"God has given me freedom to choose. Yet, what a tragedy if I resented or resisted His refining touch. What enormous loss if it were ever refused. My growth would be severely stunted, and God's exciting plan for my life would be tragically thwarted because of my foolish stubbornness and fear of what He might really require of me. That choice would produce a very empty and lonely life. Thank God He waited patiently for my heart to choose life.....abundant life!" [Excerpt from my book Worthy In His Eyes: Part Five: CREATED TO BEAR FRUIT...Chapter Three: Developing Character] © Kathleen M. Pritchard
God can, and does turn chaos into stability and peace. But, He will only do it with our permission and open invitation to enter and "clean house" within our restless souls. Unexpected circumstances, trials and other life-changes will shape our character--who we are--in two ways: we will become a stronger person or we will hide from a world which has caused us heartache and pain. As is always the case, the choice is ours.
Every single day God wants to grow us. There is not a moment that goes by in which He cannot work in and through us. Embracing this truth excites me--now. I am at a point in my journey where I can look back to the accident and the ensuing years of chaos with clearer eyes. Tears don't blur my vision anymore.
Those earlier years were extremely difficult and so many times I wondered how I would cope with the future ahead of me. What did it hold for someone with a permanent brain injury? But God withholds the future from us and I'm so glad He does. It would be like longing for Heaven so much that I forget to live each moment of each day with gratitude for all I have.....right now. THIS is where God has placed me, not to be miserable, but to trust Him and His ultimate plan and purpose for my life. To live my days praising Him for every gift of goodness, not matter how big... or how small.
Walking through my own valleys of doubt, fear, frustration, heartache and vulnerability enables me to recognize the heavy heart of someone else more readily. Development of a strong character does not just empower us with courage and inner strength, it also produces an overflowing heart of compassion.
I frequently ask my Heavenly Father to remove the one-sided mirror of self-focus. This dramatically changes my perspective and empowers me to "be there" with ears that hear, eyes that see and a heart that safeguards confidences. I have always been a trusted confidant with wide-open ears and a tightly closed mouth and God is continuing to cultivate that part of my character.
Through the process He is providing opportunities galore for me to focus on others. I am learning to recognize a certain tone of voice when someone responds to the question, "How are you?" He is teaching me to "sense" a need to ask if I can pray for something specific if someone mentions they are going through a rough time. He is growing me so much in my understanding of the importance to make time to really take time to reach out to others--to really hear what is being said.
Character defines us. God wants us to become everything He has planned for us to be, not in a self-focused way, but in a way that opens arms and hearts to the world around us. An outward focus honours Him and blesses others--it offers encouragement, hope and support. It says, "You are not alone in this--let's walk the journey together." As we share His strength, His comfort, His faithfulness and His love the chaos within us diminishes and our souls are washed with His immeasurable peace.
I yearn for God to mould and shape me to become the woman He desires me to be. I want to bear fruit that is lasting and that requires courage and patience as I continually seek to be refined in character and bring honour to Him with my life. And that makes every single day exciting!
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."
Galatians 5:22,23a NIV
Blessings on your journey~~Kathie
[During the first few years of acquired brain injury...]
"An internal focus was necessary in order to understand the disability and how to proactively work with it. Along the way, I grew to be a willing servant toward His [God's] refining. More recent years have sprouted a new focus. A really healthy, outward focus. This is what God was preparing me for during the earlier years. It was very painful, but God brought me through it. Even better, He brought me through it victoriously. I am experiencing tremendous joy as He opens doors and windows and everything else, allowing me to focus on and serve others in His name." [Excerpt from my book Worthy In His Eyes: Part Five: CREATED TO BEAR FRUIT...Chapter Two: Changing Focus] © Kathleen M. Pritchard
[This post is dedicated to E&B K......A couple who is walking a difficult journey--together--trusting in God. It is an honour to walk alongside of you!]
I love being at this section in my book. From here to the final chapter I feel so free and I am once again reminded how far God has brought me, and taught me. The purpose of writing this book was not to complain or seek sympathy for this difficult journey. It was to offer hope and enlighten others by candidly sharing my personal brain injury journey, not just on a physical level but most importantly on a spiritual level. God had nudged me so many times [as had a couple of super close friends/family] to write about my journey---this journey I shared daily with my life-time sweetheart and best friend.
Through deep and constant communion with God--asking Him questions, listening for His answers--I found myself stepping onto a bridge of hope with God's promise of a purpose much, much bigger than the one I had focused on prior to acquiring my brain injury.
Because of my brain injury [the changes, the battles, the kaleidoscope of whirling emotions, and my intense quest for God's Will when I knew mine was not enough] I realized how crucial it was [is] to serve others. Without going through the deep, dark valleys I would never be able to truly understand...and identify...with the pain in another's life...brain injury related or a myriad of other types of heartache, disability or deep emotional pain. I would have tried to understand, but there would be no way I could ever really understand if I hadn't walked in their shoes.
My limitations are still present and always will be, but they don't suffocate me anymore. God has opened so many doors. At first, I walked through them with uncertainty: "Is this what I am supposed to do?"--"What if the surroundings aren't compatible?"--"Am I intruding if someone is hurting but doesn't want to share?" However, the more I stayed close to God and asked Him to use me, the more confident I became. Gradually, I could hardly wait for a door of opportunity to open!
I am still discovering ways to serve others....the possibilities and opportunities are endless!! They need not be extravagant [in fact, they can't be]--just a cup of tea with someone one on one, sending a special note to someone who could use a word of cheer, praying for someone who has confided in you, encouraging others in countless ways....simple things. Yet those simple things force you to focus on someone else. Strive to do this on a regular basis and you will struggle much less with discouragement. And even better? You will touch another life in a way that only you can do.
I cannot complete this without adding that my sweetheart, my best friend, my husband Kip has been instrumental in helping me believe in myself again. He has been my biggest cheerleader and my solid rock when the seas of discouragement, failure and doubt threatened to swallow me up. This disability and the consequent changes affect him directly as well. Yet he has never given up on me....or us. His unconditional love and acceptance water my soul, enabling me to grow. His support, prayers, encouragement, humour and unwavering faith not only help me be "okay" with this disability, but empower me, and us to "be there" for others.
He knows the journey well, he's lived it. He knows what God can and will do. He doesn't see me as "broken" or "less than I used to be." In fact, with God's guidance and grace our marriage has become stronger than we could have ever imagined....perhaps even stronger than it might have been if my acquired brain injury hadn't become part of our life.
Our renewed focus on others leaves no room for self-focus or self-pity. Every morning we get up and anticipate how we can extend God's grace, love and faithfulness. Servant-hood is not a symbol of weakness or lack of self-worth. It is the exact opposite. It is an outward response to the gratitude that swells in our hearts for God's continual blessings each second of each day. Humility in it's purest and unadulterated form, coupled with serving others creates a sense of inner strength and self-confidence in who we are.....just as we are. It enables us to look beyond the reflection in the mirror to the Light of the One Who reassures us that, regardless of impediment or circumstance, we are indeed Worthy in His Eyes.
[A footnote: Kip and I are both very aware that many couples do not survive the chaos and challenges a newly acquired disability or major life-change creates. The statistics are alarming. We both encourage all couples to go for counselling together [both secular, for human understanding and Christ-focused, for spiritual understanding], talk things through at home [right away--don't put it off] and really listen to each other [even when it hurts.] Surrender everything to the Lord--then seek Him, seek His Will and seek to walk the rest of your journey--together--with Christ as your ultimate Life-Guide. Pray daily, lifting your spouse and marriage up to the Lord for protection. Remember, if you are the one with the disability, your loved one needs these things just as much as you do.
Dig deep for the courage to reach out to others using your individual and combined gifts to bring joy to another person's day. Doing so will switch your focus from self [and all the challenges that can swell from dwelling on them] to building up and encouraging others. It's a very freeing way to live and suddenly you realize that life is not only getting better, it's totally awesome----together!]
"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." 1 Peter 4: 10 NIV
Blessings on your journey.
".....What about God's perspective? Did He alter His plan for my life midstream? Did He suddenly change His mind regarding the purpose He had chosen for me when He created me?
As the years progress, God has been shedding light on two kinds of understanding for me: human understanding and spiritual understanding. My human understanding has been based on knowledge, education, awareness, insight and perception. Even more beneficial has been the discovery of spiritual understanding. This offers a bounty of possibilities which far surpasses human understanding. The awareness and focus are different, as God reveals many truths through eyes that are fixed on Him." [Excerpt from my book Worthy In His Eyes: Part Five: CREATED TO BEAR FRUIT...Chapter One: Spiritual Understanding] © Kathleen M. Pritchard
Continual focus on that which has brought about difficult change to your life will drag you down like a ball and chain. Yes, you do need to acknowledge, gain human understanding of the situation and accept the things which need to be done to empower you to move forward. But constantly asking, why did this happen to me, will only create anxiety, depression and bitterness. This focus will disable you more than anything else.
Yet you cannot bury that human nature without God's intervention. I had wondered many things: Did this accident and resulting brain injury make any difference in God's Purpose for my life? Did He erase and replace my life's purpose halfway through my life's activity log? Did He panic and say, "Oh dear...I didn't anticipate this. Now what do I do with her?" If you believe in God, no matter where you are in your faith-walk with Him, I'm sure you would agree that no, of course He wouldn't get all flustered and question your future. I believe there was absolutely no "switch in the track" for Him.
Knowing God, really knowing Him can only come from spending time with Him. The more time I spend with Him, the more He is washing my eyes with the salve of spiritual understanding....something far greater and more powerful than human understanding. We humans panic or get anxious---what about tomorrow? God on the other hand, never panics and He is never under pressure. That's because each life is designed, created and ordained by Him--there are no surprises to Him.
God knows every breath we take, every step of life we walk. He is the One Who designed and created us before we were even born. My favourite passage of Scripture is Psalm 139. God the Creator of all miraculously sculpted and moulded my life. His purpose for me pre-existed before He breathed life into me. Believing and accepting this truth is the first step to spiritual understanding and it trumps human understanding in ways that our finite minds cannot comprehend.
But it is up to us...to always have "Ears that hear and eyes that see" [Prov. 20:12 NIV] Tuning in to God and His will provides understanding beyond our own that will enable us to "bear fruit" for God's Purpose, positively making a difference in this world which no other can--- no matter what our situation or circumstance.
Dare to seek spiritual understanding by seeking God Almighty through His Word. The God of the Holy Bible is the only One Who can live in you and do great things through you. Open His Word today...and open your heart to Him. I know you will be blessed.
"Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I'd even lived one day." [Psalm 139:16 The Message]
"Meeting with one specialist in particular shed some much needed light upon the maze of misunderstanding and misconception. He was a specialist in the field of head trauma injury. He was also a well-renowned psychiatrist and frequently spoke at brain injury conventions [worldwide]. He told me I would have to work really hard to recognize important signals alerting me to specific ways in which my brain would retrain me. I had to accept that I could not ever retrain my brain. The option to retrain my brain was not even feasible....Of particular importance was the process of learning to discern between well-meaning advice and educated advice.....The optimistic decision to let my brain in its new capacity retrain me was going to require lifelong resolve.....and would continue to be a constant work in motion.....I wanted and craved the Master's touch. I knew I needed His guidance and strength to be able to stand before Him one day, victorious in living abundantly the life He considered so precious. I do not want to stand before Him having wasted what He entrusted to my care. There will be no second chance to do it all over again." [Excerpt from my book Worthy In His Eyes: Part Four: PROACTIVE FAITH...Chapter Four: RETRAINING] © Kathleen M. Pritchard
LOOKING FORWARD: Last week Kip and I decided to check out a local lake with hopes of finding some little goslings to photograph. We had been in town awhile, but decided to make this one last stop before going home. Success!! There was an entire little family of Canada Geese: Mom, Dad and 5 fuzzy little goslings!! We were super thrilled!
However, we were not alone in that lovely, secluded spot. Teens were on their school lunch break and had gathered at this spot to eat, listen to their tunes and "give" driving lessons on a standard truck---[grind, grind!] I was super tuckered already from doing our errands, but I wanted to photograph this little family so much. I tried to ignore all the stimuli around us. There was also a very, very strong North wind.
We did get several great shots and I was extremely excited to have witnessed this springtime gift. But my legs were super heavy as I walked back to the vehicle. As we began the 1/2 hour journey home, I began to feel nauseated. I closed my eyes, feeling light-headed. Once home I had to lie down immediately. Thinking the rest would "settle things down" I was taken by surprise when I tried to stand up. The whole room was spinning and I kept staggering to the left feeling like I was going to pass out. I also had a massive headache. This continued for the rest of the afternoon, easing just slightly in the evening. I admit, it really scared me. I was almost afraid to go to sleep--afraid I would pass out while sleeping.
The next morning I was doing much better, however some of the vertigo "head floating separately from my body" persisted. My ears were also bothering me. It was much better than the day before but I knew I had to take a few rests. Two days later, I was back to feeling absolutely fine again.
These same symptoms were present during the first 2 or 3 years following my accident. Kip and I talked about that. I now realize how much I have learned to pay attention to the signals my brain gives me during this journey of brain injury. I have been proactive in letting my brain retrain me and the progress each year has resulted in wonderful, full days--without repercussion. Oh, the odd time I bend a little, but I am quickly reminded of my mistake in that and rest accordingly.
But this time...this time I wanted to drink in the blessing and joy of God's miraculous creation so badly that I bent every single rule of discernment and wisdom. And as much as I'm sure God was touched by my enthusiasm, I know He wasn't happy about my stubbornness.
Disregarding all the signals produced awful consequences. God did not create those consequences to teach me a lesson--but He did allow me to experience them. I made a very poor decision because I wanted something soooo badly. My brain said "Fine--you know where this is going and you're ignoring the signals. This isn't going to turn out well." Kip had told me 2 or 3 times, "Hon, we better quit. There's way too much going on here for you, let alone the wind." My response was, "But, just a few more shots!" I had over 150 shots.....I could have stopped much earlier.
The past few years I have enjoyed healthy, full days---paced well. I didn't like this onslaught of terrible symptoms once again and I paid dearly for refusing to adhere to my limitations. So did Kip. He was very concerned about me and stayed close by in case I passed out. My poor decision affected him also and that wasn't fair to him [although he never said or indicated this even once.]
I apologized to Kip, and to the Lord. I had been driven by my own will and stubbornness. A positive from all of this? Instead of being angry about my disability, I realized that my stubborn will still lurks inside of me, waiting for any opportunity to throw me a curve ball. I must remain vigilant to recognize that and I still have to work at assessing my surroundings---wisely. Pursing my own will, with the ensuing results certainly hasn't enticed me to do it again, that's for sure!!!
God's grace abounds and through Him I have been able to embrace this [new] life with fullness and contentment. I have gradually allowed my brain to retrain me in a healthy way. I am ever so grateful for a second chance to explore life and I do see this new journey God is taking me on as an exciting and rewarding blessing.
Our Heavenly Father is always with us. He will let us fall when we change our focus from Him to what we want, but like any loving parent, He will reach down, pick us up, dust us off and lovingly point us in the right direction again. Thank goodness He is so patient. Thank goodness for His unconditional love. Who could ask for more?!
Blessings on your week ahead. ~~~Kathie
"This is what the LORD says: "Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls...." [Jeremiah 6: 16a NLT]
"Important choices were before me. I could choose to focus on the uncertainty each day would bring, thus continuing down a road leading to unhappiness and an unfulfilled life. I could choose to withdraw from life, angry and bitter at God for allowing this to happen to me. Or I could choose to acknowledge my worth in Christ's eyes, which held much greater promise for the potential to experience a lifetime of adventure, step by step, day by day. I could choose to open my eyes to the hope of a new journey, placing my will aside, enticed by the opportunity to know God's will and purpose for this imperfect vessel. With committed resolve, I chose adventure." [Excerpt from my book Worthy In His Eyes: Part Four: PROACTIVE FAITH...Chapter Three: CHOICES] © Kathleen M. Pritchard
LOOKING BACK: Choices offer an upside to every trial in life. But the choices we make affect not only us, but others as well. This is so important to remember and it can be an awesome motivator to seek positive alternatives whenever possible [instead of just giving up or giving in]. Some decisions do not work out and that's okay. "No" as an answer is just that: an answer. It takes time to learn and accept that sometimes but when you do, you are free to move forward.
Some choices require patience to wait out the results and that's a learning process all of it's own as well. But it's worth the wait because it will once again clarify what works and what doesn't. Sometimes time alone determines the outcome and time cannot be rushed.
One of the greatest failures we could experience is in not even trying to find a solution. Any effort to accomplish something, regardless of the inability to know if it is going to be successful, creates growth. Learning from mistakes develops our character and [hopefully] prevents us from going a second round of bad decision-making in that same type of situation. Next time, we will be wiser and our revised efforts just might produce success.
A lot of our choices and decision-making must come from within us. But we need guidance and sound counsel from those who have either walked the journey, or who have helped others walk the journey. We must seek God's guidance first and foremost, asking Him to lead us to the right sources. A tough decision for me was to meet with a Psychologist. I had never needed to seek help from a professional before. However, after picking up that super heavy phone, I began meeting with a wonderful Psychologist who specialized in Brain Injury Counselling. She was invaluable with her wisdom and knowledge of brain injuries. Her extensive background enabled me to identify what my situation was in order to understand how to cope with it. She knew what I was going through.....emotionally and physically.
Yet, I needed more. My relationship with God was deepening, but there were still many hurdles ahead. Some were visible, others were not. Kip and I knew we needed to seek out a professional Christian Counsellor.....someone who could guide us spiritually. We are so thankful for the Counsellor God led us to and I met with him one on one initially. Gradually, those hurdles became much less menacing through the spiritual wisdom and guidance I received. I was advised to focus on what God expected of me....not what I, or others seemed to expect of me. I was challenged to reach deep within my heart for answers to that.....this process took a long time and a lot of soul searching. Eventually Kip began attending sessions with me....it was crucial for both of us to have the same focus and "plan" for this new journey. It was vital for Kip to be able to share his feelings on how he felt about the impact of my newly acquired disability and it was extremely important for me to give him the freedom to. It took a LOT of courage on his part and it was one of the greatest, most unselfish gifts he has ever given me. Being free to openly talk about it, even when it was really tough, truly enriched and blessed our relationship and our marriage.
Each decision made is a healthy choice or an unhealthy choice, but it is completely ours to make. But weigh them carefully, don't make them flippantly. Seek guidance when you come to a huge hurdle, but choose who you seek it from wisely. And always, always consult with the Lord for His direction.
"You made me; you created me. Now give me the sense to follow your commands." Psalm 119: 73 NLT
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