When I look back on the things that have refined and changed the person that is sitting here writing to you today, I can only be in complete awe of the strength and the grace of God.
I may not have had this wild and crazy past, but nevertheless I was once far from God and little by little, He drew me back in. He knows exactly what we need and when we need it, something that I believe wholeheartedly.
In the weeks and months following the deaths of my maternal grandmother and Aunt Shelia, I tried my hardest to really press in and use that time to get to know God. I began to write, both in a journal and here on my blog.
The immediate aftermath of those losses was a time of great reflection for me as I worked to process all that I had experienced and endured. About two months later, we would learn that my paternal grandmother’s health was declining. She was 93, so we began to prepare ourselves for another loss.
Four months later in January 2016, my father lost his mother two years after losing his brother and sister. His family was now just a family of two with him and his youngest sister Margaret. Two weeks after my paternal grandmother’s death, we received word that Nellie – my maternal grandmother’s cousin – had too passed away. She was truly one of the sweetest women that I had met and had always loved my grandmother. She had told my mom’s brother, Kenneth, a few days before my grandmother passed that she would be happy to be their mother/grandmother for whatever amount of time that she had left on Earth. She once told my sister and I that she used to pray that God would give her children of her own until God one day told her that she already had children in the neighborhood children and young family members that would flock to her house.
For me, losing my paternal grandmother and Nellie so close after my other grandmother was difficult but I fully recognize that I was probably in the best position to face something like that again. I truly felt closer to God than I ever had, though I couldn’t really make sense of it. The predominant emotion that I felt in that season was joy, but so often I found myself critiquing how I was feeling and coping. No one should feel joy after losing so many people that meant this much to them, I would think to myself.
Now when I hear and read about peace and joy that surpasses all understanding, I smile.
I smile because I’ve experienced it. There’s not always a logical explanation for things when God is involved. He’s bigger than all logic.
It’s probably not surprising, though, that the experience of losing six family members in two years did elicit some change in my life. It came in the form of my career aspirations.
By this time, it was the Fall of 2016 and I was in the middle of my third year as a PreK teacher but simultaneously pursuing a master’s degree in communications. Two completely different things, but I had chosen to pursue this particular degree during the time of my life that was much more glamorous than the one I have today. As I shared in Part One, I had been able to experience a few Hollywood events when I blogged for fansites and I selfishly wanted that to my life all the time. It was a decision I had made before I came to know God more personally and before my entire life had changed.
But here I was.
I felt light years away from being that person that had once interviewed actors and directors and jetted off to Los Angeles. I had a new lens to see life through, the kind of lenses that one can only get when they’ve experience profound grief, and suddenly the life I was pursuing seemed to be the last thing I wanted. It looked superficial and fleeting instead of meaningful and life-giving.
The field of Child Life was something that had always been on my radar since my undergraduate years. It was something I knew about, I just hadn’t considered it for myself since I had been so locked into teaching and then social media marketing. As I began praying over this decision, I found that Child Life continued to come to mind. For those who may not know, Child Life Specialists work in pediatric healthcare settings to help children and their families cope with the challenges that come along with hospitalizations, illness, and disabilities. They do this through age-appropriate preparation and explanations, coping strategies, and play therapy.
I began to reflect on my dealings with loss and the isolating feeling of being in hospitals, whether for my grandmother or when my father was first diagnosed with his autoimmune disease. I began to think about the numerous children that experience these same things both personally with their own illnesses and with the illnesses and losses of their loved ones. I felt a stirring in my heart to use my experiences with my own family and my experience in the classroom in a way that would both educate and support children a variety of medical settings, thus leading me to the field of Child Life.
For the past year, I have been taking online courses in Child Life through the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Extension program. This past summer 2017, I have begun to volunteer with a child life specialist in the pediatric emergency department at a local children’s hospital here in Charlotte and I plan to apply for a child life internship for the Fall 2018 semester.
For the longest time, I viewed bravery as doing something big. Something that no one would ever think of doing. I viewed courage and bravery as being fearless, but maybe that was just my young adult fiction obsession (oh hi, Divergent series) setting in at the time.
I think bravery and courage can look differently for different people, depending on a variety of things. For some, bravery may be taking that job in a new city or saying a resounding yes to a mission trip in another country. For others, bravery may just mean simply surviving and making it through the storm in their life at that moment. No matter the circumstance, I believe that God calls us into seasons of boldness. Seasons of putting our money where our mouths are, so to speak, and actually doing the things that scare us. Actually doing the things that God has ordained for us so deep in our hearts.
This Fall (2017), I will begin completing and compiling everything I need for the application packets that I will be mailing to the 20+ hospitals across the East Coast and Midwestern parts of the country in hopes to try secure an internship placement for the Fall 2018 semester. Should I receive an offer to intern somewhere, I would then enter into a season of unemployment and unpaid internship life for several months. It will be one of my boldest moves – trusting God with my future, with my finances, and with my security as a whole.
I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly brave person, but even I have to admit that it takes some semblance of bravery to trust God with every aspect of what I am embarking on. This career path, this journey, is one that I felt God calling me to back in December of 2015, three months after losing my grandmother and my aunt less than 48 hours apart. That experience grabbed hold of my heart and shook me awake.
This time of brave surrender to God’s plan for my life comes from three years of learning who God truly is and who I am in his sight. I know that He is good. He is faithful and loving and powerful. He is my heavenly Father who seeks the best for me just as my earthly father does.
My dad used to tell me all the time when I was growing up, “You can be scared, but go and do it anyway.” I’m sure I laughed at the time, my dad has the tendency to sound a bit like a fortune cookie sometimes, but the words stuck with me into adulthood and have only been echoed by God.
He tells me to feel the fear and the worry that I have, but to give it to Him and go do it anyway.
What I know about God is that he will bring this season to completion and fulfill every promise made to me in the process. There will be hardships and fear and uncertainty but I have experienced far too much with God to start doubting Him now. It is my hope and prayer that this blog becomes a space for sharing this next chapter of my story. For sharing all of the ways that I am challenged, encouraged, and in total awe of the peace and power of Jesus Christ.
I hope you don’t mind coming along for the ride.
“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” – Philippians 1:6, MSG