Sunday, July 27, 2014

A long story home....

This is going to be to story of me. Perhaps it's my reflection of Tracy's "9.5 years" blog post. I really hope it's the beginning of a message that I am called to submit.

Please excuse any typos, it seems every fifth or so letter won't type. I edited on the fly so I didn't read back over this after I typed it (hoping to make it more organic, but it'll probably sound more a youtube comment).

I'm going to disclaimer this post: I may really hurt some people that have been influential and wonderful in my life. Please understand that I love and honor all of you and would be glad to explain anything you want me to. However, I am committed now to have integrity in every realm of my life. This post will be me totally vulnerable and honest. I will be the same person here that I am when I next speak to you.

I want to walk you through my tumultuous relationship with God. My hopes are twofold:1) I hope that friends and family can get a new and totally unobstructed view of me. 2) I hope that my story will resonate with seeking something better in life.

My journey starts in a small church in Moorefield called the "church of Christ". The church has many friends and fond memories for me. I remember loving the church as a child. I couldn't imagine my life without that church somehow involved. I was taught of all the heroes of the Old and New Testaments. Looking back, it was this extensive teaching of the bible that fostered a strong biblical tradition for me. Vacation Bible School became a staple of summer that I still miss to this day. As a very special treat, we would occasionally be babysitted by a very sweet family named the Lyons'. The had two kids one close to my sister's age and one close to my age. Some people remember the 90's for the music or the clothes, but I'll always remember the 90's for the times Denver and I were playing Donkey Kong Country on his (then state-of-the-art) Super Nintendo.

While we didn't associate much outside of church and these babysitting sessions, I'll always remember the day the Lyons family moved away as a very important and dark turning point for me. It was more symbolic of my transition from a child to an adolescent. Adolescence was when some dark demons began to emerge in me, demons I have only very recently put to rest.

Anybody that remembers me from high school knows that I was always very quiet and shy. What you didn't realize is that my silence was filled with a constant fear that everyone hated me and was looking for something to pick on me about. Every whisper from the other kids was something about how I looked or how awkward I acted. This suspicion turned into a total hatred for myself. I developed a deep depression and began looking for anything that would allow me to escape the people that I felt hated me so much. Unfortunately for me, I had access to the internet.

For whatever reason, I turned completely against my church and turned instead to Wicca. I created a fantasy world where I would become high priest of witchcraft and eventually a god once I died. It was my escape for a world I was tired of living in. I started hating (perhaps even loathing) the three times a week that we went to church. That attitude spilled out in the most passive-aggressive way possible (remember that I'm still a shy and awkward teenager). I accomplished little and hurt some of those wonderful people at the church, I hope that they an forgive me.

My father is a very devout Christian and did his duty well. Regardless of my protests (when I actually mustered the courage TO protest) and my bad attitude, I still went to almost every service all through high school. Of course, I still hated every minute of it. (Fun fact: I once spent an entire service calculating how much time I actually spent at every service from the time we started until I left out house. It turned out to be several months with of hours.)

Along with all my own demons, the church was undergoing a "regime change". The preacher that had started at the church when I was 8 was leaving to be with his family in Tennessee. As a baptized male older than 13, I was able to start attending the men's business meetings. While I could have used this as an opportunity to turn back to God and look to some of these men as role models, I instead focused on all negatives that a tumultuous time like that naturally brings out. I started blaming that church for most (if not all) of my life's problems.

Late high school brought a whole new concept to me: atheism. It started first with a friend that had himself embraced atheism. He has well studied in a variety of areas and I had no answers when we would debate it. Without the knowledge (nor a true love for God) I turned into a raging atheist. Religion became a silly thing for silly people. I sickly turned this arrogance into confidence, and finally began caring for myself (somewhat) and finally began dating.

Tracy was a VERY religious Pentecostal (and still holds onto to her faith to this day) but was still the girl of my dreams. I eventually wore her down and she decided to give us a try (another fun fact: Tracy and I have never broken up from that point almost 10 years ago). She wasn't about to convince me to come to her church, instead I started pulling out her more rebellious tendencies. We were teenagers very deeply and unapologeticly in love.

Then, it happened. A major car crash that broke her neck and leg. Remember that she is my everything at this point (and with the exception of God and Jayden, you still are Trae ;) ), the guilt was like a caustic tumor in my gut. I put an unloaded gun to my head one night and thought how I could make things right by extinguishing my own life. Of course, I lacked the courage to actually do the deed. But it felt strangely good to feel like I was so close to ending the guilt and anguish.

Luckily for me, Tracy is an amazing woman with a gift probably doesn't realize she has: She is extremely loving and compassionate. She brought my back to religion with that love and compassion. At this point, I was finally free of the church that I had hated for so long (the wreck happened a month or so before school had ended). I was free to be an adult and make my own life decisions. My first was that I was leaving the church of Christ for the Assembly of God (another fun fact: the churches are almost connected by a parking lot they are so close) and I was leaving the parents who I had falsely blamed for many of my problems.

(I'm taking this part as an aside to personally appeal to both my mother and father to forgive me for those dark days. I was a terrible son for many years, yet you always loved me and were always ready to welcome me back home. You truly are beautiful people. I have asked for your forgiveness before but I'll never truly feel that I can ever make up for what I did to you.)

I know this is getting long, but I promise I'm getting close to the end and the moral.

College. Do I really need to say anything more than that? The entire concept of gathering a bunch of kids fresh from being handed the right to make their own decisions seems more and more like a flawed idea. Anyways, I majored in Biology (after a very brief fling with psychology) and started learning even more about evolution. I would argue that teaching creationism in schools (or just not teaching evolution) actually encourages kids to feel betrayed and reject religion once they start learning the fundamentals of evolution and the origin of species. My academic arrogance popped up again at a very unfortunate time. Tracy's granddad had passed away and her church back home was basically falling apart. On top of that, false rumors were spreading about our accident and Tracy was being slandered. It hurt a very beloved relationship she had with her pastor and his wife. That rumor is the sole reason I will never again live in Moorefield. I can forgive the people that hurt my wife, but you will never know the depth of the pain you caused her. I can only hope that you can appeal to her and plead for her forgiveness. (I also plead my wife's forgiveness, because I know that this a very painful topic for her to this day). Perhaps you thought it would make light of a scary situation, but I wish you knew the pain it caused her so you could realize how much you need to be forgiven by her.

Tracy was having a crisis of faith, so I tested the waters to see if she would embrace atheism with me. Praise to lord, her faith was so strong that she refused to believe in a word without a loving God. However, this led to a tension between us that lasted until the last couple years. Despite our loving bond and eventual marriage, we could never fully connect.

Now, I start my story of redemption:

It all started with an episode of South Park (and no I'm not going to try to convince anyone that South Park should be our moral compass, c'mon it has singing poop). Kyle said one line: "Maybe the Bible doesn't answer the How but the Why." I paused the episode right there. My mind was completely blown. (And no this is not going in the direction of reconciling Big Bang and Creationism, I know better than to stir up that controversy). I tried for weeks (or maybe months) to wrap my head around that one statement. Finally, it came to me after getting a sudden urge to go on a run around the stadium (I hadn't started running avidly at this point):


I can get into more specifics of how I arrived at that conclusion (and other conclusions later). This story is more about the journey and not the destination.

(Tracy I'm sorry I didn't share this next part with you before now. But I didn't have the context to tell you until now.)

Running started making me feel good. Not only from the runners high, but also from reconciling with God. I would spend my runs repairing the parts of my mind and soul that I had spent a lifetime damaging. God was slowly revealing his purpose in me. Every run I went on turned into another painful memory transformed into a life lesson. I can't even describe the profound change I felt at every level in my living. This transformation accelerated to light speed once I started listening to Daily Hope with Rick Warren (and yes I just lost a few of you there. I understand his views on abortion and homosexuality are controversial (and are still issues I'm struggling to find an answer to), along with other issues. However, bear with me for a couple more sentences before going back to Candy Crush). He hit me with the next mind blowing moment:


There's more to what he said, but that's what hit me. Love is the answer. I can tell you, I've started an intense bible study and there are TONS of verses about love and service but shockingly few of what specific setup our worship should be (I'll be waiting for the argument by such-and-such verse in the comments).

So, this isn't the end of my story. It's more like the beginning. I am a sinner, and you will catch me doing selfish things. However, you will not hear the silent prayer of forgiveness afterwards and a plea to make me a better servant. I am a work in progress. I was actually right when I thought as am adolescent that my true purpose will come after death. However, I'm no longer eager for that day to come soon. I want everyone to see how much love I now have in my life and I awesome changes that God has made possible. THAT is my ministry to him. I won't be going door to door with my Bible smacking people over the head with it. There isn't a soul in America that doesn't know the story of Jesus. If you know me as that shy awkward kid from long ago, get to know me as I am now. My hope is that when you see that shyness and inner hatred replaced with love and happiness, you will see the true nature of God.

Open you ears and listen with your Heart

Recently one of our best friends married his soul mate. We were very blessed to attend their wedding, and watch them commit to one another. At their reception, one of the Bridesmaid made a speech and she quoted 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Most of us have heard it or read it and probably did not think twice about it. However my husband truly listened to it this time, and his heart opened like it had never opened before in his life. He recommitted to God and has been a new person since that moment.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.Love never fails.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Love Never Fails. Flesh Fails. We are so blessed to be able to love and to find soul mates. To know love is to know life.

I am so blessed to be loved by God, my amazing parents, my amazing husband, my miracle baby Jae, my family, and my crazy friends. I in turn love them more than they know. I put my whole heart into loving those special people.

I am by no means perfect, and I have a lot to work on, especially with my relationship with God. This passage, however, just speaks to me and my heart. It is what drove me to want to be a Social Worker. I wanted everyone to feel loved and be loved. I still do. That is why I am posting this today. Hoping that maybe someone needs just a little reminder of what love is and what love isn't. -T

Friday, July 25, 2014

9.5 years

I am choosing to write this blog because it is something that I have wanted to do for some time. I want to tell our story. I want to keep everyone up to date on our lives and our adventures. I decided to start with a small version of how we "The Hills" came about 9.5 years ago.

It never ceases to amaze me how over the past 9.5 years our lives just continue to change and evolve thanks to the good Lord above. We started out as high school friends, enemies, fighters, best friends, lovers, and soul mates. One event connected us in a way that would haunt us for years. But I believe that God had bigger plans, and we ended up loving each other more because of it. 

Then college came and went for me, and I ended up moving away from my best friend/lover. I needed the year to grow and I did. I felt like I was going to be the type of Social Worker that would help children feel more loved and have better lives. I thought that's what I was doing. Who really knows (besides God), if that is what I was truly doing. Obviously, some people did not think that was my job. 

I felt like I had lost myself. I had lost my identity. What was I going to do? Who was going to pay the bills? CW was still in school and had some time yet, and Social Work jobs weren't really abundant with little experience. So, I had a few weeks to grow in the depression and just felt like I was a total failure. Then, came the shocker of a life time.... I WAS PREGNANT!!! How in the world did that happen so quickly? Don't worry I know HOW it happened, I just was completely shocked that it happened so quickly. The women in my family do not usually get pregnant so fast. CW and I had only been married for three months. We still hadn't moved back in together from living in two different areas, now I did not have job, CW was still in school, and a completely happy moment turned in to panic after about 3 minutes of seeing the results. Now how was I going to get a job pregnant? I just left a job that required you to work 1 year before receiving maternity leave...well now that is not possible. I was scared. 

We decided to move back to Motown and CW took a job at the local hospital. Now I was pregnant, without family, or barely any friends. Depression, anxiety, you name it I was going through it. I knew I had to immediately find a baby doctor, because I was "addicted" to meds that were not good for my child. Even through all the depression and craziness, I still knew I needed to do everything in my power to care extremely well for my baby. After a crazy first trimester of general pregnancy woos, I also had to deal with withdrawal. Lets just say I don't remember much. After basically checking out for three or more months, my husband and I finally talked about me becoming a stay-at-home-mom, as long as we could afford it. My pregnancy basically consisted of me doing nothing, because I dealt with anxiety, depression, fear, loneliness, and everything else. I wasn't cautious of my weight and didn't really care, because I was going to breastfeed so it was going to just come back off...right? NOT! 2.5 years later still carrying around that extra weight and I HATE IT! I feel like I really lost myself after my job and to this day I still am searching for who I am and the get go that I use to have. 

With baby due around Christmas I prayed daily that she would not be born on our anniversary and not be born on Christmas. I know it was selfish, but I just wanted her to have her own day. One morning I went to bed around 3 or 4 am and I felt  grouchy and started cramping. I stood up and my water broke. 13 hours later I held the most precious thing I could ever known existed. My Jae was born and she has been the most amazing blessing God could have given me at this low point. I just love her to death and cannot imagine my life without her or her daddy. They help make the world go around.

 Later that night, that my beautiful baby had been born, we discovered that throughout my pregnancy she actually experienced some distress. When we figured out what had happened, we discovered we should probably not attempt to have another child. WHAT? I just had this beautiful baby and my dream was to always have two children. So happy meets panic and depression again, but that blue eyed girl made it all better. She continues to make it all better. I have cried, pouted, screamed, prayed, and cried some more, but eventually CW and I decided it would okay. 

My anxiety stayed calm for the most of the next 14 months. Then I had a horrible attack while was waiting for CW to run a 5K. It took meds and therapy to get me back on track. I still rely on my husband too much for strength to deal with my anxiety, but I am learning to accept God more back in my life. I am learning to pray more and use natural things to reduce my anxiety.

 Throughout watching our beautiful daughter grow, my husband decided he wanted to become more active and started running. He found the runner's high and was on cloud nine until winter came and then we all went dormant. This spring he started running again, but with pains in knee. He thought he had runners knee, so he decided to go to the doctor. When the X-ray came back it showed that his knees looked like one of 47 year olds. While that wasn't great, it was the next thing that has had us on pins and needles ever since. The doctor discovered a tumor-like growth on the inside of his leg bone. What is this mysterious growth? Does it require surgery? Is it the big C word? We still do not know, but we hope to know in a few days. We have decided though what every happens this time it is in God's hands because we cannot carry this burden alone.

 We have also decided to close the chapter on ever having another biological child. We have prayed and prayed and feel like the choice we have made is the right one. I am beyond blessed to have an amazing husband that has stuck by my side and worked together with me.

 We have been through so much and this post is only part of the past 9.5 years of our life, but we have done it together. We love each other, we are each other's best friend, we love our daughter, she is our sunshine, and we are finding God together again. When one door closes another opens, and it will continue through out our lives.

 I have to mention that this is mostly my story. I know I did not mention a lot of other people involved, but I would like to take this time to mention what a blessing they are to us-our parents, friends, other family, doctors, neighbors, and our new church we have been attending. If it wouldn't be for all of those people and God we would not be here and I would not be telling you our story. -T