Today is my birthday – and I am 27. For the first time in a long time I am happy to be turning another year older!

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Turning 27 means that I have made it through brain surgery – I am a survivor of a brain aneurysm!

Turning 27 means I can move forward with my life – I can continue to recover, grow stronger, and look forward to another year!

My 26th year was a tumultuous one filled with heartache, exploration, fear, strength, anxiety and faith. To be honest I am happy to see it over, but also I am grateful to have learned so much. Here are a few of the major things life was teaching me in this past year . . .

1. What I learned from Grandma Staley . . .

NYC and Renee's Wedding 059Back in October, Scott’s grandmother passed away. This was a devastating moment. Honestly, I thought she would live well into her 100s. She was vibrant, thoughtful, caring, and full of life, humor, and love. Flying home in October taught me many important things but most importantly it impressed upon me the immense importance of family. Seeing Scott’s family gather around her during this time, flying in from around the world, and holding her hand while she slept was such a beautiful picture of love at its most vulnerable and true form. To me, during those moments, I realized that family is key to solving the meaning of life. Family is what holds us together, supports us, and draws us closer to the face of God. While going through my brain surgery experience I often thought of Scott’s grandma – her strength, her positivity, and her vibrancy. And I knew I had a deep wealth of love to draw upon to support me – family.

2. What I learned from traveling . . .

DSCN0316 editedWhile I was 26, Scott and I were able to travel to 7 different countries. From up north in Scotland, down to Turkey – from the canals of Amsterdam, to the canals of Venice – and from the Danube River all the way up to the Alps in Austria. We have explored a lot of places! So, what have I found? The most comforting travel companion – my husband. As much as I love traveling, flying and getting around causes me much trepidations. But Scott is always there – holding my hand as a plane takes off, reassuring me during times of worry, and making me laugh and explore when I’d rather be shy and stay in one place. I have learned through traveling with Scott how to be bold, to fit in, and to relax.

3. What I learned from my aneurysm . . .

image(3)Going through the diagnosis of a brain aneurysm, tons of testing (MRIs, CT, angiograms), hearing that brain surgery was the only way to save my life, and then the actual brain surgery have taught me many, many things – things that I am still processing, applying, and learning from. Through the chaos of all of this, two things have become clear: 1) That I can trust God, and 2) that I can still hope.

DSCN8971 editedThis was probably one of the most scary, and life altering things that I have gone through. But I have learned that God is someone I CAN trust – and I am still reminding myself of this one. God carried me through all of this, and now I can trust that he will continue to carry me through as I move forward with my life. I also learned that I can always hope. Lately I have been struggling with a mix of anxiety and depression (something I will post about soon), but I CAN hope. I can always hope. I can learn to trust the positive thoughts in my brain over the negative ones. This experience is teaching me so much.

And with turning 27, I can learn to move forward, to take care of myself, and to love.