She’s been around the community for years. My friend Anne Jackson’s second book, Permission to Speak Freely – Essays and Art on Fear, Confession and Grace releases today. I’ve asked her to share one of the essays from her book with you. Anne decided to share seven essays on seven different blogs, this being the third. For the rest of the essays, check out the links at the end.

Anne is also giving away a copy of her book to two ragamuffin readers, chosen at random, on Friday. So answer the question at the end and leave a comment to be entered to win.

You can pick up a copy of the book here.

Essay #3

My dad “resigned” in April of my sophomore year. Months went by, the
summer passed, and I thought maybe, just maybe, we’d end up staying in
Abilene. After all, this was the longest we had lived anywhere. I
began my junior year, was doing great academically, and had started
playing basketball again after hurting my knee the year before.

The only two people I trusted in the world were there—my best friend,
Julie; and the object of my first starry-eyed romance, a senior named
Nathan, who worked at IHOP and made the most amazing cherry cokes for

A month or two into my junior year, my mom got a job offer to teach at
an elementary school in Dallas.

It was time to move.

Leaving Abilene meant leaving Julie and Nathan. And leaving Julie and
Nathan meant leaving a hole in my heart bigger than the state of

The first sixteen years of my existence had included church, farming,
basketball, and more church. Before moving to Dallas, Abilene was the
largest city I’d lived in, and with three Christian colleges and a
church on every corner, it was just about as full of Churchianity as a
place could get.

Dallas was different.

Sure, there was still a church on every corner, but on the highways
were strip clubs, big malls, and more billboards per square mile than
I’d ever seen in my days living in West Texas. There were more than
four radio stations, and many of them used words I had never heard

My dad was markedly depressed and withdrawn, and our family was pretty much
financially ruined. When I enrolled in school, I learned that since I
had been on an honors track my first two years of high school, I had
more credits than a typical junior.

My school counselor informed me if I dropped out of the honors program
and stuck to the regular track, I could graduate as a junior that
year. And if I graduated as a junior, that meant I could move out and
move back to Abilene, back to Nathan (and Julie, too, of course). If
all went as planned, I would graduate a couple of months after my
seventeenth birthday.

This new high school was enormous: well over five hundred kids in my
grade and over two thousand on campus. And it was certainly more
diverse than Abilene. Girls in the orchestra would make out in the
bathrooms, and there were boys who wore makeup and had various body
parts pierced.

We didn’t go to church anywhere. We tried a few times, but it was too
painful—for my dad, because he saw someone else in the pulpit living
out his dream, and for my mom, because she projected her heartbreak
and lack of trust on the members of whatever church we visited.

Even though I had officially told God I wanted nothing to do with Him,
the culture shock of my new territory drove me to find comfortable
space. I got a job working at a Christian bookstore down the road
(aside from seminary students, there’s nobody more knowledgeable about
Bibles and Christian products than a lifelong preacher’s kid).

At the bookstore, we got a poster to hang in our window for that
year’s “See You at the Pole,” an annual event where students gather
around their school’s flagpole and pray. At my school in Abilene, I
was one of the leaders every year. I wondered if my new school was
participating, because I hadn’t seen anything about it.

I checked around and found out that nobody had ever conducted a “See
You at the Pole” at my new school. After making some calls to some
churches and sending e-mails to some pastors, I tracked down a local
youth minister who said he had some material I could use to start it
up and advertise it.

Because we didn’t go to church anywhere and he wasn’t my youth pastor,
we arranged to meet at a local Wal-Mart so he could hand off the
posters and leader’s kit. My mom drove me to the store, and I waited
for him in the food court. He showed up, looking barely old enough to
be called a pastor, wearing a ball cap. We sat down to go over the

It was going to be difficult to get momentum going because the event
was only two weeks away, but I tried my best. Nervous that nobody
would show up and I’d look like an idiot rocking out to the latest DC
Talk album and praying by a flagpole alone, when the morning of the
prayer time approached, I stood off to the side to see if anyone even
came close.

Nobody did.

So I went on to English class, once again certain that my decision to
leave my faith behind was a good one.

A couple of days later, the youth pastor called to see how things went.

And then he asked me over to his place to watch a movie.


What about you? Did you move a lot growing up or did you stay in the same place?

For the first essay, visit Don Miller’s blog here and follow the chain…

For the next essay, visit Pete Wilson’s blog here.