I felt exposed, wide-eyed like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Discouraged and flat-out exhausted seem like shallow words to describe the aurora of feelings pumping through my chest. But at the same time, I didn’t want to feel at all.
Grabbing a scrapbook of years gone by, I looked into my elementary school girl face and hugged the book to my body, trying to protect my past…cling to it, forever sealing it upon my memory. My fingers traced the outline of that house. The house that seemed so little, so small at the time, but was bursting at the seams with memories. Memories of playing with my sister for hours, creating new adventures for our Magic Attic and American Girl dolls. That time we said we’d sleep in our playhouse outside, but then got too scared thinking of the mini forest behind our backs. The countless days we dressed up in vintage dresses and marched over to our neighbor, Miss Dorothy’s house, and had milk and cookies while we told her our wild tales. I remember the day my Mom called us in for lunch. Katie and I had been playing nearly all morning and we were right in the middle of some grand story. We didn’t want to waste time on food, so I persuaded my little sister and we threw our sandwiches in some bushes, told our Mom we had finished eating and ran back to play. My Mom was a lot smarter than that though. She found our dirty PB&Js, sat us down, and had us eat it bite-by-bite, until we were finished. I’ll never forget that.
I’m trying to avoid sounding cliche, but I can’t help but define that place, 214 Crestmont Drive, as the house that built me. I cling to its white walls, big yard, gravel driveway and big hunter green front door like my life depended on it. If I’m honest, sometimes I lay awake at night wishing I could go back. Back to my middle school days in Shippenville, Pennsylvania when everything in the world seemed so right.
I can still hear the laughter behind those walls. I can still see the many mornings my Mom woke Katie and I up before school for our “P.E.” class of Tae Bo and bowl of raisin bran. I see those first places I began to write and the time in second grade when I entered a short story on the circus to the local library’s writing contest. I can smell the fresh vegetables we had so often for dinner–corn on the cob, bright red tomatoes with a little salt on top, and luscious salads. I first heard the words “delayed gratification” in that house. I can see it so vividly and don’t want to let go. It feels like my one layer of safety, the one place in the world where all the bad can’t out-do the good.
Sometimes the most healthy thing we can do is let go. So often I want to run backwards as fast as I can and attempt to cling to the little that remains of my past. I’m terrified of moving forward because I can’t see two inches before my face, but I can look back and see all the good, all the brightness in life. It’s when I’m caught in this “between” that I begin to sink into this mentality of nothing. I don’t want to feel anything and my strongest instinct is to run. I have a hard time loving and looking at people with grace, so I want to run away as fast as I can. I want to cling to the good ‘ole days, the sweet elementary school moments of life. Those memories have indeed shaped me, but I have to come to grips that they are in my past. By clinging to that house, I’m saying that today doesn’t matter and that’s the farthest thing from the truth.
Far too often I don’t see what God’s doing. And to add to that, I can’t see what He can do through me or how my decisions affect everything else, like dominoes–one on top of another. If I look in my rearview mirror, I can see what He has done, but looking forward, I don’t have a clue. The only thing I can cling to is trust.
I put my scrapbook away and tried to shove down the sadness welling up inside my heart, but I just couldn’t. The girl who has been trying so hard not to feel anything can’t help but feel an aching longing for the past. What can I do? One thing I know for sure is that I can’t go forward if I don’t let go of what’s behind me.
There is only one person who can help me. Jesus Christ. People and circumstances change like the wind, but the anchor of my soul has been a constant–from that simple house that built me to where I am today. He was in and through those walls just as much as He is with me now. He has not changed. In the midst of that reality, a little sense of peace started creeping in, overtaking that swelling lump in my throat. Those tears I wanted to fight are becoming more of a blessing, a reminder of how good my God is, how gracious He has been to me. It’s in that moment, He whispered into my throbbing soul and tired mind, “Be strong. Learn to love. Become. Stay.”
These days, I’m not in the same state where my fingers first learned to write. I’m not in that little three-bedroom house that had constant basement water leaks. I’m not dressing up and running to the neighbor’s house or imagining wild tales of pioneer women and Indians. I’m over 900 miles away from that place, my past, my childhood, my safety zone. I’m a year away from being a college grad and uncertain of a lot of things. But one thing I’m learning is that through all of that uncertainty and wanting to cling to my past, my future is incredibly bright. Tomorrow is so filled with hope because Jesus has never changed. He is my source of life.
It’s time to wave goodbye to my safety zone and choose to trust.