Beyond the Blank Page

My Journey to Telling the Untold

15 Days Without You

This is an incomplete blog post from just two weeks after losing my dad last year. I stumbled upon it by accident, and considered keeping it private, but as I say in the post, I feel like it’s important to post about my struggles for those that may be in similar situations. This post is raw and full of thoughts that were probably not fully formed, and it ends rather abruptly, but it is an insight into the fresh grief of losing a parent at a young age.

 

Ever since the day, 17 days ago, that I received the text from my mom that said, “Doctors told your dad there isn’t anything else they can do” I have wanted to write a blog post. It’s hard to figure out what to say, though. I like to be eloquent. I like to have my thoughts gathered. But how can I do that while in the midst of an event that completely turns my world upside down? The answer is: I can’t. Pain, loss, emotion, grieving, mourning…these are all real and raw. There is no fancy way to word it. It is what it is, and the truth is that it can’t be tied up with a pretty bow.

I blog for a few reasons:
I love to write. It is a passion I have had my entire life.
It is therapeutic. I’ve never been much of a journal person, so having a blog is the next best thing.
I want to help others. Through my journeys in life, I have come across moments when I experience something others don’t easily relate to. In these moments, I go to the internet in search of someone that can understand. Sometimes it is hard to find someone that has gone through the same thing, and so it is my hope that I can be that person to someone else someday.

My process of grief has fueled my need to talk about what I’ve been going through. For one, there is (thankfully) only a small percentage of people in America that suffer the loss of a parent so young. The second thing is that my grieving process has not been what I expected, and there have been moments where my process has made me feel like a freak. I have lost loved ones before, including my grandfather. I was extremely close to him, and there were many similar elements between my loss of him and the loss of my dad. I knew that it would be different, but I expected my grief to be similar. I was so very wrong.

When my dad first became really sick 9 months ago, I cried. I panicked. I was terrified. Things were up and down for a while, but it seemed like things were improving. Fall semester started and things began going downhill again. My entire Fall semester was a roller coaster of “This could be it” to “The doctors are amazed at how well he’s doing.” It became a pattern of rushing to see him to potentially say my goodbyes, to being told that there was hope that he could still get the liver transplant that he needed. Throughout, new health concerns would come up, and generally they would be somewhat resolved. I cried when I thought about losing him and I cried (tears of joy and relief) when family would relay the message that the doctors thought my dad would make it.

In my head there was this huge painting of my life thus far and all the life events I anticipate in the future. My dad was in those events. I saw my childhood with him, but I also saw him walk me down the aisle, dance with me to “Butterfly Kisses” (which I’d like to add was our song before it became the fad at weddings), watch me get my degree, meet my children, and take numerous trips we had yet to take. Each time I was told we were losing him, he would fade from the canvas of my future life. Each time I was told he was probably going to make it, he would reappear. It became an exhausting pattern. Tears of pain began to be joined by tears of frustration. I didn’t want to believe in the hope the doctors were giving, because it always just ended up hurting worse when they would be proven wrong, but how can one not hold onto hope for a future with their dad? I kept telling myself that I was prepared for whatever happened, but I found out just how badly I had been lying to myself when I received that text from my mom.

That night, I walked out of my apartment attempting to hold in the tears. My roommate is super supportive, but I hate to let anyone see me cry. Tears streamed down my face as I walked to a meeting on campus. I held them in as I ordered an Iced Chai and managed to remain composed through the meeting. As soon as I was back outside, the tears returned. I returned to my mom’s house, thinking it would be a temporary stay. The plan (in my head) was that I would get through the shock of the fact that my dad was dying and then I’d return to life on campus. I thought I would have a few months to try to remain strong before the loss would come. The next day I learned that doctors were only giving him a couple of weeks at the most. My visit that day revealed that it wouldn’t likely be that long. He woke long enough to say “love ya” and then returned to sleep. The next day, a couple of hours before I was going to see him again, he went Home.

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Difficult Choices

The last year has been the scariest roller coaster of my entire life. My dad got sick and things went down, but then I started school and things began going back up. I moved out, made new friends, and finally figured out what I want to do with my life. Up, up, up the car went. There were many dips along the way – something I’ve grown used to in my seventeen years with depression – but my life as a whole seemed to be going in the right direction. As most of you know, February brought the biggest downhill ride I’ve ever been on. I lost my dad, and while I was numb and in shock of that loss, I lost one of my fur babies. Somehow I managed to remain in denial and shock through the end of Spring term, pulled out decent grades, and then…well then it all hit me. Hard. In the last three or four months the shock and denial have slowly begun to peel away. The upcoming holidays are making it even harder, but that’s a different story for (potentially) another post.

The point here is that my grief has set in. At times it is like a slow burn – as if someone is pouring hot water on me, but only a little at a time. Other times it is as if someone has dumped a pot of boiling water on me, and all I can feel is heartbreak and pain. In the midst of trying to come to terms with how I would grieve, my old friend Depression settled in comfortably. I couldn’t differentiate depression from grief. To be honest, I still can’t. But that’s part of the point. I am lost in a sea of depression, anxiety, and grieving the loss of my dad. Between insurance issues last year and the crazy schedule of college, therapy pretty much slipped through the cracks. I saw two different people, once each, after my dad died. I didn’t manage to get counselling for my grief and I didn’t maintain a professional support system for my depression and anxiety.

When school started at the end of August I found myself facing a dilemma. Getting up had become a struggle, as had leaving the house and being around people. I could go on with a list of symptoms, but they’re all pretty classic major depressive symptoms. I faced two options – force myself to continue forward, knowing that I may not make it and that even if I did I wouldn’t be capable of doing my best, or take time to get my mental health in order. I love school. I love the future that I have planned for myself. But the truth is, at the lowest points, I have come to dread school and even the thought of my own future classroom lost the sparkle it once had. I didn’t want to fall behind or have to face the questions of those in my life, but more importantly I didn’t want to risk losing it all because I didn’t choose myself and my health first. So that’s what I did. I chose me. I chose the path that would lead me to the professional help I need, to the time to grieve, and to return me to the woman that loves school – both as the student and the teacher. I am taking this year away from school to get healthy, and hopefully I’ll learn a few things along the way.

The decision was a difficult one to make, and I’ve taken my time in announcing it to the world. As soon as I made the choice, however, I felt some of the stress melt away. I knew it was the right thing to do, and I actually found myself excited to take this chance to explore some other things. Writing has always been my passion, but even it had become lackluster as of late. The idea that I would have the time to do NaNoWriMo lit some sort of fire in me, and I found a piece of myself again. I intend to take this time to explore other interests as well. In many ways, this is my last year to truly explore myself and the interests I have never gotten around to pursuing. After this year, I will be on a fast track to my ultimate career goal and hopefully a family sometime down the road as well. Life will become busy, and it will become too easy to make excuses not to try new things. This year will be dedicated to dealing with losing my dad and getting the help that I need, but it will also be used as a time to try new things so that I don’t have to ever look back wondering “what if?”

Right now, I’m just trying to make it to tomorrow. Each day when I wake up, that is my main goal. It may not seem like a lot to others, but it is a struggle I face nearly every day. I have drawn near to God in this time, something I had realized I had been struggling with for a while, and knowing that He has taken just this short amount of time to begin a new work in me tells me that He will accomplish amazing things over the next year of my life. Most of the time I can hardly come up with the words to pray to Him, so I just ask Him to be here, to wrap His arms around me, and I utter “Thy will be done.”

 

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A Time of Grief

Grief doesn’t know time. It can be one day since your loss, one month, or one year and there is no telling what you may be feeling. We live in a world that mourns with us for a time. Anyone, especially someone close to us, learns about our loss and immediately wants to be there for us. Unfortunately, only those directly impacted by the grief realize that it continues to go on. My dad was not the first loved one that I have lost, but he was the closest. There is nothing like losing a parent, especially at such a young age.

For the first week or two everyone was so concerned about me and what I must be going through. At that point, I was still in shock. I walked around as if everything were more or less okay, because my body was protecting me from the truth. I was more concerned with how my other loved ones were doing because it gave me some sort of purpose and something to do if I could worry about them rather than myself. I went back to classes as normal, I got caught up on homework, and I tried to return to life as “normal.” About three weeks after my dad died I went in to get a tattoo in memory of him. My artist told me that, in her experience, it is at about a month when the numbness wears off and you start to realize what has happened. Sure enough, four to five weeks after his passing, the reality began to set in.

Each day would hurt a little more. I remembered my grandma that had Alzheimer’s and how she had to be reminded daily of the loved ones she had lost, until eventually it became easier to not tell her. That is how I felt. I would forget that my dad had died. I even wondered at one point if he would come to his own memorial before it hit me what I was thinking. I’d see good gift ideas for him and movies that I knew he would like. Every time my phone rang I thought it would be him, because he was one of the only people that called instead of texting. It was impossible to not think about the very long walk I will have someday without him by my side, or the fact that I won’t have him to dance to “Butterfly Kisses” with. The pain continued to grow, even causing me physical discomfort. That pain still continues to grow as reality continues to hit me more every day.

Classes became difficult to attend again and I lost all desire to be around people. My professors didn’t become mean in any way, but the once very concerned and understanding people seemed almost as if they had forgotten what I was going through. I almost left one of my classes in tears because my professor grew irritated with me for letting one of my peers take the lead on a debate that I wasn’t up to doing. My allotted two week period had passed and I was supposed to be normal again.

But that isn’t how this works. Each night I go to bed wondering if I will be able to get out of bed in the morning and drag myself to class. Each time I make plans I wonder if I will be able to keep them. I walk around in a fog, hardly remembering what time it is or even what day. To be honest, the apathy stage of grief has kicked in and I often don’t really care. Tomorrow doesn’t matter when I can hardly get through today.

When I don’t go to class I worry that my professors will be upset with me which fuels my desire to not go. Each time I have to cancel plans I worry about the reaction. There seems to be no win. I can embrace my pain and worry about taking care of myself – something I’m trying really hard to get better at – or I can worry about everyone around me and what they’re thinking because they don’t understand. Both options cause me anxiety. The logical part of my brain knows that the worst that can happen grade wise is Bs and Cs instead of As and Bs. It also knows that true friends will stand by me. Unfortunately I’ve never been great at listening to the logical part of my brain when the emotional part begs for my attention.

I am sure that I am guilty of having done this very same thing to those around me, and I apologize if I ever did. I also want to point out that not everyone falls into this category. Over the last couple days I have had two friends specifically check in on me, which meant the world to me.

7 weeks have passed, but I’m no further along than if only one day had passed. I take a very long time to process things, and that means holding tight while my grief continues to be very raw and real. The way I see it, don’t expect a grieving person to be any more okay weeks or months later than they were the day after. Some will be, but some won’t. Some may just be starting the process and some may be stuck. To put simply: be gentle. With yourself. With others. You don’t have to understand to be understanding.

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My Definition of You

This is the first short story that I wrote for Camp NaNoWriMo:

 

 

I look into your face, so full of sorrow and pain, and I wonder what happened to you to make you so jaded. Where did you come from? Who hurt you enough to have such an impact on the person that you became? And then I wonder the most important question of all – is there any way for you to get back to the person that you were meant to be?

You smile, and to the world, it may appear real. I know you better than that, though. The creases of your eyes and the lack of those tiny dimples that appear when you’re truly happy, give you away. The way that your green eyes don’t sparkle, but instead appear as a faded brown hidden in darkness, show your true feelings.

I wonder to myself who this girl really is, as a tear begins to build in my eye. I want to know what makes her tick, yet at the same time I want to forget her completely. I can’t seem to stop staring, though, and so I continue to analyze her.

I see the scars on her arms – faded and a light pink, almost the same color as the rest of her skin, but noticeable to anyone looking for it. I wish that I didn’t have an eye for such things, but I do, and my heart breaks for her. Her arms are wrapped around her stomach, an awkward attempt at hiding the weight that she truly believes she carries too much of. She is of an average size, but her body language suggests that she spent years hearing about how overweight she was. I want to tell her that she is beautiful just the way she is, but the words simply will not come.

Her hair hangs around her face; a failed attempt to hide the face that she has grown up believing was plain and ugly. Her lack of confidence surrounds her as if it were a physical entity. As I look deeper, I can see the signs of emotional abuse written clearly all over her. She has been abandoned and told that she was not worthy. She has been exposed to words that no girl should ever hear about herself. She has been unloved and has come to the conclusion that she is therefore unlovable.

I look deep into her eyes and tears begin to stream down my face. I tell her that she is beautiful and that she always has been. I point at her body and tell her not to be ashamed. I give her a sad smile and apologize for all of the years that she was told that she was something that she is not and never was. I tell her how sorry I am that I ever believed such horrible things about her. When the sobs begin to choke me so much that I can barely speak, I stand up and give her a genuine smile.

“You are worthy and you are loveable,” I say, “and no one will ever be able to take that away from you again.”

With that, I set down the old photograph that I had been staring at and I turn to walk away. I glance back once, but I don’t go back. I catch my reflection in the mirror, the same familiar face I had been staring at, and I smile, knowing the answer to the most important question.

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Changing in the Face of Fear

This has been, and continues to be, a year of discovery for me. Discovery of who I am. Discovery of who my real friends are – the ones that don’t forget me and the ones that respect and accept my potentially different beliefs or views. Discovery of the fact that sometimes we must distance ourselves from those we love when all they do is hurt us, but that we also have to weigh the potential pain the future may hold if we regret the time we lost with them. These discoveries have also made this a year of change. Good changes. Bad changes. Changes that may not be noticeable to others.

It’s amazing to me how many things, how much effort, has to go into becoming who you really are. It seems like it should just come naturally, and maybe that’s why I have just waited expectantly. I thought finding myself would just happen. It turns out that “finding oneself” is really more discovering who you want to be and what you want, and making it happen. It is a daily effort. It includes saying affirmations multiple times a day. It includes analyzing your relationships and yourself. It includes doing the things you know you love for you, not just the things you do for others. It includes tears, but it also includes joy and laughter. It includes working hard to be that person. It has been, and continues to be, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But you know what? It is also one of the easiest, and certainly one of the most rewarding.

I had grown so tired of being judged, forgotten, and ignored. Just because I’m quiet, doesn’t mean I don’t exist. Just because I’m a Christian, doesn’t mean that I agree with judging others or comparing sins, and it doesn’t automatically make me a conservative. I have sat by quietly, hiding these hurts and my “liberal” beliefs, that I know some won’t accept, for a very long time now. But why? If you don’t accept and respect me for who I am – whether you agree or disagree – are you really worth being in my life? This is the question I have had to ask myself over and over again, and the honest answer is “no,” but I try so hard to justify staying quiet. I have decided to work on changing that. “Roar” by Katy Perry is one of my theme songs this year, and these lyrics fit perfectly with where I have come from and where I am working on going:

I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly, agreed politely
I guess that I forgot I had a choice
I let you push me past the breaking point
I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything.

I have gone back to school with a new determination to get, at the very least, my Associates Degree. I have returned to the church that I grew up in and immediately went to a meeting on how the church is wanting to evolve over the next few years. I have started speaking up about my beliefs on subjects that I was afraid to talk about before. I started a YouTube channel a while back where I talk about books and other random geekiness. I have stepped out of my tiny shell. They may be small steps, but they are swiftly adding up.

Very soon I will be coming upon a moment that will be somewhat representative of my new ability and desire to speak up. If you know me, then you know that I’m not one to speak up very often. Soon I will be stepping out of my comfort zone and taking twice as many credits in one term as I ever have before. I plan to spend my summer making edits on my most recent NaNovel and then submitting it. This is a year of stepping up and doing the things in life that I want and need to do. The things that I have never before had the courage to do. I am excited and terrified. I feel that 2014 can be a year of moving on, moving forward, and moving up for all of us.

I’m going to leave you with the Demi Lovato cover of “Let It Go.” I think it is pretty illustrative of the process I have gone through (I tend to often relate my experiences to songs in case you hadn’t noticed yet). It’s also just a fantastic song. So, here I leave you.

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At Rock Bottom, I Finally Start Looking Up

So, this past weekend I went through some very personal…issues. Other than those that were made a part of the situations due to proximity and circumstance, I’ve highly debated how much to share with others, if at all. I’m generally an open book, but there are pieces of me that I hide away and feel ashamed of when they rear their head far enough for outsiders to see. So stay with me, as this may be tough for me at times, but it is a story that I feel must be told. This is my personal writing blog after all – and that includes personal, non-fiction writing.

Before we can get to the good part of the story, which is ironically the horrible part of the story, I am going to start at the beginning. Any readers that know me personally know that I’d been planning to go to Jesus Culture in Redding since back in October. If you don’t know me personally, you now know this.

The night before, after I was about 3/4 of the way through my frantic packing that had me stressed to the max, I started to feel something. Something bad. As I rolled the yarn that I was packing so that I could knit on the way down, I heard myself tell my mom, “I’m not going. I can’t go. Something bad is going to happen.” She told me that I was just stressed from the packing and that it was all going to be okay. I let it go, knowing that my emotions can run wild like that at times. But as time passed, the feeling didn’t disappear. So I repeated, “Mom, something bad is going to happen. I just know it. I don’t know if it’ll be an accident or a ruined friendship or what, but something is going to happen.” It was once again dismissed as my stressed state. Then the next morning came. I had to get up at 3:45 to get ready to be at the church by 5:00am. I’m not a morning person, so I was a bit groggy and grumpy – which was normal – but that feeling hit me again. I voiced it, but at this point even I didn’t know what was going on. I had originally only been going in case I couldn’t make the Spring Break mission trip and because friends and my mom had told me that I should, but the week before we were to leave, I had actually started to get excited. It made no sense how I was feeling now.

Nevertheless, I got everything loaded up and headed to the church. Eventually we packed up the van and headed out. I was sleepy on the drive, but otherwise I was fine. When we arrived and I saw the sunshine and the palm trees (palm trees are quite possibly my favorite part about going to places like California and Arizona) I felt joyful. I was excited. Once we got to our room, I felt exhausted and pretty much all excitement had drained from me. It may be important here to inform you that just one week before I had had all four of my wisdom teeth removed and was still dealing with pain off and on, plus I had just started Winter term the Tuesday before. I was emotionally, physically, and mentally drained. Not to mention spiritually, which I had been lacking in for months – hence this trip seeming very important. I was also later informed that my brain had a bad reaction with the pain killers that I had been put on because of the wisdom teeth surgery. Odds weren’t exactly stacked in my favor at this point.

So anyway, we headed out for coffee and then went and got some food at In-N-Out (it’s a must when you go to Cali, even if you think they’re just mediocre). After dinner I went into the bathroom to look and see how my mouth was healing. I’d started back on using straws that day, but knew that it could still cause dry socket. When I thought I saw white instead of red back there, I freaked a little. Not a lot, but a little. It caused a ripple effect, though. I texted my mom to tell her, masking that as the reason for why I was panicked. She’s not text savvy, so her responses would take long amounts of time or not be complete, and each waiting period caused my panic to grow. Finally I just called her. I didn’t want my group to overhear, but I needed my mommy. Yes, a 24 year old woman just said that she needed her mommy, and there is nothing wrong with that. Deal.

Anyway, we spoke for a while before I finally admitted that it wasn’t about my wisdom teeth at all. “I told you something bad was going to happen if I came,” I told her. “I knew it would, and this was it. I never could have dreamed that this would be it, but it is. I have to come home. Now.” You see, this had happened twice before in my life (a panic brought on while far away from home), and the last time had been five years ago. I thought I was passed anything like that ever happening to me again, so it came as a total shock that this could be the bad thing I felt would happen to me.

She told me to seek out one of my good friends and then to get back in touch with her. Seek out a friend? No way, man! You see, as I said, this is me (I’m going to try to paint a visual): there is this line, and up to that line, I will tell you pretty much my life story. I got over the shame of having depression a decent while ago and then shortly after began being able to open up about having been verbally abused growing up. But there is a difference between sharing my experiences, and actually letting someone in on them – to become a part of it. At an emotional movie, a sad story, or when something moves me at church I’m not really afraid to cry. When I’m broken and am in desperate need of help, that’s when the shame sweeps back into my life.

But what other choice did I have? It was a seven hour drive, and I figured I owed my mom at least giving her that much. So I stalked into the bathroom where three of my close friends had just gone. I knew which one I was going to talk to, but it quickly became obvious to all three that something was wrong. As soon as one asked if I was okay, I broke down. They all gathered around and prayed for me, and soon after another good friend came in and joined in the prayers and the whole being there for me thing. Yeah, turns out that when you have a total meltdown in front of your friends, their first instinct is to do everything in their power to be there for you, not to point and laugh mentally or to judge as I had apparently drawn a visual image for myself. So we’re standing there, in the bathroom, as I bawl my eyes out and they lay hands on me and pray. They finished and then begin giving me Words and/or encouragement. Following is the question that we all dread when, after being prayed for, we don’t feel any better: “How are you feeling now?” (Other varations are “Did that help?” or “Are you feeling better?”). Don’t deny it, you dread that question, too.

The truth was that I didn’t feel better – I felt worse. See, as an author pointed out in a book I’m currently reading, we have an entirely different image of our situations when we’re in them than we do when we’re looking back at them. I should have felt better, or at least not worse, but I was humiliated. I still felt panic, and now was the stubborn streak that always came once I vocalized my panic, aka “Now that it’s been made into a big deal, there’s no going back, no matter how I may come to feel.” Plus there was the fact that everyone was going to find out that something was up (I’m still not sure how much those not involved know, but they all know something because one moment I was there and the next I was back on Oregon). And then there was the icing on the cake – my friend couldn’t find my pastor’s wife, so I was going to have to talk to my pastor instead. Now, don’t misunderstand, my pastor is a great man. He’s awesome. But he’s a man, and I have this fear of opening up to men (presumably from being verbally abused by one as a child). But alas, he came and two of my friends followed me to the lounge to help fill in the blanks that my sobs prevented from coming out audibly. I was surprised at how supportive everyone was of my choice. They all told me that they wanted me to stay, but each one told me not to feel guilty about having to go and not to feel like it was my fault. I wasn’t surprised at the support, but I was surprised at those comments.

So fast forwarding a little: the concert/conference was starting and one friend and my pastor stuck around as I spoke to my mom and we tried to figure out what we were going to do exactly. They tried to urge me to come in since my mom wouldn’t be able to make it until after it was over anyway, but I was a wreck, so I denied. I sat on a couch in the lounge and did something that I never, ever, ever do – I sat, in public, and just let myself cry as I spoke to my mom. I knew people were glancing at me, but I just couldn’t manage to care. After a while a security guard came over and asked, “Are you okay?” I normally would have lied, telling them I was okay, even if I was clearly not. This time, however, I said, “No. No, I’m really not.” She said, “I didn’t think so,” and then asked what was up. She prayed with me and told me that she believed an angel was going to walk into my life soon and wrap their arms around me. Then she went off to work. I wasn’t alone for long, though, as a student from the school where the event took place came out. She was volunteering as an usher for the event, and the security guard had told her about me. She said that God kept telling her to come talk to me, but she kept resisting. After talking for a while, I think it might have been the same fear I feel to approach people even when God tells me to, because as it turned out, we were a lot alike in many ways. She said that she finally couldn’t fight Him on it anymore and knew that she needed to come talk to me.

She asked where I was from and then told me she was from Australia, which I had figured out by her accent by then. I filled her in on what was up and she attempted multiple times to convince me to stay, but mostly she was just there for me. We compared our woes in life, and as I said, had suffered a lot of the same pains. She finally convinced me to come sit in back with her, so I could avoid all the people. I had paid to be there, after all, so I might as well join in now that I was calmed down. And if she was going to let me sit with her, in the back where nobody would see me, I was in. I felt something in the music. Jesus Culture Band music does that. If you haven’t listened to them, go do it now. Well, not now, but after you finish reading this. I started having an internal struggle. My mom was on her way, but it hadn’t been that long yet. I knew I could still decide to stay, yet I was terrified that if I made that call, this would happen all over again the next day. Eventually, I headed back out into the lounge where I stayed until the whole thing was over. They televised the last half in the lounge, so that was awesome, and I got to watch two of my friends called out on stage and totally rocked by God. Seriously, when each one happened, I didn’t even see my friend at first, I simply heard the speaker say their name and immediately I was like “I bet that’s MY (fill in the blank with the name of my friend here).” I was right both times. I cried a little, feeling joy for them and blessed to have such friends in my life.

When it ended, the usher came out and we hugged. I told her that, if for no other reason, I had been meant to come to meet her. I waited for a while before my friend let me know that her sister was out in the Spirit, so I came in to wait with them. I have a good friend that is very prophetic, and he was going around praying for all of our friends while we waited. He was in the middle of praying for one when I walked in, but he immediately stood up, walked over to me, and asked to pray with me. No one had told him about any of what was going on. He took my hand and the first thing he prayed about was casting out my dizzy spells. My mom was the only one that knew about those. They had been increasing, and stressing me out a bit. He also cast out a lot of stuff I was dealing with – fear, panic, etc. At that point, I had thought it was because he knew, and it was, but not because any friend had told him – because God had.

So then we headed back to the hotel where I waited for a couple of relatives to pick me up and take me halfway (big shout out to families that truly shine with the definition of family). As we waited, the girls I was rooming with and my pastor’s wife talked with me. I filled them in on all that had been going on that I had been keeping hidden from them. You see, when I said a few months, I meant six and a half. Since my birthday, in June, I had been doubting God and I had been angry. He had made me a promise, and I felt like he was failing to come through. I had had a recent “false realization” of that promise – meaning, it looked like it was coming true, only to realize that it wasn’t. Talk about fuel for my already formed anger. I opened up and they all informed me that I should never feel ashamed or like I’m inconveniencing them to come to them. Because I had almost gone to my pastor’s wife the week before, but hadn’t for fear that it was “too short of notice.” She gave me that motherly look when I told her that. You know the one, the one that says, “Really, now? You think I’m buying that excuse? I am never too busy for you.” Picturing that look on her face is choking me up a little, and I’m in public, so let’s move on now.

So, then was the exhausting ride home. I’m going to just go ahead and skip that, because I was asleep through most of it and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. I got home around 7am that Saturday morning. I was exhausted and slept most of the day. When I wasn’t asleep, I was raging or crying. That was nothing compared to what was in store, though. Sunday arrived. I like to call it “The Day I Finally Hit Rock Bottom.” I was fed up. I was hurt. I had decided that God was not faithful. I hadn’t been able to praise Him in a while because it felt like a lie coming out of my mouth every time. I shouted at God, and my mom, because, well, she was there. I honestly thought that I wanted to die. I honestly think that I came very close. So let’s fast forward again through hours of me freaking out, because you don’t need a full picture of what that looks like.

Now is where I reach a decision. I’d been told my whole life conflicting ideals on whether or not it’s okay to ask God to prove Himself. It’s in the Bible, but people had told me I should never do it. (Disclaimer: I have no idea whether or not this is “acceptable” or not. I am not condoning nor convicting such behavior, simply telling my story) But at this point, what did I really have to lose? If it wasn’t okay, well, I was planning to walk away anyway. If it was okay, well it might just be the event to change my entire life. I had spent the whole day asking my mom why God did these amazing things for others to show his faithfulness, but never did them for me. She didn’t know. She was desperate for an answer, too. I’m her baby and she was in deep pain for me, a pain that caused her to feel a little anger toward God, too. I mean, we all get angry when someone hurts our kid. I don’t have human kids, but man if you ever hurt one of my fur babies, fear my wrath. So she questioned, I questioned. Nothing. Nada. White noise.

I snapped. I locked myself in my bathroom, my place of hiding since I was very young. I sat down and just fumed for a bit. There’s no talking to me when I’m like this, so my mom took the garbage out. The garbage can is right in front of our cars. Yes, this is actually important. She came back in and came to the door to just check on me. I said, “Okay, I’m done. I’m giving God five minutes. He has five minutes to prove to me that He is faithful and that He is going to follow through on all of the promises that He has made me. I know it may be wrong to test Him, and I definitely know that it’s wrong to put a time frame on it. But I don’t care. I have nothing left to lose. I can’t do this anymore. He has five minutes and then I’m walking away.” Whether I meant from God or from life, I honestly don’t know. I didn’t know then, either. I just knew that I was desperate. My mom talked to me for a good portion of it, not sure what she could do to help me. Finally I shouted, “One minute. You hear that, God? You have one minute to prove that You really are faithful or I’m done.” My mom panicked. She ran to the front door, which we never use, and checked for something, anything. Nothing. I cried out with more desperation than I had in the past months of suffering, “Please, God. I don’t want to walk away. I don’t want to give up. Please, please, please give me something to work with. I need you. I don’t know what to do. PLEASE.” Then she ran out the back door to check that deck. Nothing. She decided to check the entire carport, without realizing why. She just felt the need to. And there it was. There, under the windshield wiper blade of my car was an envelope. We have two cars, her car and mine, and it was on mine. This is important. And the envelope had a “K” marked on the front. Nothing else, just the letter “K.” She ran inside with probably only about five seconds to spare before time was up. She told me there was something on my windshield. I didn’t believe her, so she slipped it under the door. I felt like I’d been let down so many times, that I was certain it would turn out to be some sort of solicitation or something. I told her that she had to open it, because I couldn’t handle the letdown. I heard the ripping of paper and then silence. I sat there, waiting. Didn’t she know that I was desperate here? Why wasn’t she speaking? And then, with shock in her voice, she said, “There’s money in here. Nothing else, just $15.” I had been slouched, holding my head in my hands, but at this I sat straight up.

“Wh-what?”
“$15. No note. Just money. And the “K” on the front.”
“You did it. Mom, that isn’t okay. Don’t mess with me, I’m in a very fragile state right now!”
“I didn’t! I only have like $2 cash in my wallet right now. And I wouldn’t do that.”
“Slip the envelope back under the door. I want to see the handwriting.”
She obliged, “This isn’t your handwriting.”
“That’s because I didn’t do it! And it wasn’t there when I took the garbage out, which was only a few minutes ago.”

This is where I lost it, folks. I asked about a million more times over the following days, but I know that she didn’t do it. She would’ve cracked and come clean by now. And the friends that knew about what was going on were in the middle of their long drive back home, so it wasn’t them either. I knew He had come through, but I was in denial at the same time, “But…He never does that. He’s never done anything like that for me before! He doesn’t come through for me. He doesn’t prove Himself to me. This means…this means that He is faithful.” She replied, “Well, He did it this time. I don’t know why, but He did.” I began sobbing, “But this means that all those promises He made me, the ones I was so sure were just lies…He’s actually going to come through on them.” She almost laughed, “And that’s a bad thing?” “No,” I replied, “I just…I just don’t know how to process this right now.”

Truth be told, friends and family, I still don’t. I still have no idea how to process this. I have told only a few people as I write this. It’s a long story, but I feel it needs to be told. God doesn’t give us testimonies to keep them to ourselves. He did this for me. He is faithful. Maybe you’re going through what I was. I don’t know if you’re going to get $15, or anything that you might consider as “proof,” but God is with you. This story is proof that He comes through, and it might be just what someone needs to hear. And if not, well, this is my blog so I’m allowed to talk about whatever I want anyway. So there! But no, really, I feel this is a tale that needs to be told.

It doesn’t stop there, though. No, no. There’s more, guys. And it’s kind of big. God knows us, right? You should be nodding right now. He knows I’m logical, studious, and curious by nature. It wasn’t until Wednesday, but I finally got around to researching if the number 15 had any scriptural meanings. I had come up with possible reasons for the amount, but nothing based in Scripture. I didn’t expect to find anything. I was blown away when I did. There were too many to count, but they mostly revolved around forgiveness, Jesus’s sacrifices for us, and God bringing us out of times of suffering. Here is the first that struck me: “Fifteen, therefore, specially refers to acts wrought by the energy of Divine grace.” Well that was certainly true. God’s Divine grace had brought me something to hold onto through an act. The second one is a bit long, so hang in there: “God delivered Israel’s firstborn from death on the 14th; then, at the beginning of the 15th day at sunset, the children of Israel began to leave Egypt by night. This night is called ‘the night to be much observed unto the Lord’ (Exodus 12:40-42; Numbers 33:3; Deuteronomy 16:1). On this same day 430 years earlier, after the sun had gone down ending the 14th, God told Abraham in a vision that his descendants through Isaac would end up as slaves in a foreign country – but that He would release them from this bond­age after 400 years (Genesis 15:12-16). Exactly 430 years later – on the same night – this prophecy was fulfilled as the children of Israel left Egypt on the 15th day of the first month (Exodus 12:40-41)” So, uh, after 430 years of suffering these people escaped their suffering. Now, I know I look young for my age, but I haven’t been suffering for quite that long, but I’ve had hardships in my life for quite some time now. On the 15th day, He brought them out of their suffering. I honestly take this as God telling me, “Katie, you have certainly suffered and hurt for a long time now. I strongly desire to bring you out of your period of suffering, so please take my hand now and let me lead you out of the darkness.” It took the rest of Sunday spent in shock, but on Monday I finally answered Him, quietly but with determination, “Yes, Father.”

Life is obviously not going to be perfect now, but if you lived at my house you would see that I have been so completely changed. I had been falling into this hole for nearly seven months. I had been slowly walking from God. Then I reached rock bottom. A lot of my friends saw it to some extent, something I only know because I’d been receiving Words about it from them. But none of them had even a clue of the extent (that I know of). If any of you did, I’m impressed, because honestly? Even I didn’t realize the extent of it all. I had classes that following Tuesday and Thurday, and I went. I even turned in my homework. The old me would have used any excuse to skip school or to get an extension on homework, but I kept moving forward. I knew that I had to, and it actually felt peaceful instead of stressful. There are just so many little areas that are changing in me and my heart. I’m seeking God’s Word in books and a new devotional, and having a relationship with Him unlike any I’d ever had before. I could certainly add more to this story, because a lot has gone on, but I’m going to start wrapping it up now.

The last thing that I’d like to say is that, while we don’t all obviously have the same friends or family, the same life, or the same circumstances – even though it’s hard, remember that there is no need for shame in the places where you feel broken or where you are struggling. It’s actually okay to reach out to other people that we trust when we’re hurting, no matter how absurd we may think we’re going to sound. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to be hurt and broken. It’s even okay to be angry, because if we’re honest, we all get angry. Turn to God and ask Him to show you the bigger picture, for His peace, and for Him to surround you with angels – some of which might be the people in your life. One of my angels during this trial works at a Christian bookstore. Ask for prayer. And if you have stayed long enough to read this, then rest in the comfort of knowing that you are not alone. I’ve been there, many times, and I’m still standing. It might not make sense now, but it all will in time. You are amazing and you are loved.

I’d like to leave you with some lyrics. The first are from a Lifehouse song called “Hanging by a Moment.” This is how I felt when I sat in my bathroom, crying out to God.

“Letting go of all I’ve held on to
I’m standing here until you make me move
I’m hanging by a moment here with you
I’m living for the only thing I know
I’m running and not quite sure where to go
And I don’t know what I’m diving into
Just hanging by a moment here with you”

[How I connect these to what I was going through is that I was letting go of fears and reservations and basically throwing a tantrum, stampting my foot and saying, “God, I’m not moving until you come through for me,” while all the while begging Him not to let me down because He is all I have known my entire life. He was all I was hanging onto. I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going. I knew I was diving into something new, but I was trusting Him to catch me. And He did.]

The other song is one I’m going to leave you with a lyric video of. It has spoken to me on many occasions, and it is where the title came from for this post. It is “Strong Enough” by Matthew West. “Well maybe, maybe that’s the point. To reach the point of giving up. Cause when I’m finally, finally at rock bottom, well that’s when I start looking up. And reaching out.” It took me rock bottom, not only to look up at Him, but to reach out to those around me.

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Perception is Everything

Today I was driving home from class and came to a stop light where a man was waiting for someone to let him through to get out of the gas station. I stopped and gave him the universal “go ahead” signal, he waved back and went, and we were both on our merry way. But I got to thinking in that moment about the differences between how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. In my mind, this man could see that I’m an often timid, usually introverted, almost always caring to a fault, self conscious, mid twenty something girl. I expected him to see those things because I could, but that isn’t how it works at all. To paint the picture slightly more vivid for you, I sported a bright pink pea coat and a winter hat with a big white bow on it today. While what we wear can make a statement, bright colors and bows don’t always equal caring and perky people while dark colors and the like don’t always equal “emo” or angry types.

Are you staying with me so far? If not, I apologize, as my thoughts are running quickly through my mind at the moment.

In my mind I projected who I am onto this man, and to everyone I encounter. I expect them to see me for me because I do. I live in my head 24/7 (quite a scary place to spend too much time, I might add), and so I grow so used to knowing me that I expect everyone else to see me for who I really am, also. I could be wrong here, but I feel like most of us probably do this without even realizing it.

When someone is rude to me, I don’t understand, because I usually bottle up my angry or sad emotions in public and therefore come across as perky (I promise I’m not tooting my own horn here, in fact, I consider the bottling of emotions to sometimes be one of my most dangerous faults). When my friends hear about it, they usually say similar things because they see the caring side of me that I show to the world. The thing is, though, that strangers don’t get a chance to see that side of us. The person we project to the world is only seen through interactions, sometimes small and sometimes large, but interactions nonetheless.

After all, no one knows me better than me – or do they? You see, there is a flip side to this coin. While I live in my head and see things from one angle – what emotions I feel, how I look, what I think and believe, and “who I really am,” others see it all from a different angle. Living in our own heads gives us the best look at all of our strengths, but it also gives us a front row view to all of our glorious faults. Think for a moment about one or two things that you love about yourself and then one or two things that you can’t stand about yourself. For me, they look like this: I love that I am an empathetic person and that I care about people and activities (such as my dream of writing) with a fiery passion. I hate that I let people walk on me, that I often shy away from involving myself in situations without first being invited, that – oh wait, I said one or two, didn’t I? You see, it took me some time to think of two things I liked, but not much time to think of faults.

This is where the flip side of perception comes in. Do we really know ourselves better than anyone else ever could? In some regards, yes. In others, absolutely not. When I’m angry, hurting, and especially when I’m livid (oh yes, little old me gets livid quite often) I see the very worst in myself. All of the good things about me fade away. I can start ranting a list of everything horrible about myself with no problem whatsoever, but when someone tries to calm me by telling me to name a few things I like about myself, my mind goes blank. Here comes a friend to the rescue with texts, emails, calls, etc reminding me of who I am and who I can be.

Recently, there was drama going on in both my family and with one of my friends and I vented a little bit on Facebook. I received a text from a good friend asking me how anyone could be so mean to me, because I’m the sweetest person ever. I certainly didn’t feel like the sweetest person ever at that moment in time, but her text reminded me of who I am and who I can strive to be. I was so lost in the negativity that I felt out of my anger and hurt, and so easily believing the bad things that another said about me (another way that perception can work against some of us), that I forgot about all of the good things.

So the bottom line is this – perception really is everything. That person that was rude at the grocery store today? They might have just lost a loved one. That person that cut you off in traffic? They might be rushing to get to the hospital to see their first baby be born (not saying they should be speeding or cutting people off, just that we should remember we don’t always know the circumstances). In all reality, this is just another way of saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” That girl that’s walking around with tattoos and wearing all black might be an extremely sweet girl (I own a lot of black clothing and have tattoos). She also might not be. The point is, you have no idea just by looking at her. You can’t necessarily help that you have an automatic perception of her, as our brains usually form an opinion based on appearance before we interact with someone, but you can choose to remember that your perception might not be correct. The same is true of yourself – you are probably an amazing person with good intentions in life, but people aren’t likely to know that just by looking at you.

I will leave you with a famous quote that touches on how we have to choose the way that we perceive ourselves: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” – Henry Ford.

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Book Blog: Her Little Book Corner

Really quick I wanted to let you all know that all things book related will be found at a new location! I have created a Book Blog for book reviews, book talks, book tags, book videos, read-a-thons, & more! You can find that at Her Little Book Corner.

This is all things relating to my reading, not my writing, which will still be found right here! Thanks for your time and I hope to see you over there!

*Waves*

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Works of Fiction: Chapter Five

The next morning found Jade regretting how much she had to drink the previous night. She was never going to drink again, she told herself. If only it were really that simple to leave the lifestyle she had just embarked upon behind.

She hurried to the shower, letting the hot water erase every ache and pain as she attempted to hold her sick stomach at bay. She stood there, under the water, until it began to grow cold. When she finally couldn’t take it anymore, she stepped out carefully and took her time getting ready.

She was not looking forward to facing her mom today. Sure, part of her felt like she could do whatever she liked without worrying what her mother thought, but part of her felt that fear that all children feel when they know they’ve disappointed their parent. No matter how many times she tried to push that behind her new found “bravery,” she just couldn’t.

She peaked around into the hallway, and when she didn’t see anyone, she stepped quietly out of the bathroom. “Oh, hello there,” her mother’s voice stopped her in her tracks, “How nice of you to join me for breakfast this beautiful morning. Or, rather lunch, as you slept right through breakfast.”

She bowed her head, avoiding eye contact, but when she finally looked up she didn’t find an angry look on her mother’s face. In fact, her mother was smiling at her, a slightly sad look behind her eyes. She didn’t appear to be upset, and Jade silently chastised herself for forgetting that her mother wasn’t the yelling type. She was the “hold it in until she cried” type, and that broke Jade’s heart a little.

“Yeah,” she hesitated, knowing her mother knew the truth but not willing to speak it, “I was up late.”

Her mother simply nodded and walked into the kitchen, “What would you like this afternoon to eat?”

“I’m not hungry,” Jade’s stomach made an unpleasant noise, “Just some coffee, please.”

Her mother gave her a sympathetic look that she knew she didn’t deserve, “You have to eat something, Sweetie. Here, I’ll make you some toast while the coffee finishes up.”

The twinge of guilt that Jade had been feeling continued to grow. Her mother had always been there for her, no matter how many wrong turns she made. She knew this time had been the worst, but she had this feeling deep inside that it wouldn’t be for long.

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Bout of Books 8.0 Day 4

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 19th and runs through Sunday, August 25th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 8.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

Day 4 has been GREAT for me. I finished my first book and loooved it. There will be a video review coming soon, but if you want to see one now, you can check out my Goodreads review now! I will put it at the very bottom of this post.

 

No update video tonight. There will be a double update video tomorrow!

Time Devoted to Reading: 4+ hours a day

My Goals:
-Read an average of 150 pages a day (1050 pages over the week)
-Read 3+ books
-Complete at least one challenge

Books to Read:
Memory’s Door by James L. Rubart (353 pages)
Divergent by Veronica Roth (487 pages)
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (316 pages)

Updates:

Thursday

Number of books I’ve read today: 1
Total number of books I’ve read: 1
Number of pages I’ve read today: 86 / 150
Number of pages I’ve read total: 336 / 1050
Books: Memory’s Door by James L Rubart, Divergent by Veronica Roth
Thoughts: Memory’s Door ended just as strong as it started. Super excited to finally be starting Divergent! Loving surprise social hour!
Challenges:  Book Road Trip Challenge:
1. New York City – City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
2. Palm Springs – Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
3. England – Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
4. Colorado – Soul’s Gate by James L Rubart
5. Seattle – Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead
6. Paris – Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
7. Amsterdam- The Fault in our Stars by  John Green.
Other challenge: I Spy Challenge- from upper left to lower right: (Anna Dressed in Blood = fog, Coral Moon = Moon, Faefever = road, Saving Juliet = Sunglasses, Chance of Ghosts = snowflakes, Christmas Wishes = Christmas tree, Game of Thrones = sword, Divergent = flames, Twisted = heels, Indigo Spell = tattoo, The Reason = lightning, & City of Bones = City skyline):

Wednesday

Number of books I’ve read today: .75
Total number of books I’ve read: .75
Number of pages I’ve read today: 159/ 150
Number of pages I’ve read total: 299 / 1050
Books: Memory’s Door by James L Rubart
Thoughts: Amazing, page turning book with some great points. Super fun experience!
Challenges: Top 5 TBR (Beautiful Creatures, Delirium, Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, The Darkest Minds) & Top 5 Buy Now (The Darkest Minds, Mockingjay, Cuckoo’s Calling, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Uglies). Book Spine Poetry (pictured in last post).

Tuesday
Number of books I’ve read today: 1/4
Total number of books I’ve read: 1/4
Number of pages I’ve read today: 127/150
Number of pages I’ve read total: 140/1050
Books: Memory’s Door by James L Rubart
Thoughts: Loving my book! Super suspensful & edge of the seat. Excited to be catching up! Loving the making of new friends aspect as well.
Challenges: Re-Title a book. Memory’s Door re-titled When Warriors Riding Are Attacked.

Monday
Number of books I’ve read today: 0
Total number of books I’ve read: 0
Number of pages I’ve read today: 13/150
Number of pages I’ve read total: 13/1050
Books: Attempted Trick or Treat Murder, Memory’s Door, & First Grave on the Right
Thoughts: Wishing I could get in the reading zone.
Challenges: Pair-A-Thon (pair drink/food with your book!) Sutter Homes Moscato w/ Trick or Treat Murder.

Memory's DoorMemory’s Door by James L. Rubart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Each Warrior is dealing with regret on one level or another and they will all be forced to face it before the last page. They will also be facing The Wolf, and this will take them on the ride of their lives.

If you loved Soul’s Gate you will definitely want to pick up Memory’s Door. You may be forced to deal with some things you’ve shoved down, but you will be glad that you did. This book also deals with a fairly controvertial subject, but it is one of the many reasons that I loved it.

For those of us that can relate, this book can be life changing and touching in ways you never realized. James L. Rubart’s books are much more than entertainment for many, and this one is no different.

This book hit home on more than one level for me. I will warn you, it is an intense book, even more intense than his first in my opinion. It is also so well worth it.

View all my reviews

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