(this story begins here)
…So I arrive in Virginia Beach from New York and I’m exhausted. It’s been a rough summer so far and I just want to rest. I stay with some great family friends over the next week who encourage and bless me in many ways. But I haven’t come here to see them. I have traveled to the place where my parents story began. At the place where they first met.
My father is a Marine and back then he was stationed for a brief time in Virginia Beach. He was working on the boardwalk. My mom and some of her girlfriends took a random weekend road trip to the beach. Neither of them had any idea how significant that weekend would be. Short story, they met, my dad left overseas and they began their courtship through letters. I recently found these letters in my dad’s attic. I still haven’t read them but look forward to the day I’m ready to. Their love was infectious. Many of their friends would comment that you couldn’t help but be happy and joyful when you are around them. They were the kind of parents that would sit next to each other in restaurants instead of across the table, kiss in public, etc. I saw the deep affection that they had for each other and I admired that. During my time in Virginia I reflected on my relationship with each of my parents. My dad is the type of father that didn’t tell me how to live, he lived well and therefore showed me how best to live. One thing I have always admired about him was the quality time that he spends with me. He shows me respect and love. I remember being in Girl Scouts and every year we had a father/daughter dance. My dad would dress up, take me to a “fancy” dinner and then to the dance. He set the standard for future men in my life. I was shown that I am highly valued and loved. Unfortunately daughters don’t always listen to their fathers. And unfortunately my parents healthy marriage was not something I kept in mind.
After I finished my summer travels in 2002 I moved to Orange County, CA. I was directionless and searching for purpose. I quickly found myself in a group of people who were creative, fun and…destructive. Their behaviors and way of life were so radical and ever-changing. But I found something in common with these people: a love of dance, music and anything creative as well as things like fear, loss and pain. We all shared the need for love but were afraid to discover it. I met a man through this group of people. We were out at a salsa club and he asked me to dance. Looking back I wish I had never been there that night. Hindsight huh? God how my life would have been so different. I instantly attached myself to him. He was the type of person that lived life. Didn’t seem afraid of anything, adventurous and desired to take care of me. I thought I was safe with him. That quickly changed once I began to see him for who he truly was. He had a past full of drug abuse, manipulating women and running from his problems. To this day I’ve never met someone who could hide behind a mask as well as he did. For 11 painful months I stayed with him. I endured many forms of abuse and labeled myself as a victim. I felt trapped. And in the end I lost who I was. I lost my voice (to read more of that story go HERE)
During this same time I was confronted by a good friend about my anger towards God. I had been out of regularly attending church since my mother had died. But I knew that everything I had put my hope and security in had failed me. Yes, I was happy at times, but there really wasn’t any lasting joy. I finally stumbled into a church again on a Sunday evening and was surprised at how quickly I was embraced by the people there. The problem was, while these people were trying to save me and help me “turn from my evil ways”, I had found my new drug: church. Let’s call it an “upper” for the most part. I began going to every Sunday evening show (oops, I mean service), to a weekly bible study, church retreats, etc and all the while still holding onto my destructive lifestyle. I was living in between two worlds. What I quickly learned though was that both my new church friends and my old friends had a lot in common. The major difference being that the church people were SO good at covering up their messy lives and SO good at condemning everyone who couldn’t. There was nowhere to feel freedom and safety. Nowhere.
When I finally left Orange County I found myself in that familiar place of choosing love over hate. But once again, I was filled with resentment and fear. So I chose hate.
(the story continues here)