For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Survivor Not A Statistic...Part 2

In my previous post I ended the entry with my attacker leaving me to die.  The sound of dogs barking was only that.  There was no one in the area to help me but within a week I would find out the angels were with me in so many ways.

I don't know how I made it to my car without people stopping to see what was wrong with me.  I honestly can't remember if I even walked past people.  It was the dead of summer so it was still broad daylight out.  Like I was on autopilot I drove straight to the Sheriff's Department.  I thought that if they saw what my stalker did to me it would convince them to act.  Here was the hardcore evidence...he did inflict physical harm to my body.

But I didn't get the help I was seeking.  Instead a Sheriff's deputy said he couldn't take my report because the incident didn't happen within their jurisdiction. Say what?  He said I had to go to the police department that had jurisdiction where the "scene of the crime" took place.  My family knows the Sheriff, he's a wonderful Christian and well established in his church and the community.  I told them that we would be speaking with him about this.  Then a female deputy came out and pulled me aside.  She was very compassionate and understanding.  She didn't take a report but she let me tell her what happened.  She explained that if I went to the emergency room they could come there and take my report because they have jurisdiction at the hospital, which ironically was within a mile of the outdoor concourse!  I told her I wasn't going to the ER because I wasn't going to get billed for something that wasn't my fault.  She said the victim's advocacy would cover the bill.  That wasn't my plan.  So she called 911 and had them dispatch an ambulance to the Sheriff's Department.  She said the EMTs could clean me up so that I could go to the police department.

I won't forget the "clean up" ordeal.  I had pieces of gravel stuck in the palms of my hands, in my knees, a gash in my thigh, and lacerations on back, buttocks, shoulders and face.  My head was spinning but I was told I couldn't take anything because I needed to be coherent to give my statement.  While they were cleaning me up the deputy was trying to contact my friend to let her know where I was and to see if she could come meet me.  I made my way to the police department about 15 minutes away and encountered more obstacles.  

First of all, I have just been attacked and left for dead and there is not one female in the building who can come be with me!  The officer that takes my statement informs me that he also needs to take pictures.  He proceeds to take Polaroid snapshots of any visible injury and he has this measuring tool that looks like a pen and with each photo he writes down an estimated measurement of the injury.  After he takes my statement he tells me I can pick up a copy within a week.  He says to keep it on me so that if Johnny bothers me again I can provide law enforcement a copy of this incident so they will know he needs to be arrested.

Then they have an officer follow me to the exit where my friend lives to make sure Johnny isn't following me.  I get to her house and run to the bathroom and just sit on the floor and cry.  There are no words to express how I am feeling.  Late into the evening I drift into the living room and her husband lets me know they are there for me if I need them.  Life as I knew it is gone.

The nightmares begin does my fear of being in public alone, a social phobia surfaces so that I am no longer comfortable being in large crowds, and I become more hyper-vigilant than ever.  

The next day, Saturday, July 28th, I make myself look at my body.  I inspect every part that hurts, that is tender to touch, that looks bruised and ugly.  This is what Johnny did to me.  I have injuries from forehead to ankles.  I end up at the ER because of a bad headache and CT Scan reveals I have a slight concussion from my head hitting the tree but I will be okay in time.  It's summertime so a little difficult to cover a lot of the visible injuries.  So for the next 2 weeks I don't go to work because I don't want people to see me and I don't want to answer questions.

My friend lets me know that Johnny followed me out to her house and her husband ran him off with a shotgun.  My wall of defenses have gone up and I trust no one...not even her.  My brother calls and asks if he can take me to the movies.  He needs to see me and know I'm okay and he needs to try to help restore my faith in some people.  After all the world is full of good people, right?  So, I head over to his place and when I get to the main house I see a new privacy fence at the back of their property.  I ask him about it.  He says it's been there for about a month because kids from the middle school were always trying to mess with their pets and then when the outdoor concourse was opened to the public it became more of a problem for them to have privacy.  It was then I realized I was on the backside of my brother's property when I was attacked.  It was one of his dogs that started barking.  We both started crying as he felt like he was within an arms reach of me and couldn't protect me.

Later that week my friend came home from work and told me that they cut down some trees at our new concourse because the county found out a young girl had been attacked at another concourse during broad daylight.  She said, "They were talking about you..." It seemed that for 3 1/2 years no one was able to protect me but now they were going to make a concerted effort to protect others.

I lived with my best friend and her husband for the next 6 months.  It wasn't because I had been attacked.  Something else happened which I am not at liberty to speak about publicly but in doing so it gave me an opportunity to try to heal. During the first few weeks after the attack I worked closely with the Chief of Detectives and representative from the victim's advocacy center.  They tried to help me understand some of the pathologies of a stalker.  Little things began to happen that were like God winks...His way of reassuring me He was there and He was going to get me through this ordeal.

While living with my friends I let the grass in my yard grow up and one month I accidentally let my phone get turned off because I forgot to pay the bill.  Well, my stalker began thinking I may have moved because my car was no longer at the house, my home phone was off, and employer changed my office number so that Johnny wouldn't have it.  I also got 23 inches cut off my hair to donate to Locks Of Love so that threw him for a loop when he saw me in public.  2 years later I bought a new home in the country.  

As time went by I got back into a normal routine but I was a more guarded person.  From 2001 to 2011 I had so much going on that I was learning to move on and even though the memories were there they didn't haunt me as bad as they did the first year.  That was until last year.

In the early spring I received a call from law enforcement asking if I could meet with them to archive my case record.  Yeah, it sounded like a Cold Case episode to me.  I was coming up on the 10 year anniversary of the attack and they wanted me to review all the documents so that they could enter it in a new database so that if they had reports of similar incidents they could try to tie the cases together.  I really didn't want to cooperate because I felt like they had let me down and I had done a pretty good job of moving on but they kept calling so I showed up at their office Friday, July 29th (my nephew's 17th birthday).  It was like reliving the ordeal.  I must have looked at 12-15 Polariod pictures.  There was more incident reports than I even remembered happening and oh I can't even begin to count how many phone calls they had logged from him to me.  This was taxing on me mind, body and soul.

My preacher's wife knew I had been dreading this and so she encouraged me to go to a youth rally with her and her husband that evening to get my mind off everything.  And this is where I finally felt God release me from the memories of the past 10 years.  I was totally exhausted by the time I met up with Pastor and Sandy.  She asked if I wanted to talk and I told her I just wanted to rest.  The church that was hosting the youth rally was about an hour away so I laid in the back seat and went to sleep and I slept and slept...

Another couple followed us and I remember Sandy telling the lady that they were welcome to sit with us but to save enough room so that if wanted to curl up and sleep on the pew I could.  I told her, "I'm not going to sleep in church!"  Well, I made it through the opening remarks and music and I thought I could pay attention because the guest speaker was an alumni from the Christian college I attended but the more he spoke the more tired I became.  My body was worn out from the recent events and it seemed like I was relaxing there in church.  Sandy looked at me and could tell I was struggling to stay awake.  She patted her leg and told me if I wanted to lay down I could.  I had already slept thru the 30 minutes while everyone was visiting before the service started.  I slid over and laid my head against her shoulder and slept for the next 4 hours!  She said she didn't know how I slept through all the loud music, the teens shouting as they played some indoor games while the adults visited.  There were about 6-8 churches present and Sandy said I never budged when people came over to see if I was okay.  I then slept the entire way home. 

The next day I called Sandy to apologize because I couldn't believe I slept thru the service.  She said there was no need to apologize.  They were just glad that I went because they felt like I didn't need to be by myself and she said it made her feel good that after all I had been through I trusted her enough to let her keep me safe while I slept. She said maybe being in a sanctuary gave me a sense of peace and at some point I released all tension, anxiety, fears, etc. and found sweet rest.

That night a year ago etched in stone my philosophy: "Life is hard but God is good and if He brings you to it, He will also see you though it."  Where am I today?  I still have severe issues of trust.  I still get anxious if people I don't trust try to get to close to me, touch me, hug me, etc.  I have social phobias with large crowds...if there are too many in the church choir I will not sing unless Sandy is right beside me, then I hover beside her.  She knows where my comfort zone is and she knows how to help me feel safe.  I am a very friendly person but I don't befriend many.

I am not haunted on a daily basis by the memories of my past.  The Lord has been good to allow me to persevere with only minor setbacks as something might remind me of the incident, my assailant, etc.  I have come full circle from July 27, 2001 to July 27, 2012.  It took 11 years for the date to fall on a Friday.  I have shared bits and pieces of my story in my testimony.  I enjoy public speaking and last August after archiving the incident I spoke at my church. 

I remember sharing some of my past because I knew the Lord wanted me to regain my voice.  I spoke about what it was like to be in the valley and how wonderful it was for me because it was there that my heart found rest, sweet peace and contentment.  I learned that sometimes we go through difficult times to make us stronger and more mature in the Lord.  I learned to trust in a God I couldn't see...I knew that He was always going to be there for me, no matter what.  I learned that, "When answers aren't enough there is Jesus...He is more than just an answer to your prayers."  

God let me live to tell my story.  I don't want to be a survivor because I feel like you have to put effort into surviving and I don't want to be a victim because I am not being harmed all the time.  I want the world to see a girl who learned to trust God as He took her through the fire.  He was with me each step of the way and He isn't finished with me yet!  The scars just show me where I've been...the Cross shows me where I'm going.

During the 3 1/2 years while I was being stalked I went to see a therapist occasionally just to help me.  I'll never forget something she shared with me on resiliency because she said I was like a rubber band.  I could be stretched and stretched and still bounce back.  She handed me a copy of an excerpt on resiliency from a book.  I don't know the title of the book or the author but I put the words to the passage in my journal of quotes.  It said:
Resilience is the ability to work with adversity in such a way that one comes through it unharmed or even better for the experience.  Resilience means facing life's difficulties with courage and patience, refusing to give up.  It is the quality of character that allows a person to rebound from misfortunes, hardships, and traumas.  Resilience is rooted in a tenacity of spirit, a determination to embrace all that makes life worth living even in the face of overwhelming odds. When we have a clear sense of identity and purpose, we are more resilient because we can hold fast to our vision of a better future.
I hold fast to the promises of God and claim Jeremiah 29:11-13 (see the top of my Blog).  My identity is in the Lord and He makes all things beautiful in His time. (Eccl. 3:11). 

I have learned that even when the storms of life assail me I can still dance in the rain.  Sometimes He calms the storm and sometimes He calms the child.  My prayer for you is that you will hold fast to God's unchanging hand.  Yesterday, today, tomorrow...Jesus is the same.  All may change but Jesus never, glory to His name!!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Survivor Not A Statistic--Part 1

As I sit here at my computer I have so many thoughts going through my head and I'm wondering if I can really go through with this.  Am I ready to share a very personal story about myself, to make myself as vulnerable to anyone that may stumble upon this specific entry.  Then I tell myself, yes!  Be the voice of those ladies who don't speak; who think they can't, who have been silenced by fear or even worse, death.  My stomach is all tied up in knots.  I have the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics in London playing in the living room and I step out of the study long enough to catch Team USA waving their flags, taking pictures, and smiling.  I see Lebron James from the Dream Team get captured on camera and then I see Jordyn Wieber (gymnast) waving.  They are happy to be representing America at the Olympics.  I go back to the study and lo and behold, I hear Candy Hemphill Christmas and David Phelps singing Jesus Saves and that is exactly what He did for me 11 years ago today!

Friday, July 27th, 2001, did not start off as an ordinary day for began as a race to the finish line hoping I would really make it through what was predicted as a terrible weekend to come.  Rewind 3 1/2 years earlier, January 1998. I remember because I was shopping after having received some gift cards for Christmas.  A gentelman approaches me at Walmart to get some advice on a cordless phone.  He seems like a nice guy and I feel safe because there is an employee with me while he is asking all sorts of questions, which I am able to answer.  Nothing strange or alarming about that.  But then he proceeds to follow me around the store and I begin to get anxious so decide to forgo any further shopping to get out of there.  I am obviously more nervous than I think because at checkout I drop my wallet and who helps me pick up everything, but none other than that man!  As I'm leaving he calls me by name and says he'll be seeing me later.  I'm a bit confused because I never told him who I was.  Then he holds up what is my business card and he leaves. I never carry business cards on me but I had one card in my wallet so that I could call my family and give them the new number to the private office I moved to.  The number was new to me so I had written it on a business card and I remember writing my home number down because I wanted to remind my dad to make sure he had all numbers in his address book.

That evening was the beginning of a 3 1/2 year nightmare.  This man began to stalk me professionally.  From that business card he had access to my office address (physical and mailing), and home and office numbers and my life became a living hell.  Everywhere I went he went.  At that time I was leading a very busy life.  I was working on my doctorate, on a dance team that practiced three times a week and performed in local and university productions AND I was a full-time employee, actively involved in the singles ministry and choir at my church.  There was no where I could go to get away from "Johnny."  That's what he said his name was when he introduced himself to me but detectives said he probably didn't give me his real name.

First it started with phone calls.  Johnny would call and let me know if he saw me at a show, the mall, on campus, etc.  I knew he was there because he always told me what I was wearing, where I may have been, etc.  Then he started calling my house late at night and when I would answer he would hang up.  I didn't understand what was going on until the detectives told me that he was trying to see if I was home.  If  I answered the phone he knew I was there.  Still it was all just about the phone calls so no one could do anything because he was basically just harrassing me but not causing physical harm.

This went on for several months and 30-50 calls were logged with law enforcement.  Then one night the first major incident happened.  We had a bad storm in the area and a major power outage.  I called the power company to report loss of power.  About an hour later I heard a knock on the door and believing it was someone from the power company I opened the door.  It all happened so fast...a guy barged in and threw me into the bar and started hitting me and yelling at me, "Why don't you take my calls?"  At that moment I knew it was Johnny.  During the course of this struggle the lights came on and out the door he went.  I called my family who told me to get out of the house and to the Sheriff's Department.  When I filed a report I was told the guy didn't trespass because when I opened the door I gave him access to my home.  I later found out that the power company doesn't come to your house.  After power is restored they call your house to make sure you have power again.  Hard lesson learned.

Well, Johnny was now braver than ever...once he attempted to cut my phone line but he accidentally cut my power line and got electrocuted.  The next week he cut my phone line but I wasn't home so I didn't know that happened for a few days.  As the stalking got more severe he would force my car off the road, show up at more and more of the events I was in, etc.  He was even brave enough to come to my church and called to let me know he heard me perform in the Christmas Cantata and Patriotic Program.  It was getting to where I didn't feel safe but I wasn't going to let Satan win this victory.  I had to keep going or I would kill myself in the end.   

After 3 years we had tracked down the office where he was placing most of his calls (almost 1000!) and that agency's security was given the description of my stalker so as to try to catch him.

During the wee hours of the morning, Thursday, July 26th, my phone rang.  Well, when you're dead to the world and the phone rings you don't really bother to look at Caller ID.  You, or at least I do, assume it's a family emergency and you jump for the receiver.  That is exactly what I did and I will never forget, though I have prayed often I could, what I heard on the other end.  Johnny told me, "You better watch your back.  You'll never make it to that birthday party on Sunday" and click, the phone went dead.  Well, I was freaking out to say the least.  I called some friends from church that live the closest to my house and asked them to please come and get me because I didn't think I was going to be safe.  Well, the husband and wife came so that we could take my car to their house.  Once to my home away from home we started pondering at 3 a.m. what Johnny's statement meant.  Was he going to kill me?  And how did he know about my nephew's birthday on Sunday?

I got to work and there on my calendar was a memo to myself to shop for my nephew's birthday after work on Friday.  That calendar was the only place I had my nephew's birthday written down so we realized Johnny had been in my office.  My supervisor sent me and a coworker over to the Sheriff's Department to file a report.  Basically I was told that unless I could give enough lead information for them to apprehend him or if he was caught inflicting physical harm on me or my body then they couldn't do anything.  Yep, in my state the stalker basically has more rights than the victim.  I work with my best friend who is also like a mother to me.  So the plan was for me to go home with her on Friday and stay the weekend with her.  That way if Johnny made his move I would be safe.

Friday, July 27th comes and I head to work. Everything seems okay until I find out my best friend isn't there and I wonder if this will change the plans.  After work I decide to go run some errands, get my nails done and then go jogging.  My best friend is home sick so I figure I can get some things done without bothering her.  There's about a 2 hour lapse between leaving work, errands, and arriving at the outdoor concourse to jog.  As I'm leaving the restroom I hear someone call my name and before I know it Johnny attacks, literally.

First he throws me to the ground and begins to beat on me and drag me across the asphalt.  Somehow I make it to my feet but he then throws me into a tree and when my head hits I all but blackout but I knew that would be the end of me so I will myself to stay conscious.  I can feel something trickling down my arms, legs and face.  I have a problem with my sweat glands so I can't perspire unless under extremely hot conditions so I knew it wasn't sweat.  Then I began to see and taste the blood.  It was everywhere!  When I hit the tree I took a pretty hard blow to the head so I was struggling to stay coherent.  Before I knew it I was on the ground and Johnny was on top of me with a switchblade in his hand.  I felt it go up the hem of my shorts and penetrate my left thigh.  At this point I'm thinking, "Oh my God, he's going to rape me" and it was then that I tried to scream but because he was on top of me I couldn't get enough air in me to yell.  When I finally let out a soft cry for God to help me Johnny leaned into my face and told me, "Scream and I'll kill you."  And at that moment I had a peace that I was ready to die but I didn't want to live if he raped me.  I was scared to death but somehow I knew God was with me.

Then the miraculous happened.  Some dogs started barking and Johnny got off  of me.  I guess he thought someone was coming.  As he stood I just laid there wondering what next.  He told me, "I'm not finished with you..." and he walked away.  I was beaten badly and I didn't even know if he actually left or if he was just waiting for me to stand up or try to walk away.  I knew he intended to kill me so I wondered if he was going to carry through with the promise that I would never make it to that birthday party on Sunday.  That wasn't the end of my nightmare.

*I am posting a part 2 to describe the legal ordeal I went through and how I arrived to where I am today.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

When Heaven Calls

Monday, a college friend of mine lost her 16-year-old daughter unexpectedly.  Savannah was a beautiful girl who loved the Lord with every fiber of her being.  The last time I saw her was while vacationing in Virginia in 2002.  At that time she was an only child but Monday she left behind 3 younger siblings.  When I got the email of her passing my heart broke for her family.  How could this happen to them?  Why did God take her?

Today I read Savannah's obituary and it was a beautiful loving tribute of a child that in our eyes is gone too soon but Earth's loss is Heaven's gain, right?  I began to wonder how her parents would plan her funeral.  Do they know what some of her favorite songs are, her favorite outfit, personal affects that they might want to place in her coffin, pictures to display, etc.? 

The past few years I seem to have a fascination with death.  Many would say I'm not afraid of dying but rather living.  That may be true.  I know I have placed my faith in Christ.  I know that when I die He is going to receive me with arms open wide and I hope to hear Him say, "Well done my good and faithful servant."  My friends and family sometimes get upset with me when I tell them what songs I want played at my funeral or some of the things I want done but then, why shouldn't I plan and prepare?  I have always been a very OCD person when it comes to planning, organizing, scheduling, etc. so would this be any different?

I don't want people trying to make decisions for me that I could have made for myself.  I can make it easy for them if they listen now while they have me with them.  I know what songs I want to be sung at the funeral.  I want the congregation to sing the traditional hymns: What A Day That Will Be and My Savior First Of All.  I want vocalists to perform or a video to be shown of the following songs (click on titles to see/hear videos): Applause by The Talley Trio, Celebrate Me Home  by The Perrys, Christians Never Say Goodbye by The NelonsNow That You Know by Karen Peck and New River.  I have about 25 of my favorite songs on a CD I made  titled "Going Home."  I tried to enjoy life to the fullest so I want my friends and family to be rejoicing that I am where their hearts long to be.

Everyone knows how cold natured I am.  I am always wrapping up in a blanket, snuggling up to my preacher's wife to stay warm in church, etc.  I even take a blanket to the movie theater with me.  So, I told Sandy and my "sis" that I want to be wrapped in a warm fleece blanket from the waist down.  And I loved holding hands with those I was closest to so, those close to me are going squeeze my hand tight as they say good-bye.  Place my favorite KJV Bible near the coffin but let someone have it when I die.  It has tons of notes, quotes, signatures, etc. that I have collected since winning that thing when I was 16.  It was my treasure here on Earth and I hope it will become someone's treasure when I'm gone.

When Christ was here on Earth He also helped prepare His disciples for His death.  He was always reminding them of Calvary and pointing them and others toward Heaven.  He was furthering the Kingdom of God and making ready for His crucifixion.

When my friend/coworker's mother died 2 years ago she knew how strong my faith was and that I was also a very talented writer.  I'll never forget when she asked me: "Gigi, paint me a picture of Heaven.  What do you think Mama is seeing and experiencing now?"  I was very compassionate yet honest.  I told her that her mother wasn't crying because she was separated from her children.  Her mother had been reunited with the King of Kings, with her husband, with other family and friends that had gone on before her.

Heaven isn't just a picture that we see as children...yes, it is pearly gates, streets of gold, crystal waters but it is so much more.  It's a place where Christians get to live for all eternity.  A place where the body doesn't experience pain, sorrow, tears, the sting of death or betrayal.  It's a place where the only scars you'll see are those of our Savior.  I long to touch those nail-scarred hands and to walk hand-in-hand with the Lord.  I long to be a part of the Heavenly choir and to sing His praises around the throne.

Monday Savannah slipped into eternity and now I believe she is looking down on us and smiling.  She was only here for 16 years but she has left behind a beautiful legacy.  What will your legacy be?  What are people going to remember about you?  When Heaven calls are you going to be ready?  My pastor said that all roads lead to Heaven but where will you go from there?  

I know most of us don't want to think about death.  We don't want to believe we are going to die or we think we have all the time in the world to plan.  Savannah's family didn't.  Neither did those families effected by the shootings in Aurora, Columbine, the Amish School in PA, etc.  We aren't guaranteed tomorrow.  Maybe you can put some of your dying wishes down on paper so that your family won't have to try to figure it out.

My prayers go out to Savannah's family and with the recent tragedy in Aurora, Colorado (shooting at the movie theater) my thoughts are with all those families who are left to pick up the pieces, make sense of the unexpected and move on.  Only God can give them that special measure of grace and mercy to forgive and push forward.  And only God can comfort them during their darkest hours.

Psalm 116:15
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday the 13th...Then and Now

What do we usually think of when someone says, "It's Friday the 13th?"  Honestly, my first thoughts go to the movie series "Friday the 13th" and that image of Jason wearing a hockey mask and carrying around a chainsaw.  The summer after my freshman year in college I decided to be a camp counselor at a Christian camp.  One of my older brothers reminded me of "Friday the 13th."  He said, "Remember, Jason killed most of his victims at the camp where he died as a kid."  He then proceeded to tell me that if I listened closely the sound of the chainsaw said, "Chh chh ha ha...chh chh ha ha." Interpreted: "Camp camp blood blood."  Well, that wasn't a deterrent to keep me from going to camp and I lived to share the experience .  

If our mind doesn't immediately go to the movies it will probably go to some very familiar superstitions, fears, phobias, rituals to overcome the superstitions, etc.  Once again, I am a girl with many fears: spiders, bugs, snakes, butterflies, dogs (you should see me on church visitation), rodents, even rabbits... (okay, basically if it has the ability to breathe, crawl, or creep I am probably going to be afraid of it), storms, darkness unless I'm asleep, large social gatherings, and the list goes on. 

Although my favorite number is 7 I am not afraid of the number 13.  With my many fears I am not afraid of dying.  I'm not afraid of black cats either...I'm allergic to cats but I love them.  I grew up in a home in which my dad thought it was bad luck not to have a black cat.  When a catastrophe took place he was always quick to mention we didn't have a black cat.

With all that said, Friday the 13th  isn't something I fear or try to avoid.  For me it's more like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy.  None of them exist but at some point in my life I "believed" in them and I celebrated the traditions associated with those beliefs.  I celebrate Friday the 13th as a fun day and yes, I'm more aware of all the bad things happening and as many of my Twitter followers will see, I blamed a lot on #Friday13th today!

My "belief" that Friday the 13th was all about bad luck happened my Senior year in high school.  I was invited to the youth Valentine Banquet at my church by the love of my life.  I had a crush on Ben since the 4th grade.  He was everything a girl wanted and at that time he was a professional model.  It was like a dream come true to be asked out by him.  The banquet fell on Friday the 13th.  I remember borrowing a formal from a friend because my dad had just purchased me one for Homecoming and was going to have to get me another one for the Junior/Senior (Christian school's version of the prom without dancing).  Ben picked me up in a convertible and we were off to the church.  So, what could possibly be bad about this?

The banquet tables were picturesque with wishing wells in the center and inside the wishing wells were votive candles.  The youth ministry staff didn't use the church dinnerware or silverware.  They opted for an easy clean-up method and one that could also be coordinated with the decor.  We had bright red napkins, clear plastic looking goblets, and plastic plates and flatware.  The key word here is plastic.  One of our friends starting playing with his fork, got a little too close to the wishing well and caught the fork on fire.  He drops it on the table which is covered in those paper-like covers.  Yep, our table catches fire!  Another guy thinking he is going to be the hero runs for the fire extinguisher but before you know it he has haphazardly sprayed white foam got on several of the girls' dresses, not mine.  We made it through the dinner and then my circle of friends were off to a late night stroll around the capitol.  We rode off into the night with the top of the convertible down because we were no longer concerned about our hair getting messed up.  We were living large...I was 17 and having the time of my life!

Ben's younger sister was with us.  Keep in mind we are still all in formals and parading around the downtown area around 10:00 at night.  We decide to climb the capitol stairs and Ben's sister trips and falls down the stairs.  While getting in the car Ben slams my dress in the door and rips it!  I didn't care because I was madly in love with this boy but I started thinking it wasn't a good day.

Fast forward to present day.  I woke up this morning and didn't think much about it being the 13th.  My day was off to a good start, all was going well.  Then I go to download some music and while looking over the downloads I see an album I don't recognize so I decide to delete it.  Well, when I was asked if I wanted to delete it from the Windows Media Player Library or the Library and Computer I opted for the latter.  It begins to delete and then I see this message "All files have been deleted." ALL files? Say what?  I go back to my WMP and there is nothing there.  I click on the album covers and nothing.  All my playlists have been deleted...all the music I ripped to my office PC during the past year are now gone.  I was posting comments on Twitter freaking out about where my music went. 

I left the case with all my Khameleon pop-it stones/gems at my office.  I went to Walmart to return something I had ordered Site-To-Store and it took the CSR at least 30 minutes to locate the item in their database even while holding my pick-up receipt and invoice.  I ran into some friends from church while there or should I say she ran into me.  Yes, she didn't see me stop to look at a display and she plowed right into me with the shopping cart and knocked me into the display.  As she's apologizing I turn around and she realizes she knows me.  Finally, at checkout while the cashier is scanning my stuff she pokes her finger through a pack of chicken and I have to go back and get another pack.

Like Alexander said, "It was a terrible horrible no good very bad day...I think I'll go to bed."

But as a Christian how would we interpret all the events I talked about. I tell people I don't believe in luck, I believe in hope and faith.  I once heard it said that coincidence is just God doing something anonymously. 

So, was my Valentine Banquet bad luck?  No, it turned into a 16-year on again, off again love story for Ben and me.  For 16 years I got to be with the man of my dreams and every date, I mean EVERY single date we went on he presented me with a single red rose to commemorate that first date.

Today wasn't about bad luck either.  It was about me being more mindful of the little things that went wrong.  Would I have considered it bad luck if it happened yesterday or last week?  No, it would have just been a misfortune.  Today was just a series of unfortunate events.  I was on a mental path of destruction when I lost all that music because I can't live without music but in the course of my frustration I figured out how to download some songs I bought from the Amazon MP3 Player store and so for the rest of the afternoon I got to enjoy the 5 new songs I had purchased.  God is in the middle of it all...the good, the bad, and the ugly.  He got me through the series of mishaps and at the time I'm writing this all is well.

Six months ago today I had breast surgery to remove a mass. My surgery was done on January, Friday the 13th.  It wasn't cancerous but I have Atypical Hyperplasia, a precancerous condition.  This week I had my 6-month check-up and all is well!  Luck?  No, God's hand of providence was upon me.

God works in strange and mysterious ways but nothing is done by accident or luck.  God's plan for us is well-orchestrated.  He knows every fiber of our being and everything that happens to us is part of His plan.  I love Jeremiah 29

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

I'm a person with many fears but I also know that God is and has always been in control of my life.  He makes no mistakes.  My philosophy is: Life is hard but God is good and if He brings you to it He will also bring you through it.  Today was just another day...Just as yesterday was Thursday the 12th and tomorrow is Saturday the was Friday the 13th.   By the way: Any time the 1st day of the month falls on a Sunday you will have a Friday the 13th that month!

Rejoice in the Lord for He is good and give Him all the praise and glory!!  Take care and God bless now and forever plus one more day!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

I'm baaaack!!

After 2 1/2 years of writer's block I have returned to my blog.  Actually, I didn't have writer's block.  Life threw me a curve ball and I think I got hit one too many times.  But by the grace of God I am able to testify of His steadfast love.  

Shall I give you an update?  Things probably began to unravel Halloween weekend 2010.  I started getting really sick and no one could figure out what was wrong.  At first I thought I just acquired a bug that I could't get rid of.  Finally, feeling like I was at my wit's end I went to the doctor after Thanksgiving because I was wanting to get better in time for Christmas.  Well, it seems I contracted an illness that is very common in third world countries that don't have proper living environments, clean water, etc.  I am so OCD when it comes to cleanliness, organizing, schedules and routine that it was hard for me to understand how this "neat freak" could get that illness.  Simple: I have a compromised immune system due to an autoimmune disease, cancer treatment for 3 years and an ever ongoing struggle with Anorexia.  It seems that my body cannot destroy the small levels of bacteria that come thru well water.  So my body reacts as if it has been contaminated.

With that said, I was put on a prescription protocol for the next month.  I was taking meds every 6 hours, totaling 23 a day!  As a result of the illness I lost 22 pounds, which anyone will know is not good for someone who has an eating disorder and a fear of gaining weight.  Much to the doctors, family and friends chagrin, I have not been able to regain any of the weight 18 months later.  I have to get retested for the illness every 6 months because they said once you get it you will always test positive in blood tests but they do additional tests to see if the disease is active.  I have been treated for it 2 more times since December 2010.

When I took sick I quit writing for Viewpoints and returned to another love, reading.  I was consuming 300-500 page books in 2-3 days and that was a wonderful outlet for me as I was dealing with so much.

Many know I love to dance and have been doing ballet for 20+ years.  In July 2009 I performed in my final showcase.  My boyfriend/dance partner (Brannigan) and I auditioned and were given the coveted lead roles in "The Swan Princess."  Brannigan got me thru 2 years of dance while I was undergoing chemo and he became my rock in the conservatory.  We performed 5 shows the week of the Fourth of July and then he flew to Australia to be with his family for 6 weeks.  While there he was involved in an ATV accident and would later pass away.  Without Brannigan I had no desire to dance but I continued to go to the studio to hang out with friends.

Tonight my dance instructor is hanging up her ballet tights and tutus.  She said that after 27 years she has lost too many principle dancers and so she's ready to end the summer program that I was proud to be a part of for 11 years.  I've said, "You can take the dancer out of the ballroom but you can't take the love of music and dance out of the dancer."  I will continue to dance for fun but I don't think I'll perform again.

Last December my gynecologist detected a small mass in my right breast so I was sent for a mammogram.  The results weren't good so I had surgery in January to remove the mass.  It came back noncancerous but I was told I have Atypical Hyperplasia which is a precancerous condition that can affect the breast cells.  Since breast cancer runs in my family I will be closely monitored for any changes...

While recovering from breast surgery I kept complaining of a ringing in my ear, itching, drainage, etc.  I react to any medication that is prescribed to me.  If there is an adverse reaction I am probably going to experience it. So, we thought I was reacting to the pain killers.  I see the doctor and they run some tests and put me on some sort of sound machine and they find out that I am hearing pitches 2 and 3 levels below normal.  They tell me I have Cochlear Hyperacusis, which in laymen's terms is a sensitivity to sound/noise.  That helped to explain why I tend to talk in a whisper, why doors opening and closing startle me, etc.  And I had my first earache ever!

Through it all it seemed I had every reason to complain but I kept my faith.  I used all the adversity in my life to proclaim the goodness of the Lord.  I began telling everyone: "Life is hard but God is good AND if He brings you to it He will also bring you through it."  I believe the Lord allowed me to go through all I did because He knew I would use it for His glory and honor.  If I can make a difference in one person's life then I say, it is worth it all.  If I can point one person to the cross then let me be the one. 

How do you react when life throw's you a curve ball?  Do you stand there and let it hit you in the head and then complain?  Do you duck and then avoid the situation that was thrown your way or do you lift up your hand, catch it, and throw it back?  That's what I want to do.  I told someone that I am a participant in the game of life not a spectator.  Win or lose, I will play to the end.  Like Sandi Patty says, "In Heaven's eyes there are no losers..."

It's great to be back!