I love this: God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. Hebrews 6:10
I woke up early this morning. I didn’t sleep much last night. The Lord continues to bring people to me that need prayer and encouragement.
I was going through my pictures recently. So many, many memories. From when I was growing up, to when I was raising my children. I came across certificates of achievements for work, college, school of ministry, and even from when I was in high school. It seemed every where I turned, doors were flying open for me with opportunities to go further than I could have imagined. Wow. Sometimes I just shake my head in wonderment as to how life can change so suddenly…how everything can change in just a blink.
Sometimes, choices can be overwhelming and we simply do the best we can when choosing what seems to be the best choice for us. There is a future with a hope for us. I realize there are times God seems to be the only one in agreement with this. However, because he says it is so, and he cannot lie, it’s important we continue to persevere and push through the setbacks and disappointments, press on and not give up.
I remember when my daughter was in middle school and she wanted to be in band. She wanted to play the flute, and nothing else was acceptable to her. The band director, on the other hand, encouraged her to play the clarinet. They needed more clarinet players, not flute players. My daughter seemed to struggle with mouth placement and the band director once again encouraged her to consider clarinet. I told her to never give up but stay focused and keep trying. She persevered and indeed, she developed the proper flute embouchure and was allowed to play the flute. Hence forth, any time she struggled to achieve something difficult, I reminded her how she overcame before because she pushed through and persevered.
When my son was going into 8th grade, they started the school sponsored football teams. My son had dreamed of playing football since he was seven years old. However, in order to be considered for the team, he would have to successfully complete all his classes. Although he is a good student, he was in a class he would have rather not had to encounter—-and needless to say, he was beginning to see that his dream of playing football might not be realized. I encouraged him to focus on “the prize” of getting on the team, to which my son buckled down, and after a lot of hard work raised his grades. The deciding moment came when his grades came in the mail. He sat with anticipation. As I read the report, I couldn’t contain myself and with excitement I said, “You passed.” You could see the relief come over him. During football practice, my son would do whatever the coach asked him to do, and he would do so with so much enthusiasm, the coach made my son one of the team captains–not because he was so gifted playing the sport, but because he had such a heart for the team and working hard to accomplish the goals. Even after all his hard work, we found my son simply could not coordinate his mind with his body to keep up with the movement of the plays. Even with extra help from the coaches, it became obvious my son’s dream of playing football would not be realized. My son was heartbroken. But in time, my son could see how, even so, God was faithful in helping my son get on the football team.
In looking back on my life, I realize God has been so good to me. Even during the most tragic life events, God was still faithful. Through the good times when, without seemingly any effort from me, good things and good opportunities were coming to me in overtly blessed abundance, God was there with grace and mercy navigating me. During the most tragic events and difficult seasons, when choices were so overwhelming I could barely see the steps before me that I should walk in, God was there with his abounding loving kindness to carry me and say, “It’s okay. I got this.”
At the risk of rising above the natural realm of seeming ungrateful, I’ve found that in the end, the accolades really aren’t the deal breaker. Albeit they are the evidence of great achievements from which great effort was put forth. Yes, they are evidence we were smiled on in an extra special way that day and in that we derive much comfort in being given much favor…but they aren’t what truly makes our life meaningful. Nor should they. They shouldn’t be the deal breaker of deciding whether or not to keep on putting forth great effort to succeed in any given endeavor.
There were so many times I wondered if I would make it through. There were times that were so dark I couldn’t see any light of hope and wondered if I would be able to breathe. I’ve gone from having much to having almost nothing. How we measure our success and how God measures our success is often times completely different.
But God… Through every season God always shows himself faithful. Although what we had once–that inner strength and drive to reach for the stars and really believe we will one day achieve it–may seem dissipated through life’s journey of struggles, I’ve found it’s not really gone. Not really. I’ve found that which God gives, I mean those things God gives that is born from deep within us really never leave us. It’s actually still there–deep inside. It’s up to us, however, to let it rise up once again to champion the call before us.
Be encouraged. Even when life takes a sudden unexpected turn and it seems everything is unraveling around you, it does not take God by surprise. Continue to love him, and in that love help his people. God’s got your back. He’s working things out for you, even when you can’t see what he’s doing at the moment.
“Do not cast me away when I’m old…do not forsake me when my strength is gone.” Psalm 71:9. The psalmist goes on to say in verse 17 and 18, “Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.”
There is so much wisdom garnered in the history of our elder generation. So many times, we get busy and forget the generation before us who fought for what we have today, who sacrificed so much so we could have better than they had, and those who prayed for us and every generation yet to come that we would know and depend on the God of all creation, the God they grew to depend on and trust. We’ve lost something along the way when we discard their knowledge and understanding of their time and the time gone by. As I get older, I find myself remembering the “good old days” more and more. I have a deep regard and respect for our older generation.
I grew up going to family reunions each year on each side of the family. Not just our immediate families, but our grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles and even those aunts and uncles we knew nothing about, except that we knew they were “kin.” I remember sitting on the front porch with my grandparents, my dad’s parents, hulling peas or cutting corn off the cob while listening to their endless supply of stories growing up on the farm and how good “you kids” have it today, compared to their day.
I remember the times when social etiquette was a force to be reckoned with, in that there were some things you simply did not about. For example, I was about 8 or 9 and we went to visit my uncle Sam. He was my grandmother’s brother. He and his wife owned several acres down the road from my grandmother and from time to time when we visited my grandmother during the summer, we were able to go visit them. He had a lot of cattle and I asked him one time how many “cows” he had. He laughed and said, “Oh, I got about ten.” Aunt Myrtle (his wife) looked at him with that “Oh, you do not” look. But, the rule was, it was rude to ask such a seemingly innocent question. It was the same as asking, “How much money do you have in your bank account.” Life was simpler then.
As I grew, I learned to show great respect for those in authority over me. In fact, if an adult asked me to do something, it was the same as if my own parents asked me to do something. It was simply rude and disrespectful to disregard the position of authority of the elderly. From as young as I can remember, we were very family oriented and were around people who were older and we were expected to treat them as if they were royalty.
Looking back, I guess I was an odd duck. While most teenagers were riding around town on a Friday night or going to the movies or hanging out with their friends on a Saturday night, I was hanging out with my piano, or going to area churches who would gather for their Saturday nite singing. There was an elderly gentleman who could still sing the deepest bass notes I had ever heard. The song director and those of us who wanted to go sing, would pick up him from the nursing home and take him to sing on Saturday night and then take him back to the nursing home when we finished. Oh, how it made him smile and laugh. We would also go to back to the nursing home on a Sunday afternoon about once a month so all the residents who wanted to participate could enjoy some good old fashioned gospel singing as well. Those were the days!
While I was working at the full-service station in my hometown, an elderly black woman came in to have her car serviced. She was a regular customer and we had on many occasions struck up a conversation. That day, while she was waiting on her car to be finished, she looked at me and said, “Do you know how old I am?” I answered “No.” She said, “Take a guess.” I guessed she was in her 60s since she said she was retired. She laughed and said, “You’re way off. I’m 75.” I was in shock. She did not have one gray hair on her head. I asked her how she was able to stay so young looking. She answered, “I don’t worry. I give it to the Lord. I can’t do anything about most things anyway. Worry just makes you old.” She added, “I also play basketball with my grand kids and I don’t eat junk. That helps me stay active.” I was speechless.
Even now, my mother can remember details of life from long ago. In many ways, life was more difficult then, but people learned how to make it through the tough times and for the most part, without falling apart. It amazes me. Yes, there is so much wisdom in our elder saints, if we would just slow down and take the time listen and consider what they have to say. There was so much structure in their beliefs. Looking back, even though the huge salaries were not as prevalent then as they are today, this generation had so much wealth in their hearts and souls for what was most important. I’ve never forgotten what that elderly woman said to me, “I don’t worry. I give it to the Lord.” It reminds me of Matthew 6:25-34, in verse 27, can worrying even add a single hour to your life? I think she got it figured out.
Just as God tells our youth in 1 Timothy 4:12 not to let anyone despise their youth, the same is true for our elder saints, as it says in Luke 1:50 his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. Let us not overlook the wisdom available to us through those who have lived a little longer than we have. Perhaps, there is still room for all of us to learn and grow. Don’t worry. Give it to the Lord.
God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. James 1:12.
I’ve always encouraged my kids to always try as hard as they could to achieve their dreams and goals. I never put limitations on them or allowed excuses for anything to keep them from working towards what they wanted. My son was no exception.
My son, although unique in so many, many ways, was always a predominantly obedient little boy. When he was six years old, I had to leave for a few hours so I could visit a sick family member who was in ICU. So, I left him in the care of my daughter, who truthfully would have much rather been hanging out with her friends. In an attempt to keep peace between the two, I gave my son strict instructions to stay in his room and play with his toys or watch his videos until I got back, unless he needed a drink or use the bathroom and do not harass his sister.
Much to my surprise, when I got home, my son was still in his room. I opened up to the door to his smiling face and “Hi mom!” Confirmed by my daughter, he did exactly what I asked him to do. Amazing. This is pretty much the way he was most of the time, with rare exception. What I asked him to do, he would do. We were truly buddies.
When my son was eight years old, we moved in with my mother to help care for her and her property after she experienced health issues related to having heart trouble. He was so excited. He now had two acres of uncharted territory to explore and conquer.
Living in the country in Arkansas, most people were involved in hunting to some degree, whether it be gun, bow or muzzle loading season, hunting squirrel, rabbit, or deer, among others. When my son turned 10 years old, his uncle (my brother-in-law) thought it was time for my son to move into the ranks of being a “hunter.” So, unbeknownst to me, my son was presented with his first BB gun. Yep. A Red Rider, just like Ralphie in A Christmas Story. My son’s eyes almost bugged out of his head and he couldn’t stop jumping with excitement. His first gun! Of course, my first thought was “He’s not old enough.” My opinion was quickly outnumbered, even by my mother who cited my brother got his first BB gun when he was 8. Oh my.
Of course, he wasn’t allowed to be outside with it by himself. He had to be taught how to shoot it safely. I would take him behind the old shed and we would line up coke cans as targets. Actually, he became a pretty good shot. I was impressed. When we were finished, he had to put it up properly, neatly in the closet, until the next time he was allowed to take it out again. Strict rules were given that he was never to come outside with this gun without supervision, to which he agreed.
The next Sunday, after we got home from church, my mother and I left my son in the living room to watch TV while we went to take our regularly scheduled Sunday afternoon nap. After an hour, I got up to find my son watching TV. A few hours later, my mother walked through the room and said she was going to town to pick up something for supper. A few minutes later I heard my mother shouting and went out into the carport to see what was going on.
I was shocked. Speechless. The back glass of her PT Cruiser was gone. Shattered. She shouted at my son to “Get out here!” You gotta understand something about my mother. She is generally a pretty calm person. It really takes a lot to get her upset to the point she’s yelling. So, when she begins to shout obscenities, you know she’s just plain MAD! I must admit, I had lived with my mom long enough to see the pattern of whenever something went wrong, she naturally assumed my son had something to do with it. And so…
My son slowly opened the door and stood on the steps. I asked him if he broke the window. To my grief, hesitantly, he admitted to it but insisted it was an accident. I asked him what he did. He said he was trying to kill the bird sitting on the edge of the carport roof. I must admit. He had to miss pretty big to kill the back glass of my mother’s car. I was boiling. My mother at this point was spit-sputtering. I asked him what he threw trying to kill the bird. He said he didn’t throw anything. By now, I was losing patience. “Then what were you doing??” Sheepishly, my son answered, “I was trying to shoot him.” “Shoot him??” I asked. Then it all came together. “Never mind,” I said. I went to the closet to look at the gun and saw he had not put away properly. Guilty as charged.
My mother didn’t say another word. She walked past us and went to her room. Where she stayed for three days. Not saying a word. Not coming out when we were at home. Nothing. I must admit this was a lot. It was much worse than the time my son ran a knife across the felt on her pool table “just to see what would happen.” No. She handled that much better. She didn’t even get this mad when my daughter (17 at the time) thought she would sit my son in her lap and teach him to steer a car down my mother’s long driveway but then couldn’t navigate the foot pedals to stop before she ran into the back of my mother’s car, breaking the taillight lens. Uh-uh. No.
What was my son thinking?? I gave my son the same instructions I had always given him when I got ready to take my Sunday afternoon nap. I expected the same obedient response he had consistently given me. But not this day. The temptation was just too great for him to resist. I taped the back of my mother’s car until we could get it fixed. I called my brother-in-law and insisted he come pick up the BB gun. My son was in tears. He said he was so sorry and promised it wouldn’t happen again. I agreed. It would NEVER happen again. My brother-in-law said, “He’s just a boy.” True. But not much consolation at this point.
Eventually, things settled and now my mother can even smile when she recalls the story, but she’s quit to add she wanted to “ring his neck.” But as love would have it, she still calls him “brat,” and he still calls her “old coot.” Yep. All is well once again.
Temptation will always give us an opportunity to walk to the right or left of the center line of obedience. God’s desire is that we obey his commands, for our own good—even when we think the rules are too strict, ridiculous or otherwise not necessary. I’m so glad the back glass on my mother’s car was the only thing that was damaged that day. My son certainly was not trying to hurt anything or do harm (glad the bird got away.) Even so, as my son learned, the rules were put into place for his own good and for the good of others. There is no temptation too great God does not give us the ability to overcome it. We do, however, have to be willing to stand against the temptation when it comes.
“This you know, my beloved, but let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” James 1:19, 20
One Saturday morning, when my daughter was 7 years old, I was doing my normal schedule of house cleaning chores. I promised my daughter I would take her to the store to get her a video she wanted, so I was trying to get everything done as quickly as possible. I was finishing up when my daughter asked if she could help me clean the kitchen floor. I said yes, of course (who doesn’t want help from their children, especially when they offer?) As I was getting everything ready for us to get started, I heard a knock on the front door and went to see who was there. When I came back, my daughter was standing at the edge of the kitchen floor looking at her masterpiece. Her face was beaming showing that her heart was about to explode with the anticipation of how I was certainly going to praise her good job and willingness to help clean the floor, knowing we would soon be on our way to get her the “prize” that awaited her.
My heart sank. I looked at the floor in utter disbelief. An entire bottle of blue Dawn dishwashing liquid was squirted out all over the kitchen floor. She looked up at me and smiled. I was beside myself. I couldn’t speak. Finally, I was able to eek out as joyfully as possible, “Oh my. I see.” My first thought was how am I going to get this blue, sticky, gummy mass of mess off of my kitchen floor. My second thought was are we going to get this mess cleaned up before the store closes?? Ugh!! I didn’t want to say or do anything that would crush her spirit and did not want this to keep her from wanting to help again. So, I took a deep breath, looked at her big, beautiful dark brown eyes, smiled and said, “Okay. Let’s get started.” After a little over an hour, with the help of a few gallons of water, a shop vac and a lot of giggles, we were able to get the soap off of the floor. It was then we were finally able to actually clean the floor. Smooth sailing again!
What started out looking like a disaster, ended up being a great time spent together laughing and working together as we went “slip sliding away” on the floor. During this experience, I learned how cold water is good for cutting soapy suds. Then it occurred to me, although the cold water was what I needed to clean up the soap on the floor, the whole experience would have been a disaster if I had let the cold water of my emotions be quick to respond and over react to my daughter’s effort to help.
As children of God, we are to pursue God’s righteousness in all things. In this scripture, God tells us to listen, be slow to speak and slow to anger. In our lives, if we do not become hasty in our reactions or allow how we feel about a situation decide how we respond, then even through the times of dismay, we can still overcome and walk in the righteousness of God.
Life is precious. Life is a joy unspeakable. The waiting. The expectation. The unknowns. The hopes and dreams and visions of wondering who this beautiful gift will become when they get older. Will it be a boy? I’m sure he will be the star quarterback of the football team. Will it be a girl? I’m sure she will be full of sugar and spice and everything nice—as well get out of my way ‘cause here I come!
Then you feel the first movement. Now, you know the life in you is growing strong. You hear their heartbeat. Now you can almost hear them cry with their first breath of life. The anticipation is mixed with pure joy and angst of the unknown. But sometimes, our dreams must take a back seat to the realities that life is at best unexplainable, at worst very fragile, but always with purpose.
There can be few things said that have not already been said about the injustices in this world. Those who plan and purpose to make someone’s life miserable solely because they can—just because you call them out and refuse to be a pawn in their game any longer.
That was once again the case in my daughter’s life. She finally did it. She finally stood up to him. She finally said, “No More” to his selfish determinations to have everything his way. She finally left him. She cared for herself and her two children and God then blessed her with a man who stepped in and loved them all. Finally. We could breathe. They married and were expecting their first child together. Their joy was being made complete. This was May of 2013.
She left him in January 2012. Before the end of that year, my oldest grandson came home from a weekend visit in pull-ups only, no clothes, with a 2” wide, 6” long purple bruise across his lower back, that was hidden by the pull-up. “With my 3-year-old grandson’s testimony, a phone call was made. An investigation ensued. “He” was arrested. “He” was put under supervised visitation. “He” was not happy. What happened next was not a surprise to anyone.
Accidents happen, they say. There is always an explanation. In my daughter’s case, this was indeed an accident that garnered the force of the wicked to come against her. My youngest grandson was a klutz when he was young. Anyone who knew him and spent any time around him knew it. One day, he went to see his dad on supervised visitation and had a defined speckled pattern of something in his back. A phone call was made, which then ensued with an investigation.
I asked a lot of questions. I couldn’t get settled. Something was very wrong. I’ll be one of the first to call out abuse when I see it, but something was not right about this. I walked into the boy’s room and found toys all over the floor. I saw a huge toy wrestler’s belt laying on the top of some toys. It had dozens of raised points on the medallion of this toy champion wrestler’s belt. To my great joy, I saw that the pattern of this toy matched the pattern of the picture of what was on my grandson’s back. When I was called by the investigator, I told her about this toy. I asked her if I could bring it to her so she could see it, noting I was sure my grandson simply lost his footing and fell on it. My grandson was two years old. I’d seen him lose his footing walking across an uncluttered floor and lose his footing and simply fall to the ground. She determined she didn’t need to see it. That bothered me, but I trusted the investigation would prove this was just an accident.
I was wrong. I was so very wrong. The investigation was determined to be valid. I was livid. I was not speechless. I was beyond livid. What kind of investigator does not look at all the facts—all the possibilities of what could have happened?? I insisted the toy was taken to my daughter’s attorney, who agreed with me she was sure my grandson had simply fallen on the toy. The daughter went through the torture of realizing she had been accused of child abuse. This is the woman who finally stood up to this “person” and said, “No More.” Yes, there are a lot of stories of women who abuse their children, but I knew my daughter was not one of them. My grown children had to go through the gamut of interrogations that ensued, including taking a lie detector test. Except my daughter, because she was pregnant. The stress of it all was almost unbearable.
“He” was relentless. “He” reported her dozens of times during the two years after she left him. “He” was sure he had “done it to her this time.” To make it all the more difficult for my daughter, she still had to take the boys to see him every week for supervised visitation.
Then it happened. I got a phone call on Saturday, August 3, 2013. My daughter could hardly speak. She lost little Addison Marie. She knew she had not felt her move in the past week but she didn’t pay much attention to it. The doctor confirmed Addison was gone. She just stopped growing. She was no longer alive. My heart almost couldn’t take it. How? Why? Anger burned within me. I knew why this happened. Surely the God of all grace, mercy and love would not allow this to go unpunished!
I immediately went to be with my daughter and took care of the boys while my daughter and her husband went to the hospital to have the D&C. My grief was mixed with anger. I watched the now young woman who I had raised, loved and nurtured, go through the loss of her own child. So very hard. My soul was vexed. How could someone be so cold and hard-hearted?
Eventually, there was a hearing on the alleged abuse charges. My daughter and her husband were completely exonerated. Even so, the stress and heartbreak proved to be too much for this young couple and so as with the loss of their child, their marriage ended as well. I arrived at another level of realization of the injustices that can occur.
What I have to hold on to is what the Lord continues to remind me, “Vengeance is mine says the Lord.” I’ve learned though, keep on talking. Keep on trying until someone listens. The should’ve, could’ve and would’ve of me knowing the truth about the toy almost ate me alive. People are human. People make mistakes. We all process through our own thoughts and experiences. Yes…I know. But why didn’t I just charge into the investigator’s office and demand to speak to her supervisor and insist they look at this toy and the probability, at least possibility he fell on the toy that caused the marks on his back?? It took a long time for me to get over this. But I hold on to the hope of knowing God is able to work all of this out and that God will heal us all from this whole ordeal and the loss of Addison and bring justice on our behalf. Recompense. That’s what I want.
I’m learning God’s grace is so much greater. His love is vast and incomprehensible. His forgiveness is freeing. Mercy is everlasting. Yes. Amen.
Each time I saw the boys, my youngest grandson wanted to dance with me. He would stand on my feet as I waltzed through the room to the tune of “Somewhere My Love” (music written by Maurice Jarre). He loved it. After Addison died, I penned my heart to the tune of that song. May the God of all comfort, grace, and mercy give us strength to walk through the grief and heartache of this life.
There are no guarantees in life. There are surprises tucked within the curve of every turn. He was such a good baby. He hardly ever cried, except of course when he was hungry or cold. He set his own time clock and he held firmly to it as a baby. He was a night owl from early on. I knew something was very different about him, although I wasn’t too concerned. Every child develops differently, and the doctors voiced no concern. He was so bright, so full of life, and he could communicate in every nonverbal way…and I understood him.
He was growing to be a normal male in every sense of the word, even down to the part where he got easily frustrated when he “couldn’t make things work” the way he wanted them to. He brought so much joy, even to his sister who quickly saw herself as “second mama” and the only natural choice to be his “teacher.” He loved his sister and would stand at the door and cry every time she went outside to play with her friends if he wasn’t allowed to go with her. Every day set a new level of achievement in the learning curve. Even so, I thought it strange that even at 18 months old, he was still not verbal. He made sounds, grunts, sat down in the floor and cried out of frustration but he would not speak. At two and a half years old, he finally started repeating words and by the time he was three, it became apparent he had listened intently and was learning everything he was being taught, because once he finally started talking, it seemed he would never stop. But I didn’t mind. At least he was finally talking.
Although my heart’s desire was to work at home, I had to spend time working away from home in order to get experience. During this time, I had to depend on childcare. I knew something wasn’t quite right, but after my son being kicked out of two childcares for erroneous reasons, I had more on my plate to deal with trying to find childcare so I could continue working, rather than exhaust every idiosyncrasy to see what was “wrong” with my son. By God’s grace and divine provision, I found a woman who kept kids in her home, and she didn’t mind if my son was a little “busy” and tended to be “easily frustrated.” She felt sure she could work with him. And work with him well, she did. My son responded well to her too. He was growing, adjusting and showing signs of high intelligence. By the time my son was four, I was able to teach him how to use a computer and play simple computer games. He was able to identify colors, shapes, numbers, the alphabet and even simple counting games on the computer.
He had a heart as big as the Atlantic. Compassion for others abounded in him, especially all of God’s creepy-crawly creation. God help us all if he saw anyone mistreat his favorite jumpers–frogs. “Stop! Don’t hurt God’s creation!” he would say. He was grossly misunderstood by most people, but I understood him. When the teachers at church couldn’t handle him, I would always say just under my breath, “One day, he’s gonna knock your socks off.” I knew God had great plans for him.
Finally, Kindergarten was here. I was so excited about how he was growing and learning. I was sure he had learned enough to be ready for this new beginning. My son would be in school all day and since his sister’s school was next door to his, she would walk him home and stay with him until I got home from work. Life was good. Everything was coming together for us, again. At least, I thought so.
It wouldn’t be long until my first meeting with the teacher. I had become used to getting calls about my daughter, but now I would get calls about my 5-year-old son. “He had a stick in his hand and was turning and turning and turning around in circles and he hit a little girl upside the head with the stick. She went home with a pump knot on her forehead. I assured the girl’s parents this would be handled and would not happen again.” To which I assured her it would not happen again. Although no one else endured injury as a result of my son’s inability to understand how what he was doing was affecting those around him, the phone calls and insistence that I take him to a doctor and have him put on medicine to make him sit still in class continued. There was only one problem. The doctor refused until all testing was done. This would take months. Finally, the summer before 1st grade, he received a diagnosis that would permit medication. Unfortunately, time would prove that the diagnosis of ADHD was incorrect.
Even with medication, 1st grade would prove to be too stimulating for my son to adhere to strict classroom rules and I was called by the alternative school officer. He quickly surmised my son’s current condition of disruptive behavior was due to my being a single parent, “I mean no offense,” he said. He simply went on to imply that my son was “the type” who needed the firm hand (of a dad) to disciple him. I was told that if my son’s disruptive behavior did not stop, my son would be sent to the school’s Alternative Learning Class. First grade. Six. Years. Old. Incredible.
We moved to a different town, changing to a new school. At the very same time, the Lord opened the doors for me to come home to work. Talk about perfect timing. Yes…look at God go! My son did well. He grew, learned and developed. He had his quirks, but don’t we all. It was when we moved back to my hometown to get my daughter into a safe environment after run-ins with the law due to drugs and alcohol that would prove more challenging than before.
He did okay until the fourth grade. He just couldn’t keep up with the homework assignments. I mean he literally could not keep up with keeping them organized in a folder. He also couldn’t cope with changing classes. It was more than he could handle. Talking with the school was of no help. In my plea for help and trying to explain my son to them, they saw me as “making excuses” once again. We changed schools again, this time to a small, private school. There were only five in his class. Perfect. My son was flourishing. Then God….
When I moved back to my hometown, God told me it would only be for a few years and then he would move me forward into the “plans” he has for me. After a few years, the time came for me and my son to move…again. By this time, my daughter had graduated high school and was starting a life of her own with her husband and new baby. So, at the appointed time, I packed up me and my son, and we moved onward…forward…another new beginning. This time, it would be to a new state where we knew no one. Absolutely no one. But I knew since I knew it was God, and God had more than once confirmed this move was directed by him, I knew God would provide for everything. I stood firm and confident in my faith in him.
New beginning. That’s an understatement. My son left a school of total population of about 40 to a school of total population of about 1500. I was concerned about culture shock. But not him. He was so excited! He had calculated all the new friends and new adventures he would encounter at a school this size. It started out great too. His grades stayed high. As and Bs. His teachers were elated. He was essentially ahead of the class as far as the information being taught at the time on that grade level. Then things changed. My son became more withdrawn. He wasn’t completing all of his assignments and his grades started dropping. Something was very wrong. I took him to the doctor. They tried different medications but the situation was not improving. They tried raising the dose, but it was clear my son was spiraling into depressive/anxiety episodes at a rate faster than anyone could manage. The fact my son was becoming a teenager only served to complicate matters.
I knew socially, he didn’t easily fit in. He just couldn’t seem to connect with and understand basic social cues and his insistence of voicing his opinion of expertise was not always well received by others, but he was learning to take his differences in stride. His growth and development was progressing each year, but he was always about two years younger than his age group emotionally. At the same time, he was always about two years ahead of them intellectually. It was most definitely hard to find balance. Even as a child, my son never met a stranger, but after most of the kids in the neighborhood met him, they began to run the other way when they saw him coming.
My son sought out help among kids at school. Suddenly, I didn’t recognize the names of the people he referred to as friends. A meeting with a teacher would expose his demeanor in class had changed drastically when he started involving himself with kids who did not have his best interest at heart. He desperately wanted friends and he didn’t care who it was. When I began redirecting him, his aggression became more directed at me. He adamantly defended his new friends, of whom he had no understanding. I tried to fit the pieces together.
He finally got old enough to fulfill his life-long ambition of playing football. I thought this would be the answer for his woes. He worked and worked and was allowed on the team. He was even made one of the captains because the coach said he “had heart.” Even as hard as he tried, he simply couldn’t get the hang of the plays and there were, of course, plenty of negative backlash from diehard fans who could not resist the opportunity to voice their grievances. This only served to drive my son into further despair. He found another outlet that he enjoyed. And this he was really good at! Acting. That boy could play a drunk better than anyone I’ve ever seen on TV. And, I’m not saying that just because I’m his biggest fan. He is really gifted. He could easily displace himself into whatever character he chose. His foreign accents were quite realistic as well. I was beaming and more than encouraging. I was even trying to get him involved in community theater. However, time would prove the joy he received through this would be short-lived.
All the years of being laughed at, mocked, beat up, (which started when he was 6 years old when his head was pounded against a brick wall) and ostracized finally took its toll. When my son was 13 he started cutting himself. The doctors tried different medications but none seemed to work. I tried to talk to my son but every time he felt cornered, he became more aggressive. All my efforts to help my son were failing. When my son turned 14, he tried to hang himself. Later, he told me this wasn’t the first time he tried to commit suicide. Thank God, his attempts failed. By God’s amazing grace, my son tried one last time to reach out. He texted a friend who immediately told a teacher, who then immediately called me. She gave me intervention information and after a phone call, two women were knocking on my door to talk to my son. That fast. They were able to convince my son there was hope, that people really do care and there was help available for him. He agreed to go. After immediate stabilization, my son was admitted to long-term hospitalization.
With the many trials, tribulations, ups and downs we’ve been through, I would have never imagined that just 15 years earlier I would be facing this—and oh my! This was hard. Especially, with no family close by to support us. I know we’re never alone. God is always walking with us—through it all! But this…wow. Working at home can keep a person isolated. We attended church each week and made a few friends there, and I know they were praying for us, his pastors certainly reached out to him, but I didn’t have any friends I could “hang out with.” But God…
I had volunteered with the mobile medical unit at our church a couple of months earlier. During that time, I met a woman who was going to school to become a psychologist. She told me about her son, whom she found she had to be his advocate because of the unique nature of his disability. She also told me of a therapist who was her “God send” and had been so helpful to her and her son. I listened intently and didn’t think much more about it. Until my son’s hospitalization that is. The Lord told me to “call her,” which I did. I asked for her therapist’s information. After one meeting with this woman and her non-stop series of questions, we both knew what was going on with my son. My son was born autistic.
I spoke with my son’s hospital therapist and he immediately responded with, I agree, there is something deeper going on here. I began to write memories of his behavior from the time he was born. Memories started flooding my mind almost faster than I could write them down. Pages and pages of memories. After a few weeks of in-hospital treatment where my son could be observed on a daily basis in every conceivable irritating, frustrating circumstance of his stay there, his therapist confirmed what I deep inside knew all along. He told me he was convinced my son had Asperger’s disorder. My son’s psychiatrist confirmed this diagnosis and my son was finally properly diagnosed. My son did not have “the worst case of ADHD I’ve ever seen” after all. He was autistic. Why was he not diagnosed properly before now? Half the battle is knowing the right questions to ask, and I certainly didn’t. But God…
At our next family session, my son’s therapist and I met and informed Aaron of the newly discovered diagnosis. We went to great lengths to explain to my son what Asperger’s disorder is and what exactly it looks like. I wish I could have bottled my son’s expression of relief. “Now it makes sense. All this time I thought I was a —-.” No. My son was by no means a loser. Yes, he was different, but I had always been able to see the greatness inside of him.
I wish I could say the road to recovery was that simple, but it was not. My son underwent a few more years of therapy and two more in-patient stays due to major depression and anxiety. But there is a light at the end of this tunnel. God is so concerned about every detail of our lives. Especially when our hurt is so dark we can hardly breathe. By his unique and divine intervention, God hand-picked the therapists, caregivers and friends who loved my son right where he was, even when my son showed every sign of being unlovable. They helped my son obtain the courage to step out of his fear, out of feeling abandoned and out of his loneliness to embrace the beauty of the uniqueness God made in him. Through this, my son stepped out in faith to allow God to love him too. Once my son made that enormous step, his life has never been the same.
My son will tell you, his relationship with God is unique. It doesn’t look the same as anyone else’s. But, that’s how it’s supposed to be, because that’s how God is. He meets us where we are—in the beauty of our uniqueness, in the beauty of who he has created us to be. God will do that with you too. He will do that with all who are willing to give him a chance.
I look back on my life and at many points in my life, my life could have ended, as it could have for each of my children. But God…. The Lord showed me once how much easier it is when we cease striving and allow God to pick up the broken pieces of our lives. I look back at the brokenness of my son and look at him now and can see God’s handiwork each step of the way. God truly hears the cries of our spirits, and it is God who is able to pick up the broken pieces of our lives and make us whole. Today, my son actually smiles. He knows God loves him just the way he is. He knows it is God who has picked up the broken pieces of his life and is working his plan in and through my son.
I started writing this song in the year of 1996. I could only get as far as the chorus and was not able to finish it. After my divorce, I was awarded the house but not the property. We lived in a modular home so it could be moved. There was one problem. We had underpinned the house with cinderblock and the house could not be moved until the cinderblock was removed. So me and a friend of mine got up early one morning with our sledgehammers and proceeded to tear down the wall. After about an hour I was spent. I do not remember a time in my life I experienced such complete exhaustion. I was so sore I could hardly move for the next four days. Literally. I found every muscle in my body and they were screaming “you’ve gone too far this time!” What was I thinking?? But, my determination paid off. Through that experience, the Lord spoke to me. A few days later other friends came and helped me pick up all of the broken pieces of cinderblock to dispose of them. As I was picking up those broken pieces of cinderblock, the Lord spoke to me and said, “Isn’t it easier picking up those broken pieces than it was to break them up? Let me pick up the broken pieces of your life. I can put the pieces back together and make you better than before.” God is faithful and has done just that for me and for my kids. The rest of this song was inspired by the events of my sons life.
Now, you know the rest of the story. Hold on to hope. New strength will come. See the dawn break with the rising sun. Your best days are soon to come. Reach for the hand of His perfect love.
Promises, promises. I held on to them for dear life. They were my hope. They were my anchor. I hung on to them for dear life and I wasn’t going to let anyone take them from me. I held them close to my heart. In fact, for many of them, only me and God knew. That’s how I liked it. That’s how I wanted it. I never uttered a peep. That’s how I knew they were safe. Just between me and God.
As my daughter and I continued to live and grow, the Lord continued to show himself faithful. We had our valleys no doubt, but all in all, I could finally see God’s hand of favor on our lives and he constantly reaffirmed his promise to me for good and not harm, a future and a hope, and that is what kept me going through each valley. I felt a shift in our circumstances in that I saw my daughter smile when we were together. In fact, we finally started connecting in the simplicity of living day to day. Yet, there was still that “thing” inside me that wished I had made better choices. I wished I had never taken the wrong turn. I wished I had trusted God more to finish what he started in me so long ago. I wished so much…I wished with so much regret I wondered if I would ever realize the fullness of what I knew God called me to do.
Then it happened. That meeting. That encounter with God that changed me forever. It was a Tuesday night in October. The Fall air was beginning to set in but it was still plenty warm outside. Me and a friend was invited back to my “hometown church” where I served after my father was killed in the accident. It was one of those old fashioned tent revivals. A place where you could lift you hands to praise and shout “Halleluiah! Amen!” I got to see so many friends in a church where I once worshiped. It was a great night. I felt like I was walking on air.
I came home and the next night, I resumed service at my current church, which was also in revival. It was a Wednesday night. The service was powerful. The Holy Spirit was strong and the message was well-received. I found myself in tears and could not even speak to anyone at the end of service. I went home and could not make sense of the sudden shift in my emotions. I woke up the next morning (Thursday morning), still in a fog—still such a heaviness in my spirit. I knew I had to go to work. I prayed and prayed but could not find relief. Why were my emotions on such a roller coaster? Why had I gone from such a “high” to such a “low” in a matter of hours? It made no sense.
Finally, I pounded my fist on the kitchen table and said to God, “I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what’s going on!” Like a movie playing in my mind, the Lord took me through memories of when I was at my hometown church after my dad died. I was one of the church pianists. God showed me how I had served as fill-in to a community church when they had no pianist and how God had used me to bring the music to my then pastor’s revival circuit. He reminded me of the connections he made for me through local quartets and the encouragement they gave me regarding the music ministry God had given me. Then the Lord showed me where I was at the present time. He showed me how even through the bad marriage we were in, the Lord gave me strength to step out and attend the current church I was currently attending as a “safe place,” and so they could start praying for us. He showed me how if it had not been for the prayers of the people at my current church, the Satan would have caused my ex-husband to be consumed with paranoia and we would have been killed. The Lord showed me how even though I took a wrong turn, he never left me and he caused me to be delivered and placed me at a church where once again, I was serving through the gift of music he gave me. The Lord then asked me, “Can’t you see? I’ve restored you.” I was stunned. Yes, once again, with a tear-soaked face, all I could do was worship my savior.
The Lord then spoke to me and said, “Many of my people are hurting. Tell my people that I love them and I want them to come to me so I can heal them. Time is running out and I need my people working. I will use your life to bring me glory.”
I was speechless. How could God love me so much that He would still choose to use someone like me after all I had done? I was so in love with my savior I could scarcely find the words to utter my praise to him. The Lord began to tell me some of the things he was preparing for me—really great things that I held deep in my heart and well within God’s keeping power. The date was October 19, 1996. God had already anointed me to write and earlier that year, I asked God to give me a song that I could give back to him, to bring him glory. The song, “You Love Even Me” would become prophetic for even me, as this year ended and the next year began to unfold.
I stayed on that “mountain top” for a long time. Our lives were becoming more settled and my direction clearer. Then it happened. In my normal course of daily living, I had another encounter—of the unholy kind. I had for most of my life walked with compassion in my heart for others—since I was a little girl. That’s how God made me. After God’s deliverance and healing in my life from certain destruction, I held deep reverence for God and for the commissioned call he had on my life. What I did not clearly understand was the enemy who seeks to steal, kill and destroy. What I didn’t clearly understand was when God opens our ears to hear, we must learn to discern. We must not allow ourselves to be deceived while we walk in compassion for others. What I had not been fully prepared for was as much as I loved my savior, there was still work that needed to be done in me. I needed understanding that goes with knowledge. I needed wisdom that goes along with that new level of faith and upward movement from glory to glory. I needed to take God at his word and never waver from his truth. I needed to crucify my flesh and above all, I needed to guard my heart.
With my own life, I already knew how God’s grace was able to save a soul and change a life. My life was far from perfect, so for God to reach down and lift me out of a pit and set me on a firm foundation only confirmed to me that he could do it for anyone.
It was a day like any other day. I remember it as if it were yesterday. I was changing out the pump signs with our new specials and making sure our gassing stations were clean and tidy. I had committed to the Lord to use my business as a lighthouse in the community for his glory, which we did every day. People began to seek out our convenience store for a place to shop, noting that the scrolling sign on the pump telling them that “Jesus Loves You” brought them great encouragement. I offered customers hope through a smile, word of encouragement and a gospel tract anyone could pick up free of charge. I also offered local ministries and churches the opportunity to make extra money by having a car wash on my lot. I was cautioned against doing this due to the cost, since we were already experiencing financial difficulties, but I knew the cost was low compared to the change in the atmosphere of our community that was bearing the existence of two active gangs. I knew I was where I was supposed to be, doing what I was supposed to be doing and for as long as God allowed me to be there, I would continue forward.
One of the men in a local ministry I was helping came up to me and asked me a question. It was as if he had been painted on from head to toe. I mean, the man loved tattoos. But who was I to judge. Then the man added, “When God saved me, I looked in the mirror and I had doubts.” He went on to say, “God told me he saw my heart and change would start there.” I knew what he meant. God’s grace. Then I heard it. “The Voice.” You know—that soft voice. That whisper. It said, “Will you consider him?” In my heart, I knew what it meant. God already told me he was preparing to bring me a husband and together we would spread the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world. At first, I didn’t think much of it. But it was persistent.
As the days and weeks went on, me and this man would have more conversations. Before you know it, we began to pray for one another. Even though there were obvious differences, I knew what God was able to do—after all, I knew what God did for me. I was cautioned by those who knew me. I was cautioned by those who knew him. This is what is called being surrounded by Godly counsel, as God says there is safety in the counsel of many. Here’s where a person is supposed to “heed to Godly counsel.” I might add, this is not a time for the righteousness of God to become prideful. After all, I knew it was God’s voice I heard. Right?? Time went on and we eventually became engaged to be married. The rings were bought. The date was set. Now, here’s where many people may have their own opinions, but I’ve learned, there is a reason God sets certain boundaries for us to follow—not so we can have a boring life, but for our own good, safety and well being.
What happened next shook me to the core on the foundation God had so painstakingly built for me to be planted on. A person’s true character is seen not when things are good or events are running smoothly. A person’s true character is seen when the fire is the hottest, and the fire that was set ablaze against us was burning hotter and hotter. It was only weeks before we were to be married. Plans were being made and it seemed things were coming together as planned. I had not been feeling well but was at a loss to understand why—probably just because I was making another one of the biggest life-changing decisions of my life. Then the final straw was placed on what became known as the pile of sinking sand. I found out I was pregnant.
In an instant, I felt myself spiral into a place of utter aloneness. One could best describe it as a place of complete darkness. Thoughts of myself as the minister God called me to be were suddenly thrown into a heap of “you failed” and “you’re worthless” all over again. To add fuel to the fire, I remembered him growing anxious because I kept putting off the wedding. I had that “stinging feeling within me” and I voiced my concerns to him. I said, “What’s wrong with waiting? If its meant to be, it will be.” He reluctantly agreed, so we waited—a little while longer. My mind began racing from thoughts of his voicing his restlessness for waiting to get married to “what is everyone going to think.” I didn’t have the feelings of security of “Well, we’re almost married. It’s going to be all right.” There was nothing all right about what I was going through, what I was feeling and what I was thinking. My barometer of grace seemed to be sucked dry and I was at a loss to process it all.
Truth came in a matter of days. I met with him and told him I was pregnant. Quite frankly, his reaction came of no complete surprise to me. However, I was hopeful this was all just a bad dream and deep inside, I hoped we would get married and everything would be okay. Not. He became angry and threw the papers in his hand and said, “This is just great. How far along are you?” The conversation ended with, “I need to be alone for a while.” We met only a few more times after that. I finally accepted the fact he simply was not ready to be married, nor was he ready to be a father. He became quite relieved to hear me admit to it and with that, he left. He tucked himself away in the company of those who provided for all his needs. A place for him to become a stronger man to deal with his life.
As for me, I was left alone to handle everything. I had been down the road of taking responsibility before. I took responsibility for myself and my daughter after the abusive marriage. I would take responsibility for this too—even though it was certainly not all of my own doing. I was silent for a time. My secret was still my own for a while. I tried to sit down to the piano and find solace. It didn’t work. I tried to read God’s word. I couldn’t take it in. I tried to pray. I felt as if I was talking to the walls. Thoughts of losing all God promised me once again plagued my thoughts. My heart was broken. My soul was vexed. All I could hear was “you’re no good.” I finally stormed through the house crying and yelling at the top of my lungs, “Is this it? Have it done it now? Have I gone too far this time? Have I exhausted my grace account?” After what seems like forever, the Lord spoke, “It’s just going to be harder.”
The next day, I was standing at my kitchen sink looking into the front yard. I heard it again. The Voice. That whisper. “You know how to take care of this problem. It doesn’t have to be a problem for you.” Instantly, I felt the power of God come upon me and I said out loud, “Satan! You’re a liar! And you’re defeated by the blood of the lamb and the word of my testimony! I will have this baby!”
I was finally able to gather the courage to speak to the pastor of the church who had supported us until the time I became engaged. As difficult as all of this had been to process, he said something that set me free, at least enough to see it with a little clearer perspective. He said, “Having a baby out of wedlock is not the sin. It’s what you did to get pregnant that’s the sin.” We had a good conversation. In a stately manner, he said “You know abortion is out of the question.” I was then able to tell him “the rest of the story” about that morning he read from Jeremiah—that morning God chose to meet with me by divine intervention and face having had two abortions while I was previously married. It was also in that conversation with him I was able to tell him how Satan had tried to tempt me to do just that—abort another precious gift from God—the child I was pregnant with. No. Satan would not win this time. Not again.
I made a vow to God that day. I told God I wanted his best for my life and if I needed to stay single in order to get it, that was okay with me—and I meant it. The years ahead would prove to be very challenging to say the least. Some of our greatest challenges can become some of our greatest losses. Sometimes, those losses can bring some of our greatest blessings. The Lord prepared me though. He knows I remind him often enough that he tells us he will not keep us in the dark. He told me to prepare to go back to school and that if I would pursue a career in medical transcription, I would be able to work and provide for my kids all while being able to stay at home with them and not have to depend on someone else to care for them. This is something I longed for. God knows the desires of our hearts and whatever those may be, he will work things together to get us where we need to be to receive them. He certainly did for me.
God also knows the plans he has for us and in that he will also work all things together for our own good. I knew my business was struggling financially but I always reminded God that his word said I should owe no one anything but to walk in his love, so I expected a miracle. I was not opposed to leaving the business—I just didn’t want to leave it while being in debt. Sometimes, the Lord’s grace will deliver us so we do not have to walk through the fire. Sometimes, the Lord’s grace will carry us so we are not overtaken by the floods. Sometimes, God’s grace will rise within us and make us stronger than we could ever imagine, enough to walk through the fire and the flood. I knew God was faithful and I knew he had always been good to me. So, I knew he would see me and my two children through the yet another devastating season when I would be forced to close my business (by reason of inability to become financially soluble).
I started at the business as manager with low sales and increased a small kiosk business to more zeros per year than I had ever seen with my own eyes in my life. It was my livelihood. It was my baby. It was my identity. I felt lost and the rejection I encountered was more than I could bear. I had been trying to sell my home so I could downgrade, but time would prove it was not on my side. I lost everything. I withdrew. I couldn’t fathom what was next for us. Unknowns. Uncertainties. But all eyes were on me to provide and “fix it.”
But God… and Only God… His plan is perfect. His timing is perfect. When I finally conceded to that, I was finally able to breath. Through my family’s suggestion, I found my way into school. Amazingly, I remembered the word God spoke to me a year earlier. Indeed, this school had a medical transcription course. My heart was overjoyed! My daughter was eight years old and my son was four months old. Talk about a new beginning. It would take three years, but I did it. I made it through school—not with just one, but with two degrees. And, I made it through with honors, a 4.0 GPA. I achieved the highest honor as the overall outstanding student and was the keynote speaker of my class. I saw the glory of the Lord pierce through the darkness of every negative word I had ever heard about myself. God never ceases to amaze me with what he can do with willingness and effort. Amazing Grace—God’s love for us.
I’ve known for quite some time that my life is not my own. God has called me to something greater than I can fathom and through it all, he has never changed his mind with what that will be.
We all meet at the crossroads of “life” and “convenience,” “trust and obey” and “do it my own way.” Each choice brings its own set of circumstances, ups and downs, goods and bads. No, life is not a crapshoot. God has a plan. He has a perfect plan, a perfect will. God also gives us a choice. God tells us to choose life. Not because he a “stick in the mud” with a bunch of rules and regulations to make our lives boring, and deem our lives insignificant. And, no. God does not sit on his throne with a scepter in his hand ready and waiting to knock us over the head when we make a mistake. God loves us. All of us. Is life hard? Yes. Is life fair? No. But even so, God is good and He wants his best for us.
A friend of mine told me once, “God will pull you through if you can stand the pull.” She was right, of course. I was eventually able to forgive him for walking out on us. Just like I was able to forgive my ex-husband for all he did to us. I also came to forgive myself for what I had done. Because of God’s grace. Choose life. Choose his way. Choose his plan. His way is not always the easiest, but it is always the best. He wants us to have his best along the way. Seek him and you will find him. And, wherever life may find you today, just know, God loves you even when you make mistakes. I know his love is what keeps me going. Yes, Lord, I know “You Love Even Me.”