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.