In a recent blog comment, I was asked to share my testimony. Let me start out by saying that before 3 weeks ago, I called my story “the normal story”. I considered it not interesting, boring, and (I’m sad to say) not important. I want to reiterate before I hit you with the mother load, this important message: no story is too small, boring, or uneventful. God uses each and every one of us to make his love and his name known in big and small ways. He is so mighty, and so powerful, and he is working in your life!!!! Every day, every second, and even right now as you have found yourself reading the words of a girl you may have known your whole life, or just happened to stumble upon on the world wide web. He does some good, good things. I’m here now to tell you about what he’s done in my life.
To start off, I have grown up in a christian home. My parents are both beautiful examples of what it means to be god fearing and to seek the kingdom. I have attended church on Sunday mornings since I was born, and God has just always kind of “been there”. When I was 10, I started attending a summer camp, that I would consider my second home, Camp Ozark. Though Ozark plays a huge role in the beginning of my story, I attended camp there for 2 weeks every summer until my very last session just this past summer. It has remained a constant in my life, and has shaped me into the woman of god that I am today. Imagine 10 year old Rylie. Sweaty, tired, and happy, sitting still and quiet on a warm Arkansas night, surrounded by girls of all ages. These girls and I listened intently as Ali Donelson, now known as Ali Monk, shared her story and what it meant to be a woman of god. Before that moment, I had never listened so intently to a message about God, my faith, or the importance of living a life for christ. She begged all of us to look her straight in the eyes and understand that each one of us was perfectly, wonderfully, and beautifully made. That we were treasured by the one true King, and that nothing we ever ever ever did would make him stop loving us. I am happy to say that I have listened to that talk a total of 10 times now. And gosh, it never gets old.
When I returned home from camp that summer, I talked to my parents about my understanding of what it meant to give my heart to jesus. That I understood he died on the cross for my sins, so that I would never have to suffer and so that I would be given the opportunity to one day live with God in heaven. I was baptized at my current church, First Baptist Georgetown, on November 14th, 2010. I understood the fact that the waters didn’t heal me, or that from there on out life was not gonna be just a bunch of flowers and rainbows, but this was just the beginning. When I entered the youth group in 6th grade, I got the opportunity to go on my first mission trip to Mission, Texas, a small town near the border of Mexico. My biggest eye opening experience from this trip was learning that God was so much bigger than my little world. As a youngster, it was hard to grasp how big our god was, and I’ll be honest with you and say I will never grasp how big our god is. Standing in mission, singing worship songs in both spanish and english, and getting to lead a children’s vbs at a local church there, I soon learned after attending that trip for 4 years that god was way bigger than I could ever fathom.
My sophomore year of high school I traveled outside of the country for the first time to Gdynia, Poland on another mission trip with my church. this experience was life changing for me because it was the first time I felt like I had completely trusted God with his plan for me. I am a planner. I like to have everything perfectly lined up, organized, and easily understandable. If you know me well, you know my planner is one of my most favorite things. Poland was something that I felt like I had let God take total control of. but little did I know, he had a lot more in store for me down the road. 3 weeks ago I was told information that would completely, and I mean utterly change my life forever. Though this blog has many many details of my journey, I am still going to start from the beginning.
For the majority of my senior year I have been “off and on” with God. We’ve had our moments. I took for granted the fact that he was always there, always loving me, even when I pushed him away and said “No its okay God I’ve got this one.” Little did I know that on January 25th, 5 days after my 18th birthday I would receive news that I had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Cancer. A simple word, yet it haunts humanity and controls or deepest feelings. I will tell you that 3 weeks later I still sit here typing in tears, never wishing my January 25th experience on anyone, nor ever wanting to live a moment like that over again. But man. What a god glorifying, heart wrenching moment it was. One day I will tell the complete story of the day I was told I had cancer, but right now I want to focus on what God has done in my life thus far, and what he will continue to do throughout my life.
A few nights after I was diagnosed, I told Connor Lancaster that an immediate fire had been lit inside of me. that all of the sudden all of my walls had fallen, and that I would give anything to be placed on a crowded street screaming the beauties and the wonders that god had performed in my life. I had decided that from here on out, my life was a mission trip. That I would spend every day glorifying him with everything I had. With my words, my attitude, my thoughts, and my heart. That if you wrote me a sermon, I would stand up in front of a massive crowd of people and preach it for the world to hear that my god is awesome, my god is love, and my god will never leave me. I knew the night I was diagnosed that I had no other option. I wasn’t going to give up, and I wasn’t going to back down. I would remain the strong person that I was before, but this time I would put my full and complete trust in the King who knows tomorrow. My prayer for every single person who reads this is that you too get to feel the Lord’s presence as much as I have in the last 20 days for at least just one minute of your life. I pray that you feel it in others: in their eyes and in their actions. I pray that you feel it in nature: in the way the stars shine at night and the rain falls from above. But, most of all, I pray that you feel it in yourself.