Friday, January 30, 2015

The Plan

Now that I had been granted my freedom we came up with a plan. I was not going back to live with my dad. He was going to give me my little brother and sister to raise. I know even typing this plan now it is obvious I didn't have a clue what reality would be. I thought my dad would just give them to me. He would be free to do anything he wanted with the kids out of the house. It made perfect sense to me.

Armed with my court document proving I was a legal adult I went and got an apartment. I had gotten two full time jobs. One was at a sub shop and one was just down the street, a Big Boys. All of my money went to the rent and utilities. I ate lunch at the sub shop and I ate dinner at the Big Boys. Both jobs were in the town over. I walked across a bridge to get to my jobs. I worked at the sub shop from 9-5 and walked down the street and worked till 1 or 2 in the morning at the restaurant. I walked back over that bridge in the middle of the night to get to my apartment. I was a hard worker.

In the meantime I wrote my dad. I told him I had a place to live and a job to support my siblings and I wanted to come get them. What he sent back to me was a newspaper clipping, with no note.  The newspaper clipping stated that he had officially disowned me. I was now dead to him. It stated I was taken out of the will and that I was to NOT be notified when he died. He had the notice published in the newspaper making it official, I was dead to him. At the time it hurt but I didn't dwell on it, all I wanted was him to give me my siblings so they were safe.

I had failed. My plan to move my siblings to higher ground was wiped out with a notice in the newspaper, not just a hometown newspaper but a big town paper. He would not be giving me what I felt was the right thing to do, to release my siblings from him. The grief I felt was enormous. I didn't want my sibling to suffer anymore. They were now out of my reach. They were not allowed to talk to me or contact me in anyway.

Why didn't I go back? In truth I thought about it. At the time I didn't feel like it was an option since I was dead to him. I knew he would not let me back in. So I had gained my freedom but the freedom was hollow if I couldn't get my siblings to safety. For years I felt a heavy burden for not getting them out. I had let them down. I was to be the protector and I could't protect them anymore. I had failed.

I would like to say that everything turned out well but the truth is never that neat and tidy. Tomorrow my little sister is going to share with you a part of her story. She is a huge blessing in my life. Please come join me tomorrow as you hear from her perspective, our story.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Letter

This is my favorite picture of Robin during this time of our lives. She calls it her ugly phase but I think she was pretty darn cute. This picture brings back so many memories for me. We shared a room at the time this was taken. We would spend our time singing hymns, she was the soprano and I was the alto. I loved singing then just as much as I do now. This picture represents something else, an innocence. I was still her protector at the time, shielding her as much as I could. Not long after this was taken all that would be taken away.

It started with a letter. Back in the day, there were no cell phones, no email, no internet, just snail mail. That is how we stayed connected back then. You had to be patient and wait. I was visiting my older sister in another state and I got a letter from Robin. In the letter she shared with me what was going on. With me gone to bear the brunt, our dad had turned on my little sister. He mocked her faith in God. Remember how I told you that he expected instant obedience and said things like, "if I tell you to jump, you ask how high" of course there was more to the rant but I will leave out the nasty part. He decided it would be amusing to make Robin swear. He knew she would never use swear words since she was a Christian so he thought it would be funny to make her swear. The anger rose up in me like no other. How dare he force my little sister to use words that she did not want to use. The power one man had over a young girl. He thought it was so stinking funny, I was enraged.

Those that know me know that I HATE swearing, this is why. To me it represents an abuse of power. As a side note, none of my siblings swear to this day. We had enough of it growing up. When I read the letter from Robin it was obvious that she had been crying. She wanted to know if I would please hurry home, things were getting worse. My heart broke. I showed the letter to my big sister and we came up with a plan.

We were going to rescue our little sister and brother and take them away from our dad. So what does any rational 16 and 19 year old do? We went to the free legal aide society. We were armed with the letter and the stories and asked how we could get our siblings out of the home. The lawyer told us I would first have to become emancipated from our dad. The paperwork was drawn up and the court date set. We were going to take my dad to court so that I could get custody of my little brother and sister. It was a solid plan, or so I thought. There was nothing I wouldn't do to get them out of there.

My dad was served a summons to come to the state I was in and tell the judge why or why not I should be granted my freedom. My dad did not show up. When I went before the judge I told him why I thought he should let me become emancipated from my dad. I will never forget what the judge told me. He said, you will be a full adult now. All of your actions will be judged by the adult standards. You have to have a full time job and support yourself. You may not go on welfare, it is up to you to feed and house yourself. Are you willing to do that, he asked? Of course I was. I had been pretty resourceful my whole life and I wasn't about to stop now.

The judge granted me full emancipation. I was free now, free to get my brother and sister away from that man. Well, at least that is what I thought. What happened next sealed my fate with my dad forever. I will tell that story tomorrow.

Till then, know this,  freedom is not free. There is only one who can grant real and lasting freedom and it doesn't come from the government, the courts or anyone but the ONE who paid the ultimate price for our freedom, Jesus Christ.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Straw That Broke the Camels Back

I just love the above picture. It represents how I felt the day I decided enough was enough. See all those guard dogs in the picture? Each one of those represented my dad. They all look menacing, like they are ready to pounce on that little duck. I was that little duck, wanting to high tail it out of that place called home in one piece.

One of the men in my dad's life was called "Howard". He was obnoxious, rude and disrespectful. He thought he could tell me what to do after he came down the stairs in the morning with hickeys all over his neck. At the time I think I actually hated the man which is even hard to write. Hate is such a powerful word but at the time I really did hate him. He was part of the reason there was so much chaos and turmoil in our lives. In truth, he was just one of many men to come in and out, he just happened to stay the longest.

At this point I was a junior in high school. I excelled at swimming and concert choir.  I swam competitively for a while and then got into synchronized swimming, which became an outlet for me. Our high school had it's own pool. Everyone had to take a swimming class at some point in their high school career. I loved hanging out at the pool. The instructor and her helper became a refuge for me. As I was learning all the cool tricks for water ballet I remember asking them to watch me over and over again as I was perfecting the moves. In our school the synchronized program was a really big deal. There would be a performance at the end of the year and it was stunning.  If you have ever seen synchronized swimming it is beautiful.

My older sister was the brainiac in the family. All the teachers I had knew my sister and she was a hard act to follow. She was in all the honors classes and really excelled. She was a pom-pom girl to boot. I tried out for the pom-pom team and blew the audition so bad it was embarrassing. Anyway, the swimming pool was my haven from the storm. My 16th birthday was coming up and I knew we would not be celebrating my birthday. Your 16th birthday should be a big deal, at least I thought so.

My dad had informed me that we would not be celebrating my 16th birthday. The message once again  was I had no value. I was not important. My older sister got a beautiful French provincial bedroom suite that was amazing. So why didn't I even get acknowledged on my 16th? This is the reason I grew to despise my birthday, even to this day it's hard which I know sounds ridiculous but it is what it is.

My swimming teacher became special to me. I had shared with her that my 16th birthday was coming up. She wanted to know what I was going to do. I told her that I didn't get a birthday that year. Back then I had learned to not talk about my dad so I just brushed it off. I told her it wasn't important. A lot was left unspoken. Somehow she must have figured out that I wasn't really going to get a birthday cake that year and brought me in a tiny little cake. I have never forgotten that kindness. It reminds me that one person can make a difference in the life of a child. Something so simple as a little birthday cake that probably didn't cost her much in money or time but it sent a message to me. I was not alone.

With all that as a back drop, my older sister by this point had moved out of state to go to college. She invited me up to spend a couple of weeks during the summer with her. It was touch and go as to whether my dad would even allow me to go but he relented and off I went by Greyhound. What started out as a couple of week vacation turned into a life altering event. My little sister wrote me a letter that would forever change my life. The letter and what she said next time.

In Christ Alone,

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Fallout

These are the last words that I shared the last time I wrote. May you find the strength to carry on when you feel all is lost. There are days when I still feel that all is lost. I used to brush those feelings aside and shove them deep down inside of me. When I sought help from a Christian therapist I came to realize that part of the fallout from my childhood was I didn't have a voice.

Over many months I came to realize that I didn't have a voice. That was a giant revelation to me. The first time the therapist said those words to me I felt like I was kicked in the stomach. What brought me to the therapist was the death of this precious little baby. Though her death was a great tragedy that I will mourn for the rest of my life, the issue that would not allow me to move forward was allowing others to continue the abuse cycle in my life.

The message I received from my dad was that I had no value. I was there to cook and clean, nothing more, nothing less. I had a job to do. None of us were allowed to question, we simply had to obey no matter what was at stake. This lack of voice did a lot of damage not only to myself, but my husband and to the children I would raise. How we are raised has a powerful effect on personhood.

I remember a particular day that is seared into my memory. My dad was very angry which was nothing new. The teens from church had gone down to the projects of the city we lived in. There was a girl, whose name was Donna that we would pick up and bring to church. She had something wrong with her spine so she wore a huge halo and supporting rack that went from her neck down to her bottom. I was sitting in the back seat of the car and she got in and sat next to me. The windbreaker (I don't think they call them that anymore) I was wearing was partly under my friend. When I got out of the car I realized there was blood all over my jacket. She had started her period and didn't realize it. When I got home I went to the basement to wash it. For some reason that bloody jacket set my dad off.

He started in on a rant like he usually did,  but this time he said something that has stayed with me all these years later. I was about 14 at the time. Going to church when I was allowed, trying to live a life that would make my Heavenly Father pleased. I was not doing drugs, not drinking alcohol and certainly not having sex with anyone. He told me that like the girl in the projects I would never amount to anything. I might as well go be a prostitute because I wasn't worth anything other than a prostitute. Out of all the things he said to me over the six years I lived with him, that was the knock out punch. Hey Jill, my daughter, go be a prostitute because there is nothing in life for you but a life on the streets hooking.

It was then and there that I realized beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would spend the rest of my life proving this evil man wrong. I would not chose to go live on the streets and sell my body. I would make choices that were just the opposite. I would find approval in the only one that really mattered and that was God.

God had become my perfect heavenly Father. I spoke truth into my life that day. I also realized once again that my dad did not love me. What a painful thought even 45 years later. For whatever reason he did not love me. I was the hated one. What could I have possibly done to deserve the hatred of a man who helped physically create me in my mother's womb? For years this thought haunted me.

It took me many years to realize that this was never about me, not really. It was about a man that was broken. Something happened in his life that caused him to physically and sexually abuse little children. Something in his past nurtured that evil side. I just happened to be one of dozens and dozens of children who were thrown into his path.

Tomorrow, and there will be a tomorrow post, I promise, I will tell you the straw that broke the camel's back. What made me walk out his door at 16 and never looked back.

Till then, no matter what kind of father you had or have, no one compares to the perfect Father that is waiting for you to open your arms and let him in.

In Christ Alone,

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Sunday, January 18, 2015

My Brother

Sorry for the delay. After writing day after day about my early years I needed a mental break. I had not realized just how exhausting it would be to tell my story!
Speaking of stories, we left off with the love I have for my siblings. My brother John and I have grown so close over the years. It didn't happen all at once. He was the scared little boy who when he realized the house was on fire, panicked and went up into the attic and curled into a ball. He was the last one out of the fire because they couldn't find him.

My mind goes back to the early days of living with our dad. I think I have shared my brother took the brunt of the physical and sexual abuse. There is a trickle down effect that happens in families where there is that kind of abuse. When I look back and think about all the violence it makes me amazed that all four of us aren't walking sideways! My sisters and I used to think our brother would land in jail. We weren't kidding.

When a little boy is robbed of his childhood he becomes angry, angry at the abuser, angry at anyone close to him, angry at the authorities and probably angry with God. He got in trouble all the time. When I look back all these years later I feel terrible that I wasn't able to stop the abuse. Recently John and I were having a conversation about my writings and he told me a story I had forgotten.

On one particular day our dad was on a rampage. It might have been one of the dreaded Saturday's. John had done something to enrage dad and he took a dinner plate and smashed it over his head. Well, he hit John with it so hard it broke. It didn't shatter, the entire bottom of the plate broke out of the ring. For some reason Johnny (as he was called) started laughing because of the sight of the plate and how it broke. My dad became even more furious and started to strangle him. He continued to strangle him till Johnny passed out cold on the floor. That is the kind of violence I am talking about. Many times our dad would take Johnny's head and smash it into the wall, over and over again. The things people do to their children are beyond me.

Johnny did not do well in school. He was always in trouble. He was an angry little boy who had been deprived of a mother and left with a very violent and evil man for a dad. John said recently he was much better off in the orphanage and wished he had stayed there. I understand where he is coming from.

The violence that my brother endured trickled down to my little sister. She bore the brunt of Johnny's anger. All of this was a domino effect. Is it any wonder that my older sister and I decided that if our family was ever going to stay together the two of us had to come to peace so that we could help keep our younger siblings safe?

All four of us had a role to play. My older sister was the chosen one. She could go behind closed doors and stay above the fray. I was the Cinderella. I did all the cooking, the laundry etc. and was the despised daughter. My brother was the scape goat for my dad's abuse and anger. My baby sister got the last kick of the can. What a mess we were back then.

I will tell you that my brother never did go to jail. I drug him to church with me and at some point he bowed his knee and became a son of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In fact, he ended up marrying a saint of a young lady 35 years ago who straightened him out! We have always joked that my sister in law gets in to heaven just on the merits of staying with our brother.

It took many years for my brother to heal from the abuse. There are natural consequences to living that kind of life. He and his wife never did have children. He was so afraid he would turn out like our dad that he never wanted another human being to suffer like he did. Years later he shared his regret that he had not trusted in God enough to make him the kind of dad he knew he wanted to be.

The irony now is that my bother works for a non-profit organization that helps find homes for troubled children. This organization also helps women get out of sex trafficking. In fact, when he interviewed for the job he was told because he had lived in an orphanage as a child he would understand what these children were going through and would be a great asset for the company.

I am so proud of my brother. I always tell him he is my favorite brother, of course he is my only brother but he is still my favorite! God did a mighty work in him, for that I am thankful. My brother is one of my best friends in the world. He is my hero. I am thankful beyond words that he walked through the fire and came out on the other side.

I am excited to announce both my brother and my little sister Robin are in the process of writing for this blog. I can't wait to read what they are putting down on paper. I am very blessed. Till tomorrow. May you find the strength to carry on when you feel all is lost.

In Christ Alone,

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Boat in the Storm

The above picture reminds me of my siblings and my life when we lived with my dad. He was the storm and the rest of us were huddled at the bottom of the boat pleading for mercy. I will never forget the time my older sister and I came together.

She and I butted heads when we lived with my dad. She was at the time considered the chosen one. She got her own bedroom at the back of the apartment and she was allowed to be in there with the door closed. She didn't need to cook or clean. She was the oldest. She was kind and compassionate and would never dream of arguing with an adult. She had her own demons to wrestle with. Imagine being the rescuer of your family from a fire but not everyone got out. I think that is called survivors guilt. It was hard living with our dad and she was tucked away in that room safe and sound. To this day she has no clue why our dad picked her out to be free from abuse. I am so thankful she was spared.

Saturdays was the day we dreaded most for those years with our dad. He decided we would clean the house from the top to bottom. He would yell, he would scream, he would swear, he would punch, and shove if the work was not done perfectly. For some reason I ended up being the duster. He would take his finger and inspect everything. If he found a speck of dust out would come the abuse. It was on one of these Saturday's when my older sister and I went out into the backyard. It had been a very bad day. I can remember exactly where we were both standing and we made a pact that day. "If the family was going to stay together it would be up to her and I" I think we shook on it and never fought again. Even to this day we have never had words. Our family was at stake and we had to find a way to work together.

I have a hard time understanding when adult siblings fuss. I am so blessed. We could have blamed each other and imploded but thankfully something inside of us made us realize we had to work together.

Four of us came out of the fire. It is a great metaphor for our lives. The anchor holds in the storm. That is one of my favorite songs, the anchor holds. One by one we would each find God and make him Lord of our lives.

Tomorrow I went to tell you about my brother, I even have a picture. :) If you are struggling with your siblings, as much as it depends on you make peace. Life is way too short.

Many blessings

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Confrontation

I think I was a sophmore in high school at the time the confrontation occurred. My older sister was away at college. The abuse was getting worse and certainly more frequent. There was one man who became a constant companion of my dad's. They would come down in the morning and I could see hickeys on their necks. This particular man's name was Mr. Schwartz. He was a well to do Jewish man who was also a homosexual and pedophile. I will be honest, I hated the man. He would try and tell me what to do. I had one boss already and he was a monster. I fought him every way I could. I had zero respect for him or my dad. Their behavior was disgusting to me.

The physical abuse and sexual abuse got worse. My little sister was in tears most of the time and I had had enough. I called my sister at college and said something has to change. It seemed once my sister was out of the house my dad felt bolder. It was decided she would come home and surprise him on the next weekend. The plan was to sit him down and call a spade a spade.

Before we met with him, my sister and I had a meeting with the minister at the church I was going to. He helped us sort out what to say to him. Looking back it is interesting to evaluate the minister. As an adult he should have contacted the authorities, but in reality the authorities had also swept under the rug dozens of abuse victims earlier. He did the best he could at the time.

We told our dad that Saturday morning we wanted to have a family meeting. We told our little sister and brother to go upstairs. At this point in our lives I did not know about the sexual abuse my brother was suffering, just the physical abuse. So the time came Saturday afternoon to have the meeting.

My sister and I were so nervous but the well being of our little sister and brother were at stake so we set aside our fears and plowed in. My dad sat on the one piece of furniture that was salvaged from the fire, our mother's rocker. It was ironic to me. He held a piece of paper in his hand and started writing as we laid out what was going on in our family. Tears started running down his face. My initial thought was he was truly sorry for the damage he caused and all this was going to be fixed. I took the tears as a sign of a new beginning.

It wasn't until we were done presenting our case that he stopped the rocking chair and handed us the piece of paper. On it he had written a poem of how much he missed his wife and how much he loved his children. He said to us, "how could you think I would do such awful things and walked out of the room. My heart sank, he would continue with the lie. He made it seem like we were crazy. Which brings me to the next piece of the portrait of an abusive family.

1. The vicim is shamed, blamed and demeaned. In our case the poem my dad had written shared it was love that prompted him to rescue us from the orphanage. He sacrificed day and night to give us what we needed. He wasn't an abuser. All of those things were lies. He blamed my sister and I. We both walked out of there thinking we were crazy. I remember thinking afterwards, my sister must think I am the wacko. In reality, we had the courage to speak the truth in love but it was twisted, distorted and we were blamed for thinking such ridiculous thoughts.

I knew the truth. I knew that my dad appeared in public as a family man, kind, funny and attentive. In truth he was a power hungry abuser who hurt children. Years later we would find out just how devastating the toil was on not just our family but countless others that trusted him.

I will not be afraid, what about you?

In Christ Alone,

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Portrait of an Abusive Family

I see no evil, I hear no evil and I speak no evil. This picture is a great metaphor of an abusive family. There is a book called Mending the Soul by Steven Tracy that is excellent. It is about understanding and healing abuse. These words are powerful and I really want to share them. It has helped me to understand why I have done some of the things I have done in my life.

First, living in an abusive family robs you of a voice. One of the biggest themes that has freed me from this burden is to realize that I do have a voice. See, when you are being abused by a family member you are robbed of having a voice. So lets look at the portrait of an abusive family.

1. The needs of Family Members are expendable. In fact, the needs of the most vulnerable are not met at all because there is no consideration for them.

2. The victim is made responsible. In abusive families, the victim is made responsible for solving needs, even evil deeds they didn't create and could never legitimately satisfy. In my own family my job was to take care of the needs of the rest of the family. My dad's needs always came first. One of his main needs was to be powerful and in control in every situation.

3. The family appearance is deceptive. In my story I have shared that if you had looked at our family from the outside you would find a devoted poor widower trying to raise four children on his own. The truth was far different. In reality you had an evil man who controlled by lies, manipulation and sheer brute force to get what he wanted. This particular theme has stayed with me all these years. When I look at families I am not impressed with the image on the outside. My experience has given me a keen sense for the truth behind the lies.

4. The truth is ignored. When faced with the truth everyone ignored it. It was easier to turn a blind's eye then deal with the real truth. No one would believe that behind closed doors evil was being practiced on innocent little children.

5. Family abusers use force. I had always looked at abuse as physical or sexual. There was sheer brute force used in my family. Smashing my brothers head against a wall, screaming, swearing at us, belittling us, made us all afraid. This fear would be my constant companion for many, many years. We were all petrified of our dad. We knew the power that he could swing so we tried everything to keep him happy.

6. There is no straightforward, healthy communication. We were never allowed to speak for ourselves. I was the stupid/brave one who would sometimes call a spade a spade. The price was high for speaking my mind so I typically kept my thoughts to myself. I will never forget one of my dads favorite lines. "If I tell you to jump, you ask how high"

7. The victims response is often futile. I have a much longer story about this one that I will save for tomorrow. My older sister and I confronted my dad once, and only once. You won't believe his response. That is for next time.

From the private responses I am getting I know I am speaking truth to people who have had their family secrets buried for many years. I will continue to speak the truth in hopes that it will empower some to break free from the chains that have held them in bondage for way too long.

In Christ Alone,

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Climbing Slowly Down Into the Pit

I remember being told one day that our dad was coming to take us out of the orphanage. At that point I had all but forgotten about him during the four years in the home. I don't recall seeing him during those four years. I remember the phone call and him telling us he was coming to get him. My older sister had positive feelings about him and I so remember her telling me this was a good thing.

The day arrived for him to come and take us to live with him. I remember him coming to the orphanage and being in awe. Here was this handsome man in a cool car coming to get us out of there. Surely it had to be better then what we had just been through. We lived several states away from where he was taking us. It took several days in the car to drive. I remember him being funny, upbeat and handsome. He quizzed us over and over again on our new address and phone number. We arrived late at night to our new home, a three bedroom apartment in a big brownstone. There was a buzzer inside this small vestibule. I was impressed. It was summer time and he had arranged for us to be cared for by a teenage girl. I remember her taking us to a swimming pool with a cabana. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Quickly summer was over and it was time to go to school. The one problem was my little sister. She was too young to start kindergarten. So what does any kind and attentive daddy do? He tells her she is to sit on the couch till the rest of us got home. Just pause and think about that. She was four years old at the time. Her job was to sit on the couch and just wait. Back in those days we went home for lunch so she got to see us at lunch time. Even at the age of ten I knew this was not right. Poor thing would cry when we left. When I think back at what the message sent to my sister I shiver. Why would someone do that to a child?

In the apartment complex our dad introduced us to his "friends", two brothers, I believe were twins and they were deaf. They were the first of many men to come into our lives. It didn't take long for the honeymoon to be over.  The core of who the man was came to the surface. First there was the physical abuse. I remember one time my dad was beating my brother, both hands around his head, smashing it over and over again into the wall. He was yelling and screaming and swearing. At this point my older sister came out of her room and was crying and asked our dad to stop. It was horrible.

The sexual abuse started at about the same time. My brother suffered the most at my dad's hands. Years later we found out that he had been abusing boys for many many years. When he would get caught he would quietly move to another state in the same kind of job and start the abuse cycle all over again. I know that this is an unpleasant topic. I don't write to shock, trust me, this is a part of my history that I wish had never happened. But it did, and we as children reached out for help, those we so desperately needed to help us, turned a blinds eye to the abuse.

I know how the media portrays homosexuality. Two men or two women holding hands on the beach kind of stuff. I will tell you that in reality it is the farthest thing from the truth. I watched first hand, it is ugly, it is nasty and it is not God's plan. I learned as a young teenager what beastiality was and I was sickened. That should never happen.

I remember the time when the Catholic church was found to be guilty of hiding sexual abuse at the hands of some priests. Those little boys were raped both physically and emotionally. Try being surrounded by all the abuse from the one person you are supposed to trust, and come out of it walking upright.

Abuse in any form is wrong. It is evil and it is not God honoring. It robs children of their childhood. Abuse tells children they are helpless. There is no way out. I can't tell you how many children were robbed by this one man. I personally know of at least one young man who took his own life because of the abuse he suffered at the hands of my dad. Research says that a sexual abuser doesn't get caught till he has abused around 100 children. That is a tragedy.

How do I turn this around and leave you with hope? I can tell you that it took many years to work through these issues. Tomorrow I will write about the aftermath. I can tell you one thing, God did not cause the abuse we suffered as children. It is the absence of God that is how evil comes to play. God worked a miracle in each of my siblings and myself lives. He restored what was robbed of us. What Satan and my dad meant for evil God took it and turned it for good.

There is great hope. Till tomorrow
In Christ Alone,

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Lasting Memories

There are a few memories that have always stayed with me concerning the "HOME". The first is Christmas. Christmas morning was held in the small building to the right of this picture. It held the commercial washer and dryers plus long tables to fold all the clothes on. That was used Christmas morning for presents. I will never forget this one Christmas. We each lined up in the dorm room to go down and out into the laundry building. Once there we were assigned a place to stand at the folding tables. This particular Christmas there were 3 gifts. The one that stands out is a camera. Now back in the mid 60's a pocket camera was a really big deal. It came with two batteries and the roll of film. I was so stinking excited, I got a camera! The only problem was, once the 12 pictures were taken there wasn't anything else. No way to get the roll developed, no way to get any new rolls of film. I never did get it developed. I was so sad that I would never see the pictures. That has always stayed with me. We typically adopt a family secretly for Christmas and I can tell you that memory has helped me more than once in choosing a gift. I don't buy gifts that have to have anything done with them to ensure the happiness of the child.

Another memory took place out at the "pond" One day I was told to sit there and wait for someone to get me. A young couple came out and introduced themselves to me. They told me they wanted to spend the day with me. Apparently they were looking to adopt a little girl. So out we went for the day. They took me to a toy store. The place was awesome. They told me I could get anything I wanted. I picked three different things. I chose a doll, a slinky and a bouncing ball. I had so much fun that day. I felt like a kid having a great day. When the day was over I was taken back to the orphanage. Whatever "Aunt" there was at the time was furious with me. She told me that I was a greedy little girl, making that couple spend money on three items instead of one. The gifts were taken away and told they would not be adopting me because I was so greedy.

So, lets stop for a minute and think about the message that send that little girl all those years ago. First, no one would want to adopt you. You are not worthy. No one will want to make you part of their family. Then the greedy part. I'm not sure what you think a child would do who has nothing but underwear to her name being taken into a toy store. I came to realize that is why I have such a hard time when I hear that there are children out there needing a home. I was always quick to raise my hand because I didn't want another child to get the message they were not worthy.

What I learned from that experience is I AM WORTHY!  My worth doesn't come from anyone. Not my children, not my friends, and not my family. I am worthy because I have a perfect heavenly father who loves me more than I can imagine. He loves me so much that he was willing to give up his one and only Son to give me freedom.

It doesn't matter what tapes are playing in your head from your childhood. If they are negative tapes they don't have to define who you are. Let me say that again. Those negative tapes do not have to define you. Years ago, I chose to throw those old tapes away and add new one. I am worthy, not because you or anyone else says I am but because the ONE that really matters says that I am a daughter of the King. My worth comes from him and him alone.

Do you struggle with who you are? Do you have tapes that haunt you from your past? You can chose to lay those tapes aside, in fact you have the power to destroy those tapes and not let them rule your life. You my friend have great worth. DOn't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Tomorrow we leave the orphanage and start a chapter that I thought would be good. In truth, we were safer in the orphanage than where we landed next. Till tomorrow.

In Christ Alone,

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Monday, January 5, 2015

So, What is it Like to Live in an Orphanage

Before I go any farther I would like to explain one thing. I am not telling the story now because I need to heal. I am telling the story because I have healed and am now free to tell the story. You see, I have learned some really valuable lessons through the years. I want to be able to share those lessons, but if you have no clue where I am coming from you might not understand. I feel so blessed to have learned these lessons. This might be therapeutic for me but that's not the reason. I want to empower others to be free.

The picture above is an artist rendering of the "HOME" My sibs and I just received this recently. So, what is it like to live in an orphanage? Good question. It was an institution not a home. Each floor was run by an "Aunt" In the four years I was there we had multiple "Aunts". It was her job to make things run smoothly. Next to each bed was a tiny nightstand where we had our underpants and undershirts. Everything else was out of the dorm room and down the hall. Picture a very large closet with racks on three of the walls. The shoes were lined up on the floor all around the closet. You picked out a dress and a pair of shoes. SO the only thing that was yours was your underpants and undershirts. You didn't even have your own shoes! The clothes came from people donating used clothes.

So let me stop for a moment and climb up on my soap box. I was the kid who wore those yucky old hand me downs. We all looked like orphans. When we walked to school (yes we walked on the side of the road) we looked like a bunch of orphans. When hubby and I decided to do foster care I turned down all requests for used clothes. I know that there are lovely used clothes but what we got was not lovely. To top it off, we were sent to school with very large black metal lunch boxes, the kind construction workers used to carry. When you give to people less fortunate please don't give them crummy clothes! Rant over

 Each dorm had a bathroom. The bathroom was quite large. Right smack in the middle of the room was a contraption that might be hard to explain. Picture a huge ceramic bowl up high with a very large round, metal tube coming up from the floor to above the bowl. At the top of the  tube there is a shower head of sorts. It is round and pretty big in diameter. Five or six of us at a time would climb up into the bowl and sit. Someone would hold down a round rubber ring by the floor and water would sprinkle out of the top of the tube. Hope that makes sense. So that is how you got clean, with other girls sitting in a huge bowl with water sprinkling out of a head. There were three stalls with toilets and 2 or three showers with a curtain.

I'm telling you that because there is an incident that has always stayed with me. Obviously sitting in that "tub' there was zero privacy. One of the older girls who had just started puberty and mentally slow decided one day that she was not getting in the tub with us. She said she wanted to take a shower alone. She said she was too old to be sitting in that thing naked. The "Aunt" took a broom handle and started chasing her around the tub with us in it. She was yelling for her to get in and she was screaming no she wouldn't.  This went on for quite a while. To tell you the truth I have no recollection who won that battle.

Speaking of battles, food was a battle. You had to eat everything on your plate, period. We had canned peas a lot. I can't handle the smell let alone the taste of canned peas. In fact my children grew up without experiencing canned peas. Since we had to eat everything I would drop one onto my lap at a time and then flick them in all directions under the table, trying hard not to be caught. On top of that the "Aunt" felt it was necessary to give us these huge horse pills that to this day I can still smell them if I remember them. I could not swallow pills as a child. I would gag and throw up. They had zero tolerance for any of my monkey shines. We would all stand in a line by the water fountain. We would be given the pill and take a drink and then open our mouths to show we had swallowed it. I got pretty stinking good at cheeking them. I would promptly go into the bathroom and go into the stall and spit it out. They also believed everyone needed an enema when you had any kind of illness. The indignity of it all. I can chuckle about it now but not so much then.

In reality, these "Aunts" weren't bad people, they just had no clue how to care for a boat load of children who were broken. Out of all the Aunts we had, one stood out. One night we were in the middle of a severe thunderstorm. I was scared to death. She was an unmarried young woman. Her room was at the very front of the dorm room. I thought it was time to go down to the dining hall to set the table but it was still the middle of the night. I must have woken her up. She let me crawl in bed with her and she sang me the books of the Bible song. That was the one kindness I saw. Unfortunately she didn't stay long.

Several more stories tomorrow and then I will tell the story of how my siblings and I left the orphanage.

Many blessings to you all.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Back to the Story

The HOME, that's what we called the orphanage. I almost hate the name because it sure wasn't a home. I am going to leave out some details to protect the privacy of some members of my family. How it was decided that we would go into the orphanage is still a mystery. I know that my mother's parents, my grandparents wanted us four kids. They actually knew the truth. Less than a month before the fire ripped through our home my mother fled to her parents in another state. Apparently she found out the truth about my dad, the double life, the lies, the hurt children. All of it. She wanted a divorce. Back in the 60's you couldn't get a divorce as easily as you can now. She took us and went to her parents and got a lawyer. She was told she would have to go back to him for 6 weeks and place residency and then file for divorce. She went back to him with four children in tow and waited out the six weeks. It was during that six weeks that the house burnt down. Are you thinking what I am thinking?

My dad knew our grandparents knew the truth and he wanted nothing to do with them. He denied access to us so into the orphanage we went. I will never forget the day we went. What my poor grandmother on my dad's side thought I have no clue. Apparently she came to see us on occasion. As a grandparent I can't even imagine. I would have wanted to shake my son and say what are you thinking son.

While the papers were being signed we were sent outside. The building was quite massive, a brick two story sitting back on the property. In front there was a huge flag pole and a cement walkway. Off to the side on the left was a wide open area with a very large swing set and a merry go round. Past that was a small pond. It was there that I met a couple that said they wanted to adopt me. But that's a story for another day. I remember swinging on that huge metal swing that day and thinking what in the world am I doing here. We should have been with family. The family secret was in full force. People afraid to speak up.

My baby sister was too young to go into this particular orphanage. She had to be potty trained before she came in. Right at two years of age she was brought. I will never forget the first night she came. My little sister is little. I mean a short little thing. With white hair, blue eyes and a sweetness that could melt any one with a heart.

All the girls were up on the second floor in a huge room with beds lined up on each side of the wall. When evening came on the first night my baby sister, barely two, was told to go to bed. She was shown the bed that would be hers and told, get in and go to sleep. She obeyed, she got in bed and started to cry. I was indignant. I started down the middle towards her bed and I was yelled at to get back upfront. I was told she would have to learn how to go to bed on her own so she might as well start now. I always was a troublemaker! I went to her and scooped her up in my arms and rocked her to sleep.

Does that make your blood boil like it does mine? This sweet little girl lost her Mama to a fire, she is put into an orphanage barely two years old and told to go to sleep on her own. You want to know how to screw up a child? Here is the perfect recipe. Children need love and they desperately needed attachment. When they don't have that there world is turned upside down.

My husband and I did foster care for 20 years. In those 20 years we served over 30 children. I knew I could never make up for what my baby sister endured but I knew that I could make a difference to just one child. Make a difference in the life of just one person. That is my story and that is my theme. I can't save the world and neither can you. There is only one who can save the world and it is Jesus, God's son. But we can be the hands and feet of Jesus every step of the way. I challenge you like I challenge myself. Make this world a better place but helping just one person.

More on the orphanage tomorrow

In Christ Alone,

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Family Secrets

Before I go any further in my story I would love to just stop and talk about family secrets. We all have them. Some may be more detrimental then others. Some are serious problems. I well remember Mrs. Frankum. She lived up the street from us while I was in middle school. Her husband was an elder in the church I attended. They drove me to church every week. When her husband suddenly died of a heart attack I became her companion. I would ride with her to the store. I had never been to a "tag" sale and she taught me about shopping for bargains. I had fun with Mrs. Frankum. Her driving scared me and she seemed terribly old to me but we became close over time.

So close that I dared share with her one day that what was going on behind closed doors at my home was terrible. The word gay was never used back in the 60's and 70's. I don't think I knew the word homosexual but I sure knew what it meant. So, I told her the truth. Immediately she rose up indignant and told me to NEVER speak of my wonderful father that way. She was shaking and I was scared. I felt so very alone. Those words she spoke told me that family secrets stay family secrets. Locked in a vault never to be opened again.

While our children were little I didn't say a word. I grieved that I didn't have grandparents to offer my children. I allowed them to think the fire took both my parents. It was easy, it was convenient. It also helped me to hide my shame. I was fearful what my children would think. As a child I was fearful I would have to grow up and be a lesbian since my dad was a homosexual. I wrestled with the shame for many, many years. I am thankful my husband encouraged me to tell the truth to my children. When they were older I  knew my dad could not influence them or abuse them like I was. They were safe. Safety was always my number one concern.

The problem with family secrets is, eventually it all comes out. It many not be right away, but eventually the truth comes out. What I have learned is the truth will set you free! Family secrets make the family dysfunctional. Especially family secrets where abuse is involved. Abuse in any form tears a family apart. The victim is made responsible for the abuse. How twisted is that? Power is exploited. When there is abuse there is no voice for the victim. The relationship becomes unhealthy.

On the outside our family looked wonderful. Picture a handsome man trying to raise 4 children on his own. He was charming, he was dashing, he was entertaining. Until, the door closed. Gone was the charm, the dash and the fun. Welcome to a house of terrors. Where children are belittled, where heads get smashed against the wall, over and over again. Where the very gift God gave married couples is distorted and turned into evil. A place where you are never good enough. You have zero value. All of this wrapped in a cloak of secrecy and shame.

 God doesn't want us to be filled with shame. It robs us of an intimate relationship with our Savior that he desperately wants with his children. The truth allows the light to shine on evil. Like an abandoned building filled with dirty, slimy rats, when the light is turned on they all scatter. What Satan meant for evil, God turned it to good. God did not cause all the abuse my siblings and I suffered at our dad's hands. In fact, it is the absence of God that makes evil.

Remember Mrs. Frankum? Some how years later she found me and wrote me a lovely letter. She wanted to rekindle the relationship we had once had. By this point I was married and had several children. I felt very strong that I needed to set the record straight. So, I wrote a very long letter, detailing the physical, sexual and emotional abuse. I promised her I had told her the truth all those years ago. I told her I had long ago forgiven her for not helping me. I understood as I got older that her generation NEVER spoke of such things. Shortly after I wrote the letter to her I got a tear stained letter back. The relationship had been restored. She shared with me that in her generation you never spoke of such things. She had no clue how to help so she pretended it didn't happen. We wrote back and forth for several years before the Lord took her home.

The theme of my story is Beauty From Ashes. Picture our home burnt to the ground. A Mama lost her life, sooner than she should have. Her children would never know the love of the mother. There was not much to salvage after the fire ripped through our home. There was however an abundance of ashes. I will never forget the smell and sight of ashes.

My life has been restored from those ashes. Satan came to seek and destroy.  The fire, the loss of my mother, living in the orphanage, the abuse at the hands of an evil man all helped shape who I am. I would not trade my life for anyone else's. God shaped me through that fire. I will not let my past define who I am. I will use the terrible things, the hard things, the anger and the shame all of it to the glory of God. It has made me more compassionate, stronger and loving. Family secrets destroy, truth brings freedom.

Lots of tough things today. Are you filled with shame? Are you holding a family secret even now? You don't have to allow it to define who you are. I found freedom at the foot of the cross. My prayer is that you do too.

Till next time
In Christ Alone,

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Aftermath

Yesterday I left off with the fire. I have told that story many times. However, what I have never told till recently was what Paul Harvey used to say is, "the rest of the story". You see, my family had a secret. A secret my older sister and I tried desperately to share once, while seeking help. Unfortunately, our story was not believed and we continued to suffer. Now that my children are all grown up and on their own with children of their own I feel the time is here to tell the truth.  My siblings and I have each had to deal with our families when it came to this secret. We have handled it in different ways over the years. I respect each siblings way of handling this truth with their respective families/

For me, I told the story of the fire and went directly to the orphanage we were put in. There is a piece that I kept hidden from my own children, mainly out of safety for them. I allowed them to think that both of my parents died in the fire that night. It was easier to omit a critical detail. It was easier to sweep it under the rug so to speak. The memories were just too painful. The shame was enormous! I lived with that shame for way too many years. Shame is NOT from God. Shame is from Satan who wants to seek out and destroy. I will no longer carry that shame with me. I was just a child.

So, my next memory from after the fire is by sitting on this big bed with my big sister and brother. My baby sister was elsewhere. My dad was on the bed with us. He did not die in the fire, because he was not there. After a fight with my mother, he took off that night. Supposedly he was found at a motel with a man. I bet you thought I was going to say a woman but no, it was a man. One of many men over the years, but I won't get a head of myself.

We sat on the bed with my dad and it was then that he told us our mother had died in the fire. One of the things that was amazing was how everyone kept the secret of our mother's death from us. We were in the hospital for almost a week, recovering from the fire. When asked where our mother was we were lied to. So after the fire we sat on this bed in an upstairs of a strangers home telling us our mother had died. I looked over at my older sister and she was balling her eyes out. This memory is as fresh today as it was over 50 years ago. I remember thinking, why am I not crying? What is wrong with me? That day has defined many things about me all these years later. I tried desperately to squeeze out tears where none would come. Why didn't I cry? I can tell you one thing, I was afraid to cry. For years, fear has been a constant companion. I would not cry for the loss of my mother until I faced the loss of our own daughter. So much grief.

While I was growing up, even in high school people knew I didn't have a mother. Usually a girlfriend would ask me, "don't you miss your Mom?" No, I would reply, what would I do with a mother if I had one? I can cook, I can clean, I can iron clothes, what would I need one for?" That is the honest truth. I had no clue what I had missed all those years. The first memory of my life is the night of the fire and I was 5 years old. Back then, I had no clue what I would have done with a mother if I had had one. It wasn't until I held my precious daughter in my arms for the first time did I even think about my loss. When I held my daughter I wondered for the first time if I was half as loved as I felt for my own daughter.

It would take many years to understand the vital role a mother plays for her children. I did know growing up that my one and only goal was to be a mother some day. To give children something I never had. I asked God many many times to let me live long enough to allow my children to remember me. That lack of memory is a tough thing to swallow.

My very wise husband once said that family secrets will destroy a family. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free! To that I say amen.

Enough for one day. Next time I will share the story of the orphanage and how we got there. If you are interested come join me.

In Christ Alone,

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Let's Start At The Beginning

This was the first day of the rest of my life. The flames were lapping all around the living room. My siblings and I were up on the second floor in bed. I shared a bedroom with my baby sister. My brother, only a year younger than me panicked and was found hidden up in the attic when it was finally over. My sister 2 years older than me had just spent the past week going through fire safety at school. She learned everything she needed to know that week on fire safety. Had she not been there we would have all died.

She woke me up through the wall vent in between our bedrooms. She told me there was a fire and I was to go to the bathroom and get a wet washcloth, bring into the bedroom, close the door, get the baby out of the crib and huddle under the crib with the baby, with the wet washcloth over her face and wait for help. My sister broke her window and had to jump out of the window down to the ground. To this day she carries the scars on her hands and her heart. The next door neighbor didn't wake to the pounding on his door so my sister ran down the road in her pajamas trying to find the closest fire alarm. Back in the day, they were on poles on street corners. A trucker saw her running down the road in the middle of the night and found the nearest store with a phone and called the police. When my sister pulled that fire alarm, the police and fireman came and followed her to the house. They found me huddled with my baby sister covering her to protect this precious life.

I remember being taken out of the house that night and into the ambulance with my baby sister. Our lives changed forever that night. We were four little kids who just became homeless and motherless. The  ripple effect continues to this day. This is my very first memory, the fire. It has shaped who I am ever since.

When I got married over 37 years ago I begged my husband to make sure that if our house burnt down that he would pick me up and carry me out the door. I used to have dreams that I freeze in the next fire. I am too petrified to move, hence the pleading with my husband to make sure I get out. You would think I would be terrified of all fires but I am not. I love fireplaces, as long as the are behind glass! Fire is a beautiful thing to behold but as we learned that night, fire can sweep a home and take it's most prized possession, it's family.

That night I became a Mama. I didn't realize it till I went into therapy this year but that fire defined my very character. I never did have much of a childhood. We spent a lot of our growing up years in an orphanage. I became my baby sister's Mama. Huddling under that bed that night with her in a ball in my arms, shielding her from the fire, I took on the role of Mama.

It would take years of work for me to untangle that emotional bond as Mama to my siblings, my baby sister especially. I had to allow her to make her own decisions and make a new bond with her. One of deep love and respect for the person she is, as her sister and friend.  She doesn't need me to be her Mama. She had a Mama and unfortunately she died. I tried to take over and while she was a child that worked great. When she became an adult I had to face that I really wasn't her Mama but a big sister that would lay down her life for her.

I was trying to explain all this to the therapist. I have never been able to express just how deep my feelings go for my three siblings. I have always prayed that God would take me first when it's time to die. I didn't think I could handle losing them. When I shared that the four of us are very close the therapist shared with me that we have what is called a trauma bond. We had gone through that fire together and came out together alive. We still carry the smoke from that fire but now it is just a reminder of God's amazing protection.

That night is the night I learned how to nurture and protect. That is a great trait, one that has always been my faithful guide. Now I understand just how deep that goes. I am a nurturer to the very core of my being. That is who I am. That's enough for me.

Thank you LORD for teaching me how to nurture and protect. Help me be an encouragement to those around me.

In Christ Alone,

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".