I've experienced God's generous care as people from church have extended friendship, resources, and opportunities to me. My family at Renovation has been the sweetest surprise while I've settled in Georgia. Bit by bit, the church-related wounds and skepticism I'd hauled up here are diminishing. I used to grumble when I heard talk of "life together." Now, I wouldn't want it any other way.
A theme has emerged the last few months. One of my pastors told me last week, "It's on you to make your needs known, and it's on us to respond." Uncomfortable, but I'm trying to directly ask, and then, the hardest part: to receive. It wasn't till I moved that I saw how unhealthy and lopsided certain relationships had become over the years. Some were built and sustained on me solely meeting needs. Rarely would I request help, but then I'd get bitter when few read my mind and rallied around me. My love of connection and fear of being forgotten drove me to pour out almost relentlessly. It looked and felt like love, but now I see how self-seeking much of my efforts were. (Apparently I'm The Helper or a 2 on the Enneagram... can you tell?)
God has been abundantly gracious, though. He has put friends in my life who are imperfect and kind and committed to his upside down ways. Once upon a time I thought Georgia-living would consist of Jesus, the squirrels, and me. I'm glad that didn't last.
Two girls and I meet together weekly as part of a discipleship group. We'll check in with each other, spend time praying, and usually discuss points from Sunday's teaching. I've never been engaged in something like this. Staying committed and consistent has proven to be extremely life-giving and helpful. Life can be a bumbling road, but we hope to walk in the light with one another. I know these friends have already held out flashlights of grace and truth for me... hopefully I might be able to do the same.
I've been growing not only as a believer, but also a leader. In June, I started a yearlong internship at my church and I'm still amazed it happened. The girl who once had her qualms about all things church and vocational ministry is now working there? Yep, you bet. God is certainly bringing redemption, but he's also giving vision. There's this pulsing inside as I dream of what it'd be like for my brothers and sisters with disabilities to experience the Gospel and Jesus-centered community without any barriers. Do I know the right answer? No. Do I know where to start? Not really. But I believe he's provided this opportunity for me so trembly as I am, I've said yes. The pastors and staff have already been supportive, passing on courage and coaching that's desperately needed. I'm looking forward to sharing with you what I've been learning and researching.
A few weeks into the internship, I drove my AC-less '93 station wagon to middle-of-nowhere, Alabama for Hope Heals Camp. That's right, friends! YOU ALL DID IT. You financially helped send not only me, but other families to camp and you did it in less than 24 hours. In fact, your generosity was so great we got to increase the fundraising goal, which was then surpassed by a few dollars. Thank you hardly covers it. I'll be writing a separate post about the week at camp because there's far too much to say. A camper called it a piece of heaven; a place where people were embraced with their disabilities, whether visible or hidden.
My 25th birthday was spent at camp. Families and volunteers took the time to celebrate me with love notes, singing in the cafeteria, and even a bundle of kombucha. The night finished with a talent show and I cried a stream of happy tears seeing the body of Christ come together like this. Of course, the show was unrelated to my birthday, but it felt like the sweetest "God wink" as Katherine would say. Later I climbed into bed and as all nine of my cabinmates slept, I continued to cry, recounting God's faithfulness through the last seven summers. It seemed too obvious. This was all because of his sovereignty—God weaving together moments and meaning in a way I never could've anticipated.
I journaled that night: Look at all Lyme disease has afforded me. The gift of Lyme disease, seven years later. The gift of being able to connect to a deeper story. The gift of beauty in pain. The gift of solidarity. The gift of Jesus being glorified in my very weakness. He is good, faithful, and kind.
When I returned to Georgia, friends gathered over BBQ and a popcorn bar to play games. It was all I'd wanted as I turned a quarter of a century. The remaining five of us concluded the party in worship. United Pursuit's Take A Moment to Remember flooded through the house and we did just that. We remembered together. I thought back to where I was a year ago—crawling through what I'd named the Summer of Darkness. Clinical depression had drained color, dreams, and personality from my life. God has worked wonders! Yet he's also carried me through many valleys using the practical love, service, and presence of other hurting and hopeful humans. In that moment of remembrance, I realized years of prayers and wishes had been answered. There they were, around me. My friends.
A few weeks ago, my childhood BFF moved to the city with her husband. They'd been placed here for campus ministry which stuns me, as it's been over a decade since we lived near each other. Neither of us ever imagined Atlanta for ourselves, and yet, this is where we've reunited at last. My heart is soaring to have her 35 minutes away—or 85 during our city's infamous traffic hours.
I'll finish up by mentioning my station wagon, Perry, is no more. He was wonderfully resilient all these months, withstanding potholes and stop-and-go nonsense. Maybe it was the Alabama trip or him also turning 25, but he decided it was time to end his career as I pulled off I-75 last month. There were no warning signs, no reasons to suspect I'd be without a vehicle that soon. He was good one second and towed off to the scrapper the next. I'd been praying for reliable transportation since I moved, knowing 300,000+ miles on a car would eventually take its toll. Three days before Perry quit on me, a friend (who is also a mechanic) called, telling me about a car he was fixing that could potentially be mine. I thanked him and was excited about the possibility, but didn't think I needed it. God knew. Two weeks later and a couple gifted me with their car—the one my friend had repaired. Enter Baxter. He has AC, working windows, and yes, I 100% named him after the jovial, fun-loving Buster Baxter from Arthur.
So many underserved gifts. They taste sweeter now than perhaps they would've a decade, seven years, or even one year ago. Every waiting room, dark road, and lonely place is an invitation to meet with the living God—to trust him with all of my all as I once heard it said—and believe he might bring something beautiful again. I've faltered over and over, embittered by my circumstances. But God. Oh, sweet and merciful God. He's teaching me how to remember and receive—broken body, brain, and all.
As I dwell up here where the air is clear
Where the light is bright and there's no more fear
I know my place, I know my name
I know You've called me to do great things
—UNITED PURSUIT, Take A Moment to Remember