coming to you from 36,000 feet

Well… to say that it’s been a week would be quite the understatement. After changing my plans on Sunday to not only fly to Chicago through a small airport (instead of direct) but ALSO to rent a car and make the five hour drive up to Minocqua… I thought THAT was a wrench in my plans for this vacation. Now, though… oh my goodness. That was nothing.

On the drive to Minocqua, probably very close to about the halfway mark, I encountered a roadside hazard that is fairly uncommon in northern California but is unfortunately all too common in the upper midwest. What is that hazard? … I hit a deer. But no, I didn’t **just** hit a deer.

I HIT A FREAKING DEER.
Going 70+mph.
On the interstate.
At 11:30pm.
IN A RENTAL CAR. 

And yes, it did cause enough damage to render the car no longer drivable. And since I was legit in the middle of nowhere – I had to ask the wonderful officers who arrived on scene where in the heck I was, no joke – I booked the closest hotel room for the night. I stayed in Portage, WI. And, well, since I was 2.5 hours from both a new rental car and my friend I was trying to visit, I stayed Monday night as well. On Tuesday, she and I finally connected, and I made it to Minocqua.

I had originally planned to fly home to California on Thursday, but because of my delay, I decided to travel Friday instead. Only… Friday travels in and out of Chicago (ORD) were absolutely awful. Thunderstorms all day, ground stops on and off multiple times. So, even though I had a confirmed ticket for an evening flight back to San Francisco (SFO), my flight INTO ORD was delayed so much that I misconnected from any and all options out to SFO Friday night. So, I called my friends nearby, and I got to have a last minute/impromptu visit with them overnight.

At this point… as far as I can tell… all is right with the world and I WILL be in my own bed tonight! Right this moment, though, I sit somewhere in the skies between Chicago and San Francisco. But what has triggered this particular reflection, this time to really sit and think about where I’ve been over the last year… believe it or not, it’s actually the type of aircraft I’m on. This flight is on a Boeing 757 – an aircraft that holds just under 250 people. (Side note – it’s not a wide body. I almost flew on a wide body again last night, but as I said, I misconnected. WHEN AM I GOING TO FLY ON A WIDE BODY FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE). But, okay, that’s the type of plane that Mary is on. A 757. But why in the heck is that significant?

Well, at the end of last July (11 months ago – WHAT THE HECK??!!), I had a very poignant experience on this same type of aircraft. For those of you who know about the tattoo with song lyrics and a bird on my collarbone/shoulder, you may have heard the story. I was traveling home from some training in ORD, and I had nearly relapsed on self harm the night before. I had actually texted a friend… does it count as a relapse if you don’t break skin? And we discussed about how yes the intention was 100% there but that with what I had on my person I was unable to make it happen. And how I was seriously angry that I couldn’t. But, as a result, I was once again in a really dark place. For those of you who fly a lot, particularly flying alone, you can appreciate that it’s VERY easy to become incredibly lonely and isolated on a flight. That happened on this particular flight, and with my mind already being in a dark place and the fact that my heart was hurting incredibly so… as I sat there, eyes closed, music in my ears, head against the window, I started planning something.

Yes, I began to plan a suicide attempt.
No, I am not kidding.

It was the most detailed my thoughts and/or any kind of plan had ever become. It was seriously frightening, but simultaneously, so was the idea of continuing to walk through this life trying to survive the living hell that was my brain. So, I come back to my comment… It was scary.

But God… BUT GOD! He intervened. With a song. “Sparrow (Under Heaven’s Eyes)” by Tenth Avenue North, to be exact. I’m sure I had listened to this song a thousand times without realizing it, but this time I heard the lyrics in a way like never before. It stopped me in my tracks. Actually – God stopped me in my tracks. He just chose to use this song. So, in that moment, everything changed. God had once again rescued me in a very real way.

The following day I got the tattoo to remind me of that day. And that ink has brought me so much peace and even joy since then.

But… back to today. I’m pondering all of this, especially since I don’t often travel on a 757, and I’m thinking about it all in relation to the reason and inspiration behind my vacation this last week… the vacation that has directly to do with God’s ultimate rescue in my life. The vacation that has to do with my life being transformed and turned upside down from the inside out because I finally came to terms with a) my lifelong struggle of feeling completely unworthy of God’s grace and completely unlovable by our most amazing Father God, and b) the fact that I would never be able to make that information (God’s love for ME, Mary) transition from my head to my heart on my own… I couldn’t even try and be a part of the process, because God has already finished it all.

And then I think about how just eleven short months ago I sat seventeen rows back and three seats to the right, making a fairly detailed plan as to how I might end my life. Eleven months ago I sat in that seat – 33A – as a completely different person. A person who knew Jesus as Savior but NOT as loving and compassionate Father. A person who, sure, was managing through life, but who was going back and forth between putting on a face and being absolutely and completely incapacitated. A person who, in all honesty, would not have lasted much longer on this Earth.

As I was texting back and forth with my mom yesterday evening, frustrated out of my mind that I wouldn’t make it home that night, I made the comment “I’m so ready to be home. I’m like, what the heck God??!! I thought I was supposed to take this trip!!” And, of course, she responded in absolutely the BEST way.

“Following God doesn’t mean smooth sailing, no problems. It means we can have indescribable peace in the midst of it.”

Uhhh… thanks mom? Not exactly what I wanted to hear in that moment, seeing as how I immediately responded with “yes but that’s NOT the vibe I got when I sensed the nudge to take this trip.”

No… it’s not what I wanted to hear. But it’s exactly what I needed to hear. I don’t often like to view circumstances in life as a “test” from the Lord. This past week, though, was definitely very much about learning… and yes, very much about putting my newfound perspective into practice. So, in light of my mom’s comment… I’m thinking about it some more. Now that I’m on my way home, I can very much say and BELIEVE that I was supposed to take this trip. During the week? Ha! I can’t tell you HOW many times I asked and questioned God and maybe even got a little angry with Him. How many times I was so confused out of my mind and wanted to know why in the heck I was supposed to take this trip.

But now? I know that since early May not only has my sense of depression improved significantly… that I’m no longer suicidal… and that I have no desire to turn to a sharp object for comfort ever again… but, now I know that with God on my side, I can handle anything. I can handle standing on the side of I39 North at 11:30pm having just wrecked the rental Jaguar E-Pace, no idea where I was going to sleep that night, no idea what I was going to do in the next 12 hours. And I can handle it not only because I have come to see God’s goodness and faithfulness in my life in a way like never before, but more importantly because I feel secure in the fact that no matter what I do, no matter what other people think of me, I have a God who loves me and who died to know me. He is bigger than any deer that wrecks my car, any thunderstorm that delays my plane, and most importantly… 

He is bigger than the enemy who tries to get into my head with the lies that I am a failure and deserve to die.

He is bigger than ALL of that, and all of the other crazy and frustrating things that I’m sure will come my way in the future. But since we know He is bigger than all of it, we can walk through life knowing we are loved, not in spite of WHO we are, but in spite of WHOSE we are.

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