Wednesday, April 4, 2012

To Mom, with love

I know I said that I was done posting here, but an unexpected thing happened.  My mother passed away.  It reminds me very much of another sexual abuse survivor that I met through this blog.  I keep thinking of her, and thanking God for placing her in my life.  For her vulnerable sharing, and my marveling at her healing and restoration journey with her mother in the final months of her mother's life.  How unbelievably similar our stories are.

My brother, sister and I had the honor of eulogizing our mother one week ago today...  I share this with you in celebration, as the journey we shared in the final two years was one I'd once believed was hopeless and impossible. 

"What is impossible for people is possible with God."  Luke 18:27.  So grateful for a loving God who can make the impossible, unimaginable, hopeless things happen.


There are countless stories to share about our mother.  Just about everyone she knew has talked with us about how quickly Mom could throw together a meal, and fry chicken like no one else.  On Sunday, Tonya reached for a bowl at Shanna’s, and the one she grabbed was chipped.  Tonya reached for another, and it was chipped too.  Shanna laughed out loud and said, “Those were Mom’s dishes.”  We’re pretty sure Mom never had a full set of unblemished dishes for more than a week.  She was a little clutzy…  Mom loved parties, adventure, music, old movies, traveling, and the outdoors.  We have so many fond memories of roller skating, riding bikes, scouting, swimming, fishing and picnicking with our mom.  And Antioch Park will always be “our” place.

But more than all of these wonderful times together, Mom gave us an even greater gift. 

It is no secret that Mom’s life had its fair share of pain and turmoil, but we are so proud of how hard she worked in her final years to mend her heart and reconcile relationships with each of her children.  In the last couple of years, Mom made every effort to live intentionally; really taking the time to know each of her children – not just as her children, but as the adults we’d become – and allowing love to be a verb and not just a feeling.  She’d learned how to give of her time and her heart unselfishly, rising to the occasion and mothering her children in ways we’d previously not dared dream of.  She patiently sat through as many difficult discussions as we’d needed, genuinely taking the time to make amends … and allowing us to do the same. 

As her children, our constant hope and prayer was that Mom would arrive at a place of genuine happiness, belonging and peace.  In the end, she found just that!  While her physical body was failing her over the last couple of years, Mom’s heart and emotional well-being was better than ever.  She was surrounded by her children, grandchildren, and Michael.  She delighted in those around her.  She loved well, and was well-loved. 

The reconciliation of our family is a precious gift, and we are overwhelmingly grateful to Mom for being so bold, so brave, and so humble in order that we could become the family we’d hoped for.  The Lord moved in Mom's life – in OUR lives – in mighty ways … and He continues to do so even as we speak and cling to one another.

While our time has been cut short, we will forever cherish every moment we had with Mom.  She will be deeply missed

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I think this is good-bye

I think this blog may be coming to a close...  In just a couple of weeks, it will have been three years of writing here about my story and my recovery journey.  Surprisingly - while I don't think the wounds ever mend completely - I am finding myself in a place where I just don't have much to process through aloud anymore.

It seems that the last piece of my recovery puzzle is falling into place...

As I grow in grace and mercy, my intolerance [anger] for my family's shortcomings are becoming grey areas ... instead of the harsh black and white it's always been.  As I've become willing to really listen to their stories - to sort through and understand the brokenness that has plagued them and [unintentionally] wounded me greatly - I've begun to understand that long before they were ever "screwed up" individuals making bad choices that hurt children, they were heart-broken and wounded children themselves.

So often, abused children develop unhealthy coping skills and skewed visions of the world around them.  And so often they [unwittingly] abuse and neglect their children.  Let's not allow ourselves to fall into that category ... or stay there, if that's where we're at.  Keep reaching for recovery.  Keep seeking the Lord's hand and heart.  He loves you so much.  Wholeness and healing await.  It is a long, scary, painful journey at times ... but it has changed my life.

And allowed me to close this chapter of my recovery story.  For now, anyway.

Thanks to all of you who have read along, commented, emailed, encouraged and prayed for me, and joined me in prayer and ministry for survivors around the world.  This blog is ending [I think], but I will continue to spend my life in ministry with hurting children and adults.  Well, as long as God will let me.  ;0)

Even as I type this second third-to-last sentence, I can hardly believe that God has moved me to this place of utter peace and contentment.  He is a miracle worker.  Praying that He does the same for you.

With much love, gratitude and prayers,

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  John 10:10 

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:18

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Heavenly Father,

Draw us closer to you as we process through the pains of our past...and the pains that continue to burden us today.  Open our eyes.  Show us, in your gentle way, the dreams we need to let go of, the parts we are still denying, the ways we are compensating - yet hurting ourselves, and perhaps even others - at the same time.  Help us to acknowledge the sad facts of what has happened in our lives, shedding your light on the truth, so that we may let go of it and reach - with open arms - for the greatness you have in store for us.

Teach us how to walk towards wholeness.  Hold us close as we see the wrong-thinking, the abuses, the way we've been hurt and the ways we've hurt others...  As we begin to see clearly, equip us with the tools to break free from the bad and walk with confidence towards wholeness -- towards your perfect plan for our lives.  As we make tough decisions, as we repent, as we feel our eyes in order that we will notice the BLESSINGS.  For you are a great God, our redeemer, the one true healer, the maker of all miracles.  Today, help us to count the ways in which we are richly blessed, deeply loved, forever counted and belonging to you.  I praise you for all that you are....for how you've taken this messed-up orphan and provided a family and a purpose for my life.

In Jesus' name,

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Do you think I would stand still?

A reader presented me with the most amazing question the other day.  I won't pretend to know the answer, but I do have some thoughts...

It is related to this post about why God allows bad things to happen.

Question:  I am having great difficulty with understanding how God could have allowed this abuse. I read your intellectual explanation which I have heard before regarding free will. I believe in free will, but if I witnessed one of my daughters being abused do you think I would stand still?

My thoughts:

In my limited human wisdom, I absolutely would intervene if I knew one of my children was being harmed.  As a mother, I always interject myself into my kids' lives whenever I feel it's necessary.  And God charges me with that responsibility!  It is up to me (just like it was up to my parents) to protect my kids, but in my humanity I can only do so much.  I pray daily for his direction in mothering, so that I am hopefully acting in God's will and not my own.  However, my wisdom and foresight is limited.  God, on the other hand, is all-knowing and sovereign.  His plans are perfect (no matter how unsavory at the time), his provision overwhelming (no matter how lonely I sometimes feel).  God does not fail.  He always triumphs over evil.

Let me interject here to say that I do not believe it is ever GOD'S will for a child to be abused.  That is entirely HUMAN SIN, but God can use even the most heinous acts for his glory.  It is never God's will for a parent to ignore child abuse or knowingly put their child in harms way.  I just mean to say that everything rests in God's hands and He can use every good and bad thing that happens to glorify Him and minister to us -- but we must choose to allow that to happen.

If God had run interference in my abuse, my life would be completely different.

Most obviously, I would not have this ministry.  God would not have used my story of abuse and miraculous restoration to reach others.  He would have spared my one life, but would have left countless others without this resource. 

He might not have cultivated in my heart a constant concern for children in need.  And, without that, my family might not do the advocacy work we do with foster and abused children.  The four hearts that reside under our one roof might be bent towards those in pain.

And most importantly, I don't think I would have the relationship I have today with my heavenly father.  While being abused was no picnic, there is an inexplicable closeness when one wakes up one day and realizes the only thing they have is their savior Jesus Christ.  In having no one else, I learned to cling to Christ like a life preserver in the stormiest seas.

I had a sweet conversation with a girlfriend one night...  She and her husband had relatively charmed childhoods, raised in church, never knowing a day without God and their loving families.  Now in their 30's, they are both looking to claim their relationships with Christ as their own.  They have never fallen flat on their faces, needing Christ to lift them up.  For them, it is often easy to take their easy-breezy lives for granted and forget all about God.  That doesn't happen in my life.  I know full well what it means to speak with my Father God, as I have no other parent to turn to.

As a mom, I do everything I can to protect my children.  But my knowledge is limited.  I do not know what God knows.  I do not know what the future holds.  Only God knows what he's going to use in each of our lives to fulfill his purpose.   I can't put my human limitations and responses on God.  I cannot expect him to behave the way I would.

But his perceived inaction is not proof of an unloving or neglectful god.

At my very first Christian counseling session, I was given some homework...

Read the story of Joseph, Genesis chapters 37-50.  Write down any circumstance of Joseph's that was similar to my own life.  I learned a great deal through this exercise.  Families have been in the business of failure and betrayal since the beginning of time.  One can be grossly mistreated and still come out on top.  God knows how to use all suffering for good.  "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.  He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people." Genesis 50:20.  How powerful is that?

Another piece of my homework was to claim a life verse.  I couldn't pick just one, so I went with two...  "A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling."  Psalm 68:5 and "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."  Psalm 34:18.

I am not an orphan.  God is close.  He saves!

Terrible things happen to both good people and bad people...  In fact, everyone will face some sort of tragedy in their lifetime; whether it be crime, illness, death, natural disaster, etc.  When those bad things happen, God is with us and always has a plan to use it to draw us - and others -  closer to Him.

To my anonymous asker, I love your question.  I don't have all the answers and I understand completely if you don't embrace my thoughts...  I do know that God is bigger than me.  He is wiser than any parent.  He knows our every secret and heartache.  He does not stop every bad thing from happening - even when it seems so obvious to us that he should - but He does have a plan to use every bad thing for good.  Our pains are so deep and so personal.  What happened to you is not okay...and it's understandable that you would feel confused, angry, hurt or even betrayed by God.  He is big enough to handle your every thought, so take it to Him in prayer.  Be honest with how you feel, and allow God to reveal himself to you.  His grace and love is sufficient.  Know that I am praying for you as you process through the pain of your past.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.  “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.  For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways       and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth.  They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry.   It is the same with my word.  I send it out, and it always produces fruit.  It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.   You will live in joy and peace.  The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!   Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow.  Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up.  These events will bring great honor to the Lord’s name; they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.”  Isaiah 55:8-13

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bridging the gap

I am so frustrated.

I have been trying all year to reconnect with my mom and sister.  After our Christmas dinner, I came to the realization that I don't really know them, they definitely do not know me, and I don't trust them.  If we're ever going to have a relationship that's not hollow and irritating, we are going to have to get to know each other.  We need to find common ground.

I have been really intentional about calling my sister weekly, and I've been involved in my mother's medical care for a couple of months now.  I talk, text or email with each of them at least once a week and I've seen my mom several times recently.  (Previously, I'd call a few times a year.)

We had my family over for Easter this past weekend.  It was really pretty lovely; except that I ended up sharing something with my mom that I wasn't quite ready to share.  Because I don't trust her.  Because I don't know her.

Once the words were out of my mouth, there was no putting them back.  She knew.  And she wanted to talk about it.  Initially, her thoughts were all about her.  About how a bitter disappointment and closing of a chapter in my life affected her.  Then her thoughts turned to me...and how I surely need my mother at a time like this.

The thing is...I don't.  I don't need her to mother me in the way she would like to.  Sure, it would be ideal to have a loving, reliable mom, but the truth is that I'm more of a mother to her than she's ever been to me.  And I'm okay with this.

I'm not so okay though with her insisting that surely I must need her the way any daughter needs her mother.  For advice or babysitting, to confide in, to cry to.

(Insert hairs standing up on the back of my neck, quickening of pulse, taking two steps back, feeling smothered by the tight hug that she's insisting on holding for two full minutes.)

I need a minute, Mom.  I need you to understand that this relationship you are ready to dive into as if nothing ever happened is too much to ask.  Unreasonable.  Bad things did happen.  Horrible.  I have never known you to be loving or caring.

I do not trust you.

My impulse is not to lean on you.  Not yet.  You are pushing me away by pushing yourself on me.  I need you to let me come to you as I am ready.  Stop forcing yourself on me.  Stop putting me in a position where I have to say no.

Mom was so convinced that I needed her yesterday (two days after our discussion), that she called me asking if she could leave work early to frantically come to my house to talk.  (She presented it as if she needed to talk.)  I told her I had an appointment in two and a half hours, so my time was quite limited.  She showed up two hours and five minutes later.  She left her work, drove all the way across town, did who knows what for the extra 1 1/2 hours it took her to get here, only to put me in a position to tell her I really didn't have the time anymore.  She insisted though, so we talked.  She left while I went to my appointment, returning to finish our conversation an hour and a half later. 

I was less composed than I wanted to be.  I was frustrated that she was so late, that she didn't call to say she was going to take 2 hours to get here, that she had left her job for this, and that I had a very important meeting that she was now tinkering with.  I was frustrated that when she finally opened her mouth, the words were "I just thought you needed me."

She called it her "Mother's intuition".  I managed to keep my eyes from rolling and my jaw from dropping, but I was thinking, "WHERE WAS YOUR MOTHER'S INTUITION WHEN I TOLD YOU I WAS BEING SEXUALLY ABUSED AND YOU LET IT CONTINUE FOR THE NEXT 7+ YEARS?"  I didn't say that, but I did say other things I wish I hadn't.  I want so badly to let the past remain in the past, but I totally snapped and reminded her of some of the reasons I don't trust her.

I clearly snatched my anger and frustration back up in that moment.  What I have worked so hard to surrender and set aside, I picked right back up when I was feeling pressured.  I felt like I needed to defend my position, and I presented a relentless case.  I beat her into the ground with the ugly (old) truth, giving little recognition for the recent progress she's made.

I am disappointed in myself.

This reconciliation thing is not easy...  Saturday - our family Easter - was a beautifully blessed day that I will forever cherish, but now it seems marred but what happened yesterday.  I know that all my mom wants is to be my mom, and that I hurt her deeply by reminding her of the ways she blew it in the past.

When she looked me in the eyes and said, "I miss you.", it occurred to me that she once knew me as a happy child.  There are good times that she remembers.  A pleasant, loving, cheerful little girl who called her Mommy and asked her to come outside to watch her do cartwheels.  A pre-teen who needed help with homework or wanted a ride to a swim meet across town.  A teenager who asked on occasion for her mother's opinion, or needed gas money.  There are times that she remembers me needing her; and she wants that back.

But I remember the times she failed.  The days-on-end that she was locked in her bedroom depressed.  The times I begged her to drop bad habits but she wouldn't.  All the times she didn't show up when I needed her.  I remember her as a woman who always put herself first.  I remember being alone, unimportant.

There is a huge gap between how she sees me and how I see her, and it will take time, patience and tremendous effort to bridge that gap.

I owe my mom an apology.  I pulled out old baggage that I wish I had left alone.  There is surely a better way to handle the situation.  A way that I can be honest, without being brutal.

I would also like to ask Mom to celebrate the relationship we do have and wait patiently for it to grow.  I am honestly beginning to like her, and trusting her may come in time.  I never expected we'd be here, so who knows where we might end up?  We are headed in the right direction.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Let me not forget you

When marginally icky things happen, I can easily respond with an "Everything's gonna be alright" attitude.  However, when it's more of a bitter blow, my natural response is to panic, get angry, bawl my eyes out or blow my top.  And, when I get angry, I like to give the silent treatment.  Those who most often receive the silent treatment are my husband, God, and occasionally my children.  I need them to know that I am angry, and I need to be silent....lest I say anything aloud that I will later regret.

I heard something today that was very wise.

"When I turn away from God in a difficult circumstance, it only becomes more difficult.  But when I turn back to God, my difficult circumstance becomes easier."

This is so true; but I've often got to be reminded of this the hard way.  I am stubborn and I get angry...and in those moments I refuse to talk to Him or listen to Him as He speaks to me.  In doing so, I drag out my misery.

My wise friend also said...  "Life is not meant to be hard.  It's only as hard as we make it."

We all experience difficulty, and some of us experience gut-wrenching tragedy; but how we choose to respond to it really does impact how hard it is.

I praise God that I know Him and that He is in the business of graciously rescuing and carrying His beloved children.  My friend left me with one final encouragement - pray.  Pray regularly and preemptively that "when I am faced with difficulty, I will not forget who you are."

I meant for this post to be a reminder to not forget God, but I believe it relates to our spouses and children too.  While I am giving the silent treatment to them, I am shutting them out.  They are God's gifts to me.  My husband is my partner that I am meant to journey all of life with.  When I am hurt or angry, I pray that I will not lose sight of who my husband and children are; and that we will live in a way that honors God's perfect design for those relationships.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Not destroyed

I never set out with the intention to write a certain kind of post on here - I just write what's on my mind and in my heart.  Recently, without realizing it, I wrote several posts in a row that depict the really sad consequences of sexual abuse in my life.  If there is someone else out there going through the same things I have (and I know there are!), I want them to know that they are not alone.  And for those who have harmed a child, I want them to know just how far-reaching the devastation can be.  The details are hard to read, but it is a cold hard truth that sexual abuse destroys relationships...and very possibly lives.

I have received the kindest, most compassionate, emails and comments from readers here, in response to those posts.  So many expressing heartfelt sadness over the loss in my life.  I am deeply touched by your heart and concerns toward me.  Humbled to be so tenderly received.  Thank you.  I love the community of survivors.

I want you to know though, that I am not destroyed by what happened to me.  I once was, but I am not anymore.  It is indeed very sad at times.  I think it always will be...  But I am so very good.

I think it's only natural to grieve a loss.  Much like a death of a close family member, I will always grieve the loss of family I loved but can no longer be in relationship with.  However, it is truly for my benefit to not be in relationship with them. 

I am happy.  Honestly, I am way beyond happy.  I never in my wildest dreams thought my life would turn out the way it has.  Happily married.  Mother of two.  No chaos.  At peace with my past.  Finishing my college degree.  Volunteering at church and in my community.  Surrounded by countless loving friends who have become family.  My life is incredibly full.

I have not been defeated.  I am not defined by someone else's sin.  I am not even defined by my own sin!

Praise God for the healing truths found in His Word, the Shelter From the Storm study and groups, trustworthy counselors, wisdom and support of other survivors and cherished friends, and of course my beloved husband and children.  These incomprehensible gifts have changed my life!

Thursday, January 13, 2011


A friend request was waiting for me as I logged onto Facebook last night.  Right away I clicked the "do not know this requestor, block future requests" button, as I didn't think I knew the person.  After about a minute though, it donned on me...  It was my adopted father's step brother.  In my family we've never specified "adopted", "step" or "half" - we were all just FAMILY.  Here I only do it so that readers can have a better chance at following my family tree with branches going in all directions.

My dad was my abuser, and this uncle is his brother.  My dad is a master manipulator and liar to the Nth degree.  I don't know what he told his family - if anything - about his broken relationship with me.  But my policy has always been to never put others in the middle.  Never throw all of the dirty laundry on the family dinner table for everyone else's consumption, judgment, and involvement.

Instead, I've just gone away quietly.  So quietly, and so far away, that I did not even recognize my uncle's name when I read it.  I haven't heard from him in well over 20 years.

As I looked at his friends list, I saw faces and names I hadn't thought about since I was a kid.  My father has four brothers and two sisters.  I had four uncles and two aunts, cousins too, and grandparents...  I loved them.  They seemed to love me.  They never laid a hand on me or said an unkind word in my presence.  They were not your leave-it-to-beaver types - lots of dysfunction for sure, but they never touched me the way my dad did.

I don't have them in my life anymore, and I suspect that I never can again given what my father did.  Their brother.  Their son.  In all likelihood, given the emotional condition of my family, I am guessing they would choose his side.  Perhaps these thoughts only come from my woundedness, the feelings and very low expectations of a little girl whose abuse carried on for years despite the family members who did know and did nothing...  Perhaps they would respond with loving kindness and righteous anger.

My uncle had to search for me on Facebook by name.  I was on his mind.  Did he look for me on his own, or did my father put him up to it?  Having been sexually abused by my father makes me almost paranoid - second guessing the intentions of my uncle.  His brother.  I think I sort of lump all of them together.

As I thought about the extended family that so abruptly fell out of my life all those years ago, I laid on my bed and wept over the loss.  So much loss.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Where do we go from here?

Many people know that I recently celebrated Christmas with my birth family for the first time in ten years.  A handful of friends have asked how it went, but I struggle with my response...  Not sure what to say or how to say it.  There are so many emotions, so many harsh realities, so many things wrong, and even one startling revelation.  When I think about verbalizing our Christmas celebration, the story that comes to mind is not about that one night but about where everything stands.  The words decorum and discretion fill my mind, as I ponder answering their questions completely...  Reminding me that polite people want to hear how the evening went, but very few people want to hear where I think it might take us.  I expect that people from relatively functional families will have their heads spinning as they hear the unsavory dynamics of my family.  Every family has their issues, but issues like ours are kept quiet - they are still taboo dinner fodder.  The issues faced by my family are made for Intervention or Celebrity Rehab or Dr. Phil - shows that people can watch and gasp at in private.

For those polite people who merely want to know about the evening...  It was awkward, but nice.  My mother was beaming, as she sat with her daughters and all of her grand kids for the first time ever.  The cousins played together, just as I remember playing as a child with my cousins.  The menu was simple, and the mood was relaxed.  Conversations easily flowed as we discussed jobs, budding romances and mutual friends.  I felt more connected to my sister and her kids than I had in many years.  I enjoyed seeing the tiny boys that I loved so very much...that are now early teenagers.  And I loved looking into the face of my niece and being reminded of the little sister that I once shared a bedroom and secrets about boys with.

There were also parts that were difficult for me.  Seeing into my sister's life, and knowing some of the brokenness that holds her captive in challenging situations.  Knowing that my nephews and niece have sad holes in their lives...  My heart goes out to them - my sister, her kids, and my mom - and I yearn to make a difference in their lives.  At the same time, I pull back to protect my own.

And I remember my extended family...  Those who offered kind words of encouragement and spent time with me, yet made no move to help me in the ways that I really needed.  To my knowledge, they never tried to give me a solid, loving home.  I felt so abandoned.  I frequently heard that my mother was doing "the best that she could".  The older I got, the angrier that statement made me.  My emotional response was to say that she failed miserably and could have done better.  It wasn't until our family Christmas that those five words finally made sense to me.  As my mother shared that she is bipolar, I understood that she actually had done the best she could without medication.  In a new way, my heart goes out to my mother.  I am grieved by all that she's lost to her mental illness.  And by what it's cost my brother, sister and me.  And my nephews and niece.  And my children.

What do their futures hold?  What is my role?  How can I help?  And how do I get convinced that helping them will not destroy me in the process?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mental illness

As a young girl, I thought that my mother was very tired and very sickly.  She would sleep from the moment she got home on Friday night and not get up again until time for work on Monday.  Was she sick?  Super tired?  Avoiding me??

She missed a lot of my school functions, and even our church Christmas program every year.  My dad would show up and explain that Mom was "not feeling well".  Having her miss my functions made me cry in grade school, but by middle school I was used to it and didn't expect anyone to show up anymore.

When I was 8 or 9, I remember Dad saying that Mom needed to see a doctor.  I'd suggested that he call my friend's dad (a general practitioner), and Dad replied with "Not that kind of doctor."  He mumbled something about needing to see a doctor about her mind, her thoughts...  I didn't understand.  No one ever explained it to me.

When I was 19 - after watching her moods shift from deliriously happy to unable to get out of bed, and listening to her version of my childhood, her childhood, subsequent marriages, and our home life - it began to dawn on me that something was actually wrong with my mom.  I figured it was one of three options - she was a sociopath, she was mentally ill, or she was just plain mean.

As I was wrapping a very typical "granny" gift for my mom from my boys last week, I remembered something I'd long ago stuffed away...  When I was 14, my dad took my younger sister and me shopping for a gift for Mom.  We picked out a Christmas sweatshirt and some leggings (it was the 80's).  We LOVED it and thought Mom would too.  She didn't.  In fact, as we sat around the beautifully decorated Christmas tree opening gifts, she yelled at us.  I can still hear her saying "Did you really think I would like this?  When have you ever seen me wear something like this?"   On December 26th she took us back to the store to return it and made us hand the cash over to her so she could buy her own gift.  I was forever scarred by that...  I never bought a gift for her again without a specific wish list.

For the last several years I've suspected bipolar...  She has a ton of personal issues to work through, but she is more than just troubled.  Last week, my mom shared with me that she quit counseling in June and that she was diagnosed bipolar a long time ago.  She's taken various antidepressants, but a doctor has never even offered her lithium.  I thought lithium was the most effective way to stabilize the effects of bipolar?

She has seen dozens of counselors and doctors over the years, resulting in diagnoses of PTDS, anxiety, psychological shock, chemical imbalance, depression, and now bipolar.  And every time she walks away from those treating her, and ultimately the meds too.  She has made so much progress over the last couple of years.  I hate to see her get swallowed up again by old thoughts and patterns that continue to chip away at what is left of fragile relationships, her job, her LIFE.  When she is not overcome by the things that plague her, she is wonderful.

I heard the other day that children who are raised in volatile homes have higher incidence of mental illness, drug and alcohol use, depression, anxiety, and low academic achievement.  Looking back over the generations in my family I see this pattern played out over and over again.  It breaks my heart to look out at my extended family and see all of the children who were destroyed by ill parents, and in many cases have become ill themselves and are now caught in the cycle.

I pray for those effected by mental illness.  It is far reaching, for generations and generations.  I pray that we can rise above the circumstances in our childhoods when we have the opportunity, making wiser decisions than those who went before us, and knowing the hope and freedom there is in dealing with our struggles instead of being defined by them.  I pray for comfort for those whose loved ones are slipping away, and for strength and wisdom as we try to help those who need it.  For those who are in the grip of mental illness, I pray for a long enough pause in the turmoil that they will seek treatment and that their doctors would have the wisdom and know-how to treat them effectively.  I pray for an end to the suffering caused by mental illness, and for restoration to become common among families impacted by these devastating diseases.

"May the Lord bless you and keep you."  Numbers 6:24