It was Monday night at 5:30 p.m. when it hit me.
You only live once.
I was seconds behind a potentially fatal car accident. The car had pulled out in front of the truck ahead of me. The truck smashed the car, sending it spinning towards oncoming traffic. Pieces flew into the air and scattered across the road. I slammed my brakes. My car came to a halting stop.
It was in that moment when I realized you have one life, make the most of it.
Seconds after the crash, my mind went immediately to God. I prayed, prayed hard. I asked Him to heal the people involved in the crash and I thanked Him for His timing, because if it would have occurred seconds later, it would have been me.
That night as I was laying in my bed, safe and sound, and I thought of my life. I smiled at all of the memories I've made, I cried as I thought of the times I struggled, I reminisced on all of the lessons I've learned-- some of them the hard way. But most importantly, I thanked God.
I thanked God for my family. I thanked Him for blessing me with their presence. I thanked Him for always keeping them safe. I thanked Him for their never-ending love. I thanked Him for my parents, my siblings, my grandparents, my aunts, my uncles, and my cousins. I especially thanked Him for Anna that night.
My eight-year-old cousin Anna was born with a heart defect, a hole in her heart. She is the strongest, most determined child I have ever met. She's been through seven open-heart surgeries with her first at two months old and her last before her sixth birthday, she has suffered a stroke and cardiac arrest, was told her brain had damage, and doctors were unsure of what her future entailed. She was told there could be a chance that she would never walk or talk before she was even a year old.
Anna fought, fought hard for life, and she won.
She proved everyone wrong. She defined life. She never took one single moment for granted. Our Anna is in second grade. She can walk, run, and jump. She loves sports and playing catch is one of her favorite things to do. She can talk and laugh. She is the most loving little girl I have ever met who always runs to greet you with a huge hug when you walk through the door.
Anna is a warrior, a miracle, a gift from God, and she changed my life.
Anna defines the word life. Her heart is filled with so much joy and passion. She never lets anyone bring her spirits or energy down. She embraces her differences and lives her life her way. Anna's outlook on life is something I strive for daily. I want to exemplify a positive attitude with a heart full of joy and passion and to be one who doesn't let others actions and decisions bring me down.
That night I also thanked God for my friends. I thanked Him for childhood friends, high school friends, college friends, sorority sisters, budding friendships, and even friends I've lost along the way. I thanked Him for blessing me with their love and support. I thanked Him for the lessons they had taught me. I thanked Him for the countless memories made and the silly shenanigans we shouldn't have been getting ourselves into. I especially thanked God for Madi that night.
God had a special plan for Madi and me. Honestly, it's pretty crazy to think that a year ago we knew nothing about each other and now we know each others' deepest secrets. We went to an entirely different country as acquaintances and came out best friends. Together we endured heat, sickness, culture shock, and the stress this experience brought with it. We came out stronger people and stronger Christians because of the conversations we shared and the sights we saw. Madi doesn't know it, but she changed me.
Madi helped light my fire within me once again. Before my trip, I had been suffering with finding my purpose in life. After my trip, I knew exactly why God had placed me on this Earth and Madi had a huge role in helping me find that. She listened to me, she supported me and my decisions, and she talked to me like a real human being. I hadn't felt that in such a long time. I finally felt I had a friend again, a real friend, one who didn't care about the latest party scene or hooking up with random guys, she was a genuine person. Madi is the type of person you know you will be friends with forever and I'm so glad I found her.
She helped shape my outlook on life and I will be forever thankful for her.
That night I thanked God for my country and my world. I thanked Him for its beauty. I thanked Him for my safety. I thanked Him for my freedoms. I thanked Him for our soldiers. I thanked Him for our law enforcement. I thanked him for our workforce. I thanked Him for our government. I thanked Him for education. I thanked Him for the firefighters working day and night to extinguish the flames in the Smokey Mountains.
As many of you know, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the Smokey Mountains have experienced extreme wildfires killing wildlife and decimating building structures, businesses, and homes within the cities. However, many of you probably don't know about the single page from the Bible that was found by an employee cleaning up the charred rubble in the Dollywood Amusement park. The page suffered some burn damage; however, there were a few Bible verses that were still legible.
These verses stated:
"To you, LORD, I call, for fire has devoured the pastures in the wilderness and flames have burned up all the trees of the field." Joel 1:19
"Even the beasts of the field pant for you because the water brooks are dried up,
and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness." Joel 1:20
When you read these verses did you became scared? Fearful of the future? Worried about how much time you had left? Wondering was the end, really near? I did.
You have one life, one shot, one chance, how are you going to live it?
That night I thought about everything that I had done in my life, but I wasn't satisfied.
Ask yourself, are you truly living? Or are you only breathing?
That night I realized everything is going to be okay. God has a plan for me and my life. I realized I had put myself under so much stress to be perfect that I wasn't really living anymore, I was only breathing. Moments spent with my family, memories made with my friends, laughing, love, that's what life is all about.
My message to you: Chase your dreams, accomplish your goals, travel the world, love your family, cherish your friends, appreciate your blessings, laugh until your stomach hurts, love someone unconditionally, but most importantly thank God for this life, because without Him our world would cease to exist.
The end of the world is going to come like a thief in the night, make sure you're prepared, make sure you're satisfied.
You have one life, one shot, one chance, make sure it's worthwhile.
You only live once.