Forging A New Path

Our lives are a collection of moments and experiences. As kids in elementary school, the biggest question we get asked is “what do you want to be when you get older?” If I’m being completely honest, I don’t think we ever stop being asked that question… it just gets asked in different formats. We grow up, graduate high school with the feeling like the entire world is at our fingertips, and then it’s up to us what we do with it. Some of us get married and have kids. Some of us get a job and find ourselves in a successful career path. Some of us go on to continue our education. There’s no “set path” to go down when we graduate high school and that can be a really good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it.

When I graduated high school back in 2010, I wanted to go to school for theater. I went to Fitchburg State, found a degree program in theater, and went for it. A couple semesters in, I had a change of plans. Instead of pursuing a degree in theater, I wanted to pursue medical degree and become an orthopedic surgeon {Like the doctor who operated on me}. A semester into that, I decided I didn’t want to be in school for that long and I decided to just get all of my gen eds out of the way until I found something I wanted to pursue a degree in. It wasn’t until 2014 that I found Northpoint and decided to get my bachelors in Theological Studies with a focus in youth ministry. When I graduated in 2018, I took on a full time job at the school. While I’m grateful for the time I spent at that school, I knew my time there had come to an end in 2020.

This past year has given me a lot of time to think, to learn, and to grow. The person I am today would make Lauren a year ago proud. While most of us could write off 2020 as a mess, a lot happened beneath the surface that was actually pretty amazing. When I look back on 2020, sure there will be the initial shiver, but when push comes to shove, 2020 was a landmark year for me. 2020 set the tone {in a good way} for the next few years – maybe longer. There were lessons I learned in 2020 that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. But with the beginning of 2021, I find myself in a new, uncharted place.

The best way I can describe it in a way that would make sense is this – I feel like an elephant who grew up in captivity who was just set free from it’s chains. Now I know this may sound weird, but I’m asking you to trust me and track with me. When an elephant grows up in captivity or held back with a chain, it grows up not knowing it’s own strength. The elephant won’t break free from it’s chains because it’s been raised held back.

Growing up, I had an amazing childhood. When I got to my teenage years {those crucial, formidable years}, I spent my summers recovering from back surgery. Each surgery was like a reset button. Resting for 1-2 months, taking it easy for what felt like an eternity, no sports or active events for at least a year, the list goes on and on. I think I loved school because it got me out of the house and around people {who weren’t doctors or medical professionals}. So in a way, I grew up with a specific mindset. I watched my friends having fun, memorable summers. I watched my friends create memories that I couldn’t be a part of. Life was tough, but I always had the mindset that I was tougher.

Let’s fast forward. The year is 2019. I was at a Lowell Spinners baseball game with my family rooting for the home team. I had the opportunity to take part in a game with like 50 other fans on the field once the game ended. I woke up the next day thinking I had sprained my ankle on the field the night before. What I didn’t know at the time, was that I had a genetic form of arthritis. I saw new doctors, had more tests and bloodwork than you can imagine, and after a mountain of hospital bills later, found my diagnosis: HLA-B27 positive arthropathy. I can remember crying on the way home because I felt like I finally had an answer after months of rabbit trails and tests.

Since the age of nine, my life has revolved around doctors. Different doctors for different diagnoses, but I’ve seen more doctors than most people will see in a lifetime. The fun part of adulting for me {*insert sarcasm here*} has always been finding a steady insurance – not only to keep seeing my doctors but in case something were to go wrong. For the longest time, I’ve lived with the mentality of waiting for the other shoe to drop.

In the last month, I’ve had a deep and progressive revelation. As of right now, every medical condition I have is either treated or managed.. there currently is no other shoe that could drop. I’m waiting for something that most likely isn’t going to happen simply because of the pattern I’ve seen in my past.

So this year, I’m setting out to forge a new path. The first few steps may not be easy, but I’ve got my whole life ahead of me and I can’t afford to limit myself based on my past medical history. But let’s go back to my elephant metaphor. If you free an elephant who has lived its entire life in captivity, it’s not just going to run free and live a successful life in the wild. In fact, it won’t leave… simply because the life it lives is all that it knows.

But I refuse to live a life of complacency for fear that I can’t accomplish the enormous dreams I have for my life. I’m going to focus on people and circumstances that will help me grow and get out of my comfort zone. By no means will this be easy, but my medical conditions don’t have the final say. Sure I have to be careful and cautious, but I’m free to live the life I was meant to live. I know it’s far greater than what I can dream or imagine, but even the biggest dreams start off as a single step forward.

So here I am. Stepping forward. Stepping out of this safe environment that’s been protecting me through most of my life. It’s new, it’s uncharted, and I would be lying if I said I knew what I was doing. But last month, I knew God was calling me to jump. To step out from where I was and trust Him with what’s next. This new chapter and season is already more than I imagined and we’re just getting started.

So whatever limiting belief you’ve held onto, I’m standing in the gap to tell you there’s life outside of it. We need each other to not only combat the lies we tell ourselves, but to reach back to those behind us and help them take steps. Together we can live out our wildest, God-given dreams. We don’t have to live our entire lives in captivity. We are free to dream, free to explore, and free to live. We don’t have to live and die in the captivity of our own mindsets. As Hannah Brencher said best in her new book Fighting Forward:

“Don’t shy away from what the blacksmith wants to do, how he wants to shape you and prep you and ultimately fit you for a new purpose. Don’t be scared off from going back to the foundation and painstakingly laying down new bricks. Each brick will hold meaning. Each brick will hold weight. And layer by layer, you’ll become unshakeable.”

Brencher, Hannah. Fighting Forward. pg 49

I am cheering you on every step of the way.

With so much love,

Lauren K. ❤

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