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50 Shades of Grace: Christmas Edition

Friends, I received this letter this weekend and I knew I had to share before Christmas! I have read this testimony of grace a dozen times in the past few days. What I love about Cassie’s story is how specific God is. He doesn’t just love us from a distant, but rather His love for us is up close and personal. God’s greatest desire is to have a relationship with us. He did this by giving us the gift of salvation, through His son, Jesus Christ. 50 Shades of Grace: Part IV I am not a writer. I have been planning this letter since March of this year. Recently, I felt moved to write this letter. I said, “I hear you God. I’ll write it during winter break.” Here I am, moved to share with you how He has graced my life, and there you are, asking me to share it! He amazes me every time! So please feel free to use my stories in your “50 Shades of Grace” series as you wish, although my original intent was simply to share with you how you have influenced me through Him. I wanted to share with you a story of my own.

First, I should provide a little background information so that the power of this seemingly “small thing” can fully shine: When I came to Tennessee for my pharmacy school interview, it was on the anniversary of my father’s passing. I wasn’t sure I was ready to handle such a challenging set of emotions, intertwining grief and excitement. I had planned that this would be a “learning” interview since the college I wanted to attend was Shenandoah University. I have many family roots spread throughout Tennessee and I had only applied here, after all, as a backup option. As I learned about the prestige of the college, I began to feel honored to even be invited! My interview went better than anything I could have planned or prepared for – my mother said I had the longest of anyone that day. At the end of the invitation and interviewing process, it was announced that in a few hours we would be notified of acceptance… WHAT? I thought, “Dear God, I made it through this nerve racking process on such an emotional day, why are you doing this to me?” I had realized that I desperately wanted to be accepted to this college and the idea of learning that fate in a few hours was overwhelming on top everything else I was feeling. My mother and I started on our journey back to Virginia, stopping to eat at my favorite travel restaurant, Cracker Barrel. The meal was perfect and our waitress was a true southern sweetheart. Wandering around the gift store before we hit the road again, I was in the middle of the store when my phone rang. Heart pounding and eyes closed, I answered… “Hi, Cassie? This is Dr. Solomon. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with you today and I am pleased to offer you a place in the UT pharmacy class of 2016.” I opened my eyes and looked forward to a display of butterflies… I could barely speak and I thought I was going to pass out. My mother came over with a look of concern and worry… I then said, “YES! Thank you so much!” I then turned to my mother and we both began crying tears of joy. I said, “Mom, look – pointing towards the display – butterflies!” She said, “It’s a sign. This was meant to be.” For butterflies are a long standing “thing” between my father and I – and to see that on this day of his passing, on this day of acceptance into pharmacy school – was all the confirmation I will ever need to have relentless faith in God. My mom and I were now making a scene in the middle of Cracker Barrel, hugging and crying hysterically. We shared the news and everyone shared their congratulations. It is a moment I will never forget, a gift from God, a sign from my father that this where I am meant to attend to graduate school.

Now for the real story! In my pharmaceutics class we were assigned in November, a drug and disease review article, 5 pages long excluding the 3 (at least) required figures. I do not like writing any kind of paper – it gives me so much anxiety. For me formal writing equates to attempting to draw blood from a stone. I procrastinate with many things, but with this paper I was determined not to. Since my father’s passing I have found it difficult to even hear the words “lung cancer.” A therapist I see at the college relates it to when a soldier who’s back from war hears a loud noise and instinctively runs for cover – I go back to that horrific moment of learning my dad’s fate. So after yet again experiencing this “post-traumatic” response during class, I decided I would write my paper on lung cancer and Tarceva, the last drug that my dad took. My goal was to desensitize myself and hopefully find some positive connections. After talking with my mom about whether this was truly a good idea, she encouraged me to go for it. Before Thanksgiving break I had collected all my necessary sources for the paper – I was off to a good start.

It’s Sunday, the night before my paper is due and I am sitting down at my computer to type it all together… Had I really procrastinated this until the night before? I prayed, “God, you know deep in my heart that I was working to avoid this but here I sit… I trust that you will get me through. I give all my anxiety to you.” God seemed to think this was a good time to test what I had just professed because a few moments later I heard a strange dripping noise. Oh, how I wish it had only been a drip! I called the emergency maintenance line to report water heavily running down the wall inside my utility closet. In the 30 minutes between that phone call and when the maintenance guy arrived, 5 more leaks began to pour water throughout my apartment. The woman above me had overflowed her washing machine which was causing a moderate flood in my apartment. My heart was racing and I felt myself start to panic so I called my mom for some moral support. She encouraged me to take my prescribed anxiety medication and to continue to try to control water damage. After I got off the phone with her I wallowed in my anxiety for few minutes and then I told myself, “It’s okay. God will help me through.” I moved my valuables out the away and tried to prevent as much water as possible from soaking into the carpet. Around 1:30 am the carpet guys finished suctioning the water from the various spots in my apartment. My paper was not going to be completed tonight. I sent an email to my teacher requesting to turn my paper in a day late, explaining the situation along with some photos of the mess I’d been dealing with… He never responded.

I spent all the next day finishing my paper and with the circumstances, felt an even greater need to create a flawless product. I walked into our auditorium classroom, down to the front podium and handed my paper to my teacher. He looked as if he wouldn’t accept it… I said, “Here’s my article. I sent you an email about my apartment flooding which was why I couldn’t get it you to on time.” He smiled and said, “Oh okay. Very nice email. Is everything better now?” I nodded yes and left the classroom. I was emotionally and physically exhausted. I had just exposed myself to words “lung cancer” at least a 100 times (in 10 page paper with over 20 different resources!), and managed a moderate flooding of my apartment within the last 24 hours without taking any anxiety medication. I went home and said, “Hallelujah! Thank you Jesus!”

A few days later our grades were posted. I slowly opened my eyes to peek at my grade, unsure of what I might find… I said out loud, “What?! 100 A?! Dear God in Heaven I hope that this is not a mistake… Is this really my reward?!” My teacher does not easily award perfect scores and there many stories circulating about the meticulous details he deducts points for. In fact, most of my friends and classmates (40+ of 165) received a 90 B.

This grade was special on many different levels: It represented His gift to me for not wavering in my faith that He would help me overcome my anxiety; It was a another [needed] reminder to me that God truly does not give us more than we can handle and that everything happens for a reason; It was symbol of successfully facing a traumatic emotional trigger; It was the perfect grade I had always wanted to bring home to my father. I could not help but cry tears of joy for this bittersweet moment – for this would never have been possible had my father not passed away from lung cancer to begin with!

It was after this grateful lesson from God that I knew I had to write you. I hope that my words speak to your heart for whatever reason it is that He moved me to share them with you. Please don’t ever stop sharing your stories or blogging.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 ~ For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.” -Cassie

I would love to share your story of grace! Please email me at ~April

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