The experiences that had a major impact on my life…
These are the profound experiences in my life that have changed me:
- I was brought up in a hell-fire-and-damnation church from age 16 mos. to 13 years. This one experience more than any other set the trajectory of my life. As an adult I had to change my attachment to a punitive, capricious God to One I could love.
- My mother never got me, never understood who I was. She was all about how I looked to everyone else: in dress, in manners, in everything.
- I married a wonderful, people-oriented man right out of college, Hank Adams. Of course, our marriage had its ups and downs, but we came to a place where we no longer took what the other said personally, so we really came to love and freedom to be who we were. He died at 60, so we had thirty-seven years together, for which I am very grateful.
- It took 10 years of marriage before we had our first child, our daughter and then 4 years later, twin sons. Meanwhile, my assumption about myself was that I wasn’t worthy of being a mother. My sole ambition growing up was to be a mother, so at long last my desire was fulfilled. Now I have 8 grandkids! Amazing!
- In my early 40’s I gave my life to Christ at a time that He orchestrated. From that moment on, as I listened to and obeyed what He offered me, my life has been on a positive and fulfilling trajectory. I am at peace. I am so healed and changed. And, of course, still have a long way to go.
- God challenged me with this thought: How can I say I love God if I can’t love my mother? And then, after I tried for two years to be an adult with her instead of a rebellious child, He blessed us with a cloud of love on a railroad station in Wilmington, Delaware. And he changed us both!
- I trained to be a spiritual director at the Mercy Center in Burlingame CA starting in 1998. Nothing has changed me or challenged me more than this. To direct someone else we have to be able to focus on three things in a session: 1)what the person is telling us; 2)what the Holy Spirit is saying that needs to be passed on to the person and 3)what our own reactions to the talk are which are saved for later, for our own edification, our own work. It’s inevitable that directees will bring our issues to their sessions. Years of listening to the “gentle whisper”[1 Kings 19:12] of God for inspiration and direction and help and support really helped here to focus on the other person and what the Holy Spirit was offering. It took me 5 years to complete a three-year program because I was took time off to be ordained as a metaphysical minister(which I have never pursued) and more time off when Hank was sick and died.
- Hank died of a non-Hodgkins lymphoma just short of his 61st birthday in 2001. He had been treated with chemotherapy and declared cancer-free just six months before he died. Three months later the cancer was raging and I was so overcome with fear that I would be wishing I could go to bed and cover my head with blankets and forget about this threat to our lives at 3 pm in the afternoon. The Lord offered me this: “If you can just hold all possible outcomes equally, well, then….” As soon as I could do that and see that in any situation there are hundreds of possible outcomes, then the fear left me. And a few days later He gave me a gift of faith so deep that I felt like I was the house built on rock. Nothing could shake me off my faith in God, not even my husband’s death. I was able to support Hank, our adult kids, and our friends through this passage because I was so supported and helped. Of course I mourned his loss when he died, but I never resented his death.
- The Lord snuck my writing career into my life through a desire to take Spanish lessons, because there was nothing in my experience to say that I would be a writer. I worked with a tutor and after a year she had me writing a paragraph every week in Spanish. At first I wrote about everything from my kids to friends to what was happening in my life, but soon all I wanted to write about was how we live this spiritual life in Christ. As I moved to Charlotte NC four years later I was posting a bilingual blog called By the Waters. My tutor was my Spanish editor. Seven or eight months later she fell and couldn’t work anymore, so I dropped the Spanish. And kept the English blog going somewhat erratically twice a month for three years, until I felt called to post the blog every Monday(except for a few vacation weeks at first). I’ve done that since 2011, written two books, Thy Kingdom Come! and Exodus: Our Story, Too! I am now working on a third: Beyond Belief into Discipleship.
- I have held Haitian babies in an orphanage for sick children and known that they would never have what I felt were the requirements for a good life: loving family, good education, good health. I had known what was going on in the world watching the news and reading the paper, but I had carefully walled off my emotions about it until the week I spent in that orphanage. And I cried mightily for those children, as the walls I had built to keep out the trouble in this world tumbled down. 2002
- That same trip we stayed two nights at a village chieftains house in the hills above Port-au-Prince. At night we slept with a chamber pot in the room because no one goes out at night because of the voodoo. One night we had fried flour for dinner. 2002
- The next year I assisted the Physical Therapy assistant with 12 wheel-chair bound Haitian children, moving their limbs, keeping them toned. After a month there, I left convinced that they would have chosen this life for themselves. Not one had any language, but that was the distinct impression I had. 2003
- I visited a garbage dump in Metamores, Mexico, where families were living, walking barefoot through the trash. And on the same trip, I heard three cousins from Guatemala describe their trip through Mexico hanging onto the outside of freight cars on a train. They were resting up at a charity home in Metamores before they would cross the Rio Grande into Texas. One had been in the U.S. before and had gone back to get his cousins. 2003
14.I was an interviewer for Crisis Assistance Ministry in Charlotte for a year, giving out the funds we had to people who couldn’t pay their rent or phone bill that month. The lowest rent in Charlotte at that time was $500. a month. If Crisis had FEMA funds we might have up to a $1,000. to hand out, but without FEMA funds there might be as little as $150., which was of little help. To tell the person or couple sitting before me that all I could give them was $150. was traumatic for me. 2013
- In 2016 I started reading books about how the other half lives in our country and learning what a totally different experience of living in the United States was like. Here are the ones that affected me most:
Toni Morrison, Beloved, The Origin of Others
Robin J. DiAngelo, White Fragility
Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Beautiful Struggle, Between the World and Me, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy
Linda Tirado, Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America
The Third Reconstruction
Leslie J. Hoppe, There Shall Be No Poor Among You
Laurel Holiday, Children of the Dream: Our Own Stories of Growing Up Black in America
James H. Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation
Michael Eric Dyson, Tears We Cannot Stop
Leah Gunning Francis, Ferguson & Faith
Samuel G. Freedman, Upon This Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church
The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear
Fr. Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, Barking to the Choir
Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
As my own personal lens on the world was affected by participating in these events in my life, and as I read of completely different experiences from my own middle-class white background, I have had to discard my own personal lens and to admit that my story is unlike many others. That I have been privileged largely because of being a white female in a country where being white reigns. And I am especially indebted to Fr. Gregory Boyle and Dr. Bessel van der Kolk for understanding that trauma is at the heart of so much acting out and misbehavior. That we have to look more deeply at the story in someone’s life if we are to understand someone else. From Fr. Boyle whose work with gangs in East Los Angeles whose stories shed light on the source of gang behavior to Dr. van der Kolk’s understanding of PTSD and other traumas, I can now see how our country’s insistence on surface solutions serves no one. And that I have judged so many people unfairly, especially without knowing a thing about their lives.
This is my prayer: Lord, please take these experiences and books that I have read and open my mind to all the possibilities and truth that is in them. May I learn how to love completely even without knowing a thing about a person. May I be good, kind and gentle to everyone. May I show everyone nothing but love, joy, peace and patience. May I be faithful and more than willing to set aside my own needs in favor of whoever is before me. Amen!