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normal: conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected
As you start reading this book, it won’t take long for you to figure out that I think about “normal” a lot! Specifically, I have considered what that word means for me and my life. Now, this all started when my doctors repeatedly brought up how traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients must find a “new normal” after suffering a brain injury. When I set out to find mine, I really had no idea what I was doing, but I ended up finding something I wasn’t expecting. And what I discovered had a profound effect on my life. It changed everything about me.
In my search for a new normal, I realized “normal” is a reasonable adjective to use when describing an inanimate object, but a worthless descriptor of people, because when it comes to us humans, it doesn’t exist. There’s really no such thing. Despite the fact that it’s impossible, “you should just try be more normal” is something that’s still encouraged in our society. But I have learned it’s not only impossible; it’s also undesirable. At least, undesirable in the way our society defines it and how I used to see it.
I know it’s impossible to predict a patient’s future, but by studying outcomes of patients with similar illnesses or injuries, doctors can make predictions based on the information they gather. Based on the severity of my brain injury, doctors are unsure how much longer I will be able to do what I am currently doing, but one report reads “an optimistic estimate is five to ten years.” ( Note: At the time I’m writing this book, it’s been five years since my life-changing accident.)
This is certainly a scary thought, but I’m trying not to let fear control me. I’m also not going to take any chances. I want my family, friends, and others to remember who I am, and more importantly, “whose” I am, long after I can no longer tell them. That’s why I decided to write this book sooner rather than later.
All of us will undoubtedly face trials during our lifetimes. Tough times will occur that we can never truly prepare for, nor do we usually try, because we all assume “something like that could never happen to me.” But such times are inevitable. And when they happen, we can choose to deny their existence, but this can only last for so long. Sooner or later we have to face them head on. When admitting and confronting them, we must try our best to move forward in spite of whatever lies in front of us. This is typically a case of learning as we go, because even though someone may have gone through something similar, each individual experience is unique. We reluctantly receive what I would call an “on-the-job training experience.”
These trials may not always make sense. We will often fail to find any reason for them. They will rarely be convenient and will often be uncomfortable. But I’ve realized that anything can be used and redeemed by God if we hand it over to him. I can’t say this has always been my perspective or characterized my approach to difficult situations in the past, nor have I yet perfected the practice of self-surrender. I often still want and try to take care of things myself. But I am coming to realize the importance and the beauty of relinquishing everything to God, the good and the bad, the expected and the unexpected, even when I don’t know what lies ahead, what tomorrow may bring, or what the future may hold.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “The Lord’s mercy often rides to the door of our heart upon the black horse of affliction.”  He couldn’t have been more right. Sometimes it takes a seemingly impossible situation so we’ll begin turning our hearts and souls fully to God.
 C.H. Spurgeon, All of Grace (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013).