“No I never really chased my dream, never tried to catch a shooting star. Not really sure how my dream found me; I guess that’s the way You are. Now I’m left with the mystery, is it always gonna have to be so hard? If I only ever drag my feet, I guess I’ll never get too far…No I’m never going to lose my beat. I take it easy on the weak of heart. I hear You telling me not to speak, so here comes the quiet part. Maybe I’ll never solve the mystery – ‘is it always gonna have to be so hard?’ [But] If I only ever drag my feet, I guess I’ll never get too far. To hold on or let it go. I tell you it’s all I know. I will not let my heartache. I won’t be treading water waiting on a wave, no no. I will not let my heartache.” – Relient K, “Heartache”
To begin, I should first self-disclose that I love meaningful song lyrics. Therefore, moving forward, just know that much of my writing will be inspired by songs that helped me along my path with God. Therefore, I think it’s only right to start the “About Me” section with a quote from one of my favorite bands, Relient K [Side Note: I wouldn’t necessarily suggest doing a blanket search for them unless you share my love for pop/punk Christian bands with really fast guitar/drum solos. However, I do highly recommend listening to the songs “Heartache” and “God” on their recent album, Air for Free!]. The lyrics above played a major role in my life from December 27, 2015, to this very moment when it’s not so coincidentally playing as background music in my living room while I’m cuddled up in bed typing it’s lyrics.
On December 27, 2015 my husband, Craig Michael Strickland, went missing after going on a hunting trip with his friend, Chase Moreland. I’ll save most of the details of the story for a future blog post; but painful story short, on January 4, 2016 we found Craig under a cedar tree, already safe in the arms of his Heavenly Father. Which brings me to the song lyrics above. Their purpose is not to say I cannot, or shouldn’t, let my heart ache. The good Lord knows we each carry our own heart breaking burden(s) that have the ability to produce an all-consuming pain beyond what we believe our body can handle. No, this song means something quite different. This song is a beacon of hope for my soul.
My dream was to write and speak. To encourage through my written and/or spoken words. However, after giving up my title of Miss Arkansas USA 2014, I felt my chance had passed me by. While simultaneously, my [then] fiancé, Craig, was getting the opportunity to influence mass audiences as his country band grew in popularity, and began making small but steady ripples in the pond known as Nashville. Yes, my soon-to-be husband, was the frontman and lead singer for the band Backroad Anthem; and let me tell you, he could shake his booty in some skinny jeans that could rival that of Luke Bryan [Fun Fact: Although I like country music, I’m more 90’s-early 2000’s country, so I’m not necessarily up-to-date with everything; but after many conversations with Craig, I’m pretty positive my LB reference makes since to those who follow the CMT world]. But that’s not why I loved Craig, and I especially didn’t always love the looks he got from the sweet girls in the audience (if you know what I mean). No, I loved Craig for his heart for discipleship and building relationships. In fact, on our first date [after showing off his surprisingly outstanding swing dance moves all over a charity benefit dance floor] he took me to an overlook with a big glowing cross on the east side of our college town, Fayetteville, AR. No need to worry though, he didn’t make any moves. Instead, he turned and looked at me for a moment before proceding to tell me his testimony and ask to hear mine. Talk about capturing a newly proclaimed Jesus girl’s heart.
After we were married, I started to assume the role of supportive wife and determined secondary speech teacher/cheer coach. Slowly but surely, my dreams of inspiring others through writing and motivational speaking faded to a distant daydream; but per usual, God had a different plan for my life. It wasn’t until the day Craig went missing that I realized God had been using my life experiences to prepare me for this moment. The most difficult experience [as far as I know] I would ever face…the loss of my husband. Over the course of a year I quietly and obediently carried my burden of grief with the help of my Heavenly Father. He spoke to me in my most painful moments; He spoke to me as I laid still, staring at the ceiling, not wanting to get out of bed and questioning His actions; He spoke to me as I broke down uncontrollably in my classroom on my first day back to school for teacher inservice; He spoke to me when people unfairly spoke ill of me throughout my first year of widowhood; He spoke to me when I was terrified because I didn’t know what the “correct steps” for a young widow looked like (there are definitely no game plan books for that). But more importantly, He also spoke to me during moments of sweet laughter with friends; He spoke to me through the kind words and gifts from complete strangers and social media followers; and He most definitely spoke to me in the glorious moments of unexplainable peace found in the quiet of my home. In all of these moments I knew God was whispering this: “Share your story. Help the weak of heart. Encourage others to find hope in My love.” So here I am. Listening to His words. I’ve dragged my feet long enough.
I pray through this blog, and through possible future books, I will be able to help you face the storms in your path – both past, present and future. No, I haven’t solved the mystery as to whether or not it will always have to be so hard, as stated in the song lyrics, but I have come to at least one conclusion. And that conclusion is nothing is too hard if we choose to give everything to Christ and humbly tell Him the truth of what our heart is struggling with. For me, that sounded something like this: “Ok God. I’m too weak to handle this. But I love You. I trust You. And I hope in You. I believe with all my heart that You are good, and that You do everything for my good – even if I don’t understand. I will choose then, to change my perspective from that of the world, and instead see the little blessings you send me everyday. I will not let my heart ache forever, I will not wait on a wave to move me casually through this life, and I will not drag my feet any longer. I will chase after You until I am filled with Your joy, and further still until I am praising Your Name forever. Amen.”
And that’s it. That’s my purpose. To help you, and myself, let the heartaches of this life subside and allow our focus to be on the only thing that matters – finding a real relationship with Christ. The kind of relationship that will continually “fill our mouths with laughter and our lips with shouts of joy (Job 8:21).” The kind of relationship that will leave us chasing ever so desperately after Him – the One who created you, loves you, and carries you through every moment you have breath in your lungs.
So in conclusion, I hope you will follow along as I share what God is teaching me about having complete faith in His Plan. Remembering always that “[we] could be blinding depending on the amount of [Him] we choose to reflect (Forget and Not Slow Down, Relient K).”
Love in Christ,
Helen Elizabeth Wisner Strickland