It has been right around two years since I last posted onto my blog. I'm actually pretty sure that no one ever reads it and that's perfectly alright. There have been times I've been tempted to write but reconsidered when I couldn't find a purpose behind it. I figured that I may as well just keep my own personal journal (which is kept up on VERY rarely, just FYI) and leave my blog alone. Lately, though, I've been feeling like I really do want to write on my blog. It's for people to know what new and exciting things are happening in my life, right? If so, then I have been completely dropping the ball because I have failed to mention the coolest and most exciting thing of all. This post is to bring it to light. Be forewarned... It will very likely be long!
I grew up in probably one of the best families I could ever ask for... I was so lucky to have parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles that loved me and my brother & sister so much! In the summer time we worked at the beach site that my grandparents own and in the winter time we home schooled, went snow machining, trapping, ice fishing, ice skating, down hill skiing in Alyeska, and just had a grand 'ol time! Somehow, through all of that fun stuff my parents - and extended family, too - instilled in us this idea of being "good." I may not have always been good but I remember thinking that it was better to be good than to be bad. The funny thing is that I don't actually remember my dad ever saying no... especially when I was in high school. In fact, all I remember him saying was "I don't think that's a good idea, Jacks..." And somehow I was trained to take that as a "No." It wasn't, though! I could have gone ahead with whatever I was planning to do - in this case it was driving to Alyeska with a bunch of friends only a few months after I got my driver's license - but he really, honestly did not think it was a good idea! In this particular case he ended up driving us to Alyeska the next morning and we were just as happy if not happier because now we all could sleep on the way!
I remember riding horses in Sterling with a friend when we were somewhere around 7-9. I have no idea what we talked about but I remember it having something to do with religion and primarily Christianity. Again, I don't remember what we talked about but when I got home I had a big talk with Dad about it. Dad grew up in a Christian home but it wasn't a choice he had ever made for himself. He wasn't anti, though, either! How Dad approached the subject was from all angles. He explained all sorts of different answers depending on the viewpoint of the religion.
I would certainly not say that I grew up in an atheistic home. We didn't go to church but when there was a question as to how we should live, it was to put your neighbor above yourself, be loving and kind, don't speak a harsh word, etc. etc. etc.... The idea of God was something that we talked about and I personally knew that I could never be an atheist but I wasn't so sure what I thought of all the different religions and the church-going and everything else.
As far as my claims that I could never be an atheist, well... I seriously could and cannot look at the stars for any length of time and say, "There's nothing greater than us..." I'd look up into the beautiful, dark but star filled sky on a cold winter night and would be so much in awe that I - yes I! - seriously would seem to forget that it was freezing outside and just ponder on what could possibly be so big that can encompass the entire universe.... I thought, "I know that space has to end somewhere... like a big box.. Yeah, space is inside this really big box! ............. wait... but what's outside the box?!?" It was and is completely unfathomable!!
In 4th grade I went to public school for the first time. It was there that I really had my first taste of - how or what do you call this? Haha, the real world, maybe? It wasn't so much 4th grade, but more 5th & 6th grade that I remember the religious pressure being put on me. Like I said, I didn't go to church with my family but when friends would invite me I always went. I had some pretty interesting experiences... Besides the fun youth events, though, I have to admit that I didn't really like them. The things I couldn't stand were questions like "Are you saved?" and when I said, "I don't know.." answers that were variations of, "Well, you know you're going to Hell, right?" .... I cannot tell you how angry comments like that made me.
One of the things I remember thinking about as I would lay in bed at night was that I was a good person. If God was going to punish me for being a good person when there were other people that claimed to be all buddy-buddy with him while all the while doing bad things, this god couldn't possible reject me... I thought he'd be proud; that he'd accept me with open arms.... I was actually rather convinced of this.
I can't remember how old I was but I remember the play Heaven's Gates & Hell's Flames coming into town. I think it was performed at Kenai High School. It was one of the most frightening things I had ever seen and we actually left a little ways into it. The scene I remember went something like this:
Two cars are driving down the road. In both cars there is a father and a son. In car A the dad and son are coming back from a fishing trip. They're talking and having a great time. They seem like wonderful people! Everything that is said implies this... In car B there is another father/son combination. The father is clearly a Christian based on his lines and his son tells him through casual conversation that he had accepted Christ the previous Sunday. This son's dad was ecstatic! ... Somewhere after all of this information was established the two cars collide, killing all four. Though I can't remember the stagecraft of it all, I remember very clearly an angel appearing to take the father and son from car B to Heaven and though the other father and son were confused and convinced they were going to Heaven, before they knew it the Devil appeared on stage and with terrifying background music and screams from the pair, he dragged them below stage to Hell.. He then proceeded to run around the first rows of seats in the auditorium causing screams to erupt everywhere...
It was at that point that my mom took us and we left. I hated that play. It angered me significantly.
When I got into high school, the hypocrisy I saw in the young "Christians" honestly made me pretty mad. By this point I was pretty sick of being told that I was going to Hell. I started to think, "Well, OK, God! If this is what it means to be a Christian - to be like these guys?- then I'm sorry.. I want nothing to do with it..." I also was pretty smug that people were surprised when they found out I wasn't a Christian. I very often heard, "Jackie, you're the most christian, non-christian I have ever met." I thought to myself, "Darn tootin!"
To say that I had a very rough junior year would be putting it mildly. It's amazing how people can change when they somehow make this odd transition between something like a kid to a very young adult. Opinions about alcohol & even drugs changed dramatically. Without getting into the nitty gritty details, it was a pretty lousy year where nothing at all made sense. I was only 16 and felt like it was something I felt like I needed to deal with on my own. I never talked to my parents.
Mid-way through my junior year things hit what felt like rock bottom. I walked out of my room one night and my dad asked me if I was Ok... Holding in tears and a breakdown I honestly said, "No..." and left the house. I came back a few hours later. My dad was still in the living room. He knew I was hurting but also gave me my space to come to him... I did. That night I told Dad everything that was going on.. He was so receptive. He just listened and when the time came he responded. First, he hugged me and he loved me... Second, he comforted me and told me he was proud of me and finally he started to give me a little direction. Days later he would say something very vague in reference to one of those suggestions which would lead to me having to tell him everything all over again... He suggestions almost always worked and if they didn't he had counter options.
Junior year did end at some point. Then came senior year. By that point I was done. I wasn't literally done with high school but mentally I had had enough. I was not at all interested in being social with the friends I had once had. Long story, short, though, a friendship with my very first friend as a kid was re-kindled and over that year blossomed into something absolutely wonderful! We were together all the time. Her name is Cam/Camerin, by the way.
Camerin invited me to play volleyball with her family and her friends. It was such a large group and consisted mostly of very large families and myself! Everyone was so incredibly friendly! Cam invited me to church. At first I respectfully declined. Over time I started to tell her that I would come if I woke up... Over the next three years it upgraded to "Text me, and if I wake up, I'll go..." to "Call me when you get to the church... If I wake up, I'll go..." to "Yeah, I'll set my alarm.. see you there!"
Church was where the people I enjoyed the most were.
Camerin's family knew very well not to pressure me. Her mom, Gretchen, in particular knew this the best. There were times when I would bring something up and she would discuss it openly and enthusiastically (sometimes striking a nerve or two ) but it was always my choice to start it up.
I liked the sermons I heard at church. I thought they were very good as far as getting direction to live a "good" life.. It circled back to how I was brought up... putting your neighbor above yourself, and so on. I didn't think that anything bad was there. The songs always struck nerves... sometimes I wanted really badly to believe what I was singing but it wasn't something I could or would force and so that was that.
In the spring of 2007 I went down to Florida and got into yachting. I was a deckhand on my first yacht with an absolutely incredible crew! I made such great friends there! On weekends I got to tag along for all the beach trips, barbecues and whatever else were were gonna do. Traveling became very exciting! Unfortunately I didn't get to stick around on that yacht because the owner was incredibly stingy and refused to hire me. I got to accompany the boat on an Atlantic crossing from Fort Lauderdale to Palma de Mallorca, Spain. When we arrived there I had to say my good byes and continue to try and find another job. And I did.
10 days after arriving in Spain I flew back to West Palm, Florida and got on my second yacht. The owners this boat were absolutely incredible. I can't say the same for the crew... and you have no idea how badly I wish I could :( Working on that boat was one of the most trying experiences I have ever had. I worked with two young and attractive guys as well as the captain and his wife, the chef. I was supposed to be a Stewardess. To put it simply, I hated my job. I was cooped up inside all day long ironing sheets, brushing the suede walls, making & re-making beds, decorating the dinner table, learning how to serve the owners wine without spilling it as well as setting and serving the different portions of the meal in the proper form... UGH. And that wasn't the worst. On a much more serious note I worked with a very immoral crew. I would have liked to go out with the guys when they left the boat but I realized that A. They wouldn't want me to and B. I would cramp their style because all they wanted was to find girls. I can't and won't describe the conversations that were had at the crew table during lunch and dinner times. It was disgusting.
After about a month on this boat, one night I called Dad crying. Umm, he was completely unsympathetic and so I said good night and called someone else instead. I ended up calling Cam's mom, Gretchen. She seriously pretended like I wasn't crying for about 20 minutes. Finally she said, "Jacks, you don't sound so good..." I explained everything to her and she told me stories and encouraged me. At the end of the conversation she added, "Jacks, I know this makes you uncomfortable but would you mind if I prayed for you?" I told her that I would actually really like that.. When I got into my own bed I even prayed myself... I don't remember what I prayed for.
The next day I woke up and things were brighter. All of a sudden it dawned on me that I didn't have to spend my hour lunch sitting at the table listening to the crude discussions. I grabbed my book, went into the pilot house and read instead. That weekend I got off the boat and walked 30 miles around the two towns I was in between Saturday and Sunday. The next week I hopped off every evening, going to a coffee shop to read and talk on the phone. I even took the bus to Providence a time or two just for long drive to read, the change of scenery and once to watch a film at the I-MAX theater.
One weekend I decided that I wanted to go camping. I decided this at the end of a work day. I knew there was an REI in or around Providence. My plan was to get there, buy a sleeping back, rent a bike and take off... somewhere. (haha) Well, it just so happened that the bus that would be turning around after it dropped me off in front of REI was the last bus leaving that part of town that night. I thought, "Welp! It'll work out!" I went to the store, bought a bag and found out they didn't rent bikes. It also occurred to me at that moment that, "hmm.. I'm pretty sure buses don't actually drive into the woods for campers like me... interesting.." I remembered seeing a hotel up the road and so I walked in that direction. On the side of the road was a section of woods. I thought, "Oo! That's free! And seriously, what are the chances that anything would happen to me?? ....... Darnit. Dad would kill me." And so I continued on to the hotel. It was expensive and I had a smoking room.
The next day I woke up and decided I was going to go back to Providence and check out the Brown campus. I would have to be back on the boat that evening for work in the morning and so I was gonna fit in what I could.
Brown was cool. It was three weeks before the beginning of the 1st term and so there weren't of ton of people there yet. I walked around until I was sufficiently bored and then decided that I would find a nice coffee shop with comfy chairs so that I could sit and kill 7 hours reading. I couldn't believe it. I walked into every coffee shop and the only one I could find with comfy chairs was Starbucks. And it was packed!
I initially sat down at a table near to the front door. I think I did that to be a little less conspicuous as I was getting the lay of the land. All the comfy chairs were taken. I sighed but got up anyways to go order a drink. When I got my drink, I turned around and right in front of me was an empty comfy chair alongside a coffee table. Facing the same direction on the other side of the table was another chair. This one had a guy in it who appeared to be studying. I walked over and asked the guy if anyone was sitting in the empty chair. He said no. I asked if he would mind if I sat there. He said he wouldn't mind at all and so I sat down and settled in.
I honestly can't help myself... I'm a people watcher. I had never been in a Starbucks quite so large. People were everywhere! Unfortunately, though, I was not at all impressed with what I was hearing. Every conversation I heard was almost as bad as the ones I was trying to escape on the boat! I was so upset. I remember looking up and internally yelling my thoughts, "Am I seriously so alone?? Am I the only person here that any sense of morality? I hate this!!"
I sat there super upset for a while.. When I was able to calm myself a bit I opened up my book and read. I read for a couple hours and then stopped. The guy was still sitting in the chair alongside mine - still studying. I people watched some more and then got into my book for another couple of hours. When I got bored again I attempted to people watch again. This time I looked a little more closely at the guy next to me. Finally, it occurred to me. "Wait a second," I thought. "School doesn't start for another three weeks... What is this guy studying??" I looked and upon closer inspection I realized that this guy was doing his own personal bible study. He was reading his bible, taking notes, and just studying hard..
It was then that it really hit me... "I'm not alone.." I was so overcome. I remember looking up and again, in my head saying, "OK, God! You win! (internal laughing..) OK. Alright! I accept you! I get it... OK, fine!" I looked back down and then glanced at the guy... then I looked back up and thought, "OK, God... I don't want to talk to this guy, but if you want me to, I will.. but I really don't want to... so... yeah.." I'm not kidding when I say that within 5 minutes the guy had packed up his stuff and left without a word.
Coming home was wild. I remember telling Cam, "I don't know what this means... What do I have to do different? I already try to be a good person, so what does it mean to be a Christian?"
You know, I don't really know the answer to that question, but I do know that I have changed so much in the last three years. I am by no means perfect. I get angry, I over react, I'm lazy, I'm all sorts of things that make me completely unworthy... but just like when I was a junior in high school and finally went to my dad for help, I want God. I want to listen to Him and I want to know Him more.. My dad is so amazing! He is the most loving man! But God is so much more. It's not something that makes sense unless you've accepted Him, but for me, when I did... my life changed.