Aug 4, 2015. My little car was packed – not an inch to spare. I drove out the driveway and down the street in our little neighborhood, where everyone knew everybody (and their business….though no one knew mine). Then to the highway and out to the interstate, which would take me north hundreds, then thousands of miles – away from the pain. The pain – have you ever burned your hand badly, and the only way to stop the throbbing was to plunge it in cold water? I had lived with pain way down deep – something I managed to hide from everyone – for years. It looked like my marriage of thirty-plus years was over. I was worried about my kids – they were going through tough times. And I wondered about me. Life had reduced me to an empty shell. Sometimes I would look in the mirror and wonder who it was, looking back at me; someone I hardly recognized anymore. I no longer wished to live.
It was no longer possible to maintain the sugar-coated “life is perfect” image demanded by religious life – I needed to find that cup of cold water and plunge myself into it. I dreamed of mountains, forests, trails, waterfalls. If I could get there, maybe I could heal. So I left my husband, son, daughters, grandchildren, extended family, music students, church, community – everything that had been my life for thirty years – and just disappeared, leaving behind a house of smoke and mirrors that had been a fantasy, yet my reality.
I was going to Montana. This was to be my home for the next few months.
It was a four day trip from Florida to Montana. I drove. And drove – escaping the prison of illusions, smoke and mirrors. As a young woman I once had a close walk with God, but had allowed religion, rules and tradition to replace that. For years I hadn’t been able to pray. Though I showed up and warmed a church pew two or three times a week, secretly the sight of a Bible repulsed me. I couldn’t possibly keep all of those commandments and would be eternally damned because of it. I felt like God couldn’t possibly love me, I was not good enough. To survive, I had shut down, not allowing myself to feel or think too hard about things. I was getting to a place where basic Christian beliefs were slipping; maybe there were other ways to live in which to find peace……
The other secret which lay hidden in a deep corner of my soul – I was sexually molested by someone in our community from age four to ten. Most memories were fuzzy, but some were vivid. When you are that young, you have no way to process what is happening to you, so I never told anyone. It had a profound effect on me, stripping me of childhood innocence and waking me up sexually much, much too young. Confusion, fantasy and darkness became my reality at age four. These issues continued on and off throughout my life, but had become worse in recent years as my life unraveled, right up to the very day I am about to recount.
The third day of the road trip I drove through the countryside of my childhood– South Dakota. This is where I grew up, and it was poignant to see it all again, driving from its eastern border, hundreds of miles to the western edge. On I fled, into western Dakota with its rolling hills, Black Hills and Badlands. And there it happened.
I-90, just past Sturgis. Minding my own business and not thinking of anything in particular, driving up a long hill through the middle of a vast field of giant sunflowers, a Presence came down. Right into my car. This was not on the agenda- God was the last thing on my mind – no more religion!! But there it was. So strong, so palpable. My body and limbs started shaking, first a little, then more and more violently – until things were really getting out of control – it was all I could do to keep the car between the lines. Then this Presence took control of my mouth – shouting and crying, louder and louder, overtaking me. And this went on – I have no idea how long- a matter of seconds that seemed like hours– sunflowers flashing by, until I crested the long hill. And then it was done.
As suddenly as it had come on, it stopped. I glanced down at the speedometer–- whoa! 100 mph!! I slammed on the brakes and hoped no cop was around. Can you imagine trying to explain this one?? “Well, ya see, officer ….”
Beyond shocked. Totally blindsided. What the heck just happened??
I didn’t know, except I was very, very different. The ache inside – the bitterness, sadness, disillusion, the scars and darkness – it was gone. I don’t know how to describe the feeling inside – just intense light, joy, freedom. It was as if God turned me upside down, shook out all the trash, turned me right side up and said, “There ya go, Kim. It’s all good. Now go live life.”
The tears wouldn’t stop. I found a playlist of songs on You Tube and blasted them, sang, talked to God, and wondered at the beautiful world He created with brand new eyes as I drove into eastern Montana. It was surreal. I was on a local highway now, no more interstate for many miles, and I looked with wonder at this lonely country.
As I drove into this most beautiful sunset and storm, I asked God, “What happened?” I knew He had done something wonderful and outrageous. But how to describe it? So I asked. And heard back immediately – a still, small voice: “I took you out of a coma.” So I drove into this beautiful sunset thanking Him for bringing me out of that coma, so dark, desperate and hopeless.
I wanted to hear something good, something to strengthen me. I knew of Todd White, though hadn’t listened to more than a few minutes of his teaching. I couldn’t, I had been too hard and honestly, didn’t care about that stuff anymore. So I looked him up on You Tube and randomly punched in one of the videos. This is how he started:
“You know that fella they were talking about….he was in a coma for thirty days… and while he was in a coma, Jesus woke him up. He said that Jesus came to him when he was out, in a coma, and said to him, “It’s time to believe.”
omg. Now I was wrecked again. More tears, more praise, more wonder. I kept listening to Todd, and felt a touch of the Love of God for the first time in thirty years. I was hearing truth, and life – and it was feeding me.
Then I had to face a question. Do I turn back? Go home? I struggled with this all the way to my hotel in Billings. Was I now ready to go back to everything I faced there?? The answer became clear – no, I was not. I needed more from God.
So I continued on. I was on my way to a job in Glacier National Park, where I had worked summers during my college years – wonderful summers hiking, climbing, soaking up indescribable beauty. God’s country. In February of 2015, as I became more desperate, I had applied for a summer position in the park and was accepted. Then in April declined the job, hanging on for dear life, hoping something in my life would change. I didn’t want to leave my family. But nothing changed, and that last week in July, sitting in my car in a broiling Florida parking lot feeling miserable and lost and wondering what to do with myself, I checked Glacier Park’s HR Department on my phone. What??!!… the very position for which I had been hired in February was open. I called the HR department – an employee had walked off the job and they needed someone ASAP. And so began this journey I could have never anticipated.
I arrived in Glacier the day after my wild ride through the sunflowers, got settled into women’s housing and for the next few days trained in Guest Services for the three hotels in West Glacier and Lake McDonald.
I was blessed with an amazing schedule – three 12-hour days working, four days off. For someone who came to Glacier to disappear into the woods, this couldn’t have been better.
And so I was out on the trails every minute I wasn’t working, singing at the top of my lungs (two-fold purpose: 1. Worship God. 2. Let mama griz know I was in the area but had no intention of bothering her cubs). Those were the most evangelized grizzlies in Montana, I’m sure. 🙂
Then three weeks later, another God Bomb….
This one entirely different…I had driven three hours to the other side of the park to hike Iceberg Lake – one of the iconic trails in Glacier, a ‘must hike.’ The weather didn’t look like it was going to cooperate. The clouds were low, it was spitting rain. There wasn’t much to see, but I hit the trail anyway.
It was a ten mile hike, and I decided I would be happy and enjoy the day, no matter if it was shrouded in clouds and drizzle. It was really easy to be happy these days. It had become my default setting, with no effort on my part. 🙂 But this is what I saw as I approached the lake…. 😦
A friend and I had done this same hike in my college years, and guess what? Scene 1, Act 2 – the exact weather 36 years ago! I wish I could find the picture of that day – my friend Karen and I standing next to the lake, our rain ponchos whipping in the wind, soaked and chilled to the bone.
So today I finally wanted to see those jagged peaks that held this turquoise gem of a lake. It looked like I’d have to go buy a postcard to make that happen. But I asked my Father to please part the clouds and clear things up, it would really make this child’s day…
Climbing up the slope, I found a big boulder for a picnic table. At least I could see the lake. Five or ten minutes later, munching on fruit and a sandwich, I looked up and around me.
There it was. The majestic cirque of Iceberg Lake. The clouds were moving and floating upward quickly, as if blown by a giant, unseen fan, with more and more of this amazing rock wall being revealed.
So I just smiled, ate my sandwich and took videos of the swirling, dancing clouds and thanked Him for doing that.
And then, the Bomb…
In an instant a song was downloading in my head that I hadn’t heard or thought of in 35 years. Every word came back and Keith Green’s voice and the orchestra and his piano were playing. And again, I was reduced to tears. Sobbing. These words!! Little did I know when I sang along with this song as a teen that every word would recount my life from the last 30+ years, or capture the day when God caught up with me in a western Dakota sunflower field, waking me from a coma. Or, that these lyrical metaphors would play out at Iceberg Lake as that impossible, thick bank of clouds broke and swirled away before my eyes…
LOVE BROKE THROUGH
“Like a foolish dreamer trying to build a highway to the sky
All my hopes would come tumbling down and I never knew just why
Until today, when you pulled away the clouds that hung like curtains on my eyes
I was blind, all these wasted years, and I thought I was so wise,
Until you took me by surprise….
Like waking up, from the longest dream, how real it seemed
Until your love broke through
I was lost in a fantasy, that blinded me, until your love broke through
All my life I’ve been searching for that crazy missing part
And with one touch, you just rolled away the stone that held my heart
Now I see that the answer was as easy as my need to let love in (yes!!!)
And I am so sure I will never doubt your gentle touch again,
It’s like the power of the wind….
Like waking up, from the longest dream, how real it seemed
Until your love broke through
I was lost in a fantasy, that blinded me, until your love broke through”
that was the day I got a hold of God’s love. I KNEW He loved me. His eye is on the sparrow, and it’s on me….personally!! How cool is that??!! And that song became my story, my life. The Hound of Heaven came after me and ambushed me that hazy, hot afternoon in the Dakota sunflower field, and gave me a new heart, a new soul. All in a matter of 10 or 15 seconds….crazy, crazy stuff. Then revealed His “no matter what” love at Iceberg Lake so I could confidently go after Him. God is…well, there are just no words. Amazing, Awesome, Wonderful!!!
And I’ll never look at a sunflower again, or a photo of Iceberg Lake, without a very knowing smile spreading across my face! 🙂
Well! I was pretty much incapacitated there at Iceberg Lake; so I just let the tears roll and sang a very crackly version of “Love Broke Through” a few times and took more pictures.
I finally headed back after soaking in that place and that song for most of the afternoon. Looking back at the lake as I hiked out was pretty nice:
I stayed in the park for the rest of the summer, and bumped into so many sweet people from all walks of life on those trails and around the park. I started to see what God was like, how every person is made in the image of Him whether they know it or not, and how He cares so deeply for each one. I devoured Todd White videos like a starved refugee, and dug into the gospels, soaking up Jesus’ words and works, living in them day after day, desiring to see Him face to face, for who He really is, without any filters. It was astounding. There is no one else like Him…Jesus, Messiah.
Equipped with grace and mercy, I knew I could go back home and face whatever came my way. It was time to roll up my sleeves and get to work. I had no idea how I would survive the church in which my family was entrenched, with its heavy-handed loveless religion – God would have to take care of me (I was envisioning sneaking Todd White videos in a closet somewhere) 🙂 But no sooner had I returned than this organization began to break up, after 30 years of attendance – His timing is incredible! God has done many amazing things for Bill and I, and for our family. We are free now – to pursue God and experience His mercy, love and grace.
So tonight I felt God’s prompting to write this story down – if nothing else, so that in hard times I would never forget that I am loved and that He can do anything!! And as I was writing this I was listening to the Todd White message about the coma. I didn’t finish the message that first time on the way to Glacier, but tonight I did. At the end of the message he talked about Keith Green! I don’t ever remember him talking about Keith in any of those many videos I heard – except this one. God just continues to piece together the amazing puzzle called life. And all these years later, I still sit down at my piano and sing “Love Broke Through,” and the tears roll. I love you, God. I’ll never let go.
Written September 2016