You Need Only Be Still
Letter from Ashley Stevens
(Click on the letters to enlarge)
Sisters in Christ,
At the age of 32, this is my best handwriting. Close to ten years ago, four other Catholic campus missionaries and I were T-boned by a Mack Truck while driving to an end-of-the-semester retreat. I don’t remember a single day from the month that followed.
I suffered a head trauma and the doctors fought to lower my brain pressure (ICP) and fever in the most critical 72 hours after the accident. As they weaned me off of the pain medications, I would have violent coughing fits because of the breathing and feeding tubes down my throat while my family and fiancé watched in horror over their Christmas break.
Normal brain pressure is between 0-5. Anywhere up to 20 is alright. After 30, brain pressure is dangerous. Five days after the accident, my ICP spiked into the 40’s caused by a stroke which impaired the use of my dominant hand. This stroke is why my first grader writes better than me.
The Fall before the accident, I was asked to write my favorite Bible verse in my small group. I chose: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.” -Exodus 14:14
I wrote it, with far better handwriting, on a cardstock piece of paper that day and a friend brought it to the hospital and hung it above my bed as I laid in stillness.
This verse spoke to me because I couldn’t believe how whiny and untrusting the Israelites were as they walked across Egypt. I couldn’t believe, after they had seen God protect them from the plagues, free them from 400 years of slavery, provide for them with bread from Heaven, guide them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, how they could be so daft to grow anxious as they saw the Egyptians approaching and need Moses to remind them in this verse that God was on their side.
Really, though, I knew I was a mini-Israelite. I still grew anxious about my vocation, stressed about my future, and whined at what I didn’t have despite all that He had done.
I failed to reflect on the moment He showed His power in my life, guided me in a very clear way, answered a prayer, put a key spiritual mentor in my life. I failed to remember how He had fought for me.
By God’s grace, all of the girls in the accident recovered. By God’s grace, I survived. But the humility that came with realizing I couldn’t tie my shoes, make a braid, or fasten a bra at the age of twenty-two was a hard pill to swallow.
As I continued therapy for six months and looked at this verse hanging on my hospital wall, I was reminded how much God had fought for me to be there. I was convicted to trust, even on the most frustrating days, that He was still fighting and would continue to do so.
We haven’t all fled Pharaoh, but we have stories of our own. Instead of chariots, you may have been bullied. Instead of a ruthless ruler, you may have faced a tough upbringing. Instead of famine, you may have faced job loss. When we look back, though, we see how He has carried us to where we are; how He has fought.
Joshua picked up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan where they had carried the ark of the covenant across dry land. He placed them on the shore to remind them what God had miraculously done in their lives. This Exodus verse hanging on my hospital wall was my stone. What’s yours?
“The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.” He has, He is, and He will. May we always remember how.
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Full name: Ashley Stevens
State-in-life / Occupation: Stay-at-home-mom, blogger, and speaker
Location: Lincoln, NE
Educational background: Masters of Business Administration
How does your Catholic faith affect the way you live your day-to-day life?
I read Scripture in the morning and pray with my girls (7, 5, & 2) every night, but in between I’m a work-in-progress. My faith has been my anchor through many hardships and continues to give me hope in the day-to-day grind.
Has there been a particular teaching of the Church that has intimately transformed the way you see yourself and others?
The Eucharist is what drew me to the Church.. Receiving Jesus transforms the way I see myself, knowing that I carry Christ’s strength, power, and presence in me.
What aspect of your life right now do you find the most beautiful? The most challenging?
The love between my three girls is my current favorite. Seeing my two-year-old ask for her older sister to put her down for a nap melts me.
Right now, I find it hard to live up to all of the parenthood standards (school, society, etc.) When I get judgy eyes in Church or at the grocery store, it’s hard not to feel a bit deflated, regardless of knowing that I am loving and raising my girls the best I can.
What’s your favorite way to spend a Saturday off?
Watching college football (Go Huskers!) over homemade guacamole and a Rum and Coke is a perfect Saturday.
Fill in the blank.
My morning routine consists of: scripture, getting myself and my girls ready, coffee, and the minivan hustle
I’m currently obsessed with: macchiatos and “Of Mess and Moxie” by Jen Hatmaker
I feel most inspired when: I am having vulnerable fellowship with women I trust.
My favorite part about my life right now is: that I’m entering into the blessed phase of parenthood between diapers and life with three teenagers, when I’m still, “cool.”
The advice I would give to the millennial Catholic woman is: remember your faith “why”. The Church is currently at a hard spot, but the Eucharist will always be Jesus. Scripture will always be God’s word. This is my why.