Originally published in the quarterly ExplorerWinter 2013 edition.

As many of you may know, during the last couple of weeks, I have experienced events that took a drastic turn in my life. First, in my travel softball tournament, a line drive struck me in the face while I was pitching, and I had to be taken to the emergency room. I eventually had surgery about a week after my injury. Dealing with this was one of the toughest things that I have had to endure in my life so far, but what was tougher is what happened right after my injury.

Just a few days after my trip to the emergency room, I received news right after school that my grandfather had passed away. This took a great toll on my emotions and stress started to take over me.

Even more recently, my boyfriend, who I had for a little over a year, broke up with me, adding more stress. Feeling lost and heartbroken, I wasn’t sure why God had done this to me. My church family stepped in and practically saved the day by doing so much for my family and me.

Dealing with all of these tragic events in my life would not have been possible without the loving care of not only my family, but the youth group and church as well. The very night on the day of my injury, my youth group made a trip to my house and brought me lots of treats, huge hugs, and a prayer. During the course of the past couple of weeks, I have also received a tremendous amount of cards, flowers, Facebook posts, and caring hugs from so many people in the church congregation. I never thought so many people cared that much about me. Realizing this, I felt loved, cared for, comforted, and unafraid. Most of all, I felt welcomed.

Our theme for our youth group this year is welcome, which includes making people feel comfortable and loved not only within our youth group, but in our daily lives as well. For me, my closest friends are in the youth group, and without them I honestly don’t know what I would do. The goal as a youth group is to make everyone feel this way towards each other as a group and to share this love with our community. The love I felt the past couple of weeks is this exact love. This love and welcome comes from God through our family and friends, telling us that everything happens for a reason and is going to be okay in the end. I know that I will still be upset for the upcoming weeks with all that has happened, but knowing that it is God’s plan for me, I am comforted.

My mom always tells me, “You have a strong foundation from our church. Because of this, you will never be alone.” I have certainly felt welcomed in some of the strongest ways and cannot thank you enough. This experience has lost me a wonderful grandfather and boyfriend, but has gained me a stronger relationship not only with my family, but with my church family as well. Most importantly, it has drawn me closer to God and there is nothing more that I could ask for.