Let's start off with a precursor: the past few years have been no joke. They were ugly, anxious, and made me feel like I forgot how to be me. I wanted so badly to be a new, shiny penny with great lashed and a super high, peppy ponytail, but no amount of lash extensions and mascara changes a broken, not-feeling-so-hot spirit. I thought it's now or never to try another way to heal from everything that's happened, so I jumped into 2017 head first. I figured the way I had been trying to figure life out only made it worse, and I wasn’t getting any better. That, plus my self-cure retail therapy in the Target makeup aisle clearance section was going to run me bankrupt, which led me to realize:
a. I needed so much Jesus, and I had to commit hardcore to figuring it out all His way
and b. I had a surplus of target makeup and I needed to watch a lot of YouTube tutorials on eye makeup.
One night in February, after a lot of tears, sleepless nights, panic attacks, and Pretty Little Liars re-runs, I was tapped out. I got invited to a ministry dinner with the team I was interning for, and the meeting was held in honor of a pastor from Uganda. I had met him a few times before and had heard him preach, but this meeting with him was completely different, and thank you Jesus for that. He gave a talk and started off with a prayer and an invitation for the group to pray individually and for us to ask God to take away the pains and burdens that we were carrying around. I prayed a prayer that I had prayed a thousand times before, but I realized something that I had never understood in three years of sexual abuse recovery; I had been dredging around so much pain with me. I carried so many memories that I wanted to forget, broken friendships, and a heart that felt lonely and isolated because of what had happened. But the Holy Spirit started speaking to my heart and just kept on preaching to me a message of letting go and being okay with not knowing what was going to happen next. I realized, through God speaking through this pastor and listening to the prayers of healing that he was speaking, that in order to start fresh and jump back in, I had to give God the ugly stuff that I had been carrying around. Sounds like a message you've heard a billion times, right? The part that was new was that the Lord showed me that I wasn’t letting go because I had become so comfortable with fear hurt that I was afraid to get rid of it. I knew heartbreak, it was familiar and known, but whatever else there was, after I let it go, was completely unknown. It sounds absolutely crazy, and I can’t explain it anymore than it was a new world that I was afraid to jump into, and all those years I hadn’t even realized that’s why I couldn’t just "Let go and let God'. I was so afraid to be in the place of pain I had been before, I was okay with settling for heartbreak, because I didn't want to experience anything worse than the terrible pain that I already carried everyday, But God's plan is so much greater, bigger, and special than settling for unresolved pains and hurts. We don't serve a living God who says, "settle". We serve a living God who saw us in sin and hopelessness and sent us His only son to be saved by grace, through faith, so we didn't have to settle for a life of pointlessness, sin that defined us, and eternal life separated from Him. He is not a God of settling. Our God is a God who says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. " Matt 11:28. I look back now and think what in the world was I thinking, but I remember how much God's grace and transformational love has changed me in a year. The abusive relationship I was in left me afraid of everything; I was afraid to sleep, afraid of being alone, afraid to have another relationship, afraid more friends wouldn't believe me, and some days I was even afraid to go outside. But when I finally said "I'm letting go and I'm giving you the fears and pains I'm carrying around" God started to transform everything about me. I felt like I got the person I was before "back" and God blessed me with new things that I never had before. He gave me wonderful, strong, godly women in my life who lead me by example, opportunities to travel around the world, stronger relationships, and so many valuable life lessons.
2017 was a year of freedom. It was a year of traveling everywhere, making new friends, visiting old ones, being bold, making mistakes, learning, and feeling hope, passion, and a fierceness to serve God. The Lord replaced my settling with wonderful blessings only He can provide. 2017 wasn't without tears, meltdowns, sleepless nights, or mistakes, but it was a year spent free from being trapped by those things.
At the beginning of last year, I decorated my room with photos and watercolors, and I'm obsessed with this store at Disneyland that has these adorable, little artist rendition, Disney cards. So, I saved the $55 Disneyland tax and painted a super cute, little card with the tower from Rapunzel on it. [I know, 75 people just checked out from reading this, but stay with me here👌] It sounds ridiculous to relate myself to a blonde, Disney character whose best friend is a lizard, but I kept the card hanging up because I felt like that. I felt like I was trapped. I felt hopeless, like I could see the world around me, but wasn't apart of it, and I just wanted to jump out. And for me, 2o17 was finally saying "I'm ready", and jumping out. 2017 was the best year of my life because of God's freedom, and because He got me to jump out, I'm ready for 2018 because now that I have freedom, I want to use it.
Have a blessed 2018 full of God's freedom.
KYLE LOVES TORI PHOTOGRAPHY