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My Happiest Day

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I wrote this essay for a writing contest with the prompt: "Describe your happiest day." I wanted to share it here, with all of you. My God has been so good to me...breaking down walls, pruning me back, cutting off dead, fruitless branches. He has been so good to me...drawing me to Himself, increasing my affections for Him, empowering and transforming me with His mighty Word. My journey has been hard, peppered with trial and adversity. But God knew what needed to be done to soften my heart, grow my faith and repair my trust in Him. He demo'd me and continues to restore me. My God has been so very good to me!

My Happiest Day

By closing my eyes, I have always been able to see her.

She is wearing a dress with a skirt made for twirling, and that's exactly what she's doing. She has her face lifted to the heavens, eyes closed, with the perfect amount of sunbathed warmth on her cheeks. Her arms are loosely raised, palms up, on either side of her frame. Her soul is light and free. And she twirls with perfect abandon.

I've always been able to see her, but I haven't always been able to BE her. In the heaviness of my childhood--me, forever the "old soul"--probably made her up as some sort of prophetic coping mechanism. She has my physical characteristics, but also the carefree exuberance for life that always eluded me.

Until the happiest day of my life.

On that day, my life as I knew it started unraveling. I was sobbing in the middle of a large women's event. This group of 100+ women had heard the same teachings and testimonies, ate the same meals, shared the same cabins, and yet, in that moment, most other faces were dry, void of the deluge currently on mine.

Had I not been in such a public place, I probably would have crumpled to the floor, further releasing my body of the normal--albeit heavy--weight I had always carried. Instead I stood. Head bowed. Shoulders shaking as the torrents continued to loosen and unleash. Eventually uncontrollable chills overtook me as every ounce of emotion poured from my spirit.

Looking back, that day was one of the first I can remember when I FELT. For a long time, I prided myself in not crying. In being tough. In being known as "the strong one." I spent a lot of time numbed out, depressed, but unable to really feel.

You see, I was a trauma kid.

And to protect my heart from further injury, I had built up walls as thick as they were high. I had trouble trusting people. I was filled with unprocessed resentment and bitterness that I masked with a smile.

My eyes, however, always gave me away. They were dull, empty of sparkle. Instead of joy, they spoke of the anguish buried deep in my spirit.

On that happiest day, I didn't even know that childhood trauma existed. That day, all I knew was I hated my story. My biological father had abandoned my mom and me when I was a year old, even signing papers to sever his parental rights to me. My 10-year-old brother had drowned when I was 15. I had been bullied and sexually harassed as a high schooler.

That day, I knew that as an adult I had watched my oldest child suffer through countless medical tests, blood draws, transfusions and examinations. I knew I had stressed through my fear of losing that same child on the operating table as doctors worked to relieve the symptoms of her blood disease. I knew I had grieved through both an ectopic preganancy loss and a miscarriage.

That day, I knew all those events were hard, but I never had a name for them. I never had eyes to see how one trauma built on the next, leaving a wall bent on the destruction of my heart, mind and body.

Until that happiest day, I never knew a healthy way to overcome the trials. Instead, I stuffed. I pretended. I gritted my teeth and marched. I imagined myself an unwanted, unloved girl, grown into an unwanted, unloved woman. As a child, I rountinely cried by myself. As a child, I raged and slammed doors. As an adult, I resented the hand I felt I had been unfairly dealt. I was angry at the Sovereign for giving me the story He did.

When I thought about my childhood, I only remembered the weight of the world on my shoulders. Never a soul that danced and twirled. But on that happiest day, as the tears fell, something else fell, too. My walls. Those walls were built in an effort to protect myself from the world around me. In keeping with Chip Gaines' Fixer-Upper mentality, my happiest day was demo day--and the streaming tears made way for the exposure of the faulty foundation set underneath walls threatening to crumble.

That day, the God I outwardly proclaimed to serve, but inwardly resented, showed me that the walls I had built--walls that I thought were protecting me from getting hurt again, and making me strong--were really interfering with the work He wanted to do in my life. That day, God let me have a glimpse of the freedom He offers to anyone who belongs to Him in Christ. He showed me that promise is for me--unwanted and abandoned me--and I willingly asked Him to destroy my walls.

That happiest day was a catalyst to something much bigger than myself. That day served to soften my heart and open my eyes to the scope of repairs needed in my mind, heart and soul.

Several months later, I walked into a therapist's office for the first time. It would take 18 months of frequent appointments to excavated all the deep, dark places. Those months challenged me and exhausted me as I put in the hard work needed to get better. The time I spent in therapy confronted my depression. Paired with the Word, it provided the kind of ripping apart, digging, pulling sort of deconstruction I needed.

And finally, good pieces, built with solid materials, started falling into purposeful place on top of an ever-strengthening foundation--my dependence on Christ.

It was one thing to use the past as a crutch. To look back and see a poor-poor-pitiful-me and shivel up and die inside. It was another to face the past and whatever pain it had to offer and address the foundational problems I had. 

For me, there was much fear to own. Fear of rejection, of being wrong, of waiting for the other shoe to drop. But then, in the aftermath of my happiest day, I started to be equipped with power that comes from knowledge. Power that comes from a transformational life built on the Word. My eyes also opened to the impact unaddressed childhood trauma has on lives, worldview and faith.

And as understanding started to connect, I started to thrive. I started to heal. A boldness started surfacing in me that I never recognized before.

The weight that held me captive for so long, fled.

My happiest day left me unfettered and twirling.

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