Stephen has been a great friend, strength and inspiration to me. He is chronically brave and strong. Seriously, this guy completely rocks. You'll see why. Here is Stephen the Great's thoughts and story:
"If there is one thing I know to be true for everyone in the world, it's this: life is not always rosy, and trials and adversity hit us all. It doesn't happen in the same way for everyone, but tragedy affects us all. Whether it be injury, disease, death of a loved one, divorce, job loss, etc. there will come a time when each of us will have our hopes and dreams threatened. However, no matter how grave the situation, don't despair, because there is always hope! Like my dear friend Caitie, who started this blog in hopes of empowering those of us who have been brought low by adversity, I'd like to share my story, with the same goal in mind.
My name is Stephen Merrill, and about a year and a half ago I had a freak accident that continues to affect almost every aspect of my life today. Towards the end of my second semester of college, I broke my neck & fractured my C5 vertebrae at a gymnastics facility. I immediately lost movement and function below my neck and would spend the next four months in the hospital. Dark days followed, as my once bright future was suddenly cast into doubt and I struggled to regain control of my body systems. Unfortunately, there is no cure for a spinal cord injury, and the only proven method of recovery lies in rigorous physical therapy. The prayers of a multitude of supporters followed me, but as time passed and no miraculous transformation occurred, the shattered dreams that so often haunted me seemed to be becoming reality.
For those who have gone through something similar, or for everyone that will in the future, let me say a few things about adversity. First, never give up hope. Life is beautiful, and you should make the most of the time you have, no matter how much your capacity to experience portions of it have decreased. I say this from experience, because there isn't a day that goes by in which I don't wish for more physical capability. Second, stick close to those that love and support you. I am fortunate enough to have a fantastic family, especially my parents, who continue to help me every single day. I also have some dedicated friends that have kept me in their thoughts and prayers and haven't let my injury damage our friendship. Thank you. I realize that many people don't have such a support system, so third, and most importantly, is to develop and stick by your faith. My faith in God and that he has a brighter future for me has been the foundation of my recovery. And he has truly blessed me. I have fully recovered from my ordeal in all ways but physically, and my physical recovery continues to slowly progress. I'm getting stronger everyday, and my belief that my future is bright and full of possibility is stronger than ever, despite the reality of my physical challenges.
I know that for many people, life is good, easy even. However, I can guarantee you that trials will come, because that's what life is about: responding to adversity and growing as a person. It's not until we are really struggling against something that we can become stronger. When, or if you are, please never give up hope, and maintain your faith that our loving Heavenly Father will make it possible for you to have all your hopes and dreams fulfilled. We may not understand why, how, or when, but if we but turn to him, it will happen. I have felt that heavenly comfort in my darkest hour and I know it is there for everyone, to comfort and enrich your life when there is nothing else available to you."
See what I mean?
Stephen is the perfect example choosing to see the light, even when it is hiding behind the clouds. Because of that, his future is so very bright. I will never forget visiting Stephen right after the accident in the hospital. He greeted me with a smile and was so positive. When I left, I wept because I was so touched by his brave spirit and his courage. I would weep every time I left visiting him, because of his hope and determination He continues to have the same great attitude and positive perspective, and he is a light to all who meet him. He shows us that miracles happen and that healing is possible no matter our circumstances. We must have hope. For me, Stephen is the definition of this scripture. I know that this scripture applies to each of us. God has beautiful dreams, plans, hopes and gifts for each of us, we just need to love Him and trust Him.