Today I am grateful for all of the other women in my life! I went to a fellow Grateful Gal's blog and read an amazing quote. We all know how I love quotes...lol.
Being a woman...wow. I have been female since birth, I know that is stating the obvious...lol. As a little girl, I was the apple of my Daddy's eye. As for my Mom, I read an explanation that fit her like a glove. It basically stated that some women distance themselves from their own daughters in order to not re-live the horrors of their own childhoods. Once the sons came into our family(4 of them), I no longer counted. I grew to accept this fact and even though I know that it shadowed me into adulthood, it was normal at our house.
My first experience of 'being a woman' was not good. My periods were horrid. The doctor, in fact, said that what I was experiencing was equivelent to labor minus the actual birth of a baby. I threw up, was in excruciating pain, and spent too much time sitting on the toilet. The good news is that my own 4 actual labors were a breeze:). Hormones were not my friend. At the age of 12, I had breasts that any grown woman would envy, and believe me the men noticed. I was mad; my body had betrayed me. My Father, who had no idea of how to react to me since I was no longer a little girl, stopped interacting with me on any level other than telling me what chore to do and when. There was one day when I started sobbing uncontrollably. I could not stop. My poor Dad sat down and offered me anything and everything I wanted, if I would just tell him why I was crying. I could not do so.
I became a woman, sexually, at the age of 18. The young man in question felt it necessary to inform our entire high school that he had relieved me of my virginity. I was devastated.
I married at the age of 19. The marriage lasted 18 months. I left for Virgina to live with friend. At this point in my life, I was young, beautiful, naive, and foolish. I drank, partied, and went to work every day. It was in Virgina, that, at the age of 23, I met and fell in love with a married man. At the age of 24, I birthed his daughter.
This incredibly amazing little creature changed my life. I was so mentally unbalanced that I convinced myself that God had apparently been sleeping at the time I conceived her and as soon as He realized there had been a mistake, He would take her away from me. This fear consumed me day and night for four months. I literally held her in my arms every single moment for fear that if I let her out of my sight, she would disappear. Even though I had gone to church joyfully from the time I was a little girl until I was 16-every Sunday and Wednesday, had never missed a day of Vacation Bible School, and had taken all of my friends with me to revival every year, I had missed the crux of the scriptures. I had no clue what a personal relationship with Christ was.
Finally, and thankfully, by the time my little one was four months old, I concluded that despite my failures as a human being, God, in His mercy was going to let me keep my little miracle. I loved being a mother! The drinking and partying had stopped when I found out I was pregnant and it only took one time of drinking after her birth for me to realize that I could not drink and be a mom.
When Alana was 16 months old, I gave birth to her sister. This was wonderful. Now I had 2 little miracles and I easily handled both girls. They were the light and joy and pride of my life.
I wish I could say that my choice of men had improved, but it did not. Phylicia's father cheated on me every chance he got and then demanded that I marry him. Since my mother had disowned me at this point, I married him as I felt there was no other way to support myself and my daughters. Shortly thereafter we moved to Ohio to rebuild my relationship with my mother and to start over. Needless to say, that was just geography and the marriage failed miserably.
I was working, but when he left I was not able to pay the bills. I was in the Coalition for the Homeless, through my job at the Kent Homeless Shelter and it was while I was at one of their meetings that I learned of ACCESS, a homeless shelter in Akron. I applied to work there and got the job. We also moved into a Transitional Housing Project where rent was based on income. Things began to look up for us. I was able to purchase a brand new car, using my tax refund as the down payment!
Can you guess what happened next? I met a man. At the time, I was lonely, scared, tired, and wanted a partner to help me. Because I felt an immediate bond to this man, we began a relationship. For the record, and before I go on, three of my four babies are birth control babies. I did not intend to have more children until I could financially handle all of my responsibilities. I was never short on love or acceptance when I did get pregnant and have realized that God had it all in control and He knows best.
I re-married and we had 2 sons(and not in that order!) This marriage, in retrospect, only shows more of my self-damaging patterns. I continued to make decisions that were not healthy for me or my children. The fact that all I did also affected my children heaped guilt upon the condemantion I already felt. Depression ran rampant.
My children continued to be my one and only reason to remain on this planet. I longed to go home to be with my Lord and yet I knew that my own life was not mine to take. The thought of abandoning my babies and spending eternity in hell kept me alive.
From the transitional housing, we moved into government subsidized housing where, once again, rent was based on income. I was pregnant with my third child and this is when Rheumatoid Arthritis reared its ugly head. I hurt to the point of tears and could not work. I went to welfare where I was given money, food stamps, and medical cards for all us.
The children and I shared many moments of laughter, tears, hurts, and triumphs. Through it all, we prayed. When I was 32, my brother, Donnie, was killed in a motorcycle accident. I truly thought I would never draw another normal breath...what ever normal meant. I know-deep deep deep in my knower, that God Almighty Himself carried me in His arms during this time.
Donnie's death began a period of losses in my life. I began counseling after his death as I finally realized that I needed help. The Christian counselor that I saw meant well, but definatley had her own issues to resolve. Her issues filtered into her treatment of me. It was during this time that I realized that I may have been raped before I was eight years old. Memories surfaced that I had buried.
What I do remember is that I was between the ages of 6 and 8 when the traveling preacher came to town. I idolized this man! Every year, he would come to preach a revival and I so wanted to impress him that I won the prize for bringing the most guests every year. Well, this year, he asked my mother if I could come to the church and help him out one day. I was thrilled and honored. I remember skipping happily to the church, walking quietly through the church, and my shock when I opened the door to the office he was in. He was sitting at the desk with a glazed look in his eyes and his hand was moving in his lap. I know now that he was masterbating. When he saw me standing there, he offered this in the way of explanation, "Men have needs, especially men who are married and travel all of the time." The next and last memory I have of that day is me attempting to hide behind some stacked chairs in the church basement and him reaching for me. I choose to believe that God will only reveal to me what I can handle and I am okay to not know the conclusion of that day until He chooses, if ever, to reveal it to me.
During this counseling, I also remembered another time I had been raped. This time I was 18 and living in South Carolina with a friend. I had lived for the day I turned 18 because I desperately wanted to get as far away from my parents as was humanly possible. I was babysitting for my friend's sister-in-law. She worked full-time and needed a sitter for her two darling little ones. I had always loved babysitting and jumped at the chance to be with her kids. One night, her husband came home early from work. He raped me on the living room couch. Somehow, it was as though I left my body and I watched what was happening from above. I kept telling myself, "Don't scream. You will fighten and wake the children. It will be over soon."
Worse than the rape was the fact that no one believed me. My friend threw me out of her house and phoned to tell my parents that I had ruined her sister-in-laws marriage. I returned to my parents house where my father took great joy in telling me what a tramp, slut, and whore I was and that I was killing my mother.
I have digressed. The Christian counselor had to leave the state due to her husband being transferred through his job. Even though I knew it had been an unhealthy alliance, I mourned her leaving. I sought secular counseling. This time things were much healthier and I was improving. This counselor was marrying and would immeiately become a mom to three young children, so she quit her job. This loss hit me even harder.
Around this time, my mother began having stokes which eventually led to her living with me so that I could take care of her. Living with her this time was no easier than it had ever been, but I loved her so I willingly made the necessary sacrifices. After one year, she was able to get her own place and she moved. She was still close enough for us to help her when needed. My daughters lovingly and devotedly spent as much time with her as possible. My mother was very mean to my sons and finally one day when the began to cry at the mention of "going to Grandma's" I knew it was time to do something. I confronted my mother and told her that I would no longer tolerate her behavior, that while I would continue to minister to her physical needs, there would be no attempt at relationship and she would never again have the chance to be mean to my children. A miracle happened that day. My mom had a new found respect for me and she began to treat my sons like the precious people that they are.
Mom died the next year. As I stood over her casket, I realized that my knuckles were white and that I was holding on for dear life. In the back of my mind, I could not comprehend just who would take care of her if I walked away. My poor sister-in-law walked up beside me and kept telling me that everything would be alright and that we would, as we always had as a family, get through this. I could not let go of the casket and even though I tried frantically to tell her this, she didnt get it until I hissed, I can NOT let go." that she took off in search of my brother. He came up behind me, put his arms around me, and began whispering in my ear. "You have done all that you can. All week you have taken care of all of us, making sure we had toothbrushes(we stayed at the hospital for days), that we ate, had clean clothes, and that Mom was taken care of. Now, it is time for you to do what you need to do to heal enough to be able to walk away from here." I screamed, "I want my mommy!", at the top of my lungs and released my grip on the casket. I also fainted. Again, God carried me through.
I began to feel an urging toward at least attempting a healing in my relationship with my Dad. I was able to spend a day with him at his apartment. By now, he was aging and ill, so he was no longer the vital handsome man I had known. He had also been humbled by life and was a more mellow gentle man than he had ever been. I offered to help him clean his place and he was thrilled. It did us both good to spend that day together.
Some years later, I got a call from my brother on a Sunday. He had gone to visit Dad and was convinced that Dad would not live another week on this planet. He had, in fact, gone back inside to hug Dad one more time before he left. He had insisted that Daddy allow him to take him to the hospital, but Daddy refused, saying that it would kill him to be carried to the car. True enough, that Thursday, my cousin called to say that Daddy had been admitted to the hospital and was dying. As a little girl, I had feared that my parents would die alone and I often asked God to allow me to be there with them when they passed from this life to the next. In His graciousness, He allowed this to be the case. As Daddy slipped into a coma, I was singing, "Jesus Loves Me" and reading to him from the Psalms. I often chuckle at the irony of those moments. I was not, I am sure, the person who my Dad would have chosen to be the owner of the last voice he ever heard, let alone me singing and reading scripture! I do love God's sence of humor.
I did not mourn Daddy's dying so much as the loss of any potential relationship that we might have had. Suddenly, I was faced with my own mortality. There was no longer anyone between me and death. I also felt like an orphan...I was no longer anyone's daughter. I began crying out to my Heavenly Father asking Him to show me who I was to Him and through His Son, Jesus Christ. Again, he carried me through.
It was during this time that for some unremembered reason I burst into a fit of laughter. It was bittersweet. The sound was music to my ears, but I immediately realized that it had been years since I had laughed out loud.
I am not sure why I have written this today, other than the fact that I needed to get it out of me...off my chest so to speak. Right now I am done-empty-the words are no longer flowing. I will continue this I am sure-when the time is right and the words begin flowing once more.
God is faithful,