Overwhelmed by His Goodness

As I reflect on this week, I truly feel like jumping for joy. The milestones that God has helped me reach the past several days used to seem impossible. They are all things that used to make me restless at night, filling my mind with a flurry of fear…things that used to make me dread growing up. If growing up meant that I would have to start advocating for myself more and communicating independently, I was intensely afraid of it. Recently though, God has been using some new experiences to completely change my perspective. Growing up can also be bright with hope and abounding with new joys. A few days ago as I was driving to a doctor’s appointment, alone with my thoughts and gazing at the open road before me, all I could think about was how drastically—and how beautifully—my life is suddenly changing. (For one thing, I still can’t get over how strange it feels to drive myself places. Since I’ve only had my license since March, the feeling is still extremely new to me. Sometimes I still feel uncomfortable driving around all by myself! 🙂 ) However, there are several other things I experienced for the first time this week in particular that reminded me how exciting entering a new chapter of life can really be. New opportunities, new friendships, and new growth lie just over the horizon.

Last Monday, I walked into my room, closed the door, and took several deep breaths as I quietly asked God to please give me courage. Finally, I reached for my phone, inhaled deeply once more, and dialed a number. For the first time in my life, I was scheduling my own appointment over the phone. Now, at eighteen years old, I know that I am a little behind in taking this step. Most teenagers have probably already done this by sixteen; but living with a stutter often transforms simple, ordinary tasks into huge milestones to reach. One of the best ways for me to cope is taking things one day at a time and being okay with moving forward in life a little slower, as long as I keep moving. The phone has struck terror into me for as far back as I can remember, much less using the phone to call total strangers. When I did stutter slightly, the lady I spoke to was so kind and patient that it was as if nothing even happened. As soon as we hung up, a huge smile crept across my face as my heart sang in celebration. I did it! I finally did it! And it’s all because of you, Lord. 

Although it has become a cliche to say that few things are ever as scary or even as impossible as we imagine them to be in our minds, this statement is remarkably accurate. Talking on the phone was certainly unsettling, but not nearly as much as I had envisioned. Something about it actually made me incredibly happy, and I really enjoyed speaking with the individual on the other side. Conquering that fear filled my heart with such sweet peace afterwards and kindled a new hope in me for the future. Taking the leap is scary…but as someone once said, “If you don’t leap, you’ll never know what it’s like to fly.” To be honest, I think I felt like flying after that phone call!

Two days later, I went to my appointment on my own…another milestone. When I pulled into the parking lot, I again felt so much gratitude to God for how far He has brought me. I could have never conjured up enough courage in myself to face the world on my own. There are no words to quantify how frightening it can be for someone who stutters to ponder the prospect of communicating in the real world, away from the support of your family and friends. As much as I wish they could all be with me every day, sadly, life does not allow us to always be surrounded by our loved ones. But as I spoke with the sweet receptionist at the desk, it was hard to keep myself from smiling from ear to ear. In that moment, I realized how much I had been longing for this kind of interaction with others. In the past (and I still do sometimes), I had run from any interactions that might reveal my stuttering, because I just didn’t know how strangers would react. Now that I had finally taken this step, I could have spent hours talking to everyone in that office.

Just a few weeks ago, I had a very difficult emotional breakdown about my stuttering. Tears streamed down my face as I cried out to God to give me strength to accept His will. Times like that will probably continue to happen, but that does not mean that I am not still unbelievably thankful for this journey ahead of me. In fact, I don’t think that I have ever been so excited about life. God is proving Himself good and faithful over and over again, and every day is a beautiful mystery filled with new gifts.

Overwhelming is the only way to describe God’s goodness in helping me through every step of my life. He is the Creator of the universe, yet He sets His heart upon sinful man and cares about our afflictions, whether physical or spiritual. Isn’t this amazing?

I hope these precious verses will encourage you in whatever you may be facing this week, as you remember the overwhelming goodness of our Heavenly Father:

“The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” ~Psalm 34:17-19

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” ~Psalm 8:3-4

Love, Makenzie

 

 

 

 

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Confronting College with Courage

“Courage is doing what you are afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you are scared.”  ~Eddie Rickenbacker, World War I fighter pilot~

Recently, I made an unexpected decision to begin college this year, instead of waiting until fall of 2019. My heart nearly exploded with joy when I received an offer of admission from the university I love, and my heart is still so happy at this very moment as I think about it. For the next four years, I hope to study Professional Writing, finally pursuing this insatiable passion that God has given me. Underneath all that excitement and happiness though lies some fear and uncertainty about what the next four years of my life as a college student might bring, especially as a student who speaks very differently. In about three months, my life will drastically change. I’ll face unique communication pressures that I have never had to handle up to this point. In the simplest words possible…I’m afraid.

Just as in every other situation, I am really not sure how people might react when they hear me speak for the first time. Will they laugh? Will they nervously avert their eyes (which I truly can understand) or become impatient with me? Will they treat me the same as everyone else? After all, stuttering sadly carries so many false stigmas and stereotypes with it. All of these things could happen, and it becomes very unsettling to dwell on these worries for too long. But, with God’s help, I am determined not to think this way. I believe in always expecting the best from people…in always giving them a chance to prove that kindness still abounds in this world. Sometimes, when we expect the worst from people, it starts to seem like the worst is all we ever see. What you see is often, not always, what you’re looking for.

However, if they do laugh…if they do grow impatient…if they do treat me differently, I also believe in grace. How can I expect people to fully understand, when stuttering is still such a little-known condition? How will they know unless someone takes the time to explain it to them? For me to be upset with people who genuinely do not understand would be completely unfair to them. Most of the people who have said hurtful things to me have said them without understanding, and I believe that with every fiber of my being. I can’t―I won’t―hold resentment in my heart. Always be slow to bitterness, and quick to show grace.

Thinking about giving speeches and other oral presentations to college classes scares me beyond belief; but in a strange sort of way, the challenge excites me. Up until now, I have rarely been pushed more than a few inches outside my comfort zone. Now, as I consider this new adventure ahead of me, I realize that I will have to leave my comfort zone completely behind. I will have to draw new courage from the Lord every day, for every class. All of us experience moments of fear, and probably all of us just want to run the other way when we are afraid. But we will never know what we are truly capable of accomplishing for the cause of Christ or even for the good of others as long as we flee from fear. In the end, all that will really matter is what we did for Christ and what we did for others. Both of these things often require courage in moments of fear.

On my first day of classes, I know I will have fear; but I know that God can help me confront that fear with courage. Without courage, I may miss out on some wonderful opportunities. I am far too thankful for this new chapter to let fear stop me from making the most of those four short years, whether that’s by simply raising my hand in class or reaching out to someone and making a new friend, even when I am afraid.

Someone once said, “Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you.” 

Love, Makenzie

A Typical Day in the Stuttering Journey, and Why I Would Not Change a Thing

Your alarm clock awakes you early in the morning out of a deep sleep, as the sun slowly rises in the red sky outside your window and peeks through your curtains. You sleepily walk down the stairs into the kitchen to get some breakfast to start off the brand new day. You are not sure what kinds of challenges and new experiences this day will bring. You are not sure whether speaking will come easily today or whether you will have to fight for every word. You determine to faithfully use some of your speaking strategies today, but in the hustle and bustle of the day, they seem to always slip your mind. Your heart is full of anxious anticipation, yet full of this unexplainable hope.  A hope that maybe God can use your stuttering to help someone else today…a hope that maybe this heartbreaking, yet beautiful journey called stuttering is actually a gift from God. Whatever comes, you resolve to praise God. In spite of all the struggles and heartache, you are endlessly thankful for your stuttering. 

Imagine knowing exactly what you want to say, but struggling to express it. Imagine rehearsing sentences in your mind to look for potentially troublesome words. Imagine reading something off a page and suddenly blocking on a word. The word is right there in front of you, so close within your grasp. Like trying to grab something on the top shelf, you stretch, and stretch, and stretch with all your might…but you just can’t seem to reach it. Maybe because you feel too tired to push through it, you frantically search for a synonym in your mind that will not significantly change the connotation. You might attempt two or three different words before you finally find the one that requires the least physical exertion. Imagine trying to remember all your speaking strategies and exactly how to use them every time you speak. The mind of someone who stutters probably repeats this sequence of mental gymnastics countless times a day. This is definitely true for me. Normally by the end of the day, especially if I have had more speaking opportunities than usual, I am mentally and physically exhausted.

Even though days are tiring, stuttering has this way of enriching each day in ways I never thought possible years ago. A typical day for me is full of so many important life lessons and reminders. When I struggle to express my thoughts, that intense battle reminds me how precious words are. When I worry whether I am reaching out enough to a loved one with my words, I am reminded of the biblical principle to love not only in word, but also in action. When someone says something hurtful to me because of the hesitations in my speech, the Lord uses that to help me more fully understand how much my own careless words can wound someone’s heart. When I become overwhelmed about meeting someone new, making a phone call, or giving a speech, I am reminded to find all my strength and courage in Christ.

I was just talking with a dear friend the other night about how amazing it is that God often uses the most difficult trials in our lives to mold us and change us to the point that we cannot imagine our lives without that difficulty. No, my life will certainly not be easy; but nobody’s life is easy. The glorious beauty is in learning from our difficulties and finding all of the hidden gems along the way.

For me, stuttering has been a hidden gem of incredible, unexpected joy…and I would not change a thing about this wonderful life. 

Love, Makenzie

Speaking through Your Smile

Have you ever heard the saying, “Smiling is a universal language”? As someone who sometimes struggles with verbal language, this thought has profoundly deep meaning to me. When my stuttering first surfaced, I struggled tremendously with learning how to cope and worried about how I would ever communicate effectively to others. Back then, I thought that the spoken word was the only real way I could connect with the people I loved. Since those difficult years, my eyes have been opened to whole new worlds of communication; and learning how to navigate each one has been a thrilling journey. In a post last year, I shared how stuttering has completely changed my perspective on love. Well today, I would like to focus on one particular aspect of love in action~smiling!

Smiling is much more than just something we do. Your smile is your message to the world. It is literally, in my personal opinion, a visible expression of love. Think about it for a moment…doesn’t it make your day when someone smiles at you? Doesn’t it just warm your heart and make you feel loved? With all this in mind, imagine how much you can communicate to someone with a simple smile.

For me, a smile has often been my only link to someone when my words have had to stay in my heart, at least for a little while. Especially when my stuttering flares up to the point that it is exhausting to speak, a smile may be all I can give. In these moments, I hope and pray that it at least lets others know that I am still engaged and genuinely interested in them. It is astounding how much power, beauty, and meaning stuttering can give to simple things, like the basic human ability to smile. Getting a smile from someone is unusually special to me, because I have learned from personal experience how much of our hearts are often reflected in our smiles. After all, my own smiles sometimes contain hundreds of unsaid words that I intended to say to someone.

There are certain situations—such as group conversations when I physically cannot keep up with everyone else—in which I find myself searching for some other way to express myself. Of course, there is no substitute for speaking; but I am learning more every day about how much we can communicate without ever saying a word. If it weren’t for my stuttering, I doubt that I would ever think about any of these things. I thank the Lord for how He is using this trial to teach me so much about others and about this magnificent world we live in. Stuttering is so much more than just a communication disorder. As you get older…you start to realize that it is an irreplaceable part of who you are. Without it, life would completely change.

Smiling is so simple, yet so beautiful and powerful. Can I challenge you to go out into the world and just smile today? It might change someone’s day, or even someone’s life.

Your smile—your unique, one-of-a-kind smile—might just speak louder than a thousand words to someone.

Love, Makenzie

Hope for Every Day

This past week, something pretty exciting happened that I have been eagerly waiting to share. For the very first time, I said my name smoothly, not just once, but several times in a row! For someone who has dreaded introductions for years, the joy that flooded my heart each time completely overwhelmed me. I couldn’t stop smiling. I had never known what it actually felt like to tell someone my name without an intense struggle first. It may not happen again for awhile, or… maybe it will. That is all in the Lord’s hands. But either way, I will never stop praising Him for these special moments in time.

Looking back on these few instances, I am intrigued as to why I suddenly did not struggle after so many years of fighting to say my name. I have been contemplating whether I did something differently without realizing itlike relaxing my vocal cords more, releasing all the tension in my lips, or sliding into the M’ sound instead of pushing it outso that I can learn from these experiences and try to implement the same strategies in the future. As one individual so wisely stated, people who stutter should absolutely enjoy their moments of fluency, but they must not forget to learn from them as well. Sometimes, studying my fluent speech can provide such valuable insight into why I may be struggling at other times.

If you haven’t already noticed, I couldn’t be HAPPIER about this long-awaited breakthrough. All I could even say in that moment was, Thank you, Lord! It was a breakthrough because it showed me that I do have the ability to say my name fluently. It will just take some creativity and patience on my part to discover what strategies might help me achieve more fluency on my name on a regular basis.

Right as I was starting to lose hope and beginning to fear my name even more each day…the Lord used this wonderful experience to remind me to never, ever lose hope. I never imagined that something as simple as my name could teach me so much about life. Absolutely, the stuttering journey can bring deep sadness sometimes. After all, communication is crucial to thriving in this world. Nothing currently in my life is more difficult than fighting to order food, or to make a phone call, or to ask a question.

However, I would not trade its sadness at the expense of all its incredible joys for the world. What a beautiful journey this truly is! I have not always felt this way, and it would be dishonest for me to claim that I necessarily feel this way every moment of every day. Some days, I just want to cry, especially when I feel my fear holding me back in certain situations. But overall…the joys far outweigh the sadness. When those times of sadness do come, I have my amazing family and friends, and most of all, I have the Lord.

I fully realize that I will probably stutter for the rest of my life, at least to some extent. But in the Lord, I have hope for every single day, and for the rest of my life.

“I am not like other people. I must think differently, act differently, live differently—because I stutter. . .I have known all my life a great sorrow and a great hope together, and they have made me the kind of person I am. An awkward tongue has molded my life.” ~Wendell Johnson, Ph.D.

Just Be Kind

Some of the things that stuttering teaches me are difficult to put into words, but I would still like to try to briefly share one of these things today. It’s simply about kindness.

Stuttering shows me, over and over again, that kindness in this world is not lost. Even in the midst of a world that, sadly, seems to be filled with hate, kindness is not gone. For every act of hate, I believe there are just as many acts of love that go unseen. And I believe this with all my heart, because. . .my stuttering has often shown me the tenderest sides of others. I learn so much from speaking to other people, because how some of them react humbles me deeply and motivates me to greater kindness in my own life.

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And so, when we receive this gift of kindness from others, how could we possibly keep it to ourselves? Pass it on! And when you don’t experience kindness in a certain situation, let that motivate you even more to share kindness with a hurting world…in every way possible, in every place possible, with every person possible. 

Let’s just be kind today…and every day.

Much love, Makenzie

An Open Letter to My Family

To my mom, my dad, and my sister: 

Thank you. Thank you for supporting me on this roller coaster journey called stuttering. I could not have asked for a more wonderful family. You are my sunshine and bright blue sky in every day! Sometimes, just thinking about what a blessing it is to spend this life with each one of you leaves me in awe. I don’t deserve any of you. Thank you for being my biggest cheerleaders and my dearest friends.

Thank you for listening. I often try to imagine what it must be like to be on the other side. Thank you for being so patient with me, and so kind, even when it takes me a long time to ask you a question. You don’t ever interrupt me or even finish my sentences (unless I’m really stuck, in which case it is actually a relief to me when you do!). I know it must be hard sometimes. Thank you for always making me feel as if I am not speaking any differently than anyone else.

Thank you for sacrificing countless hours over the years taking me to speech therapy appointments. And thank you for being there the first time I did some public speaking a couple months ago. Thank you for caring so much.

Thank you for helping me in the everyday moments of life, like when you discreetly help me out with introductions. (Nobody ever even knows that you intentionally said my name for me. It’s our own special secret! ) Thank you for helping me with restaurant orders and doctor’s appointments, and so much more. It’s not that you speak for me. It’s just your smile of encouragement and the love in your eyes. You gently push me to speak for myself, but you also silently let me know that you are cheering me on as I speak. Thank you for believing in me, but most importantly, for believing in the power of Christ in me.

Thank you for being there when I just need someone to talk to. Whether I’m nervous about an upcoming speaking situation or just anxious about the future, you all have such a special way of bringing everything back into perspective and encouraging me to keep pressing on. Thank you for always pointing me back to Christ and reminding me that my stuttering does not define me.

I hope and pray that I can be as much of an encouragement to you all as you are to me each day. My love for each one of you stretches up to the highest star and all the way back! And those times that my words can’t quite express this to you, I hope my actions do…because loving you is one of the sweetest gifts in my life.

Lots of love, Kenzie