Blue Tennis Shoes –Part two

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I have reviewed what I wrote as “part two” and it skips to where I have been in the last year. It is revealing and… more than I might be ready for. I will work up to it. Not wanting this to be a memoir, I thought that I would in this post connect some of the dots that led me to where I am today…

Mexico changed me. Aware of God’s loving kindness to me, my attitude was transformed. I no longer had plans to kill myself. That is probably why to this day I have never owned a gun.

I got more involved in church, even had a girlfriend—briefly. And, I didn’t even resent the bully-target of taking my Bible to school. A Mormon friend saw my stance and decided to bring his books to school as well. He had more to carry than I did.

In gym class the bullying continued. The worst of the gang was a pastor’s son of all things. When we started a class in gymnastics I knew I would never be able to climb the rope or do an iron cross on the rings, but I could do a backflip.

One day, I jumped hard on the trampoline, flipped high and landed goofywompus. The angle sent me shooting out into space. I knew it would leave a mark when I splatted on the gymfloor. But to my surprise, a big guy was standing there and he caught me like I was a baby in his arms. I began to sit next to him in choir. For some reason the bullies left me alone. I don’t know if Phil Vineyard ever knew I used his friendship as protection. He has been there when I needed someone most.

During a church youth canoe trip, I still wore my blue tennis shoes. Things were going well for me. As I was running to my tent, the shoes fell off. (they were so worn.) It would be many years before I owned another pair.

I went with the Youth group on another Mission’s trip. This time to Peru. It was an amazing experience. One day, several of us got left behind. Waiting for the group to come back and pick us up, I sat with the Missionary and Pastors as they told funny stories of their ministry. Then Dr. Bill Dowell from Baptist Temple in Springfield, Mo. shared his heart for ministry. He gave me much to consider. I was amazed at his courage and boldness.

Later on the Peru trip, we visited an old Monastery. A flock of sheep driven by a young boy passed us. A little lamb straggled behind. I picked it up and turned. Someone took my picture.

The next summer, the Youth Pastor asked if I and another young man wanted to drive with him to Lynchburg, Virginia, to a Youth Pastor’s Convention. I agreed, thinking it would be a blast. For several days, I sat and listened to messages aimed at Youth Pastors and heard them share their burdens. When they cried, so did I. That burden was somehow passed on to me as if Elijah himself had given me a mantle.

The last year of High School I had a difficult time walking the halls. I kept looking at the other kids wondering if they had had such pain as I had experienced in my life.

I gave up my goal of being an artist and applied to Baptist Bible College before the year was out, not knowing what waited there for me.

To be continued…

Blue Tennis shoes

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Writing the second book in my series The Long-aimed Blow, coauthored with my twin brother, is harder than I thought it would be. The first book talks about trauma. Book two is how the characters responded and deal with the trauma. It has brought back many memories and has thrown me into a deep depression. Let me explain. No, let me summarize….

As an identical twin, it is always difficult to get individual attention.

One day as a child, I was sick—and my brother wasn’t. He went on to school and I got to stay home. Mom brought me soup and put a cool rag on my forehead. I felt loved. It was not long before I had learned to fake being sick and would be sent home from school for more individual attention.

One day, waiting in the nurse’s office for mom to pick me up, I overheard the principal tell my mother, “He’s not really sick. We know that. But what can we do? It is such a shame, he has so much potential. If only he’d just stay in school.” I felt so ashamed. I thought that was the last day I would equate sickness with love.

I looked for the attention in other ways. I found that I could get praise for drawing and art and was kinda good at it. (so was my brother) I could sing and wanted the solo in the Christmas program, but some girl got the part. I failed at a spelling bee when I couldn’t spell the word “dirt.”

Much of the trauma from my fifth grade is seen in the Princes of Albion. I won’t take the time to tell that story now. I walked away with only the clothes on my back and a pair of blue Converse tennis shoes.

I was never good enough. Never as good as the other guys. Never strong enough. I once cried because I had little arms. In sixth grade, the other boys knocked me down on the playground, took my shoes off and my white socks, then lifted me up and paraded me around the school yard waving my socks like flags.

I intently watched the other boys and saw that they got attention from girls by saying something funny. I had been using my sense of humor to escape bad feelings for a long time and I started being a wise guy/clown in class. People laughed when I told a joke or a good pun. But the laughter never felt like love.

In high school they dumped my blue tennis shoes in the boys’ toilet, put a jock strap over my head, and a punctured can of Right Guard down my gym shorts. At the church youth group, I nominated myself for the Spiritual Council. I got one vote—mine. (They read the results out loud). I did art for the youth department and tried my best. I was in the ninth grade play… but forgot my lines.

But, I didn’t feel loved. I would look at myself in the mirror at home and tell myself how much I hated who I was—until I blacked out. My brother had a girlfriend, but I was too shy. No one loved me. Oh, mom did. But she was mom. I began to seek ways to commit suicide.

That summer the youth group was going to Old Mexico for a missionary trip. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay home and die. But my brother was going, so I reluctantly went. I remember stepping on the bus. I looked down at my worn out tennis shoes and said, “God, I’m so tired.” That trip we built a building from the foundation to the finished roof. It was hard work. We handed out Bibles in the afternoon. In the evenings we would hold meetings. I was asked to give my testimony. I made one up.

I met an old Mexican who spoke a little English. He asked my name and I told him.  He called me “Jaunisito.” I asked what that meant and he said, “Little Jon with love.” I gave a scoffing laugh and gave him a Bible.

By Thursday of that week I was exhausted. That evening–very late–the Youth Pastor gave a Mission’s message on God’s love for all mankind. I heard him say, “God loves you.” And I broke down. I did not believe him. He was very wrong. I walked to the back and fell to my knees and sobbed.

Then, in my despair, I somehow felt God’s arms enfold me and He whispered in my ear, “It is true. I do love you, Jon.”

…to be continued…