Sometimes, I just really love being a stereotypical college student. Like tonight. I'll probably be up late working on a paper. And I'm currently sitting in the middle of our living room with my books & computer as I eat Edy's Loaded Chocolate Chip Mint Brownie ice cream. At 11:15. This is why I love college. Because this is perfectly acceptable. No judgments.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
A very good place to start. (Do you have The Sound of Music stuck in your head now? Good - because so do I! :D )
In Bible study this semester we went through the first 9 chapters of Hebrews (we're finishing the book next semester - don't worry). A couple of people have been struggling with the general idea of faith and how you hold onto this hope that we read about when you really just don't feel God around you. And really, this is what Hebrews is all about. Persevering in faith because God has proved himself over and over again. In our own lives, in the lives of people around us, and the lives of those who came before us.
I've recently had the opportunity to hear stories of how God has been working in and through some amazing women and it has been such a blessing and encouragement to me. It's made me look back on my own walk and see that God has been standing by my side every step of the way. I've never really felt like I have a big story to tell. No grand transformation or anything remotely close. However, I have been realizing more and more that this is not my story to tell. It's all about God. And I owe it to Him and to those around me to share what He's done in my life.
So. Let's start from the very beginning. I was born at 8:something pm at Mary Washington Hospital....Ok. I guess we won't go to the VERY beginning ;) I'm not going to touch on every detail of the past 20 years - that'd just be boring. But I do think it's important to put this out there. Not for me. Really, not even for you. But so that God can take my life and reveal Himself through it. So here goes nothing.
I have been blessed. Blessed beyond my own comprehension. And honestly. The biggest struggle I've had is battling my own pride. And the feeling that I deserve this amazing life, these wonderful friends, the loving family, and every other great thing God has gifted me. For at least 4 years now I've struggled with seeing my life as a result of God's goodness instead of my own righteousness. I can hide behind the knowledge that God is good and loves me, or I can step out and embrace the reality of said goodness and love. So this is me stepping out. If you feel so inclined, you can take this journey with me.
I've never been one of those people who can tell you exactly when and I where I accepted Christ. My parents had me baptized when I was only a few months old and I was "raised in the church". Yeah - I was THAT kid in Sunday school. The one who knew all the stories and beasted Bible trivia games. When I was little, I did the whole VBS and Church camp thing just about every summer. And every year I "rededicated" my life to Christ. Partially because I was still too young to completely understand the idea of Christ's ultimate sacrifice and partially because I wanted to make sure that I had all my bases covered. By the time I was 13 I had been baptized, gone through Confirmation at church, and accepted Christ as my savior and rededicated my life to Him at least 5 times.
I was an awkward kid in middle school. Everybody was, really - let's not even lie. But it didn't really phase me. For the most part I had a great time. It was in middle school that my core group of friends that would last through out high school was established. It was also during my middle school years that church and youth group became the social environment I cherished so deeply. Starting in 6th grade I was able to join the youth choir and youth group. Eventually, I got all my closest friends from school to join me there too. I never really had that dividing line between school friends and church friends. And those friends from school that didn't go to church with me were either members of a different church or non-Christians with the same morals and values as me. I never felt that peer pressure people associate with middle and high school. I probably just wasn't cool enough to be hanging out with those people.
When I was in 8th grade my grandparents moved from Missouri to Virginia. The events that followed this move would lead to the first time I truly understood my faith - but it was a rocky road. I was so stoked to have my grandparents only 3 hours away from us - and it was wonderful for a while. Around Christmas time (I can't remember if it was before or after) my grandfather started having this really bad cough. After several tests it was determined that he needed some operation to get rid of some of the fluid in his lungs - I think there was more to it than that, but I really didn't know a lot of the details. Sometime around the end of February, beginning of March he went in for the operation. As I said, I don't remember many of the details but I know that there were complications and Poppy ended up with an infection and he had to be put on dialysis for his kidneys. Things would go up and down - this is when I started writing as an outlet. I didn't talk to anybody about how I was feeling, but I would write. In class. At home. On the bus. Whenever I had something to say, I would write. I wasn't mad at God as much as I was confused as to how all of this could happen so quickly. I remember the day he died - and it still kills me that the thing I remember most is that I had one of those stupid baby dolls for health class that cries at scheduled times and you have to stick a key in its back to shut it up. We were keeping my grandparent's dog for them and after my mom told me, I found Shallie under the dining room table and crawled under there with her and cried.
I don't remember a whole lot from his service, but I know we sang "In the Garden" (which was Poppy's favorite hymn and is now one of mine) and as Father Jim reminded us that "It's Friday, but Sunday's a'comin'" a plane flew overhead - Poppy had been a pilot in the Air Force. Poppy died on April 9th and we didn't have his actual military funeral at Arlington until June. During that time I got to see how my mom and grandmother dealt with his death - to this day, their strength amazes me. I remember going to the Easter sunrise service and watching the sun come up over the hill and hearing my mom whisper "I'm so glad Daddy's home for this day". Not that my mom wasn't sad or mourning her father, but through that she was able to rejoice for him. That point didn't come for me until July. I was at camp, lying on my back staring at the Christmas lights strung up in the cabin (because that's what you do at church camp) crying out of frustration because I still didn't understand. And then, as the tears grew heavier and all the colors of the lights started to blur together, I just stopped. There was a peace that just washed over me and flooded my soul. I still can't completely describe it, but it was the first time that I understood what it means to have Hope in the promises of God.
I experienced the peace of God but I didn't know what to do with it. So naturally, like any 14 year old would, I just focused on surviving my first year of high school. I didn't drink, I didn't do drugs, I wasn't out having sex, I got good grades, I went to church with my family every Sunday, I went to choir and youth group every Sunday night, I helped out in VBS every summer, I went on mission trips and volunteered - I thought I was the cream of the crop. (See what I mean about pride...). My junior year my family hosted an exchange student from Austria. The way she lived her life was very different from mine and made it even easier for me to get that self righteous complex I'm prone to. However. She did challenge me to explore the core of my faith. She'd ask me to explain why I lived the way I did and a simple response of "well, that's what it says in the Bible" or "I just don't believe in that" didn't really do it for her. With much prompting from Laura, I stripped my faith to the core and set out to figure out what I truly believed and to stop hiding behind the faith of my parents.
Junior and senior year were lonely for me. When Laura was staying with us, we shared a room - which for me was a huge deal. In a way it was great because it gave us a time to talk, not to mention how it prepared me for living with a roommate in college. But my room has always been my space. The place I go when I need to think or just be alone - which happens a lot for my little introverted self. So it was hard. Especially since junior year was difficult academically and Laura was pushing me in my faith. It took me all year to fight through the insaneness of everything going on. By May I was able to write a poem about it. I mean, it was for a class because I really can't do poetry. But I worked so hard on that poem so that it would actually say what I was feeling. And it was awesome. Because as I worked through that poem I realized that I wasn't letting God do his job of lifting me up and allowing me to fly.
There's a lot more I could say - and probably will at some point seeing as there's still a huge difference between who I was in Christ at the end of junior year and who I am now as a junior in college.
I applaud you if you've made it this far. As I've said, that clearly is not the end - but even just looking at these few specific flashes of my life - it's encouraging to me that I can see God. There's a reason we're called to persevere in faith - God has NEVER let me down. He's been there when nobody else was to pick up the pieces. The pieces of a confused 8th grader and a lonely high school student. The pieces of a searching freshman and an apathetic sophomore. He's never left my side and that is the reason I made it to this point and the reason I can push forward.