I never really thought about that question until I had a series of life-changing events occur with such intensity that I could not ignore who I was but was also forced to consider who I was to become. My life as a child could only be described as atypical for any kid's dreams. Time with other kids my age was not the norm as my mom and I lived with my grandparents in rural Pennsylvania and they were busy working themselves but with the flexibility that allowed me to be looked after while not able to be driven to a friends house with ease. I grew up with dogs and cats as my friends. In the country we had neighbors but they were distant and detached. My mom's full time job kept her away most of the week and I marked the passage of time with TV shows on PBS...Sesame Street, Mister Rogers and Zoom were the time slots of my day that brought my mom back to me. I never knew my dad as my mom divorced him when I was just a year old. I never realized that being without one was going to leave me incomplete or longing. My Papap was a fireball! He was always busy doing something--working in the garden, cutting the acres of grass we had on his tractor with me on his lap, reupholstering furniture in the garage, listening--and watching if possible a ball game in a small corner bedroom with Myron Cope announcing and me sitting with him on the side of his bed playing cards--Casino, Rummy and War were our favorites. Usually those times of solitude for him were quickly interrupted by my Grandma yelling at him for "escaping" with me. All fun and games for me but no time for her she would complain. I understood early on that my Papap was a kid at heart and enjoyed playing as much as possible but was obligated to the responsibilities of a man. The husband role was not an easy one for him as she was the provider and always had been. She worked every day for 26 years in a mushroom farm picking mushrooms. I remember the smocks she wore--they were a grayish blue with medium-sized translucent buttons down the front. Nothing about his plans for earning a living was secure. At one point an egg route was his source of income. I am sure she liked her job as she developed friendships that took her away from the drudgery and insecurity of their life. Add to the equation their youngest child, their only daughter, their pride and joy, unlucky at love and back at home with a child in tow--and one that they were more responsible for than she was, and it is understandable why they felt a squeeze that frustrated them with no one to complain to but each other and by indirectly doing so without me at the obvious center they could vent about that unfair role she had placed them in. Regardless of how it was done, it created insecurity in me that ended with a child who craved people and busyness--and what I could never get enough of...my mom. I always said I wanted 5 kids. That seemed like a good, uneven number that would allow for the hustle and bustle that was absent in my childhood and not allow for pairing as I felt coupling up would discourage unity as a whole. When I was 5 years old my Papap decided I needed to be raised in church with the positive influences to be found within. It was only a short period of time before he came to faith in Jesus Christ. I gleaned what was offered and simply accepted that Jesus was the son of God. My Papap also had some other outspoken positions that I soon learned matched with intensity his love for God. They were as much a part of his fiber as they are mine. Politics was a topic that my Grandma would caution him on speaking about. He didn't know another way. He just threw it out there--much in the same way I do. And his passions were contagious for those who knew him best and agreed with him, but for those who didn't...well let's just say his reputation was not cherished by those. I know that much of my personality is much like his. He turned many toward truth but he repelled those that weren't ready. I realize it is much better to win with love, but the reality is that for many of us who have been rejected, love and trust are synonymous and trust is not able to be attained just because you know it is a virtue that draws people to feel accepted and secure. When love is lacking so is trust. When it is lacking in a child it takes YEARS of success within more than just a great marriage to gain.
My biological father rejected me and my mom was emotionally void of what it takes to validate a child's needs. She was also physically absent most days and so my greatest need for security and the only one available should have been found in her but wasn't.
As I grew, I filled much of my thoughts with dreams about my future. I didn't realize at that time that when you belong to God, regardless of what you desire for yourself, if it is not within His plan, not only will you not be happy, feel secure or function with the only sense of purpose that ultimately matters--His; but whatever ideas you seek unless they satisfy at the soul level and have purpose behind them, they are not worth the pursuit. Emptiness is still the byproduct. My mom always told me that whatever I wanted in life could be attained. It is that attitude that is pervasive among all others--with the exception of the desire for 5 children. I have often been criticized for being idealistic. It didn't change my thinking--if anything it fueled me to have lofty goals and exceptionally high standards for myself. It has taken 30 years of that mindset to be harnessed, knocked off course and redirected according to God's plan that has given me the most understanding of the most important lesson of all that I have learned: unless you can handle the responsibility of the gift, it can't be given.
When I was 12 years old my mom remarried. The life I lived with my grandparents vs the life I was now thrust into was almost traumatic itself other than the fact that one day things were not easy to come by and most things were bought only when necessary and oftentimes at a secondhand store and now they were plentiful with enough to share. Although because there wasn't enough to go around for most of my childhood, and I was an only child, I didn't like the concept of sharing--and I still do not.
I enjoy being generous, but I do not like to share. My husband says it this way: "I am fussy about my stuff". He's right--I am and I have stopped apologizing for it. That is one of those wounds that is not high on the list of priorities to correct--for some, perhaps yes, but in the scheme of my challenges and weaknesses to overcome, I am generous and I think that is a more important virtue. It is an act of the will to be generous rather than sharing which represented a source of pain inflicted through my childhood that had equated in a result of never having enough to be at peace. Not enough company, not enough love, not enough of my mom--and hating sharing her with anyone, and only my Papap could I lay claim to, but only accompanied by my Grandma's anger--so ultimately not enough of the one that I knew loved me unconditionally--the only one--other than God; but I didn't understand that at the time as I do now. Ironically my Grandma's emotional needs were not met because he was busy sharing himself with me.
My new life began in 8th grade. I was 13 years old and the newfound freedom that went with it was of no benefit looking back. Ironically, my mom had a baby 9 months after her wedding day! My mom was now 36 years old and as much as she overprotected me as a result of her insecurities and inability to control many of her obstacles to a satisfied life, she stifled my sister at every level, except the one that matters the most with kids and that is setting boundaries that ultimately gives them freedom. Freedom to develop, freedom to thrive, freedom to make mistakes. Since her new course of life kept her home with my sister and cultivate homemaking skills, one more challenge was one too many. As a result I was able to do almost anything I wanted. I wanted to play with my friends. I now had some. The expectation of my parents was an easy one to meet: keep my room clean and do the dishes and in return I had spending money and freedom. My new dad was a busy man. He was only home briefly at noon, again for dinner and left after the news and typically not again until after 9:00. He was a funeral director and had a business that if I heard it once, I have heard it a million times "people were dying to get in". He is an honest man and he was fair and he served others exceptionally well. His only requirement of me was to be out the door on time each morning as he drove me to school and he was NEVER late. I failed him miserably. Other than that, if my mom was happy, he was happy. She seldom was. She was overwhelmed with her new life. The inability to run from her challenges and dump her responsibilities on her parents was over with her marriage and she never fully adjusted. Add to the fact that my sister was the one in control from the day she was born and it was a recipe for failure--for everyone. It was also justification for me to escape my further rejection by my mom who should have been more available to me now than ever with her new role as mom only.
When I look back I realize how hard it was for me to see that my mom had so much to be grateful for--I know I was-and yet still wasn't at peace with herself. I think to the degree that I pointed that out to her is equivalent to the degree with which I thank God for the provisions He has allowed in my own life. There is a responsibility with what we are gifted with: whether it is time, resources, knowledge, finances etc. the blessing is found in what is done with those gifts for their optimal benefit for serving others. I never understood how she managed to feel victimized by her life to the point where she wasn't making a positive impact in the most important group of all in any woman's life: her family.
Because my childhood was so lonely and isolating I didn't often go back to my grandparent's house in the country to visit once we moved. They came in to visit often enough and because of my developing social life I did not make their visits a priority. When I was 17 years old after a year decline in my Papap's health, he died of congestive heart failure. I remember that when he had his first heart attack and his strength noticeably diminished I had a hard time adjusting. He had NEVER even had a cold since I could remember and he also had the strength of an ox. It devastated me when he died and the one connection I had with true love and acceptance was now gone forever.
It wasn't until I was 22 years old that it really hit me. How I had failed him! The man that adored me had been rejected by me when he needed me the most. It still pains me to think about it. I also know that God used me as the catalyst to bring him to Himself. My purpose in my Papap's life is one that I am the only one on the planet can claim. I thank God for that role.
And after being blessed with a dad who has filled a role in my life that only God could gift me with after rejection by my biological father, I realize God always provides. It doesn't always come in ways we expect and there is often a fight for its maintenance but when challenges present themselves and many fail us God has shown me that there are a few key people in my life that have enriched me in ways that ONLY He could offer. I have my Papap, my dad (Rodney) and my husband. And each of them are polar opposites but share one common element: they each love me beyond what I could ever earn!
They love me the way I had longed for my mom to love me. I am just thankful that I never held that against her. I intuitively understood her limitations. I also clearly see how God gave me these 3 men to guide me through various stages of my life with a common goal: becoming my absolute best for where I was at those times.
I am still a dreamer. I still have an ideal in my heart that I cannot shake no matter what logic presents itself. Regardless of my circumstances I still focus on the best life has to offer. I understand that to be more than what money buys or continual ease. I tell my kids what my mom used to tell me: shoot for the stars, the moon isn't high enough!
Dreaming brings hope to trials. It brings order to chaos.
August 17, 2007 my mom died from cancer after a 2 year decline. When they told her there was nothing else they could do for her it was Mother's Day weekend. She literally went home and never left. I watched the pain of her life and the pain of her disease be replaced with a renewed faith in her God and in her suffering. She knew where she was going. My dad barely worked during those 3 months. He was by her side. I watched the chasm between them be filled. She let go of her anger and frustration for her disappointments in her life and I believe for the first time she realized that it wasn't someone else's job to fill those spaces. They were her own responsibility. She began to tough it out with God and He showed up. Did He ever! The hospice nurse said to me one evening, "You know your family is having a supernatural experience with death, don't you?!" I knew. I watched my mom be restored and redeemed through her dying body. What a testimony to the power of God and the truth of His word. She was His! She had not been trusting Him for many years and her bitterness was standing in the way of her peace. But she claimed Him as her savior and she knew salvation was only found in Him and He proved Himself to all who knew my mom and watched her transform--on her death bed.
To this day I have not shed a tear. I did that during the times I laid by her side and cried at the ugliness and torture of her disease. I also cried at the love I saw her able to express when she barely had an ounce of strength to do so. I cried when she told me how proud she was of the woman and the mother and the wife and the child of God I had become. I cried when she told me I was her hero. And I cried when she died and I could no longer see her face and smell her smell. Then I cried one last time when we closed her casket and I knew I would never see her physical body again. And then I rejoiced (her name was Joyce) that she was in heaven with two of my favorite people--my Papap and Lisa--my twins (first) mom.
I am blessed to have had God join me to a man who has continued to grow in his relationship to God and allow His purpose to be the one that remains his sole desire for his life. His sickness (which is in my blog titled Pain to Purpose) had been the tool that God has used to harvest a field of hope that grows with each seminar to those searching for answers to bizarre and unexplainable illnesses. My trust in him as a person with integrity and desire to satisfy me has been tested and for several years our roles were reversed. I grew during that time in ways I never would have imagined. When Dylan and Olivia came into our life I once again kicked into a new level of survival and after 6 years finally am finding the space to thrive. It is occurring as a result of some unforeseen and unfair realities that have caused us to hold fast to our faith in who we know ourselves to be and our God who has allowed it all. (I will write about that too--perhaps next) What I know above all else is this: when you are called to a life of purpose, one that makes a difference in the world and you pray and ask God to direct it, do not think for one second that the road to the destination will be easy. IT WILL BE THE HARDEST ONE YOU HAVE EVER WALKED! It must be earned. It is the responsibility of earning the gift. And God cannot release it to you until you have surrendered to His ways being higher than your ways. There is always purpose in the suffering. We are the human sacrifices He uses to accomplish His desires for a world He desperately loves. Once we prove ourselves worthy He will release us and His blessing will be bestowed upon us. I am still earning the value He feels I have to offer even though I feel I have nothing left to give.