As I wrote in my last post, losing my faith destroyed me on the inside. Regaining it, brought an incredible healing and ripped me from depression and a destructive path.

But what changed? What happened to shift my perspective and raise me from my ashes?

It started many years before. My dad, a fairly new pastor, mailed me a book called The Reason by Lacey Sturm, a Christian rock singer. At this time of my life, I was not close to my dad. I didn’t understand him. I didn’t like the decisions he made. I thought he had gone off the deep end with his religion and I just was not willing to go with him. So, I thanked him for the book, promised to read it, and tucked it away.
Well, if you read the last post, you know there came a point when I just couldn’t take my depression and anxiety anymore. I was miserable and probably miserable to be around. I did what every one does when they reach such a breaking point – I called my mom. She stayed on the phone with me for hours, listening to me cry and try to explain the depths of my pain and worry. She comforted me and related to me and gave me some really great advice about how to cope and heal. The best thing she told me was a subtle reminder that God was with me.

After I hung up, I felt this incredible need to pick up that book my dad sent me. I felt something stirring inside me as I read it. I could practically hear Lacey sitting there telling it to me with this light in her eyes as she talked about her very similar struggles to mine. At some point, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I set the book aside and started praying. And God was with me. I felt him there, guiding the words as they fell out of my mouth. I felt the tension of regret, anger, and hurt leaving my body. I just gave myself to God. Trusting him with all. It was incredible and I wept tears of gratitude and joy for the first time in a very long time.

But then, I woke up the next day feeling incredible conviction about my relationship. My boyfriend in many ways had replaced God in my life. It wasn’t anything he’d done on purpose or that I consciously done, but I had placed him high above everything in life, even God. That morning God reminded me of something I had realized long before but it never sunk in.

When I was a child, my dad had also urged me to start praying for whoever I would be with someday – that God would prepare us for one another and bring us together at the right time. Of course, being a little punk, I told him I wouldn’t be with anyone ever so why would I do that. But, actually, I prayed this most everyday of my life. Ironically, the same time I started praying was the same time my boyfriend had picked up his guitar and started learning to play. Then years of mirroring situations go by and here I am with this man. Music had brought us together and was the thing we believed we were called to do together. And, our lives had so well prepared us for each other that we can understand one another in ways a lot of others can’t.

So God reminds me of this. He reminds me that he made us for one another, prepared us through our lives, and that when the time came to be together it was a promise to me fulfilled by him and I had taken this beautiful blessing and used it to replace God.

This hurt. Faith is not a walk under the stars. There’s a lot of pain in growing and becoming someone better, and when God gets involved, he definiately pushes you to become more that you even meant to be.

I prayed for forgiveness and asked God to take control of my relationship. This honestly was the most terrifying prayer I’d ever prayed. I basically said to God, “You are in control and I am letting go, even if I lose this man so I can be closer to you.” The struggle really came when I told my boyfriend this. I was crying so much I could barely speak. I thought for sure if I told him that we had trampled on God’s blessing and were living in sin by living together and placing each other above God that he’d leave me. I knew his love was strong, but I didn’t expect him to stick around while I chased after something as “uncool” as a relationship with God.

Long story short, that’s not what happened. My boyfriend instead became my husband within the month. We started doing bible studies together, then found a church where the sermons actually directly tied into the Bible studies we had done (the Holy Spirit is so intricate and dedicated to each of us!). We pray together and have given our whole lives to God.

So this is how I know God is real. He healed me from my soul; something medications and counseling could never do. He prepared my husband and I for each other and for our destiny together since we were children. He used my dad to give me that book years before I needed it and used my mom to pull me back into His presence. He spared my relationship and turned it into something so much more beautiful than before. I hear his Holy Spirit guiding me, prompting and teaching me. I have strength when I don’t have strength. I have peace when I don’t have peace.

The more you give to God, the more blessing he pours over you. If God wasn’t real, the more you give away, the less you would have. But he provides. He is more than enough. And he is real.

This is the story of the 546 days. This is for those who were wounded in my fall and to those who need to see what happens when God lifts you out of yourself.

I grew up believing in Jesus Christ. I believed in the bible and went to church. My dad even became a pastor while I was still a child. I was a Christian because it’s what my parents told me to do and because I liked the idea of God. I made many mistakes and have plenty of horror stories of how I turned away from God while still thinking I was following Him (I’ll write on that another day). But the worst thing I ever did, happened in the last 546 days.

I stopped believing in Him altogether.

It started before I moved out of my mom and stepfather’s house. I started to simply doubt, then I questioned, then I couldn’t explain faith against science. Then a friend encouraged me to indulge in what psychics and tarot cards could offer. It was meant well. Meant to help me, and I honestly, was excited. She didn’t know how damaged my spirit was, and I didn’t bother to tell her. I just went with it, wanting to be accepted and hoping for some answers to my growing depression and my crippling anxiety.

I involved myself for awhile before remembering that as a “Christian” I shouldn’t turn to these things, and eventually out of fear alone of what God might do to me if He did exist, I told her I couldn’t partake in it any longer.

Not long after, I moved in with my best friend. A friend of over a decade that I had barely gone a day without talking to. I was co-dependent on her and no matter how much I tried to be a good friend and simply love her, I was also envious of her. I wanted to look like her, act like her, be brave like her, have her talents, and be as good of a friend as she was. I saw her as the better version of myself. Well, once we moved in together, I dealt with my lack of self-esteem every day. She tried to build me up and supported me. She did more than anyone I’d ever seen to help me. Yet, even her trying made me feel like a worse person than her. I couldn’t stop comparing us and it got to a point where I loathed myself whenever I was around her.

Well, she and my other friend became close as I started to pull away. They indulged in psychics, tarot cards, and other wiccan practices. I kept telling them I couldn’t join them and asking them to keep it all away, because “I’m a Christian.” Unfortunately, I wanted to join them and my faith had officially left me. I was becoming a shell of a person – denying my desire to join them simply because I didn’t want to not be a Christian, even if I already stopped believing.

In the meantime, I had fallen in love for the first time of my life. I had entered into my first real relationship and the warm fuzzy feelings were about the only thing keeping me from completely withering into depression from my spiritual decay. I didn’t compare myself to my boyfriend (now husband!) and I looked up to him. It was much easier to accept his encouragement and see how he loved me for me and feel like I was an okay person, than it was to go home to my best friend. Not because of him or her. Because of me.

I felt so guilty all the time. I always had to own all the conversations with my best friend and tell her about all the great things in my life just so I could eat away any chance she had sharing her good things – in case it gave me another reason to envy her.

Envy is a wicked thing. It tore the love out of my friendship until I didn’t want to be around her anymore simply because I didn’t want to see her “being better than me” or getting recognized for things I wanted to do. I couldn’t stand seeing her and my other friend involved in Wicca, mostly because I was watching them get answers and results God wasn’t giving me.

So, I moved out. I moved in with my boyfriend and stopped talking to both of my friends. I didn’t offer much of a reason. I’m sure they both think I just fell in love and forgot about them. Or that I decided I was “too holy” to be around a couple of “witches.” What they don’t know is that my spirit, my faith, the foundation of my life, my moral compass, the essence of my energy, the purpose for my future, the fabric of my identity had been lost. I totally lost myself and who I am meant to be. I forgot where my value lies and without the identity of being a Child of God, I didn’t know how to even like myself. I was so self-centered that even though I didn’t like myself, I walked away from my friends just to see if I’d feel better about myself. Why couldn’t I just be happy for them? Love them?

The next several months were painful. My anxiety and depression got worse. I had nightmares about people I love abandoning me, telling me to kill myself, wanting me murdered, wanting to betray me. I started to feel so empty and broken that I was physically wearing down. I went to a doctor and she gave me antidepressants. My body couldn’t tolerate them – fortunately – but she strongly urged me to find both a psychiatrist and a psychologist.

I was so humiliated. My boyfriend was my only friend besides a few people I talk to like friends at work. I had become distant from my family. I was told I required medication to handle my pain. I cried so much it felt like routine. I had to hide in the office at work so people wouldn’t see a manager in the store having meltdowns. I felt pathetic and hopeless. The only daily light I had was the love of my boyfriend, and as much as that meant, no man can heal a broken soul. No man could bare that weight. No man could be asked to do such a thing.

Except for one. Jesus Christ.

I realized it, finally. I wept. I had made so many mistakes. I hurt and abandoned my friends, distanced from family, and placed an enormous and unfair weight on my boyfriend. I cried to God to forgive me. I laid it at His feet. I prayed over everyone I was angry with, everyone I’d held a grudge against. I prayed and forgave and asked for strength. I asked for guidance and help. I gave my life back to Christ.

Since that day, my life has not been perfect. I’ve still cried and felt down at times. I still struggle. But, God has given me such peace and strength. I see my calling is to help his people. To love. Not to turn from people, hurt people, not to hate myself. To love. To love Him. To love each person He’s created. Including myself.

The more His Holy Spirit works in me, the closer I get to peace and joy. The more answers I receive. The more purpose is actualized in my life.

I want all who have wandered away, or never known God, to know what it feels like to have God raise your spirit from the dead. I don’t need therapy. I don’t need medication. I don’t need psychics. I don’t need to be as beautiful and brave as my best friend. I just need to have faith in God and love in my heart.

I now know who I am without God. I am nothing. I am weak, selfish, and envious. But with God, I am brave. With God, I am capable. With God, I can fulfill dreams beyond what I can imagine for myself. With God, I can help people I never would have noticed if it were just me.

With God, you can raise from ashes. You can start over. You can find new purpose and meaning. You can see your life and your identity through the eyes of the one who created you. He made you, every last detail, for something special. With God, you can have an impact that will change lives and raise others from their spiritual ashes. You are everything in Christ.

It’s been 546 days since I’ve written on this blog. I could break this down to the hours and  maybe even minutes since the last post, but I could never count the amount of ways my life has changed. The moments between where I sat then and where I sit now have rocked my life. I’ve seen the worst and best of myself. I’ve seen the worst and best of others.

Most importantly, I’ve seen why all of these moments mattered and who designed the path I’d be on. No matter how many times I walk away, my Father follows me. No matter how many doors I hide behind, He finds me. My life is inevitably His. And, at last, I’ve realized that every moment counts. Every conversation and every action I take. Every where I go, I am surrounded in opportunities to help the people around me – by listening, by helping, and by loving.

So here, 546 days later, I am redirecting this blog. This is no longer a blog about my art, my poetry, or my “life lessons.” This is about someone bigger than me –  greater artist and writer, and His beautiful book of life.