Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. ~ Psalm 71:17

We’ve spent several days talking about the life of a teen – the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve offered up some personal examples in hope that, in some small way, someone else can relate.  Before ending this series, I would be remiss if I didn’t give God a shout-out for the amazing things He did in the midst of tragedy.  Today, I simply want to say thank you to Him by telling of His good works.

All of the events in my teen life (which only some have been shared on this blog for the sake of time) were shocking to me.  Most of them I never saw coming.  I was emotionally startled at every turn.  God knew how hyper-sensitive I had become to the instability in my life, and He stepped in one day in a most unique way.  I had a dream.  I was in a room with pale blue walls and dark brown furniture.  It had a big window.  It was quiet.  I didn’t know where I was, but it was calming and unsettling at the same time.  In my dream, I walked around the room looking at everything in detail.  I turned to close the door, and behind the door there was a cross with Christ hanging on it.  I thought to myself in the dream, Jesus is here – He is in this room.

Shortly after the dream, my mom had surgery.  I’ll never forget the moment we were told they couldn’t get all of the cancer, and her long-term prognosis was grim.  She was placed in a hospital room post-op.  I walked down the sterile maze of halls to find her room and entered it.  I had not just entered a hospital room, but a new phase with my mom.  Everything rode on her surgery.  We were waiting for the good news that she was on the other side of this.  That we were on the other side of cancer.  Such was not the case.  This phase was dark and terrifying.  Oddly, however, the room felt familiar to me.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it felt like I had been there before.  As she lay in bed, unaware of our presence, I scanned the room with quizzical curiosity.  Then it dawned on me.  Perhaps I had been here before – in my dream? I walked to the door and slowly began to look behind it thinking there was no way.  Yes way.  There it was…the same exact cross with Christ hanging on it. I knew then the gift God had given me.  He absorbed the shock value for me by letting me walk the new room, the new phase of life,  in my dream first.  Most importantly, through the same cross, Jesus reminded me that I was not alone – He was there with us.

Months later, on what would be my mom’s last Valentine’s Day, a guy I was dating at the time, (he was a bit older than me and was in the service) and I talked about how she was going to be all alone.  My sister had gone out for the evening, and I felt terribly guilty for leaving Mom to go out with him.  He surprised both my mom and me with a change in plans.  He came to our door with not one, but two huge bouquets of flowers – one for her and one for me.  He surprised us and told us that he’d be taking both of us to dinner and a movie!  And he did.  Even in the movie, he sat in the middle of us with an arm around each of us.  She had not felt that in a long time.  Afterwards, he took down the top of his JEEP and took my mom on the ride of her life.  He had her laughing and screaming and hanging on tight.  She had so much fun, and I enjoyed every second of watching her smile more than she had in many months.  He is a Christian, and truly the love of Christ shone through him.  It is one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for our family.  God really was my mom’s Valentine that year.

A few years later, I was in college and wasn’t sure what major would be best for me.  Therefore, I took a variety of different courses.  As an undergraduate, I was given special permission to take some graduate-level courses.  Besides the full load of social work courses I took that semester, I also took a graduate class in the sociology of emotion.  It was one of the most interesting classes I’ve ever taken.  I was able to learn how emotions affect the human body.  It was fascinating and helped me understand myself better.  Moreover, I was granted the opportunity to take a graduate class in rehabilitative counseling.

At that point in my life, I had not received any personal counseling for what I had endured.  This class, for me, was like school and therapy all rolled into one.  It was there I learned the 5 stages of grief in depth, as well as other issues common to trauma and suffering.  I could not get enough of this class.  So much of what I was feeling about everything that had happened to me made much more sense.  God made a way for me to take both of these classes not normally available to undergrads.  This class changed my life.  And, it led me to the next blessing.

While taking rehab counseling, I suffered from strong chest pains, rapid heart rate, sweating, panic, shortness of breath, etc.  Every time it happened, I thought I was having a heart attack.  My newlywed husband drove me to the ER each time.  The last time it happened, my doctor was on call in the ER at the time.  He had already performed an EKG and other tests on me in his office and concluded I was fine.  But, here I was in the ER again with the same scary symptoms.  He came out to the waiting room (to my surprise) and squatted down in front of me.  I thought I was special to receive such personal treatment.  With hands clasped together, he looked at me through his glasses and firmly said – loud enough for the entire room to hear – Kristi, you are not sick.  There is nothing wrong with you.  If you want to see sick people, come in the back with me and I’ll show them to you.  I refuse to treat you.  What you need is counseling.  Now go home!  What?  How could he?  How DARE he!  I was mortified as I sat there wide-eyed in the hard, plastic chair.  I watched his white coat disappear behind the double doors and that was that.  Everyone in the waiting room stared at me as I got up and left.

I was spitting mad!  He did not have the right to chastise me in front of everyone.  He refused treatment for me.  He yelled at me!  His words…were right.  After days of replaying the embarrassing scene over in my mind, his words about counseling kept coming back.  I swallowed a large dose of pride and called my church to see what was available.  Sure enough, a social worker was assigned to our church.  The first time I met with her, I gave her the rundown of the many things that had happened in my life.  She very calmly responded, I think we have something to work with here.  However, I told her I could only afford $5/session.  (I was a newlywed at 19 and my young husband and I were working our way through college.)  She said that was okay.  I met with her every other day for an entire year.  I don’t remember the sessions, but I know that they played a HUGE part in getting me through grieving and helping me heal.  Kind of like running.  A runner can train for a year, and not remember every step, path or trail.  However, she still trains for the finish line.  The sessions are a blur, but each one of them got me one step closer to healing.

Sometimes we think nothing good can come of something bad.  The way my doctor treated me was humiliating, unfair and disrespectful.  But, it took that difficult moment for me to realize it wasn’t my physical heart that needed treating.  Indeed, God brought something very good out of a bad moment.

There are so many blessings God gave me through those difficult years.  How I wish I could keep writing and writing to share them with you.  Sometimes they were obvious, and other times I had to really search to find them.  But, He promised to never leave me and He never has.  For teens, parents, caregivers and friends, remember this…God is good all the time – even when life isn’t.  He’s working for the best interest of His children, for His glory, and His covenant promises to never abandon us even if we abandon Him.  Don’t give up…you have a life story, too.  What will you write?

Psalm 71:14-18

But as for me, I will always have hope;
   I will praise you more and more.
15 My mouth will tell of your righteousness,
   of your salvation all day long,
   though I know not its measure.
16 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign LORD;
   I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone.
17 Since my youth, O God, you have taught me,
   and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
18 Even when I am old and gray,
   do not forsake me, O God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
   your might to all who are to come.  

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