Faith, Featured, Suffering, Worth

How To Lay Down Your ‘What If?’ And Accept What Is

What if I would have gone to a different school? Took a different job? Married someone else? We all play this game.

What if I would have driven a different way? Gotten more regular checkups? Not went to my game that day? Not gone on that trip?

In Economics class, I learned about the premise of the opportunity cost. It basically means we can’t do or have it all. When we say yes to something, we often have to say no to the alternative. This applies to all decisions, no matter how trivial or life-changing they may be. Whether it’s a toddler choosing which sport to play in the fall or deciding who you want to marry, an alternative is given up when a decision is made.

partially paralyzed face in fourth month of therapy via Ashley Stevens at Mountains Unmoved
4th month of therapy

The right side of my face is partially paralyzed. My left eye’s lashes had to be frozen off, the pupil is forever dilated, and it stays wide open when I smile. I have a huge scar on the bottom of my chin, as well as ones from the feeding and tracheal tubes.

While naturally right-handed, a stroke pretty severely impaired the use of my right hand. My right ear is deaf and rings at a volume of a loud rock concert at all times of the day. Every morning there is about a 50/50 chance that I will wake up with a pretty severe headache.

While in recovery, I daily asked, “What if?” and why  I was called to such heavy suffering as a newly engaged 22-year-old. I was serving as a campus missionary at the time teaching others about Him, for crying out loud.

What in God’s all-knowing name do you do when the season He is calling you to just doesn’t make sense?

How do we trust He’s using it all when our suffering seems so pointless?


Replacing ‘What If?’ With ‘What Could Have Been?’

I went for a swim at the YMCA last week and huffed and puffed through every stroke. I was on the swim team in high school and, well let’s just say it wasn’t my most natural sport.

YMCA swimming pool wheelchair lift, gratitude for what is via Ashley Stevens at Mountains Unmoved

As I stopped to catch my breath, I looked up and saw a man being lifted from his wheelchair to the pool lift and supported while he was lowered into the pool. He was visibly and audibly suffering other injuries as well and I mourned with him for the loss of the life he once had or never knew.

I consider myself blessed that getting back to the life I knew was even an option. While it was a long and intense medically-assisted fight including months of therapy, walkers, neck braces, countless tubes, and multiple surgeries, there were many patients besides me in therapy who weren’t as lucky.

When I am struggling with my ‘What If?’ from that day, I often think about what could have been if the accident had gone just a bit differently that morning:

  • If the Mack truck had hit us at a different angle or speed, I may have lost my ability to relearn how to walk, talk, eat, or process.
  • If I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt that morning, I likely would have lost my life.
  • If my stroke had been a different size, I may have lost the function of an entire side of my body.
  • If Brad wasn’t able to say yes to the unknown, I would have lost my marriage.

These details will NEVER be lost on me. 

We can choose to be thankful for the things that could have transpired. That didn’t. 

Sometimes, though, when we lose something or someone we will never get back, there’s no such thing as “what could’ve been”. Sometimes our loss leaves nothing left. What then?

Replacing ‘What If?’ With What Is

Living with physical limitations is a daily struggle, a daily reminder of what I forever lost that morning.

As I’m unable to fasten my bra behind my back after the fifth attempt, struggle to hear what someone is saying sitting beside me, cringe while I see the facial asymmetry in my selfie, I still struggle to gracefully accept the always and forever impact of that day.

When I feel the silent grief as I pull on the pre-fastened bra, pop in my hearing aid and reposition, or take another shot using a different smile or angle, I try to remind myself of what is.

a loving husband leaves his wife coffee on the bathroom counter before he leaves for work via Ashley Stevens at Mountains Unmoved

I am a 31-year- old that is able to run, swim, and work out. I have a supportive Church community, family, and friends,  that carry me on hard days and drink with me on easy ones.  😉

I am a wife to an amazing man that lived the vows before we even said: “I Do”. That works incredibly hard to support our family. That leaves me coffee the way I like it on my bathroom counter when he leaves early for a work trip.

I am a mom of three beautiful, healthy girls that are so uniquely cool. Their love for each other inspires me. They challenge me to not grow up too fast or take life too seriously. And on days when I do, they tickle and play with me anyways.

Never forget what you’ve made it through, how far you’ve come, and what you have

…caffeine in the morning, that my older two are able to get themselves ready for bed BY THEMSELVES 🙌, I’m able to type, watching football or baking shows with my family, dance and violin lessons, etc, etc, etc.

We can focus on the whys and what-ifs or we can focus on the hope of right now. Click To Tweet

If you find yourself second-guessing your decisions or being dragged down by the what-ifs, remind yourself that you don’t know the hardships that would have happened or what you’d never be blessed to experience if things had gone just a little bit different.

What have you done to lay down the what-ifs from your past? What are you grateful for today?

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