I could not stop smiling. I had never laughed as hard in my life as I had that night.
As I got ready for bed, the happy grin never left my face, and my mind replayed some of the night’s highlights – causing me to start giggling all over again – and making brushing my teeth quite challenging.
I had only been in Washington for 3 days, but already the gloom, depression, hurt, and pain of the last few years of my life were beginning to disappear.
I laid in bed, trying to remember the last time, before that night, that I had really laughed. Like really really, stomach-ache, joy from head to toe, tears in your eyes laughed.
Not finding anything in recent memory, I fell asleep grinning ear to ear, excited for the first time in a long time to get up the next day.
I woke up to the intoxicating smell of bacon, and a smile returned to my face. I was surprised, and even happy to find that my cheeks were still sore from smiling so much the night before. This is what happiness felt like. I wanted to hang onto it for as long as I could.
Unable to avoid feeding my bacon addiction any longer, I happily floated down the stairs.
The incredible family, who had graciously offered to let me stay with them during my month in WA, where in the process of making their world famous breakfast burritos.
I literally didn’t think I could be any happier. Bacon. Breakfast burritos. Amazing people. Safety. Joy. Laughter. A fresh start.
I felt like dancing – or running circles around the kitchen. My heart was ready to burst. Emotions I hadn’t felt in a long time were bubbling to the surface, and I had no idea where to put them, or what to do with this sudden burst of energy.
Still grinning and lost in my own happy land, I hardly even noticed that there was a guest at the breakfast table.
“Hi!” she finally said, probably thinking that I was either very spacey, or extremely rude.
I about jumped out of my skin as I came back to reality.
“Omgosh! Hi!” I blurted out, “I didn’t see you there!” I said with a giggle.
To my relief, our breakfast guest, a beautiful brunette laughed back.
I sat down at the table and we all enjoyed a great morning together.
The more that our guest spoke, the more I liked her. She had a peace about her that was unique. She had also had lived in and traveled to more places than I could count – something I was both intrigued by and admittedly a little jealous of.
She was funny, kind, and easy to talk to. Excited that I had made a new friend, I got up to clear the table as our guest headed up the stairs to shower from her long trip. Apparently she had gotten in late the night before and needed to get ready for her day.
Thinking nothing of it, I stayed downstairs and helped clean up the kitchen before heading up stairs to get ready for my class.
As I got joyfully into the shower, my smile faltered as I suddenly noticed that everything was different.
While there were several travel size shampoo, conditioner and body wash bottles in the shower, but they looked far too full and dry to have been used recently.
My conditioner and shampoo had switched places, and my body wash was up so high that I could barely see it, let alone reach it.
My immediate affection for our guest was gone. That chick had used my stuff!
Now, let me pause.
Hindsight, I realize that this is utterly ridiculous to get upset over. In fact, if you come to my house now, you are more than welcome to use my shampoo and body wash.
But at the time, it felt like a violation of my personal property. Not to mention my shampoo cost more than most nice steak and lobster dinners for two.
I mean she hadn’t even asked if she could use them!
I felt like I had somehow been taken advantage of, but couldn’t figure out why I was so mad about it.
My smile totally gone at this point, I fumed through the rest of my shower, trying to figure out if I should call this girl out on her crime, or find some cleaver way to get her to admit her guilt.
I know. I was being ridiculous. But it gets worse.
Before I could figure out how to confront this girl about her theft and violation of my personal property, I found out she was coming to the class I was attending.
Getting madder by the minute, my eyes turned into little daggers as our carpool loaded up, and our breakfast guest put her guitar case in the trunk. GREAT. She plays the guitar too. Shampoo thief. Perfect. World traveler. Guitar player. This girl was developing quite the rap sheet.
Because our guest had been running a little late blow-drying her hair – that smelled very suspiciously like my expensive shampoo, we weren’t able to make our usual stop for coffee.
That was the final straw.
I hated this girl.
I could maybe, possibly, handle someone using my shampoo. I could also maybe, possibly handle them being perfect, well-traveled, obnoxiously nice, and musical. But I could not handle that her perfectly styled hair, clearly infused with my shampoo, had caused me to miss the ONLY thing that was known to add perfection and balance to my morning. Coffee.
I rode the rest of the way to class in silence, very maturely casting hateful glares at our guest in the front seat.
Relieved to finally be able to get out of the car and away from my new worst enemy, I retreated as fast as I could into the solace of the classroom.
My momentary infusion of joy and relief was cut very short when I realized that this chick was not just attending the class today, but would be leading worship for the group.
Worship here wasn’t just a few songs – it was an hour long time of being able to soak in God’s presence, read, journal, and glorify our savior.
Great. There was no way in the world I wanted THIS girl to lead me in worship. After all, she was a shampoo thief who also apparently didn’t want other people to drink coffee!
As she set up her guitar, and began to lead the group in praise, the anger in my heart reached its boiling point.
I was un-caffeinated. I was jealous. Nothing was going my way today. And our beautiful breakfast guest was wowing and entire room full of people with her irritatingly beautiful voice and perfect strumming on the guitar.
I mean literally the room was full with God’s presence light and peace at the sound of her heart-felt worship to the King. And I was sulking in the corner.
I wish I could say that I stopped at that point and “gathered myself together” and was able to enjoy the rest of my day.
But that’s not what happened.
I continued to fume in the corner like a jealous, insecure, broken, angry, little girl.
Which is exactly what I was.
I had just become a surrendered Christian – 4 days before – and God was beginning the long process of refinement in my life.
I had accepted Jesus as my savior when I was 4 years old, and I always believed that Jesus died for me, and that there was a God – I just didn’t see how He made a difference in my life. Since the tangible evidence I was looking for didn’t seem to exist, I decided to make my own way – and was convinced that I knew better than He did what was best for my life.
All that had led to the devastating brokenness that brought me to Washington in the first place.
Day 4 of surrendering it all to Jesus and I was beginning to see just how much of a mess I really was. I felt like I had no control over my emotions – no ability to stop the jealousy and the hatred that was building in my heart.
I had spent the past few years of my life numbing myself to emotions of all kind. It was survival. If I didn’t feel I couldn’t get hurt. I couldn’t be disappointed. I could continue to try to control everything that was spiraling far out of my control.
But now, God was bringing emotions to the surface of my heart. Both good and bad. The incredible ability to experience joy the night before, was now being met with the ability to feel insecurity, pain, brokenness, jealousy, and a small portion of my incredibly broken heart that had been trampled to the core.
Helpless to know how to handle my new ability to “feel” anything. I did the only thing I could…I balled my eyes out.
Sitting in the back of the room, head in my hands I cried out all the emotion that I had been blocking for years.
I felt. Pain. Anger. Confusion. Betrayal. Unworthy. Rejected. Unwanted. Manipulated. Lied to. Forgotten. Worthless. Hopeless. Broken.
God began to walk me through the emotions of my heart that had been trapped for far too long. It was painful. It was gut wrenching. It was mascara running down my face embarrassing.
But it was also incredibly healing.
When I had cried as much as I possibly could the Lord began to touch my heart. He began to show me that I couldn’t receive His healing and truth about who He created me to me if I continued to block myself from feeling emotion. Both good and bad.
In my effort to block out pain I had also blocked out love, light, and truth.
The process began that day – but freedom came over time and in stages.
First, He showed me that I was capable of having emotion – which was frightening and exciting.
Then He allowed me to experience every emotion under the sun.
I then faced the fear associated with feeling both good and bad emotions.
He then showed me how to trust others and let them into what was going on in my heart and mind.
He worked on my heart and through His gentle, loving-kindness showed me that He was the only thing that could fix all the brokenness.
He showed me that emotions didn’t rule my life or decisions – He did. And by blocking out emotion I really wasn’t keeping myself from experiencing pain – I was keeping myself from experiencing one of the greatest gifts of being human.
It was keeping me trapped in the negative, and preventing me from enjoying the positive.
That day, crying as our breakfast guest (who would eventually become of my dear friends after we worked through the shampoo issue – something we both laugh about now – mostly because how ridiculous I was) filled the room with God’s love and grace, God showed me a glimpse of the healing He was going to bring to my life.
Worship ended, and class was about to begin.
I turned around to find my chair, when John, the incredible man who would eventually marry my best friend, walked right up to me with my favorite Starbucks order.
He had noticed that I didn’t have coffee, and realizing what it meant to me, had gone to get me some – even doing some undercover recon to find out what my favorite drink was.
Happy tears filled my eyes and I gave him a huge hug.
That day, through John, God showed me that He would always fill the desires of my heart. If I chose to continue down the path of His healing there would be moments of brokenness and tears – but at the end of it He would be faithful to fill it with His goodness and blessing.
I have never been more thankful for a cup of coffee in my life – or for a visual to see that His mercies really are new every morning.
Beloved, He wants to do the same for you! I’m choosing to let God bring me a big “cup of coffee” today in whatever form He chooses.
Great is his faithfulness.
by Kari Trent Stageberg
I love Jesus, my family, helping nonprofits, sunshine, football, YoungLife, sushi, my friends, Blue Bell ice cream, traveling, Fall, and life’s amazing adventures.
I would LOVE to hear your story, and feature you on the blog! To share your story, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org