Today, my heart is absolutely filled with gratitude. I simply cannot believe what God has done for me, and in me.
For a couple of days I have been taking care of my brother's home and labrador, Duke, while they are away. Watering the beautiful flowers on the patio is part of it too.
There are two, huge jasmine plants. I don't know if you are familiar with the sweet and peaceful aroma of this plant, but as I sit here on their patio with Mt. Hood in the distance and a cool, morning breeze, it is the most pleasant perfume that can only come from the hand of God. Even though it is not an overbearing smell, it gives me a feeling of God's abundance.
As I continue to grow and experience change and miracles faster and faster, I am aware of this sweet aroma with me everywhere I go. It reminds me of the jasmine. It is as if I am wearing a lovely lei of jasmine around my neck as a reminder that God is with me at all times.
I can't believe He is with me, in me. Me! It is fascinating to remember how hopeless I felt before. I thought my life was over and I may as well be dead since I had nothing to look forward to in life. No hope. Just surviving.
But I am so blessed to have this testimony to encourage others. If I had not LIVED it, I could not SHARE it. God made me to encourage and then He gave me the story to become all He wanted me to be.
To be able to say that I am grateful for this story is also amazing. During the most low of times I was told by a well-meaning friend that I would someday be able to use my story to help others. I was aghast at the thought! Paralyzed! No way! That would never, ever happen.
But here I am....truly experiencing the journey to Laura, truly find myself and becoming A Real Gurl, becoming who God had in mind all along. The me that He knew would be most fulfilling in His plan and in my heart, for to be an encourager of others is what He placed in the fabric of me.
All the days of not measuring up, all the tears, all the mistakes that were repeated time and again....I was forgiven and started over only to falter and find myself bearing the same burdens and sins, and never brave enough to look deep and find the permanent change God was calling me to. Yes, He was calling me all the time, at first in whispers and eventually using the proverbial baseball bat to get me to turn my head. (I was a slow learner, but He loved me just the same.)
I can truly say these words with heartfelt meaning: "I lost it all, to find everything."
Life has become so meaningful to me and I keep needing to pinch myself. It can't last, can it? I know there are still bumps, hills, valleys and mountains left for me to traverse. But I believe that for the rest of my life here on earth, I will be holding the hand of God, my champion, and the sweet aroma of jasmine will be present in my life. And my heart will be filled with gratitude.
If I am desperate for rain, I will learn to thirst for You and bless the very sun that warms my face.
If I am hungry for bread and long to be warm and tucked in under a sturdy roof, then I will learn to hunger after You and realize that a starry sky offers a better view if no roof is overhead.
And if I ask for peace but it seems another world away, I will give thanks to You with gratitude, for lessons in how to trust in You.
For I am blessed beyond what I could ever dream, in abundance or in need.
~paraphrased from N. Nordemann
And so my new theme song that just keeps me humming and singing is found in these lyrics below, from a secular song adapted as a letter from me to God:
I've never been the one to raise my hand
That was not me, and now that's who I am
Because of You, I am standing tall.
My heart is full of endless gratitude
You were the One, the One to guide me through
Now I can see and I believe that it's only the beginning.
I guess I've learned to question is to grow
That You still have faith is all I need to know
I've learned to love myself in spite of me
And I've learned to walk on the road I believe.
This is what I dreamed about
But the only question with me now
Do I make You proud?
Stronger than I've ever been now
Never be afraid of standing out, but
Do I make You proud?
~lyrics paraphrased from T. Ackerman, A. Watkins and P. Wilson 2006