Who I Am (pt. 1)

While I sit here eating my post-run bag of popcorn and drinking some cranberry juice, I figure it’s about time to post something on here rather than reading over and over again what I’ve already written.  To start this blog off I’d like to say… I am NO writer.  I am horrible with grammar.  I will not be super perfect with punctuation.  Spelling…yeah, I’ll be pretty good with that, but everything else… out the window.  So, if you’re expecting to come here and read something written as beautifully as C.S. Lewis … I apologize ahead of time.

I decided to start this blog as a way to record some thoughts that I have throughout the day.  I want to be able to look back and see where I’ve been.  I also want some kind of record of these early days with Selah.  Things happen so fast these days and I don’t want to forget anything.

I guess I should start out by giving a little bit of background for those of you who don’t know me.  I hope this post also helps you understand who I am a bit better.  This first post will be in parts since it’s a bit long… but well… here we go.

Anyone who really knows me knows that I don’t like sharing a whole lot.  If I share something with you, it means I trust you (or that I’m desperate for help), but I am trying to push myself out of my comfort zone this year and this seems like a good way to do it.  I was born on September 6, 1988.  I was born around 1:30pm.  I was 3 weeks early.  My parents used to joke… “She was early.  It was the first and last time she was early to anything.”  Everyone always laughed although I never found it very funny.  

(my sister on the left, me on the right)

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I grew up in a house where we attended church every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night.  On Monday nights, my parents hosted a youth Bible study at their house.  I grew up sitting at the top of the stairs listening to high schoolers read the Bible and having discussions about what it meant for them.  I loved listening to my dad’s voice explain something about the verse they were reading.  He would use the Hebrew or Greek translation of a word and all of a sudden that verse would take on a whole new meaning.  His voice was passionate and his passion was the seed that was planted in my heart.  I never told him that, partially because I never realized it until right now, but also because I’m a private person.  Like I said, I’m not one that easily shares my feelings or thoughts.  

My mother has an incredible reading voice.  She used to do radio commercials for the continuing care community she worked at.  Hearing her read from the Bible was a soothing experience.  The room would always get quiet when she read.  She never taught the room like my dad did, but when she opened her mouth, people listened.  

As I grew up, I was steeped in the Bible and church culture.  Not only did my Dad lead a Monday night Bible study, but he also taught Sunday School to the youth on Sunday mornings.  We had to be at church 30 minutes early so that he could set up.  Sunday mornings in our house were always fun.  My sister and I would wake up, go to our parents room and crawl in bed with them.  Mom had gotten up before everyone else and made breakfast.  She would bring it upstairs and wake us up.  We’d sit on the end of their bed and eat groggily while Dad would tell us once again how we needed to leave on time this Sunday… like this Sunday would be different from every other Sunday we were late.  We’d then go through the process of taking the socks out of our hair that we used to curl it overnight.  Forty-five minutes later, I’d be running out the door with makeup, shoes, and a Bible in my hands while I listened to Dad get onto us about leaving the lights on, leaving the hair dryer plugged in, and leaving our shoes everywhere.  Nevertheless, we always made it to church on time. (This is probably not true.)

For the first 18 years of my life, church was a haven.  I absolutely loved going.  Part of that is because my parents never made it a choice.  We went to church as a family and that was that.  If the doors were open, we were there.  I learned to love it and eventually, truly did love it.  Youth group was exciting and fun.  I was always able to be myself.  I had a love for life and was excited about everything.  Reading the Bible brought such joy and discussing it with friends was a natural high.  I felt safe, passionate about life, untouchable as if nothing bad could happen.  Then I went off to college and things started to change.  Dad had always talked about how college seemed to shake people’s beliefs.  It’s the first time you’re on your own.  It’s the first time you’ve got to figure out why you believe what you believe.  It’s the first time your parents won’t wake you up and force you out the door with curlers in your hair.    

I got to college and visited 2-3 different churches my freshman year.  I still went to church semi-regularly, but I never found a church that felt right.  They were too big, or didn’t try to connect with the congregation, or tried to connect but simply couldn’t because there was no way of keeping track of all the visitors on any given Sunday.  I had a few different roommates my first year or two of college.  The first semester my roommate wanted me to switch with the girl across the hall because they got along better.  The other girl’s roommate was quiet and kept to herself so I didn’t see any problem with that.  Then, during my sophomore year, a senior wanted to live in the apartments on campus and wanted me to be one of the 4 girls in the apartment.  So, I moved in.  That girl graduated early in December, so we had another girl move in.  All in all, I had 7 different roommates my first 2 years.  Towards the end of my second year, a girl I had become good friends with told me about a baptist church in the area that she thought I would like.  I visited the church with her on a Wednesday night and immediately fell in love.  The people were kind and outgoing.  It felt warm and lively and like home.  That was the last Wednesday night before I went home for the summer.  I went home promising myself that when I got back in August, I would attend that church.  I did and for a while, I fell back in love with church and found that passion again.  

Things started to change.  At this point, I was working as an intern at the church.  For the first time in my life, I saw the politics that can sometimes happen in church and it really confused me.  It was a new side of church I had never seen.  While other people saw this as part of everyday “church business” I was confused.  I felt disappointed and hurt.  After a few more negative events at church and a lot of change, my attendance slowly lessened to 2-3 times a month.  Maybe.  

At this point, I had graduated college and begun to work at my first school.  I was living in a rented house with my best friend.  In February of 2011, the numbers at church had dwindled.  It didn’t feel as lively or as welcoming as it once had.  The church was trying to mend, but it had taken a toll on me.  I was slightly jaded.  While grappling with my inner turmoil about faith and the church, I got a phone call from my Dad.  I will never forget this.  I was standing in the kitchen, making quesadillas with Taylor (T-money to Dad).  He had come over since it was Valentine’s Day.  Dad called and the conversation went a little something like this…

Dad: Hey, sweetheart.  How was school today?

Me: Eh, you know.  Middle schoolers will be middle schoolers.  It was fine, I’m just tired.  

Dad:  Okay, well… is Taylor there? Are you by yourself?  

Me: Yup!  We’re making dinner.

Dad: Good.  Well, look.  I went to the doctor this week because I’ve been sick and just haven’t been able to get over this cold.  

Me: yeah…

Dad:  I’ve had a headache, so they did a few scans.  Turns out, I’ve got a brain tumor… It is malignant, but we’re talking about my options.  Possibly surgery, chemo, treatment… we’re not really sure yet, but I wanted to let you know.  We’ll keep you updated after we’ve met back with the doctor.  

Me: Okay.

Dad:  Okay?  Well, I’ll let you get back to dinner with Taylor.  Tell T-money I said hey.  

Me: yeah, I will.  

Dad: Okay.  love you.  Bye.

Me: Bye.

That was probably the shortest phone call I’ve ever had with my Dad.  We always talked a ton on the phone, but I could not get off that phone call fast enough.  I hung up the phone and just stared at the floor for a few seconds.  Taylor looked at me and asked what was wrong.  I simply said, “Dad has a brain tumor,” went into my room and sat down on the bed.  I don’t remember much after that night.  Dad called back at some point to say that they were going to do surgery and treatment.  I went home for his surgery.  It went smoothly and he recovered relatively quickly.  I vaguely remember it because my brain and emotions kind of shut down during those few months.  Everything was fine.  Dad was fine.  The surgery went fine.  Treatment was fine.  I was fine.  It would be fine.  I became unfeeling towards any of it, unfeeling towards church, towards Dad having a brain tumor, and towards my own struggle.  I focused on my students and I focused on work.  Later that year, I became engaged and focused on a wedding and moving in with Taylor.  Dad seemed to be doing fine from a distance, but now looking back he was slowing down a bit.  

One thing that I didn’t know until much later was the seriousness of his brain tumor.  At some point in the fall after I was engaged, Dad and I were driving in a car together, just us two, and he let me know how serious it was.  His doctor had told him that every person who had this particular kind of cancer, always dies from the cancer.  It could be 5 months or it could be 15 years, but that it was always the cancer that got them.  He could continue to do treatment as long as it worked, but that he didn’t have to.  Looking back, I know Dad told me this while I was driving the car for a reason.  He knew that I wouldn’t want to look him in the eye anyways.  He knew that it would give me something else to do to keep my mind occupied.  My hands were on the wheel and my eyes were on the road and that gave me an “out” to not be emotional.  I could nod and say okay without having to face anything until I was ready.  I will always be grateful for this moment and I will always be grateful that I had a father who knew me that well.  

After this, Dad slowed down a lot.  Over the next couple of years, he would begin to have small seizures, use a cane, use a walker, be in a wheelchair, etc… The treatment wasn’t working fast enough.  In Christmas of 2013, Taylor and I went home to visit my parents and I specifically remember sitting on the couch watching everyone open presents and hearing a small voice whisper, “This is your last Christmas together.  Enjoy this.  Look around the room.”  It startled me.  I physically jumped on the couch and looked around for a second wondering if anyone else had heard what I did.  Obviously, no one did.  I don’t know what exactly I believe about audibly hearing God or the Holy Spirit, but I can tell you this: I have never heard a voice like that as clearly as I did that day.  Dad gave my sister and I necklaces with our childhood nicknames on them that year.  I put it on that day and didn’t take it off for over a year.  

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That same Christmas, my whole family decided to come to mine and Taylor’s apartment for the first few days of the New Year.  My pregnant sister, her husband, their dog, mom, and dad all came to visit.  They got there in the evening and we all hung out for a bit and soon after decided to go to bed saying that we would walk around downtown the next day and go out to eat.  I went to bed excited and feeling at peace that we were all there together.

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This seems like an okay place to stop for tonight.  I’ll try to post part 2 tomorrow as long as precious Selah decides to sleep 🙂 Feel free to leave a comment or share this.  Don’t hesitate to reach out or contact me in any way.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this much and I hope you’ll come back tomorrow for part 2!

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