My Story of Hope

The reason I started this blog was to tell you how God has been moving in my life ever since the day I was born.  That story can be found under the “My Story” category. I invite you to join me in my 9-part story by starting there.  Please feel free to leave any comments about your story as well.

Hope for an Adopted Sister — part 9

In 1949, when my mother was 18, she had a child out of wedlock. That was a big deal back then so the stress from that may have been what caused her schizophrenia to kick in. My mother’s eldest sister took care of the baby for a couple years while my mother was receiving psychiatric help but, eventually, child welfare took Bonnie away. They may have taken Bonnie from her mother’s presence but they did not remove her from her mother’s heart. My mother was thinking about Bonnie throughout the years. She talked about her as if she were just next door playing with friends. We even had this picture of Bonnie to look at all of our lives:

In the meantime, Bonnie went through a few foster homes before she was finally adopted. She says that one of those homes “sent me back to the social worker complaining that I looked Japanese because of my eyes. Many Finns have eyes like mine.” At the time, however, Bonnie did not know she was Finnish.

I asked Bonnie to share her story and this is what she wrote:

“Despite having loving, God-fearing adoptive parents, I felt I had no one that understood my hurt, anger, and longing to go back to the people I missed. People thought I was ungrateful, aloof and difficult. My adoptive mom cried a lot at first and her friends told her to send me back. But she refused to do what others had done. I remember clearly, one evening at dinner when I was a teenager, the thought struck me that ‘this is my family now. I’m not going anywhere else!’ Why it took years to figure that out I’ll never know. Despite the lack of bonding and complete difference in temperaments, my parents did make me feel physically safe and loved. I had come to believe that if I didn’t find my birth family and foster families again, I would see them in heaven. This thought consoled me and relieved some of the grief I felt.

If my birth mother hadn’t had me baptized, I might never have found my birth family. That’s how I found her maiden name and my identity. At long last my first six years of life were acceptable to talk about and the people I constantly dreamed about really existed! I was not the unruly, difficult ‘orphan’ anymore. I was just a good ol’ feisty Finn!

I was 18 when I discovered my heritage but it wasn’t until the age of 44 and the encouragement of my pastor and my husband that I actually felt comfortable enough to reach out to my birth family. I decided to look up those with my mother’s maiden name in my birth town and my first call ended up being her brother. This put me on the path to find the people I remembered so fondly, and the ‘new’ family I would get to know. My uncle gave me the phone number of my sister down in the cities. And, before I could call her, my grandmother called me with the announcement ‘I’m your grandma and I don’t want to lose you again!’ Then, with my husband by my side, I called my sister and a whole new wonderful world opened up to me.”

I remember the day Bonnie called me in 1994. When I answered the phone, she started the conversation by saying “you may not know me but my name is Bonnie.” As soon as she said that, I some how knew she was the only Bonnie in the world that would ever call me. I responded with “Bonnie! We’ve been waiting for you to call!” Needless to say, she was overwhelmed not only to find out that she had two sisters and a brother, but that we were waiting for her. She told me how she had found us and I carefully told her about her mother hoping that she would understand her mother’s mental condition. We both recognized God’s preparation for this situation. Bonnie was working at a psychiatric hospital with chronic schizophrenic patients so she knew what to expect.

At times, my mother would nonchalantly say she saw Bonnie in the neighborhood or down the road waiting for the school bus. She was still saying this when I was an adult so I don’t think Bonnie grew up very fast in my mother’s mind. Therefore, when it came time to tell her about Bonnie, I was a little worried about how she would react. As Bonnie and I were planning how we would approach mother with the news, our grandmother was so excited that she called her and told her before we could. After all the worrying, my mother took the news, again, as if Bonnie had just been visiting the neighbors. Bonnie made arrangements to meet OUR mother and the rest of the family arrived right afterwards for the reunion. This is the photo from that day and mom’s smile (far right) says it all! Bonnie is third from the left in back.

I smile as I write this because I realize healing can eventually come out of a broken home. These are Bonnie’s closing words: “God understood that I was grateful for a safe and loving home, and then He gave me another gift. He gave me back those 6-1/2 years that I was missing: A new family and a sense of belonging.”

Hope for a Young Mother — part 8

That 11 year-old girl who prayed for a Christian home in part 2 was now 27 years old with three-year-old twins and a new baby.

Although my husband’s income was limited, I am glad I was forced to stay home during the girls’ early years. To make ends meet, I was able to earn extra money by typing resumes, selling jewelry at home parties, and later, working nights at Subway. Then, when the girls were a little older, I did day care in our home for almost 10 years.

Even though I had to count every penny, join the WIC program, and buy most things second hand, God always provided what we needed. And, He used my journaling to help me through the stress and confusion.

Since doing day care kept me in the house all day and my evenings were filled with work, I didn’t get to socialize much. That made it pretty lonely. As I recorded in my journal March 1992, “I have been working 3-4 evenings a week at Subway and taking care of Jake, Zach and Megan for daycare. I obviously have too little time to spend on friendships. How, Dear Lord, do I find the balance? If I quit Subway, I would not be too tired to have friends over. However, we need the money. I just have to invest what time I can into relationships and patiently wait for experiences to bond us together.” In my journal the next day I asked “how does God fill that feeling of loneliness?” and my answer was “diving into God’s word allows Him to talk to me and I get to talk to Him in prayer. We are sharing and He is strengthening me with His presence through His word. I can feel the void being filled.”

Coming out of a background of unhealthy relationships, not only was I learning how to develop healthy relationships, I was also trying to figure out healthy parenting. I don’t know what I would have done without the free development classes and studies at the church.

By the summer of 1992, the isolation at home and lack of accomplishment drove me to look for a creative outlet and I started to sell Tupperware. My journal at that time reads: “I have come to know myself now. Even though I’ve played the house wife for the past 7 years, I am not a barefoot, dowdy, quiet woman. I can serve my husband’s and family’s needs while yet being who I truly am.”

God blessed my business. Within one and one-half years, I recruited 20 members into my unit and earned a van. However, before I knew it, the job demanded more and more time away from my family. I had vowed that if Tupperware ever fought for priority in my life over God and family, I would quit. That is why, one year later, when I was told that I had to work even harder and put in more hours to keep my managerial position, I gave the van back and quit (Matthew 6:19-24).

I was still moving forward, however, and I adopted Philippians 3:13-14 as my life verse: “forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling (me).” In order to be the healthy and positive mom, wife, daughter and friend that I wanted to be, I started caring for my health. Then, when the girls were all finally in school, I decided to go back to school to get my Bachelors degree.

Before going any further, however, there was still another piece missing in my life. Not only did I have a half-brother on my father’s side (see additional “comment” on part 1 of my story), but I always knew I had a half-sister on my mother’s side. However, we had never met her. She was taken away from my young unwed mother when her schizophrenia began. In my next post, I will tell how our sister found us.

A New Life with 3 Babies — part 7

Because Jessica and Rachael spent the first three months of their lives with noisy machines and under bright lights, the quietness of our home was not very comforting for them. For the first several months, we had to put them to sleep by tuning the radio to static and turning it up full blast. One of our other biggest dilemmas was finding clothes small enough for them. In this picture, just before they came home, they were wearing cabbage patch clothes….

If it weren’t for the records I kept in their baby calendars, I wouldn’t remember their first year. When they came home, the girls were drinking only 4 ounces of milk every three hours so I had to keep track of how much each of them ate and when they ate throughout the day and night. I did not worry about training them to sleep long periods of time since they still needed so much nourishment. Therefore, they did not sleep through the night until they were seven months old. Needless to say, I didn’t go back to that career I mentioned earlier. Not only because the girls required around the clock care but because their fragile lungs couldn’t be exposed to germs in a day care setting.

Jessica and Rachael had been in the NICU at the same time as two other sets of premature twin girls who had also received blood transfusions. One year later, we saw the parents of one of those girls on the news saying their daughter had contracted aids from the blood transfusions she received during those first days in the NICU. The girls were born in 1984 and the state of Minnesota had not started testing blood for aids until 1985. As soon as we saw the announcement, I called the doctor and he said he had been expecting my call. We brought Jessica and Rachael in for testing. Again, God protected the girls and they had not contracted aids.

After the first couple years, I wondered whether I should take the risk and try to get pregnant again. Instead of worrying about the “what if’s,” I told God it was up to Him whether I could handle going through something like this again. This is when I came to know Him as my merciful Father and He gave me another little girl who was this time 8 lb. 11 oz. The experience was so different from that of the twins. I was in labor for four days and she was born two days after her due date. Christina was so healthy and happy that her daddy actually said “she smiles too much” and I wrote in her baby calendar “if she cries, there is a good reason for it. At 14 months, she still doesn’t cry when left in the nursery.”

The twins love Tina. When they came to visit us in the hospital, I held out my arms to hug my little girls but they ran straight for Tina! It was a feeling of sadness because I wanted to hug my little girls, but also a feeling of joy because they were so excited to see their little sister. Here they are trying to hold onto Tina…

God used this experience to start the process of breaking down the protective walls I had built as a child. He gave me an appreciation and understanding of the kind of love I had never experienced before. I didn’t realize until this point in my life how little I used to cry.

Being a 27 year old mother with three children ages three and under was very stressful. Not to mention living on a single income. I will share some of those struggles next time.

2nd Miracle for Premature Twins — part 6

Through it all, my husband and I were proud parents of our little babies. We had so much trust in God to heal them that we didn’t see how sick they were. Instead, we saw a future with two beautiful little girls. Therefore, we were bewildered when people wanted to “wait and see how it went” before having baby showers, and that they reacted with shock and pity when they saw pictures of the girls. Especially after our second miracle, our hope and trust in God to deliver them was stronger than ever.

As I mentioned in my last post, the doctor told us on their tenth day that Rachael’s kidneys were failing and they had done all they could do for her. In addition to that, her heart ductus had reopened and she was too small for an operation to close it again. This caused her kidneys to stop functioning so they could no longer feed her protein to heal her lungs. The doctor said that if the air leaking from her lungs reached her heart, we would have to give them permission to pull the plug. He gave us so little hope that I came close to stopping my journal entries. We could not imagine ever being able to give the doctors permission to pull the plug. All I could do was go to Rachael, who was now in an open warming bed because of all the tubes and work being done on her, and hold her tiny hand. This was just about the only part of her body free from medical equipment. I spent the time telling our two pound baby how much I loved her, I prayed out loud so she could hear, and talked to her about our God who heals. Needless to say, everyone else we knew continued to pray as well.

Two days later, on Oct 30th, Rachael’s heart ductus closed, her kidneys started functioning, and they started feeding her the protein she needed so her lungs could begin the slow healing process. Although the doctors had no explanation for it, we knew it was God’s answer to prayers. On the day things turned around, Rachael’s nurse hung a sign above her warming bed that said: “For little Rachael there’s a particular reason that this is a special Halloween season. She’s been haunting and spooking and fooling us all, giving no night of sleep to that doctor on call! But little girl we’re failing to mention, you certainly deserve all that attention. Cause speaking of ghouls, goblins, tricks and treats, you’re an especially sweet treat that can’t be beat!”

It was an exciting day when the doctors took the girls off the muscle relaxant, Pavulon, and the girls were able to open their beautiful brown eyes to take a peek at mommy and daddy. Then it was a couple weeks before the big moment when we could hold Jessica in our arms and one month before we could hold Rachael. They had to be bundled up so much that the only thing we could see were their faces. And then, those had to be covered with an oxygen mask.

Jessica was also a fighter but she was in a position to express it more vocally than Rachael. I will never forget walking into the NICU nursery one morning for my daily visit and they had tiny Jessica wrapped up like a mummy in blankets and she was beat red in protest wailing at the top of her lungs. Even as a three pound baby, they could not keep her arms down and hold her still in order to draw blood from one of the veins in her head. It had gotten to a point where they had poked her foot for blood so many times that they were trying to find new places to draw blood.

After one and one-half months, the girls were transferred to the second level care nursery at Fairview Hospital. Their three month stay in the hospital consisted of constant ups and downs in oxygen pressures, as well as various drugs for blood pressure control and fluid on the lungs.

At three months of age and almost five pounds, Jessica was able to come home and we were greeted with a banner across the front of the house that said “Welcome Home Jessica.” Although it wasn’t necessary, we were so nervous that the doctors allowed us to bring Jessica home with a CPAP machine. After one night of listening to the sounds of the machine and getting up to make sure she was still breathing, we realized the machine was too nerve-wracking and the only way we could find peace was by giving our worries to God and trusting Him to take care of her. Besides, he brought us this far! The next day, we returned the noisy CPAP machine and prayed hard before going to sleep. Everything went well. Rachael came home the following week but had to return a week later for a double hernia surgery. Thankfully, she had to stay only one night for that.

Until this day, we thank God that the girls came home breathing on their own and with no shunts. Rachael was weak on the left side but with a lot of love, continued prayer and physical therapy, she learned to adapt with very few problems.

That first year was a lot of work and I felt like a nurse with all the measuring and monitoring I had to do. Even though it was full of sleeping and feeding struggles, that first year was also filled with precious baby memories and I have a great photo to share with you next time of our “cabbage patch” babies.

1st Miracle for Premature Twins — part 5

When I finally got pregnant, I was 24 years old and thought I had control of my life. I expected to have a healthy baby, take a six week leave of absence, and return on schedule to my career.

Everything looked good those first several months of pregnancy. My eight week ultrasound looked normal and the morning sickness was controllable. Then, at the 20th week, the doctor told me I was measuring too big. He thought it was either diabetes or “multiple gestation.” I just assumed it was diabetes and went in right away for the diabetes test. Then I followed-up on the appointment that the nurse scheduled for me to get an ultrasound. Since everything looked normal during the eight week ultrasound, I didn’t expect to find anything different this time. However, the minute the nurse put the scanner on my belly, we couldn’t believe it. There were two heads and two bodies. It was twins! Even the nurse hadn’t expected this new revelation. I decided to not tell my husband over the phone so I carried the big news with me all day during work until he picked me up from the bus stop that evening. When he asked how it went, I handed him the first ultrasound photo and said “this is baby A” and then the second photo and said “this is baby B.” He said, “Oh, so what did they say?” He thought I was handing him two ultrasound photos of the same baby. So I repeated myself and emphasized the baby A and baby B. We pretty much spent the rest of the evening standing around looking at each other in shock.

Not long after this discovery, the doctor instructed me to take maternity leave and lay on my back as much as possible. It wasn’t easy to stay on the couch while watching my husband cook and clean.

By the 27th week, I had a lot of back and low abdominal pains and found out on the 29th week that I was dilated to three. The doctor scolded me for not realizing that I was in labor and sent me to the hospital so he could put me on medication to stop the contractions. At the time, there was a new drug to speed up fetal lung development but it was not approved yet by the FDA so we could not use it.

After a week in the hospital and on medication that kept me awake all night, the contractions began again. Then the drama began and they transferred me to Abbott Northwestern Hospital. Abbott has an underground tunnel to Children’s Hospital where they were better equipped to care for premature infants. That is when one of the doctors told me that the twins had a twin-to-twin transfusion and were therefore creating too much amniotic fluid. This caused me to be too large and, thus, sent me into premature labor. That explained why at 30 weeks I was already outgrowing maternity clothes.

The doctors knew what they were doing when they took me into the operating room in case natural delivery did not work. After just a couple pushes, Jessica’s heart rate plummeted so the doctor ordered the anesthesiologist to put me under and the girls were born by cesarean with 20 doctors and nurses in the room.

Born 10 weeks premature, Jessica was 2 pds, 12 oz. and pale because she didn’t receive enough blood during the twin-to-twin transfusion and Rachael was 2 pds, 15 oz. and red because she received too much blood that did not circulate, which overloaded her organs. Therefore, Jessica needed a transfusion for additional blood and Rachael needed a transfusion to replace her “sludgy” blood.

The first couple days were very difficult and the girls were on 100% oxygen with maximum pressures. On the second day, Rachael hit a critical level and the doctor told us that they were giving her all the oxygen they could but the oxygen levels in her blood were still not high enough to survive. He asked if we wanted to baptize her. There were now people from all religions praying and lighting candles for the girls and we embraced the promise of James 5:16.

Then our first miracle happened. Rachael’s lungs collapsed from the pressure of the respirator. This was good because now the doctors could insert a chest tube to release the air, reinflate her lungs, and give her the oxygen levels she needed. Over the next week, she needed seven chest tubes and they had to keep repositioning her little body in ways that would allow the air to rise and escape from the tubes.

In the meantime, Jessica also reached critical oxygen and pressure levels but her lungs were stronger and did not collapse. Because she had to sustain pressures for a longer period of time, her head bleeds were a little more advanced. However, by the grace of God, it didn’t manifest itself in any way.

It was a sad and empty feeling leaving the hospital without my babies that week. My husband and I filled our days over those next three months driving 30 miles to and from the hospital to touch the girls and talk to them so that they would know they were loved and someone was waiting for them to come home. We hated to leave after visiting with them because their progress was so much better when we were there. Whenever we returned home from our visits, we would call the hospital to check in one more time before going to bed for the evening and, invariably, the nurse would always tell us that the girls’ readings dropped after we left.

Once we were past the first critical week, it didn’t occur to me that the girls’ lives were still in danger until the doctor told us on their tenth day that Rachael’s kidneys were failing and they had done all they could do for her. Then he went on to say that we should be prepared to give them permission to pull the plug. There was so much air leaking from her lungs that there was a good chance it would get to her heart, which would lead to death. God gave us extra strength and hope during those days that can only be described as “a peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). I came to know the God of miracles and will continue with His next miracle in my next post.

Answered Prayer for a Family — part 4

Before I could drive, I had two good friends who would walk a mile with me to school. The one friend walked a mile before she even met up with me because she didn’t want to get on the school bus full of bullies. This friend came from one of those traditional families that I admired so much. It was even her mother who drove me to the hospital when I fell and cracked my head while ice skating.

When we were 19, this friend called me to ask if her brother could hang out with us that evening because he had just been discharged from the Navy. I said yes and as soon as I hung up the phone, I looked him up in the yearbook to get another look at this mysterious brother of hers that I had only seen from a distance. I was already wondering if it would be possible to become part of a family that actually ate together, played together, supported, and loved one another.

It turned out that he went dancing with us every weekend. I got to know him and saw that he had a good heart. It did not take long for his sister and me to concoct a plan to get him to drive me home. After dancing, we always went out to eat chow mein. One evening I told my friend (while making it loud and obvious across the table) that I needed to get home early that evening because I had homework to do. My friend acted as though that was a problem for her and so my valiant husband to-be stepped in to offer me a ride. That was just the beginning. We had a wonderful conversation and discovered we had a lot in common. Most importantly, I learned that he had actually attended church in the past and believed in God. He did not yet know that he could have a relationship with God through Jesus but at least he was not turned off or hostile towards religion. This was the first time I dated anyone who didn’t ridicule my belief in God.

After two years of dating, we decided to get married at the Lutheran church where I was confirmed. Although I had not gone to church for many years, I still felt drawn to read my Bible every night before going to bed. However, I did not preach at my husband. I just kept myself accountable in my search for God’s guidance and continued to pray and wait on God.

A little over a year after we were married, we moved into our first house and I knew I had to find a Bible believing church. Then, almost the next week, the men from Coon Rapids Baptist Church knocked on our door to welcome us to the neighborhood and I invited them to come in as though I had already been waiting for them. We started attending their church and my husband accepted Christ as his savior in 1983 — 10 years after I had. That is when God answered the prayers of an 11-year-old child who begged for a Christian home. I was finally able to dedicate my life to Christ and get baptized in front of the church with my husband. And so, I was ready to get started establishing the life I had always wanted (Psalm 71:19-20).

Little did I know how much God had planned for me and how much it would take to break down the walls of protection that I had built. In my next post, I will tell how God taught me to cry and melted my heart through the birth of premature twins.

Protection for a Wandering Teen – part 3

My teacher in first grade Sunday school taught me Bible stories, the Catholic church taught me about reverence, the Baptist church showed me the grace and salvation of God, but I still needed someone to teach me who God is and what I needed to do in order to live a good and healthy life (Romans 6:16).

Once I was confirmed, I attended Sunday services by myself but that was still not enough. I was looking for something more (Psalm 119:131-135). Therefore, at the age of 14, I accepted the invitation of a couple school friends to go to a weekly youth group at the local Catholic church. Our leaders were out of the hippy era and taught us relational concepts. Ironically, it was through the kids in this group that I was exposed to some of the typical sins of youth. But yet, they were my “gang.” A few of us did everything together. They were probably looking for the same sense of love and belonging that I was looking for because when I spent time in their homes, I never saw the presence of family.

At this point in my life, my mother’s drinking and the drugs she was taking for her schizophrenia caused her to stay in bed all day; and my father spent all his time watching television. Therefore, I didn’t spend much time at home.

God gave me extra grace and protection during these years as He waited for me to find my way. I was walking the streets of North Minneapolis all by myself in the middle of the night and my friend and I were getting the phone numbers of strangers off the jam line and then meeting these people in random locations (that would be equivalent now days to meeting strangers you talk to on the internet).

Those angels must have also been walking with me through the halls of North High School. When I was just a freshman, I quickly learned that I shouldn’t go into the park across the street or I might get shot, I should blend in so I didn’t get beat up, and I shouldn’t walk the halls by myself between classes. I figured that last one out the hard way when I thought “the nice girls were just opening the door for me.” It was a double set of doors that led outside. They let me through the first set of doors but wouldn’t let me out the second set. Therefore, I was trapped in the entryway with them. But God supplied a way out. Not a minute later, the fearsome hall guard happened to be in that part of the school and came around the corner so the girls quickly backed down and opened the door. After that, I can recall using the bathroom only one time during those four years of high school. Thankfully, band, writing for the school paper, and golf were not cool “sports” so I could find something constructive to do during those high school years.

After a couple years with the Catholic youth group, and at the age of 16, I wasn’t attending church much at all and I moved out from under my parents’ roof to an apartment behind their house. I was still trying to find my way without adult supervision and was searching to fill that longing I had for fulfillment and meaning. I was reading the Bible but this was the era of the New King James Version so I didn’t quite understand it all yet.

Then I ended up in a serious relationship and became a person with divided loyalties (James 4:8). This guy was antagonistic towards God and I was still that 11 year old little girl hoping and praying that one day I could have a healthy Christian home. Without direction and accountability in my life, this relationship and his words continued to entice me and drag me away from my dream (James 1:14).

As I floundered around trying to figure out life, the Holy Spirit was still present and God was drawing me to Himself. No matter what I was involved in, I still felt a strong need to read my Bible every night before I went to bed in order to calm my spirit (John 14:27). The “Cinderella” story of Joseph became my favorite Bible story. As I prayed for wisdom and discernment, I spent years in the Psalms calling out to God and in the Proverbs learning what my parents were never able to teach me themselves. In my next blog, God answers those prayers.

A Young Child’s Journey & Prayer – part 2

As I mentioned in my last blog, my hope has always been grounded in God’s love for me. Whether my schizophrenic mother was consciously aware of it or not, she also knew deep down that is where I would find hope (Psalm 71:5-6). She allowed me to go to church with an elderly neighbor woman who asked to take me to Sunday school. As a six-year-old, I did not weigh the options as to why or which church I should attend, and I didn’t even fight with my mother saying I didn’t want to go. As soon as she told me, it was just something I felt drawn to do (John 6:44).

This is where my journey with the church begins. I can still see that first grade Sunday school class and feel the warmth of its environment. Even though I had to sit in a hard pew for the next hour listening to the pastor go on and on about things I couldn’t understand and for what seemed like hours, I still felt drawn to this environment full of happy sounds and loving people. And, it could have been that I welcomed the attention and the fact that somebody cared about me. The desire to attend church was so strong that I wasn’t even deterred on the day when the neighborhood kids were lined up in my front yard yelling and spitting at me as I walked from my front door to the car waiting to take me to church.

I’m sure that woman and her family had no idea that giving a poor simple little girl a ride to Sunday school would have such an impact on her life. God truly can do big things through simple displays of love. So, it was unfortunate that after only a year or so, the elderly neighbor moved away and there was no one to take me to church.

It was in 1968 and the beginning of desegregation when I was entering the third grade. The city wanted to bus me and my brother down to a school in the poorest, and most dangerous, part of town. However, my proud and stubborn father was able to get us assistance and enrolled us in a Catholic school instead. Private education still didn’t guarantee a friendlier environment for me. I still had to endure two years of bullying by one classmate in particular. It is amazing how verbal ridicule and threats can be as scary and as painful as the actual act of physical abuse.

I was not Catholic, therefore, I was not required to go to Mass but I wanted to go anyway. As an eight year old, I would get up early and walk the half-mile alone to school so I could attend Mass before school started. The peace and comfort I experienced from being in the church was compelling and comforting.

By the fifth grade, I was pulled from the Catholic school to attend a public school closer to home and God provided another way for me to continue my journey towards Him. That was when the Fourth Baptist Church sent a bus into our neighborhood and offered rides to anyone who was interested in attending Sunday school. Not only was I excited to accept rides to Sunday school, but I also received rides to Wednesday Awana and Friday night youth events. It was at one of these Friday night events, on Jan 19, 1973, that I asked Jesus to save me from my sins and trusted Him as my savior (Romans 10:9).

Now that I had been lifted out of my neighborhood and was visiting the healthy Christian homes of the new friends I had made, I began to yearn for a loving Christian home of my own. As an 11 year old girl, I started praying and asking God to one day give me a Christian husband and family.

This part of my journey had a limited season as well. The friends I had made at the Baptist church moved away and I no longer felt comfortable going to church by myself. Therefore, since my parents didn’t like the baptist church, I decided to attend a nearby Lutheran church. As a witness to my new found faith, and since I had not been baptized as an infant, I begged my parents to let me and my siblings get baptized. It was a private ceremony with only me, my brother, sister and, of course my mother had to be there. As I hungered for more, I then asked if I could go through confirmation.

All through my childhood, God had been drawing me to Himself. As I referenced in my last blog, nothing can separate us from the love of God. However, I tried to walk away from Him and, unfortunately, I had a period of time in my later teen years where I lost my way. However, the Spirit did not let me forget who my Father was. No matter what I was involved in or experimenting with during those years in the 1970’s, I still felt compelled to read the scriptures before going to bed. I will talk about those years in my next blog.

Hope for a Young Child’s Future – part 1

When people hear my story, they ask how I made it to this point in my life. Circumstances dictate that I should be living on the streets doing who knows what. Many think I am strong. But I say it is not me. I am as weak as the next person. As I was learning to adapt and survive in an environment of neglect, and physical and sexual abuse, God was working in the lives and circumstances around me (John 5:17). He was my ultimate father, protector and provider.

Even though my mother and father were alcoholics, God still provided my father with enough sense to know that he needed to buy food and pay the rent so we didn’t end up on the streets. Yes, for years I was terrified because we had to share a bathroom with the strangers next door and because rats would run across the room when you turned on the lights, but as a child growing up in a poor inner-city neighborhood, you just accept that as normal.

Even though my mother was schizophrenic, she knew enough to leave her chair in the corner of the living room once in a while to cook balanced meals for me, my sister, and brother. Granted, they never threw us a birthday party and my hand-me-down clothes were out of style, but my parents made sure we were fed, clothed, warm, and physically safe — to a point.

I have forgiven my parents for their neglect because I know that they were sick and, considering the circumstances, I am thankful that none of the physical abuse came from their hands. It is alarming to know, however, what awful things children can do to one another. Although the abuses were not my fault, I was a target because I did not have adults in my life to tell me that I could say no to inappropriate behavior or that someone would be there to protect me from the boy across the street with the hammer.

As you can imagine, because of their addiction and my mother’s mental illness, I never knew the warmth and smells that most people experience from the embrace of a parent’s hug and never knew the security and joy that comes from the tender sound of a parent saying “I love you.”

So, back to the question, how did I make it to this point in my life? Experts will tell you that a child cannot survive without love. Well, He who is love (1 John 4:16) was drawing me to Himself (Romans 8:30) and showed me love through teachers, people in the church, and the one time I can remember being comforted in my grandmother’s arms.

As Paul goes on to say in the rest of Romans, chapter 8, nothing can separate me from the love of God. This was the hope I would need to rely on through my childhood and teenage years. That is where I will begin next time.

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