Category Archives: My Story

Who Am I (AYFH wk 34)

Believe it or not, I have enjoyed writing my testimony (categorized under “My Story”) the past few months. Not only has it reconnected me with and given clarity to a calling God gave me years ago, but it has also allowed me to connect with some amazing people!

Through comments as well as private conversations, God has opened doors for me to use my voice and experiences to encourage others who are still walking “through their valley of the shadow of death”.

“What happens to you in life does not change the Word of God; but if you will hold fast to your confession (profession) of the Word, it will change what happens to you in life.”  ~Charles Capps

I recently sat with a friend who wept with longing for the “seemingly accomplished” deliverance she sees in my life and testimony (while she is still in the process of laying hold of hers). She might be surprised to know that I wept into my own pillow that night … because there are still many areas in which I struggle with unfulfilled longings and (yet) unmet needs.

Breath of Heaven - Robed In His Righteousness www.puttinghopetowork.com
Breath of Heaven – Robed In His Righteousness http://www.puttinghopetowork.com

Last week I revealed my “Victory Painting”. I think it’s easy (especially, I think, on the heels of my testimony) to look at “Miss Hope” with head bowed down in worship, enrobed in Christ’s Righteousness, being spoken over by the Spirit of God … and think to ourselves …

She made it!
She conquered!
She has arrived! (at the place of rest and rejoicing)

To which I think she might say, “Please don’t look at me that way.”

And to all of you reading this post I also say, “Please don’t look at me that way.”

Meaning please don’t look at me like I’ve now living a life without challenge, without disappointment, without heartache. If you do, not only will you be disappointed when you find out the truth (when you find out that neither my life, nor I (myself) am “all that and a bag of chips”), but it will also short circuit your faith for what God is doing in your life … right now … today!

But neither let us focus on our (neither yours nor mine) shortcomings and current struggle points (or ‘messy spots’).

“Faith is confidence that God’s Word is true, and conviction that acting on that Word will bring His blessing.”   ~Warren W. Wiersby, BE: Mature

Instead, let us look into the mirror of the perfect Word of God, and see ourselves how God sees us. If you are a Christ-follower (have made Jesus the Lord of your life), then guess what … this lovely image of Miss Hope robed in Righteousness, breathed upon by the Breath of God … that’s you too!

Perhaps even more importantly, let us say about ourselves what God says about us! Let us put in the work to “true up” our internal image of our true Identity.  

To the lie that says you are a broken mess and always will be, open your mouth and respond with this:

I am healed and whole in Jesus (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24).

I am complete in Him Who is the head over all rule and authority—of every angelic and earthly power (Colossians 2:10).

I am free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).

I am far from oppression and will not live in fear (Isaiah 54:14).

I am born of God, and the evil one does not touch me (1 John 5:18).

I am holy and without blame before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:16).

I am the righteousness of God—I have right standing with Him—in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

I have been rescued from the domain and the power of darkness and brought into God’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13).

I am redeemed from the curse of sin, sickness, and poverty (Deuteronomy 28:15-68; Galatians 3:13).

My life is rooted in my faith in Christ and I overflow with thanksgiving for all He has done for me (Colossians 2:7).

My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit; I belong to Him (1 Corinthians 6:19).

To the lie that says you are fearful and fragmented of mind/spirit, open your mouth and say boldly:

I have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5).

I have the peace of God that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

The Spirit of God, who is greater than the enemy in the world, lives in me (1 John 4:4).

I am born again—spiritually transformed, renewed and set apart for God’s purpose—through the living and everlasting word of God (1 Peter 1:23).

I have received the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus, the eyes of my heart enlightened, so that I know the hope of having life in Christ (Ephesians 1:17-18).

I am merciful, I do not judge others, and I forgive quickly. As I do this by God’s grace, He blesses my life (Luke 6:36-38).

The light of God’s truth has shone in my heart and given me knowledge of salvation through Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).

I am not ruled by fear because the Holy Spirit lives in me and gives me His power, love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7).

I have received the power of the Holy Spirit and He can do miraculous things through me. I have authority and power over the enemy in this world (Mark 16:17-18; Luke 10:17-19).

To the lie that says you are never going to change – never going to gain the victory, open your mouth and shut that voice up by declaring:

I am renewed in the knowledge of God and no longer want to live in my old ways or nature before I accepted Christ (Colossians 3:9-10).

I can do whatever I need to do in life through Christ Jesus who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).

I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ to do good works that He has prepared for me to do (Ephesians 2:10).

In Christ, I am dead to sin—my relationship to it is broken—and alive to God—living in unbroken fellowship with Him (Romans 6:11).

As I hear God’s Word, I do what it says and I am blessed in my actions (James 1:22, 25).

I am a joint-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17). I am more than a conqueror through Him who loves me (Romans 8:37).

I have everything I need to live a godly life and am equipped to live in His divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4).

“Stand up to your full height; worry can not do for you (grow and mature you) what only faith can do.” ~Jeremy Pearsons

I am an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). I am part of a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people (1 Peter 2:9).

I am the head and not the tail, and I only go up and not down in life as I trust and obey God (Deuteronomy 28:13).

I am strengthened with all power according to His glorious might (Colossians 1:11).

I humbly submit myself to God, and the devil flees from me because I resist him in the Name of Jesus (James 4:7).

I press on each day to fulfill God’s plan for my life because I live to please Him (Philippians 3:14).

“Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen.” ~Ephesians 3:20-21 (Amplified)

And all the people said …… Amen!

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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 33)

For the 13 weekly posts in which I shared my testimony with many personal details (Weeks 20-32) I had created some rather dark art pieces, to match the darkness of what was taking place in my life during that timeframe.   As I neared the end what I felt prompted to share as “my story”, I wanted to create a new piece – a victory piece.  I can’t tell you how many versions I tried … probably nine or ten … none of them conveyed what I wanted to convey.    After another failed attempt over the weekend, I was getting discouraged.

And then Sunday night, I got another idea.  I actually got out of bed and sketched it out before I forgot.  In the morning, I wet my paints and started framing it out.  Later in the afternoon, I did a little more.  By the following evening, I thought I messed it up and almost tossed it … even began working on a second piece … but a little voice said “keep going” and so I painted a little more and set it aside to see how it looked in the morning.   Surprisingly, it looked far better than I expected so I kept going …

 (there’s a lesson in here)

… and much to my surprise, what looked like such a mess “in the moment” actually dried into something quite lovely.

Would you do me a favor? In your minds eye, would you change the image of Miss Hope so that it is instead YOU who are kneeling down on the plateau … YOU robed in purple, YOU encircled by the Breath of Heaven.

“He said, “Prophesy to the bones. Tell these dry bones to listen to the word of the LORD.  Tell them that I, the Sovereign LORD, am saying to them: I am going to put breath into you and bring you back to life.”” ~Ezekiel 37:4-5 (GNT)

Breath of Heaven - Robed In His Righteousness www.puttinghopetowork.com
Breath of Heaven – Robed In His Righteousness http://www.puttinghopetowork.com

“Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”” ~John 20:22

What do you hear the Spirit say to you? Is He speaking to you through the remembrance of certain Scriptures? What loving words is your Heavenly Father speaking to you, over you?

Please share in the comment section what you heard and let it not only be an encouragement for you today, but let God encourage others through you.

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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 32)

When I started writing my testimony in Week 20, I quoted a favorite passage from “Hinds Feet On High Places” by Hanna Hurnard.

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.

And that’s exactly what The Good Shepherd was doing from the moment I surrendered (re-surrendered) my life to Him on the carpet of my bedroom floor (Week 31) and as I continued with Counselor John, God brought greater and greater levels of healing. At first, the focus was reconciling and reconstructing the broken parts of myself because you can’t deal with the present when you haven’t dealt with the past. Then we worked on learning skills for conflict resolution, and understandably “T” and “She’s” continuing behavior were a daily source of conflict. By Christmas 1990 I was no longer listening to his assurances that “She” was his distant cousin. I became more adamant that “She” leave our house, and he would promise to do so by “x” period of time, but they were always empty promises.

When you grow up in a home “not looking at ugly and horrific behavior” … well almost any ruse to defer or distract will suffice.

Finally I insisted he move her out! But “T” had a knack for keeping me off balance, and his next maneuver was a doozey. That’s when he revealed the “secret” truth; that when he went back to South America in 1984, he discovered he had another child and that “She” wasn’t his distant cousin … but (in his exact words) “his illegitimate daughter”!

“T” said it was guilt that drove him to spend so much time with “She”, and that he was desperately trying to make up for lost time with her. Surely I could understand that! And to prove his integrity, he told me to go ask Counselor John, who confirmed that this is what “T” told him on his 3rd and last visit. (But of course, John was unable to disclose to me himself due to patient confidentiality).

Well! Even if that were true, it still didn’t explain their not-very-father-daughterly relationship! But then again, maybe I was misreading things.

It sounds so simple! Anyone with eyeballs could see that my husband had brought his girlfriend into our home and was having an affair with her, right in front of my face and in front of my children! But somewhere in my upbringing, I’d concluded that if you couldn’t prove it, you could be wrong. I think that’s the main reason I stayed in my first marriage so long … because I couldn’t prove “M” was having an affair. Same with “T” … I never actually caught him with her (thank God!!), and he had a special talent for always making everything seem like it was my fault, my misperception, my brokenness that was the real issue. The point is, when you grow up in a home “not looking at ugly and horrific behavior” (pretending it doesn’t exist, or dissociating from it) … well almost any ruse to defer or distract will suffice. Even one so idiotic as that “She” was his long-lost daughter!

Besides attending BV Bible Church, I was now reading through and studying the Old Testament with a hunger I’d never known before. It was fascinating to me to read (for example) the story of the Exodus and then review the journey on a Bible Atlas or study book. I was opening my heart to the Word of Life, and I was being transformed from the inside out!

I was also learning new coping skills. By July 1991, I had finally gotten strong enough to give “T” an ultimatum. Like I did with “M”, I told “T” that I was moving out the end of the month unless he removed “She” from the house. That weekend, he took “She” and the older kids to go play soccer while I loaded up our old van with 2 twin beds, an ice chest, a few lamps, our clothes, the CD-player/boom box and my two precious little girls. Our destination was the old rental house on the east side which was currently vacant but had no refrigerator (thus the ice chest 😊).

I had worked my way up to Isaiah by that time. I clearly remember pouring my heart out to God in that dreary old house (in what used to be my step-daughters bedroom because I refused to stay in the master bedroom) and encountering Isaiah 40:11 for the first time. It was so comforting to me, so tender.

“He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those who have young.” ~ Isaiah 40:11 (NIV)

The following night I read Isaiah 42:16 and it seemed as though Jesus Himself was sitting on the edge of the bed with me, speaking so softly to me, promising me …

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” ~ Isaiah 42:16

And from that moment on, I knew that He would walk us through whatever challenges were ahead. That even though I was terrified, I would be safe because He was with me. That He would let nothing happen to me, and that He would work all things together for my good and for the good of my daughters. He would not forsake us!

While camping out in that old rental “T” visited once to tell me he had moved “She” out and ask me to come home … but all he did was move her a few blocks over. Once he realized I wasn’t taking the bait, he quickly moved her back in. For the next few weeks, I drove across town to bring the girls to “She” for daycare while I worked. All the while, “T” waited patiently, fully expecting me to weary and move back. After all, I had always relented in the past.

But as soon as I got my next paycheck, I moved the three of us into a small apartment near the elementary school and near our church. I was 30 years old, and my daughters were 4 and 7. Then, as quickly as I could, I hired Attorney Casey (a GIANT of Christian attorney) and filed for divorce.

StickMan
“The Stick Man” http://www.puttinghopetowork.com

It was while living in that sweet little apartment that I wrote “Jenny P” a letter. I thanked her for all that she had done for me, for her willingness to take on the abuse and be the caretaker for my pain, so that “Little Jenny” wouldn’t have to see and feel what she was unable to comprehend and cope with.

With tears streaming and in loving words on paper, I held “Jenny P” close to my heart and comforted her in the way that I wish someone had done for me back then.

And I invited “Jenny P” and “Little Jenny” to come abide in me … to re-integrate with the whole and healed woman I’d become.

[I kept that letter for many years following … until one day I no longer needed record of it. I could let it all go.]

Needless to say, “T” did not like this new woman … the one who wasn’t buying every stupid thing that came out of his mouth, the one who stood her ground, the one who defended her children, the one who had the aid and support of Counselor John and Attorney Casey.

Within just a few months of being served, “T” announced he was marrying “She”. He also said he was going to file for custody of our daughters.

Oh SNAP! Attorney Casey quickly depositioned Counselor John about “T’s” earlier confession that “She” was his “illegitimate daughter”. (Let him try to explain THAT to the Family Court System!!)

Undeterred, “T” began using my daughters as pawns in a chess game, sometimes exhibiting very bad behavior towards them in the process. But I was now documenting things, bringing them up during Mediation. And tensions continued to rise.

One Sunday morning, on my weekend with the girls, one of the Pastors pulled me out of the sanctuary to tell me that “T” was had come to take my daughters out of Sunday School. Thankfully, their Sunday School teacher was one of my dear friends and she refused to let him take them, instead sending for me. By the time I cleared the church foyer, I could see “T” and my friend out on the front lawn – “T” had already gotten my oldest daughter into the car, but my friend was still holding onto my youngest daughter to keep him from taking her too. I confronted him. I tried to get my daughter from him (there were now 2 women fighting him). He was so strong, and somehow, I’d ended up on the ground around, holding onto his leg while he held my daughter and my friend held him. It all happened so quickly … I did the only thing I could think to do to make him let go … I craned my neck up and I bit him in the _alls.

The Nightmare that was Mr T
“The Nightmare that was “Mr T”. puttinghopetowork.com

As you can imagine, by now we had attracted quite a crowd … and as soon as “T” released my daughter, others stepped in to keep him corralled until the police arrived. After explaining that “T” tried to remove the kids from church without permission, and of his threats to take the girls away from me and leave for South America if I ever dared to leave him, the Police urged “T” to leave the premises and encouraged me to take more formal actions regarding custody (as they were limited to what they could/couldn’t do).

That Sunday, my daughters and I went into hiding for a few weeks. First, we stayed nearby with friends from our Church, and then I drove us a few hours away to stay with my cousins J&C. In the safety and sanctuary of their home, I wrote an approximate 20-page statement chronicling my marriage to “T”, the arrival of “She”, and all that had taken place since. With that, I filed for sole custody of my two daughters.

We spent the a total of 3 ½ years in the court system. When “T” dragged one of my daughters by the hair across the floor – we went back to court. When “T” upset them with claims that mommy “made daddy have to pay money to see them” – we went back to court. When “T” quit paying child support – back to court. “T” threatened me – back to court, got a restraining order. “T” violated the restraining order, kicking/banging and threatening me through the door of my apartment (while my daughters hid in their bedroom) – yup, back to court. And so on, and so forth.

It was a process, a long and painful one … but by his own actions and by his own behavior not only did “T” loose custody of our daughters, but eventually he lost visitation rights.

By the time my girls had hit their tweens, “T” had lost all power over me.

“But now, this is what the LORD Says –
he who created you Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
The flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
And because I love you…”
~Isaiah 43:1-4 (NIV)

Within these 13 posts (starting with Week 20 and ending here in week 32), I’ve done my best to truthfully reconstruct my journey “from Jellyfish to Mountain Goat” …, not for the accolades of man but testify of and give glory to the power of God to rescue, deliver, and transform!

And what He did for me, He is well able and willing to do for you. It may not happen overnight, but if you will fix your eyes on Him and entrust yourself to Him, He will get you through whatever needs to be gone through to get you to the place of joy and peace that He has prepared for you. He is faithful! He will not forsake!

TAKE COURAGE
Bethel Music, Kristene DiMarco

Slow down, take time
Breath in He said
He’d reveal what’s to come
The thoughts in His mind
Always higher than mine
He’ll reveal all to come

Take courage my heart
Stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting
He’s in the waiting
Hold onto your hope
As your triumph unfolds
He’s never failing
He’s never failing

In the years that followed, more ugly truths came out – but those stories belong to others and are not mine to tell.

Instead, I shall share with you of His promises to the broken hearted, of His ability to go to the deepest places and bring healing, His strength to snatch the captive right out of the teeth of the wicked, of His willingness to breath life on dry bones! He will finish all that He’s begun – stay steadfast and trust Him!!!

I’ve been honored by your following along with me these many weeks. I hope you’ll join me again, for in my next post I’d like to tell you about veiled rememberances that surfaced years after my divorce and the onset of a new set of recurring dreams and nightmares that plagued me from my mid 30’s to mid-40’s, and how God delivered me from them.

But for now, please comment and share with me one or two of your favorite Bible passages – the ones that keep you going even when the night seems blackest.

Here is the one I have held on to from July 1991-present:

“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband— the Lord Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.” Isaiah 54:4-5 (NIV)

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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 31)

We’re on the home stretch folks!  Thank God, for this is wearying and yet I’m so grateful that I can write from the place of Hope and healing, instead of from the brokenness during which all this took place.

In my last post, I wrote about my forced agreement to let “T” bring his second cousin up from South America as our live-in Nanny, and how subtly and completely her arrival altered the dynamics of our home and my marriage. “She” joined our home approx. January 1987. I ended in approx. 1990 (maybe late 1989?) when after a particularly heated argument, I accidentally blurted out that I wanted to see a marriage counselor. (not!)

The Nightmare that was Mr T
“The Nightmare that was “Mr T”.    puttinghopetowork.com

Amid the utter insanity that was going on in our home and marriage between 1984-1990, there were some amazing things taking place as well.

  • After the family secret of incest was revealed in 1985 and while my dad was still in the hospital recovering from a ruptured aorta, I took my Pastor with me (“T” and kids were attending a small Baptist church with me at the time) to visit my dad and ask him about the accusations against him. He did not deny it and broke down crying, sharing a few details of his own loss and pain as a boy. It was the first and only time I’d ever seen my dad cry. That day, I had the honor of leading my dad to Jesus Christ. It’s one of my most precious memories! He may have done a lot of things wrong during his life and wounded many people as a readout of his own pain and brokenness. But he is still my dad, and one day I will meet him again in Heaven … no longer wounded and broken, but wholly ransomed and restored to the man that God created him to be! That will be a great day!
  • My dad died in June 1987, when my youngest daughter was about 8 months old. During the last 6 or so months of his life, I’d begun to feel a stirring of anger over the abuse and pain he’d caused my sisters (I was still blocking off my own memories at this time, but I think the fortress walls were starting to crack, triggering this increasing anger at him for what he had done). My parents had split in 1985(?) and on one particular day I was supposed to go visit my dad, but I was feeling frustrated and didn’t go as planned. A few weeks later I got a call that he had driven himself to the hospital during a heart attack. That delay in seeking immediate help cost him his life. One of my sisters and I were able to see him as they rolled him into surgery – lips blue, ears tinged with purple. I told him I loved him, he replied as he always did “I love you too hon”. Guilt over not visiting him a few weeks earlier consumed me, and I often visited his grave and cried while asking God to tell him how sorry I was for abandoning him in the end. One time, through my tears I noticed a lone man at another grave, mourning deeply … and holding a gun. I got up, slowly approached, and began to tell the man about the love of God. He relinquished his gun to me and I offered him a ride home. With pistol in the trunk of the car, I drove him back to his apartment and returned his gun on the condition that he would go to church with me on Sunday. He agreed, and the following week (and for several after that) my two daughters and I gave ‘Tennessee’ a ride to church. Such a God thing! For only God would think to redirect my grief by giving me the opportunity to help someone else walk through theirs.
  • My mom often told me how her dad used to “ball up his fists and hit her mom” (my grandma) when she was growing up, and that he also used to take his anger out on her. As a young girl I recall watching my mom slap one of my sisters across the face for backtalking … she hit her so hard she knocked her off her feet. [Note to self, don’t argue with mom – and I rarely did growing up]. So perhaps it isn’t a great surprise that I also struggled with anger in my parenting. One evening, while my daughters were still very small, I got very agitated that my oldest daughter wouldn’t cooperate with bedtime routines. I grabbed her by the shoulders and started shaking her, screaming at her … and right in the middle of that the Lord whispered to me … “This is how it goes Jenny, one generation passing it on to another – and you will pass it on too, unless you change”.  It broke me! I wept and cried out “Change me Lord! Whatever it takes, whatever it costs me – I will gladly pay it but let this spiritual inheritance of violence and abuse stop with me!” I won’t say it’s been easy, and it certainly didn’t happen overnight … but God honored that prayer and has helped me do the work required for healing and to sow seeds for new generational inheritances for my daughters, step-children and grandchildren.
  • By the time we’d moved to the better school district, the extent of how far I’d fallen and how lost I was spiritually was evident by the chaos I was tolerating in my home and marriage. I was either going to lose my mind, or I needed help. One night while “T” was out with “She”, I finally hit bottom.   I remember sprawling out on the floor of our bedroom, nose to carpet with arms extended and palms turned up and crying out “Help me Lord! Please save my marriage … I know you can! But more than that, I want to go home! I’m lost, so lost I don’t even know how to get back to you! Send me someone to help me. I open my hands and give you permission to take away whatever you must (even my marriage) but bring me home. I want to go home!” The following week, I made a wrong turn running errands and stumbled upon BV Bible Church. I wasted no time in attending with my daughters and was soon finding strength in this lovely community of Christ followers.
  • Through my daughters, God was teaching me about Himself as my Heavenly Father. Since I grew up under conditional love, I naturally perceived that God’s love was conditional … isn’t that why the Bible is full of rules that “good Christians” are supposed to live by?  I remember very clearly when my heart finally understood His heart … I was walking past the bedroom where my two little darlings were sleeping, and I opened the door to look in on them one last time for the night. Breathing softly, their hair draped over pillows and faces alike, my heart nearly exploded with love for them. I could have stood watching them for hours and then it hit me …. “Lord! Are you saying that THIS is how you love ME? This all-consuming, condition-less, heart-exploding, deep connectedness and love unrestrained … this is how you feel about ME?”   “Even more”, He replied. That wrecked me, and completely altered my view and understanding of God as my Heavenly Father. I finally understood that I was and always had been loved, regardless of choices I’d made or what rules I kept or broke. He loved and adored me just as I was, where I was, and He wanted healing for me even more than I wanted it for myself!

Having blurted out the desire to see a counselor, and now obligated by “T’s” agreement to do so, I asked the Pastor of BVBC if he would counsel us. Instead he referred me to a local Christian Counseling Center. “T” only attended 3 sessions with me, and then he bailed out … he was that confident in his ability to play anyone. No matter, for even in those few sessions I recognized that Counselor John could help me, and so I continued without “T”.

During one of our first few sessions, Counselor John asked me to write a list of my earliest childhood memories of being hurt. I came back with a short list that started at 4th grade when the teacher told me I had a nose like a Swede. He pressed for earlier memories and I explained that I honestly couldn’t remember much of anything prior to 4th grade … but there was the family story. 

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.”

Shattered Heart
Shattered Heart

Counselor John suggested we start there and using a form of hypnosis asked me to talk him through as much as I could remember. Since I couldn’t remember, instead I described to him what I knew the house looked like pre-kitchen fire (when my mom almost burned the house down), and I tried to imagine my 3-year-old self climbing up the blue counters to get to the upper cupboard. I imagined myself opening the cupboards to take out a platter. I imagined dropping it, and he asked me to look at the shards. And just like that, it was as though I were catapulting back through space (imagine the Starship Enterprise making a hyper-space jump) and I was in that kitchen.

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.

Fly Away
Fly Away

The pain I encountered there was unbearable – I knew in a heartbeat that this was not the kind of grief associated with a broken platter, but something much deeper, much darker. It really scared me, and so as soon as John brought me out of hypnosis, I told him that I was never going back there again!

“The terrors of death have fallen upon me, fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me.  So I said, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest.”  Psalm 55:5-6 (NJKV)

That experience was shocking to me – and it was the first time I ever considered the possibility that maybe I didn’t have the wonderful childhood I always thought I had. Furthermore, it unlocked the memory of my recurring childhood dreams and nightmares – those I had so carefully tucked away into the farthest recesses of my psyche.

StickMan
The Stick Man

Over the next few weeks I told John about those dreams, now vividly remembered in full color, and eventually he convinced me to try again to go back to my 3-year-old self in the old family kitchen. In a following session, I once again relaxed into a REM-hypnotic state and imagined myself wandering through my brain to find her. Imagine my shock when instead, I encountered an older girl, probably 9 years old (this would have been right about the age when I told my mom about my recurring nightmares). She said she was guarding and protecting the little girl, and she would not grant me access to her. I know this sounds crazy – it sure did to me! When John brought me out of hypnosis, I said something like … “If you tell me I have split personalities, I’m walking out of here and never coming back again”. Instead, he gave me a book that explained Dissociative Amnesia and Dissociation – survival and coping mechanisms common to small children who have suffered great trauma or abuse. We named my 3-year-old self “Little Jenny” and my 9-year-old self “Jenny P” (for Protector). John also helped me to understand that the coping mechanisms I’d employed as a child (which in many ways saved my life) were not working so well for me as an adult. Duh!

It was time to acknowledge my past (all of it) and learn some new coping skills!

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

Counselor John was a God-send to me.  He loaded me up on Scriptures which I later memorialized as “Love Letters” and gently led me back through all the old wounded places in my life … but this time he encouraged me “to see Jesus there with me in the midst of it”. And as Counselor John had promised, over time those old wounds lost their power to hurt me … they became more like old photographs of a time long ago. I could feel empathy for the people in the photograph, but the pain wasn’t mine anymore – I’d released it to Jesus.

Once I’d begun learning new coping skills, Counselor John began to coach me on how to confront the abuser that was my husband. I wish I could say it took just a few months, but it takes a long time to rebuild a backbone once you’ve become someone’s puppet. So, the insanity at home continued, while ever-so-slowly I was being changed from the inside out, until it all came to a head in 1991 when I finally left “T” just a few months before what would have been our 10-year wedding anniversary.

Fractured Heart

Friend, if you are walking out of -or perhaps you are still in the midst of- something soul trying, please take a moment to download this PDF file (Love Letters) that includes the same comforting and hope-filled Scriptures that Counselor John shared with me all those years ago.  Print them and internalize them.  Study them in different Bible translations to pick up on different colors and nuances.  Carry them in your purse, pocket, or briefcase so that you can refer to them often.  And most importantly, allow (give permission to) the Love of God to envelope you, to “be your shield and the lifter of your head” (Psalm 3:3)

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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 30)

This side of heaven, life will always hold a mix of joy and pain. Some will be the result of our own doing, and some beyond the realm of our control. I’m not sure which is the harder to bear.

“Be on your guard against false prophets (i.e. deceivers); they come to you looking like sheep on the outside, but on the inside they are really like wild wolves. You will know them by what they do (not what they say) … A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a poor tree cannot bear good fruit. … So then, you will know the false prophets by what they do.” ~Matthew 716-20 GNB (edited)

“False Prophets” come in many shapes, sizes, and disguises. Some are lovers or spouses. Some parents, some teachers. Some are classmates or colleagues. Regardless the packaging, all False Prophets all have one thing in common … they are bullies and masters of deception. They speak one thing with such power and authority (and often eloquence) that most people overlook the fact that they are actually doing the complete opposite.  Their actions don’t line up with their words!

Who have been the False Prophet’s in your life?

By 1985, some of the sparkle and shine had started to wear off our marriage. Arguing had escalated to fighting, often just to the cusp of violence. “T” never hit me – he never needed to take it that far, for the threat (sometimes blatant, but usually just a subtle reminder of what he was capable of) was enough to get me back in line.

There were happy days. I was not quite 21 years old when my step kids (ages 13 and 10) came up from South America. What did I know about parenting at 21 years old? Nothing … poor kids! But they still love me, so I guess I wasn’t all that terrible a step mom (lol). And “T” and I had two beautiful children together, both girls, born 1984 and 1986. In so many ways, these two little miracles were a lifeline for me. God used them both so profoundly to literally save my life! But I’ll write more about that in the next post ❤

As I said last week, shortly after birth of my firstborn “T” went back to South America to visit family. Upon returning he began to suggest, with increasing intensity, that we needed a Nanny. Suggesting escalated to badgering, and eventually to the constant droning that just wears a body down. Before I gave birth to our second daughter, I had agreed to his bringing a second cousin up from South America to live with us as Nanny under a few conditions. It was early 1987 when “She” moved into our home. “She” was 18 years old, “T” was 40, I was 26, the step kids 17, 15 and 9 (age approx.), my precious daughters 2.5 and 3 months old.

“She” spoke no English and so like it was when my step kids arrived, “T” was the primary interpreter while she learned the language. Immediately “T” began framing up the unfinished room on the first floor, and with her assistance they knocked it out in no time flat. By the time I went back to work full time, “She” was in her own room.

At first, “She” was helpful to have around, helping with laundry and cooking and of course the kids. All the children seemed to like her, and she was very helpful to “T”. If he had a project to do, “She” was always right there to help him do it. They were practically inseparable, but of course that made sense – she was grateful to be here in the USA and they were cousins. Why wouldn’t they spend time together?!?

“She” was young and fit, with the body of an 18-year old who had never born children. I was in my mid-20’s, had given birth to two children, and was about 20 lbs overweight. “T” began harping about my weight again, about my post-pregnancy body shape and flabby stomach. An exercise regimen ensued, but that just added more fuel to the fire because as much as I wanted to please him (mostly so he would get off my back), I also resented that he couldn’t just love me the way I was. Why did his affection for me have to be irrevocably linked to my body weight and shape?

I remember one Saturday morning, with all of us sitting around the kitchen table for breakfast, I had dared to put one (1) spoon of sugar into my cup of (very strongly brewed Colombian) coffee. “T” came unglued! He utterly and completely shamed me for choosing a spoonful of sugar for my coffee instead of choosing to have a few wedges of a cut-up orange that was on the table. They aren’t even the same thing (you can’t put an orange in your coffee!), and the coffee tasted like mud! After some screaming and yelling, I eventually left the table furious and in tears. To berate me like that in front my kids! To make such a fricking big deal over a stupid spoonful of sugar! And to do it in front of “She” (who just sat there with a soft smirk on her face).  There was no pleasing him!

And as the months rolled by, I began to get increasingly agitated by “She’s” presence. Something had changed/shifted in the home, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The Family Room was downstairs, and that was where our TV was. More and more often, it would be time for bed and instead of coming to bed with me, “She” and “T” would stay up late (I mean really late) to finish watching a Spanish-speaking show that they just had to see the end of … or they would need to talk privately about something in her room important, with the door closed of course. This was happening a more and more often. Naturally I complained about it, but “T” would just explain to me that “She” was lonely, missing her family in South America, and that he was just being a good cousin trying to make her feel at home here. All very reasonable answers, but regardless something didn’t seem right about it.

[Years after my divorce my mom told me that on a visit soon after “She’s” arrival and when I was out of the room, “T” kissed “She” on the lips right in front of her and then gave her an “I dare you” kind of smile. “Why didn’t you tell me?”, I asked. “Because I knew you wouldn’t have believed me”, mom said.]

I think it might have been 1989, just before my oldest daughter started 1st grade, that we moved to a 4BR house in a better school district. My two precious daughters shared the bedroom closest to ours. My step daughter shared a bedroom with “She” (as they were just a few years apart in age), and my two step sons shared the 4th bedroom. The house was configured in an L-shape, and there was a 4-season room build just off the kitchen that encompassed the master bedroom window, so that if you looked out the master bedroom window you were looking into the 4-season room. This became our new Family Room. There were many nights that I went to bed alone, leaving “T” and “She” huddled together in the Family Room under a shared blanked on the sofa (back facing the bedroom window) while I waited in our bedroom, eventually falling asleep alone.

Remember that concession “T” harassed out of me? The one that I agreed to only on the condition that “I would NEVER know about it, that it would be far away so that there would be no risk my kids/family ever knowing about it, and that he would give me the ILLUSION of a happy marriage.”?

I was now Office Manager/Exec Assistant at a small marketing office and had developed a personal friendship with one of my employees who happened to be a single mom. She often came over on the weekends she didn’t have her kids, and after a late night of card games and a few beers, it wasn’t uncommon for her to spend the night in my daughter’s room. Then she stopped spending the night.

[Many years later my friend told me “T” tried to sneak into bed with her one night.  Once refused, he routinely stalked her down the hall whenever she went to use the bathroom. She felt very uncomfortable at our house, and she stopped coming over.]

And what about my condition for having a Nanny, in which “I” was to be the “Woman of the house”?  Well, clearly “T” and “She” had a different idea. Subtly but surely, my role was being challenged. She was a threat, that much was evident, but I couldn’t quite figure out why. She was his cousin, almost 22 years younger than him. Why would she want to ruin things for us? It just didn’t make sense. There were a lot of things that didn’t make sense! Like what was happening to my laundry?

Some of my favorite pieces of clothing were mysteriously disappearing. By instinct, I knew that “She” had them and I demanded that she produce them … but of course “She” denied everything and pleaded bullying to “T”. Realizing I was getting nowhere fast, I snuck into “She’s” room (the one she shared with my step daughter) and found my clothes folded tucked neatly between the space of her bed and the wall! Gotcha! I was not crazy! Vindication at last! I tromped down the hall, waiving the newly discovered clothing, certain that now “T” would see that I was being harassed and mistreated by the Nanny who was supposed to be following my rules of conduct.

Nope! Didn’t see that coming! They both lit into me like nobody’s business! How DARE I accuse her of such a thing! How DARE I sneak into HER bedroom! “She” had a right to privacy!! I was NEVER to go into “She’s” bedroom again, under ANY circumstances whatsoever! If I did, I’d be SORRY!

“But anyone who hears these words of mine and does not obey them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain poured down, the rivers overflowed, the wind blew hard against that house, and it fell. And what a terrible fall that was!”. ~Matthew 7:26-27 GNB

Which is probably why I didn’t do the logical thing when I woke one night to “T’s” sneaking out of bed, stealthily opening our bedroom door, and tip toeing down the hall. I followed suit, pausing our bedroom door until I heard another door open/close. Any sane person would have marched down the hall and opened the door to find out what he was doing in “She’s” bedroom at 2 am (with his daughter in the same room!!). But I’d already knew what hell I’d pay if I did that! Next, I thought about going outside and peeking in through the outside window … but oh Lord – if they caught me?!?!? I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Instead, I sat at the end of the hall way with my back against the closet door that bridged the master bedroom and that of my two daughters, and I waited. “I’ve got him this time”, I said to myself. “He’ll be the one catching hell when I catch him red handed exiting “She’s” room!” But he didn’t exit after 10 minutes, or 30 minutes, and eventually I just wearied … knowing that even if he did reenter the hallway and find me sitting there waiting for him, somehow, it would still end up being my fault for “spying” on him. By this time, I’d given him so much control over me that I just didn’t have the strength for this type of confrontation and what it would evoke.

We used to sit around the oval kitchen table in a certain order – “T” on one end, and I on the other. And then “She” started sitting in my spot, while I sat next to my daughters to help them with their meals. Of course, I loved helping my daughters with their meals, but I really resented the way that “She” seemed to own the other end of the table. If seemed as though I was visiting an alternate reality where “She” was “T’s” wife and I was the Nanny.

Once both my girls were in school, “T” and “She” decided that she should run a neighborhood daycare business out of our home. The family room was restaged, and “She” soon took in 3-4 other children in addition to our two little girls. And naturally, “She” became friends with their parents, as did “T”.

[When we went to court, “T” subpoenaed them to testify about what a terrible wife/mother I was – at least based on all the stories they’d heard about me from “She” over the years.]

Apparently running a daycare business is exhausting, because “She” then started needing to get out a little in the evenings. And who do you think she went out with? You guessed it! Here I am working 40-50 hours a week, so that I can pay a wage to our live-in Nanny who also is making a tidy income running a business out of my home, and if that isn’t enough … I’m babysitting the kids while “T” and “She” go out to the movies or other play dates.

  • I want her gone! He wants her to stay!
  • I say she’s taking my place! He say’s I’m just imagining things! Making something out of nothing!
  • I say there is something going on between the two of them! He say’s the revelation of my Dad’s behavior (the family secret) has colored my vision, and that I’m seeing things that aren’t there! He loves me and only me!
  • I’m going to leave if you don’t get rid of her! He says if I ever try to leave him, he’ll whisk my two daughters off to South America and I’ll never see them again!  (the nail in my coffin!)
The Nightmare that was Mr T
“The Nightmare that was “Mr T”.    puttinghopetowork.com

They decided to take up Salsa Dancing. They go out at least once a week. I tuck the kids into bed at night, and watch my husband get dressed to go out on the town with the Nanny. The world has gone crazy! I’m going crazy! Feels like ping-pong balls are bouncing around in my head!! He says this, but my eyes see that! Or at least I think they do.  He says I’m imagining things …. maybe he’s right, I have no proof. He says he loves me and only me.  No! Surely this can’t be right! They are “too friendly” all cuddled up on the sofa together in the evenings! That’s not how cousins behave! It doesn’t make sense! We argue more and more, but nothing changes.

“T” decided to build a dance studio for the two of them in our garage. He framed up an approx. 8-10 space that could only be entered from the side door to the garage and proclaimed that this was where he and “She” would practice dancing for an upcoming competition. They were not to be disturbed. Period. To this day, I do not know what was in that small looked room – for even though there was a gap between the top of the wall and the garage ceiling, I was too afraid to climb up and look inside for fear what would happen to me if I was found out.

I was living in crazy-ville, and our fighting increased. During one particularly hot argument he turned to me and yelled “What do you want!?!” The words that escaped my mouth were a shock to my own ears … “I want to see a Marriage Counselor!”, I shouted back.

I am pretty sure God sent a very frustrated angel with a cow-prod to me that day, who somehow managed to jab those words out of my mouth, getting into the atmosphere before my brain had time to process what was taking place! It’s funny to me now, because the moment I heard those words, I’m pretty sure I clasped my hands over my mouth! (What? Oh dear God, who said that?!?!? No the heck I do NOT want to see a marriage counselor! Thankfully, he’ll NEVER agree to that!)

“Fine!”, he said.

*Sigh*

In the NKJV, Matthew 7:27 reads “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” I wept when I read that during my morning devotions the day after I’d drafted this week’s post. Yes – the rains descended on my life, and I stayed in the house that I’d built. I needed that house! Then the floods came, but I stayed. Then the winds blew fierce and boisterous and pounding incessantly so as to cause great damage, but still I stayed. And finally, my flimsy little house (the “happy life” I needed so desperately and compromised everything to create) collapsed! “And great was its fall.

Are you listening to the voice of a False Prophet (FP)?

May the Lord Jesus Christ give you discernment to comprehend truth from the lie, to recognize the disconnect between what your FP says and what they do.

Are you building your house (your life) on sand?

May the Lord help you to be truthful with yourself (and others), so that He can then help you bring about change.

Little did I know it, but in that miraculous cow-prodding moment, God flipped the game! It didn’t happen overnight, and I still had a long way to go to being strong enough to confront “T” and take my life back. But it was a game changing moment, and within the next few weeks I would meet the man who would help me deal with not only the insanity of my current life, but help me deal with my past.

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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.