We had lived in Wilder, Idaho for four years, my mom would say this was “4 years too long”. But if you asked me then, I’d have said I loved my life there. I had an awesome circle of friends from school and church as well as my maternal grandparents, my aunt, uncle and cousins who lived nearby. I liked Wilder in general when it came to the life I had there, but the church congregation my dad was the Pastor of started to cause our family emotional pain.
For the most part I was ignorant of all that was going on between members of the church and my father. I knew some people weren’t happy with my dad as their church’s pastor, that they all had different ideas of what my parents should be doing concerning a number of things (what they were, I didn’t know), and that a select few thought they should be in charge…and my dad should leave. The ends and outs of all that transpired within that church body are irrelevant to my story, but it did make an impact on me in one way.
At the age of 11 I thought all Christians were truly great people. That somehow this meant they all were constantly living in a way that was pleasing to God. That they all had good hearts, good intentions, and would never hurt another person. What I didn’t realize then was being a Christian didn’t make you invulnerable to human nature. I was very disappointed when I finally understood this. From then on I ignored the word Christian entirely and rarely said I was. I wanted people to judge me based on how I live my life and how I treat others. I didn’t want them to think poorly of God when I fell short of societies understanding of what a Christian is. Whenever someone happened to ask if I followed a religion I would never hesitate in saying that “I try to live my life in a way that makes God happy. Yes, the Christian God you hear of.”. Being a Christian is a way of life. By saying you are a Christian is identifying yourself as one who has a relationship with God and tries hard to follow his word. This doesn’t always mean we succeed, it just means we TRY…
At just the right time God opened a door out of Wilder and my dad lead our family through it to Omak, Washington. He had taken a position as the Sr. Pastor of Church there. I was sad to leave my friends and family but I was really happy for a new beginning.
Omak was great. Everything seemed to fall into place quite quickly. There were several girls my age who I became close friends with (some still in my life to this day). My dad enjoyed his job, enjoyed his colleagues and his congregation. My mom as well fit right in and was welcomed by everyone. My brother who has never known a stranger he entire life had no issue re-making friends. My sister struggled a bit though. I know she was happy to be out of Wilder, but there was something in her that was not content. She’d pursue early graduation to enable herself to go to college within a year or so of us moving there. But we as a family hadn’t been this happy in a while, it felt so good.
Ya know what also felt good? Not being on food-stamps and having real healthcare! I never was one to care that we were poor but not being poor had a wonderful effect on my parents. My parents didn’t have to worry about finances like they had been for many years. They were able to provide for us kids as well as for themselves with more ease than they ever had before. We enjoyed living in a beautiful (but pretty old) house, we took several family vacations, we worn store-bought clothes, ate name-brand cereal and from a kids perspective had THE BEST CHRISTMAS’ EVER!!! But regardless of how happy and secure I felt in Omak, I still had my ever-present pains, weaknesses, and general health struggles to live with.
I started the 6th grade and I gave it all I could to attend, oh how I loved learning (not joking, love learning). Unfortunately as much as I tried, I couldn’t physically do it. Half-way through the school-year it was obvious we needed to approach my education differently. So we turned to a local Christian School that offered home-school curriculum and the use of their teachers for questions and testing. My brother seemed to like the idea of homeschooling also, so he joined me the following year. Needless to say I excelled at the whole “go at your own pace” type approach and finished the 6th grade with ease and early. The following school year I ended up blowing through both 7th and 8th grade (told ya, love learning). My brother on the other hand did the bare minimum required of him to finish in time and got that done.
Around the age of 12 I found a way to manage my hand and enjoy playing it while living in Omak. Nothing happened to my body anymore that wasn’t normal, well normal for me anyhow. I learned how to live within the perimeters of my disorder and the importance of balance (I knew the importance, doesn’t mean I exuded it). I knew what choices were good for my body, and which ones would cause extra pain. Not going to lie, I sometimes chose the extra pain in order to have more fun…but doesn’t everyone once in a while? By the age of 13 I had accepted my life will always have physical pain, weakness, fatigue and occasionally paralysis but that the degree of pain and frequency of paralysis would be completely dependent on my own choices.
A few short weeks after graduating 8th grade we had to leave Omak. I was devastated and so angry… I loved it there. I had the most amazing friends! I was a part of their families and they were a part of mine. Why did we have to leave a place and a life we loved so much, everyone loved it, not just me. Well, to put it simply and honestly, for the same reasons we had to leave the last church in Wilder. People and their desire for power. What was really hurtful about it this time though was it was brought on by people my dad considered friends. People my dad had grown close to, trusted and respected. People that I knew and had become a part of their family. I didn’t have a personal relationship with the church members in Wilder that created the chaos there, but I did with these. What they did hurt me and made me so angry. They had spread lies throughout the church body to the extent that the damage was irreparable. The congregation stood divided, some people even left the church sickened by all that was happening…can’t say I blame them. But we didn’t do anything wrong! My dad was an awesome pastor who loved everyone and always had the church’s best interest at heart. It felt like the innocent were being punished, it wasn’t fair to me. I can only imagine how my parents felt though. They were betrayed by their friends. My dad now had to try to find a new job to provide for his family. How could they do this to us? At least the Church Head Office gave my dad several months severance pay and an apology for having to replace him. It was nice knowing they never held my dad responsible for the breakdown of the church, and that they cared enough for our family to not leave us penniless.
It took me a long time to forgive these people for their actions but unfortunately I have not forgotten. I would advise against any of them approaching me to say hello and inquire about myself or my family…. Remember, Christians aren’t above human nature but we do try…
It felt like it was just the other day I was saying my first hello to my girl friends and now I was saying tearful goodbyes as my dad delivered his last sermon. With our van packed, belongings in storage, we we’re moving again… After a small and much-needed family vacation we set up life in Lake Stevens, Washington. Just in time for the first day of high school…