Beyond the Blank Page

My Journey to Telling the Untold

At Rock Bottom, I Finally Start Looking Up

on January 17, 2014

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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