This past weekend, I took a road trip to Virginia. As I loaded my suitcase, I was genuinely excited to see friends and get away for a bit before I start grad school. But I also took notice of the nervousness rising up in me, as my stomach churned and I tossed and turned the night before I left.
Roanoke, in particular, had been the place I experienced such deep levels of pain and sorrow and loss as I battled many sicknesses, homelessness, hospice, and so much more. Even just looking at pictures or saying the word “Roanoke” brought this heaviness and anger I couldn’t shake. Still, as the war raged within me, I felt like it was time to go back and remember.
My visit was packed full, from the time I arrived Friday until pulling out Monday morning. I had the privilege of sharing meals with sweet friends, going to the movies, playing baby dolls with my little buddy, Goodwill shopping, and so much more. There were countless conversations late into the night filled with both tears and laughter.
Yet, there was a journey on Saturday morning I’ll never forget. As I was leaving a coffee shop where I met my counselor, I just felt this inkling to take a drive. It had been nearly three years since I had driven through the city on my own. Plus once my driver’s license was taken and I was bound to a wheelchair, my adventures had been very limited.
So, my first stop was the apartment building I stayed in from the summer of 2020 to 2021. I reflected on my trips around the block in my power wheelchair and the sweet maintenance men who helped me out when I got stuck or broke something. It had also been the place where I laid for months in hospice on my deathbed.
My drive then led me to the doctor’s office and the post office. The parking lot where I slept when I was homeless. I sat outside each of the hospitals where I had basically lived for months on end, between sepsis and blood clots and tubes and everything else that happened those two years.
As I drove, I smiled and cried. I just allowed myself to let the memories come and feel what I hadn’t while I was living through it because then it was all I could do to survive.
But now, it was time.
At some point, the song “The Story I’ll Tell” by Maverick City came on which brought even more tears, I had to pull over. It was one I had listened to on repeat during my years of sickness and the song that had been picked for my funeral.
Yet as the words passed through my ears and into my heart in that moment, I realized they had not only been so real and raw then. But they have come true now…
“The hour is dark
And it’s hard to see
What You are doing here in the ruins
And where this will lead
Oh, but I know
That down through the years
I’ll look on this moment and see Your hand on it
And know You were here
And I’ll testify of the battles You’ve won
How You were my portion where there wasn’t enough
And I’ll testify of the seas that we’ve crossed
The waters You parted, the waves that I’ve walked
Singing, oh-oh-oh, my God did not fail
Oh-oh-oh, it’s the story I’ll tell
Singing oh-oh-oh, I know it is well
Oh-oh-oh, it’s the story I’ll tell”
The mess that was once so enormous and all consuming that I and the doctors and those surrounding me believed I would never make it through… God has turned into my message. The testing into such a powerful testimony. All the pain into my purpose. It is the story I’m telling.
Still even greater than where I am now and the plans He is unfolding in my life, I could more clearly see God and how faithful He was back then. How He heard my cries and questions. How he saw my pain and despair. There wasn’t a moment, friend, that He was not holding my hand.
And the beautiful thing is, He is holding yours, too.
I know you may not be able to see it right now as you bury that loved one. As you scramble to make ends meet and pay the bills. As you mourn that relationship you thought was your one. As you hear the unexpected diagnosis in the doctor’s office. As you see what your children are going through.
But I promise, He is there.
And there is going to come a time… Just like me, that you will look back and see Him even more clearly.
So in the meantime, may you take a drive back into your past. Let yourself feel the ache and pain and fear and all the things, so you can finally grieve and heal. But even greater, may you look for God’s faithfulness and thank Him.
For when we take the opportunity to remember, it doesn’t necessarily take away or change our current situation. But it does give us the faith and confidence we need to believe that God is going to do it again. Because He will.
You are going to have a story to tell that others need to hear. So hang in there, beloved. You’re not alone.
Much love always, Alisha
Link to full song “The Story I’ll Tell”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjY26wzFm2U