Friday, February 13, 2015

The Envelope

I left off yesterday sitting next to my dad holding an envelope. If you need context go back to yesterday's post. So, he hands me the envelope and I take it with fear and trembling. Looking down I see that the handwriting is that of a child's. I recognize that handwriting as one of my son's. I look over at my dad so perplexed. He assures me I can open it and that indeed he has forgiven me. I opened the envelope and this is what it said.
"Dr. Mr. __________
My name is Gabriel. You don't know me but I am your grandson. I don't know what you did to my my mom but she is a good mom and you are missing out on knowing your grandchildren. I just want you to know that I think it is sad. Signed your grandson Gabriel"

At this point my mind is going a million miles a minute. First, at this point in my children's life I didn't think they knew my dad was alive. I had allowed them to assume he died in the fire with my mom. Gabriel was about 9 or 10 years old when he wrote this. Apparently he had heard me talking to my sister on the phone and figured it out. At some point he asked me what my last name was before I got married. He went to my address book and found my dad's name and address. He must of found an envelope, stamp and wrote the letter and sent it. That letter was sent when my son was a child. I was astounded that my dad had kept a letter written so many years ago and then the icing on the cake, what in the world did I need to apologize for and need forgiveness? To say I was angry and hurt would be an understatement.

My dad had terrorized his children. He had abused us horribly. He was an evil man. He had abused countless little boys over the years, scared us to death with his midnight raids, heads smashed against the wall and yet he felt the need to forgive me? What planet was he from? My little boy was defending his Mama. He wanted this man to know that he had grandchildren that he was missing out on because of something he had done to me. I looked him square in the eye and said, "are you kidding me"? My heart was wildly beating, I was still very afraid of this man. That was what was happening inside. Not on the outside. At this point in my life I didn't know I could have a voice. I was speechless. What I thought was a final good-bye, trying my best to forgive this man and he was once again taking the power away and turning my world upside down.

Abusers are like that. They blame their victims. It is all the victims fault. The chance to have some sort of reconciliation was gone. I couldn't think of anything to say to this man, so I silently walked away. The opportunity was gone. It was my fault that my young son wrote his grandfather a note that made him feel bad so my dad felt he had to forgive me.

I wanted to run and hide. Once again I was a scared little girl afraid of her dad. I was a grown woman with three children at the time but inside scared to death. Abusers are like that. They want to rob you of who you really are. The truth was I was a Mama bear. I was going to protect my children from this evil man till the day I die. I didn't want him to terrorize my children like he did to me. I promised my self that my children would never experience what I did.

How do I turn this around to a positive? Good question. That day was horrible for me. It took me many years to process that day. Sometimes there just isn't a positive spin. Abusers try to rob you of your dignity and your value. Eventually I had to learn that I do have value and that I didn't have to let my dad's power rule me. His opinion doesn't matter anymore. He has no power over me. I am free from his abuse and I kept my promise I made to myself. My children would never be abused by him.

Till tomorrow

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

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Honor Your Father and Mother

A dear friend called me to let me know my dad was in the hospital and not expected to live. He had moved multiple times over the years since my emancipation. There had been no contact for many, many years. All of my siblings and I had to decide what to do at this point. My other two sisters flew up to where he was. The house he had been living in was horrible. More than a dozen dogs had been chained to different pieces of furniture, left to starve in their own fluids. Outside there were two horses who were so emaciated I think they had to be put down. The house was filthy beyond description. The humane society had to come in and put down almost every dog they found. My dad had been a neat freak, cussing me out if I left one speck of dust on the furniture I was polishing and here he was living in filth. It was obvious that the place had to be gutted.

The task fell to my two sisters to go and try and make some sense out of the filth. Digging through paperwork trying to see if there was anything worth salvaging brought to light just how deep and how far the abuse on children went. Police reports, court documents, private letters all substantiated what we all knew first hand. A company was called to come out and gut the place after the animals were removed.

The question then became where would dad be put in his final days and what was our responsibility. We were all followers of God and knew very well the commandment to honor your father and mother. What does that look like on a practical level considering the level of abuse we had suffered at his hands. The four of us wrestled with these questions.

We decided the best way to honor our father was to make sure he did not die out on the streets, homeless without a roof over his head or decent food to eat. Even though he had chained those dogs to furniture so they couldn't move we would not allow our dad to die out on the streets somewhere. So after talking with the doctors it was decided that he would be moved to another state where my little  sister lived, into hospice. Apparently he was to sick to be transported by car so we hired a private plane to come in and take him by stretcher to the new state. After he got settled we all decided we would see him one more time. So we all met in our sisters home to say our final goodbyes.

It was perhaps one of the oddest meetings I have ever been. A hospice nurse came out to talk to all of us about dads condition and the care he would need in his final days. We were all sitting in the living room. It was awkward since the nurse had no idea what kind of family she was talking to and the dynamics of the emotions surrounding our dad.

At this point in time my nieces were young teenagers or younger. They had no idea about anything that had happened before this point. All they knew is that I didn't have a relationship with my dad. So we are all sitting around the room and we each took turns coming over and sitting next to our dad essentially saying our goodbyes. When it was my turn I got up to go sit with him and was so conflicted. I wanted to offer my dad grace and forgiveness. In my mind it was not humanely possible but with God's help I knew that I could offer some sort of police branch. I was also scared to death. Coming face to face with my abuser. Even though I knew he couldn't hurt me anymore physically I will still scared.

So with fear and trembling I walk over to my dad and sit down. I turned to face him trying my hardest to be brave when he looked at me eyeball to eyeball and said, "Jill, I just want you to know that I forgive you"! WHAT? I was so stunned I thought I hadn't heard him right so I apologized and said could you say that again? "Jill, I have forgiven you" What could I have possibly done to this man as a child that would prompt him to say he forgave me? Wasn't I supposed to say that to him? How did my world just get turned upside AGAIN? It was then, that he reached into his pocket and took out an envelope and said it for a third time. "I just want you to know Jill that I forgive you" With that third and final statement of forgiveness I sat there speechless. He handed me the envelope and sat silent while I opened up this mysterious letter.

You will not believe what was in that envelope. Come back tomorrow and I will share the details. Till then, how do you honor your parents when they have not been honorable? It is a question we had to really wrestle with.

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, February 11, 2015

Forgiveness, It's a Choice

If you have read my story you know that some pretty horrible things happened to me and my siblings. There were times as a teenager that the primary emotion I felt was hatred. Hatred is a powerful emotion. It can suck you in to this deep dark hole that is very hard to get back out of. Hatred will consume you, in fact it will eat you alive. A by-product of hatred is bitterness. Have you ever met a bitter person? They are not fun to be around. Their entire world is a tightly wound ball of emotions. So how in the world knowing everything you know about my siblings and my past give way to forgiveness?

First of all, forgiveness is a choice. You and I can decide whether or not we will make a conscious decision to forgive someone who has wronged us. No one can force us to grant forgiveness. Here is the real truth, the only person we are going to hurt if we chose to not forgive is US. Let me say it a different way, we are the ones who will be most affected if we chose to not forgive. When we hold onto the pain, the rejection, the hurt that was put on us, it won't hurt the one who hurt us. It only makes our lives more out of balance. It hurts us and can be found in our stress levels, our stomach and headaches and our outlook on life.

I would love to say that I forgave my dad completely many years ago but that would not be true. It was a step by step process for me. It took many, many baby steps to get where I am today. I look at forgiveness like an onion that you peal back layer after layer. It has taken many, many layers to get where I am today.  There were things that I wrote in my story for the blog that opened fresh wounds for me, especially when it came to the abuse my brother and little sister endured. A sense of indignation and anger rose up in my soul. I had to go back and drill down to the center and find that place that allows forgiveness.

Tomorrow I am going back to telling a story about the day my dad decided he would forgive ME! Talk about indignation, the gull it took to pull that one off. The story tomorrow.
Till then, I want you to think about your own life. Who if anyone do you truly hate or haven't forgiven? It is possible to forgive even the most evil person. Ask me how.

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, February 10, 2015


Freedom! A concept that I thought I understood till this past year. I have known deeply what the LORD rescued me from. What I hadn't grasped was that some of the choices I continued to make put me back in prison. This entire series that I have been writing is because of the journey I was making concerning freedom.

The truth was, I was in an abusive relationship and didn't even realize it. How in the world could I have let it happen? I am a strong person. Why did I allow someone to rob me of my value? When I went into therapy after the death of a baby I thought I would be processing that death. Even though I did process the events surrounding this precious little ones death it became obvious pretty quickly that my life had gotten out of control.

Truthfully, in my quest for certification in midwifery, I allowed a person who was in authority to be a bully. My dearest friend warned me to get out of the relationship and I didn't listen. My husband encouraged me to quit. I didn't listen. I had allowed this person to beat me into submission emotionally. When the therapist first brought up the subject I didn't get it. I gave all the reasons that I had to stay. When the lightbulb came on I felt like I had been hit over the head with a two by four.

I had felt powerless, just like I did with my dad. Powerless to stop the abuse. Don't get me wrong, there were times that I stood up for myself but it wasn't enough. Somehow I had lost my way. I had fallen into old habits. I thought I had to endure a relationship for a piece of paper, my certification. I was very wrong.

When you have been abused as a child it is hard to not go back down that old familiar road. I am ashamed to say that I let it go on much too long. Each of us deserve to be shown respect, no matter where we are in life. No one should be allowed to bully us. That is a huge lesson I learned through this entire mess.

I was blamed for the death of this precious little baby. I would have gladly taken that load on if it was the truth. I was ready to face the consequences if I had missed something, anything. I would have gone to jail if I was found to be at fault. In fact, at the time I would have rather taken the fall than the parents. The truth is, I am not responsible for the death of this little one. It had nothing to do with me or my skills.

Does the truth matter? Absolutely. Jesus said, you will know the truth and the truth will set you FREE. Freedom, that wall in the above picture represents truth to me. A hard truth. I don't have to live a life of fear. I spent years terrified of my dad. I don't have to be afraid when bullies try to come into my life. I am not powerless. I can stand up and say NO!

Jesus paid the ultimate price so I don't have to. He conquered the bullies. He exchanged hatred and lies for freedom. That freedom was not free. I am forever grateful that I saw the truth and learned from my mistakes. I have no intention of going back into an abusive relationship again. I am free!

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

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Robin finished yesterday with this, "There in lies my true identity" I had to be reminded of that in my own journey. I am a daughter of the King.

"People with abuse and neglect in their life deal with it in various ways, but the two main paths they take are either 1) No one will EVER do that to me again! And become numb, possibly bullies and abusers themselves or 2) Adopt learned helplessness and continue being victimized.  ( Statistics show that victims of abuse and neglect lack often adequate healthy boundaries which can leave them vulnerable to future abuse. Duh!  Victims tend to have poor boundaries because their voice and their  “No” have been forcefully silenced.  Let’s be real.  Until we expose the lies, replace them with the truth, and get true healing, those walking the "Learned Helplessness" path are magnets for abusers.  I didn’t learn about boundaries until 2002, thank you Dr. Henry Cloud (Boundaries book).  It took me a good three years of just reading the book before I was brave enough to take baby steps of regaining my voice.  It has been a long process.  Interesting fact, I really do have a soft voice.  Literally.  Try as I may, I can’t seem to figure out how to project my voice and seriously don’t know if I can even yell.  And the cru de gras,  the pitch of my voice seems to be at the precise level that men have a hard time hearing me. Go figure!   Part of my recovery process was taking a few voice lessons, not to sing (you’re welcome!), but simply to learn to speak louder.  I have things to say and deserve to be heard. Gulp!  But how powerful it is to own it and speak truth.  The truth will, indeed, set you free."

Tomorrow I am going to share with you a picture of a freedom wall and how that affected both Robin and I.

Till tomorrow, please remember where your value comes from.

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

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Consequences Of Neglect

Robin continues her story. What she shares is raw, honest and hard to read. There are consequences to being a little baby and losing your Mama. There are consequences when you get bounced around without a consistent care giver. There are consequences to living in an orphanage that has no clue how to nurture a toddler. There are consequences to being a five year old and told to sit on a couch for the day with no one to read to you, play with you, talk with you. And there are consequences when a small child becomes the brunt of an angry and abusing man. None of this happened in a vacuum. So here we go:

Although all types of abuse occurred in our home, the verbal abuse and neglect that impacted me the most.  The neglect, not simply the lack of parental supervision, but also the lack of verbal affirmation, emotional support and having basic physical, emotional and spiritual needs met created a distorted belief system that my needs were not valid.  Maybe that’s because I was also told, like Jill, that I was selfish to need new shoes when my toes were scrunched into ones that were too small, selfish to eat food that was intended for his stomach only.  The message came across loud and clear:  I am too needy.  Being real here, sometimes I still struggle trusting that my needs and desires carry equal importance as others’.  Case in point, my family jokingly calls me the “Food Martyr”.  It became a joke a few years ago when my husband called me out for always being the last to fill my plate, willingly sacrificing the best leftovers for others. Yes, even steak.  I didn’t even realize I had been doing it all these years!  It certainly came in handy when I was a single mom with two little girls. The way I figure it, my pantry will always have canned green beans and popcorn if I get hungry.  Warming the green beans before eating: optional.  Life is good.  First world problems, really.  It’s funny now, not so funny when my eating disorder nearly killed me almost thirty years ago.  

"Dysfunctional"  was my middle name. As a teen and young adult I did stupid things, putting myself in dangerous situations trying to get my emotional needs met.  I fell into the trap of promiscuity, drinking and recreational drugs. It shouldn't come as surprise that I had one abortion before having my son at eighteen years old.  Not Jill as my dad taunted, but me, the quiet one. Yet as foolish as I was, I was smart enough to realize that he deserved a fighting chance to have what I couldn't provide, so I chose an adoptive family to raise him.  Thirty years later when we met for the first time, he graciously and lovingly reassured me I made the right choice.

It wasn't until I participated in a small healing support group a few years ago, a ministry of Mending the Soul ( that I realized how the dots between my lifelong behaviors and attitudes were deeply connected in the root of pervasive shame from childhood neglect and abuse. Somehow it doesn’t seem reasonable that things endured before the age of eighteen has the power and influence to color every thought, belief, and behavior for the next 50-60 years of a life, but it does.  Shame is toxic and it seeps to the depth of our souls.  I’ve heard it said that if we don’t deal with our past, our past will deal with us.  True that.  I believed my "issues" didn't affect anyone but me...(cough, cough..) But bad coping mechanisms and unresolved issues seemed to leak out like chicken juice from the package all over the fridge, making decidedly messy relationships.  Change came slowly.  It feels like it's taken forever to even get this far and I often ask God, "Are we there yet?",  yet I realize I won't be "fully cooked" til I get home.  I have come to understand that I AM who God says I am, not who I think I am based on distorted lies.  Therein lies my true identity.

Jill here, I am so proud of my sister. One of the things that I have looked up to her for was her raw honesty. Her daughters have known for many years about the abortion, the son she placed for adoption and her eating disorder. I have watched this transformation over the years. She has demonstrated great courage, the courage that I have lacked until this past year. I have great respect for my sister. She is my very favorite "little sister" 

More tomorrow.
Till then, 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, February 2, 2015

My "Baby Sister" Speaks Up!

This is such a fun picture of me and Robin. This was taken about 8 years ago in Colorado. Robin is telling me while wagging her finger at me that I am NOT the boss of her. It was a special memory for me. Anyway, Robin is going to share in the next couple of days her story. I am blessed to have such a wonderful sister. In her own words she shares some thoughts about our story.

"As Jill's “baby sister”, reading her heartbreaking yet inspiring story is truly like reading insight into my own. It explains a lot, actually. Being five years younger, I have fewer clear memories of events in the early years. In fact, some details I hadn't heard until just this past year when Jill and I let down the walls and went deeper into our adult friendship as sisters.

Just this summer Jill told me about the night of the fire and how she protectively cradled me under her body to save my life. What a huge burden for anyone to feel responsible for the very life of someone else, let alone for a precious little girl! From the tender age of five she felt a calling on her life to be my personal guardian. Throughout our childhood, she became the closest thing to a mother that I had. She correctly stated in an earlier writing that she could cook, clean and do laundry and couldn't figure out why she would need a mother when she was perfectly capable of doing things herself. She had to. She stepped up when the responsibility was thrust upon her and she embraced her role as caretaker, nurturer, and protector not only for me, but also for my brother. She kept us in line as much as humanly possible as well. Without a babysitter or adult to keep the us safe, it was up to Jill to play the role of chief boss and UN peacekeeper amongst us, sometimes becoming a target herself. Although she was my sister, she carried the physical, emotional, and spiritual leader role in my life. She knew how to give me a talking to and “that look” as well as any mom out there! Simply put, her children had an experienced mom from birth. :-)

All four of us “kids” survived by coping with the trauma and chaos differently. We developed highly functioning coping mechanisms as a method of escape. (More on coping mechanisms  I learned how to be a people pleaser; stay away from angry people and definitely don’t agitate the “Ragaholic”, avoid conflict, and hide (emotionally or physically) when necessary.  As much as I tried to stay under the radar and avoid things like bodies and other flying objects or becoming one myself, stuff just rolled downhill.  Between midnight raids, physical fighting and constant yelling, the house and it's people were constantly angry and in utter chaos.  It was survival of the fittest.  As an adult, I hate chaos and clutter which explains why my stress reliever now is compulsive cleaning.  Hey, it could be worse.  I also still hate conflict, shrink around angry people, and am fiscally conservative, a nice name for decidedly frugal. For good reasons." 
Tomorrow Robin will share where the neglect and abuse took her.
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".