The Overflow

About a year ago, I felt a stirring in my heart. I sensed that God was suggesting something to me, nudging an idea across my path. It was subtle. Just an idea that kept resurfacing from time to time. It wasn’t overt. It didn’t slap me across the face or grip my heart with intensity. It was more a whisper of, “what if…”

I can still hear the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit planting seeds. “Beck, what if you did something that combined your theological training, your counseling background and your first-hand experiences with suffering?” I would turn it over in my mind from time to time, wondering what the Lord might be suggesting. Start a support group? Return to counseling? Help out more in the Care Ministry at my church? Nothing I tried on seemed to align with what God was bringing up. Then one afternoon God just spoke plainly to me as I was carrying a load of laundry up the stairs.

“Write. Write a book. Write a devotional. A 365-day companion for people who are suffering and walking in a season of darkness.”

I set my basket of laundry down and stood there for a moment. Of course. Of course He would suggest something crazy like this. Something I felt completely unqualified to do. Something so crazy and overwhelming it could only come from Him.

I laughed because I couldn’t help but agree with His vision. I saw a quote by Toni Morrison once that said “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” For years I tried to find a 365 day devotional that would walk me through my suffering. Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman was the closest I could find and it was written in 1925 – even the revised edition I have feels a bit antiquated. Oh how I wished I could have found a companion to walk me through my darkest days and help shape my perspective of suffering. I so desperately needed a new way of looking at my wounds.

What I was looking for didn’t seem to exist. There are 90-day devotionals for those waiting on miracles, 30-day devotionals for people suffering with depression, 50-day reflections for women going through cancer, year-long meditations on hope and a wealth of nonfiction books that offer lots of insight for those who are going through hard times. But there isn’t a book to journey with someone through the long haul of deep suffering. And there needs to be. There needs to be something for the person who is facing more than just a season of difficulty and needs to cling to Jesus for dear life. Something for the Christian that longs to hear of God’s overflowing love for them in the midst of darkness.

I’ve learned that protesting against God’s will doesn’t get you very far. It just delays the inevitable. So I consented, “Yes Lord, I’ll do it. But can you help me every step of the way? Because I will surely make a mess of this without Your guidance.” I didn’t even bother to explain that I have zero writing experience outside of this little blog. I didn’t tell him that I felt unqualified and ill-equipped for such a huge task. He already knows those things and He still asked me to do this. So I obediently surrendered my hesitation and I said yes in faith.

The first step was coming up with topics. 365 of them. Gulp.

I started with a pretty little notebook and I began to jot down ideas whenever inspiration struck. Most of the ideas were born of the overflow of inspiration from the Holy Spirit. Ideas came from every possible place and it every possible way. Sermons, the Bible, books, dreams, quotes and conversations. More than a few times the Holy Spirit would just spontaneously give me an idea on a random Tuesday afternoon. There were entire days when ideas overflowed out of me like a waterfall of divine inspiration that I could not stop.  As I sit here today, exactly 9 months later to the day, I have 365 ideas for topics.

The next step? Write. Trust that the words will come from the overflow, just like the ideas did.

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Immeasurably More

3.5 years ago, I remember sitting in my quiet office working on editing photos and answering emails. It was an unremarkable day, nothing out of the ordinary had happened until I heard a sound. At first I wasn’t even sure what the noise was. The wind? A cat rustling around in a closet? Water?

Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh.

I sat still. Held my breath. There is was again. Whoosh. Whoosh. It took a few minutes to realize the sound was coming from inside my own head. Like it was inside my ear or something. Like something was rhythmically whooshing past my ear, or inside my ear. I looked in the mirror to see if my ear looked different or swollen. Nothing. It looked perfectly normal.

A week later, the noise was still there. I saw my doctor and she looked at my eardrum to see if maybe it was a weird ear infection. “Your ear looks perfectly healthy,” she said. “Try a warm compress and ibuprofen,” she said. Ah, if only it had been that easy.

What resulted from the whooshing in my ear was months of CT scans, MRIs, cancer scares, MRVs, blood tests, hearing tests, neurologists and ultimately a diagnosis of Superior Canal Dehiscence Syndrome. SCDS is essentially when a small balance canal under your brain, the Superior Canal, wears away or develops a hole in it and begins to cause you all sorts of issues. In time, more symptoms developed; chronic vertigo, extreme sensitivity to sound, ear pain/fullness, imbalance, coordination issues, brain fog and eventually brain surgery out at UCLA. The vertigo and imbalance were by far the most debilitating symptoms. They made dealing with a little whooshing in my ear seem like a piece of cake. I remember waking up from surgery and immediately noticing that the vertigo was gone (Hallelujah!) but the pulsing in my ear was still there. bc347-10646965_10206248574315767_3820058040828197190_n

Weeks after surgery, my surgeon told me that the pulsing was just due to swelling and that it would certainly go away since the surgery was successful. After all, surgery resolved all of my other symptoms, it should resolve the whooshing too. I waited and I waited. Months went by and the noise remained. Years went by and the noise remained. This summer, the noise got so loud that I began to lose my hearing and go deaf in my right ear.

Eventually I saw my local neurotologist again and asked to read over my CT and MRIs again to see if anything had been missed. Indeed something had been missed. A tiny bone called the Sigmoid Sinus Plate was missing. Worn away, just like the Superior Canal bone had. There is a large vein right next to the Sigmoid Sinus plate so the noise I was hearing was blood flowing through my vein. We knew this meant another surgery was in my future. David and I went out to UCLA to confer with my first surgeon and he agreed that the Sigmoid Sinus plate was a potential cause for the noise that I continued to hear. He urged me to move forward with surgery.

Surgery was last Tuesday and I got to stay in Colorado this time, yay! In the weeks before surgery, I was calm and confident. On the morning of surgery, that all went flying out the window. Fear and anxiety crept up and pestered me the entire time I was in pre-op. I made David pray a dozen times over me and we continually read Scripture together which was my only source of comfort. My primary fear was that this second surgery might interfere with the first. That it would knock loose my bone graft and I would wake up with vertigo all over again. Thankfully the anesthesiologist swooped in and doped me up before I had a chance to back out and run to the car. 😉

Surgery commenced and before I knew it, I was in the post-op recovery room. I sat still for a long time and just listened. There was absolutely nothing to listen to. There was no pulsing, no noise, no whooshing. Quiet. Peace. Silence.

Before I had surgery, I heard that noise for 1,191 days. That’s 123 million times that I heard the whoosh in my ear. 123 million! It’s amazing I didn’t go insane.

I have now gone 1 full week without hearing anything in my ear other than fluid due to swelling and inflammation. It has been utterly quiet and utterly wonderful. Happy doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel. I am absolutely overjoyed. God is so good.

My recovery has been a breeze this time around. Even though I still had a craniotomy, they didn’t mess with my balance canals so my balance is great, my thinking and cognition is clear, I can concentrate and focus (it’s amazing what your brain can do when it isn’t subjected to hearing it’s own heartbeat all day long) and my energy is coming back. The only thing I’m struggling with is pain and my ear being suuuuper clogged. It gets worse as evening approaches but it’s getting a bit better as the days go by. I should be back to driving soon and living my normal daily life.

I am so SO glad that I didn’t allow fear to stop me from having this surgery. It was so tempting to think “I’ve come this far, I don’t want to push my luck” and back out of surgery. That fear could have prevented me from knowing the beautiful silence I know right now.

I think sometimes suffering can give us a bit of PTSD and we become quite risk-adverse. We don’t want to push our luck, take a risk or go out on a limb. Because what if that limb breaks? What if we fall to the ground? Those what-ifs can sideline us. Here’s the thing though – – – hard things are going to happen regardless. I could hit my head tomorrow and have my vertigo and the whooshing noise return instantly. We can’t insulate ourselves, stay away from all risk and hope that nothing bad happens to us. That’s almost a guarantee that something bad will happen! God isn’t going to reward us for playing it safe all the time. So every now and then we have to shake off the fear and step into the unknown. Who knows what blessings await! God is able to do immeasurably more than we can think, dream or imagine.Photo Nov 13, 10 32 15 AM

 

Soul Care

Looking back on it, I can recognize that what I experienced this summer was probably a “dark night of the soul.” I didn’t see it at the time. At the time, I just felt spiritually burdened, alone, confused and pretty hopeless. For a while I wondered if it was depression, which I have struggled with in the past. It felt like a familiar feeling…and yet, different. Then I thought maybe it was an identity crisis of some sort. But even that didn’t explain the extent of things that I was feeling. I thought maybe it was spiritual warfare, but I’m really sensitive to spiritual attacks and can identify them pretty quickly. While this was certainly darkness, it wasn’t darkness from the evil realm. 

In hindsight, I fit almost exactly what Saint John of the Cross described in his poem “Dark Night of the Soul”. He literally describes a dark night of the soul to be “a contemplative purgation or nakedness and poverty of spirit.” Yes. That. 


My first 2 failed spinal tap attempts certainly triggered it. But this dark night wasn’t just about spinal taps and it wasn’t just contained to that exam room. It wasn’t about frustration with medical appointments and a slow healing process. It extended into my everyday, my prayer life, my job, my marriage. I think it was just my time. My time to fall apart and fall to a spiritual depth that I have not known since becoming a Christian 12 years ago. If you talked to me at all this summer, you probably picked up on it. My typical “joyful in the Lord” personality had a quieter, withdrawn, reticent quality to it as I worked through my confusion, pain and internal wrestling. 

Saint John of the Cross explicitly states that a dark night of the soul is all about union with God, not separation from Him, although it might not feel that way when you’re actually in it. The dark night ultimately prepares you for a deeper union and connection with God. You’re stripped of all you know in order to enter into a new level with God. It’s intentionally disorienting. Intentionally disintegrating.

I can’t say for sure that I’m fully out of it, I know it’s a process that doesn’t happen overnight. But I’m on my way. I have more clarity than I did back in July and my hope and understanding have begun to be restored. God’s tender care has begun to restore my heart again. I am so very thankful for that!

The restoration has come through the process of “soul care.” 

It started as I was looking up Fall class schedules to audit at Denver Seminary. I wanted to get back in the classroom and keep learning, but knew I couldn’t keep up with an Old Testament or Exegesis of Revelation class haha! So I started looking at the Christian Formation program and one class stuck out to me. It was called “Scripture, Formation and Soul Care.” It immediately grabbed me. I could practically feel God saying “Hey Beck, your soul has taken a beating. You should probably learn how to care for your soul. Take this class!” Got it, God. And so I signed up.

The class has been nothing short of amazing. It is truly what my heart and soul needed in this season of life. I didn’t really know what to expect. I mean, how does one take care of their soul? Is soul care really a thing? Is that different than taking care of your heart, mind or body? And if so, what does it look like?

One aspect of Soul Care that we are learning in class is called Lectio Divina. I’d never heard of it before, but interestingly enough, just a few weeks before class started, one of my Bible study leaders game me a book called “Broken Body, Healing Spirit: Lectio Divina and Living with Illness.” I didn’t quite understand what it meant at the time, but since starting this class, the book has become invaluable to me.

Lectio Divina is a Benedictine practice that is all about experiencing (not studying or memorizing) God’s Word through meditation and praying the Scriptures. It’s about calming your mind and experiencing the Living Word through the written Word. It’s unlike any way I’ve ever approached the Bible before. There’s no “right way” necessarily, but there are some steps involved in the traditional form of Lectio Divina. They involve silence, slowly reading & meditating on God’s Word, praying through the Scripture and finally contemplating your experience.

I have to free myself of feeling like there is a “right” way to do this, lifting expectations and just allowing the time to be what God intends it to be. It’s a pretty open-ended process, which I struggle with sometimes. I like having solid expectations, knowing what’s going to come. And this goes against all of that, but it’s been very rewarding so far! 

One thing I love about praying through the Psalms is that the Psalms are full of emotions…emotions we don’t necessarily feel permitted to really feel towards God. Like doubt, anger, fear, complaining, lamenting, hurt. But the Psalms give us full permission to identify those emotions and bring them to God. My friend Stacy told me a few weeks ago on the phone after my botched spinal tap attempts that my feelings of God abandoning me sounded downright Biblical. “Really?” I thought, “it doesn’t sound like a very godly way to talk.” Low and behold, those very words are found in Psalm 22. In fact, Jesus quoted Psalm 22 while he was on the cross. The Psalms give us permission to feel all the feelings. To pray about them, dwell on them, let them rise to the surface, cry them out and let God care for your heart in the process. There are few few emotions that aren’t found in the Psalms. Murderous rage? Check. Abandonment? Check. Despair, anger, joy, fear, hope, encouragement, sadness and discouragement? Check check check.

A few other aspects this class touches on are spiritual retreats, meeting with a spiritual director, guided meditation and reflective writing. Honestly, they are things I don’t have much experience with (aside from reflective writing) but I’m coming to realize how impactful they can be as I begin to integrate them into my spiritual walk with God. Sometimes my time with God can be so cerebral…it’s all about knowledge, Bible studies, memorizing, learning, learning, learning. Of course there’s nothing wrong with learning, but sometimes I miss experiencing God because I’m too focused on learning. It’s nice to introduce experiential dynamics back into my walk with God.

There’s a lot of ins and outs to soul care and I have only been exposed to the tip of the iceberg. I can see how soul care can lead a strong Christ follower into new seasons of self-reflection, growth and spiritual maturity. And I’ve certainly seen how it can lead a hurting, limping, wounded soul into a season of healing and restoration. My soul has already received an abundance of care, who knows how awesome I’ll feel by the time the class is over in December! 🙂

Suffering

As I lay on the table, feeling every inch of the long needle go through my flesh and move closer to my spine, I quietly cried out to God, “where are you? why is this so painful? I prayed that things would go well…so why aren’t they? why have you left me here in pain? where are you? this is too much for me to bear.”

To say my spinal tap went poorly yesterday would be a massive understatement. It’s a long story why I even had to do it in the first place…something about my neurologist being concerned about elevated spinal fluid pressure. That’s not important. What’s important is that I didn’t respond to anesthetic, leaving me wide open to feel the excruciating pain of not one, but two botched spinal tap attempts. Hands down, one of the worst and most traumatic events of my life. I have no words to describe the pain.

After the surgical draping was removed, iodine washed off and medical staff had left the room, I laid there on that table utterly inconsolable. The tears simply refused to stop. David prayed over me, read verses with me, uttered soothing words to me…but my pain, sadness, anger, disappointment, despair and discouragement would not be assuaged. After all this time. After all I have been through….

I was mad at God. Mad that He left me high and dry. I sought Him for help, comfort and peace. All I got was a hole in my back, horrible pain and the added anxiety of knowing I have to go through this all over again in the near future. I’ve never been so mad at God before. Not when I found out I had to have brain surgery. Not when we lost our only child. Not when David lost his job. Not when I was enduring endometrial biopsies, blood draws, hormone injections and surgeries. Words can’t begin to describe the waves of pain, doubt and anger that washed over me.

This was the final straw. Rock bottom.

Maybe it seems dramatic that a spinal tap could rattle me so much, but it did. I’m not a dramatic person. Truly. But I discovered a new low, a level of discouragement I have not known before. I can only liken it to Paul saying he “despaired even of life.” After all I’ve been through…was it too much to request that I make it through a simple spinal tap without complications or blinding pain? It went back to my constant struggle with Him…why is He able, but not willing? 

God didn’t let me sit at rock bottom for very long. 5 hours, maybe before I read some powerful encouragement last lifted me off the ground last night. And this morning brought with it new perspective, fresh advice from a dear friend and healing through God’s holy Word.

I’ve thought a lot about suffering over the past year. Why some people suffer tragedy after tragedy, while others seem to skate through life without a worry in the world. Why God answers some prayers but not others. Why He heals one person but not the next. What the purpose of hardship is. What God does with suffering and our character. Why my suffering is drastically different than a Christian living in Syria. It’s all been rolling around in my mind like a dryer on Wrinkle-Shield. Every week or so, I’ll have new thoughts, new questions, new ponderings that tumble around about the role of suffering in life.

I think the first step to figure out the purpose of and response to suffering is asking myself, “what is the goal in life for a follower of Christ?” Is it to have a happy little life? Days full of blessings, joy, puppies and rainbows, avoidance of all affliction? The answer here in the West is probably very different from the rest of the world. In America, we view pain and suffering as a stink bug that just landed on our shoulder. Quick! Shake it off, squash it! Don’t let it touch you!  I’m convinced the rest of the world doesn’t think this way about hardships and pain. Surely Jesus didn’t think this way.

Assuming the answer to that question has something to do with living for the glory of God, allowing Him to use us and accomplish things through us to promote the Kingdom of God here on earth, we have to accept suffering will be a part of it. If it was true for Jesus, it will be true for us. One of my favorite authors, John Eldredge said “If God doesn’t use suffering to accomplish maturity, what exactly is He going to use instead? A lack of suffering turns us into little narcissists. We have to loosen our grip on the demand that life work our for us and embrace the fact that suffering allows us to know God in ways that others don’t.

In the last 24 hours, for the first time in my life, I have felt like I can relate to Jesus in a way I never have before. Through suffering. From Gethsemane to Calvary, he suffered. He suffered physically, emotionally. He despaired so deeply, it was as if the life was being crushed out of him in the garden of Gethsemane (Mk 14:34). He asked for the cup to pass him by, to be spared. Yet he, the Son of God, was not spared. “God sometimes says no. Sometimes He calls us to suffer and die, even if we want to claim the contrary. Never did a man pray more earnestly than Christ prayed in Gethsemane.” (Surprised by Suffering, R.C. Sproul).

Jesus had his answer. He knew what fate lay ahead of him and he stayed the course. He didn’t flee Jerusalem or stomp his feet in a tantrum about things not working out. He pushed through to the bitter end. And His suffering was ultimately redeemed for His (and our) glory. We are called to participate in Christ’s sufferings. Some of us may participate more than others, but we all experience it. We can’t escape it. I can’t escape it. So I might as well try to take hold of it the way Jesus did.

My beautiful friend Stacy called me this morning and spoke words that I know were inspired by the Holy Spirit. She said “If God were a helicopter-parent, He could have swooped in yesterday and spared you that pain. But instead He chose to allow it, intended for a larger lesson that will last a lifetime.” I don’t quite have the full picture of that larger lesson, but I know her words were true. There is purpose in pain.

I certainly don’t have all the answers, maybe I never will this side of Heaven. I haven’t landed firmly in a place of peace over all this yet, God and I are still wrestling over a few things. But I do know that God is good. That He intends suffering as a way for us to share in His glory, to participate in Christ’s suffering is to participate in His exaltation (2Tim 2:11-12). His comfort flows into our lives just as His sufferings do (2Cor 1:5). I’m trying to rest in this truth, I guess it’s the best place to start.

Firmly Rooted

It’s interesting to me how easily our identities can be gobbled up by motherhood and pursuit of it. I have friends who have lost all sense of “self” because they have so wholeheartedly devoted themselves to being a mom. They take a step back years down the road and have no earthly clue who they are anymore. And then myself…I have devoted so many years, so much energy, money, time, emotion, tears and prayers into becoming a mom. And when I took a step back I realized that somewhere along the way, I too had lost a sense of who I am

For a long while, I felt like a mangled mess sitting in the aftermath of an infertility tornado that had cleared a path straight through my identity. Infertility chewed me up and spit me out. The aftermath of that destruction had become a place of isolation and loneliness and I found myself sitting among the rubble trying to figure out which way was up.

The hardest part of that aftermath was I feeling like such an outsider. A misfit. I would look around and all I saw were people doing something different than I was doing. It made me deeply uncomfortable to not align with the world around me. I mean, I’ve always fit in. Ever since I was a child, I have always done the same things as my friends, gone with the flow, been in the same life stage as my peer group. I’ve blended in quite well until recently.

My inability to blend in anymore made me realize just how much I’ve looked to the world around me for validation. I looked to friends, family, Facebook, bloggers, church, women in line at Target, people on TV, other photographers and society for acceptance. I drew a huge amount of affirmation from the infertility community, but after a while I started feeling like an outsider even there. I have sought after affirmation, approval and my identity from the world for far too long. Is it any wonder I felt lonely and lost when I kept looking for validation in invalid places? 

God in His grace and goodness, gently reminded me that I need to stop looking at the world, and start looking to Him for my identity.

Christ is the Beginning and End, my Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer and my Complete Joy. He is the Source of all that I am and ever will be. And He has created me to walk a unique path, to live a life that maybe doesn’t look like everyone else’s. And you know what? I’m learning to not only embrace this truth, but give myself permission to get excited about it. Instead of feeling self conscious about my inability to blend in anymore with the world around me, I’m reveling in my ability to break away from the patterns of this world and follow a path of discovering who I am in the Lord. Maybe it sounds a bit cliche, but honestly few things seem as important to me these days as having an identity that is firmly rooted in Jesus.

IF: Gathering


When my friend Jenn asked me if I wanted to go to Austin, TX with her to attend a rad women’s conference called the IF: Gathering, I said “sure!” I mean, who doesn’t love a good road trip with friends to the great state of Texas? I love Tex-Mex, road trips, margaritas and Jesus. So clearly my answer was yes. 

What I didn’t expect was for the conference to sell out in minutes. 1,200 tickets sold in the blink of an eye. Shortly after, the conference leaders announced that they were encouraging “IF: Local” groups to gather in living rooms, churches and movie theaters around the country (and world) for the women who didn’t get a ticket but still wanted to LiveSteam the event. Upon hearing this, I had two thoughts: 1) Daaaaang, that must be a good conference to sell out so fast. 2) Shoot. That means Jenn is going to talk me into planning an IF: Local group with her. Ha! Sorry Jenn, just being real 😉 

We started planning in October. Almost immediately I felt this question hovering over my head “what in the heck is the IF: Gathering?” And to be perfectly honest, I was still asking myself that question just 48 hours ago! IF: Gathering. It felt vague yet intriguing, confusing but interesting….and just so perfectly hazy that I couldn’t help but want to be a part of it. 

We planned for months without actually knowing what we were really planning for. Is this a conference that we’ll be streaming? Will there be speakers? Topics? Worship? Are there lunch breaks? Coffee breaks? Potty breaks? How much should we charge to covering catering? How do we get the word out? Uhhhh…what exactly is it that we’re planning again?

All we had to go on was there were a handful of women of faith that we knew of and respected (Christine Caine, Jen Hatmaker, Angie Smith, Ann Vosskamp etc) who had a burden on their heart to gather women across the world and to answer the question: If God is real….then what? How do we gather, equip and unleash a women to live out the calling God has placed on them?

That was literally all we had to go on. So beautifully vague. 

As the weeks went on, the details trickled in slowly. We walked in faith, trusting that God would help us with the logistics, murky as they were. With a week left to go before the Gathering, we had pretty much every plan flipped upside down….we had to change our venue, our catering, the cost, the number of expected women who were coming. But, God is bigger than little logistical details.

Friday came. We still had no idea what to expect. The start time came. We still had no idea what to expect. The women were filling up our living room and we still had no idea what to expect. We just sat there with arms open, hopes high and hearts surrendered to however God wanted to move in this time. 

Boy did He move!

We had the most incredible weekend. We heard amazing teaching, worshipped together, took 2+ hour dinner breaks, learned things, spoke truth over each other, met new friends, embraced old friends and grew together. We engaged in real, honest conversations about fears, convictions, our calling, our hopes, our families and our Lord. And it wasn’t just the 15 of us gathered in a living room in Colorado. There were literally hundreds of gatherings just like ours all across the United Sates (and in a few other countries too!). All together, there was something crazy like 25,000 women who were a part of IF. That’s just a little bit crazy. Just a little.

Personally, I walked away with some crystal clear truths that I felt the Holy Spirit lay on my heart, which I’ll probably post about later this week since it would turn this post into a legitimate novel haha! But truly, it was a beautiful weekend and I’m so thankful to have been a part of IF: Gathering!

 “Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”- Hebrews 12:1-2 (MSG)

Living Proof

Drunk driving. Smoking. Drugs. Careless. Reckless. Hurtful. Hurting. Alcohol abusing. Law breaking. Bitter. Angry. Depressed. Flippant. Vulgar. Lost.

Those are just a few words I can use to describe the girl I was about 11 years ago. I can’t even really form complete sentences to describe what my life used to be like. I lived in that pit for about 8 years. No one who knows me now can believe I could have come from such darkness. But I did.

About 2 years ago, my mom was cleaning out her basement and found a box of my old things. In it, was probably 20 of my old journals. I started writing when I was in 6th grade. The journals stayed in that box in my basement until yesterday morning. I pulled them out and slowly started reading. It was like a train wreck. I hated what I was reading, but I couldn’t stop looking.

Those journals are the only remaining tangible evidence I have of who I used to be, save for maybe a few pictures I haven’t ripped up, burned or thrown out yet. They are the only things that link the woman I am today with the reckless, lost, mess of a girl that I used to be.

I know I wrote about it one time before a few years ago, but it bears repeating. Jesus has changed my life. He flipped it upside down, turned it around 180 degrees. One day I was living in darkness and the next day I was walking in the Light. Simple as that. He called my name and I answered. I did an about-face. With a pivot of my heel, I began walking in a different direction, and I’ve never looked back.

Sometimes I’m just left speechless that this is my life now. This. This beautiful, wonderful, grace-filled, joyful, blessed, good life is mine. I’ve done nothing, absolutely nothing, to deserve the life I have now. Every day, every single day I am grateful. I’m grateful because I’m His. Because I’m whole. Because I am saved. I’m grateful because I know what I’ve been saved from. 

And if anyone ever tells you that Jesus doesn’t have the power to transform, redeem, pick up the pieces, save, change lives or free someone from darkness, you just have them come talk to me.

The past 24 hours I’ve been wrestling with whether or not to keep the journals. They’re sitting in the garbage right now. Part of me doesn’t want the filth that’s in them sitting in my house any longer. Part of me wants to keep them, after all, they’re the proof, the physical evidence of the change that’s occurred in my life. I sort of want that tangible reminder of where I’ve come from, how far I’ve come.

But at the same time, keeping them makes me feel uneasy. The devil wants to use those pages to inflict fear upon me. I’ve already heard him whisper “you’re just a few bad choices away from going back into that pit, girl.” He wants nothing more than to demoralize me, drag me down and bind me up in darkness again.

I guess regardless of whether those journals stay in my basement or at the bottom of a landfill, I know the truth. I know where I’ve come from. I know that I am forever changed. The last 11 years are not just tangible proof, but living proof of that. I’m living proof that Jesus changes lives.