If I Stand


Let me begin this post by saying that I do NOT see myself as a victim in any way. But it was the unexpected role in which the Lord called me to play in an unthinkably tragic incident that has completely broken me away from the person I used to be… and praise the Lord for that. Out of respect for the involved parties, I’ll not share the incident I’m referring to, but I will say that with my newly strengthened faith, coupled with the tragic shooting in Colorado, I felt the Lord calling me to write this post.

I was driving home from work one Friday, listening to my iPod as usual, when a Rich Mullins song I’ve known and loved for years came on. I’ve always loved Rich Mullins for many reasons (his simple words that reflect a deep faith, and his courage to show his faults and vulnerabilities and having to rely on the Lord, to name a couple reasons) but for some reason, as I was singing this song as I had for many years before, God struck my heart like a mallet strikes a gong. It was like he had written the song about where I was in my faith, in my journey of healing from a tragic accident, because the words rang so true that God struck my heart with each line, and I could feel the reverberations ripple throughout my body. I found myself singing loudly with tears streaming down my face and I continued to process what had happened not even two months earlier. The timing in which it all happened was eerie too. Friday evenings (and Saturday mornings) are still difficult for me, and this took place on Friday as I was driving alone. Being alone is sometimes difficult too. When I’m alone, I’m vulnerable to terrible thoughts and flashbacks. So put the two together, and this made an epic mental and emotional breakdown, right there on highway 121.

Bolded below are the lyrics to “If I Stand” by Rich Mullins, with the blue writing being my thoughts and feelings that were running through my mind as I was driving home.

There’s more that rises in the morning than the sun
The morning brings God’s promises of a new start, new opportunities, new hope, a self-renewal, among many things. The bible tells us His grace is new every morning, and calls for us to rise as faithfully as the sun. Some days, the only thing that would get me out of bed was that the Lord had given me a new day and opportunity to live for Him, and what a blessing that is! And it is a blessing that we each take for granted. Some days, or some moments, when my heart was filled with too much grief and despair, or when I had lost hope in enjoying any part of my future in fear of the unknown, it never failed that I would hear birds sing. In my heart, this was God’s gentle and loving reminder of why I shouldn’t worry. The bible tells us that there is more to life than worrying, and gives us the example of how the Lord cares for and feeds the birds, and how much more valuable I am than they. And if the Lord cares for them, He cares for me and loves me too. If the birds can go with such uncertainty, simply relying on the Lord, then so can I, for He loves me so much and knows the needs and desires of my heart, that He will give the strength and the opportunities to live for Him, so long as it’s for His will.

And more that shines in the night than just the moon
I’ve always loved to look at the stars and the moon. They are meek but beautiful reminders that the Lord will continue to shine His light on us, even when are in our darkest hour. Knowing that He is big enough to make billions of stars, and galaxies upon galaxies, yet He loves me! He has a plan for me! I’m here to serve His purpose for my life. The bible says “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone O Lord, make me dwell in safety” and I truly feel His peace at night as I fall asleep. Night time can be my most vulnerable time. The enemy sweeps in, gives me bad or chaotic thoughts or fears. I might have flashbacks or nightmares that are constant reminders of defining moments in my life, even when we are not awake to fend them off. But the Lord cares for me, and I simply pray and ask for His peace and safety, and I rest peacefully.

It’s more than just this fire here that keeps me warm
In a shelter that is larger than this room
The Lord gives me more than the essential necessities for survival. He gives more than a blanket for warmth, more than one outfit to clothe myself, more than one meal a day to keep my body alive, and more than partial walls with a cover for a home and workspace. Not only has the Lord been gracious enough to provide more tangible items than I need to survive, but He’s also abundantly provided everything I need to live for Him. In my moments when I feel like everything has passed, or will do so quickly, or worse yet, when I wonder why I’m so blessed with opportunities that others aren’t, the Lord gently reminds me of everything He has blessed me with, and shows me how to use it for His glory. He tells me that He has a specific plan for MY life, and that I shouldn’t dwell on what I have that others don’t, or certainly not to count what others have that I don’t.

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper than mere sentiment
While sentiment is nice, peaceful, comforting and mostly genuine, the Lord’s promises (loyalty) goes far beyond what our minds were created to comprehend. No one knows why certain things happen. How many times have I read the verse that says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. ” Yet it wasn’t until I NEEDED to know and dwell on that promise in order to get out of bed, did I truly understand the sentiment behind it. This verse brought me such peace in knowing that one day, the torturous things of the world, the pain, the suffering, the tragedies, the hurt, will all fall away according to God’s promises. Praise the Lord for He has overcome this world, and when I go to live with Him, there will be no more pain or suffering. There will be such happiness that our hearts cannot comprehend right now. We will speak with sentiments of our own that our current (worldly) brains don’t even know the words of such… joy! Even still, when I don’t have the words to comfort, or not amount of consolation is enough for my heart, I hold tight to the promise that God has overcome this world and one day, these problems will pass away, and we will be left with nothing more than God and all His promises of heaven.

And a music higher than the songs that I can sing
I’ve learned to find comfort in particular songs during this time of my life. A few songs, I truly feel the lyrics bring life back to me for their duration. Especially in the beginning, right after my world had been flipped, and I couldn’t feel anything, when I heard one song in particular, I would come out of my dream-like state, and picture the story being told by the song. I would get caught up in the music and the lyrics, and for 4:01 that the song lasted, my heart would begin to feel a hint of joy. I know this particular song was God’s way of promising me happier times ahead, and that He would carry me when the weight of the burden was just too heavy. And when the song ended, so did the joy, and I was back to drifting. Not thinking. Just processing. Not contributing to anything. Just staring. Music has always been a joy in my life, so for God to utilize music as a way for me to feel His love, plan and promises, especially when each day was a suffocating struggle, I remembered how good He is, and how this tragic incident was playing out like a song that God had written before the world was created. And while I couldn’t understand why, I knew that my role was to play in instrument in this song. And as much as I didn’t want to, His song, His music, was higher than my comprehension.

The stuff of earth competes for the allegiance I owe only to the Giver of all good things
I’m distracted daily by some pitiful aspects of life. The things that the world tells me to care about, when really, my heart is in one place, in heaven. After seeing how beautiful life can be, and how tomorrow is never promised, God put my views in perspective, to look to Him and His plan for my life for guidance, not to what the world has laid out for me. This world is cruel and unstable. We don’t know what’s around the corner, or what lies ahead, so why give the world, and everything in it, the option to deviate us from our true purpose? I shouldn’t give the world, or the things of this earth, any concern, for they will fall away. Remember, the Lord has overcome the world, so if we build our world based on earthly things, our world will wash away, like the bible says, like the man who built his house upon the sand. The waves came in and floods came up, and his house went crashing down. Why give any time, thought, or effort to the things that could pass away tomorrow? Instead, I shall take the feelings, the gifts, and the heart that the Lord has blessed me with and make set them on His promises, His love, His glory and His grace.

So if I stand let me stand on the promise that you will pull me through (chorus)
There were many days where getting out of bed was a chore. Moving around, walking, and making the slightest effort seemed worthless. Sadly, even showering was difficult. I was a completely broken person. While it definitely helped to be among family members (and words cannot express how much it helped to be with my husband, Luke) the sole purpose why I was able to move on, and still continue to do so, is because the Lord gives me the strength to stand. He gives me the strength to stand every day physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I’m able to see a purpose and joy in my job again. I have gone from an empty person who stares, to one who laughs and jokes again. And even those times when it’s hard to get out of bed, paralyzed by thoughts or flashbacks, the Lord gently calls me to stand, and promises that He’ll give me the strength to carry on. That’s really the only way I can face each day, even if I’m having a good day. I feel like I can stand, and will continue to stand, because I TRUST that the Lord’s promises will come to fruition, and that’s all I need.

And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace that first brought me to You (chorus)
Those days that I wasn’t strong enough, or the days that began strong but then slowly started declining, the only thing I know to turn to is the Lord. While I’m blessed with family and friends who know almost every detail of what happened, when I’m in those moments of grief and despair, totally slipping into nothingness, I don’t have the strength to articulate my pain and sorrow. Like moving my jaw and forming words with my mouth, forcing competent sounds from my voice that match my thoughts is impossible. So praise the Lord we can speak to Him in silent prayer. A couple weeks after it happened, I remember telling my family members that I didn’t even know how to be… I didn’t know how to exist. I was a mere fraction of what I had been, my whole world had crashed down, and the only thing I had left was a strand of faith. It was the only thing I knew to cling to. It was the only thing that kept me from falling into the depths of my black-hole- of- nothingness-state forever. I literally imagined myself in a deep hole, surrounded by darkness, not feeling any emotion because nothing was worth feeling, just clinging with all my might (what little might I had left) to a thin strand, comparable only to sewing thread. But the other end of the thread was connected to something in the light, so high and so bright, my eyes, even in their yearning, couldn’t see or couldn’t comprehend anything so great and mighty that kept the string from breaking. As the Lord has continued to piece me back together, although giving me a new heart and clothing me in robes of His faith and love, I still cling so tightly to that string. The string that I now know as the strongest fiber of my being, or my existence. The string that is the Lord’s grace and promises to bring me out of the depths and into the light, His light. And the string isn’t something external, it runs all through my body, just as my blood runs through my veins from my brain, to my heart, to my extremities, keeping me alive and functioning. Like my heart only continues to beat, my body only continues to function, my voice only continues to laugh solely because of the Lord’s grace. And in those moments, still today, when I’m not strong enough, I continue to hold on to that string, the one thread of life I feel left, knowing that the Lord is strongly and mightily holding on to the other end.

And if I sing, let me sing for the joy that has born in me these songs (chorus)
Music has played a substantial role in my recovery. I think my testimony related to this song is a significant example. But one other song has played as big of a role in my recovery – “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” by Coldplay. The day that the tragedy occurred, and the days just after, Luke and I would aimlessly drive around town. Sometimes we would discuss what happened, sometimes I would ask unanswerable questions, but mostly I would just stare, again, falling back into the state of nothingness that I felt for days, slipping in and out of awareness. But as we were driving, listening to Luke’s iPod, when this Coldplay song came on, I began to feel a fraction of joy in my heart again. I’ve always said that listening to Coldplay was almost a spiritual experience for me. They are so talented in every aspect of music. They write timeless songs and they play such beautiful music that blends together in a way that I imagine music sounding like in Heaven. But it wasn’t until I realized that “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” was the only song that would pull me out of my nothingness. I began to recognize the sound of my voice as I mindlessly sang along, partially in the nothingness state, partially picturing the story of the song, and realizing how I could relate. Then I began to connect with the song on another level, because for Christmas, I had given my brother tickets to see our favorite band, Coldplay, in Dallas. The days leading up to Christmas, I was overjoyed and anxious to give my brother these tickets, to make our dream come true. We had many conversations about how excited we were for the concert, discussing traveling plans, planning our day-of-concert agenda, etc. “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” brought me hope and promises that good things were still to come in my life, that the Lord wants us to be happy, and give us opportunities to experience joy! But sadly, as the song ended, I found myself in the car again, just existing, staring, in a state of nothingness. Now I look back on those days, and my experiences listening to that song repeatedly, and I know that God uses things in which we find joy to help carry us through the tough times. I truly believe He used that song to help me realize that although I couldn’t feel it at the time, He has an exciting, joyful, future planned for my life, filled with His promises, light and love. Needless to say, the Coldplay concert with my brother was definitely one of the highlights of my life… but that experience deserves an individual post 🙂

And if I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home (chorus)
Throughout this journey, I have never claimed to be, or seen myself as, a victim. I’ve never wanted sympathy, I’ve never wanted the attention. My heart hurts for my best friend and for fiance’s family. Actually, all of my brokenness, my state of nothingness and all of my pain stems from sympathy for my best friend and fiance’s family. I’ve found that during times of deep grief, the only question people know to ask is “Why?” Why did this happen? Why did it happen to him? Why did it happen on that day? It is likely that we’ll never know. Our world isn’t perfect. There’s pain, suffering, unanswered questions, among other horrible things, and it’s not fair. And while in my brokenness, wondering why, and all those times I sobbed uncontrollably, and even still today, when my heart hurts, the foundation of the pain is because I know there’s another world where nothing like this ever happens. There’s no pain, no sadness, no heartbreak, there’s joy, love, and being together forever. We don’t have to tell loved ones goodbye, we don’t have to watch their suffering, we don’t have to feel hopeless and helpless, and our faith will not be tested because the world feels like it’s too much. Oh to be in that place! And to know it could be at any moment! To forever be surrounded by loved ones, living in the light of our Savior, who, through His undeserved grace, has given us an opportunity to live with Him forever, feeling nothing but joy, peacefulness, and I’m sure a bunch of other adjectives that our minds cannot comprehend until we stand there, before the Lord, feeling the accumulation of our worldly sins wash away, and finally being pure, as the Lord has called us to be! No longer worrying about the pitiful aspects of life, but basking in life everlasting where we have nothing but time to sit at the feet of our Savior and just be in worship. I’ve felt what’s it’s like to be completely broken, and to wholeheartedly long to go to the place that the Lord promises us, where we don’t have to worry about the unfairness of life. We’ll just live. We’ll live in a way that the Lord has truly designed for us to live, with Him, forever! Hold tightly to the promise of what’s coming. That joyful moment when each of the Lord’s countless promises come to life. Even today, and hopefully for the duration of my time on earthy, I will not feel sorry for myself, for the grief that I felt/feel, but I will continue to long for that moment when He calls us home, when I no longer have to wonder “why,” but I will stand in wonder in amazement of the true goodness that the Lord is and has created.

There’s more that dances on the prairies than the wind
And more that pulses in the ocean than the tide
Luke and I were already planning a weekend getaway to Galveston, but two weekends after the tragic incident, we realized how badly we needed to take a break from our lifestyle and try to process the drastic life change we had just experienced. We walked along the ocean, talking about everything from our past to our future, and while my heart was still in a state of shock and sadness, the Lord was beginning to piece me back together. The whole weekend, I could feel the Lord begin to stitch me together, to begin to see that through Him and only because of His specific plan for me, that I might have a future of happiness and joy. And while I still had a gaping empty hole inside of me, I began to literally feel again. I felt the hot sand beneath my feet and ran into the cool water to keep my skin from burning. I felt my legs get sore from walking so long. I felt my skin absorb the warm sun, and I felt genuine happiness began to creep back into my life. One of the conversations Luke and I had in Galveston was how amazing the ocean is because there are still things we do not know about it, and it’s been here for billions of years. There are life forms, crevices, and depths never explored by man or technology. Yet the Lord knows everything, because He made it. How great is our God who could create the depths of the ocean to His perfection with the understanding that humans will possibly never know one single detail. There’s life that thrives in the ocean that God has created, just as He created me. And if He knows every unknown detail of the depths of the ocean, He can surely understand and heal the pain in my heart. He’s continually healing my heart and soul with each day that passes, although some days are certainly harder than others. But I praise the Lord for the feelings I have on a regular basis again. I enjoy laughing, feeling happy, feeling surprised, feeling hungry, feeling frustrated, feeling blessed now, because  I understand how the Lord has pulled me from the emotional black hole and given me reasons to feel all those things.

There’s a love that is fiercer than the love between friends
As I said earlier, my heart breaks for my best friend. The girl that I’ve known since the day she was born.  We were born less than 5 months apart and our mothers were friends, so she and I grew up together. To experience this tragedy with her is a true blessing. I’ve always loved her deeply and had great admiration for her, but nothing will ever compare to everything we’ve been through at this point. If she called me right now and said she needed me, I would be next to her in a heartbeat. I would feel honored for her to call on me in the middle of the night, or in the middle of her grief and brokenness, to which mine pales in comparison. Those short hours after the tragedy, my only question was, “Why did it happen to my sweet friend?” I wanted to make everything better. To take all of her pain away. I wanted to make jokes and take her shopping… do anything humanly possible, and try the impossible, to shield her from the pain that was unimaginable. Out of respect, I’ll no longer go into further detail about my longing to fight for my friend, and for her happiness, but I will say that it took the Lord’s strength to keep from lying in bed with her, crying with her, holding her, and sharing this emotional journey of healing with her.

More gentle than a mother’s when a baby’s at her side
After a tragedy, people tend to lean on their closest friends and family members to help them get through. I’m incredibly blessed to belong to two families (my biological family, and my family through marriage) that were both so supportive. They listened when I needed them to, they talked when I needed them to, but perhaps most importantly, they hugged me when I needed them to. I’ve never been really been the first person to reach out for a hug, but the hours and days shortly after the tragedy, all I wanted to do was be held. It’s almost like my entire being had shattered into a million pieces, and the only thing that was holding me together was the person whose arms were around me, which often times, was the case. My families cared for me as though I was a child again, which was just the tender love that I needed. I never wanted to be alone. I followed Luke around everywhere, and I mean, everywhere. The thoughts and feelings were just too overwhelming when I was alone. But one time, I found myself unexpectedly alone at my parents’ house. It still feels and looks so vivid in my memory. I looked around and realized I was the only one upstairs. I knew that my mom and brother were going to run errands, and I knew Luke was packing the car, but I didn’t realize they were doing both at the same time, leaving me all alone to deal with the thoughts that were waiting until I had a moment of vulnerability so they could attack me out of nowhere. I tried to encourage myself, and talk myself down from the mental-breakdown that was about to happen, but I couldn’t, it was just too much too soon. I ran downstairs where my dad was working, and I said, “Daddy, can I please have a hug?” and then I lost myself into the sadness of grief and sobs that I had been trying to fight off. That’s when I realized how mentally, physically, and emotionally challenging this journey was going to be. I would have fallen to my knees in brokenness had my dad not been there holding me up and holding me together. Praise the Lord I’m stronger now. I’ve spend a great amount of time alone in the two months that have now passed. Again, I think back to the one single strand of hope I had to hold onto, and somehow, that hope was enough. The Lord has been the one to hold me in those times that I continue to be alone and am in need of comfort. He’s always there and has always provided the peace that passes all understanding. I no longer fear the moments when I’m alone because I don’t see them as vulnerable times, I see them as times when I’m the strongest because I don’t have anything else to distract me from realizing how strongly I need the Lord’s strength and love.

 And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper than mere sentiment
And a music higher than the songs that I can sing
The stuff of earth competes for the allegiance
I owe only to the Giver of all good things
So if I stand let me stand on the promise
That you will pull me through
And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace that first brought me to You
And if I sing, let me sing for the joy that has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home
If I stand let me stand on the promise
That you will pull me through
And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace that first brought me to You
And if I sing, let me sing for the joy that has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home
And if I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home

I’m listing the remaining lines from the song because I have already poured out (almost) all of my thoughts and emotions above. And as songs go, the chorus continues to repeat, as would my thoughts already described above.

I’ll finish with this – my lessons, what the Lord has taught me through this:

This world is not fair. It is cruel and undeserving of our devotion and dedication, except for the things that the Lord has blessed us with. Our blessings run longer and deeper then we know, even if the blessing seems small. Begin each day giving thanks for the Lord for the opportunity to live that day for Him. I say “opportunity” because every moment, every second, of every day is an opportunity to love Him, to serve Him, to live for Him in the life that He has generously provided. One day, unexpectedly, we’ll no longer have that opportunity. Our lives on Earth will be over, and our opportunities will be gone. And if you lived for the things of the world, your world will fall away. But if you take full advantage of the opportunities God gives you, you will be rewarded with everlasting life with Him in His light.

Always pray for strength, guidance and patience, because as humans, we often can get those tangled with things of the world, and the outcome will not be as beautiful as if you would have just patiently waited for the Lord’s answers. Cherish the life that God has provided you while on Earth. Don’t get lost in the materialistic aspects that will fall away, but continually look for the reasons why the Lord still wants you on Earth. What opportunities has He given you that you don’t realize yet? What opportunities are coming that you cannot see? Wait patiently, listen closely, and ask for the strength to carry out each mission for His glory.

Don’t pass up the opportunity to show your love, affection and appreciation for your beloved friends and family. Really listen to their voices and what they’re saying, because too soon, their voice might be gone and you’ll be left in a position wanting to give anything to hear it again. Hug them with your whole heart every time you get the chance, because someday too soon, their bodies might be gone, and you’ll give anything to put your arms around them one more time. Cherish every moment, every opportunity that the Lord blesses you to be together because all too soon, they might be gone.

Finally, love the Lord with all you heart, soul, strength and mind. Live for Him and He will bless you greatly, beyond our mind’s comprehension.


Kristen
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