I love hearing about other peoples lives. However, I almost never share my life story. I started thinking about this more the other day, after I had been talking with a friend about it. Her son is at bible school in Australia and right now the students are focusing on living out their faith instead of simply talking about it. Anyone can talk but not every one can do what they talk about. “It’s so cool, the other day they were spending time on the beach with surfers and they were told to say to the stranger, “I’ll give you a dollar if you tell me your life story.” So they would talk and listen to this random person’s life and afterwards, they wouldn’t even want the dollar. “Nah man, I’m happy that you listened to my story and cared to ask…” Apparently, most people were taken back at first, but were excited to share their story to a complete stranger. It got me thinking about the last time I told someone my story. Three years ago. Three years ago was the last time I legitimately told MY story. My story about who I was, who I am and who I want to be and all that God’s done to bring me to where I am now. So I decided that I’m going to share my story with you. And, I’ll give you a dollar if you tell me your story *wink* When ever I think about all that God has done in my life I am reminded about how far God has brought me and how far I still have to go. As I mark days off the calendar I forget the little things He’s done for me. Three years ago, I was terrified and totally turned off by the mere thought of sharing my story. I felt that my story wasn’t interesting, so why would I share it? There’s enough boring blog posts on the internet. However, God is helping me to grasp the fact that if something is important to me, and if there is something that defines who I am, reminds me of who I was and gives me a glimpse of who I want to be; then it’s worth giving Him glory and it’s worth being vulnerable.
I am 21. I was born on July 1st, 1994. My home is in the beautiful prairies of Saskatchewan. I grew up with my Mom, Dad, two younger brothers and a sister. My family are all Born-Again Christians; we love each other deeply and love The Lord deeper. I asked Jesus Christ to come into my life and forgive me of my sins when I was four years old. If I’m honest, I don’t remember the day I made this choice but I do remember the still evening and the dark sky, the big black chair my Mom and I sat in and the smile on her face after I had made the decision to give my life to God. 11 years later I chose to be baptized. Growing up, I went to a Christian elementary school until I pulled out and did the rest of my schooling at home through correspondence. School was never easy for me. I was bullied a lot in elementary school – hence pulling out and I was not the most academic student on the face of the earth. I was not one of those lucky kids that “just did good on everything without trying“. School was better for me at home where I could spend more time on assignments when I needed to, in order to get the grades I wanted. I’ll fully admit to being a nerd; I worked hard to earn my diploma with high honors. Looking at my life, I’ve never been in a place of rock bottom, or no hope. People always talk about “a breaking moment” in their life. That point in their life when they decided to turn things around. I haven’t that. However, I am a person that struggles a lot with fear. Fear is something that has always managed to hold on to me. Whether its grip was with two hands or two fingers; I’ve never been able to shake it. Allowing my mind to wander is a constant problem that I have and I can’t overcome it. I think myself into holes that are too deep and I create issues that were never there or situations that won’t happen. Since acknowledging this about myself God has taken my hand and walked me through my fears, he’s teaching me that I need to turn to him when they creep up. I’m always afraid of something new but I also know that God is always there.
At one point in my life, I had the biggest fear of being left behind. I had been learning about the rapture in the book of Revelation in the bible, which is when Jesus returns to earth for all the people that have chosen to follow Him. The Christians are taken to Heaven while the people who rejected Christ are left behind on the earth to endure judgement. I remember having a dream that the rapture happened and I couldn’t find my family anywhere. As I walked through my neighborhood it was absolutely deserted. I woke up feeling scared and as much as I tried to ignore it, I couldn’t shake that fear of loneliness. One way that I often try to overcome my fears is by facing them. I will deliberately put myself in a situation where I will be forced to face my fear in hopes of getting over it. Usually, this doesn’t work – I simply get better at hiding my fear and making my reaction smaller yet inside, I’m still terrified. So, to keep step with my bad habits, a few days after my first rapture dream, I decided to watch the movie, “Left Behind”. Great idea; I know. The movie was literally a reality of my dream. Jesus came back and the main character is forced to live life not knowing where all the people diapered to and is now forced to deal with the Anti-Christ. After watching that movie, it became very real to me that the Anti-Christ is powerful and he was going to be ruling the earth after the rapture happened. It scared me even more because I immediately thought back to my dream. In my mind, I was going to be left behind, therefore I would be under his rule. A few nights later, I had another nightmare but this time the rapture had already happened. I was still left behind but now the Anti-Christ knew about me and was hunting me down trying to kill me. My original fear of loneliness had now morphed into a fear of death. After my second dream I couldn’t take being alone. I always had to be with someone or at least have someone within eye sight. If I was watching a movie; I was with a friend or a family member. If I was working on homework; I was in the kitchen where the rest of the family was. If I was out for a walk; I called someone. Looking back I don’t know why I wanted someone in eyesight. I think it was so that I’d know when the rapture happened; I’d be able to see my Mom in the kitchen and then all of a sudden, not. I wouldn’t have to go looking for the people I loved; I’d just know they were gone. Life carried on like that for what felt like centuries. I eventually thought I overcame the fear myself by trying not to think about it and by focusing on other things. A year or so went by and I decided to try and face my fear on my own again and read a book called “23 Minutes in Hell.” That was the wrong thing to do. I got through maybe three chapters until I couldn’t touch the book. My fear had been rekindled and I was angry at myself for allowing it to come back. once again, I couldn’t take being by myself. It wasn’t until one night when my parents announced they were going out and I’d be the only one at home that I lost it.
I remember telling my Mom about my huge phobia; about being alone and being left behind in the rapture. I was petrified. Mom listened and then said to me, “Payton, go read your Bible. We’ll be back in a few hours” and they left. I was alone. And I was just like… I just… what?!?! I white girled… I couldn’t even… “Go read your bible” REALLY!?!? Now, I understand that this may make my Mom sound really harsh, but trust me, she isn’t. She’s wonderful. Anyways, I didn’t have any other options, so I pulled myself together went and read my bible. I decided to also ready my devotional book and that date was all about Jesus’ second coming. My mind was blown. I could only stare at the pages in shock. I had never had a “God thing” like that happen before. I remember looking at the page in disbelief; a good disbelief. The devotional talked about how, as a Christian, I was saved and that my name was written in God’s Book of Life and that it would never be blotted out. When I asked him to come into my heart; I was putting my life in his hands and he was going to hold on until I was with him in Heaven. I sat there in silence and it was also the first time I ever heard God speak to me. “Payton, you shouldn’t be afraid of when I come again. This will be a time of great rejoicing for you and other Christians! Be excited for Me to return because you won’t be on earth when judgment happens!” Hearing the Lord speak to me and reading exactly what I needed to read brought an indescribable wave of peace over me. The fear of being alone and death melted. Fearless.
“And there is no one who can deliver you out of my hand.” – Isaiah 43:13
I no longer had to fear the fact of being left behind; I was excited to know in my heart; confirmed by the Lord, that I am going to heaven. I didn’t fear loneliness or death. However, it didn’t take long for the devil to discourage me in another area of my life. I began to dwell on my past sins. I couldn’t let go of the things that I had done despite the fact that I had asked for forgiveness from The Lord and those I had wronged. It was this idea of forgiving myself that I just couldn’t wrap my mind around. I was afraid of not being good enough to enter Heaven when I did die. In my mind I thought if I forgave myself, I no longer cared about what I did. But I did care about what I did, so therefore I couldn’t forgive myself. I tried every angle; I tried making up for the problem and apologizing profusely, I tried guilt tripping and punishing myself. I tried not caring and completely ignored the issue. But I could not get rid of the sick, guilty feeling eating at me from the inside no matter how hard I tried. It wasn’t until I was reading through the book of Isaiah and came across verse after verse about God wiping away our sins. Isaiah 43:1, “I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine!” 43:25, “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” 44:22, “I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud and your sins like a heavy mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” And 45:2, “I will go before you and make the rough places smooth.” I went over these verses several times and God helped me understand that he doesn’t dwell on the things I’ve done wrong after I ask for forgiveness. God ditches the memory and moves on. He throws them as far as the east is from the west. When I am able to forgive myself and move on I am able to continue my walk with God; growing with him. He showed me that the devil doesn’t want me to continue crossing bridges with him, so the devil was going to hit me with the frying pan of guilt as often as he could to make me fall. “Payton, don’t you see that I forgive you? So what does it matter if other people don’t forgive you or if you don’t forgive yourself I am enough – so let me be enough.” The fear of not being good enough was replaced with the reality of God’s grace. Fearless.
My life continued on and the fears diminished. I knew that I was a child of God’s and my relationship with him would always continue. When I stumbled God caught me and taught me, but I slowly built this idea that I couldn’t look weak. I didn’t want to depend on anyone else, or anything. At first it started with the little things like not wanting help; I had to do it myself. I always wanted to do the best work whether it was in my school, sports, at my job or whatever. I wanted to be physically strong enough to accomplish jobs on my own. I wanted to be mentally strong enough to solve problems myself and I wanted to be able to fly solo and live an awesome life full of adventure and new experiences! I became so wrapped up in this idea that most women were weak and always needed a mans help so I did everything I could to keep up with the guys. I looked at my relationship with God as 80% my hard work getting me through everything and the other 20% as God really just being there watching the whole thing and lining everything up to match my imagined future. I had become known as a hardworking, dependable person that you could count on to be successful. People depended on me and people needed my help; and that made me feel on top of the world. It wasn’t long before I was put in charge of my coworkers and handled closing duties at my job dealing with customers, cash and problems. I always wanted to fix the issue but of coarse I couldn’t fix everything and it was bound to punch me in the face one day. That day came pretty fast; one evening I was closing the store and God showed me that I could not keep walking this independent life. Everything went wrong that night. I was trying to close the store but 4 out of 7 tills kept crashing and completely shutting down. It was a gong show trying to fix the tills and juggle customers while trying to appear under control. As my shift continued, the problems accumulated and I got so angry because I wasn’t able to fix the problems. I tried every trick I knew and nothing worked. So I was forced to call tech support and he figured out that the problem was my employee numbers that I key in to work on each till. I got even more frustrated. Here was something that I could not control or solve on my own and worst of all, I was the problem. I decided that I would deal with it once the store was closed. For now, I’d manage people on the remaining operating tills and hope it didn’t get crazy. After the doors were locked, I called tech support again to go into the system and fix the computer problems so that I could properly close the store. I was so bitter asking someone else to fix my problem. While I was on hold for what seemed like hours, in the silence, God showed me that I was not living my life the way I should be. He showed me that I cannot fix everything, nor was I ever meant to! It was a large pill to swallow. God told me that I didn’t have strength – I had stubbornness. I didn’t have a leadership mentality – I had an independent mindset. I didn’t have a healthy relationship with God – I had high expectations of him. Tech support fixed the problem, the store was closed and I solemnly went home. “I can’t keep living this way.” I remember telling myself while I was driving, “I don’t even feel good. I don’t stay happy and I don’t have continual joy. Why?” God gave me three words. Dependence. Humility. Submission. Those three things have definitely been long lessons to learn, but the more time I spend with God, the more He has shown me about myself and the things that I need to let go and change. Admitting that I can’t do something tastes like vinegar and the thought that I can’t do everything feels like a migraine. But I need to completely depend on him and swallow the pride. It’s not about physical strength, a sharp mind or how capable you are on your own; it’s about what The Lord can do through you and gaining glory for the One that matters.
You would think that I learned those lessons and continued learning and growing closer to the Lord after that night at work. Nope. The summer came and went and I moved to British Columbia for bible school on Thetis Island the following fall. I was still the fat headed person that I was and pushed any memory of failure from my mind. I had a clean slate with no failures and I wanted to keep it that way. During the first few weeks of bible school, they do a lot of group activities so that everyone can get to know each other on better, faster and deeper level instead of having an awkward month of “Hey, um, what’s your name again?” Every weekend there was a venture for groups to go on. You could go sailing, bungee jumping, cave diving; I decided to go kayaking. Why? Because I was told it was the most difficult venture to go on. Obviously. I wanted a bigger head. My venture weekend finally came and we were given the low down. “You will have two main partners during our trip; one kayak partner and one tent partner.” At this point the people in the group hardly knew each other but we immediately began sizing each other up as to who we wanted to be our partners. My tent partner was with a girl who seemed pretty sweet and my kayaking partner was with a guy who, let’s just say wasn’t my first pick. As our instructor was explaining the tandem kayaks I mentally decided that I wanted to be the anchor in the back of the boat. I wanted to set the pace, I wanted to steer, I wanted to be in control. As our instructor gave people their positions I noticed that he was putting all the men in the back. I got tense. I would not be under my kayaking partner. He got to my partner and I, “Mmmm Payton, how about you take the back.” I wouldn’t have it any other way, I thought. We spent the day learning our equipment, and practicing flipping the kayaks and getting back in with our partner. I had never been in a kayak before so not only was I trying to soak up every bit of information as I could but I was also trying to hide my inexperience from the people around me. We all got in our boats and one by one each team flipped their kayak and got back in. It was our turn and my heart was racing. Can I convince them? My partner and I paddled out and I talked him through it because he had never kayaked before either. “We’re gunna flip left on three… two… one…” and we rolled. I was underwater. I couldn’t get out of the boat. I started to panic. “You need to feel for the pull tab on your wet skirt” I remember my instructor saying. I quick grabbed the kayak and began feeling around for the tab. The moment it touched my fingers I yanked and I erupted from the boat and to the surface. I felt like I was underwater for 15 minutes but my partner came up the same time I did. Thank goodness. I got my composure as I held the upside down kayak and reached for my paddle, I watched my partner cling to the kayak and look around for his paddle. It had drifted a couple feet away, just out of reach. He looked at me. I looked at him. “You’ve gotta be kidding me…” I thought. I let go of the boat swam out and grabbed his paddle and brought it back to him. “Oh, uh, yeah thanks, I didn’t wanna let go of the boat and uh…” he trailed. This was not going to be my weekend. I was not going to be babysitting this kid.
Early the next morning we met at the docks to pack our tents, bags and gear. Shortly after, we were off; the ocean was like glass. There were no waves, no wind and I could see our shadow on the ocean floor as the island got smaller behind us. I was in the back of the kayak setting the pace, steering and in charge. “Guys, I don’t want anyone to say anything for the first hour of our trip. I want you to pray for this weekend and whatever God has in store.” That first hour was magical. The sun rose on the water line, seals swam beside us and I was mesmerized by the orange and purple starfish everywhere. I was going to love this weekend. Aside from being slightly annoyed with my kayaking buddy, our group was wonderful. Everyone added a different dynamic to the group – there were hicks, jocks, nerds, comedians and hippies and we all blended together. That evening we pulled up to a random island, anchored our kayaks and set up tent. We explored the island, made a fire and talked late into the night. My tent buddy was awesome, she was straight forward and to the point and hilarious in her own unique way. All five tents that night fell asleep to the sound of waves on the shore 20 feet away from us. If I had a “Top 10 Moments in My Life” list, that moment would be on it. The next morning we made breakfast over the fire, packed up and were back on the water. I was loving life. We all talked as we paddled; flipped each others rudders up and stuck starfish to our boats. As we made our way through the gulf islands one girl and I saw a narrow channel to paddle through. We both looked at each other with huge grins on our faces: challenge accepted. My partner began expressing how he did not think this was the best idea but, I was setting the pace, I was steering and I was the one in control. As our two boats got to the channel, we realized not only was it wider than we thought, but it was also more shallow. That didn’t stop either of us; we paddled on. Sure enough the farther we went into the channel the sand got higher and we beached ourselves. But the area we were in was so beautiful; it didn’t matter. As her and I laughed our partners expressed their annoyance. “Well, someone is gunna have to get outta the boat for us to get unstuck..” I suggested. Deep down I was hoping my partner would be a man and hop out but as I thought about it for a moment, he wouldn’t let go of the boat to grab his own paddle. There is no way he’s gunna get out. I waited a moment just to see what my partner would do. Nope. Nothin. “Whatever” I thought, “this isn’t a big deal.” So the other girl and I hopped out of our boats and began towing our partner and 200 pound beached kayaks toward deeper water. “Oh, uh, yeah thanks, I was wondering how we were going to get unstuck and uh…” he trailed. I couldn’t look at him. The weekend continued that way. Glorious moments of nature sprinkled with… “partner moments”. Our group came to the next island later in the afternoon and one by one pulled our boats on the shore. When it was our turn I realized that someone had to get out of the boat to pull it higher onto the shore. I waited a moment. Nope. Nothin. I jumped out of the kayak once again and pulled him and the gear in. Once he was on dry land he walked up to the potential camp site and I was left to unpack the gear and haul it up to the site. Thoroughly annoyed at this point I told myself, “I can do this. I don’t need a man to help.” As I made trips up the hill to the site with gear and back down to the shore for more gear he was no where to be seen. On my final run up the hill with his sleeping bag he came to help. “Oh, uh, yeah thanks, I was going to help with that and uh…” he trailed as he reached for his bag. That evening my wrists were throbbing and I had no idea why. I had never experienced this pain before. It was an aching pain when I moved my fingers or made a fist. I pushed it off. The last day of our trip I could see that my wrists were swollen. “It’s not that bad, you can push through this” I told myself. As I set the pace in the kayak my hands and wrists got tired and sore. “I am not sinking to his level” I thought. The day went on and I tried to ignore the throbbing pain. We got back to the school’s island, unpacked and washed up. At this point my wrists were so sore and I could see the parts in my arm that had swollen. My forearm was lumpy. I went to my friend and asked her. “Let me feel them” as she tightly grabbed my wrist, “move your fingers” I began pulling each finger into a fist as her eyes got wide. “Oh my goodness! I can feel all of your tendons moving under your skin and she released my arm. I did not want to go to the school nurse so I convinced myself that the swelling would eventually go down and the pain would go away. It was swollen simply because I was pushing myself too much while kayaking. Weeks went by and my wrists got worse. It got to the point where I couldn’t twist the lid off my toothpaste, I couldn’t stir the cream into my coffee or do up the zipper on my jeans. A month later I finally went to the nurse just to see what it was. The thing that bothered me the most was that I didn’t know what was causing my wrists to swell but I was too prideful to admit there was something legitimately wrong. “Payton, how long have you had this?” the nursed asked, “you have a very serious case of tendonitis in both of your wrists.” I mentioned kayaking was when I first noticed the situation and she told me that the only way to cure tendonitis was to let the area rest. “You can’t do anything with your wrists if you want it to get better. Anything from typing to lifting weights is causing your tendons to rub together. Right now your tendons are swollen which is causing friction under the skin – hence the pain. You need the swelling to go down so that they stop rubbing against each other which means not using them. “So I can’t do anything to speed it up?” “Nope. Nothing.” she answered.
Would it surprise you if I said that I didn’t listen? Not doing anything would mean needing other people to do things for me, and that just wasn’t going to happen. I am not asking my roommate to push toothpaste on my brush or do up my jeans. I am not asking someone at the table to scoop me food or stir the cream in my coffee. As logic would have it, my tendonitis got worse. Ignoring them didn’t work so I tried praying, I tried fasting, I tried pain killers; nothing worked. Two months later I was fed up and done. “God, I hate this. I’m sick of this pain and this limitation. Give me an answer.” I flipped open to a random page in the bible. I don’t know what I was hoping for, maybe an abra-cadabra verse that would magically heal my wrists. 2 Kings chapter 5 is what I opened to. God is amazing. No there was no abra-cadabra verse but there was the story of Naaman and his healing of leprosy. Naaman was the general of an army, he was a valiant fighter but had been afflicted with leprosy. In those days leprosy was known to be the ‘incurable disease’. However, Naaman had been told of the prophet Elisha that could heal him of his disease. So he went on his way to seek healing from Elisha. “Elisha sent out a servant to meet him with this message: “Go to the River Jordan and immerse yourself seven times. Your skin will be healed and you’ll be as good as new.” Naaman lost his temper. He turned on his heel saying, “I thought he’d personally come out and meet me, call on the name of God, wave his hand over the diseased spot, and get rid of the disease. The Damascus rivers, Abana and Pharpar, are cleaner by far than any of the rivers in Israel. Why not bathe in them? I’d at least get clean.” He stomped off furious. But his servants caught up with him and said, “Master, if the prophet had asked you to do something hard and heroic, wouldn’t you have done it? So why not this simple ‘wash and be clean’?” So he did it. He went down and immersed himself in the Jordan seven times, following the orders of the Holy Man. His skin was healed; it was like the skin of a little baby. He was as good as new.” (verse 10-14) “Payton, there is nothing you can do to heal this. I have given this to you because you would not listen to me. This while time you have been living your life thinking you do 80% of the work. Well, you don’t. This tendonitis will not heal until you soften your heart to me and allow me to lead you through life. You are being just like Naaman, you want to do something to heal the tendonitis so that you can get credit. Instead, you are going to have to submit to me for complete healing” I sat there, on my bed with my bible in my lap. Wow. In that moment God had truly gotten a hold my heart and forced me to look in a mirror. I had an ugly monster of independence and self growing inside of me. “God, I didn’t know I had become this. I am hard, I kept trying to prove myself better than my partner during kayaking and my pride has gotten me no where. I am scared of a life where I am not in control but I also know that a life without you would be much scarier. Please take hold of my life again and soften my heart. I do not want to be a hard person. I do not want to be living that way if I am supposed to be an example of you. Please forgive me. Please mold me into the woman you need me to be and work in my life to want what you want.” For the first time in a very long time, I cried. God did heal my wrists and He did heal my heart. 8 months later at the end of the bible school year, God had completely changed who I was. I know that God’ plan for my life is much better than anything I could ever come up with. Fearless.
“He must become greater; I must become less.” – John 3:30
Guys, I’ll confess that this has been one of the longest learning curves of my life because there are many times when I flip back to wanting to set the pace, steer and be in control. That is not how Christ wants us to live our lives. He wants to set the pace. God wants to steer and He wants to be in control. A few Bible verses that have helped me over and over are Isaiah 41:10 which says, “Do not fear for I am with you, do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Knowing that God is always with me and always there to help me when fear stands in front of me is a relief and a breath of fresh air. No matter how big the fear is, I know how much bigger my God is. Sometimes my fears of loneliness, death, failure and lack of control come back, but I have to continually submit them to the Lord and allow Him to deal wit them instead of focusing on them myself. Specifically, when I was out on the island at Bible school, God made Nehemiah 8:10 a reality in my life when I was struggling with tendonitis. It says, “The joy of The Lord is my strength.” And in John 16:22 we’re told, “…no one will take your joy away from you.” God is teaching me how to depend on him and how to trust him and how to be content in walking by his side. I don’t know what you are afraid of right now but I can guarantee you that Jesus knows how to eliminate that fear and He will meet you where you are at. Talk to God and tell him about your fears. Tell him about your hopes and goals. He will help you. “Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.” – Isaiah 30:21. Thanks for reading my story. It actually means a lot that you read it. I wasn’t kidding when I said that I’d like to know your story!
– Stay Satisfied