From this Valley
Going to college is a lot like climbing a mountain. We all start as a freshman at the bottom and pick our own paths to get to graduation. We do our best to prepare ourselves for the journey: we plan what classes we are going to take and where we want to spend our extra time without stretching ourselves too thin carefully placing one foot in front of the other. However, amidst our greatest efforts in preparing, what are we supposed to do when we are knocked off our path by an avalanche? What do we do when after the snow has cleared and we realize that it’s impossible to get back to the path we were originally on? On January 10th, I met with my advisor to discuss the process of applying to the nursing program. Within 1 minute of sitting down in her office, I was informed that I would not be able to apply to the nursing program because my GPA was not sufficient. So, here I am. I’m back at the bottom of the mountain with no hope of applying to any sort of traditional nursing program. I know that It would be easy for me to be frustrated. It would even be easy for me to blame God for my hardships. But, this is the thing about the God we serve:
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know that plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Jesus Christ, this amazing, all powerful savior of the world is no less holy and no less magnificent. He has a plan for my life and His plan is perfect. So, I will praise HIM not just from the mountaintop but also from this valley and although one door has just been shut. I will dance in the hallway and praise Him until He opens a new door.
THIS IS WHY I WORSHIP.
Let me tell you a little something about the girl I used to be. She was lost, insecure, seeking acceptance and love in all the wrong places. She was well known, and well liked (this is debatable), and she thought she knew was she was doing, but boy was she wrong. Guys, I was a hot mess, and not in the attractive kind of way. My identity was built on the acceptance of boys and my ability to throw back shots. I know, it wasn’t the greatest skill set, but it was what I thought I was. I want to tell you a bit about her story.
Not having a firm foundation or understanding of my identity as a daughter of the King of the Universe lead me down a dark road in high school. I quickly got myself immersed in the party scene and thought I really enjoyed living my life in a constant blur. It was fun. I had a lot of silly moments, and this was what being young was all about, right? Over and over I was met with the reality of my sin– the guilt, shame, self-hatred, and not feeling like I was enough was killing me. But, I squashed those feelings down and continued on in my quest for fulfillment in this way for four years.
When college rolled around, I had decided that I wanted to turn over a new leaf. My reputation was garbage and my dignity had gotten lost along the way. I didn’t want to live ashamed anymore. I decided to move fourteen hours away to a large southern school and begin this new life as the real Rylie. Unfortunately, the only Rylie I had known was the Rylie that was four shots deep and trying to gain the attention of a hottie across the room. My soul was thirsting for more, but I had no idea how to satisfy it. I didn’t know who I was, and I didn’t know who I wanted to be, so my fail-proof plan led me back down the path I had always walked. I decided to rush a sorority. I didn’t know it at the time, but God was about to show me who I really was through this new life.
As I began to try and fit into this new lifestyle, I found myself out with my new sisters one night a bar. It was like any other night at first, until I found that the girls I had come with had left. Here I was in the middle of a bar chatting with a young man I had just met, intoxicated and on my own. He said he would walk me home when my panic became visible and so I gathered my things and we left. I was assaulted that night. I found myself drowning in loneliness, shame, and I felt like it had all happened because I was just too broken of a person for anything else to have been the end result of a reckless night out. In the midst of that moment, I was hopeless.
One of my new sorority sisters must have recognized that in me, because she went out of her way to invite me to something she called “Fam time”. I had no reason to tell her no, so I went. I walked into her house for the first time and was confronted with warm smiles and bibles. To be honest, I hadn’t ever really considered the word to be an answer to anything before and didn’t understand why people prayed when they were hurting, but that day, that moment, opened my eyes to pure love. Those girls truly and deeply loved one another, which in and of itself was a crazy thing to me. I didn’t know friendships could look and sound like that where they genuinely cared for one another.
They opened up the Word and began to read. I don’t remember what they said. I don’t remember what we were even reading. I do, however, remember this message filling my head: You deserve so much more than what you are giving yourself. You’ve been searching and searching for love, and I’m the only one that can give it to you. You are cherished and you are my daughter. He told me that I was perfect to him, and that he died for all of that. He said that this was why he had come, and to stop letting my mistakes own me. He told me he had more for me if I would only trust him. I know this sounds crazy, but it felt so right. My heart reached for him in that moment. My soul came to life. God’s hand had been extended toward me for so long, and I was finally reaching back.
My life changed that day. I wasn’t immediately healed from the hurt that had piled up over the years, and the heaviness I felt didn’t all of a sudden disappear, but I finally felt something real and I wasn’t going to miss out on it. I started making life changes that felt necessary and watched as God blessed my obedience. He met me in my darkest hour and shone his light more brightly than I had ever seen. He walked with me through the hurt, and reminded me I wasn’t alone. From the beginning, God looked at me as his beautiful daughter, capable of far more than I could imagine and lovable beyond measure. Since letting Him in, I have grown to love who I am. I have embraced my identity and stopped filling my life with garbage. I have become proud of who I am, and the only person I have to thank for that is Him. God saved me from myself, from my past, from being overcome by the world, and he wants to do just that for you as well. Trust him. I promise it’s the best decision you will ever make.
What is my Witness?
Last year God convicted me on The Great Commission, to go into the world and make disciples. I started to feel this deep sense of urgency to share my faith and Christ’s love with others. This was a wonderful and necessary conviction. However, instead of completely trusting God to simply use me to execute his plan, I went head first into self condemnation. The question, “What is my witness?” almost seemed to haunt me. I was burdened by an ungodly guilt that I was not doing enough to be a witness of Christ. I was weighed down by shame at how I struggled to openly share my faith. How I would shy away from seemingly perfect opportunities to tell someone about who Jesus is to me because I would get caught up in fear.
This all going on in my heart entering the second semester of my freshman year. A couple weeks into the semester this girl joined my history class late and the only spot left was next to me. She was really quiet at first but soon she warmed up to me and we ended up becoming friends. Every morning I would walk into class and say a big “Gooooood Morningggggg!!!” to her and I think she thought that I was a little silly. The more we got to talking through the semester, I started to feel the same urgency I mentioned earlier to share my faith with her, but I had no idea how to start that conversation because I was afraid of making her uncomfortable.
It was that same week that #LakersAllIn was happening and I had posted my own video on Facebook, sharing some of my testimony and what God means to me. So one day after kicking myself for not taking yet another good opportunity I had for sharing my faith with my friend from class, I offhandedly prayed, “Hey God, wouldn’t it be neat if she saw my video on Facebook?” And then I realized that I didn’t even remember what her name was so there would be no way for me to find her on Facebook. Thus, I admitted defeat on that front. But low and behold, within the next ten minutes, I had a friend request from none other than my friend. Later that night she messaged me saying she saw my video and was wondering what it was about. She asked me about CM and then asked me how I am so happy and confident all the time, so I told her about Jesus and the identity I have in him. She told me how I wasn’t like other Christian’s she had encountered in the past and that maybe she’ll giving this “church thing” another try.
This story itself is pretty cool. I mean God answered what I thought was a far fetched prayer in less than 10 minutes, which was incredible and mind blowing to me. But more than that, God told me, “I got this.” He gave the the conviction to be his witness, but he never told me I had to do it on my own. I took the conviction he gave me and tried to take control of operation. I burdened myself with the expectations of what I thought I needed to do to witness to others. But in doing so I wasn’t letting God have control of the situation. I was mad at myself for being human and not living up to the expectations I had set for myself. I wasn’t letting God be God. This story is a reminder that God has complete and utter control when I do not. All the missed opportunities I kicked myself over, he used to ensure his perfect timing to write the story that will bring him the most glory.