That’s me! Yes, the one with the long legs, and yes, our hands were supposed to be pointing all different directions in our “Go West” choreography. As best I can remember, this was a practice session before an evening concert at Lakewood Campground in Myrtle Beach, SC. The picture on the right was from Hurl Rock in Myrtle Beach before a weekly cable television spot we did from the beach.
One of my former teammates nicknamed us Glee 1984 on Facebook, and I loved the new title, so I stole it. Thanks, Steve Burba. We traveled across the country for our Christian college doing a patriotic musical production, church concerts, Christian school chapels, and pretty much anything else we were asked to do. We left school for a year…
…and it changed my life.
Students’ staying in hotels every night wasn’t in the budget for the young Liberty Baptist College, so its traveling team, LBC Singers, stayed in the homes of congregates at the churches where we performed. I stayed in a high rise condominium with a beautiful view of NYC on one occasion, but most of the time, I felt welcomed into more modest middle-class homes where families did their best to meet my needs and help me feel at home. We have some wonderful people across this nation, by the way.
Not all accommodations were as pleasant. I put my foot down and insisted I would sleep on the bus before staying in one home that put my health and safety in jeopardy only to end up staying the night with the most vile person I had ever met, a chaplain for the KKK all dressed up for his role as church deacon. Let that sink in a moment, folks.
One stay changed my life, though. As I sang that night, I noticed from the stage that this little gathering in St. Petersburg, FL seemed a bit special. I scanned the crowd wondering which of these unique families I’d be with that night, and a knot formed in my stomach. Something told me this would be a long night. Yes, I made assumptions, and I was right.
Three of us would stay together with the pastor’s son and his family. He had gone to take the family home first and would come back to get us because they did not have enough room to take us all in one trip. I went to my closet in the semi trailer to gather my things and thought to brush my teeth using bottled water before heading to meet our ride. I also packed sweatpants and a hooded sweatshirt in case things would be as bad as I suspected.
I may run out of space and write a book if I try to tell you everything, so here are the highlights:
- On the way home, something hot dripped on my foot from under the dash the whole trip. I have the long legs, so I had the front seat. We got to a dark intersection, and the car stalled. Our agitated host went to fix it, and maybe my brain is just filling in the details and sensationalizing this, but I could swear I remember his hitting the engine block and the car’s starting. However it happened, we did make it to his house, and he was not, in fact, an ax murderer… well, at least not that I know of.
- When the door opened at their little home, a stench hit me in the face. It wasn’t just a bad smell; it was a decomposing-flesh smell. The wife–I’m ashamed that I cannot remember their names given the impact they had on my life–invited us to sit down, but there was no place to sit. Every surface lay under clutter, and a mound of dirt decorated the kitchen counter. That’s not a metaphor–okay, maybe it is a little bit, but I don’t just mean that the kitchen was dirty. I mean there was a literal mound of dirt on the counter. The unusable bathroom certainly made me thankful I had already brushed my teeth.
- We slept in the master bedroom, three on a full sized bed together–if memory serves, I ended up sleeping on blankets between the bed and the wall on the floor. Did I mention that I snore? Before my move to the floor, we had settled ourselves just in time for the telephone to ring, and the husband walked in and answered the phone. He stood over our bed as his wife walked by the door horrified at his presence over us having the conversation. She reacted; he reacted, and our heads bobbed back and forth like watching a tennis match. He became so angry that he left the house, slamming the door behind him.
You should know that I was not the compassionate person back then that I am today, so I’m very thankful that at least one of us had wits enough to go console her. My friend Chaundra went out to talk with the poor lady and later related her story…
This young mother had been in nursing school when she met Prince Charming–yes, the door-slamming idiot–and left it all behind to marry him and live happily ever after. She knew he would take care of her, so she ignored the gifts God gave her and followed him blindly, and now she had neither time nor money to go back to school and get her degree. She had been very foolish indeed to trust him so fully and not take the time to test his character.
…and in that moment, listening to Chaundra tell the story, I realized that I was this woman, not using what God had given me. Normally a fiercely independent woman, I had allowed the idea of a perfect man to take care of me–not to mention all the Christian-school chatter about M.R.S. degrees–to distract me from the reason God had me there to begin with. I was not investing in the gifts and interests that made me an individual, capable of caring for myself and tapping the potential inside me: the very gifts God Himself had given me. I had neglected my studies for a guy. For the record, I don’t think the guy I was neglecting my studies for became a door-slamming idiot, but that doesn’t really matter; I was using the dream of a “happily-ever-after” future to get in the way of my responsibility in the present.
That night scared me…
I mean really scared me…
Riding in the back of that old remodeled Trailways bus the next day, I recommitted to getting my degree and having a career to protect both me and my future family, worthy husband included. Nothing would stop me from getting that degree. I had already lived through the loss of my father and watched my mother struggle to rear us without his provision, so I set out to do my best in school and made the dean’s list every semester after returning from that year-long tour. As a result, I was able to work in a field I love as long as I wished and then cut back to stay at home with my children and home school them, not because that was all I could do but because it was all I wanted to do, and that was exactly what I felt God wanted from me.
In the end, I found a man who simply loved being with me. He didn’t seek to control me or “take care” of me as if I would flounder helplessly without him, but he stood enthusiastically by my side and encouraged me to grow into the strong woman who had always lived within me. I just didn’t know her yet.
…and that’s the view from My Front Porch.