My Story

To quote the opening line of the movie “Dune” “A beginning is a very delicate thing”.
To begin then, my Father was the youngest boy of five children. Born at home on March 4, 1930, he weighed 13 pounds. Grandma always said when he was born she didn’t have a baby, she had a toddler! By the time he was a sophomore in high school he stood 6’7’’.
When he was older, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was sent to Korea where he served with the Army Intelligence Unit. He came home on a Medical Discharge with 3 Silver Stars. Ten months later I was born, named after my Dad’s oldest sister, Marian, who died at the age of four, of Leukemia.
I think my Dad was disappointed that I wasn’t a boy, something that was to hurt and leave devastating scars on my heart and spirit for many years to come and lead me to make poor decisions later in life as a consequence.
By the time I was two and a half years old, my Dad was ready to divorce, Shirley, my mother. Please believe me when I tell you that children as young as two, even though they may not understand the words, most definitely, understand tension and emotion and will react to it. I clearly remember getting out of bed and listening to the yelling and fighting that went on in the other room. It was usually about money, bills and the kids, me and my brother, John. That was the start of believing I was a problem. I was in the way and the cause of my parents fighting.
During the divorce, my Dad chose to keep my brother with him and placed me with friends and family. By the time the divorce was final and he re-married, I was in seventeen different homes. I was bounced around so much because Dad did not want to owe anyone for my keep long-term.
During this time, I learned that what was alright in one home was not tolerated in another and no one cared in the next. There was one family who wanted to adopt me but I “belonged” to my Dad! He may not want me but no one else could have me either.
There were two stories about the custody hearing. My Dad’s story is that Shirley never showed up and Dad got John and me by default. Shirley’s story is that she was “advised” by “someone” that it would be better for her health not to show up. Either way, she didn’t show and we went to live with my Dad and his new wife, Norma Jean.
Jean stated once, that before she and Dad got married we were great friends but when Dad brought me home, I changed and started causing all kinds of problems. She dismissed the fact that she came into the marriage with emotional problems of her own.
Over the next six years, the house was a battle field. Jean was the “Iron fist in the Iron glove”. It was her way or the highway. After six years Dad had enough.
He sent me to see a Child Psychiatrist and paid him to have me declared emotionally unstable. He then petitioned the court to have me made a Ward of the Court so that he could place me in the Children’s Unit of the Kalamazoo State Hospital at no cost to him, where I remained for the next several years. I was nine years old when I was admitted.
Several members of Dad’s family tried to talk him out of putting me there offering to take me into their own homes but Dad wouldn’t hear of it. Again, he didn’t want me but no one else could have me either. During this time, he also had Jean committed the adult unit then divorced her on the grounds of Mental Cruelty, her to him.
During my time in Kalamazoo, visitors were allowed every other weekend. I’d get all dressed up and wait for my Dad to come. Well, he couldn’t make it this weekend so surely he’d come next week. I got really good at making excuses for people failing to do what they promised. It made the broken promise easier to bear, so I thought. I just tucked it deeper in my heart.
The weeks went by, then months, then years. Each weekend the sense of unloved, not worth his time and abandonment grew stronger. Surely, he didn’t come because I had messed up somehow. It had to be me, something I did or didn’t do, or otherwise he would come! It had to be me!
By the end of five years, I stopped believing that he cared or even wanted me. I wasn’t sure which hurt more, so I buried all my feelings deep and built a huge thick wall around my heart. I told myself if I didn’t trust anyone or let them get close then I couldn’t be hurt anymore. I even thought that I had stopped caring about him. Then the call came the summer I turned seventeen. I could come home! Dad was getting re-married again. He did want me after all! “It’s a set up,” my heart cried out. “He’s setting you up again!” “No,” I told it, “He wants me; He’s coming to get me! He loves me after all!”
When he and my brother came to get me, he told me about Mary Lou. I was eager to meet her. When we pulled up to the office where she worked she got into the car and without even turning around to greet me she told my dad, “I deeply resent the fact that I have to bring up two more kids when my own are grown and gone!” I was stunned to say the least. Rejected again and this time by someone who did not even want to know me.
My heart was right after all. He didn’t want me. Turns out if I stayed much longer at the hospital, I would have to be moved to the Adult Unit and He would have to start paying for me to be there. So he found someone else to take care of me and married her.
This was 1971, the time of Civil Disobedience and Passive Resistance and I practiced both to the extreme. May Lou didn’t want anything to do with me? That was fine by me. I didn’t want her in my life either, then. My dad told me later that he had to pick her up from a bar almost every night. She told him it was my fault she was there. He would come back home and ask me what I had done or said to her to get her so upset every day. I told him the absolute and complete truth. “Dad, I didn’t do or say anything to her.” And I hadn’t, literally, spoken to her or acknowledged her presence. If she didn’t want me around then I would act as if she wasn’t there.
Some Societies call that “Shunning”. Let me tell you it is a terrible thing to inflict on anyone. I saw the results first hand. I didn’t know it at the time. I thought I was giving her what she wanted. She didn’t want me around so I made myself invisible to her. I was a bad kid in her eyes and she wanted me out of the house.
That fall I started my junior year of High School and for the first time ever in my life, I was popular! I was 17 years old and nobody knew my name but they all called me “Sunny” or “Sunshine” as I was always smiling. That and the fact I was always a half hour late for Government class. I couldn’t figure out why I had an hour for lunch and everyone else had thirty minutes! Turned out my Government class was a split class. Thirty minutes of class, thirty minutes for lunch, and then the last half of Government! Oh well, Sorry Professor! Give me a break! I was new to the school system and no one explained how things worked.
Three months into the school year, my Dad decided we were moving up to a little village called Farwell, outside of Clare, Michigan. I couldn’t believe it! Finally, I had something good happening to me and it was taken away again. Dad was going to move me around again to another new school where I didn’t know anyone and had to start over again. Well, nothing new there. If I had learned nothing else by this time it was how to adapt to new things quickly.
The first day of my new school, I showed up wearing pants. The principal was so outraged that he drove me the 25 miles back home, waited for me to change into a dress and drove me back to school! Now, that’s what I call enforcing the dress code! By the way, they changed the dress code the following year so girls could wear pants to school!
It was in that little town of Farwell, that my Dad scared the stuffing out of me! One day, he took me back into his bedroom and closed the door. He wanted to talk, he said. He took my hand and very quietly asked me if I had been with any boys yet. I was shocked to my core that he would even suggest it or think that I would. Didn’t he raise me to know, that was for when I got married? He proceeded to tell me that if ever I wanted to know what it was like, I was to promise to come to him and not some Tom, Dick or Harry on the street and he would show me what it was like. I was so stunned that I promised him I would and got out of the room as fast as I could.
As soon as school was out and a couple more advances from my Dad, he got rid of me again this time to Papa Joe’s house just outside of Detroit. Papa Joe and his wife were friend’s of Dad’s. I didn’t stay there very long as Papa Joe tried to get frisky with me, too. I wasn’t having any of it. So I moved back to Lansing to live with Norma Jean and her Mom.
My senior year in school was the fourteenth school in twelve years. My Dad moved me around so much that I was in four schools in the sixth grade and they made me repeat the year because they couldn’t get my records straight. Even then I spent from June to January on the couch at Grandma’s with my first bout with Mono. In all those years and all those schools, I never made any school games, no Proms and only one lifelong friend through it all.
I was eighteen, 5’7” and 125 pounds. I was cute and the boys came around. I quickly found out that all they wanted was to see how fast they could separate me from my britches!
Now, there is something important you need to know here. During most of my childhood years, my family attended church, a Fundamental Legalistic Church. I grew up knowing about God and Jesus, right and wrong. You didn’t go to dances, movies, play cards or get within arm’s reach of a boy if he was not in your family!
I learned enough Bible verses to earn my first Bible when I “graduated” from Primary Sunday School. Every Sunday during Children’s Church, we were given the opportunity to come forward and ask Jesus to come into our hearts and forgive us for being bad. Well I knew I had been bad. Barely a week went by that I and the belt didn’t get better acquainted!
One Sunday, a worker asked me if I really understood what I was doing by going forward every week. I said I guess not, because I thought I was doing something wrong again. It seemed to Jean, I was always doing something wrong that I needed to be disciplined for. I don’t remember ever going back to Children’s Church again. I do remember skipping out and going for walks or exploring the older parts of the church and getting back before junior church ended so I could tell my folks what the lesson had been on.
Years later I attended the same church during my senior year and met my dearest and lifelong girlfriend, Jackie. We had gone on a church youth group canoe trip. The river was flooded and we should not have been allowed on it. In the middle of the trip, my canoe hit a submerged snag and capsized.
My partner made it to the bank with everyone else but I landed on a small island in the middle of the river. In time I made it back to the group at the bus and saw most everyone was very upset. I knelt down and asked someone what happened and they acted like they saw a ghost! Turns out they all thought I was swept downstream and lost or dead!
After everyone calmed down a thought hit me. If I had died where would I have wound up? Heaven or Hell? I took Jackie aside and I told her I wanted to be sure. After we finished praying I thought I was sure I was going to Heaven when I died.
After High School, I got my first job and my first car. It was the summer of 1972. I decided to travel around the country a bit. So I sold my car, packed a backpack and stuck out my thumb. Ok, it was stupid even then, but the people I met, the kindnesses I was shown, and the country I saw was worth it.
Most of my rides were with long distance Truckers. They would all buy me a meal and occasionally my own motel room, even though I told them I had money. “Keep it” they said. “You may need it later down the road. Besides if my daughter was on the road like you are, I’d hope someone would be looking after her”.
Now you young girls listen to me! There are more bad guys out there than good ones these days, so don’t even start to think of doing what I did. I’m deliberately not telling all my stories! But I will tell you this one. One good man told me there would be men with only one thing on their mind. He told me if they try this tactic with you, do this action. Well, wouldn’t you know the very next driver tried just that stunt! I followed the Good Man’s advice and got out of that truck with everything I got in with.
Now there are many good stories to tell about my travels, and many more lessons learned but they are for another talk.
The year I turned twenty-one I finally decided to go out to California and met my real mother whom I hadn’t seen since I was five years old. Seems she and my Aunt Mary, my Dad’s sister, had kept in touch all these years. Aunt Mary gave me her address and phone number in San Diego, California. The thing with Shirley was that even as a kid, I knew her last name was Webb. It wasn’t until I got to her home that she told me she had never been a “Webb” until the year earlier when she married her current husband. I also found out I had two half sisters and a half-brother.
I stayed in California for 3 months, got a job and spent time getting to know my Mom. I discovered that it is hard trying to create a history between two people in 3 months, but we tried. I felt it was time to move on, so I headed back to Michigan.
Before I knew it, I was twenty-five and not much to show for my life. I decided to attend Lake Superior State College in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan and study Criminal Justice.
There were eight girls in a four bedroom suite. As we got to know each other they found out not only was I the oldest but also the only virgin in the room. The girl I shared the bedroom with, was afraid it might be catching and was embarrassed to be my roommate and moved in with two of the other girls. My suite mates proceeded to spread the word of my “unfortunate condition” and the next thing I knew, I had more offers to help me take care of that little problem than I could handle.
The pressure was unreal. I couldn’t go anywhere without some guy trying to put his hands on me and try to drag me into the bushes. I had no friends there, no one to help me cope and not enough sense of my own to leave. I was in the middle of classes. I had to finish or so I thought.
Finally one night, I broke. There was no feeling, not even relief that it was over. I couldn’t believe what I had just done. I was sure God would strike me down on the spot. I realized that I had just gone against everything I grew up believing. Everything I was taught that was right and everything that a good girl should be, I no longer was. There could never be a husband. What God-fearing man would want me now? Forget it. I had just thrown it all away just to make the pressure go away.
Oh no, what if I got pregnant? What would people say? I had to come up with a story. I know, I’ll tell them I was raped. Look at me. I weighed almost 200 pounds. No one will ever believe that. Now, I was not only a loose woman who would have been stoned in Bible days but a liar too. My mind reeled with self-condemnation. I was no good, I was trash. I was, I was, I was so bad that I couldn’t think of any words bad enough to call myself.
How could anyone, how could God, ever forgive me? This was not something that I could undo! There was no one to turn to, no friend. My family? No, no help there. I was already the black sheep of the family for being in the state hospital even though I had no control over that. They would expect something like this and wonder that I hadn’t done it sooner.
I think I really lost my mind for a while. All I really wanted was someone to love me. I just wanted someone’s approval and someone to love me. I know, I’ll have a baby, someone who would finally love me for me. I lost the next few weeks in drinking and smoking grass and 3 more boys. Sure enough, I got pregnant, left school and moved back to Lansing, Michigan.
You know how when you ask someone if they love you, they say sure? That’s what my Dad would always say to me when I asked him. The very first time my Father told me he loved me, without my asking him, was the night I told him I was pregnant. I stopped and looked at him and said, “If I knew that was all it would take for you to tell me that, I would have gotten pregnant years ago!” and I turned around and walked away.
When I got to Lansing, I found no support there. The Pastor who knew me as a child would have nothing to do with me. Jean thought I got what I deserved. She knew I’d end up like this. I was an unwed mother abandoned by family and friends, and rightly so I thought, because of what I had done. My sin was so great in my eyes; therefore it had to be in others eyes as well. I thought I was depressed and alone before, well I really hit bottom then.
Late one night as I was out walking, I stopped in the middle of a bridge and looked down at the cold black water. It would be so easy, I thought. After having spent a life where I wasn’t wanted, always in the way, not loved by those who should have, always someone else’s burden. Now I was someone to judge and use as a bad example to their daughters. And there was that cold black water looking so inviting, welcoming even. There would be no more people judging me, wishing me gone, I’d just give them what they wanted, no more me.
“What about God? What are you going to tell Him”, asked a voice? “How are you going to explain to Him why you thought your time to end your life was better than the plan He has for you?”
I was caught up short! I didn’t know how to answer the question. I turned away thinking about it. The next thing I knew I was home and not quite sure how I got there and still looking for an answer. All I could think of was more questions.
What kind of mother could I possibly be after what I had done? What kind of life could I possibly give a child? I was a bad person, I was told. Nobody wanted me as a child and no one will want me with one. The pressure from those who were supposed to be supporting me were doing anything but helping.
Everyone told me I’ll be a rotten mother, I have no morals and I’d raise my child the same way. I’ll probably have 6 more and be a drain on society! They must be right, so I thought. Fine, I’ll get rid of it! I made the appointment. As I drove to the clinic my heart was breaking. All I ever wanted was someone to love me and now that was going to be taken away from me too.
All of a sudden something in my head or my heart, snapped! Who were these people to push me into doing this terrible thing I was planning? How could I have possibly allowed them to even talk me into contemplating such an action?
I turned into the next driveway and went home. A few months later, I gave birth to a precious healthy baby girl at 1am on the Fourth of July.
For many years, I carried all the hurt and shame from my childhood to adult, deep inside. I knew I was not worthy of anyone’s love, caring or affection. One day my daughter overheard someone tell me they loved me as they were leaving. I just smiled and said thanks as I shut the door behind them.
She asked me why I didn’t say I love you back. I told her it was because they were just being nice. She said, “Do you believe me when I tell you I love you?” “Honey, I replied, “I believe that you believe that you love me.”
That night I had a talk with the Lord. I was sure that I broke her little heart but I was so numb inside that I couldn’t believe that God even loved me. It was like saying “The sky is blue, the grass is green, God loves me”. The Bible said it so it was true and I believed the Bible. I asked the Lord to help me start to open the door of my heart wider. I had opened my heart’s door just enough to let Him slip inside then I slammed it shut again.
He started by showing me that I had to forgive others and myself first. He said “Let’s start with Jean”. Oh No! Not her! I liked being mad at her. She had hurt me so much, deserted me, and wanted nothing to do with me or my daughter. No! Every time the phone rang, my first thought was “Oh nuts! What are we going to fight about now?”
He started showing me verses like;
Matthew 6:15
But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Colossians 3:13
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
You’re really want me do this don’t You. Ok, Lord, I still want to stay angry with her but I need Your forgiveness, so, I’m willing for You to make me willing to forgive her.
It took 6 months of the Lord working in my heart to forgive her. It was like learning to like dill pickles. Take a small bite and gag, ok, Lord I still don’t want to forgive her but I’m willing. Take another bite, I still don’t like it. To, hey, this pickle isn’t that bad to hmm I really like dill pickles! Pass the jar over here, will you?
I’m going to side track here for a minute. I want you to think of Joseph and his brothers. They were going to kill him but instead sold him into slavery. His Master’s wife accused him of trying to rape her. He was put in prison for several years before a former prisoner remembered a promise and had him brought before Pharaoh to interpret his dreams and became the second highest person in the land. All of this to prepare and place Joseph in a position to save the lives of his family and the future of the Nation of Israel. When Joseph saw his brothers, he could have ordered them killed. Instead he forgave them saying, “What you meant for evil, God used for good.” He forgave his brothers but still held them accountable for their actions and God allowed Joseph to see that God had a greater purpose for his life by allowing these things to happen to him.
One night as I was driving home I thought about Jean and my blood pressure didn’t go up! My hands were still relaxed on the wheel. There was no anger or bitterness in my heart as I thought of her. The Lord gently eased the bad memories of Jean and changed how I saw her into how God had used her in my life. At that moment I completely forgave her for all the hurt she had caused me.
Sometime later I asked for and received her forgiveness also. The day Jean died; I was right next to her holding her hand. “It’s ok, Lady,” I whispered. “I’m here. You can go Home now.” And she did.
I felt the walls of my heart start to crumble that day but the Lord wasn’t through cleaning out my Spiritual house yet. There were others I had to forgive and one by one the Lord and I worked on each.
My Dad was another nut that was hard to crack. He was harder because in spite of everything he had done, he was still my dad and I still had that little girl dream that if I was good enough he would say he was proud of me and that he loved me like a daddy should.
By now Dad was on wife number four and Alta was the best of the bunch. She truly loved him in spite of his faults. She and I got along great. Mainly because she knew that at twenty-six I didn’t need another mother and being only nine years older than me, we could be friends.
My Dad developed Diabetes Dementia which is the diabetic version of Alzheimer’s. I was angry with my dad not because he couldn’t remember me but because if he had taken better care of himself he might still be here. By the time she got him to take his Diabetes seriously, he had many physical problems because of it. Eventually the Dementia finally took his life. Alta died one year later of brain cancer.
In three years time, I lost my Dad, Jean, Alta and Shirley, my birth mother. Mary Lou and passed away many years earlier.
The Lord and I were still working on getting the walls of my heart down. It was a little harder now because I couldn’t talk with my Dad or anyone else I needed to.
One Sunday at church, I was chatting with a couple of ladies. We were watching a couple of little ones playing and the subject came up of a Ladies three-day retreat weekend that was coming up.
The weekend is sponsored by Unidos en Cristo. Basically, it is a structured, three-day weekend designed to strengthen and renew the faith of Christian people and bring them to a new and more active awareness of living in God’s grace. The men go the first weekend and the women go the next so couples as well as singles can both participate.
I highly recommend the weekend. Through this three-day weekend God provided so much healing that even today I am still amazed at the work He did in that short time. As the saying goes, “When the student is ready, the Teacher will show”. When you first enter the main meeting room you are assigned a table and a group of ladies for the weekend.
The table I was assigned to sit at was called “Worthy of God’s Love”. Ok, this weekend definitely had my attention now! This was something I so desperately wanted all my life. To know that someone truly love me. Oh, I had the head knowledge that Jesus loved me. I knew about the verses and the songs but to really know it? Oh, how my heart yearned for that!
That weekend, God showed me that everything that I believed as a child about not being loved, not being wanted, a burden, rejected and abandoned was all a lie from Satan.
I learned I was truly, completely, thoroughly and absolutely without question or doubt not only wanted but precious and cherished and most importantly, worthy of being Loved by God.
That weekend, God not only finished breaking down my walls, He smashed the door to splinters! The result of that weekend was that the love that I discovered allowed me to freely forgive everyone and everything from my past. Don’t get me wrong, it still took a little doing but oh, the relief and release of forgiving made it so much easier to give.
As I told a young man once who had caused much pain to a loved one when he asked how could I forgive him. I said, “After all God has forgiven me for, how could I not forgive you this?”
That weekend was a couple of years ago and God and I are still working on a couple of hurts and wounds and still working on forgiving myself and making it stick! But the healing is well underway and as He opens another door or cupboard that needs to be cleaned, we handle it together. Ladies, you know just because you clean a room once, doesn’t mean you don’t have to dust it now and again. That’s what makes His forgiveness so great. It’s always so freely given. All we have to do is ask for it and give as freely as it is asked of us.
One of the many blessings the Father has given all of us is the right to call Him Abba Father, which is like calling him Dad or Daddy. One day I caught myself shooting up an Arrow prayer and started by saying “Hey Dad!” Wait a second! What did I just call the Almighty God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth? I half expected to get struck by lightning! Then in my heart I could hear Him chuckle and answer, “Yes, Daughter?”
I have three more things I want to share with you. The first is something I have believed in and held onto and didn’t always understand why I believed it until I got older. I just knew from a very young age that it was true.
Trust – That no matter what happens
Believe – God will make everything work out
Faith – Sooner or later in His time not mine.
The second thing I want to share with you, is, remember that night on the bridge? I finally had an answer to the questions. “How are you going explain to God why you thought your time to end your life was better than the plan He has for you?”
My answer, “I have made bad choices in my life, but there is no way I’m going to stand there and try to explain that!”
The third thing I want to leave with you is the most important. No matter what has happened to you, the choices you have made the wrongs that you have committed against yourself or others. There is Nothing and I do mean Nothing that God in His great Mercy won’t forgive you if you ask Him.
But you don’t know what I’ve done, you say. I don’t need to know. I haven’t told you all I’ve done either and Sister, it’s a laundry list, I promise. God knows your heart already. He wants to be a part of your life so much more than you want Him! He died for you and rose again so that you may –
Trust – that He will do as He promised
Believe – on the Lord Jesus Christ and ask Him into your life
Faith – that when you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, He will cleanse you from all your sin and someday will take you to Heaven with Him to live eternally.
May God richly bless you and I pray my experiences will help you on your journey. My dear friend, you are NOT alone. Until we met again.

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