Throughout our lives, we cross paths with individuals that happen to change our lives in one way or another.
I wish that I could say I had teachers or professors that influenced me to be a better student, but I didn’t. I wish I would have had management or business owners that I worked under in previous jobs that made me strive to be the best employee I could be; instead, I was hindered.
Instead, I had Pastors, family friends, mentors, and Shane to bring about a positive environment for me.
1 Corinthians 15:33 says “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.'” It only took me about 24 years to figure that out.
Now, I’m not saying that I was always surrounded by bad people; questionable – maybe.
I was raised in the pews of church almost every Sunday. I was raised with morals and self respect. But when I started hanging around others who didn’t have strong morals, it started to bring me down. I was making questionable decisions and putting my beliefs and morals second to my “wants.” Which, if I’m honest with you, they weren’t my wants; they were the wants of those around me. You know, the drive to “fit in.”
One of the biggest role models that had the most impact on pulling me out of that rut was Pastor Baumgarn. I went in with my family and sat and talked with him for hours about the things that had been going on and how it was affecting me — us. Never once did he pass judgement. Instead, he allowed me to confess my sins and assured me that I was forgiven.
After that, I became more active in the youth group and O.A.F.C. It was within those two groups that I was able to feel what it felt like to have good friends with good morals; friends who were ok with “going against the grain.” But, if Pastor B hadn’t been there to lovingly guide me that way, I fear I would have never experienced what genuine friendship would have been like.
Sadly, he was called to another church to serve. All of us who were active in the youth group were devastated to see him leave but at the same time, knew that he was going to help another church as much as he had helped us. Our youth group was small and tight knit. We were active. We had a passion for helping spread the word. However, the Pastor that was called in after him didn’t seem to share our drive.
In my opinion, he single-handedly destroyed our youth group by removing us from attending O.A.F.C. weekends, he didn’t teach off experience – only out of a book, he allowed his wife to co-lead group in which she crossed boundaries (claiming members of our youth were depressed, another one was going to Hell for dating a Catholic, etc.). Eventually, it pushed everyone away. As if the disassembling the youth wasn’t enough, they moved onto the congregation. One by one, family by family, they are pushing people away instead of opening their arms lovingly.
Thankfully, I was off to college by this time but I felt bad for everyone who was left behind to deal with the negativity, the criticism, and the lack of enthusiasm. But having been indirectly affected by their actions and their comments, it put a sour taste in my mouth for going to church. I attended off and on but it wasn’t until a few years later that I started going regularly again. The motivation: a troubled engagement.
During this time, I was the assistant manager at a gas station. This was my first “big-girl” job. However, it wasn’t challenging. It was mindless work. “Hi there! How are you today? Did you have fuel out there at all? Anything else I can get for you? Your total is ______. Thank you! Have a wonderful day!” over and over and over again. During this time, I was being held back by the owner and the manager of the store. I was expected to help out as much as I could with what I could. But I had to go through them. Well, that amounted to, “You can’t do anything unless we tell you to.” which never happened. Sometimes, I would take initiative and do things that I knew needed to get done (things that we failed on inspections) but weren’t.
The only positive support I received from that job was from a co-worker, Bud. He was there to support me and back me up when things got rocky. All of the positive that I got from him outweighed the negative by far. It was because of him that helped me decide to go back to school and challenge myself, to find a job where my skills were appreciated, and to stand up for myself when I was handed the short end of the stick for doing what needed to be done.
Fast forward a couple of years, and my wonderful husband comes into the picture. Our story is scattered throughout this blog but I have never felt so much support outside of my family than I did when we started dating. Not only was he supportive, he was respectful. It wasn’t until our relationship that I was in a “healthy” relationship. I was in relationships that had some form of mental or verbal abuse. People who made me feel like I was never going to be good enough for anyone but them. People who would guilt me into apologizing for things that were out of my control — which I still do to this day; I can’t break it. People who made me believe that I was too big to wear anything but sweat pants and a t-shirt or sweatshirt.
Shane has endlessly tried to help build my self confidence and my self image. However, it’s something that cannot be fixed with the snap of your fingers. It takes time. It takes work. It takes support.
Current time, I have a few people who have been positive influences to not just me but to Shane as well. For us, we really look for guidance within our church. We have three couples that we have grown close to who show us an example of Christ’s love. Pastor Steve and Marnie welcomed us into the church with arms wide open. We immediately fell in love with how accepting and supportive they were when we decided to become regular attenders. Ever since then, we have looked to them for guidance as well as advice. We do not fear being judged and we do not feel as if we are talked down to if we just don’t understand something.
Aside from Pastor and his wife, we have two other couples in our church family that demonstrate how a Christ-like marriage is supposed to be. Dave and Sheila and Mark and Aundria. The amount of support, dedication, love, acceptance, understanding, compassion, and knowledge that is shown through them means so much to us.
As I’ve grown, I’ve learned to appreciate that “fun” can mean people with strong morals and values. It doesn’t have to be about “what is going to make me fit in.”
So, if any of you are reading this; thank you! Thank you for showing me (us) a gentle hand as we have meandered my (our) path(s). You each mean so much to us and we would never be able to put into words what that means!
“In everything, give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18