in which I tell you how my year has gone & stuff I’ve learned

When you take AP classes, the test looms over your whole year, an ominous mountain in the distance you never lose sight of, despite the many hills of lab reports, essays, and projects. By April, it is huge, the only thing you see.

Like any other student, I was crazy stressed for all my AP exams (I had Biology, Calculus, and Latin.). But unlike most others, I desperately wanted to take them. Much as they fray my nerves, I love big tests like these because I relish the challenge. I wanted the satisfaction of surviving and doing well in something hard. A good score would be a validation of everything I put into the subject and the class. It had to do with my pride but also just my desire for all my hard work to pay off.

And it had been hard work. AP Calculus is challenging enough, but when picking up a pencil, much less writing with it, causes pain to shoot up your arm and embed itself deep in your hand, well, AP calculus is really really hard then. Eventually I had to remind my perfectionistic self that this time I had a valid excuse for not doing things as thoroughly as I thought I should.

essay-writing

In late October, when I began to accept that whatever was going on wouldn’t resolve itself soon, my mind flew over the upcoming months and settled on the second week of May. I imagined myself sitting at a desk in an unfamiliar school, bent over one of my AP tests. I remember thinking, There is no way that is going to happen. No way.

In January, I thought I wouldn’t be able to graduate. I’d lie in bed at night and watch my future and my dreams crumble around me. Before, I had wondered how far in education I’d like to go—a Masters or even, who knew, a PhD? Now I was concerned about simply finishing high school. I started judging how well a day would go by how much it hurt to brush my teeth after breakfast. Sometimes I would sit at my desk waiting for math class to start and cry, wondering how I would get through it.

In February, I had written out emails in my head to my teachers, explaining why I wasn’t able to take the exams. Even the week of all the exams itself, I still had an email planned to my Latin teacher, since Latin was the last test and also the one that required the most writing. I am not usually one to give up hope, but this year I was absolutely sure there was no way I would be able to complete the Latin exam—and probably not the others either.

In March, things began to look up. I was in less pain, I was doing things I hadn’t for a while. The terrible fear that I wouldn’t graduate stopped haunting me at night. For the first time in many months, I started to feel hopeful.

Then April hit, and for no explicable reason, things got bad again. It was worse this time, probably because I had experienced, very slightly and very fleetingly, what it was like to hurt less. Descending back into the pain after that was horrible. The shadow of the AP mountain smothered me in stress. Discomfort prevented me from sleeping well.

Camping

Enter the first week of May. I had arrived at base camp, and I was determined to everything in my power to prepare myself for the climb. That Friday, three days before my first AP, I decided to do something I had never done before: I skipped an assignment (gasp). I did it to preserve my arms, and I clamped down on my internal shrieks long enough to enter a score of zero. (In case you’re concerned, I emailed my teacher to explain the zero, and she was super nice and understanding about it.)

The next part of my get-through-APs plan was physical therapy. We had scheduled an appointment for that Friday morning. I’d been doing PT for several months now, and while it didn’t improve things permanently, it did prevent them from getting worse. But when we got to the office, it appeared there had been some miscommunication. Somehow, we didn’t have an appointment after all. Great.

I felt discouraged, but I resolved that I would simply stay away from any writing or typing for the next few days. When I was trying to figure out an activity that wouldn’t hurt my arms, it hit me: I could look through all my cards from friends and family! How fun and relaxing, and it didn’t involve a pencil or a computer.

An hour into the affair I suddenly realized that my arms were aching. With growing dread, I realized—way too late—that all the unfolding, refolding, and flipping through of the letters required just as much from my hands as typing would have. I felt sick to my stomach and behaved very much like Dobby. “You’re so stupid,” I told myself. “Stupid. Stupid.” I kept thinking that after everything I’d done to try to protect my arms, I had just blown everything. I had ruined everything I’d worked for this year. If I couldn’t make it through the APs, it would be my fault.

The next two days I was in the worst pain I had been in all year—and at the very time when I needed my arms to be strongest. Something in the back of my mind whispered, Maybe God is having all this happen to show you how strong he is. Maybe he’ll get you through it, and you’ll come away seeing how great he is.

But I was too frightened to believe it. Another part of my mind yelled back, God isn’t that good.

So Monday morning arrived, and with it the AP biology exam. I sat down at a horribly uncomfortable desk. My feet could barely reach the floor (yeah, I’m kind of short), and to get high enough to write naturally on the desk I had to sit on the very edge of the chair, since the seat started in a valley in the back and rose up steeply from there (who designs these things anyway?). I picked up a pen, felt the pain, and thought, like I had all year, no way.

But I guess when God says that his ways are above ours, he really means it. And when he says he’s the God of the impossible, it’s actually true. Because I got through all three AP exams. I not only finished them, but I did my best on them.

hands

Friday night, when my last AP exam was over, I went into my room, closed the door, and whisper-shouted at the ceiling: “You did it!!” (I rarely use multiple exclamation points.) Then, in awe, “You did it. You did it. You got me through.” It was almost a question, not of doubt but unfathomable wonder. From a human point of view, there is no way I should’ve gotten through those tests, nine hours of holding a pencil, not to mention the other assignments I also had that week. But then, when were we ever supposed to look at things from a human point of view?

Guys, God is good. He is so good. He is so powerful. He is so above us in the best of ways. The whole point of this story is to say—to shout at the top of my lungs, to sing to all the world—that God is good. That when you are your very weakest, that is when he is strongest. That when everything looks impossible, that is when he reaches down to make it happen. That when you reach the coldest, loneliest part of the night, that is when he tells the sun to rise.

This whole year—well, my whole life actually—I have put limitations on God. I have told him that he can’t do things. Not directly exactly, but when I looked at that mountain and thought no way I can climb it, what I really was saying was no way you can help me climb it, God. I assumed that the only way for me to be able to complete the APs was by my own strength—by my clever planning, by all the appointments and exercises and remedies. Instead, God had every single plan of mine fall through. He set me in the middle at what appeared to be a worst-case scenario and then said, Watch what I can do.

I’ve always loved quotes like “the shadow proves the sunshine” and the verse about “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” But until this year, I’ve never truly lived them out. I’ve never experienced to them for myself.

This year has felt in some ways like a nightmare. I’ve always had a ridiculously low pain tolerance, and often I couldn’t believe this particular trial was happening to me. But if it hadn’t happened, I would never have experienced all the love I have. The love of my family (which deserves its own separate post) and the love of God have colored these painful days in strokes as glorious and vibrant as a sunset. When I think about last week, the week that haunted these past few months, my heart can’t stop dancing. I feel his smile all around me, and I keep thinking, “You did it!!

Our God is so much bigger than we let ourselves dream. And this is coming from someone who calls herself a dreamer. I used to feel like it was presumptuous and arrogant to ask God for things or to believe he’d really forgiven me. He has helped me and forgiven me so many times, who am I to ask him for more?

But I am learning (quite slowly, granted) that that’s just what he wants us to do. He wants us to keep coming back, keep asking for help and forgiveness, keep trusting him to do great things. Who am I to tell him he can only forgive me so many times? Who am I to limit God’s help to a finite number I determine? Isn’t this the place he most wants us to be, on our knees begging him for salvation? I’ve got to pound it into my head: he wants me to depend on him.

I’m graduating this week. It’s certainly not the senior year I was expecting; it was far harder than I could have imagined but also so much better. This quote sums up what I’ve learned—or really, what I’m learning:

[God’s] love disposes him to desire our everlasting welfare and his sovereignty enables him to secure it. {A W Tozer}

What a good God we have.


God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. {Psalm 46:5, 7}

I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever. I will praise you forever, because you have done it; and in the presence of your saints I will wait on your name, for it is good. {Psalm 52:9b-10}


So my arms are still fried from APs, but once school finishes this week, I won’t have to use them for much. Your prayers and support have meant so much. ❤ It would be such a blessing if you kept praying that my arms will completely heal. The hope is that by resting them this summer, they will heal enough for me to go to college this fall (more on college another time). That will require a lot of self-control on my part, and if you guys have any ideas of activities that don’t involve too much repetitive hand movements (like knitting xD) that would be awesome. =D

Okay, enough about me. I want to know how you are: How has this year been for you? What are some things you’ve learned? Am I the only one who thinks of God as way too small (please say no xD)? What are your summer plans?

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17 thoughts on “in which I tell you how my year has gone & stuff I’ve learned

  1. Wow. I don’t know what to say! This was so encouraging and… well just amazing. God IS good. Praise Him! Praise the Lord for His grace and mercy and unconditional, never ending love. I am definitely guilty of making God seem small in my eyes sometimes… I think we all have tried to put Him in box at some point in our lives. Anyway, I will definitely keep you in my prayers! I don’t know exactly what happened to you, but remember that God works all things for the good of those who love Him. Hope you have a great and restful summer. 😀
    God Bless,
    Red

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Also my year was pretty interesting. I sliced the bottom of my foot open in February and had to have stitches put in, but the nurse who did my stitches was new and didn’t do them very well. Then my doctor took the out too early so the skin wasn’t fully healed. I couldn’t walk for about 3 and a half weeks and let’s just say I really learned not to take walking for granted. It is an amazing thing to have the freedom to get around on your own and not have to wear crutches and worry about falling over all the time! When I could finally walk again I praised God so much. He taught me so many lessons during that time, but most of all He taught me that he works everything according to His good and we just have to have faith and trust that He knows what He’s doing. Anyway, thank you so much for being willing to share your story on here. It was super encouraging and such a testament to God’s glory! Do you mind if I reblog this post?
      God Bless,
      Red

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so much for your encouragement prayers, Red! Wow, not being able to walk normally for a while must have been so hard. You’re so right, we take so many things for granted. I’m glad you’re all healed up now! I’ve been having to learn that same lesson, that God works everything for our good. I needed to be reminded of that, so thank you! And yes, feel free to reblog it. I’m honored. =)

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  2. (so how did I not see this?) But anyways this is so good and encouraging and all I have to say is praise be. Praise be to Him for His goodness and grace and character and love. Congratulations on graduating and finishing your APs, Abby!

    (and I’ve been so guilty of putting God in a box, especially this year. Yet He fulfills His plan in the most unexpected way. It amazes me every time.)

    Summer plans: volunteering, college applications (halp), and Summit ministries. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s taken me a good two days to respond to this, because I’m inspired and amazed by your perseverance and God’s work in you, and I honestly don’t know what to say. (this is like, the third time i’ve tried to comment here in 48 hours. -_-) Just know that I’m praying for you. ❤ ❤ ❤
    On another note, my suggestion for un-strenuous activities is watching a good show you enjoy (or kdramas, or anime, if you like them!!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad I’m not the only one who agonizes over comments and takes forever to write them. Sometimes it’s like two weeks later that I can figure out what to say and then it’s kind of awkward to post so late. xD Anyway, thank you so much dear. Your prayers are such a blessing. ❤ And yes, I'm compiling a list of movies I want to watch, so that should be fun!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ohhh Litsa. This made me tear up. It’s so amazing reading this and seeing the things this horrible trial has taught you, because though our situations have been drastically different in some ways, it looks like God’s been really teaching us similar lessons. I am so, so glad He has been able to redeem the pain in this way, drawing you closer to Him and opening your eyes to another facet of His goodness. This is such a triumphant, victorious, encouraging post. I am praying and will keep on doing so. *hugs tight* And no, you most certainly aren’t the only one who boxes God in. It’s something I’m still trying to fix again and again. But things like this help us realign our focus so much. ❤

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  5. Dearest Abby,

    Of course we shall continue to pray for complete healing of your arms. I hope you can spend the summer resting them.

    All our love,

    Grammy and Pop-pop

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, Abby. ❤ You're such a blessing, and thank you for sharing your thoughts on here. I've been having similar thoughts about God, and this has really boosted me and inspired me.

    Summer plans: I've got two science camps, an Ultimate Frisbee Tournament camp, a Joni & Friends camp, and Bible Bee. Busy.

    (Also, I sent you a Hangout invite. Did you happen to see it? =) )

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you! =D It will be starting next week. Okay. You can probably see my email from this reply/post, so if you want, you can use it to find me.

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  7. Ahhh, this is such an encouraging and insightful post. And I’m glad to get a glimpse into your life, even if it’s frustrating, and I’m so happy the APs still worked out for you. Thank you. ❤ And no, you're totally not the only one, and in fact I feel like I've just let school and worries get in the way of my relationship with God, to be honest.
    Summer plans: Travel a lot and somehow prove adulthood by working like a House-Elf.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank *you* for all your encouragement. And yeah, I get you. It’s so hard for me to focus on God and put energy into my relationship with Him during school and stress. Which is when I need him most, heh.

      Hahaha, just don’t beat yourself up as a House Elf might. And yay for traveling. =D

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