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  • Writer's pictureSue Bowles

Milestones – Part 2

Get comfortable, get a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, and settle in. This is long. But SO worth it!

Like many of you I have a number of  Bibles on my bookshelf…various translations, some worn with broken bindings (the best kind of Bible), some study….but there’s one that is special and is the ‘grab it in a fire’ book. I got it in 1987 when I went to Bloomington, MN to see Rick Cua in concert. I was a first year grad student 1500 miles from home and had felt like I had fallen away from the Lord in just the 2 years since I had come to faith in Christ. A student in my residence hall had died. He was a believer and we became friends and I went into a tailspin.

I said in my last post that for a while every major turning point in my life happened at a Christian concert. It started with Rick. I came back to Christ that night and had opportunity to meet Rick. They gave us Bibles and Rick signed it. And that’s where it started. It became a collection of memories. Many friends have signed it – some well known, some not. But each one special. But that’s not what makes the Bible special.

Inside the Bible is the first example of what it means to READ a Bible (at least to me). It’s highlighted all over the place with margin notes at every turn. When a verse struck me or was used by God there’s a date in the margin. And in 1992 I wrote a little note next to Psalm 71:20-21 and it simply said “Life Verse!” (1992). And there’s a huge smiley face. Here’s what it says in the NIV:

“Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again. From the bottom of the depths you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.” I stumbled across that verse when I was in a real down time. My parents were in the middle of a divorce and I was as down as down could get. While that verse was my anchor during that time, little did I know how ‘appropriate’ it really would become for describing my life. In this post I want to share some of the emotional milestones God has placed in my life over the years. When I was going through them I didn’t see them as milestones. Trials was more like it. Hassles. Struggles. ‘Suck the life out of me and make me think I can’t get through’ kind of stuff. But looking back from the journey I see a constant….and I’ll share that in the end. But to appreciate the view you have to walk the road to get to the view. Allow me to share.

Emotional Milestone # 1 – growing up in a dysfunctional alcoholic family

It took a long time until I could say that without shame or embarrassment but it’s so much a part of our family story it has to be said. Alcoholism led to my parents divorce. We did an intervention on my Dad in 1991 and it sucked the life out of me. Nothing like telling someone you won’t do ____ unless they stop drinking right there to rip your heart out. By the time Mom and Dad divorced in 1992 I was dead in my spirit. My body was still walking – like the walking dead – but my spirit had all but dried up. I say I put barbed wire around my heart because I wanted nothing to do with anything or anyone who would love me enough to make me face the pain. I wasn’t eating right and the eating disorder I unknowingly developed in college was in full gear. I was NOT doing well. My church friends loved me, fed me, and made sure my heart kept beating enough that a flicker of light was left. It was all God needed. In January 1992 God used a conversation with a dear musician friend, Billy Sprague, who had lost his fiance in a car wreck, to break through. Again…one of those milestones from Kanakuk God later used to pierce a stone heart.

Emotional Milestone # 2 – college

I was a student who struggled greatly in college. My insecurities ran rampant. I developed an eating disorder from being uneasy in the cafeteria – I learned to shut off my hunger (I don’t recommend it). I was bullied. I had a bucket of water dropped on my head from a 3rd floor room the first few days of school during a co-ed softball game in the quad. Right in front of about 40-50 peers. My junior year I roomed with an active alcoholic who markered me one night. I must say I admire her artistic work – I looked great with a pointed black marker beard on my face! I struggled for acceptance and recognition from anywhere and anyone. While it looked great from the outside it was full of heartache and loneliness on the inside. Yet I made it through and came to Christ the summer between my junior and senior years.

Emotional Milestone # 3 – senior year in college

Things started turning. My Dean of Students had been promoted to VP of Development yet he continued to make time to talk and listen to me. He gave me projects to work on to prepare me for life in the work world. And one day, out of the clear blue, a conversation took us to a place neither of us expected and he helped me face some stuff that I had been unknowingly avoiding for years. Something had happened when I was very young and I had NEVER told anyone (or even really remembered it) and suddenly it came out to Ed. His grace, patience and direction were literally life changing and cracked a door that I had barricaded shut.

Emotional Milestone # 4 – career life

My career in Student Services was great. I miss it and want to get back into it. To do the job of educator well (and right) a certain amount of compromise has to take place. As my relationship with Christ grew deeper I began to be less comfortable with some of the things required of me in the field. There was one situation where I was outright accused of letting my beliefs get in the way of doing my job and a host of constraints were placed on me and any programming I wanted to do. At the same time the Lord was tugging on my heart to go into ministry and it all fell into place where I left Student Services to go into high school youth ministry. I spent about 4-5 years doing that and enjoying it and then went on church staff as the Office Mgr. Those were some kickin’ times. I felt most free ‘doing’ ministry. It wasn’t a job. It was ‘natural’ for me. Until…..

Emotional Milestone # 5 – car wreck and church split

December 2000 and January 2001. There was a nasty church split in the works and it scarred me. I was church secretary and knew a lot of the ‘inner’ stuff that I will take to my grave. As a result of the split and lack of funding my position was eliminated and I was unemployed. That in and of itself is hard at any point in time but at this point there was something else major going on in my life.

It was the pastor’s last day and I was going in early to give him a going away gift. But I never made it to the office. I made it to an ER room instead. Mom was with me in the car and around 7am or so on a Friday morning a car coming from the opposite direction lost control, crossed center, and headed right at me. Between the 2 cars it was a 70mph collision force as my little LeBaron t-boned a black camaro just behind the passenger door. It crunched the door all the way to the stick shift console. The other driver had to be cut out of her car. I’m thankful there wasn’t a passenger in that seat as they would’ve been killed. They were going to Life Flight Mom but had to cancel due to overhead wires. Mom had 3-1/2 hours of reconstructive surgery on both arms, had a partially collapsed lung, 3 broken ribs, whiplash and a cracked sternum. She spent a week in the trauma unit, 3 weeks in skilled nursing, and another 6 at my brother’s 2 hours away in home care. I was significantly injured as well and had surgery on my right wrist later the following year where they shaved 1/4″ off the thumb bone.

In 6 weeks time in January 2001 I had 3 major things happen to me: a major car wreck, the church split/unemployment, and starting a new job in an entirely new arena (business world – manufacturing).

Emotional Milestone # 6 – Compassion International

I had signed up to be a Compassion International sponsor at the Rick Cua concert in 1987 in MN. In 1994 I signed up to be a Compassion Volunteer which meant I got to help present Compassion at concerts and events. And in 2004 my lifelong dream came true. I had always wanted to meet ‘my kids’ and in 2004 I had that opportunity. I not only met my first child – Ninrod – who started the dream of wanting to meet, but I also met Alex whom I picked up when Ninrod had to leave the program, as well as Angel whom I started sponsoring 2 days before we met. I remember being in the hotel with Tammy, my ‘Giggle Twin’ (obvious nickname for us!) and saying to her ‘Now what? How many 40 year olds can say their lifelong dream has come true?’ It fueled in me a desire to learn Spanish and someday return.

Emotional Milestone # 7 – unemployment

Up until this time I had been blessed with an ‘atypical’ career path and a constant employment situation. After the church split in 2001 I accepted a position in a wholesale door distributor – an industry tied to the housing industry. I had moved ‘up’ from CSR to “Systems Asst. / Marketing Asst.” and done all kinds of cool projects and computer database programming. I was even responsible for creating the annual company price guide of over 300 pages. And then on Dec. 5th, 2008, I was called into the GM’s office and told they were making cutbacks and had to let me go but hopefully they could bring me back in a few months. I was the senior CSR and had been with the Company almost 8 years. But that’s business. I accepted a job end of January at a mattress factory 40 minutes from home and a week after my 90 day probation period was over we went from servicing 12 states to the eastern half of the country to being closed in 48 hours. I was unemployed twice for the 2nd time in 6 months. It took 2-1/2 months more before I accepted my current position as Office Mgr. of a 100,000 sf warehouse where we custom print pizza boxes. I’ve been there 4-1/2 years and am going strong.

Emotional Milestone # 7 – 2012 and 2013

The last 2 years have been QUITE the challenge. You’ve read about it on this blog. Someone very dear to me made a mistake and took responsibility for it but that meant there were some consequences. While God has CERTAINLY worked it all out for good in only a way He can it’s been really hard. I miss my friend. We talk almost daily. But it’s not the same. There’s been a lot of pressure put on me as result in caring for Mom. As a result of the car accident in 2001 and a stress fracture a few  years ago Mom is mildly disabled and lives with me. I’m her main caregiver on top of working 48 hours a week. While it’s challenging and a struggle and draining I wouldn’t change it for the world. But it’s been an unbelievably tough year with my friend’s absence.

Emotional Milestone # 8 – facing the past

Remember when I said there was something I told Ed Hyland my senior year of college? Well, turns out I never dealt with it – not in its entirety – and it had been affecting me in profound ways for years. Well….we’re working on that, too, and loosening the grip its had on me for all these years. It’s been a LOT of hard work and there’s more to go. I never knew the domino that would start when I told Ed. But I’m SO glad I did. I’m a better person because of it. It’s been painful and gut-wrenching and draining…and that’s just a start! But it’s also SO good and I see God working at every turn. I am a better person as a result.

Winding Down….

There is so much more I could write but I think you get the idea. Life has NOT been easy. AT ALL! And yet what I HOPE you hear and read is that something is different. Something keeps me going. Have I wanted to quit? YES. Who hasn’t?! I have felt so buried and burdened I didn’t know where to start looking to try to see a crack in the clouds. I’ve been depressed. I used to drink like a fish. I withdrew and isolated myself. I was insecure. I was nothing on the inside like I portrayed on the outside. I was slowly dieing internally. And yet now…..I live. I thrive. I’m alive. Even at my worst – during my parents’ divorce – there was a ‘nagging optimism’ that told me it was going to be OK. That became my anchor. And then I found that verse in Psalm 71.

So what’s the difference? What makes me smile and get back up and go at it again when it’s SO tempting to just quit? It’s that ‘prized possession’ Bible. It’s what’s IN that Bible. And it’s what I’ve learned through the course of my first 50 years that I want to share. It’s simple yet profound. Easy yet complex. Obvious yet hidden. And it’s simply this: HE. IS FAITHFUL.

Take a look at that life verse again. After reading everything you have you’ll see it in a different light I hope.

“Though You have made me see troubles, many and bitter” (um…yeah…but He is sovereign and in control and knew how to make all the bad work together for His good)

“You WILL restore my life again. From the bottom of the depths You will AGAIN bring me up.” (if that doesn’t scream ‘I’m not going ANYWHERE’ I don’t know what does!)

“You WILL increase my honor and comfort me once again.” (He will bring me full circle and build on it to take me to higher levels).

The secret to getting through – for me – has been banking on Psalm 71:20-21. All those milestones – the physical and the emotional – are cemented in this Biblical truth. It’s that ‘simple’ yet it’s not easy. HE IS FAITHFUL.

I don’t know why God has allowed all the things in my life that He has. There’s some traumatic stuff in there (literally). No one would choose any of it. I certainly didn’t ask for it! But I’m coming to realize He’s given me a very powerful story to share and the punch line is ‘He is faithful.’ Have I struggled with the ‘why’ and the anger? Oh yeah. Still do. But I love how God continues to minister to me in the tried and true way that it all started in – Christian music.

This last year when I’ve struggled with being angry at God for ‘abandoning’ me (or so I thought), Mercy Me’s ‘Hurt and the Healer’ came on the radio and my life became a video in my head as the song played. When I literally cried myself to sleep earlier this year as things happened with my friend, Laura Story’s ‘Blessings’ came on, or Chris Tomlin’s ‘Let Faith Arise’…songs that spoke my heart and spoke TO my heart when there were no words. HE IS FAITHFUL.

And recently it’s a song by Chris Tomlin and I want to end with it. I was listening to the Burning Lights CD a month ago and heard a song for the first time and I just wept as I sat on my bedroom floor. I was thinking about my friend but then it became about my life. I guess if I could have a theme song to go with my life verse it would be this one: Sovereign by Chris Tomlin.

Through my story may you hear one thing: HE. IS. FAITHFUL Period.

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Sovereign (Chris Tomlin, Burning Lights)




Sovereign in the mountain air, Sovereign on the ocean floor With me in the calm, With me in the storm

Sovereign in my greatest joy, Sovereign In my deepest cry With me in the dark, With me at the dawn

In your everlasting arm, All the pieces of my life From beginning to the end, I can trust you

In your never failing love, You work everything for good God, whatever comes my way, I will trust you

All my hopes, All I need Held in your hands

All my life, All of me Held in your hands

All my fears, All my dreams Held in your hands

In your everlasting arms, All the pieces of my life From beginning to the end, I can trust you

In your never failing love, You work everything for good God, whatever comes my way, I will trust you

God, whatever comes my way, I will trust you

God, whatever comes my way, I will trust you

Songwriters INGRAM, JASON / MYRIN, JONAS / REDMAN, MATT / TOMLIN, CHRIS / CHALK, MARTIN

Published by Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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