What is this?

What is this? I don't really know, other then a continuation of my updates and writings that I was sharing previously on Caringbridge of this journey through cancer and now widowhood and single parenting.

Maybe it won't end up being anything at all, or maybe it will be a glimpse into my heart, my life, my current situation, my testimony.

Whatever it becomes, I am touched that you are interested.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

...my story of salvation, and some other stuff...

My first post...scary.  I don't really know what to say, other than to start with some things about me and some major mile markers that got me to where I am today.  I guess I just want this to be a way to get some creativity out and hope to connect with people in a deeper way than is available in some other outlets, and share my story of how God saved me from myself.

Well...I am in my late 20's.  I grew up an only child an hour north of Philadelphia.  I had a great childhood, though I did probably grow up a little too fast, but that is just my personality.  I remember only playing 'realistic pretend'.  I didn't pretend I was a bird in a nest when I would climb a tree...I pretended that  something must have been trying to get me and I had to escape by climbing a tree.  I played school, house or other things that mimicked a more mature stage of life.  I would not make a purple play dough hamburger...if I didn't have the appropriate colored play dough...I simply did not make the hamburger.

I remember in 5th grade I took graph paper from my mom.  My parents have spent the last 20 some years updating and remodeling their house, so graph paper was as common as toilet paper growing up.  It didn't take me long to draw a floor plan of my 5 story dream house, including a ballet studio, a huge closet for my shoes...yes...the obsession started at a young age, and an indoor/outdoor pool on the roof.

Needless to say, I went to school for interior design.  I moved into center city Philadelphia and graduated from the Art Institute of Philadelphia with a degree in interior design.  I got a job shortly after graduation doing in-home design for a custom furniture store.

I somehow made it through some of the hardest most awkward times of adolescence and young adulthood without acknowledging a God.  I attribute my making it through with out too many permanent scars- solely to God for watching out for me in my time of ignorance, because I believe He has a pretty special plan for me, as He does for all of us.

I didn't necessarily choose not to follow God, but I just wasn't really aware of any of it, other than my not so great experiences with legalistic narrow-minded Christian's that formed my opinion of what God must be all about.  Something I wanted nothing to do with.

God came into my life around this time, but he allowed something else, someone else to precede Him.

Brandon.  Now my husband.

Our first picture circa 1998.
(Myself held by Brandon's friend and
his cousin Ashley, Brandon on the side,
and brother David peeking through
the background)
I knew Brandon since I was 15 years old.  I had a crush on him from day 1.  I told my friend to tell his friend to tell him that I liked him.  And she did, then he did, and for some reason Brandon didn't believe it, though he liked me too.  Maybe I should have given him a note that read: 'I like you...do you like me too?  check yes or no.'  But would I still have the same story to tell then?

Since he didn't ask me out, I did what any other insecure hormonally driven teenager would do, say yes to the next guy that asked me out.  This started an 8 year time period of our paths crossing time and time again at the wrong time, while each of was was involved with someone else.  But always realizing that there were still feelings there...

My sophomore year of community college our paths crossed at a time when finally, neither of us were dating anyone. Brandon was home visiting his parents from Colorado for an extended holiday from Thanksgiving til New Years.  Our first date he took me to New York City to see a broadway show.  None of the guys I had previously dated even had a job or a car (yeah...I had really high standards), so this took me by surprise.  We had a wonderful day in NYC and I completely fell head over heels in love with him.  Not because of where he took me, but because the gentleman he was, and his kind, loving, tender heart.  Our conversation was effortless, and the attraction was unavoidable.

Unfortunately, the holidays came and went, and Brandon had to go back to Colorado.  My heart broke immensely when he left.  I had never felt for someone how deeply I felt for him, and now he was leaving me.  No one would ever compare.  And I had just gotten accepted to the Art Institute in Philadelphia, so picking up and moving to Colorado was not even a thought in my mind.  Realistically, I was born and raised in the North-East, and roots grow deep there...not many people ever leave.  I mean, our high school yearbook would highlight the families that had more than 3 generations attending Quakertown High School!  And there were quite a few pages dedicated to this!

I tail spinned into depression as I mourned not having Brandon.  We talked on the phone often, but I had no hope of him returning to me.  Why would he?  I had no self worth, that was evident by who I dated and surrounded myself with, (with a few exceptions).  I was emotionally abused by previous relationships, was practically a pathological liar due to my insecurities, conformed myself to who ever I was around and had nothing to offer.  But with Brandon, it was different.  But he couldn't possibly see past all my baggage and find anything special about me...there was too much of it....or so I thought...

I sought refuge for my sorrows in male attention, and rebounded back into the dating life shortly after Brandon left.  When I finally told him that I was dating he was crushed.  I remember laying on my bed in my room, staring at the purple walls as I told him.  I can still feel the knot in my stomach when I put myself back there. It's funny how your brain remembers points in time.  

Our phone calls stopped there.

Some time passed and we chatted here and there.  We saw each other from time to time when he was in town for holidays or what not.  I even met his girlfriend that he brought home with him the following Christmas.  That sucked.

That too was a turning point of my downward spiral into depression and self-loathing.  I sank deeper into self destruction then I ever had at that point.  I was on mega milligrams of anxiety medicine and mixing it with mega amounts of alcohol.  All the while being a full time student and working 32 hours a week...and yet I somehow found time for full time partying.

I now look back and see that I was just searching for anything that took the hurt and self loathing away, and any way that I could lessen the pain, I dove head first into, all the while basking in my misery and avoiding my reality.  I just kept my mind busy with other things, and when there was nothing to distract myself with, I distracted myself with alcohol.

The next Christmas came, and I got a call from my best friend Sarah.  She said that Brandon was in town and that she wanted us all to get together for a dinner for old times sake.  She is the reason that Brandon and I knew each other.  She was the one who I told to tell her friend to tell his friend that I liked Brandon back in 9th grade.  They had always remained in touch, and she often updated me on what he was doing, including this time informing me that he was engaged.

My heart sank.  In years passed, I had told my college friends about him many times, and what I always said was, "Someday I'm going to marry him...you'll see...".  I guess I was wrong.  Wow...he found happiness and I've been drowning in misery for years now...I guess I got what I deserved.  All the while God was working, and I had no idea.

Dinner w/ Brandon, Sarah & Haley
We went out to dinner.  Sarah, her 4 year old daughter Haley and Brandon drove into Philly to meet me for dinner...as friends.  Friends was NOT what I wanted, and was a difficult role to try to fit into, but I was kinda seeing someone at the time so at least I had that distraction.  So, I drank a few cocktails to make this dinner do-able.  Probably why I don't remember much of the dinner, other than the heartache I felt seeing him and not being able to have him.

3 weeks later I get a call from Sarah with news.  Brandon called off the engagement and is moving back to Pennsylvania in a few weeks.  WHAT?!  I was shocked.  But I doubted that I had any chance of getting him back.  I hurt him too bad, and it's too late.  If he had any intention of seeing me he would have let me know that he was moving back...and he didn't.

I texted him, and we chatted lightly.  He told me when he was moving back and I think I suggested we get dinner when he got settled in.  I think he said 'sure'.

A few weeks later, just a couple days before Valentines day, we made a 'date'.  I had dropped my 'casual' dating when I heard Brandon was moving back, following a very traumatic experience I got myself into.  So, once again, and only for the 2nd time we were both single and living in the same state.

We went to dinner.  I was so nervous I drank a bottle of wine by myself.  I must have been a great conversationalist that night!  I was beside myself and so unsure of who I was, who I should be when I was with him...my old sassy self or my new wild and crazy drunk party girl self.  I only really knew how to be the latter at this point.  2 years of hiding behind booze and tight clothes, you start to loose whatever you used to be.  But, he still kissed me good night.

It was a week or so before I heard from him again other than a few random texts.  I hated myself for who I became, and hated myself for showing that to Brandon.  I lost my chance again.  He probably decided to never see me again after that kiss.  I was convinced that would be our last kiss...

But he called again.  He wanted to take me to the Philadelphia Art Museum and then to dinner.  I don't really care for art museums....I know...I was an art major in high school and attended an art school...but yet I hate art museums.  Weird...but for Brandon I would suffer through almost anything once!

This time I didn't drink more than 1 drink at dinner.  He got to see the un-camouflaged me; not that that was a great improvement, but it took part of the mask off.  For the first time in years we talked like we used to, and I almost felt human again.  

I found out that night that 2 years prior, he was praying about moving back to Pennsylvania to see what would happen, with his life and with me.  But I derailed that plan when I told him I had moved on.  Wow.  Talk about self loathing...when I grasped that news later that night I hated myself more than ever.  I probably got drunk to deal with it.

I opened up and told him all about the mess that I had become, the mess that I made myself.

But he kept calling, and he kept coming to see me.

I found out not too long ago, that that night was the 'do or don't' for Brandon.  An ex had contacted him when she found out he moved back and he was considering seeing her.  Everything in him was telling him to run like hell away from me, but God told him clearly that night that there was something more than what he could see.  That there was a person in me that was hiding behind a facade, that I really was the person he knew and fell in love with when we were young.  And that he had to just go for it.  

He was mad at God for putting this on his heart.  I was too far gone, and he made many sacrifices in his life following God, and this is not the picture of the woman he thought God had for him.  A drunken, self loathing, lost woman who has no idea of who she is and is completely opposed to considering that there might even be a God.

But God.

I find myself saying that so often.  But God.  But God had a plan.  But God had a different plan.  But God gave me strength.  But God__________(fill in the blank).

So we dated, and not too long after as he was driving me back to my parents house for a weekend at home, he asked me about what I thought about God.  My response?  "Pshhh....Big Bang.  That's what I think."  I had no argument in either direction, only that I believed that we were created by fluke during the big bang.  I had ignorantly called myself an atheist from time to time.  How uninformed and utterly ignorant I was to even what that actually meant.  Really, I just didn't care...I didn't want to think about it.

Brandon lightly told me what he believed, and I remember driving down the dark PA turnpike rolling my eyes at his stupid beliefs, but quietly listening because I was so uninformed that I had nothing to really say. But God used Brandon to plant a tiny seed....

At my graduation from AIPH
A few weeks later I abruptly quit smoking cigarettes cold turkey.  Bad timing, as it was during finals in my last quarter before graduation.  I also cut down on the drinking to just social drinking from time to time.

Brandon and I said 'I love you' a few months into it, and I decided to move out of my apartment in Philly and move back to Quakertown to make our relationship easier, though it made my commute to work everyday over an hour and a half each way.  But it was well worth it to see Brandon more often.

As I was packing up to move home, I was in the apartment by myself.  I was standing outside the kitchen and suddenly fell to my knees.  I started crying and I didn't know why.  Though this was not uncommon, I was pretty messed up in the head, and often had random panic attacks, crying fits and raging anger.

But this time it was different.  All I could keep saying was, 'I understand.  I understand.  I don't know what I understand, but I understand.'

I was saved.

I was saved with out even really knowing what saved me.  My heart just filled up with this feeling of love, of security, of understanding and of protection.

I cried there on the floor for almost a half an hour before I picked myself up and went to bed.  My roommate and I had a bit of a falling out about me moving out, and I spent much of my time in my room trying to avoid the confrontation.  Believe it or not, she is a strong Christian, and was during the entirety of our friendship.  Her morals were so strong and her sense of self was so strong that somehow my shenanigans never brought her down, or brought her into it.  Probably why I enjoyed her company so much...she was everything I secretly wanted to be.

A lot after that is a blur.  I remember the next time I saw Brandon I asked him to tell me more about God.  I don't remember if I told him then about what had happened to me that other night.  But shortly after being saved, after accepting that there was a God, Brandon gave me one of his bibles to read, and we started talking about it.  

I remember him asking me if I wanted to accept God as my savior, 'officially'. I said yes.  And he asked me to repeat after him, in my salvation prayer to God, asking for forgiveness for my sins and vowing to follow Him for the rest of my life.

I look back on how I was 'saved'.  God knew that I am stubborn and hardheaded, and I know that He knew that the only way I would come to it was if he abruptly hit me over the head with His Grace and miraculously instilled faith in my heart.

Getting 'dunked'
In November of 2009, Brandon baptized me at our church, Flatirons Community Church.  Because of how large our church is, they have baptism weekends 3 times a year, and hundreds of people give their life to the Lord, and I got to be one of them.  One of the care pastors can baptize you, or someone of your choice.  And God used Brandon to save me, so I wanted God to use Brandon to baptize me.  And he did.

I like my story of salvation.  I regret a lot of my actions from my past.  I was continually stubborn for years saying that  I had no regrets, because everything that I have done has formed me into the person that I now am.  Brandon helped me see that that is just silly.  If you don't regret, do you really ever learn all that is to be learned from our mistakes?  If you don't regret, can you fully grow in your character from your mistakes?  Can you really call it a mistake if you don't regret it?

I regret the decisions that I made years and years ago that leave me with consequences that still effect me.  I especially regret the things I did that effect my marriage, my husband, and still effect my life day to day.  The unconscious anxieties, perceptions and ideas that are  implanted  in my mind from stupid decisions I made, and circumstances I put myself into are my daily reminder of what I regret.  

But it's also a daily reminder of how far I have come, and that is my past.

But God.  But God will redeem these mistakes.  He has forgiven me for everything that I have done.  Will I ever forgive myself?  I don't know.  I have for some things, and others are still raw.

But God.  But God will use these instances in my life to give me the ability to reach out to someone in the same situation as I was, and tell them that there is NOTHING  that they have done that God will not forgive them for.  Nothing...because I did some pretty shitty things to wonderful people, to myself and to God, and I am forgiven.

But God.  He has the power to make everything beautiful.  Including us.  No matter how ugly we have been.