Secrets Revealed

I never wanted to reveal the secret shame. But I had to let it out because it was so entwined with the story I was compelled to tell. The story of how my helpless, defenseless father was abused and neglected in nursing facilities. So I told the secret in Before the Door Closes: A Daughter’s Journey with Her Alcoholic Father.

Next I wrote Secrets Revisited, a collection of thirty-six personal vignettes showing the dynamics in the alcoholic family. Reliving each experience as I wrote it, I came to realize that through and in it all was God—seeing, knowing, and understanding.

9781490808949_COVER.indd

 

Advertisements

Savings of 88 Percent

My dear readers, I want to deviate from my usual blog content to inform you of what Amazon has done. For some reason, Amazon is now selling the hardcover of Before the Door Closes for $4.21 plus free shipping. The usual price is $33.95.

A Thanksgiving To Remember

Have you had your Thanksgiving to remember? The Thanksgiving that served you a life-changing event? A Thanksgiving you grew on? A Thanksgiving forever etched in your memory?

I have. Of the seventy-five Thanksgiving meals I have sat down to, only one is not a blur. I don’t think I could read yet, but I can recite what happened:

What did she care? This grown-up had never paid any attention to me before. Why now? Why did she make a beeline from her backyard to me in mine and ask, “What did you have for Thanksgiving?”

The way she couched the words meant she was a little too anxious for my answer. What was she going to do with it? Whatever it was, somehow it would be against my family.

Five or six years old at the time, I was already well trained in deciphering double meanings. Like other children raised in an alcoholic home, I was hypersensitive to verbal and nonverbal cues. No comment or question was ever innocent, inconsequential, or taken at face value. Lurking behind every nuance had to be an ulterior motive. And it was never good.

Although I was suspicious, my young brain reasoned the nosy neighbor couldn’t possibly know what had been going on in our house. She couldn’t see behind closed doors. She couldn’t have heard Mama’s screams when Daddy beat her, because it was too cold for the windows to be up. And she would have been asleep in her house when his loud voice shook me awake in the middle of the night.

She probably didn’t see those big, scary policemen, either, when they knocked at our front door. Chances were she was not outside then.

Regardless of her motive, of what she had heard or not heard, or of what she had seen or not seen, I had no choice of what I would tell her. My parents had imprinted in me to always, always tell the truth. So that’s what the busybody heard from me.

“Potato soup.”

My father’s drunk had been in the endgame, where there was no money for a drop of alcohol, let alone a Thanksgiving turkey. But I didn’t wish for it as I dipped my spoon in the hot broth and sent it away from me like a ship going out to sea. When it came back, I was glad to see I had captured floating pieces of potato and celery.

With the family gathered at the kitchen table, I feasted on the sobered silence. Daddy was not talking mean, Mama was not crying, and I was not afraid my father would be drunk today. That Thanksgiving I understood thankfulness.

Decades later, as God would have it, I bought a 1941 cookbook at a yard sale. In its pages was a recipe for potato soup, which, it turned out, tasted like my mother’s. Whenever income was scanty, that’s what I made for my family. Every time I remembered that peaceful Thanksgiving Day of my childhood. And its price.

(The above anecdote is Secret 3 from Secrets Revisited.)

For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful.

9781490808949_COVER.indd

The Ladder Connection

His brother was hopping mad. Mad enough to murder him. That was the real reason his father told him to leave home. Not that he had had a clue. Mother had seen to that.

She had again deceived the old man. Burying her head in his lap and beguiling him with rehearsed sobs, she had cried, “I’m sick and tired of these local girls. I’d rather die than see Jacob marry one of them” (Genesis 27:46 TLB).

Father bought her cover story and sent him—her favorite son—far, far away to the land of his mother’s roots. Different people. Culture confusion. Strange surroundings. Unknown future. What future?

He wouldn’t be in this fix if he hadn’t agreed to the other trick—his mother’s scheme to steal his brother’s inheritance. He could have told her no . . . couldn’t he? Instead, following her directions to the letter and lying to his blind father on the fly, he had duped him.

If only he hadn’t listened to his mother, he wouldn’t be stretched out on this hard ground as darkness descended. Wrapped in silence. Pillowed with a stone. Lonely and alone.

Not alone, which Jacob would discover as sleep overtook him. He dreamed of a ladder reaching to heaven.

As if relaying messages back and forth between heaven and earth, an uninterrupted stream of angels ascended and descended the stairway. What a breathtaking sight! But that view was eclipsed when the dream soon became up close and personal.

God Himself appeared and made promises to Jacob. The blessings He had begun with his grandfather Abraham and continued through his father Isaac would carry on through him. Then Almighty God assured him, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Genesis 28:15 NASB).

Jacob went on his way holding in his heart the certain belief that the God of his ancestors was with him. Indeed, his life would continue to have its ups and downs, but God remained faithful to His promises.

And so it is with you and me as we journey through life step by step, for

Heaven is not reached at a single bound;
But we build the ladder by which we rise
From the lowly earth, to the vaulted skies,
And we mount to its summit round by round.

I count this thing to be grandly true:
That a noble deed is a step toward God,
Lifting the soul from the common clod
To a purer air and a broader view.

We rise by the things that are under feet;
By what we have mastered of good and gain;
By the pride deposed and the passion slain,
And the vanquished ills that we hourly meet.

We hope, we aspire, we resolve, we trust,
When the morning calls us to life and light,
But our hearts grow weary, and, ere the night,
Our lives are trailing the sordid dust.

We hope, we resolve, we aspire, we pray,
And we think that we mount the air on wings
Beyond the recall of sensual things,
While our feet still cling to the heavy clay.

Wings for the angels, but feet for men!
We may borrow the wings to find the way—
We may hope, and resolve, and aspire, and pray;
But our feet must rise, or we fall again.

Only in dreams is a ladder thrown
From the weary earth to the sapphire walls;
But the dreams depart, and the vision falls,
And the sleeper wakes on his pillow of stone.

Heaven is not reached at a single bound;
But we build the ladder by which we rise
From the lowly earth, to the vaulted skies,
And we mount to its summit, round by round.

Gradatim (aka Step by Step) by Josiah Gilbert Holland (1872)

 

9781490808949_COVER.indd

The King Without a Eulogy

Although a king from David’s royal line, Jehoram of Judah was not given a state funeral. Nor was he buried alongside prior kings. Instead of a pall of sadness, a feeling of relief hung over his death. With good reason, King Jehoram was not eulogized.

From its inception, his reign was an abhorrence. For “when Jehoram had taken over his father’s kingdom and had secured his position, he killed all his brothers along with some of the government officials” (2 Chronicles 21:4 MSG). That would be six brothers.

After eight years of his executing evil upon evil upon evil, is it any wonder that “he departed with no one’s regret” (2 Chronicles 21:20 NRSV)? It was good riddance! The world was a better place with him out of it!

God, too, had issues with this detested king:

The evidence accumulated: Since Jehoram had abandoned God, the God of his ancestors, God was abandoning him. He even went so far as to build pagan sacred shrines in the mountains of Judah. He brazenly led Jerusalem away from God, seducing the whole country.
(2 Chronicles 21:11 MSG)

Would we conclude that King Jehoram of Judah was of no heavenly or earthly good? Probably but for that one thing he did.

He fathered a daughter named Jehosheba. One frightful day she would be instrumental in saving from extinction the Davidic dynasty and thus the birth line of the Messiah. (See The Princess Who Saved a Dynasty, posted on July 27, 2018.)

9781490808949_COVER.indd

The Princess Who Saved a Dynasty

The secret was out. Not another second would she live in fear of the queen discovering she had stolen her grandson.

That terror-stricken day began when Jehoiada, pulling her aside, told her all of the royal heirs were about to be massacred. The dead king’s mother had ordered the execution.

Jehoiada always seemed to hear the slightest rumbling from the palace. How this was possible was beyond Jehosheba. But here was more proof that the chief priest had a secret pipeline.

“Jehosheba,” he had begged, “you must do something. Athaliah will make the line of Judah extinct. Don’t you see? There will be no Messiah.”

“No Messiah? But—whaa-what can I do? I’m only your wife.”

“You’re a princess—our last king’s half-sister. No one will think anything of it if you are seen in the palace. Go! Yahweh will guide you.”

With her heart fluttering wildly like a trapped bird, she had dashed out of the chamber and scurried across the temple courtyard before stopping at the top of the stairway. Below was the palace complex. She kicked off her sandals and hiked up her robe. Her bare feet scampered over the steps as if they were burning coals. Her mind, too, was racing. What to do? Where to go when she got there?

Some of the children would be with their tutors. Suppose the executioner had already done it. She couldn’t bear to look in those places.

She had remembered a room—a room in the far back, away from the palace hustle and bustle. The baby! Maybe he was still safe.

Afraid the sight of her might arouse suspicion in watching eyes, she had forced a lackadaisical saunter down the hallways. But once inside the nursery, she quickly snatched her nephew from his nurse’s arms. As she covered Joash with her flowing mantle, her voice quavered, “Quickly. Follow me.”

And that was the beginning of hiding the future king and his nurse for six years. Now her deed was made public.

Her husband, mustering incredible boldness, had organized the coup. “Then he brought out the king’s son, put the crown on him, and gave him the covenant; they proclaimed him king, and Jehoiada and his sons anointed him; and they shouted, ‘Long live the king!’” (2 Chronicles 23:11 NRSV).

The Davidic dynasty was restored. Messiah would come. A courageous woman could be thankful she did her part.

9781490808949_COVER.indd

Toot!

“Sometimes,” my mother told me, “you have to toot your own horn.” This, I feel, is one of those times.

The reason: Amazon refused to publish a review of Secrets Revisited.

The backstory: My daughter gifted a girlfriend with a copy of Secrets Revisited. After reading it, she passed it to her husband. He submitted a review to Amazon, which Amazon rejected.

The review: “I began reading this book at the beginning of the morning. I didn’t stop until I had read the last page. My heart hung on every word as Mrs. Simon began peeling the onion of her heart. By the time she got to the inside layers, this book revealed itself as a powerful story of unbounded Faith and redemption! I found myself wanting to weep, but, in a strange way, God didn’t want me to weep.  Instead, he wanted me to focus on the lessons laid out to all: don’t let your circumstances define you or those around you. Thank you for writing such a raw, powerful work.”

The disclaimer: I have never met my daughter’s friend or her husband.

Toot!

9781490808949_COVER.indd

The Ambitious Secretary

Back in his day, all secretaries were men. So that wasn’t why Baruch was hired. Coming from a prosperous and prominent family, he was both highly educated and skilled. Probably overqualified. Nevertheless, he took his job seriously. Whether his boss was in or out of prison, he would be at his side, meticulously taking the dictation.

Moreover, Baruch was well connected in society. His grandfather had been a governor of Jerusalem. Thus, he was no stranger to the political movers and shakers of his time. He understood their language, so to speak, and liked rubbing elbows with them.

His employer, on the other hand, had no life outside of his relationship with God. To him God was the be-all and end-all of his existence. As Mr. Jeremiah’s secretary, Baruch should know. Their close contact gave him a window into the prophet’s soul. Seeing his boss’s innermost thoughts and feelings and the intents of his heart, he knew he was the real deal.

Committed to being God’s messenger, Jeremiah followed to the letter whatever the Almighty told him to do and say. Then he embraced the subsequent suffering.

For more than two decades Jeremiah had been warning his fellow citizens of God’s looming judgment if they didn’t shape up. As if stone deaf, however, the people kept their noses in the air. Disbelief, disobedience, and disrespect for the God of their history festered.

Now God’s mercy had reached the end of its rope. He directed Jeremiah to dictate all of those past prophecies for Baruch to compile in one volume. The time for executing justice had come.

And yet, God held out a shred of hope when He told Jeremiah: “Perhaps when the house of Judah hears about all the disaster I am planning to bring on them, each one of them will turn from his evil way. Then I will forgive their wrongdoing and their sin” (Jeremiah 36:3 HCSB).

As Baruch inked a flair to the final yod, Jeremiah gave him his next assignment. “I am restricted; I cannot enter the temple of the Lord, so you must go and read from the scroll—which you wrote at my dictation—the words of the Lord in the hearing of the people at the temple of the Lord on a day of fasting. You must also read them in the hearing of all the Judeans who are coming from their cities” (Jeremiah 36:5-6 HCSB).

What a stroke of luck! This would be the next rung on Baruch’s climb up the career ladder. He would be in the spotlight, showing off his oratorical powers.

Finally, the seemingly endless waiting was over. The day of fasting had come. “So Baruch son of Neriah did everything Jeremiah the prophet had commanded him. At the Lord’s temple he read the Lord’s words from the scroll” (Jeremiah 36:8 HCSB).

Before Baruch could leave the temple, he was summoned to the palace. The princes who had the king’s ear requested an immediate private reading.

Wow! Another career rung! Baruch massaged his ego that the next step would be an appearance before the king himself. But that’s not what the princes concluded after hearing Baruch read Jeremiah’s prophecies.

Knowing the king all too well, they sensed imminent danger. Instead of ushering the secretary into the king’s presence, they urgently advised, “You and Jeremiah must hide yourselves and tell no one where you are” (Jeremiah 36:19 HCSB).

While in hiding, the ambitious secretary sank into depression. But God would not leave him there. Putting His finger on the problem, God let Jeremiah in on it and gave him a message for Baruch: “But as for you, do you seek great things for yourself? Stop seeking! For I am about to bring disaster on every living creature” (Jeremiah 45:5 HCSB).

Civilization as Baruch knew it was crumbling around him. The day was nearing when Jerusalem would be in ashes, the temple in ruins, and the population in captivity. This was no time for Baruch to be making grandiose plans for himself. It was as if God were saying, “Get a grip on yourself, man. Look at the big picture.”

Evidently, he did. For Baruch was still faithfully recording Jeremiah’s prophecies when the two of them were taken to Egypt.

Dare we have the courage to pray: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24 HCSB)?

9781490808949_COVER.indd

Sibling Reversals

“Hey, you little pipsqueak, get down here. Father wants you at home. The judge showed up, and he says he won’t finish his business until he sees you. So hurry up.”

“But what about the sheep?” the boy shouted back.

“You little squirt, don’t you think I’ve thought of that? Do what you’re told, and don’t waste any more time doing it. Why, oh why, am I always the one who has to find the baby brother?”

Sibling stress was still rearing its ugly head five years later when David’s father sent him on an errand. He wanted his youngest son to check on the three oldest ones, who were now on active duty in the king’s army. The teenager was to bring them food and greetings from home and then return to his father with news about their welfare.

David was up at the crack of dawn and, having arranged for someone to tend his flock, took the food and was on his way just as Jesse had directed him. He arrived at the camp just as the army was moving into battle formation, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines moved into position, facing each other, battle-ready. David left his bundles of food in the care of a sentry, ran to the troops who were deployed, and greeted his brothers. While they were talking together, the Philistine champion, Goliath of Gath, stepped out from the front lines of the Philistines . . . .
(1 Samuel 17:20-23 MSG)

What happened next between David and Goliath is world-renowned ancient history. But what is sometimes overlooked in the telling of it is that before slinging the fatal stone, David had to ignore a stinging sibling taunt: “Eliab, his older brother, heard David fraternizing with the men and lost his temper: ‘What are you doing here! Why aren’t you minding your own business, tending that scrawny flock of sheep? I know what you’re up to. You’ve come down here to see the sights, hoping for a ringside seat at a bloody battle!’” (1 Samuel 17:28 MSG).

There was no such innuendo fifteen years from that day, however, when David was public enemy number one. Convinced that David wanted the throne, King Saul was hounding him like a mad dog day and night.

Sly as a fox, David had slipped through the maniacal king’s hands again and again by the time he “escaped to the cave of Adullam. And when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men” (1 Samuel 22:1-2 ESV).

When the brothers joined David’s gang of outlaws–submitting to him as commander–did they recall years ago when Samuel the judge had passed over all seven of them to pronounce their baby brother a future king? Did they remember the day they didn’t expect the puny runt to take out the giant Goliath? How did the siblings feel about the current turn of events?

David recorded his answer. Sometime–whether before, during, or after this development–he wrote, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1 ESV).

9781490808949_COVER.indd

 

Drum Roll, Please

Now comes Secrets Revisited, my second nonfiction book. This came about because of surfacing memories while writing Before the Door Closes. I revisited and relived those memories one by one. As I did, my lifelong belief that God is omnipresent held fast. But something else came to light.

God is more personal than Someone who is simply there. He is also the God who always sees, always knows, and always understands—El Roi. I am never all alone. El Roi met me in my circumstances as the oldest child of an alcoholic.

I chose thirty-six of those memories to become vignettes in Secrets Revisited. Today I share with you Secret 33, “Healing Grief”:

My soul weeps because of grief;
Strengthen me according to Your word.
Psalm 119:28 (NASB)
 

Planning our trip, I had thought I would be glad when we stopped at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in the heart of the Texas Panhandle. I was looking forward to seeing Paul Green’s musical Texas. But waiting beside my husband in the amphitheater for the pageant’s start, I wished I were back home.

The three-week vacation would be over, my husband would be at work, and I would be alone in our house. Then I could resume what I had been doing for months since my mother’s death. Sink into the arms of sorrow and sob until, clutching my sore stomach, I’d scream, “When will I get over this?”

My mourning encompassed more than missing Mama. I grieved for her hard life because of my father’s alcoholism. Reliving the memories, I’d see one painful scene after another.

The times I periodically knocked on doors and handed neighborhood ladies her note. I was too young to know what felt squishy inside a paper bag I took back to Mama. Later I felt the shame! Mama had to beg for a sanitary napkin!

Again I would see myself sitting scared stiff on the couch with my brothers. Our drunken father was beating Mama behind the locked bathroom door. Why?

I saw the day I asked Mama about the charred footboard on her bed. “That happened when your father set the bed on fire while I was sleeping.”

As my eyes followed singing dancers blithely sweeping across the canyon stage, my heart cried to be at home where I could vent my pent-up pain. Before the finale, though, I heard something that helped.

Lying delirious in his dugout, the character Calvin asked his dead mother’s forgiveness for her hardships. When he spoke of his father, she replied: “I loved your father. I helped him—all I could. I helped him. I loved my children and wonderful and bright the future for them. This was my joy.”

When Calvin was puzzled that his mother had described it as joy, she responded, “All I could give, I gave. That was my happiness. Don’t grieve, my son. Don’t grieve.”

Those words soothed my sorrow. For a while. Four months later the healing came.

It was the Sunday I joined a small prayer circle whose mission was to pray for the ongoing church service. Much to my surprise, I shared my grief with this group of strangers. As I had when alone in my house the past year, I ended, “When will I get over this?”

One of God’s nameless saints had the answer. “You will never get over it; you will get through it.”

Then my heart’s open sore closed.