Two of my favorite teenage memories were going to summer camp, and during the winter, going on a Christian retreat. Life felt easier then. While I rode horses, made Popsicle stick houses, or talked about how God impacted my life, I felt a sense of belonging. I socialized with other Christians, discussing my viewpoint on premarital sex, drugs, and alcohol. During these wonderful respites from every day teen-aged life, I felt a sense of security.
Spending time with other kids, helped me to realize how blessed I was to have both a mother and father involved in my life. At camp, we would jump on a horse and trot off on a trail, often spotting a deer or rabbit. The wind blew through my hair and I felt as if I were flying.
My favorite times were around the campfire. People would talk openly about the good and bad things that made us who we are today. No one judged me for believing in Jesus. It was a time when I could take off my mask and allow those around me to know the scared girl hiding deep inside. I made lifelong friends during these vacations from the day-to-day existence that waited for me back at home and school.
When the week ended, I’d hug my parents and left feeling I had a greater understanding of my purpose. However, in just mere hours, the sense of euphoria diminished. My brother would say something hateful to me, which made me run to my room and sob into my pillow. I’d look at the clock and think if I were at camp right now we would be brushing the horses.
Returning to school after a retreat shocked me into reality. I scanned the lunch tables trying to figure out where I belonged. Then a voice whispered in my ear, “If you were still on retreat, you wouldn’t have to pretend to be someone else to fit in. No, you’d be sitting at the table with your new friends bowing your head to pray.” I knew that I’d be ridiculed if I prayed at school.
In gym class, I’d be the last person to be picked to be on a team. Embarrassed I’d look down, close my eyes and envision myself playing baseball at camp. There it didn’t matter who won or lost.
As I grew into adulthood, I’d like to say I became self-confident, that I didn’t worry about fitting in and everyone knew the real me because my mask had been discarded years before. But that would be a lie. My mother died quite young and unexpectedly. Even years after her death, I’d look at the clock and think if Mom were here she would be phoning me about now to see how my day went.
At the arrival of my third child, I burst into tears, not because I’d experienced the miracle of birth but because Mom wasn’t there to encourage me through labor for the first time. Many of my days were spent saying what if… . What if Mom were alive, we would have been able to build my dream house next door to her. What if Mom were here to host holiday dinners, my kids would have gotten to know their cousins better.
During the 18 years since Mom died, a day didn’t go by that I didn’t miss her and mourn her early demise. I clung to my memories of her. Shortly before the 18th anniversary of Mom’s passing into Heaven, I had a near death experience. Visions of my kids mourning me flashed through my head. I screamed, “I don’t want to die.” After the medical crew revived me, I started seeing life through new eyes. I’d spent so much time reliving my happier days that I robbed myself of some spectacular moments.
My epiphany rattled me to the bone. I’d been living in the past. Dreaming about a remote control, where I could push the rewind button to a day when I felt like I belonged, only prolonged my agony. Instead of praising God for each precious moment spent with my family, I immersed myself in my memories.
After my near death adventure, I started looking forward instead of behind me. The future is full of glorious days and I don’t want to miss a single second.
PLEASE ENCOURAGE AUTHOR,
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