Friday, January 17, 2014

One of My Biggest Fears // A Post 4 Years in the Making

Two days ago, I overcame one of my biggest fears.
I was driving to the bank, and I had to pass the cemetery to get to the bank.
The cemetery I've been afraid to visit for four years now.
The cemetery I had a nightmare about.
The nightmare that haunted me for months.
Caused by the silence, caused by relentless guilt, caused by my human nature and disconnect and self-absorption.
I could see the headstones through the trees, now that it's winter - full-blown winter - and the leaves are gone. I didn't really plan on stopping, because I've always been terrified. And the guilt would just be too much, even if nothing happened to me. The sky was weird but really pretty. Dark clouds covered the top, but underneath was pink-ish.
Right before the turn, I decided to stop. I turned right and drove through the iron gates, down the dirt road, consciously looking out my rearview mirror. It looked just like it did in my nightmare and I felt uneasy. I pulled up to the spot where I remembered standing, four years ago, in the rain, on one of the worst and hardest days of my life. I scanned the headstones until I found the one I was looking for. I got out of my car and walked over to it, always checking behind me. I knelt down in the grass and prayed. I prayed for the family and I prayed that I would be better - more aware, more open, braver and more impulsive.
As I walked back to my car, I felt lighter. The sky was somber and yes, I was in a cemetery, but there was an undertone of quiet peace. As I drove to the bank, I felt like a little bit of burden had been lifted. I felt stronger, knowing I had finally overcome my fear and nothing had happened.
See, my brother and I are close in age, and we have a lot of the same friends. In the summer of 2009, I became pretty close with him and his friends, and hung out with them almost every night. There was one in particular, though, that I didn't know all that well, and for some reason felt a burden for him, but I didn't know why. His name was Matt. He always seemed so happy and joyful, and I wasn't sure why I felt like I needed to do something for him. He just seemed different. But the only thing I could think of was "maybe I should ask him if he knows Jesus."
Well, we all know how that goes. As humans, we will sometimes freely talk about anything but our faith. We will share our biggest secrets, regrets, etc. But when it comes to sharing our faith, we keep that to ourselves. Why?
Are we embarrassed?
Are we afraid others will think differently of us?
Do we not know how to bring it up?
Is it not "cool?"
Do we constantly wait for the 'right time' to say something?
Are we too caught up in our own lives and problems?
Are we afraid of offending someone?
Are we lazy?
Are we scared?
Do we not have a sense of urgency?
Are we apathetic?
Are we too busy?
I think for me, it was a little bit of a few of those. I was definitely caught up in my own life, with what I thought were HUGE issues. I was definitely busy. I was lazy. I thought I had all the time in the world. I had no sense of urgency. It was never the "right time" to say something. I didn't know how to bring it up...
Well, I learned my lesson in the hardest way possible. One cold night in January of 2010 - January 17th - I was leaving the movie theater and I got a text and then phone call. It was our friend Mackenzie. He told me Matt had passed away. I didn't believe him at first, but it was true. Matt had randomly passed away in his sleep. I will never, ever forget going home that night and watching my brother and sister cry on the stairs in our house. All of us taking turns holding Honeygirl while we cried.
Asking God why.
The next few weeks were a blur of status updates, pictures, the visitation, the funeral, tears, songs that made everyone cry...
I can't describe how it felt to see all of that. I won't go into any detail, but I will say I never had imagined feeling like that before. Feeling so hopeless and dark and thinking, "There is absolutely no way that anything good can come out of this situation."
I went to class, but all I could think about was Matt.
I went to work, but all I could think about was Matt.
I watched TV, and all I could think about was Matt.
I went to church, and all I could think about was Matt.
All the songs were about him.
The church looked like the funeral home.
I passed the cemetery every day.
I vividly remember riding in the car with my mom one day a few weeks later, and through sobs, saying, "That should've been me. I have so much, yet I'm so ungrateful and unhappy and discontent. I don't appreciate anything. Matt loved life and had so much joy. He should still be here, and I shouldn't."
Until then, I had never felt so low.
Until then, I had never wanted to die.
I had never felt like there was absolutely no light at the end of the tunnel.
Before I go any further, I want to say that I firmly believe that Matt is in Heaven right now, celebrating and much better off than any of the rest of us.
I believe this because we were later told that he was saved one night a few months beforehand.
At the time, though, I wasn't sure of that, and I felt the most immense amount of guilt, shame, regret... you name it.
I knew deep down in the depths of my heart that
if it was up to me - if I was the ONLY person in the world that knew Jesus, and it was up to me to tell Matt about Him, Matt would've never been saved at all.
I had failed miserably.
Personally, I believe that that is the worst feeling someone can ever have.
Within those few weeks, I had a nightmare that I had driven to the cemetery late at night, and someone pulled up behind me and started violently yanking on my door handle, trying to get me out of the car and do who knows what to me. From that night, I was terrified out of my mind to ever visit the grave. I was convinced that the nightmare was a warning that I shouldn't ever go.
{{And I didn't until two days ago.}}
I lived in fear for weeks and weeks.
Thoughts of my selfishness haunted me day and night. All I could think about was how ungrateful I was, how apathetic I was, and how I'd missed the call completely. The call to witness. The most important job in the world.
I thought about how, on the night of Matt's death, right before it happened, I had sat in the car, talking on the phone to Chanelle, and telling her how unhappy I was with my life. I complained for about an hour, about things that didn't really matter too much in the long run. I complained about school especially. The expensive, wonderful university I was blessed to attend. I complained about it. I complained about not getting the car I wanted at the car lot that day. I was a total brat. Little did I know, my world was about to get rocked forever.
I finally came out of my depression a couple months later.
I decided that from then on, I would be the best witness I could be. But I knew that nothing could atone for the lack of investing I had done in Matt's life. That is something I'll always regret, as long as I live.
So I guess what I've gotten out of this is that you just never know when will be your last chance to see someone. We are not guaranteed another day or even another breath. We don't always think that way, but we have to. I keep thinking,
"What if I'm the only trace of Jesus that this person will ever see? Am I doing my part in leading this person to Him or am I too caught up in my own issues to worry about that? Do I care enough about this person's eternity to invest in their life?"
Thinking that way will make things more real, and hopefully inspire us all to do our part in being better witnesses. Don't let days go by, thinking, "I'll talk to him tomorrow. Today I don't have time."
Like I said, I'm sure Matt is having the best time in Heaven right now. I doubt anyone can say they've seen much good come out of losing him here on Earth, but I will say this:
In my short time of knowing him, he taught me, more than he ever knew, about being happy and grateful and content.
When I think about his attitude towards life versus the attitude I sometimes have, I feel very ashamed.
We could all do well to be more like Matt.

Monday, January 13, 2014

MM // Livin' on a Prayer

Today's Monday Motivation is brought to you by some gems I found on Instagram. I haven't done Monday Motivation in forever, and I feel like we could all use some this week!! I love this first one:

We are all afraid of the unknown, at least to some extent. But faith that everything will work out is what will keep us sane when those fears try to take over and run our lives. The Bible mentions faith over and over and over again. We MUST have faith that God is in control and will never leave nor forsake us. The devil uses fear to paralyze us and keep us from doing work for God. We must overcome fear with faith. 

Forget the plans YOU have laid out for your life. God is the one writing your story and as long as you are focused on Him, you shouldn't worry about anything because He has it all under control. Use your current circumstances to your advantage, no matter how good or bad they are. Bad times create opportunities for growth and learning experiences. Make the best of every day and trust that God is working full-time on the plans He has for you. But at the same time, do not sit back and do nothing. Work and serve for God's kingdom. Most likely when you stop focusing on your problem and start focusing on God and working to serve Him and others, your problems will not seem as big and you'll be too busy to worry about them, and He will work them all out. His plan for your life is better than anything you have planned, so trust that and be calm. (This goes along with my post "Trust Without Borders" from the other day.) 

I took some notes during the Sunday service last week, and they kinda went along with all of this.

And lastly, something funny to kick off the week

Happy Monday!!!!


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Trust Without Borders

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever you may call me. 
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander 
That my faith would be made stronger 
In the presence of my Savior."
-Hillsong United


I first heard and sang that song at the very first New Life meeting I attended at Appalachian back in August. I was going through a confusing and transitional time, and it comforted me. I knew then that I was going to grow in Christ and that He had me at App State and living in Boone for a reason. 

We sang that song again last night at my church at home. Once again, I was comforted in the fact that God is doing something in my life. He is growing me and causing me to strengthen my faith in ways I never thought possible. 

I can think of only two other times in my life when I felt this helpless, hopeless, and lifeless. This time is different, though. This time, I am not letting those feelings take away my joy. I've grown since those other two times, and I now know that even in the midst of the biggest storm, it is still possible to have tremendous joy. That joy comes from Christ and knowing that His plan far outshines my plan. It comes from knowing that even in dark times, He's there with me and using these times to make me a better person with stronger faith and more of a testimony. 

Looking back on the most difficult times of my life, they lasted for a little while, but then the best times of my life quickly followed. It makes me think of a status my now roommate posted when we were at HPU together and I was going through a tough time. It was something like "Just because today may be the worst day of your life, doesn't mean tomorrow won't be the best day of your life." That reminds me of the verse that says "There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning." Joy is more than just happiness. Joy is being content and happy despite any circumstance. And that comes from trust. 

In the Bible, the Israelites didn't always trust God. They watched Him bring them through hard times and rejoiced, but during the next hard time, they got angry with God again and lost trust. They didn't stop to think, "He came through for us before and He will come through for us again."

What would life be like if we all had trust without borders? Think about that. Trusting God NO MATTER WHAT. When I first heard the song, the lyrics just wrecked me. To me, "trust without borders" means you trust God in a way that might seem insane to others. No boundaries. Reckless trust. Trusting God so much that you'll do whatever He calls you to do, no matter how crazy it seems to you or to anyone else. This kind of trust will allow God to mold you and grow you in ways you never imagined. 

"Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander."
 God, take me deeper than I could ever go on my own, with my own reasoning. As humans, we will allow our own precautions and fear to keep us from going as far as God wants to take us. He wants us to abandon those fears and let Him lead us to where He wants us to be.
I pictured myself blindfolded, with Christ leading me by the hand through parted stormy waters. He's been leading me through the raging ocean while I'm blindfolded and trusting Him more than I ever have before. My faith is being strengthened and I am trusting that His plan will be made clear and that He will be glorified through my fears and failures and trials. 

With the situations in my life right now, it's taking an insane amount of faith and trust in God and His plan and His timing.

I am trusting without borders.