Just like in any new friendship, there is a period of getting to know each other. In a perfect world, I could sit down to coffee with each of you and we could share the stories of our lives that would begin to knit us together in friendship. Sadly, that won’t be able to happen, but we (or at least I) can share my story so you can get to know me a little bit better. So grab your popcorn and your snuggies, ladies- cause here is the life of Heather…….the early years…….
I was born on a warm spring day in early March… 😉 Seriously, though, I really was. Like a lot of you, I was raised in a Christian home with two parents who both knew and loved Jesus. My dad was handicapped and so he stayed at home while my mom was the one who went to work. My brother, my only sibling, was five years older than me so we really didn’t have a lot in common. Despite it all, we were your typical American family….so to speak.
A lot of my youth was spent eating mac-n-cheese in the back seat of the car while my mom drove us to the hospital. That’s where my dad would be staying while recovering from some surgery for some new ailment. It became a second home and a place or normalcy for me. I never had the dad who went to my t-ball game or played outside with us in the yard. My dad was sick. And he did the very best he could, despite his illness, to be the best kind of father he knew to be. And he was. But I couldn’t help but hold some form of resentment in my heart, feeling like I had been cheated out of a real dad experience. My mom worked hard to keep us financially afloat but then had to come home and take care of not only two kids, but a sick husband as well. She was superwoman in my eyes. To this day, I don’t think I’lll ever know how she did it. My brother, though an irritant in my childhood, quickly became one of my best a dearest friends. Even still, he is a calm in my sometimes stormy life.
I grew up in an area of Phoenix, AZ that was a lot more “cultural” than most- if you get my drift. I was constantly being bullied for being a scrawny white kid and often scared into helping the bad kids get away with a lot of awful stuff. At age eleven I was first told about masturbation by a girl in my class and by age twelve, I had been exposed to my first picture of a naked man by another friend in my class. At age fourteen, I was bullied into being the lookout on the bus so the naughty kids could do naughty things to each other in the back without getting caught. Surprisingly though, I somehow made it through those crazy years without ever doing those things myself.
I grew up going to church, more specifically, a conservative Baptist church. And by conservative, I mean you would never be caught dead wearing jeans to church or the congregation would think you had fallen away from the Lord. At the time I didn’t know it, but there was a lot of legalism in my church. I remember one Sunday I sang with a girls group in our evening service. The song was upbeat, and I swayed a little to the music while I sang. Afterward, I was told if I ever moved like that on stage again, I wouldn’t be allowed to sing in church. Now don’t get me wrong, the church I grew up in is an amazing place with amazing people who helped me grow in the Lord in ways I never knew I could. It was a huge part of who I am today, but it also played a role in some of the battles I deal with today.
I became a Christian at age five, and really committed my life to the Lord at age sixteen. For all intents and purposes, I was the poster child for an upright Christian kid. Leader of everything; attended all groups; always at church; mainly behaved; never drank; smoked; and was NEVER naughty with boys. I was judgmental of the sinner. I was quick to condemn them and make my feelings known. You guessed it, I was THAT Christian kid. The self-righteous one who never did anything wrong so I felt it was my place to tell everyone how bad they were. The funny thing is, even though I was a really good kid (my nickname in high school was “GG” for goody-goody), I was still this lost girl who was so full of hurt and pain on the inside that at times I thought I might burst. But we’ll get more into that at another time.
It wasn’t until I got to college that my life went in a direction I never thought it would take. But I’ll save that for part two.