and then you blink

So here I am.  Lounging in the Starbucks by my house on a beautiful summer day in May, sipping a java chip frappuccino (that I paid half-price for, Starbucks happy hour for the win y’all), listening to the Colbie Caillat radio, wearing my overalls that I live in nowadays, with my sparkly pink painted bare feet (who needs shoes in summer?), and wondering how life gets any better than it is right now.  Looking back on everything that has happened since this time last May, it has been one heck of a year.  Hard decisions that were made, countless tears that were cried, times where I didn’t see how life could go on, or get any worse for that matter.  Dark rooms, rain clouds, cold nights, blank stares back from the girl in the mirror who looked just like me but had not a clue who she was, waking up every single day waiting for it to be the next one.  The sun shined, it didn’t matter.  Something made me want to laugh, I held it back.  Moments of joy would creep back in, I shut them down before they became a thought thinking I didn’t deserve them.  Someone would tell me it was all going to be okay and that God still loved me, I wanted them to trade lives with me to see how I felt- and then tell me it would all be okay.  You know that feeling where you are really hungry but you know you won’t get to eat any food for a long time?  Or that feeling where you are waiting for something to happen- maybe graduation, your wedding, the first day of school, sorority recruitment week- an exciting or nerve-racking event that you are looking forward to?  Or that feeling when you think you have tried every single idea you have in your mind to solve a problem or quandary in your life and then you run out?

The days get longer.  You can almost hear your own breath each minute as you become slowly lost in your thoughts.  The 90 degree Texas heat feels like you are a piece of cookie dough cooking inside of an oven, burning up with no way to escape.  The cool, refreshing feel of the crystal blue water from the swimming pool glistening against your sun kissed skin doesn’t even make you feel better, it doesn’t make you feel less overheated, less overwhelmed, less afraid.  And then comes that day when you are out flat out of options with nothing left to run to.  That feeling came for me the day the Lord set me free from my sickness, the plague overtaking my life like the sticky, black suit that overtook Spiderman in that movie to give him power that turned out just to be darkness.  He was all I had left to turn to, so I did.  And my life has not looked the same since that day.  Every single morning that I wake up to a brand new day, I can’t help but thank Jesus for another day to be alive- and for saving me out of that miserable time in my life.  Flashbacks will come and go.  Scary ones from that time that haunt me in the depths of night or in the passing moments of the day.  Flashbacks of me lying in my bed with the blinds shut and lights off, thinking all hope was lost.  Flashbacks of me driving my car aimlessly trying to find somewhere to go just to escape what I was experiencing in the moment.  Flashbacks of me the night before I was supposed to move back to college, with not a single t-shirt packed, crying on my bed until four in the morning because I was so afraid.  Afraid of what people would think of me, afraid of the relationships that might change, afraid to be fighting this tormenting battle on my own strength.

And here I am.  Moving back to college in two short weeks to start summer school, packing up my life in Dallas and starting anew in College Station.  Except something is different this time around than it was nine long months ago.  This time, dear friends, I am not afraid.  This time I am not afraid of what people will think.  This time I am not afraid of the relationships that might change.  And oh man, I am not the least bit afraid of fighting the battle on my own strength.  There is only one reason that I am not afraid.  All of those things are normal things to be afraid of.  Perhaps you are afraid of them every day.  The one reason, precious ones, that I am not afraid is that the God of angel armies is on my side.  His opinion of me is the only one that matters- and He thinks the world of me, His beautiful daughter whom He calls worthy and redeemed.  He has made the relationships in my life even stronger than they were before, and shown me how incredibly blessed I am by the people who care for me, the people who I thank Jesus for whenever I think of them because they never once left my side.  Most of all, the good Lord has revealed to me in the most extraordinary and beautiful and astounding way that I am in NO way fighting this battle on my own strength.  I have people fighting for me, interceding the devils lies he places in my gullible mind through fervent prayers, and people who encourage me daily to keep seeking Christ.  The number one reason though, that I am not fighting this battle on my own strength, is that the battle is already won.  Y’all, this battle we are fighting every single day was overcome the day Jesus died on the cross for our sins- He fought it for us.

THE VICTORY IS WON! TAKE HEART, LOVE, BECAUSE THE BATTLE YOU ARE TRYING TO FIGHT THIS VERY SECOND HAS ALREADY BEEN FOUGHT FOR. YOU CAN WALK IN FREEDOM IN THE KNOWLEDGE THAT THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE IS ON YOUR SIDE- HE LOVES YOU.  HE MADE YOU.  HE WANTS YOUR HEART.  HE WANTS YOU.

Does that not send goose bumps up your spine?! Doesn’t that make you want to dance like a fool in the middle of the street and run up to every single person in the room and give them a hug?  I don’t know about y’all, but right now, I am tempted to stand up on my chair in the Starbucks and shout that phrase that is bolded up above because it is the truth.  The truth from Romans 8:37-39 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

PREACH IT, PAUL.  What refreshing, beautiful, freeing truth to hold on to as we live our lives on this other side of heaven.  This other side of heaven that is our temporary home.  I want to share with you all an analogy that brings tears to my eyes.  I am the oldest daughter in a family of six, my parents and four kids.  I adore my precious family with all of my heart, they are one of the sweetest blessings to me on earth and I am honored to share a last name with each one of those five crazies.  My youngest brother is adopted, he has been a member of my family for almost six years now but I feel like it has been forever.  I can’t picture our lives without him.  He is my baby brother (except he is turning 15 in August, can someone please slow down time?!) and I will love him forever, no matter what.  The hard thing to think about is that before he came to live with my family, he was in foster care.  My brother lived in three different homes before he was adopted.  Home to home, nothing was steady, everything was always changing for my baby brother.  If I could go back to that time of his life and make it all better, help him get through it with me fighting for him every second, I would in a heart beat.  However, my brother Eben is the strongest person I know.  What he has been through in his life has shaped him, stretched him, and transformed him into a young man of God who strives to be more like Jesus and stands up for what he believes in.  He would not be the same Eben McCown he is today had he not gone through the fire primarily- the temporary thunderstorm that ultimately led him to his forever destination.  A home with a family who loves and adores him more than anything and can’t imagine our lives without him for a day.  Guys, that is us.  My baby brother is you and I.  We are here on earth, hopping around from foster home to foster home.  From losing your job, divorce, heartbreak, depression, the death of a loved one to things as small as a failed test grade, gaining weight, or having a bad hair day that makes you wish you were more beautiful like her, or that you had better skin like him, or this and that.  Life isn’t easy.  Whoever told you that life would be a breeze, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it is not a breeze.  In fact, it is a hurricane.  A thunderstorm that sometimes rains endlessly and you begin to wish for a drought so that it would just stop raining.  You want the sun to rise again and to feel the warm, wind in your hair and sweat dripping from your tropical banana scented sunscreen against your skin.  And yes, the Lord gives good gifts to His children, dear child.  He gave us a book chalk full of His sweet promises to us- all He asks is for us to believe them and accept them as truth.  All those battles and challenges and struggles I mentioned earlier, those aren’t our destiny.  We haven’t reached our final destination, our forever home, our eternity, just yet.  You are here on this earth for a reason.  The reason this earth has hard times that make you want to roll up into a small, tiny little ball and never come out is to remind us that this world is temporary.  John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I don’t know what you are facing today.  What I do know is that a day is coming when there will be no pain, no heartbreak, no tears, no deaths, and no fear.  But we aren’t home yet, love.  While I wish I could wrap you up in a fuzzy blanket and make you a cup of hot tea, and tell you that this too shall pass, you have something even greater and even more satisfying to cling to.  Something that will make you randomly smile at the mere thought of imperishable joy.  Something that will make you want to greet the person next to you in line at the Dollar Store and ask them how their day is going.  Something that will make you want to go to Trader Joe’s and buy your mama the prettiest sunflowers because she deserves them, every mama does 🙂  Something that will make you want to pick up the phone right here and now and call that person to tell them you have forgiven them, and that you forgot.  Something that will make you want to blast that Beyonce song in your car with your windows rolled down and make everyone at the stop light laugh at you because you are singing so passionately.  Something that will allow you to sleep in restful peace at night and wake up with the same burning passion for life you had yesterday.

Jesus.  The name that holds power within five letters to change your life.  That name changed mine.  On my knees in desperation, tears that didn’t seem to stop streaming, my body that didn’t seem to stop shaking, bricks on my shoulders that weighed 100 pounds, and I shouted the name of Jesus.

Mark 4:35-41 “That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”  They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!

Here I am, yet again.  Sitting in the Starbucks.  Deeply pondering about the mystery of life and the beauty that each day holds that I am blessed to be alive.  Thinking about all that has changed since this time a year ago.  People that I cherished that have come and gone.  Surviving a heartbreak that led me to many sleepless nights and tearful drives to sad songs at night.  Changing my major that was directing me on the path to become a nurse to communications, discovering a passion that I never knew existed in my soul until I started writing this year.  Moving back to College Station, the place that makes my heart leap out of my chest as I drive on Highway 6 blasting the Aggie War Hym without fear of judgment, and I couldn’t be more excited.

All that to say, life goes by fast and it is so precious.  I feel like yesterday I was graduating from high school and starting my freshman year of college, and now I am heading into my junior year, half way through.

Enjoy wherever you are in life.  Even if you are fighting the hardest battle you have ever fought, even if you are currently in the most exciting place of your life, even if you are tired of the mundane, pedestrian lifestyle of waking up and going to work and going home, enjoy it.  Relish it.  Cherish it.  Breathe in and breathe out thankfulness. Pour out love until you have none left because you are loved by the One who will never run out. Look into the mirror and tell yourself that you are quite enough just as you are.

Genesis 50:20 “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Life changes dramatically in the blink of an eye.  A quote that I remind myself of every day is this, “and if not, He is good.”  While you are thinking, if only I can just graduate, if only I can just get married, if only I can just move out and get a job, then my life will begin.  Just remember, precious reader, your life is happening right now.  Right in front of your eyes.

And then you blink.

here are some fun memories from my year in Dallas 🙂

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