When It All Changed (Repost)

(Author’s Note: August means school is right around the corner, and the kids start 4th grade and kindergarten in a few weeks.  Plus, I start a new job after Labor Day – will blog about that soon since I addressed it in an earlier post.  So, I am taking a short break from writing new posts this month so I can focus on time with the kids and getting ready for the new job. 

Have you ever been walking along through your life, happy in your own little bubble of comfort and familiarity, when all of a sudden – BAM – the bubble bursts, and you realize not everybody is like you?  Yep!  That’s exactly how I felt when I was 18 years old, and I stepped onto the campus of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW).

The first 18 years of my life were fairly structured and sheltered.  I had a simple childhood.  Most of the people around me had grown up in a similar way.  Most of my friends were from middle-class, southern, Christian families, too.

My family went to church regularly, and I was saved sometime around 12-years-old.  To add to that, my parents were fairly strict, so I stayed out of trouble in high school.  I grew up in a small town anyway.  Everybody knew my parents and me, so it would have been challenging to get away with very much.  I was what you’d call a ‘good girl’, for the most part, but it wasn’t necessarily because I was convicted as a result of my relationship with God and wanted to bring Him glory.  It was mostly to avoid being grounded and having my car taken away. 🙂

But, when my parents cut me loose on the campus of UNCW in August of 1997, I took full advantage of the 150 miles between my hometown and the exciting new place to which I had moved.  I had my wild streak and made up for the lost time in high school.

(It is noteworthy to mention that, although they were a two-and-a-half-hours drive away from me, my parents and my upbringing still held pretty strong sway over much of my behavior.  I did what I wanted to an extent, but I still held it in check.  That distance didn’t mean they had no influence or power over me at all.  I didn’t want them to make me come home, so I took my rear end to class and made decent grades).

Although I got to exercise my freedom and experience some of the things my parents warned me about, the thing that was damaged most by my choices was my faith…and I didn’t even realize it was happening.

During my first semester as a college freshman, I took an elective called Introduction to Religion.  It was a survey of religion as a whole – more of a philosophical look at the institution of religion, if I remember correctly.  I have no idea why I took it though; I must have needed an elective, and it fit into my schedule.

I distinctly remember a lecture early in the semester when the teacher said that religion was man’s creation.  He explained that man-made religion was a way to answer life’s big questions: Why am I here?  How did I get here?  What happens when I die?

Those words stand out to me even now.  That was a pivotal moment for me.  I should have followed Paul’s warning to the Corinthian Christians in 2 Corinthians 10:5…”take captive every thought to obey Christ.”  But I didn’t do that. I highly doubt I even knew that was a thing.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Instead, I remember thinking that my eyes were being opened.  I was excited!  I felt enlightened!  I felt as though I were figuring out some mystery all by myself.  This was an epiphany – an important revelation to which I was privy.  I thought, “Everyone is just trying to figure out life and make it in this world!  We just do it differently.”

Photo Credit: Pinterest

This enticed me further onto a path that I happily walked down.  I was willing.  I was discovering.  I was eager to uncover more of this new reality about which I was learning.  I didn’t see it at the time, but these patterns of thought were what led me to completely turn my back on Jesus and spend more than 10 years walking out on my own.  I thought I was liberated.  I thought I was so modern.  But I was heading toward a dangerous place, a place God doesn’t intend for His children to go.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

A Simple Southern Childhood

My parents told me that one of the first places they took me as an infant was church.  We went to the church my mom had attended her whole life.  It is within walking distance of the house where I grew up and where my parents still live.

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My parents’ house in Lilesville

Most of the people who attended church there were related to me in some way.  Even those that weren’t blood-related were close family friends.  My mom’s mom, my mom’s brothers and sisters, and all her nieces and nephews went there as well.

Sunday lunches were either at church or at my grandmother’s house with my aunts, uncles, and cousins.  You should have seen all that food!  If it was summer, much of it was fresh from the garden my grandma had at her house.  (We were eating clean before clean eating was a food trend.  “Farm to table” was our way of life).

That garden was big – about one-third of an acre at its largest – and I worked in it every summer I can remember well into my 20s.  Even after I got married and moved too far away to work it, there was a garden.  Two summers ago was the first summer in all my years that there wasn’t a garden.  The space is covered over in grass now, and frankly, it still looks weird.  But, my grandmother, who will be 90 in a few days, said she believed it was time to be done.

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Butter beans (first picture) and corn (this picture) grown in the garden my sister and I planted at her house several years ago.  We never got much food, but it was kinda fun to have our own garden, and we actually missed all the time spent in the garden when we were girls.  I think it made us feel a little closer to our mom and our grandmother to have our own garden.

Why am I telling you this?  I want you to know me.  I want you to get a feel for who I am and where I “came from,” so to speak.  You’ve got to know my life to see God in it.

So, this was my childhood.  My parents raised my younger sister and me in the house where they still live.  We went to church.  We worked in the garden.  We played with our cousins.  We went to school.  It was a simple life.  My parents loved us.  They supported us.  They taught us right from wrong.  They took us to church when we were young and expected us to continue to go when we were older.

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Photo Credit Pinterest

In my world, most everyone was like me: grew up in the same place where their parents had grown up, lived with extended family nearby, went to church… just simple, Southern lives.  I saw other stuff on TV and in movies, but most of the people I was exposed to in the first 18 years of my life were more similar to me than different.  And this was my happy little bubble for quite some time.

What was your childhood like?  Did you live in the same place for most of your childhood like I did or did you move around?  Did you live near close family?  Did you grow up in church?  Please share, if you like.

June Cleaver? Who me?

 

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Leave it to Beaver
Beaver Cleaver and his mom, June (photo credit: Pinterest)

I am not June Cleaver.  I’m just not.  My mom was pretty darn close, so before I became a mom, I assumed I would be great at it, too.  I was wrong!  I’m not June Cleaver nor Carolyn Murdock (my mom).  I’m just Heather Hooks; that’s all I can be.

I have a relationship with Jesus.  I am a wife and a work-from-home mom of two children.  I am a daughter, a sister, and an aunt.  I have only ever lived in North Carolina.  I am a teacher and a photographer.  I discovered, once I had kids, that I was a selfish control-freak with a short fuse on a bad temper that my children see far too often.

At our house, dirty dishes sometimes stay in the sink overnight and bathrooms aren’t cleaned as often as they should be.  The floors usually need to be vacuumed or swept, and I am pretty sure I have become nose-blind to the trash can in the kitchen.

I am learning to be a wife who respects her husband.  This hasn’t always been the case in my marriage.  Learning to trust God and accept His sovereignty over my life has shown me pieces of my own self that could be more God-centered: my marriage, my parenting, my relationships with others, how I spend my free time…

God hasn’t always been the focus of my life though. I was raised in a Christian home and was saved when I was 12 years old, but when I got older, I chose to turn my back and walk away from God and do my own thing for a while.

How’d that work for me, you ask?  You’ll have to keep reading to find out ;-)…that’s what this blog is all about.

This blog will be an honest and open look at my life and my faith journey.  I will be as transparent as possible.  You’ll read my testimony, how God has worked in my life, my struggles and triumphs, what I am learning about marriage and parenting…who knows what else…maybe even a recipe or cleaning tip here and there.  I am letting God take the lead and direct me on this; I’ll just do the typing.

The main goal here is to write to you so you’ll know who God is based on what He has done in my life.  These aren’t just my stories.  These are God’s stories, and I write to share them with you.

 

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Photo Credit: Pinterest

Feel free to introduce yourself.  I’d love to know who is here with me.