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!

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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.

 

 

 

The Birthday Cake

“It’s just another day,” said Daddy as we were about to sing “Happy Birthday.”

No, Daddy, it’s not! I silently screamed. This is the day you were born. That makes it special. Why can’t you feel special? Mama’s showing you you are. She made you a cake.

When Mama made my birthday cake every year, I felt special. I had the same feeling about my brothers and sister when their turns came. Our mother had singled out each of us as being unique and important.

Our birthdays never came with presents. Daddy’s alcoholism stole that money. But we six children could count on a two-layer cake with buttercream frosting from Mama.

I wished my father, wrapped in alcoholic tantrums, did not say and do awful things to Mama. In spite of it all, every November 16 she would honor him on his birthday with a cake. In her heart she thought of him as special, and she wanted him to believe it of himself.

Eventually, it was for Daddy only that Mama made a birthday cake. Her children had gradually left home. Year after year, though, we all returned with our growing families for Christmas dinner. One of those Christmas nights, Mama started a new tradition.

“Come into the kitchen,” she called to her grandchildren. “We’re going to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Jesus. I made Him a cake.”

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Now I Lay Me Down In Peace

It was a scary prayer my mother taught me to say on my knees. Being so young, I knew no other and dutifully prayed:

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Afterwards, I’d lie in bed worrying I might not wake up. I wasn’t sick or old like the woman in the newspaper who was forty. Why should I die?

That bedtime scenario, though, was not as frightening as the nights I was jolted awake with words that lacerate the heart. My drunken father would be on a tirade and my mother, the silent victim of his attacks. With a filthy cord of profanity, he lashed out at her. Some of his barbed criticisms and accusations I understood. Others, I grew into.

Whenever I heard rushing footsteps on the heels of my mother’s terror shrieks, I was afraid she would die at my father’s hands. I’d hold my breath and hope for the slamming of the screen door. That would mean my mother was safe somewhere out there in the dark.

As the house then turned deathly silent, I’d dread my father’s alcoholic side would burst into our bedroom and beat my brothers and me. Mr. Hyde never did.

Now I lay me down in peace. I have no fear of being slapped awake with violent outbursts before dawn. Often, while basking in my bedroom’s tranquility, I lull my heart with Psalm 4:8: “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety” (KJV).

I am old now and not afraid to die before I wake. In my finite mind’s imagination, it looks like the best picture. If, however, I should open my eyes again to this world’s morning, I can recall another prayer that came through my mother. This one is on a piece of linen she embroidered while expecting me, her firstborn of six:

Now I wake

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The Snowball Mystery

Aloud to no one in particular, my mother said, “I wonder if she’ll cry that much when I die.”

At dusk a neighbor had come to the backdoor, telling her she had seen our new puppy dead in the street. Momentarily stunned, Mama said, “But I just let him out.”

I erupted in tears as if there were no tomorrow. Gone forever was something that would love me without any strings attached. Finally, my parents removed the death’s sting and gave me hope when they promised I could choose and name the next dog.

Months later my brothers and I ran out the front door heading for a schoolmate’s house. She had free puppies. As we bounded off the porch, my father called behind us, “Make sure it’s a boy.”

Daddy was waiting at the door when we returned empty-handed. “What happened?”

My heavy heart answered, “Only girls are left.” When he then told me a girl would be okay, I ran all the way back by myself for the white one and named her Snowball.

I grieved for Snowball when my father took her to Virginia for the three-dollar operation. Not because she was “fixed” so that she could never have puppies but because of what happened to her two days later.

Her relentless barking and straining for freedom from the chain anchored in my grandparents’ farmyard caused the inevitable. Snowball burst her stitches. I could only watch and listen to Snowball’s piercing yelps as my father and grandfather held her while my grandmother closed the incision with her needle and thread.

Unfortunately, that was the first and only time Snowball was tied to anything except my heart. She loved all of us, but she showed me I was her favorite when we moved to the row house with my own bedroom. Every school day when I came home, she was waiting for me on the backdoor stoop.

Rarely did I pet her. I didn’t like the strong odor it left on my hands. That guilt chased me when I’d walk over Snowball, careful not to step on her thumping tail.

Her routine presence on the steel stoop gave me some stability in my teeter-totter world. Walking to my house from the school bus stop, I never knew if that would be a day I’d hear my father’s drunken rants bombarding my mother. The times I heard them I wouldn’t look to the right or to the left lest I’d see a neighbor’s face. My eyes focused straight ahead on the backdoor. There I could escape inside the house and disassociate myself from public shame.

When we had moved into our new house, the neighborhood did not know my father was an alcoholic. If the family kept the secret, no one would ever know. Of course, Daddy let it out.

One afternoon Snowball was not on the stoop. She was not there the next afternoon or the next. She was never there again.

As her absence continued, I expressed my puzzlement to Mama. “Sometimes dogs go away,” she said. But her glib answer did not sit right with me.

My heart believed Snowball loved me too much to just up and leave. And I didn’t fear she had been hit by a car. She was not a puppy.

Snowball surfaced four decades later from my father’s lips. “You remember that dog Snowball? She always ran after the mailman. He said he would not deliver the mail to our house anymore if she didn’t stop. We called the SPCA. We had to.”

Twenty years after my father revealed Snowball had been euthanized, I had a dream that I was in a serene place. Alone. That is, I didn’t see anyone, but I did feel I was not alone.

I was squatting as I do when greeting a grandchild face to face. Suddenly, a white dog appeared, running to me as fast as a speeding bullet. “Who is this?” my mind asked. An unseen voice replied, “This is Snowball.”
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Why Hurt People Hurt People

My mother was still in shock that Saturday morning when she shared with me, “Not all alcoholics are mean.” She had heard it firsthand from a speaker at the AA meeting my parents now regularly attended on Friday nights. This news was unbelievable to me also.

Repeatedly drilled with my father’s example, I, too, had thought alcoholism and abuse always went hand in hand. The only alcoholic I knew up close and personal, my father was undeniably a mean one. Why, when he drank, wasn’t he a “nice” one like the recovering alcoholic my mother had heard telling his story?

Part of the answer, at least, can be pieced together with story scraps of my grandfather’s life. His father died when my grandfather was young. Treated cruelly by his stepfather, my grandfather struck out on his own when he was fifteen. My mother once commented of my father’s father, “He was a mean man.”

Could it be that my father, tangled in the web of spinning ancestral pain, battled the hurt by threading it into his family, the ones nearest and dearest to him? In an article dealing with why hurt people hurt people, Joseph Mattera explains:

  1. Hurt people often transfer their inner anger onto their family and close friends.
  • Often those around them become the recipients of harsh tones and fits of rage because they have unknowingly become the vicarious recipients of transferred rage.
  1. Hurt people interpret every word spoken to them through the prism of their pain.
  • Because of their pain, ordinary words are often misinterpreted to mean something negative towards them.
  • Because of this, they are extremely sensitive and act out of pain instead of reality.
  1. Hurt people interpret every action through the prism of their pain.
  • Their emotional pain causes them to suspect wrong motives or evil intent behind other people’s actions towards them.
  1. Hurt people often portray themselves as victims and carry a “victim spirit”.
  • Often hurt people can cry “racism,” “sexism,” “homophobia,” or often use the words “unjust” or “unfair” to describe the way they are being treated, even if there is no truth to this. (That is not to say that sometimes there really is racism or sexism in some instances; this is just used as an example.)

Hurt people have a hard time entering into a trusting relationship.
Hurt people often carry around a suspicious spirit.

  1. Hurt people often alienate others and wonder why no one is there for them.
  • They often continually hurt the ones they love and need the most with their self-destructive behavior.
  1. Hurt people have the emotional maturity of the age they received their (un-dealt with) hurt.
  • For example, if a girl was raped by a man when she was 12 years old, unless she forgives that man and allows Christ to heal her heart and allay her fears, in that particular area of her life (sexuality with a man) her emotional growth will stop; even when she reaches her later years she may still have the emotional maturity of a 12 year-old.
  1. Hurt people are often frustrated and depressed because past pain continually spills over into their present consciousness.
  • In many instances, they may not even be aware of why they are continually frustrated or depressed because they have coped with pain by compartmentalizing it or layering it over with other things over time.
  1. Hurt people often erupt with inappropriate emotion because particular words, actions, or circumstances “touch” and “trigger” past woundedness.
  • I have been in situations with people in which there was a gross overreaction to a word I spoke or an action that was taken. Although I was shocked and thought this reaction came “out of left field” it was really the person responding to an accumulation of years of hurt and pain that could not help but spill over in various situations.
  • I myself have been in situations where I felt hurt, troubled, or overreacted to something because it touched a nerve with what I was still dealing with because of a wound I received in the past. In these situations I have attempted to reason through the situation as objectively as I can with much prayer and introspection so I would not say or do anything damaging to another person or myself.
  1. Hurt people often occupy themselves with busyness, work, performance, and/or accomplishments as a way of compensating for low self-esteem.
  • Often ministers are not motivated by a love for Jesus but a drive to accomplish.
  • It is important that pastors and ministers be led by the Spirit instead of being driven to succeed.
  • A minister should not preoccupy himself with making things happen. He or she should walk in integrity and humility and allow God to open up doors and provide a ministerial platform according to their assignment for their life and ministry.
  1. Hurt people often attempt to medicate themselves with excessive entertainment, drugs, alcohol, pornography, sexual relationships, or hobbies as a way to forget their pain and run from reality.
  • Until the church learns to deal with and emphasize the emotional life and health of the believer, the church will be filled with half-Christians who pray and read the Bible but find no victory because they do not face the woundedness in their souls.
  1. Hurt people have learned to accommodate their private “false self” or “dark side” which causes them to be duplicitous and lack integrity.
  • Often their private life is different from their public life, which causes hypocrisy and compounds feelings of guilt, condemnation, and depression.
  1. Hurt people are often self-absorbed with their own pain and are unaware that they are hurting other people.
  • They are often insensitive to other people because their emotional pain limits their capacity for empathy and their capacity for self-awareness.
  • I have been in numerous situations when someone hurt me and kept on going in the relationship without ever apologizing because they had no clue what they were doing.
  1. Hurt people are susceptible to demonic deception.
  • I am convinced that most of the divisions in the church are caused by saints who lack emotional health and project their pain onto others.
  • Satan works in darkness and deception, and stays away from the light. Hurt people often have destructive habit-patterns that are practiced in the dark. Hence, their mind becomes a breeding ground for satanic infiltration and deception.
  • If the church would deal more with the emotional health of the individual, there would be less of a foothold for demonic infiltration. Also, there would be stronger relationships, stronger marriages, healthier children, and a more balanced approach to ministry with less of a chance of pastoral and congregational burnout.
  1. God often purposely surfaces pain so hurt people can face reality.
  • Whether it is because of a marriage problem, or continual personal conflicts on the job, God often allows conflict and spillover because he wants the infection to stop spreading and the person to be healed.
  • Often Christians are fighting the devil and blaming him for conflict when in essence God often allows conflict so that people would be motivated to dig deeper into their lives to deal with root causes of destructive thought and habit patterns.
  • God’s purpose for us is that we would all be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). This does not just happen with Bible studies, prayer, and times of glory but also in painful situations when we have to face what has been hurting us for many years.
  • I have noticed that these periods of surfacing woundedness often take place when people transition into the mid-life years of their upper thirties and later. Perhaps this is because by then they are old enough to understand by experience that there is something wrong and also that it is not too late to redeem their pain and restore relationships and maximize their purpose. Rarely is a person able or even willing to deal with and face pain when they hit their senior years (in their sixties or older). Most at this age have already become cynical, hard-hearted, and/or become so depressed they have become hopeless even though God is able to help them at any age.
  1. Hurt people need to forgive to be released and restored to freedom.
  • The Gospel of St. John 20:23 says that we have to release the sins of others if we are going to be released. This means that if we do not forgive others then the very thing we have become victimized with will become a part of our life. For example, alcoholic fathers breed alcoholic sons if their sons do not forgive and release their fathers.
  • The good news is that, through the efficacious blood of Christ, we can all be healed and set free from all past hurts so we can comfort others with the same comfort we ourselves have received from God (2 Corinthians 1:4).

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Crossing the Boundary

“You’ll never go,” she declared within a spontaneous laugh. That laugh wasn’t because I had struck a chord of humor. Nor did it mean my mother would do all in her power to keep me from going to college. No, it reflected the absurdity of my dream. In my mother’s mind college was an absolute impossibility, for it cost every bit of money she could salvage amidst my father’s sea of alcoholism to keep the family afloat.

As her oldest child of six, my mother was counting on me for additional family income after I graduated from high school. She set the boundary when she fenced me into the commercial curriculum.

“Mama, I want to take the academic course.” I knew I needed the math, foreign language, and science classes if I had any hope of being admitted to a college. Without them how could I do well on the required ACT or SAT? My high school, allowing no overlapping, drew indelible lines for each curriculum (academic, commercial, general). I would be stuck for three years on the track I started in the tenth grade.

“Judy, you can’t get a job with that academic stuff. It’s foolishness. A waste of time. You’ve got to get a job, and you’re going to take the commercial course.”

When my hushed voice revealed I wanted to go to college, Mama’s laugh trashed my dream to the ridiculous and defined my boundary. Thus business arithmetic, typing, shorthand, and bookkeeping boxed my borders.

A few days short of my eighteenth birthday, I was assigned an office desk with a manual typewriter at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland. As I handed my mother money for room and board each payday, her burden was a little lighter.

Every day I worked the clerk-stenographer job I starved intellectually and emotionally, all the while building up my strength to cross my mother’s boundary. Fifteen months later I matriculated at Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tennessee.

While sitting in general psychology class that fall, I learned my professor had crossed an imposed boundary too. His feat, however, was one that I, having belonged to the National Honor Society, could not imagine.

“I was tested as borderline mental retardation,” Dr. Cook told the class. “But that did not keep me from getting a doctorate. And that is why I’m always advising this college not to require ACT or SAT scores for admission. A student’s potential should not be bound to those tests.”

If anyone could say since David of old “With You I can attack a barrier, and with my God I can leap over a wall” (Psalm 18:29 HCSB), it was Dr. Cook. Refusing to let a statistical standard hedge him in, he established his own boundary. Then, using his life experience, he fought for those who might be barricaded from achieving their potential. I was one of them, getting in just under the wire, though. The ACT was a freshman admission requirement when I received my B.A. four years later.

I also got into Carson-Newman because, adhering to my mother’s career confines, I saved enough to pay the first-year expenses and earned the credibility to be rehired during college summers. With God I moved a boundary.
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Unexpected Development

He was a mean alcoholic. My father. I learned early on to keep my mouth shut. Not to say anything unless he spoke to me first. A cocoon of silence was the safest shelter from his tornadic ranting and raving. And not just when he was drunk.

My father did not explore my thoughts–shallow or deep–on anything. I obeyed his creed:  Children should be seen and not heard. His demands were to be met and in a hurry–no questions allowed. When I had a school problem, I took it to my mother. Always off-limits was any talk about the family shame.

This careful childhood engineering shaped my fear of the male authority figure. Thus I limped through life’s unavoidable encounters with male authorities, but Fear of Male Authority Figure immobilized me when I sat scared in the office of the college president. I was there because someone had assured me I could get a small scholarship if I simply asked for it.

Sitting where the secretary placed me—on the far side of the room from the college president—I was ashamed and afraid. Ashamed I was in a situation of having to ask. Afraid the answer would be no.

My replies were honest although they may have sounded timid. As usual, I lacked courage to look a male authority in the eye. No doubt the president behind his massive executive desk concluded I was hiding something. …

… And I would exit the interview still shackled to Fear of Male Authority Figure. (Before the Door Closes: A Daughter’s Journey with Her Alcoholic Father, p. 22)

But the days of this debilitating fear, birthed and nurtured in an alcoholic family, were numbered. Ironically and unbeknownst to him, my father was the impetus for its destruction. The demise began when I am convinced my father, warehoused in a nursing center fifteen hundred miles away, is a victim of drug-induced dementia.

Any hope of rectifying this injustice meant I had to confront doctors–the most frightening to me of all male authority figures. Up there next to God in the chain of command, a doctor controlled life and death.

After spending days screwing up courage to make the contact, my heart pounded throughout the first phone visit with Daddy’s primary physician.

‘Those are all good drugs that have been around for a long time,’ Dr. King said with patronizing finality.

My chart! My chart! Where is it? How am I going to know what to say if I can’t find it? I shouldered the telephone receiver and rubbed my clammy hands on my jeans. It’s my turn to talk. I mustn’t keep him waiting. Hurry, hurry, hurry!

My chest felt like a popcorn popper as I tossed papers out of the file. There it is! I grabbed the page of hand-drawn columns. I didn’t take time to return to my chair. ‘Uh, well, Dr. King, uh, I was reading the, uh, side effects.’ (Before the Door Closes, p. 23)

Nine months and several doctors later, I confidently approached a physician on behalf of my father, who again had been given a drug for a disease he did not have.  My father had moved to a nursing facility a few miles from my house, and this doctor is its medical director. Looking him in the eye, I am not intimidated.

‘It has been almost three weeks since Rosie called your office to switch my father to your care. We have not heard anything, and I want to know if you have made your decision.’

‘Is your father better?’

‘Yes, he’s better.’ It was the truth. Daddy no longer had dyskinesia. He was feeding himself again. Although he did not always recall the right answers, he comprehended the questions.

Dr. Murphy gave no hint of what he was thinking.

Is that it? I asked myself incredulously. You’re not going to commit one way or the other? Well, I will.

‘Dr. Murphy, my father is going to have a different doctor. If it’s not you, it will be somebody else.’ (Before the Door Closes, p. 117)

I was not intimidated, because when I was sixty-four years old, something unexpected happened to me. My Heavenly Father, looking at his daughter chained to Fear of Male Authority Figure, decided it was time for her to be unshackled. So God roped me in the ring with doctors, where I kicked and pushed and punched until Fear of Male Authority Figure could not stand up ever again.

God the Father never finishes growing His children. As Paul said, “I feel sure that the one who has begun his good work in you will go on developing it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6 Phillips)
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Sticky Friend

She opened the drawer, and I fell drooling into the pit of covetousness.

My father had driven us somewhere–maybe to Washington, D.C. The woman was, I think, a distant aunt. Her only child was about my age, who, like me, was trapped in the boredom of adult talk.

“Do you want to read a book?” his mother asked him, pulling open the chest’s bottom drawer. Sitting obediently quiet by my mother, I had been thinking about that chest of drawers. It seemed out of place in a living room. Didn’t a bureau belong in the bedroom? But when I saw that open drawer chock-full of children’s books–beautiful, wonderful companions waiting to be met and enjoyed–I threw conflict out the window and replaced it for a double amazement. So many books and he told his mother no! Without another word she closed the drawer.

But I can read too! I even have my own library card. I’ve had it since I was six.

I couldn’t read then, but I was old enough to join the library. As soon as my July 3 birthday came, Mama gave me permission to walk to the library for my card. The librarian, though, handed me another kind of card, saying my mother had to first fill it out and sign it. I walked back home, then back to the library.

As she handed me my card, the librarian tainted my pride of ownership with her admonition. “You can only check out one book at a time. You must prove you can take good care of a book and will return it on time.”

I ran home hugging my first book all the way. Mama immediately sat down with my brothers and me and read the story to us. Then back I went to the library for my second book. When I returned home, Mama said she wouldn’t have time to read that one until tomorrow.

My fourth-grade teacher took my appreciation of books to a new level. The school did not have a library as such, but each classroom sectioned off  a small semblance of one. Every week we could select a new book to take home. One morning Miss Snap showed us a dog-eared page in a book. As she smoothed the corner back up, I noticed there was a permanent crease. Then she made the statement that claimed my heart. “Books are our friends. We would never do this to a friend.”

Only once had I seen my father read a book. Someone in AA loaned him Alcoholics Anonymous. I was probably in the fifth grade when I saw him reading the big blue book.

By then I was cherishing books as forever friends. I felt they would never leave me even though I had to return them to the library, for we had shared special moments together. I wanted Daddy to have these lifelong friends too.

When my father finished the last page of Alcoholics Anonymous, my hope soared that he was hooked into reading another book. I watched to see if he would. He never did, and I never thought of what would motivate him. (Before the Door Closes, p. 41)

But I didn’t have to motivate my husband,who is as great a lover of books as I am. We were married for less than six months when we bought our first bookcase, which I still use today in my home office along with one that my father made from a wooden playpen while drunk one night and a barrister bookcase I snatched up at a resale shop because I could stack books two deep on its shelves. We made sure our children had bookcases in their bedrooms. The last time we moved we had a bookcase built on the entire length of one wall. Sometimes my husband looks at me and says, “We have to get rid of some books.” Inevitably I reply, “You first.” Of course, that ends the discussion. Anyway, it’s much easier to buy another bookcase.

The Bible says in Proverbs 18:24, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” I know who, what, and where my sticky friend is.

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Father Manifestation

“What’s for supper?” my husband asked, peering into the kitchen. That was never a simple, face-value question. To me it meant I was not meeting his expectations. I wasn’t going fast enough for him. In the escalating self-inflicted irritation, I picked up my pace from sink to refrigerator to stove to counter to the cookbook and back to the stove.

That day my husband must have lingered a little too long at the kitchen bar, because he followed up with another question. “What did you think I was saying when I asked you that?”

With my eyes fixated on stirring the pot, I answered truthfully. “You were saying, ‘I’m hungry. Hurry up.'”

Immediately, I felt my husband’s body beside mine at the stove. “Judy, in our forty-eight years of marriage, I never thought that. Not once.”

How had I been so wrong for so long? Instinctively I traced the problem back to my father. In psychological terms I had been acting in the Parent part of me. According to psychiatrist Eric Berne, each of us is always acting in one of three ego states: Parent, Adult, Child. My husband’s simple “What’s for supper?” had stimulated a conditioning embedded in me by my father. Everything had to be done in a hurry. He could not be kept waiting. Even when he had driven me to a store on the morning of my wedding, my father told me to “hurry up” as I dashed from his car. (I revealed it and other father-influenced “hurry” incidents in Before the Door Closes.)

Whenever I think about having misunderstood my husband’s innocent question for almost half a century, I remember Jesus’ emotional reply after one of the apostles asked Him to show them the Father:  “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9 ESV).

What kind of Father did Jesus manifest? Stuart Townend shared his enlightenment when he composed “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.”

The Son of God displayed to the world the Father’s sacrifice of love in His quest for a personal relationship with you and me. We cannot choose our earthly fathers, but we can choose God the Father.


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