Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Wonder Years

Do you remember that show? The Wonder Years? 

I loved that show. I think the whole world did. Watching to see how Kevin would evolve. Would he ever get with Winnie Cooper? When he finally did, would they stay together? Would she ever stop whining? Would he embrace the quirks of his sweet, Jewish friend (whose name I don't remember), or would he cave to peer pressure?

Oh, the angst!!

If I remember correctly (and google says I do), then the show was narrated by an older, wiser Kevin. It was him looking back on The Wonder Years of his life.

The Wonder Years.

The other night, we got together with my friend, Chad, and his wife, Brandi. He and I graduated from high school together, although we didn't actually know one another in high school. We became friends only in recent years. 

That evening, he was preparing to play sax with our old high school band for their homecoming game the next night. The alumni musicians were invited to take part in the homecoming festivities, and you could tell he was really stoked about going to play with them (his brother also directs the band now, which is pretty cool).

"Come cheer on your old alma mater!" he said.

Instantly, I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach. It rose up quickly and unexpectedly, so of course, I tried to force it back down to the depths from whence it came. And of course, everything I feel is almost immediately discernible on my face, so he quickly amended his statement to, "Or, come cheer on that place you went to school for a little while."

I was so grateful I couldn't go. I had plans with my oldest daughter last night. "Sorry. Can't make it!" I was relieved. 

The feeling crept back up last night as I went to pick up our other daughter from a youth S'mores night event. 

I drove the back way from Josiah's parents' house to the youth pastor's house, which passes somewhere behind the old stadium. I couldn't see it from where I was, but the sound of the crowd and the band erupted while I was at an intersection. And for a second my heart stopped. 

I crammed that feeling back down, said a prayer, and moved on.

It was only after talking to my sweet, younger daughter in our driveway, almost a teenager herself, that I figured out why I couldn't get rid of that feeling.

Emily is hurt and angry by a situation in her life, and rightfully so, but I begged her to try to give that over to God. I begged her to continue to pray about it, to pray that God would allow her to forgive because, if she didn't, that anger would become bitterness.

It leaves a hole.

And then I told her. I told her all about my hole.

I told her about the hole I had inside me in high school. Mine was caused by hurt and loneliness, not anger, but it was a hole all the same.

In that moment, I saw myself back in high school. Smiling, radiant...broken.

I was an awkward kid, especially once I hit middle school. I was chunky and weird. I was a year younger than everyone else, and I desperately sought approval in the weirdest ways possible, which of course, made me the easiest target for any bully. My years in middle school in Lynchburg were scarring, and I was more than happy when we finally moved to Amherst, VA in my 8th grade year.

I got to leave my past behind.

In Amherst, things were a little better. I was still a little chunky and desperately wanted approval, but it was a chance to reinvent myself. I made new friends, but I still got teased by the popular kids. Some things don't change.

I moved up to Amherst High and made even more new friends. I was getting involved in Theater and became a member of the Thespians' Honor Society. Then, it was time to move again. This time the move crushed me more. I was really getting attached. Nevertheless, it was another chance to reinvent. To become new.

I got to leave my past behind.

Coral Springs, FL was great. I met one of the best friends I've ever had of those friends that teaches you that you can be completely opposite and still find common ground. My grades slipped a little because my social life took an upward swing. I had a great church. I had my first kiss (which was AWFUL). I dated for the first times in my life. Boys liked me...and I desperately needed boys to like me.

It was in Coral Springs that I was baptized. I had known Jesus my whole life, but I decided to dedicate my life to him...though I didn't know what that meant at the time. 

But then I came home from Mission Tour with our youth group one summer night, and my mom told me we were leaving. She and my dad were separating, and we were moving to Virginia. I had been part of the drama department and show choir, and had a lot of friends...but they all got left behind. My youth group quickly set up a goodbye party for me, and I was gone within a couple days. 

Once again, I left my past behind.

I came into Denbigh High School the first day of my Junior year. The only person I knew was the lifeguard from our apartment complex: a boy who was nice to me over the summer, but pretended like he didn't know me when he walked into the first period English class we shared.

Like my other schools, I made Denbigh my own...sort of. I became a part of the telecommunications crew, and I cheered my senior year (and lost my virginity somewhere in between). No matter where I went, I seemed to be kind of an outcast. I was the new cheerleader in a crew that had known one another since the beginning of time (or so it seemed). By telecom friends were close, but even they seemed to alternately accept and reject me.

I had a hole...deep in me. I knew Jesus, but I didn't understand having a relationship with him, so in one hand I held him, while I tried to stuff other things in the hole, which consequently, grew larger and larger.

I was a hurting little girl just trying to feel loved. I felt constantly rejected, and I just wanted so much to be loved, so I tried to cram the hole in my soul with people who might love me instead of the one man who has ever walked this earth who could love me perfectly: my savior.

High school, for me, holds a lot of fond memories of a lot of people I still love. But it also holds a dumpster-ful of hurt, rejection, and emptiness. 

And as I looked at that beautiful girl last night, sitting next to me in the car, eyes brimming with tears, I saw my teenage self and I begged God to let her see her true value. I begged Him to let her find her value in who she was in Him. And I begged her to pour all her hurts onto her Savior because He's the only one who can heal them fully.

My heart cries out to God for her, but also, I think, for me. Apparently, there are some holes left in me that I haven't filled yet. Some places where I still hurt and have room for healing. 

I am not the little girl I once was. God has healed me and forgiven me of so much. I've learned, as I find those holes that still exist, to open them up to Jesus by pouring my hurt, anger, and loneliness out to Him, and then He comes in and fills my holes in the way only He can.

God knew I needed this run-in with The Wonder Years. I needed to see my old self again. Sometimes, I mourn lost youth and beauty. I see the girl in these pictures and part of me longs to be that girl again, especially to look like her.

But, as wrinkles and white hair begin to show, I'm reminded that these may not be the beautiful marks of youth, but they can be the beautiful marks of wisdom and knowledge.

I wouldn't trade the gift of the wisdom I've gained in the last nineteen years (or, particularly, the last five) for anything - not even to look like this again. 

My body and face are aging, but my heart is new and clean because I've learned to embrace the love of my Savior. Praise God, His mercies are new each morning (Lamentations 3:23).

So, my prayer today - for me, for you, for sweet Emily - is this:

I pray that [God] may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith. [I pray that] you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend, with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God's love, and to know the Messiah's love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be FILLED with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)

I know how insanely long this post is today. If you've made it this far, I both thank you and applaud you. If you have holes to fill today, I pray that you'll run into His arms and let his love fill them. If you have questions on how to do that, let me know...we'll walk through it together.


  1. What I never realized about aging when I was young, is that it's not all loss. There are gains, in different areas, areas you can't appreciate at all when you are young. I'm trying to stop looking in the mirror as much - and that's a gain.

    1. You're absolutely right, Christine. :)