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He is in the business of healing and restoration

Once upon a time, a very (very) long time ago, there was this incredibly lost, naïve 21-year-old girl who climbed into the front seat of a Chevy Impala, her 1-year-old little boy tucked safely in his car seat in the back, and they traveled in near silence for over 260 miles just to be dumped unceremoniously by the driver on a front doorstep belonging to a girl she had known since grade school. As she watched that Chevy Impala disappear up the road out of sight, her little boy clinging to her leg beside her, she discovered that she could finally (finally) take a deep safe breath. This boy, along with his 16” Military Bowie Knife always kept tucked within arms’ reach inside the glove box, had made his intentions crystal clear by handing her a small black box containing a diamond ring before he drove away. This was their second attempt at love—the first painful split occurring when cops had to be called to forcibly remove him when he showed up in the wee hours of the morning, using his own stolen copy of her apartment key to let himself in, creeping silently across her apartment and onto her bed, then straddling himself over her sleeping body wearing nothing but a pair of white briefs, awaking her with whispered threats that he was going to rape her with her little boy sound asleep in his crib not 20 feet away. It would be not even three full months later when she would place a call to tell him that she missed him, that her life felt empty without him in it, that she still loved him. And he would stride back in, making promises that he had changed, that there would be no more knife, no more threats, and that he was ready now for them to be a family. And she believed him. She believed him enough to try that ring on her finger—just to see how it would feel to be wanted by a boy who thought she was worthy of a diamond. She smiled to herself as she ran the vacuum back and forth over the carpet, watching that little diamond twinkle with promise as the sun blinked through the curtain. She daydreamed of this being ‘their’ home, that he would return from work, flowers in hand and that they would have this beautiful life together picnicking with ‘their’ son by the river. But then she remembered the knife… how he had stolen her apartment key… how he had made a copy for himself in secret without asking or telling… how he used that stolen key to break into her apartment… how he whispered threats of the unspeakable things he was going do to her if she tried to make him live without her. In a fit of sudden desperation, it was clear she had to remove that ring. She tried to pull it off, but it didn’t want to be released from her finger. She felt alarm rise within her, this feeling of pure terror overtake her as the ring wouldn’t budge. She yanked at it and pleaded and even cried hot tears as she begged a god, she wasn’t sure she still believed in to remove the ring from her finger. She didn’t want the ring. She didn’t want the boy. She just wanted him to stay far away from her, to leave her and her little boy alone. And then the ring slipped off. She placed it back in the little black box snapping the lid closed and she felt able to take a deep, safe, calming breath. This was the day that she took her little boy’s hand in hers, and they walked around to the backside of the apartment, and they played in the cool grass by the river. She listened to her son’s giggles as he threw little pebbles into the water, and she felt peace settle where fear, dread and misery had lived. For the first time in a very (very) long time, she felt like she could breathe. She knew that this was the life that both her and her little boy deserved. She didn’t know it then, but it would be many years before she would return to this place that had given her a glimpse of what safety and joy could feel like. Life and circumstances happened, her and her little boy were carried away from this place in the front seat of a Chevy Cheyenne pickup truck that took them 116 miles closer to from where she had started.

When she did return to this place-- this time, this trip… ripped the very breath from her lungs. This trip and what happened there, cut her mother’s heart right from her chest. As her and her children drove away that afternoon, suffocated near to death by the trauma that happened there, she vowed to a god she was desperately still trying to believe in, to never (ever) in her lifetime return to this place. Her little safe place on that bank by the river that had given her a glimpse of hope no longer held a special place for her, it no longer offered her refuge from the world around her. Instead of offering a safe place that splashed her life with bubbles of joy—this place now imprisoned her heart, mind, and spirit in a cold, dark, lonely cell. She did not know it then, but it would take over twenty more years before she would have the courage to return to this place. That day happened as I write this today.

I (that girl) have come to believe that there is perfect timing in all things. Being back here, waking up here, looking out my hotel window to see those same streets and hear those same sounds as I did over twenty years ago… is God’s perfect timing. That unthinkable trauma that happened here—I walked back through that crippling pain while living in Southern California as I attended my first 12-step study. I took all that pain that had kept me prisoner for so many years and I released it in words on paper, in words spoken out loud, through hot tears that escaped my eyes, and in silent prayers lifted to heaven. There were moments in reliving that trauma that I feared I would not survive it. That trauma had become rooted into the deepest parts of me. I had walked around with it growing inside of me and I feared I would not be the same person if it were suddenly to be gone. As crazy as it might sound, being in that prison felt safer to me than being set free from it. But God’s plan is healing and restoration. I thought—and truly believed to my core, that I had been healed from that trauma. And in many ways, I have been. But coming back here, making the physical journey back to this place, placing my feet on the ground where trauma tried to kill us… this is the place and the time where God, in his power, pulls that root from the soil of my soul, and truly sets me free. I must admit, if I had forced God’s timing and returned here before I felt him nudging me to—this experience would be nothing like it is today. Today I can see truth in a different light. I can see pain in colors I did not know existed then. I can see that God was there at a time when I believed whole heartedly he had turned his face away. I can see the scars it left, and I no longer feel the searing pain when I run my fingertip along its jagged edge. God has spent over twenty years preparing me for this return to this place that once offered me respite from such a painful world that I lived in. As I stood next to the river listening to the water rush by when I couldn’t sleep this morning, I was able to take in a deep breath, much deeper than I have been able to for quite a while now. And it felt good. Really good. To be back in this place, to listen to the water rushing by, to feel the sun on my skin, and to feel joy bubble to the surface in my life… that is what healing and restoration feel like. Sometimes things just take time.

If I had known then that it would take me thirty-two years to feel those same feelings as I did that day by the river with my little boy, I would have just given up somewhere along the way when things got hard and didn’t feel so good anymore. But that day, playing by the river, feeling those emotions of a mother in love with her child and her life… and then again, even after unthinkable trauma, feeling those emotions of a mother in love with her young children and her life with them in it—there are no words. While I was visiting this place, I was reminded by a friend that was standing in wait at the end of that twenty-year journey, that I was chosen on purpose to be the mother of my children. That god knew I had exactly in me what they were going to need to become who they are. Her words watered the dry soil of my heart. Her words reminded me that even at times when you feel like you have failed as a mother and at life—that god is the one who holds your victory. He sees the entire picture of your life, painted with both beauty and tragedy, even if you can only see as far as your own nose pressed against the canvas. Both of my children are now grown and off writing the own story of their life. They are both, much like me, riding the waves of feel-good memories and rugged-edged traumas that have formed their days thus far. Life is all about finding yourself, or re-creating yourself, or rediscovering yourself, or becoming your best self… it depends largely on how you view life at any given moment. Me personally am trying to figure out who the hell I am without defining myself by the labels that have been sown onto my story. You would think a 20-year absence from a friend you have had since grade school would bring with it an awkwardness, uncertainty, or discomfort. To me, I felt none of those things. While sitting with her it felt as if 20 years had not passed. I was reminded of her true-to-self and ‘F*ck that’ nature that I fell in love with when we were just kids. She reminded me of strengths I possess that I have somehow forgotten about. And she reminded me that I am more than a mother or a grandmother… that I am here with a purpose on purpose. Oh, how I needed that reminder. And maybe you do to.

I believe that life itself is made up of ¼ laughter + ¼ love + ¼ loss + ¼ healing. If at any time you are mixing in more than ¼ of each, your life may feel too lumpy, or too dense, too fluffy, or too flat. Who the heck wants that?! God is in the business of healing and restoration, and his desire is for you to not remain the same. I encourage you to be sensitive to his promptings in your life today. If he is nudging you, like me, to return to a place that broke you—I pray you have the courage to be obedient to that nudging so that he can usher in healing and restoration. If he is prompting you to step closer… or to take a step back, from a particular relationship—I pray you be filled with the courage to take those hard but necessary steps. If he is calling you to take steps in a different direction than you see your life moving in—I pray that you would choose obedience over temporary comfort. If he is urging your spirit to put down that bottle, to snub out that last cigarette, to walk away from that toxic or abusive relationship, to keep your wallet shut tight against the seduction of impulse buying, to push yourself away from those foods that soothe your rugged and empty emotional swells, to not pick up that call or answer that text from someone who only wants to use you—I pray you have the courage and the determination to love yourself more than the empty promises those things offer you. Every time you give up and give in—a little piece of you is given away. You are far too precious and much more valuable than yet another agonizing hangover, another split lip or bruised arm, another anxious moment spent waiting for MRI or lab results that could change your lifespan or quality of life that you live, another credit card bill that might threaten to tank your checking account, another inch that you pinch with self-hatred where self-love should live, another shower trying to scrub off the remnants of being used and left lonely—once again, another… and another… and another… until there is nothing left of yourself. You are priceless. You are unique. You are valuable. You are magnificent. You are beautiful. You are worthy of healing and restoration <3

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