Ten years. It's staggering to me that I've been in Knoxville for that long, especially since I never had any intention of being here at all. In May 2004, ten days before I was to graduate from Auburn, my post-grad plans fell through unexpectedly. Fantastic timing, right? I was working at a summer camp that summer, which is not conducive to job searching. So in August I moved back home.
There is nothing more frustrating, I think, that being forced to move back home in your tee tiny town after graduation, when all you wanted four years prior was to get the hell out of there. I had no idea what I wanted to do, or where I wanted to go. I was exploring every option. I didn't care what state I ended up in, or what job I had...I just wanted something.
And nothing happened.
Fast forward 3-4 months. My brother had just built his first house. And he is his wife graciously offered to give me cheap rent in their place. Knoxville was a big city. It wasn't home with Mom and Dad. At that time, it was the best option I had. So ten years ago I loaded up my car with clothes and a few things, and moved to Knoxville.
I had grand dreams of the single life. A good job, a modest living but one that would provide me a little bit of fun. I would pay off my student loans, have a cute apartment, maybe meet someone.
None of this happened.
I worked 2-3 jobs for eight years. I didn't start dating my husband until I'd been here for six. For the first 2-3 years in Knoxville, my life, quite frankly, really sucked. The loneliness was indescribable. I didn't have people here. I didn't have a cell phone or internet for about the first six months or more. So while all my good friends from Auburn were keeping in touch and getting together, I was stuck here. With no one. It was so, so hard.
My 20's were not fun. There was a lot of dark times. Dealing with depression, constant resurgence of an eating disorder that I could not get over. Lots of sin. Lots of pain. Lots of yearning for love that I was not getting. And through it the Lord was scratching at wounds so old they had already scarred over. I will say through that time that God was so, so faithful. You can know His love in good times, but until you've experienced it in the darkness of a pit and the bleakness of no future, I'm not sure you can say that you know it. He was gracious enough to show Himself to me in those ways, He picked at wounds so that He could heal them. It's funny that as Christians we talk about wanting healing and to be made new, without really thinking about how painful a process that is. How long it takes. How agonizing it can be.
It's worth it.
So worth it. The ten years I've been here I've lived three different places. Was blessed to find a church and the most amazing community in the Gathering that I will probably ever experience this side of heaven. I've had multiple jobs:
-First Baptist Concord
-Nannying for Jack
-Nannying for Lyla
-Nannying Isaac and Bella
-Nannying Landry, Presley, and Knox
I lost two of those jobs. Went through unemployment. I had a terrible fall apart with my family during these ten years, and that brother who let me live with him no longer even 'considers me a human, more less his sister' as his last hate mail said. I nearly dated one guy who was great, should have stayed farther away from another who was an a#*, and finally God gave me one that was a keeper.
My best friend stopped talking to me. Abruptly, and two weeks after she served as my Maid of Honor.
We bought a house. And paid off my student loans. A new (to us) car sits in our driveway, and two little fur babies are curled up close to my feet right now.
I started drinking coffee (and am now addicted), learned to love lifting weights (and dropped 40 pounds because of it), and started writing (and now have four books to my credit). My husband and I thank God often for His grace, and for how good our marriage is. I have fewer excuses for not doing what God says, because His voice is clearer. I know it like I know my husband's.
I could say that the past ten years have been great, but I would be lying. They all haven't been. I could tell you that the past ten years have been a testament to God and His grace and His glory, and that would be true. He has held me through everything, pouring His love over me when His love was the only thing that I had.
I love knowing that no matter what happens, Jesus has me. And loves me. He knows me - oh how he knows me - every freckle, every birthmark. He hears my heart murmur, and defines the irregular rhythm of my irregular heartbeat. He knows ever sin, every dark corner that longs for a place apart from Him, And He will expose it because of His great love for me.
That's what these past ten years have been...God showing His love for me through the best and worst of circumstances. Him being Him through all the mess of life.
Whatever the next ten years hold for me, my biggest desire is that Christ be there, over and through it all Glorified through it all. Whatever happens, I know He loves me still.