This Is My Story

Let me set a scene for you…

It’s 2018, Black Panther is dominating the box office, everyone is abuzz about the Royal Wedding, and the closest thing we had to a pandemic was the “tide pod challenge”. My weight had climbed to 580 lbs., by far the biggest I have ever been. I couldn’t go to stores due to how hard it was to stand for longer than a few minutes at a time. I had been out of church for a while and I didn’t have any friends outside of church, so I didn’t get out much. I had a job at least, though that wouldn’t last. I felt uninspired, unable to write anything on my blog. “What good is having a ‘gift’ if I can’t bring myself to use it?” I would think as I stare at a blank draft. On top of all this, my marriage of seven years had taken its last labored breath.

This was the year that began a seemingly endless journey through some of the darkest times of my life. While I have made references to my story over the course of my writing, I feel it’s necessary to delve a bit deeper into my testimony in hopes that it will help someone else.

After our mutual separation, I moved into mom and dad’s new house, my life now tucked away in a box of broken pieces in hopes I’ll eventually forget. The next almost two years were comprised of working, coming home, going to my room, sleeping, and waking to the same mind-numbing routine. The only human interaction I got was with my family and at work. I existed in hopelessness, feeling like I had wasted my only chance at a normal life. At least I had a steady job.

Until I didn’t.

February of 2020, just before the onset of the global pandemic, I lost yet another job. Feeling lost, useless, hopeless, and bitter, and now I felt like a burden to my family. Isolation continued taking its heavy toll as it was affecting how I interacted with my own family. It was during this time I began having thoughts of wishing I were dead. In my mind, it would have been easier for everyone if I wasn’t around to be such a burden. I would imagine someone putting a bullet in my head for that instantaneous release of death I desired. “I’m too much of a coward to do it myself,” I jokingly thought to myself, “but if someone else were to do it, I wouldn’t stop them.”

Toward the latter-end of 2020, mom told me about this small group lead by Matt and Tiffany Hutchinson called “Current”. “Well, any human interaction is better than none,” I agreed with cautious optimism. We met in a small chapel across from the main church building, having open discussion about the chosen topic and anything else that came up. I ended up loving it. Even though I was only there for the final two meetings of the year, it felt like I had stumbled on the desert oasis my mind and spirit desperately needed.

The months that followed saw me return to the depths of darkness. My sweet ma-maw passed away in June of 2021. It was an incredibly difficult time for us, while at the same time celebrating the end of a race well run. Amidst this time of grieving for our family, however, something happened that would forever alter the course of my life.

I was told that Morgan and Joey Nelson were officially taking over Current as Matt and Tiffany were going to lead InsideOut Youth. They decided on a new name for the group: CommUNITY. The mission being to bring together men & women in the 20s and 40(ish) age group to have real discussions of what we are struggling with, and create a unified group of burning warriors of Christ that will lift each other up and go into spiritual battle for each other in times of need.

Something in me sprang to life when I received this announcement, and I felt excitement like I had not experienced in a very long time, if ever. Later that year, we began our meetings in the Great Room at Christ Temple Church, our wonderful home church. For the very first time, I was making real friends and was beginning to engage in discussions with others my age about everything we’re going through. I was still experiencing those dark thoughts and battled extreme depression & anxiety on a constant basis, but at least I had a way to give my spirit a refreshing drink once a week.

In August of 2021 at one particular CommUNITY service, something happened that I believe changed everything. During the meeting, I shared my dark secret with the group, heart racing as I expounded on my innermost fears and wishing I were dead. Then, God spoke directly to me through Morgan as well as Emily Ferguson, who was seated next to me. Essentially, God told me He had been trying to take me out from under the shell I had been hiding under, and that I needed to stop fighting Him to keep that shell. The Lord also said He wants to use me now, not when I’m this ideal version of myself I’ve been waiting on. He gave me gifts to use for His Kingdom right now. Emily also said she pictured me walking along a path with God, and every time I hit an obstacle, I think I take several steps backwards while God is waiting up ahead for me to catch up to Him. The reality is, God is much more gracious than I ever gave Him credit for; He will always come back for me and pick me back up.

The months since then, God has continued to tear me away from my old mindset and ignite a new fire within me that differs from anything I have felt before. The Jewel City Revival was the gasoline to the fire, allowing God to further separate me from the person I used to be. My list of friends in CommUNITY continued to grow in number and in closeness. Slowly, I was beginning to feel like a completely different person altogether. There was just one thing missing…

CommUNITY was scheduled to lead worship the final Wednesday before revival started back up. I of course volunteered; as much as I wanted to, I think my friends wanted it that much more! It would be the first time I had lead worship in close to 10 years (give or take). I was so very nervous yet excited at the same time. I must have had my eyes closed for two-thirds of the time I was leading my song (which was Battle Belongs by Phil Wickham, of course). The response was absolutely overwhelming; so much so, we were invited to lead worship each Wednesday of the upcoming revival, which is still happening as of this writing.

God has poured into me like never before because of my obedience to Him in walking in the anointing He has placed on my life. I can truly say I will never, ever be the same. From wishing I were dead, to now leading others to the same life-giving freedom I now have is something no one can ever take away. To think, it’s still only the beginning…

The Broken House

I had an interesting dream, recently. In this dream, I, along with some other faceless figures (my dreams aren’t very detail-conscious), were inside this house belonging to me. Everything looked pristine. My guests were admiring everything with awe, when suddenly one of them bumped into a wall. For the longest second of my life, everything around me flickered, revealing something completely different. Gripped with curiosity, one of the faceless phantoms grabbed at the wall and began pulling.

What they found astonished us all, myself included.

The house was draped with elaborate facades, giving the illusion of having great beauty. One by one, the phantoms ripped down the illusory drapes, revealing the dark truth. My home looked like it had been abandoned, void of life or purpose. Being so completely exposed left me horrified.

I’ve had some time to think about that dream and what it means. I don’t usually look too much into dreams, but the symbolism here got me thinking about my radical transformation over the last several months. It didn’t really occur to me how much I had changed until it was mentioned to me recently while attending a revival service at my church.

I was the house in my dreams at some point in my life. While the external side of me was draped with a fake smile, inside I was void of purpose and joy. I had abandoned all hope that I could become anything other than what I was. I was stained with years of neglect, the windows to my heart boarded up to keep away prying eyes. Goes to show that growing up in church and attending a private Christian school can never replace having an authentic, genuine relationship with Almighty God.

So, what exactly sparked this turnaround? While it’s hard to pinpoint one or two specific moments in time, I think I can say with some certainty that it began when I started talking to God again. Mind you, these weren’t “pretty prayers” by any means. I was honest with Him, about everything. He already knows of course, but it wasn’t for His benefit. I needed to open everything up to God, including the horrid parts I kept from everyone else.

He wants all those things. Jesus isn’t looking for scripted prayers sprinkled with insincerity. We have to come to Him with everything we’re carrying, all the baggage, the chains, the scars, and bruised egos we’ve accumulated. When we reach out to Jesus with our whole hearts, He will always respond.

When I invited God back into my life, He “cleaned up house” in a big way. Years of bitterness, depression, and crippling hopelessness were swept away. I’ve learned some things about myself along the way, too. I was completely at the mercy of anxiety and depression; they dictated every part of my life. Now, I’ve learned to give God my highest praise despite my fickle feelings. There’s a song by MercyMe with a line that says, “…but even if you don’t, my hope is you alone.” Those lyrics have become my heart’s cry. I no longer care about getting what I ask for. I only desire to give Jesus nothing less than my life.

I wonder how many reading this would say they can relate? It’s really hard to see past your struggles and the many lies the enemy has convinced you to be true. I always thought because I messed up so many times that God would have no use for someone like me. Then, speaking through a friend at church, God told me He will always come back for me when I stumble. He also said I didn’t have to be this perfect version of myself to be used for the Kingdom. It was in that moment I felt the great weight of those burdens lift off of my heart and mind.

God cannot take what we will not give Him. Whether it’s past trauma, church hurts, crippling anxiety and depression, addiction, alcoholism, or any other myriad of burdens, Christ wants it all. His yolk is easy, and His burden is light. It’s time to drop the facades, get real with God about it all, and see what He can do with your broken house.

From “Hopeless” to “Purpose”

I have been absent from the blogging scene for quite a few months now. Not for lack of trying; on the contrary, I have sat at my laptop, fingers resting on the keys anticipating words that never came. My mind was a desert, parched from my creative drought with nary a drop to refresh me.

The truth is, I was afraid of putting into words the things that until now I have kept locked away. I was afraid of what the reaction would be if people saw behind the façade I maintain. To be transparent is to be vulnerable, and that is not something I handle very well. To be fair, anyone can say the same. We all have times when we choose to “suffer in silence” instead of admitting our personal struggles to someone. It’s easy to convince yourself that no one else would understand, or that you have to endure these struggles alone.

For me, it’s been a culmination of years upon years of wasted opportunities, stupid mistakes, and buying into lies from the enemy that have caused me to conceal myself away from God and the world. As a result, my writing suffered. It felt like every thought I wrote down was too dark to put into the open. After what God has recently spoken to me however, I feel it’s my responsibility to use my platform the way God intended. My struggles are a part of my testimony, so it’s important to put it into writing as well.

I had come to a point in my life where, at times, it felt like it would be easier to embrace death than overcome the obstacles in my life. The weight of hopelessness was profound, more so than any physical weight I bear. The pain of past regrets shackled my mind and heart. Depression, anxiety, and fear had become these possessions I refused to let go of. I lived life inside of my shell, keeping myself safe within it’s confines along with my “possessions”. Envy was the scale by which I judged my self worth, always comparing myself to others who have achieved far greater than I have.

My prayers felt empty. At times I thought God had left me to deal with my own problems. Any feeble attempt to crawl out of the depths of despair led me right back to where I began. I longed for a glimmer of hope. I couldn’t feel nor hear God at all. I’ve lived in near isolation aside from immediate family. All that time alone really works on the mind, allowing every mistake I’ve ever made to run rampant in my thoughts.

Truth be told, I’ve had many moments when I wished I were dead. If I’m going to be completely vulnerable with you, this needs to be said. I’ve hit some pretty low points over the past year and a half. I was losing battles on every front with my white flag in hand. When you reach that point, life loses all color. It could be a brilliantly sunny summer morning, and inside exists only gray. Everything becomes meaningless, uninteresting or overwhelming.

I was especially frustrated that I couldn’t hear anything from God. This perpetuated the belief that I was alone in my struggles, and amplified the hopelessness I felt. In hindsight, I realize I probably missed His answers many times because I had already determined in my mind the specific answer I was expecting. So, this past Wednesday evening, God chose a more direct approach in order to get my attention.

Through some wonderful people God has put in my life, He spoke some much-needed truths to me. I came to realize I was actually fighting against God when He was trying to deliver me. For so long, I prayed for God to take away my depression, anxiety, and fear, and He essentially said, “if you would let go of it I would.” It’s weird to think about using these dark emotions like a crutch, but that’s exactly what I was doing. I would isolate myself from everyone, as if inside a shell, with my emotional crutch as my only companion.

I’ve always felt like my life has been taking one step forward and several steps backwards. Meanwhile, God is waiting on me to get my stuff in order and catch up to where He is. God helped me see that He will always come back for me when I stumble. He meets me where I’m at. His grace knows no limitations except for the ones I create.

I’ve been so caught up in my constant struggles to regain financial stability, to gain consistency in weight loss, and other day-to-day issues that I kept putting off God. I told myself, “if I can just beat these few obstacles in front of me, then I can actually be useful to God.” What He revealed to me was I don’t have to wait until I’m this ideal version of myself before He can use me. Rather, my ministry can begin now through my writing.

Part of the reason I’m writing this is so I can come back to this in the future whenever I need a reminder of where God has brought me from, and where He is taking me. I wanted to die. I thought my life was a huge waste of potential, and that I let everyone down. I thought God had abandoned me.

One of the biggest factors in my turnaround has been surrounding myself with God-fearing people who will stand with me, and always remind me I’m never alone. Another factor was a willingness to be transparent with them when the opportunity presented itself. God had set it up perfectly for me to open up about my darkest thoughts and fears, and I decided not to let it go to waste. Being vulnerable is scary, but with the right people, it can change everything as it did for me.

The other reason I’m writing this is because I know others can relate to my story on some level. It is my hope that anyone who may be having similar thoughts will read about how God has delivered me, and consider that it can happen for them as well. God was fighting for me the whole time, but I was blinded by the lies I chose to believe about myself.

From now on, I will try to be more transparent in my writing, instead of being afraid of what the response may be. God has given me my testimony so that I may reach this generation. My journey is about going from a place of darkness, and stepping into the light, so my posts tend to have a bit of both. Hopefully, through reading these, God will reveal Himself to you, and show you He is fighting for you too. Be blessed.

Who Do You Think You Are?

I’m the type of person that always needs tools close at hand to help me relax. Case in point, I currently have beside me a squishy hamburger-stress-reliever-thing and a pair of those sizzler magnets. They’re both very worn out; the squishy hamburger looks like it belongs in a Sad Meal at McDonald’s.

I need them because my mind always seems to find something to be worried about. Mind you, not just some butterflies in the stomach; it’s more like end-of-the-world, trying to maintain my dignity by not ugly crying in front of everybody sort of anxiety. I’m always thinking about what might happen, might not happen, what someone might think or say, etc. That’s one reason why it takes me so long to post these; I start worrying about how it will be received and second-guess myself until I don’t know what to write.

In my conversations with God I find myself using Him as a doctor. I vent all my issues to Him and hope He gives me something to make it all go away. Day after day I’ve spent begging God to take away my fear and anxiety like a hypochondriac seeking relief from a sickness they truly believe they have. At the same time, I’m similar to an unruly patient that refuses the treatment offered because I’ve become so used to how it feels that I can’t imagine not having it in my life. So, what I’m really asking God to do isn’t just to take away the fear, anxiety, and depression, but to take away my addiction to them.

To describe it as an addiction, however, would suggest I get some kind of enjoyment out of suffering. After all, one aspect of addiction is the euphoric or “rewarding” feeling it creates, is it not? So, what enjoyment would I get out of remaining in a festering pool of negative emotions every day of my life? What part of me does it satisfy?

In short, it satisfies my desire to give up.

Truth is, in order to become who I wanted to be, I would have to do that which I did not believe I could do. Change is hard. Admitting defeat is easy. Pushing myself beyond what I’m comfortable doing means challenging everything I believe about myself. Accepting my darkened disposition as my truth takes much less effort.

In order to challenge these beliefs, God decided to give me a taste of the future He has in store for me. A door was opened for me to use my writing in a much bigger way that could impact many people. The biggest obstacle I faced first was having people depend on me to produce results. Of course, the only person putting pressure on me was…me. Because I was looking at this project through the lens of my past, the outcome was predetermined to be exactly the same. You might have thought I was asked to produce a Pulitzer Prize-worthy composition in a matter of days the way I was acting.

Hence the worn-out stress relievers.

What really made the difference this time were the people. When you surround yourself with enough people who genuinely believe in your gifts and see the potential you’ve become blinded to, it will start to rub off eventually. That’s why living most of last year in near isolation was so detrimental to my mental health. The only voices I could hear were the whispers of lies and half-truths from within my mind.

I started opening up about what was going on inside my head (kind of hard to avoid the subject when you randomly burst into tears). That’s when I realized that all this pressure I’d been feeling was entirely my own doing. I thought that if I didn’t knock it out of the park the first time, then I would let everyone down and I would go back home to my bedroom and throw in the towel. After all, giving up is easier than trying to do the impossible.

Turns out, they were never looking for perfection; they chose me according to the potential they saw in me. I’m starting to see now how this reflects the character of God. He sees the potential in me, and now He’s molding me and preparing me for the purpose for which I am called to serve. It’s passion He seeks from me, not perfection. After a few very helpful conversations, I started to set more manageable expectations and place more trust in God’s faithfulness than my limited perspective.

For so long, even though I’ve been saved and given a new nature, I allowed my old nature to retain the throne of my life. Every thought I have, every action (or lack thereof) has been dictated by the old. I’ve been stuck in an old season I should have left long ago. God is preparing me to step into my new season. It’s up to me to make up my mind that I will not miss another opportunity.

I imagine I’ve missed plenty of opportunities because that fear of failure. Slowly, however, I’m learning to be okay with not knowing how it’ll all turn out. When I changed my perspective from, “I’m going to fail because I’m not good enough” to “even if I fail, I will still trust in God’s perfect will for my life”, I felt the old nature becoming dethroned.

Suddenly, I don’t have to be afraid of not knowing how it’ll turn out, because God holds my tomorrow. I don’t have to buy into the same old lies that kept me from ever being who God called me to be. Now I can say it’s easier to persist than to give in and risk missing out on all the abundance God has in store for me.

Maybe I don’t need those stress relievers after all.

When God Came To My Rescue

When I think back to all my previous entries I’ve made and the state of mind I was in, the dark place I was stuck in, it’s no surprise that they all talked about my pain, anxiety, depression, and so forth. It seemed to me that I would be in that state of being forever, a wasted existence. This new year started out much the same, so in my mind I thought 2021 would be yet another year of unfulfilled potential.

It would turn out, however, God had other plans with me.

One night about two weeks ago or so, I was sitting on my bed, around 4 in the morning, and my mind was heavy with the burdens I was carrying. With so many questions unanswered and critical choices to be made, and yet not possessing the willpower to do any of it, I found myself at a difficult crossroads. I wanted to pray, but knew not the words I should speak, nor was I sure they would do any good anyways.

In spite of this, I began crying out to God for some sort of answer, as I knew I could not go on without Him in my life. As the words escaped my lips, I began to feel something I hadn’t felt before, or at least not to this extent. In this moment, my words of lament turned into words of praise and thankfulness, and suddenly I was enveloped by His presence there in the privacy of my room.

It was altogether inexplicable, like with a single mighty breath God blew away all that troubled me, and the heaviness of my burdens was replaced with the reality of His indescribable love. It was a new type of feeling for me to say the least, and I stayed there in that moment, in awe of Him.

Before I knew it, my phone now read 5 am, and I reluctantly decided to stop and get some rest. Now, I’ve had what you would call “mountain top” experiences before, like when I went to church camp, had an amazing experience, then came back home and went right back to my usual patterns. This was my life cycle, one high followed by many lows. Only this time was different because it has remained with me ever since that night, and even more so as time progresses.

Now, each morning and night I not only pray, but praise, and my thoughts are only of pleasing God, and walked in faith rather than how bad things may look around me.

If you would have told me a month ago that all this would happen I’d have scoffed at the notion. It’s good to have a Father who never gave up on me even when I gave up on myself, and Him. Now, I can look forward to the future instead of dreading it. I know this will frustrate the enemy as he knew that if I fully realized my God-given potential, that I would be a threat to him. I know that my experiences will be a testimony to someone who may be feeling the same way I did until now, which is why I thought it was important to share this with all of you.

So now, instead of talks of shadows, chains, storms, I believe the future will hold greater things for me, even though it won’t all be perfect, as I am far from perfect. God knew all along that I would slip and fall, and yet He has chosen me for a time such as this.

Here’s to finally “stepping into the light.”