Motherless by Choice: Cutting Ties with an Abusive Parent

The following is a beautifully written and very sad blog by Katie Naum. It was first published on her Archipelago blog, and later on The Huffington Post. It eerily encapsulates the reasoning behind my own separation from my father. I too have been told, “You’ll want to reconcile with him some day.” Sadly, I too doubt that day will ever come.

It’s been four years since I last spoke with my mother. I may never speak to her again.

There is no easy way to say, “I’m estranged from my mother.” It’s even harder to say, “I’ve cut my mother out of my life,” clarifying that you are the one who has severed the bond. Say it to anyone, friend or stranger, and a certain light you hadn’t even noticed fades from their eyes, every time. Smiles falter or grow forced. Mothers give so much to their children that a justification for estrangement must be staggering: some monstrous abuse that outweighs all the love and self-sacrifice inherent in parenting. Only someone selfish, heartless could cut off a mother who loved them — right?

When I was in high school, I slept most nights on the living room floor. I wanted to sleep in my bed, of course, but my mother had rules for us, rules we could not disobey without consequences. One rule was that she controlled who was allowed to enter which rooms, and when. For example, over time, the right to go upstairs — to enter our bedrooms for any reason, or to use the upstairs bathroom to bathe — became rarer and rarer. (Years earlier, my father had first been banished to the first floor, and then to the basement, before leaving our house altogether.) The spaces in which we were allowed to move slowly shrank.

As we entered our teens, home life got worse for my sister and me. Concerned, anonymous people began to place calls to social services. Each call meant disruption to our household, punctuated by unpredictable visits from a social worker named Sam, a tall, quietly friendly man with an unusually deep dimple in his chin. Into that dimple I poured all of my hatred and fear.

I don’t recall my mother ever saying that Sam, or those who had asked him to come, were wrong to worry about our welfare. Instead, her outbursts of gibbering rage focused on how hard she had it, how she worked like a n*gger every day, how the deck was stacked against her, and how we’d better not say anything to Sam that criticized her in the slightest. As flawed as she was, she said, she was our best shot for a happy life. “They’ll take you away and put you with some f*cking foster family who’ll leave you to rot,” she’d howl. One of her favored punishments was having us stand perfectly still in the middle of the kitchen floor for hours as she went about her day, bellowing at us like a wounded beast when her outrage bubbled over at having to load the washing machine or perform some other household chore. For me, she threw in an extra threat: “And no foster family is going to pay for you to go to college, so you can kiss that goodbye.”

Continue Reading at Huffington Post Women

Advertisements

How God Sees You, Part 1: You Are Like A Bird

Birds illustrated by John James Audubon (1785 –  1851)

Birds illustrated by John James Audubon (1785 – 1851)

My Darling Child,

There are many ideas and misconceptions about how God views us. Some take a doom and gloom view, and believe God sees us only as sinful filth. Others take an all-accepting and all-loving view and believe everyone – even unrepentant criminals – will go to Heaven. Most such views, however heretical, are rooted in at least a smidgeon of truth. But what’s the whole truth? What does the Bible say? In this series of letters to you, I will search the Scriptures for Bible verses expounding upon how God really sees us in all our weakness, fallibility, and salvation by grace through faith.

You Are A Baby Bird:

“Keep me as the apple of your eye;
Hide me in the shadow of your wings.”
Psalm 17:8

“How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”
Psalm 36:7

“For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.”
Psalm 63:7

Like a mother bird, God tucks us under His wings. He keeps us warm, feeds us, protects us from the elements, and guards us from predators. Like a baby bird, we are hidden under His wings. Like a songbird, we sing for joy in the salvation He provides.

You Are Vulnerable, Persecuted, & Mortal:

“I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places;
I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.”
Psalm 102:6-7

“For man does not know his time. Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time, when it suddenly falls upon them.”
Ecclesiastes 9:11-13

“I have been hunted like a bird, by those who were my enemies without cause.”
Lamentations 3:52

God knows that – like a lonely sparrow or a desert owl – we suffer and are vulnerable when we are alone. He knows that we are easily ensnared, both by our own sin and by those who persecute us. He knows we are hunted and oppressed by evil people. He knows that our lives are delicate and brief. God pities us, is concerned about our circumstances, and comprehends our fear and frailty. His sovereign plan takes all this into account.

God Wants To Protect & Shelter You

“On the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bear branches and produce fruit and become a noble cedar. And under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest.”
Ezekiel 17:23

“They shall go after the Lord; he will roar like a lion;
when he roars, his children shall come trembling from the west;
they shall come trembling like birds from Egypt,
and like doves from the land of Assyria,
and I will return them to their homes, declares the Lord.”
Hosea 11:10-11

“He put another parable before them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’”
Matthew 13:31-32

God likens the Kingdom of Heaven, and Jesus Christ His Son, to a tree – a Tree of Life – that grows strong and mighty to shelter and protect those who take refuge in His branches. Isn’t that beautiful? We – My Darling Child – may take shelter in the grace and love of God, as a little bird takes shelter in the boughs of a mighty mountain-top tree.

You Are Like A Bird, Only Far More Valuable

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
Matthew 6:26

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.”
Matthew 10:29

“Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
Luke 12:7

Sometimes when a baby bird gets sick, it falls – or is intentionally thrown by its mother – out of the nest. Jesus says that God takes note of each fallen sparrow. He cares about them and provides for them when their earthly mothers don’t or can’t. If God concerns himself with sick and dying baby birds, who’s own mothers don’t even want them around, then surely He concerns himself with every detail of our lives.

In Closing

When we feel lonely, sad, lost, abandoned, cast out, preyed upon, persecuted, or weak, we are welcome to call upon God as Ruth – a lonely gentile widow – called upon Boaz:

“I am Ruth, your servant. Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.”
Ruth 3:9

Like the Turtle, Know & Guard Your Weaknesses

An illustration from the book, "Tortoises, Terrapins, and Turtles: Drawn from Life," by James de Carle Sowerby and Edward Lear, published in 1872.

An illustration from the book, “Tortoises, Terrapins, and Turtles: Drawn from Life,” by James de Carle Sowerby and Edward Lear, published in 1872.

My Darling Child,

The Bible is full of wonderful analogies and parables about animals. The writer of Proverbs 6 wants us to “go the the ant.” The prophet Isaiah laments that, “all we like sheep have gone astray.” Jesus declares that God sees even the smallest sparrow fall, so certainly He will care for His children whom He loves. Here is a little animal analogy of my own.

The turtle, or tortoise, is a vulnerable creature. His soft head, wrinkly neck, fleshy legs, and stumpy tail are easily torn by cat’s claws, dog’s jaws, or a hungry hawk’s beak. But the turtle knows his weaknesses, and when he senses danger, he tucks his head and limbs deep into his shell. Once he’s holed up inside, not even the cleverest or strongest predators can get at him without a great deal of difficulty.

Like the turtle, we all have our weak spots. Some of us are susceptible to flattery. Some to drinking. Others to lust or sexuality. The thing that makes us the strongest is not sweeping our weaknesses under the rug and pretending they don’t exist, but rather acknowledging our vulnerabilities so that we know when to tuck in and protect our extremities.

When you are confronted with something you know is poking and prodding at your weak spot, enclose yourself in the Holy Spirit by burying yourself in prayer. Pray that God would strengthen you, protect you, defend you, and uphold you. Confess your weakness both to yourself and to Christ. Once you have done that – once your holed up in the bulwark of God’s Spirit – not even Satan himself will be able to pry you out again.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.”
Psalm 27:1-5

How The Wizard of Oz and Clarence the Angel Lied To Us

Clarence the Angel and George Bailey recover after George’s suicide attempt in It’s A Wonderful Life

The Wizard of Oz told Dorothy, “A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.” Clarence the Angel told George Bailey, “Remember George, no man is a failure who has friends.”

My Darling Child,

This is a terrible lie, and yet the world around us exalts it as a Gospel truth. Nevertheless, some of the greatest and most self-sacrificing heroes and heroines of history have loved deeply, served others, yet were hated by all those around them.

Consider Jesus Christ, who devoted his life to ministering to others, yet He was imprisoned, tortured, mocked, and crucified alongside criminals.

Consider Martin Luther King Jr., whose belief that people should “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” got him assassinated.

Consider the “nerdy” or “weird” girl who is snubbed by her peers because she doesn’t wear the provocative clothes that they do and aspires to remain a virgin until she’s married.

Never, ever, EVER measure your value – or the value of anyone else – by how much they are loved. Never judge anyone because they’re not popular, or because others shun them. Sometimes the best, bravest, and most shining spirits among us are those who do not bow to the fancy and folly of friends, but stand up courageously for what is good and right, even if they are persecuted for it.

Sometimes the poor, sick, abused, and needy are not shunned because they’re unworthy of love, but because no one around them wants to be burdened by their pain.

Always remember, My Darling Child, to seek out those who are shunned, unpopular, or persecuted either for doing what is right or because they are suffering. Human beings may tend to judge others by how much they are loved, but God sees the heart! Be God-like in your affection.

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’”
1 Samuel 16:7

“’Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in Heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’”
Matthew 5:3-12

My Darling Child, do not be sad when they are cruel to you; when people avoid you, lie about you, mock you, and don’t understand you.

God does not judge your heart by how much you are loved by people; but by how much you are loved by His Son.

Our Lord, Jesus Christ, loved you so very much that He died on the cross so that you could live with Him forever. Shine that love to others. Never let it flicker, even if others are offended by its purity and brightness.

Promise Me You’ll Love God More Than Me

Sara Holding a Cat, by Mary Cassatt, 1908

Sara Holding a Cat, by Mary Cassatt, 1908

My Darling Child,

I hope you know that I love you so desperately. It hurts me to say this, but you need to know that someday I will let you down.

Oscar Wilde once said, “Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.”

Sadly, most children are warranted in judging their parents. The rosy idealism of childhood eventually wears off, and they see their mother and father for who they truly are; fallible and weak human beings with misplaced priorities, sinful habits, and obnoxious eccentricities.

Whether I disappoint you by falling into sin, not being there when you need me the most, or if God calls me home and I’m not there to see you grow into the loving and dynamic adult I know you’ll grow up to be, please forgive me, My Darling Child.

Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing.” Psalm 146:3-4

You’re life will be filled with family, friends, and those who inspire you. Love them. Cherish them. But never rely too much on them. It is so easy to allow those we love – and those who love us – to become idols in our hearts; to grow more influential over our thoughts and feelings than God.

Make Christ your sure foundation, your faithful friend, and your advocate. Make the Father your protector, provider, and refuge in the storm. Let the Spirit be your comforter, counselor, and constant inspiration.

Never let go of God. Even when He seems far, far away, He’ll be right there by your side.

If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” John 14:15-20

Poem: In the Bleak Midwinter by Christina Georgina Rossetti

Kep Guarding the Sheep, by Beatrix Potter

Kep Guarding the Sheep, by Beatrix Potter

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

by Christina Georgina Rossetti, 1830-1894

Never Regret Anything

Sorrowing Old Man (‘At Eternity’s Gate’), by Vincent van Gogh, 1890.

My Darling Child,

I have many regrets. I regret things I’ve done, things I’ve said, things I haven’t done – but most of all – I regret things that have happened to me. Part of this is because my childhood was filled with abuse and dysfunction, but I suspect that most people feel this way too. We all have dreams about how life is supposed to be, and so often we are disappointed.

Hurtful words and selfish actions can cause us to regret, but many times the things we regret the most are “what might have been.” Maybe looking back, we would have picked a different college degree, or called someone we loved one last time before they unexpectedly passed away. Maybe we regret buying something that didn’t turn out to be a good investment, or an innocent slip of the tongue embarrassed a friend or hurt someone’s feelings. Maybe we married someone who – in one way or another – wasn’t the kind of person we thought they were.

Many people will tell you not to have regrets. What they usually mean is, “Let the past live in the past. Everyone makes mistakes, so move on, and don’t worry about it.”

But can we really in good conscience not feel pangs of remorse for the bad or foolish things we’ve done? How can we not regret choices we’ve made – even those that seemed wise and good at the time – which changed our lives forever in ways we didn’t want?

My Darling Child, rest your heart in God’s sovereignty. Before the beginning of time, God knew you. He knew your strengths and your weaknesses, your challenges and your best attributes. He knew every mistake and sin you’d ever commit, and yet, He loved you!

Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”
Psalm 139:16

You see, God is a master-planner. He didn’t just design you and then step back to see what would happen. He is actively invested in you. In fact, He has invested His beloved Son’s very lifeblood in you! So never doubt that God has a plan for everything, even the things that you feel regretful about. In His wisdom, He foresaw every decision and happenstance – both good and bad – and in His mercy and providence He planned to bring about redemption through them all.

Even the worst atrocities of the wicked are used by God to bring about His sovereign plan. Remember Judas, and how he betrayed Christ. Jesus knew what Judas was going to do. Nevertheless, He courageously allowed Himself to be led like a sheep to the slaughter, so that – at the proper place, in the perfect time – the centurion would declare, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:39.

If God can use Judas’ infamous sin for His redemptive work, He can certainly use the sins of his children! Remember the three denials of Peter, and the violent reputation of Paul before he was saved.

All this is not to say that we shouldn’t learn from our mistakes, or avoid and despise sin, but we can find peace knowing that God’s righteous plan will come to fulfillment regardless of how badly we stumble. We can take comfort knowing that we are sinners, just like the very greatest saints of the Gospel, and we are demonstrating to the world that Jesus is powerful to save.

The next time you regret hurting someone’s feelings, think about what God has given you; the opportunity to repent, humble yourself, apologize, and demonstrate God’s redemptive work in your heart. The next time you make a decision that doesn’t turn out the way you planned, remember that it turned out exactly the way God planned. Pray, and be drawn closer to God through your struggles and uncertainty. Wherever life takes you, witness to those around you, and above all, find joy – not regret – in the opportunity.

God is sovereign, and God is good. He planned for it all, and He’s working through you – even on your toughest days – to bring about His will. Never look over your shoulder and regret the hazards God has guided you through. Instead, marvel at the beauty of His grace for guiding you through the hazards.

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:15-17

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Genesis 50:20