Okay, so where were we? Oh, that's right...I left off right at the point where I was officially 'emancipated' at the age of 16. Whew. Heavy. Just sitting here recalling and writing this stuff takes me back. My teenage life had been a whirlwind of changes; from living in a house with 9 bedrooms and six bathrooms with a swimming pool and a tennis court, to going through my mom and step-dad's divorce and moving into a mobile home, to getting thrown out in the middle of the night on my proverbial bum. I remember being outwardly full of bluster and bravado and scared witless on the inside.
There were angels along the way. My sister, Sarah tried to take me in a time or two. I was too much of a handful for a 21 year old girl who, for all her good intentions and maturity, just couldn't offer me the guidance and discipline I desperately needed. There were my friends' parents, even their siblings, who offered me shelter but it was always temporary and I knew I was a burden even though they tried to make me feel otherwise. The bottom line was...I was on my own. For a while there, I lived in my '71 Chevy Chevelle and ate a lot of Fritos and bologna sandwiches. I showered at a public shower in a trailer park down by the Rio Grande River. I was dead broke and had no financial support. I had to ask strangers to 'borrow' their shampoo. I got a job as a waitress at a coffee shop. Not exactly the glamorous life. I moved to Dallas and stayed with my sister for a while and then ended up landing a job leasing apartments where I was offered an on-site apartment as part of my salary. I was so young. Way too young to be unchaperoned, unattended and alone. Naturally, I made mistakes. Big Texas-sized mistakes.
I'm not going to bore you with the gory details. Let's suffice it to say that a teenage girl who feels lonely and unloved in a big scary world is in danger of herself and of predators. Praise God I am a tough little sailor and although I was tossed about in some ferocious waves, I miraculously weathered the storm a bit bruised and battered but with no permanent damage. When I look back on those days I see God's angels were furiously working overtime to keep me safe not only from others but honestly, mainly, from myself. To sum it up: I survived. And I've thrived. I live an amazing, blessed and prosperous life. How? Unfailing hope, faith, tenacity and God's unbelievable, endless love, grace and mercy. I just believed way down deep that I was created to do great things. No circumstance or setback ever seemed too great to overcome. I am (as someone once put it) annoyingly resilient. :0)
Was I ever discouraged, depressed, anxious, humiliated, despondent, embarrassed, rejected, or abandoned? Most definitely, yes. In my lifetime I have experienced all of those things and more. So what? Does that make me special? Do I deserve a free pass to the front of the lines at the rides at Disneyland? Of course not. We all have a story. Most of us have experienced pain, loss and consequences of poor choices. That's life. It's part of the deal. What we decide to do when we are at our lowest points in life will determine how we move forward. What do I choose to do when I'm at my lowest point? Go lower! I hit my knees. Or put my face on the ground and SURRENDER! I beg for God to forgive me. To empty me of myself and my pride and my foolish choices and to fill me up with Himself, instead. This is a NO FAIL solution to my life's most difficult tangles and trials. You may not believe but that doesn't matter. I know that I know what I know. Jesus is alive in me. And you. He is not a myth or a fantasy, He is a tangible, living, loving God who cares about the most intimate details of your life. Nothing is hidden from His view. Let Him in and you will be transformed. Alrighty, then...end of sermon.
Okay...let me catch my breath. Some of you probably read Part 1 and thought, that poor thing...her mother ruined her life. Her parents screwed up her life because they were selfish. She was abused and abandoned and rejected. Well, so was Jesus. So are many. So what? Listen to me closely, my beautiful friends: You may not like hearing this but it is true...if you are an adult or a young person making adult choices and you get off track...IT"S NOT YOUR MAMA'S FAULT. There, I said it.
Now don't get me wrong...parents have a profound obligation and responsibility to love, respect, protect and guide their children. It is a responsibility that I take very seriously as a parent. The problem is, not all parents do. They should...but they don't for whatever reason. My mother's parents failed her, too. Sometimes we have to grow up too fast. I can wish all day long that things had been different. (I have). I can sit around and wallow in the pit of my parents' poor decisions and choices. (I've done that, too). But at the end of the day, the responsibility for myself and my life and my choices are on ME and me alone. My mama and her messed up stuff are irrelevant now. I have a husband to love and a family to raise and a legacy of abuse and neglect and alcoholism to dismantle and destroy. I have decided...It ends with me. (In Jesus' name). Blaming and being a victim earns me NOTHING. Zip. Zero. It just perpetuates the cycle. I'm resolutely unwilling to do that. I'll say it again...It ends with ME. Period.
If I sound harsh, it is because I have seen so many creative, beautiful, talented people waste so much time of their lives being bitter, disappointed, and angry children living inside of their adult bodies. If you have trouble with unforgiveness and anger, find a trustworthy friend or counselor and unburden yourself. Lay it all out and deal with it once and for all. Most importantly, run with your arms outstretched toward the One who gave it all for you. Nobody understands your pain and suffering like He does. You can move out of darkness and resentment and brokenness toward healing, forgiveness, and wholeness. Listen...if I can do it, seriously, anyone can. You have nothing to lose and you'll gain your freedom in the process.
Take it easy on yourself. All it takes to get started is a desire to forgive. As I said before, it was a long process for me. The payoff? Ironically, I am finally, truly emancipated! I'm free to see my mother as she really was. A sick, sad, scared, confused and lonely woman who just did the best she could with what she had. She was dealing with the consequences of some poor choices. She wanted to be a good mother. She tried. She had some great shining moments that I will never forget. She loved me with all that she had. She just never could quite pull it together. I wish she was here now so I could pull her into my arms and hold her. I forgive her. I love her. Some sweet day I will look into her beautiful eyes and have that moment of reconciliation. But for now...all is well. Or as the song goes: It is well with my soul. Freedom feels good.
Please take a moment to listen to this song that my mother, Jane, and I used to sit on her big bed and sing together. She meant every word she sang to me in those moments. I honor her memory with this post. I know she is proud of me for speaking out so that other people can see beyond the pain of the past and into their very own future full of promise and possibility.
I love you, Mommy.