Tag Archives: trust

Always Believe and Never Say Never

Have you ever said never? Here’s my list:

1) I’ll never have a child with a December birthday. I hated having a December birthday.

2) I’ll never be a teacher. I didn’t like being around kids.

3) I’ll never live in Louisiana. It’s too swampy.

4) I’ll never have three kids. There’s always an odd man out and two against one.

Boy does God have a great sense of humor when it comes to all my nevers. I was unknowingly shaking my fist at God, saying, “I know what’s best and that’s how it’s gonna be!” True to His nature as my loving Heavenly Father, He gave me what was for my own good and His glory.

What do all my nevers have to do with my relationship with God? Living in a very disfunctional environment most of my years growing up, I have compensated by having compulsive control issues. To always believe I can rest in God’s perfect plan is a challenge for me. 

Because God has shown Himself faithful in redeeming all my nevers from the past, I have learned it’s best to never say never. His provision for me is much better than crazy ideas I have for what I don’t want. Here’s how God chose to reveal Himself in my nevers:

1) Five years after we were married, my husband and I brought home the most adorable little girl, born the day before my 25th birthday, wrapped in a Christmas stocking. Though we have never been able to have a pool party, Sarah and I celebrate our birthdays from Thanksgiving through Christmas each year. Best never God gave me ever!

2) Though I wouldn’t listen to my husband’s Aunt Molly and get my teaching certificate “just in case,” I ended up getting the call to teach in an 11th grade Sunday School class. Looking at those eight pairs of eyes with their blank stares didn’t keep me from sensing God whisper,”You’ve gotta do this!” Never looked back after that day, spending twenty years in Christian education.

3) OK, I’ll admit the l-o-n-g drive from the border of Texas to the border of Mississippi along I-10 through Louisiana leaves much to be desired, but a bit north of there there were pine trees like we had in East Texas and a fabulous job opportunity for my husband. Now, almost 25 years later, we have fallen in love with our state where we were called, as my late mother-in-love always said, as foreign missionaries. 

4) A short 14 months after our December baby was born, we received our “gift of God,” Matthew. He was the second and last child born to us, so we never had three children. I still wonder if one might end up at our doorstep in a basket one day, but I believe God has extended me grace on this last never. Despite us not having three children to raise, we have many other children we think of as our own, from our neighborhoods, my classrooms, our children’s friends, even some of our employees.

So, what do we do with those pesky nevers we have declared?  Can we just be honest and say that most of them are made in fear? Can we confess that to God? What if He allows them to come true and redeems them? What if He extends grace and they never come true? Either way, we can let go and let God be in control. Thy will be done!

The Director of my story knows best. By the grace of God, I will choose to always believe and never say never. 

Linking up with Suzanne Eller’s Live Free Thursday.

 #livefreethursday

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No Longer a “Bubble Girl”

What was meant to be my protection actually numbed me from experiencing any feelings at all. This “bubble girl” had an unpenatrable outside barrier that kept me “safe” from being harmed by anyone, but it isolated me from true relationships.

Why did I finally feel the need to break free from the bondage of never letting people get too close…to see the real me…to trust again? 

It was so lonely in that bubble. I seemed too good to be true to those who thought they knew me. Friends and family didn’t think they could be real with me, since I had this facade of perfection. Who can trust their deepest struggles with one who acts like she has none?

My bubble was control. If I could control my feelings, my influences, my circumstances, I’d never be hurt again. As I am learning, this type of response is typical for one growing up in an alcoholic home. Control feels safe, but it’s really a prison of ones own making. Like John Travolta’s character in the 1976 movie, The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, I needed to shield myself from harm, even if it meant isolation.

                                                                               
To protect myself, I tried to please everyone. Sometimes, that meant being so cautious that I wouldn’t speak truth, even if it would have been helpful. My automatic response was to keep peace at all costs. Part of that cost was striving imperfectly at perfection and failing miserably. Another hefty payment was paid by those closest to me, since they didn’t feel comfortable being vulnerable with one who seemed to have it all together. 

Unfortunately, everyone loses when I choose to remain in my bubble. I know I’m a fraud. My feelings, good and bad just get stuffed, so I’m not really living. My friends and family feel alienated and try to shield me from their shortcomings. And where is God in this equation?

Trust is a big deal to me. I guess it’s because of the trauma I faced as a child, and I felt abandoned and alone in my shame. I didn’t even feel I could trust God. Relationships are based on trust, and it just didn’t seem like it was worth the risk to be let down once again.

God didn’t relent on His pursuit of me, though. He sent me a man to show me that someone could know the real me, the imperfect me, and still love and take care of me. He sent me a daughter and son who whittled away at my false image of perfection and gave me an understanding of what unconditional love means. And, when I was at the end of myself, God swooped in to rescue me from that ridiculous bubble I had constructed and covered me in the shadow of His wings. 

Because of God’s unfailing love, I can be real. I can admit my mistakes and talk about my painful past without being driven to despair. I can be free to love. I can be approachable. I can give hope to others who are trapped in their own bubbles.

Oh, every now and then, I am tempted to lock myself away in that deceiving bubble that promises safety. It’s still difficult to do or say something that might “rock the boat.” When it’s too painful or frightening to deal with a new situation or resurrected memory, I must resist that urge to withdraw and let God redeem yet another crisis for His glory. Praise God, I’m no longer a “bubble girl!”

#livefreeThursday

Giving Up On Reaching My Dad

Remembering since I was just a tiny girl the words I heard from my father’s lips, “You’re Daddy’s Little Girl,” makes giving up trying to reach my Dad so painful. You see, he’s made so many choices to stay in his own world and reject his family that I cannot continue to have contact with him any longer.

As far back as I can recall, it’s been an emotional roller coaster with my father. He started out being my hero, and I was his princess.

I was the first born to my parents in 1960, and they were so excited. A colicky baby from the start, I needed to be held almost constantly. Dad was a welcomed sight to Mom, who was worn out from taking care of me all day and quickly handed off the miserable baby to him when he arrived home after work. She speaks of many nights that I slept on his chest.

My world was rocked quite a bit when my parents came home with a baby girl when I was 3 1/2, and suddenly there was competition for Dad’s affections. I think my charming skills were turned up a notch, so I felt pretty confident I remained the real “Daddy’s Little Girl.”

Convinced he loved me more than Mom did, which of course was not true, I remember trying to escape from my dreaded four-year-old vaccinations by running to my Daddy in the waiting room. Surely he wouldn’t allow any doctor to hurt me. I was devastated that he helped Mom hold me down back in the examination room to get my shots.

Things start to get spotty after that memory. Dad began working late and coming home drunk. Although I was pretty sheltered from what was really going on, I did notice we had to move from our large home to an apartment. I had to change schools in kindergarten and had to give away my beloved Barbie house my aunt made for me.

My baby brother born at the end of my kindergarten year, but I don’t remember anything about it. Things must have been really rough at that point, because I was 6 1/2 and should have been very excited. I have a brief memory of my first grade teacher and classroom. In November, my Dad brought my mother, sister, brother, and me to live with my grandmother in another city.

Abandoned by the one who claimed that I was “Daddy’s Little Girl,” I didn’t know what to make of what was happening in my world. One day, while he was visiting us, Dad asked me to fill out a questionnaire he wrote out. It asked who I thought was responsible for their divorce and other totally inappropriate questions for a young child who had lost her home and her father. What was his purpose for this manipulative activity?

As devastated as I was, my mother was completely overwhelmed with being dropped off at her mother’s house to raise three children on her own. It seemed to me that Dad was the only one who cared about me, though he rejected us, because Mom wasn’t able to talk to me about how I felt. So the deception began…

We were so poor that my precious mother, unbeknownst to me, washed one pair of frilly socks every night for me to wear to school. Dad only sent Mom $150 per month for us to live on, and she had been a stay-at-home mother since I was born. It was so hard for her, but I still thought he was the one who really cared.

While we were still living with my grandmother, I remember him driving up in his new Ford Thunderbird with electric windows. He had left Mom with an old, red Dodge Dart that bled it’s color on the rag when it was washed. Dad would take us out to eat at fancy restaurants when we visited him on weekends that we could never afford on Mom’s small salary and tiny child-support payments.  We loved visiting with him and being spoiled.

It was nothing but a con. A ruse that lead to me thinking I was so special and “grown up” that I looked forward to  being the “bartender” at Dad’s office parties on Friday nights and even making a drink for myself. Living a life on weekends that my mother would never allow set me up for years of sexual abuse at his hands.

I don’t even know how I coped with this double life during those years. I think I never allowed the two worlds to intersect and was close to having multiple personalities. The two worlds did  collide, however, when my sister told me of Dad’s advances towards her one weekend. We told Mom as soon as we got home and never had to go visit our father again.

Although it sounds sickening, once I was safe a few years, I missed the “wining and dining” part of my life and hated never getting to see Dad except for holiday gatherings at his mother’s house. I began seeing Dad on a very limited basis as long as I had an escort. I didn’t feel threatened any longer and thought no harm could come by having a more normal relationship with him. Actually, I believe my memories of the abuse were suppressed to the point I had no recollection of them.

Through the years, it has been a very strange relationship. This is how alcoholic families are sometimes. No one really ever talks about what’s wrong. Everyone just pretends all is well. What’s in the past is over, so you just forget about it. You don’t tell anyone who may be hurt by the truth, even if the perpetrator gets by “scot free.”

The trouble is, eventually, the layers of pain and anger ignored all of those years begins boiling under the surface and erupts. That happened when I was all stressed out by my little girl who had a strong will. All the while protecting myself and my father from what would happen if anyone really knew the truth, I inflicted emotional pain on my own child who was probably only acting out the frustration she felt from my pressure to give my children a safe and loving home.

While dealing with my past to keep it from ruining my present, I allowed memories to resurface and be healed by God. During this time, I even spoke to my father, who told me he was sorry for what he had done to me. I worked through forgiveness, and felt peace for the first time in years. Would we ever be able to have a real relationship again? We did maintain a holiday relationship as long as my paternal grandmother was alive, because she held the fragile family together. He didn’t even attend her funeral. I haven’t seen him in many years.

What hasn’t changed is my father’s lifestyle. He has been addicted to alcohol, pornography, and sex all these years. When he brought us to my grandmother’s house in 1967, he had been married to his second wife while he was married to my mother. He had multiple affairs before his second marriage ended, with women the same age as his daughters. Even recently, he has pursued relationships with teens. And those are only the things I know about, so why would I continue to reach out to him?

Mom and Dad met at church. He sang in the choir and was a deacon at the church they attended when they were married. He even felt called to be a preacher at one time. Even now, with his immoral choices, he says he believes that “once saved, always saved.” Dad has left a trail of carnage of ruined lives, but he claims that he is a believer. I know he’s not. He’s as deceived as those he’s charmed.

I’ve been praying for Dad’s salvation for many years. Whenever I read an inspirational blogpost or email from my pastor, I forwarded it to him. Usually, he would reply in a positive manner and thank me for sending it to him. I liked having an opportunity to influence him somehow to stop living for himself and give his life to Jesus and still stay safe from his web of deceit.

Our communication was pretty sporadic. I would wish him a happy birthday, and he would do the same for me. I was his friend on Facebook but had to unfriend him to avoid seeing him pine away over losing the love of his life, who also happened to be in high school. We would text message on occasion, as well, but that all ended this past fall.

After the death of my step-grandfather, his step-father in August 2015, I had some brief contact with Dad by text message about the funeral. He was unable to attend the funeral because of some heart problems, as he also claimed when his mother died. My mother and I drove three hours to the funeral to be there for my uncle. Unfortunately, the lack of relationship with my father kept us from seeing my uncle during the years between the two funerals. My uncle was thrilled to see us and invited us to the family meal after the service and to my grandfather’s house to finish catching up with each other.

Keeping the truth hidden all these years from my Dad’s family about the sexual abuse came to an end that day. My mother and I finally felt free to tell my uncle and aunt about what happened so many years ago. He was so hurt that I didn’t feel comfortable telling him so he could have stopped it. I felt more free, since I was no longer protecting my father at my expense. Why did we feel the need to keep that secret?

For whatever reason, I have not heard from my father since the day of the funeral. I don’t know why. When I sent him a text on his birthday in November, it was ignored. His email address has changed, so I couldn’t reach him that way. He didn’t contact me on my birthday in December. Apparently, after all these years of trying to do what I felt was helpful to bring him to Jesus, God let me know it was time for me to stop.

God is mighty to save. I cannot save my father. God is able to reach him. I have been cut off from having any communication with him. God can change his heart. It’s pretty sad that Dad doesn’t love us enough to stop living for himself, but it’s not up to me to make him change.

Giving up on reaching my Dad means, as I am learning in Al-Anon, I must “Let go and let God.” I will keep praying for Dad and trust that when I say, “Thy will be done,” I can rest safely in the arms of my Heavenly Father, who will never leave or forsake me.

#livefreeThursday

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honor for Dishonor?

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My morning routine is always the same. Alarm goes off, stumble out of bed, go to the bathroom, shuffle into the kitchen, make coffee (thankfully my Keurig makes it instantly), get back into bed, drink my coffee, turn on the local morning news program, and check email and Facebook. My Sweetheart brings me breakfast in bed before I start the crazed morning rush to get ready for work. Every day. The same old thing. BUT, one morning, I was knocked off my rocker by a post on Facebook by my father. It blew me away and sent me on a tailspin I had not been on since my struggle with depression in the early 1990s. How could one little post have such an impact on me when I had supposedly healed from the devastation he had inflicted on me as a child?

Here’s what the post said, “It’s been a year since my Angel,(name withheld) came into my life. She has changed me forever and taught me what pure love is. Now I can’t love another girl and I only think about being with her daily, although her Mother has taken her away. I will wait on my darling (name withheld) as long as it takes. This is all too bad for us both.” I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something about this post made my stomach queasy. Every day, I would look to see if anything new was posted and researched to see just who this mystery girl was. My father lives out of state, and we only stay in touch electronically, so I had no idea what was going on in his life. For whatever reason, I became obsessed with finding out why I had such a creepy feeling about this situation.

A few days later, the truth unfolded. Her stepmother commented on his post about the girl being only fifteen, which meant she was fourteen when they met. My father was seventy-seven years old at the time. Can you even imagine? What I had to deal with is the knowledge that my father was continuing to be fond of under-aged teenagers. Yes, I had known he almost always had a “lady friend” over the years, even my sister’s best friend and other young women who lacked a stable family background and/or had addiction problems. Although it was disgraceful, those were all at least legal adults. I had a huge dilemma now that I was aware his ways had not changed since I was one of his victims. What in the world was I going to do about it?

Let’s go back to the year 1971, when I finally told my mother about being sexually abused for years by my father whenever we visited him. It’s something I really don’t understand, why I waited so long to tell her. He never told me not to tell anyone. He just let me do things while I was visiting him that I knew would disappoint my mother. That’s how many predators work. Getting children to do something they think they would get in trouble for doing, so it sets them up to keep secrets from their protectors. The abhorrent thing about my circumstance was that my father was supposed to give provision and protection for his little girl, not take advantage of her. Rather than having me face a trial and testify against my own father, my stepfather adopted all of us and my father signed away his parental rights. It put a stop to the abuse and protected my younger sister and brother from harm.

Back to the question posed earlier, what could I do to stop others from being hurt by him? After much prayer and consultation with my husband, our pastor, and my mother, I realized there was nothing I could do to keep him from preying on young teens except pray. I had to deal with my feelings of abandonment and neglect, especially when I found on Facebook he had traveled out of town to buy this girl and her sister school supplies and clothes the previous fall. Why was that so hurtful? Why had he never done that for his own children? Why were his words about how much he loved this girl and would wait for her to be old enough to make her own decisions like a knife piercing my heart? Working through the pain of his selfish choices to always put his desires above our needs took some more letting go. More rejection calls for more forgiving. More allowing the God of All Comfort to soothe my freshly re-opened wounds. Healing is a process. Would it ever end?

Honor your father and your mother is the fifth commandment. No problem honoring my mother, as she has always done her best to take care of her children, despite some very difficult circumstances. I have forgiven my father, many, many times, but I do not have an active relationship with him because I choose not to be part of his web of deception. I pray for him and send him emails that might help him see his need to turn his life over to God. He responds kindly. Honor him? Father’s Day is one of the most difficult days of the year for me. Just reading those cards, trying to find one that might work and die a little inside to see what wonderful things other people, even my children, can say about their fathers. But honoring my father can be in the way that I live my life. It can be honoring to a father who dishonors his children when we walk in truth, in a personal relationship with Jesus, extending love, grace, and forgiveness that only can come as a result of the Holy Spirit living in us.

Boy, would I love to wrap this all up in some shiny silver paper with a beautiful blue bow on top for you, but that’s not gonna happen. It’s tough, I’m not going to sugar coat it and say everything ended up happily ever after. It’s kind of like the dialogue from the movie Shrek when Shrek tells Donkey that we are like onions, made up of lots of layers. My hurts and your hurts over a lifetime have created layers of scar tissue that cannot be dealt with all at once. What happened that morning was a peeling back of one more layer of painful memories exposed in order to be healed. When that happens, I can be angry and bitter or choose to obey God and forgive and leave the results to Him. That’s what honors my Heavenly Father. And the Father of the Fatherless will honor those who honor Him.

Stepping Down as a Leap of Faith

My journey in Christian education began rather innocently. Moving to Louisiana was part of one of our biggest adventures in life over twenty years ago. Picture two native Texans, two tow-headed young children, and two dogs heading east to our new journey across the Sabine River with two eighteen-wheeler moving trucks filled with more than a decade’s accumulation of belongings, including a restored Ford 8N tractor.  What could God possibly have up His sleeve?

The first stop in our new undertaking was Opelousas, home of Tony Chacheres’ delectable Creole seasoning products and, as it turned out, a Christian school birthed in a Presbyterian church in 1978.  Although had only recently considered teaching as a career (my bachelor’s degree is in accounting, and I said I’d never teach), I found myself at this picturesque Christian school campus built on a former soybean field enrolling my children and asking for a teaching position.   My, my, my, doesn’t God have an interesting sense of humor when dealing with His strong-willed children.

Fast forward a few years…ok, 20 years, and here I am making plans to step down from my current full-time position as assistant principal and elementary director of a Christian school an hour north of my original school in order to spend more time reading, writing, and possibly speaking, as the Lord leads me to take this leap of faith.  Oh, I’ll still have my foot in the door to help coordinate curriculum (hence using my master’s in curriculum and instruction acquired about 10 years ago), but most days I’ll be working from home pursuing the passion God has given me to introduce people to the God of All Comfort.

Having been asked by many folks just what I am going to write, I have the distinct privilege to say, “I’m not sure”.  How does that sound?  Well, that’s part of the leap of faith.  And, just so you know, I’m the type of girl who really likes to know what’s coming up ahead.  Obedience, one step at a time, following God’s lead, trusting in Him to be there under my foot before it lands.  Now, I’m not going to say that I’m completely comfortable with this situation.  That’s where the faith comes up.  God has been telling His children to do things they didn’t understand and couldn’t possibly accomplish on their own power since the beginning of time.

One really crazy part of this leaping off my comfort zone is that I just happen to be 53 years old.  Now, that’s pretty young compared to the 80-year old Moses being called by God speaking through a burning bush, but really?  Starting something completely new as a grandmother?  Well, He did call Abraham’s bride, Sarah, to begin motherhood at 90, so maybe I am just a spring chicken.  He whispers to this “fabulous fifty” teenager trapped in a half-century old body, “Do not fear, be strong and courageous, I am with you.”  Sounds like something he told Joshua before the conquest of the promised land when he was a senior citizen.  Maybe I’m not the only one called to do something new after becoming eligible for AARP membership.

Interestingly enough, God is leading me to step down and take this leap of faith even though I still really love teaching, being an administrator, and promoting Christian education. It’s not that I am giving up something bad.  Well, I guess it wouldn’t be considered giving it up if it was not something I love.  It’s more a matter of stepping down from something that has been so good for me the past 20 years and leaping towards what is better for me for the next however many years I have left on this earth.

Has God ever asked you to exchange the good, familiar, and comfortable things in your life for a new calling?  It’s hard, scary, and even difficult to explain to those around you, but nothing compares to the peace you feel when you say, “Yes, Lord”, before you even know what He’s asking you to do.  As Stephen Curtis Chapman says in one of his great songs, “Let’s follow our Leader into the glorious unknown. This is a life like no other; this is the great adventure”.  I couldn’t have said it better myself!

#livefreeThursday

My Principal Wears Camouflage?

The quaint French Louisiana town of Ville Platte was such a welcoming home town for a recently transplanted Texas family. Scrumptious food, friendly people, and a Cajun culture that enchanted us drew us into this unfamiliar way of life. One of my favorite spots was one of the many local meat markets where the little old man who owned the market spoke to me in French (I don’t know any French) and probably enjoyed seeing the bewildered look on my face.

Buying our first Louisiana home in the piney woods north of Chicot State Park, our closest town was Ville Platte (which means flat town), which was ten miles away traveling down a hairpin-curved, tree-lined road each day. The trip into town each day made you feel as though you were on vacation, the way the forest gently caressed the pavement and teemed with wildlife. (Once, we actually saw someone who stopped after running over a squirrel and pick it up.) At the end of that road was our charmingly small Christian school, where both of my children attended and I eventually became principal.

Times were pretty rough for our little school back then. Because of some pretty steep tuition hikes over the past few years and parental concerns over the campus not having a junior high or high school, our enrollment in the K3-6th grade campus had dwindled from the peak of 120 to fewer than 60 students. It was the only Protestant school and one of only two private schools in the area. Being a satellite campus of a larger school in Opelousas, there was support despite the projected budget loss for the year. The staff was top-notch, and parents did all they could do to help. If the campus was to survive, we needed more community support.

After much prayer, an unorthodox idea to express the urgency of the situation to our local pastors came to my mind. They had started a local ministerial alliance and were willing to allow me to speak at their next meeting. I am a deer hunter, and my husband had purchased me a used set of camouflage army fatigues from a traveling vendor. It may seem crazy, but this girl felt God nudging her to wear my deer hunting attire to the meeting to emphasize the war we were engaged in for the hearts and minds of the elementary children of the area. Needless to say, I didn’t tell many people about this plan, but I had the few people who knew praying that God would use this act of obedience to communicate the need to the pastors.

That fated evening, I dressed in the camouflage pants, jacket, boots, and even hat to attend the meeting and started out for the meeting. Excited about doing something that God asked of me and scared because I might look like a fool, I felt like I was on a real mission. Because it was in a church located in a neighborhood I was unfamiliar with, I found myself at the wrong church. Imagine me stepping out of my car all decked out in camo and finding out from someone standing outside the church that it was not the church I was seeking. After an awkward conversation and a few laughs, I left and finally arrived at the meeting. Looks on the pastors and priest’s faces were priceless, even the pastor who allowed me to speak. If God was up to something, they had not gotten the memo. When it was my turn to speak, I passionately described the grave situation of our campus. I demonstrated by my improper meeting attire and Holy Spirit inspired speech that we needed their help as fellow leaders in the work that God was doing through our school in Ville Platte. Although no one laughed at my ridiculous outfit, most did not seem overly concerned about my message. Had I really heard from God or was I going mad?

You know, sometimes you just blindly obey what you feel God wants you to do, even if you feel it sounds crazy, and trust Him with the results. That night, I left the meeting without knowing if my mission was accomplished. As the year progressed, it became evident that the campus would not be open the next school year. Once that was announced, I became aware of the significance of my night in camo. Unbeknownst to me, one of the pastors, who happened to be an avid duck hunter and new to Ville Platte, was moved by God when he saw and heard me that night. His church entered into an agreement that ownership of the campus would be transferred to his local church for the next year. Talk about a great turn around for what could have been so tragic! Fifteen years later, the school is still thriving under godly leadership.

Is there something God is asking you to do that you fear might jeopardize your reputation? Remember that Jesus made Himself of no reputation and humbled Himself to the point of the cross. Who knows what might happen if you just obey and trust Him with the result. I think of the time God used a praise band instead of an army to bring victory or when he had an army march around a city and blow a trumpet before He knocked down the wall. He uses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise and accomplish His purposes so He, alone, gets the glory. Maybe you’ll never have to be a principal who wears camouflage fatigues to a ministerial alliance meeting in the heart of Cajun country, but when the call for some out-of-the ordinary act of obedience comes, what choice will you make?

#livefreeThursday

#nostringsattached

 

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