Grace is when God gives us what we don't deserve.
Mercy is when He doesn't give us what we do deserve.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Girl dating God

I had it all planned out.  I was going to go on these 30 dates with God and blog all about it.  I couldn't wait to get started and I didn't.  I went on that first date right when I said I would and it was GLORIOUS!  We didn't go to Starbucks as I intended but went to Le Peep for breakfast instead.  I'm sure you know what they say about telling God your plans...  it's true, none of this has gone at all the way I thought it would!  It has been so much better.  That first morning (and most times since) I spent way more time sitting there absorbing all he wanted to tell me.  Lots of what I read I already knew on a level, but this time my heart was invested in a different way and so some truths I had previously read sunk into my heart in a whole new way. I was so excited to have this time alone with Him all I wanted was more time with Him.  Sadly, Bren came to town (which was great, don't get me wrong) and so I had to postpone the next date.  I did feel God with us in several moments and I am aware enough to know that in a dating relationship you go out with friends, but these 30 dates need to be just Him and I.  It needs to be about me aligning my heart with his and connecting with him, so as much as I felt him during that time, I will not count them.  

One of the first things God revealed to me was how sacred this time between us is.  It's not to say that I won't share some of the truths He is making me aware of, but I will respect Him (and this relationship I am growing with Him) enough not to put every moment of our time together on blast.  I can't imagine dating a guy and putting all of the intimate and private moments out for mass consumption.  Sure, to share parts of it or lessons learned is one thing or to talk about a situation with the other person's knowledge and consent is fine, but not every private conversation or sweet moment needs to be revealed.  Some things are just for the two people involved.  I will say I am in awe of the things He is doing during this time.  All the little ways He sends me "love notes" or speaks to my heart have been overwhelming.  It is much like a new romance in that the more time I spend with Him, the more time I want to be with Him.  

This morning God did something really remarkable.  He sang to me!  Ok, so he used Billy Joel to do the actual work, but I know it was for me and from Him.  Just a little love note from Heaven that answered a question I had yet to even really voice.  The last few days I have been re-reading Captivating to remind myself of all the amazing lessons inside and to re-read the notes I made a few years back.  There has been some great growth and some very neglected areas that needed the refresher course I have been on.  Last night after group I was getting ready for bed and I decided to check my alarm.  Now you need to know, I NEVER TOUCH THE DIAL.  I had the worst time getting a station to come in clearly when I moved here.  If I had reception while laying in bed it would be static while I was standing or the reverse.  I found some obscure station out of Bowling Green that came in clearly and didn't play country music so that is where the dial has been ever since.  Just to make sure that I will wake up when my alarm is on radio I hit the snooze to assure myself music and not static comes through.  Last night, it was nothing but garbled static that faded in and out.  I was annoyed but grateful I had checked.  I fiddled around for a bit going from one end of the dial to the other twice before I got a clear station and went to bed.  

This morning I woke up about an hour before my alarm.  Instead of rolling over and trying to fall back asleep (like I usually would) I decided to journal.  It was just a private letter to God thanking Him for all He has recently revealed to me and all the many ways He has made His heart known to mine.  It felt as if we were sharing this beautiful moment still laying in bed, but I was pouring my heart out letting God know how much I loved Him and loved where this whole 30 dates thing was going.  Suddenly, in a mental conversational lull, my "alarm" came on and there were no words.  It was the first cords of the song, starting out soft and quiet before I knew it God was talking right to my heart:

She's got a way about her
I don't know what it is
But I know that I can't live without her

She's got a way of pleasin'
I don't know why it is
But there doesn't have to be a reason

She's got a smile that heals me
I don't know what it is
But I have to laugh when she reveals me

She's got a way of talkin'
I don't know what it is
But it lifts me up when we are walkin'

She comes to me when I'm feelin' down
Inspires me without a sound
She touches me and I get turned around

She's got a way of showin'
How I make her feel
And I find the strength to keep on goin'

She's got a light around her
And everywhere she goes
A million dreams of love surround her

She comes to me when I'm feelin' down
Inspires me without a sound
She touches me and I get turned around

She's got a smile that heals me
I don't know what it is
But I have to laugh when she reveals me

She's got a way about her
I don't know what it is
But I know that I can't live without her

I honestly believe that there is a hole in my soul that nothing other than God can fill.  I'm also starting to believe the reverse is true and it has been something I have been thinking about a lot.  Is there a me shaped hole in God?  If we are all made in God's image, then is it fair to say that by not letting my beauty shine, I am denying others the fullness of knowing God through me?  By letting past hurts keep my walls up am I blocking the path others may have had to seeing and knowing God through me and my heart?  He LOVES me in a way I struggle to fully understand.  He knows me, all of my thoughts, all of my actions, all of my fears and resentments.  He knows the wounds that have been inflicted on me and the ones inflicted by me.  Yet,  He finds me beautiful, wonderful, delightful and intriguing.  He may know all about me and the plans He has for me, but He longs to hear me give voice to those thoughts, hopes, and desires.  Not as a prayer or pleading with Him to make something happen, but as a conversation laying all of my soul bare to Him.  He knows it, but He wants me to want to tell Him about it.  He answered a question I had tonight in a few lines of the song He sang to my heart this morning.   

Right up there is the answer to something I asked him in the quiet stillness of my heart.  

Something I barely gave voice to.

The best part is, He answered before I asked to prove how much He knows me and how He loves me.  He knows my questions, my doubts and my fears before I ever give voice to them.  Just like He knows my hopes, dreams and the desires of my heart before I give voice to them.  He still wants me to WANT to go to Him and tell Him all about them.  Now this is not a new revelation.  I have loved God and known I was loved by God,but the truths He is revealing and the way He is doing it on these dates is simply amazing to me.  The gentle reminders are refreshers to past truths I discovered before He takes me to a deeper level to revel it more fully in a way I can now understand that I wasn't able seen before.  

Time just slips away

It hardly seems like it's been 20 days since my last post, but it has.

I hardly feel like I'm 30 now, but I am.

I can barely believe I graduated college 9 years ago December 10, but I did.

I look at Monkey and wonder when he went from brand new to nearly two... Love Bug is the same... how can she possibly be 4 on Halloween?

There are days of triumph.  Wearing big boy undies without an accident.   Climbing the ladder on the jungle gym all on her own.  There are quiet days of snuggling or pajama days where we stay in bed and read books all morning.  There are days of great 'bentures when we explore a river.  Days filled with grace, beauty, giggles and learning.  Days of fighting, whining and tears when we don't get our way.  Days of frustration when it feels like I say no more than I say anything else.  Days when I am exhausted.  Days when they are exhausted.  There are days when I long for down time and a life of my own followed by days where I can't imagine not loving them and being loved by them.  Days filled with dancing, crafts and imagination exploding.  Somewhere in all of it they are learning their most important lessons.

They are learning to share.  To compromise.  To wait and take turns.  They are learning to show love and receive love.  They learn how to ask for help and how to be independent.  They learn their letters, numbers, shapes and colors.  They learn to read.  They are learning to say "yes please", "no thank you", "m'am" or "sir", "May I...?" and "can you...?"  I hope they are learning that beauty on the inside is more important than beauty on the outside.  That we respect everyone even if we don't agree with them.  That we are gracious and kind towards others.  And most importantly, as Bugs put it, "That God took the naughty.  Jesus loves us so much he took the naughty for everyone."

I try my best to explain things and answer questions in a way that teaches them without talking down to them. I try to have patience (some days are just rough).  I try to nurture and shelter them as they grow.  I hope I manage to impart some wisdom that makes their journey in life a little easier.

Yet, I am quick to discount just how important what I do is.

I was talking with Blake about how I sometimes feel like I am just treading water.  Like I am pouring all my energy into living my boss' lives...sometimes at the cost of my own life.  I give their house and kids so much of my energy in the 11 hours I am here, that when I get home I walk my dog and I am done mentally and emotionally.  Yet, I long to have my own family and how do I get to a family of my own if I don't have the energy to be out meeting people?  How do I date someone long enough to get engaged when I constantly have to cancel because my one boss is on call and the other has a last minute meeting pop up so I am stuck at the house with the kids until one of them can get home?  How do I balance it all without loosing my life in theirs?  I started working with them January 2, 2007 when Bugs was only 8 weeks old.  I have been here a minimum of 55 hours every week (except vacations & major holidays) since then, sometimes working up to 70+ hours a week.  Yes, I am blessed that I love this job and it rarely seems like hard work.  In fact, it comes with a ton of perks ( I get paid to go to the park, the Frist, the Zoo, the Adventure Science Center, the pool, etc) and my "office" is a house or wherever I choose to take the kids.

I know I am leaving a legacy of love in the lives of every kid I have worked with.  I know that my life and time has impacted their lives.  Yet sometimes I feel like I should be doing more.  Sometimes I wish it was my own kids, not someone else's.  I failed to see that I am on the front lines of discipleship until Blake pointed it out.

It's easy to see God in the wonder, excitement, mystery and 'bentures, but easy to over look Him in the dishes, laundry, potty training accidents and temper tantrums.  What I realized is that the kids learn as much (if not more) from how I handle all those tasks as they do from watching baby birds in a nest.  God is in all the moments I share with them and all the moments I don't... but am I making the most of those moments?  Have I taught them how to show love in the mundane chores of daily life?  Have they seen my serve with a gracious heart when their dad is incapable of emptying his own dishwasher (the tone of that might tip you off to the answer)?  Have I shown them how to handle frustrating situations in a way that brings joy instead of sadness or hurt?

Next year, Bugs could be at school 5 days a week.  Next year, Monkey will start going two days a week from 8-12.  Before I know it, they won't need me daily the way they do now.  Something may happen before then and I'll move onto another season.  I don't know what is ahead but I do know that time moves quickly.  I only have so much of it available to me and I often wonder am I making the best use of it?  Have I laid the foundation I was tasked to lay in their lives?  Have I taught them all God has brought me into their lives to teach them?  Have I done all I could with the time I have had?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The date list (part one)

  1.  Coffee *
  2. Dinner at J's *
  3. Stroll along the Greenway
  4. Coffee*
  5. Cheekwood
  6. Picnic at Centennial Park *
  7. Walk at Radnor Lake
  8. Nashville Shakes at Centennial Stage (Loves Labor's Lost)
  9. Coffee*
  10. Drive down Natches Trace
  11. Saturday morning brunch at Le Peep *
  12. Day in Historic Franklin
  13. Dinner at Royal Thai*
  14. The Frist
  15. Coffee*
* indicates times I will bring my Bible and journal with to just read what He wants me to learn about him.  The rest of the time it is my plan to just enjoy the beauty he has put around me, to slow down enough to see it all and to talk with him in my heart & head.  I really tried to balance out my time between delving deeper into what He wants me to hear and what he wants me to see.  I really want to get deeper into this process before I pick the next 15 because I am not sure if I will want the division of time to remain about half and half or if I'll want more one than the other.  

My first date will be tomorrow morning at 9:30.  I have to take Harry Winston into the groomers and I'm on vacation, so I thought it would be the ideal time to grab my Bible and sit a while.  The best part, I have nothing else I need to be doing, so I can just absorb as much time as I want with God.  

Monday, August 9, 2010

30 dates

I realize what I am about to say may sound slightly crazy.  I get it.  It is probably up there with moving to Nashville on the flip of a coin.  (Yes, I really did it.  I was in Huntsville and I couldn't decide between Nashville & Atlanta.  Nashville got heads because it was farther north and the rest has been history in the making.)  The idea started a few weeks back when Wes was introducing our Diagnosis Single series for our community group.

Now before I get too far into this, I should state that I am okay being single.  I would be lying if I tried to tell you that I don't want to be in a relationship, married or that I wouldn't love to be spending my days raising my own kids, of course I want those things.  It's just that I would much rather be single than be in a wrong relationship.  I've gone on a few dates here and there recently but nothing has come of any of it.  Mostly it boils down to the fact that I think I have a pretty great life with my work, friends, volunteer activities, church life and my family when I get to see them.  I want someone who I can enjoy those things with and who will enhance my life, but until that comes along I am good with what I've got.  Ok, I wish I had a little more energy for my life after all the effort I put into my boss's lives, but I'm working on carving out more time for myself.  I have made great strides at telling them no, especially when I have plans!

Anyway, back to the point.  I started really thinking about this project when Wes asked us what our relationship with God would look like if we put as much time and effort into it as we do into the pursuit of not being single.  Since I am not out desperately seeking a relationship at all costs but instead try to take them as they come up and let things develop naturally, I wouldn't say I'm putting a ton of effort in there.  I put effort into dating the guy, but I'm not into running trough all guys I meet as a possible relationship .  It still got me thinking about pursuing God and trying to build that excitement that you usually have at the begining of a relationship.  You know that phase where you could spend four hours on the phone and still have a million things you want to talk about five minutes after hanging up, when you can't wait to see them and get giddy with excitement any time to have time to spend together.  So I've decided to go on a month of dates with God.

Yep, you read that right.  I am going to date God.  For a month.

Well sort of.

I am going to make a list of 30 dates I would enjoy.  Be it Cheekwood, dinner out somewhere, a walk at warner park, I'm not sure yet what they'll all be, but I intend to start out with Coffee much like I would with a guy I was getting to know and then try to progress as naturally as possible.  For some of the dates I'll bring my Bible and study what he has to say, for others I may just soak up His glorious creation and chat with him in my head.  I honestly have no idea how all of this will play out, but I know that God has been nudging my heart in this direction and I trust that he has some plans of his own for this.  I will put as much effort into getting ready for our time together as I would any other date and I will offer God the same courtesies (phone off, clearing schedule, etc) as I would were I on a date with someone.  I will be as intentional in my commitment to God for these 30 dates as I always am.

At first, I had thought I would take a month and do something each night, but I quickly realized that it wouldn't be the same.  I want this to have the same depth and breadth as a new relationship would in my life because never before have I pursued God in this manner.   I have gone through phases of reading my Bible a lot or studying with daily devotionals, I have been intentional in my prayers,  I have journaled prayers and I have read books to help my spiritual growth.  I have sought God as my Father, Protector, Healer, Friend, Guide and so much more but I have never sought to put the energy into creating more of a relationship with him that has this type of intimacy to it.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Tomorrow (Monday) is the anniversary of my Grandpa Casper's passing.  Considering how poorly I deal with loss in my life, I don't really find it amusing that my two Grandfathers I knew bookended my Birthday with their deaths.  It has really forced me to reflect and appreciate my life in a wholly new way than I did before their passings.  Tonight, I still don't want to reflect too much on how much I miss him, but more on what an incredible man he was.  

He met my Grandma Casper when they were in High School Together.  They dated his whole senior year and then he enlisted in the Navy.  After basic training, he proposed.  He was at Pearl Harbor and served in WWII and they didn't get married until he returned from the war.  Within a year of marrying Grandma, her half brother came to live with them because her father's second wife had passed and he was so lost in his grief he couldn't raise my Uncle Arnie.  A year after that Grandpa's older sister Ruth and her husband Kenneth died in a plan crash leaving 4 children orphaned.  There was a bit of a tussle in the family over custody, some wanted the older kids, some wanted the 3 girls, some wanted only the boy... after about a year of this my Grandpa and Grandma stepped up and said they would take all four kids in.  This is how they became to be my Grandparents, because my mom was only one when her parents died.

I am not sure 3 years into a marriage, with a toddler of your own and expecting your second child that most people would take on 5 kids that weren't their own, but my Grandpa did.  It was important to him that his nieces and nephew not be separated, he felt they had already lost enough.  He also felt badly that the older kids were going to have to switch houses and schools so he quit attending the Catholic church with is wife and children so that my mom and her siblings could continue to grow up in the Lutheran church their parents had attended.  When my Aunt Karen developed cancer, Grandpa never once thought about seeing if someone else could take on the "adopted" kids so he could focus on his birth daughter.  They were all 7 his kids and they were all raised as siblings.  Sure, everyone knew the family history and that Grandpa was their uncle not their father, but he was their Dad.

He had ice cream pants... they were these awful brown pants and it was almost embarrassing to be seen in public with him when he wore them, but you knew if Grandpa had them on, you were stopping for ice cream at some point before going home to Grandma.   He tolerated no disrespect to others.  He had a candy shop and chocolate factory that was the stuff of childhood dreams.  I loved taking my school classes on field trips to Grandpa's chocolate shop... he put Godiva to shame.  He taught me to jump on a trampoline, and was at everyone of my dance recitals.  When I got into a car accident, he sent me a box of Captain Crunch Cereal as a joke.  He loved black coffee and making Sunday breakfast for all his girls.  He called women toots or sweetie but not in a dirty old man sort of way, just in a throwback to another era.  He always said that you could face a problem laughing or crying and that he would much rather laugh at life than to sob his way through it.

He was just a really remarkable man and I am eternally grateful that he and his fairly new bride stepped up to adopt my mom and her siblings because my Grandpa blessed my life from it's beginning.  His legacy is a great one that lives on in the hearts of his many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but also in the lives of the people he employed, volunteered with, coached and lived life with.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


I think anticipation is one of my favorite emotions.  I enjoy it most when I have found the "perfect" gift for someone.  I can hardly wait to give it to them because I just want to see their reaction.  I try and find things a month or so in advance to let the excitement build.  The second best form of anticipation is the kind I am feeling right now.  When you're waiting for a great time to start, a friend's visit or the start of a vacation, you sit on the edge of anticipation.

On Thursday my anticipation will be at the max, because Brenda will be arriving to spend a week visiting me! I met Brenda when I was 7.  She has been there for the majority of my life's ups and downs.  If you need to know anything about me, she could tell you the answer as readily as I could.  She is number 3 on my speed-dial.   She was the second call I made when I found out I won the scholarship to live in Germany.  She was the first call I made after things with J went down and for several years she was the only one I had told.  We can go weeks without talking because life is busy, but we always pick right up where we left off.  We always talk about not letting so much time pass... maybe one of these years we will actually make it happen!  

I really enjoy living in Nashville, but it's not always easy.  Since moving here in May of 2003 I have made some amazing friends, had some remarkable clients and have created a network that I can lean on when things are challenging.  It's just that I grew up with a TON of family (Mom was one of 7 and most of my Aunts and Uncles had at least 3 kids) around, I went to the same church the majority of my life and aside from 7 kids I graduated with the same people I started first grade with.  My Nashville friends like me for who I am now and who all my experiences have helped me to become, but my Minnesota people know how I became who I am now for the most part.   

One of the hardest things about my reality is that I am just not a part of their daily realities and the same could be said of them for me.  Sure, I miss all of them terribly, but it is rare that I call many of them when I've had a bad day because they can't really meet me to go for a walk or come over for dinner.  I sometimes wish I made it home  more often than I do, but my parents moved to the Dallas/Fort Worth area about a year after I moved to Nashville, so now when I have time off I head that way instead of going back to the cities.  When I went back in 2007 for my Grandpa's funeral, it had been nearly 5 years since my previous visit.  I went back for a weekend visit in 2008 and haven't been back since.  I do keep up with a great majority of the High School and Church crowd via facebook and I touch base with my two Grandmothers and other relatives with phone calls.  

Ya know you're friends really love you and rank among your "besties" when they're willing to drive 15 hours to spend a week celebrating your birthday with you!  I am so ready for the side aches, smile lines and tears that I know are going to be a daily reality for the week she is here.  I am not kidding we will spend 10 out of 12 hours in non-stop laughter.  Our time together is always filled with fun, making new memories, remembering old memories, lots of camera flashes and somehow always restores a bit of me I hadn't realized was lacking.  

So right now I am filled with anticipation... 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

So Thirsty

For the last few weeks my snooze button and I have been pretty closely acquainted.  I am generally not a big snooze button pusher, but you would never know it recently.  In fact, just yesterday I didn't wake up until 6 and I have to be out my door by 6:18 to be at work by 6:30.  I'll have you know I made it with time to spare, but it was a race and Harry Winston was neglected in the whole process.

I was a little surprised when at about 1:50 this morning I woke up suddenly.  I couldn't figure out what woke me, but I was a little thirsty so I got up to get a glass of water.  Once I started drinking I realized I wasn't a little thirsty, I was THIRSTY.  I probably drank close to a liter of water and had to stop myself from drinking more knowing that my body just needed time to absorb all I had taken in.  I started thinking about how much water I had consumed today... it wasn't nearly as much as I should have nor as much as I usually drink in a day.  How did that happen?  A glass of tea and two cups of coffee throughout the morning followed by a soda with lunch were part of the problem.  I did have some water while the kids were napping and a glass of milk with dinner solved the rest of the mystery.  I'd only had one glass of pure water.  Yes, I know that water is the main component of the tea and coffee, but  even counting them I'd only had half the water I needed. I know how much water I should be consuming each day and usually meet those needs without a lot of effort, but occasionally I get a little caught up and don't realize how much other stuff I am using to quench my thirst that isn't the water my body has a vital need for.  I'm not saying any of the things I drank were all that bad, yes I know soda isn't good but one or two a week isn't horrible either, but they can be a problem when they take the place of what you really need.

As I came back to bed and was attempting to fall back to sleep (I failed and have been awake ever since) it occurred to me that my thirst for Jesus is similar.  I may think I just need a little in the moment but then I start to "drink" in his word and I realize I need and want more than I initially thought.  I also have to remind myself to not to over do it, but to go slow so I can really absorb what I'm reading.  I hate that sometimes I distract myself with TV, movies, novels or whatever else when it comes at the cost of my time with God and my Bible. Just like the soda, they are not bad in moderation, but when they come at the cost of my spiritual health they are a problem. I love reading and so I eagerly read books and blogs that will help my daily spiritual growth, but they are kinda like the tea and coffee... no matter how much faith and Jesus you find in them, they are not the same as reading the Bible for yourself.

I have a THIRST for God and His Word, he built it in me just as surely as my need for water to sustain me.  And like my 8 glasses of water a day I need a certain amount of time with God each day to be my most healthy self.  I know how much better I feel when I get enough water.  I know how more centered I feel when I make time for God each day.  There are no substitutions but plenty of distractions.  Just like I can get busy and forget to drink as much as I should, I can fill my time with other things, but at some point I will wake up in the middle of the night thirsty for Him.

I'm off to start my day with my usual cuppa tea, but instead of getting ready while I enjoy it I am going to share my tea time with God today.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I never said...

I am very surprised I am about to write this.  As little as two days ago I made a comment on Kyle's blog about how I usually share this story one on one, but that I didn't think I would ever put it out for mass consumption. Things started to shift for me yesterday when Pete was preaching on praying.  The two biggest points that started to shift my thinking were when he said, "At the very core of intimacy is truth" and "As long as I strive for control, I will never achieve the true intimacy I long for."  Then in our community group last night Brett Bergstrom made the point that if someone tells us they love us it encompasses all of what made us who we are now.  Who we are now has been shaped by all we have been through.  Today, while the kids were napping the thought of writing this all out was pressing on my heart, but instead of rushing into writing I prayed about it and then started to reread a bit of Plan B.  Avoidance is a great tactic unless it is a bit of a slap upside the head like this was:

On page 135 Pete encourages us to "...fight the temptation to hide.  Take the risk of sharing your authentic self whenever you can possibly manage it.  Trust that God will eventually provide you with a community that will circle around you even if it comes from the most unlikely of places."

The message is coming in loud and clear.  I am going to let go and put it out there.  I can't control how it is perceived or received.  I can't control the impact it has on anyone or what anyone walks away thinking about it, but really it's not about who I am,  it is about a situation that happened and shaped me.  It is still my story, but it is far enough in the past that I don't have a problem talking about it (except for my parents, I can't see how it will do anything but hurt them) I just hate the way that once people hear what happened, it shifts how they look at me.

I am not a victim, or at least I don't see my self as one.

I don't take on an empowered survivor status either.

I am not sure that I classify it in anyway, which I think ultimately is the reality of the situation.  You see it's not about being a bad girl or promiscuous.  It's not about putting myself in harm's way by making unwise choices. It's not about getting drunk or being reckless or some wild college story, though I was in college at the time.

It is about a girl who loved a boy.  It is about a significant relationship.  It follows a death and proceeds a graduation.  It is my story.

I was involved with a guy who served our military while I was in college.  When my Grandpa passed away on Spetember 4,2001 J wasn't able to get leave right away, but EVERY day from the day my Gammpy died he called me.  The day I drove the 5 hours from Milwaukee to Minneapolis he was on the phone with me at every opportunity.  I will assure you that without his calls I would not have made it home because I kept pulling off the expressway to sob uncontrollably.  At the wake, after the funeral and in the days that followed before I headed back to college, J would call and check on me.  He sent flowers to my parent's house.  He had my favorite ice cream delivered.  He had my heart in his hands and he took great care with it.  My parents were impressed with him and our relationship.  I headed back to campus and eagerly awaited September 11th.

Yes, that September 11th.  J was a part of a training exercise but had been cleared for a visit following that morning's activities.  That never happened.  Instead I awoke to a call from Mom frantically asking me where J was and telling me to turn on the TV.  In the hours that followed I think I was pretty numb.  I had just come from my hero's funeral and the man I loved was unreachable but most likely in that chaos.  Eventually, the newly married wife of his best friend called to tell me that the guys were okay and headed to deal with clean up and security.  Eventually things calmed down a little and we were able to resume phone calls and emails.  The horrors he would talk about would surface on the nightly news a few days after he would confide in me.  I can not imagine living with what I know he saw.

Mid-October he was able to come visit for 4 days (3 nights) and I was over the moon excited.  I just wanted to hug him and have him wrap me up in his arms.  I wanted to feel that he was safe and I wanted to lean on him in the wake of my Gammpy's passing.  J's flight came in while I was in class and I had told him that I couldn't meet him for at least 2 hours after his flight landed but it could be up to 3 hours if the Professor took the full class time that night. By the time we got out of class there were a bunch of increasingly angry voice mails from J.  Apparently he had forgotten I was going to be in class or expected that I would blow it off.  The problem with overloading each semester and having a Grandpa pass a month earlier is that I had already missed all the classes I could without it affecting my grades.  I called him as I took my suitcase and book-bag out to my Del Sol.  I got his room number and assured him I was on my way as quickly as I possibly could.  I also tried to figure out where we might want to go for a late dinner.

Um, lets just say we had a very enthusiastic welcoming party inside that suite before heading out to dinner.  At dinner I started to catch glimpses of a very different and very angry version of J.  This was NOT the man I knew.  Yet, after dinner when it was time to head back to the hotel (boys were most certainly NOT allowed to stay in the dorms of my Catholic all women's college) we got into a major fight on the street in front of the restaurant.  J apparently could not be driven around by a girl, not even the one he was "making purple" with and didn't care that I never let anyone else drive my car.  Now, I am not one to fight especially not in public... I just hate yelling at each other because it gets to be about winning and not about hearing what the other is saying.  I caved.  I eventually just gave him my keys.  I wish I could say that once we were at the hotel I was smart enough to drop him off and head back to campus.  I wasn't.  I wanted to work out what was going on with him and resolve the stupid fight over who was going to drive a few miles.

I wanted comfort, love and consolation over my loss in the arms of the one I loved... not anger, distrust and petty fights with this stranger in my boyfriend's body.  We worked things out and headed to bed.  I wasn't really planning on anything more than snuggling and sleeping that night with the hopes that in the morning things would be back to the way they had always been before.  It was not to be.  Instead I was awoken a few hours later by the insistent nudging of J and a few hours after that and then a few hours after that.  In fact for the next four days I would not be allowed to get more than a few hours sleep at a time.  He would wake me up for a "fun" little romp or to watch Along Came A Spider and other such movies.  Movies that I wouldn't be really excited to watch under the best of circumstances, but especially not when everything J & I own (including all my clothing) is locked in the waist high bathroom safe except for my boyfriend's boxers, t-shirt and service weapon.

Yep, I spent 5 days in a hotel suite with my boyfriend and his gun.  There was lots of purple being made and I never once said no.  Now, I didn't really say yes either and I didn't fight because let's face it he had a gun.  No, he never pointed it at me, but it was never more than an arm's length away from him either.  My main thought was just on trying to keep Mr. Crazy-pants calm.  I was not going to do anything that might upset him.  He was already raging that I was just trying to trap him and I was after his money.  I only wanted to be with him for where he could take me if he kept moving up the ranks the way he had been... I just kept denying it and trying to sooth whatever concerns he brought up next.  Eventually on the 5th day I woke up before him.  I wrapped myself toga style in the sheet and with my heart in my throat I quietly made my way out of that room.  Every instinct I had was screaming to run and instead I went painfully slow trying to prevent the snick of the door latch from waking him.  It didn't and I was able to go to the front desk where I explained the situation and they let me sit in a back office while we waited for the police and for someone to get all my things from the room's safe.

I have to live with the fact that I never once told him no.  Yet, I am not sure that telling him no would have made a difference, in fact I would guess that it might have made things worse.  I guess I will have to trust that I made the best possible choices in those moments by following my instincts.  I don't know that I would label it Rape or say that I was a victim.  I know when I headed to my Gendered Violence Class that night, it was the most difficult class to sit through.  After class my professor asked to speak with me, apparently I went a little white during the lecture and discussion (Duh!) and she was the first person I voluntarily told.  She told me it was rape and suggested a group I attend.  I didn't.  I had a few months left until my graduation in December and I had too much on my plate as it was so I just tried to push past it.

It would be too simple for things to end there, it was probably another month or so of vulgar phone messages and threats.  He would fill my answering machine, my cell phone's voice mail, my Hotmail inbox with his ranting messages.  Honestly, it was those messages of hate that did the most damage.  They are what wounded me the most, not that I believed intellectually what he was saying, but somewhere inside the wounds started to build up.  Little nicks that pierced so deep and didn't heal easily.  For quite a while I stopped trusting myself.  I chose to share my heart with this man.  I welcomed him to me.  I loved him.  Okay, I know I didn't love PTSD him, but for a long time after this I quit trusting my own judgement.  I had just failed my self so spectacularly how could I possibly be trusted to protect myself in the future?

I did eventually move on and I have shared this story with several people.  At this point it is 9 years in my past and I have worked through all but my hatred of guns.  I still get physically ill around them as I discovered 6 weeks ago.  It has changed me and how I approach relationships, I proceed with great caution now.  I will be quick to back away if someone seems too demanding or if they try to put too much pressure on right at the beginning instead of letting things develop at a more natural pace.  I never enjoy telling the guys I get involved with about this, but I do have to tell them because it changed the core of me and how I react in certain situations.  I just really despise how it changes the way people see you.  I hate the labels that get attached and the looks of sympathy.  I think in some ways they re-victimize because labels come with presuppositions.

I didn't ask for it to happen.

I wasn't a wild child.  I didn't hang out with the wrong crowds.  I wasn't a naughty party girl that got too drunk one night.  I wasn't whatever other image society wants to put out for why girls have it happen to them.  I didn't stay.  Once there was a chance to get safely away I was gone.  I didn't go back, even when he was making all those threats.

I had just turned 21.  I had lived on my own since I was 17.  I had already spent a year living in Germany.  I had almost completed my B.A. in Behavioral Sciences (Psychology, Sociology & Anthropology) program in a mere two and a half years.

I gave my heart to a man I thought I could trust.

He damaged it.

I healed.  I found a way to add value to my life with it.

I used it while working with teens who had been abused physically, verbally, emotionally and sexually.  I could never tell them that I had been there and come out the other side stronger.  Boundaries.  But I could empathize, I could encourage, I could listen and really hear what they were saying.  All those untold moments that lurk between the voiced ones, I heard them.  I could know the plethora of emotions that can't be described.

Knowing it all, I count myself fairly lucky.  I wasn't seriously harmed in a physical way, though I think verbal and emotional do more lasting damage.  I have mostly put it behind me and what still lingers has enabled me to help others try to find healing.  I would never go so far as to wish for it to happen to me again, but to know that something that horrific can happen to you and that you can get to a place where I am now is an odd comfort.  It's also a strong reminder for me to keep my eyes on Jesus and things will start looking up no matter how bad they are at the beginning.


  1. I am grateful for the fog that greeted me this morning on my walk, for it is a reminder to always walk in the Favor Of God.  
  2. I am grateful for the wonderful talk I had with my Nashville campus pastor Blake yesterday evening, even if what we spoke about had my thoughts churning and kept me up way past my usual bed time.  It was worth it!
  3. I am grateful for my community group and all the wonderful people I have met there who enrich my life immeasurably each Sunday night.  The friendships, support and insights they offer are priceless.
  4. I am so grateful for all the parents who have chosen to trust me with their kids and homes.  I know I have put in the effort to earn that trust, but I do realize what a precious gift I've been given by being allowed to live in these moments with them.
  5. As I sit here listening to H read books in her bed before starting her day I am grateful for the legacy I will leave on the hearts of each of these kids.  I know that no matter what the final outcome is, I have helped lay the foundations their futures will stand upon.  I have changed the world one small child at a time.