“the dawn is breaking over you, look to the east where the sun rises”
one year ago, almost exactly, this prophetic song came at the annual OCM conference. at the time, i remembered my eyes filling with tears at the possibility of a sunrise, that maybe, just maybe, life was finally truly changing to bring me to a dawn from the darkness i knew with such familiarity. strangely enough… the next weeks really did speak to the light and the dawn. to me, it was as if i was finally beginning to see who i was. then August hit me hard and cold and left my breathless with no air to even grasp at… i was lost again, spiraling uncontrollably and i wasn’t sure what could make me stop.
October was the answer.
my youngest sister and i embarked on an 8 hour drive to spend a week in Nashville, Tennessee. we stayed with my closest friend Mary and her husband Jordan. they were deeply kind and gracious to let us stay and even be tourists with us day after day, night after night. it was a trip i will never forget because God began to open my heart in a way i’m convinced never would have happened had i not traveled hundreds of miles and left everything comfortable and familiar. continuously that entire week, He was showing me what mercy really is and how it intertwines with grace to give us freedom in life. i started breathing deeply again. everything that was gray before suddenly burst into colour again and the vibrancy left me dazed and in awe. Mary and i decided right before the trip that we would do something our 12 year-old selves would be proud of us for: we made each other a mix-tape (on cd’s of course) and it was really fun to share songs with each other, especially considering we both are huge music lovers. what i did not expect was the drive home after the trip and that cd to forever change my life. everything i had experienced and everything i saw with my heart that week ended in a stream of sobbing tears somewhere between Nashville and Indianapolis as the song by Aaron Keyes “Not Guilty Anymore” wrapped itself around my heart and my walls and absolutely shattered them. (no seriously, go listen to it if you never have before). I came home and after doing copious amounts of laundry and putting things away meticulously in their places, I went offline for two weeks. during this time, i cut off communication to anyone who i did not immediately see in my daily life. the purpose was obedience to something God had spoken to me while in Nashville, He asked me to unplug and i was deeply grateful. i needed time to process everything and it ended up causing me to press into Him very deeply…all of this was incredible. i can never forget it. for days and even weeks i felt as though i was blossoming like a lilac bush in the springtime, my buds were started to green and i was ready for days of morning dew and early dawns…. but they never came.
instead, i was thrown into the coldest, most brutal winter i’ve experienced in my whole life. now, i’m not referring to it as a desert season because it definitely was not that, but anyone who knows of life in the midwest in the winter surely can understand to an extent just how tough this year was. it seemed like all i did was sleep and work and go to the grocery store and even church and homegroup became incredibly dull and routine. the vibrant colour that was my life suddenly was replaced by a gray-scale look alike. i was sure that even if i screamed as loud as i possibly could, i couldn’t break free, couldn’t escape the plastic wrap that was slowly suffocating me again.
somewhere in January i resolved to have a different new year, i resolved to get healthy. i was tired of letting lies rule in my head and my heart and so…i began to fight. i packed a gym bag minimum of 3 times a week and stopped right after work. i never felt like working out but i was always glad when i was done. finally it felt like i was doing something, finally felt like i was breaking ground. it was also right around this time that my good friend Cara persuaded me to sign up for a 5k with her. i agreed thinking “okay the Color Run in May, surely i can work up to 3 miles by then!” (i couldn’t even run one mile at this time!!) and so i began working at it little by little and changing my other choices in food and life as well….then suddenly i was agreeing to run a 5k in February… *gulp* OUTDOORS. i was dreading it and ready for it to be over long after i signed up for it, but Cara was constant encouragement to me through this time. i remember the Wednesday nights i would race home from work and go to her apartment and we would take turns running on the treadmill in her basement, talking about everything from music to God to fitness and everything in between. suddenly it was like i was blinking back the sleep from my eyes and they were clearing to the light again.
my first time running outdoors and not on a treadmill was quite the travesty. i had no idea how to pace myself and i kept going too fast and having to slow way down to walking. Cara was incredibly patient through the whole process and by the end of it i actually remember thinking “i can DO this!” …and i did just a few weeks later.
the next month passed fairly uneventfully for me, i spent time actually going to a few shows which i hadn’t done in a couple years. it was during this time that i realized i had truly changed from that bandmonkey i once was and… music did not hold me anymore. everything was different suddenly. to be honest this discovery felt a bit like losing an old friend and i wasn’t sure what to do, so i stopped listening to music, stopped reaching for new tracks, stopped seeking something different. if i listened to music at all, i would put on a radio station or an old playlist.
much like a reptile, my old skin no longer fit me anymore. everything was getting itchy and i was ready to let go of so much old Liz, ready to come into refreshing new skin. also much like a reptile, it isn’t always the easiest to shed the old, it comes with rawness and some pain, lots of itching for newness. while i’ve been tempted to get impatient through this process, beginning to recognize it has greatly helped.
and now fast forward to May 2014… i’ve passed a birthday and a lot of life this year already but one thing had yet to happen: Mary was coming to Kenosha…for a whole week !!
to say i was excited was quite the understatement. my work calendar had a countdown for over 2 months leading up to the day. i planned out what i would wear 50 times then changed my mind 100 times. it was probably the longest work day of my entire life. i knew that as soon as the clock hit 4:30 i would be racing home to get everything ready for her arrival. she was flying into O’Hare with an estimated arrival time of 8:15pm.
i had never been to O’Hare before so i was nervous for that and also excited to hug the other half of my heart. i pulled into the parking area and spent a good 20 minutes trying to figure out where i was supposed to go, finding my way to terminal 3 in the end. ten minutes later i secured a nice quiet location on a bench and settled in to wait, people watching all the while. about 9 o’clock we finally met up (because…delays…expect them) and i could not contain my grin the whole way home. i was tired but full of joy and half of what i was saying barely made sense but i didn’t even care, i was so incredibly happy– so incredibly myself.
the following days passed in a bright blurred streak: we did The Color Run 5k, went to Frank’s Diner, walked by the lake, saw an incredible sunset, drove through a rain storm that brought heaven to earth, stood awestruck at the base of a massive rainbow that spread across a farmer’s fields, sang our hearts out at a Bethel worship night, prayed together in the night until we were both in tears, chased the sunrise, ran the shore of Lake Michigan, drank coffee like it was our job… all of these things were so small yet so incredibly large.
a memory i must give space to here:
for two days Mary and i stayed with my parents, getting into shenanigans, having adventures, taking photos, laughing a lot. on the final night we were there, she inquired something of me and when she asked i said no because i was tired, but the truth is that i was not ready..not yet. she was requesting to visit the bridge, visit “my” bridge. in many ways this bridge was the reason we were even friends, if i had not experienced that journey, we would never have met. let me explain…when i was barely 18 years old, just graduated from high school, i lost everything i held dear. my family life was a chaotic mess, torn apart by challenge and circumstance, my group of friends who i had been tight with through all of highschool had now turned their backs on me and my best friend who i had known since i was 8 years old, wanted nothing to do with me anymore. my entire world screeched to a dead-stop on that August evening. i stood, phone in my hand, staring out the screen of the door to my parent’s house after the worst fight of my entire life. i knew there was no going back, i knew there was no changing what had just transpired. when a person utters the words “i NEVER want to see or hear from you again!!” there isn’t much to be done for repair or reprieve. devastated does not even begin to describe what i felt, my whole world was turned upside-down. even when things were rocky at home or school was a nightmare, i always had my best friend…and now she was gone.
in an instant, as if in a trance, i walked to my bedroom, grabbed my mp3 player and my razor blade and started walking.
it wasn’t until i was nearly half a mile from home that i made a gash in my arm as the night began to sing around me. i was hoping for complete darkness by the time i made it to the bridge, it would be easier to jump into nothing. in every sense of the word, i was done. done with pain, done with words, done with people, done with living.
the path before me was familiar yet completely scary. i knew what this meant in every way and knew it was the end of the end. after growing up in church, i knew i was walking away from God in this, but did He even care about me? it sure didn’t seem like it.
i continued etching my pain into my arms the whole way to the river and by the time i made it to the guard rail, my arms were crying with me.
i never felt a thing.
i remember climbing up on the edge, ready for everything to finally stop hurting.
i remember whispering with my arms outstretched asking God to stop me if He truly wanted me here.
i remember half a second later when my phone went off with a text message from a friend.
i remember the way that ringtone (song) shattered the darkness and caused my heart to see hope.
i remember crumpling to the ground weeping.
God heard me.
He wanted me.
there was nothing else that mattered.
i dusted myself off and began the unanticipated return journey home.
and Mary wanted to go back to this bridge with me.
and she wanted to take photos.
and i let her.
i walked away that night and God spoke to my heart, He whispered: “stand taller, you are walking away in strength and victory”
my heart blossomed and i was filled with joy in that instant.
He was still with me.
so you see, this whole last week God has been showing me and speaking to me consistently about dawn and the light. so many instances have happened, so many things that have been Him and not us. so much LIGHT….so that is what i wanted to end this post with, a glimpse of the light that is beginning to break in my world and in my life. years later i do finally believe with all my heart that there IS light and beauty that no shadow can touch, and i believe that i am living that story.