"Me Too"

By Maddie Young

It’s been over two weeks. I’ve been lagging behind my intimate time with Jesus. The infamous purple pen has barely made contact with the inside of my journal. Part of my authenticity has been pushed to the back burner. Most of November smeared together like peanut butter and jelly in between two slices of freshly baked bread and I’m just now taking a quiet moment. I’ve finally secluded myself in the cozy corner of my war room.

Digging deeper into the gunk that has settled into my soul completely unwelcomed, there’s a moment that I unintentionally avoided. Shame and discomfort bubble to my heart’s surface similar to the fizz atop an ice cold soda.

We’ve been friends for nearly a year. I never thought something like this could happen to me. By now one would think I’ve would’ve learned to expect the unexpected but nope, not with this crazy life I live. The more I try to ponder over the situation, I still can’t pinpoint how it actually started.

As the conversations gradually grew the vulgarity heightened. Changing the subject was nearly impossible. I was in complete disbelief. There was no time to process what was going on. Your disgusting talk continued. All you wanted to talk about was sex. I was uncomfortable in my own skin. Is this all guys think about?

You described in detail what you desired to do with me. Vitamin “D” would supposedly cure my stress. The words “friends with benefits” flew around like fireflies with no intended destination. All talk seemed so natural and normal to you. But me, I felt violated and ashamed. If I didn’t tell anyone then maybe it wouldn’t seem like real life. Despite knowing I have a boyfriend you continued to push, asking if I thought I could keep up with your sex drive or concerned that I might formulate feelings for you with how often we would do it.

After a couple days I finally mustered up enough courage to talk to someone. I was scared and felt like I was in the wrong. I think I was also in denial. Through social media and the news I’ve heard the “#metoo stories” but it never fazed me that one day I too would be using those simple words. It took telling three people and their torn up reactions to acknowledge that I was being sexually harassed.

For so many years I’ve taken everyone else’s crap regardless of how it might damage me. I thought this talk was ok because I didn’t do anything to stop it. As scary as it’s been there has also been clarity and growth. It is never ok to talk to a female or anyone for that matter they way you did. I should never think twice about telling someone. There are more people who will love and protect me than I realized. This is just another bump in the road and not a dead end.

I will take this piece and add it to my story like a rugged puzzle piece fitting into a grander picture. I don’t know why this all happened but I trust that Jesus will reveal the plan in His time.

I will be ok.

 Maddie Young

Maddie Young

Bunkbeds

By Rachel Dowda

I learn through movements, through textures and sounds; an overwhelming variety of sensory models. I can know something for years, and then I actually participate and it finally becomes a truth, like when Helen Keller touched water for the first time. I’m learning to let God be my Papa, to be personal and near and release Him from the bear-like tendencies He often has in my mind. He’s becoming more and more His true self, the way He has always been when removed from my assumptions and intellect. The God who is near in my fear and worries, the one who holds me against His chest and His heart beats, waxing and waning like the oceans against my cheek. 

A few years ago I was asked to watch my friends’  kids. All I was supposed to do was get them in their pajamas, help them brush their teeth, tell them a few stories, tuck them in, pray over them, and then watch Netflix the rest of the time. It was rainy and the kids were drowsy so it was an easy night until I heard crying from the boys’ room. I walked into the dark and peeked over the edge of the bunk bed. The little boy looked at me with big, worried eyes and said, “Rachel, I feel so afraid. Will you stay with me?”

I climbed up the ladder and squeezed in next to him, under a little canopy with his nightlight reflecting galaxies over the fabric. ‘What’s wrong, baby?” I asked. 

“My teeth are hurting me and I’m afraid they are all going to fall out," he whispered, his breathing quick and panicked. “Will you lay next to me until I fall asleep?” I could have been practical and logical, and tell him that his teeth are supposed to fall out and he’s worried for no reason and it’s time for bed, but instead I laid my head on his stuffed dragon and put my hand on his chest and whispered comforting words to him. Because fear is always real to the person experiencing it, and I felt an overwhelming amount of love for this little boy, love that pushed all practicality aside and made room for understanding and tenderness. 

He laid there, with wide eyes and every time I spoke his eyes would get heavy and his breathing would slow. I would stop and they would pop right back open and he would touch his teeth and panic until I spoke to him again. Realizing this, I kept speaking. Eventually I could tell he was sleeping, and I tried to slide down the ladder, but he sat up immediately and cried out, “no! You need to stay with me!”. This cycle happened two more times before I realized that I just needed to make myself comfortable, with him snuggled up next to me. It was my pleasure, really. Alleviating someone’s fear is a gift and I was overwhelmed with understanding. My whole life I struggled with fear and so many nights I laid in bed, unable to sleep and too prideful to ask someone to stay. Even God. I laid there for almost an hour, drowsy and content, thankful to be someone’s saving grace. 

So often I heard God climb the ladder to my bunk bed,  and I whispered, "go away. You should be punishing me right now." Actually, I take that back--he’s not climbing up, but already there, laying next to me, with his head lying on my stuffed bear and all covered up with my floral sheets. But my back is turned to him, feeling like I should be suffering under the weight of uncertainty and a fear that has no root in reality. A fear that doesn’t envision him in my future.  

Even a little progress needs to be celebrated and more and more I’m turning over to face Him, to acknowledge that He’s there, with His hand on my chest, His words calming me, putting me to sleep. Its hard to imagine God mad at you when you envision Him snuggled under a tent full of galaxies, on the top bunk, His hand resting over your heart. Thats a way more realistic view of him anyway. Every time He speaks I feel peace flood my body and eventually I sleep. 

 Rachel Dowda

Rachel Dowda

The Joy that Lies in Heartbreak 

By: Brianna Sutherland

There is something that happens when you start to figure out who you are. 

For the past four years, the University of Georgia has been my home. I came to Athens as a confused eighteen-year-old who had been taught by life that she wasn’t worth much. I came with no thought in my head as to who I wanted to be or where I wanted to go in life. I came not knowing that there was a gaping hole in my heart that I could not fill with alcohol or any of the other less than savory options that college life provided me. 

This December, I will throw my cap with the knowledge that I am venturing out into the world wholly new, having shed the doubt, fear, and brokenness that plagued me upon my arrival. I know who I want to be, where I am going next, and where I want to end up. I know that love is only valuable to you if you choose to accept it and that it will break the hearts of the ones that love you if you push their love away. I know that sometimes, someone you love will push your love away and it will break your heart. 

Graduating college marks a pivotal change in my life. I will no longer have classes a couple hours a day, finding time to lounge in the sun no matter how hectic my schedule gets. I will enter a world where punctuality and consistency are far more important and procrastination is no longer tolerated. The corporate world is standing before me, a towering, gray, concrete office building with no windows and no sunshine. To me, the prospect is daunting, if not depressing. But I know where I want to go and this is a stepping stone. So, as I walk through the Arch on graduation day, I will think about everything and everyone that has brought me joy during my time here. And my heart will break because the season of my life that showed me hope and light will be over. 

I know where I’m going, and that means that I have changed, even in the past month. I have watched my friends graduate, find jobs, find love and one by one they are all leaving. It’s been a terrible, angry, devastating journey. Some have stayed close and others have gone far, but in last few months we have clung together, driving a hundred miles, sleeping on couches, doing nothing together because we are resisting letting go. We are fighting against the idea that when college is done, we will all adopt our own lives and drift away, out of sight, and eventually, out of mind. 

Best friends, and one in particular, have chosen paths that brings them farther from me every day and it has made me angry and irrational and mean. My heart is broken when I think of the people that I am losing. I see them making new futures for themselves and I wonder why they can’t keep one foot in the past. I wonder why they don’t feel that they can keep their old friends and still become a new person, but then again, you can’t surround yourself with people who don’t support you and ultimately that’s how my friend feels. Maybe, our differences have grown too broad and deep and can no longer be spanned by the history of our love for each other. 

The hardest lesson from this is that sometimes, in the right situations, with the right people, love can never be enough. If I turn one way and my friend turns another, when I look over my shoulder, hoping for a glimpse, all I will see is my friend’s back, fading into the horizon as they go on their way. And how can I blame them when I am walking the other way, a similar journey, with a wildly different destination. 

This is a heartbreak that happens very slowly. In the beginning, when your edges are cracking, you barely even notice. It appears as a fixable problem: an argument, a disagreement. By the end, you are looking into the distance, trying to remember the moment that your friendship ended, blaming the person on the other side, while knowing that for a friendship to end, two people have to give up. The blame is half mine. But I feel as if I own all of the pain.

Lastly, I know who I am, and that means changing my actions, thoughts, and words. For much of my life, I have been wrestling with how to be happy when you feel like the walls are constantly coming down around you. I have always identified as a Christian, albeit a hypocritical one. I clutched my cross to my chest and prayed to God that one of my sins would make me happy. I fundamentally misunderstood His love for me. 

Becoming a Jesus Follower is a like a deep breath of cold air. It electrifies every trembling nerve in your mind and body. It changes your vision so that suddenly, you are aware of brighter, better colors than this world had showed you before. I have seen the awesomeness of His love and have been the recipient, even when I am the last person who expected or deserved it. 

For me, this journey has not been some bright, magical experience filled with love and hope while the people of my new beautiful church surrounded me with light. I have seen this portrayed over and over on screens hung in auditoriums that service thousands a day. I expected this. I wanted this. But for me, it’s not reality. 

Reality, in my life, has been punctuated by the scoffing of my friends when I ask them to go to church, confusion about my own past actions, and a fundamental misunderstanding by outsiders of what becoming a Jesus Follower means. I have had to explain myself when I had no explanation to give and it has made me strong and confrontational. 

God has been there, and through all this change and loss, I have realized that in life, I love many things and people, but they are not constant. My beautiful, loving mother will die one day. My amazing sister might move away. There is a chance that as I lay in my bed dying, hopefully when I am old and gray, I will have no one. Everyone will have left me prematurely. But He will be there, holding my hand, guiding me home. In the end, I know that is enough.

This has been the concept that has troubled me most. In this season of my life, I need to make several major transitions as gracefully as I can manage. I need to let go of my fear and expectations and know that God is on my side. But still I have an iron grip on the things that I want in this world. Letting go of who I thought I was going to be might be the most heartbreaking change of all. But it is also the greatest joy. Over the next six months, I will experience more change, punctuated by losses and gains. It will be heartbreaking, but it will also be one of the brightest times in my life. An exclamation mark on the sentence that was my college experience.