Saturday, July 31, 2010

Remembering the Alamo

Hello! It's been a while, again... and I'm sorry, again. I had to sort through a little more.

My struggles have shifted, yet again. Which I can explain, but first I have a thank you. Well lots of thank you's actually. This has been a really hard time for me and it's the most encouraging thing to know that I have the love and prayers of so many people. There are not enough words I could use to express how much the accumulation of thoughts has impacted my latest transition. Your encouraging words have...well been encouraging :)) One particular post hit me pretty hard though. I was asked if I believed the words that I said. When I thought about it, I didn't really think so.

I guess it goes back to trusting God no matter what. Obviously, it's a lot harder for me to trust pain and heartache, even though these things weren't from God. I didn't want to be a hypocrite and tell you all about the rest of my adventures and God when I wasn't really trusting Him. Does that make sense?

I also realized that life hurts when you want it to hurt. I mean, I don't want to hurt, but I wasn't letting God really take the pain away. I wasn't really believing what I said. But I guess life is easier said than done, right? Like a rope. If I hold onto it and it gets yanked away...I only get burned when I'm holding on too tight. As long as my palms are open, it's like the rope was never there.

So last weekend I went to Oklahoma City for this softball tournament. I've never been, so it was a great trip! Besides being with some of my favorite people for the whole weekend. It was my last trip of the summer as well. It hadn't been my plan for long, it was a last minute write in, but after a few days at home alone again, I was ready to get away again. Go figure.

And then it kinda hit me. I might not have been as sad or overwhelmed as I was right after I got back, but that didn't mean I was dealing with it either. I was still running. I've always run. It's always been easier and I thought I was dealing with life, but I wasn't. I was only pretending it was what it wasn't. Still with me?

Nevertheless, I had a great time with great friends. Where did God come in? Because you know as well as I do, He always steps in. This time? It was at the OKC National Memorial. It didn't hit me at first, but He kept spinning the wheels in my mind.

On April 19, 1995 the Murrah Federal Building was bombed at 9:02 in the morning. Half of the building was blown to pieces in the middle of downtown. It killed 168 people, 19 of which were children in the daycare. I was so upset walking through the memorial to know that someone so awful could exist. I read a comic strip in the memorial about how they "were defending freedom by bombing children and social security workers," and I was just furious that there could be someone so ignorant of what's going on or not really plan through something so destructive. It got better though, as I continued walking I read about how America came together and how firemen from all over America came to OKC that day to do what they could. How people were running to the streets with blankets that day and volunteers were trying to calm chaos. How so many people raised so much money for the memorial. How teacher's would explain what happened to children to lessen the fear. It was a group effort. The fear and pain didn't go away as soon as April 20, 1995 came around, of course not. It was a process.

Imagine if after the disaster they had left the building just as it was, half blown away with people still trapped inside. Imagine walking past that everyday. Imagine waking up and reliving that morning everyday. The streets flooded with bloody scenes and smoke. Do you think if it had happened that way, the people of OKC would have been coping? Could you just walk through the masses of people, smoke, or even the building everyday and pretend it wasn't going on or that it hadn't happened when there are people screaming all around you? Of course not. That's silly right?

That's where I was. In life at least. After my dad died, we moved to Farmington, AR where I could pretend that life in Texas with my dad had never happened. Crazy, right? But easier than dealing with the truth. Everyday I woke up being half of my mom and half of my dad and yet it was so easy for me to pretend that it didn't work that way. Like he never really existed. Like he had only ever been someone I had heard of, instead of someone I spent most of my life with.

I realized that with disasters, comes pain, but there also comes healing. Katrina, 9/11, OKC Bombing, Pearl Harbor, the Alamo. They were all disasters, but we're still a nation. So why is the Alamo the title? Because Texas lost the battle of the Alamo, but they won the war. I may go through a lot more pain, but I'll go through a lot more healing too. I may not win every battle, but I will win this war.

So how does our nation heal after a disaster strikes? We build a memorial. We educate others. We don't pretend it never happened. So how should I cope with not only 10 years of repressed feelings about my dad but everything that's been going on lately? I remember it everyday. I tell others about how God saved me yet again. And I stop pretending that life didn't happen.

From now on, I can think about the past, and cry about it if I have to. I'll thank God everyday for my life and live it for real. (Life is for living--Charlie St. Cloud :). I'll be grateful that I was blessed with my very own American Red Cross of support. And I'm getting back to this bigger purpose for a higher power.

This is what's enscribed on the entrance to the OKC memorial:

"We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope, and serenity."

Perfect right? To remember the past, to know the impact of sin and satan, and to leave with comfort, strenght, peace, hope and serenity. All of which happen when I give it all back to God.

Today I went to the Farmer's Market, and then helped at a cook out for missionaries. I'm feeling so much better about everything. The more I experience, the less I realize I know. And the less I realize I know, the more I have to depend on God. I'm ok with that again.

My sarcasm is slowing coming back, along with my joy. Is my life any less bad than it was last week? No. But I think I'm handling life better than I have in a long time. And even thought it's not all better today, and it won't be tomorrow, next week or even next month, it will be eventually. Because at the end of the day, I still have God. Or I guess He still has me.

Thank you so much for keeping up with me. Thank you for your constant encouragment. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for you love.

I love you! Very much so.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Wreckage

Miss me? I've missed you. I promise I did, although I left you high and dry without a warning. I'll explain just about everything. This isn't the easiest thing for me to tell you, nevertheless, I feel as though you have every right to know. And if nothing else, I want to make sure I remember this for later...And as a warning, this is going to be a long one.

The last you heard from me was about this grand adventure I was going on. And I did. I went into this adventure like road trip thinking of it as a vacation on my own. I could travel wherever, visit whomever, and stay for however long I wanted. And I did. I thought it would be like anything else I plan last minute. I trusted that God would lead me and I prayed for safety when I headed off again. And He came through. On everything He ever promised me. Everything from the very beginning.

I think that in order to understand it, I'll tell you the story and then tell you where God was and is, and then tell you where that leaves me.

My mom and I have rarely seen eye to eye on anything since I discovered I had an opinion. Our relationship is a journey and story and a blog post of it's own. For this post, all you need to know is that we stopped speaking at the beginning of the June. The reasons are even unsure to me. I don't want to be unfair or give anyone the wrong information and say that it was all her fault, when it could have easily been mine as well. Either way, we still stopped speaking to each other.

At first I just laughed when I realized she wasn't answering my calls or responding to my voicemails, because it seemed so childish, at some point it turned into frustration, which lead to anger, and finally apathy. I hate to say that I was apathetic towards her, it's just that I had been earnestly trying to communicate my point and from my point of view, I was the victim. I'd say God spoke to me several times since we've stopped speaking and the ultimate lesson I'm trying to learn from this situation is tolerance. Which doesn't seem like the nicest word to use, but it's the one that I heard in the lesson last Sunday morning. I love her a great deal through all this, and I realize now that all I can do is keep trying and pray that this will fade. But that doesn't seem like enough.

Remember when I was thinking about visiting my dad's family? Remember how badly I wanted to tell my mom before hand? I wanted to include her. It wasn't ever supposed to be her decision, but I did want her support. While I may never have gotten that, I wanted her to know the truth and I wanted her to hear it from me. Since the topic is a little too big to leave on a voicemail, she still doesn't know. And I hate that I feel like I'm keeping it from her, because I absolutely plan on telling her this and everything and everywhere else I've been, but I just can't. So what does this have to do with anything? Well I'll get to that...

The adventure I planned isn't exactly what ended up happening. Why? Because God's plan always wins. Always.

My plan was to visit my brother and his family in San Antonio for like a day. Head to Dallas to see my mom's family and spend the night. Visit my dad's family in the morning, very briefly, and head home. All to get done by July 4th.

Wellllllll, my first week in Baton Rouge, my air conditioner stopped working. Luckily my brother is a mechanic! He said he could fix it in no time. He also unexpectedly invited me to spend 4th of July weekend with them and head out Monday. Which was fantastic since I've never been very close to him, although I'd like to be. Of course then, the part he needed didn't come in until Thursday, which meant I left the Friday after the 4th of July. I spent just enough time in SA for God to remind me that there were people that I used to be close to (where I mostly grew up) in Kemp, TX and that it would be good for me to visit them as well. Although I had thought of them several times, I was never proactive about it, until then for some reason. My best friend back when I was 10 was Tabitha and there was a couple at church that I had always been close to who are the Pattersons. When I called Tabitha looking for the Pattersons number, she was able to help right away, and I gave them a call. To my surprise, they remembered me and offered for me to stay with them. Since I had been so close to them before, it only made sense for me to stay with them then. My detoured plan had at that point changed to visit Tabitha when I get to Kemp, stay with the Pattersons, visit my dad's family Saturday morning, stop by my mom's family on my way out of Texas and get home. But I had it wrong again. I was so anxious to see the couple that had left such an impression, I drove straight there and we chatted the entire night away. They offered me "my bedroom" yet another night and I agreed it was probably best to ensure so that I make all my necessary stops.

So I got back to Arkansas Sunday night and my life completely changed. But I'm getting to that. At that point, it was like I was a completely different person. I'm still not exactly the same and it actually worries me to think that I may never be the same. I had planned on visiting my friend Bekah in KS as a surprise for her birthday, but I wasn't even sure if I could muster the energy to do that. And I reeeeally like her. I figured getting away again would be my best option to regain sanity, and it was. And now I'm at my house. Until this weekend when I'll be able to leave again for OKC. You see, as much as I have loved being here in the past, I have no desire to spend more time here than I have I guess I can go back and fill you in on the necessary details of this adventure.

I'll go into more detail about how important it was for me to stay with the Patterson's the same weekend I met my family...later. Maybe tomorrow. There's just so much to fill you in on and I don't want to miss the bigger picture. Which was? The fact that I lost my dad.

In case you didn't know, he died when I was 10. That's when I moved to Farmington, AR as a chance to start over, among other ideas I had formed in my 10 year old mind. Despite my fantastic memory for everything, I only realized recently that there's a pretty big chunk of my memory that's just gone. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Not just after he died, but months before then too. When I went to visit my dad's family, it was never my intention to really think about him. Strange, I know, but it wasn't. I actually didn't even really think about him when I was trying to decide whether or not to see them either. I really didn't think about him much at all. I went there out of respect for my family, the whole institution of family, and to try and fill this hole in my life. I left furious.

First of all, I hadn't been anticipating the thought of my father and the whole weekend was not only filled, but overwhelmingly flowing with his legacy. I got to my family's house and it was all I could think about. Because I was so young when it happened, and because of circumstances at home, I've never had to think about him since the day I moved away. Not really think about him at least. And that weekend? All these people were telling me about how awesome he was. Videos, pictures, conversation...they all pointed to the same thing. He rocked. So why was I mad? Because he was taken from me. I am never going to actually get to know the man they were talking about. Never. I left feeling like I had just lost him all over again and my heart was just broken. On top of that, I was mad that I had been kept from his family for half of my life. Half. Gone. Forever.

I tried to stay composed as I visited my mom's family, not wanting to give them any idea's as to where I had been, I can't let my mom find out from anyone besides me. And then I went to visit Tabitha, which was where I learned that at some point when I was 10, my memory shut down. Not only did it shut down, it had formed fake memories for the lack of what I could remember. What can I remember? Oh yeah, nothing. Besides 2 memories I wish I could erase, which I'll also tell you some other time.

At that point, what I wanted were familiar arms. I wanted my dad to be able to hold me like when I was little so that I could just cry. I wished that my mom were speaking to me so that she could just hold me. But I was alone. And the thing is I can think of plenty of people that would have been there for me. That would have answered my call. That would have given me a shoulder to cry on, a place to crash, a hand to hold, but at that point no one could make it better. Not my friends. Not my family. Not my sister. And not God.

I thought my 5 hour drive home Sunday would give me a chance to think and take it all in. A chance to change my mind about the events that had just happened, but honestly they're a blurr. It only got worse when I got back to my house. Remember how my mom is mad? I came home to not only an empty house, and a 4 page letter but things had started to be packed away. My house will stay empty for the remainder of the summer, besides me. My mom decided it would be best if she stayed away. The packing? I'm not sure, and I can't really ask the one responsible. The letter? Well it destroyed the little sanity I was holding onto. In case I was planning on bouncing back from the shambles the weekend had already left me in, the letter made sure I couldn't.

So the title of my post? Well that's where I am right now. Right in the middle of a disaster zone. It was like the past few months I was able to pick myself up and build my life together with God. It wasn't perfect, but I liked it. I liked where God and I had gotten. And then God dropped a wrecking ball through my life while I was painting the inside. I wasn't expecting it. I never saw it coming. And it happened so fast I ended up under all the rubble. I was so shocked when it was all over, I didn't even think I could get out of it. Nor did I really want to. I think I was exhausted and figured it'd be easier to stay there and play dead then to even try and get up.

But God? Well He didn't give up.

The 2 days I was in Farmington before I left for Wichita are also a blurr now. I didn't get much accomplished and I didn't have the motivation to really get anything accomplished. I didn't talk to anyone or respond to anyone's calls or texts until I had already left again for Wichita, KS. Rebekah Lewis? Well she saved me. She just doesn't know it. You see we grew up going to church camp together and around the same time in High School we kinda grew away from church but stuck to camp. Nevertheless, we always had a serious conversation about everything every year. This time, I told her everything, but I couldn't choke out actual words saying that I basically hated God for ruining my life. Why? Well probably because it wasn't true. But I think that in not being able to admit that to one person I knew I could always tell everything to, I was able to realize wasn't true. Besides that, Bekah has this amazing personality that brings out the most laughter. I laugh so hard, it's silent. A problem most people don't know I have, and even I forget, but God so kindly reminded me. There's God.

The second sign God sent to tell me it was time to get up and get over it was a FB message sent from a girl who reads my blog, whom I've met once, and was roommates with a girl I was kinda friends with freshman year. Weird how He works huh? She sent me a message as a response to my Adventureland post. Remember when I said I wanted to do more? And then my life really sucked? And then I was ready to give up on God but He's cool enough to show me that He's still working? Exactly. God knows exactly what to do to draw me back in. He threw in the element surprise. He chose the most random friend of a friend to tell me that she felt like God was telling her to message me. I cried. There's God.

And finally, yesterday night, Monday, our last night in Wichita, we decided to go to the Keeper of the Plains. I had already been, but had missed the fire that happens at 9 and we almost missed it, and didn't think we'd make it in time and almost decided not to go, but we did. And as my friends walked up they were approached by a fairly large, balding man with a microphone asking if they'd answer a few questions. Hesitant, they volunteered me. Me? I love any chance to get in front of a camera. He explained he was putting together a documentary and would just ask me a few questions. My thoughts? It would be about the Keeper of the Plains or Wichita or Kansas....The documentary? About God. He proceeded to ask me questions about Heaven and Hell and what I believe and why and where I thought I was going and why and a whole bunch of on the spot questions I wasn't prepared for. Romans 10:9 had been a verse that popped up on my phone that morning and the man with the microphone had again restated it and asked for my thoughts. I wasn't prepared for those questions, but I'd say God was. I don't entirely remember everything I answered, but I do remember him being surprised and telling me I was wise, and I almost immediately thanked God for the journey that we had been on. Looking back, everything about the situation and the pressure and knowing the only thing that's been on my mind lately, tells me that I should have told that man exactly how I thought I felt about God. But being angry and upset, was only how I thought I felt. It was how I had twisted my emotions to be bad feelings, when honestly, I don't think my real feelings for God ever changed. Apparently this short film will be on YouTube...we'll see. There's God.

You know the best thing about God? Despite the fact I was ready to give up on our relationship, He wasn't. Which is part of what has made life so hard for me lately. I have so much anger and bitterness and resentment, none of which I want to have, especially not towards Him, and yet here He is blessing me anyways?! Holding my hand. Leading me. I have been so confused because I know what's right, and it's obvious to me that He's still around and here I am trying to get rid of Him almost, and being super mad, and He won't give up! I couldn't see it before, but today I'm thankful for it. I'm thankful that yet again He's proven that our relationship is not only 2 sided, but even when I give up and want to call it quits, He won't. He was there the entire time. Constantly and continuously blessing me, even though I didn't want to see it.

The other interesting, yet somewhat angering concept in this mess is the fact that I know that all things serve a purpse. I can't see what that is right now, especially since I'm still mostly upset about everything, but I know that for whatever reason, that God shouldn't have to explain to me, I need to be really broken right now. I need to really let go of everything so that something better can come along and I can be entirely focused on how I use it to better serve God.

What I decided is that God didn't drop a wrecking ball on my life. He may have very well let it happen, but the fact that it tore me apart means that it wasn't very sturdy to begin with. The important thing? The foundation is still there. And now that I can see how God blessed me with this huge family, and wonderful friends, I know that the new life I start to build will be even better. I have to start by clearing away the mess from before, which will be hard and painful, but it'll only work when it's all gone.

What I've learned is that I have a great deal of learning to do. Maybe that's why I need to talk to more people. Maybe that's why I felt like I should be doing more. Maybe it was never about me helping but more about how mutualistic journey's to God can be. Maybe that's why I started to blog. Who knows.

When I took a closer look not too long ago I prayed that I would have faith like Job's so that I could lose everything and everyone I love and still say "Blessed be the name of the Lord." In my situation, nothing was permanently taken away from me. I was greatly blessed to have reconnected with so many wonderful people and yet I was so ready to close up shop because it hurt too bad to remember. I guess Satan knows that sometimes you don't have to take everything away to hurt someone. Crazy how sneaky he is, huh? Needless to say, it's something to work on. I mean my defense mechanism. Maybe that's where you come in.

Something else to work on? Getting my personality back. I'm not sure where it went. The glimpse I had has come and gone as quickly as my trip to Wichita. I'm sure it will take time to be myself 100% of the time, so until then, bear with me. That's in the Bible too ya know.

And the final thought I wan to leave you with, is a sentence from the beginning: when I said that God had come through on everything He had been promising from the very beginning. Well remember when I was dying to go to South Carolina and I kept having to tell myself God must really want me in Baton Rouge? I think what He was actually saying is that I couldn't be somewhere far away for the whole summer because then I'd never go on my grand adventure. I'm not sure if I served a higher purpose in Baton Rouge, but I can't look at the disaster of a life I have now and not say that it has to be serving a high purpose at some point down the line. I refuse to believe that this has been for nothing. It was never about not getting what I wanted, it was about getting what I needed. God is my Father. He always has been and He's always treated me as such. I'm starting to see His fatherly tendancies. I hope to start appreciating them more and more and seeing them more as well.

As always. I love you