Guest post by Jordan Garner
A year ago this Christmas I made the decision to help with the God Behind Bars Christmas party. It was a decision made to help me get out of my box and experience new things. The night was amazing and eye opening, but it wasn't the women there or the event that most spoke to me, it was the drive home.
That night I'd made another bold (for me) decision and carpooled with a couple girls I'd never met. I showed up at Mollie's house and there she allowed me into her home. Both of us seemed nervous, but she was so kind and hospitable. I sat on her couch chatting with the baby, hubs and cat, and then our driver showed up and we left. The roads were crazy icy that night so the majority of that ride was spent talking about the roads and my "Big Thing" which was to run in the Colfax Marathon. But it was mostly superficial chit chat.
We went about the night and then it was time to go home.
I don't remember how we got onto the topic, but Mollie began to share her story with us. I remember sitting there dumbfounded and amazed at this incredible woman. The things she has endured, struggled through and overcome to be who she is... to say her story is something we should all hear is a complete understatement. She finished her story after graciously indulging my naive questions and then asked, "What's your story? What's your testimony?"
Guys! I didn't have an answer.
"Oh, Um... I've been a Christian since I was 5 when my family got saved. I grew up in a private Christian school. I sang on the worship teams at school and church for years and years and now here I am. I don't really have a testimony, I don't think"
She didn't buy it. Told me I was wrong and that everyone has a story, a testimony.
"I wish I had a great story to tell you, like yours."
Again, she stopped me in my tracks, "No you don't, don't ever wish that on yourself"
She encouraged me to look deeper and find my story. She told me it was in there somewhere. So I've spent the last year trying to keep my eyes open and find my story.
Here it is.
When I was 5 my family started doing the church thing, the God thing. I was so young and I truly don't remember a time that it wasn't just part of our life. I was home schooled through the 2nd grade and then started in a real school in 3rd at the age of 9. I was the 4th youngest kid in the class. I continued in that same private Christian school until I graduated in 2003. We learned about Jesus everyday. In junior high I began to have friend problems. I think they probably started earlier than that, but I don't think they really started to sink in until junior high. Girls were here mean and I was impressionable. Definitely on the sheltered side of life at that stage. I was learning that navigating female friendships was a tricky thing and I didn't realize that I was also learning a strong distrust for those kinds of friendships. In High school I dated the bad boys. The ones who would ultimately get me in trouble and then start rumors about me that weren't true. By Junior year I would lose all but one of my friends because of those rumors, which is a harsh blow when you only have a class of 15 people who you've known the majority of your life. My only happiness would come from volleyball and my choir, show choir and show trio. They were the only place where (I thought) my talent and worth were undisputed. No one could tease me or take that away from me, and I was mostly correct. But Senior year, at 17, is where my story starts to take a turn.
I began dating a boy a couple years older than me and, obviously, more experienced. I started going with him to his college FCA (fellowship of Christian athletes) group with him every week. We spent so much time together, my parents had even let me go home with him (to Nebraska) for Valentines day. Things were good and I was happy, I thought. Until I turned 18. Things changed in him. He started pressuring me to be physical, sexually, and I wasn't ready, wasn't having it. One day he pinned me down in the bedroom of his apartment and started to force himself on me. Thankfully, his roommate came home to hear me yelling and came to my rescue. Because I was so naive, I stayed with him, until a few weeks later when he broke up with me saying that I wasn't mature enough for him. Really???
Move ahead a few more years, and a couple more difficult relationships and I'd met my now husband. We went through a lot of crap and healing together. When we were married with a 6 month old son, he got sick. Seemingly overnight my incredibly strong, fit, and healthy husband was to sick to move. I took him to the doctor for the second time in 24 hours and I was told that I need to take him to the ER. Now. They'd already called to tell them we were coming. Within 3 hours we were admitted for severe pneumonia. Within 4 hours he was on a cannula with a mask over it, both at 100% oxygen to keep his stats up. Within 6 hours I was being told that if I'd have waited 6 more hours to bring him in, that he would likely be dead, they don't know why, or what was wrong. After 2 days I was making the decision to put my husband into a medically induced coma because he no longer had the strength to fight this mystery illness on his own. I stayed by his side everyday as he went through lung tests, biopsy's, surgeries, a form of dialysis and so many other medical tests. Our son was brought to me every 6 hours to nurse and pick up what I'd pumped in between. I had to make every decision and be the strong one while everyone else was falling apart. And then he was just better... we still have no answers. I had to help my husband do things that no wife should have to do, and we still don't know why, or what had happened.
Flash forward 18 months. I was at my 20 week ultrasound with boy number 2 and I was told that something is wrong with his heart. at 21 weeks I had a fetal ECG at The Childrens Hopsital CO. They told us that our sons heart was seriously sick and that we had the choice to terminate or face a lifetime of medical struggle and possibly death within the first year of his life. A few days later I got a call from the top fetal cardiac surgeon in Boston saying that we were perfect candidates for a potentially life saving, still experimental, fetal heart surgery. So off we went, to Boston, where we didn't know anyone. I had my tiny, unborn child's heart operated on at 23 weeks of pregnancy. He survived, I survived. But we were not out of the woods. Eddie was born by C-section at 39 weeks. I didn't get to see him for over an hour. I never got to see my brand new baby without a wire or cord attached to him. They never showed me my son before rushing him out of the room. Since he was born he has been on several medications, oxygen, had a seizure, had a catheter heart surgery through his neck and an open chest heart surgery, among other things.
I have dealt with rejection, heartbreak, PTSD, post partum depression and anxiety. I've dealt with finding my identity through trials. I struggle with staying true to who am I and wondering who that is. I have continuously questioned my worth as a daughter, mother, wife and friend.
And then this year happened. Mollie telling me that I have a story sent me into a spiral of questioning if that was true. Guys, she was so right. I don't have a story like hers and that's ok. I have my own.
My life allows me to come alongside the battered woman. It allows me to sit in her shame, sit in her pain and offer gentle, loving guidance and support. It allows me to encourage her to let her light shine again through the ugliness that this world offers us daily.
My life allows me to enter a hospital with strength and a clear mind to sit with the mom of a very sick baby and allow her to come apart and be messy with her tears. It allows me to give her guidance on what to ask the nurses and doctors and to go rest. And my presence there allows her to trust that she's not alone in her fear and pain.
My life allows me to come alongside women taking care of sick husbands and children and give them support they didn't realize they needed. It allows me to instinctually help. It allows me to have a sympathetic and empathetic heart for women who are broken.
Friends, I have a story. It might not be one of light bulb transformation. It's not one of overcoming addiction. But it's a story. It's my story and I am proud of it. I've been a Christ follower all my life, and though I've fallen away and made poor decisions, I've never struggled in knowing who God is. But I've struggling in knowing who I am.
God calls us to be exactly who we are. We are perfectly imperfect and I believe that's what makes each one of our stories so perfectly unique. In HIM we are perfectly imperfect. Think about it. If we all had the same story, then what kind of story would that be? I'm realizing that I am who I am for a very good reason. God wants me that way, and my story is still developing, it's still being told, written and lived. Everyday my life is adding to more of what is my testimony and that's such a beautiful thought. My testimony today might be very different than the one God uses in 20 years. How cool is that?
I know who I am. I know my worth.
I know my story.