Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Story Comes To Life

Sitting in church again. A church we have only visited one other time a couple of years ago, so not a church that offered alot of "Hey, how are you?" and "Glad to see you at church today!" comments. In fact, none at all. Chappy and I quietly settled into a seat and waited on the service to begin wondering how many people in the building realized what a gift it is to be able to attend church. Probably most took the experience for granted the way I used to.

"God speak to me"......"Father, I want to hear from You."

The pastor began to introduce himself and kick off the service. The thought entered my mind as I looked at him: "Do you realize there are actually people sitting here who are hoping to hear from God today? And do you realize you have been given the awesome gift to be the Almighty's mouthpiece to someone today?" The pastor seemed so relaxed---you know how you "size up" a pastor (or any speaker for that matter) when he is new to you. I know nothing about his life or background at all, so I watched him intently. Humility? Yes, I could see that. Joy? Yes, I noticed that too. But if the pastor was going to be able to dig deep and impart the Word of God to the hundreds seated in the room was yet to be seen.

Baptism. Baby dedication. Worship music. Meet and Greet your neighbor.

Finally, it became sermon time.

I have already forgotten the first half of the sermon. The pastor used stories mixed with a bit of humor to make his point, and while entertaining, it did not hold much meaning for me. Laughter in the moment, but now distant from my mind.

A whisper of my heart: "Lord, please, life is really difficult right now---I don't want to laugh today, I want to be inspired."

I noticed a change in the tone of the pastor's voice. No longer a man attempting to entertain a crowd, his voice softened to that of a man wishing to tell a story. He began:

(My Paraphrase) There was a great battle where two very important men were killed: a king and his son, direct heir to the throne. The younger of the two, the heir to the throne, had a young son who was being cared for by a nurse, and after learning his father had been killed in battle, the nurse feared the enemy would seek out the boy and kill him as well. In haste, she gathered the boys' things and ran out with him to hide. In the scurry, the boy fell and broke both of his a result, he became crippled for life.

In those days, a crippled person was thought of as less than human with no value to anyone; tragically, the boys' life went from being heir to the high throne to the lowest position of society.

It turns out, the warrior who had been killed was very best friends with another great warrior. Their friendship was the kind every human being who has ever lived longs for, but only few find. The friend of the fallen heir became ruler and king obtaining both wealth and incredible success. One day, many years later, he thought of his best friend. Probably, he spent the day recounting memories that made him laugh and miss the fellowship the two had shared. Reminiscing, the king asked his servants: "Is there anyone left in the line of my beloved friend that I could show kindness toward?" There was. As it turned out, the king's beloved friend who had died long ago had had a son who was still alive.

"Bring him to me immediately", the king said with excitement.

Imagine the anticipation. The man had been king for many years. He had led battles, seen his men rise and fall, been a decision maker for throngs of people....the stress had surely worn on him over the years and possibly showed in the lines tracing his face. To have the opportunity to remember his younger years again through the meeting of his best friend's own son must have energized the great king and brought him joy beyond measure. The thought: "I wonder if he looks like his father?" must have gone through his mind a thousand times as he waited.

When the crippled man was ushered into the king, full of humility and fear, it must have been a sight to behold. The crippled man entered the king's room and fell on his face, prostrate before the king. Then, the unthinkable happened. The mighty king called the crippled man by name. Tenderly.

Can you fathom what the handicapped man must have felt in that moment? Can you picture the bewildered look upon his face? To all of society, he was of no value. In fact, he called himself a "dead dog".....Yet the king called him by name. The crippled man answered: "I am your servant." And from here, I envision the great king kneeling down in front of the humble man, looking deep into his eyes, and touching his shoulders as he said these words: "Don't be afraid, for I will surely show kindness to you for your father's sake and will restore everything that has been lost back to you. Please, join me at my table."

The story can be found in 2 Samuel chapter is the story of David and Jonathan's son, Mephibosheth.

In the church on Sunday, surrounded by hundreds of strangers, I literally balled my eyes out. Shoulders shaking and snot running down my face, I embraced God's message to me through the story of David and Mephibosheth. The message of God's kindness.

In all of the chaos of life over the last five years, I had forgotten. Constantly on guard for the next piece of bad news about Hopey's heart, God had become Someone I feared. Like the crippled man, I have been guilty of spending too much time face down on the floor hoping the great King won't kick me or hurt me. On Sunday morning, however, in a factory building turned into a sanctuary, through a pastor I don't even know.....God offered me His kindness and asked me to get up off the floor and join Him at His table. He offered me His ever-loving-kindness. He reminded me, and I remembered.

Today, Oswald Chambers' book: "My Utmost For His Highest" said a mouthful. In short: "We tend to think if Jesus compels us to do something, and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success; but His purposes may be the opposite. What He desires is that I see Him walking on the sea in the storm of my life---with no shore, no success, no goal in sight---the process, not the outcome, is glorifying to God."

We serve a very kind God----embrace his kindness with me this day.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Meeting With God

Being mom is proving to be a difficult task for me lately. Hopey is going through some major changes that are requiring a whole lot of time and patience. For instance, she is melting down with EVERY transition in her life: get in the car, Hopey meltdown, get out of the car, Hopey meltdown, go into a store, Hopey meltdown, put Hope in a buggy, meltdown, etc. It is all day long and it is exhausting. Her meltdown begins with crying, turns into shrieking, and ends with her body stiffened like a rock. It is nuts. To manage, I comfort her and try my best to talk her through it. Her meltdowns are not intentional, but try telling that to the gawkers in the grocery who shoot me the: "She needs to get that kid under some kind of control" look. Most days I want to enter the store and go straight to the customer service desk to make a brief announcement over the speaker system: "My child is going to meltdown for the next 15 minutes....she is going to scream, kick her feet, and might try to pelt you with an item from our buggy as we pass by. This behavior is in no way intentional, so please try to keep at a safe distance and don't bother to stare. Thank you."

In addition, Charlie has discovered his "poop" and is enthralled with it. No, I mean it. I think he actually works to "poop" on purpose just so he can get his hands into his diaper and swipe the grime all over his legs, arms, and face. He even knows he isn't supposed to be doing it, so he hides behind chairs or the couch for his "poop parties". It is awful. Would it make you sick to know our dog Trudy enjoys the "poop parties"? You get the picture. I am giving the little red head two to three baths a day, gagging all the way through them and then hosing Trudy down in the back yard. To make matters worse, Charlie has decided he is scared silly of the bathtub, so he goes into fits as soon as he hears the water running.

Meanwhile, I have a rising Freshman in the house who very much wants me to be a part of his life. Unfortunately, to garner my attention, he has to follow me through the house as I "do life" while filling me in on football details, making me laugh with his friend dilemmas, and asking all kinds of thought provoking questions such as: "What do you think I should do with the rest of my life?". (Try giving a serious answer to that kind of question with Charlie's reflux all over your shoulder and Hopey hanging on your back because she has decided she wants a piggy back ride and wants it now---not easy). Sweet Caleb, though, wears a smile and takes whatever "piece" of mom he can get.

As for the preteen girls of the family, they are smack in the middle of a "shared room" redecorating frenzy. Natalie wants their room to look like summer camp while Miss Lydia is dead set on the room being filled with vintage toys. "What do you think, Mom?" has become an hourly alarm for me. And "You all need to work this out together" has become my pat reply which drives them nuts and causes their eyes to roll.

Then there is the pain of the last five years---a lengthy (and costly) court battle with my ex-husband resulting in a restraining order against him, Hope's three open heart surgeries, the ongoing aneurysm in Hope's heart that threatens her life, the loss of both of my grandparents, broken relationship with my brother, etc. Life is sometimes so hard, isn't it? I am positive there must be someone reading this blog who can relate.

To top it off, it has been months since Chappy and I have attended church. MANY MANY MONTHS. You would think God would supernaturally touch Hopey as she enters church and cause her to behave like a "Holy" child, wouldn't you?---but it just doesn't happen. Instead, Hopey melts down and disrupts, so we just had to stop going. We have thought about hiring a sitter to come to our house on Sunday mornings so we could go to church as a family, but have been hesitatant, because we don't want to keep the sitter from attending church. There hasn't been an easy answer for us.

Our big kids found a youth group they enjoy attending on Wednesday evenings, to remedy the "church situation", and have started going to church without Chappy and me. Their absolute love for this church has caused Chappy and me to long for church fellowship/teaching even more. My parents were visiting from out of town this weekend, and understanding our desire to attend church, offered to keep the little ones so Chappy and I could attend church today. "Journey" is the church the kids have been attending on Wednesday evenings, so that is the church we packed up and visited today.....expecting God to meet us there....hoping God would meet us there.....giddy with excitement.

To be continued.....

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

For Every Family Who Ever Wondered

This video is for everyone who grew up in a home where there were only "sisters" or "brothers" other words, no mix of "brothers and sisters". Mixing the two together is interesting at all phases, but is becoming especially fascinating as the teen years engross us at every turn. Have fun taking a peek "into the life".....ha! ha!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Answer Could Be Bubble Wrap

Little Hopey is closing in on five. She wants to climb stairs without using a rail, eat food with a fork independently, and change her own clothes. There is a slight problem, however. While the desire is evident, her body is just not ready.

Each time she starts to step down a set of stairs without hanging on to a rail, I freeze with panic expecting the fall......each time she refuses to eat unless I allow her to use a fork, I dread the bath that will follow where I have to literally pull food out of individual strands of hair with my fingernails.....and when she runs to me completely nude with a huge grin on her face after successfully taking off ALL of her clothes for the fifteenth time in a day, I finally give up and let her be a little nudist. Such is life with Hope.

Yesterday, Chappy and I were pulling some weeds from the yard with Hopey playing close by. We heard a loud scream and both recognized the sound: ACCIDENT! We turned to look at the side of Hopey's face covered in blood. I scooped her up and ran inside with Chappy following. It took four of us to hold that little tiger down so Chappy could clean her up---(so much for low muscle tone, huh?). She probably needed a little stitch, but we decided the trauma of a white coat would be worse than working a bit longer than usual to get the blood to stop.
Finally, after an hour of screaming, Hopey settled down and rested her weary body on my chest. As I sat reflecting over my life with her, mindful of the huge scar down her chest from three open-heart surgeries, I decided my answer might be: Bubble Wrap!!! While other children will frolic off to preschool in their cute new school clothes this August, Hopey very well may be sporting a bubble wrap dress with a BIG matching bubble wrap headband to boot!
Is that legal???

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thanks for being Hope and Charlie's "Best Buddy"

Best Buddies is an awesome organization that intentionally creates one-to-one friendships between individuals who have disabilities and plain old regular folk. Please stop for a moment to consider two of the potential benefits to a relationship like this:

* A disabled person suddenly feels accepted, because he/she is really "hanging out" with a "normal" friend.

* The community sees the disabled person attending sporting events, concerts or simply shopping at the local mall with a typical person who has no disability. Immediately, a positive picture is created that might change what was once a fearful attitude toward a disabled person into a welcoming attitude.

In addition, Best Buddies works with local businesses to develop jobs for disabled citizens. Most all individuals want to feel like their life is productive; a disabled person is no different.

As a mother of two with Down Syndrome, I am grateful to organizations that seek to find ways to include the disabled into everyday culture. I love the Best Buddies Mission: "To make the world a place where Best Buddies will no longer be needed and will be put out of business." Isn't that great?

Our family is walking in a 5k event (toting Hope and Charlie along in a wagon) to benefit Best Buddies. If every one of the blog followers would click on the link below and contribute only $5.00, Hope and Charlie would meet their goal of raising $1,000.00! You have all been such cheerleaders for the two special ones in our family, thank you for honoring them! Don't you feel like you have become their "Best Buddies"? You have definitely made me feel that way.

You can make a $5.00 contribution by clicking here and typing in Melanie Hollis in the Sponsor Participant space on the side of the page:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"Am I Going To Heaven?"

Lydia climbed in bed with me with tears streaming down her face. "What is wrong with you, beautiful?" I asked. Pulling her close to me, I let her cry for a few minutes; afterall, sometimes girls just need a good cry. Finally, Lydia raised her head and pulled back. She sat with her longs legs crossed in front of her, and wiped the tears from her face using the back of her hand. "Mom, I just don't feel like I am being a very good Christian right now. I need to be reading my Bible more and praying more. Sometimes I even say a prayer before I eat and don't even mean it in my heart at all....I am just saying words. Do you believe I will go to heaven?"

Lydia just turned twelve years old. What would make her tender heart doubt salvation? It just goes to show, I guess, that salvation is difficult at every stage of life. Trusting in Someone we cannot see with our eyes, touch with our fingertips, or sit at a table and have a meal with is not easy some days.

"Lydia, do you believe the Bible is true?" I asked.

Still wiping her eyes and nose: "Of course I do, Mom."

"Then finish this verse for me: 'Whatever you do for the least of these.....' ", I quoted the scripture and then paused with a grin, knowing Lydia would quickly repeat the rest; and she said aloud: "You do it for Me."

My bed became a "church" as I reminded Lydia how her entire life is worship:

Every day, Lydia crawls around on the hardwood floors playing a game of hide and seek with Hope. Lydia crawls around a corner, and Hope comes running to look for her. Knowing Lydia will be around the corner, Hopey squeals with excitement, flaps her hands, and then peeks her head around to find Lydia jumping out at her and tickling her without mercy. Hope loves the game and laughs so hard sometimes she cannot get her breath.

Daily, Lydia holds Charlie in her arms and snuggles his little face close into her neck. She gently pecks little kisses on his head and around his ears making loud smooch noises and he absolutely loves it. In response, Charlie digs his pudgy hands deep into her long hair in an attempt to pull himself as close as he can get to his big sister. All the while, Lydia is saying: "I yuv you Char-Char".

Lydia is quick to change a diaper, fetch a snack, or mend a boo-boo for her little brother and sister without complaint. She serves them beautifully with a smile and soft voice. Lydia could be in the middle of practicing her guitar, which is her favorite hobby, but if Hope wants to go outside and comes to grab Lydia's finger to pull her to the door, Lydia promptly puts her guitar away and accompanies Hopey for outside playtime. Looking out the window, I find one girl 5 feet, 5 inches tall playing make-believe with a little munchkin who barely stands as high as her waist.....the little one never guessing she is any different than every other gal in the world.....the bigger one never seeming to notice the little one's weaknesses.

I could tell story after story of Lydia's selfless love for Hope and Charlie. Funny thing is, Caleb and Natalie's list would be just as long as Lydia's. Each of the older children sacrifice daily for the little ones, and they do it without fact, they do it with eagerness, joy and laughter.

Natalie is out of town at Camp Tonawandah, so I couldn't bring her in on my conversation with Lydia, but I did call for Caleb. As he joined Lydia on my bed that had become a church, I took several minutes to commend them on their pleasing service to Hope and Charlie and then reminded them of the verse: "Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for Me."

Reading the Bible is important. Prayer is important. However, I believe that true worship takes place when we purposefully bend our will to help someone who is considered "least". If I am moved by the hearts of Caleb, Lydia, and Natalie toward Hope and much more must the Father's heart be moved?

I explained to Caleb and Lydia that evening how I know that I know that I know they are both going to bust heaven's gates wide open one day. God measures our hearts first and then he measures the actions that flow from our hearts. I assured them that God is not taking notes on how often they open their Bibles, how often they bow their heads to pray, or how often they walk into a church building. God is way bigger than that. I told them, though, that God does take note each time they encourage Hope through a "transition" meltdown in a store or restaurant...when they choose to show compassion for their sister's needs instead of becoming embarrassed by her struggle to overcome anxiety.....In addition, I believe God shouts with joy each time they pull out their guitars and do "rock in roll" with Hope and Charlie to "This Little Light of Mine" or "Jesus Loves Me".......and I also believe He cries with them each time their hearts are moved to tears over their love for Hope and Charlie.....for instance, I have seen times when Hopey willingly seeks out Caleb's lap, wraps her tiny arms around his neck and gives him a kiss on his cheek...all on her own---in those unique times when Caleb is so moved by Hope's love that tears fall down his face and he holds her tight, God gets it.....perhaps no one else on earth understands that kind of love, but God does. And when Natalie and Lydia, huddled in prayer the night before Hopey is to have an open-heart surgery, are crying out to God to spare their sister's life.....God gets it, and He is moved by it.

Caleb and Lydia left the room with a renewed sense of God's calling in their lives that evening, and possibly a better understanding of their heavenly Father. My heart, too, was left full; I can't even describe it. Each day, I have the privilege to watch salvation with my own eyes. No, "salvation is not of works....lest any man should boast"....but salvation is a heart moved to action. I am so grateful God chose our family to place two little ones who could teach us much about Him.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What If I Told You....Final Chapter

The boy in the story has had to overcome so much: headaches that were so worrisome at one point, he insisted on having an MRI to make sure he didn't have a tumor. The result? No surprise, the headaches were stress related. Recurring stomach aches that would leave him lying on the floor curled up in pain. How about the "planned out" broken dreams? A teenager with plans of becoming a star athlete and successful would time spent in Juvenile Hall for refusing to visit his birth father fit into that picture? Could his reputation really hold up in that kind of incident? Questions. Fears. The only thing constant in his life became uncertainty.

The mother, sensing the overwhelming circumstances her beloved son was facing, turned to scripture for help. "God, please give me answers."

He did. Immediately. The answer came first with a recollection of something she had forgotten:

When her son was a very small little man, five years of age, the mother recalled how he often came down the stairs from his bedroom in his jammies at night to ask: "Are you calling my name?" She would answer: "No", and then shuffle him back off to bed. This happened night after night for months.

One day, the young mother asked a Christian woman of high regard what she thought of her son's hearing his name being called night after night. The mother asked: "Do you think something is wrong with him or do you really think he is hearing his name being called?" Wise and ready to answer with God's Word, the elder opened her worn Bible to the story of Samuel. She read the story aloud and then looked into the younger woman's eyes when she asked: "Is he afraid when he hears the voice?" The young mom answered: "Never". With a bright smile and a hug around the neck, the elder replied: "Then know your son is hearing God's voice; like He prepared Samuel to hear His voice, God is teaching your son to discern His voice."

God gave the mother words to say to her son, and as she climbed the steps to his bedroom, she could literally feel the weight of God's Words heavy in her heart. She opened the bedroom door, found her son lying on his side tied up in a bundle of sheets that left his bed looking more like a big knot than a comfortable place to sleep, and woke her son to ask him if she could have a talk with him. With sleep-filled eyes, he pushed himself from slumber, threw his long legs over the side of the bed, and pushed himself to his feet. Quietly, he followed his mother down the staircase.

While she wanted to give him answers, to offer him peace, to say everything was going to be ok, she knew she could not. What she would offer him, however, was worth more than hope of a "perfect" life. They sat at the kitchen table across from one another, the morning sunlight barely peeping through the blinds hanging on the windows and playfully bouncing off of his messed up sandy blond hair:

"Sweetheart, do you remember when you were young and thought you were hearing someone calling your name night after night?" she asked.

"I remember. You told me the story of Samuel and explained to me I was hearing God's voice calling my name." he replied with a grin that caused his top lip to roll over his bottom lip and left wrinkles in his chin. Still wearing the white tshirt he had slept in the night before, she could see the little five year old boy inside the face of the teenager looking back at her. She wanted to scoop him up into her arms for the rest of the conversation, rocking him back and forth in her lap, but knew too much time had passed. He was no longer five, and his hurts were too complicated to be fixed by a big momma hug and kiss on the head. This conversation was one between two people who happened to be mother and son, not loaded with silly antics, but serious in tone.

She asked: "What if God was preparing you when you were five years old for this time? Do you believe it is possible that He was teaching you to hear His voice at a very young age so you could discern truth right now as a teenager going through a very tough time?"

He didn't answer, but his look changed which spoke mouthfuls of words. Unsure, he dipped his head a bit lower, hair hanging over his eyes, and then lifted his eyes to look at her through his long bangs. He then set his elbows up on the table and clasped his large hands together in front of him. It was evident by the look on his face, he wondered what his mother was going to say.

She opened her Bible with a sigh and said: "This is what God wants you to hear today."

And she read him the story of Joseph, recounting each of the ups and downs he endured. Together they discussed how it made no sense that God chose to reveal truths to Joseph through dreams, how heartbreaking it must have been when Joseph's own brothers turned on him, hated him, threw him into a pit, and sold him as a slave....and how shocked Joseph must have been when he earned respect as charge of Potiphar's household only to have it ripped from him when Potiphar's own wife became attracted to Joseph and then lied when Joseph refused her advances. This honorable decision placed Joseph in jail for three long years where he surely felt frightened and alone. Joseph, forsaken by family and forced to become a foreign slave, completely innocent but convicted of a crime he never committed, must have questioned God a thousand times. When he finally was able to interpret Pharaoh's dream, though, and become the savior for Egypt and his family, mother and son around a wooden table, thousands of years removed from the story of Joseph and Egypt, discussed how Joseph probably thought the difficulty he had endured was all worth it. If Joseph had not gone through the hardship, perhaps he never would have been useful for the incredible purposes God had planned out for his life. Because of the one ordinary Israelite man, Joseph, many were saved.

After reading from God's Word, the mother reached her arms across the kitchen table and took her son's hands into her own....her hands showing signs of age, cracked and a bit worn.....his young, smooth and strong. "God is not asking any more of you than He asked of Joseph. He prepared you a very long time ago to hear His voice, and I believe He is speaking to you now."

His answer so sincere: "But what is my life going to look like, mom? I don't want to be known as a troubled kid who spends time in Juvenile Hall and I don't want this to continue to follow my life. I just want to be normal."

Stern and sure, his mother answered with a firmness in her voice: "God did not choose normal for you or for me. You have to learn to embrace this and make it your testimony. God will use your experience to help others if you allow Him to. Pretending these things have not happened to you does not make them go away, so you must use your experience to allow God's light to extend out and touch others."

That day, in early morning hours, a light glimmered in the once downcast eyes of the young man. As mother looked at son, she wondered if Joseph was the same age or the same build as her son when he was cast into the pit by his brothers....could Joseph see God had something huge in store for his life when he was in that pit? could he really grasp the dream he had about becoming a ruler? She continued to gaze, face unchanging, into her son's eyes for a few moments. Her look of calm assurance betrayed her true feelings of uneasiness that surrounded the unanswered questions of what her son might have to endure in the future.

One day at a prayer at a time.....and plenty of faith. These are the three ingredients that helped Joseph endure, and these same three ingredients would clothe her son on the journey God chose for him.

"For I know the plans I have for you, saith the Lord....." Believe it. Embrace it. Live it.

Mother and son ended their conversation with a gigantic hug, and then rustled up some vittles to eat for breakfast before everyone else in the house awoke. They sunk together onto the big leather couch in the great room and watched a rerun of "I Love Lucy" laughing out loud together as Lucy found herself locked in the big freezer she and Ethel had bought to house the half of a cow they had ordered. No worries in that moment. Just joy and relationship. Tomorrow would be a new day with its own challenges, but for this day, there would be laughter.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What If I Told You...Part 4

In and out of court every year, four different judges and four different attorneys, $50,000.00 in fees and 15 years of time. Over the years, visitation had evolved into a regular every-other-weekend schedule.

"Mom, I am not going back." No longer a boy with eyelashes so long you could sweep the floor with them, the 6 foot tall young man with a deep voice and broad shoulders wrapped his arms around her from behind and squeezed her tight. Within the grip, his mom wondered where all the time had gone. A gentle kiss on her cheek and one more whisper in her right ear: "No matter what, I am not going back to that man's house." His mom continued to wash the dishes that were in the sink while he turned and walked away to meet some friends to shoot hoops.

Abuse. It had found him. All the years she worked to keep communication open were in vain. All those years she believed, or maybe it was hoped, she could help her son beat the statistics.
In most abuse cases, children do not talk, and when they do talk, statistics report they are telling the absolute truth 92% of the time. Her son proved to be no exception.

For years, his birth father had been using control tactics with him. When the boy would disagree with a behavior or an action, he wouldn't be fed for the rest of the day....or worse, his birth father would race down the highway at speeds over 100 mph threatening to wreck and kill them both. In addition, the abuser would give the boy a good karate chop in the throat to bring him to his knees and would routinely force him to the floor, laying on top of him making breathing difficult, in order to punish what he considered "bad behavior" such as when the boy requested to go to a friend's birthday party during a regularly scheduled weekend

Perhaps the mother should have noticed signs. For instance, when her son stopped asking to reschedule weekends with his birth father to make a social activity. Was it that she did not want to see the signs or was the boy that good at creating a "cover"?

When he finally opened up and told his mother the multitude of abuses he had endured, she thought she would die. The knot that formed in her chest that day made a home within her and faithfully serves as a reminder whenever she looks into the large brown puppy dog eyes of her son or catches the gleam of his smile with a dimple on his left cheek. She has named the knot, her nemisis, "guilt"and allows the pain to strengthen her resolve to protect her child.

Histerically: "Why didn't you tell me?"....."I tried to keep open communication with you and thought you would feel comfortable to tell me anything"......"Why did you hide the abuse?"

His response is what still brings a flood of tears to her eyes to this day. She was seated on the edge of her bed when he told her he needed to speak with her about something very important. Upon hearing the tone of his voice, something inside her warned the news she was about to hear was going to be big. Her heart began to race and her hair felt as if it were standing on ends. Standing in the doorway of her bedroom wringing his hands, with voice shaking, her son told her the news. When he saw his mother begin to cry, with composure, he turned and closed the door behind him, walked over to where she was sitting and knelt at her feet with his head bowed. Leaning his head forward upon her knee, he explained: "I wanted to tell you so many times, but I didn't want to hurt you, Mom. I knew there was nothing you could do about it, so I thought it was something I had to endure on my own."

She bent over and placed her head on his and they cried and cried. As each tear flowed from her son's eyes, he released years of pent-up secrets. The secrets had given the abuser power, and as each tear fell, that power was literally sucked back from birth father and placed into son. As for mom, the tears that fell that day were tears of regret and sorrow. She knew her son was correct. If he had had admitted the abuse, the abuser would have conveniently called him a liar and denied every charge. It would have angered the abuser even more; and as a result, the abuse probably would have escalated.

The fateful moment her son finally told the full story, he made a decision he would never return to visit his birth father again. The relationship, broken and battered, was finally over and behind him. This time, his birth father had gone too far and had threatened him; the threat was so sincere, her son believed his birth father might be capable of killing him. In addition, he believed his mother could be in danger as well.

On that day, two sets of heels were dug deep into the earth. One set of heels were those of a teenage boy fast becoming a man who was determined that he had rights that protected him from being abused....the other heels of an abuser who was just as determined his son was legally responsible to visit him, and if he refused, the abuser would make sure his son spent time in Juvenile Hall and his mother in an empty jail cell for contempt of court. One set of heels dug deep for the cause of freedom.....the others dug just as deep for a cause called: "control".

What if I told you this is still not the end of the story?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

What If I Told You....Part 3

What if I told you an attorney once told the young mother: "If you are looking for justice, the last place you will find it is in the courtroom." ? Initially she did not believe those words, but over time, they became her own words.

Divorce proceedings lasted one solid year. Her soon to be ex-husband was determined to drag the nightmare out as long as possible, portraying himself as a repentant husband who was willing to do anything to put his marriage back together. Tears on the witness stand or in the attorneys' offices were so frequent, his attorney started toting along a box of tissue. She sat listening to him begging the judge to do anything in his power to give him more time to work things out with "the wife he loved with all of his heart"; all the while her thoughts were on the tightly bound fist that had found it's place on her left jaw with such power she saw stars.....on being pushed full force over the top of a chair....landing flat on her back with her head banging onto the kitchen floor and having to work to find breath....each time an abuse happened, she could see in her minds eye his turning away from her with a steely resolve of quiet that spoke volumes.

Walking out of court or out of the attorneys' offices, whenever the opportunity presented itself and when no one was around to be a witness, the abuser would call her disgusting names and tell her she would pay for causing his family this embarrassment. Each time he would draw near to her, she feared for her life. Quickly her eyes would dart around to see if anyone was near enough to hear her if she screamed, wondering if anyone would come to her rescue. Terror. Almost divorced, but still terrified.

After the divorce was finalized, the child custody proceedings quickly began. Filled with the rawest form of warrior protection known to any living creature, the young mother was driven by a force that was beyond her comprehension. She would protect her son from this man with all that was within her. She devised plans for making him admit his actions toward her, and was willing to say anything that was necessary to get his admission on tape.

"Hello, it's me" she said, "I have been thinking that perhaps I made a mistake with the divorce." She knew this man so well. She had studied his behavior for many years. She had found a way to gain the upper hand now and would give him just enough rope to hang his miserable self. At first he was reluctant to believe her words, but soon, he grasped them like a man sinking in quick sand would grab on to even an enemy's hand to be saved. She was the enemy. She was the one who had exposed the Sunday School teacher, deacon, "everyone's best friend" for what he truly was. But he would grasp hold of her, and she knew it.

Over the period of twelve months since she had fled, he had worked tirelessly to minimize what she had said about him. He had called her "emotionally unstable", a woman still reeling from post partum depression, a woman ready to get out of a marriage and willing to make up lies and destroy an innocent man to accomplish it, he even told others she had been the abuser and not him. His efforts to be the man he had once been were, in fact, futile. Even though many troops rallied behind him and spoke with their mouths their support of him, he was no dummy. A liar himself, a master manipulator of the worst kind, he read their eyes and sized them up. He could see most friends doubted him. His reputation was tarnished.

The young mother, thought to be too honest and too spiritual to be capable of deceit was underestimated. What a mother is willing to do to protect her children should never be underestimated.

"I really believe I could forgive you, but confession must come before true forgiveness can take place. We have to start somewhere, and I am willing to listen tonight if you want to begin reconciliation with me."

She knew this was the solution he had been waiting for. If he could just get back together with the woman he loathed, all his friends, family, and co-workers would believe him. They would no longer doubt him; he would be embraced again. It was worth the risk. He hated her and would make her pay for all of this, but he would gain his world back by giving a stupid confession. She knew he would buy into it.

That evening, with a tape recorder hooked into the young mother's phone, the abuser admitted everything.....hitting her, threatening her, and being addicted (heavily) to pornography. He even admitted to purchasing pornography and going to public parking lots to "use it". An exhibitionist.

Most people would assume the young mother would have celebrated that evening. She had beaten the beast at his own game, afterall. That was not the case. She hung up the phone, rolled into a fetal ball, and cried with a grief that ripped her very soul into shreds. She beat the floor with her fists and cried out to God: "Why, why have you forsaken me? Where are you God?" She had sought to get the abuser to admit his abuse, but in the process, learned of new behavior that she had not been aware of at all. If these were things he was willing to admit, what other things might he be hiding? Who had she been married to? What was he capable of?

Her son. Face red and covered in tears, she crawled over to her son and held him so tightly his body melted into her own. "Oh God, thank you for this gift." She looked into the sweetest face she had ever beheld and gently spoke: "You saved me. If you had not come along, I would have stayed." She held him for hours. He let her.
A bond was created that day between mother and son that intwined them together. It was no longer mother and son, but one force.

The child custody hearing was scheduled. The tape was presented. The judge ordered one year of supervised visitation and one year of psychiatric counseling for the abuser. Case closed for one year. The young mother and her babe were granted something of priceless value that cannot be purchased: It wasn't justice. It was TIME.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What If I Told You....Part 2

What if I told you that dreams do not always come true, would you believe me? This new mom, who had just sacrificed everything to save her child, believed with all of her heart that dreams can come true no matter the circumstance. In fact, she believed in what others would call the impossible; some would eventually say this was the driving force within her.

Abusers are unique characters, and the father of her son was no different. Like other abusers, he led two very different lives: a public life and a private life. In public, he was a Sunday School teacher, a deacon, and a man who cared for others. Popular and friendly, he had too many friends to count. In private, he was at times, a monster who was impossible to deal with and dangerous. The double life helped his case a lot. What had been kept behind closed doors could not be proven true or false. I believe the court system calls it "hear say", but the young mother called it "power".

Not knowing where to turn, she went to her family and to the church. Her family embraced her and believed her. The church did not. Her pastor was one she went to first and trusted most. She sat in his office for hours pouring out her soul to him with her little baby playing with rattle toys on the floor. The pastor believed her, and she saw it in his eyes. Before leaving his office, she turned to him with baby in her arms and asked: "If you were giving advice to your daughter, and she was in the situation I am in, what would you tell her?" He answered her: "I would tell her to never go back. If he abused her before, he would abuse her again." Those words helped relieve her; afterall, her pastor was a man of authority before God.

To say this young mother was an emotional wreck would be a big understatement. As a result, she was not thinking as clearly as usual or she may have handled the situation that was to occur much differently. When the dreaded phone call came from the husband she had left behind, she heard a very different voice than expected. Instead of rage, she heard tears. He begged her to go back to him and promised things would be different. But the words of the pastor she trusted were fresh on her mind, and she told him firmly "no" and refused to budge. When he pressed her, she revealed her discussion with the pastor on that day and the advice he had given her when she left his office. "I trust the pastor, and I am going to take his advice." Those words would change her life and her genuine love for the church forever.

Days later, the young mother was called back for another meeting with her pastor. Recalling how helpful the last session had been, she eagerly got ready, loaded up her baby boy, and went to the next session which she was sure would help her even more than the last. What she found when she entered his office, though, was a very different man. The warm smile the pastor always wore on his face was now an angry frown, with brows furled, and jaw set. Coldly: "Have a seat". He pointed to a chair in the room. She sat.

"It seems you have opened a bag of worms and have gotten me into a lot of hot water young lady" were his first words. The rest of the conversation became foggy; she was taken completely off guard. He paced around the room and looked at her with disgust as he explained that the father of her child had called a group of deacons after his phone call with her. He had reported to the deacons the pastor was encouraging her to divorce him, and the deacons were very upset. What she remembered most about that meeting was when he allowed his face to get very close to hers, he pointed his finger in her face and clinched his teeth: "I will not lose my job because of your miserable marriage. You are not worth it!"

"You are not worth it!" Broken again. Abused again. The very words her own husband had used to describe her were coming at her yet again. "Worthless". That day, she left weeping. The pastor opened the door and ushered her out. Interesting, he had cleared his office for the day. I guess it was planned.

Later, she found out her pastor denied all conversations with her that centered around her leaving her husband. To her abusive husband, the pastor called her a liar who was trying to get out of a marriage without being scorned by the church. Just place yourself in her shoes when the phone call came from her son's father accusing her of lying. But the phone calls did not end with him, they came from many others urging her to repent. Drowning in sorrow, she held her baby day after day. "This is all for you sweet thing. We will get through this and our dreams will come true." She felt worthless, but the little fella' she held in her her, he was far from worthless. She would get through this for him.