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My Journey of Faith
By Madeline Medina-González
CrossBooksCopyright © 2014 Madeline Medina-González
All rights reserved.
METAMORPHOSIS: MY JOURNEY OF FAITH
On an island not too far away, in a place long ago, a mother was blessed with a baby girl named Madeline. Doctors had advised the mother not to have her because she had an innate heart condition that made it almost impossible for her to go through childbirth without complications. Even after those warnings, however, and the miscarriage of a baby boy, she risked her life to have Madeline and, later, her sister.
This is my story, and even though it did not begin as a fairy tale, I am so thankful God allowed her to have us. Jeremiah 1:5 says, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations." I always felt I was being set apart, but I did not understand why. I have come to the realization that God blessed me while I was inside my mother's womb, to accomplish a special purpose. This is when the grace of God began working in my life, and it is just the beginning of my journey of faith, a journey full of tears, pain, abandonment, rape, loneliness, illnesses, deliverance, grace, hope, restoration, and salvation.
Every butterfly is a caterpillar before it takes its beautiful form. It has to crawl its way around before transforming into a butterfly, a symbol of beauty. The butterfly develops through a process called metamorphosis, which is a Greek word that means "transformation" or "change in shape." There are four stages in the metamorphosis of a butterfly: the egg, the larva or caterpillar, the pupa or chrysalis, and finally the adult. This is the story of my metamorphosis.CHAPTER 2
STAGE I: THE EGG
The adult female butterfly lays her eggs on plants, which become food for the hatching caterpillars. To ensure the survival of at least some of the eggs, the female butterfly will lay many eggs at once. The coolest thing about butterfly eggs, especially monarch butterfly eggs, is if you look close enough, you can actually see the tiny caterpillar growing inside it. Some butterfly eggs may be round, oval, or ribbed, while others may have other features. The egg shape depends on the type of butterfly that laid the egg.
My mother was born with a congenital heart disease because my grandma had yellow fever during her pregnancy. When my mother was sixteen, she became the first person in Puerto Rico to undergo open-heart surgery at such a young age. She survived the surgery and continued with her life as best she could. She was very close with her grandmother, whom we called "Abuelita Maria." Abuelita was a special person in my life, my mother's life, and in the lives of her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and all who knew her as closely as we did. She was about four feet eleven inches tall and had wrinkled olive skin, small shiny eyes, and no teeth. She wore her long, thin, straight hair in a bun. She oversaw my mother's care and watched over us for many years.
She lived in a small wooden house that we loved so much. There was no running water, bathroom, or air conditioning, but it was full of love. We used to sit on the front steps to eat homemade soup. My cousins and I used to have competitions to see who would eat the most bowls of "gandules" (pigeon peas) soup. It was delicious! We played cards, we played with insects and chickens, and we played hide-and-seek in the cornfields and the pigeon peas plantations. My great-grandma would sit on a hammock and we would sit on the floor in front of her and sing hymns. She would brew black coffee and we would dip export soda crackers in it, until they got soggy, and eat them. Those were the happiest memories of my childhood. I learned to cherish the simplest things life has to offer, the things money cannot buy ... love.
My mother graduated high school and went to the University of Puerto Rico, about three hours away from our hometown of Aguada, to become a teacher. While she was there, she met a handsome former U.S. Armed Forces soldier, my dad. You see, God has ways of bringing people together. That day He made it rain, and while my dad was waiting for the rain to stop so he could cross to another building, my mother passed by and asked him to join her under the umbrella. That was the beginning of their story. They fell in love and were married at my maternal grandparents' house because they were both poor and could not afford an expensive wedding. My mother looked more beautiful that day than she ever had. Her smile lit up the room, and my father looked so handsome. They made a beautiful couple. In my eyes, my mother looked like Elizabeth Taylor when she was young, but she had a mole on her upper lip that made her look extra special.
My life changed when I was thirteen, however, because my mother went to be with the Lord. This stage of my life was like the butterfly laying the egg. Even though my mother was the adult butterfly who produced only two eggs — not nearly as many as other butterflies — God granted her the blessing of surviving heart surgery to become a mother. He blessed her for a higher purpose, a purpose that led me into a long journey.
I was a shy girl growing up, and unlike anyone else in my entire family, I had auburn, coarse, curly hair. I used to eavesdrop on my family's conversations, expecting my parents to mention I was adopted. I always felt different, like I did not belong, but could not understand why. I was always happiest when people told me I looked like my mother, not because of her beauty, but because I knew then that she gave birth to me. I never told anyone I felt this way and buried these memories in the back of my mind until the day I saw the cartoon, Madeline, for the first time. Madeline, the first in a series of children's books written by Austrian author Ludwig Behelmans, was the story of a seven-year-old French girl living in a boarding school in Paris with twelve other little girls. She was the smallest of them all and the only redhead. She looked so tiny compared to the other girls. She was very courageous and had a great heart to help others be better people. She was considered to be a gutsy little girl because she gave young girls a reason to explore who they were as individuals, even if that meant being a little disobedient.
The first time I saw the cartoon I was surprised to see how much Madeline physically resembled me when I was that age, especially her hair color. I even told someone jokingly that a photographer must have taken a picture of me for the cartoon inspiration. That brought back all the memories of how small I always felt growing up, not in size, but in spirit. I never saw myself as a courageous child like she was, but when I look back now, I see a different me. My silence and resilience could have been considered courageous for such a young child. I was never outspoken as a child, as she was, but I had a mind of my own that could have been considered a little rebellious. I always wanted to do everything right, and that bothered some of the other girls around me. They would pick on me and call me names, but I never held a grudge. I cherish the moments I spent alone in my bedroom playing with "Barbie" and of course "Ken". My favorite Christmas present was a big Barbie house I got when I was about eleven or twelve. I would make up the most beautiful love stories, and they always included me and a handsome prince. My school mates use to make fun of me because I still played with Barbie dolls. I feel that God has set apart this season of my life to be outspoken. I know that little girl in the story book and I have a very similar and unique purpose in life.
I did not go to kindergarten because I already knew how to read and write. That was the advantage of having a first-grade teacher for a mother. I started first grade the same day I turned five and was the youngest girl in my class all the way through high school. Being in my mother's classroom is one of the earliest memories I have of attending school in the rural part of town. I used to sit in the first row next to the classroom entrance and about the fourth chair from the front. During the first days of school, it was hard for me to understand that I was not home with my mom, and one day I kept getting up and walking to her desk. She took me by my ear, walked me back to my chair, and sat me down. That is when my mother became Mrs. Badillo. She had set her boundaries, and I began to learn respect for my superiors. To this day, I still have a lot of respect toward those in positions of authority.
One time, I wanted to go to the bathroom but kept insisting that I did not want to go alone. I always feared being alone. My mom was teaching, however, and could not leave the students by themselves in the classroom. So she finally sent one of the older girls from the class with me. Please keep in mind that when I say "older," I mean six or seven years old. When I stood in front of the bathroom, I saw a couple of really tall girls standing at the door and got so scared that I did not want to go inside. We used to have a lot of girl fights in school, and some of the girls would lock themselves in the bathroom so no one would separate them. That was probably the year I witnessed one, and it frightened me. Anyway, as I stood about five feet from the door, the girl who accompanied me told me to go in. I kept saying I was afraid to go in, and then I felt it. Down my leg came a warm, yellow liquid that reached my socks and shoes. Now I was really scared, and wet. We walked back to my mother's classroom, and I had to sit there wet for the rest of the day.
I wet the bed until I was eleven, but now I was wetting myself in the daytime, as well. One day, I wanted to go to Girl Scout camp, but my mother said I could not go because of my bed-wetting disasters. I was ten years old at the time. I was so upset that I kept promising her I would never wet my bed again. Thank God she believed me because after that camp, I never did. I knew I would make my mother proud even though she did not say it. Until I reached adulthood, I never figured out why I wet the bed as a child. My mother used to safety pin big cloth diapers on me. When I outgrew them, she placed a large plastic cover on my bed with a sheet on top every night in case I had an accident. That was my mommy/daughter time with Mom. I cherished it so much that I held onto it as long as I could, not purposely but subconsciously.
My father was the principal of that same school, about fifteen minutes from town. My sister and I both attended that school instead of the one all the other neighborhood kids attended because it was easier for my parents. I went to school from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Because the school closed at 5:30 p.m.; however, we had to stay in school most of the day unless my dad could take us home during his lunch break where Abuelita Maria was waiting for us. On the days I stayed in school all day, I did my homework and read books in the school library until my parents were ready to take me home. Sometimes I was the only one in the library, but every year I received a library award for reading more books than any other student in school. I was so proud of that. One of the library walls was actually about twenty-five feet of windows, overlooking a path that led to a little kiosk where candy, sandwiches, and sodas were sold. I spent many days looking out that window while sitting alone for hours at a long table. When I was only ten years old, I saw the guy who became my first crush, from that window. One day I decided to write him a poem. Even though I was just a little girl, my writing as a means of communication had begun.
I always tried to go unnoticed everywhere I went, but that was not easy, being the principal's daughter, though it did keep me from getting in trouble one time. My math teacher at the time walked with a cane and always leaned on it while she wrote on the blackboard. Her long nails sometimes scratched the board and made a screeching noise. One day when that happened, for whatever reason, I chuckled out loud and it echoed all over the classroom. The teacher turned around and asked, "Who did that?" To my amazement, everyone, including myself, remained silent. That is when I realized my peers liked me and I felt like I belonged. That particular teacher has been with the Lord for many years, but about three years ago, I found her daughters on Facebook and that memory came back to me, though I still feel guilty because I never told her I was the one who was laughing that day. At the time, though, I was so afraid the principal was going to punish me for causing such a stir.
My father was orphaned at five and, like my mother, he found it hard to express his feelings. He ran away from anything that made him show emotions, including me at times. The fact that I was an emotional child made him uptight. After the death of his parents, he went to live with his godparents, along with one of his five siblings. I cannot imagine what a five-year-old must feel like after losing his parents and then being separated from most of his siblings. I do not know for sure what kind of childhood he had because he does not like to speak much about it. Despite the fact that his life was not easy, however, I am proud to say he graduated high school with honors, and when he turned eighteen, he joined the Armed Forces and served our country in Korea. After he received his college degree, he married my mother, and while we were still very young, he went to New York to pursue a Master's Degree in Supervision. While I only have a faint memory of him leaving, I do remember that he was working in New York at a factory that made brass receptacle covers, and he brought home a few. I call him "Papito," and so did a lot of my friends. We still do. My father has a great love for fishing. He used to go on fishing trips to La Mona Island, off the Puerto Rican shores, while my mom was still alive. One day when it was storming, my dad hadn't returned home on time, so my mother took my sister and me to our parents' bedroom, and the three of us kneeled by the bed with our hands together and prayed for my dad's safe return home. God answered that prayer; I know He has always been close to us.
On another occasion, some other men, including the father of my parents' goddaughter, flew to La Mona on a small plane for another fishing trip. For some reason, my dad ended up not going. The plane disappeared and was never found. Today I know God stopped him from getting on that plane. Since I lost my mother only a few years later, God had spared my father's life because He knew my sister and I would be orphaned otherwise, just as he was.
That was not the only time He spared my dad's life, however. Less than a year after my mother passed, my father drove off a cliff, and his only injury was a dislocated shoulder. Even though I did not realize it back then, God stopped the car from rolling all the way down the cliff. On another occasion my father took us, along with many other people, on a fishing trip on wooden boat named "El Trifacico". We went to El Desecheo Island off the west coast of Puerto Rico. On the way back, we faced a bad storm. The boat was rocking, and the water was splashing over the boat, soaking everyone. I remember holding on to the boat for dear life; then I looked into the water and saw it. There it was, a huge whirlpool, and the boat was skirting its edge. I cannot remember what I was thinking at that time. I know I was not screaming, for I was mute with fear. I believe God spared us from being swallowed by that horrible looking whirlpool. He also saved my father and stepmother from death in 1984 when they faced a head-on collision with a drunk driver. God has always been around us.
On January 16, 1976, my mother went to be with the Lord. Unbeknownst to me at the time, she had about six months to live. One of her arteries was clogged and doctors were afraid to perform a cauterization without risking her life. So, without going through the surgery, she chose to live out the time she had left. Even though no one ever told us about her illness, I knew something was not right because she started talking to us more than she usually did. One day I went into her bedroom and she asked me to roll her hair. I noticed she had makeup on, so I asked her if she was going somewhere. She replied, "Women should always look good for their husbands; they should see you looking nice when they get home." That was precious advice to me. Sometimes she would take my sister and me to the kitchen, and while she was teaching us how to cook, she would say, "You have to learn how to cook in case you have to take care of your father someday." I used to ask her why she was saying that, but she never answered me. She was a very giving woman, and even though we did not go to church every Sunday, her actions told me she was a woman of God.
Every Christmas she would buy presents for children less fortunate than we were, and my dad, sister, and I would accompany her when she was delivering them. Being as shy as I was, however, I always waited for her in the car, along with my dad and my sister. Suddenly the children, with big smiles on their faces, would follow her outside their home. Young girls at school always asked her if they could come to our house to clean for a few dollars. So she brought them over, just to spend the weekend with us, as they helped my sister and me with the chores. Then we all played in the yard together. Since my mother was always fatigued, my sister and I did all the chores in the house. My mom cooked on the weekends because my Abuelita Maria cooked at our house Monday through Friday. She loved my mom so much!
Excerpted from Metamorphosis by Madeline Medina-González. Copyright © 2014 Madeline Medina-González. Excerpted by permission of CrossBooks.
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Table of Contents
Metamorphosis: My Journey of Faith,
Stage I: The Egg,
Stage II: Larva or Caterpillar, The Feeding Stage,
Stage III: Pupa, The Transition Stage,
Stage IV: Butterfly, The Reproductive Stage,