and this life sentence that i’m serving, i admit that i’m every bit deserving

the lights went dim. there was a hushed silence in the crowd as all eyes were glued to the stage.
my breathing was shallow and my heart pounding. as i brushed my hair back from my face, the volume in the arena climbed higher and higher. showtime was upon us. i cast a side glance to my roommate and grinned…. it had been such a long time since i was breathing in the beats of a drum in pure joy. this night was different. something had changed.

rewind to several weeks prior:

“do you want to go to the show with me?” my roommate posed the question and i could tell she was hoping i would say yes. i replied indicating that i needed to check my calendar and make sure i was able to get off work. that meant i had at least 48 hours of time to make up mind. 48 hours to cry, pray, rage and sit silently. it was never a question of whether or not i would be allowed vacation time at work– it was always a much simpler question is my heart strong enough for this?

when i gave my final answer a few days later, i said yes. inside, i was still incredibly hesitant and fear was extremely overwhelming.  it had been almost 3 years since i had seen this band live and it was a self-imposed hiatus of sorts. i was tired of being seen as a freak for loving music and my heart had long since given up on still loving one thing that pushed me towards grace and redemption. in short, i had been judged for things in my life that are and will forever be part of my story.  to this day i hesitate to share my full testimony with people because i still fear being rejected as i already have been so often. even leaders in my life give me that look when they find out the truth. there was a time when i rebelled against letting people in because the fear of being judged and rejected was too terrifying to face… but now it’s almost worse. i had started to see myself the way their judgmental eyes saw me… and i ran from it. ran from the music that once meant so much, ran from the melodies and lyrics that once upon a time saved my very life.

i could never understand, why the people in my new city, my new home preached grace so strongly and then never extended it. why speak something that you claim you believe in deeply and then turn around and judge someone by one part of their story? this question burned at me for months while i struggled. why didn’t anyone in this city seem to want to know me? then came a summer with confrontation. i met my fears head on and saw myself presented with an ultimatum: conform or leave– there was nothing else in life for me so i chose to conform.  i spent the next weeks and months fighting my way through the steps, the moves to a perfected dance, half asleep and never truly living.

somewhere in the death of my winter my life shifted. i moved into a new situation and a new home, began forming relationships with new people and started to crawl back to some semblance of myself. around this time i entertained a visit of a dear friend and at every turn she reminded me to really live, forcing me to be honest and teaching me, always teaching me something about fear. before i knew what happened, the summer flew by and with it many memories and…for the first time, i fell in love. now i won’t sit here and romanticize it for you because that’s not how it happened and if you know anything of my life, that’s not how it ended. i do not regret it because i came alive many times that summer.  in the end, my depression caught hold of me and it wouldn’t be until October that i could breathe again.

in October i got in a car with my youngest sister, drove 8 hours to a city i’d never set foot in, and spent a whirlwind of a week breathing, crying, gasping. that week was full of mistakes, full of joy. i shared honesty in personal ways i never had in my whole life and a very dear friend allowed me to hold his baby girl. in the end i would break down weeping at unexpected moments in the days to follow my return home. i took a two week break from social media and returned from the desert in the power of the Holy Spirit so to speak.

November and December passed by in a blur, and two over-exaggerated holidays with them. my heart began shrinking back to dark places and my roommate persuaded me to see the Disney movie “Frozen”… i didn’t realize someone could write a children’s movie to so accurately depict so many aspects of my life. i saw hope in a way i hadn’t for weeks…but it didn’t take the enemy too long to stifle that and remind me what winter really is– dark days, cold days, empty days. i began training for a 5k hoping to find release in the monotony and challenge. this is where the decision came to me– “do you want to go with me to the concert?”

the night was so different than i expected, nothing like any show i had been to before. there were only 2 groups i was very familiar with, two others who i knew of, but only from a childhood of listening to Christian radio stations and an empty seat beside me since my roommate had not yet arrived with her group.

apprehension flooded my heart and i sat in my seat, sipping water and constantly texting with my best friend, sharing pieces of honesty but still putting on a brave face.  fear was settling in and suddenly the first band was performing. instinctively i longed to escape the crowd and be somewhere secluded…i knew that was not even an option this night. instead, i whispered the name of the One who knows me better than i know myself and opened my trembling hands, letting my heart go free.

and i sang. and jumped. worshipping, i screamed the lyrics of truth so loudly i nearly lost my voice before it was all over.
the safety in being anonymous in a crowd was the freedom i exactly needed that night, to not be known to be glossed over. to others sitting near me i was just an overexuberant female thrashing around and flinging her hair to the beat.

but to Jesus, i was His.
that was enough for the moment.

i’m still not sure exactly where i am in this season, and yes the days and nights seem to run together. passion to breathe seems to be a figment of the past, but there are days ahead and there are nights coming soon. there will be tears as there always are and there may even be laughter in the places i least expect it. if there is one small hope i have learned to cling to after 23 years of fighting for my life, it’s that the winter doesn’t last forever, spring will come.

as one of my favourite quotes states it:

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Aside

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