Tuesday, March 11, 2014

{my story}

     A while back after hearing a moving testimony, I was convicted to write my own.  Mostly so that I could remember what God has done for me, but also to share it with others.  I know the word "testimony" has a bad connotation, so I'll just call it "my story," since that's what it really is anyway.

Here goes...

You could always find me in a daze, almost asleep...
     I grew up in a middle class home.  The kind where my parents worked hard for what we had and we (my three sisters & I) were expected to take care of our things.  We went to church on Wednesdays and Sundays.  We played sports.  We went to public school.  And as I'm typing, it seems like I had a regular ole life.  I wasn't a standout sports star, or a beauty queen, or "Miss Congeniality," though I've definitely always had a big mouth (I know, hard to believe).

     I don't really remember any one defining moment that I can look to and say, "That's why I am where I am today."  But ya know, I think life's like that... at least for most of us.

Now, that's not to say that I had a perfect life.

     My life was not perfect.  As a matter of fact, I've been shaken - quite a few times.  When I was in middle school, I was diagnosed with scoliosis.  Not a death threat, not a big deal, really.  But to me, in that awkward stage of life, having to wear a brace that crooked me into the letter "C" at night was a pretty big deal.  My family stood by me, of course and I leaned on God when times got tough (a theme that will continue).  Somewhere in this same year, my dad was diagnosed with cancer - lymphoma.  And this life of me and my family's- well it wasn't quite so packaged up so nicely.  It was dented and bruised.  My parents would go away to Charleston for his treatments, and though they stayed so strong and we always had someone to take good care of us, we knew it wasn't good.  My dad was bald, underweight, and we were scared.  Scared because the only things we knew about cancer was that people lost their hair.  And that they died.  My best friend, Courtney's, Mom passed away of breast cancer just before we started 3rd grade, the day of my Dad's 40th birthday.

     I cried whenever anyone would ask me about him or say they were praying for him.  I prayed a lot.  My prayers were something like this.  "Lord, make my Daddy better.  Don't let him die.  He is a good man and a good Daddy.  And we love him very much."  That Christmas, it wasn't the same.  As much as my Mom (bless her soul) had planned and organized, and set up, it just wasn't the same without them.  We had both sets of grandparents there, and got to talk to them over the phone, but we missed them.  Grandma and Papa Jim took us down (bless them) to Charleston to spend Christmas in the hospital/hotel as a family.  I still remember the pictures me and my sisters took with our colored, transparent, film-taking cameras, doing pyramids with Mama in the hotel room.  It was that kind of thing that helped us to smile through it all.  And I thank God for my parents, for being strong and loving, and just being there.

     I know that prayer works because of this time in my life.  I don't know how or why it doesn't work in other cases, but I found out some years later that my Dad was supposed to die by all medical accounts.  And not only did he live, but he's a healthy man.

     A few months later, I was to have surgery to fuse most of my back.  I was mad at God.  I was mad at the doctors.  I was annoyed that I couldn't play sports for a year.  And quite frankly, I was scared... though I probably didn't admit any of this at the time.  Anyway, I healed up "nicely" as the doctors would say and everything was fine.  I even swam summer league that next summer and ran hurdles in high school, metal rods and all (something I'm still proud of).

That's me, the biggest Clemson
cheerleader one Halloween.
     All through high school, I took the "safe path." I've always been a rule follower, but I also like to take the "road not taken."  I didn't party, I listened mostly to Christian music.  I succeeded in sports and in the classroom.  It came time to pick a college and I got into the one I had always dreamt of going to.  A school that I wasn't sure I'd get in - Clemson.  I grew up going to Clemson football games and wearing Clemson cheerleading uniforms and yelling the cadence count at the top of my lungs.  But ya see, I had a boyfriend who would be back home... and I could be happy there at USCA too, right?  I had all but talked myself into staying home and out of my lifelong dream.  But my parents told me to "broaden my horizons."  And so "broaden" I did.  I went on to Clemson (even though I'd have to change majors because it was the only school I applied to where I got accepted under my second choice (elementary education), not my first (nursing)), and boy am I glad. Coincidence?  I think not.  But we'll come back to that later...

     I made a lot of friends - lifelong friends.  The kinds of friends who I'm going to their weddings now.  The kinds of friends who I see at football games and catch up on life.  Oh... and I also met my husband, Kirk.

     God became more real to me during college than he ever had.  Before, God & Jesus were the answers to all of the questions in Sunday School.  Now it was my heart's longing.  I definitely pulled at other things sometimes trying to get that fulfillment - friends, excelling in school, binge alcohol, spurts of being "fit", and sometimes even the act of going to church.  God was real because he didn't leave me during those times.  He was there the whole time- I just didn't always acknowledge him.  But sometimes I did.  Sometimes I'd get one of those "ah-ha" moments- like when I realized I should trust in my future because I can look back in my past and see how God's plan has been so much bigger than my own. (Still something I have to remind myself of.)  And I like to think that when my second back surgery came up that summer after freshman year to have my infected rods taken out, that I was a testimony to God & trusting in his plan.  I wasn't very scared this time.  I would mention it in side notes to people, but I knew it was just something I had to do.

     That next school year, I was in a car accident with one of my best friends driving, and my now husband in the passenger seat.  It wasn't an awful wreck.  We were actually on our way out of her apartment complex on the way to the Superbowl Party at church.  But because of my past back fusion, and being in a waist belt, I was hurt.  I had 13 stitches put into my forehead, my intestines ruptured, and my back broke.  My friends were so great and visited the hospital every one of those 14 days I was there.  And I knew God would get me through, just as he had gotten me through before.  I was bummed about having to withdraw that semester, but I knew I'd be back that next fall.  There was no doubt about it.  I guess I'm a fighter.  I'm head-strong.  I'm God-strong.

     A few years went by.  I graduated from Clemson in Elementary Education.  I was engaged to Kirk.  And though that was all such a big deal at the time, it's only a moment in time now.  We got married (I was the first in my family) and I got a taste of being the oldest child.  Yikes!  It was a beautiful wedding and I loved the band we danced to in the barn where we had our reception.  But most of all, that day was about a vow we made - to each other.  - to God.  "For better or for worse."  After our honeymoon, we moved to Alabama, 2 states away from that crutch that was my family and my "planned" life.  We moved to Birmingham, where we just happened to have a really good friend, a freshman-year friend, and a mutual friend.  I don't think that was coincidence.  God planned for us to have them here.  All of them have left in our nearly 3 years here, but they connected us to the friends we have now, and for that, I'll be forever grateful.  Through them, we got connected to our church, from where so much good comes into our lives- spiritual feeding, fellowship, and just living life.

     I began looking for a job teaching.  Teaching is my heart's desire.  I feel meant to be a teacher, and again, God knew me better than I knew myself when Clemson was the only school that my major would be Education.  While waiting for my certification to be transferred from SC to AL, I worked at a preschool (one I was referred to from one of those friends we met through our first Birmingham friends - the ones God lined up for us).  At first, I felt like I was just working there until I found a public school job, but as time went on, I felt more like that was where God had me.  Two months before our first anniversary, we found out we were pregnant.  I couldn't be on birth control anymore as I had had a stroke that (praise God!) alleviated itself with no effects a few months into our marriage.  We knew that it could happen, but were not planning it in the least.

"It's a... boy!!!"
     Surprise!  We were going to be parents.  We were scared as heck.  And for a planner like me, it felt like a knock in the teeth.  We eventually came to terms with our surprise, realizing that God had planned this for us, whether we had or not.  As time went on, we would make excel spreadsheets about how we could financially make it with me at home (a wish I had based off my Mom's impact on me).  We were so excited, and even more so when we found out that this little baby would be a boy.  Did I mention that I come from a family of four (4) girls?  And that my Dad was the only boy in his family?  Well, guess what we named him?  Crosby.  After my maiden name- to carry on my Grandaddy Crosby's name.

Our sweet, two-day old baby boy in his Daddy's hand.
     Crosby was delivered by C-section three days before Christmas and we came home on Christmas day.  We had all we needed and wanted in our arms.  And we both admitted that our life seemed so incomplete before our little bundle of joy.  He blesses us every day.  He is the happiest, most content person I've ever met.  And he's only 14 months.  He's just such a joy.  A God-given joy.  He makes friends everywhere he goes.

     I'm growing into motherhood, realizing it's a lot less about being "by the book" (if you find that book, let me know!)  and more about being in the moment.  And though my floors be sticky and toys be strewn all over the house, I'm doing my best at taking it all in.  Because just yesterday our 14 month old was smiling at us for the first time.

I'll end with a prayer that is prayed twice a day in my class.  For the life He has given me, I am surely thankful.

"God our father, God our father,
We thank you, we thank you,
For our many blessings, for our many blessings,
Amen.  Amen."

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