Losing You and Learning to Trust in the LORD

If y’all have been following along with my blogs as of recently, you know that I have dedicated the month of February to grieving the loss of loved ones. I have had about a month and a half to find the right words to say, but as I sit here typing this, I am still at a complete loss for words. I usually don’t talk about this kind of stuff because I hate being sad, I hate others feeling sorry for me, and I hate making others feel awkward. However, I am fully confident that this is just what I need to be able to more fully grieve. So, this post is going to be emotional, vulnerable, and probably full of typos – y’all have been warned.

A year ago today, I received the most gut-wrenching, anxiety-provoking, and overall scary news – my beloved uncle Chad had been in an accident. My parents were out of town and called my brother and I to tell us the news. While with friends, my uncle fell down a flight of stairs and sustained a critical head injury. My brother and I rushed to the hospital to be at his side, as well as, to be with our grandparent’s and my uncle’s best friend. My parents switched their flight to be there for my uncle in his time of need. Soon, the hospital was full of family and friends there to support Chaddy.

Y’all, I’m not gonna lie when I say this was the most stressful and emotional almost-24 hours of my life. It was extremely difficult to listen to the doctors and nurses say that my uncle was not going to live. It was extremely difficult to look at the man that I once had looked up to for everything lying in a bed with machines breathing for him. A man that once looked so big seemed so very small now. Most of all, it was extremely difficult to hide my emotions and be strong.

Don’t get me wrong, I was terrified, anxious, and heart broken, but so was everyone else. In my mind, I had no right to fall apart, to be the one that someone else had to be strong for. Y’all probably think I’m dumb for thinking this because he was my uncle; however, being surrounded by his wife, his children, his parents, his sister, and his best friends (whom have known him for longer than I have been alive), the label uncle seemed so unimportant. I wanted to be strong for everyone else whose hearts were breaking. So, I fought back tears as I gave others hugs and words of encouragement, I sat in meetings with doctor’s who told us he wasn’t going to make it, and I prayed, a lot.

Even with lots of prayer and, quite honestly, begging to God, my uncle lost all brain activity with 24 hours of the fall. At the age of 46, my uncle Chad was gone. Although this was and still is tragic, there are three silverlinings that I cling to.

First, my uncle was an organ donor. Through his selfless choice here on earth, he was able to save the lives of four individuals. He gave his heart to a 58-year-old man, his lungs to a 62-year-old man, and his liver and one of his kidneys to a 54-year-old woman. Chad gave his other kidney to a 68-year-old woman who had been waiting for a second-chance at life for 1,471 days. This woman has three children, thirteen grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

As easy as it is to question God, blame Him for this tragedy, and think about the what-ifs, it doesn’t change anything that happened. It doesn’t bring my uncle back. Instead of viewing this as a tragedy, I view it as a blessing. Because of my uncle, four people got a second-chance at life, a fresh start. Because of my uncle, four families got to spend more time with their loved ones. Although I miss my uncle terribly each and every day, I know his legacy lives on in each of those individuals and in the hearts of every person who loved him. My uncle was and continues to be a hero, and there is nothing tragic about that.

Second, with my uncle’s passing, my family grew closer to each other and to God. Without going into any details, my family had been struggling to be a family for some time. In fact, when my uncle died, I had not seen him for at least 8 months. Sometimes, I beat myself up about this because there are a lot of things I regret – like never sharing a glass of whiskey with him or that I never told him how grateful I am for him. Again, focusing on these regrets doesn’t get me anywhere or bring him back. Although my uncle is gone, my family is a family again which makes my heart swell. We may be missing a big chunk of our hearts, but we have each other to lean on, which makes all the difference.

My family has also gone back to church, and I see such a change in them. Their hearts have been changed in so many miraculous ways. My parent’s have really leaned into the Word and have found strength in Jesus again. I know that this is exactly what my uncle would want. My uncle found great joy in the Lord, and He proclaimed that joy to everyone he met. His favorite verse was Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understand, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight”. Leave it to Chaddy to leave us with a perfect verse to cling to in our time of need.

Last, but certainly not least, and definitely the most important – my uncle was saved. He had invited Jesus into his heart and accepted Him as his personal savior. When my uncle passed away, I know without a doubt that he also passed through the Heavenly gates and met Jesus face to face. What a blessing to have and hold onto – one day I will see my uncle again. Until then, I will keep trusting in the Lord, in His plan, and in His goodness.

Because God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good.

"Lord, help me to be more like you and less like me." - Chad

Losing Lucy

On June 1, 2017, my grandma, Lucy, lost a long battle with Multiple Sclerosis and entered into the gates of Heaven. She was 73 years old, and she had lived a life she loved.

Lucy was born on January 17, 1944 in West Virginia. Although she was born and raised in West Virginia, she spent most of her life in Kansas City. It was here that she spent time as an auditor for the IRS, as an EMT at Prairie Township Fire, and as Firefighter Wife of the Year, two years in a row. It was also here that she found her greatest love, my grandpa. Lucy married grandpa on December 10, 1963; this year they would be celebrating 56 years of marriage. But Grandpa did not remain her greatest love for long, he would soon have to share her heart with two sons… and later two grandsons and two grandaughters. Lucy’s family was her greatest love, greatest joy, and greatest pride – and also her greatest pain in the butt.

Much like Lucille Ball, Lucille Large was the sassiest soul there ever was. She was never afraid to speak her mind, even if it didn’t have a filter. She was never afraid to stand up for herself and others, even when it was hard. Most of all, she didn’t take anybody’s crap. Now, Lucy wasn’t the slimmest of ladies, and she knew it. So, if you got on her nerves, she would threaten to take you outside and sit on you. As funny as that sounds now, the thought of Grandma, outback, sitting on me scared the crap out of me as a kid, and it was definitely more than enough to get me to stop being a bratty little kid – at least for a while.

In her 50’s, Grandma was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, an autoimmune disorder that affects the central nervous system by attacking the myeline sheath of nerves. Essentially, this means that Lucy’s body was attacking the coating around her nerves that makes the transmission of electrical signals in the body move quickly. Because of this, her movements were slow, limited, and uncoordinated. Her MS was complicated leaving her in a wheel chair, with diabetes, with dementia and ultimately, with congestive heart failure. Although her diagnosis was serious, she never let it hold her back. She was so much more than her MS.

I never knew my grandma before her diagnosis, but I didn’t have to. To me, she was the greatest woman to ever walk, waddle and roll in a wheel chair on this Earth. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of her. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss her. Although it still hurts, I know she wouldn’t want me to be sad (she’s actually probably threatening to sit on me right now). My grandma wouldn’t want me to sit and dwell on the past or beat myself up about the future. So, instead, I am going to think about all the things I learned from her – one for each year she blessed my life.

  1. Be unappolgetically you because if you can’t love yourself, no one else will ever be able to.
  2. Stand up for what you believe in, even if it’s hard.
  3. God created the Heavens and the Earth. He created you and me. He sent His son to die for us, so that we may live. (Oh, and what a wonderful life she is living now!)
  4. Sometimes you just have to say screw the diet and get yourself a chocolate shake – even if you have diabetes.
  5. Sometimes the small things leave the biggest impact on others’ lives – like that one soccer goal I scored when I was little that Grandma never forgot about, even when she had dementia.
  6. When you are having a bad day, slowing down (and bird watching) will always help. Take time for yourself.
  7. If something is important, you will never forget.
  8. You can always find your way back home.
  9. You don’t need the most lavish things, as long as they make you happy.
  10. God and family are the most important things in this life, nothing else really matters.
  11. Live a life you love – even if it’s not what others have in mind for you.
  12. Even the strongest of women fall sometimes, but you have to get back up.
  13. By far, the best way to ask someone what they are doing is by saying, “hey good lookin’, whatcha got cookin’?”
  14. Every word to home on the range… I swear it’s the only song the woman knew. O give me a home, where the buffaloes roam, where the deer and the antelope play. Where seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.
  15. You can be whoever or whatever you want – don’t let anything hold you back.
  16. Life isn’t always perfect, but we can learn from it.
  17. Never take anything for granted – you never know when it will be taken away.
  18. Sass is always acceptable.
  19. Strong women aren’t born strong, life makes them strong.
  20. Most importantly, never give up.

I love you Lucy, stay sassy.

A Gratitude Attitude

Today is the first day of February, which means that I get to share and reflect on my journey with gratitude throughout the month of January!! Can you tell that I am excited?

Before I begin, let me give you some background on my love for gratitude.

My favorite holiday just so happens to be Thanksgiving – is anyone really surprised? It makes my heart swell with happiness and pride when family and friends gather around the table, living room, kitchen, wherever; set aside their shortcomings, their struggles, their bad seasons of life; and just be thankful. Even just talking about it makes my heart so happy and ready for November!

As much as I love Thanksgiving, I am a firm believer that an attitude of gratitude should carry throughout the entire year. If we were to cultivate gratitude in our daily lives, the world would be a much better place. I try to lead a life filled with gratitude; however, I am aware that there are times that I am less than grateful.

In the past month, I have been on a journey to practice gratitude daily. In order to do this, I wrote down three things I am grateful for each day. Again, I am not perfect, so there were days (even weeks, oops!) where I forgot to write down what I was thankful for. However, I always went back and found three things for those days I missed.

As I reflect on this process, I notice several things. First, on days that I remembered and took time to reflect on what I was thankful for, I was much happier. The simple act of writing down three things made a world of difference in my everyday attitude. Next, I realized that practicing gratitude forces us to be more positive individuals. Even on days that seemed less than wonderful, I could find at least three things to be grateful for in my life. On days when you feel less than loved, wanted, appreciated, whatever, you can always find peace in the fact that tomorrow is a new day – oh, what a wonderful thing to be thankful for!!! Last, but certainly not least, as I practiced gratitude, I found it popping up all over the place!

I am currently in my psychology seminar on positive psychology where I get to teach a fifty minute class on gratitude, as well as, write a research paper about gratitude. I know, you probably are wondering why in the world I am excited about that, but I am so excited (and grateful) for the opportunity to further learn about and cultivate this attitude of gratitude and teach it to my peers, too! In this same class, I was asked to take a Values in Action survey to identify my character strengths. My number one strength ended up being gratitude. My goal in the month to come, along with my new year goal, is to continue to utilize that strength in my every day life.

Not only is having an attitude of gratitude important in everyday life, it is something God calls us to have.

Having a Grateful Heart in Scripture

"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!" -Psalm 107:1 (ESV)
"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to and end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in Him.'" - Lamentations 3:22-24 (ESV)

"I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strenghtens me." - Phillipians 4:12-13 (ESV)

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

New Year, New Goals

Hey y’all, Happy New Year (two days late)! With this new year, I wanted to try something new as well. I think it is important to always have goals to work towards, so I have designated a goal for each month of the new year. These goals are not fitness or health related goals, but rather goals to remind myself of the things I may neglect. Each month’s goal is something that I typically struggle with each year during that time – whether its finals season or holiday season, these are all things I want to remember to do. It is easier to accomplish goals when you are held accountable, so I am not only writing my goals down, but sharing them with all of y’all! At the end of each month, I will write about that month’s goal and my journey towards accomplishing it!

January - 31 days of gratitude
February - open up about loss/grief
March - self-love
April - positivity
May - openness
June - rest
July - focus on dreams/passions
August - joy
September - productivity
October - self-reflection
November - servant heart
December - growth

Finding Rest

I don’t know about y’all, but I like to keep myself pretty busy… between double majoring, joining a sorority, becoming involved in other various clubs, serving the community, and everything else I have signed-on for, college has been the busiest time of my life. So busy that I rarely find time for rest, and when I do, I feel guilty that I am resting! It feels wrong that I would spend a chunk of time doing something unproductive or even doing nothing at all. College (and the competitiveness required to earn a spot in grad school) has conditioned me to constantly remain on the go. Whether serving the community, studying for 40+ hours a week, or attending sorority chapter meetings, I am always doing or stressing about something. At the end of seven semesters in college, I can identify almost every muscle in the body, recite all the Rockhurst core values, and mesmerize you with my sorority’s chants/songs (with hand movements!). However, I couldn’t tell you the last time I truly rested. I’m not talking about sleeping (I do plenty of that!), but honest, take-time-for-myself rest.

The dictionary defines rest as:

Rest (v.)
1. cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength
2. be placed or supported so as to stay in a specified position

Rest (n.)
1. an instance or period of relaxing or ceasing to engage in strenuous or stressful activity
2. an object that is used to support something

When I think of rest, I think of the first meaning of the word – to relax. I usually forget the second meaning – support- which is where God comes in. In the Bible, God commands us to rest, but He also promises us that we will find rest in Him. God promises us that no matter where we are (physically or emotionally), we can go to Him for rest – for support. Not only does He make these promises, He leads by example. On the seventh day, God rested, and in order to live life more like God, we must rest too (without feeling guilty).

Finding Rest in Scripture: 

"So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation" - Genesis 2:3 (ESV)

"And he said, 'my presence will go with you, and I will give you rest'" - Exodus 33:14 (ESV)

"He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken" - Psalm 62:2 (ESV)

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" - Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)

"For whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall but the same disobedience" - Hebrews 4:9-11 (ESV)

Although God calls us to rest, it can be difficult. It can be hard to find time for rest, it can be hard to trust God’s rest, and it can even be hard to find the best way to rest. Much like the multiple definitions of rest, there are multiple ways to rest, and it is very individualized. Each person rests in their own way, so it is important to find the way YOU rest best. It may not look the same as the way your friends or family enjoy resting, and it may not even look the same for yourself in different seasons of life, but it will be what benefits you and your journey the most. I pray that each of you find time for rest, find rest in God, and find your best rest in order to live your best life.

Here are some ways I have found rest:
-Reading 
-Journaling
-Learning to play piano
-Painting
-Lettering
-Hammocking
-Talking to God
-Exercising
-Blogging

For me, rest is whatever refreshes me. That doesn't always mean sitting idly, but rather doing something that will relieve whatever stresses I may be facing that day. Whatever I do for rest, I make sure I take that time for myself - away from others, away from distractions, and away from the stress of life. 

Tip: If you struggle to find time for rest, schedule it in!

Broken but Beautiful

In 2011, I started high school; I made the freshman volleyball team, I played co-ed soccer, I earned good grades, and I tore my ACL, a month into school. Tearing my ACL was devastating for me, but, in the end, it made me who I am today. Tearing my ACL, and the struggles that came along with it, completely turned my life around. It changed my attitude about life, my perception of myself, and, ultimately, showed me my passion.

Prior to my injury, I had played soccer for eleven years, going on twelve. Not only was I good at soccer, I completely loved and lived for the sport. I found my identity and self-worth in my ability to be an athlete. When I tore my ACL, and that was taken away from me, I fell into a depression. I have always been good at hiding my true emotions, so many people did not realize that I was struggling, not only physically but emotionally. I wanted to appear stronger than what life threw at me, so I woke up and put a smile on my face every day despite the pain. What those people around me did not see was that I was angry with myself for not being perfect and for not being stronger, and I was even angrier with God for doing this to me. I did not understand how a God who loved so deeply could take away my passion. I constantly questioned everything I knew about God and His plan. This depression and questioning of God lasted for the entire month leading up to my ACL surgery. At first, I could not see past the moment and the situation I was in; however, all that changed after surgery.

On October 25, 2011, I underwent ACL reconstruction. This was a day I will never forget because it changed my life (not to mention, it was the day after my fifteenth birthday). For this procedure, my surgeon took a piece of my left hamstring to recreate my ACL that was completely destroyed a month before. Afterwards, I not only regained stability in my knee, but in my life as well. After surgery, I stayed home from school for two full weeks. During this time, I thought I would sink further into depression; however, I had an amazing support system that pulled me out and lifted me up. My older brother gathered homework from my teachers to keep me busy, my friends would come over after school to spend time with me, and my parents were always positive and encouraging. They constantly reminded me of God’s love and His plan that I had doubted so much the month before. I’m still not sure what changed my heart after that surgery, but I am so glad that it did. With this change of heart and attitude, I was able to find my new identity. I realized that I was more than just an athlete; I was determined, supportive, intelligent, loving, and so, so much more.

For six months after surgery, I attended physical therapy two to three times a week. During this time, I was unable to play sports; however, I continued to go to my volleyball and soccer practices and games, where I cheered on and supported my teammates. Before I knew it, my soccer coach had deemed me assistant coach. He believed in my ability on and off the field, and he taught me that there is more than one way to love and appreciate the game. My physical therapists also played a large part in finding my new identity. They always encouraged me and pushed me to be my best. They never let me give up, and, believe me, I tried. They showed me the support, understanding, and empathy I needed to get through such a difficult time. Their actions and their hearts left an indelible mark on my heart, that still guides me today.

Shortly after finishing physical therapy, I came back, but not as a patient. For the rest of my high school and college career, I would spend countless hours at physical therapy encouraging, supporting, and showing empathy to patients, just as my physical therapists had me. I realized that supporting, encouraging, and loving others was my calling, my true passion. I realized I want to help others overcome struggles, the same way my physical therapists helped me. From that time forward, everything I did was to further my passion to become a physical therapist. I did not realize it in the beginning, but tearing my ACL truly changed my life for the better. I am so thankful for my injury because it continues to drive me and has made me who I am today. I am eternally grateful for my faulty ACL that showed me the love and support of my family, my physical therapists who taught me determination, and God who took something that was broken and made it into something beautiful.

I share my ACL story with you today, not because I think y’all can all relate to it, but because I think there is something bigger to learn from it–well, a couple of things.

Throughout the process of recovering from my ACL tear, God turned my vulnerabilities into something that would make me stronger. Stronger in my faith, stronger in my heart, and stronger in myself. God continues to do this in my life today; I have struggled through break ups, lost friendships, loss of loved ones, sickness, and more. But, when I walk through the valleys, He reminds me that He is ever-present and good. In my weaknesses, He strengthens me. He refines my heart, my soul, and my mind; and I am better for it.

There have been times in my life where I have questioned God, even recently. However, I have learned that it is okay because I serve and love a God that is big enough for all my issues, all my anger, and all my questions. I serve and love a God that has chosen me, has sent His only son to die for me, and has loved me every step I that have taken. He does not leave my side–even when I walk through the valleys and even when I question Him.

I have learned that in these times I question God, the only answer is to TRUST in Him.  God always has a purpose for the things that He does. I may not know the answers in this life, but I will one day. I have learned–and I am still learning–to trust in God’s purpose, for it is good and to trust in God, for He is good. He is the God who turns the broken into beautiful.

My prayer for you - whatever is broken in your life, look for God's purpose. God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good. Give your worries, your fears, your broken pieces to God and allow Him to turn it into something beautiful.

God is Good, All the Time…

Yes, hi, hello, this is Makayla speaking. Welcome to my blog!

I was born and raised in a small town outside of Kansas City, MO, by my two AMAZING parents — hi mom and dad! They have raised me on country music, Alabama football, and most importantly, Jesus. Through my (almost) twenty-two years on Earth, I have found that all you really need in life is a little bit of coffee and a whole latte Jesus. Did I mention I like bad puns?

Over the years, the world has thrown a whole heckin’ lot my way. I’d love to say that I have handled all these situations with all the grace and composure of Jesus, but that would be a lie. It wasn’t until recently that I fully decided to lean-in and see God’s goodness during these times of tribulation.

"In the last month, I have grown more as a person than I ever thought I would (or would have to). I don't know about you, but I am not always the most positive person in the world... I try to be positive and strong, but sometimes, I just can't. Recently, life has thrown some definite curve balls my way, and I have leaned on and found comfort in these words, "God is good, all the time".  I know it may not seem like it all the time, but He really is. Through heartache, unexpected diagnosis, toxic friendships, injury, bullies, loss and everything else life throws at you, God is good. He is the only one that knows what tomorrow holds, the only one that will never leave your side, and the only one that can fully complete your life. Because of all of this and more, He is so good. Once you realize this, it will change your life forever."

The words above are from one of my recent social media posts… I felt called to share my situation and the strength I had recently found with others. Little did I know, God would call me to do more.

The day after I wrote the post above, God spoke to me in a big way. I don’t know if y’all have heard of Lysa TerKeurst, but homegirl is the bomb.com. She has written books, bible studies, devotionals, you name it. She is also the president of Proverbs31 Ministeries, which is where I get my daily devotions from. On this particular day, the devotion had talked about God calling us to serve Him out of our weaknesses. WOW, did that hit me hard. But that one hint from God was not enough for me to understand… I’m a Scorpio. I’m hard-headed, stubborn, and sometimes oblivious to subtle nudges. So God continued to nudge me harder and harder throughout the week.

Finally, Sunday came around, and I had the privilege of going to church with on of my very best friends. Y’all, I’m not kidding when I said God’s message that day, in a church I would normally not go to, HIT. ME. HARD. I’m not being dramatic when I say that had I not been sitting down, His words would have brought me to my knees.

The message was about how God is always with us — He is our helper. That statement itself is such a powerful message and reminder that we are never alone, but, of course, there was more God had to say. Here’s the truth God share with me that day through a pastor in KC, MO.

 We are attracted to those who are like us. However, don't choose to do life with someone who is going through the same thing as you. This is like the blind leading the blind, you aren't going to get very far. Instead, pick someone who has already gone through what you are going through and is stronger because of it.

Take ownership of the things in your life that you can control, but realize that there are things you cannot. Do your part and trust God with the rest.

Remember, when you have Jesus on the inside, you are already doing pretty good. Do not let a painful season define you.

Remember, when you are in a valley in your life, God must be up to something GOOD.

This is when I finally decided that God was calling me to do something more for Him. He has laid it on my heart to continue to glorify Him in this painful season because God is good, all the time. Not only has He called me to serve Him in this weak time, but also in my own weaknesses. I absolutely despise being vulnerable, but I truly believe that is what God wants me to do. To share His goodness in this season by showing my vulnerabilities.

So this is how we got here. As God continues to show His goodness in my life and presses on my heart to glorify Him in my weaknesses, I will share my testimony with y’all. Because when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). If even one person gets something out of this, then God’s work has been done.

Thanks for hanging out with me, I look forward to spending more time with y’all.

Remember, God is good, all the time… and all the time, God is good.

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