Sunday, October 17, 2010

That's What Faith Can Do

I had planned on writing this blog in 12 days, but tonight seemed just as timely as any other. I'm not sure if it's my inability to sleep right now or tonight's Bible study on testimonies that has given me the guts to go ahead and type up what I felt would be more suitable in 2 weeks. Nonetheless here goes...

That past year has been a journey, a rough and ragged expedition, to say the least. A year ago today I was engaged to a man I wished and hoped and longed to live the rest of my life with. He was stunningly handsome. He had an attention-getting personality. His personality melted a room with laughter. In his presence I forgot the rest of the world even existed, and my stomach would roll over time and time again with butterflies.

I remember the day he proposed to me like it was yesterday. It took my breath away, and I stood there shocked as he was down on one knee telling me of his love for me. We both knew we wanted to get married, but I was caught so off guard by his timing that shock controlled the rest of my weekend.

The next few weeks and months were filled with showing off the ring, building a wedding website, dress shopping, engagement pictures, and the whole works. We searched all over for houses, put a bid in on 2 different ones, and finally accepted an offer on one. We were so excited to start building a life together. I thought.

On October 29, 2009, he came to my house I lived in at the time. When he walked in, I knew immediately my life was about to change. The look on his face was not the look I had seen since we had started dating. It was emotionless. Expressionless. Hopeless.

In five short minutes the entire life we had begun to build came crashing down like a straw house being blown down by a big, bad wolf. I remember those fateful words he mildly threw at me, "I don't love you. I never have. I don't want to marry you. I never have." Those words pierced me, and I could feel Cupid's arrow being pulled out of my chest. This was my fiance...the man I was supposed to marry in 4 months.

I struggled. Honestly, I more than struggled. I barely functioned. My friend Heather would come over before work many days and get me out of bed. I would barely manage to literally pick myself up out of the floor on multiple occasions. I remember looking in the mirror and telling myself, "One day you'll share these emotions to someone and you'll be okay. One day you'll be okay." I would repeat that in trying to persuade myself.

On my way to work one day, I found a Christian radio station. Kutless had a fairly recent single out entitled "That's What Faith Can Do." I whole-heartedly believe that song got me through my fiery trial. The lyrics say, "I've seen silent prayers get answered and broken hearts become brand new, that's what faith can do." The first time I heard that song I was on Adams Road driving to work with dew still on my windows. I cried out to God, "I want THAT faith. God, I want that faith that will make my heart brand new."

Christmas time came around, and my whole family was staying at my parents' house. It seemed unbearable still that I had to live daily without him. I was lying in bed and began to wail with such agony that my sister came in the room to check on me. I had my head stuffed so hard into a pillow that I couldn't manage to look up at her. I curled into a fetal position as she rubbed my back for hours just whispering, "Shhh, baby,'re going to be okay." Through the sobs I somehow fell asleep, probably from pure exhaustion. I woke up the next morning with my sister's arms still around me in that little twin bed.

I was trying to get my life back in order as quickly and quietly as possible. Just a few days after the break-up, I had put an offer in on a house and had lived there for a month at year's end. I was hoping to find friends my age, maybe a church to attend more regularly, and get back out into the world. Still I would cry out that I wanted that faith that Kutless sang about. If God could just see me through with that kind of faith.

By Spring I was doing much better and to the naked eye, I was healed. On March 1 I sat in a Beth Moore Bible study in a little church called Southside Baptist. That evening Beth used the verses from 1 Peter 1:6-7 "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ." I wrote out to the side, "Thought I'd die if he ever left me, but I'm making it." I'm making it. Simply making it. What a staunch contrast from that moment to where God has taken me.

It was the next Sunday I visited Southside for the first time during regular worship services. To say my life was turned upside down is an understatement. In fact I can't even fathom my life without my church family now.

I made 2 of the best friends I could ever have in Zach and Leslie. Dee Ann and Phil have become my adopted parents, and I credit them for saving my life time and time again. The Dilbecks have opened their homes and hearts to me numerous times. Harold and his he always makes me smile when I see him walk in! Sunday morning worship. Sunday night dinners. Wednesday night youth. Crowning Creation. Women's ministry. An amazing preacher, to say the least.

It wasn't until May that I joined the church, but my heart has been fully entrenched inside those white walls since the moment I set foot in them. In 7 months I've jumped with excitement, kneeled in adoration, raised my hands in worship, cried tears of sorrow, and hugged with delight all within the confines of my new home church.

Tonight I sit here and don't remember the girl I was a year ago. The thoughts of an upcoming wedding have long surpassed, and my hopes no longer rest in man's arms. I've had no relation worth writing home about since that night, yet I have more joy in my life today than I did the day I got engaged. Tested by the fire? I thought I was scorched and scarred for eternity. But God saw me through that fiery trial. He not only held my hand, He picked me plum up and carried me straight out of it.

Looking back, the fire wasn't the break-up. The fire was the engagement. My sinful legs wouldn't have walked out, so God had to sweetly escort me back to His plans.

I had not seen or talked to my fiance since that fateful night in October.

A couple weeks ago, I had a visitor. He looked the same as my ex-fiance. He talked the same. He smelled the same. And he laughed the same. But he wasn't the same. He couldn't have been. Because I tried to look with all my might at what it was I would have been in love with. I scowered him over, up, and around..but there was no sign for a person I would marry. He asked me, "Have I changed?"

"No," I replied. "I have."

THAT is what faith can do.

No, THAT is what God will do.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Feels like *home* to me

I love homecoming. Just downright love it. This year proved to be yet another great year of festivities, but it had its own unique spin.

Teaching in Alma has been great for me on a professional level. I've learned so much about the art of pedagogy as well as making friends at work and church. Honestly, I wouldn't change being there as I have fallen in love with the Airedales. My students and co-workers are top-notch, and I am the most privileged novice teacher in the state. Alma has given me the ability to strive for more and to be proud of my students' accomplishments in the classroom. It is an irreplacable place to live and work.

But that can never take away or attempt to replace home. At the end of the day, Ozark is home. I bled purple and gold my entire life, and a part of me will always love being a Hillbilly. I look at it as having 2 loves, albeit school or church. Any girl is lucky to have 2 loves. However, homecoming week belongs to my first love. HPRD!

I have the greatest assistant principal in the world, and I say that with absolute honesty. I know when he says something, he means it. His attention to the learning environment for our students is incomparable. As an employee it makes me try harder as I hope that my administrators are proud of the work I do. But he gets the favorite award this week for understanding my desire to sometimes just wanting to go home.

Friday afternoon we had homecoming festivities in Alma. Simultaneously, Ozark was hosting its homecoming pep rally in which the queen was to be named. Typically this would stir interest in me, but never the sheer desire to be there like this year held. A lifelong family friend and my younger cousin were both up for homecoming queen. At Ozark this isn't announced until the pep rally. My assistant principal understood my wish to want to see this, and he let me leave out a few minutes early to go be with family.

I went to Ozark as quickly and safely as possible, and I walked into the gym sporting my green and gold Alma Middle School shirt as the high school principal was announcing the first sophomore maid. He began announcing the seniors, and our lifelong friend (more like my little sister) came out with the title of senior maid. All suspense had led to the next few moments, when the maid of honor and queen were to be announced. As the principal announced this year's maid of honor, I noticed my cousin's name was not called. She was the queen!

As exciting as this was, it was emotionally over the top as all of us granddaughters have been in Ozark's homecoming. My mom and aunt started this tradition as my mom was the first homecoming queen in our family and my aunt a maid. At my granny's house, she has a wall dedicated to our homecomings, and each girl has her picture on that wall in either a purple or white dress. It stung a little bit to know the legacy of home and to not be there. At the same rate I hope a new legacy is being born in the shade of green.

After the pep rally, I went to my grandpa's house and convinced him to go with me to the Bank to see my dad. Dad showed us around the new facilities, bought me a coke (with shaved ice!), and took me to talk to the ladies I used to work with. Again, I felt another sting of wishing I could be home. Growing up that bank seemed like my second home, and I always assumed I'd work there one day. That one day took place in the summer of my college years--not the career I had expected growing up. Regardless, the operations center is gorgeous with its garden dedication to Vanesa. And if I'm in town during a storm, I'll be sure and head to this F-5 tornado proof building! Doesn't do much for cell phone service though...

I took Grandpa home and bribed him into going with me to the football game that night. To me this is where the twist in homecoming sure gets good. Mom and Dad were eating with old classmates at a tailgate before the game. My sister had her 10 year class reunion. Ozark was playing Gravette--where my sister and brother-in-law now teach and coach. And our cousin was the homecoming queen. How much more could a homecoming pack into it?

Last night I sat with my sister cheering for Gravette. It's still hard for me to cheer against Ozark, but at the end of the day blood is thicker than water. While Ozark may be where we grew up, we grew up as family. Home isn't the town or the school or the house that hold our memories. Home is the people who helped us make those memories. So at the end of the homecoming weekend, when all is said and done, we'll all take a little bit of home back with us. And when we get together again whether it be in Alma, Gravette, or Ozark; it'll feel like home to me.