My Wandering Wilderness Years…

They say that hindsight is 20/20…again, those sayings take on such a new meaning when you have defining moments that you would actually stop time and change if ever given the opportunity.  I think we all have choices in our lives that we aren’t necessarily proud of, but we have learned to find the good in the end result.  We love “Pinning” the beautiful quotes about how the bad choices are sometimes the ones with the best endings, or the road less travelled, how our struggles are what made us who we are…

Yes, I have PLENTY of those in my life I assure you.  I have made many a detour on my life’s journey that I’m sure made God do a proverbial face-palm of sorts.  I have countless missteps in my life that I can fully, 100% say, without question, the Lord made right again.  Just as I have said before, even when I tried my very hardest to leave God, I could still always feel His spirit trying to call to me.  I know that most Christians like to believe that God has their entire life mapped out for them, and every step set in stone before they are even born.  I personally, after my own experiences, believe that God has His map but also gave us free will.  We do have a choice about following His map or not.

As christians, I think sometimes we use His map more like bumpers at the bowling alley than as a walking path.  Like children, we walk up to life with reckless abandon and make decisions without consulting our Father who could teach us how to actually bowl.  We believe that no matter how we do it, we can’t fall over the edge.  He has us on His path and we are going to safely stay there – no matter how we approach the lane, no matter what we throw down there.  I have learned that there are no bumpers in this life.  God gave us a path, He provided directions, He points the way and provides ample opportunities to help us along the way.  I think the reality is more like a super reliable Siri than bowling bumpers.  Navigation for life, if you will.  Just like in your car, you can choose to turn it on or leave it off.  You can totally think that you know where you are going and decide to ignore the route that the navigation is telling you to take.  Sometimes the navigation knows about traffic delays or an accident along your route and tries rerouting you, but you don’t listen and just continue on…only to be stuck later.  Also like navigation, as we do inevitably make mistakes or change the course of our lives by using our free will, God always still has us on our path.  He never leaves us, He just updates our route.  Updating…Updating…Updating…(That’s probably what mine sounds like)   I’m not saying that He didn’t know that we would eventually have this crazy, messed up route instead of the direct route He had planned.  But I am saying that this is the only way I have found to explain what has happened in my life.  God can always get you back…from anywhere.

Here’s how I know…

After my Mom died, I was trying to amble through life in my fog.  I tried so hard to be the same person.  I wanted to be happy and myself again.  I just couldn’t escape it…I was constantly being asked if I was ok, or being looked at like I was going to crumble any moment.  Which was fair because it was a possibility.  I had to get out…I had to get away.  I just didn’t care about anything anymore,  I really didn’t care about anyone anymore the way I should have.  I don’t think I knew how to act right then because I was numb.  I acted how I thought everyone needed me to act while I was shrinking on the inside.  Literally, I would sit with people, and while they were talking, I’d be screaming in my head.  Just screaming mad…I would ask myself, “I wonder what they would do if I just screamed out loud?”  I wondered if it would make sense to them?  Would that person grasp the depth of pain that would cause a person to do that?

I was a Junior in college at this point and certainly none of my friends had ever dealt with anything like this before.  Everyone looked at me with such pitying eyes.  My favorite was when people would say, “I don’t know how you’re doing it, my Mom is my best friend.  I don’t think I could live without her.  I don’t know what I’d do if she wasn’t here!”  Yeah, Hi, welcome to my nightmare!!  Are you seriously saying this to my face right now?!  So, I went to Daytona Beach on Spring Break with some friends.  This was probably the beginning of my unraveling.  We met a group of Frat guys from a Northern college who were also there on break.  They couldn’t stop talking about how wonderful Minneapolis was in the summer.  I saw light…and down the tunnel I went.

After many more near breaks, I packed up everything I owned and moved to Saint Paul for the Summer.  I had a plan that seemed good enough at the time (to me at least) and I didn’t really care if it worked.  I only wanted away from anyone that knew me before…before everything got dark.  Saint Paul in the summer is bright green, sunny and happy.  But I quickly had no one…what I thought I had there was gone.  The cost to live there was far more than I had anticipated which put me in another awkward situation.  I was far too proud to admit I had made a mistake and move back home.  So I stayed in Minnesota and moved from bad decision to worse decision.  I couldn’t afford to live anywhere nice.  I was lonely and miserable.  At one point, I finally got a good job that would pay enough for me to get a nicer apartment but I’d have to save up for the security deposit.  I actually lived in a friend’s car workshop for 3 weeks, during winter, so that I could pull together enough money.  I had a nice office job though so I had to look nice…I still had a gym membership that was pre-paid, so I’d go in there to use their showers and get ready for work.  No one ever suspected a thing at work.  I was just always really vague about where I lived.  I walked around shrouded in shame.  I would lie awake at night in my car and ask myself, “How did this happen?”  Seriously, how had I gotten to this point?  Less than a year ago I was only worried about a paper I had to write on Frankenstein and now I’m a metal shed away from being homeless in a Minnesota winter??  Last winter I probably couldn’t even have found Minnesota on a map…and I was ok with that.  I had no idea who I was anymore.

I saved the money for the deposit and got the apartment.  It was great having my own place again but I had never lived in a place like this before.  My first day there, a boy knocked on my door and asked me if I had any extra food stamps.  Mind you, I was 21 years old and had never even seen a food stamp.  He told me that his mom had traded theirs for cigarettes and he and his sister were hungry.  My heart broke…I tried to explain why I didn’t have food stamps but then just gave up.  I made them peanut butter sandwiches and often did for several kids in the complex who routinely ran into similar circumstances.  Living there was hard.  I just wanted to go home.  I didn’t belong here.  I had no idea who I was anymore, but I knew this wasn’t me.  I had to get out of here.

The worst part about living there was that I hadn’t spoken to my Dad in over a year at this point.  I was too ashamed.  He and my Step-mom had moved back to Texas during my Senior year of High School to be closer to me.  They moved back out of Texas around the same time I had moved to Minnesota…and I dropped off the face of the earth.  I just couldn’t face them.  I couldn’t explain what I was doing to anyone because my behavior didn’t make sense (even to me).   I knew that I was making horrible decisions.  I was again being self-destructive, just in a different way.  I was looking for a love to fill that void or something to numb the pain.  I was looking in all of the wrong places…AGAIN.  I surrounded myself with people who didn’t see my behavior as destructive.  They loved me.  Right??  I felt so alone and trapped.  I just wanted a family again…home, safe and sound.

During this entire detour, I could feel myself pulling away from Jesus.  Looking back on the picture of my life during those years, I see it like a scene of a Child clinging tightly to a parent’s pant leg.  The child is holding on for dear life but then lets go and just sits there on the parent’s foot for a while before sliding off.  Then I see the child sitting on the floor next to the parent’s foot, noticing that there are other toys in the room.  Slowly the child’s attention gets drawn to the other toys and the foot is left just standing there.  Eventually, the child notices a window, and beyond the window, a playground outside…so out the door the child goes to play.  The parent is left standing in the room, all alone, waiting for the child to return.  Jesus never went anywhere, He didn’t let go of me during any of my struggles…and He never stopped asking me to come back to Him.  I could always hear His voice and feel the Holy Spirit calling to me.  It was just a little harder to hear Him from the playground.

The great news is that Jesus is always right where you left Him!  I found my way back to Him and it was just Satan putting my pride and sin in the way.

Like I said before, I have some things in my life that I wouldn’t change for the world, because despite my best attempts to mess things up, God still made something amazing.  God doesn’t make mistakes, but He’s really good at fixing mine!  I do have a few moments in my life that I do wish I could take back forever.  Those are the moments that I am most thankful for God’s grace and mercy.  Those are the moments that I think we all struggle with…the ones that we can’t put a positive spin on, no matter how deep we dig into the Christian catch phrase grab bag.

Maybe I’m wrong, maybe it is just me.  I guess this is just what I tell myself to explain these years that I wish were a little different.  You tell me…Am I alone?  Does anyone else struggle with the time you’ve spent in the wilderness?

I’m conflicted about this part of my story a bit and about moving forward because I want to be fair to my family.  To be honest, originally I had intended this blog to be anonymous.  I had every intention of spilling my entire story start to finish, every gory detail as a means to my own healing.  Well, obviously God had a different plan.  Shocker!  As I was taking my youngest into a doctor appointment, I hit the publish button without un-checking the public share function.  When I came out of the appointment, I was receiving notifications about people liking my blog…Um WHAT???  At first, I was petrified.  Then I realized that I had been called to write this Blog in my heart for a while.  If God can use my winding path for anyone else, please let Him.

So…all of you that think I was brave…I’m sorry to disappoint, but that was a God thing and I really had no intention of bravery.  I will, however, have the courage to leave it up and continue my story since many of you have commented on how it has affected you.  I think perhaps someone needed to hear something in one of these ramblings and that will make it all worthwhile.

The next chapters of my life get messy… but then I promise you, they have a beautiful ending well worth the read.  If any of this has helped you in any way, I pray that you will continue to read my story.  I want you all to see how richly God has blessed my life especially through the heartache and trials.

To be continued…



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