Part 2: Misconceptions – Lost in Translation

Part 2: Misconceptions – Lost in Translation

Genesis 11:9 “That is why the city was called Babel, because that is where the Lord confused the people with different languages. In this way he scattered them all over the world.”

            The word babble has always been one of my favorite words. It is a good “story-telling” word that I use when I am trying to get the point across that someone is talking for a very long time without saying anything. I ask my kids sometimes, “What are you babbling about?” If I’m relaying a story about someone that won’t stop talking, I’ll say something like, “This pompous windbag was driving me crazy with his incessant babbling.” It’s a great word and it makes me giggle a little inside when I use it.

            I feel like I can use this word because I’ll be honest, if you haven’t guessed from the way I write, I like to talk. Sometimes, I’m the one babbling incessantly and driving other people crazy. What’s this got to do with price of tea in China? (My grandma used to say that sometimes, and I have no idea what it means but it seems fitting here.) Well, I was listening to a Youtube church lesson from Pastor Michael Todd called Crazy Faith and he said that sometimes God uses “his translation.” The tower of Babel came to my mind.

            If you don’t know the story, Genesis 11 is about a time in the world where everyone spoke the same language and used the same words. People had settled in a place called Babylonia and began to build a huge tower so that they could be famous all over the world. They had just learned how to make bricks, so they were using them to build this huge tower that went up to the heavens.

            I started researching a little bit about why that was a big deal. In the Ancient History Encyclopedia, it talks about how Babylon was a city of great wealth and prosperity. It became the most powerful and influential city in all of Mesopotamia. This place was beautiful and was considered to be one of the 7 Wonders of the World. Not only was it big and beautiful, but it was also one of the learning centers of the world. People came to Babylon because it was a place for scholars. It was where all the smart people hung out. Babylon was a place to be proud of.

Back in “Bible” times, monuments were resurrected to God, but the people of Babylon wanted to make another monument…which in and of itself wasn’t wrong. But they wanted to build a tower to themselves. It was going to be bigger than all of God’s monuments and they wanted to build it so they would be famous. They wanted the recognition, the clout, the awe to be of themselves and not of God. The Hebrews were supposed to be God’s chosen people and they wanted to make a tower that told everybody they deserved that recognition and that clout.

            God said, “Okay people, we are not doing that.” And so, he went down and confused them and that’s how we ended up with all the different languages we have today. People found others that spoke the same language as they did, and they moved away from the people they couldn’t understand. In the footnotes from the Life Application Study Bible NIV it says, “The tower of Babel was a great human achievement, a wonder of the world. But, it was a monument to the people themselves, rather than to God. We may build monuments ourselves (expensive clothes, fancy houses, fast cars, important career positions) to call attention to our achievements. These may not be wrong in themselves, but when we use them to give us identity and self-worth, they take God’s place in our lives. We are free to develop in many areas, but we are not free to think we have replaced God.”

            I also read in Jeremiah 50:32 “O land of arrogance, you will stumble and fall and no one will raise you up. For I will light a fire in the cities of Babylon that will burn up everything around them. This is what the Lord of Heaven’s armies says: The people of Israel and Judea have been wronged. Their captors hold them and refuse to let them go. But, THE ONE WHO REDEEMS them is strong. His name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. He will defend them and give them rest again in Israel. But, for the people of Babylon there will be no rest.”

            Again, I read the footnotes from the Life Application Study Bible. “Pride (arrogance) was Babylon’s characteristic sin. Pride comes from feeling self-sufficient or believing that we don’t need God. Proud nations, or persons, will eventually fall because they refuse to recognize God as the ultimate power. Getting rid of pride is not easy, but we can admit that it often rules us and ask God to forgive us and help us overcome it. The best antidote to pride is to focus our attention on the greatness and goodness of God.”

            John O’Gara says, “To take pride in an accomplishment or take pride in your work is not necessarily wrong. The kind of pride that is wrong from the Bible’s standpoint is the smug feeling of being superior to others or thinking that most people are stupid when compared to yourself.”

            I began to see the connection that God was trying to show me here. Forgive me for the long intro to a story but I wanted you to have the background information that brought me to the reason that this post was a necessary part of my story. You see, I don’t consider myself a proud person. I’m smart, yes. But I never think I know everything. I am a great mom and I worked hard to be that mom for my kids. I’m not proud of the way I look because I didn’t create myself to look the way I do; I just take care of the outside of what God gave me. I’m not rich and I don’t care about that because I’m not a person who is impressed by money or positions. I just really don’t care…if I have enough to do what I need to get done for my kids and we can live in a house that functions and I can have fun decorating it, then I am cool. I’d go through all these things and think, “Pride isn’t something I struggle with.” And then, I had an oldest child.

            I am an oldest child, but when you are a child you just don’t see things sometimes. As with many things in life we see things from one perspective. Ours. We don’t see things from someone else’s point of view. Sarah Jakes Roberts says in her sermon, “Pop Quiz”, “There are some things you won’t know until you get in them because you don’t really need to know unless you  are in the middle of something sometimes. Sometimes, we beat ourselves up for not knowing what we didn’t know that we wouldn’t have known until we got ourselves into that situation.” (Have I mentioned how much I love the way she words things?)

            You see, oldest children get used to people looking at them. We get used to watching all the adults in our lives watch us intently and praise everything we do for the first time with an intense reaction. With my son Corbin, watching him experience everything for the first time was absolutely awe inspiring. Everything he did was incredible. He took his first steps and I called everybody I knew. He learned how to do anything, and I told the whole world. Most first-time parents are like that. As a kid, the oldest child learns that whenever they do something the entire world will either clap or mutter under their breath at the magnitude of their failure. We grow up believing that all eyes are on us. Our shortcomings are met with the same degree of intensity, but as a child you never even think about why. Most of the time, when a kid does something wrong, the parents freak out because they are scared they messed up, not necessarily that their kid messed up. Everybody knows kids are supposed to make mistakes, and everybody knows that we are supposed to be the ones teaching them how to do things the right way.

            Communication is one of the most crucial aspects of parenting and relationships and yet we mess it up constantly. We don’t have to get to not being able to understand someone who speaks a different language. I speak the same languages as my kids and I still find myself constantly asking “Do you understand what I’m saying?” and very often you could picture Chris Tucker in Rush Hour “Do you understand the words that are comin out of my mouth?” You see, this chapter is important to my story because I am not sure that my parents or I individually have all the “right” views of my story. I saw them from one angle and my parents saw them from another.

            How many times have you heard someone say the same thing over and over again for a million years and then all the sudden, you “hear” something different and suddenly, because of an experience you had that was different, that annoying thing they say that you wish they’d quit saying makes total sense to you? You understand something now because your view changed. Not their words. Why is it that we are always asking ourselves why someone isn’t listening to us? One of the most common things I hear in my school kids is that nobody ever listens to them. That’s not true. Some of them are the loudest children I have ever met in my entire life. They whisper like they learned how in a helicopter filled with chainsaws…not a whisper at all, and it is impossible for anyone with a four-mile radius not to hear them. What they often mean is, “Nobody understands me.”

            This brings me to the point. I am older now and I don’t have to listen to anything my parents say. I haven’t for quite a long time. I don’t need to. I am a grown up. But, when we don’t heal from our hurts then we don’t hear what God says. We do need to do that. It might sound easy, but how many times have we said, “I wish someone would have told me.” The problem comes in when we can’t listen. I wonder sometimes if this is God’s way of “Babeling” us.

            Communication is essential to our roles in every part of our lives. We talk and talk and talk and think we know best, but when someone presents an idea that feels wrong to us, we spend all of our time and energy trying to prove why it’s wrong instead of examining our reasons behind not wanting it to be “right”.

            The relationship I was in right after my divorce lasted for ten years because I found a million reasons why I wasn’t wrong to be in it. I was under the impression that if I took my time and didn’t commit to anything too soon then I was being different than my mother. I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes as her. I was proud of myself for waiting 8 years to move in with him because I didn’t “jump into a relationship” with someone just to have someone to take out the trash or sleep in the same bed as me at night. I was putting my kids first. I was putting me first. Now, I’m not saying that my relationship was all bad. It wasn’t…in the beginning. My pride was. I thought that people pretty much treated me the way I treated them. I would come to find out a very painful and overly dramatic ten years later that nothing could be further from the truth. I thought I was concentrating on my own self-worth. Within the time frame of this relationship I put myself through college, I went from being a newly divorced single mom of 5 to being a college graduate, having a rewarding (not very well paying, but rewarding nonetheless) career, and having 5 kids who exceled in baseball and at just being people. I taught my kids how to be respectful to others and how to be compassionate. What I didn’t realize I was teaching them was how to not respect themselves. Very early in our relationship, my boyfriend cheated on me and then said he didn’t know we were exclusive when five years in he finally admitted that he’d done it. It took him 4 years to tell me that he loved me and then when I asked why he’d never said it before he said, “I didn’t think I had to. I thought you knew.” I found out after we broke up that the only reason, he kept seeing me at first was that I didn’t complain, and I kept food in his refrigerator. All of his friends would tell me that they wished they could find a girlfriend like me. I did everything he asked, and he did less than what was needed to keep me happy. I was miserable a lot and I felt incredibly unimportant. I just needed to work harder. I was never good enough for him no matter how hard I worked or what I didn’t argue with him about. When I finally started to argue back, he went and got reinforcements and told everybody he knew what a terrible person I was and how sloppy and messy my kids were. I learned a lot about character flaws from this relationship. I learned that I would put up with a lot to just not be single. I hated being single…because people ask you why you are all the time. I didn’t think I was good enough to have someone who wanted to do things with me or was nice to me for no reason other than he simply wanted to. I settled for someone who just didn’t hit me. He cheated on me several more times throughout our relationship and told his mom every single thing that I did wrong until it got to the point that I felt like they were dating and I was just the third wheel. He wanted money he went to her, he wanted to know how to do something, he went to her, he wanted to feel loved he went to her. I was just there. I was getting nothing from him but ridicule and condemnation and still I tried to take care of him. He told everybody that would listen things about my family that I had told him in confidence, and he knew those things hurt me. I told nobody about the things that hurt him and the things that had happened to him in his life that caused his breakdown of trust. When his son put us through the ringer several years in a row getting into pretty big trouble, I told nobody because I didn’t want them judging my boyfriend. I was not awarded that same respect and I didn’t make him respect me. Often times, we would be out somewhere, and my boyfriend would start making fun of me to other people. Sometimes it was people we knew and sometimes he would just start talking to perfect strangers about how stupid or naïve or sheltered I was. I would smile and ignore him but inside I wouldn’t even admit to myself how much he was hurting me. He didn’t care and pretty soon he didn’t even need an audience anymore. I thought it was better because it was at home where nobody could hear him. The problem was that I could hear him. I could also hear my mom continuing to say, “Nobody loves you, Jackie. They love what you can do for them, but they don’t love you.” She had no idea how much that statement hurt me. I didn’t know that I was showing her and the rest of the world exactly what that statement meant. My boyfriend had no clue how to love me because he didn’t love himself either. He said he did, and he was very different than me in some areas. If someone hurt his feelings or disrespected him, he had no problems cutting down their character or telling him how stupid and worthless they were. Any time we would argue he would tell me that I had no idea what I was talking about because you don’t get life experience from something you learned in a college textbook written by the government and that I had to have street knowledge to back it up. When I gave him real life examples that were behind my thoughts he told me in so many words (most of them do not belong in a blog that has to do with God) that the way I grew up wasn’t normal and so none of my thoughts were normal either and I was just too stupid to see it. When I started college and began making the Dean’s List at first, he was supportive. But after I graduated and we’d be out somewhere he would tell people that I thought I knew everything because I had a degree. It didn’t matter that most of the time what I was talking to people about had to do with my life experience and looking at things from the perspective of the kids that I worked with.

            I let someone steal my self-worth and constantly tell me how inferior I was because I didn’t think like him. I didn’t know that everyone around me was wondering why I stayed with a person that insulted not only my intelligence and my looks, but my character and the events of my past. At every given point in our relationship that he could have been proud of me, he turned it into something to be laughed at. And still I stayed. When it was finally over, he looked at me with pity and said, “I don’t hold any ill will towards you.” I lost my mind. I considered burning his house down. I wanted to put all of his business out on every social media outlet I could find. I knew things about him that nobody else knew. I wanted so badly to show the world that he was the problem in our relationship and that the information that they had been getting about me was his narcissistic way of taking the attention off of how stupid he felt about himself. He was a fake and I knew it. He knew it. I wanted to tell everyone.

            Something weird happened. When I found God’s voice again, I realized that I didn’t need to care about all the things he was telling people about me. The weird part of all of that was that I didn’t need to care because he never had the right to judge me in the first place. God did and I had to deal with my pride. My pride was hurt…not my reputation. Not my job. My kids were hurt but they learned something from my mistakes too. They learned that their worth didn’t come from having a PERSON give it to them. My daughter learned that her worth came from God and she was able to show me that in the way she lived. She was only 13 when we split up and I don’t know what she learned that I didn’t at that age, but that’s where I think the Lost in Translation comes into play. I didn’t teach her anything different than my mother taught me in that regard. My daughter doesn’t have a father either. Aja learned that her Father was in heaven and that anything she got down here was a poor substitute.

            I was like the people of Babylon. I was too proud to look inside myself and say you know what? This guy has no clue how to love me. My mom is right…nobody in my life loves me for who I am. They love me for what I can do for them. I was so determined not to be like her that I let someone destroy my own sense of self just to prove her wrong. Now, I’m not saying that my Mom did anything to help that. I’ve mentioned before that I am not fortunate enough to have a loving relationship with my mom and my relationship with my Dad, while healing, is not like other people’s. But, what hurt the most to look at was that some of the things that occurred in my life kept reoccurring because I was too proud to consider the option that I thought I could do life without God.

Remember in my post, Church Reject, where I say that my Dad had wanted me to be God-fearing and I thought that meant I was supposed to be afraid of what God would do to me if I didn’t follow his rules? Well, both meanings came to have some significance to me, and it was prideful to only consider one of them. God was allowing my circumstances, that I put myself in, to show me that he wanted me to have a close relationship with him and I didn’t listen. I didn’t want to follow his rules. I followed my own. And then when I didn’t listen, he let me reap the consequences of my own definition of God-fearing. That kind of relationship where I was torn apart was the result of not listening to God say, “I’m talking to you. I’m knocking and you won’t open the door. I want to give you something better, but you have to get away from the choices you are making.” I was too proud to look and way too proud to listen. For ten years, I ignored him and then sat around and told people God hated me.

            He never said that. I heard that. His love for me had gotten lost in translation.

Part 2: Misconceptions- The Picket Fence Life

Part 2 Misconceptions: The Picket Fence Life

Matthew 19:14 “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Matthew 22:37-39 “Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important. Love your neighbor as yourself.”

            When I found myself interviewing for a job at one of the schools that just so happened to house so many of “my” babies, I was asked why I thought I could work with kids who came from diverse backgrounds. My answer was that I felt more comfortable working with kids who came from broken families with trauma in their backgrounds because I found it hard to identify with “picket fence kids”. I don’t know what it is like to have 2 parent family problems. I have very few memories of my parents being in the same house and those memories are mostly plagued with coldness or fighting.

            One of the questions I get asked a lot when people find out what I do for a living is “Where are the parents of these kids?” This question has become one that annoys my whole entire soul. This question irritates me because the underlying statement is that the kid who is acting out is defective because the parents have not been vigilant or involved or capable. In some cases, that is true. As with any other case though, every set of circumstances is different, and every child reacts to change and life events differently. This question also suggests that children that have two parents in the home don’t get into trouble or have struggles of their own. I believe this question adds not only to the struggle of the child, but to the struggles of their parents. Parents become stressed out and tired over everyday life. It happens all the time, no matter what our situation looks like. Life happens. Life happens to everyone. Life happens and its events affect all of us, not just our kids. Life can be cruel, and you don’t have to get very far into it to be able to understand how bad life can beat you up. We all have things that shake our sense of normalcy, our sense of self, and our sense of direction.

            I operated under this misconception for a long time. I believed that somewhere out there was a picket fence life that I had not been given because my parents were incapable of expressing love. I believed that I had been robbed of something that most other people had and I allowed that belief to steal my joy for a large portion of my life. What I came to realize is that there is no such thing as a picket fence life. Even kids who grew up having enough money, both parents, and a support system of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and family friends still had things they struggled with. They all, at one time or another, struggled with feeling like their life made no sense. I have mentioned before that I think the best question I ever learned to ask is “Why?”  When kids are sent to me in ISS (In School Suspension) I talk to them about the occurrences that brought them to me. Most of the time when I get to “Why do you think you reacted that way?” they look at me like I just asked them to explain physics to me. “I don’t know.” Is the most common answer I get.

            My kids aren’t lying…they truly do not know. In my own personal situations, I look back on some of the mistakes that I have made and when I ask myself why I acted a certain way, or I said something to someone, my answer is often the same. “I don’t know.” Until I look deeper at what is under the “I don’t know” I truly have no idea what causes me to react to people in some ways. What I have been finding out is that when I investigate my not knowing, it becomes a “knowing” that I have a pain I don’t want to see. Sometimes, it is fear. Sometimes, it is embarrassment. Sometimes, I don’t have the answer yet, but I have a feeling it is because I felt undervalued or unloved. My students are no different than I am, and neither are their parents.

            Let me give you an example. I relayed in an earlier post that bulimia and anorexia had become a problem for me after I was sexually abused in high school. The only time I didn’t struggle with those eating disorders throughout my adult life was when I was pregnant with my kids. For some reason, being pregnant gave me a reason to not care about punishing other people with my refusal to eat. I didn’t know that was what I was doing…punishing other people by not eating. It just always seemed to bother people when they asked if I wanted food and I said no. It gave me control over my world in a way that made sense to me.

            If you know me personally you already know that my favorite food is steak. I can be in the middle of a week of refusing not to eat and if someone brings me a steak, I will eat it. (Alligator quiche has been added as a second favorite since then, but people don’t usually bring me that because I get this question, “Is that REALLY a thing?” It is a for real thing, and it is amazing. Try it! If you hate it then send me a message and I will come pick it up and eat it for you. I am willing to sacrifice my time to take it off your hands for you.) I never bothered to think about the reason why I love steak. It just is. I was reading the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend when I ran right into the story of a man who wouldn’t go out to eat at restaurants and couldn’t tell anyone why he didn’t like them. Through some digging (and asking “Why?”) he finds that he can’t go to restaurants because his mother had locked him in a closet when she and her boyfriend would go out to eat. They told him if he was worth something, they would have taken him along too. He carried that thought, that idea with him into his adult life along with his feeling of not being “good enough” to go out to eat at a restaurant. This hit home for me.

            My mom has never been a good cook. Food has always been a necessity, not something people took time to enjoy eating or creating. The only times I remember her cooking anything that made anyone happy was when she made spaghetti for my Dad or when she cooked dinners for her boyfriends years later. We ate a lot of Hamburger Helper when I was growing up. I wanted to throat punch the people that invented it we had it so often. Then they went and added Chicken Helper and Tuna Helper and I couldn’t have been more disgusted. I don’t like spaghetti either. Steak is different. I inherited my lack of cooking skills from my mom and my aversion to food never required me to learn. I could just blame my not eating on my lack of cooking skills. It wasn’t until I started looking at the reasons why I have a hard time eating did I realize the significance of steak in my life. I will always eat that.

            Mom would cook steak dinners for her boyfriends, or her boyfriends would cook them at our house. The steak would be accompanied by big salads with lots of different ingredients and a baked potato and usually another sort of side. I never paid much attention to the side. These steak dinners were always for two. They were big enough that there was always leftovers, but Mom wouldn’t let us have the leftovers. We had our box of Hamburger Helper, a vegetable and then usually buttered bread if we had butter and/or bread. Just bread not biscuits. Always, corn, green beans or some mixed vegetable. They didn’t eat with us, but the dishes were our job. They would bring their plates into the kitchen and set them on the counter, along with the bowls that still had half a salad in them. I remember asking Mom several times when I was doing dishes if I could have the rest of her food. She always said, “No, just throw it away. I don’t want to hear you guys fighting over it.”

I get the sentiment because my own kids will eat dinner with me, have the exact same thing I have and will hover around me waiting for me to put my plate down so they can eat whatever I don’t. They’ve usually had 3 or 4 plates of their own before I am finished and because kids are human vacuum cleaners, they just inhale my subpar attempts at making dinner. I think they inhale it so they don’t have to taste my actual cooking.

            I remember being angry at her one night while I was washing all of the pans from her meal with a boyfriend when she came in with their plates and salad bowls. I was on the verge of tears and she didn’t notice. When she left the room, I heard them laughing at something on TV in her room, which was the only room that had cable. I had recently discovered MTV at my grandma’s house and I loved to watch the videos that went along with the songs. But Mom only had cable installed in her room and never really explained why. I looked at her plate, her steak was only three quarters of the way eaten and she still had a few bites of salad in her bowl. I remember hurrying to cut the steak without making any noise. It was cold and not very well seasoned, but I ate what was left of both her steak and Weirdo of the Moment. I scooped out the few bites of salad left in the bowl too before I washed up the rest of her dishes. I did this every time she had these kinds of dinners after that. It was always cold, and it wasn’t that great but the smell would drive me crazy. It smelled so much better than the Hamburger, Chicken, or Tuna Helper I had come to hate.

After I finished the dishes, I would go downstairs to my room in the basement. I always got a stomachache after I finished off Mom’s dinners. Not because I was super full; sometimes there was nothing but a bite left. Just because I felt like a dog eating out of the trash. She’d rather throw that food away then let us have any of it. I felt like I was stealing from her and it made me feel a little bit better. Except, it made my stomach hurt. I always thought it was the food but now I realize my stomach hurt because I felt like my mom would rather throw away something good than give it to one of her kids. I wasn’t old enough or involved in my own feelings enough to realize that that thought was what made my stomach hurt, not her cooking or the food that was pretty foreign to me. When Mom was single there was always a kind of ice cream in the freezer that we weren’t allowed to touch. I became an artist at scooping out bites that stayed along the ridges from her last helping so that she wouldn’t notice that I had taken any. Food was a war between Mom and I. Only I don’t think Mom ever noticed we were fighting. One day I took a sip of something I thought was water out of our freezer. I thought it was just part of the “Mom has something I’m not allowed to have because we aren’t good enough to eat it” collection. It turned out to be vodka. It was disgusting. It burned my throat and I felt like the inside of my nose was on fire after I coughed and sputtered trying to get around the taste. I don’t know if my mom was drinking it or it was the boyfriends, but I never touched anything liquid in the freezer again. I kept eating the leftover steak and getting stomachaches until I left home.

I’m not saying that my Mom didn’t deserve to have some kind of nice dinner. Parents work hard to pay bills and take care of kids and sometimes they need to spoil themselves. I don’t know if my mom knew how I felt, and I have a feeling it wouldn’t have mattered to her if she knew or not. Mom didn’t really see us anymore during that time…it was almost as if we were transparent, like holograms. There, but not really people. We just didn’t matter.

This may not be a memory that does much for you. But, when I examined why steak was my favorite, and I realized eating steak is a way of showing my mother (who is not even watching) that I AM good enough to eat it. It is a way of still fighting with her that I lose at.

You may not have any experiences like mine, but I can almost guarantee you that you have something in your past that you do that you can’t explain. You have something that you do that you don’t know why you do it, and it is hiding an insecurity that you have.

What does this have to do with a picket fence life? I think what God showed me about this incident is that there are things that affect us that we don’t look at. We get used to being how we are. We get used to how we talk to others and we get used to being a certain way. We act like that is “just who we are” because of the circumstances we have had to face, when in reality we all have little things we do that are odd or strange to others and we can offer no excuse as to why we do them. We don’t know because we do not want to know. We do not want to look at those situations. I never liked looking back at those times because I felt worthless. I felt disgusting…eating things that people were supposed to throw away. We don’t look at the ways that we feel unloved because it hurts. So, we ignore it and pretend that we are fine. We are not fine. Those little things that we don’t pay attention to are things that can hold big answers to our healing, if we can get past the pain of them long enough to examine our motives.

Picket fence lives don’t exist. They don’t exist because we can’t see the ways we don’t love ourselves. We don’t look. We ignore them and stuff them down on the inside of us due to whatever lie the devil gets us to believe. “I’m not good enough to have a cooked just for me steak.” “I’m not worth enough to anyone if I’m not a part of my dysfunctional family.” “I’m not smart enough in school to have anyone there that cares about me.” “I’m not important enough to notice.” If picket fence lives existed, then kids who grew up in two parent households would never get in trouble and the only kids that ever did anything wrong would be the kids who had neglectful, abusive, or emotionally detached parents. That is not the case. People from everywhere are hurt and I truly believe that we can’t love other people because we don’t know how to love ourselves. It is not our intention to pass that insecurity on, but we do. If we are one of the people that seems to have navigated the childhood, teenage, and adult years without any perceivable holes in our psyche, we can rest assured that LIFE will happen and will bring us some sort of trauma eventually.

What about the parents who stay together and love each other and then all the sudden one of their parents dies and they have no idea how to handle the sadness and pain that comes with it? What if a drunk driver hits a car that is driven by a mother that was always loving and there for her kids and treated their father with kindness and respect and she dies? What if the family loses everything in an economy crash or a housing crisis and has to start over? Why are these parents getting lumped in with the same results as parents who don’t seem to care whether or not their kids are being taken care of, or worse who hurt their kids on purpose because they are too selfish or overtaken with evil to be any good to anyone?

Healing and forgiveness are important, but we can only do that when we recognize the misconceptions that are blocking our paths. Trauma, whether it is the lack of something good or an event of something that never should have happened, is always accompanied with a fear and a lie. Sometimes, we don’t even know that we are believing a lie. I believed my mother wouldn’t cook me a steak dinner because I wasn’t worth a steak dinner. I don’t know her reasons, but my conclusion was just as inaccurate as anything she could have given me as an explanation.

We all have things that make us feel inadequate and make us feel like we aren’t good enough to participate in the joy that life has to offer us. God never intended for us to be hurt and sad and alone. We did that. We do that to our kids, and we do that to people we love because WE are broken, not because they are. Hurt people hurt people and that hurt isn’t something we can run from, but boy do we try. Running away from pain is something this society has learned very well, and yet when we hear of someone else who is doing the exact same thing, our first response is to judge and ask questions like “Where are the parents of these kids?” Maybe, just maybe if we started asking, “What am I doing that causes MY kids to have issues of inadequacy?” instead of listing all the things that someone in the news, or someone at our schools did wrong, we would be able to find more answers.

Sometimes, it isn’t not asking a question that leads us to the wrong answers. It is not finding the right answers to the right questions. If we spent more time learning to love ourselves instead of running away from our pain, we’d learn that “The parents of these kids” are just like you and I. They may not make the same choices, but then again you don’t make the same choices that I do. God never wanted all of us to be carbon copies of each other. He wanted us to be individuals in him…each with our own skill set and ways to contribute to society. He told us not to judge each other for a reason. Only he can see what is in our hearts. When he commanded us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” he was telling us that it is impossible for us to love other people very well if we don’t love ourselves first. That means healing and realizing that we are no better than anyone else that he created. The only job he gives us in that regard is to keep progressing in him. We are to love him first so that he can show us how to love ourselves and then we can give love to others more freely. We hold onto our pain and settle for scraps and teach our kids that they deserve scraps as well. Then we sit around and lament and complain over the way someone else’s life is going. We sit around and keep asking “Why didn’t I deserve to have a picket fence life?” when maybe what we should have been asking is “Does a picket fence life even exist?”

Part 2: Misconceptions-New Builds vs. Fixer Uppers

Part 2 Misconceptions: New Builds vs. Fixer Uppers

            2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

            1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

I am one of the many women afflicted with the DIY obsession. I absolutely love when shows like Property Brothers, Fixer Upper, Good Bones or Rehab Addict, take old, broken down uninhabitable houses and turn them into truly beautiful works of art that become a family’s sanctuary away from the hustle, bustle, and pressure of the outside world. I love to take old things that have been deemed useless and make them into something with a new purpose or just give them new life with a few well thought out design enhancements. You may remember from my “Pandemic” post that I was painting aluminum food cans to turn into lanterns? I like reusing things instead of throwing them away. I don’t have much knowledge on plumbing, and I will stay far away from anything electrical, thank you very much. I can, however, take old broken down bifold doors and create a set of hanging privacy screens for my porch. I can take old t-shirts and turn them into really cool blankets. I can repurpose oddly shaped furniture into seating for kids or a dog hotel room. I just have one of those minds that looks at something how it could be instead of what it is or used to be.

            I don’t tend to like new builds very much, unless my sons built them. They lack history and character. They feel somewhat “lifeless” to me. You ever heard the saying, “If these walls could talk?” New builds don’t feel like they have anything to say. This pattern of taking old, broken things and giving them new life has become a prominent repetition in my life. I never really thought too much on it, but I started to see a link in my thought processing.

            We tend to think of ourselves as new builds when it comes to how we see life. We operate under the misconception that we lay our own foundation and we construct walls and then install our own plumbing and electrical systems. I did, anyway. Then God decided to show me a different way of looking at things.

            We don’t come into the world as a clean slate. We have our parent’s DNA and even before we are born, we have certain characteristics that belong to people in our families. We aren’t made up of “brand new parts”. We are a collection of both our mom and our dad and the extended members of our family. Hereditary genes such as alcoholism, cancer, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are already built into us by the time we make an appearance.

            I spent much of my life being angry at people for tearing me down as a “new build”. What I failed to realize is that my parents weren’t new builds either. They gave me the information that they had and whether it was right or not, it was what they had used to get them through life. They built the beginning of my life on their knowledge of a foundation. They were fixer uppers from the houses their parents left them with. I wasn’t getting a house my parents built. I was getting a life my parents had fixed up, or left to deteriorate even further, from my grandparents and their parents before them.

            If you ever watch one of those home renovation shows they spend the time before the commercial break choosing a fixer upper to purchase. We don’t get to shop around; what we get is what our family already has. The show spends about three to five minutes showing us the broken, worn out parts of the house. All of its worst problems are put on display and that is what makes the transformation at the end so incredible. They miss no dusty, cobwebbed, moldy corner when they are filming so that when the house is done, we can marvel at the incredible work that the contractors did.

            I am not able to go back and ask my grandparents, but I know that some of the things my parents built within me were old ideas based on old thinking and old beliefs. I know this because some of my older, extended family members struggle with the same issues. I have heard stories about my grandparents, mostly my grandmothers, that I can see myself or my mom in. I can see myself and my parents in my kids and how they respond to people and situations.

            I never thought about this kind of thing before I was a mom. I never really thought about it until my oldest son, Corbin, graduated. In the post, The Devil’s Storm, I talk about the day he was born and how much my loveless life was changed by his arrival. I loved Corbin with everything I had. I truly believe, even now, that I had no clue what love was before my son was given to me. He was the best gift I had ever received. Everything he did was incredible, and I loved to watch him grow and experience new things. It was almost like I was experiencing joy for the first time right along with him. Everything that hurt him cracked my whole entire heart because I was supposed to be able to protect him from it all. After all, I was not my parents. I was going to do this right. I let Corbin, and the rest of my kids, grow up to have opinions and to experience things. I didn’t push them into things, and I let them lead the way when it came to the things they were ready to do on their own. I taught them things, but I let them pick their own interests and I allowed them their own personalities. I marveled in the things they learned and especially with Corbin, I watched him like a hawk to make sure I was a good mom.

            When Corbin graduated high school, we were in the middle of being thrown out of our home for the fourth time in 8 months. I was done, the kids were done, and we were all homeless. Mom offered to let us stay with her, but she lived 45 minutes away from my job, my extra job, the kid’s friends and baseball parks, and it was just too much to stay with her. Mom and I didn’t exactly see eye to eye on a lot of things and her help always came with a price I never wanted to pay. I felt like we couldn’t stay with her and keep away from the things my sisters had experienced when they lived with her as adults to “help” them out. My sisters ended up resenting Mom for her constant intrusions and the way that she was always telling someone how they were living was wrong, even though she had a ton of problems in her own life. Mom just seemed to enjoy finding fault or defects in us and was incessantly berating us for what she deemed bad choices. I couldn’t handle her. I had no boundaries and even when I did, Mom was not okay with them. They were all wrong to her unless they were in line with what she thought. It also felt that when they were in line with what she thought I had to pay for those too. It’s hard to pay the bill when you don’t know what the price tag was…and with Mom there was always a price tag.

            We ended up staying with my ex in-laws for 8 weeks. My five kids and I shared their spare bedroom until the house that Zeb and I had found was ready to live in. Corbin wasn’t about that at all. He decided to go stay with his girlfriend. I couldn’t tell him he couldn’t; he was 18, about to turn 19, and had graduated high school. I made sure he knew that he could come back any time he wanted, but his grandfather held quite a bit of animosity that I hadn’t forced Corbin to come with us. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to do that, since Corbin was legally able to do whatever he wanted. Zeb was a great source of comfort and he understood a lot more of my uneasiness in this time than anyone else. I’ll be blunt. I was sick of old people telling me what to do when they had no idea how to make their ideal situation happen either. I couldn’t say anything really to defend myself since I was afraid that if I went against what they said, they’d kick me out and try to keep my kids. I just kept my mouth shut and let them say whatever they wanted.

            When we finally moved into our new place, I was so excited to get Corbin back. He and his girlfriend were going to come and live with us and we would all be back together again. Life had other plans. A few weeks after we moved, I was working a third shift job at a hospital (which as you know I am terrified of, but I needed money). Zeb was working a summer construction job through school and Corbin was working for Dad’s construction company. We should have been doing okay money wise, but it was hard to catch up, having to come up with $3000 to move into the new place out of thin air and then trying to replace the things we needed that had been broken in the war of the break up.

            Zeb and I got in a huge fight one morning after he called and said he needed a ride home from work. I asked him to find someone else to take him since I had to be up for work in a few hours and he got an attitude. Angrily I went to go pick him up, sacrificing even more time that I hadn’t gotten any sleep to go to a job I hated. It didn’t help any that I hadn’t slept in 3 days for more than an hour or two at a time. It also didn’t help that I was drinking a lot. I picked him up and he called me some pretty nasty stuff when I told him I was tired of having to do EVERYTHING for these grown up kids. It escalated further until he told me that he was a better adult than me and he knew how to handle money and not get in relationships where he was getting thrown out every month. I lost my mind. I through his lunchbox out the window of my car, screeched to a halt and told him to get out. After everything I had given up for him and his brothers and sisters I felt beaten down and attacked and tired.

            Zeb moved in with his grandparents for the summer which angered me even more. They never bothered to call me and see why Zeb and I were having issues. I was too tired to fight them or him and I  had no motivation or energy to even try. I was hanging on to being a functional adult with very little left. Corbin picked that day to drop the biggest bomb of my life as a mother. He always did have insanely bad timing. And I have always been incredibly terrible at getting any sort of life changing news. You couldn’t have asked for a worse combination.

            I got home from my mini war with Zeb and tried to lay down. It was hot, we didn’t have air conditioning, and I was laying on a mattress on the floor of my room. My back was killing me, and I was too wound up in anger to be able to fall asleep. A few minutes after I finally started to doze off, Corbin knocked. He cracked my door a couple of inches and said he needed to talk to me. I told him it could wait. I had to try to sleep so I could go to a job I hated even more than the insurance job I’d had so many years before. I was exhausted and miserable. I did not feel like talking. He said, “Mom, me and Kirsten got some stuff to figure out.” I said, “GREAT! Go figure it out with her and then come and talk to me. Right now, I NEED to sleep Corbin!” I was struggling to hang on to any remnants of controlling my annoyance that was quickly turning into rage. He closed the door a little bit and then I heard, “Mom, Kirsten’s pregnant.” I lost my battle with annoyance and rage and practically screamed in words I won’t repeat that my son should run because he was about to lose his life. I ripped my covers off and tried to stand up. My back froze and I heard a bunch of banging on the stairs. Corbin had run full speed, falling down the stairs and out the front door of my house so fast he hadn’t even bothered to close the door. It was wide open, and I got to my front porch just in time to see his truck peel off down the street. I went back up to my room and cried until it was time to go to work.

            Corbin called me four days later and asked if I was still going to kill him. I said yes. He said, “Okay, I’ll call you in four days.” He hung up on me. He called back four days later, and we began a very sketchy, very fragile attempt at reconciliation. The next year was a struggle for Corbin and I. We fought about everything. I tried to just shut up and let him make his own choices. I didn’t want him to feel like my mom had made me feel, like everything I did was wrong.

            After my grandbaby was born and I became a Noni, I fell in love with watching my son be a dad. He was great at it. He didn’t talk to me much, but I got to see Braxton as much as I wanted. The summer after Braxton turned one, I quit drinking. I started working three jobs and took Brax overnight when the kids needed a sitter. We weren’t great but we were together still. Right after Braxton turned two, we were all having dinner at my house and talking about how things had changed for us as a family. To my horror, Corbin made a statement that completely filled me with pain, regret, and a dumpster full of pain. I heard him say, “I’m the bad kid of the family. We didn’t talk for so long because you told me I was stupid for having a baby so young.” I had nothing to say. I knew for a fact I never called my son stupid. That day was the first of many days that I felt God’s hand cover my mouth. Instead of arguing who was right, I heard my son express his pain in what he thought was my rejection. It had been my fear. He said, “I was scared. I had to learn how to do it on my own. I lost my mom and became a dad in the same situation.” I listened to his pain and not the words he used to describe it. I had felt that pain. I had lost my son due to a circumstance I had no control over, and it had cut parts of my heart that had never been hurt before. I didn’t know that he felt like he lost me. I just thought he was mad that I had finally left the guy we’d been living with.

            What amazes me most about that time, is that even in his anger and hurt at my reaction and partly because of his own insecurity, I saw a part of someone I never expected to see. Up until this point, I had only seen my kids’ dad as an empty shell of a person. An example of what life does to you when you drink too much to be of much use to anyone, even yourself. In Corbin’s words I heard his Dad’s pain. In that moment, I felt such a loss for the people they had set out to be. What I saw for Corbin that I hadn’t been able to see for his dad, was the huge promise of the person he could be.

            While my reaction to my son and his announcement and the way that life happened for us for those 2 years makes me cringe still, I see what God did in that moment. My son felt alone so that he could grow on his own as a dad and as a supporter to his son’s mother. My son is wonderful with both of them. He is not perfect, and he is very opinionated and headstrong like his mother, but his ability to provide for his family and his resolve to be there as a father has intensified as Braxton gets older. I see that God used my break in spirit to keep me from taking over and not allowing me to steal the experiences of being a parent that would create that resolve for Corbin. I love my kids, but I have a hard time allowing them to experience the pain of their own circumstances. I would have pushed Corbin out of the way and done all the “mother” things that would have taught Corbin how to ignore his duties as a parent. I would have stolen something from him and in stealing that from him, he would have no confidence in his ability to keep trying even through struggle. While I will never be proud of that time of my life, I am able to take comfort in the knowledge that Corbin is a good dad because God allowed circumstances to occur that made it so I had to butt out.

            In processing all of this, it helped me to see that no matter how much we love our kids and how much we see them as new builds, they are not. We are just giving them a different version of the fixer upper our parents gave us. It may not look the same and it may have been renovated so that it looks pretty, but they still have hidden mold, electrical and plumbing problems lurking behind the walls. There are still cracks in the foundation. Those came even though I did everything I could think of to make that a nonexistent factor in my parenting. I had done it right, and they came anyway.

            We aren’t new builds. We aren’t fixer uppers because our parents were terrible people and decided to give us a falling down rotten house to sabotage us, although some may very well do that.  We are fixer uppers because no matter how much we love our kids, we are not perfect, and we are not contractors. God showed me that even if I had done things all the way right in the areas I missed, Corbin’s own insecurities about situations I had nothing to do with would have caused cracks in his foundation. I wasn’t abusive to my kids and I didn’t neglect them. I wasn’t perfect, but I had never not been there for them. Even tired and broken I had still managed to give my kids as much as I could. And that had caused cracks in them and in me that we would not be able to repair at the same time together. I had to leave my son with the explanation that I had done the best I could. I gave him everything I had. It was never going to be enough. He had to be okay with that. And I had to stop beating myself up for not being good enough to figure out how to give him a new build and a perfect life. That was a misconception I had about life and parenting.

            I like the reveals of the home shows because it shows how much work they had to do in order to get the house to where it should have been if it had been taken care of and updated “properly” . I can’t see inside the walls of my house any more than I can see inside myself to find problems. Even if I could, I know a lot about construction, but that doesn’t mean I know how to fix everything that lurks in between the plaster and lathe of a 75-year-old house. I can’t look inside myself and find where problems come from unless something happens that uncovers the problem and even then, I have no guarantee that I am going to know how to fix them. What I do have is God’s promise that he works everything together for good for those that love him, even when we don’t know how to love him.

            The verses at the beginning of this post are important to me because God used this situation with my son to break me but also to give Corbin a gift at the same time. God knew what was going to happen even when I didn’t and when I couldn’t even talk to him about it. He knew I wasn’t ready to understand what Corbin felt about how I had reacted until the moment that Corbin said he’d lost his mom that day at family dinner. Before then, I had not done the work necessary to understand Corbin’s feelings and I hadn’t been able to forgive my own parents for not giving me a “new build” site kind of life. Before then, I hadn’t asked for God’s understanding and God’s grace in my own shortcomings, therefore I wouldn’t have been able to look at Corbin’s pain instead of his words.

            I am filled with gratitude to God for showing me that I couldn’t control the world and I was letting the world control me. I was letting the weight of the world crush me and I didn’t have to. I could have just asked for understanding. I didn’t, but God was gracious and allowed me to see it when he knew I would be able to understand it. God’s timing is perfect and mine was not. He was loving and I was not. He was perfect and I had spent the last 19 years trying to prove that I was just as perfect as he was. I was arrogant and I refused to look at anything from anyone else’s perspective. God allowed me to see how wrong I was, but he did it in such a way that I felt pain, but I also felt his grace and forgiveness. I felt his love. I felt why he said we don’t have to “lean on our own understanding” (Proverbs 3: 5,6) God says that we can trust in him with everything…even when we finally figure out we are fixer uppers and that no matter what we do or how we love, our kids will be fixer uppers too.

Part 2: Misconceptions

Part 2

            “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

MISCONCEPTIONS:

When I left off Chapter 12 I had intended to change the format of my writing so that I wasn’t going by life phases anymore. Then God spoke to me and said I had one more to go before I was okay to do that. I mentioned that I didn’t want to write “Demons”. If I’m being transparent, I haven’t written since then because I’m anxious about having that part of my story online for the world to see. I sent that chapter in for “editing” and I haven’t had to do that before. I was confident in all the other blogs that I was going where I was supposed to go. I was confident that God wanted me to tell those stories because people needed them. I am an advocate for children because of those stories. It never occurred to me to be an advocate for people who struggled with sexual abuse. I’m still not really sure that I am comfortable with even that thought, let alone spending hours talking to people about the most difficult subject there is. I don’t know that God is asking me to do that. This chapter isn’t about what I know. It’s about how I find the things I do know, the misconceptions I had that impeded my ability to hear God, and the thoughts that God keeps putting everywhere to let me know I am following what he says.

I must be a terrible person to walk with on this journey with though. God is fine, just trekking along admiring all of his creation and the beauty of his work. I trail behind, slowly, falling all over the place, and running off after poisonous “pretty” flowers. Or I run ahead and almost fall over cliffs and he has to place things in my path so that I slow down and wait for him. He’s been showing me that I need to SLOW down and dissect things. When I slow down and hold his hand, he shows me things I have seen before, but never paid any attention to.

I’m going to just talk like me here. I’m going to talk like I do in regular conversations. That’s how I talk to God and it’s how I am the most authentic version of myself. I can be a sarcastic goofball, but I can also be a walking thesaurus. I love words, their meanings and the context in which we are allowed to use them.

Instead of a misconception, this one is rather a missed direction. I completely missed the meaning of this even though I had heard it a billion times. If you have ever heard the Bible referred to as The Living Word and you understand it’s meaning, this might be too elementary for you. I am a bit slow on the uptake sometimes and I don’t always catch things that are obvious to other people. When I started reading Bible verses to go along with what Pastor Doctor, Pastor Michael Todd, Pastor Touré Roberts, Pastor Sarah Jakes Roberts, and Bishop T.D. Jakes were saying, I was granted the gift of understanding why the Bible is called The Living Word.

I was listening to someone (I apologize, I do not remember which one of these it was) talk about Sarah and Abraham. I’ll be fair and completely honest here. Most of my life I skipped the book of Genesis. Okay neat, God created the Earth and seas and sky and land and animals and then he created man and he liked what he made so he took a nap on the seventh day. Got it. Then Adam and Eve messed up and sinned and now it hurts when women have babies. Thanks a lot, EVE. Everything we do is their fault. Great job messing up the earth and all the generations after you. Then Cain kills his brother and runs away. What awful people these beginning Biblers are. The stories start to get worse until finally God just says, “Ugh, you guys can’t do anything right so I’m going to destroy the Earth with a flood.” (Side note here: I am wondering if with all that is going on the world right now if God isn’t regretting his promise to Noah that he would never again destroy the Earth that way. There is quite a few more of us on the planet now and if God thought there was too much hate then, I often wonder how sad he is about the way we have become. We don’t even like ourselves, let alone other people.)

 I have a knack for stealing Bibles. Yes, I know how that sounds. When I was in my twenties and my kids were little, I was trying to find the meanings meant for me when I was reading the Bible. King James Versions are ridiculously hard to read. All that Thine, Thee, Thou mess was way too difficult to comprehend and as I’ve pointed out before, I am intelligent and I love to read. If I couldn’t even read it so it made sense, how on earth would I be able to figure out what God was trying to tell me?

At the time, Dad was coming over to do Bible study with us and I mentioned this to him. He “loaned” me his Ryrie Study Bible. After being used by him for however long and then poured over by me for about 5 or 6 years, Genesis just…fell out. I didn’t use it anyway, not that it mattered much. I never gave Dad back his Bible because I didn’t want to tell him that it was missing parts he gave it to me with. I have most of it, but I got a Bible cover and stuck the pages on the inside. I stuck the Bible in a drawer when I quit reading it and didn’t touch it again until it was time for us to pack things for a move and then back in the drawer it went. I still have it.

When I began reading Wholeness, I got to about the third chapter and I wasn’t sure about a verse that P.T. (Pastor Touré often refers to himself as P.T., so I can too) was using to try to explain something. I asked my daughter, Aja if I could borrow her Bible. She has 80. She handed me the one she uses all the time and said, “I like it because it has a bunch of explanations at the bottom and it helps you figure things out.” I am not a 16-year-old girl, so I didn’t figure I’d need the footnotes much. What can I say? I can be a little smug about my intelligence sometimes. I began reading my own Scriptures every time something came up in one of the books I was reading. All I was looking for was a clearer understanding of what God was trying to tell whatever Bibler he was teaching, and by proxy, me. What I found was something different when Aja started bugging me about getting her Bible back. Sarah Jakes Roberts uses a New Living Translation Bible so I bought one of those. Now I need both Bibles because I really found out that the words are different, but THEIR words don’t really matter. What matters is what God whispers while I read.

I started to see myself in the stories that I was reading. I started to hear God whisper my name in different ways when I sat down and tried to decipher what one of the pastors was talking about. I started seeing things that were only meant for me. I could hear MY experiences from the pages. The biggest revelation God gave me in this time was in the story of Abraham and Sarah. Now, if you know me personally or have heard about my reputation as a mother, you know that I have a “Mess with my kids if you want to. I don’t advise it. But go ahead and try and I will burn your life to the ground” attitude. That’s figurative, of course. I haven’t actually burned anyone’s life down. I just don’t let people mess with my kids. (I don’t take up for my kids when it’s their fault either, by the way, I require that they take responsibility for the way they treat people.) When someone, especially an adult, wrongs them and I hear about it, rest assured, if its you…I’m coming for you. I am not especially proud of some of the ways I’ve come for people. I’m not very forgiving when it comes to my kids. I mentioned a time or two I am a work in progress. I am working on my temper. I am justified in my anger, but the way I handle the situation can best be described as scary. I don’t love anything else as much as I love these kids. I also didn’t really trust God to protect them either, so I had that gearing my anger just as much as anything.

I think that is the reason why I looked at the story of Abraham and Sarah so closely. The story of Isaac is confusing to many people. Why would a God that loved Abraham and loved Isaac ask Abraham to kill his only son? I fully believe that God was using this story as a way to let us know that we are to give our kids to him, because like me, our love for them can inhibit our growth in him and the love he has for us. Being a mom can be a lonely place. Your kids constantly take from you and because it is your job and your desire to give them everything you can, it can be completely soul draining. Especially, if you and the dad have any sort of issue and he is not a supporter. If he is someone who is waiting in the wings to pounce on you if you make a mistake, it is even lonelier. (That is a whole different ball game and as God leads me, we will get into that topic at a different time.)

The focus of this story seems to be on Abraham and Isaac. But the mom heart in me wondered about Sarah. Seriously. Her husband knew that she had waited 90 years to have a baby. He didn’t have that problem because he had a son with Hagar. Abraham already knew the joy of being a parent, long before Sarah did. As I was wondering about how Sarah felt, I realized, things just couldn’t have been fine between the two of them afterwards, even though Isaac returned home alive. I put myself in Sarah’s flip flops.  

The Bible doesn’t say much about this and I had never thought to look at Sarah’s side of things before. But, when I looked at it through my lens, I’d have left Abraham after I destroyed his life if he tried to kill my son. While I don’t think Sarah had my temper or my intensity when it came to her son, how did she ever forgive Abraham? He said God told him to take Isaac as an offering. I’d have had a problem with God then too. “You want to kill the only son I have and leave the son with the other woman to parade in front of me day after day to add salt to an already never closing wound?” *insert condemning laugh here* “How bout big fat NO.”

            I came to see what God had really been asking and I realized how much work Sarah would have had to do to even be able to forgive her husband and her God for trying to harm her only son. I’ll be honest I don’t have Sarah’s strength. I also didn’t have a husband that walked with God, so maybe that was the difference. I protected my kids from evil, whether that was their father or not. Nobody would hurt them as long as it was my job to protect them. God gave me my five kids for a reason. I’d protect them from him too if I had to. What God was trying to show me is that no matter how hard I tried, I was never going to be able to protect them from the things that hurt them the most. I couldn’t protect them from the hurt their dad left on them by his inability to live life without drinking, or his complete refusal to take any responsibility for the pain he caused them. He put it all on me and I bore the weight of that for years. I loved my kids more because of that weight. I loved them until it broke me. I saw much of myself in Sarah and what she must have went through. Something weird happened. I also saw my mother.

Divorce is nasty. People are nasty. I was nasty and their father was nasty. My parents were nasty. However, what I learned about myself and about my mother is that even the strongest steel breaks when it holds too much weight on its own. You cannot pile the entire world onto one person and expect them not to crumble under the pressure. Some are stronger than others and that crack might take awhile to become a problem, but when it does the world around them will fall along with everything they have been holding up. Fighting in divorce is going to happen. You cannot tear your child’s other parent apart or refuse to help them and then open your mouth and condemn them when they fall. Sarah didn’t do that because she had God to help her heal.

God showed me something else I wasn’t expecting in Sarah’s story. God had promised Abraham that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars. That was his promise to Abraham. Sarah didn’t know that God had a promise for her too. It wasn’t his timing to reveal her future at the same time he revealed it to Abraham.

Abraham became the Father of Nations through Sarah. The crazy thing is that she was the mother of those nations and the promise she received was only that she would have a son when she was 90. What’s that got to do with me?

I told you in an earlier post that I became that lady, the one that had all kinds of kids living with us whenever they needed a home. I started to work in the schools and kids that looked nothing like me, acted nothing like me, and had basically nothing in common with me, began calling me Mom. My “extra” kids all call me Mom even though they all have mothers, some of their mothers are amazing people that I am super blessed to know. As of right now, I have roughly 500 children in this city that call me Mom…give or take a couple hundred. They don’t always call me that, and some will call me nothing else. I earned my spot as their “school” mom, their “extra” mom, and I even have some that I am “Mom by proxy” because their friends call me Mom and they just want to be able to do so as well.

God showed me that Abraham might be the Father of Nations, but that like Sarah I am the mother of a nation. I am the mother of a nation of lost kids that need something else. They need more love, more direction, more guidance, more of something that they get from me. God gave me that burden and for those of you who know me personally, you know that I take that burden with reverence and with a total commitment to help “my” kids live their lives, showing them that someone loves them in a way that they can feel. My kids have holes in their hearts that leak too much love out. God gave me the ability to love them so that some of those holes are plugged back up. God gave me the ability to lead them to love just a little bit.  They can hold just a little bit of love because God gave me the road I traveled, alone. I know what unloved and forgotten looks like. I know what being a “bad” mom looks like. I know what guilt looks like because I haven’t been able to keep my kids from experiencing pain. What I also know is that we can heal. We can heal when someone cares enough to see us through their own pain and experience, and we can grow to love ourselves because of them.

It took all of these revelations to explain to me what the Living Word meant. I am nothing like Sarah. I don’t live in a tent surrounded by sheep and smelly men who try to kill my son. I was not 90 when I had my only son. I was 19 and God blessed me with 4 more children. I am not a plain woman and I don’t look like your “typical” Christian. I have tattoos and I make faces at people. I can’t see Sarah walking around with her eyebrow raised and flying off the handle. I don’t really know because it’s not about me. But, the Living Word is where God turned Sarah’s story into mine. Sarah’s story may do nothing for you like it did for me. It isn’t meant to. It’s meant to turn whatever story you are living into YOUR story. God will show you what he wants you to see, but you have to believe that he has the ability and the power to do that. God is a remarkable entity and can show you things you never though you’d see in the stories of the Biblers. Maybe you are Tamar, or Ruth, or Rahab, or Rachel, or Rebekah. Or maybe you are Esther, or Eve or Hannah. I don’t know what woman you are in the Bible and I definitely don’t know what man you are. But I promise you, if you are asking God anything, he will use his Living Word to show you. Its Living because he can change the meaning to show you what he wants you to see. The words don’t change, just their influence on your life and the way you understand things.  

If you are reading this blog and any of this made sense to you, I encourage you to start keeping a journal. Now, I know that some people don’t like writing. Okay so don’t. Use apps that record your thoughts and keep them in files for you. If you don’t like reading the Bible fine. Plenty of apps will read it to you and google or Alexa or Siri will help you by voice. Do not let the excuse of not being a good reader or not being a good writer keep you from this important aspect of your walk with God to find healing. Even if you start with nothing about God, just start writing. Talk to him like you talk to yourself. I even noticed he still listens when I come to him and say “God, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what I feel and I don’t know what to write.” He will give you direction. You just have to start.

Demons

Chapter 13

Proverbs 13:12 “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.”

You have no idea how badly I wanted to leave this chapter out. I don’t want to have to write it. I don’t want to have a reason to never know what I know about this subject. As you read, please keep in mind that you know someone that this chapter is about. You know someone who struggles with the words on its pages and the feelings it invokes. I know people who have gone through this same thing, and I’ve seen what happens to them because of it. I feel that pain because I lived through it myself. I wish I could tell you that God has taken the pain out of it. It still hurts and parts of it are still miserable. I’m still learning to give him this broken part of me.

I chose Proverbs 13:12 (or rather God did) as the beginning and I started to dissect it word by word. One of the amazing things about the Bible, and something I never realized before is the reason that it is called The Living Word. It is called the Living Word because stories that seem to have nothing to do with you or your individual situation all the sudden are all about you. God shows you your life, not the Bible character, inside the events that take place in a time that was foreign to you.

I looked at the first part and got stuck there. Hope. I use this word all the time, but when I say I have hope I don’t really focus on that part. I focus more on whatever it is that I have hope FOR. I hadn’t really looked into what exactly hope was. Hope is defined as: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, a feeling of trust, grounds for believing that something good will happen, a person or a thing that may help or save somebody.

The next word, deferred, I had read as lost. Except, God poked at me to go deeper. Deferred is defined in accounting as: any account where the asset or liability is not realized until a future date. The dictionary says that deferred means suspended or withheld for until a stated time, postponed.

Hope deferred meant a feeling of trust that was postponed. Hope deferred meant that a thing that may help or save somebody was suspended. Hope deferred was an expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen was withheld. Hope deferred meant that grounds for believing that something good would happen was an asset that was not mature yet. That’s a lot of information in two little tiny words. I kept going. Hope deferred (the good thing that I trusted would happen would be delayed or postponed) makes the heart sick. If you know what a sick heart feels like, it feels like hopelessness. It feels lonely.  It feels like you are never going to be able to trust anyone ever again. It feels like you are empty and that no promise of good will come because later doesn’t matter. We read that as hope lost because we can’t hang on to “later”.

When I started going back to the Heart Hospital to try to find something for my school kids, I learned that I couldn’t give them something I didn’t have. I didn’t have any answers as to how to get rid of my anger, so I started asking “why?”. I fully, and with everything I am, believe this is the best question you can ask. Why? It was the one question I was taught not to ask. I was taught not to ask God why, not to ask my parents why, and not to ask myself why through my experiences. God never told me to stop asking why. People did.

I started asking my Pastor Doctor why. He didn’t know most of the answers that I needed, but what he did know was who to ask and ways that I could find my own answers. He gave me the book “The Wounded Heart” by Dr. Dan Allender. I had just finished reading, “Woman, Thou Art Loosed” by TD Jakes. I found quite a few things in Jakes’ book that had stirred things in me I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to deal with. I just wanted to keep ignoring them and prayed that God wouldn’t make me look at them. It hurt and I was tired of hurting. God said, “I can’t take away your pain until you let go of it.” So, I basically just started giving him crumbs. That’s all I could manage at first. Somedays that is all I can manage still. God can only bless where you are, not where you pretend to be.

I didn’t feel bad when I read “Woman, Thou Art Loosed”. When I started the book from Dr. Allender, I got seven pages in and closed it. It was around 2 in the morning and I couldn’t handle the flood of pain that those pages opened up. I was absolutely positive that I was going to drive that book right back to where it came from. I wanted it out of my eyesight, out of my house, and away from anywhere I would ever be physically near to it. I started reading another book and couldn’t concentrate. I went to sleep frustrated and angry. I woke up the next morning and there it was. I scowled at it and then my text alert notification went off. It was Pastor Doctor. He said, “I’m praying for you as you read and listen to our Heavenly Father.” I told him that I wanted to drive him back his book and he said that he’d had to buy multiple copies of it because lending it out had caused others to rip it or throw it across the room. I don’t know if knowing that he was praying for me or knowing that he knew that it was painful or if it was timing or what, but it gave me just a little bit of strength to try it again. I hated that book. I was disgusted that I found so much of myself inside the struggles of the people that Dr. Allender was writing about. What I was not expecting was to read words that I had heard almost verbatim from my mother years and years before. Reading words, I’d heard her say was like getting struck by lightning. It felt that way because you don’t pick up a book on sexual abuse and how to heal from it for light, interesting reading. Nobody, who doesn’t need answers to the questions that sexual abuse causes a person to feel, reads a book like that.

I’ve spent most of my life in the fear that I would turn out just like my mother. That is a fairly common fear that a lot of women have, even if they have a close, loving relationship with their mothers. Unfortunately, I don’t have one of those. In that fear, I found enough curiosity about my mom and her idiosyncrasies to keep reading.

In “Woman Thou Art Loosed” Jakes says that “many women who have been abused end up in tragic relationships in which they are revictimized. One factor involved in that choice is the unconscious commitment to find people who will guarantee loss, so that hope is never deeply stirred.” I didn’t really understand what his words meant only that they resonated very, very deep within me. I began to ask God to show me why that was.

I dated a boy in high school that was a senior when I was a freshman. He was really protective of me and I didn’t run to him with all of my problems with people. I could handle most things on my own. I already had been, and I didn’t want people thinking I was weak. In the post, Mean Girls I talk about the eight people who came to fight the girl who was threatening to kill me. Their leader that didn’t come, but sent his friends instead?  That leader was my boyfriend. I didn’t know anything about most of the trouble he was in but he listened to my stories, laughed at my jokes, and had his friends keep an eye on me so that if I needed something and I asked for help they were there. I didn’t know I had to ask, so I didn’t. My friend Kelly asked for me the one time that I needed someone to be there. They came out of respect for my boyfriend, Mike, and not for any loyalty they owed me. My dad was not Mike’s biggest fan, in fact, he wasn’t a fan at all. For one thing, he was way too old for me. One weekend back before the days of Caller ID and Call Waiting, I was at Dad’s and Mike wanted to talk to me. I didn’t give out Dad’s number to hardly anyone since I was only there on the weekends.  Mike didn’t drive so we didn’t hang out much unless it was right after school, but we talked on the phone a lot. Mike kept trying to call that night and was getting a busy signal. He had the operator patch through and say it was an emergency because he thought I was on the phone with one of my friends. I wasn’t. My dad was talking to my stepmom, who was his fiancé at the time. It was later than I was allowed to be on the phone. My dad could barely restrain his annoyance when he came to the room I shared with my sisters and told me that Mike somebody was on the phone for me. I got in trouble and that didn’t help my relationship with Dad at all.

Shortly after school ended my freshman year Mike and I broke up. He was so much older than I was, and I wasn’t ready for most of the stuff that he could do. He wasn’t mean when he broke up with me, but when he said that I was just too young, I took it to mean that he was ending it because I hadn’t had sex with him. I hadn’t done anything but let him kiss me. What he meant was I was immature and naïve and believed that things were still the way you believe they are when you are a little kid.

I didn’t date anyone after that until the boyfriend that cheated on me with his ex. I figured everybody thought that about me, so I became a little self-conscious of my age. Maybe that explained why I always felt like I didn’t know what everyone else knew. I had a friend that took me to work and we had a lot in common. We hung out a lot because he could drive, and he didn’t mind giving me rides. He would come over sometimes and watch movies or play games when my mom wasn’t home. Most of the time I had other people over at the same time as him, so it wasn’t like we were dating or anything.

One night we were watching a movie and I fell asleep. I was on the floor and my friends were on the couch. Someone else had been sitting behind me but I don’t remember who was there now. I remember waking up to a strange feeling on my neckbone. It was like pressure, but I couldn’t tell what it was from. I wasn’t all the way awake when I realized that wasn’t the only place something felt off. He had his hand inside my shirt, groping and feeling his way around. I woke all the way up, but kept my eyes closed because I had no idea what to do. I listened to see if I could hear anyone else in the room and I heard nothing but the TV and his breathing. I don’t know how long he’d been inside my shirt when I woke up. I remember swallowing back vomit at one point because he didn’t seem to mind the fact that he hadn’t asked if I was okay with what he was doing, and I was scared. My mom wasn’t home, and my brothers and sisters were at my dad’s. My friends that were there with us when the movie started had all disappeared. I had no idea what to do. I sat there with my heart hammering in my ears and his hands roaming, screaming at myself to hurry up and think. I pretended to roll over in my sleep, thinking that he would quit if he couldn’t reach what he was after. He stopped but I kept my eyes shut, hoping and praying that he would be bored with my “unconscious” state, but again I felt his hand slither its way into my shirt and under my bra. I decided to try rolling over again and waking up “naturally”. It worked and he quit. I told him he had to go, that I hadn’t realized how late it was and my mom would be home soon. I knew Mom wasn’t coming, but he didn’t know that. It seemed like years before he finally got out of my house.  

In the days that followed, I started struggling to keep food down. I’d had a problem with food in middle school but never because of my body image or anything, always just because when I get stressed out, food is the last thing I want. The only thing that seemed to help the nausea was waiting to eat until I got to the point that my stomach felt like it was eating itself. I’d eat, even though I wasn’t hungry, but later my stomach would feel like I’d eaten a brick of lead. I started to make myself throw up. I figured I was still “eating” but I couldn’t handle the heaviness of the meal and would get rid of it almost immediately after I ate.

I struggled with this until a few months later, when my friend John died, something happened that would change my relationship with food for a long time. I didn’t connect the two or even that these were the beginning of eating disorders until much later. At the time that my lab partner John died, and I was missing so much school our house was a revolving door of sorts for people that shouldn’t have been there. My mom had weird friends and one night I woke up freezing because one of them had taken my comforter right off the top of me to use for themselves. I went to go look for it when I woke up and found two people having sex in our living room. I don’t know who they were or why they were doing that in that particular location, but I was rather disgusted. I couldn’t see much because of my poor eyesight (thank God for that) and it was dark in the house. I ran face first into the wall in the hallway on the way to my Mom’s room. She wasn’t in there. I knew it wasn’t her in the living room and I was not about to ask those people where my mom was. I didn’t even know who they were. I couldn’t find her, so I went back to my room and put another hoodie on and tried to go back to sleep. Somebody came in and put a moldy smelling sleeping bag over me while I was in and out of my sleep haze, but I don’t know who that was.

I don’t know how long after that first incident with my “friend” that this happened. As I explained before my memory is rather fuzzy due to all of the things that happened that year, and probably partly from my trying so hard over the next two decades to run away from the memories that these events brought. I never told my mom about the boy from high school. I never told anyone.

One night a bunch of people were hanging out at my house and one of the older guys there kept flirting with me. He was 22 and I was 15. I liked the attention even though it made me nervous. I didn’t trust people anymore, but there was something about the way he did things for me that caught my attention. He asked about the ring I always wore. It was one my Grandma had let me have from her jewelry box. I loved my Grandma and felt like Grandma was somehow my protector. I don’t know why I thought that. I just did. Grandma seemed to understand that I was a kid that had too many demands placed on me and she did little things that made me feel special. She had a lot of grandkids, but she would always have a 3 pack of plums in the refrigerator for me when she knew I was coming over. Plums were my favorite. She also taught me how to bake cookies. I have no idea why that was a big deal to me. It just made me happy. I told the guy about my Grandma and he seemed to understand what I meant. He said his mom was like that and I should come meet her sometime.

 Over the next few weeks, he showed up a lot and always paid attention to me like I was one of the older people there. He didn’t really seem to notice my age. He asked me to give him a back massage one night and I did. Mom came home, saw us in the living room with the group of people, and called me to the bathroom. She told me that she didn’t like me doing that and she wanted me to promise her that I wouldn’t do it anymore. I was annoyed because I felt like she was just mad that someone was paying attention to me. I didn’t trust Mom anymore and Dad and I seemed to be a lost cause. But, I did listen and the next time that he asked, I told him my mom said she didn’t like it and she was worried about me hanging out with him and giving him back massages. I told him she said I had to stop. He said, “Sounds like she just jealous. Maybe you should give her one.” He didn’t ask again for a while and I felt like I was doing the right thing, but that Mom had somehow managed to take someone else away from me that might care about how broken I was. A couple of weeks went by and I don’t remember how or why but he ended up kissing me. I hadn’t kissed anybody since my first high school boyfriend and I wasn’t really experienced at it, but when he stopped, he complimented me. I don’t remember very much about any of this time, but at some point, a few weeks later he was laying on my bed in my room and we were talking. He asked me to give him a massage.  He said that he had started to have feelings for me, and he didn’t think I was just a little kid. He started kissing me again and as I kissed him back, I felt his hands unbuttoning my clothes. I stopped kissing him and started pushing him away, but he kept coming. I didn’t say no but just kept pushing him away.

I don’t need to go through all the details, but he stole something from me that day. When he was finished, I laid there trying not to cry in front of him. He winked at me and said, “Don’t tell your mom. I’ll go to jail for statutory rape.” At some point, he ended up with my Grandma’s ring and my journal (which I later wondered if he took so he could prove he hadn’t done anything wrong. Like it was evidence that at first, I had liked him too.) I didn’t think I had been raped because I hadn’t really managed to say no, but later learned that this is how sex offenders get away with what they get away with.

I felt awful. I hadn’t listened to my mom and I thought I was grown, but something inside of me was very wrong. I had never had sex before, but I was pretty sure that what had just happened was not the way it was supposed to go. I felt stupid because I hadn’t said no. I felt like I’d been cheated out of something that belonged to me because I wasn’t smart enough to see that that was what he was after the whole time.

I stopped throwing up all the time and just quit eating. I didn’t tell anyone until I was asked to give a testimony at a church retreat. I knew that whole thing was making me sick inside, but when I gave my written copy of my testimony to the youth group leaders, they said that the girl that was going before me had been raped and they didn’t want to throw too much sex stuff into what was supposed to be a God weekend, so they asked me to take that part out.

The morning before I gave my testimony, I got a “pep talk” letter from my mom. I cried as I read how much she loved me and how hard it was for her to show me. She said she knew that we had problems but that she was trying. She said she didn’t have much else to give me, but she was trying. I didn’t want to hurt her anymore after the pain I heard behind her letter, so I didn’t tell her until I was dating the Boyfriend Mom Hated a year and a half later.

I knew that something important had been stolen from me, but I couldn’t figure out exactly what it was. Even after I realized what it was that had been stolen, I didn’t understand the full effect of everything it had taken. I didn’t want to talk about it, and I didn’t want to try to heal. It was my fault that it had happened to begin with. I didn’t want to be a victim and I didn’t want for people to look at me and how stupid I was for believing that someone cared about me. When a person is sexually abused, it isn’t just their body that is taken, it is their future. The future I had in my head of what I was supposed to be had already been ruined and I had no visible hope left before this happened to me. It wasn’t just my future.

What hurt the most was that those two people took what little hope I had left. I did not have any hope in people, in myself, or in God. I also thought that I was bad now for having sex, because the Church had vehemently argued that we weren’t supposed to. There was no way I’d be good enough for God now. I’d had that going for me at least before, but after this happened, there was no way God would accept who I was.

 The amazing thing about God is that he had enough hope for both of us. I just wouldn’t allow myself to believe in it until many years later. Those two events stole my hope and they stole my future, but God knows how to put it back.

The verses about healing didn’t mean much to me until I started reading about the effects of sexual abuse. And because the Bible is the Living Word and God uses it to speak to who we are as individuals I have a better understanding of them now.

Proverbs 13:12 said “Hope deferred.” Not hope lost. My hope wasn’t lost. It was just delayed. Maybe if I had stopped and asked for help or felt like I could ask someone for help than Dr. Allender’s next revelation into my brokenness wouldn’t have hurt so much.

“Longings and shame were wed to her sense of being a woman whose only worth was in being used for someone else’s pleasure.” I didn’t feel like I was worth anything before this happened, so I had no chance after this of being worth something to anyone. Things that are valued don’t get abused. I was just not valuable.

I did not want to write this chapter. I begged God not to make me. But, as with most things that God asks us to do that we don’t want to do, I realize that the only way that my story will ever be used for his glory is if I give it to him and do what he says with it. I know that girls, even younger than I was, are being hurt by people in the same way, in more violent ways, in more evil ways. They are being taken advantage of and they do it in silence and isolation.  One of the ways that the Devil likes to make women suffer is to make us feel like we are “less than” when things like this happen. So, when God told me I was the Storm and I could defeat Satan, I had no choice but to believe him and let God have this pain too. I have to give it up so that he can use my pain to help other people. I have to give it up so that he can heal me. Even if we don’t have anything but a crumb of hope and a molecule of faith, he can restore us.

I want to leave you with this promise from TD Jakes that made me ask God for hope. He said, “You will recover what you lost at the hands of your abuser. You will get back everything stolen from you. God will rebuild your self esteem and restore the woman you could have been.” If I believe in nothing else, I believe in this truth.

I stated in an earlier blog that I don’t have anyone’s answers but my own. Sometimes, I don’t even have that. What I do know is that these kinds of things and many others are happening and if we don’t start talking about them and giving people someone they can talk to, we are perpetuating the cycles of abuse. I had no idea if what happened to me was rape, I didn’t even know what statutory meant, and all I knew was that I felt lost and alone and had nobody to talk to about it. If I had, maybe I’d have gotten some kind of help that would have changed the trajectory of my future. Instead, I suffered in silence. Many of our young girls are suffering in silence also because they don’t want to have to go through a firing range of questions just to be judged on the events of a situation, instead of how they feel about it. We have got to start opening the doors, our hearts, and our ears to people and their pain or it will keep perpetuating itself onto others. Trauma is like a bad rash. It spreads before you know you even know what kind you have. And like rashes, trauma like this will never go away unless it is identified.

Jeremiah 30:17 “I will give you back your health and heal your wounds,” says the Lord. “For you are called an outcast- Jerusalem- for whom no one cares.”

Isaiah 61:7 “Instead of shame and dishonor, you will receive a double share of honor. You will enjoy a double share of honor. You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.”

I AM THE STORM

Giants

            1 Samuel 17

I know I sometimes start off with a Bible verse, but this part of my testimony requires the story of David and Goliath, so I have listed the book and chapter of the Bible where their story takes place. If you have heard this story before, you know that David is a young shepherd boy who is brought out to fight a mammoth of a man that could not be defeated by the Israelite army. This man was so big and so trained in the tactics of war that the whole army was scared of him. The worst part was that he knew they feared him. When he called for someone to come and fight him, no one came. He laughed and mocked them. He laughed and mocked them when David came out to fight him also. He didn’t think someone so small could take him out. God had other plans. I’d like for you to keep this Bible story in the back of your minds as you read this next chapter.

            Chaos surrounded the birth of my youngest son, Denver. He came into a world full of fear on a day that many Americans will never ever forget. He was born on September 11, 2001 at the same time the last plane, United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field in Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania, the plane intended for Washington D.C. The passengers on that plane tried to overtake their hijackers and keep it from it’s original destination. While they did not live, they accomplished the mission of diversion. The world focused on the terror, but I was focused on the beauty of the little boy that God had given me.

            I woke up to intense contractions that morning. I remember the time exactly. 8:46 a.m. I remember this time because it is burned into my memory. I woke up to labor pains but the timing and its ironic coincidence to my pain and the pain of the world did not escape me in my reflections over the course of Denver’s childhood. Denver was born into a world that knew nothing but fear. Denver was born to a woman who knew nothing but fear. Denver would become the most fearless of all my kids.

            Denver was a sweet baby who never cried. I know a lot of people say that about their newborns, but it was as if he knew that the world was hurting and he just came in quietly and let the world focus on the way it was hurting, instead of requiring the world to pay attention to him. Denver would remain that quiet, shy, penetratingly watchful little boy in the years to come. Our home was madness, but somewhat of a beautiful sort. My four boys were into everything and in constant need of something. I managed to stay ahead of them for the most part and took my position as their mother with great resolve to raise good men instead of ones like the men who had used the bad in their hearts to attack my country.

            I read everything I could get my hands on about how you parent. I will forever be grateful to Dr. James Dobson in this period of my life. His books on how to parent, how to parent boys, and how to instill good qualities in the children that God honored us with were the foundation I used to create a good life for my boys. We attended the Heart Hospital Church with them, and I taught them to pray, I sang them Bible songs, and I read them Bible stories. I was careful to include how very much God loved them, determined not to have them grow up with the mindset that I’d been given. I still didn’t think God loved me, but I knew he had to love my sons. They were not like me, broken and bleeding all over the place, but still innocent and I swore that I would give them everything to put into their arsenal to use against the evil in the world.

            I prayed and studied the Bible in the bits of fragmented time I had that I wasn’t covered in children and could concentrate on the stories in the Bible. I tried to find God but I never really felt like he was finding me. I didn’t think that my boys had done anything to be abandoned and I was convinced that God would show them a different life than he had shown me because they weren’t bad like I was. I taught them love.

            We were hosting a Bible study with my Dad and brothers and sisters at this point, although I don’t remember much about it except I was always nervous that my Dad would find out that I wasn’t living the life of someone that God believed in. He knew I smoked but out of respect I didn’t do it around him. I never felt like I could be myself for fear that he would leave again and so I didn’t contradict anything he said.

Due to the constant presence of infants in our home, we smoked outside. My sister lived with us during this time and when I brought Denver home from the hospital, she would spend hours singing goofy songs and talking to him like he was her age. She was funny and I found myself laughing at her stories from the other room when she began story time with my infant son. My sister and I had become best friends and we understood each other except that I was still the oldest and so she looked to me for a lot of advice. It never occurred to either one of us that that might not be in her best interest. One day she was singing a song about bucket seats and safety belts to Denver. He watched her with that super amused look infants get where you wonder if they are thinking the giant that is holding them has lost their mind. I love that look on babies. My sister, Joyce, looked up at me as I walked into the room and said, “I enlisted this morning.” My heart fell out through my feet. My baby sister was going to the Army. My best friend was leaving, and I would not be able to protect her from whatever dangers she was placed in front of there.

We moved to a bigger house around the time she left and graduated from boot camp. In the coming months I did nothing but worry. I was scared that she or my brother, Nick, who had also enlisted and went overseas on tour would not come home again. Nick would call my mom and talk to her whenever he found time, but then started writing letters saying that calling Mom was bad luck. Every time he called home, his camp got bombed so he decided to play it safe and write letters.

I missed Joyce terribly. I had nobody really without her. Ed and I started fighting more often and I realize now that this was the beginning of the end of our marriage. He had taken a job with the railroad that didn’t require him to travel out of state, due to my constant nagging about not wanting to raise our boys alone. While he was physically at home, he really wasn’t present in the raising and training of our boys and I resented him for always getting to be “the fun parent” instead of trying to help me figure out how to keep them safe and successful, productive members of our society. I didn’t know the words to describe it then, but I was responsible for the emotional workload of our family. I tried to talk Ed up into being the leader the Bible said he should be, but looking back on it now, I didn’t trust him to take that role. I didn’t trust God to make him into the man that he should have been either, and so I took over everything that had any sort of decision making involved. Finances, the way we raised our kids, the way our house was run was all my responsibility. Ed taught the boys how to have fun.

Our family grew again a few years later with the addition of my daughter, Aja. You might be asking yourself why I continued to have children when I knew my marriage was not what it should have been. My answer would be that I was very much trying, without trying, to encourage my husband in his decision making. I was lonely and still didn’t feel any love, especially since Ed’s actions had nothing to do with loving me but controlling me as a wife. He didn’t like something; we didn’t do it. I think many times, married couples misinterpret the meaning of the verses in the Bible that call for a wife to be submissive to her husband. We stop there and don’t take into account that the husband is supposed to be submissive to the church. Mine was not, but I didn’t feel like that eliminated my role as his wife just yet. I held onto the hope that God would change him. He changed a lot in the next few years, but that change didn’t come from God. The crazy thing about the way Satan uses evil to destroy is that many times, it looks like love because we are too broken of a people to realize what true love looks like.

I started to bother Ed about having friends. I was tired of always being cooped up in the house with the kids. We stopped going to the Heart Hospital church because I had become too rundown to get 5 kids ready for church alone every Sunday and Ed’s drinking had increased. I wish that I could tell you that I held onto my faith that God would change him, but I didn’t. I began to believe that God had deserted me again and I had had enough of watching everyone else find comfort and joy in his presence and no matter what I prayed or how much I read my Bible and journaled my thoughts I never felt anything even close to that. Ed and I began fighting more and more until he came home one day from work and said that a new guy had gotten transferred to his yard at the railroad and they had been discussing how annoyed their wives were at not having any friends.

We started to hang out with them and because my belief in God had shriveled to the point of almost nonexistence, I began drinking with Ed and this new couple. We started to fight even more as my irritation began to grow that Ed had sailed through parenting our kids. I needed a break and because I had pushed off anyone who’d tried to give me that for the previous 7 or 8 years, people just stopped asking. I wasn’t going to leave my kids with a sitter that often. Ed’s parents were often the only people I trusted to watch my kids, but there was always condemnation in their voices when they asked about something I was trying to do with my kids. Ed’s son began having a ton of problems in school and began lying to us about everything. We made the decision to homeschool because I wanted him to have more attention. It turned into a battle every day to get his son to do any work at all. His son didn’t feel loved and because of the misdirection of his other grandparents about how he belonged in our family, his little heart was suffering. I tried to give him as much love as I could, but I was very alone in that venture.            

Because of the drinking Ed and I started fighting even more. Our marriage came to a crashing halt when I decided that I just could not have any more babies and I was too tired, and my body had been through too much growing 4 tiny people inside of it. I had my boys, I had my daughter. That was enough for me. At this point, Ed began to see how close I was to leaving and so he began doing off the wall things in order to impress me. He bought me a huge ring for absolutely no reason. I took it as a sign that he was trying to claim property and I was sick of being owned by someone due to a piece of paper. We got into a fight one night and the events that occurred were what I call the casket moment of my life. My already dying marriage became a cold and lifeless corpse and it took my heart and soul with it. I had no hope. I had no love. I had nothing.

            A few weeks later, I was at a doctor’s appointment, trying to rectify some of the damage done to my body from my years of having babies. I have a very twisted, ugly vein that runs down my right leg. I didn’t care so much about the look, but the blood pooling on the inside of my knee whenever I stood up too long started to become too much of a pain to be able to keep up with my kids. I had been looking forward to having this procedure done for a long time. So much so, that my fear of hospitals came in second to how much I needed this problem to go away. I got the flu and had a temperature the day of my surgery, so the doctor sent me back home and they rescheduled. I came back three weeks later, and the doctor informed me that they couldn’t do the surgery on a pregnant woman. I remember being completely confused as to why he would say that to me, since I wasn’t pregnant. He informed me that when they had done my preliminary bloodwork that my pregnancy test had come back positive. I immediately burst into tears. I cried the whole way home from the doctor’s office and continued crying for the next 3 weeks straight. I just wasn’t strong enough to grow another baby.

            My last pregnancy was a time of horrendous turmoil. Ed and I bounced around from trying to work it out even though I know now that nothing he could have done in this time would have changed my mind. I was tired of living with a person that seemed to have no regard for how hard I worked, how much I loved my kids, and how shattered he had caused my heart to become. Looking back now, I see what God did for me in that moment of my life. I needed this baby. My other babies had any ounce of love that I could give and I just didn’t have any more. Or at least that is what I thought. I was so stressed out from my constant battling with Ed and my announcement that I would no longer live with a man that chose to live inside the bottom of a whiskey bottle that I started to bleed a few months before she was born. I had moved out of our house and into a trailer that my brother, Nick, had owned and was trying to sell. When the doctor put me on bedrest, I had no choice but to move back in with Ed.

            I made it clear that the only reason I was there was because I was too sick to be able to take care of the other kids on my own. I was not interested in any resolutions of our marriage because Ed continued to stay married to his alcohol. We fought constantly and then one day I just stopped talking to him. I was done. My daughter was born and I acquired an infection from having my tubes tied. My health was in terrible shape. I lost a lot of weight and didn’t eat. My doctors were concerned about my mental health and to be fair so was I. I had begun trying to find answers through music and one of my brothers’ friends had begun messaging me and recommending new bands for me to listen to. We spent hours talking and I fell in love with the idea of being in love. I wallowed in my music and pretended that this guy was whatever I needed him to be. His online persona was nothing like his physical presence, so for the most part I kept him online. Ed found out and everything exploded. We separated for the last time that spring and Ed filed for divorce.

            Our divorce was final in February of 2008. Ed held my hand through our divorce hearing and I cried. He asked me to remarry him after we signed the papers. I sorrowfully informed him that the wife he had known was dead. I was not that wife anymore. He’d killed her. I would not be coming back.

            I wish I could tell you that this was the straw it took to break the camel’s back. It was not. The next ten years of my life do not need their own chapter in the same format that you have been reading my story. I can sum those years up in a passage I read in Dr. Allender’s book, “The Wounded Heart”. “Having a history of abuse created caverns in her heart that predisposed her to longing for men who harm sexually, verbally, emotionally, or harm by their absent heart. She found herself repeatedly falling in love with the same man. A different face, a different frame, but no less the same man and felt compelled by her desire for him. Anything different made her bored, disinterested, and even angry.”

            I jumped right into another tumultuous and turbulent relationship that ended ten years later. The only things I learned from that relationship are things that taught me just how much abuse and evil that one can endure before they have finally had enough. When it was over, I collected my children, whatever pieces of my shattered heart that I could find out from under the feet of a man who was more broken than my husband had ever been and I began to walk. I had no idea where I was going, but I began to walk.

            In the year that followed I drank a lot. My heart just couldn’t hold any more pain. I was broken and bleeding and there was no hope for me in sight. I was forced to live alone with my kids and my pain and while I am not proud of this section of my story, I understand why it took so much to break me. I am stubborn. One of the things that never ceases to amaze me about people who have suffered from abuse is the insane amount of hell that they can endure before they totally break.  Before you judge me, which you have every reason to, I want you to consider something. You cannot take on the entire world alone and stay unbroken. You cannot look evil in the eye every single day and stay strong enough to defeat it on your own. If I had known exactly what that meant maybe I wouldn’t have died so hard. But, when you don’t know you just don’t know. It doesn’t make you wrong, or a bad person. It makes you a human. Yes, I knew that my drinking was becoming a problem. What I did not know was what to do instead. I did not know how to find any comfort in a world that seemed intent on destroying me for no other reason than it just simply could. I couldn’t stand the waves of pain, the nightmares, the agony of what my life had become and the weight that crushed me during every single moment of every single day. What made it even worse was my guilt over becoming something I had detested just 12 short years before. What made it worse was that I was hurting people. I was hurting my kids and that killed me. I couldn’t explain anything to them and not fill them with hate. I couldn’t explain to them that the last 23 years of my life were filled with the people in my life that “loved” me yet did everything they could to destroy me. I couldn’t tell them about the abuse I suffered at the hands of those people under the disguise of love. What I could tell them was that I loved them. That was all I had.

            I went to work everyday and it was the only place that I felt anything. I watched my school kids and talked to them about their lives. I never combined the two…my home life and my school life. I was two completely different people. I was very aware that I didn’t fit in with the adults at school, but the kids were a different story. I heard them. I felt their pain. I understood them.

            One day my daughter, Aja wrote a quote on my mirror so that I would see it when I got ready for work in the morning. It said, “Yesterday, the devil whispered in my ear and said, “You are not strong enough to withstand the storm.” Today I whispered back, “I am the storm.” I had no idea what those words would become to me, but I held onto that quote like a life raft in a raging sea of brokenness. I was tired. I was broken. I was breaking other people. Something had to change.

            I’m often asked why I am so good with children. My response is always the same. “I understand the war that rages inside of them.” Nobody really knows why I say that, but in my school kids and the work that we did everyday my sad and broken heart began to beat again. They struggled the same way I had without any guidance, without any knowledge of why they were thrown into the mess that surrounded them. I began to become what I had needed. I began to become their voice and their protector, even when that idealism required me to protect them from themselves. I began to love them with everything I could find inside myself. I started to research and develop new ways of dealing with them and the issues they faced every day. I began to let them show me their hearts and the broken with which they so bravely lived every single day. I allowed them to show me their hopelessness, their anger, and their despair. I allowed them to show it to me by shutting my mouth and letting them get out whatever pain they needed to release in whatever way they chose to give it to me. They would cuss at me, try to hit me, kick me, and scream all sorts of vile things. When they were done, I would hug them and just let them be angry in that space of love. I didn’t try to correct them. I didn’t try to save them. I just sat with them in their pain and anger at the world. We sat together, many times in silence, my pain resonating with theirs. We sat.

            God would show me after a few years that this giant that the school kids and I faced together was my job to bring down. I was David up against the Goliath my school kids faced. Their Goliath and my Goliath was the same. The Goliath that beats kids to a pulp on the inside before they are old enough to know they have to fight it. The Goliath that kills the hope inside of their little bodies before their bodies are even ready to understand they have hope. The Goliath that killed their spirit and their soul and their ability to see anything but their own pain.

            I was watching a Youtube video of Sarah Jakes Roberts a few months ago when I realized this connection. I’d always known that I had been placed in this world to become a steppingstone for someone else to achieve greatness. What I did not know was that I was placed in front of this Goliath because God would use my experiences, my pain, my complete loss of hope and the death of the person that I was because he knew that I could take Goliath down. In all those times where I was alone and scared and being drowned and beaten by the events of my life, God was showing me how powerful I was. He was showing me that if I could just align myself with him, that if I could just get my head on straight and my ears and heart to hear his voice instead of the voice of my pain that I would see that he had placed me in front of Goliath for my kids. He allowed me to feel the terror that they felt so that I would know how to stand tall against the things my kids fear.  He used all that time and all of those people to show me that I lived through it because in order to dismantle something you have to find it’s weakness.

            My favorite part of the video “Restructuring” from Sarah Jakes Roberts is where she says, “ God told me to tell you when he gets done restructuring, he’s gonna take that generational curse and turn into a generational blessing. He’s going to pour out a blessing that you don’t have room enough to receive. I hear God saying “Wholeness” is coming for your family. The devil picked the wrong one. He messed around and pushed you over the edge. When he pushed you over the edge you broke open the promises. I came here to restructure somebody’s belief system. I came here to go to war with hell and hold a funeral for disbelief.”

            What I realized in her message was how right my daughter was. For the last 40 years the devil has been whispering in my ear, “You are not strong enough to withstand the storm.” I finally found my power in God that allows me to look the devil straight in his lying face and say to him with my signature smirk, fiery eyes, and sarcastic tone, “Guess what? You messed around with the wrong one. I already know that I can defeat you and you used all this time to try to keep me down. But, what you didn’t realize, baby, is that all that evil you put on my head, all those generational curses and abuse I suffered through;  all you did was show me how strong I am and how scared you are of me. Because here’s the real truth and I want you and your lies to hear me loud and clear when I say this. BE AFRAID. BECAUSE EVERYTHING YOU DID TO ME WASN’T ENOUGH TO KILL ME. IT WASN’T ENOUGH BECAUSE MY GOD TOLD ME SOME THING HE DID NOT TELL YOU. HE USED YOU TO TELL ME WHO I AM.  I AM THE STORM.”

Sarah Jakes Roberts: Restructuring

The Devil’s Storm

Chapter 11: The Devil’s Storm

Isaiah 59:9-10

“So there is no justice among us, and we know nothing about right living. We look for brightness but only find darkness. We look for bright skies but walk in gloom. We grope like the bling along a wall, feeling our way like people without eyes. Even at brightest noontime, we stumble as though it were dark. Among the living, we are like the dead.”

I found this verse as I was looking for something else and it wouldn’t not stop pounding in my head until I wrote it down. I mentioned in my previous blog that abused people do not know how to tell the difference between something being good or bad for them. Everything looks the same, but your pain attracts other pain. I didn’t realize how true that was because it is impossible to process trauma when you are still experiencing trauma. I said I thought that once I turned 18 I could escape the demons from my childhood, my teenage years, and I had hope that once out I could escape my anger as well. Hindsight being 20/20, my escape would never come because I was unable to escape myself. One of my favorite quotes is “The relationship you have with yourself is the most complicated because you can’t walk away from you. You have to forgive every mistake. You have to deal with every flaw. You have to find a way to love you even when you are disgusted with yourself.” My disgust with myself grew the more I engaged in the same patterns with different people. The bigger my disgust got, the more blind I became to what was going on inside of me.

Ed and I got married twenty-one days after I turned eighteen, because of course, that is a choice that any person who has suffered years of abuse and inner turmoil finds acceptable to do. Most people ask me if I got married so young because I was pregnant. I was not. I was just lost and broken and hurt and looking for escape from demons that I would come to find out had not only followed me but brought along a horde of friends to join in my despair and destruction.  It is in looking back on these times that I most see how scared the devil must be of who I would become. He threw everything at me in this season of my life to convince me that I was less than nothing.

I remember my wedding day, not with joy, only with sorrow that I didn’t listen to my inner voice screaming at me to turn and run. I knew that my choice to marry had nothing to do with any of the reasons that people should get married, and everything to do with trying to find something that would ease just a fraction of my pain. I held my Stepdad’s arm and walked down the aisle. I remember hitting about the three-quarter mark and all of the sudden I felt like ice and my feet slowed. My Stepdad sensed this change in my movement and looked at my with a questioning glance. I barely looked at his face. I couldn’t. I knew if I saw anything there that even resembled love I would have turned around and run out the church doors.

Married life started off uneventful enough. I was lonely, going from my mom’s house that was filled with people and no privacy to silence echoing off the bare, boring walls of our first apartment. I hated that place. Ed and I started house shopping before our lease was up and soon found a small cape cod that would become home to us and eventually our growing family. The weekend we moved, I was excited and wanted his son to be there with us so that he felt like we were all moving in as a family. Ed had other plans. His friends were coming in from out of town and he wanted to have a party and get drunk. His parents took his son for the night against everything I had set out to build for him. We ended up fighting and Ed punched a hole in the ceiling of the bedroom in our not even unpacked house. For years I stared at that hole. It represented something so much deeper than just a fight. It represented the loss of my voice, the loss of my sense of self, and my ability to see anything good in any progressions we made as a couple.

I stated in an earlier post that this is not a tell-all. In the most transparent way possible, I want to say that there are some things that God just hasn’t shown me the answers to yet. I’m okay with that. But I think it is important to note that just because I don’t divulge all the details of my story that the feelings I experienced are still worth noting. Within the first six months of our marriage an event took place that would make it impossible for me not only to trust or love my new husband, to look at him as any sort of support, or to begin to examine the ruins that my life would become. It was almost like being stuck in a time warp…I relived the same thing over and over for most of our marriage. I couldn’t trust him and I grew to develop a giant ball of resentment that sat between us like an uninvited guest at the dinner table. It was a shadow over everything I did, even though he seemed to be able to move past it like a boat on a river with a strong current. I closed myself off from him and would never again allow him access to any part of the broken part of my heart.

In the first few years of our marriage, his son’s mother’s parents took custody of his son. I had argued this idea when Ed decided to sign the papers before we got married, but we were only newly engaged so my opinion wasn’t considered. I thought it was ridiculous to let his son stay with his grandparents when he could have just as easily stayed with his father and his parents until we got married. After we were married, Ed finally decided that it was time to get his son living with us, but the grandparents were not all that excited about the prospect of losing their oldest grandson, especially since his son now had a half-brother that also stayed with them. We began the lengthy, expensive custody battle that would take 5 years to complete.

After I graduated high school in January of my senior year, a few months after our wedding I had planned on attending college. Ed was worried that we wouldn’t have enough money for the custody costs and for my college tuition, so we agreed that his son’s future was more important than mine and I would hold off on enrolling. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be yet, since my dreams of going to the doctor had dissipated in the trauma I experienced from watching my Grandma scratch holes in herself at the hospital. I would come to fear hospitals even more in the coming years until it would become almost impossible for anyone to talk me into going until I absolutely had no choice or was too weak to fight off anyone carrying me through the doors.

I worked for a research company with my sister in law and we hung out with her and her husband when Ed was home. There was always drinking. However, right after my 19th birthday and right before our first anniversary I learned I was pregnant. I hadn’t wanted kids until I met Ed’s son, but now the prospect of having a new baby both excited and terrified me. Excitement soon won out and I began preparing for my new baby to arrive. Mom was the first person I told after Ed and both of their reactions did nothing to abate my excitement about the baby, but they crushed me in another way. Ed was on the road all the time as a conductor for the railroad, so we didn’t see each other that much. It didn’t help anything that for years he would drink so much that the train rides back home during his work week were overshadowed with the remnants of his 8 hours with his friends in the state he traveled to and the times he spent at home with me and his son were spent either sleeping off his binge or arguing with me about his being “too tired” to be more involved with his boy. Again, I was verbal in the fact that I hated the railroad because I didn’t know what to do with half of the legal stuff that presented itself during the custody battle. And battle it was. The grandparents used my pregnancy to try and say that we weren’t fit parents. We were “untested” and they didn’t think that his son could handle being separated from his brother.

            It was the hottest summer in decades and as a pregnant woman with edema I was miserable. I beat myself up constantly for not being better at staying away from smoking any cigarettes and would sneak them whenever I wasn’t out in public. I was ashamed because I couldn’t seem to quit and then my doctor told me that my stress about quitting was causing more harm to my baby than my actual smoking. I cut down to 1 a day and then beat myself up for that as well. Ed and his dad both smoked and neither thought it was important to keep it away from me. I developed kidney problems and at 6 months I was hospitalized right before one of our major court dates where the judge was supposed to decide if we would be granted custody of Ed’s son. I stressed and stressed even though I was too sick to move. My doctor was scared that I would go into preterm labor due to a severe kidney infection. I was terrified that I had caused this and my baby would die because I already knew God hated me.

            When my son was born, they laid him on my chest and I knew without a doubt what love was. I had never in my life been so in love with anything and I knew that this child was a second chance for me. I resolved to never let what happened to me happen to him and I was even more fiercely protective of my son than I had been of Ed’s other boy. I would spend hours watching him sleep and I didn’t leave the room without taking him with me. I went back to smoking my regular amount and that was the only time I left my son alone in any room. He was always sleeping and I would stand facing any window I could to see him and make sure nothing happened to him inside our house without my noticing. My labor had been so quick, the doctor’s were not that prepared for his arrival and I was not prepared for the toll that having a baby and having a super-fast delivery would take on my small frame. I was in a tremendous amount of pain for the next 8 months and I cried every time it was necessary for me to fulfill any sort of “wifely” duties or go to the bathroom. For weeks it hurt so bad to sit that I learned to sit sideways while nursing my son and we slept like that often. I got little to no sleep during this time. One of my favorite jokes to tell people when they say “Oh my gosh you have five kids?! You got your hands full! Do you sleep?” I’d say, “I had a nap in 1998 but haven’t slept since. It was a good nap, so I’m doing okay.” It was funny, but it was a lie. I was not okay. I was tired! This baby of mine ate every hour! I felt like one of the machines I had seen cows hooked up to. It didn’t take me long to lose my baby weight and to keep weight on myself became a struggle.

            My son, Corbin, was 6 months old and just starting to sleep through most nights when Ed was suspended from the railroad for getting off of a train car backwards. He received 45 days off. When Corbin was 8 months old and Ed had just gone back to work I learned I was pregnant again. I was already tired but loved Corbin so much that I figured this would be like adding more love.

            Zebediah didn’t exactly do anything the way Corbin did. I was in labor with him for a whole 45 minutes when he made his appearance. I don’t know if it was the lack of nutrients from having babies so close together, or my still recovering body but I passed out several times from pain during his arrival. Much like the way he was born, Zeb’s demeanor was nothing like Corbin’s either. Ed was gone on the road so it was just me, his son, Corbin and my screaming ball of fury. Zeb was colic and screamed his whole entire face off every day for 7 hours until I thought I was going to go insane from listening to him. I loved him but this baby could not be consoled at all. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong and while he was screaming Corbin would climb up in my lap and try to comfort his baby brother. I loved Corbin so much more for trying to understand at such a young age (he wasn’t even three yet) and he was proud of his new little friend. Finally, when Zeb was 8 months old, he slept through the night for the first time when Corbin crawled into the crib with him. I was in awe of how gentle Corbin was with him and how he didn’t seem to notice or be bothered by the endless racket coming from out of his brother’s face.

            Ed’s son began to feel left out and having moved in with us only a few months before due to the incredibly long court ordeal he began to have regressions in his developmental stages that both confused and scared me. Ed didn’t seem all that bothered by it, but my quickly developing Momma heart kept telling me this boy was hurting. He would make himself throw up any time one of the other kids would need attention and especially at bedtime. He started having issues with going to the bathroom when he’d already been potty trained for a few years. This was something I had experience in, so I knew that kids just didn’t all the sudden go back to needing diapers at 6 or 7 years old. I started taking him to counseling, but I didn’t know any of the answers to the questions the therapists would ask because it wasn’t my story so it was a very frustrating time.

            We attended the church with the pastor that had shown so much care and concern for his daughters when I was young. I didn’t call the church anything during this time, but it has come to be the Heart Hospital. As much as I wish that I could have let my heart be fixed by this church at this point, I didn’t because I was too afraid of what they would do if they found out how ugly I was on the inside. I couldn’t let go of my shame or my terror at letting anyone in to see just how beaten and broken I was. I was terrified of being kicked out again and in light of my inability to trust or love my husband at all, but still trying to do what was right I walked around among the living, but just like the dead.

Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire

Chapter 10

            Proverbs 24:12 – “Don’t excuse yourself by saying, “Look, we didn’t know.” For God understands all hearts, and he sees you. He who guards your soul knows you knew. He will repay all people as their actions deserve.”

I don’t think I mentioned in Caskets: Part 1 & 2 that when I enrolled in Farm School that because of the terms of nonpayment for the Family Catholic School I couldn’t get my transcripts sent over. My first junior year I attended for no credit at all. My second junior year I did attend and as things were calming down somewhat, I was able to go to school and go to work without much interference into my very broken heart. As is common for those who experience trauma and the compounds and constraints it breeds within us, when things calmed down outside, they were still steadily tearing apart my insides. I needed love and I needed to find it fast. Again, for those experiencing unresolved trauma, I had no idea what love looked like and wouldn’t have known what to look for if love had come up and introduced itself.

Before I could break up with the Hated by Mom boyfriend, one of the guys at the retail store I worked at started asking me out. I couldn’t stand him, so it was easy to say no. After about the sixth time he asked, he came into work on his off day. To my surprise, he had a baby with him. If you know me personally, or you have been reading my blog you may have figured out already that I am a sucker for kids. The guy brought the little boy in the cart over to say hi and I have no idea what happened to my heart in that moment, but something stirred way down deep and I fell in love with that kid instantly. He was less than a year old but kept trying to hand me things while I was talking to him and at one point stretched his tiny arms out to me as if he wanted me to pick him up. He was adorable.

The next shift that I worked with Ed I asked why I had never heard that he had a son. He said he didn’t tell a lot of people because he’d asked out a couple of girls that knew he had a son and they’d always said no. I still didn’t like him, but I had questions about that so I agreed to go on break with him to talk. I wish that I could tell you that we started dating because I fell in love with him and not his son, but I was more interested in his son than I was in him. We started talking more and eventually he developed feelings that I wasn’t ready for. I felt awkward because nothing was happening to the inside of me and I had heard multiple times from multiple places that love heals all things. I start to remember the things that Mom tried to tell me in this time, but because she was still so broken and now going through separation and reconciliation and then separation again in her own marriage, I didn’t understand the things she said. If she was doing the things that she was telling me to do, then why wasn’t her marriage any better than it was? She cried a lot and all the progress she’d seemed to make over the last year or so began to quickly disappear. My stepdad moved in and out several times over the course of the next 5 years. That was all the longer their marriage lasted. Again, my Mom was being broken and again I was there to try to hold my brothers and sisters together. I felt like this time I should be better at it and this time it shouldn’t be so hard. We’d been through a bunch of breakups and heartache so it’s not like we didn’t have the experience it took to make it through.

I was wrong. It wasn’t easier. It wasn’t any better this time because we weren’t any better. If I had stopped running from my past and just hung out in my anger long enough to dissect my pain, the path I took to find love would have been a lot different.

We always assume that our past is behind us, and to some degree yes, it is. However, when we don’t acknowledge that our past hurts and look at the reasons why we made the choices that assisted the trauma and heartbreak that occurs, we tend to keep making the same mistakes over and over again. The past doesn’t stay behind us where it belongs. It moves to go in front of us so that we continue to feel it over and over and we let it steer us into the direction of comfort in agony. Agony and more pain looks and feels comfortable because we can recognize it. The unknown is scarier than the known, no matter how much the known hurts. If I hadn’t been so scared that nobody would ever see me for who I really was, for the gifts I had, for the future I could have had if someone would just give me a piece of solid ground to walk on, I would not have made the choices that caused me to break even farther than I had already.

Ed and I started dating and even though he was possessive and a little controlling there were things that he did that made me feel like he cared. When I really started to do the work I needed to do to heal so many years later, I realized I was looking for him to apologize to me and beg for forgiveness for hurting me during our marriage when, in fact, that was not his apology to make. I never fell in love with Ed because I wasn’t supposed to be with him. We got married not because I loved him, but because I loved his son. He was just a means to an end and that was my choice, not his.

Steve Harvey has a video about forgiveness where he talks about how you can’t drive your car looking through your rearview mirror. Trauma makes you drive your car that way. In order to switch viewpoints, you have to stop driving and change some things around. When I stopped running and just sat still, I realized that Ed and I had bonded in being known as the embarrassment of our families. He had a son out of wedlock and while there was no question that everybody loved his son, they were still paying the price for the decision he made. His son’s mom was not in great shape and it was easier to blame her than it was for Ed to look at the way he’d contributed to his own downfall. I recognized that because we seemed to just be two people who had tried to find what we were looking for and the people who were supposed to teach us had failed in some way. Over the course of the next year, we spent a lot of time talking about our families and the things they had said and done to hurt us. I knew that he felt bad for embarrassing his mom and dad but what I didn’t see was the great lengths he would go to in our marriage to try to prove to them, and to himself, that he wasn’t a disappointment. Like me, he would make choices that not only disappointed them further but destroyed his sense of self along the way.

 He was involved in a program at his school that matched the one at mine where we both worked on cars for 4 hours a day instead of going to a class. He was a much better mechanic than I was and got several job offers from places like Penske and Penzoil his senior year of high school. They gave him tools and all kinds of merchandise due to his ability to diagnose any car problem. Throughout our marriage, I never really considered a car breakdown that big of a deal because Ed could literally fix anything on a car.

His family was a railroad family though and so all the men worked on the railroad. That’s just what they did. It was a family thing. Due to pressure from his family to provide for his son, his desire to save his reputation, and his desire to avoid any more reading in college, Ed took a job on the railroad. Around the same time, he asked me to marry him and I said yes. When God shows us things, sometimes we don’t realize what we are looking at and now, as I stop driving my car into more pain, I see Ed in a different light than I did when we were married. I think one of the things that he loved the most about me was my very vocal hatred of the railroad. I had grown up without my Dad, Ed had grown up without his, even though his parents were still married, and that hurt bonded us. When I realized what made me date him in the first place, I wondered what sort of marriage I’d have had if Ed had been able to do what made him happy instead of doing what he thought his family wanted. His job would become a source of contention between us and I continually told him that I was not going to have children with someone who refused to be around to parent them with me. I wanted a family. I should have been more specific, but I didn’t know how at the time because I wasn’t looking at anything through a lens of wholeness, but instead a mirror full of my own cracks and insecurities. I learned to love Ed, but I was never in love with him. In order to fully understand how I chose my own course of events and the pain that I endured in my marriage I would have to come to terms with the fact that I married Ed because his heart was broken and I thought it looked like mine. I thought that we could grow and help each other and become a family for his young son. I loved his son with a fierceness that surprised me, and I became very protective of him and the situations that he was involved in. Ed wanted his mom to watch his son on the nights that he had him so that we could go out on dates. I told him that we needed to stay at home and take care of his son. I didn’t really understand the dynamic that was running his parenting at the time, but I would come to understand it very well in the coming years. I was searching for my own place in the world, but somehow, I knew that his son held some sort of key for me to unlock whatever that was.

  1. Steve Harvey Forgiveness video –

Caskets: Part 1 and 2

Chapter 9

I have wrestled with how to write this part of my story for the last few days. Up until this point, I have come to terms with the events of my childhood that caused me pain or made me feel unloved and unwanted by my parents, my schools, and my God. When God gave me the idea to start writing this blog, I knew he wanted my elementary and middle school years to be told. Beyond that I didn’t know much else. Remember I said that I had “a little” faith? Even though I realize now what was going on in the year and a half that were to follow, it doesn’t make them any easier to write about. Except, the one thing that God showed me is that He will always win over what tries to conquer us. I am a warrior. I was a warrior before now, but like I may have mentioned a time or two, the devil is a liar, and I couldn’t see that.

One of the reasons that this time is so hard to write is because it involves situations that are not mine alone to come to terms with. The point of this blog is to tell my story so that my readers can see how God’s love transcends all things and to give hope for those who feel as if they are dying in these same struggles. It is not a “tell-all”. I only write about the events that God has put on my heart to put into the world. There are events that occurred within this time frame that God has not shown me an understanding about yet and so I don’t believe that I can do those events the justice that He has in store for them.

Another reason that this chapter is so hard to write is that my memory of this time period is incredibly fuzzy. Trauma does that to you. I don’t think that enough emphasis is placed on how much trauma can affect a person’s everyday life, but the immense obstacles it places within our memory as well. This year was a tornado of trauma and while I know most of what happened, I do not remember the chronological order in which some of them occurred. I believe that God will sort them all out in his time for me, but it might get confusing for anyone reading. To be fair, it is confusing for me as the one writing.

I left my story at the end of my freshman year. With the events that took place at my high school, my grandma had set things in motion for me to attend the same Catholic school my mother had gone to. My mother and father both come from large families and both names were remembered because both sides still went to the same church. For some reason, I thought that meant that I would finally “belong” somewhere. Getting in trouble my freshman year and the reason for my leaving made me sound a lot cooler than I really was to kids who were impressed by that sort of thing. Those kids weren’t exactly model citizens, but when you experience abuse, you don’t know how to tell the good from the bad anymore. Everything feels like an attack around the corner.  

As abused people, we seek out situations and people who will reinforce the fears we keep running around inside our brains. In other words, we look for people who will treat us badly because that is the easiest way to support the fear that something is wrong with us. Everyone else has managed to figure it out and we just keep tripping and falling over the same obstacles time after time after time. We come to believe that we are no more than the pain in our lives. That is the way trauma works.

I had gotten into some trouble with some friends of mine when we got caught drinking over the summer and because of the events of that situation my Mom decided that I could not be trusted to be left alone. She went to work, and I went with her and then after that she took me to my grandma’s house to be “babysat”.  I would bet every dollar I had that Mom would not have done this if she knew just how tired my Grandma was or how sick she would get in the months that followed, because I wasn’t really being watched by any adults even though the house was full of them. My uncle allowed me to sneak out with him after my Grandma had gone to bed and he was the person I would look up to the most in this time. Grandma bought me cigarettes because I wasn’t old enough to buy my own. Living there wasn’t that much of a punishment. I think after awhile Mom realized this and had me live with her and my brothers and sisters again. Mom and I fought like crazy during this time. I was defiant and rude and disrespectful, and looking back on it now through God’s guidance, I was trying to make someone, most often times my Mom, pay for the things that had happened to me, even though many of them were not hers to pay for. In trying to make her pay, I ended up nearly killing myself.

The Family Catholic School started off like most other years. Even though my physical appearance had improved; my glasses were gone, and I’d figured out how to do my hair and makeup, I was back to square one in the clothing department. My grandma had been able to find a sponsor somewhere to pay my tuition. My family was on food stamps and other types of government assistance so private school tuition wasn’t exactly in the budget. Nothing but the cost to attend the school was to be covered and I had very little clothing that was included in the school uniform policy. I was still very small and skinny, even for my age, and when the office lady took me to go get the required skirts from the clothing store, I only got to pick from the free ones. The “cute” ones were $50 each and there was no way I would be able to get one of those. The two “freebies” fit me like garbage sacks. When most kids were spending time at the mall or at extracurricular activities and hanging out with their friends, I spent most of my sophomore year fighting with my uniform skirts. I was constantly getting sent to the office for dress code violations. The Dean of the school remembered my mom from her days there, so he usually just rolled his eyes, sat me down in his office for 5 minutes while he smoked a cigarette or talked on the phone, and then gave me a stern look and said “Quit wearing the stuff that gets you sent down here.” I’d shrug and offer nothing in the way of a sincere apology. What was I supposed to do? My family didn’t have any money and we were barely scraping the bottom of the barrel to eat and they were worried about my shirt being the wrong color of red.

Contacts weren’t as developed in those days and shortly after the school year began, I developed a pretty severe and incredibly stubborn eye infection. Also, I don’t think it was all that well known that contacts held the infection, but I couldn’t see without them so I would wear at least one. (This habit would continue well into my second junior year of high school where I would routinely only have one contact that I could wear for long periods of time). My first period teacher was not a fan of the way I smelled when I came to her class (due to the fact that we smoked in the car on the way to school with my aunt who also attended there) and she used my eye infection as a way to get me sent out of her class. Every day I got up and got dressed and went to school only to be sent home because they thought I had pink eye. My eyes were constantly raw and red, and I would often wake up with them crusted shut. If I was at home and could leave my contacts out, they would get a little better and Mrs. PollySomething would leave me alone long enough to stay in class for a couple of days. I had been bullied so much about my glasses that I didn’t care that Mom didn’t have enough money to replace them after our dog had chewed up the frames so badly that the ear piece cut the side of my head when I wore them. I was terrified of not being able to see everything I needed to see, so I continued to wear my contacts even though it was killing my eyes. Without them, I ran into locker doors and trash cans because I was too near sighted to be able to function without some sort of optical assistance.

My first period lab partner, John, was a quiet boy who was very smart, and he was nice to me. I don’t know if he wanted to be or not, but he did the bulk of the work and I helped when I was there, but I wouldn’t have had anywhere close to the grade I had if it hadn’t been for him. One day it snowed on the way to school and when I got to first period (late as usual), my class felt wrong. I went to my lab desk and John was absent, so I turned around to ask the girl behind me what was going on. She looked at me like I was stupid, burst into hysterical sobs and said, “John got into a car accident this morning on the way to school. He’s dead.” I felt like I was going to throw up. I got up and walked out of class.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only tragedy like that we’d have to go through that year as a school body. One of my uncle’s very best friends and an amazing football player that had graduated the year before died on his college campus. The Euell Wilson Center was built in his honor a few years after that.

I failed Anatomy and Physiology. I loved studying the human body and wanted to be a doctor. Someone had given me a real stethoscope and a copy of Gray’s Anatomy and those were my most treasured possessions. I could name every bone in the human body and I studied and read about medicine whenever I could find time to wrap my swimming thoughts around the Latin words used in that huge reference text.  Mom picked up a doctor’s coat from somewhere as well and I was serious about becoming a doctor.  I applied at a local hospital to be a candy striper and received a call that asked when I could start. I wish that I had been able to take it, but when I told Mom she had no idea how we could work out getting me to the hospital everyday for a job I wasn’t going to get paid for.

Mom had met the man who would become my stepdad at some point during this year. Mom didn’t live with us that year, so one of my older cousins lived with us kids and then after her, my Mom’s younger sister stayed with her daughter while she was going through her own divorce. I didn’t care except that in addition to watching my own brothers and sisters, I now had another kid to babysit when the adults were off being busy adults. We just kept living though. There wasn’t anything else we could do.

Two events happened in this time period that only added to my inability to deal with my world. I am not going to go into any detail, but those, along with the death of my friend and the constant trouble I was having with uniforms and grades and my eye infection, I missed an insane amount of school. These two events scarred every piece of me, and I was alone in my pain. I had no one to tell and no help would come. I finished out the year of school and then was told I wasn’t allowed to return because my tuition had not been paid and they would not be releasing my grades until they received a check to cover the costs. That was never going to happen as we didn’t even have the money to live, let alone pay for some outrageously priced education. I was in a mess. Still to this day, I wonder sometimes if this was really the way they handled nonpayment or if it was because of the attendance and behavior problems I had.

I started working at a local carwash with a bunch of the kids from school in the fall of that year. My boyfriend at the time worked there as well, along with another of my mom’s younger sisters, so transportation wasn’t an issue as long as I was scheduled on a day that one of them were there. My boyfriend’s dad had very fond memories of my mom because they had worked at a bakery together in high school, so he was always very nice when I came over and seemed genuinely happy to see me. I got invited to their family cookouts and get togethers and his big family was so much different than my own. I loved them. My boyfriend’s younger sister and I became very close and used to sneak out together to smoke clove cigarettes in my car after her parents went to sleep.

When school started again that fall, all of my friends went back to school and Mom decided that I should homeschool for the year until we could figure out what to do. Since she wasn’t about to send me back to the Gang High School and I couldn’t go to the Family Catholic School, I studied medicine and books about controversial topics on days that it was slow at work. I was the only 15-year-old I knew that had a full-time job. Because of the events of the year, my animosity towards myself and my mom grew, and I sort of forgot to be angry at my dad. My heart and my head were a mess, but I had already learned that it was better if I kept everything inside. I knew part of what had happened to me was my fault for ignoring Mom, but I refused to admit that to myself because I was so angry at her for not being there when I made a kid decision to an adult issue that I had no business being around.

It was around this time Grandma started to get really sick with what the doctors misdiagnosed as kidney failure and she was pretty tied to the house due to her dialysis. A couple of months later, she was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer. My brothers and sisters would still go visit my Dad, but I couldn’t go. With our already stressed relationship and the new events that had taken over my teenage soul I couldn’t stand to be around Dad. I was mad at him for leaving me, for turning Mom into whoever this unrecognizable person was, and for not loving me. I was angry at the world. The only problem with being that angry is that anger is only depression on steroids and when my best friend called to tell me that my boyfriend cheated on me with his ex-girlfriend I tried to slit my wrist. As most things in our house were broken or just too old to be functioning because there was no money to constantly replace or fix them, the knife I used was so dull that I only ended up bruising myself and creating about 6 raw and red marks. Mom found out from my Grandma and decided to call my Dad and put me in counseling.

Dad had gotten engaged at this point and I hadn’t said two words probably to this lady that I can repeat and still sound like a Christian. I was mean to her and her kids and they were not fans of mine either. When they got married, I boycotted him and his replacement family, and refused to go to the wedding. When Mom called to tell him what I’d done, he called me and asked me to come see him. Reluctantly, I went.

Dad picked me and the other kids up and drove us to his girlfriend’s house. I was looking at a magazine with a bunch of guitars trying to pick out the one I would get someday. Dad told me we were going for a walk. So, I got up and followed him. He started asking me about why I had tried to cut my wrists and I wanted to punish him. Those cuts were there because it was an outward expression of how desperately I wanted someone to notice that I was hurting. All I was able to get out was disrespect and teenage angst and frustration in my signature snotty answers. Dad was frustrated, and when I started to cry, he said, “What is that in your eyes, Jackie?” “It’s called water…it’s usually how you can tell someone is crying.” I answered with barely controlled rage. His next words cut me deeper than any knife ever could. He said, “If you keep on this same path you are on now, you are going to end up nothing but a loser.” With everything that had occurred that year, that sentence broke me in a way I had never been broken before. I had nothing left to give him or anyone else. I wanted out of my family. I wanted to die. I just had to figure out how to do it. I couldn’t take any more of this life. Fifteen years had been more than enough for me.

I wouldn’t speak to my dad again for 2 years. I went back to Mom’s and went to counseling with her like she asked. I didn’t talk about much except how mad I was at my Mom. I had no words for anything else. I couldn’t get a handle on the hatred that seeped into my heart and so I did the only thing I knew how to do. I stuffed it down and pretended like it didn’t exist. My counselor mistakenly took on Mom and I, but that was just the tip of the iceberg and Mom was the easiest to pin things on. I was angry so often and so was she our fights turned into epic screaming matches. I hated her, I hated Dad, I hated myself, and I hated God for putting me on this planet. The only reason I never tried suicide again was because I couldn’t even do that right.

Mom and Stepdad got married and apart from my grandma’s rapidly deteriorating health, things began to have some sense of normalcy. They both moved into our house before the wedding to get it ready to sell. They wanted to buy a property with enough land that we could get horses. I was all for the horses, but not incredibly excited about leaving my friends and my job. We moved and I began attending the Public Country School.

Again, my timeline is fuzzy because this year was such a mess. I am not sure exactly when Mom took me to see Grandma in the hospital, but she had deteriorated so far that she was on morphine to keep her comfortable. She didn’t recognize me or talk at all and I was mortified to see her scratching holes in her skin with her fingernails. I just kept holding her hands so she couldn’t scratch. Grandma passed away not too long after my Mom and Stepdad’s wedding. Grandma and my Mom did not have the best relationship and when Grandma died, so did Mom’s chances of ever hearing the words she so badly needed to hear. “I love you” wasn’t something my Mom ever heard from her mother. I think Mom was angry with me because Grandma had voiced those words to me. I didn’t understand it at the time, but God has a funny way of showing you old things you never thought you needed to know. My mom was always unable to give me something she never had. She didn’t know how to love me because she’d never felt it from her mother either. Any time I would need help in the years that followed, I would go back and sit at Grandma’s grave and ask her what to do. She never answered and I felt more alone than ever.

Country School was very strange. They acted like the city I was from was a foreign country, even though it was only 30 minutes away and many of their parents drove there for work.  I was constantly being asked if I was in a gang. I was not shy anymore and my hard exterior turned my face into a shield. I never smiled, just scowled at everyone I passed. My second day, a boy came racing through the halls, picked me up and then dropped me right on my tailbone. I never went to the doctor, but with the insane amount of pain it took for me to sit down for weeks after that, I’d guess he broke my tailbone. I still only weighed 86 pounds and there wasn’t much padding to land on. Shortly after that, I was caught smoking in the parking lot and gave the officer a fake name. They soon figured out who I actually was and I was given In School Suspension for three days for lying to the officer. Fine by me. Nobody was allowed to talk so it saved me from the constant barrage of questions from these weird farm kids.

I had gotten a job at a large retail store right before my boyfriend and I broke up and in order to make it there on time, I skipped last period every day. The only class I cared about was creative writing and my teacher decided that I was some sort of talent. She would constantly give me extra topics to write about and since I still hadn’t told anyone about the events of the previous year, I began to learn to write about them in code. Only I knew what the words meant. I wrote a poem about God’s desertion that someone sent into a contest. I won and my poem was published but we couldn’t afford to buy the book it was published in.

The boy that had dropped me was part of the “trouble” crowd and with my “face problems”, I found I fit in a little with them. They didn’t ask a bunch of questions and they all drove muscle cars with souped up engines. I got to be pretty well known as the “Gangster Girl with the Chevelle”. I was proud of my car. I bought it with the money I earned from working full time and had purchased an engine that ran better and had more horsepower than the engine it came with that didn’t run. My new friends helped me put it in and one of the boys, I noticed continually grated on my mother’s last nerve. He was EXACTLY what I had been looking for. She hated him and I dated him solely because of that. He didn’t work well with other kids our age and he had been in trouble multiple times with adults and authority. I was struggling to sleep at night and try to keep the demons from eating me alive from the inside out. He was perfect and he did the job I’d picked him to do with such ease it made me laugh. She loathed the very mention of his name and I enjoyed every minute of it.

I continued working after school and my boyfriend had gotten a second shift job after he left school. (I don’t remember if he graduated before me or what, but he wasn’t at school very much to begin with.) I would sneak over to his house sometimes when I had an off day and we’d watch movies or work on his car in the shop down the street from his house. He kept bugging me to have sex with him and after a huge fight with my Mom one day I ran away and went straight to his house. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but when I finally gave him what he asked for, I felt disgusting instead of any better about myself or my situation. A few weeks later, my friend Chad, picked me up for school and told me that my boyfriend had slept with another girl at a party over the weekend. I spent most of the day throwing up in the girl’s bathroom at the end of the special education hallway and then got Saturday School for missing class.

I learned nothing about love from this season of my life. Everything I cared about had either been stolen or given away and my only comfort was that I had very little time in school left. I believed with everything I had that if I could just make it through until I turned 18, I could escape these demons, this family, and the brokenness that I experienced. Unfortunately, brokenness charges interest and follows its debt like some sort of deranged bill collector . I had yet to actually feel like God loved me, let alone anyone else. I was alone. I was rejected and I was sure someone, somewhere had made a grave mistake in letting me even take up space in other people’s lives. God will revive a dead soul, but I didn’t know that yet. I have a ridiculous ability to hang on to what looks like hope so I would grasp at anything that looked like it could save me, only to be dropped again. I didn’t know what else to do so I just kept going. I didn’t think much about the impact my decisions would have on my future because I was so busy running from my past. What I ran into wouldn’t prove to show me anything any different.

Not Fragile Like A Flower, Fragile Like A Bomb

            The next chapters of my life are the hardest for me to tell. These are the ones that brought about the deepest, most evil pain that one can experience as far as I am concerned. I thought it was necessary though to share a few lessons that I’ve learned about how we heal as victims of abuse. I don’t like the word victim because it makes me feel weak. I am not. What I am however, is still badly broken. The difference now is that I know there is hope.

            You have no idea, if you are reading this in search of your own healing, how very much I want to be able to say that I am writing this blog because I have confidence that I have figured out what I need to know to make my life different, to make it better, to make the pain stop. Unfortunately, that is not the case. I didn’t start writing it because I stumbled upon some simple, magic answer that made everything okay and now I know that I can go out into the real world and not make choices that would cause me more of the same pain. I didn’t. And I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have anything but a promise, little bit of faith, and the ability to write those words in a way that makes people want to pay attention.  I say a little bit of faith because on some days, muddling through my past and trying to make connections to my present and wanting so badly to see hope in my future, I have no more than a tiny bit of faith.

            In her book “Lost and Found” by Sarah Jakes Roberts, she says, “It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God. I just didn’t believe that He believed in me.” I struggle with that every day. You may know me or be reading this blog and be thinking “Wow, she’s strong.” Or “Crazy she’s come so far and been through so much, and she’s come out on the other side.” Or you may be thinking that I have found the answers to looking like I have my life and thoughts together enough to love myself fully. None of those are true. I am not strong on my own. I am stubborn on my own. That is a whole different character trait. I’m not writing this to give anyone a road map to healing. God has not blessed me with that task. I don’t know who gets blessed with that, but it is not me. Yet. I don’t know what God has in store for me. So, I will stick with what I do know.

            I do know that while I write the words in these posts and tell the stories of my past, I worry. I constantly have to stop and give my worry to God because I am scared that the people in my stories will feel attacked. I worry that people will now see me as some sort of beaten down little flower or some other weak analogy. I worry that my kids will read it and I worry that they won’t. I worry that every single word I write may be driving some farther from the truths I intended to reveal that I found. I worry that Satan will find a way to throw something else at me that I won’t know how to handle because I am not healed, just less broken than I was a few months ago. And my worries are truly legit…because all of those things will happen. However, when I worry and give them to God, He shows me that He holds power over them. I know this because He is constantly telling me through prayer, other people who truly do love me (even though they are not perfect either), his Word, my mentors, and his voice that the reason I struggle with these things is because Satan is terrified of the power that God holds within me.

            Remember I’ve mentioned in previous posts that Satan is a liar? Just for fun, I googled how many times Satan is referred to as a liar in Scripture. (Man, I love Google). Just that one word…liar…Satan is called that 52 times. There are other words that are close to liar but a little different. He is also called the Great Deceiver…which he is called 62 times. I don’t know about you, but if someone tells me 114 times that someone is a liar, deceives people, AND I have, myself, witnessed those times in my own experience, I tend to ride on the side of caution and stay away from them. The point  isn’t to examine my depth of research but to show just how many times God has warned us that Satan just can’t be bothered to tell the truth. It doesn’t benefit him at all for us to see the truth, so he has to use lies within our hearts to get us to hurt ourselves.

            One of the great lies that Satan gets us to believe is that we are powerless over our past. “Things happen to everyone, so why is MY pain so much greater? Something must be wrong with me because I can’t seem to get over it.” This is why I am so obsessed with the book Wholeness by Pastor Touré Roberts. He skillfully debunks that lie. I know it is a lie, but on many levels I still have trouble believing that God finds joy in who I am and what I have managed to get myself into and out of without asking him for help.

            In the book, “Healing the Wounded Heart” by Dr. Dan Allender, (link included at the end of post) I found a way to verbalize one of the lies my past had me buying into. He asks one of his clients who was flamboyant and passionate and gifted what it would cost his to see himself as the little boy who was clever, artistic, and bold instead of the little boy who had been abused. The man’s answer almost felt like a punch in the face. He says, “I would have to grieve that no one but my mentally retarded abuser saw those gifts and delighted in me.” (I need to subtract the “r” word from this statement for personal reasons as that is not one that I allow myself to use. Also, none of my abusers were mentally handicapped, however, in some form they were all mentally or spiritually deficient.)

I took a minute to think about the gifts that God gave me. I am a natural investigator and I must ask “Why?” when someone tells me something. I am gifted with the ability to talk, ALOT. I am creative, stubborn, and compassionate. I am a good listener; I have a great sense of humor and my facial expressions are one of the things that people remember the most about me. If you know me personally, you know all these things to be true as well. (I didn’t say they were well liked qualities, I just said I have these gifts.) I have other talents, skills, and positive attributes as well, hidden among situations in my life where they were brought out depending on circumstances, but these are the ones I know to be most true to my character overall. These are also the areas in which I was attacked and punished the most.

 Satan attacked my gifts through confusion and lies and the insecurities and brokenness of others. When God gave me the gift of words, Satan used my past to shut me up. When God gave me the ability to not take people or their words at face value, Satan used situations and abuse to push me into accepting that that was “just the way it is”. Satan used my sense of humor as a weapon instead of the gift God intended it to be, as sometimes I can be the most petty woman there has ever been and people respond to it because I make them laugh. Satan used my compassion to destroy my boundaries and teach me that my compassion for others would always be my downfall. I am a fixer. I love to help people…help them destroy themselves by loving them in counterproductive ways and to not make them take responsibility for the way they act. I am stubborn. You are not going to make me believe you are something until I decide (through hours of overthinking, usually) that it is true or not. I don’t give up. I know how to adapt to different environments because I am always uncomfortable no matter where I am, so being uncomfortable is like a second skin to me. I am very aware of the fact that I do not fit in, quite literally, anywhere I go.

            I wanted to take this time to make sure that my readers understand that I do not have your answers. God just showed me who to ask. I am not a pastor or a counselor. I am not schooled in many things, and I probably won’t admit that if you ask. (I am still stubborn no matter how you slice it.) BUT, God gave me a way to understand that I am not perfect and I am not ever going to get healed and be whole and then my work is done and I can lead others to him. That’s not how it works. I wish, probably as much as anyone looking for these types of answers, that it did work that way. What God also gives me is comfort. I am not like others for a reason.

You may remember from my opening blog “Just WILD; Nobody’s Child” that I said I fell in love with the quote, “Not fragile like a flower, Fragile Like a Bomb” and it became the catalyst for the changes I have been able to make in my life. I became conscious of being different than everyone else in my life very early. I was still very fragile and so I just kind of accepted the fact that my fragility was different, but I never understood why. One day while I was writing down things I was angry about, God gave me the comprehension I was searching for to grasp the difference. My past gave me fragility. God never intended for me to be a flower. I was put in the situations I was put in because God would need me to be someone different for the lost kids I worked with. In order to understand what they felt and what they saw in themselves I had to feel those same things. I went through it alone, because back then we weren’t as “woke” of a people about what trauma does to children or even adults. I went through it with almost no understanding from the adults in my life because God was going to use me in a different way. When I looked around me all I saw was flowers. Other people were beautiful in their gifts and I wanted so badly to be like them. But, looking at the issues that my students face on a regular basis, and scores of them go through things that are a hundred times more damaging than what happened to me, God gave me this. He created me to be a bomb so that I could blow up the old ways that didn’t work for this new generation of kids. I could blow up the old ways of thinking that these kids just needed more discipline and less love and they had to earn respect in order to have someone respect their feelings. God showed me that all those other people were great and the world needed them too, but you can throw all the flowers you want at a pile of rocks and old beliefs and old ways of doing things that just create more abuse in our kids, or you can be smart and find a bomb to clear your path for you. I am that bomb.

Please, pray for me as I write the next chapters of my story. Pray for my heart and for the worries that I have in ending the silence that Satan has constricted my soul with. Pray for my family and my friends that they will see the path I had to walk instead of condemnation in my words at the events of my past. If you don’t pray that’s okay too…the prayers got me covered.

  1. “Wholeness” by Touré Roberts

https://www.audible.com/pd/Wholeness-Audiobook/B077GCRK9W

2)“Lost and Found” by Sarah Jakes

https://sarahjakesroberts.com/books/

The above link says that you can download this book for free online, but I have not tried it.

(Dr. Allender has two books with this title and they are both  resources, but the quote I used was from the second book)