This is the true story of a TBI survivor near and dear to my heart, Jennifer Barrick.
It was November 2006 and a much anticipated evening for the Barrick family as they watched Jennifer’s first participation in a choir concert performance at church. The video of Jen singing glory to God with a radiant face turned up towards heaven is simply amazing. Following the exciting event, the busy, happy family of four grabbed a big bucket of KFC and were driving just a few miles from their home when the unthinkable happened……
Out of nowhere a drunk driver speeding away from an arrest with his lights off, hit the Barricks head-on going about 80 mph. Jen’s dad said he didn’t see him coming or have time to react. The impact of the collision was so forceful the engine of the drunk driver’s truck dropped out onto the road.
Miraculously, all four members survived the accident, but fifteen-year-old Jen was not supposed to live past that night because her injuries were just too severe….
Nothing is impossible for God, and Jen did miraculously survive that night after hundreds from their church and community gathered in prayer together, pleading to God for Jen’s life to be spared. Having received a severe traumatic brain injury, Jen remained in a coma for five weeks and in the hospital an additional five months. Jen’s mom Linda related in her devotional, that one night the on-duty nurse told her, “She’s going to be ok…..I see God in her.” And that was enough to give her distraught mother a little ray of hope.
Usually a person with a TBI wakes up from a deep coma thrashing, cursing, and screaming which is a very difficult thing to watch, but not Jen. Jen woke up with God in her soul and Jesus on her lips. She was blind, weak, and could barely form words together to speak, but when she prayed she was strong and sounded like herself again.
I think my favorite recap from her amazing story was related from Jen’s mom Linda, and her mom’s best friend Pamela. During one especially difficult moment for Jen, Linda and Pamela were sitting with Jen while singing “Silent Night.” Suddenly, Jen’s face became radiant and she, even though blind, started smiling at something and said, “Amen!” Her face was lit up with joy clearly showing that she saw something and Jen’s mom whispered, “Jen, what do you see?” Jen responded, “It’s Jesus, don’t you see him? He’s…..right…..here next to me.” Pamela said they literally cried about that experience “all day” and I have thought about that recap with awe for years!
Many years later after a long and difficult recovery Jennifer’s story has touched the lives of thousands (mine included) as she and her family reach out to those who suffer through their Christian ministry Hope Out Loud. Jen and her family speak at churches sharing their story and offering hope to the broken while sharing Jesus Christ and helping many know the riches of a life lived in Him. Linda’s book,” Beauty Marks” has been influential in helping me to heal the devastating scars of my own trauma and it also gave me the courage to begin writing.
I highly recommend taking a moment to watch this video, which Jen’s mom has personally given me permission to share here on my blog. It is one of the most powerful stories of hope, faith and healing I have ever heard of.
I may be slow in answering comments as I’m currently battling more TBI issues. I love you all. Hugs!🤗💜
Lately I’ve been doing a lot of deep reflecting and soul searching. I have begged God to show me what it is He wants me to learn in the MIDST of this hard affliction. This suffering is for my good not evil and having the right heart posture before God opens up opportunity for me to learn from His instructive word. There have been troubling times when God felt far away but really He wasn’t….it was me not Him. He faithfully kept me hanging on to His hand while walking alongside of me.
Here are 10 Truths God has slowly taught me over these past 4 years. That is to say, I’m still learning to grab hold of them firmly, so the process is ongoing (just like my brain injury).
1) Go to God first.
When I’m struggling with deep emotional or physical pain, my temptation is to tell my family and friends first before even thinking of praying. How foolish it is that I suppose anyone other than God can even understand or handle my problems. Most of the time, I find perfect comfort in talking to Him, instead of venting to others who are also hurt by the enormity of this trial. Psalm 71:19 “Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high, who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto thee!”
2) Be thankful for every day, not just the good ones.
I have learned that life is a precious gift not to be taken for granted. Each day God gives me to love on my kids even if I am in hard pain, is a day for me to be amazed at the grace of God. He shows up on the hard days through thought and reflection on His word because in those hard days when I’m forced to rest more, there’s more time for fellowship with Him. Psalm 90:15 “Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.”
3) This world is not my home.
A close friend battled stage 3 breast cancer years ago and after she beat it (by the grace of God) she told me that through it He showed her this world is not her home. I didn’t fully grasp her meaning until I broke years later. Now I can wholeheartedly say this world is not my home. I’m only here on a temporary basis. If this world was my home I’d be in trouble. God has used my suffering to look upward and not get so caught up in the things of this world. My life in eternity matters most and because of Jesus I am secure in knowing peace, joy, and hope in a new heaven and earth with Him. Colossians 3:2 “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”
4) Don’t worry about what others think.
I’ve wasted so much time and energy on this one. Really, it’s not something we can even begin to control. Why worry when a person’s opinion of me is very irrelevant in the light of eternity. I should only care what God thinks. He sees me struggling, trying, persevering, hoping, and living. If people think I’m lazy, wimpy, or whatever negative attributes they surmise, it doesn’t matter and I remind myself not to allow it to get to me because God sees my heart. 1 Samuel 16:7b “for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looked on the outward appearance, but the Lord looked on the heart.”
5) Hold everything in a loose hand.
Corrie Ten Boom puts it well when she says to keep everything in a loose hand or it deeply hurts when God has to pry our fingers open. I’ve learned that there are many ebbs and flows in life with money, health, people, and the like. Money will come and go. So will people…..Health is a very changing and uncertain thing. Roll it all onto Jesus and trust Him with it ALL. We carry nothing in this life to eternity but our souls. Keep an open hand and leave it all in His. Hebrews 12:27 (Bill Sweeney’s life verse) And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.”
6) I can do nothing apart from Jesus.
The other day I was feeling excessively overwhelmed at the beginning of the week with schooling my youngest two. I sat there fretting about all the subjects and not feeling up to any of it, period. Then the Lord whispered to me Philippians 4:13 after seeking him in prayer. I begged Him for strength to carry on and He absolutely did! I was amazed and thrilled at how powerful His word is. It really is alive! “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
7) Keep your blinders on, and don’t compare!
Really, how many of us pretend on social media our lives are just peachy when we all know it isn’t. We all have trials. We all suffer. It’s hard and it’s messy. If I compare my shattered life of health with my footloose and fancy free friends, it only makes me miserable. I even find myself comparing my life with others who are also chronically infirmed! That’s even worse!! I’ve learned by God’s teaching, my trials were meant for me and I’m living the life God designed me to live. I am right where He has planted me. I know things are not fun or what I would have chosen but I know God knows best and He has written my story wisely. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
8) Laugh it off.😂
Having a brain injury requires not taking yourself too seriously. Recently, I have been struggling to get my words out properly. For some reason I’m putting a W on the beginning of my R words. I sound like Elmer Fudd from Looney Tunes, or the “marriage” Priest from the Princess Bride. The kids laugh at me for the dumb sounds I make and you know what? I laugh too. I could choose to cry that I’m a blundering weirdo but it’s lots more fun laughing and actually quite healthier. Ecclesiastes 3: 4″…..and a time to laugh….”
9) Get busy doing and praying for others.
When in the school of suffering God has taught me to focus my attention towards helping others in prayer or reaching out to them in love. There are times when my heart hasn’t been in it because of my own issues, but God always brings a blessing by showing me how to forget about myself while praying for others. It’s not about me. It’s about agape love that flows from God to me, then to them. 1 John 4:7a “Beloved, let us love one another…”
10) Never give Satan an inch because he will certainly take amile!
I truly believe that the worst posture I can have is a worried, fearful outlook on life while others see my claim to faith but notice my lack of it. So, do I go around with a defeated, scared, and ungodly attitude towards my trial, or do I stand strong in this fight. The worst witness we can have as believers is acting like our God is little and unable to help us through our struggles. Satan wants Christians to be chained by our fears because it goes against everything God says in 2 Timothy 1:7. No, God hasn’t given us a spirit of fear.👎We have power, love, and a sound mind through Jesus who is victorious over this world!💪We can and should show everyone how we grasp firmly to the promises of God. If we are His then we shouldn’t go around acting like our Father in heaven doesn’t love or help His beloved.
**This point has been the biggest challenge of my life and I’m still learning every day to apply it. Sometimes I say this verse out loud in moments of fear and it’s power is triumphant. It works friends….it really does!
2 Timothy 1:7
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
What has God been teaching you through your suffering? Which point 1-10 resonates with you the most? I’d love to hear your thoughts.💚🙏