Thanks for reading my blog. Here’s a little intro to me.
I grew up in a Christian family. My parents were in ministry from 6 months after they were married for over 30 years. They worked with other ministers to provide a faith based community that was safe and wholesome place for disabled, distressed and depressed people to receive the love of Jesus and find answers by learning the truth and growing in relationship with Him and other believers. We lived in community settings; which means we lived on church property, attended church school and later in my teens and early twenties, worked in our church’s businesses.
I was born in Mississippi in 1973 on one of these communities, then moved from Mississippi, to Alaska for one year when I was two. After returning to Mississippi we hopped around for the next nine years from Alabama, Florida, Georgia and then back to Alabama where we stayed for 11 years – all before I was 16.
I learned a ton of Scripture and Scripture songs and learned about God. I also learned that it is blessed to give and think of others more highly than yourself – almost to a fault, though. When I was sixteen we moved back to Alaska.
Around this time is when my community experience began to evolve into more of a performance lifestyle — in order to be loved and accepted by God, rather than living out of being loved by God first.
I met my husband in 1996, married him in 1999 while living in an Alaskan community out close to Kenny Lake, Alaska (13 miles down the Edgerton Cutoff on the way to Chitina and McCarthy). During our first seven and roughest years of marriage while living in that church/community, we had our three children: two girls and one boy.
In the summer of 2007, when our youngest was a baby, Joel and the guys in the business were working long hours; making deliveries for our flower business all around the Copper Valley. It was the height of the summer time flower craziness when a fire started up and burned up the majority of Joel’s work, tools and dreams from the last 6 years. Not only did it majorly affect my husband and our team who managed the greenhouse business, it affected our entire community. Within two hours gone was our boiler and boiler shed that generated heat for ten greenhouses and hot water for the community and greenhouses using waste wood products from our community’s sawmill.
After this devastating event, we realized that we did not have it in our hearts to continue living this lifestyle. It was a turning point in life that (looking back now) we knew that if we wanted to keep growing we needed to move on. There were many reasons. Perhaps that will come up in another blog.
So we made the big decision to leave Christian Community; the only lifestyle either of us had ever known and really, the only lifestyle we had ever wanted; the life we dreamed of living was to better our community and provide a wonderful place for our kids to grow and prosper. God had better plans.
We decided even if we were in $8000 credit card debt and had no idea of how we would get by, we had to leave.
Looking back from where we are now and what we’ve learned so far, I’ve realized we were like plants that needed to be transplanted so we could be challenged, grow, be supplied with the specific nutrients that we needed, thereby becoming stronger and healthier. Staying in the same “container” (community as we knew it then) would have been our spiritual death.
We moved to Wasilla, Alaska where we bought our first house together with my parents.
Leaving community was one of the scariest things we had ever done. Having both grown up in church communities our entire lives, we had always had three of our “four walls” minimally taken care of by the general church fund (if the people in charge approved). By “four walls” I’m referring to Dave Ramsey’s term for: food, shelter, clothing, transportation. The reason I use the word minimally is because you really could only use the cars if you had the $$ for fuel in your personal account. And you really had to have permission from the elders to go to Anchorage to shop for your family’s need. That mostly depended on whether you could be spared on the work schedule. So, “three walls” provided by the general fund, yes. But only under certain conditions. As for clothing, we were responsible for various items like personal, bathroom, kitchen and cleaning supplies, extra food items and our own clothing. You could tell who had more $$ or who was in more CC debt by the clothes they wore and the extra snacks they ate in their own personal dwellings in the evenings and weekends.
When it came to “leaving” we had natural fears and then crazy irrational fears. Some well meaning, but obviously controlling leaders even tried to help by saying we would lose our children to the devil and our marriage would fall apart. HA! They were so wrong.
My journey has been interesting and quite the opposite. Growing up in a sheltered, cloistered and somewhat isolated Christian environment was something I took for granted, considered normal, and never really questioned. We lived on agricultural acreage that was owned by the church/community where we could walk and roam at leisure when we were not assigned jobs during regular work hours. I enjoyed and (now I miss) working with my friends: in the kitchen, going on walks, thinning carrots and other garden work, transplanting in the greenhouse, hikes, hay rides, bike rides. There were also really high and anointed times in the presence of God, listening to passionate lovers of Jesus preaching, and leading worship with 60-80 people who were desperate for God. But, it also had it’s quirks. Quirks like: lots of rules, lots of religiosity, many long-winded uninspiring or unmotivating teachers and speakers, unnecessary meetings and silly “guidelines” for daily life, performance atmosphere, gossip, harsh judgment, dishonor, and even duplicitous living – saying one thing in “public” but doing another thing at home in the privacy of personal dwellings. Not everyone, but some.
So, from an early age, I believe I was gifted with the discernment to know a trustworthy person or not. My parents were excellent examples of safe and confidential people that could be trusted. I had many people tell me about how much they appreciated my parents, knew that my parents loved them, felt that my parents cared for their hearts and always knew that my parents would always want the best for them. They were spiritual leaders in every community we inhabited. My parents left the community two years before us. After the fire the boiler shed, when we finally left the community, I was ready for some freedom. I needed spiritual freedom. We attended church with my parents in Wasilla for about 5 months – a church that was affiliated with the church community we had just left. At one point there was series of meetings in which we realized, “Wow, we do not fit here anymore.”
If we stayed we would start to die. Here we were again. Time to be transplanted – a process that can be uncomfortable, sad, scary and unsettling, but absolutely necessary.
…to be continued…
Next up: My next 7 Years Growing in Grace, Freedom as a Result of Relationship with Jesus.