Dancing

It was a typical flight back home. As usual, I sat in the window seat. My Beats were on and the music shuffled.  I stared out at the stars and down at the city lights, twinkling as if to reflect the sky above. Meddled in my thoughts, the music was a filler, noise to drown out the world as my brain’s theater played Wedding Weekend on repeat. I’d never felt so empty, so pained by something that should have been so joyful.

A simple piano riff cut through my swirling thoughts. The notes rang through my ears, sweet and light. Steffany Gretzinger’s voice began to sing:

“You steady me, slow and sweet. Take the lead and I will follow.”

She sounded so sincere, the lyrics a promise to God saying I trust you through it all.

The song went on to the chorus which reads:

“When my faith gets tired,
And my hope seems lost,
You spin me round and round
And remind me of that song,
The one You wrote for me.
And we dance.
And we dance.”

When I’m tired and lost, You hold me close and dance with me. Whenever we hurt and feel like there’s nothing left, whenever the black hole sucks us in and crushes our spirit, whenever we have nothing left to hold onto, there’s a Lord waiting to take our hand and lead us and say, “I’m with you.”

I began to cry on that plane. Silent sobs wracked my body as I let the Lord in on my struggles. As my tears tried to fall to the ground below, the last couplet repeated itself over and over, a prayer:

“It’s nice to know I’m not alone.
I’ve found my home here in your arms.”

For an hour, I played that song on repeat. I let it seep in to my soul, a warm comfort in the loneliest of times. It was my prayer and my reminder. I wasn’t alone and never would be.

I sit here now, typing, listening to the same song. I’m at a low. I smile through the days as they drag by, but the impending death of my childhood home lingers in the back of my mind. This song is my hope. This song is my prayer. This song is my lifeline.

I’m dancing.

 

Advertisements

Every Storm has a Rainbow

My house flooded.

That’s one of the most common sentences I’ve heard lately as a South Houston native. My story is the same. My house flooded. Hurricane Harvey turned many people’s lives upside down, including my own.

I live right on a creek. It was a beautiful wooded lot, filled with raccoons and owls and snakes. We had a large backyard complete with a pool. It was our own private paradise. There was room to run around with the dog or to kick soccer balls over the fence or to tan in the summer sun. The house was an old two-story home, filled with imperfections and character. There was a door frame tracking the family’s life in inches. There was a smiley face drawn into the texture of the wall. There was memory after memory symbolized by a window or a picture.

Torrents of rain began crashing down Saturday night. We moved the cars up to high ground, just to be safe. At 9:00pm, everything seemed fine. Moving the cars was just a precautionary measure. I went to sleep expecting to wake up and go to church the next day. It would be normal. But, life was far from normal the next morning.

12:45a.m. Dad shook me awake.

“Get up. The creek’s in the backyard. We gotta move things up. Wake up Jamie and come down,” Dad’s whispers were urgent.

Pausing my story real fast, Jamie is a German foreign exchange student that we had picked up from the airport only five hours earlier. Welcome to Texas, right?

I catapulted out of bed and ran to Jamie’s room.

“Wake up. We have to move stuff upstairs. I’m sorry,” I frantically told Jamie.

I ran downstairs and flew out to the backyard. Sure thing, the creek was a fourth of the way up the yard. I went back inside and put Jamie in charge of moving pictures upstairs. Meanwhile, I took the first things I saw. There were boxes of childhood art, wooden chairs, vacuums, and computers. I emptied out cabinets, stacking things on counters. The house had never flooded more than three feet, so that was the mark. Things went on top of counters and tables and above the fireplace. I ran outside again. The water was halfway up the pool.

Frantic, I ran to the front yard. The water was over the mailbox. I looked next door and realized I didn’t hear her dog. All lights were off and her car was still in the driveway. My neighbor wasn’t awake. The next thing I knew, I was pounding on her door, willing a light to turn on. After what felt like an eternity, she finally opened the door.

“What’s going on?” she said groggily.

“Carry, the water is coming. Move the dogs upstairs. Save what you can. I have to go. Stay safe!” and then I sprinted back to the house.

Another hour passed, and we were working as smooth as gears in a clock. I was constantly checking the water. Submerged the pool. Up to the deck. The tree. Inches from the door step…

The power died at 2:30 in the morning. We grabbed an extra set of clothes, our phones, chargers, and the dog. We took one last glance around the house and then we left. We walked through cold, chest-deep water to get to the cars up the street. My mom took her SUV and my dad took his truck with Jamie. My dog and I got into my SUV and followed my parents. We drove to the next neighborhood to stay with our friends. The cars sped through the water-covered streets at a whopping five miles an hour. I prayed and prayed for my car not to stall out and, by some miracle, we made it to our temporary home with all three vehicles.

By 7:00 in the morning, the creek had reached historic levels. Dad estimated there was four to five feet of water in the house.

Days passed before we were able to make it back to the house. It took a few more for the street to be low enough to wade across. It was about a week in total before we walked inside for the first time since this “800-year flood.”

The doors stuck together, swollen with humidity. Glass was shattered all over the porch. Inside, everything was destroyed. Water had reached 4.5 feet inside, crushing the 3 foot mark. The rowing machine floated from the living room to the kitchen. Toiletries were found in the kitchen and the bedrooms. The washer was flipped. A mirror fell off the wall. Board games were destroyed. Vinyl records littered the floors. Layers of mud coated the floors.

It was awful. The house I’d grown up in was in shambles. My childhood home was destroyed. I’d lived in that house for almost seventeen years. Ghosts of giggles and tears, hugs and games,  and movies and meals haunted me at every turn.

The days that followed were a blur of the same. Toys were thrown in trash bags. Dry wall and insulation was stripped. Salvageable items were carefully dried and placed in boxes. The smell of water and mold gained strength as the small hill of garbage in the yard turned into a mountain.  People flowed in and out. Current friends and those from years past siphoned through, bearing hammers, money, food, or hugs.

Soon, the job was done and we were moving into a rent house three doors down from our storm shelter. Bleach was in hot demand as we cleaned and washed. Boxes were slowly emptied and things found a place in our temporary home. We made ourselves a new normal.

Why recount these painful events? We’re one of hundreds of thousands of similar stories. What’s the use in sharing this story when people are just trying to move on?

Have you ever felt the crushing feeling of loneliness? It presses down on your chest, leaving you tired and exhausted. Many of you may not believe it, but that’s been a huge struggle of mine. I’m the nice girl. I’m everyone’s friend. I always have a smile to share. But, all the same, it doesn’t always feel that way. My closest friends go to different schools, limiting our time to texts and the occasional Friday and Sunday.

Harvey taught me that I have incredible friends, despite when it feels like I’m on my own. Not only did they help tear my home apart, they started a fundraiser. They sold shirts, jewelry, clothes, and opened a GoFundMe. Surprising my family and I, they revealed to us that they had raised almost five thousand dollars to go towards our recovery.

I had no idea what my friends had been planning. They loved my family and I unconditionally, doing whatever they could to help.

If you get nothing else out of this post, I hope it is this. During periods of dark, when you think no one is there, I promise you someone is. They may not vocalize it all of the time. They may not raise you five thousand dollars. But, someone is there. Sometimes, you just have to turn around and look. Those near and far are waiting for you. Whether you need to laugh for twenty minutes or hug while you cry, someone is there. You’re never alone.

 

A Rebel’s Purpose

Many of you know that I worked at a summer camp for a few months. I spent my time running rec games and washing dishes and it was easily the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. While working at the camp, I was trained for the gift shop. This was the ultimate hangout place for all of the campers as it was home to souvenirs, smoothies, and espresso. Comfy chairs and cold air conditioning provided a welcome break from the hot, Texas sun.

In the gift shop, we sold a variety of shirts. There were baseball tees and glow in the dark shirts. But, there was also a shirt known as the “Renegade” shirt. This shirt came in salmon pink and turquoise blue. The front read, “Be a renegade. Conform no more. Romans 12:2.” I always thought that the shirt was cool, but I never appreciated it until I found out the meaning of renegade. A renegade is a rebel, one who turns away from the typical standards of society. A renegade is a person who is passionate for their cause and doesn’t break in the face of a challenge. A renegade sets their own rules despite the opinions of others.

Now, bear with me, as I’m going to switch gears for a moment.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people use age as a limiter. When someone says, “You’re too young to understand,” or “You’re too young to make a difference,” my blood boils. I fully believe age does not change what you are capable of doing. 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” I try to live by this verse as it is a call to action for all young people. We are the ones to set the example. We are the ones that will change the world. We just have to take the first step.

This brings me to the name of my blog. I believe I am a young renegade, a teenager called to make a difference. I believe I have been called to break out of the confining box of society. I wanted to create a way to follow my personal journey. Maybe this blog will help to inspire other young people to make a difference. Maybe this blog will provide guidance for those looking for help. Maybe this blog will change someone’s life. Maybe, just maybe, this blog will start to change the world.

Today, I Actually Learned Something at School.

To ensure the privacy of others not involved in this blog, all characters will be given pseudonyms in this post and any post following from here on out. 

I’ve wondered what I would post as the heralded “first blog post.” There’s a myriad of possibilities ranging from camp tales to sermons to a random story. But, I’m not going to talk about any of those today. I’m just going to start with what’s fresh and what’s fresher than a story picked today?

To provide a little bit of back story, I was always the “Mom” friend. I grew up the mature and responsible one. After watching three boys grow up older than you, you learn what mistakes not to make. People rely on me to have the answers to their problems and the puzzle pieces to their jigsaw of life. I fully accepted that position, but a few hours ago, everything changed.

Fast forward to today. It’s fifth period, approximately 11:45 a.m. and Coach Boulder is giving a lesson on active listening: the art of listening to understand, not to respond. To successfully be an active listener, one must also recognize an important truth. You don’t need to give advice. Walking alongside a friend as moral support is all that’s required. Why, you ask? The advisor can quickly be the victim of blame when supposedly good ideas fail. An unhealthy dependency can also develop and the friendship can be doomed to fail.

Listening to Coach Boulder’s lesson, I was shocked. As the 24/7/365 go-to contact for many people, all I had grown to know how to do was offer a plan of action. Many of my relationships were a one-sided need for answers to the problems that couldn’t be solved with “e. all of the above.” Hearing, “you don’t need to give advice,” was a foreign delicacy, a dessert I had never considered tasting.

The day progressed and my mind continued to churn around my newfound insight. I remembered Psalm 16:8 that reads, “I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.” It occurred to me that maybe, to truly be Christ-like, walking next to someone is all it takes to help them through. With Jesus on one side and a strong friend on the other, what could go wrong? 

Today, my view on my relationships has changed. I’m not the “Mom” friend, knower of all things wise and responsible. I’m just a teenager who was given a strong gift of empathy and a large heart full of love for those who need it. It’s not my job to fix what I didn’t break. It’s my job to simply be a friend and nothing less.