Beauty from the Ashes

As I was standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes this morning, singing worship songs as I usually do to help me get through one of my least favorite household chores….Images of my life began to pass before me. Some of them were happy memories filled with love and laughter…others were ones of pain and immense sadness. ….what struck me as I looked back on all these moments in my life is that even in the times when I Truly FELT like I was alone……Looking back now I can see…I was NEVER Alone.

I was blessed to have two loving, God Fearing Parents who made sure we went to Sunday school , Church, Vacation Bible School, Youth Camp, etc. .. and I grew up VERY Active in the church, asking Jesus into my heart at a very young age….and yet, somewhere around my high school years, I began to wander away….to TRY and do my own thing.  By the time I had graduated from High school and went off to college, I Found myself spending more time looking for life’s answers in the bottom of a bottle than in my Bible, and found myself in what ended up being an abusive relationship with a young man that I THOUGHT I loved. I quit college…It was too hard, and went to work in one of the many factories in Upstate NY. I was miserable, I just could not see it. Thankfully, my Parents, my Grandparents, and some VERY special friends who are more like Family than friends to me….NEVER once stopped praying for me!

One day, after numerous tries on my own to get out of an abusive situation….two childhood friends stopped by and asked me if I wanted to attend a Delayed Entry meeting for the Marne Corps with them…and I went, and ended up joining the Marines…thinking to myself “Here is my way out”. At the time I did not…or could not see God’s hand in it all.

June of 1995, I left Home, got on a plane and headed to Parris Island for Boot Camp….still thinking that I….was in control of MY life.  One of the things the Recruiter’s tell families when you send a loved one off to boot camp is, yes Write letters…LOTS of them….just NO Bad news! However…while I was at Boot Camp…I got THREE Bad news letters in ONE Day! now I am not saying this is my parents fault…and looking back on it…its probably one of the BEST things that could have happened! One of the pieces of bad news was that the guy I was running from….threatened to kill himself if I did not quit the Marines and come home…now remember…I TRULY thought I loved Him! I Knew He was bad for me…..I was running away FROM Him after all…but this was still like a knife to my heart. The other news was that my mom was in the hospital… and I honestly cant remember the third blow….but that day during training…I Told My Sr. Drill Instructor ” I Quit…I don’t want to do this anymore!”…..we were about a month away from Graduation…I had made it through the first 2 months of training…and the prize was IN my grasp….and I said ” I Quit”….let me tell you….I made her soooo mad….she could not even look at me….She sent me to the “pit” and said “you know what you have to do….do it.” I spent the next 30 minutes…in the sand pit….running myself through the disciplinary exercises….with a Drill instructor standing watching….but only close enough that they could ensure I did what I was supposed to…….I had made them THAT angry….you know how when you make someone sooo upset, they don’t even want to Look at you?…yeah….that’s what I had done. BUT that moment….was a turning point for me… I cried…and sweat…my heart cried out ” I cant do this anymore” and as I started to Let go of control…I felt an overwhelming knowledge that God was there…He had NEVER left me! That night….back at the Barracks, exhausted after a long day of training…I pulled out my Bible and for the first time in a LONG time..I did more than just glance at verses I had memorized as I child…and a Verse JUMPED out at me…Isaiah 40:31 “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” and I found myself pleading “Teach me lord to wait“.

I DID Graduate Boot Camp….and went home on Leave for 10 days. I Have other memories and stories from Boot camp….that are humorous…and maybe another time I will tell them. After Boot CampI fell back into my self centeredI am in control of MY life…way of thinking…..though I never completely lost sight of  what had happened at boot camp…I Had changed….I just was not ready to totally let go of ME yet…the biggest hindering block was that I could not let go of the pain…I could not forgive. While I was in 29 Palms, Ca….telling myself I would NEVER trust another Man…NEVER let my heart open up to another man…..God moved again. One day in October of 1995…I had JUST gotten off the phone with my ex….my intention had been to call His mother….with whom I am still close to to this day….but HE answered the phone…..and said to me ” if you don’t quit the Marines and come home NOW…It’s over!” I Laughed at Him and said ” It was Over the day I LEFT for the Marines”but THAT Moment was when it hit me like a ton of bricks….that the relationship I had invested THREE years of my life into….with a man I was engaged to…that I had THOUGHT I loved…but was BAD for me…..was OVER…and I fell apart. As I sat in a friends room crying my heart out and saying thin gs like ” I will never trust again” and “will I ever really love again?” and “I have forgotten how to laugh”…a tall shadow crossed the door way and I hear a male voice say ” watch this” to my friend. I looked up from where I was sobbing…curled up in a ball in the corner of one of the beds in the Barracks room…and saw a handsome REALLY Tall guy walking towards me….He blocked me into the corner, and with a boyish smirk on his face said ” Lil miss Rachel, will you marry me?” in a THICK southern Drawl….the first thought that went through my mind was…”how does He know my name?” I had seen him around the Barracks…even flirted with him a few times….but I didn’ t know His name…and didn’t realize He knew mine! what happened next, shocked me…I stopped crying as a smile spread across my face…and I started flirting  I heard the words ” maybe” come out of my mouth….which took him off guard enough that I was able to duck around him and slip outside…but He Followed me!!!! He blocked me against the wall of the catwalk and said ” you are not going anywhere until I get a yes or no answer!” By this point, I was ready to play along…..I was like ” why not…so I said ” sure, I will Marry you” and ducked away again, and walked off down the catwalk to go see if the guy I was “seeing” at the time was in his room…..what I did NOT know at that time was that they knew each other…so was shocked when He followed me! and then said ” I am stealing your girl!!!” He then turned to me and said ” so Baby, when we going to Vegas” Me…not knowing the history between these two ( this had happened before…) and being in a mood to play along said ” you name the time and get the car and we will go!”

For the next week the guy I was seeing would not even speak to me….would leave he room when I walked in…etc…..and finally on Halloween 1995, I got tired of the silent treatment, and went wandering in search of entertainment…and literally ran smack into a 6’5″ wall…..the guy who had made me laugh when I had thought my life was over……after he helped me off the floor…He asked me if we wanted to go shoot some pool, so we headed down to the E-club on base…but as usual…it was PACKED. By this point this mysterious handsome tall guy had a name….I knew Him as “Bama”. He had the keys to a friend’s car…so a bunch of his friends and I piled in and we headed to a pool hall out in town….we fit 8 people into a Ford Probe!!! I had the passenger seat, because Bama told his friends His Date was NOT gonna be crammed in with them …LOL. That night…at the pool hall was another turning point for me…I met the group of friends…that to this day makes up part of my Military Family…and something else began t happen too. I spent the first half of the night sitting on a stool in the corner watching Bama and His friends shoot pool and do what friends do….goof off…act the fool…and genuinely have fun…was something I had NOT had since I got to 29 palms…I had closed myself off to getting too close to ANYONE. As I sat there watching…my mind began to wander…and all my past hurts and pain came racing back…I wanted t turn and RUN! Bama came over and sat down next to me…looked me in the eyes and said ” if you give me a chance, I will make all that pain go away!” My first instinct was ” this is just a line…run girl, RUN!” but He managed to coax me out of the corner, and before I knew it I was interacting and having a GREAT time with Him and His friends. Over the next week we spent ALOT of time together getting to know each other….hanging out with his friends…having an amazing time….I could feel something starting to stir inside me…..something stronger than that initial “oh He’s Cute!”…but I fought to ignore it…..braced the walls around my heart as best as I could.

November 11,1995 was the Marine Corps Ball…..and was Mandatory for ALL MOS students ( that was me..and Bama) I was SUPPOSED to go to the ball with the guy I mentioned earlier…the one Bama “stole” me from..we already had tickets…and he had a Car….so I did not get on the bus with my Class….but said guy…..was still upset understandably….and st9ood me up…so there I was…wandering the Barracks in my dress uniform….with no way to the ball…..when once again..I ran into Bama….long story short…He, using his friend’s me to the ball. That weekend was a long weekend due to the USMC Birthday…and Veteran’s Day….so I went camping at Joshua Tree with Bama and His friends….the first night out there…..I fell apart..I had wandered off alone and was looking up at the crystal clear desert sky…..reflecting on my life that far…on all the pain…the anger…the fear…and asking myself what I was doing letting Bama get so close? As I was sitting there….crying…He came loking for me…and we talked for HOURS about past hurts….and then He said something that stopped me COLD….He looked at me and said ” I think I am falling in love with you” and I felt a brick from my walls fall away…He said it FIRST! I was scared…..wanted to run…but something stronger kept me there. The next day we went rock climbing… style ( no ropes…just climbing)….and on the way back down….there was a spot where one had to jump down to a lower rock….but there was a small tree blocking the view to see if the lower rock came all the way over or if there was a crevice….and I Froze….I could NOT Move…it was a leap I was Terrified to make…Bama came BACK for me! and as He stood on the rock below looking up at me…He took my hand….and the way He looked at me…was the way My Dad looks at my mom…..this intensified my fear for deeper reasons….as my heart set itself RIGHT there…He was “the One” and part of me said “RUN!” but as I stated already…I could NOT Move…He had to pick me up and carry me off that rock…..and that moment….more of the wall around my heart started to crumble.

when I left 29 Palms, Thanksgiving of 1995, I did not know if I would ever see Bama again…..I was off to my first Duty Station in Cherry Point, North Carolina….and He was still not done with classes at 29 Palms…..what I did know was something had changed…..and I for the first time since Boot Camp found myself turning to God again ” if This is meant to be….its in Your hands now” I had NO doubt that God had brought this man into my life….because if it had been up to me..I would have turned and ran the other way to keep the walls I had built around my heart from shattering!

December of 1995, I was getting ready to go home to Upstate NY for Christmas…I had already submitted my Leave request, which had been approved….when I got a letter the just of wich was ” I am in Alabama for Christmas, If you would still have me, Come meet my parents” and it was signed “Bobby” with (Bama) in parenthesis…I finally knew His NAME! LOL  I called my mom and told her I was not coming home, bought a bus ticket….and headed south without a moments hesitation. when I called my mom to let her know that I had made it safely to Alabama….the nightmares started….you see, My dad informed me that my ex had called and threatened my mom if she didn’t tell him WHY I was not coming home. found out later…He had bought me another engagement ring…He still thought I was coming BACK! Bobby held me and consoled me as I tossed and turned on His mother’s couch….nightmares raging…fear taking over…..he patiently stood by me….and loved me through that…in Feb of 1996 I took him to NY to meet my parents…His first meeting with my Father…they got in a “fight” or should I say a Heated discussion over WHO was going to pay for the anti freeze for my car….but it was more than that…it was who was going to take care of my Daddy’s little girl….that weekend on the way through Pennsylvania on Hwy 81….we stopped at one of the GORGEOUS view spots in the hills…and Bobby Proposed…..after I said Yes, He said, “but you cant tell your parents, I want to ask Your dad!” I felt I would burst if I didn’t tell someone…so I finally convinced Him to let me tell my mom…as long as she didn’t say anything to dad until He got a chance to talk to him! April 6, 1996…we were Married…..and here we are, 14 years later…still Very much in love, with three wonderful kids….Our Marriage has not always been easy….we have had to work at it….and have had our ups and downs…but I Know without a doubt that God brought Bobby into my life, and that with God as the center of Our Marriage…there is no mountain we cant climb. At a time in my life when I had given up….and closed my heart off…God brought a man into my life who showed me patience, unconditional love, a glimpse of what HIS love for the Church…for me as part of HIS Bride is.

As I look back I can see that all the heartache of my past has made me the woman I am today….much of it was a direct result of me pushing God away and saying ” this is MY life” but as soon as I said ” I cant do this alone….Jesus take the wheel”  HE stepped in…..showed me how to love deeper than I have ever known, brought me a man who taught me to trust again, to laugh again.  To my husband…..Thank you for never giving up on me, for loving me enough to tear down my walls. To my Family, Thank you for your unceasing Prayers, and unconditional love.