If you're just here to read about the night at Sanctuary, scroll down this post until you see a picture of a screen that just says "sanctuary".
Most of the day was really low-key. The gig that night was in a record store, so it was acoustic. That meant that there would be way less gear to unload, and there was no stage to prepare or anything.
We all slept in, which felt great. I know the band needed an easy day a hundred times more than I did after everything they'd done on Tuesday and Wednesday and with the two jam-packed weeks of touring coming right up. I finally got to meet Callie and Phoebe's parents, which was really nice. It felt a little awkward staying in someone's house all week and never being able to introduce myself to them. But their mom had been out of town until Wednesday, and their dad was gone for work by the time we got up and in bed by the time we got home the previous days, so it just never happened. They were very nice.
Another reason that it was good that we didn't have much to do was because there was a freakin' MONSOON outside. It was pouring rain literally from the time I woke up to the time we headed to Sanctuary about 8:45. It would've been really nice had I actually remembered to bring a jacket to Nashville, but I made it work. A little water never hurt anybody, right?
We left for the store about 4:45, and we didn't get there until like 5:30 because apparently people in Nashville don't know how to drive in rough weather, either. The funny part about it was that we still got there before the boys did. Bruno accidentally left Taylor because Taylor sent Bruno a text he meant to send to Phoebe, so that had something to do with it.
The record store, Grimey's New and Preloved Music, was TINY. And not only was the building tiny, it was packed wall to wall with records of all genres. It was pretty cool to see. The only remotely frustrating part about it was that no matter where I stood, I always ended up being in somebody's way. But I guess that was to be expected.
Once we got there, I wanted to help with the unloading, but it was easier to just stay out of their way. The boys had some friends to help, so none of us girls had to go out in the rain. :) It was really good, too, because you had to walk down several flights of stairs out the back door just to get down to the parking lot. The store owners were nice and let me borrow a stool to sit on because there was no way that I could have stood up in the same spot for that long without my feet throbbing.
These are just some of the pictures I took there. This should tell you just how up-close-and-personal everything was, haha.
This last picture is of me and Danny, one of the guys I met at Waffle House Tuesday night. We spent a good bit of time talking while we were at Grimey's. Afterwards, when a whole bunch of us decided to go to Baja Burrito, I asked him if I could ride with him, and he said sure. It was still pouring when we all left, so he told me to wait on the covered porch at Grimey's while he went to get his car; he had to park really far away because he got there late. I thought that was very gentlemanly of him. :) He ended up making a wrong turn, and we still got there before everyone else.
When we got inside, I told him I had to wait for Bruno because he was buying my food, and then he got even more gentlemanly and said "Oh no, I got you. Go ahead." And I just looked at him like "Really?" because, well, I've never had a pretty much complete stranger buy me food before. He insisted, so I did. :) The food was really good. I had a delicious taco salad that was so big I couldn't eat it all. I sat with Danny, Phoebe, and these two girls named Ashley and Tori.
About 8:40, Taylor, Bruno, this guy named Ben, and this girl named Emily all decided to leave for Sanctuary. I've heard about Sanctuary from Taylor for months, so I knew I wanted to check it out, but I wasn't sure I was going to get to go because Callie and Phoebe didn't want to. Finally, they decided they were going to hang out in Nashville with the rest of the group for a while, so I could go. I didn't realize until later just how much of a God thing that was. This was the start of a night I'm going to remember forever.
Taylor told me on the way that 500-600 college kids show up every week and that it was going to be a bit nuts. It was at a big church not too far away from Baja Burrito. The church was very modern-looking, and looked very, very nice. The actual service was held in this really, really big room that was just nothing but chairs, open space for people to stand, and a stage. I sat down three rows from the front; I told the boys I had to be able to sit but understood if they didn't want to sit with me. Taylor was standing with the crowd at the front, but Bruno hung out with me because he said he was pretty worn out, too.
Just after 9:00, the band got up on the stage, and the singer started talking. He explained how we were just going to sing some praise music for a while, and then there would be a ministry team down at the front for anyone who needed someone to talk to or to pray with. He said how he knew that God was going to move in that room that night, and that was just...beyond prophetic. (You'll see.)
I think we sang for about half an hour, but I have no idea really because I didn't look at my cell phone one time once it started. It was kind of weird; I had never heard any of the songs they played, but somehow, I knew what melodies to sing. Maybe it was God, maybe it's just I have a good ear for music, but I think that's pretty cool.
Then, the singer asked the ministry team to go to the front of the stage, and he said that both guys and girls were up there so guys would have a place to go, and girls would have a place to go. I didn't know if that meant that girls could only talk to the girls or what, but I headed for the left side of the stage. I saw four guys were up there, but I only really looked at two of them, and I asked them if I could talk to them, and they said of course. I asked them to pray for healing for my family, healing for all the damage Chelsea's mental illnesses have caused, healing from all the pain I've been holding in my heart, just healing for all of us. I started crying as I was talking, which is unusual because I really don't like crying in public. The two guys I had looked at in the beginning grabbed my shoulder and my hand, and as the first one started praying, I felt the other two join the circle and basically surround me. As they were praying for me, I started full on SOBBING; I can't even tell you the last time I cried that hard. Only three of the guys prayed out loud, and when they were done, before I even cleared my eyes, I hugged them and just said thank you. Then, I turned and found that guy #4 was Joe that I met Tuesday night. (Later, Joe told Taylor he had no idea why at the time "but God was just telling him to get up to go pray with the other guys and then who was the first person to come up? this girl.") When I saw it was Joe, all I could get out was "hey!" like "whoa, I did not expect to see you!" and he got up and just held me for the longest time. He asked me how I was, and I told him I'd never felt more broken in my life. And that's true. He told me that that was good because it meant I was falling into Christ. He told me Matthew 21:44, and kept saying just how much God loves me, and held me as long as I needed him to. I can't describe intensely enough just how God-breathed it was.
I sat back down afterwards to get out of the way of the other people, and the crowd sang as more and more people went up for help. After a little while, the singer said, "There are two baptistery pools, one up here, one in the lobby area, and even though you guys haven't seen it, there have been three baptisms already tonight." The place busted out in applause, and two guys tore down the curtain in front of the pool behind the stage. All of a sudden, I felt like God was screaming at me, "GO! GO GET BAPTIZED! You haven't done it yet, and if you really mean what you say when you say that you want this to be the year you get close to Me, DO IT." (in reference to my One Word) That was the first time I've ever been 100% sure I was hearing God. I was baptized as a baby, but that's not the same thing as making the choice, you know? I asked Taylor where to go for the baptistery. He pointed me in the right direction, so I just walked over to the edge of the stage and ended up running straight into one of the guys who had prayed for me earlier. His name is Brennan. He said hey, and I asked him if I could get baptized. Another guy asked what I said and Brennan told him, and he took me in the back where I could change into this waterproof suit thing. As we got to one of the changing rooms, he asked me if I wanted one of them to do it, and I didn't know why at the time, but I asked him to. He said yes and went to go put on a pair of full-body waders. He was back by the time I'd changed.
Then, he took me back out to the pool, and warned me it was really hot as I climbed in. This is where it got kind of funny - the water was SCALDING. (I later found out it was about 100 degrees, I can't believe that didn't bother other people!) I tried to get in, but literally could not stand it, and another guy told Brennan the one in the lobby was nice and cold, so we went out there. He let me hold his hand to keep from slipping on the tile floor since my feet were now all wet. The lobby was empty at this point, and I really appreciated that in the moment because for some reason, I was nervous, so I liked that it was just me, Brennan, and God. He explained to me all about baptism and what it meant, and he asked me if I believed that Jesus Christ was the Lord and Savior, and I said yes. He told me that when I came back up, all of my sins would be washed away and that I would be free. He dipped me back, which was a little awkward because of the steel in my back. I had to hold his hand again as we walked back across the lobby, and then this girl just walked up to me and said, "Hi, I know you don't know me, but I want to give you a hug! I am so happy for you, congratulations!" and it was just the sweetest thing. I've never felt as much love from complete strangers as I did there. Brennan was asking me how I felt and stuff, and I couldn't even think straight. Like, I could seriously barely form the words to talk to him. It was so weird, I've never felt anything like that. I was squeezing his hand kind of tightly because I was shaking a little, and he just kept saying, "I've got you. I've got you." He had to take me across the stage to get to the side where I could get to my changing room, and when we got up there, he held my arm up (like the ref does with the winner of a wrestling match, haha that's the best analogy I can think of) and the whole crowd applauded and cheered. They did that for every single person who got baptized. (There were over 30!! They were there past midnight still baptizing people.)
Brennan told me after we got changed to go get my phone, because he wanted to give me his phone number. He said I could call or text him anytime I needed someone to talk to or pray with, that he didn't care if it was 4 am, he would be there. I've never had someone say that to me EVER. As I worked my way back through the crowd, everyone I looked at was smiling at me, or patting me on the shoulder, and saying they were so happy for me and congrats and stuff like that. One guy came up and told me how brave I was. When I finally got to my seat, Bruno reached out and gave me a hug, which is something he basically never does because he's just not a touchy feely person. I grabbed my phone and camera and headed back for Brennan, but then I ran into Taylor, who walked up just looking at me like "daaaaaaang" with wide eyes haha. He said I was so bold to do that and gave me a hug, too, and then I went to find Brennan. I got his number and then asked if I could get a picture with him, and he said yes, so we went out to the lobby where the lights were on and got someone to take the pic. We started talking some more and I started telling him more about the whole family situation and I started crying again. He kept hugging me and reminding me of the Truth and that he'll be here 24/7 whenever I need him.
Brennan. I will never forget this angel.
Brennan left to go back in, and I went to find Joe because I wanted to give him a hug, too. He was sitting literally three rows from the door, right there where I could find him. I got a picture with him, too, and told him how much what he said meant to me and that he had a hand in what pushed me to do that. As we were talking, I told him how good it felt to have a real Christian support system around me, because as amazing as my friends are, I've never been close to this vulnerable with them, except for Matt and even with him it was never about God. He reminded me to rely on God, not them, and I told him I know that, but it just felt amazing because not being in a family of Christians or having a church family can make the hard times feel even more alone for me because I crave human contact so much. Then, this girl walked up and gave Joe a hug, and he said, "Michal, Mallory feels alone. Will you be her friend?" Literally, just like that. And she looked at me, smiled, said "welcome to the family" and told me to look her up on Facebook. :)
Joe. aka Waffles! :)
I got a couple more pictures, too, because I kept thinking to myself that I wanted to remember every little detail.
the pool where it happened. the verse on the plaque is John 4:14
me with two of my favorite boys. :) I'm so glad that they were there to witness that.
I went back to the dressing room I'd been in because I let my hairties in there, but I didn't see them, so I came back out. Other people who had been baptized were up on stage talking and even though I felt like I didn't want to when I went by them the first time, I decided to do it on the way back. I had to make it short, though, because I noticed Callie and Phoebe were there about that point. By the time I got out to them, Taylor had told them, so they told me congrats, too. :) I noticed the singer out there in the lobby, so I went and just told him thank you for playing a part in all of that because his being a vessel for God to reach me was part of what pushed me to do that. He was very sweet. Then, I just said bye to Bruno, Taylor, and Joe, and we left because at this point it was almost midnight.
AND SCENE! Haha. Sorry for that being so terribly long, but can you really blame me for wanting to get every little detail of such an epic night down on record? :)
Seriously, though. Thinking about this just blows my mind, and I experienced it all!! I honestly FEEL like a whole new person. It sounds weird, I know, but it felt like my whole life started over. I can't explain how grateful I am to have experienced the depth of love from that entire crowd. I've never felt love like that from other people, I don't think. And I wasn't scared or shy once, I felt like I was with family I'd known for years.
And Brennan. Seriously. I remember every feeling I had as I talked with him and listened to him. His instant dedication to me and teaching me what he can about God is something I can only think to call Christ-like. Every single time I hugged him, it felt like I was hugging Christ, like I could feel God using Brennan to physically reach me. Now I know why I asked him to baptize me, even though I didn't realize at the time - it was because God knew that I needed a friend/mentor like him in my life. And the fact that THIS happened on a trip to visit friends, by myself, in a city and state I've never been to before, a trip I almost canceled because of the infection on my arm, just shows me how much God had His hand all over this trip. He wanted me there, and He was not going to let anything get in the way of that. He loves me so much, He was willing to pursue me. He loves you that much, too. It was meant to happen just like this. It was perfect, I didn't feel like I had to act a certain way to try and fit in with people; instead, no one knew me, I was myself, and everyone took me right in, anyway.
And maybe I'm reading too much into it, but how perfect is it that it was pouring rain all day the one day that I let God wash all of my sins away? :)
I already knew I was going to remember this trip as a whole for a long time, but this night, and all of the people I met in the course of this night who had a hand in it, especially Brennan, they are memories I will carry with me forever.
April 5, 2012: the beginning of my eternal life.
Thank you, God.