Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Over the years, many people have encouraged me to put my story in writing. I wanted to do it now before I forgot the details. Today is June 15th. I haven't posted anything on my blog in a while because I've been working on this since May 31st. A friend of mine encouraged me to just get it done, and volunteered to keep me accountable by having me send it to her in chunks as I got them completed (Thanks, Janet!). I'm going to have to break the whole story down into multiple parts. This is the first part. I'm not sure how many days or weeks it'll take me to get the next part finished, but if you want to keep checking back every few days, I'll try to get it done as soon as possible. Thank you for reading this and allowing me to share it with you. God bless!

My Story, Part One...

My early years were pretty uneventful. I was born again at the age of 3 and spent my childhood with an awareness that God is my friend, is all powerful and is everywhere all the time. I spent most of the first 14 years of my life in Rockford, Illinois, where we attended a Baptist church off and on. My dad stopped going to church when I was a young child, probably 8 or 9. When I was 14, we moved to Pocatello, Idaho. We didn't go to church at all after we moved there. I tried to get myself to youth groups at different churches every once in a while, but didn't have the dedication to keep going.

When I was 15, I met Jimmy. He was 21. We met at a haunted house where we were both working. I was a "guide" and he was an "alien." I soon became deeply infatuated with him.

My mother, who was romance-starved, encouraged the relationship, and I think she enjoyed being around us because it reminded her of more romantic times in her relationship with my dad. My father disapproved of my relationship with Jimmy and told me it was foolish to be involved with him. But I was too infatuated to care, and since my mom was supportive, it made it easy for me to ignore what my dad was saying.

While Jimmy and I were dating, my mom and dad divorced. My mom wanted romance--my dad just wanted friendship and companionship.

After my mom and dad divorced, Jimmy and I and my mom all lived together. We moved 20+ times in a very short period of time (I think it was a little over a year), sometimes staying with friends or living in tiny studio apartments. My mom was busy living the teenage years she never had when she was a teenager. She met and dated lots of different guys. She never drank, smoked or did drugs, though.

Jimmy and I got married when I was 16. My mom went to Las Vegas with us and signed the paperwork, and she sang "The Lord's Prayer" at our wedding. Our relationship was rocky, however, and we ended up separating about 2 months later. We didn't get a divorce right away because neither one of us had the money for the filing fee. I still remember the incredible relief I felt when I was finally able to say goodbye to him. I had tried to leave him and failed at least 6 times before I was actually able to make it stick.

After Jimmy and I separated, life was full of just trying to survive. My mom and I were both working at an answering service and I was still in high school. During that time I dated two different guys. After I broke up with the second one, I was completely ready for a change. In addition to the break-up, I had been working and going to school and the combination tired me out. Because of being so tired, I missed a lot of classes. In that school, if you missed more than 9 days in a semester, you lost credit for that semester and had to re-take the class the following semester. It was the last semester of my senior year, and I had already lost credit in 4 of my classes. So I decided to drop out of school and go back the following fall to finish.

So here I was with no real vision or goal or purpose (that I knew of), and one day I heard a commercial that said that men outnumber women 10 to 1 in Alaska. So I got this crazy idea that I could go to Alaska and work as a waitress and make a lot of money in tips. Then I remembered that I had read in a book somewhere that the Eskimos know how to make white leather. So I decided I was going to go to Alaska, work as a waitress, save up money and head north to live with the Eskimos and learn how to make white leather. (Are you laughing yet? I was totally set in this plan, believe it or not...)

I didn't have any money, and my mom didn't have much either, and I knew I'd have to get there on my own. So I told my mom that I was going, and she helped me by pawning our stereo and some videos so I could have some money to buy some travel supplies. That same night, just before sunset, I took off down the road, hitch-hiking north. I had $20, a back pack stuffed with a change of clothes, a flannel sheet, travel-sized shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, etc, journal, and some other stuff I can't remember.

I walked for about 3 hours until it was completely pitch black. I was walking on the freeway, and finally a guy in a tiny Toyota pickup picked me up and took me as far as the Flying J Truck Stop about 7 miles down the road. There were a boat-load of trucks idling there for the night, so I started knocking on cab doors until I found a trucker that was headed to Canada, and I asked him if I could ride with him. He said yes and invited me into his truck to spend the night. (Are alarm bells going off in your head? Yeah, mine too.)

If you've never been inside one, some of the bigger long-haul trucks with the really extended cabs actually have mini-apartments inside them. This one did. There was a full-sized bed, a fridge, stove, microwave, cupboards, closet, etc. There was a tiny little walkway between the fridge/stove/microwave area on one side and the closet area on the other. I made myself a bed on that walkway with my flannel sheet. I might have had a travel pillow with me or I might have used my arm for a pillow. I can't remember. At any rate, he turned off the light and I laid there trying to go to sleep.

A few minutes later the truck driver invited me to get into his bed with him. I told him no. My heart started hammering. He began to get persistent. I kept saying no, and then, sure I was about to be forced into doing something I didn't want to do, I prayed in my head. "God, please help me out of this." I felt very hypocritical asking that when I was the one who'd gotten myself into the mess in the first place, but it didn't stop me from asking. And the second I prayed, the driver's pager went off.

He cursed, got dressed and headed into the truck stop to use the phone. I sat on the floor trying to calm my racing heart. He came back a few minutes later and said, "Change of plans. You won't be able to come with me after all. I'm going to Colorado instead of Canada." I thanked him for his hospitality and willingness to help me out, packed up my flannel sheet and headed out the door, thanking God with all my heart for His instantaneous answer to my prayer.

But did this close call deter me from my plan? Not at all. I started knocking on more truck doors. Within a few minutes I'd found another person who was headed into Canada and he said I could ride along with him. He was much older and reminded me of my dad, and he had a dog. His truck had a much smaller cab than the other driver's truck had, with just a bed positioned directly behind the two front seats. I slept in the passenger seat all night.

Two days later we arrived in Sweetgrass, Montana and were trying to decide what to do about getting me across the Canadian border. It quickly became apparent that we would have to part ways. So we said goodbye, he headed towards the area where his truck was to be searched, and I headed into the border patrol office.

I explained who I was, where I was headed and what my plan was. The officials on duty that day understandably thought I was nuts, and they called my mom in Pocatello. They asked her if she wanted to declare me a runaway, and if she did they would just have me driven back down to Pocatello in a patrol car. She asked to talk to me. She asked me if I wanted to come home. I told her I didn't. So she told the border patrol employees that she wouldn't declare me a runaway. They were reluctant to let me to, but they had no legal grounds to hold me. They wouldn't, however, allow me to cross the border into Canada. They told me if I came back with $300 and a bus ticket to the northernmost province in Canada, they would let me cross, but not until then.

When I walked out of the office, I really had no idea what to do next. I prayed as I walked. (Believe it or not, I talked to God on this trip, just as I had my whole life long. And many times I felt His presence with me and could sense the Holy Spirit talking to me, sometimes so clearly that it was almost audible. Many times He directed my steps as clearly as if He had drawn out a path on the ground for me to follow.)

Soon I came to a casino/restaurant. I went inside. The owner gave me a job for the afternoon, waiting tables and cleaning. He also gave me a meal. At the end of the day he paid me $20 and told me of a woman he knew in Sunburst, MT., about 8 miles south of Sweetgrass, who had been known to take in runaways before. He asked me if I would like him to call her, and I accepted his offer gratefully.

He called her and she came and picked me up. She lived in a good-sized house with her husband, son, and her son's fiance. She also had another teenager living with her named Rita. She took me to her house and gave me a room to sleep in on the 2nd floor of the house. It was warm, comfortable and safe. She and her family were so good to me. They freely shared everything they had with me and didn't ask for anything in return.

The following day, Judy asked me if I wanted to enroll in the high school that was there in Sunburst, called North Toole County High School. The idea of finishing my senior year that spring and graduating on schedule was very appealing to me, so we went to the school and found out that I was eligible to enroll and finish. If I had gotten there 3 days later, it would have been too late. When I heard that, I felt such a strong sense of having been lead there by God Himself, and I thanked Him whole-heartedly. I still do.

I stayed with Judy and her family until school was out. They never asked me to pay rent or do chores, but I did try to help out in whatever ways I could.

I graduated in a class of 8. The school I had dropped out of in Pocatello had a graduating class in the 350-400 range. For me, graduating in a class of 8 was much better. I'd never been a person to enjoy large crowds or large audiences.

After graduation, I moved 24 miles south to the town of Shelby, MT. I was living there when I got drunk for the first time and tried pot the first time. I also tried cigarettes, but I threw up after the third one and that was the end of that. (Thank you, Lord!)

I worked various different jobs there and had several different apartments and several different boyfriends. At one time I was working full time at a grocery store during the day, making pizzas and doing the store's bookkeeping. At night I worked full time as a graveyard waitress at the Town Pump truck stop and restaurant. During those few months, all I did was work and sleep, but I had a lot of money. On my days off, I had a great time spending all that cash. I wish so much that I had been more wise with that money and saved it instead of spending it on worthless junk. Obviously, by now the vision of going to Alaska had pretty much died, or I would have been saving my money towards that. It's a good thing I didn't end up going there, because I wouldn't have liked Alaska very much. I don't like to be cold, and I would have gone crazy during the long dark months.

I wasn't able to keep up with the 16-hour work days for very long, because I was utterly exhausted. So I eventually quit my job at the grocery store and just kept the job at the truck stop. While I was working there, I met a man that I became very infatuated with. He was a biker and 17 years older than me. After just a couple weeks of knowing each other, we moved in together. He had two children, a son that lived with us and a daughter that he saw every other weekend. He drank a lot and would stay out very late at night and come home drunk. We lived together for a month or so, and then I found out I was pregnant.

I was thrilled to be pregnant, but when I saw that positive pregnancy test, I could hear God's voice saying to my heart, loud and clear, "You've had a chance to do things your way. It's time for you to come home now. Come back to Me." I knew I didn't want this child to be raised by a father that drank all the time and came home at all hours of the night. I also knew I didn't want to spend the rest of my life with someone who didn't share my faith.

Three days later I left Montana on a bus and went back home to Pocatello. I had lived in Montana for approximately 6 months.

Monday, May 01, 2006

James 1:22 "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves."

The Bible says that if we hear the Word of God, but don't DO it (apply it, obey it, practice it and live it out in action), we're deceiving ourselves. I truly hate to be lied to or deceived in any way by anyone or anything, but what's really sad is that many of us do it to ourselves.

When I learned this, it really set me free in so many ways. Before I truly grasped this concept, I would read the truths of the Bible and receive them with a sort of reservation, thinking that perhaps this or that truth or this or that command didn't really apply to me or to the time we're living in. And thinking that way really kept me from living in the freedom and power that God longs for in all of His children.

How many times have we read a passage or heard a message, thought to ourselves, "Wow, that's good," and then gone on about pursuing our desires without ever taking a step to implement what we learned?

Ever since I truly understood this truth and received it into my being, the Bible has come alive to me in a fresh, real and relevent way. Also, I am more attentive to my pastor's messages, Christian books and Christian music than I have ever been before. I read and listen with eagerness, hungry for more of God and more of His truth. I trust that He will show me the areas in my heart and life are displeasing to Him, and I pray that I will be responsive enough and responsible enough to act immediately to allow His holy fire to cleanse and purify me.