Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Two decades ago when a phone call changed everything...

The other day, I realized that it's now been two decades since a phone conversation radically changed the trajectory of my life. It was the first week of June, 1994, and I had just finished ny junior year at what was then Cedarville College.

I had been dating my boyfriend for three and a half years, and while I had no ring yet, we had verbally committed ourselves to each other for life. However, in the several weeks before this call, my immediate family was going through something incredibly stressful, and instead of being my support and helping me through this tough time, he was just making things worse. So, when he started (again) talking about himself and the boat he wanted to buy, that day I had had enough. I said something like, "stop. I need a break. I need you to help me, not to be always thinking only about yourself. Maybe we should take a week off of calling each other and see if that helps". (He was living about 100 miles away at the time and talking long distance was not free, so we didn't do it every day.)

It was then he began to tell me that when he met me (3.5 years ago), he decided not to be himself, but the person he thought I needed. As he continued to talk, I began getting this feeling in the pit of my stomach that this was not going to be a brief break. If he had deceived me and hadn't been himself around me for the entire time I had known him, what did that even mean?

Finally, at the end of the conversation, I remember asking him something like, "well, do you want me to call you after a month?"  He said "that will be up to you", as if it didn't matter one iota to him.  Twist that knife just a little bit more, please.

So, instead of returning to college my senior year with a ring, I returned single.  I remember thinking, "what on earth am I going to do?" with regards to supporting myself with a music degree.  It was never supposed to be a primary income, but secondary while he was a pilot and I was a stay at home Mom, giving music lessons out of the house.  I knew deep within me that I was not "cut out" to be a music teacher in a school setting nor was I really talented enough to make it as a professional musician.

But it was too late.

My parents, God bless them (seriously!) - had paid for three years of private college tuition, and I had completed three-fourths of a degree.  I really couldn't turn back.  And even two decades later, I really can't tell you what I would have picked as an alternative major if I had started over.  Music was my life, it defined me (I didn't know then how unhealthy that was at the time).

So, I finished my two degrees in music, the first was a Bachelors of Arts in Music Performance (oboe) in June of 1995, with the rest of my senior class.  The second was Bachelors of Music Education, instrumental emphasis in December of 1995, after my 5th fall quarter, following my marching band student teaching.

Since marching band started before the college quarter, I was done before the college quarter ended.  For some reason, I still remember the last day - November 17.

Of course no teaching job was available at that odd time.  There was some family stress going on in OH where I was from, and I received an invitation to stay with a friend and her family in MI.  I found a job in retail and worked hard.

I tried my hand at grad school the following school year as a Graduate Assistant in oboe performance at the University of Akron.  It was a very hard year.  My supervising professor was seriously like a Jekyl and Hyde.  I shared his office and didn't know which one I was going to walk into every day.  One version of him was kind and encouraging and the other was harsh, demanding and very hard to work with.

I had always been a big fish in a small pond, and the academic year of 1996-7, I finally learned (as I had desired to) where I really ranked in an average pond.  I saw the facts.  1)  If I was going to "make it", I would have to sacrifice every other part of my life to this career.  There would be no time for a social life or anything else, between personal practicing, group rehearsals and making my reeds (part of a double reed player's routine).  2) In conjunction with number 1, while the Lord had given me a love for music and certainly had given me such comfort and healing through music - and had given me some talent - I was not naturally gifted as many of my colleagues were and my very best efforts were just barely good enough for the lowest levels of professional musicianship.  3) There are only typically 2 permanent oboe positions in a professional orchestra.  That means an opening generally comes up when someone dies, retires, or (the unusual) resigns.  I would have to be willing to go anywhere and everywhere around the country where an opening would be, no matter where my family spread out to.

So, strike 1 of 2 majors.  I spent the next year working as a secretary for a great Lutheran church in MI.  I learned so much and met some really wonderful people.  I started directing the Children's Choir there.  The Pastor was a theologian and had written several Lutheran theology books.  We had many good theological discussions.  I grew up in a very legalistic Baptist bubble (I'm not blaming anyone, I'm just providing context).  It was great for me to be in this safe environment to learn that there will certainly be other denominations in Heaven besides Baptists!  I grew to love the symbolism in the liturgy - espcially during Holy Week such as Maundy Thursday - when, at the conclusion of the service, the altar is stripped of its vestments as our Savior was stripped in preparation for His execution.

The next academic year, 1998-9, I worked as the Music Director for a very small Christian school, grades 1-12.  I taught everything - general music for elementary (ended up being the most enjoyable because they were happy to be there), band for junior high (my  fatal blow), choir for HS (a joke because I couldn't play piano and didn't have an accompanist).

The junior high band students were absolutely horrible, and their parents were worse!  They didn't want to be there, and I had no clear plan for class discipline (I knew this before my senior year of college and this was one of the reasons why I knew I didn't want to be a classroom teacher).  I defaulted to yelling over them/at them, which was my "go-to" and helped no one.  They were (as they are at that age) extremely mean to me, and I did not have the self-confidence or thick enough skin to deal with it.  By November (i.e., two months into the year), I knew I was done. I went to the school Administrator then and told him I wanted to quit.  Somehow he talked me into staying.  Only by God's grace.

Strike 2.

I got a wonderful job about a month after school was out at a hospital as a secretary and worked there for about 2 years.  I met some great people and learned alot.  It was during this time I ventured into "home ownership", if you call purchasing a mobile home that was older than I was home ownership!  My friend's Dad did all the maintenance (it was a skinny, long money pit!) but it was good to be on my own.

The best thing about the time period from August 1998 through February 2001 is that I shared life with a precious Corgi mix named BJ.  He was 10 years old when I got him.  His owner had passed away and he needed a home.  The Lord knew that I needed to learn how to love, and what unconditional love looked like.  If you are not a dog lover, you won't understand that last sentence.  I promise I am not being sacrilegious when I say that.  Since my breakup with my boyfriend 4+ years prior to that, my heart had been broken wide open and I needed lessons in love.  When I cried, I kid you not, BJ would put his paw on my hand, or he would lick the tears off my cheeks.

In August of 2000, a series of radical events began to unfold that eventually became what I now know was the road that led me to Dallas and Dallas Theological Seminary.  I moved 1200 miles from all I knew and loved, sight un-seen (school and apartment both!).  Part of that painful, pealing away process to get me from MI to TX was BJ's passing in February of 2001 as he never would have survived the move.  My Grandpa unexpectedly went to Heaven in November of 2000 and my focus was shifted back to where it should have been all along.

For, you see, while my heart was broken, perhaps before, but definitely after that phone call now 20 years ago, I silently and very slowly allowed myself to be led away - and sometimes actively wandered away by myself - from my Shepherd.  By October of 2000, I was in a place that no Christian should ever be, and I praise the Lord for not giving up on me.  After I got to Dallas, the Pastor (at the time), Mac Brunson of my church, First Baptist Dallas, was preaching on John 10, the passage where Jesus talks about His sheep knowing His voice and that no one can snatch them out of His hand.  Dr. Brunson made a graphic gesture of reaching down and quickly and forcefully grabbing someone out of danger - rescuing them - as if the Father says to Satan - "NO!  You may not have this one - THIS IS MY CHILD!"

That is exactly what I think of when I think of the second chance the Lord so graciously gave me that began on October 2, 2000 and led to my arrival in Dallas, TX on the day after my 28th birthday, July 8, 2001.

The story hasn't ended, but to fill in some of the details: I never finished my degree at DTS (had to quit due to health issues and lack of funds); while I did the eHarmony thing and a couple arranged dates, I have never seriously dated anyone since I broke up with my boyfriend 20 years ago; due to some car accidents and injuries to my C1-C2 vertebrae in my neck, I can now no longer play my oboe on a regular basis, only for short periods of time; I have been working as an Investment Analyst at a consulting firm for the past 10 years and am working on passing my credentialing exams (boy, do I wish I could tell the 19 year-old version of me she might need more math some day!!)

Here is where my little blurb on the side bar of the blog comes in.  From 20 years ago (wife of a missionary pilot and mother to his children) to now (single, never married, no children, professional woman) - I am NOWHERE near where I thought I would be in life.  Sometimes, on the hard days, I'm not really where I'd LIKE to be.  But praise be to God for all His blessings, I know that I am smack dab in the middle of where I NEED to be, and there is much peace in that.  The kind of peace that makes up for all the "what if"'s.

Psalm 37:4 was my theme verse for last year when I turned 40 - "Trust in Lord with all your heart and He will give you the desires of your heart".  I do not believe God is a vending machine, so this verse means 2 things to me - 1) God will give me what I have always desired or 2) He will change my desires.

These past 20 years have not been easy, have certainly not been expected.  That phone call 2 decades ago changed my life forever.  From what I know now, I praise the Lord for rescuing me from a marriage that would have been unhappy at best and doomed at the worst.

Though I am human and struggle at times just like you might expect with loneliness, etc. I can say that God has been so very faithful. I have so many blessings and 90% of the time am very content being single with the independence that brings.

I can honestly say that He is more than enough. Praise be to Him.  I can't wait to see what He has in store for the next 20 years!  :)


  1. You are a courageous lady to share this story! We love you!

  2. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I often wonder if we knew what our future looked like if we would even be willing to walk there. In the midst of that journey we also wonder where it's taking us, but we MUST trust that God has a plan, and it is one of our future. He gives us hope and a future, that He will prosper us and not harm us.

    Jer 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.