It's taken me almost two weeks to write a post I've been planning for a month. Maybe it's because of the vulnerability of it. Maybe it's because I've been busy. Maybe it's because in the midst of going back to school, stepping down from a position and starting a new one, and just the craziness that family and life brings, I haven't put enough effort into my writing. Whatever it is, it's an excuse. I hate excuses. So I'm leaving the excuses behind, getting over my fear of being vulnerable and writing.
"December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy." 1941 was 49 years before I was born, but if we think about it, we all have those days which will live in infamy in our lives.
July 5th is a day which will live in infamy for me.
Let's go back in time to Thursday, July 4th, 2002. I was riding up to my grandparents' house for our normal festivities. My mom was driving, and my brother and dad were either already up there or coming up later. I don't even remember if my sister's were there, but I think some of my cousins were at least. As we were driving, my mom told me that Mama Rose had been diagnosed with lung cancer. She said that on Friday she was going to be going to the doctor for some tests and a treatment plan. I was scared, but honestly not too phased. I knew people died from cancer. But I also knew people are healed from cancer. We got there, played in the water, watched the fireworks over the lake, and started a campfire for smores. My grandma was extra tired that night, so she headed to bed earlier than the rest of us. You can probably see where this is going. My grandpa is not the quietest of men. Bless his heart, he tries. But when you can't hear well, it's hard to be quiet. I woke up at around 3AM to him running up the stairs to my mom and I (my dad and brother had to be back in Hoquiam for something so they weren't there) and frantic, loud whispers. "Connie, Mom is bleeding. You need to call 911." My mom did CPR on my grandma while on the phone with 911, and I went out to meet the paramedics at the end of the driveway, which seemed to take an eternity. Despite all efforts, my Mama Rose died on the morning of July 5, 2002.
Let's fast-forward 14 years. I am 26 years old, in a relationship, and planning to get married. I go to bed on the night of July 4th thinking that I'm worthless. Thinking that nothing I can do is good enough, yet knowing what needs to be done. On the morning of July 5th, I broke up with my boyfriend. I broke up with him because things weren't working. I couldn't have an opinion if it was different than his, I couldn't speak my mind, and I couldn't talk things out instead of just getting argued with, yelled at and hung up on. If you've ever felt like this, you know how hard it is to get out of it. You think that you'll never find anybody because you're not good enough for anybody else. You feel inferior. I will give him credit for not being intentional about this. He always told me he was a better friend than he was a boyfriend. And I believe him. He was looking for Perfection and I couldn't give him that. No one can. To say the least, I felt a lot of things that day. I felt like I didn't know what I was going to do, I felt scared, I felt relieved, and I was searching for light and searching for hope. And then I found it. Just when I was getting ready to leave everything that I loved for this man that I loved, I gave him up because I knew it was right. So I found this job, and I applied for it. Weeks went by, and I got a letter that said they had hired somebody else. I given it to God, but felt in my heart that I was the right person for that job. So it's hard. But it was just God telling me that it wasn't the time. He was telling me that I wasn't ready. I couldn't mentally and physically succeed at that job while still grieving the loss of a relationship.
July 5th, 2002 and July 5th, 2016 are both days that will live in infamy for me. Both of these days represent sadness. Both of these days represent loss. Both of these days I met with grieving and pain. But both of these days also bring me hope. They bring me joy. And they give me a story that will inspire and encourage others.
A lot of people remember the day that they were saved. The exact day. I don't know if I just don't pay enough attention, or if I'm a bad Christian. But, I don't remember a day. I remember events that led up to my salvation. And the day my grandma died is one of them. I have been going to church my entire life. I grew up in what I like to call a Christian-inspired home. We went to church on Easter and Christmas. We had a prayer that we said at dinner time, we had our Bibles, and we had those Alice Bible story books. And I think my brother had some of the boy version of the Bible story books. But we didn't live it all the time. When my brother got into high school, he started to go to youth group and young life. That's where I met Jeremy and April. I love them, and I could not wait to be in high school so that they could be my leaders. But my brother going to youth group and Young Life didn't inspire me to go to church. I would go to church with my friend Sonja, because her dad was the pastor. I would go to church when I went to visit my Grandma Barb. But I did not claim my faith as my own, and I didn't live my faith out. I didn't serve Jesus, and I loved him but I didn't show it. When my grandma died, I realized how short life is. How precious life is. How life can be taken in the blink of an eye, and we are never really prepared. In seventh grade, less than a year after my grandma died, my best friend's mom passed away of cancer. I had spent so much time at her house, that she was like another mom to me. And I loved her like one. As I thought about my grandma's death and my best friend's mom's death, life hit me hard. I realized that with the briefness of life on Earth, I can't live for myself. I needed something to live for. And I can't tell you how many times I had accepted the message when Jan preached it to me, or when Pastor Kent preached it to me, but it was now my own. I needed to start living for Jesus.
God always uses pain for good. After the flood, He gave a rainbow. After the crucifixion, He gave us The Resurrected Christ who promises us Eternal Life. After Mama Rose and Lisa passed away, He brought me into that Eternal Life. After my relationship ended, he gave me more hope, wisdom and direction. It has taken a while. It has been messy, and I was in a bad place for a while. But I wouldn't admit it to most people. I was too proud. Pride is a tricky thing. It's easy to have, and it's not easy to give up.
A year after the death of this relationship, on July 5th, 2017, I felt a flood of emotion. I remembered my grandma, and I remembered where I had hoped to be by that time. I got home from Charlie's, after not staying for fireworks, and started the process of going to bed. I also evaluated my heart. Where was I? How was I doing? It's important to evaluate your heart every now and then. Really, I should evaluate my heart everyday. I should, but I don't always. That night, as I began my evaluation, I realized what God had done in a year. I'm a completely different person. I have more confidence. More confidence in myself, more confidence in my ability, and we're confidence in my worth. I know I am worthy. Jesus died for me. He didn't have to, but He loved me enough to die for me. He thinks that I am worth something. He thinks that I am worth dying for. I have stuck up for myself this year. I have professed my ideas and my beliefs. I have made amazing friends, and also chosen to let some friends go. I realize that the people who really care will make an effort. And, that it's better to have fewer good friends than many acquaintances. I have made decisions for me. This is always hard for me. It goes back to that confidence and worth. But I know that I need to do things that are good for me. It's not out of selfishness, but it's out of self-love. Because I cannot be loved if I don't love myself. And let me tell you, I've learned to love myself better this year. I've learned to care for myself better this year. Just because I've learned it doesn't mean that I've always done it though. But I'm still growing there. I hired a personal trainer, I started to pursue my dream of planning weddings, I began to explore the place that I love the most and spend time with Jesus hiking. I decided to go back to school. I bought a new car. I made a hard decision to leave the kids and families that I love at the childcare to be with Charlie all summer, and make people's dream weddings a reality at my newest position.
Y'all, this last year has been a mess. It's been a Beautiful Mess. They were things that were hard. There were things that were really hard. And there are still things going on in my family and my life that make me want Jesus to come back so badly. But if I've learned anything this year, I know that Jesus created me to be an overcomer. He created me to learn through trials. He created to lean on him. He created me to show me how my story intertwines with His. And he is going to use that story to encourage and inspire others and bring people into His Glory. If I look back at my life, I wouldn't be where I'm at right now without July 5th, 2002 and 2016. I wouldn't have the faith I have. I wouldn't have the strength and confidence I have. So in the Beautiful Mess of hard stuff, I'm thankful for my God who sustains, protects and loves me.
Here's my encouragement to you:
1. Take a risk and do something that makes you happy.
2. Lean in to Jesus. Every. Single. Day.
3. Be you. Be proud of who you are. Don't be ashamed of who God made you to be. Don't be ashamed of your quirks. God gave them all to you. Embrace yourself.
4. "Spur one another on toward love and good deeds." Hebrews 10:24 is my daily reminder to be encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ, and to shine for Jesus through my life.
5. "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." Eleanor Roosevelt nails this one. Seriously. If you are in a friendship or a relationship where you feel inferior, it is not normal. Love yourself enough to recognize that something needs to change. Love the other person enough to tell them how they make you feel. Talk to someone. I'm always here for you.
6. As always, love fiercely and love boldly.