In true, Angel-fashion, this won’t be short, so if you’re planning on reading you may want to go for a quick bathroom break and pop yourself a bag of popcorn, before you settle in.
I was born to a 16 year old, unmarried girl. The hospital I was born in was across the street from my mom’s high school. We lived with my grandparents for the first year of my life. Right after I turned one, my dad and mom were married. Not my birth father, but the only dad I’ve ever known.
My parents went on to have 2 more kids—all 3 of us born before my mom was 21. Since this is my story, I won’t go into theirs, but they lived a lifestyle that I would not choose to live with my girls during the first years of my life.
When I was 5, a teenager down the street invited me to ride the bus to church. Back then, they didn't have cartoons on Sunday mornings and we usually got in trouble for being too loud, so I was thankful to have something to do. It was there that I first heard about Jesus. I remember coming home week after week and asking Him in my heart--just in case He didn't hear me the last time. I got my sister, and my brother when he was old enough, up and dressed every Sunday so they could go with me. After a few years, my dad started going and we would ride home with him (which I didn't like because it meant we missed out on the candy they gave out on the bus ride home).
When I was 8, we moved to Texas and started attending church as a family. In fact, my parents started attending Bible college a few years later and worked on staff at a Christian school.
When I was 14, my mom chose to leave. Again, I’m going to tell my story from my point of view and not talk about why I think she did what she did. What I will say is that it was hard. I was always too responsible for my own good, and this just served to feed into that.
My dad raised the 3 of us through all the teenage drama. There were a lot of fun times, but, as since I have since found out for myself, working for a church isn’t the highest paying job out there. Dad usually had part-time jobs and I started working when I was 14 and except for about 6 months after Caroline was born, have worked ever since then. I learned at a very young age that when you pray specifically for a need, God will answer you. I remember trying to figure out a family budget when I was 16, and the numbers never adding up, but yet, we never went hungry and always had everything we needed and more.
I was blessed by a couple of women who taught me about ministry. I volunteered with kindergarteners because I wanted to get out of sitting in church. They gave me responsibilities that didn’t allow me to just hang out in the back of the room (I actually even lead the worship—or singing, as we called it). These ladies cared for me as a person. I remember a few shopping trips where they blessed me with clothes and shoes. At the time, I KNEW that they were God’s way of providing a mom’s influence—even though neither tried to push their way into that role.
I graduated high school as Valedictorian (before you start thinking I’m really smart, just know that there were only 22 seniors in my graduating class and my first semester in college I had a 2.4 gpa—which didn’t improve tremendously in my 5 years there). I worked hard at pretty much everything I did.
I went off to college and there, through Campus Crusade for Christ, I learned what it meant to have a relationship WITH God, and not just do things FOR Him. Through a summer project, God taught me tons about being a child of his (something that, to this day is hard for me to grasp—I’d rather think He loves me based on what I can do—as warped as that sounds). I was discipled by an incredible woman, had some great roommates and started leading my own group of girls--which brought me life.
I graduated college and hit a low. I had “coped” for so long, that it finally took its toll. I went to a couple of doctors trying to figure out why I lost so much weight and couldn’t sleep. They, of course, suggested depression, but I was unwilling to believe that, so I kept trucking until I hit a wall a year later. During that time, I was working a full time job, a part time job and keeping my nephew as much as possible.
Shortly after that time, I met Brian. In fact, the first time I went out with him was with a group to celebrate my 25th birthday. He was such a good friend to me that I knew if I allowed myself, I would fall head over heels for him. And I did.
We’ve had our rocky times, some of which are not too far in the past, but once, again, I am amazed at God’s provision. In high school or college, I would never have even looked twice at Brian as more than a friend and vice versa. But I couldn’t imagine a better person for me. He shoots me with Nerf guns so that I don’t take myself so seriously, he doesn’t let me get by with being mean and he loves me in a way that teaches me so much about God’s grace.
We found our current church in 1999—right before we were married. I still remember our first time there after trying several other types of churches. Brian’s comment was, “Wow. I’ve never heard the Bible taught that way. This place just feels right.” In 2006, much to my amazement and determination in my younger years to never work at a church, I joined the staff there.
In the midst of all of that, I am learning daily about where my self-worth comes from. And I still struggle with liking myself most days. And I worry all the time that I am a bad mom and wife (I just realized I never even documented my girls' birth in this long book of a post). And I am reminded by people who care for me that God loves me no matter how many times I get upset with my family. Or whether my mom thinks I’ve forgiven her or not. Or if I’m not “doing” anything for Him right now. My story is not finished—I am definitely being shaped daily.
I feel like I skipped a lot of details, but this is so long that I hate to go back and add them in. I recently read a book called “The Glass Castle.” The book left me really frustrated because there was so much I could read between the lines about her childhood that she glossed over. I hope I did not do that here, but I also know that I don’t want to dwell on the past. It shapes us and molds us, but doesn’t have to define us.
I say all this not for pity, or to be able to brag, but to document it for history's sake. My girls are starting to ask some questions and I'm answering them as honestly as possible (although I've managed to side-step the question about whether Brian and I did more than kiss before we were married--so far). Though long, this is a brief snapshot of how I became who I am today.