There are 3 amazing things about Tony and Pam asking me to stay with them that year.
First, they were "newlyweds".
Second, they were new parents. Who wants a wreck of an adolescent girl hanging around with their 1 year old and infringing on their privacy as newlyweds?
Third, they were newly committed to Jesus and serious about Him. They had their own baggage to work through......I'll never stop being awestruck at the love, sacrifice, and selflessness they showed me that year. I honestly don't know what would've become of me if they hadn't given up so much for me.......
The first thing Tony did as I hung up the phone with my mom was put me on a diet. I was not a happy camper.
The second thing they did was plug me in with one of the older women at Alpena who was willing to get together with me weekly for counseling sessions.
At first life in a "Christian Community" seemed really strange to me. I'd gone from a family of 2 to living with more than 40 people. However, after a couple months the strangeness of living with all those people faded and the whole community started to feel like a large, extended family.
Like I said before, there were 14 cabins at Alpena. The cabin right next door to Tony and Pam's had a family living there with a daughter my age. We became instant friends. It was incredible to me to find someone my age who actually liked me and wanted to be a friend. When we weren't doing chores or homework, Paula and I were inseparable.
The school was similar to a large homeschool. There were 12 kids in the entire school, ranging in age from 5 to 14. The older kids went to town for high school.
One more detour before I continue. My mom. I'm still wading through my relationship with her, so she's hard to write about. However, I do need to say a couple of things about her. She was, in some ways a wonderful mother. Nurturing, comforting, funny....a good friend. But after the divorce she only partially seemed like a mom to me. She gave me no boundaries growing up. No bedtime. No rules about what I did with my time, watched on TV, or what I ate. She never asked me if I'd done my homework or checked my grades. In high school I managed to date a few old fashioned boys who would actually ask her what time she wanted me home. "Whenever you bring her home is fine with me. Just have a good time!" It was very scary to be that "on my own" and even when I was 9 or 10 I can remember feeling like I was my own parent. Then, to add to that pressure, my mom turned to me for comfort. It got so weird that she would send ME Mother's Day cards thanking me for taking such good care of her. I was "asked" to be a mom to my mom just when I needed a mom the most. I know she didn't mean to put that kind of pressure on me, but the pressure was there, under the surface, and once again gave me the feeling that I truly had no one to turn to.
Alright, onward and Upward. (I capitalized that on purpose.)
The counseling sessions I had proved to be literally miraculous to me. I learned so very much!
The most important thing I learned is that Jesus loves me so much He was not content to leave me where I was. Hatred, bitterness, rejection, and self-pity had become defense mechanisms from all the hurts I'd experienced and had almost become friends to me. He wanted me to give those things up so He could give me more.
I think the focus of that year was love. I learned of God's constant love for me. He promises to never leave us or forsake us. He will never leave me like my dad did. He will never leave me like Jimmy did. He will never abandon me like my mom did. Everyone I had trusted or relied upon up to this point had betrayed me in one way or another.
It was terrifying to be asked to be vulnerable to a God I couldn't see and didn't know.
I learned that all of my defense mechanisms were sin, and I had to let go of them and allow God to "wash" my heart and then ask Him to fill it with His love for people. If I love with His love I can accept people and love them just because they are the same planet I am and not because of what they can do for me.
Carol, my counselor, would hear me say something like, "I hate my dad and step-mom."
She showed me in the bible where God says hate is a sin. She'd ask me if I was willing to stop hating them.
"I don't know. They hurt me so much!"
"Well, God loves you and He wants you to love them."
"How? I don't love them!"
"Let's pray about it."
Then she'd lead me in a prayer asking God to make me willing to be willing to love them. I was always willing to be made willing, even if I wasn't willing.
Finally, when I was willing to be vulnerable to God, and to my mom, or my dad and step-mother, and take the chance of being hurt again, Carol would lead me in another prayer. This time a prayer telling Jesus I knew hatred was a sin and asking Him to forgive me. Then I'd ask Him to fill my heart with HIS love for my parents and step-mother. Carol explained that each time those thoughts of hatred came into view, I needed to go to God and give those thoughts to Him. Then ask Him again for His love for them. She explained that all this is called repentance. It's a giving up of sin, and doing an "about face" on it. You wouldn't believe how many times a day I did this, nor for how many years! And I not only did it with the hatred I felt, but for the anger, bitterness, and self-pity I wrestled with as well. Prayer and repentance became my companions and Jesus filled my heart. For the first time ever I had joy in there. And peace. The deep lonliness was totally and absolutely gone.
That is why I previously posted the Fernando Ortega song, Sing to Jesus. I was thinking about my life.
Here it is again, just for Jesus!
Come and see. Look on this mystery. The Lord of the Universe nailed to a tree. Christ our God spilling His Holy blood. Bowing in anguish His sacred head. Sing to Jesus. Lord of our shame. Lord of our sinful hearts. He is our great redeemer. Sing to Jesus. Honor His name! Sing of His faithfulness, pouring His life out onto death. Come you weary and He will give you rest. Come you who mourn-lean on His breast. Christ who died, risen in paradise. Giver of mercy. Giver of Life. Sing to Jesus. His is the throne. Now and forever. He is the King of Heaven. Sing to Jesus. We are His own. Now and forever. Sing for the love our God has shown. Sing to Jesus. Lord of our shame. Lord of our sinful hearts. He is our great redeemer! Sing to Jesus! Honor His name. Sing to Jesus! His is the throne. Now and forever, He is the king of heaven! Sing to Jesus. We are His own. Now and forever. Sing for the love our God has shown!