Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Share Your Story

A while ago, I offered to "Share My Story" on the Pless Press Amber had a great idea to get some people so share their stories on her blog each week, and I volunteered to give it a go :) To give you some background information: I am 25 years old, married to my best friend (Ryan Keith) for over a year now, and we live in Fort Smith, Arkansas. I'm licensed as a professional counselor and marriage and family therapist. Besides school and work, I absolutely LOVE the Arkansas Razorbacks (I've been a fan my entire life), and I love to travel to new places with my hubby. Family is super important to us - so we spend a lot of time with them, and we love watching movies/or doing anything that'll fit in our newlywed budget. 

When I first saw that Amber was starting this blog project, I immediately thought it was a great idea. Being in the counseling field, I truly have seen how the power of sharing a story can bring healing and encouragement. Rarely have I been on anything but the receiving end of those conversations... so actually sharing my story will be a little different. 

To start, I was raised in church my entire life. Much of my belief set (like many people) was taught to me by my family. My sister had cancer when she was 5 years old, and my brother was her bone marrow transplant donor. She, praise God, was healed from terminal cancer and is now 32 years old with a beautiful baby girl (read her adoption story here). But we were raised in a family of great faith. My parents were always encouraging... always supportive of whatever I felt like I was supposed to be doing, whether it was moving across the country to Atlanta for a summer or having a party in their house to celebrate someone's birthday in the church... they were always supportive. 

My story changes as I get older, though. I started studying different things in college, and I had some less-than-ideal experiences in my local church. My heart started to harden, and I became very bitter at the "church." I started realizing how emotionalism and materialism played into my relationship with God... it was something my church had taught me, but it was something I had also learned and accepted. There are many times that we are faced with opportunities to accept something as truth, and we do simply because we trust those in leadership above us. I've learned that skepticism can be very healthy. Ask questions. Research. Dig in. Find your own answers. Talk to other people about your thoughts. Email your pastor. There are so many ways to safeguard against blind obedience

Back to my story -- I was blindly obedient to leadership I shouldn't have been in my early 20's. I've come to a point where I don't have to push blame on anyone. I can accept the fact that I had some responsibility, and I got hurt because of my blind obedience. I don't believe I'm the only person who has been 'hurt by the church'... I'm actually very positive that I'm not. Sometimes those wounds cut so deep because we except more from a church leadership and our disappointment hits a deep low point. It's what we choose to do afterward that makes the difference.

In my case, I made some pretty rough choices. I chose to rebel. I chose to disobey what I knew was right. I chose bitterness against the church and the people in it. Those were some very rough years for me. I made decisions that still have ripples that affect me to this day. If I believed in regret, that would be the time in my life I would regret. But since I believe more power comes from learning and growth, I know that I've learned something (actually, learned many things) from that time in my life that can be used for good now. One of the greatest things I've learned is:

We are hurt and healed in relationships. 

My biggest hurts and greatest joys in life have been in the midst of relationships. My bitterness and hurt from church years ago has been healed through my relationship with Christ and also with His body. My husband and I joined a newlywed small group last year, and we've made some great friends who have encouraged us and given us some amazing community among each other. Not to mention my holy union with my husband and how MUCH of an impact that has had on my heart and personal relationship with Christ. If there's ever a chance for more conviction or more sanctification - it's in a marriage. 

I've said many times on my blog... and will continue to say it here: God writes the best stories. He planned my entire life out for me, and it brings me great comfort to know that all my experiences, decisions, low points, high points, and in betweens were all appointed by Him. My story is definitely mixed with belief, bitterness, and brokenness... but I've come to a place where I can truly say that brokenness is beautiful. It's the place where God can truly put our pieces back together the way He intended... and He still thinks we're beautiful. Some of the most beautiful stories I've ever heard were marked with pain and suffering... but also victoryVictory that only God can bring. The beautiful stories are the ones that can only be explained by pointing to God and saying, "It's because of Him." 

That's where my story is now. I look back on my life, and I realize I have made some very, very poor decisions. But I also see the redemption that has been given to me throughout my life, and I am infinitely blessed because of it. There are no "moments" in my life in the past few years that I can point to that were "turnarounds" or "breakthroughs" for my relationship with God, and I think that's significant. My relationship with Him (my story) is constantly growing, changing, and deepening. There is no "start point" for me just like there will not be an "end point." My story will continue to be written until I meet Jesus face to face, and I will continue my story with Him for eternity. 

God writes the best stories. I can't wait to live the rest of mine. 

im thankful.
carrie anne

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