My first brush with IFBs actually took up the first six years of my life, though I was blissfully unaware at the time.
I’m the youngest of two children, born to a radio announcer and a middle-school art teacher. My brother, Eddie*, is almost three years older than I am. When I was born, my dad was a radio station manager for a very conservative international Christian radio station while my mom was staying home with us until we started school. The organization has stations all over the US and in several other countries, as well. I don’t know whether the organization itself is IFB, but almost all of their employees are (much like BJU – non-denominational in name only).
My parents got a considerable amount of flak for not fitting the mold. Dad was a huge CCM fan – his favourites at the time included Keith Green, Michael Card, Bob Bennett, The Imperials, Second Chapter of Acts, Phil Keaggy, Randy Stonehill, and the like. They also attended a Plymouth Brethren church (more fully explained under “A Little Background“), which was somehow threatening to a few of his coworkers, particularly a Baptist pastor who worked at the station with him. This man actually told my dad at one point that he needed to “bite the bullet and become Baptist!”
I don’t remember much from that time. I know that Dad wasn’t around a lot. He wore a beeper that, whenever it went off, it meant he had to go into the station. I remember one night it went off at bedtime, and he was exhausted – but he went anyway. I remember wondering if he’d actually be there at my birthday when I opened presents one year. He was always so tired. My brother and I both knew that we were better off dealing with Mom than with Dad. He was never abusive, don’t get me wrong. He was just grumpy most of the time.
When I was about four years old, the CEO (for lack of a better term) called a meeting with all of the managers. I do not know what exactly went on at this meeting. I do know that the CEO proposed a new plan of operation for the organization that Dad felt was morally and practically wrong. Whether in that meeting, or later – I don’t know – Dad stood up and took them all through Scripture, demonstrating how the proposed plan was not a wise or ethical move. As a result, he was demoted and his pay cut drastically. To add insult to injury, he was stripped of his title as station manager and forced to train his replacement, then work under him. He was devastated. He was a broken man.
Mom had to start working again so that ends could just barely meet. I started school that year, but since she was teaching at a Christian school, my brother and I had free admission. I didn’t really know what was going on, just that Mommy and Daddy were so sad all the time. I’ve learned since that Dad emotionally sort of gave up. He felt like a failure, and didn’t know what to do. Mom started sending out his resume to radio stations all over the country. In particular, there was one station that they always listened to each year as they went to an annual conference. Dad told Mom that if he could choose to work anywhere, he would choose to work there. Initially, they weren’t hiring. But nine months later, they called and asked Dad for an interview. My grandmother drove down to stay with us while Mom and Dad flew out, and Dad was offered the job. He moved to the state where his new job was while we continued living where we were until the school year was over – four and a half months, total. Those were hard, hard months. But it was worth it. Mom and Dad were free.
The rest of my childhood was somewhat normal. I was a very outgoing, talkative girl, but was always so different from the other kids at school. I had very few friends, and was made fun of throughout my entire elementary school and junior high school experience, to the point that I was suicidal twice and attempted suicide once. Also teased for my weight, I became anorexic. At the peak of my despair, I was journaling and crying out to God, then opened my Bible to Romans 7. My heart’s cry was verse 24: “O wretched man that I am! Who can deliver me from this body of death?” I sobbed as I read it, then forced myself to read the next verse: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Immediately, everything I’d been taught my entire life clicked. Everything I’d ever read in the Bible made sense. I stopped crying. I claimed that verse as my own, and on the evening of March 11, 2001 I became a Christian.
In high school, it seemed that I’d hit my stride for a couple of years. I was certainly not popular, but I had a regular group of friends. My teachers suddenly took a liking to me. I was part of the choir, part of our school’s praise team, editor of the school newspaper (occasionally writing articles for it as well). I was deeply encouraged in my music and writing. I thought that I had life figured out – I’d major in English, minor in music, and be a famous singer/songwriter someday. My friends agreed. Life was good.
I’d been working summers at my church’s camp and conference grounds, and had really started to fit in. The summer before my junior year, however, I developed a crush on a boy that I worked with at the camp. This boy and his family were very, very conservative – much more so than I was. I started adapting to his way of thinking and judging, guided by his mother and conversations with him. When I came back to school, I was different. My classmates suddenly seemed to me to be worldly, bad influences. In some ways, they were – but in hindsight I can see that I was the problem, not them. Two months into my junior year, I dropped out of school and started homeschooling to preserve my testimony.
Things changed when I homeschooled those two years. I changed. I was no longer outgoing, but quiet. My group of friends was no more. I was left to myself quite a bit. I continued writing stories, essays, songs, and developing what I thought would be my eventual career. I couldn’t wait to start college.
I actually started college my senior year of high school, just taking two classes at my local community college (where I planned to continue until I could go to a university). Before I could sign up for classes, though, I had to declare a major. I almost checked off “English,” then hesitated. A couple of lines down, I saw “graphic design” listed. I didn’t really have a clue what that was, but it sounded interesting. I checked the box by that instead, reasoning to myself, “I’ll try it for a semester or two, then switch back to English.”
My first full semester of college the following year, however, everything changed once again. I had four art and design classes, and I excelled in them all. My teachers were floored that I’d never had any training outside of a home-course in Photoshop. I’d found something I loved even more than writing or singing or playing piano. I started meeting with other students in a weekly Bible study, and made friends in my classes (though none of my high school friends were in any of my classes). I started feeling at home again, more like myself again – able to socialize and interact.
The first semester ended, and it was time to sign up for spring classes. One of my old friends, Liz*, was taking a sculpture class that was held off-campus. I signed up with her, looking forward to the class greatly.
I had no idea what would come of it.
My story continues with “Sculpture.”