Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I'm Not Trying to Turn This Into a Craft Blog...

But this is the cutest thing ever! Amanda wants one and I want to run right out and get some felt but realistically that won't happen until after we get back from our Thanksgiving trip to my parents house.

And I found this a couple of days ago and I think it's the sweetest party idea ever. It looks so simple and I was so excited about it knowing that Chloe loves butterflies. Can you believe she wrinkled up her nose and said, "I'd like it if it was surfer girl". My daughter and her one track mind. I'd do it for Halle but since she's turning 3 and is still a bit clueless on the party thing, I think I'm going to skip a party for her this year. I'm not planning on doing that once she understands things more because I don't want her to feel slighted especially since her birthday is only 5 days before Christmas.

I'd also like to put a link for the yummiest sugar scrub and body butter ever. Kiki's Suds is made by a friend of Trav's and I asked for it for my birthday. He got the Vanilla Pumpkin sugar scrub and body butter and I'm totally hooked. She also sent a sample for Bahama Mama dreamy whipped lotion and I'm definitely getting some of that too. I think I'm addicted.

And since I'm blogging I thought I'd post some useful little tidbits. Such as, did you know that to get melted wax out of a candle holding device you can just pop them into the freezer for about 20 minutes and the wax will just pop out? I think my Mom told me that after I cracked a candle holder by trying to boil the wax off. It was part of a candle tree set. It was beautiful when it was lit but I had to throw the whole thing away because I couldn't find a replacement. And did you know that you can run the floor mats from your car through the washing machine? I tried it out of desperation and they came out perfectly clean and smelled like fabric softener. I told Tisra and she tried it too and was very happy with how it turned out. I'm probably going to do it again before we go out of town.

OK, I guess I'm out of tidbits at two but both of those have saved me a tremendous amount of time and frustration. I hope they help.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Orange is My New Favorite Color

OK, not really but I do like it a LOT because of this blog. Now I want something orange. I originally decided to paint the kitchen yellow because I could use an amazing amount of color with it so I'm thinking of some sort of orange accessory for the spring/summer season. I didn't put her blog up here just because of the orange thing though. She also has tons of great ideas for projects- I would say crafts but she kind of went on a tirade about how she hates that word craft. So whatever you call it she has tons of great ideas- I think she's graphic designer by trade. And also at the end of this article there is a well laid out plan for marketing your products. Now, I don't see myself ever doing that because it's not my thing. But several friends have talked about 'maybe one day I'll...' so here you go.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Chloe and Stuff

Chloe's teacher sent home a note on Wednesday that said the school was having an award ceremony and that Chloe was receiving an award and that we were invited to attend. So Travis went (I couldn't make it) and Chloe was awarded a certificate for perseverance. She was so excited! Now, it's tempting for the cynical Amy to think, "Hmmm, what better way to appease a ticked off Mommy than to give her kid an award." But Chloe has had a rough year and she has persevered and I think she totally deserves this.

On a different note- last weekend we went out to the Natchez Trace with the Fadely's and took pictures. Is it any wonder I love fall so much? Or that I love living in Franklin? The parkway is only about 8 miles from our house- love, love, love it!

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Excitement is in the Air!!!

Ah, Thanksgiving! I'm so excited! I just looked at Chloe's school schedule and found out that she has the entire week off next week. So I'm thinking of all sorts of fun stuff to do. I'd like to take just Chloe to downtown Franklin and look at the shops- because she loves shopping- but I'd also like to walk through the neighborhood and enjoy all of the fall foliage and take pictures. There is a store on the corner of 2nd ave and church (I think) that I've wanted to go to for months but never seem to make it that far off of main st.

I've also enjoyed a crafty type blog lately with the cutest ideas for handmade little things. A fabric house, felt cupcake, festive bunting & a chocolate felt doughnut? My mind is all-a-whirl with the fun we could have. Then my practical side asks, "what in the world would you do with all of that stuff? Not to mention you have nowhere else to put it." *Grrr* I don't like my practical side. But at least none of these things would contain dangerous levels of lead. I didn't think I would be in a panick when the first lead issues started coming out, probably because *I* don't buy very many toys for my kids anyway. But with the recall of Aqua Dots andCurious George I have to say that I did get a bit freaked out and started scouring Etsy for toy ideas. As and aside, Amanda saw me looking at Etsy the other night and was totally hooked. She now has her own account and has dozens of items in her wish list.

So back to the handmade goodies. I think I could have some useful purpose for some of those things. I'm at a loss on the fabric house (that looks so totally simple that I want to make it) but the cupcake and doughnut could be very cute party favors. Of course I would be stealing that idea from Christy's blog (which I would put a link for but I haven't asked her). She made super-cute knitted cupcakes for a cupcake themed party. I like knitting but it's not my most favorite thing in the universe so I think the felt ones would be easier. But Chloe's birthday isn't until June. I could do the bunting in surfer fabrics that could hang in Chloe's bedroom and she could help me make them. Or maybe I should just finish the 82 projects I've started around the house- *sigh*.

Oh and my birthday was Monday. I don't think that birthdays should ever fall on Monday because, really, life is just flying by way too fast for anybody to slow down long enough to appreciate a Monday birthday. The previous weekend though was great. The Fadely's were kind enough to watch the two little girls so Travis and I had dinner, went to the mall (ooh big fun), and went home. It doesn't sound like a huge big deal but I was sick and didn't feel like doing a lot. But we had time together, which we hadn't had in at least 3 weeks so just being able to walk around holding hands and talking was a huge treat.

Ooh, and speaking of treats I think Chloe and I should make some of those next week too. I haven't made the pumpkin pops that I mentioned a month or so ago and this would be a great time. Well, and the window for that is almost closed. If I wait until after Thanksgiving they'll have to be reindeer pops and I don't think I'm talented enough for that. But maybe if I used cocoa crispies....hmmm. OK, I think I'm done rambling now but if anyone has any ideas I'd be happy to hear them.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Where To Start? The Finale

I'm done sharing now. When I first started this I thought I'd be sharing mostly about our life in the last 7 years and would just kind of skim my part of it. But as I look back I realize what a miracle my life is. I remember telling my Dad on more than one occasion that "I shouldn't be who I am without having had lots of therapy". And it's true. But what is miraculous is that the creator of the universe loved me enough to heal me. He got into the broken places in a way that no one ever could. I don't think I'm completely "there" yet but I firmly believe that I will be. I'm certainly not the broken mess who's life was over before she ever reached 20- I'm speaking from and outsider-looking-in opinion. In my opinion my life didn't start until I was 20, even though I'd made a lifetime of grown-up mistakes already. And now I consider myself to be one of the most blessed people on the planet. I have a wonderful husband and three amazing daughters. I wish I could regale you all with the tales of the things they say and do and just who they are that makes them so amazing but you have your own special people and know what I mean. I wanted to change the world and instead God put me in the position of being a wife and stay at home mom. He gave me what I needed. And I'm satisfied with that. I'm not going to make any predictions about the future and what we'll do. Our lives are in God's hands and I believe that He will fulfill every purpose that he has for us. And for that I'm thankful.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Where To Start? Part 5

After I left my first position as a M-O-M (funny) I have to say that I was pretty much devastated. I think I just mostly stayed in bed for about a month. And it was at this point that I learned forgiveness. To say that I had to forgive is implying that I was wronged but without being wronged there is no need for forgiveness, I don't think I'm teetering to say that much.

I remember clearly one afternoon I decided to take Amanda to the mall in a neighboring city (the two closest malls to us were each about 45 minutes away so I always went to the nicest one) and I heard a radio preacher talking about forgiveness. I don't remember exactly who he was but I remember that he said there were no "buts" you just have to forgive. At this point I was very hurt and bitter and was full of anger about the situation. My mind was constantly in a whirl about specific things that happened. So I just made a decision to forgive. I didn't want to forgive. I didn't think anybody deserved my forgiveness but I couldn't bear the thought of *people* coming between my relationship with the Lord. So anytime a thought came into my mind about things that happened I just said "I forgive them". I didn't know what else to do. I hadn't ever seen an outline of "this is how you forgive people" so I just figured it out myself. So I went from thinking about things every second of every day to thinking about it every five minutes. I continued to just say in my mind "I forgive them". Then I'd think about it every ten minutes and the next week I'd think about it every 15 minutes and then every hour and then twice a day and then once a day, once a week, once a month to rarely ever thinking about it again. I don't remember exactly what happened there now. I mean, if I really sat here and thought about it I could drag those memories back but I quit doing that because I knew if I did and got angry again then I'd have to forgive them again and I just wanted to be done with it.

I think that there is a misconception about forgiveness which is that forgiveness is about the injuring party. But it isn't really. Forgiveness is about the person injured and their emotional, physical and spiritual well being. Forgiveness is so that the injured person will be whole. Unforgiveness, when allowed free reign of a person, causes you to interpret every action by every person in the light of being hurt. You can never be whole, never be free of the pain that was caused until you forgive. In my case I decided that as long as I didn't forgive I was letting the offenders in my life control me. And I'm speaking of people with which you've determined that there is no hope of having a relationship with. Forgiveness isn't about setting yourself up for the firing squad again. The thought that you have to forgive and then set yourself back up in an emotionally or physically dangerous situation is not correct. You can forgive someone and move on without ever having a relationship with them again. Forgiveness doesn't mean you put blinders on and not see someone for who they are. Forgiveness is freedom.

Where To Start? Part 4

I graduated. I got the job. I moved Amanda and me 7 hours north into our very first teensy, cinder block, rental house. I was excited about everything that God was going to do and gave that job all I had. I set guidelines to fix every problem that the pastor said they had, I taught new songs, I set practice times- tons of practice time. And I pissed everybody right off. I didn't know what I was doing, exactly. I'd learned how to conduct rehearsals, read music and everything else a minister music should know how to do technically but I didn't learn how to deal with people and change.

Now here's where I feel like I'm teetering on a fine line between being godly and professional. Between explaining what happened and just sounding vindictive. So I'm going to have to go with my gut here. And say that my life there was a living hell. But I'm not going to place blame. I'll accept the responsibility that I didn't do everything right and leave it there. On the recommendation of some godly people that were in my life I didn't defend myself then and I'm not going to now.

About six months into my stay there I was praying during our morning prayer time in the sanctuary and the Lord spoke to me and said, "you're going to meet your husband this weekend". Seriously, just like that? I'd been praying for years about this and God was gracious enough to let me know before it happened. Well, it just so happens that it was a few days before my birthday and I was going to be able to go home for the first time in six months. I had seen a couple of college friends that visited me since I'd been in my new location but other than that I'd only seen my family that visited. I was very excited about a lot of things. First of all, I was going to get to drive on the Interstate! My new city was a-whole-hour from a major interstate so I felt like I'd been dropped off in the middle of nowhere. The area was beautiful but I felt secluded or trapped, however you want to look at it. There were a thousand things I wanted to do when I got home but one of the first things I was going to do was to go to a chapel service at Southeastern. I needed the warm embrace of my Alma Mater. I felt at home again and safe. After chapel I decided I'd pop in and say hi to my voice teacher but on my way to her office I noticed that my piano teacher's car was there and his office came up first so I stopped in there on my way. He was really happy to see me and we jabbered on for a while. Then we heard a knock at the door and he said in a hushed tone "Travis is my next lesson". I answered the door and he was shocked! We hugged and I don't think I've ever been so happy to see someone in my entire life! We all talked and laughed like old times. And Paul (piano teacher) suggested- several times- that Travis and I should go out to lunch. I already had lunch plans with another (guy) friend and said that Travis should come too but he declined- and asked me out for lunch the next day.

So the following day we had lunch at Crisper's and had a great time. I apologized for the way I treated him when we were dating and he said it wasn't necessary. So we parted ways and said we'd catch-up sometime.

Then after just a few short days my trip was over and I was headed back to the new city. Amanda was 8 and had just learned that if you sleep on a trip it makes it go by faster. So while she was sleeping the Holy Spirit was dealing with me. I figured that I was wrong about he whole "meeting my husband thing". But as I was praying I heard the HS say "Travis". I was freaked out a bit figuring I was going crazy so I "rebuked the devil" or something and kept praying. My prayer went something like this.

Amy- praying
HS- Travis
Amy- ahhh!

Etc. until I finally said "OK, I'll pray about it!" Now, I was certain that God was speaking to me but I wanted to be very certain that God was telling me to marry him and not that I should donate a kidney or something. So I did pray, and pray, and pray, and pray- for ten days. I wasn't going to take this lightly and I knew that his plan was to move to Nashville to write music and I wasn't going to screw that up for him. So to make a long story short we did get back together, got engaged and did the long-distance thing for about 5 months.

It really helped the situation I was in to have someone on my side. To have someone to vent to and to have someone to pour life into me that was being sucked out by my circumstances. The Amy Island mentality was quickly deteriorating and I was trying to get used to the idea of happily ever after.

Where To Start? Part 3

OK, I'm feeling a sense of urgency to finish this so I think I'll type my little heart out today and you can read it at your leisure.

So, I'm a senior- finally. It was my 6th year in college and I finally had it all together and was going to graduate. Well, after I completed about 25 hours or so and a senior recital. So as I'm on my merry little way determined to graduate, and to do it single, I had a class with someone all of you know- Travis. I had only dated one guy seriously the whole time I was in college and that was the year before. The four years prior to that I was single. I had crushes and was asked out, etc. But I was so terrified of relationships that if I actually made it to the date without canceling then I'd usually freak myself out enough to not do it again. I was also spending a lot of time with the Lord and finding out who I was. There were several times that I set a specific period of time in which I commited to not date. There were eye-rolls and objections of "again!?!" from those close to me but they had no idea where I was coming from. People (friends, professors) told me to "just get married" but seriously, why would I want to step into that hell again? I hadn't ever seen a godly marriage model so I didn't even know why people bothered to get married. I think I wanted to get married someday but I begged God on a regular basis to not let me marry the wrong guy. It was a very, very lonely time in my life.

But back to Travis. I put off one specific class for my entire college career because I didn't really want to take it but it was required. And they only offered it once- in the fall- at 7:30 am- ugh. I hated 7:30 classes and only took them if I had to. Composition and Arranging- seriously, who wants to do that at 7:30 am? But surprise, surprise, who should be in my class but Travis. We'd had classes together before and we usually sat next to each other (except for one semester when I had a boyfriend and he had a crush on someone else) but I knew that this class wasn't required for his major. He chalked his taking the class to his love for writing, which is true, but that wasn't his only motive. I didn't realize that I'd told him the previous spring that I'd be taking C & A in the fall. Which is just one small thing in the long list of things that I'd forget that I'd told him. So he and I started spending time together because neither of us had a class the next period but I had to go to chapel so we'd usually have breakfast together in the cafe and talk about life, relationships and well, do college students talk about anything else? During one conversation I told him he needed to strap on a parachute and just jump out of the plane, of course I didn't really know *I* was the object of his affection. Funny.

He and I kept running into each other more and more often, especially in the MIDI lab. I'm not sure why we called it that but it's where we wrote music for our class assignments. I ran into him there so often that I started thinking we were being set up by God not realizing that I would tell him during the day when I was going. I don't think I found that out until after we were married. Anyway, he *finally* asked me out after about two months of *accidentally* running into each other. We started dating but really, we were just in different spots in our lives. He wanted to not date anyone unless he was sure that he could marry her (me). I wanted to date casually and wasn't ready to settle down. I was laid back, he was uptight. And he was constantly picking stuff off of my clothes- gaaa! So we were off to a rocky start.

For years I had been praying about what to do after I graduated and I was rapidly approaching decision time. My plan was- barring hearing something specific from God- that I would take Amanda on a trip across the country and then I'd start applying to graduate schools. But one day I was praying while I was laying on my bed and I was looking out the window. It was an amazing winter day, the sky was clear and the temperature was mild- and God spoke. Finally, after all the years of college and not knowing exactly why I was doing what I was doing or how I was going to get from where I was to the dreams God was giving me He spoke. And He told me to be a minister of music & to do it by myself. And I said OK. I didn't want to be a minister of music before but it didn't matter because God said do it so I set about trying to get a job. I talked to the professor in the placement office and started working on my resume. And I broke up with Travis. I was focused, determined and goal oriented. I wasn't going to let anything stop me from doing what God called me to do. People were expendable. I didn't go to college to get married I went to college to change my life.

I was still working on getting everything together to send to churches and while I was in the shower one day my Mom knocked on the door and said, "Amy, there's a pastor on the phone for you". Instead of asking to call him back I just jumped out of the shower, threw on a towel and had my first interview to be a music pastor. I was upfront with him about being divorced and having a child and he said, "I'm not concerned about that I just want the person that God wants here". If only he meant that as much as he thought he did.

Friday, November 09, 2007

So I Shouldn't Post When I'm Ticked Off or Grouchy?

No, I shouldn't post when I'm ticked off. Because I just talked with Chloe's teacher and she said that the whole thing was a mistake and that a letter should have never been sent home. She was merely asking for guidance from her peers for tips to help Chloe hold her pencil correctly and the guidance counselor misunderstood and thought that she was saying that Chloe might need *occupational therapy*. I don't think I mentioned that last night. I explained (calmly again) to her teacher that I felt blind-sided and she understood and said that she would have too. It was especially difficult to deal with last night because that day I was very happy about how well Chloe was doing in school- finally. She wasn't crying anymore and saying that she wanted to stay home. Her teacher confirmed that she is doing very well and the pencil thing isn't even a *huge* deal but is something that she works on with her for time to time. OK, I can move on now.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

We Interrupt This Regularly Scheduled Installment of Drama...

For more drama, can you believe it? I have to vent, really, because my head is about to blow up.

I got a letter from Chloe's school that said in a nutshell that she's having trouble in school and that I need to sign a form saying that they can evaluate her and have a General Intervention Team meet with her teacher. I just had a parent/teacher conference and her teacher said that there were some issues but didn't seem to be overly concerned about anything so this hit me completely out of the blue. All I can picture is a bunch of people in hazmat suits carrying my daughter off to "study" her. I know I'm being dramatic but still. Her teacher could have called or even e-mailed me first to let me know. So I immediately called the school counselor and got the schools voice mail. I left a message in my very best I'm-a-really-pissed-off-Mom-and-it's-in-your-best-interest-to-call-me-back-quickly voice. And she did. I explained (calmly) that this letter was completely out of the blue- especially considering that p/t conferences were less than a month ago. So I found out that the issue is that Chloe doesn't hold her pencil correctly. Seriously. No, really.

The guidance counselor was very apologetic. And said that the teachers were supposed to let the parents know *before* they talk to the guidance counselor. So I asked her to evaluate Chloe and she said that she would tomorrow. In the meantime I talked to Chloe. I asked her about her pencil and she said that she doesn't like to hold her pencil correctly because it hurts her hands. Which is probably what she told her teacher and is why her teacher wants to send her to the hazmat suit people. But I asked Chloe *where* it hurt her fingers and she showed me. And it's the exact same place that a pencil hurts my fingers if I write that way for too long- I actually developed a callous there in college. So it seems to me that if her teacher had asked a few questions she would have found out that it's a matter of preference and not a matter of underdeveloped motor skills- OR SHE COULD HAVE CALLED ME! Why the drama in first grade? I wrote "incorrectly" for my entire K-12 school experience and nobody ever "studied" me. Funny, I don't feel that much better for having vented.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Where To Start? Part 2

It's difficult to put your life story in print for a few reasons. First of all you make yourself incredibly vulnerable which isn't my strong suite. Which is probably why I feel "compelled" to do this. Secondly it's entirely possible to hurt someone's feelings without meaning to. So when I say I had "no friends" I did have one. My friend Tracy and I have been friends since we were 6 and in Mrs. Greer's first grade class. We still keep in touch and we were in at least two of each other's weddings. We were in completely different spots in our lives though at this point though. I was divorced already by the time she was getting married (to her ghetto prince charming) and she was expecting their first child. Domestic bliss wasn't even a blip on my radar though and so our lives were taking different paths but we still kept in touch.

About a month after I decided "OK God let's do this" I was at church and during a prayer time I knew that God was calling me to ministry. I'd never felt "called" to ministry in my life- ever- and this was the first time that I was going to have to trust God for something huge. How so?, you may ask. Well, I was born and raised in a pentecostal denomination that not only frowned on divorce but it really was the unpardonable sin. That any pastor would hire me as a single, divorced Mom would be a miracle but I would be instantly disqualified for ministry if I ever remarried. Unless I made a trek to "mecca" (the "affectionate" term for General Headquarters) and rehashed my life story and "proved" that my ex had been unfaithful to a group of church leaders that I didn't know. I didn't plan on doing that then and I don't plan on it now. I'd already experienced a less than embracing welcome from Southeastern in form of a letter I got in my mailbox soon after school started which said (in a nutshell) "we're glad you're here but your divorced so don't date anybody". Of course I fully intended to ignore their stipulation and I did. Thankfully they didn't have campus security following me around.

I planned on studying Psychology. I really enjoyed it and I couldn't think of anything else that Southeastern offered that I'd be interested in doing for the rest of my life. Then I got more involved in the worship team at church and by the summer I knew that music was what I should study. Which is crazy because it's the *one* major in which you really should know what you're doing *before* you start studying it. Then I found out there was Music Theory, Sight Singing, voice lessons that not only included but focused on singing in foreign languages. Needless to say I was completely overwhelmed and considered quitting. My first voice teacher wouldn't play the melody of a song for you to know what it sounded like. The assumption was that you could read music and would just "get it". But I could barely read music and really struggled through that semester. But she was a great mentor and seemed to love me and totally understood my situation with Amanda because her Mom had been a single Mom.

But I started to find my place. God put some peers in my life that were amazing, Godly people that were my age and would act as friends/mentors/sounding boards/encouragers and just great people that not only accepted me but loved me. So we journeyed on together. I was still closed off emotionally and I didn't know how to accept their love but it did make a huge difference in my life. I started having fun. I had quite a few friends that I talked to and did things with on a regular basis. I took trips out of state and just started experiencing a life that I had never known before. All the while I was studying, working, and being Amanda's Mom. I got really tired at times but my mantra was "do what's hard". I had no room in my life for failure and I certainly wasn't going to be scared of anything. I made myself do things by myself like eat at a restaurant or go to the mall. That might not be a big deal for some people but for me just a couple of years prior to that I was terrified to go to the mall even when I was with people. Any time I heard girls laughing I thought they were laughing at me and I "knew" that everyone there knew that I didn't belong there. I don't' know that I felt comfortable or more accepted but I did it anyway- you know the whole "not letting fear stop me"thing.

And then there was chapel. A lot of people at Southeastern hated it and didn't think that we should have to go but for me it was my oasis. The worship was unlike anything I'd experienced (the "new" worship songs that I was learning at my church were 15 years old at that point, who knew?) before. They may not have been on the "cutting edge" but they were close. I was mostly student led and it's hard to rival the passion of a college student that's sold out to Christ. The Holy Spirit did more digging but I also had dreams. Dreams of what I wanted to do for Christ and what I wanted my ministry to be about. I knew I couldn't be on staff at a church but that was fine with me because I didn't want to sit in a stuffy old office preparing Christmas Cantatas anyway. We'd hear speakers challenge us to "dream a dream that only God can do" and I didn't have any trouble with that. My dreams were huge but *any* dream I had only God could pull off because for everyone that encouraged me in ministry I'd hear someone else say "no pastor would ever hire you". The one that stands out in my mind the most was one of my professors. We had become friends and I know that she was just trying to be the voice of reason in my life. After all I had a daughter to provide for. What she told me was that I should get a Masters Degree in Biblical Studies because I didn't have the "chops" for music (the voice for it) and no pastor would ever hire me. I don't hold that against her because she was being real and was trying to give me guidance. You can't expect people to see your dreams. It doesn't matter if you tell them because you can never effectively convey what it is that God has put in your heart. And if you're dreaming a God sized dream they won't believe it. They can't because God (most likely) hasn't put it in their heart to do so. And I don't have the "chops" to sing opera. But God hasn't called me to sing opera...

1 Peter 1:3 says, "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness". Meaning that before I was even born God had placed inside me all the talent, smarts, heart, etc. that I would need to accomplish his purpose for me. And he gave me everything that I need to live a godly life through Christ's death and resurrection. I know that my talent has limitations but they're not limitations to God.

More later....

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Where To Start? Part 1

I have so much going on in my head these days. So much so that I find myself being incredibly distracted and I forget things. For instance I noticed a couple of days ago that I had apparently only shaved one leg during my shower a couple of days before that. Funny.

I don't think it's any secret that this has been an incredibly trying year for our family. Actually the last 7 + years have been difficult in one way or another. At the beginning of this year our Pastor spoke about this being a year of completion for a lot of people in our church and we knew that God was speaking to us through that. We were hoping that it wouldn't take an entire year but since it's November it looks like it will be.This is a story of a beautiful journey through times of testing. It's about dreams dying, strain on our relationships and a crisis of theology that has resulted in us knowing Christ more. We're not the same people we were 7 years ago. But I should probably start somewhere near the beginning....

I "got saved" when I was 4. No really. I knew what it meant and I felt the Holy Spirit draw me to Christ. I remember clearly as a youngster of 4 sitting in a worship service, raising my hands and crying because I felt the Holy Spirit so close to me. Nobody had to tell me God was real because I knew He was. Actually one of the older kids at church saw me crying and raising my hands and laughed at me. I still remember that feeling of being crushed and an internal struggle of whether or not I was still going to worship because he laughed at me. I did worship anyway but I felt really self conscious. But my passion at that young age was singing. I begged my Dad to ask the Pastor if I could "sing a special". And God bless my Dad he did. And God bless the Pastor for saying yes. I was so excited. I had to stay in my class until my Dad came to get me and I was climbing on the tables and my teacher scolded me. I kept asking her if it was time yet and I'm pretty sure she was exasperated with me. I don't remember who she was but I definitely remember that she was not as excited as I was. Finally my Dad came and got me and he held me and held the microphone for me while I sang Jesus Loves Me. I don't ever remember wanting to do anything but sing.

Years passed and my family was a wreck. I love my parents and because of that I'm not going to go into any details. The past is the past and I would never, ever want to hurt them. We've forgiven each other and moved on but things happened and by the time I was 16 I was dead inside. I didn't really care what happened to me and because of that I started dating someone that acted like he cared about me. He treated me like I was special and so I didn't care that he was a drug dealer that had already gotten another girl at our school pregnant (she had an abortion). I wanted somebody to love me. Then I got pregnant with Amanda. I don't want to re-hash all of that because honestly that period of my life makes me sick at my stomach. I will say that things were sour pretty much the whole time with prince-charming-from-the-hood-liar-guy. We married which was ridiculous and he was never-ever faithful. I'll spare you those details too. And even though it may seem on the outside that "well, it wasn't a real marriage" I have to say that the feeling of betrayal cuts through your heart no matter the length of time your married. I still took the vows, I expected things to get better, we had a daughter and being betrayed was a blow that crushed me. I decided then that I would never, ever let anybody hurt me like that again and that I was going to go to college and make something of myself. I planned on going to the local community college but my Dad convinced me to "just try Southeastern for a semester". He probably figured that I'd get used to it and would decide to stay- and he was right.

That first semester in school I was a nervous wreck. I remember that I'd walk across campus terrified. I was so incredibly insecure and I wanted friends but at the same time I didn't want anybody to see me. I wasn't really living out a relationship with Christ at that point. I was just working and trying to not feel like I wanted to die. I really fought against that with everything that I had because I wasn't going to let anybody beat me- I wouldn't let *anybody* have that kind of control over my life again. I was my own person and I was going to be successful and I would never have to depend on a man again. I actually remember on several occasions picturing in my mind a brick wall being built around my heart. I knew I probably shouldn't do that but I didn't care, I had to protect myself. The people that I was myself with was Amanda and my Dad. Amanda was my refuge in the storm and my Dad was the one person that I could talk to and he would listen. Endlessly listen. Amanda and I were constant companions. With her I could climb the monkey bars and she wouldn't think I was dumb. We saw movies, we went on trips, we went to Disney World and the beach and to restaurants and to any other place you can think of in central FL. I didn't have any friends though. On the day of my divorce hearing I went to the courthouse, got divorced, and made it to my 11:10 psychology class. Then I went to work. It seemed strange that I was acting like it was a normal day and it felt like I should tell somebody but I knew that no one would care so I just stayed quiet, finished my shift at Wal-Mart and went home.

The next semester in school was more of the same. Except that I started going to a new church. I was done with the dead religion that I'd been raised in and the only reason that I tried this new church was because my former youth pastor (who wasn't at all OK with dead religion) was at the church and it wasn't too far from my house. It wasn't too long before I started attending fairly regularly and on a Wednesday night in January 1993 I decided I was done. I had nothing left so I said, "God, I don't have anything to give you but my life- take it and do whatever you want to with it." And I meant it.

My life changed after that. I started meeting people and had some friends. The girl (who would become my best friend) who led worship asked me to be on the worship team. God bless her. I hadn't taken any voice lessons and my voice just wasn't that great. I had the raw talent but I didn't always sing on key and well, just needed some refining. We were both sopranos with my voice being stronger and more reedy up against her much more clear tone (if I just lost you think of a clarinet up against a flute). I didn't sing harmony and I'm pretty sure our voices clashed a bit. *But* God was renewing a passion inside me that had been forgotten. Our new church did things differently than our old church. Our old church was steeped in tradition and only sang hymns. Now I know that the hymns vs modern music feud rages on in some parts but I'm not going to write about that now. If anyone would my opinion on that I've studied both and would be happy to debate that with you later. But I just knew that there was life at this church and that the times of worship were restoring my soul. I wasn't worshipping because I wanted God to heal me. I was worshipping because I loved Him and during those times of worship the Holy Spirit was digging into the parts of my heart that no one could reach and was digging out the pain and was making me whole. It was then that a passion for worship was born in me.

I think that I'm going to stop for now because I think I'm at a stopping point and this is getting to be Tolstoy-long (Alias reference) but I feel compelled to share this. I'll get back to it soon.

Thursday, November 01, 2007