Tuesday, April 2, 2013

a story of pride, hate, selfishness

Pride. Hate. Anger. Depression. Darkness.

My parents took us to church faithfully each Sunday. I can see my Dad sitting in our dark grren living room, teaching our family bible study. Mom's strong voice still can be heard in my memories and even today, reading stories from the Bible.

I grew up in a Christian household and I knew of God at a young age. Although I am not sure when,  I know I prayed at a young age to receive Christ into my heart.  I recollect kneeling in front of the air vent in our living room (yes, one of the same ones that I would pee in during the winter) with a Keys for Kids book in my hand, reading through their 'ABCs of Salvation' and walking through their steps to receive Christ as my Savior. My decision was based on fear and expectations more than anything though.

Growing up with 7 siblings isn't all fun and games. We had our share of bickering and quarreling, much  like any other family. However, at some point the innocent frustrations turned into something more for me. About the age of 8-10, I began to take things personally and holding onto incidents, creating bitterness, grudges and hate. One particular memory stands out.  I had confided in Kara a secret recipe I had invented, and she had told someone. I vowed never ever to tell her anything again. Our relationship drastically begun to change; this seemed to be around the time that we became more distant and distrustful.

 Janna... Janna and I had a very strong dynamic relationship. She seemed like a wall, cold and solid, nothing I did seemed to affect her; but I tried a lot. She seemed to know everything I did, my every weakness and every way to manipulate me; often leaving me in tears.I was suspicious, distrusting and full of anger. Screaming at each other and slamming of doors was normal. We both testify we truly hated each other with passion and intensity for many years.

 I was stubborn and prideful. My oldest sister invited me to go up to Salina with her fiance, to visit his parent's house. Mom told me to go get a thicker jacket; I was going on a hayride and it was going to be cold. The jacket was the oldest, ugliest, most obvious hand-me-down ever. I refused. It escalated to the point I was in tears, getting physical and declining going, even if it meant calling the host to inform them. Finally, Mom caved in and I went. It was absolutely freezing, yet I was too proud to admit it and to put it on.

No, not all of my memories are negative; I really was blessed by being able to have a childhood and laugh and plays. However, these events serve a purpose. They capture  parts of my life that tell who I was. 

We moved when I was in Junior High and I had to leave everything and everyone I was familiar with. I wasn't sure of who I was; I felt ugly and 'uncool'. Friends seemed to reject me. I didn't feel noticed, loved or accepted by my family.  Why? Why did we have to move? Why was I here? I was depressed.  Through the internet, I engrossed myself even more by relating to those with similar feelings and I began to wish I was strong enough to kill myself or to cut myself. It is hard to explain what I went through; but I constantly was burdened and overwhelmed with darkness, emptiness and loneliness. 

After many tears and much refusing, I was forced to go to youth group at our new church. The loud, crazy, outgoing Camille soon became friends with me. Someone chose me and wanted to spend time with me; regardless of my looks and personality. Because of the friendship formed between us, I decided to go church camp one summer. I can't remember much, but I have a couple of memories from that camp and most of them involved crying.  I came back with hope and the knowledge that there is joy and life.  I knew that Jesus was alive and present and loved me so much that He gave up His life for me.

During the next few years of high school, that joy and hope grew. I knew there was a God who loved me and wanted to have a personal relationship with me. He knew my hurt and wanted to hold me. I build another friendship with the quiet, sweet and funny girl, Megan. It was hard to understand why she enjoyed spending time with me, she was so 'cool'! God gave me the privilege of watching her grow in God. We began to encourage each other and to get involved in church more and more.

Somewhere as well, Janna changed. I saw her reaching out to me, showing love, care and forgiveness. How often I rejected her and allowed distrust to take first place. She showed me Christ's love in a big, bold, real way.

Since then, I have gotten to build relationships with several foreign exchange students. Two of them got to know God as their Father and Jesus Christ as their Savior. Watching God orchestrate everything and watching these two girls become my sisters in Christ was amazing. Even today, they are constantly encouraging me and setting an example!

Jessica also has left a mark on my life. Seeing what she has dealt with and struggled with has been a source of great encouragement. Her fun and timid spirit is bright and our mutual awkwardness has created a lot of memories. Just last Friday we got to talk and hearing what God has been doing in her life and how He has used her was a blessing.

I still struggled with constantly needing people, wanting people, comparing myself to people. I felt loneliness and inadequacy. I saw hypocrisy and felt emptiness in so much. I reminded myself of who Jesus had made me; his Beloved, his Bride, Beautiful.

It was in the late fall of 2012 I was struck by loneliness again. Working and going to school were taking a toll and I didn't have the refuge of friends I had in the past. Also, my eyes were opened. I had belief, but where were my actions? My faith was as good as dead. My praying was limited to some occasional, selfish, and  rushed few sentences. Pray. Take it all before Him. Pray.

I am falling in love with Him. I am only beautiful because He is. I'm Beloved and the Bride of the great, loving, merciful, gracious King! I am still strikingly aware of my shortcomings, but I am beginning to understand grace and it just becomes more amazing. I am still struck by emptiness, but this time it is different. I see emptiness in my continual and selfish social gatherings. I see my selfishness, my idols, how I prostitute myself to things other than God - the only one who truly satisfies  I spent so much time with friends being silly, stupid and blind when I could be spending time knowing God better or making Him known. I allow so much to get in the way, but I want to surrender all to Him.

My story. I can't say what will be added to it, but I hope and pray that every step will be taken in obedience and that I will cling to God. 

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