October 1st, 2014

Allison, checking in.

I decided to change churches earlier this year, slowly transitioning from the church I had grown up in to a small congregation closer to my house and closer to my doctrine. It was a hard choice, but one that’s ultimately brought me joy; I’ve found leaving the old church has allowed me to make my faith my own, getting away from the “my-parents-go-to-church-so-I-do-too” mentality kids growing up in a Christian home know all too well.

This Sunday, I decided to go to my old church. I hadn’t been there for a few months and I hadn’t seem some people in a while. Everything was different. The traditional pews had been replaced by plush chairs. The bulletins were glossy and, well, for lack of a better word, hip. The massive cross hanging on the central wall of the sanctuary was illuminated by blue LED lights. The pastor was announcing his decision to leave the church, and the worship leader and associate pastor were going with him. I felt like an intruder, listening to a conversation I wasn’t supposed to hear. I was a stranger. I was the girl in Mean Girls who didn’t even go here. Everything was unfamiliar, everything was shocking.

Things change, I suppose, even when I am not there to witness their evolution. Pews become chairs and pastors retire. But what alarmed me most was how much I had changed. The last time I had been in a service at the church, I was still new in my faith, having come back to the gospel after a few years of living in the world. At that point, I was still afraid of what Christianity would do to my life, and I was grappling with really dark sin. Sitting in church made me uncomfortable most weeks and I didn’t know how to process a lot of what I was learning about God and my life. He was calling me to give up a lot and I was terrified of the commitment.

When I left my old church, I truly had time to grow from there. I began to embrace the gospel, and I fell deeper in God’s love the more I learned about Him. Before returning to my old church this week, I hadn’t realized how much God had transformed me. People had told me how wonderful it was to watch me grow, others had said my faith was remarkable, but I took it for the wishy-washy, trying-to-be-nice stuff Christians say. This Sunday, though, I saw my growth laid out before me. I remembered the girl I had been, I reflected on the journey my faith has taken me on. I am not the girl who hates to lift her hands in worship and I’m not the girl hoping to escape the service as quickly as possible. Now, I fall to my knees in worship and I am overcome by His love. I ask anyone I can questions theology and doctrine. I need to know more. I am filled with a passion to learn about God, I feel thirsty, unsatisfied, like I have barely read the first sentence of a novel. And I am thankful, for, with time, I know God will continue to reveal Himself to me.

Visiting my old church was daunting; to find myself a stranger in a congregation I used to call my family was nearly unbearable. I’m thankful I’ll be returning to my regular church this Sunday. I’m thankful I’ll slip comfortably into a pew and hug the people I know. But ultimately, I’m thankful for the change God has wrought in me. It’s been exactly a year to the day since I came back to my faith. October 1st, 2014, I confessed to God I needed Him more than I needed my selfish pride. I sat with a close friend and cried for hours, screaming that I was miserable with my life. I laid bare my sins, confessing the evil things which had consumed my life. I collapsed, a sniffling red eyed mess, distraught and broken. And God, forever a faithful Father, embraced me as though I had never left. As though I hadn’t cursed His name a thousand times before and mocked His very existence. As though I had acted the obedient daughter as faithfully as He was the merciful Father.

So, ultimately, more than the LED lights illuminating the cross in my old church, more than the new chairs filling the sanctuary, I have changed, because a year ago, everything changed.


Cold Autumn Air and Numb Fingers

Allison here.

Fall came rushing into the summer heat last night, and when I woke up this morning, my wooden floors were cold and my fingers were numb. That iconic crisp smell of chilly air filled my room. It’s one of my favorite smells; I’ve waited all year for this weather to come back. Inevitably, with it, comes memories of years prior. The smell carries memories intrinsically tied to moments in my life, and I cannot help but be reminded of my past. Sometimes these memories are good ones, they’re thoughts of the first day of third grade somehow weirdly cataloged in my brain as “the-smell-of-sixty-three-degree-weather-and-cotton-tee-shirts” or memories of my favorite fifth grade teacher remembered by “cold-crisp-air-and-pumpkin-candles.”

This morning wasn’t so pleasant. The past two years for me have been trying, to say the least. When I awoke this morning, I couldn’t help but feel like it was exactly a year ago, at the beginning of my home schooling experience, when things were new and living was difficult. I had just left my public high school and my life had been shaken at its core. I struggled to get up most of those mornings; I wasted hours staring at my phone or sleeping when I wasn’t tired, because I didn’t know what else to do with my being. Certainly, it wasn’t all bad, and a lot of it was new and exciting, but a lot of me was empty and scared.

So when I woke up this morning, I tried to fight my innate association with fall weather and last year. I promised myself if I do things differently, this year won’t so dreadfully mirror the past. If I eat a different breakfast, the creeping feeling of Déjà vu will pass without incident. If I wear different clothing, I won’t feel like the same person I was a year ago. If I read a different book, set my alarm to a different time, or change the songs on my Spotify playlist, it won’t be the same as last year.

But I can’t help shake the feeling of dread creeping into my bones, right along with the cold air. I’m destined to be the same mess, my memories tell me. I’ll never really have my life together, experience taunts me. I’ll always have trouble dealing with little manageable things in life, my brain teases.

This morning I ate a different breakfast than I did last year, I put on different clothing, and I changed the time on my alarm. The feeling of sameness, the feeling of inevitability to repeat the past, still hasn’t left me. But that doesn’t make it true. I am radically different than who I was a year ago. I have fought each day of the past 365, in some battles triumph came easily, others were hard won. But I am a world away from where I was last year, mentally, physically, spiritually. So even though cold autumn air and numb fingers remind me of difficult times, these memories do not mean I have to relive them.