Tag Archive | liking ones self

Into the World

Seems like all I have wrestled with the past week are the forced acknowledgements of how uncomfortable I am in the world. Frankly, it drives me nuts. There’s nothing to upset my apple cart more than a trip into the world, no matter how brief, how fun, or how refreshing in the moment for once I’m back home, I find a stale and bitter taste in my mouth.

I have, in my forced exile from the world, come to immensely crave the isolation. A danger I foresaw, for who knows me better than I except God? Herein lies the reason I never willingly sought the status of disabled, why I fought to keep focused on the goal of being in the daily workplace, because I knew I would come to choose to remain isolated and with my own thoughts for company once forced to acknowledge how ill fitted for the world I am.

Recently my husband, our daughter and our niece took a brief and whirlwind three day weekend to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg in Tennessee. Travel is hard for me since the amputation and the spread of the Lymphedema to other areas of my body. But for a few hours on the Saturday afternoon of our trip I enjoyed being part of the tourists crowding the streets of Pigeon Forge. My husband forces my wheelchair into areas the world forgot to allow me access to being capable of lifting me and the chair up over curbs and not timid about asking or just telling people to get out of the way when they block the sidewalk or store aisle. On this Saturday we parked in the Old Mill area of Pigeon Forge and went in and out of overcrowded shops, had our picture made in an old-time photography shop and ate a marvelous lunch at the Old Mill restaurant (even if we did have to wait nearly an hour for a handicap accessible table). I felt much like I imagine a kid set lose in a candy store does during those few hours.

But all too quickly my body started reminding me of how uncomfortable it was and how ill-suited to travel. Our ways of adapting in our home didn’t work in a suppose-to-be-but-isn’t wheelchair accessible hotel room where even the bed was an issue. (It was so tall it came to the top of my hip making “hopping” up on it an adventure and fear of falling off it a possibility.)

So we returned home and I was grateful to be back. Back to where I am more comfortable. Back to where we’ve ironed out far more of the wrinkles in the fabric of being disabled for me and my family.

Only I heard and saw and tasted the message of the world. “Look what you’re missing! Isn’t this fun? See? Feel? Come experience! Come play! Come be us!”

But I can’t. The same world reminds me I can’t.

“No! Keep your wheelchair away from here!”

“No! You can’t eat yet, there are only six tables where we can put your wheelchair and 51 others we can’t so wait.”

“No! We put up rails in the bathroom, wait for someone to help you if you can’t use the standard size accommodations!”

“No! You can’t swim here!”

“No! You can’t! No! No! No!”

So I wrestle with shutting the voice of the world out of my mind. I seek solace in scriptures ancient and true. I seek comfort in the arms of a Heavenly Father who doesn’t reject me. I seek a way to express myself that the world will welcome or at least accept. I turn to the modern world of technology seeking a connection and find a weird sense of being anything but connected. My mind whirls and sleep does not come.

Prayers ooze out of me with a desperate plea about them.

John wrote in I John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

I fear.

I am always human here.

I sin here. I sin in my need to be accepted for superficial appearances and for superficial reasons. I sin and I do so in my inability to accept this twist of life.

But I am on my way home. Truly my home where my body won’t be ravaged by disease. Where the accommodations will be perfect. Where I won’t want to go anywhere or do anything that someone will say “No” to. Home. Home where the perfect love reigns and the message isn’t buried beneath layers of “stuff”. Home where expressing myself isn’t an issue at all because the selfishness that drives my ego of self is silenced by the much stronger need to worship and express my love for God.

If only I could get that down here I would be much more like Paul who wrote in Philippians 4:11-13, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is like to be in need, and I know what it is like to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who give me strength.”

Meanwhile I am more in the mindset of David who wrote in Psalm 40:12, “For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.”

-Faye

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Necklines, Hemlines & Blocks

As a Minister to Youth a couple decades ago I would find myself reminding some of our female youth that when they wore short skirts to church then went bounding up the stairs things would show they didn’t mean to be seen. I always felt as if I was speaking strictly for my own benefit for repeatedly they would say, “Miss Faye in church men shouldn’t be looking!”

I would counter with, “Of course they shouldn’t, but frankly men are visual creatures and when you offer them visual treats their eyes are going to be drawn to them, in church or not. Plus, do you really want males in church or out of church to see what you are displaying?”

Fast forward a decade plus and I am having a similar conversation with my niece over an eighth grade graduation dress, then a senior prom dress. Again, it seemed like a useless conversation.

With our own daughter my husband and I started early to correct behavior and to teach her modesty. We’ve tried to instill in her not that her body is something to be ashamed of or that is “dirty” but that there are special parts of her body that deserve special consideration and that are private. It has not always been easy to teach modesty to a young girl in this day and time.

Fashion has seemed to dictate clothes for girls that are as revealing as their adult counterparts. We often struggle with finding appropriate clothing that is going to allow our daughter to feel good about herself in the way God would want. Low necklines, short hem lines, tight fits and thin material. Plus, the lack of garments such as slips available for girls!

Yet with our daughter the message seems to have gotten through. At least she knows what we will say yes to and no to when it comes to her clothing and when she is looking at what characters on television or what models in magazines are wearing she remarks, “Geez, didn’t their Mama tell them to put some clothes on?” Even the men in her life she expects to be appropriately dressed. When we passed a Jeep full of bare chested males whose bodies boasted tattoos and evidence of working out she yelled (inside the car), “Go put some shirts on! No one wants to look at your naked self or your tattoos.”

Sadly in church this Sunday I wanted to repeat my conversation with the youth of long ago, only with women of all ages.

The young lady who’s long in the back, short in the front dress that was made of material so thin you could see the color of her underwear when she walked across the front of the church.

The mature woman in the choir loft whose breasts were showing.

The lady in the front row of the congregation the men were having to look anywhere but in order not to get an eyeful.

The teens in skimpy spaghetti strapped tops.

The teenage boys and girls in jeans so tight I wouldn’t be amazed to learn that they had to soak in baby oil to get into them.

This wasn’t an unusual Sunday either, which makes it more of an issue. I remember the young woman who came to sing our special music one Sunday whose dress would have more appropriately labeled a sweater and had males all over the church blushing or gawking.

Yes, men have a responsibility to keep their thoughts pure and to not lust after females. Yes, they should be focused on worship in church. Yes they are responsible for their own decisions, actions, thoughts, feelings, impulses and sins.

But we women have responsibilities too and I believe one of those is to be modest in our clothing choices. Instead of referring you to what Paul in 1 Timothy 2:9 had to say directly about women’s clothing choices or Peter in 1 Peter 3:3 I want to draw your attention to I Corinthians 8:9 where Paul in discussing the eating of food scarified to idols but which I think can be aptly applied to my point.

“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.”

Yes, I propose in the area of lust for the members of the opposite gender we all have our weak points. And knowing that I believe we all have a responsibility NOT to try to be a stumbling block to anyone. For if we are daring to dress with less modesty in the choice of clothing we have to go to worship the Lord our God in, WHAT are we choosing to wear outside the church?

The church is not a body of believers who are perfect, it is a body of believers who are sinners saved by grace who join together to learn about the Word of God, draw strength and encouragement from our church family and then to go into the world and tell others about Jesus and how He has changed our lives and can change theirs.

The world does not share those common goals.

Before anyone gets riled up thinking I am calling for a return to women covering themselves head to toe behind burlap sacks that is totally untrue. All I am saying is that we can choose to dress in ways that are attractive WITHOUT our breasts showing, our underwear being revealed or every curve or lack thereof we have being broadcast to anyone whose eyes happen to look our way. Along with that must also come an attitude change. If we want men to think of us as intelligent, kind, strong women capable of anything why would we want to advertise ourselves as objects for their sexual impulses? If we don’t want people to talk about how our clothing doesn’t fit us well, we might be wise to think modestly and wear clothing in the size appropriate for our bodies EVEN if that number doesn’t make you feel happy or that hemline make you feel young.

Choosing modesty,

-Faye

Defined in the Last Row

1000318841Happily settled in the first desk of the first row in front of the teacher’s desk, with her permission, on the first day of school I was alive with excitement.  I could barely contain my joy.  That all changed when Cheryl Samson* walked in with her mother and stopped in front of me announcing she wanted my desk.  Mama not only forced me to move to the last desk in the last row in the corner but also to apologize for having taking Cheryl’s seat.  I was defined in this moment as being unworthy to sit up front, I belonged in the far corner. 

A spark of joy returned soon when I was called to the teacher’s desk for her to see how many words or letters of the alphabet I could recognize.  Happily I told her that I already knew how to read, my mother had taught me!  I rattled off the titles of the books I had read already, the majority of the Bobbsey Twin and Donna Parker series as well as Huckleberry Finn.  Not believing me she handed me the Dick and Jane reader and told me to read out loud.  After I read several pages my teacher stopped me. 

“Your mother,” she told me, “has obviously taught you not to read but to memorize books.  You’ll have to learn again.”  Cheryl snickered MC900439405behind me.  “Memorizing the words on the pages doesn’t mean you can actually read!” the teacher said as I quickly went back to my seat.  I had never known Dick and Jane existed until a few minutes ago.  I was defined in these moments as unintelligent, misinformed and as a liar. 

At home, annoyed by my why questions about Cheryl and the desk and having to relearn to read, my mother mumbled as she peeled potatoes. Finally she sent me to my room saying, “People like us aren’t like people like her.”

“People like us”?  Why were we “people like us”?  What did Mama mean?   I was defined now as less important, belonging to some “people like us” that I didn’t understand.

Homecoming at school brought the opportunity to be the First Grade Homecoming Princess.  All I had to do was enter, sell baked goods and juice during recess for three days and collect as much money as possible from my family.  If I collected and earned the most money I could be the Princess.  I earned myself first runner-up.  Cheryl won the Princess title.

MC900432659I was pleased somewhat to be the runner-up.  I would still get to be part of the Homecoming Court and walk out onto the field at the football game half-time.  Only I blew that by trying to mimic Cheryl and failed miserably, embarrassed my family, received a spanking, lecture and hearing the story repeated through the years, the humiliation fresh every time.  I was defined as foolish and bringing shame to my family.  I was defined as a “runner-up” not a winner.

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To make everyone happy I learned to pretend.  I pretended not to know how to read and pretended to let the teacher teach me all over again.  I pretended to be less intelligent.  That I didn’t want the very things I wanted the most.  That my home life was just as normal as anyone else’s home life was.  That I deserved to be last in everything, that runner-up was the best I’d ever be.  Through the years I learned to settle for less because I had pretended so long to only want and deserve the least that I didn’t even try.  I was wearing the assigned masks given to me and defined by them regardless of their truth.

MP900382637These three events, all too quickly defined me to myself as what I was given the message I was to be.  I recognized all too soon that what made Cheryl one of “those people” instead of one of the “people like us” were the following things:  Beauty, money, expensive clothes, intelligence, importance, lineage, and social status.  Money, I acknowledged as the years passed, could buy it all.  Or at least buy you the ability to fake it.

Reality was that there were a lot of things that set me apart from other kids.  None of those were any of the reasons my mother had cited, or my teacher insisted upon or that my childish mind connected to.  All that these false definitions of me did were to enable me to hide away.

Redefining who I was would take years.  Slowly it happened. 

I learned I did have the ability to earn A’s by earning them in master level classes.  I learned I could do, at least someMP900432927 algebra, by teaching myself from my daughter’s textbook and the online tutorial lessons to help her.  I learned to be a parent that gives her child wings to fly and roots to let her know she is always loved and always has a home, instead of clipping her wings and binding her with her roots.  It has taken years of on and off therapy to peel away layers of pretense, hurt, shame, wrong definitions and forbidden anger and I’m still redefining myself as one of God’s creations.

1001224892Paul’s words in Romans 8:28 have reminded me “…we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”   And again in I Corinthians 15:10 Paul’s words have given me courage, “But by the grace I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.  No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” 

King Solomon’s words from Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:” repeatedly whisper to me that the bad times will pass and the good will come, all in God’s time.  While Jeremiah in 29:11 has told me, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jesus’ has instructed me of my mission for him in this life in Matthew 28:19-20, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” 

We all have defining moments in our lives…defining scriptures that have awakened us to who we are in Christ…what moments have defined you…what scriptures have awakened you?

Faye

*Name changed for privacy.                                                                                                         All scripture from the N.I.V. translation of the Bible.

The Quilt – Part 4 – The Ending

…Was everything a lie?  How much had Todd deceived me?  Even more important, how much was he going to keep deceiving me?  How deep did Todd’s problem go?

I looked at Grandma’s Quilt, all the crazy patterns and colors; it looked like a giant jigsaw puzzle someone put together without the benefit of the picture on the front of the box.  It was more a symbol representing our lives it was proof you can take the bits and pieces of your life, the good and bad, give them to God and He makes your life into a quilt for His glory.  Oh, how it hurts in the making.

Looking back on that night, when Todd revealed to me a very painful part of who he was, my own hurt was crushing.  It was so difficult to reconcile the man who, on that night and so many others in our future, would wrap Grandma’s quilt around us tightly and call out to God for himself, for me, for Ally, for release from “his thorn in his side” and for our marriage.

The official diagnosis would be “sexual addiction” which sounds awful and certainly made me, the wife, feel sick inside.  Todd didn’t feel so great either.  It’s a dark diagnosis and not one you get up and request prayer for in Sunday School or church.  It’s not something you confess to your friends or at marriage conferences.  It doesn’t come up in casual conversation.  So, although our pastor knew and a few friends Todd and I found our way through each day of our marriage with God, one another and professional counseling.

More and more in my heart, every time Todd “slipped” and I’d find out or he’d confess willingly the quilt became an engrained symbol of our marriage.  It comforted me in my deepest sorrows.  It was a shield when anger would erupt over us.  Todd often referred to it as his prayer mantel and many, many times I’d find him knelt in prayer weeping into Grandma’s quilt.

It took over 20 years for Todd to gain long term remission from sexual addiction.   I am just now free of the fear that feasted on the darkness of Todd’s addiction every time he is a little late coming home or doesn’t answer his cell phone when I call.   In 20 years there were over thirteen slips, not counting the kiss with Lisa.  Sometimes it was women he sought and met online, women he didn’t actually meet face to face but with whom he spun fragile hopes of futures he could never keep.   Twice it was actual women he “dated” and one he tried to carry further than dating but couldn’t.  The other encounters were online pornography.  Amazingly none of these slips ever led to physical fulfillment.   Todd’s therapist told us sexual addiction isn’t about sex, he was right.

The quilt had issues of its own…

There’s a rip I repaired with a piece of cloth from the bathrobe I was wearing the day a woman knocked on my door and introduced herself as someone Todd had been “dating”.  Stains from picnics, and Ally’s belief that chocolate should be another food group.  (Okay, she gets that from her mother.)  When pieces of the original twin size quilt began to wear I often used cut off pockets from Todd’s shirts to cover the places which resulted in there becoming places Ally and I would tuck “take along’s” into, probably not a great idea, as they are now “baggy”.

Through twenty-seven years of marriage I used odd pieces of cross stitch thread to sew up seams.  Quilting thread to replace old squares with new ones making stitches Grandma would be proud of.  Like Grandma’s original design my handiwork didn’t seem to follow any pattern yet it fit.  Only now I rarely notice the imperfections because they seem right at home on Grandma’s quilt.  Todd and I still take Grandma’s quilt out to our deck and wrap it around us as we talk or pray.  It has a place of honor hanging over the rocker we used in Ally’s room until it was no longer needed but has permanent residence in the corner of our bedroom.  A corner Todd refers to as his prayer closet.

Sometimes I just pass by the quilt and run my hand over it to remind me how wonderfully comforting it is, so soft, so us.  It’s the only thing Ally has requested we leave her when we pass away.  One day I want her to know how precious this quilt is but the time for her to know is yet to come.

Tonight just before I turn in my eyes linger on the quilt and I know I am blessed.  Blessed that my grandmother made it, told me stories about my grandfather and dad; blessed my mom had her part in it too.  I’m blessed my husband recognized the value in working hard for a healthy marriage and in prayer and that he chose Grandma’s quilt to be his prayer mantle.  Blessed that we have a bright, wonderful, talented 26-year-old daughter whose life is still entwined with ours and recorded as much on Grandma’s quilt as our family picture gallery and who recognizes the quilt’s importance.  I am blessed to have such a loving God who used Grandma’s quilt to cover our wounded hearts, celebrate our greatest victories and help us face the future because He uses it to remind us where we’ve been.

Our family is blessed to have such visual evidence of the handiwork of God.  Many women would have left Todd and many would disagree with my decision not to.  Recovery from sexual addiction is not easy and it seems it’s one of the addictions many people would rather go through life with blinders on about.  It’s a shame really.  Men or women who struggle with pornography or lust often wander through it alone and because they do they heap shame upon shame upon shame.

God took what was severely broken and made it whole.  Grandma took scraps and pieces and began a piece of art that was usable, functional and it became a recorder.  God takes all the pieces of our lives, ALL THE PIECES and though we rarely get to see the quilt from His eyes, one day we will.  One day we will.

The End of This Series of “The Quilt”

 

 

My Father’s Eyes

I wear eyeglasses.  Throughout the day they become messy with fingerprints, other smears, just whatever gunk comes across my face during the day – sometimes the smears are on the inside from tears.  Most of the time I don’t even realize the lenses of my glasses are so dirty I shouldn’t be able to see through them.  My husband is the one who pulls them off my face and asks, “How can you see through these?”

On Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman one of the characters is named Grace and she says, “Sometimes the way we see ourselves blinds us to how others see us.”  Another character, Robert Lee said to Grace, “…these people are here because of who you are not who you aren’t…”

In I Corinthians 13:12 Paul wrote “Now we see but a poor refection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

I don’t usually think of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians when it comes to thinking about how other people see me or how I THINK other people see me.  Recently I had opportunity to do so.

I’d like to say how people see me, what they think of me matters little if anything at all to me.  But that would be a lie.  Evidence points directly to the opposite.

When someone at work incorrectly pointed the finger at me for a large Medicaid payback it bothered me so much I spent over an hour finding an email to prove my innocence because I felt as if my professional reputation had been smeared.  Even more recently when someone stole the deposit money from our office part of my initial reactions were because I was afraid I’d be accused of stealing the money.

As a patient at a local hospital last week I noticed a difference in how I felt when I was being assisted during a procedure when the staff involved spent the time talking with me or “over me”.  By “over me” I mean carrying on a conversation that had nothing to do with me but instead about what they were doing in their personal life.  Clearly in one case I felt like a human being, a person with feelings, pain, needs and the people helping me cared about me as a fellow human being who was suffering.  In the other case I was just a task they had to get done in order to get through their shift.

It’s hard to see anything or anyone clearly if you are looking through lenses that are dirty.  It’s hard to see ourselves as capable, intelligent, human beings worthy of another’s attention or love because we are so sure others see us as needy, incapable and unworthy.  When we need help and people offer help we find it difficult to accept the help because we think they are only offering out of pity or curiosity or judgment or duty.

Sometimes I long to see myself with the filter of God’s love yet other times I cringe at the thought of how I look to God – ungrateful, whiny, self-centered.  Yet He loves me.  Yet He sent His Son to die for me.  Most of all He sent His Son to not only die for me and my sins but to defeat death, defeat Satan so when my earthly life is over and since I’ve said “Yes” to His invitation to forsake the world and live for Him – I will be with Him for all eternity in Heaven.

My husband is right; it is hard to see clearly if your eyeglasses are dirty.   Grace is right; it’s hard to see anything good in yourself that other people see if you’re blinded by what you see and all you see are your mistakes and shortcomings.  Robert Lee is right, people come to help, to your aid, to see you, to befriend you more often because of who you ARE not who you AREN’T.

Most of all Paul is right, everything we see this side of Heaven we see only a poor reflection of because the reality of what God sees we can’t see  because we don’t have God’s eyes, or Heaven’s perspective.  I don’t know about you, but I’m going to try to look at all things through clean lenses and God’s Word since that is as close to His eyes as I can get right now.  Somehow, I just know a lot of things are about to change.

Many years ago Amy Grant had a contemporary song out titled, “My Father’s Eyes” and the chorus went something like this:  “She had her Father’s eyes, her Father’s eyes….eyes that saw the good in things when good was not around…eyes that saw the source of help when help could not be found.  Eyes full of compassion…

I’d like to have my Father’s eyes.  Wouldn’t you?

The Quilt – Part 3

Had it not been for Ally I would have huddled beneath Grandma’s Quilt the rest of the day.  Todd’s note of confession shattered something in me.   “We were so happy, weren’t we?”  I thought. Now the very foundation of the life we were building together seemed to have been shaken.  I wondered if it would withstand this assault.

With the quilt wrapped around me I knelt in prayer but found all I could do was weep and moan before God’s throne.  I watched Ally as she slept. She was so tiny and so innocent.  She was totally dependent upon Todd and me for her every need and she didn’t even know she was she just did what all babies do.   I knew God was doing the same for us, watching over us, He knew what happened and He knew what was still to come.  It was hard to trust my own emotions to help me make a decision about what to do or say about the betrayal I felt from Todd’s actions.  I tried hard to trust God.

My mind tried to rationalize Todd’s behavior.  “It was ONLY a kiss.  What’s a kiss compared to our lives together?” and “His needs must be unmet with me or he wouldn’t be seeking this outside our marriage.”

I also began to blame myself.  Had I become so consumed with first being pregnant and then with Ally that I had neglected Todd?  Since I had never seen a marriage on a day to day bases that would help me know how to handle marriage I must be missing something.  How inadequate was I?

The four and a half hours from the time I read the note from Todd and he arrived home were some of the longest in my life.  By then I had managed to stop crying and I sat in the rocker feeding Ally when I heard the garage door opener.  I tried to force myself to relax so Ally wouldn’t sense my apprehension and I offered Todd a weak façade of a smile when he came into the nursery and kissed us both.

The conversation we had to have I didn’t want to have in our house.  It felt defiled enough already.  Todd had brought home Chinese food so I suggested we eat outside on the deck.  I could put Ally’s monitor out there and we’d hear her if she needed us.  Todd agreed and as I moved the monitor Todd grabbed the quilt and the bag of take-out.

Silence was our companion as we first went about the business of setting out the food and arranging the chairs.  I went back in for sodas and when I returned Todd had removed the two separate chairs from the table and moved our two seater glider to the table.  Grandma’s quilt was also there and I allowed Todd to help me sit down and wrap us in the quilt.  We held the take-out containers in our hands but neither of us could eat.  The silence between us was so heavy I expected to be able to see it.

“I’m sorry.”  Todd said, putting his food down and taking mine from me.  He reached for my hands and held them.  “It was a stupid thing to do Honey.”

The tears made their way back into my eyes and rolled down my cheeks.  My voice sounded weak and shaky as I replied, “How have I failed you Todd?”

He moved closer to me and completely enclosed us in the quilt.  “Oh my love you haven’t failed me.  This wasn’t your fault in any way.”

The man I’d married and whom I thought I knew began to confess that Satan had a stronghold in his life.  “Babe, you know how much this quilt means to us, right?”

“Sure.  It combines all of both our lives up to the point we were married.”  I said, puzzled as to how this had a part in Todd kissing Lisa

“Some of the things and clothing your grandma used and then you used to make this quilt remind us of great things and loving people.  Right?”  Todd quizzed.

“Yes.”

“A few of these patches from clothes you got from my mom aren’t happy memories for me.”

Anger welled up inside me.  I was trying to follow Todd’s reasoning but so far I was just confused.  If there were unhappy memories in some of the fabric provided from Todd’s clothing and things through his childhood I was sorry, obviously his mom didn’t know or she wouldn’t have included them.  But they were from his childhood and adolescence.  What did they have to do with the here and now?  With his kissing Lisa?

“Todd what are you saying?  I’m not understanding.”

He sighed deeply.  “I never told you that for about a year when I was in junior high my parents split up.  They were going to get a divorce.  That was the year I played football for the first time, the jersey – the purple and gold one – that reminds me of that year.”

Again if felt as if the foundation of our lives was shaken.  “How come you never told me?  You always said your parents had a wonderful marriage.”

“After Dad came to have a relationship with Christ they did but before then it was pretty rocky.  Dad moved out for a year and I spent one week with him and one week with Mom.  It was crazy.”

“I can see that.  I’m glad God came into your Dad’s life and your parents salvaged their marriage, but Todd how does that year relate to your kissing Lisa?” I begged to know.

The silence again grew oppressive.  I fought not to fill the silence with my own words of hurt and anger, but I succeeded in remaining quiet.  Into that silence and stillness Todd’s next confession dropped like a boulder into the middle of our lives and the ripples would never cease.

“My dad had me…well…his girlfriend…” it seemed he couldn’t speak around a lump in his throat then the words gushed out as if a dam had burst, “Dad had me sleep with Cathy so he would know who she was with when she wasn’t with him when he was away.  It was like she was my part-time girlfriend too.  Ever since then I’ve found it impossible to stay away from women who offer me quick thrills.  I thought when we married it would be behind me.  I think I was wrong.”

When we married Todd had told me he was a virgin too.  He never gave a hint his parent’s marriage wasn’t always solid.  He even told me he wanted a marriage just like his parents had.  What about all the stories about his Dad being a deacon in their church and how they went to church as a family his whole life?  What did he mean “impossible to stay away from women who offer…quick thrills”?  Was everything a lie?  How much had Todd deceived me?  Even more important, how much was he going to keep deceiving me?  How deep did Todd’s problem go?

To be continued…

The Quilt – Part 2

If you were to ask 95 percent of the people in our lives through the years they would tell you that Todd and I had a healthy marriage with no conflicts.  That was our public life.  But there would also be 5 percent who could tell you of another side, a uglier, darker side of our marriage.  The side we kept silent about in small group Bible studies and worship services.  A side we didn’t tell anyone about.

I remember the first “slip” as clearly as if it were just yesterday.  Todd and I moved to his hometown so he could be closer to his mother when his dad died.  I’d never had a problem finding a job in radio before but I was sure that God wanted me to be in Christian radio and Bentonville didn’t have any opportunities.  Not within any reasonable driving distance.  So, since Todd was anxious to start our family we agreed we’d work on having our first baby and I’d be a stay-at-home mom.

We were blessed that I got pregnant right away and seemingly sailed through the months Ally was in my womb with remarkable ease.  I enjoyed getting the nursery ready, painting a beautiful butterfly mural on the walls, clouds on the ceiling and a white picket fence border.  I refinished furniture and sewed curtains, quilts and clothes for our daughter.  I didn’t have a clue that Todd was seeking companionship elsewhere until Ally was two weeks old.

One of the best pieces of advice my mother-in-law gave me was to sleep when Ally slept so I often would wrap up in Grandma’s crazy quilt and have time with God before falling asleep beside Ally’s bassinet.  Todd came home one afternoon for lunch and when he found both his “girls” asleep fixed himself a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich and left me a note.

“Came home for lunch and found you and Abby sleeping.  You both looked so beautiful!  I hate to bring a bit of rain into our lives my love but I have a confession…I kissed Lisa at the conference the weekend before Ally was born.”

Todd’s confession sent me back to huddle beneath Grandma’s quilt and to cry out to God…it was a provision only God can provide because I was to find out there was a whole part of my husband I didn’t know and never dreamed existed…

To be cont….

The Quilt – Part 1

Growing up Grandma Mary and I spent every afternoon after school together and during the summer I lived as much at her house as I did my own.  Grandma Mary was my dad’s mother and when he passed away when I was just eleven months old she and my mother became a parenting team.  Grandpa Jack passed several years before I was born so she and Mom were two widows who took their difficult circumstances by the lapels and held on for dear life.

With Mom holding a full time job Grandma and I spent a lot of time together.  During the summer days and after school during the school year Grandma taught me to cook, bake, sew, quilt, garden, and keep house.  Mom was my tutor and taught me how to play the piano.  Both of them taught me how to play Hearts.

When I reached the dating years no one in particular kept my interest and Mom began to worry that the lack of steady dates was due to the lack of having a father in our home.  Grandma Mary would simply kiss my forehead and tell Mom and I both that when the right man came along God would let me know and until then, as long as I honored God with my dating life, she was sure He had His reasons for leaving me single.

College days came and went and by the time I turned 30 I figured God’s plan for my life were as Paul recommended, I was to remain single so I simply left it up to God and focused on my career in Christian radio.  I still had plenty of opportunities to date but I didn’t feel as “need to” in that area anymore.  Though I no longer lived at home with Mom and Grandma Mary when she passed away it was as if I were a little girl all over again.

Grandma Mary was diagnosed with cancer just after I finished college and the end came swiftly.  When Mom and I were cleaning out her house we found a box marked with my name on it in the sewing room.  Mom seemed to know about the box and the contents, I could tell by the way she handed it to me before she spoke, “Honey, Grandma wanted you to have this.  Do you want me to leave you alone to open it?”

It seemed foolish to not open a gift from Grandma with my Mom, so we opened it together.  Inside was a quilt.  Not just any quilt but one that Grandma had made incorporating the one she’d made me as a child.  It had material from my favorite clothes as well as from my Dad, Mom and Grandma & Grandpa’s.  The pattern had advised selecting contrasting or complimentary colors but Grandma often had her own ideas about colors.  Some of the squares were made with patterns and colors you’d expect to see together and some of weren’t.

Now Grandma had turned the single bed sized quilt from my girlhood into a double sized quilt by using material from my favorite clothes from high school and college, including blue jeans and tee-shirts.  It seemed like every hue and pattern that could be put together had found their way into my quilt.  Mom and I laughed through tears as we recognized the clothing the quilt had come from.  Each square full of memories, some funny, some sad, some memorable due to the lessons I’d learned when a particular piece was from a shirt or pair of jeans I had loved at that time.

When I took my “crazy quilt” home and put it on my bed it felt as if Grandma Mary was standing right there beside me smoothing out the wrinkles along with me.  Many nights I would fall asleep the quilt having dried my tears.  It saw me through a couple “almost” relationships and when Todd came along my crazy quilt was a way to share my past with him.  We cuddled beneath it while watching movies from my sofa and took it with us on romantic picnics in the park and to the beach.

Todd asked me to marry him when I was sick with the flu on Valentine’s Day, wrapped in Grandma Mary’s crazy quilt with a fever of 102 degrees because he’d waited long enough and couldn’t wait until I was feeling well and able to look “presentable”.  With my Mom’s help and after I asked Todd’s mother if she had any clothing that Todd had worn earlier in his life and she’d given me a variety of “men” color and patterned clothing – including Superman pj’s, and football jerseys – we turned the double bed sized quilt into a queen sized bed quilt that we used from the beginning of our lives together as man and wife.

In those first few months of married life I never thought of Grandma’s quilt teaching me more lessons on love, forgiving and endurance but it did.

To be continued….

The Girl, the Woman, the 30 Year Reunion-Going Home

Last night I got all dressed up for my 30th high school reunion.  I was nervous.  I’d skipped all the other reunions and now I was facing people I hadn’t seen, at least most of them, for 30 years and back then we were all young, healthy and had all our body parts.  Now I would face them minus an entire leg and from a wheelchair.

I hadn’t been able to face my Sunday School class at a swim party the weekend before and I see them usually once a week.  They had been with me every step of the way through the “before amputation” stages, the actual “amputation” stages and the “after amputation” stages as well.  What made me think I could face a room full of people who may as well now be strangers?  I just felt like I had to.

 

Like I have that “need” to do a tandem sky jump…

 

 

…to write…

 

 

…to push the envelope when it comes to my independence…

 

 

…to drive my husband crazy with my crazy ideas…

 

 

I’ve long loved this verse of scripture found in I Corinthians 15:10a; “But by the grace of God I am what I am and his grace to me was not without effect.”  I am what I am.  God’s grace makes me what I am and it has its effect in and on me.  Despite feeling awkward as I wheeled around the room last night, I kept repeating that portion of scripture to myself.

Later in the evening as I sat at the table with my high school best friend and my husband and was re-acquainted with old classmates I realized something else.  The girl I was in 1982, who wept at the thought of never seeing some of the very people I didn’t recognize last night had been desperate to feel part of these still slim and beautiful, successful people.

Sometimes in that quest I paid a high price.  Not just with stupid diet decisions but in bad decisions that shredded my self-esteem.  I gave away parts of myself to men who were not worthy of them and who in the end didn’t appreciate the gift at all.

In those high school years I was the girl sitting at home on prom nights because I wasn’t one of the cute girls or at least a thin one.  I imagined magical nights of dancing with a number of handsome boys I knew and danced with none of them, ever.

Last night the only wish I had been that “Mr. Cool & Cute” who was spinning the tunes would play one slow song so I could “dance” with my husband one time.  That one song, that lasted I’m sure no more than four minutes, meant a world of joy to me, so much I wept through most of it.

Those slim and beautiful girls from high school were, for the most part, still slim and beautiful.  Those cute guys were still visible beneath the 30 years of aging we’d done.  Oh, time had marched its way across all of us.  But for a bunch of folks in our later 40’s we all looked good.  Yes, we ALL looked good, even me.

Most of all, when I left last night, I felt like I loved the woman I am now, far more than I liked the girl I was then.  I also had more compassion for the girl I was then than I did then for I know her complete history and can freely acknowledge every bit of it.

Now the second part of I Corinthians 15:10 came to me, “No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was within me.” (N.I.V.)  My life hasn’t been any more traumatic or hurtful than anyone else’s, I dare not claim that, but I can also say I was one of those who had to allow God’s grace to work in me harder because I fell for the world’s version of what beautiful and successful was really hard.

Furthermore, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”  (I Timothy 1:15 N.I.V.)  One who enjoyed that one slow dance better than any other dance in my lifetime so far.

Furthermore, I have a sure assurance now that when this life, with all its issues, woes and sorrows is at last over, I am going home.  “Going home, I’ll meet you at the table.  Going home, I’ll meet you in the air…and you are never too young to think about it…I’ll be going home, I’ll be going home…” (CD “Conversations” song, “Going Home” as sung by Sara Groves.)