So here’s to a beginning. I have been wanting to write for a while but haven’t been able to pull together the words as to all that I have been feeling and learning. It has been on my heart to share some of my experiences that have truly shaped me to be the person I am. It has pressed on me to share about some of my darkest times and how I was carried through. This blog is dedicated to the Lord, the very one who carries my world.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Life After Death

A few months passed. It was winter now. With each passing week, I found myself coming back to that same place. And with each visit I found the barricade I had put up to guard my shattered heart slowly begin to weaken. I had felt safe knowing that others didn’t’ know my past or know my story in any capacity regarding my illness or otherwise. But I came to realize that such secrets weren’t necessary or even helpful. Because the real freedom is in the telling. The telling of our beautiful and ugly truths.
And so, with time friendships were strengthened; and I began to remember. I remembered the girl I was all those years ago. And the heart that I once had. I didn’t know I could get her back, having endured so much loss. I didn’t know I could find her again, having been broken what felt like one too many times. I knew I had been repeatedly used. And a little voice inside told me I was damaged goods. And that the girl I once knew, she was gone for good.
But in time I came to know a different truth.
And it is one that has stayed with me til this very day.
There can be life after death.
Ephesians 2:4, 5 says, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions.”
I wasn’t at all proud of the girl I had become. But I also couldn’t deny what I felt. God had taken my heart that had been so wrecked and had given it new life. I assumed no one could ever want me. Not truly, if they learned of my past.
I didn’t even want me.
But he began to show me his love for me, giving me a second chance. Not just for love, but for life. He was giving me real joy despite circumstances.
A few months passed. I quickly tightened the scarf around my neck and hurried into the sanctuary to find my friends. The church was holding a women’s conference that evening, and I was running five minutes behind. I hoped they would save me a seat. As I entered, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.
I hoped it wasn’t going to be a gathering to ‘celebrate the days of our lives’ as females. Or worse, ‘hoorah women’. I hoped it wasn’t going to be cheesy. I was all for becoming a strong woman. In fact, I believed God had given me quite a bit of strength. But I found over the years the theme girl power tended to ring somewhat cheesy under the umbrella of faith, at times lacking in authenticity.
And I needed real.
Little did I know what the night would hold.
I spotted four of my girlfriends from across the room and began to shuffle down a row of chairs in their direction. I had become close with these girls over the past months. While each different, I found comfort in learning they cared about me. We didn’t have the same backgrounds, and we hadn’t gone through the same things. But even so, they had become my people.
A few moments passed, and the night was started. We were asked to stand and all began to sing. We sang two songs and were then seated. The guest speaker was then introduced. She was an older woman with a strong voice and a commanding presence.
I immediately liked her.
While typically leery of guest speakers, particularly those with great confidence, something about her spoke to me. She began to speak, telling us several stories. She was quick to get a laugh but also quick to reveal personal stories of her own life. I had always admired women who could self-assuredly speak to a crowd or command a room. I found I was always more comfortable in smaller groups or behind the scenes.
As the night drew to a close she asked the crowd to stand to their feet. As we stood, she began to pray. And as she prayed, she began to point to various women in the audience, motioning them to come forward.
I knew she didn’t know these women.
I knew perhaps God had given her something to say to them.
My heart began to race, experiencing both curiosity and dread in the same terrifying moment.
I truly did not want to go forward. But more than that, I found something in me did. Something in me needed to hear from God. More than my desire to avoid the lime light. And I found myself in that instant, begging God to see me. To speak to me. To let me know he saw me. And that I wasn’t always going to be alone.
I had been attending church for a while now, and while I loved my girlfriends deeply, I was one of only a few who were single. My close friends had either become engaged or in relationships since I’d first met them. And while I was happy for them, I couldn’t help but wonder when it was going to be my turn.
Had my past somehow stained my future in some unrepairable way? Was I now destined to a life of singlehood?
The more time that passed, the greater I began to secretly ache on the inside.
Did God see me?
I glanced up, dismissing my spinning thoughts, only to note the speaker’s eyes lock with mine. And I watched with shock as I saw her waving her arm for me to come forward. Me? She motioned again. There was no getting out of this. And so, I inhaled deep and began to make my way to the front.
I watched as she prayed for the other women, one by one, that had come forward. With each prayer, she had something special and also specific to say. I felt my knees quiver in anxious anticipation.
Had God heard my prayer not five minutes ago?
While na├»ve to many things, this was not one of them. I had been in many church services. And had heard and seen many things over the years. Some of which hadn’t sat so well with me. There were some churches I simply wouldn’t go to because of what felt like attention seeking or outlandish behavior.
But this was different somehow.
As I stood there, I felt an unexplainable peace. Without her even saying a word to me, I felt loved. I knew in that moment, something amazing had happened. I had pleaded with God to show me he saw me.
And he did.
As she made her way to me, I had no idea what to expect. I felt myself get nervous as she placed her hand on my shoulder. As she began to pray, she told me I was a woman with many gifts. She repeated it over and over. She went on to say that I was blessed in the natural and the supernatural. She ended her prayer by stating, “God has somebody for you. In the right time. And in the right way”.
Chills ran down my spine. I was stunned.
I knew there was no way for her to know that I was single.
I knew there was no way for her to know I so desperately needed to hear those very words.
I knew, in that moment, God hadn’t just heard me.
He had answered me too.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Coming Back Together

A few weeks passed, and the harsh summer sun had begun to fade. Its rays felt weaker on my arms as I drove. A cool dew rested on the grass; and a soft breeze blew through the trees, hinting at the changing of seasons. I was thankful to have grabbed a cardigan, inhaling the cool morning air. I drove down a familiar road as I took a sip of my coffee which did well to abate the growing number of goose bumps on my legs. I had driven down this road many times. It was a busy road.

But on this particular day, I couldn’t help but notice a large sign.
It was a sign for a church.
I wasn’t particularly interested in attending church. My prior experiences had left me jaded and with many questions. I could still hear the voices of those I once knew in my head, telling me I was to be healed. Despite all odds, claiming it would all go away. I knew my illness was visible then, and I couldn’t help but feel like a bit of a target. While well-meaning, their words felt unfair.
While I believed in a God who heals, I was also painfully aware that he, at times, chooses not to. More, he hadn’t revealed any promises of healing to my heart for my particular situation. So why did they feel they could make such sweeping statements? I knew five minutes after our conversation they would go casually on with their day, forgetting all about our exchange.
But their words stayed with me.
Longer than I would have liked.
And I found myself needing to let them go. More than once.
Because if I held onto them, I knew they would shipwreck me.
Shipwreck everything I believed about God. Everything I thought I knew.
And I already had enough questions.
The truth was, I needed to come to terms with what was happening to me.
Not go into denial that it was all going to go away.
But things were different now. I knew I no longer appeared sick. I kept driving, seconds later dismissing my wandering thoughts.
A week later I drove past the same sign. Again, I found myself inwardly pausing. But I wasn’t sure why. Why did I feel a pull toward this particular place? And why now? I hadn’t stepped foot in a church in a several years, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to reopen that door.
Ten days passed, and one sunny afternoon I found myself remembering that same sign. I had just gotten back from a three mile run. I grabbed a towel, wiping the beads of sweat from my forehead and leaned over, placing my hands on my feet in an effort to stretch out my hamstrings. I slowly stood up, letting out a deep breath. As I let my heart rate settle, that same sign advertising a Thursday evening service popped into my mind. I paused, knowing it would be taking place later that evening. I had liked the sound of a week night service. It didn’t sound quite so serious. Not like the traditional Sunday morning service. I wasn’t ready or even interested in that. I knew there would be fewer people present on a week night, making a visit hopefully less intimidating. Even still, the thought of going to church in any capacity put a knot in my stomach.
Over the next few hours I couldn’t shake the uneasiness I felt, but I knew I needed to go and at least try it out. I made my way to my car. As I neared the building in my car, my heart began to pound harder in my chest. I told myself to relax, knowing I had grown up in the church. But this felt different. This felt more significant in some way I couldn’t understand.
I half-heartedly pulled into the parking lot, unsure if I was going to get out and go in or turn the car around and never look back. I forced myself to park the car and swallowed hard, attempting to summon what courage I had as I made my way towards the building.
I entered the building nervously, not knowing what to expect. I smiled quickly at an older man greeting people and rushed in to find a seat. I needed to sit down.  
As I entered the sanctuary I decidedly sat in the very last row next to the door. I told myself I would see how things went. I wasn’t making any promises. Or signing on any dotted lines. I told myself I could undo this whole night if I needed to. And go right back to the way things were.
My way.
But there was a longing in me. A longing I could no longer deny. A longing for things to be different from the way they had been. I didn’t know who I was anymore, and I wasn’t particularly proud of that. I had lost so much of myself, having given so much of myself away. And for what?
I felt more broken than ever.
And I was still alone.
After all that I had given up to find love.
A few awkward moments passed and a young girl about my age came up to me and introduced herself. She seemed sweet and perfectly normal. It instantly put me at ease. Five more minutes passed, and we all stood up as the band began to play. The sanctuary had filled in, and there were far more people than I ever expected to show.
As they began to sing I felt my body stiffen. I didn’t know if I was ready for all of this. The music was loud, almost jarring to my senses. Still, a small part of me couldn’t help but want to join in, but my feet felt like cement bricks glued to the carpeted floor. So I stood there, motionless, taking it all in. And somehow, while still cautiously guarding my heart and my expectations, I was refreshed.
The following week I returned for a second service. I saw the same girl I had met the previous week. Only this time she came and sat with me. And with her followed two more girls. Her kindness touched me, knowing how females don’t typically seek out new females to welcome to a particular social circle. No, in my experience, those in a friend circle feel little to no need to add to their circle, oftentimes even working to prevent new additions.
But this was not the case here, and the only way I could describe it to my heart was that it was God. He was meeting me. And he was giving me new friends.
I was getting a new start.
And with that new start, pieces of my heart were beginning to come back together.