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Home is where the heart is.

It would be an affliction to avoid admitting that over the years I have felt alone. This remained true despite the fact I attend a school of 4000 students, I consistently was a part of mountainous crowds, I was always surrounded by people. The truth is that I could have been surrounded by a million people but still would have felt all alone.

This tragic state of mind, “loneliness”, I have to admit, got the best of me. I would convince my brain that changing myself, whether my hair color, my clothes, or my personality, would make me feel less alone. I find myself covering up my brokenness inside by displaying the opposite: peppiness, slap-happiness, cracking jokes. But more often than not, behind the sheet of the pep and energy, was an empty girl who believed she could never get it right.

I convinced myself that the only answer on how to kill the loneliness that I couldn’t seem to escape was to change “Alyssa”. I was wrong- so wrong.

It was October 7th 2015, 6:45 PM, a typical Wednesday evening. I was thinking of things. It was one of those times where you just think thoughts that cannot be put into words. If the English language contained a vocabulary powerful enough to put my thoughts into words, they would go something like this: “This isn’t right. I know there’s another answer. There has to be something more.”

One of my thoughts (now my favorite thought) caught fire and burned out all of the other negative thoughts that consumed the pessimistic voice in my head. I wasn’t quite sure why the voice in my head changed, and all of a sudden told me to do so, but I subconsciously picked up my phone and texted Hannah Geiger this exact message: “Can I go to Young Life with you tonight?”

She answered with a promising “Heck yes!!” Little did I know how much a “Heck yes!!” could change everything.

I went to Young Life that night. After being welcomed and high fived by people I didn’t know (but now I do know them; They are Young Life leaders and they’re pretty great) and after being congratulated by people I did know for deciding to finally come, I felt a sense of being wanted. That feeling was rare for me.

After a somewhat odd game and a message about what really matters, the night ended with this: “Let’s go to McDonald’s!!!” I was confused, but I went with it. I never knew I could meet as many new people as I did at an ordinary McDonalds. Along with many others, I met Hannah and Grace Combs- they are fabulous. I met Mandy Rodriguez- does a word even exist to describe such a fantastic human being? I had a long conversation about life with Rachel Hart which sparked our friendship that I consider to be one of the best ones I have today.

I heard constantly about God’s unconditional love. That was something that I really wanted to feel, but never did. I envied everyone who felt loved by Him, and I wondered why I didn’t feel that way. Is it my fault? Did I do something to make Him not love me? Those were the thoughts running through my head for over a month, and it didn’t feel so great.

Weeks passed, and when I turned in my forms for fall weekend, I wasn’t sure what to expect. My thoughts:  “Well, it is a weekend in the fall… because the fall has many weekends and this happens to be one of them.” I was not expecting what was coming my way.

I rode on the bus thinking I was on my way to a weekend entirely composed of a good time with good friends. What I didn’t know was that while I rode on that bus, luggage cramming Kelly and I very, very close together and all, was that I was on my way to home.

No, home wasn’t Camp Kern necessarily. Home was something more.

Don’t get me wrong, the weekend was awesome and was, as a matter of fact, filled with good times with good friends. But along with that there was so much more. From tackling King’s girls to the ground for their socks during War Games, to waiting outside in the freezing cold, Saturday was a journey. To bring Saturday to a close, there is this thing called “20 minutes” where we are given 20 minutes to sit by yourself anywhere around camp so you can think and pray.

Being someone who never felt God’s glorious love that everyone had been telling me about, and being someone who didn’t truly know God, I didn’t know what to think/ pray about. That had been something that I had been dealing with ever since the beginning of camp and throughout fall weekend. Who is this God and why don’t I feel that amazing love that everyone else does? What am I doing wrong?

Again, I didn’t know what to pray for or think about. All I knew is that I was really, really cold. It was borderline snowing and I was wearing a sweatshirt and leggings with nothing around me to block the chilling wind. All I wanted was to be warm. So, that’s what I prayed for. That split second, I felt something that made me believe in Him and believe that His love for me is greater than all. It was the blip in time that swiped away my inescapable loneliness and brokenness. It was the moment where I found the new and improved “Alyssa.”  It was the exact second where I realized I don’t have to change “Alyssa” because He created me the way I am, unmasked and in His eyes perfect. It was the moment where I found purpose. It was the moment where I felt something so simple yet irreplaceable.

Warmth.

I was warm when it was almost snowing. I was shivering one second, then warm the other. I didn’t only feel warm, I felt loved. That was a feeling foreign to me. I loved that feeling.

That sudden feeling of warmth and love inspired me to announce my commitment to Christ the next day in front of hundreds of people. This weekend, so cold yet so warm and loving, has changed me and my life forever for the better. I have found something to believe in and center my life around, and something to lift away the pit that was inside of me. For that, I am forever thankful. I hope you all have a wonderful thanksgiving, I know I have.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you with me, so that where I am you may also be.” John 14: 1-3

I have come home.

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