Blessed to be Broken

God's not finished with me yet!

I grew up in Elmira…I moved back to “Hellmira”

on July 29, 2014


I was born and raised in a city called Elmira, situated in upstate New York.  The town is nestled in the folds of gently rolling hills that display a gorgeous array of color during the fall.  It was this vibrant display of reds, yellows, golds, and greens that I missed all the years I was away and every fall longed to see again.

Despite missing certain things about Elmira, I vowed never, ever to move back.  Too much crap in my life that I didn’t want to deal with and too many haunted memories of a life I buried with the family members who had passed on from this life.

Being away for 29 years things most certainly didn’t stay the same. Before I even returned home, I was told, “there’s nothing here.” “It’s a welfare city.”  “There’s nothing but drugs and inmates, ex-cons with their worthless families here.” Elmira was being referred to as “Hellmira.” After I moved back and would tell people I had lived in AK for several years, they would say, “what are you doing here?” with disdain dripping from their tongues. I began asking myself the same question.

Back in 1972, the city suffered from a major flood. Those who lived here then and still do today will say “Elmira never recovered from the flood.” In 2012, an F1 tornado actually touched down and did some damage. The city is home to the Elmira Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison and just a couple miles away in neighboring Southport is a “supermax” prison.   Indeed, why would someone want to move “here?”

A year ago, I wanted nothing more than to go someplace else. I had my sights set on Charlotte, NC for several reasons and was further convinced after being able to visit the area.  I was tickled pink about moving. I told my friends and family I was moving and started the wheels in motion. Then something unexpected happened.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”~~Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

I was doing an online Bible Study with Proverbs 31 ministries called “What happens when women say yes to God,” by Lysa TerKeurst.  It was about being obedient when God calls.  Saying yes, even when you don’t understand or want to, but you know, deep in your heart that God is asking you to say yes.

A girl that I used to play with growing up here in this city of Elmira, now, like me, a grown woman asked me to a ladies lake retreat.  She said in the message, she knew it was last minute but she was learning to be obedient when God nudged her.  Funny, here I am doing a Bible study about obedience, and an old friend not doing this Bible study was being obedient.  Let’s just call this a Godincidence.

After the lake retreat, I told my new friends I would attend their church.  Gonna be honest, I really didn’t want to because I really loved my on-line church.  The church my friend attended was located on the Southside, where I grew up and too close to the very homes I remembered, or wanted to forget.  After the worship service, I felt the nudge to drive around the old neighborhoods.  It wasn’t pretty.  A lot had changed and not all for the better.

As I was driving, I got the distinct impression from my Heavenly Father, this was a city in need and where I wanted to go was well taken care of, and in good hands.  I heard the door to North Carolina close.

Ughhh!!  I argued…”the people of this city clearly don’t care, why should I?” “What can one person do to change a defeated attitude that was reflected everywhere I looked?”  And as if that wasn’t enough, when it was time for me to move from my then, current living situation, and after having told the realtor the one area of town I didn’t want to move was the “Southside,” where did I end up?  Yep, the Southside.

Could I have moved to North Carolina?  Sure, I could have moved there, but then I would have missed out on some pretty amazing things God wanted to place in my path.  Like meeting my half-brother who I only knew about for 27 years and who lives less than a mile from me.  And I could brag for days about his beautiful son and daughter.

In this place, He’s teaching me, refining me, loving me, and allowing me to shine His light in the very areas I was ready to run out on because I thought I was too good to be bothered with this mess.  We are called to be a light in the darkness, but before we can be the light, we have to let go of our own darkness and let Him in…stripped of my pride and haughtiness, I look to the left and to the right and I no longer see people less than me or even more than me, I see people just like me, created in His image.

This city of Elmira, is not dead.  The people of Elmira are very much alive and we have the same resurrection power in us as Jesus did when He rose from the grave!!  Has this city had some setbacks?  You bet it has!!  Is it defined by those setbacks?  Only if that’s what comes out in our attitudes and actions.  It’s just as easy to sing praise about our home as it is to complain.  We can’t very well show love when we’re busy knocking down a city whose motto is “honoring the past, building the future.”

What kind of future are we building if all we can do is talk about how our city never recovered from a flood that happened over 42 years ago?  Seriously, 42 years ago.  That’s longer than the Israelites had to wander in the desert for their disobedience.

It’s time to rise up, dust that flood mud off, and get stepping into a land flowing with milk and honey.  A land our children want to run to, not run from.  A land where Gods love shines bright for all to see.  To once again be the crown jewel in this area.  I’m ready for that land, how about you?

If you haven’t read up on Elmira and it’s rich history, you can check it out here on Wikipedia: Elmira, New York  Don’t feel like reading? How about a video?  


4 responses to “I grew up in Elmira…I moved back to “Hellmira”

  1. Missy says:

    Oh, how I love me some resurrection power! Your attitude is an inspiration. Any city to claim you as a resident, is lucky indeed!

  2. Bill McBride. says:

    Nice Job Ms. Cordell. I really like the comment 42 Years? Thats longer than the Israelites had to wander in the desert for their disobedience. Puts things in to perspective.

    • Thanks Bill 🙂 hard to believe it was that long ago, and harder still to watch so many with the flood defeating mentality. Still a very beautiful place, just needs a little love is all.

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