Thursday, February 28, 2013

Day 11: {31 Days of Grace} Waves of relief

I have to say, I am excited to write today!

Yesterday was sunny and beautiful compared to Monday when I thought the rain might never stop and could in fact wash away our driveway!

Today, while there are clouds in the sky, and a serious chill in the air, it is still pretty and spring-ish outside! Birds are chirping and flying all over the place.  I've heard them outside my front door all morning and when I glanced out, there was a pretty red cardinal in one of my front bushes! Of course, when I opened the door to snap a picture, he flew away (darn it!).  But I did manage to catch a pic of the nest some birdies are building behind my front porch light.

I find it hard to believe I have only done 10 days of this series, but then I find it hard to believe I made it this far! Once I wondered if I could do this for 31 posts?! Silly me! Just look how many posts it has taken me to tell you about John,  the man I almost married (and then Day 10) since I first hinted at him in Day 4!

BUT today, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel named John.

Yesterday, I left with his proposal and my acceptance.  This was late June of 1996 and I still had several more weeks as part of the summer mission team in Durham, NC.

We also knew that we wouldn't be "setting a date" right away.  After all, I had at least 2 more years of college and I was only 20 years old.

I also mentioned last post that John had graduated and begun working full time back in the little hometown, we'd both grown up in. I guess life for him had changed pretty dramatically. 
Working full time was already getting him thinking about getting married and starting a family.  Not that we'd never thought about this before (did I forget to mention that BIG pregnancy scare we'd had when I was still in high school? How different my life COULD be right now!).

But, as I mentioned, I still had at least 2 more years of college.  Looking at my newly declared major and the requirements for it, I knew I would probably need summer school and one additional semester to stay on track for a good GPA and graduation.

I know now that he was trying to help, but my feathers started to get ruffled when John started making plans to get me out of school even earlier.  He started making proposed course schedules for me and talking about where I could work when I moved back to that small town. 

We were only able to see each other once or twice a month at this point.

I had moved into my first off campus apartment and had my own room, but still, he worked in retail management and weekends are part of that deal, so visits were few.

I was already wondering if I had made a mistake getting engaged at 20 years old. For the last 18 months we'd been living in the same city, same campus and within walking distance of each other. 

Now here I was, at least an hour away from my fiancee, watching other people around me...couples...roommates...friends...neighbors...spending time love.  I guess it always seems that way when you are missing someone.

As time went on, though, I was getting more attention from male friends and other guys.  I was getting frustrated by John's little contact (it seemed he didn't have time for me), and every time we DID talk, it was more about how soon I could graduate and we could start planning a wedding. Yikes!

My 20 year old self freaked out! It just got to the point that I knew I had made a mistake.  I mean, if I hadn't made mistake, wouldn't I be 100% sure, with no trace of doubt?

Whether true or not, that's how I thought it should be.  

I gradually pulled back more and more from the relationship until one day I called and told him he needed to come see me that very weekend coming up.
He tried to bait me into telling him over the phone what was up, but I held back most of it.  He came knowing I was scared and doubting.

Through lots of conversation and tears, I told him I just needed a break.  I didn't want to stop seeing him, I just needed to put a hold on the engagement.  John basically told me he loved me, but he wasn't really into that. Sort of an "all or nothing" deal, I guess.
We spent one last night together and when he left the next day, he took the ring with him.

I felt betrayed and heartbroken; I even wished I'd just kept my concerns to myself.  He was all I had known for most of the last 3 years and the thought of losing him forever was devastating even with the doubts I had about marrying him.

I started a very destructive cycle of dating the next boy who paid attention to me, all the while trying to stay in touch with John.  I even skipped classes a few times and drove back to our home town to surprise him at work or at home on his day off. I sent flowers, balloons, and cards.  

He was so cold to me and I'm not sure what he hoped to accomplish with that, but eventually, I just gave up and moved on.

The next guy I dated was a real piece of work, but we'll save him for another day!

These are some of MY verses today! They let me know now, that I wasn't a lost cause back then and I'm not a lost cause now - He rescued me!

  • Isaiah 1:18

    "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17

    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
  • Ephesians 1:7

    In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace
  • Colossians 1:13-14

    For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Day 10: {31 Days of Grace} Swept Away

Yesterday was the kind of day where I was really grateful for umbrellas...
it was cold, wet and windy all day.

It actually fit my mood quite well.  As much as I know I need this digging into my past in order to move forward a little more freely, I cannot help but feel as if I am drowning.

I look back on that girl, the one that was me, and I just want to shake her, slap her, somehow work some sense into her!

I can see from afar how destructive my self-talk and low self-esteem were.  I can see, while I must take responsibility for my poor choices, there were so many factors in those poor choices.  I almost pity her - that sad girl, who let other people, situations, MEN, define her.  That never liked herself enough and so she always wanted to be sure everyone else liked her.

Friends, that is a slippery slope! Trying to BE everything, or worse - everyONE, to EVERYONE - it can't work. How can I know who ME really is, if ME keeps changing depending on who I am with?

So, see? This is helpful for me, but I do want to get it over with, so let's go back.  Back to my sophomore year in college...

John and I had recently gotten back together after our second breakup.  We celebrated Valentine's Day together and he gave me a ring - not a diamond, but I think it was meant as a promise ring.

I'll have to glaze over most of the details of the rest of that year, though, because quite frankly, I don't remember many of them.  It was a lot of blah, blah, blah and yada, yada, yada.  

I remember that was the year that I official changed my major from engineering to English (no offense, but what was I thinking?), and then promptly to Marine and Coastal resources (just enough math and science to keep me challenged but not kill my GPA J). Also, John graduated in December and had gone back home (about an hour away) and begun working full time.

The summer after my sophomore year was also rather significant.

On the advice of some friends at The Baptist Student Union (BSU), I interviewed for a missions position with The Baptist State Convention.  The offer was to be part of a 4 person missionary team in inner city Durham, NC supported by a local Baptist Association.

The head of the association was our contact, whom we saw at least weekly.  Among our responsibilities for the summer were: leading Vacation Bible Schools at some of the local association churches, attend most of the churches in the association each Sunday (we were given a schedule of where to be and when), lead out door events like Backyard Bible Clubs, help in clothes closets, inner city churches lacking the resources to make ends meet themselves...the list goes on.

Oh, did I forget? We were REQUIRED to have a weekly Bible Study group, just the 4 of us.  

I know you are sensing my sarcasm here.
I don't mean to be sarcastic or sacrilegious; I am quite grateful for the push I need sometimes to draw closer to God.  But several things happened that summer to let me know that not all baptists believe the same thing! {GASP}

I know! How small minded of me to ever believe such a thing, but at the time, this discovery was a bit mind-blowing.

I was also judged quite harshly that summer by a fellow team member and the association head who was essentially my boss.

I've mentioned before, I have a problem with wearing my concentration on my face.  If I am concerned about something - it shows; if I am worried about something - it shows; if I am happy or excited or even joyful about something - well, it doesn't show.  It shows to me and those who know me best, but to others, it doesn't really show so much.

I've always been that way and I guess I learned at a young age (try at least) to keep my emotions in check.  It's weird for me to even type that really, because I am quite an emotional woman.  I cry over tv commercials and Youtube videos and friends Facebook statuses.  

Somewhere a long the way though, I learned to NOT cry in front of other people, because it would make me look weak.  So you can imagine, when something upsets me to tears (which happens often) it takes a lot of restraint to keep from crying.  Guess what my face looks like during that restraint? I'll give you a hint - it ain't pretty! Most people think I am mad, or worse, a cold b*tch.

So while one of my teammates had a very sarcastic and zany sense of humor, I didn't really appreciate being the butt of the joke so often.  It got to the point where this person told me they didn't like having to walk on eggshells around me.  I was extremely offended by that because it seemed like I was supposed to accept them 100% for who they were, but I wasn't given the same courtesy in return.

The Association head actually called me out in front of the rest of the team one time and made me feel terrible for simply expressing my concern about a mission and a last minute change we'd made to it.

It was quite a summer!

John came to see me often, and near the end of June, he came to take me out for a special occasion - dinner at a fancy restaurant back in Raleigh to celebrate our 3 year anniversary.

So he came with us to the church we were working VBS at that night and we left for a late dinner afterwards.  I felt bad because I'd been so busy, I hadn't even bought a card, much less a gift. It was an INTENSE summer job!

Let me back track for a moment...this was the same week that I had been called out by my boss.  She decided to show up at the church that night and watch our team in action; it made me very nervous!

Anyway, during dinner, I received a BOX of long-stemmed roses! Up until that moment, I'd only seen such a thing on tv or in a movie - never in real life!

He also gave me a wrapped box that I could tell was jewelry. My heart was pounding, but it was too big to be a ring box.  I opened it to find a beautiful freshwater pearl necklace.  So I felt spoiled! Dinner at a very expensive restaurant, flowers, and jewelry! It was the perfect ending to the day - or so I thought!

John had something else in mind.

After dinner, he walked me across the street from the restaurant.  Instead of getting in his car, he lead me to a courtyard, now dark but moonlit, and sat me down.  I can't remember if I actually sat on a bench or a low brick wall of some sort, but I sat - he kneeled!

Down on one knee, I have something to say, all serious, kneeling.
He took everything out of my hands, and held them in his.  At this point, I cannot remember his exact words, but I do remember how sweet they were and how romantic the whole scene was.

I cried - and then he pulled out THE BOX and I cried harder.  I thought my heart would beat right out of my chest I was in such disbelief.  And he asked, "Will you marry me?"

And without even thinking, I said "YES!"

And again, today, I must stop there.  I am learning through this process...while on one hand I am trying not to get swept away in the flood of bad memories, I am learning to be grateful for the overall outcome.  For the person that I am today, the one He is still working on, and that I couldn't be where I am now, without the where I was then.

And while when it rains outside, I am ever so grateful for umbrellas to protect me and cover me, when it rains inside there is always grace in the clouds. 

Thank you, Lord, that it covers me! 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Day 9: {31 Days of Grace} College Quicksand and I am sinking

Today I'm gonna try writing in the morning instead of waiting until the whole house is asleep and I can barely hold my eyes open!

Plus, I really want to get through this part of my life with John. I don't want to glaze over a lot of the details about this relationship because I feel they (and the relationship in general) are so pertinent to my past.  At the same time, the story is so long and convoluted, not to mention my memory has clouded over some things for sure, that I will have to condense at least.

Just as I have bounced back and forth between the story of my relationship with John and other grace topics, my mind goes back and forth as to WHY I am doing this.  I realize the journey, the process, can be healing and helpful ultimately.  The journey is also painful for me, though; it feels self-inflicted and like I am waist deep in quicksand.  Going back to a time that really just pulled me down emotionally and spiritually, is draining in the present.

Still, I trudge on; to finish what I started, knowing the reward and the progress I make towards REAL forgiveness and healing will be worth the current agony.

So I left you with how John had fallen back into bed with his ex-girlfriend - I'll call her Quinn*.  For some reason, I listened that day as he told me the story - all the reasons excuses he had for doing it.  Call me a masochist - I was! - I still loved him and he seemed to need to talk about this.  Looking back, I sacrificed myself and endured many hurts for what I thought was "love" for John.

Time went on, and a month or more passed.  John and I had been apart for at least 2 months and maybe a little more, but still seeing each other a few times as a week "as friends." 

I'd been dating Phillip from the BSU and also spending a lot of time over at the BSU building.  It was probably very good for me and I wonder what I was thinking by not sticking with it?!

I assumed that John and Quinn were still seeing each other on weekends based on the few things he said about her when we were hanging out or having lunch together.  

Then one morning in March (?), he called me from downstairs outside my dorm room and asked me if he could come up.  He said he needed to talk to me and it couldn't wait.
When someone says something like that, my thoughts go straight to "I hope everything is ok; I wonder if something happened to someone in his family?"
After all, it sounded urgent.
When John got to my room, he was all dressed up - well, dressed up for a normal day of classes, maybe not dressed up as if he were going to church.  He was all smiles, almost giddy, and I knew something was really strange.
I remember sitting down on the bottom bunk, him kneeling in front of me and taking my hand as he began to speak.
While I don't remember the exact words, they went something like this:
I realize I've made a terrible mistake! Last week at lunch you said something, gave me advice, that most ex-girlfriends wouldn't give.  What you said made me realize that you really do love me and want me to be happy, even if we aren't together.  How could I ever ask for more than that from the person I want to spend my life with? 
And, I realized, neither of us is happy apart and I wondered why we are apart.  
This past weekend I went to see Quinn and told her it was over; she knew I was still in love with you.  I'm here today to tell you that I am still in love with you; to apologize, and to ask if you'll give me another chance?

I may have forgotten to mention this, but John was by far the most romantic guy I ever dated!  
It sounds great right? Here was what I'd been waiting for (2 to 3 months seemed A WHOLE LOT longer back then)! 
Without giving it much thought, I said "yes," and we resumed our relationship as if it had never ended.

And we were happy...

...for about 8 or nine months until we went through the whole thing again my sophomore year.  And again, we were back together by Valentine's Day that same year, because he gave me a sapphire and diamond ring as my gift that year (to make-up for the break-up, no doubt).

Unfortunately, the second break-up was much harder on me than the first.  Instead of dealing with my feelings, trying to spend some time alone to work on me, I ran from one guy to the next.  I partied until I numbed the pain, and in that inebriated state I made really stupid choices and tons of mistakes.

One of the biggest, that I feel guilty about to this day, is falling into the arms of a high school friend, Stephen.  He graduated a year earlier than I did, but during my sophomore and junior years he dated a good friend of mine and all 3 of us ate lunch together everyday.

He had broken up with her recently and was drinking away his heartache as well.  We both thought we "needed" someone and we were so comfortable with each other that it was beyond easy for us to use each other.  I knew he still loved her and I'm sure he knew I still loved John.  

And while more of my freshman and sophomore years were spent "with" John than without him, it was the space in between, the 2 or 3 months here and there, that really did me in.  I told myself that no one else would ever love me the way he did.  

...because he knew me, the real me, the ugly inside, mess of a girl, who just wanted to be liked but went about it all wrong, me.  He knew the me that let things fly out of my mouth before my brain had really processed them; hurtful things that cost me friendships simply because I didn't realize how the words would sound to the one receiving them.  He knew me deeply emotionally and physically; I'd shared and told him more inner thoughts and dreams and condemnations than I had ever admitted to anyone before.  And I couldn't take those back.

I mistook that connection for a life-long commitment that I was already bound to, when the truth was I could've left it anytime.  

I let John and my jumbled up feelings and fears about him be my excuse for rampant bad decisions and a fake "I don't care anymore- it's too late for me" attitude.

And so, I gave myself away, piece by piece, body, mind and soul to John and these other boys, before I was even halfway though my college years.

I created for myself such a large pool of regret that no matter which path I took going forward, going back was never going to be an easy thing.

And today, going back is really, really hard. I'm about neck deep in that college quicksand now, so I have to stop.

I cling to the verses that remind me of the grace and mercy of our God and that they are fresh and abundant every day.

Here is a picture I took off my front porch last night...

I think I love sunsets so much because no matter how bad the day was, it always ends and we get to start fresh with a new sunrise with some hours of rest in between.

May we both see God's grace today in many forms! 

* For those who may not know, I change all the names in my blog.  I have always written anonymously because I am very wary about what I post out there in cyberspace.  I am not afraid to own my words, but since this is like journaling for me, I wouldn't want one of my subjects to read about themselves by accident and end up hurt by it, when that is not my purpose here.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Day 8: {31 Days of Grace} Rinse and Repeat - Mistakes and Heartbreaks

I never intended for {31 Days of Grace} to be a back and forth between my past and my present. In day 4 I started the story about John, bounced away from it on day 5, came back on day 6, and then bounced away again for day 7!

When is life ever what we intended, though?

Here are my 2 theories for why it has worked this way:

1.) I always procrastinate on things I don't want, or don't like, to do {this task meets both of those rules}

2.) As much as I would like to get away from it, forget it, erase it from my memory forever, my past is forever a part of me and therefore cannot be completely separated from the present.  I am learning through this process, regardless of how painful, to accept my past mistakes and use them for good {at least I hope so}.

To get back on track, I left you on Day 6, on Christmas Break my freshman year in college.  John and I had been together, rather happily, for about 18 months.  There were a few little blips on the radar, during my freshman year, but nothing I thought was huge. In fact, we left school for winter break and I thought everything was great.

Until Christmas day...
I'm sure we spent time together between coming home and Christmas day but I really don't remember.  He gave me several things for Christmas and I really have no idea what I gave him.
He left one present for me to open on Christmas day even though we had exchanged everything else.

It happened to be an outfit I had picked out a few months earlier when we went shopping together; a denim skirt and blouse that I was just crazy about - it was cute and casual enough to wear with jeans or casual pants, but still dressy enough to wear to church or a nice night out.  

John seemed really weird when I opened it, but I chalked it up to the fact that my family and many of my extended family were in the room at the time.  A little while later, we left to go spend some time at his house alone.

I don't remember what we did; likely not much because we would spend 45 minutes to an hour just going back and forth between my house and his.  I do remember the ride home - the silence...his hesitance to hold my hand or put his arm around confusion because I thought everything was fine.
I remember sitting in my driveway, silently debating just kissing him goodnight and telling him we'd talk tomorrow; it was Christmas after all!

BUT, as usual, I just couldn't let it go; if something was wrong, I wanted to know and I didn't want to delay it.
So I asked...

I don't really remember what he said; I don't remember his reasons; I think it was something to the affect of "I'm not happy and I haven't been for awhile." Those words would become a reoccurring theme for us.

The conversation went on for some time; I know there were tears - from both of us - and I went inside, a newly single college girl.  It stunk to have to tell my parents that this guy they thought hung the moon had just dumped me on Christmas.

The next two months are a blur...
we went back to school, got back into a routine, but stayed in touch.  We had lunch together, sometimes hung out on the weekends and ended up at the same suite parties.  

I started seeing someone else; a really great senior guy I had met at the Baptist Student Union.  
I wonder sometimes how my life would have been different if I had kept dating him instead of going back to John.

John had started talking to his previous girlfriend again; weird because she'd moved back home with her parents and lived at least an hour and a half away from where we were in school.  

One afternoon (either Sunday or Monday) he invited me over to watch tv in his room and hang out.  Looking back, it almost seems like he was bragging; I wonder if he'd intended for me to find out.  John seemed very cocky that day and sitting there watching tv with him, I knew!

I knew what he had done and I asked him outright - "When she was here this weekend - you slept with her didn't you?"

Before he could answer, I could see it all over his face.

That may be the MOST painful point in our relationship, over all the break-ups and other difficult conversations.

While I am not so much into writing "cliffhangers," I think I'll stop there and pick up day 9.

Praise God for His Grace which I so need, but certainly do not deserve!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Day 7: {31 Days of Grace} - Too Many Wrongs Don't Make Satan Right

I sit down on the couch to write tonight (or is it tomorrow by now?) and realize there is a small piece of garlic peel stuck to my foot.

Because that is just how dirty my kitchen floor is, even though I swept it yesterday.  And while that garlic likely landed on the floor as I prepared dinner, I certainly did not scatter crispy rice cereal all over the kitchen table and floor!

And I have to say, I am sick and tired of cleaning up every one's messes around here when they are all capable of picking up after themselves.  I'm tired of being the one to prepare meals and pack lunches and drive kids to school, all the while having no real time for myself.  A Thank You every now and then would sure be nice! It would let me know that someone notices what I do.

But then I remember the Bible says,
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord.
Col. 3:23

This is the fleshly frustration that has built up in me these last 2 weeks or so, making life at home even more difficult than it can sometimes be. I get in this cycle of the fleshly desires - wanting to be recognized for my actions - that dissolve into guilt - wanting to serve my family as if serving God.

I started out today feeling like a BIG FAT FAILURE!

I was yelling at my kids to get ready for school, dashing out the door barefoot with my shoes, socks, and makeup bag in hand because we were so late.
Both kids were late to their respective schools and I was off to a late start for my last Bible Study session.

As I drove to church, all I could think was, this whole Duty or Delight study was just totally lost on me! I missed it! I missed the lesson - the chance to learn and retain that I am a delight to the Lord and He should also be my delight.

It was really all I could do to hold myself together during the Bible study discussion this morning.  I was just emotionally spent!  But, as it turns out, that bible study discussion was quite eye-opening for me today.

So, if you don't mind, I am going to backtrack a little on this Day 7 of my 31 Days of Grace.  I may have mentioned this before, but I don't want to glaze over the details of something as important as my salvation.

I know I have said before that I grew up in a Christian home; what I may NOT have shared is that my salvation experience came when I was just 4 years old. Crazy as it sounds, I actually paid attention to the preacher on Sunday mornings (there was no children's church back then!).
I started to ask my Mom questions; I met with the Pastor and he asked me lots of questions; I struggled with the decision to walk down the aisle and profess my faith because I was scared of baptism.
As shocked as the preacher was at first, he left the Q and A convinced that I knew exactly what I was doing.
When I was ready, my Mom refused to walk down the aisle with me.  I don't remember the song that was playing, "the invitation," it was called.  I just knew that aisle down to where the pastor was standing seemed incredibly long.  Mom said it was something I had to do alone; it had to be 100% my choice and that she would meet me down there, but I had to go first, and go alone.

I'm exploring this memory today, because I wondered what God had planned for me at such a young age?  
I can't remember when I didn't now right from wrong...
...when I didn't know how to listen to that voice inside me, that conscience God gave me, for direction...
I can't remember not knowing God.

And then I think, I've taken God and my salvation for granted at so many points in my life! While I may have understood who God was, who Jesus was, Jesus' sacrifice for me, that I was a sinner and needed forgiveness, I did NOT know at 4 what it meant to walk with God.  I didn't develop good habits and relationship practices with Him. And, I'm just speculating, but I think that made it very easy for me to deviate from His path as my life went on.

I shared with my bible study group today about times in my life when I definitely lived as if I didn't know Him at all.  I put myself with people and situations that I had no business with.  AND FOR SO MANY YEARS, I HAVE BOUGHT SATAN'S LIE THAT BECAUSE OF THAT, GOD CAN NEVER USE ME FOR GOOD. 

And I couldn't help but wonder how disappointed God must be in me? Did He have great plans for me that I messed up?

Then our leader used a great analogy: as parents, we tell our kids to stay out of dangerous situations to protect them and God tells us, "Stay out of the street! It's dangerous!"  Usually, we tell our kids over and over.  God, our Heavenly Father, tells us the same things over and over too. Because HE KNOWS - HE KNOWS that we are going to sometimes do it anyway! 

And on the day when we disobey and play in the street and something happens, we ask God, "why? Why did you let this happen?"
He says, "I told you not to play in the street!"  

We have to take responsibility for our own actions.  God has already done more than we deserve! 

In my case, I can look back and know that He was always there.  I could hear His voice telling me not to go there, or not to hang out with that person, or not to date this guy. But I did it anyway and now it's time to own up to those mistakes, ask forgiveness (which I have done many times before), but most importantly, forgive myself and move on.

There's no telling how many blessings and opportunities I missed out because I was playing in the street, but I know He has more in store for me.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Day 6: {31 Days of Grace} ~ Pressing On

So I told you on Day 4 , or rather hinted, about a big change in my teenage life. As much as I would love to never speak of it again, I made a promise to tell this story and so that is where I will pick up today.

My junior year in high school I began working at a local restaurant.  It was my first job, gave me a little spending money, and money to pay Mom and Dad for car insurance and fill up that borrowed car with gas.

Just before summer, a past employee came back to work with us; he was home from college for the summer.  I'll call him John. 

As I had been in the past with other boys, I was fascinated with John.  I hung on every word he uttered! I wanted to hear, no, feel what college life was like.  
{Remember I said I always knew I would leave that little town and never come back to live there again? I was already plotting my escape and I had a least one year to go.}

So John and I worked together for a couple of weeks and we developed quite a friendship; we had things in common - interests, music, church.  It was so refreshing to meet a guy who wasn't afraid to say up front he was a Christian.

A few weeks into our friendship, two things happened: we found out the restaurant was closing down and John asked me out.  To be honest, I cannot remember at this point what our first date was; where we went, if he picked me up - none of it.  I only know, I was over the moon excited and it was sometime in June of 1993.  

The summer flew by and, not surprisingly, I fell hard and fast for John.  I was crushed when it was time for him to go back to school in the fall.  I worried that we wouldn't make it through my senior year in High School and his junior year of college. 

Somehow we did; seeing each other every possible opportunity.  Whenever he was home, Fall Break, Thanksgiving, Christmas, I was trying to find every way imaginable to be with him every second.  One of the things I found most appealing about John was his honesty.  He was always open and upfront with me; he told me about a difficult relationship that had ended just before he's returned to our little town that Spring.  He told me, shamefully, that he'd thought he was going to marry that girl.  That they had lived as if they were already married in some respects.  

To be honest with him, I shared some of my previous relationships too.  I felt so connected to him on every level, that I just wanted a completely brand new, 100% honest and trustworthy intimacy with him.

He really treated me like a princess and no one else had ever done that before! We had cute little pet names for each other and I really SAW my life stretched out before me, with him.

There were a couple of problems with our relationship; his mother hated me for some unknown reason {the first time she met me, she told his brother I was "homely" and that comment found it's way back to me}; we got way too serious way to fast; I didn't realize until much later, he was imposing on me some of the same demands his father likely imposed on his mother.

For the most part, we were happy! He came to my graduation, helped me get packed for college, helped me get settled in when I got there.
Did I mention I only applied to one college? The one he happened to attend? 
Now, mind you, it is the only place in our state to go for an engineering degree of the kind I intended to achieve, BUT it certainly didn't hurt that he was there.

Everything hummed along in perfect harmony until Christmas break my freshman year. 
That should have been my first clue that the relationship wasn't the life changing love-story I'd made it out to be...

Friday, February 15, 2013

Day 5: {31 Days of Grace}

Unexpected Grace was given...

Something happened at dinner last night, well a lot happened at dinner last night, but something BIG happened to me at dinner last night.

I've written, more than once I think, about Sweetpea and the drama issues she is already having with other girls at school. In the second half of this post, I went into some detail about one little girl in particular who had been giving her a hard time back in Kindergarten and again in second grade.

She has been best friends with the same little girl since some time last year.  For ease of story telling, I'll call her Tiffany, although that is not her real name. Tiffany has suddenly become very hostile toward Sweetpea, taking her belongings and swinging sticks at her on the playground; asking for an apology for something that Sweetpea is completely unaware of; turning classmates against her and making this into a "my side" and "your side" kind of thing.  Y'all? They are in third grade!

And while I try to explain to my daughter that it feels like the end of the world right now but it isn't, she's 8.  This is the end of the world for her! She is so hurt and upset and confused about what is going on and she has been talking to her Dad about it (unknown to me until last night).

They were talking at the dinner table while I finished up dinner and I was getting my feathers a little ruffled.  He was telling her to do things and say things that I really don't want to teach my kids to do and say.  Now, before anyone thinks my husband is teaching our child vulgar things, he is not! BUT, I want my kids to learn to always be kind.  We can never know exactly what someone else is going through or why they may be acting out in this way, but we can control our reactions.  I don't want my kids to think that an "eye for an eye" is the right way to handle every situation.

AND, I happen to know this girls parents have been separated and going though a divorce for the last year or longer.  Not that I think that is an excuse for being violent or unkind to anyone, but it is a plausible cause.

I decided to tell Sweetpea a story of a friendship I lost a few years back.
When my blog was still brand new, I wrote about Kasey, and a situation I thought I managed well.  I even stated in that post that I was proud of the way I handled the situation.  In hind sight? That post needs some editing!

As I told Sweetpea, I didn't do anything wrong in that situation.  For years, I harbored anger and resentment toward Kasey for ruining our friendship, for hurting me, and, in general, I just mourned the loss of that relationship. And just as Sweetpea really believes she doesn't owe Tiffany an apology, I really truly believed I didn't owe Kasey one.

But as a told this story to my daughter, I could barely hold myself together.  God had convicted me about this before; stubbornly, I pushed it out of my head and never did anything about it.  But remember that sermon my pastor preached on Grace? How it's undeserved? How Grace asks the question, 'who can I show kindness to?' expecting nothing in return? 

That day I heard His whispers again...
"you never closed that have unfinished business with her..."

And I wish someone had told me 5 years ago, what I told Sweetpea last night:

  • life is too short
  • there are two sides to every relationship and both people have to work equally hard at maintaining it
  • always be kind, even when someone is unkind to you
  • saying sorry, doesn't have to mean admitting fault
  • if saying "sorry" saves the friendship, is it worth it?
And I tried to explain the difference between being falsely accused and just wanting to make things right again...

And I knew, I had to try too.

After all this time, I only know how to contact Kasey through Facebook (we aren't friends, but have mutual friends).

I told her that I didn't know what to say, so I was just blurting it out - I owed her an apology.
Not for what I did, but for what I didn't do.
I didn't take her call that day she called to say she was sorry.
I didn't talk to her even after I got her message.
I told her it was a poor excuse but that I had just been so hurt by the situation that I couldn't get past it in time to save our friendship.
I told her she didn't have to respond and that I was doing this expecting nothing in return, and I wished her well.

I don't know what her reaction was, but within an hour, I had a written response which brought tears to my eyes!
Without directly quoting her, I'll share an overview of what she said:
You never owed me an apology, although I do appreciate it; I have no hard feelings toward you and I honestly believe God put us in each other's lives for a reason - to grow? to learn something about ourselves, maybe?
It's nice to know you still think of me (and she called me a "great person" - jaw to the floor!) and I wish you and your family well.

And you know what?
I received so much more Grace from her today than I ever gave her.

I am humbled and I "pray with grace that this world sees in me" someone after your own heart...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Day 4: On relationships, broken hearts and the bigger brokenness that lies beneath

So I told you on Day 1 that I was all about Simple Beginnings because we all have to start somewhere right?

As I re-read the first few days of my 31 Days of Grace, I realized what a great description that was for my beginnings, as in, the beginning of ME!

I was born in a very small town to two parents who had been born and grown up in even smaller adjacent towns.  They'd both lived in the area all their lives; never leaving for college, my father only leaving for basic training in the army reserve (I think he went to Ky for that).

It wasn't a bad place to grow up; my Mom's entire family was there and some of my Dad's siblings were in the same town or within an hour or two by car.

But y'all, there was a dilapidated barn and a cow pasture behind my house! I am not kidding when I say, I grew up out in the country!

I remember from the time I realized I would go away (only an hour, mind you, but AWAY just the same) to college, knowing I would never return to live in that town.  I'm not sure what it was, I just knew there were bigger things out there in the world for me.

Now, I don't mean for that to sound inspirational or simply aspirational if it did.  I didn't have these thoughts in any semblance of a humble way - I just wanted to get out and never come back! I figured a bigger city like Raleigh or Charlotte would be "close enough" but better suited to my taste. This started at an early age, friends!

Then, at the end of my last post, I hit on something else about my childhood I have always known, but purposely avoided exploring.  I never wanted to be alone, but more specifically than that, I was seeking approval from boys.  I remember actually thinking to myself more than once, "if only HE liked me, I would be so happy!" 

That went on throughout middle school, junior high, and high school.  And, yes, before anyone comments, I realize most places don't have middle school and junior high, but in my messed up little school system we did (long story).

Anyway, there were several significant relationships up through my junior year in high school.  Some were short, some were long, most were way too serious, and all of them were wrong.  Because my motives were all wrong.  I was looking for companionship, but I realize in hindsight, I selected boys who were -  how can I say this kindly - mostly plain? The ones who when they stood beside me, no one looked at them.  The ones who I caught staring at me in class or in the hallway; who seemed completely enamored when I looked their way.
I don't mean for that to sound conceited; I never thought of myself as especially good looking.  But I think it made me feel prettier to date someone who was less good looking than me or maybe I thought I couldn't do better?
WOW that makes me sound so shallow! L

Now of course, I didn't make this connection until much later.  Because, as it turns out, most of them were really great guys; most of them I truly did develop feelings for, most of them I gradually came to "be attracted to" once I realized they were attracted to me.  I'm not excusing myself; I'm not even trying to redeem myself so much.  I know now that I was desperately looking for something I wanted and needed, but I was taking all kinds of substitutes.

{And HERE is where I get really freaked out and scared.  I don't know if ANYONE is reading this, but I fear WHO is IF they are! Make sense?
As I said before, I am not proud of my past, especially high school, but I am sharing this in hopes it can help someone else and keep them from making the big mistakes that I did!}

I needed Him, God, and the peace that only He can give.  I needed to know that I was made to stand out, to be different, and not to be like everyone else and that was ok! I needed to know that He made me special.  I needed the reminder that He made ME just as I was and that part of my grateful heart should be honoring and taking care of the creation that was me.

But I didn't.  I'm not sure saying "I couldn't" is accurate, or saying "I wouldn't" is accurate either. Again, I'm not excusing myself; I knew right from wrong.  I just let those voices in my head and the pressure from my classmates, as well as self-inflicted pressure to be LIKE (and liked by) my classmates, determine who I was and who I was with more often than not.

Instead of turning to God, I turned to boys.  The ones who at first made me feel good about myself; who made me laugh; who made me feel pretty; who made me feel loved.  I kissed too many of them; gave my heart to some of them, and gave even more to some.  

A year or so later, I saw an analogy at church youth group.  They were talking to us about how you can never separate your physical body from your spirit and your emotions.  That physical love isn't JUST physical, which is why God reserved it for the confines of marriage.  As a married woman now, I so wish I had saved that joining together of bodies and spirits for my wedding night and my husband alone.
They illustrated this with a paper heart; "each time you give yourself away," they said, ripping off a small piece of the red heart,  "you also give away a piece of your heart. If this continues, what do you have left to give your spouse when you're ready to say 'forever'?"

And I knew then that I had messed up, but I thought there was no way to go back or start over, so I pushed it from my mind.

The summer before my senior year in high school, a big change happened for me.  At 17, I started dating a college guy who I would spend 3 years of my life with, who changed me as a person, who almost became my husband, almost . 

Come back on day 5 for more on that!