose to share was to find something you are passionate about and have a place for it in your life. For me, I’m privileged enough to have a career that centers around what I’m passionate about, and I absolutely love it when students show up at my house to make cupcakes or have dinner. This Wednesday two of my precious kiddos came for couscous, and we talked about both silly and serious things. Before they left, they both signed my brand world map with marks in their heart countries. I love the new visual representation I have in my home of how my students gather in Germany and then scatter across the globe.

I also love the gift of spending my life doing what I’m passionate about and interacting with others who do the same. Tuesday I spent my therapy session with Margot testing out new functions and reflecting on how far I’ve come, and Friday Anja helped me with some incredible new feats unimaginable for my ability level of a year ago. As I was overcome with emotion (and physically exhausted from my exertion), Anja commented moments like watching a paraplegic spend a couple minutes on an elliptical and practice kneeling and standing were the reason she loves her job. Both these women have used their passion and expertise for physical therapy to help me improve my ability which has had a tremendous positive impact on my quality of life and general joy. Walking laps in the cafeteria or auditorium with Cindy and giving her an exhausted high five feels incredible to me, but I know she is genuinely just as delighted as I am. 

I was just having a conversation with a coworker today about how beautiful it is that God has uniquely gifted each of us with different passions and abilities to match. For example, I never had any interest in anatomy and physiology, but Alyson got a doctorate in physical therapy and ended up using it to teach A&P here this year as well as walk with me. She let me be a live model of nerve damage as I shared with students about my injury. Many of these kids are interested in careers in the medical field which is totally beyond me. I’ll stick with literature and theology – though apparently that’s not limited Sister Monica Joan* from a fulfilling career as a nun and a midwife. I love that I’m different than you, and I love the way that our paths have crossed however you managed to read today’s entry. I’m so grateful for the prayer warriors across the globe lifting me up and sending me encouragements.

*Full disclosure, I’ve only seen the first episode of Call the Midwife, but my best friend is coming to visit me in eleven days, and she assures me that she is the Sister Evangelina to my Sister Monica Joan. We’re vastly different in many ways – she doesn’t eat dairy and she can drive stick shift – but we’ve both prioritized the things we’re passionate about in life and will dedicate every waking moment to making the world a better place in the name of Jesus.

“Smiling is my favorite.” Actually, no, full disclosure, I think laughing is my favorite.

Every semester my students ask me if they are my favorite. Like every good teacher, I tell them I don’t have favorite students or class periods. I did receive a huge compliment from a student today who admitted that despite her constant competition with a classmate to be my favorite student, I’m the first teacher who she has ever believed when I say I don’t have favorites. She went on to tell me that she recognized that I show my love for students in different ways because they are all different. After a crazy stressful week, that was a big uplift to my spirit.

I really do love each of my students, and I have to show my love differently. Some of them are a joy in class, and it’s easy to laugh with them or make cookies with them. Alternatively, I groan over others who are occasionally disrespectful or belligerent, but I don’t love them any less. By the grace of God, I can testify to the love that pulled me out of my own belligerence, and I want my students to see that in me. I hope that is visible for the student to whom I had to assign a difficult consequence this week just as much as for the two basketball players who asked to use their study hour after school Thursday to talk to me about the work of the Holy Spirit in the world today.

I can’t choose a favorite student from among these precious children any more than I can choose a favorite moment from this crazy stressful week seasoned with dozens of joyous experiences. An unfortunate incident last Friday led to a lot of disheartening emails and paperwork, and I had a phone call reminder Monday afternoon that I needed to go to REHAB for a urine sample this week which made for some high emotions as I tried to make it through the rest of my weekly responsibilities. Fortunately, I had some incredible walking with Cindy as she held one hand and I practiced walking with my second arm free. Margot and I reviewed some of the improvements I’ve had in the past couple years, and she spent time targeting specific muscles that she wants me to train to improve the quality of my walking. I showed off a little with Anja on Friday, and we’re beginning a new plan to advance my confidence in gross motor skills. After I demonstrated with her what I’d been practicing with Cindy, Anja walked me into the workout room and helped me onto the elliptical machine where I worked out for a few minutes. 

Take a moment to let that sink in – a diagnosed paraplegic got on an elliptical and walked without incident for a few minutes. While I was moving my legs, I could feel different muscles activated that are often compensated for while I have the solid support of my sticks. Anja commented that anyone who saw me would never suspect I had any kind of SCI based on the ability I was demonstrating. But we weren’t done yet! After a short rest and a glass of water, Anja instructed me to practice kneeling and returning to a standing position with just the help of a stool. This is the first step in making sure I’m safe getting on and off the floor in a variety of circumstances yet to come. 

Like I said, it’s difficult to choose which of those physical successes through the week would be my favorite, but I also had the joy of seeing Danai, Sabrina, and Marion at REHAB on Wednesday. Even though it was just for five minutes, I felt like I hit the jackpot with three of my four favorite nurses on duty. Plus I managed ninety percent of the conversation in German as two of them don’t speak any English. Speaking of speaking German, I also had a delightful evening yesterday at the Kandern choir’s Christmas party. Germans are really into their parties, and I’m still so amazed at the kindness extended to me by these women despite my slowness with their language. Gundi reassured me for the dozenth time that all the food was safe for me, and different friends took turns bringing and clearing my plates away and keeping my glass full as we laughed and talked and I tried to pick up a few more German or dialect words. 

Yet another item on my list of blessings that I can’t rank as favorites were the number of emails I received with uplifting words. One of them was from a member of my sending church, and, as a missionary, I can tell you it’s an incredible blessing to have someone reach out and ask how they can pray for you. It’s hugely valuable to hear from people on my support team who are continuing to lift me up to the Lord. I also had a handful of emails from parents that were particularly encouraging. Full disclosure, I actually emailed about a dozen parents with the subject line “Positive News” to tell them how much I loved their kids just to make me feel happier after having to send a few difficult emails. While it had an instant effect of making me happy to share my genuine love of these kids, the responses reminded me that my ministry has a ripple effect in the lives of these parents. One emailed almost immediately a response that they were also praying for me and were grateful for my ministry. A second parent responded with thanks and told me she knew her son held me in high esteem. Multiple parents let me know this small encouragement from me made their day. 

So back to laughing. My laugh is pretty recognizable – I’m pretty sure the 7th period art class was making fun of my laugh when they heard me down the hall in the ceramics room on Thursday. I love to laugh – loud, and long, and clear. Amidst all the craziness of my life – the paralysis, the grading, the NHS service project planning – laughter is important to me, but I want to be cautious with my superlatives. I think I’d be safer to revise my statement to say Jesus is my favorite, and I love when he laughs with me and cries with me.

This week, I’d ask for your ongoing prayers with me for every single one of my precious students as we enter in the final two weeks of school before Christmas break. Students tend to turn their brains off, but we have so much learning to accomplish left in my class. I’m also eager for your prayers that I would continue to see progress in my balance and walking – both literally and metaphorically.

Growing up, I always loved the laid back feel of Thanksgiving day. From my mom’s perspective, I think there was a lot more stress, but for me, the holiday meant just hanging out with extended family and getting to put black olives on my fingers before eating them. The German calendar doesn’t recognize this holiday, but my international small group took special note of the date this Thursday as the two Dutch, two Canadian, and four English friends (though one was missing for the actual event) went out of their way to celebrate American thanksgiving with me as the lone representative of the country. I was especially blessed to enjoy the time with these friends as they are patient with my perpetual slowness and let me feel relaxed when I can’t accomplish much more than walking through the door after a few steep steps.

We made space in our meal to share things we are thankful for and talked about various holiday traditions. It’s sometimes hard to celebrate holiday traditions having moved away from my family, and I can’t help but be a little nostalgic for the days when Mariela, Denise, and I would play with our happy meal toys in the back of our mini van as we headed out with our parents to cut down our Christmas trees. However, it’s still completely worth it to me for the gift I have of teaching my amazing students about theology. 

I’m not a perfect teacher – as any of my 6th period students could tell you after a few frustrating moments this week – but I care about what I do. I am working hard to get better at my delivery of content and expression of compassion for every student. It’s what I’m passionate about. I see small successes like when a junior steps up to lead a class discussion with just brief input from me or when a senior comes over for dinner with two other students and says, “Hey, we should ask Ms. Hewett all our deep theological questions now.” (Sadly, he couldn’t think of any on the spot, and we ended up talking about the unfortunate placement of the chapstick selection in Hieber among other mundane things.) 

My life is richly blessed. I have wonderful memories of holiday traditions growing up, and I’m able to make amazing new memories as I live overseas teaching my amazing students. Sometimes I second guess myself because what I do seems so simple, but my friend Katrina reminded me today that I’m doing what I’m uniquely gifted for. I don’t have to be me plus the skills of anyone else, I just need to be me well. 

This week I was me well by answering students’ questions about the end of the world (our lesson was on eschatology), by going to therapy, by practicing some incredible one crutch walking with Cindy, by learning to make a pumpkin pie, and by inviting students into my home to laugh and ask questions about what degree might be best for them.

That question was particularly important for one of my students who has not only an interest in theology and possibly a desire to become a pastor but also a non-Christian father who would prefer his child choose a significantly more lucrative field of study. One of the most sensitive parts of my own job is the dependence on the kindness of others to make my ministry possible. I’m incredibly thankful for the support of my own parents when I decided to become a missionary as they encouraged me to pursue this calling without hesitation. Well, they at least hid their hesitation from me and have wholeheartedly supported me from the start. There has also been a small, strong team of people supporting and praying for me faithfully since I began my ministry here in Germany. I’m so thankful for every person on that team. Dozens of other people have come alongside me since giving one time or monthly financial gifts, sending notes of encouragement, or praying for me in my ministry and recovery. Thank you, too, for your support. 

Hundreds of people beyond that have read my story and offered prayers or encouragement, and I’m so thankful for your kindness.

I won’t apologize for what I do because I care about sharing theology with my students and I care about my physical recovery. This life I lead is beautiful, and I’m so thankful to live it. If you’d like to help ensure that I can continue living as a missionary in Germany, you can donate by clicking here.

“Hold your left arm out like walking on a tight rope.”

Cindy held my right arm secure as she instructed me and I took timid steps forwards. This week we spent several days again practicing without the sticks taking cautious steps with my braces and her arms for support. We paced up and down the auditorium, and I couldn’t help grinning as I felt my gait adjust as I was holding more weight over my legs and less on my arms. 

“Look over my shoulder; keep your head up.”

As I adjusted accordingly, even more weight left the arms in my cautious steps. I still wobbled quite a bit, but the excitement only increased as I realized I was walking significantly better than my normal hunched gait. Each day, Cindy held on and offered suggestions as I pushed myself to not only walk more but walk better. There’s a balance between quantity and quality. Obviously, I want both, but it’s so important to focus on the quality as I increase speed or distance. 

I still remember in REHAB when Alex told me that if I was 80, she’d be okay with low quality walking because I wouldn’t live much longer, but with the significantly longer life expectancy, walking poorly would lead to a quick return to the wheelchair after some brief years hobbling about. Instead, my goal is a slow and steady improvement that will allow for the longest time out of the chair once I achieve that. That means a lot more focus on good walking and recognizing when I’m too tired to keep walking well.

I also have to balance my physical recovery with the rest of my life. Yes, though it’s largely composed of teenagers and theology, I have a life, and I love it. This week I listened to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship on audiobook as I practiced standing and stretching and doing various tasks around my house. I highly recommend it to anyone because Bonhoeffer was a man who understood deeply what it meant to follow Jesus when it wasn’t easy. I’ve got a few articles by Miroslav Wolf lined up to read next in my ongoing pursuit of thoughtful theodicy, and as I balance my understanding of theology with my experience of disability, I find my passion for Jesus increases. 

Jesus is the one that steadies me when all the other stuff in my life makes me wobble. There are a lot of things I manage to do with some measure of dignity – get dressed, go to work, laugh with students, make pico de gallo – all while in a wheelchair, and, yes, those things take careful planning sometimes because of the wheelchair. I’m still learning how to balance life’s activities, but, praise the Lord, I’m improving. 

I want to be known for one thing, and one thing only: my love for Jesus.

My Jesus has blessed me with the opportunity to live overseas and teach third culture kids and interact with a diverse group of people as I teach theology. In this complicated world, I’ve learned and grown and made many mistakes along the way, and some weeks come with more frustrations or celebrations than others. This week in particular had a wide range of emotions.

I experienced some pretty incredible physical successes, I had my character called into question, I had to defend my theological beliefs to strangers who wanted me to doubt my understanding of the Word of God, I felt spiritual oppression, I taught teenage guys to chop tomatoes, I enjoyed rich discussion about intercultural understanding of the Christian experience, I laughed harder than I can remember in recent months as teenage girls discussed flirting strategies – all in the span of seven days.

This is a blog where people come to read particularly about my physical recovery and how that’s directly impacting my emotions, so I’ll try to keep on topic. Also, I swore an oath never to share the details of the flirting strategies and other topics shared in my home by my students. I wrestled a lot with what to share here this weekend though because so much of my experience and emotions are linked to my disability.

I’m vulnerable.

Anyone posting on the internet makes themselves vulnerable, but I’m additionally vulnerable due to my spinal cord injury. I need a lot of help with many basic things – walking, traveling, occasionally opening doors. Here I am posting on the internet about my vulnerability, and I’m praying you will be kind to me. I have to pray people will be kind to me all the time everyday. Now, anyone reading this is likely one of those kind people. I’ve met hundreds, if not thousands, of kind people who have generously offered to open doors and do so much more for me.

There are also unkind people, though. There are people who openly stare with derisive scowls, there are people who mutter under their breath. There was even once in my experience when a woman referred to me as an “it.” You may not see this in your life, but I beg of you to understand, this is my reality. It’s not new despite being generally culturally frowned upon to be offensive. Please keep that in mind as I detour with an analogy.

As a teacher, I’m responsible for modeling good behavior in the classroom. If someone doesn’t get the content, I have the responsibility to help them understand the concept without embarrassing them. I lead the way with respectful behavior. Were I to openly mock a struggling student, it would change the culture of the classroom and set precedent for other students to be hurtful or disrespectful. This is a micro-culture.

As a disabled woman, I see the leader of America set a precedent for my fellow countrymen in how they view minorities – myself included. A lack of consequence for a president elect openly mocking disability sends a precedent that others can look down on me without consequence. Now, just as not every student would follow suit after a rude teacher, I know not every American hates disabled people. However, there are plenty who do. Disability is different. It makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and often times people act rudely or even violently against what creates discomfort for them.

This is a complex issue, so I hope you’ll bear with me as I continue with this rough transition. Many people I love and respect voted for Donald Trump. I still love and respect them. The same goes for those who I know who voted for Hillary Clinton, Evan McMullin, Gary Johnson, other candidates, or even the conscientious objectors who refrained from voting this election. There are a myriad of reasons to vote for any candidate, and I’ve never been a one issue voter. It would be irresponsible and unethical for me to demand all my friends vote based on what best benefits my personal disability.

What I do feel comfortable asking is that in your personal interactions with people who are different – with minorities of all kinds – is that you protect their basic human dignity. Please stand up to hate and intolerance when you see it. Please seek out ways to show inclusion to others who are vulnerable.

Please be like Cindy who on Tuesday held my right hand while I walked with my braces and no sticks. After a few short laps in the front of the auditorium, she celebrated with me in this momentous new achievement. We celebrated again on Wednesday when we tried something similar with just a single stick and her nearby, and she told me this week was the best walking she’s ever seen me do.

Please be like my family group who consistently refuses to let me be left out and this week made sure I had a ride to the location a distance longer than I could wheel. They also patiently held doors opened and moved furniture around for me to have the least amount of stairs to take while also offering hands and shoulders whenever necessary to make me feel safe and included as they dished up food for me and we shared life together.

Please be like my friend Alyson who took time out of her Saturday to walk with me and use her training as a PT to keep me safe while I held her hand instead of using my right stick. Please be like Margot, my German PT, who with me brainstormed new ways to develop my limited function based on this week’s successes. Please be like my coworkers and students who helped me through the inaccessible main building of our school by positioning themselves near me on the stairs and carrying my wheelchair up or down so I could attend the independent living tea parties in the student center.

Please be like my PT Anja who has similar concerns about a culture where people normalize hate and told me I was welcome in Germany as a disabled person. She is my advocate as she normalizes kindness and love. She literally held me up in the moments I couldn’t hold myself in physio yesterday, but her words continue to hold me up in an increasingly scary world.

A brief word to my brothers in sisters in Christ ready to chastise me to fear not in a world where God is the ultimate ruler: your blanket statements about God being on the throne not man mean nothing if you refuse to act on the commands of King Jesus to stand up for the oppressed. I’m a child of God, and I’m aware that God reigns supreme, and I take great joy in the ultimate victory of Jesus. I’ve read the end of the story – spoiler alert – Jesus wins. Jesus never says that his kingship would mean that we don’t experience harm. Knowing God is bigger than hateful people doesn’t make me safer when hate is normalized. My fear of discrimination is valid, and that’s why I’m begging you all to step up and live like Jesus as modeled by my friends described above so that I stay safe and can continue to live a life that reflects the love of Jesus. Please continue to be a voice for the marginalized instead of minimizing their concerns. I’m vulnerable, and I need able bodied people to speak up for me.

There are many tangible ways that you can be an ally, and if you would like to identify yourself in your community, I would encourage you to wear a safety pin on your clothes if you want minorities to recognize you as a safe person.

http://www.vox.com/presidential-election/2016/11/10/13586322/trump-brexit-safety-pin

I’m about to start watching V for Vendetta as I do every November 5th, and the oft quoted refrain “Remember, remember…” generally reminds people of violence and government overthrow and all that fun stuff, but the word “remember” alone doesn’t have those connotations. 

Remember when I challenged that student to turn in an amazing project? He’s totally stepped up as a learner in my class.

Remember when I went to Denmark this summer and experienced emotional healing? I still thank God for that every day.

Remember when I celebrated a student’s baptism last spring? She guest lectured in my class yesterday.

Remember when I stood without my braces or any supports for the first time since my accident earlier this year? I’m still taking steps without the braces.

Remember last year when I got to teach the students I lost after my accident? Several of them still come over for tea.

Remember last summer when I took a handful of steps on my own with no supports? I still have hope of walking like that full time someday.

Remember two years ago when I returned to the classroom after a semester in the hospital? I’m still grateful for every day with my students.

Remember when I broke my back and the world took a collective gasp and feared that my life was over? Praise the Lord, I’m still going strong.

I know of no reason this nerve damaged season should ever be forgot.

I did a lot this week, but there didn’t seem to be much to tie it all together at the weekend. I’ve spent most of today thinking about how I can succinctly write about it wrapped up with a catchy title and perhaps a pun or allusion. I’m at a loss this week. It was super full, but the assorted successes of life aren’t always strung together thematically.

I managed some amazing moments walking with Cindy – we did some exciting indoor stuff where I held her arms and lapped around the cafeteria with no braces. I took the small steps slowly and huffed as I pulled my weight over each leg. Cindy patiently helped keep my balance and watched the placement of my feet as she made the lap backwards. “Let’s try taking six steps without pausing,” she suggested. After a couple successes, I tried eight, then ten consecutive steps – slow but sure. I’m excited to try some more of the same this coming week as I move forwards in my recovery.

I’m thankful for time for physical progress in the inevitable chaos of the quarter ending. My students all managed to turn in their projects – the student who scoffed at his dorm brother mentioned in last week’s post took an extra two days to try to meet the standard set by the supposed slacker – and I managed to grade them all this weekend. I’ve still got to finish up my quarter comments and I have a couple homework assignments ready to grade that will show up on quarter two. I also had time for tea and cookies and passionate theological debate this week which are among my favorite things. I even got to skype and message a couple grads which made me indescribably happy. 

Among my many exploits this week, I pulled the disability card on a kid who told me he figured he could waste the next decade of his life and still be okay because he’d only be 26 when he started taking life seriously. “I was paralyzed two weeks before my 25th birthday.” It’s an effective device sometimes. Hopefully, this kid won’t waste a day of his life. This isn’t the life I set out to live, but it’s immeasurably better than the achievable predictability I planned for myself when I was sixteen. I don’t want to waste a day of what I have. I want to take each day that comes and, like I mentioned last week, achieve more than is expected of me. I’ve come so far, what might tomorrow hold for me? At the very least, I know there will be coffee and theology after school when the girl I mentor comes over. 

I’m hopeful for more mobility too.

I gave my students a work period for their quarter project that’s due next week, and although I assigned this project three weeks ago and had previously given a work day in class, I noticed a blank screen before one of my students on Friday. “Dude, what’s the deal?” I asked this kid who I’ve noticed to be a hard worker despite his reputation for the reverse. He promised to work hard the rest of the period and over the weekend. “You’d better,” I told him, “I’m expecting you to have one of the best projects.” 

He’s completely capable of it.

I told his dorm brother the next class period that I’d said I was expecting this first kid to have the best project. “You weren’t serious, were you? You just said that to try to motivate him, right?” Well, yes, I was just trying to motivate him, but I’m disappointed that his peers and other teachers don’t hold him to a higher standard. I’ll reiterate, he’s completely capable of achieving great things. He comprehends the material and has the ability to create a great demonstration of his understanding through the assigned parameters. The highlight of my day was an email from him this afternoon with the short message, “I just wanted to let you know I’m working on my project right now.” (This is saying a lot because I woke up to 102 snarky text messages from Shannon sent as she watched She’s the Man while I slept, so take that into consideration as I place this email as the highlight of my day.) 

This student is making an effort to rise above the low expectations placed on him so that he can redefine himself as a leader in the school. I refrained from sending a response that said I expected his project to be better than his snarky dorm brother because, honestly, I admire his humility and willingness to make this turn around rather than remain hardened and discouraged by a bad reputation. I want him to know I take him seriously as a learner, and I’ve already promised him pico de gallo next week.

Today as I rested in recovery from the other stresses of my week, I reflected on the low expectations placed on me. I want to achieve more physically, but I’m so easily excused when I can’t walk. Granted, there are times when my disability is an actual limitation, but sometimes I resent the low expectations. I want to be like my student and graciously exceed the expectations my peers and observers place on me. At those times when I can do more, I want to push myself when the world would let me sit down and wheel along the easy route. It takes me a little longer – okay a lot longer – to get places when I walk, but there’s a huge sense of accomplishment when I manage it well.

This week, I looped around the fire house with Cindy each day and saw huge jumps in my stability as I return to the pre-butt injury level. I still can’t do everything, but I’m going to still over achieve based on the expectations, and I’m excited to grade this exegetical and hermeneutical analysis next week. Yes, I have limitations, but as I reflected with Anja on Friday, one of the best things about my ongoing German physiotherapy is the constant expectation of more. Margot and Anja think I can do better and want to help me achieve more. I want others to keep looking at my story and step in to encourage me to achieve more. By the grace of God, I’m not done in this healing process, and I don’t want to be excused for what actually comes down to laziness. 

This isn’t an excuse for you to chew me out if you see me using my wheelchair or mobility aids because they are still definitely necessary, but it is a request for your encouragement to keep moving forward. 

I love my job. I won’t ever do anything to jeopardize my teaching position because it provides me with the unique opportunity to speak truth into the lives of teenagers who are asking deep questions. Sometimes, however, I’m still caught off guard when they take me up on the offer to share life – when they hunt me down in their study hall to share concerns about their relationships or when they show up on my doorstep after school to laugh with me or when they have dinner with me and discuss Doctor Who fan theories.

This is my real life, and I love it. I still have a pain in my butt, though. The physical one has diminished though lingers annoyingly. There is also the metaphorical one of not being able to aptly answer every existential question presented by my students. Life is complex. I’m relearning to walk while advancing my understanding of the character of a complex God who came to earth to have relationship with me. My life is more than just one facet or emotion. Over the course of this week, I laughed so hard that I cried when a student hilariously misused the word “impotent” for “impudent,” I had a heart wrenching conversation with a kid on the border of nihilism, and I managed an exhausting lap around the fire station with Cindy after a week of not walking.

When I sat back in my chair panting after the rigorous workout Thursday, Cindy was quick to tell me, “Don’t be discouraged,” because it is reasonable to see a set back after a week off. My walking this week felt like the walking I was doing six months or even a year ago, but Cindy reassured me it will only take me a couple weeks to regain the balance and stability I had before my minor butt injury.

At least once a day, I think about how wonderful it would be if God instantly restored my body to what it was created to be. It doesn’t change the reality of what I have right now. I also at least once a day think how incredibly blessed I am to have the opportunity to teach at a school with incredible students a curriculum that I absolutely love in an environment where I’m encouraged to care for students on a professional and personal level. Real life means being responsible with the ability level that God has given me for today while faithfully working to maintain and improve my physical health in conjunction with faithfully loving and teaching these students.

I have a pain in my butt – literally. It’s been there for a week now. 

Last Sunday, I went for a walk after a nice refreshing sleep-in overdue from that previous week of restless nights. I felt so great, after a couple hours I went for another walk. During the second walk, my butt felt a little sore. “This is great!” I thought, “I don’t usually feel much in my butt! I’m working my butt off so well, and now I’ve got some sensation of soreness after a good workout!”

Monday when I woke up, the soreness had increased. By Tuesday it was pain. Cindy came by to walk with me in the morning, but I was hardly able to stand on the left foot without pain. After stretching the ankle and calf for a bit, she recommended taking it easy and talking to my therapist about it in the afternoon. Margot spent our appointment time working on a knotted portion of muscle on the left side gluteus maximus as well as working to relax the tension radiating down the leg into my foot.

I left therapy considerably better but with a caution from my physio not to push myself so hard. “Next time you want to increase your walking, do it in increments instead of doubling it,” she cautioned. I’ve spent the rest of the week taking it easy and feeling the pain steadily decrease though not yet disappear. On Friday, Anja spent more time massaging and stretching my left leg to ease the lingering pain in my butt. I’m still not back to my pre-pain level of activity, but I’m hoping to ease into my walking next week and continue to move forward. 

This recovery has been long and hard. I was talking with Carol on Tuesday about how I’ve been working my butt off for over two and a half years, and I still have a long way to go. Not every single day has seen big gains, and there have been a number of set backs. This pain in the butt is a set back. The accompanying nerve damage messes that I had to clean up this week are frustrating as well. I’d like for there to be an easy fix, but there isn’t. Life is complex and messy and involves pains in the butt (both literal and metaphorical in my case). I covet your prayers for the pain to dissipate so that I can return to working my butt off with walking and standing. 

As I was reflecting on my week and wondering what to write, I noticed my physical recovery was overshadowed by some emotional drama. So naturally, I did something almost stupid today in order to have something to write about.

I need to provide a little context, so bear with me as I try to translate some Christianese. My insomnia keeps me up a lot and frequently wakes me up, but there’s a different kind of awakening I experience much more rarely. I’ve had a number of times in my life when I awoke with a heavy sensation on my chest and a name in my head. Christians recognize this as a call to prayer – I can’t really describe it much better to someone who hasn’t experienced it before. I hear it often among the Christian community that someone was burdened to pray for another during the night. It wasn’t until I thought about typing that out that I realized how strange it must sound to someone who has never had the experience. I was restless Monday night with this experience, and Tuesday I heard some heartbreaking news about the student I was praying for. That kept me up most of the next two nights as well.

Insomnia is part of my life, and I still work hard to take care of my body in spite of it. However, losing sleep like this for three nights was pretty rough on my body. I still managed to get my butt out of bed in the mornings to walk with Cindy, but I was tuckered out after a single lap around the fire station. This is still less than what I was managing early in the summer, but at least I can celebrate that my form has considerably improved. For the final stretch on Wednesday and Thursday mornings, Cindy carried my left stick and I just rested my hand on her arm for balance. She says it’s a head game at this point – my body is capable of walking with a single stick, but my brain freaks out without the input in my hand. That’s pretty exciting news; there’s a tangible improvement in my ability. I do still need my brain to catch up, but stepping away from the stick and just having Cindy next to me is a huge move forward in my recovery. I still have a positive trajectory despite what I consider a sluggish pace at times.

This brings me to this morning’s stupidity. I was frustrated with myself for only managing a single lap around the fire station each morning, so I boldly walked out my door with just my sticks and headed to school – no braces. I was toying with the idea of walking to Hammerstein to see if I could make it; I didn’t have a return plan. I made it to the edge of BFA’s property, regained my senses, turned around and trudged home. Now, this is still a victory because I made it a (for me) considerable distance on my own without the braces. The stupidity comes in that without the braces or anyone with me, I was at a much higher risk for a leg spasm that could take me down. I had a couple sobering almost missteps. I was in the midst of some intense prayer before, during, and after the walk, but reflecting on it later this afternoon, I realized the irony of trying to impress the internet as my audience when I just shared with my students last week that I will fail them if they try to put their faith in me. I do the best I can, and some days that’s having a conversation with a kid who doesn’t know if God exists. Somedays that’s praying over my best friend in Utah who woke up from a nightmare and texted me. Somedays that’s walking to school without my braces. But those all don’t happen everyday.

I’d like there to be clear big improvements to report each week in my physical recovery, but that’s not the place I’m at right now. Instead, I can celebrate the daily laps around the fire station with subtly improving form and the opportunity for conversations and prayer with my precious students. I love them so much. I’m going to try to live my life in a way that serves them well more than trying to live a life that’s interesting to read in weekly blog updates. I’ll keep posting here even when it’s less than interesting about my physical recovery, and I hope that you’ll keep praying with me for God to be glorified in every aspect of my life – physical and otherwise.

I spoke in chapel yesterday, and my talk covered a lot about how the body of Christ has come around me in a beautiful way in my ongoing recovery and how grateful I am that God uses broken people to demonstrate his faithfulness. I’m a broken person, and I’m consistently humbled by how God continues to use me in his service. I have had numerous conversations with students this week, and these beautiful kids are just as broken as I am. The way that God has used me in the lives of students has changed over the last couple years, and I had several students make their way up to me after my talk and thank me for sharing my story of God’s faithfulness. One kid in particular who was in my English class before my accident sought me out to tell me how encouraged he is to hear about my faith through this change he’s seen in my life. I was doing work I was passionate about before my accident, and just like Barbara Gordon in the DC Comic universe, I didn’t let paralysis stop me from what I think is important.

I get to share life honestly with them as I teach and occasionally have to sit down during a lesson because the leg spasms kick in. This week, I managed a lap around the firehouse with my sweet Nike shoes Monday through Wednesday mornings, and I was able to stand for the majority of my lessons through the week as well. Those are huge accomplishments for me still. They may seem small to you, but I’m still celebrating that there are days I can go without putting on my braces. It doesn’t happen every day, but I’m still making progress.

I’m also spending more time doing what I love. This week while two students were talking to me, one was elaborating on how every person has their “thing” they are an expert on. He asked his dorm brother, “What’s Miss Hewett’s thing?” After two seconds of thinking seriously, the response was, “theology and teenagers.” This is perhaps the highest compliment I’ve ever received – up there with being called a female Hank Green for sure. Those are the things I was passionate about before my accident and remain dedicated to.

Friday evening was the annual fall party – Comicon was the theme this year. I was asked to come as a costume judge which means I also was expected to be in costume. As a wheelchair user, I have limited options in the comic book world. Last time I tried to go as Professor X, it was less than successful: a coworker who was not into superheroes asked if I was FDR. This year I decided to embrace my inner nerd and go as Barbara Gordon post paralysis. Some context for those of you not up to speed on the Batman universe: in the comic book titled “The Killing Joke,” Barbara Gordon alias Batgirl is fighting crime in Gotham City when she is shot by the Joker. She is left paralyzed and rather than holing up and moping about life, she keeps fighting crime in various ways – heading up the Birds of Prey and being the techie behind the scenes for Batman with the new alias of Oracle. 

I knew I wouldn’t be readily recognized, but my new favorite student is the eighth grader who came up and casually said, “Oh, cool, you’re Oracle!” He then proceeded to excitedly recount the details of Batgirl’s transition to Oracle and find other students to recognize my spot on costume (pictured above with a comic panel to show how clearly I nailed it). Just like Barbara Gordon, I’m going to use my gifts to fight crime in Gotham City – I mean make God famous. 

I care about theology and teenagers, and in order to engage with my passions well, I have a great responsibility to continue my walks with Cindy, my therapy twice a week, my standing and stretching. It’s a lot of work, but it’s so worth it to be a safe place for a students to have an existential breakdown or just vent their commonplace teenage angst. I covet your prayers to maintain my demanding physical routine in order to see new improvements as well as to grow deeper in my love for theology and teenagers. 

Over the last two days, summer has disappeared, and fall has officially taken over in Kandern. I’ve always been partial to the rainy weather growing up, but it still presents unique challenges to me in my ongoing recovery and walking. With the cloudy fall days upon us, I have more time for coffee and reading (though those are activities I always make time for no matter the weather). I also have more time for cookies and students which are less common in the summer. 

Interestingly, when I post here, I get less comments and shares when the content is focused on my ministry more than my physical recovery. I recognize most people are interested in the miracle of me learning to walk after being paralyzed, but I can’t help but celebrate the miracle that I’m still able to teach and engage with students as a broken human being who happens to have a physical disability in addition to my broken humanity. I love that the Lord uses broken people to do things for him, and I’m humbled to be a part of his greater story. One of the ways he uses me is interacting with students alongside/despite/because of my disability. Earlier this week, a senior admitted to me that he initially toned down his rowdiness in my class because he pitied me when he first saw that I was in a wheelchair but that it didn’t take long for him to develop a close rapport with me (and subsequently teach his younger dorm brothers ways to get a rise out of me). The disability is immediately obvious, but it isn’t all encompassing. 

This week was super exciting for me in that there weren’t many disruptions from a normal looking life due to my disability. I made myself a cup of coffee each morning and thanked God for the blessed student who brought me such great coffee from the DR. I enjoyed time with the Lord and a short walk around the firehouse across the street from me before making my way to school where I talked about exegesis and hermeneutics with thirty-nine eager juniors. After school Monday, a student I mentor came over for a cup of coffee. Where I come from, having coffee or tea together is a huge part of sharing life. I’m richly blessed to share life with this amazing student each week because, as I’ve been in the process of learning for many years, whatever it means to be human created in the image of a Trinitarian God, it has to do with relationships. 

I can’t count how many cups of coffee I’ve shared with Karin, Jen, or Tina, but all three of them have encouraged me to pursue my passions for the glory of God. I hope every cup of coffee I share with a student comes with the same message to them. A wide range of students come into my class or have coffee or cookies or quinoa in my house. Just this week, conversations in my home ranged from the scary-nice tone Texans are prone to when irritated to the viability of using Demon Hunter songs in corporate worship to the secrets of the HBR dorm initiation. 

If my physical health deteriorates, it impacts my effectiveness in ministry. My perspective for physical recovery has always been to increase my ability to serve students. That may not be as interesting as a story, but this week, I’m celebrating the level of ability I have that allowed me to teach well for five days and additionally to have conversations with students outside of class that can point them towards truth. Next week I’m hopeful for more of the same as I increase the rigor physically for myself and academically for my students.

One of my theology professors wrote a book with his son in which the son wrote that his father had nurtured in him “a Christian crush on all things Jewish.” Props to Drew Harper for that line of literary brilliance, and I can, in fact, confirm, that his dad also encouraged a similar passion in me when I took his class. This week a coworker introduced me to the Jewish a cappella group The Maccabeats, and I spent a good chunk of time enjoying their musical renditions of Jewish cultural history through covers of pop songs. While they ultimately decided against a full video of Sukkos Style which may or may not have been the right move, they give a taste here of the celebration that comes each year during the Festival of Booths. This holiday is an annual commemoration of the Lord providing for the people of Israel during their time of wandering in the wilderness. 

This has nothing to do with any of my recovery this week, and the Festival of Booths isn’t for another five weeks on the Jewish calendar. I just wanted an excuse to talk about the Maccabeats.

Actually, that’s not why I titled the post that either. This week is Budenfest in Kandern, and just that means festival of booths in English. It has nothing to do with the Jewish calendar; it’s a German event where the local clubs set up booths in the main square and surrounding area of town to sell food and raise funds for their respective events through the year. But aren’t you delighted that you know more about the Jewish calendar and a cappella groups that sing about it? You’re welcome.

When the Lord instituted the Festival of Booths, he explained through Moses that the people were supposed to construct and live in flimsy shelters for the week while they were partying as a specific reminder that God has been the covering, the shelter, the tabernacle (which, incidentally, is another name for the feast with fascinating implications), the protection for the people when they had nothing. It was an annual reminder of where they had come from as a nation who would eventually be living in pretty nice possibly air conditioned homes in that sticky sounding land of milk and honey. 

I wasn’t sleeping in a palm frond shelter this week, but I did take assessment of what I have around me and celebrated how the Lord protected and provided for me in a wilderness of initial physical inability and rejoiced over the blessings I’ve received in my ongoing recovery. When I first had my accident, I was incapable of getting in and out of bed, getting dressed, or going to the bathroom. Now, I’m completely capable of living alone and only need help cleaning the bathroom because of the inaccessible floor plan in my apartment. When I first left REHAB, I was incapable of getting my heels to touch the ground even using my full body weight. Now, I’m able to take a few cautious steps with flat feet and no braces. (To be clear, I still use the braces for most of my walking, and they have about a centimeter of a heel to account for the drastic drop foot I had when first fitted for them.)

I’m so grateful for what I have, and I look forward excitedly to more returning. I’m still asking for continued prayers of stamina as I spend more time working and recovering, but praise the Lord for what he has already done. He continues to display his power through my healing, and I’m so thankful.

I love my job. You might not know that because occasionally I go more than thirty seconds before saying that again. But seriously, I love my job. On Wednesday this week, I got out of bed extra early to participate in the opening ceremonies for BFA. I walked in with my colleagues and watched the senior class process in carrying the flags from the various nations represented at our school this year. All but three of the seniors this year have gone through my class; I’m pretty fond of them. I stuck around through the afternoon as I waited for my eight minute slot with both of my class periods of new juniors. Eight minutes is barely enough time to learn to pronounce each student’s name, so that’s all I tried to do.

I got out of my house early again on Thursday to arrive near the start of the school day and get my TA set to work during first period. I had a lot of time doing prep work in my office before finally teaching my two class periods in the afternoon. Friday looked very similar as I was at school from 9am-3pm. That’s two hours shorter than the average workday, but it’s two hours longer than I’m used to being at school as a part time teacher. I’m still part time this year, but I’ve got to figure out the best way to schedule my time on campus while completing my lesson prep as well as taking care of my body. Also, Friday’s are going to be tight as I teach until 3pm and then have to book it home to leave for physio at 3:15. I’ll settle into my new schedule quickly, I’m sure, but it did leave me exhausted this week after just three days.

It’s so worth it to still have my job, though. I love these kids so much, and I’m so grateful to partner with their parents in their development. On Tuesday night before I saw my students, a couple sought me out to thank me for the positive impact I’d had on their son last year when he was in my class. They asked if they could pray for me. I was brought to tears by these missionaries who were entrusting their child to our school for his senior year and hoping for more of the same care and compassion for him in his pursuit of truth that he received here last year.

I love what I get to do, what I get to make as Taylor Mali puts it in his famous spoken word poem. My job is fantastic and rewarding beyond measure. Though if I were to try, I might choose to measure it in cups of coffee – the coffee a student from the DR brought me, the coffee that a student from Israel insists upon drinking at my house, the coffee that I shared each week with a student who grew up in France and is starting college in California this week.

Maybe I’ll save those measurement musings for next week. For now, I’ll ask you to pray for me as I make a difference. I want to live differently – to live better each day – and I need supernatural stamina from Jesus to make it happen. Please pray with me for good sleep and lots of energy as I return to school next week.

I love lists. They are so much fun to cross things off of; it makes me feel accomplished. However, I don’t ever want the lists to get in the way of living life to the fullest. I have certain responsibilities to accomplish related to my job, and I prioritize those, but I might choose to spend time with friends or students over doing dishes. I still try to have a routine that leaves space for those kinds of disruptions where the different things can be enjoyed without throwing my life into chaos. 

For example, I try to post every weekend; it’s a nice element of routine in my weekly rhythm. I spend time each week thinking about what will go in the weekend update here for all the people praying for me. Sometimes it’s easier than others to find something to share with everyone. I’m consistently paranoid that people will eventually discover there is little more to me than my obsession with Virginia Woolf and my love for my job, so I try to think of new things to say. The truth is, there’s a lot of boring consistency to my daily routine as I work to train my muscles to increase their stamina and abilities.

This week, though, the routine was slightly disrupted with staff conference and a couple meetings in preparation for the new routine that begins when students arrive. I’m eager to welcome them into my classroom again.

Today had one other beautiful disruption. My former neighbors kidnapped me for the day and took me to their house for an amazing lunch before loading up in their car and driving around the Black Forest. The first stop was Hochblauen, the “mountain” nearby, where we enjoyed the view and cooler weather for a bit before driving out to a gasthaus outside of Staufen for dinner. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into when I talked to Gundi on the phone to plan this outing. With my limited German, I first thought she was just stopping by then realized I was being invited for lunch then realized she and her husband were taking me for the whole day. I seriously love these people. I will defend German hospitality until the day I die. This couple doesn’t speak a word of English, but they insisted upon hosting me for nearly the whole day taking me on what adventure I was capable and promising in the future when I could do more we’d try visiting the castle ruins. 

As we drove along the winding roads with breathtaking views of the Black Forest, I kept thinking, I live here! It was such a humbling experience to be reminded that despite my disability, I’m capable of so much more than I deserve, and I’m gifted with the opportunity to live in a gorgeous corner of the world where I can have the most amazing job and interact with some of the greatest people on the planet. I’m praising God for all these gifts this week – the stamina to do more things (even though I still boldly ask for more), the amazing friendships with Germans and other English speakers in this community from all over the world, and my precious students who are in transit already and will gather together to commence the new school year this Wednesday.

Many people are headed back to school this week – my nephew just started kindergarten last week. BFA kids still have another week and a half of summer vacation though the teachers headed back to school this last Thursday. For those of you who may not have heard, I love my job. Seriously. 

Teacher meetings aren’t my favorite, but going to all staff conference means I’m that much closer to seeing my precious students again. I’m looking forward to being back in the classroom, and conversations with people this past week have been about my anticipation of lessons and projects I get to do with my kids. With the return to the classroom, there will be necessary adjustments to my schedule as I’ve developed a summer routine. When I go back to school, I also have to go back to other methods of caring for my back. 

Once upon a time, I broke my back. That happened. It seems to fade from my memory on occasion while being an ever present complication in my life. I’m super thankful that I’m still allowed to work and can do a great number of things that people never expected of me. I still have high standards for myself though, and I still want to improve my ability and stamina. I want to strengthen my muscles and see new function return. Will you pray with me this week that as I go back to school I won’t forget to care for my back? 

I wrote a blog last year about my perfect playlist, ten songs that spoke to emotions I was feeling at the time. I thought it was a good time to write an updated playlist. 

1. Not Done Yet by Superchic[k]I can’t do a playlist without a Superchic[k] song, and this has been my jam for the year. Also, I fell down yesterday. There’s a line in the song that says, “I fell down in the place that I always fall down, and I want to give up and let it be what it’s been.” Well, I’d never fallen down there before, in fact, this was the second time I’ve ever fallen down since my accident, but the next line is my anthem: “Sometimes life gets you, but we go on… we’re not done yet, not going quietly into the night, not me and my friends. We’re not done yet, don’t take it too seriously. It’s just life will win in the end.” The last verse says, “It’s been one of those days but I don’t care now. It was only a day and tomorrow’s ahead. I got this far and I know that I can ride this one out. Though I want to lie down, well I won’t quit yet.” I fell down – right on my butt – and I got back up. 

2. Make Me a Robot by Tessa VioletI may be five years late to the Tessa Violet train, but she’s like my favorite human being right now. Seriously. There are days when I’m exhausted (everyday) and this song speaks to the realness of that emotion. “I don’t want to have to fight anymore; / I’m tired. / I don’t want to have to feel anymore / uninspired.” The feels are real. 

3. Cray Button by Family Force FiveJust because the feels of the last song are so real, doesn’t mean I’m not capable of a range of emotion. I look around me, and I see crazy that evokes lots of emotions. You just got to crank up the FF5 sometimes. (Usually I let loose the YouTube playlist for the Zombie music video which, incidentally, is how I first discovered Tessa Violet in what is unashamedly my favorite video of hers: Wizard Love.) I’m partially feeling this FF5 song these days because of the cray cray in my home country leaking across the ocean through the internet. Sometimes my own life is just full of crazy though. I wonder what happens if I hit the Cray Button? Spoiler alert: I guarantee the whole place starts jumpin’. Fun fact: Tessa Violet features in this music video. Unrelated, this music video was made in the US Cray four years ago.

4. Can’t Hold Us by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis covered by PentatonixI feel like I should be ashamed that I enjoy Macklemore, but I’m not. I really enjoy the Pentatonix remix of this song because I love Mitch Grassi in it. So this is obviously a riding high song – it’s happy and uplifting, and it mentions shark week. This time in my life is happy and uplifting, and I love shark week. 

5. Bigger than Us by Dame D.O.L.L.A. feat. Paul ReyWe live in a crazy world, as mentioned in the Cray Button paragraph. I want to be excited about the world, but I can never forget I live in a fallen and broken place. Damian Lillard is an NBA star, and he’s chosen to use his voice to raise awareness about the tragedy and leverage his influence to make the world a better place. I respect that a great deal. In the final verse, Dame raps, “God created us equal, so let’s embrace it / And in life you run into evil, you gotta face it… We the people gotta love one another / Let it be known with nothing under cover / Let’s take control of the future / Instead of letting it hover / Everybody to the table, make sure your bringing something.” Paul Rey’s part repeats throughout, “We all walk side by side / Even if we’re all on different roads, I know / Because this is something bigger than us.” The Lord is the Author and Perfecter. This song encourages me to be better, to bring something to the table that makes a positive difference. 

6. Rebirthing by SkilletThis song is awesome performed live. It involves lots of pyrotechnics. The first line is “I lie here paralytic.” It’s about the one thing in the universe that brings life to those of us who are dead in our transgressions. It’s pretty fantastic. 

7. Movements by Rend CollectiveOnce we are reborn, we are given direction. I’m really fond of this group of Irish people who make beautiful, happy sounds. This song is just delightful. It opens, “I wanna soar with You / Upon wings like eagles / But I’ll crawl with You too / When the dark and lonely questions come.” Yup. That’s me. That’s the story of my life. Then the chorus breaks out, “I’m running fast and free to You / Cause You are the movement and fight in me / I’m running fast and free to You / Cause You are my home where I wanna be.” Yup. I won’t walk away; I won’t walk away. I’ve tasted and seen – to whom would I go? I know who has the words of eternal life. 

8. It’s Chill by Lancifer feat. MeekakittyThis is another gem thanks to the YouTube mix of FF5’s Zombie. This also features Tessa “Meekakitty” Violet. She’s the bomb. She also has fantastic hair. Ok, but for real, the reason it’s on this playlist is because I’m super chill. The music video is ridiculous, but through all the ridiculousness in my life, it’s all chill. Even with the roller coaster of emotions I’m laying out on this playlist from wanting to be an emotionless robot, to happy, clapping Irish hipsters, to alluding to racial tensions, I’m still grounded. None of the emotions unhinge me because I have this peace that passes understanding. It’s chill.

9. I Will Fail You by Demon HunterDemon Hunter is the other staple band in my life playlists. I love this song. The title says it all. I’m not worth putting your faith in. If I point you to Jesus, that’s awesome, but don’t just look at me. Which leads me to my next song.

10. Take Me to Your Leader by the NewsboysI was going to do Step Up to the Microphone, but this just had such a great segue from the don’t look at me thing, and that Newsboys song was about how you should listen up to me. Now, I love Peter Furler almost as much as I love Ryan Clark. There’s something about bald guys. Or maybe awesome singers who love Jesus… You know, one of those things… But here’s what it comes down to, I want to live a life like this, “They see we’ve got the joy / They see us live it, oi / It’s real, it’s free, it’s fun, / Let’s take ’em to our Leader’s Son.” 

Bonus Track: Sorry I’m not Sorry by Tessa Violet For real, she’s like my current YouTube obsession. 

It’s a diverse list, but we’re all complex people. I’m navigating what makes me me – strange musical tastes, loads of time on YouTube, live texting my friend Shannon when I watch ridiculous TV shows, reading theology books and chick lit back to back, and taking more steps and stretches every day. All staff conference starts next week, and I’ll be back to my teaching routine by the first of September, but I’m praising Jesus for being my rock through all the emotions of this summer and for setting me up for successes to come this fall. Praise Jesus with me for the healing that’s been done and the progresses that continue to unfold. I’m still asking for stamina as I return to work in the coming weeks. 

Three years ago today, I woke up in Germany for the first time. My arrival was made possible by hundreds of people listening to me share about my desire to teach TCKs, praying for me, and donating to me financially. Within that group, I had a grade schooler pray for me that I’d grow closer to Jesus through whatever trials I’d face, a middle schooler ask his parents if he could join my support team with their help, and my Granny who has been my biggest fan since my first breath. It’s a diverse crew, and I love it. 

Since my accident a few months after moving to Germany, hundreds (if not thousands) more people have joined my prayer and support team following my journey on this blog. I’m so humbled and so very grateful. This week gave me new opportunities to celebrate the tangible ways the body of Christ has come around me to support me in my recovery and ongoing ministry here at BFA. Christians use that weird metaphor pretty lightly when we reference teamwork, but it really is a beautiful description of how we support each other and look for ways to help people in need. 

In fact, before Tina had my new Nikes in the mail, a former BFA staffer now on the East Coast messaged me and offered to buy me a pair of shoes. She generously said she’d bring them with her when visiting Kandern this summer and found two other women who have been faithfully praying for me who wanted to contribute as well. So now after over two years with a single pair of shoes, I’m overwhelmed with the variety of three pairs of shoes! One of my therapists suggested that it would be a good idea to have a regular pair of shoes to give my ankles freedom when on safe flat surfaces but that high tops could be helpful as an in-between on more uneven surfaces (read: European cobblestone). Tina sent the amazing Flyease shoes, and Julia brought me the super snazzy high tops pictured above. I’m still mostly in the braces, but I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the ability to phase out of them with these high quality shoes gifted to me.

I’m also really blessed to have so many people willing to keep practicing walking with me. Kristi and I went on another walk with Luci today – I swear, that kid is so adorable. No new records in distance, but it was again high quality walking. I spent some time with Cindy yesterday working on the quality of my gait as she held my left hand and I used it only for balance but not weight. We looped around the firehouse once and up and down the length of my building a couple times not wanting to venture too far from my chair since she couldn’t push it while holding me. 

She let go of my arm for a few steps and I struggled a bit, but Cindy emphasized the importance of the fact that I could do it. It wasn’t great, and it wasn’t far, but the fact I can do it at all means there’s function to improve. I’m praising God for that restored function, and I’d love for you to pray along with me for stamina as I work on strengthening the super weak muscles.

I’m so grateful for the body of Christ continuing to come around me with supports like walking with me, praying for me, and financially donating to my service here. If any of you would like to donate to my ministry, you can follow this link to my personal giving page through TeachBeyond: https://give.teachbeyond.org/support/lauras-journey/

We have a word in Christianese for experiences like I had last weekend – we call them mountaintop experiences. In Christian circles, it’s common to talk about the emotional highs of a mountaintop where you encounter God in a powerful way like Moses or Ezekiel climbing up Sinai and speaking with God. It’s common for leaders at these kinds of events to caution attendees not to forget their experience but also not to chase after emotional highs because we live by faith and the encounters with the Spirit often look different in the “real life” day to day mundane tasks. 

Honestly, in so many ways, I’m still riding this high because I am so radically changed by my healing last week. Those feelings aren’t what my faith is about though. Like James says, faith without works is dead, and I’ve been looking for ways this week to live out my faith. As one of my friends messaged me this week, “faith is actioning what I believe in.” A visible way that I do that is the way in which I take care of my body and testify to God’s goodness in my physical recovery. 

When I got back from Denmark, I still had no tightness in my quads which was fantastic, but I had a lot more tension and discomfort in my ankles than usual. I spent more time with the braces on, and they’ve gotten better, but I’m eager to take the braces off and use my awesome new Nikes more frequently. My amazing mentor and friend Tina works at Nike and arranged to send me two pairs of the Flyease shoes – the special line of shoes made for people with disabilities. I’m elated at how wonderful they are, and I’m anxious to wear them more than my awesome Swiss made green shoes because they are a step away from mobility aids. 

However, I’m still using the mobility aids when I need them because they offer me a lot of freedom and independence at this current state. There’s a misconception many people have that labels something like a wheelchair as limiting. Heavens, no! The wheelchair enables me to go places I otherwise couldn’t access with my current physical ability! The same goes for the braces. Furthermore, my braces allow me to exercise my hips and core beyond what is possible when my finicky ankles and calves need extra attention. For example, yesterday I went for a walk with my friend Kristi and her adorable baby Luci (anyone who has seen pictures of Luci will be appropriately jealous; that is one cute kid). Kristi pushed my wheelchair as I walked with my braces and we made it from my house to Heitzmann before sitting down. For those of you unfamiliar with Kandern, that’s just over 600 meters. But wait, there’s more! After a few minutes sitting down, I stood up and walked most of the distance back home before needing another rest and wheeling the final stretch home. 

So sure I’m not yet physically capable of walking from my house to the top of Hoch Blauen, but whether I’m on the mountaintop or living daily life in the Kandern valley, I want to be faithful in the little things. Letting the muscles I have control over remain weak or atrophy while waiting for fruition of my healing and return of function would be stupid. I want to be responsible with what I have and live well with it. For now that means walking with the braces in the mix and celebrating God’s goodness not matter what’s on my feet. 

The events of this week will someday be compiled as a chapter of a book (yes, those of you who’ve waited to hear it, I’ll someday publish a book), but for now I’ll stick with a little context and some highlights.

For my eighth birthday, my parents bought me tickets to see dcTalk in concert at the Rose Garden Arena. I was elated to scream and sing along to all their songs, but of course their biggest hit was Jesus Freak. I sang along with conviction, “What will people think when they hear that I’m a Jesus freak? What will people do when they find out it’s true? I don’t really care if they label me a Jesus freak; there ain’t no disguising the truth.”

The concert was a significant event in my life, and another significant event in my life at that point was my best friend Jessica moving away. We were inseparable until the third grade. I still vividly remember the last day I saw her before she moved to Minnesota after we finished third grade. I still remember driving away from her house sobbing as I waved out the back window of my mom’s old minivan.

We wrote letters every day at first, then every week, then months, then stopped. In the age of Facebook, we were reconnected, but we still didn’t communicate as often. Jess was actually stationed in Germany when I moved here, but we were never able to see each other face to face before she moved back to America. Last week she messaged me that she and her husband would be visiting Germany and would like to stop in Kandern to see me. Jessica is still in the military, so they were hopping free flights across the Atlantic when there was room. Unfortunately, they got stuck in New Jersey, and the days set aside to see me were eaten up in an airport. On Monday, Jess messaged asking if I’d be willing to come with them on a road trip to Denmark to hang out with some Jesus freaks for the weekend since there wouldn’t be time to spend with me in Kandern. I had just under 24 hours to decide.

My first response was she must not understand the extent of my disability. No one wants to bring me along most places, let alone over night, let alone enough days to need my shower chair and everything. She confirmed there would be room in the rental car to bring everything, and they wanted me to come. I emailed a handful of friends the details and asked if it was wise to leave the comfort of my home for an adventure with a relative stranger (I hadn’t seen Jessica in over 18 years now). The people I asked unanimously replied it would be ridiculous to turn down a trip to Denmark, the time to spend with these friends, and meeting new people who would want to pray for me.

I excitedly packed, made the last minute arrangements, and told Jess I was coming. Jessica and Judah arrived Tuesday afternoon, and we stayed up late reconnecting and sharing joy with seeing each other and slept in Wednesday before hitting the road north.

At this point, I need to put a warning to my friends who don’t have frequent encounters with the miraculous gifts because this trip involved a lot of highly charismatic activity. Everything I participated in was in line with Scripture, and all of our prayers were in the name of Jesus. 

The three of us drove to Pforzheim Wednesday afternoon where we met a nice Polish kid who’s lived here for fourteen years and began healing people miraculously in the name of Jesus near the end of his studies to become a medical doctor. Along with this new friend, we spent over five hours in intense prayer with some exciting minor changes. I felt – for the first time – the sensation of hot and cold on small patches of my calves. We celebrated with communion before a few hours of sleep to prepare us for the long drive to Denmark. Our drive accidentally ended up being a little longer than necessary, but it involved a detour through Heidelberg which was super awesome. I’d never been to that castle ruins, and it was so much fun to listen to Jessica talk about when she was stationed there and how that used to be her town. We pulled into Kolding, Denmark super late and were welcomed into a sweet couple’s home to sleep. Jessica and I were sharing a mattress on the floor while Judah camped out on the deck. As I carefully lowered myself onto the floor, I felt the intense tightness in my thighs that has been ever present over the past two and a half years. “Ugh, Jess, pray for the tightness in my quads,” I complained. “In the name of Jesus, tightness, be gone,” she commanded with her hand on my left thigh. Instantly the pain was gone.

I’ve never experienced something like that before, but there was actually no more tightness in my left thigh. “Quick do the other leg!” The tightness in the right leg reduced significantly, but did not disappear. I can’t explain that other than to say, “Because Jesus.” The tightness has stayed away ever since. I keep checking, trust me.

I woke up Friday in anticipation of more good things as we drove the final two hours to the Jesus Hotel in Aalborg, and I certainly wasn’t at a loss for people wanting to pray over me. Within the first few minutes, a crowd of four people had gathered to pray for me. Nothing happened in our first prayer time, and I went in to the larger room to hear the rest of the message on healing and the power of Jesus. Some awesome stuff happened and some awkward stuff happened the rest of the weekend, but I’m going to share two very powerful moments from Friday and Saturday evenings.

First, as the Friday evening session ended, a kind girl came up and introduced herself. She asked fairly soon if she could pray for me. Several other people quickly joined in. This was not actually the first time this happened during the day, but there was nothing next on the agenda in the evening. I pretty quickly realized this was going to go on for a while, and I was praying along fervently with the group. I could hear many of the prayers for healing of my bones, my nerves, and my muscles. Interestingly, very few of them seemed well directed. They were all in the name of Jesus, but they didn’t aptly address my specific needs. At that point, my new friend from Hong Kong came to pray for my insides. She and I had met at lunch and talked about how my most desperate desire was to have my bathroom abilities back and how people often just looked at the surface and wanted to pray for healing of what they could see even though that wasn’t what was most important. “I would love to pray for your insides,” she had told me.

When she joined the group, she prayed for my intestines, my digestion, and my other unseen functions before gently taking my hands and asking me if I was ready to heal from my emotional pain. Let me tell you, things took off at that point. I thought there was intense prayer before, but I let out some nasty sounds. I had a super long, super loud sob. You know the kind I mean? I had an ugly cry. An Ugly Cry. That thing where your body is trying to expel something deep within you through your vocal folds. Something deep within me came out, and a few people might have heard a single word in my sobs and moans amidst the louder cries. I realized there was a deep emotional pain from my accident that I’d never properly faced. 

I’m all about facing emotions rather than repressing them, but unbeknownst to me, this emotion had repressed itself from the day of my accident. I woke up after surgery filled with peace that passes understanding and over flowing with the joy of the Lord; I assumed that meant I had no pain to deal with. For two and a half years, I have avoided an Ugly Cry about this situation because I didn’t think it needed it. Why would I cry when the Lord had been so good to me? I experienced pain in my accident though, and on Friday night I faced it for the first time ever. It felt amazing. I experienced a physical release with the emotional healing. I literally felt like I could breathe more deeply. My lungs had more room, and I hadn’t even noticed that they weren’t filling before. 

After this experience, I thought that meant I’d be ready for physical healing Saturday, so I kept letting anyone pray for me who wanted to and tested out my ankle motions. Nothing happened. At one point near the end of dinner, a small group of people excitedly rushed up to me and insisted they needed to pray for me immediately. Of course I let them. This got intense pretty quickly though, and they demanded I stand up and walk almost pulling me which triggered my leg spasms. Along with a lot of shouting they led me in a circle around the front of the room shouting that I needed to stop doubting while they tugged and pulled and my muscles spasmed uncontrollably. Normally, I’m very good at getting the spasms under control, but I couldn’t do that in this confusing situation. I began to feel more and more uncomfortable, like these prayers weren’t about my healing. I finally stopped letting myself be dragged as the pain in my ankles was more than I’d had in a long time and someone finally brought me a chair. They kept praying, and I suddenly realized that I couldn’t pray with them because I felt like someone was praying for themselves to be the one to miraculously heal me rather than for Jesus to do the healing. Their prayer wasn’t for the glory of Jesus; it was to try to steal glory from Jesus. I checked out for a bit at that point because I couldn’t participate in that kind of a prayer. I didn’t want to be healed by a person – only Jesus. Just a minute or two later, I looked up and saw my friend from the night before.

I reached out my hands to her because I knew she could redirect the prayers to the power of the Lord. “Laura, will you pray with us?” she asked me calmly. I involuntarily began another Ugly Cry and started praying fervently. A different woman began speaking words of truth over me as I cried out to God. “He loves you. You are his precious child. He is being glorified through this. Your sins are forgiven.” The last two truths had profound impact as this woman didn’t know the words I spoke to my dad before I went into my surgery the day of my accident as I asked for God to be glorified, nor did she know my comparison of Jessica and Judah bringing me to Denmark to the story of the paralyzed man whose friends brought him to Jesus (Jesus tells the man “Son, your sins are forgiven” before he tells him “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”). 

And then things got really weird. The woman holding my hands had heard a word the night before, and without any other context, she spoke a sentence related to the word as a command for what I needed to do. I screamed in response. I was praying pretty intensely, and when she told me what I needed to do, I recognized that it was true. I had an action I needed to complete before I could finish my emotional healing. Later that night, she sat beside me as I finished before the Lord what needed to take place for the emotional healing. I’m healed now. I can say that with confidence. My heart is renewed. 

I also received words of truth related to my physical healing, and I processed aloud with this woman my impression that I needed to leave the Jesus Hotel in the wheelchair because this healing has to be for God’s glory alone. If I stood up and walked when someone there prayed and commanded me to, there was a chance a single person or two might have tried to claim some glory for themselves. Hundreds of people have prayed for me along the way, and none of them deserve any glory for my healing. It is the power of Jesus Christ which has healed me, and I only want him to get the glory when people see my physical healing. I can celebrate this emotional healing as being Spirit filled and completely outside the glory of people. No single person made it happen. My friend played a part in it, but it’s not about her which is why as much as I celebrate God’s goodness in bringing us both together, I can’t use her name. She knows her name, but she also knows the name of Jesus is what matters. 

I’m writing this from my wheelchair now, but I’m healed in a new way, and I would ask you to celebrate that with me this week. Praise the Lord for his sovereign hand that prompted Jessica to invite me along, blessed the families along the way with the generous spirit to open their doors and house us as we drove, provided sensitivity to many of the people praying over me, brought several specific people together at the Jesus Hotel for me to meet, and healed my heart in the deepest places to make more room for his glorious Name – the name above all names – Jesus. 

What will people think when they hear that I’m a Jesus freak? What will people do when they find out it’s true?

I don’t really care if they label me a Jesus freak; there ain’t no disguising the truth.

One of the beauties of summer break is the luxury of forgetting the days. This is occasionally inconvenient, but for the most part I’m really enjoying the opportunity to wake up each morning, make myself a cup of coffee, and stand stretching my legs with nothing on my mind other than reading and walking as much as possible. With those reduced responsibilities, I’ve been able to increase my time on my feet without my braces, and I’m really excited about this new development.

On Friday I walked a couple dozen meters with Anja lightly holding my left hand while I used my right stick and put the majority of my weight on my legs. I was delighted with this new progress. I used her hand for balance, but barely any weight went to my left arm as my right leg remembered what it was made to do. 

The rest of the week really is a bit of a blur as I spent the majority of my time standing, reading, or walking without my braces. Full disclosure, there was also a fair amount of YouTube too, but that’s the story of my life. As I push myself to new limits physically, I’m finding that I’m more frequently exhausted by the exertion. I’m going to power through the next week anticipating yet more progress.

My eyes fail from weeping,I am in torment within;my heart is poured out on the groundbecause my people are destroyed,because children and infants faintin the streets of the city.”Lamentations 2:11

My literary hero died this week. He taught me a lot of things as I studied his work in college and continue to read what he has shared with the world. He bore witness to horrible atrocities, and he felt a responsibility to speak up. He once said, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” 

I want to be an agent of love, an ambassador of True Love in a broken world. I’m not sure how to best do that. Elie Wiesel survived death camps and died with dignity decades later, but Alton Sterling and Philando Castile had their lives cut short in a country fraught with racism. That breaks my heart. As someone who was born with white privilege, there is a lot I lack in experiential understanding, but I grieve with my African American friends. I am so sorry, and I love you. 

There’s no way to tastefully segue from systemic racism in America to my disabled expat experience, so I’m not going to try to connect the two. As this is a place for updates on my ongoing recovery, I’ll still let you know a few of those details from this week.

Monday Helen invited me over for dinner and graciously offered to power wash my dirty wheelchair that had collected dirt on the carriage all winter long. She helped me walk without braces from her car through a wildly uneven and unpaved patch to enjoy the view of Malsburg as we celebrated that I was able to manage the rough terrain. 

Tuesday I worked with Margot yet again on my stiff and stubborn ankles. She spent time loosening and moving them as I thought through the motions and worked to send signals between my brain and my foot. It’s a long and arduous process, but I’m hopeful for magnificent results if I’m patient. 

Wednesday Hunter and Michele took me to the baths again and we spent time relaxing in the warm water as well as testing out what my muscles could do without fighting gravity so hard. Hunter taught me a few exercises to do when I return without him since they insist upon leaving Germany for a year.

Thursday I pushed myself hard learning my limits as I set out from my house with Cindy to see how far I could walk without my braces. I made it to the bauhof again before I had Cindy push me home in my wheelchair. I’m determined to reach Hammerstein in a year (it’s just under two miles). 

Everyday bring something new – highs and lows. Through it all, I’m hopeful that I am a responsible representative of Love. I’m still asking God to work miracles of healing in my body, but that doesn’t mean I can’t also ask him for miracles of healing in my home country. 

Arise, cry out in the night,as the watches of the night begin;pour out your heart like waterin the presence of the Lord.Lift up your hands to himfor the lives of your children,who faint from hungerat every street corner.”Lamentations 2:19

I never participated in a trust fall as a team building thing – mostly because I don’t trust people, but also because I’ve seen Gretchen Wiener hit the floor in Mean Girls. I can’t help it that I’m popular. 

Funnily enough, there’s a girl in a wheelchair doing the trust fall in that scene, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’ve had to learn to trust people a lot more since my accident. Also living in Germany. I’ve learned that when one of the women in the Candela choir gets behind me, she’ll take me where I’m supposed to go without me needing to worry about anything. Today, I went to Binzen to sing with my German friends, and it was off to a normal start as Gundi took the handles behind me and wheeled me out a separate door following a man who’d given clear directions to another choir member while pointing to me. We reunited with the rest of the choir for our warm up, and I felt pretty great. I still had very little idea of what was going on – I mean I was at a choir festival, but the details were pretty vague with my limited German skills. 

After our warm up, I was sitting with Helen and Dorcas who are both native English speakers when Barbara came to tell us about when we would be singing. I gathered that I’d be needing to get up on the lowest riser – a whopping ten centimeters up. 

I immediately had flashbacks to Alex and Patrick first teaching me how to go up curbs in my wheelchair. I had to take the safety bar off, and I told Alex it was the best motivation she’d yet found to get me to learn to walk. Helen would be helping me up, but I didn’t have time to train her on how I would be able to do the maneuver on my own. Instead, I took off the safety bar and hoped for the best with my friend behind me. I made it up the step with no problem and while we sang our three songs, I pondered how I’d communicate to my German friends in a clear and effective manner the best way to remove me from the stage in the crowded hall. 

Several of them crowded around me after we took our final bow, and I managed to make clear the safest way would be for me to turn around and go backwards. I put myself in position and heard Elke say, “Ich hab dich” which made me sure I was safe. I popped my casters up and guided my wheels back as Elke held the handles to make sure I didn’t crash. 

I didn’t know that I’d be doing a trust fall this morning, but story of my life, I didn’t know I’d be trusting people who didn’t speak English to wheel me around a foreign country, I didn’t know I’d be trusting so many English speakers to help me navigate life overseas, I didn’t know I’d be trusting the generosity of dozens of people around the world to financially support me as I teach missionary kids in Germany. My whole life is a lesson in dependence – you’ve heard me say that before. Today’s trust fall ten centimeters was a healthy reminder of the trust I’ve placed elsewhere.

I trust I’ll walk again. (I also call that faith.) I set a new record for myself as I blazed from the school to the covered bridge (half a kilometer) in significantly better form and time than a week prior. I’m still practicing more time on my feet without my braces, and I’m really fortunate to have my standing frame at home for the summer thanks to Hunter and Michele. My ankles are still really weak, but Margot and Anja seem to think there is something happening in my feet. I trust them – more than most people. 

I trust I’ll have good things to share again next week.

If every week held the emotional and physical extremes last week did, I’d be pretty fried. Fortunately, I had a largely restful week as I gave my attention to reading and walking. I went for a couple walks with Hunter starting at my house and heading south to see how far I could make it. For those familiar with Kandern, I made it from the feuerwehr to the bauhof down the street on Wednesday. For those unfamiliar with Kandern, that’s half a kilometer or about a third of a mile. I was elated with this distance, and made it nearly as far the next day – just past the recyclinghof. I worked my legs a little bit again with Anja on Friday and gave them a break most of today just stretching and relaxing the sore muscles. 

I’ve gone this whole week without my braces, but realistically, I’m not done with them forever yet. I’ll strap them back on to go to church tomorrow, but I’m setting realistic goals for my progress this summer. I do want to spend more time without the braces and more time overall on my feet and walking. There’s a long road ahead of me, and I’m going to take each step cautiously and intentionally just like the walk I took with Hunter. I’ve got a couple more weeks with Hunter here helping me practice these new steps, but sadly he and Michele will be leaving in July to go back to America for a year of totalization. I am super fortunate still, though, because there are still two other people in the English speaking community here who have a background in physical therapy that have agreed to be my walking buddies while Hunter is gone. 

It’s still early in my summer break, and I’m still full of hope for the progress I’ll make in the coming weeks. I’m also excited for what other books I might read this summer; I have to remember to have some balance. Speaking of balance, I’m still pretty wobbly on my feet, but I did want to share that during my standing and stretching time, I’ve found a decrease in the frequency of my frantic grasping for something solid with my arms as my core increased in its ability to hold me up. Remember, I have a long way to go, but I still remember the days in REHAB when I couldn’t stand up at all if I let go of what I was holding on to. 

This week has been incredible – thank you to all of you who fasted along with me and prayed for my ongoing recovery. I still want it all, and I’m still asking for everything everyday. This week I saw some amazing improvements as I ventured outside my house for the first time without my braces. I walked short distances and managed to keep my heels lower on the ground as they made contact with each slow step. The accompanying emotional highs were great, and I was able to share them with many of my friends and students here. One of my students noticed that I showed up at graduation on Saturday wearing a pair of Toms tucked under my blanket. We celebrated together at family group when I walked up the stairs at the Campbell’s in a pair of Nikes. It’s still not safe for me to take any steps in the Toms, and I have to be careful even the tennis shoes I have because my ankles are still not in my control. (Shout out to any Nike friends who want to hook an Oregon girl up with some high tops – I’m a size 8.5!) I’m praising God for this massive improvement though as I make literal strides away from assistive devices. 

This Friday I showed up to therapy without my braces, and Anja helped me to stand on a balance board as we worked my core and stretched my legs. Always game for a new adventure, she next had me hold her arms and take a couple warm up steps before moving her arms to my waist and asking me to try to take steps without holding her. I’d find my balance, move a leg, grab Anja to keep from falling over, and try again with the next leg. It was exhausting work for both of us, but exhilarating too. It reminded me of those five steps back in July last summer in the massive baby walker without any sticks. I want more of those. 

I’m chasing after those highs, and I’m working hard to make them more normal in my life, but there is still nerve damage I can’t ignore. Amidst this awesomeness this week, I also dealt with a pretty nasty infection which brought some physical and emotional lows. I’ll keep the details to myself, but you can trust me there was a lot of physical discomfort and clean up required.

The mess I woke up to this morning doesn’t invalidate any of my progress or achievements this week, but it reminds me of the paradox in which I live. The kingdom of God is already but not yet – that’s what I taught my students in my Old Testament survey course. I live in a broken body, a soul redeemed and waiting for redemption. I still fully believe I can have a healed body in my life on this earth before glorification, but I don’t want my body to be the end of the story. I want my healing to be a message of God’s power and glory. I’m asking for a lot of things – I’m asking for full muscle control, for nerves to reconnect and remember how to send messages, for free Nikes, but all of that is secondary to the request that God be glorified. I want to be lower so that he can be higher; like John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30 ESV). 

Every time I learn a new function, my walking slows down significantly. I need to return my focus and attention to the new detail in my gait, and it slows me down considerably. Today during therapy, Anja and I went for a walk outside without my braces. She told me to slow down as I took the unstable steps on the uneven ground. I was so excited to feel the contact of the ground in my feet. It’s still an incredible sensation for me to feel the flex and stretch in my calve as my ankle moves in each step. I didn’t realize how much I missed it after two years of the stiff ankle locked in my braces. In our hour session today, I made it a short distance outside and practiced some side steps as well. Walking back into the practice, Anja joked, “Do you even need your braces anymore?” 

Well, let’s hope not! I’m so excited about this new progress that I’m going to try more things without my braces. I’m going to see if I can manage more steps without the constraints in order to give my nerves additional stimulation. Anja and Margot have both talked about how the added information to my feet can help rebuild neural pathways. I have great hope for return of function.

The school year has wrapped up for me this week, and I’m excited to spend more time and energy focused on my physical development this summer. I’m really hopeful for what might happen over the coming weeks, and I’d like you to join with me in praising God for new developments as well as asking for more. Those of you in the family of Christ, would you consider fasting with me in the coming week as I ask and anticipate big improvements? I’m not able to fast from food due to my digestive complications caused by nerve damage, but I’ll be giving up Netflix for a week beginning on Sunday (those of you who know me well know this is a big sacrifice since now that school’s out there’s even more time to Netflix binge). Brothers and sisters in Christ, could you consider giving up something Sunday to Saturday in this coming week and spend the time you’d normally use for that activity praying for me? 

I’ll be praying specifically for nerve pathways to make connections from my brain to muscles currently disconnected. My ankles are not alone in this, but they are the primary target these days.

I loved the feeling of walking without my braces so much, I tried again a couple times with Hunter last week. It was just as incredible the second and third time, but I’ll be honest, it was just as exhausting too. I wrapped up my classes for the semester, and I walked several rounds in the auditorium, and this week has taken it’s toll on my energy. I was completely spent on Sunday, and it doesn’t help that I haven’t been sleeping well the last week. There are loads of factors going into my holistic care, and I’m working to pay attention to all of them while finishing all my responsibilities at school this week before graduation. 

I had my first of three finals this afternoon, and I’ll be saying bye for the summer to the rest of my kids tomorrow and Wednesday. I’ll also keep practicing walking though not every day this week. Fortunately, there are actually a couple people in this community trained in physical therapy who are willing to walk with me, but it still takes some coordination between my schedule and theirs to make sure I have a safe partner to practice this new skill. 

I’m really excited about it though, and the fact that the three subsequent times I tried it with Hunter had no real scares actually excites me to the potential of doing that with other people or on my own someday in the near future. As I prepare for summer break, I’m getting ready to think about what new things I can train my body to do better. Walking with no braces is at the top of my list. That’s a huge step forward for me, and I can already see the next steps after that. I got a tiny taste of the future when practicing with Hunter and Cindy last week as Cindy held the gait belt while I walked with no braces and asked me to hand her one of my sticks. I took about a dozen steps no braces and with only a single stick. It was a pretty exciting moment.

A lot of people thought my life was over with the diagnosis of paralysis, but I’m still proving them wrong, and it’s a delight to keep making these physical improvements. I’m anticipating more good things – pray with me that my calves and ankles will remember what it’s like to move naturally in the walking motion as I keep walking every day.

Hunter gave me the title for this week’s entry; more importantly he gave me his shoes. I didn’t walk a mile in them, but I did walk the first thirty feet without my braces in two years. 

Those of you who have followed my story since REHAB may remember the Cinderella moment when I was fitted for my custom braces and shoes and began to improve my mobility with them. My ankles are still out of my control, but my calves have loosened up enough to allow me to take cautious steps (with a therapist nearby) using just my sticks in a regular pair of shoes.

Anja and I tried it out this Friday after testing my feet in a pair of Jump Soles – a block strapped to the front of the foot to help athletes stretch their calves and improve their jumping. Hunter had brought the school’s pair along since he was driving me to therapy. My special shoes have stiff soles that don’t allow for the flexibility needed to maximize the calf stretch in the Jump Soles, so Hunter let me borrow his to test these out. I shifted my weight around as Anja instructed; then she told me to save some power in my legs to try something else. We took the Jump Soles off, and she stood behind me while worked to keep my balance. Once moderately secure, Anja gently moved my arms out and up to force me to readjust my balance. 

When I sat down to take a break, she had me turn to face her and hold her arms for support as we took about fifteen awkward steps across the room. I sat down on a different stool beaming as she got me a glass of water. I stood and did some more balance exercises before she asked if I wanted to try walking with my sticks. I did a slow, cautious lap around the room with Anja right behind me. I’m always nervous about my unpredictable ankles, but they stayed calm as I lifted my leg enough to keep my toes from dragging before placing it just barely ahead of the other foot. I can’t make the normal heel to toe motion with my foot (yet), but there was an incredible feeling that went along with walking without my feet locked into position in braces.

Let me repeat for emphasis: This was the first time in two years I walked without my braces.

I was dazed afterwards – I can still hardly believe it happened. Praise the Lord. I’m amazed that the gifts keep coming, and I can’t wait to continue practicing this new development. I gave Hunter his shoes back since I have another pair I can practice with, but I look forward to getting up to a mile in my shoes without braces. 

Oops, I skipped posting last weekend. Things begin to get crazy around BFA during the month of May. Students turn their brains off, and teachers have to fight with them to turn their brains back on until finals. There’s new content to cover, late work to grade, and various responsibilities to deal with around school. I also have visa paperwork, medical bills, insurance claims, and therapy rides on my radar in addition to still trying to be a good teacher. 

I had to change up my lessons this last week for my second period students who have been struggling to focus since spring break, and my fifth period class had some serious questions they wanted to address on the goodness of God in class discussions. From my perspective, the last two weeks have flown by in a blur, so it’s hard to come up with a clear picture to share of my ongoing recovery amidst this madness and ministry. I can say with confidence it’s been a good two weeks – I’ve seen consistency in capabilities that I didn’t have months ago. My balance is improving imperceptibly over the weeks so that I can now look back to the fall and recognize a difference between then and now. My stamina is slowly increasing as I try to accomplish more physically each day. Also, students are bringing me questions outside of class as they want to go deeper in their learning.

Yesterday, my fifth period class was spent in deep discussion about the goodness of God after a student emailed me specific questions and concerns about how we understand the world as Christians. After school, two roommates came over for tea and between stories of whether or not they were justified in their physical beatings of one another, they talked about how they want to mature into better people. Tuesday I had the added delight of a previous student who is home from college sharing with me some of her experience over the last year and encouraging me with the fact that my class had a positive impact on her. I taught her the semester before my accident, and she has watched much of my recovery process face to face along with many of her peers.

I’m consistently humbled by the way in which students tell me they’ve been positively impacted by my journey. This alum had shared with me last year a college application essay she wrote about how significant my response to trauma was in her faith. Tea with her was a timely reminder of the big picture of my life here in Germany. I’m not seeing many of those daily improvements in my physical health, but I’m still working hard each day to take care of my body, brain, and soul. Sometimes those days blend together into weeks of madness, but I can occasionally see how the big picture shows progress from my faithful daily actions.

Christians do weird stuff. From the outside, I imagine baptism looks like one of those weird things. However, from the inside, it is one of the greatest parts of the Christian family. Baptism is done differently across denominations, but it’s always a celebration. This morning I got to celebrate eight people declaring their faith in Jesus and desire to live for him. 

The sacrament is symbolic of our death to self as we are raised to new life in Christ. The moment itself isn’t supernatural, but it stands as a marker in the life of a Christ follower that identifies them as part of the family of God. I was baptized over a decade ago, and I barely remember my dad asking me with tears of joy in his eyes if I believed Jesus was my Savior and wanted to live my life for him. Based on that declaration, he dunked me in the water and lifted me up – buried with Christ and raised to newness of life in him. What I do remember clearly is the celebration this event was.

Life has highs and lows, but as a Christian, I share all of those with my family – my whole family of God. Listening to a student share pieces of a conversation we had as part of her testimony and decision to follow Jesus was one of the highest highs I’ve ever had. She shared with the church that when she arrived at BFA, she thought it was the worst thing in her life only to discover after a painful year that it was the greatest thing that could ever have happened. 

Our stories are linked now, and I’m eternally grateful. The work that the Lord has prepared for me here is to live life alongside students like her. We’ve both made a decision to follow Jesus and publicly declared it. We’re both messed up people, but we’re looking to be more like Jesus every day. Our lives look drastically different, and we’ll go on to share Jesus in different ways and different places, but I’m so happy for those intersections where we can share tea and talk about insightful rap lyrics (I’m partial to Dame DOLLA but that’s a given). 

This extension of my family through baptism is really important to me. All of you who are in my family are joining with me to celebrate this new sister while you continue to pray for me; that’s a pretty great feeling to share in.

I really love my job. Like seriously, I can hardly express my excitement to go to work each morning. I love my students so much, and I’m so fortunate to be at a school where I can invite students over for pico and chips. Mexican food and students are two of my favorite things on the planet. I had a couple really wonderful interactions this week – more than a couple – that have encouraged me that despite my physical struggles, I’m where I’m supposed to be and doing what I’m supposed to do.

I’ve also had a couple opportunities to identify physical improvements that have been really encouraging. My walking has significantly improved over the last several months, and I’ve been delighted each time a colleague or students comments on the speed or quality of my steps. I’m in a position where it’s difficult to see the gradual improvements, but I know for a fact that the walking I’m capable of now is drastically improved from six months ago.

Each day is a little bit better, and I’m certainly never going to complain about that. Instead, I’ll keep asking for everything, as always, in my recovery. I want to be the best teacher possible, and I’m convinced that less distractions with my physical abilities will improve my teaching. I’ve already noticed that over the last couple months post-Botox injections. I’m a better teacher not having to worry about bladder spasms and the complications that come along with that. I’m grateful for that change, and I’ll keep working to do my job to the best of my ability.

Today that means extra time researching eschatology after tea with a student and some PT exercises. Tomorrow will have a similar combination of addressing physical needs and the needs of my students in order to be the best educator and Jesus follower. This week we’re wrapping up our systematic theology unit talking about the end of the world, and I know that how I live this week can impact what I hear at the end of the world. I’m looking forward to a, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” That’s the best job – servant of the King – and I love being able to do it every day.

Whenever I post about the dirty details related to a medical inconvenience I have, I get loads of comments and recommendations from people around the world with no experience with paralysis who want to offer advice. That’s very nice, but it’s also very frustrating. I have access to lots of medical professionals, and I take all my problems to them. Due to that, I refrain from posting all the details of my bladder infections, leg spasms, diarrhea, stomach cramps, shoulder pains, et cetera publicly on the internet. 

To be honest, I considered posting about some of those dirty details here this week, but it would have come out as an angry diatribe against voyeuristic gawkers who follow my story to make themselves feel better about not being disabled or something. That’s not healthy for anyone. 

I’m trying to get healthy – both in my writing and in my body. There’s different things I can do to achieve each of those goals, and here the most important thing is to present truth to you without anger. The truth is, being paralyzed sucks. There are really frustrating complications due to nerve damage, and it makes my life really difficult while occupying much of my time and energy. I took a lot of time to focus on just the basics of living well last week, and I only barely achieved it. 

Here’s another important truth: I wouldn’t trade my paralysis for anything. Listen closely, I want to get more function, but I don’t want to lose the story God has written with my life so far. The messiest, most frustrating day paralysis wise last week was shared with one of the most amazing God-moments of the week when two students came over for nachos and asked me about how God had been at work in my life before bringing me to Germany and since my accident. Simultaneous to experiencing burning pain on sensitive skin due to nerve damage and bacterial warfare, I listened to a class of kids discuss the significance of Jesus in salvation over the nuances of Calvinism and Arminianism which led them to explore experiences of the Holy Spirit in the world today. 

Final dirty detail: I really look forward to heaven. In his final weeks on earth, my grandpa would wake up and cry that he wasn’t in heaven yet. He’d lived a full and beautiful life, and he just wanted to go home. I don’t wake up with the exact same mindset, but I’m aware of the reality that heaven is a much better place than earth. I know in heaven I won’t have any of these nerve damaged messes. However, I know on earth I get to share Jesus which is the delight of every Calvinist or Arminian (though with nuanced different motives). Like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and the others, I look ahead to the heavenly country, to the city whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11). Like all those heroes of the faith, I will keep my eyes on the things above where Christ is, and like they did, I will do everything, whether in word or deed, in the name of Jesus (Colossians 3). You see, those people whose eyes are fixed on Jesus are some of the most productive world changers while alive here on earth. Watch out.

In my job, I have the privilege of listening to students process what they believe about the world we live in and the theological concepts that make up the framework of Christianity. This week’s lessons were mostly about the life and work of Jesus Christ. We established the historicity of his life, death, and resurrection and talked about how people have to choose whether or not to believe the facts (Josh McDowell or Lee Strobel style) and then a subsequent decision related to the effect on daily life is necessary. We focused more on this second decision in a class discussion yesterday. So if Jesus saved us from our sins and is coming back, how does that change my life today

There was a moment when my first class period of juniors finished the discussion and were working on a reading assignment in small groups when one group asked me a question related to the significance of this topic. “Can you imagine what it would be like if students and staff at this school lived their daily lives as an encounter with the risen Jesus?” I responded. I watched a student’s eyes grow wide, “That would be incredible.” She got it. This Jesus thing is supposed to radically change us. I should look different – more like Jesus – the more I live in light of this resurrected Savior. 

The second class period took a different turn as one of the students had written on an assignment her concern about Jesus being our protector but Christians still got physically hurt all the time. I brought this up after we spent some time talking about Jesus’ relevance today. Knowing all the students well enough, I told them we could use my accident as an example. “I’m paralyzed. Did Jesus protect me?” A couple students piped up quickly pointing out that it could have been worse: “You could have died,” or “You could have been paralyzed from the neck down.” Several students were uncomfortable with that and one articulated that you can always find a way for it to be worse until the person is dead so what good does that line of reasoning do? Another kid brought up the distinction between physical and spiritual protection. I was so excited to listen to one student describe how I was not protected physically, but there was certainly room to see that I had been protected spiritually – namely that I came through this experience with a stronger faith. Across the room another student who has heard me talk about my accident more than most commented that she’s listened to me say that this experience has been one of the greatest catalysts for growth in my faith. 

A different student who was in my class before my accident began a little timidly, “Well, having known you before your accident, I can say that you’re a lot less pretentious now than before, and you’re much more passionate about your faith.”

Praise. The. LORD. 

I laughed when she said that, and grinned as several other students from my freshman English class nodded and murmured affirmations. How beautiful – these kids have seen Jesus transform my life in the last two years. The conversation shifted again as students began to articulate ideas about how we grow closer to Jesus and he protects us spiritually but we don’t have easy lives. Some students articulated frustration with the difficulties we face – both spiritually and physically – but we concluded there was value in pursuing answers while recognizing limits in our understanding.

I left that class period and was went to therapy shortly after. Anja and I had an hour to work together, and I related to her my excitement about my students’ learning. I was still riding the high of such a successful lesson, so I was eager to share with her. When I got to the part about a student telling me I’d become a better person, she asked me if I thought that was true from my perspective.

Definitely.

I love what that kid identified because it’s a practical application of my “humbled not humiliated” mantra way back in REHAB. Paul writes in Philippians 2 that Jesus as a human Jesus humbled himself to the point of death – he wasn’t concerned about his physical needs as much as his spiritual example. Now, to be fair, Jesus took good care of his body too – and that’s something that Anja and I talked about as well. I’m more concerned about my spiritual protection – my soul is the priority – but that doesn’t mean I’m going to ignore my physical care. I take seriously the work I do in physical therapy and the exercises I have at home. I want to be holistically healthy – body and soul – so I’ll keep working hard to encounter the risen Jesus every day while simultaneously putting hard work into my ongoing physical rehabilitation.

I’m really fortunate that I’ve got a PT like Anja who helps with the ongoing physical stuff – each week, we’re building on the work I do with Margot and what I do at home by myself. Yesterday we had another hour session, and I was looking forward to another experience standing stacked and flat footed. After nearly 45 minutes of preparation (and deep conversation), Anja turned me to face the therapy bank and had me stand up. My left ankle wasn’t as excited about the venture as I was, but we spent several minutes shifting my weight over my feet while Anja held me safe. I was protected. Every time Anja or Margot ask me to do something scary, I know they will protect me. Just like the relationship I had with Alex back in REHAB or when I practice walking with Hunter, I know these people will protect me physically, but there’s still a risk and a tiny bit of fear involved. 

When it comes to my soul, I’m secure. There is no fear because I am protected in a different way. I’ve had people ask me about my faith in a God who could miraculously heal me but hasn’t, and nothing has shaken my faith in that God. Every question has brought me closer to this very real Jesus who I get to encounter daily and learn more about for the rest of my life. He is infinite, and I have eternity to learn the mysteries of why I still need braces and catheters today. It doesn’t mean I’ll need them tomorrow, and I’m still asking God to miraculously restore all function to me. I’d like it today, but I’ll take it whenever it comes. It’s a complex issue, and it shouldn’t have an easy answer. My soul is protected, and I’m working hard to be responsible with my body as it continues to recover.

When German friends ask me how I’m doing, I answer “Immer besser,” or “always better.” I’m making slow progress, and sometimes I’m frustrated at the pace, but I have to recognize that I’m still moving forwards. It’s a Schnecke pace – slow as a snail – but I’ve noticed those snails can really book it in the spring after the rain stops. This past week, I feel like I moved super slowly and didn’t reach the distances I had hoped. I did reach some other goals outside of my physical movement though. I taught my students for three days last week, and I was so delighted to see them all back in the classroom. Today, one of them told me I am as cool as Mrs. Fung, the super awesome English teacher they have. 

I don’t have any significant update to provide this week, but I want you all to know I’m still moving forwards. I haven’t seen the first snails of the season yet, but I’ll be ready to race them when they show up. 

There are loads of horrible lessons to be learned from Disney princess movies, but I’m not going to touch that. I’m instead going to talk about the coordination that comes from familiarity with your appendages. When The Little Mermaid begins, Arial is adept at moving through the water by using her tail. She turns and twists with relative ease in the buoyant environment because she’s used to both the water and the fish tail. When she’s given the chance to walk with legs for the first time, she wobbles quite a bit. Her brain isn’t used to sending signals to legs to walk one foot in front of the other; her nerves are new.

My nerves are old and broken. My brain is still sending signals, but the nerves haven’t been getting the right messages – the reverse is true as well. In a normal land environment, there are certain factors that I encounter which my body accounts for – gravity being the biggest deal. In therapy sessions, my therapist will occasionally hook my legs up in straps while I lay down to practice motions without the hindrance of gravity. Another way to cheat gravity is in water. Those who’ve followed my story since REHAB will possibly remember my one previous attempt at walking in water and how it was not so worth the great amount of effort necessary.

Well, two years later, I tried it again. Carol has been saying for months (almost years) that she’s convinced I’d love hanging out in a thermal bath to relax my muscles, and Hunter long ago offered to come with me to keep me safe in the water (you know, in case Carol tried to drown me). I was nervous about being in the water, but the biggest fear I had was the transfer from chair to pool. I remember the transfer with Alex back in REHAB, and it was scary to be wet and moving weight without my braces. I talked through all my fears with Hunter, and he planned out how we could try this out as safely as possible. 

Yesterday, Hunter and Michele showed up at my house to tape up my ankles in preparation for this grand new adventure. Michele’s job was to hold my feet in position as her husband wrapped the tape around to keep the foot secure, and we all joked about how without trying I kept pushing her back as my calf fought the proper angle of my ankle. Carol showed up after we started the second foot, and once my ankles were covered in medical tape and tucked into water socks, we loaded into the Barber’s car with my wheelchair and drove out to Bad Bellingen, a thermal bath about fifteen minutes away. 

This particular bath has water wheelchairs, so Michele grabbed one for me and helped me change and transfer to the other chair. She kindly asked the front desk where we could securely check in my personal chair and was met with strange looks as they instructed her to leave it in the open entry area with the other water chairs. I often forget I live in a country where no one would dream of stealing a disabled person’s wheelchair; it’s really quite a gift. Ready to go, we made our way into the indoor pool where Carol and Hunter were already waiting. Hunter found an employee who could operate the crane to lower me into the pool, and he carefully and slowly helped me transfer from the pool chair to crane seat. Secure and holding on to a pool noodle, I took deep breaths as the employee swung me over the water and slowly lowered me down. Carol and Michele helped me out and pulled me to more shallow water where I tried to stand up. My feet were reticent to flatten out, but we spent about an hour trying different things to relax my muscles, stretch my calves, and flatten my feet. I had a couple exercises from my therapists that I tried out in the water, and my wonderful friends helped me with every new thing.

I was certainly grateful for all the help, and I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t have gone with anyone else. Fear is an overstatement, but these three knew my anxieties about trying out this new thing that had been relatively unsuccessful before. My function is significantly different than the last time I was in a pool, but I also was trying this for the first time out of a hospital facility with certified therapists and nurses who do this regularly. I trust Hunter’s training to keep me safe in my unique situation, and I trust Michele and Carol to also help with whatever else I might need. The three of them together helped me try out some exercises from my therapists where I pretended to be the Little Mermaid – I focused very carefully on moving the very base of my spine with help from my stomach and lower back muscles just like Margot taught me, and I held myself steady with my core instead of my shoulders like Anja encouraged me to do. It’s not my normal environment, so the exercises took a lot of concentration and were far from feeling natural, but it was good practice.

With help, I felt safe, I laughed a lot, and I was even able to relax a little bit. It was still a new thing that required a lot of energy though, so I was completely exhausted by the time we decided to leave the pool. (Full disclosure: I decided it was time to leave; I’m pretty sure Carol could have stayed another two hours.) Changing out of the wet swimsuit was not so bad once I had my trusty braces back on, and my friends waited patiently as I took my time getting myself ready to leave. I was so tired, and we all expected that I’d sleep soundly through the night which was sadly not the case, but it was still an overall good experience. I’m pretty pooped today, but I’m proud of myself for trying out my fish tail moves, and I’m back to wobbling on land for a while. 

I’m not sure if I’ve referenced “spoon theory” here before, but it’s a concept that aptly describes my limitations this week. You can read the whole post here, but the summary is that a woman with a chronic illness explained to her friend that those with chronic illness or disability begin each day with a limited number of spoons which represent energy to accomplish tasks whereas able bodied people have a limitless supply of spoons. I have a limited supply of spoons, and it takes a spoon to open my eyes each morning, to get out of bed, to put on my clothes, to go to the bathroom – some of these tasks take multiple spoons. Nearly none of you have to budget your energy for any of those tasks. I frequently have to make judgement calls about what I’ll do each day knowing that I’ll eventually run out of spoons. I can sometimes borrow spoons into the next day, but then I’m starting the following day even lower on spoons. 

This weekend, there is a great professional development opportunity available to BFA staff as our school is hosting a conference for international Christian educators put on by the Association of Christian Schools International. As a BFA staff member, I was signed up for the full package, and I was so excited to listen to respected educators and engage in insightful workshops. The conference is only three days, and it’s completely full days Saturday afternoon to Tuesday afternoon. And I mean completely full. Sunday and Monday were booked solid for twelve hours of content. I love learning, and this is a conference for learners to be better teachers. This is all content I’m excited about.

Unfortunately, my body and the school’s facility don’t match my enthusiasm. This weekend has presented new challenges to me that are difficult to articulate to all the lovely masses who think they are offering help but don’t understand how life with disabilities works. I’m going to try, but I’d like to preface it by saying if you’ve offered something that I here explain is not helpful, it’s okay. You don’t need to apologize, you don’t need to make a big deal about it, you didn’t know. Please, though, learn from this experience a little more of the whole picture of life with disabilities.

Our main building doesn’t have an elevator. We have two elevator shafts that are currently used as storage space and as recently as my arrival at BFA were used as offices as well. The building is not meant to be accessible to me. The gymnasium on the second floor was the only place that was usable for this conference as a cafeteria area. There are various reasons this decision was made; I was not taken into account in the decision. Should I have been? Well, there should be an elevator. Anyways, this was the circumstance with which I was faced, and my options were to not be fed, to have food brought to me, or to make my way up the stairs. 

Here’s a quick reminder for you of my mobility ability: stairs are rough for me.

I usually do two staircases a week, and I have a lot of time after each go to recover. There was no way that I was going to go up and down a flight of stairs twice a day in the middle of twelve hour days for food when there was no recovery time. I asked instead if my food could be brought down to the main level by a friend who could eat with me. The staff happily agreed, but I also had several offers that if I wanted to get up to the gym, they could make it happen. Here’s what is not taken into account by those offers: my dignity. I have the physical capacity to get myself up the stairs. I do not need to be carried. Carrying me up the stairs robs me of my dignity in a way you just can’t imagine. It’s unnecessarily humiliating for me. Furthermore, I have the ability to move my legs just enough to get myself up stairs, but that doesn’t mean I have the energy. Our gym has a second door that opens to a grassy slope that others offered to push me up. This still robs me of energy even if I’m being pushed, so it’s another no go. 

I had communicated that I’d try to go to the banquet this evening up the stairs with help, but when it came time to make my way upstairs, I was out of spoons. I’ve already borrowed spoons from tomorrow and Wednesday; I was too far in debt to get to the gym. Most people I told readily understood that I’d pushed way past my usual limits. Able bodied people were tired at this point after two and a half full days, and I’d attended nearly every workshop and plenary session. It is completely legitimate for me to be tired, and I’m proud of how much I accomplished today. I’m also proud of myself for not ramming rude people with my wheelchair. 

Another caveat: before I was in a wheelchair, I didn’t think much about people in wheelchairs. It was wrong. I get that other people think like I used to. It’s still wrong.

I used to allow for a lot of bending of my dignity because I was still learning the limits of my disability, but there are things that are just not okay. Here are three from today.

First, our school only has one disabled bathroom (that’s not even the not okay part of the story, though that also is problematic and I found myself almost locked in the building last night because I had to go to another building to use a toilet before dinner – but I digress from today). The single disabled bathroom is located near the front entrance to the building where I teach which has a small lobby area that has had a coffee station this weekend. There’s not a lot of room to stand and chat, so people have squeezed beneath the stairwell and on the other side which leads directly to my bathroom door. In fact, the only thing you see in this small open space is my door which has a handicapped symbol above a sign that reads “DO NOT BLOCK ACCESS TO THIS DOOR.” Even so, because there are so many people squeezing in, I’ve found the door blocked nearly every time I’ve made my way to the restroom. Fortunately, most times it’s just a couple people standing well in front of it, and I just need to ask them to part for me. However, at one point today, when I was finished going to the bathroom, I discovered resistance when I tried to open the door to get out. Someone was standing against my door. 

They moved quickly and were apologetic, but I can’t stress enough the not-okayness of this situation. I was fortunate they weren’t sitting or leaning against it, but they had placed a laptop bag in front of it and were standing close enough that I hit them without getting more than six inches of the door open. A BFA staff member behind them noticed me trying to get out and came to help me with the door in my confusion as I was shoving against this strange resistance. I realized there was a person crammed behind the door when I wheeled past. I’m not sorry I squished them. That could have easily been me just over two years ago, but I too would have deserved a serious smacking with that door if I blocked a wheelchair user in the disabled bathroom. That is not appropriate. 

Second anecdote context: I’m deathly allergic to peanuts. During the fifteen minute break between workshop sessions today, there were snacks available to delegates – at least all the delegates who don’t have life threatening food allergies. Since I couldn’t have the snacks, and I was already really tired, I’d asked my amazing student who’s been around this weekend for worship team to run to the store and buy me chocolate to give me a little boost. I was wheeling down the hall with the chocolate on my lap and expertly navigating the crowds before entering the elevator for my next session. Our elevator requires a key which I’m privileged enough to have. Our elevator is also tiny, so for convenience, I enter backwards and exit forwards. I’d turned the key and whipped my wheelchair around to back into the elevator, but in my haste, the chocolate on my lap fell on the floor. A kind hearted woman knelt to pick it up with her free hand that had just deposited nuts in her mouth.

“Please don’t, please don’t, please don’t! I’ve got it!” I was afraid she’d touch my precious chocolate with her nut dusted hands which could lead to my unfortunate death. Normally I’d let someone pick up a dropped item though I am capable of it. I was concerned here about the food allergy, not the disability. 

“Wow, aren’t you so independent!” the woman was somewhere between impressed or insulted. I didn’t have time to figure it out because the elevator door opened. 

“No, I’m just allergic to peanuts!” I swiped up my chocolate and backed into the elevator which quickly closed behind me.

Now, the problem here is probably harder for most of you to see than in the previous scenario. The woman was being polite, and I was likely the one to come across as more rude resisting her kind act. However, something that it’s important for all of us to learn is that a disabled person might need to learn to do something on their own, and you should respect that if they decline your offer for help. I’ve tried to write about that before referencing the Steve Saint clip. This is the clearest of all the encounters today that I’ve had where people were affronted by this. Lots of people offer to do things for me that I decline – I’m never offended when they offer, but it’s an insult to me when you don’t respect my decision. Sometimes offers for help bring more harm that good (as the peanuts in contact with my beautiful chocolate would), and you need to trust that the disabled person has the autonomy to make that call. Now, this is why the woman’s response would have been problematic if she was insulted by my “rude” refusal of help and sarcastically declared me independent. There’s a chance she was being genuine though; this is equally if not more offensive towards me. I’m a pretty impressive person: I earned a masters degree by 24, moved to Germany to teach TCKs, I have read Crime and Punishment in it’s entirety of my own free will. I also live alone and take care of myself without assistance after a spinal cord injury which is moderately impressive. It’s not at all impressive to pick up a small box of chocolate off the floor. That’s not even the most impressive thing I’d done that hour. It was incredibly demeaning to me as a human being if she was impressed at my independence in picking up a box of chocolate. She didn’t know anything about me except that I was in a wheelchair, and she assumed it was a huge deal that I was bending down to pick up what I’d dropped just like any other person would do based solely on the fact that I was in a wheelchair. 

The final frustration I’ll share took place when I was keeping Carol company at the hospitality table. A woman from another school came up to strike up a conversation about my disability. It’s the most obvious physical feature that I have, but it is not okay to ask somebody in a wheelchair, “So what happened to you?” I’m not hiding anything, but it’s a super personal thing for many people with disabilities. Furthermore, there’s an appropriate context for asking that kind of question, and I can promise you, it’s never okay for it to be the first thing out of your mouth when you introduce yourself to me. You can easily bring it naturally into a conversation if you’re that curious. For example, after some pleasantries about what content I teach and how long I’ve been at BFA you might ask how I find it to be as a teacher in a wheelchair if that provides any difficulties – this is fitting in a conference for teachers. However, this woman just asked, “So what happened to you?” That’s not even her biggest faux pas. Once I told her I broke my back (like I said, I’m not hiding anything), she asked me how long I was expected to be in the wheelchair. “The rest of my life. I’m paralyzed.” I was kinda shocked at the question because most people know that breaking your back isn’t like breaking your leg. “Oh,” she replied, “I just thought it must be less because you were just sitting here looking so happy and normal.” This woman thinks you can’t be happy and normal if you’re in a wheelchair. This is the most offensive thing I’ve encountered since my accident. My wheelchair allows me to be happy and normal. Without it, I’d be bedridden and helpless. With it, I can attend a conference where people are rude to me.

I’m incredibly fortunate in that I’ve recovered a lot of mobility and can be so independent with my wheelchair, but there are people with even less functionality than I have who lead beautiful happy lives in their own realm of normal. Please, I beg of you, don’t ever think of someone with a permanent disability to be incapable of happiness. That’s dehumanizing.

I do look different than most of you because of my disability, but I’m still a human. A human with admittedly significantly less energy than most of you, but don’t rob me of my human dignity. Be like Hunter who thinks about accessibility when walking places I might go. Be like Carol who never picks things up for me (just kidding – she would if I asked her to). Be like Helen who asked me how my heart was doing as I watched the line for dinner snake up the spiral staircase. 

It’s hard to write a post this week because nothing remotely near the excitement level of last week happened again. I’ve still been working hard, and that hard work paid off big time last week, but I’ve got to keep pushing along and waiting for more results. 

I did have some great interactions with students, amazing conversations with friends near and far, and read a few delightful books. In many ways, this week was pretty routine. That’s kinda nice to be able to say – you know, that my life has so little fresh trauma that I can find a new routine. It’s still a little depressing on the flip side that the major limitations I still have are part of my routine. Part of my routine includes an alarm an hour before I get out of bed to take a muscle relaxant; part of my routine is having a way to treat and overcome muscle spasms. I still wouldn’t trade my life for the world, and I’m more than grateful for the function and friends that I have.

I’m also still really hopeful about that brief moment on my feet last week. It encourages me to think that there might be more moments on my feet like it ahead. I’m still not done improving, and I’m grateful for all your encouragements along the way. Hopefully next week we’ll see some new things that I can share. In the mean time, I’ll keep teaching and reading and having epic theological conversations with Jordy during her lunch break. 

Last week there was a small adjustment to my therapy schedule as I had a special hour long session with Anja to try something we’d attempted in earlier half hour sessions with limited success. When I showed up, I sat down in a chair in the therapy room and removed my shoes. Anja and I had a great conversation while she massaged my calves and relaxed my ankles. The drop foot keeps the muscles below my knees ridiculously tight. Eventually, she got my feet to stay put flat on the floor and asked me to lift my heel while she held one hand on the top of my foot and the other on the back of my calf.

It’s a good thing I trust my therapists. Whenever they ask me to move muscles I don’t have control over, I have the potential to get discouraged. I obey, but always question whether any of the motion is coming from me. They always insist there is a flicker from me first before they complete the motion. I know this to be true because after months of the same request from Margot, I can finally feel what she is talking about with the muscles in my butt and hips. Anja repeated the same answer – I was starting the movement and she stimulated the muscles to complete it. 

Once we’d done this for a significant amount of time, Anja pushed me in the chair close to the raised table and the exciting part began. For some context, I’m capable of standing, but it’s nothing like your ability to stand or what mine was like before my accident. I always feel like my posture is out of whack. Most of that is related to the drop foot because it’s so difficult to get my feet to stand flat on the floor. Even when I can, my calves are so tight that the ankles constantly are fighting to turn out and return the muscles above to a shortened position. Even when my feet make it flat to the ground, I’m always wobbling and unsure of my position and usually have an awkward arch in my spine as I fight to keep myself upright.

This time when I stood, none of that happened. My feet were flat; my spine was stacked. Anja instructed me to shift my weight from side to side and see if any spasms came. My ankles stayed steady and calm. I began to get excited. Eventually, I lowered my arms from the table and stayed still, feet firmly planted and shoulders relaxed. Anja continued to instruct me in different tests of moving my arms and shifting weight, but my ankles kept their cool. This was one of the most exciting moments of the last two years as it was the first time since my accident that I felt like I was standing like a normal person. I never wanted to sit down.

Eventually, my legs did get tired, and my ankles decided we were done. Anja helped me sit down and she told me that she was proud of me. That brief experience was honestly one of the happiest moments of my life so far – to have that joy of simply standing with good posture after two years of hard work and hunched shoulders. I still have a long way to go, but it was quite the celebration.

Saturday was a special treat for me as I was able to spend the day with Jo and Lydia – two of my friends from REHAB. Jo drove me out to visit Lydia who’s spending time at a facility near Zürich. Jo and I planned this surprise visit last week, and it was such a joy for me to spend the afternoon with the two of them. I had to work hard on my German, but Lydia encouraged me that I’ve improved a lot since she met me – when I could only say two sentences in German. 

My walking has improved a lot since she met me as well, and she was exited to see me on my feet as well. Despite the cold weather, I’m trying to spend more time on my feet to strengthen my muscles and improve my circulation. I’ve still been walking around the school auditorium with Hunter, and I feel safe trying new things with him since he’s trained how to help me reach the ground safely were I to fall. This week we switched from him walking backwards in front of me with his arms out to me using just my right stick with Hunter holding onto me with a gait belt. The next day we tried using two forearm crutches instead of my single stick.

Both of these variations are things I’ve tried with Hunter or my therapists before, but have always felt pretty scary and wobbly. This week, I felt a noticeable difference in how I carried myself. I could tell that I was walking better. I still have a looooooong way to go in my balance, but I was hugely encouraged to feel the weight better placed over my legs rather than hovering in my arms. These new kinds of steps indicate new steps in my healing. I’m so excited about the progress, and I’m eagerly anticipating more healing.

Also, after I talked with Anja this week, I’m adding valerian supplements to my bedtime meds in hopes of getting better sleep because she thinks that better sleep can significantly impact the rest of my recovery. I’m grateful for all your continued prayers as I keep working hard to improve my status. God is at work, and it’s exciting to see the positive changes. 

This week a friend posted on Facebook a meme that said, “I feel like I’m already tired tomorrow.” I relate to this sentiment on a painfully deep level. I remember way back in REHAB writing a post about how I worried people would get bored hearing me talk about how tired I am, so I try to down play it. The truth is, I’m always tired. I’m always excited to go to work, but I’m tired. 

After I got my heat fixed, I started sleeping better through the nights for about a week. It was a glorious week. Now, I’m back to the disrupted unsatisfying sleep, and I’m bringing it up because it affects a lot of things. Sleep and proper hydration can do wonders for an individual. Most people think those are both things within an individuals control; I’ve only recently regained the ability to drink copious amounts of water without embarrassing consequences. I’m a little out of practice, but I’m working on staying well hydrated throughout the day.

I’m also working on the quantity of sleep I get in the hopes that it compensates for the poor quality. I’d like better quality sleep though. That’s really the goal. I’ve asked for it before, but it bears repeating. Could you please pray for my sleep? For sweet dreams, that I’d go to sleep quickly and quietly, whatever you fancy, I’d be grateful.

I tried to think of a witty story to pair with this most immanent issue of the week, but I’ll be honest, I’m too tired to come up with one. I had some great interactions with students – I love them so much – sometimes it physically hurts that I can’t adequately articulate the vastness of this love to you. Seriously, guys, I have the greatest kids ever. One of them wrote me the sweetest birthday note and gave me adorable socks because she’s a gem. Another came into my class during his study hall because he didn’t have homework and misses my class this semester. I love my job. I’d like to think I’d be better at it if I wasn’t always so tired.

I’m a big fan of Jesus. (That should be obvious by now.) There’s this story recorded in the Gospel of Mark about Jesus healing a paralyzed man. It blew my mind away when I read it recently. 

I’d heard the story a dozen times since childhood – this man couldn’t walk, so his four friends climbed up to the roof and removed part of the house to lower the paralyzed man down to Jesus in a packed house where people pressed close to this wise and powerful teacher. Jesus tells the man his sins are forgiven, the religious elite freak, and Jesus tells the man to get up and walk.

Now, that in itself has some pretty powerful implications – Jesus heals the man physically only after the scribes question his bold move of forgiving the mans sins. I was caught up a sentence before that though. Mark 2:5 says, “And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.'” You might have missed it because I know I’d never seen it before. When Jesus saw their faith, he spoke to the paralytic. When Jesus saw their faith. The friends brought the paralytic to Jesus. Then the Lord, in his mercy, healed the most important thing first – Son, your sins are forgiven. Which is easier to say – your sins are forgiven or rise up and walk? Jesus did both for the sake of the scribes. 

He healed the man’s soul because of the faith of the friends; he healed the man’s body because of the lack of faith of the scribes. What must it have felt like for the man in question?

I have an idea. 

That man saw Jesus. That man listened to Jesus and obeyed. That man isn’t even named, and this is where I find such importance in his story. Christianity is a faith in community. The man was healed because of their faith. It wasn’t a one man show. He couldn’t get to Jesus on his own. I need to be carried before Jesus by all of you reading this. 

I am weak and in need of help. Please, please keep carrying me to Jesus; I need him to forgive my sins, to heal my soul. Jesus is the only one who can do that. That’s the priority. 

Now, there are also some scribes watching this story unfold. When I walk again, it’s so “that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mark 2:10).

This unnamed paralytic exits the biblical narrative after a dozen verses and Mark records many more miracles as he follows the life of Jesus. Though we don’t have a record of it, I have a guess at what this man’s life might have been like. I have a feeling he never shut up about this encounter with Jesus. He was paralyzed; his friends brought him to Jesus; his sins were forgiven. Oh, and he got to walk too.

I can imagine the epic dance party he had with his friends later that night. I’ll have it with my friends someday too. The soundtrack for that night will include “Oh, Happiness” by David Crowder and a whole lot of Family Force Five. Please, please keep carrying me to Jesus.

Yesterday in many liturgical services across the globe, Christians celebrated the day Jesus was first brought into the temple. When the chaplain spoke about it at my church yesterday, he focused on the encounter Jesus had with Simeon. This old dude was tight with the Holy Spirit, and Simeon was led to the temple that day to encounter the Messiah. It was no accident that he reached out for the holy child, and he knew in that moment that it was a blessed encounter.

I want to be that tight with the Holy Spirit. I’m not there yet, but on this journey into deeper relationship with God, I’ve had some pretty amazing encounters. Just this past week I was wheeling home from the grocery store when a woman stopped me outside my house. 

“Sind Sie Frau Hewett?” she asked.

“Yes,” I wasn’t sure who she was, but I’ve been recognized by strangers before. 

She switched to English with a thick French accent to tell me she was the mother of two of my students. I lit up with excitement, “I love your sons!” We spent a few minutes laughing about how different the two boys are – a stoic older brother and chatty younger son.

She thanked me for staying to teach her kids. 

I’ve never thought of leaving because of my accident, and this kind stranger pointed out to me that my willingness to stay was a testimony of Jesus’ love to her children and their peers. Wow, what a huge encouragement. We had a brief but significant conversation as she spoke truth about how pain leads us closer to Jesus if we let it. Later that day I had a very different conversation with a student about whether she preferred American chocolate chip cookies or chocolate crinkle cookies. 

“Cookies are cookies,” she replied.

“Well, I’ll be sure to have some ready for your birthday dinner on Sunday.”

She had invited me over to the dorm to meet her parents and celebrate her birthday with her dorm family. Not long after sunset, she knocked on my door with her dad to drive me up to my old house where she now lives with eleven other girls from BFA. For the first time in over two years, I walked up the first set of stairs to the main floor of the place I called home when I first moved to Germany. I remember hauling my suitcase up those stairs two and a half years ago; I remember falling down those stairs in my socks when the steps were wet – twice. This was my first time to ascend gripping the bannister and carefully placing my feet while balancing with my other stick. It was my first time to see the remodeled kitchen and repainted living room. It wasn’t my home anymore, but I still felt comfortable returning to that place I’d spent so much time.

Lea’s dad had been working all day to prepare an incredible meal for all the dorm girls, and the food was delicious. Her family served a five course meal while dorm sisters laughed and shouted and planned out who would survive a zombie apocalypse. For the record, I would definitely choose those girls to protect me in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Between the main course and dessert, I was honored to participate in the dorm tradition of birthday blessings. Each person around the room takes a turn celebrating and blessing the birthday honoree. That was an encounter with the Holy Spirit – to hear a dozen people affirming this beautiful student.

I crave those encounters. Last night was a well timed reminder that I’m not exempt from those meetings where the Holy Spirit is present that take place upstairs. I’m not unable to participate in celebrations of God’s goodness that are outside of my own house. I can still access the Spirit – though sometimes it takes a little (or a lot) of effort. The effort, though, is so worthwhile. All that I’ve been through is so worthwhile when I think of how much closer it has brought me to the Holy Spirit – when I think of all the encounters that are opportunities to glorify his name. What a gift.

Speaking of gifts, I’d still love for as many of you as possible to join with me in prayer this Thursday. The Facebook event is just a list of requests – not a time or place commitment. God is at work doing exciting things right now – join with me in celebrating him on my birthday. 

Many people have heard the story of my sixteenth birthday when I had the audacity to invite my entire high school student body (of 150 students) to my house for a birthday party that accidentally coincided with the Super Bowl. I just rolled with it after that right up until I moved to Germany and broke my back. The first birthday I celebrated here, I was in the REHAB facility and had an amazing response from people around the globe who prayed for five specific prayer requests I presented through a Facebook event. I did the same thing last year, and I’m inviting you to “Better than a Super Birthday Bowl III” this year to celebrate my Savior and pray over five new requests. 

You can join the Facebook event by clicking here. I’m really excited about how the Lord is at work in my heart and body this year, and I’m anticipating good things to continue. I’ve been super grateful for the positive response my body had to the botox treatment over the past several days. This is a step towards continued improvements as I’m now able to redirect attention to other areas of concern. I have, however, had some new challenges in learning to read different signals from my body and remember to care for it properly with the removal of other issues. In plain English, I now have to remember to pee on a schedule because my body no longer tells me when I have a full bladder. This is not a big deal, but I’m known to be a bit of a space case with certain things like feeding myself or taking medications which is why I have six alarms through the day to remind me. I might need to add alarms to remember to pee every few hours now.

Prayer is a powerful thing, and I’m asking for a lot of it for my birthday. I’ve been blessed to have people all around the world praying for me in my recovery from my rock climbing accident two years ago, and for round three of this birthday prayer event, I’ve got five prayer requests:

1. Pray that God is glorified. I’ve asked this since day one. I want my life to make God famous, and this is an opportunity I have to ask people to come together and celebrate the Creator of the universe and make him known all around the world. I want God to continue to be glorified through my recovery process.

2. Praise God for the healing he has done so far. I was told I had less than one percent chance of ever walking again, and I can make my way around most places with the help of braces and special sticks. Not only that, but God has done a great work of healing in my heart over the past two years.

3. Praise God for the ongoing medical care I receive. I’m still going to physical therapy and have regular check ins with doctors back at the rehab facility. I’m so grateful to have access to wonderful healthcare.

4. Pray for ongoing funding. My insurance covered all my inpatient care, but has found reasons to refuse reimbursement for my ongoing physical therapy and many of my preventative care medical supplies. I raise my own support to teach at BFA, and I want to continue to teach here long term taking care of my body through these prescribed medical treatments.

5. Pray for continued healing. I want it all, and I believe God can give it to me. Please ask with me that I would have restoration of all muscle and nerve function lost due to my accident.

I have a lot of feelings. They are complex, and not all interrelated. The past week has been emotionally and physically demanding. I’m exhausted from it all. I’ve thought a lot about what I want to share on the second anniversary of my accident. In preparation, I’ve read and reread thoughts from several other people with SCIs reflecting on their own various anniversaries. People like Darla Greven, Steve Staint, and Ryan Atkins give me a lot of great perspective, and younger women like Cassidy Almquist and Emma Carey who are a couple years ahead on the SCI journey but a couple years younger than I am also are helpful in my processing. Emma has recovered significantly more than I have, but her thoughts about how she is more than her accident resonate with me deeply. She writes, “When something as major as this happens in your life, it’s hard to not let it define you and become your whole identity. People see me as either ‘the skydive accident girl’ or ‘the girl who learnt to walk again’ but I am both and neither of those things at the same time.” I understand because I’m more than ‘the girl who broke her back’ or ‘the teacher in a wheelchair.’ They are facts that can be used to describe part of who I am, but I’m so much more than that.

Back in July, Cassidy posted an update on her public Facebook page processing her emotions on her two year anniversary. She presented two options in how she faced the day – think of the tragic accident or think of the blessings that have come from it. She chose option number two – as do I. 

Trauma is intimate and personal. I can’t imagine the trauma some of you have faced in your lives, but I know each of you process it differently. My friend Hanna watched me fall on her 23rd birthday, and this day is deeply emotional for her as it is for me. We have different emotions. Last year, I chose to have Jo come visit me as he’s one of the blessings from my accident. I’m so grateful for my friendship with him. This year I’ll get to spend the day celebrating other blessings that have come from my accident. I’m writing this early so that I can enjoy the day with my precious students and then spend the afternoon with one of my favorite nurses from REHAB before heading to choir practice in the evening.

Breaking my back was a formative event in my life, and it has made me a better person. I’m more empathetic, more compassionate, more loving, more patient, and more like Jesus. I wouldn’t trade that for the world. It wasn’t the path I wanted to take to get here, but it was so worth it. I recognize that there is nothing that could have given me this intimacy with Jesus that I gained through the taste of agony in those long, painful nights in the hospital. I recently shared with my students about that brief experience that showed me a glimpse of what Jesus went through willingly in the crucifixion. I treasure that gift. Furthermore, it’s given other people the opportunity to learn more about Jesus too. There are students of mine who have asked tough questions, readers here who’ve sought some answers about this loving Savior I serve. Were it just one person who learned something significant about Jesus, I’d do it all over again. I have new friends like Jo and Danai, like Isabelle and Alex, like Lydia and Sonja, who I’ve only been connected to because of this accident, and they too are a gift I’m eternally grateful for. I don’t take those gifts lightly, and I don’t want to give them up. 

I’m better holistically as a human being two years after this life changing accident, and I want to continue making this world a better place. I want to be a blessing to others as I’ve been richly blessed. I want to seek hard after truth as I teach my students to do the same. I want to choose joy in the face of adversity. I want to be a part of this legacy of love that Jesus began.

(I’ve linked to the public pages of the people I mentioned in their names above. The specific entries written by Emma and Cassidy can be found by clicking here and here.)

“The saying is trustworthy, for ‘if we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless he remains faithful’ for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:11-13)

Last night involved four exceptionally emotional hours. At one point, I wanted to shout that it had been the four most emotional hours of my life, but I immediately recognized the idiocy of such a hyperbole. It hadn’t even been the four most emotional hours of the last year. I just lead an emotionally charged life. It’s delightful. And exhausting.

Around 5pm last evening, I had still yet to hear from my insurance about whether or not they were going to cover my Botox treatment. I’m a little vain when it comes to my kidneys, so I wanted this treatment done as quickly as possible to avoid possible kidney damage or failure. I decided to call the insurance and hurry things along if at all possible. I spoke to a nice man on the phone who calmly explained to me that the case that I’d begun in request for this treatment in late November had been stopped at the end of the year because of a paperwork oversight when my policy was renewed on January 1st. I’d assumed the whole thing was still in process for the last ten days, but was a little concerned to hear that not only had they stopped processing the paperwork, they seemed to have misplaced the fax from my urologist with the information indicating this is a critical treatment. The nice man told me he’d pass on the information to the medical team for approval, and since he knew the procedure was scheduled for the following morning, he agreed to try to email or call me with an update at a reasonable hour so I could go to sleep knowing where they were in the process.

As one might assume, my anxiety levels were starting to increase when I realized this procedure was just sixteen hours away and I was not sure what my insurance would decide. Through the few days before, I had Paul’s encouragement in 2 Timothy 1:7 running through my head – I’m not given a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control. Fear has no place in my life. Perfect love casts out fear. I also had the lyrics to Phil Wickham’s song “True Love” running through my head. I tried to fill my head with these happy encouragements rather than with fear or anxiety. After the phone call with the insurance, I needed something to distract me from the fear, so I called a couple friends. Jordyne was such an encouragement to me as I word vomited all of my feelings from the past hour. We continued to talk for a while, and I mentioned I needed to read the passage where Paul encouraged his young disciple that we do not have a spirit of fear. I read aloud 2 Timothy chapter one to Jordyne and go so excited, I kept going on to chapter two. I don’t know why I don’t read 2 Timothy every day. It’s fantastic. That book is pure gold.

Paul told us that when we are faithful to Christ, he is faithful, but when we become faithless, CHRIST IS FAITHFUL. It’s so exciting. I’m writing this next to my precious Mikah who does not yet get how exciting this is, but I promised I’d explain it to her. Christ cannot change who he is. When I am faithless, when I mess up, when I don’t live the right way, Christ stays true to who he is. He remains faithful. When my insurance messes up paperwork. When I have to get botox injections. When I break my back. When I fail at life for any reason that is related to me or not. Christ is faithful for he cannot deny himself. 

I got off the call with Jordyne and still had no news, so I spent some time chatting with Desiree and Carol before finally getting an email from the insurance that told me my treatment was approved. I was so excited and texted everyone I’d been talking to through the day about it. Just half an hour later, my friend Helen stopped by to check in on me as she knew I was waiting to hear. I invited her in and spent an elated half hour rejoicing with her about how the Lord has been faithful. Regardless of my actions, he is faithful to me.

This morning, I got out of bed bright and early and headed to Basel with Carol – still celebrating my faithful God. We were greeted by the cheerful urology technicians and they helped me onto the table after I passed on the insurance confirmation to them. We laughed a little as they prepped me for this procedure, and chatted amicably as they inserted the IV to help me drift to sleep. I waited for the meds to kick in and started singing “True Love” to myself softly. The urologist came in; I felt a little poke. I might have said ow. They asked if I was alright; I said yes and kept singing. They kept poking then told me it was over. I was transferred to a bed and allowed to chill for half an hour before they told me I was free to go if I felt alright.

That’s it? 

All this stress and anxiety over a couple tiny pricks that I was too drowsy to really notice? How delightful. Carol settled into a comfy chair in the lobby while I headed upstairs to see which of my favorite nurses were on duty. All of them were. Well, most of them. Sabrina wasn’t. But I got to see Danai, Eva, Anna, and Marion who are all at the top of my list. I was so excited to chat with them for a minute, and Danai has promised to come visit me in Kandern. I even got a bonus getting to see Isabelle, my OT, and Tina, another patient who I met during my stay, who was there for a minor issue. It kept getting better – Jo showed up because he knew I was going to be there and hung out with me for a little bit of his morning. 

God gives such good gifts. These people are all in my life due to horrible tragedy, but I was so excited to see them today. There’s still more to my day though because after stopping at Starbucks, Carol and I made our way to the Uni Hospital where I had my surgery in order to have a check in with my surgeon – the woman who told me I’d never walk again. She was beaming as I walked down the corridor to her office and told me she was delighted at the progress I’ve made over the past year. I brightly told her that someday I’d be walking without the sticks. “You’ll have to come walk by me if that happens,” she said with a smile. I intend to. 

After the visit with Dr. Netzer, Carol and I headed back home with an extra special treat. My precious Mikah is staying with me for a few days while she’s adventuring in Europe. My precious Mikah is one of my former youth group students, one of the reasons I left America. I’m so blessed to spend some time with her sharing life with her and praising Jesus with her. Three years ago, my precious Mikah and her friends made it clear to me that I needed to take some risks to learn more about Jesus, and I’m so grateful for the catalyst they have been. When Mikah or her friends, when my students or anyone else look at my life, I want the faithful Jesus to be seen. When I am faithless, he is faithful.

And that isn’t the end of the story. This faithful God who cannot deny himself has made a way for beauty to come from the ashes of my unfaithfulness. He has made a way for me to have relationship with him. He has made a way through True Love. “Search your heart, you know you can’t deny it. Lose your life just so you can find it. The Father gave his only Son just to save us.”

Stories compel me to do strange things. When I read Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s disturbingly descriptive novel in college, I went on a heat fast. The book follows the protagonist through a single day in a Siberian internment camp during the winter. It’s cold. You feel cold when you read the book even if you’re sitting in a sauna, basking on a beach, anywhere you might be. The characters complete their routines with remarkable efficiency despite the cold. There are vivid descriptions of events and the laborer’s senses are simultaneously dulled and sharpened by the winter chill. Dulled because you start to loose feeling in the cold, but sharpened because there’s an intense focus brought on by the need to complete daily tasks in order to survive. 

After finishing the book One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, I chose to keep my heat off for a month. Just in my bedroom, and just when I was alone. I wasn’t imposing this on anyone else, but I was interested to see what kind of focus I could develop if I wasn’t distracted by comfort. It was a strange experiment, but I was remarkably productive during that month. When Christians fast from something, the idea is that when you think of that thing, instead of indulging in whatever you’re accustomed to (usually food), you pray instead. I spent hours in the cold in October 2011; I spent hours in worship. 

I thought about that experience a lot this week as I sat in the cold not by choice but because my heat went out on Saturday night. I wasn’t sure until Sunday afternoon when my radiators still weren’t working, so I called my landlord. He came and fiddled with the same knobs I had and told me that he’d call someone to fix it in the morning. I made it through the night thanks to the help of my kind neighbors who shared a space heater with me. I kept my tiny living room warm with the space heater Monday until the young man arrived to fix my boiler in the late morning. He spent an hour and a half working until he told me that my pump was broken, and he’d need to order a new one to be put in the next day. He shut the boiler off completely so I was now without radiator heat or hot water. 

Tuesday morning went by the same as Monday as I waited for the replacement part to be installed. Late morning, the young man returned and replaced the pump at which point some other part broke. I couldn’t quite gather which one as my German is still rudimentary, but he explained to my landlady and I that he’d need to order a new one and since it was now past noon, it wouldn’t arrive until the next working day – at this point Thursday since Wednesday was a national holiday. My landlady was upset by this, but it seemed there was nothing the young man could do. He’d try to get it by the afternoon, but it wasn’t likely. 

I left for therapy that afternoon, and when I returned, my landlady was with the young man and another repairman working hard to change parts in my boiler. I sat and watched as they fiddled around for another hour before getting my radiators and hot water to work effectively. Again, my German isn’t so good, but my landlady explained to me in simple terms that they’d just created a temporary fix so I could shower and sleep at home until they returned with a new part on Thursday morning. 

Thursday morning, instead of the repair man, my landlady returned to tell me the repairman would be coming Friday morning at 8am. Some of you know that my medication schedule has to be adjusted for me to be presentable at 8am. I smiled and agreed to be ready to greet them the next morning, but I’d unfortunately planned my next two days around having to be at home Thursday and run errands Friday. It was inconvenient to say the least, but I can happily report that my heat has been working as it’s supposed to (I mean, at least I’m still warm) since 8:15 this morning. Bonus: the space heater I ordered on Amazon arrived today. 

Through this ordeal, I reflected on my standard of living. I’m really blessed to have access to heat and warm water. They are considered standards here, and they are critical in my recovery. I need the warmth to help blood flow in my legs that they can’t get as well on their own any more. I need electricity, and sufficient nutrition, and physical therapy, and so many other things. I have so many of my needs met – surpassed even. I’m so grateful for how that helps me in my slow recovery process.

I don’t have the same New Year miracle like I did last year, but in some ways, I think this New Year’s day was even better than last when I wiggled my toe for the first time. I spent the evening with some friends and laughed a lot as we ate raclette and waited for a reasonable time to go in to the cold Blumenplatz and watch drunk Germans set off dangerous fireworks. I’ll be honest, this year was much more terrifying than the previous two as there were considerably more of the large rockets were dropped and shot across the ground. Fortunately, we all survived the show and escaped burn free. 

My friend Katrina helped wheel me home, and just before we got back to my apartment she asked me what my favorite New Year’s memory was. I answered pretty quickly that wiggling a toe for the first time last year because I’d been prayed over was probably the top of my list. Katrina replied that it had been a while since I’d been prayed over, and I told her I’d never turn it down. Once we got home, Katrina sat with me and had a conversation with the Lord thanking him for the good things he’s done this year and asking for a whole lot more. That felt like a pretty great way to start my year.

After several hours of sleep, I had the delight of tea with one of my former students who also prayed with me after enjoying conversation and a chance to catch up on each other’s lives. Alyssa was in my Bible class before my accident, so she saw me at what I considered the best of my teaching. I still struggle to see myself as as good of a teacher as I was pre-accident when it comes to certain professional abilities. However, when we prayed, Alyssa pointed out that while some people see me as incomplete in the wheelchair, I’m more complete now than I’ve ever been before. I can’t really stress how significant this realization was to me. This student knew me both before and after my accident, and she can see the change for good, the positive healing that is so much deeper, so much more important, than the physical. As I’ve asked for everything, the Lord has been gracious to give me healing of deep brokenness through this year.

I still want it all.

I’m still asking for miraculous healing – for returned muscle function in my legs, for renewed nerve function in my legs as well to eliminate the spasms, for restored bathroom functions.  I want it all. I have received so much, and I see no reason to stop asking for more.

I’ve got a long way to go in my recovery, but I’ve come an incredible distance. I had a beautiful reminder of that last night as I celebrated Second Christmas with my former neighbors who used to visit me in REHAB. When I first moved to Germany, I met this couple but was unable to communicate with them directly because they don’t speak any English. Gundi was reflecting with her daughter about how when she and her husband first visited me in REHAB all those months ago, they were so excited by a little wiggle in my knees and my whopping two word Swiss German vocabulary. By the next visit, I’d picked up a handful of words and could just barely lift my legs in the seated position. The third time they visited, they had to explain to Sandra (who usually translated between us) some of the Swiss German phrases I was using; they also witnessed with delight as I stood and took timid steps with the modified walker. 

I was so encouraged by the chance to hear someone else talk about the wonder of watching my recovery over the past two years. Sometimes it’s hard to see my limitations now and remember the massive leaps ahead I’ve already made. My eyes are fixed ahead, but there’s value in remembering. It’s a balancing act, as always, in remembering where I’ve come from and forging ahead this new path. I’m full of eager anticipation of what is yet to come – awaiting the Savior who will transform my body to be like his glorious one (Phil 3:20-21). Oh, how I long to dance in that transformed body.

For now, I will celebrate the gift of holidays with second families – the Bonhams who adopted me for Christmas and let me be a part of their present opening tradition, the Lacostes who adopted me for second Christmas and shared with me their tradition of Fleisch Fondue (which is delicious), and the Stephens who brightened my day with just a short phone call. Thanks to the internet and telephones, I was able to wish my nephews a merry Christmas and talk briefly to my parents and grandparents over the last couple days, and I’m grateful for that as well. There’s more in my life to be grateful for than to complain about, so I’ll continue to be joyful regardless of the circumstances I can’t change. I’ll also keep diligently working on the circumstances I can change – I’m off to get some blood pumping while peddling on my stationary bike since walking in the cold outside triggers spasms.

I’ve started this post three times already, but I’m not really sure what to focus on since so much has happened in the last week. Wednesday I successfully finished classes with my precious students, and they have scattered to different corners of the globe for the next three weeks. (I’m still a little jealous of the one spending the break in Colorado Springs.) Thursday I went out to dinner with the rest of the Bible department to enjoy time with my great coworkers. Friday I spent time with my physio again working to loosen my ankles. Anja moved the feet and instructed me to think about the motion and try to help. I’m still a long way away from moving my ankles on my own, but it was months of practice before I had any real control over the flexing in my butt.

Saturday was special. I had the joy of participating in the local choir concert for the second time. My first year here, I joined the choir and had no idea what was going on most of the time. I’m still pretty clueless with my German, but I’ve been richly blessed by the women in the choir who make sure I’m able to participate. My neighbor from before my accident is also in the choir and though she doesn’t speak a word of English, she makes sure I know what’s going on and get where I’m supposed to be if there’s not an English speaker around. I was really so blessed to be included in this event as they adjusted the standing and seating arrangements based on my wheelchair.

Sunday was special too. I’m really fortunate to be in this unique position as a foreigner living in Germany in 2015. There are thousands of displaced people coming into this country, and the town I live in has made it clear they would like to welcome these refugees with open arms. Some people in Germany are less excited, and there was a demonstration in town yesterday where 60 of these people showed up. Police were on sight as demonstrations from this group have gotten violent in other cities. However, 200 peaceful Germans of Kandern turned up to make some noise to drown out the 60 hateful protesters. I stayed home while that was happening, but shortly after, I rode with friends to a nearby town to help again with a church service for refugees living close to us. 

You all come here to read about my recovery, so I’m going to get real with you for a paragraph. I love my family group. They have found a way for me to still participate in service projects with them even though I have mobility struggles. That said, it’s a huge emotional struggle for me to sit in a room full of active children and not be able to run and play with them. To the people here, it’s not a loss to look at what I can contribute because they didn’t know me as the rock star Port Kids leader I was back in America. I pulled off amazing children’s worship services – we had loads of fun dancing and singing and telling Bible stories with amazing video and slide show presentations all perfectly coordinated by me and executed with the help of my well trained youth volunteers. I was good at that, but I’m not any more. There are some things I can’t do any more, and it’s sad. Please understand, those Port Sundays weren’t all about me, but I was using my skills effectively, and it’s hard to see that those gifts I loved using so much aren’t accessible to me now. I want to do all those things again.

I’ll never stop wanting that. I’ll hopefully never stop being grateful for what I have each day right now though. I don’t want to lose a moment of the present so stuck in what I used to do in the past. I’ve got great gifts I can use now, and one of them is sharing with people about the amazing Jesus who has given me this incredible life. This week, people all over the world are celebrating the birth of this Jesus – the God/man who didn’t consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage, but instead he humbled himself taking on the very nature of a servant (Philippians 2:6-7 NIV). He put on human skin and moved into the neighborhood (John 1:14 MSG). 

He came so that I could have life – life to the full (John 10:10).

He came so that you could have life too.

Merry Christmas.

Once upon a time, my mom asked me, “Guess what?” I responded, “It’s almost Christmas.” I’m pretty sure this began in July. Now, whenever I’m asked that question, my response usually is, “It’s almost Christmas.” We’re so close to Christmas break at BFA, my students are using that phrase liberally in their conversations. “It’s almost Christmas – can we have a party in class?” “Why do we still have homework? It’s almost Christmas.”

What makes teaching even more difficult than that is the fact that my students have already started leaving for Christmas break even though there’s three days left. One of my students left after school Wednesday to celebrate the holidays in the same city as my family. I love Christmas, and I’m really excited to celebrate. I also love being able to walk, and I’m really excited to do that without mobility aids someday. However, today, there’s still work and mobility aids to deal with. 

I have a stack of essays and a stationary bike both vying for my attention. This is one of the most difficult things for me because I have to grade my essays and I have to take care of my body. My goal was to grade all of the essays this weekend and hand them back to students on Monday. That would be the best teacher thing to do. However, my blood circulation is weaker in the winter, and I need to spend time moving my legs. I have to prioritize. I’m no good to my students if I am dead from a blood clot because I didn’t take care of my body. It seems like a no brainer, but I’m still torn because a good educator provides timely feedback (particularly since my students have a second essay coming in before break begins).

I’ve had a lot of things to get done this week, and several still left to do, so I’d value your prayers for good sleep because that has eluded me the past week. I’m so grateful for the ongoing positive conversations with students where I see learning happening, but those are no excuse for me to be a sloppy teacher until break.

Around 200 years ago, people were dying of “wurstgift” in Germany – sausage poisoning – without really understanding why. Don’t you just love the German language? It really was the worst gift; it was botulism. Scientists started studying it and finding uses for it in the nineteenth century that led to the multitude of treatments available now. The most well known use is the cosmetic treatment for wrinkles. A less well known use is to treat muscle spasms. 

The latter is the purpose I will be getting Botox injections for. I received the paperwork last week informing me that I have an appointment on January 12 to have dozens of shots of botulism into my bladder to deaden the muscle and preserve my connected internal organs. There’s still a little confusion in the communication between myself, the doctor, and the insurance, so I don’t have one hundred percent confirmation the insurance has agreed to cover the cost, but I’m pretty sure they will. 

Sausage poisoning may be the worst gift, but modern medicine is pretty wonderful. I actually had a couple conversations today about that wonderful gift God has given of modern medicine. See, I’m still convinced God has the power to heal me, but I also know God doesn’t want me to be irresponsible with my body. I have a responsibility to follow my doctor’s instructions to protect my kidneys. Listening to medical professionals is sort of a no-brainer, but I also delight in amazing them with my miraculous recovery thus far.

My recovery thus far is a gift. It’s not the best gift though. This past week, I had the joy of having conversations after school with three different students in vastly different places in their walk with Christ, but all of them were open to discussing with me details of who this person Jesus is and what he’s done. Each of those conversations were a gift, but they weren’t the best gift. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life with Christ Jesus our Lord.” That is the best gift. 

Philippians 3 is getting me real excited right now. This life I’ve been dealt is rough, but so worth it for the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus better. I’ll be honest, the idea of having a needle jabbed into my bladder over and over injecting toxic chemicals freaks me out just a little bit. I know it’ll be done by medical professionals, but the whole concept is a little scary. I press on with purpose – considering the rest of the world garbage that I may gain Christ and be found in him. 

We talked about Philippians 2 in family group tonight, and I was struck by the paradox that we work while God is at work within us. God’s at work within my nerve system, but I have a responsibility to work hard with the function available to me. 

Thanksgiving is a very North American holiday. The BFA community celebrates it for a month – first Canadian Thanksgiving, a couple weeks later dorm Thanksgiving, and this past week was full of American Thanksgiving celebrations. We don’t get any official days off, but the English speakers get together and eat lots of food. Last weekend, I celebrated American Thanksgiving with my family group as we all gathered and ate and even shared some thoughts on giving thanks. We all wrote down five things we were thankful for this year and five things that we’d struggled with this year. It wasn’t hard for several people to connect that many things on the struggle side had directly led to the things on the thankful side. 

That will forever be my story as the greatest struggle I’ve ever faced is this long, slow, occasionally painful, always inconvenient recovery from my accident nearly two years ago, and yet I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Because of this huge struggle, I’ve made some incredible jumps in my own emotional healing from trauma in high school, I’ve learned to become more empathetic to the struggles both seen and unseen of those around me, and I’ve made some incredible friendships that would have never happened without this accident. 

Most of all, I’m humbled with the gift of teaching students this Christian Essentials curriculum that may not have been offered to me without my accident. This past week I was blessed again to have students come to me with a desire to learn more about their belief system and take ownership of ideas. I had one student last week who after class told me she wanted to know more about Jesus but she didn’t like reading anything, let alone the Bible; she asked me to teach her to be excited about reading the Bible, so we’re going to have nacho night with another student at my house where I’ll read the Bible out loud (because anyone who’s seen me read the Bible out loud knows I can’t help but get excited).

Without my accident, I would have still taught these kids English and had an amazing go of it, but this is such a gift to share my passion for the Word who became flesh in this context. This is why I’m here.

My life is full of incredible gifts. This Thursday I got to skype with several family members and close friends, and through the wonder of the internet, I even got to see my best friend’s new baby boy who was born a week ago. Friday night I was able to hang out with Jo who has become one of my best friends since meeting him in rehab. Saturday I spent some time practicing my German by reading passages from the Bible to my Swiss student who corrected my pronunciation when necessary while she cleaned my apartment for me.

I don’t want to undo anything that has been done in my life; I still want to walk again. 

I’m very careful in my phrasing – there’re no “buts” in my desires. I don’t want to not have any of the incredible blessings in my life. Let me try that without the double negative – I want it all. I want all the good gifts I’ve been given, and I’ll still ask for more. 

I still want to walk.

The winter months are harder to practice my walking with the damaged nerve function because I get random spasms more frequently in the cold that try to turn my ankles as they are strapped into my braces. It makes walking difficult, awkward, and occasionally painful. It’s frustrating to me because it looks like regression. I’m still capable of so much more than I was a year ago, but I’m walking less frequently than I was a month ago. I still have more strength and stamina, but the cold weather means I have to fight harder for the muscles to move every morning. 

I still believe I could wake up tomorrow with restored function, and I’ll continue to hope for that every day. I’ll keep working hard with what I have, but I’m asking you to beg God with me for new function this week. 

“But this I call to mind,and therefore I have hope:The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;his mercies are new every morning;great is your faithfulness.’The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul,’therefore I will hope in him.'”Lamentations 3:21-24

I had an idea of what I was going to write about yesterday, but everything changed the minute I looked at my Facebook today. I first saw a notification that someone I know was “marked safe during Paris Terror Attacks.” The rest of my news feed was primarily made up of comments about the attacks and people across the world praying for the city. Everything changed in that minute.

Most of you reading this have the convenience of scrolling through Facebook, noting the news, and saying a silent prayer as you type a nice status update. Most of you also have the convenience of reading this update and walking away from your computer after thinking about how sad it is that a 26 year old teacher in Germany was robbed of the ability to walk over the course of just a minute.

Everything changed in that minute I fell, and yet the world went on for billions of people. There is tons of tragedy in the world, and we shouldn’t shy away from hearing about it, but I also think it’s important not to ignore the happy things. There is a time to mourn and a time to celebrate. This minute is one for mourning with the people of Paris. If you still have a minute after that, mourn with me that I’m not able to jump around my classroom with the same vigor I once was. If you have a third minute to spare, celebrate with me that I’m still able to teach every day.

Wednesday was one of the greatest moments for me as an educator as I had a student come find me after school and tell me that he was deeply interested in growing in his knowledge and relationship with this God who made a way to rescue him and could I recommend theology books for him to read in his free time. On my way home after that, I was chatting with three students, two of whom weren’t at BFA when I had my accident. One of them made a joke about how I frequently say I love coming to work every day. “I get to come to work everyday!” I exclaimed, “I spent a semester in a hospital where I couldn’t come to school.” He hadn’t realized that I’d been out of school for that long. That same student had asked me at the end of class that day about why I thought human experience wasn’t a reliable indicator of ultimate truth. 

I have the best job in the world, and I’m so grateful that I get to spend every day talking about the Bible and encouraging students to think about their beliefs. I’m also grateful for the altruistic readers like you who will take just a minute from your day to think about me and pray with me for my sustained ministry here amidst ongoing recovery.

Just one more minute, if you please. The world can change in just a minute, and that’s not really in your control. However, you might have the chance to change someone’s day for the better in just a minute, and I’d encourage you to do so.

Sometimes I worry that people are getting tired of my recovery story, but then I have the kind of outpouring of positive responses like last week that remind me there are still hundreds of people encouraging me and praying for me. Thank you.

This week was still crazy busy for me as I oversaw my first official National Honor Society induction ceremony on Monday evening and submitted my quarter grades with comments by Wednesday. I absolutely love my job (in case you might have missed that in previous posts), but it still takes a lot of energy. The NHS officers I work with are incredible, and they did a wonderful job planning this ceremony that I’d never seen done before. (Despite having been NHS sponsor since arriving at BFA, I skipped out on my first year’s induction by breaking my back and we didn’t have one last year.) I love every one of my students, so it’s not hard to write a sentence telling their parents such – it’s just time consuming.

Those two major events following my urology appointment meant that I was still on an antibiotic regimen which keeps me below my A-game as a teacher. I was a little disappointed with my classroom management by Thursday because I’d been seated for over a week, lacking the stamina to stand for my lessons. My energy was emptied by the events of the last two weeks, so I knew I would need to refill this weekend in order to thrive in the classroom again. I actually started before the weekend. Those of you who know me well know that Thursday was one of my favorite days of the year, so I needed to find a way to celebrate despite my lethargy. I’d invited my friend Jo over to watch V for Vendetta with me in celebration of Guy Fawkes Day, and I introduced him to some delicious Mexican food (did you know they don’t eat sopapillas in England?). 

I could go on for hours about why I love that film, but I’ll limit myself here to say that I really value the message encouraging people to stand up for what’s right in the face of mindless oppression. I want to be like that, and I want to encourage my students to do the same. My job is not to convert every kid in my class but rather present information about Christianity to them so they make an educated an informed personal decision about whether they will follow Christ. I was starting to get discouraged by Thursday that I was ineffective at my job, but I had a great moment in my third period class when the majority of my students were able to articulate for me at least one reason they recognized as important for them to learn theology. 

No teacher can reach every single student, but a good teacher never stops trying. I was able to step up my game on Friday without more antibiotics, and this weekend was an opportunity for my body to reset for me to go back to work reinvigorated for next week’s lessons. Sadly this bodily reset involved a whole lot of gastrointestinal pain this morning, but I’m pretty sure that was my guts celebrating that the antibiotics are done; I just wish it was a little less raucous of a party on my insides.

I haven’t heard anything from my insurance about the Botox treatment yet, so please keep praying that news comes quickly, and along with that pray that my attention stays on my teaching rather than worrying about the medical complications of my life. I love my job, and I want to be a good teacher who never stops trying to excite her students and engage them in learning. 

Urology is the branch of medicine that deals with the urinary system. With that information, you may now make an educated decision about whether or not you want to read the rest of this post.

This is hands down the hardest part of the big picture of paralysis. Did you know that most people with spinal cord injuries lose control of bladder and bowel functions? Neither did I until my accident. Usually I just refer to this all as “bathroom stuff” and ask for generic miracles, but I’m going to give you some rare insight into the mysteries of urology. Why people go into the field of urology remains a mystery to me, but technicians who work at REHAB Basel in this department are delightful. 

I showed up for my 8:45 appointment, and after they’d finished their breakfast, the nice techs ushered me into their fancy room which I’ve been in less than a handful of times. I know the drill by now though. After a couple pleasantries that I tried in German, I said I’d try to answer the questions about my liquid input and output in German rather than English. They asked the questions slowly, enunciating clearly, and offering the English words when needed. In the middle, the urologist walked by and greeted me in English; she turned back when she heard the technician asking the next question in German. “Don’t you know she only speaks English?” she chastised in German before the other woman responded that I’d asked to do it in German. We all smiled and continued on.

On to the fun part. (Note: please read the last sentence with heavy sarcasm.)

With all the basic information about my medications and system functions, I headed over to the long table with stirrups and the second technician helped me remove the necessary clothing before sitting and settling my legs into the stirrups. Many of you know this is not a position that women generally have positive associations with; I am no exception. With me in place and that glaring hospital spotlight positioned as well, the first technician put on her sterile gloves and began touching different places and asking if I could feel anything. Though it’s significantly impaired sensation, I have an awareness of touch, and I communicated that.

“Okay then, you’re going to feel something cold here.” 

I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on, but I knew she was connecting some kind of electrodes. Next she held up a strange stick with a small oblong balloon on the end and explained what she would do with it. I knew what was coming – this isn’t my first dance. I also knew I wouldn’t be able to control the muscle spasms she would trigger when she inserted the device into an exit only. That thing stays in for the rest of the appointment, and it makes laying on this cold table even more uncomfortable.

But we’re not done inserting things yet. She gets more sterile gauze and cleans another area before inserting another device into another exit only. The involuntary spasms trigger an apology from the technician. “I’m fine. Don’t worry.” We move on. She explains to me the process that I’ve heard before (though this time entirely in German). 

She’s going to first empty my bladder completely before refilling it with sterile water – actually, I’m pretty sure it’s a salt water compound. Anyways, as she does this she’ll ask me to cough at regular intervals. I’m also instructed to report when I can feel liquid in my bladder, when I feel enough liquid that I would look for a toilet, and when I feel so much liquid that I don’t think I can take any more. She’ll also take pictures every 100ml which I can see on a monitor angled above my head. By now, I’m pretty familiar with the x-ray image of my pelvis. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty confident I could pick it out of a line up of other x-rays based on this tiny, tiny cliff at the base where it opens that looks pretty unique.

I spend a lot of time looking at that translucent image to distract from the fact that I’m hooked up to electrodes and have devices sticking into me performing unnatural tasks that are particularly unpleasant. “Husten,” the technician instructs, and I obediently cough in response. After a few coughs, the machines I’m hooked up to make a series of beeps and a new image comes up on the monitor – my pelvis with a dark black blob resting at the bottom. The blob grows with every new image taken – 100ml, 200ml, 300ml, 400ml. They won’t fill past 500ml, but I don’t even make it that far this time. Somewhere I think around 450ml I tell them it’s enough. I’ve already said I’d head to a bathroom just before we hit 400ml. By now there are uncontrollable spasms coming at regular intervals that are my bladders way of telling my body it’s gone too far. 

The tech tells me I’m allowed to release urine if I’m able. I try, but nothing comes out. She gives me a sympathetic look before we move on to the worst part of the whole morning. With my bladder completely full and sending desperate messages to the rest of my body that it needs to be emptied in the form of these butt and thigh spasms, the technician comes around the computer and starts patting my bladder with her fingers triggering waves of spasms from my waist down.

It doesn’t take her long to get that final bit of data, so she ceases with the torture and empties my bladder. She then peels off and pulls out all the extraneous data collecting devices, and the report is ready for the urologist to view. Just a few minutes later, with me still lying on the table, the doctor comes in, shakes my hand, and announces, “We need to give you Botox.”

This is not a conversation at this point; it is a declaration. We talked about this at my last appointment, and she’d prescribed an increase of medication to calm the bladder spasms. “The medication is doing a good job,” she explained as she deftly rubbed the jelly covered ultrasound wand over my stomach, “But it’s not good enough.”

“Okay, um, I asked my insurance about that, and they said the only way they’d pay for it is if you gave them evidence that the medication wasn’t working.”

“Of course. I will write them a letter. The medication isn’t good enough; we have to look out for your kidneys. They might be in danger later if we don’t do something now. This isn’t a new or experimental treatment, so there shouldn’t be a problem with your insurance understanding this needs to happen. Once they approve it, you will make an appointment.”

She then described the process of how she would give me a local anesthetic before inserting a giant needle into me through my stomach and poke my bladder in lots of places with this delightful toxic chemical that would deaden the muscle so it would stop reacting so violently to the moderate to full range of its capacity. After the Botox treatment, I will most likely be able to stop taking the medication that is not fully treating this alone. Unfortunately, I will also mostly likely lose any ability to void on my own which I have intermittently at the moment. 

That’s still hard for me to take in, but the day wasn’t a total bust, so let’s move on to the happier stuff. I put my Ravenclaw pants back on and waddled out of the urology department to find Katrina waiting for me. She patiently let me sit for a few minutes as I recovered from the physical discomfort I’d just gone through in the last hour and briefly processed the emotional discomfort of needing a new treatment that’s less simple than popping a pretty blue pill every morning and evening. Then I asked if she’d be alright with me walking to the physiohalle to see if Alex was working. I was so disappointed not to see her when I came for my Jahreskontrolle, so I was hoping that I’d get to show off some of my improved skills from the last year. She wasn’t there, but I waved to Andy before Katrina and I turned around to walk to the car. 

On our way to out, though, I saw Alex walking by. I completely lit up as I waved her over, “I was hoping I’d get to see you today!” She came over to greet me, and we talked briefly about the progress I’ve made since leaving REHAB. I told her about how I’ve done hippotherapy and still go to physio twice a week and how impressed the Americans were with my cool Swiss braces. It was the highlight of my day – and that’s saying something because immediately after I went to Starbucks with Katrina and later in the afternoon, my friend Phyllis gave me a bunch of cilantro because she bought too much. Obviously, all that combined made it overall a good day despite the discomfort of the urology appointment itself. 

I’m so grateful for all the prayers for my kidneys and connected internal organs as well as for my fears about this appointment. It was not what I was hoping for, but there were still beautiful things. I could make a nice connection about how my life in general is like that – not at all what I hoped for but filled with gifts more beautiful than I could have dreamed. Instead, I’m just going to conclude with another request for your prayers for my kidneys. Here’s the deal, they are beautiful – ultrasound textbook gorgeous – and I’d like to keep them that way. Please pray that my insurance approves this treatment quickly, and let’s ask that even with approval, God will continue to miraculously knit my nerves back together and restore function to me. 

I forgot to write a post this weekend; I have no excuse. I try to have some measure of routine in my weeks where I remember to give an update for everyone praying for me, and yet that sense of regularity or normalcy evades me. This elusive concept of normal sounds appealing, but it also sounds a little boring, if we’re being completely honest (which I try to be).

This past week, I still went to school every day to teach as “normal,” but I also had a few out of ordinary differences as I continued preparation for my first NHS induction as sponsor of this campus club. This involved me purchasing 47 Milka chocolate bars accompanied by judgmental looks from Germans adept at the practice of moderation and last minute announcement adjustments as my dreams of warpaint were nixed at the last minute. My Friday afternoon and evening held a little something different as well as I visited with friends who patiently brought me into their homes and let me take my time finding my footing across cobblestones or up stairs. It was a great opportunity for me to thank God for friends like the Spencers and the Formans who are still willing to share life with me even though I require a little extra maintenance. These people aren’t normal either; they are so much better.

My family group falls in that same category of better than normal. This Sunday a smaller portion of us than normal gathered together to discuss the power in the name of Jesus. The name of Jesus isn’t normal. There is power in that name found in no other. I celebrate my healing so far that has happened in the name of Jesus – the Healer, the Great Physician. The Commander of the Armies of the LORD who fights away all my fears and insecurities (which are legion). 

Speaking of my multitudinous fears and insecurities… I wanted to be sure not to skip this week’s update because I know what I’ll be writing about next week and want some pre-prayers… This Friday I’ll be leaving my house extra early rather than sleeping in like all my students and coworkers as I head into Basel for my regular urology appointment. Hands down, this is my least favorite part of paralysis. If given the choice between bladder function and ankle function, (I choose both – obvi) I will always say that I’d rather stay in a wheelchair forever and be able to pee on my own.

The technicians who work in the urology department at REHAB Basel are delightful, but the tests they have to do are far from it. It’s super uncomfortable, and I have a slightly rational fear of learning that I might have permanent kidney damage. This isn’t super likely, but it’s a possible side effect to the nerve damage I have.

There’s power in the name of Jesus.

I take refuge in that. The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and they are saved. The name of Jesus is my refuge. My kidneys pale in comparison.

I still want my kidneys to be normal. No wait, I want my kidneys to be better than normal! Pray with me this week that I blow the urologist away not just with beautiful kidneys (which I already know I have from my jahreskontrolle) but with miraculous recovery of function between now and Friday morning. 

I’m late writing this week’s update because I spent a lot of time learning about volunteering with refugees and then helping friends lead a church service for refugees living nearby. What a privilege to serve. I was asked to lead songs with the children, and I had the absolute delight of teaching twenty kids the motions to one of my favorite songs – “Jesus Soccer Star.” I watched them dance along with smiles on their faces, and each one lit up when I pointed to them during the “I just came here to love you” line. As refugees in Germany, very few of these kids speak English, though, so they had no idea what the song was about. One of the twenty was fluent in English, and about half understood German. We translated the basic concept into German and the kids who only knew Arabic danced anyways (the kid who spoke French sat in the corner with his arms crossed).

I felt so privileged to sing with these kids and to return home to my bed in my warm apartment last night. I’m so fortunate – for lots of reasons. One reason I considered myself fortunate last night was that I knew what was going on for the most part because the children’s service was conducted completely in English with German translation. I understood all the English and bits of the German. Tonight I was a little closer to their position as I got into the car of a non-English speaker and drove into town to be helped up two flights of stairs and sat in a room full of non-English speakers. Singing in the local women’s choir brings me so much joy, but there are only two other English speakers in the choir. My old neighbor was the one to drive me tonight, and she doesn’t know any English at all.

A sweet older woman who lives nearby me recently started attending, and she sat by me tonight. She loves to come talk to me when I’m walking, and she knows I understand little German, but babbles away in local dialect nonetheless. She has no idea it’s a huge distraction when I’m trying to concentrate on six specific muscle movements each step, and I don’t have the vocabulary to explain that to her, so I just smile and try to keep focused on my walking. She loves to help, and I love the sentiment, though sometimes help offered to me isn’t all that helpful. For example, when I went to stand up tonight, she eagerly grabbed my arm and started to pull me up which was actually hindering my balance and ability to put energy into my legs appropriately. I had to ask her to stop, and she immediately realized that it was keeping me from standing on my own.

People often times rush in to help me when they see me struggle: they’re being polite; they’re being kindhearted; they’re being unhelpful. I can’t tell you how many times people in the grocery store have stopped when they see me reach behind my wheelchair with my bag to hang it on the handles and jump in to finish the job. Sometimes they ask if I need help, and when I say no, they proceed to interfere anyways. This is demeaning. This is humiliating. This is preventing me from growing. 

I am disabled. There are times when I need help. Conversely, there are times when I need to use my muscles and develop a skill. Earlier today, a friend messaged me promising that he’d never help me again without me first asking and included a video as explanation. I’ve pasted it below and encourage all of you to view it. Chris said he thought this guy and I would be good friends which is likely since his dad and my grandpa were actually good friends years ago, but while Grandpa Frank and Nate Saint were connected through airplanes and their heart for missions, Steve and I are connected through our disability and our heart for missions.

The service I did with my friends for the refugees was a chance to share the love of Jesus with people who need help. I went to a training on Saturday to learn to offer help that they do need rather than offering something I think is helpful that might actually hurt. There’s no training for how to interact with me, but in this video, Steve Saint gives a great explanation of both how to interact with me as a disabled person and how to interact with those who need the love of Jesus (which is all of us). 

https://www.youtube.com/embed/6Oja-rnOlIM

I love to laugh.

I understand suffering.

Those are both parts of who I am, and sometimes conversations with the people I’m closest to span both ends of that spectrum of human experience. This week, I had a great conversation with one of my best friends who has had deep conversations with me about suffering in the work of Wiesel and has also laughed with me about the most trivial things imaginable. This week, our conversation again spanned that wide range.

Desiree brought me to tears as she cried with me while processing how the Lord listens to us cry out to him in different life circumstances and can be glorified by the way we cry based on what suffering he is leading us through. It’s a complicated thing, theodicy and all that, but there’s some beauty in recognizing that the God of the Bible – YHWH who walked through the animals laid out by Abraham and who made Joseph prosper from what his brothers intended as harm – this beautiful Father of life, Healer of the broken, walks beside me and listens to my cry today just as he held me close and heard my cry twenty months ago when I first broke my back, ten years ago when I broke relationships with my best friends, and every other moment in my life.

He also hears those special pleas to hold back gas at inconvenient moments. As Desiree and I processed these deep ideas, our conversation turned to how I, as a diagnosed complete paraplegic, lack full control of all bathroom functions. This includes the ability to hold back farts. Actually, I’m quite adept at this for my diagnosis. Most people with my condition have no control at all, but I’ve thus far held back any publicly embarrassing moments in professional settings. I was sharing with Desiree about how I have had some close calls that led to particularly fervent prayers for the Lord to hold back the gastrointestinal noises eager to escape. She was able to empathize with similar prayers during her pregnancy, and we spent several minutes laughing loudly at the beauty of a Lord who hears our tears of lament alongside our tears of joy.

What a gift that I can occasionally control my farts. Praise the Lord.

Very seriously. 

That’s actually a very promising sign of future return of bladder and bowel control. I’m fervently asking the Lord for every bit of that function and praising him for the moments when he steps in to control what I cannot. Join with me in praising God for the ability to laugh about farts and cry about what I’m still missing. Join with me in asking for everything back. 

I was really excited last week to sit down and type out the wonders of my return to Frauenchor last Monday night, but I fell sick on Thursday and was taking it easy all weekend long. I missed my second week at the local women’s choir this past Monday, but I can’t tell you how excited I am for my old German neighbor to pick me up this week and help me up the stairs where I’ll sing in a room of women who have a different mother tongue than I do but welcomed me into their club nonetheless. 

I’ll catch you all up on the details of my brief illness instead of the excitement of being surrounded by people who can’t speak the same language as you.

Thursday morning I woke up feeling a little less than 100%, but I pushed through knowing I’d have the weekend to recover soon. Despite doing almost nothing all weekend, Monday was the worst day for me of this virus that attempted to knock out students and staff across our campus. By fifth period, I was practically useless, so I sat in the corner coughing while sixteen responsible young adults had an engaged conversation about their textbook reading for over half an hour. I was so impressed. I love my job.

For most of you, getting sick means taking a couple days off to recover and returning to normal life in a matter of a week. Since my atrophied muscle function is still in the use it or lose it stage, this last week of resting meant less physical activity and a subsequent step back in my stamina. I’m particularly disheartened by this because I’ve been at my maximum energy output this year with the extra class. 

When I went for a walk earlier this afternoon, I had to sit down and rest at a bench that I’d normally be able to walk past with little problem. While I sat there and contemplated my condition, I realized, yet again, that I wouldn’t trade my life for any other. I love my job, and I love my students. Each day that I woke up “sick” this week is still well enough to take care of myself, and for that I’m grateful. I showed up to work and joked with one of my students that I’ve taken enough sick days for my whole career already; I don’t want to miss another day with my students. Even when my immune system completely kicks this cough, I’ll still wake up with less health than I want. I still crave the ability to plant my feet on the floor and have full control of my ankles, knees, and hips as I lift my weight over my bare feet and put one foot in front of the other without using sticks for balance.

My therapist says there’s a flicker in my ankles. I’ll be honest, I have a hard time believing her because I still can’t see or feel it myself. However, I live by faith, and that’s being certain of what I cannot see and sure of what I hope for. 

First of all, thank you to everyone who messaged me or commented on my last post. I’m grateful for your kind words. I’ve had a great week full of affirmation and positive physical exertion.

This past week was Spiritual Emphasis Week at school, and we cut classes by ten minutes to start the students’ days with chapel led by some nice folks from South Carolina. I was told they were nice; I’ll be honest, I had no personal interaction with them. I also had limited interaction with students on Wednesday which is still something of a sadness to me. During SEW, we have a single day called Impact Day where classes are suspended and students and staff alike engage with the community in numerous service projects. My first year at BFA, I had the absolute joy of pulling weeds with a small group of my freshmen girls. Last year, Impact day coincided with an appointment at REHAB, and I wasn’t able to participate the whole day. Well, I wouldn’t have been able to participate in the same capacity anyways.

This year I had a similar role to last year at the command table where my incredible neighbor and friend, Kristy, coordinated the entire event. I made what positive impact I could, and while it wasn’t the role I would have liked (burning debris in the forest, picking apples in a local orchard, washing windows for an elderly widow, painting a bus stop, or any other hard physical labor side by side with my students), I know that my job needed to be done, so I did it to the best of my ability.

Some days I wake up and expect my ankles to move properly, and they don’t, but I continue walking to the best of my ability. Some days I wonder if my physical therapy is making any impact on my ability, but I have to remind myself that it took months for that flicker of movement in my butt to translate to me being able to push off properly in each step. Those silly daily exercises do have an impact, and I can’t stop practicing for the day that my ankles come back. I’m still hopeful; with my ankles back, wearing Toms again is a possibility.

Little things like my job keeping Kristy sane at the command table can have a big impact; little things like your prayers for my ankles can have a big impact too.

This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about wanting to be healed of everything wrong with me. I’ve been pretty vocal about the fact there were things broken in me before my accident, and God is doing a mighty work to mend my heart through this healing process. Part of that is facing some emotional trauma from when I was in high school. Rather than writing here last week about my physical recovery, I chose to sit down and write a verbal acknowledgement of some of the hurtful things in my past that both I did and were done to me. I hit 10,000 words in four days. I slowed down a little after that, but I’m at 13,000 and still going strong. 

Obviously, that’s not going to be posted here. However, there’s an important connection between that emotional healing and my current physical recovery. Both actually require a lot of emotional energy which affects my physical condition. I’ve dealt with a lot of the terrible things I said and did in high school, but there are still lingering effects that I’ve done my best to repress. Actually, I did a pretty good job of repressing them for a decade, but this physical recovery has brought them back to the forefront of my mind. I know I’m not the same self-centered, short-sighted poor communicator that I was at sixteen, but I still deal with a lot of lingering shame related to who I once was and how I once behaved. I really benefit from affirmations of who I am today rather than the accusations that haunt me of who I once was.

I always intend to keep you updated on my holistic recovery – that’s mostly a look at the emotional side. The comments I’ve received from people about my improved walking since returning to school are significant though. It’s consistent across the board that people are noticing a difference. I’m using the walker a lot more, and that allows me to go longer distances because I have the option of sitting down if I need to. I can also carry my bag to school without having someone bring it along with the wheelchair, so I have a new independence coming and going to work. I still have plenty of dependence on others, and I’m learning to find the balance in asking for help when I need it and using the capabilities that I have.

On that note, I need your help. I need a store of affirmation for when those accusations creep into my mind. A comment here, an email, a postcard to my house or to me at the school. It sounds really selfish to ask, but I have to. Writing out and reflecting on who I was really pulled me down to a dark place, and I need help to stay out of there.

The Swiss are hard to impress. Thursday I went to REHAB Basel for my annual checkup – jahreskontrolle. I was so excited to show the staff who helped me recover for five months what progress I’ve made over the past year. I decided to leave my wheelchair behind for the day long appointment, and I started the morning with lots of medical tests. As I watched the PA go from the fourth to the fifth vial of blood draining from my arm, I began to second guess the decision to leave the wheelchair behind at hour one of six. I spent an hour and a half doing blood tests, lung tests, heart tests, and answering lots of medical questions. 

I managed to walk out of the office with a voucher for lunch and found Katherine who had given up her day to drive me to Basel and wait out my hours of appointments. When we got our lunches, one of my nurses joined us and invited me to her wedding. It was a small joy to reconnect and share what good things have happened for both of us over the past year. After I finished eating, I still had some time before I started my next series of tests and assessments, so I headed slowly towards the elevators to see who might be on duty in my old station. Before I made it there, I saw one of my favorite nurses walking towards me as she began her lunch break. I joined her and another nurse and spent a few minutes telling them how great the improvements over the past year have been before heading to the physiohalle. 

For all of you who have been following my story since my stay in REHAB, I’m sad to report that Alex wasn’t the one to do my assessment. She’s on holiday – I asked. However, Bilijana worked with me once before and remembered the condition I left in. After half an hour of test, she reported that there was no significant increase in my strength or function. I’ll be honest, I was a little disappointed to hear that. “But I’m walking so much better now!” I insisted. “Ok, show me.” I stood up and walked a few meters before turning around to have Bilijana confirm that I was, in fact, carrying myself much better than when I left.

Next, I made my way to the ergotherapie and waited for my assessment there. Isabelle wasn’t there either which was another small disappointment, but I met with a new ergo and answered lots of questions about how I spend less time in my wheelchair than before and can still move my arms all directions. He did notice that due to the extra use of my arms, my neck and shoulders hold a lot of tension. There might be some other stress factors contributing to that… 

My final stop was the conference with one of the doctors on staff. It wasn’t the one from my station, so our appointment was a little longer as we talked about some of my condition that he hadn’t see before or known well. We talked about the future therapy plan, and he recommended that I continue with intensive therapy, and he was no less than disgusted that my American insurance won’t continue to pay for it. He provided anecdotal evidence of people a similar age to me with similar injuries who didn’t give enough attention to their recovery ended up regressing years down the road. He stressed the need for me to continue with therapy as well as not overwork myself in the coming years. Jumping back to full time work and quitting therapy too soon could mean that ten years from now I’m back at square one permanently. It was a sobering conversation to be sure.

The next day, some of my favorite Canadians drove me out to hippotherapie. While I concentrated hard on the work I was doing on the horse, sweet Nadia drew me the precious picture placed above. She presented it to me when I got off the horse, and her mom clarified that it was a drawing of me walking without my sticks.

My day at REHAB was full of medical statistics and the reality of long term disability; my day at horse therapy was a reminder that God’s not done writing my story yet.

I love my job. I love it so much. I get to teach students about the Bible and how to read well. I have the privilege of doing this every school day. Last year I was able to teach two class periods a day; this year based on my improvements and the school’s needs, I’ll be teaching a third class period each day. I’m honored with the responsibility of teaching the Old Testament class to the incoming freshman class.

This has a huge impact on my coming year because one extra hour in the classroom adds several hours a day in actuality. I will have a second class to prep for and extra papers and tests to grade. Fortunately, one of my incredible students from last year volunteered to be my TA this semester. I also have other students willing to help me out this year – have I mentioned how much I love my job? These amazing kids are willing to enable my service here.

Last Thursday and Friday were the first days of all staff conference for BFA, and I pushed hard through two full days of work before horse therapy Friday afternoon. My therapist pushed me extra hard on the horse because of the improved function I have in my hips and glutes; I was feeling nice and sore on Saturday. I love waking up to the muscle aches because it means I have feeling and the muscles are being used. Hunter took some pictures of me on Friday during the horse therapy, so you can all see me concentrating and working hard while also wearing my awesome new sweater. For those who haven’t seen it in person, I sharpied arrows next to the vertebrae that I broke on the stylish spine that runs down the back.

I’ve had almost two weeks back home now, and I’m almost settled into a routine – just in time for school to start and change my schedule. I’m so ready for it though; I miss my kids.

However, I’m excited about the progress I’m seeing here in the weeks between arrival and school. Since returning, I’ve practiced using my walker more frequently; this is a huge deal because it allows me new independence that I didn’t have last year. Even with my unstable balance, I’m now able to walk alone with the walker all the way to school which means I can put my school supplies in the cute little basket and independently take myself to school. Previously, I needed to take my wheelchair in order to carry my bag, and I had to have someone walk the wheelchair beside me so I could practice using my legs and my sticks.

I also went back to my German physical therapists last week, and I was excited to share about the progress I made while in America. Anja was just as excited, and we talked about the next steps in how we’ll work to keep improving. 

Friday I returned to my horse therapy, and although it was hard work after so many weeks off, it felt great to be using those different muscles again and discovering which ones had gotten stronger from my new exercises. I held my torso high and felt my abs working hard to keep my balance as the horse’s gait gently rocked me. These small victories are a huge encouragement as I get ready to return to work, and they help me prepare for the long road still ahead of me. 

There are four things that I’m exceptionally passionate about: literature, the Bible, my students, and Jesus. I light up when I get to talk about them. Conversely, I’m visibly disheartened by the idea of swimming, the Bronte sisters, spiders, and traveling. That made the prospect of last Tuesday both wonderful and dreadful. Wonderful because I was headed back to Germany that much closer to returning to my incredible job where I get to talk about literature, the Bible and Jesus all day to my students; dreadful because it meant over twenty-four hours of travel from start to finish.

I got up early Tuesday and walked out that special red door for the last time, again intentionally making the decision to stay woke, to follow Jesus, no turning back. After my mom drove me down the familiar route of 26 and I84 east, I braced myself as I wheeled up to the check-in for my long journey beginning at PDX. The woman at the counter made my day as she checked me in and promised to meet me at the gate and help me get my bags on the plane. She more than made up for the fact that I wasn’t on the old PDX carpet. The first leg was only to Dallas, and my dislike of airports was only increased by the extra stop before I landed across the Atlantic. Fortunately, my connecting flight was in the same terminal, and I had the perfect amount of time before I boarded my long transatlantic flight to London-Heathrow airport. 

I can’t stress enough how much I really hate airports. However, God had the best gift in store for me when I landed in Heathrow. The airport staff helps disabled passengers make their way from gate to gate, and I was paused briefly waiting with an attendant and another disabled traveller when I looked up at the able bodied passengers coming down an escalator to make their way along the same hallway I would soon be headed. I immediately brightened when I saw one of my former students at the head of the line.

We saw each other at the same time, and he came right over to me when he walked off the escalator to give me a hug. Unfortunately, he won’t be returning to BFA this year; he told me he’s going to a similar school in Senegal. I’ve told lots of my friends about this particular kid because he’s had a special impact on me. This is the kind of kid I am most passionate about: he’s asking questions. 

We had to part ways when we hit another escalator and I needed to take the lift, but I saw him again as he passed the disabled waiting area a second time. I stopped him and told him not to stop asking good questions. His mom passed by after, and I had the privilege of telling her that I’ve been praying with her for her son, and that I’ve asked many people close to me to do the same. Our God can handle the questions. I never want this kid to stop asking. I fought for my answers, and I want every student of mine to do the same. I told his mom I’ll never stop praying for him.

That’s one of the incredible things about being a teacher – this kid will forever be one of my kids. This past month, I had the joy of reuniting with several of my own teachers who have continued to pray for me as I adventure through life. Above, you’ll see a picture of me with my high school English teacher -one of the most influential people in my life – as well as my first grade teacher who is still connected to my story. Every teacher I had in between these two (and after into college) left a profound influence on my life, and I recognize that I have that privilege now with the students who come through my class.

Well, even some who didn’t come into my class. The other picture of me is with one of my first students who I never taught in a classroom setting. Tori was one of the first youth group students I had the joy to work with. This girl has grown into an amazing woman of God, and I am honored to call her friend though she will also forever be one of my “kids” (even though she’s going to graduate college this year).

I love my job so much, and the transatlantic travels are worth it to teach them. This horrific accident is so worth it for the conversations I get to have about Jesus. During my trip to America, I got to talk to people about Jesus and reflect on the conversations I’ve had in Germany about my relationship with him that were only possible because of my accident. I wouldn’t trade my life for any other. I’m so very happy to be back in Germany and getting ready for the coming year where I have the greatest gift of teaching 37 of the 45 students I lost when I had my accident. I’m crushed I’ll not have the chance to teach those precious 8 who have left BFA, but I’m so very grateful for the chance for emotional closure in teaching this very special group of kids again and finishing a class with them.

Kandice and I talked early in our week at the start of this month about me having an extra session with her to check in with my progress before I went back to Germany. Today I went in for my final appointment prepared to get my butt kicked; I was not disappointed. Kandice had a whole new routine that involves a lot of standing exercises which require my butt to be fully engaged. It’s a weak muscle, and I have a lot of work to do, but I’m excited for the potential locked in my glutes. Over the last three weeks, I’ve been really intentional about engaging my glutes each step I take. The muscle was practically non-existent before one of my German therapists focused on it for weeks, and it was still incredibly weak when Kandice met me at the start of this month. I have a long, long way to go to get my butt into high gear, but it’s going to happen someday. 

My life hasn’t been easy so far, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to lighten up anytime soon despite me playing Reliant K’s request on repeat. I head back to Germany in less than a week, and based on the progress I’ve seen so far and the plans I’ve made with Kandice, I’m really excited for the physical improvements on the horizon. Honestly, I’m also excited for the emotional vacation I’ll get from returning home and sleeping in my own bed for the first time in six weeks.

I’m so grateful for the ongoing prayers as I muster through the last few days away from home, and I’d love to ask for your specific requests that I would have a healthy end to my trip. There are lots of bacteria waging war against my immune system as I type this, and I’d love a miraculous surge in strength from my body’s microscopic army. 

One of my students told me she was twitter famous because she had a really high number of followers. When I told her how many blog hits I had, she told me that was a lot. I’ve discovered I’m sort of internet famous. It’s a weird feeling. I don’t feel like I should be famous, but people recognize me on the streets of my tiny German town. I’ve had the odd experience of people coming up to me in the States and knowing a lot about me through my parents or from reading my blog.

I never really know how much a person has heard or read about my story when I meet them in person, so I always prepare myself for the worst – the worst being they’ve read everything and they think they know me personally. I’ve had a few people assume a deeper relationship with me upon just meeting me, and it feels invasive. I want to publicly thank all of you who don’t react that way though. By and large, the interactions I’ve had over the last several weeks have been delightful. I’ve had people who met me for the first time and told me how long they have been praying for me and how encouraged they are by my story. I met one man last week who’s followed my journey for a long time who went out of his way to just introduce himself and made a point not to assume he already knew me from reading my blog. Thank you.

Thank you to everyone who has respected my boundaries on this trip as I’ve had emotional encounters and processed through some of my trauma in a new way.

I do my best to let you all see the details of my recovery – good and bad – while maintaining some measure of privacy. The details of this week are private to me. I’ve had a lot of great conversations with people I really value, and I’ve had a lot of good emotional recovery. There’re no new developments on the physical front this week, but I’m still expecting good things as I practice my routines from Kandice.

For those who are still planning to follow my story, just remember that I’m not the one who deserves to be famous from this recovery. I live to make God famous throughout the world.

Trauma is a difficult thing. It affects everyone differently. I’ve tried very hard to be open about my experience, but I need to reiterate that my fall was a traumatic experience. It was traumatic for me, for my friends who witnessed it, and for those who are closest to me. We are all still processing that in different ways. I’ve been incredibly open about my experience, but there are details I’ve chosen to withhold from the internet.

I have that right.

Sometimes people don’t think about that when they talk to me. This past week has been full of great reunions with people I love who I haven’t seen face to face in years, but it has also given rise to many, many questions about my experience. I’m very willing to share most things. However, there are still some details that are mine, and, to be honest, there are some details that aren’t even mine to share.

When people ask me questions, it’s usually coming from a good place – usually (I’ve had a few creepers who ask weird stuff for gross reasons). I’m always willing to give the benefit of the doubt that someone has a good reason for whatever questions they ask which is why I always try to give an honest and candid answer. That doesn’t mean that your questions don’t trigger deep emotional responses from me. I don’t cry much in public; I don’t cry much at all, actually. In fact, this often leads to me coming across as heartless and emotionally barren.

But I just finished a good long cry grieving parts of my experience here in the states post-trauma. Don’t you dare tell me to cheer up. I need to grieve. I understand joy deeply – frankly, more deeply than most of you can imagine. I need to have this moment of grief.

I had some incredible moments of happiness and laughter this past week with good friends, and I cherish those. I also had some incredibly low moments of weakness and brokenness, and I cherish the One who carries me through because my feet still don’t work perfectly.

Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” It doesn’t say make those in mourning find something to rejoice about. I beg you, don’t patronize me with platitudes about coming joy. I have joy; it is deeper than this emotion. I need you to mourn with me at this point in my journey. For those of you who want to mourn with me and maybe are at a loss for words that wouldn’t be appropriate, please send me the words of Elie Wiesel: “Think higher and feel deeper.” I have a lot of context with that quote, but rest assured that’s the best thing you can say to me right now to demonstrate your solidarity with me. Sit with me in this rather than foolishly opening your mouth like Job’s friends. 

Think higher and feel deeper.

My body has been through a lot in the last five days, and it’s been an incredible experience. Kandice and I worked through a lot of different exercises and practiced getting on and off the floor as well as some crawling on my hands and knees. She also put me back in the big walker, and we practiced more steps without using my hands for support. I let go and took three controlled steps on my own. We were hoping I could make it up to six to top Tuesday, but my record today was four – for good reason. Kandice emphasized that my steps today were controlled and much, much better than when I sortof toppled along Tuesday. 

As we ended this final session, Kandice set me up with an action plan for the rest of my stay in America. I’ll check in with her again before I leave to adjust it where necessary and get some new routines to take home to Germany. She’s really optimistic about my potential and stressed that I was incredibly advanced for my level injury considering how recent it was. She also reemphasized the “every spinal cord injury is different” mantra I’ve heard all along by pointing out that meeting Jo and Mattias at REHAB really messed with my perception of the “standard” lumbar recovery. I met two SCI patients who were walking without aids within three months, but Kandice made clear they are far into the category of exception – just as I am.

Praise God for the amazing care I’ve received all along, and let’s keep asking for more miraculous healing to keep me ahead of the curve in recovery. 

I’m so grateful for the physical therapy care I’ve been provided over the last year and a half. From Saskia at the hospital the first week after my accident to Alex and Andy at REHAB Basel to the staff at Physio Neubert to Kandice and her colleagues at ADAPT. Because of the quality care I’ve received, I am more advanced for my injury than anyone expected. I thank God for the miraculous advancements as well as for providing me with the best care all over the world across three countries and two continents.

Today was another hard working day at ADAPT, and I was completely exhausted by the end of the long session. Kandice and Bekah reminded me that I was finishing the eighth hour this week when my body is used to just one and a half per week. Of course I’ll learn new things about my body; of course I’ll be exhausted at a whole new level.

We repeated a lot of similar activities today to see how my body responds to these new patterns. Fatigue kicked in quickly today, and I was totally wiped by the end and ready for my Black Rock iced mocha. My mom had to run an errand on the way home, and we happened to drive by my old high school. We pulled in to stop and see the admin who has worked at the school since I was a baby. I was really excited to get a hug from Mrs. Stoller and chat for a bit before recharging on my parents’ couch for a few hours.

I also had the joy of spending the evening with the Grover family who have been a huge part of my life for almost ten years. This week has been so good for my soul as the families I’ve been able to spend time with are just an extension of my own. After dinner, we passed out guitars and played around (I left my old guitar behind with this family two years ago). I’ve never been close to proficient on the guitar, but I loved getting to hold one and sing along as we just enjoyed time together. As we reminisced of escapades over the years, the name Niebergall came up, so when Mark and Tina drove me home, I jumped at the idea of knocking on their door which is just a neighborhood over from my parents. Just over half of their family is currently in India, but I was super excited to see Jamie and Macie and fill them in on some of the details of my escapades. Jamie’s diverse work experience includes being a physical therapist years ago, so he was excited to see my progress face to face after reading lots of the details. 

We talked briefly about what the medical expectations for my recovery were, and Jamie, who, after his time as a PT spent several years as one of my pastors, told me to ignore the limits doctors talk about because there are no limits with God. I take comfort in that truth, and I look forward with anticipation to the ongoing recovery that God will give and to the advances I can make with strategies developed with Kandice and maintained by my therapists back in Germany.

With the bar set high from yesterday’s adventure, I showed up after breakfast with one of my favorite students ever ready for more amazing discoveries about my body. We started out with a similar routine to yesterday focusing on my hips and talked a lot about the reactivity and muscle function in my feet. Kandice adjusted her plan for the day as we talked as she went to spend a few minutes feeling the muscles in my feet and calves. She discovered some interesting responses in my ankles and asked a colleague to look at them. 

A few minutes later I watched as a trained chiropractor and massage therapist took their turns feeling and prodding my feet and calves. We talked about different approaches to stretching and adjusting blood flow below my knees. All these new ideas were great to talk about how I might change my future recovery practices. 

Kandice also spent a lot of time nit-picking the details of my gait noticing that I don’t walk with a lot of weight on my arms, but I also rely on my quads more than I should. That practice has kept my glutes weak, and Kandice wants to wake them up and get them strong. We spent a lot of time walking forwards, backwards, and side to side today. It was incredibly hard for me to get my legs to move sideways, but the fact the muscles can do it at all is significant. Also, Kandice pointed out the fact that I can lift my legs backwards is huge. I lack a lot of confidence in those side and back movements, and it is connected to my balance issues, so we ended our session with time spent backed up against a wall moving my arms and keeping my weight held over my feet.

It’s hard, hard work, and I was worn out and ready to relax with my mentor Jen after therapy today. She took me out to Burgerville and Dutch Bros – Northwest goodness – and let me spend the rest of the day chilling with her and her husband, and I even got a little extra time with her daughter who I had breakfast with this morning. Yet again, I was so grateful to have the chance to work my body hard and let my heart be refreshed by time with this incredible family.

Yesterday being such a full day, I slept hard and struggled to get out of bed this morning. However, I was eager to get back to work with Kandice and see what else she might teach me. I certainly wasn’t disappointed as about a quarter into our session Kandice matter of factly said, “I wouldn’t call you a paraplegic.” I had been able to do all of the exercises she asked though some with great difficulty. “You’re just really, really weak, but this isn’t what I would call paraplegic. I know some able bodied people who have never had an injury who can’t do what you’re doing right now.” She got a couple other therapists in the room to confirm what I was doing was a difficult task for someone without any prior injury. She stepped away for a moment while I continued doing exercises with another therapist, and when she returned told me a colleague had asked doubtfully if I was actually a spinal cord patient.

Those were incredibly encouraging words to hear at the start of my session, and I still had over an hour to go.

The first hour was primarily focused on my hips, and the second half of my session today was spent mostly on my feet practicing standing and walking forwards and backwards. Kandice and Bekah, an assisting therapist, were both impressed with how little I used my arms when walking. When they asked me what my goal was, I was quick to say I hope to someday walk without the sticks. Both agreed that’s a completely reasonable goal. In fact, they were convinced I’m ready to move on from the sticks sooner than I might think. We tried a few steps with two poles that required more balance on my part. 

“You’re still putting too much weight on them. It’s all in your head,” Kandice told me and sent Bekah to get their walker. This facility has a rigged walking frame that functions like an adult version of a baby walker. They strapped me in the harness, and I could set my hands on the sides and walk with my weight over my legs rather than my arms. If I put my weight too far forward, the frame has brakes to keep me from moving. Kandice stood in front of me and asked me to lift one hand while I took small steps; when I could I lifted the second.

I took five steps without any weight on my hands.

Go back and read that last sentence again and celebrate with me. No weight on my hands – no sticks, no crutches, no frame. Five steps completely free. We tried it a couple times before an emotional cool down. As we celebrated, Kandice commented we’d set the bar high for the rest of the week. I can’t wait to see what the next three days will hold.

I’m still riding that high late into the evening and was excited to celebrate my new accomplishment with three of my former students who took me out to McMenamins where I was able to satisfy my two year craving for Cajun tater tots. I’m so grateful for this week of new physical discoveries and reunions with my precious kiddos who are all grown up. Today was still full and exhausting, but I wouldn’t trade a second of it.

As I hinted at before, I have a week of intensive therapy planned here in Portland. Today was day one of my therapy at ADAPT Advanced where I’ll be learning lots of new things about my body and exhausting myself in order to advance beyond my current state. 

I woke up early this morning after the first night in my old bed at my parents house and headed out for a walk in my old neighborhood. My second family lives down the street from my parents, so I started the two block walk and made it half way there before one of my extra sisters pulled over to let me know she was headed out for an appointment by I might catch a few other family members at home. I love the reaction when I ring the doorbell and see the delight on someone’s face at our reunion. Last night I had the same experience when I surprised the Stephens family, some of the most important people in my life. This morning, my second momma answered her door and welcomed me in for a few minutes with the youngest two siblings. I shared a short visit catching up with them before Momma Logan chastised me for bailing on teaching her son next year. Eleven years ago, I decided I wanted to be the English teacher at Faith Bible when Jamison was just a kid and from that point on I was looking forward to teaching him someday. God had different plans, and Momma Logan knows they are better for me even though they involve some difficult things like not getting to teach Jamison and having a long road of recovery.

After spending time at the Logans, I walked home ready for my first ADAPT Advanced therapy session. My mom dropped me off, and I met Kandice who showed me around the facility I’ll be spending a lot of time in this week. After a few minutes, we got to work on a therapy table where Kandice assessed my mobility and compensation patterns.

“This week is going to be a lot of fun,” she kept telling me. My mobility is far beyond what experts would expect based on the location of my injury. She also noticed and explained that the tension in my feet and calves is a positive sign that holds hope for my future progress. Most of today’s appointment was allowing Kandice to see what I could do in order to plan what we’ll do the rest of the week. Even so, I finished the two hours worn out and ready for some relaxation.

My brother from another mother picked me up from ADAPT, and we headed out to the best coffee shop in Oregon. Beach trips with Givorgy are one of my favorite things. Since this was our first trip in almost two years, we found the 2013 Bella Espresso guestbook to reread our epic cliffhanger story in order to write a new page in this year’s guestbook. I’m slower these days though so when we finally left Bella to head to the Cannon Beach Insomnia location we discovered it had already closed for the evening. Good thing there are two locations in Hillsboro!

I’m not able to walk on the beach right now, and that was one of the biggest disappointments to me of this trip. I can pretty much do anything else at a slower pace, but I haven’t yet conquered sand. Givorgy was totally understanding and just drove me along the coast and pulled off for a quick selfie with Haystack Rock in the background (since I’m regularly told I don’t post enough pictures here).

I’m so grateful for the progresses I’ve seen and looking for more this week. Kandice says my feet are going to be her special project. Join with me in asking for and expecting good things.

These past two weeks have been a blur for me, and as exhausting as they’ve been, I’ve been so blessed by my extended family. I wrote last week about spending time with my Embassy family in Denver, and I was overjoyed to get to share with them on Sunday about the work I’m doing in Germany, and I loved getting to hug Jacqueline for the first time in almost two years, to be prayed over by Derrick, and to meet some future missionaries to France raising support while attending the Embassy this year. These people are my family, and it is so good for my soul to spend time with them just as it was so good for my soul to meet my little nephew Parker for the first time the day after his first birthday. I loved watching him crawl around and pull himself up to take tentative steps around his environment.

Parker and I are in a similar place in learning to walk. He totters a bit and falls after a few steps, but I’m with him in the determination to try again when the walking gets tough. He gets applause and encouragement every time he tries again, and I feel the same. I’m so blessed to have hundreds of people cheering me on each time I stand up to walk again.

I have people from every area of my life speaking in words of encouragement for which I’m incredibly grateful. Since arriving in America, different areas of my life have collided with encouragement, and I’m so excited by the time spent with everyone. I carted a BFA yearbook across the ocean for a former staff member and got to spend a few minutes sharing my journey when I met Tim and passed on his copy of Phases 2015. While we’ve never served there at the same time, we share a passion for these TCKs and serving them in the name of Jesus.

I’m also incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve the same Jesus as Deedra who graciously gave me an afternoon of her busy visit to America from Cambodia. This woman is amazing. I’m at a loss for words to describe how grateful I am for her in my life. A few years younger than my dad, she spent some formative years in the Philippines at the same time as my dad. Years later, our families are still connected, and I will be forever grateful for the crazy random run-ins we’ve had in my adult life. I talk for hours about how fortunate I feel to have this woman choose to spend time with me and speak truth into my life, but this isn’t the place for it. Instead, I’ll just let you know that it was an important part of my recovery to have lunch with this woman who could listen to all the details of my life – medical and spiritual – and speak truth to my ongoing healing.

On the topic of speaking truth to my ongoing healing, I’d be remiss to skip over the opportunity I had to spend with my uncle before leaving Colorado. I am really fortunate to have an extended family who are all actively seeking the Lord, and my uncle spent time with me in prayer asking for my healing. I’m still anticipating miracles – join with me because we know it’s possible. 

I’m anticipating the physical gifts every day. I’ve been receiving so many other gifts along the way, and I am so grateful. The best gift so far is the reunion of my three best friends and I; these women are my deepest friends, my family. Sarah, Rachel, Jordyne, and I were reunited for the first time in almost three years at four this morning. Rachel, Jordyne, and I left Colorado yesterday evening and made it to Twin Falls, Idaho to our precious Sarah in the wee hours of the morning. I’m overjoyed for the next forty-eight hours of bliss that the four of us will have together. We often joke that God had to send us to different time zones because the world couldn’t handle so much awesome together in a single place, so look out world because we’re together for the long weekend. This planet just might change.

Let’s anticipate it. Maranatha!

A lot has happened in the last week, and it would take me thousands of words to recount it all. Rather than focusing on the frustrations of airport staff referring to me as an “it,” nine hours of leg spasms across the Atlantic, and the ongoing struggle of navigating American medical supplies, I’ll give you a few snapshots of the celebrations I’ve had traveling and arriving in America this week. When I left my apartment Wednesday morning, I was praising God for the gift of friends and families in Kandern who are willing to help me out when I’m still so dependent. I tagged along with another family going on the same flight as me to London from Basel, and I was struck with how blessed I am to have parents of my students who are willing to take care of me. As we figured out how to get me transferred to my next flight, Terry commented, “We’re all part of the same family,” which would stick with me when I met my various family members at DIA on the other side of the globe. As an airport attendant wheeled my bags behind me, I heard my dad shout my name and within seconds I was surrounded by my dad, my best friend, and some of my Embassy church family. I spent the next couple days in Colorado Springs with relatives before driving back up to Denver to spend the night with Nathan and Nicole who had met me at the airport with their kids. Spending the day with this couple was so good for my heart. This trip involves a lot of emotional reunions as people who have followed my recovery online are seeing me for the first time. The Lee’s house is far from handicapped accessible, but they welcomed me in knowing that whatever I couldn’t do myself they would help with. Praise God at this point all I need is someone below me on the stairs to carry my stick and give me a little mental support as I account the distance I need to lean and how to place my weight. While I couldn’t roll around on the floor with their young kids, I could still laugh with them and watch these two precious boys run around their backyard. Sunday morning, I rode with the family to the Embassy, my sending church. I’ve never lived in Denver, but five years ago, I was connected with this church family, and they sent me out as their missionary two years ago. I love being connected with these people who are so in love with Jesus. I was so excited to listen to Brandon’s timely message yesterday on learning to lament. It’s an important message for the church this week in particular, but it’s also an important message for me as I lament my loss of mobility on this continent. Without ignoring the lamentation, I can still celebrate the chance to hug Brandon and Derrick. These are people I wish everyone on earth had the chance to meet; when you talk with these tough looking dudes, you discover two men passionately and deeply in love with Jesus and eager to share the message of hope and salvation with the hurting world around them. Thankfully, I’ll have the chance to spend time with my Embassy family again next week as I share with them some of what God has done through me over the last two years. I wasn’t able to stick around too long this week though because I had a long drive back to Colorado Springs for my cousin’s wedding. Fortunately, the wedding was a little behind schedule because Rachel and I got stuck in traffic on the way back, but I was really grateful for the chance to catch up with one of my best friends who has also spent time living in Europe years ago. Rachel helped me manage through the wedding and reception without being able to walk around easily. She packed my wheelchair back in the car when we discovered that the family pictures were being taken on a grassy slope that was inaccessible to me and we drove through the Garden of the Gods before heading to my aunt and uncle’s house for the reception. She stuck by my side as I celebrated my cousin though a little less mobile than the rest of the attendees. It was hard for me not to be able to keep up with everyone around me in a place I’m so familiar navigating able bodied. Not only am I allowed to grieve that, but it’s an important step in my recovery. This barely covers the surface of my week, and I’m gearing up for five more weeks of the same. Dozens of people are welcoming me back with open arms, but we’re all learning to navigate my new physical state; that’s okay. That’s important and healthy. As I’m in America, please keep praying with me for more healing. I’ve said it before, and I won’t stop asking: I want everything. That includes a lot of emotional healing as I meet with people who I haven’t seen since my accident or I encounter old places that I haven’t experienced as disabled. Along with my emotional recovery, I’m anxiously awaiting God’s next move in my physical progress. My greatest frustration remains the bathroom complications, but I am still looking for return of all function. Just as Jesus said the man born blind in John 9 was disabled so that the works of God might be displayed, please join with me in asking God for his work to be displayed through my complete recovery.

When I was in middle school, there was a popular trend of creating your “Life Playlist.” I’m sure my Myspace page was littered with them as each week a new song would be the perfect expression of what I was going through in life.

I was thinking of that today as I listened to my latest musical acquisition, so I decided to create my life playlist for right now to express some of my feelings connected to the physical and emotional things going on in my life.

1. “Oceans” cover by Cassidy AlmquistThis is the song I was listening to when I got the idea for the playlist. This song has meant a whole lot to me over the last two years, but this particular cover is even more meaningful. When I was in the hospital just after my accident, a friend I knew in high school told me about another girl who had a similar accident to mine six months before me. She recently released an EP on iTunes which you can purchase here. This young woman has been working through a journey similar to mine, and where I primarily use my words to praise God, she uses her musical talent. The lyrics “Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me / You’ve never failed and you won’t start now” are particularly meaningful for obvious reasons.

2. “Not Ready to Die” by Demon HunterI think the title speaks for itself.

3. “Still that Girl” by Britt NicoleA few weeks ago, a wonderful woman I’ve never met sent me a CD. Little did she know how much of an impact that would have on me. Every line in the song “Still that Girl” fits my story beautifully. Thank you so much, Deb. I listened to that CD on repeat for three weeks solid. 

4. “The Run and Go” by twenty one pilotsNow, I haven’t killed anyone like the narrator of the song, but the chorus is really powerful to me. The last lines are “You’ll have to watch me struggle from several rooms away / But tonight I need you to stay.” That really fits my desire to push people away even though I need their help.

5. “Bist du nicht müde” by Wir Sind HeldenThe title translates to “Aren’t you tired?” I’m still tired all the time from everything I have to do. The summer is going to be exhausting as I travel around the States visiting loved ones. I’m already exhausted, and I haven’t even started. Yes, I’m tired, and I’m ready to hand over all my stresses to the loved ones who are waiting to help me carry my burden. 

6. “From Finner” by Of Monsters and MenI love the whole album this song is on, but when I drove by myself from Portland to Denver years ago, I blasted this song and shouted along the lyrics, “We’re far from home, but we’re so happy, far from home, all alone, but we’re so happy!” I’m far from “home” now, and I’ll be far from “home” when I visit America. There’s a strange feeling to be at home in multiple places because I’m also never at home again. This is a strange and unnerving feeling. When I travel to the place I called home for 24 years, it will be for the first time as a disabled person. It will be strange and new. It will be a huge loss of home in some ways as I discover it is not the place I left. Germany is my new home, and I will be far from it for the summer, but I’ll still be so happy. 

7. “Kill Your Heroes” by AWOLNATIONI like this song for many reasons, but the one I’ll share here is related to the lyric “One more thing before I graduate: Never let your fear decide your fate.” I’m scared of a lot of things. I was terrified of moving to Germany, and now I’m terrified of leaving. However, I refuse to let my fear decide my fate.

8. “Background” by LecraeThis comes off the album “Rehab;” I like the coincidence. I’ve got a lot I could say about this rap, but I’ll just pick out four lines for you: “So I don’t want to take the lead, ’cause I’m prone to make mistakes / All these folks who follow me, gon’ end up in the wrong place / So let me just shadow you, let me trace your lines / Matter of fact, just take my pen, here, you create my rhymes.” When I write things here, I always hope that it will give a clear picture of my struggle, my successes, and most importantly my Savior who I follow. 

9. “Dance with Me” by Evan EarwickerI’ve loved singing this song since I first heard it. I used to sing it when I danced in the rain, when I led worship in high school, when I was just sitting alone in my room. As the song declares, “I don’t want to sing of a passion I’ve never known.” This is so real to me – and equally importantly I want to dance again. I still cry out “Dance with me!” to my King of the ages as I sit in my wheelchair. One day I will dance through the night around his throne. I pray that I will dance before him again while I’m on this earth, but I sing with confidence that I will dance again.

10. “Beautiful Times” by Owl CityI wrote a whole post on this song a while back, but it still fits my story right now. “This fight of my life is so hard, so hard, so hard, but I’m gonna survive.” I’m healing, I’m improving, I’m getting better, but it’s still so hard, so hard, so hard. I can’t ignore that. I also won’t ignore the beauty all around me. (“Beautiful Things” by Gungor is pretty similar to this; I’m feeling this beat more today.)

Bonus Track. “Get Up” by SuperchickBecause anyone who knew me in middle school would know that no playlist of my life would be complete without a Superchick song. This one is worth googling if you haven’t been all along. The first verse is, “I’m not afraid to fall; it means I climbed up high / To fall is not to fail; you fail when you don’t try / Not afraid to fall; I might just learn to fly / And I will spread these wings of mine.”

So there you have it, a look at one major piece of my mental state as I process the world around me. I’m grateful for your prayers as I put this playlist on my phone and listen to it on the plane tomorrow morning. Please pray for me to have peace as I fly, to be safe with all my medical complications, and to continue to glorify God on this journey. 

The BFA yearbook came out today, and the title each year is “Phases.” I love that title. BFA is a phase of life for students at BFA and many of the staff. Over the past year and a half, I’ve had a phase of recovery and growth that I never could have anticipated. This fall was a really challenging phase as I returned to the classroom that I love so much with so many new struggles; this spring has been a new phase of confirmation for my love of teaching. 

The recovery challenges have only changed or shifted, not disappeared, during the phase of this last year. I mentioned in my last post I had another flat tire on my wheelchair, and while the tube has been patched, I’ve still got some figuring out before the tires get replaced. According to the bike shop in town, the manufacturer of my tire will not produce any more until September… I think mine will last until then (and maybe I won’t be using a wheelchair at all come September). Mobility aide maintenance was not on my radar when I was first learning mobility again in REHAB. 

I got my annual check up paperwork in the mail this week in preparation for spending a day at REHAB getting tested on all sorts of mobility and functional abilities. While I’m excited to show the doctors and therapists what I’ve learned to do, I’m also a little overwhelmed with the prospect of a full day of discovering limits. Sure they’re less than last year, but they are still greater than before my accident. 

One of the hardest things to communicate to people is the balance between the pros and cons of my accident. Trust me, I have an incredible attitude. You don’t need to tell me to cheer up. In fact, please don’t; it’s insulting because I have an awesome attitude for someone who was paralyzed two weeks before her 25th birthday. I dealt with a lot of trauma in the months following my accident, and I’ve come out incredibly well through it, but I’m also preparing myself for the emotional return to America for the first time in two years – and the first time as a disabled person. I can’t express how excited I am to meet my newest nephew and see his big brother who has doubled in size since I left. There are not words to tell you my joy at my upcoming visit to Powells and all the coffee I will drink from Bella Espresso, Insomnia, Black Rock, Dutch Bros, Stumptown, and Longbottom. The important consideration to those anticipations are the unknown reaction my four year old nephew will give when he sees me sitting in a wheelchair for the first time and the emotional response I’ll have being unable to walk on the beach with my mocha from Bella Espresso (because who would drive to Cannon Beach and just get Insomnia coffee?). 

This summer phase of my life is going to involve a lot of emotional processing in addition to the continued physical rigor. I’ve got three more sessions of physio here before I leave, and I’ll get a two week “break” in Colorado as I just practice exercises on my own before completing a week long intensive program in Oregon the first week of July. 

I’m in a crazy phase of life right now – it seems like that’s my usual though. In the midst of this crazy time for me and many others, I still crave your prayers. Specifically, I’d like a miracle before I get on the plane in nine days – I’ve told a small number of people, but I’m praying for full healing of bathroom function before returning to America. Let’s present this ridiculous request to God with thanksgiving (I’m trying not to be anxious about this or anything else [Phil 2:6]). I’ve said this since day one of this incredible journey as those of you who’ve read my earliest updates know, my first and most important request hasn’t changed – pray that God, the one who is able to do more than I can ask or imagine, is glorified no matter what happens to me in this phase or any future phase of my life. 

Oh, and I put a pretty picture up since I’m frequently reminded that I never post pictures. This week Cat came to visit me with her mom on the tail end of their vacation to Germany. I love her. She’s been with me through a lot of phases of my life, and I’m pretty grateful.

Every teacher hates variations of the question “What’s the least we can do to pass?” I’m no exception. I inwardly (and sometimes outwardly) groan every time a student asks how they can get away with the least amount of work. Educationally, it goes against what I’m trying to teach them about becoming lifelong learners, and obviously I want them to excel in the content I’m presenting to them. 

Looking for the minimum to pass goes against so much of who I am in my core which is why it’s all the more painful to declare that I’m looking to do the bare minimum for the next two weeks. 

I’ve gained a lot of independence from others in the last year, but that has largely come with the aid of my wheelchair. I can do nearly anything around my house, and I do it happily (within reason). However, I’ve found myself with another flat tire, and I realized how I’ve only developed an illusion of independence. I can do things myself, but I take shortcuts when I use the wheelchair. I will hopefully have a fixed tire soon, but I’m going to do my best to not use the wheelchair for those shortcuts which may mean asking others for help in order to do things walking instead of wheeling. 

In this case, doing the bare minimum is not to permanently get out of work, but it’s out of the realization that I need to develop better skills now through doing them slowly and well rather than taking shortcuts. 

This weekend I went over to some friends’ house for dinner, and we ended up playing Settlers of Catan. At one point in the game, I blocked another player from connecting his roads, and he realized the only way to keep his wife from winning was to help me. It quickly became a crazy two team game which I ultimately won with the help of Chris. I also never would have made it up the stairs to his apartment without help. It took some teamwork for me to even get to the game, but I made it. It’s the same in a lot of other situations, I need some help – it takes teamwork for me to get some places. It’s pretty humbling.

I’m so incredibly grateful for the teamwork that gets me places though because I find it pretty rewarding to walk up a flight of stairs, settle down on the couch, and have a five year old kid snuggle up next to me and ask me to color with him in his 3D dinosaur coloring book. 

Last night at family group, we talked about what things in our lives we’re holding on to with an illusion of control that we need to surrender to God. It was a really tough question for me. I frequently joke about how God took my legs away to teach me about dependence, and now I’m learning to walk again, and I treasure my moments of independence. I had to take a good hard look at my life to figure out where I have held too tightly to control that isn’t really there and need to let go again.

I think the biggest area in my life where I struggle with control is asking for help. It’s a crazy paradox though because I don’t need as much help as is offered to me. This is really difficult for most people to understand, and it’s difficult for me to articulate. 

I need to learn to ask for help, but I also need others to learn that I’ll ask for help when I need it. 

One of my biggest fears going to visit the States next month is that people will jump in to help me when I don’t need it and I’ll end up regressing physically because of it. When people push my wheelchair without me asking, it’s not only demeaning, it weakens my arms which are really important to keep strong in my condition. On the other hand, I’m not safe enough to go up and down stairs by myself. I need someone below me to carry a stick while I hold the bannister and spot me if I need it. 

Oedipus knew the standard route of walking when he solved the riddle of the Sphinx, but I totally throw the pattern off. I went from two legs to four wheels and now I’m going around on anywhere from four to ten legs. Most recently, though, I’ve been playing around with just six legs in my apartment. 

Let’s work the math out on that one.

First, let me mention that just after I posted my last update, I discovered a flat tire on my wheelchair. I had to spend the weekend using my sticks as much as possible since it was unsafe and damaging to the flat tire to roll around on it. Out of necessity, I took a couple steps with just my right stick around the apartment – six legs (the stick has four feet). I’d written a while back about how I did that for a few steps and hurt my back, so I was super cautious this time. I made sure to focus on the muscle groups my therapist practiced with me, and I woke up the next day with no extra back pain.

Since then, the wonderful maintenance department at school has patched my tire, but I’ve been trying more short distances in my apartment with only one stick. This is a huge call for celebration. 

I’m also getting better at the forearm crutches with a practice a couple times a week now. I’m excited about what that means for my mobility. I’m improving my balance and strength. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m so grateful for this new accomplishment. My therapists are now focusing on stimulating and loosening muscles in my feet and ankles. I still don’t have any control of that myself, but I’m hopeful for new improvements soon.

Oh, and my insurance paid the outstanding bill!

My posts here have slowed down, but that’s only because my life hasn’t. I had some high and low and hilarious moments over the past two weeks. Just after my last post, I received an email from REHAB that my insurance had overlooked a $47,000 payment to them for my treatment during April of last year. I spent the next week emailing them and my insurance and reading over diagnosis reports from my five month hospital stay. Honestly, it was a little traumatic. I’ve come so far, and it’s great to celebrate that, but I don’t like being jerked back into details retellings of the painful and dependent position I was in a year ago. It certainly didn’t help that this came up the day before my German tax meetings where I also had to go through months of medical bills and receipts and explain my payments and reimbursements to a tax consultant. It was pretty stressful. This week also marked the end of the post-season for the Blazers which was emotionally rough.

Fortunately, there were also plenty of moments to laugh and celebrate over the last two weeks, and I’m so grateful for them. I had the joy of writing the first recommendation letter for a student to my alma mater; one day, I taught my class wearing my graduation robe after telling my students I only got my masters for the bat wings; I got an email from an RA telling me her students really enjoy my class; I got to have dinner and hang out with Jo.

As I report on my holistic healing, these factors become more significant. I’ve recognized that the emotional factors influence my energy and stamina. Emails with insurance agents cause me to shrink back with anxiety; conversations with students give me renewed vigor to improve physically. I don’t have any news to report about physical changes, but I do still get up and live each day pushing through difficulties and paradoxically earning and waiting for new improvements.

I still have to decide every morning whether I’ll live or die. Living this way isn’t easy, but it’s so worth it. My other option is to stay in bed and rot when my alarm goes off, but to me that isn’t a real option. Goonies never say die. 

A few years ago I read the book Radical by David Platt; it was incredible. I just started reading Crazy Love, and I know I’m late on that train, but it’s pretty great so far. These books are super encouraging to me as one of those crazy people who packed up and moved across the globe “because God told me to.” 

I was talking to my best friend who did a similar thing years ago and is now planning how she can spend time living and ministering to those in poverty in America this summer. This girl is a huge encouragement in my life because she’s never satisfied with just living radically for Jesus. She always wants more; she always wants to deeper experiential knowledge of that crazy love of Jesus.

Near the end of our conversation tonight, she mentioned how even though we do things judged to be crazy by the outside world, she couldn’t imagine turning back. There’s no way she’d want to give up Jesus even though following him has some challenges. It’s always worth it.

I totally agree. I jumped in to echo her sentiment affirming that I have no regrets moving to Germany, climbing that wall, and continuing to celebrate the good works of my Savior in my life every day. 

I’ll be honest though, it’s sometimes exhausting.

I was sharing that with Jordy tonight too. I’m learning right now the paradox of hard work to improve my condition and patiently letting the Lord work within me. It’s all packed nicely into Philippians 2:12-13 which reads, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Paul is encouraging believers to live a life worthy of the Gospel but also recognizes it’s all about God doing the good work in us anyways.

I’ve got a responsibility to live well – to use my muscles and strengthen my body. At the same time, I know that my God is the Great Healer capable of amazing miracles. I live in constant expectation of him healing me. 

It’s exhausting.

I wake up each morning and work hard and wait hard. It’s exhausting to exert the effort necessary to get out of bed and get dressed. It’s exhausting to anticipate a miracle and not be let down when it doesn’t happen. Full healing hasn’t happened yet, but that doesn’t mean miracles haven’t happened, nor does that mean that I won’t wake up with new function tomorrow morning. I’m expecting it. I went to a service this week where the pastor encouraged everyone to expect miracles and to “step into peace” to receive them. He was preaching from Mark 5 where the woman reaches out to Jesus and he tells her, “Your faith has made you well. Go into peace.” I want to reach out and touch Jesus; I want to walk into peace. Every step I take from now on is a step into peace.

This week, please pray with me for something crazy radical – pray that I’ll live in that paradox of hard work and amazing miracles. Pray that in the exhaustion that comes from that effort and hope that I will find my strength and energy from the Prince of Peace.

When I was an early teen, the Matrix sequels were a big deal. So much so, Ron Luce’s crew did a Matrix theme for Acquire the Fire the first year I went. I’ve never seen the second two Matrix movies, so I’m not sure how much came from those, but the whole “red pill/blue pill” thing was a big deal in the first movie and they made it into the “red door/blue door” at AtF. For those of you who might not remember the Matrix, the main characters discovered they lived in a world that just made them batteries to power someone else’s world. People who discovered this could choose to take a blue pill to forget everything and life a copper-top life of ignorance or they could take the red pill and leave the matrix to forever fight against the abuse of humans as fuel. Or something like that; I honestly don’t remember much, and it was a super complicated film.

So the AtF skits changed up the pills for doors because, you know, drugs are bad. At the conference, thousands of teenagers heard that when we left the arena we’d have to choose a door to go through – the red door or the blue door. If we walked through the blue door, we’d be able to forget about Jesus and live blissfully selfish lives; if we walked through the red door, we were choosing to follow Jesus. Somehow I left the arena, went home, and convinced my parents to let my paint my bedroom door red. For the rest of my teenage years, I had a physical reminder that I was walking through the red door each day.

The whole red pill/blue pill thing came to mind when I started reading Matched this week – the characters all carry three pills with them everywhere they go: green, blue, and red. No one knows what the red pill does – I haven’t finished yet, so I’m only guessing it has something to do with leaving the utopia for the unknown “Elsewhere” (I read The Giver for the first time this week, too; I’m on a bit of a dystopian kick). 

As I mused about the benefits of the red pill and the consequences Neo from The Matrix and Jonas from The Giver face when they choose to leave behind illusions in favor of unpleasant reality, I thought about my decision to walk through the red door, to take the red pill. I actually literally do take a red pill. Three times a day. I call it my “cranberry power pill” and if you know the benefits of cranberries on the body, you can guess what it’s for. It’s facing a harsh reality to take that pill and every other pill – a total of eleven and a half at six different times – each day.

In dystopian fiction, characters are often required to make a difficult and irrevocable decision about facing difficulty like John and Bernard in Brave New World or Guy in Fahrenheit 451. The decision I made to walk through the red door, take the red pill is irrevocable but totally worth it. Like the escaped prisoner from Plato’s cave, I want to share with everyone I meet about how wonderful life outside the shadows can be. 

I bring all this up here because I had a really wonderful talk with Jen last night about transition as I prepare to visit America for the first time this summer. For the first time as a disabled woman and for the first time as a career missionary. I made an irrevocable decision to follow Jesus, and it’s been an amazing journey so far. I thought I had great plans for my life, and his plans were far better. Obviously, I would love to have had a journey that involved fewer pills, but it’s still worth it and way better than the boring life I had in mind. I’m just over two months away from that plan ride to America, and I would love a couple more miracles before I land in DIA to meet my newest nephew on his first birthday. However, I’d also like to let you all know that I’m expecting a lot of physical challenges as I introduce myself to everyone I’ve met before as a newly disabled person; equally, I’m expecting emotional challenges as I explain the ever growing passion I have for the ministry I have here in Kandern and with my students. Some people just don’t get it, but at whatever level of understanding people have for my passion, I’m asking for partnership. This isn’t going to be a vacation for me this summer; it’s a business trip.

To stay long term, I need an increase in monthly partnerships of $500 by August. I am so grateful for the faithful giving and generosity of dozens of people already, and I hope you’ll pray with me that the funds will come in and allow me to continue to serve with TeachBeyond overseas. In June and July, I’ll be sharing with dozens of friends about the work I’ve been doing here and asking if they might sign up to be on that partnership team with me. If you feel like you want to be a part of that, you can sign up to give a one time gift or join my monthly team through this link: https://give.teachbeyond.org/support/lauras-journey/

The increased funds will pay for the co-pay on my pills, the uncovered medical equipment, and the uncovered ongoing physical therapy required to learn to walk. Those are all a consequence of that initial decision to take the metaphorical red pill, but one of the benefits of that choice is the connection I have with all of you readers and prayer warriors.

As a final note, dystopian fiction isn’t the only thing I read. I love all kinds of stories. I especially love red pill stories of major irrevocable life decisions – if you feel so inclined, I’d love to hear your own if you want to share it with me. You can comment or send them to me at mslhewett@gmail.com with the subject “Red Pill.” Like with the “Rip City” emails, I won’t reply, but they will certainly make me happy.

Things are constantly changing inside my body, and there are nerves growing millimeters a day with results that I can’t see yet. I haven’t posted here for a while because I was preparing for spring break then enjoying my first week of break, and I felt like I had no updates to offer here. 

I still really don’t have anything new to share about what’s going on with my body, but I hope you’re praying with me. I still want it all; I still crave holistic healing; I still struggle to sleep through the night and have to deal with external aids in mobility and basic functions. That feels like old news, but I hope you’ll hear it as new and remember me.

When I sat down to write this post, I realized there’s something else that sometimes feels like even older news that I think is much more important to hear as new again. There was this story that happened long ago where an innocent man was beaten and killed, and he took the pain and suffering willingly. He died a gruesome death on a Friday, and his friends and followers mourned all day Saturday before they discovered what all Harry Potter fans know: self sacrificing love conquers death. But better than Harry Potter, this story offers eternal healing. 

As Paul reflects in Philippians 3, I too am willing to give up everything on earth “because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,” fully aware that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body.”

Selfishly, I really don’t want to be forgotten, and I hope you’ll keep listening to my story of recovery. However, I also have to make clear that even deeper in my soul, I really don’t want this story to be about me. I want to be a subplot in Jesus’ story. I want to be a supporting character to the greatest hero ever.

If you’ve never heard his awesome story, there’s plenty of places around the world that will be talking about it tomorrow. I’ll be celebrating that story in the morning at the Anglican Church Basel, and if you’re in that city, I invite you to come. I know that my family in Denver will be celebrating it at the Embassy; if you’re in that city, I invite you to show up. My Westport family will be celebrating in Hillsboro, my parents with the family at Cedar Mill in Beaverton, my sister with brothers and sisters at Pulpit Rock Church.

Below, I’ve put the websites of these churches in case you are nearby. If you’re in another city and you have a place to go, could you share it in a comment (I’m looking at you, Dallas, TX; Raleigh, NC; Philadelphia, PA; and Naples, FL)? Based on my markers on the “Define catholic” post from last year, I know there are people around the world who are praying for me and might read this. There also might be some people in your city who read this and don’t have a service to go to yet.

 

Basel, Switzerland: http://basel.churchinsight.com/#&panel1-3 Denver, Colorado: www.theembassy.org Hillsboro, Oregon: www.westportchurch.org Beaverton, Oregon: www.cmbc.orgColorado Springs, Colorado: www.pulpitrock.com

Just like Queen, I want it now, too.

Sunday night at family group, we talked about prayer, and one of the adults asked me if the group could pray over me before we finished for the night. I will never turn down prayer. As he presented the idea to the group, he said, “I’m not sure what healing looks like.” That struck me pretty powerfully because that’s been something I’ve wrestled with over the past year. Someone asked what I’d like them to pray for specifically, and I responded, “I want it all.” I clarified that while I do want everything physical restored, I’m also not sure what healing looks like, but I know it’s more than physical. When I say I want it all, I mean physical, emotional, and spiritual healing of things that were broken even before my accident last January. 

My friend Carol was one of the people there who prayed over me in family group, and in her prayer she mentioned how after strangers prayed over me on New Years, I had a toe wiggle so she asked God that the people who knew me well – and Carol is one of the people here who knows me best – could invite healing of the things that need deeper healing. I walked to school with Carol this morning, and she asked if there had been any noticeable changes. “Nothing I can see,” I told her, “But I think there’re things I can’t see that are healing.”

We talked a little bit about how we were anticipating good things, and I added that I had been thinking about something a Bible professor presented in class years ago. When learning about Peter’s epistles, Dr. Hauff had explained that Peter was big on acting out your faith because being a Christian isn’t about waiting around for handouts. Of course God does miracles, but he delights in our faithfulness in the responsibilities we’ve got. I’ve got a responsibility to walk as much as my body will currently allow. I’ve got a responsibility to use the muscles I have, to stretch, and to push my limits in every natural way possible. Last Monday, I pushed my legs to a new limit by walking a whole kilometer without sitting down.

Take a moment to reread the last sentence; it was a doozy. Feel free to congratulate me on this new achievement. It’s a big marker for me, but far from the end of my journey. 

There is a fine balance to strike between hard work to earn natural rewards and anticipating supernatural leaps ahead of what I can do on my own. I wake up each morning hoping to wiggle every toe and flatten my feet on the floor; so far, that hasn’t happened, but I can now get my heels to touch the ground with my full body weight stretching my calves to a normal length and that single toe still strains against the stiffness each morning to answer the signals sent by my brain. I’ll keep working hard, and I’ll never stop anticipating miracles. 

My family group will be right there with me each step of the way – metaphorically and literally. As I reflected on all this with Carol this morning, Chris, who had asked to pray for me Sunday, came around the corner. He asked how I was doing, and I smiled, able to answer honestly that I was doing well this morning. My heart is grateful that I can walk to work even if I still need an escort to bring along my wheelchair. When my family group prayed over me, they also anointed me. Before putting oil on my hands and head, Jeff mentioned that the early church consistently anointed people for something. I was prayed over and, as we asked for my healing, anointed for my service here in Germany. This year, I get to teach an incredible group of students, and next year I get to teach Carol’s daughter, Chris’s twin sons, and Jeff’s daughter. These people have a personal interest in my anointing, and they want me fully – holistically – healed.

I usually ask for physical healing here, but I want it all. I’m coming clean; I want healing of the deepest unseen things. I don’t even know what all the broken parts of me are, but I’d ask you to pray with me for every part of me – the nerves, the muscles, the bones all alongside the heart, the hurt, and the soul that all crave restoration.

It’s amazing the way people rally around individuals in crisis. I saw it when I woke up from surgery over a year ago, and the city of Portland is witnessing it now after Wesley Matthews ruptured his Achilles tendon. Several days after, he posted a really honest reflection on his facebook that I really resonate with. He wrote “none of it felt real, and to be honest, it still doesn’t.” Sometimes I feel that way over a year later. I still have mornings where I wake up and expect to be able to move my legs normally. It hasn’t happened yet. They’re still stiff and spasing on me. I still have to set an extra alarm to take the muscle relaxants an hour before I get out of bed.

I also resonate with Wes at how encouraging it is to see hundreds if not thousands of people sending me their love and support. #WithWes shows all the people lamenting his injury and hoping for a swift recovery. I’m not a famous basketball star, but I’ve had countless people send me encouraging comments and continue to pray for me. I hope you’ll keep sending them – or even sending more emails in response to the Rip City post linked to the left. I’m so grateful for that. It really helps to know that people are still praying for me when I have that first alarm telling me to take the drugs that will settle down the annoying shaking in my legs. It’s a huge encouragement when people stop me in town to tell me they are still praying for me. It’s a blessing when people at church ask me about my progresses each week. 

The final statement that stuck out to me from Wes’s post was that his injury was “a challenge that will be nothing but another chapter in my story.” He’s out for the season, and it’s a huge hit to his career. I was out for a semester, and it was devastating to me to miss out on teaching my kids every day last spring. However, that time in REHAB was a chapter in my story. This continued recovery is a different chapter, but my life isn’t over because my legs don’t work right anymore. 

This current chapter of my live still involves a lot of therapy, a lot of hard work, and the blessing of teaching my students two hours a day. It’s an exciting chapter, different than any I’d ever though I’d live. I’m grateful for it, but I’m also realistic about the difficulties. It still takes a lot of effort to make it through each day with all the required stretching and moving and lesson planning necessary. I’m seeing small increases in stamina, but I’d like to have a lot more (as always). 

Thanks for still asking with me – for stamina, for strength, for nerve growth, and for muscle function.

Get ready for a long post. Maybe skip a few paragraphs if you’re in a rush. Like after the indented material perhaps. It’s been a while since I’ve had a Demon Hunter inspired post, and I was just preparing my lesson for next Monday comparing Demon Hunter lyrics to the Psalms, so I thought I’d reflect a little here on some of their songs and how they relate to my holistic recovery process. I was on the fan site where the band posts some background on the inspiration or meaning of each song. This is the content for the song “Incision” off their album Storm the Gates of Hell

Incision deals with putting people on a pedestal. Often times, people like to think of certain others as immovable or unfailing, and they look to these people for a perfect example at all times. No human, aside from Jesus, should ever be looked at in that way. That kind of thinking will only bring disappointment and confusion.

This song explores two different perspectives. The perspective of someone who has been disappointed by someone that they thought was supposed to live a perfect life, and that person who might have failed them. The pressure that may accumulate from a situation like this is bound to break a person. True hope should only be placed in Christ, and no man. Christ will never fail you. Man will always fail you.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. -Psalms 118: 8

This theme of people being unfairly or inappropriately idolized actually comes up in several songs, but I figured titling this post “Incision” was more of an eye catcher and might make you think I had another surgery or something. Just kidding. This is actually the song that pulled together that theme with a reference in the Psalms which was what I was searching for when I was lesson planning. 

So now to tell you how this theme and the Psalms fit into my week. This weekend was pretty awesome for me because I got to spend it with Tina, one of the most influential people in my life, who had a weekend off on a long business trip in Europe. Coffee dates with Tina (and Jen) have been a huge part of my spiritual formation. In fact, most people who’ve heard me tell the story of how I got to Germany know the process was set in motion after a coffee date with Tina and Jen where they challenged me to get uncomfortable and grow up (there was a little more nuance, but that was the gist of it). On Saturday, I showed Tina around my little village, and we stopped into the new coffee shop in town to share our hearts. It was a good day for my soul. One of the things I value most about my relationship with Tina (and Jen) is that they consistently challenge me to deepen my relationship with Jesus and live more like Jesus everyday. I never want to be satisfied with my spiritual walk, and these women are great role models for me in their constant pursuit and encouragement for me to strive for more as well. 

I’ve had several emails and skype calls with both Tina and Jen, but from the moment I confirmed I’d see Tina face to face, I knew I’d get a really good heart to heart about how I could grow next. One of the ways in which Tina challenged me was in sharing some of my fears and struggles here on my blog that I’ve kept hidden. I do try to be transparent with the masses who might read this, but it’s often hard for me to share the things that scare me most.

Reading the reflection on “Incision” tonight reminded me of what I shared with Tina about my fears of how people perceive me. I’m a representative of Christ with my actions, and I take that seriously, but I’m also still very much a flawed human who makes mistakes. You don’t need a laundry list of my sins, but you do need to be aware that if you put your hope in me, I will fail you (which happens to be the title of my favorite song of the newest Demon Hunter album that deals with the same theme).

I really genuinely am so grateful to testify about the miracles that I’ve received, and I’m equally desperate to have the rest of my physical health restored. Those emotions can coexist, and as they do, please remember that I’m no better than you because I choose to celebrate my successes louder (or more publicly) than I lament my losses. 

If you put me on a pedestal, I’m bound to fall off – balance is not my strong suit these days. I’m ready to topple at any moment, so make sure you set me somewhere secure, somewhere where you can hold on to me, like right next to you. That’s where Tina has me – which is another reason she and Jen are so influential in my life. They have walked alongside me in my faith journey as I walk alongside them. I know they are far from perfect – Jen is a huge Ducks fan – and they share the good and the bad with me so I can be encouraged as they see all sides of me.

I’ll try to be better about letting you know the downs alongside the ups – for example, after I walked without the left stick for those two days I wrote about last time, I was sore above my right hip all week. I’ve spent extra time in bed with a heating pad to try to ease the pain. I can still feel the tightness, and I’ve had to work with my therapists to loosen the muscles back, so I’ve held off on trying that cool trick again for a while. I’ll be honest, it feels like – no, it is – a set back, and I don’t like that. However, it’s where I’m at. 

As a side note, I’ve been teaching my students not to go mining for metaphors in biblical metaphors because that’s someone’s life you’re messing with. Don’t go digging for deeper meaning in my set backs, please. Instead, just join with me in praising God for what I’ve already got and begging for the rest back. Today, one of my students asked if he could pray over me later this week. It’s just a coincidence he’s one of the biggest Demon Hunter fans in the school other than me. We’ll meet for lunch tomorrow and like the song “Through the Black” says to God, “I’ll scream your name til you come back” because our faithful God is there for those who call on him. Will you join with me in my cry this week as I beg God for more function? I’m hopeful for the return of internal functions and new muscle movements. I don’t deserve anything back, but I’m still going to ask, expect, and celebrate the God who gave me the opportunity to teach my students about the Psalms by incorporating Demon Hunter music into my lessons.

Incision: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBrNh6Y9Sw0

I Will Fail You: http://youtu.be/ni5mIBdNW2w

Ryan Clark Interview about I Will Fail You: http://youtu.be/KpBFJdgZBb0

Through the Black: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EQsDyTFdER4

Last week I was thinking how I didn’t seem to have any new developments to share here, and I was a little disheartened. I want to tell you all what great progress I’m making, but sometimes I go long stretches with no visible progress. And that’s okay. Monday, a friend came over to have tea, and she shared an anecdote about a someone who was practicing lifting a weight with a single finger every day for weeks and couldn’t ever get more than a dozen or so reps until one day he suddenly was able to get over thirty. We talked about how this fit with my recovery as I still have to faithfully go through the motions of my therapies and daily routine consistently hoping for more but occasionally stuck in a run of no improvements. 

“I’m ready for my breakthrough!” I joked with a different friend the next day. However, Helen had also shared with me on Monday the context for the anecdote was about how our God is not one to grant instant gratification. I don’t get to demand results just because I’m ready for them. I still have to be faithful – even if that means wandering for forty years to get a glimpse of the Promised Land. With that in mind, I faithfully walked to school with Carol on Tuesday, and I put as little weight on my sticks as possible as we made our way down the slight incline to school. I managed a single step without any weight at all on the left stick. “Hey, look,” I told Carol as I tried keeping the left stick in the air while I stepped with the right foot. I took a few more steps using the sticks before trying it again. It was a huge accomplishment to manage three steps total on the way to school keeping the stick in the air.

Wednesday I was walking with Crystal, and I thought I’d try it again. “Watch this,” I said, and I took about a dozen steps keeping the left stick in the air the whole time. I had no idea I could go more than one consecutive step like that, and Crystal and I were both still speechless when I made it to my office. With that boost of confidence, I decided to try something one level harder – I left my wheelchair at home when I went to work. I met up with Hanna and Faith as I made my way to school, and I excitedly told them, “Check out what I can do,” and started to walk keeping the left stick in the air, “One, two, three,” I counted all the way up to ten steps on the left foot – I’m pretty sure nearly double the steps taken yesterday. I told them I’d tried just a few yesterday but hadn’t counted.

I’d messaged my best friends back in the States last night to tell them this awesome news, and one replied, “I can just picture it! That stick dangling like an awkward penguin wing with no purpose.” I love that image. I’ve got these mobility aids that are decreasing in necessity. I do still need them, but there just might come a day when I can walk without dangling these penguin wings with no purpose. 

Yesterday, one of my coworkers commented, “I know it’s tough to be at work on your birthday,” as he added a gift to another sitting on my desk. 

“Anything’s better than rehab,” I was quick to reply.

I really did have an incredible birthday last year, but the beginning of a long term hospitalization is no way to choose to spend your birthday. I was so blessed by the hundreds of people around the world praying for me last year, and I continue to be blessed by all of you who have not forgotten me in this long process of healing and recovery. I was also much happier to spend the day teaching than in rehab. I love my students, so that was a hands down improvement.

I also had the joy of another landmark in physical therapy. Yesterday, Anja had me warm up on the treadmill again before trying out a pair of standard forearm crutches. I had a healthy amount of terror as Anja followed closely behind me while I made my way around the large therapy room. At first, as I wobbled forwards, my mind filled with doubts that I’d never be able to manage this on my own. I had to quickly remind myself that the first time I walked through parallel bars, I needed three therapists to help me; I felt a similar terror that I’d never manage to walk with the rollator or sticks I have now when I first tried them. Anja told me that I just needed more time practicing with them to feel safe.

Exhausted from the hard work at therapy, I returned home to eat some dinner and bake some brownies. I had just a handful of friends come over to my tiny apartment to laugh with me and pray with me. We had some homemade gluhwein with my brownies before playing a round of Apples to Apples and spending time in prayer for the requests I wrote last week. I eagerly anticipate the good gifts God will give me this coming year.

We started a new semester at BFA on Monday, so today I was teaching a new group of juniors about biblical manuscripts and translations. One student asked me why we would choose to translate the Bible into so many languages when the Muslims believed it was sinful to translate the Koran because it risked skewing and misinterpreting the words of Allah. My response was that we are so excited to share the Gospel – the Good News – that we want to reach everyone with it and learning ancient Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew might be a stumbling block to them. It’s such a human response to want to share good news. As Christians, we are desperate to share the good news that Yahweh made a way to restore relationship with us that we have broken through our selfishness. We are so excited to share that message, that we will translate it into every language we can – we’re still in the process.

Personally, this week, I’ve been so excited to share good news about my recovery with others. Yesterday I had the joy of walking into the office of my surgeon to tell her that my toe wiggles every morning. Her grin matched mine as I made my way down the long hallway to where she waited. We looked at my x-rays together, and she told me they looked great, and she saw no reason to need to operate again. I have the option to keep my titanium in if I want – and who would want to lose the ability to literally sing, “I am titanium!” (I kid you not, I’m listening to a mashup of that song right now, and I sing it with so much more conviction than the recording artist.) At this point, I’m pleased with the thought of not needing a second operation, not needing subsequent hospitalization, not even needing more x-rays in the foreseeable future.

I also had the joy of sharing with two of my students on Monday the news of my toe wiggle for them to pass on to their respective brothers – the two young guys who prayed for me on New Years. After my therapy Friday, I shared with my friend driving that it was the first time I had been able to release both my hands from their grip on the saddle and swing them both naturally by my sides. Just tonight I was able to walk on a treadmill without stopping for five minutes – and I wasn’t even hooked up to any harness to take my weight. I have so much good news to share, and I want to take a moment to celebrate it.

The moment can’t last forever though, because there’s still lots of life left to be lived. I’ve still got a long road ahead in my recovery, and still a lot of function is missing. My surgeon, therapists, and I are all still hopeful for nerve regeneration in the coming year – even months, weeks, or days would be awesome. In the meantime, I’ll keep working hard to take care of what I have because it’s a precious gift that shouldn’t be treated lightly. Our bodies are beautiful systems, as I’ve learned through this past year, and they are not invincible. My dad is learning a similar lesson as he currently rests hooked up to heart monitors awaiting bypass surgery on Monday after a heart attack on Friday.

I’m grateful for your continued prayers for me and for my family this week. My dad’s surgery is just two days before my birthday. It’s already shaping up to be quite the year, but I hope you’ll continue to praise God for the good news and praise God for his faithfulness even in the difficult news.

In order to end on a lighter note, I’ve just created the Facebook event for this year’s birthday goodness. I was so blessed to be able to see people join globally to pray for me, that I’d like to do it again. Feel free to find the event “Better than a Super Birthday Bowl II” on Facebook and join. I’ve posted five prayer requests below that I’m asking people to continue to lift up, but specifically to find a moment to gather with others if possible next Wednesday, February 4, and pray through them.

1. Praise the Lord for the miracles I’ve experienced so far: learning to take steps with braces and walking sticks, increased strength in my quads, movement in my glutes, wiggling my toe, and so many more.

2. Praise the Lord for the chance to return to work and do what I love most – teach. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be back in the classroom where I am most at home.

3. Praise the Lord I have a home, and that I’ve been able to stay here independently with the help of friends in this community who help me regularly whenever I’m in the slightest bit of need. I’ve never been alone in this recovery.

4. Please ask for return of function – specifically for return of all bathroom function. I would love to walk without braces or crutches, and I would specifically love to stop taking three different medications and paying for dozens of sterile items currently necessary multiple times a day because of a single lack of function.

5. Please ask for God to be glorified. This request is unchanged since the moment of my accident. I’m so happy to hear of the ways in which people have seen God glorified already, and I fervently pray that his name is made more famous as my story unfolds.

People are born every day, but you choose to mark the days that are connected with people you care about. One of the people I care about is my friend Hanna. Her birthday is January 18th, and last year, she wanted to go rock climbing in the morning and to dinner in Freiburg in the evening. I messed up her plans a little bit by falling from the top of the rock wall and hijacking the rest of the day.

For better or for worse, we share this day now. I’ll forever be connected to Hanna because her birthday is my traumaversary. I mark this day each year as the day that my life changed forever, the day I lost the ability to walk, the day ripped my from my classroom for a semester, the day that brought me closer to Jesus than I’d ever been.

A year later, I’ve miraculously recovered a lot of movement and sensation though I’m still far from restored. I still use a wheelchair most of the time, and I still need loads of medical equipment and medication that I’d rather not. There’s a fine line between celebrating the healing that has happened and grieving over what function has not yet returned. I don’t know where to fall some days; neither do you. Every day has highs and lows, triumphs and trials, and I want to very clearly acknowledge both. I don’t need anyone to remind me of the odds that were against me ever walking again; I know them well. I also don’t need any reminders of how much I’m left without since my accident; I can’t forget it.

This is part of who I am, and I’m not ashamed of it by any means, but I don’t fully understand it myself. It’s new territory for me still. I’ve only been paralyzed one time every day of the earth’s orbit around the sun. I’ve been un-paralyzed for 24 previous rotations. I need a little more time to make sense of this new way of life. I also know that there’s still miraculous healing to come. Most of you read or heard about my toe wiggle just a couple weeks ago. I am not ready to be comfortable with where I am because it’s not where I’ll remain.

I’ve kinda made a mantra of “comfort is overrated” because that’s become so true for me the past couple years. I needed to get outside my comfort zone when I moved from my Shire-like Hillsboro, Oregon to this Shire-like Kandern community (not the Mordor you were expecting). I needed to get uncomfortable through the personal space invasion of hospital care to learn about dependence on others (much more Mordor-like). I’m still not comfortable, and I’m okay with that. If I get comfortable, I’ll get stagnant as a person, and I never want that.

I constantly want to be growing, deepening who I am. Moving to Germany was a big part of that, and recovering from my accident continues to shape me in powerful ways. My story isn’t over yet. I know the last page – and there’s excitement in what’s to come – but there’s a whole adventure between me and the end that I don’t yet know. I have a lot of autonomy in the way that I join with the Author of my story to get to the end, and a lesson I learned long ago is that I intend to live deliberately. In fact, years ago, I taped a note to my desk for me to remember every day “I intend to live deliberately.” I was terrified of being like Edna from The Awakening and just letting life happen to me, so I made a solemn vow to be an active participate in my own life. 

All that being said, I’m still figuring out how to respond well to all this crazy crap in my life. I’m facing each day without any instruction manual on how to live as a teacher paralyzed in her mid twenties. I have nothing to give you other than my gratitude for reading this and continuing to care and pray. I have no reason to expect anything from you, and yet, I still beg of you to join with me in repeating the requests I told my dad before surgery a year ago: Pray that God is glorified. Oh, and it’d be nice if I could walk again, too.

I’ll try to keep this short and sweet as next week I’ll be sure to give a long reflective update (check your calendars for the reason why). Owl City recently released a cover of a great Rich Mullins song, and I’ve been listening to it on repeat the last two or three days. The chorus is as follows: 

So if I stand let me stand on the promise That you will pull me through And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace That first brought me to You And if I sing let me sing for the joy That has born in me these songs And if I weep let it be as a man Who is longing for his home

I’m not a man, but back in the 90s when this song was written, the word was more inclusive, so I embrace all the lyrics. Some days I stand; some days I can’t. Some days I sing and weep at the same time. I still long for healing; I still long for home.

A friend at church this morning asked me how I was doing with the big day coming up in a week. I said I didn’t know. I really don’t. I expected to be further along by now; I expect more every morning. Several people came up to me after church to encourage me, and one of them was a man who had a stroke eight years ago. He spent nearly a year in the same facility I did though a different unit. He told me never give up.

I never will.

I have less than I expected, but I won’t stop expecting. This last week I’ve had a rough time sleeping and my muscles feel more stiff and achey, but I still get out of bed each morning and work as hard as I can to make it through each day well. I’ve still wiggled my toe every morning since I first discovered that new ability. There is still more to come, and I’ll never stop expecting. Please pray with me as I anticipate miracles each morning and as I stand, sit, sing, and weep as needed each day and with the right attitude. 

What makes a miracle Christmasy? My mom asked that question a few days ago. It’s a great question. The whole point if Christmas is to bring attention to Christ, so I’m all about claiming my personal miracles as Christmas miracles. For example, what happened to me on New Year’s Day. Let me back up to almost midnight to tell you the whole story. Buckle up, it’s a long one (but so freaking worth it).

The unsuspecting Germans here love to set off rockets all over town just after midnight on New Years, and it’s brighter and louder than the Fourth of July in the heartland of America. Lots of North Americans enjoy setting things on fire, so many people connected with BFA living or visiting here are among the Germans in the square. I was parked in my chair in a safe corner of the town square next to my friends Johanna and Rachel. Rachel has been on crutches for about a month. The three of us were a safe distance from the biggest rockets but still in the thick of the smoke. Two young guys walked up to us just minutes after midnight, coming around the side to talk to Rachel.

“We noticed you walking on crutches,” they told her, “Would you mind if we prayed for you?”

I laughed.

I laughed a little to myself, a little to Jo, and once they’d finished praying over Rachel, a little with her. I love this small town. I’ve had multiple people come up to me and ask to pray for me or tell me they have been praying for me. It’s a great encouragement. Rachel deserves that just as much as I do. I laughed because it was the first time I’d been passed up for the primary attention for prayer. I’m not the center of the prayer universe, and I love it. God is. They prayed to God for Rachel’s healing. I asked if I could share it because I loved it and also found it amusing that I was passed over for prayer.

Well, the joke was on me because the guys stuck close by and waited a few minutes to ask me if they could pray for me as well. I’ll never turn down prayer. Those of you who have followed all year know that pre-surgery, I asked my dad to pray that God would be glorified and walking again was an afterthought in light of that. Any time someone lifts me up in prayer, they are drawing attention to God. I’m all for that.

These two guys – an alumnus of BFA and the brother of a current staff member – laid hands on my ankles and on my back and begged the Lord to heal me. They left me with some encouraging words and a random request. “I know this might sound strange,” one told me, “But when you go home, try to wiggle your toes. I’m not really sure why, but I feel like I just need to tell you that.” 

“I will,” I promised. I do that every night. And every morning. But I didn’t tell him that. I’ve tried to wiggle my toes every day for 347 days. My toes spasm with the rest of my lower half, but I had not had any control over any movement below my knees in almost a year. Back in REHAB, Alex told me to keep trying to move my feet every day. She said it might not happen if I tried, but it definitely wouldn’t happen if I didn’t try. As I tucked myself into bed after the midnight madness, I went through the normal nightly routine and tried to wiggle my toes. 

As usual, nothing happened, but I thanked God for the chance to share my story with these guys and have them pray for me. My God is still a healer, and I’ll never stop asking for more.

I woke up January 1, transferred from my bed to my chair, hobbled into the bathroom, mucked about with the still necessary machinery there, and took a shower, awkwardly gripping my lower legs and washing them carefully. As I dried off my right foot, careful to get between each toe, I made my morning attempt at wiggling the digits. One moved. With my mind. I stared dumbly. Not sure if it was an eerily timed spasm, I tried it again. The second toe moved. As I moved it. My jaw dropped.

I tried it again.

It still moved as I made it.

A strangled sob rushed out.

I finished drying off and got out of the shower. I still had to hobble to the wheelchair, and stayed in the wheelchair the rest of the day. I’m not walking around as before my accident, but I moved my toe on my own for the first time in 347 days. That’s a high that won’t easily wear off. My parents arrived a little later in the morning and I quickly whipped my shoe and sock off to show them what I had discovered in the morning. It took a little longer because, it seems, my toe has a hard time responding in the cold, but, eventually, the motion came when I wanted it to.

Every teacher dreams of snow days, and I’ve always been delighted by the delicate flakes wafting down. My old roommate and I got into some heated discussions over the cold precipitation years ago, but I’m starting to see her perspective. Cat used to call – well, still calls – snow “frozen evil falling from the sky.” I couldn’t understand how someone could question the innocence and joy inducing quality of snow, but now, wheelchair bound, I totally get it.

Don’t get me wrong, I still am delighted by snow. I think it’s beautiful. However, I’m trapped in my house today because I can’t wheel in the three inch drifts covering my neighborhood. I can’t walk by myself because of the added danger the powdery white wonder leaves for my uncertain feet and crutches. I mourn the loss of my childlike glee at dancing in the snow, but I refuse to surrender the childlike glee completely. 

I still want snow days – but I also want to play in the snow again someday. I’m not able to get far in it this year, but I’m still hopeful for a snow day in my future where I can make a snow angel with no fear of whether or not I can stand up again on my own after. I haven’t seen any significant physical progress in the last days to merit this audacious wish, but I’ve seen a miracle over the last year when I was told I only had a 1% chance of walking. I’m still healing; I’m still hoping.

Teachers never stop hoping for snow days.

Long before my friend Juliann was a Texan, she encouraged me to write creatively. I got to skype with her yesterday, and was updating her on my Wednesday evening adventure. She told me to share it with the world, and I promised to do my best to make it as enjoyable to read as possible. It was a potentially horrific moment that I choose to see as comical. Know in advance, I’m alive and well and laughing about it.

I’m a sucker for good Mexican food, and there’s a delightful little taco truck about an hour drive away from Kandern that’s only open twice a week from mid-morning until they run out of ingredients. I’d planned to caravan up there with my parents and one of my co-workers with his family on Wednesday before hitting up the Christmas markets nearby. We’re far enough north on the globe, that it gets dark pretty early here, so even though it was still late afternoon, the thick cloud cover and heavy rain combined with our axis away from the sun made it pretty dark by the time we arrived at the market with the renowned Mexican food cart. Chris came up to our car to say that his wife and kids were going to wait to eat until the markets, but my parents unloaded my wheelchair and we prepared to cross the street and get our fill of taco goodness.

I’m still relatively new to the whole wheelchair maneuvering system, and I find the rain rather hard to navigate in with the wet handholds. I told Chris this might be his only chance to ever push me since I’m generally adept on my own. I was so eager for the Mexican food, I neglected to go over the safety procedures with Chris. Really, there’s just one rule to pushing me: when we get to a bump, let me pop a wheelie for my little wheels to get over it then keep going. It’s usually not a big deal, and when we found our way to the center of the market and food carts, I managed to pop over the power cords with no problem. The greatest devastation was that the Holy Taco Shack (that’s the actual name) had apparently already run out of food and left for the evening. We turned around and headed back to our car. The rain was still coming down steadily, and the second most disappointed part of this story (after the lack of Mexican food) is that this next part was not well lit for the impending comedy.

Chris got me into the street, and we somewhat simultaneously realized there was a car coming closer than comfortable, so he sped up to reach the other side. There wasn’t a high curb, but a couple centimeters separated the street from the sidewalk. As we rapidly approached, I didn’t have time to tell Chris the rule, but I got myself ready to pop the front wheels up for him to keep moving me forward. He saw the bump, and realizing the little wheels needed to come up but not knowing my system, he went to tip my chair backwards.

The opposing forces launched me into the air.

For a brief moment, I was soaring. My hands flew out to catch me, and the saddest part about being the person flying for a few seconds was that I couldn’t watch from the outside. Imagine how absolutely hilarious it would look to see a person literally launched from a wheelchair into the air. My soaring was brief, though, and I tumbled onto soaking wet concrete which was less than pleasant though not unbearable. Remember, I’ve broken two vertebrae – the pain I experienced at that was the greatest I’ve ever endured. This was just a scraped knee. 

Wet and without Mexican food, I was more ready for a warm bed than Christmas markets after the ordeal, so my parents and I turned around and let Chris’s family enjoy the festivities sans wheelie.

My knee is totally fine. I’m still recovering from those broken vertebrae though. Please keep praying the nerves find their way back to each other and remember how to send messages correctly. Also, I’m going to have a quesadilla for lunch. With lots of jalepenos. Delicious.

Last Christmas break, I spent a couple days where I actually did nothing other than read and eat. In REHAB, I realized I’d never get another day like that. I have to put a lot of effort to maintain my level of recovery or my muscles will atrophy again. Even a single day off can make a difference, though sometimes I need a day with less.

Today was my first day of break, and I didn’t push myself to any new limits, but I worked hard to get out of bed, shower, clean my apartment, do some laundry, and go to the grocery store. I’ve got three weeks ahead of me, and none of them will be just reading and eating – they will all involve much more activity than that, and hopefully I’ll break lots of records in the coming weeks to update you with. 

I’ve been home for about an hour pondering what to write here. I know you’re all waiting for an update on my urologist appointment, and I want to oblige. However, there’s a lot of unprocessed emotions that come along with this appointment, and I’m not sure what to tell you. Big picture in my recovery, on the surface, things look pretty great (all things considered), but underneath, inside, things are still a mess. My nerves are still confused on how to send messaged and complete certain functions. I thought they were getting a little better, but the doctor told me today that’s not the case.

It turns out what I thought was a step towards natural function is actually still nerve damage, and if I let it continue, it could cause kidney problems down the road. The doctor prescribed an increase in medication to protect all the systems under the surface which also increases the uncomfortable side effects of the medication. She emphasized that I was way better than when she saw me in August, but that I wasn’t regaining natural function.

That’s pretty hard to hear, but I also know my body is still changing and healing. I’m still not willing to give up. I’m begging God for another miracle – I still want to be healed. I still want you all to beg with me. In the mean time, I’ll up my meds and continue with the safest methods of taking care of my systems. Don’t ask me how I’m feeling on this one because I’m still not sure.

I’m just past ten months in to this new life of nerve damage and muscle spasms. I still have lots of moments through the day when I forget I’m paralyzed, and part of me hopes I’ll never get used to it as I continue to recover. I’m still way too early in this process to settle in to a routine. And yet, part of life demands it. I have to take my medication at each of my six alarms; I have to get out of bed each morning; I have to teach my class every day. Well, I get to. I have the privilege of each of those routines. I also have the privilege of a few less regular activities. I get to have conversations with students about the Holy Spirit; I get to read my friend’s grad school application; I get to make Indian food in my kitchen with a British guy and a Swiss woman who drove across an international border to see me (full disclosure: it was like a half hour drive but sounds more impressive when I mention they went to a different country). Jo and Lydia came to visit last week, and their company reminded me that I’m so blessed in this recovery. I have an incredible support system that has lasted ten months with no signs of weakness. There is still a lot of recovery left, and I’m grateful for all of you still encouraging me – sending me emails and leaving comments – almost a year after this life changing event. Another routine I have is medical check ups. I have a routine appointment with my urologist next week, and I’m hopeful for some signs of improvement to come in that department. I’d be really grateful if you’d join with me in the prayers for this particular routine that is the most complicated and difficult to adjust to.

My last update was a bit of a downer, and I try to be honest about my emotions on this blog. Honestly, I’m so blessed in my life. I really do feel overwhelmed with insurance and physically uncomfortable due to muscle spasms and stiffness, but that’s not my whole life. I don’t want you to think my life is all roses and chocolate chips (particularly because this country does not have chocolate chips), but I want you to know that those difficulties I face are not the end game. 

I’m still finding great successes in my recovery, and I want to celebrate them. I got to ride Jana again this Friday, and Candy graciously snapped a couple photos of me on the horse as my therapist helped my legs find the right rhythm as we walked in the crisp fall sun. While most of my attention was focused on keeping my back straight and holding my legs with what hip muscles I have control of, I had a moment or two to enjoy the absolute majesty of the German countryside that I could observe from the back of this beautiful beast I was riding. I’m grateful for that.

It was only half an hour of horseback magnificence, but I’m grateful for it. I’ve had countless hours of insurance frustration, and plenty more to come, but they won’t diminish the joys I have in life. I’ve also had loads of inner turmoil thanks to bacteria at war with my body, but I won’t let that diminish the conversation I had with the sweet student I had lunch with on Friday or the two who came for tea on Thursday.

I’m still begging God to heal me so that I need less medical intervention to complete necessary bodily functions, but I’m also praising him for the gifts of people who can help me heal well and a job that gives me eternal satisfaction.

There is a lot of personal information about me on the internet, and I don’t really feel like I have a lot to hide, but I still try to have some sense of decency and decorum when posting updates here. I’ve hit a huge snag in the insurance part of my recovery process though, and I hope you’ll have the grace to let me keep quiet all the dirty (or in this case sterile and disinfected) details and be satisfied just to hear that my insurance is wanting me to pay for necessary medical equipment that totals hundreds of dollars a month. These are far from luxury items, and it’s not a matter of choosing not to use them. They are absolutely necessary. Every day. Multiple times a day.

I’ve been in the appeal process for weeks, and it’s looking a little more grim this gray, overcast evening in Germany.

Due to the disheartening news I received today, I’d like to bring three specific prayer requests before you. First, beg the Lord with me for miraculous healing of the systems that have lost function which require all this medical equipment to begin with. Pray that I won’t need it at all any more. Second, as I wait for the healing to happen, pray that people would join with me to cover the costs as I front the bill for these items each week at the pharmacy. Third, pray that the insurance would reconsider their decision. I believe they have mis-categorized them in order to avoid payment, but I also believe that this equipment should, in fact, be covered under my plan.

As you pray for the second request, and perhaps realize you might be able to partner with me financially, please consider a tax deductible donation to my account through this link:

https://give.teachbeyond.org/support/lauras-journey/

Hippos are my favorite animal. My little Ellie back in the States drew me a picture of one which hung in my room and was one of the few drawings I brought with me to Germany; she also always remembers to take pictures of the hippos at the zoo when she visits so she can show them to me. One Christmas season, I sang “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” too many times and my parents decided to inundate me with Christmas hippos (perhaps so I’d never sing the song again…). I honestly can’t tell you where my delight with hippos came from, but I’m even more delighted with words and their origins. 

The word hippopotamus comes from the Greek for river horse. Hippos means horse. English uses the term hippotherapy to refer to special therapy with a horse. It was actually brought to English speaking countries from where it was originally developed as hippotherapie in German speaking countries.

My current physical therapist does hippotherapie once a week, and she’d asked me a while ago if I’d be interested. Before I could go, we had to work to strengthen my core and balance which I’ve been doing the past few months. This last Friday, the therapists told me I could come watch a session and decide if I wanted to try it next week.

I showed up prepared to watch another patient ride a horse, but when I got out of the car, my therapist (in German) asked me if I was ready to ride. “Heute?” I asked, unprepared for the opportunity to ride that day. “Ja,” she confirmed. I smiled and nodded my agreement. Frau Neubert got on the horse and demonstrated what she wanted me to do before letting me on. With a little help, I managed to settle myself in the saddle, and Frau Neubert kept her hand on my leg, moving muscles and calming leg spasms, as another woman led Jana, the patient horse, around an indoor arena. 

For at least the first three rounds, I could not stop grinning. I was so delighted that I was able to hold myself on the horse with my limited leg muscle strength and function. I was overjoyed that I had the core strength to hold myself upright and balanced in the saddle. I was ecstatic that I felt safe in the dynamic environment and was able to get a new and necessary workout for my core, hips, and thighs. After several rounds, I certainly felt the strain, but I was still so happy to be on the horse and working hard. When I finally dismounted, Frau Neubert told me that I could come back every Friday and keep working with the horse. I can’t wait to see what major improvements come with this new type of therapy. 

I’ll never stop asking for more.

I’ve already received more healing than the doctors ever anticipated, and I give God all the credit. I’m a walking miracle right now, but I want to give him more praise as he continues to heal me. I want to wiggle my toes in the sand again someday; I want to hear the satisfying smack of flip-flops on my feet in the summer; I want to feel the cold in my feet after a winter walk and stamp the snow off without the fear of falling over. I want it all. I want it all, and I believe my heavenly Father delights in giving good gifts.

I just submitted the last late assignment for my first quarter grades, and it’s a little disheartening when your Bible students submit work copied off the internet for their quarter project, but it gave me reason to think about my own recovery. I had a super intelligent student realize that he’d slacked off too much in my class the last week of the quarter and had a D when he should have had an A. In an attempt to boost his score just a tiny bit, he handed in the quarter project a week late and barely half completed. The assignment wasn’t remotely what it should have been, and a simple Google search produced a paragraph he’d quickly copied down hoping to get points for – unfortunately for him the paragraph didn’t even fit the requirements for this project. 

When I had my accident in January, the doctors told me that I’d have two years to anticipate healing though most would happen in the first three months. I was so disheartened when the three month mark came and passed without me walking around consistently or even being able to move my feet at all. I was so desperate to put in more accomplishments in the first quarter of healing that I didn’t really care to think big picture – beyond two years, outside the score card of healing. I often times want to find improvements each week to list here to celebrate with everyone praying for me, but sometimes it’s not about the improved grades; it’s about the consistent effort and valuable learning.

The quarter project I assigned my students was graded, yes, but the goal was to get them interested in reading the Bible well. This kid failed to learn that. My quarter or semester marks of healing are just as arbitrary as the grade I give my students. I’m not where I want to be – I’m closer to a D than an A right now when it comes to moving my feet on my own – but the goal is learning to live well. I can still learn to live well without a grade for moving my feet. 

I’m hopeful my kids score well on assignments, but I’m more concerned with the lifelong learning. I’m hopeful that I’ll regain nerve function – and I’ll never stop praying for it or asking you to pray for me – but I’m more concerned with living a life that glorifies God.

I spent a few minutes trying to come up with a clever title alluding to Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” because I went for my first walk alone this afternoon, but the title wasn’t working. I decided just to break out the good news in the first sentence.

This past week I’ve been building confidence in my ability to walk without needing to sit down – well, to be honest, that’s been more than a week in the making. I know I can walk for a while now, but I always have someone with the wheelchair for safety. I have been able to get two decent walks in a day during the week, but weekends have been less productive for my muscles. I decided today was the day to change that. I live near the bus stop in town (it’s out my bedroom window), so I walked out my front door and around the side of my house to the bench at the bus stop to see how I was feeling. I felt excellent. I kept going a few more minutes down the street before turning around and returning to my house. In all, I walked about thirty minutes, which is roughly the amount of time I need to make it to school.

I’ll still have someone walk with me to school for safety when I need to be somewhere and to bring my chair for me to have at work, but I love the freedom that I have to know I can walk out my door without the chair or someone beside me. I’m so grateful for this new milestone in my recovery – there are still a lot more to come. Maybe at a future milestone I’ll come up with a clever Green Day title about how this is the time of my life – it’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right.

My friend Q is a brilliant writer, and that title came from her. She recently posted on her Facebook a reflection on her struggles and concluded with the idea that she needed to remember to take life ten minutes at a time. This is a lesson she’s been living for eight years, and I’ve just joined in nine months ago.

Yesterday was the nine month mark for me, but I’m doing my best to make it through the next ten minutes. I made it through the last ten minutes, and that’s a success worth celebrating for me. Looking ahead to the next nine months is far too overwhelming for me. I certainly have goals I’d like to reach, but the expansive unknown future of my recovery is terrifying. I’m much more capable of taking it ten minutes at at time. The most important thing, however, that Q pointed out is that those ten minutes stacked up into nine months or eight years are not ten minutes I’m making alone. I’ve got that whole indwelling thing going on, and Jesus isn’t going to leave me for a single second of the expansive future. 

He knit me together in my mother’s womb, and he continues to knit my nerves back to what they were created to be. I’m hopeful for more nerve regeneration this week to restore functions that I’ve been missing the last nine months. Please pray with me that systems will return and allow me to keep infections and stiffness away. Along with that, I hope you’ll join me in praising God that whether or not I regain functions I once had, he will never leave me nor forsake me.

My dad is a morning person; my mom is the furthest thing from it. I take after my mother.

I’ve never liked mornings, and they are all the more difficult for me now. Each morning my first medication alarm goes off to tell me to take the muscle relaxant an hour before I get out of bed and take more medications. The first alarm doesn’t require a lot of conscious thought, but when the second alarm goes off, I have to remember that my feet don’t move on their own, that my hip and leg muscles have stiffened up again through the night, and I have to fight to get them to move to even roll over and get out of bed.

Each morning, my disability fights through the grogginess to remind me that I’m physically different now than I was before, and just transferring from my bed to my wheelchair takes incredible effort. Each morning, I have the choice to fight the disability or just lay in my bed like a vegetable and die. So far, I’ve chosen the former each morning, but it’s not an easy choice. It’s tough to make my left hip remember how to bend and lift my leg; it’s tough to force my heels to touch the floor as I put my shoes on. 

Some of these tasks are getting easier, but I can’t emphasize enough how difficult this routine still is. Even if I were a morning person, it’s a brutal battle each day to get ready and look presentable for society. I’m not satisfied with turning into a vegetable, so I’ll keep fighting, but I’m so grateful for the continued prayers that this fight will get easier. Right now, I’m working with my therapists to learn to sit and stand using the correct muscles as well as to use those same muscles correctly when I bend at the hip to lift my leg when taking a step. It’s a simple motion for most of you that has become incredibly complex for me as these muscles are so atrophied from lack of use. 

This is the muscle I struggle with the most each morning as I lift my left leg. Every single day I work to strengthen this muscle, and every single morning I feel like I’m back to square one. It’s a monotonous routine, but I won’t give up. I won’t give up because if I did, I would miss out on seeing my students, on interacting with these incredible teenagers at BFA, and on teaching something I’m so passionate about. I’m blessed beyond reason to get to teach what I love to students I love, and it makes every morning worth it. Praise God I have this wonderful job, but please join with me in prayer that I don’t have to fight my body so much to get to work each morning.

This Friday Germany celebrated unification day, so there were no classes for any of our students. All of my juniors had packed up Thursday night for a long field trip to Normandy ending Sunday night in Paris. The school graciously allows them Monday to recover from the sleep deprivation which meant I had a long weekend with time for adventure as well as prep before the students’ return tomorrow.

Four days without classes gave me enough down time to rest as well as adventure a little. I spent Friday in France with Carol getting some suitable teaching clothes and a pair of heavy winter boots that my braces can fit into. Saturday Carol let me tag along with her family to a suburb of Freiburg to get some delicious Mexican food from a taco cart. Good Mexican food is much harder to come by in Germany than in America. Having the extra days off also gave me the energy storage needed to make it back to my church in Basel for the first time since before my accident. It’s almost a four hour outing including all the drive time, and I am carefully guarding my time on the weekends to rest and reenergize for the week. However, I’ve missed the opportunity to gather with these brothers and sisters, and I was so thankful to make it back this week in particular. After the service, I met a woman who told me she had a similar experience to mine, and she encouraged me to keep persevering through this difficult recovery. 

I was so encouraged to meet another English speaker who understands my struggle experientially. I’m so grateful for the kind words from everyone I meet, but there is something very special about the few who can speak truth into my life with an empathy the majority of the world will never have. It is a precious gift. I have received so many precious gifts in the last several months, and I’ll never stop being grateful for them. I’m grateful I can still teach; I’m grateful I can live independently; I’m grateful for the community of loving people who are helping and supporting me both here and across the globe.

However, I still have a lot of gifts to come, and I’m asking the Lord for everything else that I haven’t yet received. I would like to move my feet independently again; I would like to have complete healing of function in my body; I would like to be able to walk without support from sticks or crutches.

According to one of my students last year, I told my Bible class that I hate people and I love shoes. While this is a true statement, I was a little surprised I admitted it to children. 

I really like shoes. I also enjoy Shakespeare and clever puns combining Shakespeare and shoes. I once used my calendar titled “The Taming of the Shoe” as inspiration for an art project I titled “A Shoe Like It.” But I digress. 

On Friday, I had the opportunity to share my story with the students, and I chose to tell my story through some of my shoes. As I told it, I included the details that show the work of the Holy Spirit; the highlight of my day was during the next period when one of my students told me my telling clarified the ambiguous concept of indwelling for her. My shoes are hard to tame each morning as I force my feet into the correct position in the braces, but that experience made it worth it.

It was also worth it the next morning to get myself out of bed and tame my shoes – or more accurately my feet – and wheel myself to school at 7:30 in the morning on a Saturday to supervise a group of twenty NHS students volunteering to serve breakfast to the visiting volleyball and cross country teams, five of whom I taught last year. When one of my former students found out I showed up without my morning coffee, she snapped into action. A few minutes later, another girl from my Spiritual Formation class checked in with me, “We’re working on the coffee, Miss Hewett. Everyone who was in your 2nd period class last year knows this is a big deal.” I love those precious students more than my shoes, more than my coffee – though the cup they brewed was delicious. 

I’m so grateful to bet to work with these amazing teenagers. I’m blessed beyond belief for the gift of going back to work part time this year. I do acknowledge, though, that I am still limited and still healing. Part time teaching plus part time physical therapy is still a full time load, and I’m working hard to thrive in it. I still crave your prayers for energy and stamina as I teach each day along with continued healing to allow me to make it through each day with greater ease and endurance. I still long for more function, and I won’t stop asking for it. There haven’t been any changes lately, but that doesn’t mean they won’t come. I’d like you to ask with me for a taming of the shoe – for my brain to be in complete control of what happens in my feet again.

Tomorrow marks my eight month anniversary. Eight months ago my life changed forever. I have had lots of landmark moments in my life, and this one isn’t the most significant though it is the one most people are very interested in.

Since you’ve all come to this page to hear about it, I’ll oblige and let you know eight great things that happened today because of my accident. In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll share the difficulty related to each thing as well.

1. My school lets me sleep in. Mornings have never been my thing, and my administration has decided that I don’t have to arrive at school as early as everyone else. Sweet deal. The downside is the “sleeping in” is really only maybe fifteen minutes later than I’d normally sleep. I take that much longer to get ready in the morning. When I could once roll out of bed and walk out the door neatly arranged in less than fifteen minutes, I now take more than an hour to heave myself out of bed and make myself presentable for the rest of the world.

2. I walked to school with Carol. Though I’d forgotten to confirm with her, my friend showed up on my path to school and let me work my muscles as we chatted on the increasingly shorter journey. I’m so grateful for this friend who still spends time with me though I wish it never had to be connected to my need to have someone walking with me for safety. I miss the independence of just walking out my door without someone next to me with my wheelchair in case I get to tired to make it more than 300 meters.

3. I got to hang out with Kristy Martin today. This woman is awesome. She plans our Impact Day – now a tradition because this was the second year – and coordinates a school wide service project of enormous proportion. The students and staff are sent out in groups all around Kandern and the surrounding towns to bless the local residents by burning brush to baking cookies to washing windows. Last year I got to pull weeds with a small group of my freshman girls. This year I couldn’t take a group of kids anywhere – I have limited mobility plus I had a doctor’s appointment later in the day. I was overjoyed that Kristy found a way for me to serve by sitting by her side and helping direct other staff who went out with students; there was still a twinge of sadness that I couldn’t be pulling weeds side by side with my kids again.

4. I spent an hour with another Oregonian. The father of one of my students agreed to drive me to my check up in Basel this afternoon, and he and his wife are both from Oregon. Oregonians are delightful. The downside to this is the fact that I have to have ongoing appointments for the rest of my life – this was the first of an endless line of annual check ups to which I needed a ride.

5. I could have a conversation with Marion, one of my favorite nurses, without any other nurse translating. I arrived a few minutes early for my appointment with the doctor, and said hello to the nurses on duty in my old station. I was so happy to hug them all and tell them about how much I can walk now. Marion doesn’t understand English, so I independently gave her a synopsis of my English answers to the other nurses questions. I love the ability to communicate directly with her, but no one is happy about the way in which I was forced into jumpstarting my German learning.

6. I got to see Alex! Part of my check up was a repeat of the muscle test Alex and I did my last day in REHAB, and she told me there are some great improvements. There’s some flickers of muscles that weren’t there before and my spitzfuss has decreased significantly on both feet. Clearly, flickers are far from full function, and “decreased significantly” is anything other than disappeared permanently. Also, Alex is a prime example of one of the great relationships I’ve made because of my injury. I’m so grateful to know her, and I love her dearly, but I’ll never forget she’s only in my life because of this awful tragedy.

7. I had a great PT session with Anja this evening. She worked me super hard as she forced me to walk with my hips more active than passive then helped relax my tight back muscles. Anja is another person like Alex who I am so grateful to get to spend time with because she makes my life better from the condition it’s in now, but the condition before eight months ago is better by far. 

8. Magnum ice cream bars are delicious. How can there be a bad side to this? There’s not really, but ice cream bars will forever be linked to REHAB in my mind. In the weeks before I left, Jo and I used to eat ice cream bars together as a little break from the hospital world but still in the hospital. 

Would I trade any of these eight great things? Not a chance.

Does it still suck to be paralyzed? Abso – freaking – lutely. 

When I first stepped on the plane to Germany thirteen months ago, I was terrified, but I safely made it to the other side of the Atlantic without backing out. I was pretty terrified when I was loaded onto the ambulance eight months ago, too, but I didn’t have a choice to turn around. Getting metaphorical cold feet couldn’t change anything – I needed emergency surgery.

A lot of people expected me to have metaphorical cold feet when I woke up from surgery, but that doesn’t really fit my personality. I’m committed to my students, and whatever comes my way, I won’t be stopped from teaching them to the best of my ability. 

Literal cold feet are a completely different issue. I’ve got significantly impaired blood circulation from the lack of movement in my legs. I do my best to use them as much as possible, but there’s a serious issue getting the blood from my heart to my toes with all this neurological damage. It goes way beyond my comprehension how everything works on a biological level, but each night I’m aware of the icy feeling of my feet as I change my socks and strap on my nighttime boots.

Nights are still rough for me. I know many of you have been praying for me specifically to get better sleep, and I would ask that you continue. I would ask that you add to that prayer that my feet would warm up, that my blood would continue to pump from my still healthy heart, and that the nerves would continue their microscopic recovery so that I might one day be able to wiggle my toes again. 

One of my Bible college roommates dropped out – er – transferred to nursing school and became a rockstar medical professional. When I was in REHAB, she offered to come stay with me the first few days I was out on my own in the real world. Rather than have her there in the summer when I had time to make a few mistakes in my schedule, I asked her to stay with me for the first few days of school. Cat wasn’t able to get here for the opening ceremonies, but she’s been with me since Thursday and will fly back to Tacoma on Wednesday morning. I’ve been so blessed to have a personal nurse helping me out with going to the Apoteke to get prescriptions, to practice my therapies during the day, and to laugh with me about old jokes and new experiences. 

Thank God for friends who know your living habits inside and out from living with you in a single room for five months. Thank God for friends who understand the medical contraptions you have to use everyday and can offer suggestions on how to make the processes simpler. Thank God for friends who just listen when you’ve got a lot going on in your life and sometimes struggle to learn how to stand up. Thank God for friends who will sit and watch The Lizzie Bennet Diaries for hours and make you stretch your super stiff muscles during every other video.

Cat has also been a great help in pushing me to walk more everyday. I walked further both today and yesterday than I previously had in a single day. We’re trying to wear me out enough to sleep beautifully through the night – still not there yet, but working on it. I’d love the prayers for solid sleep through the night and for my muscles to remember to relax each morning after they have been stretched and worked all day before. Each morning often feels like a reset to the stiffness of the day before, and I often get frustrated that I don’t see major progresses. Looking back to six or seven months ago, of course I’ve come a long way, but it’s hard to see the micro-improvements.

I’m still desperate and hopeful for healing. There’s so many muscle groups that have come back, and I’m delighted for the opportunity to strengthen them. However, there is still a lot of neurological damage that leaves me with a significant loss of function – selfishly, like any human would, I want it back. I’m not stopping my petition for it as I continue to thank God for what I’ve got.

Today was the first day of classes at BFA which means I had a total of sixteen minutes with my two periods of students. I was so incredibly happy to be in a classroom again though. This first day was vastly different than last year, of course, and I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me.

As I stood in front of my students for the first time this afternoon, I had a leg spasm in my left leg that forced me to take a seat though I’d hoped to address the class standing the whole time. I looked down at my leg as it twitched and jerked uncontrollably, confused as to why I was feeling strange stabbing sensations coming up from my foot. My legs are still learning how to communicate with me, but I’ve gotten better at understanding messages about needing more weight or being tired. This was one of the strange signals I can’t yet interpret because it was my foot fighting for all it’s worth against my shoe inserts. Perhaps my foot was just nervous to be back in the classroom. It didn’t ruin my lesson in any way (not that I had much of a lesson in an eight minute class), but it was yet another reminder that returning to the classroom does not mean going back to the way things were. 

As I shared with parents and students last night and this afternoon, I’m still hopeful for more healing, and I’m asking you to keep praying for just that. Please pray this week that I’ll develop a healthy routine that gives the students the best of my energy and my body the restoration and nutrition it needs (I need to plan to eat lunch daily – that wasn’t a habit pre-accident). Praise God that the leg discomfort I have doesn’t disrupt my teaching, and pray that the continued nerve healing would allow for me to have greater focus on the work at hand each school day.

Praise God also that one of my best friends from America is coming to visit this week to help me continue to adjust to life outside of REHAB. Cat will arrive on Thursday with Trader Joe’s wonders for me, and I’m grateful for her help to continue to learn to live well in Kandern.

I would never let a student take a short cut to completing an assignment – the goal is the learning that happens when you are going through the painful process. I often find myself wishing I could walk again instantly – wouldn’t that be wonderful? Well, I might walk again, but the miracle I am now is made through this process me taking the time to loosen those muscles each night as I get into bed.

First I unstrap my braces and remove my awesome green shoes and mismatched socks before rubbing my legs and ankles a little to see if I can get my toes and heels to evenly touch the floor. I lean on my knees to force the heels to make contact. I sit for a little bit and pray, “Lord, let me move a toe today.” It hasn’t happened it, but I’m not giving up hope yet. Next, I laboriously lift a leg on top of the opposite knee to pull on my incredible dinosaur socks from my second family in the States. The teal socks are a layer of protection for my skin against the velcro straps that are about to fight against the “spitzfuss” of my tightened muscles. I push my foot into the boots that will fight my feet through the night and add a washcloth between my sock and the strap at my ankle for added protection against red marks on my skin. I’ll still likely wake up to see thin red lines remembering the fight through the night between my muscle spasms and the velcro straps on the boots, but it’s better than letting the muscles continue to tighten unhindered.

I hear the velcro yelling at my legs when they silently scream through the muscle spasms all night long. It wakes me up in the night, and I struggle to get back to sleep. I rarely get more than a couple hours of consecutive sleep, so I would be grateful for prayers of rest through the night. 

I’d still also like prayers for other miraculous healing – for loosened muscles, for returned function, for reconnected nerves, for renewed energy each morning. They are totally selfish requests, but I think they are still valuable. However, there’s one more valuable request I’d like you to lift up with me. It’s one of my birthday requests. Six months ago, I asked that you would pray that my pain would bring me closer to Jesus. I still want that.

One of my best friends recently was reflecting on this and commented, “One day of suffering brings me so much closer to my Savior than an entire lifetime of comfort.” A – freaking – men. I don’t want to wallow in my suffering – neither does Rachel who said that. I want to be responsible with my suffering. I want to work hard and learn this lesson through the difficulties rather than taking short cuts. I know there are rough days ahead – believe me there have been rough days behind – but please pray with me that I’ll face them with grace and dignity, that I’ll keep fighting and never give up, and that I’ll know more of Jesus through this every day.

There’s a song by Owl City called “Beautiful Times,” and I’ve been listening to it on repeat a lot lately (along with “Video Game Books” by Hank Green and the Perfect Strangers, but that’s another story… maybe). In “Beautiful Times,” Adam Young sings, “I fought all through the night/ oh, oh, but I made it alive/ the sun’s starting to rise/ oh, oh, these are beautiful times/ this fight of my life is so hard, so hard, so hard/ but I’m gonna survive/ oh, oh, these are beautiful times.” It’s such a great anthem for me as I keep fighting to survive. 

The last weeks have been full of struggles and successes, highs and lows. I’m so delighted to be returning to work, and I’m only two weeks away from seeing my students again. Praise God I have a job to return to and coworkers and friends who are willing to help me practice walking everyday. Praise God I also have knowledgeable therapists who are pushing me to work hard and heal better. They won’t let me slack off – they know this fight is hard, but they want me to thrive. I’m super grateful for that.

I’m not giving up, and I’m consistently overwhelmed with the blessings I’ve received over the last seven months. Your prayers and encouragements are a huge part of that. Thank you to all of you who have continued to follow my story – you’ve eased the fear I felt so many times that people might not care after a while when my struggles linger on.

And in these struggles, I’m seeing beautiful things and discovering these are beautiful times. Last week, Dayla and I went on an excursion to Zurich so I could spend time in one of my favorite places to be – the bowels of a library. Dayla also walked beside me along the river as I made my way from about one third of the way into the bridge to where you see me seated in the picture above. I’m not good at guessing distances, but that’s the farthest I’ve managed to walk without sitting down yet.

I’m still healing, and I’m begging you to keep praying that the healing miraculously continues. I’ve got a lot more function I’d like to see return, and it can only come by the grace of God. Please also keep praying for my ongoing conversations with insurance. They are covering all but one of my significant prescriptions. They’re holding out on full coverage of my physical therapy. At this point they are only willing to pay for twenty visits a year which runs out quickly as I’m prescribed three visits a week. This leaves me with a 2500€ bill (around $3300). I’m also in the process of appealing their first denial of my home tools which is another 900€ ($1200). It’s not impossible for these appeals to be approved and for insurance to cover these. However, it’s equally possible they could deny them again.

Last summer, I asked everyone I knew for money. It was a painful yet beautiful process. I fortunately quickly realized I wasn’t asking people to dump money on me for no reason. I’m asking people to partner with me to live on mission, to make God famous, and to serve students and those around me in Kandern, Germany. I’m going to keep asking people for money for quite a while so I can stay here in Germany to do what I feel I’m called and equipped to do. I’m so grateful that even though life is drastically different for me now, I’m still able to do what I love – teach. That other song I’ve been listening to on repeat has a line that says “No one ever gets to be/ quite who they want to be,” and that really resonates with me a lot too because I realize that my impact on the world is much different than I anticipated, but that doesn’t make my contributions to the world less significant. I’m still going to give everything I’ve got to make this world a better place – that just comes out slightly differently than I thought it would. I thought I might inspire three particular kids back in America with my life, and I’ve had a hugely different impact on countless other kids (and adults) which, I might add, is vastly humbling, despite the lack of influence I see in the three kids I left America “to inspire.” So my life is not what I thought it would be, but I surrendered it to God to do with as he saw fit. He took me up on that offer, and my life has been all the better for it. One of the most exciting things to me about how God uses me is that he’s using dozens of other people to support me as I in turn support the work of dozens of others. It’s an incredible network.

If you would like to be part of the work God is doing through me, you can do so by going to give.teachbeyond.org and set up a tax deductible donation either as a one time give or joining my monthly support team. To ensure the gifts go to my support account, please remember to type “Laura Hewett” (two e’s in my last name – we’re the blind Hewetts; we have no i’s) in the designation box.

Regardless of whether you give to me financially, I’m so grateful for your prayers, encouragements, comments, jokes, and postcards. Every kind of support is valuable to me, and I’ll continue to update you on how I’m progressing through these beautiful times.

I’ve never been good at resting, and if you’ve been following this blog for very long, you’re sure to know I’ve been in a perpetual state of exhaustion for six months. There’ve been different levels of exhausted and different facets – physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. I do my best to be honest as I express that here so you can follow along and pray with me for rest and other recovery. I’ve realized though, in this last month out of REHAB, that I need a rest from this constant exposure. It’s a whole different kind of exhaustion to have people constantly watching me through the wonder of the internet. 

I’ve never made promises of how frequently I would update here, but I’m making my first promise that I will NOT post for the next week. Please pray with me that I will be present where I am as I prepare my body, mind, and soul for the upcoming school year.

With my granny visiting this week, I wanted her to see a few of the great places around Kandern. One of them happens to be Basel. I had something to mail to REHAB, but Granny suggested we drive it out there since we were going to be in town anyways; also, she wanted to get a glimpse of this place that has been so formative in my life recently.

Since her husband was not as interested, I hoped to make the experience a little more fun by showing off our casual border crossings. We missed a turn or two with the GPS, but I managed to show him the crossing from Germany to Switzerland that seems like it’s in the middle of a neighborhood. We actually stopped in this small Swiss town to refill a prescription that I can’t get in Germany.

I walked into the Apoteke with my sticks, and the pharmacist recognized my prescription. “You’re getting better,” she told me in German, “You had to stay in the car the last time.” I realized it must have been the same pharmacist who met my dad and Carol the day after I left REHAB. I was excited to show off my walking skills and told her I was given just a one percent chance to ever walk again.

Back in the car, we dubiously followed the directions to REHAB, but successfully made it to my previous home. I was unsure how I’d feel returning to this place that held so many vulnerable recent memories. Before we even made it inside the doors, I saw two of my nurses and waved excitedly. I went over to Denise, the head nurse from my station, and she asked me about my recent Oxford trip. She was so excited for me, and I was delighted to get to tell her about it.

I left Granny and Jim to have some lunch while I looked for Isabelle to deliver a package to her, but before I could get to the ergotherapie, one of my doctors came to greet me and ask about Oxford as well. I was so excited to share again how wonderful the trip was. Since we came during the lunch hour, I wasn’t able to find Isabelle, but I saw my other doctor getting his lunch, and he asked the same questions. I loved being able to report again and again how well I’m doing and how wonderful Oxford was. 

I made my way upstairs for what I planned to be a quick visit to some other patients and the nurses in my station. I stopped first to visit my friend Tina in station 3, and while we were chatting, Alex happened to walk by. I can’t describe my delight to you at seeing Alex. I was secretly hoping I’d see her but knowing it was a long shot. She gave me a big hug, and told me how happy she was that I had made it to Oxford. Seeing Alex was by far the highlight of my day though I really can’t stress enough how wonderful it was to see so many other people who have been such major influences in my life over the last six months.

I didn’t know which nurses would be on duty, but I was so happy to wheel up and see Sabrina, Danai, and Eva sitting with Denise and Birgit who I’d seen outside. The nurses at station 4 are all incredible, and I would have been happy to see any of them, but that was a particularly wonderful group to see all together. I loved telling them how well I’m doing, and it was encouraging to hear them echo what the other people I’d seen say about how my face already could tell them how successful I’ve been out of REHAB.

I’ve come a long way, and I still have a long way to go. I’m not satisfied with settling here. I never want to be satisfied with settling – in my life or in my faith. That’s part of what got me into this beautiful mess. 

With all the crazy emotions of today, I still couldn’t forget my body’s new needs. I’m still praying for complete healing so that I’ll be able to walk into REHAB with no wheelchair or sticks someday – I want all that “run and not be weary, walk and not be faint” stuff. However, I’m not forgetting the context of that quote – the LORD does not grow tired or weary, and he gives me strength. I’m praying for him to renew my strength each day and to knit my nerves together again.

Once upon a time not too long ago, there lived a girl named Esther who had Thyroid Cancer. She made the world more awesome by being in it, and before she died, she said she wanted people to tell others “I love you” more often. Every year now, thousands of people across the world celebrate “Esther Day” by telling someone “I love you” – particularly someone they don’t frequently say it to on August 3, Esther’s birthday. Esther’s not around to say “I love you” to anyone today, but she’s left a legacy through her life, her words, and her inspiration of the character Hazel Grace Lancaster. 

In honor of Esther, I’m choosing to say this to you today. Any of you who are reading, I love you. But mostly Denise. I love you, Nini.

I’m blessed with a lot of awesome people in my life, but my big sister will always be my favorite no matter how much we disagree or she annoys me or irritates me. Or I annoy her or irritate her. We do well on separate continents.

I do, however, enjoy the visits from people on that other continent I came from here on this other shore. My granny and her husband came to visit me as part of their vacation, and I’m thankful for the chance to spend some time with family. I’m still working hard to practice my walking as well as getting ready for my fall classes. I’m so excited to have curriculum to go over as well as stretches and exercises to do each day.

Praise God that I’ll be returning to the classroom soon – it’s what I’ve been waiting for for so long. Pray that my stamina will continue to increase along with my strength and the functions in my body. Please pray also that the conversations with insurance will continue – they’ve been a little silent on the corporate end.

It was inevitable. Anne told me so at REHAB. I was going to fall again. I just needed to get back up once I did. 

It happened a rainy Wednesday night after I got back from a friend’s house. I knew my wheelchair wheels were wet, but I didn’t think about the fact that the bottom of my fancy, expensive, custom made green shoes were also wet from the transfer from the car to the chair. I needed to go to the bathroom, so I wheeled up to my bathroom doorway as usual. Planted my feet on the tile, put my left hand on the radiator and my right hand on my mobile handgrip, and hefted my weight from my butt to my feet with the help of my hands.

In slow motion, my feet slid forward rather than holding my body’s weight on top of them and my hands slipped down – left down the radiator and the right dragging the mobile handgrip down the doorframe. I settled on the floor unsure how to proceed. Well, the only way is up. As Augustus Waters says, “I’m on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend.” I rolled to my stomach and using the radiator and lowered handgrip along with my wheelchair now in front of me, I pulled myself to my knees. Miraculously, I managed to get from my knees to my feet. Honestly, I’m still not sure how that happened. With my braces on, I’m unable to bend my ankles at all, and the shoes were still a little wet. My knees had dried off the tile, though. I was praying that the slick toes of my shoes – custom made to have less friction for my hips that don’t have the strength to lift my feet all the way off the ground – would hold enough for me to get my feet flat and find some traction with the rubber on the back of the soles. 

Praise God, I managed to get to my feet. I turned myself around and sat in the wheelchair, taking a few deep breaths to calm my nerves. Pulling myself off the floor? Check. Like a pro.

I wheeled myself into my bedroom to change my shoes into a pair that were completely dry before attempting to get back into the bathroom.

I survived this terrifying experience, and I’m grateful to have the success under my belt, but I’m also praying I never have to have a second run at it. 

My other prayer requests remain unchanged as I continue the difficult and overwhelming task of transitioning to life as an independent member of society dependent on others for so many things. Thank you for your continued prayers and encouragement as I navigate the challenges ahead of me.

My England trip was wonderful. Some of you may not realize this, but I had to drive from Germany to France to fly out of a Swiss airport to get to England. I’m often struck by how strange it is to be on the border of two other countries. It makes life a little complicated though when I realized that my German phone doesn’t work in France, nor can it call Swiss numbers. It’s a little limiting. 

It’s also limiting to not have home internet. I’ve been so grateful for the help of several bilingual community members who’ve been willing to help me. Unfortunately, it looks like I still won’t have internet at home until tomorrow at the earliest. It’s disorienting in this day and age to be without instant access to information. All these little things add to the stress of transitioning back to life in the “real world” away from the constant care of nurses and therapists who took responsibility for so many of my daily needs.

Now I’m responsible for feeding myself, taking my medication – making sure I have enough medications in stock – washing my clothes, and paying my internet bill. Fortunately, I have people who are able to help me navigate through the more difficult tasks that are completely in German, but it still demands a lot of my energy and attention.

You may have noticed, but I’m generally low on energy. I struggled to make it through the days of therapy when I didn’t have these other things to focus on. I’ve noticed in the last weeks that the stresses of daily life often suck time and energy that I need to devote to continuing my physical exercises. I have a routine Alex gave me before I left to practice every day, but I find that the days slip away without me getting a chance to finish my therapy. There are new tasks that are physically demanding that supplement therapy routines, but they shouldn’t be replacing them. I had my six month check up at the hospital yesterday, and the doctor told me I should be doing intensive therapy for a year. I’m still going to a physical therapist three times a week, and it’s a huge help, but I also need to be diligent in my practice at home if I want to learn to walk again without being dependent on the wheelchair.

Please pray with me that I’ll be able to make the time to prioritize my physical care as the other concerns of life file in. I can’t push any of them aside; I need to find a way to balance all of my responsibilities without letting anything drop. Praise God I’ve got a team of people willing to help me here, but I also want to be sure I’m not draining them unnecessarily. I want to use the help when I need it without overstepping their generosity. It’s a different kind of border crossing. Here in the EU, you can cross a border without realizing it, and I don’t want to overstep on the kindness of others because they’ve welcomed me into their lives and offered to help me transition. I’d love your prayers in learning how to navigate receiving help well.

I’m also desperate for prayers that I can sort all the details of my insurance coverage out. I need to make sure they will cover the cost of my physical therapy – which will continue for months to come three times a week. I’ve been told I have 100% coverage as a paraplegic, but there’s also a statement in my coverage that the insurance only covers 20 physical therapy sessions a year. I’d run out pretty quickly, so I’m hopeful the insurance will work with me to understand this is a necessity for me to learn to walk again. Paying for therapy now saves them from paying for years of wheelchair maintenance and potential assisted living later on if I don’t heal well.

To my mother’s chagrin, internet in Oxford is less accessible than I anticipated. However, I’ve been having a wonderful time in England listening to qualified teachers talk about high quality literature. It’s yet another overwhelming experience as the world rushes by me at it’s standard pace, but I’ve been significantly slowed by my accident.

Here again I have to choose humbled over humiliated as out of necessity I’ve had to bring my mom to my professional development. Many of my colleagues find it easier to begin conversations with her than with me because of the height and age similarities. It’s hard to be relegated to the sidelines in activities, though I must emphasize I’m still so grateful to be included. The staff here have been so kind and accommodating, and I’ve been able to participate in all but one activity.

To be honest, that’s more than enough. This trip is physically, emotionally, and intellectually exhausting. Previously, my days were only physically and emotionally full. To add this third layer of exertion is exciting despite the exhaustion. I need this stimulation; it’s important to keep adding things like this back into my life. It’s also okay to add it in in small doses. I’m passing on many optional activities, and while disheartened that I would have once jumped at the chance to go in every bookstore, I’m content that I can be present here at all.

I’m still praying that someday I’ll be walking around this town, but there’s still a lot of hard work ahead of me. Please keep praying with me that I’ll see more healing in the coming years, months, weeks, and days. I’m sometimes impatient, but I want to petition fervently for dramatic progress; I want more miracles. Why not? Who wouldn’t? Please join with me in asking for it all: for loosened calf muscles, for nerve regeneration, for working home internet, for bathroom capabilities, for disappearance of muscle spasms, for increased stamina, for deep sleep through the nights, for function in my ankles, and for everything in between.

Don’t worry, I’m still alive. I’m not rotting on my bathroom floor or anything. I just don’t have internet at home. I’m currently sitting outside my school using their wifi to let you know I’m not dead. Clearly a lot has happened in the last week, and there is a steep learning curve. I’ll be back to regular updates soon, I hope, but pray my internet and phone situation gets resolved quickly.  

Please pray also for my mom and I tomorrow as we leave for Oxford. I’m so excited, but reasonably nervous about traveling by plane for the first time. I hear they have internet in England, so that’s a plus. 

My dad left Friday morning; I miss him. I had no one to help me through the day Friday, but I did have friends come spend time with me and help me out. Johanna even walked with me from my apartment to the school. I made it the whole way there – though I was exhausted by the end. I’ll need a while before I feel safe making that trek alone, and quite a while before I’ll be ready to make it there and back again.

Speaking of there and back again, my dad and I watched the Hobbit while he was here, and I was reminded of the blog post I wrote just before Christmas when I reflected on how much I’d changed since arriving in Europe. I’ve changed a considerable amount since then all over again. Some things are still the same though, like enjoying Tolkien with my dad. I do, however, have to admit, that watching the films this time made me miss Luke back in America, the kid I was reading LotR with each week before I left who became my youngest financial supporter.

Luke’s one of a huge team of people who sent me here to do a job. I’m living life here on mission to make God famous, and that looks completely different than I anticipated, but one important detail I’ve held on to particularly close the last two days is that I’m not alone in my mission. I teach at a school of amazing students (who I miss dearly and can’t wait to see), and I have a wonderful group of colleagues who support me as well as a community both here in Kandern, back in Portland and Denver, and scattered across the globe that make it possible for me to thrive in my new circumstances.

I’ve got a lot of struggles; I won’t forget that. However, amidst those struggles, I’ve got loving people here to help me. Even with my dad back in America, I’m never truly home alone. I’m praising God for the people here to support me with the adjustments and daily tasks, and I’m grateful for everyone else praying me through the more complicated details of insurance claims and neurological healing.

As previously mentioned, I’m stubborn, and in my stubbornness, I’m determined to learn to walk to school. Well, I’m determined to learn to walk in general, but goals are good. The apartment I have is, according to Google maps, less than three hundred meters from the school. It’s a nice downhill slope all the way there. From experience walking up a ramp at REHAB with Alex, I was aware that my backside lacks the muscle strength required to push my body up inclines. I was concerned that I’d have a harder time walking from the school home to my apartment. Wouldn’t do me much good to walk there and be stuck.

This morning I told my dad I wanted to start at the school and see how far I could make it home. I’d made it about two-thirds of the way there from my apartment, so I was hopeful for a similar distance, considering it a harder hike. However, I discovered some interesting facts about walking in REHAB versus the real world. First, the downhill slope is actually more mentally terrifying because I’m tilted towards a precarious face-plant rather than working with the slope to bend my body correctly (remember – I can’t bend my ankles at all or my knees very well). Second, the strength necessary for the slope home is, in fact, existent in my behind. This is a huge praise. I was able to very, very, very slowly and methodically walk the whole way from the door of my building to the door of my apartment with my dad following with my wheelchair. I never once needed to sit down to make it home.

It’ll certainly be a while before I have the skills or confidence to make this trek home alone, but some day considerably sooner than the medical experts ever anticipated, I’ll be making my evening commute on foot instead of in my wheelchair. I’m still very hopeful for the ankles to connect back to my brain and make the walk loads easier. I’m also very hopeful, as always, for the best of the bathroom activities to be made easier. Join with me in prayer that I’ll regain some more function in the coming days and weeks. 

Days would be a huge blessing, and I’m now just 11 days away from my first travel experience post injury. I’ve not posted anything about this previously, but back in November I was asked to complete an AP training course in Oxford, and I asked my therapists and doctors if this was a possibility back in March. At REHAB, for the past three months, the therapists, doctors, and nurses have been encouraging me to make progresses, “because you’ll need that at Oxford.” “We have to get you ready for Oxford,” they kept telling me whenever I’d want to be lazy. My release date was set with Oxford in mind so that I’d have almost a month away from REHAB before the trip. 

My life isn’t easy, but easy isn’t synonymous with good. Please keep praying I’ll face the tough things with wisdom and grace as we continue to petition the Healer for good gifts of nerve regeneration.

I’m stubborn.

You may have figured that out even if you haven’t met me yet, but I’m a particularly determined girl. My mother frequently joked that if I was a first born, I’d be an only child because I had such a wildly independent spirit that would not easily bend. My stubbornness is what helped me get to Germany in the first place, and I’ll make it through because my stubbornness won’t go away.

I have been asked several times why I didn’t go back to America after my accident, and honestly, the idea never crossed my mind. I felt called to Germany, and the accident didn’t change my sense that I was supposed to be teaching these incredible students at Black Forest Academy. When I was raising support, a couple people asked me what was my “Plan B” if I didn’t get enough support to go to Germany. I told them it was Guatemala, but I never for a moment truly doubted I’d get to Germany. There was no Plan B; I was supposed to be in Germany.

The feeling stayed the same since I arrived. I’m supposed to be here. Teaching at BFA is better than my dream job (most of you know my dream job was teaching at the school I graduated from – this is beyond better for me). As I told one of my coworkers after she asked if I planned to come back, it’s going to take more than paralysis to keep me from my amazing students at BFA. There’s a lot of details to still fall into place, so I’m praying things come together quickly to give me peace of mind as I continue to settle in.

Ultimately, though, I’m not worried because I have the peace that passes understanding – I’m supposed to be here. I can’t wait to get back to my classroom to teach my wonderful students. Today I practiced walking to school with my dad wheeling my chair beside me. I made it halfway the first time, and, stubborn child that I am, made it two-thirds the second attempt later in the day. Wheeling to school is a breeze – there’s a slight incline all the way there; I just roll right down, but I’m not about the easy way out. If I took the easy way out, I’d never have left America. I’d still be skating by in suburbia in a boring, less than awesome life. 

Instead, I chose to make hard choices and end up in Germany. Now, I’m still stubborn and refusing the easy route because in my current situation, the easy route might lead to loss of muscle power. I chose to practice brushing my teeth standing up in REHAB even though it was easier sitting in the chair because I don’t want to be satisfied with the chair. I chose to walk as far as I could to school this morning because I don’t want to be satisfied with easy. I chose to follow Jesus because I don’t want to be satisfied with less than the best for my life.

I have no regrets with that decision.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have stresses, so I’d love your prayers and positive thoughts as I navigate the transition from Swiss medical care to German. I’ve got to get a German prescription for physical therapy tomorrow morning – please pray it goes seamlessly before I return to my German physical therapist Tuesday. She seems like a great therapist who comes highly recommended by Andy at REHAB, and while I don’t have the rapport with her that I’ve built with Alex, Iris told me that she might let me ride the horses – Alex wouldn’t because she doesn’t like horses (and there were other more pertinent exercises to work on while I was at REHAB like the nightmare wheelchair handling up and down stairs). This is also another great opportunity to work on my German since Iris is not fluent in English – apparently only Swiss PTs have to be. Fortunately, I’ve got some German medical vocabulary built up from my five months at REHAB; unfortunately, I don’t know which words are high German and which are Swiss German… 

But, hey, there’s no Plan B. This is happening; I’m not running away from it just because it’s difficult. As Augustus Waters says, “I’m on a roller coaster that’s only going up, my friend.”

REHAB Basel is a paradise for people in wheelchairs; they have smooth floors and handrails everywhere. Doorways are wide and counters have knee space underneath. Here in Kandern, that’s not nearly the case. My bathroom is too narrow to even fit my wheelchair in, so I have to manage walking through the narrow space while holding my hands on either wall; showering is particularly difficult in the tiny space. In fact, right now, it’s downright scary, but I know I’ll eventually get used to it.

There are a lot of things here that are not convenient, but I know I’ll get used to. In some ways, the first few days here in Kandern felt like a set back in my progress because things were not so easy, but I know that’s only because I need time to get used to them. Showering at REHAB wasn’t easy at first, but I learned how to do it safely. The same will be true for life here in Kandern. I had two months to learn to do things and gain confidence in REHAB (remember I wasn’t allowed to even try most things for three months), so the next two months out of REHAB will be the same. 

It’s not a setback to feel unsafe in my shower; it’s a chance to move forward and test my limits in new ways. I’m so excited to see what new things I can do if I just try. Wednesday evening I went to a friend’s house for dinner – the first friend I had dinner with both times I’ve moved to Germany. It was quite a different experience to hobble slowly through the house on sticks this time, but I made it. This is progress; I’m moving forward.

There’s still a lot of difficulties to overcome, and I would love your prayers as I learn to navigate these nuances of Kandern life while also filing insurance claims and completing the appropriate forms in a mountain of paperwork. It’s overwhelming, and I can’t do it alone, but I am so grateful for the community of people supporting me through this transition. 

The haunting round from RENT has been running through my head for weeks as I wonder, “Will I lose my dignity?” through this transition, through my return to the real world, through any number of difficulties. However, a different song pushed into my head as I thought of David returning the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. When his wife chastised him for dancing naked in the streets, David said, “I’ll become even more undignified than this.” The children’s song I used to sing with the Port kids adds, “leave my pride by the side” to that line. 

I loved leading that song with grade school students. We’d dance and laugh, and I loved sharing the story of David with my teenagers to explain why I loved the song so much. Even so, I struggle to remember the message sometimes. I want to preserve my dignity – and, to be fair, sometimes that’s appropriate. David knew when it was appropriate to have his dignity as well. I’ve got plenty of opportunities to be undignified, but Monday afternoon I had an important moment to hold on to my dignity. Mentally and emotionally, it was really important to me to walk out of REHAB. After I got off the elevator, I put my brakes on the wheelchair and stood up with my sticks. I walked through the lobby, out the doors, and across the ridiculously placed wooden paneling to the car. It was something of a hobble, but I kept my head high, and I’ll continue to walk with dignity when it’s appropriate. At other times I’ll embrace the undignified when it’s less of a hassle to sit in the car while my friend and dad go into the Swiss pharmacy to fill my prescriptions the German pharmacy can’t give me. 

There’s a lot of change happening in my life, and it’s overwhelming and exciting. I’m grateful for the praises that I’m now in my new home, and it crave continued prayers as the details of living here in Kandern continue to be worked out. It’s exhausting and challenging in a whole new way, but I know I’m not alone in this transition. I said goodbye to my nurses Monday – French, German, Swiss, and Greek – but I was welcomed back to Kandern by Germans, Brits, Canadians, and Americans who are excited to see me thrive here.

I’ve got to leave my pride by my side in order to thrive. I’m not perfect at that, but I’ll do my best to dance undignified before the Lord. In my imperfection, I lack the energy to adequately describe the last forty-eight hours, but I promise it’s been full of joy and stress, smiles and tears, answers and questions. 

I celebrated Mother’s Day a week early in my desire not to miss the holiday. Mostly because I’m a space case, I emailed my mom happy wishes, and she replied along the lines of, “That’s sweet, and a week early.”

Father’s Day was a different story. I celebrated today when I got to hug my father for the first time in over four months. I just marked my five months in rehab this week, and my dad left his emergency visit a week after I settled in here. The minute my dad walked into view, a downpour broke out in Basel. Since I’ve always secretly believed the rain is God’s way of telling me he loves me, I consider it a gift my Heavenly Father sent along with my earthly father. I’m so grateful for the gift of the godly man who intentionally raised me to love others and serve Jesus. 

I’m praising God for the gift of my dad as I transition home. Grateful for your prayers as well as I firm up details and continue to heal. 

Neil Gaiman says the sign of a good story is that you ask, “And then what happened?” That has nothing to do with my day really, but if think it’s a nice bit of literary criticism. The phrase actually came to mind because as I was thinking about my day it seemed like a never ending disconnected list of exhausting events. 

I hauled led myself out of bed and discovered I’d smashed a toenail in the night, so after my shower, I laboriously maneuvered my foot up on my opposite knee and carefully tried to clip my toenails. Really, although difficult and seriously uncomfortable, I celebrated the gift of being allowed to even attempt to care for my toes. I spent three months as “red point”  not allowed to even try to touch my feet. I also managed my whole gym workout without asking a therapist for help. Two months ago, I couldn’t twist the three or so inches to reach the hand weights. 

I had morning physio with Alex, and I was so excited to stand up from my chair and walk with the sticks across the physiohalle to practice some balancing and standing moves. Right now, Alex wants me to learn to stand up without using my hands as well as to walk with less weight on my sticks. I’ve got a long way to go, but to have these goals as reasonable possibilities is plenty exciting.

Another exciting moment today was my weekly basketball game. It’s one of the rehab highlights for me. I was never an excellent player with my feet (though I made a wonderful coach and had an undefeated season with my third and fourth grade girls), but I make a fantastic wheelchair basketball player. It’s plenty physical as we ram our chairs into each other and race across the court for a missed pass, but it’s also an incredibly good natured game as we give handicaps to the uncoordinated patients who struggle to catch the ball. 

Im certainly exhausted at the end of the game, so I was excited to treat myself to a nice cream after as Jo and I recapped our days and chatted after we both finished for the day. It’s always nice for me to hear his successes and concerns as he’s a few months ahead of me in the recovery process. Tomorrow will be his last day of tagesklinik, and I’ll be eager to hear how he continues to make time for training as he reintegrates into work in August. 

I’m hopeful I’ll get to come for tagesklinik, but I’m still waiting for confirmation from insurance. Please pray fervently they’ll quickly approve this necessary continued treatment.

I had one more exciting moment this evening as I went to Kandern to meet my new landlord and sign my rental contract. I’m so grateful huge factor is settled. Thank you for the prayers. Praise God I’m not homeless! Though please pray the accommodations for the shower are quickly installed so I don’t start to stink once I move in. 

That wasn’t really the end of my day as I said goodbye to one of my sweet nurses who is going on holiday tomorrow. I was so encouraged as she told me how excited she was by the progress I have made and hopes to see more after I’m in day clinic. I then returned to my room and called up my insurance to offer my plea that they follow the doctors’ recommendation for day clinic. Next I checked my email and found out that the interview I did for the nice women at 4word has been posted. They have a great website of resources for Christian business women, and the founder is a friend of my dad’s. They asked to share my story, and you can read the feature here: http://www.4wordwomen.org/blog/2014/06/tragedy-in-a-new-land/

A lot happened today, and there are little details I’ve left out here, but you can praise God with me for the huge successes I’ve had in increased strength and mobility as well as pray for insurance approval and continued bathroom healing as those functions are inconveniently difficult to control. 

A few weeks ago one of the therapists told me there was an annual gathering of patients from rehab clinics across Switzerland and invited me to go this year. “It’s in the French speaking part of Switzerland, so it’s a four hour drive away. Can you do that?” 

“I think so,” I replied. My therapist agreed I was allowed to go if I wanted. 

This morning at 5:30am the night nurse gently woke me up and I slowly went through my now brutally long morning routine to get ready for my great adventure. I made my way downstairs at 6:30 and met up with about half a dozen other bleary-eyed patients ready to go on an adventure. I dozed most of the car ride there, and when we finally arrived, I was still unsure what exactly to expect. I hadn’t been told any more information than it was Swiss paraplegics getting together, and we would eat a lot. 

I was a little worried I’d gotten into something over my head as I don’t even speak German yet let alone French, but I was with my REHAB crew all day and felt like Beauty walking through her provincial town as I constantly heard “Bonjour!” 

I had a lot of fun today as we played foosball and curling between breaks of gourmet snacks and authentic Swiss raclette. I even got a short tour of the rehab facility we were visiting; it made me infinitely more grateful to be recovering in Basel. Previously, I had no point of comparison for how wonderful REHAB Basel is, but now I’m aware what a gift it is to have natural lighting, wide hallways, and the distinct omission of a hospital smell. The staff here have also done an amazing job taking care of me, and I’m so grateful for the progress I’ve made. Please pray that I’ll have my day clinic confirmed soon and selfishly that I’ll get to keep Alex as a therapist in day clinic.

Moving day is fast approaching, and I’m so thankful for the help that people have provided and continue to provide as I make arrangements. Please pray the details continue to fall into place and that my dad will arrive safely on Friday evening. 

I’ll be leaving here as an inpatient soon, but there’s a lot of therapy still to do to engage and strengthen my muscles. This morning I got myself ready for an early physio session with Alex where she taught me some stretches and balancing to practice on my own. Shortly after that I headed to the kitchen to make cookies while another patient made lunch. I find the occupational therapists are hard to impress, and today was no exception as Isabelle insisted a try to walk around the kitchen with my sticks and push a cart with the ingredients where I needed them. I think the difficulty impressing them comes from the expectation that i should be able to do everything alone. They just ask me to do everything and don’t help unless I ask. I really love it because it motivates me to achieve whatever they ask me to do. When I can’t, they are gracious to me and help me work to meet the new goal. I did my best to stay out of the today chair while I prepared the cookies, but eventually I needed to sit down, and I was grateful for the short break as we ate our lunch because I had a hand bike group directly afterwards. Once we washed the dishes, I returned my sticks to my room and met the rest of the patients and therapists in the hand bike group outside.

Monday I found myself dozens of meters behind the other riders as I forced my arms to keep rotating the hand pedals up the slope we were riding. By the return to rehab, my arms were shaking from the exertion. Today we took a different route with no slope and I found myself in the middle of the pack as we cycled at a leisurely pace through a nearby park. I was still exhausted after, but I still managed to have the strength and energy for most of my routine arm workout downstairs in the gym. I crashed on my bed for a two hour nap after that though. I woke up in time for dinner, and after the meal went to station two to visit a patient who had moved from my station a couple weeks ago. I befriended his wife first as she found me standing near her husbands centrally located room one day. I soon discovered they were from South Africa and spoke fluent English. We had some great conversations, and I was happy to repay a visit as they had come to see me in my station a couple times already.

I was yet again struck by how incredible my life is as Peter pointed out that were it not for my accident and his we never would have met each other. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to make friends with people like the unassuming badminton world champion who gave me advice and encouragement about traveling with bathroom and mobility difficulties to the former mayor of Cape Town, South Africa who introduced legislation to desegregate city beaches before it was legal in the rest of the country. These are wonderful people to have conversations with, and I’ll be forever thankful to have met them and plan to keep in touch with them.

The next few weeks will continue to be a whirlwind, but as the pace of life speeds up, I hope I’ll still find time for an ice cream with another expat who’s excited about what the world can offer or a short chat in my broken German with a Swiss woman who despite our language barrier still builds a friendship with me. I’m grateful for the people who are helping me along in this journey in various different ways, and I pray that I’ll stay focused on the relationships when the details of daily life overwhelm me. Please pray with me that I will stay on top of the details though – organizing prescriptions, arranging transportation, filling out paperwork. There’s a lot to keep track of, and I’m worried I’ll lose sight of something as I settle in to life outside of a hospital. I’m still also praying for some inexplicable cuts to heal and digestion to resume a normal process. With that, I’m praising God for the increased stability while walking with sticks and the clearance to walk around the station alone. 

A couple weeks after my accident, I had an itch on my right thigh. Unfortunately, I have nerve damage there and can’t sense scratching. The itch hasn’t left for five months… I keep scratching, but nothing happens. It’s unnerving. It’s such a mundane thing, yet I’m so thrown off by it. Sometimes mundane things are unnerving.

The physios gave me some impossible tasks today, and I was disheartened to think how possible they once were. I was thankful for a couple victories as well amongst the unnerving differences I noticed. This morning I had to complete a mobility index while Patrick and Alex argued over whether I could actually successfully lift my butt while laying on my back. “It doesn’t say how high,” Alex insisted, “so it doesn’t matter if it’s only a couple centimeters.” I was happy for the points as I’d fail a number of the other tasks – standing up without using my hands for support, standing with no hands with my feet directly next to each other for ten seconds, standing with one foot in front of the other with my eyes closed for ten seconds.

That last one was particularly unnerving as Alex stood behind me and Patrick in front of me ready to catch me if I fell either direction. It felt so strange to secure myself with my walking sticks, look at Patrick, close my eyes, and loose all confidence in my balance even though I knew my legs had the strength to hold me and there were to therapists I trust keeping me safe. I couldn’t lift my hands for more than a fraction of a second. Amazingly enough, that was far from the most unnerving experience of the week.

Alex insisted I need to learn wheelchair handling which is PT code for nightmare scenario. She took the safety wheel off the back of my chair during our session Tuesday and made me watch Patrick wheel himself up and down a small step before insisting it was my turn. I first practiced popping the front wheels up and holding my balance which is terrifying in its own right. Once I’d far from mastered but somewhat successfully achieved the single step, Alex took me to the five steps from the physiohalle to the main floor and made me pull myself up the steps balancing my weight on the big wheels with her behind for safety and Patrick in front for emergency. No sooner had I made it up and caught my breath than she told me it was time to go back down. I was nearly hyperventilating by the end. By far, my greatest motivator to walk again is to never have to do stairs in my wheelchair. I told Alex this again today, but she still insisted on taking me through the wheelchair obstacle course in the garden where the easy part was wheeling through loose gravel.

I’d rather walk, but that’s still a long ways away. I’m working hard, and I’m cleared to walk the short circle of my station alone with my sticks, but there’s a long road ahead still. I’m so grateful for the great successes and the news this week that the landlord has agreed to let me live in the apartment I visited. Praise the Lord, and please continue to ask for nerve recovery that restores function and feeling.

It demands to be felt. Pain, that is. That’s one of my favorite lines from John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars – it’s a profound concept. I couldn’t ignore the pain I felt in the emergency room before the surgeon fixed my broken vertebrae. I can’t forget the nights of agony when neurons fired angry relentless messages to my brain that my back was on fire from the nerves being severed or stretched in my spine. Even now the ache refuses to go away through the day, and every morning mid torso down I feel unbelievably stiff and have to fight with my left hip to lift my leg and stretch the sore and tight muscles.

That’s just a fraction of my physical condition, but pain can also be emotional. I have a choice every morning to decide how to respond to the emotional pain of losing function in my lower body, and my attitude stays positive. That’s different than ignoring the pain; it’s living with it. I have the choice to live with human dignity or like a vegetable. While Laura the Carrot has lived a wonderful life thanks to the brilliance of Veggie Tales, Laura the Person is also living a wonderful life thanks to the Author of her life.

Living as a human requires reentry into daily human life, and Saturday was a big test for me in how I can function outside of a hospital. I left the rehab facility at 9am to head to Kandern for the BFA graduation ceremony. I was so delighted to celebrate my NHS vice president and her classmates as they completed their year and were honored by our small community. I even had the blessing of holding my current favorite baby for part of the ceremony. (Don’t worry, Denise, I’m posting this like ten hours before you get induced. Gooey will be my favorite baby by tonight.)

After the ceremony, there is a lot of emotional pain for staff and students as goodbyes are given, some unaware if they’ll ever see certain friends again. I found one of my precious freshmen who will not be returning to BFA next year and saw the pain in her eyes as she had to face the reality that she would not participate in a BFA graduation three years from now. My pain for her is greater than the agony of fractured vertebrae – I can only pray that her teachers in Texas will take care of her. She has the potential to make this world a better place, but her teachers have the responsibility to care for her as she continues to grow up. I take that responsibility seriously with each of my students, and I’m so grateful for the parents who have entrusted their kids to me. Even when they aren’t in my classroom any more, even when they graduate and scatter across the globe, they will always be my kids.

Graduation ended with plenty of time left in the day though, and I followed Dayla through the crowd on campus, stopping to say goodbye to a few people, before being pushed to Mr. Chicken at the foot of the monstrous hill that leads to Garni, my one time home. I wheeled into Mr. Chicken to get some food and inform Mr. Chicken himself that, yes, Dayla does in fact have a boyfriend now, as he asked about the handsome young man who walked up the hill with “Day-lia” as he calls her.

French fries in hand, I waited for Dayla and Dmitri to drive back down the hill to retrieve me since it would be a nearly impossible and potentially dangerous journey to push me up the steep slope. I wasn’t sure how I’d respond to the emotional pain of reentry into Garni as I’d only be able to wheel into the first floor. My bedroom and belongings stayed undisturbed two floors up as we had lunch and I enjoyed some time with my housemates.

Soon enough, Dayla and Dmitri helped me back into the car and loaded my wheelchair in the back as we headed back to Basel for more adventures. Dayla and I had previously found a showing of The Fault in Our Stars in English and located a parking garage nearby. We made our way towards “Cinema Alley” from the parking garage and discovered a steep slope leading down to the city streets. Dmitri drove me down carefully and with a smile. I realized through the rest of the evening as Dayla and Dmitri took turns pushing my chair through the terrain that it was nothing close to a burden to have me in a chair. In fact, they were eager to push me, and Dmitri made no complaint about turning in his ID for an elevator key at the theater. I should mention that we did stop at Starbucks before the movie started because, let’s be honest, Dayla and I will never turn down an opportunity for coffee.

In the theater, we found the handicapped bathroom, and I managed my difficulties alone with no trouble. We made our way to the seats assigned to us, and I transferred from my wheelchair to the comfy aisle seat with relative ease. It is a delightful adaptation, and the three of us talked about how much we enjoyed it over dinner afterwards before we headed back to REHAB. By the time I made it back, I’d been out for over twelve hours. I was so encouraged that I’d made it through the whole day with no complications.

I’m still praying for no complications as I continue to transition out of here. Currently, my digestive system is a minor complication, so please pray with me that my intestines and I learn how to cooperate. Please pray also that mysterious cuts in inconvenient places will disappear never to return. These are minor pains that demand to be felt, but they don’t have to last forever. Please also pray that the landlord of the apartment I hope to move into soon will quickly agree to allow the necessary adaptations. I’m getting nervous as the days go by with no certainty of a living situation. There are a lot of details to take care of before I leave here, and I crave your prayers that everything falls into place quickly and easily.

My dad’s love language is giving books. He finds no greater pleasure than passing on a text he values to someone he cares about. Years ago, he became enamored with the writings of Watchman Nee. He bought up every print copy of the book he could find and even went so far as to find the publisher with copyrights to ask for more when he discovered most of Nee’s books were out of print. The particular text he sought out in bulk was Sit, Walk, Stand, Nee’s look at the book of Ephesians. I was among the dozens if not hundreds who received a copy of the book from my dad. Unlike the majority of his crusade texts, I actually read this one. Granted, he made a big deal of it, so I mostly did it to get him to stop asking me if I’d read it.

I can’t give an adequate summary of the text, but reading Ephesians is always a good idea and might give you a better idea of what I’m reflecting on in my recent progresses… if you’re so inclined. Actually, just reading Ephesians rather than this blog might be a good life choice, but a second place might be both, or maybe you’ll ignore my advice and choose just the blog, or neither. I’m not going to worry about it.

My dad and I both find irony in the fact that my response to Nee years ago was, “I need to learn to sit more.” He encourages Christians to soak in the description of our identity in Ephesians 1. You need to really know who you are before you can do anything effectively. I’m often so concerned about the doing in life, I skip over the being, the identity. I’ve had loads and loads of time to sit in the past four to five months and soak in my identity. It’s a valuable practice, and I’m grateful for it as it prepared me for the next advances.

Walking comes second in Nee’s analysis of Paul, and Paul uses the metaphor profusely through the letter. I’ve done a little bit of walking lately, and it’s tough work to do it well. Paul commissions his audience to walk worthy, and I’ve got to be very intentional about each step I take that it is not lazily dragging my feet or swinging my hips unnaturally.

It’s the final command that’s been on my heart a lot lately, though. Stand. Stand firm. Stand firm against the devil. I’ve been learning how to stand the last two weeks. It started with a therapist standing behind me while I had a bar in front of me and let go of my hands. The therapist would hold me and push me forward when my body started to swing or shift too far backwards. I couldn’t do it without help for a long time. One therapist tested it by having me stand in a corner and try not to use the walls for support. The second I managed to move my hands and hips away from the walls, he blew on me with only a little force and watched me fall back into the corner. A light breeze could knock me down without a fight. But I was ready to fight. I’ve been fighting to teach my body balance for the last two weeks, and yesterday I was rewarded with a new record of standing on my feet without holding anything for thirty seconds. If I’m holding on to something, I can stand for indefinite periods of time. I get bored before I get tired, so my standing usually only lasts half an hour to forty-five minutes. Yet, let’s not forget my first experience standing for twenty minutes led me to throw up and nearly black out. Twice that time is nothing to scoff at now. In fact, I even managed to play a game with the occupational therapist today while standing and occasionally letting go with both hands (though usually just one).

I’m still not steady on my feet, but my strength is increasing, and I’ll keep learning how to sit and walk worthily as well.

As I read through Ephesians before writing this, I was struck by the variety of metaphors Paul develops through the letter. What caught me years ago in my class on the letter was the household theme. I’m part of a functioning home, and every person in the house has a role that is significant. Two friends came to visit me this evening, and as they talked and prayed with me, that I still have a functioning role was yet again made evident. I’m still a whole human being learning to sit, walk, and stand, and I have a unique place in God’s household as one who understands something about disconnections in the brain and the body, as one who experiences the beauty of the human body’s ability to adapt to difficult circumstances, as one who is unbelievably excited by the idea of finding connections between literature and daily life, and as one who thrives on opportunities to share with students that a painting of what looks like intricately connected pieces of metal, cogs, and bolts can be a prayer.

The artist of just such a prayer was one of my visitors, and I was so blessed by the opportunity to spend some time with him and his wife as we talked about what I’ve learned here and what I brought with me before this experience that prepares me to return to school a whole and healthy individual. Please keep praying for this transition, particularly that I would get approval for my housing. We are waiting to hear from the landlord about the small changes necessary. Please pray also for my adjustment period as I leave a facility created for people with my disabilities and enter into the small town built for hearty hikers. Praise God I’ll have help in this transition and that I’m still making great progress as I get ready to go.

“What is wrong with your socks?””Do any of your socks match?””Your socks are not a pair.””How very American.””All Americans wear mismatched socks.”

The last one was one therapist who’d seen my socks before explaining to another who hadn’t. I’ve heard them all. The staff here are baffled by my mismatched socks. To be fair, staff at BFA were too when they discovered my habit. My first staff event led to a colleague asking me whether my mismatched socks were due to jet lag or not having unpacked yet. I sheepishly admitted it was a semi-conscious decision. Years ago I let a teenager convince me it saves time folding laundry. This is the same girl who convinced me SuperWhoLock was a good idea. I stand by my life choices – as does she who recently painted a Captain America shield on her car. But I digress.

Those who know me well are aware I’m not easily swayed by peer pressure, yet loads of my life decisions are formed by teenagers. I left the country because of a hyperbolic statement by one kid who graduated high school this weekend – okay, as I explained to her and her friends, she was just a catalyst.

The mismatched socks have become part of my personality, and I’m not ashamed of it. I’m also not ashamed that it came from a teenager’s influence. To those of you who think teenagers don’t have good ideas, stop looking down on teenagers. They are brilliant, hilarious, insightful, and passionate.

And I miss my kids a lot.

Really, I miss them more than words can express, and I see reminders of them everywhere, including whenever I take my shoes off and see my mismatched socks. I had a lot of time to rest this weekend and anticipate getting back into my classroom. I’m still pretty nervous about a lot of things related to my transition, and I still covet your prayers for my reentry into daily life in Kandern, but what gets me out of bed here each morning is knowing that not too long from now I’ll be able to be with my students again. These kids are incredible, and I love them so much. Each morning when I put on my mismatched socks, I think about how excited I am to return to the classroom and learn with my students. I’m so grateful for the increase in strength and energy I’ve had in the last few days, and I hope my stamina stays high as I enter into another week of hard work practicing standing and balance. These are the critical skills I need to develop before I leave rehab – as well as learning to step up small stairs. Please keep these things in your prayers. 

I was prepared for my first social outing to be an emotionally overwhelming event, however, I was not prepared to receive quite the welcome that I did when I wheeled into the BFA staff appreciation dinner last night. I thought I could make an inconspicuous entrance since I’m short in my wheelchair. I’m a little suspicious the tall Canadian behind me was waving his hands or something to draw attention to me… I barely made it into the building before people started clapping, and then they started standing up across the room. From the outside, I’m sure it looked strange to see a room full of adults dressed to the nines applauding a wheelchair bound girl in sweatpants. For me, I was keenly aware of how incredibly loved I am, and I’m so grateful for it.

I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in the staff event as a fully fledged member of BFA’s staff. I was reunited for the second time with all of my housemates at once. I got to ride in a real car – there and back. I even got to hold a real, live baby. It was a night full of normal things, and I was able to participate almost fully. There were still a few things that were different than how I envisioned I’d spend the night when I first came on staff, but those normal moments mean a lot.

I’m still overwhelmed at the idea of transitioning away from rehab, but knowing I can do some of these small things is a huge deal. Particularly, I have to lend my thanks to the Bryans who completely unknowingly assuaged one of my greatest fears. Early on I realized that I’m stuck in place when I’m holding something because I can’t hold on and wheel, and the idea of holding a real, live baby seemed ridiculously impossible. Granted, this fear took root when I was still heavily drugged four months ago, but getting a chance to hold the Bryan’s baby wiped that away. Plus, she is adorable.

I really do look forward to getting to have more normal interactions like last night. I know the more that I do outside of rehab, the more normal my life will become. As Jo’s told me many times, whatever level of healing I get to, eventually that is my normal and I’ll get used to it. There’s still a lot of healing taking place, and I’m hopeful for significant strides in the coming weeks. I’m working hard with the therapists to learn how to stand and balance without using my arms; it’s really difficult right now. Please keep praying for balance and bathroom improvements.

The concept of home is difficult for an expat. I’ve read sentiments that express an expat can never fully come home because she has left part of her heart in different places. I don’t know how I feel about all those sappy statements, but there is some truth behind them. I struggled with the concept of home before I even considered moving overseas, yet I’m stubbornly sure Portland will always be the home of my heart. Even so, Kandern is also my home. So is REHAB Basel for now though it’s a home I’m eager to transition out of.

Part of my transition happened this morning as I visited Kandern for the first time since my accident. I went to visit a possible apartment option and see if I was able to get around the school and the grocery store. It was pretty emotional for me as I drove with Isabelle into the town I had grown accustomed to being a pedestrian in during the fall. However, there was a lot of work to do as I wheeled into the flat and figured out where I’d need handrails installed and if I could get myself into the shower.

Once we established what I’d need to make the flat safe for me alone, I wheeled down the familiar path to the back of the school. I kept my plan to come to campus pretty quiet because it was for therapy rather than a social visit, but I knew I couldn’t avoid being spotted. I’m a little conspicuous – it’s the hipster glasses. And the wheelchair doesn’t help. Before we even made it inside, a parent walking by stopped me to let me know he’s been following my story and praying for me and a colleague gave me a hug to welcome me back.

Although I couldn’t open the door myself, I managed the small wheelie necessary to push me over the threshold of the side door to JB – I’m still miles away from managing the step at the front door. I immediately met Lexi outside the door of her yearbook class and promptly paid for my copy of the coolest BFA yearbook yet.

While Isabelle discussed the possibilities for making the door easier for me to open with Myriam, one of my former Bible students came out of yearbook to give me a hug. The rest of the class smiled and waved from inside the room when the door opened again, and I made my way to the end of the hall with my mini entourage to try out the bathroom. My wheelchair doesn’t fit in the stalls, but there’s a lock on the staff bathroom that I didn’t know existed (the staff bathroom, that is, the second floor staff use the student bathroom on the second floor instead of this hidden first floor staff bathroom) so I’ll be able to use it. I finally realized what the other patient told me about how useless bathroom skills were if you couldn’t walk though. I won’t have a problem with my catheter in a locked room – though let’s be clear, I’m still praying for return of both walking and bathroom functions.

Brant procured the elevator key for me, and we traveled up to JB 2 where I saw my senior NHS officer coming up the stairs with another staff member. I was excited to give Alice a second hug in a week before I told her to keep quiet because I wasn’t here for a visit and couldn’t see all my students. It was really hard to know my kids were so close by and I couldn’t hug them all, but I had to stay focused. I traveled around Jill’s classroom to see how easily I could maneuver in a class. We talked briefly about possible student help in arranging desks and how I could use the room before I headed to the staff room to hide during passing period. I passed a math class full of my freshmen and inadvertently ruined any hope Mrs. Martin may have had of keeping their attention on geometry. Fortunately, it was almost time for the bell to ring, and she stepped out to tell me they were all excited to catch a glimpse of me.

As soon as the tardy bell rang, we returned to the elevator and I caught sight of another one of my former Bible students wandering out of class. Of course I was overjoyed to see her and give a hug, but I had to quickly send her off to class. I would have loved to spend an hour talking to her about her semester, how she survived AP Euro History, and so many follow up questions to her final reflection paper for my class; unfortunately, I was on a schedule. The last thing we needed to check was if I could wheel myself into the auditorium of the main building – we already know I can’t make it to the offices upstairs in the elevator-less building. I successfully made it in and out and sat talking with Isabelle, Myriam, and Brant about the details we would need to make my days successful when I caught sight of the reflection of three students running towards me.

I tried to repress a smile as Brant warned me of their coming. “Miss Hewett!” Emily shouted as she ran up with two other students from my Bible class. Just as before, I was delighted to see them, but tried to send them back to class. They claim they asked to leave after they saw me from the window, but the last thing I ever want to do is take away valuable classroom time. I seriously doubt I would have let students out of my class to see someone, but I give my sincerest thanks to my colleague who let my precious students brighten my day. I love those kids so much.

I still had a lot to so though as I worked out my arms on the upward slope back towards the apartment and the grocery store. I wheeled myself into the store to find all the bumps and slopes before Isabelle and I made our way back to the car. It was hard to drive away, but it know I’ve still got a long way to go before I’m safe to stay in Kandern. I’m back in Basel now ready to give my all at therapies and training to prepare me for my next home.

I just got the news today that I’ve been officially approved to stay at REHAB Basel until June 30! I don’t usually check my email on the weekends, but I made an exception realizing there was a chance I got an email late Friday in America that wouldn’t have come through until yesterday for me. Sure enough, I had an email waiting that said I was approved – with the corresponding documentation to prove it – to stay here until June 30. I’m overjoyed with this news. Thank you so much for your prayers.

I’ll be working hard this last month in rehab to make sure I can live safely as an independent individual. I’ve got a lot of hard work ahead, but I know I can do it. Please pray that the housing option the school has found for me will actually work – we’ll find out this week if I’m able to get around the place safely on my own and what, if any, adjustments will need to be made. 

Since today was uneventful other than my exciting insurance news, I stole a couple pictures my friends took from their visit yesterday when I was showing off my walking skills. It’s still a lot of hard work, but the fact that I’m able to do it at all with just a walker is incredible. I’m allowed to safely take steps around the station without anyone behind me in case of accidents – based on the understanding that I’m safe enough to not have any accidents, not because they’ve stopped caring about me. The staff here is excellent. I’m pretty fond of them, actually.

I’m not as clever as you all give me credit for. I appreciate it, but as an English teacher, I need to give credit where it is due. “Decreasing world suck” is not a term I came up with: www.fightworldsuck.org has been around for a while and each year the Project for Awesome raises money and a worldwide community votes to give the resources to causes that they vote for. My sincerest thanks for the benefit of the doubt you all gave me, but the odds are that my clever phrases are allusions to the Nerdfighter community or some obscure literary icon. 

I do admire people who are genuinely creative and come up with things like this clever video of my first Indian food experience: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_YH_XEqtI8&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Side note – you know you’ve found wonderful new friends when they good naturedly tease you about your choice of an email address from when you were thirteen.

My creative skills are limited, but I try to be thoughtful in my presentation of material which sometimes leads to thinly veiled allusions. Fair warning, there might be some below, but hopefully they are creatively woven in to an interesting and readable account.

I woke up Thursday morning ready for nothing – it was a national holiday, and therefore I had no scheduled therapy. Eager to do nothing alone, I got myself out of bed, did my difficult bathroom tasks, showered, and only asked for help when I needed to be sure all the moisture was removed from between my stiff and stubborn toes. Once that was done, I dried and dressed myself without help. I leisurely made my way up to the recreation room where I removed the German translation of Calvin and Hobbes to pretend I knew what I was reading for half an hour. As I made my way back to the station, I found Heather climbing the stairs to visit me for lunch. I enjoyed the chance to stand up and have a conversation with her for the first time in over four months. I also got a chance after lunch to take a short walk with her which again was a first in over four months; we slowly made our way around the half loop in my station as I took full advantage of my new privilege of walking without a nurse. Once Heather left, my day had the potential for bland and boring or weird and wonderful. Ever one for the unexpected, I embraced the boring and wonderful. I didn’t do much, but I did it all by myself, and I was so proud of the little things – getting in and out of bed on my own, taking care of my bathroom business with the door closed and no one else around, even choosing my own bedtime was a choice I savored. 

Friday was similar as I only had a half day of therapy. I spent all morning thinking it was Monday after a weekend and all afternoon thinking it was Sunday before my week was about to start. I eventually figured out what day it was, and decided it was about time to respond to the request sent on Facebook by someone with my sister’s picture to give them a call. Naturally, I called my sister and found out it was my dad who has yet to discover the purpose of a profile picture but we had a nice chat. I’m currently in a race with my second nephew to find a new home. He is due to arrive June 18, and I hope to leave here until June 28 – please join me in prayer that my insurance who has yet to respond will grant this request from the doctors. I’d like Baby Gooey to win this race.

I’ve made such great progress in the last few weeks, and I hope to continue making significant progress in the coming weeks, and hopefully here full time.

I hope to ease my way back into being a productive member of society by showing off my walking skills to friends like my German neighbors and roommates who came to visit today. My goal, as I told Gundi when she came to visit today, is to learn to walk up stairs to join my friends at frauenchor again soon. There’s a large flight of stairs to reach the choir practice room, so I’m taking it one step at a time. Right now, the next step is drying between my toes so I can live alone safely. Odd step, I know, but if I don’t learn this, I could develop “fusspilz” or “feet mushrooms” – fungus.

It’s not just about walking. If that was the only concern I had as a newly christened paraplegic, my life would be a relative walk in the park. My body isn’t done healing, so I’m asking for prayer that my muscles will relax, my nerves will reconnect, and my bodily functions will resume naturally. 

Reference: My nephew named his unborn brother Gooey; I take no credit for this genius. Though the three year old has also told me, “His name’s not gonna be Gooey when he comes out.”

We went a different way home from Starbucks. Sarah found a landmark in the skyline, and we worked our way back through other slopes in the city until we found the Main Street that leads back to REHAB.

Landmarks are important. They give direction when you feel lost. There’s probably something deep and philosophical that could be developed from that, but I’m too lazy to develop something.

Instead, I want to share some of the simple things that I did today and yesterday that are awesome on the surface with no need for existential pondering.

Yesterday was the first day I accomplished everything through the waking day with no help whatsoever from the nurses. (I still needed help in the night, but that doesn’t diminish the awesomeness.) I even put my socks and shoes on myself, the hardest part of getting dressed each morning. It was also my first day without my compression socks or blood thinner shots – signs I’m active enough to be at lower risk for blood clots. It’s a significant landmark in my recovery (I was fishing for a metaphorical link; I failed). Another big moment for me was being cleared to walk the loop of my station by myself with the walker. Previously, I could only do it with a therapist or nurse by my side.

This morning I showered and dressed myself slowly and laboriously but without the help of any nurses. I also managed to stay in my chair without a midday break for the first time. I had some pretty great motivation though. First, I had a late lunch with Jo which was my first experience with Indian food. Jo called ahead to see if the restaurant could promise a peanut/tree nut/soy free meal. It was, as I’ve been told for years, delicious. It was one of those life highs like the Christmas I got my first ever box of assorted chocolates from Vermont Nut Free or the time the Multnomah cafeteria chef left soy sauce out of the stir fry so I could eat it. (Okay, maybe not that awesome because I cried both those times, but I was still pretty excited.)

After Jo and I enjoyed our awesome meal and talked for a while about our mutual odd successes and failures of spinal cord injury recovery and all that entails, I was blessed to spend some time with a few of my awesome students. One of my colleagues graciously volunteered to drive a group of five students to visit me. I stand by my biased opinion that I have the greatest students on the planet (and that includes Elyse Bax because I will forever want to claim her as mine when she one day rules the world). The sampling of BFA students who came to visit today are further evidence of how incredibly blessed I am by the teenagers I work with. They are so full of life and leadership, and I can’t wait to see how they go on to decrease world suck.

Selfishly, their visit was also a great encouragement of how loved I am. The fact they would spend an afternoon coming to visit says a lot, but I also got a sweet card from the girls at Witt dorm and a letter from a student with a copy of Psalm 20 to bless me. People frequently tell me I’m unusually loved – it’s true. I’m ridiculously loved by hundreds if not thousands of people across the globe who listen to my story and care about my plight. As cool as that is, what still floors me the most is the lavish love of a God who sent his son to make a way to restore relationship with me – the same God who, according to Psalm 20 listens to my pleas and fights for me. The same God who gave me a friend like Dayla who watches Dr. Horrible with me before sharing a super raw moment together exposed before the creator of the universe.

I’m still waiting to hear from insurance. Please keep praying for an extension and that I’ll be able to secure housing for next year. Please also pray the healing in my body would continue and decrease the annoying leg tremors. Praise God for the awesome progress I do continue to make though. 

This is my story, this is my song. Sometimes the plot is hard to follow, or the melody is difficult to hear, but I have a blessed assurance none the less.

My insurance is not so blessed. Today a nurse informed me my insurance wanted to kick me out against the doctors wishes on June 6. I was wrecked from morning til evening when I called up my insurance myself prepared to calmly but firmly tell them I need until mid-June at the earliest. I talked with a friendly representative who seemed genuinely surprised at my news the insurance was kicking me out. She said I’m approved until June 6, but thee was nothing saying that couldn’t be extended. I’ll follow up with the doctors tomorrow, but I’m praying our mid-June goal holds as I’ll be more confident in my independence by then. Please pray the insurance will be sorted out quickly and I’ll be able to continue making great progress here in the coming weeks.

Yesterday I caught my doctor in the hall and asked if I could have permission to go with Sarah into the city for a couple hours this afternoon. He said yes with no hesitation, and before the end of the day, I had a signed pass for my first outing outside of REHAB. There was no hesitation in my choice of location.

“We’re going to Starbucks!” I gleefully told anyone who greeted me.

Sandra came with Sarah this morning, so the three of us ventured off the REHAB property in the wrong direction before realizing we were headed for the highway not the city. Once turned around, we were still a bit turned around as none of us knew exactly where we were headed. I had a screenshot of the google maps directions, but we were uncertain of our starting point. Eventually, we figured out we were on the right route, and my anticipation grew as Sarah pushed me down the city streets.

We walked off the bustling streets into a quiet side street the directions guided us onto and looked for the next left hand turn. The roads to the left all sloped progressively steeper down, and my heart reached a record low when I realized the street we were supposed to turn on was impossibly steep. This likely over forty-five degree downward slope would make a San Franciscan embarrassed to call their hills steep. I started to think I wouldn’t actually make it to Starbucks today, but Sandra and Sarah were undaunted. They turned my chair backwards and together walked my chair down the soon to be never ending hill. We reached the first bend we assumed was the bottom to discover another stretch with a side street bistro. Denizens of the city eyed us curiously as we cautiously made our backwards parade. Three or four (what felt like twenty) turns more to discover a continuation of the descent led to increased panic on my part. How was I ever going to get back up that hill? I’d be stuck in downtown Basel forever. My heart sunk lower than my chair as we descended this eternal hill because I realized how very helpless I was. I was completely dead weight. I couldn’t even hold myself in place in an emergency; I would have tumbled backwards head first out of the chair if Sandra or Sarah let go.

Amazingly, we reached the bottom, and I found myself in a section of Basel I’d visited before. It was a strange experience to be in a place I had been before my accident. Sandra and I recreated a picture with some art we found on our first excursion in Basel this fall. In fact, we wheeled by the museum I visited the night before my accident. I was so overjoyed to finally make it to Starbucks and savor a venti mocha frappuccino.

At one point in our walk, Sarah asked me if I felt like Hazel Grace – the cancer ridden protagonist of one of my favorite novels who hates the stares she gets in public from her oxygen tubes. I totally get that part of Hazel; I don’t like the stares. Yet somehow, at the same time, I get that I’m something to stare at. I’m a medical wonder, and I’m not ashamed of that. I do, though, miss being able to blend into the background. I can’t stop the stares; they’re just going to increase as I leave rehab where people are used to limps and hobbles. I’m really nervous about that transition, and I crave your prayers as I charge ever closer to a yet unnamed move out date.

Thank you so much to those of you who have faithfully lifted me up and continue to encourage me. Just this evening, my friend Nigel blessed me (and Sarah) with a carved cross to hold in prayer – a physical reminder of our shared faith. He told us one of the crosses had split when he was making them and he had to glue it together, placing it under pressure to reunite the halves as a whole again. A small seam was all that remained as evidence. I pray that I’ll be made whole again too, knowing there will always be evidence of the pressure of my healing.

I woke up this morning ready for coffee as usual and feeling no more energized than normal though just as determined as ever. I ate my breakfast at a leisurely pace, and after a nurse helped me wash in bed and put my socks on, she left me with my clothes and a handy tool from the occupational therapy department to help me dress myself. I spent the next several minutes methodically dangling my pants in front of my feet and maneuvering my feet into the appropriate holes before reaching out and pulling my pants up and rolling side to side to get them all the way over my hips. My shirt is no problem now that I have the freedom to sit up on my own in bed. The new obstacle this morning was to put on my shoes myself. I practiced once with Isabelle, but it was a long and laborious process.

This morning it was me against my shoes as I sat on the edge of the bed. Aside from my socks, I’d done everything else myself. I knew I could do this, so I patiently positioned my feet in the braces and held the tongue of the shoe with my handy pants helper tool. Once both feet were in, the hard work began as I slowly bent over, discovering how far my muscles would let me reach this morning. I made it to the top Velcro strap of my braces no problem; it toke a little more time to convince my muscles to stretch to the second strap near my ankle. However, I was pretty pleased with my handy work once I had the braces strapped on. All that was left was to tie my laces. I knew I couldn’t reach my feet on the floor, so I shifted one foot up onto the bed and slowly sought out a position where I could reach my legs without any pain from over stretching my muscles. It took quite a while, but I made it.

I was then delighted when Sarah arrived to cheer me on the rest of my incredible day. After the huge accomplishment of getting dressed and tying my shoes, I had a relatively easy morning and got to rest in bed for a little bit before my physio with Alex in the afternoon. Unfortunately, we got distracted talking, and Sarah and I were late for physio. Alex found us in my room and decided I should walk down to the physiohalle instead of wheeling. I happily obliged, eager to take any opportunity to walk. I’m pretty sure Alex knew I could make it the whole way, but she told me we would go as long as I could. I had a lot of energy after my midday rest, so I started at a decent pace, and we joked I was running to physio. Sarah followed with my wheelchair, and I only needed to pause one time on the long journey through my station, across the spacious landing to the elevator bank, and into the physiohalle. I even walked to the far end of the physiohalle at an impressive turtle pace and passed Jo before taking a rest on a bench. I was still grinning when Jo came over to tell me he had dismissed the person who passed his field of vision with my shirt and glasses because I was walking too fast. They joked we needed to keep Sarah around longer if she gave me the motivation to do such incredible feats. Once I managed to contain my stupid grin, I spent the rest of my physio time practicing balance while passing a ball with Sarah.

Sarah was pretty wiped after ten minutes of tossing a ball, but we only had a half hour break before her real workout began. I got to play rafroball with her and a couple other patients and physios. Rafroball is a version of basketball played with a volleyball – with all the players in wheelchairs, of course. Sarah sat down in a sporty wheelchair and stripped down to a tank top ready to sweat in the summer sun. After an intense hour and a half of three-on-three where Sarah and I attempted and failed to recreate an epic Batum to Lillard inbound three, she challenged me to a race across the court. Naturally I schooled the noob, but it was a fun way for me to see my enhanced skills. I’m the pro at driving a wheelchair after four months. We did discover, though, that we both sweat profusely while getting good cardio sitting down. I, however, didn’t have to show off sweat marks in my chair as we made our way back to my station. Sarah proudly walked back to the room looking like she’d peed herself as a trophy of the shared experience.

There’s some things you’ll never understand about my experience, but Sarah gets what it’s like to lack a breeze from behind when confined to a chair during physical activity. I’m so grateful for these shared experiences as they overshadow my frustrations. Praise God that the good things always outweigh the bad. I’m incredibly grateful for the huge firsts today of tying my shoes alone, walking further than before, and finally getting to participate in the basketball games I longingly watched for months but couldn’t play with my corset. When you praise God with me, please also keep asking for continued healing in the bathroom functions. I’m also able to begin thinking of life after REHAB Basel, and there are lots of details to figure out as I transition back to Kandern. Please pray the transition would be as seamless as possible.

This summer I met a delightful Canadian couple, and when I introduced myself as being from Portland, Oregon, the woman giggled. “My wife isn’t laughing at you,” the husband quickly explained, “we’ve just finished watching two seasons of Portlandia on Netflix.””Ahh,” I smiled understandingly. “Is it really like that?” The woman sheepishly asked, almost embarrassed to think such a caricature could be grounded in truth but desperate to know from a genuine source. “Actually, yes. It’s almost exactly like that. In fact, when the show first came out, I was shocked to discover people did not put birds on things and call them art. My roommate from Reno, Nevada had to explain to me that was a distinctly Portlandian thing to do.”

I’m pretty liberal in telling that description of my Portlandian soaked nature; I actually like birds on things. When I was first in the hospital, knowing the Portland joke, my friend Carol brought me birds to put on my bed and make me feel at home. In the Portlandia sketch, the Portlanders paint birds all over objects and hilariously freak out at the arrival of a real bird. Yesterday morning, a bird flew in my room. I laughed once I registered the absurdity.

My life constantly seems absurd.

Random birds fly in my room to be shooed out by frazzled nurses, and my bestie from America made plans to visit me weeks before my accident. Sarah has been a huge part of my life for almost a decade once we met as part of a church plant in Hillsboro, Oregon. She was with me at the airport when I checked in to my one way flight to Germany last summer, and this visit was beautifully timed though drastically different than what we originally planned.

While I hoped to walk her sound Kandern, she wheeled me around the rehab facility this afternoon, and we talked about what has happened in my heart since I saw her last. While I hoped to play games with her and my new friends here, I passed a balloon back and forth with her while a therapist kept me from falling over. While I hoped to spend every waking second outside of my classroom with her, I have to send her away at the end of visiting hours each day.

It’s a different visit than I hoped or planned, but it’s still a stupendous opportunity fit me to share my soul with one of my favorite people on the planet, and I consider it such a gift that not only could she come, but she could care for me in a way only old friends can. I was particularly blessed to share my old friend with a new one as Dayla came tonight for our usual Tuesday visit and to take Sarah home for the night. I loved laughing and talking with two women I love dearly who have gotten to know me on opposite sides of the Atlantic and both want to spend time with me.

I’m grateful for the friends who are willing to stand by me as I navigate the absurdities of my life. I’m thankful for all you reading and continuing to follow my story or pray for me. Thank you for continuing to be concerned for me as a whole person as I emotionally and physically adjust to my new life. Please continue to specifically lift up bathroom functions. I’m still praying for a complete recovery, but I also need to learn patience and independence in the mean time. My core muscles are still getting a beating after nearly four months holiday, so please pray they catch up quickly and that I’ll soon be able to easily put on and tie my shoes (praise God for the success of completing the task for the first time ever in a mere thirty minutes). Pray also for my left hip to learn to hold its weight when I’m finding my balance. I currently rotate to the left (or completely fall backwards) when I try to stand without holding anything because the muscles are weaker on that side.

Really, it’s a wonder I haven’t had a more literarily inspired post sooner. Anyone who has ever heard me mention any book has seen my face ignited with passion as I expound on some literary wonder. If you don’t like reading, well, honestly, what are you doing reading a blog, but consider this your warning that I’m about to set off on a highly “LAD” inspired post. That is to say, these are the thoughts I would have once shared with just myself (L), Amanda, and Desiree as we mutually got excited about the wonders revealed about the universe through quality literature.

I’m deeply indebted to Dr. Schaak for a great deal of my literary formation, but particularly now I’m grateful for the choice to include the essay “On Being Ill” in his course on Virginia Woolf. Before my accident, a fantastic care package included my copy of the essay, and at some point in my rehab stay, I asked a roommate to bring it to me. I opened it up yesterday, and I found a charge from Virginia directly to me as she commented that the English language lacks the vocabulary to articulately describe pain or illness. She mentioned the British born would never dare “take liberties with the language” (7) and lamented the words would remain unintegrated “unless the Americans, whose genius is so much happier in the making of new words than in the disposition of the old, will come to our help and set the springs aflow” (7). Well, I’m on it, Virginia.

I’m an American audacious enough to attempt to express to you what my suffering is like. Here again, I’m indebted to a Multnomah professor who sparked my “Jewish phase” (that will never end). Years ago, Dr. Pothen perhaps knowingly sparked my interest in the writings of Elie Wiesel, and my interest in Jewish authors, particularly those dealing with suffering, has only increased exponentially. I wrote my thesis on Wiesel and how he deals with the madness inflicted by suffering through storytelling. It’s a little more complex than that, but it took me over twenty pages to weakly make my point. I’ve never let go of the idea that I barely started to make sense of two years ago.

I’m not going to rehash my thesis here, but I bring up the topic to say that since I now find myself in a position of suffering, to prevent the onset of (or perhaps simultaneously encourage) madness, I must tell my story. And as Virginia Woolf has so aptly pointed out, the English language lacks the necessary vocabulary to communicate my experience. Wiesel knew it was impossible to convey experience but that it’s critical to try.

I have to try to tell you about the tiny pinprick that hovers somewhere just to the left of my spine, perhaps above my hip, hidden in the recesses of muscle and tissue that yells so softly or so quickly that I can’t identify it, but I think it might be pain. Am I in pain right now? No. But this poke fires through the day confusing me on my sensation of right or not okay. I can’t find the cause of the culprit, and it’s buried so deep within my body, that it’s easy to ignore when it’s not shouting in it’s maddening whisper. 

It’s clearly different than the dull ache that never leaves the site of my injury. That can’t be registered as pain either. It’s not a throb; it’s just a continuous groan or sigh that sits low in my back, behind my stomach, swallowing up my lower spine. It hugs my bone and nerves in every position; adjusting just sets off a spasm in my legs. Those are perhaps the most annoying. My muscles have lost their connection to the brain, but they still long to be at work. Nerves in my feet fire signals that get stuck below the injury resulting in violent shaking of my leg. Again, this isn’t pain. It’s freaking annoying, to be sure, but the sensation doesn’t hurt. It unnerves. The muscles haven’t moved much in four months, and as they begin to stretch, the constricted muscle fiber is fighting back, cramping and flexing at its own whim. Spasms ripple down my legs, unasked and unstoppable. I started talking to my legs a couple weeks ago. “Shhh, calm down,” I tell them, “We’re on the same team. Stop fighting against me.” They never listen, but I refuse to consider them my enemies. They are prisoners of war exiled from communication with my brain from no fault of their own. 

The fault, dear Brutus, is in our stars. This is just the world we live in where legs lose communication with brains after vertebrae break. And it’s a beautiful, wonderful world I love learning about. The universe is fascinating, and we’ll perhaps only ever know 5% of what it has to offer in my lifetime (according to Hank Green we’re at 4%). My accident might prevent me from exploring certain aspects of this glorious creation that you might get to see, but it’s also a gift that gives me insight into things you could never imagine. 

Dr. Schaak taught me that the goal of literature is empathy. I don’t pretend that these blogs are of high literary quality, but it’s an expression of words, an attempt at relating an experience, an opportunity to share some of my understanding of the world in the hopes of encouraging you to see something new, to look for more from what you have, that you might share it with other humans who can’t experience your unique life. What can you share with me? One of the most painful lessons I’ve had to learn as an introvert is that the human experience is deeply relational; some theologians connect this to the Trinity. 

Understanding that relational value, I’m inviting you into my story, I’m asking you to listen to me and send up positive thoughts, petition God as Father, Spirit, Son, and maybe make yourself a better human being as I try to as well.

When you form your prayers, if you decide to, please don’t just pray for the pinprick to disappear. Pray that I’ll listen to the shouts and whispers of my body and my soul and learn to understand them better. Please don’t just pray that the ache would release it’s unnerving hug, but pray that I’ll be hugged by peace that comes from above. Please don’t just pray that my leg tremors would go away (and that the medication reducing them could be stopped), but pray that my nerves would find passages to send the messages from my brain to my toes and everywhere in between.

Every action has consequences and effects, some more far reaching than others. Some little things end up having huge influence. My life has several such examples – like going rock climbing with friends in the middle of January.

A significant event in my life was student teaching in Gaston; I loved that experience. I worked with three incredible teachers that make up the English department there, and I’m so grateful for their influence and encouragement. There’s also a super simple gift I got teaching at Gaston that has had an increasing value in my life. I was introduced to Lauren “Q” Quinsland one unassuming day before Christmas break. My cooperating teacher had written me recommendations for sending organizations and missionary schools and knew the trajectory of my plans. She told me there was a former teacher visiting the school who was doing exactly what I wanted to do.

The moment I met Q, I knew I’d like being friends with her. She wrote her email down for me and promised to make time to talk to me about her experiences both teaching at Gaston and at a Christian international school. That first coffee date at BJ’s in Forest Grove was one of the greatest training opportunities for the mission field I could have ever had. A couple hours with this passionate educator confirmed my first impression that she was an absolute gift modeling for me where I would soon be.

Q’s life is eerily similar to mine a couple months or years in advance. First, she described for me the details of teaching in Gaston. She articulated some of my same struggles with students disinterested in learning who we both so desperately loved and offered excellent advice on how to reach those students in the coming semester. She also prepared me for the wonders of international school education, expat life, and fundraising.

Asking people for money is never easy. It’s a touchy subject, but conversations with Q bolstered my confidence in what we were doing. Both of us care passionately about education and the transformational effect of the Good News of Jesus. We both care so much we dedicated our lives to the advancement of it, and we are partnered with people all across North America who are equally passionate about that. Those people pay our monthly salary through tax deductible gifts to our respective sending organizations.

That’s humbling.

Sometimes it’s also confusing. Q and I both set out to change the world. We are midpoints as people send us to do God’s work, and we in turn make other people’s service possible. Without our work in Bawtry and Kandern, other people across the globe would potentially struggle to do their own service. We both love our jobs; we both have positions we are passionate about. And both of us have had significant setbacks in our service due to major back injuries. (I told you the similarities were eerie.) like me, Q is currently praying for healing and hoping to return to service soon.

Shortly ahead of me as she is, she has started to see medical bills come in and expenses outside of insurance coverage have started to drain her accounts. I know I’ll have my own expenses soon to come, but Q is ahead of me in line right now. I may ask for money to help me return to long term service eventually, but I really feel it’s important that I ask for Q first.

She’s got a donation site set up here: http://www.gofundme.com/89svv0

Or you can give a tax deductible gift at www.pioneers.com/give designating your gift to her account 111547.

I know this is backwards to the world’s thinking, but the kingdom of God often beautifully and intriguingly is. Before you consider giving to me or TeachBeyond, can we make sure Q is fully funded?

Like any human, I have limits, and yesterday was an opportunity to find mine. Take your arms and hold them in front of you; now bend your torso forward. Did you fall over? Probably not, but yesterday I discovered my abs couldn’t hold me up in that position.

Before I got there, I had some major accomplishments that I wanted to celebrate, but walking up and down five steps was a draining experience. At the end of the day, I had ergo therapy, and I found that arbitrary limit. It broke me. I started tearing up, and eventually let a couple quiet sobs out as Isabelle told me it was okay to not be able to do everything the week I started taking my corset off.

I knew in theory that my abdominal muscles atrophied away weeks ago, but this was my first super tangible experience of trying to do something simple and unrelated to walking – I was sitting down – that I failed at horribly. I was so disheartened and embarrassed, but Isabelle assured me the skills can come back quickly and I’m not behind on healing.

In fact, I’m still defying odds with every step I take to the dinner table. I had a one percent chance of walking again. One percent. It’s not zero, but it’s pretty close.

Today, I clung to that one percent as I had Andy help me up the same five steps I needed two people to help me up just yesterday. We then walked around a corner, and he helped me down another five stairs. It was exhausting, but I did it. Every day I do a little more, but I also feel that deep exhaustion lingering and exacerbated by the drugs to calm my muscles and make more steps possible.

I hope they start to pick up a little… See the leg tremors are still around though I haven’t mentioned them for a bit. There are new meds to treat them, but the dose may still be to low. I crave your prayers that the tremors would disappear completely. This can happen faster if my calf muscles relax and my feet remember how to sit flat. These are critical issues related to walking again, but they honestly aren’t my biggest concern. Please, please, please, I beg of you to pray that my digestive system is restored to its former glory. I’m keeping the bathroom door closed on the details, but my life is significantly more complicated and uncomfortable in the moment.

My odds are unknown on this recovery, but I’m audacious enough to ask for it all. I’m still praying for a full recovery, and I’m hopeful for return of functions soon. Please join me in this crazy request that God has no reason or need to answer aside from his delight in giving good gifts. What will we learn about his character as we petition him together?

I have been a Blazers fan since I knew how to walk. I have a running list of reasons Robin Lopez is my favorite player, and five or more may or may not be related to our shared love of Powell’s City of Books. This is bigger than my favorite number being three from the time I learned it was Cliff Robinson’s number until I read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Guess what number RoLo wears? That’s reason #2 on my list of why he’s my favorite. I love Sideshow Rob more than Robinson, more than Sabonis, more than even Derek Anderson – the only athlete to ever make it up on my bedroom wall in poster form. I mean, have you seen Fropez dunk? This guy is unstoppable in the key, and his greatest aspiration is to have a cameo in the sequel to The Goonies. He never says die.

My mother, well aware of my desperate need to match my headband to the color Cliff was wearing every game I watched since I was three, was delighted to tip me off to the best Blazer news in over a decade. I woke up yesterday to a message from my mom that said, “Watch the last .9 seconds of the Blazer game.” Knowing that I created and colored posters for players each season as a child and forced her to save them in the coat closet in case I got to go to a game, she wouldn’t tip me off to a bad play. Friday night, the Blazers took on the Houston Rockets for game six in the round one playoffs. We were up by a game in the best of seven, and would advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first tine in 14 years if we won. My mom’s message was the first clue, and I went to my newsfeed on Facebook, sure the team would have posted any stellar play on their fan page. My news feed was nothing but celebratory statuses from everyone I know in the PNW. I found a link to the buzzer shot, and my jaw dropped as Batum passed the ball in to Lillard, and without hesitation Lillard shoots a three for the win – the one point win – that puts the Blazers into round two. Naturally, like any citizen of Rip City, I lost my mind when I saw Lillard’s legendary shot. I rewatched the video about twenty times.

Now, my love for this particular sports franchise is not a secret though you might need to know me more than a single season to see how deeply my childhood was formed by running down the hallway with my headband chosen to match Cliff Robinson or how I considered a career as a Blazer dancer so I could go to every game as my job. I love the Blazers (but I couldn’t care less about the rest of the NBA – in fact, my sister has doubted my love of basketball because I only care about one team rather than the whole league). However, I don’t go around introducing myself saying, “Hi, I’m Laura. I love the Blazers, I’m passionately opposed to all things Bronte because of my unwavering devotion to Virginia Woolf, and I plan my summers around Discovery Channel’s Shark Week.” Some things just take time to learn about people. Even if I did use that as my opening sentence when meeting new people, it still leaves a lot unknown; I’m brilliantly fascinating, and I can’t be contained in three random facts (though they can reveal a lot about me).

I learned some fascinating things about other patients this week, and it got me thinking about what I choose to share about myself and what I learn about others. I’ve been having meals with the 2011 Badminton world champion for weeks and didn’t know until yesterday. What I knew previously was that she’s fluent in German, Swiss German, French, English, and Swedish, plus conversational in Spanish. Every individual is a never ending source of fascinating – including you who is reading this. Yes, you the individual, not the nameless masses.

I’ve shared before how weird it is for me to write so much about myself and know so little about the masses reading it. Well, I’ve come up with an idea that doesn’t balance the scales, but it will provide me with ample amusement and encouragement. Plus I’m a teacher who hasn’t given a homework assignment in over three months; I’m withering away.

I’d like to ask every single reader to share some things with me:First, who the heck are you? Some of you I know, some I don’t. Please tell me your name and how you heard about my story or how you met me. For example, I know someone reading could write, “I’m friends with your roommate’s parents, and I’ve been following your blog since you started.” My sister could write, “Grandma Janet bribed me with Oreo cookies to get out of bed to meet you the day you were born. I liked the cookies more at the time, but now I think you are pretty swell and care about what you do in life.”Once that formality is done, add three random interesting facts about you. If I do know you, make them ones you don’t think I know already. All the better if they make me laugh, and please don’t try to make me cry. I have enough to cry about without your help; I won’t make it to the Berlin early release of the TFiOS movie in June.

Second thing, why the heck are you reading this? Why is my story important to you? A stranger might tell me, “You seem like such a weirdo, and I’m fascinated by your strange response to life’s rotten move to you. You’re like a train wreck; I can’t stop staring at the oddity.” Thank you, kind stranger; that’s high praise. My previous roommate could say, “I read this because even though I love you and complain to Kara that she gets to talk to you more, I consistently ignore your FaceTime calls and have no other way to stay informed on your condition because of my insistence upon not answering probably because I’m working.” Whatever the reason, I’m desperately curious to know why you keep listening to what I have to say; it’s a conundrum that baffles me and my sister. We don’t understand why people think I’m so interesting. I beg of you, tell me why. 

Finally, what’s one thing that made you smile today? Or yesterday if you’re reading this in the morning. I want to hear about happiness and beauty in the world. I think joy is worth sharing. One thing that made me smile was hearing Emily tell me the story of buying my Stumptown coffee at Bipartisan. Little things can brighten a day, so it doesn’t have to be watching Damian Lillard’s shot live (though I do know some people who were at the game and may have relived it all weekend on YouTube).

I can’t expect you all to be willing to share in comments though you are welcome to use that platform. For those less public, I have a gmail account I used just for student teaching that you can send your responses to. I won’t reply, and please know this isn’t my personal email. I’m not giving you a direct link to me; I have a hard enough time replying to messages from family members. I won’t check it again after the next few days. I also won’t open them unless the subject is “RipCity” in case any of you are meanies who sign me up for spam. Nevertheless, I’m begging you to fill this inbox with these responses. Send them to Ms.LHewett@gmail.com.

Yesterday evening Alex saw me wheeling down the hallway with Pinterest open on my iPad. Naturally, she stopped me and politely demanded to know who the attractive man on the iPad was. I laughed and told her it was Captain America, a character from a popular movie. She said she was going to watch that movie this weekend so she could see more of This man. While I’m a bigger Joss Whedon fan than Avengers, I really do enjoy the character of Captain America. There’s a scene early in the first movie where Rogers is still that sickly looking dude who desperately wants to serve his country and do what’s right. The doctor is convinced he’s the one to inject with super strength, but the commanding officer is unconvinced. The two men then watch a group of soldiers respond to a fake grenade tossed in their midst. Everyone scatters except soon to be Captain America who is curled on top of the grenade in an attempt to save his comrades.

Don’t you wish you would respond that selflessly?

I’ve had a lot of people tell me something similar. “I really hope I would have responded like you.” I didn’t really know what to make of those statements for a long time. What I’ve come to realize is no one knows how they will respond to any crisis, but you can prepare yourself in some ways. I can look back and see how my life led up to my response. If this accident occurred five years ago, I don’t know how I would have responded either. I hope with dignity and grace.

What I do know is that I’d already been prepped to step out of the way in situations over my head. I had twenty-five years of learning that involved a fair share of selfishness and mistakes to make me the person I am today. On the emergency room phone call when I asked my dad first to pray that God would be glorified and second that I might walk again it wasn’t because I’m a straight up awesome person. It was because I have had a series of events in my life shaping me into a person who has glimpses of perspectives outside of my life. Your life has shaped you to face completely different challenges. Steve Rogers was shaped by life to be the kind of gentleman who throws himself on grenades to save other people’s lives. I was shaped to respond well to two broken vertebrae.

I still make decisions that form me for whatever comes next in my life. They continue to shape me into, I hope, someone more like Jesus.

Strangely, my situation and subsequent response has garnered me a lot of attention. I have been so blessed by the number of strangers who have reached out to me with messages and mail to let me know they care about me. Even more humbling are the cards and conversations from friends or just acquaintances who take the time to articulate how my response has been personally encouraging to them. However, I still really resist the idea of being put on a pedestal because I don’t belong at a higher level than any other person on earth.

Ordinary person that I am, I’ve found myself in the extraordinary position of having two pastors from California visiting their missionaries here ask to visit and pray over me. Who am I to receive such attention? No one. The visits, the cards, the messages aren’t about me but rather the God at work within me.

As Jo aptly identified last week, my skill set largely is made up of my ridiculously high pain tolerance and my mad Candy Crush abilities; I’m not a super hero. I’ve got some pretty sweet connections though, and I’d just like to make it clear to you that I don’t take a single step out of my own strength. I never have, but I’m all the more aware of it now. The Great Healer is my strength, and I’m so grateful to be safe in his arms. How cool we can celebrate that together!

Part of the safety God gives me is the arms of the nurses who walked me to lunch and dinner yesterday. I slowly made my way from my room to the table with a nurse holding on to a belt around my torso. The nurses are now trained to catch me if I stumble, but as my visitors yesterday evening saw, the nurse walking me to dinner is half my size. Alex wouldn’t give her approval to let me walk with the nurses unless she was confident I wasn’t going to fall. She has seen my muscles work and my body slowly regain confidence in my legs. She knows I’m not a super hero, but I can’t wait to hear her response to Captain America’s super powers which we all know are chivalry and good looks.

Time with Dayla is always great, and as we were in the middle of taking a selfie with our handmade with love mugs tonight, we got a Cinderella style surprise delivery. Earlier today, I tried on my brand new custom fit shoes and inserts though the company rep had a few adjustments to make before I could keep them. He walked by Dayla and I mid snapshot this evening, and said he’d return shortly. Just a few minutes later, the nice man put down his Santa sized bag and pulled out my beautiful bright green shoes.

I sat excitedly in my chair as Dayla took pictures and Sebastian knelt down to put on the fabulous sneakers meant for only my feet. The sole is formed from an impression of my foot taken last week, and the shoes have hight added in the heel to improve the flexion in my knees while walking as well as slick toes to reduce drag when I move my feet forward.

What a wonderful blessing to have my own shoes and inserts to learn to walk better. I’ve been spending much more time walking with the physios, and the next step is training the nurses to walk with me. Praise God for these wonderful steps! I’m so excited that my healing has progressed so far. Please pray that my body will continue to make significant progress, particularly my digestive system.

I’m often asked if I’m tired, and my standard response is yes – I’m tired all the time. There’s often a follow up if I slept well which I usually do, and I have to explain my body is in a perpetual state of exhaustion for good reason. Yesterday and today I have again good reason to be exhausted (I always do, but I was particularly excited by yesterday and today’s reasons).

First of all, I started the morning with twenty minutes on the walking machine, and my tired legs were not able to take a minute more. Andy stretched them out, and I did my best to save some energy for my afternoon physio session with Alex. I stayed in bed until the last minute and then a couple more, so I missed getting help to stand up before my lesson with Alex. Instead, I found Jo in the physiohalle, and talked to him while he did his therapy. I’m really grateful to have Jo a couple months ahead of me; he encourages me by describing his own recovery and transitions to life after a serious spinal injury.

Our stories are different; every spinal injury is. However, there’s an empathy we share for each other as we recover that’s unique. He’s like the big brother I always wanted, and he makes a fantastic cheerleader. I was so excited when Alex had me start walking with the sticks from the opposite end of the physiohalle to where Jo was that I could make it to him. He saw me about two thirds of the way towards him, and cheered me on the final steps. I was really grateful to share my excitement with Jo and Alex; they’ve both seen me from the start and know what an accomplishment that was.

After pointing out that was the farthest I’ve walked yet, Alex turned me around and gave me a tall walker with high armrests and helped me walk back with another physio. Mara kept pace behind me in case of emergency, and Alex walked backwards in front of me to keep the walker from falling forward while also keeping me moving at a steady pace rather than pausing every step.

Yesterday evening I was beyond wiped after all that exertion, but I was so excited at what I’d done. This morning I woke up tired and ready for more as Andy strapped my feet back into the machine and got me walking another fifteen minutes. Alex came upstairs not an hour later with the same walker from yesterday to have me walk from my room to the table with her next to me. She said next week we can try doing it with a nurse so I can walk to the dinner table and sit in a real chair. Before lunch, I made my way downstairs to practice using my hands while standing and made myself a delicious glass of fresh squeezed orange juice with the help of the occupational therapist. So far the OTs have taken it easy on me with little tasks using my hands while standing because I’ve not been allowed to twist or bend my torso. However, the corset begins to come off next week, and Isabelle told me to get ready for a whole new world of exhaustion as I learn to do more things without the corset.

Note the preposition: in. However, it’s a miracle none the less.

I’ll never forget my surgeon’s brutal honesty in the emergency room that she could make no promises of me ever walking again. The odds were never in my favor, but they never are for a girl on fire. Any steps I take, I want to celebrate. Today I took a walk with Alex in the pool to try to loosen up my ridiculously tight calf muscles. It was ok.

Please note, I’m still incredibly excited I got to take more steps today – that’s always a thrill. I just don’t like swimming. I haven’t owned a bathing suit since high school. The idea of getting in a swimming pool when I don’t have control of all the muscles in my legs seemed slightly less appealing. However, Alex knows what’s best for my legs, and I trust her. I was fortunate to have several friends here offer me their swimsuits when they discovered I might need one, so I had the nurses help me into the suit and corset and piled towels on my lap to wheel to the pool.

All week the nurses have been asking me if I’m excited to get in the pool, and my response is to break into “Part of that World” from The Little Mermaid. “Bright young women, sick of swimmin’, ready to staaaaaaand” just seems so appropriate to my condition. My first response was, “I know that song in Greek,” and today’s nurse told me, “I know that song in French.” The ridiculousness of my situation does not escape me as my Disney reference crosses cultures which brings a smile to my face though I was still a little despondent as I rolled down to the pool this afternoon.

Alex knew I wasn’t looking forward to it, but I still worked hard. As usual, she was right, and as she stretched my legs underwater at the end of the lesson, they were less tight than this morning when she had to use her whole body weight to fight the spastics in my calves.

The tightness in my muscles makes walking a struggle, so I crave your prayers that my legs would begin to relax and my feet would remember to stand flat.

I hesitated to post a Good Friday update after I had already posted three days in a row, then this morning I realized I’m not forcing anyone to read this, and there are people who would want to celebrate the encouragement I received yesterday on the greatest of Fridays.

I know a lot of people don’t like Good Friday and think it should be called “Bad Friday” or “Sad Friday” or something like that, but I’d just like to put my two cents in that the work of Friday is so good because it is what makes Sunday possible. Of course Sunday is the greatest, the day we celebrate death’s defeat, but without Friday’s death, there would be no resurrection. I think Good Friday is a great opportunity to take in the gravity of what a serious sacrifice Jesus made that makes his resurrection all the more amazing and worth celebrating. 

I got to take a moment to pause and praise the Lord for what he did with several special people this Good Friday. I only had a half day of scheduled therapy, but I still got a chance to stand up and stretch my calves for a little bit next to the nurses’ station. Sandra and her parents came to join me as I stood at the window. Once I finally sat down, I enjoyed a great conversation with this couple who came across the world to visit their own kid but chose to spend a chunk of their time blessing me. Before they left, we spent some time reading John’s account of Good Friday and praising our great God who came to redeem us.

Not too long after that visit, a couple TeachBeyond friends came to visit as well bringing one of my incredible students. It was a wonderful gift to get to spend time alone with my precious Alyssa and to hear how the Lord is working in her heart right now. I’m blessed to be a part of her story, or as one of my best friends puts it, I’m blessed that my subplot in God’s story overlaps with her subplot in God’s story. Students like Alyssa are the reason I came to Germany. She wants to serve Jesus with her whole life, and she’s not going to wait until later to do it.

Talking with Alyssa reminds me about how much each of us can do right now in whatever position God puts us in. God has put me through a lot of crazy things, and each one has prepared me for the next placement, but that never discounts the place I was before. I’m here in REHAB now, but I’m grateful I never chose to waste a day I had as Alyssa’s teacher. I need to listen carefully to my own advice to her and remember that my days here in REHAB count for God’s kingdom and simultaneously prepare me for whatever might come next.

Mordecai’s warning to Esther that she was equipped and placed “for such a time as this” rings through my head often. I was equipped and placed for whatever this time is. There’s purpose in my condition, and I’ll standing strong in that truth figuratively and literally as I go stretch my calves.

Maundy is such a weird word. I didn’t even know what it meant until I just looked it up on Wikipedia. I was intrigued because I was talking to my nurse this morning and today is a holiday in Europe – the therapists only have to work a half day – but I was explaining that we have a fancy name for the day with no celebration in America. We don’t really get a holiday on Good Friday though people often go to church services in the evening – I was involved in the preparation for the Westport Good Friday service for years. And Easter.

In fact, it’s a very strange feeling to know this is the first Easter in the history of Westport that I won’t be there. Fortunately, the gathering has never been about me. If you or anyone you know happens to be in the greater Hillsboro area, don’t take my word for it, there’s going to be an awesome service this Sunday – bonus, they have free coffee. In fact, I’m pretty sure their Easter invites this year were coffee packets (can you see why I love this church so much?). Were you to walk in the doors of Westport Sunday, you can find some free coffee and walk into the back of the auditorium to discover my brother from another mother running lights. If you hang around after you finish the Longbottom brew, you’ll see an old man* walk on stage and lead singing like a rock star. A little later, someone will share an excellent message which might even mention coffee (though that’s not what the morning is actually all about). It’s going to be a beautiful morning, and I’ll miss being a part of it. It’s a rough feeling to be away from Westport, but I am so thankful that the people I care about (including the old man at Westport) are so supportive of me getting uncomfortable to serve in Germany. 

Anyways, Thursday through Monday are holidays here, and they’ve left me alone with nothing to do other than practice standing (which I love doing). I’m a little bummed not to get another go on the walking machine or extra tough stretches with Alex that help my calves remember what it’s like to function normally. I’m also bummed in a bittersweet way that it’s my roommate’s last day here. She’s finally been released to go home. I have grown quite fond of this incredibly loving and compassionate woman who can’t speak my mother tongue but has shared love across language boundaries.

I’m so grateful to have gotten to know Lydia just a little bit even through my struggle to communicate well in German. She is incredibly patient with me, and is quick to serve me when she has no need or responsibility to; she just likes being kind. I can’t wait until I know enough German to call her up and communicate clearly just how much I appreciate the way she treated me.

Praise God Lydia is well enough to go home, and please keep praying that my calves will loosen up as I spend more time standing. 

 

*I’m very fond of this old man, but I reserve the right to call him old because it bothers him. He’s actually not old at all, and I’m so grateful for him and his family who have supported unwaveringly for years except for thirty seconds last Good Friday. (I was super emotional about knowing I’d be in Europe this year, and he came up to me completely serious to tell me he had received a message from God for me and said, “You can’t go to Germany, and you have to listen to me because I’m a pastor.”)

My current colon treatment is extra espresso in the afternoon. This is a dream come true for me; I never thought I’d be prescribed more coffee. My doctor in America had to work for years to get me to decrease my caffeine intake (I used to drink twelve cups of coffee a day – easy). It’s just a small increase, but the doctors and nurses here hope that more coffee will flush out my intestines. The other treatment options are significantly less pleasant, so I’m hopeful the espresso does the job.

Naturally, the nurses here deliver the coffee with a dose of laughter, and I’ve shared a couple laughs with the nurses today as we joked about this new treatment plan. I really can’t express how helpful it is to have staff here who see me at my absolute lowest and still are willing to make me laugh and to treat me with dignity. My current digestion issues are really disgusting, but the staff never say a word of complaint to me. Instead, they join me in looking on the bright side and trying to find various solutions to help me. 

I’m still a person here, and it’s a huge blessing to be treated so well in the face of my disability. I get really embarrassed when I’m unable to control my bodily functions, but the staff never bats an eye. While I’m grateful for their compassion, the best case scenario is still a full recovery of my digestive system. I’m hopeful as there’s still time for this sensitive system to heal.

I hope you’ll keep asking God with me for a fast and full recovery while thanking him for the best facility in which to wait for his work to happen. 

I have had a smile stuck on my face for the majority of the day for three awesome reasons.

It all started with a handshake – that’s how all my PT sessions start. Alex shook my hand and asked me how I was feeling today. She didn’t wait long before telling me that she had received notice from my insurance that they have approved my very own custom fit, ridiculously expensive Bluerocker shoe inserts. Next she told me, “I think we’ll walk with this today,” as she pulled the wheelless walking frame in front of me. I stood up with her bracing the frame and stabilized my weight over my feet now secured in the test model inserts I’ve been wearing.

With the door open and the whole hall ahead of me, I made it my silent goal to make it to the dining table to the right of the bank of windows. Alex stood beside me as I slowly moved both feet, found my balance, and then shuffled the standing frame forward. Every few steps Alex reminded me to engage my front muscles as much as possible to have stronger balance. She pulled the wheelchair along behind me and encouraged me as I made my way slowly down the hall.

At some point after I left my room, the food server who also does station mail delivery came walking towards me and Alex waving a card in her hand. She gave me an encouragement in German in her French accent and left the card in my room for me to open later. Next, the head nurse walked by to tell me I had an appointment with the Bluerocker rep who would measure my feet for my custom inserts later this afternoon.

“Don’t forget, you are a woman,” Alex told me, “You are made for multitasking. Talking and walking is no problem. Maybe I should go get your phone so you can phone and walk at the same time.” She patiently kept pace with me as I continued towards my not so distant destination at a snail’s pace. I finally made it past the wall to the open space where the table sits, and Alex suggested I choose a line on the floor as my mark. I picked the second one from where I was that was basking in the sunlight, about a yard away. It took almost five minutes to make it, but I was determined, and Alex never gives up on me either. Once fully over the line, Alex positioned my wheelchair behind me and helped me to sit down.

I wheeled back into the room where she shook my hand again and told me how excited she was about my progress. Left alone, I found my card on the table, and was delighted to see the return address of my favorite people to receive mail from. I had a card to brighten my day signed by the whole Stephens family, each signature with a note or doodle to make me smile.

And that was all before 10:30.

It was a pretty great follow up to an awesome day yesterday when I got to meet Sandra’s parents and they blessed my socks off with Trader Joe’s treats and delivered a new computer that my incredible friends pitched in to purchase for me. I can’t stress enough how grateful I am for the wonderful gifts I’ve been given, but I have to say again the greatest and most humbling gift is meeting people who tell me they’ve been praying for me for months and send greetings from their family and friends back in the middle of America where I’ve never been who are also praying for me. How incredible to know so many people who I’ve never met are faithfully lifting me up in prayer.

As you continue to pray for me, please specifically lift up my digestive system as it’s not functioning at an ideal level. My x-rays from yesterday showed my spine is doing okay, but my colon is not very strong. If it doesn’t get a move on, there might be a need for another surgery.

My routine is far from ordinary, but I roll with it. To be fair, ordinary things happen to me every day along with the extraordinary. I have human nurses who laugh and act and get lightheaded like normal people. Monday morning the nursing student got lightheaded when he was trying to draw blood from my arm. The poor kid had to have his own blood pressure and blood sugar taken as he laid on the floor next to my open balcony door with his feet propped up on a chair. “I’m so sorry,” he kept apologizing.I just laughed, “I’m glad to know nurses are people too.”After making sure Benedikt was okay, another nurse pricked my vein, pulled my blood, and barely left a stain in my skin; however, I like looking at the bruise from Benedikt’s unfinished attempt and smiling at how somethings aren’t perfect, but that’s what being human is about.

These wonderful nurses treat me like a human too and laugh at my American accent. The French nurses have taught me a catch phrase that I repeat to each of them throughout the day that means something along the lines of “rolling my chicken” or “it rolls with my chicken.” The response has something to do with the rooster coming to the chicken or with the chicken. Catch phrases never make sense when you take them literally, so I refrain from trying to translate everything I learn literally. Every time I wheel by Martine, she points and waits for me to shout some nonsense in French, and any French speaker nearby gets a good laugh at my poor French pronunciation before completing the sentence.

Another ordinary of my routine is my rapport with Alex, my incredible physical therapist. Her sarcasm is a perfect match for mine, and I had a great time when she met Sandra today and jumped right into teasing her. She really is an incredible encouragement to me when I psych myself up for standing by saying, “I can do this,” to which Alex always responds deadpan, “Of course you can.” Her confidence in me is a huge motivator in my workout sessions once or twice a day with her. I also like her jokes about how PTs just like to hug people. Today, as she hugged my hips to keep me from falling, she advised me never to date a PT because he would just want to hug me all the time.

This week has also had it’s share of extraordinary moments as I had three days in a row with visits from my extraordinary students. I can’t stress enough how much I miss my kids. I used to tell them I loved Mondays because it meant I got to see them after a whole two day break from their beautiful faces – imagine my agony after nearly three months! I love these kids with all my heart, and it was such a blessing to my soul to have some of them come visit me and tell me that they missed me too.

It’s a strange place I find myself in, but I’ll keep rolling with it embracing the ordinary among the extraordinary. My body is still confused about bathroom business, so please pray that it will quickly sort things out, but praise God the infection’s been treated and tremors are decreasing (spasms are still frequent). The new biggest prayer request is that the insurance would quickly approve my new custom shoe inserts. They make walking possible, but the first request for approval was denied with the reasoning, why should she need inserts when we approved a wheelchair which costs less than these special pieces of plastic. The sooner I can get these, the greater are my chances of ever walking again (without a PT hugging me).

I had a terrible science fair experiment in grade school, but I’m so grateful for the people who continue their experiments into grad school and use their findings to make the world a better place. I’m currently in round two of three three day tests of paraplegic arm and torso movement for the doctoral studies of a student at the University of Zurich. There’s no impact on my recovery, but it can provide the medical community with potentially useful information.

I was also part of a more exciting test today as well though as a perk to recovering in one of the best Swiss facilities for paraplegics. I impressed you all with the Lokomat which is still a big deal worldwide but is becoming old news in its country of origin. Today, surrounded by physical therapists and a company representative, I was the first REHAB Basel patient to test a new more dynamic walking machine that is not released on the market yet.

Rather than having robotic legs create the motion for me, I controlled my knees and hips while my feet were strapped into foot pieces that moved as the sole of the foot should. I was hung up for safety and had a giant rubber band tied behind me to keep my hips from swinging too far back. It was a great experience to walk at an almost normal pace unhindered by the need to shift all my body weight forward and pause to put the weight correctly on my feet with each step.

I still have some residual effects from the infection, so I would appreciate continued prayers that the leg tremors would disappear and I would regain full control of my bladder functions. Along with those requests, rejoice with me that there are some improvements and that I have the opportunity to walk with this new machine twice more this week.

There are a lot of things I’ve been trying to figure out how to put out in public here. My thoughts are multitudinous stars, and I struggle to form them into constellations – however, I must try (before you commend my poetic skills, please note I shamelessly stole the analogy from John Green; kudos nerdfighters who didn’t need to be told). Please bear with me as I try to connect the thoughts.

During my long, dark nights of agonizing pain in the hospital, I would put in my headphones and turn up Demon Hunter until Ryan Clark’s screams were louder than my pain. I don’t have to crank it up so loud anymore, but who wouldn’t want to continue to listen to Ryan Clark serenade you at full volume. Seriously, he has one of the most beautiful and diverse voices ever. Anyways, the refrain of “Infected” was stuck in my head as I fell asleep last night which I found to be rather ironic for reasons I will momentarily reveal.

I find myself in a strange position here as hundreds of strangers are reading this and eager to know the punch line – why is “Infected” an ironic song to listen to in my condition? Before I tell you, I have to take a minute to focus on the key word “strangers” in the last sentence. I was talking to someone yesterday who asked me if I was such a forward person before my accident. Honestly, my mother raised me to be a paragon of polite to everyone I met. Those who know me can laugh because once I have established a close friendship, my filters fall away and I’m an open book. However, it usually takes time for me to feel close to someone to reveal my personal emotions to them. I never minded telling people personal facts, but that was always separate from private reflection upon those facts.

Here I feel a certain need to share my emotions as they are a very critical part of my recovery. Sharing so much makes me feel very vulnerable, but I also don’t feel that it makes me particularly closer to strangers reading this; I just feel unequally exposed because it’s not building a relationship with any other individual when I share my reflections. I also feel the need to share critical parts of my recovery that are at times like these sensitive and previously private; I’ve tried to avoid being too explicit in some things though now I feel less capable of maintaining my euphemistic expressions. You see, ever since I was about three, going to the bathroom was a private experience. Now, however, I’m incapable of any bathroom functions on my own. Furthermore, when objects are stuck into exit only orifices, infections are inevitable.

Now we arrive at the punchline: I have my first of potentially many bladder infections. If my body doesn’t heal this system, I’m expected to have three to five a year. Because there are still disconnections in my body’s signal systems, my body struggled to tell me I had the infection through pain signals; instead it chose to drastically increase the leg tremors and spasms for several days this week and last.

I’m on antibiotics now and the spasms are much better though the infection is not completely gone and still causes a lot of discomfort. I share this grossly personal information with you not because it can create a bond between us but because I crave your personal prayers. The infection is a fact about me; it does not define me just as my inability to walk on my own does not change who I am as a person. You know a great deal about my internal functions if you’ve read this whole wordy and intimate post, but you don’t really know me intimately. Unless you let me hold three of your four children on the day they were born, coached my mini league basketball and were my AWANA leader, took me to ride a shark, spawned/gave birth to me, or gave birth to my nephew, you are probably not one of the most influential people in my life (I say probably because there are a few other hugely influential people in my life but the eight people who can claim any one of those are the top of the list). However, that does not diminish my love for you. I’m so grateful for every single stranger, acquaintance, colleague, friend, and family member who reads my blog and hits their knees in prayer or sends up positive thoughts for me because they care. In the words of Valerie from V for Vendetta, “What I hope most of all is that you understand what I mean when I tell you that even though I do not know you, and even though I may never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you, or kiss you, I love you. With all my heart, I love you.”

Yesterday and today were rough days; I felt physically drained, and my body was done way earlier than usual. I had highlights standing up to see the doctor and visiting with Carol this afternoon though the last few days of recovery have been overshadowed by my concern for my roommate Lydia who was found collapsed yesterday morning and was moved to the university hospital.

Because I’ve had such a rough couple days, I’ve welcomed the encouragement from therapists and other patients that reminded me bad days are to be expected. Especially in light of the sharp increase in progress, a weak day is not a setback. 

Still exhausted physically, I was excited to see Dayla for our weekly coffee date. She brought a surprise with her from my fellow Portlandian Jennifer. I was so delighted as I instantly recognized the familiar skyline on my personalized handmade mug. 

Here today, I don’t have news of great strides in healing, but I had two tired days as a human being that culminated in a cup of Stumptown coffee in my one of a kind Portland skyline mug as I enjoyed some laughter with a dear friend. 

Tomorrow begins another day as a human being where I’ll give a hundred percent and hope for more healing. Please pray I’ll wake up refreshed and ready to give my all. Please pray also that the muscle spasms, a cousin to the leg tremors that have decreased, would not prevent me from walking as they did today. 

After my awesome physio session Friday, I asked the PTs what I could do over the weekend with no scheduled therapy to continue to help my legs. They suggested standing for fifteen to twenty minutes twice a day and offered to bring one of the standing machines up to my station. Later that day, I wheeled through my station common space to see the standing machine waiting for me.

I was so excited to have the nurses secure me up Saturday morning, and I told them to come get me in twenty minutes. I was set up facing the window, watching the soccer field in the France (which is still strange to wrap my head around while I stand in Switzerland) and loving every minute. I was left alone to survey the world before me unaware and unbothered by the patients and nurses behind me. All that was before me was the glorious sunshine; the nurses were supposedly within shouting distance, but I didn’t even care. I wanted to stay standing all day.

The sensation of being upright at my full height is wonderful, particularly after being eye to bellybutton with the world for two months. I felt great and loved knowing my feet were receiving critical information about the correct position and my knees were also remembering what holding my weight felt like.

Twenty minutes went by, and I felt a little tired and sweaty but wasn’t ready to give up the hight just yet. Nurses kept coming by and commenting on how great it looked to see me standing; one came by at twenty minutes, and I told her I wanted three more minutes.

Unfortunately, two minutes later, my body decided it was done. I started to feel a little light headed and called to ask for help to sit down. A nurse acknowledged me, but wasn’t in a hurry; my cry wasn’t frantic, just a calm request. However, within twenty seconds my hearing went hollow, an indication to my body I was ready to pass out soon. “Jetzt,” I called, still calm. “Now.” Sweat soon covered my body in a thin sheen. “Jetzt,” I said with a little more conviction before I broke into a steady stream of repeating the German word for now, lacking the vocabulary to articulate, “I’m light headed, sweating profusely, and going to black out in about ten seconds.”

The nurses broke into quick action at the second “Jetzt,” and I was quickly surrounded by three French nurses unable to speak English but more than able to catch the body signals that I was almost losing consciousness. One ran to get orange juice with sugar while another got the blood sugar kit and still a third grabbed a bowl for me to throw up in when she heard me dry heave on my way from the standing to sitting position. Within minutes, I was completely fine, albeit completely exhausted.

Later in the day, after my midday rest, I asked to get back into the standing machine. The nurse who held the bowl for me to vomit into stared at me dubiously, but I insisted – only ten minutes. The second time went without a hitch, and I didn’t push my limits. Today I made it for fifteen minutes (though I only got to do it one time). It was a glorious fifteen minutes, and I spent the whole time grinning like an idiot, giddy to be upright.

I’m hopeful that the PTs are right in the assumption that more information to the feet will decrease the leg tremors. They were reasonable yesterday but downright annoying this evening. Please keep praying they will decrease as my time upright increases. Praise the Lord also that I have heard from insurance that I am approved to stay at REHAB Basel until May 1.

Being in rehab has highs and lows – and very lows – but I’m so excited by the very highs I’ve had this week.

The great progress this week came as a well timed boost for my spirits after the frustration and stress of increased spasms in my leg muscles last Thursday and Friday. They decreased over the weekend but came back to haunt me through my successes this week.

Monday was rough as Andy and another PT tried to have me take steps with just the two of them – something I had done briefly with Alex and Andy. I hardly made it six steps though I was covered in sweat and felt like I’d expended enough energy for a marathon. I was disappointed to not make it very far, but I rested well Monday night and felt ready to work hard Tuesday morning. It was just Andy and me, but I stood up between the parallel bars with greater ease than I ever have and quickly found a good position. It gave me a boost of confidence, and I told Andy, “I think I can walk.” He stood close by as I took steps on my own between the bars. We had a second session later in the afternoon, and Jo happened to be in the physiohalle and took a few pictures of me to share as I walked back and forth half a dozen times with Andy nearby.

After a few successful turns, I stumbled a bit. In a single instant, I was convinced I heard my foot break and lost all confidence in my knees; both legs gave out, but Andy caught me before I fell too far. I was unable to regain my balance though, and Andy had to pull a chair under me before helping me back into the wheel chair. Near tears, I made Andy check that my foot wasn’t broken. In that moment, I realized how disconnected my brain was from my foot – if it was broken, I was terrified that the messages couldn’t get to my brain because it didn’t feel any different.

Back in the wheelchair, I felt completely drained. It was my best and worst day all wrapped into one, and I was left a sweaty mess with barely enough energy to wheel myself back to my room.

I was more cautious on Wednesday as Karin helped me practice using my abs to balance while standing and sitting. She had watched me stumble with Andy and wasn’t going to let me do that again.

I was super tired yesterday, but I had the best possible motivation to work hard – artwork and cards from Autumn and Wilson which now hang on my wall. In the physiohalle, Andy and Alex decided to try some show inserts to help my feet stay straight rather than letting my toes hang limp. Walking was much easier with the inserts, and I made it through the bars with Alex behind me for safety. Once I reached the end, Andy was waiting to hold my left hand as I just used the right side of the bars.

We put the inserts in again today and tried the same routine though instead of Andy’s hand, I held a four-footed walking stick. When I each end the end, they let me rest before moving the bars forward and having me walk with the one bar and one stick again. “Are you ready?” Alex asked me. “Yes,” I told her with confidence. “Good, because you don’t have a choice,” she smiled. We joked about how pleased they were that I was covered in sweat in my final steps because it proved I was working hard. They told me every PT hopes to see sweaty people all day. By the end of the lesson I had walked nearly half the length of the physiohalle – about fifteen meters. When I was back in my chair, I had to hold back tears at seeing how far I had made it. As Andy took the shoe inserts out, he told me he was proud of the progress I’ve made. “Next week we try two sticks,” he told me, “You’re too young to stay in a wheelchair.”

That was the first time I’ve heard anyone imply I’ll walk again without including a caveat of having a wheelchair. It wasn’t a promise, but it certainly was a boost of hope.

It’s really hard to articulate my overwhelming joy at this moment, but I have to try.

Years ago, I discovered Pocket Painter Ponies with these incredible girls, and my life has never been the same since. I still can’t tell you what a Pocket Painter Pony is, but I’m so grateful for the bond it’s created between the three of us. These girls haven’t always liked me through the years since that first Barnes and Noble excursion where we almost got kicked out of the store because we were laughing so loudly. In fact, I’ve received some loathing looks and snarky statements from them both, yet I can say with confidence they are two of the most important people in my life.

I love them so much I left the country for them. I wanted to be sure that if they ever decided I was influential in their lives that they could clearly see following Jesus means being willing to leave your comfort zone in complete dependence on him. I hung the picture of the three of us in my room with other photos of FUEL students as a reminder on homesick days why I chose to leave my comfort zone (I also saved a note from Audrey as a reminder of why I came to Germany). I’m usually pretty uncomfortable these days, and I’m quick to say now that comfort is overrated. I’m so incredibly thankful to be uncomfortably bedridden in Switzerland in this moment as these two girls get uncomfortable on an intercontinental flight to Gan Sabra children’s home in India. They are on a team of other Westport members going to love on some beautiful kids in Aizawl. As you lift me up this week and ask for strength despite the discomfort, please include Grace and Bekah in those prayers. We serve the same Lord as we labor each day, endeavoring to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our daily lives. For them right now, it means playing with some new kids; for me, it means showing peace that passes understanding when I need help to get in and out of bed.

Many patients here are able to go home on the weekends, and the meal table is rather empty for a couple days. I don’t talk much at meals when the majority of the conversation is in German, but last night at dinner Alfonso and I had a great conversation. In a mixture of German, Spanish, and English, he told me he say me take steps in the physiohalle with my therapists. He knew how hard it was, and he cheered me on with every step. I communicated to him how my surgeon told me I only had a one percent chance of walking. He was so genuinely excited for me that I was now able to take those very difficult steps. 

Even in the physiohalle on Thursday, I felt so humbled as I heard Alf chant, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” with each step. Alfonso will never reach the same level of coordination as I might. He will always be in a wheelchair, but that doesn’t stop his enthusiasm for my recovery process. I want to cultivate that same kind of excitement for others who accomplish something way beyond or apart from what I can do with no hint of jealousy. 

Yesterday was rough, but today was certainly brighter. I felt much better this morning and practiced standing up and balancing my weight with the physio. After our short session this morning, I was encouraged by her positive words about my healing and potential improvement. We’re still ordering a wheelchair, but she thinks I’ll be able to walk small distances on my own in a few months. She wants to push me hard to get as much practice taking steps as possible while I’m where there are physios to help. 

The good news kept coming as the head doctor came for her semi-weekly visit. She was surprised at the amount of force in my legs and said it was more than she expected. 

My day was far from over, and after my afternoon workout session, I was treated to the greatest mini tour of Annie Jr in all of Europe. My whole station was treated, actually, and the compliments for the BFA middle school orphan crew kept coming the rest of the day. Patients and nurses alike were delighted and impressed by the abridged three song performance. I was so excited to be what brought these talented kids to visit REHAB. They even gave me a signed program from their show. I was so excited to hear the songs live as well as to see my wonderful friends who ‘chaperoned’ the field trip.

I also got to demonstrated my improved bocci ball skills today since I was put to shame by the 85-year-olds last week when I learned how to play. It was a pretty exciting day. 

My final treat was what currently makes Tuesdays my favorite day of the week: Dayla and coffee. I do get coffee everyday, but on Tuesdays Dayla comes and shares a cup of Stumptown with me (well, we each get our own small cup). I love getting to hang out and laugh with Dayla while we talk about our week, our celebrations and struggles, and anything in between before I’m tucked into bed by the nurses (then Dayla and I watch some silly movie or TV show). It’s the part of the week that makes me feel most normal. Everything else right now is out of the ordinary, but for a couple hours a week, I get to do something completely ordinary that I treasure – drink good coffee. Honestly though, the visits with Dayla are a huge praise because they give me a chance to be me (and we bond over coffee) without thinking about everything that is crazy, stressful, or different in my life right now. 

Life isn’t perfect, but I love celebrating the little things that mean so much. I still am waiting to hear from the insurance, so please continue to pray that the approval to stay longer comes soon. I also still have the leg tremors and am grateful for continued prayers that they would decrease as the strength in my legs increases. 

I had a restful weekend, and woke up ready for a full day, but my stomach had other plans. After eating breakfast and taking my morning pills, the food decided it liked the view back up my throat. I tossed up the newly swallowed items and was blessed to have a compassionate roommate who immediately handed me a new bowl and washcloth and removed the vomit filled cup from my hands. 

I baffled the doctor and nurses as there was nothing out if my routine to motivate the nausea. However, it did mean I had to skip my morning therapies to settle my stomach. I felt a little weak at lunch, but by the afternoon, I was much better and ready for PT. My therapist knew I had a rough morning, so she didn’t push me too hard. We spent half an hour practicing standing well and balancing my weight on my legs rather than my arms that so tightly grip the parallel bars. Finding the correct position is still tough, but it gets better everyday. 

Praise God I’m still making steady improvements on this long road of recovery. Please pray that I’ll continue to make progress and that my insurance will quickly approve the next portion of my stay. Thank you for the prayers for my hips and leg tremors – I have seen improvement there too though I would still ask for continued prayer that my legs would learn where they are in space rather than trembling to search for it unnecessarily. 

Nothing gets me more passionate about living a Christlike life than watching RENT. The amazing musical displays the incredible power of true love – imagine what the world would look like if more Christians loved as genuinely as the characters in RENT. This planet would be so much more enjoyable. Even with such genuine love, pain and suffering is inevitable, and the musical addresses the struggles we face in life with the haunting refrain, “Will I lose my dignity? / Will someone care? / Will I wake tomorrow from this nightmare?” Those questions run through my head in the melodic round from the musical, demanding to be left unanswered as I slog through predictable unpredictability each day. Will I lose my dignity when I need help to get dressed each morning? Will someone care when I’m still in pain two months after my accident? The answer to those questions are clear; the nurses consistently uphold my dignity, and friends and family across the globe continue to encourage and pray for me. The hardest question to answer is the last: Will I wake tomorrow from this nightmare? The short answer is no; there are lifelong ramifications that I’ll have to live with on a daily basis not to mention the larger complications of long term medical treatment in multiple countries when I finally do return to Germany or visit the US. But is this really a nightmare? Part of me is very certain it is, but a different part of me loves having after dinner conversations with Jo and Alf that have to take place in three different languages. Alf is fluent in Spanish and German but only knows a little English. Jo is fluent in English and German, and I have English and a decent memory of Spanish. That was the farthest thing from a nightmare, and I don’t want to give that up. I want to make the most of my time here as I continue to heal rather than wish about what won’t change. As I make the most of this time, I ask for continued prayers that the leg tremors would decrease. They have continued in higher frequency though still low intensity. My hips were worked hard this week, but I also would appreciate more prayer for continued strength. Please also pray that my muscles would relax over this weekend as they are particularly sore and tired this week. Thank you so much for the ongoing care and encouragement as you lift me up in prayer.

During my last visit to Saturday Market in Portland this summer, I met a couple who had lived in the Black Forest region, and they told me to be sure to visit Basel for Fasnacht – one of the oldest carnival celebrations on earth. This hippie couple was emphatic that it was an experience not to be missed, but now knowing some Basel residents, it seems to be a much less impressive event. The PTs and nurses acknowledged it was a big show, but none of them seemed to think it worth being overtly excited about. “You can always go next year,” they all shrugged, commenting it might be worth seeing once. 

I slept through the main event – a parade at 4am Monday – and I don’t feel any remorse over it. I don’t feel any allure to a Mardi Gras type celebration of separation from the church, but it made me pause and think about what I’m celebrating when I have PT each day. I took a few more steps in the parallel bars yesterday with just on PT helping. It almost felt normal, and to me, that was a far greater cause for celebration than the carnival down the street. My greatest struggle was to lift my thighs high enough to get my feet off the ground since I have no movement in my feet and they just want to hang and drag. I’m praying that the muscles currently weak but working in my hips would wake up and be able to pull up the weight of my legs more easily. With that improvement, I would be able to be more in control of the steps I take and need less help from the PTs. Please pray that this week my hips would be significantly strengthened. 

I’m so grateful for all I learned in Koivisto’s Ecclesiology class, and my retention was put to the test today. One of my nurses is nominally Orthodox, and she was asking me about what Catholics believe. I did my best to recap Koi’s lesson of the Great Schism and following Reformation that provides me with the distinction Protestant rather than Catholic while remembering the most important thing is that if we believe the core of the core of Christianity we are all part of the church catholic – small c. The word catholic as a common noun just means general or universal. It’s still funny to me that the Orthodox don’t see a distinction between Catholics and Protestants; another patient here made the same generalization the other day. It’s similar to how most Protestants struggle to see a distinction between the formal liturgy of the Orthodox and Catholic churches. 

However, while I realized I may have forgotten significant names and dates in church history, Koi successfully hammered into my brain that Jesus unites us all – to each other and to Himself. I am pretty excited about this new visual representation we can create together to demonstrate this. Two good friends of mine set up a website with a map you can edit to mark your name and location to see who in the world is praying for me. This is a huge encouragement for me to see, but I hope you can also be encouraged too as you see all the brothers and sisters in Christ who praise the same God all around the world and are united in requesting that he be glorified through my life and healing.

https://www.zeemaps.com/map?group=879600#entrypage

Anyone who knows me or followed my blog pre-accident knows that the absolute hardest part about living in Europe for me is the shortage of Starbucks (and Insomnia, and Longbottom, and Stumptown, and Albina Press, and Bipartisan, and Bella Espresso) and most importantly Trader Joe’s. All my care package requests read like a TJ’s shopping list. Imagine my delight when two days in a row I’ve been blessed with TJ treats. Yesterday I got a visit from an alumnus of my high school who is a few years younger than I and currently doing a study abroad in Germany. Her mom, with the help of my own mother, commandeered a portion of Hannah’s suitcase exclusively for Trader Joe’s snacks for me. It was an extra treat for me to know Hannah and her friends got to tour BFA today – once you see that place, you’re hooked; I’m praying for possible new staff in the coming years. 

I wasn’t expecting to be blessed more than I already am, but who wouldn’t be excited to see a nurse carry a giant USPS box into their room? I opened the package and started laughing out loud. My awesome aunt in Colorado literally sent me a Trader Joe’s grocery bag – I mean the actual reusable bag – along with the TJ’s treats to fill it. The entire box was stuffed with nothing other than Trader Joe’s snacks.

I love that I can reward myself with TJ’s dried fruit after a demanding day of practicing standing and sitting while correctly engaging the quadriceps that want to cheat on the way to the chair. I think my favorite part about being so incredibly loved and blessed with TJ’s treats is that I have enough to share with friends who come to visit – except the kettle corn. Nobody can touch that but me. I’ll be having some after my afternoon walk on the Lokomat tomorrow. Please pray for stamina as I try to increase the amount of weight I can bear as well as the length of time I can walk with it. Please pray also for the minor leg tremors that have begun. This is common with paraplegic patients who begin learning to walk, but it does need to be closely monitored. 

I’m about to fall asleep for the night, and I think it’s going to be a deep sleep. After I put in a lot of work in PT, Andy usually tells me, “You’ll sleep well this night,” while I pant in exhaustion. Today was no exception. When Andy is on my therapy schedule with Alex, I know it’s going to be tough. Before Andy showed up, Alex brought out the oilenberger – a kind of walking frame with raised arm rests to support my weight. It’s a slightly terrifying contraption for someone who struggles to support their own weight, but Alex told me she had a poster with the slogan, “We can do it” to motivate her everyday. I then gave her a brief history lesson of Rosie the Riveter before agreeing that with her help I could take a few steps with the oilenberger. I surprised myself and made it ten meters – an incredible distance well over double what I’ve done before.