A Time To Rejoice
by Sherry Hoffcastel
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I distinctly remember feeling the coldness of January seeping deep into my bones. Winter had come in every sense of the word. My innermost places were nothing but bare, dark, and dreary. I was nineteen years old and trying to survive in an adult world that felt familiar, yet completely foreign to me. I had a job but had no idea how to balance a check- book or pay bills. Years of being my motherís servant and whipping post had left me exhausted, drained, wiped out. Yet, I had to keep going because I had no choice.
Now that she wasnít in my life anymore, all the choices were mine. No longer did I have to do things her way, like the things that she liked, go to the places where she went. I was my own person with my own thoughts and feelings and ideas. There was just one problem. I had no idea what I liked and didnít like. My every thought, feeling, and action had been dictated to me my entire life, leaving me much like a blank, white canvas. I hadnít the slightest notion of what was good for me, what I needed or didnít need. I had not the smallest clue how to survive in the real world. But I did know how to vacuum and I could make a mean macaroni and cheese.I was hiking in the hills of Black Diamond and thinking how beautiful everything was. I wished that I were beautiful. There was a pond that was still frozen over. It was early afternoon but everything around me was still covered in frost. The air felt cold and wintry on my cheek and the same thoughts continued to grind their way around in my head.
ďYou could end it all here and nobody would even know.Ē
I kept walking, determined to ignore the pain. My surroundings were as cold as my insides. How many times during the week had I thought about ways to end everything? There was the old stand-by, the favorite. Take too many pills and hope I donít wake up. For some reason though, I was fascinated with knives. I remember one time I took a knife to bed with me and hid it under my pillow, just in case I got up enough guts to actually do it. I was going downhill fast and not the booze, men, or even the job could make it better. I was in serious trouble. Despite Godís promises that there is a time and a season for everything, I didnít feel that spring was going to be coming at all. There was nothing for me to look forward to. I felt dead inside and out and actually wished it.
I kept trying to understand how something like this could have happened. I was a good person right? I read my Bible, went to church, tried to stay out of trouble. So how could I have been violated in such a cruel, merciless way? I was barely conscious with all the alcohol in my system. The very least the guy could have done was wait until I was coherent enough to tell him ďNOĒ and really mean it. I know that somewhere in the fog that had become my brain I tried to tell him. I really tried to say no and I know I tried to shove his hands off me, tried to roll over but either I wasnít loud enough or he was flat out ignoring me. So here I was, violated, betrayed, and completely worthless. Grandma had just gotten through telling me that she knew about the endless abuse that I endured throughout my childhood but chose to stand back and do nothing. She knew what my mother had put me through and chose to watch instead of act and now this. To me it made perfect sense. I just donít belong here. The Lord needs to take me now because I canít deal with it anymore. I am finished.
I remember waking up the morning after taking the knife to bed with me. I heard a voice tell me through the fog to call 9-11. I called and told them that if someone didnít come and get me that I was going to hurt myself. The ambulance did come and that was the beginning of my healing process. I stayed in a mental hospital for just over three weeks. Something happened while I was in there. One of the nurses, a Christian named John told me that never in all his years working on that floor did he see so many people asking about God and about going to church.
ďBecause of you, Sherry people are hungry and thirsty for God. See? He does have a plan for you. You are here for a reason.Ē
Somehow, God had brought me back to the land of the living. After I was released from the hospital, I started to going to recovery meetings and actually learning how to communicate my wants and needs. Most importantly, I was learning how to forgive the people who I felt had driven me to my depression. It took many years but I did finally learn to forgive my mother and let go of the past. Sheís back in my life again, even though we continue to struggle. She has a hard time accepting that Iím a grown woman now and an even harder time accepting when I say ďnoĒ or ďI donít like that.Ē But she is learning and itís been very rewarding for us both. She did get to see me get married and she saw the birth of my child, things I was convinced that she would have no part of once upon a time.
I never knew how much I took for granted, how much the Lord had his hand on my life, in the midst of all the suffering. Whether I was aware of it or not, God had planted spring in me and the buds just needed a little watering before they grew out of the fertile soil that was my soul. I learned that there is always a way out, as long as I trust Him and believe that He really does love me and finds me worthy of his attention. Until then I had never believed that I was worthy of anything, not love and certainly not attention. Before God got a good hold on me, I didnít believe I was worth anything.
I praise Him that he allowed me to go through that cold winter so that I could see him take care of me the way that nobody else in my life ever had. I saw him put people directly in my path whose sole purpose was to love me. I saw him answer one prayer after another. I remember those frigid days with a kind of fondness now, because I know what happened after I cried out for help. I was saved and spring did come. It washed over me and embraced me. It saturated and filled up every missing piece. I have learned to have compassion on those that wrong me because I saw my Jesus have compassion on me. I have learned the secret of being content. It isnít in what I know or donít know about life. Itís in whom I know and in whom I put my whole trust, my whole being into. I am convinced that Jesus is the answer for every ailment, every pain and every bitter, frozen soul.
In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:37-38 (NIV)
Copywrite 2005 Sherry Castelluccio
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"I am convinced that Jesus is the answer for every ailment, every pain and every bitter, frozen soul." Ditto!!! Sherry, I wanted to weep as I read. I knew the two of us (you and I) had a multitude of things in common. I just didn't realize how much. I sat here frozen and breathless when I reached the part about forgiving those who hurt you. How wonderful, how loving, how merciful of our Savior to lead us through the steps of forgiveness! I'm so, so glad you posted this testimony. Someday, perhaps the Lord will help me to put mine together into some kind of legible form for the public to read. In the meantime, today and even the moments when yesterday's ghosts (though they are dead) snicker in the background, it is "A Time to Rejoice" because I know that I know that I KNOW that Jesus is the answer for every ailment, every pain and every bitter, frozen soul!