Category Archives: My Story

2018: A Year For Hope (Week 25)

“This is the story of how Much-Afraid escaped from her Fearing relatives and went with the Shepherd to the High Places where “perfect love casts out fear.”

“Hinds Feet on High Places”, Hannah Hurnard

Me

When we are young, we have such a narrowed perspective. As small children we tend to learn and see things as being black or white, right or wrong.

As young adults, we begin to push against the simplicity of that perspective.

We experience betrayal and disappointment.

We recognize the frailty of humanity.

We understand that truth can be manipulated without being completely distorted. We learn the power of nuance, and so on.

Thus begins the long journey of stumbling our way through the various colors, shades, and shadows of life.

“There was, however, another even greater trouble in her life. She was a member of the Family of Fearings, and her relatives were scattered all over the valley, so that she could never really escape them. An orphan, she had been brought up in the home of her aunt, poor Mrs. Dismal Forebodings, with her two cousins Gloomy and Spiteful and their brother Craven Fear, a great bully who habitually tormented and persecuted her in a really dreadful way. ….(Until) one dreadful day they laid before her the family dictum that she must immediately marry her cousin Craven Fear and settle down respectably among her own people. If she refused to do this of her own free will, they threatened to use force and compel her.”

“Hinds Feet on High Places”

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The process of chronicling my testimony has been rather like looking through an old family album of black and white photographs adhered by those little corner stickers used to hold the picture in place. It makes me think of my lineage; of where I came, and from whom I come.

Oh, how I long to better understand the journey made by those who came before me, their lives and struggles and experiences. For just as surely as my experiences have shaped my life and influenced how I parented (and therefore impacted my children), an understanding of the experiences of my grandparents and parents lays the groundwork for empathy, and releases forgiveness to do its work.

“It took me a long time to get to this place of understanding, but I now know that the people who inflicted the most pain on my young soul were each dealing with their own family histories and experiences as best they could. The truth is, when you put broken and wounded people together in a relationship – you usually get a big ol’ mess that often spills out onto others. I should know, because for a long time, I was broken and wounded … a big ol’ mess just waiting for a place to happen.” ~But God

Picking up where I left off at Week 23, I think my teenage years were fairly typical. The dreams had stopped by then, and I had safely tucked all memories of them away. I discovered a passion for music and was active in school and church choir. I started working part time. I got my first car. All pretty normal stuff.

But underneath all this normalcy was a low-boiling anger towards both my parents. By the time I hit my teens, whatever passion they once felt towards each other had degraded to a sort of platonic friendliness. Sadly, I do not recall ever seeing my parents kiss or embrace, and more oft than not there was a very tangible presence of hostility emanating from my mom towards my dad. I think he put up with it as a form of doing penance, and perhaps justifiably so. But it made for a very prickly environment, and the absence of affection in the house left gaping holes in my young heart that begged to be filled.

I was incredibly lonely inside, and for hungry acceptance. And so by the sage old age of 14, I had started to date. [Yipes!! In hindsight, that just makes me cringe. I had absolutely no business dating that young, that naïve -– but of course when you’re 14 you think you have the wisdom of Solomon.]

At 14 ½, I met “M”, who would turn out to be my first husband. I’ll pick up more on that next week but for now invite you to read a little more about the desperation that was driving me..

“I have loved you with an everlasting love – out of faithfulness I have drawn you close. And so it shall be again, My virgin Israel; I will build you up, and you will be rebuilt. ” (Jeremiah 31:3-4, The Voice translation)

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All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

2018: A Year For Hope (Week 23)

With my nightmares boxed up and locked up securely in the attic of my psyche, I was able to move forward. I don’t have very many memories of from my early childhood, but I do have some that stand out and are pleasant to revisit. These are the memories I carried with me into my teens and early adult life, they are the construct for my (not so) typical (not so) all-American “middle class life”.

  • Family camping trips, usually lakeside. Sometimes just us, sometimes with extended family on my mom’s side. Floating in old automotive tubes, playing with my cousins, listening to the muffled sounds of grownups talking late into the night.
  • Fishing. I learned to fish young and we always fished on our camping trips. When we weren’t camping, my dad often took me lake fishing with him in our hometown… until he suddenly stopped. I always thought that was somehow my fault.
  • I remember attending Sunday School as a wee girl, inviting ‘felt board Jesus’ into my heart, and going home with “Fish Wrappers” that recapped that week’s lessons. There was a lot I didn’t understand about God, but this I heard loud and clear – Jesus loves me!
  • The walk to my elementary school, and the grocery story just a ¼ mile farther. The walk to my Jr. High. The walk to my High School. And I mean I “really” remember them … in detail. Weird, huh?

By the time I hit the 6th grade, I had discovered choir and I was hooked. In my Freshman year of High School, I joined the backpacking club – that was fun until I had to sleep in a wet sleeping bag after falling in a creek. Around age 15 I secured a place in a small music ensemble called “The Sounds of Praise”. I sang in that ensemble for almost 3 years, mostly at churches up/down the west coast but there was one year we flew to Hawaii to sing at a Christian camp! This was back in the mid-late ‘70’s when The Imperials and Gaither’s were reinventing Christian music. It was such a privilege to be able to use my voice to glorify God in song, and I deeply treasure the remembrance of those days and the enduring friendships made with my fellow SoP members.

“Sail On” by The Imperials
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ove-6A9qVD4&index=4&list=PLumJY4t6tnSUDTK5nGzgHK1LeIqyBd42K

“Rise Again” by Bill & Gloria Gaither
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYc2HyFR3uQ

I’m not the first one to have experienced trauma (be it abuse, emotional abandonment, loss or other tragedy). This is a broken world we live in, and it (at least for a while longer) does not operate according to God’s original design. Thanks a lot Adam and Eve!

Because of the effects of sin, darkness encircles, the chords of death entangle and bind.

But sin is not the only power at work on this earth – the love of the Father is also at work.

His Light seeks out and finds points of entrance through the darkness of fear, shame, loss and evil. Streaks of light break through the barrier of trunks, branches, leaves and overgrowth. The illumination of His love provides a roadmap for a way out.

“Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21 (NKJV)

This is a tender subject, I know, but while God is all powerful and all sovereign it is a mistake to believe that He has complete rule over everything that happens on this earth. If that were so, every person would immediately accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and choose to live obediently to the rule of the Holy Spirit. And we know that’s not happening.

View From The Underside
View from the Underside

From the vantage point of age 50-something, I can now see that God was not absent during my childhood as some might think. He did not turn me over to the Stickman, or a turn blind eye when my innocence was being violated. Instead, He was working a means of protection for me, a way of rescue. While the enemy of my soul was weaving dark threads into the tapestry of my life, God was at work weaving in threads of Light.

“Fear Not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.” Isaiah 43:1-2 (NKJV)

I now see that the dissociative amnesia I had as a small child was rather like the hands of my Heavenly Father “covering my eyes and ears” so that I didn’t fully take in all that was going on around me. He sheltered me in the Secret Place, taking those shadowed memories onto His own shoulders to bear until years later when I was old enough to confront them in a healthy way. And while my eyes were safely covered by His love, He carefully wove threads of purple, orange and gold into my life which would later be revealed in the artistic tapestry of a redeemed life.

Heart trusts you for certain
Head says it’s not working
I’m stuck here still hurting
But you tell me
You’re making a masterpiece
You shaping the soul in me
You’re moving where I can’t see
And all I am is in your hands
You’re taking me all apart
Like it was your plan from the start
To finish your work of art for all to see you’re making a masterpiece

Masterpiece by Danny Gokey (excerpt only)

Friend, if you are reading this and recognizing similarities of your own story in mine

(that told thus far, as well as what is yet to be told over the course of coming weeks), my prayer is that you will be able to hear the voice of your Heavenly Father calling out to you. In ways that only a loving Parent can, His heart grieves with you for the dark days you experienced. He longs to take the weight of that pain from off your shoulders, and He is able to do it. But you must relinquish it to Him, and I know from experience that letting go can sometimes feel more threatening than the familiarity of remaining captive.

Perhaps that’s why I find Isaiah 43:1-2 so comforting. I’ll share more about this particular passage in the coming weeks, but for now I invite you to consider what it would look like if the Risen Lord Jesus stood right next to you and walked with you through the waters, and escorted you through the rivers. That when the fires of hell encircled to harm you, He surrounded you like a shield so that you were able to walk through them without even the smell of smoke.

This is your Father. This is the One who calls you by your name. The One who says “You are mine.” And if you will allow Him, He is well able to transform your brokenness into a Masterpiece.

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All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

2018: A Year For Hope (Week 22)

In my last post, I wrote about my childhood dreams. These were not the kind of dreams you have and then wake wondering if they were brought on by too much pepperoni pizza. My childhood dreams (the four previously described) were very detailed, frequent, and repetitive. They are just as familiar to me now as they were then, except that thank God, I don’t dream them anymore. But I can “replay them” in my mind’s eye, just like one can replay scenes from a movie you’ve watched way too many times.

Dissociative amnesia is one of a group of conditions called dissociative disorders. Dissociative disorders are mental illnesses that involve disruptions or breakdowns of memory, consciousness, awareness, identity, and/or perception. When one or more of these functions is disrupted, symptoms can result. These symptoms can interfere with a person’s general functioning, including social and work activities, and relationships.
Source: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/dissociative-amnesia#1

StickManI know I was very young when I had them, and I vaguely remember being around 9 or so when they abruptly stopped. I had finally gotten the courage to tell my mom about them. I’m just guessing about my age because I honestly have very few memories of my childhood before the 6th grade. But I remember telling her, and somehow, in the way my little mind processed her answer, what I heard was:

“I’m going to talk to your dad about them, and if they don’t stop, we’ll take you to see a doctor”.

I internalized that as something was wrong with me. Immediately the dreams stopped. Not just the stick man, but all four of them. No more dreams of my dad falling or jumping off a train. No more dreams of flying. They stopped so abruptly and so completely that I forgot all about them until I was in my late 20’s and had started seeing a Christian Counselor to help me cope with the insanity that was my 2nd marriage.

I began seeing Counselor John in approx.1989 during the last few years of my 2nd marriage. Early into those counseling, John had asked me to remember back to my earliest childhood memory. I told him I couldn’t remember much of anything before 6th grade, but he kept asking and so eventually I told him about a story I’d heard my mom and siblings tell dozens of times about when I was 3 years old. He asked me to calm myself and try to remember, and through a form of hypnosis guided me backwards in time and had me describe what I saw. At first, it seemed like nonsense to me … even as he guided me inwards and backwards in time, I knew full well I was a 28-ish year old woman sitting in a counseling office, trying to remember something I couldn’t. And then it happened. Like the movies you see of a spacecraft going through hyperspace, where all the stars swish by so fast it looks like you’re traveling through a tunnel, all the sudden I ‘swooshed’ back approx. 25 years. And what I encountered shook me so deeply that I told John that I never wanted to go there again!

“I will bring the blind by a way they do not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16 (NKJV)

And where did I go? What did I encounter?

The family story is that I was three years old and had climbed up the kitchen counters and somehow gotten my hands on one of my mom’s glass serving platters. I had dropped it and it shattered into pieces on the kitchen floor. The story is that I followed my mom around for several days afterwards crying, pleading, and begging her … “Please mommy! Please don’t stop loving me.”

What I encountered when I “swooshed” back to that kitchen of linoleum countertops and blue cupboards was a terrified little girl who was in such utter pain of soul and spirit that it just broke me. For the few seconds that I could stand to be in that place of recessed memory, I knew instantly that this pain not from breaking a platter! This pain is from something altogether different. Something I didn’t want to know about. Something I never wanted to experience again.

That internal pain of that 3-year old girl eventually manifested itself into the recurring nightmares of my early childhood. To the best of my reconstructive abilities, I told my mom about those dreams around age 9. Soon thereafter, in response to the way I processed her response, I boxed up and locked up all those childhood traumas and put them neatly into the attic of my soul where they remained undisturbed for many years.

“You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD will name. You shall also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate;” Isaiah 62:2-4(NKJV)

While I was painting the “Shattered Heart” piece, my 5-year old granddaughter approached to peek over my shoulders. It was incomplete, but far enough along that I was a little concerned about how she might process what she saw.

What are you painting, Nana. (Me: Just a girl)
Oh. Is that her heart? Did something make her sad? (Yes honey)
Is it Mommy? (no)
What’s her name? (she doesn’t have one)
Let’s call her “Violet”. Write “Violet” up here on the top … and draw a heart.
You can color it in if you want. (Ok honey)

I love that girl! What a tender and sensitive little heart she has. She is completely innocent, and it is a balm to my heart that my grandchildren have no first-hand knowledge of this pain.   Their tears are presently related to stuffies that can’t go to church, skinned knees, tubbies and bed times.

 

Shattered Heart
So please allow me to introduce you to “Miss Violet”. She is both a reflection of the wounded child that I was, and a reminder to me of the loving tenderness the Father has for this same wounded child. For He looked upon me, saw my desperate need for safety and protection, and enveloped me into the Secret Place of His presence.

More than that, He saw fit to give me a new name … “Daughter.”

He became mine, and I became His.

 

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All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

 

 

2018: A Year For Hope (Week 21)

The little 4BR house my parents purchased in 1963 for $26K is now valued at almost $1.5M. In preparation for this post, I viewed it on Google maps and did a virtual walk-through via some recent listing photos. I marvel at the transformation; the brick planter box was removed from the entryway (a style trend of the 1950’s), and I hardly recognized the family room. The fruit trees on the side yard are long gone, and so is the large screened in deck my dad built. The house is beautiful, inviting, and no doubt the repository of many happy family memories. But the house also holds secrets, and no amount of paint or remodeling can change the way the house looks to me. A wave of sadness envelopes me when I view the house through the mind’s eye of my sisters and me.

Don’t get me wrong, I also have of plenty of happy memories from that house and neighborhood. We moved there when I was about 3 years old, and I lived there for 15 years. Back in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, and when my older brothers and sisters would tolerate my following them around like a shadow, we would play up and down the block after school and after dinner well into the evening hours. My best friend “A” lived across the street, and I up until about 7th grade I practically lived at her house. Almost all my best memories include “A” and her family, and it would be decades later that I realized what a gift from God they were to me. “M”, my next-door neighbor to the right, had a huge cedar tree (perhaps 30’ tall) in their side yard that the 3 of us loved to climb. We’d navigate the prickles of the outer branches to get up near the trunk, and then up we’d go as high as we could, often sitting in the sanctuary of tree branches for hours pretending it was our secret fort – or just spying on other neighborhood kids!

I was young, but I remember when my dad converted the garage to a family room. He walled off a small portion of the space closest to the garage door as his workroom, and the rest he dry walled, painted and carpeted so that we had more living space (with 7 kids in the house, we needed all the living space we could get!). I have very happy memories of hanging out with him in that workroom; the smell of freshly sawed wood and playing with the remnants like they were building blocks, the way he could make/fix almost anything.  No doubt I get my mechanical aptitude from him.

Our living room was the most highly decorated room of the house, and it was there I would find my mom in the mornings reading her Bible with a cup of coffee in hand. She loved to sing hymns, and I treasure the memories of her standing at the kitchen sink, washing dishes and singing songs like “He Lives” and “Softly and Tenderly” and “There’s Just Something About That Name”. It was her voice I heard in my head when I sang those same hymns to my daughters and grandchildren as lullabies.

“Be merciful to me, God; be merciful to me because I come to you for protection. Let me hide under the shadow of your wings until the trouble has passed. I cry out to God Most High, to the God who does everything for me. He sends help from heaven and saves me. He pushiness those who chase me.” Psalm 57:2-3 (NCV)

Yes, there are happy memories. And I’m grateful for every one of them, for they provide a needed counterbalance to the other activities that took place within the walls of that home. Ugly activities. Things that no one talked about back then. In fact, we all worked very hard to just pretend that none of it happened at all … and we did so quite successfully until approximately 1984. Then the lid blew off and the walls crumbled, and our perfect family façade came crashing down.

Up until then, had you asked me about my childhood, I would have told you I had a wonderfully normal childhood. We lived smack in the middle of middle-class, and while we lived humbly, we were living a version of the American dream. We lived in a middle-class neighborhood, attended middle-class schools, and my brothers were the first in our family line (going back at least to the mid-1800’s) to ever go to college. I’m the youngest of seven, and the world changed a lot and fast back then. By the time I started working part time in my teens, the impact Silicon Valley had literally changed the landscape of everything familiar to me as a child.

I had a wonderfully normal childhood, except for the fact that I can’t remember large chunks of it and the earliest memories I do have are fragmented and distorted. It’s rather like trying to examine a captured bug through the walls of a patterned Ball Jar (something that happened yesterday, as I caught another stink bug in my house!). You can see it, but you can’t really see the details clearly. But I remember the dreams.

But to dream, I first had to get to bed. I was convinced that in the darkness of night, sheetrock walls somehow softened to allow protrusions of sharp knives and outstretched hands reaching for me either from through the walls themselves or up from underneath my bed. It was terrifying, and so once I was old enough to put myself to bed, I would flip the light switch, take 3 running steps, and leap onto my bed to shimmy under the blankets as quickly as possible.  Leaving only my head exposed, I moved as close against the wall as I could possibly get, face to wall.

“I am frightened inside; the terror of death has attached me. I am scared and shaking, and terror grips me. I said “I wish I had wings like a dove. Then I would fly away and rest.” Psalm 55:4-6 (NCV)

As a very small child, to my best guess from as early as age 5 (?) up through I think about 9 or 10 (?) I had the same dreams over and over again. I still remember them in vivid detail.

1. The Stick Man: Reaching hands, stick body, a hollow circle for a face. When the Stick Man came at night, I vanished.

 

StickMan
Stick Man

2. My dad and the train: I see a train approaching and my dad is riding on the top of it. For some reason he jumps off and dies. I have no emotion about it.
3. My dad and the chair: I see my dad in the kitchen, seated in his usual chair, pushing it back to teeter on the back two legs the way he often did. The chair unexpectedly falls backwards, landing my dad onto the brick steps that led down into the family room. He dies on impact. I stand over him, emotionless.
4. Fly away: This by far was my favorite dream! I would go over to the front side-yard, the space between our house and “M” s house (not the back side-yard – because there are dark and still-shrouded memories of that space). From there, I would reach my arms up and make a slight jump, and as soon as both feet left contact with the earth I would begin a fast flutter-kick that lifted me up, up, up into light and space and freedom. Most often, after circling the space above ours and the neighboring houses I would descend and sit atop our roof; observing, unseen and tranquil. Other times, I would go higher and fly faster while expertly navigating the space between the power lines to soar above the tops of even the tallest trees. I was completely free, and it was exhilarating!

 

Fly Away
Fly Away

 

While I write this post, I’m wrestling with an inner voice that taunts:

- Why in the world do you want to dig all this up, let alone blog about it for others to read!
- People you know read your blog. How much do you really want them to know?
- What will people think of you once they know these things about you?

And I’ve got to be honest – while I’ve shared a lot of my story (on this blog, and more completely through one-on-one conversations with women I’ve encouraged over the years), I’m not exactly enjoying this particular trip down memory lane. It’s like going up into the attic, pulling the cobwebs off the neatly stacked boxes in the farthest corner, and then scattering them all over the room. It’s messy and occasionally stuff falls out of a box.

“Really Lord? Do you really want me to write about this? And if so, exactly what and how much do you want me to share?”

He and I are still working through those questions, but for now I write with the hope that through the sharing of my story, someone else will take comfort and find courage to believe God for better days. I pray my words are found by someone who needs to hear from someone who made it to the other side of the valley of the shadow of death.  And I ask God that as recompense for the pain I’ve suffered, that the enemy of my soul be paraded around and made a spectacle of – for even by his very best efforts, he (the devil) was unable to prevent my rescue!!!

Psalm 71 New Century Version (NCV)
An Old Person’s Prayer

(vs 1-6, 19-23)
In you, LORD, is my protection.
Never let me be ashamed.
Because you do what is right, save and rescue me;
listen to me and save me.
Be my place of safety
where I can always come.
Give the command to save me,
because you are my rock and my strong, walled city.
My God, save me from the power of the wicked
and from the hold of evil and cruel people.
LORD, you are my hope.
LORD, I have trusted you since I was young.
I have depended on you since I was born;
you helped me even on the day of my birth.
I will always praise you.
God, your justice reaches to the skies.
You have done great things;
God, there is no one like you.
You have given me many troubles and bad times,
but you will give me life again.
When I am almost dead,
you will keep me alive.
You will make me greater than ever,
and you will comfort me again.
I will praise you with the harp.
I trust you, my God.
I will sing to you with the lyre,
Holy One of Israel.
I will shout for joy when I sing praises to you.
You have saved me.

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All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

 

 

2018: A Year For Hope (Week 20)

It’s not something I think much about anymore, but in recent weeks the Lord has brought to my remembrance the great tragedy that was my second marriage. Take courage, male readers – this is not a post trashing the male species. Rather, this post is a reflection upon my own brokenness at the time. For sure, my ex was a terrible person (ever see the movie “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle”? Yea, it was a lot like that). But had I not already been such a walking-talking-emotional-and-spiritual-train-wreck, I would not have been such easy prey.

In fact, I remember saying something along those lines to my sister years after my divorce. Oh, she was so made at me!… because she witnessed all of what he had done first hand, and most siblings would, she hated him for the way he mistreated me and our children. To her ears, my acknowledging I had some part to play in the insanity that took place was akin to giving him a pardon. No so. But we all have to own our stuff, and I brought stuff to the table too.

This is not an easy subject, nor a pleasant remembrance for me. I’d much rather stay focused on HOPE and FAITH and maintaining a positive outlook even in the mist of difficulties. But I am feeling prompted to reveal a little more of my story – in a more complete way than I have in the past via little bits and pieces.

“You said, ‘Now shalt thou see what I will do,’” she answered, and then, looking at him reproachfully, added, “But I never dreamed you would do anything like this! Lead me to an impassable precipice up which nothing can go but deer and goats, when I’m no more like a deer or goat than is a jellyfish. It’s too-it’s too-“ She fumbled for words, and then burst out laughing. “Why, it’s too preposterously absurd! It’s crazy! Whatever will you do next?”

The Shepherd laughed too. “I love doing preposterous things,” he replied. “Why, I don’t know anything more exhilarating and delightful than turning weakness into strength, and fear into faith, and that which has been marred into perfection. If there is one thing more than another which I should enjoy doing at this moment is turning a jellyfish into a mountain goat. That’s my special work,” he added with the light of great joy in his face. “Transforming things – to take Much-Afraid, for instance and to transform her into-“ He broke off and then went on laughingly. “Well, we shall she later on what she finds herself transformed into.”

It was a really extraordinary scene. In the place where just a little while before all had been fear and despair were the Shepherd and Much-Afraid, sitting on the rocks at the food of the impassible precipice, laughing together as though at the greatest joke in the world.”

Hinds Feet on High Places, Hanna Hurnard

My story – and transformation – from a wounded young girl trying to survive a dysfunctional and abusive home, to a young woman looking for love and acceptance in the arms of all the wrong men, to a young wife-turned-single parent desperately trying to rebuild a life, to today. Wow. As I write that, I’m honestly not sure how I’m going to tackle all this. It really is the material for a book or a movie 😊. But that’s not my objective! I just want to share enough of my story so as to encourage others who might be on a similar journey, and I want to give praise and honor to my BIG GOD who transformed me from Jellyfish to Mountain Goat, and from complete brokenness to a woman who learned to Swing Again!

Hope you come back next week to take the journey of remembrance with me.

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All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.