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For the last six months, I dreamt of living in Texas and of being free. I knew that I didn’t know Gabe, but just the thought of getting out of the hell that I was currently in was all that I cared about. Everything else paled in comparison to the nightmare that I was living. My optimism still kept me going, and I was confident that even though I had been keeping an enormous secret from my parents, and that I didn’t know who this guy was, I would still find love and freedom. Two things I desperately wanted.
I began to use the babysitting and housecleaning money that I would receive weekly from our neighbors, to buy wedding magazines and collect things for my hope chest. I was truly convinced that the right way of doing things was to go through a betrothal process that would eventually end in a tightly monitored engagement period. I was determined to win the favor of this family by being the perfect example of a good homeschooled girl. My heart, for those six months, sang.
Maybe part of the reason why I am not so enamored with springtime as the majority of the populace is because nothing ever good came out of the months of February, March, and April for me. Our homeschooling conference was to be held in June, and by the time that April had made her entrance, mom and Candi were furiously working around the clock trying to finalize all of the many details that went into planning such a major event. This meant frequent phone conversations with one another that would last for well over six hours in a given day and also numerous phone calls to the speakers and vendors.
I knew from having been raised in this movement, that Candi would be speaking with Gabe’s dad, Mr. New, about his hotel arrangements and the sessions that he would be presenting to the flock. Candi and my mom took very seriously their role as leader, or “Shepard” as they referred to themselves. Much care and endless hours were spent with each convention speaker ensuring that the material they were presenting was exactly what they wanted “their people” to hear. Rather than being a facilitator of information, they felt they had been called by God to teach these “precious families” the way that God wanted them to live: in fear. We lived in fear of government, fear of extended family, fear of neighbors, fear of culture, and fear of the world and these fears dictated our belief system. Our homeschooling group had become an isolationist cult and it was led by two very powerful women: Candi and my mother.
Sometime in April, my mother began to carry around an air of hatred towards me again and I could tell that it was something that I had done, or failed to do. I knew to ask her what the problem was would be asking for unwarranted trouble so I kept my distance from her. I hid in my room to escape my toxic family and listened to Christian cassette tapes that I had bought covertly. My mom was adamantly opposed to Steven Curtis Chapman (too worldly), Michael W. Smith (too worldly), Newsboys (rock music was not Christian music), DC Talk (Christian rappers were wolves in sheep’s clothing), Amy Grant (she had an affair), Sandi Patty (she had an affair too), Rebecca St. James (not only did God hate rock music, Ms. St. James was not a “true homeschooler” and “not one of the flock”)…and of course every CD that I owned in my collection were from these artists. They lifted me up on the wings of hope and helped my heart to feel close to Christ. But I couldn’t sing along with them and I had to hide the tapes well.