I think that fear is something we all experience. It is something that we all know, feel, and often try to avoid. I remember the feeling fear from when I was young. My parents got divorced when I was in kindergarten and I lived with my mom. Things weren’t great, but my split parents did everything they could to keep my sisters and my life as normal as possible. Once I started elementary school, I began twirling baton and playing basketball. After that, my life was “normal” until high school. When I started my freshman year, things were amazing. A few months later, though, things took a turn. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and I was her caregiver. I would like to sit here and tell you all that I was strong and the best support system to my mom, but I was far from it. To her face, I smiled, I massaged her head when her hair fell out, I took her to all her chemotherapy appointments and I told her funny jokes while cooking dinner for her. When I left the house, I was someone else. I turned to substance abuse which eventually led to a dark depression that I couldn't escape from.
At that point, I started seeing a counselor. I stopped partying and started praying for forgiveness for the way I had been acting. The thing is, I acted this way simply out of fear. I was so afraid of losing my mom that I lost myself.
I remember praying one night a year later and telling God if I could just re-live my moms cancer I would handle it so differently.
The next morning my dad took me out to breakfast and told me he had cancer. Moral of the story, be careful what you pray for!!! Just kidding. I was able to help my dad through his treatment and stay strong during it. Yes, I was afraid. But I had hope. I had faith. And most importantly, I had God to be my strength when I was weak.
When college began, I was on cloud 9. I moved to Iowa and was following my dreams of becoming a journalist, all while making amazing friends and finding balance in my life. Things took a 180 the summer after my freshman year and I was back living in fear. I wasn’t just afraid of the big things, I was afraid of everything. I was afraid to get out of my car and put gas in it. I was afraid to walk inside my home from the parking lot. I was afraid of everything. The fear controlled my life and was consuming my every thought. I started driving home on the weekends to go to church with my family in hope of finding a way of life beyond the fear.
I remember sitting at church one Sunday and listening to my pastor talk about forgiveness. I thought, “How am I supposed to forgive someone that did something so horrible to me!?" I think our pastor heard my thoughts, as the next thing he said was, "LET IT GO. Let GOD cleanse your heart and release the pain you are suffering."
It was that day that I dedicated my life to the lord through baptism.
Since being baptized, I have kept Jesus at the center of my life and have tried to give up fear. Whenever I feel afraid I Inhale Love, Exhale Fear. Jesus has always spoke to me and since knowing Him more, I can hear His words so clearly. In my years of practicing religion and not relationship, God still spoke, but I thought it was just intuition of feeling a certain way when something terrible or great is going to happen. When I was in Australia, I got a free bible from Hillsong Church. Hillsong gives out a free bible to each guest on their first visit. I got my bible in February, and every Sunday for 5 months following, I thought about pretending it was my first time again so I could get another bible and give it to my mom. I knew it wasn't the right thing to do, though I really wanted to, I never actually did it. Until my last Sunday abroad. The message was on domestic violence and human trafficking and it spoke directly to my heart. When the service ended, I walked up to the front and told the church that it was my first time coming, and I asked for a bible. I had full intentions of gifting the bible to my mom upon my arrival back in the United States. As I was walking back to my hostel, I saw a woman lying on the ground in the train station. This isn’t that uncommon in a big city, but she caught my eye. Her sign read, “homeless from domestic violence” and she was asleep. I heard God speak to me and I knew I had to give her my bible. I set it at her side and said a short prayer and was on my way to celebrate my final night in Australia. When I was at the airport the following day, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed when something stopped me dead in my tracks. I follow Hillsong and it was the annual conference in Sydney, where thousands gather to praise God. In the first picture of the conference, there stood the homeless woman I gave my bible to.
I was sitting in class last semester and got a “feeling.” I couldn’t catch my breath and it felt as though I was having a heart attack without experiencing any pain. I turned to my friend, Abbie, and told her I thought I was going to pass out. I drank water and tried to talk myself back to the present moment. That night, I learned my Great Aunt had a stroke the same time I was in class. I went to Omaha that night, as I was feeling too overwhelmed and confused to be on my own. I didn't understand why God was speaking to me so clearly, and to be honest, I saw it as a horrible gift. I wondered, "Why of all things you could give me, you choose to give me this?" I was afraid and doing everything in my power to push the "feeling" away and live further apart from God. When I got to Omaha, my sister told me were were going to “overflow” at our Pastor's house. It was intended to be a night full of praise and worship, but for me it was something so much more than that. A stranger walked up to me as soon as I entered the home and said, “I don’t know you at all, and this might not make any sense, but right when you walked in the door, God told me that he is so sorry for everything that you have seen and everything that you have been through. He knows your every thought and every move and he is always with you. His heart broke when you saw the things that you saw, and he just wants you to know how sorry he is. He never planned that for you.”
I don’t know why God is so good, but he is. I don’t know how He still loves me after all of the horrible things I have done and all the mistakes I have made, but He continues to love me and walk this journey with me. His love is unwavering, unfailing.