I have a guest post to share today 🙂
This lovely lady has been in my life for almost 20 years now. It started out she was a teenager in the youth group my husband was pastoring when I met him (she’s known him longer than I have!). Since then we’ve worked together, ministered together, prayed together, and grown up together. I have called her friend for quite some time. And she’s also an amazing writer and photographer 🙂 Recently she was asked to speak at a ladies retreat, and when she sent me her words to read over I knew I wanted to share them with you. If she let me. And she did 🙂 Enjoy…
In photography, we don’t take pictures of the moments that are hard, the ugly moments, the moments we don’t want to remember. However, it is in those moments that we grow, we learn and we become better people …
Most of you know me. Most of you know that I grew up in a Christian family. Some of you have seen me grow up in the church, from nursery, to Jr. High, to youth group and now a member of the church board. Growing up in the church wasn’t always easy. My life outside of church and family was filled with people that never quite understood me.
My memory isn’t great but there are moments that stand out in my mind that have shaped me, that have challenged me and that continue to change me.
I want to reflect on a few of these moments.
I clearly remember sitting in my room as a teenager and opening my Bible randomly because I felt lost and alone. I had wonderful friends that loved me and supported me but who didn’t share my love for Jesus. I had a great family but what teenager wants to share their thoughts and feelings with their family.
I found the verse Joshua 1:9. Have I not commanded you. Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you whenever you go. This is a verse that has stayed with me.
I remember praying that night for a best friend that shared my faith. I prayed that prayer a lot. Youth group ended up saving my life because youth group gave me a best friend. Youth group gave me purpose. Youth group gave me people that are still my people. I never felt pressure to fit in with parties, drugs and smoking. I went to those parties and asked myself why my friends and my peers needed these things to feel complete. Being there with them just gave me a greater sense of loss because I knew that I was missing something. I found that something at youth. I found that through reading my Bible, going to Bible Studies, asking the hard questions of the people that were mentoring me through those uncertain years. I found it and I felt complete for once in my life. I don’t feel that I was ever really in true danger of losing my life to temptations, addictions and peer pressure but looking back I see that I was in real danger of not truly living my life to the fullest.
I remember our family trip out West when I was 16. I remember camping in the rain. I remember going to the West Edmonton Mall and riding the roller coaster. I remember the beautiful scenery that we saw daily. I remember the two boys, Tom and Kelly, that my parents picked up and rescued from the side of the road. I’m sure they had second thoughts about being kind people when they saw that they were helping two seventeen-year-old boys. I remember meeting family. I remember being stuck in the car for hours with magazines, food and squished between siblings. But I also have a clear vision of looking out the window as we were driving through the prairies and seeing Jesus running with us.
I remember getting baptized. The excitement and joy of knowing God and experiencing Him in a new way and the sadness and uncertainty that followed that same year. Ending a relationship, losing my Grandma who I loved dearly and still miss to this day. A crash that changed my life. The details remain blurry. They remain blurry because God has erased them from my heart and my head. For years, those memories would consume me. They would consume me the day of years later, they would consume me at random times. They would creep up when an ambulance raced by lights blazing or when a friend thought it would be cool to do donuts. The lights, the sounds, the sights of that day could have taken me to a dark place. Some days I think those memories did. But God was there, through people, my people who loved me and cared for me when I couldn’t breathe or walk the next steps. He was there through his Word and his promise. He never left.
God followed me to university and I know people were praying for me there because within days I had found a Christian community that encouraged me, challenged me and loved me. They allowed me to become someone that I didn’t even know I could be. I joined leadership teams. I mentored younger students. I found joy in loving Jesus. I don’t really remember a lot about the classes I took or the professors I had. Money well spent. But I do remember the people that poured into my life. I remember the community of believers that I lived with and had the opportunity to grow with. Many people that I had that community with, have chosen different paths for their lives now. They have fallen away or walked away but some have stayed. And the ones that have stayed have changed me, have changed those around them now. No matter how little I see them, they continue to love me with Christ’s love and I get to love them back. And those that have left. I pray for them because I remember how they loved God and I know they must remember too.
Coming home, over a decade now, was hard. It was tough leaving a community that was at my fingertips whenever I needed them. Walking down the hall, crossing the street. Never far away. To leave them for all the uncertainties of life was devastating. Coming back home, relying on family and friends for basic needs because my education couldn’t support me. Feeling like a failure. Not good enough. Just a supply. Words I felt and words others would say. I missed the community I had.
But when I looked around me. When I was able to see past what I was missing. I saw that my community here was my family. Family that I was born into, family that had chosen me and family that I had chosen. People that poured into my life, people that made me laugh, held me when I cried, trusted me with their children, walked me through life. The past ten years have been filled with life, laughter, joy, growth, waiting, sadness, new birth and loss. I have known God my whole life. I trust Him. I read my Bible. I pray. I have been challenged by sermons. I have been growing spiritually through reading His word, worship and my relationships with other Christians.
When I lost my friend Sue to cancer, when we lost her. I entered a dark place. A place that I had only briefly experienced many years ago when I had that accident. I experienced anxiety for the first time in my life. I couldn’t sleep. I was angry. I wasn’t hungry. I was depressed. I lost weight. I didn’t feel like myself. I didn’t care. I knew what was rational, but my emotions and feelings didn’t reflect what I knew. I reached out to some and they saved my life. They validated my feelings, they loved me when I couldn’t love myself. I didn’t read my Bible daily. I didn’t pray. I reached out to God in pain even though I couldn’t see him. I cried out to Him even when I couldn’t feel his hand in my life. Others were reaching out to Him, for me. With Christ’s love, others held my hand, they listened, they hugged me so tight that I couldn’t forget his love. I know they prayed. My community surrounded me. I was lost in those moments but God was never far. He was always there. God gave me the good. He gave me family and friendships when I needed them. He gave me everything I needed in His time. My friend Sue is physically gone. But I carry her with me. She taught me so much in the short time we had together. I still see her face. I still hear her chuckle. There are days I wake up after dreaming of simple times, a walk in the neighbourhood, dinner together or an evening out and the hurt and sorrow is there all over again. And to move on I need a moment, but it is also those days I carry her with me with a greater purpose. I still don’t read my Bible daily. I don’t pray daily. I wish I did. But I still don’t. I choose other things. I’m not perfect. I won’t be on this Earth. But I can see God working in my life. I know that He is my God. I trust Him still.
God’s plan is not always easy. God’s plan is sometimes hard. But God’s plan is good. I can clearly see that now.
We can’t experience the good without the bad. Because without the bad, the good only becomes okay. Living through the bad, the hard and the ugly puts the good in perspective. The good seems so much better because of what it took to get here. The journey, the struggle, the hardships make the good, great. I wouldn’t change one detail. Because I would not be here if I did. I am stronger in my relationship with Christ, in my friendships, in my desire to know God more. I am constantly changing but My God is constant. He is my rock.
Everyone’s journey is different. Everyone’s story is different. I know that I am loved. I am loved by a wonderful God. I am loved by so many and I am loved so well. My heart is full. God has filled my life with many blessings and I am forever grateful.
I see my life in snapshots. Some good, some bad. But every moment is worth remembering.
Some of Sarah’s recent snapshots and her thoughts on them 🙂 …
The first two are sunrises at the cottage. I still remember how peaceful it is. It’s almost like you can hear the whispers of God…
The last one is a dish that sits in my bathroom to remind me always that God is faithful. Joy to remind me that Jesus comes first, then others, then you (me)…I don’t always remember that. I wish I was better at that. The puzzle piece is from a sermon… It reminds me that God has a plan. I am a piece of it and I am unique. Puzzle pieces are not interchangeable. We have different purposes and different gifts. But we are all needed to finish the puzzle. And the last is a rock that is shaped like a heart. I found it during my difficult time last year down by the lake. I cling to that rock some days and it helped me to move past the hurt and anger I felt. Most days it was deep inside my pocket to remind me of who I was in Christ, that I mattered and that I was loved… even when I couldn’t feel his love.
Thanks so much for sharing your heart with me, Sarah, and now sharing that same beautiful heart with others.
Love you 🙂