Have you ever been hit by the overwhelming feeling of thankfulness? It came at me like a ton of bricks the other day. I am on my way to meet with a friend for Bible study and as I am pulling on the interstate I am listening to the song “How He Loves Us”…and it just hits me. I found myself praising God and telling him how thankful I am.
When I started writing on this blog, I was in a VERY broken place. My first marriage had failed (and I was coming to terms with what my part in the failure of that marriage was). I was in graduate school. I was working forty hours a week. I was CONSTANTLY exhausted. I was helping raise my younger siblings. I was trying to support my mother who was very sick at the time. Every day was a constant battle. Everyday I woke up with a tight knot in my stomach, and every night I poured myself into bed so exhausted I couldn’t hardly stand, but too anxious to sleep. From the time I woke up, to the time I went to sleep I was in a constant state of worry. Where will our next meal come from? Will I have enough money to make sure my sister has lunch for the week? If I use this food card in public, how many stares will I get? When I get home, will my mom be there? If I leave her, will she be alive when I come back? How will I have enough energy to keep all of this together? What happens if I can’t keep this together? What if? What if? What if?…
Sprinkle on top of that worry sundae a nice cup of “who will love me?” and you’ve got yourself the perfect concoction of “what’s my next bad decision?”.
And so that’s how it went for the better part of 18 months. Bad decisions, grasping at anything, ANYONE to fill this HUGE, empty hole. LOVE ME! SOMEONE PLEASE LOVE ME! Someone please, take care of ME. I sat and ate that pity sundae for a long time. So long, in fact, that by the time I was finished I am positive I was drinking what was left of the runny, melted sorrow.
(An accurate depiction of what I actually looked like.)
Throughout many months of counseling, prayer and self-reflection, I found myself in a better place. A place where I knew who I was again. A place where I understood my self-worth. A place where I comprehended the gift of life that had been given to me and WHO gave it to me. When my life was put into eternal perspective, my choices started to change. I required better of myself and the people I allowed into my life.
So yesterday, as I am pulling onto the interstate, I am over a year removed from the ugly places my life had taken me. I am over a year removed from heaping piles of pity into my mouth and stomaching whatever decisions I made to make myself feel better. And in this past 18 months, God has transformed my life.
I have a mother who is alive against all odds.
I have sisters that I am still best friends with and talk to every day.
I have a man that I KNOW was handmade by God specifically for me.
I have a job that I love that pays me what I deserve.
I have a friend, a REAL friend who understands me and where I’ve been.
The weight of God’s mercy, love, forgiveness, care, generosity, and sacrifice just poured over me.
I’ve heard a million times that on the other side of the darkest nights, the most beautiful sun rises. I am here to tell you, it does. The sun rises and you are left standing with your face turned to it, feeling the warmth and light that had been there all the time.
I never stopped loving Christ, even in my darkest days. NEVER. I never stopped trusting that He knew the plan even when I did not. I was too weak to withstand every circumstance perfectly, but that is where I realized that there is grace at the feet of Jesus. Time and time again I would fall at his feet and cry out for him to be with me…and EVERY time, he met me right where I was.
Looking back I can see all of the blessings God provided during the hardest times. One Thanksgiving, a church I had attended since I was a little girl gifted us a Thanksgiving dinner. AN ENTIRE Thanksgiving Dinner. The shame I felt was unspeakable, but the thankfulness ran so deep.
One night, a friend texted me and wanted to buy my family and I pizza. Again I felt this shame of not being able to provide, and God was showing me how much he was in control. This friend called a local pizza place close to my house and had it delivered straight to my door…already paid for.
More than once I came up against a financial scare and God would open doors. He provided friends and opportunities that I wouldn’t go homeless.
My thankfulness runs SO deep. I am thankful for the beauty that was on the other side of my darkest places in life, but (and this is hard for me to say because I never want to live through anything like that again) I am also thankful for the dark places. Because in those darkest moments the ONLY person I had was Jesus. I can remember one night specifically that I lied in bed and the ONLY words I could pray were “peace and comfort”. Over and over and over and over I just said “peace and comfort”. Not any other words. I lie in bed with what felt like an elephant on my chest and just BEGGED for peace and comfort. Those places left me in a complete state of dependency on Christ and THAT has taught me a lot. It’s taught me a lot about who I am and it’s taught me a lot about who Christ is. Because of these moments, I can tell you with 100% certainty that when I turned to Christ, I felt moments of relief. Moments of joy. Moments of PEACE even in the midst of the most chaotic experiences.
If you are trudging along in the darkness right now, living every day in fear, anxious thoughts and pain…please know I’ve been there. Please know that God is still right there with you. Please know that even on the DARKEST nights, the sun will still rise.
If you happen to stumble on this post, and you need someone to talk to, I am going to extend the offer of my e-mail. One of the hardest parts of the journey was the isolation I felt during this time in my life. It is my goal that no one should feel the kind of isolation. (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Delightfully Disjointed and Full of God’s Love,