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Jesus Loves Me Part 2: The Church

Do you believe in coincidence? Fate? I don’t. Everything that happens in life was already written for your story. This morning, I encountered many of these so called coincidences. So, much so that I cannot see it as a coincidence. Every morning, I listen to Gospel music. It’s how I connect with God. I need it. But this morning… I couldn’t find my AirPods. No big deal, I’ll listen through my phone, cannot connect to Apple Music. Me: Alexa! Turn on Kierra Sheard radio… Alexa: I’m sorry, I’m having trouble finding that station right now. Me: Alexa… Play Gospel radio. Alexa: I’m sorry, I’m having trouble finding that station right now. The Devil is a Liaaaaaaaaaaahhh! This is a clear indication that MY TIME is near. I am about to receive a lifetime breakthrough and the sinister part of the Universe is fucking with me. He tries me all the time. But let me tell you. God, is my only source and BABY!!! Bring it on. Nothing is stopping me from receiving all my blessings. That’s what the Church taught me and I’ve been a Spiritual Gangsta ever since. Jesus loves ME and I’m protected from anything not of him. No Gospel music today… that’s okay, I’ll sing with these not too shabby vocals of mine!

It had been about five years since my Father left the house. At this point, I barely heard from him and when I did, I ran to him. Anything was better than being in this house. Mom was deep in love and my oldest brother, Stephen, was gone off to college. The house was different but Andre (my younger brother) and I learned to go with it. I scrapped the Cheerleading gig and never turned back. Being called the, ” Coach’s Kid” wasn’t my thing and I didn’t want to have to hurt nobody. My Mom tried so hard to get us to be happy with her decision. The Coach would try to bribe me with letting me drive his car and throwing me some money here and there. But, I never liked him. His presence has always made me uncomfortable and he seemed too interested in me. I did my best to stay out of his way but that wasn’t easy. He demanded respect and made it clear about the role he played in our home. I wasn’t playing house and didn’t recall holding auditions for role of Step Father. I didn’t need any more renditions of a Father, I had one. He was just away at the moment.

We started attending Church as a family. Mom would get us all up and request nice attire. In our house, there is one thing my Mom didn’t play with – us looking a mess. If we were stepping out of the house with her, you better had came correct. It didn’t bother me none, I liked getting cute and I loved going to Church. This Church was different from the Church I attended as a young girl with my Grandmother. The Pastor and Ministers were all young with beautiful wives. The Choir sang songs that made you dance AND you didn’t get pinched for doing so. The Youth were encouraged to sit together and we weren’t stuck under our parents trying not to fall asleep. This Church, grasped my attention. I connected with people and found purpose within God. I started to see myself for the first time since I had lost my Parents love and my identity. It would have seemed the Church began to change all of us. My Mom started making Church friends and would take me shopping with them occasionally. She even started letting me hang out with my older Aunt. I was finally being able to get a glimpse of what the outside world looked liked without her. I was also starting to see how very ugly it was and why my Mom protected me. The Coach became a Deacon, which was such an oxymoron because I’m sure he chose that ministry just to be seen as someone of importance. Let me tell you what a “Title” does not do for you… earn you respect. Just another way he demanded it.

Dre and I were like Frick and Frack. We joined all the Youth ministries and started making friends of our own. I was in a good place. I was back writing and allowing myself to shine. I became very outspoken and found a sense of humor I didn’t know I had. I’ve always been extremely friendly and believed in being friends with everyone. I became the Youth President and started implementing Programs and Activities for the Youth – I guess I’ve always been a Project Manager lol. I became so heavy in the Church, it was as if I were the Ambassador for the Youth. I felt comfortable there. One day, I was asked to MC a Youth event for back to school. A talent show. Back then, I was so brave and said, “Yes!”, with no hesitation. My Mom was so proud of me. I would sometimes hear her bragging about how proud she was with me and my work within the Church – I was slowly gaining her love back. One year, the Church planned a Youth retreat and I helped plan the speakers and topics that would be taught. I remember being so invested in this particular event. This retreat was a vision being brought to life and I played a role in it. It was an exciting time to say the least. But at the same time things in my personal life weren’t so well. Mom and the Coach were arguing a lot more and I started having issues making friends outside of the Church. The girls back then weren’t into Jesus and that’s all I knew. The stress of not fitting in became more bearable once I opted to release myself to society and fit in.

I tried blocking the outside world out and stayed busy planning the Church retreat. By the time the day came to leave for our retreat, I was already mentally drained. I’d used too much energy trying to survive in a house that was no longer a home. I lived two different lives. It never dawned on me that God was with me no matter where I was. I was myself at Church and stranger to the world. There weren’t too many Jesus loving teens that I knew of. At school, I went from hanging with whomever would kick it with me to the too live crew. It’s crazy because as I had one friend who really saw and understood me. My friend from Elementary School that stood with me through Junior High, until we were separated by High Schools. She didn’t know Jesus well but she wanted to get to know him better. That connected me to her because if there’s one thing I knew I was good at, it was loving me some Jesus! So, I invited her to attend the retreat with me. She was and is still the one person who has always seen me. From day one she loved me for me. At the time, I knew her to be my only true friend. I was able to talk to her when I couldn’t speak. I shared my secrets with her and till this day I believe God brought her into my life.

When we arrived at the retreat, I remember the weather being a little chilly. We were in the mountains and we were all assigned to cabins. My cabin was lit! I got to bunk with my bestfriend and all my friends from Church under one roof. I literally felt in Heaven. Our Chaperone was one of my favorite Youth Leaders. She was so dope. I remember always loving her vibe; being in her room was a bonus. Up until the last day of the retreat, I’d say it was a cool experience. It was the last day of the retreat that had kept me until now. I’ve been stuck in time ever since. The night before we had to leave, the girls and I were in our Cabin getting ready for bed. We were still very pumped from the last service. Our Cabin Leader had us get in a circle for prayer. As we all placed our hands into the hands of our Sister next to us, She began to pray for us. I’ve stood in many of prayer circles at this point but this was the first time I felt a shift in my energy. I began to speak words that were unclear to me and I remember feeling detached from my physical body. Almost as if I were watching myself speak out loud for only my ears to hear and understand. I was experiencing what I thought was a show for the people in the Sanctuary when the Choir cuts up. The inside joke was no longer funny, it was real. If I had ever doubted my faith, this moment will prove me wrong every time.

As the energy began to calm in the cabin, the girls and I were exhausted from our experience. We all climbed in bed and fell asleep instantly. But, not me. I still felt that energy and I liked it there. I was up most of the night going over my thoughts in my head. Once a glimpse of the sun came out, I got up and got dressed. I was still energized with no control over my body or mind. By the time I got dressed most of the Youth were up and heading towards the Chapel for our last service. I felt like I were assigned a mission and was determine to get it done. As I opened the cabin door I was greeted by one of the parents who volunteered to chaperone. She grabbed my arm, looked me in my eyes and said, “I heard you last night and that was nothing but the Devil in you!” Her eyes were piercing and devoured my spirit of joy that I was granted access to the night before. The out of body experience had evaporated and I was left to return to my new reality. She was right. I was living two different lives. How could Jesus love me?

I begin walking to the Sanctuary where I sat with my friend who was still in shock from last night. I remember having these extreme feelings of shame. As if I made everything up from the night before. What if it were the Devil speaking through me and I’m feeding it to God’s people. I felt embarrassed to be seen by my friend. Did she think I was this crazy, VooDoo, Jesus Freak? I did have a small inkling of joy that felt like God’s presence. That mustard seed of faith was the only thing that gave me the courage to stand up and give praise as soon as I heard the organ begin to play. I needed to feel God again. I wanted to get back into his arms where I felt safe. It didn’t take for the bass to kick in before I was back there and the words from last night began to shout out my mouth again. I remember looking around witnessing the entire Youth Ministry experiencing the same presence of God that shot through my body the night before. God showed up and remove any doubt of his existence from our minds. I embraced that.

When I arrived home from the retreat, I felt like a different person. I had plans to focus on myself and what I wanted. I believed in God’s purpose for me, whatever it were to be. My doubt I once carried within had vanished. I spent most of my time getting my school work done and getting my credits right to graduate early. I started to be ambitious and embrace my Church family in all parts of my life. I was making smarter decisions and found friends outside the Church that embrace the real Denise. Until one night I received some unexpected news that would remind me of the Devil within. The Coach turned Deacon had shared with a few of the men at Church some of my past mistakes, which twinkled down to the Women of the Church and right into the ears of the Youth Ministry. The girl who had once laid in the arms of God was now in bed with the Devil. I couldn’t show my face again at Church and opted for what was easier to deal with, become the version of me the outside world accepted.

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