*Insert standard “I grew up in a Christian home” story here*
No, but really.
I was born into a conservative Christian homeschool household with great parents, six older brothers, and three older sisters. I spent my childhood in tree houses, making mud pies, and singing silly songs. I was first introduced to the Gospel in Sunday School at the age of 5. I understood what Jesus had done for me, and immediately felt close to Him once I asked Him into my heart. But…. Life was not rainbows and butterflies as soon as I prayed that prayer and said amen. Life was still life, and I was still sinful.
As a kid, Satan tricked me everyday into thinking that I couldn’t do anything except continue repeating the same cycle of sin. I was just a child, yet I felt an immense amount of shame and guilt over specific ugly sins, as if God was looking down at me, scolding me, and pointing His finger. Each time, I would ask for forgiveness, but those feelings of shame would not go away. I was the rope in a game of tug o’ war between God and the devil and I didn’t fully believe that God was stronger.
It wasn’t until many years later at a summer camp that I truly felt God’s love and acceptance, knowing that the ugliness of sin did not stand a chance against my mighty Savior. He was always in my corner, and I knew that. As of today, I haven’t gone back to those pet sins and with every year passing, I feel a little more free.
But the tough stuff didn’t stop there.
When I was 13, I started having really awful leg pains. My ankles were swollen and discolored; within a few weeks, the pain spread to my knees. I used ice packs, essential oils, and wore ankle braces all without success. After months of pain, we visited the doctor, but every test came back negative and the confusion continued. I was discouraged and angry with God. Dealing with the pain was one thing, but losing friendships was another. I was teased and gossiped about and unable to keep up with my active, sports-playing friends. My 13-year-old self-esteem was significantly affected. I felt useless and was sure God would abandon me like my friends had. Satan heaped on the lies and I believed God couldn’t use someone as messed up as me.
Eventually, we learned that I have poor blood circulation and low muscle tone. Through all of this, I learned that God’s timing is better than mine. Today, my legs are not completely healed, but they’re definitely better. I don’t swell as often, I can run sometimes (on a good day), and I’m even able to ride a bike! God is really good and I’m grateful He chose to display His glory through me as I held onto Him. Through my health problems, God showed me that it doesn’t matter if my legs don’t work. The Lord looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7).
But God wasn’t done with me yet.
In January of 2016, my world was shaken at its core. My oldest sister, Teresa, was in a car accident and did not survive. The roads were icy and she lost control of her vehicle. She was 28 years old, and five months pregnant. Her other two children (ages 5 and 6 at the time) were in the car, but received only minor injuries. My sister was a strong Christian, so I know where she is. Her Heavenly Father is taking such good care of her. The moment I found out that she was gone was the second worst moment of my life.
The moment her coffin was lowered into the ground was the first.
Teresa and I were very close. Growing up she was my encourager, my cheerleader, my shoulder to cry on, and my shopping buddy. I didn’t understand why God took her away without warning – no chance to say goodbye. I still don’t fully understand.
I felt the deepest hurt I’ve ever experienced.
It was as if someone cut open my chest cavity, took my heart, threw it on the floor, stomped on it, and then lit it on fire.
I couldn’t sleep, but I didn’t want to be alone. Loving friends stayed with me for days. I’m still so thankful for each and everyone who visited and helped my family. To the people who did our dishes, made our meals and cried with us, the Bulger family loves you and is forever grateful.
Through the loss of my sister, I grew closer to Christ. I knew that distancing myself from loved ones, and from God, wasn’t the answer. I knew that by turning away from Him, I’d lose even more. Christ was the only solid ground I had; and He still is.
God has shown me that time doesn’t heal all wounds, but He does.
Although I don’t understand all the “whys”, I accept the fact that God allowed this to happen and I trust that His plans are greater than anything I could possibly dream.
I’ve been asked if I’m angry with God for taking my sister, or if I questioned what He was doing. And the answer is “no”.
Grief isn’t easy, it feels like drowning.
And I don’t have it all together.
I was a mess.
Losing Teresa was horrifying – the worst pain I’ve ever felt.
But God was the only thing I had when my world came crashing down.
In 2 Corinthians 12 Paul says that his own weaknesses best display God’s power.
Paul chose boasting in his weaknesses, because Christ shines through.
Just like Paul, my weaknesses are perfect opportunities for God’s power and glory.
I was a broken, weak, mess back in January, and God carried me (Deuteronomy 1:31).
My sister’s death was my biggest faith tester, but I wouldn’t be who I am if I hadn’t experienced what I did. I miss her every single day, and I can only hope she is watching me. I hope I’m making her proud. Psalm 126 perfectly describes my story and how God has turned all my sorrows and struggles into joy and glory for His kingdom.
“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like streams in the Negev!
Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.”
When I come to Him with all my sadness,
He comforts me and fills me with a joy only He provides.
When He restores my soul, it’s like a dream.
My mouth is filled with laughter.
I only have this joy because of my King.
Currently, I am a senior in high school, getting ready for college(!!!) I sing, lead youth worship, and play piano and guitar. Music and art is how I pray and connect to the Lord. I love to paint and do lettering. I’m always in awe of God’s hand in my life.
He is constantly restoring me, and it really is like a dream.
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