Stay in the Loop!

Hello, Blogging Family! We have some exciting news to share this holiday weekend.

Shepherd Press will be releasing my memoir this October at the national ACBC* conference in Santa Clarita, CA. The book is called Walking with Grace: Embracing God’s Goodness in Trauma, and uses my experience as a survivor of severe traumatic brain injury to examine how we should respond when God doesn’t grant our urgent prayers for healing.

Follow this link if you’d like to be notified when you can pre-order your copy of Walking with Grace.

Thanks as always for your love and support!

*Association of Certified Biblical Counselors

When Covid Comes Calling

Ladies and gentleman, it happened. Neither Ivan nor I tested positive for Covid since the pandemic began – then both of us went down a few days apart at the end of April. This isn’t really noteworthy since everyone seems to have had the virus at least once already.  However, I feel obligated to announce our defeat for the sake of those betting on how much longer we were going to make it Covid-free. 

What I do find noteworthy is looking at what the Bible says about caring for your spouse sacrificially when both of you are sick. God clearly had our upcoming trial in mind when he ordained what sermons Ivan and I would hear and what Scriptures we’d be dwelling on before our Covid downfall: Our church is working through a series on the book of Philippians, and we’d just launched a “Read Philippians” challenge with our small group.  Philippians 2:5-8 was planted firmly every way we turned, a giant billboard with flashing neon letters:

“You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,

he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”

It’s hard enough to emulate Christ’s attitude when a loved one is sick. We all have at least one friend or relative who’s reasonable, lovable, and would never, ever take our slap-in-the-face-obviously sacrificial care for granted. Like all of God’s commands, we need the power of His Holy Spirit to “work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12) and serve that person without demanding anything in return.

But what if you’re both sick? Does this become an “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine?”

[Insert your reaction of choice], no. Paul’s command applies to both partners equally, which means both of them should be equally willing to sacrifice their good for the good of the other. The principle that keeps this from turning into a self-oriented transaction is that each spouse should be motivated by their love for God and desire to obey his commands, not by their partner’s ability or willingness to return the favor. This “God first” mentality ensures God will be glorified, protects us from worshiping ourselves, and also enables us to bless our spouse with the same grace we’ve received in Christ.

And that’s where I must say, “Praise the Lord!” and “Thank you, Ivan!” Ivan’s Covid was uncomfortable and disruptive but not serious. I enjoyed playing “nurse” for a couple of days (to be honest, I didn’t put myself out too much), only to wake up very sick halfway through Ivan’s quarantine. Sparing unseemly details, this was not Ivan’s Covid. At all. Suddenly he was back in his old caregiver role: feed (unsuccessful), bathe, bathroom, laundry. It was like we had rewound our lives five years. I have no idea how he was feeling because all I could think about was me. 

I praise the Lord that Ivan finished his first week back at work relatively strong and we didn’t need to take unpaid leave. But he’s still been doing most of my housework since I’m really struggling with fatigue. Most of all, I praise God for enabling Ivan to care for me the last couple of weeks. We’ve gotten so used to my being fully functional that we were (at least I was) shocked by the amount of work it took just to get through one day. It’s easy for me to sit here theorizing about obedience as I yawn over my coffee. Ivan, however, was faced with the very real choice to “rest up” like he deserved or deny himself by caring for me when I hadn’t earned it. 

 “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” ~John 15:13

Medicine, Miracles – or Both?

This Spring I also turned thirty…

Hello Blogging Family! I hope you all had a blessed Easter and are enjoying a refreshing April! Spring helps re-focus my eyes on God, our Redeemer who creates clean hearts through Jesus’ death and resurrection, and our Creator who treasures the sparrows in their nests and squirrels their hovels. This Spring is particularly meaningful since I’ve just concluded a treatment that began in October 2021. Some of you may remember that I experienced hallucinations and depression starting that Fall, and struggled to overcome them until February 2022. For a variety of reasons, my health care provider enrolled me in a remote therapy program to monitor my mental health for the following year. 

The arguments contrasting secular mental health therapies with Christian alternatives like biblical counseling are quite complex, and I don’t wish to address them in this post. What I do want to talk about is how we Christians think about God and medicine, not snacking on brownies at Bible study, but shivering as we wait for the doctor on one of those systemically uncomfortable exam chairs, or holding our breath before hitting “Log In” to that seemingly unnecessary Zoom appointment.

If there were only one thing I could tell myself back in October 2021, it is that God loves our brains. As Genesis says, “God looked over all he had made, and he saw it was very good!” God could see the future as he admired Adam, his masterpiece. God knew that Adam would fall, that we descendants would get sick and injured, that our brains would deteriorate from dementia and Alzheimer’s, and that we would wreck them ourselves through substance abuse and other addictions. But God still said that this brain he made was very good. 

Not only that, but God completed the Bible centuries before anyone wrote the first psychiatric textbook. If you do a quick “psychiatry” search, you’ll find that Western European scientists didn’t start taking psychiatry seriously until the 19thcentury. Before the 19th century, people often assumed that anyone who had seizures or exhibited abnormal behavior was insane, demon-possessed, or both. But the gospels describe Jesus healing people who were demon-possessed, people who were ill, and people who were epileptic. Jesus’ disciples could tell the difference among the three by around AD 30. If God was so far ahead of us on brain diagnoses, why do we doubt his sufficiency for treatment and healing? 

Perhaps it’s because the Bible doesn’t give step-by-step instructions on what actions to take if your father has a mental breakdown, or your daughter has a seizure, or your mother-in-law has a stroke. Ask any passer-by, on the other hand, and they’ll squint sideways at you, “Call 9-1-1!” 

So how do we integrate trusting God’s power with benefiting from modern medicine? When we look in the Scriptures, we see God use miraculous healing a number of ways. In the Old Testament, he sometimes uses miracles to validate his prophets. One HD example comes from the book of Exodus: God strikes Moses with leprosy, then heals him in the next instant – all to validate Moses has been chosen to deliver Israel. 

In the New Testament, physical healing can also validate salvation. The Gospel of Luke tells the remarkable story of a paralytic who was so determined to be healed that his friends cut a hole in the roof of the house where Jesus was teaching and lowered their disabled friend to the ground right in front of Jesus, mid-sermon. (Talk about distractions!) But Jesus doesn’t heal the paralytic’s body; He just tells the man his sins are forgiven. Jesus only heals him physically after the scribes and Pharisees question Jesus’ power to forgive sins. In other words, “If I can cure the physically disabled, what makes you so sure I can’t heal spiritual outcasts too?”  

The fact that Jesus and the Apostles healed any of the paralyzed or lame instantly has become extremely impressive to me after my accident. Some of you might remember I was not able to put any weight on my legs for the first three months of recovery, and it took another six months of multi-hour, daily therapy to learn how to walk well. In short, once you stop using your legs, you have to spend a whole lot of time practicing carefully before you can use them again. So visualizing former cripples jumping up from their mats, and walking and leaping as they praise God, is miraculous on many levels. Jesus didn’t make them “like new,” he made them better than new.

After Jesus ascends to heaven, the Apostles begin healing “in the name of Jesus” to testify to the reality of his resurrection and to their legitimacy as his ordained leaders. As I think about healing this way, I realize its purpose isn’t to fix all my physical and psychological problems. Its point is to glorify God, and prompt others to consider their relationship with him. Do I want to be healed because that would be extremely cool? Or do I want it because healing me would make God look bigger to those around me? 

So far we’ve been looking at why God heals miraculously, but we can also find specific instances in the Bible where he uses  “modern” medicine to heal people. In the book of Isaiah, we read of King Hezekiah getting sick to the point of death. Suddenly the prophet Isaiah shows up with a message from God – and a recipe for a poultice that heals Hezekiah almost instantly. 

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul suggests a home remedy for Timothy’s stomach troubles. James commands church elders to anoint sick congregation members with oil as they pray over them. Today we associate oil with sacred practices, but in ancient times it was also used in many medical cures. Perhaps James is describing a both/and approach: consecrate the sufferer to the Lord first, then pursue whatever treatment is available.

Is there a conclusion to work together from these varicolored yarns? As I said at the beginning of the post, my goal was not to argue for or against psychiatry, or any other kind of medical treatment. My goal was to look to the Bible as a primary source and see what I could find on healing, miracles, and medicine. The controversy surrounding those topics is so loud – even in Christian circles – that I’ve never spent much time looking into them myself. I admit that I did cherrypick specific vignettes to support my points –this post is too long as it is – and I realize many might disagree with me. 

For those of you who’ve walked with me all the way to the end of this post, thank you for your patience! I hope God will continue working in all our lives so that He grows bigger and we grow smaller. Praise God for the wisdom found in his Word, which is more than enough to sustain us in every situation, whether physical or spiritual.

“By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.” ~ 2 Peter 1:3

The Joy of Easter

Our cat Zelda loves to join Grace’s morning Bible reading times 🙂

Ivan: At Easter we celebrate the completion of Jesus’ work that began when He was born as a baby in Bethlehem. Christmas and Easter are bookends of Christ’s ministry on earth. For thirty-three years, Jesus – the infinite Creator of the universe – lived as a human in order to rescue us from eternal separation from God. The Timeless entered time; the glorious King became a suffering Servant.

What an incredible miracle.

Do we believe this? If the answer is “No,” or “I’m not sure,” I invite you to ask, “Why not?” For some, the idea of miracles itself is preposterous. Miracles can’t exist because the supernatural doesn’t exist. But are you sure?

Because whether we believe in a supernatural reality or not, we are placing faith in our belief. What happens if we live our lives believing there is no God, only to meet him on the other side? These are important questions to consider – perhaps the most important questions of all – and I invite you to search the Scriptures to see if what Jesus claims is true: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

For those of us who do believe Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is a historical fact with spiritual consequences, my question is, “Do we believe this enough?”

We often live as if the Cross was the end of the story, not the Empty Tomb. Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our sins; He suffered so that we wouldn’t have to. He paid our debt on the Cross.

If the story ended there, we would have a cancelled debt but no credit; no defeat, but no victory. It was when Jesus came back to life in a glorified, resurrected body three days after He died that he proved He is truly Lord over life and death. If we place our trust in Him, death no longer has mastery over us. We no longer in the kingdom of darkness but in God’s kingdom of light, truth, and love.

Do we live like we believe this every day? I often forget that the Spirit of God Who raised Christ from the dead lives in me (Romans 8:11). Instead, I try to live by my own power, my own strength, trusting in my own abilities and wisdom. This is foolish.

Not only has my debt been paid in full – a debt I could never have paid on my own – but I have been freely given “every spiritual blessing” because I belong to Christ (Ephesians 1:3). God is daily offering an unimaginable wealth of love, joy, and peace that comes from knowing Him and delighting in Him. Too often I choose to look somewhere else.

May this Easter renew our daily submission to the Lordship of Christ. May we gratefully accept His gifts of eternal life, of the Kingdom of God being made real on earth. May we reject the foolishness of relying on our limited and corrupted selves, or on other things that will never fully satisfy. Rather, may we trust in the sufficiency and abundance of Christ’s love more and more each day. This is the love that brought Him to the Cross; this is the power that raised Him from the dead and will renew us day by day until we cross the threshold of physical death and see Him face to face (2 Corinthians 4:16).

This is eternal life. Happy Easter, everyone!

Thankful for Thirty

Good morning, Blogging Family! Thank you so much for all the kind birthday messages I received over the past weekend. It’s a privilege to walk alongside you all, whether virtually or in-person. I look forward to that day in Heaven when we will all come together and worship Jesus face-to-face!

The last birthday I wrote about on the blog was my 24th  birthday, in 2017. Like this past weekend’s, March 12th , 2017, also fell on Daylight Savings Time. But the reason I highlighted that day was not because it represented a time to wake up early (ugh) or celebrate myself (double ugh). That birthday was important because I lived to see it. Just three months earlier, on December 3rd, 2016, I wasn’t supposed to live to see December 4th

March 12th, 2017, was also significant because it followed the week I began transitioning from wheelchair to walker. If you’ve been with blog from the beginning, you might remember that figuring out when I could learn to walk again was a big question during my acute recovery. That walker was a fantastic birthday present!

If you know me even moderately well, you know that I spent the 364 days between the March 12th ’s of 2022-23 trying my best not to turn thirty. Alas, I’ve still gone and done it. While I concede 30 is usually a milestone, I’m not writing about it for further congratulations, but to praise God for what He’s done in my life thus far.

First off, I’m extremely grateful that God placed me in a Christian home. That didn’t mean our lives were perfect or circumstances were easy. My Dad worked at all hours to provide for us while he was a fulltime seminary, since he and my mom agreed she would homeschool me and my sister. As we grew older, our family faced the usual strains of full-time ministry. But I cannot overstate how I grateful I am that I heard the gospel frequently as I grew up, and that church literally was our schedule for the week, rather than being a half-empty building we visited some Sundays.

I’m also grateful that my parents supported my musical education, since it came at a high cost. Although we were low-income, they found ways to pay for lessons, buy sheet music, and somehow find me a good instrument before I started high school. I say “my parents” because they were the human agents, but all of us knew it was God intervening on my/our behalf at just the right moment. Whether it was receiving a scholarship at the last minute, or buying a repaired instrument (sounds just as good, worth a fraction the original value), God was constantly teaching us to trust his provision. 

I still include my parents in my thanks, however, because they were willing to let God provide. Many parents would have looked at the unfavorable odds (too many “gifted” children, too few openings with elite music teachers, too high of a price for everything from sheet music to violin strings) and told their children “no.” Classical music is too expensive for people like us. Instead, my parents taught me that if studying music was God’s will, he would provide what we needed. They never hid how expensive or unlikely something was from me, but they were never ashamed of it either. If God wanted me to play violin, then God would provide.

As I look back over the past decade, there’s not much you don’t already know! In March 2013, I had just moved back to California after my time studying violin in Rochester, NY. Ivan and I knew of each other, but not enough to be friends. Most of you’ve probably read how this changed rapidly in the ensuing months; Ivan and I were married in December 2015. We created this blog in January 2017 after I was hit by a car as a pedestrian in December 2016. The blog’s purpose is to post medical updates, keep in touch with our prayer warriors, and share what the Lord is teaching us through our blessings as well as our trials. I couldn’t summarize six years of blog posts if even I tried, and I certainly wouldn’t do justice to how closely the Lord has walked with Ivan and me through situations that were harder than we ever could have imagined. 

What I can say is this: God has been very merciful to me. I have been redeemed by the Son of God and can call the Master of the Universe, “my Father.” God’s given me a kind, sacrificial husband who models Christ’s love to me every single day. I’m blessed with a family who’ve sacrificed themselves tirelessly, over and over again, to help Ivan and me stay afloat. We’re also grateful to Ivan’s family for their prayers. Even though I spent several years isolated in our apartment, now God continues improving my health and opening doors at church so I can share what I’ve learned and be blessed by others in return. Perhaps most amazingly, God’s also provided a Christ-centered publisher who’s taken my writing and is polishing it into a story that I hope will bless many people.

I’ll close with one of my favorite verses, a “short and sweet” one I hope will set the tone for my thirtieth year: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” ~ John 10:27

Another Side to Lent.

Good morning, Blogging Family!  Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. If you’re from a tradition that celebrates Lent, Ash Wednesday is the first day of a forty-day fast that culminates with Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection on Easter Sunday. “Fasting” can mean anything, from powering off nonessential devices, to taking a break from social media, to passing on dessert. I think the unsatisfied desires experienced during Lent are a wonderful reminder that Christ gave up his heavenly throne to be born as a human and pay for our sins in his physical body, before being raised to life again. Because He died and lives again, He can offer forgiveness and eternal life.

As much as I affirm Lent’s “putting off” worldly desires, I wonder if we should be more intentional about “putting on” God-focused habits during these same forty days. The Apostle Paul describes this “put-off”, “put-on” process quite beautifully in his letter to the Ephesians:

“Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him,throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” (4:21-24)

One discipline I’d challenge all of us to consider is Scripture memorization. “Memorization” sounds intimidating when people (not us, just people) have begun saving their own cell phone numbers as contacts. But God actually commands us to memorize his word. The second stanza in Psalm 119 opens with these words:

How can a young person stay pure?
    By obeying your word.
I have tried hard to find you—
    don’t let me wander from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against you.

The psalmist doesn’t mention a target chapter or book, a monthly average, or a yearly goal, although those are excellent helpers. I’ve personally benefited from them all at different times. The psalmist is concerned with a way of life. Whether we memorize one verse a year or one hundred, the point is that we need the Word of God circulating in our minds each day if we’re to resist temptation and grow spiritually as much as we could. According to God, that’s not a “nice if.” It’s a “must-do.” 

Will you join me in obeying God’s command?

My personal capacity is one new verse or three review verses (ones I knew when I was younger) per week. I’m “reviewing” Philippians and hope to be done by July 1st.

Not sure how to start memorizing? Here are some basic tips and tricks:

  • Set a deadline (we all work better with a specific goal in mind)
  • Find a buddy (ideally to memorize with you, but at least to keep you accountable)
  • Pick a meaningful verse(s) (choose a passage God has used powerfully in your own life; picking verses based on other factors may be less motivating)
  • Set a specific time and place to practice (memory practice shouldn’t take more than five minutes, but it’s helpful to make the routine as consistent as possible)
  • There are many ways to memorize: I’m a tactile learner so I usually write out my verse five times on a sheet of paper each morning. Be creative!
  • Consider carrying a 3×5 card with you to review, or taping it somewhere you can see it throughout the day

I hope some of these tips might help you get over the hump of starting your Bible memory journey. They’re based on my experience and what I’ve learned from other believers, but we’re all very fallible. Use what you like and ignore the rest! Everyone learns differently, so try everything you can come up with and see what works. Let me know! 😊

Notwithstanding all these creative options, we should remember that memorizing Scripture is about communing with the God of the verses we memorize, not competing with small group buddies for highest number of verses recited in one meeting. The psalmist in Psalm 119 is trying hard to find God. He’s afraid of wandering away from the Lord and falling into sin. Ultimately, we internalize Scripture because it is the written Word of God. Putting off worldly pleasures only takes us halfway to understanding of what it means to live in the Holy Spirit, redeemed by the blood of Christ. With the Lord’s help, we must put on our new nature by filling our minds with truths about his righteousness and holiness. 

A Day in the Life of a Baby Book

Hello, Blogging Family! It’s been exactly one month and one day since my last post, which is one of my longer (possibly longest?) writing break for non-medical reasons. Praise God, all is well. So far Ivan and I are in good health, and have been unexpectedly busy ever since normal life resumed on January 2nd

A few weeks before the New Year, I announced the astonishing news that God had provided a book contract for me to publish our story through Shepherd Press, a Christian publisher. I imagined the process to be fairly simple: sign various and sundry paperwork, email the manuscript I’d finished last year, discuss a few edits, and voila! A Book. 

If only. 

I realized I’d grossly miscalculated when I decided to reread the manuscript a couple of days before Christmas. I hate reading my own work (just like many people hate hearing their own voices on recordings), but now was not the time to be a wimp. I wanted to make sure everything was nice and shiny come January 2nd

My immediate reaction upon opening the document was “Ugh! Who wrote this?!?” 

I’d like to say that the writing got better as I continued reading, or that I realized I’d overreacted. Unfortunately, neither of those is true. The day ended with me on my (metaphorical) knees, thanking God for allowing me to find favor with a gracious publishing house even though I couldn’t have earned it on my own. 

Over the next week, I feverishly reworked the manuscript so I could turn in the new and improved version to my editor by the beginning of the year. I didn’t know this at the time, but she’d already been working on the original during the holidays. My upgraded manuscript made me feel quite a bit better about myself, but it forced her to start from scratch. She is a very gracious woman.

I’d like to close with a picture of my average day, since every time you see a writer in the movies, they’re dashing off a life-changing manuscript with a few strokes of the pen…or typewriter…or laptop…

I usually rise at 6 am (Ivan’s up earlier), then eat breakfast and have personal devotion time. At 8 am, Zelda and I decide what kind of day we will have. Zelda (named for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife) is my two-year-old, half-Siamese kitty. We first began working together when I started the manuscript in 2021, and she is a dedicated partner and editor-in-chief. Each day, we must decide whether to start with the book, our preference, or a piece for my grad school class. (I was not able to take time off school to work on the book.) After selecting our project, we work until about 10 am, including mental breaks for me and at least one bath for Zelda. At 10 we diverge for physical therapy and lunch (me), sunbathing (her), and a nap (both). Around 2:30 we wake up and switch to whichever project – school or book – we didn’t do in the morning. Ivan materializes around 4, and soon after it’s time to cook (me) and be fed (Ivan, her). 

It’s a privilege to be a wife, a writer, a student, and a cat servant. Some mornings I wake up worried because all these privileges add up to a schedule that’s unhealthy for my physical limitations. According to the last written directions I have from neurology, I shouldn’t work more than 30 minutes at a time if I want to maximize brain health. And working too much affects more than just my brain. I can feel the weakness in my limbs as I hit snooze just one last time each morning. Ivan often reminds me that all body systems are connected: It’s a short step from being too tired, to feeling dizzy and having trouble walking, to spending the rest of the day in bed.

On the other hand, I realize that each of these responsibilities is a gift and I couldn’t earn single one of them. They’re all evidences of God’s grace to me. And if he’s granted me such blessings, God will grant me the stamina to enjoy them and use them for his glory. 

Fortune Cookie Day

Love at first sight is as old as Adam and Eve. No disrespect to our ancestors, but Ivan and I were love at first bite.

Both of us were raised with a very serious view toward dating: Don’t date until you’re ready to marry, and then only date someone you’d actually consider marrying. 

Ivan and I met in our school’s music program and were friends for about six months before he got up the nerve to tell me that he liked me. We were lounging on some well-worn couches across from a vending machine one night after class. Providentially, God had been growing similar fond feelings in my own heart. But neither of us wanted to rush into anything unwisely. It was almost Christmas break, so we agreed to spend the holidays praying separately about God’s will for our lives.

We broke our “no communication” rule just enough over the following month to ensure we were on the same page: Both of us felt God leading us to be together. Nothing would be official until Ivan talked to my dad, of course, but I felt pretty good about his odds of success.

And so we arrive at January 6, 2014. Ivan and his dad were driving down to Riverside, CA from Concord, CA (about seven hours); they would pick me up and take me out for Indonesian food once they got into town. I couldn’t wait to meet my potential boyfriend’s father or try his native cuisine – although I was a bit confused that my family had lived in Riverside for a few years and never heard of such a restaurant.

Alas, there was no Indonesian restaurant. We ended up at Pick Up Stix, an Asian American restaurant that falls somewhere between Panda Express and P.F. Chang’s in regard to its level of authenticity. That is to say, not authentic. There are three things to look for when judging an Asian restaurant’s authenticity: name, amount of non-Asian staff and customers, and presence of fortune cookies. If the name is trendy and the other two are present, you’re in a restaurant designed for the masses. That night I was disappointed to be eating run-of-the-mill chow mien at a restaurant I could’ve visited with anyone.

I do have a penchant for fortune cookies.

I grabbed three cookies (one for each of us), and brought them back to the table. Maybe we could open them as an icebreaker while waiting on our order. I certainly needed an icebreaker: Neither Ivan nor his dad had said much since picking me up or referred to the obvious and only reason we were eating together. 

I opened the first cookie by right of “Ladies first.” It was one of those generic classics like finding a lost sock, or good luck being around the corner, etc. No one was prepared for what came next. Ivan opened his cookie, then turned red and folded up the fortune without reading it aloud.

“Well, aren’t you going to tell us what it is?” I prodded.

“It’s a bit awkward.”

“It’s only a fortune cookie! Come on, it’s part of the game.”

“Okay then.” He took a deep breath and unfolded the paper. “Wedding bells are in your future.


“Oh wow. That’s, uh, very specific.”

Blood was pounding in my ears. If only someone would laugh, make a joke, anything. But no. I was having dinner with my prospective boyfriend and his father – who had not yet given his opinion of me or the potential relationship – and Wedding bells are in your future.

Ivan’s dad must have opened the third cookie. Our food must have come. I must have eaten my chow mien. But I have no idea what we talked about. Did we talk at all? Hopefully Ivan’s dad gave his blessing on our relationship, because mine would the following night. 

“It was so awful. I just wanted to die!” I recounted to my family after I got home from Pick Up Stix that night. We were roasting marshmallows over a lit burner on our gas stove. I was too shy to tell them that I really thought it was romantic. What if wedding bells were in our future? 

Back at the restaurant, nobody had seen Ivan sneak the folded fortune under the table and into his wallet. It was still there when he got down on one knee eighteen months later.

Are You Ready for the Book?

Happy December, Blogging Family! As most of you know, December is particularly significant for us. This year, we commemorated the sixth anniversary since my accident on the 3rd, then celebrated Ivan’s 30th birthday on the 7th. Up next are Christmas Eve/Christmas, our 7th wedding anniversary on the 30th, and New Year’s Eve on the 31st. I admit this might not seem too busy to those of you who are traveling for the holidays, but it’s a whole lot if you consider the life event each day represents. (For example, I was in a coma on Ivan’s twenty-fourth birthday, and he got kicked out of my hospital room at 8:30 pm on our first anniversary because visiting hours were over.)

I usually end the year with a retrospective look at how God’s worked in our lives over the past year. Don’t get me wrong – he’s continued accomplishing transformative work throughout 2022 – but today I want to focus on what he’s bringing to pass in 2023.

If you’ve followed this blog a while, you might have noticed recurring comments asking about a book. We got the highest number in 2017, when the accident was still fresh in everyone’s minds and my health status changed almost week to week. (Not fun to live, but apparently an entertaining read!) 

In 2019 I earned a BA in English and several faculty members encouraged me to apply to graduate school. I wasn’t really sure. Around that time some of my blog posts got reposted by larger bloggers like Joni Eareckson Tada, and I realized God could be preparing a way for me. What if there really was something I could write that would encourage people and witness for Christ, even if they didn’t know me directly?

After some prayer and deliberation, I applied to a few online creative writing programs. By God’s grace, I was accepted to my top choice (the Savannah College of Art and Design – aka  SCAD) and awarded the financial aid I needed to attend. I also learned an important fact during the application process: in order to graduate from SCAD’s creative writing program, I’d have to write a publishable manuscript as my thesis. It all seemed so clear: wasn’t this God’s way of telling me to write my story as a book?

I felt deliriously high after completing my thesis. It’s one thing to say you’re going to write a book – but then to go out and do it? That’s tough stuff. To top it all off, my committee chair actually thought I should try to get it published. Well, as Mom used to tell me, “If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.” 

I began contacting literary agents right away, but no one would talk to me. (In the publishing world, most authors sign with a literary agent, who then negotiates with publishers on their behalf.) At first I brushed it off by reminding myself that all debut authors get scores of rejections before someone finally accepts them, but three months into the process I fell into the depths of despair. 

As Fall Quarter began in September, I surrendered my manuscript to the Lord. Maybe God just wanted me to have the experience of learning to write a book. Maybe seeking publication was just my pride rearing its ugly head. I spent the next couple of months investing more time in getting to know the girls at our church and studying God’s word.  Until the urge to contact “just one more” publisher struck me at the end of October. I did a little research and found one house that didn’t require an agent. I remember sending my proposal and thinking “Here goes, God. I have no idea what you want me to do after this.”

To my surprise, I got a timely response asking for the rest of the manuscript. No one had asked to see the entire manuscript before. I called Ivan, trying to sound low-key. “I mean, they could hate it.”

“But it is a big step,” Ivan countered.

“Yes – a step.”

I screwed my eyes shut as I opened the publisher’s reply. I was expecting the two- or three-sentence “Thanks but no thanks” I’d been getting all year. What I saw instead was several paragraphs. I’d expected a short correspondence before a “yes/no,” but our conversation continued via various formats for about six weeks. I was surprised to learn how many factors other than good writing go into publishing a book! God was faithful throughout the entire process. Ivan and I are extremely happy to announce I signed a publishing contract with Shepherd Press this past Monday. There will be lots of editing and revising for me to do before the book goes to print, but we hope to release it some time in 2023. And don’t worry – it is never-before-posted material. So even the most hardcore blog readers will find something new. 😊

I’m thankful the Lord made me wait all the way until the end of the year for this “Christmas present.” If I’d gotten an agent or publisher directly after I finished writing my thesis, I can just imagine how self-satisfied I would have been. I’m sure I would have said humble-ish things to other people, but I’d have secretly been congratulating myself on wowing my thesis committee and taking the publishing world by storm. This way, I’m aware of how little my manuscript interests the average person who hasn’t met me. Strangers don’t care if my writing got a good grade, they just want to be entertained, and my message about God’s grace in trials isn’t very fun. I’m very thankful God guided me to Christian colleagues who want to honor God in all they do, and who do not see as the world sees, but instead look at the heart.

Last but not least, this experience has reminded me of how precious each and every one of you are, my Blogging Family! As I’ve spent time thinking about numbers and geography over the past few weeks, I’ve been struck by how blessed I am to have readers who’ve laughed, cried, and prayed for Ivan and me over the past six years. Some of you we will meet only in heaven, but we are so thankful for your support and your willingness to keep walking with us in God’s grace. 

Six Years Ago Today

Six years ago today, I was late. If you’d looked at the clock on the wall, you’d probably argue I was early, but I’m a type-A mental gymnast. Adjusting for weekend traffic, accidents/construction, and the terrifying “unforeseen obstacles,” allowing two hours to drive from Riverside to Orange, CA, just didn’t seem like enough to guarantee I’d be early for my concert call time. (As Dad always told me growing up “Early is on time, and on time is late.”) So I did the only logical thing: take a selfie with our new kitten and set out to meet Ivan on foot. He was driving back from his own concert in Corona, another neighboring city, to take me to Orange. The rest, as they say, is history. (If you’re new to the blog, you can read the original story about how God spared my life after being hit by a car as a pedestrian here.)

I’ve told a lot of stories about God’s work in our lives over the past six years, but the one I’m going to share today is particularly special to me. Before I woke from my coma in the hospital, neurologists tried to prepare Ivan and my family that there was no way of knowing my cognitive function. Would I be able to think? Converse? Read and write? My mental age was about three years old when I finally woke up, so initial predictions weren’t fantastic. Praise God, I made it all the way to “teenager” by the time I was discharged.

Obviously, I only learned about these events much later – when I was “old” enough to process them. What I remember most from that period was God gradually revealing himself to me in ways that made sense to my mental age at the time.

It began with books. There was an inviting stack of books near the left side of my bed, including my Bible, Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (I’d been reading that with Ivan), and Homer’s Iliad (Okay, so that had been hidden in my desk at work). Ivan read the Bible to me every night, but I never asked for any of my other books even though I usually read voraciously. 

One morning the nurse came in, pushing her big grey cart like usual. But the cart read MEDS on the side by my face. It didn’t say that before! I’d noticed there were large letters stenciled on its side, but they looked like nonsense and I was too drugged to care. This discovery snapped me alert. I looked around my room – sure enough, the jumbled black and red letters just above the door spelled “EXIT.” Praise God, I could read again. 

And then my brain drifted off to sleep again and I forgot to tell anyone about this miracle moment for several years.

By the time I was transferred from a critical care hospital to a neurological rehab hospital, my reading ability was up to par, but my brain tired out so quickly that I could barely make it through half a page before I got sleepy. Even when Ivan read the Bible to me, I could only pay attention for a couple of minutes before my mind wandered off. But now I was “old” enough to suspect that there was more to following Christ than reading/listening to the Bible. Wasn’t I supposed to pray or something? There I drew a blank. I knew what prayer was – visitors or my family prayed over me several times a day. I didn’t know how to do it on my own.

“Hello, God,” I ventured one morning soon after I’d transferred to the rehab hospital. That was it. I didn’t know what else to say. Next, I tried copying the kinds of things people said when they were praying with me:

“Dear God, thank you for this day…this food…this visit…”

Some of them asked for things as well:

“Please let this appointment go well…help the pain to go away…let Grace go home soon.”

Shortly after I was discharged from the hospital, God restored my mind enough to see that these prayers were little more than painting by numbers. What now? I tried making up my own, but my mind still wandered off within seconds of closing my eyes. I’m not sure if someone suggested it to me, or if the thought was just God’s grace, but one day a couple of weeks later I finally remembered the Book of Psalms in the Bible. Weren’t psalms supposed to be prayers to God, just in poetry? I hoped that learning to pray by copying psalms wouldn’t be quite so “paint by numbers” because each psalm is also part of the inspired Word of God. That makes them perfect models for prayer!

This is the natural climax of my story, so this is the place where I have to shake my head and let out a long sigh of defeat because I don’t remember what happens next. I wish I remembered my first extemporaneous prayer, or when exactly I resumed a “normal” prayer life, but my neurological trauma has erased those memories. Nevertheless, the larger point is that I learned to pray again by studying how the Bible actually depicts us communicating with God. Many of the psalms are distressed, even depressed. Some are overwhelmingly joyful. Psalm 119 re-taught me to love the very Word of God itself. Praise God, I can pray with my eyes closed and/or for long periods of time now. But I don’t think anything can change the sweetness of opening the Psalms and using one as inspiration for personal prayer. That is a blessing I’ve treasured over the past six years, and hope can encourage you as well.