I spent almost a full year as a 13 year old pretty unscathed. Well, I guess we all spend a year being 13. But, I’ll never forget that year because it was the biggest wake up call of my life. Several things happened to me in about a four month span and they all hit me pretty hard. Some people get hit by actual buses, and others get hit by psychological buses. There must have been a parade of psychological buses cause I got hit multiple times.

I spent years begging my parents to get me a dog. We had one cat at the time, he was old though…not the most interesting creature. I wanted a dog, a best friend. Lo and behold,  when I was 9 my mom took me to the pound and we adopted one. Her name: Sweetie.  We learned through the years that that name applied to her on conditional terms. Sweetie was strange. She was a lhasa apso/shitzu mix, so she had that awesome tail.  she LOVED car rides, french fries and barking. BOY THIS DOG COULD BARK. She looked like a dog that would chirp or yelp. nope, she barked like a hound dog. Anyways, she was old when we got her (had back problems) and right around Christmas of 06′ her health started declining, and fast. I think we’ve all been there before. It’s so hard seeing the life drain out of an animal that had so much energy and personality. (Sweetie was a diva) In December, I walked into the Vet’s office with my dog in my arms (as she shook) and walked out that same door with nothing but memories. The house was very empty and quiet when I walked in that evening. I missed her so much, but she wasn’t in pain anymore. I learned a life lesson that Christmas: Sometimes the best gift you can give someone you love is to put their needs above your own desires.

February rolled around and so did some more rough news. My friend had invited me to her youth group since I had stopped going to the one at my old church. I had a blast the first time I went. Me, her and my other good friend went every Wednesday. The youth leaders were fantastic. They were hilarious and engaging as they brought the message each wednesday. By the time February ended, both youth pastors had left. One by choice and one by circumstance. At that age, you believe that everyone has it all together…especially adults… and hearing that one left because God called him somewhere but he doesn’t know where, and that the other was asked to resign…it was a pretty big moment where I realized “Hey…adults aren’t perfect. and they don’t have it all together.” I’m thankful for that lesson at an early age because it helps me feel okay when I didn’t have everything together (which is always)

March was the toughest, though. Without a doubt. I’m very confident that this part of my life has been used by God and will continue to be used by Him because otherwise…I just don’t have a clue why it had to happen. So, I met my best friends in Junior High. They had all gone to a different Elementary school in the district than me  ( they all had grown up together) and when I met them in band, they welcomed me into their circle right away. Bunch of personalities they were. We were always laughing, making jokes, being crazy hormonal acne covered teenagers. Invincible and the smartest things on earth, we trudged through classes…and spent the afternoons playing airsoft, watching TV and playing Halo 2. March rolled around and we all day-dreamed of Summer and tried to not pee ourselves with the reality of High school around the corner. There were 7 of us in  that tight knit group. And on March 22, there were 6. We all had 7th period together and didn’t think much of it when he wasn’t there that Thursday. That night my best friend’s mom called to talk to my mom. I didn’t think much of it when I handed the phone to my mom and ran up to my room to continue playing computer games. And when my mom called me downstairs and told me that he had committed suicide, I couldn’t stop thinking. My best friend came over that night with her mom. We all talked for a little bit, then my friend and I ran upstairs and sat on my bed, like we usually did on sleepovers, but instead of talking about boys and school, we talked about him and avoided the question we both were thinking: why?

I had no idea that people could reach such a low point in their lives. I knew people died, but  I didn’t know some people chose to. The six of us, with the floor taken out from underneath us, held on to each other; as we faced a world that remained silent to issues such as suicide and cutting. We held on to each other as we cried, laughed, did memorials, shared stories. When you love someone, tell them, even if you know they already know: hearing you say that you love them will give them something to hold on to when they reach low points in life. I don’t know who I would be today if  I hadn’t gone through this. I experienced some of my darkest nights that summer. I would not have made it without those six amazing, strong individuals who I will always have a very unique bond with because of those months. I lost touch with a few of them but they will always, always be in my heart. I would not have made it if my mom hadn’t taken me to counseling. I can’t stress it enough, you can’t do this alone. Get help. You are worth it.

March 22, 2007 (3/22/07) will always haunt me. A few months after it happened, I found  a verse in Lamentations, Chapter 3, verse 22.

“Because of the Lord’s great love; We are not consumed for his compassion never fail; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.”

The verse before it says “Yet this call I to mind and therefore I have hope…”

Because God  loves me, I have not and will not be consumed by grief, sin, lust, depression, addiction or the world. His compassion for me never falters, never gives up. He loves me the same each morning, now that’s what faithfulness is. When dogs die, and pastors fail us, and friends die. God is the constant presence of hope and love. Not the kid on the ant hill, but the Father whose heart breaks for the sin and brokeness of the world. He takes the ashes, and creates beauty out of it.

“Lord you took up my case, you redeemed my life.” Lam 3:58

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