This Is My Story, This Is My Song

Most of you are familiar with the hymn from which those words come.  If not, go watch this new take on it, and then come right back 🙂  I’m not going anywhere.  I’ll wait, but be warned: grab your tissue box.

Are you crying now?  I am.  I’ve had that Big Daddy Weave song for at least a year and never watched that video.  God does not play!  When He tells me to do something and it gets hard, like wading through the past to write my story, He always gives me just what I need at just the right time to keep me moving forward.  So, onward!

At age eighteen, about a month after graduating high school, I moved from Pennsylvania to Indiana with my youth pastors and their three young kids.  In my mind I would be helping them out with their kids, but the reality was, they became my family and took care of me.  It wasn’t until years later that I really appreciated the enormity of what they had done for me.  It still blows my mind.   It was also a bit of a difficult adjustment.  I went from pretty much having no rules and being autonomous, to bunking (in literal bunk beds) with their eight year old (I think she was eight at the time…the memory you know, it’s not so great), to sharing a station wagon with the family, and having a curfew.  I need to publicly apologize to them for the moody, mess of a teenager I was, and thank them for their love and care of me!

This next part is the most important part of my whole story, but it does require a little backstory that I purposely skipped over.  I have one other memory of my early years.  I remember my dad leading me in prayer to accept Jesus as my Savior and King at the age of five.  We were part of a church family until my early teen years.  I have no idea why we stopped going.  I believe something happened, possibly a church split, and we never found a new church home.  That’s their story to tell, and I don’t have many memories of that time anyway.  As with most kids raised in the church, my faith was that of my parents.  Meaning, I believed the gospel to the best of my young ability and tried to walk it out as my parents did.  I call it “faith mimicry” (I just totally made that up) which is based on observational learning theory.   That’s how we teach and train our children though.  They learn by doing what we do.  Good or bad.

There comes a point in any person’s walk of faith where they have to decide to make what they’ve been practicing, faith, their own.  Every person on earth has to make this choice at some time.  Will you put your faith in God, or keep trusting that you can do it all on your own?  That point came for me in August of 1992.  The family I was now part of found a church home, and we went every time the doors were open.  After a few weeks of being reminded of how much God loved me, and how the emptiness I felt was because of sin, and that I needed Jesus to bridge the gap between me and His Father, I made my choice.  Best. Decision. Ever.

Life did not immediately get better.  It was still hard.  None of my circumstances had changed, and I didn’t start making the right choices right away.  It was, and still is, a process of growing in God’s grace.  But this was the turning point.  A pivotal moment.  Clarity didn’t come right away, but looking back from where I sit today, I can see that it was God that led me to leave Pennsylvania, through an unlikely situation.  Much like what it says in Genesis 50 as Joseph (the one with the colorful coat) is speaking to his brothers who sold him into slavery, “what was meant for evil, God intended for good.”  I may have thought I was running away from my past, but I was really running toward my Heavenly Father.  I just didn’t know it at that time.

There aren’t adequate words to impress upon you the importance of that ultimate decision.  To accept what Jesus has done for us in taking our sinful nature, and in doing that, allowing us to have a relationship with God.  If you’ve never heard the gospel, which means ‘good news’, I can’t say it any more plainly than Amanda Jenkins does on page 156 in her book, confessions of a raging perfectionist:

“God created life to be perfect…Eden was perfect.  God gave Adam and Eve the choice (in the form of a tree) to believe Him or to not believe Him.  From the first moment Adam and Eve chose to go their own way, guilt, shame, and brokenness were the result.  With defiance came consequences, including that Adam and Eve were removed from the garden. But not because God was angry– quite the contrary.  When Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, their relationship with God had been broken.  They couldn’t be permitted to also eat from the tree of life because if they did, they would have lived forever in their broken, cursed state. And so, to protect them from spending eternity in the mess they’d made, God drove them out and set a guard at the tree.

God made clothes [for them], which is an easy part of the story to overlook, but it reveal something extraordinary.  In the midst of this tragic moment, when relationship with God had been broken, God saw that Adam and Eve were embarrassed to be naked and were struggling to cover themselves–so He clothed them.  He loved them and showed them mercy, even in their disbelief.  He covered their sin and shame–a precursor to the cross.”

When Jesus died on the cross, He got rid of the internal mess we’d made–our sin.  We’re stuck with the external consequences until He comes back, but the other good news is that if we accept His help, we’re not alone in it.  It’s not my job, or anyone who claims to follow Jesus, to convince you that this is true.  Our job is to tell you our stories, introduce you to our good God and His story, and then let you decide for yourself.  Choose wisely.

In the next chapter: why getting married at 19 is not the best idea.

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Middle School Is Kind To No One

Now that I’ve made the decision to take math in the fall, I suddenly have time again.  The pile of books I want to read has been accumulating, and as anyone who has taken a college course knows, required reading can kill a love of reading in general.   I refuse to let that happen!  I’ve continued to read for pleasure, but it takes me forever to finish a book when all I can manage is a chapter before I fall asleep.  Being sick and having time led me to pick up a book a friend gave me, “confessions of a raging perfectionist,” by Amanda Jenkins.  Our stories might be different, but I’d swear she was reading my mind.  She even writes like I think and speak.  This book helped push me into starting to share my story.  Yesterday I read the first four chapters, then immediately wrote and posted the first part.  It was really a God thing.  It was like I had to do it.  So I did.  And I’m really glad I did.

Today I read another few chapters in the book and in the chapter on testimony, Amanda writes, “transparency is the necessary starting place for testimony, not to mention relationship…”   There it is.  Another reason I need to continue sharing my story.  I’m telling you, if you are open to hearing what God is saying to you, you will hear Him everywhere. My testimony is my story, and it needs to be told, if only for my own benefit.

Relationships are hard for me.  I have a tendency to ache for close, honest relationships with people, but not trust them to not hurt me, so I hold people at arms length, which is counter productive.  We learn about relationships early on, but the practice of forming relationships comes into play in a big way during our teenage and young adult years.  That would be the hell known as middle and high school.  These were not good years for me.  Although, I don’t think middle school is kind to anyone. I don’t have many specific memories of those years, but rather an impression of being anxious and unhappy a lot of the time.  There was the normal teasing in middle school (one boy gave me the nickname of fish lips…I have no recollection why, just that I hated that name.)  Now, looking back, this photo is proof that I probably deserved some sort of teasing.  Those glasses?!? That hair?!?

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7th Grade

Seriously, middle school is just awful.  The best thing that came out of middle school is that I met my best friend.  Up until 6th grade I had been pretty sheltered in private school.  All of the sudden I was thrust into the big, bad world of public school and it’s mean, name-calling kids.  This next part really dates me, and proves my nerdy status even back then.  I would listen to Amy Grant on my Walkman on the bus with my headphones on to drown out the drama.  One day a girl was bold enough to ask me what I was listening to.  I told her, and she said she was a Christian and listened to Amy Grant too, and the rest is best-friend history.  Barb and I are still great friends to this day! I do have some good memories of times with her in Spring City, Pennsylvania, and she was my rock through our years at Spring-Ford High.

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Barb and I at Tech School Graduation

 

When I got to high school, things really started to change in regards to relationships.  I got a boyfriend who was much older than I was, and since I already thought I was “damaged goods” you can imagine how that all played out.  He placed a high value on how I looked and acted, and constantly told me I needed to watch my weight.  Being young and dumb, I believed him.  Which led to me spending the bulk of my high school years, even after he was history, counting every fat gram and calorie I consumed.  I was very proud of myself for staying under 10 grams of fat a day most of my entire senior year.  I was committed.  I was thin, sick a lot, but still saw myself as fat when I looked in the mirror.  I was never diagnosed with an eating disorder.  I didn’t binge and purge like some friends with bulimia did, and I didn’t truly starve myself so I wasn’t anorexic, but my unhealthy eating habits have taken their toll on my health, both physically and psychologically.

Throughout high school I had four steady boyfriends, not at the same time mind you.  Things pretty much went the same in each relationship, because until you change, you are doomed to repeat the mistakes you bring to the table.  Instead of finding my identity in Christ, I found my identity in what I was good at (working with kids), and who I was dating.  When I dated a hockey player, I learned to play hockey and wear goalie gear and have pucks shot at me.  When I dated a BMX biker/skate boarder who was into Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, and the Cure, I shaved the back of my head and hung out on the hood of the car and watched for cops so he and his buddies could do their tricks in the parking lots of closed businesses.  I was still a pretty good kid though.  No drugs or alcohol for me, which is only by God’s grace, because with all my issues, I’m a prime candidate for that sort of thing.  I’ve never even smoked a cigarette.  Mostly because with my allergies and asthma (which I forgot to mention yesterday, I’ve been dealing with since the age of five) it most likely would have landed me in the ER.  To sum up; my philosophy in high school was, life sucks and then you die.  If you listen to enough punk rock lyrics and believe their lies, you might come to the same conclusion.  To further demonstrate the inward turmoil of my teenage years, my other favorite music style was 1950’s doo wop music.  Go figure. Oldies 98 out of Philadelphia was an awesome radio station!  Further proof I’ve always been weird and complicated, swinging from one end of the pendulum to the other; from depression to hope.

Midway through my senior year, my parents split up.  Since it’s not only my story to tell, I will leave out the details, but let me just say it was soap opera worthy and rocked my world.  Shortly after I graduated I had a really hard decision to make.  Stay with what I perceived as my broken family or leave with friends who offered to let me move with them to Indiana and be their live-in nanny.  I chose to leave Pennsylvania and the familiar in the hopes of outrunning the pain I wasn’t ready to face.  Again, all your baggage goes with you unless you leave it at the cross for Jesus take care of.

And that’s it for today.  I’m tired.  I have another sinus infection and all I’ve been good for these past few days is sleeping, watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix, reading, and writing my story.  And I’m totally okay with that.  I’ll leave you with my senior picture, which when I look at it all I can think is I want my young neck back!  I’m not sure why our school did this, but all the girls had to wear this drapey, off-the-shoulder black thing in the yearbook photo, so other than the size of our hair and our choice of jewelry, we all looked alike.  You can’t tell with that perm blocking your view, but the back of my head was shaved too.  I was just that cool in 1992 😉   FullSizeRender(2)

 

Scabs and Scars

It’s time to tell my story.  I was actually supposed to do this years ago when I went through the Celebrate Recovery program at my church.  At that time it was for myself, but I wasn’t ready to commit it to paper.  Now I feel it’s time to not only write these words for myself, but to share them with others.  You’ll have to excuse any sarcasm and television references.  My hope is that someone might learn something that helps them not do a lot of the dumb stuff I did.  So much pain in our lives is caused by our own choices.  How we react to the things we are faced with is even our own choice.  I have chosen poorly more times than I care to remember.  Which brings me to my chosen title: scabs and scars. Which is really a terrible title.

Scabs are gross and if you mess with them too much, you have to start the healing process again, and scars can form.  I have seen kids in the classes I substitute teach pick scabs off so they could go to the nurse.  Why?  Why do they do this?  In their case it’s because they want to avoid another worksheet.  If you don’t want a wound to scar, you need to do two things; keep the scar well moisturized and leave it alone.  I have scars all over the place.  I have trouble with leaving things alone.  This is not only true of our external skin, but our souls as well.  As often as I sing, “It Is Well With My Soul,” which is the absolute truth of it, if you had the ability to see a picture of my soul, you would see the scars, and it would not look well.   This thought came to me as a I watched Arrow the other night. Yes, I watch Arrow.  And The Flash.  I do have enough self-respect to avoid the ridiculousness that is Super Girl.  And no, I don’t watch Arrow just for Stephen Amell‘s abs, although he does spend a good portion of each episode shirtless.  Back to the scars.  The character of the Green Arrow is covered in scars from bullet wounds, knife fights, torture, and generally abusing his body to save Star City, and it almost hurts to look at all of them.  I’m flying my nerd flag high in this post.  The point is when we pick at scabs and don’t allow God to work on them in His timing, we cause the scarring to be worse.

I have very few childhood memories.  The earliest memory I have is playing school with my stuffed animals in the front room of my grandparents house.  My Nan (what we called my grandmother) would let me use one of the rooster mugs to pretend I was drinking coffee, because my five-year-old self believed all teachers drank coffee.  Truth! I tried to find a pic of those mugs, but there aren’t any on the internet.  They must be worth something, or just so ugly no one cares!  That’s the only memory I really have.  My other memories are sketchy, even up through my high school years.  I’m told it’s because of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  A few years after that memory some bad stuff happened to me, and my brain decided it was less painful to remember anything; good or bad.  I don’t think childhood molestation was any less prevalent in the early 80’s than it is now, I just think it wasn’t talked about as much back then, and certainly not exposed in the media like it is today.  I’ve had years of prayer, Bible study, and therapy that make it possible for me to discuss this and honestly have no anxiety, fear, or shame over that situation anymore; however, it’s something that I allowed to define me and be used as the lens through which I made decisions for far too long.

My story is not at all unique and when you get to deep, heart level sharing with people, you find many of them have some sort of trauma in their past; physical, sexual, mental, or emotional abuse.  The point: we are not alone in this struggle.  I am not alone.  As I said, by the grace of God and a specific type of psychotherapy, I’ve moved past that.  The memories haven’t returned, but I’m no longer haunted by the fact that I can’t remember.  Recently I’ve been working through how my childhood experiences have affected, and still do, affect me.  Just because you move past something it doesn’t mean the ripples are not felt from time to time.   I did get an A in Into to Psychology.  That course was at least good for something.  Algebra, however, is not.

My recent realization that many of the choices I made in the past have hurt others, thanks to this season of Arrow for helping to push that point home, is what I’m working through now.  At times I would blame God, “How could He let that happen?” I blamed my parents, “Why were they not protecting me?”  As we all know, in the blame game no one wins.  All it did was put a relational wedge, of my own making, between my parents and I, and worse still, made me keep my Father God at arms length.  Back to the whole scabs and scars thing; it occurred to me the other day that what used to be a scab I constantly picked at and re-opened, has now become a scar.  The healing part is done.  That knowledge has given me the clarity to look around and see that I have caused pain to those I love most as I lived all those years making decisions out of fear and my own pain.   I’m trying to make amends, to work on other areas that need attention.  My prayer is, “Moisturize me, Lord!”  That was a total Doctor Who reference, right there!  Ephesians talks about how God gave Himself up for the church and cleanses her by the washing of water with the word.   That’s Bible talk for Jesus dying to offer us the chance to get clean from the sin we all have.  When I invite Him to wash my wounded soul and cover up my wounds,  as Psalm 147 says,  then healing can take place.  Without Christ there is no healing.  There just isn’t.  Jesus bears scars on His body because of me and my sin.  The very least I can do is tell others what He did on my behalf, and that He did it for them as well.

These words got away from me and this first installment feels way heavier than I wanted it to, but there it is.  I’m going to keep writing throughout the summer, now that math is no longer on the table.  Thanks be to God!