Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Power of One

Adrenaline pumps through my veins at times like the scene in the picture above. Moreso when I'm the one on stage! This was taken this past weekend at an event I had the privilege to speak at called Fishfest. It's a cumulation of Christian bands, and over 17,000 people were in attendance. I had the honor to be interviewed by one of the radio show hosts, Lara Scott.

Once again, I have seen God unravel His plan for my life. I think I knew it all along from that very first time I spoke on stage at convocation at Samford University less than a year after my car accident. I've been told by musicians that while they're on stage singing, worshipping God, and in front of thousands that their eyes go blurry, they can't remember what was said or done afterwards, and that it's an almost out of body experience. I can echo the same experience when I speak. It literally is as if God is taking over my human body and speaking directly through me. The surge is electrifying, powerful, and dynamic.

So many wonderful people told me how well I did after I got off stage. And in all honesty, I feel a little guilty saying "thank you" after I speak. I never associate that it's me who speaks (spiritually), but rather I was reflecting the passion in my heart for what God's done in my life and the avenue's that He's allowed me to be a part of like Free Wheelchair Mission. It blesses me to know that I'm a blessing to thousands in developing countries get a wheelchair that they otherwise would never have use of in their life.

But the adrenaline during and afterwards take a good two hours or so to get flushed from my system. It doesn't matter what I'm speaking on - whether it be work related or my personal life - but I'm charged up by thousands of people hearing of God's work and how He took a broken person like me and decided to mold me and use my "not so flattering moments"' to better His Kingdom. I'm in awe of how the Lord works.

My friend of 20 something years posted the video of me speaking that evening on her Facebook page stating how much of an inspiration I am to her and others and how proud she was of me. You see, though, Brianna was the first person to call me up once I came home from rehabilitation and offered to drive me to church. She was instrumental in my life by bringing me back to the Lord's house. I was so self-aware during that time and embarrassed because of the wheelchair, the time it took to get in and out of the car, worried about what people thought of me, would people talk above me as if I wasn't there, would her taking my wheelchair apart to put in the trunk scratch her car, would my pants fall off when I transfered to the car seat, etc. Those of you who are newly injured or remember those first days know exactly what I'm talking about! But Brianna didn't treat me any differently from when I walking and skiing down the ski slopes of West Virginia with her than she did that day when I had to use a wheelchair to go into church. To this day, she is still as accommodating and aware of what I need yet treats me exactly the same as she did twenty years ago. She knows the unpleasant parts of my life, yet still loves me. She's seen me cry, yet still reaches out to hug me. She's seen the joys of my life and been there to cheer me on. I can't tell you what life would be like had certain things not happened to me, but I'm not sure I'd be where I am this day without her boldness and willingness to be there for me the first Sunday I was home from rehab to take offer to take me to church.

Sometimes, that's all it takes. One person reaching out, noting the obvious but also having the ability to look past it and still love you. "Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble." Ecclesiastes 4:9-10. I'm so grateful for those friends in my life who have stood by me through thick and thin, have heard my full testimony, know all about me, and yet love me still. That is the sign of a true friend and of someone who is loving as Christ loves us. I have succeeded in life because of those individuals who have believed in me even during my deepest, darkest hours - who have pushed me forward - and who remind me why I was created.

I hope I get to speak of God's love for me and all my faults for a long, long time. :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

God, You're Weird

" A friend is one to whom one may pour out all the contents of one's heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away."
- Arabian Proverb

Growing up, I had more friends who I yearned to be friends with and to like me than I did real, true friends. We moved around a lot when I was younger, always in a different state until we finally settled in Georgia when I was 9 years old. So my early years were formed around that longing to have a deep friendship with someone that lasted until I was 100.

Throughout high school, I never felt like I fit in either. I was friends with a lot of different people, but none that I would really hang out with on the weekend. I had a lot of different groups of friends, and I could never imagine them all being in the same room together.

I was deeply hurt my senior year of high school by friends who I had considered close to me. They all decided to go to Disney World as their "Senior Trip" together. And they purposely didn't invite me, even though we had always talked about doing this together since we were in Junior High. Worst part was that I found out about it at the funeral of the father of one of those girls. But, I took the higher road and chose not to mention it or bring it up at the time because I knew she was hurting. I denied what I was feeling for the sake of hers.

In college, the same applied where I longed to make friends that mattered and were true, genuine friends who would accept me for who I was. I had heard that college is where you meet some of the best friends of your life. The School of Music is a very tight-knit group of students - predominately because you are doing all your classes together for the next four plus years. I gained the friendship of some wonderful men and women, but two who I was closer to than others.

One of those women was the one I was in the car accident with in July 2000. Our friendship was deep and authentic. I felt as if we were very much on the same level in so many ways, and she inspired me to walk closer to God. It was that summer in 2000 that she decided to come visit me in ministry in California. Then something so devastating happened that shredded our friendship almost completely. The accident.

For eight years, I was very hurt, lonely, sad, and confused. I didn't understand why something like my paralysis would tear us apart. I couldn't understand a God that would do this to me, to us. I blamed God. I blamed the car. I blamed her. I blamed everyone. She wanted nothing to do with me, so it seemed, and that separation from my best friend created a deep ache in me so much. After that eighth year, though, I started to look at both sides of the fence (so to speak). I tried as hard as I could to write out what exactly it was that bothered me and tried to also see things from her perspective. This vantage point gave me more insight than I could have ever understood before, and it led me to a place where I could ask for forgiveness for the pain I had caused her. "What?" you say. "What pain did you cause her? You're the one who is paralyzed!" Well you see, I had done my share of hurtful things to her as a form of revenge. I had never acknowledged them for fear of not being liked anymore. But at that point, what did I have to lose? She already wasn't in my life. So on our ninth anniversary, I had the opportunity to share with her all the things I had done wrong to her and ask her for her forgiveness. It was transformational! Healing began immediately both within myself and with her. In fact, we are closer now than we have ever been since the accident happened, and it's a reality I never thought would come true. It was 100% God who mended this relationship, but it was only after I first realized that I needed to be mended. After me, He could heal our friendship. I am blessed.

Back up to the other woman who I had become close with in college. For the first couple years, she was "that girl" who I really wanted to be friends with but didn't know how to or what to say. She was a bit intimidating to me because she was so much prettier than me, seemed to have more friends than me, and was liked by everyone. Yes, I wanted to be her friend. And throughout the years she became a good friend of mine. But it was our Junior year of college that our friendship began to blossom. And then, the accident happened. But rather than drift away from me as many did during that time, she drew very, very close to me. She was there for me when no one else was there to hear me cry. She was there to experience new adventures with me at a weekend camp for people with disabilities when I already felt so self conscience of myself. She was there with a beautiful bouquet of flowers for me for my one year anniversary after being hurt. She has been there for me for the past ten years when the one I was in the accident with wasn't. She is my kindred spirit, as Anne of Green Gables would say. She knew everything about me, and I trusted her.

I was there to help her pick out her wedding dress when our mutual friend proposed to her. She and I took a night away a week before she got married to have one last bonding moment together. Oh, the memories! I was there for her to zip her dress before heading out to the sanctuary. I took pictures of her, wrote down memories, and stored them away for a future anniversary. Her sister was a huge blessing to me during my Senior year of college after she got married, and I became very closer to her that year. I was part of the family. I was one of the first people she told that she was pregnant for all three of her babies. They were relocated because of Hurricane Katrina when their first was just a newborn, so I held a clothing/money drive at the school I worked at for just her family. I've sent her children Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, loved them as if they were my own, and cared about her family as if they were my own. I finally felt like I belonged somewhere. Again, she was my kindred spirit that I thought only existed in novels.

Because her, her husband, and I were all mutual friends since we were 18 years old (and her husband and my birthday are a day a part), he and I often had conversations about life, but all the time about his wife. Our last conversation was to plan a surprise birthday party for her (his idea). I would fly out there and meet her and have a much needed time away together with her. I was so excited about the surprise! But sadly, none of that would ever happen.

I trusted her with everything in my life - all the good and the bad. One day, I had shared with her about something I had done that I was not proud of. I was completely ashamed and confused as it was not like me at all to have done what I did. I was seeking wisdom, guidance, advice, and love. Not love from a human standpoint, but love that Jesus would offer. Within what seems like seconds later, I would not hear from her again. There are a couple more details in there that don't need to be mentioned, but I'd quickly be asked to not talk to her husband or her family. My heart broke.

This silence has gone on for about a year now, and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of her or her family. There has been some communication, but really, none that would amount to even a paragraph in a chapter. And definitely none via telephone. I learned years prior with the one I was in the accident with that I needed to figure out what it was that was my part in the situation, acknowledge my wrong-doings, ask for forgiveness, and hopefully move forward. I took some serious time to look at the things in question and admitted to what I knew about then requested forgiveness. But...silence. I've kept in contact with her this entire year - acknowledging anniversaries, birthday's, holidays, births, etc. I've called to just see how she's doing, emailed, sent snail-mail. I've also honored her request to not speak to her husband. But yet, it seems as if the roles have reversed and now I'm at a loss for words. I don't know what to do anymore. I've done all that I know how to do, and it saddens my heart even more to not have this person in my life like it was prior. Maybe the timing was just coincidental, but a sin is a sin in Jesus' eye, no matter how big or small. I've forgiven myself. Jesus has forgiven me. And I've asked for her forgiveness. And now I'm just blabbering on with words that mean nothing anymore. I see her life move on, and it seems to have moved on without me. I'm once again left very hurt, lonely, sad, and confused, but this time by the one who has been there for me at my worst. I've been abandoned by my kindred spirit, and it's a hole that seemingly can't be filled.

I write all this out to just say that God is weird, and I don't know what to do. He's weird because it took a great lesson of eight years to learn that I had to look at myself first before trying to mend a friendship of another, and now that I've learned that lesson and I've done all the biblical principles to make healthy steps toward a better, Godly life, I still feel like I'm being punished. I don't get it, God. What's the lesson now? I thought You had brought me a Godly woman who was someone who I felt so comfortable with, could be myself around, share my joys and struggles with, and be authentic with without being judged, looked down on, or be seen as a "risk." I thought she was someone I could grow old with, watch our children get married some day, and share lemonade on the front porch with as we laughed about memories from the "good ol' days." I really don't want to let this friend go, but I'm getting worn out from investing in a dead end road. A friendship has dual communication, so maybe it is over and I need to move on? Perhaps there are friends that you really can't trust everything with? I don't know. It just makes me so sad that I haven't been able to share my past year with her and that I potentially won't be able to share my future with her, either.

God, You're so, so weird. You restored a friendship that I never thought would be restored, and now you're allowing one to leave that I've sought restoration from the biblical way. You obviously know what you're doing, but still, God. You're weird.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Just Because

"I Carry Your Heart" by E. E. Cummings.