Friday, October 31, 2008

Hugs from Heaven

Have you ever had one of those days? I don't mean the classic "one of those days" in the negative sense. I mean one of those days where you can just sense the very near presence of God? It's like He's bubbling inside of you, your heart feels full, you have a kick in your step, there is this smile you can't really repress... you sense His joy.

Those are good days. I'm having one of those days today. I don't even know why, it's not like I've made a huge headway in my devotional struggles, or any major breakthrough in my struggles with prayer - it's nothing that I can attribute to ME.

It's like a hug from heaven. It's like God has reached down and taken me into his arms and I can feel Him holding on to me. It feels good. It is the reality of "God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good." is playing itself out in my life today, despite circumstances or struggles, He's just showing me His love because I'm His kid.

Today is a day that can be sort of contraversial in the church, costumes, no costumes, to trick or treat or not to trick or treat? That IS the question.

This morning as I was driving Ethan and Victoria to school I looked in my rear view mirror and saw a demon driving the car behind me. I don't mean I had any spiritual discerning moment, I mean she was in a costume, dressed like a demon. So I asked my kids if they knew why we didn't dress in scary costumes for Halloween. Victoria piped up and said, "because it doesn't honor Jesus." (I was very proud.) Ethan said because it was like choosing the devil's side. I told them, "you know, a lot of people think today is the devil's day, but it's not." And they asked me why people think that, so I just told them that's what some people make Halloween about. But it isn't true. I told them you know what the Bible says, "THIS is the day the LORD has made..." and they started to sing... "This is the day, this is the day, that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made. I will rejoice, I will rejoice and be glad in it..." We sang it the rest of the way to school and all the way as we walked into the school building.

Today is God's day. He's Lord over Halloween, He's Lord over the economy, over this nation. Whether people choose to acknowledge it or not, God is still in control, He is still on the throne, and no matter who wins the election on Tuesday and no matter what proposition does or does not pass, I will rejoice, I will rejoice, because I have a Father in heaven who loves me, and today He chose to fill my heart, and hug his lid, just because He can.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Road to the Cross - Part 3

When I had my miscarriage, it was like my world fell apart. Nearly two years of guilt, anger, frustration and shame bubbled up to the top and I was overwhelmed with fear about what exactly might come to the surface with it.

Neal still didn't know the truth about my abortion. And at the time I was very concerned that he might leave me if he knew the truth, after all, I had completely deceived him and even married him with this lie between us.

On top of my concerns about what Neal would think I was convinced God was angry with me, He was punishing me, and maybe even that He hated me. In the core of my being I knew abortion was wrong, I knew what I had done was wrong. Even if I had felt a huge amount of pressure to have the abortion, the bottom line was I could have stopped it from happening. It might have been at a great cost, but I still could have refused to go. And the hardest part of all was that there was no one I could talk to. My parents were the only people who knew the truth and could have even suspected what I was dealing with. I lashed out at my mom a lot in that season of life. I remember having a lot of angry words for her. We would argue at work behind closed doors and I would spit venom because I was so torn up inside, and I wanted her to hurt too. I didn't lash out at my dad like that, I guess 22 years of being a Daddy's girl prevented it, but I was angry at him too, and frustrated by his continual exhortation to not be in such a hurry to have kids. It didn't help, it hurt.

Evenutally a family member came to me after my miscarriage. I guess she could sense I was hurting, and that it seemed deeper than just the pain of a miscarriage. (This is the family member I referred to in a previous post that I am now estranged from.) Eventually she just confronted me directly and asked me if I had aborted the baby I conceived at 19. It kind of shocked me that she would even suspect that. I was so overwhelmed and surprised I just let it all flow out, the whole story. She and another family member who was there were the first people I finally told the truth to. She was a Christian and active in a church, and she had actually been witnessing to Neal and I for quite a while. She shared with me about this Jesus who was not an angry or punishing God, but rather one who was hurting with me and for me and wanted to forgive me. I couldn't grasp the concept, but I was desperate and I agreed to go to church with her.

That next Sunday she took me to the Cornerstone church, where I still attend to this day nearly 17 years later. I listened to the pastor and waited anxiously for the altar call. It's funny, I went wanting to give my life back to Christ, I went ready to accept him into my heart, to rededicate. Pastor could have probably preached about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and I would have been on board. (Not that there is any biblical lesson I know of related to good old PB&J.)

God was prepared to meet me ther that day. As I sat nervously in the sanctuary I looked through the church bulletin. It was there I found an ad for a new bible study starting up in just a couple weeks. It was called "The Women in Ramah," and it was a for women who had suffered the sin of abortion. I remember I could barely breathe as I read it. Someone introduced me to the woman in charge of it after service that day. She was very kind and told me she knew the bible study would help me. I told her I was very frightened because I was concerned what would happen if my husband found out. She told me it was very private and no one, not even the pastors would know I was taking the bible study, so I didn't need to be concerned about being revealed. That was a huge relief, but then she told me she also strongly recommended I go to my husband and tell him the truth myself. Looking back now as a more mature Christian I realize the necessity of that recommendation, when things remain covered in darkness, they can not be healed by the Light. But at the time I thought she was nuts, and I told her I didn't think I could tell him and asked if it was mandatory. She assured me it was not, but she would pray for God to lead me, and suggested I do the same.

To be continued...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Road to the Cross - Part 2

By the time I reached my 19th birthday I was kind of sick of the "wild side." I didn't exactly reside there consistently for very long. I did more drinking by the time I was 15 than I ever did any time later in my life. I hung out with a group of kids who drank and partied my freshman year in high school. They did not do drugs, so neither did I. But they did drink and I did too, but not excessively.

I do remember one night when I finished off an entire 2 liter bottle of wine coolers by myself (yes, they used to sell them that way) but it was on a night when my friend's adult brother tried to... have his way with me. We'd driven to the store to buy the alcohol and he stopped the car in a dark alley on the way back. I fought him off, but I look back at that night on occasion and realize how fortunate I was. I also look back at that time and know how important it is for young women to dress and behave with modesty. I invited the trouble I found that night.

After things went badly with that crowd, I hung out with a different friend who was a little older and dabbled in drug use my sophomore year in high school. I would say there was about a 4 to 6 month period where I used cocaine with her and her friends on the weekends.

By the time I was 16, I was kind of fed up with the scene of drinking and drugs. Getting my driver's license became justification to not drink, I always volunteered to be the designated driver. And when I got my first serious boyfriend the end of my sophomore year he was very straight laced (with me at least) and the drug use stopped too. But he was too old for me, I was 16, he was 22 and my parents let me date him. He wasted no time in taking the last of my purity when our relationship became sexual at the beginning of my junior year in high school. I dated him for 2 years until I broke up with him the weekend after I graduated high school. He had become more like a 3rd parent than a boyfriend and had developed a tight knit relationship with my parents (especially my mom), particularly because he had gone to work for them. I broke up with him, but my parents kept him around for the next 18 years.

Breaking up with him was like being paroled from prison. I was hell-bent on exercising my rights and freedoms now being a legal adult and a high school graduate. I dated a lot, and I made a lot of stupid choices with a string of nearly a half dozen different boys. Honestly I am ashamed to say it, but I got around.

It was during this season of life that I started to get to know Neal. I had known who he was ever since junior high, but I never really started to develop a friendship with him until late 1988. By the time my 19th birthday came around I knew I was interested in getting to know him better, and less than a month after I turned 19 we were officially an "item."

Neal was a party guy. He did it all, and he did a lot more of it than I ever had. I had gotten tot he point I had sworn most everything off, but Neal was still in pretty deep. But I saw something in him that I was really drawn to, so I hung around anyway.

Sex had become a tool at that point of my life. I had done my best to remove any emotional connection from it. So because I liked Neal so much and was really attracted to him, I didn't want to make our relationship a sexual one. The logic of the world? I don't know, but it was almost 6 weeks before I was willing to take our relationship to "that level," and at that time, that was a long wait for me.

Six weeks after our "first time," I found out I was pregnant. So I was going to have a baby, with a boy I really didn't know very well, who wasn't working steadily, but for some reason fear never really set in. I can also honestly say I never even considered anything other than having the baby. It's interesting, I look back now and I wonder if I even really new about abortion, because I can honestly say it never even entered my mind. I had to have heard of it, but I don't think I really had an opinion about it. I guess I sort of thought, "to each his own," but never considered it an option for me.

My parents had an entirely different point of view. My dad in particular was adamant about the matter. I was not going to have a child at 19. The first time Neal and my parents ever really had a face to face conversation beyond "hi, how are you?" was the day we sat down and told them I was pregnant. I know a lot of guys would have just left a girl to face that heat alone, but Neal didn't. I think in some small way he might have even earned a little of my parents respect that day. Not enough to approve us having a baby together though. And as we stood our ground against there disapproval, we were determined to have this baby together.

It was a lot harder for me to stand my ground later alone. There was a lot of pressure from my dad in particular to "terminate" my pregnancy. My resolve finally broke when the threat was made that if I had this baby I would no longer be my father's daughter. So my mom made an appointment at a local clinic and I began to spin a web of lies.

I couldn't bear to tell Neal that I didn't have enough confidence in our relationship to stand against my family. I suddenly realized how little we knew each other and unstable our lives were, and I could not face the possibility of not having my parents to go to. So on the morning of my appointment I called Neal on the phone and told him I thought I was having a miscarriage. My mom drove me to the clinic.

I begged and pleaded with her that morning not to make me go through with the appointment. I cried, I screamed but to no avail. The best I got from her that morning was a promise to give me the "wedding of a lifetime" if I promised to wait till I was 21 to get married. I remember as we drove into the clinic parking lot there were protesters outside the building. As we drove past them they started pointing and screaming at me, calling me a "murderer." Suddenly the place I least wanted to go seemed like the safest place to run to. I hurried into that clinic.

Inside the clinic I was asked to wait a few minutes and then called into the back where I was told to change into a gown and given an ultrasound. I remember very clearly that I could see my unborn child on that monitor. That image haunted me for a long time after that. I waited on a bench in a room full of other girls as we were each called in one at a time. One of my conditions for going through with this was that my parents paid the extra $250 for me to be asleep for the procedure. Shortly after I was called into the room and laid on the table, everything faded to black. I don't know how much time passed before I started to regain consciousness, but as I did I could hear another woman in the room crying. It started as a whimper and slowly progressed to deep sobs, she kept saying, "my baby, my baby." I realized she was just a couple beds away from me. Suddenly there was a clinic worker standing over her and scolding her, telling her to stop her crying before she frightened the other patients.

Next thing I knew another clinic worker was standing over me and patting my thigh, she was telling me to get up, half pulling me off the gurney. She handed me my bag with my clothes and directed me to another room. It wasn't a dressing room, it was like another waiting area, but no one was waiting for anything, we were being rushed out the door, not ushered into one. I tried my best to maintain a little modesty as I tried to get dressed. They handed me a "pad" the size of a diaper for bleeding and a bag full of several more for later. The kind workers who ushered us into our procedures were replaced with gestapo-like people barking orders at us. I got kind of dizzy for a moment and one told me to sit down while she placed a cookie and cup of orange juice in my hands. Cookies and orange juice? The experience was surreal.

My mom drove me home and left for work. I called Neal at his work and told him I had lost the baby. Still groggy from the anesthesia I slept for hours that day until Neal got home from work. Then I headed over to his place. I spent several days there without calling my parents. From that day on I no longer worried about meeting curfews, or even coming home on weekends at all. Something broke in my relationship with my parents after that day. Something broke inside of me.

I went from having no opinion on the matter of abortion to being staunchly pro-abortion. There's no misspeaking there, I didn't say pro-choice, I said pro-abortion. Several months later when a friend of mine found herself in a crisis pregnancy, I remember standing on a beach with her and trying with all that was in me to talk her into having an abortion. Even though I had hurt through the whole process, I wanted her to go where I had gone. I think truthfully I thought if she had one, I could feel better about what I had done. At the time I was disappointed that she chose to continue her pregnancy. Now as I look at her wonderful son, almost a man now, I thank the Lord I was not more persuasive that day.

Within six months of my abortion Neal and I became engaged. Neither one of us was doing drugs or even drinking excessively anymore at that point. I planned my wedding with a vengeance, hellbent that my mother was going to make good on her promise, and I planned the wedding of my dreams. Those were hostile days between my mom and I. Neal and I set a wedding date of May 1991. And by October 1990 we were living together, renting my parents house from them as they had bought a new home. By January 1991 I was determined to get pregnant again, and I didn't even care if it happened before the wedding. I stopped taking birth control and hoped I would conceive soon.

May 10, 1991 I married the man of my dreams. My desire to get pregnant went into overdrive. In my heart I was seething with bitterness and anger all the time. I was also struggling with guilt about my secret. No one knew the truth except my parents and I, but it was a secret I was determined to keep for fear of losing Neal because of it.

It was March of 1992 and Neal and I were celebrating my birthday at Disneyland. I started having extreme abdominal cramps and bleeding. My cycles were irregular in those days and so I thought I was making up for a lot of missed cycles. That weekend we went to a couple's wedding shower for some friends and the pain got so bad he had to carry me out of the house and drive me home. By Monday morning I knew I had to get to a doctor.

I went to the gynecologist on call for my office. It was a woman doctor I had never seen before. As she examined me she determined I was in the final stages of a miscarriage. I hadn't even known I was pregnant. Despite her best efforts to assure me that these things just "happen" and that it wasn't my fault, I believed with everything in me that I was being punished by God. I was so distraught I couldn't even drive home. My dad had to drive Neal to the doctor's office to drive me and my car home. When I saw my dad I couldn't even look at him, I was so angry, and I just clung to Neal, he tried to console me and assure me also it wasn't my fault, but he didn't know the whole story.

To be continued...