1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV) “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.”

Cross ring

Back in October, I felt as if I was finally above water again as far as life was concerned. I had gone through a couple of the hardest months of my life. Sicknesses, deaths, and losses of special people in my life. I was beginning to regain my strength and could function rather normally again. It was a relief to say the least. Surprisingly, I didn’t regret any of the life events that God allowed. Although there were days that felt impossible, He gave me an indescribable peace that I’ll never understand. 

Those couple of months may have been the hardest, but they were also the most rewarding and impactful in my relationship with God. I grew each and every day. When I had no strength to do anything else, I would read and pray for hours. When I’d finally fall asleep, exhausted, I had several dreams that God used to show me more about life.

One of the things I’d love to ask God is how he designed a woman’s heart. It seems to be one of the most delicate, sensitive, yet most amazing parts of the human body.  It’s also been one that I may be good at taking care of physically, but spiritually has been a struggle over the years.

Growing up, I always thought I was tough—like nothing could get to me.  Through all the ups and downs, the joys and the heartaches, He taught me things that I may never have learned otherwise.  After life’s circumstances in 2013, my heart, mind, and all of me were utterly exhausted. It was an exhaustion that I’ve never felt in my life. Life events and sickness really brought me down.

Once I realized how shattered my heart seemed to be, I was determined to get back on track.  I was tired of feeling hurt, sad, and just weighed down. Naturally I’m a pretty independent person, so I thought it might be easy. I didn’t want to rely on anyone. However for awhile, I may have appeared tough, but there were still hints of bitterness and unforgiveness that I didn’t like. These were things I struggled with for days and weeks. It took lots of prayer and trust. Eventually, God broke through those barriers when the time was right. I’m so thankful that He did. People talk about a change of heart, but it was never something I had experienced on this level before. It was literally waking up one morning after having severe pain that instantly went away. I felt normal after months of sickness. Not only did I feel better physically, but I felt like I had been set free again. I had a joy and peace that I hadn’t felt in months. With God’s help, I was able to forgive several people that may have been impossible in my own strength.  I was able to begin forgiving myself for things I had blamed myself for. It was an upward turn that happened during that time, and has been a journey since.

That same week, I happened to be at Parables for a women’s special event. I ended up winning a prize basket with some random gifts of encouragement, which was fun. I also found something I’ve wanted for years. A cross ring. As soon as I saw it, I knew there was something special about that one, so I bought it. I’m not a huge fan of jewelry, but I really got excited about this one. As I drove home with that ring, I prayed. I thanked God for everything he had begun to do in my heart that week. As not only a thank you, but a remembrance of it all, I decided to wear the ring every day. This was my ring to remind me of my relationship with the King. The one who set me free, and who has held my heart my entire life. That night I prayed something rather dangerous. I told God that as long as I had Him forever, I was ok with not ever having a relationship again. I was OK with never marrying, never having a family. I told God that I’d rather have a pure, whole heart with him versus a cracked, sick heart from worldly love or a relationship that I may put too much faith into. It wasn’t the easiest prayer to pray, but it was sincere. I told God that if that was in his plan, he would have to make it extremely clear to me. The thought of just God and me for the rest of my life was not just ok, but felt wonderful.

To this day, I’ve kept the ring on. I look at it every day and it brings so much joy to my life. God took me through hard times to teach me some simple life lessons, and I’m so glad that he did.  I’ve never felt closer or more in love with Jesus than I do today. Even on rough days, he finds unique ways to show me that he’s still near.

A little over a month later, my plans changed again. I was enjoying doing things on my own, hanging out with my girlfriends, my family, and spending time with God. Life was great. Before I realized, I had a man taking an interest in me—an interest more than a good friend. This was a man who stood in the background, yet was still in the picture throughout my entire fall semester of hard times. He was a great person and friend, however, he was not going to be anything more than that. For whatever reason, I enjoyed talking with him and sharing things in my life with him. When I recognized this, I put up the “Don’t mess with me” wall. I’m single, I don’t need anyone. I even prayed, “God, please let him go away. He’s a great guy, but this is not going to happen.” I literally lay awake in bed some nights because I was annoyed of the text messages. Not that he was being persistent and pursuing me, but because I was responding to him! Not only was I responding, but I enjoyed getting to know him. I enjoyed letting him into my life.

One day at work, he kept making me laugh. When he’d leave my office, I’d still laugh and wouldn’t stop smiling. It was beginning to make me mad simply because this was not my plan. I wasn’t going to let him or anyone into my heart. As much work as God was doing on my heart, I was still pretty stubborn. I drove home that day and started praying. I told God that I didn’t want this to happen, and I was getting frustrated. I prayed another rather dangerous prayer. I told God that if for some ridiculous reason he wanted this man in my life, then to make it really clear. Little did I realize at the time that I had prayed a very similar prayer the night that I bought that cross ring. I looked at it that night and remembered.

About a week later, I had a tough day. So many insecurities, hurts, and past memories flooded my mind. I felt helpless.  Even through a night of tears, God gave me a glimpse of hope that I didn’t expect. This man, who I wanted so badly “out” of my life, had the wisdom to know exactly where I was at and came to talk and let me cry.  I felt such a sense of care from this person that it confused me. What was God doing?

As I crawled into the comfort of my bed that night, I realized once again I had to give up my own trust in myself and give it back to God. Matthew 16:24 came to my mind through the tears. “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.’” The cross ring had more meaning now. Yes I had my own plans and what I thought might be better for my life, but amidst the prayers, God was the one in charge. The ring was now a reminder of full surrender.

I told God that I was ready for whatever he had in the future. That night, I was clueless to what that would mean. I knew my heart still had healing to do, but I could almost feel God breaking through barriers that very night.

God worked on my heart more in the coming months. It definitely wasn’t an easy journey or one that I expected, but it was worth it. I kept that cross ring on as my reminder.