Good morning, New Women. Melody, who has been a part of this blog community since it first began, has shared some thoughts with you as she moves on to Cafe Nudge. You're going to want to read this.
I’ve been thinking about what I wanted to write as a guest post for about a full month now. I kept putting it off because I just couldn’t seem to think of what would actually mean something. So, I finally decided that the most significant thing I could share would be my story; the testimony of who I am and who Christ has made me. I’ve been on this blog since its inception five years ago and before that I was on the tween blog for a time. I’m almost twenty now so I’m not going to be around much anymore, but I wouldn’t be the same person without it. This is my story, my farewell, and my thanks.
I grew up in a Christian home and was very involved in church growing up. I had the typical kid problems with friends and parents, but things were good until I hit high school. At fifteen I experienced my first serious bout of depression. That year was my sophomore year in high school and I was dealing with more difficult classes at my homeschool co-op, being home alone more since my mom worked a couple days a week, and it was my first year in the performing company at my dance studio. Plus, my sister was struggling in her first year at college and I was soaking up a lot of stress and worry from my family. In short, I was miserable.
It’s so hard to describe depression unless you’ve actually been through it, but I just felt utterly hopeless. So many times I just wanted to disappear and I didn’t think anyone would miss me. Sometimes I wanted to hurt myself, though I never got past digging my fingernails into my skin. I actually wished I had the self-control to stop eating. I really didn’t like life at that time. I was sucking in all the negative emotions around me, consumed in all of my own hopelessness, and felt utterly alone in all aspects of life. On top of all this, I had no idea where God was and wasn’t very interested in looking for him.
Turns out, God was right beside me the whole time. I realize now that what I perceived as a lack of self-control when I wanted to stop eating was actually God giving me enough self-control so that somewhere deep inside me I knew that not eating wasn’t the answer. When I felt utterly alone, God was gently nudging me to find comfort and security in Him, rather than in others. When I felt hopeless, God wanted to give me His everlasting hope. I went to counseling for a few months and started to slowly climb out of the pit I’d been in. I opened myself up a little bit more and started to see the light of Christ.
A big reason that I was able to do all this was because I started actively searching for God instead of just thinking He was ignoring me. It was hard, I won’t deny that. God had better things for me, but I’ve discovered that most of the time we have to put in the work as well. God isn’t always like the knight in shining armor that sweeps up damsels in distress as they stand there moping like princesses in movies. He’s right there waiting for us, but in my experience you have to take the first step of reaching out a hand or looking up so that He can pull you into His arms and gently guide you away. To me, this always comes down to admitting that I need help, and then being willing to accept His unconditional love. These are two things I recently rediscovered this past year in college as well.
My freshman year of my small liberal arts college was amazing. I made wonderful friends and felt accepted and loved. I learned many things that year, but there’s one word that can summarize my first year: happy. I didn’t think life could get any better. However, this past year, my sophomore year, I found out that God loves me too much to simply leave me at happy. He wants to take me to something much deeper.
I had my first panic attack at the end of October, three days away from the busiest month of the semester. An hour after going to bed, I was shaking uncontrollably and felt nauseous and unexplainably terrified. I had no idea what to do and I wasn’t really thinking logically enough to figure out a plan. Thankfully, God already had one. Hardly knowing what I was doing, I ended up knocking on the door of a friend’s room that I normally wouldn’t have gone to, but she was wonderful and stayed up with me until after two in the morning just listening and being with me.
This was not the only panic attack I had that semester, but it was the first and one of the worst. Through these attacks I learned that no matter how independent I wanted to be and as alone as I felt, I was surrounded by people who loved me. I hate showing weakness and trusting is hard, but through my anxiety I learned that sometimes showing my vulnerability is necessary. Suddenly, I needed my friends just to get through a panic attack or give me a hug when all I wanted to do was cry. I knew I could trust God, now I needed to learn that I could trust those that He has put into my life and they in turn trusted me more. This is a lesson I needed to know for something in that spring semester that I hadn’t expected to encounter.
At my school, in the dance major you can either be a BA or BFA (Bachelor of Arts or Fine Arts). The BFA basically means that you have to get to the highest dance level, whereas the BA is based more on academics. I wanted the BFA more than I had ever wanted something in the dance world. You have to apply for the BFA after freshman year and I had been given a rare extra semester for them to decide because they just weren’t sure I was capable of getting to that highest level. The first day of spring semester, I got my letter rejecting me from the BFA track altogether.
For half the semester I struggled to accept that decision. Finally, I talked to the head of the department, hoping she would give me some understanding in regards to why I was rejected. Unexpectedly, she was gracious and kind, talking to the faculty and deciding to give me one last month to prove myself, even though many did not think I could do it. I left that meeting discouraged and felt quite certain that it would take a miracle for me to achieve the BFA.
The last day of the semester I found out that at last I was accepted to be a BFA, thanks to a ton of hard work and the encouragement of my friends. I was overjoyed of course, but not just because I got what I wanted. I truly feel like I got it because I was finally able to let it go. I stopped thinking that it would define me, but it was still something I wanted and was willing to work for. God showed me so much grace through that whole situation because in essence I got four chances to prove myself, when most people only get one or two.
This was a difficult year for me, but what I learned about showing vulnerability, trusting others, and God’s grace, mercy, and trustworthiness make it worth it. I’m still learning, and I know I’ll be learning for the rest of my life. This is where I am now. In many ways I feel like I’ve come full circle from where I was my sophomore year of high school, and even though I feel the same strong negative emotions at times, I continue to become more and more aware of God every day of my life. This is the beginning of my story. What’s yours?
If you want to comment, share how your stress and fear manifest themselves. (For Melody it was anxiety and depression; others get angry over nothing; some stop eating or eat twice their body weight; ...) Then tell us how God might be working in that. What are you learning?
We'll miss Sarah Elizabeth and Alisha and Melody and all the sister who have moved on to Cafe Nudge ... and yet I see all of you growing and maturing to become the same kind of deep, honest, authentic young women. Let's keep going together.