Who Are You? Part One

Who are you? Recently while viewing a movie, this query was made of one actor to another.  On the surface it appears to be a very casual question.  Would you “rattle off” the answers as though you were reading a list of ingredients on a food label? Perhaps, the first ingredient; that trait which you value most might be what you shared initially. Is it your career? Is it what position you hold in the community? Is it the relationship you have to other people in your life? Who are you, truly and sincerely?

After actor one rambled on about what he did, where he lived what kind of family relationships he had, what his career was, all the volunteer work he did etc. actor two finally said, “aren’t you a child of God?”  If you are a child a God, do people know that? Do they see it in your actions and spoken words? Does someone have to ask you?

Over the years, many persons have said, “you are a Christian, aren’t you?” Puzzled, I looked at them and said, “yes, but we didn’t discuss religion. How did you know?” I was joyful when their answers have always been the same, “your smile, your actions and the way you treat people let me know.”

Many children are happy with the traits they have inherited from their parents. Years ago, my son proclaimed he didn’t like his nose for it was like mine. I apologized and said, “I’m sorry you didn’t get your Dad’s nose.” His reply was, “I don’t like either of your noses.” My nose was not by choice, but it has been a trait of my paternal family for generations. I know I’m a “Hamer.” My green eyes are a trait bestowed from my mother and maternal grandfather; a Scotsman whom arrived in the US as a young lad. I never met my grandfather whom my mother spoke highly of, for he passed away when she was a young girl. Yet, over the years when I was complimented on my green eyes, that was a reminder of the grandfather I never met.

I’m grateful and appreciative for the traits I have from my earthly parents. My nose has allowed me to smell wonderful fragrances throughout the years, as well as some foul and offensive odors. My eyes have been a gift to see great beauty around me. That list is far too lengthy to describe, but each reading this blog understand the depths of beauty in our lives. The cliché that beauty is “in the eyes of the beholder” is valid. Some see magnificence in particular parts of the world or nature, while others prefer other landscapes. Some see beauty in a piece of art while others view it as unpleasant. Beauty is as vast as individual people.

I’m very proud that someone recognized the traits of my heavenly father even without asking if I were His child. What greater gift that to be able to be a light and testimony for someone who has given us so much. TO BE CONTINUED: Ephesians 2:10 NKJ, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Not Just A Dollar

As I shared yesterday about my school lunches. Even though I was “gifted” those lunches, they still had a price. I had tasks to complete to receive them. I learned at a young age that one can’t be prideful when they have nothing.  Churches and organizations were not available in the 1950’s and 60’s as they are today to assist families in need.  Poverty is encompassing. It doesn’t merely cause people to be hungry or lack other necessities of life, but most often it imprints them for actions and decisions during that time of their life and beyond.

As a child living in poverty, we experienced more than having little to eat and wearing hand me down clothes. One of those memories was a recent “humorous” story around a family table while visiting my brother and his family, bringing tears of laughter. In that era of our youth and teen years, there was a faux butter spread; oleo which not only left a waxy taste on the palate but was also packaged in a wax covered carton. When our commodity butter was depleted or if none had been provided, oleo was the staple in our home.

Not only was oleo a food source, it was a “sole” necessity.  Shoes with large holes in the soles were not to be discarded. Oleo cartons would be cut to fit the interior of our shoes and worn until the shoes were almost disintegrated. Often one pair of shoes might have five or six carton replacements before new shoes would be purchased. That time of my life was preparing me for situations as a wife years later.

As a newlywed, because my then husband, Charles mandated I drop out of college to work full-time so he could complete his college education, I accepted office jobs which were unfulfilling. Charles had his life planned and he never deviated from his goals. However, I was asked to take jobs which I had no desire to take to enable him to satisfy his aspirations. If I hadn’t endured the hardships from my family of origin, I might not have been able to endure the adversities of my marriage.

It isn’t uncommon for many newlywed couples to have “lean” years in early marriage, but most of them are a team in the decisions. Finances may be discussed, and budgets made together. That never happened in my marriage. Charles was the leader and I had merely to do what he instructed. As a result, some financial struggles could have been prevented if purchases had not been made.

One of the most challenging financial times was when Charles had accepted his first career position in Enid, OK and our first child, our daughter was weeks old. We didn’t have money for even her formula. What a joy and blessing it was when a Canadian dollar had flown into our flower bed at our small apartment. At that time, Canadian currency had greater value than our US currency. That gift from God provided us with enough money to purchase a couple cans of formula.   Philippians 4:19 KJV,” But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

The Button Girl!

As I have been hearing of the countless school districts withholding lunches from children whose parents have delinquent “school lunch” bills, I thought of my own school lunch days. As the eldest of three children reared in a poor home on government commodities, I was thrilled when in the fifth grade I received a gift of becoming a “button girl.”

To be selected as a “button girl or boy” you were recommended by your teacher, as a child that caused no problems in class and possessed a financial need. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, fifth and sixth grade children from poor families were given “chores” to do in exchange for school lunches. As “button children” we handed out “clean plate” buttons to anyone cleaning their plates.  At the end of each school year, if a child had received these buttons, they received a reward.

Certainly, I ate every bite of my food, for some days it was the only meal I had for the entire day. In addition to handing out the buttons, I completed chores including washing down blackboards, cleaning the fish tanks and any miscellaneous chores teachers or staff required.

As with poorer children in our present day, I was aware our family was atypical of other families. I sincerely desired to be able to eat a school lunch with the other children. Our packed lunches didn’t have the same delicious sandwiches or special lunch box treats as the other children whose mothers packed theirs.  Our home packed meals consisted of sandwiches with white bread from the day-old bread store at 15 loaves for $1.00. The filling was not meat or cheese, but merely government commodity butter or if we were fortunate, a special treat of commodity peanut butter. Never was it a peanut butter and jam sandwich for the jam would have been too costly.  There were no chips, fruit or sweet treats; merely a barren sandwich.

Even though the other children realized I was “poor” and had to work for my lunch, for those few brief minutes each day, I could be “one of the other kids.”  Our hand-me down clothes from the missionary “clothes barrel” or hand sewn clothes also always set us apart from the other children.

TO BE CONTINUED! II Thessalonians 3:10, NIV “…the one whom is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

Do You Have Storm Coverage?

If you have resided in OK long enough, you are accustomed to the numerous storm warnings. Sometimes the storms dissipate, and the warnings merely caused alarm or concern. If you heeded the warnings, you were able to be organized to “take cover” if necessary.  Last evening as the storm was approaching closer, I was prepared. My storm shelter was open and even though I was unable to take all crucial possessions or documents to the shelter in the event a tornado had hit my home, I had a few necessities “ready.”

While residing in south FL for several years, we also prepared for impending hurricanes. Fortunately, weather coverage gives residents far more time for planning and sanctuary for hurricanes than when preparing for tornadoes in OK. Nonetheless, weather technology and meteorologists have enabled most persons in the US to be prepared for many of these natural disasters.

What about the storms of life? Do we have warning? Are we ready? Unfortunately, most often we are not. With the loss of jobs or our homes, automobile accidents, illnesses or physical injuries, the unexpected death of loved ones, marital betrayal and countless others, we may be caught off guard. How do we prepare for these storms?

If you attended Sunday School as a young child, you may recall the children’s chorus about the wise and foolish man. The lyrics were: “the wise man built his house upon the rock, and the rains came tumbling down. The rains came down and the floods came up and the house on the rock stood firm. The foolish man built his house upon the sand, and the rains came tumbling down. The rains came down and the floods came up, and the house on the sand went flat. So, build your house on the Lord Jesus Christ and the blessings will come down. The blessings will come down as your prayers go up, so build your house on the Lord.”

I loved that song as a child and as a Sunday School teacher because the motions to the song are what bring it to life. As adults, we may feel we have built our lives upon the Lord, so they remain strong and stable.  However, we can never predict what others will do, nor the factors which may cause our lives to suffer significant storm damage. If we have a solid foundation on the Lord, our lives normally don’t totally crumble even though they may become quite shaky and unstable. Isaiah 59:19 KJV “When the enemy comes in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.”

Are You A Vault or a Sieve?

Has a friend or member of your family ever come to you with weighty burdens and torments of their life? Have they said to you, “I’m sharing because I know I can trust you?” Perhaps they even asked you to pray with them during a heavy-hearted chapter of their life. Were you a vault or a sieve?

For over 44 years I frequently sought persons whom I believed would realize I honored them enough to share some of my deepest despair(s) with them. Yet, too often they were not vaults; holding my confidences in their hearts only. They were sieves as they shared with not only others, but most often the perpetrator of the sorrow.

When a “sieve” shares another’s heartache, they have betrayed not only the person whom trusted them, but those whom they shared with. When someone comes to you with a tale about another person, does it cause you to pause?  Do you realize if they so rapidly shared another’s heartache, which they were asked to hold in confidence, what other things do they do? Do they lie, steal and cheat, or are they merely persons whom honor nothing?

Because I am a 44-year survivor of domestic violence there were no agencies, I could go to seeking help. I had no family or close friend to confide in. After time with the Lord in prayer and bible study, I often desired a “human ear.” Because I believed my most logical “vault” would be those in my church whom I knew and had socialized with, I shared my burdens with them. The confidence breaking sieves are too numerous to count.

Far too often the person whom you have confided in lacks self-respect, honor and/or integrity. By allowing your heartaches to be shared with others, it boosts their self-esteem. They believe being a sieve places them on a higher plane than the person that trusted them. They feel they possess something of value; another’s trust.   The gift of trust as a “vault” is far greater than being a sieve that possesses the knowledge granted them.  Proverbs 13:3 NIV, “He would guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.”

Will You Help Me- Part Two

Our pastor urged me to seek solace away from Charles until our marital situation could improve.  My one bed-room apartment was roach infested in a very frightening part of town, but it was all I could afford. I took my daughter and son-in-law to help me move a bed, small table, a couple of chairs and some of my personal effects from our large marital home. Charles barricaded the passageway, as he touted it was “his house” and “his things” and I was taking nothing. I was seeking only the basic items to exist in a barren apartment.

He also refused access to my clothing and personal items. Even though some of the furniture were heirlooms from my family, I was still prevented from taking even a bed.  Charles cited I could take two sports chairs and a card table from the garage. My daughter loaned me a bed. As days passed, I was desperate.

I sent an e-mail to the city of Ft. Worth inquiring about the legality of panhandling, as I had passed countless panhandlers on the city streets.  I noted, I didn’t wish to break the law, but I was desperate, explaining my circumstances. The mayor of Ft. Worth, whom I will be grateful to, for the remainder of my life, Mr. Michael Moncrief, personally contacted me. He informed me that panhandling was illegal. I told him that I had no desire to break the law, but merely to find a way to survive.

The gift he gave me that day, was when he noted I was a victim of domestic violence and I needed to go to Women’s Haven in Ft. Worth, ASAP. I did and the rest is history. I never realized how abused I was until I became a client at what would become my “life saver.” I received a gift of support and understanding from the counseling at Women’s Haven. I couldn’t change Charles’ heart or attitude toward me, but I would come to better understand then and many years later, that his actions were and are typical of abusers.

When my car was broken down at the side of the road, even as Charles’ wife, he refused to come to my aid. At the time I had no roadside assistance plan.  I made multiple telephone calls until I found someone to assist me. The comprehension for many victims of domestic violence is surviving solo becomes impossible.

My reality was if I wanted to survive, I had no choice but to return to my husband and home. I continued to hope, pray and believe that the love I had for him then and the previous 35 years, would override his desire to abuse.  My love was not enough.

I was reminded yet again during my recent training to volunteer at our local domestic violence center, it’s all about control. Abusers will do anything they can to control their victims. I would realize 8 years later that I could no longer fight the battle. As the staff of Palomar has reminded us, “we protect the things we love.”

Charles ultimate abuse was his betrayal of beginning an affair while I was his wife. The other abuses during our marriage were minuscule in comparison to learning the truth behind his abandonment of me after our 44 year marriage. I learned of his mistress six years later. He proudly touted, he had never loved me, but that he had needed me so he would be successful in his career.

I then realized, that is why he never protected me. Ephesians 4:2-3 NKJ, “with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.”

 

 

Is This Love? Part Five

I just wanted to reiterate to my blog readers, this series on DV is not about being a victim. It is about being grateful I survived and doing so with blessings and gratitude. I cling to Jer. 29:11 for child abuse and DV is not pretty. It’s horrific, but I chose to overcome and not be a victim. Yes, I’m sad and grieve that I never had parents or a husband that loved me. However, I also know that God knows this and He will receive the glory. This blog is also to remind each reader  if you know of someone going through this, I can only urge you to be there for them. Victims of abuse need support, not criticism.

As Focus Ministries states, “would you recognize violence and abuse if they occurred in your relationship or in your church? Because abuse can be subtle and can be denied, many people do not recognize it at first.”  As I shared in part 4 of this blog, I frequently reached out to fellow church members for prayer and support. Our frequent moves with Charles’ desire for career changes did not permit me to have enduring friendships. Consequently, I had no one whom I could turn to when I needed prayer and support.  Thus, I believed some in my own church congregation would be willing to not only “hear me” but,  pray with me.

Not only did many not believe my cries for help, the majority went to Charles immediately with my pleas; causing the abuse to escalate. Even today, 7 years after he left me, he is still using the gossiping of church members years ago, to continue emotional abuse against me. For 44 years and beyond, Charles denied he was abusive. The validations from counselors, the numerous books I purchased on DV and even the bible studies on such behavior in marriage fell on deaf ears with Charles.

I can’t recall any of our pastors whom I did not seek prayer from. Even though I was in counseling, I desired spiritual support from the leader of our congregation. As with church members, most of the pastors disbelieved my concerns. However, during our 44-year marriage, the four pastors whom did sincerely believe me were a blessing. I knew they were praying with and for me.

My prayers never changed. I so greatly desired our marriage would be healed and Charles would love me. It was a prayer God chose not to answer. For six years after his betrayal, Charles confided that he never truly loved me. I then understood his frequent words during our marriage “if only I were single”, and “I married to be successful in my career” were valid.

Realizing I remained in a marriage which would never be healed and loving a man that never loved me was another emotional element of the abuse. Why couldn’t Charles have the integrity to tell me years ago he had no desire for me? Despite the words from pastors to “remain in the marriage, no matter what the circumstances or outcome”, we could each have parted ways with perhaps the opportunity for a new life. Charles had begun planning a new life long before he left me, but I continued to believe that I would be at his side when we passed from this life.

When I learned of the fact, he had never loved me, I also learned of his affair which began during our marriage. No matter how intense the abuse during the marriage, the realization of such betrayal while I was his wife opened the deep and painful emotional scar. James 4:1-2 ESV, “What causes quarrels…among you? Is it not this that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have…You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask.”