It's funny, the chain of events and people who lead us to the changes in life, both good and bad, which bring us lessons and ultimately new-found strength and renewal. We face adversity, reach a state of hopelessness and feelings of loss and teeter on that dangerous knife's edge, upon which we must decide whether to dissolve ourselves into the chaotic abyss of despair, or to fall into faith, hope and overcoming fear.
It may seem odd that regaining hope and faith are the more difficult option, but in reality it takes great strength to let go of the past and allow faith to replace worry and fear. Being weak, allowing chaos to take over - that's easy. You don't have to work at being afraid. You just allow it to come in and take over your life. Fighting fear takes energy and stamina, two things that depression and pain drain you of.
God brings things into our life with a purpose and the intent of helping us to combat all of this. People and events are brought into our lives for a reason. Nothing is by chance, but it's up to us to choose the paths of our own lives. Our choice in paths can make our life journey very smooth and easy or very, very difficult. Not everything is a choice on our own parts, but everything does happen for a reason: birth, death, love, loss, joy, hardship, knowledge, pain.
My beginnings obviously weren't my own choice. I hadn't chosen to be abused or neglected, and ultimately rejected by my own family. Those experiences, however, have given me a compassion and understanding I would not have had without them. Though I have long recognized these hardships as learning experiences, I have also wallowed for much of my life in the pain they caused. I have made unsound choices which only resulted in further torment and hardship in my life.
I have spent the majority of my life fighting. I've fought not just those who've hurt me, but because I was so used to having to fight for love and respect, I've also fought those who've loved me. I've fought for love, for respect, for my own dignity. In my quest to fight for the help and understanding I sought for so long, I ended up fighting those who truly wanted to help me. I've fought my friends and mentors, and even myself.
When I wasn't fighting I was hiding myself away. My typical reaction to stress is to hermit myself away, hide from the harshness of the world and lock myself in my own little bubble. Me against the world - and life. When you've lived in fear and pain, you haven't really lived at all.
When you feel worthless and you're used to fighting, you tend to take on ventures that give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Something that tells the world you've been here, done something worth doing. In my case, it is Soldiers' Angels. If I've never had anything to offer, anything worth giving, then at least compassionate philanthropy is something I do have to give. When you know pain and loss and hardship, you can better relate to those who endure it, even if it's of a different category than your own.
Through the volunteer work with this organization, I met Shelle, a very strong and no-nonsense woman who has in turn introduced me to many more strong and beautiful women who have also persevered through hardship, each journeying through pain and loss into their own forms of healing and rebirth. One of these women is Jodi Rae, a sweet, loving, kind and compassionate woman who has no doubt endured considerable tribulation herself.
Jodi Rae authored a book, The Blonde On The Prairie, detailing her journey to overcome those trials and rise above them. Over a lunch with Logan, a dear friend in his own right, Jodi Rae signed a copy of her book which Logan then sent on to me. Even from the very first page, I knew they'd both seen straight through to my heart at a critical time when I had nearly begun to slip back into that abyss.
"It took great and powerful adversity for me to end up broken and discouraged, feeling un-loved and not worthy. That same adversity forced a mighty resilience in me to fight back and go on living.
When I began to live, I began to know love. Love yielded laughter. Laughter exploded into healing."
- From The Blonde On The Prairie, by Jodi Rae Ingstad
Jodi Rae, I believe that Shelle instinctively knew somehow that you and all of those other strong and beautiful women would hold the keys to bringing back the me that adversity tried so hard to destroy. Thank you for sharing your joy with me when I needed it most. I'm going to try leaving my barn door open, and let the joy come back in.
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. - James 1:12