In October 2009 I was involved in a car accident that changed my life forever. I was a sophomore in college attending Indiana University. I was headed home from class when a driver turned in front of my SUV. The windshield shattered, my car spun twice, all four tires blew and my airbags deployed, shattering both my hands.
Most people recover from something like that in six to eight weeks, but my injuries were severe and led to me being legally handicapped for two years. At that point, I felt as though everything had been taken from me. My dad said, “Your education is something no one can take from you,” and I knew he was right. For two years, he drove an hour each way to help me feed and bathe myself so I could stay in school as a full-time student. During those two years, I struggled with the questions about why this had happened to me. I was getting good grades and staying away from the partying but it felt like somehow, I was being punished.
While my relationship with God didn’t end when I went to college, my church attendance did. I was raised by parents who took us to church every Sunday and Sunday School after service. When I went to college, the routine got disrupted.
After I finished my rehab and graduated, I took a look in the mirror and literally couldn’t recognize the person starting back at me. I was so focused on the finish line of school and my hands that I didn’t realize how out of shape I had gotten. I decided to finally start working out at the gym to lose some weight, but I was in for a heck of a time when I realized how little experience I had on what to do.
I stuck to only cardio, where I felt “safe.” I would press the green button on the treadmill and if I wasn’t completely exhausted by the end, I didn’t do enough. I started trying diet pills and other avenues to control my weight, but nothing worked.
Then, I discovered obstacle course racing.
I fell in love with the sport immediately. There were people there of all levels on their own fitness journeys, and if you couldn’t complete an obstacle, someone helped you. I felt celebrated, not judged. In 9 months I ended up doing 48 races and lost 40 pounds. I even represented the U.S. in the sport for 5 years!
After my first world championship, I still always wondered about why my accident happened. Around that time I was scrolling through Facebook and I saw a quote on a post: “Your testimony could be the key that unlocks someone else’s prison.” I knew right then my accident happened because I was to share my story to others to help them with their own journey.
As the connections continued, I got a Facebook message from Fox’s casting company looking for, “America’s Fittest Men and Women.” I thought it was a scam, so I deleted it. A few days later, I got a phone call from the same people who wanted to do a Skype interview. I did the interview and that next Friday I got the news that I had been picked for casting finals in L.A. the next day. My parents tried to talk me out of it, but I told them that they had always taught me to believe in my dreams and if God presents an opportunity you should take it. They eventually agreed.
I was supposed to hear back from casting on the following Friday if I had made it. At 10 p.m. I called my dad crying, thinking that I didn’t make the cut. He started praying when we got off the phone and two seconds later I got a call from the producer who asked me to be part of the first season of American Grit with John Cena. Two years after that, I had another shot at “fame” by competing on Steve Austin’s Broken Skull Challenge.
After 10 years, I decided to quit my career in sales because I sensed that was not God’s mission for me. I felt he was leading me to a career where I could help people and I decided to go back to school. I got my personal training certificate and in the first year I made $24,000. Had I completely lost my mind? It kind of seems that way when you first take that trust leap towards God.
A few years later I ended up moving to Cincinnati for someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with and I began searching for the perfect training job with a company that shared my values. When I started, I quickly learned that many of my clients were connected to Crossroads. Even my coworkers were Christ followers and part of Crossroads. I was searching for a church to attend and I gave Crossroads a try. I invited my then-boyfriend to the Super Bowl of Preaching and the more he felt uncomfortable, the more it made me uncomfortable.
I had been attending Crossroads alone for a few weeks and then, in September 2019, I came home from work and the man I loved wouldn’t talk to me. He said he didn’t love me or have feelings for me and had to move on. We were two weeks from finishing building a house together, building a life together, a future. I was completely in shock and crushed as he walked out of my life.
The first Sunday that I was able, I went to a weekend service at Crossroads and I kept going. I sat through the first few weeks of service hysterically crying. I knew this kind of pain only God could help with. I gave it to God. One morning, I was on my hands and knees in my apartment screaming and crying, begging God to take away the pain of heartbreak. I went to work that day and every day with tears rolling down my face, knowing that I just needed to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving, reminding myself that He is in charge.
Two quotes resonated with me one weekend as Brian was teaching: “Weeping may endure for the night, but there will be joy in the morning,” and “If it aint good yet, God’s not done yet.” My friend Carlos encouraged me to stay after service for prayer, which was an odd concept to me given my Catholic background. I ended up crying and praying with someone I had never met, but it helped me feel like I wasn’t alone.
I kept attending Crossroads regularly, and at Thanksgiving Eve 2019, I was sitting in the front row next to an older woman I couldn’t stop watching. She was kind and filled with a joy that was so interesting to me. I loved just sitting next to her and experiencing her pure JOY. I realized I had never experienced actually living in joy like she was and God was definitely the way.
A few months later, Covid started. The gym industry was obviously hit hard and the people I was closest to in Cincinnati were my coworkers and people from church. All avenues for social interaction and community were shut down.
Eventually, I got connected to a digital Weekend Follow Up group. When I joined my breakout group, I realized that one woman looked very familiar but I didn’t know her name. Soon, I realized it was the joyful woman from the front row on Thanksgiving Eve and I learned her name was Pushpa. In the past few months I’ve gotten to know her more and really connected with my group. It has been a place for me to digest the weekend message and gain perspective from others on life in general.
The second weekend after Crossroads reopened buildings, I attended in person and Brian mentioned that baptisms were happening soon. It just felt like the right step for me. I had wanted to do it a year ago, but I was still new in the church and I had been baptized as a baby. That Monday, I shared with my group that I was planning to get baptized, but the majority of them are in the high-risk category for Covid-19, so they wouldn’t be able to be in the building to watch.
Pushpa spoke up, though, and shared that she sits in the handicap spot in the parking lot outside of Oakley each week to hear the service and feel like part of the community. She said, “I will be listening to the service you will be baptized at.”
When I got baptized, Jim, another member of my group, was one of the photographers and made sure he was assigned to the tub I would be getting baptized in. He recognized me immediately, even though we had never met in person. To my surprise, after the service, I walked out of the building to find Pushpa and our entire group sitting in the parking lot in their cars and cheering for me. Puspha rolled down her window and told me there was a gift for me in the trunk that included a book on how to live in Joy. She is so special to me. We all need a Pushpa in our lives!
I got to share my baptism story with the larger Weekend Follow-Up group and I still look forward to Monday nights every week to continue to learn and maintain community with these amazing people who have supported me for the past few months. You never see what dots God is connecting looking forward, but you see them every time when you look back. He has definitely led me to where I am now and I am excited for what He has in store for me on this crazy journey ahead because “If it’s not good yet, God’s not done yet! -Brooke V.