Thursday, December 1, 2016

Stories of Hope - Jodie's Story - 1

What I’m sharing with you over the course of this blogging project that I’ve written is segments of the book that I started writing for my boys almost 6 years ago.  I’ve tried so many approaches with it and it just never felt right.  And then I got the right idea but then didn’t have the right time… and then just simply stopped making time.  And now I want to share it in parts and write some new parts.  I’m not really sure what I should or shouldn’t share. Some of it’s pretty long and drawn out but it paints the picture that you need to have to understand where I was and where I am going.   I’m hoping this project will help me the whole book project back on track.  So here goes….

This book has been started and restarted at least 3 times now.  I guess it’s a work in progress but really it’s more of an account of a journey that has not ended yet. It began as a book for my boys, to tell the story of Cameron and Cole to all of my children, to show the amazing journey they took.  I felt it needed to be recorded and so I began to tell them their story.  But as I began to write it I realized that maybe it wasn’t just for them but for anyone going through TTTS, anyone that could gain something from learning about our journey into the world of Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome.  And so I changed from writing to them to writing about them…sort of.  It really was more of a day by day account of our journey, much of it actual written at the time. 

As I said earlier though, it became an account of a journey that had not ended and over time I began to feel that it just wasn’t coming together the way I wanted…it just didn’t feel right.
And then my journey changed, pretty significantly and I knew I needed to put the project away and let my life unfold again.  My faith had always been what I held onto along the way but suddenly I had my eyes opened to a new world and my heart exposed to a love that I didn’t know existed.  A love for Christ.
I put the book project on hold and took on my new faith journey as my project.  I had always been told by those who read what I wrote along the way that I needed to share my writing that I needed to write a book because I had a way with words.  What I thought I needed to write, who I thought I needed to write to…those were the things I didn’t know, the things that I struggled with.

And then suddenly God put a few books into my hands and messages into my heart that made me realize that I was looking at this all wrong.  It wasn’t about my boys story. It wasn’t about my story.  It didn’t need to be written for any one group or audience because the audience wasn’t anyone one group or person.  The audience is whoever finds it, whoever’s heart God places it on.  It’s a book about my life, the lives of two amazing little boys.  It’s a book about joy and love, about loss and heartache.  It’s a book about shattered dreams and putting the pieces back together.  It’s book about finding hope, finding yourself, finding peace. It’s about a journey that never ends.

I struggled to know where to start this story.  Initially it began at the start of the lives of the two little boys who made this journey possible but as I began to explore what I wanted people to learn from my journey I realized that I needed to go back…way back….
I grew up on as the only girl in a family of kids on a farm in rural Ontario.  We were dairy farmers and farming controlled much of our lives…and that was ok.  We were a traditional family of the time…well except that my parents were much younger than most of my friends parents.  I think starting your family at 18 with what must have felt like the world watching must have been hard. 

We were like almost all families of the time, we worked hard, played little and went to church every Sunday.  I grew up in a very traditional Protestant church in a very traditional small town community.  I didn’t question anything, didn’t really ask question at all…even of the things that I could learn from.  I just sort breezed through it, went every Sunday, sang in the junior choir as soon as I could until I was too old for it.  Then, since I loved music and singing so much and had a great group of friends who also loved to sing, I joined the seniors and sang in the senior choir.  My memories of church services focus completely on those choir memories… being bored but unable to goof off, play or talk because I was right up, front and centre where everyone could see me.  I went to Sunday school as soon as I was old enough to until I was too old to go…I even won attendance awards every year, never missed a one.  And then I taught Sunday school til I was done high school. 
Notice how I haven’t talked about anything I learned there, notice how I have nothing much to say about what I got out of church.  I don’t know why that was, I have looked back a lot over the last few years of my life and wondered where on earth I was.  But I guess that’s exactly it…I was on earth. I wasn’t thinking of heaven and how to get there…I had no clue what that really took.

When I was about 14 I went to church camp and had my first exposure to giving my heart to God  It seemed pretty simple… you told God you loved him and promised to live your life the way he wanted you to….simple.  And so I did that and I will admit, it felt good.  I came home wanting to learn, to read the bible and to know about ‘things’.  But I had no one to talk to about it and no real mentors and a minister at the time who wasn’t a leader, a role model or an inspiration.  We had no youth group and I had no friends who were talking about Jesus.  And so I did what many teens of the time did…I turned to the peers I had and the activities they participated in… drinking, partying and the opposite sex. It wasn’t long until I was drinking more then I should a few weekends a month and talking and acting in a way that wasn’t really who my heart felt I should be.

The problem was that my heart didn’t have a clue who I should be because my head didn’t know who I should be either.  I struggled with body image and confidence and always felt that I didn’t measure up.  I felt abandoned at times and lost.  And so, because I didn’t know I could turn to God to help me, I turned to the places where I thought I could find what was missing in my life.  I am not going to get into much of what this time in my life was like but suffice to say I drank to young, started dating and being intimate MUCH to early and grew up too fast.

I can’t say that this changed too much through most of my high school, college or young adult years…the patterns played out over and over again. But I did have a short time when I was 17 where I felt more confident and more accepted for who I was, not who I wasn’t.  I had friends who I didn’t feel I was being compared to or competing with and I began to date the best friend of my best friend’s boyfriend (got that???).  For the first time in my dating ‘life’ there was nothing really physical happening, well not at any rate or speed or anything.  It was just a fun and genuine relationship built on sharing, friendship and casual time together.  Bill was a great guy, treated me with respect but still told me if I was acting stupid and was the most honest person I had ever dated.  He lived life to the fullest and never let things get him down.  He needed to, he had leukemia and had been told by doctors a few months prior to us dating, that he would not live to see Christmas….it was September when we first started hanging out and October when we first started showing attention to each other…and another few weeks before we began to date.  We, his friends, were a bunch of naïve 16-18 year olds and none of us seemed to notice what was happening in front of us, none of us really noticed his health declining.  

Initially it really wasn’t but come mid December the platelet transfusions were happening every week and the fatigue happened more often.  On Christmas Eve he was feeling crappy but we spent some time together holding hands and hanging out with our friends.  We exchanged presents, had some laughs, held each other for a bit, kissed, wished each other a Merry Christmas and said we’d see each other the next night or the day after that.  That was the last time I saw him alive.  He went to hospital the next day for another transfusion and pain medication and declined rapidly.  I was called with updates a few times but the seriousness of it escaped me somewhat.  Later that evening I was called to come in, told things weren’t good.  I raced to the hospital and reached his room just moments after he passed away.  

It wasn’t the first time I had experienced the death of someone young that I knew but it really rocked me to my core and life was pretty dark and confusing for many months.  I was angry at God…very, very angry.  I refused to go to church but still went and taught Sunday school…I had made that commitment and I was taught early on in my life that once I signed up to do something I had to see it out to completion.
It was a pretty miserable year at times…I am sure my mom could attest to that.  I was reckless, I was moody, I drank a lot on weekends and taught many a Sunday school class hung over or exhausted. 

But in time I began to adjust and to move forward. I talked about a lot, obsessed over it a lot…I didn’t want anyone to forget what had happened and I can now say that I didn’t want anyone to forget that MY boyfriend had died.  I would love to say my behaviour became less reckless, that I found myself and gained confidence, contentment and felt I measured up but then the story would have changed and I wouldn’t have done what I did that led me to where I am today.  It might not be the way God planned my journey to be…I had A LOT of free will going on…but it is still part of the path that led to who I am today.

There were other many other struggles that I went through in the next few years.  I had a few pretty serious relationships but continued to lack confidence in myself so I sent out vibes that made me either seem like a control freak or a cling on.  And that type of behaviour didn’t just seem to happen just in relationships for me but in friendships in college and afterwards too.  I just couldn’t seem to find myself…but then again I don’t think I had a clue that it wasn’t about me finding me but rather me finding Him. 

I experienced another loss that really rocked me…this time of a child that I worked with.  I didn’t know how to cope with that one and felt incredibly alone when Connor died. 
But as with anything else, I didn’t know how to get the support I needed and nothing really changed in the way I went about life.

In mid 1998 I had a deep heart to heart with my best friend Charlotte who had moved half way across the continent.  We were driving home across the dessert and discussing what we wanted from life when she hit me with a question that once again, rocked my world.  After asking me what my goals were in life… my reply being ‘to be a wife and a mom’, she said ‘and what are you going to do if that doesn’t happen, do you have a back up plan, any thing else you want to do?’

Talk about something that sent me for a loop.  It had never occurred to me that this might not be what God had planned for me…and that is exactly how I looked at it at the time…’maybe it was not God’s plan for me to be married or have kids’.  And if that wasn’t his plan that I had better have some other ideas of what I could do with my life.
I spent the next few months really reflecting on this and reflecting on what having those goals had done to my life.  I realized that I was continually searching for a man, always pushing relationships too fast and looking for that ring.  It was a tough thing for me to deal with but such a needed thing.  I did a lot of reflecting then and even went to a few different churches over the next few months.  I began to find a bit more of myself and shed the protective layer that I had around me. 

Almost a year after I had this conversation, having not really dated anyone seriously in that time, I met Geoff…my husband.  And right from the start I knew that he was different than anyone I had ever dated. We connected right from the first time we went out and our relationship, which shocked most of our friends both in the fact that we were dating and the changes that occurred in both of us because of it, took off with an intensity that was scary and comforting all at the same time.  Little did I know then that the next 10 years of our life (or more) would continue to be full of this same kind of intensity.  

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