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Caitlin Stevens

Beautiful Ending

I want to think that I have the world and my life all figured out until reality sets in, and I realize that I don’t! The other day I spoke to a significant person in my life about my journey and how I felt so far behind my peers. I was reminded of my age, how far I had come, and the things I had accomplished, that reminder was what I needed. This little boost of encouragement set me on a trip down memory lane. A lane so tangled with ups and downs that, sadly, you'd need about five pots of coffee (or more) and nearly twenty years of dedicated time to grasp and understand my story fully. I will give you a small glimpse since there's no coffee and only about four pages left. But first, I should give those reading some context before proceeding down my very perfect life (at least that’s what I had wanted outsiders to think.)

My story begins before I came to the earth. The year was 1998 in a small country bar in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Two people by the names of Jeff and Carol had just met, and without realizing it these two would have the most epic love story of all. And before you jump to conclusions, this was not a fairytale, happily ever after Disney movie kind of love story. This love was tough, sacrificial, and unconditional. After a year of dating, it was time to get serious and make the lifelong decision of marriage. So that’s exactly what happened; in 1999 of September these two would tie the knot and start, well add to the family. I didn’t mention that Carol had a seven-year-old son when she met Jeff. Anyways, moving right along… 2000 they had their first child together, and in 2002 about twenty-two months exact, they had another child, me. Within that same year, Jeff, and Carol, after battling hardships within their marriage and overall life, you know the life with deployments, moving states, and dealing with past trauma and even reintegration these two had a miraculous, overwhelming encounter with the Holy Spirit and got saved. This encounter didn’t entail some weird hyper-emotional experience, lights, fog machines, or a self-help speech. An immense presence was the only thing to save a marriage, kids, and future relationships/friendships that were to be built.

Some may read this and think “Oh, not another Jesus freak” or “This is her religion so it must help her cope with her reality” Others might think that this is a strange time to share someone else’s testimony. All these thoughts are correct and very much true. Here’s the thing, if it weren’t for the testimony of my parents, Jeff and Carol, there would be no, well, me! Who is that, exactly? Guess you'll find that out later and to be quite honest it’s not a new idea or concept that people change and can do so within a short or long period. But the whole premise of becoming a Christian is recognizing our sinful nature and our downfalls, knowing we cannot save ourselves. What’s the solution then you might ask? Our heart is constantly working to be new and whole, not by our own doing but by the sacrifice made upon a cross two-thousand years ago. Not trying to preach to the choir or convert you but to make you understand the foundation of my life and upbringing, Christ was my solution.

Throughout my twenty-one years of living, I have become very aware of the life that I live. This life, although not flawless has been beautiful and if I could turn back time would I have wanted to do things differently? Of course, I would! But at the same time, I wouldn’t change it, because if it weren’t for the experiences and challenges that I had faced, I would not be able to share and connect with others nor would I be able to set up my future family with great success. The success I want for them is something they can’t find in materialism like money, houses, and worldly pleasure. Materialistic things don’t make life better, yes, they can make life easier (for some), but the Ultimate goal is not to be the happiest and wealthiest, it is to find joy! This is not to say that I have the perfect step-by-step guide to living your best life because that is so far from the truth.

Joy is an inner feeling, while happiness is simply an outward expression. Regardless of anyone's faith, everyone can experience joy. The dictionary defines joy as “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.” Let's be honest there, is more to this than what the dictionary lets on. Joy is limitless and it's not just a feeling. By choosing joy, there is hope!

Let me tell you who I was and the identity I had claimed before my conversion. With a well-rounded upbringing, my family was not void of evil, hurt, and pain. I was depressed and confused, I had struggled with not being in control, battling OCD, a worrier, you name it I had it. To be frank, the world around me felt as if it were falling apart. How could someone so young feel this way? As a child, I went through multiple moves, had a destructive family member around my house, was kept in a school system that didn’t care about the well-being of the students, I was allowed to neglect wholesome friendships and a good body of believers just to hyperfocus on a sport, lost my brother at a young age and was never properly taught how to handle feelings and emotions after a big loss. I began to spiral out of control, and I had let depression, worry, anger, etc. be my identity.

Today, if you were to sit down and have a cup of joe with me, you would have no idea that I was anything described in the paragraph above. By the grace of God, I have been saved, redeemed, and rescued. Have you ever heard the phrase “suffering is never for nothing”? Well, friend, that is true! No, we shouldn’t seek to suffer but because of the fallen world we live in there are trials, confusions, difficulties, economic troubles, unfulfilled expectations/promises or ambitions, strained relationships, and so forth.

This is the identity I claim today, I am, first and foremost, a child of the most high, my identity is found in Christ. Other things I’d like to shout off a rooftop, I’m a daughter, sister, friend, caretaker of children, athletic, a reader, and a soon-to-be writer. As the days go on, I find myself wanting to serve those around me. There is a saying within my household, and it goes like this “Lay down your lives for the betterment of other people.” Humbled and blessed to walk the earth with such amazing human beings and continue my days loving others. I hope, as a reader, you're encouraged to find joy in your everyday life. It is easy to complain but hard to appreciate and find the light at the end of the tunnel. As someone who has secured an eternal home in heaven and has a relationship with my maker, I can say this is a beautiful ending!


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