A year later, He’s still doing Wonderful Things.
I remember that morning like it was yesterday.
The navy dress pants and light blue button-down shirts seem like a lifetime ago, having been in Richmond and working out on the ramp for just over seven months.
What also seems like a lifetime ago? Waking up every day and wanting to die. Not just the random, fleeting thought that comes on occasion because life is hard. I’m talking about the all consuming depression that bleeds into daily suicidal ideation. The hopelessness that, no matter what you do, how hard you try, or how things might look like they have changed… they really haven’t. You still can’t be around sharp objects, you still want to die. All the time.
But while so much about life in Santa Rosa – including that debilitating aspect of my mental illness – seems like a lifetime ago… I remember that Monday morning in May like it was yesterday.
Let’s take a visit for a moment…
Having gone home to sleep a little more after working a 4am shift for a 6am flight, pulling myself back out of bed felt the usual impossible – like lead blankets were willing me to stay under the covers. I changed back into my work uniform of a blue top and navy pants, I pulled my long blonde hair back into a tight bun, and made my way downstairs.
Hunger was slowly starting to eat at my insides, but time only allowed for breakfast on the road this Monday morning. Again, it was the usual, typical Monday – cold cereal to take with me. The moment I sat back down in my car, clicked my seatbelt, and started my fifteen minute drive to the airport, I took a deep breath. Getting going in the mornings might be tough for me, but I could at least have the few minutes between Woodsage Way and the Santa Rosa Airport – no stress or running late could take those minutes of peace away.
That particular Monday morning, as I was pulling out to go work our Denver flight, I played the new worship song that was quickly becoming a favorite. “Wonderful Things” by Highlands Worship had been in my church’s set the previous day, and already it was speaking volumes to my soul. There was something different about that Monday morning… a hope that hadn’t been there in a long time, if ever. Our pastor’s words and sermon the day before stirred something in me. Like I said, it was a new kind of hope. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something about it felt… different. I was hoping, willing with everything in me that maybe it really would be different this time.
As I pulled from highway 12 onto 101 north, the typical Monday morning traffic, the inevitable merge and slowdown threatened to make me late for work. My focus on the road never wavered, but I also did all I could to continue singing those words over my spirit.
“God of all power, King of all glory… You do wonderful things.”
The speed of my red Toyota Yaris began to pick back up as the traffic thinned out. I pulled forward, merging fully to head north towards the airport, and the song continued…
“God of all creation, King of our salvation… You do wonderful things.”
I knew this song would forever be a part of my story, though I had yet to fully understand or see how. As I listened to the words continue, I began thinking to what I had written in my journal the day before.
“God, it all still feels really foggy and confusing… the idea that it is Your power and YOURS ALONE that will break my chains… like, relying on You to help me accept Your love and grace in a very real way? Letting You rescue me in regards to my relationship with You? It feels weird… like, how does that even work?
But… You’re God. I’m not. And if your power can raise the dead to life, who am I to do anything but simply trust?”
After I had penned those words listening to the sermon in church the day before, in many ways I had started to ask myself – “what do I have to lose?” Taking that first step out in faith, saying “okay, I’m not sure how this is gonna work, but I have to trust that You’ve got it, God”… what’s the worst that could happen as a result?
This was all running through my head, and as it did, I imagined what it would be like if I could actually live life each and every day as if this was all true – that yes, God loves and forgives me, Mary Rachel.
As I passed exit after exit as I did every time I drove north to the airport, an image regarding all of this popped into my head. Say I really did believe this… say I really started to believe it in the depths of my soul, so much so that it might as well be tattooed on my forearm as a permanent reminder…
“When You move in power, a miracle can happen. We believe You do wonderful things. You are here with us, and anything can happen. We believe You do wonderful things.”
I began to picture a tattoo of this truth. Someplace where I could see it all the time. A tattoo… something permanent, that never changes, that can never go away – no matter how hard I might try.
What’s so crazy… as I began to picture this tattoo, as I continued asking myself “what do I have to lose” in letting God in, in living my life and making choices each and every day like I believe it’s all true…
The Airport Blvd exit came, and I pulled off and turned left off of the highway with a green light. I was almost to work now, thankfully I was going to have a few minutes to sit in my car before I would have to go inside and start my shift.
Thank goodness – because as I held that mental image, the image of the tattoo, of something permanent and irrefutable… I felt it.
Now before I go any further, a caveat. I know that God’s truth is God’s truth, whether we feel it or not. Our feelings, while perfectly valid and having a true need to be acknowledged, should never dictate fully how we live our lives.
But guys… I felt it.
Like… really, really felt it.
It was the briefest moment, so mundane. But as I said… I remember that morning like it was yesterday. Why? Because it’s the morning that everything changed.
Having a few minutes before I needed to go clock in, I pulled out my phone and wrote down a few thoughts so I could remember the moment…
“Monday, May 6, 2019 10am - Santa Rosa Airport parking lot I think I might be starting to get it. Like, really get it. The sermon this weekend was powerful. And the realization that, despite my hesitancies and doubts and walls and despite how much I have been pushing away and distancing myself... I have EVERYTHING I need to experience the healing I need in Jesus. The healing I have needed for even longer than I can remember. I am free to lean into the true power of the cross and the empty tomb to break down my walls of fear and doubt. And, what amazes me so incredibly, is how God has been letting that happen even before I came square in the face with the realization that I did yesterday. As I type this, my heart is pounding. I’m a little shaky. I’ve got my current anthem on repeat, Wonderful Things... when God moves in His power, a miracle can happen. And boy, is it ever. As I drove down Airport Blvd just now, I thought to myself... is this what true freedom in Christ feels like? The freedom to say, okay, I’m downright exhausted. Dare I say even feeling a little bit of the depression. But simultaneously, I know that I can never do ANYTHING to make God love me any more, and I can never do ANYTHING to make Him love me any less. And maybe, just maybe, believing that. The cross and the empty tomb are the biggest, most mind blowing examples of that love. And what if I rest in that love? What would happen? Well, this might happen. This... this feeling of my heart pounding and my hands shaking because never in my wildest dreams did I think I would feel this free. This free to struggle... this free to hope... this free to live. To live despite my human failures and stupidness, despite my human sin, because all along I have had everything I will EVER need in the true power of the cross... and the death defeating power of the empty grave. I’m still in shock at this whole thing. And now, like, how in the hell am I supposed to go inside and clock in and work??! All I want to do right now is cry and sing and praise Jesus. Because, my goodness... He really does do Wonderful Things. “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father... [that you] may have strength to comprehend with all the saints... the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge... Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us...” Ephesians 3:14, 18a, 19a, 20”
Most of you who know me that my idea behind the tattoo from that morning went on to become a reality. It has been affectionately nicknamed my “permanent post it note”, because that’s essentially why it is there – to remind me of what I know to be true. To remind me that am fully known and fully loved. Let me tell you, it has done its job many times. And it continues to do its job, sometimes daily. I tell people that I got the tattoo for a reason, that it’s actually a quite practical piece!
But in all seriousness for a minute. As that Monday continued to play out, and as days turned into weeks… something really was different. I was at cautious at first, so very cautious. I had thought something was finally “different” far too many times, only to have my hopes come crashing and burning down to the ground. I had grown so weary of hope because things would always go back to the way they were… if not even worse. I couldn’t afford that crash and burn again, I really couldn’t.
Thankfully God knew that. Because that Monday morning… things really were different.
Even though I could actually feel it, though? I don’t think I had ANY idea just how different they really were.
Because here we are, a year later.
I’m working as lead ramp agent in Richmond, Virginia.
I live in my own apartment.
My parents live in Boise, Idaho.
… and God is continuing to blow my mind day after day AFTER DAY.
Now I want to go over that list again, explaining why each statement is just beyond insane, even a full year later.
- I’m working as lead ramp agent in Richmond, Virginia. (At the time all of this healing began in March 2019, I had been applying for SSDI – permanent disability. I didn’t think I would ever work full time again because of my mental illnesses. Not only that, but I’m living somewhere other than Santa Rosa – where all of my people and churches and doctors and everything familiar… I left it all behind when I moved.)
- I live in my own apartment. (Up until a year ago, perhaps even more recently, I had always written off this possibility because I felt it would be a huge safety hazard, that there would be to much of a suicide or self harm risk. Well, not anymore.)
- My parents live in Boise, Idaho. (My single two biggest supporters, cheerleaders, rockstars. I still don’t know how all of this is still moving forward with them 2,000 miles away, but God promises to supply our EVERY need – and He is doing just that, day after day after day.)
In recent sessions my therapist has asked me what it would be like to think about my life a year from now. I know that he is probably referencing goal setting, having a healthy balance between looking back and looking ahead, that kind of thing. But every time he asks me, all I can reply with is “okay, let’s not break Mary…” … and then I laugh. With joy.
Because I think back to a year ago. And yes, a year ago that was a week after that Monday morning in May. Even at that point I don’t think any of us could have imagined what God was going to do, how He was going to move, all of the beauty that He would bring our way.
And yet… here we are.
As I say regarding that precious tattoo on my left forearm, “there’s a reason I got it tattooed, and there’s a reason I got it there”.
And there’s a good reason that Ephesians 3:20 continues to be a life verse for me.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…”
Brothers and sisters, friends… may you always remember just how loved you are, and that in that love, we are free to live – loved. Deeply, deeply loved.