Emmanuel… God with us.
God with us...... Easy to understand, often difficult to feel. God has a purpose, a passion, and a path through life intended for each of us. It is a winding road, one with twists and turns towards a purpose that is often unclear in our human understanding, but very certain in God's plan. Our ceiling is limitless if we just accept our intended destiny, eliminate all human distractions, and persevere towards the goal to which God calls us heavenward in Jesus Christ!
Growing up I was gifted with both academic ability and an unusually high level athletic ability. I was told by trainers who had worked with many athletes that I was the best female athlete they had ever seen. I had a passion for volleyball and hoped to play for Duke, or some other Division I school with good academics. Who knows, maybe the Olympics. I had it all figured out, but God had other plans.
I was born with an unusual condition where the artery in back of my knees was squeezed by an extra band of tissue. The strangulation of the artery caused extreme pain when exercising, and if I was going to achieve my goals, I needed surgery. Because the condition was so rare, I had to go to Wisconsin to have the surgery done. The scar tissue from the surgery and my jumping ability left me vulnerable to breakdown of tissue in my knees. I subsequently underwent about six other procedures on my knees, struggling each time to maintain my grades and ability to play volleyball. I missed about two weeks of school with each procedure, but was able to catch up and move forward.
However, when I returned to school following the final surgery, I quickly recognized something was gravely wrong. I was not able to process any of the information I was learning and even reading for just 15 minutes left me exhausted and with a headache.
Testing by a cognitive neurologist revealed that I had suffered a significant brain injury during the general anesthesia given during my final knee surgery. Although structurally my brain was normal, and you could not tell anything was wrong by talking to me, my ability to perform visual spatial activities was very poor. This had previously been my strength. It requires visual spatial processing to give meaning to words on a page, to problem-solve, and to perform even the most basic academic activities. I'm a neat freak and it left me unable to even clean my bedroom! My left brain had been shut down.
I put in as much effort as I was able, and my school was as supportive as they could be. Unfortunately, nothing was working. Despite resting my brain through the summer between my sophomore and junior years, I was unable to even fulfill the requirements of just three classes. Repeat testing in late December 2014 showed that there had been absolutely no improvement in my brain functioning. No improvement and I had already slipped so far behind in credits that I was going to graduate a year late. On February 23, 2015 with the support of my parents, I notified the school that I was withdrawing. How often does an honor student drop out of high school?!
While I was going through these academic struggles, I was also trying to make a comeback in volleyball. I skipped my high school volleyball season in the fall of 2014, and worked extremely hard in physical therapy and personal training. I was in the best shape of my life. My neurologist supported this effort because exercise is healthy for a recovering brain. Unfortunately, on February 1, 2014 I re-injured my knee in a tournament during club volleyball.
I knew instantly that I was back to square one, even after all the surgeries and months of rehabilitation. On February 23, 2014 I notified my coach that my season was over. I also knew my volleyball career was most likely over.
So on that day in February 2014, I had to accept that both my volleyball and academic careers would never be the same. Two of the three things that mattered most to me were extinguished simultaneously. Fortunately I still had a loving family, and the experience would introduce me to a Father I never really understood previously.
I was frustrated, confused, and I was angry. Years of effort came to nothing, and in one day my dreams were shattered. I had a choice to make when it came to God. I had grown up in a faith-based home and went to a Christian school, so I knew about God. A big part of me wanted to head for the hills not believing that a good God would do this to me. However, my parents taught me that everything happens for a reason and when one door closes, another will open. As hard as that was to feel, I chose to believe that God had something better planned for me. I certainly had learned that I was not in control of my destiny!
My dad introduced me to his favorite devotional that he has been reading for many years. It's called, "My Utmost for His Highest" by Oswald Chambers. I feel like almost every day was written specifically for me. It taught me that there is a big difference between religion, and true faith in God.
Faith is not about being good and filling checkboxes taught by church leaders. Faith is knowing that we are on Earth for a reason, knowing that our Creator wants the best for us, and our only job is to get to know Him better every day so that we can make the choices that HE wants us to make.
But I was exhausted…exhausted from depression, and even from the effort it took just to breathe. During these dark moments I could sleep 20 hours a day. Depression was literally sucking out all hope that lived within me. Depression made me feel like a complete stranger in my own body. My thoughts didn’t feel like mine. Sleep was all I wanted. The sight of light peeking in from my curtain would make me cry. I did not care about anything anymore. I didn’t have any strength left in me to care. That terrified me.
The emotional fluctuations were maddening! One moment I wouldn’t even want to exist and within 24 hours I would be excited about the future wanting to get the most I could out of life. I was in a battle. Sometimes the transition would be almost instantaneous. Once I was distraught, crying uncontrollably, then before the tears had even dried I was cackling in laughter having had a wave of complete peace come over me. It was such a bizarre experience that I knew could have only come from God.
I still have depressed days, but not nearly as painful as several months ago, nor as frequent. I’ve grown to appreciate even the most basic blessings of life. After all, He is...
Emmanuel…God with us!
Check out our Story Page for more stories of girls discovering who God is!