A Father’s Right

Saturday afternoon. I am sixteen. Taking a shower in our downstairs bathroom, door locked. Content. Thinking my typical teenage thoughts. I hear a noise, see the lock turning on the door. I yell – hey, I am in the shower! The door opens and in comes my dad.

“Dad! What are you doing?”

“I need to wash my hands.”

Shampoo is running in my eyes, stinging and blinding me. I am horrified, embarrassed, shocked that he would come into the bathroom.

I can’t see, but I can hear him pulling back the shower curtain.


“It’s a father’s right to see his daughter naked,” he says. I protest and try to cover myself with the shower curtain.

He turns, finishes washing his hands, and then leaves.

My heart is racing, panicking, I am in shock.

What the hell just happened?

Feelings of deep anger, powerlessness, violation wash over me. I am not safe, not anywhere.

I finish my shower, dress and walk out. I don’t remember what happened next, what I said, who I spoke with, where I went. I don’t remember.

I don’t remember.

Perhaps this not remembering is a mercy. At sixteen I was powerless. Schooled in the experience of abuse, I wasn’t yet conscious of the fact that I had no power, no voice, no option but to live in that house with that man. I was surviving and doing it well. What choice did I have? None.

Fast forward to today. Another young woman remembers her abuse. Her feelings of powerlessness, of violation, of surviving – sometimes doing it well and sometimes barely breathing. She doesn’t remember, and then, she does.

The depth of her abuse is stunning, heartbreaking, overwhelming, horrifying.

I have no words for this. Not today.

But I will.

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My Heart Is Not Steel

We drive home from her counseling appointment, the first one with the new therapist. I merge into late afternoon traffic, cross over the lanes and head home. The sun is out, the water on the lake blue-gold. Crew boats from the University are visible, sleek and swift.

I desperately want to cry, but she’s in the car with me. I focus on her words as she sings with her beautiful voice to the music she’s selected.

I don’t know what to do.

The cost of her therapy is more than I think I can pay. It will involve me driving her there, across the water, two hours out of my day. It will require me to bill the insurance company for what I have paid for in cash, to wait it out until the reimbursement arrives, emptying out what little cash I have on hand. It will mean that I will need to explain this all to her dad, and I know what he will say. I will hear the words and no matter how hard I try to steel my heart against them, my heart is not steel.

And yet, she connected with this therapist. My daughter told her the hard things about her life, our life. She felt listened to, cared about, and a small seed of hope was planted. I cannot tell her it is too much money for me to pay to help her find herself again. Her freedom is worth so much more to me than how much it will cost.

And yet, it will cost.

I have learned that her healing comes at a price. It impacts me, the truth she tells. I do not always want to hear it. I do not always have capacity to bear her truth.

The sun on the water is a balm to me. It always draws me to God. I am so small inside today, wanting only to crawl into bed and cry. I silently talk to God about all of this as we drive across the bridge.

“Lord, I cannot pay for this, for her well-being, for her healing. And yet, I must. God, please make a way for me to do this. Please show me how. Please let her find peace and freedom from the chains that bind her to the past.”

I ask God to protect me when I talk to her dad. To stand between us and keep the arrows from hitting my heart of flesh. “In all my weakness, God, be my strength. Give me the voice I need, to say what I must, to make him understand how important this is for his daughter. And if he says ‘no,’ give me the grace to find another way.”

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My Valentine Heart

She’s trying to find her way. I know this. I know this. I keep telling myself that this is OK, this is her truth, this is her healing.

I close my eyes. I see a big red heart, a Valentine heart, a heart of flesh. My heart. I know that her healing requires her to take her knife and cut out a piece of my heart. She takes it, and puts it on her own wounded heart, hoping that somehow it will patch the hole.

Its clear that my heart has had this done to it before. Scars, pits, the seeping wounds. It’s all there, clearly visible to anyone who takes a closer look.

Hope. I keep thinking I will find it again. But so far, no. And so I make my judgments. About me, about the world, about God. I recognize the raw honest truth of what she says, that in trying to keep it all together I lost sight of her, and left her spirit bewildered, alone, vulnerable, and without hope. So much so, that now, as a young adult, she is divorcing me. And though my heart is breaking apart, this step, for her, is what she finds she must do to heal.

And so, I let her go. I release her from me. I set her free – to cut my heart, to use my flesh to heal her past, to find her way.

I wonder, in the heartache of this season, if I will ever find a place to land. A safe place, away from all this pain. I wonder if I truly trust God to be here for me. I continue to ask God to rescue me out of this, to bring peace to me, to no longer require atonement from me for the wrong choices I made and the ensuing havoc. And yet, atonement continues to be what is required.

I consider my options. Suicide. Self-harm. Leaving. Bankruptcy. Those are the big ones. They tempt me in the dark night. I keep them in the back of my mind as possibilities, but not probabilities. Surely there is something else, less dramatic, that I can do to ease this pain. To atone for my past and present failure.

In the early morning, I light a candle. Hopeless, I yearn for hope. Broken and bleeding, I yearn for relief. Never having known that I was good enough as I was, I yearn for God to tell me that I am enough as I am. Inside, where I live with all that I failed to do for her, for all of them, I yearn for forgiveness, for cleansing, for my own setting free. For absolution. For peace.

My heart does not know a way through this. Not this time. No words to say, no place to go, not this time. I cannot find a salve strong enough, a word powerful enough; it feels like death is the only thing that can fix this one. And I do not choose to die.

So rip away. Shred away. Cut away.

My Valentine heart is yours.

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Winter Road Trip

Today I am heading out with my two teenage daughters on a winter road trip. Or, more accurately, a winter road-boat trip. We begin with a trip to Bellingham, WA, to see friends and meet up with my oldest daughter and her husband. Tomorrow early, we cross the Canada-US border, and travel for another day by car and boat to reach their home on the waters of the inland passage of BC. The last leg of our journey is a three hour ride in small boat, hoping to arrive before dark with our luggage and supplies.

Road – boat trips are the best. I love to travel, and the thought of conquering international borders, ferries, winding roads, and small boat travel to reach my destination is thrilling. I am glad I am not making this journey alone, glad for experienced boat drivers, glad for the company of my daughters and my son-in-law.

Because of the distance and length of travel to see my oldest daughter, I am taking ten days for this trip. My therapist stated that I needed the rest and refreshment – the dead of winter in a remote location with all the comforts of home (except cell phone service) seemed to be a great idea.

Exhaustion has been my companion for many months. Maybe even years. Recently, it’s all I can think about. My need for rest. My need for refreshment. My need for quiet, peace, time to breath, time to be. I pray that this time away, with people I love, in a place that is filled with God’s presence, will tip the scales enough to bring my soul and spirit back into view.

I am bringing a few books, my journal, my knitting. We will play games, cook, sleep and look out on the beautiful ocean, mountains and woods of British Columbia. I will see eagles, seals, and other wildlife. It will be quiet, the kind of quiet that comes from a place where there are no roads or cars, deadlines or burdens to bear.

It is a road trip into my soul. It is a journey into my spirit, the winding roads into the depths of me. My hope is that the borders of my heart that are so carefully guarded will let down the gates and allow God to travel in, without a passport, to speak in a language my soul will understand. That the waters of God’s Spirit will bathe my wounded heart, will become a balm to me. That I will have a time of not forgetting myself, a time of remembering who I am created to be, that I am Beloved.

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A Memorial Service

Today is my friend’s memorial service. Two years after being diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer, she is gone. We worked together in caring for teen moms for over a decade, and she was an amazing mentor, guide and spiritual support. I grieve her passing.

The memorial service is over two hours away – a five hour round trip for me. I would be there for 2 hours with a large crowd of people, consoling, remembering, crying, laughing, talking. I know the service will be lovely and I know people will appreciate that I was there.

I don’t want to go.

I’ve thought about the reasons why I don’t want to go. Today is a big work day for me. I am leaving town in a week for ten days and I am backlogged and need to finish projects before I go. I am in the middle of heavy counseling – talking about my past with a great therapist. Ninety minutes last week and two hours scheduled for this week. Talking about my past, the abuse, the trauma, the abandonment and loss – I feel that my soul is reliving it again at some level. I know that healing is happening, but I have little reserve.

I just want to go to work and get things done and not be so behind in everything. I want space. I know that if I make the long drive – I will have over two hours both ways to be quiet and alone. And yet, I know that the time spent at the memorial will be exhausting. I will go for others, not for me.

Can I be selfish?

If I go, it will be for a community I lived in and loved, who loved me, for almost a quarter of a century. For friends and coworkers, for former bosses and ministry partners, for the past and, in some ways, perhaps, for the future. I will not go for me. I will go to people-please, to not disappoint others, to not be in trouble or thought of badly.

In some ways, going means that Susie is truly dead. I really don’t want her to be dead, to be gone, to be eaten up by cancer and no longer here. I want her alive, giggling, laughing, loving, nurturing – a presence, a force, for love. I want her here for safety, to prove that cancer doesn’t kill, to make a statement that miracles happen. I want her here.

So, what do I choose? To go for others, to miss a day of work and all that it means, to come home exhausted and hit the ground running tomorrow, behind and frazzled? Or to stay here for me? To work quietly, to conserve my energy, to trust that the people who need to be there will be there, for Susie’s family and close friends? Either way, I will be sad. Either way, I will not feel I have done the right thing.

It’s hard for me not to people please. It’s hard for me to know that I could just get in the car, push myself, go, make people happy, comfort and console, and come home again to this challenging life I live. It’s hard for me to care about me. To say no, I am choosing to stay here, even though it’s hard and it feels like I am disappointing everyone. It’s hard to care that I get work done, that I eat well, that I rest, that I love me. It’s hard.

Staying won’t make Susie any more alive or dead than she already is. Going won’t make the pain go away or ease the loss I feel.

People-pleasing has been the death of my soul many times. Pushing myself out of obligation or a sense of duty, has caused more pain than life. Can I let go of that – of people pleasing and pushing myself? No matter how guilty I feel about caring about me? No matter what people say? No matter what it might mean about me?

If I am selfish to stay here, then I am selfish. If I am wise to assess my own reserves, responsibilities, and resources, then I am wise. If I am sad no matter what I choose, then I am sad.

I will not go to Susie’s memorial. I will risk making a big mistake, being missed, being thought less of. I will risk it. I will risk it.

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Kindred Spirits

Sitting in my car, looking out at the Lake, overcast skies, fall colors all around. I have fallen into what seems to be insurmountable grief. My heart aches, my eyes are teary, my soul is bruised. I feel unfairly alone.

Leaving church this morning, I saw a text from my sweet friend. Due to my recent move, we are now separated by a mountain range. Her text read, “Most days I’m really grateful you were able to make the move. Today is not one of those days. Missing you in the neighborhood. Would have loved to stop by for soup and dessert like we did now many hundreds of times over 25 years.” Her next text read, “I started to tell my husband what I wrote to you and I started to weep.”

I called my friend. Driving around my new town, I told her all about it. The fear I have for my son who is making some poor choices. The lack of personal space I feel in my apartment as I share it with three young adults. The weariness I feel in learning a new job, trying to prove my worth, constantly pouring into others. My loneliness. I feel invisible. In the four months I have lived in this town, and worked at a huge church, I have had only one invitation to someone’s house.

As I poured my heart out to her, my friend did what she has done for 25 years: she listened, reflecting and commiserating. My friend knows what it feels like to be a single woman sitting alone in church, surrounded by people. We are kindred spirits in our personal pain through loss. My friend is with me as I peel the onion of my life and look for what is below the surface, what is at the core of me.

I fear for my children’s choices. I am lonely for community with my oldest daughter. I have invested what feels like a lifetime in other people’s children, and I want God to do the same now with mine. I want God to heal the great wounding of our lives and restore us to one another.

There was healing in my friend’s presence. She excels in listening, in getting mad and sad in all the right places, and has been here for me in the history of so many hundreds of phone calls over a quarter century of friendship. She extends me peace by allowing me to simply be me.

After we hung up, two things came to mind. As the onion is peeled back, and my eyes start to sting, her weeping joins mine. I am crying in church, and she is crying a hundred miles away. Kindred spirits. I believe that God let her cry my tears, share my pain and in doing so, took some of my burden from me.

I also realized that yesterday was my wedding anniversary. Now divorced, I thought it would lessen, the pain of all that was lost. And yet, there it is, in my face. Failure, grief, anger, fear, loneliness, weariness, all of it. It is part of the pain today, part of the tears, part of the onion. More years married than single. While I do not wish to return to that marriage, I do wish that somewhere inside me this wound would heal.

I take a deep breath. My friend reminded me that I need to look at what is life-giving to me, and what steals life away. She encouraged me to give myself time to rest, to be quiet, to be alone. Once again, kindred spirits. She knows whereof she speaks.

God, I am grateful that you put me on my friend’s heart today, for the tears we shed and have shed, for and with each other, all these long years. I am not alone. I am not invisible. I am loved.  Thank You.

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Changing My Blog Name

I renamed my blog today. It is a reflection of the truth about me, the path I am on, and that I didn’t want something super specific to be the title of my blog. Thanks to all my readers who read my stories and commented. I am the same person, just using a different title!

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Rocks on My Back

Sitting in church today my pastor asked the question, “What or whom do you need to forgive?” Her question came from the passage about the woman caught in adultery who was about to be killed. Jesus said, “Let whoever is without sin cast the first stone.” And everyone slunk away. Except the woman. She stayed and heard Jesus say, “Your sins are forgiven. Go and don’t sin anymore.”

I thought about forgiveness, uncertain as to whether it was me I needed to forgive or someone else. And then, that woman’s face came to mind. She had “liked” a post I made last week on my business’s Facebook page regarding the second anniversary of my job. As I sat in church, I realized that I hate her. I hate her.

She is the woman my former husband turned to during our turbulent marriage-ending-year; she is the one who slept with him in secret while pretending to support us in our marriage counseling. While she played grandmother to my younger children, gave them gifts and money, she was sleeping with my husband. My husband.

Fuck her. I hate her. I. Hate. Her.

This was a stunning revelation for me. I have forgiven her, forgiven them. It’s been four years since the divorce was final. I have moved on. He has moved on. They have married. I wouldn’t want him back. It’s a done deal.

And yet, when I saw her name and her profile photo “liking” my post – I was disgusted. Angry. I wanted to puke. I wanted to pick up the stone and heave it at her stupid face. I wanted to pick up stone after stone after stone until my anger was sated and my hatred was spent.

I felt she had once again invaded my life, robbed me of my identity, put her hand in where it wasn’t wanted. Will I never be free of her? Will I never have a place where she can’t find me, can’t assert herself, can’t infiltrate is mine, private or public?

Bitch. I hate her.

I paused to take a breath. This hatred is deep. Really deep. I had no idea.

God, I want to be free of her, free of this hatred. I saw myself, bent down, unable to straighten up from the weight of her, the weight of my hatred, the weight of all those stones I wanted to smash into her face and bury her under. I want to be free of the weariness of this burden.

I closed my eyes in church and tried to be holy, tried to forgive. I told God, “I forgive her.” And then, because it’s really important to me to be honest with God, I changed that to, “God, I really hate her.” And I heard God say to me, “I know.”

That simple statement was a game-changer for me. God wasn’t bothered by my hatred born out of loss, wounding, shit, devastation, betrayal. He was bothered that I am so weary in it, weary of the hating. He wanted to take all the stones off my back and set me free. He wanted me to let her go.

I pictured that, pictured the letting go. It was hard. One of my hands still held a rock. The last rock of vengeance, of justification, of knowing that I had been betrayed and shit on and that I was powerless to change it. No more hoping that she was being tortured for shitting on me. No more illusions that I was better than she was, that I was more powerful because I was good and she was the embodiment of Satan. No more. No more.

The last rock was really hard to drop.

So I told God, “OK. I drop the rock. I lift her to you. Not because I feel like it. Let’s make it clear that I still think she’s a bitch. I am not over being betrayed and shit on. My heart is still devastated by her decision to lie and steal and destroy. But I want to be free of her, so I let go of my right to deal with her my way, and I submit to You as the only one who can make this right between her and me.”

I let her go.

God, I know that I will have times when I want to pick up the rocks again. Please don’t let me. Please grab both my hands when that happens and look straight into my eyes and remind me of who I am. I am Yours. I am not the cast-off one, I am not the one left behind. I am Yours. My hands are in Your hands, my eyes are looking into Your eyes. My back is straight and I am tall and strong. I am forgiven and I am loved.

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A Year Half Spent

I am halfway through my 365 days. No pounds lost, of that I am sure. Maybe a few gained. It is winter. Snow on the ground, cold, the sun low on the horizon in my northwest climate. I feel at a loss of what to do.

I go to the gym, struggle to make it 15 minutes on the bike and 5 on the elliptical. I go through my stretches, weights and balance exercises. Then I go to work. It feels pointless. I am not inspired. I am not motivated. I am not anything.

What’s going on?

First, I feel completely overwhelmed with parenting, work, home and school. What happened to my joy? What happened to all that gives life to me? I feel its lost under the snow and cold and dark. I don’t think I am depressed, though I sound that way. More so – I am soul-weary.

I pause and think about that. Do I want to be soul-weary? Do I want to be fat? Do I want a year to go by with me just getting older, slower, creakier, less-abled? Do I want to struggle to fasten the seat belt on an airplane, or fit into a small space, or continue to buy clothes in the plus section?


My friend asked me what truth I believe about myself. The truth I tell myself is that no one will love me if I am fat and old and out of shape. What if that was a lie? What if I stopped believing that?

Would I live my life differently?

I would. I would go to the gym because I like getting stronger. I would buy pretty clothes because I look good in them. I would stop eating sugar and white flour because they make me feel bad. I would eat veggies and salads and fruits and meat because they make me feel good. I would laugh more, be outside more, walk and not give a shit how I looked. And I would look good because my light would shine out! I would buy a big ol’ swimsuit and go to the pool because I love to swim.

I wouldn’t give up on myself and look at the ground. I would look straight at myself in the mirror and smile and say, “You are worth loving.”

A year half spent. A half year to go.

Onward. Into the promised land. Into life. Into joy. Into hope. Into not forgetting who I am.

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Moonlit Night

When I was ten years old my family moved from our small three bedroom house to a larger five bedroom in a more affluent neighborhood. My dad was climbing the Cold War ladder of success in what is now Silicon Valley; and my youngest brother had arrived safely into the loving arms of our family. The home my father chose was on a large lot (for suburbia) and was thrillingly two stories high. I was ten, with two other brothers close in age to me. We soon learned that we could access the garage roof from my parent’s upstairs balcony; it was there we would lie on the rough shingles with my dad, star gazing through binoculars and dreaming of other men walking on the Moon. I fell in love with the heavens, with constellations and shooting stars and the Moon. When I eventually came to faith in my early teens, I realized that some day I would be up there – in the heavens – with God and all that cosmic magic.

Over the years, the heavens would come to mean much to me.

Babies, whose hearts began to beat in my womb but who would slip away before becoming fully formed, resided up there somewhere, safe with God. In the dark, at the beach or on my grown-up home-owner deck, I would whisper their names and imagine they heard me. Or at least, that God had heard me and would kiss them with my love.

Tears I cried in private as I struggled as a mom and felt I failed, tears that fell when my marriage failed and my life shattered, those tears I imagined to be the stars. God had said that He put the stars in the heavens and called each one by name. Surely all my tears had names and were there in that crystal vastness.

In good times – and occasionally in the hard times – my children and I would have star parties on the deck. We would bring out all manner of cushions, blankets and pillows, and squish close together as we lay gazing into the dark night sky. We would track satellites, point at shooting stars, tell funny stories and stay warm together. Living outside of the city, the stars were vast and brilliant; constellations and the Milky Way were easy to see.

Tonight’s Moon reminded me of all of that, of all the years I have lived gazing up into the night sky. The velvety black night sky and brilliant white of the Moon has absorbed all my questions, my hopes, my dreams, my grief, my loss. Somewhere in my soul, it has absorbed me.

When I leave this earth at my life’s end, I will soar past the Moon to God’s home in the Heavens. I will leave behind all my grief and all that I love except God. I imagine that I won’t care anymore that I am fat, or that I lost weight, or that I was smart or was lonely. I won’t be tangled anymore in the web of trying to please others or please myself, of setting goals and achieving them. What will matter to me is that I loved well and that I listened well to those I loved. What will matter is that I knew God as best I could know God, and that I am coming home to Him.

In the meantime, on this gorgeous full moon night, as I sip my Bailey’s and coconut milk, and sit quietly on my bed, I am thankful that I learned to love the stars. I am thankful that, while my dad did many things wrong and wounded me beyond belief, he let me know that the stars and the ocean were gifts to me. For him, they were part of the great unexplainable universe; for me, they became a part of God’s anchor for my soul.

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