Be at rest once more, O my soul…

I wrote the following testimony several years ago in response to an inquiry into my personal story of loss and hope. In light of the fact that I am about to share parts of my testimony with an audience, I figured I should post the written form again. It is my background, my journey with the Lord, if you will. And while I could elaborate even more, this hits on the “main” point(s). God has taught me so much (and is continuing to teach me) through the absolute highs and heart/gut-wrenching lows of life. He is my rock. He is my hope. And He is my salvation. To God be all the glory.

Being reared in a loving Christian home and community has been and always will be a blessing for which I can scarcely begin to express my gratitude. With my Mom’s guidance, I accepted Christ when I was three. Due to my parent’s wisdom, support, and love I was able to forge through some very difficult and painful times. God in His incredible wisdom knew I would need to be surrounded by His strength and love working through family and friends.

Simply put, childhood was a blast! I have so many wonderful memories spent with my folks and older brother, laughing and growing in the joy of the Lord. I was also fortunate to develop some very close lasting friendships. One friendship in particular has had an incalculable affect on my life.

When I was three my family moved to the L, KS area. Soon after moving we began attending the L.E. Covenant Church. Thankfully my Sunday school class was large, but due to the fact it was primarily populated by rambunctious boys, I quickly became fast friends with the only other little girl. Kristina and I were inseparable. And when I say we were inseparable, I mean it. She became my sister. Most weekends she was either at my house or vice versa. One thing we shared in common was an intense love for horses. It was our plan to one day build adjacent horse farms and raise our kids together. We had both had horses at different times growing up, but whilst in sixth grade we were sadly, both horseless. It was a grievous malady which had to be remedied! So to pass the time until we could amass our herd, I joined the horseless horseman project in 4-H and she rode her neighbor’s horses. Little did we know what life held in store for us.

During one of my routine weekend visits to Kristina’s house, my life was changed forever. After church on Sunday we both decided it would be fun to ride her neighbor’s horses together. I waited while she made the phone call. A persistent voice kept telling me our plan wasn’t a good idea, but I had no intention of thwarting it. So off we went with smiles stretching from ear to ear. My ride was a mare fat with foal. Kristina’s ride was a beautiful, young, green gelding. Even though the owner and neighbor Mr. R, assured Kristina he would lead her the entire time, she still felt uneasy. She came to me and quietly asked if I wouldn’t mind switching rides with her. I told her no; an answer which took me, with the Lord’s help, ten years to make peace with. Kristina and I mounted up and off we journeyed around the back of the house. As I came around the far side of the house Kristina and Mr. R stopped to make an adjustment. When Mr. R let go, the horse spooked and took off. The next few moments were a blur. I looked back to see Kristina lose control, fall, hit her head, and go still. She had hit a small piece of cement in the yard. Having suffered massive head trauma, she never came to, and died four days later in intensive care. God in all his strength, love, and compassion came swooping in to surround my broken little heart.

A week after Kristina passed, my mom and I took a night walk down our quarter mile long driveway to look at the stars, reflect, and pray. While sitting in the darkness snuggled next to my mom, I secretly asked God if He would give me a sign so that I would know Kristina was alright and He was hugging her for me. Instantly the largest most brilliant shooting star I had ever seen shot across the western sky! My mom was looking in the same direction. When I asked if she had seen the star, she said no. That moment was the beginning of God’s healing process.

Over the course of the next several years I became a rather introverted, awkward adolescent. I grew closer to several friends I had had since kindergarten, but I was still trying to find acceptance and friendship from other peers. Through a series of rejections, my confidence plummeted. Not only that, but I was still dealing with the pain of my best friend’s death. My refuge was home and my family. God was still a huge part of my life, but my relationship with Him wasn’t quite my own yet. I was riding on the strength of my Dad and Mom’s faith.

During my junior year in high school I hit an all time low. Sinking into depression, my heart was crying out for joy and peace again. Through the blunt spiritual encouragement of a dear friend, the love and prayers of my parents and church friends, God snapped me out of my funk. He began questioning me, encouraging me to look at the blessings I was surrounded with, and to see His goodness. My world turned from cloudy to sunny! Finally, my heart was beginning to agree with His heart. God was beckoning to me, calling me to trust Him, and my heart was saying ok. I had made a commitment to Him when I was a little girl and through His strength I was going to hold to that.

The foundation of trust and healing that had been laid initially while watching the shooting star, continued to grow. Having attended church camp as a little girl and then later being a volunteer church camp counselor in high school, I was already partial to that form of ministry. After my freshman year in college I got a job for the summer in Nebraska as a church camp counselor and cook. During that summer God taught me to listen for His voice and guiding. He revealed to me through camp teachings and my quiet times what fully trusting in Him looked like. I needed to trust God fully in order to go through the next few years of healing and character growth.

I had built walls around my heart from the rejection I had received from peers. I still thought that if I appeared tough no one would take a jab at me. What is more, I was still shy. My shyness was based off of fear and self preservation. Oddly enough I was self righteous too. Each of those qualities made for one uninviting individual. This fact was brought to my attention by my dear brother. It had become so bad that he didn’t even feel comfortable to be himself around me. His words shook me to my core because I knew they were true. I wondered how in the world was I ever going to be a light for Christ when my own brother wasn’t comfortable around me? Weeping, I cried out to God, asking Him to melt my cold heart. He did. To begin the process, God led me to *Ezekiel 36:26-27 and **Psalm 116. With this new found freedom I wanted to be able to bless others and serve the Lord with gratitude and praise.

In the fall of my junior year at Kansas State University, a friend encouraged me to apply to work at Pine Cove Christian Camps near Tyler, TX. During the application process I saw there were positions for wranglers. As much as I loved horses, I still had a healthy fear of them. For a time in high school I even had a horse, but I couldn’t quite get passed the image of Kristina falling. So, needless to say my horse and I were not a great match. And taking into consideration the fact I hadn’t really been around horses for a couple years, I didn’t know whether I should apply to be a wrangler or not. However, I couldn’t suppress the love I felt for them. Combining that love with the love of the Lord and my new God given freedom to be personable, I applied anyway. I was hired.

Ten years after Kristina’s death (Fall ’98) God brought about final, powerful healing. His timing is incredible. For ten years I hadn’t had any final peace about her loss. Oh, but when God decided it was time, it was like the flood gates rushed open and I was washed away in His glory!

After only two days of initial training I had complete peace around horses. I was no longer afraid of them. When the first week of camp rolled around (Summer ’08) I knew through the Lord’s help and through the instruction of our barn managers, great things were going to happen. However, I still got nervous when thinking of completely inexperienced campers riding the horses. Monday morning came dark and early. While waiting at 4:45 a.m. for my ride to the barn, I looked up into the night sky wondering if God would again give me a sign. I wanted to know the summer would go well. In my mind I thought why should I even bother with such a trivial request. God instantly spoke to me, telling me He wasn’t too big for such a request and to ask. I did. In the western sky I saw the second largest shooting star I had ever seen. Needless to say it was an incredible summer of pouring love into families and staff and wonderfully receiving it back. Several experiences that summer really stand out in my mind, but one in particular made a huge impact. After an afternoon trail ride, one little camper wondered if she could lope her horse. Swanee (the head barn manager at Pine Cove) looked at me and asked if I wanted to take her for a quick turn up the pasture hill, just me and her. We loped off with huge grins on our faces. She was in sixth grade, with blonde hair, and was as sweet as could be. Kristina died in sixth grade, she had blonde hair, and she was as sweet as could be. Praise the Lord for that little ride! The realization hit me, I had kept her safe. God blessed both of us in that instant. The cycle of fear did not have to continue. Indeed, that day God struck satan down. Roaring in his face God declared, “NO MORE!”

With all the blessed healing and lessons learned that first summer at Pine Cove, I still had one more healing experience to go through. In December of that same year, I went to Kristina’s house and to the place where she fell. After ten years, when standing at the sight of the accident, all I could do was praise the Lord for I knew He had Kristina in His safe keeping. Driving to up to her parent’s home I realized it had been nine years since I had been there. Her family continued to attend church, but as her mom G, would share with me, for many years it had been hard for her to see me without Kristina. That was how it should have been. We should have been together. Momma G shared her process of healing with me and I shared with her. With God’s help I finally worked up enough courage to tell Momma G I had said no to Kristina when she asked to ride my horse. Momma G’s response set me free. She said everyone involved had regrets, but those regrets were not to rule over us. We couldn’t have known what was about to happen. Praise the Lord! Our time together reminiscing, laughing, and sharing was such a blessing. By the time I left it was dark outside. On my way home I stopped at the cemetery to tell Kristina about the wonderful day and praise the Lord. While standing in the dark, looking up into the sky I saw the final shooting star. God whispered to my heart it was finally finished.

I am thankful, glad really, I experienced so much pain as a young girl. Am I glad Kristina died? Absolutely not. I hate that she died. I hate the pain her loved ones felt and still feel. But I praise the Lord that through it all He and I have grown closer and closer. He continually works through life’s highs and lows.

Several years ago another childhood church friend of mine was killed in a car accident. For six years during grade school, it had been the three of us in Sunday school, Joslyn, Kristina, and Me. Now, it’s just me. I know without a doubt God has a plan and a purpose for my life. When He is finished He’ll take me home. Life is short. Our relationships and time are precious. With the help of God both can be maximized. Standing in and on the promises of God will heal and restore any broken heart.

God has brought me a long way since I was a little girl of three praying with my Mom. I thank Him for the journey I’ve been through and am excited for what lies ahead. God continues to mold me and correct me, loving me into submission to Him and His plan for my life. Whatever comes whether good or bad I know God will be glorified. God’s love has blessed me with so much peace, joy, and contentment. I owe Him so much. I am excited for the day I will be reunited with my best friend in Heaven where we will praise our Savior together. Only when I am before God’s majesty, casting my crowns at His feet, will I be able to finally show Him the pure love and gratitude He deserves.

Now may I ask, have you placed your trust in Christ? Have you asked Him to be your Savior and Lord? No matter who you are, where you are, or what you have or have not done, God is greater. He is loving, mighty, and holy. God sent His son Jesus Christ so that you may live a life of peace, joy, and purpose. He is calling for your heart. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) He knows you. He wants you. He loves you. He has a purpose for your life. He desires a relationship with you. “Come near to God and he will come near to you…” (James 4:8) God does not lie. “The Lord Almighty has sworn, ‘Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will stand.” (Isaiah 14:24) He is not fickle like humans. He does not change His mind. God’s Word is truth. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Luke 21:33) He speaks and it is so. “But I the Lord will speak what I will, and it shall be fulfilled without delay. For in your days, you rebellious house, I will fulfill whatever I say, declares the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezekiel 12:25) Submit to His love. Submission is not an evil word that places you in bondage. When we submit to God’s authority it allows Him the freedom to work in and through us, thus granting us freedom. Allow His truth to set you free from the bondage and pain the liar and deceiver, Satan, would try to keep you in. Christ said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved….The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10: 9-10 italics added) Allow Him to set you free to become who He has created you to be, so that God may be glorified through you, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:36) Beloved, God loves you.  “‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed- I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?'” (Isaiah 43:10-13) What a mighty God he is. Trust him. Accept his love and strength which will never pass away. Ask Christ to be your Savior.

* Ezekiel 36:26-27 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”

** Psalm 116 “I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: ‘O Lord, save me!’ The lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me. Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living. I believed; therefore I said, ‘I am greatly afflicted.’ And in my dismay I said, ‘All men are liars.’ How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. O Lord, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant; you have freed me from my chains. I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord- in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord.”

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One thought on “Be at rest once more, O my soul…

  1. Mary Benson says:

    Monica, you will touch hearts when you share your testimony. It touched mine.
    Momma B

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