For me, good news always seems to come in the form of In-N-Out burger. I’m not entirely sure why it tends to end up that way. I can tell you this; one of the best first dates I ever went on was at In-N-Out with the first boy I ever loved, when I found out I was going to Africa the summer before college I was in the drive-thru and when I needed a milkshake to cheer me up they always came in a palm tree striped cup. For some reason, this place always did the trick. It was almost like it was secretly full of magic. This is always the first thing I remember when I think about my story or my testimony and what I have learned in this past year, is that good news always comes in the form of In-N-Out. That’s exactly how I’m going to start this story tonight while I fly the last stretch of the way home from Dallas, Texas.
It was a day in January, or it could’ve been February. Either way, it was one of the very few cold months in the central valley. I had just finished up at the doctors office, oddly enough, and to cheer me up my first stop was of course In-N-Out for the delicious Neapolitan milkshake. The milkshake ended up not being the best part of the day. While I was in the drive-thru, I got a phone call from the college pastor at my church informing me that I was officially accepted to go on the missions trip to Kenya, Africa the upcoming summer. I could’ve cried tears of joy, for Africa had been a dream of mine for such a long time. Ever since I was a young girl, I wanted to see Africa. I received a drawing of a fish that the sponsor child my family sent money to every month once. It was just a small stick figure style fish, with the French word “poisson” scratched next to it in some graphite. That moment was the moment I knew I desperately wanted to touch, and taste, and smell the place that this beautiful boy lived. I could tell in every photograph we received that this boy, he knew joy better than any American I had ever met in my entire life. I wanted to learn from people like him. So the fact that in July, I was going to get to board a plane and fly my way across the world and see a part of Africa where these kinds of people live made me so filled with excitement, it struck down to the deepest parts of my heart.
$3500 seemed like a million dollars to me. Yet, that was exactly how much it was going to take to get myself from California to the Maasai Mara, Kenya, Africa. I had such little faith. I had no idea how I was going to get the money to be honest. I sent out letters to friends and family, in the hopes that someone, anyone would feel kind enough to give me even so much as twenty bucks. I should’ve known, that God is bigger, because within two months I had every single dollar I needed to go on my trip. It was like he was laughing at me, saying “ye of little faith… don’t you know what I can do?” Yeah, I know now God.
All that was left, was to graduate high school and get my last immunizations for my trip and I was set. I don’t think I could talk about my plans for the summer with no less than the biggest grin imaginable on my face. Everything looked so optimistic from my point of view, because I felt as though I had the world at my finger tips. June 11, 2013 at 8 pm I walked across the stage in my gold cap and gown and got myself a high school diploma. I felt so free, and then two days later… that was the day I got my last shot in preparation for Africa. Bring it on, was exactly what I thought at the time. Some silly little shot didn’t bother me one bit.
The afternoon I got my shot, they had me sign some silly paperwork about the really rare and adverse reactions one could have from getting this yellow fever shot. To be honest, at the time I really didn’t care. It was a one in a million chance of getting something like that so I pretty much just signed the paper without really paying attention to the document or what the guy said to me. In retrospect, I probably should’ve paid more attention, but I had no idea at the time.
I had no idea that would become the day that served as the beginning of the most difficult time in my life. June 13, would change my life as I knew it. It started out as a simple fever, and then some vomiting, and then a continued fever that wouldn’t go down. Then it was one trip to the doctors, and a visit to the emergency room. I thought it would stop, the reaction to the shot. I honestly believed it would end, and the sickness would end. It had been five days of what I thought was misery. I would wake up at five A.M. with a 103 degree fever and vomiting like no other, but by noon I would feel completely fine so every day I thought it was over.
Then, Tuesday June eighteenth I woke up with a shock. First of all, this is where some details might be a little raw so my apologies if you learn more about me than you ever intended to but the story can’t be told without the details. I hadn’t been able to pee for three days. Three whole days of not being able to pee, should have probably been a little more concerning to me than it was but honestly, I was more annoyed with the whole five o’clock fever and then twelve o’clock healthy as can be act my body seemed to have. So that Tuesday, I woke up and I needed to pee because I thought that I might just burst. As soon as I tried to swing my legs up over the bed, that was the moment I knew something was wrong. My legs wouldn’t move. I don’t really remember being able to tell that I had legs still attached to my body, aside from the fact that I could feel them tingling all over as though they were asleep. So I was kind of hoping that the more I tried to move them, the more they would wake up. But I realized that nothing was making them move other than me grabbing them and swinging them over the side of my bed physically. That’s when I called for my mom. It only took about three hours, maybe four, before my doctor had sent me to Children’s Hospital because I might have a serious disorder. Just before I went to the hospital, my mom and I drove through In-N-Out so I could try and enjoy a milkshake. I probably took three sips, because I was fighting so hard to keep back tears. All I wanted was to get to go to Africa… but at that point, I wasn’t so sure I was gonna get to do it.
By eleven o’clock that night, I had five vile’s of blood taken out, been poked and prodded with various needles and catheters, and had a drill in my spine for a spinal tap. I didn’t have enough energy to know or care what was happening to me, and I couldn’t feel much of anything at all. What I felt was as though I was all alone in the world, and I had a lack of understanding as to why this needed to happen now. My nurse, though he was absolutely adorable, refused to give me a blanket because of my fever and it was the only thing I wanted. I think I wanted that blanket more than I have ever wanted ice cream and that is saying something. Unfortunately… I never got that blanket and that night was the start to a hard road.
I had to relearn how to walk, and go to the bathroom and I think for a moment I might have had to relearn how to smile. There were few moments I was alone, but in those moments all I could do was cry out to God how desperately I just wanted the pain to be gone, and I really could care less as to how he decided he was gonna do that. But whenever people ask me what the hardest part was, I don’t comment on the migraines or the physical therapy or the fact that I looked like an old lady when I took some of my first steps. The hardest part was going from being an independent seventeen year old who could completely take care of herself (aside from needing money from mom and dad here and there), to being completely dependent on other people for everything. After I had the catheter taken out, because my bladder was paralyzed, I couldn’t even control that. Half of the time, I needed someone to come change a diaper for me, and the other half it was a ten minute excursion to get to the restroom. Talk about feeling like losing your dignity. I didn’t even get to take a shower on my own for three weeks.
I spent two weeks in that hospital. Two weeks of learning how to depend on others, and most importantly how to depend on God. I thought I was in charge of all my plans, and my life. I was so wrong. I didn’t have control over anything, not even something as small as getting a full night’s sleep. That was the moment that I became acutely aware of how much we take for granted in life. Even still, I sometimes relearn the same exact lessons that I learned a year ago. I’ll catch myself complaining about something stupid and then put into perspective that my legs actually work now, and that should be enough good news for me. I still have to lose a lot of pride on an almost daily basis. But I have learned that God is more than enough. In the trials, and the joys of life, God always finds a way to provide. Even when it doesn’t seem like his plan is the greatest, he always comes through in the end. People try and talk to me about disappointment, and I have a deep understanding. I lost my dream, and everything I stood for in my independence. Sometimes, we don’t know the answers and that’s okay. It isn’t our job to know why… it is our job to simply hold on the the truth we know and trust in God’s ability to be God. I read a book a couple days ago, and something that stuck out to me was this quote about God, “He says, ‘I’m here. Waiting. When you’re ready to trust what you know… and not what you feel.’” Even if it feels like the world is falling apart and you are falling apart, and trust me I know what that feels like, just sit back and trust what you know. He is right there waiting.
I think I could write twenty different life lessons, and fifty stories about my summer. But for some reason, one year later, this is the one that always comes back to my heart. God is waiting for me, every single day. And I can depend on him for the rest of my life… that is truly good news.