Hello! Long time, no blog. I’ve been very busy and not sure what to write nor if anyone really reads this.
I’ve been going to a small group at a new church with my friend, Cassie. Tomorrow, we have to give our life story/spiritual journey thus far to the group. I decided to type my thoughts in here to figure out what I am going to speak about for 5-7 minutes. Many more details need to be added and I don’t think it quite captures my spiritual journey, but I am trying to hit some key points. So, I wrote the following about myself:
My parents were teenagers when I was born–18 and 19 years old. They had a “shot gun” wedding while my mom was pregnant with me. After I was born, my mom worked grave yard shifts at Kroger and my dad worked odd jobs during the day. I’m sure being teenage parents was extremely stressful and by the time I was three, my mom had remarried my step-dad who I ended up calling “dad” and who ultimately raised me and my half-brother who was 3 1/2 years younger than I was. The last time I saw my biological dad was when I was 5 years old, briefly, and then not again until I was 18 years old.
In 7th grade, my mom enrolled me into a private Baptist Christian school. Other than saying The Lord’s Prayer, I really had very basic knowledge of Christianity before this point. Our family didn’t attend Church. My step-dad was 16 years older than my mom. He was also a Vietnam Veteran and was very jaded in a lot of ways–for obvious reasons. When my parents decided to send me to the Christian school when I was 12 years old, I remember being so anxious the night before I started my first day. My younger brother had a Children’s Bible that had Bible stories written out for young kids in a story book fashion. I remember practically reading the entire book, trying to “cram” for Christian school so I wouldn’t be completely clueless before I started my first day!
We had chapel and Bible classes during school. I remember sitting at my desk in 7th grade the first week of school and the Bible teacher making a “salvation call” and stating how if we didn’t ask Jesus into our hearts, we would spend eternity into hell. This terrified me, so I quickly prayed silently for my salvation, but really had no idea what I was praying for. I just knew I didn’t want to go to hell!
My faith throughout my junior high years is pretty much summed up in those experiences– I was mainly led by fear and legality. Many of my classmates grew up in church and the Christian school and were “saved” at the young age of three! I always felt behind and kind of out of place there.
The first person that was nice to me and saved me a seat the first day of school became my best friend. She was also a preacher’s kid and spent her school day “witnessing” to me and others. She invited me to attend her non-denominational church and I became I regular there. This church embraced the more spiritual side of Christianity and less of the legalistic and fear-based teachings. I met some really amazing friends during my formative teenage years which, in hindsight, probably saved me from a lot of trouble.
Things at my home life, however, were kind of rocky. Looking at it now, I am pretty sure my step-dad was suffering from PTSD from being in Vietnam war. He was very difficult to be around and he and my mom fought a lot while I was growing up.
Around the age of 18, I had constant feelings of anxiety, depression, and just feeling like something was missing in my life. I ended up reaching out to my biological father–who I hadn’t heard anything from since I was a small child. I moved out of my home in Athens and lived with my dad in Florida when I was 18. He embraced me and was very welcoming of the idea of having a relationship with me. He said he didn’t have the opportunity to have a relationship with me all these years because my mom and step-dad preferred it that way. He also had his own demons he was battling when he was younger which included drugs and alcohol.
A year before I met my dad, he had been diagnosed (at the age of 36) with stage 4 colon cancer. They had given him six months to live at the time. I met him a year later and he was in remission. They ended up having to remove his entire colon, but he was pretty healthy while I was living in Florida with him.
I took out student loans and enrolled myself in college while I lived in Florida. I ended up getting my own apartment, working multiple jobs, and putting myself through school. My Christian faith wasn’t the strongest at this time during my life–I was pretty much in survival mode. But, I did meet a lot of very kind and beautiful people with different faith backgrounds. It really made me question–and perhaps even disengage–from my teenage Christian background. I was just seeking, and I still am!
At the age of 22, I made a trip up to Georgia to visit my mom and step-dad (we didn’t have much communication between each other because the were pretty upset that I left home). During this trip home, my mom called me while I was having lunch with my friends, informing me that my step-dad had committed suicide. He shot himself. Why? My mom and brother say because he had really bad health problems (maybe cancer) that he refused to go to the doctor to treat/diagnose. Maybe from Agent Orange? I wonder if it was more psychologically based and was related to PTSD. I’ll probably never know the real answer.
After I graduated from the University of Florida with my degree in sociology at the age of 26, I ended up moving back to Georgia and got into a relationship with my now husband. He already had a 10 year old daughter at the time and we got pregnant with our son, Jackson. He was born August 7, 2011. My husband’s daughter–now our daughter!– lived with him full-time and I was in for quite an awakening being an full-time step-mom and new mother to my son. It was very tough!
When my son was one, I started graduate school at KSU for social work. We were very poor and I was trying to raise our kids while going to school full time. My biological dad began to get sick again during this time in my life. He had been doing well for the past 10 years since his original diagnosis, but the cancer came back. During my second semester of graduate school, he was admitted to hospice services. And in October of 2012, he died. During this time period, my mom also ended up having a mental breakdown and was homeless for several months. This was such a difficult period in my life, but I survived, and graduated from grad school with a 3.9! My husband was so supportive. We were poor, but rich in love, and that has made all the difference.
After my dad’s experience on hospice services, I decided I wanted to try being a hospice social worker. I didn’t really know what else I wanted to do! I graduated in 2014 and have been doing hospice social work ever since while raising my family. It’s very difficult work and sometimes I wish I could do something less heavy. But for now, it is the path I am on, so I try to do my best with the cards I’ve been dealt.
I’ve been going to church the past 3 years, but my motivation is really so my children have some spiritual foundation. My own faith journey has taken somewhat of a backseat until the past year. Now that I am more settled in my life, I am ready to grow spiritually and figure out my calling and purpose in life. So, here I am.