This week marks 16 YEARS. 16 years from the day that dramatically changed the course of my life! The day that my family was in a severe car accident that resulted in a Flight for Life helicopter and the final outcome being full paralysis of my right arm and numerous other injuries. To read a bit more on the accident, click here and here.
As I have been thinking about this anniversary on this hot summer day, I look over to my succulents and one thing I love about them is that they are strong. They can endure and thrive in harsh conditions, (which is great since I was NOT born with a green thumb) but I truly believe that their strength contributes to their beauty. And I believe it is the same in life. When we learn of people’s struggles and see how they have overcome…we can see the beauty that God has brought from harsh conditions. So over the years I have come to appreciate the power of storytelling, sharing our struggles so that we can see God’s beauty and connecting with others because of it.
For years, I have spoken at events, church youth groups etc – sharing about the accident, trials and what I have learned at random events. But I never sought the opportunity or volunteered to share my testimony. I was afraid. I was afraid that others would think I was seeking attention or that I was being prideful etc. It wasn’t until Agustin and I got back from living in Ghana in 2013 and the commentary on the book of Job, that I had the honor of co-writing with Dr. John Walton, was published and my whole story…the good, bad, raw and ugly hit the shelves… and it was in that season that I felt these words on my heart, “This is not your story to hide. This is a story of God’s faithfulness, of overcoming incredible hardship, of community and this story needs to be heard.”
My view and heart towards sharing my story – well Gods story – changed. I prayed, “Ok God..if this story needs to be heard, if opportunities come – I will have my heart in a posture to say yes.” 24 HOURS later – I was speaking with a pastor from The Highway Community, an awesome church community out in California, about the possibility of coming out with Agustin and sharing my testimony and speaking about God’s faithfulness through seasons of hardship. After that different opportunities began popping up…and I started saying yes…and I began to see the power of storytelling first hand. After I would speak, people in the audience would come up to me afterwards and share with me THEIR story and we were able to be a support to one another in a way I could not have if I had never shared my story.
This mindset shift was one of the main reasons I started the blog series #alifemodified. To simply share my story – with hopes that it may bring real connections and encouragement. And just recently, a connection was made and I am so grateful!
A woman named Deborah from Chicago emailed me earlier this summer and shared with me that she found my blog because she was googling videos on how to do things one-handed and came across my one-handed Kayaking Video. Her daughter, Whitley, in 2010 was in a horrible accident leaving her also with a Brachial Plexus injury ( severing of the nerves along the spinal cord – resulting in paralysis of the right arm) and didn’t know anyone else that could relate with what she was dealing with.
When I saw Deb’s email – I looked at my calendar and saw that I was going to Chicago the following week!! Wow, of all the places she could live and the places I could be going! I just knew I was supposed to meet Whitley.
I asked Deborah if she would share a bit from her perspective…
“In 2010 my daughter had a life changing event. I recognized that she struggled not knowing anyone that she could talk to that would really understand her pain…difficulties….or someone that she could share ideas with on how to succeed in life one-handed. In searching the internet I came across Kelly’s video on kayaking one-handed. After reading her story I reached out to Kelly to thank her for posting her video and told her I hoped my daughter would be inspired by her story. A few weeks ago Kelly and Whitley got to meet in person. What a great moment for me to see my daughter finally having a friend that really understands what she has gone through. And today…Whitley is kayaking.”
When I heard that Whitley was kayaking – tears came to my eyes! You never know the power of sharing a silly video on Vimeo about kayaking with one hand! So I met with Whitley and we totally hit it off! She is such a beautiful person it was refreshing talking with someone who truly understood what it is to live life every day with paralysis. After I met with Deborah, her husband Brian, and Whitley – they generously invited me to come out on their sail boat – BUT I was supposed to have an engagement session that evening and I knew the my clients/friends Erin + Glenn LOVED boats, so Deborah graciously invited Erin + Glen to come onboard and to do their engagement session out on the water! More photos from that session coming soon! But man… It was a beautiful night, meeting new friends, celebrating Erin + Glenn’s engagement…and it all came from a story I shared online. Truly Amazing.
Whitley shared a few thoughts with me,
“Six years ago I unfortunately got into a terrible motorcycle accident. During my accident I suffered a Brachial Plexus injury along with several broken bones. Receiving this Brachial Plexus injury completely changed my life, but although it changed my life it taught me how to become such a stronger person both physically and emotionally. At times though being a one-handed girl in a two-handed world would leave me to feel so alone and I always wished I could meet someone who is going through a similar situation. Recently I was blessed with the opportunity to meet Kelly who also suffers from a Brachial Plexus injury. Meeting Kelly brought tears to my eyes because for once someone could relate to me and understand the struggle it can be dealing with chronic nerve pain and being one-handed. Kelly and I both shared our stories to another and it was so amazing being able to relate so much to someone who I barely knew but who I felt so connected to. Kelly and I gave each other so much advice on how we do things one-handed. One of the tips she gave me was on how to put up my hair one-handed (to learn how : check out the video here ) and I shared with her how I have a one-handed blow dryer stand and other one-handed appliances. After meeting Kelly it gave me so much more confidence going back out into the world with my injury because I knew I wasn’t alone. It was such an amazing opportunity getting to meet her and I’m so glad I now have a forever friend out of this situation.”
I could not have said it better myself! We have a new friendship and connection all because I silenced the lies and realized that stories need to be heard! Sharing our passions, our struggles and hardship are what forms deep and raw connections that can be such a blessing!!
So I just want to encourage you… to not be afraid to share your story. People want to hear it…and you never know the beautiful connections you will make!!
Here are a couple of photos I took of Deborah + Brian and Whitley out on the Sailboat during my visit to Chicago :)
Deborah + Brian, thank you for your generosity! And thank you for taking that bold step to reach out and write a stranger with who you shared a connection!
Whitley, I know how hard the past few years have been but the strength that you carry shines through you and is truly beautiful!