Inspiring Stories: Kaylee’s Story “Loving the Kids”

This post is written by my daughter. For the prelude to her story, read here.

It’s taken nearly a year to heal my broken heart—to relive the rich memories with a song rather than sorrow lacing my heart.

It’s been nearly 11 months since I left with a group of students from Liberty University to spend the summer in Guatemala.  While there I had the opportunity to learn Spanish, live with a host family, and revel in one of God’s sweetest gifts to me—the chance to work in an orphanage.

Loving the KidsWe did ministry by serving the Guatemalan people in various ways. I saw pain, suffering, and poverty. I saw people who had nothing. I saw teenagers who weighed a mere 40 pounds from lack of food. I saw a woman with Down syndrome living in a trash heap. I saw a boy with epilepsy whose bed was nothing more than the ragged and worn hole of a hammock he shared with his other siblings.

But I also saw joy amidst the sorrow and healing among the brokenness. As I was serving in the orphanage I was honored with the sweet and precious gift of loving these children—the forgotten ones.  These little ones had a cot to sleep on and tortilla and beans for their bellies but didn’t know a father’s love or a mother’s touch. For me, that is where the difference lies.

The street children and sickly kids may not always have a full stomach or a spacious home, but they have parents. They have someone who loves them—who is  willing to go days or weeks without food so that their children might have a bite to eat. Some may argue with me, but I find it hard to discern which is worse— go without food, or not know the love of a mother or father.

The first day at the orphanage, I held a 3 year old in my arms named Andy. Instantly, I knew the warm truth that trickled deep into my soul: he was mine. I believe God draws different people to each other. He drew this precious bundle of laughter and mischief to me. I visited him in the baby house every day. Going on walks, we giggled, tickled, played, laughed and chased each other. All the little things little boys do.

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A week into the trip, I met Antonion or “Tono”—the little boy who would forever change my life. I still can’t think of him without a knot in my throat but I have a joy in my spirit now. One afternoon I sat down to help this little 9 year old boy, who sported the crooked smile behind his tough guy facade, with his homework. The rest is history. He was my shadow for the rest of my time there.  Mejor amigos (Best friends). I fondly referred to him as my “hermanito” and he replied in broken English “You (pointing at me) my seeeee-ster for-eever.

When he said that, how could I ever go home?

I don’t know why God drew me to this certain child. Maybe it was his crooked smile, or the way he would jump into my arms when he saw me. Or how he begged me to just watch him play soccer for hours. Or the way he would take my hand and off we went to play marbles, cards, or just sit and talk. Other children could sit on my lap, but only if he knew where I was. Maybe it was because he reminded me of my own three little brothers who are now too old to sit in my lap. I don’t know, but what I do know is that he needed to be loved and that was something I could do.

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I fell in love with Leydi and her sweet spirit, Alexa and her tough demeanor (once she knew I was there to stay, her brattiness melted away and she let me into her heart), Julio with the twisted leg, Cristian, the constant troublemaker who just needed a smile and hug,  Elias, who wouldn’t sit still at school unless he was sitting on my lap.  The list goes on…

For a time, I honestly thought I would never leave.

I was having the time of my life.  My favorite compliment was when people asked me in Spanish if I was “mixed,” thinking I was half-Latina because of my tanned skin and dark features, but knew I wasn’t because of my blue eyes. I would proudly reply, “My Grandpa’s Italian” and beam because they thought I fit with the culture I was becoming a part of.  I even got use to the rats and bugs. They didn’t bother me so much. I loved the simplicity of life there—the relaxed atmosphere, the friendliness and love of the people, and not having access to modern technology.

I was home.

The week before I had to leave, I hardly slept. I couldn’t believe the time had come. I’ll never forget whispering in releasing and letting goAndy’s ear “Te quiero muchisimo mi niñito” (I love you little one) knowing he wouldn’t understand that the next day I wouldn’t be coming back. Saying good-bye to the other kids was painful, especially when Julio, my treasure with the twisted leg, looked at me and said “Adios preciosa” (Good-bye dear one). As soon as he said that, I kissed him, and walked down the mountain because if I hadn’t I never would have. Tono was the good-bye I was dreading. He buried his head in my stomach, squeezed me tight and we said good-byes.

I came back to the U.S. and cried every single day for the next month. My heart had never been more broken.

Life went on. I went back to school. There were days when I would weep on the floor of my dorm, crying out to God asking, “Why?”…. Why what? I didn’t even understand the questions in the depths of my heart. But God heard them and he allowed me to go back for 2 weeks in January.

The highlight of that trip in January was spending time at the orphanage.  I saw the precious bundles of joy that I had missed every second I was gone. Once again, I kissed, cuddled, tickled, chased, and played hide and seek with my baby Andy. I held Elias while we watched a movie. I held tightly to Julio (the boy with the twisted leg) as we jumped on the trampoline the orphans had gotten for Christmas. I told Leydi and Alexa they were beautiful, I tucked Marcos into bed and kissed his sleeping cheek.

551075_324437974298235_97023136_nI prayed with little Tono to receive Jesus as his Lord and Savior. I took him down to dinner with me the last night and as the music played, he grabbed my hand and put his other skinny arm around my waist and said “Bailamos” (Let’s dance).  The little gentleman whisked me across the floor. When we said good-bye a second time, I cried as he wrapped his little arms around my shoulders, kissed my cheek and said “I’ll love you forever.

He is just ten years old.

I cried as I walked away leaving Elias crying on the steps of the orphanage at the top of the mountain. I cried as I knew I would miss seeing baby Andy grow up. My heart broke even more. I felt like Mary in Luke 2:19 “She treasured and pondered all of these things in her heart.”

These last few months, God has been faithful as he has graciously helped me release the bitterness and anger at Him in my heart for tearing me away from these precious kids. It was only when I acknowledged my bitterness and anger toward the Lord that my heart began to heal. It was only after this happened that when I looked at pictures of the children I could smile and remember instead of cry.

Now I have a joy in my spirit instead of sorrow in my heart.

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

The little children go to Jesus, not me. They are His and not mine. He loves them more than I do or ever 1342f-img_1464could. Instead of mourning a loss, I celebrate the fact that Jesus knows each one of us and our needs individually. He is taking care of the children; He only used me to help him for a time, but what a blessing it was.

If you are a parent, hold your children close and tell them you love them because there are millions of kids out there who do not have parents—little girls who will never have a daddy to tell them they’re beautiful and little boys who will not know a mother’s loving touch.

If you have the opportunity, I challenge you to go and serve. The very least you can do is pray—pray for God’s children. That is what my prayer has changed to.  Instead of saying “God, let me go back,” I pray “God, today may they know they are LOVED.”

I write this in faith that I am going back. I don’t know when, where, or how but God has told me I am going back. I claim that promise. In the meantime, I pray for the precious ones and trust God knowing that He is loving them and meeting their needs in a greater way than my simple love ever could.

Romans 13:8 “Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”

 How are you living that out in your own life today?

If you would like to sponsor one of the orphans at Hope of Life Ministry, please contact them and begin a relationship with one of these children that will change your life and theirs.  Click here for more information.

Why Raising Children Is Really About Letting Go

Today I’m posting an article at Not Alone Mom on the process of releasing our children.  Last year at this time, I wrote the following post as my daughter came home from college only to turn around to leave for Guatemala for the summer. I knew in my heart it would be a life-changing experience for her.  A deal-maker or a deal-breaker for this girl who told me since she was 17 that she was called to be a missionary.

releasing and letting goKaylee went on a mission trip to Mexico her Junior year in high school.  She spent Christmas Day of 2008 in an orphanage. In scholarship applications she wrote her senior year, she explained her passion to work with children in orphanages.  She devoured biographies of missionaries, beginning with Jim Elliot, who impacted her life.

Much to my dismay, I realized she was serious, God was serious, and I needed to let go of the plans I had for my firstborn, because He has a call on her life.

I’ve asked her to share her experience in my Inspiring Stories series I will post this weekend. I knew when I put my girl on the plane last May, she wouldn’t return the same. It’s true.  She returned to Zacapa in Decemeber and more than likely will be returning for three months next spring for her internship.  Please join me tomorrow morning as I post her story, “Loving the Kids.” 

In the meantime, here’s my story from last May, from a mom’s perspective, reposted from my former blog.

Good-bye is a Four Letter Word

Just in time to say good-bye.  

That’s how much time we’ll have, my daughter and I, as she returns from college this week only to turn back around to leave for Guatemala for the summer.

I’m ready to come home but not ready to say good-bye” she said in a conversation last week.  Those words have weight in them.  She doesn’t like good-byes. Making the good-bye transition with children is a process that never ends. I’m learning, though, when we keep our hands too tightly on our children, we don’t allow them to grow in the ways God desires.

God began teaching me this two years ago when my daughter was considering going to a college three states away.  “Seriously?” I thought.  She has been accepted to a good school here in Indiana. “You don’t know what you’re talking about” is what her wise mom thought.  And just as audible as I could hear, the Lord said to my spirit, “I want to work in her life, but you’re standing in the way.  Back off.In that moment, I knew God was speaking to my daughter, and she was hearing Him. I also knew if she was called to the mission field like she’d been suggesting, going to a school far away would be a stepping stone for her and us.

Why does God have to plan so good?

So, our heart-wrenching-good-bye at the school over the mountain where she knew no one was just a stepping step, the first step, in releasing her to the life God has called her to.

releasing and letting go of childrenStep two of saying good-bye as she’s going to the mountains of Guatemala is equally as challenging. This time, good-bye is another step in a longer good-bye that may, someday, be for good.

With each good-bye, as I watch my child’s faith grow, my own faith has been immeasurably stretched.

How can I argue with a child who’s allowed the King to capture her heart? How can I argue with God about His will for my daughter?

Releasing to let go.  Not easy, but essential.

Yet being mindful of my cousin who lost her own daughter serving in full-time ministry.  The Lord called her home at age 34 just a few months ago. A good-bye never expected.

“I’m ready to come home, but not ready to leave.”

That just about sums up this thing called Life. Longing to be with him, but not quite ready to leave her.

Whatever your good-byes may be this week, may we all rest in the comfort of our Lord and Savior.  Clinging to the good, releasing the rest for His glory.

Please find out the rest of the story, Kaylee’s inspiring story, tomorrow, here at Life Beyond the Picket Fence

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspiring Stories: Stacey’s Story

Friday I posted The New Normal: 8 Tips for Working Moms at Not Alone Mom.  

It is my greatest privilege to share Stacey’s story of love and grace.  She has walked many paths familiar to women – loss of love, abandonment, abuse, looking for love only the Father can fill.  Stacey Wilson blogs at Shakin’ the Foundation and She Stands.  You will love her heart.me bday (1)

One would think it would be easy to write about their life, to give their testimony, but as I begin to write my own testimony I struggle where to begin. Too many words can drag on, not enough words can leave holes and wonder for those reading.  I will do my best to share my life from the beginning to where it is now in the hopes you, the readers, will see God’s love and grace with each word written.

I was chose to follow Jesus Christ at the age of six. I truly didn’t understand the importance of such a wondrous decision, but seeing all the “big” people take their walk to the altar, I knew I wanted to as well.  I tugged on my Daddy’s sleeve and as he bent down to hear what I had to say, I pointed to the altar and said “I want to go up there.”  Looking in my eyes, he gave me permission to go. I began my walk by myself and suddenly found myself over-shadowed by the adults standing there.  I stretched my neck as far as it would go hoping our pastor would see me and reach for me. I tried my best to make my way through the crowd but to no avail. I was no closer to the front of the altar and could not be seen.

Disappointed, I remember looking to those around me, hoping someone would see me and help me get to the front.  As I continued to search the crowd, I felt two hands grab hold of me and place me in their arms, the arms of my Daddy. He had been watching me to see if I could get to the front alone and when he saw I couldn’t, he reached in and picked me up! I made it to the front!   Little did my six year old mind know, but that was the best day of my life, the day I gave my heart to Jesus.

When I was a pre-teen, my parents divorced and I was a struggling young girl. Angry that my dad left us, I slowly walked away from God.  Rejection settled in my heart and I no longer believed God loved me. If my own father didn’t want me, how could a God I could not tangibly see want and love me?  I became rebellious and angry at the world. Being the oldest of three, I didn’t want the responsibility of my siblings. I loathed having to help my mom by babysitting.  Saying I gave her “hell” on earth would be an understatement!  And my attitude did not get better as I moved into high school.

MP900285063As teenager, my life was all about me and my desires.  No longer did I talk to God. My life consisted of football games, dances, parties and my boyfriend.  I was too busy for God, not to mention it was not cool to speak of religion with my friends.  By mentioning God in a conversation, you automatically became strange, off the wall and crazy in the eyes of my peers.  When things in my life became too crazy, I would pray in secret.  I was riding the fence, one foot in the world and the other on my bible.

At eighteen, I graduated from high school and got married.

After searching to be loved and after several bad relationships, I was convinced I was loved and no longer rejected.  My new husband was the one who filled the hole in my heart and life. When my first child was born, God came to my mind. I looked in her eyes and realized the love of a parent is far beyond any love the world has to offer.  I felt complete.  However, God was not the center of my life.  I prayed more, but we were living for the world, not God.  Without God as the foundation of my marriage and life, the perfect world of mine crumbled.  Sadly, after three years of marriage and a beautiful daughter, we divorced.  Once again I went out looking for “love” to fill the hole in my life, the empty spot in my heart.  The “clubbing” and parties began again.

Four years later, I met my next husband.  He came from a God-fearing family and I just knew he was “the one.”  Our denominations were different, but I over looked all the red flags. “Equally yoked” never came to mind as I once again marched down the aisle to say I do. He loved to dance as much as I did and said his prayers in secret as well. Perfect match, right?

After six months the abuse started. I never once saw through my “love blinders “ that he grew up in a house filled with rage and abuse.  It was church on Sunday and fights through the week.  At this point, I prayed out of fear. Even though there were those who are reaching down to pluck me out of the situation, I stayed out of fear.  I was emotionally beaten, physically harmed, and too scared to walk out.  After three years and another child, I finally walked – no ran – out.

Once again God came to my mind and my prayers became more frequent. I was still looking for love, so my prayers begged God to give me a man to love.  A good man I asked.  Never once had I asked for a godly man, a man after God’s own heart.

I was single for several more years and moved to another state.  I searched for God.  I attended a great church and God blessed me with a wonderful church family. I was learning and receiving His instructions. Taking baby steps, I was walking on His path.  The “rejection syndrome” would pop its ugly head up periodically to remind me I was alone as far as a soul mate here on earth. I watched others in church whose husbands lovingly prayed with them, praised them and prayed for them.  I longed for that in my life. I didn’t allow God to completely fill that hole in my heart.  I believed to be whole, I need a man. My children were happy, I had awesome friends, a great church family, was involved in my community and church and yet I was still lonely.MC910216396

“How can that be?” I ask the Lord. I didn’t wait to hear His response.  Again, I took matters into my own hands and husband number three came along. He was fun, loving and was wonderful to me and my children. He often came to church with us, but never on a regular basis. I was okay with that because I thought I had all I wanted.  Those feelings were temporal.   After a few years, I  was growing in the Lord and want more.  More than my husband could give.  I now understood “equally yoked” and we were not.  I prayed, I cried, I begged, I got angry.  I yelled at the top of my lungs for God to change this man.  I did not seek God in my decision or listen for His voice, but I demanded Him to fix “us”.

I refused to go through another divorce.  By this point, the enemy of my soul was taunting me, telling me what a failure I was and how those who loved me would reject me for another failed marriage. I would disgrace children, family and friends. I would disgrace to God.  After six years of marriage my husband filed for divorce.  I believe in my heart God knew I could not do it.  I think there are things in life we try so hard to hold on to that God himself removes!  My husband left me and married another woman.  I was broken, shattered, and devastated beyond words.  The only words that could come from my mouth when praying was one….JESUS!

My healing process was a lengthy one.  Christ had to go to the root of my pain, the rejection of my Dad.  The little girl who made her way to the altar at the age of six, grew into the woman who ran from the one true love in her life…..Jesus.  Through my healing process, the Lord in all His splendor has shown me who I truly am. The world wants me to believe I am a failure.  But my Daddy God says I am victorious in Him. Just as my earthly father raised me up Woman with Arms in the Airin his arms so many years ago at the altar, God himself has raised me up over all the circumstances in my life.  It didn’t matter if they were by my choosing or something the world threw at me, He placed His hands on me and placed me in His arms.

The Lord moved me home three years ago. After twelve years away it’s good to be home. My teenager has had some adjusting, but with God’s grace, she is also learning how much He loves her as well.

The Lord had me start a ministry blog in 2011 and then another one in 2012. When I asked the Lord why He would choose me to come into the ministry, after all my track record is not a great one, He spoke to my heart and said to me…” You have a story to tell.”  “ I do not call the equipped, I equip the called!”

My testimony is God’s grace in the midst of my running.  It’s God’s unfailing love when I rejected Him.  It’s His grace in my healing and His mercy in my down-falls.  It is a Father’s love that can never be replaced or taken away. It is the glory of God shining His light in the dark places of my life.

I have made many wrong choices in life, we all do. However God’s word tells us in Roman 8:28 (NIV)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who  have been called according to his purpose.

My life is nowhere near perfect.  I am still a work in progress.  However, I’m full of God’s love and grace. He never promised we wouldn’t have trials in life, He promised to never leave nor forsake us.  I am living proof He stood by me through all my craziness in life.  He never gave up on me and I promise, He won’t ever give up on you!

Blessings to you all,

Stacey

God Loves You

This week I wrote about fear, depression, and the intimacy of God’s Word and posted at Not Alone Mom.   Read it if you need encouragement and a personal word of how much God loves you.

Woman Turning Off Alarm

This week as I drove back and forth to work, this song ministered to me over and over again as I processed some hard things. May it minister to you in some way today.

Romans 8:28 – Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

He loves you.

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What is Your Drug of Choice?

Vodka and Vicodin.  What’s your drug of choice?Pill Bottles Containing Medication

This weekend I’ll be sharing the powerful story of a young mom who found herself unexpectedly turning to Vicodin and Vodka and ended up in rehab.  This was not the life she ever imagined herself living.  She was a parent like you, like me, who learned certain things can numb pain and fill holes in your life.

Where are your holes? What are the gaping wounds in your soul that you self-medicate?

If this doesn’t apply to you, don’t disregard this post.  You may not self-medicate with prescription drugs or alcohol, but what do you fill your emotional holes with?  What do you turn to that numbs the holes in your heart?

A beautiful caucasian girl carrying shopping bagsFood?  Shopping? Relationships? Busyness? Appearance? Success? Children? Enabling?

Or do you turn to substances?  A recent study (“Mother’s Little Helper, LA Times, Jan. 13, 2012) reported there is an increase in mother’s seeking ADHD medication for their children for their own self-medication.  As a behavioral professional working with families and children, my colleagues and I observe an increase in parents self-medicating in some form.   Parents are hurting, therefore children hurt.

What’s filling your holes?

I don’t know if emotional depravity is increasing in our culture or if self-medication is becoming more mainstream.  My work with people tells me it’s both.  Psychological and emotional wounds seem to be increasing and are present in every walk of life.

the dreamTen years ago, I left being home full-time to working in public schools.  A student who lived in my rural neighborhood very poignantly said, “You live in a fairy-tale.” The picket-fence image, the Bubble.

I knew what they said was true, though we had our own struggles as a family.  What the student was conveying was at that time I lived in a small, Christian-everything-is-right-with-the-world-bubble. Over time, experiencing my own personal struggles and becoming more hands-on as a community member and an educational/counseling professional, I know the fairy-tale life is the minority these days.  My own family was on the verge of going over several cliffs to destruction, and I’ve had self-medicating periods in my own life.  I now walk where life is messy, beyond the picket fence-image.

What about you? Do you live in a bubble?  Are you aware of those with gaping holes around you?

As you read Candi’s story this weekend, I challenge you to listen to the holes in her heart that she filled with substances. They are wounds and holes common to most of us.  Cognitive distortions, self-doubt, bitterness.

Do you struggle with these?

Candi’s story is our story.  It’s the story each of us has who tries to fill the voids in our life with unhealthy things.  Though the “substance” may be different, the quest for fulfillment and happiness it similar. While some are more destructive, none satisfy.MP900396129

The root of satisfaction she has found is the same I’ve found. It’s the same found in each of us changed by the grace of Great Healer, Christ Himself, the Son of the Living God.

As you anticipate reading Candi’s story this weekend, I challenge each of  you to examine the holes and voids in your own heart and life and what you attempt to fill them with that’s unhealthy.  Facing our wounds is never easy, but giving them healthy means by which to heal diminishes scaring.

My prayer for you this week  from Philippians 4:6-7, The Message:

 “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

May we live not in a bubble, not in denial, not in pain, but in the wholeness of Jesus Christ, letting His grace and peace fill every wounded hole in your being.

How have you found healing and wholeness from your holes?  We’d love to hear.  And tune in this weekend for Candi’s inspiring story.

In His love,

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The Cost

This is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.  For God is greater than our hearts.  He knows everything.”  I John 3:19-20 (New International Version) 

This morning I’ve wasted time, in a stupor, mentally avoiding the things I need to do this week, a secret MP900443601rebellion against the stress of the life.  In the stillness of time with His Word, I am confronted not by distractions, but by overwhelming conviction and grace.

After reading Hebrews 10:5-10, I’m flooded with conviction, shame, and humility.  The passage speaks of the once and for all Sacrifice Jesus made so I can stand before a holy God.  This morning, the heaviness of what this means for me weighs on me.

I find it easier to accept Jesus’ death for “big sins,” but this morning I am confronted with the fact that the same sacrifice was made for deliberate, daily sins, ones often labeled “little sins.”  Of the lengthy list I could post, all are rooted in selfishness.  Something I’ve been keenly aware of in my own heart recently.

I’ve been reading I John lately.  It states that our heart condemns us before God, that He knows our motives (I John MP9003417123:16-24).  This shines a spotlight on my heart, and selfishness is the star. The heart does condemn. As I John 3:20 says, “God knows everything.”

Ouch.

But I deserve the pain.  I should feel the pain of using Jesus’ sacrifice for conditions such as selfishness. Selfishness in motives, in relationships, in “rights” that I want to justify.  They’re valid if I measured them against earthly standards saying, “There’s nothing wrong with that attitude – you deserve it!” But when I read Hebrews 10, I’m reminded that Jesus sacrificed all so I can have relationship with the Creator.  While He died for expensive sins, He also perished for cheap ones, like selfishness.  My selfishness is not worth someone else’s life.  Yet He paid it, in love.  No questions, no strings attached.

This humbles and convicts me.  Will I continue harboring selfishness at the cost of His life? He died so I may be holy in His sight.  Will I demand the privilege to use that costly payment for the “right” to be selfish?

I have unfinished business I need to attend to with a holy God before I continue with other business of the day.

I’m thankful I can go before the One who modeled unselfishness to the end.  It’s because of His sacrifice I can enter the presence of a loving, righteous God with a selfish, unclean heart.

Silhouettes of Three Crosses

That’s the gospel. No more words can be added. 

“Lord, Jesus, thank you for your costly birth and death.  Help each of us to weigh the heaviness of why you came and died.  May you transform our selfishness.”

The Notecard Series. Stains and All.

My own home made devotional cards.
My own home-made devotional cards.

This summer we moved desks around. In the process, I found three spiral bound notecard units.  I knew what they were.  When I was a young wife and mother, I made my own devotional by purchasing blank notecards on a spiral tab.  On these blank note cards, I wrote things I daily needed to be reminded of.   There are Bible verses, quotes from books I read, messages from the radio, principles from Bible Study Fellowship, or challenges God convicted me of.

Many of these principles have stuck with me for a lifetime, defining  my life in various ways.  Some that stick out:

While the list could go on, I’ve decided to share these water/sun/who-knows-what-else stained notecards with you in original form. I used to keep them on the window sill above my kitchen sink.  I figured it’s as authentic as it gets.  These words convicted me, gave me hope, challenged me as a young mother struggling to be God’s woman.  As I’ve photographed each one of them, tears fill my eyes as I know either the heartache or the victory over each one.  As I post this first picture, I realize my efforts to be the “picket-fence-woman” has resulted in a fence/life/testimony full of cracks.  Looking back on that young mother hearing Chuck’s words for the first time, I now know God does minister through cracks, scars, and brokenness.

So look for the Notecard Series of pictures both here and on my parenting posts at Not Alone Mom, or on Twitter or the Facebook page of Life Beyond the Picket Fence.  I know they are Pinteresty, but I haven’t figured out that venue yet.   One of these days Picket Fence will find Pinterest, but until then, be challenged, encouraged, and enjoy my humble, authentically stained devotional cards.

Complete with typos.  On the first one.

Welcome to my kitchen-sink world, cracks and all.

Woman washing up

Write them on the  door frames of your houses and gates.”  Deuteronomy 6:9

Inspiring Stories: Tanya’s Story

picture for BrendaI have the humble privilege to share Tanya’s Glanzman’s story of being an overcomer and survivor of childhood abuse, abandonment, and neglect.  Tanya is a remarkable woman.  She is a contributing writer for Circle of Friends Ministry each week and ministers to others through My Father’s Daughter Ministry.  as a speaker and writer.  She and her family live in Virginia.   Here is her story.

Both of my parents were addicted to both drugs and alcohol.  I had no recollection of my father who was my first abuser, and whose head my mother had put a gun to and told to “get out” when she caught him molesting me before age two.  I did however remember all too well my grandfather who was my last abuser and who killed himself ten days after I told that he had been molesting me for five years at the age of fifteen. He had always told me that if I MP900403070ever told he would die and it would be “all my fault”.  He was cruel, controlling and verbally abusive.

Between them I could remember five other men who had also sexually abused me.  Each taking from me what was not theirs, what they had no right to. These were men who had been invited by an addict into the life of an addict- and her daughter and who left their mark upon my life with the signature of the most horrendous offense of the soul.

We learned to be a team my mother and I.  She was a functioning addict and I was her caretaker, confidant and most trusted friend.  Not only did I learn what was required to take care of her well, but also became quite sufficient at taking care of myself.  The gifts which characterize childhood such as innocence, purity and irresponsibility were never mine to possess or unwrap. 

At nine years old, my mother and I came out of the most horridly abusive relationship and the last that we had ever survived together. We spent a year living in a hotel room with a man that we were both deathly afraid of.  We each endured ritualistic control, physical and sexual abuse and torture.  I spent the majority of this year locked in a bathroom day in and day out while my mother was forced to make choices in the adjoining room that no one should ever be forced to make.Housekeeping Cart in Front of Motel Room

It was after we were free from this situation that my mother had a complete breakdown and could no longer care for me.  With nowhere else to turn she abandoned me to her father and his wife.  I hadn’t previously known her father because they had been estranged from one another my entire life.  Their estrangement was due to the fact that my mother’s father was the very one that had molested her as a child.

Two months after I built up enough courage to reveal that my grandfather had been molesting me my mother married her fourth husband and moved out of the country with him.  When she found out what had happened she blamed me for not being more careful because she had warned me that my grandfather was dangerous.

The remainder of my growing up years were difficult to say the least.  The abuse that I had endured for so many years finally began to take its apparent toll on me.  I struggled with severe depression, self mutilation and bulimia.  I was hospitalized several times for repeated suicide attempts.  I was consumed with pain and inner turmoil and just wanted it all to stop.  I hated myself, was painfully lonely and longed to be loved. 

My mother and I maintained a strained and difficult long distance relationship. MP900444486As much as I longed for her to love me and be the mother I needed her to be, I began to hate her for all that she had failed to protect me from, all that she never had been and all that she was not able to be.  I never stopped wanting or needing a mother.   

When I was sixteen and a Junior in high school my mother had a second child… a girl.  Within my heart this was the ultimate betrayal.  Not only had I been rejected and abandoned, but I had now been replaced.  The root of bitterness within my heart towards my mother grew.

I came to accept the Lord within my heart as my Savior that same year and began to endeavor to learn of a Father who loved unconditionally, would never leave or forsake you and only offered His children good things. 

Despite my level of woundedness and mostly due to a desire to be different from that which I  came I successfully graduated from high school and began college.  At eighteen I met and at nineteen married my wonderful husband who had no idea that he was marrying a woman with which he would have to travel a most rigorous journey of healing.  Healthy communication, trust and intimacy were three necessities of marriage of which I had no ability to partake in.  His patient and enduring love helped him to stand beside me even in the most difficult of times.  We eventually had two beautiful children which I was told we would never be able to have due to the scars that remained from the hands of my abusers.

Over the years my mother continued to call me, usually however only when she was under the influence of drugs, or alcohol, or both.  Despite all of the abuse that I had endured it was the physical abandonment and emotional neglect of my mother that caused me the most pain, the most hurt and the most sadness.

The Lord had restored so many areas within my life that I was sure that one day he would as well heal and restore the relationship with my mother.  Unfortunately, in 2008, she passed away as a result of a drug overdose.  She never was able to receive the healing, restoration and redemption that the Lord had for her while she was upon this earth.

At this point I was a godly woman, I loved the Lord with my whole heart and I served Him as best as I could with my life. The truth however was that I had never been able to forgive my mother for all that she had done and all that she had failed to do.  The root of bitterness, un-forgiveness and even hatred remained in my heart for my mother. Her death was just one more abandonment, the final abandonment, and I could not deal with it.

Her second daughter was now 14 and was the one who called to tell me that our mother had passed away. I had purposefully never had relationship with her- within my heart she represented every ounce of hurt, rejection and abandonment that I had experienced at the hands of my mother.  I told her that I was sorry, I wasn’t coming to the funeral and that days later I told her father that I wasn’t interested in having relationship with her.

So I “moved on.” A few months after my mother’s death I began “My Father’s Daughter Ministries” and the Lord was faithful to begin to provide me opportunity to speak healing and truth into the lives of women.  Isn’t God faithful to use us even in our own process of healing and restoration?

It wasn’t until, through life giving truth that was offered to me in relationship with my Circle of Friends, that I was lovingly confronted with the hatred and un-forgiveness which remained locked away for my mother within my heart.

I was encouraged to take intentional steps to face and deal with those issues which had prevented me from walking in the fullness of freedom that Christ had for me.  A prideful heart hindered me longer than it should have from seeking out Christian counseling.  I wanted to be able to say “I did it- I Woman with Arms in the Airovercame- with just me and the Lord.”  But it was my Circle of Friends who helped me to understand that truly I was limping, not running, and that until I was willing to face that which I had not, and forgive, I would never be able to walk in all that the Lord had called me to. 

Nothing about the process of healing was easy. There were days when my heart hurt so very much that I just didn’t think I was going to be able to move forward one more step. But with the love and support of my husband and my Circle of Friends I was able to face, accept and grieve the loss of the mother that I never really had.  I was able to forgive her for what she was and what she never was.  And ultimately, I was led to find and begin to develop relationship with the little sister which anger and bitterness had never afforded me the privilege of knowing.

I am so thankful that the Lord has loved me too much to leave me where I was.  His faithfulness, mercy and grace within my life never fail to astonish, bless and humble me. I am so very thankful that He saw fit to allow me to encounter Circle of Friends… He used them to change my life.

Romans 2:11 states that God is no respector of persons. As God has been so faithful to be the Healer, Restorer and Redeemer of her own life, Tanya is blessed to have the opportunity to share the message that His desire is to be those very things to every woman who would have Him as their Father. As a speaker and writer through My Father’s Daughter Ministries, Tanya is thankful to have the opportunity to minister encouragement to the hearts of women destined to be loved by the King.

Fear, Security, And Stereotypes

Recently my daughter and I traveled to an East Coast city to look at an internship site she is considering for next summer.  We’ve never been to this city.  We booked a B&B, made arrangements to meet with a mutual friend, and off we went.

I was marked by the experiences we gathered in that twenty-four hour period.  She’ll be interning at a small local charity that ministers to refugees.  In the ninety minutes we were there, we interacted with individuals and families from MP900227710the Congo, Iraq, Nepal, Thailand, and others who, we were instructed, did not know their true nationalities because they have been in so many refugee camps before arriving in the United States.

Each person was at home in this neighborhood ministry.  The ministry provides their clients assistance with food, clothing, and childcare while learning the English language.  In the face of each person I saw my immigrant grandparents.  In the face of the director and her assistant, and soon my daughter, I saw my social hero, Jane Addams.

When my grandmother came to America in 1930, she did not know anyone but my grandfather, of whom she had been Maria Quaranta Lazzaraseparated since 1924.  He came to the United States by himself, leaving his wife and infant children behind.  Both only knew his brother and wife.   When Maria Lazzara came, she left her family and village behind.  She didn’t know the language.  My father remembers going to citizenship classes with her as a small child.  This summer, her great-granddaughter will be teaching English to immigrant refugees.  Full circle, by God’s creative grace.

While we were also on this trip, we worshiped in an inner-city Latino church, attending both their Christmas program and Sunday morning worship.  Though Baby Girl is fluent in Spanish, I am not.  But I didn’t need to be.  I was moved by the joy, the music, the facial expressions of those around me.  I didn’t need a translator.  These individuals loved Christ with their entire being.  I was blessed.

We walked through different neighborhoods.  According to the news, these streets are dangerous.  But as one person said, “They are just regular people going about their lives, going to their jobs, raising their families.”  Good counsel. MC900434912

That same weekend, a place I’m most familiar with experienced heinous violence.  “Just regular people, going about their lives, doing their jobs, raising their families.”  Now, according to the news, the school environment is considered dangerous.

Baby Girl left for Guatemala this weekend.   She’s returning to a place on a mountain that captured her heart this summer.  This time, she will be entering the jungles to translate for medical teams, near villages where drug wars broke out this summer.  Just regular people, going about their lives, doing their jobs, raising their families. 

I hear a lot about stereotypes, fear, and keeping safe these days. If I submitted myself to stereotypes and fears, I would shrink back from encouraging BG to pursue these experiences.   It’s challenging to step outside comfort zones to engage with people and cultures we’re not familiar with.   It’s scary to step into places where dangerous things happen.

But in 2013, where does danger lurk?   What is security these days, where does it lie?

MP900403070For me, danger does not reside with people holding weapons, and neither does security.  Security comes when we get to know one another, when we look into each other’s eyes, seeking to understand each other.  Fear builds when we add another “group” to be afraid of.   In our reach for more security, I’m afraid we’re reaching for more fear.

Mom, anywhere I go, it’ll be dangerous.  I feel safe” she says.

A challenging statement.  Everyday I drive my car, not knowing with whom I’m interacting with on the roads.   It’s potentially dangerous, yet I feel safe.

  A paradox.

Yet, it’s not.  I know in whom my security lies.  It’s my Heavenly Father of whom gives peace in the midst of pain, trouble, and danger. In Him lies my hope, my rest, and trust.

“Perfect love casts out all fear.”   1 John 4:18

I don’t fear death.  But I don’t want to fear life.

  In between, the challenge is finding and receiving peace.

Relationship Survival During the Holidays

I received this poem in a Christmas letter from a high school friend in 2005. I’ve kept it all these years. When I was teaching, it was in my classroom. Now, it’s a wall hanging in my counseling office. It makes me strong.photo (14)

These truths are essential for the holidays as you gather with people who put you down, question your life decisions, give you that “You’ll never change” look or jabbing comment. The words provide strength as you contemplate making changes or reaching goals in the New Year.

I appreciate Mother Teresa’s wisdom because it’s REAL. It’s not a Pinterest photo with a cute cat giving warm fuzzies. It gives the real deal how-to’s for dealing with adversities in life, for dealing with people and situations I encounter every day.

  • Those people who are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered? Forgive them, anyway. Thank you for acknowledging that forgiveness does not mean their nature changes. It just makes me easier to relate to them.
  • If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Been there, done that. Why do people have to gossip and makes assumptions? Be kind anyway.
  • If you are frank and honest, people may cheat you. Or they might hold grudges, get back at you, lie to you, or stonewall you. Be frank and honest anyway.
  • What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build it anyway. Don’t be afraid to take chances. When we step out in risk, God has the opportunity to work. Being comfortable isn’t always godly.
  • If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous. Why is that? Why can’t we truly be happy for one another? Be happy anyway.
  • The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway. The most significant moments in heaven and on earth are the simplest moments in living. Build up treasures in heaven.
  • Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. We’ve always told our kids as long as they’ve done their best, that’s all that matters. Give the best you have anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it’s between you and God.

It was never between you and them, anyway.

Amen. May these words give you courage and balance this holiday season as you interact with others who are the “they’s” and the “them’s.” You’ll probably be in gatherings where people will expect more from you, be jealous of you, be unreasonable, may accuse you or forget the kindness you’ve shown in the last year.

Take a deep breath, remember whose you are, and whom you answer to. Smile, ask how they’ve been, and listen.

You’re building treasures in heaven.

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you; compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as your Father forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Colossians 3:12-14, The Message.