When I was at the Kids’ Christmas Play this past Sunday, I was thinking a lot. I was watching the kids, and thinking back to when I was their age (there is a vast difference between these kids and the kids I work with in the school district. And the difference is the love of Jesus). Not in a million years would I have guessed that I’d walk the road I have walked. My childhood was so good that I didn’t even want to go to heaven, because I didn’t think it would be any better than earth (I also thought as a kid that heaven was all clouds and boring harps. Haha).

I guess as a kid (depending on your environment), you love everyone and expect everyone to love you. At least, that’s how I was. I was curious, and happy, and excited to learn new things, and I never second-guessed that I would be loved by those around me.Mom says when I was little and we’d go to a park, within minutes I’d have all the kids organized into a game. I remember being able to talk to strangers really easily (other kids).

I also had a very unique personality that made life fun and exciting. I was always a tomboy, and proud of it (Rowena and I were always up in trees, and loving to do everything our younger brothers did).  I had no problem making friends as a kid, and I always had a group of close friends I loved with all my heart.

My middle school years were good, but weird. I was a lot more self-conscious at that age and turned into a shrinking violet that didn’t like talking to strangers. I was also a people pleaser, and God led me to Galatians 1:10 to help with that. I still made friends easily, but I preferred to just have a few close friends and talk with them.

I remember staying away from boys (literally: the boys would sit on one side of the middle school youth room, and the girls would sit on the other, and to cross that boundary meant labeling and teasing by your peers). At that age, we were told that to talk to boys was to be a boy chaser (oh horror. It was the worst of sins). So, I didn’t talk to boys at all. I had one guy friend going into middle school (we grew up playing together, and were on the worship team. He’s married now). I remember being at a worship team practice (we played djembe and tamborine together), and I went to sit next to him, and another guy teased him, and he didn’t talk to me after that.

My other guy friend was the boy who hit me (we used to play “Cat and Rat;” a hilarious version of crawl tag. I always had the knees shredded out of my jeans as a kid). He always liked the girly-girls best (the ones who wore makeup and dressed all fashionably, and stuff like that). Guys don’t like girls who can take them out in soccer, and were just as fast of runners as they were (which is what I was).

So, in short, one guy friend stopped being my friend because he cared what others thought of him, and didn’t like being teased. And the other one? Well, he hit me. I guess he didn’t like strong-willed tomboys with minds and ideas of their own.

And after that? Well, then came high school at Calvary’s youth group (the sum total of my social life). The guys in high school freaked me out, and made me feel uncomfortable, and I was confused by them. I didn’t have any guy friends (besides my scout brothers) until J, at age eighteen. He was from another church, and I swear to God I wish I’d never heard his name or seen his face. He’s one of those people that if you ever saw them again, you’d flee. There are many people like that in my life: I never want to see them again.

I have this vivid memory of the summer that J. returned. I fled on a road trip with a gal friend to Ellensburg, until he was going to leave the state again. But, somehow, our paths almost crossed at church. I remember hearing his voice down a hallway, and running the opposite direction like a frightened mouse. I left Calvary after that. They were lauding one of his creative projects, and I felt betrayed, though no one knew how he’d treated me (and if they did, would they have believed me?).

J. didn’t like me to have ideas either, and he was very selfish and into getting what he wanted out of people. I think he wanted a girl he could control, and a golden-haired beauty who worshiped him. He was the first guy that became a close friend, and whom I liked a lot. I never would have spoken to him though, if I hadn’t caught his eye, and he hadn’t given me his email. I wish often that I could take away that moment in time. If I could, I’d travel back in time and show my younger self how awful a man he was, and tell myself to run away as if he was the devil himself (which is strong language, but I’m being honest).

It was the Irish play at Calvary I was in that did it. I wore a beautiful lavender dress, and my dance ghillies (shoes), and a gold belt at my waist, and my hair long (as long as it is now). I spoke in Gaelic (some words I had researched to fit in with my lines). I did a beautiful dance (the play was actually written by a dad in our church for me and Sine, because of our dancing).

In short, just as it always goes: I caught his eye. That seems to be my curse, and why, I think, I am such an Ice Queen around guys. I hated being in church, and some Calvary guy coming to sit next to me. I literally put my Bible on one side of me and my purse on the other, to avoid being sat next to. It’s not like it was a common occurrence, but I guess it was often enough that I remembered it.

From age nineteen onwards, I had to grow up quickly. I think if my personality had been different, or I didn’t have the Holy Spirit, what I went through at WWU and afterwards would have destroyed me. The devil knows our weak spots, and how to hurt us most. But I also love life and living. And when I didn’t love life, I’d tell myself that valleys of the shadow of death are only that–valleys, and then comes the mountains and rivers and fields of wildflowers. And I reminded myself that I had work to do on earth, and to leave would be waste. And that if I left, my little friends would be heartbroken, and I’d open a door to evil.

I think it was at nineteen that I began to think I was unloveable. After all, if I was loveable then why was I verbally hit? If I was loveable, why wasn’t I wanted? If I was precious, why was I lured in and then emotionally hit and abused? If I had any value at all, why was my heart used like a man uses a woman’s body, and then cast out? I call things like this “emotional sex.” I doubt that there are many girls out there who invest that much in a guy unless they like them. And when guys “enjoy” that and are selfish (fill in the blank)… it’s bad news. You know how guys need girls to dress modestly? You know how often the church beats us young women over the head for that? Do you know how much selfish, emotional lust and immorality the church turns a blind eye to?

But, let me go back to the Kids Christmas Play. Do you know why I returned to Calvary? To return to the “old paths,” as the Bible says. Calvary is my place of emotional safety, and warmth, and love. It is my happy place, in so many ways. I was reminded of that this summer at Vacation Bible School. I said to myself: “Self, this is a good church, and I think you need to come back here. You need to come home.”

Calvary is a place of much love and innocence. That’s why, post-WWU, I felt I no longer belonged there. It was a hard time for me. And that was the season where I felt smothered by my parents, and wanted to be out from under their sway. I wanted my freedom. So, I went to another church. And that, as they say, is history. I have never been in a more ungodly place. Not everyone there is like that, but MANY are, and it’s sick. I’ve never met a more worldly group of young adults in my life, and I do not like the kids’ ministry there AT ALL. It was not a place of authenticity.

These last couple of months, God has promised that there would be good things ahead. And He proved true. He has provided in every way I have needed so desperately. He also promised me it would be hard, and I said I was okay with that. After what I’ve already lived through, not much fazes me anymore, and God is teaching me to give more of my burdens to Him, and He is giving me peace and rest where I need it most.

Sometimes I feel I am trying to tie all the pieces of my life together, like a scrapbooked novel. Sometimes I feel I am trying to find myself again (or, rather, my new self. I am not the same person I was, all those years ago, in the Calvary years of my childhood). But you know what I like best? I have the foundation of happiness and joy and childhood goodness, and the trials that many of the rest of the world faces. And to me, that’s the best combination I could hope for. I remember, vividly, in my middle school years, asking God for trials. Well, He certainly gave them, and I am proud of the woman I have become.