Hi everyone! I know it's been awhile since I wrote, but the Holy Spirit has totally and irrevocably moved my heart, and I know I have to share it with everyone. This is a long one, but I beg you. Please, read all the way to the end. Please.
I need to give you guys a little bit of background on what my hearts been like the last 11 months. When the accident happened I really just wanted to spread God's love. I wanted everyone who knew me to realize that I was alive for one reason, and one reason only: God. If you look at the accident from a humanistic standpoint, I wouldn't be alive. But from the spiritual level, which is the only way I wanted people to look at, I was alive for a purpose, and that purpose being God has something planned. So fast-forward a few months, I just wanted to forget about the accident. I wanted it to be something of the past. Then at the beginning of February, I started dating my current boyfriend, Justin, and FYI, he's delightfully fantastic and brings so much happiness to my life. But even though my life seemed to be coming back together, I still struggled with anxiety, my nightmares, and my fears. And when I say struggle, I mean they got worse. I couldn't go into a dark room alone. I was afraid of sleeping some nights. I would purposefully cancel plans with friends just so that I wouldn't have to be in crowds and be uneasy.
Skip forward to June 1 when I started at ORBC. Goodness, my life was in my total order. I knew exactly what was happening for the next eleven weeks. I even color-coded my agenda, so that everything was totally perfect. I was in total control. Or so I thought. I was no longer "the girl who got stuck in the boat" or "the girl whose dad died." I had even abandoned the nickname "shrimpergirl," which I had come to earnestly love. I was over what had happened. I was tired of being identified as part of this tragic accident. I wanted to just be me...the small town, country girl with a thick accent, that loved the Lord.
So one day Cody, my youth pastor and my boss, informed me that I was giving the message the next Wednesday night. It was going to be about "Desperately Seeking the Lord." Excitedly, I prayed a lot and wrote my message, skipping over the accident completely. When I brought him my typed paper, he was a little confused by the casual way I made the accident seem like nothing important. Pouring my heart out to him, I tried to convince him that it wasn't significant anymore. It wasn't who I was. It was the first time I had truly denied the accident out loud. I had just put the largest blessing of my entire life on the bottom shelf, and acted as if it didn't exist. Even now, I'm shocked by my actions. But as I was speaking that night, I felt like David crying out to the Lord was the same way I cried out to the Lord when I was stuck in the boat, and I just had to share it. But I told myself, that's the last time you mention the accident.
Then the fourth and fifth week of my internship arrived, and I was going to be a leader at church camp. I was thrilled! I was never raised in church, so camp was a totally new experience for me. I was ready to take on camp the same way I had taken control of my life: orderly, efficient, allowing nothing unexpected to happen. God sure put me and my "high and mighty", "everything's perfect when done my way" butt in its place. Zach, the other youth intern, and I were to be leaders of a family group during the first week which was high school camp. Glancing at the list, I realized that this would be so much fun. Just ten young people talking and learning about God together. Boy did I have the wrong idea... The second day we had three boys fall asleep, and I mean hardcore sleeping too, snores and all. One girl didn't even speak, one girl was extremely talkative about anything except Christ, and no one else said a word. I didn't know what to do. It was like they had no interest in what we had to say. So the next day, Zach said he would be assertive and get things done...and that later evolved into two boys falling asleep, two girls talking and everyone else silent. We didn't know what to do, we both were struggling so much with getting these students to connect with each other and us.
That night, the entire camp came together in a large atrium to have a quiet worship called Vespers. Nothing but darkness with a large glowing cross, a guy with a guitar, and 640 students lifting up their praises to God. Without surprise, I started to freak out. I was fighting myself, I was fighting God. I wanted so desperately to be a part of such a pure, beautiful worship, but my fears were controlling me. I felt as if I was drowning. I started to sob, and I couldn't breath and then it hit me. I could feel the Spirit telling me that I trust God with everything in my life, but not my fears? Really? Of everything that I should be giving to God, I should be letting him know what I am afraid of and asking for His help. It was emotional, raw, heart wrenching. I felt so strange. I knew that God was trying to tell me something about my fears, but I didn't know what. So the next day, it was my turn to lead out the lesson in family group. Before we started though, I was asking what they thought of Vespers, and automatically one of the girls indignantly states, "I'm not going to that again, I had an anxiety attack last time. I do not want to do that again. I started crying so no, I'm not going back." I was so surprised. She literally just said my exact feelings. Then the other girl chimed in and said, " I have anxiety really bad as well and sometimes I start to cry then pass out when I have an attack." And I just felt compelled to chime in too. So I briefly, and I mean briefly, gave the 3 second version of my accident and told them I had anxiety as well. Then turned to the rest of the group and wanted to quickly move forward with the lesson. And all of a sudden, everything was perfect. Everything had come together. I realized that the lesson I was giving was over spiritual disciplines and how to incorporate them into our lives. According to the lesson, I was suppose to share my spiritual disciplines in my life, and the only reason I started these disciplines in my life is because they help with my anxiety (they now have become a strong part of my spiritual life). So I just was torn. Do I tell them about the accident and deal with their sympathetic looks? Or do I just skip over it? So I met myself in the middle, I gave the three second version and started to move on and realized they were asking questions and wanted to know more. So I just gave it to them, the whole shebang. Everything that had happened from the start, to the next day of finding my dad, to months that have passed. Then I go on to how I decided to change my anxiety and on January 19th started incorporating my Jesus time into my life. So I speak about prayer and all of a sudden, one of the girls raised her hand and says, "Can I ask a personal question? How do you go through everyday knowing what happened to you? Knowing what you went through?" I was NOT expecting that question. Fumbling for words, I struggled.
All of a sudden, it hit me. I realized that the same way my dad died trying to save my brother and I's lives, is the same way Jesus died to save me from eternal hell. So I said that, and she started bawling. Like crying her eyes out. Everyone is wide awake and on the edge of their seats and I'm just totally in awe. I've finally connected with these students and it is was through hardships. So I keep going through the lesson and she keeps bawling and I try to see what she wants me to do, but she's in her own little world. Then one of the guy's gets up and just leaves. Literally leaves the entire building. Then the crying girl gets up to go to the bathroom, another girl follows her and I'm just lost. I look to Zach to see what I need to do, and he's in shock too. I look at our depleted group and felt like the only thing I could do was continue the lesson (probably the teacher in me!). Then it's like everyone just came back at the same time, the boy and the two girls. And I just keep going, talking about the importance of scripture, prayer, worship, and stillness in our everyday lives. Then the boy who hasn't spoken a single word all week starts to talk about how he just started going to church, and everyone just starts sharing their personal walks with the Lord. And I couldn't do anything but listen and thank God for His amazingness. It was such a beautiful thing.
Later that night as I was sharing the event with Justin, I began to cry because all of sudden everything made sense. I had viciously denied the accident as part of who I was, but without it, my group wouldn't have necessarily connected in the way that it did. God took something so tragic, something that has changed my life entirely and used it to impact that group of students. I was in awe. And for the first time I was grateful that I had the accident as part of my story. It was the only way I could connect with those students. I'm not happy that my dad died, I'm not happy that my brother and I both have struggles we still have to overcome, and I'm not happy about some of the brokenness that has been created in my home. But I'm happy that I could bring those students together in a way that I couldn't have before the accident.
So lessons learned in the past two weeks, I can't deny that the accident is part of who I am now. I can't deny that the Lord has placed it on my heart to share it with others (how I'm suppose to share it, I don't know yet). I can't deny the faithfulness and amazing love that God gives. I can't deny that God not only saves, loves, and protects, but He also comforts us and guides us through our fears. I'm proud to say that I have slept with almost no lights on for the past five days and last night I slept in total darkness. I felt no fear and had no nightmares. It leaves me in awestruck wonder when I think about how far I've come emotionally and spiritually in the last two weeks. I have found so much healing in my heart. Overall, I just want everyone to know that Shrimpergirl is back, and she's got a lot on her heart that she's ready to share for the Glory of God. Praise The Lord for His plan, His love, and His unending grace!
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13