A Spiritual War

The old saying goes like this, “God is bigger than your fear.”

People might say this to a loved-one when all seems lost, when there is much to be afraid of. It is meant to offer some comfort, some explanation for the fear that is sweeping away the lost.

Here is how I live: God is not bigger than my fear.

Yep, I just said that.

Am I ashamed of it?

No. God already knows this is where I am. He has already forgiven me, and He is helping me find my way out of that surprisingly disturbing statement.

Alas, this is what I believe.

God is not bigger than my fear.

I believe that any Christian who suffers from anxiety, whispers this same thing in the deepest, darkest part of his or her heart.clouds-194840_1280

When your mind is sick, and it is your mind that controls you, it is difficult to imagine God’s healing and restoration could possibly occur in such a dark place.

A person with anxiety faces a constant battle of the thoughts. It is logic versus feeling.

I know God can get be through this, but I don’t feel like He will.

I know God can free me from my anxiety, but I feel like He wants me to suffer.

I know much of what the Lord says in the Bible, but perhaps it just doesn’t pertain to this level of anxiety, this all-consuming panic that eats away my belief in Him, one unanswered prayer at a time.

prayer-888757_1280I can’t even tell you how many times I have prayed for the Lord’s peace, how many times I have begged Him in the dead of night to just reach down, and pull me out of the muck and mire that is my fears. He could do it in a heartbeat, yet, I always fall asleep exhausted from fear, not resting in peace.

My husband reminds me often that God is peace, but I remind him often that I have never felt this peace, that perhaps it just isn’t for me. A peace that surpasses all understanding? Foreign concept. Nonsense. Not in real life. Not in my life.

For those that may not be familiar with me or my blog, let me get one thing straight. The Lord is my Savior and I live for Him each day. He has saved me, revitalized me, restored me, and shown me His faithfulness in innumerable and inexplicable ways. However, there is one area I feel as though He has never touched–my fear. One fear. One fear that is the rock with which my anxiety is built upon. It is this fear that Satan has pinpointed and decided to use to finally take me down.

God is not bigger than this fear. My life has proven this to be fact time and time and time again.

When a taste of this fear, perhaps closer to a phobia, enters my mind, it feeds on every negative thought inside me so quickly I cannot even recall a Bible verse. It figuratively brings me to my knees in a matter of seconds. No logical thought exists and a wall immediately goes up between me and my oh so faithful Father. Satan begins whispering lies into my ear, and the Lord’s truth is drowned out by a panic that I am quite literally drowning in. It chokes me. I cannot breathe. I freeze, and I wait for it to consume me completely. This is the only choice I have.lifebelt-664292_1280

I know I am not alone. Anxiety is quite common these days, perhaps this is why I could not help but write this blog post. I can think of many acquaintances and friends that have trouble seeing the Lord through their sickened minds. Well, believe it or not, I have some very good news to share.

You see, I have been in the fight of my life for some time now. I have been getting along perfectly okay with my anxiety for most of my life. Occasionally, it shows me its ugly side and controls me like its puppet, but I tend to regain composure as soon as the circumstance rights itself. Recently, it showed me its ugly side—a very ugly side indeed, and since then, I have not been able to find my way back to normalcy. It has continually picked at me each day for months, and throughout these months, I have been fighting with my God—arguing with Him, ignoring Him, and trying to give up on Him.

However, God in His immense love and unfathomable wisdom chased me down. While I was fighting against Him, He was fighting for me. He has slowly opened my heart to the idea that perhaps it is Satan I should be fighting, that there is an unseen spiritual battle going on right inside my home, inside my head, and Jesus is simply the only weapon I have to fight these demons.

You see, I’m quite flattered that Satan is trying so hard to tear me from the Creator of the Universe. He certainly fears my faith….as he should. Even in my darkest battle with this unending, excruciating, controlling fear—my faith has never truly left me. I have tried to walk away from it and go out on my own, but I have always known that I will go back to it. I simply don’t know how to function without Jesus, and I am painfully aware of my infinite need for a Savior, even when I am furious with Him, even when He seems absent.

As I write this today, I am still fighting for my life, but I am part of God’s army now. He is my dwelling place. God has finally, after years of torturous avoidance and constant setbacks, shown me how to fight off my fear, Satan’s handiwork. I will not stop fighting as I have seen, if only for a moment, the power of Jesus Christ, even amidst my strongest delusions.

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Don’t get me wrong. I have a very long way to go. It is about retraining my mind—a mind that has been irrationally afraid for most of my life. I must let God’s Word conquer my fear, not once, but every day of my life. I now have tools to locate God’s peace amidst a hurricane of panic and negativity.

I never thought I would be able to say this. I never thought I would actually be able to smile, take a deep breath, and whisper, “My God is way bigger than this fear, because my God has already defeated Satan.” Jesus defeated Satan, and He gave His followers the power to do the same thing, to put Satan under our feet and carry on in His peace—a peace that we cannot possibly understand, but a peace that God desires all of us to feel.

I have returned to the safety of my Father’s embrace, to the wings that protect me from the arrows that fly by day and the terrors of the night (Psalm 91). God is working a miracle, a miracle I gave up on long ago.

 

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Maybe That’s Enough Joy

I caught myself staring across the street at the neighbor’s this afternoon.

They have two teenagers—one girl, one boy. Nice family.

The boy has even shoveled my driveway in the past, despite the fact I have called him by the wrong name a few times.

My husband and I want a lot of kids, and by a lot, I mean more than 3, which is unfortunately considered a large family these days.20170420_172025

Since marrying and having children, I have wondered why anyone would choose to have just one or two kids and stop there. I have such a strong desire to have a large family, with a lot of grandkids running around, always a daughter or daughter-in-law to hang out with on a boring Saturday.

However, as I stared across the street to the neighbor’s, the thought crossed my mind for the first time, that perhaps my life would be easier if I would just stop at two kids.

Lately, motherhood has been hard, and I have found little joy in it.

Wait… am I allowed to admit that?

My sons aren’t sleeping and have been sick constantly for the past month. There has not been much to rejoice in.

If I were to stop at two kids, I could go back to teaching.

If I were to stop at two kids, I could maybe afford something for myself someday.

If I were to stop at two kids, I would only have two humans to keep alive, to worry about, to train up in the ways of the Lord—I would only have two humans to screw up.

If I were to stop at two kids, I would only have two college tuitions with which to scrape up money.

20170425_205435If I were to stop at two kids, a good night sleep might be nearer than I previously imagined.

If I were to stop at two kids, maybe I could take my life back, find some freedom, breathe a little.

So, to all my readers, now you know I’m selfish—disgustingly self-centered and entitled. Gasp. How could I admit something so dreadful, so personal? Um… we are all disgustingly self-centered and entitled— we are all sinners. I’m confident every parent, in every house, on every street, in every country, struggles to overcome their selfishness to raise their self-absorbed mini humans.

It’s because children take everything. They take your wits, your strengths, your time, 20170416_141733your freedom, and they take advantage of your weaknesses, wringing them out until you have no choice but to toss them aside, along with parts of yourself, and keep fighting.

There is good news, though. In order to parent the next generation, the Lord does not ask us to submit to our children’s needs and desires, only to stop recognizing who we once were when we catch a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror.

No. In order to parent the next generation, the Lord asks us to submit to His will, His call, His desires. Whether you’re a parent or not, you are called to die to yourself and serve and honor the Lord. If you’ve been asked to do this in the shape of a parent, it is no different. You are honoring your Father by being a parent to His children. There is no greater, nor is there a more difficult calling.20170422_190447

Each time you deal with a day of constant tantrums, each time you sacrifice what you want for your kids, each time you give up another Saturday morning for your child’s activities, you have served the Lord. You have honored Him, by seeking out the joy in the life He has given you.

Finding the joy in motherhood can be difficult at times. However, the joy that it brings cannot be matched by any other experience on Earth. World travel will not match a mother’s joy. Money will not match a mother’s joy. A good night’s sleep will not even match a mother’s joy. For even though a mother has much to suffer through as she raises her Christians, she has even more bliss to revel in, to bask in.

She will revel in her child playing his own game with an imaginary monkey and shark. She will revel in her children growing up to serve God in their own way.  She will revel in all the dancing, the singing, and the laughing that comes with motherhood. She will revel in it all—and it is all joy.

20170422_184234She will even find joy in the struggle of it all, because it is in this struggle, that the Lord will refine her and make her more like Him. In the end, that is not a struggle, that is a blessing.

So, how many children do I want?

A bunch.

As many as the Lord thinks I can handle.

You can never have enough joy.

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The Day God Answered my Prayers with my Worst Fear

In the Bible, God tells us to fear nothing 466 times.  In the Bible’s 66 books and 31,102 verses, fear not is God’s most frequent command to His children.

joshuaIn the first chapter of Joshua, the words “be strong and courageous” are spoken four times in just 18 verses. God says it to Joshua three times, and Joshua’s men say it once. God also reminds Joshua not to be afraid several more times throughout his journey toward the promised land.

Joshua was facing a nearly impossible situation, entirely impossible if you view the world without God’s abundant grace and power. His mentor and leader, Moses, had just died, and the Lord appointed him to continue Moses’ mission by leading the Israelites to the promised land. In order to gain access to the promised land, the Israelites had to defeat a large number of tribes, all encompassing Israel’s seven enemies. God’s people faced multiple setbacks as they progressed further into Canaan.

They had to cross the Jordan River, which looked impossible.

They had to defeat a strong city with impenetrable walls, which looked impossible.

They had to make a second attempt at defeating Ai, having lost the first time, which looked impossible.

Throughout this war, Joshua is the pinnacle of strength and courage, just as the Lord commanded him. However, he was just a man, and I have little doubt that his faith wavered and nearly broke numerous times throughout his conquest of this land. There is no way around this conclusion. The things that the Lord asked of Joshua were impossible by human standards, and it was only through the miraculous intervention of God that the Israelites were able to conquer the land.

fear-2083657_1280Since God tells his people not to fear 466 times in His word, He surely knew fear would be a strong and real presence in His children’s lives. I’ve realized with my children, that just as we are born sinners, we are born fearful. My youngest son is beginning to panic and cry when I am out of sight, just as all babies do. This is revealing a baby’s fear that he will be left alone. As a child grows, he begins to fear the dark, monsters, the first day of school, losing his friends, not fitting in, getting cut from the basketball team, etc.

When he becomes a man, he will fear just as often, but his concerns will be with much different things. We are born fearful, so why does the Lord command us so many times to do such an impossible thing as not to fear?

I have lived with a fear, some would call it a phobia, all my life. It has followed me around throughout many of my days like a shadow, and I have never been able to fully escape it. There have been moments in my life where it has become debilitating, where it took control of me and my logic escaped me. I thank God for the moments I have been able to control it, and push it far away from the forefront of my thought.

Since it has mostly just been a quiet, gnawing within me, I have ignored it most of my life, dreading the day it took control of me once again. Part of me thinks since I have been afraid for so long, it is more instinctual than anything else, like my brain has been trained to be afraid, more so than I have been given any reason to fear.

I have hesitated to pray for healing, because of the painful knowledge that the Lord often answers our prayers by making us face the things we don’t want to face. Since I have known this fear would dramatically affect the way I parent my children, I began praying vehemently to be freed from it just two weeks ago. This is the first time in my life I have begged the Lord for healing.

In these two weeks, I have had to face my fear not once, but twice. God immersed me in it so much that I was unable to escape it, unable to run, which is how I had been handling it throughout my life. Just like Joshua was asked to do the impossible, I was also asked to do the impossible.

A life without fear is the way the Lord intended us to live, before sin seeped into our world. A life without fear would be indescribable, and humanity would be unstoppable. My life without this fear would be the epitome of freedom. It is my hope that someday it will not define me, but that Christ will define me. It is my hope that someday this fear is such a distant memory, that I laugh about it with my husband. It is my hope that whether the Lord frees me from my fear or whether I struggle with it until I see Him in paradise, that He will use it for His glory, that my suffering will serve His purpose.forest-1529055_1920

Even though all of us have fears, we need to remember to credit the One who always carries us through them. I have never been able to follow God’s command to not be afraid, but He has never failed to prove His promise, originally made to Joshua, but now for us all, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

God never fails us. In the deepest, darkest hours of our worst and strongest fears, the Lord works, and the Lord remains our King. It is Satan who tells us to be afraid; it is Satan who tells us there is anything to fear at all. Satan has been whispering lies to me my whole life, and I believed him, and have allowed him to gain strength within my mind.

boards-2040575_1920If we could only see how impenetrable and immovable God’s protection really is, we wouldn’t dream of being afraid of anything. However, when God tells us to fear nothing, He knows we will fail. We will fail every time. The beauty of the Lord, however, is that He works in our weaknesses, and it is our weaknesses that often bring Him the most recognition and the most glory, for it is in our weakness that we call upon Him, plead with Him, and depend upon Him.

In our fears, in our joys, in our triumphs, and in our sorrows, all praise be to our Father.

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Why my Husband’s Illness was the Best Thing to Happen to Us

When I am in the midst of a storm and panicking, I often imagine God trying desperately to get me to see the bigger picture—that my suffering is part of a much greater plan, a plan I could never imagine for myself. When I face a trial, however, the only thing I can see is the trial, and God often becomes a distant memory…

In the middle of August, my husband began complaining of a sore throat and ended up suffering from a three-day cold. The cold went away, and about three days later, he began complaining of a sore throat again. My wifely intuition told me that was a bit weird, so I pushed him further, and he assured me he was fine. Within a week, he was back in bed, and unable to go to work.

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My husband was sick, on and off, for the next two months. His fatigue was so extreme, there were moments that I fought the urge to scoop him up and rush him to the ER, panicked he may fall asleep and not wake up again. Since my husband is the sole wage earner in our home, I was not only wracked with worry for my husband, but also for our future, as I often imagined the worst-case scenario—my husband would become debilitated from the fatigue and would never return to work.

I wish I could say that through this time, I was the epitome of strength and faith—that I never once cried out to God is panic, doubt, and fear. I cannot say that. As my husband and I fought countless doctors for a diagnosis, and my husband’s boss became increasingly less understanding, I often could do nothing but beg the Lord to pull us out of this situation.

He didn’t—not at first.

Financially crippled, I will never forget the nights I lied awake, staring at the ceiling, wondering why God asked me to be a stay-at-home mom, only to send me back to work 18 months later. There were moments I was confident in our decision and confident the Lord would find a way for us. There were other moments I was certain He had left us, and we were alone.

Doctors were not able to tell us what was wrong with my husband, and we were certainly stumped—that is until he quit his job. Having filled out roughly 25 applications in the two months my husband was struggling, one job came through, and he has been there ever since. His health issues have never returned once he walked away from his job, where the stress was literally killing him.20170413_151411

I have no doubt there are people reading this that are in a struggle of their own. It is my prayer that this will offer some hope and comfort to them as they wait for their prayers to be answered. Even though my husband’s illness was the most terrifying experience I have ever endured, it was also the best thing that ever happened to our family. Here’s why:

Change. A job that seemed like an answer to prayer, quickly morphed into a series of broken promises, and the cause of constant arguments in our marriage. I had begged my husband for months and months to walk away from it, but the only way he was finally willing to walk out the door, was when it made him sick.

Marriage. Going through an incredibly difficult experience with my spouse brought us closer together than I could have ever imagined. Our marriage has improved in inexplicable ways since my husband got sick. We talk more; we laugh more; we trust more; most of all, we serve the Lord together.

Faith. My husband and I grew up in the church and definitely trusted the Lord with our lives; however, since facing a seemingly hopeless situation, our faith has reached new heights, especially my husband’s. He has begun to serve our church with an unmatched passion, we constantly converse about God and His abundant grace, and he has stepped up to become the kind of spiritual leader of our family that I always wanted him to be.

Dependence. When my husband switched jobs, we had to adjust to a rather dramatic pay cut. Struggling financially has been more of a blessing to us than anything else. It has allowed us to depend on the Father in ways we never would have imagined when we were financially comfortable. It has given God the opportunity to show us His vast provisions, and, despite my hope that someday we will be able to give back to the Lord financially, I truly wouldn’t have it any other way.

Time. My husband is no longer consumed by the responsibilities of running a hardware 20170219_205909store. His focus has switched from his job to his family, and the time we are able to spend with him now has been a great blessing to us. He is home at a consistent time every evening, and he is carefree enough to enjoy the evenings with his sons. I would give up all the money in the world for this to continue.

Confidence.  Since God brought us through such a difficult situation, my husband and I now have gained the confidence to go after what we really want in life. We have explored many options, and we know, even if we take a step that involves risk, we can be assured that the Lord walks with us, and will provide for us along the way.

I never imagined I would look back on this time and consider it a blessing, but there is no other word for it. I know I will never take my husband’s health for granted again. Our life has changed immensely since my husband became ill, and even though life is still uncertain, especially financially, I have seen firsthand the love God has for his struggling children, and the way He uses a trial for His glory.

The only option a Christian has when all seems lost is to turn to the Father and trust Him all the way through it. There is always a way through it.

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When God Moves

Sometimes the Lord moves in a whisper, a barely detectable draft with not even enough power to lift a few strands of hair. You lift your prayers to heaven and they seem to go unanswered, as you try to keep your eyes on the horizon, fanning your faith like a flame about to burn out. You flip the pages of your Bible, a mixture of obligation and desperation, surely those pages contain the answer, the answer to your burning question, “Where has God gone?” Your prayers continue only because of your innate awareness, programmed inside of you through years of knowing Christ, that an answer will come.praying

Despite your waning belief, prayer has become more instinctual than anything else, a means to survival, a piece of bread in a famine. Everything you’ve ever learned about the Lord tells you He must be listening, but your faith is struggling beneath a heavy mass of doubt and fear.

Your prayers have dwindled to a few a day, having malformed into more of a frantic plea than a hopeful petition. Pushing your anger and doubt away, despite all logic, you cling to the only life raft you’ve ever known – your faith—nearly forcing yourself to fall on your knees and beg the Lord to come more powerfully, to rescue you and pull you out of this storm.

Just when your delicate faith threatens to shatter if hit once more, the Lord finally moves. In a windstorm of hope and aha moments, His presence becomes not only obvious, but impossible to ignore. As this tornado whirls through your home, signs of the Lord’s goodness settle upon every surface of your life like dust. As the pieces fall together and His answers come in waves, crashing against your life while you drink up the hope you almost lost for good, your house and family seem to almost float upon His beautiful and constant plan, ebbing and flowing according to God’s design.

Having doubted His presence a short time ago, you are now entirely content with handing it to God, allowing Him to work, and hanging on tightly to the promise that His plan has been there all along, hiding just outside your line of sight.

wave-1939190_1280When things settle down, your household still giddy from the infusion of faith God provided, you have a chance to look back on the pain you endured, yet conquered. It does not take long to recognize God’s mighty hand upon each prayer you prayed and each tear you cried.

Resting once again in calm waters, you lift your eyes to the skies and thank Him for your suffering, for it was this suffering that allowed you to see God’s promise fulfilled – He will always show up, and He is always moving.

“I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” ~Hebrews 13:5

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A New Creation

I’m dead.

Yep, dead as a door nail.

Nail down the coffin, people.

I am entirely unresponsive to the world around me.

Dead.

Don’t plan my funereal yet though, that would just be weird.grave-2036220_1280

Allow me to explain…

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, the Bible says that in Christ, we are a new creation. In fact, Paul explains it further by saying that old things have passed away and all things have become new. Notice that Paul does not say some things have become new, or you have become new, or the world has become new. No. Paul says all things have become new for those who live in Christ Jesus.

I have always had a rather ambivalent relationship with Paul’s words. There is nothing more encouraging or edifying to know that Christ frees us in such a way that we become a brand new creation.

Just as many times as this verse has encouraged me, it has confounded and alarmed me. I am not certain when I became a Christian; I pretty much just always loved Jesus. I could tell you when my faith became my own, instead of my parents’, but I did not have a defining moment where the Lord saved me. I often wonder if Paul’s words would have a more potent impact upon me if I hadn’t always been a Christian—if I had a “me before Jesus” with which to compare myself.

I know I have grown more in love with Christ as I have entered adulthood, and I know my faith has matured in immeasurable ways; however, I don’t know that I see myself as a new creation. I am still pretty much who I have always been. I continue to struggle with the same sins I was struggling with as a young girl; they may look different now, but they are the same. I can be unimaginably prideful, and impeccably self-absorbed; I tend to envy one’s success long before I rejoice in it; I seek my own glory before I seek my Father’s, and I am impatient beyond logic.

How is this kind of mess a new creation?

Romans 6:4 says, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”grave-2115941_1280

Read that verse again. I mean, really read it.

Paul says we were buried with Him…Whoa. I don’t recall being held up in a tomb for three days with the Son of God. I guarantee I would not have been as chill about it as Jesus was.

Colossians 2:11 also describes Christians as being buried with Jesus through baptism, but it goes further to say not only was Christ raised from the dead, but so were we.

Colossians 3 reminds us again that we have died and our life is hidden with Christ in God.

This begs the question that if we are dead, how then should we live on this earth?

It’s hard to be dead and alive at the same time, even for the most gifted of people.

woman-591576_1280Colossians 3 says more, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”

Christ is life. Christ is life. Christ is life.

There are countless verses that address being dead to the world and alive in Christ. Galatians 3:26-27 says, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

Colossians touches on this same concept in chapter 2 by saying a Christian puts off the body of the things of the flesh…

If my faith in Christ allows me to drape Him over my shoulders like a blanket and traipse around like a beacon for Jesus, then I must simultaneously clothe myself in newness of life—my new man—killing my old self.  

In fact, Ephesians 4 says this of a Christian: putting off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

Despite all this evidence, the problem many Christians have with this idea is that our old self seems to still live, lurking in the shadows of our hearts, revealing himself or herself countless times throughout the course of one day—this old self is our sin, and it has the power to eat us alive if we don’t let Christ fight it.

Our old self fears sin, fears the world, fears failure—fears everything. Putting on Christ each day and making Him our life does not mean sin no longer exists within us: it means that sin no longer controls us; it becomes so powerless, in fact, that it is dead. Christ has given us a weapon with which to fight this sin, and the ultimate gift when we lose that fight – forgiveness.

For many of us, choosing to truly believe this is half the battle.

Jesus was buried with our sin, our muck, our nastiness, our filth. It is no longer ours, but His. Being a new creation does not mean that I no longer sin. When the world looks at me, it sees little change between who I am and who I once was. However, it is what God sees when He looks at me that truly makes the difference.  20170309_142125

He sees His pristine and perfect child, dead to the world, yet alive and well in Christ. He sees a woman who has her mind set on things above.

My master is no longer sin; my master is God.

This is freedom.

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Sam.

I used to have a best friend named Sam.

She lived on the other side of the forest, a few blocks down. We spent a lot of time in that forest, imagining trouble, and sometimes actually causing it. Sam was bolder than me. She had what my mom would call, a glint in her eye. She wasn’t afraid of adults and she wasn’t afraid to get in trouble. I, on the other hand, earned the nickname Miss Goody Two Shoes quite early on in my childhood, so I always envied this quality in Sam. For instance, when we were about ten, we sent my mom into a tizzy when she couldn’t find us one afternoon. We were on the other side of the forest enjoying some lemonade with some strangers who invited us in for a cup. Without Sam, I wouldn’t have dared, but with her… I was invincible. My mom was not pleased.

sam3Sam gave me Porkchop at my 8th birthday party. I insisted on inviting every girl in the 2nd grade class. It was probably one of the most disastrous experiences of my childhood; however, I still have my gift from Sam. I actually passed it down to my son. A tiny lion, called a pocket pal, filled with beans. I slept with it from the day I turned 8 until the day I turned 18. Since he was easy to conceal, I had him stashed in my college dorm room. Then, I had him stashed in a keepsake box. Now, I have him stashed in my son’s closet.

Sam may have been a bit of a trouble maker, but she eradicated more trouble than she caused. I remember one particular example quite well, another birthday party. I was turning sixteen and was squeezing every minute out of it in my green, cement basement with a large collection of friends—some may have only been acquaintances. Things took a negative turn when two rough looking boys showed up unannounced. Miss Goody Two Shoes was not impressed with some stunts they were pulling in my basement. Sam found me crying in my parents’ exercise room because they had ruined my birthday. She released me from any reason to cry, with her impeccable ability to listen and make things right. It is even more impressive that she pulled this off, since she is the one who invited the boys in the first place.

Sam had a quality about her that I could never quite put my finger on. I always thought she was rather nosey, but I never had any qualms about letting her put her nose wherever she wanted. It was because she cared for me, even when we began to grow apart in high school, I knew she really, genuinely cared for all of us. Not only that, Sam was the girl to seek out when you were looking for gossip. She was the queen of knowing everything. I loved that about her.sam4

Some of my most exhilarating memories from my childhood have Sam in them; she is the leading lady in most of them. Sam and I spent an entire summer with our feet hanging off a handsome boy’s tailgate as he did circles around our Podunk town. It would be late and approaching my curfew, but it was hard to care when I was sitting next to Sam singing “Too Much Fun” at the top of my lungs.

Even though my parents believed her to be a rather negative influence on me, I never got into any real trouble with Sam by my side. I mostly just had the time of my life. She always took me home when I mentioned my curfew, and she never rolled her eyes at my inability to disobey my parents. The only time I remember her genuinely “corrupting” me was when she double-dog-dared me to yell the f-word at the top my lungs. Don’t forget my nickname. It took a lot of persuading, but Miss Goody Two Shoes eventually stood up on that dugout (I have no idea why we were sitting on a dugout) and yelled it. This was just another moment that Sam made me feel free, like I had some invisible shell that only she could see.

She eventually moved even closer to me, just a few blocks down the street across from the railroad tracks. I can’t imagine how boring my high school experience would have been had she not been right down the street. Her basement was the location of many unusual, yet always legal and, more importantly, God-fearing activities. Without Sam, I think I would have conversed with two boys during all four years of high school. But in Sam’s basement, I had more boys to flirt with than I ever had in English class. Sam was a great flirt; I sucked at it. The point is, Sam always made me feel like I could flirt, like I had nothing to lose. She made everyone feel like that.

I learned a lot from Sam. Most of the life lessons she shared with me were discussed on the top of a grain elevator. We thought we were such rebels. I didn’t find out until later that nearly every teenager in our town spent a good deal of time on the elevator, but still, we were trespassing and we felt dangerous. One morning, around five a.m., Sam and I snuck out of her parents’ house and walked to the elevator. We weren’t trying to break every rule in the book, we simply wanted to watch the sunrise from the highest point on the grain elevator, and we were determined.

I have thought back to that moment many times in my adulthood, sitting atop a grain elevator, discussing every topic from the most shallow to the most profound. I had seen countless sunsets with Sam, but this was the only sunrise I ever watched with her. I can still see her silhouette against the soft glow of the horizon, but what I didn’t know in those moments, was that I was taking her for granted, that one day she would not be there and I would only have the memory of everything she taught me.
sam5Despite growing apart as we became teenagers, I still remember spending so much time with Sam. She was my first friend, and she was the only one who never completely went away. We were so proud when we would tell people we’d been friends since we were two: We thought we had accomplished some impossible feat. The impossible feat would have been for us to continue to speak after high school—we didn’t.

Sam was not perfect—she’d be the first to tell you that. She knew her imperfections and she had plenty of insecurities, but she was an incredible friend. I would give anything to go back to our college years and somehow stay in touch with her. Even though she’s gone now, I am always surprised by how often I think of her and how often I catch myself mentioning her to my husband, who never knew her. I didn’t realize how big of an impact she had on my life, until the chances of her impacting it again became impossible. I wish I could share every memory I have of Sam—I can’t believe how many there are.

She was extraordinary, and she took away any chance of me ever hearing “Too Much Fun” by Daryle Singletary without lifting my eyes and asking Sam to sing it with me.

I do know one thing. I know she knew the Lord. I don’t know how much she knew Him in the days before her death, but if I know Sam, she never stopped seeking Him.sam

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