Monday, October 5, 2015

The Song That Ian Taught Me--Listen to Your Heart

During the months of waiting for my second child to be born, I spent some time getting to know “it.” I worked the night shift on the Mother/Baby Unit, and almost every night I would take our doppler and slip into one of the rooms and listen to his heart beat. The dimly lit room would be filled with the steady thump-thump-thump of his heart; the sound was so reassuring and beautiful! Each time I heard it, I fell a little more in love with “it”; boy or girl--this baby was filling my heart with love!

Scott was three years old and I ached to hold a baby again. I wanted a warm, soft, snuggly little one to hold in my arms and God heard the longing of my heart, giving me just what I needed! In the first moments that I held Ian, he snuggled in against my shoulder, peaceful and content. Motherhood was beginning to feel like a role I could embrace and know that I could be good enough for my sweet boys.

From the very beginning everything about Ian was easy: easy pregnancy, (comparatively) easy delivery, and easy-going baby. He rarely cried and he went to sleep easily--and he slept a lot! At first, I worried that something was wrong with him--it was too easy! My inclination to worry kicked in, and I wondered if he had some sort of neurological problem! When I mentioned my concern to Mom, I could hear the smile in her voice as she reassured me that Ian was just fine and I was blessed to have such an easy baby. Her reassurance was just what I needed to hear, and I began to let Ian teach me a new song--just relax.

Ian had other things to teach me, too. Like how to laugh more at the mothering experiences that came my way. He brought lizards and frogs into my life and into our home; he made silly faces, flashed huge dimples with his smiles, and shared hilarious impersonations of everyone from Donald Duck to his teachers. Ian adored his older brother and they quickly became very close. He taught me to chill out and had Dave laughing so hard that sometimes discipline was just hard to follow through with!

This boy of mine did love an audience, but he also loved to help people in need. I realized how important this was to him as I was putting him to bed one night and he asked about a song he had heard on the radio that afternoon. I had noticed how quiet he was earlier, as he listened to Craig Morgan sing "Almost Home", but I had no idea how deeply it had affected Ian until he asked me why some people didn’t have homes to live in. It was a profound moment, as I tried to explain to my 10 year old son how choices could take people down different paths; sometimes those paths were determined by our own choices and sometimes by choices that others made for us. I tried to explain veterans whose bodies and souls were wounded by war and the struggle some people had with mental illness. We discussed runaways and women who fled abusive marriages. It was the most sobering conversation I’d ever had with any of my children. With big tears in his eyes, Ian asked questions and listened and then told me he thought everyone should have a bed to sleep in at night. From that point forward he looked for people to help. He always wanted to have money for the Salvation Army buckets at Christmas time, and he would shop so carefully to be sure he would have a few dollars left over to share. If we passed someone begging on the sidewalk, and Ian had even a dollar in his pocket, he would have to stop and talk for a moment and share what he had. As a teen, he chose a mission trip to Portland to work with a Mission that cared for the homeless, and seemed fueled by his opportunity to learn more about people who didn’t have that bed to sleep in at night. At the heart of Ian was a belief that we should all take care of each other.

Yes, Ian had a big heart and loved animals and people alike, but my sweet boy had another side, one that taught me something else about motherhood and myself. Ian had a temper with a very low flash-point; it was like the yin to the yang of his humor. If something really frustrated him, he would almost explode with anger. When he was about two, I began to worry even more, as he took to hitting his head when he got mad at himself, and then hit Scott a few times when he became frustrated about something they were doing together. Soon he escalated to yelling and screaming when he was angry. I was becoming very concerned and I knew that discipline would have to be different with him. We couldn’t raise our voice with him and, other than in the most extreme circumstances, spanking was out of the question.

One day, as one of these “storms” brewed in his soul, I sat down on the floor and pulled him onto my lap, facing him away from me and wrapping my arms firmly around him. He yelled and tried to squirm out of my grip, but this hug was the perfect way to secure my little Tasmanian Devil until the storm passed. While he tried to leave my arms, I held on and then began speaking softly in his ear, telling him that I loved him and he was safe--he could let the storm out and when it passed I would be right there with him. After 5 or 10 minutes, he was back to being my sweet, smiling boy. In time he and I would work on ways for him to calm himself when I wasn’t with him. I reminded him that, at his core, he was a loving boy and I explained that he had to learn to control his anger or it would control him. Today he is one of the calmest people I know and while his feelings run very deep, they don’t control him. He loves as intentionally as he feels anger. Ian learned to listen to his heart, but to never let it control him.

As I helped Ian to learn that we control the expression of our emotions, not the other way around, he taught me something just as powerful--that loving your child well isn’t measured by all the things you do to be good enough. You love them well when you listen to your heart and realize that you don’t always have to be doing things for them. Sometimes you just need to sit still with your child in the midst of the storm and hold them until it passes.

Last year Ian had a health scare with his heart and we went to several doctor appointments together. I sat there with him while the EKGs were done and couldn’t help but be reminded of all the times I’d listened to his heart as he grew beneath mine. Talk about coming full circle! After trips to the cardiologist and a myriad of tests, we had a diagnosis and Ian had a plan. And just like he conquered his anger issues, he learned what he needed to do and followed through with all of the doctor’s instructions.

And I was reminded that Ian’s heart has always been strong. He has a calm heart in the face of disappointment and a loving heart in the defense of others. He has a loyal heart--caring for his grandmother in a way that would make his Pap so very proud.

As I looked back at the years before this moment, I realized that once again I was both the teacher and the student, as Ian taught my soul some beautiful new songs.

Ian taught me to just relax and laugh at life a little more often.

He taught me that we can make the world a better place if we just take care of each other.

And while I taught him that the storm would pass, and that I wouldn't leave him until it did, he taught me to stop worrying about being good enough and just listen to my heart.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Song That Scott Taught Me--Chase Your Dream

When you become a parent for the first time, you embark on the strange journey of being both the teacher and the student. Everything this new baby knows about their world, they have learned from you. Before they are born, they listen to your music and adapt to the rhythm of your day. After they are born, their coos and cries and laughter are the music of your days and their life rhythm becomes yours.

As you teach your child, they are teaching you.

I’m crying, but I’m not broken.
If you bribe me with candy in the grocery store, you’ll be buying it every trip.
You think you’re not good enough for me, Mommy, but I love you just the way you are.

Scott is my oldest; my learning experience. Heaven knows I made tons of mistakes during my “on-the-job” training! He has worried me, encouraged me, laughed with me, and pushed every single button I have. And I love him just the way he is.

Scott has always been his own person--not afraid to be the geek in the crowd of jocks and comedians. He is a Sci-Fi nut, a bookworm, and a knowledge hoarder. He has usually stood out among his peers, and has never been afraid to be different.

Like me, my boy has loved books from infancy. He was always memorizing, learning, and using books to travel to new places in his mind. I remember a young Scott telling me that when he reads a book, he forgets where he is. He finds himself inhabiting a different world and enjoying new experiences and entertaining new ideas. I think that’s why the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres of literature and TV appeal to him so much; it’s more than just a trip to a different environment--it’s travel to a whole new world.

Years ago, when he was in elementary school, Scott told Joann that one day he would be a “World Traveller” and he would take her anywhere she wanted to go. He has my wanderlust and restless need to get out of the house and go somewhere...anywhere! His travelling began in his books--the travels of the mind--but now he has made this dream real with his move to Russia.

When Scott first started studying the Russian language, I wondered what in the world he would ever use that skill for. My practical side was seriously distressed! And then he took a semester off of college to travel to St. Petersburg, Russia. He just set his responsibilities at work and school to the side and chased his dream! He spent two months there--something that was way outside of my comfort zone, and maybe even outside of his. At first I really worried about him! But as the days passed, and he shared his adventures via Facebook, I could see how chasing his dream was changing him. It was helping him find his place in this world and expanding his comfort zone. And by the time he returned home, he’d helped me redefine mine, too. I began to question if my comfort zone was really a good place for me to be.

Scott taught me how getting away can be a good thing. I’d always enjoyed escaping from the routine of life through books or music or travel, but often felt guilty about avoiding responsibilities while I did something I worried might be considered frivolous. He showed me the importance of getting away from the routine to learn new things and have new experiences; explore new worlds, both internally and externally. I saw that I needed to get away from myself--from over-involvement in my own thoughts, plans, ideas, and opinions. I needed to find my own voice and write my own language!

Currently, Scott is chasing a new dream; a dream to pursue his PhD in Linguistics. He is thirsty to learn about other languages and other cultures. He dreams of teaching at a university and creating brand new languages for books or films. He has dreams for his life that I never could have dreamed for him, and it is exciting to watch him chase those dreams.

I never imagined that those precious moments of reading with him in childhood would transform into this love of words. WORDS: found in books and conversation and other languages and even music. I watch him and realize he is teaching me to write my own language, draw my own maps, and sing my own songs. He is teaching me to keep exploring life and the new opportunities that come with each day and week and year.

Don’t “settle” for comfortable when amazing is right around the corner.

And never get so focused on being good enough that you forget how to step outside of your comfort zone and learn more about the world and yourself.

Chase your dream!

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Song that Don & Joann Taught Me—A Perfect Fit

Falling in love with Dave was not what I had planned on, and the experience was nothing like what I expected. But I was totally unprepared for the package deal that came with him. You see, this man came with an amazing set of parents who drew me into their family—making me feel like I had always been a part of them.

While I knew that Joann and I would get along great—we’d chatted enough that past summer for me to know that she approved of our relationship and truly cared about me—Don was a bit more of an enigma to me. Before this time, he had always been on the periphery of my involvement with their family, so I’d had fewer interactions with him.  But I wasn’t worried about how we would get along. In my dating experience, the mother was always the tough nut to crack, and she and I were already cool!

I was right . . . and I was wrong.

I had no idea how important my relationship with Don would come to be.

I remember thinking about something I’d read a few years back on the subject of dating—that you should watch how a man’s father treats the mother, because that’s how you will be treated someday. And so I paid attention.

This man loved this woman! I observed them as they talked and laughed and worked together, and it was like watching master ballroom dancers glide across the dance floor. Their personalities complemented one another. Their conversation was honest and laced with love and humor. But what caught my attention most of all was the tender look in Don’s eyes whenever he spoke to Joann and the way he smiled when she came into the room. They had been married for nearly 30 years, but he looked at her as if he had just fallen in love with her that week!

And then there was the way he treated me. I quickly found out that this man I’d always thought was kind of quiet actually loved to talk. I enjoyed his stories about work and about the family. I loved his corny jokes. He got a kick out of teasing me—and that’s how we began our “fight” over the jelly beans.

Let me first explain that. Every time I have visited their home, there have always been several candy bowls scattered throughout the house. They are usually filled with whatever candy is on sale, but two candies are staples: pink wintergreen lozenges and jelly beans. I love both of these, but my favorite is black jelly beans. I would pick through the bowl looking for the black ones and eating every one that I could find.

Which led to this conversation . . .

Don:  “Where did all of the black jelly beans go?”
Sandi:  “I’ve been eating them—they’re my favorite!  And Dave hates them, so I thought I’d save him from them.”
Don:  “Well, they’re my favorite, too!  And now they’re all gone.”

I started to feel bad about eating all of them, but then I looked up and saw the way he was looking at me . . . and then I saw a little wink and a smile.

We continued our banter, about who got to eat all of the black jelly beans, for the rest of my first visit. And on the day that I left, I found a bag of ALL black jelly beans on the dresser top, with this note: “To the Sweet Young Thing, From the Mean Old Man”

I’d already promised to marry their son. But, in that moment, I knew I wanted to be their daughter, too. I knew that it was likely Joann who had probably bought this gift, and put it there for me. It was so much more than a gift of candy—to me it symbolized just how much they noticed the little things. I fell in love with their son a little bit more in that moment, because I began to understand what that would mean for me in the decades to come. I would experience this attention to the details so many times, as the years went by, as their house became more than just a place to visit—it became the place my heart called home.

Home is where you learn and grow. Home is where you can be yourself. Home is where you retreat when life is just a little bit too much. And Don and Joann showed me how to build a home.

I knew my relationship with my mother-in-law was unique and beautiful. Most of my friends, and hers, couldn’t believe how much we enjoyed our time together. My relationship with my father-in-law was just as incredible.

I watched Don Brewer love his wife. I watched him help his son. I watched him play with and teach his grandchildren. I’ve never encountered a more decent man, and I know I’m a better person because of him. There aren’t enough pages to share all the memories I have stored up and all the ways he taught me about unconditional love. February 17, 2007 was the saddest day of my life, so far. For 23 years I was Don Brewer’s daughter in all of the important ways; and then he was gone. In all those years, he and I never exchanged an angry word. His love wasn’t only unconditional—it was consistent. His example to his son and grandsons showed them the path to become the fine men they are today. His passionate and tender love for Joann was a beacon to Dave and to me as we navigated our own marriage.

God knew what I needed in a husband. He knew how my insecurities and wounds would tempt me to be manipulative and selfish at times. I would need a man who could look at all of my hurt and my mistakes and wave them away and teach me that new song of unconditional love. And God knew I would need these parents as role models of total acceptance. All the time I had been navigating the pain of my parents’ divorce and my own mistakes, God had been preparing this safe place for my heart to land.

It was a place where I was more than good enough—I was a perfect fit.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Song that Dave Taught Me

I left my month in Ohio behind me as I walked onto the plane and found my seat. I spent the next five hours thinking about the time Dave and I had spent together, the way he had treated me, and the incredibly stupid way I had ended things. He had handled my heart wisely, following my instructions not to come to the airport, and allowing me to experience the consequences of the choice I had made.

By the time my plane landed in Spokane, I knew I had made a terrible mistake. My certainty of that mistake overrode any doubts in my mind. I walked off of the plane, found the nearest pay phone, and emptied every bit of change I had into it. I called his house and when his mom answered the phone, I asked to speak to Dave. As soon as I heard his voice say hello, the words began to spill out of me. . .

“I’m so sorry, Dave. I was wrong. You were right. We are perfect for each other. Please forgive me for not seeing that. What do we do now?”

And then he told me everything would be OK. We would work it all out, because we loved each other. He told me that if this was as real as we thought it was, 2000 miles wouldn’t be able to keep us apart.

But our 2000 miles of distance came before the internet and cell phones. We couldn’t text each other or Skype. We only could afford the long-distance charges to talk on the phone about once a week. We wrote letters to each other almost weekly. I began my job at Upper Columbia Academy and he started his Sophomore year at Penn State. As busy as we both were, we made our relationship a priority. Now I know that the distance allowed us to do something we might not have done as well if we were face-to-face, day after day. We talked. We talked about everything. Because our dating time was mostly spent apart, we didn’t have to deal with making good decisions about our physical relationship. We spent a lot of time getting to know everything about each other, taking the friendship we had developed as children and growing it into an amazing friendship as adults. There was no doubt he was my very best friend.

After several weeks of phone calls and letters (and a few rough patches that we found our way through--mostly due to his grace and kindness), it was decided that I would return for a visit over Christmas break. Anxious doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt as I boarded that plane! We were supposed to spend about two weeks together. What if the feelings we’d experience during the summer had evaporated? What if having me staying at his house revealed to Dave a side of me that he just couldn’t stand? What if he met me at the airport and knew right away that the “magic” was gone?

I needn’t have worried. Things were perfect from “Hello”. He hugged me, he kissed me; he took my luggage and guided me to the car. As we began the drive to his house, I told him about my fears. He turned to me and smiled and told me he’d had all the same concerns. We both laughed at the relief of knowing we had both been worried about nothing!

That Christmas vacation was the best Christmas of my life. We spent every minute together that we possibly could. We were so happy to be in the same place that we didn’t waste any time disagreeing, and this time I didn’t let any doubts fill my heart. I loved this man and he loved me! I couldn’t believe how good and happy my life was. I was pretty sure God had led me to my soul-mate.

On December 23rd, we were up very late when our most important conversation occurred. As we discussed college and our plans for our lives, I looked at Dave and asked him when he saw himself making the decision to get married. His response was immediate but nonchalant, “Probably when I’m about 25, or so, I guess.”

My response was just as immediate, but dead serious, “Well, I don’t know who you are planning on marrying, but it sure isn’t me!  I’m not waiting that long!”

I don’t think that was what he expected me to say. But, this super-calm guy of mine just looked at me and smiled and asked me what I had in mind. After a few minutes of serious conversation, I just had to ask, “Does this mean we are engaged?” To which he replied that we were—but that reply might not have been entirely verbal!  The next day we were shopping for engagement rings, and Christmas Day we broke the news to everyone in his family and mine.

They weren’t surprised at all.

But, I was. I was surprised that, knowing everything he knew about me, he still wanted to spend his life with me. He wasn’t worried at all. I still had many moments of doubt about whether I deserved Dave’s love. But every time I expressed my fears that I wasn’t good enough for him, he wiped them away with a kiss and a declaration that I was just the girl he’d been waiting for. It took time, but he erased the song of doubt in my heart.

And one day it really hit me—I’d found my soul’s mate and the love of my life and I almost lost him because I didn’t think I was good enough for him.

That’s the song Dave began to teach me. . .that love doesn’t ask you to be good enough for each other. . .the choice to love unconditionally makes you perfect for each other.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Song That David Taught Me

Despite the frequent moves during my childhood, for several years we stayed in the Western PA and Eastern OH area. During that time, my mom found a friend at church—another woman named Joann. This friendship led Mom to enroll me in the church’s grade school, where Joann’s son, David, was in the same grade as me. David was the baby of his family and he was very smart, very quiet, and had a dry sense of humor. He was unprepared for the hot mess I was—with my non-stop talking and my fiercely competitive nature. The first time I bested him on an assignment kicked off a rivalry that developed into a friendship. You see, we were the only two students in the fifth grade in the one-room school we attended, and this meant we did everything together. I know I drove him nuts at times, and he surely made me crazy, too! Luckily, I’d always been a girl who enjoyed hanging out with guys more than girls, and I had all that experience trying to be a good “son” for my father, which had taught me how to talk to guys. David didn’t quite know how to react to a girl who excelled in math and science class and was willing to talk about Star Trek with him! Somehow we created an odd but committed friendship that would endure our move to California the next year and be just as strong when I returned for the seventh grade. Emerging hormones gradually created a strong case of what everyone called “puppy love”; we were the best of friends and pretty much inseparable.

We spent a whole year studying together in a small room, just off of the main classroom. We were barely supervised, as no one worried about these two kids who studied so hard, competing for the best grades. In all that time, do you think David tried to steal even a single kiss? Nope—not one. He never even tried to hold my hand! Just what is a newly-hormonal 12-year-old girl to think when the guy she has a crush on looks at her with love, but talks to her like she’s one of his buddies? Confusion filled my heart and mind. When we moved to Houston the next summer, I moved on, chalking it up to something that just wasn’t meant to be.

But David always had a little piece of my heart. Our moms continued their friendship, mostly through letters and occasional cards, and I would search his mom’s letters for any mention of him. I would find out years later that he did the same with the letters my mom wrote. Both of us felt drawn to each other, but neither of us realized the other person felt the same way.

My mom had let Joann know that I would be visiting my dad during the summer, and an invitation to visit their home was extended. On the next-to-last weekend of my month-long visit to Daddy’s house, we headed over to join the Brewers for lunch and enjoy a swim in their pool. My brother and I drove there after church, so I was still in a dress and heels. David was sitting on the porch in jeans and an old army fatigue shirt with the sleeves torn off—his rifle and dog at his side.

I can remember everything about that walk up the driveway to the porch: the summer humidity, the smell of the flowers, my brother’s teasing voice, and the sight of David watching me walk toward him. We could not have been more different—or more attracted to one another.

That visit was wonderful in so many ways. Lunch was delicious and the pool was refreshing in the August heat. And the chemistry between us was palpable to both of us. It surprised me that the attraction was so immediate. We shared our first kiss that evening, as we said goodnight, and I left his home smiling with happiness. On the drive back to Daddy’s house the thought hit me that I was only in Ohio for 8 more days—we didn’t have any time to waste!

For the next seven days, we saw each other pretty much every day. He came along for my birthday trip to Lake Geauga. I visited his house. We went out on our first solo date that week—a trip to the movie theater to see “The Star Chamber”.  The movie wasn’t great, but the date was perfect. When he drove me home that night, he pulled over to the side of the road to “talk”. My heart sank as I wondered if he was like every other guy I had dated in the past six years. I also worried about my ability to make good decisions, because my track record wasn’t all that impressive.

We talked. Yes, he held my hand and leaned forward to gently kiss me during the time we sat there. But that was all. I had never experienced that kind of respect and tenderness in a man in all my life. I didn’t know how to react to being treated this way. I began to wonder if I was good enough for him.

On Saturday, Jim and I returned to David’s house to hang out and swim. That afternoon, while we were alone in the pool, I decided to tell him all of the reasons I was all wrong for him. I shared the risks of being with someone whose parents were divorced; I shared the story of my abuse with him; I told him about some of the mistakes I’d made in the past. I tried my best to scare him away by explaining just what kind of risk he was taking by even considering dating me.

He looked me in the eye and said, “Is that everything? Have you got it all out now? Because, none of that matters to me. I love you.”

That might be the first time in my life that I didn’t know what to say. I’m pretty sure he kissed me that time. I was still reeling at the thought of being loved just the way I was. I couldn’t believe that I was good enough; he didn’t ask me to do anything to prove that I loved him.

And then the thoughts of unworthiness flooded my heart, filling it with the song of doubt. I didn’t deserve a guy like David!  If he couldn’t see the danger he was in, I would have to protect him. As we said good-bye that night, I told him we’d had a nice summer fling, but that was all it was. I was headed back to Washington and he would still be across the country in Pennsylvania. It had been great fun, but we were so different from each other—this would never work out as a long-term relationship. He disagreed with me, but I told him this was good-bye and there was no need for him to come to the airport in the morning. I was as cool as I could be and he just stood there looking at me.

The next morning, as I waited for my flight, I looked over my shoulder again and again. I was sure he would disregard my instructions and show up to see me off. He didn’t.

I walked onto that plane, found my seat, and spent the next five hours thinking about the time we had spent together, the way he had treated me, and the incredibly stupid way I had ended things. All because I was sure I wasn’t good enough for him.

The song of doubt had just cost me the one man who loved me just the way I was.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Song that Dating Taught Me (The Things We Do for Love)

It seems strange now, to remember just how serious I was about the subject of dating, when in was in high school. In our Bible classes, we discussed issues like marriage, divorce, and the general culture we were growing up in. I remember learning a statistic about how much more likely children of divorce were to experience divorce themselves. Learning that really shook me up! Experiencing divorce in adolescence was horrible—and I had no desire to experience it as an adult. Beyond that, I definitely did NOT want to put my kids through that pain.

There was one caveat to those ugly statistics on divorce: children of divorce were less likely to experience divorce in their own marriages if they took the time to educate themselves about healthy relationships and communication. They also needed to make smart decisions about what they wanted/needed in a mate and then enter dating situations with those issues in mind. It all sounds very clinical as I write about it now, but this approach appealed to my high-achieving mindset. I signed up for an elective class, titled “Marriage & the Family”, and drank in all the information I could from the course materials and other things that I was reading. I totally bought into the idea that I could control my heart and find the perfect soul-mate.

If only it were that easy! The combination of naiveté, pride, and hormones made for some turbulent dating experiences. There was a song that was popular just a few years before this, titled The Things We Do For Love. It could have just as easily been the title of my dating years; that was the song my soul was singing. I wanted to be smart, but I craved being loved. The craving to be loved resulted in some poor choices. Afterwards, when I considered those decisions, I was flooded with guilt. How was I ever going to find the perfect Christian husband when I couldn’t make choices that showed I honored and respected myself? My approach to intimacy left me feeling ashamed and worthless. And feeling worthless drove my desire to be loved. And my desire to be loved drove my choices. . .

Sometime during my first year of college, my current very-serious-relationship ended. He broke up with me and I was actually relieved. I had thought we were a forever kind of couple—probably most of our friends from high school did. But I realized that I was tired of doing everything wrong and expecting a happy ending. I remember thinking that I was done with dating—it was time to direct my attention to something where I knew my decisions would be good enough.  It was time to focus on school, get my act together, and grow up. And so, I did.

No dating. Only school. Focused. Driven.

I think that, subconsciously, I believed that if I let up on the pressure to achieve in school, I would have to face the fact that I was a failure at relationships. I was a child of divorce, destined to make the same mistakes myself, unworthy of a truly decent man. God must have smiled as He saw me give up on my plans for the perfect relationship. He knew I had to—in order to make room for His.

In July of 1983, I completed LPN school—at the top of my class. I was so happy that I could get one thing right!  And I had a job already; I was returning to UCA as the School Nurse and Assistant Girl’s Dean. I was beginning to believe I could make good choices and I could be good enough, at least where school and work were concerned.

I had about one month to kill until the school year began, and I decided to use that month to travel to Ohio and visit my daddy. I deserved the break—I had kept my promise to myself. I had focused on school. I hadn’t been on a date in 20 months. And I had a plan for my future.

Little did I know that God was about to put His plan into action and teach me about unconditional love. He wanted to show me that there was someone who would love me—and I didn’t have to do anything but truly love him in return.

But, that’s another story. . .