Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Story: Part 1

OK so I know I said I'd soon be posting a money-related post, but this isn't it. It's still forthcoming, but this isn't it. Though I do talk about money in here, this isn't it. Anyway, so I mentioned a couple of months ago that I'd gotten back into small groups through church after being on hiatus since January. The hub and I are in a couples' group and I'm also in a women's group. And I also mentioned how groups generally start off with members sharing their "stories." It's a fabulous way to get to know someone on the super high-speed fast track. It's not something anyone really does in a normal setting with normal people - even friends - so to me that's one of the really cool things about being in these groups. You get to know people, people you probably never would've met otherwise but for this intentional gathering, and you get to be really real with each other.

Though we're a couple of months into our new groups, we're still in the process of going through all our stories. What do I mean by our "story?" I'm talking about our God story. Where we came from and how we got to where we are today. You may hear people call it a "testimony," which yeah, it's that too, I suppose. But I know that's a very churchy word and I try to refrain from over churchifying my vocab. Churchiness can make the unchurched feel like outsiders, so in this audience, I speak English. Anyway, some of the stories I've heard recently have been SO amazing and such a reminder that the home I grew up in is not the norm. In fact, it's seemingly rare - at least from what I've seen and heard lately. The hub and I had to each share our stories last week with the engaged couple we're mentoring, so that was good practice. It's been a while! And boy have our stories grown since the last time we told them. That's the cool thing - they are ever-changing and evolving. Tonight, it's our turn to share each of our stories with our couples' small group. And after Thanksgiving, I'll be sharing my story once again with my women's group. It's funny how much more "involved" the story tends to be when shared with a group of women versus a mixed group. This is my first time in a women's group affiliated with the church and it's been so awesome. I've learned a lot from these girls and I think they can learn from me as well.

I had great intentions of writing down some notes - just to make sure I emphasized certain people and events in my life that have shaped who I am today, but yeah that never happened. I just always end up winging it. I'm a much better writer than speaker, however. So it occurred to me to go ahead and just spill it all out here. That's good practice, right? And while so many of you have followed along with me on my journey over the last couple of years, you don't know the whole story. And I tell this story not to say, "hey look at me, aren't I awesome?!" (Though, admittedly, I am.) I tell it because, the more stories *I* hear, the more I personally grow. So it makes great practice for me, and possibly helpful to others out there in bloggy world reading along. This is a lengthy and wordy post (and I tend to elaborate WAY more when I write), so for your sake and mine, I'm going to break it up into two parts. Do come back later for the rest, won't you?! And feel free to take a couple of coffee breaks...

The Early Years. I grew up in the Atlanta 'burbs, in Gwinnett county, with my mom and dad. I was actually born in Montgomery, Alabama (my mom's whole family is from around that area), but my dad's work brought my family to Atlanta when I was still in diapers. So really, Atlanta is all I've ever known. I'm an only child and though my dad has siblings, my mom was also an only child. So our extended family is not all that big. And we were (and still are) the only ones in Georgia - the grandparents were in Tennessee and Alabama. The home I grew up in was very loving. I can't say enough good things about my parents. The older I get, the more I realize how very blessed I am to be able to say these things. I seriously couldn't pick out a better mom and dad and as I've relayed to them, I hope my future kids look upon me and the hub as I do them. They just celebrated 41 years of marriage and while no marriage is perfect, they have certainly been such role models for me. Even today, their love for each other is so evident. And their love and support for me is boundless. I say all that not to brag, but to recognize how much that has shaped me as a person. They've always made me feel that I had tremendous self-worth - which I think is SO crucial, especially for little girls. While we all grow up with questions and self doubt and whatnot, I've always had very high self esteem and continue to, despite the obstacles I face. And I truly think my parents are responsible for that. And I feel like it's only in the last couple of years that I've really realized how intentional they had to be with that. It doesn't just "happen."

So life was good. We lived in Tucker and I can remember going to a Baptist church with my parents a few times - very vague memories. All I really recall is one of my Sunday school teachers having a freakishly huge thumb. Like record-worthy huge. I don't even know if we were ever really members there, because we quit going at some point. It wasn't till I was in the 2nd grade that I remember attending church again. One of my best friends asked me to go to church with her - it was a tiny little Baptist church off Jimmy Carter Boulevard. It is now, sadly, a ghetto version of its former self and the church she and I attended either found a new campus or fell apart - I really don't know. But I started going with her pretty regularly. My parents were always happy to take me and they'd certainly tag along if I had a choir performance or something like that, but we generally didn't go "as a family" to church. My parents grew up going to church and I suppose they just fell out of the habit or never really found a good fit. I continued to go on my own though and got pretty involved with the youth group there as I got older. I wasn't one of these that was there every Sunday morning, Sudnay evening, and Wednesday night, but I was fairly connected with the other kids there. Outside of school and church, I think probably most of my time (and my dear parents' time) was spent in dance class. I started dancing at 3 or 4 and took every class imaginable from then on out. At some point I joined the groups at my studio that went around doing dance competitions. So I was always very, very involved in that. Never did the sports thing. Just dance.

After elementary school, my parents decided to put me in a private Christian school. I still remember how terrifying that first day of school was... not only was I entering junior high, but it was a brand new group of kids. All of my friends from 5th grade were heading to the public middle school and I was going off to this other school and would probably never see any of them again. I knew ONE girl at my new school from dance, so I stuck by her at first while I got my bearings. Junior high was trying - those kids can be damn mean! But I got involved with cheerleading in 7th grade, never having done it before. And soon after, I told my parents I wanted to quit dancing. One of my dance teachers had once told my mom to never let me quit. I'm really not a big believer in regrets - I mean, what's done is done and it's part of your story, so move on... But if I could pick one? That'd be it. I should've never quit dancing.

High School. I continued to cheer throughout junior high and high school and was really big into it. We had a coach, but we very much ran the squads ourselves. And for a small school, we were pretty kick-ass. I did a lot of the choreographing (still one of those things I love to do - I'm always choreographing routines in my head when I hear songs). I met my three very best high school girlfriends through cheerleading and I still keep in touch with them today. They were all in my wedding and though we don't see each other all the time, we immediately revert back to our high school selves when we get together. I love those girls and I cherish those friendships. And all four of us were definitely the "good girls." I never got into any trouble in high school. Never was around drugs are alcohol - it was just never an issue for me. My friends were not into that stuff, so neither was I. I was completely oblivious to any of that stuff going on. I was a cheerleader, and it was a small school (my graduating class had 85 kids), but I don't know that I would've labeled myself "popular." I was friends with some popular people, but I definitely wasn't the one voted Homecoming Queen or even on the court, for that matter. But whatever I was, I LOVED high school. I hear so many people say they hated it, but I truly loved those years. Do I want to go back? Hell no! But I loved it.

Now being at a Christian school was very much like being in a Christian bubble. We had Bible class on top of our other classes everyday. We had chapel everyday and we prayed in class and God stuff was everywhere. I still went to the little Baptist church here and there but I think I fell out of going there around 10th or 11th grade. I did get baptized there - I think I was 14, and my family was of course there for that and it meant a lot to them. But still, we never really attended anywhere regularly as a family. But I didn't really feel like I was missing anything by not going to church because I was literally surrounded by church and churchy people ALL the time. I mean if there was a measurable degree of churchiness, I felt I was off the charts. I've always accepted Christ and the Bible as truth. It just is and I've never questioned it. I appreciate my churchy surroundings at school because I learned so much about the Bible, but I don't think I truly "got it" till later in life. I've always had strong, strong conviction in my heart to "do the right thing" and be a good person and whatnot, but I don't think I had a real relationship with God during this time.

College. After high school I ended up at the University of Georgia. I didn't get in initially - they had just lifted the income cap on the HOPE scholarship (it used to be limited to families with incomes under 100k/yr) and therefore a flood of applications were pouring in to Georgia schools. Translation - it became 10 times harder to get in. I was a good student, had some AP courses, and generally had good grades and a respectable SAT score. An easy in had it been a couple of years earlier, but we had to fight my way in and I ultimately got in by doing night classes my first year (a program UGA no longer offers). The funny thing was, I very nearly went to SCAD down in Savannah instead to study fashion design. I think my mom was very weirded out by the artsy freaks when we went for a campus visit. They would've fully supported me going there, but I ended up at UGA with a much more practical degree. Actually if my mom could've picked, I would've gone to Auburn, but that's a whole other story!

I met the hub my freshman year in geology class. We ended up sitting next to each other (though he'll tell you this was rather intentional on his part) . I thought he was an obnoxious frat boy and he thought I was a snobby sorority girl. Neither of us were Greek. (Another thing my mom wanted, I know, but it just wasn't for me. I did rush - all the way through - but I bailed in the end.) We ended up dating before that quarter wrapped up and have been together ever since. He was 23 and I was 19. I thought he was *so* OLD!

College was one of those things that just flew by. I did graduate early, so part of that was my doing, I guess. It was a ton of fun - I met my best friend there. I grew up a lot. My eyes were opened to an entire new world. Coming from a small Christian school to an environment like that was a big culture shock. I was very sheltered before and it was all so new. I mean, everyone in my school was white and preppy but for a few Asians and Indians sprinkled in. So yeah, I did the college thing and went out and partied with friends, but not nearly as hard as some kids do. I had my first drink at 19 (and that's another fab story in itself). I refused to ever use a fake ID. I can't lie, to a fault. No seriously - I never would've pulled it off and I would've felt guilty the entire time anyway. (I'm still a total rules follower - can't help it.) I still have never seen an illegal drug - seriously.

I never got into trouble or anything like that, but I think it's so easy to drift away from God in those years. And I definitely did. He still weighed heavy on my heart but I more or less kept him in a box on a shelf. I never got involved in any campus ministries or churches in town. I occasionally attended the Baptist church back at home when I was there (my parents had moved to Duluth at this point), but I never got really connected. A lot of the kids at that church had grown up there and I felt like a bit of an outsider and didn't let myself get too close. Maybe I just was not a church person? I wasn't sure... But I did make it out of college by the skin of my teeth. I had an internship with a local accounting firm lined up and I was TERRIFIED that I was going to fail one of my financial accounting classes. I had failed the first test of the semester and was digging my way out of monumental hole the entire course. But the stars aligned and I passed. And graduated. HUGE sigh. (I think my mom's sigh was louder.) And so this is where life really begins, huh?!

I made it out and was just doing my own thing. Enjoying life. Minding my own business. It wasn't until a few years later, in the most unexpected of places, that God came knocking on my heart...

Continue to Part 2 here.


Preppy Pink Crocodile said...

Great story so far! I never could have gone to Georgia right out of high school. My school was 5x as large as yours but it too was a very sheltered and bible-based bubble.

And you need to tell your first drinking story- I'm laughing thinking about it! And our first and last Kristmas Kegger!

Jill said...

Love it!! Sharing stories is always my favorite part of starting a new small group. (Interestingly enough, I don't think we did that in ours way back in the day, did we? Well, we were young and new at all this...gosh, when I think about it, we really were young. We'd been married like what. 2 years maybe at that point? Lots of life yet to be lived.)

Breezy said...

I was bigtime into cheerleading in highschool (graduating class of 97 in '97-wouldn't say I was "popular", but I hung with that crowd)...had my first drink at 19...never used a fake ID (same rule following issue)...still have never seen an illegal drug either (I could go on with more similarities). Oh how I miss cheerleading =( funny how many similarities our stories have. I'm excited to read more!

Lady Law Dawg said...

Great story - and thanks for sharing it! My "story" would be very similar in a lot of ways (although my parents, brothers, & I were in a small country Baptist church EVERY Sunday morning, Sunday night, & Wednesday night of EVERY week!) . . . I can't wait to hear the rest!!

Lucky in Love said...

Can't wait to read the rest :)

Brian and Carole said...

LOL, I read Part II first and cheated. I almost went to SCAD too.
Your such a fun writer! :o)!

Eterno...Party of Five said...

I live in Jefferson, Ga! I grew up in Gainesville. I loved your testimony. I read it through Kellys Korner.

Eterno...Party of Five said...

I live in Jefferson, Ga! I grew up in Gainesville. I loved your testimony. I read it through Kellys Korner.

The Partin's said...

Just discovered you through Flip Flops and Pearls...just started reading your story and I can relate to quite a bit so far, looking forward to reading the rest! We actually live in Buford, just moved here from NC and we have found a church home at North Metro but I hear North Point is awesome!