I'd like to start this blog out with a very personal STORY. It is my hope that everyone who reads this STORY is inspired to share their STORY. Way too many of us feel that our STORY is invalid, a little too raw for the average listener. We want our STORY to be appealing and delightful with minimal moments of pain and regret. We're fooled into thinking that only the pretty STORY should be told.
Not true.... A good STORY is a real STORY and a real STORY makes a real IMPACT.
Case in point:
It was a sunny day in Shreveport, but a cloudy day in my mind. I sat in the cafe at Barnes and Noble and contemplated my entire life. Everything I knew about myself was changing and I felt as though I didn't have a choice. I was watching my relationships change without my permission and I could feel my heart contracting in size. Bitterness tried to creep in. Loneliness invited itself in. Tough day.
This would have been the perfect day for Mr. Right to appear and wrap me in his strong, muscular arms, but he was nowhere to be found. Or, was he?
I barely noticed as a woman walked in and sit at a table close by. When I got up to get a drink, she stopped me.
"I know you from somewhere," she said.
I was sure I knew where she'd seen me: Maybe TV, on the stage at Shreveport Community Church, or maybe on the cover of a CD. Our first interaction was short. I told her I sang with foreverJONES and somewhere along the way, we concluded our conversation. She mentioned that she had met my sister somewhere, but couldn't remember where. (That's an important part of the story.)
After grabbing my tea, I headed back to my table and she stopped me again.
"Here!" She said, holding out a piece of paper.
"Have you ever heard of Cindy Trimm?"
I'd heard of her before. "Yes, ma'am."
"I feel like I need to give this to you." She handed me a few pieces of paper with Cindy Trimm message titles on them and told me to look them up.
As I proceeded to go back to my dreary table, she began mumbling something. None of it made sense and she seemed a bit nervous. I perceived that she wanted to tell me something, so I grabbed a chair and sat down.
"I used to be like you...Anointed..." She paused.
"I used to be a preacher and I knew the call of God was on my life. I would pray for people and they would get healed. I would dream dreams and see visions. But, what happened to me is I got lonely."
My eyes grew as this woman began to lay her heart out so willingly.
"I wanted to be married so bad, and I didn't know that I could talk to God about it. Now I'm married to my second husband and I'm still lonely."
She looked at me with eyes full of regret and desperation and said, "I know what it's like to feel alone. I know what it's like to feel like no one understands the call of God on your life; to not have friends. But now I'm 45 and I'm looking back over all of these years.. And I wish I had just been lonely. Listen to me," She charged.
"Take the lonely road. Please... take the lonely road."
The next few words she spoke to me confirmed that WE WERE in the presence of Mr. Right.
"I was 27 when I got married to my first husband and now I'm playing catch up."
Little did this woman know that I was inching up close to my 27th birthday. It was going to be my golden birthday and I was having problems even being excited about it.
We sat there for about 30 minutes as she poured into me, a young stranger. She was obviously full of regret but pressed through to satisfy the inner-unctions of the Holy Spirit. When she was done, so was I.
I was done feeling bad for myself, and I was done contemplating. I knew I was on the right track and that God/Mr. Right had swooped in and wrapped me in his arms. It was almost as if I'd been given a pep-talk by God himself over a cup of tea.
I realized something that day... I realized that I would never escape pain in life. That every path incorporates pain into the journey. Yet, only one of those paths (Trusting Jesus) ends in Gods faithfulness.
The STORY really could end there. However, we all know that God just has to put the icing on the cake.
"Oh!" She said. "I remember where I met your sister."
I wasn't ready for this.
She continued. "I was sitting in my car with the door open at IHOP. I was very distraught over a situation. Your sister somehow saw the distress in my face. She didn't even know me, but she came over to me and encouraged me that night. Only God knew how much I needed that."
This brought me to tears!! Isn't this SOOO like God to allow this woman to pay it forward? She will never know how much she impacted me. I'm not even sure if I would be where I am today if she was too embarrassed to SHARE HER STORY. This was a pivotal moment in my life. She may think that her reach was minimized by her decisions, but I now carry the impact of her STORY with me everywhere I go. My impact is now HER impact.
So.... PLEASE SHARE! Share your STORY! Somebody needs to hear it. Somebody needs to know that they're on the right path and you need to see that God can place purpose within even the painful parts of your STORY.
I'm starting a #pleaseshare campaign! Don't hide because of regret. I believe that when we finally meet those who learn from our mistakes, it makes it all worth it. God can redeem your STORY. Please allow him to do so.