Behind the Scenes – Gifts

I’m linking up with Crystal Stine today.  On Tuesdays we gather to tell stories about what wasn’t captured in the picture.  Sometimes what we see on the screen is but a glimpse into that moment and there is often more happening than meets the eye.  Won’t you join us here as we bravely share our stories Behind the Scenes 

The Photo 

If Facebook could whisper her comment would have been just that.  Soft, unobtrusive and subtle.  “Have you read this book, Tonya,” she asked over shared status updates and pictures. It was almost two years ago that she reached out with that question.  Little did she know, little did I know, how such a question would change my life. 
I was a tangled mess.  Jagged pieces of my heart seemed to be shattering and cutting deep holes in my soul and all of my faith seemed to bleeding out in rebellion. My response was curt, short even “No, I haven’t.” I may have responded with the obligatory “I should look into that.”  
Truth? I wasn’t ready.  There were words that my soul needed to hear, but at that time darkness was a comfort and ignorance was a certain bliss.  Beyond that seemingly insignificant Facebook comment I never really thought more about it.  
What my friend Gayle, didn’t know at the time she reached out with that innocent question was how close I was to ditching my faith.  I had laced up my shoes and figured it was time to run as far away from God as I possibly could.  Running seemed the better option at the time, better than sticking around as my soul stirred dark and murky. 
I spent months trying this, that and the other thing as replicators for faith.  Attempting to staunch the flow of my hurt with things that I thought would bring me peace.  Little did I know, that during those months God was carefully preparing my heart for the words that would bring me back to Him. 
Just before we left for summer holidays last year we stopped by the local bookstore.  I needed a book, a muse if you will, to help through some journaling that I had made a regular habit and my shelves were empty.  A friend had suggested another author and I was on the hunt.  I quickly scanned the shelves looking for a last name that began with “W,” and to my disappointment they were completely sold out.  But right next to where those books should have been was THAT book, the one Gayle had whispered to me just months before. 
I picked it up, glanced at my husband and said “Gayle said it was good, maybe I’ll give this a try.”  
“Are you sure?” he said.  He knows how much I hate buying books only to be disappointed by their content.  I shrugged my shoulders rather noncommittally and said “Why not?  It’s worth a try.” 
I will never forget the moment I cracked open the spine the book laying flat on my lap and the words coming alive before my eyes.  I will never forget the way it seemed as if all of creation was holding it’s breath.  Waiting.  Waiting to see if I would finally return to my First Love.  To the One who had called me as a little girl to give Him my heart.  
With the book in my lap and a whispered “Yes” on my lips I returned to my Creator that hot summer’s day.  My life had been changed, the gospel finally coming alive, faith finally finding water and sprouting in my desert wasteland.  Pen in hand and a tiny journal I began to count blessings, joys and awakened to living life fully and completely. 
It’s difficult for me to capture in words exactly what this book has meant to me.  And not many people get it, not many people understand how deeply Ann Voskamp’s words settled in my soul.  They were like salve to my faith, a balm that the Saviour continued to rub onto my open wounds until healing could be felt. 
And that brings me to this lovely picture.  Less than a month after I had devoured her book I stood in line to hug her neck.  What you can’t see in this picture is that it took me a good five minutes to pull myself together, because I could. not. stop. crying.  And she was grace and beauty when she cupped my face in her hands, my tears filling her palms and whispered that we are named the same, sister, under Christ.  Somehow I took a couple of deep breaths and whispered my name and she threw her arms around me and wrapped me in the warmest hug and told me that she knew who I was.  
That was over a year ago.  It was an encounter ordained by God and I can still see every moment of that evening, feel every hot tear drip off of my chin as if it were yesterday.  
And just last week, I got to tell Gayle all about how her whisper led me to a book I had never heard about. A book by a pig farmer’s wife and her dare to live a joy-filled life.  I got to tell her how she had an impact, how God used her suggestion to bring me back to Him.  And Gayle, listened with goosebumps travelling up her arms as I recounted my return to Love.  

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