My Testimony

It feels surreal that I'm attempting to gather all the right words to say. That I'm revisiting some of the most significant bits of time. Minutes, hours, days, months, and years that changed the course of my life entirely. 

It was senior year of 2011, where I found myself buried under a mountain of hardship, perplexed by the decisions of adulthood, and totally undone by emotions that held me hostage. The last eleven years of my education leveraged me here. Our life is made up of so many moments. This was one I made sure to mark.

I was trying to graduate, I was holding down a part time job, I was learning under my parents authority, and I was even driving a car older than the years I’ve roamed the planet. I had a fine GPA, but I didn’t know what opportunities existed beyond the brick building I walked the halls of for many years. Life beyond the "now", was not on the heart of a girl who couldn’t even process what my family was making for dinner. All I knew was that I hoped it was my mom's teriyaki chicken that would make the cut.

My daily agenda consisted of hanging out with my people, being too good at pool, selling shoes to meet a sales quota, and downloading free music. I spent all my money on hot topic band t-shirts, cut my friends hair with a razor, and convinced my parents I needed multiple piercings to be happy. Life was fun, but I was fragile. I was outgoing, but I lacked confidence because it was gripped around the opinions of others. If I could wear a smile on the outside, no one would know what was happening on the inside. Check and mate.

As graduation knocked on the door of my reality, my family and I moved to a quaint hotel room in between searching for a new semi-permanent residence. Close quarters is what I knew. We called it home for several months. No kitchen, no privacy beyond a walk in the hall, and certainly only one remote. A king sized bed, an overcrowded cot, a mattress on the floor, and a chair that I’ll never forget. I hold it closely because I remember the sacrifice my father made as he chose to sleep in it every single night to accommodate for the rest of our families comfort. 

As my high school career neared it's end, I had a very transparent conversation with one of my teachers. Exchanged words that wouldn't soon be forgotten. Sharing the hard parts of my life didn't come natural to me. I actually rarely ever opened up to even the closest of friends. Now how was I expected to have this kind of dialoge with someone I didn't even know? Deep down, the pride inside of me that wanted to keep portions of my life behind closed doors had to fall. If it didn’t, I would fail. This particular class was one that would unlock the key to my diploma. Life at home was difficult, but it was out of my control. Life at school was challenging, but every decision was in my hands. I knew the cost of my every choice. 

Inhale. Exhale. I took two deep breaths and dragged my feet to the first room on the left of the Social Studies hallway. The teachers lounge is where I would plant my first seed of authenticity and overcome the fear of hiding. I felt the burden of anxiety build up in my throat, but I still shuffled one foot in front of the other. In the presence of tables stacked high with reports and surrounded by adults who led the course of every high school student, I had a very real conversation with my teacher. Expressing my desperation for extra assistance on my final exam and extensions of grace as I navigated my existence in such a bold season of my life. Brokenness wasn't new to me, but I certainly didn't ask for help along the path. I didn't like people knowing I made such a dark space my permanent residence. It wasn't easy to let anyone in. It took every ounce of bravery I had that day to do just that.

As my splintered sentences hovered the air, my teacher was so gracious to me. He allowed me the freedom to be emotionally unstable and offered me more than I bargained for. Looking back, I can still identify how very moved he was by my resilience to openly confide in him with such personal information. The exact details I'm uncovering to you today. I was convinced I would sink and he offered me an anchor. 

On June 17th, 2011, my tassel moved from right to left and I graduated High School alongside of my lifelong classmates It was nothing short of a miracle. It sure felt like one on that day. My education status changed, but my life circumstances didn't. At this point, our close quarters didn't seem so friendly anymore and my brother was attending a youth group at a local church to get involved in community. It was a brilliant idea on his part, but I wasn't clearly the fearless type. My mom would drive, drop off, and pick him up for many weeks, until one night. The evening my sweet mama was invited to church by someone who noticed her in the entry way of a young adult group. That's all it took. A simple glance and gesture of awareness to re-route life as we knew it.

She would return that night with a flood of thoughts and emotions. She even shared those reflections with me over an overcrowded $5 footlong (insert subway shoutout here). I smiled because she radiated joy. She felt seen, she felt cared for and now she was eager to meet others who would add this kind of value to her life. Where would she find them? Likely, the same place she left just hours prior. 

My mom and brother set out on a new expedition Sunday morning. Their yes would leave a generational impact and re-write the story of my life. Mom seemed happy. She was glowing and I couldn't help but wonder what she experienced. Eventually, mom would extend that same invitation that was offered to her, to myself and there you'd find me. Occupying residence in the second row of a crowded auditorium while I was met with life giving truth, neighbored by genuinely kind humans, and served fresh hot coffee every morning of attendance, thank you get much. After what felt like a few weeks, I made a declaration. A commitment to say yes to Jesus Christ as the Lord of my life. I declared His grace would cover me and make me new all the days of my life. A daring decision for a fragile girl like myself.

Now this all sounds a bit crazy and I'm happy to admit that it totally is, but that bold decision was the best choice I could have ever made. I don't have to share an array of details or draw up the portraits of the bits and pieces in between this new adventure, but what I do want to illustrate is how very special what Jesus did for me and for you truly is. The day my presence was unmistakably accounted for in that room, was the same day I believe God orchestrated me to be there. It's as if my name was written across the seat I cozied into and the alter I stood when I accepted God's grace over my life. The message that was presented in those simple hours identified with every fiber of my being. It's as if the speaker and I were having a personal conversation and the crowd was just listening in. As if he knew portions of my life that I tried to desperately cancel in my heart. And little did I know, that my brokenness was serving a purpose. It led me to such a time as this. 

In 2012, I started pursuing Jesus and discovering what that meant over the next decade. As I began to unpack the stories in the Gospel and discover Jesus’s love for me, I experienced transformation. Literally changed from the inside out. Hope, love, peace, joy, and light were now spilling out into every area of my life like never before. It couldn't be contained, it couldn’t be explained, and it was kind of contagious. This certainly wasn't something that happened overnight. It was and still remains a gradual process. An activity that never truly ends, but can't be denied as my fingers waterfall over the letters on my keyboard in reflection of what used to be. My yes to hope is undeniably the best thing that has ever happened to me. 

A life sheltered by faith is my residence today. When I went home to that quaint hotel room after church that day, my circumstances didn't change. We continued daily life, we carried on facing hardships, and we certainly still lived imperfectly. That is something that isn’t changing anytime soon. But now, now I did it with a new perspective. I approached everything with a different heart. I began expressing emotions and inviting people into the places I worked overtime to conceal. I welcomed who I was today in exchange for who I’d be in the future. I began to see the good in spaces that shouldn't be worthy of any mention. And somewhere along the way,  I made a promise to myself that it was okay to be real, raw, and vulnerable. I discovered this made me relatable and opened up so many treasured friendships that I hold close to heart today. 

There used to be more things about myself that I disliked than I enjoyed. I used to follow the crowd and craved any compliments flung my way. The pressures of life used to engulf my every thought and fight me for sleep. I used to live medically depressed with a grin from ear to ear. My heart used to be overwhelmed and under-satisfied. When I met Jesus that day, my canvas became new and so did my vision. Everything I was naturally accustomed to doesn't look the same nine years later. I continue to struggle with habits that still linger and familiarities I've made friends with, but the difference is, now I don't face it alone. Its different now. I trust God in the midst and lean in to the gift of grace He's sacrificially supplied me with. I've never known a love like this before and I perceive there is nothing else like it. 

Life is marked by moments. For me, this one is notable to share with anyone who is willing to listen. The freedom He has for you is completely free and has the opportunity to change everything. Don’t underestimate your small beginning, especially when it starts with a simple “yes”.

"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

John 3:16-18 

The Message