When you’re thankful through all seasons

Let’s be perfectly honest—sometimes life is just plain rough, and it’s challenging to find reasons to be thankful. At times, it feels like you’re either sinking in quicksand or going through a never-ending storm that doesn’t appear to be letting up anytime soon. Your heart hurts, your brain hurts, and all of the emotions are making your body actually physically hurt.

You might often hear people talk about the different seasons of life—seasons of change, seasons of joy, seasons of pain, seasons of sorrow, seasons of financial troubles, seasons of success, seasons of being alone. So.many.seasons. But what about those perpetual seasons that don’t seem to want to change from one to the next?

Pretending that fall is actually here

I’m a pretty joyous person, and I try to help others to have fun in most situations, but I also know what it’s like to have a heavy heart and feel like no one truly understands the pain you’re going through. It’s sometimes difficult to focus on the reasons you have to be thankful because you’re consumed by the reasons you have to struggle. While I think it’s important to acknowledge the bad things in your life and to feel the emotions resulting from them (I’m actually still learning how to do this), I also think it’s healthy to find bits of gratitude, especially when you’re going through the darker points in life.

Years ago, I started wearing pink on Wednesdays. Sure, it was originally inspired by Mean Girls, but I later learned that pink is the color of gratitude, and now I treat that day as my weekly day of thanks. Three of my dear friends in California and I email our reasons to be grateful every Wednesday, and it’s a tradition I’ve come to love. No matter what messes we’re facing, we each find a list of things for which we’re thankful and share our bits of joy with one another.

Lately, just in my own life to myself, I’ve been trying to find those gratitude tidbits more and more on a daily basis. I’ve been in one of those tough seasons recently (or, more accurately, one that just hasn’t ever ended), and it’s easy to get caught in the trap of wanting to throw a pity party for and with only myself. But when I push those thoughts away and then, instead, focus them on the reasons I have to be grateful, my heart’s emotions shift, and the desire to feel sorry for myself disappears. Rather than thinking about what I wish were different, I think about what’s so wonderful as it is.

And joy takes over.

Thankful that I got to spend some time with my forever friend over the weekend

In the Bible, Paul reminds us to be thankful in all circumstances, not just the good ones. No matter what you believe, I think this is a wise way to live. It’s definitely not always easy, but it’s good. There are challenging situations that many of us haven’t ever been through, and it’s always easier to say something than actually to do it, but I truly believe that you can always find a reason to be grateful, no matter what you’re facing.

Last week, I absentmindedly left my classroom in a hurry during my conference period so that I could go to the bathroom and get back before the bell rang. In doing so, I wasn’t paying close enough attention to see my finger get caught in part of this strange rolling contraption thing on the door latch (a horrible description, obviously), but I sure felt it. For the first few seconds after it happened, I couldn’t look down—I was sure that the top part of my finger wasn’t there anymore. When I finally got the courage to let my eyes stray that way, I saw plenty of blood and a finger that was somehow still intact.

I have an extremely high pain tolerance—I once went almost an entire day with a 9-millimeter kidney stone (most of them are 3 or 4 millimeters) traveling through my body before I went to the ER. In this moment, though, I wanted to let myself cry. I didn’t, but I really wanted to. My whole hand was shaking, and I couldn’t focus on anything but the pain. As I’m writing this, it makes me sound pretty wimpy, but I feel like I could quote Monica in this case: “You can’t say that! You don’t know! I mean, I thought I was going to pass out from the pain.” I actually also thought that I was going to have to get my finger amputated (I’m clearly not one to dramatize a situation), but thankfully no one had to pee on me to get rid of the pain.

I wrapped a paper towel around my finger to try to stop the blood, but I’m not sure that I should have been squeezing something that had just been smashed as hard as it was. At that point, I only had like three minutes until the bell, so I just walked with my wrapped-up finger back to the classroom, purposely avoiding eye contact with the door that had just tried to kill a piece of me.

It’s my pointer finger. I’m not making a rude gesture.

I had a bunch of students entering into my classroom who were relying on me to be there for them, and I didn’t have time to focus on the pain and the fact that I still haven’t learned to slow down in life. Instead, I decided I was going to be grateful that I still had my finger. And you know what? I put a Spiderman Band-Aid on that mess, and everything was fine. Sure, I didn’t sleep that night because my finger was throbbing, and the nurse told me the next day that I needed to go to the doctor to have them drill a small hole in my finger to drain the hematoma that had become my new worst enemy (I never made time to go—oops), but I was grateful, and I’m convinced that it helped to minimize the pain.

Yes, I realize that a finger that survived getting caught in a door contraption that I still can’t accurately describe well is rather minimal compared to many much more difficult situations that people face on a daily basis, but comparisons often minimize more than they should, including how we view ourselves. Regardless of how big or small our troubles are, though, I still believe that there are always bits of gratitude that we can find to help us make it through the rain (sing it, Mariah, my ultimate soul sista).

The broken hearts try to break every piece of us. The dark times try to steal every ounce of our joy. The setbacks try to keep us from rising back up. The illnesses try to tell us that there’s no hope. The losses try to convince us that there are no wins in sight. The mistakes try to keep us from believing in grace. And so many more tough situations try to stop us from being thankful.

The key word is try—we don’t have to let those things win.

We don’t all live in an episode of Full House in which all of our problems will be resolved in less than 30 minutes when the “this is a valuable life lesson” music starts to play. Our situations won’t always pan out as we hope, but even in the midst of the worst storm you’ve ever been in—even when the torrential rain gets more powerful and daunting by the second—your heart can still find reasons to smile.

My precious JoJo (aka Jayna)

When I was in the hospital for five days or whatever it was for one of my many stays (thanks, kidneys), I remember being hooked up to IVs and on so many hardcore pain meds that still didn’t get rid of all of my pain but probably made me send some questionable text messages to people and feeling absolutely miserable—not just physically but also emotionally. But then my sweet friend Jayna showed up with a box of Wheat Thins, a coloring book, and a pink phone charger, and my whole outlook on everything changed. In that moment, I was thankful for her genuine heart and the thoughtfulness of her gifts that only a true friend would know that I would appreciate dearly. Sitting there with hair that I hadn’t washed in about nine days, morphine and dilaudid pumping through my veins, and a body that couldn’t even move half of an inch without excruciating pain, I sat in thankfulness.

I hope that you’re able to find reasons for gratitude when it seems like you can’t. If nothing else, it might help you get through those difficult times, even if in a very small way.

And give you a new reason to wear pink on Wednesdays.

When you worry about situations that don’t even exist

Things aren’t necessarily always as bad as you think they will be.

But that doesn’t stop us from letting our imaginations get the best of us.

I think it’s easy sometimes to create worst-case scenarios in our minds that don’t actually exist, and we end up dealing with unnecessary anxiety. There’s an episode of Modern Family that depicts this pretty perfectly when Claire freaks out about Haley’s whereabouts and what possibly could have happened within the last 24 hours. She spirals down a crazed worry path, but it turns out that Haley was upstairs in her room the entire time, and all of Claire’s panicking was for naught.

I’ve definitely been guilty of that more than once in my life, and I let those anxious thoughts get the best of me recently.

If you’re worried about being on a trip without your purse, get yourself a pink fanny pack from the nearest Walmart. It’s less than $8 and is a total game changer.

Last week was rough for a number of reasons, mainly because of the whole kidney stone thing. I’ve been feeling like a train wreck since then because something still isn’t right (don’t worry—I’m going to the urologist this week), and I didn’t do a great job of making sure that I got enough rest. I made the perhaps unwise decision to play in my flag football game on Saturday morning, and when I was getting closer to the beach, I noticed a strange sound coming from my car’s front right tire. I started worrying that my car was falling completely apart and that I was going to have to get an entirely new car ASAP if I wanted to be able to drive anywhere. But I really don’t want a car payment right now, so this wasn’t going to be good at all.

I parked on one of the streets near the beach and got out of my car to inspect the damage. All I saw was some circular silver thing stuck in my tire, and I wasn’t able to pull it out, no matter how hard I tried. I didn’t have time to deal with it at the moment because I needed to get to my game, but during my walk over to the beach field, I started thinking about how I was going to return to a flat tire, and I didn’t know how to change a flat. I didn’t want to have to call anyone to help me, so I then started worrying about trying to figure it out on my own and putting it on the wrong way.

By the time I got back to my car, the tire was still intact, and I drove to the nearest America’s Tire (I have a lifetime warranty with Discount Tire, and America’s Tire is the same thing as Discount out here), but it had closed at noon that day. I called two more America’s Tire stores, but it turns out they all closed at noon for some company event ON THE ONE DAY THAT I NEEDED THEM TO HAVE THEIR NORMAL HOURS.

As I drove to the nearest auto place that Google Maps had found for me, I started panicking about how much it was going to cost to fix it or get a brand new tire all because freaking America’s Tire had to have a company event. (I honestly hope that all of the employees had a great time—I used to love it when my company in Dallas would close early to have some fun as a company family.)

I sat inside and watched college football on my phone (don’t ask me why the store had a throwback NBA game on its TV, instead) and had a convo with God to try to get rid of my worrying. It wasn’t too long later that the guy who had been working on my tire came in with the keys and gave them to the guy behind the counter, who turned to me and said that I was all set. It was a bolt that had been in my tire, and homeboy had removed it and then patched up the hole. I braced myself as I asked him how much it was, and he said four words that made my heart soar: “Don’t worry about it.”

He didn’t realize it, but he was speaking to me about so much more than the tire.

All of that worrying and stressing ended up being a waste of energy that I really didn’t have in the first place. I feel like I should know by now that going down the worry path is a horrible idea and usually leads me in the wrong direction. What’s the point in stressing so much about situations that don’t even exist and may never be actualities?

I’m really thankful for people like Amanda who remind me what it means to be a good friend and go through tough times together. (P.S. IT’S HER WEDDING WEEK!!!!)

I have a lot of unknowns ahead in my life right now, and at least one has been causing me more anxiety than it should. Here’s the truth, though: I can handle anything that comes my way, because I know that I’m never alone, and God has never once turned away from me—and He won’t start now. No, that doesn’t mean that everything will always work out in my favor, but it does mean that I can endure the trials and trust Him through them all.

Life is going to throw challenges at us, and there will be times when it leaves us feeling anxious about what may or may not happen. There are questions constantly filling our minds: How much is this going to cost? What if I can’t afford this? What if I’m single forever? What if the dreams in my heart don’t come true? What am I going to do if this happens? What am I going to do if this doesn’t happen?

You can “what if?” until you’re blue in the face, and you can sweat over your mind’s inquiries until you wear yourself out completely. But, rather than spending all of your energy worrying about things that aren’t realities and may never be, why not use it to enjoy where you are, trust that what needs to happen will happen, and love the people in your life in this very moment?

Because one bolt in your tire can’t destroy the entire car.

Because sometimes you have to let people help you

Humility comes in a variety of different forms and often hits you when you least expect it.

Especially when you’re in the hospital.

I’ve struggled with kidney stones for years now and even had to undergo three different surgeries last year because of these tiny little demons that feel anything but tiny as they try to pass through your body. I can say with absolute certainty and maybe a bit of spite that I hate kidney stones. And I do mean HATE.

Sadly, the change in climate from Texas to California didn’t stop the wrath of the stones.

JP is a winning volleyball coach with a winning personality (obviously).

I currently live with a couple I’ve come to see as family. Kris and JP are truly wonderful, and they let me third-wheel it with them quite often. We’ve watched a lot of Brooklyn Nine-Nine together and had plenty of heart-to-heart chats, as well. They’re my people.

One really exciting thing we’re doing together now is the Tour de OC, which basically means that we’re going to eat at a bunch of different places in our area on Monday nights. Two days ago was supposed to be our first Tour de OC outing, but my body decided to go and ruin that plan.

I had been having some weird back pains earlier in the day, and I had a feeling that I knew what was going on but didn’t really want to acknowledge it, so I did what I do best when I have physical pain: I ignored it. As usual, it wasn’t my best decision, and it kept getting worse. I also couldn’t stop going to the bathroom all day, but I told myself that I was just really well-hydrated.

WHEN WILL I EVER LEARN??

I hung out with some friends and then went to the beach for a bit before going home to shower and get ready for the inaugural night of Tour de OC. After I showered, I was in so much pain that I decided to lie down in bed until it was time to go. I lasted maybe three minutes and couldn’t find any way to get comfortable, so I went downstairs to tell Kris and JP that I was going to have to bail on them and go to the ER, instead. Because who doesn’t love a good trip to the hospital when you’re supposed to be relaxing and enjoying a good time on Labor Day?

I don’t remember taking this picture, but apparently I texted it to multiple people.

As I practically collapsed on the bottom of the stairs when I called out for JP and didn’t get an answer, Kris came in and insisted that he drive me. I started to say “no,” but then he cut me off and said he was going to get his keys. JP had just gotten up from a nap, and she texted me right after we left to say that she was on her way and would meet us there and stay with me.

I won’t bore you with all of the details of my time in the ER or tell you about how weird I get when I’m drugged up (because I honestly don’t remember half of the things I said), but I will tell you that JP sat on what looked like the most uncomfortable little chair in that ER room with me and made sure that I had someone to talk to and someone simply to be there with me. Hospitals can often be lonely and scary places, and she didn’t want me to have to go through that alone, even though it was something I’ve faced and dealt with before.

As an added bonus, college football is back (ALL OF THE PRAISE HANDS!!), and we were able to watch that in our room to give me some comfort, too.

That right there is a true friend. When you find one, keep her.

One thing that I’ve always struggled with is allowing other people to help me. I think that I’ve gotten so used to doing everything on my own that I’ve become almost completely uncomfortable with people offering to do things for me. The sweet nurse Emily insisted on going into the bathroom with me to make sure that I didn’t fall after she had just pumped a bunch of pain meds into my veins, and I tried to tell her that it wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t because I was weirded out by someone being in the bathroom with me (she faced the door the entire time, and I’ve helped my fair share of brides go to the bathroom on their wedding days)—it was more that going to the bathroom is something that I’ve always done on my own, and I don’t want someone else to be inconvenienced by having to help me do something, especially when it’s something that I’m perfectly capable of doing myself. (Although, in this case, she was probably right that I would have fallen because she gave me some pretty powerful stuff, and I was struggling to walk like a normal human.)

When the worst part was finally over (when the stone makes its way through the ureter and enters the bladder), JP drove me home after we made a pit stop for some food. I had tried to buy her dinner, but she wouldn’t let me and said that I need to stop trying to pay people back for things and stop apologizing for her having to be at the hospital, because I would have done the same thing for her. Then she hit me with this truth: Sometimes you just have to let other people take care of you.

And she’s right.

Yes, it’s important to be independent and to know how to navigate this life without someone else telling you what to do, but it’s also important to know when you can’t do everything yourself and that there are people in your life who love you and care about you and actually want to do things to help. They’re not doing those things out of obligation or for selfish purposes—they’re simply acting out of genuine love.

No, that guy did not share his Chick-fil-A with us.

It’s a hard truth for me to swallow, but I know that it’s something that I need to embrace more, especially if I ever expect to be in a relationship someday. There’s going to come a time when a guy loves me and truly wants to do nice things for me, and I shouldn’t push that away. No, I don’t need chairs pulled out for me or bags carried for me—I do circuit strength training workouts, so I’m good there. But every once in a while, I will likely need someone to hold my hand when I’m anxious, to bring me extra Wheat Thins when I’m sick, and to remind me that he’d rather pick me up from the airport than have me take an Uber with a stranger whose ear I’d likely talk off.

You can’t always do everything on your own. Sometimes you need people. I don’t believe that God intended us to do life all alone—that’s why other people exist.

So love them well, and let them love you.

When you weren’t expecting surgery

I know that life throws unexpected things at us sometimes, but there are certain unanticipated events I would prefer to avoid.

Like surgeries.

Last Wednesday, I had been feeling weird all day at work. I’ve had some kidney issues this year, but they’ve all been on my right side, and this pain was on my left. I thought it might be a kidney stone, but I also thought maybe I was just having really bad cramps or had eaten something that hurt my stomach. But there was also pain in my back, though I was trying to ignore it.

I went through the entire workday, but something simply felt off, and I was hurting pretty badly. My solution was to go home and go running. Listen, I don’t always make the wisest decisions in life, and this was probably one of the unwise ones. It turns out that, even though running often makes me feel better when I’m sad or even feeling a little sick, it’s not helpful for all of my ailments.

I got home and quickly showered so that I could go meet some friends for dinner. I was talking to my sister on the phone one the way, and she told me I probably shouldn’t go to dinner if I really wasn’t feeling well. I should have listened to her, but I didn’t. I showed up at one of my favorite taco places, but within three minutes, I left to go to the ER.

I’m becoming all too familiar with that place.

I was given lots of pain meds (after they only blew two of my veins that night), and then I went back for a CT scan. Surely enough, it was a kidney stone. The doctor told me it was a very large one and was the cause of the pain I had been feeling all day. But he said it was far enough along that it had almost run its course, so he sent me home with pain meds and another medication to help it pass. My sweet friend Bonnie had come to the hospital in case I needed a ride home, but apparently I was OK to drive, even after everything that had been pumping through my veins. She was a real trooper and followed me home and even stopped at two different pharmacies with me (we were misled to believe one was a 24-hour pharmacy, but it was not).

When I woke up the next morning, the pain was worse, and it was in the same spot. I was worried that somehow the stone was stuck. Bonnie called me to check on me, and thankfully she hadn’t left for work yet, because she ended up driving me back to the ER. The doctor there found that the stone was indeed an obstructive stone, which meant that it was so large that it had actually gotten stuck and was blocking stuff inside me, and I needed to have surgery to remove it. I told Bonnie to go to work since it was probably going to be a rather long day, and then my mom ended up coming to be with me. It was a rough day—none of the pain medicines they gave me were working, so they finally gave me what they said was the strongest medicine possible, and it sort of helped.

Bonnie and Michelle are keepers.

I was admitted to the hospital, but my surgery couldn’t be done until Friday, so I was basically just treated for pain all of Thursday and the majority of Friday. My mom stayed with me most of the day Thursday, and then my sister stopped by for a bit, and then Bonnie came back with my friend Michelle to help bring some smiles to my rather miserable situation.

I didn’t get much sleep that night, and I had to disconnect the heart rate monitor completely so that the machine would stop beeping at me. (I have a naturally low resting heart rate, but the nurses wouldn’t put it on a lower setting, so I told them I wasn’t going to wear it.)

Finally, the time for the surgery rolled around the next day (at which point I finally put on the hospital gown they gave me), and my mom and sister were both there at this point. Before taking me back to the operating room, the anesthesiologist gave me something that was supposed to relax me, but I don’t remember a thing after that until I woke up. I asked where my Wheat Thins were (priorities, people), and then I said I needed to talk to my sister and my mom. I briefly got to see them, and my sister told me the surgery was not successful.

Say what?

Apparently the stone was so large and in a difficult location that the doctor was unable to get it. He tried multiple times but told my mom and sister that if he had done anything more, he would have lacerated my ureter, which would have led to much worse complications and a much more extensive and invasive surgery to repair it. So, somehow he was able to push the stone back up into my kidney. I currently have a stent inside me that I have to wear for two weeks until I go see the doctor again for a different surgery that will hopefully get rid of everything.

But I didn’t have much time to react to any of that news—I was immediately taken away from my mom and sister because I wasn’t breathing right. They weren’t allowed to come back there with me, and the nurse kept telling me that I needed to breathe. I was still very woozy, but I thought I was breathing. She shoved breathing tubes up my nose and told me to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth, but I don’t think I did a very good job because she took those out and then put an oxygen mask over my face. It was kind of a scary 30 minutes or so of not knowing if I was actually breathing or not. According to the machine beeping at me and the nurse coaching me, I wasn’t.

When I finally returned to a normal state, I was able to see my family again, and I was taken back up to my hospital room. I really just wanted to get out of there so that I could make it to my niece’s first birthday party the next day. (Yes, I know going was overdoing it, but I couldn’t miss that party for anything in the world—not even surgery.) My precious sister and heart-of-gold mom had bought me a bear while I was in surgery (we named him Bow to go along with my koala named Tie), and my mom took care of me all night and checked on me so many times to make sure I was still breathing.

If I could not go through this again, that would be great.

I don’t like still being in pain, and I really don’t like that the surgery didn’t work and that I have to go back for another one. I don’t understand why any of this happened, and maybe I never will. But I do know that I am so thankful for my people. I don’t know what I would have done without my sister, my mom, Bonnie, Michelle, the caring doctors and nurses, and the multiple people who kept texting me to check on me.

We’re all going to face some crappy situations in life, but sometimes we need our people to help us through—and faith that everything is happening for some greater purpose and that we are going to survive those tough times.

Life sure can be ugly, but love makes it so much more beautiful than we could ever imagine.

And sometimes you get kidney stones

I’m not a huge fan of feeling helpless.

Especially when grueling agony is involved.

I’ve experienced a lot of physical pain in my life—whether it’s been broken bones, pancreatitis, ruptured ovarian cysts, or whatever else—but last week I went through what is by far the absolutely worst pain I’ve ever felt in my entire life.

Wednesday around 3 a.m., I woke up to use the restroom. When I got back in bed, I felt a weird pain in my stomach and got up again. I looked at my stomach, and it looked sort of inflated and felt kind of hard. Then I suddenly couldn’t move. I didn’t know what to do. I am not very good at describing pain, but I can say that it was nothing like I’ve ever experienced, and I was pretty certain I was dying. The feeling was in my lower left abdomen, so I knew it wasn’t my pancreas (plus, I know that pain all too well), and I knew it couldn’t be my appendix.

The thought of going to the ER kept popping into my head, but I didn’t want to go if it was nothing. I called Baylor Hospital, but the woman who answered said that legally no one could give me advice on what to do. I still described my symptoms to her, anyway, and all she said was, “Ma’am, if you’re in enough pain to call a hospital at this hour, what do you think you should do?” Ugh. I hate when people answer my questions with questions.

For almost another hour, I tried to curl up in various positions to make the pain go away. I figured that I really couldn’t afford to miss work, so I might as well just suck it up. But, it finally became too much to bear, and I sent an email to our AP secretary saying I was going to the hospital and might need a sub that day, grabbed my purse, put on a coat, and walked (if that’s what you can even call what I was doing) to my car. I still had on my glasses, because I was hurting too badly even to put in my contacts.

IMG_0542
These are my arms. I don’t do drugs.

I honestly have no idea how I drove that morning. I know I was moaning the whole time, and then it felt like I was in a maze trying to find the emergency entrance. I parked in a spot that I didn’t even know (or care) if it was legal, and I stumbled across the street and into the hospital. It would be almost another two hours before an actual doctor saw me and hooked me up with some pain medicine that would at least ease some of what I was going through. But first, a nurse had to try to put an IV in me, and she was struggling. I think she was new. She blew two of my veins and finally had to have a more experienced person come stick a needle in me. I wanted to cry so badly and for so many reasons at that point.

I went through a series of tests I will not recount to the public. Ever. But I will say they were awful, and I would never wish them upon anyone. Ever.

Even though there were nurses and doctors and other strangers throughout the entire emergency room area, I felt all alone. Granted, it was my own fault, because no one knew I was there, but it was very lonely, and there was way too much time when I had no idea where the doctor was or if he still planned on finding out what was wrong with me. My poor nurse Tyler probably started to hate me, because I hit the button to call him to my room simply to ask him if anyone was on the way.

I spent two hours in the sonogram room, where Joseph made me drink two gigantic cups of water but told me to pace myself and then insisted waiting 30 minutes after each cup and 20 minutes between cups before actually examining my stomach with his machine. But, he was a very sweet man and even got me an extra blanket and the ugliest pair of socks I’ve ever donned when he noticed how chilled I was in my ridiculous paper-thin gown. When I finally returned with no answers from that to my hospital room, Tyler said, “Finally! You’re back!” I don’t think he actually missed me pestering him so much, but it was nice of him to pretend.

At this point, I had been there five or six hours, so I texted my sister just to let her know where I was. I think deep inside I knew she would come to the hospital if she knew I was there, and I really wanted someone there with me. I do a lot alone in life, but I needed my sister. I told her not to come, but she did. And I felt better when she got there. Sure, I was pretty drugged up and not feeling much, but the warmth of a sister’s love can overpower morphine every single time.

Shortly after Steph arrived, I finally went back for my CT scan. I had already drunk the three cups of the nastiest lemon-lime flavored concoction a person can ingest that Tyler kept bringing me, claiming they made it easier to read the scan, so I was ready to go. I had to wait 30 minutes between each cup before I got the next. Don’t worry—I was monitoring the clock and pushed the button for Tyler if we made it to the 31-minute mark with no new cup of nasty. I wish hospitals moved as fast in real life as they do in movies and on television.

After 12 hours of wondering why I even had to be in the hospital that day, I finally got the answer. The doctor came back and said, “I have some good news for you: you have kidney stones. Three of them.” How is that good news?! Apparently it was just good that we finally knew what it was. Two of the kidney stones are still in my kidney, and the third had made its way to my bladder. That’s what had caused so much pain that morning, because the stone was passing from my kidney through some very narrow tube that isn’t big enough for a kidney stone, thus causing unbearable pain. The lone ranger stone was supposed to pass in the next few days but is still there, while the others could either stay in my kidney, go away, or eventually travel just as the first did. And there is no way to tell what they will do. Wonderful.

I’m not going to lie—I hate kidney stones. Multiple people (including the doctor) have told me that it’s a worse pain than childbirth, and I don’t doubt that for one second. But I think I came away with three valuable lessons from this whole ordeal:

1. Pain is often part of the process. Some things you go through in life simply have to hurt for a while. After the kidney stone leaves the kidney and makes you hurt terribly, it then causes a different type of pain after that, too. But, once it’s left you completely, the pain is gone, and you can carry on again like normal (whatever that is). You just have to get through that difficult part—and you can. Sure, sometimes people have to help you out along the way, but that just makes them part of your journey, too. Whether it’s doctors, nurses, or the best sister in the world, others will be there to aid and love you through your pain.

2. You can’t live in fear. I am not too keen on the fact that there are two more stones from hell, as I like to call them, just hanging out in my kidney. And I am not a fan of the thought of having to pass the loner kidney stone, either. But I don’t want to waste time worrying about what may or may not happen and when it may or may not occur. It doesn’t make sense to live life with hesitation. Live it boldly, and live it fearlessly. And just remember that sometimes stones happen, and that’s OK.

3. We need people. Life was not meant to be lived alone. The truth is, we need others. I needed doctors and nurses to take care of me last week. I needed my sister to sit with me and quote the doctor in Friends when he joyously says, “Kidney stones!” (I had waited for her to say this—I knew it was coming and truly enjoyed the awkward moment when she said it and then had to explain to the doctor why she said it the way she did.)

I never want to go through the agony of kidney stones again, and I hope you don’t have to, either. But, I hope that when you do face any type of pain in your life that you will fearlessly press through it and trust that the Lord will get you through it. Trust without borders. And I hope that you will have people like Tyler and my sister to be there with you and help you forget about the pain.

Because genuine love is strong enough to do that.