Something happened to me the other day as I was washing my hands.
I looked up into the mirror and I realized something. The face I saw staring back at me was no longer a child.
Who I beheld in the mirror was a wise, discerning woman. Gone were the soft edges of childhood and the wild eyes of adolescence.
The eyes that stared back at me held knowledge and wisdom gained by a short lifetime of experiences. The angles of the face were crafted by countless struggles and unending perseverance. The expression on the woman’s face was one that conveyed strength, joy, and a determination to overcome the mountains placed before her.
As I regarded the woman in the mirror, she began to smile as I did. The laugh lines etched deep into her young skin told stories of laughter through the pain, and joy in the midst of sorrow. Our smile grew as the realization dawned on me: I am that woman.
I am strong. I am wise. I am joyous and determined. I have overcome trials and persevered through hardships. I have grown immensely and lived boldly. I have made it my mission to love God’s people and prayerfully follow His leading in my life. I have failed and I have been victorious. But above all, I have lived and I have loved and I have learned from it all.
I smiled at the woman in the mirror one last time as I dried my hands, curiously wondering who I would see there in the coming years and expectantly awaiting the experiences and growth that would further shape who that woman becomes.
Who I become.
If you want to read the beginning of the story, you can read it here.
So now you know that I lived out a Hallmark movie and got my first boyfriend for Christmas in 2012. Today’s part of the story, however, is about a mere seven days later on New Year’s Eve.
It started out just like every other New Year’s Eve had over the past few years. I was getting ready to go to a friend’s house to celebrate with the girls in our youth and college group. Of course, throughout the entirety of my readying, I was texting Brandon and trying to wrap my head around the fact that I, for the first time in my life, actually had a boyfriend. What a weird word! Boyfriend. My boyfriend. Weird. Of course, I hadn’t seen him or anything like that… We do happen to live a small distance away from each other; though the distance is great enough to limit our visits to one weekend each month, except for special occasions. However, on this particular New Year’s Eve, we had yet to see each other since our first encounter, six months earlier at summer camp.
It was our one week anniversary! (I know. Gross.) However, the conversation we were having was short and seemingly one-sided. I was suspicious. It turned out that I was right to be suspicious. The boy was acting upon a plan that had been in the works for quite some time…
You see, Brandon was a tricky little booger. Well, he still is if I’m being completely honest. Remember that whole boyfriend for Christmas over text message thing? That isn’t exactly how he had planned for that conversation to go. He had talked with a few people and had already planned to come up to visit me for New Year’s Eve and that is when he had planned to ask me to be his girlfriend in person rather than over text. Which, by the way, he has apologized for profusely since that day.
So, there I am. Almost finished with the daunting task of blow drying my insanely thick hair. My sister also happens to be in the room with me, though she is standing on the edge of the bathtub to better see herself in the mirror above the sink. We also just so happened to be singing at a not so quiet volume…
There was a knock at the door. I turned the blowdryer off, we stopped singing, and I opened the door to see my mother standing there with a big grin on her face. “You have a visitor,” she trilled as she walked away.
I was in shock! There was no way that the absolutely insane boy that I had just recently agreed to start “dating” (remember that previous discussion about the difference I hold between “talking” and “dating”) actually took the time and spent the money to drive 250 miles just to see me. I walked out of the bathroom mumbling, “It better not be…”
It was. I turned the corner and there he was. He was actually there! Standing in my living room and grinning from ear to ear was the boy I hadn’t seen in half a year. Needless to say, I rushed over to him and gave him a long awaited embrace followed by a few laughs. Apparently my face was priceless or something like that.
Standing there beside him for what felt like the first time, I realized something. He was tall! I mean, I knew he was 6’4, but seeing as I hadn’t really been around him, I had honestly forgotten how much taller he was than I.
As we walked out of the house and made our way to the New Year’s Eve party, I felt every bit like an awkward teenage girl going on her very first date. I mean, it wasn’t a date. It was an ambush. But that’s beside the point. The smiles were radiant and the laughter was genuine.
When we walked into our friend’s house, everyone laughed and started talking at the same time. Brandon had brought two of his friends from home and they were waiting there for us as well. Apparently everyone had been a part of the ambush except me. I was bitter at first, but that faded away rather quickly. I guess my joy at seeing him in person and actually being there with him overshadowed my bitterness.
Now, our New Year’s Eve parties aren’t really anything like, well anything. That night we sat around the room, watched Pitch Perfect, and talked about life. There was also a toast around midnight with some sparkling apple juice and perhaps a hand was held here and there, but that’s as close to a typical New Year’s Eve party as we get. I think it’s absolutely brilliant.
We left later on that night and I got another first for the New Year: my first kiss. It wasn’t anything super romantic. Actually it was rather awkward because he just so happened to miss the first time… Got me right on the side of my mouth! He’s a keeper, I know it! He redeemed himself a moment later and met his mark. Only for a short moment, but it marked the beginning of a new year with a new guy. Actually, it marked the first year with the first guy that will hopefully be the last guy. But I guess we will have to wait and see what God has planned for us.
Have you noticed in your walk through life that God has a sense of humor? I have. And He has a HUGE sense of humor with me. The thing is, even though we can laugh at it and it is pretty funny, I also know that He knows what’s best. So why not laugh along and follow Him through the humor He throws your way?
That’s what I’ve decided to do.
Why did this topic come up, you ask? Each new year I take time and pray for a verse for that year. Last year was extremely appropriate: Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, for I AM with you. Be not dismayed, for I AM your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” I didn’t know what my year held when I received that verse, but I knew it would be a doozy. I mean, come on! “Fear not?” “Don’t be dismayed?” “I’ll strengthen, help, and uphold you?” I knew I was in for a crazy year. I had no idea, however, that my year would include being diagnosed with Vascular Ehlers Danlos Syndrome among many other things. But God knew and He used that verse all year long to minister to my heart and prepare me for what He knew was coming.
I think it’s funny because Isaiah 41:10 is now my life verse. And the Lord definitely have it to me. Know what’s funnier? The verse He gave me for this year…
Now, before I give everything away, let me give you some background so you will understand why I find the Lord to be so funny. This year, 2016, is going to be absolutely insane. I’m currently waiting to hear back from different schools to see if I will be accepted into their graduate school program. And I actually HAVE TO go to graduate school and get my master’s degree before I can practice and get a job in my field. So that’s pretty important. (Side note: each of the 4 schools in this state have about 25 openings each in their program and there are usually around 500 applicants to each of those programs each year… So yeah…) I’m not sure where I will end up going for graduate school, so that may mean a change in where I live and where I go to church and who I hang out with and my job among other things. And I actually despise change. (The Lord knows this and we’ve come to an understanding: He knows and I know, but I still do what He tells me to do. Sometimes He just has to tell me a few more times.) I am also writing and teaching a year long curriculum for the 1st-6th graders in my Kid’s Ministry at the church. (It’s epic and I’m super excited about it!) I’m also writing our Easter and Christmas programs as well as our VBS this year. I know I already sound crazy, and no, I didn’t HAVE TO do this; I just have a desire to have this theme throughout this year and I want to teach these kids about Christ straight from the Bible instead of from a storybook Bible or summaries. So I’m writing my own! And that’s not even all of it!
So how is this funny? In light of all of that stuff facing me this year, I asked God for my verse for this year. You know what He said? “Be still and know that I AM God.” Palm 46:10a So after all of that, I’m supposed to just be still. If you know me, then you are fully aware that I am terrible at being still. I’m always on the move and doing 20 things at once. So this is hilarious!
When He confirmed this verse for me I literally laughed out loud. Literally. Because I think it’s hilarious! He’s teaching me through this and I’m sure this year has way more in store for me than what I listed above and God knows all about it. Then He gave me a second verse for this year: Exodus 14:14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” In other words, I can be confident and comfortable in my stillness because God is in control and He will fight for me!
So I’m just gonna have to learn to be still. But at least while I’m still I know that He is God!
I dare you to seriously pray for a verse for this year and every year after this that the Lord blessed you with. You’ll be surprised, I’m sure. And, who knows? You may even discover just how humorous the Lord can be! I have!
Have you ever looked up at the sky and seen a neverending canopy of gray? It isn’t raining and the weather isn’t terrible. The clouds don’t threaten a torrential downpour at any moment, but the sun doesn’t offer any relief in the monotony as it hides behind the clouds either. It’s just one of those days.
It may not be raining yet, but you never know what a gray sky may hold. You have to be prepared for both rain and shine. You may also think that such a day will hold events that reflect that gray sky: dim, boring, monotonous, uneventful, lazy, tired. Not great, but not terrible either. It’s just one of those days.
Now, have you ever taken a moment to ponder what might lie just beyond?
Think about it. Just beyond that canopy of endless gray is a beautiful blue sky. The clouds are light and fluffy and the sun is shining. There are jet streams painting pictures that you can’t quite see because of the barrier of gray clouds that lies between you and the promise of a brighter day. Literally.
Have you ever had “one of those days?” I know I have them. A lot. Especially recently. Our weather for the last couple of weeks has been filled with endless gray skies with a drizzle here and there. However, at the end of a few of those days, the skies cleared and I could see those blue skies that I had been waiting for.
Here’s what I’ve learned about gray skies. One, the gray is only momentary. It is fleeting. It is not here to stay and in its own time, it will pass. Two, behind those gray skies, the sky is still blue and the day is much brighter. Three, those gray skies are a lot like life.
There are days in our life that seem to be nothing more than an endless barrier of gray keeping you from what lies just beyond. There are endless things in your way: your job, your school, your family, your friends, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your cell phone, your social media, your video games, your trials, your temptations, your struggles, your anger, your frustration, your sorrow, your shame, your guilt, your pain. These are just a few of the innumerable things that are keeping you from a brighter day. These are the things that Satan uses to hide the light. Now, when I say “the light” I not only mean the light of the sun in the sky, but also the Light of the Son in the Heavens. The thing is, if you look closely at those gray skies, you can see the sunshine and you can feel the promise of the Son’s Light too. Sometimes, you can even catch a glimpse of blue amid the gray.
One of my favorite things that happens on a gray day, is the clouds thin just enough for you to see the sun. You can’t see the blue sky and you can’t see the sun completely, but you can fully see the outline of the sun that you can’t normally see when the skies are clear. It’s as if the barrier allows you to see a more defined version of what you normally can’t even really look at on a nice, clear day.
That’s what I love about the gray skies of life. They give you a more defined glimpse of what the Son looks like behind the wall of those trials and struggles. Those things keeping you from having a “great” day are the very same things that allow you to see the Son in a whole new way.
Even through the troubles of life and chaos of this world seem to tear at us and steal our joy at times, we can use those same troubles and that same chaos to give us a new perspective on life. We can turn our eyes from staring at the bleak gray skies and seeing nothing more than the negativity and we can choose instead to look for the good. Look for those patches of the Son’s Light. Look for the outline of the Son. Look for the promise of a brighter, better day. Look to the Lord and He will give you the eyes to see things you never dreamed you could see in the midst of a day filled with gray.
Think about the promises waiting for you on the other side of the trial. Just take a moment and really think about them. There are so many of them. Here are just a few for you, incase you can’t quite see them because of the gray skies in your life: God is always with you (Hebrews 13:5, Psalm 23:4; 46:1, Deuteronomy 31:6, Matthew 28:20), He gives you peace (John 14:27), He upholds you and gives you strength (Isaiah 41:10, Joshua 1:9), He has overcome the world (John 16:33), He will sustain you (Psalm 55:22), He loves you (John 3:16, 1 Peter 5:7, Romans 8:37-39, Romans 5:8, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 2:4, Psalm 86:15, 1 John 3:1). And there are more. Many more
Even in the midst of the most dreary days, there is still a promise of better days and clearer skies; you just have to look for it.