December 16, 1996 – Monday – 1:00 a.m.

After my last entry, I took Nate and David to church so they could go caroling with the youth group.  Can you believe little Nate is in the youth group?

After I dropped them off, I went to fill the car up with gas.  From there, I called Tenielle.  I told her I was coming to see her and that we would go for ride.

I drove into their driveway and three guys I had never seen before were out there working on their car.  I nodded and said “hi.”  They nodded as I walked by and one said, “kick his butt David.”

I kept walking.

Once inside, I saw Jenna.  She was wearing a skimpy little top.  She looked grown up, but I knew she was still only a little girl.  Tenielle came into the living room.  There she was, it was her.  I asked her who was outside.

“Herb is Jenna’s boyfriend and David is mine,” she said.

David, I didn’t know about a David.  But all of her boyfriends are simply games, I didn’t worry about it.

We left.  We went to San Lee park and walked and talked.  She smoked in front of me and acted super weird.

“I can’t act the same way around you Jacob.”  She said.

I told her I didn’t want her to ruin her life and that I wanted her to stay close to the Lord.

She isn’t the same person, but she says I’m the same.

“Everybody changes except for Jacob!!” she shouted to the world while we were walking.

I took some pictures of her.  Good pictures.

The park was closing, so we left and went to the park where Veronica used to live.  The last time we were there Jenna was with us.  That park is near the forest that was chopped down.  That wood pile was still there.  Tenielle and I stood on it with our arms around each other as the sun went down and God painted pink on the evening sky.

We were there on January 4, 1996 and we were there on December 15, 1996.  That is how we opened and closed that part of our history.

I took her home and we smiled and said our goodbyes.

I drove down to High Falls and went to their youth meeting.  They told me about Fishnet; how I wish I could have gone.

When I got home, I called Mike’s house and found out he was working at Movie Max.  I went there to see him and then we went to Asheboro to see Jerry Maquire.  Wow.  That movie had me from beginning to end.  And it ended beautifully, “love your wife.”  I left nearly in tears.

“Everybody changes except for Jacob!!”

That can’t be true, can it?

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June 10, 1996 – Monday – 1:00 p.m.

Church was really nice yesterday; Jim spoke on holiness.

The cafeteria was empty during lunch.  I ate in my solitude and enjoyed myself.  Right now, it seems as if I am enjoying being alone.  I did some homework yesterday and then went for a run.  We had skit practice that night.  Everyone showed up except for Laura.  I called her up and she felt terrible that she forgot.  We talked some more, but we’ll pick it up on next Sunday.

That evening some of the youth group members and Charlie and I went to the park and then went to the movies.  I suggested Sense and Sensibility, and Charlie said, “Is that like Dumb and Dumber?”  He was serious.  I just smiled and he took that as a yes.  Needless to say, those kids were not expecting a costume drama, a couple of the boys fell asleep, but the girls loved it.  And I loved it!  It’s now one of my favorite films of all time!

Sherry has begun to flirt with me regularly.  She is 5’10” and (if wearing makeup) very pretty.  I called her up today and she just kept acting stupid.  She wouldn’t be serious for anything.  I just pulled the phone away from my ear and wished I was talking to Laura instead.

I wonder how this summer will end?

Will I find the love that lasts a lifetime?

Or will it find me much later in life?

December 30, 1995 – Saturday – 5:00 p.m.

Last night was interesting.  Scott and I went to Asheboro.  He wanted to see Toy Story, so I saw it again for the third time.  It was still funny and magical.

After the movie, we just drove around from Asheboro to Pittsboro to Sanford to Siler City.  We had a good talk.  Scott has been through a lot since I last saw him.  He has gotten himself into some weird relationships, but he is good now and seeing a decent girl.  He has a steady job, is getting his own place, and now wants to get married.

I guess it’s the next logical step, but it made me appreciate the fact that I was going to college.  I want a steady job and I want to get married, but I could tell that Scott’s mind hadn’t grown, his worldview hadn’t expanded, he had just surrounded himself with other people who weren’t going to college and it felt like they weren’t really benefitting each other.

This morning was really difficult.  I am so used to waking up in my own room with no one there to get in the way and everything working smoothly.  Everything went so wrong this morning and I got really homesick and angry.

My own mother, rather than saying she understood what I was going through and trying to empathize with me, just said that if I acted that way when I was married that I wouldn’t be married for long.

I asked her why she always has to bring marriage up with me.  Just because she got divorced didn’t mead I would.  I told her that who I am now, the angry person that I am, the frustrations, the sadness; it’s not me.  I can’t be me in this house.  I was me when I was on that stage at Heaton Christian Church surrounded by all of those children in Lone Star Gulch.  I can be me in Banner Elk, because there I feel loved and I love and it feels like home and I feel a beating heart in my chest!

Home is where the heart is.

I couldn’t stand it anymore.  I was in tears.  I grabbed the rollerblades that Vince let me borrow and I drove to Sanford.  I rollerbladed at Kiwanis, listened to my new Enya tape and tried to remember me.  I even read all of the journal entries in this section that I wrote while at home in Banner Elk.

I’m doing a lot better now.

As I was driving back, I realized that 1995 was over.  I don’t have my other journals with me, so I will just have to depend on my memory for this.

In 1993 you read about a 17-year-old loving a youth group that would eventually fall apart by the time 1994 arrived.  I got a job at McDonald’s, I dreamed Winter Dreams, I met Emily, and just before the year ended I met Jenna and Tenielle.

In 1994 I wrote to Emily while adoring and being adored by my new friends Jenna and Tenielle.  I went to Deep Creek with Jonathan.  I went to Fishnet.  I said goodbye as a storm blew me away to a world I began to love.

I was taken to Cincinnati.

In fact, I was in Cincinnati when 1995 began.  But I threw Cincinnati away and Emily and I wrote and fell in love with each other’s written words.  A summer of McDonald’s, water gun fights, movies, Fishnet, and Crestview came and went as well as my heart.  A wonderful semester began with my birthday, new friends, and Antigone.  Others saw me as talented.  My pen pal came back to me, and now I dream of a beautiful girl and a beautiful cottage while saying goodbye to the waterfall as it flows back to Florida.

And then the snow came, and the Christmas play, but I had to say goodbye and grew horribly homesick the first day I was away.

. . .

And so 1996 is just over a  day away.  I try to find a single phrase to sum up 1995, but I can’t.

All is said and done.  The unspoken words cannot be taken back.  I will not try to forget.  I will not try to remember.

Is it really just a little planet.?

Do I have any control?

Are my smiles and frowns really mine?

I often wonder if I’m really on this little planet.  If this is really my face.  It’s as if I was in heaven, at home, and the Lord came up to me and said, “I’m sorry Jacob, but it’s your time.  You have to go down to earth.  You have to have a body, and you have to try and survive down.  It won’t take long, just a little while.  And don’t worry, I’ll help you until it’s time to return.”

It’s like I was handed a mask and told I wasn’t able to take it off.  Only God can do that.

Do people see the mask, or do they see me?

What do I see?

I don’t know, and I’ll drive myself crazy trying to figure it out.  All I know is that I’m on my way home; not only to Banner Elk, but to Heaven.

And I have only one wish, just one thing I pray…

That I remember only the good days, that I remember all of the best days.  That I forget the pain, the shame and that I only remember the joys, only the love.

Only the love, as I walk on the roads under heaven.

December 23, 1995 – Saturday – 11:17 a.m.

From my parents last night, I received some clothes, a cassette case, some tapes, and some mousse for my hew haircut.

It was fun.

There was some talk last night concerning Tenielle and Kevin and John.  I don’t know everything; I don’t need to know everything.  None of it concerns me whatsoever.  But John has lost some sense of reality.  He feels trapped because of his job, his wife, and his five kids.  Tenielle has never had a father figure and she clung to Shurby just like she clung to John.  But Shurby didn’t let his life get out of whack, just because a beautiful 14-year-old girl adored him.  To John however, it made him feel young again.  He grew jealous of Kevin and abused his authority as youth pastor to try and tell him what to do.  Kevin went to Pastor Steve and Pastor Steve ordered John to never go near Tenielle again and takes him down from his position as youth pastor and as trumpet player on the worship team.

John’s marriage however, is falling apart.  Kevin is discouraged because he looked up to John, his lifestyle, his family, and John threw it all away.  Kevin told me last night that it tore up his spiritual life so much that he couldn’t even pray or read the Bible anymore.

And Pastor Steve feels like he is all alone in trying to take care of these people.  He feels like no one is listening.  He feels like a failure.

I see all of this.  I have eyes.  I am a red light.

But Pastor Steve is not a failure.  He has saved me.  He has changed my life.  Abundant Life may be dying around him, but there is an abundant life in me that is helping my world:  Banner Elk.

He helped bring Allen to the Lord and I’m going to tell him that.

Endtime Warriors.

Emmanuel Players.

Abundant Life.

They will never die.

And I will see to that.

October 18, 1995 – Wednesday – 10:30 p.m.

I’m at Crystal and Clifton’s house now.  I got here around 5 o’clock p.m.  It was only Crystal and I for a while.  We just talked for two hours then went to church.  She is a good friend; almost like a sister.  Church was fun tonight.  I went to the youth group and we took a little trip to Wildcat Lake.

Tonight, Crystal, Clifton, and their mom Leslie and I watched a movie called Bye Bye Love.  It was so wonderful.  It was about divorce and I have been there.  I could understand those people.

I am from a divorced family.  It isn’t easy.  It’s very hard.  If my marriage is going to end in divorce, then I would rather not get married.

For some reason I sometimes think that once a career begins, life will be over because I will have established a routine, a permanent lifestyle.  But that movie proved me wrong.  Nothing ever stops.  These days will never end.

They will change, but they will not end.

Millions of little things have happened the first half of this first semester of my Sophomore year.

But as for now, I am sitting on a couch in the living room on the side of a mountain in Heaton, North Carolina.

And very few people realize I am actually here.

September 20, 1995 – Wednesday – 3:37 p.m.

I have a little time now.

Kevin called me yesterday.  He sounded fine, but as we continued to talk I noticed something about his tone.  Then he said that he told our mom that he was never going to go home again.  I asked him what happened, but he said he couldn’t tell me.  But after a minute past, he began to pour it out.  My eyes were soaked in tears by the time our conversation was over.

During most of the month of August, while I was working at McDonald’s, spending every waking moment thinking about Emily, going to Florida, and then preparing to leave for college, all of this happened.  But Marcus and Kevin did not tell me.  Anyway, John, the youth pastor at Abundant Life Christian Center was concerned for Tenielle and my brother Kevin because they were such good friends.  He was concerned because Kevin is 20-years-old and Tenielle is only 13.

However, John and Tenielle became good friends, because Tenielle, not ever having a father in her life, always opens up to her youth pastor.  Tenielle began spending a lot of time over at John’s house.  They would joke around a lot, even wrestle each other.  John is over 40-years-old. John told Kevin that he has no business being close friends with anyone under the age of 18.  And John felt Kevin and Marcus were too old to be in the youth group, so he asked them to leave.

But what is most disturbing is that Kevin took a picture of Tenielle and John wrestling and John got really upset, saying that such a picture could get him fired if it got into the wrong hands.  Kevin also told me that sometimes when it was just him and John talking, John would say things like, “my wife is getting too fat, I’m going to have to divorce her and marry Tenielle.”  Then he would say he was just kidding, but you don’t joke around about such things.

I believe John has a problem.  He is over 40 and married to a wonderful woman who bore him five beautiful children.  He is a chef, an amazing trumpet player, and a youth pastor.  Why is he risking all of that?  When we talked at Kiwanis Park on the 30th of July, he told me he envied me because of my youth.  I believe John feels like he is trapped and that Tenielle is his ticket to freedom.  But he’s thinking so irrationally!  Tenielle didn’t die for his sins!!  Doesn’t he know what he’s looking for can only be found in Jesus?  The youth group at Abundant Life has practically disappeared.  Jenna does not go because she sees John as a liar; someone who tells Kevin to stop doing something that he is doing twice as worse.

There is more however.  John went to Mom and Clay about this and they both agreed, thinking that Kevin has a problem with young girls.  My own mother went so far as to say that he might even be sexually harassing John’s two little girls.  As he told me this, I grew sick in my stomach and cried.  My whole body ached.

Kevin is at college now.  He is completely turned off to our old church and our home.  Yet as I sat there with my phone to my ear, I told him that the best days our youth group has ever known were it’s days with Jason, when he was also leading our skit group.

Kevin agreed.

I told him that was the most perfect and pure time of my life.  Everyone was one body.  We were there for each other.  I told him that even now, in everything that I do, I strive to create or find days like the ones that began three years ago.

Does Jason know what he has done?  Does he realize the impact he has made on our lives?  Does he know?  What if those days are happening now and I don’t even realize.  Because three years ago, I didn’t realize they were going on.

Oh Father God!  Heal us all.  Heal my brother.  Heal John.

Help me realize the joy of today.

I adore you Lord!  You are the Ancient of Days!  And you are the giver of all of my days.  Everything I have ever loved about my home has passed away.

You are my home Lord.

I long to abide in you.

July 31, 1995 – Monday – 8:53 p.m.

July 1995 is almost over.

August is a few hours away.

August will be amazing.  Yesterday itself was amazing.  I went to church, went to the fellowship, went to High Falls, then wen to Aberdeen with Brad, Michael, and Kenny to eat.

The fellowship was very special.  Wayne’s dad John, the current youth pastor, wasn’t having the best day.  There is something about John, he knows, he sees.  Perhaps he is a red light like Emily and I.  We spent some time talking.  He told me his problem and what was on his mind.  And knowing this was my last Sunday, he gave me some very great words of wisdom.  Like he said last year before I left:

“I envy you.”

He went on to tell me how he wished he would have pushed himself so much harder through college.  He told me to do it now.

“Do it all now.”

Really, only two or three pages have been turned in my very huge Book of Days.

His story is currently in the middle.  And I get the sense he’s not content with his life.

As I was about to leave, Marcus and 13-year-old Chris were just playing around and trying to throw each other to the ground.  I said to John, “You see that boy, he is going to be my age one day and you’re going to mean a lot to him.  Right now, all he is concerned about is throwing people on the ground, but when he is my age, he will want to lift them up, and that’s going to be because of you.”

John looked at me deeply and said, “Hug me before I cry.”

He held my body so tight.  And every fiber of he being seemed to scream out “PLEASE!!”

Please what?  I thought.

But I knew.

“Please, do it all now.”  He obviously has regrets and he doesn’t want me to.

Two or three pages.

Is that all?

Are nine books really just two or three pages?

My adventure is just beginning.