So, as I posted the other day I got a tattoo while I was in St. Louis.
I have two reasons for why I got it:
1. My nanny is my hero and I got it to remind me of her and her never failing faith. She has had a tough life (I mean TOUGH) but she remains faithful. Through all the trials she has been through, she is still a warm and beautiful person. I once asked her how she managed and she said “God has always been there for me.” (She isn’t a fan of tattoos and when I showed it to her on Mother’s Day, I jokingly said “Now, don’t hate me.. but I got in honor of you” – she laughed, gave me a big hug and said “I’d never hate you for that.” :)
2. My faith has wavered many times in my life but my belief in God hasn’t. This is a reminder that no matter what I am going through, I am not alone. I got it in white ink because even when you don’t feel/see God’s presence – He is always there.
That being said… I wanted to share my testimony. I’ve thought about it many times and I think it is time I wrote it down. For myself, for other believers, and for those who feel lost and
I grew up in a Christian household and went to a Baptist church in the Bible-belt. My parents were in the church choir, in group ensembles, and the hand bell choir. My sister and I were in the children’s choir and in the plays. I did a short stint in the children’s hand bell choir, but it wasn’t for me. We went to Sunday School just about every Sunday and we were expected to sit quietly during “big people church.” We were at the ground breaking for the new sanctuary. I’d say we were pretty active in our church.
On February 24, 2000, that all changed. It was a Friday afternoon and I was called out of class for early dismissal. My dad had been in Myrtle Beach for a business trip so I assumed he was just picking us up early. When I walked into the office, no one was in the waiting area. I was taken to the principal’s office (which for the record I had NEVER been in) and I saw my Nanny and sister. They were crying – not good. My dad had passed away the night before of massive heart attack. Not even two weeks before that, his cardiologist told him it wasn’t his heart – I’d say that 90% blockage in his aorta and an enlarged heart that resulted in a heart attack at 46 would be a HUGE indication that is was, in fact, his heart.
The next three days were a blur. I remember turning into our neighborhood and seeing a lot of cars parked out front. I remember walking in and seeing my mom for the first time and hugging her. I remember sitting with my mom and dad’s best friends, holding on to his sweatshirt for dear life. I remember my best friend, Lesley, and her father picking me up to spend the night with them so my mother could have some private time. I remember fighting with family over which dress I would wear to the funeral. I remember hundreds of people showing up for his visitation and funeral. I remember the double rainbow over the funeral home. Mostly, I remember feeling very betrayed by a God my father so faithfully served.
So, I stopped going to church. Maybe it was my way of “punishing” God for what He did to me and my family. I don’t know but I know I was mad. I couldn’t understand why God would take my dad from me.
For 4 years I only went to church when my mom made me – which wasn’t often (Easter, Christmas …). I am so thankful that my mom didn’t force me to go and that she let me figure out my own way back. I think my faith would have been damaged further if she would have demanded that I go.
I remember one time I braved my “demons” and went to try out for the children’s musical. When I didn’t get a decent part, I just didn’t go back. At the time I remember thinking that God owed me. He owed it to me to give me a decent part and when I didn’t I wasn’t too happy.
I started going back when I was in 7th grade. I went back because the boy I had a major crush on asked me to come. Pure and simple, right or wrong - that is how it went down. My faith grew for a while and I became…. popular…. I know weird word to use but I kind of had. Adults were telling me that I was a great example for their children and that I was a great example of a Christian. A lot of kids wanted to hang out with the little circle I had built and I went to all of the youth events.
Remember that boy that invited me? Well we “dated” on and off for two years. It was our freshman year in high school, and things started to back slide. He was into a punk-phase, which I mostly supported. We were both trying to figure out who we wanted to be and I noticed his faith was slipping. Instead of trying to lead him back, I followed him. We both started questioning our faith and eventually we both stopped going to church. I could make up a bunch of excuses and blame other people but I know that it was my choice… and the path I was supposed to go down.
In 10th grade, I spent some time at an Episcopal church. My two best friends went there and I felt like there was less pressure and more acceptance there. The youth group was smaller and fun. The leaders were caring and down to earth (that isn’t to say those at the other church weren’t, I just felt more at ease at the Episcopal church). I went to youth events and even served as staff on one. When my friendships started to fade…. again… I stopped going.
When Vincent and I started dating, it was known that we were both Christians but not active in a local church. It never really seemed to be a problem. We got married and the prospect of finding a local church in North Carolina didn’t seem “right.” We visited one church in the area but after no one spoke to us we didn’t go back. We found multiple excuses as to why we weren’t in church. We didn’t say grace before meals and I know I wasn’t praying at bedtime. I couldn’t even tell you where our Bibles were. When he was deployed, I sang in the choir with my mom and sister but still felt … weird.
It wasn’t until his accident that I found my way back.
Our 4 year anniversary is in 2 weeks and I started to reflect on all the things we have been through since we got married. And honestly, we have been through more life-changing events in the last four year than most couples do in 20 years.
In the first two years we went through a 7 month deployment, death of a sibling, death of a parent, traumatic motorcycle accident, and loss of a career because of motorcycle accident. We also got into a good bit of debt (I mean I’m not talking $100,000 or anything but for 20… it was bad…). In the last two years we have adjusted to Vincent’s injury (which he has taken in stride, I might add), accept our time in the military was over, gotten out of debt, move back to SC, and started school and working.
But “when life knocks you on your knees, you are in the perfect position to pray.” So I did. A lot. The day I got the call from the EMT about his accident, I spent the first half talking to my best friend and the other half I spent praying. I know people say there isn’t a wrong way to pray but I’m pretty sure going, “God- nope. You can’t have him. I won’t let you take him from me” – is not the best way. While he was in the hospital, my prayers turned into, “Lord, I’m scared. But I trust you.”
Because of the anger I had after my dad’s death, I was genuinely afraid my faith would falter after Vincent got hurt. But my faith got stronger. Instead of asking God to fix things, I asked for the patience and guidance to face my fears and trials head on. Sure, on December 1, 2009, our lives took a dramatic u-turn but I am happy where we are at.
In 2010, my sister was engaged and I was shooting several weddings in Columbia, so when Vincent and I would come into town we would go to church with my sister and brother-in-law. It was nice but we were still living in NC so we never fully developed that church family connections.
We are still trying to find our way now that we are back in Columbia. We are going to a couples Bible Study on Sunday nights, which is nice but we still haven’t committed to a church. I think, for me, it’s mostly fear that is holding me back. I don’t want to feel like a “fake” like I did in middle school and I want to feel like I belong like I did at the Episcopal Church. I fear going through another “let down” like I did with my father’s death and pulling away. I am trying to not let the fear get to me but it’s a struggle.
Lately, I have been struggling with who I am – as an individual. I question my personality at times (am I too loud, too talkative, to weird…?) and I am having a hard time opening up. I mean I have no problem telling people personal things – but I don’t let people “in” often. I try to put on this “I don’t care if people don’t like me” act but that is all it is – an act. I have been trying to let things roll off my back but it’s hard when people “pick” on you, even when they think it’s not a big deal or that they are just kidding… it hurts. Recently, my prayers have turned into “Lord, let me be comfortable with who I am and not let others get to me.”
I have become better at praying. I have become better at saying “thank you Lord” instead of “can you do this Lord.” Through it all, I know now that even when I am angry, don’t understand, and feel alone…. that I am not. Doesn’t mean I don’t feel discouraged, just means I have a way to get out of it.