Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Story of My Life: Ode To My Twenties

As I sit here on the eve of my 30th birthday, I can't help but reflect on the life I've lived thus far, reminisce about the past and dream about the future.

This being the very last day of my twenties, I've already been reflecting on my prior twenty-nine years all day and, I have to say, it's been a beautiful ride so far! As I thought about how I could sum up all these years into one line, I thought, "If I had to give the story of my life a title, it would be: How Blessed Can One Person Possibly Be?" That is truly how I feel about my life!

Sure, it's had its ups and downs, good days and bad, glimpses of tragedy and moments of heartache. But I cannot, even for one second, deny that I didn't see God in each of those instances and clearly hear His voice in every circumstance. You see, God uses each experience in our lives; the good, bad and the ugly to reveal Himself to us, to teach us about who He is, how much He loves and cares for us, even in the tiniest details of the everyday mundane. God is so AWESOME and He is the true and only meaning to life! Seriously, folks. That's the only reason we're all here. It's to love God and love people. Nothing else matters. It's taken me awhile to figure that out. I'm still figuring that out. I try to get better at it every day, but it's a long process!

Tonight, I have chosen a handful of my most impactful life moments to share with you and how each one has impacted who I am and my view on God.

Born in 1979, my parents divorced when I was only three, my brother one-and-a-half. While I was too young to remember my parents together, it still impacted my life throughout my childhood. Since God knew I needed a good example in my life of a strong and Godly marriage, my grandparents filled this void and were very involved in my life. They are a big part of who I have become and I owe so much to them. I miss them both so much. My Paw Paw passed away in 2002, just a few months before my wedding (I was 22) and my Maw Maw passed away just last December. They were wonderful people!

It was my grandparents who also played a big role in my learning about God from an early age and were so thrilled when, at the age of 12, I came home from children's camp and announced that I had given my heart to Christ. That was a big defining moment in my life for sure and I would love to say that I went out and took on the world for Christ at that time but rather, it was just the beginning of a transformation that is actually still taking place in my heart to this day, 18 years later, and it likely will be until the day I take my last breath on this earth.

My senior year in high school was a very defining and life altering year for me. On October 17, 1997, four of my cousins were killed in a car accident on their way home from a Friday night football game when they were hit head on by a drunk driver. They were ages 19, 17, 13 and 11... this was undoubtedly devastating and rocked our family to the core! These were some of my best friends growing up, my favorite people that I looked forward to seeing every summer at my grandparents' ranch. Laurel, the driver, who was 17 at the time, was also a senior in high school that year so it really hit home for me. I could dedicate an entire post to just this one event and the countless ways that God was in it, but just know that He was in every detail of this awful tragedy and He met every one of us in our grief. Although this is not the way I would've ever wanted to learn this lesson, it forced me to grapple with the very serious life and death questions at an early age and become eternally minded early on. I have never viewed death the same since.

Nearing the end of my high school years, after a few bad choices and stupid decisions, I found myself at a youth conference in Austin during the last semester of my senior year (just months after my cousins' deaths), broken and humbled in the most authentic and passionate worship service I'd ever been a part of. It was during that weekend that God radically stirred my heart and deposited a calling on my life that altered the course that I had chosen for myself. You see, I had already been accepted to Texas A&M Corpus Christi to pursue my childhood fantasy of becoming a marine biologist and to work at Sea World as a dolphin trainer. Now, while that would have been a really cool job and all, God had other plans and I am forever thankful that I heard His voice, listened and obeyed. As I glanced up at the worship platform one evening and saw two awesome women of God - one of them was Christy Nockels - the Lord very specifically, almost audibly, said to me, "You see those women up there worshiping, leading these people into my presence? That is what I have for you."

I have to admit, I almost laughed! You know, since I already had my own future planned out and all. But I knew so deeply within my heart that God was speaking to me, there was never a doubt in my mind. So, after returning home from that life-changing weekend, I denied my acceptance to A&M and started praying hard about where I was to enroll to study... gulp... MUSIC?!?!! Yes, I had loved music all my life and had been involved in piano lessons and band from a young age, but I had never sung (except for in the shower) or been in choir (other than our small youth group choir), so I was kinda wondering how I was going to be a worship leader.

Long story short, I dove right in, finding a voice teacher immediately and beginning to get involved on different worship teams in the area. I graduated from Dallas Baptist University with my Bachelor of Church Music 6 years ago (WOW, 6 years already?!?!!) in December 2003. Although I have yet to find an actual paying job in this field, I have been blessed to lead worship for the past 10 years and have enjoyed being a part of some great worship teams in the area! It has been a very fulfilling journey and, although I am currently entering my sixth month of sabbatical from worship leading, I know my journey is far from over. At the end of May, I felt the Lord calling me take a step back and reevaluate some things in my life. It has been a difficult process, but again, I know the Lord is in it so I'm continually listening and waiting on Him in this area.

(Okay, if you've made it this far, God bless you! I didn't intend on being this long winded, but I have just two more things to share with you so go grab a cup of coffee, splash your face with cold water and keep trucking with me!)

Alright, so the next awesome thing I want to talk about is my husband! I had dated a few duds in high school and just wasn't sure that there were amazing, God-fearing men out there anymore, especially not for me! After a few disappointing letdown dates in college, I made a firm decision that I was DONE DATING. DONE! I realized that it was pointless and just began to pray to God about my future husband and for my future husband. I prayed that God would prepare his heart for me, my heart for him and bring him into my life at just the right time. And get this, I even made an actual list of all the qualities I desired in a husband. I know that may sound ridiculous to most people, but I had heard of several women who had done the same thing and prayed over their list and God honored it. So, fast-forward a year (that's right, I didn't date for a year!), when Brad entered my life and we started dating, as I got to know him more, I kid you not, I could've gone down that "list" of qualities and checked off EVERY LAST LINE. Literally. No exaggeration. I was floored! Come to find out, Brad had not a physical list but more of a mental list of what he desired in a wife, and I fit every one of his qualities. Isn't God awesome!?!?!! I share this life detail as an encouragement that God is truly in the details and also, if you are single and have a desire to be married one day, don't settle for less than God's best! God has the perfect* mate already chosen for you. Just ask Him and He will show you... I promise!

*(Now, by perfect, I certainly don't mean the person is "perfect"... that's a whole 'nother topic, hee hee!)

Lastly, one of the more recent life events that God was all over was our journey to becoming parents. At Christmas 2005, Brad announced to me that he was ready to start a family. I was thrilled, overjoyed, elated... you get the idea! So, we began "trying" (Ewwww, sorry, that's so descriptive!) the very next month, in January 2006. Anyway, Fertile Myrtle here conceived the very first month and we were, to say the least, shocked. Totally didn't see that one coming at all. Nevertheless, we were happy and began to get more excited about it as the days went by. Once we saw the baby's heartbeat, we announced the big news to the grandparents-to-be and it was official! I ended up miscarrying in my ninth or tenth week of pregnancy and had to undergo a D&C. I was crushed. Devastated. Even to my own surprise! In just a few short weeks, I had already grown to love this little child and had begun keeping a journal of prayers for the baby. Looking back now, it was such a blessing to have that journal because it has become a treasure and the only record we have of our first little one's existence. That was a very difficult and emotional time in my life, almost unexplainable, but God graced me with a strength I didn't know I had to walk through it.

I'll never forget that weekend (when we were to find out for sure on Monday whether my hormone levels had indeed decreased, confirming the loss), I was scheduled to lead worship at church and I, quite honestly, didn't feel like it. I was heartbroken. But I really felt like I was supposed to, so I did. I felt strongly like God was telling me, "I'm still worthy of praise." Well, on the set list that weekend, was a song called Blessed Be Your Name. The bridge of the song says, "You Give And Take Away, You Give And Take Away, My Heart Will Choose To Say, Lord Blessed Be Your Name." I couldn't get through those lyrics without crying that weekend, but I knew that was God speaking to me and honoring me for fulfilling that commitment. Wow, that still gives me chills. That was no coincidence!

10 months later, I conceived again and we were over-the-moon thrilled (and a bit terrified!) to discover that I was having TWINS! It was such a sweet blessing that, after losing our first child, God was now blessing us with TWO! It felt like a hug from heaven!

Many of you know the rest of the story.... my pregnancy was picture-perfect, no problems whatsoever (another huge blessing!) with a surprise ending. My due date wasn't until October, but my water broke at the beginning of August and the babies were born ten weeks early. I was worried and terrified, but again, there was a peace that sustained me. Praise God, the babies were born perfectly healthy with no complications, just too early and very small.

They spent six looooong weeks in the NICU and, although there were many days I ached to have them with me and cried that I couldn't bring my babies home, God deposited a peace and strength for that season that I didn't know was in me. When I think about it now, I don't know how I made it through that time, but He gave me the grace I needed to get through it and I've been enjoying and relishing in the joys of mommyhood ever since! Well, most days! ;) haha!

So, as I close the books on my twenties, I enter my thirties with a renewed confidence that God has every single day of my life in His hands, they are each numbered and ordained by Him and I can rest in knowing that He is truly always with me! I hope that God has used my life story to touch yours in some way tonight. He loves each of you and has an awesome plan for your life!

Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank you so much for blessing me with thirty wonderful years of life! Life is challenging at times, but I would not trade any of the tough times, for those are the experiences that have provided invaluable life lessons! I also wouldn't trade any of the blessings You've brought into my life and the moments of pure JOY I've experienced simply in being alive... life is truly a GIFT!

Your grateful daughter,

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The Houston's said...

Thanks for sharing parts of your story with us! There is such power when we declare the work that the Lord has done in us - it stirs faith and gratefulness.

I hope you have a fabulous 30th birthday! I can't wait to see what God does in the next 30 years! :)

Jara said...

Awesome Leah!!! What an amazing story of God's providence in your life! This post will be a great reminder any time you feel down of all the work God has already done in your life!

I too had a list for my husband - my mom recommended that I make one:) God also fulfilled EVERYTHING on the list for me - including some very silly, little detailed things - yes, HE is AMAZING!!!

Happy Birthday!!!!!

Shermom said...

You will be just as fabulous in your thirties as you were in your twenties!!
Oh and Tree 63 has an awesome version of Blessed be the Name....I love it!