Wednesday, January 12, 2011
The Start; My Testimony and Where I Am Now
(All Photographs are pieces of art made by me, it is apart of an altered book where this was originally written. Thank you for respecting my art and not claiming it as your own)
“You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment laid out before a single day had passed” (Psalm 139:15-16 NLT). God has a plan for all of us, even if we are prisoners of the lies of the devil, God loves us and is always ushering us into his arms. God lets us go through heart aches and pains to mold us as people, “…we run into problems and trials… we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead us to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us…” (Romans 5:3-5 NLT), so I can’t say I regret my pain. My Aunt Rachel told me that hell is life without God; the hopelessness of it and the hole in your heart that only God can fill. Who knew that the most significant spiritual event in my life would be walking through hell and unexpectedly, being flown out with God’s wings?
(This is a degas print that I glued into the book and wrote lyrics around it. In brown is representative of the older good memories with my dad, it has a song we always listened to Don't Take The Girl by Tim McGraw. The blue is how I see my dad now, it has the lyrics of Because Of You by Kelly Clarkson)
Part 1 History
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the lord” (Ephesians 6:4 NLT)
“Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged.” (Colossians 3:21 NLT)
“Since we respected our earthly fathers who discipline us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?” (Hebrews 12:9 NLT)
Growing up my dad, Anthony was never readily available for my typical childhood needs. I was only there when it was most convenient to him; when there was nothing else to do but pretend to be a father, to uplift his own ego. Blinded by childish innocence, I never perceived my father fitting into the deceitful mold. I solely perceived him as “the Disneyland dad”, the parent who never disciplined me. It wasn’t until about 4th-6th grade that my dad consistently saw me every other weekend. My dad was married to a woman named Dana and she had two kids from her previous husband. Dana was from a Greek family and our Thanksgivings and Christmases consisted of exuberant meals with the tastes of Greek food and sometimes French food was thrown in the mix from a married-in uncle from France. The boisterous family always managed to cram everyone at one long table. A warm family aura danced with the smells of baklava, crème brulèe, lamb, cheese, mash potatoes and cinnamon candles that scented the air.
I was the classic daddy’s little girl. My dad was a baseball coach; I have probably been to more baseball games and practices than people who play baseball. The scent of the dirt, clean cut grass, sweat, even the feeling of nerves that would fill a baseball field or dugout; my mind turns to my dad. One of many things of course; our tradition and pattern consisted of legs and feet falling asleep on the tough carpet learning every card game in the book and mixing junior mints with pop corn at every new movie that hit the theaters, paint smudged on my cheek and the colors of the rainbow covering my father’s big, thick, roughed out fingertips, we painted for hours on end, I dreamed of becoming as great as him one day. My creativity never failed to stop there; I would set up a stage in our basement and perform a dance I made up minuets before, for him. I made him random pictures just to say “I love you”. My main memories from my father though, were the drives down to Denver with a playlist I will never forget; Drive by: Alan Jackson, Dreams by: Van Halen, Where the Streets Have No Name by: U2, Grown Men Don’t Cry by: Tim McGraw, ect. Our voices would drown out any chance of silence. The time would go by just as quickly as the road would disappear under the car’s bumper. Within the two or more hours of alone time, I managed to pour out my, everything to my father, trusting him to only have my best interest in mind. That car had witnessed everything from tears to blasting music to howls of laughter, but never saw a minute of silence until the day he told me that he wanted to divorce Dana…
Originally my dad told me that he was divorcing Dana, (which I later learned was a lie and it was backwards). I didn’t just lose Dana and that vociferous family, but my dad drifted away as well. It was 7th grade and I couldn’t fathom that my “loving” dad could have abandoned me, I thought maybe he died and my grandparents on that side couldn’t reach me. Naturally I just made up excuses for him constantly. I was still wrapped up in his lies and skillful manipulation. I guess you could say I was in shock because it never really hit me he was gone, until he just showed up at my 8th grade continuation. My first instinct was to run up to him and jump in his arms like I was 7 again. Once again I went with my natural instinct to defend my dad and said that there’s no way that he would just leave me or forget me, in my conditioned mind, there must be, has to be some reason behind it. Disappointingly, his appearance was merely just that, an appearance, like footprints in the sand on the beach; you swear you just saw them but the waves washed them away. He made maybe a few other appearances afterwards but the years separating each one multiplied. Finally I told him I had enough, that he was hurting me more than helping me. That he needed to leave and let the relationship start on my own terms.
My views on myself were twisted inside out. I had this constant feeling that haunted me; I was going to dissolve into the wallpaper if I didn’t have some way to stand out. My efforts wavered between everything from dressing weird, to talking loud, to putting off the persona of not caring what anyone thought, to dance, to writing. I couldn’t fade away; I needed to make my mark in some way. My relationships with people became more of a desperate cling than a loving hold; constantly afraid that they are going to evaporate. If my dad can forget about me, the very man who saw me grow from pigtails, to a full-fledged 14 year old, anyone can disregard me. What did I matter? Half my family gave up on me, I must not be worth anything… right? I must not matter so I can do anything, to my body, to my emotional state, to my reputation, it doesn’t matter…right? One thing about my dad is that he’s infamous with having a way with words. He knew just how to talk himself out of anything, he wasn’t stupid. He knew people’s weaknesses and knew how to take strengths and manipulate it so it is a weakness. My “weakness” was generosity, compassion, forgiveness. He takes advantage of that, he has blurred my line of what is giving too much and what is just enough. Oh my daddy needs help with money, sure he can borrow the $20 my mom gave me for shopping… oh my daddy is going through a rough time I shouldn’t be so harsh and use his unexplained disappearances against him. He knew. He planted the thoughts “be kind, generous and forgiving.” He purposely made the lines hard to distinguish. In his head, he owned women. I was merely a toy that he could just throw away whenever. Because I’m a woman I’m worth nothing if my father says so…right? If my own father doesn’t want me, no one will…right?
Jesus has a plan for me he knew that it was too soon for me to even consider accepting him in my life, I was a prisoner of sins, lies and the deceitful enemy. I shuddered at the idea of a bible. I felt like someone would have performed an exorcism if I were to try and walk into a church. I made fun of people who prayed, “Oh talking to your imaginary friend again?” How do you know that Jesus wasn’t a delusional man that was personally convinced that he was the “Son of God”, what does “Son of God” even mean? It’s all just a fantasy and God couldn’t possibly be real…right?
(If you can tell or not there is words written around the girl, it says :dress me up and hide my pain)
Part 2 Cascade
“…and I was just walking on one fine wire but It's frayed at both the ends and I'm slow unraveling”(One Fine Wire- Colbie Caillat)
If someone were to glance down at my life from a bird’s eye view looking down on a city, only the surface would be visible; a sophomore in high school, the first year on dance team; a developing and devoted dancer, a first serious boyfriend, I was hyper, loud, giggly, couldn’t-care-less-about-what-others-think type of girl. From a bird’s eye view you can’t see any of the quirks and turns and ditches and stray raggedy dogs that inhabited the darker corners. Looking down I was a 2 dimension happy-go-lucky girl. It’s not until you land from that flight, decided to walk down the old cracked roads and suppress the fear of turning down the darker allies and listen to the echo of my thoughts. It’s not until then it is apparent that honestly I was walking on a tightrope from one sky scraper to another and both ends of the wire were frayed. The “happy” surroundings in my life were designed as a dedicated deliberate, distraction. I didn’t fully pin point it that I wasn’t fully intact on the inside. I only had the gut feeling that if I were to spend too much conscious time alone with myself; let all the hurt catch up with me, I’d shatter. What I didn’t see was I was holding back the explosion of a volcano and that build up only makes the final eruption that much more agonizing.
Through the end of the 10th grade school year I put on a smiling mask so no one could see the webbed cracks of my glass heart. I couldn’t even tell my own boyfriend that I was going to crumble from the inside out, because it would only hurt him to know. I need to focus on him, he is hurting too, he is more important, I can’t tell him… right? And if I can’t tell him I defiantly can’t tell anyone, ever. In my head his story was my reasoning. I would constantly remind myself it could be worse. Ultimately he was the perfect distraction. He admired me for who I was, encouraged me to grow and he was my first love. I felt that I couldn’t fall apart and let him down, he deserved much better than I could provide.
My depression began to overwhelm me; if I didn’t do something then I would drown in my own pain. I needed some form of release. By this point I stopped everything, I didn’t dance, I didn’t write, I wouldn’t draw, but I couldn’t see past the fog of my depression. I didn’t know I dropped everything. But this pain needed to disperse. Not seeing how I was taking a nose dive, I decided that the only way I could be relinquished of this pain was to scratch my wrist. I managed to convince myself that it wasn’t a bad thing;
(The actual page this part of the essay is on)
It’s not that bad it could be worse; at least I’m not hacking away at my wrist with a razor…right? Besides my dad doesn’t care about me why should I care… I’m just a waste of time I couldn’t even keep my dad around… I have everything under control…right? It’s my body I can do what I want with it. Only I can hurt myself see, only me.
I could feel the pain get stuck in my throat, a lump that I knew I couldn’t get rid of… but the release, of “scratching” seemed to free me for a moment. And I craved that moment like a heroin addict craves that first high. The “scratching” became an addiction; I needed it to feel like I had control over my body, my mind, my life, my worth; but trying to free myself of pain by using physical pain, was just as useless as chasing for a first high. I didn’t want to think anymore. It seemed like I had another person snarling in my ear, constantly reminding me how unworthy I am, my mind was in constant battle;
“you don’t even deserve a boyfriend, you’re only hurting him… half your family doesn’t want you… you’re not even good enough to be on the competitive dance team… why are you writing? You can’t write you will never be good enough to amount to anything…”
“I need to get rid of my thoughts.”
“You are nothing your father doesn’t even think of you…”
“I need to escape!”
“Your boyfriend is only with you because he feels sorry for you…”
“Please! Leave me alone!”
“Your own mother doesn’t even notice you anymore… “
“JUST GET OUT OF MY HEAD!”
“You’re fragile, weak, you act like a baby there’s so much worse…”
“How do I stop this?!”
“Why don’t you just kill yourself…?”
“That’s it… my escape.”
When that thought slithered into my mind it never went away. The whisper of sense of worthlessness inflicted on me became my own thoughts, no longer an argument with a stranger. The opposing thought of actually being worth something was drowned out. It wasn’t necessary for another opinion, my own were twice as damaging. From then on I had 10 ways to kill myself no matter where I was, at any time. My mind was plagued with “it could be worse”. Focusing on what could be worse allowed me to disappear in the fog; I couldn’t see how horrific my thoughts were. Only the knowledge of always having a way out if the thoughts were too heavy for me to bear, kept me going. Conceiving ideas of suicide became a distraction; if I lost it, then I would have to focus on all of the pain.
I reached the eruption point. All I wanted was my parents to HATE me. “Then they won’t care when you die”. I wanted to be out of the world, NOW. I was done, I quit., I fail, the world obviously doesn’t need me and is better off without me My father doesn’t want me, it shouldn’t be hard to get rid of the other half of the family… right? That night, I was at such a suicide risk my mom took me to the ER. The ER didn’t make me want to stay alive any more than being suffocated by my own house did. The ER smelled of plastic, cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer. It was too clean, it seemed staged like a movie scene. It only reminded me of the staged smile I put on my face so many times before. The plastic chairs stuck to my bare skin and when I stood up it felt like taking off a band-aide. My face was red, tear streaked and my eyes were throbbing, they had run out of tears to shed. I couldn’t even look over at my mom but I knew she was suppressing tears so she could sign me in.
“What seems to be the problem” the man at the desk asked,
“My daughter is suicidal and I’m scared I can’t keep her safe…” my mom simply put. I had never really heard anyone call me suicidal until then. It didn’t hit me that I was suicidal until then. I knew that I didn’t want to suffer anymore, but I never put the label “suicidal” on it. I don’t know why it made such a difference but when I heard the words tumble off her lips, a new wave of sorrow hit. This sorrow wasn’t for me though. She was “scared”. How could I ever even believe that I could make this woman hate me; the woman who I held on to crying after watching a sad movie, the woman who told me how when she looked at me when I was born and knew that she couldn’t stay with my dad, the woman who said “she’s a pain in the ass now but she will be one kick ass woman!” It was virtually impossible. So I cried my selfishness thrown in my face by one word “suicidal”. The doctors called in my therapist, the same one who has been with me my whole life, she saw me go through the whole process of my dad disappearing. I didn’t want to talk to her at first, I can’t lie to her, I’ve tried it doesn’t work; if I talk to her then she won’t let me escape.
On this summer night we decided that I needed new scenery, and time to heal. My mom was texting my Aunt Rachel at the time and she offered to take me for the rest of the summer, I don’t know what jumped in me, but I instantly knew that was where I needed to go. Looking back I just see God guiding me to him when I was blind.
“It’s something unpredictable, but in the end its right, I hope you have the time of your life” (Good Riddance- Green day)
(Thought For Photo When Made: Before I was filled with darkness even though there was light around me, now I am the light and the darkness is behind me)
Part 3 Resurrection
“…he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory” (Isaiah 61:3 NLT)
My last two months of summer were spent in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was prescribed an anti depressant and I was sent off within the week of my little ER trip. My Aunt Rachel is the person who I couldn’t ever fool. When I got into her car after the two hour flight, the first thing she asked was
“How are you?” After the months of conditioning myself to robotically respond this question with a plastered on smile and automatically responded,
“I’m good thanks how are you?” Her response was just as quick as mine,
“Liar,” Flashing a smile at me she added “but I love you.”
Digging into something that I had constantly been burying for months was harder than I anticipated. Before I could start digging I needed to rid of any distractions or unnecessary stresses. With unfortunate timing my boyfriend and I were in an argument, because I wanted to take a break because needed to focus on myself. I came out of the argument a single girl. With this blow, I felt like I had time deprived from me. I was angry at him, for giving me more wounds to heal over when I already had plenty of other scars to heal.
Aunt Rachel took me to church; she is the type to sit in the front. I didn’t connect with anything that was said. I honestly felt like I was invading an intimate moment for most of the people there. Like I wasn’t in on the secret of what they were feeling. I was an intruder. My aunt told me that even if I don’t believe it, the Lord loves me.
(Once again this represents change before, I was a ballerina stuck in a cage in a dark world, now I am a free dancing ballerina in a world full of life)
One night I went to a Wednesday church service with Rachel. A song was played called “Better Than a Hallelujah”, I found my eyes wet with tears. I was immediately embarrassed, me a non- believer crying in church. God isn’t really real…right? Later that week at Rachel’s house we went to my little cousin’s room to paint it, Rachel is amazing at painting rooms, she was doing alternating dark blue and light blue stripes. Truly the hardest part was taping so the stripes would be straight. I was lying on the top of the bunk bed just simply telling her if the tape was straight or not. Somehow the topic of what I was doing with myself after high school came up. I was slightly thrown off by it because for the past few months I hadn’t even considered being able to live past 10th grade. I honestly didn’t know. I still didn’t feel good enough for anything,” there are people out there with so much more talent and knowledge and skill than I had. How could I ever amount to anything? All I know how to do is dance, which I’m barely any good at, I can kind of write, I’m not good at art anymore, I just think people think I’m way better than I really am.”
“You are so full of your own shit, so convinced of this bull!” my aunt Rachel exclaimed, “you can’t let you’re crappy father have such an effect on how you see yourself, because I know this isn’t you talking, you are so full of shit!” I started to defend myself but it was useless because she was right, I was allowing Anthony, to man who dares to call himself my father, the one who can’t emotionally handle himself so he abandons his daughter! I started to get angry at myself for letting someone control me when they weren’t even there! Then the song “You Found Me” by the Fray bounced off the speakers, Rachel said something that will always stick with me “Most of the time when someone asks where God was during the hard times, when they look back they see he was there the whole time he was there but they turned their back on him, and he can’t help you if you don’t want him.” All of sudden this wave of emotion and power hit me and nearly knocked the breath out of me, and the words “I want to know more about God” danced off my lips. What was more surprising was that they were honestly true, the most honest thing I have said in my life. My Aunt instantly dropped her paint brush and ran down to the basement yelling “be right back” over her shoulder. Sitting there alone in the half painted, pain scented room, I cried. However it wasn’t the same tears that had harassed me for the past few months; these tears were joyful, because I knew and I know that Jesus wasn’t a delusional man that was personally convinced that he was the “Son of God”, or that God was some imaginary friend people talked to. How did I know? I could feel him, his arms were around me, I could feel his very breath reviving mine.
Rachel was back in a flash was a box of journals and books; journals that she took on mission trips and her walk to Ameas(sp?). I climbed down from the bunk bed with a thump and sat down and began to read as much as I could through tear blurred eyes. My heart managed to beat twice as fast.
The next morning we went to church and I went as a believer for the first time. I was like a new born, uneducated, hungry and raw to this new world of hope. When I prayed for the first time I didn’t know what to say but I knew the Lord was just as excited as a parent hearing their children mess up their first words. When I got home I needed to find a church, I needed to be as close to God as possible. I was hungry and I wasn’t about to wait around to ease that hunger. My mom, being a wedding planner knew a pastor that she liked and guessed that I would like him as well. Pastor Tommy, he is one silly, enthusiastic man of God. Now I’m involved with the youth group in the Calvary Church called Thrive, I attend a bible study every Monday, I go to morning church and night church every Sunday so I can hear the youth pastor Ben speak and the senior pastor Tommy speak. I go to Wednesday night church for the truth project. I am on fire for God. Is life perfect? No, just because you’re in a relationship with Jesus doesn’t mean that your life will all of a sudden become easy. There’s always evil out there, always the devil tempting people with sin and lies dancing in and out of the media. However knowing that Jesus flew me out of depression and out of the darkest spot that my mind had been, I know that he can do anything. I am now a free bird, the cage of depression has been broken. I crave his word, for that’s how he speaks to me. Do I still have confidence issues, and family problems, yes, but would I be the same person if I didn’t, no, will it last forever, no. I know that he would never let me crash and burn, and truly allowing me to go through my tremendous testimony I am now a witness for others, my family and I have a reminder of his power. If I wasn’t in such a vulnerable spot I wouldn’t have ever thought to pursue the Lord, I wouldn’t have the experience under my belt. Now I’m a wiser woman.
(I am now pure with God's love)
I was dead on the inside; I went through the hell of hopelessness. I don’t regret it; no matter how painful it is too look back. I am now a free bird, who is just learning to fly again, I can gladly say I’m a survivor, and the Lord saved me when no one else could. I am worth so much more than I ever thought, I am a daughter of the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, my Savior, and I have the Father I never had. I don’t need to look at Anthony expecting him to be the dad I want him to be, or look at him and depend on his opinion to define my worth. “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice of you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17) I am a woman of Jesus and every breath I take is now fuller, stretching every bit of my lungs to full extent of my diaphragm. His love comforts me when I stumble, his word reassures me. I can’t help but share how amazing I feel about him. I now know that Christians aren’t trying to take over the world when they share the gospel, they are simply just trying to spread the immense love they feel, and bring people in to share Jesus just like Andrew in the book of John “Andrew went to find his brother, Simon and told him, ‘We have found the Messiah’(which means Christ)” (John 1:41). The excitement that has me leaping for joy just can’t be contained. Thank you Lord Jesus, thank you. Who knew that the most significant spiritual event in my life would be walking through hell and unexpectedly, being flown out with Your wings?