It’s my birthday in a couple of days. I will be a whopping 38 years old. Is it weird that I’m excited for the big 4-0 coming in a couple of years? I think it’s because I see more growth ahead. I figured this out when I looked at myself 10 years ago in comparison to where I am today. Then I looked at 10 years before that and 10 years before that…wow! So much can change. So much can get better. Interested in my 10 year milestones? I sure hope it encourages you to keep growing and to keep loving and to never give up. It can all be redeemed.
I loved to write stories and draw pictures on printer paper from my Grandma’s office with my baby brother. To play with Barbie dolls on Saturday mornings with my younger sister. And dress up in pretty clothes and make up from my mom’s endless supply.
I missed my dad but would start a 4 year journey after my mom’s remarriage of only seeing my father once or twice a year. Those 2-week-long trips to Lake Tahoe did my heart much good. So when my mom moved us back up the Inland Empire from San Diego and met my stepdad, my father gave up the chase for my mother and took a step back on his parenting for another 8 years while my step-dad took us in, provided us a home, stable school and clothes. We needed that. We did. But he had a temper and I never really felt truly loved by him. I always felt like I had to earn his love and was never quite good enough. I doubt he meant to make me feel this way. But he did. And oh how much I wanted him to love and approve of me. In those times he did show, it meant so much.
And these relationships with my fathers set the stage for so much struggle in my life in my view of men and myself as a person. This perpetual chase for my fathers’ love and approval through the attention of boys. I did not know my Father in heaven yet…but I would soon…soon I’d be singing praises at the local Baptist church and asking Jesus into my heart, the beginning seed of redemption for my life.
At my friend Melanie’s wedding with my high school friends within a year of us graduating high school. Don’t let the smile fool you. I was a wreck.
Fast forward 10 years. I’m 18 years old. I’m depressed, angry, eager to grow but so lost at the same time still, seeking my value and worth in the attention of young men. My mother and step-father had divorced a year or two before after 8 years of marriage. I still bore the emotional wounds of his hurtful adjectives on my heart as well as emptiness from my own rebellion against him and I was still not over getting recently dumped by my first love who I gave everything to at the age of 15 on a cold, January night when I pushed the protective arms of Jesus aside and said yes to the velvet hands of the world.
So now high school graduation had passed and I needed a savior again. My father took me in to his home still two counties away, helped me get a driver’s license, and got me enrolled at the local community college to start my prerequisites for dental hygiene school. This was my one year of cleansing myself from my past before moving forward with my life. I took 12-15 units a semester, had no job, but sat at my dad’s kitchen island drinking multiple glasses of espresso, studying, writing poetry, reading books, and listening to all the melancholy rock ballads I could find that could tap into the core of my pain I didn’t know how to numb.
This phase would not last long, however. At the core of me, I still believed I needed alcohol and drugs to have a good time and I would soon head right into that lifestyle I had dabbled in before. I believed this lifestyle my stepdad tried to stop me from living was ultimately fulfilling, made life worth living, and could be done while still getting an education. My real father was good to me, and I cherish the memories I had in his home during my college years. But he trusted me too much without knowing entirely all that I was doing, especially the early years of college. So I balanced my partying and studying through college, eventually making money by waiting tables, tutoring, and copywriting– racked up a couple of degrees, a teaching credential, and a collection of baggage I’d take to the cross again 10 years later after my 13 year hiatus I began in 1995.
The day before my 28th birthday, I published a blog post that would prompt a colleague of mine named Kelley to walk into my classroom at Oceanside High School with a cup of Starbucks and a card with a hundred-dollar bill inside for some tires I needed and a note that said, “everything I have belongs to the Lord. And he wanted you to have this.” Everything in my life changed from that point on.
I had been teaching for 5 years, calmed down from my wild college years and was living with my boyfriend of 6 years and our 8-month-old son. I no longer partied anymore, and in the quietness of my more clean life, and a temporary peace, I had ironically been dealing with a returned sense of emptiness and purposelessness for the last couple of years which had led us to a 4 month break up two-years prior, then back together, then with a child I believed would finally lead me to feel good about who I was at my core. But a number of stresses lead me to vent on that blog and Kelley’s note was all I needed.
Within two weeks I was blogging about returning to church again, and a month later on the very day I pushed Jesus away in 1995, I decided to return to him–not knowing it was the same date until a few months later. But it was 13 years to the day.
By April, my son’s father and I had broken up again. This time for good. He didn’t want to marry a “Christian” when I told him we needed to marry for me to stay under his roof. I loved him. And after 6 years of being together despite the short break up 2 years prior. I didn’t think it was much to ask for given my new faith.
The rejection was difficult to bear. I was angry, devastated, confused. But I knew one thing. God was alive in my life and I could not give him up to return to where I was. I was not going back.
I moved in temporarily with my sister and by the end of summer the following year, I was living with my father again. He gave me a place rent free. Helped me discipline my son. And comforted me during that pivotal transition in my life as I tried to find myself again outside of a man’s affection. I’m so glad to have that time with my daddy during that time. I need him. I had no idea that he would die tragically 3 years later when I would be pregnant with my second son, leaving me with just 13 years of knowing him well to redeem those 13 years I didn’t after his divorce from my mom. 13 precious years. That is what I would get.
It’s been another ten years. I’m not going to say the story is over. God still isn’t done with me yet…not by far. But God is good.
I am happily married to a man who loves Jesus as much as I do, who puts his arm around me at church every Sunday. with 4 beautiful children under the age of 10. He makes a wonderful step father to my 10-year-old son who our own three children love and admire as well. Our marriage itself has been a testimony. Today, we own a home in an older neighborhood in North County, San Diego. Its our first home and we love it. It has a big back yard with lots of trees. We will be adding on to it soon.
After a 13-year-career as an English teacher, I am on a leave-of-absence, now working side-by-side with my husband on our small business from home so I can be more involved in my children’s lives. I take them to school, I pick them up, I take them to doctor’s visits during the day rather than squeeze them in at 4:30 while still wearing my work shoes and a bag of papers to grade in the waiting room. I take them to the park in street clothes and push them on the swings without feeling a need to rush home and squeeze in all my other duties. I don’t want to go back to teaching anytime soon.
I also have this growing blog, a published children’s book about Jesus, and a growing marriage ministry my husband and I lead. These projects are passion projects that help me make my footprint in the world.
Most importantly– I am ten years in my relationship with my creator and God. He continues to teach me and love me. In him I have purpose, joy, and peace in a world that tells me I have no purpose, tries to rob me of my joy and entice me with temporary happiness in trivial things that ultimately leave me empty; it gives me peace in a world full of war and pain. He has redeemed all the previous decades of my life and showed me how he uses it in my life and others for good and not for disaster.
Don’t get me wrong, as I said before–the story isn’t over. God is still working hard on me. In the last 10 years I’ve been broken up, lost my job, found a new job 45 minutes away, married quickly, had a miscarriage, supported my husband through unemployment and full-time college, helped him start and grow a business, mourned the death of my father and my grandmother, had three more children (all three very sick within the first 3 weeks of life), moved three times, supported my husband through cancer, quit my safe job of 13 years to come home…God.Has.Used.It.All. I even reconnected with my stepfather and we BOTH apologized for our wrongs against each other. It was so freeing.
But I’ve still got some daddy issues that come out in my own marriage–my husband’s approval of me I often hold up more important than anything else, even God. So I’m learning still to cast my idols at the foot of the cross every day. God has done much to help me grow in my faith, my joy ,and sense of purpose so I don’t doubt that in 10 more years, I will have another testimony. Or in my case, God also likes the number 13, the number of a completion. He’s a poet that way.
There is so much more I could say, but I’ll save that for my future memoir one day. Maybe I’ll have that started when I’m 48. 🙂