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A Bouquet for the Ballerina
By Dave Franco

Had Jen Poston’s rise not been so meteoric, her fall might not have been so hard. It all started when she was ten years old, sitting in an auditorium watching her friend dance the Nutcracker Suite. She was so smitten by the beauty she saw onstage that she proclaimed that her future would be spent as a ballerina. One year later, she began ballet classes. Before she graduated high school, the girl who became known for having the perfect point was dancing on the main stages for the San Francisco, Boston, and Houston ballet companies.

After graduation, she headed off to Arizona and began her dream, confident and determined. She moved into an apartment down the street from the Ballet Arizona company, who had offered her a contract, paid her own bills, and started living life as a professional dancer on her own terms. She was lavishing in the beauty of the costumes, choreography, the performances, and a dream that came true. But along the tops of those perfect feet a problem began to brew. Pain on both the cuniform bones began to hurt so badly, she couldn’t ignore it as just one of those nasty pains that ballerinas have to live with.

Trips to the doctor revealed problems and courses of action that she didn’t want to hear—things like bones that needed to be shaved, metal pins, lots of pain, and the worst of all, a lengthy rehabilitation consisting of being out of toe shoes and thus, sidelined as a ballerina.

Standing in the wings of the theater as her friends performed broke her. The artistic director allowed her to be put on stage in roles that required little movement, but she felt like a prop. Time was passing and still, her feet continued to hurt.

When the artistic director asked her to meet him in his office, she somehow knew what the conversation would be about. “I can’t keep you through your entire rehab, Jen,” he said. “I’m going to have to let you go.”

She had no money, and therefore, no way to sustain her lifestyle. There was only one option. She had to return home.

Being back in her room, walking down the same halls, sitting down at the same dinner table brought with it the sense that a terrible joke had been played on her. She wanted her parents to take her by the hand so they could all lament together that so much beauty, so much of who she was, had been ripped away. But nothing was ever spoken. There was no acknowledgement that the most awful thing that could happen had actually happened, that a dream had been dashed. Instead, they gave her a curfew, chores around the house, and enforced the same rules that were in place before she left. Even her little brothers were there to fight for counter space, TV time, and a return to bugging their big sister. She couldn’t think of life as a non-dancer, so she tried not to. The beautiful ballerina sat and looked out of her window like a caged bird.

She knew she needed to take control. It started when she went to the refrigerator. She opened it up, looked at the food, and then shut the door. It felt good to her. She had made a decision about the small hunger pang in her belly. It wasn’t going to have its way with her. She beat it into submission. By depriving her body of food, she was taking control. It soon began to spin out of control.

Losing weight off of her already slight frame made her look gaunt and struck fear in the hearts of her parents. She added laxatives to her diet so she could eat in front of parents and keep up the lie that she was really trying to raise her weight. Her new-found party life also helped keep up the charade. The more she drank, the more she threw up. It was perfect.

She spent two years pursuing a degree in Speech Language Pathology from San Jose State University, all the while keeping up her party life and dating different boys who loved her in a variety of dysfunctional ways. In the wake of her dream being taken from her, she weighed less than 100 pounds, was drinking to excess, smoking pot, and dating a long list of Mr. Wrongs. But things were finally about to look up.

She and her live-in boyfriend decided to start a business that offered a new approach for the development of kids with autism. It met with success almost immediately.

Things were really taking off for Jen. She was in a long-term relationship with a charming and smart guy, and she was now making a great deal of money with a new purpose and career path set before her. Her shattered dream of a life spent in the ballet was finally beginning to look like a distant object in the rearview mirror. She had raised herself up. She had earned this new place in life. She felt good.

Then, in the course of running her business, her lover admitted he was having an affair with an employee. Jen reacted like she had been cold cocked to the back of her skull. It knocked her nearly senseless. She lay distraught on her bed, crying as if her life had been nothing more than a set up to tragedy. She was once again with nowhere to turn, no one to care. Her business was gone. Her love was gone. She was sick and tired of fighting and giving in to her eating disorder. Her life was again in shambles.

She reached out to her friend Angie who invited her to stay with her and her husband, and their brand new baby in nearby San Ramon. That night, as Jen lay sobbing on the edge of the guestroom bed, she drank so she could vomit and pleaded with God to take her in the middle of the night. “Please God,” she prayed. “I don’t want to wake up, I’m begging you to not let me wake up.” She meant every word of it.

In the morning, she did wake up. She spent the rest of the day making arrangements to leave the home she and her boyfriend had shared, and when she arrived back at Angie’s house, the usually baby-messy home was immaculate with a chicken potpie in the oven and candles on the table.

“What’s going on here?” Jen asked.
“Go put some makeup on. I have a friend coming over,” Angie replied a bit coyly.

About twenty minutes later as Jen came down the hall, Angie was inviting a tall, handsome man with a friendly smile inside the house. “Bobby this is Jen, Jen this is Bobby.” When she put her hand in his, it was almost a done deal right there. The former pro pitcher’s large, strong hand exuded such power, Jen felt like he was shaking her heart.

“Nice to meet you, Bobby,” Jen said without a hint of easy cool. The next order of business for Jen would be to show that what just appeared to be nerves, wasn’t.

The night was glorious. The conversation flowed and the laughs came without effort. Bobby revealed a little of his baseball past and his upcoming move to Nashville to pursue a recording contract to sing Christian music. When it was time to eat, Bobby led the prayer with the same ease that it takes a well-mannered gentleman to put a napkin on his lap. He spoke to God like He was someone he knew very well.

At 2AM, after playing games and laughing into the night, Bobby pulled himself away to go home. Jen went to bed with one resounding thought in her mind, What just happened?

The next morning, Angie and family were packing to go on a trip. “Where are you going?” Jen asked just after pulling herself out of bed. “We have a family get together in Lake Tahoe. You’re coming with us.”
“I am?”

They made the two-hour ride to their lakeside getaway through the picturesque, snow-covered mountains with Jen sizzling over what had happened the night before. The next day, without Jen knowing this was the plan, Bobby arrived to join them. She was ecstatic. Her next order of business was to show that everything that appeared to be excitement, wasn’t.

The day and night at Lake Tahoe was even more joyous than the previous night. With a snowstorm pelting lightly against the windows and a fire raging in the fireplace, Jen gave Angie frequent shakes to her knee under the dinner table to convey her I’m-going-out-of-my-mind emotions. When it came time for Bobby to leave, they found that nobody was going anywhere that night. The roads could not be used due to all of the snow that had fallen. Their time together would continue.

That night, lying in the guest bedroom while Bobby was on the living room couch, she was shrouded in confusion. How does any of this fit into my life right now?

The next morning, Bobby asked if Jen would ride down the mountain with him. She was only too happy to oblige.

It was then that he began to ask questions about whether she had a relationship with Jesus Christ. Jen revealed that while she had known God since she was a little girl, the relationship had gone dormant. Bobby talked about his own life’s struggles and how receiving Jesus in his heart changed everything. He was desperately in love with Jesus and owed everything in his life to Him. When Bobby prayed over her, she began to cry.

The next night at Angie’s house, it was late and everyone had gone to bed. There was a knock on the door. Jen, being closest to it, rushed to get it. It was Bobby.

“What are you doing here?” she asked in the dim glow of the porch light.
Bobby took a moment to answer, as if he had just found himself standing there. “I don’t know.”

Jen invited him in and quietly closed the door.

“I just drove all the way over here, and I don’t even know why,” Bobby said in hushed tones. “I want to be with you, and I think you want to be with me, right?”
“Well…yes. But why me? Why are you here for me?”
“I don’t know,” he said again, still searching his mind.
“Look, Bobby. I am a broken person. Just a couple of days ago, I found out that my boyfriend is cheating on me. That night, I was begging God to let me die. My life is in shambles. I have an eating disorder. I am in no condition to enter into a new relationship right now.”

“All the way up to Lake Tahoe I kept asking God why I was still driving,” Bobby offered. “My mom has cancer and I wanted to be at her side, and even though she told me herself that she wanted me to go up there and be with you, I couldn’t understand why I was still driving. I pleaded with God to give me a flat tire, a road closure—anything to turn me around. But I kept driving. I don’t know if I’m here to tell you about Jesus. I don’t know if I’m here to bring you back to faith. I don’t know if I’m here to be with you for the rest of my life. But I do know that you are supposed to experience what it is like to be with a Christian man who’s committed to treating a woman in a godly way.”

“But you’re going to be leaving for Nashville in just two months,” Jen replied. “That’s your dream. How does this make any sense? Why would you take such a risk with your dream?”

“Listen to me. I’m ready to take the risk. Will you take the risk with me and see what happens? Will you let go and let God?” Jen was stunned. She couldn’t believe that four days after her darkest moment, a beam of light came from the sky that seemed to signal a new life.

“I’m going to treat you how I know God wants me to,” Bobby continued, “and what that means is, I won’t be going to bed with you while we’re dating. I’ve made that commitment. You deserve someone who is called to something higher. You’re worth it.”

Suddenly, the de-winged ballerina, the girl who was made to shed her spectacular costumes and concert halls was suddenly being adorned in the grandest, most beautiful bouquet of respect and love she had ever experienced. Her heart was dancing like her body never could.

“Jen. Will you take that risk with me? Will you let go and let God?”

It wasn’t until three months later that Bobby felt all uncertainty fall away, knew that he was in love with Jen, and that God had indeed called him to be with her. In that time, Jen had fallen in love with Bobby and gave her life to Christ, relishing new life in Him.

Bobby and Jen were married fourteen months later and today have three children, Parker, Madison, and Mackenzie, ages eight, five, and one. The Postons attend Rock Church's North County campus.

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