When you walk into my room, this is the first thing you see:
|(Inspiration originally from A Beautiful Mess, one of my favorite blogs)|
Yes, it's unusual to have a 2.5' x 5' board covered in flowers on your wall! The word "Restore" has sort of become my motto. So much so, that it's part of my ministry tagline: "Restoring Dignity to African Women through Physical Therapy."
God first spoke this word to me in January 2013 at the Passion conference in Atlanta, Georgia. This packed three-day conference for over 60,000 college-aged students came at a pivotal point in my life. I was 2/3 of the way through physical therapy school and about to start my first clinical rotation (which I was utterly freaked out about!) I was moving back in with my parents for a time and starting to think about job-searching and post-graduation plans. I was working through the fallout of a relationship I'd had through most of college that had recently ended, and I realized that I was losing touch with my closest friends—some of whom I'd even come to the conference with. Worst of all, I felt like the dream of becoming a missionary physical therapist that God had placed in my heart during the summer I spent with Mercy Ships in 2010 was further away than ever.
I remember looking around my "small group" of over 5,000 students and around my "family" of eight, and I feeling utterly alone. The main session speakers were wonderful, the worship was phenomenal, and the small group discussions helped me plan how to integrate the teachings into daily life. But I felt like everyone else was experiencing God in a real and powerful way, while God had forgotten me and my hurts and my hangups. I just wasn't sure He cared about me and my dreams anymore.
Then one night while walking to worship in The Georgia Dome, I looked up and saw this sign:
It was just one of dozens such signs with words like "Freedom," "Prayer," "Courage," "Truth," and other inspirations centered around that year's theme of social justice and modern day slavery.
But I couldn't get that word out of my head.
During our afternoon break the next day, I wandered into the Prayer Room. This quiet place was filled with students praying for social justice organizations and for other students' prayer requests posted on the wall. Other students were scattered around the room journalling or reading their Bibles. I found a beanbag in a corner, opened my journal, and asked God to speak to my aching heart...
"Lost in You, expectant waiting, tired of waiting, wait for Me. No shame. I'm not enough, He will equip. There's not enough time, God of the impossible. This is a generation of faith. At the death of death, power, all-consuming love, pouring out, in my place, it is enough, let go of your burdens. I will give you new skin, old dry bones replaced, dance for the first time, someone's gonna find their healing. Community, family, believing His promises. He is real, I am real, my time is now, my dream's not dead. Reshape. Network. Share. Love. Inspire. Wonder in awe of who God is. Expand my world. Rock my socks off. Restoration. He is leaving nothing broken. Restoring life.
ALL THINGS WERE CREATED BY, FOR, AND THROUGH HIM FOR HIS GLORY."
- January 2, 2013
***Those of you who have heard that year's Passion album, "Let the Future Begin,"
will recognize some of the song lyrics in that journal entry***
And right there in the corner of that Prayer Room, God spoke to my heart in the quiet and unmistakable way He uses with me:
"I have not forgotten you."
God had not forgotten my dreams. He had not lost me in the midst of graduate school and the angst of being a young twenty-something. But He was continuing to let me feel like I didn't fit in with my own generation, and continuing to let me struggle to identify with them. He wanted to enlarge my faith and prepare me for the real world. And as I ventured out out of the physical therapy classroom and into the clinic, He wanted me to remember that I was not in it for the money or for the personal fulfillment. He reminded me that I'd chosen that field in order to help people achieve their goals (and sometimes help them dream again), and so I could impact their lives in multiple areas, not just physically. He had not forgotten me. In fact, He was just getting started with me.
God continued to speak that word, "Restore," to me the rest of 2013 as I worked with physical therapy patients from all walks of life, with all sorts of injuries, and with vastly different goals. I thought He was leading me to a high-class and fast-paced clinic in Boston, but instead I found the perfect job at the small county hospital in rural East Texas where I started working in March 2014.
And somewhere in the mundane of the 9-5 job and small town life, I kind of forgot about my dream. I still wanted to be a missionary, but more in the "maybe one day" sense of the word. I had gotten lost in the never-ending pile of patient documentation, learning all the real-world skills they don't teach you in PT school, and in pursuing various volunteer and continuing education opportunities that didn't really lead me any further towards the mission field.
I made this wall hanging to remind me every day that my goal is physical restoration. I started to see my patients in a different light: restoring a high school athlete to his pre-injury status, restoring life to an older person undergoing surgery, restoring intimacy and dignity to a woman with pelvic dysfunction, and restoring sanity to a caregiver that was simply overwhelmed.
Now that I'm on the road to becoming a missionary physical therapist, I'm excited to join God in the restorative work He's already doing overseas! I'm partnering with a Christian organization and will be working at a Christian hospital, so will have unrestricted ability to share the gospel with my patients. In working with fistula care, I will have the opportunity to really build relationships with the women who are at the center for several months. And as I combine my physical therapy skills with others bringing their surgical, nursing, life skills, and evangelism training, we will have the unique opportunity to bring total restoration to each of our patients!