For fear that this is d r a g g i n g on, I'll try to speed things up a bit.
I had randomly attended a meeting on the UNR campus one night. It was a Christian group that met weekly called 'Campus Crusade'. This night just happened to be the night that they were doing sign-ups for people who wanted to attend the regional Campus Crusade Conference in Spokane Washington. They were passing around a clipboard. By signing your name, you were saying you wanted to go.
I didn't really know anyone in the group at the time. So, when the clipboard came to me, I was baffled to discover that my hand was SIGNING MY NAME on the list- even though I had no thought or intention of driving up to Washington with a bunch of people I'd never met. I wanted to stay in Reno for the Holidays and be with Chris! It seriously felt like something outside of myself was signing the sheet. Creepy?
A week or so later, I got a call from a girl from Campus Crusade- asking if I was still interested in going on the (13 HOUR) trip. I had, of course, convinced myself that there was NO WAY I was going to go, so you can imagine my shock when I started telling this girl that YES, OF COURSE I PLAN ON GOING! What the??
Even as I was in the parking lot, meeting the people I was meant to drive North with, I was wrestling with myself. What was I doing here? This was SOOOO not like me. I really, really, really didn't WANT to go. About 5 minutes before we were meant to leave, I'd talked myself out of it. I told the people in charge that I didn't want to go after all.
5 minutes later, I got in my car with three others, and, you guessed it! DROVE TO WASHINGTON.
We all took turns driving. When I wasn't behind the wheel, I journaled. The entries from that road trip are heart wrenching cries- spilling my broken self onto paper. Even when I read them now, my eyes sting with tears. I remember the pain.
The speaker at the conference that week was John Eldridge. He had recently written the book called "The Sacred Romance". I'd never heard of him before then. But can you imagine what he spoke about that week? He spoke about how every one of us has an inconsolable longing in our hearts. For men, it's adventure. For women? INTIMACY. True Love. He spoke of how as Christians, we often push those desires down and smother them. But God put those desires in our hearts for a far greater purpose.
My life was changed that week. I started to hope again. I wanted to live again. I fell back in love with God as He spoke to me all week about HIS love for me. HIS intimacy with me. I had completely lost my identity in Chris, and I was getting it back in God.
When I came home, I started reading a lot of books about faith and finding God in the midst of despair. I filled notebook after notebook with quotes from those books that spoke to me. I signed up for Yoga classes and Rock Climbing classes, and I enjoyed the ground under my feet as I walked around my campus. I felt JOY. I breathed deeply and lifted my head to the sun to warm my face. I found cozy nooks tucked away in old brick school buildings and I read and read and read. I prayed and prayed and prayed. To this day, I've never felt God as near to me as I did in those months. It was the most precious and sweet time with Him in all of my life.
Chris and I still struggled with sex and were still breaking up and getting back together and nothing had really changed in that area. We were still trying to "get better" on our own, and it wasn't working. But behind all of that, I had a hope and an identity that had nothing to do with Chris. I was still really sad and torn up about Chris and I's relationship, but I would never desire death again.
Months went by, and Chris and I continued our dance. We really were desperately in love, but we couldn't control our bodies. This pretty much sucked for us, because we knew it was bad and wrong, but we also knew we weren't ready to get married. He kept pushing me away and breaking my heart.
Photo at Left: Pismo Beach, CA.
Then, one day, God spoke very clearly to me about leaving Reno. My mom said to me in passing one day, "You know, you don't have to go to school here in town, you can go anywhere you want to." And it was like God speaking through her directly to me. I did NOT want to leave my hometown. All of my family and friends were there. CHRIS was there. When God told me He had somewhere else for me, I felt sick to my stomach because I knew I couldn't fight it. I knew I had to go.
I searched for some schools with the major I was interested in. (Recreational Administration/Special Event Planning) The first school to come up was a school called Cal Poly. In a tiny California town called San Luis Obispo. (Saint Loois O-huh huh?! Never heard of it.)
God said GO.
I fought Him and fought Him on this, but just like the trip to Washington, I couldn't stop it. I knew I had to go, and I cried and cried and begged Him to change His mind. But He didn't. I was meant to live in San Luis Obispo. Chris understood this, and was excited to see me start a new chapter in my life. We were going to make it work- we were going to stay together. We thought the distance would do us good.
Photo at Right: Me and my Uhaul- getting ready to go. I look weird and I think I still have those flip flops. The end.
A couple of months later, I packed up all of my belongings and shoved them into a Uhaul. I said goodbye to everything I had ever known and loved, and I drove with my mom down to a town that didn't contain a single familiar face. I was scared to death.
I'd found a place to live by searching online, so we drove straight there and unloaded all of my belongings into an apartment that I'd never even seen before. The town was beautiful and amazing and completely foreign to me. My mom and I stumbled upon a Farmer's Market, and we came across a booth that belonged to a church in town. We spoke to a girl named Harmony and an English girl named Jessie that night. They were warm and inviting- telling me to come check out their church the next Sunday. After that, I felt like maybe everything was going to be okay after all.
But then, my mommy had to leave. As I watched her drive away, I almost instantly became crushed by loneliness and fear. If I thought I'd been alone before, I had been wrong. Now, I was all alone AND in a faraway town. I was still reeling and fragile from months and months of heartbreak. The weight of it all was almost too much to bear. And I already missed Chris so much that I could hardly breathe.
I remember laying on the carpet in my new apartment after my mom left- begging the floor to just swallow me whole.
***to be continued...***