Are unresolved issues destroying your marriage?

In the beginning it’s white lace and promises and hopes for happily ever after. Wedding photos show the happy couple taking their vows, feeding each other cake, dancing the night away. But the honeymoon comes to a hard stop when unresolved issues unpack their bags, turning your fairytale romance into a marriage nightmare.

Words and gestures of love that came easily while dating are replaced with loveless accusations, screaming pride, and maybe even fits of rage. It’s been like this for a while and now you want to call it quits. And it’s not just a thousand little things that you hate, but it’s big things like adultery, lying, addictions, anger, pride, selfishness, and pain from the past. You don’t see anyway you can go on in your marriage.

{And there are valid reasons for divorce as I well know so my words are not in judgement or condemnation of anyone. And certainly if you are being abused in your marriage, please get out now before it’s too late.}

But as Michael and I look back over our past failures, we understand the utter devastation of divorce — emotionally, spiritually, physically and financially. And when there are children, the shock waves reverberate for decades to come. So before you call the attorney, please take a moment to settle your soul and sometimes in a deeply troubled marriage a separation is necessary.

Though one spouse’s negative contribution to the marriage may be bigger, both husband and wife add their share to the mutual mess. Unfortunately, like attracts like on some level and hurt people hurt people. You may think, I’m okay, he or she’s not, but if you take a peek at the person in the mirror you may see your own flaws, too. We all are sinners.

And since neither you nor I can change another human being, the place to start is yourself.  For even if your marriage ends, without personal healing, change and growth, you may be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past, continuing a downward dysfunctional trend.

Because when a couple marries four people show up at the altar. The lovely picture-perfect adults plus the unseen messy little boy and girl. These individuals — products of their families of origin yet never beyond breaking free of the past — bring to the marriage whatever was learned and lived during childhood in addition to their adult choices and experiences.

Maybe you had an alcoholic parent? Or maybe your parent struggled with mental illness? Perhaps both your folks drank? Were you abused in some way? Or maybe your mom and dad fought all the time until they finally got divorced? All these early traumas hurt tiny hearts that harden as a means of self-preservation, surviving the family of origin using coping mechanisms like perfectionism, control, anger, codependency. Later, using sex for love and attention, or repeating the mistakes of the previous generation and abusing or using in a vain attempt to make the pain go away.

And while these four are busy battling each other, the next generation of tiny hearts are getting hurt and learning love and life all wrong. And so it goes, generation after generation.

But God!

You’ve tried everything to eradicate your pain but despite the counseling or meds or running away, the screaming, cursing, crying tantrums remain. And in all this drama you keep running from God because maybe you don’t really believe or maybe you perceive God as a punisher. Maybe you fear working on yourself. But God is for you, your spouse, your marriage and family.

Trusting in God and purposing to live a Jesus lifestyle is the only way you can escape your pain. The ugliness won’t magically stop should you say I Do in future because you will still be there. But there’s hope! It will take time and surrendering pride, but if both you and your spouse are willing to work hard you can do it! IF you CHOOSE to CHANGE.

If you choose God.

And now I ask you what is it you really want? Do you want to end this marriage, hurt your children, keep doing life your way?

Or do you want to reach out and ask for help? Let go of the past and be free? Learn how to love and live like Jesus and reap the rewards and blessings?

It is your choice to keep or end your marriage; God will love you no matter what you decide, but please think of the potential ramifications down the road.

**Divorce hurts children making them more susceptible to future acting-out behaviors, drug abuse, promiscuity and problems in school.

**Wrecks bank accounts — attorneys fees can range in the tens of thousands.

**Forces single mothers to work long hours away from their kids just to put food on the table.

**Increases stress on multiple levels.

**Causes you to run from God in shame and guilt.

**Exposes you to sexually transmitted diseases.

**Yields abysmal loneliness.

**Renders emotional pain now and decades later when an innocent remark by an adult child makes you wonder, What if we had tried harder to heal our marriage?

Consider this true story… Years ago a thirty-something wife whose marriage was seriously bad from the start filed for divorce having grounds three times over. But the husband’s brother was a Christian who deeply believed God could change and renew their marriage. He flew in from out-of-state to share that God was the key to healing their hearts, freeing the husband of his addictions, the wife of her issues, and restoring their marriage. This brother even suffered a minor accident en route to the couple’s apartment. Undeterred he shared what God had done for him and his marriage. But neither husband nor wife would listen for they had allowed their hearts to give up and shut tight. They divorced. Their relational futures remained dismal through the ensuing years. Their little children who had witnessed awful things, grew up broken and as adults lived what they had learned from their parents — anger, fear, addictions and divorces. And I can’t help wondering what would have become of that family through the generations if that young husband and wife had decided to believe God, humble their hearts, and worked on building a new marriage and life together…

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Of pink teacups, loss recovered and Christmas…

ORNAMENT

I have spent many hours trying to fill up the empty spaces. Sacred spaces violated long ago and a pit deep filled with shadows incessantly howling. And the deficit demanding payment with unhealthy desires eager to fill the void.

Sometimes those of us who have suffered in childhood, usually at the hands of adult child parents who themselves had suffered much, can feel the lack sorely during the season of lights and festivities where jolly making seems to fill others’ lives but not our own.

We wear a smile but feel like Job and sit nursing wounds hidden deep in our hearts.

And put pain to sleep with too much booze or drugs or work or sex or food or the need to make everything Christmastime perfect.

Substances as substitutes ease the discomfort momentarily but do nothing to move our lives forward or make better the lives of those who watch and wait and love us no matter what.

Depriving the world of the gift that we are and so many losing when we won’t share our light.

But as children vulnerable, scared and defenseless, our needs went unmet and we learned to hide in the darkness, coping the best we could and giving into our cries with some secret pleasure or habit when no one else heard us.

And our bodies grew big but our hearts stayed small and our stockings at the chimney remained empty.

We chose to spoil ourselves by indulging, and to recompense our poverty and our pain in ways as varied as ruthless striving for the corner office to pricking our veins with mind altering poison.

But we never found what we were seeking so we continued searching.

Maybe the next hit or the new relationship would finally satisfy our hungry hearts and our lives would change and we would be happy.

My Michael and I searched long and hard, too, with messy tracks left in our wakes and it was only at the funeral of our selfish selves all broken that we found what we were looking for.

And while the finding and the being found has ended our senseless, sinful searching we still love to treasure hunt, but now for fun and sometimes profit.

MELMAC

Last spring with garage sales galore, amidst greasy motorcycle parts and furniture that smelled musty, I found a pink Melmac teacup and saucer just like the one in which my mother made me sugary milk tea when I was very young.

I snatched it up immediately for it held a sweet memory from the rubble of my childhood.

MAs UTENSILS

And in the back of an old barn sale up in the country last summer I found utensils that were the same as my grandmother’s when I was six and in their kitchen for Saturday supper and her and my Poppy cooking pot roast, crusted potatoes and kapusta {sauerkraut browned with pork fatback}.

And us eating together.

A few more childhood relics made their way home with me until the thought occurred that perhaps I was trying — in some back of the brain, little girl-heart way — to recover my childhood lost.

But we can never retrieve a childhood lost. And seeking pleasure and relief from our pain in unhealthy ways only brings more unhappiness.

We must let go, letting God fill in all the cracks in our hearts.

PUDDLE

And yesterday on the eve of Christmas Eve it was all drippy and gray outside and I hadn’t slept well in several nights following my Michael’s successful but very painful sinus surgery and I am battling melancholy regardless of mistletoe.

Our tree twinkles bright and cheery but I sit at my computer with fingers cold and feeling tired and memories mingle so I ask the Author of my story what He would have me write. He gently reminds that I am tired and need to think on things lovely, but says that in the sadness of my story others can be helped.

And He brings me back to this snowy day before Christmas long ago and us taking the bus to visit my aunt who had recently escaped my father’s very abusive brother. She had gotten herself and her children safe in a new apartment on the west side of the city.

Covered in snowflakes we came in out of the cold and all I remember was how pretty her tree looked — and so very perfect with ornaments and lights carefully placed — and a beautiful beige carpet all clean and new.

We took off our shoes.

And it felt like I was standing somewhere holy. And maybe it was for there was a peace in that tiny apartment that I didn’t feel at my home where too much beer lead to nightly brawling and my heart always balling and me wanting to curl into a ball and hide.

When we returned home I sought to make our place as perfect as I could. My elementary school girl self got busy cleaning and tidying and trying to put things right in such a way as to help my broken heart feel whole.

Controlling that which was in my meager ability to control in a childhood world all out of control.

CHRISTMAS 66

But our tree.

It was filled with ornaments made by little fingers and it didn’t look perfect like my aunt’s and there was nothing I could do about that.

Except feel sad.

I wanted our Christmas tree to be perfect because I wanted my life to be perfect.

{Looking back, that tree I once thought of as messy touches my heart tender because my mom thought that handmade ornaments were worthy of display. And that is a good memory tucked inside my heart!}

But the deficit in days gone by demanded payment and the pain would not leave. And the little school girl grew up and graduated into a host of issues and choices bad for many years that have taken longer still to unravel and set straight. Peeling a death grip off the steering wheel of control as I drove myself nearly crazy striving for perfection.

But life is not perfect. Life is messy. And always in the middle of messy is glory like a newborn baby’s cry.

For no matter how hard or how long we work on ourselves we can’t ever fix the hole in our hearts by ourselves.

We can only offer it.

Our brokenness a humble oblation to the One born on Christmas Day.

Decorating our gift with tears and longings true that only the One who left heaven to come live among heathen hurting can transform into something lovely as He makes us more lovely and like Himself.

Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:48

BABY JESUS

Our best gift ever is the babe in a manger for we all need a savior but how our sins separate.

And in our darkness dreary we cry yet continue running circles until we run out of steam all spent from the long and arduous journey and we come to the end of the line and get off the merry-go-round express going nowhere fast and fall slow into the arms of love that have long been waiting.

And the dirt and the hate and the hurts lacking hope and the sins smothering smiles don’t matter so long as we come.

Come to the stable for that is where stability begins and that is where, in our dark and hurting world, we find hope.

HOPE ETERNAL.

For unto you this day in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.
Luke2:11-14

Greatest gift ever, unlike any other, offers forgiveness, taking away of our sins in a blood bath that washed us clean so that we can start fresh.

And any day can be Christmas when you welcome Christ home to your heart.

So stop standing at the door outside begging but never entering in.

Lost. Lonely. Loveless.

And empty.

There is room for you in Christ.

God can and will help you.

So come on bended knee, bowing before our child-God as a little child needy.

Giving up all that you cling to and thinking that in yourself you can make it better when only God can kiss away the boo-boos and call a do over in your life.

And only as we humble our hearts, once haughty and hurting, and give it all up, opening our hands and letting go.

Free falling into the everlasting arms of love.

And Him always catching us…

~sheila

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An open letter from an abusive step-dad {or any parent} asking forgiveness when he truly surrenders his heart to Love…Domestic Violence Awareness in October–Day 26

SORRY MAN

[October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. And while most abusers NEVER STOP, those that truly give their hearts to God can. These words are shared as an open letter to all of us who have been abused, for regardless of what our abusers do or do not do, we must forgive in order to be free and heal. (And if you are in an abusive situation, get out now — CALL National Domestic Violence Hotline  1-800-799-SAFE (7233) ) PLEASE SHARE THIS POST on your social media sites. It could help set someone free. Thank you.]

My dearest child,

I failed you. And I have acted wickedly for years.

Hurting you time and again with words and actions and stupid, extreme punishments that I wrongly said were God’s will.

And nothing can take back all the wrong I did.

I am so sorry. Please forgive me.

I was twisted and selfish and that’s not an excuse, but it is what it is.

And I tried to love and follow God, but didn’t do it well because in my brokenness I couldn’t grasp how very much God loves me. And without really having His love in my heart I couldn’t truly love another.

I didn’t realize how broken I am inside.

You see, I also was wounded when young. By my dad, and mom. And then by a step-dad who thankfully didn’t last too long. Just long enough to add to my messiness inside.

And I let all this pent up rage, fear, frustration, and confusion mix with alcohol and substances, and then it came out all mean and cutting.

And feeling bad and sad, I only forgot my pain when hurting someone else.

When hurting you.

I know it’s all sick and sinful, and half the time I wasn’t fully aware of how dangerous I was, and I am so ashamed of myself.

But God.

For only He can truly heal me. And you, too, my sons and my daughters.

So I have given Jesus my heart and asked Him to forgive me.

And for the first time in all my years of going to church and putting on the Sunday morning face and then coming home and acting out all crazy to you and your mom, I realize just how awful I have been to live with.

And how I have never acted in true love towards any of you.

And it didn’t matter how many Praise Gods I uttered in the pew, or scripture verses I could spout, I was nothing but a stinking, nasty mess behind closed doors.

But God.

He never wastes our hurts but uses them to make us more loving when we surrender to Him.

And somewhere mixed up inside I really did want to give you the life I never had.

One with a mom and dad in a solid marriage, loving God and each other passionately, and this providing a strong foundation that would help you grow into honorable men and women with hearts that long to be good for goodness sake.

But I didn’t hit the mark, leaving instead black and blue marks on your heart and elsewhere. Just like my dad did.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

And words from a former victim helped me see myself in the face of the abuser, God showing me how violent and abusive I have been.

I am sorry. I have been so wrong. Please forgive me.

And I know you don’t believe me today, for I have said I am sorry before, even publicly admitting to others that I can be a brute.

But this time something inside me has changed and I can’t even put words to it for it is all so new.

I know that God loves me. Really loves me. And He’s not like the god my parents threatened me with. Or I threatened you with.

How sorry I am for teaching you about God all wrong.

With more legalism than love, sharing doctrine and rules and church regulations, modeling for you the characteristics of a selfish, wounded man instead of portraying for you the sacrificial love of Christ.

His love that is unconditional and everlasting, gentle and kind, never giving up on any of us.

Because I finally get that He really loves me, my heart feels lighter, full of true love.

I have hope.

And I have forgiven my old man all the times he beat me. My mom, too, for not standing up to him, but she was afraid of him. I choose to forgive myself for hurting you, although I am working through a boat load of self-loathing right now.

But God.

And in trusting God, my heart will heal and I will keep letting go, letting Him have His way with me.

And asking God to bless those who have hurt me, and those I hurt, setting us all free with love that heals.

Big drops fall from my eyes as I write these words. My heart pierced by my sin and abusiveness towards you, my precious sons, my darling daughters.

And I promise that I am a new man in Christ and I will never again raise my hand to you, or my voice with angry hate-filled words.

I beg you to search your heart one more time.

Please consider forgiving me. And then seek God for your own healing.

And if you will, and when time and love allows me to earn your trust, I pray that we can rebuild a relationship that is really what God would have it be.

I cannot change one second of the past, but I can work hard at recovery, receiving His amazing grace every step of the way, and making our tomorrows full of love and healthy relationship.

I ask God to help you forgive me and let go, for when you do the depression, anger, resentment, fear, shame, humiliation, negativity, angry acting out, mean words, hurt feelings, isolation, lethargy, procrastination, lack of hope, will begin to lift and leave you — one day at a time.

And my words may sound trite and only time will prove them true. I provided you an early life of dysfunction, fear, extreme control and abuse. And while I remember what it was like to be scared and hurt as a kid, I don’t know what you went through in your heart of hearts during the chaos I caused.

And my remorse would drive me crazy if not for Him and I will always live with the fact that I inflicted great pain, but because of grace I will not be held back by it any longer. Instead I go forward to help others.

LOVE-SHOULDNT-HURT 2

I am so sorry I hurt you.

Like that time on the steps out the front door, and your leg getting hurt when I shoved you.

Or that night of so many when I argued with Mom, and then ran down the hall banging on your door and waking you dazed from a sound sleep. And you so very frightened, crying “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.”

Or the time on vacation, when you were playing and didn’t come quickly enough when called and in my impatience I lifted you up over a stone wall and your tummy scraped.

Or the countless times of extreme punishment for not cleaning your rooms to rubric perfection, and me a dictator over a tiny candy wrapper found under the far side of your bed and you being made to go to sleep an hour early for a week.

Or being forced to finish a second hamburger that you really couldn’t .

Or sent out for hours in the hot sun to rake the woods and clear the back edge of the yard, with me standing over you like a prison guard seeking absolute perfection and ready to punish for anything less.

Or all those horrible words and names I called you, belittling your personhood.

Or making you sit in the punishment chair for hours over some stupid, minor infraction.

It was all so crazy and I was so crazy and I am sorry I hurt you and didn’t protect you as dads are supposed to. I was so wrong. Please forgive me.

And the worst of it was I did it in God’s name, saying that He didn’t want me to spare the rod. But God is not about punishment, but about saving us from our sins and loving us. I defiled God’s good name, pushing you away from Him who loves you best of all.

And I hurt your mom in front of your tender eyes and hearts.

Always screaming and cursing and calling her stupid, and that she must submit to me. And hitting her when she didn’t. And she was broken too, even before we married, and so afraid.

So please forgive her, too.

As a man of God, I take full responsibility for everything that happened in our home. Husbands and dads are called by God to guide their wives and children in love.

But I was such a jerk.

I modeled, son, how to hurt a woman just because a man is stronger and he can.

And I taught you, daughter, that it’s okay for you to allow a man to push you around, using and abusing you.

And then I strutted like a peacock proud when you did something wrong, condemning and judging when I had no right, and myself all the more guilty.

And Jesus, He NEVER wanted for women or children to be abused, or men.

Submission is given in love to a man who truly serves and sacrifices for his family, with love and respect a two way street. Her respecting as he loves, and him loving as she respects, and round and round a healthy cycle goes with more and more good.

And God loves men and women equally, and submission is one to the other out of reverence for Christ. And men are to be servant leaders, laying down their all for wife and family, never seeking to control just because they can wield power over those weaker or smaller.

But I was messed up, my children, and took you along for the crazy ride. And no amount of words will ever change the past.

I am so very sorry. I was so very wrong. Please forgive me.

And this dark chapter cast a shroud over your childhood, impacting your heart with wounds that will linger until handed over to Jesus for complete healing.

Wounds that can make you limp through life – living only a half life – coloring dark your world and marriages and potentially infecting your own children some day.

And only God can truly heal our hearts, using the pain of our past for good purposes.

My prayer is that you will continue to open your heart to God, thinking deep and discovering for yourself who He really is and how much He loves you and will never leave you.

And I pass along to you today some very good advice that an older and wiser man recently gave me.

***Pretend you have never heard a word about God, good or bad.

***Read the gospel of John and then the other three gospels, asking the Spirit to reveal to your hurting heart who God really is and how deeply you are loved by Him.

***Ask Him to fill your heart with healing love, really knowing Jesus.

***Then seek Him for the true purpose of your life here on earth – loving God and others with your whole heart.

As men like me lay down their lives to follow Christ truly, the terrible and repetitive cycles of abuse will end.

So I stand before God and say, “I am sorry, Lord, Forgive me. I want to change and stop abusing. Break the bad of my past with your Love.”

And I pray that no matter what you experienced growing up with me that you choose Love which sets you free to truly live the wonderful life God has planned for you.

For without forgiving you will remain a prisoner. Your life will lack, those you love will suffer, and true joy and peace will be elusive.

You, my sons, and you my sweet daughters, are wonderful and amazing and God has great, good plans for your life. I love you, my children as never before. Thank you for forgiving me.

Now go BE FREE in Him who died for you and bless others with the gift that is YOU.

Love,
Your very sorry dad

[October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. And while most abusers NEVER STOP, those that truly give their hearts to God can. These words are shared as an open letter to all of us who have been abused, for regardless of what our abusers do or do not do, we must forgive in order to be free and heal. (And if you are in an abusive situation, get out now — CALL National Domestic Violence Hotline  1-800-799-SAFE (7233) ) PLEASE SHARE THIS POST on your social media sites. It could help set someone free. Thank you.]

 

 

Today’s post is Day 26 of a #31days series called First comes Love…

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Their love saved my life – Day 23 First comes love series {Domestic Violence Awareness in October}

PRINCESS

PRINCESS SHEILA

PRINCESS CARD

[October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. PLEASE SHARE THIS POST on your social media sites. It could help save a woman’s life. Thanks.]

They wanted me to know how very much I was loved.

And that I didn’t have to stay in an abusive second marriage.

So they hosted a birthday party fit for a princess ten years ago, the day I turned 44.

The day after  I got up the courage — finally understanding the danger my sons and I were in — and took decisive action to have a deeply wounded and highly abusive alcoholic removed from my home by the sheriff’s department.

“You should have done this sooner, Mom.”

And there will never be enough words to let my boys know how sorry I am that I didn’t.

How I wish I never married a man that I knew somewhere deep inside — including right before I walked down the aisle – was bad for me, and them.

How much I regret the poorest choice of my life and the pain it inflicted into their young lives, leaving scars to this day.

But the past is the past and God’s grace works healing in all of us when we choose to cry out to Him for help and then forgive those who have hurt us.

And sometimes it means forgiving more than once when something triggers a memory.

And forgiving ourselves.

Yet redemption is found in the very things that hurt us the most as God uses them to draw us close to Himself in unswerving allegiance.

But it still hurts and takes time to work through.

October-is-Domestic-Violence-Awareness-Month

Recently I was speaking with a woman and we were sharing about our pasts. She couldn’t understand why a woman would stay with a man who abused her.

And unless you’ve been in a situation like I was during those three years that didn’t end soon enough, you probably can’t understand either.

Researchers have found that some people are more likely to become the victims of domestic violence than others, sharing these characteristics:

  • Poor self-image.
  • Puts up with abusive behavior.
  • Economically and emotionally dependent on the abuser.
  • Uncertain of his or her own needs.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Believes wrongly that he or she can change the abuser.
  • Feels powerless to stop violence.
  • Believes jealousy is proof of love.
  • Grew up with abuse and thinks it is normal.

While both men and women can suffer domestic abuse, the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 95 percent of the assaults on partners or spouses is committed by men against women.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I share my story so that other women may know that they can leave.

Help

Maybe you know a woman and suspect she is being abused. I urge you to speak up in love. You just might save her life.

Tell her that there are safe people and safe places for her and her children. And that the time to leave is NOW before she winds up a statistic in a morgue and her children become part of the system.

Or maybe my words are resonating with you today. And maybe you need to make a phone call …

National Domestic Violence Hotline — 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Maybe you are married to an abusive man who may or may not abuse substances and may only abuse you with words, not fists. And you keep telling yourself that he doesn’t hit you, as if that makes the control and verbal assaults more acceptable.

Maybe you walk on eggshells believing that if only you were perfect he would stop hurting you. If you were thinner or prettier or cooked better, that he wouldn’t hit you.

But no matter how hard you try he doesn’t stop.

Maybe you saw your mom put up with abuse and you wrongly learned that this is okay.

Perhaps you think it the godly thing to stay in a marriage — that is really no marriage at all — and allow your children to witness and learn abuse, or be abused themselves.

Maybe there are days when he acts like Mr. Wonderful being kind and gentle and lavishing you with good gifts. And you think he is changing — until the next time his anger rises and you have to run for cover.

Perhaps you keep hoping that things will be different and he will become your Prince Charming.

But he never does. Statistically, only one percent of abusers ever change.

Or perhaps, like me, you feel like you will let God down after all the other mistakes you have made.

And maybe your pastor tells you something like mine once did:

“No matter how harshly he treats you, you must submit because he is your husband.”

Or clergy chastises you — seeking to control — for being “overly emotional” and threatens to call child protective services.

And you are so afraid because he is the pastor and he has authority over you that you keep your mouth shut and keep taking the abuse.

Yet God says that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church and pastors are set as guardians over their flock.

But sometimes men — or women — in places of authority abuse the power of their office.

And it is said that hurt people are the ones that hurt other people and maybe they were too.

Maybe an uncle sexually abused a boy who grew up to pastor a church, doing so with absolute control.

Or a mom burnt her son with cigarettes when he didn’t listen the first time and the pain made him hurt mean like a junk yard dog and when he played the role of step-father he did so with anger and legalism, not love.

POINTED

Maybe you are reading my words right now and you recognize that YOU are the abuser.

Truth be told, anyone can abuse another in any way. With my mouth in anger I have abused, using words to cut and destroy.

We all have a propensity towards evil that can only be overcome by Love.

LOVE CARD

But a decade ago, on that birthday that was a turning point in my life for the VERY. MUCH. BETTER! some of the dearest Christian siblings poured out love overflowing to a birthday girl lost who didn’t have a clue what true love was.

Who didn’t really know God for herself, testing the scriptures, but believed the men to whom she had handed over control of her life.

And because I believed a lie, I lived a lie.

And in fear and shame kept secret how awful the whole mess was and making excuses. But black and blues speak louder than words, and a Christian sister seeing.

And a question that was the beginning of my awakening and escape from the brutality and violence, both at home and in my church.

So that birthday long ago we gathered, me and my boys, and these friends carving out time from busy schedules and family responsibilities to show me how much God loved me by showering kindness and affection.

And you know who you are and I can never thank you enough. And there are others, both near and far, who weren’t at the party but who acted in love to help me and my children. Thank you all and God bless you always…

EW M

CB FT

GH JJ

JJ LH

These dear saints, and others, breathed life into this scripture:

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
John 13:35

They breathed life into me by loving on me.

And when I went home later that blessed evening, I found him stewing from too much vodka, asking me where I had been.

A gentle answer that night kept away his wrath.

And I didn’t sleep a wink, barely breathing from the pounding of my heart, knowing that when dawn broke I would give myself the best birthday gift I could.

Freedom…for me and my sons.

~sheila

[October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. PLEASE SHARE THIS POST on your social media sites. It could help save a woman’s life. Thanks.]

Today’s post is Day 23 of a #31days series called First comes Love…

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Grandfather’s love for a little girl lost and birthdays at the fair…Day 10 First comes Love

FIRST FAIR

CHERYL MA and ME

Great Danbury State Fair, CT

We always celebrated our birthdays under the Big Top, all red and white stripes with sawdust underfoot.

And the sun bright warmed my skin as autumn air crisped my cheeks a delicate pink, and the sights and sounds of the Great Danbury State Fair called to my little girl heart with all the romance and fun that a state fair can hold.

DANBURY FAIR 1

DANBURY FAIR 7

DANBURY FAIR 8

The Great Danbury Fair Parade, CT

And he would hold my hand.

IN POPPYs ARMS

And hold my heart, too, and he holds it still.

My Poppy.

My mom’s dad Mickey who would have been 105 today, but he died the morning I was laboring life, birthing my third son, although they didn’t tell me until after my baby was born.

ATLANTIC CITY

Poppy was my stand-in dad during those dark days all swirling crazy when my daddy’s drinking made our home less than peaceful. And it was Poppy who took us to the beach, and the amusement park and New York City.

POOL FUN

FERRIS WHEEL with POPPY

ROCKEFELLER CENTER

And him and me, we spent a part of every day together, us living downstairs in my grandparent’s two family house.

Only thing that separated us was October 9, the day between our birthdays, and me his first grand baby and him always saying,

“Us Octobers…we’re the best!”

Me believing it!

And I don’t recall birthday parties with little friends, although there are snapshots.

All I remember is the waiting all year and wishing for the fair, and leaves turning and days growing short, and Poppy driving us — my mom, my sister and our Ma — for what seemed like hours and hours until we finally caught a glimpse of the great Big Man waving us welcome.

DANBURY FAIR MAN - Copy

And from the Big Top to candy apples, Joie Chitwood’s daredevil driving and stomping-huge Clydesdales, sizzling sausage sandwiches and cotton candy, time stood still for a little girl, and there was no darkness at all that day, only joy and love.

So much love.

Love from one of the sweetest men I have ever known.

My grandfather, a simple, humble man devoted to his bride, besotted with his only child and crazy about his two grand girls.

Full of love and laughter, practical jokes and crazy physical stunts — like the time he climbed a church during his boyhood to retrieve a football lodged near the steeple. A football deflated that he kept all his days and used as a prop, inflating his story with color and life.

And it was Poppy who brought my imagination to life with his tall tales and spooky stories.

Saturday mornings always found me sitting at his kitchen table eating a buttered hard roll and sweet coffee-ish milk. And the story I loved best was the one that frightened me the most.

ROLL

The Hairy Man.

As the story goes, a large, furry man-creature had jumped out at Poppy’s car, the only vehicle on that long, lonely stretch of road in the wilds of New Hampshire that afternoon in the early fifties.

And this Big Foot-like being gave chase, yelling unintelligibly.

And my grandfather drove faster.

Calculating in his mind how he would protect his wife, mother-in-law and daughter asleep in the back seat should the car get a flat and this beast reach them.

And always, always as the tension mounted with the story nearing its denouement, he would stealthily reach behind him with me too absorbed in the telling to notice, and flick the shade on the kitchen door with such suddenness and rattle that I would jump in my seat and shriek.

And how he would laugh.

And me, too.

He loved to laugh.

And he loved to love. And was loved by all.

He adored my grandmother, his Esther.

POPPY and MA

Their marriage was full of love and respect and lots of laughter {and only a little raising of his voice once in a while if us ladies were late in getting ready to go somewhere!}

He told me that he and Ma had gone to bed one night with him telling a joke only to forget the punch line {very rare}.

He remembered it at 4 a.m.

And woke his wife, and the two of them talked and laughed till dawn when they had to get up and get ready for their factory jobs. Jobs they toiled at for decades and him with a nasty boss whose wicked ways he defused with humor, and neither having been able to graduate high school for their large families were poor and needed them to work.

And their fairytale love story — from meeting as teenagers at Coney Island to marrying in 1931 during the bleakest time in America’s past, her giving birth in her mother’s bedroom in Ansonia, Conn., after her dad was unexpectedly killed by a hit and run driver, and ultimately her leaving him all broken when she left this earth after 39 years of marriage and a very brief illness that took her at 62 — made me want one just like it as I dreamed of wearing white, and showed a little girl with a broken heart from a breaking apart home that there was another way to do life with your mate.

A true romantic, he returned with his bride to Atlantic City every year on their September anniversary. It was where they had honeymooned.

And every February found him in a little candy shop in downtown Yonkers with arms that were never too busy or too tired to give great big bear hugs full of heart shaped boxes of chocolate in descending sizes.

And he loved on all of us like this despite the fact that his own childhood had been disrupted.

With a father from the Old Country who drank too much and beat too hard, loving too little.

And great grandfather helping to found the first Russian Orthodox church in Yonkers, down in the Hollow where all the immigrants from Eastern Europe had congregated.

Yet not living or loving like Jesus.

And my Poppy, he told me when I was older about the night my great grandfather almost beat him to death as he caught him, a young boy, sneaking back into the house after having stayed out too late, or perhaps that beating was the night my Poppy tried to intervene on his mama’s behalf as her husband took out his frustrations upon her back.

Details may be a little fuzzy, but one thing is clear.

I’m forever grateful to God for sparing Poppy’s life and making him my own.

And I am who I am in part because Poppy loved me.

And love covers over a multitude of sins and love heals hearts. And it is love shared that shows us Christ, even if we don’t speak His name.

For when all the words have been spoken and all the deeds done,  in the end it is only love that lasts…

Happy Birthday, my darling Poppy. See you someday…

~sheila

Today’s post is Day 10 of a #31days series called First comes Love…

All the posts in the series can be found here. And so you don’t miss a single one, please subscribe here.

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Some fair images courtesy of CardCow.