Serving in Ministry for Over 30 Years
Everybody has a story but we don’t all want to tell our story. There are some things we’d rather not recall, let alone describe. Since there’s no such thing as a perfect mother or father or life, I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re all broken. We get wounded one way or another.
It can be as simple as being called “monkey lips” in elementary school and feeling like your lips are three sizes too big and believing that you are the ugliest girl in the class. That was me. Yup, I got marked internally by that.
If not for the kind care of my older brother in later years, explaining how Sophia Loren’s full lips were actually a celebrated part of her beauty, I would probably still be apologizing for this big old mouth.
Some wounds you can grow out of and others follow you for decades. My dad was manic depressive (they call it bi-polar these days) and didn’t like the idea of taking medicine because it was shameful back then, plus he had political aspirations that he felt would be hindered if it was found out that he had mental illness. Pride played a part, but his unhealthy thinking deceived him.
Growing up with unchecked mental illness can be very damaging. When I was about 7 years old, I had an experience that marked me for the majority of my life. My siblings and I were standing outside of my parent’s locked bedroom door while inside the bedroom my mother was screaming and crying uncontrollably, yelling to us through the door that my father had a gun and was threatening to kill himself.
Over the hysteria of my mother, my older brother, Bryn, (a mere 11 years old at the time) directed my father to put the gun down and open the door. Amazingly, Dad listened to him and did what he was told to do. That experience convinced me that my mother was unable to keep my father from killing himself and that it was going to be up to us kids to keep him alive.
It is no surprise that in later years I felt full responsibility for anyone who had suicidal tendencies. I became a rescuer. I loved my dad very much. He was brilliant, creative and extremely loving. I will always be grateful for how he loved me, believed in me and always forgave me.
It was not until I was an adult that I realized the level of dysfunction I grew up in, but as far as I was concerned as a little girl, I lived in a mansion, I had wonderful parents and we were a wonderful family. Tragically, my father committed suicide when my youngest son was two, and I not only had to deal with the grief of his death, but also the impact of the trauma of his death.
Despite the fact that her journey with my dad was anything but blissful, my mom did her best to make life as magical for us as she could because that’s what her mom did. She was dad’s greatest cheerleader, and she was a joy carrier, indeed! She played fun sing-along music on the stereo and often whistled while she worked. It was not at all unusual for us to sing You are my Sunshine or We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder in three part harmony while washing dishes together or driving in the car.
But Mom had terrible arthritis and unrelenting allergies that negatively impacted her daily life. Unfortunately, she leaned hard on us kids for emotional support and looked to us for counsel when she should have looked to her peers. Over the years, my siblings and I did an awful lot of parenting of our parents, which makes a kid grow up way too quick.
I was born in 1960, so by the time I turned two digits my parents were navigating the 70’s culture and experiencing their own journey of self-discovery. Suffice it to say that there were inappropriate behaviors and clearly a lack of boundaries which led to a lot of shame in my life.
Instead of being taught to remain pure, I was taken to the drugstore to purchase contraceptives. My mom believed she was being a responsible parent teaching me to use contraception and I was convinced that it was just a natural part of life. At 14.
My parent’s intentions were good. They weren’t going to do to their kids what their parents did to them, by teaching them that sex was ‘dirty’. Instead, they celebrated sexual intimacy as an expression of love. What they could not have foreseen was how ‘dirty’ I felt when I became a believer and discovered that sex was something to be enjoyed only within the context of marriage. As you might imagine, as a new Christian I had many struggles in that area of my life.
As far as my spiritual beginnings, our family celebrated Christmas and Easter and I knew that Jesus was the son of God who died on a cross. I learned a lot about Jesus because several of our neighbors invited us children to go to their church’s vacation Bible school.
It was my father’s conviction that we should find faith along the way and not just because they taught us a certain way to believe. Honestly, I think he wanted us to be free thinkers so that our experiences would be personal and authentic. My father wore dog tags that said he was a Christian but struggled his whole life coping with being bi-polar.
I can say that when my mother began attending a Bible study in 1975 and referring to Jesus as her ‘Lord’ that my dad was supportive and ended up going to church with her regularly the last few years of his life.
In 1980, the Lord began to pursue me. I’d be driving in my car and a love song would be playing on the radio and I would suddenly know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God was in the car with me. I felt His presence and believed that He was personally singing the love song over me. I became overwhelmed by His gracious love, because I knew how unworthy I was. He so patiently waited until I was ready to surrender my heart and life to Him.
I am a true example of the scripture that states that the one who’s been forgiven much loves much. My life was awfully messy but he loves to make all things new! I will never forget what He saved me from. I was on the road to destruction and completely clueless how to change my course, but He did so with His unrelenting love for me.
After being married in 1985, I decided that my greatest priority was to establish a loving and inviting home while learning how to be the best wife and mother I was capable of being. My psalmist heart was birthed in that environment as I regularly turned to my journal pages to clear my mind and heart. As I released my heart cries to God onto paper, I was relieved to discover this Holy One bending near and inclining His ear.
Every day I was faced with my inadequacy to ‘do’ what I clearly had to ‘do’ as a young wife and mother, and it was as if my sighs of insecurity were heard above the music of heaven. Inevitably, I would collapse into the arms of my Savior at some point in my day. It was in this divinely-designed greenhouse Holy Spirit taught me to let my roots go deep into Him and to not rely on my outward performance for self-definition.
Songwriting became a huge outlet in my life. It was a way to process what I was going through in my life while connecting with God on an intimate level. It has helped me to navigate some of the most challenging times of my life. I’m so thankful that He has designed me this way!
One of my darkest seasons was when my marriage of 29 years unraveled and I suddenly needed to re-discover who I was and how to go on. It was excruciating as I watched my adult children navigate the breakup of their parents and the breakdown of what they were taught their whole lives. To be honest, my songs tell my story best, but I want others to know that there is life after divorce and I am grateful that the grace of God is sufficient, no matter what.
I am newly married to a wonderful man who is a carrier of Hope and Joy. Paul wholeheartedly loves, supports and nurtures me. I am truly a blessed woman! I cherish my five amazing adult children (Hannah, Jeremiah, Hadassah, Josiah and Jesse) and celebrate the deep connection I share with each one. I also have a wonderful son-in-love (Micah) and four delicious grandchildren (Aridai, Aurora, Asher and Rilian) who I take great delight in!
My journey has been wrought with many difficulties, but Jesus has proven to be fully committed to finishing the work He began in me 40 years ago. I have been convinced that God’s heart is not only inclined towards me but He also has great affection for me. My walk with the Lord feels like a delightful dance and following His movements is my greatest joy! Even when He leads me to do the unexpected, I am confident in His kind and faithful leadership.
I’ve learned the importance of being mindful of His nearness and how essential it is to remain consistently grateful throughout my days. My ongoing conversation with Holy Spirit has established a rest within me that, I hope, is tangible to others.
My daily focus is to live simply, love deeply and serve selflessly. And one of my greatest joys is helping others to connect with their hearts and ultimately, to connect with God’s heart. If the songs He’s given me accomplish this, I will be truly thankful!