Defining Moments

In his book Soulprint, Mark Batterson writes:

“But I think it’s generally true that we are largely shaped by a small handful of experiences. . . Collectively, they form our internal operating system. They are the source code that determines the way we look at life. And if you’re going to discover your soulprint, you need to mine your memory for those defining moments.”*

I’m currently on a mission to discover myself. Call me crazy, but I feel like I tried so hard to please my mother as a child and young adult, that I lost an essential part of who I am. Subconsciously I suppressed that part because it didn’t appear to match up with what Mom wanted in a daughter.

From the moment I first breathed air, I think I was watching and listening. I entered a world where Mom was at odds with my sister. She wasn’t happy with anything Jerri did. The constant criticism threw me into survivor mode. I must have sensed my spirit couldn’t take it if Mom turned on me the same way so I tried desperately to be all those things she criticized Jerri for not being. Smart, good, well-mannered, obedient. If I could just be the daughter she wanted then she would love me. Or so I thought.

BTW, it didn’t work. And now I’m just totally screwed up.

So how do I find me? Good question. It’s not like I need to quit my job and backpack Europe for 6 months (although that would be AWESOME). I mean, I was standing right here when I lost me. The real me must be around here somewhere. She couldn’t have gotten that far.

Why is this so important? Why can’t I just go with who I am now? Because I want to live an authentic life. I want to narrate my own story in first person. To allow my mom or anyone else to narrate my story for me is to live a secondhand life. And that is just sad.

I want to be the person God intended. He put a lot into making me the person that I am. To reject that is like telling a kid his finger-painting sucks. When in fact, it’s a masterpiece when seen through his eyes. You have to embrace your true identity if you are going to fully experience all that God has for you here on planet earth. And I want the full experience. Because I can’t get my money back.

So I’m following Mark’s suggestion and mining my memories. Here is my earliest one. It feels somewhat prophetic.

    I’m standing on the banks of a creek with my sister and Sammy. I can’t see Sammy’s face, he’s behind me, but in all my memories of him, there is no face. There’s no head actually. It’s like I’m so small and he’s a giant beanstalk rising so high into the sky that his head is obscured by the clouds. So I don’t remember what he looks like. I know, however, that his skin is coffee-colored and creased with wrinkles – he is Marshallese – and he’s dressed in the khaki uniform of a U.S. marine.

    Sammy, an old bachelor, takes care of us from time to time. Maybe more frequently. Okay, a lot. So often in fact that my earliest memories, all of my Kwajalein memories, are of him and of Jerri. (We lived on Kwajalein, one of the Marshall Islands, until I was about four.) My parents are mysteriously absent.


    In my memory, there’s a bridge made of concrete blocks to my left. The creek runs under it and the arch is tall enough that Jerri and I can almost stand up and walk through. Jerri is near the bridge, crouching down in a cotton one-piece that ties at the shoulder and has elastic around the leg holes. She’s near the water’s edge picking up pebbles along the sandy bank. Her hair is mid-cheek-length and golden from the sun. It’s thick with a slight wave to it and held back on one side with a sky-blue barrette. The creek, itself, is pretty shallow, maybe a foot deep and about five across.

    It’s like being in a Peanuts movie where the adults are represented by only the “mwah mwah mwah” of their voices off camera. Sammy’s voice is behind me.

    20121215-150546.jpg“Stay away from the water now. There are electric eels in that creek. They’ll shock you if you touch them. You don’t want to be electrocuted, do you?”

    Electrocuted. How do I understand the meaning? I’m at most three. Somehow I do. I hear his words as if spoken by God. “Do not touch your hand to the waters of the creek lest the eels electrocute you and you shall surely die.” My chest flutters and my hands start to quiver.

    “Come back, Jerri. Don’t go there!”

    She tilts her head and laughs as she crabwalks closer to the stream. She is, maybe, four. She holds her hand out over the water, eyes sparkling, two rosy circles in the middle of her cheeks, smirking back at us.

    “Be careful now, Jerri.”

    Sammy’s warning only makes her more daring. She is fearless, my sister. Stupid, yes, but completely without fear. She is the most fearless person I will ever know. She dips her hand in the water.

    The eels are going to get her. I know this with every fiber of my being. She’s going to die unless I save her. It’s all up to me. She’s my responsibility. It’s the very first thought I can remember.

*Excerpt From: Batterson, Mark. “Soulprint.” Multnomah Books, 2011-01-18. iBooks.
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6 Comments on “Defining Moments”

  1. Cathy Alford says:

    I’m hanging out here!!! What happened??

    I’m so proud of you, Terri. Keep searching and keep writing. psssst. As you are searching for yourself, I hope you find all of the wonderful traits and blessings that we all know as “you.”

    Hugs and Merry Christmas.


    • An eel clamped on and dragged her under! No, not really. Apparently, nothing happened, at least nothing worth remembering. And turns out electric eels are freshwater fish. Found in the rivers of the Amazon in South American. Uh, Kwajalein is an island in the South Pacific. Seriously. The lies adults tell kids just to make them behave.

      Thanks for always encouraging me, Cathy. You’re the best! Oh – got your card today. There’s a new family member in the pic – is that your mom?

      • Cathy Alford says:

        I believe in you. 🙂 Yes, that’s my mom. She was in our picture last year, too. We do have a new member, though. Madeleine – PLease say a prayer for us. Still going through some legal things with her adoption.

  2. pajarigirls says:

    I nominated you for the Liebster Award because I want more people to read your words and know they are not alone. Here are the details of the award:

    • Wow! I’m honored. Will officially accept in an upcoming post. Your support means a lot.

      • pajarigirls says:

        You are so welcome. 🙂 I couldn’t believe you qualified in the “Less than 200 followers” department! As a recovering Trophy Daughter, may the force be with you ;). Looking forward to all the people your blog will help with its honesty and candor. Rock on.

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